Consternations of Trafficking in the Adoption World; The Elephant in the Room

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Adoptees have sent clear messages that warrant those of us who are anti-trafficking advocates to sit up and pay attention.

Discussing trafficking is a distant thought—a subject for another industry. In the foster system, 60 percent of child sex trafficking victims have been in foster care. Neurodivergent children, disabilities, sexual violence, intimate partner violence, rape, exploitation, sex trafficking, incest, and domestic servitude, are some reported incidences involving foster care. You can select this link and listen to the information about runaways. This same link has a report to Congress: The Child Welfare Response to Sex Trafficking of Children.

Every school district, public and private schools, could use continual training on trauma-informed care, not just for gun violence and deadly school shootings but also for the reasons described throughout this essay. What are school systems doing to address these areas directly involving adoptees and foster children?

What about adoption agencies turning a blind eye when red flags are noted, potentially engaging in what may be perceived as child trafficking or adoptions rushed to meet adoptive parents’ requests?

Organizations become complacent when these values are overdriven and misguided by competitive practices. Opportunities are missed when assuming that addressing the un-populace would mean a loss of funding.

Years ago, I sat and spoke with one of the EDs in a nonprofit organization who lost sight of why they did their work. It all filtered back into the fear of losing funding. This fear is real, but at what point do we step away to serve as leaders setting examples for others to follow?

Complacency is one of those descriptive words that pull forth comfort, satisfaction, and feelings of familiarity – trusting the good, the bad, and the ugly because it is predictable. However, it is also a state of mind that disconnects from the rest of the world. Complacency takes care of the “ego” and “self” and is familiar with the “issues” but ignores what falls outside of this perimeter, dismissing what others face because of harboring a false sense of security that settles into permanence, ignoring the social issues fought and overcame. It also means that complacent people could potentially miss the danger that harms them and others. Read more about the definition of complacency.

Complacency discards any nuance that might get in the way of feeling comfortable, satisfied, and safe. The minute classism infiltrates these boundaries, marginalized communities face obstacles that the privileged do not. Complacent communities may have fought for rights but disregarded equality because they reconstructed their narratives and are tired. They are tired of the so-called allies who were nothing but pomp and circumstance, capitalizing on their rights to seek a right to passage, rights to healthcare, housing, adoption, education, workforce, and a place to belong. Unfortunately, their tiredness stops short of helping others attain equal rights. Not all alleys are pomp and circumstance. Many have helped us get where we are today. However, in the adoption industry, might there be a concern for pomp and circumstance? Who benefits from transactions between buyer and seller? Have some adoptees been fortunate and ended up with wonderful adoptive parents? Of course. There are those stories as well. However, why are adoptions ranging in costs from $70,000 to $150,000?

Embracing diversity and addressing transracial issues, including disability, sexual violence, incest, and trauma, are necessary discussions since infants grow up, form identities, and eventually attend school. How are adoptees and foster children treated in school systems? Several adoptees will attest that they came from trauma. Some experienced trauma due to separation at birth or negative statements about the birth parent, rejection, secrecy, alcoholism, and drug use in the family.

Stories about kidnapping and transnational adoption involve parents coerced into giving up their infant and finding out later in life that their child was rehomed. They never were contacted to be given the option to reunite with their birth child.

United Nations’ definition of human trafficking balances the following words: Prevent, Suppress, and Punish, Trafficking in Persons. Adoptions without the biological parent’s consent have been a global problem. Also, a problem in the US. Human Trafficking Adoption Scheme

Another area of adoption practice that needs ethical reconsideration is placing a child with adoptive parents prior to all birth parents’ full consent. Here is an article whose authors, Daniel Pollack and Steven M. Baranowski, discuss this issue. Ethical Challenges Remain in the World of Private Adoptions

Rehoming is a buzzword for trafficking. Stories of adopted parents using social media to advertise rehoming a child using grooming language, such as describing the child as “Willing to wash dishes,” “Enjoys housework,” and “Loves to garden,” need to be investigated. How do we get the attention of Homeland Security or Internet Crimes Against Children to recognize that these types of advertisements place a child at risk? One advertisement read the State pays $2,000 a day.

Unfortunately, no one wants to address the elephant in the room because of the political issues. Such as the organization risking the loss of votes, rights, funding, or reputation when taking a position. What about companies taking a stand against human rights violations? Ten brand campaigns that took a stand on social issues

Is there any reason why adoption agencies should not take an oath against human trafficking?

Other organizations Globally and in the US receive score cards.

Is it time to regulate private adoption agencies and stipulate the need to score agencies for performance and committing to take a stand against human trafficking?

An estimated 24.9 million people worldwide are victims of forced labor, generating $150 billion in illegal profits in the private economy.

So, how do we talk about the elephant in the room?

State why you are exposing the elephant in favorable terms. “I am concerned …” statement. When the ostrich sticks its head in the sand, it does not see any more than we would if we ignored these uncomfortable discussions. The conversation is predictable when people turn a blind eye or when the elephant stays hidden. Predictable because the message is “Turn off this conversation!” Instead, try forming committees of interest whose members can work together to address changes and challenges. Invite people with experience in these subjects, and even more importantly, either serve as experts or have lived experiences.

