May 12, 2009

Intercountry adoption corruption and the adoptive parent

There's a post up at ARP today reflecting on E. J. Graff's article The Lie We Love, her recent article in Slate, and a number of other articles on the topic of intercountry adoption corruption.

The post itself and much of the ensuing discussion struck me as a serious case of not seeing the forest for the trees. The author states:
I believe that one case of corruption is one too many. What about balancing these stories with some of the other international adoption stories?

In my opinion, this logic is flawed. It's like saying "One murder is one too many, so let's balance it out with a few stories about people who didn't get killed." Yet it's the same argument I often see when the subject of intercountry adoption corruption comes up in adoptive parent circles.

There is, in my opinion, no other response for an adoptive parent to make to allegations of the existence of intercountry adoption corruption than to agree. We then have a further responsibility to get under what that means, learn to recognize it, speak out against it, and understand our role in it. This neither diminishes our families nor undermines ethical transnational adoptions.

It would do my heart good if one day an article like Graff's could be met by adoptive parents with praise first of all for shedding light on this problem, followed by reasoned critique and dialog on how we collectively can bring intercountry adoption corruption to an end.

Related links:

The Lie We Love
Brandeis University's Shuster Institute Gender and Justice Project on Adoption
Ethica articles on intercountry adoption corruption

27 comments:

Mama Dog said...

I appreciate you hoping for a discussion, but I'm confused by your post.

You write:

"It would do my heart good if one day an article like Graff's could be met by adoptive parents with praise first of all for shedding light on this problem, followed by reasoned critique and dialog on how we collectively can bring intercountry adoption corruption to an end."

But the piece that seems to have frustrated you begins thusly:

"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.:

Julie said...

"I applaud E.J Graff..."

"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."

My thoughts are clearly not coming off as I intended them. I agree with Graff. I take issue with her sensationalism, tone, and generalizations.

I agree that there is corruption. I AGREE.

As someone whose Dossier is sitting on a desk in Ethiopia I stand to lose everything by writing my name and the words, 'adoption', 'corruption', 'Ethiopia.' I am willing to do this. I do not want to be the adoptive parent with a beautiful baby on their lap claiming, "If I had know what I know now I would never had adopted from...."

I was asked to share my thoughts on the Slate piece. I was hopeful that we could start a dialogue, and that people could see that there are APs and PAPs, who are interested in dealing with these issues, who don't have their heads in the sand, and don't have their eyes closed.

The best thing that has come out of my writing the post is that two women wrote to me; one of them had a story she was afraid to share. Today she shared it on her blog (which I linked to on my blog).
The other woman posted on the CHSFS forum that she just completed a 'corrupt' adoption- then she named the agency.
Baby steps I realize, but really - we are here and we hear you.

Help us.

Nicki said...

I was also struck with the same response (enough that it brought me out of my posting hiatus at VVAI). I think the time has come, actually, that we stop following any adoption sentiment that isn't full of beauty with the word "but" (ie "Adoption corruption exists but..." or "I want to end corruption as much as the next guy but...") Exactly what we do NOT need is the "balance" the author seems to feel is missing from the piece.

Well said, Margie.

Julie said...

Nicki, really? Did you read my comment? The one ABOVE yours? Did you read it? I have a problem with the shoddy journalism, not with the subject. And I have not considered international adoption the 'safe choice.' Don't presume that I have. Don't alienate the few paps that are willing to examine the ethics while in process. Just don't.

Margie said...

Mama Dog: My reaction is not just to the opening paragraph of Julie's post, it's to the entire discussion - especially the particular sentence I quote. Frankly, the sentence you quote here is gratuitous in light of the rest of the post and ensuing dialog. What I read after that in the post is a discounting of the issue of corruption, followed by an attempt to preserve AP feelings by seeking non-existent balance and criticizing Graff's tone (as in Julie's comment "What I take issue with is her inflammatory tone, and her generalizations.")

A good number of the comments bear out what frequently happens when APs discuss this issue: they fall into criticism that has nothing to do with the actual problem of corruption (a la the comments regarding Graff's use of the passive voice by one commenter - good grief!) or reactions to the tone of the article.

Julie, I apologize that I'm meeting you in this way, but this issue is one that's way to close to my heart to remain silent on. My family, too, has a story, I've shared it here before, and it definitely influences my reaction to your post. I appreciate that you said in your post and are saying now that you believe corruption exists - and I think from what I've seen in your blog (which I didn't know until yesterday) that you do believe this.

