UNICEF's callous opposition to international adoption

An American is thwarted by UNICEF as she attempts to bring her developmentally challenged daughter home Photo: Ann Bates

MADRID, September 22, 2011 – An American is thwarted by UNICEF as she attempts to bring her developmentally challenged daughter home.  UNICEF’s response to a desperate grandmother, looking for help in bringing her grandchild Krystina home, confirms what many have long believed — that UNICEF does not support inter-country adoption.

This summer Eileen Bates, Krystina’s grandmother, a waitress who lives in Reading, Pennsylvania, wrote to UNICEF for help in getting her granddaughter home.  The response she received is nothing less than extraordinary in its cold, detached heartlessness.  The email exchange between Krystina’s grandmother and UNICEF follows:

Contact Us
To: webmaster
Date: Jul 16, 2011 10:35:33 AM

I can not believe you think that leaving children in orphanages is in
the best interest of the child. I am a waiting grandmother of a child in
Krygs.  I know she will have a better life here then in an institution.
She would be loved. Fed and have medical care. We have been waiting for
her for over 3 years now and that just seems fair for who?

From: webmaster <webmaster@unicefusa.org>
Sent: Mon, July 18, 2011 10:22:08 AM
Subject: orphanages

Thank you for responding. Our concern is not to keep children in
orphanages but to help keep the children in their home countries. UNICEF
supports inter-country adoption as a last resort.

Thank you for your concern.

Terry Talley
Customer Relations

To: webmaster <webmaster@unicefusa.org>

Sent: Mon, July 18, 2011 5:17:47 PM
Subject: Re: orphanages

That’s fine what you say, but their own country people are too poor to help a child who needs extra medical care.  My hopefully granddaughter has cerebral palsy and she should have had help long ago.   She is going to be 5 and has had no help. She will always remember where she came from and will learn about her homeland. My daughter still corresponds with many from that country and they are good friends.  You need to think of the single child and not  as a whole group. Each child is special and deserves to have parents who love them.  It will not happen for her if she is left there she will be come a homeless person at the age 18.

“I actually felt sick to my stomach when my mom received the cookie cutter remark from UNICEF,” says Ann Bates, Krystina’s mother, who is a pediatric intensive care nurse from Reading.

Bates began her journey as an adoptive mother six years ago after attending a seminar on international adoption at her workplace.  “After much searching and soul searching I was drawn to Rainbowkids website where waiting children with medical needs are listed to try and match them with families,” she notes.

There, she discovered a short paragraph about a 16-month-old girl name Krystina, who was diagnosed with a moderate developmental delay.

Krystina in Kyrgyzstan/Photo: Ann Bates

As with many programs over the past few years, the processing of international adoption in Kyrgyzstan slowed.  While waiting, Bates found information on a little boy in a Russian orphanage who needed a family.  In April 2010, she landed in Moscow.  “Nikolas joined our family and became a U.S. citizen on June 29, 2010,” she says.

When Nikolas first came home, he was developmentally delayed.  He did not talk. His gait was unsteady. He is now two-and-a-half and is all signs of developmental issues have been erased.  He runs.  He jumps.  He climbs.

“Most importantly, he knows he has a family that loves him.  He is rocked to sleep every night. He wakes up to the love of his family everyday,” she relates. “Sadly, he is a reminder every day of what Krystina and the other Kyrgyzstan waiting children are missing while stick in horrible political adoption delays are experiencing.”

Bates and many other pipeline families from around the country believe that UNICEF is behind the closing of international adoption programs around the world.

Eileen Bates and Nikolas waiting for Krystina/Photo: Ann Bates

According to Bates, in January 2009 UNICEF took Kyrgyz government officials to a resort in Isyk Kul for a round table on intrer-country adoptions.  Amid accusations of corruption within the adoption system, UNICEF recommended Kyrgyzstan shut down its international adoption program until it could revamp its laws or join The Hague.  

At that retreat, Bates maintains, UNICEF recommended that the pipeline cases like hers be allowed to go forward and be finalized. Then, several days later, without explanation, UNICEF reversed course.  Kyrgyzstan announced it was implementing a moratorium on all cases, including those with previously matched children and families like Krystina and Ann Bates.

“We believe UNICEF holds a large role in why we have not finalized our cases.  Both The Hague and the United Nations Treaty state that children should not be held in institutions when a suitable match has been identified,” Bates says. “We would like nothing more then for UNICEF to be presented with their own document that states they ‘recommended a moratorium but recommended pipeline cases be finalized’ and ask them to help make good on their recommendations.” 

For now, children like Krystina are trapped in a suspended system, living in sub-par conditions in deteriorating orphanages. 

“Without a doubt, UNICEF has the power and resources to make a positive difference in these cases. Instead, it has chosen to do absolutely nothing to help these children be united with their families.  UNICEF’s failure to advocate would be baffling, except that it is sadly their standard operating procedure all the world over when it comes to international adoption,” maintains Kelly Ensslin, an attorney with Smith MooreLeatherwood in Raleigh, North Carolina, who represents Bates.  “The majority of these children were referred as healthy infants to families that expected to be able to bring them home in short order.  As the years have passed, these children have grown into special needs preschoolers living in underfunded institutions with too few resources to meet their most basic needs.”

To date neither Eileen nor Ann Bates has received further communication from UNICEF.  And Krystina remains institutionalized in Kyrgyzstan.


Andrea is an adoptive mother and a journalist. She is at work on a book, “The Red Thread,” a collection of stories told by families united through adoption. She is also owner of Media Branding International, a public relations/media consulting firm. Read more The Red Thread: An Adoptive Family Forum in The Communities at The Washington Times.  Follow Andrea at Twitter @ANDPOE and @WTCLifesOnline.  Andrea can be found at Facebook @ Lifes Online at Washington Times Communities and @Andrea Poe and can also be found on LinkedIn.



This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

More from Red Thread: An Adoptive Family Forum
blog comments powered by Disqus
Andrea Poe

Andrea Poe is a veteran journalist, whose work has appeared in thousands of publications, including Town & Country, Marie Claire and Entrepreneur.  She is the author of several books and her work has appeared in many others, including anthologies and college textbooks. 

Andrea serves as editor of the Travel & Food section at The Washington Times Communities.  Her love of travel has led her to cover everything from remote villages in the Andes to her hometown of New York, from Paris to Pittsburgh, from Beijing to the Bahamas.  No matter where she travels, she likes to uncover the unusual and share with readers those often-overlooked aspects of a place and its people.  She dubs her column Raven’s Eye as a nod to her illustrious (and, yes, infamous) relative, Edgar Allan Poe, a writer who knew more than a little something about the quirky and unique.  

Andrea is also mother to Maxine, who was adopted from Vietnam in 2006, and is the inspiration for The Red Thread column on adoption at The Washington Times Communities.   Andrea is currently at work on a book on international adoption.

In addition to her work as mother, writer and traveler, she is the founder and president of Media Branding International, a consulting firm that helps individuals and organizations craft and promote their image in media outlets around the globe.

Find Andrea at andpoe@Twitter, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Contact Andrea Poe


Please enable pop-ups to use this feature, don't worry you can always turn them off later.

Question of the Day
Photo Galleries
Popular Threads
Powered by Disqus