Unethical adoptions are a big business
More than 15 years ago, I testified with a group of advocates concerned about the trafficking of children from the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). Recently we’ve also become aware of a resurgence of RMI adoptions being run through Hawaii.
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More than 15 years ago, I testified with a group of advocates concerned about the trafficking of children from the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). Recently we’ve also become aware of a resurgence of RMI adoptions being run through Hawaii. We’ve even heard from concerned nurses working with birth mothers who don’t seem to understand the ramifications of their signed consents.
What Dr. Mike Walters writes is true and concerning: bad actors are profiting from the trafficking of Marshallese women and children, and adoptive families are secondary victims in this no-win situation (“Unscrupulous adoption practices abuse Marshallese mothers, families,” Star-Advertiser, Island Voices, June 4).
I have worked in adoption for more than 25 years, and have personally witnessed the full journey of adoption for many of my clients. Some of the children I’ve placed into loving homes as infants are now sending me birth announcements, and some are seeking the support of our counseling services as they try to work through the trauma of that primal wound.
Considering the profound importance of child placement, and the many lives that can be affected through the placement of one child, the field is vastly under-regulated. There is no requirement in Hawaii for a nonprofit or social work component to adoption. Those who see adoption as a business are free to use the many available loopholes to skirt ethical behavior. Without regard for the long-term ramifications of adoption, pricey “closed” adoptions deliver healthy babies to families who may know nothing about the RMI culture.
We agree with Dr. Walters and his peers who have contacted us recently concerned about what they feel is a growing market for Marshallese babies. As a Hague-accredited, nonprofit adoption agency, we know the immediate and long-term damage that can come from unethical adoptions.
Adopted children usually have a strong sixth-sense of their own histories, even when denied transparency or details. Children can tell when the adults around them are sharing full truths or conveniently sanitized stories. Children grow up to become curious adults, who often seek answers. How and why a birth mother decides to place a child for adoption is of primary concern to any interested adoptee. Finding out that your birth mother was unaware of her legal rights, or pressured to choose adoption, could likely cause long-term damage to the adoptee and to the relationship between that individual and his or her parents.
Many ethical adoption agencies, and medical and judicial communities are working hard to combat child trafficking through the existing processes. But many professionals, who are required to participate in these adoptions in the course of their daily work, may have no mechanism through which to complain. The professionals need the support of adoptive parent communities to put a final end to this. Without adoptive families willing to pay high prices for illegal or ethically questionable adoptions, the children would likely remain with their birth families. Well-meaning adoptive families need to be alerted to the indicators of unethical adoptions so they can make informed choices.
In order for adoption to work in everyone’s best interest, the concept is simple: If a child cannot stay with her birth or extended family, she should go to the most appropriate and nearby family possible. Only in cases where she would otherwise be unwanted, neglected, homeless or institutionalized should a child be placed far away from her place of birth, in a loving family who understands her culture of origin, and who is willing to embrace all that she brings with her.
Adoption can serve the needs of certain children, but only when conducted with the highest ethical standards and cultural awareness.
Kristine Altwies is executive director/CEO of Hawaii International Child.