LIBERIA: Inter-Country Adoption: The Horrible Ripple Effects of False Accusation

By Francis W. Nyepon

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
August 14, 2009


The horrible, false accusations with which the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOH) smeared the reputation of the West African Children Support Network (WACSN) in a dispute over bogus charges of child trafficking are having an adverse ripple effect on the image ofLiberia in the United States. It can be recall that several months ago, the Deputy Minister of Social Welfare in the Ministry of Health, Mr. Joseph Geebro, granted interviews to media outlets in the United States disseminating misleading and ambiguous information about Inter-country adoption in Liberia involving WACSN. In a telephone interview with the Eden Prairie Star Tribune of Minnesota, USA, the deputy minister falsely accused WACSN, a reputable children’s support agency of smuggling children out of the country without proper documentation when in fact; two of the children in question were in the care of the government and the other in the care of a biological grandmother.

The deputy minister was very aware of the fact that the phony charges against WACSN were concocted by his co-worker Lydia Sherman in a calculated and politically motivated move due to the lack of WACSN providing inducement and incentives for work related activities to her. Notwithstanding, what the deputy minister selectively chose not to mention is the fact that WACSN has been the only children services agency in Liberia that provided food, medicine, clothing to orphanages and children during the critical years of the Liberian civil war (1999-2003). According to the former Minister of Health, Dr. Peter Coleman and the President of the Association of Orphanages in Liberia, Madam Diana Davis, “WACSN stood in the gap during those critical years of the Liberian civil war when the Government of Liberia under the presidency of Charles Taylor was missing-in-action”, and many Liberians now serving in government took refuge and sanctuary outside of the country.

According to a high level official in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, who also served in a senior level position in the MOH (2000 to 2006), who spoke on condition of anonymity because she is not authorized to speak on a pending matter, states that: since 1997, every official in the MOH was made aware that WACSN has been singlehandedly providing generous and extensive services to Liberian orphanages and children irrespective of their ethnicity, social status, religion or class. She reiterated a well known fact that many average Liberians already know that WACSN gained notoriety during the height of the Liberian civil war when it transported and provided food, clothing and medicine to starving children and families at the war front in Lofa, Nimba and Bong Counties. Rather than Mr. Geebro and Ms. Sherman tarnishing the reputation of this great Liberian Children’s Institution that stood in “the gap” during the critical stages of the Liberian civil war, they should be singing the praises of WASCSN. More than that, they should join WACSN in furthering its cause to provide unbridle and unconditional support to poor families and all the Children of Liberia.

Recently, some American adoptive parents expressed serious concern over the manner in which they were treated by officials at the MOH when they were prevented from taking their children out of Liberia after obtaining a Court Decree granting them the legal right and permission to adopt several Liberian children. Their concerns were also translated to other American families waiting and wanting to adopt Liberian children; including Americans wishing to engage in private investment in Liberia. The customary ugly tactics used by these officials at the MOH against WACSN have far reaching and long term effects on people who want to help Liberia other than just adopt Liberian children. Since Americans became involved with Liberia through inter-country adoption, many have had a desire to do much more after their adoption experience was completed. Many in their own way became goodwill ambassadors for Liberia by encouraging others to take a second look of Liberia and assist its people in a positive manner through business, social development and philanthropy. By attempting to ruin the integrity of WACSN, one wonders if these officials at MOH are not also accusing Americans who adopted Liberian children of also engaging in child trafficking. Is this the kind of message that the MOH should be sending at this critical stage in this post war period of he country?

“This behavior is preposterous and could have a negative ripple effect on the people-to-people relations between Americans and Liberians,” say Dr. and Mrs. Kenneth Piety of Tennessee, USA. According to the Pietys, after seeing how the Government of Liberia works through the MOH, many Americans have become very disheartened and disillusioned to think that they could be of any real help to Liberia. Thanks to these two officials in the Department of Social Welfare, at the Ministry of Health, their actions have done Liberia a real disservice. Innocent children, which due to no fault of their own, find themselves embedded in communities that are caught in a cycle of disease, poverty and dehumanizing living conditions. This author believes that Inter-country adoption is the best alternative for unparented Liberian children.

It is sad to see a mother or father who desperately wants another family to parent their child not given that choice. In other words, by Liberian parents opting to have their children adopted freely and justly under the Domestic Relations Laws of Liberia, without remuneration or coercion is not unethical or a crime. The manner in which a few in the Department of Social Welfare at the Ministry of Health have treated Liberian parents and their adopted children speaks volumes to anyone in America desiring to help Liberian families. Many Americans have even questioned the utility value of aid money their government has earmarked for Liberia when it appears that the MOH cannot be trusted with equitably dealing with the least amongst its citizens, the innocent children.

When Judge James Zotaa in “Criminal Court A” ruled in May that 35 children from WACSN were illegally removed from the organization’s compound without a court order, there was absolutely nothing done by the minister of MOH to right that wrong. The MOH refused to admit that a mistake has been made. Due to bureaucratic pride the MOH refused to return the children to WACSN without cause. This act was in fact an absolute disregard for justice and the rule of law. This author genuinely believes that those in the leadership of MOH need to consider not only the impact the MOH is having on innocent children, but the illegally manner in which the children were removed from the WACSN compound without a court order. Also, what about the shame that the MOH have brought to Liberia with this illegal action and its blatant disregard for the rule of law by not honoring the decision of the court?

Let us call to order those in the MOH who haven’t yet heard that ‘corruption is public enemy number one’, in the Sirleaf administration, but still choose to perpetuate corruption as a de facto way of life in Liberia. The days of Charles Taylor are gone; hence, a handful of misguided individuals at the MOH cannot be allowed to bring disrepute to the Sirleaf administration or Liberia for that matter. Just because WACSN refused to provide inducement when propositioned, is that sufficient reason why the character of this reputable organization should be tarnished? Isn’t it a fact that all Liberians are trying to build a new political dispensation under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf? Isn’t it also a fact that the president is trying her best to change the society and the mindset of our people? Don’t Liberians desire to see the country evolve into a democratically driven society where the personification of integrity, honesty and a deep sense of purpose and nationalism can be achieved?

The MOH should reestablish its cordial working relationship with WACSN as it once did and collectively work to improve the lot of all Liberian Children. WACSN is a Christian based NGO that works with children, families and community-base groups to strengthen local people. Its Pastoral Network comprises of 800 grassroot churches and 1000 Pastors that promote the body of Christ in Liberia through sustainable development projects and protection of the environment. The founder of WACSN believes that the children are the future of Liberia. Henceforth, who will protect and guide them if it doesn’t first begin with the MOH, Providers and Advocates? Where would the children be, if they are not nurtured properly in becoming productive and upright citizens? How would Liberians develop the country, if children are not given a positive direction on the way forward to change their attitude, behavior and mindset? Liberians must fundamentally improve the livelihood of those living at the bottom of the social strata, and that especially include the innocent and helpless children.

About The Author: Francis Nyepon is managing partner of DUCOR Waste Management in Liberia. He is a policy analyst and vice chair of the Center for Security and Development Studies, and serves on several boards of humanitarian, environmental and human rights organizations in the United States and Liberia. He can be reached

© 2009 by The Perspective

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