However, from my point of view, that's where APs with online voices should keep the dialog. There aren't enough statistics, never mind reliable ones, to paint a really clear picture of what goes on in intercountry adoption. The recent closure of several countries' programs should be proof enough that it exists. That, I think, is where we should focus our attention.

On that note, it was interesting to me that several commenters disputed Graff's statements, but offered no facts on which they based their disputes. Wouldn't that mean they were doing the same thing they criticized Graff for?

kristine said...

I would like to comment on balance. I do believe balance is important. The reason I believe this is because I believe, at this moment, international adoption is an important option and that countries that choose to allow this option for their children should be helped in every way to do so in an ethical manner. If there isn't balance than there is too quick a call to simply end international adoption in order to end the corruption.

I agree with Julie and I also agree with Third Mom. (I felt the Graff article was just shoddy - perhaps she just needed more words to make her case better?)

I believe all corruption starts from PAP's desire to adopt a child from a country other than their own. Even with that belief it's difficult to get my mind around what to do to help international adoption be an ethical option for all involved.

In light of the recent developments in Ethiopia, the investigation by the Ethiopian courts into suspicious activity involving the police and an orphanage, I've been trying to figure out how my relationship with my agency can and does influence the activities in Ethiopia. I realized I have never asked my agency how the team in Ethiopia is paid. After more than a year in the process, and much reading on ethics I'm surprised at my own ineptitude. So, I will be calling and asking them.

I did not read Julie's comments as holding up AP's or PAP's feelings. Perhaps because I know her (via her writing) so well. I took her writing, which seemed reasonable to me, to discuss the good that is done through international adoption. Some disagree with this of course, and believe that there is no good done at all.

Thanks for your writing Third Mom, I've loved your blog for a long time - although I rarely post.

Mei-Ling said...

"Culture is not important! What's the big deal about genes?"

I left a couple of comments on there, although it may take a short while before the author gets back to approve them.

Everyone is talking about ethical adoptions and ethical processes and how their case was unique because so-and-so was developmentally delayed or infested with AIDS, etc.

It's not that I don't believe them. I do, I really do. Absolutely.

But what concerns me is how many people insist they are trying to be as ethical as possible.

When you work with an agency who is in contact with an orphanage whose social workers randomly find babies in cities, in alleys, in fields, in the marketplace...

You can NEVER be sure everything is COMPLETELY ETHICAL.

Mei-Ling said...

http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/10/celebrity-adoptions-and-the-real-world/?apage=5#comments

That's the article I left a response on.

I was referring to some different comments instead of the article I thought you had posted - sorry!

AdoptAuthor said...

Third Mom:

Your analogy, your instinct (as always), your comment and your point are well taken and right on target!

Your wish for adoptive parents to embrace Graff's (or mine and others') research into international - and may I add domestic - adoption, is encapsulated in the very title of her article. It is a hard pill to swallow for many. It kicks up, understandably, defensiveness.

Ironically, I just read TODAY:

1. Madonna continues to appeal - writing to the Malawi newspaper her hopes and dreams for Mercy. And yes, she CAN give the child all the material advantages anyone could possibly imagine. No one doubts that for a second.

2. Ireland is revamping international adoption to meet the needs of couples who are waiting as long as five years!

Balance? Balance? There has never been any balance in adoption practices or policies. ALL are create to suit just one top most point in the triad: THE ADOPTERS; the one and only paying customers who every practice is catered to assist instead of seeking remedies for infertility - do much of which is preventable.

Where is the balance in the discussion of adding infertility prevention to sex ed classes? Where is the balance of attempting to reverse the delayed childbearing trend? Instead we just keep on keeping on and keep taking children form the poor and selling them to those who can afford the price tag.

The children being redistributed are merely pawns, merchandise. The families from whom they are torn - incubators for OTHERS' children!

I sought "balance" and love and all holding hands and singing kumbyah more than 20 years when I wrote my first book i 1988 and called for the adoption triangle to be softened into a "circle of love" (a chapter in that book) with the child at the center. Since then things have gotten WORSE, not better and yes, I am angry! I am angry at children being BOUGHT and SOLD. Where is the balance?

Where is the balance in the facts that infants are OK and older children left behind - both here and abroad? Where is the balance in tax incentives for adoption USING foster care as bait but giving equally to those buying children?

Each of has to chose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. There is no midground. The only children that should ever be placed into the hands of non-relatives are children who have NO extended family whatsoever who can care for them safely. And the only child who should be placed outside his country is one for whom no suitable home can be found within - after TRYING fairly....not with the IMBALANCE of competing against western dollars.

