Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Washington Post

Sunday saw the publication of another article dealing with the Hunan baby-trafficking story, one that is intended to convince adoptive families that their child was possibly abducted instead of abandoned, and that foreign adoption is the root of the problem of child abductions in China.

Since I assisted Peter Goodman in the researching of his article, let me start by saying that Peter's article is accurate in presenting information on several disturbing trends in Chinese culture. Children are regularly abducted in China. The newspapers are filled with stories of missing children. There is no doubt that the episodes he describes in his article happened.

Second, it is a fact that the foreign adoption program has had a huge impact on the "value" of infant children in the Chinese orphanages. As I described in "The Finances of Baby-Trafficking", the orphanages that deal with foreign adopting families have made it more difficult for domestic families to adopt. As hard as one tries to refute these points, they are fact.

However, Peter tries to connect dots in the story that I feel can't be connected. Neither of the children profiled in his story ended up in an orphanage. None of the evidence (except for the Government-issued verdict, which is not evidence) in the trial of the participants in the Hengyang County trafficking case suggested that the children were abducted. In fact, ALL involved insisted they were not. Nevertheless, Peter boldly asserts (including in the title to his piece) that abducted children were adopted internationally. This is speculation, unsupported by fact.

I have spoken with directors of orphanages who have confirmed that they too have been approached by traffickers offering infants for sale. A Google search of the trafficking stories in China over the past few years reveals a common M.O. for traffickers -- contacting a trusted local representative, often a doctor in a birthing hospital. This person solicits birth parents that do not wish to keep their newborn child. The birth parents are told that contacts have been made to find their child a good home. The birth parents relinquish their child, since their alternatives are abandoning the child themselves, or keeping an unwanted child.

The traffickers then "adopt" the child for a fee to domestic couples that badly want children, or in this case to hungry orphanages that wish to increase their revenue through international adoption.

Some people in China seek to bypass even that system and abduct children from the streets.

To put this bluntly -- there are many, many available unwanted children in China. When one looks at the finding ads for the cities that do international adoptions, frequently one sees abandonment patterns that reveal "hot spots" -- Huangpo Town in Wuchuan and Zhanjiang cities in Guangdong(and the likely origin of the Hunan children); the Daiyutai area of Huainan City in Anhui. It seems that most cities have areas that are poor, uneducated, and locations of frequent findings. An enterprising or compassionate individual could easily establish a network of collecting some of these children and trafficking them to couples or orphanages. This is precisely what Liang Guihong swears she did.

I appreciate Peter's reporting. But I take exception to his weaving of two issues to make it appear that they are one. Lisa Ling did the same thing in her National Geographic piece in dealing with female abduction. Yes, children are abducted in China; yes, trafficked babies were adopted by international families; no, there is no evidence that abducted children were adopted by international families. Those dots cannot be convincingly connected.

P.S. -- My "It's a corrupt system" comment was made in the context of local Chinese government, not specifically about the orphanage program. As I have written in the past, I personally feel that the orphanage program is over-all fairly honest. Yes, directors skim funds from the adoption fees, some more than others. But in the context of overall Chinese society, which is filled with graft and corruption on the government level, it is almost expected that directors would do this. However, I am amazed by the number of directors I meet that are honest and selfless. They truly seek the best interests of the kids.

Additionally, China has recently made bold announcements of change in their orphanage program. These changes involve closer scrutiny of those in places of leadership in the orphanages. This is well and good, but the single most effective step that could be taken is the imposition of a quota system on each individual orphanage. Only by destroying the "each child is $3,000" mentality will orphanage trafficking ever truly stop.

23 comments:

shochikubailover said...

Brian,
I hit your blog immediately after a sensational story hits the press, so I can read other angles.
Thank you,
Janet

Anonymous said...

Then I would think, Mr. Stuy, that you would be responsible and write a clear letter to the editor of the Washington Post substantiating your criticisms.

Secondly, I'm amazed that you would add a "PS" to your post as in, "oh by the way, my comment about corruption really wasn't about the adoption system." I'd have thought you'd have led with that statment if it were so.

Personally, I felt punched in the stomach when I read your quote in the news article and don't quite buy your blog comment that it was about corruption in general. If you really did assist with this article, then surely the journalist KNEW your views and whether that statement applied to adoption or not.

And if the corruption is so bad, then why don't you end your ad-finding biz 'cause aren't you profitting from it? Or are you a non-profit service?

Jenna

Anonymous said...

