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.