Wednesday, March 3, 2010
What do you do when the authorities are suspected traffickers?
Interesting article by Lt. Col. Holmes (below). He has a point.
Some of the alternatives to adoption seem better suited to Sweden than to South Asia.
Nonetheless, his article contains a huge flaw.
Lt. Col. Holmes:
"The latest report from the Hague Conference raised the very serious concern over 'paper orphans', children who were designated as being orphans when they are not through the falsification of paperwork that can ultimately be the basis of inter-country adoption. This is indeed a terrible state of affairs but surely the answer is to track down and bring to book the criminal elements and orphanages that have been involved in this trafficking of children? If such evidence exists (and presumably it does), then it should be passed on to the authorities."
What do you do when the authorities are suspected traffickers?
For years, a former NCO/Bal Mandir official led the government "investigations" of adoption scandals.
Nepal Children's Organization (NCO/Bal Mandir) has long been the center of trafficking allegations. NCO is one of the adoption homes blacklisted by the French Foreign Service:
It seems unlikely that Nepal's criminal elements will ever be brought to book for adoption trafficking.
Don't suspend inter-country adoption
Inter-country adoption is once again receiving a bad press. First we had the arrest of a group of Americans in Haiti who were allegedly trying to remove children from the country without the permission of the authorities. Then in this past week UNICEF in Nepal has endorsed the findings of the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference that inter-country adoptions from Nepal should once again be suspended. This they state is in response to the Government of Nepal’s failure to fulfill commitments that it gave to reform adoption practice and improve child protection after it signed the Hague Convention in April 2009.
Of course, aspects of the inter-country adoption process as it stands at the moment are totally unacceptable and if the interests of the child are not central and being ignored then UNICEF and others are duty bound to adopt a robust stance. My concern is that a blanket suspension is an overreaction that will be to the detriment of very many children who will be denied a future and loving homes abroad. Instead they will be condemned to remain in grim “orphanages” or they could face an even worse fate. I also believe, after 10 years of working in grass roots childcare in Nepal, that it is overly simplistic to champion the use of family-based care alternatives in Nepal.
In the joint UNICEF/Terre des Hommes report of August 2008 “Adopting the Rights of the Child” it was stated that over 60 percent of children in orphanages were not true orphans. The contention restated in a BBC interview this week by Joseph Aguettant, Country Representative of Terre des Hommes, is that these children could be better supported within their natural families. The status of “orphan” or otherwise is not the key issue; children do not need to be presented as orphans for inter-country adoption. Being a step child is enough. In this regard, I offer an alternative statistic that is much more relevant than the 60 percent figure.
At our refuge in Godawari, we are caring for 100 children. Of these, an amazing 90 percent are step children. Step children are often unwanted and unloved within new family units and if they remain with step parents they may well be neglected and abused. This has been the common etiological factor for nearly all of the at risk children that we have taken into refuge care over the years. We care for children of prisoners. Commonly, shortly after a father was imprisoned, his wife would remarry and the new husband would reject her child or children from before. When we first began working in Nepal, we were to find such children languishing in jail with their biological fathers. We’ve picked up street children who were running away from domestic abuse inflicted upon them by step parents. Most recently, we removed an innocent nine-year-old Nepali boy from inside a young offenders centre in Calcutta; he’d spent four years inside after being found on the street in his bid to escape a violent step parent. And nearly all of the girls that we have rescued from inside Indian circuses were trafficked there by step parents who sold them into a life of abuse and sexual exploitation for just a few dollars and to get them off their hands.
From our first-hand experience, I am also deeply skeptical about the rationale and practicalities for providing family support to keep children with families. We tried and it didn’t work, even with our adopting the most focused of approaches as we tried to reunite a few individual children with families. We found that, unsurprisingly, financial support just won’t buy the love of step parents and, if material support is accepted, can force children to remain in a potentially dangerous domestic environment. They can be trafficked out of there at the drop of a hat to vanish into the abyss of India or the growing domestic sex trade. Moreover, I am very unclear as to who would fund such widespread support and how on earth it could be implemented, monitored and evaluated in some of the source areas for children who end up in orphanages. By contrast, international adoptive parents can offer infinitely better material support and, above all, love. Their commitment is beyond doubt by virtue of the very fact that they embark upon the long and difficult adoption process.
The latest report from the Hague Conference raised the very serious concern over “paper orphans”, children who were designated as being orphans when they are not through the falsification of paperwork that can ultimately be the basis of inter-country adoption. This is indeed a terrible state of affairs but surely the answer is to track down and bring to book the criminal elements and orphanages that have been involved in this trafficking of children? If such evidence exists (and presumably it does), then it should be passed on to the authorities. Arguably, UNICEF would be better employed taking a robust stance on this rather than adopting a blunderbuss approach through supporting a blanket ban on all inter-country adoption.
Finally a word on domestic adoption. Superficially, it might seem to be a preferable option to keep children in their own country through making more use of domestic adoption as a family-based care option. However, one has to ask if this is really in the best interests of the child and his or her development. Nepal currently is number 144 on the UNDP’s Human Development Index, comparing very unfavorably with inter-country adoption destination countries the USA (number 13) Spain (number 15) and Italy (number 18). But what about the all important issue of love? Many Nepalis will tell you that a child that is adopted into a family has a very high chance of being treated as a domestic servant who is expected to work in return for food and board (and be glad of it) rather than being treated as a true son or daughter. This is in marked contrast with what is available overseas.
I can see a huge need for a reform to the inter-country adoption process. It is way too expensive and the amount of money that is available to adoption agencies, orphanages and central government coffers stands to compromise decision making and the welfare of the children. It is also too slow. Every day that a child spends inside a grim orphanage is a disaster. I also believe that adoptive parents should be required to spend some months in Nepal before receiving their child so that they have a chance to bond and obtain a feel for the country. They should also undertake to bring the child back to Nepal on a regular basis; this is a much better alternative than the visits by ministry representatives to children in their destination countries which are highly intrusive and potentially frightening for the children, not to mention costly for Nepal. Above all, the criminal activities need to be addressed specifically rather than the Nepali government bowing to calls for a blanket ban that stand only to throw the baby out with the bath water.
(Writer, Country Director of Esther Benjamins Trust – Nepal (EBT-N), is the father of two adopted Nepali children and lives in Kathmandu. EBT-N is at the forefront of grassroots work in childcare, child protection and the fight against child trafficking.)
Published on 2010-02-24
Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.