Blackstone Buys Ancestry.Com: Ramifications for Adoptees?

The private equity firm Blackstone has purchased the DNA testing giant Ancestry.com for $4.7 billion. According to Reuters, Ancestry.com is the world’s largest provider of DNA testing, which includes finding family members as well as medical information.

DNA testing companies have marketed mightily to adoptees, in the U.S. and internationally. Because U.S. and international adoptees are often prevented legally from obtaining their original birth certificates (aka the basic human and civil right that we non-adoptees take for granted) and often have limited medical histories, they are wooed by the DNA companies to get around laws and thus access their own information. For some adoptees, it’s been wonderful; for some, it’s been complicated. For some, it’s a dead end of fourth and fifth cousins, and little help otherwise. “If I’m Adopted, Should I Have DNA Testing?” gives an overview by a genetics counselor. It was, however, written in 2018, and a lot has changed since then.

There have been increasing concerns about the preservation and sharing of DNA, including by law enforcement officials. In February, six months ago, Pennsylvania police had a search warrant to gain access to Ancestry.com’s database of 16 million DNA profiles. Ancestry refused. It’s possible that situations like this could go to the Supreme Court. In any case, other DNA companies do share their DNA data with police, scientists, marketers and others, and may not be making that reality clear to their customers.

For international adoptees, DNA testing is often the only way to gather information short of traveling to the country. Two Chinese adoptees who were first cousins found each other via DNA testing—and also found they lived 12 miles apart and were from the same orphanage in China. IamAdoptee did a series of posts about DNA testing for Korean, Chinese, and Colombian adoptees. Adoption Mosaic recently held a We the Experts panel (the experts being adoptees) about “Adoptee Liberation or Exploitation: Pros and Cons of DNA Testing.” The adoptees were from the U.S., China, Korea, and Colombia, and had a variety of perspectives about why they chose to use or not use DNA testing.

Some Black adoptees have expressed concerns about DNA databases that might be used by police, given the concerns over police violence against Black people and inequitable incarceration rates. For example, “One fear is its potential to place innocent people under police suspicion. In her book Inside the Cell: The Dark Side of Forensic DNA, New York University law professor Erin Murphy warns that the practice of searching for genetic relatives could cast wide nets of suspicion over families, and lead cops to test a person’s DNA despite no independent evidence linking them to a crime.” Some DNA companies retain DNA and share it in an unregulated way, which has significant current and potential ramifications.

One option for Black people is AfricanAncestry.com, which says this on its webpage:

  • We do not maintain a database of customer information.
  • We do not sell or share customers’ personal or genetic information.
  • We do not provide customer information to law enforcement.
  • We do not biobank your genetic material. All genetic material is destroyed at the lab.

AfricanAncestry.com describes itself this way: “the world leader in tracing maternal and paternal lineages of African descent having helped more than 750,000 people re-connect with the roots of their family tree.” It may be an option for Black adoptees from the U.S. and from Africa.

With Blackstone, a billion dollar corporation, now owning Ancestry.com, also a billion dollar corporation, the stakes around privacy and information have grown daunting indeed. For adoptees, DNA testing is a possible avenue to access relatives and medical history, but at what price?

More U.S. states need to allow adoptees access to their original birth certificates. Adoptees in Massachusetts are currently working on this, as are advocates in other states. Adoption agencies and lawyers need to insist that all available information provided about adoptees at time of placement is as accurate, thorough, and current as possible. Adoptive parents need to demand the same at placement. Knowledge of who your parents are, and an accurate medical history, should not be exceptional, costly, and arduous information to obtain.

Adoptees and Suicide: Resources and Thoughts for Adoptive Parents (And Others)

As the White adoptive parent of 4 Black children (two born in the U.S., two born in Ethiopia; now adults in their 30’s), I have learned a great deal about both the joys and sorrows of adoption. One of the sorrows is that some adoptees struggle mightily with depression and trauma, no matter how deeply they are loved. This can become especially pronounced in adolescence. For those adoptees who are placed in abusive adoptive families, I can only imagine how horrific, lonely, and devastating their struggle must be.

