Thursday, March 16, 2006

The End of the Hunan Story?

The CCAA has announced the results of its investigation into the Hunan baby-trafficking case. The CCAA has been under pressure from the U.S. State Department to show that children involved in the international adoption program were not being abducted.

Many parents are probably relieved, as the news announcement states that none of these children were adopted by Americans.

Unfortunately, that is not what the CCAA said, and it is not true.

The first two paragraphs of the press release are the reporter's summary, and are not part of the CCAA's words. In other words, they don't mean anything.

The CCAA (through a State Department Spokesperson) said only the following:

"The CCAA informed us that it had concluded its investigation into all of the children from Hengyang adopted by Americans and found that all of these children were legitimately orphaned or abandoned and that there are no biological parents searching for them."

So, the CCAA is clearly stating that none of the children adopted by Americans were abducted, and have birth parents looking for them. Many of us have known this already.

It is not saying (in fact, its choice of wording suggests otherwise) that no children involved in the Hunan case were adopted by Americans. The message is abduction verses trafficked.

There is overwhelming evidence to show that children trafficked from Guangdong to Hunan WERE adopted by Americans. As Peter Goodman pointed out in his article, the Hengyang County orphanage began international adoptions in November 2004. From November 2004 through September 2005, it reported between 0 and 6 children monthly in the form of finding ads (a precursor to submitting a child to the CCAA for international adoption). In October 2005, Hengyang County submitted 29 finding ads, a 400% increase over its highest previous monthly submission. The next month the story broke.

Additionally, Goodman and others have reported that individuals involved in the case confirm that these children were adopted internationally. If one reads the CCAA's press release with the understanding that these children were willingly reliquished by their birthparents to a woman that trafficked them to Hunan, where they were adopted by Americans, one sees that the CCAA is only denying that the children were abducted.

In the final analysis, we are all left to believe what we wish to.



Anonymous said...

I still support you and enjoy your work. Sounds like you had a few detractors who have been put in their place. Thanks for your essays.

Anonymous said...

If the high number of Finding ads were placed in October of 2005, how quickly after the ads are placed are the children sent as referals to agencies ? It seems to me that if the ads were placed in October 2005 that they would not have been processed by the time the CCAA was on to the disparity of numbers. I personally, have been waiting on TA for a Special needs child for over three months since Log In Date. I would doubt the children in question would have had time to make it to the referal process based on the recent slow downs.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your work on this. We are waiting for our 3rd daughter from China, and I watch this story with a certain amount of apprehension. One of our adoptions over 8 years ago was questioned by an officer at the consulate (much to our shock) over the seemingly innocuous wording of the abandonment statement. It was insinuated that we might be involved somehow in trafficking. This was unbelievably distressing to say the least. Fortunately, we were (and still are) using a very qualified agency that was able to obtain corroborating documentation that she was found when and how the statement said. However, we learned not to take the legitimacy of the paperwork for granted. Our agency was and is excellent at guiding us in ensuring as much as is possible that our daughters were truly legal orphans. This is perhaps the MOST important service they should be providing you. I urge prospective parents to press your agency on how they will help you evaluate your child's paperwork. Not to be crass, but what you are "buying" from the agency is assistance in conducting a very delicate legal proceeding - the transferrence of guardianship of a child - in another country. Just as you look for clear title on a house and enlist the best professionals to assist you, this is 10x more important. You should be enlisting the highest quality professionals to help ensure the clear provenance of your child's background also.

That brings me to another point I struggle with: what exactly is it that disturbs me about this case?

#1) That someone "profits" from my daughter's relenquishment or abandonment. This one is gray. What does it mean to profit? How is the Chinese "baby finder" different than my adoption agency? Well, my adoption agency gets paid >10x as much for its services, for one. Are we paying for services or babies? I have to think of it as paying for assistance and live with that.

#2)The finder in China is extra-legal and unregulated. I could argue that there is no mechanism in China for even a caring, well-meaning finder to BE legal. Analogously there is no legal basis for a parent to relenquish a child. It is not much different than the discomfort I feel about someone abandonning a child somewhere. At some level, every Chinese adoption involved an illegal act. In the end, I live with that, too.

#3) However, a related issue is safety. Transporting babies in suitcases is unconscionable. Although some unregulated finders/traffickers may be scrupulous, others have blatantly ignored the safety of the children. That's a real problem.

#4) The idea that one of our children could have been abducted or forcibly removed in some way from a loving family. This is clearly unacceptable if it is happening. This account indicates that it was not here.

#5) How much does adopting a child induce a mother to relenquish or sell her child by "creating a market"? Maybe this is the most relevant question we are asking ourselves. If only 1 in 5 abandoned girls is being adopted, it is hard to see how adoption is driving abduction, abandonment or selling overall (at least of girls). But apparently the availability of foreign adoption donations played a role in this case. This can only happen if an orphanage is able to place more children than would otherwise come to it through abandonment.

Really, it is these last 3 aspects that I find bother me about this case.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a regular reader and had not read any of the previous few days. I just read the latest post and responded with the 3rd response above. Then I went and backtracked through the posts for the past week. Imagine my surprise at the content of the responses.

No matter how you slice it, there is real loss in the stories of how my daughters and my wife and I came to be a family. It was bad enough that it started for my wife and me before they were ever born with years of disappointment, grueling treatments, and life-threatening illness, all interspersed with bouts of depression for. But that does not begin to describe what must have happened to our daughters. We may never know how either of my daughters came to be available for adoption. I pray to God that it was not through abduction or forcible removal of some sort. We did our level best to ensure that this was not the case. I pray today that our desire for a child did not precipitate in some indirect way them losing their birth family. But no matter how it happened, it was not a happy thing and certainly involved desparation at some level. Reading the posts brought up to the surface for the first time in years all that sadness.

