Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Book Review: Finding Fernanda

by David Kruchkow
Board Member of Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform

Where can I start a review of Erin Siegal’s Finding Fernanda? I know Erin Siegal as an online friend and someone who came to me for advice on this book. Why me? Perhaps it is because I made my story public more than a dozen years ago as one of 22 families victimized by an illegal Mexican adoption/baby smuggling ring. At that time, I called for the adoption industry to police itself and remove the cancerous, criminal, profiteering element that infected its underbelly. Back then, I underestimated how deep that infection was. It turns out that it is a systemic infection that pervades all international adoptions, even today and even with the regulations of The Hague Agreement that were intended to prevent abuses.

There are now hundreds of stories that involve most sending countries, like Betsy Emmanuel’s and mine. What Siegal has done with Finding Fernanda that makes her book a must-read is take a purely journalistic approach to the story she presents. She reports on what she learned without passing judgment. The reader can draw his own conclusions about motives, about who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, and the conclusions become devastatingly obvious.

Stories like this are by their nature very convoluted, and Siegal does an amazing job of making the twists and turns as easy to follow as possible. Her preamble includes a section on the cast of characters which can serve as a reference should the reader get confused. A photojournalist by trade, Siegal uses one photo per chapter and each one is carefully chosen to supplement the story appropriately while having the most impact.

What you’ll learn in the book is that international adoption involves a great imbalance of power. The wealth, privilege, and entitlement of prospective adoptive parents in developed Western receiving countries directly impacts the poverty and vulnerability of mothers in impoverished and underdeveloped sending countries, leading to a money-driven market that exploits women and children for the benefit of the middlemen who procure and place the children. This is made abundantly clear in Finding Fernanda. What Siegal has done that is unique is to include the story as experienced by an impoverished, exploited mother who was stripped of two of her children for the adoption trade without her informed consent. Women like Mildred Alvarado have always had no voice, but now, Siegal has given her a voice and presented her view. For that reason alone, every single person who has been touched by international adoption must read this book and go to www.findingfernanda.com. You will feel the anguish, pain, suffering and strength of Mildred Alvarado when you read her story. This book will make you angry and it will make you cry.

There is one other party that has never had a voice in international adoption, and that is the one that belongs to the exploited children. Readers need to pay careful attention to Siegal’s description of Ana Cristina, the child stolen from Mildred Alvarado’s womb and reunited with her years later. In that description is a harrowing picture of the kind of damage done to children by corrupt international adoptions.

Erin Siegal deserves a standing ovation, if not a journalistic award, for her thorough research, her writing skills, her hard work and her braving of a dangerous, criminal world in order to get this story told. Bravo Erin!

Additional information on Finding Fernanda is available at http://findingfernanda.com/

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

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