About Maureen McCauley

I'm the creator of Light of Day Stories, a place where I examine international adoption issues. I am also a co-editor of "Lions Roaring Far From Home: An Anthology By Ethiopian Adoptees."

Today, at the United Nations: Adopted People and First Families Speak Out on Trafficking, Corruption in Adoptions Around the World:

Adoptees, and increasingly first/biological/original parents, are speaking out about the fraud, corruption, and deception that have occurred globally in international adoption.

Today, the United Nations’ Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) held a session on illegal intercountry adoptions. You can view the event here via United Nations media.

Look at the description of the Committee: “The CED and its Secretariat work daily to support victims, civil society organizations, National Human Rights Institutions and States to search for and locate disappeared persons, eradicate, punish and prevent this crime, and repair the damage suffered by the victims.”

What is the correlation of the Committee’s mission with adoption? Searching for and locating “disappeared persons”–adoptees and bio/first/original parents. Eradicating and punishing the crime of fraudulent and corrupt adoptions. Preventing the crime of illicit adoptions and/or child trafficking. Providing reparations to the victims—adoptees and bio/first/original parents.

The adoptees who spoke out at this UN event and who are speaking out in many other spaces are not teenagers: they are adults, with lived experience and, in some cases, also with extensive professional and academic credentials. Many of these folks are parents and grandparents themselves. They may have grown up in the US or France or Greece or elsewhere. They may have been born in Chile, China, Kenya, Venezuela, Mali, Haiti, or elsewhere.

In any case, as a global movement, they are united in calling for the overhaul and/or elimination of international adoption, for legal procedures allowing annulment of adoptions, for the creation of databases (including DNA) which provide full access to accurate records, and for the right to reparations, including from adoption agencies and governments that in essence sold children under the guise of adoption.

It is a perfect storm in adoption right now. Social media has allowed adoptees to connect with each other wherever they may live. Technology (translation apps, for example) and DNA testing have opened doors to allow identification of relatives, and of the truth. Adoptees who have traveled to their countries of origin have often found their histories are not what they and their adoptive parents had been led to believe. Birth/first parents, often marginalized economically and socially, are being contacted and are also speaking out.

In addition to watching the UN meeting on video, take a look at this report from Inter Country Adoptee Voices, a major force in organizing the UN events. “Victims of Illegal Intercountry Adoptions Speak Out” was prepared for today’s UN event, a one year anniversary of the 2022 presentation. From the report’s Introduction: “One year on from the UN working with some of us intercountry adoptees and many other experts around the world to publish their Joint Statement on Illegal Intercountry Adoptions, we celebrate the allyship and support to share our messages as survivors and victims of illegal intercountry adoptions.”

The victim and survivor statements provided in the ICAV report “provide representation from the following countries: Adoptive countries (9): Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Sweden, UK, USA; Birth countries (19): Chile, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Greece, Haiti, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mali, Peru, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Venezuela, Vietnam.”

The ICAV report, like today’s United Nations event, is sobering. For some folks, the report and UN meeting may seem over-reactive, isolated, and unnecessary. They are not. They are the green leaves of seeds that have been germinating for too long, and are now rising robustly in many parts of the world.

Adoption Mosaic’s Program for “Seasoned Adoptive Parents”

I consider myself a “seasoned” parent in that my kids are all in their 30’s and I have two grandchildren. Adoption remains part of all of our lives, an undercurrent of sorts.

Adoption Mosaic’s 6-week online program for Seasoned Adoptive Parents looks at why we parents chose to adopt, and what we have learned in the intervening years. “Seasoned parents” have children who are legal adults; the kids may even be in their 30’s or 40’s or older. As Adoption Mosaic’s director/founder Astrid Castro has written, “At Adoption Mosaic, we believe adoptees should not be solely responsible for educating and supporting their adoptive parents in becoming adoption-fluent…

Our hope in offering this course to adoptive parents of adult children is to help create stronger family bonds between adoptees and their parents.”