Many adoptees do just fine. I don’t want to pathologize adoption or adoptees. That said, I urge all of us adoptive parents in particular to get a deeper understanding of suicide prevention, and to know that there are signs, treatments, and actions we can take.

I know of at least four Ethiopian adoptees who died by suicide. A (not adopted) Ethiopian 7th grader died by suicide a few years ago here in Washington; his parents are immigrants. They, their family, and their community have been devastated by the loss, as is, I am sure, any parent whose child has died by suicide. The parents and other family members need support and hope, which can come in many forms, as they try to recover and heal.

In my writing on adoption, I always try to promote the voices of adult adoptees, their lived experiences, their stories, and their professional expertise. 

Here are some examples of the voices we should be aware of and learn from, even as we are talking about the wrenching subject of suicide. There is a Facebook page Stop Adoptee Suicide set up by and for adoptees; there are some great resources listed on the page. There will be an Adoptee Remembrance Day October 30 organized by the adoptee leadership of Adoptees Connect. The page Intercountry Adoptee Memorials was created by Intercountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV) to honor those who adoptees who died by suicide or at the hands of their adoptive family.

Besides a willingness to read, and to make efforts to help families recover and heal, what can we do? 

Know that talking about suicide will not make someone suicidal. In fact, it can reduce the risk. Learn more here. That’s the site of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Consider consulting with therapists who are adoptees. Here is a list, created by Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker, of U.S. based adoptee-therapists. Dr. Wirta-Leiker is herself an adoptee and is also an adoptive parent.

Listen to adoptee-led discussions.

* One great podcast is Canada-based AdopteesOn; the Healing Series on suicide is thoughtful and powerful.

* Another excellent resource is AdoptedFeels, an Australia-based podcast hosted by two international adoptees, which had a 3-part series on adoption and suicide. Look here for the episodes.

 * Adapted podcasts (for Korean adoptees living in Korea and elsewhere) has had at least two episodes related to suicide.

* In September, Adoption Mosaic will hold a “We the Experts” program on suicide and adoption. The experts are adoptees. Non-adoptees (adoptive parents, partners, friends, support folx of adoptees) are invited to attend as well, and agree to be silent: to intentionally listen and learn. Stay tuned for more information soon.

 When looking for resources for your child, look for adoption-competent therapists. Ask what their training is in adoption and trauma. The Center for Adoption Support and Education has trained more than 1800 therapists in 18 states via a curriculum called Training for Adoption Competency. 

Keep these resources handy:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number: 1-800-273-8255 (Note: in 2022, there will be a 3 digit number for folx to call, but that is not in service yet. Keep using the number provided above until then.)

The Lifeline page has a link for resources for youth who might be struggling.

The Crisis Text Line can be reached  by texting HOME 741741 in the U.S. and Canada. You can text 85258 in the UK, and 50808 in Ireland. It is available 24/7.

Here’s an article I wrote on Adoptees and Suicide Risk, for a publication of Adoptive Families Association of British Columbia.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the role that racism and bullying (including cyberbullying) can play in the lives and deaths of adoptees.

The parents of Kaleab Schmidt, an Ethiopian adoptee who died by suicide in 2018, are working hard to get their school system to face the racism and racial bullying that their son endured at school. Kaleab had many struggles: abuse in Ethiopia, the loss of both Ethiopian parents, deep trauma endured there as a little child. If you believe that adoption itself is a trauma (the separation from one’s mother, the deep grief of losing one’s only known family, and in the case of international adoption, losing one’s country, language, history, and heritage), then you understand that Kaleab experienced many traumas. Add to that the blatant racism and bullying he received as the only Black student at his school, and the fact that (from the reports) no genuine effort appears to have been made by the school to address the bullying or the racism, and your heart continues to break.  

Racial mirrors matter. Surround adoptees with people who look like them. Racial isolation is painful. 

