Should Adult Adoptees Have Access to Their Birth Records? | Mirah Riben

The affirmative argument is presented by April Dinwoodie, Chief Executive, the prestigious Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI), an organization with no ulterior motive or financial backing that would impact their conclusions. It is on point and factual, backed by extensive research of experts in the fields of child welfare and law as it relates to this issue conducted by DAI. Their position is in keeping with the AMA, The American Pediatric Association, and The Surgeon General, all of whom recognize the importance of a family medical history which adoptees are denied without access to their original birth certificates. The DAI’s position paper on access is available here and here.

via Should Adult Adoptees Have Access to Their Birth Records? | Mirah Riben.


Hey there everyone!

I finished up my classes. The blogging and social media students were some of the best EVER!

The above post by author Mirah Riben is a MUST READ. It covers the arguments and is “on point” with my views… Follow the hashtag  #flipthescript on Twitter for some of the best writing I have EVER read on National Adoption Awareness Month (#NAAM).  Many adoptees have taken over the blogosphere this month. Their voices will change the world!

You can read my latest post at American Indian Adoptees blog… It’s November. It’s Nat’l Adoption Awareness Month and Native American Heritage and History Month. – Read:

cultural genocide

It’s time for me to take a break from blogging. It’s just time. We have some travel ahead, the holidaze, and some grandchildren to tend to…which is pure joy for me.

I’ll be back in January. Be your best. Be the LOVE… Lara/Trace

The Dominican children given up to Quebec’s ‘adoption machine’

At least 200 children Dominican were separated from their families in the 1980s. It wasn’t because of a famine, a hurricane or an earthquake, but because of an incredibly effective network of Quebec missionaries and adoptive parents

Rosa and Miguel Ramirez with a portrait of their son.

Rosa and Miguel Ramirez with a portrait of their son.

By: Isabelle Hackey La Presse, Published on Sep 21 2015

HATO MAYOR DEL REY, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC—Miguel and Rosa Ramirez’s shack is located at the end of an isolated road in the interior of the Dominican Republic. It is far away from the scenes found on postcards, in the middle of nowhere. A piece of plywood is nailed to the narrow facade of the shack. Miguel has scribbled an address in a ballpoint pen. It’s a rough address, but enough to know that it is one in Quebec.

It is that of his lost son — one among many.

At least 200 children were separated from their families in the 1980s, and they came from this region in the southeast of the country. It wasn’t because of a famine, a hurricane or an earthquake, but because of an incredibly effective “adoption machine” that was put in place by a network of Quebec missionaries and adoptive parents.

In a region of 40,000 people, 200 children within a few years is a considerable number given that they weren’t orphans. Their parents, all very poor, didn’t necessarily understand all that an international adoption implied. In many cases, they were lured with the promise that their children — once they had received an education and become wealthy — would come back to save them from their misery.

In reality, that never occurred.

Miguel and Rosa Ramirez had five children. The youngest was very weak. His stomach was infested with parasites that put his life at risk, his Dominican doctor concluded. At two years old, the child ate next to nothing, as if his body was incapable of absorbing food. The medical treatments were expensive, and Miguel and Rosa didn’t have the money to pay for them.

The couple was visited by a missionary and by Luce Pelletier, an adoptive mother who was organizing adoptions and who would soon become the director of the Quebec adoption agency Monde-Enfant.

“She promised us that in Canada our son would receive the treatments he needed,” Miguel recalled. “She told us that he would surely come back to visit within a couple of years.”

Miguel and Rosa left the meeting convinced. They gave up their youngest son, persuaded that he would have otherwise soon be dead.

In Quebec, the pediatricians could find no evidence of intestinal parasites, according to the boy’s adoptive father.

“The platelets they used at the Dominican hospital may have been contaminated or else there was a mix-up in the medical reports,” he said.

In any event, the child was in bad shape.

Miguel and Rosa’s story was repeated hundreds of times in the region of Hato Mayor. Jean Lacaille, the Quebec missionary at the heart of this wave of adoptions, now admits that he was actively looking for “people that had a large family and with a sick child” to fill the desires of Quebecers who wanted to become parents.

Such targeting of families that were poor and might be willing to give up their child for adoption was legal in the 1980s in the Dominican Republic.  Today, however, such methods would be considered to be human trafficking under national laws that are much more strict.

Father Lacaille, like other missionaries and actors involved at the time, said that he was acting in good faith. But faced with a growing demand, he lost control.

“It snowballed. And even if we were in the Dominican Republic, the snowball grew pretty fast,” he admits.

Father Lacaille recognizes that his goal was not so much to save Dominican babies but to “offer a service” to Quebecers in search of children who contacted him over several years, starting in 1978.

The couples came from all corners of Quebec, from Sherbrooke to Abitibi and Sept-Iles. When Luce Pelletier brought her son Miguel to Quebec in the fall of 1982, there were at least six other children with them aboard the airplane. The adoptive father, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified, confided that he felt ill at ease to see so many children getting off the airplane at the same time.

“It became an adoption machine,” admits Yves Bécotte, former chairman of the board of Monde-Enfant. He explained that Luce Pelletier “walked through the villages” to in search of families “in such a way that the number of children that were adopted from the region of Hato Mayor doubled or tripled. It was a lot for a little organization that didn’t even have an orphanage.”

