Humans of New York (HONY) recently posted about a young adoptee in Israel. She hopes to return to Brazil to meet her birth mother. The post got 400,000 likes, and was shared some 4,000 times. Journalists, flight attendants, and hundreds of other people around the globe now want to help her. I’ve no doubt that the young woman is well on her way now to making her dream a reality.
For international adoptees not featured on HONY, what support do they get to return to the country where they were born?
My daughter Aselefech wrote a powerful article, “Finding A Way Home,” in this month’s Gazillion Voices about exactly this question. The coincidence (she had written her article before the HONY post was published) suggests to me that there is global interest and need. Aselefech writes, “Going back (to one’s country of birth) is more than about visiting your birthplace like a tourist. It’s about completing your identity, and salvaging the very things adoption has stripped you of. Adoption has a huge impact on our identity, many times stripping away the very core of what we believed made us who we are.”
It’s expensive to travel around the world. How does one travel from Canada to Ethiopia, or Israel to Brazil, or the US to China? Adoptees can, of course, save money for such a trip, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Still, the reality is that original family members die, adoption agencies close, records are lost, and time is wasted. International adoptees had no voice in being moved from their first countries. Is the adoptees’ only recourse to have adoptive parents willing and able to fund a trip to the homeland, or to do online fundraisers to reconnect with their own heritage, culture, and family?
A Google search for “funding for adoptive parents” yielded 21,000 results. Without quotation marks, it had over 8 million. The phrase Funding for International Adoption also got about 8 million results. Loads of resources, grants, and fundraisers for people thinking about adopting a child.
Then I Googled “funding for adult adoptees.” It had No Results. Without quotation marks, it had about 82,000 results, or roughly one-tenth of those for adoptive parents.
“Funding for international adoptees” also yielded No Results. That same search without quotation marks yielded just over 200 results, but loaded only 12, all of which were about the only US program I am aware of that provides funds to adoptees: the Gift of Identity which is part of TIES: Adoptive Family Travel. It seems a good model, though it’s only for US citizens, is connected with the homeland tours, and requires a “pay it forward” commitment.
I envision programs for adult adoptees who would travel alone, or with other adopted adults, or with a spouse or partner, not with Mom and Dad.
Mom and Dad were eligible for big funding on the front-end of adoption. American adoptive parents have received some $7 Billion via the adoption tax credit, most of which has gone to reimburse the parents for the cost of international adoptions. I’ve argued that even a small part of those funds should go to pre-adoption preparation, and for post-adoption services (including for first/birth parents as well). Adoption agencies and adoptive parents have been aggressive and successful proponents of the adoption tax credit as it exists.
Are those same adoption agencies and parents willing to advocate for funding to help adult international adoptees (especially those with limited financial resources and those whose adoptive families cannot or will not help them) visit their homeland and search for their original family?
Here’s my vision going out to the universe today: Funding for adult international adoptees, all around the world, to visit the country of their birth, a global collaboration for and by adult adoptees that could include a partnership with parents (first/birth and adoptive) as well as airlines, businesses, governments, and more. As Aselefech writes in Gazillion Voices, “I believe going back to your mother land should not be a privilege, but a basic human right. Let’s find a way to give that right and experience to others. It might be through legislative advocacy, through grants, through partnerships, or through networking around the globe. But it’s time for us to make sure we can all find our way home when we need to.”
To read Aselefech’s full article in Gazillion Voices, you need to subscribe. It’s well worth it, for her article, my article, and lots of great articles and features. Good news: until October 10, you can subscribe for a deeply discounted price. Click here for more information!