Your thoughts on Chinese adoptions

Marketplace Staff May 5, 2010

Reporter Scott Tong spoke to several Americans who live in China and have adopted Chinese babies for his radio story. None were surprised about the story of a convicted baby trafficker who wanted to expose the widespread issue of Chinese baby trafficking. Here are some of their reactions excerpted from our interviews. All of these sources asked to remain anonymous.

WIDSPREAD ISSUE: Two people we interviewed noted that the corruption in illegal adoptions is part of a bigger corruption issue in China.

“I went into this [adoption] process with integrity. But corruption is just so rampant here. You feel anything is for sale. I’m not surprised by any of this.”

“The world view for many is this was a one-off situation, that it happened one time. I think it’s happened in more situations. And this was one case that was brought to light. I think mostly it’s a bigger deal than perhaps most people want to admit to it. If you live here, OK, it makes a little more sense. If you have never lived outside the United States or not traveled much, it’d be hard to come to grips that any trafficking issues could happen. I think most people want to trust in the system — unless something comes up to make you not want to.”

RETHINKING ADOPTION: Several sources said they would rethink adopting a baby from China had they known that their child may have been a victim of baby trafficking.

“Knowing what I know about China, if I had to do it again I’d adopt from another country.”

“Our reaction to this: Anger, fear as to our own daughter’s origin, the sickening realization that in adopting we may have helped to fuel this incentive.”

“I’d like to be able to provide our daughter with as much information about her personal history as we can, to fill that gap in her understanding about her own life. She is curious about her birth parents and origins, and I’d be glad to help her know as much as possible about that. At the same time, if she was abandoned simply because she was a girl, and was not wanted by her birth family, that’s a hard and painful truth. I might prefer lack of knowledge to that knowledge. The danger in digging for information is that the information may be pretty painful or ugly. One doesn’t know until one digs, and then it’s too late to close Pandora’s box. So I have mixed feelings about this. If the birth parents actually sold our daughter to traffickers with no regard for her welfare, I’d prefer not to know that, and again, one can’t know until the box is opened. Of course our daughter can decide what level of investigation she might want to do as she grows older, and we would do what we could to help her.”

“When we adopted, we took at face value the assurances we found in various places that China’s was one of the most transparent and reliable international adoption processes. We tried to avoid adopting from a country where there was any question about corruption or trafficking. But by now we’re not sure of the basis for these assessments, and we can’t help but wonder how widespread such trafficking cases — or simple embezzlement cases — may be.”

“We chose adoption of a Chinese girl because it apparently was so clean: 1. Perfectly healthy girls, in need of a home (because of the one-child policy), 2. A predictable — though slow — bureaucratic process, 3. No reasonable suspicion of trafficking, 4. No parents coming back, changing their minds, 5. No ambiguity about adopted/birth children (we’re Caucasian). Somehow I think this is simpler. Knowing that there has been trafficking, knowing just how big the donation is really is in Chinese terms, I’d have concerns and might have chosen differently.”

FEE QUESTIONS: Others reacted to the corrupt business practices behind selling babies and wondered where their adoption fees might be going.

“Of course we’re happy to provide financial support to the children left behind, but $5,000 U.S. goes a tremendously long way in China — particularly in rural China. It’s hard to imagine where all those funds are used in orphanages that adopt out a lot of babies.”

“I think this is a case-by-case situation. Some orphanage directors are honest, care very deeply for the children, and we hope are not profiting personally from adoption fees. I don’t want to speak ill of China — and we’ve certainly had our share of scandals and corruption in the U.S. — but I also have seen how common and accepted corruption can be in Chinese society, and how low the regard can be for human life and welfare. I’m much less starry-eyed about the whole process than I was when we began our adoption journey.”

NO EASY ANSWERS: Finally, others were resigned to the fact that baby trafficking is a widespread problem that won’t be easy to solve.

“In the provinces, people are dirt poor. They really don’t have many materialistic items. They live very simply. So it would be very easy to be tempted to do something that would not be so right to provide for their family.”

“Was my daughter kidnapped to be sold? I don’t seriously doubt my daughter was abandoned. Why? One: We visited the orphanage a few years after her adoption and saw many healthy infant girls. Two: There’s a history in China of abandonment/infanticide of girls, especially in the South (my daughter is from Guangxi). Three: Back then I don’t think people knew enough about it to hatch kidnapping schemes. That all said, I can’t know for sure.”

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