Trafficking, child trafficking is all over social media and not mainstream media right now as exposure of horrendous acts are being brought to light. This is devastating and we should all be enraged by what is being done to these children and individuals.
No child, no person should ever be trafficked for any reason. If we care about child trafficking, if we care about the exploitation we are seeing before our eyes — we should care about trafficking that can also happen in adoption.
Does this mean that all adoptions = trafficking? No, absolutely not. There are adoption professionals and hopeful/adoptive parents who are educating themselves, paying attention and doing things ethically. But, is there trafficking that can happen in adoption? Yes. And regardless of how your adoption played out, this should matter deeply to you! Reform, laws, change cannot happen if those of us who had “clean” adoptions wipe our hands because our situation didn’t play out that way. We have a voice. We have a privilege to speak up and speak out on this issue.
Here is a quick glance of what the United Nations deems as Human Trafficking:
Image from the United Nations website.
We have to stop pretending that trafficking is not a part of the adoption industry. This issue should matter to everyone in the adoption community, especially hopeful and adoptive parents because your money is what supports or doesn’t support the traffickers (certain adoption professionals).
What is trafficking? Action (recruitment), Means (threat), and Purpose (exploitation). I want to encourage you to use this lens to filter the conversations you have with adoption professionals. Use this lens to vet adoption professionals. Use this lens to report behavior you find icky or eludes that there could be more that is going on behind the scenes. This is how Paul Peterson was caught. He got arrogant and left a paper trail for authorities to see that he was committing Medicaid fraud, which is actually common in adoption. Once they determined this law was being broken, that opened a whole other can of worms. He isn’t the only one who committed or commits these acts. He isn’t the only one who exploited or is exploiting women through threat, dehumanization, fraud, recruitment, transportation, deception, giving unlawful payments, etc. He focused his trafficking on women from the Marshall Islands, but this is also happening to women here in our own communities. This isn’t just a Marshall island adoption issue, it is an issue with adoption professionals who cut corners to get the babies. We can not stand for that in this community. We can not stand for unethical behavior, for coercion and heartbreaking trafficking.
Coercive behavior that is questionable and could be seen as trafficking:
Holding half the birth mom expenses until after she gives birth, and has signed relinquishment as a “final” payout.
Transporting, flying women across state lines to give birth in other states.
Moving women to exploit state laws on birth father rights, relinquishment timelines, medicaid, etc.
Exploiting a choice to parent by threatening birth mother expenses being reimbursed.
Now, you are probably wondering how in the world you can pursue adoption and not get stuck in the midst of coercion and potential trafficking. I know this is a lot to digest and swallow, but knowledge is power! We want to empower you to do adoption well, from the beginning or wherever you are in your journey RIGHT NOW. It's never too late.
How do you do adoption well - through education, ethical resources, professionals and a village that is surrounding you who will challenge you through this journey. When starting the process: taking time… not rushing. It’s asking and vetting professionals with deep, hard questions. Doing adoption well is being involved every step of the way through the adoption process with your professional and being vocal with your thoughts, questions and pointing out if something doesn’t feel right to you. You have the power to ensure that the woman (and man) you connect with is walking through this journey in a way that she is empowered, not exploited. Where she is equipped, not threatened. That she has support and is not being dehumanized.
Adoption is hard and it can also be beautiful in the same breath. You have the privilege to use your money in a way that ensures that everyone gets the respect and care they deserve… that is a human right.