Transracial Adoptive Parents: Will You Fight Racism, or Will You Ignore It?

Transracial adoption is essentially built on racial inequity. The vast majority of transracial adoptive parents, especially those who adopted internationally, are White, and the children they adopt are often placed for adoption due to the pervasive economic disparities that are a result of race. I wonder if there are any White adoptive parents who have not been told that they have given their adopted Black or Brown children a better life. That usually means better schools, safer neighborhoods, and higher standard of living.

It would be so wonderful, a privilege really, if we could just stop talking about racism. Imagine if there were genuine equity in our society, in education, health care, employment, income, housing, and more. No voter suppression. No laws needed about discrimination based on Black natural hair. No teaching Black sons where to put their hands when Driving While Black. No Asians being harassed or worse for the “China flu.” No verified, well-researched reporting of income disparities among races.

That would be great. And we aren’t there yet by any means. In the wake of George Floyd’s death, we Americans seemed poised to take a look at our history as a country, understand the legacy of racism, and genuinely begin to heal. As the White adoptive parent of Black children, I’ve seen personally how racism has affected my children, in overt and covert ways. They are strong, successful people. They and other Black people have dealt with racism every day, individually or systemically. We White adoptive parents who have raised and are raising Black and Brown children know we hold economic and other power by virtue of our race. We cannot bury our heads in the sand. We must continue to learn, and to prepare our children for the world that is not racism-free.

Yesterday, President Trump issued an order pertaining to anti-racism trainings for federal government agencies and workers. It seeks essentially to bury the history and current entrenched system of racism in America, and to deny the reality that Black and Brown people live through in terms of inequities in health care, education, housing, environmental justice and more. 

Under the President’s new order, trainings for federal workers that mention white privilege or assert that racism is part of our country’s foundation “engender division and resentment” and “undercut” the federal government’s “core values.”

Who feels resentment? The White people who are not and never have been affected by racist policies in the U.S., and don’t want to hear about it.

Racism—via slavery, segregation, redlining, denial of voting rights and more—is indeed part of our country’s foundation. We are at a pivotal time to face that reality and make positive changes to end systemic racism. 

However, our current leadership calls anti-racism trainings “anti-American.”

The President has instructed the OMB Director to ensure that “federal agencies cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions.” 

Federal agencies are to list all government contracts related to trainings about critical race theory and the idea of white privilege, and then do anything they can to cancel the contracts. 

Black scholars like Dr. Derrick Bell and Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw are among those who developed critical race theory. White privilege is real, and disrupting it is part of anti-racist work, so that we live in a genuine anti-racist society. 

This may be one of our President’s most disturbing decisions yet. Watch who supports it, and who opposes it.

It would be nice to wish racism away, but that’s not what 400 years of American history tell us. That’s not what Black scholars, PhDs, and highly skilled researchers tell us. That’s not what Black friends and family tell us. That’s not what many transracially adopted adults have said here, here, here, and here. (There are lots more examples, if you want to look.) That’s not what Harvard Business Review tells us. That’s not what Doc Rivers tells us. It may be what some White men tell us, the White men that have traditionally held power in the U.S.

As the White parent of Black children whom I love beyond words, I will continue to acknowledge racism, to learn how it affects me and them, and to work to end racism and inequity. It’s the least I can do, with eyes wide open.

US State Department Imposes Sanctions, Fines on Ugandan Officials Involved in Fraudulent Adoptions

The U.S. State Department has imposed financial sanctions and visa restrictions on Ugandan officials involved in fraudulent adoption schemes. This is a highly significant and public declaration. You can read State’s press release here. The State Department press release includes a link to a U.S. Treasury Department press release as well.

Adoption Agency Staff of “European Adoption Consultants” Charged By Federal Grand Jury With Fraud, More


A federal grand jury today charged Margaret Cole, Robin Langoria, and other employees of European Adoption Consultants (EAC) with fraud, money laundering and bribery in connections with adoptions from Uganda and Poland.

EAC had been granted accreditation under the Hague Convention for Inter-Country Adoptions by the Council on Accreditation. That accreditation is considered a sort of gold standard in the realm of international adoption agencies: it involves a substantial amount of time and work and fees to receive.

