On December 16th, the US State Department announced that European Adoption Consultants (EAC) has been debarred from conducting adoptions for the next 3 years due to ethical violations. You can read a news article on the topic here. The list of ethical violations they were found guilty of is lengthy. You can read the full list here. It concludes: “In general, based on the conduct described above, EAC consistently failed to provide adoption services ethically and in accordance with the Convention’s principles of ensuring that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interests of children, and failed to provide adoption services in intercountry Adoption cases consistent with the laws of any state in which it operates”
The immediate ramifications of this are felt by the families who are in process with this agency. Those who were already matched with a child, some getting ready to travel, will have a delay as their files are transferred to another agency. While parents can pursue legal action, it is unlikely that they will receive any funds already paid to EAC back. One red flag about this agency which has come to my attention is that they required half of the adoption cost up front–before a home study has determined that a family is eligible to adopt!
However, ethical violations affect far more than the families involved in that particular agency. I write this blog for people considering adopting from China so I am familiar with the concerns of those just starting out in the adoption process. Most people are concerned with how quickly they can be matched with a young child (almost always a girl) with the most minor needs possible. I have been asked about ethical issues very few times. The desire to get a child that matches the desired criteria as soon as possible is one that leads to ethical violations. People want that young as-healthy-as-possible girl ASAP and they will pay more to get her. It’s much easier to brush aside ethical concerns when you are fixated on getting a child. It is often from families who have adopted previously, seen the ethical problems first hand, that are the ones who try to point out the importance of ethics in adoption.
I would like to share what my friend Judy, an experienced adoptive parent, posted in an online adoption group. She attached the news article which I linked above:
Ethics in adoption. And why it matters.
I’ve attached the local article on the closing of EAC. The PDF containing the charges levied by the Council of Accreditation (COA), and causing EAC’s disbarment is linked in the article (click the word “crimes” in the article).
I suggest that Every. Single. Person. on this group read the PDF. If you have a spouse, I suggest you both read it, preferably together. Then print it out and stick it on your fridge and read it again at least monthly while you are in process. And talk about it, and research what ethics in adoption looks like.
Some of these charges border on human trafficking. No, scratch that – not border on, some ARE human trafficking.
Now, I don’t know if these incidents occurred in China or one of the other countries from which EAC placed children. I hope to God it wasn’t China. But, that said, I’m aware that EAC had partnerships in China. Which means that every family that has come home from China through EAC now gets to experience the feeling of looking at their child and thinking “what if we were inadvertently a part of this?” Those are not a pleasant thoughts. And as an old-timer, who lived through the Hunan Baby Buying scandal and saw the agony those thoughts caused some families, I’m sorry that you have to go through that.
Second impact, I’m aware that China recently tightened the rules about partnerships and waivers and is scrutinizing everything just a little more closely. Knowing the history of China adoptions like I do, that tells me that this matter has come to the attention of the CCCWA and may be partly responsible for the new rules. That again gets to impact families and children who may not now come home. Even for those in process, it has the impact of making everyone just a little more up tight.
People have complained about the Hague and how it’s rules slow down adoptions. When partnerships started, and some of us were skeptical, we were attacked. And when an agency last year advertised ‘mission trips’ that let you ‘pick out your child’ it got attention for a few days, then most people seemed to think it was a pretty cool idea. And, over in the Rate group, there are frequent flames and attacks on those that who warn against falling in love with a little face and going with a questionable agency.
And now EAC. Read the PDF. Re-Read it. Think about it.
There are reasons why the Hague exists, and there are plenty of examples of why we need to pay attention to ethics. I’m sorry we all get to experience the fallout of ethics violations in real time now.
When asked for other resources for parents interested in ethical adoption, Judy said that joining the Rate Your Agency group to inquire about a perspective adoption agency was a good idea. In addition she wrote:
This list is a good starting point of warning signs (they are accused of being anti-adoption, but the list *IS* still one of the most comprehensive I’ve found after being around for 12 years). Knowing as much as you can about your child’s orphanage and the province and city around the orphanage is also helpful. I keep meaning to pull together the list of orphanage groups that we posted over the holidays. And it’s also helpful to google everything you can about the CWI, the city, the province. I’ve learned a lot that way about my kid’s orphanages (plus it gives you something to do while you wait. There’s also the subscription blog research-china.org that has some good stuff.
Judy noted the pattern that happens repeatedly in conversations when ethical violations are noted at a particular adoption agency:
A) a problem is turned up at agency/orphanage X; B) everyone has stories about agency/orphanage X – how they were involved, how they knew something was wrong, etc; C) those posters not at agency/orphange X are happy they are not involved, and cry out in self-righteous anger to lynch agency/orphanage X….. and D) everyone is smug, and doesn’t think about the broader implications at agency Y, their own agency.
When many people mentioned that they had many young children with minor needs as a potential red flag, they were attacked and discounted.
Bringing home all the adorable faces in the world, all our wealth and good intentions, don’t mean much if those adorable faces should still be being kissed by their birth parents.
So, my caution to you is…. read the PDF. Read the red-flags list I posted above. Join the Rate Your Agency group, if you aren’t already in it. And listen when someone says something negative about Agency Y.
Judy is one of many veteran adoptive parents who try to advocate for greater awareness of ethical issues for those considering adoption. I would suggest you also visit Elizabeth at the Ordinary Time blog. Elizabeth has adopted from Vietnam, a program which was closed for a time to the US although it has recently reopened. You can read the letter she wrote to Angelina Jolie back in 2007 when Ms. Jolie was adopting from Vietnam. She wrote about fraud in adoption again in this 2014 post The post I have to write but wish I didn’t.
Becky, who blogs at The Full Plate, is another experienced adoptive parents who has written several times about ethics in adoption. Becky has adopted domestically and most recently from China, but her adoptions from Ghana were the ones where she experienced ethical violations. Read Adoption Ethics: 15 Years of Lessons and Adoption Ethics: Policing Our Own Community on her blog.