Everyone involved in adoption in any way claims to represent the best interest of the children being placed. In this tangled web of conflicting interests it is difficult and confusing to determine the facts and decipher truth from sensationalism. It all becomes very clear however when one applies the simple rule: "follow the money." Look at the source of each claim and note the financial incentives behind them. Adoption attorneys rely on adoptions for even part of their livelihood. Adoption agencies with altruistic child advocate sounding names, even if non-profit, rely on placement fees to remain in business.
There is, however, no money to be made in supporting the families into which children are born to remain intact, nor is there money to be made by American (or British or other European) attorneys and adoption agencies in supporting family preservation and international adoption as a last resort. NGOs such the Better Care Network (BCN), however, whose Steering Committee includes CARE and the Hope for Africa's Children Initiative, UNICEF, USAID and the Displaced Children's and Orphans Fund, and Save the Children UK, have no financial gain. BCN, whose mission is to reduce instances of separation and abandonment of children; states: "Ideally, children should be kept close to their original communities in order help maintain their identity and to reduce disruption to their everyday lives."
Few adoption related businesses, organizations or practitioners can match the record of Save the Children which spent 92% on services and just 4% on fundraising and another 4% on management and all other expenditures. These are the facts that need to be taken into account when weighing motivation in regards to adoption policy decisions. Profit motive too often gets in the way, exploiting families and crisis and commodifying their children.
Bartholet, while promoting and encouraging the adoption of children allegedly "languishing" in orphanages, and bemoaning any reduction in the number of Americans adopting internationally, at the same time--in the ultimate irony--defends allowing foreigners to adopt to adopt American children. The justification for the exportation of babies out of the U.S. for adoption is based on a claim that Americans will not accept inter-racial adoptions despite the fact that twenty thousand Americans adopting transnationally per year.
Americans have been adopting transnationally and transracially since the 1950s and continue today, adopting from African nations such s Ethiopia. The transfer of custody of an American born child to an unrelated person of another nation is impossible to justify as being in any child's best interest and is in opposition to all ethical efforts to find placements within the child's country of birth before intercountry is sought. Such baby brokering is in the interest only of those able to pay for children and those willing to receive payment for the purchase of a human being; those who agree that "baby buying is generally not thought of as a serious evil in today's world."
Agreement and Disagreement
There are other adoption profiteers who share Prof. Bartholet's views. One such person is Candace O'Brien, Esquire operator of AdoptInternational who laments that "UNICEF has been waging war against international adoption for many years" and calls their advocacy "tough and effective pressure tactics and lobbying" which effectively serve to close programs completely or almost completely to foreign adopters belies a misguided, unrealistic and out of touch policy contrary to the best interests of hundreds of thousands of legitimately orphaned and abandoned children around the world."(19)
O'Brien is understandable upset with the UN's support of the Hague Convention on International Adoption's regulations. Her agency, AdoptInternational began as a for profit and changed over to not-for-profit in an attempt to become Hague accredited. However, their application was denied, at least in part for making false claims on the agency website that it was accredited when it was not.
But not all attorneys in the field of adoption agree with this virulent pro-adoption stance, and especially do not accept false allegations and the intentional distortion of data to support one's agenda. She has been taken to task by her own colleagues on her blatant disregard of facts in regards to this issue of the number of orphans needing adoption as well as other facts about international adoption. Johanna Oreskovic, who holds a J.D. from the University at Buffalo Law School, where she taught a course on domestic and international adoption and Trish Maskew, a consultant to the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law concluded:
"Bartholet's argument is a factually unsupported, analytically simplistic justification for what is, in reality, the profoundly problematic institution of international adoption. She does not address any of the complexities involved in determining the true number of adoptable children. She offers no analysis or evidence in support of her claim that existing laws provide an effective safety net against abuse. She underestimates, perhaps radically, the true incidence of adoption abuses" It is irresponsible to begin the analysis, as Bartholet does, by looking at the end of the international adoption process."(20)
Adam Pertman, Exec. Dir., EBDAI(21) and author asks:
"Why aren't adoption professionals screaming bloody murder"distancing themselves from " their unethical colleagues?
". . .The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys as well as individual lawyers, should be holding press conferences and passing resolutions and demanding disbarment hearings, for example, when colleagues engage in egregious behavior"
Bartholet correctly notes that "our adoption system has failed to live up to even its own limited vision" to protect children."(22) She is, however, totally wrong however to condone, justify or even accept baby buying and selling babies.
Viewing adoption from the perspective of those demanding babies and those wanting to profit from placements, Bartholet sees the position of UNICEF and other child advocacy NGOs who offer "alternatives to international adoption [such as] support for poor parents, foster care, and in-country adoption as "barriers to adoption." Bartholet's concern for those seeking to adopt----into and out of the U.S.--outstrips any concern for anything else and causes her to downplay, and defend, known abuses and illegalities. Baby buying, selling and trafficking for adoption is illegal, repugnant and immoral. Around the world, rings of thieves steal babies--some at gunpoint, some by drugging mothers--falsify documents declaring children abandoned, and sell them to orphanages, victimizing mothers and commodifying their children in commission of violent felony offenses.
Those planning to adopt need to do due diligence to be certain they are not part of the problem and they need to know that the attorneys and other professionals they hire to assist them in their desire to adopt are equally vigilant against partaking in anything untoward. No one wants to discover, as some have,(23) that the child they adopted was obtained illegally or unethically, and in fact many are "calling for more transparency, because no parent would want a stolen child."(24)