A “Lions Roaring” Update: Zoom with Mike Davis, A Deported Ethiopian Adoptee

We will soon announce the pre-order and publication date of “Lions Roaring far From Home: An Anthology by Ethiopian Adoptees,” and we will soon be hosting a Zoom for a deported Ethiopian adoptee, now almost 60 years old.

“Lions Roaring” is the first anthology entirely by Ethiopian adoptees. The funds from the sales of the book will be used for Ethiopian adoptees. We are creating an account for the revenue and will distribute it to Ethiopian adoptees for DNA tests, travel costs to and from Ethiopia, translation services, and more.

One of our writers is Mike Davis, whose adoptive father was a U.S. Army officer. Mike grew up on Army bases with his dad. Mike went on to get married, have children, and build several small businesses. He got in some trouble, and completed the sentence he was given—he got in no further trouble after that. However, years after, he was deported, as a result of not being able to prove citizenship. Inept lawyers and a difficult legal system added to the adversity. In 2005, at the age of 43, Mike was deported to Ethiopia, where he had no family, no job, no connections.

He is now almost 60. It is time for him to come back to his family in the United States.

Mike Davis, deported Ethiopian adoptee. Let’s work to bring him home.

Many folks, including Mike’s wife and children, have been working hard to bring him back home to the United States. He was not able to attend his beloved father’s funeral, and he has yet to see his grandchildren in person. It is past time to bring Mike, and all deported international adoptees, back home. They came to the U.S. with the legal sanction of both the U.S. and the country of origin, and with the understanding that the U.S. was a safe and permanent home for them. Our government has failed to honor that understanding of adoption, and that is a shameful reality.

We will soon be hosting a Zoom talk with Mike and his wife, so that more folks can learn about his situation, and also to raise funds for his legal costs and other expenses. More details will be available soon. We hope that you will join us.

For updates on the anthology (including publication date) and Zooms, please visit and “Like” the Lions Roaring Far From Home Anthology Facebook page.

Postscript: I’ve written numerous times over the years about the need for Citizenship for All Adoptees. You can get more information at Adoptee Rights Law, Adoptees For Justice, and Alliance for Adoptee Citizenship. If anyone wants to donate directly to Mike, please email me at Maureen@LightofDayStories.com.

Orphan Definition, Deportation, and Governments’ Responsibilities to Ensure Citizenship: The Amicus Brief from the Case of Adam Crapser/Shin Song-hyuk v. the Republic of Korea and Holt International


A Korean adoptee’s case against the Korean government and against Holt International adoption agency is slowly making its way through the Korean legal system. It could have significant ramifications for international adoption.

From the Korea Time’s article March 22, 2022, “Adam Crapser v. Republic of Korea:”

“On Jan. 24, 2019, Shin Song-hyuk (better known as Adam Crapser), internationally adopted from Korea to the United States, filed a petition with the Seoul Central District Court against the Korean government and Holt Children’s Services Inc. for violating his rights during his adoption process. Although the plaintiff’s story garnered worldwide media attention, his lawsuit represents a historic legal first. Referred to as case number 2019 GA-HAP 502520 (because Korea does not include the parties involved in the names of legal cases), this petition is the first and only attempt by an inter-country adoptee to hold the Korean government accountable for failing to uphold its duty in such an adoption.”

According to the article, Adam Crapser/Shin Song-hyuk filed allegations against both the government of South Korea and against the Holt adoption agency:

Alleged illegal acts of Republic of Korea:

Negligence of its duty to protect its national in the process of inter-country adoption.

Unconstitutional use of proxy adoptions, a practice stipulated in the Adoption Special Procedure Act.

Negligence of its duty to monitor and audit the practices of adoption agencies.

Violation of its obligation to perform due diligence in the process of allowing children to leave the country to be adopted transnationally. The government had a duty to execute this crucial step by ensuring that a relevant authority would verify the legitimacy of the adoption agencies’ procedures. However, it failed to do so, thereby being in severe dereliction of duty. 

Failure to monitor and verify the citizenship acquisition of inter-country adoptees, as prescribed by law.

Negligence of its obligation to fulfill post-adoption monitoring of the plaintiff’s adoption.

Failure to uphold the international norms that seek to prevent financial gain by allowing the inclusion of such unethical practices in the implementation ordinance of the Special Adoption Procedure Act. 

Alleged illegal acts of Holt Children’s Services Inc.:

Holt is among the original four accredited adoption agencies authorized by the government to engage exclusively in inter-country adoptions from Korea for foreign adoptive parents. The original intent of granting such exclusive power should have been to secure the protection and welfare of children adopted abroad. However, rather than fulfilling this aim, it abused its power and engaged in gross child rights violations to reap financial benefits from its adoption business. 

