Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Letter to the Washington Post


The following letter was e-mailed this morning to the editor of the Washington Post.

Sunday's article by Peter Goodman ("With U.S. Couples Eager to Adopt, Some Infants Are Abducted and Sold in China") artfully weaves several issues in China into one inaccurate construction that impunes the motives of adopting Americans, and the orphanages from which their children come.

Goodman begins by detailing the tragic abduction of a child from the streets of Dongguan in Guangdong Province. He artfully transitions to China's adoption program, leading readers to conclude that somehow the seven month old girl had been kidnapped to satisfy an adopting American family.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence to establish this link, and in fact considerable evidence to disprove it. By Goodman's own admission, 50,000 children were adopted to the U.S. since 1992, an average of 4,000 per year. I suppose Goodman proposes that these 4,000 children represent a significant number of China's 1.2 billion people to result in kidnapping rings to develop, but the sad reality is that annually an estimated 250,000 children (mostly girls) are abandoned in China, 35,000 of which end up in China's foreign adoption program. One can readily see that there is no shortage of adoptable children.

The trials of those involved in the Hunan baby-trafficking ring all testified that the children involved were unwanted newborns willingly relinquished by their birthparents. Defense testimony by Police and other witnesses confirm this. No lost child reports, no response to found baby newspaper notices. Goodman makes some sweaping generalizations, inaccurate assumptions, and faulty reasoning to falsely assert that the international adoption program is contributing to child abductions in China.

Additionally, he erroneously quotes me as asserting that the Chinese orphanage program is "a corrupt system. . . driven by money, and there's no check and balance to the greed." This statement was made in what I thought was an off-the-record conversation discussing China's governmental structure, not its adoption program. I have frequently and publicly written that I believe the Chinese adoption prgram to be one of the most ethically run in the world. A family leaving the U.S. knows who their child will be, exactly what fees will be paid, and where they will be on any given day while in China. Few other international programs run this predictably and effeciently.

Goodman also anonymously attributes to a "Western aid worker " a quote that proposes that few of the donation dollars given by adoptive families and other NGOs actually reach the children. This is patently false to anyone who has visited orphanages over the last few years. Whereas orphanage facilities in the early 90s were most often housed in small, unheated adobe or brick buildings, today nearly every orphanage is housed in third-generation modern facilities, many with medical and educational facilities on site. These orphanages are often located next to facilities for the aged, to allow a symbiotic relationship to develop between the elderly and the young. Contrary to Goodman's assertion, a more engaging argument could be made that China is over-investing in their orphanage system, given China's declining abandonment rates. This decline can be attributed to China's increasing personal wealth, as well as the passing of male-preference traditions in its culture.

Goodman also falsely characterizes the American families that come to China to adopt, portraying them as almost being on a shopping expedition, being ferried "to sightseeing spots in Beijing", and walking streets "thick with stroller-rental shops and silk baby outfits embossed with traditional Chinese logos." This characature belies the fact that most adopting families try to experience, in the short time made available, as much of their child's Chinese heritage as possible. All have spent more than a year preparing the paperwork required by both the U.S. and Chinese governments, and paid significant fees to both governments. For most, the adoption trip is an emotional and spiritual experience, and are deeply offended to have it portrayed as a shopping excursion.

Goodman's article does a disservice to almost everyone involved in the Chinese adoption program. There is little doubt that the adoption of Chinese children by foreigners has altered the perceived value of these children, but to falsely assert, with no substantiating evidence, that these families are fostering kidnapping rings in China to satisfy their parental urges does a disservice to them, and the legacy of their children.

Brian H. Stuy
Research-China.Org
Guangzhou, China

28 comments:

B, Norway said...

Thank you, Brian!

wendy said...

All I can say is WOW!!! I just read many of the vicious comments within the 22 comments from your 3/12 post and I am speechless. Brian, I think you do a tremendous service and your fees seem quite CHEAP. Although I have not used your services, I have researched what it would cost for me to travel to my daughter's province and meet with her foster mother,etc and I figure at least $3000, plus I'd have to take at least a week or more of vacation time from work. A few hundred dollars for your services is a BARGAIN, I repeat, a BARGAIN. Wake up people.
Sorry to be a bit testy.