In 2015, EAC had a complaint lodged against it for a case in China. In December 2016, the State Department debarred EAC, and their Hague accreditation status was revoked. The IAMME website (IAMME became the sole Hague Convention accreditor in 2018) states this: “Nature of the Substantiated Violations: The Department of State temporarily debarred adoption service provider, European Adoption Consultants, Inc. (EAC) from accreditation on December 16, 2016, for a period of three years.  As a result of this temporary debarment, EAC’s accreditation has been cancelled and it must immediately cease to provide all adoption services in connection with intercountry adoptions.

The Department found substantial evidence that the agency is out of compliance with the standards in subpart F of the accreditation regulations, and evidence of a pattern of serious, willful, or grossly negligent failure to comply with the standards and of aggravating circumstances indicating that continued accreditation of EAC would not be in the best interests of the children and families concerned.”

The FBI raided EAC in 2017, and the agency closed. Cole had founded EAC in 1991.

Grand jury documents were unsealed today in Ohio, where EAC was located. EAC had worked in adoptions in Bulgaria, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Honduras, India, Panama, Tanzania, and Ukraine, in addition to Uganda and Poland.

It’s impossible to know how much heartache has happened to families and children as a result of this.

Here is the full article from Cleveland.com.

Korean Adoptee Files Paternity Suit Against (For?) Her Korean Father

Kara Bos was adopted from Korea to the US when she was 2 years old. Now, 36 years later, she has filed a paternity suit in Korea to be legally recognized by her Korean father. 

As many adoptees have done, Kara used DNA testing to locate Korean family members. Following up on results which connected her to a cousin and nephew, Kara traveled to Seoul and took DNA tests there. Those results identified an 85 year old Gangnam man with 99.9% probability of being her father. Kara apparently has two half-sisters in Korea, and they have have refused to connect directly with the man she believes to be her Korean father. 

On May 29, 2020, a court hearing in Seoul is scheduled to take place in order to enter Kara in the father’s family registry. The Korean family registry is an important and historical part of Korean culture, as it officially identifies family members and thus can affect citizenship, inheritance, and more.

Among the reasons Kara wants to meet her Korean father is to learn why she was abandoned, and to have information about her mother. “He is my only link to finding out who my mother is, as my adoption documents list only ‘abandoned.'”

Kara says that adoptees “need to know who our parents are, where we come from, and why we were abandoned, and the Korean government doesn’t do anything to help us with that. We want truth. We want answers to our past.” 

“I want my story told so that Korea understand the excruciating pain and rejection an adoptee has to go through even as an adult on their return to find out their birth story.”

Read the Manila Bulletin article here: “Korean-American adoptee files landmark paternity suit against her biological father in South Korea.”

The Korean adoptee community has been especially active in promoting DNA testing. Here is one source for information and tests.

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.

Wow Was I Wrong About Laura Ingraham

In my post yesterday about an international adoption conference held by the State Department, I briefly mentioned that conservative Fox channel host Laura Ingraham was a keynote speaker. I said the decision to have Ingraham there was “unfortunate.” I was wrong. I should have been far more forceful.

One of the first tenets of being a good accomplice for white accomplices in social justice work is to change your lens. My lens is that of a white Cisgender abled woman, the type that has traditionally held power and privilege in the world, second only to white Cisgender abled men. My lens is firmly socialized and established; I am a work in progress around reframing it. Another tenet for folks like me is not to center ourselves because (see the first tenet) we are pretty much always centered in history, advertising, opportunities, credibility.

When I wrote about Ingraham’s speaking at the adoption conference, I looked at it only through my lens, and centered my own experience. Ingraham wasn’t talking about me or for me or to me. I am an adoptive parent, as she is; beyond that, we have little in common. I can easily dismiss her and her impact. While I called her remarks about possibly moving migrant children into the U.S. adoption system “horrifying,” I shrugged my shoulders, and moved on.

Then I read a post by Melanie Chung-Sherman, a highly regarded therapist, a woman of color, an adopted person. Here is what she had to say about the choice of Ingraham as a speaker at the State Department conference:

“Did you know?? The U.S. Department of State felt it necessary and ever-so relevant to bring in Laura Ingraham to keynote before a closed adoption symposium addressing ‘adoption reform.’ Yes, that Laura Ingraham. 

Even worse–DOS invited fellow transracial adoptee advocates (friends of many) to speak about ‘reform’ while knowingly putting this known white supremacist, xenophobe, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist (who happens to be a TRIA parent) up on stage for them to sit and listen to from the beginning. 

