“Americans use the Internet to abandon children adopted from overseas”

This is just incredible: apparently there is an ongoing problem with overseas or international adoptions ending in child abandonment and worse. And officials haven’t responded in anything like an appropriate fashion – except for one guy who has apparently been ignored.

Many of these kids [internationally adopted from overseas] were handed off strangers who physically, mentally, and sexually abused them.

The story uncovers an American black market for adopted children, Internet forums where ads are placed for kids as if they were old television sets….

…In a nationwide alert to state child welfare authorities, an administrator for the ICPC warned that adoptive parents were sending children to live with people they met on the Internet. The practice, the official wrote, is “placing children in grave danger.”

via Reuters

I have long known there are problems that we aren’t allowed to speak of (at least in polite company) with regards to foreign adoption. But this is far worse than anything I’d imagined.

One of the first times, Eason had gone by the screen name Big Momma. The custody transfer took place in a hotel parking lot just off the highway, and the man who went with her to get the 10-year-old boy would later be sentenced to federal prison. His crime: trading child pornography

There is the very real possibility of legal adoption being used here in the USA by those who abuse children sexually and/or create child pornography.

Not to mention the part about abandoning kids – which is awful even if they were going somewhere safe.

Quita still can’t reconcile it. “How would you give me up when you brought me to be yours?” she asks.

Children are reduced to pet-like status.

The similarities to pet adoptions are eerie. Even more eerie is the similarity to the days of the Depression and other historical hard times, when parents who felt they could no longer afford to take care of their children would simply abandon them or offer them up to Orphan Trains heading West for greater opportunity. Even after the foster care system was put into place in the 20th century, families who wound up without resources to care for their children often found themselves at loose ends and placed their children in informal childcare—the most notorious case of which is arguably the abuse and murder of teenager Sylvia Likens at the hands of her unofficial foster family….

Time reported in 2010 that the estimated number of failed adoptions from Eastern Europe and Russia was around 4,000 since 1990. But this fails to take into account illicit adoptions and other means of child transfer. After several notorious public incidents of failed Russian adoptions—one woman put her 7-year-old adopted son on a plane back to Moscow—many countries tightened restrictions on U.S. adoptions. Russia banned them altogether….

…In the U.K., the rate of disrupted adoptions is almost 20%, while in the U.S. it can range from 3 percent to a staggering 53 percent, with the likelihood of an adopted child ending back up in care increasing with the age of the child.

via The Daily Dot

And it’s world news. Imagine how the people in other nations (whose children are among the targets here) feel, knowing that we’re importing their children and then abandoning them:

In a five-year-period 5,029 posts have been posted on Yahoo message board, in other words, one child per week was advertised. The ages varied from 6 to 14, with the majority adopted from foreign countries like Russia, China, Ethiopia, and Ukraine.

America’s underground market for adopted children is a vast, well-organized, easily accessed Internet network, where parents who have become disillusioned about the adopted child try to find new homes for them.

Yahoo and Facebook are a vast marketplace where unwanted children are put on sale without government supervision, the children on these services are very often treated like possessions and not human beings, a burden parents wish to get rid of with as few problems as possible. The whole procedure is very similar to the one owners apply when looking for new homes for their pets and dubbed the same way, “private re-homing”. The eight bulletin boards discovered by Reuters are extremely similar in content the degree of atrocity.

The Reuters investigation has revealed that re-homed children had very often been victims of all kinds of abuse. A girl adopted from China confessed that her adoptive parents made her dig her own grave, while another girl from Russia, said a boy in her adoptive family urinated in her after they had sex. At the time she was only 13 years old and had been moved three times in only 6 months.

Michael Seto, an expert on the sexual abuse of children at the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group in Canada, said the children from foreign countries, who are very likely to never have seen their biological parents, and have no knowledge of English are the most frequent victims of the abuse. “You’re talking about a population that appears to be especially vulnerable to exploitation,” – Seto concluded.

via The Voice of Russia

Just awful.

Giving away a child in America can be surprisingly easy. Legal adoptions must be handled through the courts, and prospective parents must be vetted. But there are ways around such oversight. Children can be sent to new families quickly through a basic “power of attorney” document – a notarized statement declaring the child to be in the care of another adult.

via Reuters

This indicates that multiple problems urgently require solutions.

We need to establish that this is criminal behavior. Unfortunately, this is so far not happening. For some reason, giving a child away is not being classed as “child endangerment” or even “neglect”

There is one potential safeguard: an agreement among the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands called the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, or ICPC. The agreement requires that if a child is to be transferred outside of the family to a new home in a different state, parents notify authorities in both states. That way, prospective parents can be vetted.