To stop the machine, Yves Bécotte fired Luce Pelletier, who is now deceased. The decision was a welcome relief to those responsible for the adoptions in Hato Mayor, who nonetheless profited from this small local industry, according to Bécotte.

“She was relieved because she was always walking a tight rope. There are official orphanages there and to go and look for children from families is like bypassing the orphanages,” he said.

Miguel Ramirez remembers the rumours that circulated about the market for children in Hato Mayor. But nobody offered him any money for his baby, he swears. All of the biological parents interviewed in the course of this investigation insisted on the fact that they had not sold their child.

That being said, many families “were waiting for the moment when they would have helped, but that wasn’t a condition,” said Father Lacaille.

“We told them, ‘When the children are older they will have great advantages compared to here . . . and that their parents will probably help them.’ But we tried as much as possible to avoid making it sound like a sale.”

Three decades later, Jean Lacaille continues to believe in this model of “open” adoption to preserve the links between the child and the biological family, even if this model has long since been discredited all around the world. Even if this type of adoption is now completely illegal in the Dominican Republic.

The country only authorizes adoptions where the links between the child and the biological family have been severed. Since the new rules were enacted, there has been only a trickle of children leaving the country. Only 17 foreign adoptions occurred in 2013.

Miguel Ramirez admits that for the first few years after the adoption of his son, the adoptive parents sent him a bit of money that allowed his other children to go to school. But little by little that source dried up.

Today, regrets eat away at the old man. While he tells his story, bitter tears fall into the deep wrinkles that cross his cheeks.

Rosa listens to her husband and nods her head. She speaks little. Her slanted eyebrows give her face a permanent sadness. Sitting on the porch, she holds a fading portrait of her Canadian son. It is all that remains since a hurricane took their old home — that and the fragment of an address on a piece of plywood.

Thank YOU

about me iconBy Lara/Trace (or whatever you want to call me!)

I am popping in to say thank you for 100,000 hits on this blog. REALLY!

That is no small feat for a journalist writer who writes about adoption, ICWA, Native American history and other serious dark matters.

Chi Megwetch, Pilamaye, Gratias and Merci Beaucoup!

I have a full schedule ahead that will prevent me posting now and in the month of April… Life is good, full, busy….

See you back here in May!

Outer Search Inner Journey: An interview with author-adoptee Peter Dodds #flipthescript

Young Peter

By Lara/Trace

When Peter was three-years-old, he was adopted from a German orphanage by American parents, one of 10,000 German children adopted by United States’ citizens during the Cold War. His new American parents didn’t speak German; Peter didn’t speak English. Outer Search Inner Journey is his memoir and the first book written on international adoption by a foreign-born adoptee. His website:

Peter, you and I recently contributed to the amazing anthology Adoptionland. Did you ever imagine that we adoptees would unite in this way, together, as writers-researchers?

Peter: My book Outer Search Inner Journey was first published in 1997 at a time when information from the adoptee point of view was scarce. What we’ve seen since then, paralleling the growth of the Internet, are large numbers of adoptees expressing themselves through literature, art and social media avenues. The book Adoptionland and the YouTube video Adoptees Flip the Script are two examples where adoptees share their perspectives and speak to the need to reform the adoption system.

This surge of adoptee expression will help the general public understand that adoption is enormously complex, has multiple stakeholders, creates winners as well as losers and certainly includes an adoption agency profit motive.

What have you learned about your natural parents and did you meet relatives?

Peter: I returned to Germany in 1979 to search for my natural mother and reclaim my ethnic identity. For me searching was instinctive, like a salmon that returns to the stream where it was born. In Germany I got an unexpected break and found a great aunt and uncle who warmly welcomed me home. They linked me to my natural mother. My German father died before I could find him.

I grew up in the U.S. school system and learned the American version of history; another example of how international adoption takes away foreign adoptees’ native cultures. My relatives taught me much about German history and how my natural family was caught in the cataclysms of the 20th Century. A decade after WW II, when my mother birthed me, Germany didn’t have a social welfare system established. My German mother, ostracized for being a single mother and lacking resources to raise a child had no choice but to relinquish me to an orphanage. Another case study of a woman in duress, without options, forced to abandon her child.


You wrote, “My purpose in writing Outer Search Inner Journey was to show adversity offers an opportunity for transformation and enlightenment.” How has this journey affected your writing and you?

Peter: Growing up I never felt I belonged. As an adult people never seemed to understand the impact of being adopted. So I wrote as a means of expression. The writing process was cathartic with many aha! moments as I reflected on my life. Insights into my adoptee behaviors and emotions came with putting words on paper. I understood why I had an exacerbated fear of rejection. And writing has certainly been a part of the healing process

Peter’s Memoir

Tell us about the film you are working on?

Peter: On a reader titled her review of Outer Search Inner Journey, “This book could be a movie.” The seed was planted. This was one of those experiences where you try to ignore a thought in your head only to hear it grow louder and louder.

I’ve written the screenplay adaptation of the book. The screenplay mirrors the Outer Search Inner Journey and the movie genre is drama. It is not a documentary.

Now I’m searching for people in the film industry who would be interested in reading the screenplay. The movie Philomena, where an Irish woman travels to the U.S. to search for the son she relinquished, has been a terrific success. That gives me great hope that Outer Search Inner Journey will also be put to film.

