Playlist: Adoption and Foster Care
Compiled By: PRX Editors
First-person voices from all sides of adoption. Stories about living with questions and searching for answers.
Tiny Spark takes a look at a seemingly good idea - international adoption - and explores its unintended consequences: corruption, fraud and child trafficking. Our story coincides with the release this month (Dec, 2011) of Erin Siegal's new book on adoption fraud in Guatemala.
In our inaugural episode, Tiny Spark takes a look at corruption in international adoption. Our story conincides with the release of Erin Siegal's latest book, "The U.S. Embassy Cables: Adoption Fraud in Guatemala 1987-2010". The book contains memos, emails, and cables from the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala; correspondence which has never been released, until now.
The focus of our segment is Guatemala. We speak to adoptive mother, Jennifer Hemsley (photo included in attachments). When she and her husband began the process of adopting a girl from Guatemala, they suspected fraud and feared the infant may have been kidnapped. “We were very concerned that [Hazel's] mother might be looking for her,” Jennifer tells us.
Hemsley says she could’ve ignored her own suspicions and adopted the girl anyway. “But I couldn’t do that, “Hemsley said. “That wouldn’t have been right.”
So Hemsley undertook a years-long quest for the truth. Along the way, she endured the scorn of a U.S. adoption agency, her sanity was questioned by Guatemelan lawyers and officials, and many American adoptive parents turned on her.
Hemsley’s story is a complex, nuanced exploration of what it means to make “right” choices on behalf of a girl, in another country, who needs a home.
We also speak with Erin Siegal, author of the new book, Finding Fernanda (photo included in attachments). Siegal’s book investigates corruption in Guatemala’s international adoption system.
Using the Freedom of Information Act, Siegal gained access to a trove of cables from the U.S. embassy in Guatemala, which reveal the extent of the American government’s concerns about aiding and abetting child trafficking. The entire collection of cables is being released this month in a 718-page book, "The U.S. Embassy Cables: Adoption Fraud in Guatemala 1987-2010".
Siegal tells us, “The cables show that there was always some corruption, there were always women selling their children, and the embassy knew that. There were always imposter birth mothers showing up and relinquishing children that weren’t biologically related to them. And there were always financial incentives that did drive this corruption and the Embassy did know that.”
This episode combines an emotional narrtative with riveting investigative reporting. It gives listeners an appreciation for the moral and ethical complexities behind international adoption.
About the host:
Amy Costello has spent the past decade reporting on some of the most pressing human rights issues of the day. For four years, she was the Africa Correspondent for The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, Public Radio International and WGBH Boston. Her stories were heard by millions of listeners across the United States and around the globe. She has reported for National Public Radio, PBS television, and the BBC World Service. Her PBS television story for FRONTLINE/World, Sudan: The Quick and the Terrible was nominated for an Emmy Award.
Amy was a producer at National Public Radio for three years before she moved to Africa. She has worked as an adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, her alma mater. From her base in New York, Amy has continued to report on human rights issues, moderating podcasts for UNICEF, Human Rights Watch and the recent PBS television miniseries, Women, War & Peace. She also reported a follow-up story for FRONTLINE/World on the PlayPump, a celebrated idea designed to “do good”. Along the way she uncovered myriad problems with the technology, an experience which would become the impetus for Tiny Spark.
After waiting for Mr. Right (who has yet to arrive) - and after years of fertility treatments - Suzanne, a single woman in her forties, decided to adopt. She chose transracial adoption.
After waiting in vain for Mr. Right - and after years of fertility treatments - Suzanne, a single, white woman in her forties, decided to adopt. She chose transracial adoption. Long Haul Productions documented the entire process - beginning with workshops designed to "teach white people to raise kids of color," baby-shopping trips with Mom at Target, a critical rendezvous with a young mother at a pancake house, and, finally, a magical night at a suburban restaurant chain. Producers Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister followed Suzanne for several months as she waited to see if she would become a parent; she offered extraordinary access into her home, and really, into every aspect of her life. This piece debuted on May 9, 2005, on WBEZ (Chicago Public Radio), and subsequently aired May 10, 2005, on All Things Considered. "Dear Birth Mother" is a follow-up to "Babyquest," also available on PRX, which documents Suzanne's failed attempt to get pregnant via In Vitro fertilization.
From Radio Rookies | 11:42
WNYC Radio Rookie, Shirley Diaz's life has been shaped by the tragedy of her mother's murder and having been raised in several foster homes. To avoid being consumed by loss, Shirley tries to make sense of it all.
Radio Rookie Shirley Diaz's life has been shaped by the tragedy of her mother's murder and the difficulty of growing up in six different foster homes, separated from her six younger siblings. To avoid being consumed by loss, Shirley tries to make sense of these events and find refuge in home and family as she finds them. HOST INTRO: Radio Rookie Shirley Diaz is on the brink of aging out of the foster care system when she turns 21. Many young people face huge challenges when they leave the system. And a disproportionate number of New York City's 17,000 kids in foster care struggle with homelessness at some point in their lives. Braced for adulthood, Shirley whose nickname is Star looks to herself for support.