The compact has been adopted by every state and is codified in various statutes that give it the force of law. Even so, these laws are seldom enforced, in part because the compact remains largely unknown to law enforcement authorities.

Foreign adoption procedures need to be analyzed and every point where the child is at risk needs to be addressed:

  • Parents who are not ready for what they’re getting in for need to be prevented from adopting
  • Parents who are responsible for an overseas child need to have support services available.
    • the cost of this should be at least partially factored into fees paid at the time of adoption

Whether or not such children are adopted domestically or from overseas – or not adopted at all – we need some sort of safety mechanism for parents and guardians who can’t handle the situation they are in.

Parents who offer their children on the Internet say they have limited options. Residential treatment centers can be expensive, and some parents say social services won’t help them; if they do contact authorities, they fear being investigated for abuse or neglect.

The problems – and the isolation parents feel – can prove overwhelming. On the bulletin boards, parents talk of children becoming abusive and violent, terrorizing them and other kids in the household.

My own experience with other peoples’ troubled kids confirms this experience: there is a void for parents who can’t handle their kids. Social Services is equipped to investigate and criminalize families, not assist them. The sorts of services that are actually required are not available (except for those with lots of money, to pay for private treatment). What people actually can get access to is a limited “talk therapy” approach that almost always does more harm than good (and that is a serious understatement), since it starts from assumptions that are wildly inappropriate for kids with serious behavioral issues.

Meanwhile, “burnout” completely destroys the ability to deal with kids in the way kids need to be dealt with. Overworked teachers, social workers, and psychological or psychiatric professionals are all at risk – and so are overwhelmed parents. High-stress situations combined with caretaker burnout must be recognized as a crisis – not “could become” a crisis but IS a crisis.

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.Burnout reduces your productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give….

…If constant stress has you feeling disillusioned, helpless, and completely worn out, you may be suffering from burnout. When you’re burned out, problems seem insurmountable, everything looks bleak, and it’s difficult to muster up the energy to care—let alone do something about your situation. The unhappiness and detachment burnout causes can threaten your job, your relationships, and your health.

from helpguide.org

Overseas adoption should include some sort of long-term wellness check. This is important not only for the well-being of the children, but also for the well-being of international relationships between America and the rest of the world.

No authority tracks what happens after a child is brought to America, so no one knows how often international adoptions fail. The U.S. government estimates that domestic adoptions fail at a rate ranging from “about 10 to 25 percent.” If international adoptions fail with about the same frequency, then more than 24,000 foreign adoptees are no longer with the parents who brought them to the United States. Some experts say the percentage could be higher given the lack of support for those parents.

We also need to be clear about who is responsible for what.

Just five weeks after Katya arrived home, an event took place that some adoption professionals would say sealed the family’s fate: Rebecca gave birth. After years of failed fertility treatments and miscarriages, she had miraculously brought a pregnancy to term while Katya’s adoption proceeded.

“She felt she would never be as loved” as the baby, says Rebecca. “We figured the newborn was going to be the most time-consuming child,” says Jeff. In fact, it was the opposite. Jeff and Rebecca spent nearly every night in bed debating how to help Katya, who confessed that she had never wanted to be adopted in the first place. “How do you parent a child who doesn’t want to be parented?” Jeff asks. In addition to consulting with professional therapists, Jeff spent hours each day counseling Katya about right and wrong and how to function in a family — all to no avail. “It was crisis management all the time.”

The torment and turmoil continued for three years. Once, Katya held a knife to her throat. The police were called; she was hospitalized. “We felt like we were prisoners in our home,” says Jeff. “We were paralyzed.”

Katya was no happier. She demanded a new family.

The child starts saying she never wanted to be adopted anyway and she wants a new family right around the time…hmm: right around the time it becomes clear that she is in the way! Well!

Look – say “I couldn’t handle it; I was overwhelmed and burnt out and I did something unethical” – that I can sympathize with. But don’t tell me the kid didn’t really want your love anyway. Kids don’t work that way. There ain’t no such thing as a kid that doesn’t want love. When a kid says “I didn’t want to be here anyway”, that means “My pride is wounded because I am unloved and I am going to pretend I don’t care because you are evil and I don’t want you to see me bleed any more than you already have.”

Whatever is wrong with any of these kids – however messed up they may genuinely be – it’s not their fault that the people who wanted to adopt them wanted them to be something they weren’t, and couldn’t accept them being what they are.