“Thanks for having me as a guest. I’ve admired your work for many years, Trace.”

[My thanks to Peter for this interview and an update on his work in adoption reform…Lara/Trace]

Headlines: trafficking, adoption, Indian Child Welfare

On Wednesday, July 23, 2014, the House of Representatives unanimously approved H.R. 4980, the “Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act.” This bipartisan, bicameral bill reflects agreements reached between House and Senate leaders on three separate bills designed to prevent sex trafficking of children in foster care, increase adoptions from foster care, and increase child support collections for families, among other purposes.

House Committee on Ways and Means sealRead the full press release at Chairman Dave Camp’s website.


Alaska Supreme Court sides with Interior tribe in child custody, sovereignty case

The Alaska Supreme Court ruled Friday in support of an Interior tribal court in a child custody and tribal sovereignty Native American Rights Fund logocase that was contested by Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration.

The case, Simmonds v. Parks, started almost six years ago as a custody dispute in the Village of Minto, a town of 200 people about 130 road miles northwest of Fairbanks.

Read the full article at the website.

Learn more about the case at the Native American Rights Fund website.


Why Are These Indian Children Being Torn Away From Their Homes?

Imagine entering family court and knowing that what’s at stake is the person you hold most dear – your child. Now imagine having a judge tell you that he’s removing your child from your custody, from your home. When you ask him why, the judge’s replies, “I honestly can’t tell you.” The judge then signs an order giving custody of your son to Social Services.

You might think that such a court proceeding could never happen in the United States – but you’d be wrong.

Read the full article by Stephen Pevar at the ACLU website.




The National Child Welfare Resource Center for Tribes (NRC4Tribes) is one of the new resource centers within the Children’s Bureau Training and Technical Assistance (T/TA) National Network. The NRC4Tribes joins the Children’s Bureau’s Child Welfare Training and Technical Assistance Network (T/TANetwork) which is designed to improve child welfare systems and to support States and Tribes in achieving sustainable, systemic change that results in greater safety, permanency, and well-being for children, youth, and families.

The Children’s Bureau is located within the Administration for Children,Youth and Families (ACF) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Tribes continue to be able to access training and technical assistance (T/TA) through various national resources centers within the Children’s Bureau national T/TA Network.The NRC for Tribes is the focal point for coordinated and culturally competent child welfare T/TA for Tribes within theT/TA Network.The NRC4Tribes works collaboratively with Tribes and the T/TA Network to assist Tribes in the enhancement of child welfare services and the promotion of safety, permanency and well-being for American Indian/Alaska Native children and families.


“Those are Our People and That’s our Family” written by Erika Bjorum

August 7, 2014

“Those are Our People and That’s our Family”, written by Erika Bjorum, who conducted a graduate research project with Maine-Wabanaki REACH, is published in the latest edition of Journal of Public Child Welfare. Her study examined the perspectives of Wabanaki community members and child welfare staff on state child welfare involvement in Wabanaki communities.

In the acknowledgements, Erika states, “The author gratefully acknowledges the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Convening Group and the staff from the Muskie School of Public Service for their partnership in developing and carrying out this project, as well as their valuable contributions to the editing process.”

adoption laws, dead parents and letters to your birthchild

Thinking, thinking, thinking – that’s what we do

Tribes on child welfare: We can do it better

Archive photo
Archive photo

But ability to administer foster care has doubters in Indian Country

Jul. 27, 2013, Written by Steve Young

At issue

GRANTS: Members of the Lakota People’s Law Project, a nonprofit that advises Native Americans about Indian Child Welfare violations, say they have been talking to government officials in Washington about money for South Dakota’s nine tribes.
GOAL: Help tribes develop their own foster care and child protection programs.

DIVISION: Though the state says it would support such efforts, there are some involved in tribal child protection who question whether the tribes could successfully run those programs on their own.

Juanita Scherich remembers how they cut her hair, how they made her scrub and wash every day, as if a trim and a bath would take the “Indian” out of a 9-year-old child.

Though it was decades ago, Scherich can’t forget how no one in a string of Rapid City foster homes spoke her native language. How none of them prayed to tunkasila, great spirit-father of the Lakota. How no one offered her even a whiff of her tribal culture.

“I lost everything in 2½ years in foster care,” the Indian Child Welfare Act director for the Oglala Sioux Tribe says. “My language, my culture, I had to relearn it all. That wasn’t right.”

Today, she and tribal officials across South Dakota are prepared to change that. With 35 years of federal ICWA legislation on the books and 80 percent of Native children still showing up in white foster homes, the tribes insist they are ready to take over foster care and child protection services, and to keep more of their children on the reservations.

The key to accomplishing that, they say, is directly accessing federal dollars now being funneled through the state.

“If we had direct funding,” Scherich said, “we would see that more of our children are staying with relatives, staying with our own people.”

But how many federal dollars are they talking about? A National Public Radio series that aired in October 2011 suggested the state receives $100 million a year to subsidize its foster care program. The Coalition of Sioux Tribes for Children and Families and the Lakota People’s Law Project cited that number in a report to Congress in January.

Danny Sheehan, chief counsel for the Lakota People’s Law Project, a nonprofit that provides expertise to the Lakota about ICWA violations, suspects the amount is at least in the $56 million range.

