An Adoptive Parents’ Guide to “Lions Roaring Far From Home”

We have been thrilled and honored by the response to our new book, “Lions Roaring Far From Home: An Anthology by Ethiopian Adoptees.” It has been selling well, and is at the top of Amazon Hot New Releases in Adoption.

Our hope is that the primary readers will be Ethiopian and other adoptees, especially international and transracial adoptees. From the book’s Introduction: “We want to draw attention to the particularities of being a Black adoptee from Africa, placed with white families.”

We also are hopeful that adoptive parents will read the book, especially parents of Ethiopian adoptees, and also of other international, transracial adoptees.

Front cover of the book: Painting by Ethiopian artist Nahosenay Negussie of an Ethiopian woman standing proudly next to a roaring lion.
Image description: The front cover of “Lions Roaring” book, a painting of an Ethiopian woman next to a roaring lion.

Of course, we are hopeful that the Ethiopian community, including the diaspora, will read the book, as well as family members of adoptees, along with therapists, adoption agency staff, adoption-related organizations, social workers, undergrad and graduate students, book clubs, anyone interested in reading a great collection of powerful essays. If you know Oprah, Angelina, or Marcus, feel free to share the book with them, and please connect the editors with them also. You can reach the editors and writers at the book’s website: lionsroaringbook.com.

Here are a few questions that adoptive parents have asked me about the book.

Is it a positive or negative view of adoption?

It is a “real” view of adoption. Each of the 33 writers has a different perspective as they speak their truths. The book shows the range of attitudes and experiences. It also shows a range of views based on ages, since the writers are 8 to over 50 years old. Some essays note the adoptees’ Christian faith, and call adoption a blessing. There is discussion in the book of suicide and abuse. Some essays recall experiences in Ethiopia prior to being adopted. Some writers talk about painful childhood events in Ethiopia and in their adoptive country. Some talk about ways they are giving back to Ethiopia. There is mention of optimism, love of family, and resilience. Some essays are matter of fact; some are deeply emotional.

I urge adoptive parents of children of all ages to read the book. You can then talk with your children about it, in an age-appropriate way, whether they are 6 or 38 years old. It could open up a lot of new conversations.

Is the book child-friendly?

It is not meant for young children. The book reflects a wide range of lived experiences: good, bad, sad, encouraging, hopeful, angry, grief-filled, all of it. Whatever your child’s age, they might have had or will have some of the feelings in the book.

Are there essays by adoptees adopted as infants, or who have very little information about their families of origin?

Yes. The writers were adopted at a variety of ages, some with and some without their siblings. One co-editor was adopted as an infant to Canada, and the other was adopted at 6 years old with her twin sister to the US. A Swedish adoptee, adopted at one year old and now in his 50’s, wrote an essay about his DNA search and some unexpected connections. Most of the writers have little information about their Ethiopian families regardless of age at adoption; some have strong memories. Some have searched, some have reunited. Many have not done either, for a variety of reasons.

Here are some questions I haven’t been asked by adoptive parents.

Will I be uncomfortable or unsettled if I read this book?

At times, probably. If you are not an adopted person, you may well be startled or saddened by some of the insights that the writers offer. Some of the essays may affirm your views on adoption. Some may rattle them. That’s a good thing.

Can I just give the book to my teenage or adult son/daughter/child, without actually reading it myself?

Yes. And don’t do that. We adoptive parents must keep doing our work to understand what our kids are going through, to do so with open hearts and open eyes, and to learn how ideas and attitudes can change over time.

Can I give this book to friends, my non-adopted children, other adoptive parents, my Ethiopian friends, my adoption agency, my therapist, my children’s therapist, my parents, my siblings? What about folks with no close connection to adoption?

Yes! Please share the book and information about it with those who are tightly connected to adoption, those who have the rainbows-and-unicorns view, those who might be able to bring about changes in adoption policy: everyone. Thank you for doing this.

And again, thank you to every one of our writers, and to all those who have supported the book.

South Korea Agrees to Investigate International Adoptions: This is Big.

In an unprecedented move, one that other governments will hopefully look into, South Korea has agreed to investigate fraud and corruption in international adoptions from South Korea. According to NPR, South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has said “it decided to investigate 34 cases,… which could possibly develop into the country’s most far-reaching inquiry into foreign adoptions yet.”

Further, “Nearly 400 South Koreans adopted as children by families in the West have requested South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigate their adoptions…as Seoul faces growing pressure to reckon with a child export frenzy driven by dictatorships that ruled the country until the 1980s.”

The Danish Korean Rights Group has been the leader in this effort, via Korean adoptee and attorney Peter Møller. The DKRG has filed hundreds of applications requesting an investigation, from adoptees raised in Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and the US. The adoptees, per The Guardian, “say they were wrongfully removed from their families through falsified documents and corrupt practices.”

The investigation, according to Spectrum News, is rooted in “a broad range of grievances emphasizing how scores of children were carelessly or unnecessarily removed from their families amid loose government monitoring and a lack of due diligence. 

