This is good news: 4 people who work(ed) at IAG, an adoption agency in South Carolina, have been indicted for acts during the course of their work placing Ethiopian children with US families for adoption.
The sad news is the crime they have been charged with: Fraud against the US government.
There’s little doubt that Mary Mooney, James Harding and Alisa Bivens made placements by paying orphanages to create false records for children, erasing their identities and replacing the truth with a convenient fiction making the children ‘orphans’. I’m confident that the bribes they paid Ethiopian government workers to create fake paperwork for the US embassy have been carefully documented. My guess is that some people are going to jail.
Because if the US attorneys didn’t have solid evidence about the bribes and the conspiracy, they wouldn’t have been able to bring the case at all. Everything the indictment alleges about children who were living with relatives, including their own parents, being laundered for adoption through an orphanage that exists for that purpose, is business as usual.
The press release (linked above) is oddly silent on whether and how the “discovery” and prosecution of this fraud may affect the victims–the children who were bought and sold, the families in Ethiopia and the US who were defrauded out of money and/or things money can’t buy. The subject, of what families who used this Hague-accredited, licensed agency can expect from their government, just didn’t come up.
It’s not surprising that this case, an attempt to hold some people accountable for practices that are widespread in international adoption, will be focused on the fraud against the US; indeed, until the laundered children reach the US Embassy for their visa interviews, no crime has been committed. It is disappointing, though, that an indictment that apparently took 5 years to investigate doesn’t openly and directly address what will happen for the families who were taken in by IAG.
‘One bad apple’ will assuredly be the response from other agencies; ‘there but for the grace…’ from families who used another vendor. But in truth, the policies and processes Americans tolerate, as adequate regulation of adoption from abroad, make this prosecution both overdue and underwhelming.
It’s about time.