Monday, April 25, 2011

David Kruchkow's Response to Jane Aronson's Open letter to President Clinton

The following rebuttal to Dr. Jane Aronson's Open Letter to President Clinton was composed by David Kruchkow, PEAR Board Member and owner of the Adoption Agency Checklist It is not an official statement of PEAR:

On March 13, 2011, in response to the authorities in Ethiopia taking stricter control over the international adoption process and slowing down the number of cases processed, Dr. Jane Aronson, a New York City-based pediatrician specializing in the treatment of internationally adopted children (and nicknamed the Orphan Doctor), as well as founder of the Worldwide Orphans Foundation ( and board member of the JCICS (, published “An Open Letter to President Clinton.” This letter first appeared on (
I am posting my own rebuttal to Dr. Jane’s letter, with my comments interspersed with hers.

David Kruchkow

Dear President Clinton,

Just so you know, there are many in the adoption community who disagree with Dr. Jane Aronson and believe she has it quite wrong. Allow me to dissect her letter to reveal some underlying truths. My comments are in blue.

March 13, 2011
An Open Letter to President Clinton

Once again, tragedy strikes orphans – children who might have been adopted into a permanent home have had their hopes and dreams demolished. This time it’s Ethiopia, where international adoption has been growing rapidly over the last six years, beginning with a handful of older children in the 1980’s and 90’s. By last year 2,500 children – sweet babies and toddlers - were adopted by American families."

I believe that most children would rather be raised in the families and cultures to which they were born than be placed for adoption. Those are their hopes and dreams. I believe that all citizens of the world should be working toward providing support to help preserve families and eliminate any need for adoptions. You need to understand that the exponential growth in adoptions from Ethiopia has nothing to do with the success of adoption programs and everything to do with a highly profitable, unregulated industry seeking a new source of supply to fill a demand. And what the heck are "sweet" babies and toddlers? Are they the opposite of sour ones?

"Now, the Ethiopian government has announced that it is reducing the number of visas approved for adoption from 50 per work day to five. The outcry from those waiting to become parents, from adoption agencies and from not for profit organizations advocating for children, is predictable and equally predictable, the world at large appears to be indifferent to the anguish this ruling is causing. And so, the numbers of children adopted from Ethiopia will decrease, the time it takes to adopt will increase, and international adoption in general, and the children in particular, are the losers."

Is it the children who are losers or is it the corrupt, profiteering child traffickers with such a large stake in the adoption industry who are the losers? The real losers are the biological families that have been destroyed, the innocent adoptee whose life has been shattered, the adoption agencies who are trying to behave ethically and going under in a sea of surrounding corruption, and the families who want to do the right thing but can’t because their adoption agencies are liars more concerned with the bottom line than ethics.

"The destruction of international adoption has become the cure for a misdiagnosed disease. Uninspired, bureaucratic, desperate decision-makers in governments, including our own, and in large child welfare organizations, raise the cry of “trafficking” and the rest is inevitable: to protect the children and stop the trafficking – stop adoption."

Has the adoption industry done anything at all to stop trafficking, or has it kept the money and children flowing in any given country until the corruption and trafficking is so widespread that a shutdown has to happen? Then, like an opportunistic infection moving to a different area of the body, the industry moves its rot to a new country, where the infection of corruption and trafficking takes root. After Ethiopia, where will the infection spread? To other areas of Africa, or will it re-infect areas like Vietnam and Cambodia, both currently shut down to US adoptions thanks to greed and corruption yet rumored to reopen later in 2011?

"The real disease – the one not addressed - is much more complex. It involves developing nations, communities without social welfare systems or resources to help families living in extreme poverty, suffering from illness, depression and hopelessness. Without education, economic strengthening, and access to medical care, particularly HIV/AIDS care, families become desperate and relinquish their children to orphanages. And when the numbers are too large and the government is too embarrassed and when those who believe a child is better off rotting by the side of the road than living in a different culture, well, that’s when we start hearing “trafficking,” and that’s when international adoption is slowed, then halted. All in the name of the children."

So, are we to believe that adoption is a cure for the ills of developing nations? Will increasing adoptions significantly impact what is truly needed in developing nations so eloquently described above? No one in the adoption community disputes that adoptions impact only a tiny fraction of the real need. How much of the billions of dollars the adoption industry pulls in annually goes toward family preservation, education, economic strengthening, and access to medical care in the different countries from which these children are plucked? Recent history in several countries, as well as research by scholars such as Dr. David Smolin ( among many others, has shown that the supply of adoptable orphans in a given country grows as demand grows, and that when a country shuts down, the supply rapidly shrinks. This contraindicates the adoption industry propaganda. Instead, it indicated that, in fact, orphans are "produced" or "manufactured" or "recruited" or "harvested" or trafficked for adoption.

"In my 20 years as an adoption medicine specialist, this scenario has been played out in Georgia, Romania, Cambodia, Vietnam , Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Nepal and now Ethiopia. Adoption is vilified, demonized and then (the children are) crucified. And every time this happens there are children and adoptive families trapped in the last steps of the adoption process or others almost there and some not able to fulfill their lifelong dream of creating a family. If you look historically at all the countries that halted international adoption, you will find thousands of children left to rot in institutions. The trafficking stories never come close to even a small percentage of the children left to suffer for the rest of their lives."