The curriculum for “Seasoned Parents” was developed by Astrid, the Director snd Founder of Adoption Mosaic and an adopted person from Colombia. I also helped develop the curriculum. Astrid and I have co-facilitated the first two “Seasoned Parents” programs. Jordan Davis, a Black transracial adoptee and current PhD candidate, will also be co-facilitating, which will be wonderful. We’ve been working together to make the curriculum even stronger.

In this course, we talk about adoption in a historical context, and about some of the current big issues, especially as adopted adults are speaking out more. We talk about adoption as an industry, about the role of race, about the concepts of gratitude and anger and adoption fog. We work on ways to talk about these things with our children, and with other folks. And we do this with compassion and openness, meeting people where they are, hoping to create community and growth.

This fall will be the third time we have offered this program at Adoption Mosaic. The parents who have taken the class adopted their children from the US and internationally; many were transracial adoptive families. Some parents were estranged from their children, and hoped to find a way back to . Some were asked by their children to take the course. Some wanted to better understand the realities of adoption today, far from the time they had attended their adoption agency’s classes.

If you are an adoptee who thinks their adoptive parents might learn from the course, and you are uncertain what to say to them, feel free to schedule a free consultation with Astrid.

Learn more about the Astrid and Adoption Mosaic team here.

“Seasoned Adoptive Parents” will be offered online for 6 Wednesdays starting October 11 through November 18, from 4pm to 5:30pm Pacific time.

Please join us! Please also share the word about this “Seasoned Adoptive Parents” class!

Suicide Prevention Awareness in the Adoption Community

This is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a good time to learn about suicide and to work to prevent it. It’s a tough topic, and its role in the adoption community is painful.

Here are some resources, from adoptees and other experts.

Adoption Trauma as a Risk Factor in Suicide: Tomorrow night, Wednesday September 20, 5:30 pdt, join an on-line discussion with Lina Vanegas, MSW, a consultant, speaker, writer, displaced person from Colombia, and Mila Konomos, a poet, artist, dissident, survivor of adoption trade from Korea. You can get the Zoom link via Instagram: linaleadswithlove and the_empress_han. Be sure to follow both of them on IG.

A frequently cited research study is Risk of Suicide Attempt in Adopted and Nonadopted Offspring, via Pediatrics., from 2013. One of the findings was that adoptees are four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-adoptees. JaeRan Kim, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Washington-Tacoma and an adoptee from South Korea, provides an important and insightful perspective on that study and others about the linkage between adoption and suicide: Research on Adoptees and Suicide.

(Note: I have seen the 2013 report often cited as saying adoptees are four times more likely to die by suicide than non-adoptees. That is incorrect. I recognize that “four times more likely to attempt suicide” is also a grim reality. The distinction between attempts and actual deaths, though, is important.)

In October 2022, a panel of 4 adult adoptees talked about how trauma and suicide had affected their lives. Here is the YouTube video, via United Suicide Survivors International: Adoption and Suicide Prevention: Adult Adoptees Speak Out.

Inter Country Adoptee Voices has many articles and webinars on the complexity of adoption and suicide, from the perspective of the lived experiences of adult adoptees.

International Research:

In November 2022, the Department of Social Services in Australia published INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION AND SUICIDE IN AUSTRALIA: A Scoping Review. While it contains an overview of academic and other reports, it also cites the need for much more research.