Any system that deprives domestic families of the opportunities to adopt, in favor of the revenue that can be realized from international families, is a system that does not have the best interests of its children at heart. I'm sickened to think that our adoption could have played a role in this paradigm -- but it will never stop unless foreign parents band together and make it loudly known that we want no part of schemes that tear apart existing families to supply the baby pipeline. People want to adopt kids who truly need homes -- not (god forbid) kids who already HAD homes.

Our dollars play a key role in the developing situation. How long will we turn a blind eye and just write it all off as "isolated incidents"?

Julie

Anonymous said...

Thank you for clearing the air on the article in the Washington Post. I was really frustraited reading the WP at the assumptions they were making with out known facts. It was like 1+A=Elephant. The numbers did not add up.

Anonymous said...

My "It's a corrupt system" comment was made in the context of local Chinese government, not specifically about the orphanage program.

----> People who read this article will not see it this way, they will read it as the latter since that is the point being made by the author.

----> You have said that you do not know how many orpahanages there are in China, how many do IA, domestic or both. You really don't have all the facts to connect your dots, either.

---->Tonight, quite possibly, one more family might turn away from adoption, one more child will go without a home. I wouldn't want that weight on my shoulders.

Anonymous said...

Dear Brian,

Thank you for clarifying your position. I thought Peter Goodman's article was mostly abhorrent for the irresponsible way in which he tried to "connect the dots" as you say. It was a sensationalized article.

I hope that you submit a letter to the editors of Post critiquing Goodman's article for it's flaws. Frankly, your critique here seems a bit too soft. You say you "aided" Goodman in researching his article. Frankly you need to distance yourself from this article which was poorly written despite the attempt to discuss problems of corruption and the way the system skews itself to int'l adoptions over domestic ones. The overall conclusions of the article, to the average reader, is going to be the sensationalized headline "Stealing Babies from China". It won't be "overall it's an honest sytem with some problems."

You really need to do some damage control because already alot of damage has been done. I can't wait for the wires to pick this up and I get to try to explain it to my community.

Susan

Ray said...

Brian,

Thank you for the clarification. I was personally offended by the "Americans showing up with dollars in hand" line, as if that were all it took to adopt a child.

JoAnn said...

Brian,
Halfway through the newspaper article, I had to go back to the byline to see what paper it was published in. It sounded very sensationalized and I was surprised it was the Washington Post. When I saw your comment, I was certain you were taken out of context. However, the reading public will not know that, all they will read is "the system is corrupt." I have a very bad feeling about this -- for you personally and for China adoptions in general. I'm not implying any wrongdoing on your part, at all, but it looks like this whole thing has gotten out of hand.

Anonymous said...

"Since I assisted Peter Goodman in the researching of his article"

Well done, Mr. Stuy, well done. Good work. You have been feeding the sharks. They wanted bait for their sensationalized articles, and you helped them.

Now, after the WP "article", you are trying to clarify your position in your blog. What about clarifying you yourself and your position before?

Roberto - Spain

Anonymous said...

Damage has been done for us as adoptive parents, and for our children who will begin to be viewed as abducted children who were purchased from China. We are not criminals, rather victims.
Why sensationalize this further? Will any good come from it?
If your words were taken out of context, they truly did harm to adoptive families and for your reputation in the adoption community.

Time to work hard to reverse the damage...if at all possible.

The irony here - possibly this is the exact reason why China does not allow for media coverage of this story.

Andy said...

Peter Goodman's reporting, from my angle, is not appreciated since, in its flawed intention to link kidnapping to foreign adoption without any real evidence from the cases at hand, his piece is just plain poorly constructed. He also makes the amateurish mistake of writing about China and Chinese motives with such certainly. I'd heard rumors during the past two weeks that the Washington Post was investigating whether there was anything to the charges that some children in the Hunan case may have been abducted, which seemed to imply that someone might travel to Wuchuan County in Guangdong to check out Liang Gui Hong. Nope. Goodman took the lazy route. What a shame the result somehow got the authoritative stamp of the WP.

I'm with Jenna said...

Brian,
Having recently been profiled by a newspaper reporter for an article for adoption, I empathize with your position. I was approached with the attitude, "let's get the information out there" and with the idea that the reporter was going to be supportive of my work in the area of Chinese adoption.

The flavor of the article as printed was markedly different, noting much of the "darker side" of Chinese adoption and abandonment. I felt a bit betrayed, with the journalist more interested in selling newspapers than in conveying my sentiments on the topic.

However, that being said, the other commenters here have a point.

I do think you owe it, at least to your blogging community, to clarify your experience credentials - please explain your research.
So far all I have seen is that you are a for-profit operation who charges a steep fee for people to have their finding ads framed, and who also charges $75 for a DVD of you traveling through the countryside of China.

