Recent Child Abuse and Neglect Allegations Hurting International Adoption

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DES MOINES, Iowa  —  Amid an Osceola couple’s child neglect and endangerment allegations in regard to their two children adopted from Africa, some people say international adoption could come to and end for certain countries.

Jake Sullivan is the founder of Acts 2 Collective, a faith-based non-profit organization that focuses on mission work to Africa. The group does not handle adoptions and did not have any involvement in Kenny and Kelly Fry’s adoption process, but Sullivan knows the international adoption process well. He and his wife adopted three children from Ghana, the same country from which the Frys adopted their two children before the accusations of abuse.

Sullivan says the international adoption process is especially long and complicated. It involves several state, federal, and private entities, including home visits, background checks, and vetting from the child’s country. Sullivan says recent abuse allegations could bring international adoption to a halt.

“There are many countries that are shutting its borders because of fear of these kind of situations, and what’s happening with these children when they come to the United States,” he says. “Countries are asking if it’s in their best interest for American families to adopt their children when most of them don’t understand the context, the culture, the people, or the country where they are adopting from.”

According to a Pew Research study, international adoptions are down 88% from 2004 from the five most popular countries from which children are adopted. China, Russia, Guatemala, South Korea, and Ethiopia accounted for 71% of all adoptions to the U.S. since 1999.

The adoption process can be stressful on both the parents and children; Sullivan says the lack of awareness between cultures can create tension.

“Kids in Africa have a lot more freedom to move about, then you get into the United States and we have lots of rules, restrictions. Our parenting style is much different than the African parenting style, so then you get those conflicts because you don’t understand the culture.”

Sullivan stresses the importance of parents looking to adopt having realistic expectations. He says parents often have a false sense of what the process will look like. He does not condone the allegations against the Frys, but says it’s something others looking to adopt can learn from.

“I think for some, it must break them down and cause these awful situations. I don’t think this family set out with the mind to abuse children.”

Channel 13 reached out to the Department of Human Services to learn about its involvement in the international adoption, process but did not immediately hear back.