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Several of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s recent pieces relating to Ethiopian adoptions

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC’s) Foreign Correspondent programe did a special report on corruption in American adoptions from Ethiopia last Autumn which featured Christian World Adoption Agency (be sure to note that CWA’s Founder, Tomilee Harding, is a former President of the Joint Council of International Children’s Services):

Fly Away Children, Broadcast: 09/15/2009

In Australia, due to the country’s history pertaining to adoption (which is well beyond the scope of this tiny post, but by way of one starting place, you can read about the Parliamentary Inquiry and Australia’s Origins work here,)  inter-country adoptions are run solely by the government instead by private agencies as they are here in the United States.

Yet clearly, that supposed ’safeguard’ built into the Australian system has failed to prevent precisely the sorts of child-trafficking so common to inter-country adoptions.

Instead of providing any form of a ’safeguard’, the ABC has obtained a document in which:

A parent of an adopted child implicates Australia’s representative in Ethiopia in the child trafficking racket.

Which is to say that rather than thwarting the system of bribes and lies, it appears Australia’s representative simply moved right into the vacuum or niche in the adoption ecosystem left when no private agencies are able to work there.

As a result of the broadcast, yet more families have come forward to share their stories, and so earlier this month, the ABC ran a follow up piece which I feel is in some ways stronger than the initial report:

Fly Away Home Broadcast: 03/02/2010

Both video segments are rooted in a consumer protection model focusing on the ‘wronged’ adopters, who are dismayed that the children they adopted were not as advertised. Though both segments also go well beyond such, by spending some time on both the Ethiopian mothers and the voices of some of the Ethiopian kids, and thus touching on the human/identity/heritage/cultural rights aspects of these abuses.

For example, viewers once again hear the all too familiar refrain of how the “adoptee” was told they would be going to the United States by way of an educational opportunity, that they could go home to see their families, etc.

Naturally, once they arrive here in the states, they find themselves in a completely different situation, that of now being expected to live up to the role of, as well as legally now the new child to the the family that purchased them, unable to return to their country of origin until after they reach the magic age of 18.

Both programes offer up the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption as if it were some form of solution to adoption corruption when clearly, it is by its very nature, not.

The ABC has also done a number of pieces, such as this, “Adoption Special,”  Australians caught in Ethiopian adoption nightmare, added today.  Be certain to explore the sidebars and supporting documents, such as this letter from Against Child Trafficking (ACT) which was accompanied by ACT’s collected evidence.

This is all set against the backdrop of Australia’s Ethiopia adoption ban having just been lifted:

The Attorney-General’s Office said the program would resume on April 6, 2010.

To the ABC’s credit, they are doing a genuine service by raising the issues involved, providing a broader microphone and audience to voices almost never heard, and doing real educational work before the new adoptions start up again. This is a crucial period in which opposition must be heard.

The decision to reopen Ethiopian adoptions is not grounded in evidence of the situation improving, nor of the human rights situation actually changing, if anything, the gold rush mentality is on in Ethiopia, just as it has been in country after country.

Take the American inter-country adoption suspensions track record for example:

Americans rushed in to grab whatever kids they could in Romania until adoptions were suspended in June 2001.

Next to suspend was  Cambodia in December 2001.

Then Georgia, in August 2003.

Followed by Azerbaijan in May 2004.

Belarus suspended in October 2004.

Then Guatemala, December 2007.

Next came Vietnam, September 2008.

and more recently, Kyrgyzstan, September 2008.

Haiti suspended all but adoptions already in process (although there are questions about how thorough that suspension is in practice at the moment) back in late January.

At the beginning of March, Swaziland just suspended all U.S. adoptions, pending an investigation by the Department of Social Welfare reviewing its adoption procedures. No date has been set for completion of the review. In the mean time, only adoptions already underway are being completed.

You would think certain lessons might be learned from that litany of suspensions, but nope. When a country like Guatemala closes, hotels near the airport in Ethiopia begin filling up with would-be-adopters in the next destination du jour.

Those of you who have been following along on my twitter, have likely seen a number of articles I’ve been pulling relating to the Ethiopian mess, such as this misnamed piece, Adoption watchdog suppresses Ethiopia findings.  Horribly misnamed, in that the Joint Council of International Children’s Services, or JCICS is anything but a “watchdog” group, it is an adoption industry trade lobby.

Core to it’s very function is to fight off industry regulation by falsely positioning itself as an advocate working on behalf of children. The industry cannot, by definition, “watchdog” itself.

As I mentioned on my Twitter, how bad has it gotten? Apparently bad enough for the industry trade lobby to suppress its own report on how bad its gotten.

The Joint Council of International Children’s Services (JCICS) says it has completed its probe, but to release its conclusions would not be “appropriate”.

In”appropriate” only in that releasing said findings might just mean a one one ticket to having to find themselves new jobs.

Well that, and for what their own report might reveal concerning Christian World Adoption and former JCICS President Tomilee Harding.

Prominent adoption reform advocate Maureen Flatley claims JCICS is stacked with adoption agency figures and does a poor job of self-regulating.

“We’ve really let the fox guard the henhouse,” she said.

“They are the ‘big tobacco’ of adoption. They are a trade association that nominally espouses the highest standards but which is harbouring the very people who have been involved in some of the biggest abuses in adoption – and they haven’t laid a hand on them.

“The JCICS has one goal and one goal only, and that is to avoid federal regulation of adoption.

All of this is the big picture.

But at the end of the day, what the international community should be listening to are the voices of the mothers, the families, and those subjected to these adoptions themselves, particularly those few old enough to speak out on their own behalf:

Tonight Foreign Correspondent exposes more cases, including that of Journee Bradshaw, who claims CWA told her she was heading off on a study trip to the US, only to learn after her arrival that she would not be returning to Ethiopia.

“I didn’t know that I’m going to stay here,” she said.

“They never told me that I’m going to have a family I’m going to stay with and I’m supposed to be their daughter. They never told me that. I just find out when I got here.”

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