How many cities have you visited? How many finding ads have you collected? Do you have any publishing of your research or your methodology?

It seems to me that in order to dismiss the allegations that the newspaper is unfairly "connect the dots" for the corruption in the chinese adoption industry, that you first establish YOUR OWN integrity.

Anxiously awaiting your post!

JoAnn said...

To the person who headlined their comment, "I'm with what Jenna said", you wrote: So far all I have seen is that you are a for-profit operation who charges a steep fee for people to have their finding ads framed, and who also charges $75 for a DVD of you traveling through the countryside of China.

(First of all, Mr. or Ms. Anonymous, you can easily sign your post with your first name...)

I'm one of Brian's customers, and as listowner of a group that Brian has done research for, I regulary recommend his services, and most particularly his DVD of our SWI. As one of the sponsoring parents, we paid $125, and for that amount, we saw the home where my daughter was fostered and her foster father, as well as her finding place. Worth way more than $125 in my opinion. But for anyone who wants to purchase the DVD post-trip, it's an incredible insight into the SWI, the foster families and their homes, and journies all over the area in search of finding places. And that costs $25, not $75.

I don't think Brian presents himself as anything more than an adoptive dad who, having found out info about his own daughters' origins, offers a service to others. Those of you who think Brian is getting rich off of this make me laugh.

Do I think this piece is going to hurt China adoptions? Unfortunately, I do. But I do not think there is any malicious intent on Brian's part.

I'm with Jenna said...

Joann,

Very respectfully, I would like Brian to speak for himself.

I do appreciate your value of "worth" from a $125 DVD. However, MANY people do the same kind of work that Brian does on a total volunteer basis. Either that, or they do the work in order to raise money for children in orphanages or to help others fund their adoptions. In any event, nearly all of these services state explicitly what the proceeds are used for. They will state that this is "for-profit" or "proceeds will [entirely or partially] go towards children in orphanages". Have a look at the Half-the-Sky website.

My concern is the fact of the title - "research.org". This implicates two things - research and non-profit.

So far Brian has not proven his work as "research" in the scientific sense. "Looking through Chinese newspapers for money" sounds like more like a business than legitimate scientific research.

Brian, you sound like a nice man and a wonderful father. I am sure you have motivations that come from a great place in your heart.

However, I am concerned as to how valid and sound your information is, and wondering whether or not you're preying on the heartstrings of adoptive parents in order to make a nice dollar and fund self-serving trips through the chinese countryside.

The question remains unanswered -- "Where does the money go?"

Sheri M. said...

Whew. Some of the people making rude and uninformed comments hereon should start by reviewing the info on Brian's business at http://research-china.org

I've been a customer of Brian's twice now, for copies of both my daughter's Finding Ads. In both cases, I received copies of the same ads from my daughters' orphanages, but their quality was dismally poor. I recommend Brian's services whole-heartedly on the lists I own/moderate. And no, I don't get a kickback from Brian!! Nor are the rates quoted by the "Anonymous - I'm with Jenna" above accurate. Frame your Finding Ad yourself, if you don't like his price for same.. (tho why anyone would want a framed finding ad mystifies me). Framing is NOT cheap.

Anonymous-IWJ also writes: "However, MANY people do the same kind of work that Brian does on a total volunteer basis." Again, I'm baffled. I don't know ANYONE who does what Brian does on a "total volunteer basis". There are (or were, one is apparently out of business) three other companies who locate finding ads for a fee and/or create "birthplace/SWI" videos, and/or contact orphanages for info. Brian's fees are commensurate with, and in some cases lower than both currently operating companies. There's also a new company doing a variation on his services, for a significantly higher fee. However, Ms. Anonymous-IWJ, if you have an inside link to someone who ferrets out finding ads and creates quality videos for free - I'm sure there are many many readers here who would be interested in contacting such selfless, generous and apparently financially independent individuals.

All that silliness aside, let's get back to the real point of today's blog entry. The WP article STINKS. It is sensationalized and poorly reported and disjointed and 1+A does NOT equal an elephant. I'm hugely disappointed in the WP. It was perfectly clear to me that Brian's quote was taken out of context. Having had my own share of dismal results when I've acquiesced to interviews by the Fifth Estate, I'm not at all surprised.

I agree with those above who've asked Brian to attempt some damage control (in the form of a request for publication of an Errata/Correction by the WP), however, I will add that when I've tried to do the same in the past, the editors have ignored my request for an Errata... so Brian, may I suggest you also send in a Letter to the Editor for publication. Not that nearly as many people will see your letter as saw the original article, but every little bit helps.

