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Little Princes

9780061930058I’m reading Little Princes (William Morrow) by Conor Grennan. It’s about an American who volunteers at an orphanage in Nepal while embarking on an around-the-world trip. When a mother arrives at the gates of the house looking for her two sons, he realizes her children (along with the other kids at the orphanage) have been trafficked. Conor decides not only to dedicate his time to trying to stop child trafficking in Nepal, he establishes a non-profit to reverse the practice and return the kids to their birth parents.

I was captivated by the topic. Ron and I tried to adopt from Nepal last year. It wasn’t until after we began the paperwork that we first learned of child traffickers exploiting children for adoption. We’d heard of child trafficking with regard to sex or labor trade, but adoption? What about the millions of abandoned children in the world? Like the ones I’d seen in documentaries featuring Mother Teresa? Turns out, Ron and I had a lot to learn. Less than a year after we started out paperwork, the the U.S Department of State suspended adoptions from Nepal. According to a response released by PEAR (Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform):

“[O]ne of the children referred to the first three US families traveling to Nepal was a child whose parents were searching for her. This little girl, Karuna, was placed in the orphanage by her parents for temporary care. Her identity was changed; she was declared to be an abandoned child; a false police report was created; and she was referred for adoption to a US family. Meanwhile, the parent’s requests for her return were refused by the orphanage several times. The prospective adoptive family was in Nepal when Karuna was finally returned to her parents.

On June 22, 2010, eKantipur.com published an article about Smriti, a girl whose mother placed her in an orphanage for temporary care. During a regular visit to the orphanage to see her daughter, the mother learned Smriti had been adopted by a family in Italy. Her abandonment documentation is alleged to have been falsified.”

Ron and I are trying to wade through all this and figure out what it means–for us, for kids, for the future. If we pursue international adoption, how do we know for sure a child is a true orphan? And even if a child has a living mother–a mother who loves him or her–it doesn’t always mean the mother can parent the child (same for a father). But who makes that call? And is it right to take a child so far away from his or her culture and background?

The book is excellent. And funny (I wasn’t expecting that). And although I’m not finished reading it yet, I can sense a budding romance. I’m curious to see where the story goes and if the author addresses international adoption. Since he became entrenched in helping birth parents raise their own children in their own homes (despite extreme poverty and hardships), maybe he has some ideas or answers. I don’t know the answers. But I do think better awareness is a good thing.

About Jenny Rough

Jenny Rough is a lawyer-turned-writer. Visit her on the web at www.jennyrough.com

Comments (4)

Wow. Sounds like a very good book. A whole complicated world of things I'd never thought about before. What an interesting person Conor Grennan sounds like.
Thanks for the review - I just added Little Princess to my library reserve list!
I've been hearing about this book and it sounds interesting, but it's not clear to me that the orphanage Grennan worked in had anything to do with international adoption -- did it? My impression was that the children had been trafficked for other purposes and ended up in the orphanage later. In countries like Nepal, families can be duped by traffickers who are placing children as servants, laborers, sex slaves etc and the kids may end up in an institution eventually under various scenarios. As someone who has adopted three children internationally and spent a lot of time in the developing world, I know that there are many kids in genuine need of adoption. I think it's critical to do extensive research about the agency and country you're interested in, though this doesn't offer complete protection. I believe trafficking for adoption is rare, but because it does happen, I took steps to verify everything I'd been told about the history and circumstances of my children. My kids were also older at adoption (ages 3, 4 and 5) and they were able to tell me their own version of personal history that was consistent with what had been presented. It is bittersweet to remove a child from her birthland. However, millions of children grow up in orphanages and institutions that don't offer them the rich benefits of their society and culture. Many, many adoptive families continue to give back to charities and projects in their child's homeland, which enables more original families wot stay intact. In every society, though, there are complex emotional/familial situations that cannot be resolved by any amount of money, and where adoption is the best option.
Michelle- thanks. Yeah, the author is on book tour now. I wish I could work my schedule out to see him and hear what he has to say in person, but not sure I can. Kim - hope you like the book Sharon - So far, international adoption hasn't been mentioned in the book (I'm about 3/4 way through). The trafficker was allegedly having parents pay him to take their kids from the remote villages, promising he'd put them in boarding schools, feed them, keep then safe from being recruited to fight in the civil war, etc. Some of the kids ended up in various orphanages/institutes (I have no idea if those places were adopting out-the place the author volunteered at didn't seem to be). I think you're right that the kids end up at the institutions under various scenarios, making it pretty hard in some cases to determine the circumstances.
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