“Federal money comes in now to the state under various provisions of Title IV of the Social Security Act,” Sheehan said. “Our best estimate is that 56 percent of the children in foster care are Native Americans. So we’re talking about a good percentage of that $56 million.”

continue reading

I filled a need: Infertility epidemic

read this new book
read this new book

By Lara/Trace

We know there is a growing infertility epidemic. You’d have to google what chemicals are causing this in both men and women.  Infertility creates a demand for newborn infants.  If we connect the dots, we’ll see how this creates a population of people who wish to raise children despite their medical condition of infertility. The preferred way to remedy this will be adopting an infant. That is how the adoption industry has grown today and will still need to find a supply of newborns.

Data shows a rising scarcity of adoptable children. We know the trafficking industry will react. The state welfare departments (and those who work in the billion dollar adoption industry) who handle these transactions and placements of these children will be hurt financially. They don’t want that.

Demand in the U.S. for adopting “voluntarily relinquished” domestic infants (newborns and fresh flesh) and young children (healthy and white) remains high, while the availability of these children is low and shrinking.  Estimates indicate that ten years ago less than 14,000 children were voluntarily relinquished in the U.S. each year due to an increase in women who choose to be single mothers.  In addition, over the last decade the adoption industry has faced decreasing rates of international adoption prospects, primarily due to changes in policies by foreign governments, like Russia recently. The new reality is that 62% fewer children are available from other countries than a decade ago.  According to U.S. Department of State Office of Children’s Issues a decline from 23,000 international adoptions in 2004 to around 8,700 in 2011.

The number of families and individuals looking to adopt is only increasing during this decline in options.  As some in the adoption industry attempt to remain afloat, Indian Country and other Third World countries will once again be a primary target.

Some of this increase in adoption demand is driven by calls for capable families and individuals to adopt – especially in the faith community. Take for example the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2009 resolution calling on its 45,000 churches and nearly 16 million members “to pray for guidance as to whether God is calling them to adopt or foster a child or children.”

What I do know is my closed adoption as a newborn literally and slowly destroyed me emotionally. I was trapped, told what to believe, told how to behave and had no choice but to accept that my adoption was sealed by law and I would never know who I really am or be able to meet my birth parents. I searched for answers, for people, for years. At age 38, in reunion with my birthfather, he told me he would have raised me.  It hit me that I could never replace those missing years with my dad, my sister and brothers.  Adoption destroyed years of my life. There was no way to get it back.

Being trafficked, I was adopted out when I had two living first parents. I was not an orphan. I was placed with an infertile couple who lost two children to miscarriage.

I filled a need.


The Fight for Native Families on #FAULTLINES

chivingtonAnger turned inside:  The Fight For Native Families

By Trace A. DeMeyer

I am 57 years on the long road as an adoptee warrior.

In the past year, my adoption wariness rose to a whole new level with the Baby Veronica and Dusten Brown story. When asked how this tragedy affected me, I’d say, “I am Ronnie Brown 50+ years later. My dad would have raised me too.” I hurt to think about Ronnie. The adoption industry had won again.

It brought up memories of my own loss, isolation, grief, disappointment, what I call “anger turned inside,” and how it tore me to shreds.  With the very real long-term effects of assimilation by closed adoption, I’d spent more of my life as a stranger to my own relatives. Hopefully, Ronnie Brown won’t have this problem to endure.

My own recovery started when I read my adoption file in 1979 and saw my name Laura Jean Thrall. I was 22 and didn’t quite know what to do with this information. I’d hoped someone was looking for me (sadly no one was.)  I didn’t get depressed or feel suicidal, but apparently many adoptees do hurt themselves and suffer more than the world realizes. I pretty much faced everything head-on, like a car crash.

After reunion with my birthfather in 1994, my story became more about finding history. What is known today about the Indian Adoption Projects and the aftermath of ARENA, few people even know it happened…but right here in America, Native children were taken and given to white people and missionaries and boarding schools for a reason. Every Indian reservation has this story. Thousands and thousands of Indian children disappeared. Their reason:  kill the Indian to save the Man, eradicate our sovereignty to take more land.

Adoption was used a weapon against American Indians and First Nations. Tribal children were sold into adoption, molded into American proto-types, tribal membership erased.  In some states, it’s still happening in 2013.

For the Lost Children of Indian Adoption Projects, blood is never erased by adoption. But with sealed adoption records, it’s nearly made impossible to reunite.

In the words of a Cree elder, “You must know where you came from yesterday, know where you are today, if you’re to know where you’re going tomorrow.” True. I’ve lived it.

November happens to be Adoption Awareness Month. Fault Lines on Al Jazeera America has a new documentary “THE FIGHT FOR NATIVE FAMILIES” to air on Friday, Nov 8th, 9:30pm ET and 12:30am ET and 7pm ET on Sun Nov. 9th.  The Series website with channel info:

They’ll share my anthology TWO WORLDS on their website.


Trace DeMeyer is the author of One Small Sacrifice and the co-editor of Two Worlds: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects. She is working on a new anthology of Native adoptee narratives, CALLED HOME.