JoAnn Stringer said...

Bravo!!!!
Well stated. I hope they give you an entire Op Ed space, not just a letter to the editor.

Anonymous said...

Brian,
Thank you for this letter. I hope the Post publishes it. This is all I was asking for and your letter was very well done.

by the way, I am not among your critics about your business. I appreciate what you have to offer and think you should be compensated for your work (just like the rest of us).

Susan

Ray said...

I can tell you right now that that letter is too long to be published in its entirety in the WaPo, which is a shame. It's also a shame that Goodman betrayed your trust and took your quote out of context. The WaPo wanted a sensational story (the article appeared on the front page, above the fold in my print edition) and they got one.

Anonymous said...

Great job Brian!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Brian, for your letter to the Post and for your blog and research. I especially appreciate your willingness to look at different sides of a complex issue. Please keep up the good work keeping us better informed.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Brian!I hope they publish your letter . . .I'll wait to cancel my subscription just to find out if they do.

Anonymous said...

Well, it was a long-time coming. Only snippets of long letters are ever published, so I wonder why on earth you even went into the 'shopping excursion' bit. That is SO minor compared to the other parts of Goodman's article and, in particular, YOUR comments which give fuel to his allegations.

Still stymied about your "Research-China.Org." You commented the other day that you're just a dad. Well, when you set yourself up on a blog which IMPLIES that you are an organization devoted to Chinese research, it seems a bit disingenuous.

Sure wish you had referred Goodman to Kay Johnson, a true researcher.

Jenna

Julia said...

Well done, thanks for the follow up! I agree with Susan, I hope the Post publishes this, if they are reputable paper, they will.

Julia said...

Jenna posted: "Still stymied about your "Research-China.Org." You commented the other day that you're just a dad. Well, when you set yourself up on a blog which IMPLIES that you are an organization devoted to Chinese research, it seems a bit disingenuous."

I will have to say I disagree with this wholeheartedly. As a customer of Brian's services, it was never my belief that Brian was doing this as anything other than a service that was being paid for by me, and for $25 I definitely got my money's worth.

The .org does not indicate a non-profit company, although I seriously doubt he makes a lot of money given the travel costs involved. If the .org is what bothers people, then I suggest they take a look at many of the adoption agency websites which end the same way, as they are most definitely FOR profit organizations.

Bonnie Ward said...

Brian -- GOOD FOR YOU! Nice column -- I hope the Post prints it.

I am SO tied of being misquoted in the press and seeing other people I "know" also misrepresented ... and having what could have been (should have been) a thoughtful piece turned into a witch hunt and a gross mispresentation of the adoption experience.

I'm with Jenna said...

Brian,

Hats off to you for your devotion and for you engaging all posters, both supportive and critical (and answered with a bit of an ego to boot!).

I read a number of blogs, and get a bit put off by the fact that they turn into a place where only those with accolades feel comfortable with posting, as those with critical comments are booed by the adoring sycophants.

To all the fans of Brian - I know you love him, it is clear by the number of trips to China you fund for him. Now let the rest of us speak. After all, the controversy will only fuel his mission. His critics will do more for him than his fan club.

So Brian, keep up the good work. However, I agree with a previous poster that you should consider doing an NPR human interest piece before getting involved in analysis as a social scientist. Otherwise, as Jenna noted, I'm looking forward to your collaboration with Kay Johnson.

I too am hooked on your blog, but I am not deluded by your findings. It's not Truth you're finding for these precious girls, it's YOUR Truth that they are receiving in their little finding ad, DVDs, and from your riveting writing and musings regarding the mysteries of China.

P.S. to Julia - ".org" is a TLD usually reserved for non-commercial websites or for non-profits. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.org

Anonymous said...

To all the fans of Brian - I know you love him, it is clear by the number of trips to China you fund for him. Now let the rest of us speak. After all, the controversy will only fuel his mission. His critics will do more for him than his fan club.


