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Concerns of the People: Adopted from Overseas

Updated: Feb 6, 2022

There is a statement I've read on the Coalition for Truth & Transparency in Adoption website. It is the primary reason I joined the board:

"We believe that laws, rules and regulations should, first and foremost, serve and promote the well-being of those who are directly affected by them. We strongly oppose the commodification of infants, children, and all human beings, including vulnerable mothers experiencing an unplanned or crisis pregnancy."

My past is based on a long list of experiences with intercountry adoption, which started when I was adopted overseas to the United States in 1972 with my twin and then led me to researching the issue since my first trip back to the motherland in 2004. Since that trip and from reading the memoirs of the pioneers who set up the intercountry child welfare system and numerous newspaper articles based from such efforts, I've learned how children were (and still are) obtained for intercountry adoption. I've listened to the viewpoints of Adoption Truth & Transparency Worldwide Information Network (ATTWIN) members told to me by my sister, the co-founder and administrator of the virtual group that we initiated in 2011, and also stories I've helped to edit for Adoptionland: From Orphans to Activists and other books. I've also had the privilege to learn about inherent human rights from the investigational research, dissertations, reports, and expertise of Against Child Trafficking, in particular field investigator, Arun Dohle and civil servant of the European Commission, Roelie Post.

When it comes to the Hague Adoption Convention, I believe the drafters have missed the target when it comes to protecting children. Both Hague-approved and non-Hague adoptions are at great risk of being unethical and fraudulent. This is because the placements are based on untruths about the child. For example, in Hague-approved adoptions, the child is classified as an immediate relative of the paying applicant and thus I800A and I800 forms are used in the application process. In the non-Hague Adoption application, the child is referred to as an orphan (despite coming from a family), and an I600A form is used in the application process. So either-or type of adoption really has no bearing on whether or not the adoption is rooted on the truth--that the child originates from a family and should retain the inherent (God-given) right to maintain contact with their family. This right is also enshrined in universal human rights conventions and declarations around the world.

The Coalition for Truth and Transparency in Adoption (CTTA) was founded with a vision to repeal and replace antiquated, unjust laws rooted in secrecy and shame. We work to meet the urgent need to train and equip advocates, and secure funding for successful initiatives nationwide.

One of the problems that should be addressed is that the definition of orphan has been expanded in adoption law to include children of poverty-stricken families and single parents. This means that any child can be at risk of being processed for intercountry adoption--and they have. Whereas the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes children’s innate rights to family—and special child protection protocols have been set in place, the Hague Adoption Convention is an instrument founded on “the right to adopt” (i.e., The Hague Adoption

Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption) and ignores the truth of the matter: real child protection should include family preservation and respect of our family of birth. Child protection should not permit others to profit from moving human beings—even if the human is a child and unable to articulate him/herself and unaware of the drastic and permanent change of environment.

Adopted from Haiti to France, Tinan Leroy, an Adoptionland contributor and a former colleague of mine, voiced concern that poverty-stricken mothers are targeted for their children at the Hague Adoption Convention. He said, “You have to be careful about the risks of child trafficking,” and “there are abuses.” He used the example, “someone made my biological mother sign the relinquishing paper, but she couldn’t read; she didn’t know what she was signing!”

Tinan has been associated and the drafting of The Hague Adoption Convention but said, “none of my proposals were accepted with the argument that it was necessary to maintain a certain vagueness to continue adoptions.” He wanted to include that “poverty cannot be used as a reason [to separate the child from his/her family], “but the words economic reasons are mentioned in 97% of the cases. This is the great absurdity of these adoptions,” He concluded.

Tinan tried to tell the authorities at The Hague Adoption Convention that “we will soon release a book in The United States with a group of 30 adopted writers,” [referring to Adoptionland: from Orphans to Activists], but the highest levels of government haven’t yet acknowledged this book. Tinan decided to file a complaint against the French Government – not against the Haitian Government because he believed “rich countries have in this matter the greatest responsibility.”

CTTA is a 501(c)(4) organization with deep roots in longtime advocacy and activism, dedicated to creating healthier outcomes, just laws and transparent, ethical practices and records access in the areas of relinquishment, adoption and foster youth.

Another problem is that the rhetoric in adoption culture and thus adoption law has been manipulated to a gentler and softer approach. Vulnerable mothers are “counseled” into placing her child and that child can be stigmatized as an “orphan” or certified as a “convention [approved] adoptee” and consequently processed and transported overseas to a foreign nation. This is another form of deception and used against unsuspecting mothers (and fathers) who are merely going through moments of doubt regarding their parenting capabilities. As a young mother of two daughters, I know that doubt is a normal part of parenting. “Pregnancy Crisis Centers” prey upon the universal doubts all mothers face when they encounter any pregnancy—whether planned or not. Some crisis centers give the wrong type of “counseling” and a false impression about adoption. The mother is not given the entire picture of the aftermath of adoption. Preying upon and exploiting mothers remain far-too-prevalent methods to obtain infants in the land of adoption.

