Facebook Page of Our “Lions Roaring” Anthology by Ethiopian Adoptees

I am happy to invite you to “Like” and follow the new Facebook page for our soon-to-be published anthology, “Lions Roaring Far From Home.” The link is here. Thank you!

The anthology, the first of its kind, has essays and poems from 32 Ethiopian adoptees who are of different ages and who were raised in different countries. The cover art (shared below; reveal here) is by Ethiopian artist Nahosenay Negussie.

On the Facebook page, we will provide info about pre-order and publication as soon as it is available. We will also be posting excerpts from the book, pre-publication reviews by some amazing folks, and info about upcoming “Meet the Writers” Zooms and other events.

Thanks so much for visiting and Liking the Facebook page! Please share with others. We really appreciate the support.

NCFA on Wars and Webinars: Ethiopian, Russian, and Ukrainian Adoptees

Why is the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) holding a webinar for families with Russian and Ukrainian adoptions, yet has not held anything for families with Ethiopian adoptions?

The NCFA Facebook page says: “As the crisis has unfolded in Ukraine, NCFA is aware that adopted individuals with roots in Ukraine and Russia, and their families, are grieving and grappling with how to process these events.” NCFA is hosting a free webinar next week, “Supporting People in the Adoption Community with Roots in Ukraine and Russia,” with a panel of adoption agency professionals to provide guidance and expertise. This could be valuable and important for these families; I respect, applaud, and support that.

I am curious though.

Ethiopia has been experiencing a horrific civil war since November 2020. NCFA has held no webinars offering guidance and resources for Ethiopian adoptive families. Why is that?

From the BBC:

“In Ethiopia, the last 16 months have been hell.

In the north of the country, as a result of a conflict in Tigray, more than two million people have been forced from their homes.

In addition hundreds of thousands face starvation, and the government has been accused of blocking deliveries of aid and essential medicines – something it denies.

There is mounting evidence that war crimes may have been committed by both sides, include mass killings and widespread use of rape as a weapon of war.

On the scale of human suffering it is surely on a par with anything else that is grabbing the world’s attention.”

Why has NCFA, by their own description the “leading expert on adoption issues, providing resources and education for all people and organizations in the adoption world,” been totally silent on Ethiopia? There are some 15,000 Ethiopian adoptees in the United States, and thousands more around the globe.

Yet NCFA has offered nothing for them or their families.

Many Ethiopian adoptees are deeply worried about their Ethiopian families. Many have family members who have been killed, maimed, and starved. Many adoptive parents struggle to explain the complexity and devastation of the war to their adopted children. Ethiopian adopted individuals and their families, like the families with children from Russia and Ukraine, “are grieving and grappling with how to process these events.” NCFA’s webinar will host adoption agency representatives (not, as best I can tell, adopted adults from or citizens of those countries) to provide the insights and leadership.

Adoptions from Ethiopia ended in 2018. Adoptions from Russia ended in 2013. Adoptions from Ukraine are still happening, though the numbers have been increasingly low and obviously the situation is very complicated now.

NCFA will, in this upcoming webinar, “provide guidance and clinical expertise for navigating this challenging time” for the Russian and Ukrainian families.

But not, apparently, for families with Ethiopian adoptions.

Why is that?

You can ask NCFA directly here:

Phone: (703) 299-6633
Media Line: (703) 718-5375
Emailncfa@adoptioncouncil.org

Suicide Prevention: NAAM

This is day 12 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees.

National Adoption Awareness Month can be a exhausting burden to some adoptees. I’ve read many posts by adult adoptees saying they are ignoring NAAM as best they can. For those who have experienced and are processing trauma, the month can be especially hard. Some struggle mightily with losses and can feel worn down.

In the past several years, I have posted multiple times about adoptees and suicide, not because I believe this should be pathologized: it should not. There are many reasons to be hopeful, and most adoptees do not deal with suicidal ideation. Many may not deal with anxiety and depression, and for that, I am grateful.

When adult adoptees share their stories about their struggles, that is an opportunity to create community and especially to create hope, and to let adoptees of any age know that there are resources and people who understand, and who want them to stay.

United Suicide Survivors International puts “the lived expertise of suicide attempt and loss survivors into action through leadership, action, and advocacy. They serve as a home for people who have experienced suicide loss, suicide attempts, and suicidal thoughts and feelings.” They hold a variety of free webinars every month, which are always thoughtful and well-done. You can go to their Facebook page here.

If you need help now, you can find resources here.

Just in case: The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255, available 24/7. You can also text 741741 and reach a counselor, also 24/7.

USSI”s links include an e-learning for anyone thinking about telling their own suicide-related story: that’s a big decision that should be made carefully. I took the class, and found it helpful.

With gratitude to those adult adoptees who have shared their experiences with suicidal ideation, here is the YouTube link to the USSI webinar, “Adoption and Suicide Prevention.”

Take good care, everyone.

Original Photo by Maureen McCauley

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.

Therapists Who Are Adoptees: NAAM

This is day 4 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees.

All of us humans may benefit from therapy at some point in our lives. Adoptees show up in therapy at higher rates than non-adopted people.

The statistics bear this out. According to the American Psychological Association, “Higher proportions of adopted persons attend therapy (17.71%) than nonadopted persons (8.76%; Miller et al., 2000), and some adopted individuals may struggle with certain issues as adults, such as loss and grief particularly during milestone events like marriage and childbirth (Nydam, 2007; Silverstein & Kaplan 1988); building and maintaining close relationships (Corder, 2012); distress over lack of genetic information; and issues with identity development (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2004).” There are several other studies listed at the APA link related to “clinical considerations for psychologists who see adult patients who were adopted during their childhood.”

