We had an $8,000 fee that went to the social services institution in Taiwan. That fee was paid to our agency in the U.S. and they sent it to the institution in Taiwan. That fee I'm sure was less than they spent on her first 9 months of care, which included hospitalization and surgery. They didn't make money off of us. Now, the agency in the U.S. that worked with the institution in Taiwan, there were $3,000 of fees that went to them for their services. That went towards paying the salary of caseworkers, mailing/paperwork costs, etc., but they surely did make a profit from our fees.
My child was in the care of social services in Taiwan because her mother could not / would not care for her because of a special need. I have court records of the court case in Taiwan for which biological family members were required to be evaluated and worked with very much like social services works here or another big legal process would have had to happen to try to find them and eventually declare abandonment. Our daughter's biological family was involved. We have pictures of our daughter with members of her biological family. We met her biological parents. We heard from their mouths and in letters for our daughter the reasons for relinquishment. I guess it's possible it could be a horribly elaborate fraud, but I'm about as sure as it's possible to be that it wasn't. I didn't want to turn a blind eye to corruption. We intentionally chose a program that seemed very open. Our daughter will very likely be able to reunite with her biological family and we have a semi-open adoption right now where we send pictures and updates every 6 months, and we will always honor that.
Here's the ethical dilemma I find in international adoption. The poorest countries who GENUINELY have children who desperately need a home and truly don't have the resources to be taken care of in their country of birth also have the most corruption - corruption comes with poverty, desperation. The countries where there is an open process, such as Taiwan, almost always COULD take care of their own children and their children almost always should be able to stay there. My daughter, because of her special need, was a rare child that couldn't find a permanent family there. But, her medical needs would have been taken care of by the government because there is national health care and health care is good there, and she could have lived in foster care there. Would she have been better off growing up in foster care there or is it better to have a family of her own in a country halfway across the world? I honestly don't know. And maybe the answer is different for different human beings, so how should these decisions be made? It's just so complex, I don't think I'll ever completely wrap my head around it, but I don't run away from the issues.