  • The Adopted Life blog of Black transracial adoptee Angela Tucker has several posts, videos, and interviews about the impact of racism on adoptees.

“The Harris Narratives: An Introspective Study of a Transracial Adoptee by Susan Harris O’Connor, a Black transracial adoptee; “In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption” by Ronda M. Roorda, a Black transracial adoptee, and “Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption,” edited by Jane Jeong Trenka, a Korean transracial adoptee, are just a few examples of books written by (as Adoption Mosaic says) the experts in adoption: adoptees.

For more general information: Here’s a British site about Racism and Racist Bullying. Here’s information from the U.S. National Education Association on How to respond to incidents of racism, bullying, and hate in schools. There is a link in the article to some additional resources. I realize most school are doing remote learning, but the information is still relevant. Given that many kids are home and spending lots more time on social media, online bullying exists as a real and ugly possibility. Here’s one resource about cyberbullying directed toward teens. Here’s another more general one for children and teens: Cyberbullying.

Kaleab Schmidt, who died at 13 years old, was a victim of cyberbullying, among other racist incidents, according to an inquest requested by his parents. “School officials testified there was allegedly a Snapchat group called ‘I Hate Kaleab Schmidt’ created by students at Greenall High School.”

Imagine if that were your child.

We all need to work harder at protecting children from racism and other forms of abuse.

If your White adoption social worker did not prepare you well for transracial adoption (and I feel safe in saying that was the case for many adoptive parents), there are plenty of adoptees who can provide incredible information and insights. Listen to them. If your adopted child is a victim of bullying in school or on the web, especially of adoption- or race-related bullying, advocate fiercely for them. I realize some bullying can be inevitable, but racial-based bullying can be horrifyingly intense for a transracially adopted child whose white parents haven’t experienced racism. When the children grow up and go out into the world, the racism can be gutting.

This has to stop. Hard work and hard conversations must happen. May Kaleab and all those who died too soon rest in peace and in power.

San Juan Islands, 2016 &Copy; Maureen McCauley

 

 

 

Do We Need More White Adoptive Mothers Writing About Their Transracially Adopted Children?

No, we do not. I say that as a white adoptive mother who could share some terrific stories about her transracially adopted children, as kids in school, as teenagers, as young adults. I mean really riveting stories, with drama, heartache, humor, intrigue, and more. Their stories are theirs alone, however—not mine to tell, and certainly not if they are minors. My children are in their 30’s now, and I still would not tell a single story without their permission. And I mostly do not have permission.

I believe this is especially important within adoption, where adoptees had no agency for the decisions made for them, where the heft of economic and other societal powers is held by the adoptive parents, and where the birth family has little if any opportunity to be heard in an equitable way.

A while back, I got an email from a white adoptive mom who is writing a book about her children’s struggles and challenges. She asked to talk, I guess to pick my brain about it. She was surprised that I was not encouraging, that I did not think she should share her children’s stories, whether they had given her permission or not. They are minors, and minor children cannot give genuine, meaningful consent. She got a bit flustered as I expounded on why I thought it was a bad idea. She told me I was being hostile, at one point.

Yes, I suppose I was. Politely hostile, if that’s possible.

I asked if she had spoken to her family’s therapist about the book. Yes, she had, and the therapist thought it was a great idea. Memo to file: This is why we need more adoptee-therapists, and adoption-competent therapists. Here is a terrific list of U.S. therapists who are also adoptees. The list was assembled by Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker, a licensed psychologist who is herself an adoptee as well as an adoptive mother.

My hope is, regardless of what therapist one works with, that the therapist would say, “No, do not share your young children’s stories in public at this point, regardless of whether they have ostensibly given their consent, or whether you feel your story will inspire and help others.”

I am not a therapist but I’d also add: “Wait until they are adults, and can ethically decide whether they want their struggles and meltdowns and medications shared forever with strangers on the Internet or in print. This is especially true, white adoptive parent, if your child is transracially adopted. And do not share about their birth parents’ ages, prison time, addictions, other children, or any other information without the explicit permission of the birth parents. When your children are adults, feel free to encourage them to write their own stories, including about your parenting.”

