Another Lawsuit By An Adult Adoptee: Guatemalan Adoptee Sues Orphanage

Alex Guibault, a 28 year old adoptee from Guatemala, has recently sued his orphanage Casa Aleluya for violent physical and sexual abuse. Alex now lives in Canada, having been adopted at the age of 19. He spent about 12 years in the orphanage: the police placed there at around 7 years old. The lawsuit alleges “vile, violent, and horrendous acts” against Alex and other children in the orphanage, which is, according to a CBC article, run by “Build Your House on the Rock, a Louisiana based Christian group.”

One of the Build Your House programs is Casa Aleluya, a 501(c) 3 non-profit “providing medical, educational, and spiritual care for children and a loving place they can call home. These children grow up healthy and happy while learning the love of Christ.” Their website shows several former children who grew up at Casa Aleluya as Ministry Leaders now. The orphanage can have more than 500 children receiving care at any given time. Over 6000 abused and neglected children have received food, shelter, education, and hope in the more than 30 years since the orphanage was founded, according to the website.

Alex was adopted by a Canadian family several years ago, though he is apparently still working on getting Canadian citizenship. He spends time in Guatemala, including helping children who live on the streets and in other difficult circumstances. The lawsuit will likely takes years to make its way through the courts.

I titled this post “Another Lawsuit by an Adult Adoptee” for a reason. While adoptive parents have sued adoption agencies for various reasons over several decades, adult adoptees have brought fewer lawsuits. That is changing. While I would not say there is a massive trend, I would say it’s a bellwether of sorts.

Here are some examples:

Nine adoptees from Mali who were raised in France filed for fraudulent adoption.

Three Ethiopian adoptees successfully had their adoptions annulled. Two of the adoptees had been raised in Denmark; one grew up in the Netherlands.

Kara Bos, a Korean adoptee raised in the U.S., filed and won a lawsuit in Korea to be recognized as a daughter of her biological father.

Adam Crapser, a Korean adoptee raised in the U.S., filed a lawsuit against both Holt Children’s Services and the Korean government for “gross negligence. The first hearing was held in Seoul in August 2019. Crapser, who had a childhood full of abuse by adoptive families, was deported to Korea in 2016 due to criminal charges and the fact that he did not have U.S. citizenship.

In Alabama, the brother of an adoptee tortured for years by adoptive parents filed a lawsuit against the parents. The adoptive parents have been convicted and are in jail for two years, then probation for three. The adoptee weighed less than 55 pounds at 14 years old.

In 2017, Sixties Scoop Survivors (babies born to “unwed mothers” and scooped from their mothers at birth) reached an agreement with Canada wherein Canada will pay between $500-800 million in restitutions. Funds are intended to go to indigenous children adopted in the 1960’s by non-indigenous families in Canada, Europe, and the U.S. The restitutions are for the loss of their cultural identities, family, and communities.

In the U.S., the quest by adoptees for their own Original Birth Certificates (OBC) and for their medical history has often involved litigation, court cases, and money. This is a struggle that has gone on for decades.

All international adoptees should have been automatically granted citizenship, but that is not the case. The legislation for citizenship has not yet been approved by the U.S. Congress, and that is an outrage.

This is not an exhaustive list, though neither is there an enormous amount of litigation by individual adoptees. Litigation is an expensive, draining process, financially and emotionally; state and federal legislation can be slow and tedious, requiring a great deal of time and effort. Still. That adoptees are filing lawsuits and legislation at all is a shattering of the traditional narrative around adoption, and these adoptees must have their truths honored. My heart aches for every one of them, but that is not the point. We in the adoption community cannot dismiss the harsh and unfair experiences of some adoptees who had no agency in their adoptions and who were part of the societal understanding that life would be better because of adoption.

First Hearing Held on Adoptee Adam Crapser’s Lawsuit Against Holt, Korean Government

This is a very significant event: the first hearing in a court case brought by an international adoptee against an adoption agency and the country in which he was born. Adam Crapser, adopted from South Korea and deported back as an adult, has filed a suit against Holt Children’s Services and against the Korean government, arguing that both committed “gross negligence.”

The Korea Herald today posted “First Hearing in Holt Lawsuit by Korean adoptee deported from US highlights fight for transparency, adoptee rights.”

I’m disappointed to read that, at the hearing, Holt’s lawyer said that “the statute of limitations on Crapser’s adoption had passed, regardless of Holt’s responsibility.” 

That could prove to be accurate legally. Morally and ethically, though, I hope that Holt and all adoption agencies don’t just shrug their shoulders about responsibilities towards the children brought to the U.S. or elsewhere. 