From Big Shed Audio | 10:25
When Carol was 20, she gave her baby boy away for adoption. Twenty years later, the son, Joel, came looking. The two tell their story of reunion.
Carol Brobeck and Joel Woodruff recount the adoption and reunion, twenty years later, that define their relationship. The story centers around the reunion itself, the moment when they actually found each other. Joel and Carol were interviewed separately, but their story is interwoven here, without narration or music.
From David Barasoain | 06:39
Woman who cares for babies before adoption.
Adoptions Together is a company in the United States that creates families. They bring together children that have been put up for adoption with prospective parents. The idea behind the agency is to put a child into the home a a pre-adopt parent, a type of foster parent, until a permenant home is found. This piece was originally broadcast on AWR in 2001.
From WHJE | 05:47
Bradley and Nicole are not allowed to know anything about their birth parents until they turn 18 because they are part of a closed adoption. Youth-produced by Alicia Deogracias.
Bradley and Nicole Ridge are freshman twins who are part of a closed adoption. This means that the twins are legally not allowed to know hardly anything about their birth parents until they turn 18. Bradley and Nicole tell their story and explain how being part of a closed adoption has affected their lives. They tell what it's been like having a twin and also what it is like to wonder about your "real" parents every day.
Vietnamese adoptees from Operation Babylift tell their stories.
As the Vietnam War came to an end in 1975, US-assisted orphanages in Vietnam feared that if North Vietnam were victorious, all the children might be killed. Humanitarian groups suggested as many children as possible be taken out of the country. On April 3rd, 1975, President Gerald Ford announced that up to 70,000 children would be flown out of the country to the United States. Around 2,700 arrived and were adopted in the US before the fall of Saigon on April 15th. Now adults, these adoptees share their search for a sense of sel Voices of: Richard and Tina Silver, Jared Rehberg, Shannon Hetrick, Betty Tisdale Newsreels: Archive.org Produced by Sara Caswell Kolbet and Dmae Roberts with contributor Miae Kim. This is part of "Brides and Children" from the Crossing East series.
From WAMU | 05:30
A look at what being "bicultural" means.
As more Americans adopt children from other nations, questions are being raised about whether these new parents will respect the culture from which the children come. Youth Voices Reporter Lewis Reining knows from personal experience how difficult that can be - for the parents and the children.
After fighting infertility, Chris Huntington believes adoption will make him the father he wants to be.
HOST: Today, we hear from listener Chris Huntington of Indianapolis, Indiana. Huntington joined in the Peace Corps after college, wandered around the world, and eventually came home. He married two years ago, and he and his wife have been trying to start a family. That effort led Huntington to recognize his belief, as you'll hear in his essay. HUNTINGTON: I no longer believe my wife and I are going to have a baby the old-fashioned way, but I no longer think this really matters. I believe in adoption now. Four months ago, the Chinese government accepted our dossier. In the next year or two, a little girl will be born and her parents will not want her. My wife and I will fly to China to meet this girl and bring her home with us. When I was a teenager, everyone said becoming a parent was easy -- so easy, I had to be careful not to do it accidentally. I guess it's easy for a lot of other people, but not for me and my wife. I'm 39. My wife is 31. For the last two years, I've watched this woman I love inject herself with needles full of hormone syrup. She got huge bruises on each side of her waist. Our friends would bring their kids over to visit and we'd hang up their tiny coats, hoping some magic would rub off on our hands. When it didn't, we started avoiding any place we'd see the one thing we wanted so desperately. Our own neighborhood became awkward. The woman across the street emerged in the spring with a giant belly. My wife and I stopped going to parks and matinees. Taking our clothes off became a medical procedure; we obeyed the calendar instead of each other's eyes. I'd see young couples pushing strollers in the grocery store and I'd taste jealousy like pennies in my mouth. I used to believe that becoming a parent was part of our biology. It was something everyone could do. When I couldn't make a baby, I felt a little less human. I teach in a prison, a medium-security facility full of men. I help guys write letters when they ask. Most of the letters are to girlfriends and ex-wives. I don't see long letters to children. I feel lost opportunity all around me. I can see that becoming a parent is much more than our biology. I now believe that becoming a parent is a gift you make to the universe and that the universe makes to you. Now, I want my family to include a little girl who looks nothing like me or my wife. Someday I'll lean across a table and cut this little girl's green beans. I'll meet her teachers. I'll see her bicycle standing in the garage. I love the idea that this girl will grow up to be a woman and still look nothing like me, but whenever she hears the word "dad," she'll think of me. People think we're good or generous because we're giving a home to an orphan, and giving her a family but the truth is she'll be giving us a family. I believe in adoption because it will make me the man I want to be: a father.
Mary Lou Maher tells her son Brad Skow, whom she gave up for adoption 28 years ago, about the day he was born.
Mary Lou Maher (MY-er) was 17 when she learned she was pregnant. As a college freshman who felt unprepared to be a mother, she gave her baby up for adoption. Nine years ago, Brad Skow, the son she had given up, tracked Maher down. They have been close ever since. Skow interviewed Maher at the StoryBooth in New York City's Grand Central Terminal.