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The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  853 ratings  ·  170 reviews
When Jessie Hawkins’ adopted daughter told her she had another mom back in Ethiopia, Jessie didn’t, at first, know what to think. She’d wanted her adoption to be great story about a child who needed a home and got one, and a family led by God to adopt. Instead, she felt like she’d done something wrong.

Adoption has long been enmeshed in the politics of reproductive rights,
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 23rd 2013 by PublicAffairs (first published March 5th 2013)
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Elizabeth No, it's written in a serious journalistic style. …moreNo, it's written in a serious journalistic style. (less)

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Shannon Cate
May 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
We in the adoption reform movement have long known that big problems hide behind sentimental, idealistic rhetoric when it comes to adoption. Joyce does a fabulous job of bringing out the true complexity behind simplistic assumptions about the needs of world-wide "orphans" and what is in their best interest.

Too often, adoption fills the emotional needs of adoptive parents or worse, fills the pockets of baby brokers in the U.S. and elsewhere.

If you care about children's (or their mothers' and fami
Maureen Flatley
Feb 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book about adoption ever written. Many excellent books have been written on the topic that address various aspects of adoption. However, Kathryn Joyce skillfully weaves together that history with today's grim realities on the subject. This book should be required reading in the White House, the State Department and Congress. Though adoption has become a multimillion dollar industry it operates with almost no meaningful regulation by the US government. Policy makers, hounded by a ...more
Apr 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I really wish I could write book reviews instead of blather on about not much.

The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking and the New Gospel of Adoption, is the best book about adoption ever written. (Full disclosure: I'm mentioned in the credits 4 times). Kathryn contacted me years ago when she was in the early stages of the book. I told her I didn't know much about international adoption outside of the murders of Russian adopatees in the US, but gave her a list of people who did. I'm happy to see
Apr 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion, non-fiction
Finally, 2013 delivers me a truly excellent, thought-provoking and challenging book. Immaculately researched and painstakingly balanced, the book is like a saunter along a maze of interlocking paths of good intentions, which all seem somehow, to lead inexorably to someone's hell. Joyce's book, however, isn't a blanket condemnation as much as an effort to raise the problems, in the hope of starting a conversation that might make things better.

I've had the Child Catchers on pre-order for some time
Alex King
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you have thought about adopting a child, you owe it to yourself to read this book. If you have adopted a child, particularly in an international adoption, all the more so. Please note that I'm not suggesting you will enjoy the ride, as the author deftly sucks you into a whirlwind of corruption committed in the name of rescuing orphans.

You may find yourself trying to argue with the book's conclusions, with the excuse that these are only the horror stories, that most adoptions turn out well. Mo
Elizabeth Stolar
May 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adoption-related
I'm not really sure how many stars I want to give this book. On the one hand, I am so glad I read it and I highly recommend it because it contained so much information, and gave some really good insight into some of the aspects that play into adoption. But on the other hand, there were some parts that were really glossed over, and some acceptance of groups like UNICEF that weren't really fully explored or addressed. While Ms. Joyce points out some very troublesome and problematic aspects of adop ...more
Feb 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
The measure of a good nonfiction book for me is to make me think about something differently. It's fair to say that after reading Kathryn Joyce's book, I will never look at adoption in the same way again. Though I'd always thought about adoption as something admirable but difficult, I didn't really have a great sense of how deeply the evangelical Christian movement was committed to adoption as means of spreading the Gospel. This is why you see tea party conservatives gather their multicultural f ...more
Sep 26, 2018 added it
As an adoptive parent this was both a tremendously useful and a very painful read. Many adoptive and prospective adoptive parents will benefit from it, refining their standards about adoption, dispelling some illusions and ultimately taking steps towards a more ethical adoption. Sadly many more will be horrified and averted from adoption alltogether.
This last effect of the book is the unfortunate one. The writer gets carried away by its polemic stance against the evangelical movement in the US t
Chris Pederson
Apr 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I didn't think that Joyce (or anyone) could write a book that could make me as angry as "Quiverfull". I was wrong. A look at how the evangelical view of conversion to Christ by adoption has wreaked havoc around the world, as mothers, fathers, and families are lied to and children turned into supply and demand commodities and how adoption agencies make millions at their expense. I'm no fan of the anti-sex movement in this country but Joyce puts together a terrifying picture of how CPC's funnel pr ...more
Jun 26, 2013 rated it liked it
This book certainly makes you think hard about international adoption. It's an area that seems rife with abuse, mostly in that many of the "orphans" adopted are not really orphans at all, and that often, parents are lied to about where their children are going, and made to think they are going to America on some kind of educational exchange. There were also fairly horrifying stories of families who adopted many children at once from Liberia or Ethiopia, and then were not able to handle the child ...more
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The most comprehensive overview of the good, bad and ugly in intercountry adoption. The Child Catchers makes clear how dollars influence intercountry adoption for the worse, making it virtually impossible to be sure that even the best-intentioned actions serve their intended purpose. Everyone living or working with intercountry adoption must read this book.
Dec 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
Very difficult to read as an adoptive parent. I felt like the author's view was *very* one sided...Much of the information was useful, but she was very harsh one adoptive parents. ...more
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an exhaustively researched (and sometimes just exhausting) expose of the emergence of a social calling for some evangelical American Christians, and the sometimes troubling ways their demands have been fulfilled.

