Monday, May 11, 2009


I have a piece up on Anti-Racist Parent today. If you feel like commenting, perhaps you could do so over there too. Maybe we can get a productive dialogue going. Merci Beaucoup.

In Response to EJ Graff's Slate Piece:

I applaud E.J. Graff and The Schuster Institute for opening people’s eyes to the corruption that exists in international adoption. I think that it is important that people start talking about this, and start implementing changes to ensure that all adoptions are ethical. However, I believe Ms. Graff does a great disservice by publishing the octopus of an article, The Lie We Love, and its tentacle articles in Slate, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. The Lie We Love is full of generalizations and is rarely substantiated with facts. For a better example of investigative journalism on the subject of corruption in international adoption, I would suggest reading, Red Thread or Slender Reed: Deconstructing Prof. Bartholet’s Mythology of International Adoption, by Johanna Oreskovic and Trish Maskew. The article, with sources to back it up, can be found HERE .

This Slate slide show is indeed devastating, and I believe that one case of corruption is one too many. What about balancing these stories with some of the other international adoption stories?

Here, and in TLWL, Graff infers that the next country that will be closed to international adoption due to corruption is Ethiopia. Graff, asked by an adoptive families group to expound on this, responded HERE.

In this link Graff says, “I am hearing horrifying stories that I cannot publish since we do not have the time or resources to investigate, corroborate and publish these.”

Graff who says in the Slate article, “Orphanages do not necessarily house orphans—at least, not in poor countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America,” might have spoken to some people like Melissa Faye Greene, author of There is No Me Without You, or Dr. Jane Aronson, founder of the Worldwide Orphans Foundation, who have first hand knowledge of what goes on in an orphanage in Africa. Dr. Aronson had this to say in response to Graff,

“The opinion piece on the so-called "orphan manufacturing chain" by Brandeis University's E.J. Graff falsely alleges that birth mothers in impoverished countries are largely tricked into giving up (or selling) their babies to meet a greedy Western demand for healthy infants ("International adoption rife with corruption," The Salt Lake Tribune, Opinion, Jan. 16). The research fails to acknowledge that poverty, war and societal pressures too often force women to give up their children. After losing a husband to AIDS and facing their own sickness, poor women may turn to adoption in a desperate attempt to secure a brighter future for their children. These brave, selfless and courageous women should not be branded as "baby sellers" or too ignorant or poor to love their children.
While unscrupulous operators may exist, a majority of international adoptions are lawful. Graff's inaccurate account of international adoption is extremely painful to both adoptive parents and their children. Instead of name-calling, we should invest our energies in sustainable solutions to ending this all-too-real orphan crisis.”

It seems to me that Graff is against any international adoption. I don’t think anyone would argue that the best thing for a child would be to grow up with his birth family, in his country of origin, but what about the kids for whom that is an impossibility?

There are legitimate adoption stories that Graff never speaks of. If I were to produce a slide show based on adoption cases that I have watched from start to finish, it would include an Ethiopian adoptee who was taken out of an abusive situation so horrific that it would rival any US foster care horror story. It would show an infant girl who had lost both parents, and whose maternal aunt could no longer afford to feed her (in addition to feeding her own six children). It would show a healthy infant boy who was relinquished by his father, when his birth mother died. (The child’s two older brothers were not relinquished because they were old enough to work on the family’s farm in rural, southern Ethiopia. This is just one example disproving Graff’s statement that “most children who need new homes are older than five”. In rural Ethiopia it is often the birth of a child that throws a family into the devastating situation of needing to make an adoption plan). My slide show would also include children whose parents died of Aids. It would show a toddler boy who was confirmed to be days away from death due to malnutrition, (I have seen the video footage of this child’s orphanage arrival. In it, his belly is so distended that he cannot stand upright). My slide show would show a family whose first referred child died before they could pick her up, and whose current daughter requires constant medical attention. It would also show an infant girl whose legs are so weak from languishing in a crowded crib, that she requires daily physical therapy. It would show children, with diagnoses of failure to thrive, rickets, cerebral palsy and seizures. It would include HIV positive children who for the first time in their lives will have access the antiretroviral medicine that will keep them alive. Graff writes, “To use the language of globalization, orphans are sometimes "manufactured": Children with families are stripped of their identities so that Westerners can fill their homes.”
Orphans don’t need to be manufactured in Ethiopia; famine, Aids and other diseases do that for them.

I agree that it is absolutely crucial to bring awareness to corruption and unethical practices that are happening in international adoption. It is vital to work toward preventing these situations illustrated in this slide show from ever happening again.