One of Tinan Leroy’s concerns was that many Haitian parents sent their children to community centers, nurseries, boarding schools, hospitals with the intention to return after they get their finances in order. However, these facilities (often referred to as orphanages in the west) work in collaboration with foreign adoption agencies and they accept children from families with the quiet intent to eventually fill the insatiable demand. As a consequence, it is not uncommon for the children to be missing when the biological parents return. (Adoption: What You Should Know gives numerous accounts of this crisis.)

Though we are a new legal entity, our extensive network of proven, seasoned advocates, attorneys, lobbyists, current and former legislators, and academic subject matter experts extends nationally and internationally.

Arun Dohle, a field researcher and director of Against Child Trafficking, has worked with several Indian and Ethiopian parents whose children were even abducted while playing in their neighborhoods but labeled orphans by child snatchers and as a consequence legally processed for overseas placement. The parents never find them. Unlike most goods sold, whether the child was unethically obtained is not of the receiver’s concern. (His contribution in Adoptionland: From Orphans to Activists gives more information on the “perverse effects of the Hague Adoption Convention."). Because children are now classified as adoptable and given a certified stamp of approval for availability. Now stigmatized as an adoptee means they will be deprived of the right to return to their families—even into adulthood, including our elder years.

The problem with commodifying children with classifications such as orphans or needy or special needs or now Hague-certified even if no longer on advertising campaigns is that it opens the doors to receive millions of dollars from applicants. The agencies can accept non-refundable fees under the guise of serving children, child protection, and working “in the child’s best interest.” Others state that they are “working God’s will,” which brings in the most donations. Instead of supporting a mother for sometimes as low as $15 a month, facilitators can accept tens of thousands of dollars, enabling them to profit from families that have no recourse to find back their children.

Antiquated thinking and prioritizing financial interests over human well-being in adoption and foster care are entrenched obstacles to meaningful policy change.

Suggested alternatives to intercountry adoption are kinship care, temporary care, temporary or permanent guardianship, daycare, foster care, community care, boarding schools, in-state care. These do not deprive the child of his or her identity, culture, and birth community, while at the same time retaining the child’s right to access immediate and extended family members while a child, and into adulthood, and the individual’s elder years.

On adoptions in the US, falsified adoption documents have been acknowledged as not uncommon by Dan Rather's report "Adopted or Abducted?":

“Fraudulent paperwork in the adoption process is so common it’s almost standard practice for some places. I think the people who are doing it have rationalized the reason that they’re doing it, they believe that they’re protecting everybody, but the fact is, that it’s falsified documents, and I’m telling you, they falsify dates of birth, places of birth, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to call someone up and tell them, ‘guess what, you’re eight months older than you think you are,’ or, ‘you are one of a set of twins’....” -- Professional locater Troy Dunn.

Similar to the fraudulent paperwork mentioned in Dan Rather’s, report on adoptions in the US, the same crisis has occurred overseas and all over the world.

“Adoption (and, in particular, intercountry adoption) has become an open market for children; children who have been treated as a commodity and had their rights violated as citizens.” Arun Dohle, Field Investigator | Executive Director of Against Child Trafficking and Adoptionland: From Orphans to Activists contributor.

In late 2016, numerous groups of intercountry adoptee organizations sent an Open Letter to the European Permanent Parliamentary Committee members, stating that "Since the fifties there are indications that in the adoption system structural abuses happened. These abuses were as far as we know never investigated thoroughly." And that, "Not only in the past abuses took place. Until today there are examples that abuses take place in the current system."A Press Release from ACT announced, "The Dutch Experts Advise End of International Adoptions."

After all is said and done (and this is merely the tip of the iceberg), adoption facilitators and their followers tend to trust that all adoptions are ethical. However, as local and global adoptees network, we are finding that there are a growing number of aging adult adoptees who now suspect foul play even from our adoptions that occurred more or less fifty years ago.

Janine Myung Ja

We will present more on this topic at the Adoption Trafficking Awareness Symposium in June. Updates on the event can be found here: and


An extended list of recommended reading and resources that have influenced my research can be found in Adoption: What You Should Know (the textbook title is available as History 101: An Orphan's Research.) Of course, I'm still learning. More and more narratives are being told daily and my thoughts are continuously expanding.

According to an ongoing informal preliminary survey of intercountry and domestic adoptees, a good amount of us do not know if our adoptions were ethical—we’re not given our adoption documents—or they are in a different language. 100% of the survey participants believe adopted people should be given access to their adoption documents and original birth certificates.

The Coalition for Truth and Transparency in Adoption stands as a resource for members of our community with like-minded goals for effective advocacy and targeted fundraising. Learn more about our current campaigns below.


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