And I’d close my remarks by saying that “There are many, many excellent adoptee-written blogs and adoptee-led podcasts and adoptee-authored books. New ones are burgeoning every day, as more adult adoptees find their voices and the empowerment to use them. Give them the respect they deserve for their lived experiences, and absorb what you can from those with professional expertise. Compensate them fairly for their time and their sharing of their stories and insights. Tell other adoptive parents about them. Listen and learn.”

Newport Beach, OR © Maureen McCauley

“Lions Roaring” Anthology

After much too long a time, the anthology “Lions Roaring, Far From Home” is edging toward publication. 

It will contain about 30 essays by Ethiopian adoptees, ages 9 to late 50’s, who were raised in the US, Canada, Sweden, France, Spain, the Netherlands, and Australia. 

Funds from sales will go toward a guest house in Addis for returning adoptees. The book will be dedicated to Ethiopian adoptees who have died by suicide and other means.

Front and back cover art is by Art of Nahosenay Negusssie and by Ethiopian adoptee Adanech Evans. 

More details coming soon!

Original Art © Adanech Evans.

Korean Adoptee Wins Right in Korean Court to Meet Her Korean Father, And Be Registered on Family Registry

This is a breakthrough ruling for Korean adoptees. A Korean court June 12 ruled in favor of adoptee Kang Mee-sook, adoptive name Kara Bos, who was raised in the U.S. She now has the legal right to meet her Korean father, and be listed on his family registry. She had originally searched for her mother to no avail, and then found through DNA that she had a 99.99 biological connection to a Korean man named Kang. He and his family, however, refused to meet with her, and so she took action through the Korean courts. 

This ruling means that she can be registered on her father’s Korean family registry as “a person acknowledged,” which is a significant part of the Korean family law system. She was born out of wedlock, and still hopes to meet her mother. She will meet her father on Monday in Korea.

As an adoptive parent, I have long held that adoptees should have the right to their own identity as a civil and human right. This is an enormous groundbreaking ruling for Korean adoptees, who make up the largest segment of international adoptees, and could set a precedent of sorts for other international adoptees seeking access to their identity and information. I wish Kang Mee-sook/Kara Bos all the best.

I had previously written about the case here.

You can read an English version of the story from a Korean newspaper here.

Here is a link to a New York Times story about the case.

This is a landmark case for international adoption adoptee rights and could perhaps have ramifications for other adoptees searching for their truths.

Korean Adoptee Files Paternity Suit Against (For?) Her Korean Father

Kara Bos was adopted from Korea to the US when she was 2 years old. Now, 36 years later, she has filed a paternity suit in Korea to be legally recognized by her Korean father. 

As many adoptees have done, Kara used DNA testing to locate Korean family members. Following up on results which connected her to a cousin and nephew, Kara traveled to Seoul and took DNA tests there. Those results identified an 85 year old Gangnam man with 99.9% probability of being her father. Kara apparently has two half-sisters in Korea, and they have have refused to connect directly with the man she believes to be her Korean father. 

On May 29, 2020, a court hearing in Seoul is scheduled to take place in order to enter Kara in the father’s family registry. The Korean family registry is an important and historical part of Korean culture, as it officially identifies family members and thus can affect citizenship, inheritance, and more.

Among the reasons Kara wants to meet her Korean father is to learn why she was abandoned, and to have information about her mother. “He is my only link to finding out who my mother is, as my adoption documents list only ‘abandoned.'”

Kara says that adoptees “need to know who our parents are, where we come from, and why we were abandoned, and the Korean government doesn’t do anything to help us with that. We want truth. We want answers to our past.” 

“I want my story told so that Korea understand the excruciating pain and rejection an adoptee has to go through even as an adult on their return to find out their birth story.”