I am wondering if Ms. Graff can come up with something besides what seems to be a campaign to stop all international adoptions. I am hopeful that she can suggest to us a way that we can allow legitimate adoptions of true orphans to continue, while allowing more transparency and less corruption. I am also wondering if she can you do it in a way that doesn’t denigrate, and vilify every single adoptive parent or adoptive parent to be.


  1. That is perfect, Julie. I think it has all the elements that Graff's original article does not. Thank you so much for taking time to speak for all of the adoptive mommies who look at our sweet children and shudder to think what would have happened had adoption not been open to the strong and courageous birth families.

    Then there's always the point that quite a few of us adoptive parents have met any remaining birth family of our children and in now way do those parents seem confused about what happened.

    Has it happened ever? Probably. But that is certainly not the norm.

    Thanks again for this!

  2. Thanks for being such an advocate. I was quite surprised at how unprofessional Graff's article was. In contrast, you did an amazing job.

  3. Well said. Thank you for this Julie.

  4. Julie, you are my hero. Awesome response - Themia

  5. AMEN sister. Amen. this is perfect. This a heavy statement that I'm about to make, and I don't take it lightly : Graff should be ashamed. Yes, she should feel shame over her writing, because when you spread false information that could potentially cause more suffering, that is shameful.
    I hope your words spread and undo any false ideas that Graff's words placed into many minds.

  6. GREAT job, Julie. What a total jerk that Graff guy is. Wow. I, too, appreciate that you took the time to do this. This was a such a well-done rebuttal.

  7. Your response was right on, and your writing excellant-
    I believe it is absolutely possible to be an adoptive mother and feel compassion, gratitude and reverance for our childs birth mother.
    I do not think most parents would ever enter into an adoptive agreement if they knew it to be illegal- because loosing a child is too damn hard.

    Keep your head up, theres so much encouragement backing you up-

  8. Great post - thank you.

    I agree that corruption, where it truly exists, should be exposed. But like others who've commented, I worry that many people assume Graff's stuff is completely factual and objective. Shame on her for fostering that assumption and, in doing so, for putting Ethiopia's adoption program at risk.

    Karen T.

  9. Okay, I'm willing to play devil's advocate. As someone who is a cyber-friend of Ethiopian Adoptive family blogs....I was shocked by Graff's article and the TLWL article. I recognize that both of these are meant to shock the readers and especially Graff's was inflamatory and far to general; however, for those of us completely unfamiliar with international adoption and the "moving hot spots" after each country closure was really new information to me. I always wondered why you heard of Romanian adoptions, then Guatemalan, then Ethiopian.

    Not that anyone owes us "unfamiliar with intern. adoptions" any answers to these questions....but these are the questions that come to my mind (with utmost respect for all of you who have created your families or wish to in this way):

    1. What do the reputable agencys that you are all using claim to be doing to avoid the type of dishonest adoption portrayed in the articles?

    2. Why is Ethiopia currently a "hot spot" for adoption? What is it about their policies or lack there of (the inference of the articles) that makes it easier to get children now?

    3. What types of questions are adoptive families asking to avoid the types of adoptions portrayed?

    4. Are there Ethiopian adoptions that have been reversed (like some of the families portrayed in the articles) or families in the native country that are claiming that their babies are being coerced or kidnapped?

    5. And out of shere curiosity - how is it that stars like Jolie and Madonna are able to adopt at such a quickened rate? Is it about simply money?

  10. Oh, and one fiance is always asking me as I tell him all about my Ethiopian Adoptive family blogs..."why don't they adopt one of the many kids here in the US?"

    Can you direct me to the best stats/reasons/articles that express why an international adoption route is taken over an American child?

    Thanks! if not answers....just links to help educate all of us...would be so appreciated! I want to be more well-versed on the subject.

  11. Julie- you rock. You said everything in response to the article that we have thought and felt but lacked the ability to articulate. Thank you.

  12. Wow, Julie. I don't even have words. You did an incredible job on this article. Thank you for speaking up for those of us extremely frustrated by Graff's words.

  13. Julie - Great job! More professional than the original article. I think selling articles is the real purpose of the original article - but I may be cynical.

    Hi Zora: A couple answers to your questions:

    "why don't they adopt one of the many kids here in the US?"