Thanks, as always, for providing your viewpoint here. I greatly appreciate it!!

cindy said...

Are there really people who volunteer to pay the cost of an international airfare, room and board and make quality DVD's that will be an incredibly valuable link for your daughters? Didn't know that.
Many people would think nothing of spending $125 on a motel, haircut, kitchen appliance or various other unimportant things.
The finding ad that I received from Brian (at only $25) is a most precious gift. It is the only picture I have of my daughter as a baby.
Raising money for orphanages is a noble endeavor and we have many individuals that see that as they're mission. Brian provides a service that recognizes the future of the girls that have been taken from their country and culture.

Okay, enough. The article in the Post was very distressing to me. Even the thought of one baby torn from the arms of her mother is tragic. I am glad for the clarification that some have given but I have already had several relatives call me in distress. I appreciate the comments here that have put it in perspective. I also hope that Brian can get a letter to the Editor published.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why the author of the Post article didn't bother to interview Kay Ann Johnson.

Brian, don't let the feeding frenzy get you down. People are angry and upset and are out to blame whomever they can. You're convenient.

Some people can't acknowledge that there are problems with the system and start accusing others of disloyalty and antipatriotic behavior for raising any questions or criticism of an imperfect and problematic situation. Oh, oops, wrong war.

O'Neill said...

Brian:

Thanks for your comments. As soon as I read the WP article I emailed Peter Goodman making several commments along the lines you highlighted. He answered promptly and seemed aware of the limitations of the article, but still didn't quite "get it."

I think your comment about his attempt to "connect the dots" is quite relevant. One problem is that the "dot connecting" all too often happens through a paradigm that is grounded solely in the US experience.

One doesn't have to defend the Chinese ethic in order to process facts through the filters that operate in that culture. These days the media and other segments of our society seem mired in the need to apply the US experience in evaluating those of other cultures.

Maybe you could connect with NPR and do some sort of exploration of the phenomena in an environment that is not quite so engaged in editing truth based on column inches or advertiser minutes.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Calm down, people! I can't tell you the number of times I have been interviewed by media and had my comments taken entirely out of context. All Brian can do is share his views and trust the reporter will present them accurately. Unfortunately, once you agree to be interviewed, you usually don't have that luxury.

I've used Brian's services numerous times and have met him personally. Honestly, he could charge a lot more for his services but profit isn't his motive. He just wants to help families and he has to cover his costs somehow.

Best for many of you to do more research before you past judgement. Sheesh.

One Lucky Mom said...

I'm a journalist and an adoptive Mom. So, I think I'm qualified to write a little here. People are very naive when reading stories that appear in the paper. The writer only has so much space and has to pick his/her story based not on facts, but on what people want to read. Newspapers are entertainment and most stories in the paper are sensationalized. And most people are incredibly gullible regarding trusting anything in print. Even the Washington Post, NPR, and Fox. You name it, they are all working with a limited amount of editorial space and they are all trying to entertain first, inform second.

To me the real question is why are people so threatened by foreign adoption that they want to tarnish it? And even more so, why are adoptive parents so defensive? There are more and more negative stories appearing in the media about foreign adoption all the time. I'm just curious what's really behind it.

cluelesscarolinagirl said...

Happiness and contentment is boring and doesn't sell papers. I'm standing in line at the grocery store and two headlines pop out at me...One reads "Adopted son kills parents in brutal bloodbath" and the other story reads "Content young family enjoying life with adopted child"..eh? Eh, I'd probably pick up the bloodbath just out of morbid curiosity.

Anonymous said...

The problem is, Mr. Stuy, that your comment about Chinese adoption being corrupt is given weight in that you are, rightly or wrongly, viewed as a researcher. And now you've been prominently quoted in the Washington Post. You're feeding the perception that the whole adoption process IS corrupt.

So what are you going to do about this? Just let the comment stand? Or are you going to request a correction?

I felt betrayed by your comment to the Washington Post and would hope that if you indeed were misquoted, that you will immediately seek to rectify it.

Jenna

Anonymous said...

Brian,

Anyone who criticizes you for what happened regarding your "stray" remarks to Mr. Goodman about corruption has never dealt with the press. In 2003, when we returned from China with our daughter, I was diagnosed with "suspected SARS." Naturally, this made the news, and a number of press outlets later interviewed me. Not one of them got every aspect of my story right, and frankly, few of my direct quotes were not what I said. In the broadcast media, there was some picking and choosing going on and some rather creative spinning of our story. Don't take the criticism of the inexperienced personally, buddy.

Edie McGee