Finding my delight in the journey of adoption.

Adoption Agency Accountability

I’m still pondering what we’ve learned.  I’m dabbling in a few different online groups and reading lots of stories of adoption that involve ethical disasters.  How I wished I would have read (or paid attention) to these things years ago!  But, like many things in life, I often have to learn the hard way.

I feel for adoptive parents out there.  You have this strong calling on your heart, and you are answering it.  You hear Russell Moore and the Warrens speak so passionately, and you refuse to ignore it.  You see the beautiful pictures and hear the stories of abandoned orphans now being part of a family.  We all want that to be our story.  None of us got into this to traffic children or to coerce children away from their families.  There are easier, more fun ways to spend your time and money than adoption.

What can we do?  I think we must must must demand accountability from adoption agencies.  Just as I am reading more about demanding accountability from chocolate, clothing and coffee manufacturers to ensure they aren’t using slave labor, so we must do the same with adoption agencies to make sure their children are legitimate, legal orphans who actually need to be adopted.

The first thing we must realize is that international adoptions in America is a business.  These agencies are out to make money.  Yes, they may have chosen this industry because they want to help orphans, just as Steve Jobs started Apple probably in part because he just liked computers and technology.  At the end of the day, money is why we do business.  Most of us would not go to work if they stopped paying us even if we really liked what we did.

We cannot be naive and accept that these agencies are full of good-hearted people who can do no wrong.  They may be good-hearted, well-intentioned people, but sometimes those people can do the most harm because they lack a certain cynicism necessary to do business.  At One World Adoption Services, Inc., for example, the director and staff were nice.  They cared about the children and the families.  But unfortunately, they have blinders on when it comes to doing business in the DRC.  They trusted the wrong people and refused to see their mistakes (and still refuse).  Are they kind?  Yes.  Are they Christians?  Probably.  But that is not enough to operate an adoption agency.

Follow the money.  We live in a time where the term non-profit has basically become meaningless except for tax purposes, yet we all believe that if we are using a non-profit adoption agency, then we are in the clear.  Wrong.  So wrong.  The agency directors and staff are making money off of these adoptions.  How else could they afford to do business?  They might not be getting mega-millions, but they are bringing home a paycheck.

It’s time we demand to know what these agencies are charging for.  What’s a referral fee?  To me, that sounds an awful lot like paying for the agency to find you a referral.  We shouldn’t need to find referrals.  There are either kids in orphanages who need to be adopted, or there aren’t.  Agencies should not have an incentive to “find” a child to fit the profile so they can collect the fee.

Agencies must investigate referrals independently of their in-country staff.   This is a no brainer.  One World told us that they do not ever investigate or verify any information they receive from the DRC.  This is appalling.

Agencies must have a presence on the ground on a very regular basis.  How can you oversee something but never see it?  How do you hire staff you’ve never met?  One World refuses to travel to visit the orphanage or check up on things, even after a large-scale scandal.

These issues are not limited to One World or DRC.  I have connected with many other families who have struggled with ethical adoptions from other countries with other agencies.  We cannot afford to turn a blind eye.  That would be a disservice to the orphans and widows we desire to serve.



6 responses

  1. TAO

    Part of the problem is that if you are adopting from a non-Hague country (and a large percentage of adoptions processed are non-Hague) then the accountability seems to vanish. Not saying accountability is great with Hague, but there is at least recourse.

    What you can do is file a complaint / concern with the Attorney General in the State that the agency is licensed in – they are responsible for overseeing that aspect because the state licenses the agency. If no one complains, no one is aware, no one investigates.

    The US Senate just passed a bill requiring non-Hague adoptions (int’l) must be processed under Hague rules, believe it was sponsored by SEn. John Kerry / Mass. I would assume President Obama will sign it into law, so then things might get better but don’t expect the problems to go away.

    The biggest problem – the US Legal definition of Trafficking does not include children and adoption – and it should. Without that definition the penalities, if imposed, are minimal. To me they should be held accountable, if they are holding themselves out to be the one the adoptive parents use to facilitate the adoption. They should have to make sure the processes on the ground meet the highest ethical standards, because these are children, families, human beings.

    I am glad you are speaking up – no one wants to talk about the problem – which has been a problem for decades, or longer, and will be a problem until many good people speak up and say no more.

    I would also speak to Russell Moore et al and detail exactly what is going on, that he is so actively promoting.

    December 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm

  2. Great post Amanda. Here is a list of questions that were created by a group of adoptive parents concerned about unethical adoptions in Africa for those that are looking for an agency and don’t know what to ask. We all need to work with the agencies. I really think the most important ways are 1. where the money goes and 2. investigating the story of the child you have been referred to.

    December 11, 2012 at 5:19 pm

  3. So glad you are speaking out about your experience. There is, too often, the idea that you cannot question your agency, or go outside of your agency for advice. This is a very detrimental practice for families, because agency’s should be held wholly accountable for everything they are doing/charging/saying. There is even more of need for accountability in this industry due to the large amounts of money being exchanged and the lives of innocent children being affected.

    I am with another agency (one I believe is very ethical), and had a problem recently where I didn’t feel like I got the entire answer I wanted or needed. When I explained to my agency why I went to an outside source to get more information, they told me this meant I didn’t think they knew what they were doing! Wow, was I upset! How can I be expected to put every bit of faith and trust in a business (as you said, they are making money off these transactions – it is a business, through and through) across the country? Should I really be expected to never check up on their statements or question their choices? Even though I believe in my agency, this is a recipe for disaster. Holding people accountable and questioning situations are the most important things we can do as an adoptive parent.

    Again thanks for sharing your experience. It’s really important for people to take their blinders off and realize that horrible things are happening in the adoption world every day.

    December 12, 2012 at 12:54 pm

  4. Its a serious and scary problem as adoptive parents. 😦

    December 14, 2012 at 11:28 am

  5. Pingback: 12 for 12…almost… « The adopted ones blog

    • Thanks so much! I just signed up to follow your blog and can’t wait to read your perspective. Happy New Year!

      January 2, 2013 at 4:37 pm

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