Children's needs must come first. Period. There is no compromise on that. Even Madonna may have to accept that reality and lick her wounds and her broke heart over the child she has bonded to - while ignoring genetic and cultural bonds.

Margie said...

Mei-Ling, hi, no worries! I should have added the link to that article, too - thanks for posting it here.

Kristine, thanks for commenting. Perhaps because this issue is a sensitive one for me, coupled with the fact that I don't know Julie, I took her words at face value. From my point of view, balancing stories of corruption with stories of ethical adoption misses the point. It strikes me as an effort to cancel out the cases that do occur, which again misses the point I think all APs should accept: corruption exists in intercountry adoption, and our job is to prevent it.

AdoptAuthor said...

I hope those who read here will take a look at this resource, especially if you think Graff was a sloppy reporter, here's more evidence that corruption in international adoption is endemic, not isolated:

htt://tinyurl.com/adoptionresources

and: http://tinyurl.com/adoptionethics

Mei-Ling, I could not agree more!

"Ethics" - without standards, guidelines, regulations and penalties - is as vague as "nice."

The line between ethical, reputable agencies and unscrupulous baby brokers is INVISIBLE. Just ask the Hemsleys and the Smolins. these were good people with good intentions. As Graff says: one intends to BUY a baby. But there are no guarantees you won;t wind up doing just that.

Kristine says: "I believe all corruption starts from PAP's desire to adopt a child from a country other than their own. Even with that belief it's difficult to get my mind around what to do to help international adoption be an ethical option for all involved."

When in ANY doubt, DON'T!

What I can't get my head around is why there is ever a NEED to adopt from another country with 129,000 children in the US in need of permanent homes? Why do people spend between $20-$40k for a child when these children in foster care could be adopted for minimal filing fees?

While a small percentage are interracial couples or have family ties to a particular nation, the answers I most often hear and read on blogs are these:

- the "rescue" myth - using the falsified exaggerated numbers of orphans

- not feeling prepared to deal with a child with physical and emotional problems. Yet children form orphanages are no less "damaged."

- lately I hear more and more that international adoptions are preferred because of less ability of "interference" by birth family members. This was admitted recently by MSW Meredith Resnick who adopted two girls from Russia on her Psychology Today blog, among many others.

If anyone here can provide other reasons, I would be most appreciative.

Mirah Riben

Nicki said...

To Julie - no I had not read your comment above mine. I had read, though, the many comments on ARP and on your own blog with disappointment and that is what prompted my response.

I believe from reading your blog that we probably share more views than not. But on this one, we differ. Separate your commenters from your post and I still disagree with your opinion on this one. That was not, though, what necessarily prompted my own response.

Others may have said this better than I but ultimately what I believe we need is more good, honest dialogue about ethics and reform. By instead setting our sites on "the messenger" so to speak we run the risk of cutting off any real potential dialogue. To that end, I'm no more interested in cutting you down as the author of that post as I am of cutting down EJ Graff. It does not accomplish anyone's goals.

I'd love to hear more information about the meat of the issue and less opinion about the style of the writer, the tone, etc.

Margie said...

Mirah, hi, thanks for commenting. As I read your thoughts, something jumped to mind that I'll share here.

It seems to me that part of the problem is that many adoptive parents - and I include myself in the group - want to start the dicussion from the position "Most intercountry adoptions are ethical." I think we should start from the position "Every intercountry adoption is potentially unethical." I think this would tune us into all the possibilities, many of which are far more subtle than the overt trafficking Graff described in her article.

Nicki, you are on the money with this, I think: "I'd love to hear more information about the meat of the issue and less opinion about the style of the writer, the tone, etc."

Mei-Ling said...

[I think we should start from the position "Every intercountry adoption is potentially unethical."]

I can't see many adoptive parents wanting to start researching from THAT angle. ROFL.

kristine said...

Potentially Unethical. I completely agree. Most of the people that I speak with agree with that statement also.

Potentially Unethical. But not automatically unethical. It's not a given.

What is certainly, unethical, right now is the political situation that is creating the environment of poverty that creates desperation and starvation. There are countries that do not allow international adoption. That doesn't mean there are no orphans or orphanages. The fact they don't allow American's to adopt doesn't mean those children are living in families or that they are fed, clothed and have a roof over their heads.

We Americans are still responsible for them because it is our policies that created or made worse, the desperation.

