With hundreds of refugee children in government custody after their parents were deported, adoption experts are right to be concerned about the possibility of reconciliation. The more time passes, the less likely it seems — and faith-based adoption agencies may be looking to unethically adopt these children out.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen this happen in American history, when Native American children were essentially kidnapped from their so-called “savage” families and adopted by white Christians who purported to “rescue” them. Given the rise of popularity with adoption as a mission field, many Christian families are so desperate to adopt that they may turn a blind eye to the unethical practices of agencies that profess to share their values.
Writer and professor Christopher Stroop reveals these disturbing facts in an article for DAME Magazine:
Bethany Christian Services is among the contractors working with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to house separated children. Adoptee advocates and activists were among the first to sound the alarm when this news about Bethany broke, because this evangelical adoption agency has a long record of abuse allegations, according to Rewire News. Bethany is also among a number of Christian organizations to receive large donations from the family of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. For its part, Bethany insists it is complying with the federal court order to reunify families. But is full compliance even possible? So far, it would appear at best unclear due to the uncertainty of what the Trump administration will do and what further court battles may ensue, especially in light of reports that ICE is destroying records along with threats made by Customs and Border Protection officers that children of asylum seekers will be adopted out to American families.
The children sent to Bethany have been placed in temporary foster care as part of Bethany’s work with refugees, but it is possible that their foster parents could become attached and sue to terminate the parental rights of the parents they crossed the border with, or who sent them over the border with relatives such as aunts and uncles.
Guatemala is one nation that has been especially vulnerable to adoption agencies run like for-profit businesses. The money adoption agencies inject into the economies of poor countries like Guatemala fuels coercive and deceptive practices among private actors and the government, which has a long history of corruption. Bethany Christian Services was among the organizations most involved in Guatemalan adoptions before the country moved in 2007 to bring its adoption laws in line with the Hague Adoption Convention, effectively shutting down intercountry adoption in 2008.
But inhumane international adoptions, often driven by evangelical zeal and a kind of white Christian saviorism, continued. Following the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which left tens of thousands of children orphaned, there was a wave of missionaries visiting the country and scooping up children like collectors’ items, thanks to a hastily approved policy, which allowed for expedited and under-regulated adoptions from the country — in many cases of children who had living parents. According to the New York Times, more than 1,100 children were taken from Haitian orphanages and sent to the U.S. to be placed with adoption agencies.
“Adoption for profit” is a nice way of camouflaging what’s really happening here: human trafficking. These children are commodities, and the families who adopt them — however well-intentioned they might be — are no substitute for the rightful ones they were born to. But since evangelical Christian families are driving adoption policy, their desires often outweigh the potential legal consequences of what’s happening.
In a world that is overpopulated, families who want to adopt should still do so — they just need to be extra diligent in their research before choosing an agency. When in doubt, being a temporary foster home is also an option. Prospective families may also want to look into foster-to-adopt programs, in which the biological parents have already terminated their rights. There are far too many cases, however, where good intentions are leading to horrific realities.
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