In 2016, a family from Ohio adopted an orphan from Uganda but soon learned of a heartbreak for which no one could have prepared.
Seeking an Orphan
Jessica and Adam Davis from Ohio set out on a mission to help a child in need, adding a 5th kiddo to their bunch. They did some research and found that Uganda has one of the highest rates of orphaned children in the world. Therefore, they got in touch with Ohio-based adoption agency EAConsultants, and set out on a nearly $60,000 adventure.
Meeting Their New Girl
After a year of paperwork, and waiting, they finally met, Namata, lovingly called Mata. Her files stated she’d been neglected and starved by her mother and had never been to school. Meanwhile, her father had died. Consequently, it sounded, to everyone, as though the Davis family was helping a poor and starving orphan find a better life. However, the couple felt like something was off, and months later, they would come to realize what that gut feeling was all about.
Puzzle Pieces Come Together
Mata picked up English quickly, which likely would have been more difficult for someone who’d never attended school before. The first sign that the orphan may, in fact, have not been an orphan.
Pieces began fitting better together for the family when Mata had picked up enough English to tell her story. She would share with her new family how she and her biological mother had spent a lot of time together. Mata happily told tales of how she and her mother would cook and go to church together and how her mother would walk with her to school.
Reuniting the Orphan and Her Mother
The 6-year-old Ugandan girl was not an orphan. Now her new family was on a mission to reunite their girl with her biological family. Mata spoke with her biological mom over Skype, getting to meet her newborn baby sister.
Like all kids, Mata wanted to know why her mother had given her away. Despite the thrill of seeing her mother for the first time in a year, the conversation ended with Mata in tears. “My mom was tricked,” she repeatedly sobbed, “My mom was tricked.”
Falling Victim to Trickery
The orphan’s mother explained that she hadn’t intended for Mata to go away for good. In fact, Mata was only supposed to be gone temporarily, for a great educational opportunity. “I had not realized that I had gone through a process to take away my parental rights completely,” she said in sworn testimony on September 8th, 2016. Furthermore, she’d been led to believe that she would always be a part of her daughter’s life. Meanwhile, Jessica Davis was heartbroken and beating herself up for having, “participated in taking a child from a loving family.”
Wrongfully Selling Orphans
When this story came to light, CNN conducted an investigation, finding that multiple families were misled about the origins of their new family members and that many weren’t orphans at all. The families of these children were led to believe they would have been given a better education, and instead were sold to unsuspecting American families for around $15,000 each. According to UNICEF, nearly 1/3 of all detected victims of human trafficking are children.
Laws to Protect Orphans
For generations, people have been bought and sold as any other piece of property might be. However, people are living beings and as such, many countries have put laws in place to prevent this kind of mistreatment. The most important thing anyone can do to help prevent this, and other forms of abuse, is to thoroughly research any opportunity that might “be too good to be true.”
Many people in developing countries seek out the promise of a better life. It’s all any parent wants for their children. Sadly, people desperately looking to find a better route for their babies, become prey and are tricked into giving them up. Meanwhile, families unwittingly adopt orphans, who’ve been wrongfully taken from their homes.
A Mission for Change
Reunite is an organization that was founded in 1987 under a different name. However, their mission has always remained the same, reuniting wrongfully orphaned children, with their biological families. They started as a small organization, documenting around 70 cases of child abduction annually. They’ve since grown significantly and are now involved in conducting investigations, holding charity events to raise funds, and offer mediation for victims and their families.
Founder for the Uganda project, Keren Riley explains that “vulnerable” mothers are typically widowed and without anyway to provide for their families. Sadly, she also discloses that many of the traffickers include law enforcement, lawyers, and teachers. Furthermore, she said that it’s particularly easy to deceive Ugandan mothers because there is no word for “adoption.” Riley played an integral role in reuniting Mata and her birth mother, sharing in regard to Mata’s village, “A villager-turned-trafficker made a pitch at a local church and managed to get seven children into the adoption circuit, including Mata, who was sent to a place called God’s Mercy, about a four-hour drive away.”
“She was at an orphanage. No toys. Bars on the windows,” Jessica said of the first time she met the orphan she thought would become her daughter. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t the only “scandal” the adoption agency has faced, with some past employees admitting to “accepting bribery.” Therefore, it’s essential that people looking to adopt an orphan do extensive research. Regardless of how much faith you may put into an adoption agency or how burnt out you may be from the whole process, always double-check the facts.
When looking into an agency, referrals are a great resource. And always trust your first instincts. Typically, if something feels off, wrong, uncomfortable, or “too good to be true,” there’s usually an underlying cause for concern. You may not yet know it!
The journey to parenthood in any regard is taxing and emotional. However, there are thousands of children worldwide who need loving homes.
Keep Reading: After Closed Adoption, Woman Finds Her Birth Mother in an Emotional Reunion
- “Heartbreak as mum tricked into giving away daughter.” NZ Herald. November 27, 2017.
- “Kids for sale: ‘my mom was tricked’. CNN. Randi Kaye and Wayne Drash. October 13, 2017
Editor’s Note: The lead image is for representational purposes only and is not an image of any individual mentioned in this story.