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​​​​​​1.2.4 Ethics and Moral Issues


The main reasons why there are orphans and orphanages are war, natural disasters, ethnic conflicts, extreme poverty, cultural reasons e.g. in some countries women are unable to marry if they have children out of wedlock by another man; Government policy as to family size, e.g. China and Romania; parental rights terminated because of abuse or neglect, economic change and corruption.​​
  • Corruption causes countries and their societies to enter into moral and economic decay. Some examples of corrupt practices and abuses (source the UNICEF-innocenti digest​) include:​​

  • The abduction of children by a variety of methods, including organised kidnapping.

  • Identifying vulnerable expectant mothers - from poor families, unwed or single - and influencing them to give up their babies.  Pressure may be exerted before the birth, at the maternity clinic or hospital, or in the adoption agency, which may house the mother until delivery.

  • Falsely informing a mother that her baby was still born or died shortly after birth so as to spirit away the infant​.

  • Buying children from poor familes.

  • Payment for a child either directly to the family, the director or staff of an institution, or sometimes to the institution itself.

  • Offering women financial incentives to conceive a child specifically for adoption overseas.

  • Deliberately providing misleading information to the birth parents on the consequences of adoption, e.g. assuring them they will be able to stay in contact with their child, or receive news of the child after the adoption.

  • Providing false information to prospective adopters.

  • Accepting financial or material rewards from an adoption agency in exchange for children.

  • Falsifying documentation, e.g. birth certificates, consent of birth parents, etc.

  • Corruption of officials, judges in order to get a favourable decision, e.g. judges may accept false documents purporting to contain the consent of birth parents.

  • Seriously ill children e.g. HIV/Aids presented as healthy to prospective parents who would not have been prepared for the caring requirements.

Situations can also arise where some institutions that receive payments for foreign adoptions have few incentives to look for domestic solutions for the children as they have more to gain from foreign ones.  They may also make only half-hearted efforts to find the child's biological family or neglect to ascertain whether the child had been placed in institutional care temporarily because of an emergency situation.  On the other extreme some institutional workers resist foreign adoption in that the taking of children out of the orphanage may threaten their jobs.

Many abuses and practices in intercountry adoption often happen in war or post war situations. Children in war situations often get separated from their parents and some time (usually at least 2 years) should be allowed to pass to allow for possible reunification with surviving family members.  Often a country's judicial system may have become in-operational and therefore proper processes cannot be followed.

We at 'Compassion for Orphans' believe that even though we or the applicants play only a small part in world events, a stand should be made to try and reverse the trend.

Applicants should resolve before they embark on the journey of intercountry adoption, not to be involved in corruption or bribery in any form no matter how desperate or costly a situation may appear.  'Compassion for Orphans' advice is to walk away in every case.  Applicants would be feeding one of the very things that cause orphans to end up in orphanages and there is a real risk of the adoption being adversely affected.

Bribery has often been justified as 'expediency fees' in the same manner as paying for an express service (with a courier company for example).  Unless it is a genuine express service i.e. not paid to a Government employee direct but for which a genuine receipt can be given, applicants should walk away.

In the longer term it is highly likely that the adopted child will want to discover his or her birth parents. If it transpires that the child was not properly placed for adoption, there may be serious implications for the relationships between adoptive parents and the adopted child.

The fact that a country has agreed to international standards and processes is no guarantee that there will not be people who seek to circumvent the processes. It is important therefore that all involved (e.g. government officials, agencies, adoptive parents, etc) adhere scrupulously to those standards.

There are processes to report abuse of standards and process, therefore whilst it may in some cases take longer to achieve the desired outcomes , something has been done to stop corruption, and to help prevent the abduction, the sale of, or traffic in children and thus change the world in which we live.

'Compassion for Orphans' experience has been that there are people overseas who have a genuine interest in the welfare of the children.  Chile is a good example of such a country with transparent and defined processes and for this reason we have entered into a relationship with Chile.

Some of the moral issues or anti-intercountry adoption views that people may encounter or be challenged on include:  "That a country is being robbed of its children and the children of their culture and language"; "That the baby has been bought"; "That it is better to leave a child to be brought up in its own race and culture - even if it means a lifetime in an institution"; "That adopting a child is putting a band-aid on and ignoring the real problem which is helping a country out of poverty"; "That trans-racial adoption can result in a child with a confused identity and racism can result."

These are important issues and as mentioned previously, it is important that procedures akin to those found in the Hague Convention (e.g. birth parents counselled, possibility of child adopted in their own country has been considered) are followed so that applicants can have peace of mind that it is a truly available child that is being adopted.

Common sense would suggest that a child (no matter what race or culture) is better off being brought up in a loving family environment in a country (such as New Zealand) where a good future is possible as opposed to life in an institution and a future that is bleak provided that it has been determined that the adoption is in the best interests of the child.