Comparing Childhood Characteristics of Adopted and Non-adopted Individuals Deceased by Suicide “The aim of this study was to compare adopted with non-adopted individuals deceased by suicide to find a potential specificity in adopted individuals deceased by suicide. Results show significant differences: a higher incidence of ADHD, mental health comorbidity and Cluster C personality disorders among adopted individuals. Moreover, adopted individuals have higher adversity scores prior to the age of 15.” (2022, Quebec, Canada)

What about trauma? Accounting for trauma exposure and symptoms in the risk of suicide among adolescents who have been adopted “Although much remains to be explored about the association between adoption and risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors, the current study indicates that traumatic stress plays a critical role.” (2022, USA)

Executive function and early adversity in internationally adopted children “Although adoption offers a protective context that promotes cognitive development, difficulties in executive processes are still evident after an average of seven years in the adoptive family. Adoptive parents should be equipped with strategies to satisfy their child’s needs, and targeted interventions could be implemented to prevent future difficulties in their development.” (2020, Study of Russian children adopted to Spain)

Increased risk of suicidal behaviour in non-European international adoptees decreases with age – A Swedish national cohort study

“Non-European international adoptees are at particular risk for suicidal behaviour in youth, probably due to enhanced identity problems. The decreasing risk of suicide with age and over the decades in non-European international adoptees suggests that some of their difficulties may be transient and can be addressed socially and professionally. Postadoption clinical services are particularly important for late adoptees and in the transition from childhood to adulthood.” (2020, Sweden)

Relationship Between Adoption and Suicide Attempts: A Meta-analysis From “Conclusions: The adoption situation can increase suicide attempts; it predicts at least two times more cases of suicide attempts among adopted people than in the general population…” (2020, Colombia)

Much more research is needed, especially in the adoption community. In the meantime, we all can continue to learn, and to promote the prevention of suicide.

Adoptees Holding the Mic, Literally and Otherwise: Adoption Mosaic at Heritage Camp

It may be overdue, but there is no doubt that the views and voices of adult adoptees are increasingly being heard—including the challenging ones.

I recently presented at the COFFEE Ethiopian Heritage Camp that takes place near Mount Hood in Oregon. The weather was beautiful, and the energy from the kids—biking, skateboarding, swimming, playing basketball, walking around in chatty groups—was wonderful and palpable.

For some of the kids, it’s one of few times where they are surrounded by other adoptees and by other Ethiopians.

For the parents, mostly white couples, it’s a chance to visit with friends and also to learn from the workshops presented by Adoption Mosaic.

In fact, the parents got to hear from an Adoption Mosaic panel of adult adoptees from Ethiopia, Colombia, and the U.S. All had been transracially adopted by white parents.

All the adoptees had different experiences growing up, of course. For some, their adoptive parents had been unaware of racial identity and adoption trauma issues, though they were loving. Some parents did a lot of work on racial equity, and still fell short sometimes. Some parents were unaware, uncaring, unreachable.

Adoption Mosaic founder Astrid Castro, adopted with her sister from Colombia, brought other staff with her as well, adoptees from Korea, India, and China: incredible mentors and sources of wisdom for all the camp attendees.

And that said, it is not the responsibility nor burden of any adoptee to educate adoptive parents. The emotional labor can be intense.

At a general session with the adoptive parents, the adoptees literally held the microphone, and the adoptive parents, while they could ask questions, could not hold the mic.

I found that a powerful metaphor, a reflection of the past when only adoptive parents held the mic, and adoptees and first/birth parents were an afterthought at best. We still, in the adoption community, need to work on centering the voices and lived experiences of adopted people and of first/birth parents.

That said, I am also a believer of inclusion, and really everyone should have the physical mic at in-person meetings so that everyone can hear equitably. Questions from adoptive parents were repeated by adopted people with the mic, so that was helpful. The symbolism, though, of who holds the microphone (at a conference, at a policy meeting, at a hearing, etc.) was valuable.

At the same session, Astrid noted the wealth of information available from the Adoption Mosaic staff, and also asked if the adoptive parents looked at #adopteetwitter or adoptees on TikTok. There are some wonderful, challenging, wise adoptees posting videos and sharing their truths.

Here’s a link to an article about Adoptee TikTok titled “Adoptees Are Using an Unexpected Platform to Shed Light on the Downsides of Adoption.”