Read the Manila Bulletin article here: “Korean-American adoptee files landmark paternity suit against her biological father in South Korea.”

The Korean adoptee community has been especially active in promoting DNA testing. Here is one source for information and tests.

Remembering Hana Williams, 9 Years After Her Death

Today is the 9th anniversary of the death of 13-year-old Hanna Williams, whose name was also Hana Alemu. Two years after her death, her adoptive parents were jailed for decades in 2013 for homicide by abuse (the charge against Carri Williams, the adoptive mother) and for manslaughter (the charge against Larry Williams, the adoptive father).

Every May 12, and on many other days as well, my thoughts turn to Hana. On May 12, 2011, Hana died outside her adoptive family’s home, due to hypothermia and malnutrition. She’d arrived in the U.S. from Ethiopia in 2008, and died weighing less than she had upon arrival. Her time in America began with a semblance of love, and devolved into cruelty, torture (the use of torture was part of the homicide by abuse charge), physical and emotional abuse, and ultimately death.

She would have turned 22 this year, had she lived.

Larry and Carri also had 7 biological children, who all, I am guessing, are legal adults now. They witnessed all the things that happened to Hana, as well as to the Williamses’ other adopted Ethiopian child, Immanuel. He was abused also, and Larry and Carri were charged and convicted for their abuse of Immanuel. I don’t know how any of the children are doing now. The testimony of the siblings who testified in court, who were also ultimately victims here, played an important role in the conviction of Larry and Carri.

In 2018, Ethiopia ended international adoptions. Hana’s death played a large part in that decision. as many Ethiopians worried about the fate of their children sent away for adoption. Most Ethiopian adoptees do well, of course, though some struggle with the trauma and grief that can be part of adoption. I know some adoptees who are placed for adoption due to medical conditions that are essentially untreatable in Ethiopia, and am happy to say that the American and the Ethiopian families have stayed in contact, which is wonderful. Increasing numbers of adoptees are searching for and reuniting with their Ethiopian families, a complicated journey. For adoptees and for Ethiopian families who want to search, consider contacting Beteseb Felega/Ethiopian Adoption Connection, a wonderful resource. Others, please consider donating to their work.

Many Ethiopian adoptees have searched and reunited with their Ethiopian families, including my twin daughters. My daughters are both mothers now themselves—what a blessing. My older granddaughter met her grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins in Ethiopia. My younger granddaughter is 8 months old now, and I hope she has a chance to meet all her Ethiopian relatives as well.

While some international adoptees are genuine orphans, with no living parents or other relatives, the vast majority are not orphans. Hana had relatives in Ethiopia. I think of them today as well, of course. May Hana rest in power, justice, and peace. We have not forgotten you.

May all children be safe and loved.

An adoption agency photo of Hana in Ethiopia, prior to her adoption in 2008
.

There are many ways to support vulnerable children and families in Ethiopia, and I encourage you to do so. Adoption is by no means the only way to ensure that children grow up safely and happily. Organizations that support HIV+ children, that empower women and literacy for girls, that train midwives and provide maternal care, that bring electricity to rural regions, that build schools and libraries: there are many wonderful, transparent, and effective nonprofits/non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) working with Ethiopians in the community to help children.

2019 Stats on Intercountry Adoptions: Declines and Omissions

The U.S. State Department has released the 2019 international adoption statistics. There were a total of 2971 children adopted to the U.S. last year. There were 4059 in 2018; numbers have been dropping for years. Of that 2019 total, about half came from 4 countries: China, Colombia, India and Ukraine combined. From the U.S., 56 children were placed for international adoption in Canada, Mexico, Netherlands, and elsewhere. In 2018, there were 81 U.S. children placed for adoption overseas, according to the State Department.

Please read through the report and look at the numbers. Here are some phrases you won’t find:


• “citizenship problems and deportations of adult adoptees,”
• “post-adoption services offered to birth parents,”
• “the tremendous need for better training for prospective parents in regard to racial identity and racism in the U.S.,”
• and “we are deeply involved with other nations to improve efforts for adoptee search/reunion and family preservation.”

