A blog post by the President of Small World, Inc., an adoption agency out of Tennessee, hit my computer screen with force this morning. And oh we went wild on the adoption forums. Particularly those of us who have seen the ugly monster of unethical adoption practices in all its scary, slimy, human trafficking disgustingness were rattled by the possible implications of what the agency president had to say. It’s like PTSD or a not-quite-healed wound…get too close and the flashbacks begin. We felt it. And you could tell by our quick, though mostly compassionate, response.
I do not have any personal experience with Small World, so I thought I would do a quick “agency background check” for my own personal edification…and maybe it will be helpful for you.
First, if you have not read the blog post, go here and scroll down to see it on their website. If you do not want to click over, here is the content from that blog post:
A lot is happening with our Small World Family
Praise God !!
You are not going to believe how God worked today at CCCWA. I’ll try to give you a brief overview.
1. We have been requested and we accepted to begin a “Social Orphan Program” beginning at Chongqing , the largest city in China (over 30 million people not far from Chengdu. That means children being raised by family or others than their parents may be adopted by Small World Families working with civil affairs and CCCWA to.
2. We have been assigned another partner orphanage Qujing China near Kunming.
3. We have been approved to take families to orphanages for our “Small World’s Hope and Choice” program, where our approved families can literally choose their children for adoption up close and personal. The matching can actually take place while they are visiting the orphanage.
4. We have Chinese orphans scheduled to come to Tennessee for our camp this fall, where approved families can also choose their child to adopt and be matched while the children are at the camp.
5. CCCWA is referring expats to Small World for adoptions due to our recognized 29 years of experience in expat adoptions and our American employees stationed China and around the world.
6. We have been requested to conduct at least 2 medical missions to our partnership orphanages in China this year.
7. We are expecting to receive 2 more orphanage partnerships after Chinese New Year in the Xiamen Area.
8. CCCWA has offered to host Small World’s in-country caseworkers training this year at the CCCWA offices in BJ.
9. CCCWA is planning to travel to Nashville this year and meet with all Small World staff and go to musical shows in Nashville.
Whaaaaaaaaaat !!!!!!!!!! God is so good.
There are a few things about this article that are cause for concern…
The idea of social orphans being adopted internationally.
The ability to choose a child to adopt in person.
Orphans coming to the States for camp (a whole other kettle of fish we should discuss sometime).
The big issue that jumped out at me was the cozy relationship Small World seems to be developing with the CCCWA. This is a political game…and a potential power play by the in-country authorities. The “better” and more enmeshed an adoption agency’s relationship with the CCCWA, the more likely I am to see cause for concern. As China adoption families we, for whatever reason, accept dishonesty as normal and acceptable behavior from the Chinese. This is fundamentally wrong and a massive risk when we are talking about the social origins of children we want to adopt. Every detail should be true. An agency must be willing and able to question the in-country authorities and if there is any chance an agency is being strong-armed or threatened to accept “facts” without question or lose their spot at the favored table, we must pay close attention. The slippery slope between ethical adoption and an adoption scam or, God forbid, human trafficking is a steep and fast one.
Financials, BBB, and Reviews
In a quick review of Small World’s Form 990s from 2004 and 2013, I do not see anything to make me concerned. They are a small agency. They seem to be family run. They do not pay their social workers exceptionally well. They pay their president very well, by adoption agency standards.
Their rating with the Better Business Bureau is an A+, but please take that with a grain of salt…okay a whole salt shaker of salt. There has never been a BBB complaint filed against Small World, but note, it is nearly impossible to file a BBB complaint against an adoption agency. Nearly impossible.
Reviews of Small World seem to be good. In fact the scathing reviews I found were actually about another agency in Missouri with a similar name. I would actually be interested to hear from a few Small World families who were not outrageously thrilled by their experience. They exist…they just have not posted publicly.
Despite any excuses like “poorly written” or “worded incorrectly”, I believe the president and founder of Small World, Inc. said precisely what he meant to say. Watch out for the warning signs of trafficking.
If you are already working with them and love them, awesome. There may not be a huge risk for you.
If you are considering the idea of beginning an adoption with them, awesome. Get everything in writing and record your phone calls and interviews. When a major ethical infraction happens (not if, friends), you will need to prove every bit of your claim against the business with recordings and documentation. Hopefully there will never be an actual ethical problem with your adoption through Small World…that is my sincere hope…but better to be prepared.