It's important to look at motive and especially to follow the money trail and talk about how to keep adoption ethical. For one, no agency should allow any one to be paid, per child or per case. Clear international laws on who is an orphan.

For me more importantly is looking at the situations that created the orphans. How does the west create these situations. We need to read books by African's when talking about Africa and stop listening to bleeding heart rock stars who are clueless.

Mei Ling - would you stop all international adoptions? And if you would, what next for the children that need help now? Forget the people who want to adopt. What would you do right now? For the children in foster care in this country and for the thousands of children around the world who are stuck in orphanages with no extended family able to take care of them? There are 2000-3000 children most likely adopted out of Ethiopia this year. But there are thousands of children left behind. Not in families but living in orphanages or on the street and in the cities living in the sewers. What can we do this year for those children?

motherissues said...

Margie, this is such a great post. My partner and I are in the process of adopting from foster care here in our state and we absolutely go in with the understanding that there may well be something unethical involved. We're doing it anyway because there's the transparency to see where that breakdown may have occurred.

So far we've looked seriously at one little boy who did need to be in out-of-home care, had suffered from being in foster care even though the system "worked" for him, and legitimately seemed not to be able to be raised by his mother or more distant family members. But he we didn't feel we could meet all his needs. I do believe his special needs are as much a result of how he was treated and moved in foster care as what his situation with his biological family did to him.

And so now we're looking at teenagers and again understanding that there are probably going to be messy ethics, like that. I mean, it's not just a coincidence that it'll be easy for us to find black teen boys in the foster care system. And for us, being willing to adopt means being complicit in that while also challenging it.

I know we're not necessarily the norm for people adopting out of foster care, but a lot of commenters here and elsewhere seem to put domestic foster adoptions on an ethically "cleaner" level than international adoptions. If that's the case, then I do think all international adopters should certainly be worried. I wish I knew why that was so controversial.

Irshlas said...

I read the post at AAP and the comments that followed. I won’t even pretend to be enough of an intellectual to comment with stats or studies. I also don’t have an endless repertoire of socio-political references to bring to the conversation. I continue to read Margie’s blog because it makes me think. I can’t say that I agree all or most of the time. But I continue to read. I would like to offer up, however, that the tone of comments here and at AAP help to make a point I continue to believe. If I come to the table to talk or ask questions, and all that occurs is a barrage of insults, loaded words and criticisms, how on earth am I supposed to hear what’s being said? And then when I’m insulted or hurt or [insert word], I’m given a list of the reasons I shouldn’t feel the way I do.

APs are tired of having to start from the position of defending our families, our children. Either we’re wanted at the table or we’re not. But when we come, then others don’t get to dictate what we say or how we feel. Dialogue means everyone gets a say. And yes, Margie, you actually allow that here and allow most every side to post a view. That’s honestly why I even bothered to write a comment. Anywhere else, my confusion and simple questions get drowned out in the fray.

AdoptAuthor said...

I believe that we need to allow nations to find their own way.

One of the links at: http://tinyurl.com/adoptionreources is to an article by Karen Rotabi and adoptive mother of a Guatemalan born child.

Post Hague, Guatemala, one of THE "hot spot" of corrupt adoption and child trafficking prioritized family preservation with kinship care as a secondary resource. Thirdly, domestic adoptions. They have virtually eliminated any need to export their children as a result!

Part of the solution is in changing attitudes and beliefs. We need to stop collectively bemoaning the "lack" of "available" children for adoption.

"It simply made no sense to have more children when there were children that needed homes." If there are children who need homes, why is it taking you so long find one???

As for doubt - yes, refocusing on the possibility of any adoption being less than ethical. Can anyone tell me they are free from all doubt that there is ANY possibility of that whatsoever in any adoption? Coercion can be overt or very subtle.

It feels socially conscious and being part of the solution when we believe that there are children languishing. What will happen if people don't adopt them? For me, that's like asking what would happen to animals that are raised to be food if everyone became vegetarian.

Babies are NOT pound puppies being given away and who would be destroyed if o one adopted them. They are being bought and SOLD or their mothers pressured into believing that adoption is the best option.

Mirah

AdoptAuthor said...

PS Please know that my comment are NOT directed to those posting herein, who are obviously above the fray and as has been pointed out are in far more agreement than disagreement. My passion and anger are at what I read elsewhere, i.e. from Meredith Resnick who adopted girls of 10 and 11 years old from Russia. One cannot help but ask why. And her answer is boldly stated as she wanted avoid birthfamily intrusion. To her credit, i will say, she did bring the girld back to Russia for a visit with their family, thouhg seemingly to shw them the extent of the poverty they could have remianed with.

