NCFA on Wars and Webinars: Ethiopian, Russian, and Ukrainian Adoptees

Why is the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) holding a webinar for families with Russian and Ukrainian adoptions, yet has not held anything for families with Ethiopian adoptions?

The NCFA Facebook page says: “As the crisis has unfolded in Ukraine, NCFA is aware that adopted individuals with roots in Ukraine and Russia, and their families, are grieving and grappling with how to process these events.” NCFA is hosting a free webinar next week, “Supporting People in the Adoption Community with Roots in Ukraine and Russia,” with a panel of adoption agency professionals to provide guidance and expertise. This could be valuable and important for these families; I respect, applaud, and support that.

I am curious though.

Ethiopia has been experiencing a horrific civil war since November 2020. NCFA has held no webinars offering guidance and resources for Ethiopian adoptive families. Why is that?

From the BBC:

“In Ethiopia, the last 16 months have been hell.

In the north of the country, as a result of a conflict in Tigray, more than two million people have been forced from their homes.

In addition hundreds of thousands face starvation, and the government has been accused of blocking deliveries of aid and essential medicines – something it denies.

There is mounting evidence that war crimes may have been committed by both sides, include mass killings and widespread use of rape as a weapon of war.

On the scale of human suffering it is surely on a par with anything else that is grabbing the world’s attention.”

Why has NCFA, by their own description the “leading expert on adoption issues, providing resources and education for all people and organizations in the adoption world,” been totally silent on Ethiopia? There are some 15,000 Ethiopian adoptees in the United States, and thousands more around the globe.

Yet NCFA has offered nothing for them or their families.

Many Ethiopian adoptees are deeply worried about their Ethiopian families. Many have family members who have been killed, maimed, and starved. Many adoptive parents struggle to explain the complexity and devastation of the war to their adopted children. Ethiopian adopted individuals and their families, like the families with children from Russia and Ukraine, “are grieving and grappling with how to process these events.” NCFA’s webinar will host adoption agency representatives (not, as best I can tell, adopted adults from or citizens of those countries) to provide the insights and leadership.

Adoptions from Ethiopia ended in 2018. Adoptions from Russia ended in 2013. Adoptions from Ukraine are still happening, though the numbers have been increasingly low and obviously the situation is very complicated now.

NCFA will, in this upcoming webinar, “provide guidance and clinical expertise for navigating this challenging time” for the Russian and Ukrainian families.

But not, apparently, for families with Ethiopian adoptions.

Why is that?

You can ask NCFA directly here:

Phone: (703) 299-6633
Media Line: (703) 718-5375
Emailncfa@adoptioncouncil.org

“Lions Roaring Far From Home” Anthology by Ethiopian Adoptees: Cover Reveal

We are delighted to share the cover of our upcoming anthology, “Lions Roaring Far From Home.” The artist is Nahosenay Negussie.

© Lions Roaring Artwork by Nahosenay Negussie

Nahosenay Negussie is an astonishingly talented artist based in Addis Ababa. Nahosenay has had many well-received international shows, and his work has been commissioned globally. His paintings are full of rich colors and textual details; the style has been compared to Gustav Klimt in its energy.

I met Nahosenay in 2016 when a group of artists and writers traveled together with authors Jane Kurtz and Caroline Kurtz, American sisters who grew up in Maji, Ethiopia. Jane has written several books with Ethiopia themes, and she developed the Ready Set Go books for Ethiopian children via Ethiopia Reads and Open Hearts Big Dreams. During that 2016 trip, Nahosenay was a stellar role model for children, teaching them art and encouraging their skills. One example is the illustrations for Talk Talk Turtle, the first Ready Set Go book, which has been published in English as well as Afaan Oromo, Tigrinya, and Amharic.

We feel incredibly honored to have Nahosenay’s talent and incredible imagery on the cover of our book.

“Lions Roaring Far From Home” is not yet available, and we will soon be announcing the publication date. It is a collection of essays and poems by 33 Ethiopian adoptees who live in seven countries: the US, Canada, Belgium, France, Sweden, The Netherlands, and Australia. The writers range in age from 8 years old to over 50. Each one shared their truth with insight and candor. They bring a variety of perspectives and experiences to their writing. There are themes of identity, grief, loss, joy, faith, and resilience; there are also themes of racism, suicide, anger, and hope.

We hope you enjoy this beautiful cover. Thank you, Nahosenay!

