Baby probe halts adoptions; could jeopardize lives
29 August 1982

Baby probe halts adoptions; could jeopardize lives

By RICHARD S. EHRLICH, United Press International | Aug. 29, 1982

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An Indian government probe of charges that a Calcutta children's shelter sold infants for profit has halted legal adoptions of Indian orphans by American couples, the agency's president said Sunday.

The lives of some infants -- already undernourished or ill from life in Calcutta's slums -- could be jeopardized by further delays, according to American and Indian coordinators of the adoption process.

'Right now everything has come to a halt,' Cherie Clark, president of the International Mission of Hope, which operates the shelter, said in a telephone interview from Calcutta.

'We have children ready to send,' Mrs. Clark said. 'Right now we have two children who have passports and visas. We're reluctant to send them because we don't want to alienate anyone down here.

She said the shelter is still under investigation by the state government but expressed hope 'we're going to be exonerated of all charges.'

Allegations of a baby-for-sale racket were made Aug. 22 in the London Daily Mail, which charged that American agencies were rounding up hundreds of infants from Calcutta slums and selling them to unsuspecting couples abroad for about $3,480 each.

A government investigation was ordered -- stalling adoptions for at least 30 babies who already had clearance to be sent to American couples.

Mrs. Clark said the Daily Mail report 'misinterpreted' her remarks. She said the Mission, which receives a $25,000 per month subsidy from its parent firm in Denver, Colo., operates a shelter and 'is not an adoption agency.'

'We're a bunch of people down here who care about children,' she said, 'and if they're so fortunate as to survive, we place them for adoption' through other agencies.

The delays sparked outrage in the United States where officials of the responsible agencies maintain that any money paid by the couples is for transportation, medical and legal costs.

Jodie Darragh, director of the Americans for International Aid, a Marietta, Ga.,-based volunteer group that provides escorts for infants traveling to the United States, called the allegations 'garbage.'

'I can't understand why anyone would want to do this to children,' said Mrs. Darragh, who was in New York for a conference of the North American Council on Adoptable Children.

Nancy Fox, executive director of Americans for International Aid and Adoption, a Birmingham, Mich.,-based adoption agency that works with Mrs. Darragh's group, said the investigation would damage the integrity of humanitarian adoption programs.

Patrick O'Meara, a Minneapolis attorney contacted by the Mission to look into the charges, called the damage to the Mission's work 'pretty substantial.'

In Calcutta, Mrs. Clark said that if she receives permission from the appropriate authorities conducting the investigation, two babies ready for adoption could go to America Tuesday.