Sunday, January 31, 2010

U.S. Citizens Arrested Taking Children out of Haiti

(Repost from  Yahoo News): 

By Joseph Guyler Delva Joseph Guyler Delva – Sat Jan 30, 5:22 pm ET

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Haitian police have arrested 10 U.S. citizens caught trying to take 33 children out of the earthquake-stricken country in a suspected illicit adoption scheme, authorities said on Saturday.

The five men and five women were in custody in the capital, Port-au-Prince after their arrests on Friday night. There are fears that traffickers could try to exploit the chaos and turmoil following Haiti's January 12 earthquake quake to engage in illegal adoptions.

One of the suspects, who says she is leader of an Idaho-based charity called New Life Children's Refuge, denied they had done anything wrong.

The suspects were detained at Malpasse, Haiti's main border crossing with the Dominican Republic, after Haitian police conducted a routine search of their vehicle.

Authorities said the Americans had no documents to prove they had cleared the adoption of the 33 children -- aged 2 months to 12 years -- through any embassy and no papers showing they were made orphans by the quake in the impoverished Caribbean country.
"This is totally illegal," said Yves Cristalin, Haiti's social affairs minister. "No children can leave Haiti without proper authorization and these people did not have that authorization."

U.S. authorities could not be reached for immediate comment on the arrests.
But Laura Sillsby from the Idaho group told Reuters from a jail cell at Haiti's Judicial Police headquarters, "We had permission from the Dominican Republic government to bring the children to an orphanage that we have there."

"We have a Baptist minister here (in Port-au-Prince) whose orphanage totally collapsed and he asked us to take the children to the orphanage in the Dominican Republic," Sillsby added.

"I was going to come back here to do the paperwork," Sillsby said. "They accuse us of children trafficking. This is something I would never do. We were not trying to do something wrong."
In addition to outright trafficking in children, authorities have voiced fears since the quake that legitimate aid groups may have flown earthquake orphans out of the country for adoption before efforts to find their parents had been exhausted.

As a result, the Haitian government halted many types of adoptions earlier this month.

There are no reliable estimates of the number of parentless and lost children at risk in Haiti's quake-shattered capital.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

Original link:  http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20100130/ts_nm/us_quake_haiti_arrests_1

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tyra Banks: the More Fees you Pay, the Better the Adoption?

Today, Thursday, January 21, 2010, Tyra Banks did a segment called "Teenage Pimps."  The segment was about teenagers who pimp out other teenagers for money.  But adoption somehow made its way into the mix.

Awkwardly attached to the tale end of the show was the story of a former prospective adoptive couple who was scammed by an adoption lawyer.  Tyra introduced their portion of the show by listing famous couples who have adopted, musing that their adoptions must have gone smoothly because the celebrities had enough money to pay for the adoptions to go "smoothly."  She transitioned into introducing the couple by explaining how much they had spent: $60,000.  To Tyra, this was enough money for the adoption to, you guessed it, "go smoothly."

The adoption lawyer promised to them, and to 16 other couples, that there were two "birth mothers" ready to relinquish upon birth.  He promised they could adopt both babies for $60,000.

The prospective adoptive Mother even went to the hospital when the lawyer told her the expectant mother was being induced.  She was then told that she couldn't know any details because the expectant mother was having difficulties.

They were scammed.

The couple said: "he preyed on our emotions."  They said that when it comes to adoptions "think with your head, not with your heart."

I feel badly for the couple.  I think it is terrible that they were scammed.  Overall, I found the show incredibly disappointing.  I thought that featuring them was an insensitive tie-in to the main theme of the show, "teen pimps."  This would have been a teachable moment for Tyra to explore the role of money in adoption.  Such as  how adoption fees allow couples in scam situations to be exploited because large fees have become the "norm" and unquestioned parts of adoption.  Also, how large fees are an enormous barrier toward establishing homes for children; yet, had the couple adopted through foster care, there would have been no fee at all.

Tyra could have covered the struggle of single parents and the irony of huge adoption fees in contrast to the number one reason why mothers choose adoption: a lack of finances and other resources.  But she didn't.  Viewers learned nothing today except that people should be able to pay a lot to have "good adoptions."  Best practices for the interests of children and all their various parents?  Perhaps she'll cover that another day.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Is 16 and Pregnant Educational or Exploiting Young Parents for Ratings?

I just received email correspondence from an agent who works with MTV and MTV's hit series "Teen Mom."  They wanted to know if I would like to interview any of the show's cast members for a blog post.

Along with the email was a copy of the press release.  It contains a quote made by Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy:

"After 15 straight years of decline, the teen birth rate in the United States is on the rise again. In other words, the need to help young people understand the challenges of too-early pregnancy and parenthood and the profound, life-long responsibility of being a parent is now more important than ever. Thank you MTV for providing a no-holds-barred look at the realities of being a teen parent.”

This is hardly something I would thank MTV for. They're benefiting from the ratings and notoriety given to them by people who feel that this show does "good." If you want to thank anyone, thank the young women who are putting their lives on television to be made an example for everyone else.

So many ethical questions come into play with this show.  I would rather interview the producers of the show about their thought processes in filming a show like this instead of interviewing the cast members themselves.

"If the cast is not being paid, how is it ethical to stand by as a lucrative network, benefiting from ratings as a result of these young people's struggles, and let them struggle?"

"If the cast being paid, how is it ethical to tell young viewers that these financial struggles are a 'real' depiction of being a teen parent?"

"How much did a camera following around these young people intensify their struggles by putting them in the public eye, on countless forums, and on the cover of tabloids in every grocery store?  Do you really feel you allowed their babies to have a good start in life?"

"Catelynn and Tyler's lack of financial resources seemed to be the driving point behind their surrender of Carly.  If they had more resources, their decision-making opportunity could have been expanded.  How much did MTV step in to offer this young couple resources, or was the fact they were interested in adoption too paramount to the story line to warrant stepping in?  In this case, why should TV ratings and having one type of story come before the needs of parents and children?"

When I think of "16 and Pregnant," I cannot help but remember the demise of Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson's marriage.  I was a very young woman when the two famous singers married and invited cameras into their home after being invited to have their own "reality" TV show on MTV called "The Newlyweds."  They divorced a few seasons later, and the stress the show put on their marriage, the invasion of their privacy, was largely blamed for why the couple could not work things out. How can MTV ethically proceed then with "16 and Pregnant" and put cameras in a 16-year-old's delivery room to capture the most vulnerable moments of a young parent's life.  Are they setting these young parents up for anything better than Nick and Jessica had?

I'd like to remind Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, the woman I quoted at the beginning of this entry, of a survey just recently performed and published by her own organization. According to their December 2009 survey of 1,800 young people ranging from ages 18-29, young people seem already more than well aware that parenting is "hard." The problem identified in the study was that although most young people feel that pregnancies should be planned, they do not fully understand how to prevent the pregnancies. The survey found that a majority of interviewees did not understand oral contraceptives and a staggering 30% did not understand condoms. Many held to old-wives-tales and completely false information. The survey calls for more and better sex education. Displaying hardships as a teen parent on national television is not sex education.  There is, in fact, absolutely no information on contraception and safe sex on the show whatsoever.

The bottom line of this show is clear: ratings at all costs, network priorities disguised as 'reality,' and a conveniently placed adoption story in the name of "providing education" about teen pregnancy.  What a bad idea.