---> I agree. Adoption has many complexities and as adoptive parents we should have the right to question conclusions made by someone who has set up his blog as a researcher (and quoted as one.)

That doesn't mean we don't like Brian,(most of us don't know him)or don't always appreciate what he is trying to do, it just means we don't always agree with his conclusions.

Brain states that when he makes different claims in regard to the adoption paradigm he gets attacked. I see it is as when he makes sweeping generalizations with very little evidence,( and often backtracks), then has at least 2 national papers use him as a researcher, we have an obligation to question his claims. He feels it is attacking, I view it as challenging. If he were a true researcher, he would most likely have a PHd, and anyone who has been through a doctoral program knows that the level of challenges he has received as been on the light side compared to a dissertation.

Just because a person has found your daughter's finding ad doesn't mean you can't be grateful to him, yet still question his "research".

If adoptive parents don't question the "truth" we are no better than the 1,000's of people who will read the WP's post article and see us as greedy Westerners stealing foreign babies.

Mark H. said...

Good letter, Brian. Let's hope they print it.

Wendy said...

To all you complainers about Brian's "research", I suggust you get off your b-tts, get on a plane to China and do your own research. Otherwise, stop your whining. I plan on doing just that someday and so should you. In the mean time, I will continue to highly value Brian's work. Again, I'm sorry to be so testy.

Bill M said...

Hahahah... what a hoot

"We cannot really accept Brian's 'research' - after all, he charges money for his services. We should listen to Kay Johnson, a true researcher, who charges money for her books. Besides, he doesn't have a PHd, and we all know that only PHds can do real research."

Hoo hoo... [wipes eyes]

The most amazing thing here is that he actually takes you seriously enough to answer you with more grace and patience than your sniping cheap shots deserve.

Trisha said...

Thank you Brian for writing the letter, I hope it gets published.

(I'm with Jenna said...): "I know you love him, it is clear by the number of trips to China you fund for him. Now let the rest of us speak."

I have not sent Brian any money, we are still in the process of adopting. I have not seen anything that he has written to lead me to believe anything than that he is an honest man trying to help the Chinese adoption community.

And anyone can register a .org domain.

Trisha
Women's News Blog

shochikubailover said...

Brian,
Your words were crafted very genuinely and articulately. I am behind you and grateful to you. I've already heard from several people who know me about the article, and people feed on sensational stories. Thankfully, I can refer people to your site for balance. Again, I am behind you.
Janet

Bonnie Ward said...

Peter Goodman responded to my brief letter to the Washington Post with a very long missive that compeltely missed the point of my original note. He then asked me what was wrong with his article .. this is what I wrote back to him:
I know you've received other letters (and had conversations) about your article ...but let's start with leading people to believe that the child of the family you interviewed was kidnapped FOR and ended up being adopted by a US family .... or implying that the thousands of children abandoned each year are done so to 'feed the international adoption' machine ... or that adopting parents, trying to soak up as much of the Chinese culture as they can in a 2 week trip which also happens to be filled with probably the most emotional experience they have ever had, are on 'shopping expeditions' with the implication being they are buying a baby, too ....

You're entire approach was sensational and degrading. You took what is a serious issue and purposefully clouded it with your "high drama" and snooty attitude about adoption and adopting parents ... when you COULD have done a piece that was both thoughtful and thought-provoking, that furthered a dialogue that is not only emotionally charged but politically dicey. You COULD have presented the information in a way that didn't enflame but instead challenged ... that made people want to support your article and view and, therefore, positive change.

But you didn't - - you took the easy road..

Maybe you should go to work for Inside Edition or the National Enquirer ... I bet you'd be a huge hit there.

As a counter-point, there was a tremendously thoughtful article in Parade magazine a while ago -- about a family in China awaiting the birth of their 3rd child - if it were a boy, he would be kept and the money the family had struggled to save to pay the fine for an additional child would be paid and their 18 month old 2nd daughter would be taken to a place to be found and brought to the local orphanage. If the new child was a girl, the baby would be abandoned and the money used to pay the fees to keep the 2nd daughter. This was causing outrage it he family and the husband's sister, a young professional woman working in Beijing had told the family that if the new child were a boy, she would take the 18-month-old niece and raise her as her own. As she was an educated woman, working in Beijing, she was a financial provider to the family and her voice carried weight.