Visit her blog American Indian Adoptees:

Human trafficking: preying on expecting moms

917dd-childcatchers-2131By Lara/Trace

At this point in my research into human trafficking, I am looking at the billion dollar adoption industry tactics to convince mothers who are expecting to give up their newborn by using coercion, isolation, promises and careful maneuvers to guarantee the mother is going to go through with the transaction. I call this child trafficking because money is exchanged for the sale of an infant (commodity), coordinated by the adoption agency and/or lawyers (brokers) who collect fees from the future adoptive parents (buyers). It is like a real estate deal. You have a product, your house. The brokers and agencies have a buyer and charge money to make the transaction happen.

In recent cases like Veronica Brown (Capobianco), the lawyers and Nightlight Adoption Agency prey on the birthmother Christy by having her cut off all contact with Dusten Brown, birthfather. They might promise an open adoption but this is not legally enforceable but it means she will see her child occasionally or get updates. The lawyers use “no contact or financial support” to paint the father Dusten as a deadbeat. Viola – the adoption happens.  As you always hear, follow the money.

Read this post about the advertising tactics of the adoption agencies! Once an expectant mom makes that phone call to the agency, the coercions and preying begin.

State of IL Files Suit Against ANLC

From Suz’s blog Writing my Wrongs:

I want to comment on this story. I want to comment on it not only because it involves adoption in the State of Illinois. I want to comment on it because I lived it.

The article states that Illinois has filed suit against ANLC for internet advertising. The article cites Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan:

“They’re very specific in directing their advertising and marketing to people in Illinois,” says Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, even though they’re not licensed in the state. Illinois prohibits for-profit adoption agencies.”

Yes. True. I lived it.

The article also says:

“Adam Pertman of the Donaldson Adoption Institute worries about a coercive approach to pregnant women who may be in crisis, unsure what to do.”

To all this I say YES and YES. I also say HELL EFFIN YES to this last sentence:

“Of course, banning targeted ads in one state won’t keep such online agencies from operating, which is why — if Illinois’ lawsuit succeeds — Pertman hopes other states will follow its lead.”

Let me share, again, in case anyone doubts this can or does happen. I found Easter House in the New Haven, CT yellow pages in 1985. They had an advertisement there, a very misleading advertisement. It suggested they were in CT as they had a CT area code. When my mother and I contacted them we did so with the expectation that they were in CT and that I could stay in CT. We were quite surprised to learn that in fact their CT phone # rolled over to Illinois office. Even when we learned that we were still lead to believe they could assist me in CT. It was not until they flew someone out from Illinois to meet with my mother and me in an abandoned office building we learned otherwise. Even then, what we learned was not true, it was in fact a complete lie constructed to deceive us and get me out of the State of CT. Easter House had an ongoing legal battle with my home state and to get my child out of my body and into the hands of a “forever family” they had to get me out of state. They succeeded. They succeeded by terrorizing my mother and I (well, me really) into believing that if I had my daughter in CT she would be required, by law, to be left in foster care for a year, away from me and not with an adoptive family. I have written about this before. This was a very effective ploy on their part. I clearly remember looking up in terror at my mother, hand on pregnant belly, after having visualized a horrible foster care situation, agreeing that I would go away. In doing so, they isolated me, 1000 miles away from anyone known to me. It was “better for my child” they said.

These predatory practices must stop.

Read more about the Kurtz network of baby brokers.


We’re back

speak your truthAfter two emails asking me not to retire this blog, I have decided to keep it flowing – not daily but often….

So we’re back!

If you have news, please leave a comment on this blog and a link and then we’ll include it!


People & Power: Orphan Tourism

Published on May 23, 2012

Increasing numbers of tourists including well-intentioned volunteers keen to help war-torn Cambodia are volunteering in the country’s orphanages. Volumes of research around the world have shown that orphanage care is associated with long-term psychological concerns. People & Power investigates the concept of “voluntourism” which is inadvertently doing more harm than good to Cambodian children, as well as the disturbing trend of exploitation by some companies that organise volunteers or run orphanages.

The Child Catchers by Kathryn Joyce – Part Three of a Series

The Lost Daughters Discuss Posted: 18 May 2013

Today we continue our discussion of the new book by investigative journalist Kathryn Joyce,  The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption. If you missed the previous installments in this series, you can read them here:

In this installment, we focus on orphanages, deception of adoptive and original parents, and coercive tactics employed by the adoption industry. We invite you to join the conversation in the comments following each post.

Karen Pickell:  Let’s talk a little more about these orphanages, and particularly about the situation in Ethiopia, which is covered in chapter four. Joyce points out how the demand for adoptable children spawns new “orphanages” that do not even exist before U.S. adoption agencies descend on these impoverished countries searching for kids to send back to waiting American families. I was saddened to learn of the Ethiopian government‘s role in perpetuating the criminal activity of procuring children to be sent overseas by demanding humanitarian aid from the adoption agencies, amounting to $3.7 million annually. There was such a strong financial incentive to keep this business going.

