[Eugene, OR] The investigative reports by Reuters and NBC News exposed a system called “rehoming” of children by their adoptive parents through the internet. The series highlights the vulnerability of children who depend on caring adults and child welfare systems to protect them. Holt International Children’s Services is disheartened and shares in the outrage these stories understandably provoke.
Holt International pioneered Intercountry adoption beginning in Korea nearly sixty years ago. Adoption—international or domestic—is a humanitarian response for children without families. Adoption is intended to find families for children—not children for families. Every care and consideration must be given to keep services for children, including adoption, child centered and child focused as the priority.
Adoption is extremely complex and further complicated when it includes another country, culture, and nationality. It is critical that agencies and individuals providing services have the necessary skills, expertise and professional capacity required. Good intentions or desire to help simply is not enough.
Holt believes the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption ratified by the U.S. and ninety other countries is a step in the right direction. The Convention provides global standards that ensures that birth families, adoptive families and most importantly, the children being adopted, have the security of process and systems designed to protect them.
Holt International was a strong advocate for the Universal Accreditation Act that was signed into law this year and will take effect July 2014. This new law requires that every international adoption service provider to be Hague accredited and compliant. This will further narrow the gap between unethical and improper practitioners and competent, professional service providers. It includes prosecution for unethical and questionable practices.
Too often families who come together through adoption, particularly Intercountry adoption where generally children and parents are of a different race and nationality, are not considered as “real” as families who come together through biology. Adoptive families are considered somehow less and adoptive parents and children are required to validate the ‘realness’ of their family. Stories of “re-homing” and child trafficking further stigmatize adoption by showing innocent children as commodities and deplorable adults behaving outside of any ethical, social or cultural norms.
Any experienced adoption professional will acknowledge that adoption is not easy. Parenting is not easy. It requires commitment, compassion and support. Biological or adoptive families are more successful when they have the support of family, friends and community. All families during times of stress or challenge benefit from available social services. Too often those services are unavailable or inadequate.
The profile of children being adopted internationally are increasingly children with special needs. Children who have been institutionalized, experienced abandonment, poor nutrition and medical care often have physical and emotional disabilities that require critical and specific attention. The notion “that love is enough” simply is not true and does serious injustice to preparing a family for a successful adoption.
Holt is committed to finding families for all children who need them, not just children who are healthy. But we also realize that mandate includes tremendous commitment to providing pre and post adoption services that reflect the life-long commitment that adoption represents. Holt believes families must be informed, educated, prepared and supported in their adoption journey and that ongoing education and support must be available to them. It is unreasonable to expect that a family coming into the adoption process would be equipped to know the realities and nuances that are part of parenting and adoption. However, it is reasonable to expect that once a family makes the decision and the commitment to adoption and particularly to a child that they see their relationship as unwavering.
In the event that the adoption does not work—and for a variety of reasons this is reality—the responsibility of the placement agency to assist the family and child is undeniable. Investment in preparation of families at the beginning goes a long way in eliminating the crisis that results in disruption and dissolution of an adoption. Holt International believes this is the ethical responsibility of adoption agencies and practitioners.
A clearly identified gaping hole in protecting children is the ability of individual families to utilize the internet to traffic adopted children. While the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, the Universal Accreditation Act and other adoption reforms are in place or being considered, it seems there is no one serving as the gate-keeper and protector of child trafficking activity happening outside the legal process.
Federal and state Child protection laws are silent or non-existent in monitoring and prosecuting those involved. It is imperative to correct this oversight of what is not an adoption activity, but the criminal activity of child trafficking and abuse.
Holt joins other leading child welfare organizations and individuals in calling for a careful and thoughtful review of how this and other abuses can be avoided for children in the future.
Susan Soonkeum Cox, Vice President Policy & External Affairs
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