Stay tuned for more book details soon. Thank you to my wonderful co-editors, Aselefech Evans and Kassaye Berhanu-MacDonald, who also contributed powerful essays. I am so grateful to each of the writers in the anthology. Your voices—the voices of adoptees—are valuable and deeply appreciated.

Margaret Cole of European Adoption Consultants Pleads Guilty to Fraud in International Adoption

Margaret Cole of European Adoption Consultants, a now closed adoption agency in Ohio, admitted February 4, 2022, that she was guilty in the case of a child adopted fraudulently from Poland. Cole was expected to go to trial next week on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and of making false statements to Polish authorities. Two other agency staffers (Debra Parris and Robin Longoria) had already admitted guilt and will be sentenced in March. Cole will be sentenced in May.

The U.S. Justice Department issued a press release about the case. They note that “According to court documents, Margaret Cole, 74, of Strongsville, Ohio, admitted to conspiring with Debra Parris and others to deceive authorities regarding the adoption of a child from Poland.  When Cole learned that clients of the adoption agency determined they could not care for one of the two Polish children they were set to adopt, Cole and her co-conspirators took steps to transfer the Polish child to Parris’s relatives, who were not eligible for intercountry adoption.

Cole, Parris and others agreed to defraud U.S. authorities to conceal their improper transfer of the Polish child.  Following the adoption, the child was injured and hospitalized while living with Parris’s relatives. (See my note below: the child was horrifically abused.) Thereafter, Cole made a false statement to the Polish authority responsible for intercountry adoptions about the transfer of the child that, among other things, concealed the role of Cole and others in arranging the transfer of the child to Parris’s relatives.”

Last November, Debra Parris pleaded guilty to fraud in adoption from Poland and Uganda. The staffers of European Adoption Consultants had been indicted for fraud and other charges by the U.S. Justice Department last August. Cole’s trial was to begin this week. Instead, she pleaded guilty to the charge involving a child from Poland.

Sentencing for Parris will be on March 9, 2022. Cole is scheduled to be sentenced on May 27.

I hope they receive maximum sentences. I wish that the children and the families were able to receive justice as well. May they heal from this tragic crime.

Content warning: Child abuse

The child adopted from Poland was placed with John and Georgiana Tufts. John Tufts is the son of Debra Parris. John Tufts initially said he was innocent of horrific child abuse. In 2019, he was convicted. He was sentenced to 48 years in jail. I deeply grieve for that child, and for all the children and families that we do not know about who were deeply harmed by those who worked in this adoption agency.

New Novel by David Guterson about the Hana Williams’ Case

David Guterson is the prize-winning author of Snow Falling on Cedars and other books, and is also an adoptive parent of an Ethiopian child. I met him while attending the Hanna Williams’ trial here in Washington state in the summer of 2013.

Guterson has recently published a novel, The Final Case, based on Hanna’s death and the trial. I have placed a hold on it at my local library, and will post my comments here after I have read the novel.

Having attended almost every day of the trial, I have vivid memories of the people involved: the defendants Larry and Carri Williams, their children (some of whom testified at the trial), the prosecuting and the defense lawyers, the many witnesses. I have written about the trial extensively here on my blog. It will be interesting to see how much adoption as such (trauma, fraud, oversight, etc) is a part of the novel.

It is also interesting to consider the decision to write a novel as opposed to a nonfiction book about Hanna’s story. I am guessing that could be to avoid potential litigation. Beyond that, perhaps a work of fiction will bring more readers? I don’t know. The fictionalization of Hanna’s life and death gives me pause, and I am not sure just why. I look forward to reading the book. I hope Hanna is never forgotten. Maybe that is part of the book as well. May she rest in peace and in power.

Hana Alemu (Williams)

Twitter Chat December 16 on Adoption and Suicide

On December 16 (December 17 in some time zones), United Suicide Survivors International will host a Twitter Chat to #ElevatetheConvo about adoption and suicide.

I am honored to be among the panelists: it is a wonderful group. The subject is a tough one, and it deserves visibility. We are all focused on suicide prevention, and on hope and strength for our community.

Please tune in!

Resources (U.S.): 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255; counselors will respond.

You can also text 24/7 to 741741; counselors will respond.

Help is available. You are not alone.

Sweden to Investigate International Adoptions

The government of Sweden is the most recent to announce that it will investigate “irregularities” in the last 60 years of international adoptions, focusing in particular on China and Chile.

