One of the pleasures of immersing myself in workshop research (as I mentioned last week) is that I often stumble across something completely new to me. And this time I have learned that there is something called “child laundering”. It’s using laundering in the same way as we do – i.e. processing something illegal so that it appear legal – but in the context of adoption. According to Wikipedia: “Child laundering is a scheme whereby intercountry adoptions are effected by illegal and fraudulent means. It usually involves the trafficking of children which is usually illegal and may involve the acquisition of children through monetary arrangements, deceit and/or force. The children may then be held in sham orphanages while formal international adoption processes are used to send the children to adoptive parents in another country.”
What a ghastly and emotive issue! We have some Swiss friends who, a few years ago and after several years of checks and waiting, adopted a little boy from Colombia. They put themselves straight back on the list to adopt another child as a sibling for him, but have recently been told that Colombia has ended its international adoption agreements – apparently because it wants to get away from the “third world” reputation it gets from “selling” its children. And so the Colombian orphanages are presumably filling up, while foreign potential parents are turned away – so you can feel some sympathy for the concept of international adoptions.
Child laundering is the inevitable criminal response to such situations: how can we exploit people’s desperation (in this case, for a child) to make some money for ourselves? In October 2012, a report on intercountry adoption was considered by the Council of Europe (and they responded with Resolution 1909: “Intercountry adoption: ensuring that the best interests of the child are upheld“). And this report gets to the nub of the criminal involvement: “The demand for a child by way of intercountry adoption is stronger than ever leading to long waiting lists for prospective adoptive parents. This is a cause of great concern, as there is a fear that high demand creates supply, especially in the light of the vast amounts of money potential adopters are prepared to spend to secure an adoption. The unfortunate result is that fraud and malpractice are stimulated. The influx of western money into poorer countries makes the adoption ‘business’ a very profitable one.” The report recommends that potential adopters be educated to use only approved adoption routes, and to beware of “lawyers or other ‘experts’ offering rapid and ‘unbureaucratic’ help in exchange for considerable amounts of money”. And it sadly concludes that “the
high demand for adoptive children leads to the fact that many potential adopters are ready to pay large amounts of money to receive a child, which makes them an easy target for illegal and criminal activities and generally contributes to the global commercialisation of children”.
So, distasteful and depressing though it is, we must gird our loins to add yet another source of criminal income to our lists.