adoption ‘speaks’

As adoption is a research area of mine, I have decided the topic needs a page of its own. A clear globe distinction is made between opinion and research-based knowledge on which my writings on adoption are based. Where it is opinion, it is labelled as such. In this field, transparency is important. I have no personal connection with adoption other than a professional role and no axe to grind. While in private practice from the early 1990s to 2010, I assessed the suitability of Australian prospective parents and conducted post-adoption follow up with the families I had assessed. My doctoral thesis on intercountry adoption ultimately looked nothing like I thought it would. I found many, many surprises along the way and those surprises haven’t stopped. There are still dubious and criminal practices in some countries of origin that need to be adequately addressed. There are lies, secrets, rumour, money, manipulation, warring factions, the misuse of power and bullying woven into the adoption community (and I don’t mean just in countries of origin) that unfortunately do have an undesirable impact on the positive aspects of adoption and on families and individuals.  Transparency about these issues are just as important as positive adoption stories. For the critics, I am ‘pro ethical practices’, committed to human rights and social justice, and not ‘anti-adoption’. Adoption is a contentious and political area, so I guarantee this blog will make interesting reading! Stay tuned for more posts.

Post Scriptum: As you read about intercountry adoption you will notice that responses often quickly deteriorate into ‘anti-adoption’ labelling’ and justifications for adoption when this is not the issue at hand. There are more options than adoption vs death/ institutionalisation – adoption is just one of several possible appropriate outcomes (it also cannot be assumed that it is always the best outcome) but adoptions must always be conducted ethically and without vested interests. There is no mass solution that suits every child’s circumstances whether here or overseas. There are negative aspects to adoption and limitations to perspectives only informed through the lens of adopters. This is why ethical practice and lack of conflicts of interests are essential to how governments engage with the practice. One can only ask the question why is it so difficult for some people to accept there is a negative side to adoption? Accepting this reality is not a blight on adoptive parents. Good adoptive parenting entails a capacity to understand these complexities. My own research has shown that repeating simplistic slogans, creating enemies, money, perpetuating myths and keeping discussions emotionally charged are tactics generated by lobbyists who have particular agendas. These agendas are strongly supported by current neoliberal governments and millions of philanthropic dollars. So in effect a small group of people (two factions in Australia) have exerted excessive influence within adoptive communities and on government. What adopters don’t realise is that privatisation (whether openly private or agencies ‘set up’ as NGOs) will mean they will ultimately pay more (currently government covers much of the administration and other costs) for adoptions and that the focus of government is really on making local children in care available not children overseas – so if you want to adopt from overseas that’s fine but you will in future bear all the costs…and these are only some of the issues. It seems we will embrace the worst from the US and the UK experience and not learn from their mistakes nor from our own recent past. I sincerely hope I am wrong.



Fronek, P. (2015, May 26). Your child is missing. Would you want their adoption to be easier? The Drum.

Fronek, P. (2015, May 25). Your child is missing. Would you want their adoption to be easier? The Conversation.

Fronek, P. (2015, January 29). Shopping for children: Australian adoption market puts them at risk. The Conversation.

Fronek, P., Cuthbert, D. & Keyes, M. (2015, September 8). Australia puts children at risk by freeing up the adoption marketThe Conversation.

Fronek, P. (2014, July 4). Are we shifting responsibility for adopted children offshore? The Conversation.

Fronek, P. (2014, May 22). Changes to intercountry adoption must put children’s needs firstThe Conversation.

Fronek, P. (2013, 12 November). Privatising adoption: Easier for parents, riskier for kids. The Conversation.

Fronek, P. (2012, November 14). The politics of ‘orphans’ and the dirty tactics of the adoption lobby. The Conversation.

Fronek, P., & Cuthbert, D. (2012, June 25). An apology to forced adoption birth mothers: it’s about timeThe Conversation.

In-depth investigations and other reports

They steal babies don’t they? – E.J. Graff – Pacific Standard – on Ethiopian adoption

Fly Away HomeForeign Correspondent – a must see on Ethiopian adoption

Reuters Investigates (2013). The child exchange. Rehoming in the US’ broken system.

Rehoming in Canada – CBC News- On-line adoption rehoming: Legal ‘loopholes’ allow children to be given away,  November 13, 2014

Kathryn Joyce, author of ‘The child catchers: Rescuing, trafficking and the new gospel of adoption’. Kathryn Joyce discusses the realities of adoption in a Point of Inquiry podcast

The Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. Fraud and corruption in international adoption

UNICEF – Orphans – what does ‘orphan’ mean and how many are there really?

Quartly, M. (2013, 23 December). Is faster and easier adoption necessarily better? The Guardian.

Robinson, I. (2013, 24 December). Overseas adoption: The case against. The Sydney Morning Herald.

Ian Robinson (2008, November 18). These angels aren’t telling the whole story.

2004 Enough Rope

                                                                                                                                                                             All adoption posts are now listed under categories


8 thoughts on “adoption ‘speaks’

  1. What does an “ethical” overseas international adoption look like?
    How do you feel about the 200,000 Koreans separated from their families? Do you feel it’s justified with their legal “certificate of orphanhood?”
    How do you feel about if there is ever a reunion the mothers and their children will never be able to communicate because of language barriers.” Most people who are fearful of the label “anti adoption” are on the side of those who benefit from the industry the most.

  2. As a senior adoptee who once worked in the adoption arena – assessments and reunion work – it is excellent to see some sense written by someone who doesn’t have an axe to grind. Thank you!

  3. Thanks for this blog. I was once an adoption worker some decades ago – local and international – and well aware of the dodgy practices that occurred – not least being the lack of recognition and though about the child’s experience – here and there. It is important that the current move by the government to ‘streamline’ the process be scrutinised and it be held accountable, particularly to the children concerned.

  4. i am an adoptive mother of two. Groups like ‘Orphan Angels” do not speak for me.

    I welcome every contribution that scrutinizes our approach to intercountry adoption and every effort to promote the integrity of intercountry adoption. Any incident of malpractice reflects on all of us – and mostly i worry about how that impacts on our kids. So I will read with interest your research and blog.


    • Thanks Jackie for your comments. I have known many parents for many years and sincerely believe many adoptive parents in Australia have a really good understanding of the positive and negative aspects of intercountry adoption, are very balanced and certainly make great parents – issues are those that happen prior to adoption and who speaks for the community (or really communities)- and I would love to see adult adoptees having a stronger voice in policy. Thanks Tricia

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