By Elizabeth Spilotro, Esq.
Earlier this summer, a Guatemalan court ordered that a six-year-old girl who had been adopted four years ago by a Kansas City couple be returned to her home country on the grounds that her adoption was fraudulent. The court order is a first among the many disturbing tales of unresolved abuse and corruption in the international adoption market, and has sent a chill through the community of adoption professionals and prospective adoptive parents in the United States.
Many couples seeking to establish or grow their families are drawn to international adoption as a means to provide an orphaned or abandoned child living in unstable, often third-world circumstances the chance to thrive in a welcoming, stable, and first-world family environment. Sadly, though, the “marketization” of adoption, especially in corrupt third-world countries, has meant that unscrupulous individuals seeking to profit off this scenario have constructed often-elaborate schemes to traffick children who, in too many cases, are not actually orphans or abandoned in the first place.
As a result, the avenues to adopt in popular sending countries such as Ethiopia and Cambodia have dramatically contracted, countries such as China and the Ukraine have implemented extensive new requirements of prospective adoptive parents, and adoption from Guatemala has been at a halt since early 2008 while reforms can be implemented. The risks, delays, and uncertainties of international adoptions, coupled with their often prohibitive financial costs, are leading increasing numbers of American couples to look again at building their families through domestic adoption.
Whether an adoption is sought abroad, across the country, or locally, the single element that can best counter the risk of disruption is quite simply the ethics of all parties involved. Seeking the advice of trustworthy and competent professionals at every stage of the process is a prospective adoptive couple's best bet to successfully grow a “forever family”.