An alleged attempt by some Americans to smuggle out children for adoption from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was featured in news reports there a few days ago. Here in the US, there apparently has been an effort by some adoption advocates to urge silence about that attempt, “to avoid a media storm.”
In Erin Siegal McIntyre‘s article “American Implicated in Congo Child-Smuggling Ring” on Fusion.net, she writes that “The illicit practice of smuggling children across the DRC’s borders has reportedly been going on for years, sources tell Fusion.
“ ‘It’s a word-of-mouth referral system,’ an adoptive parent told Fusion on the condition of anonymity. ‘The [Americans] have the children brought through Lubumbashi instead of Kinshasa. It’s $2,500 for fees and services, and a $750 donation… They do it in groups of four…. there was another trip scheduled for this Sunday, but because of the bust, they’re postponing trips until December.’
“Adoption advocates are concerned that the recent scandal could bring unwanted attention to the cross-border smuggling network. During a private conference call on the morning of Sept. 17, an adoption lobbying group warned adoptive American families to keep their mouths shut and maintain ‘absolute discretion’ about adoptions in the DRC.
According to one adoptive parent on the call, the group’s spokeswoman warned that talking to the press about the situation might trigger a cascade of ‘radioactive’ publicity similar to what happened in 2010, when American Laura Silsby and eight others were caught smuggling 33 children out of Haiti.”
A Harvard Human Rights Journal article, “Owning Laura Silsby’s Shame: How the Haitian Child Trafficking Scheme Embodies the Western Disregard for the Integrity of Poor Families,” is available here.
Adoptions from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been problematic for quite a while. Just under 800 children have been adopted to the US from there since 1999, according to the US State Department. The DRC is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, and its infrastructure is limited for adoption. I hope that all families who considered adoption from the DRC were fully informed by their adoption agencies about the huge risks inherent in adopting from a country with very limited resources. The DRC’s involvement in trafficking has been cited in many reports and articles, including by the US State Department here.
Last year, according to State, the emigration office of the DRC announced that they would no longer issue exit permits for adoptions approved on or after September 25, 2013. Children could not leave the country without these permits, although they had been legally adopted by US citizens. It is unclear at this point when the DRC government will lift the suspension. Several hundred US families have been affected by the suspension, which was put into effect because of concerns about the fraud and corruption along with the well-being of adopted children.
There has been, for months, a highly publicized, highly vocal campaign by families affected by the DRC decision to suspend granting of exit permits. The campaign has been led by Both Ends Burning, which has been aggressive in its lobbying to get the DRC to change its position and allow the children to leave. BEB may be the adoption lobbying group now urging discretion about the attempt to smuggle children out of the DRC. BEB’s silence now is almost puzzling, not condemning the smuggling or even acknowledging it on their web page.
Many of the affected families communicate and commiserate together, including on Facebook. In McIntyre’s article, she includes a screenshot of a brief conversation from a closed Facebook group, Congo Adoption Families.
I mention this to underscore the fact that there is no privacy on Facebook, that all posts even in ostensibly closed groups can be photographed and shared on the Internet. This is especially relevant to adoptive parents, and I’ve written about it here. While the Congo Adoption Families post has since been deleted, it now lives on nonetheless. It is a comment that lends credence to families’ being asked to be silent about alleged trafficking. In any event, the notion that news about the alleged child smuggling/trafficking could be kept quiet seems naïve and irresponsible.
If we are ever going to have ethical, transparent adoptions, we must speak up and demand that child trafficking never be accepted, condoned, sanctioned, or ignored.
The notion that child-trafficking should not be spoken about is disturbing. This most recent alleged case from the DRC is chilling to read about. Trafficking is a crime, a horror imposed on children, and not something we should ever be silent about.