    In the US there are fewer babies available than there are families who would like to adopt. There are fewer birth mothers placing their infants for adoption at a time when adoption has become more socially acceptable for adoptive families. Domestic infant adoption is not a 'wait in line' process, like international adoption. A birth mother usually chooses the adoptive parents. So there is a pool of adoptive families (in an agency) and that pool keeps expanding with new families and then the birthmother looks at profiles and chooses. If you already have a child at home and you are older than 35 and you are a working mom, it can be less attractive for the birth mom and there is a risk you will not be chosen. This was our case. We were nervous. We were in an African American program. There were 2 - 5 babies placed each year and a dozen or so families in the pool.
    We are still looking at domestic adoption but in two years of searching through photos of children we have only found one little boy that was legally free to be adopted and under the age of our son (6 years old) who lived in our area (you are often not allowed to adopt a child from far away as many of these children have relationships that you must commit to maintaining.) In this beautiful little boy's case he had older siblings but they lived near by so we were happy to keep up with them. Luckily for this little boy he was adopted by the foster family he had been living with. For our 6 year old son's sake we are not willing to foster a child. I've known too many people who have lost their foster children to birth family and it was heart breaking. We have not given up on domestic, but the odds are not with us. If we could foster first, and accept more than one sibling with one certainly being over 6 years old it would be easier.

    As far as Ethiopia we chose the country for several reasons;
    First it was an African country, my husband and son are African American and we did not want a transracial adoption, so we were only looking at African Diaspora countries; The other huge factor was that in Ethiopia you are able to keep in contact with birth family if they are known, and we chose our agency because they demanded you meet birth family if known. We also chose Ethiopia because the government seems to be making an effort to keep the system transparent.

    The vast majority of orphans (an orphan can be a child with a single living parent) live within their communities most often with their families. Infants and toddlers are given up often because they are the youngest in a very large extended family who is already having grave difficulties feeding everyone. Often the youngest are brought to an orphanage rather than older children who are able to help their families.

    We chose our agency because we were able to substantiate the humanitarian work that they do in Ethiopia. They're stated aim is to provide aid to families first so that the child, if at all possible can stay with the family.

    Even with the best of intentions and a ton of due diligence something could go wrong. I do think the ultimate responsibility lies on the shoulders of the adoptive parents. If for no other reason than we are the ones for whom the greatest blessings are bestowed for no other reason than dumb luck.

    Great questions by the way!

  14. Great article. You said it so well. Thanks for being a voice.

  15. Kristine- great answer!
    One thing I want to add as a former foster parent- I was often asked why we were adopting from Ethiopia when there were so many children avai;able for adoption in the foster care system. One of the many answers I can comfortably respond with after travelling to Ethiopia- in the US all foster children, as wards of their state, are legally required to have access to: clean water, operable sewere system, a balanced diet, regular medical care, dentistry care and of course, an education.
    In Ethiopia there are no legal mandatory statutes for the care of children. It is an incredibly poor country struggling for basic, human needs.
    I know that all children deserve a family, a home. I believe that entirely. But children should not have to starve to death in this day and age. In Ethiopia it happens every day.

    btw- did you see this link?

  16. OMG well said, Julie. You have an amazing voice and writing talent. Thank you for article on ARP.

  17. Thank you, Julie. Great article. I appreciate you taking the time to do such a thoughtful response.

    For some happy news, go to my new blog.

  18. Kristine & Anna- thank you for your answers to my questions. My heart sings following several blogs on the Ethiopian-adoption journey and I just feel so lucky to be a cyber-friend of these families blossomed with these little cocoa-eyed sweeties. My fiance gets nervous that I'll want to bypass trying for our own with how much I talk about all of you, your wait lists, your referrals, your court dates. I practically have a heart attack when it's court day. And the coming home pics and the blog unions on the's all so moving to me. Thanks to all of you who share your journey in cyber-space.

    And Julie- I am so smitten that we'll talk in person about my 100 questions.

    Can anyone though tell me the trick to celebrity international (and domestic) do they swing it so fast?

  19. Wow, Julie...I have been away from my computer for a couple of days & see I missed a lot. Thank you for keeping me up to date (gulp...) your response to TLWL.

    I think the article takes a totally sensationalist angle on a very important and sensitive topic. And your response is excellent. Thank you.

    In response to Zora's question about celebrity time-tables, I would venture that we have no idea how long Angelina Jolie waited. She adopted Zahara thru WHFC probably three years ago. The wait times were much shorter back then, for starters. Madonnna adopted from Malawi, which doesn't even have a system for IA, and you can see she's gotten tripped up in that very fact this time around. So, I would say, we have no idea how long they wait, it might just seem like it happens fast for them, since the first thing we know, they have their kids, while we are still waiting, but who knows how long the process took AJ. It's private, as it should be.

  20. Also- were you curious how long it took Rosie O'Donnel, Meg Ryan, Jamie Lee Curtis or Sharon Stone to adopt their children? Or were you only asking about adoptions from Africa?

    We have no idea what goes on in celebrities lives or how long it may be taking them to go through the process. I imagine they wouldnt want to go public with that information.