We adoptive parents need to do the work of learning about adoption whether our kids are 8 or 46.

In fact, that phrase “do the work” permeated the time at camp with the adoptive parents.

I’d say that “do the work” for us adoptive parents is to be willing to listen and take in a variety of views about adoption; to dig deeply into anti-racism work; to learn about the role of money in adoption; to educate ourselves about grief, loss, depression, and confusion in adoption; to recognize that even if our kids aren’t talking about adoption they may be thinking about it (and absorbing all kinds of messages about it from friends, the community, the Internet); and to recognize the both/and of adoption (adoptees can love their adoptive parents and also want to see adoption abolished, for example).

Adoption Mosaic offers classes for adoptive parents, including one I co-facilitate, called “Seasoned Parents.” The 6-week online class is for adoptive parents whose kids are now in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, or even older. Back when we “seasoned” adoptive parents adopted our children, the preparation process was limited at best. From the Adoption Mosaic website: “When people adopt, they are oftentimes told that love would be enough. Your kids are now adults with their own thoughts and feelings about adoption; unfortunately, love alone is not enough for you to engage in tough conversations about adoption with your adult adoptees. In the class, we reflect on why we chose adoption, and what we have learned over decades of raising children. We dig into the challenges of talking about adoption as an industry, as well as about gratitude, anger, adoption fog, search, reunion, and race. And we practice talking about these adoption issues with our adult children and with others, in ways that are clear, respectful, and helpful. 

Often adult adoptees ask their parents to take this class, including adoptees who are estranged from their parents.

Kudos to the folks who organized the camp (it’s a lot of work), and who attended the camp. Gratitude to the Adoption Mosaic crew for sharing their years of lived experience and professional work in adoption.

May we all keep learning not in isolation but in community.

Sri Lankan Adoptees Sue the Netherlands for Negligence

The global trend of adult international adoptees suing their governments for negligence and fraud continues. In the Netherlands, adoptees from Sri Lanka are seeking reimbursement for damages they allege occurred in their adoptions.

Here is the English version of an article from Nos.nl, a well-known new organization in the Netherlands.

“Sri Lankan adoptees hold the State liable for abuses

Eight adoptees sued the State for negligence in their adoption from Sri Lanka in the 1980s. They argue that the government did not intervene when it could have known about the many abuses. The adoptees want the government to recognize this negligence and reimburse the costs they incurred to trace their origins.

“We want the court to determine that the government is liable for the damage suffered by these eight people,” says lawyer Mark de Hek, who initiated legal proceedings on behalf of the victims. With this, the hope is that justice will also be served for other adoptees in a similar situation.

Kidnapping and baby farming

It has been known for decades that a lot went wrong with adoptions from Sri Lanka. The first signals date back to 1979. Since then, stories about wrong files, baby theft, so-called baby farms and human trafficking have regularly surfaced. In 1987, a Sri Lankan survey found that the vast majority of adoptions were illegal.

The fact that the Dutch state was repeatedly informed of abuses from Sri Lanka from the early 1980s was apparent from the report of the Joustra Committee in 2021. At the request of the government, that committee investigated the role of the Netherlands in intercountry adoption. The abuses included baby farming and child theft. According to the committee, the Netherlands did not intervene and the government did not come up with solutions.

It was not until 1997 that these adoptions came to an end. Between 1973 and 1997, a total of about 3400 children from Sri Lanka were brought to the Netherlands. More than 2400 children came to the Netherlands through the Flash mediation agency, which, according to experts, was the crowning glory when it comes to illegal adoption practices.

Fake Mother in Photo

As a result of these practices, many adoptees have questions about their origins. For example, 31-year-old Serani van der Helm from Helmond has a photo of herself in the arms of a woman, made in Colombo during the adoption in 1986. “My file says that it was my mother who voluntarily gave me up. But that turned out to be a fake mother.”

