Carried off: abduction-adoption in China

Français : Adoption Days

Read human trafficking story here:

…It is true that many in America’s adoption community do not want to talk about trafficking in China. I contacted nearly a dozen American adoption agencies that specialize in China adoptions for this story; all but one of them refused to comment or ignored the request entirely. The one person who did respond was Lisa Prather, executive director of A Helping Hand Adoption Agency, who said that “the term trafficking should never be used in the description of an adoption [and by using this term] the media is perpetuating erroneous propaganda,” since adoptions don’t meet the TVPRA definition of the term.

Of course, another reason the issue isn’t widely discussed is money. U.S.-China adoption is big business; U.S. Adoption agencies make thousands—Candis said it cost her nearly $20,000, and many adoption agencies publicly list prices in this range—for each child adopted from China, and Chinese orphanages generally receive a donation of at least $5,000 from the adoptive parents; Candis paid $3,000 but the mandatory fee has since been raised to $5,000 nationwide. On the American side, shutting down the China adoption program would lead to a big drop in revenue for many adoption agencies, and would shut down others completely. In China, orphanages make money for each child placed with adoptive parents, and since trafficked children often cost an orphanage around $500 to purchase, a quick overseas adoption can bring in a tidy profit.

…The U.S. State Department estimates that every year, around 20 thousand children are kidnapped in China, and some independent estimates are much higher. Tens of thousands of resolved cases, and the fact that many of those kidnapped are boys but very few boys are adopted internationally, indicate that many of those children are sold into domestic adoption. But we know that at least a few of them do end up getting adopted internationally. We know that of the children adopted internationally, many of them (like Erica Candis) may arrive overseas with doctored paperwork or origins that are otherwise unclear.

“I would say that fraud or trafficking is involved in more than three-quarters of all adoptions from China,” says Brian Stuy. Stuy is a controversial figure in the adoption field—parents have accused him of having an agenda (they think he wants the China adoption program shut down), and Research China does produce paid reports on the background of adopted children whose parents are interested in looking into it and have $50 (the average research fee) to spare. But he is also one of the only people who has done extensive statistical analysis and investigative fieldwork within China to determine which orphanages are involved in baby-buying, and to what extent. Stuy says cases like Candis’ are quite common, and that despite China’s proclamations in official media that it has dealt with the problem behind the trafficking in Hunan and other high profile scandals, baby buying and selling continues. In mid-January, a Chinese whistleblower posted shocking allegations about an orphanage in Guixi, Jiangxi province in Southeast China, that places many children internationally, accusing it of corruption, baby buying, and abuse. The case is still under investigation and it is not yet clear whether the allegations are true, but Susan Morgan, a mother to two adopted children from China including one who came from the Guixi orphanage, was still saddened when she read the news. “I’ve known for years that corruption is rampant in international adoption,” Morgan said, “[But] suddenly being faced with an anonymous whistle blower who cites corruption in your own child’s orphanage is still shocking, especially when you’ve met some of the people accused.”

But Morgan fears interest in the story will peter out before long, in part because there are a lot of people who simply don’t want to hear it. “Most adoptive families, I feel sure, do not understand how serious the issue of baby buying is in China, and the ties it can have to child trafficking and kidnapping,” Susan said. “Of course, this is an issue that most adoptive parents do not want to explore, for obvious reasons.” They fear losing their children, and they fear the nightmarish legal battle their children could be dragged through if it was ever discovered that their children had biological parents who hadn’t truly given them up and actually wanted them back. That fear is both understandable and warranted—no one really seems to be sure what would happen in such a case if both sets of parents were unflinching in demanding the child stay with them—but American adoptive parents’ general disinterest in investigating corruption and baby buying in Chinese orphanages may be part of the reason why Chinese parents like Liu Liqin are still losing their children at a rate of dozens per day…


  1. Given the situation in China it seems unlinkely that parents would get their children back if they wanted them. In such a repressive regime where the rights of women and children are so little valued I doubt there is much for adopters to worry about!


  2. What about the parents that willingly bring their children to baby boxes, what would become of those children. Remember the “dying rooms” a documentary about children left to die because China could not feed them, prior to US adoption. Please before you spread anything about corruption, know if it is truly penetrated the entire adoptive system. OR, chance stopping precious children’s lives being saved.


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