Some large-family proponents have come to see adopting children from the developing world as not only rescuing the children, but also saving souls and socializing more human beings into their belief systems. On the surface, there's not too much to argue with here. I would rather
Full disclosure time. I have two cousins who are transracial adoptees. So I came into this book with some inherent bias. That being said, I was more than willing to give it a shot, especially since my colleague/friend Tami was singing it's praises and told me that I definitely had to give it a shot. So I immediately requested it from the library.

Basically this book is a look at the Evangelical movement and it's comparatively recent obsession with adoption. The conservative Evangelical movement
Kris Pryde
Jun 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Joyce brings to light the plethora of illegal and unethical practices that occur when adoption is treated as a big business. She does a particularly good job framing adoption as a largely ignored feminist issue and something that should be a larger part of the reproductive debate and discussion on the role of women in societies. She also breaks the myth of adoption as philanthropy, which it is decidedly NOT. It is an important life decision that affects the adoptee, adoptive parent(s), birth par ...more
Aug 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating book about adoption, but an aspect of it I knew nothing about - that in very recent years evangelical Christians have massively embraced adoption as part of their mission. Churches are encouraging members to adopt, but the adopting parents (and probably the pastors themselves) are not aware of the difficult ethical issues around adoption. Many of the "orphans" have family members, sometimes even parents, alive. Often the issue is poverty and/or difficulty reuniting childre ...more
Feb 11, 2019 rated it liked it
First, I worked for a private, Christian adoption and foster care agency. Although this agency was Hague-accredited, and partnered with Child Welfare in the State of Oklahoma, I did hear lots of the "Orphan Crisis" rhetoric (the focus of the early part of this book) from our clients. Fortunately, I heard our staff correct a lot of these, but the misinformation remains rampant in the upper-middle class, suburban evangelical churches our clients attend(ed). I was glad to see the author dispel with ...more
Oct 26, 2013 rated it liked it
The information in this book would be better covered in a magazine article. It seemed very long and redundant.

That said, the story of adoption needed to be written. It is so tied up with what women really need, to be supported both culturally and financially. When I was young, girls who got pregnant were sent away and never saw their babies again. There were plenty of babies for those who wanted to adopt. But the 70's happened and abortion became legal so there was a real shortage of adoptable
Nov 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Riveting. The next person who blithely suggests how great adoption is, and how selfish women are who chose abortion, will undoubtedly receive a recommendation to read this book.