Rebecca Hawkes:  Yes, Karen, and also a financial incentive for agencies to try to stay in business, even if that meant hopping from country to country and engaging in unethical practices. “’Corruption skips from one unprepared country to the another—until that country gets wise, changes its laws, and corrupt adoptions shift to the next unprepared nation,’ wrote journalist E. J. Graff, who researched international adoption corruption for several years at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University.” There’s a huge money factor, and it comes into play in so many ways.
Lynn Grubb:  I was quite shocked to learn of this, Karen. But it makes sense. Families hear the rumors that the neighbor’s kids are going to the U.S. for an education and other families jump on the bandwagon and put their “orphans” in “orphanages” for opportunities. Sadly, they don’t even fully understand that they are relinquishing their rights forever. That is so wrong to me.
Rebecca:  I’d also like to highlight the point that the book makes about prospective adoptive parents’ wish lists (wanting a young child, a female child, etc.) driving demand, creating an underworld in which children are procured to fill the orders. It’s chilling to think of it this way, but the money coming into poor countries from U.S. adopters and agencies is a huge influence. Corruption is bound to happen in such circumstances.
I agree, Lynn. So wrong!
Susan Perry:  The money factor drives the business, and adoption is a subject, unfortunately, that can easily be misrepresented and simplified. Who can argue with the assertion that “every child deserves a loving home?” People don’t want to look at the unsettling truths behind the business, either overseas or here.
Rebecca:  And then there are the people like the Bradshaws, American adoptive parents who spoke out about the corruption and lies they encountered and faced strong retribution, almost losing their own bio kids as a result of speaking out. Scary.
Lynn:  Yes, Rebecca. I recall somebody receiving death threats as well. Big money in adoption.
Rebecca:  Chilling. This book has certainly stimulated a strong sense of outrage in me!
Karen P.:  Lynn, this truth that our western idea of adoption is not understood in these countries is pointed out repeatedly in the book. How awful that parents are sending their kids off thinking they’re getting a chance at a good education, only to later learn that they’ve lost their children forever? As I read about Haiti back in chapter two, I kept thinking, “How do these adoptive parents live with themselves once they learn what they’ve really done?” I was pleased to find Joyce interviewing adoptive parents of some of the Ethiopian children in chapter four. One mother, Jessie Hawkins, says, “Finding out that you have someone else’s child simply because you happen to have been born in a country where you’re more privileged than they are? You want to throw up, you don’t know what to do.” Many of these adoptive parents are also being scammed by the agencies. I was a little confused, though, by the story of the Bradshaws, who discovered their adopted children were not really orphans and wanted to return them to their family in Ethiopia, but couldn’t for some legal reason that wasn’t clearly explained. I do wish Joyce would have made it clear why these children could not be reunited with their families. I was left wondering whether the Bradshaws really did everything they could have to get these kids back where they belonged.
Yes, Rebecca, the way their agency turned on the Bradshaws was very scary.
Carlynne Hershberger:  I questioned that aspect of it too, Karen. She says several times that it would be illegal for the child to be sent back. How can that be? The whole idea that people would mislead a family to think they’re simply giving their child an education opportunity while all along taking the child away permanently just sickens me to the core. I don’t understand a human who could do that.
Rebecca:  You make a good point, Karen. I got the sense that they were stuck—financially, legally, and otherwise—but that aspect wasn’t fully explained.
Mila:  With you, Karen, on the confusion over the Bradshaws’ situation. The adoptive mom in Tennessee sent Artyom back and “Criminal charges were never filed, but the adoption agency she used, the World Association for Children and Parents, which is based in Seattle, sued her last year for child support.”
Karen P.:  And knowing what they did, why did the Bradshaws change the girls’ names? Maybe it’s a small point compared to everything else in the book, but this whole idea of renaming children—especially older children—bothers me. It seems so much like a way of taking ownership of them.
Mila:  Karen—yes! I was very perturbed by the Bradshaws’ decision to insist upon changing their names.
Rebecca:  I suspect there was an “emerging from the fog” process for the Bradshaws. Some of the confusion is around sequencing. At what point did they know what? I’m not sure, but the adoption appears to have been finalized months before the children were brought to the United States, which seems a questionable practice in and of itself.
Mila:  Good point, Rebecca. Hadn’t thought of it like that . . . .
K. Dahlquist & R. Bangert

Lynn:  One theme I noticed in the adoptive parents who later learned their children were not orphans by any means, was that they were under so much pressure by others in the adoption community to not speak up, to not post the information on message boards warning other parents, to just go along with the program. Kind of like, “You have your kids now be quiet and let the rest of us get ours”. The adoptive parents who later discovered the truth were in this “don’t ask, don’t tell” position and the only thing that mattered to the other prospective adoptive parents was getting children—orphans or not.

