Monday, March 24, 2008

International Monday: "Sold Into Adoption"

"Sold Into Adoption: The Human Baby Trafficking Scandal Exposes Vulnerabilities in Chinese Adoptions to the United States" -- Written and presented by law students Patricia Meier (right) and Xiaole Zhang (left)
Date: 03/24/2008
Time: 12:00pm-01:00pm
Location: Iowa City Public Library, Meeting Room A
Sponsor: International Programs

I was floored when I saw this event listed on the main University of Iowa calendar a few weeks ago and had been looking forward to it with a combination of dread and relief. Dread because I wasn’t sure that the facts would be presented nearly as well as they were and because I didn’t know that I’d necessarily be able to keep my cool during a public forum about issues that I feel so strongly about. And relief because someone was going to speak locally about international adoption in such a way that wasn’t just the typical “Strategies for Procuring Children from Foreign Countries Seminar for Affluent American Couples.” This sense of relief was deepened soon after Xiaole Zhang was introduced and began presenting the issues surrounding the sale of Chinese children for purchase, primarily in North America, by way of international adoption with such levelheaded clarity.

From a press release issued by International Programs at The University of Iowa about this lecture:

“Meier and Zhang [spoke] about the Hunan baby trafficking scandal [also referred to as “The Hengyang Case”] that was uncovered in late 2005. In the incident, the Chinese government prosecuted a number of orphanage officials and private individuals for their involvement in a child trafficking scheme that profited from placing trafficked children for inter-country adoption and collecting mandatory $3,000 donations from adopting parents. The story surprised many in the adoption community because China’s program of inter-country adoption had been thought to be nearly scandal proof to that point.

[Patricia] Meier is a mid-career law student at the University of Iowa. She worked as a writer and editor in Iowa, Washington, D.C., Illinois and Colorado before entering law school. She is also a mother to three children, one of whom was adopted from China in 2003.

[Xiaole] Zhang is a second-year law student at the University of Iowa. She received her Bachelor of Law degree from the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE), in Beijing, China. Before pursuing her Juris Doctorate, Zhang completed her Master’s of Law in International and Comparative Law from the University of Iowa College of Law in May 2005.”

Zhang and Meier cited a history of ineffectual laws and lack of adequate enforcement mechanisms in both the United States and China, as well as rising demand, as some of the contributing factors to this nearly-unbelievable problem of state-sanctioned human trafficking. “The same motivations still remains” in The East and in The West, Xiaole made a point of saying, and those motivations are fueled, not surprisingly, by “money.” And, as is the case in the US, most of the children exported from China and put on the adoption market “are not orphans.” (China’s one-child policy and a generalized reluctance to care for children with special health needs often lead to child abandonment. Others are simply stolen. Literally.)

Both women were gracious as they answered some of my questions and posed for the photo (above) after the lecture, but my biggest questions about international adoption still remain perpetually unanswered:

“Why don’t we take care of our own children and why aren’t other countries expected do the same?”