Editor's Note: The invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops, and reported destruction of numerous civilian targets have displaced millions of Ukrainian family members, including a reported 120,000 children forcibly removed to Russia for quick illegal adoption. Ukraine's Ministry of Social Policy has issued a related Statement on Intercountry Adoption in order to help prevent child kidnapping, trafficking, and fraudulent adoptions. While many trustworthy, transparent religious and secular organizations have mobilized to send help, media outlets are already reporting questionable operators such as former Washington State Representative and Congressman Matt Shea, mentioned below in this piece by CTTA International Relations Liaison Janine Myung Ja, PhD.
This post is to urge readers to help protect Ukrainian “orphans” from the exploitation of child traffickers who use the guise of charity and rescue to secure children for the insatiable international adoption market. I'm the author of Adoption History 101: An Orphan's Research and several other books on the issue of adoption. I'm also the program director of an upcoming symposium that will shine a light on an unknown crisis called adoption trafficking.
For 60+ years it has become a habitual reaction for child traffickers to descend upon war-torn nations and accept payment from Americans to "save orphans from the ravages of war."
These organizations can easily collect large donations and massive amounts from non-refundable application fees enabling adoption traffickers to travel overseas, photograph children as if they are "orphaned" and distribute pamphlets advertising a "better life" using a veneer of authority in both the foreign nation and the United States. We have recently seen this happen in Ukraine by a pastor by the name of Matt Shea from Washington State. The following are excerpts from www.adoptionhistory.org: "In the effort to protect children from being permanently torn from their Ukrainian families, the public must all be aware of Pastor Matt Shea’s past in the state of Washington. The FBI found that the former state representative and congressman “participated in an act of domestic terrorism against the United States,” and in the planning of “three armed conflicts of political violence” to seize control of a wildlife refuge in Oregon, and other intentions in Nevada, and Idaho. He has been linked to Christian Extremist Movements to place him as a governmental leader in a radical “intent on killing non-Christian males if they did not agree to follow fundamentalist biblical law….” The pastor is also known for the distribution of a four-page manifesto titled “Biblical Basis for War.” Pastor Shea was suspended from the State House Republican Caucus in 2019 After an FBI investigation but refused to resign. He started his own church called On Fire Ministries after serving as a previous senior pastor of Covenant Church of Spokane, Washington, for less than a year. In Poland, Pastor Shea claimed to be working for Loving Families and Homes for Orphans, a nonprofit group registered in 2018, which hosts Ukrainian “orphans” in America with the intent to ultimately secure them for international adoption. Despite its purpose to “provide loving and caring homes and families for the orphans from other countries for a short time period,” the nonprofit, also referred to as Loving Homes and Families for Orphans, is not listed with the Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity (IAAME). When asked what he was doing around the children, the pastor acted as if he had authority while in Poland. He blatantly stated: “We are in direct contact with the governments of Ukraine and the United States, supported by the highest levels of politicians, international and local church leaders as well as dozens of companies from Ukraine, the USA, and Poland.” Do not be duped. Do not immediately trust adoption facilitators. Both the US State Department and the Ministry of Ukraine on Social Policy made statements regarding adopting a Ukrainian child at this time: Overseas adoption "is not possible and will not be possible in the future." Also, take note: Ukraine is a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This means that permanently removing children from their true identities and exporting them from their homeland should be the absolute last resort when it comes to "child protection." If an agency solicits Ukrainian children to you, or urges you to pay non-refundable application fees, or if you suspect unethical practices, such as in the case of Pastor Matt Shea, report to the FBI, the US State Department, and the Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity (IAAME).
By the way, the US Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs announced another recent case of adoption fraud. The executive director, Margaret Cole, 74, of an Ohio-based international adoption agency, admitted to deceiving and defrauding authorities in connection with the adoption of a Polish child and rumor throughout social media as a network that got away with selling 8000 children over 40 years and getting away with $200 million dollars.
I have witnessed the devastating aftermath of lifelong separation on the people most impacted by adoption—children stigmatized as orphans to be “adult adoptees” deprived of the documents that could lead them back to their families--who will no longer speak the same language if an unlikely reunion was ever to occur. It is because of the blatant savior-mentality and audacious self-righteousness of certain clergy claiming to be the authority over other people’s children that an Adoption Trafficking Awareness Symposium is necessary. Please consider joining intercountry adoptees at the inaugural Adoption Trafficking Awareness Symposium in Washington State on June 18th, 2020.