Stolen children

Eight years ago, David Smolin and his wife adopted  two girls from India. The information that the Smolins received from the adoption agency in India said that the girls had been given up by their widowed mother, that they were biological sisters, aged ten and 12.

It was years later before the truth started to emerge.

The girls were older than the Smolins were told. Their father wasn’t dead. And their mother had never given them up for adoption. She’d been tricked into leaving them in a place where she was told they would get an education. When she came back to see them, they were gone.

For the birth parents who lose their children, for the adoptive parents who love them and then face the dilemma of having to relinquish them or keep them where they could well be better off, and especially for the children who are faced with a reverse Sophie’s choice – without ever being given a choice at all.

The Smolins’ story is one that reputable adoption agencies try to avoid at all costs. Or do they?

“Eight years ago our family adopted stolen children from India, and no one cared.”

“Our adoptive daughters arrived at the Atlanta airport at official ages ten and twelve, birth sisters, terrified and traumatised. According to our adoption agency they were orphans whose father was dead and mother had given them up.”

“For six weeks they told us the story they’d been coached and coerced to tell. Then through a friend the truth, or part of it, came out.”

“Their father wasn’t dead. Their mother had been forced, or tricked. Their family had never intended to give them up.”


” We were horrified. We contacted our agency, the first of many fruitless efforts to get them to find the truth. Our United States placement agency was a fifty years old non-profit, well-respected and well-connected agency. But they came up with an endless series of excuses as to why they couldn’t – and then later wouldn’t – locate the birth family.”

“The truth didn’t matter, we were told. It was only the truth in the minds of the girls that mattered. The girls could write a letter to their mother even if no one would make any efforts to deliver it.”

“Most in the adoption community echoed the attitudes of our agency. The girls’ story probably wasn’t true. There was no going back. They were better off.”

Emotional pain
“In the meantime, our adoptive daughters, deep into culture shock and emotional pain, spun out of control. Living in a world that didn’t care that they had been stolen, they struggled to adapt, without betraying their family. By the time they got to us it had been three years since they had seen their family, but in their cycles of anger and grief and terror, their wounds festered.”

“Too frightened and confused to face the past, present, or future, unable yet to speak English, they sought stability by over-controlling what they put into their mouths, when they went to sleep, and what they wore.”

“Unfortunately, it was years before we all overcame our fears, and the resistance of the agencies and adoption community, and took direct steps to find their family. We found a grief-stricken mother who, despite a lack of literacy, money, and power, had been searching in vain for her children.”

“The reunions were the right thing for everyone but also heart-breaking, as the mother and her children now required a translator to speak with one another.”

Truth and healing
“We are hoping our adoptive daughters will find, as young women, the choices and truth and healing they were denied as children. We are hoping that their mother will receive vindication and comfort, but there is no going back and recovering the lost years.”

“When we presented our case of our stolen daughters to the governments of India and the United States, it again seemed as if no one cared. From the Indian government there was silence. From the United States government there was sympathy, but inaction.”

“And the Indian agency director who had master-minded the crime as a part of a systematic money-making scheme echoed the words of many: Why do you have to be so negative? Aren’t the children better off?”

“This ‘better off’ argument is like justifying a rape because it produced a healthy baby. When the rich of the world use their power and money to take away the children of the poor, it is a crime, not a humanitarian act.

“The ‘see no evil,’ ‘the children are better off’ attitudes of the adoption community make the adoption system vulnerable to systematic child trafficking schemes.”

“In the years since our adoption, I have learned of numerous situations where children have been systematically stolen, purchased, or trafficked for adoption. These criminal schemes have occurred in Cambodia, Guatemala, India, Nepal, Vietnam, and other countries.”

“We don’t know how deeply these criminal child trafficking schemes have penetrated the adoption system because we don’t want to know. The system could be reformed to prevent them, but the adoption community itself has become the biggest obstacles to the needed reforms.”

“Only those who take the time to look into the haunted faces of the families that have lost their children, or have lived with adoptive children traumatically torn between two worlds, seem to understand the harm of these crimes. They will continue so long as those in power, in government and the adoption world, don’t really care.”

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Stolen children
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