  21. ok. i followed your link from and i have to respond to a couple things said here in your comments. someone asked why people adopt internationally when there are so many children here? well, i adopted one child from foster care and i'm in the process of adopting a second and the answer is...risk. adopting from foster care is risky, legally. also, you have to deal and work with birthparents. honestly, a lot of people would rather just forget they exist because it's more comfortable that way. would you want to raise a child who remembers, knows, or sees their birthparents at times? it's competition, at least that's what PAP feel. also, people believe in a lot of myths about foster care. i've done so much educating of people who were so misled about it.

    although i am a HUGE advocate for adoption through foster care, i can understand why one would want to go for an international adoption. and i follow a lot of international (specifically ethiopian) adoption blogs. it's seems easier in some ways, but much much harder in others. for one, it takes way longer. much more paperwork and way more expensive obviously. here in the US, it's free. and actually the state pays you to raise your child.

    i have to disagree with anna who said that the children in this country are better off and therefore we should adopt more from ethiopia. hunger, poverty, disease, etc. occur in every country, some more than others. adoption isn't the only way to help that. one thing i can agree on with the original article is that maybe we should be pooling the money we spend on adoption stuff to pay for community resources so parents can keep their children. the children freed for adoption here can sometimes be because of poverty, but mostly because of substance abuse and neglect. there's no cure for that money can buy. there are no other options. these aren't parents painstakingly handing over their babies to a better life that could be prevented by charitable monetary resources. in the US, the kids need adopting, money or no money. they just got handed the "bad parent" card. and honestly, it seems that culture and exoticism seems to spur PAP into adopting internationally. what fun is there in an american born baby? so i hate to hear that one group of kids need adoption more than another. it's just not true. if anything, there are more people adopting internationally than through foster care right now. i almost never hear people say, "oh, i'm adopting from foster care because that's the way i've chosen to build my family". never. but i hear it all the time for international adoption. i'm not opposed to any type of adoption but i get tired of foster kids being written off so quickly.

  22. Dear Julie - Thank you for your article. I just read the SLATE article by E. Graff and was so angry I answered many of the completely ignorant comments about International adoption. I am the mother of two children (a 15-yr-old daughter from China and an 11-yr-old son from Cambodia.) One person mentioned Graff original article. When I read it I thought -this woman has an agenda - she either works for UNICEF, has an anger issue or an anti-adoption agenda. I was disheartened to see she had won two journalism awards. I thought the article was slanted, biased and had a hidden agenda. Did we all think E. Graff was a man? Graff is a woman - I was surprized too. Your answer was right on, although unfortunately, I doubt many of the ignorant people who commented on the Slate article will see a balanced article on this issue. (The Galindo incidents were 10 years ago. No one from our agency has been to Cambodia since we went in 2000 - it's been closed since then.) It's awful to have this kind of prejudice against our adopted children. Thanks for sticking up for us.

  23. ZORA - Some answers (from an adoptive mom and volunteer for an adoptive agency). Reputable agencys only work with facilitators and attorneys in countries that they personally know. The HAGUE treaty (signed by the US and many countries where children can be adopted) has put into place many new rules on how international adoptions can be processed, specifically to address past abuse of trafficking.
    2. Ethiopia: Countries that have available children open and close. Korea opened up after the Korean War and is a country from which most adoptions have come. China opened up in the early '90's due to their one-child policy. Some South and Central American countries have opened and closed. The US will only allow you to adopt from countries where we have diplomatic relations and the country must have a viable, safe and predictable adoption system. So although Afghanistan and Iraq are war torn with many orphans, one cannot adopt from those countries. China has allowed adoptions for 20 years, while their one-child policy has decreased the population, birth control is being used, Chinese couples are allowed to adopt and a growing economy has some couples deciding not to even have children. Other countries like Guatamala are closing. Ethopia, because of the AIDS devastation, has left many children as orphans. The programs there are well-run (our staff has been there personally to see the orphanages) and children are available for adoption.
    3. Questions? Couples and single people hoping to adopt/become parents pick an agency to work with that has a good reputation for working with honest and principaled facilitators and attorneys that have the child's best interests not their pocketbook in mind. Prospective parents now have a choice of working with an agency that is HAGUE compliant or not.

    4. Ethiopian adoptions? I just went to our annual training and heard from one family who have gone to Ethopia twice and also our staff who went there to look at the programs first hand. I have not heard anyone from the International adoptive community talk about any corruption.

    5. Stars - I believe Jolie went thru the same process as we did when we went to Cambodia (around the same year). I was told Jolie went to the orphanage and then later returned to get her son. I do not believe her adoption was any faster than ours - but I can't verify that. Madonna is not scot free with her second attempt to adopt.
    Thanks for your good questions -= I hope this has helped. Mother of a 15-yr old talented athlete and honor student daughter & an 11-yr old fun, athletic, popular son.