The government of Sweden is the most recent to announce that it will investigate “irregularities” in the last 60 years of international adoptions, focusing in particular on China and Chile.
Around 60,000 children have been adopted to Sweden, most originally from South Korea, India, Colombia, and Sri Lanka.
Results of the investigation are expected to be released in November 2023.
In February 2021, The Netherlands froze international adoptions after adult adoptees raised concerns about adoptions from Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. A government commission found some adoptions, dating back to the 1960’s and through the 1990’s, where children had been stolen or bought.
An additional article about Sweden’s investigations from February 2021 is available here.
I am putting together a list of countries/places where international adoptees have challenged their adoptions due to fraud, and where governments have charged, indicted, or convicted agencies or individuals for fraud, bribery, and/or corruption. This could include adoptee lawsuits for wrongful adoption.
I am aware of cases taking place in or involving adoptees from or living in the U.S., Ireland, France, Finland, South Korea, The Netherlands, Brazil, Uganda, Ethiopia, Poland, Mali, Marshall Islands, Guatemala, Sierra Leone, Vietnam, Cambodia, Haiti, Nepal, India, Liberia, Rwanda, China, and Chile. I am sure there are other countries as well that have had investigations due to fraud.
My main focus is on adult adoptees who have brought lawsuits, called for investigations, and/or who have annulled their adoptions due to fraud. Do you have statistics or any other information you are able to share? If you have some thoughts on this, please feel free to comment below, or to go to the Contact page here on my blog and send me an email.
This is for day 25 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees, posted on day 27.
A group of international adoptees in Finland has called for an investigation of fraudulent adoption practices in their adoptive country. The adoptees (from Ethiopia, China, India, Colombia, Taiwan, Austria, South Korea, Thailand, and Bangladesh) are calling upon the government of Finland to look into historic “irregularities” in adoption practices.
The group sent a Letter to the Editor of Hufvudstadsbladet, the highest-circulation Swedish-language newspaper in Finland. Here is the letter in English, via Inter Country Adoptive Voices News‘ Facebook page:
Irregularities in international adoptions must be investigated
LETTER TO THE EDITOR 14.11.2021
Swedish Yle reported (29.10) that serious errors in adoptions are examined in Sweden, and that irregularities can also occur in Finland. Patrik Lundberg, one of the journalists behind Dagens Nyheter’s series of articles on Swedish international adoption activities, says that if it is a question of the same adoption countries, there is also great reason for Finland to review its adoptions. This is because the same orphanage has adopted children to several different countries in the western world, and because the same lawyers and corrupt people have been involved. According to Lundberg, control has been particularly poor in countries classified as dictatorships.
With reference to other countries’ investigations of international adoptions, and given that Finland has in many cases used the same adoption contacts as, for example, Sweden, we demand that Finland also appoint its own independent inquiry.
The issue of adoptions that have not gone right is not only limited to Sweden, whose government recently presented directives for an inquiry expected to be completed in the autumn of 2023, or the Netherlands, whose government earlier this year stopped all international adoptions after a comprehensive inquiry showed that children have been stolen or purchased from their biological parents.
We, who signed this submission, demand that the state of Finland investigate the international adoptions that have taken place to date, from all countries of origin from which Finland has adopted children. This also includes adoptions that took place after the Hague Convention was ratified. The inquiry shall be independent and autonomous and no members of the inquiry group may have any connection to the adoption mediation adoption organizations.The inquiry should engage experts and research competencies in the field, such as lawyers, historians and researchers, so that the international adoption activities in Finland can be fully examined. The investigation must be given sufficient resources, both personnel, financially and in terms of time. In addition to adoptions mediated by adoption organizations, the inquiry must also examine independent adoptions (private adoptions) and the role of the Finnish state in international adoption mediation in Finland.
The inquiry shall contain proposals for measures on how to ensure that today’s adoptions take place legally and ethically. The adoption agency must be quality assured and followed up in a comprehensive way. The inquiry must ensure that corruption does not occur in connection with adoptions today.
Finally, the State of Finland should provide sufficient resources to develop and disseminate knowledge about post-adoption services for adoptees. Adoptees must have low-threshold access to free or subsidized therapy services or other necessary psychiatric care for the treatment of adoption-related trauma. Adopted persons should also be able to apply for financial support for, for example, return journeys, in the same way as adoption applicants can apply for adoption allowance for the adoption of a child.
Signed: Muluken Cederborg, adopted from Ethiopia, Sabina Söderlund-Myllyharju, adopted from Taiwan, Patrik Sigmundt, adopted from Austria, Oscar Lehtinen, adopted from Colombia, Maria Kallio, adopted from China, Mirjam Gullstén-Borg, adopted from South Korea (via Sweden), Kati Ekstrand, adopted from Taiwan, Anu-Rohima Mylläri, adopted from Bangladesh, Kerttu Yuan, adopted from China, Conny Wiik, adopted from Taiwan, Khalid Wikström, adopted from Bangladesh, Ada-Emilia Koskinen, adopted from China, Jasmin Lindholm, adopted from China, Jennifer Lönngren, adopted from China, Anton Sundén, adopted from Thailand, Yuli Andrea Paz, adopted from Colombia, Pooja Sandell, adopted from India, Naa Sippola, adopted from Thailand, Janica Palonen, adopted from Taiwan, Mei Monto, adopted from China, Iida Kuukka, adopted from China, Mimosa Torittu, adopted from China, Saba Holm, adopted from Ethiopia, Belinda Söderlund, adopted from Taiwan, Chris Gullmans, adopted from Hong Kong, Oscar Härkönen, adopted from Colombia.
