It is illegal in Western countries to pay a woman to surrender her child for adoption. That said, adoption agencies in many developing countries frequently exploit the lucrative trade in children by charging foreigners desperate for a child as much as $25,000 or more, and promising the birth mothers thousands of dollars to give up their children.
For example, in Africa, it's clear the women don't want to give up their children. But the harsh economic climate, outbreaks of war, high mortality rates from AIDS/HIV and other diseases, and rampant famine have left thousands of children as orphans, and also pushed many women to the brink of economic desperation. Many of mothers who face these situations are pushed to seek alternative options.
The promise of financial gain for these mothers, in addition to the promise of a brighter future for their children, has led to the increasing "export" of African children. One Ethiopian commentator noted that adoption is becoming Ethiopia's new export industry, soon to overtake coffee as the country's major export. However, whether the mothers actually receive the promised payment from the adoption agencies and how much they receive is questionable.
In addition, the export of children in countries like Ethiopia is said to be encouraging more women to have children to earn an income by sending them out for adopting. On the flip-side of the coin -- the foreigners "buying" African children -- many are not only promising these children a better life, but are also moved to adopt the children after hearing about their plight (in many cases via the ads posted by the adoption agencies). The question arises as to whether such foreigners should be criticized or applauded for their actions.