Karen P.:  It’s frightening, isn’t it, that there are so many prospective adoptive parents who do not want to hear about any negatives prior to adopting? As an adoptee, I find it very hurtful, because I know they do not have the best interest of their future children in mind if they don’t care to learn about the reality of living inside of adoption. In this age when so much information is available 24/7 via the internet, there is no excuse for not knowing what’s really going on.
Mila:  Karen—I have had personal experience with this. A friend had contacted me expressing she wanted to hear what I had to say about adopting from Ethiopia because she and her husband were seriously considering it—and basically already had begun the process through an agency. I shared a ton of links and resources with her that discussed the complexities and warned against adopting from Ethiopia. She responded by distancing herself from me after telling me that she had never heard a perspective like mine (even though it wasn’t solely my perspective). Now she sends me requests for money to help maternity clinics in Ethiopia, which is great (their adopted children’s mother died in labor—although their father and full siblings are of course still alive and it does seem that the father did not have a full understanding of what he was doing when he brought the newborns to the orphanage out of desperation for their lives). But of course, she’s doing this AFTER she and her husband adopted from Ethiopia—again, back to your point, Karen, that they didn’t want to face the truth until they were able to get the children they wanted. That may sound really harsh and judgmental but dang it, that’s sure the way it seems. But on the flip side, another friend who contacted me for the same reason—wanting to learn more about adopting from Ethiopia—responded by actually deciding not to adopt from Ethiopia after researching the links, resources, and info I emailed to her.
Karen P.:  Those are two very powerful examples, Mila. And this is why we need to keep speaking and educating as many people as we can about the truth of adoption.
Lynn:  On an unrelated topic on page 89, I like how the author paints a picture of the Baby Scoop Era and was interested to learn that “many were pressured to deny that they knew the fathers of their children” and “it was so traumatizing that many do not remember the births.” This is true for my own mother, I suspect, who did not remember my birthday.
Carlynne:  One other part I wanted to mention was the comeback of the maternity home. So many times when I discuss this issue and how I was treated as a mother I get the instant reply of “that was then, it doesn’t happen anymore.” It’s interesting that so much of the funding coming from programs like “choose life” license plates goes to help CPC’s and homes but only if the woman chooses adoption. The story of the girls in Utah who felt they had to resort to assault to escape one of these homes and keep their babies, should be evidence that coercive tactics are alive and well.
Forgot to mention that was in 2007.
Karen P.:  Yes, Carlynne, the Baby Scoop Era may be over in terms of the great number of women who were forced to relinquish, but unfortunately the tactics from that era haven’t completely been eradicated. It angers me that there are people who believe, as Joyce makes the point, that it is God’s will that one family should suffer to make another family happy.
Rebecca:  Karen, you wrote above “As an adoptee, I find it very hurtful, because I know they do not have the best interest of their future children in mind if they don’t care to learn about the reality of living inside of adoption.” This hits on something about the God’s-will, rescue narrative that is particularly challenging for me. The adoptee is assumed to benefit, but little to no effort is put into determining if the adoptee actually does get the “better life” the adoption promoters are so certain about. To the contrary, when adoptees come forward to say “Hey, our experience wasn’t actually all that great,” we are dismissed. If an adoptee’s actual experience doesn’t fit with the established framework, it must be the adoptee who is flawed—hence the stereotype of the bitter, ungrateful adoptee who is viewed as an aberration who can be disregarded. Where is the space for corrective feedback? Where is critical thought and reevaluation of the framework itself based on its impact on the very people it is supposed to benefit?
I sometimes think that adoption is a big, crazy experiment in which no one ever checks the results. Rather, the experiment just goes on and on. This book has reinforced that perception for me.
Carlynne:  Totally agree Rebecca. As an adoptee and a natural mother, this book not only gives me that impression but it fills me with such rage that our lives could be so manipulated for so many decades with so many people just seemingly to not care or just want to look the other way for the sake of profit.
To be continued . . . Please join us next Thursday, May 23, when we will begin discussing the second half of The Child Catchers, starting with chapter five.

nuns selling babies: adoption scandal growing worldwide

Adoptees Sold by Nuns WorldWide

March 28th, 2012 | (see link and photos:

Nun’s Habits in Spain
It started with a whisper in Spain. A Catholic nun was charged for the first time with abducting a baby from an unwed mother which was sold to a childless couple. Sister Maria Gomez Valbuena told the mother that the baby had died at first, later admitting that it had been adopted. There had been whispers before in Quebec in the 1930-1970s with thousands of French Canadian babies being taken from their single mothers who were coerced into signing releases, often while still under the effects of anesthetics or immediately after childbirth. Many young girls were told that their baby had died but that they couldn’t see the body. When it happened in Quebec, over half a century ago, the power of the church swept the atrocity under the carpet. In this day and age, it’s much harder to hide such shocking news.

The UK Daily News reports that the case in Italy is strong.

Mr Moreno’s ‘father’ confessed on his deathbed to having bought him as a baby from a priest in Zaragoza in northern Spain.

He told his son he had been accompanied on the trip by Mr Barroso’s parents, who bought Antonio at the same time for 200,000 pesetas – a huge sum at the time.

During the investigation, some of the babies’ graves were exhumed. Some graves were empty but others had animal or even adult bones. One wonders who’s grave was desicrated to obtain the human bones.

Australia, Quebec and Beyond
The mother and child in this case were very lucky. According to the Herald Sun out of Australia, they were reunited a decade ago when her daughter was ten years old. Many parents are afraid or ashamed to look. Many adoptees don’t even know they are adopted. Others spend a lifetime looking and never find their birth parents. Whether an adoptive family was a good match or a bad one, whether the child got the best of everything or scrabbled in the dirt playing with sticks, everyone deserves to know where they came from. And they should have the right to look in the faces of relatives and know that they belong.

Now Dan Rather has sent journalist investigators to look into the story. In a hard hitting news story titled, “Adopted or abducted?” Mr. Rathers reports:

From Australia to Spain, Ireland to America, and as recent as 1987, young mothers say they were “coerced”, “manipulated”, and “duped” into handing over their babies for adoption. These women say sometimes their parents forged consent documents, but more often they say these forced adoptions were coordinated by the people their families trusted most…priests, nuns, social workers, nurses or doctors.