The book starts by questioning the ethics of unregulated international adoptions - situations where children who have living parents or relatives who may want to care for them may be "rescued" to "better lives" with coincidentally rich, white American families - and continues on from there. It details the supply chain (Am
Jul 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adoption, foster-care
If you want one book that explains much of what's frighteningly wrong in the connection between evangelical Christians and adoption, this is it. Tight research, well delivered; nauseating realities.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in: adoption as a profit-based industry, corruption, child trafficking, marketing, hypocrisy, modern day slavery, and the perversion of scripture to justify child abuse.
Ron Morgan
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Anyone involved in adoption, or involved in adoption policy, should read this.
Sunjay Hauntingston
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found this book revelatory. I came into this book wanting to be more informed about what unethical and abusive practices to look out for in the adoption industry so I could warn friends and be aware if at some point in my life I decide to adopt. I'm about halfway through, and so far what I'm getting out of it is threefold:
1) Shock that what I had been told growing up in the church was simply lies. There is no shortage of adopted parents for young children, quite the opposite. Adoption is not a
Nikki Glassley
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Adoption is a business. And like many businesses, there's the positive, polished public persona- and then there's the truth.

I've been skeptical of the merits of international adoption for a while. There's good reason to feel "off" about international adoption- it's criminally flawed. And yet we've allowed feel-good stories to dominate how we think and talk about adoption of all kinds. Those stories are wrong. The abuses and corruption that occur in international adoptions are rampant and tragic
Entangled in the political juggernaut of reproductive rights, adoption is championed as a “win-win” compromise to a woman’s right to choice — abortion opponents “win” as the woman has not had an abortion, pregnant women “win” because they do not have to raise the fetus in question, and couples struggling with infertility “win” because they can finally become parents. Yet adoption is also entangled with serious moral and ethical dilemmas — as suggested by the subtitle of Joyce’s novel, “Rescue, T ...more
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I stumbled on this book as I was reading thread after thread of debate about U.S. abortion law, including the recent draconian laws passed in Alabama. I knew very little about adoption other than the coercive tactics women endured in the 1950s and 60s. I knew even less about international adoption.

Combine poverty (Guatemala, Ethiopia, Rwanda), with evangelism; add a dose of social shame (South Korea and the U.S.); mix a splash of colonialism with a big profit motive and you have The Child Catch
Feb 25, 2014 rated it liked it
I am an adoptive parent, and I am not an Evangelical Christian. I can't dismiss this book--it's important to recognize corruption, past and present, in international adoption. At the same time, the author is relentlessly negative about international adoption, and the religious organizations which promote it. She's certainly got some egregiously awful abuses documented here. But if she quotes a source critical of adoption, she often doesn't use quotation marks, just launches right into it like a ...more
Fascinating new conversation about orphans and vulnerable children. Having worked on international research in this area (the children, not adoption) it was eye-opening to see some of the trafficking/commodity aspect of decidedly needy kids. The misconception that we can "rescue" kids by shipping them out of their home countries and that there are millions to be rescued is so common. Very, very few kids in our research were double orphans with no family. Most were simply from families that were ...more
Terri Brimm
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Very I treating overview of the Evangelical Christian movement's effort to increase their numbers through international adoption. In some cases, the children had living parents who thought the children would eventually be returned to them. In other cases, the adopted children were nothing more than slaves who worked all day, had very little to no education and were treated horribly by the adoptive "parents."

But the biggest problem is the fact that these groups go in and run roughshod over the c
Jenn Meisenheimer
Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book is very repetitive and I think the point could've been made with fewer stories. However, the overarching point of the book is an important one and one that any family looking to adopt should consider. Good intentions, self-serving emotional needs, little preparation and the notion that adoption is a biblical calling have driven adoption to become a very lucrative business that may not be best for adoptees. Basically, we are dealing with a broken system, she makes that point repeatedly. ...more
Carly Thompson
Fascinating book about adoption and the role of the evangelical Christian community in promoting adoptions both in the US and oversees. This is a great work of investigative journalism into the current state of the adoption industry and reveals the ties between Christian adoption groups and government policymakers. Joyce gives a voice to all sides -- from Christian advocates and their adoption theology to children who have been adopted (both successfully and not). This was a rich rewarding book. ...more
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Mansfield Public ...: Child Catchers by Kathryn Joyce 1 10 Jul 29, 2013 03:14PM  

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Kathryn Joyce is an author and journalist based in New York City.

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