Trafficking in children for adoption

Other Names:
Commercialization of adoption of children
Sham adoption of children
Foreign adoption abuse
Underground baby-trading

Children are 'adopted' for a price by wealthy families or brothels. Families are sometimes separated for purposes of adoption. In particular, younger women and the populations of Third World countries are open to abuse because they lack the resources (emotional, financial, etc) to combat efforts against this disruptive procedure. Third World countries are at particular risk: young children and infants are removed from their homelands and cultures in order to meet the demands of more affluent societies for adoptable children. The desperate choices that have to be made by poor mothers in countries where abortion is difficult and an additional child threatens their existing tenuous livelihood means that countries in eastern Europe have also become sources for premium white babies, often with the mother receiving no payment at all.


Over 10,000 American couples legally adopt foreign children each year. In 1986, the number of foreign children adopted in France, 2,227 babies, exceeded the number of adopted French children. In the UK and West Germany the number of foreign adoptions are on the rise. More than 600 Polish babies were adopted by foreign families through legal channels in 1992. Babies have reportedly been given for adoption by one church-run home in return for contributions to a new roof. It was reported in 1993 that Western couples can pay $20,000 to a private agency or baby-trading ring for a Polish baby, with little or nothing going to the mother. In 1991 a number of Romanian nuns were accused of accepting up to $15,000 for selling babies of unwed mothers who had been forced into signing over their parental rights.

More than 6,000 Korean babies are adopted by Western couples through a system administered by the Korean government. While many social workers question the morality of legal adoptions schemes, all condemn illegal schemes. In such countries as Chile, Argentina and Paraguay, illicit baby traffickers are doing a brisk trade. In Chile a mother is paid $1,000 for her baby which is then sold for 15 times that amount. In Argentina, where 90% of the population is of European descent, blue-eyed, blond-haired babies are being sold for as much as $20,000. Latin American officials estimate that from 200 to 700 infants are illegally exported from each of these countries a year. In Sri Lanka, baby farms located near tourist resorts are infamous. The proprietors search the island's hospitals for impoverished young women in the early stages of pregnancy, offering them good care, food and a modest $100 a month if they will live on the farms until they give birth and then give up their newborns. Some of the babies are sold directly to visiting foreign visitors and others are exported, at an average price of $1,000, to syndicates in Belgium and Sweden, which then sell them for as much as $8,000 each. Sri Lankan authorities estimate some 300 infants are illegally sold to Western couples a year. Middlemen in the Philippines search out pregnant women in the night clubs and honky-tonk bars near USA military bases in order to buy mixed-blood babies and then resell them to Western couples.

Congolese children were kidnapped, taken to an orphanage and put up for adoption in Belgium after their parents sent them off to what they believed was a holiday camp.   The Belgian families who later adopted the children thought their biological parents were dead. In 2019, Belgian prosecutors are asking for DNA samples from 15 families in a bid to track down the biological families of trafficked adopted children. 

Related Problems:
Annulment of adoption
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
17.10.2021 – 07:00 CEST