This is a question that we get asked far too frequently. I say that not because it isn’t a valid concern. I say that because this is a problem, and in this world there are crimes beyond comprehension. And children fall victim. There are millions of orphans around the world. They need a home, shelter, love–a family. The system is hurting, and children are hurting the most due to the brokenness.
If you tell me that something I am doing isn’t right, I will listen to your concerns, do my research, and make my best judgment. As someone who has been longing to adopt for over 10 years, I’ve spent some time learning about countries, researching different requirements, and reading horror stories of the process gone horribly wrong. When it came time for Zane and I to pursue adoption, we knew we had to have an ethical, Christian agency. (I realize that there are agencies operating ethically that aren’t necessarily ‘Christian’ agencies, but adopting from a Christian agency was and always will be important to us.) Not only that, we knew we’d want to talk with families that had adopted from the agency prior to us. We wanted an agency that did not view children as a commodity…adoption as a means to bring home a paycheck. Yikes. The fact that we had to do our research on that alone is terrifying. What a broken world we live in :/
So, we found our agency. And interestingly enough (by God’s grace, no doubt!), not only were we at indescribable peace regarding our agency and all the research that we had done on them, BUT we also had missionary friends that were personal friends with the people that started and run Small World Adoption. We could do all the research in the world on Small World Adoption, but now we could hear about the people’s individual lives, their character, and that what we read and learned didn’t just look nice from behind a computer screen and in their office….this was their life. And they lived their faith and their convictions. God had called them to make the fatherless orphans no more, and they were accomplishing this with great integrity. (Praying that continues!)
So, we had our agency. Next, we followed God’s leading to Lesotho. Again, indescribable peace and assurance that this was our country. When the government officials from Lesotho traveled HERE to meet us and the other families that will be among the first to adopt from their country (under Hague), that showed huge care and love for their children. (Seriously, what country flies the officials that have a hand in every adoption across an ocean to mean the adoptive families?) About 10 families showed up to this banquet that had previously adopted from Lesotho, prior to the country becoming Hague Accredited. And the officials knew each family and each adopted child BY NAME. And the children knew the officials BY NAME. Wow. That spoke volumes to me. This third world impoverished country was not operating international adoptions for cash….it was because they loved the children. And knew each one BY NAME. I cannot stress enough how simply beautiful and amazing that is. I’ve never, ever, ever, ever heard another adoptive family be able to talk about their journey with this crucial detail. We feel blessed, beyond blessed, to have met the officials…and we will meet them again when we go and pick up our child, and they will know our child’s name. And I bet you they will remember us too.
So all that is nice and all, but how do we *know* our child won’t be trafficked? How do we know we aren’t perpetuating the broken system?
- Waiting Period: We met one on one with the officials during the banquet. Since we are hoping to maintain birth order, and our youngest at the time of that meeting was 3 months old, I asked what the youngest possible age was that we could be referred? 4 months. Reason being, even if our child is orphaned at the hospital, mom dies in delivery and father is deceased, it would take at least 4 months to ensure no other relatives or family can care for the child. There are representatives in Lesotho that do extensive leg work as well as a representative from our agency, doing all sorts of background checks to ensure that a child will not leave their 1) biological extended family and/or 2) biological country unless there is no other option. At least 4 months. This means our child will spend at least that amount of time in the orphanage. But during that time, reunification with family will be tried exhaustively.
- Reunification: The orphanage that our child will most likely come from, that our agency works most closely with, appears to have more reunifications of children with families than adoptions. This is a WONDERFUL thing. It means children are being reunited with their families. You may have heard it said that the goal of the foster care system, here in the USA, is not to adopt children out, but to provide a safe environment for children and reunite families if and when possible. Same thing here. If and when possible a child can be reunited with family, that is of great importance No child should have to experience the loss of family (as long as they are safe). We applaud Lesotho and that particular orphanage for doing such a great job at this. As far as the other orphanages in Lesotho, it is our understanding that the communities really rally around the orphans in their care and do their best to provide for the children’s needs. Their desire is to provide a home and keep the children within their own communities when possible, but because we do not have access to follow the other orphanages as closely, we cannot speak as to what their reunifications vs adoptions look like.
- Hague Accredited: Lesotho became a Hague Accredited country in March 2013. This means they are held to higher ethical standards, It also means that we as the adoptive parents are held to higher standards and our backgrounds/lives are scrutinized more closely during our Home Study….in other words, we have extra requirements that must be met. Learn more about Hague here.
- Pre Identification: Pre Identification is when a family learns of a child, maybe through a mission trip or missionary or friend, and seeks to adopt that child without the child having proper paperwork completed and submitted to the adoption central authority. It draws red flags with everyone because the system for matching children has been broken. This is strictly, strictly forbidden. I was considering going on a mission trip to serve in one of the orphanages last November and my agency made it clear to me that if I did, we would not adopt from Lesotho. We can travel to Lesotho, but if we were to set foot inside an orphanage, it would be viewed as ‘pre-identification’ and out of fear of trafficking, the country would forbid us to adopt.
All that to say, the system for matching (or ‘referrals’….going through our extensive paperwork in our Dossier, along with everything done from both our country, their country, and our agency to ensure our child is indeed a true orphan) is in place to help stop child trafficking. It is not full proof, but when the system is followed it severely limits it. Unfortunately, you cannot know for sure, but when the system is followed the adoption goes through several checks and balances: the adoption Central Authority, Small World Adoption, the US Consulate in Maseru, the USCIS office in Johannesburg and the National Benefits Center office in the US (And those are just the checks and balances that I’ve been made aware of! There could be more!).
We welcome questions on adoption. When people ask us about adoption and human trafficking and what we know about the two, it gives us the opportunity to educate others on what we know and don’t know. I’ve heard recently that adoption is ‘popular’ and ‘trendy’ with my generation. I know that it is spoken more of now and it seems more people are opening their door to the fatherless (which makes my heart swell with joy!). But it also means that more people are possibly walking into corrupt agencies and/or countries without doing their due-diligence to ensure safety for the children. We must be educated and we must do research and we must go beyond just wanting a child or wanting to care for the fatherless or wanting to be a parent. Sometimes our best intentions and desires to help can hurt. We must recognize when that is the case. So don’t hesitate to ask. Don’t resist being informed. The more people that are informed, the greater the chance of us ending child-trafficking. And wouldn’t that be amazing?!