You will absolutely see phrases like this:


“…to advocate for the protection, welfare, and best interests of children in need of permanent, loving families, and to assist prospective U.S. adoptive parents in realizing their dreams of creating or expanding their families.”


“…the ultimate aim of preserving and enhancing the viability of intercountry adoption in the United States.”


I have so much to say, and hope to provide a more detailed post later. In the meantime, here are some pull quotes from the report, followed by my brief comments in italics.


“In September 2019, we hosted an Adoption Symposium, “Strengthening Practice for the Future of Intercountry Adoption,” which convened more than 120 interested stakeholders, including representatives from adoption service providers (ASPs), advocacy organizations, U.S. government agencies, and the U.S. accrediting entity, Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity, Inc. (IAAME), as well as adoptive parents, birth parents, adult adoptees, and Congressional staffers.”


My understanding is that adoptees were few in number, and there was one birth mother, who was born and raised in the U.S., and placed a child here in the U.S. I’d guess that the ASP reps included many adoptive parents in their numbers. I do give credit for State reaching out for one of the first time to include adoptees and birth parents at the table, and I understand they did a great job, but there is still a very long way to go.

“While the overall number of intercountry adoptions to the United States declined from the previous year, 75% of that decline can be attributed to the decrease of intercountry adoption from two countries, China (a decrease of 656) and Ethiopia (a decrease of 166). In both cases, the reductions result from continued social, economic, or legal changes the Department previously observed and reported in those countries.”

In 2018, the Ethiopian Parliament officially ended international adoptions not, as is demurely phrased here, due to “continued social, economic, or legal changes,” so much as deep worry about the status of their children such as Hana Williams, who was murdered by her adoptive parents. The Ethiopian government also expressed concerns about the racism that permeates America, and stressed the need for in-country adoptions.


Additionally, there have been significant cases of fraud, corruption, and bribery in international adoption via U.S. agencies and/or their partner staff overseas. U.S. adoption agency staff have been indicted and convicted, and more than a few agencies have closed suddenly due to bankruptcy.


In any case, reports about the decline in the number of international adoptions should always include the perspectives of adult adoptees and of first/birth parents. When they are included in significant, meaningful numbers in these policy conversations, then perhaps genuine progress can be made in attributing reasons for the decline.


“The Department also hosted events overseas with members of the adoption community to discuss key issues in the adoption process. For example, U.S. Embassy Bogota hosted an Adoption Open House with more than 40 participants representing 15 U.S.-accredited ASPs, the Colombian Authorized Adoption Institutions, the Colombian Central Adoption authority, and the Office of Children’s Issues.”


Please note who is not listed as participating in the Open House: adult adoptees and first/birth parents. The U.S. Embassy in Bogotá missed a big opportunity there not to have the perspective of the thousands of Colombian adoptees and birth parents to discuss key issues in the adoption process.

“The Department’s new Senior Advisor for Children’s Issues, Michelle Bernier-Toth, appointed in December 2019, shares the commitment expressed at the Symposium and is actively engaging foreign government officials to advocate for the protection, welfare, and best interests of children in need of permanent, loving families, and to assist prospective U.S. adoptive parents in realizing their dreams of creating or expanding their families.”


There are elements of hope in this statement about advocacy for the protection, welfare, and the best interests of children, though there is tremendous disagreement in the adoption community as to what that should look like. What’s glaringly missing here is a strong, ethical call for family preservation, for orphan prevention, and for significant improvement in medical and mental health care for vulnerable women and children in particular. Arguably, I realize, that’s part of the mission of other U.S. government offices as well. Nonetheless, how great it would be to see it voiced in a report like this.


