Adoption Industry Guilty As Charged?

27 April 2014

On December 3, 2009, the Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS) presented to its members its Stakeholder Initiative, a  proposal to change the organization. It seemed, if nothing changed, JCICS would have to close its doors somewhere in the year 2010.

The proposed plan was confidential and intended for JCICS members only, but was leaked to the internet. Since it contained interesting information about the workings of JCICS,  PPL decided to republish it on PPL’s website.

The document established two distinct problems JCICS was facing. First of all the trade association of adoption service providers was in dire straights and needed to seriously cut back its activities to remain financially sustainable.

JCICS compared itself with the Tobacco Trade Association:

Trade Associations can be effective advocates for a particular group of for-profitand/or non-for-profits. However, in addition to the funding challenges inherent in Joint Council’s association structure, effective advocacy by trade groups is largely dependent upon the total budget of the association. Even with significant funding, trade groups which in are perceived as placing the financial interests of their members ahead of the public good are most often ineffective.o

Example: Tobacco Lobby

Despite independent research, the tobacco trade groups claimed that cigarettes did not cause cancer or cardio vascular disease. This led to the continued decrease in the credibility of the tobacco trade groups. Their PR efforts, political lobbying and general advocacy were ineffective. Today, most western countries limit the advertising, distribution, sale and use of tobacco.

Aha, so the Tobacco Lobby was unsuccessful in securing their market. But was their denial of health risks solely the result of their incredibility? Nope!

It was because of several RICO claims that the credibility got lost.

Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as the RICO Act or simply RICO, is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. The RICO Act focuses specifically on racketeering.

It was a long battle, but:

Big Tobacco Guilty As Charged

Let's have a look at some of the charges:

In 1999, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) sued several major tobacco companies for fraudulent and unlawful conduct and reimbursement of tobacco-related medical expenses.  The circuit court judge dismissed the DOJ’s claim for reimbursement, but allowed the DOJ to bring its claim under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).  The DOJ then sued on the ground that the tobacco companies had engaged in a decades-long conspiracy to (1) mislead the public about the risks of smoking, (2) mislead the public about the danger of secondhand smoke; (3) misrepresent the addictiveness of nicotine, (4) manipulate the nicotine delivery of cigarettes, (5) deceptively market cigarettes characterized as “light” or “low tar,” while knowing that those cigarettes were at least as hazardous as full flavored cigarettes, (6) target the youth market; and (7) not produce safer cigarettes.

Now, let’s do as  JCICS and translate the Tobacco Trade to the Trade they represent: the  Adoption Industry – based on ACT’s investigations, a possible charge could be drafted like this:

The DOJ sued on the ground that the adoption service providers had engaged in a decades-long conspiracy to (1) mislead the public about the risks of intercountry adoption, (2) mislead the public about the origin of the children; (3) misrepresent the need for the children’s adoption, (4) falsified the identity of the children, (5) deceptively market children characterized as ‘orphans’ or ‘abandoned’ while knowing that the children had living parent(s)/relatives, (6) target foreign families to give up their children by making untrue promises; and (7) not to provide any after care or assistance and illegal re homing, submitting fraudulent adoption contracts signed by orphanages that in many cases never cared for or housed the children.

International Adoption Guides was recently charged with visa fraud. The case is ongoing, so we must consider they’re innocent until proven guilty:

According to the indictment, the defendants allegedly engaged in a five-year conspiracy to violate laws relating to the adoption of Ethiopian children by U.S. parents.  The scheme involved, among other things, paying orphanages to “sign off” on contracts of adoption with the adopting parents as if the children had been raised by those orphanages — even though the children had never resided in those orphanages and had not been cared for or raised there.  These orphanages could not, therefore, properly offer these children up for adoption.  In some instances, the children resided with a parent or relative.

As part of the charged conspiracy, the defendants then allegedly submitted or caused to be submitted these fraudulent contracts of adoption to Ethiopian courts in order to secure adoption decrees, and submitted or caused to be submitted the fraudulent contracts of adoption and the fraudulently procured adoption decrees to the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia in order to obtain U.S. visas for the children to travel to the United States to be with their new families.  The indictment also charges that the defendants’ scheme involved paying bribes to an Ethiopian government official and agreeing to create counterfeit U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service forms that were to be submitted to the Ethiopian government.

In its Stakeholders Initiative, JCICS  was concerned that “the response by governments and IGOs, to corruption is closure rather than enforcement and prosecution. They considered this a public policy issue requiring significant and effective advocacy.

ACT agrees to that, and we’re glad to offer JCICS a hand in their advocacy.

It should be just a matter of time. But one day…. the United States and/or adoptees might file a lawsuit under the  federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). The future will tell.

Similar actions should of course happen in Europe. But there also the Tobacco Trade got away.