It was aggressive, harmful, violent, and completely demeaning for those who have committed their lives to social justice, equity, and adoption reform. 

Yeah, I’m pissed.”

My eyes and mind were opened as I read this. I had not thoughtfully reflected on what hearing Ingraham speak might have felt to the international, transracial adult adoptees there. Once I did reflect, prompted by Melanie’s words, I realized how cloudy my lens was, and how I had centered myself.

I’ve subsequently heard that perhaps the State Department did not select Ingraham as a speaker; maybe the White House did. I don’t know much more than that. I recognize that disparate voices and varying opinions are part of politics. I understand that there were those in the audience who supported Ingraham’s remarks, and those who found them odious.

Anyone genuinely involved in adoption today should be aware that, for far too long, adoptive parents have held the microphone in adoption policy and practices, in media articles, and in the traditional, tired narrative that adoption is win-win-win and full of only happy endings. Of course there are wonderful outcomes and good decisions. Often, though, there are rough roads, lots of confusion and grief, and grappling with identity, loss, and unattainable information.

Handing the microphone, literally, to Laura Ingraham showed an astonishing lack of knowledge about what adoption conferences today should be: they should be focused on adoptees, and on birth parents. They should be the prominent speakers and guides that the government and media go to first. Having a controversial adoptive parent with anti-immigrant views at an adoption conference that for the first time centered international, transracial adoptees tainted but probably did not ruin other notable accomplishments. Next time, or at any adoption conference, there are many amazing, powerful adoptees who could be (should be) at the podium. Still, adoptees are now at the table for State Department policy formulation, and that is laudable.

As an adoptive parent, I’ll close with my promise to keep my eyes, heart, and mind more open to the voices and insights of adoptees and birth/first parents, and to keep working on my lens. I’ll close this post with the powerful words of Reshma McClintock on behalf of herself and other international adoptees who attended the State Department conference:


“Transracial/Inter Country Adoptees are one of the most resilient and determined people groups. At the US State Department Adoption Symposium we addressed adoptee voice elevation, citizenship, family preservation, rehoming, adoptee rights, and other important topics.

I used the opportunity I had to address attendees with this message: Adopted adults are the most valuable and untapped resource on the subject of adoption. We must be recognized and involved in adoption conversations. 

I‘m proud of my community and thankful for those who support the good work we are doing collectively. It is emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially exhausting, yet WE ARE OUT HERE.”

#AdopteeMovement

Is There Hope via the State Department Around International Adoption?

The U.S. State Department, responsible for the processing of thousands of international adoptions, had the audacity, courage, wherewithal, and optimism to hold a conference on adoption that includes not just the usual adoption agency folks and adoptive parents, but (wait for it) international, transracial adoptees and birth parents. Well done.

I was among those invited to the U.S. State Department’s symposium on “Strengthening the Practice of International Adoption.” So was my daughter Aselefech Evans, an Ethiopian adoptee. Neither of us were able to attend, in large part because we weren’t sure when Aselefech’s twin sister would give birth to her baby girl: the due date was September 7.

I am thrilled beyond words about my new beautiful granddaughter, who arrived on September 5. Everyone is doing well. Had Baby Aya notified us of her plans to arrived in the world, I might have joined the fascinating group invited by State. Oh to be a fly on those walls.

The symposium began yesterday and concludes later today. The agenda included topics such as caring for children in adversity, best practices in adoption, and the government’s role in intercountry adoption. There was a panel yesterday with adoptive parents, international adoptees, birth parents, and adoption service providers: I heard that was a lively conversation.

I am heartened by the fact that several adult adoptees are attending, speaking, and writing about the symposium. The list includes Dr. JaeRan Kim, who blogs brilliantly at Harlow’s Monkey, and Reshma McLintock of the powerful documentary Calcutta Is My Mother. Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy, the powerhouse behind Musings of the Lame: Exposing Adoption Truths, shared her perspective as a birth mother. How wonderful it would be if there were even more birth parents presenting, especially international ones, who are among the most marginalized voices in adoption.

Some of the usual folks such as the National Council for Adoption are also there. NCFA is not a marginalized group by any means. They’ve been mad at folks like me (who advocated against CHIFF) and particularly at the State Department, whom NCFA blames for the decline in adoptions.