Around 60,000 children have been adopted to Sweden, most originally from South Korea, India, Colombia, and Sri Lanka.

Results of the investigation are expected to be released in November 2023.

In February 2021, The Netherlands froze international adoptions after adult adoptees raised concerns about adoptions from Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. A government commission found some adoptions, dating back to the 1960’s and through the 1990’s, where children had been stolen or bought.

An additional article about Sweden’s investigations from February 2021 is available here.

“Is Pro-Life Evangelicalism Killing Adoptees?”

I have known and admired Sara Easterly for quite a while. She is a warm, smart, generous person. During National Adoption Awareness Month, I posted about her adoptee-centric writing groups, Adoptee Voices.

Sara’s essay “Is Pro-Life Evangelicalism Killing Adoptees?” was recently published in Red Letter Christians. The essay captures both the vulnerability and power of her writing, as a Christian, as an adoptee, as a daughter, and as a mother. I am sure the essay will be controversial in some circles, and welcomed in others. She speaks her truth with love, and that is hard to do.

Here are two excerpts:

There is little room for us in Evangelical spaces. At church, we’re often pimped as poster children for “the beautiful story of adoption.” In the Supreme Court, we’re often used as pro-life pawns for overturning abortion policy. Within earshot or to our faces, many of us are constantly hearing our adoptive parents gush about how adoption is “God’s will.” We’re frequently expected to be grateful for being saved. This is a reality though adoption has been riddled with corruption and coercion for over a century and many of us were not exactly saved, but rather, moved as objects into families of privilege—my own adoption an example of such.

“Because adoption is so widespread in the Church, nearly every Christian working within a Christian institution has a friend, sister, brother, aunt, or other close connection who is an adoptive parent. They’d rather remain gatekeepers from the truth than hurt their loved ones or upset advertisers. 

It’s been a sacrifice play, where the loudest, most privileged voices win. But if it’s killing adoptees in the process—whether spiritually or literally in suicide rates—is anyone really winning in the end? Where is the pro-life perspective on that?

Sara is a U.S., same race adoptee, placed with her adoptive family as an infant. She is, per her website, “an award-winning author of books and essays. Her memoir, Searching for Mom, won a Gold Medal in the Illumination Book Awards, was named a winner in the National Indie Excellence Awards, garnered a Silver Medal in the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards, and received an honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards, among other honors.

Sara’s essays and articles have been published by Dear AdoptionFeminine CollectiveHer View From HomeGodspace, Neufeld Institute, Psychology TodayRed Letter ChristiansSeverance Magazine, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), to name a few.”

Here is the whole essay. Thank you for your voice, Sara.

Fraud in Adoption: A Question

I am putting together a list of countries/places where international adoptees have challenged their adoptions due to fraud, and where governments have charged, indicted, or convicted agencies or individuals for fraud, bribery, and/or corruption. This could include adoptee lawsuits for wrongful adoption.

I am aware of cases taking place in or involving adoptees from or living in the U.S., Ireland, France, Finland, South Korea, The Netherlands, Brazil, Uganda, Ethiopia, Poland, Mali, Marshall Islands, Guatemala, Sierra Leone, Vietnam, Cambodia, Haiti, Nepal, India, Liberia, Rwanda, China, and Chile. I am sure there are other countries as well that have had investigations due to fraud.

My main focus is on adult adoptees who have brought lawsuits, called for investigations, and/or who have annulled their adoptions due to fraud. Do you have statistics or any other information you are able to share? If you have some thoughts on this, please feel free to comment below, or to go to the Contact page here on my blog and send me an email.

One solid source of information is here: “Fraud and Corruption In International Adoptions.”

The government of Ireland–the home of Magdalene Laundries and the discoveries of children buried in graves at the orphanages–recently announced financial payments to some survivors of “mother-and-baby homes.” Controversies remain for many reasons, including around how long children had stayed at the “homes” to be eligible for payments. Controversies also surround the apologies by the Irish government and the Roman Catholic Church. Some 2000 Irish children were adopted to the U.S. between the 1940’s to the 1970’s.

Fraud, bribery, and corruption come in many forms in adoption. While there can be great love and joy, there is also darkness.

Adoptee Citizenship BEFORE Children in Family Security Act

To our U.S. Congress: Pass the Adoptee Citizenship bill before even considering any other international adoption legislation.