State’s ongoing focus on adoptive parents (mostly white, well educated, politically connected, and relatively well-off enough to both raise the $40,000-$50,000 to adopt and then get the adoption tax credit for it) and relative silence on, say, the post-adoption needs of international birth parents, or the citizenship status of adult adoptees, truly needs to change.(Citizenship is handled primarily through the Department of Homeland Security. State issues passports, a vital form of proof of U.S. citizenship.) Commenting this way about the help given to “adoptive parents in realizing their dreams of creating or expanding their families” continues the traditional and outdated Hallmark adoption narrative. I know: many adoptees do great, but many suffer abuse, neglect, depression, anxiety, and a disconnection with their culture and racial group. Imagine if we were routinely transparent and accurate about that. Imagine if our U.S. State Department worked with other countries to research status and improve outcomes of first/birth parents around the globe, after they placed their children for adoption. It is so easy to keep forgetting about that most vulnerable group. But: many international adoptees have found that they were never orphans, that their mothers thought about them every day, and that some of them were trafficked. The truth is coming out more every day.


Imagine if the State Department, working with other international governments, assisted international adoptees in realizing their dreams of searching for and reuniting with their families.


“Lastly, in FY 2019 families outside of the United States adopted 56 children from the United States to seven countries: Canada (24), the Netherlands (17), Mexico (6), Ireland (5), Belgium (1), Switzerland (1), and the United Kingdom (2).”


Most of the American children appear to have been placed from agencies in Florida and New Jersey. It’s often a shock to Americans to find out that the United States is also a sending country for the purpose of international adoption. I have heard, only anecdotally, that some black birth mothers decide to place their children overseas to escape the racism so prevalent here, and that some birth mothers wanted to place with gay couples and were prevented from doing so in the States. The U.S. didn’t used to keep any statistics about how many U.S. born children were adopted oversea. When the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption came into effect in the U.S. in 2008, we like every other sending country had to keep statistics on the numbers of outgoing cases. I do not believe statistics are kept on the race nor the outcomes of these placements. In any case, we do place our American children for adoption overseas.


Let me place the necessary “not all” disclaimers. Not all adoption agencies have corrupt, selfish, uncaring staff. Not all adoptees are unhappy. Not all birth parents suffer. There are efforts being made to help in terms of family preservation and orphan prevention. There need to be more of those efforts. So many more children could be helped.


Here’s the thing, though, about international adoption in 2020. There are hundreds if not thousands of international adult adoptees who are writing and speaking out about their experiences. We need to listen to them. The U.S. government has yet to agree that all international adoptees should be granted U.S. citizenship. That must change. Adoptees are still being left out of adoption policy-making. The post-adoption fate of first/birth mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents, and other family members is rarely even considered, never mind studied or documented. The radical inequity of post-adoption services provided to international birth families compared to American adoptive families is astonishing, and we need to do a far better job here.


The statistics next year will be even lower, due to COVID-19, due to bans on air travel and closed visa offices. All around the world, nonprofits, governments, and businesses stopped. Adoptions have too, for the most part, during the pandemic.


So. Read the report. Listen to adoptees. Help empower women, educate girls, and support medical and mental health aid around the globe. Help preserve vulnerable families.

Update in Hana Williams’ Case: Carri Williams’ Petition Denied

A legal update: You may remember that in September 2019, the Washington state Court of Appeals refused to reverse the convictions of Larry and Carri Williams in the death of Ethiopian adoptee Hana Williams.

Today, the Court of Appeals turned down Carri Williams’ Personal Restraint Petition, which she had filed on October 29, 2019, in response to the September denial. I am not a lawyer; this is my understanding. The bottom line is that both Larry and Carri will remain in jail.

You can read the denial from the Court of Appeals here.

In 2013, Larry and Carri Williams were convicted for the homicide of Hana Williams and the abuse of Immanuel Williams. I wrote about the conviction and the sentencing here.

Hana, you remain in our hearts. Immanuel, we wish you peace and healing.

Wow Was I Wrong About Laura Ingraham

In my post yesterday about an international adoption conference held by the State Department, I briefly mentioned that conservative Fox channel host Laura Ingraham was a keynote speaker. I said the decision to have Ingraham there was “unfortunate.” I was wrong. I should have been far more forceful.