One of the ways to assess an organization’s commitment to a cause is to see how their leadership reflects the cause. NCFA has, as best I can tell, one biracial adoptee on its Board of Directors, and no adoptees of color on staff. I don’t think there are any international adoptees at all on either staff or Board, never mind any international adoptees adopted at older ages. Both the Board and the staff are remarkably dominated by white people. A couple of them were adopted at birth; the Board chair was adopted, in (I’m guessing) the early 1950’s, when adoption practice was very different from today. He was a good friend of Bill Pierce’s, who some of us remember well. The current executive director of NCFA is an adoptive parent. (If I am incorrect about the transracial and international adoptees on staff or Board, NCFA, please let me know and I will correct my errors.)

I digress about NCFA because of the contrast with State’s decision to reach out intentionally to international, transracial adoptees and birth parents, not just agencies and adoptive parents. I find it unfortunate that State had Laura Ingraham, the Fox News show host, as a speaker. She’s the adoptive parent of children from Guatemala and Russia. She’s also known for describing the US-Mexico border detention facilities as “essentially summer camps” for migrant children, among other controversial remarks. In her speech yesterday, Ingraham suggested that the children entering at the border should enter the U.S. adoption system. I find this view horrifying for a number of reasons, and I understand Ingraham received some serious pushback.

I hope that the need for citizenship for all international adoptees received the attention it deserves. Take a look at Adoptees For Justice and Adoptee Rights Campaign for more information. I look forward to hearing more about how the issue was addressed at State’s conference.

International adoptions have great complexity. I think we are beginning to move away from the traditional narratives of adoptive parents and adoption agencies, and genuinely inviting and listening to international, transracial adoptees in regard to adoption policies. We need to do a much better job of inviting and listening to international birth parents as well. I’m not sure I would have predicted that the State Department would be taking a leadership role in bringing disparate voices together for “Strengthening Practice for the Future of Intercountry Adoptions,” as the conference is titled. Change is definitely in the air.

May all children have loving, safe families. May all of us keep working to make that so.

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.

Milton Washington: Hardwired, Black, Korean, Adopted, Storyteller

I’ve known Milton several years now. We visit with him when we are in New York City, most recently last summer. I don’t remember now how we met: a white, transracial adoptive mom from the east coast who loves to read and to write, and a black/Korean former football player who hates to read and is writing a book about his early childhood in Korea and his adoption by a black military family in the U.S. I am among his biggest fans, learning anew every time I hear about his life as a little black boy ostracized and beaten up in Korea, the son of a still unknown American soldier and a prostitute who nurtured and loved and disciplined him fiercely. When he was eight years old, he and his mom took a taxi ride to St. Vincent’s orphanage about an hour outside of Seoul; that was the last time he saw her. I learn when he talks about not fitting in, about being taunted for who he is, and about how he is “in between worlds” constantly as a Korean, a black man, and an adopted person, as well as within each of those categories.

So when I listened to this recent Adapted podcast, I again learned a lot about Milton. When I’ve been around him, he doesn’t curse very much, but he does in this interview—just letting you know. He’s 48, though maybe he’s 50. As an adoptee, he’s done many DNA tests. He’s searched for his Korean mother, and feels she may now be in California. He is writing his memoir, SlickyBoy, in no small part with the hope that he will find his mother and his bio siblings, once the book is published.

http://adaptedpodcast.com

I’ve read a draft chapter from Slickyboy: A Memoir, and it has stayed with me in a powerful way. You can read an excerpt here. This excerpt is from 2010, so has no doubt changed. “Slicky boy,” by the way, is a phase used by American GI’s for the Koreans who would steal from the soldiers. The time needed to birth this book also perhaps reveals the challenge of writing memoirs that are painful, revealing, inspiring, and hopeful, and that cut searingly close to the heart and to the bone. I am reminded also, though only as an adoptive parent, that some adoptees search over a lifetime for their true stories, identities, and place in this world.

You can listen to Milton’s podcast interview here. Adapted is “a podcast that explores the experiences of Korean adoptees, from post-reunion stories to living in Korea as adults.” There are some amazing interviews there, and I highly recommend listening.

