Human Trafficking and International Adoption


There are some that think International adoption promotes human trafficking. There are some that think international adoption is "big business" thus equating it in ways to human trafficking. But there are others that strongly believe that international adoption is one of the solutions to human trafficking. I am one of those believers.

I first began thinking about international adoption as a solution to human trafficking when I was in law school and participating in international legal research on the exploitation of children in labor and sexual prostitution/pornography rings. I found that often these children were not wanted by family or were children living on the street or in an orphanage; the traffickers found them and they were much easier to exploit than a child with a family.

Human trafficking and slavery still exist in many forms and are prevalent in the U.S. and abroad. International adoption professionals, adoption agencies, and adoptive parents need to be aware of the reasons some connect human trafficking and international adoption in a negative way.

When an adoptive parents or adoption professional use the terms: supply, demand, cost for child, cost per child, and even the term available child – these terms place the child as a commodity not a human life. International adoption does cost parents money but it is not to buy a child. It is for the services of professionals and licensed agencies, travel, court costs, translations, and care of the child. Payment does not produce a child. Payment produces services, just like in any other professional arena. Therefore, being aware of the terms we use is important so that others do not view the internationally adopted child as a commodity and in the realm of trafficking.

Social media is one of my favorite things to observe and learn. However, in the international adoption world it can be used for good and sometimes not so good. I constantly see posts and tweets from good intentioned adoptive parents and adoption professionals that use improper terms and provide too much identifying information. Predators are on social media. In fact, it is their new favorite hangout. Therefore, your posts, pictures, tweets about a vulnerable orphan is a invitation to the predators. They know that this child is vulnerable and you have led them to that child. There is a constant battle of promotion of adoption, especially special needs children through social media and protecting these children. Strive to promote adoption and be a strong advocate, but still protect these children.

I observe countries like Cambodia and worry that our bureaucratic measures to prevent corruption and human trafficking in international adoption (which has kept the US from opening to Cambodia for international adoption) is actually increasing corruption and trafficking because those children stay in vulnerable places like orphanages and on the streets where predators can find them and traffic them. These children need to be available for international adoption which provides an opportunity for those orphanages that is not a corrupt opportunity and beneficial for the children.

Recently in one of our weekly staff meetings, Marlo Davis reminded us "When you are doing the monotonous work or difficult work of filing, accounting, paperwork to bring a child home that is really the work that helps there to be one less child available for human trafficking." Those that think otherwise, I strongly disagree. International adoption is not the only but is one significant, amazing and wonderful solution for children that may otherwise be trafficked.

Photo Credit: hipponotized

For more information about MLJ Adoptions’ international adoption programs, please click here. To learn more about human trafficking check out The Polaris Project.

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.