Adam Crapser was abused horribly, sexually, physically, and emotionally, growing up in the family Holt placed him with. Surely there is some ethical obligation by adoption agencies, which received fees for salaries, travel, overhead, documents, and more, toward the ongoing outcomes of the children they placed for adoption. The children grow up. It is unjust and immoral for agencies not to acknowledge the role they had for the children they accepted into their care and whose adoptive parents they vetted. Agencies cannot accept the gratitude and donations of adoptive parents without also serving the needs of the adoptees whose lives were not better as a result of adoption, but were filled with abuse and neglect.

One aspect of how Adam was failed, and this pertains to thousands of other international adoptees, is that none of his various adoptive/foster parents got citizenship for him. It is an outrage that our U.S. Congress has still not passed legislation for all international adoptees, though there has been significant progress due to the efforts of Adoptees For Justice, Adoptee Rights Campaign, and others. Please take a look at their websites, gather information, and join the effort to pass legislation granting citizenship to all international adoptees.

Photo of Korean adoptees with signs written in Korean to support Adam Crapser's lawsuit against Holt and Korea.
Photo ©: Korea Herald

We in the adoption community are at an eye-opening time: finally, more adoptees’ voices are being heard and listened to (though we still need to do much better), and the traditional narrative of adoption as win-win-win is being both questioned and exposed as far more nuanced and complex than its Hallmark card reputation. We need to hear from so many more voices.

This lawsuit, regardless of its outcome, is a bellwether for the work that needs to be done in Adoption Land. People around the globe, including adult adoptees, the U.S. State Department, embassies, adoption agencies, and governments in sending and receiving countries (the U.S. both sends children outside the U.S. for international adoption and receives them for the same) are watching this case carefully.

Phillip Clay’s Funeral: Grieving for Him and For So Many

I never knew Phillip Clay, a Korean adoptee. I had never heard of him until reading about his suicide. I now wonder if his legacy, rooted in sorrow and tragedy, will be to awaken our own U.S. government to the travesty that is the denial of citizenship to all international adoptees.

The Korean television channel MBC (Munhwa Broadcasting Company) aired footage from Phillip’s funeral. If this doesn’t break your heart, I am not sure what would. You will see other Korean adoptees, including Adam Crapser, who speaks eloquently about Phillip’s life and death. The video from the funeral is available here. My heart aches for Phillip and those who loved him. May he rest in peace and in power. 

Phillip Clay’s Funeral

What a price Phillip paid for having been adopted from Korea to the United States, an action that is supposed to be one of joy and a better life. Our American government deported him, because it does not automatically provide citizenship to adoptees who were under 18 as of 2001 (the year the Child Citizenship Act took effect), and whose parents failed to get citizenship for them.

Adam Crapser, one of many adoptees at Phillip Clay’s Funeral Service

Our American government, which approved Phillip’s adoption from Korea, which had all paperwork from the adoption agency Holt International and from his American adoptive parents, still  stands by and lets other adoptees be deported. Understand that those who were deported committed crimes for which they served time in U.S. jails.

 

Then, having been fully and legally adopted by U.S. citizens, they were deported, because they did not have U.S. citizenship, through no fault of their own.

Outrageous on every level. Unethical, irresponsible, and cruel.

I can only imagine that the countries of origin think about this. The U.S. has deported international adoptees not only to Korea, but to Brazil, German, India, Mexico, and many others. What kind of country sends back internationally adopted people to a country where they don’t speak the language, have no family and no connections, and can never return to the U.S.?

Here’s a thought for sending countries (as well as adoption agencies, nonprofits, government officials, and prospective adoptive parents–all those who are concerned about the decline in numbers of internationally adopted children): How about demanding that the U.S. government provide retroactive citizenship to all international adoptees before any other children are brought to the U.S. for adoption?

Many adoptees are angry with Holt, which I have been told had legal guardianship of Phillip. That is an arrangement I have never heard of, though it could well be accurate. In any case, there is increasing anger and action against Holt and other adoption agencies, which could be seen as complicit in the deportation of adoptees. The agencies may or may not have been adamant in insisting that parents get citizenship for their children. Adoptive parents must be held accountable for failing to get citizenship for their adopted children, whether through ignorance, neglect, or willful and cruel refusal.

For years, the U.S. Congress has been sitting on legislation to provide retroactive citizenship for all international adoptees. Will they shake their heads, saying, “Yes, it’s sad, but we can’t do anything,” or will they say that adoptive families are legal and genuine families who deserve the same protections as other families?

Will it take more deaths to provoke action that grants citizenship to all adoptees?

Phillip Clay’s Funeral Service

 

More information about adoptee citizenship issues is available at Adoptee Rights Campaign.

I want to acknowledge Dear Adoption for sharing the video of Phillip’s funeral. I highly recommend Dear Adoption as a site for anyone open to learning about adoption from the perspective of adopted people. Brilliant, powerful essays available there.