Adoption and Child Trafficking

Nowadays, adoptive families are at odds with government regulators (both in the US, and abroad) over the most fundamental understanding of what adoption is. Adoptive families know from experience that adoption prevents trafficking.

When children adopted abroad tell their story, we often hear them say, “I know that if I had not been adopted, I would have ended up as a prostitute, on drugs, in prison, or dead.”

However, groups such as UNICEF and The Hague Convention have consistently chosen to carefully consider the guidelines, standards and producers surrounding international adoption for the purpose of preventing child trafficking. The results are meant for a safer and more stable process. Yet, for some adoptive families the additional steps, requirements and procedures can feel overwhelming and even unnecessary. 

So, what has brought about this level of concern and intended control around international adoption? The reality is that many factors, including domestic statistics on child welfare have influenced the current state of being in the world of adoption.

UNICEF report on Ukraine said, “The number of children living on the streets has risen steadily over the past decade, creating urgent problems in human trafficking for forced prostitution, forced labour and sexual exploitation.”

This should not come as a surprise because the prospect for American children in foster care is equally dismal.

 According to the FBI “as many as 60 percent of the kids they’ve recovered in [anti-trafficking] operations, almost exclusively young women, have some familiarity with or involvement with either group homes or the foster care system.” Children who do not have families are easier targets for predators than children who are safely placed in loving homes.

On the other hand, Government regulators (here and abroad) operate under the suspicion that adoption causes trafficking. Which is it? Naturally, your answer to that question will predetermine your answer to a second question: should adoptions increase?

Families who adopt from foreign countries have firsthand experience in seeing a child at risk of being trafficked in the future, and they give that child the permanent security of a family. So we believe adoptions should increase. But when government regulators get it in their head that adoption causes trafficking, naturally, they believe adoptions should decrease.

New rules governing intercountry adoption were drafted by the Department of State in September. When looking at these rules, I ask myself, “How does this get more kids adopted?” I can’t find a single effort in those rules to increase adoptions. This is hard for me to understand, since every morning when I wake I put the rest of the day’s effort into getting more kids adopted. Clearly, my belief about what adoption is and does is completely at odds with policy makers who are working against us.

The Hague was signed with the purpose to prevent child trafficking. That is a good thing, of course.

But are we to imagine that child traffickers use the legal adoption process as a means to steal kids? Don’t child traffickers just take kids? Who in their right mind would go through all the trouble of an adoption process? It’s already practically impossible for the best-intentioned couples to navigate the difficulty of intercountry adoption. Surely if we can barely get through the process, a child-trafficker would find another way.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t enough for government regulators to reduce inter-country adoption by 75% since 2004. It seems that some members of the government have come to the conclusion that the only way to be absolutely certain that no one ever uses adoption as a means to traffic a child is to eliminate the practice altogether.

What should the government do if they wanted to reduce child trafficking?

They should increase adoptions. To help reduce trafficking, our government should assist couples to adopt the millions of children living on the streets, at risk of being snatched by predators. If you agree, ask yourself, do the new laws governing intercountry adoption help get orphaned children out of harm’s way, and into families? If not, you are encouraged to sign the petition asking the Department of State to rescind the proposed new rules limiting intercountry adoption at www.SaveAdoptions.org