Adoptive Family Detained in Africa


This past weekend, US adoptive parents adopting from Ghana were detained at the airport after police received an anonymous tip accusing them of child trafficking. During the detainment, their two biological children were placed in a nearby orphanage until their parents were released. They have now been cleared to bring their biological children home, but must wait for the visas to be processed in order to bring their four Ghanaian children home. Thankfully, it seems the issues surrounding this case are being resolved in the best interests of these children, and the family will be reunited.

I was saddened to hear this news, and my heart goes out to the Moghadams who had to endure such hardship during their adoption process. I feel that there are still missing pieces to this story, but nonetheless, I think adoption professionals and parents can learn something from this event. Even though the risk of detainment is an extremely rare one, it’s important to think about ways we can limit this risk for future families.

It’s important that parents understand that when traveling to bring their child home, two processes must be completed before a child can leave their country of origin. First, a legal adoption or guardianship must occur according to the laws of the country. Second, the US government must approve the adoption based on US law and issue a visa. The child must have both to travel home.

One of my questions after reading the news articles was to where the family was traveling when they were detained? In the reports it says that the family was leaving the Kotoka International Airport when they were detained. It appeared that they had proper legal documentation (albeit copies) with them showing they were the legal parents of these children under Ghanaian law. However, the reports also stated the children did not have visas approved by the US to travel home. If the family was flying within Africa, perhaps to the US Embassy where the visa would be issued, it seems appropriate that they would not yet have a visa. On the other hand, if they were planning to travel to the US, they should not have been permitted to leave the country without a visa approved by the US government. This is a very serious reminder to families to make sure that they are completing all steps in the appropriate order before attempting to leave the country. Further, when possible, keep the original adoption documents with you when traveling home with your child.

Second, I think it’s yet another reminder to be careful with blogs and using social media throughout the adoption process. I have to wonder who this anonymous tipster was that called the Ghanaian police making false accusations about this family. Why was this couple targeted in that way? Could the tipster have been someone who was following their popular public blog? The family’s blog is very positive and seems to portray international adoption in a favorable light. The blog does, however, give a lot of detail about specific dates that the family completed each step of the process. Someone could have figured out approximately when they would be traveling and called in a false tip.

There are many people who don’t believe in international adoption, both in the US and abroad. Those that think children should never be taken from their country and culture, regardless of their need for a permanent family. People that think all international adoption is kidnapping and that children are coming to the US to become slaves of adoptive parents. We of course know that this is not the case, and that international adoption can be a beautiful way to build a family. But, because of the sensitive nature of this process, it is so important to be cognizant of the information parents put out there for the world to see; a world that may not have the same views and may be looking to stop families from adopting.

I wish the Moghadam family the best as they continue to fight to bring their children home. Thank you for the positive attitude and strength that you continue to portray even through this difficult time.

Photo Credit: Franck Vervial

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MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.