Van der Helm talks about her search for her biological parents, whom she never found:

Serani: ‘When I became a mother myself, adoption suddenly felt very different to me’
Sam van den Haak from Zevenaar also has many questions about her adoption. In her adoption file, her date of birth is April 7, her passport says July 4, so exactly the other way around. Her old Sri Lankan passport has had a pen tampered with, making it unclear what the correct date is. “That should have been enough reason for the State to smell trouble.” Only much later when she had managed to track down her family on her own, did her grandmother tell her that she was actually born on December 17th.

Van den Haak herself calls it painful that there is an incorrect date of birth in her passport. “Do you know how many times your date of birth is asked to identify you? Then I keep being confronted with that embarrassing mistake.” But changing that data is almost impossible in the Netherlands. With the lawsuit, she hopes to get the government to help her get her real date of birth in her passport.

‘Government failed’

Lawyer De Hek calls these clear indications of negligence on the part of the government. The government has previously denied all liability. “The embassy must ensure that an adoption is legally in order before a residence permit is granted,” says De Hek. “By ignoring the signals about this, the government has failed as a regulator and visa provider.”

Here is the link to the article in Dutch:


Controversial Questions for the International Adoption Community About Money. So Much Money.

Should the United States be spending millions of dollars to adopt a relatively small number of children from overseas?

Approximately 1500 children were adopted from other countries to the U.S. in FY2022. If the average amount of fees to the adoption service providers (U.S. adoption agencies) was $30,000 per adoption, Americans spent $45,000,000 to adopt those 1500 children.

Forty Five Million Dollars.

Adoption may have been the best and only choice for those children. I don’t know. I want all children to be safe and loved, and I realize that can be challenging.

Here’s the thing though. Who in the U.S. is adopting children internationally? Mostly upper-middle class white people—folks who have historically held loads of power and privilege. So millions of dollars are being spent by them, and then they get a fair amount of that back from the US government.

Most if not all of the adoptive parents can claim the adoption tax credit. According to The Tax Policy Center of the Urban Institute and Brookings Administration, “The credit has been repeatedly expanded, from an initial maximum value of $5,000 in 1997 to $14,300 in 2020. In 2016, taxpayers claimed total adoption credit of $290 million. The temporary availability of a refundable credit pushed the cost of the credit up to the dramatically higher figures of $1.2 billion in 2010 and $610 million in 2011 (including the refundable portion).”

The adoption tax credit was intended to be an incentive for folks to adopt from the U.S. foster care system, particularly for children with special needs. Much of that tax credit money though now goes for international adoptions; some goes for U.S. infant adoptions (folks who connect with an expectant mom and then take the newborn baby home from the hospital) and some for foster care adoption. However, a hefty portion—hundreds of millions of dollars—has gone for international adoptions, and often the adoptive parents would have pursued the adoption regardless of the credit.

Again, according to the Tax Policy Center, “The most recent year with data available by adoption type (2004) indicates that nearly half of adoptions for which the credit was claimed were for domestic children without special needs, with only 18 percent classified as special needs, and the remainder reflecting international adoptions.”

Here’s an eye-opening paragraph from the 2020 report “Adoption Tax Benefits from the Congressional Research Service:

“The legislative history of the current adoption tax benefits indicates that Congress enacted these incentives to encourage more adoptions. However, there is currently little evidence that adoption tax benefits are an effective policy tool to increase adoptions. Instead, data suggest that adoption tax benefits are often a windfall to families that would have adopted in their absence. In addition, the vast majority of adoption tax benefits go to upper-income Americans, even though data indicate that a significant number of lower- and middle-income Americans adopt. Finally, recent evidence suggests that adoption tax benefits have been difficult for the IRS to administer in terms of keeping both erroneous benefit claims and taxpayer burden low.” (boldface is mine)

A whole strong school of thought asserts that international adoptions, with their large amounts of money and the reality of who holds power (the adoptive parents, just to be clear), equates to child trafficking. International birth parents are generally impoverished, marginalized, and vulnerable. They hold virtually no power.

