Off the Fence

For years, decades really, I have been unable to find the words I’m speaking now. All this writing for all these years danced on the fringes of this, to my everlasting shame. I was afraid that speaking truth would hurt my kids, and so I shied away, criticizing but never denouncing. But a straw has broken this camel’s back and it is time to say this out loud.

Intercountry adoption must end. The system is horribly corrupt and broken, the pain it can inflict on adoptees is literally life-threatening, and the potential risks to adoptees outweigh the benefits. The risk of trafficking is real, and families have been destroyed because of it. Corruption exists in every country that places children internationally, including the United States. With many intercountry adoptees without citizenship, either because of their age or the failure of their adoptive parents (and yes, that failure continues today), the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 is not the saving grace it is touted to be.  By failing to plug the CCA 2000's loopholes, legislators in the U.S. have proved for 16 years that their hatred of the “other” outweighs every shred of the saintliness they claim for themselves as supporters of intercountry adoption. We adoptive parents have proved time and again with our abuse and murder of adoptees and our rehoming clubs that what a dream family is our ideal, not the flesh and blood human beings entrusted to our care.

It is wrong and it must end. I know that my adoptive parent friends may be shaking your heads, and I suspect some may want to respond along these lines: Look at how many wonderful families have been created through intercountry adoption! You’re focusing on a small minority!

But think about it: Everything we humans do to progress anticipates risk and works to mitigate it. We focus on safety, sometimes excessively. But what have we done to ensure adoption safety? What have we adoptive parents done to mitigate the risks of intercountry adoption? Many adoptees in the U.S. still lack the legal protection of citizenship. Adoption is still used as the “solution” to unplanned pregnancy and an alternative to abortion, distorting the importance and consequences of adoption, turning it into a quick event rather than a lifelong experience. When a country pushes back on our greed, we just pick up and move elsewhere. We allow the placement of children of color to families we do not share their race and ethnicity and allow racism to infect their lives, forcing them to respect the racist family members and waving away their experiences with racism. And worst of all, we allow money and greed to drive the process, turning them into property to be bought and sold, valued differently by race.

We allow this, fellow adoptive parents. Supporting organizations doing what we believe is just, good work isn’t enough. Staying away from people and groups who demonstrate these horrible behaviors isn’t enough. Saying that things have gotten better isn’t enough. The only thing that would be enough would be to fix every single risk and failure, retroactively. And that, of course, is impossible.

Because I once had a public voice on these issues, this statement has to be public, too. The scale of injustice is simply too heavy and laden with faults that could be fixed, if we really had the will. That will never happen, though, given the lack of will, silence and apathy of most adoptive parents and virtually the entire mainstream. I am tired of signing petitions and writing letters to correct injustices that scream to the heavens. I’m tired of polite conversation on issues that need revolution. I thank the revolutionaries – the many adoptees, the first mothers, and the few adoptive parents who have been saying this for as long as I have been involved in adoption – for your tireless, endless work. I have fallen, unceremoniously, from the fence, and will not be climbing back on.


  1. Outstanding. I love this, Margie. Thank you for writing and publishing it!

  2. Bravo! That you! (and your reluctance is understandable)

  3. I know this was not easy to write and share. Thank you for doing it anyway.

    -International Adoptee/Adoptee Advocate from

  4. Wonderful! And next? Can we adoptive parents rally around you in some form of organization, like a FB page? Would help the discusion about abolishing international adoption.

  5. Looking for the solution. What alternative do some kids have and what becomes off the kids in all of these instances of not adoption ?

    1. There is a growing body of evidence that ICA actually leads to the number of children being institutionalised and the number of institutions. It's a 'demand and supply' business. So one solution is to have a complete ban of ICA and instead build up the necessary child protection systems, reunification, alternative care and family support provisions in each country. While ICA exists these reforms are much more difficult as they need investment, commitment and a buy-in across all actors. ICA on the other hand 'makes' money for lawyers, agencies and orphanages... so they fight tooth and nail against such reforms based on the fact they will result in them being economically disadvantaged as the investment and support is redirected to more family and child centred solutions. So ICA is a part of the problem and not the solution. For every child in an orphanage who is adopted internationally there are countless others institutionalized to fill the number of empty beds. Their stories are sadly never told. Well done to Margie for coming off the fence. Brave indeed when faced with a backlash.

  6. Margie, Your courage is inspiring. Thank you for being a strong voice for justice.


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