lt was never her intent to give Mata up for good — that she’d been deceived. She had been told that Mata would be given a great educational opportunity if she was sent away but that she would one day return. That Mom would always be a part of her daughter’s life.
The Davises shared their story exclusively with CNN, saying they believe that Ugandan children like Mata are being trafficked, with American families not knowing the real stories behind their adoptions.
An investigation by CNN into this alleged trafficking scheme found that children are being taken from their homes in Uganda on the promise of better schooling, placed into orphanages even though they aren’t orphans, and sold for as much as $15,000 each to unsuspecting American families. CNN’s investigation discovered that multiple families were duped this way.
Mata wants answers. She wants to know why her mother gave her away.
By the time the call ends, Mata’s radiant smile has turned to sobs. “My mom was tricked,” she says. “My mom was tricked.”
Her mother told her it was never her intent to give Mata up for good — that she’d been deceived. She had been told that Mata would be given a great educational opportunity if she was sent away but that she would one day return. That Mom would always be a part of her daughter’s life.
Keren Riley of Reunite, a grass-roots organization that helps return trafficked children to their birth mothers, says facilitators on the ground prey on vulnerable moms, often widows, promising educational opportunities for their children.
The traffickers, she says, can include police and lawyers, teachers and local leaders. Complicating matters, there is no word for “adoption” in the language many Ugandan villagers speak, Riley says, so mothers are easily deceived.
“It’s easy to pull the wool over their eyes,” says Riley, who arranged the video reunion between Mata and her birth mother. Traffickers “know when somebody has lost a husband in a tragic way and is vulnerable and is not coping — and then they get flagged.”
That’s exactly what happened in Mata’s village, Riley says: A villager-turned-trafficker made a pitch at a local church and managed to get seven children into the adoption circuit, including Mata, who was sent to a place called God’s Mercy, about a four-hour drive away. That’s where the Davises met her: “She was at an orphanage. No toys. Bars on the windows,” Jessica said.
But the original orphan referral form that sent Mata to God’s Mercy painted a different picture, saying the mother was “helpless” and “can’t provide basic needs of the child for better growth.”
For the complete story CNN: Kids for sale: ‘My mom was tricked.’