Unwanted in America: The Shameful Side of International Adoption is a long overdue project that rips the veil off the sick underworld of "rehoming" children in the U.S, a subject I've recently been seeking info on but coming up mostly empty-handed. This 1 hour 33 minute documentary is hosted by the great Dan Rather & aired on the AXS-TV channel in 2014. The tragic story of Hana Williams as covered by Slate author Kathryn Joyce was one of the main motivations for Rather to make this film, and I'm so glad he did. There's no more definitive expose on the topic.
Unwanted in America focuses mostly on Ethiopian adoptions, which are often conducted on the false premise that the children are just going to America "to get an education" but will be coming back & can communicate freely with their bio parents while away. This is not the case--these are closed adoptions in which parents sign over all rights to the adoptive families. These kids often come from dirt poor families looking to give them a better future but not give them away, and the kids are often much older than those placed for adoption in the U.S--adolescents or older teenagers even. A few of the parents are expecting their kids to send money back home. This makes for a terrible situation right off the bat.
|Adopted child Addie with Kurt & Kayla of Ohio before being rehomed|
On top of the culture shock, language barriers & racial differences these kids have to overcome in their new homes, the lies of the adoption agencies make for a volatile situation in which the kids often flip out completely, developing severe attachment issues & failing to live up to the expectations their adoptive parents had for them. Many, if not most, of these adoptive families already have kids--either biological or otherwise--and are destined to fail from the beginning due to a lack of cultural sensitivity and being spread too thin. Some families take in huge sets of 5 or more siblings; others split up sibling groups which creates its own problems. Either way the result is the same--a so-called "failed adoption"... two words that should never be uttered together in a sentence.
Some of the adoptive parents obtain these kids for nefarious reasons ranging from forming personal labor camps to helping boost their Youtube subscriber count to converting them to Christianity & "saving their souls". The results of these setups can be deadly as in the case of Hana Williams. Even when death doesn't occur, there are instances of homelessness, sexual abuse between unrelated kids under the same roof, physical abuse by the parents & other horrors as we see in the documentary. It's the Christian adoption agencies that have some of the most questionable methods of obtaining adoptees (such as lying and saying the kids are "just going abroad to study").
"We Truly Do Hate This Boy!"
|Julia Hehn of Seattle, adoptive mom of 28, whose kids ended up homeless|
So where does one turn when they feel they can't bond with or provide a safe home for their internationally adopted children? Therein lies the rub. The adoption agencies wash their hands of these kids (closed adoption means all sales are final) & offer no additional counsel, so parents turn to an unacceptable alternative: the internet. They place Want Ads for their children as if they were a stray dog needing a new home. "We truly do hate this boy!" one ad reads. These groups exist on Facebook & other well-known sites and it's perfectly legal in the U.S. No oversight, no vetting of the new "parents" by any independent agency. The second home could be inhabited by pedophiles, child traffickers or murderers. As long as they sign the proper documents, they're good to go. "Rehoming" could just as accurately be called legal child trafficking because that's literally what it is.
This documentary does an amazing job of exposing this less-discussed side of international adoption, a form of adoption many are drawn to because it's "closed" and they won't have to deal with birth parents. In the U.S. today, almost 95% of adoptions are open, meaning children are informed that they're adopted & birth parents are allowed to maintain some level of ongoing contact with the family & child before age 18. Ethiopian adoptions are also far less expensive than domestic, costing around $12,000 per child compared to $20,000-$40,000 per child in the USA (on average). There's another elephant in the room: that some wealthy Westerners suffer from White Savior Syndrome & are adopting these kids--either knowingly or subconsciously--with the intention of getting asspats from their church, community or online following. Myka Stauffer comes to mind but there are others, and some have ended in tragedy.
International adoption agencies share a lot of the blame. They paint a rosy picture of glowing American couples with their smiling Vietnamese, Ethiopian or Guatemalan child holding "Forever Family" placards which belies the truth: that between 10-25% of all adoptions fail, and the number may be even higher with international adoptions. Unfortunately that can't be known because nobody's tracking it. But this much is known: adoptions involving white children are less likely to "disrupt" than those involving Black children, and those involving emotionally or sexually abused kids have the highest disruption rates of all. That should trouble everybody, particularly in the case of international adoptions in which white families take in Black children & adoption agencies have a financial incentive to cover up known behavioral problems & past traumas in a child's life.
Unwanted in America: The Shameful Side of International Adoption is a long & difficult watch but an important one. It's like stepping into a filthy underworld that's hiding in plain sight. Politicians talk a good game about "protecting children" when it comes to taking rights away from consenting adults--they arrest us for consuming drugs in private, slap Parental Advisory stickers on music & movies, try to ban gay marriage & adoption, strip women of our reproductive rights & other totally irrelevant things, yet when living, breathing children are ACTUALLY being harmed they look the other way. This is a perfect example of that. No other first-world country allows "rehoming" helpless adopted kids in this manner. The fact that it took an aging (though legendary) reporter on an unknown channel like AXS-TV to make a documentary about this abuse of the system is both disturbing & infuriating.
To be clear, adoption is a selfless & loving act for most adoptive parents & should be made more affordable for those who wish to access it. But even with the best intentions, there can be catastrophic outcomes if the adoptive family isn't knowledgeable & realistic about the potential hurdles. Informed consent is a must; choosing a child because you felt "drawn to" them is not a sufficient reason to commit to becoming their legal guardian for the rest of your life. This isn't a pet shop where you're picking the cutest puppy--it's a lifelong commitment just like giving birth to a biological child. Educate yourself on Reactive Attachment Disorder because it looks very similar to what these poor traumatized kids are going through. Ask the tough questions regarding the child's physical health, past trauma, intellectual challenges, behavioral issues, abuse & neglect. And for God's sake, take the answers you get seriously.
Thank you Mr. Rather for putting the effort into exposing this issue & being a voice for the voiceless. If only our lawmakers cared half as much this might be a livable country.