Ethics in Adoption: Dr. Jane Aronson, the “Orphan Doctor”

This guest post was written by Grace Showalter. Although the views and opinions presented here may or may not necessarily be the same as “I Am Not the Babysitter”, we appreciate and respect the educated opinions of all mothers.
Dr. Jane Aronson, the “Orphan Doctor” is an invaluable asset to the international adoptive community. There is no doubt that her expertise in pediatric medicine for internationally adopted children has literally saved lives. Her work with the Worldwide Orphans Foundation is also wonderful and benefits so many children.


But, despite the priceless assets Aronson provides to the world of orphaned and adopted children and their families, I am concerned about the way in which she is accepted as an expert in all issues related to adoption, especially with regard to adoption ethics.


Aronson has written articles and given interviews that express her opinion that trafficking, fraud, corruption, and unethical behaviors are “not a problem” and “rare” in international adoption. Anyone who has been around my blog for any length of time knows that I do not share that opinion, and find little reason to give any credence to her views.Here are 5 common sense reasons why I think Aronson’s views of adoption ethics are faulty.
1. Aronson is not an expert in adoption ethics. None of her training has prepared her in any way to discover or validate the existence of fraud, corruption, or breeches in ethics in adoption. She is a physician and an philanthropist. She has not worked for any organization specializing in adoption ethics nor obtained any training in adoption ethics, that I can find. While I’m sure she has had some training in medical ethics, this does not make her an expert in adoption ethics in any way (I’m married to a physician with more advanced degrees than Aronson. Nothing in his training makes him an expert in any kind of ethics, but especially not adoption ethics.)2. Aronson claims that she sees “quirks” in adoption paperwork, but rarely sees instances of trafficking, fraud, or corruption. This may very well be true in her experience, but that does not mean that these ethical breeches do not occur. Aronson works almost exclusively with prospective adoptive parents to review medical files before they accept a referral, or with children who are newly adopted to address their health needs. The vast majority of ethical breeches in adoption are discovered well after a child has been home with their adoptive family for quite some time. Unless the ethical breech involved a drastic disparity in age or a medical issue, it would be rare that Aronson would even be privy to the family’s findings of corruption. Additionally, even if a family is aware of an ethical breech, it is often not clearly documented in adoption paperwork (which is primarily all that Aronson knows about a child/family) and many families chose to keep their discoveries private, even from physicians or other professionals involved in their child’s care.3. Aronson benefits financially from the business of international adoption. In fact, her entire medical practice is built on international adoption. It is a conflict of interest for someone who is benefiting financial from international adoption to promote the continuance of IA, especially when they are promoting IA by saying there aren’t ethical concerns in the process. Aronson makes statements belittling the experience of adoptive families and children who have lived through corruption, fraud, and trafficking, all while earning money from families who continue to pursue IA. It’s just like adoption agencies claiming that there aren’t ethical concerns in IA; it’s a conflict of interest, and as a result, the opinion holds little weight with me.

4. Aronson herself has participated in adoption fraud. In order to adopt from Ethiopia, Aronson fraudulently represented herself as heterosexual, aided by her agency. Whether or not one agrees with the Ethiopian guidelines that disallow adoption by gay and lesbian individuals and couples (I personally think it’s rubbish), the fact is that the openly gay Aronson perpetrated fraud in her Ethiopian adoption process, and her agency assisted her in doing this, perpetrating fraud as well. When an adoptive parent who has perpetrated fraud then claims that fraud is rare in IA, something just isn’t adding up. My guess is that Aronson is taking a view that “the end justifies the means” when it comes to fraud in IA, and discrediting examples of fraud, corruption, and trafficking as long as the child ends up in a “good home.”

5. GuatemalaVietnamEthiopia. There are so many documented cases of trafficking, corruption, and fraud in these countries that to claim they are “rare” is either ignorance or flat out lies. I don’t believe that Aronson is ignorant. Anyone who has been as intimately involved in IA as she has as a physician, philanthropist, and adoptive parent cannot claim ignorance. There’s just too much evidence. It’s more a matter of choosing to believe it or not.

Jane Aronson offers a wonderful depth of medical knowledge and experience to children and families of international adoption, and serves the orphans of  Bulgaria, Haiti, Ethiopia, Vietnam, and Serbia with her charitable work. She is a valuable asset to the children of the world. But just as one would not expect their lawyer to diagnose and treat heart disease, so we should not expect that a physician is qualified and knowledgeable in matters of adoption fraud, corruption, and ethics.
This guest post was written by Grace, an adoptive and biological mother of four, striving to live in The Way through practical love for others. She blogs about marriage, motherhood, and moving to the Deep South at

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Write a comment
  1. barb_aloot 25 March, 2013, 14:43

    I have felt uncomfortable reading Dr. Aronson’s comments about adoption ethics, but I have to say I’m uncomfortable with one of your points here. Do you know she misrepresented herself and that her agency was involved? MOWA operates mostly with guidelines, and over the years I’ve seen them change those guidelines and operate them with a degree of flexibility. Given Dr. Aronson’s involvement in Ethiopia, it seems strange MOWA would not know. Do you have more information about her adoption? Do you know if MOWA asked and she lied or are you assuming this because of MOWA’s current guidelines? (I believe she adopted her son before the big increase in ET adoptions, definitely before I found her website in I think 2008, and certainly many of the rules have changed in the last five years.) Your overall point is good, and I agree, but this jumps out as a bit personal, and I don’t know how anyone could know that kind of detail about someone else’s adoption.