Dr. Jane takes a wrong turn here. Make no mistake, adoption is not vilified. Corruption, profiteering, and trafficking are. While we all feel for any prospective adoptive families that get trapped in the process as a country shuts down, reformers and others who have called for a halt to the corruption, profiteering, and trafficking are not to blame for their plight. There have been copious warnings from the US State Department as well as advocacy and reform groups not aligned with the adoption industry. It's just that the prospective adopters ignored those warnings--whether at their own choice, or at the urgings of their money-hungry agencies, or both. The better agencies stopped taking applications and giving referrals in advance of shutdowns in almost every case. I for one, feel a bit more for children who have been ripped from their biological families and whose identities have been stolen and altered in order to make them adoptable than I do for a prospective adoptive family not being able to fulfill their dream of creating a family. Who is adoption supposed to serve anyway? The children who need it most? Well, those are the children already left behind: The older, special-needs children who were always less likely to be adopted thanks to the demand for healthy infants the adoption industry has become so clever at finding. Thanks to systemic corruption and a lack of transparency, we don't know what percent of internationally adopted children have been trafficked, but we do know that more of this trafficking is exposed with each passing day. How much do the trafficked children suffer for the rest of their lives? Is it acceptable to trade suffering for suffering?

"People close to adoption knew the decision in Ethiopia was coming. There were murmurs everywhere that “irregularities, perhaps improprieties” were found in paperwork for children being referred for international adoption. New forms and more careful investigations were recommended by the US State Department, and the US Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia worked diligently to ensure that the paperwork was prepared transparently."

If people knew the decision in Ethiopia was coming, why didn't most agencies stop signing up clients to adopt from Ethiopia?

"But let’s get real. The best paperwork in the world is not going to fix a tragic social situation which is about the disintegration and dismantling of families due to poverty, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, natural disasters, conflict, and war. Yes, there is trafficking, but with the Hague accords implemented, there just can’t be the same degree of trafficking, otherwise we have all just spent millions of dollars on an agreement to protect orphans which has in effect accomplished nothing."

Dr. Jane almost has this part right. The degree of trafficking is not the same as it was pre-Hague. It is greater. The implementation of the Hague accords was so heavily influenced by the adoption industry that it has become a paper tiger that accomplished nothing. Like its fawning mouthpieces, the JCICS and the COA, Hague implementation has become little more than another tool of an industry that refuses to acknowledge or fight the corruption within.

"I think that there is a place for adoption both domestic and international, but I am not so foolish as to think that adoption is the solution for millions of social orphans whose families were so poor or ill that their desperate parents were driven to relinquish them to residential care facilities (also known as orphanages, institutions, children’s homes, hogars, leagans, dom rebyonka, mladost, crèches, etc.)."

I completely agree with Dr. Jane here.

"In the years that I’ve been helping parents prepare for adoption, I’ve always believed that we should have been investing in the social infrastructure of the “sending” countries. If we had done this 20 years ago when I first entered this field, we would have had more permanency, family preservation, group homes, kinship and non-related foster care, family-based care, and community-based solutions for children without parental care. And if we had managed this social infrastructure as a capacity/community building endeavor, we could have continued international adoption for those children who were abandoned/relinquished and completely without any vestige of identifiable family."

I agree with Dr, Jane here as well.

"In any case, here we are again….doesn’t anyone learn from the past? How childish of me to ask such a question! I can’t help myself because I have watched all of this unfold so many times in so many countries and here we are witnessing another disaster. Thousands of kids will be left and parents will be stuck in limbo for months and even years…just look at each of the countries I noted above. You can go online and find the stories cached for years… as tragic as any earthquake or tsunami that leaves children stranded and alone.
No one wins. There is bitterness and anger and the orphaned children in institutions are nameless to most of us. There are families who know these children from pictures and visits and they all will suffer. I am privy to many stories of parents waiting years to get their kids out of countries around the world…even herculean measures for some where parents visit their children several times a year in the orphanages watching their children become teenagers…."

In my 13 years of adoption reform activism, I've been privy to hundreds of stories from the victims of corrupt adoptions. I've seen the hurt and destruction and permanent emotional harm done to children, and biological and adoptive parents. You can go online and find these stories cached for years, at least for those who won't be silenced by threats, intimidation, and lawsuits from the adoption industry. No one wins. For destroyed families and children, there can be bitterness and anger that lasts a lifetime. A decade ago I wrote that adoption should be a win/win situation for all involved, but it has become a losing proposition for too many due to the infection of corruption, profiteering, and trafficking that spreads from its rotten underbelly.

"In fact, this is a hostage situation. President Clinton, you secured the release of two young journalists a few years ago and I met them at the Glamour Woman of the Year Awards in 2009 when I was an award recipient. Laura Ling and Euna Lee were freed because you thought their situation was grave enough to go to Korea and personally negotiate for their release. That’s what needs to be done now. We need some diplomacy to pry open the lid for a moment. The Ethiopian government’s concerns must be addressed, but so must the concerns of the waiting parents and most of all, of the children. We need a strategic plan for de-institutionalization and community building. There are countless NGOs just like mine, Worldwide Orphans Foundation, prepared to sit down with government departments and other big NGOs to help come to the aid of the government to provide concurrent planning, adoption and social welfare infrastructure to fill in the gap so that we don’t have yet another “Guatemala 900” and the continued bullying of adoption."

Who are the hostages? The children who are being trafficked for adoption. I'd change "bullying," to "corrupting." The diplomacy needed to pry open the lid is desperately needed so the infection of corruption, profiteering, and trafficking can be eliminated. President Clinton, I would ask that you take on the role of an antibiotic.

"We need to use creative ways to help kids have permanency."

"President Clinton, we need you….."

I agree. But not for the reasons Dr. Jane states.

David Kruchkow, for himself

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

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