The U.S. Justice Department reported today that Debra Parris, program manager at Ohio adoption agency European Adoption Consultants, has pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and bribery in the adoption of children from Poland and Uganda.
Parris was indicted in August 2020 along with the executive director Margaret Cole and staff person Dorah Mirembe.
Cole is expected to go to trial in February 2022. Mirembe, the Justice Department says, is “still at large.”
Below is the press release from the U.S. Justice Department. You can also find it here.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, November 17, 2021
Texas Woman Pleads Guilty to Schemes to Procure Adoptions from Uganda and Poland through Bribery and Fraud
A Texas woman who was a program manager at an Ohio-based international adoption agency pleaded guilty today in the Northern District of Ohio to schemes to procure adoptions of Ugandan and Polish children by bribing Ugandan officials and defrauding U.S. authorities.
According to court documents, Debra Parris, 69, of Lake Dallas, engaged in a scheme with others to bribe Ugandan officials to procure adoptions of Ugandan children by families in the United States. These bribes included payments to (a) probation officers intended to ensure favorable probation reports recommending that a particular child be placed into an orphanage; (b) court registrars to influence the assignment of particular cases to “adoption-friendly” judges; and (c) High Court judges to issue favorable guardianship orders for the adoption agency’s clients. In her plea agreement, Parris also admitted that she continued to direct the adoption agency’s clients to work with her alleged co-conspirator Dorah Mirembe, after knowing that Mirembe caused clients of the adoption agency to provide false information to the U.S. State Department for the purpose of misleading it in its adjudication of visa applications.
According to court documents, in a second scheme, after alleged co-conspirator Margaret Cole, the adoption agency’s Executive Director, learned that clients of the adoption agency determined they could not care for one of the two Polish children they were set to adopt, Parris and her co-conspirator took steps to transfer the Polish child to Parris’s relatives, who were not eligible for intercountry adoption. In her plea agreement, Parris also admitted that after the child was injured and hospitalized, Parris agreed with her co-conspirator to conceal their improper conduct from the U.S. State Department in an attempt to continue profiting from these adoptions.
Parris pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and commit visa fraud in connection with the Uganda scheme, and conspiracy to defraud the United States in connection with the Poland scheme. She is scheduled to be sentenced on March 9, 2022. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Trial against Cole is scheduled to commence on Feb. 7, 2022. Mirembe remains at large.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Brennan for the Northern District of Ohio; and Acting Assistant Director Jay Greenberg of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division made the announcement.
The FBI’s Cleveland Field Office is investigating the case.
Trial Attorneys Jason Manning and Alexander Kramer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Chelsea Rice of the Northern District of Ohio are prosecuting the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs assisted in the investigation.
The Fraud Section has lead responsibility for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.
The U.S. State Department has imposed financial sanctions and visa restrictions on Ugandan officials involved in fraudulent adoption schemes. This is a highly significant and public declaration. You can read State’s press release here. The State Department press release includes a link to a U.S. Treasury Department press release as well.
A federal grand jury today charged Margaret Cole, Robin Langoria, and other employees of European Adoption Consultants (EAC) with fraud, money laundering and bribery in connections with adoptions from Uganda and Poland.
EAC had been granted accreditation under the Hague Convention for Inter-Country Adoptions by the Council on Accreditation. That accreditation is considered a sort of gold standard in the realm of international adoption agencies: it involves a substantial amount of time and work and fees to receive.
In 2015, EAC had a complaint lodged against it for a case in China. In December 2016, the State Department debarred EAC, and their Hague accreditation status was revoked. The IAMME website (IAMME became the sole Hague Convention accreditor in 2018) states this: “Nature of the Substantiated Violations: The Department of State temporarily debarred adoption service provider, European Adoption Consultants, Inc. (EAC) from accreditation on December 16, 2016, for a period of three years. As a result of this temporary debarment, EAC’s accreditation has been cancelled and it must immediately cease to provide all adoption services in connection with intercountry adoptions.
The Department found substantial evidence that the agency is out of compliance with the standards in subpart F of the accreditation regulations, and evidence of a pattern of serious, willful, or grossly negligent failure to comply with the standards and of aggravating circumstances indicating that continued accreditation of EAC would not be in the best interests of the children and families concerned.”
The FBI raided EAC in 2017, and the agency closed. Cole had founded EAC in 1991.
Grand jury documents were unsealed today in Ohio, where EAC was located. EAC had worked in adoptions in Bulgaria, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Honduras, India, Panama, Tanzania, and Ukraine, in addition to Uganda and Poland.
It’s impossible to know how much heartache has happened to families and children as a result of this.