Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

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

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

3.6 3
by Kathryn Joyce

See All Formats & Editions

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


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, pitched as a “win-win” compromise in the never-ending abortion debate. But as Kathryn Joyce makes clear in The Child Catchers, adoption has lately become even more entangled in the conservative Christian agenda.

To tens of millions of evangelicals, adoption is a new front in the culture wars: a test of “pro-life” bona fides, a way for born again Christians to reinvent compassionate conservatism on the global stage, and a means to fulfill the “Great Commission” mandate to evangelize the nations. Influential leaders fervently promote a new “orphan theology,” urging followers to adopt en masse, with little thought for the families these “orphans” may already have.
Conservative evangelicals control much of that industry through an infrastructure of adoption agencies, ministries, political lobbying groups, and publicly-supported “crisis pregnancy centers,” which convince women not just to “choose life,” but to choose adoption. Overseas, conservative Christians preside over a spiraling boom-bust adoption market in countries where people are poor and regulations weak, and where hefty adoption fees provide lots of incentive to increase the “supply” of adoptable children, recruiting “orphans” from intact but vulnerable families.

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, now, pulpit command.

Anyone who seeks to adopt—of whatever faith or no faith, and however well-meaning—is affected by the evangelical adoption movement, whether they know it or not. The movement has shaped the way we think about adoption, the language we use to discuss it, the places we seek to adopt from, and the policies and laws that govern the process. In The Child Catchers, Kathryn Joyce reveals with great sensitivity and empathy why, if we truly care for children, we need to see more clearly.  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A natural extension of investigative journalist Joyce's 2009 Quiverfull, which probed a fundamentalist Christian movement with goals of re-establishing biblical patriarchy by encouraging women to bear large numbers of children, this volume examines America's Evangelical Christian adoption and orphan-care movement that has come to dominate domestic and international adoptions. Joyce will grab readers' attention with shattering accounts of birthmothers and adoptees from around the world. She skillfully navigates the global adoption system's layers of greed, corruption, and cultural blindness, identifying the faulty logic at the root of well-meaning yet harmful actions. From South Korea's well-oiled adoption machine that reinforces a cruel double-standard against single mothers and their children, to Rwanda's efforts to keep native children within its borders by bypassing agencies and de-institutionalizing orphanages, Joyce presents the enormous scope of big-business adoption. While international adoption is often called a "win-win" situation for everyone concerned, she provides ample evidence of a zero-sum game with single pregnant women and their children used as source and product for a lucrative industry. Joyce's report, backed by interviews with people on all sides of this complex issue, highlights the need to redefine what it means to "come home," a phrase embraced by the Christian adoption community and questioned by those on the losing side of the equation. Agent: Kathy Anderson, Anderson Literary Management (April)
From the Publisher

Kirkus Reviews
“Joyce broadens the understanding of adoption's conundrums, not only within the United States, but also internationally, with deep investigations of children from Liberia, Ethiopia, Korea, Rwanda, Haiti and China…Groundbreaking investigative and explanatory reporting.”

Anthea Butler, University of Pennsylvania

“Kathryn Joyce’s book The Child Catchers is a compelling, meticulously researched, and insightful dissection of Conservative Christians and their participation in the international adoption complex. Joyce unmasks this new fertile ‘mission field’ of children, defined by a labyrinth of adoption agencies, organizations, and activists. By unmasking the truth behind many of these ‘adoptions’ of children with loving but impoverished families, Joyce gives voice to the children hurt by this neo-colonial Christian mission. The Child Catchers is an important must-read in order to understand the business of adoption, and the pain that can befall the child’s biological family, the child and, at times, the adoptive family.”

Jeff Sharlet, bestselling author of The Family and C Street

The Child Catchers takes us for a fast and frightening ride down a road to hell that’s paved with ‘good intentions,’ yes, but also with willful ignorance and worse, outright deception. Joyce’s story—that of a new, religiously driven ‘baby scoop’ that amounts to a massive redistribution of children from the poor to the affluent—requires no sensationalism. The facts, presented here with care and fair-mindedness, are terrifying enough. And Joyce’s analysis, calm and powerfully perceptive, is devastating. May this book stand as a landmark work of investigative journalism.”

Jessica Valenti, founder of Feministing.com and author of Purity Myth and Why Have Kids

“Kathryn Joyce’s investigation into the rise of the Christian adoption movement is both fascinating and disturbing. In chronicling this mission to ‘save’ children from their home countries and perceived hardships, Joyce moves beyond the feel-good headlines to reveal a truth that most American media seems to have missed. The Child Catchers fills an important gap in the national conversation not just about adoption—but about imperialism and feminism as well.”

“Groundbreaking investigative and explanatory reporting”

Boston Globe

Erin Siegal, author of Finding Fernanda
The Child Catchers shatters conceptions about how and why Americans adopt, bringing us inside the often-misunderstood Christian adoption movement. Joyce's graceful prose deftly exposes the connections between adoption trade groups, the religious right, and U.S. policy makers, while delicately revealing a horrific series of ongoing crimes and misdeeds perpetrated against children. A timely, important book.”

Debbie Nathan, journalist,  co-author of Satan’s Silence; author of Women and Other Aliens, Pornography, and Sybil Exposed

“In this chilling expose that promises to become a muckraker classic, Kathryn Joyce rips the veil off a sacrosanct institution in America and other rich nations: international adoption.  She exposes not just black- and grey-market practices—though she finds plenty of both in evangelical-Christian institutions piously claiming to rescue orphans from poor countries.  More profoundly, though, Joyce reveals how secular, squeaky-clean adoption can also do harm, not just to individual birth mothers and adoptees, but to the progress of children’s and women’s rights globally. The Child Catchers is essential reading for adoptive parents, those thinking about adopting, and anyone concerned with democracy—nationally and throughout the world.”

