Liberia: What happens to the Child When Adoption Fails?

Read this compelling article in the Liberian Journal by Heather Cannon-Winkleman. I had the fortune to meet Heather when she was in Minnesota, before she returned to work in Liberia. Heather is intimately knowledgeable about international adoption/orphanage care in Liberia. She has been actively working to educate people both in Liberia and around the world about some unethical practices that are happening in the country. Heather's positions about adoption have been formed by actually working in orphanages in Liberia, including one that used to focus on providing services to children in orphanages until adoption proved to be more profitable. In our conversations I have learned about some very unethical practices happening in the country.

Heather writes,

What is most startling is that many of these disruptions occur under the radar. Currently, there is no universal tracking or monitoring system to determine how many children have experienced failed adoptions and where they are placed. Also, there is no system that ensures these children are receiving the quality care they deserve and the necessary counseling or therapy to treat their mental health issues causing their displacement. This lack of an oversight mechanism has caused many children to become lost in the system and eventually forgotten. For right now many children are being processed through underground networks in attempt to re-adopt them without going through proper or legal channels [7]. These attempts to cover up the disruptions are often from the efforts of adoptive parents or placement agencies who are avoiding to disclose this unfavorable fact. This is probably how so many children adopted outside the U.S. are put on planes and returned to their birth nations to languish in uncertainty.

There are some organizations that provide help for distressed adoptive parents and adopted children. They can find solace from a few adoption disruption resource providers that can help with counseling, re-adoption, disruption prevention, and respite care for the children or parents. However, these providers either specialize in children with special needs, up to age three, certain nationalities and various states [8]. This is why there needs to be a global system that helps children of all ages and from all nations with or without special needs, that oversees all aspects of the pre- and post-disruption process to guarantee the rights of the child.

As the issue of disruptive adoption continues to go unmonitored, there has been little attention given to this real concern in the many online forums or blogs of adoption advocacy groups who seek to gain from this highly profitable industry.

Heather blogs at Uniting Distant Stars.

Update: Heather has asked that I link to this website, which is an account of a group of people advocating on behalf of a group of Liberian-adopted children being abused by their adoptive parents. Please check out the website for more information on how you can help.

[7] Underground Network moves children from home to home. This 2006 USA Today article investigates the issue of Tennessee couple running an underground network for a disrupted adoptions and also being charged with abuse of their own adopted children. Ronald Federici, a neuropsychologist in Alexandria, Va., and author of Help for the Hopeless Children who has adopted seven children was cited saying "Dump and run — it happens all the time." says Ronald Federici, a neuropsychologist in Alexandria, Va., and author of Help for the Hopeless Children who has adopted seven children…. He says there are hundreds of e-mail chat rooms in which people who adopted children are trying to find new homes for them outside the public system…. "They don't want to sell the kids. They just want to get rid of them," he says, explaining the children may have health problems the adoptive parents never expected. "It's not the merchandise they bought." He says many of these parents are looking for the cheapest and fastest placement. USA Today 18 Jan 2006 by Wendy Koch.

[8] The Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS) website lists eight adoption disruption resources offering a range of services.

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2 thoughts on “Liberia: What happens to the Child When Adoption Fails?

  1. It’s a ridiculous embarrassment that international adoption in this country is so unregulated. At the very, very, bare minimum least, there should be statistics kept on how many adoptions disrupt.
    Since finding out more about the horrific problems in international adoption, I’ve always been interested, if we adopt again, in adopting an older Asian child who was disrupted. I’d want to do it officially, through the foster care system. However, I realized it’s never going to happen because the matching logistics are stacked against us and my being Asian doesn’t really count for much in the process.
    I think there’s definitely a spectrum when it comes to families that disrupt. I read one person’s story of a Chinese adoption disruption in which I really think she did the best she could do. She realized she was unprepared for the special needs involved, lacked the resources for therapy, and ended up handing over custody to a Chinese-American family. She also took moral responsibility for what she did.
    However, I think most of these parents find ways to abdicate moral responsibility for child abandonment. They will blame it wholly on their adoption agencies or on the children or on other external factors. Other adoptive parents will help them by circling the wagons and invoking the almighty “you can’t judge”. That really disturbs me. Rightly or wrongly, our society harshly judges people who give up their children, whether they do it willingly or unwillingly… claiming that being an adoptive not bio parent should shield them from that judgment is self-serving and hypocritical.
    I think some parents turn to these informal networks because they’re concerned that the child will be abused and mistreated in foster care. Others turn to the networks because they refuse to take responsibility and are trying to hide the fact that they gave up on a child.
    The most horrible option is just shipping them right back to the home country… unless they have a relative lined up there, they could be going back to a situation that’s probably much worse than the worst that could happen in foster care in the US. Any parents that purposefully abandon a child like that should be sent to jail. In Liberia.

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