Are all International Adoption Agencies Corrupt?

I know the adoption professionals that work in MLJ Adoptions and many other adoption agencies, these people are far from corrupt. However, the situations in which an agency is placed or has to work in a foreign country are extremely difficult. First, it is important to understand that anyone working in an international country, specifically one that has high levels of poverty, is working in a completely different culture with different ethical standards. Second, no matter the supervision and monitoring procedures of the agency, there are many times that the agency must trust others working on their behalf or working on the government’s behalf and the agency does not have the ability to completely control them. This is not to avoid the agency’s responsibility of providing ethical services. There are various procedures and policies that the agency can implement to assist in creating ethical adoption services in their programs. Are they fool proof? Maybe not, but they are best practices and in the best interest of the children they serve. (Below I have listed several procedures/policies international adoption agencies can implement to develop ethical adoption services).

To better understand the situations in which international adoption agencies are placed, you must remember that the agency is working with different cultural norms and values and in situations of extreme poverty. Often the most important individuals the agency must trust are their own foreign service providers (often called foreign attorney or foreign staff). An example I give to understand the daily struggle with supervision of a foreign staff is that if $100 is given to a foreign staff person for food for an orphan and the staff person takes the money and feeds his/her own family with all the money or a portion of the money – is that corruption? Is that unethical? I come from a culture in which the answer would be yes. However, in many other cultures it was a sin or wrong to NOT take the money and first provide for their family. What does this say about our different cultural standards and values? What do we value? Who is right? Is it better to provide for your family (they may be starving) or do as you are told by your employer? Most of us living in American culture would adamantly say that taking the money and using it for another purpose is dishonest and unethical. However, an international adoption agency must understand that a foreign culture may have a very different view that is just as acceptable within that culture.

The following are several procedures and policies that can assist with developing an ethical adoption program:

1. Requiring staff domestically and internationally to submit criminal/abuse background checks prior to employment. (this is sometimes impossible as some countries do not have said records);

2. Requiring staff domestically and internationally to submit an Affidavit of Ethical Practices (a document that explicitly states the ethics that the individual will uphold while working in adoptions);

3. Obtaining reputable references for all adoption agency staff and foreign providers;

4. Domestic staff visiting in-country to personally develop, monitor and view procedures and processes in the foreign program;

5. Training from agency and from qualified 3rd parties for all staff regarding the proper ethical considerations when working in international adoption;

6. Training and dissemination of information from agency and from qualified 3rd parties for all staff regarding the consequences of unethical practices (termination of employment, criminal prosecution, halting of international adoptions in foreign program, changes in laws, etc);

7. Continued quality improvement in all programs based upon observations, additional information and client feedback.

The adoption service provider (your international adoption agency) is able to implement these procedures within their own entity but it is much more difficult to influence the actions of organizations that are not employed or staff of the agency. This would include government agencies, hogars, orphanages, shelters or other various NGO (non-governmental organizations/charities) that are part of the international adoption process. I have been pleased to observe that a vast majority of agencies and those governmental entities working in adoption are focused on developing adoption programs that are ethical and in the best interest of children.

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For more information about MLJ Adoptions’ international adoption programs, please click here.

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.