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The membrane between adoption and trafficking is money.

There is a knife blade making slow circles on my heart.  At the moment, it’s a blunt blade, but the pressure is there - and increasing.  And given enough pressure, even a blunt blade cuts through eventually.  The pressure here comes from the ongoing story of corrupt Indian adoptions.

This is how my “worst nightmare scenario” goes:  one day there will be a knock on my door and people will be standing there who say that I have their child and they want her back.  There’s an ongoing case in Holland matching that story almost exactly.

I got my daughter from India in 2002 not long after the scandalous story had broken out in India of children being kidnapped or bought from poor parents and sold to inter-country adoption (ICA) agencies in Andra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.  CARA, the regulating body for adoptions in India, responded by ordered a nation-wide shut down foreign adoptions.

Many couples from the US and Europe who had come to pick up their kids were forced to return home,  after their years of waiting, empty handed.  It was only luck and the matter of a few weeks that played in my favour.  I feel I whisked my daughter from the closing doors of an elevator that would never stop on my floor again.

My daughter’s adoption was done through a reputable children’s home in India that had had a 25 year scandal-free partnership with an equally reputable agency in The Netherlands.  My child doesn’t come from the areas in India that are most suspect of criminal practices in obtaining babies, and neither I nor my agency has any reason to suspect that this adoption was in any way sinister.

But the “What If’s” are sometimes overwhelming.

What if my daughter had been stolen or appropriated wrongly from her mother.  What if her mother has spent the last eight years as miserable as my daughter and I’ve been happy.  What if she somehow suddenly found a trail that leads to my door.  What if….

The simple fact is that much as I wanted a child back then, I would have torn my heart out rather than take a stolen child.  But it’s also a fact that to hand my daughter “back” to anyone right now is simply not an option.  Not for me certainly, but more importantly, not for her.

So then?

The couple from Tamil Nadu have come to Holland to do a DNA test that will prove whether the 12 year old boy adopted by Dutch parents is the baby stolen from their side as they were sleeping.  And until now, the boy himself, has refused to take part in the DNA test because he’s scared that he’ll be compelled to go back to India.

The Indian couple say they understand that it may not be in his best interest to go back with them if it’s eventually proved that he’s their son.  He’s a Dutch kid, attached to the only parents he remembers and can’t suddenly be expected to live in an Indian slum.

They just want to see him. And to keep in contact.

It’s  indeed an incredibly generous and loving gesture on their part.  But here come the what if’s again.  And they were formulated for me very early on by the deputy director of the agency I got my daughter to explain why she categorically refused to give me any information about my daughter’s biological family.

“What happens when she’s 15 and maybe she finds her biological parents” the lady said to me.  “And these people just see this girl who’s dressed very nicely and looks like she has a lot of money, and they start demanding that she gives them money because they’re poor and she’s their child.  I’ve seen it happen before, and believe me, it’s very traumatic for the child to be put in that position.”

There is no doubting that a great deal of money is to be made in ICA.  Officially, according to CARA a maximum of Rs.100 a day for a maximum period of six months (less than US$500) should be paid by foreign adopters to the Indian home - this is to contribute to the costs of the child’s unkeep till the adoption has gone through.  However, in reality, agencies charge a hefty “India fee” that ranges from US$3,000 to $15,000.

And I believe it’s the money factor that is the fine membrane that divides adoption from trafficking.  In India, children’s homes are obliged to offer all their children to Indian families BEFORE they are available for foreign adoption.  This rule, however has left the door open to all sorts of abuses because Indian adoptions just don’t bring in the kind of money that foreign adoptions do.

There are documented reports of babies being underfed and neglected before they are offered to Indian parents.  And because they are underweight and seemingly in ill health, they are rejected by prospective Indian couples who are generally allowed to pick their own child.   And only after the babies have been officially offered to and rejected by Indians, are they elible for the all important No Objection Certificate that means they can be put up for a foreign adoption.

I don’t know if that’s what my baby girl went through before she came to me.  And I am as positive as anyone can be that she was not stolen from her biological mother.  But the fact is, I’ll never really know.

And I’m beginning to realize that that not knowing is the only thing that is stopping that blunt knife from cutting through.

5 Comments on “The membrane between adoption and trafficking is money.”

  1. #1 jasmin
    on Jun 16th, 2010 at 11:48 am

    It is indeed a dilemma, Dheera. My best wishes to you as a woman and a mother. However, the fact remains that your daughter does have biological parents. Wonder under what circumstances they offered their daughter for adoption, and I am sure they must be thinking about her too. It is difficult for a child though….torn between two set of parents….Ignorance is indeed bliss here, in your case!

  2. #2 Shweta
    on Jun 16th, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Dear Dheera, That was such a touching and heart-rending account of what you are going through. I admire your courage to bare such a personal part of your life to the world. I’m sure your daughter is proud of you as a mother and as a woman.

  3. #3 David Berridge
    on Jun 16th, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    The not knowing must be balanced by the certainty of what is actually known, that is your daughter is safe and well under your care, in circumstances far more fortunate than many,many others. What may or may not happen in future will be determined by time, and you will be able to handle this as the situation arises, Dheera. Caring for your daughter will not remove the feeling of a knife near your heart, but it is important not to compund this emotional imploment with a methaphorical sword of Damocles above your head as well. Make the most of every day you have with your family, the future will unfold on its own.

  4. #4 Kim
    on Jun 19th, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    As long as adoptions like the one you have now continue in this manner we will never really know. I am wondering why you specifically chose an adoption where there would be no contact between the child and her family?

    You will never meet her mother.

    And even worse than that, she will never meet her mother. That’s really sad.

    By paying the money you did for her you are part of the problem. As long as people from wealthy countries are willing to pay a lot of money for a child from a poor country there will be adoptions like these.

  5. #5 Dheera Sujan
    on Jun 22nd, 2010 at 10:48 am

    You’re right Kim, it is sad. But there are reasons that the adoption agencies are reluctant to pass on that info - and after inititally disagreeing with that philosophy I did much research into the subject, and realized why the anonymity in some cases is so important.
    And you should also remember that there are actually a number of legitimate orphans in the developing world who are left with no option but begging on the street.
    If you’ve ever been to India or many countries in Africa and seen children ill and abandoned on the streets, or kept in horrendous orphanages - of which I’ve seen many in my life as a journalist - then adoption with a loving foreign family is not such a bad option at all.

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