This article, in contrast to yours, created much positive discussion on the many adoption related list serves. It caused discussion, fund-raising .... Inspired people to look for ways to help.

Among the many projects I have undertaken since welcoming home my first daughter from China almost 8 years ago is the sponsoring of 2 girls for schooling -- they have remained with their families and are receiving an education - they will have ways to support themselves and their families and perhaps break a cycle of poverty and child abandonment.

During my visits to China (both adoption trips and vacations), I have seen the tangible results of the funds I have donated to my daughters' orphanage. The playground we built, the library that is currently being built, the groundwork for the clinic for handicapped children we are getting off the ground. The funds I have given have indeed gone to the benefit of the children. Oversight, patience and follow-up ensure that.

The parents group I head up has sent clothing, books, formula, diapers ... my daughter had her friends not give her birthday gifts for her 8th birthday party last year and instead had them bring bottles of children’s chewable vitamins - - she received enough to provide a vitamin per day for a year for 40 children. My niece, inspired by this, asked for socks for her 7th birthday and we sent 206 pairs of thick warms socks to the children.

Presented in a different way, your article could have touched people in a positive way and opened their hearts to working for change ... to driving for change ...

But you chose a different tack ........
--

I haven't received a response ....

Jane Fisher said...

Brian,

Thanks for the letter to the WP.

I do appreciate your insights as well as your willingness to respond personally to those questioning you.

I think finding the "truth" in China is difficult for adoptive parents and adopted children, but thanks for giving us more information to work with.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Brian. You do a fine job responding and correcting with your message.

About this fascination some posters have with Ph.Ds doing the only legitimate research in, well, just about anything: Come on! What do you think research is? I have a Ph.D. in my field, and yes I trust the work of those people who have been formally trained (such at is) in how to research and present findings and those whose work is accepted by juried journals. BUT I also see many people who move from one field to another and who publish outside the small "academic" world who do excellent, transforming work.

It's the passion, the desire to know, the honesty, the willingness to share (even when it's risky to put yourself out there), the intelligence, and the EXPERIENCE that in areas such as Brian's makes you legit.

I appreciate Kay Johnnson's work, but it is limited. We waited a long time for her to publish that book and when it appeared it was repetitive and, largely, did not give many of us who had spent serious time in China or who had read everything already out here much more information than we already knew. I applaud what she's contributed to our understanding, and the ground she broke, but hers is not the only way, thank goodness. (Although the LACK of other names to refer to on this subject is really troubling, don't you think?)

If you look closely at any research on China, you see the inherent problems with gathering facts there, and you see that the most compelling work is experiential not factual, because you have to be there, you have to read between so many lines, learn how silence and the governement works, how families operate, the shifting social and political climate. You have to build confidence among people you have contact with to get information, and that takes a lot of time. And since China is rapidly changing, a serious reseacher would have to live there now, or be there much of the time. Finally, you would have to be willing to admit intuition and individual cases are the bulk of your work, even while you strive to put together hard data. Indeed, most researchers when pressed will say that, even with their "facts", it's their intuition (or, rather, their self-reflection, creativity, devotion, experience, and honesty) that gets them the answers.

But like anyone who researches, Brian is subject to criticism, and that helps to push him and keep him careful too. His willingness to accept criticism and learn from what he hears from others earns him great respect from me--someone who spent 6 years being formally trained to do just that.

Mom to two from China.

Anonymous said...

I believe the issue with 'researcher' is not Brian's, but the reporter's. The word is used in the article to imply some sort of deeper reseach organization and credibility. It is clear from this blog that Brian talks for himself, and he does not misrepresent himself at all.

But I get a different impression of his credentials from reading the newspaper article. It is implied, rather than stated in the article.

