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.

Adoptee Voices Rising: NAAM

This is day 29 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees..

Adoptee Voices Rising is “an adoptee-led, social justice group that advocates for the adoptee community through political engagement and legislation.” The group is relatively new on the scene, though the leaders have a well-established presence in the adoptee community.

AVR is reaching out to the adoptee community to see what issues are of most interest. Here is a link to their survey, with apologies: the deadline is November 30 to return it. Adoptees: please fill it out!

According to their Instagram page, they are tracking and acting on issues such as original birth certificates and post-adoption services. Another important focus is adoptee citizenship. They are among the groups partnering with the Alliance for Adoptee Citizenship.

AAC is “a coalition of organizations dedicated to passage of the 2021 Adoptee Citizenship Act in the 117th Congress (H.R. 1593 & S967). Our network is made up of a diverse group of adoptees, adoptive families, grassroots organizing and advocacy groups, and allies—all of whom are working together to amend a technical oversight in the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. This oversight has resulted in the exclusion of thousands of intercountry adoptees from rightfully receiving automatic citizenship as legally adopted children.” Please take a look at their website, and support citizenship for all international adoptees.

You can follow Adoptee Voices Rising on Facebook, Insta, and Twitter. I don’t know if their name is a reference to the phoenix, that strong Egyptian-mythical bird that rises from the ashes to resurrection, and whose tears have life-saving powers. I can see it as a metaphor in adoption community work. In any case, let’s those adoptee voices rising.

The Complexity of Visiting Korea, By a Korean Adoptee: NAAM

This is day 28 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees..

I am fascinated by other languages, and especially by the difficult-to-translate meanings of some words. For example, I love the word “fernweh,” German for “farsickness,” or a longing for place you’ve never been to and can never go to. Another favorite is “hiraeth,” a Welsh word that roughly translates to a longing for a place that was never yours, a place to which you can’t return. Both have some relevance to adoption.

Leslie Maes, a Korean adoptee raised in Belgium, has written an article published in The Korea Times about “han” and “jeong” for adoptees. Maes notes that “han” is a Korean word “that could be described as an ‘internalized feeling of deep sorrow, grief, regret and anger.'”  “Jeong,” he writes, “can be described as ‘a feeling of loyalty and of strong emotional connection to people and places.’ ” 

Maes would like to see the Korean adoptee community take on the embodiment of ‘jeong.’ “This emotion is the true gift we get from adoption, and one of the things I am really grateful for.

When looking at the difficult lives some adoptees have had, and how poor adoptee support systems are, it is comforting and reassuring to see how supportive and organized Korean adoptees are, globally. Sure there’s a lot of politics going on within groups and between community leaders, as in any kind of community.

But with a difficult start in life, often no support from Korea, nor from the receiving countries, adoptees are doing a great job in creating and connecting. Most adoptees are doing this work for free and in their free time.”

I’ve known many international and transracial adoptees who do not feel “Korean enough,” or Chinese enough,” or “Black enough,” or “Colombian enough.” One of the frequent losses in international adoption is the loss of one’s original language. Some adoptees of course learn (or re-learn) their original languages; perhaps others incorporate the bits of language that bring comfort to them. Maybe it’s a way of filling in missing pieces.

This article, printed in The Korea Times, is, according to an Editor’s Note, “the 24th in a series about Koreans adopted abroad. Apparently, many Koreans never expected that the children it had sent away via adoption would return as adults with questions demanding to be answered. However, thousands of adoptees visit Korea each year. Once they rediscover this country, it becomes a turning point in their lives. We should embrace the dialogue with adoptees to discover the path to recovering our collective humanity. ― ED.

Intercountry adoption in many ways began with Korean adoptees after the Korean War, and they are the largest group of intercountry adoptees to the U.S., if not globally. I am not aware of any other “sending” country that has offered to promote the viewpoint of adoptees this way. Wouldn’t it be great if other countries followed this example, and amplified, or at least encouraged, the voices of adult adoptees?

“Found” Documentary, About Chinese Adoptees: NAAM

This is for day 27 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees, posted on day 28.

“Found” is a new documentary on Netflix about Sadie, Chloe, and Lily, three adoptees from China raised in the United States. They connected via DNA testing because they turned out to be cousins, and then went to China together, along with their adoptive families, to see if they could make deeper connections.

I always worry a bit about documentaries like this that feature adopted minors going through a complicated part of life. My understanding is that these young women were teens when the film was made. According to a Newsweek article, Lily is a senior in college now, and Sadie and Chloe are high school seniors. That’s pretty young for exposure like this. Chloe is the niece of the film’s producer, Amanda Lipitz.

The three girls are wonderful—insightful, funny, bright, empathetic. They clearly have a tight bond; traveling together and sharing the bond of being adopted was vital. It’s poignant to watch them with their families—the scene where Sadie’s adoptive mom is showing her old family photos is powerful. Equally poignant and powerful is the Chinese genealogist, Liu Hao, who aims to help the girls find their birth families by posting their photos in websites, responding to leads, getting DNA samples, traveling to rural areas, and showing remarkable empathy.

And the nannies who cared for the girls when they were babies in the orphanage: in “Found,” these women are shown to be loving and deeply connected to the children in their care. That is of course not always the case in orphanages around the world,

Also poignant are the scenes of the Chinese families who are not matched with their never-forgotten daughters via Liu Hao’s efforts. Reading the English subtitles is important, but the looks on their faces are stunningly revealing.

There is no tidy resolution to the film, which will not surprise anyone who has been involved in adoption and in birth parent searches. China is especially difficult that way, as baby girls are abandoned and few records are available. There are some “successful” matches, and that is just the beginning of a complicated journey.

I am struck by the film’s title: “Found.” The opposite of Lost, but who was found? Who remains lost? Who cannot be found, and yet remains present?

The documentary is both emotional and pragmatic. I wish Sadie, Chloe, and Lily all the best.

Adoptee Influencer Network: NAAM

This is for day 26 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees, posted on day 27.

According to their Facebook page, Adoptee Influencer Network (AIN) exists “to EMPOWER adoptee influencers to hone their skills, know their worth and create excellent content; SUSTAIN adoptee influencers through facilitating equitable compensation for their work; and SATURATE the adoption space with adoptee centered content.”

That all sounds good to me.

Adoptee-founded and adoptee-centric, AIN “is a creative group of adoptees who amplify one another’s voices. We are artists, creatives, and professionals in a variety of fields. 

WE DO NOT ALL AGREE, but we know the world is wide enough for all of our perspectives. You don’t have to create content on adoption to join.”

The AIN Facebook page is full of events, books, and articles, by and about adoptees. They are actively welcoming adoptees to share their creative enterprises. On the AIN website, you can sign up for their newsletter, look at the most popular posts, and even shop for adoptee-related merchandise.

Adoptees empowering adoptees, and amplifying adoptee-centered content: that is a great focus for National Adoption Awareness Month.