That’s one reason I would love to see both our Congress and the State Department welcoming international birth/first parents to their discussions about next steps in intercountry adoption policy. International adult adoptees should of course also be included in much greater numbers. Instead, it is the adoptive parents, the prospective parents, and the adoption agencies that are holding the microphone tightly in the conversations with the State Department. Adoptive parents, prospective parents, and the agencies should be demanding the presence and the voices of the birth/first parents and the adult adoptees in policy discussions and legislative hearings.

And no, I am not holding my breath on this.

I’d like to see adoption tax credit funding go, for one example, toward post-adoption services for international first/birth parents. They usually get absolutely nothing in terms of services or information, while adoptive families in the U.S. get tax credits, insurance funds, access to therapists and consultants, and, depending on their agency, an array of post-adoptive services in the language they speak and read in. Imagine what even a small percentage of that funding could do for international birth/first parents. They deserve counseling and support, after having lost their children to adoption. Some mothers grieve for the rest of their lives, in loneliness and isolation.

Iinternational adoption is not a solution to poverty, or if it is, it’s only for a tiny number of children (1517, this year) on whose ostensible behalf millions of dollars are being spent, just to get them here to the U.S.

The recent U.S. State Department report on international adoptions says that the Office of Children’s Issues requested the resumption of intercountry adoptions from the People’s Republic of China. State met virtually with the Central Authority of Honduras to clarify requirements for U.S. citizens residing in Honduras seeking to adopt Honduran children. The Special Advisor for Children’s Issues traveled to Indianapolis to attend the National Council for Adoption’s annual conference, and met with adoption stakeholders there and presented on the Department’s work to promote intercountry adoption.

(Note: I’d bet good money that very few if any of those “stakeholders” were international birth parents or adult international adoptees. I’d be happy to be wrong.)

An adult and a child are walking along the beach. The sky and beach look hazy.
Newport Beach, OR © Maureen McCauley

Further, the State Department report notes that “The Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Russia, and Latvia have established or maintained a significant law or regulation preventing or prohibiting adoptions involving immigration to the United States. The Department continued to engage foreign authorities in several of these countries to encourage resumed intercountry adoptions.”

Has the State Department also engaged the birth/first parents about this proposed resumption of adoptions? If not, why not? All of us, and perhaps especially our Congress, desperately need to hear the birth parents’ voices, and not keep them in systemic silence.

We in the United States also need to look at what other countries are doing to investigate international adoptions. Other governments—South Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Switzerland, Australia, Chile, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Guatemala—are putting time and money into investigations of illicit adoptions, ending adoptions due to corruption, and listening to birth/first parents and adult adoptees. It is a global movement, and the United States needs to get engaged.

I am ruminating here. I don’t have solid answers or strategies. I think it is time to set adoption on its head, look at it critically, say out loud who holds power currently, and then build a far better system. I’ll keep thinking.

US State Department 2022 Adoption Report: No Mention of Deported International Adoptees, Nor of Birth Parents. Look at the The Fees!!

The U.S. State Department has issued its FY 2022 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption: Report of the Activities of the United States Central Authority under The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.

The report includes a discussion of the countries that the Office of Children’s Issues (CI) has visited or been in contact with, an overview of the situation in Ukraine, and tables of data.

The report contains no information on nor mention of the deportation of international adoptees from the United States, nor of the need for citizenship for all international adoptees. Nor is there any reference to international birth/first parents as participants in any calls, town halls, policy meetings, or any other place at the table.

There are two mentions of engagement with adult international adoptees, one in a town hall and one at a Special Commission event which is held every five years, “primarily focused on illicit practices and post-adoption services. Nearly 400 people participated in the Special Commission, including 73 member states, observers from non-governmental organizations, and adult adoptees.” The number of adult adoptees is not specified.