I cannot help but wonder what "survivor guilt" such trips bring to the lives of those who are living with privilege the rest of their family is not privy to.

I believe in an ideal world paps would not walk the aisles of orphanages and decide "oh this one is cute - i'll take him" as madonna seems to believe is proper protocol. But rather and independent child advocate would decide who are the most suitable parents for the child most in need.

In answer to the question what can each of us do to stop the lack of ethics, my answer remains: Boycott. Stop paying the exorbitant fees. Don't feed the baby brokers! Insist that adoption be totally free of all profiteering.

Some - even many - may suffer tremendous personal sacrifice to help make such a change in adoption practice possible for future generations. But it is only when the demand stops that the corruption will end. Demand an accounting of every penny charged. We know that even double DNA testing is not sufficient. Anyone can come forward and say they are the mother of the child and are willingly giving him or her for adoption. these methods do not work. Only refusing to pay the piper will stop the greed that drives the coercion and exploitation.

Margie said...

Irshlas, it is so good to see you again!! Thanks for reading and adding your thoughts!

There's so much here that I'm going to post again, because several of you have really nailed exactly what's in my head. More to follow later.

Julie said...

"Every intercountry adoption is potentially unethical."
I agree. Third Mom I am sorry to have met you this way too. I appreciate your voice.

I think you should come over to my blog, maybe as a guest blogger? We can present some info from those of you that know more than we do about the corruption.

One more thing, I am getting a heavy "You should have done Foster-Adopt", from soooo many people.

We started in the Foster-Adopt program. Please don't assume that people who are adopting internationally don't know anything, or are not advocates for Foster-Adopt.

Mei-Ling said...

I am not sure why Kristine singled me out in the last part of her comment, but I'll answer anyway:

"Mei Ling - would you stop all international adoptions?"

If I could wave a magic wand and make all poverty/disease/war stop so that IA didn't have to exist, yes, I would.

As the world is today, that'd be rather naive. Government cultural and traditional mindsets cannot and will not change overnight.

"And if you would, what next for the children that need help now?"

Figure out why they need help and set up social support services for the families who need it.

Sounds simple, doesn't it? Almost TOO simple. But that is exactly what Korea is transitioning into - giving social help to the families who need it and eliminating the cause for orphanages.

"For the children in foster care in this country and for the thousands of children around the world who are stuck in orphanages with no extended family able to take care of them?"

But if their family actually HAD the resources to take care of them or had access TO the resources, then those children wouldn't be in orphanages in the first place. Right?

"There are 2000-3000 children most likely adopted out of Ethiopia this year. But there are thousands of children left behind. Not in families but living in orphanages or on the street and in the cities living in the sewers. What can we do this year for those children?"

Try and diminish the problems that are causing them to end up in orphanages.

The thing is, I see so many people saying "But those kids don't have families who CAN take care of them! They NEED to be adopted!"

Sure they do. No argument there. But what about the next generation of starving kids, or the ones who end up on the streets, abandoned, or the ones who get affected by disease?

All the orphanages will keep doing is "refilling." Yes, even with adoption. Adoption isn't ending anything. It doesn't matter how many people adopt - there's just going to be more kids in orphanages from families who are helpless to do anything.

kristine said...

OK - sorry for these long posts and this is my last today...
I so appreciate your response Mei-Ling I want to respond.

I agree completely that adoption doesn't solve the long term issue. It solves woefully little in the big sense.

Korea and China are interesting. The issues there were largely social rather than economic. I'm very very happy that both countries are looking at the situation and keeping their children.

For several African counties the issue is our problem. The United States has created the poverty in several of these countries. That's the bottom line. It may seem like I'm putting off the adoption line of thought but I'm just coming at it from a different angle. In a country like Ethiopia for example, this country has a social history of accepting adoption and fostering by extended family. They were used to having Aunts and Uncles and cousins raise a child who was orphaned for one reason or another. But then abject poverty started coming into the picture. Much of this poverty has been created by us. So now disease has literally killed off so many adults that the social fabric has fallen apart. The country side is clearing out as there is no food and extended family migrate into the city. Children literally get lost in the shuffle. The numbers of children living in the sewer system of Addis Abeba are staggering. They live there for safety.

