Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Another Experienced AP Shares...

How has your opinion about adoption changed from when you began to now?

It's with a heavy heart I write the following.

We began our "adoption journey" in March 1999 when we signed on with Building Blocks for Russia. At that time, we truly believed we were aiding "an orphan" by giving him a loving home in the United States.
We had been sold on international adoption by so many horror stories about domestic adoption (horrible, selfish biological mothers actually wanting to parent their children! mentally sick foster care kids! careless state workers! crass private adoption attorneys!). With international adoption, so agencies and post-adoptive parents told one another, it was a "guarantee" that you'd get a child. There'd be NO biological parents coming back to "get" the child. And the children would be healthy. Those reality check stories we'd seen on T.V. or read in magazines and the newspaper we were told were bunk. Yeah, maybe the child would have some delays, but all it would take was "food and love" to bring him on level with his American-born peers.

Fast forward to November 25, 1999 when our baby Cyril died in our hotel room in Perm, Russia. No amount of food, love and feel-good talk could Cyril back his life. Needless to say, the misinformation we had been fed especially by post-adoptive parents had been fatal. Nobody had told us how mistreated, malnurished and commidified babies had become in Russia. Commidified to the extent the baby's needs as a commodity were being met, but not the baby's needs as a human child.

Nobody could explain WHY some of these baby homes were understaffed, with hardly enough to go around. Hadn't the agencies and their clients been going nuts donating all that money to the orphanage? Americans are generous people. We give when we see the needs - especially tiny children with no parents.

Nor could it be explained WHERE these souls came from - had they all dropped out of the sky? Were they really "unwanted" and "unloved" (some yes, some no - it's all a human condition)

The reality was, babies were being treated like exchangeable goods. One dies? Hey, there may be one more - but . "Lost referral"? if you're lucky, the MOE may get you another "healthy" one, but oh wait - the wealthier facilitator from the greedier, better connected agency beat your faciliator to the punch. That LAST healthy referral just went to another family. Oh well - go home empty handed. Try again. Spend another $25K.

We learned that many of the children from Eastern Europe ARE NOT 100% "healthy". When you saw on the court decree "child was removed from an alcoholic family" - it meant EXACTLY that. Post-institutionalization issues are something that needed to be taken seriously. FAS, ARND, RAD, attachment issues, autism, in-vitro drug exposure, bi-polar issues - you name it, many of the children in those EE orphanages have something going on. You are a fortunate family if your child didn't have some residual issues from his poor upbrining and an institution.

We came to see in other country's programs that baby TRAFFICKING IS indemic in international adoptions (Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Guatemala, India). Again, babies don't fall from the sky. They are concieved and born. They are being obtained by brokers for us to adopt. I only wish their biological parents were paid more for their hardships, for God knows the brokers, orphanage directors and agency directors have gotten well compensated for their part in the trade.

We have questions about the biological origins of our son from Bulgaria - was he brokered? If so, how much did his orphanage director pay for him? How much money did she make by placing him with us? I know I paid the Bulgarian facilitator, Valerie Kamenov, $7,500 CASH when I made my first visit to Bulgaria to see our son. I know we paid $3,500 more in CASH when we picked our child up a year later.

Let's not hide our heads in the sand any longer. Some of our internationally adopted children were brokered.

What have you learned and what advice/insights do you feel are vital to share to new PAPs?

Educate yourself before you walk into international adoption. Read up on attachment issues. Read up on post-institutionalization issues. Connect with families who have been home for at least two years - how are their children adjusting? At what ages were they brought home?

If it sounds too good to be true - IT IS. If an agency is trying to sell you on a "pilot program" in a new country, ask yourself why they are selling you. Chances are that pilot rogram is not going to succeed in today's current adoption climate.

Follow the money. If an agency can't disclose where the foreign fee goes, they're feeding the corruption with YOUR MONEY.

Do a Google search on the adoption agency and its director. What do you find? If you find even ONE horror story, that one horror story too much. If you sign on with that agency, you are helping them to stay in business and continue bilking others.

Read the agency's contract. How awful is it? How many "non refundables" are there in those clauses? How many "keep off the internet" clauses are there?

Just because somebody says they're "Christian", "Jewish" "Catholic" or "non denominational" does NOT mean they have YOUR best interests at heart. All of the above can lie like the best incarcerated congressmen going. And those claims of being 501(c)(3) ? Big deal! So much money can be ciphoned off under dubios headings in the 990s, nobody has a clue how much these directors & faciliators are TRULY making.

Food for thought.

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