There is no mention of the fraud and corruption that many adoptees and adoptive families have encountered post-adoption, often in the course of search and reunion efforts. There is no mention of South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s review of possible fraudulent adoptions from South Korea to Denmark and several other countries, including the U.S. Nor is there any mention of the government inquiries into fraudulent international adoptions by Sweden, the Netherlands, Australia, Switzerland, Ireland, Chile, and elsewhere.

Photo description: the United States flag

Some highlights from the U.S. report:

Total adoptions in FY2022 to the U.S. : 1517

Top countries of origin:

  • Colombia 235 children
  • India 223 children
  • Republic of Korea 141children
  • Bulgaria 84 children
  • Ukraine. 82 children

Number of U.S. Children Adopted Internationally: 25 (The U.S. children were adopted to Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Switzerland.)

Median Adoption Service Provider (Adoption Agency) Fees:

Over US$50,000 for adoptions from Albania and Armenia

Between US$40,000 and US$50,000 for adoptions from Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Colombia, Costs Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Hait, Hungary, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar Peru, Poland, South Africa, and Vietnam.

This means, for example, that U.S. adoptive parents paid US$9.6 million in adoption agency fees for children from Colombia; US$1.2 million for children from Burundi; and US$3.8 million for children from Haiti.

The role of money in adoption is horrifically complex. The U.S. adoptive parents are likely all eligible for the adoption tax credit, which has reimbursed adoptive parents with literally billions of dollars.

The role of money in adoption deserves much more research, attention, and conversation.

And this report deserves that as well, as much for what it says as for what it does not say. Feel free to share your thoughts about it.

KAAN, NAKASEC, Adoptee Citizenship, and a GoFund Me

The time is long overdue for the passage of adoptee citizenship legislation, and, as understandably tired as some folks are, we need to gear up more than ever.

Action steps:

(1) See how you can help via Adoptees for Justice. You can click on the QR code in the photo below, which shows Jimmy Byrne, a Korean adoptee who spoke about citizenship at the 2023 KAAN conference.

Photo Description : The photo shows Jimmy Byrne, a Korean adoptee wearing glasses, on a panel at the KAAN conference. There is a QR code on the screen behind him, which has information about the work of Adoptees For Justice.

(2) Support deported adoptees, like Mike Davis. Any and all help is deeply appreciated. Please donate; please share the link.

Photo Description: This is a photo of Mike Davis, an Ethiopian adoptee, on the GoFundMe page that hopes to raise money for Mike’s legal costs so he can return to the United States.
He was deported to Ethiopia in 2005.

Some background info for this post: About a week ago I attended the national conference of KAAN, the Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network. This was the second time I had attended this conference, and, as before, I was presenting a workshop with the wonderful Astrid Castro and Shelise Gieseke of Adoption Mosaic. I also attended several great workshops presented by others.

One was on Adoptee Citizenship, presented by folks from Adoptees for Justice and NAKASEC, the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium. Both groups have been working on the issue of citizenship for many years, including citizenship for international adoptees.

Adoptees from South Korea make up the largest and now oldest group of international adoptees. As such, they have been active in advocacy work for decades, in South Korea and in their adoptive countries. Around 200,000 South Korean children have been brought to the Unites States for adoption; some 18-20,000 of that group are estimated to be without U.S. citizenship. Some have been deported; some do not know they are not citizens. Some are working on getting through the naturalization process.

The NAKASEC and KAAN efforts are not only for Korean adoptees. Adoptees for Justice (A4J), which has connections with NAKASEC and KAAN, is working for all international adoptees, advocating for full and retroactive citizenship.

At the KAAN workshop, the presenters talked about the legislative history of trying to get citizenship enacted. It seemed possible at the end of the last Congress, but failed again, probably for many reasons. I speculate on some of them here. Certainly there was a lot of time, energy, advocacy, prayers, and hope that went into the effort.