Many adoptees and adoptive parents seek out therapists who are also adoptees. Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker, a psychologist who is also an adoptee and adoptive parent, curates an incredibly valuable list of U.S.-based therapists who are also adoptees.

Anyone connected with adoption may want to find a therapist who, at a minimum, is adoption competent. The notion of “adoption competent” can be complex. It should be a baseline standard for anyone who works clinically with adopted people. The Center for Adoption Support and Education defines it this way: “An adoption competent mental health professional understands the nature of adoption as a form of family formation and the different types of adoption; the clinical issues that are associated with separation and loss and attachment; the common developmental challenges in the experience of adoption; and the characteristics and skills that make adoptive families successful.”

There is more to their definition; this link goes to C.A.S.E.’s Module on training adoption-competent therapists. (Transparency: Years ago, I worked for C.A.S.E., writing grants and occasionally participating on workshop panels. )

Therapists who work with adoptees should also be trauma-informed, another complex qualification. Many people don’t see the link between adoption and trauma, and that can be true for therapists as well. And “trauma-informed” can have many definitions, especially in relation to adoption.

Two final notes: One–if you’re an adoptive parent and your child is going to therapy, you should also go to therapy to learn what your child is going through, what they are learning in terms of strategies from the therapist, how you may inadvertently be contributing to the trauma, and how you can best support your child.

Two—This upcoming conference is the first of its kind, and will be amazing. “Expert Voices in Adoption” will take place online November 20. It will be “the only National Adoption Awareness Month event solely featuring the voices of adoptee clinicians.” The program will be hosted by Dr. Wirta-Leiker, mentioned above. I have registered, and I am sure many other folks have and will as well. It is an incredible opportunity for all of us.

Webinar: Adoptees and Suicide Prevention

Last night (October 26, 2021), United Suicide Survivors International hosted a powerful webinar featuring four adult adoptees. Suicide is a tough subject, and the connection with adoption can seem surprising and troubling. I hope you will watch the video, and listen to the wisdom of Amanda Transue-Woolston, Kevin Barhydt, Jessenia Arias, and Lynelle Long. These four amazing people include authors, founders of adoptee-led and adoptee-focused organizations, and selfless contributors to improving the lives of adoptees.All have experienced suicidal ideation. As an adoptive parent, I am grateful to and in awe of them.

They do not seek attention or congratulations for their work. At the webinar, they shared their stories with grace, and they offered information, resources, and hope.

There were several important points. One that struck me was that, for many, 14 years of age was an especially pivotal time. For those of you who are raising teens, be aware that this age, with its hormones and developmental awakenings, may be particularly vulnerable. I am not a therapist, and of course you should consult with professionals as needed. I was though struck by this.

Another takeaway might be that while therapy can be valuable and vital to adoptees, if a child/teen is in therapy, the adoptive parents should be going too. Dropping off the teen at therapy is important: going to therapy yourself, as the parent, is also. I’d add that adoptive parents could also attend therapy even when their child is an adult.

If you are looking for therapists who are also adoptees, here is an excellent list, curated by Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker.

I was heartened to see how many adopted adults attended, as well as adoptive parents and agency folks. The Chat was full of comments and questions. The whole webinar had a compelling energy, of both vulnerability and strength.

We skimmed only the surface in this hour, and there are many subjects we plan to dive into in the future. If you have ideas about topics, please feel free to share them here.

Take good care of yourself. Exercise self-care. Learn how to ask and talk about suicide, as one means of preventing suicide. I’ll be posting more resources soon. Help and information are available here and here, as starting points.

Be sure to follow the work of United Suicide Survivors International. They are the first suicide prevention platform I am aware of that has presented a webinar connected with adoption, and I appreciate that very much. Stay tuned for more.

Here is the video of the webinar via Facebook: https://fb.watch/8VjxPAQWyG/

Adult Adoptees Speak Out on Suicide Prevention

On October 26, 5pm pdt US/8pm est US, United Suicide Survivors International will host a free webinar “Adoption and Suicide Prevention: Adult Adoptees Speak Out.” The panelists are amazing: Jessenia Arias, Kevin Barhydt, Lynelle Long, and Amanda Transue-Woolston. I have the honor of facilitating this conversation.

These four panelists have a wide range of experience and wisdom. Each has deep skills, whether as an author, a therapist, an online advocate for adoptees, a same race adoptee, a transracial adoptee, an international adoptee. All have the lived expertise of having been adopted.

And each one has agreed to share their stories and insights related to suicide and suicidal ideation. This is a very tough topic to speak and to hear about. I am deeply grateful that they will share their hard-earned wisdom, because the rest of us are needing and ready to learn.

Please join us for this important webinar, and please feel free to share the USSI registration link.

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN__JIIYzloQ2G-FaGb4uf4oQ

Adoption and Suicide Prevention: An Upcoming Webinar

I am helping put together a webinar with a suicide prevention organization about the intersection of suicide and adoption. The focus will be on adoptees; they will be the main and most valuable speakers. There are two goals we are focusing on now: bringing greater awareness about suicide (grief, trauma, loss) in the adoption community, and providing resources and strategies for talking about and preventing suicide.

What would you like to have in a webinar like this? What questions might you pose, might you like to see answered/discussed?

You are welcome to respond here, or to contact me at Maureen at LightofDayStories dot comI am reaching out to various experts, and am energized by doing so. I recognize the complexity of this subject and discussion. We can do a lot to create a climate that provides help, intervention, and support. I hope to hear from you.

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

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.