In the case of the plaintiff, despite knowing about the existence of the mother and father, Holt proceeded to provide fraudulent information to the registry office to register the plaintiff as an abandoned orphan.

The allegations are: negligence in the conduct of its duty to serve as a guardian and protect the children under its care; illegally relinquishing and transferring guardianship to the agencies of the receiving countries; failure to execute its obligations to provide support in the acquisition of citizenship for adoptees and to verify the acquisition in accordance with the relevant laws of the receiving countries.”

The petition, filed over three years ago, is still being considered in the Korean court system. I am not a lawyer and have no expertise about the Korean legal process, but I’d guess one reason this is taking so long is because of the potentially enormous ramifications of the court’s decision not only for Adam Crapser, but for all Korean adoptees and for international adoption generally.

A Korean human rights lawyer, Lee Kyung-eun (Ph.D. in law), has recently published three articles in the Korea Times. The articles include excerpts from a 70-page amicus brief designed “to assist the judges in understanding the historic meaning of this case.”

Lee Kyung-eun is the director of Human Rights Beyond Borders and author of the Korean-language book, “The Children-selling Country,” and the English book, “The Global Orphan Adoption System; South Korea’s Impact on Its Origin and Development.”

Here are the links to the amicus brief excerpts, as published in English in the Korea Times:

Submission to court about Korea’s inter-country adoption process (part 1) April 2, 2022

Highlights: This article discusses the history of international adoption laws following the Korean War. The laws expanded and systematized what we now know as intercountry adoption processes. Among the significant points here is the creation of the legal definition of orphan. The 1961 U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Act and Korea’s 1961 Special Orphan Adoption Act created policies that meant an orphan was not necessarily a child with two deceased parents. An orphan could also be a child abandoned by both parents, or a child whose one remaining parent gave up the care of the child. Thus, children could be “economic orphans” or “social orphans.”

Court Submission on the “orphan-making” process (part 2) April 9, 2022

Highlights: This article continues the discussion of the creation/relaxation of the definition of “orphan,” plus an explanation of three Korean documents designed to “obtain the final decisions of the adoption proceedings in the U.S. state courts and qualifications for (the child’s) entry to the U.S.” The documents were apparently mass-produced. “The implications…suggest that it is necessary to investigate thoroughly whether inter-country adoption was a system to find a home for orphans or to produce orphans for the sake of adoption.”

Court Submission on responsibility to verify acquisition of citizenship of inter-country adoptees (part 3) April 16, 2022

Highlights; This article discusses the obligations of Korea and of the U.S. (since this case concerns an adoptee to the U.S.) to confirm that adoptees have received citizenship in their adoptive country. There is a reference to Holt’s court documents (which as far as I know have not been published), saying Holt was unaware of such a responsibility. According to the amicus brief, “The obligation to confirm the acquisition of citizenship by an inter-country adoptee belongs to both sending and receiving countries. It is obvious not only under international norms but also under then Korean law. The failure of the Korean government and adoption agencies to fulfill such an obligation is a clear and significant human rights infringement and a violation of Korean law.”

I urge anyone interested in international adoption to read the three articles above which summarize the amicus brief. (There may be more articles to come.) Keep an eye on this case, in regard to citizenship issues for international adoptees, the deportation of adoptees rom the United States, and the definition of “orphan” for purposes of intercountry adoption. The ramifications are global.

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

Deported Adoptees: NAAM

This is day 17 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees.

Most people, when they think of international adoption, think of cute little babies and children (mostly Black and Brown) arriving at the airport and then living forever with their loving adoptive American families.

They don’t think of an 8-year-old Korean boy abused repeatedly by his adoptive father, who chained the boy outside on a dog’s metal leash stake and beat him, then locked him back in the closet where he was given bread and water. The boy grew up and served in the U.S. military, including a tour in Kuwait, defending America’s interests.They don’t think of the 10-year-old Ethiopian boy adopted by an American soldier, a single dad. who brought the boy to the US where he had his own pizza business as a young man. They don’t think of the 6-year-old boy from Morocco who grew up in the South and now speaks with a Texas drawl. And they don’t think of the little girl born in Jamaica whose leg was amputated due to cancer when she was in high school. All of them have been deported back to their birth countries, because they are not, to their surprise, U.S. citizens, despite having entered the country legally as the children of U.S. citizens.