Advocates are working on citizenship legislation in the current session of Congress. It won’t be easy, with so much anti-immigrant sentiment and the upcoming elections. Groups like A4J (and I’m sure other groups) are looking at a variety of strategies, such as state and local government resolutions.

Please contact your legislators. Ask them to support citizenship for all international adoptees. Please help deported adoptees. Please spread the word that deported adoptees deserve to come home, and that all international adoptees deserve citizenship. Many thanks.

“Lions Roaring Far From Home” Update

While our primary goal with our groundbreaking book “Lions Roaring Far From Home: An Anthology By Ethiopian Adoptees” is to get the book to as many Ethiopian adoptees as possible, we are also reaching out to the larger Ethiopian and Ethiopian diasporic community.

Frew Tibebu, who arrived in the US from Ethiopia as a refugee from the Derg via Djibouti in 1980, is now a successful realtor and social entrepreneur in California. Here’s what Frew had to say about our book:

“As someone who was a frequent attendee of Ethiopian Adoption Camp at Scotts Valley. California, in the mid 2000’s, I thought I knew enough about Ethiopian adoptive families and Ethiopian adoptees.

After reading Lions Roaring Far From Home, I realized how little I knew about the diverse experiences of the Ethiopian adoptees.

I consider this anthology by Ethiopian adoptees to be an enlightening, ambitious undertaking, a missing voice to the Ethiopian transnational adoption and to the Ethiopian diaspora experience in general.”

Thank you, Frew, for your kind words, for your leadership as president of the Ethiopian Diaspora Stories Project, and for your decades of work helping Ethiopian children via Ethiopia Reads.

In addition to getting the book to Ethiopian adoptees and the greater Ethiopian community, we also want to get Lions Roaring to other adoptees. Our writers were raised in six different countries: Ethiopian adoption is global. There are some unique differences for Ethiopian adoptees, and some overlap with the experiences of other adopted people.

Book cover with painting of Ethiopian woman standing proudly next to a roaring lion
Cover art by Nahosenay Negussie

We also want adoptive parents to read the book. For those folks who live in isolation from Ethiopian adoptees, the book is an opportunity to hear from 32 Ethiopian adoptee writers, with a variety of perspectives.

We have heard about adoptive parents reading the essays along with their children, then talking about them together. There are some great conversation-starters in the book.

We love to see the book being read by folks with no connection to Ethiopia or adoption: everyone can learn a lot from the amazing writers, who range in age from young children to adults in their 50’s and older.

In less than two weeks, we will be presenting at two Ethiopian heritage camps, one in Oregon and one in the Washington, DC, area. We are working on additional outreach in a variety of places and groups. Thank you for purchasing and reading the book, and for sharing info about the book.

At the KAAN Conference This Weekend

I am attending the annual conference of KAAN, the Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network, in Chicago this weekend June 30-July 2. I am looking forward to it for several reasons.

One is that I will be presenting a workshop with my colleagues at Adoption Mosaic. The workshop is directed toward adoptees and adoptive parents, and is titled “Educating Your Adoptive Parents: Not Your Burden.” We have found that many adoptees, when they are adults in their 20’s, 30’s 40’s, and even older, would love for their adoptive parents to learn more about adoption—about the role of trauma, racism, identity, search reunion, and more. That education, though, should not be the burden of the adopted person—it should be the adoptive parents’ responsibility to learn and gain more understanding.

Another reason I am looking forward to the conference is that I will be bringing “Lions Roaring Far from Home: An Anthology by Ethiopian Adoptees” to sell and to talk about at the conference. As a co-editor, I appreciate this opportunity. KAAN has worked on reaching out to other adoption communities, and I look forward to bringing the book there.

I am also looking forward to meeting up with folks I know and haven’t seen for years, and also to meeting folks who I “know” via Facebook or otherwise, folks who I feel as though I know but have not yet met in person.

And, of course, I look forward to listening and learning from the wisdom that will be shared there.