Perhaps more crucially, the country’s special laws aimed at promoting adoptions practically allowed profit-driven agencies to manipulate records and bypass proper child relinquishment. 

Most of the South Korean adoptees sent abroad were registered by agencies as legal orphans found abandoned on the streets, although they frequently had relatives who could be easily identified and found. This made the children more easily adoptable as agencies raced to send more kids to the West at faster speeds. 

‘None of us are orphans,’ said Peter Møller, attorney and co-head of the Danish Korean Rights Group, as he described the group’s members who filed the application. 

“(In) a lot of papers, the Korean state at the time have stamped papers that say people were found on the streets. If you do a little bit of math, that would mean that from the 1970s and 1980s Seoul would be flooded with baskets with children lying around in the streets. … Basements will be filled with lost child reports at police stations.

Some of the adoptees say they discovered that the agencies had switched their identities to replace other children who died or got too sick to travel to Danish parents, which made it highly difficult or often impossible to trace their roots. 

The adoptees called for the commission to broadly investigate the alleged wrongdoings surrounding their adoptions, including how agencies potentially falsified records, manipulated children’s backgrounds and origins, and proceeded with adoptions without the proper consent of birth parents. They want the commission to establish whether the government should be held accountable for failing to monitor the agencies and confirm whether the uptick in adoptions was fueled by increasingly larger payments and donations from adoptive parents, which apparently motivated agencies to create their own supply. 

The adoptees also called for the commission to push Holt Children’s Services and the Korea Social Service — the two agencies that sent kids to Denmark — into providing full access to the entirety of their adoption documents and background information. They also say all those records should be transferred to government authorities handling post-adoption services to prevent the information from being destroyed or manipulated.”

It is extraordinary and highly significant that South Korea has agreed to this investigation of fraud and duplicity. Will other sending countries follow this important example and do the same?

“Lions Roaring Far From Home: An Anthology by Ethiopian Adoptees” Now Available on Amazon!

I could not be more thrilled to announce that “Lions Roaring Far From Home: An Anthology by Ethiopian Adoptees” has been published. You can purchase it (Kindle or paperback) on Amazon.

It is the first ever anthology by Ethiopian adoptees. The 33 writers hail from six countries, and they range in age from 8 to over 50. The essays and poems present a range of views on adoption, and each one is insightful.

Book cover with painting of Ethiopian woman standing proudly next to a roaring lion
Cover art Copyright Nahosenay Negussie

All of the writers are Ethiopian adoptees. They were raised in the U.S., Canada, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Australia. Two currently live in Ethiopia.

The co-editors are Aselefech Evans, an American Ethiopian adoptee, Kassaye Berhanu-MacDonald, a Canadian Ethiopian adoptee; I am also a co-editor, and am the adoptive mother of Ethiopian twin daughters as well as two sons born in the U.S.

Deep gratitude to each of the amazing writers for this groundbreaking book.

Debra Parris, European Adoption Consultant Staffer, Sentenced for Horrific Adoption Fraud and Corruption via Uganda and Poland

Debra Parris, a staff member of the adoption agency European Adoption Consultants, was sentenced November 4 “to a year and a day in prison for bribing Ugandan officials and lying to Polish authorities about the adoption of a girl, who was later raped,” according to Cleveland.com.

The full Cleveland article is here.

The judge said Parris’s healthcare needs caused him to sentence her to less than the recommended sentence of three years. He also ordered Parris to pay a $10,000 fine and $118,197 in restitution to 42 families. He allowed her to self-report to prison by Jan. 9, unless the Bureau of Prisons directs her otherwise.

Among the victims of Parris’s crimes was adoptive parent Jessica Davis. Upon learning that her adopted daughter from Uganda had a loving family and had been fraudulently placed by European Adoption Consultants, Davis and her husband returned the child to her Ugandan mother. You can read more about the family here.

At the sentencing, according to Cleveland,com, “Davis gave a tearful statement during Friday’s hearing, conducted via Zoom. She pleaded with the judge to give a harsh sentence to send a message to adoptions agencies that fraud can’t be tolerated.

‘I waited for this moment for a long time, specifically for Debra,” Davis said. “You caused a lot of people pain and suffering.'”

Jessica Davis and her family took action that many adoptive parents would not, and they handled their adoption with integrity when they returned the child. The Ugandan child is, by all reports, thriving back home with her family.

Also from the Cleveland article, “Parris in November pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiring to commit fraud. Two others— Cole and former agency employee Robin Longoria— also pleaded guilty in the case. Cole, who also had serious health issues, was sentenced to three months in prison. Longoria was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, similar to Parris.”

European Adoption Consultants caused unconscionable damage to children and their families. While some justice is served with the guilty pleas and in the sentencings of the agency staffers, I wonder what restitution the Ugandan and Polish children could receive. The case of the Polish child is horrifying.

Jessica Davis wrote this on CNN in 2017:

“The travesty in this injustice is beyond words. I must be clear in the following statement: My race, country of origin, wealth (though small, it’s greater than that of the vast majority of people in the world), my access to “things,” my religion – none of these privileges entitles me to the children of the poor, voiceless and underprivileged.

