Child Trafficking and International Adoption

Following the recent devastating earthquake, and concerned about the potential for child trafficking, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz ordered that all earthquake orphans be registered and taken into government care. None of them would be put up for adoption.

In a grotesque way, international child trafficking and international adoption seem to have much in common, but one is an evil disease and the other is a welcome cure. The legitimate international adoption system may, in rare instances, be the vehicle through which trafficking takes place. Despite our best efforts to safeguard the system, the child traffickers, like criminals everywhere, will use legitimate channels to accomplish their ends. Because they are sometimes successful, does this mean we should shut down international adoptions? Certainly not.

Child trafficking is an affront to any definition of human rights. According to UNICEF, approximately 1.2 million children are trafficked every year. The International Labor Organization believes that 12.3 million people are enslaved in forced labor, bonded labor, forced child labor, sexual servitude, and involuntary servitude at any given time.

A recent UNICEF report catalogs trafficking information from 53 African countries. It analyzes “the patterns, root causes, and existing national and regional policy responses and effective practices.” It concludes that trafficking occurs when “a child’s protective environment collapses from such things as conflict, economic hardship, and discrimination.” These same explanations justify why international adoptions are so necessary!

When an unwanted child anywhere in the world is spared a devastating, neglected life, the well intentioned adoptive parents, no matter where they reside, are doing an act of great love and kindness. Let’s continue to do our part in helping legitimate adoptive parents and agencies provide a loving home to a lonely child.

Guest commentary by
Daniel Pollack, MSW, JD
Professor at Yeshiva University’s School of Social Work in NYC
Senior Fellow, Center for Adoption Research,
University of Massachusetts Medical School
Dan can be contacted at (212) 960-0836

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