Lift the veil and put complacency into action. Take the leap of faith. Embrace differences no one else wants to address.

©An Goldbauer

City Ordinances

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Last year the HRO passed LGBT rights in Jacksonville. Last month I was invited to the Women’s Center’s Open Door celebration and given a personal tour of the facilities by one of the board members, who pointed out to me that they were supportive and all-inclusive of both LGBTQIA men and women despite the gendered bathrooms. She showed me two identical single-stall restrooms. One was for men, and the other was for women. To meet the city’s code, the single-stall New Human Rights Ordinance bathrooms could not be gender-neutral. It seemed odd, given the fact that the HRO had passed. I took note to think about this at a later time. This afternoon, I went and reviewed the ordinances online, which, by the way, was an incredibly tedious process. Some businesses, including one I visited in downtown Jacksonville, Chamblin Bookmine, have gender-neutral single-stall bathrooms. I decided to search the web instead. I came across this article.

“The law does not have any new requirements regarding bathroom usage.”

New Human Rights Ordinance
“Earlier this month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a set of guidelines regarding bathroom access for transgender workers. The guidelines recommend providing better access to options for transgender individuals with gender-neutral facilities.”
Gender Neutral Signs
I’m not sure why the Women’s Center could not have single-stall restrooms, but maybe this is one of those situations where the inspector was misinformed. I don’t know, but it all seems ridiculous to me. Can you imagine if we were required to have gendered single-stall bathrooms at home? What about the campgrounds or art market? We seem to accept these gender-neutral bathrooms just fine, but we can’t or won’t allow the ones inside a building.

This article was updated on June 5, 2023

©An Goldbauer

Transgender Violence On College Campuses

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To some, colleges and universities are “ivory towers” isolated from the larger society. A closer look shows that this country’s academic institutions are reflections of our broader community, struggling with the same social issues and prejudices. Lorri L. Jean, Executive Director, National Gay, and Lesbian Task Force.

The Spinnaker, a News Source from the University of North Florida, released an article reporting an incident which involved a transgender student who was assaulted and verbally threatened by a male in a campus bathroom. The report red-flagged the failure of the UNFPD to release a Clery report. The incident took place February 6 of this year and was reported to the UNFPD on February 7th.

It isn’t unusual to hear that police are poorly trained in handling cases of LGBT assaults nor rare to hear of agencies, such as Victims Advocacy and LGBT groups reporting the way these types of incidents (as what happened February 6) are often minimized or dismissed.  The article stated that Chief Strudel’s response was “it is rare, and therefore, we aren’t going to do anything about it.” However, there were concerns expressed by Strudel that his statements were taken out of context when I spoke with him this afternoon. As someone who works as an advocate, activist and photojournalist on LGBT issues, my first reaction in reading this statement in the Spinnaker, was “Is this an accurately recorded statement?” My second reaction was to seek clarification since any incident involving an assault on campus would warrant a Clery report. If you aren’t aware of what a Clery report is, know that it is a set of federally mandated guidelines for universities. The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (20 USC § 1092(f)) is the landmark federal law, originally known as the Campus Security Act, that requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses. The law is tied to an institution’s participation in federal student financial aid programs and it applies to most institutions of higher education both public and private. The Act is enforced by the United States Department of Education.

Both Title 9 and the Clery report serve to protect students on campuses, so to have guidelines in place and not follow the protocols would be an act of non-disclosure and not help in the best interest of the population who are most at risk for hate crimes.  Strudel denied that he stated that the case was not a hate crime and in fact, insisted that he kept having to correct the reporter. Strudel noted that the reporter took things out of context. A similar complaint by Kaitlin Legg, when I spoke with her earlier this afternoon, was that she had to repeatedly correct the reporter on some statements taken out of context. Legg is acting director of the LGBT Resource Center.

According to the article, the cameras were not checked by the campus PD. Strudel stated that initially when the report came in on February 7, the day after the crime, some of the details were not available, such as where the offense took place nor the name of the victim. Once the PD received this information the Communications sector on campus reviewed the footage. According to Strudel not all the cameras on UNF campus are updated; some are around 7 years old and are analogs and clarity is an issue. Dr. Thomas Serwatka, VP at UNF, emphasized the concerns he and President John Delaney had regarding the delay in releasing the Clery report and investigated the falling out with the campus procedure as soon as they learned of the article in the Spinnaker. Strudel stated that he recognized that he should have released this report immediately, regardless of not having all the information and felt he was protecting the student. Serwatka noted that UNF does not tolerate hate crimes nor non-disclosures of these incidences and are implementing protocols to ensure that procedures are followed regardless of the sexual orientation or gender identity and expression of the individual. The UNFPD is now executing the process for all cases of assaults and had released the crime report later this afternoon. News coverage on First Coast News took place this evening at 11 p.m on the published crime report.

©An Goldbauer