Reporters on the Job

Poverty and adoption: Reporting today's story on illegal adoptions in Indonesia (this page) gave correspondent Simon Montlake insights on the forces that can prompt a family to give up a child.

Simon and his translator went by motorbike to a poor district in Jakarta where the birth mother lived - a place where the lanes were so narrow that a car wouldn't fit down them. After finally tracking down her house, he was surprised at how easy it was to convince her to talk to them.

"It was a very poor, bare-bones, two-room house," Simon says. "The family of six slept in one room, and lived in another. The mother invited us in, and we sat and talked on the concrete floor, with the husband and four children in attendance."

Simon thought it might be a topic the mother wanted to address privately, but he soon realized that privacy was almost unknown in the neighborhood. "About 10 people crowded around the door and more stood outside the door. I was a major attraction. The idea that she didn't mind discussing this in front of her neighbors seemed odd to me, but the neighbors may have been aware of the issue earlier, as the police had been involved. I did wonder how it must be for the couple's other children, sitting there and thinking perhaps that they were glad that they were kept by their parents. Overall, it was a very sad situation."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor

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