A new bill, the Children in Family Security Act (CFS Act), has been introduced into Congress to “ensure a diplomatic focus on keeping vulnerable children in the security of a family.” My first impression, and I am not a lawyer, is that the bill would require the U.S. State Department to promote, as a diplomatic mission, the adoption of children from other countries to the United States.

The bill does not, unless I am wrong, focus on preserving families, preventing children from entering institutional care, finding in-country relatives to foster or adopt the children, providing micro loans to help families keep their children, or increasing funding for equitable medical care around the globe.

The CSF Act supporters are listed as the National Council for Adoption, American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, Bethany Christian Services, Nourished Hearts, Center for Adoption Policy, and Gladney Center for Adoption.

During National Adoption Awareness Month, I posted every day about adoptee-centric, adoptee-led organizations, I must point out that none of the above orgs are adoptee-led or adoptee-centric. Neither are they international birth parent-led nor international birth parent-centric. They are adoptive parent-centric and adoption agency/lawyer-centric.

Here’s the thing: I am an adoptive parent, and I love my children more than I can say. Like the sponsors and supporters of the CFS Act, I also support keeping children out of institutions. Primarily I support family preservation to do that, which is I realize an enormous task. I get that. And I argue that we need to re-adjust our priorities and our funding to eliminating the reasons children end up in institutions: poverty, lack of education, lack of decent or any health care, job training, child care.

Speaking of priorities, however, here is my take on the Children in Family Security Act. Don’t even begin working on that until the Adoptee Citizenship Act is passed, and all international adoptees have citizenship. All of them. Some don’t even know they are not American citizens. Bring the deported adoptees back home; some of them are in their 40’s and 50’s. Some have died by suicide; some have been killed. Congress: Prevent more deportations; prevent more families from being torn apart.

Then we can all turn to the CFS Act and other legislation.

First, though, if you’re going to promote international adoption, grant citizenship to all international adoptees.

https://www.blunt.senate.gov/news/press-releases/blunt-klobuchar-introduce-children-in-family-security-act

Family Preservation, Family Reunification, Supporting Fostered Youth: NAAM

This is day 30 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees. Today I am also making a pitch for family preservation, reunification, and support for fostered youth.

This final day of National Adoption Awareness Month is also “Giving Tuesday,” a day dedicated to generosity and doing good.

So in honor of both NAAM and Giving Tuesday, I will ask that you consider looking at family preservation organizations any time you think about adoption. We can chip away at the forces that divide families, and keep more children safe and with their mothers and fathers. It is an ambitious goal, I realize. There are many worthy organizations doing this work, and I urge you to learn about and support them.

For today, here are three organizations devoted to reuniting families divided by adoption, to supporting birth parents, and to providing resources to youth in foster care.

Beteseb Felega/Ethiopian Adoption Connection BF/EAC is “a free, grassroots effort to reconnect Ethiopian family members separated by adoption, and to provide compassionate support to adoptees, birth family members, and adoptive parents.” Their unique “internet database contains Ethiopian adoption information (in Amharic and English) provided by adopted people/adoptive parents and birth families who are looking for each other…For Ethiopian families, we explain the system through which their children were adopted and provide meaningful guidance regarding reunion and ongoing contact with their adopted children. EAC is the only organization committed to giving a voice to Ethiopian families while providing services focused on their well being post adoption.”

Saving Our Sisters Saving Our Sisters (SOS) “focuses on family preservation utilizing our pool of national volunteers to support parents and their families by providing them with resources to navigate their crisis and build confidence in themselves and their abilities. These actions help show families that they are who and what their babies need, and gives them the confidence to overcome their temporary crisis. SOS, through information, advocacy and support, provides families the ability to make truly informed decisions for the best possible outcome – eliminating the trauma of separation for the infant, existing and future generations of their family.”

Treehouse for Kids Treehouse is an organization based here in Seattle that believes that “every child, youth and young adult who has experienced foster care should have access to essentials such as clothing, school supplies, extracurricular activities, job supplies and even car insurance.” Treehouse offers “tutoring and academic remediation while also eliminating financial barriers to success in school for both youth in foster care and young adults in Extended Foster Care (EFC).” NAAM’s original intent was to promote adoption of children from foster care; NAAM has changed a lot over the years to include more voices. Supporting the needs of foster care youth should remain a priority. Treehouse does that.

Final thoughts on theis final day of NAAM:

Everyone, including adopted people, has the human and civil right to know who they are (this refers to Original Birth Certificates and medical history access, as well as to eliminating fraud in adoption).

Support family preservation.

Listen to adoptees.