    Reply this comment
    • graceling 26 March, 2013, 10:00


      Thank you for your comment. I agree that the point in #4 is deeply personal, and honesty considered not including the fact. However, I realized that fraud is ALWAYS personal, whether it is an adoptive parent misrepresenting themselves or someone changing information about a child or their first family. It’s always deeply personal.

      That said, let me present some well-documented facts.
      1. Aronson is openly gay, exchanged rings with her partner Diana in 2000, and they were living together and co-parenting at the time of their Ethiopian adoption.
      2. Aronson completed her Ethiopian adoption in 2004. (
      3. Homosexuality is illegal in Ethiopia and adoption by homosexual individuals is illegal. (This is not a new law, but every website I could find that addressed this had been updated recently and didn’t show data dating back to 2003/2004. However, to confirm that the aspect regarding adoption has been in place since prior to 2004, I contacted an individual working in Ethiopian adoption, who confirmed this law has been around “forever.”) ( (,,IRBC,,ETH,,47d6544e28,0.html)
      4. A home study, required by both the US (as part of the petition to bring a child into the US via international adoption) and by MOWA would require an examination of all adults residing in the prospective adoptive parent’s household, including interviews, fingerprints, relationship to petitioner, etc.

      I do not know that Aronson was asked by MOWA and of course I don’t know the details of any of the interactions between Aronson and MOWA (usually, PAPs don’t actually interact with MOWA), but given the above facts, it seems likely that MOWA didn’t know about Aronson’s orientation. Like most gay individuals who petition to adopt from Ethiopia, this was likely omitted from or glossed over in her home study. This would have required her agency to participate in perpetuating the fraud, as her home study social worker must have known the status of the relationship between Aronson and her partner, and purposefully omitted or misrepresented it for the purpose of adoption.

      Again, I agree this is very personal, and honestly considered omitting this point. But this is exactly the kind of “benign” fraud that is perpatrated by adoption agencies and first families. Often, they feel that they are justified in misrepresenting themselves (or their clients/children/first families in the case of agencies). I mean, come on, is it really a big deal if the father relinquishing a child misrepresents the mother as dead when in fact she has simply “taken off” and left him and their child, never to be heard or seen again? Many people would say no. But in the end, it is changing the child’s story and breaking Ethiopian law.

      In any case, I think even if that point were omitted, there is still a strong case against Aronson’s views of corruption in adoption. (And for what it’s worth, Aronson strikes me as a passionate, loving and compassionate individual and parent. I wish her and her family well.)

      Reply this comment
  2. Paula Flynn 3 January, 2014, 10:25

    I read your article in sadness. I would not have a family without Dr. Aronson. In my opinion your article in judgmental and not offering any solution. Dr. Aronson changes lives. What are you doing to be part of the solution? Until you have gone through the process yourself, you must not judge. Any statement you make is made out of ignorance.

    Reply this comment
    • Jamie Lynne Author 3 January, 2014, 15:11

      Grace is an adoptive mother and has been actively working in Ethiopia to address adoption corruption in Sidama region. I don’t think Grace disagrees with your opinion of Dr. Aronson as a wonderful adoption specialist. However, she disagrees with Dr. Aronson’s statements about ethical issues in trans-national adoptions.

      Reply this comment
    • Grace 3 January, 2014, 15:43

      Hi Paula,

      As Jamie mentioned, I have completed an adoption from Ethiopia and have been actively involved in the Ethiopian adoption community, as well as humanitarian work in Ethiopia, and advocacy work for ethical adoptions.

      Undoubtedly, Dr. Aronson is a valuable part of the care of orphaned and vulnerable children around the world. This was written specifically because Dr. Aronson is perceived as an expert in adoption ethics (often to the point that she actually dismisses the concerns and documented breeches in ethics that adoptive parents have found in their cases).

      I can tell you I am not ignorant to the breeches in adoption ethics that Dr. Aronson has publicly called “quirks.” She has failed to acknowledge the corruption that is documented in adoption cases, and instead dismisses them as idiosyncrasies in international adoptions. This is unacceptable, particularly because of her status as an expert in her field.

      There is no “solution” to offer other than to point out a problem and hope that this discussion will help prospective and adoptive parents to better understand that Dr. Aronson’s opinion about adoption ethics is of no more value than any individual’s opinion.

      PAPs and APs must be diligent in protecting the ethics of their adoption, seeking truth and clarity, and following through on every opportunity to connect their child to their origins.

      Reply this comment

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