Anatomy of an Adoption Crisis is an in-depth look at the US's decision to shut down their Vietnamese adoption program.
Anatomy of an Adoption Crisis is an in-depth look at the US’s decision to shut down their Vietnamese adoption program.

The journal Foreign Policy published an article on the closing of international adoptions from Vietnam –“Anatomy of an Adoption Crisis” by E.J. Graff .  In 2008, Graff wrote another article highly critical of international adoption titled “The Lie We Love“, also for Foreign Policy.

“Anatomy of an Adoption Crisis”, like Graff’s last article, was well researched, but Anatomy was more nuanced and even handed.  Graff follows, through State Dept and USCIS documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests, the negotiations, discussions, and strategy that ultimately resulted in the closing of adoptions from Vietnam in 2008.  I interviewed several State Dept. officials during this time frame, and I think Graff accurately portrayed their dilemma.  I appreciate that she showed, what I have seen, that our government officials truly try to do the right thing.

A good history, but we need to look to the future

In my opinion, this article would have been far better if Graff had spent some time trying to find evidence on the crux of her argument:  the number of children abandoned or in care had decreased since international adoptions closed.  She claims that this is so, but offers only one quote from a family who had hired someone to look into their child’s adoption saying that one orphanage had closed and the other had only older children and special needs children.  Child abandonment and the number of children in orphanage care may indeed be down, but Graff provides no evidence in support.  I have no hard evidence one way or the other, however, I have spoken with several orphanage directors and workers in Guatemala, and they report that the numbers of children (infants and older) have increased significantly since adoptions closed there.

The future of adoptions

Graff concludes: “Like Vietnam, neither Ethiopia nor Nepal — the two countries currently plagued by reports of corrupt adoptions — have enacted the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. If there is indeed corruption in these countries’ adoptions, the U.S. embassies in those countries still have very little power to respond — except to increase investigations or close adoptions entirely, as happened in Vietnam. Choosing the latter may save hundreds of families from wrongfully losing their children, but it does so at the cost of preventing children who genuinely need new homes from finding them in the United States. Until U.S. laws, policies, and regulations change, the United States can turn the spigot on and off, but it cannot control the flow. ”

What do you think?

Image credit:  CharlesFred