Book Review: The Child Catchers

Our Kara Lucas, MSW, reviews the controversial title by journalist Kathryn Joyce, which takes readers inside the evangelical Christian adoption movement.  Here’s what Kara has to say:

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Description: The Child Catchers is a shocking exposé of what the adoption industry has become and how it got there, told through deep investigative reporting and the heartbreaking stories of individuals who became collateral damage in a market driven by profit and personal beliefs.

Review: This book had me thinking long after I finished it, and it has taken me nearly two weeks before I finally drew the courage to sit down and write a review. At first, I had to decide quite simply how I felt about the book, how much of it I believed, how much of it I still questioned, and whether it had me thinking about adoption in a new way.

As an adoption social worker, I will always be undoubtedly pro-adoption; I have seen too many legitimate children in need of forever homes, and have met and worked with so many amazing families who have opened their hearts and lives to them. That being said, like any formalized institution, adoption undoubtedly has its flaws, and I think that it is important to examine critically the problems in adoption and explore ways to make adoption better.

While I appreciated The Child Catchers in many ways, I was disappointed to find it extremely biased in nature. To begin with, The Child Catchers seeks attention from its reader. The very name of the book is titillating and titled as such to shock–are people “catching” children in the sense of saving them from a worse fate, or are they “catching” them, as in “snatching” them from their families and countries of origin? While it would seem these questions would be fairly explored throughout the book, I would argue that that the stronger sentiment would be in favor of the “child snatching” perception of adoption.

The books is very critical of domestic adoptions past and present. It summarizes the Baby Scoop Era of the early days, and provides stories of young girls being forced into maternity homes and given virtually no choice in placing their babies for adoption. While I deeply sympathize with women who have gone through this experience, I would argue that as a community, we have come a long way with honoring and supporting birthmothers, open adoption, and acceptance. Ms. Joyce argues that modern domestic adoption has many flaws, including adoption social workers failing to give proper counseling towards grieving birthmothers. And while I appreciated the criticism, I wondered if she ever thought domestic adoption was appropriate, because she never gave a positive example of one.

Ms. Joyce discussing in depth the modern phenomenon of the rising numbers of Christians adopting, and the corruption that can ensue as a result in developing nations. It was heartbreaking to learn of the different corruptions and atrocities present in various Third World countries: outright child kidnapping, not adequately advising birth families of their rights prior to relinquishment, and falsifying adoption documentation to make a child-available’s profile more “appealing.” Such situations are worthy of criticism, however I found myself asking: does Ms. Joyce ever think it is appropriate to adopt from a foreign country? And what about the truly orphaned child?
I feel that these questions were never truly answered.

Target Audience: Regardless of my criticisms of the book, I feel that this is an important work, in that it should and will encourage much thoughtful discussion within the adoption community. I feel that every adoption professional should read this book, and take an opportunity to look at their own practices, especially as how they relate to domestic adoption. This book will be very relevant to every adoption professional, adopting family, and people interested in adoption.

Strengths: Meticulous journalism, she interviewed many people and travelled overseas to several countries over a long length of time.

Weaknesses: Comes across as particularly biased against adoption in all forms, in all circumstances.

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Child Catchers

  1. Sheryl says:

    Great comments. I’m not in the field of adoption, but I am always interested in reading about the struggles and then successful blending of children into new families. From your review, I wonder what was the purpose for this book? Did the author offer any solutions to her named deficiencies in the system or “what else” to do? I suppose her book would make one really invest time and energy into finding the “right” agency before following through. Hopefully that will be an up side to the book, and not further deterrent for some!

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  2. Thanks so much for the positive comments. Yes, that was my main concern–that there was no real fleshed out “solution” to the problems she depicted. I would hate to see adoption disappear as a choice because of some holes in the system. I encourage you to read the book to check it out. 🙂 Thanks again for stopping by our blog!

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  3. Elizabeth says:

    I agree about the bias. Dawn Davenport at Creating a Family interviewed her and had many of the same questions you do. Fascinating!

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