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How Flawed Is The International Adoption Process?

The Long family from Florida is trying to adopt 4-year-old Vietnamese girl Ava Thuy but have run into legal hurdles. (AP)

The Long family from Florida is trying to adopt 4-year-old Vietnamese girl Ava Thuy but have run into legal hurdles. (AP)

In 1998, Sierra Leone was in the midst of a brutal civil war. One in which children were especially tragic victims. Many were maimed. Others were drugged, beaten and forced to serve as child soldiers.

That year, American families adopted 29 children from Makeni, a town in the north of Sierra Leone. Years later, after the war ended, the birth families came forward and claimed the children were stolen. All of them.

Investigative journalist E.J. Graff pieced together the many confusing and conflicting parts of this story in a recent series in Slate, the online magazine.

The story raises difficult questions about international adoption. How can American parents be sure about the history of their adopted children? How trustworthy is the process? How moral is it? And when thousands of dollars in agency fees, and millions of dollars in humanitarian aid are involved, how can anyone be sure that children are not being bought and sold?


  • E.J. Graff, senior fellow, Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, Brandeis University


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  • Maschkemd

    I was waiting to be a caller on the show today but you only got to one call. I am sorry that your program did not discuss successful international adoptionss and only focused on this one story. The lesson is not “do not endorse international adoption” but rather – do your homework and travel. I spent ablong time researching my agency and would only adopt from a very reputable agency that investigated each case. My agency requires a home visit – that is you have to visit your childrens home. I meet my kids mother (I adopted sublings) – I have photos with her, our shared children and myself and i KNOW their story. This is a much longer process as you wait for the investigation – but well worth it. International adoption can be win-win if done right – I am sending photos of my kids to their Ethiopian mom – she continues to be a part if our story – and I have two amazing kids who now have love AND opportunities and nexxesities they didn’t have before.

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