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21 March, 2009

Mother Jones reveals kidnapping of Indian children for adoption in US

The following report has been received from SAJAforum:

ARUN VENUGOPAL, SAJAforum editor (<>) writes:

Chennai-based investigative reporter Scott Carney has written about the illegal trade of organs as well as bones. Now he has a long and immensely compelling piece in Mother Jones about how the wealth of Americans and others hoping to adopt children abroad fosters kidnapping rackets in countries such as India.

Here he tracks the long, agonizing tale of one Tamilian couple whose son was kidnapped and sold by an orphanage to an unwitting couple in the American Midwest. From "Meet the Parents: The Dark Side of Overseas Adoption":

It was every parent's worst nightmare. Sivagama and her husband, Nageshwar
Rao, a construction painter, spent the next five years scouring southern
India for Subash. They employed friends and family as private detectives and
followed up on rumors and false reports from as far north as Hyderabad, some
325 miles away. To finance the search, Nageshwar Rao sold two small huts
he'd inherited from his parents and moved the family into a one-room
concrete house with a thatched roof in the shadow of a mosque. The couple
also pulled their daughter out of school to save money; the ordeal plunged
the family from the cusp of lower-middle-class mobility into solid poverty.
And none of it brought them any closer to Subash.

In 2005, though, there was a lucky break.

Scott tracked down court documents, connecting Subash's disappearance to an
orphanage known as Malaysian Social Services:

From 1991 through 2003, according to documents filed by Chennai police, MSS arranged
at least 165 international adoptions, mostly to the United States, the
Netherlands, and Australia, earning some $250,000 in "fees."

Assuming the Indian police have their facts straight, the boy they seek has
a new name and a new life. He has no memory of his Indian mother or his
native tongue. Most international adoptions are "closed," meaning the birth
parents have no guaranteed right to contact their child, and the
confidentiality of the process makes it difficult to track kids who may have
been adopted under false pretenses.

The article is 4,083 words long, and highly illuminating in terms of
revealing how the international adoption system works. But it's also
gripping, including the scenes when Scott confronts the American family who
has unknowingly adopted a kidnapped child.

The dog-eared beige folder on the passenger seat contains the evidence—a
packet of photos, police reports, hair samples, and legal documents
detailing a case that has languished in the Indian courts for a decade.
There's a good chance that nobody in this suburban household has a clue. I
wait until the boy ambles around to the back of the house, then jog over and
ring the bell.

An adolescent Indian girl with a curious smile answers the door. "Is your
mother home?" I stammer. Moments later, a blond woman comes to the door in
jeans and a sweatshirt. She eyes me suspiciously.

The article also teases out the moral dilemma of whether or not to name the
American adoption agency, given that it knew it may have been involved with
an Indian kidnapping racket:

The American family didn't go through MSS directly. Like most, they used an
agency. I visited that agency, and my editors and I wrestled with the
question of whether to name it here; there are serious questions about the
conduct of US adoption agencies in child-stealing cases that should be
addressed openly. Yet we decided to withhold this and other details that
could have identified the family, because the child's privacy overrides the
journalistic imperative to provide all the facts.

The story is still unfolding, with Interpol having entered the picture.

Read the full story, listen to a Mother Jones interview with Scott on international adoption and its perils, connect to his blog and POST YOUR COMMENTS at SAJAforum.

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