Mike Davis, adopted from Ethiopia in 1976, deported in 2005. His wife and children live in the U.S.

The rest of the story here is that they, as many young Americans have, committed crimes and then served their time in U.S. jails or prison boot camps. Unlike the biological children born here, the adoptees were deported because, through no fault of theirs, they had not been given citizenship. The wrong paperwork was filed, or their parents thought they had automatic citizenship, or someone (not the adoptee) dropped the ball and maybe didn’t even realize it until too late.

Imagine being 30 or 40 years old, and suddenly ending up in a country where you don’t speak the language, can’t get an ID, can’t get a job, and have no family or friends. That soldier who served in Kuwait ate garbage for a few weeks after he arrived in South Korea, living under a bridge for weeks. He’s now 50 years old, rejected by his birth country for not being Korean enough, and by the U.S., for not being American enough.

Also-Known-As, an adoptee-founded, adoptee-led nonprofit, is among the organizations working to change this. They recently held an online event “Deported, Not Forgotten,” where four adoptees talked about their lives before and after deportation.

Also-Known-As created this brief YouTube video so you can hear their voices and see their faces. Listen to them tell their stories.

Then contact your Congressional representatives and Senators and ask them to sponsor the Adoptee Citizenship Act. You can find information here via the Adoptee Rights Law Center, which is led by an adult adoptee.

Advocating for citizenship for all international adoptees will take only a few minutes.

Also, if you can, please donate to the fundraiser for deported adoptees. Any amount will help, of course. $25 could pay an adoptee’s Internet for a month. $900 could pay for an airplane ticket so a wife, son, daughter, or sibling can visit their family member. Imagine the psychological and emotional hardships of being sent away from the country you thought was yours; the financial hardships are tremendous as well.

If you support adoption, and believe in National Adoption Awareness Month, help pass the Adoptee Citizenship Act for all adoptees, and also donate to support those who have been deported.

“Deported, Not Forgotten”: NAAM

Tomorrow (November 16, 2021, 6pm est) Also-Known-As is hosting an incredibly important event featuring four adult adoptees who were deported back to their country of origin, having lived their lives adopted by US families and thinking they were American citizens.

“Deported, Not Forgotten” will be hosted by Dr. Amanda Baden, who will talk with four adoptees who were deported back to countries where they had no family, friends, language, or connection. If you believe adoption is forever, if you support citizenship for adoptees, or if you care about adoptees, please pre-register and attend this free program at 6pm, east coast time.

Listen to adoptees. Support citizenship for all adoptees.

Adoptees United Inc: NAAM

This is day 7 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees.

Adoptees United Inc. is an adoptee-founded and adoptee-led nonprofit that focuses on the legal rights of adopted people. They track and monitor adoptee rights legislation in all 50 states in the U.S. They also track federal and state legislation, such as citizenship, that affects international adoptees. Their Board of Directors is made up of adoptees (both domestic and international). Identity, U.S. citizenship, and equality for all adoptees is at the heart of their work. They “provide resources, advocacy, and support to organizations committed to these equal rights issues.”

The issue of identity (a complex issue) relates to something that we non-adoptees take for granted: Who are my parents? What are their names? What is the actual time and date of my birth? Across the U.S., different states have different laws regarding original birth certificates and access to them. Adoptees United tracks the legislation in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The issue of U.S. citizenship is an enormous one for perhaps thousands of international adoptees whose parents did not naturalize them and who are not American citizens, though they may think they are. Adoptees United provides information about the pending legislation, and they work with advocacy groups to support their capacity in pursuing legislative relief for all international adoptees.

The issue of equality for all adoptees is the heart to their work. They hope, as a relatively new organization, to become a “trusted national voice and a source of information and advocacy for issues impacting all adult adoptees in the United States.” The “central issue of equal rights applies to all adoptees…we will be more powerful if we come together as advocates, whether we act as colleagues, allies, friends, or supporters.”

You can support adoptee-led organizations during National Adoption Awareness Month by following them on Facebook and by attending their events. On November 29, Adoptees United will hold a panel discussion to answer the question “Who Do We Mean by ‘We?’ The Voices of Adoptees.” The panelists, all adult adoptees, will talk about the mistaken impressions of them by other adoptees, about how affinity groups have or have not been useful (when they were available), and about what changes they’d like to see in the adoption community. More information is available here.

Like all most nonprofits, especially new ones, Adoptees United would like to have a secure financial base from which to carry out their vision. You can donate to them here. Please donate to adoptee-led, adoptee-centric organizations whenever possible. That would be a great way to support adoptees during National Adoption Awareness Month.

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.