Kirkus Reviews
Journalist and Religion Dispatches associate editor Joyce (Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, 2009) broadens the understanding of adoption's conundrums, not only within the United States, but also internationally, with deep investigations of children from Liberia, Ethiopia, Korea, Rwanda, Haiti and China. Perhaps the least publicized development within the adoption realm during the past few decades is the aggressive involvement of evangelical churches. Parishioners, even those with multiple biological children, are adopting orphans from overseas, as well as many children who have been wrenched from biological mothers (and sometimes fathers) as part of for-profit schemes. Some of the church members see adoption as a faith-based mission—as an alternative to abortion but also part of a biblical mandate to care for the oppressed and impoverished while simultaneously saving souls. Joyce explains that although such adoptions might seem like a win-win solution, in fact, birth mothers and families, especially in third-world countries, are torn apart by the international transactions. Joyce studied academic treatises and traveled widely across the U.S. and to locales in other nations rarely visited by tourists. The number of compelling anecdotes and case studies is impressive. Whenever ethically defensible, Joyce uses real names and normally indicates fictitious names when she saw no moral alternative. Although the overall picture is grim despite tsunamis of good intentions, the grimness is occasionally relieved by righteous individuals and institutions trying to do better. One of the relatively upbeat case studies focuses on the megachurch of celebrity pastor Rick Warren. He admits his evangelical members involved in international adoptions have not always proceeded perfectly, but Joyce suggests that he is sincere about learning from mistakes in a drastically shifting landscape. Groundbreaking investigative and explanatory reporting.
Library Journal
This intricate investigation of adoption ethics and religion is an incisive, evenhanded corrective to the view of child adoption as benign and salvific. Journalist Joyce (associate editor, Religion Dispatches; Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement) examines the rise of adoption as a practice and cause among American evangelical communities eager to save souls (by raising them in Christian households), prevent abortions, and care for the poor (thereby reclaiming a biblical mandate frequently dissociated from conservative Christianity). But the more than 150 million so-termed orphans and vulnerable children worldwide frequently have living family members, even grieving mothers, capable of raising them, circumstances seemingly lost in the mix of aggressive agencies, inadequate regulation, vulnerable families lacking understanding of the concept of adoption as permanent, and adoptive families with emotional and financial resources invested. Joyce details cases involving children from Haiti, Ethiopia, Liberia, Rwanda, South Korea, and the United States, shares the voices of a huge array of interviewees, and allows the facts to reveal how removing children from poverty has come to be seen as a virtue. Grim but not downbeat, Joyce's reporting also indicates signs of hope for reform. VERDICT This exemplary study deserves a wide audience among all readers involved with adoption, from policymakers to prospective adoptive families.—Janet Ingraham Dwyer, State Lib. of Ohio, Columbus

Product Details

Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Kathryn Joyce was chosen as Americans United 2014 "Person of the Year." Joyce is a journalist based in New York City whose work has appeared in the Nation, Mother Jones, Slate, the Atlantic, and other publications. A 2011 recipient of the Knight Luce Fellowship for Reporting on Global Religion, she has also been awarded residencies and fellowship support by the Nation Institute Investigative Fund, the MacDowell Colony, the Bellagio Center, and the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. She is the author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement and as associate editor at Religion Dispatches.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
NOT ONE STATEMENT IN THIS BOOKS IS DOCUMENTED TO DETAIL- NOT ONE! I was very anxious to read The Child Catchers because so much has been in the media about child trafficking.  The PREFACE begins describing conversations with "Sharon". Much of the content is descriptive and the author's opinion, so I read the author’s statements as such.  As I continued reading the first chapter, NEW LIFE, however, I became suspicious- the author quoted a variety  of individuals in positions of authority (Secretary Janet Napolitano, Bethany Christian Services, CNN, Haiti's prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, the Wall Street Journal, UNICEF, New Life Children's Refuge, the Southern Baptist Convention representatives  the Human Science Research Council....on and on.  I wanted to refer to the exact sources of these people/organizations but not one was footnoted in detail....not one.  Sure, there is a NOTES section (pp. 293ff) but this section is merely an extended bibliography, i.e., not one page number or specific source location is given.   I wanted to read the exact detail of several sources to verify not only the quoted materials but also the context of the source, but without success.  NONE of the sources are detailed.    Most readers do not have time to read an entire source included in the (foot) notes, so that's why page numbers are used-- to get to the source quickly and efficiently.  (This is a research convention.)    If a reader cares about sources and detailed documentation  then I conclude that the NOTES are useless and you may be very frustrated.   But, if your believe the author outright (just because she writes "it”) then you might enjoy the book.   Solid research gives the details.  This book does not.  In this sense, the author was inexcusably sloppy not including conventional notes.  Why did she make this choice?  So, the reader is left to conclude that you must believe her every quote or source, unless you have time to read the whole of each bibliographical source in the notes and/or bibliography.  There is no excuse for this especially from a seasoned journalist (didn't she learn about the importance of documenting here sources?)  It certainly draws suspicion about the content or the thrust of the book's position.  To this extent, I am VERY VERY disappointed reading this book, and if it survives to a second edition I hope the author will take the time to document  properly each quote and source.  Then, I would look forward to reading it. Footnote: I am an adoptive father.  I am not an evangelical Xian or a believer of any faith. I don't have an agenda.  I just want to know what the sources are when I read “research.”