I appreciate what this blog as an information source. So thanks, Brian.

Just my 0.02.

Another PhD.

Roberta said...

To Anonymous with Two from China posting at 11:26 am on 3/15:

You mention how short the list is or that Kay's name and Brian's name seem to be standing alone in the research on China and adoption...I'm grateful to both for their work in learning and sharing as much as can be about China and adoption. These two have contributed much to our understanding, and regardless of how others feel about either of these people, their contributions must be acknowledged. Brian's blog provides a format that promotes critical thinking (though it would seem that some have a little trouble discerning between the multiple meanings of the word "critical.") and dialogue, which I really enjoy and appreciate.

There's another researcher out there who seems to have gone unmentioned who deserves recognition however...

What about Karin Evans' work in Lost Daughters of China? This book is more than a journaling of her adoption process.

The research she did in that work (though I think she likely did it more than for just the book) was exhausting. Did you see that bibliography? Loved that book and learned so much on so many levels, and will refer to it again and again, to be sure. Everyone I've recommended it to that has read it calls within a week telling me how they couldn't put it down and how much they learned.
She too, like you, Anonymous, has adopted two darlings from China ; >

Brian, most of all, thanks for providing a venue where multiple points of view can be shared and digested. Your blog is educational and the comments, thought-provoking as well and entertaining at times.

Laurie Wells said...

Brian,

Thank you. Thank you so much. I just had the opportunity to read the Washington Post articles, and while I know the truth, I could not articulate it and didn't have the statistics to support my beliefs. I am angered at the misjudgments and concerned for the potential ramifications to the international adoption community. You have facts and statistics that can combat such misunderstandings. Someone had to stand up!

Noreen said...

Brian,

Thank you for your articulate response to the Washington Post article. There were so many things that offended me in the article and you successfully refuted each one. Anyone who asks me about our travels to China (twice) to adopt will hear a story about how wonderful it was, how much we enjoyed the culture, people, etc. I also happened to love bargaining, so the shopping was a lot of fun, but in no means was it a highlight.

The highlight of both trips was the moment they put my daughter in my arms. My oldest, now 6, asks me to tell her that story over and over and she was there for that moment in her sister's life. She is very proud to have been a part of that moment and she'll tell the story to anyone who asks about it.

One of the most significant moments on the trip was when our oldest daughter insisted that we read the adoption papers about her sister. One of these included the "abandonment notice" where the orhpanage attests that the biological parents were searched for but not found. Our oldest daughter, 5 years old at the time, realized what this meant -- that her sister's parents were "lost" and may never be found. She cried and grieved. The next day she made the connection to herself and again she cried and grieved. We had the unbelievable opportunity to share that grief with her, as a family. I don't expect her wound to ever heal, but I am so very very grateful that she knows that she can share her loss with us.

i share this because it was so powerful. The entire experience of adopting in China is a powerful experience -- one I think about every day. When people ask me why we chose China, I usually say that there are many reasons, but among them is the predictability of the process and the knowledge that the China adoption program is free from bribery and other horrendous greeds that plague other adoption programs.

Sheri said...

Thanks, Brian!!! Beautifully said!! Now.. if it just does some good... I hope everyone who takes the time to read Brian's blog also takes the time to write the Washington Post.

Sheri M

Jan said...

I hope we are all writing to the Post with our objections to Peter Goodman's offensive article. As a mother of two daughters adopted from China, I am shocked by the half-truths and false conclusions the article draws, and sent two letters to the Post before I saw Brian Stuy's more informed response. Thanks, Brian, for saying what I wanted to say. Goodman's unflattering portrayal of adopting parents reveals his agenda to cast international adoption in a sinister light. My best friend who helped me put together my dossier for China just started laughing uncontollably when he read the part about adopting from China being easy.
I want to understand and address the negative repercussions of international adoption that may be developing in China, but "Stealing Babies for Adoption" just fed the public's appetite for adoption melodrama. Two Other articles in The Post on March 6 and March 16 by Joe McDonald give a more accurate view of the tragedy of human trafficking in China.