Your Baby Never Comes Back

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this book here before. The cover is certainly familiar but it has come back up for me today. Someone who has read it says – It focuses on international adoption and Christian international adoption in particular rather than a more general look at adoption. But it’s a very interesting deep dive into that corner. You would particularly be fascinated, I think, by the way this myth of “millions of orphans” was created.

The New Republic published an article by Kathryn Joyce back in 2015 titled – “Do You Understand That Your Baby Goes Away and Never Comes Back?” Now you know where the title of my blog today comes from. The byline is – “Adoption is embraced in the Marshall Islands, but in the Ozarks, it means something very different. The tragic consequences of cultural misunderstanding.” Guess what ? I do live in the Ozarks. I may have even read this article back in my early days of becoming aware of all things related to adoption.

Springdale Arkansas is home to a large Marshallese population. The Koshiba’s lost their child in a method similar to some of Georgia Tann’s techniques. After a draining all-nighter in labor, an unfamiliar woman shows up in the hospital room with relinquishment papers. The father signs them without reading them deeply and the mother is still too groggy but signs them too. Barely making it with 3 children already, the couple had hoped to receive a big enough tax refund to fly the mother’s sister in from the Marshall Islands for childcare that would allow for both husband and wife to work and provide for their family.

So in March 2014, the mother pregnant once again, the couple had decided to place their unborn baby for adoption. They already had three children to care for, and both had other children from previous relationships living with extended family. The stories that circulated among the Marshallese in Springdale made U.S. adoption sound not dissimilar to customs back home: The adoptive parents would call and send pictures regularly; the biological parents would have the right to reclaim their children if need be; and the children would return to their birth parents when they turned 18. They’d also heard that Marshallese women who placed their babies for adoption in the United States were paid around $10,000.

The hurried nature of the exchange at the hospital left the parents without contact information about the adoptive parents so they could check on their baby from time to time. When the adoption agency would not cooperate with her wishes, the mother called the police. She says the police called the adoption attorney. That is when the mother first learned that she wasn’t entitled to any information. It turns out, she “willingly” entered into a closed adoption. Closed adoption is the default form of adoption in Arkansas. Adoption records are sealed; no identifying information about either birth or adoptive parents is shared and the parties can only contact each other through their agency or attorney. 

The article is long but worth reading. I’ll let you decide if that is something you wish to pursue.

Adoption Fraud In Today’s World

If ever anyone wondered about money being the driving force in adoptions, fraud continues to happen in our modern times.  It is not just the Georgia Tann scandal of the 1950s that affects my own family.

A government official in Arizona is being charged in an international adoption fraud scheme that involves human smuggling, the sale of children and communications fraud involving more than one state here in the US.  The activity was uncovered when concerned hospital workers called the human trafficking tip line.

The alleged criminal transported more than 40 pregnant Marshallese women into Utah over the last three years.  He is also an adoption lawyer by profession, licensed in Utah and Arizona. He helped pregnant women travel from the Republic of the Marshall Islands in the central Pacific Ocean to Arizona for the sole purpose of relinquishing their children after birth and placing them for adoption.  The women then return to the Marshall Islands.

This activity violates an agreement called the Compact of Free Association enacted in the early 2000s between the U.S. and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, which bars Marshallese citizens from entering the US if their travel is solely for the purpose of giving their baby up for adoption. Unregulated international adoptions exploit the biological mothers’ cultural understanding of what they are participating in.  Many women from the Marshall Islands are willing to allow their children to be adopted by US citizens with the intention that their children will benefit from better education opportunities.  They expect their child to return to them as an adult.

An adoption through the alleged criminal’s adoption practice costs the prospective adoptive couple $30,000 to $40,000.  Sadly, a quick google search reveals that a huge variety of fraud schemes utilizing adoption continues to flourish in our modern times.