In February of 2012 the Australian Parliment released the results of an 18 month investigation into charges of child abduction in immoral and illicit practices in the child adoption business. The parliments report revealed:

.. illegal and unethical tactics used to convince young, unmarried mothers to surrender their babies to adoptive homes from the late 1940s to the 1980s.

The story reveals that Australian Senator Rachel Siewert who headed the government investigation claimed that there was mostly testimony from people ‘associated’ with Catholic institutions.Siewert stated that:

In some cases, mothers in Australia were drugged and forced to sign papers relinquishing custody. In others, women were told their children had died. Single mothers also did not have access to the financial support given to widows or abandoned wives, and many were told by doctors, nurses, and social workers that they were unfit to raise a child.

Siewert went on to point out that these practices were worldwide. I can only speculate that they heard a lot of evidence from the nuns and priests that indicated this was a standard practice around the world but especially in the UK, Ireland, US and Canada. Siewert said:

It wouldn’t surprise me to hear the same thing happened elsewhere,” continues Siewert, “…the U.K., the U.S., Canada and Ireland. So you could, I think, expect that those countries also had these sorts of practices.”

Rapid Adoption

In Australia, the practice wes called ‘rapid adoption’ and if a married woman had a baby who was stillborn she would be offered a baby taken from a single mother. When paperwork was actually obtained, it was often passed off as permission to baptise the supposedly dead infant. Often the signature was just forged with no attempt at obtaining a legal signature. One woman, Valerie Linlow, thought her son was stillborn until he knocked at her door 30 years later.

The whispers heard round the world are now coming back to implicate those in Quebec whose rotting pile of lies that lay moldering under those rugs for the last seven decades are finally starting to stink enough that they can’t be ignored. Tony Merchant, a high profile Quebec Lawyer, told the Montreal Gazette

“The beliefs the Catholic Church (in Quebec) had about premarital sex and the judgmental approach the church had, made it particularly aggressive in pressuring women into putting their children up for adoption.”

Mr Merchant’s law firm, is bringing a class action lawsuit against the Catholic Church charging them with kidnapping, fraud and coercion. Unwed mother’s were often coerced to sign release forms without being informed they had the right to keep their newborn babies. Over 200 women have joined in the lawsuit before the lawsuit even came to the public’s attention. The National Post published the first of a series of articles on the systemic corruption behind the kidnapping ring on March 24th, 2012. According to their reporter, Kathryn Blaze Carlson, in an article titled, Your baby is dead: Mothers say their supposedly stillborn babies were stolen from them. :

Valerie Andrews, who was forced to give up her child as a teenager, studied Statistics Canada data on illegitimate births from 1945 to 1973 and estimates 350,000 unmarried Canadian mothers were persuaded or forced into adoption.

Profiting from Loss

The mothers were told their babies were dead to stop them from looking for their children. If you know that you have to tell that kind of horrendous lie to stop a mother from looking for her child, how can you hide behind the idea that you thought you were doing what was best? Especially in light of the fact that there was always an exchange of money for the baby, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars in 1950s money that went into the church’s coffers. Any institution which doesn’t have to declare where it’s income is from can get away with anything.

In her 2011 book, The Traffic in Babies: Cross Border Adoption and Baby-Selling Between the United States and Canada, 1930-1972, McMaster University professor Karen Balcom wrote that in Nova Scotia there were “numerous examples of birth mothers who were falsely told that their children were dead so they would not interfere in adoption placements.”

And it’s not just mothers whose rights were violated. The fathers were rarely, if ever contacted for consent. The church wouldn’t want to embarrass it’s male patrons nor run the risk that they would want their child and refuse the lucrative adoption.

In addition, in Quebec children were often adopted across to Jewish couples in the US with paperwork claiming the child was born of Jews. Just another lucrative lie. And, of course, no one ever talks about the rights of the children to know who they are. The rights of siblings to know each other. The harsh handicap of having no family medical history. The half century of child abduction by the church and others has caused even legitimate adoptions to be questioned. How can an adoptee not wonder if their parent is out there looking for them, or out there mourning them. Everyone who ever had a stillborn baby must now wonder if their child is out there somewhere, looking for a way to come home.

House of the Good Shepherd Seatle where single pregnant girls were inmates and unable to leave.

Finding the Way Home–DNA

Much of the paperwork was destroyed and even more of it was manufactured. Often the only way to find out who you really are is DNA testing and even at that, the testing companies are lagging far behind the science and even further behind the need and desires of their customers. Both 23andMe and FTDNA have a ways to go to meet the needs of those seeking to find their families. But in light of these tales of horror that finally being exposed, they simply must step up their efforts to help those that have been lied to, abducted and sold. In my view, the governments of these countries needs to offer free DNA testing for anyone seeking to find their family and to work with the top genetics companies out there to develop a network of interwoven databases comparing adoptees and birth parents across companies and borders. It’s simply the right thing to do.

For more Adoptee news, follow me on Twitter: @Kasa.Rose

Credits: Herald Sun; Yahoo News and Dan Rather; Montreal Gazette; National Post; UK Daily News

Photo Credits: Rex @BBC and Vintage Seattle