Anatomy of an Adoption Crisis

Dawn Davenport


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

14/09/2010 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 4 Comments

4 Responses to Anatomy of an Adoption Crisis

  1. Avatar Angel says:

    Thank you for this fair review. Some of the people on the adoption forums have really criticized the author and his(her?) articles. I appreciate that you acknowledge that he/she has a point. I am one of the people you might call anti-adoption, but I like to read your blog and especially like your radio show because even though we don’t always agree, I usually learn something.

  2. Avatar E.J. Graff says:

    You know, Dawn, I’ve never been critical of international adoption. It’s a wonderful thing when done right–wonderful for everyone concerned. I’ve tried to bring attention to how bad things happen — and who suffers — when there’s not enough effective oversight or regulation. Our Institute staff includes adoptive parents, and we think long and hard about the evidence behind, and effects of, whatever we publish.

    If you have any evidence of an increase in abandoned infants in Guatemala, could you send it our way? We hear the opposite, but I want to see ALL the evidence. In Vietnam, there was significant evidence of an abrupt and extreme uptick in “abandoned” infants once international adoption was underway; read the State Dept’s documents. In Cambodia, infants and toddlers all but disappeared from orphanages after U.S. adoptions ceased; read the evidence on our website, in the Cambodia section, and also in the footnotes to The Lie We Love.

    Thank you!

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      I wish I had good evidence one way or the other! All I can offer is anecdotal evidence, which, as we both know, isn’t all that helpful. I have wondered about Romania, Vietnam, Guatemala, Honduras, etc. I read some reports within a couple of years of Romania closing to international adoptions, that the number of children in care was going up, although being disquised by keeping the kids in hospitals or homes for special needs kids rather than in institutions or foster homes. I haven’t heard much since that information came out and don’t know if that has continued. If I remember correctly, this report wasn’t a systematic assessment, but a report of what was seen in several special need homes. I have heard that the number of children in care in Guatemala has gone up, but I don’t know if that’s because the orphanages that were only open for adoption, have shut down; the government has been better at removing kids from neglectful or abusive situations; or for some other reason? Or is the increase only in a very limited number of orphanages that I’ve heard about. I simply don’t know.

      It is maddening that systematic research on this most crucial issues isn’t being done. If we see that the numbers of children in care are going down, then it supports the idea that int’l adoption is “pulling” children away from families that would have stayed intact but for the monetary inducements. If we don’t see the numbers going down, what does this prove? If we see the numbers of infant abandonment down, but the number of toddlers and preschooler coming into governmental or institutional care, what does this mean?

      I too worry when we see the number of abandoned or relinquished infants rise dramatically after international adoption becomes more common in a country. I also worry, however, if we see the numbers of adoptions go down and the numbers of children in care go up. My bottom line is that kids need parents.

      We should have you on the show to talk about this topic. I could talk about it for hours and would love to get your input.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top ↑

Content created by Creating a Family. And remember, there are no guarantees in adoption or infertility treatment. The information provided or referenced on this website should be used only as part of an overall plan to help educate you about the joys and challenges of adopting a child or dealing with infertility. Although the following seems obvious, our attorney insists that we tell you specifically that the information provided on this site may not be appropriate or applicable to you, and despite our best efforts, it may contain errors or important omissions. You should rely only upon the professionals you employ to assist you directly with your individual circumstances. CREATING A FAMILY DOES NOT WARRANT THE INFORMATION OR MATERIALS contained or referenced on this website. CREATING A FAMILY EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS LIABILITY FOR ERRORS or omissions in this information and materials and PROVIDES NO WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, implied, express or statutory. IN NO EVENT WILL CREATING A FAMILY BE LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES, including without limitation direct or indirect, special, incidental, or consequential damages, losses or expenses arising out of or in connection with the use of the information or materials, EVEN IF CREATING A FAMILY OR ITS AGENTS ARE NEGLIGENT AND/OR ARE ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.