If anything, I believe these privileges should come with a responsibility to do more, to stand up against such injustices. We can’t let other families be ripped apart to grow our own families!”

National Council for Adoption Releases New Report on Adoptive Parents

The National Council for Adoption recently released, in their words, “the largest survey ever conducted of adoptive parents.” You can read the results here: “Profiles in Adoption: A Survey of Adoptive Parents and Secondary Data Analysis of Federal Adoption Files.”

Here are a few of my observations, and, as an adoptive parent, I hope that adoptees and birth parents (and adoptee- and birth parent-researchers) will weigh in.

The NCFA survey was funded by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, and by Gift of Adoption, which has dispensed some $14 million in adoption assistance grants to adoptive parents.

Responses were from 4,212 adoptive parents—representing 4,135 households and parents to 6,608 adopted individuals—residing in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. These adoptions occurred between 1966 and August 2021, with 74.9% completed since 2010, including 55.9% since 2015.

90% of the respondent adoptive parents were white. (Latine/x 3%; Black 2%; Asian/Asian Pacific Islander 2%, American Indian/Alaskan Native 1%; Multiracial 1%, with 0.6% reporting “other.”)

Whether private infant adoption, intercountry adoption, or adoption from foster care, around 80% of the adoptive parents are Christian/Catholic.

In terms of income, 72% of adoptive parents in private domestic adoption had an income over $75,000. The percentage was 62% for intercountry adoptive parents and 54% for parents who adopted from foster care.

In terms of education, 81% of adoptive parents in private domestic adoption had a bachelor’s degree or higher. The percentage was 84% for intercountry adoptive parents and 63% for parents who adopted from foster care.

The survey looks at Special Needs in adoption, and, astonishingly to me, on page 40 has a category titled “Mental Retardation.” Since Congress passed Rosa’s Law in 2010, the preferred designation is “intellectual disability.”

The survey does not note the ages of adopted children at the time of adoption, nor of the current ages of the adoptees. I believe that information would have been useful to the analysis.

The survey did not shy from using what some in the adoption community see as language of commodification: “Adoptive parents were asked five questions related to their satisfaction with adoption. Overall, adoptive parents expressed very significant satisfaction.” (Some in the adoption community see this phrasing as akin to “product or purchase satisfaction.”)

Indeed, here are the “Key Takeaways for Adoptive Parents’ Satisfaction:

• A large majority of adoptive parents find their role to be rewarding and satisfying.

• With the perspective of lived experience, adoptive parents report they would still make the same decision to adopt their child.”

Adoptive parents of International adoptions were also asked about their satisfaction with Intercountry Adoption Service Providers. Adoptive parents through private domestic adoption and through foster care were not asked (or results were not included) about their satisfaction with their attorneys or other service providers.

There is much to be parsed from the survey answers regarding race. As previously noted, 90% of the respondent parents are white. In the case of transracial adoptions, the survey says “A large majority of adoptive parents who have a child of a different race/ethnicity seek to participate in activities to incorporate elements of the child’s race, ethnicity, and culture.” While that may be a basic first step, it’s hardly a strong example of much needed anti-racist education. The words “racism,” “colorblindness,” and “anti-racism” do not appear in the report. (Here is one example of the perspective of Black and brown adoptees on how their white adoptive parents handled race: “I know my parents love me, but they don’t love my people.”)

From the section in the survey on Future Research: “The National Council For Adoption views this report as just Part One of a three-part series examining profiles in adoption. There is no single survey, focus group, or data set that can tell us everything we would like to know about adoption. In Part One, we heard from adoptive parents. We also intend to hear from birth parents and adopted individuals in upcoming research reports. Taken together, the three reports in this series will give us a fuller picture of adoption.”

I find it striking and not surprising that the first report is on adoptive parents, the people who hold and have held the most power in adoption policy. (One could argue that white, financially secure, well educated Christians have long held the most power in our society overall.)

The two authors of the report are Ryan Hanlon, the executive director of NCFA, and Matthew Quade, associate professor of business management at Baylor University. Both men are adoptive parents, and both hold PhDs.

I look forward to reading the NCFA reports on birth parents and adoptees, as to the numbers of respondents, the demographics (race, age, education, income, etc.), their perspective on “satisfaction,” whether they would still make the same decisions (adoptees of course rarely have agency in the adoption decision), and noting who funds the surveys of adoptees and birth parents. I hope the authors of the next two reports are themselves adopted persons and birth parents. I also hope the survey-takers contact the birth/first parents of international adoptees, and I look forward to reading those results.

I look forward to a time when all children have safe, loving families, and when children are not removed from their families of origin due to poverty, economic imbalance, or systemic racism. I also look forward to the equitable distribution of funding and of pre- and post-adoption services to all birth parents (including International birth families). I especially look forward to deeper, well funded, accessible, and equitable advocacy for family preservation.

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.