by Peter Leppanen
On Saturday, 48 Hours broadcast a report about an adoption agency with a history of suspicious adoption cases in both Guatemala and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Included in the report were charges of child trafficking. While Both Ends Burning has no direct knowledge of the cases or the individuals involved, the allegations were extremely disturbing.
Adoption is about faith and trust. The child, the birth family and the adoptive family are all vulnerable throughout the process. All intermediaries, including orphanages, caretakers, attorneys, adoption agencies, judges and government officials have a duty to honor the trust that has been placed in them and to always act in the best interests of the child. Both Ends Burning believes their faith can only be honored by strict adherence to ethical practice, transparency, compliance with the law, and a true respect for all of the participants.
When there are failures of the type 48 Hours reported, the tendency is to blame the system as being inadequate. We have seen time and time again the disreputable actions of a few leading to international adoption closures. This over-correction does tremendous harm by removing one of the most successful options available to children living outside of parental care. Over twenty thousand Guatemalan children would likely have found permanent loving homes had scandals not led to a shut down of international adoptions in 2008. And hundreds of Congolese children already matched with adoptive families are now stuck in limbo as the DRC recently suspended all international adoptions.
Writing about foreign aid in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, Bill & Melinda Gates report that they have “heard plenty of people calling to shut down aid programs if one dollar of corruption is found. But four of the past seven governors of Illinois went to prison for corruption, and no one is demanding that Illinois’s schools be shut down or its highways closed.” The same logic applies here. Let’s not indict an entire system that does so much good because of the bad actions of a few. And let’s not deny desperate children the opportunity to come into a permanent loving family. If there is a bad actor, let’s remove that person, hold him/her accountable under the law, and make whatever improvements are needed to the system.