One of the first tenets of being a good accomplice for white accomplices in social justice work is to change your lens. My lens is that of a white Cisgender abled woman, the type that has traditionally held power and privilege in the world, second only to white Cisgender abled men. My lens is firmly socialized and established; I am a work in progress around reframing it. Another tenet for folks like me is not to center ourselves because (see the first tenet) we are pretty much always centered in history, advertising, opportunities, credibility.

When I wrote about Ingraham’s speaking at the adoption conference, I looked at it only through my lens, and centered my own experience. Ingraham wasn’t talking about me or for me or to me. I am an adoptive parent, as she is; beyond that, we have little in common. I can easily dismiss her and her impact. While I called her remarks about possibly moving migrant children into the U.S. adoption system “horrifying,” I shrugged my shoulders, and moved on.

Then I read a post by Melanie Chung-Sherman, a highly regarded therapist, a woman of color, an adopted person. Here is what she had to say about the choice of Ingraham as a speaker at the State Department conference:

“Did you know?? The U.S. Department of State felt it necessary and ever-so relevant to bring in Laura Ingraham to keynote before a closed adoption symposium addressing ‘adoption reform.’ Yes, that Laura Ingraham. 

Even worse–DOS invited fellow transracial adoptee advocates (friends of many) to speak about ‘reform’ while knowingly putting this known white supremacist, xenophobe, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist (who happens to be a TRIA parent) up on stage for them to sit and listen to from the beginning. 

It was aggressive, harmful, violent, and completely demeaning for those who have committed their lives to social justice, equity, and adoption reform. 

Yeah, I’m pissed.”

My eyes and mind were opened as I read this. I had not thoughtfully reflected on what hearing Ingraham speak might have felt to the international, transracial adult adoptees there. Once I did reflect, prompted by Melanie’s words, I realized how cloudy my lens was, and how I had centered myself.

I’ve subsequently heard that perhaps the State Department did not select Ingraham as a speaker; maybe the White House did. I don’t know much more than that. I recognize that disparate voices and varying opinions are part of politics. I understand that there were those in the audience who supported Ingraham’s remarks, and those who found them odious.

Anyone genuinely involved in adoption today should be aware that, for far too long, adoptive parents have held the microphone in adoption policy and practices, in media articles, and in the traditional, tired narrative that adoption is win-win-win and full of only happy endings. Of course there are wonderful outcomes and good decisions. Often, though, there are rough roads, lots of confusion and grief, and grappling with identity, loss, and unattainable information.

Handing the microphone, literally, to Laura Ingraham showed an astonishing lack of knowledge about what adoption conferences today should be: they should be focused on adoptees, and on birth parents. They should be the prominent speakers and guides that the government and media go to first. Having a controversial adoptive parent with anti-immigrant views at an adoption conference that for the first time centered international, transracial adoptees tainted but probably did not ruin other notable accomplishments. Next time, or at any adoption conference, there are many amazing, powerful adoptees who could be (should be) at the podium. Still, adoptees are now at the table for State Department policy formulation, and that is laudable.

As an adoptive parent, I’ll close with my promise to keep my eyes, heart, and mind more open to the voices and insights of adoptees and birth/first parents, and to keep working on my lens. I’ll close this post with the powerful words of Reshma McClintock on behalf of herself and other international adoptees who attended the State Department conference:


“Transracial/Inter Country Adoptees are one of the most resilient and determined people groups. At the US State Department Adoption Symposium we addressed adoptee voice elevation, citizenship, family preservation, rehoming, adoptee rights, and other important topics.

I used the opportunity I had to address attendees with this message: Adopted adults are the most valuable and untapped resource on the subject of adoption. We must be recognized and involved in adoption conversations. 

I‘m proud of my community and thankful for those who support the good work we are doing collectively. It is emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially exhausting, yet WE ARE OUT HERE.”

#AdopteeMovement