Erin Siegal’s 'Finding Fernanda' Reveals Adoption Scams

Erin Siegel

Investigative journalist Erin Siegal appeared Feb. 16 on my Washington Update radio show to call for reform of pervasive corruption in international adoption based on her research for her new book, Finding Fernanda.

Siegal described to co-host Scott Draughon and me how adoption offers hope to millions but is complicated by pervasive corruption that the average American has few effective ways to thwart. Siegal, a fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University tracked how a Tennessee family’s attempt to adopt through a Guatemalan agency led to heart-rending allegations of child kidnapping and a massive scandal. Siegal provides a case study and in its wider implications.

Her book thus explains:

From 2003-2008, 20 percent of the 100,000 children adopted by United States families came from Guatemala—widely considered to have had the worst international adoption improprieties over the longest period of time. More than one source has referred to the business of adoption between Guatemala and the United States as “the perfect crime.” Until now, no one has provided a full picture of how it takes place. Finding Fernanda is a heart-wrenching tale that transports readers to the front lines of this important issue of adoption fraud.

The Miami Herald raved: "Heavy-duty investigative reporting and compelling personal testimony,"and the book has been named 2012 winner of the James Madison Freedom Award from the Society of Professional Journalists Northern California chapter. Hear the interview worldwide here on the My Technology Lawyer (MTL) radio network, originally live and now by archive. Mac users need “Parallels.”

Erin Siegal is an investigative journalist, photographer, and Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University. Her writing and photography have been published in such publications as the New York Times, Time magazine, Newsweek, Mother Jones, Rolling Stone, and more. She has collaborated on projects with NGOs, such as the Urban Justice Center, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations. Finding Fernanda is Siegal’s first book. Details: visit or follow her on Twitter @erinsiegal.


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What They’re Saying about Finding Fernanda In Reviews

"Reads like a mystery novel, but the facts it reveals are hauntingly true.... Siegal does a fantastic job of breaking down a complicated story... Finding Fernanda is a gripping read that offers glimpses of hope in what was an otherwise heartbreaking system."
─ The Christian Science Monitor

"‎Finding Fernanda may be the most illuminating book about abuses in international adoptions yet written. This is not just fearless public service journalism, but also a moving, acute, gracefully-written work of story-telling. Erin Siegal is an extraordinary young journalist."

Erin Siegel Cover

Francisco Goldman, author of Say Her Name and The Art of Political Murder

"Oh, what a story. It is hard to believe that such things go on in this world of ours, but Erin Siegel has woven a lively, well-researched and cautionary tale that is a must-read..."
─ Cathryn Jakobson Ramin, Author of New York Times best-seller, Carved In Sand: When Attention Fails and Memory Fades in Midlife

"Erin Siegal peels back layers of deception to reveal a twisting and engrossing saga of two deeply wronged mothers and the girl they both claimed. Her brave account is chilling, and should be required reading for policymakers and anyone who cares about children."
E. Benjamin Skinner, 2009 Dayton Literary Peace Prize Author, A Crime So Monstrous: Face-To-Face With Modern-Day Slavery

"Fernanda's story carries us into the darkest regions of the human heart... Erin Siegal has written a saga of seduction and betrayal so sinister that anger pushes you from page to page. Rarely has an investigative reporter unveiled so compelling a narrative of motherhood from Guatemala to Tennessee."
Wayne Barrett, investigative journalist and author of Trump: The Deals and the Downfall and Rudy!: An Investigative Biography of Rudy Giuliani

"Really will tug at your heartstrings... A moving story."
─ Dan Raviv, CBS Radio News