But I also remember that earlier tonight, my girls were wrestling around with each other, as they often do, squealing with laughter. My youngest typed her first email to a friend across the country with just a little help from us. My oldest baked up some shortcake and served up her favorite fruit - strawberries. Life is good.

You just can't capture in a newspaper article or a blog how sad and good life can be all at the same time.

Regardless of how they came to you, take care of the precious kids that have been entrusted to you. And keep facing forward, working toward making it better for everyone else. Let's focus on what we can do constructively to improve the situation for kids in China.

Anonymous said...

So, what are we to do?
As a parent of one Chinese child I always hoped to adopt from China again. But should we? Are we just contributing to the problem? I wish someone could clarify.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if I'd do an nsn right now. Probably it's fine either way, but SN is certainly "safer" since it's less likely such a child would be trafficked, more likely such a child would be legitimately abandoned, less likely a Chinese family would come forward to adopt the child, etc etc. Many of the SN kids have issues that are fixable or have already been fixed.

But -- no point of me getting on the highhorse, since what I advise NOW is not what I myself did, 10 years and 7 years ago, when I did my own 'nsn' adoptions (one from China and one from Thailand and both kids actually did have some SN, I just didnt know it at the time.)

Eventually you do get to the point, as the thoughtful responder above noted, that you wonder if the availabilty of intl adoption does in the end fuel more abandonments -- how much is part of the solution, how much is part of the problem. It is high-level thinking and it is HARD, and there are still some who say coming to the West is hitting the jackpot and who cares how the kid got into the pipeline? (I think some of the orphanage directors themselves have been groomed to think like this, which makes trafficking easier for them to countenance and consider as win-win. I don't think 'adoptee-issues' regarding ethnic dislocation really register there at all.)

Best to you as you grapple honestly with it. No easy answers anywhere.

Julie H

Anonymous said...

Hi again - I stayed up late and tracked down the Post article and read a couple of other blogs and I've been thinking more about this.

The Post article pretty clearly states that foreign adopton is causing children to be abducted. Here's what I am having trouble adding up: I believe that there are at least 50,000 new orphans that end up in institutions in China each year, adding to the huge population of children already there. (Please post better numbers if you have them.) Only about 1/5 of them are placed in foreign adoptions. Maybe an even smaller fraction of the true number. By all accounts domestic adoption is difficult in China. So I wonder how many children stay in the system and how many are added each year compared with the number of foreign adoptions.

If this number is, as I suspect, several times larger than the 10,000 or so adopted by foreign families, it does not make sense that foreign adoption would be, overall, driving the relenquishment, selling or abduction of children. Why would most orphanage directors in charge of an underfunded, overcrowded institution PAY to add children to that mix? This is like Newcastle paying big money to bring in more coal. I am missing something.

Or is this a relatively isolated case of a criminal director with relatively few children coming in deciding to augment the number of children HE has access to in order to make money. In order to do that, he would have to be allowed by CCAA to place more children in foreign adoptions than come to him "regularly". If it is a local, criminal issue, the solution would be to prosecute the criminal and fix the loopholes that allow orphanage directors to place more children than they already have - not abandon the entire system of foreign adoption.

Also, there is no debate that there is trafficking in children going on on a huge scale. I think I have seen estimates of 250,000 to 500,000 a year. At 10,000 adoptions a year, foreign adoptions cannot be creating the demand for this. Rather, there is this huge, complex transferrence of custody of children that is going on, irrespective of any foreign adoptions: Due to one child policies and the older ideal of a son, families are abandoning, relenquishing and selling girls. At the same time selective abortion and other factors are creating a shortage of females. Some elements of society are seeking girls, while others want to give them up. None of it is legal. None of it is pretty. This is also not new.

In fact, it could be argued that this huge flow of children from birth families to other situations is precisely what created the need for adoption, not the other way around.

What do we do? Some suggestions: 1) dont do anything precipitous with your plans to adopt yet. Think, read, consider.

2) Comment thoughtfully here or on other blogs. We need to put our heads together, not tear each other apart.

3) Contact Meghan Hendy, Executive Director of the Joint Council on International Children's Services ( to encourage JCICS to quickly develop a recommendations to remedy weaknesses in the Chinese adoption system. Ask her how you can help.

Some ideas there (I am a rank amateur - JCICS and others have probably thought about this extensively):
a) CCAA could find a suitable way to put the $3000 in trust and control its distribution to the orphanages rather than families paying directors in cash.
b) Find some way to allocate foreign adoptions that does not allow an orphange to place more children than they are legitimately in care of has to be found.
c) How about releasing the $3000 to the orphanage only after they have placed 2 more children domestically for each foreign adoption as a way to encourage them to facilitate domestic adoption.

4) Ask your agency how they will assist you in determining that your child's paperwork is legitimate when you are in China.

5) Continue to support Half-the-Sky and other organizations. No matter how the child got to the orphanage, they deserve better. No one would argue that building a better orphanage is bad.

BTW, we are definitely proceeding with our adoption, but monitoring this issue carefully, for what that's worth.

Anonymous said...

I'm not refuting what you have to say, but 2 issues make me question your conclusions. First, not all children that have finding ads end up adopted and two, there is often a delay, sometimes almost a year, between the placement of the finding ad and the referral.