Domestically there are many issues. But not all people give birth are willing or able to take care of their children. I've worked with these 'displaced' children. We need to work for children, not for birth parents and certainly not for adoptive parents, but for children and figure out a way to give a child the best possible place to grow up. Our system needs to be completely overhauled. It won't make every person who gives birth a fit parent. But it will go a long way to stopping the horror of the current abuses of the foster care system.

Again - so sorry for the long posts. It's just rare to have a discussion with thinking caring individuals that really care about the kids. I appreciate it even if I don't always agree.

Mei-Ling said...

Kristine: Whoa, you typed a lot!
The first thing I have to say the issue of bringing up the morality that a parent who gives birth doesn't necessarily want to parent.

That is true in some cases. But it does not have a whole lot of moral ground to stand on. Very very few parents completely utterly do NOT want their children.

Foster care is different from IA, drastically so. So I'm not going to touch on that.

I'd have to agree with you that China and Korea are both struggling with social issues (social privilege?) rather than just economical hardships. That's very true. Korea is trying to very slowly transition itself into a state of supporting women who do not have the money or support to raise their own children. China is encouraging more domestic adoption and trying to ensure more adoptions are as ethical as humanly possible given the circumstances.

I'm not a China adoptee, Kristine. I'm from Taiwan. Just in case you were wondering. My case is very different from the mainland adoptions.

Re: my relinquishment, my mother was involved in a tragic accident and because she did not have much social privilege, my birth left her disadvantage and unable to fight for an infant she loved very much. As much as some adoptive parents would like to deny it, money can be a huge influencing factor.

Why were my parents able to adopt me? Because they had white social privilege and could "afford to." It doesn't mean they are bad people. But it does mean, by default, they had an advantage. Maybe they didn't see it that way - they just wanted to *parent* - but that is a truth, and I bet the truth of a lot of other transracial adoptees.

Of course China abandonments are different; infants are left on the road. But why are they left on the road? Because their families cannot provide for them or cannot pay the fees. Why? Because of the government policy. Why is there a government policy? Because of over-population and cultural desire for males. The list goes on.

Cultural mindsets are difficult to change, incredibly difficult.

That doesn't mean it's impossible.

AdoptAuthor said...

Very thoughtful discussions...

Kristine, thank you. I did not mean to delve into your personal life.

I had another thought about "ethical adoptions" that we hear so much about.

Sadly, many define that as getting what they pay for. AsI reported in my book, only people who lose money ever report their agencies as being unethical - and even many of them don't because they fear they will be black balled by other agencies! Some ethics, huh?

I also have a huge announcement regarding international adoption on my blog:
FamilyPreservation.blogpost.com

Yoli said...

I am so glad you are around.

ama said...

I would like to tell readers about my recent international adoption experience, which may get as close to something like an ethical adoption as possible. We adopted an infant from a country in the Middle East which shall remain nameless. This country allows only about half a dozen children to leave the country, those who have been abandoned with no knowledge of any family whatsoever. With so few children, they focus on choosing families for children rather than children for families. And they choose families who they believe will rear the child with in-depth (not superficial) knowledge of their native culture and religion. Hence, we "chose" this country not because it had short wait-times or the kids are cute, but because it made sense for us given our histories, backgrounds, political, religious, cultural interests and activities. What I am describing is the practice of Islamic guardianship--there is no "adoption" per se in Islamic countries. Guardianship ensures that the child's identity will be retained and not simply merged into that of the adoptive parents. And they refuse to accept any money or gifts for the children. So, in the country itself no money changed hands. We did pay for our Canadian homestudy, appalling PRIDE training, and ridiculous follow-up home visits. And we had to pay our Canadian lawyer, who handled the legal aspects in Canada. So, that was about $15,000 to Canadian "adoption professionals" who have very little sense of ethical perspective on international adoption and know nothing about the country from which we adopted. They also did nothing in the country itself -- we dealt with all of the foreign offices and paperwork ourselves (so, yes, knowing the language is essential, but that is part of being involved with the culture.) And since being back, our baby has spent a lot of time in the presence of people from her culture, since that is part of our crowd. We do not have to artificially seek out community events--we were already involved with the community before. There is still tragic loss for our baby, who will never know her real birthday or birthparents. But she will know her birthculture and perhaps will grow up with something more akin to an immigrant identity than that of an adoptee. I realize that bringing her here is selfish, for she might have been adopted elsewhere in the region, which would have given her a more organic sense of her culture. I am not proud to be an adoptive parent, because I have been reading blogs like this and that of adult adoptees for a long time, so I know the critiques before I did this. There is something selfish in what I did--and we will be dealing with that for her entire life.