I also recommend keeping an eye out for Milton’s book, following him on Instagram (@slickyboymemoir) and Facebook , and taking a look at his stunning photographic skills. Milton is a strong, raw storyteller. He loves his families deeply, even as complicated and painful as his life has sometimes been. He is vulnerable; he is resilient. I can’t wait to read his book, and I hope it brings a sense of peace and accomplishment for him when it is published. He hopes that the book will “blow up,” that it will bring his Korean sisters around to him. He hopes especially that it will reach his mother, so that “she can see her son proud.” I hope so too.

International Adoptee Adam Crapser Sues His Adoption Agency for Negligence And Fraud

Adam Crapser, adopted from South Korea to the US, had a horrible, abusive childhood that involved two sets of adoptive parents, neither of which ever got him citizenship. He was deported to South Korea after serving time for criminal charges. He is now suing Holt Children’s Services and the government of South Korea for gross negligence, fraudulent paperwork, and failure to adequately screen adoptive parents.

The amount of money Adam is seeking is relatively negligible ($177,000). The case could take years to get through South Korean courts. According to the AP article, Adam “said the amount of money is less important than forcing Holt and the government into a courtroom to face questions of accountability.”

Adam Crapser in Seoul, per AP https://www.apnews.com/12472d8f87944f12ae63f74a2829a410

And that may well be the most pivotal outcome of this suit: adoption agencies looking at their accountability, rather than their good intentions, and hopefully creating a dialogue with adoptees about their practices, services, and outcomes. For far too long, adoptees have been considered solely as children, despite the fact they grow up. For far too long, adoption has been considered with fairy tale wistfulness, romanticized and glossed over, the traditional narrative being win-win-win. Yes, adoption can be positive. Yes, everyone’s experience varies. Still, for far too long, there have been not just whisperings but lawsuits regarding fraud, corruption, and negligence in adoption. We are beginning to see the next wave of adoption awareness, as voiced by adoptees themselves.

I am not aware of adoptees who have sued their adoption agency, though I’ve long thought that the possibility was genuine. A class action suit would not surprise me, Adoptive parents have sued agencies multiple times, often for fraud. There have been cases of adoptees who have annulled their adoptions.

I wrote in Slate about Adam Crapser. I’ve been writing about the need for citizenship for all adoptees for years. The Adoptee Rights Campaign has been actively working on legislation to get citizenship for ALL international adoptees. There will be, once again, legislation introduced in Congress to achieve this: it’s been a struggle.

Of course, the struggle has been extremely difficult for international adoptees deported from the US to their original countries, places where they don’t speak the language, have no family or friends, and are utterly alone. Joao Herbert was killed in Brazil. Philip Clay died by suicide in Korea. Deported adoptees, adopted by American families ostensibly forever, are living in Germany, Guatemala, India, Costa Rica, and elsewhere. They truly deserve better, and it is shameful that the US government has for years allowed adoptees to be deported. These adoptees were brought here with the oversight of the US and the sending government and legally adopted by US citizens.

Adoptive parents, make sure you have all possible citizenship documents for your children, especially if they are minors. Immigration laws are in flux: protect your children fully. Adoptees, make sure your papers are in order.

Melanie Chung Sherman, a therapist and international adoptee, shared this on her Facebook page:

“I strongly encourage international adoptees over the age of 18 years old to obtain your original (not just a copy), file in a safe and secure place, OR (at a minimum) ensure that you know who and how to access the following (each birth country will have different documents that I have not listed):

–US Naturalization/Certificate of Citizenship
–US Passport
–Birth Country Passport (when you immigrated to the U.S. through international adoption)
–US Visa Approval papers
–Alien registration number 
–Adoption Finalization Decree 
–SSN card
–Amended birth certificate 
–Copy of birth certificate given by birth country
–Court papers from birth country
–Social history/referral papers (these will have the name of the agency/caseworkers/representatives in your adoption)

Far too many international adoptees do not know these documents exist. Many have been openly denied access by their adopt parents well into adulthood. Many have learned that their documents were lost, destroyed or incomplete. 

International adoptees will need their documents to prove citizenship as well as the fact that they were adopted and immigrated through international adoption. 

These documents are more than just legal papers, but a connection to their story and sense of self. It is a generational connection should they become parents and grandparents to their history as well. These documents are property of an adoptee’s life.”

My thanks to Melanie, and my best wishes to Adam for an appropriate outcome to the absurdity of his deportation. I think about the many deported adoptees often, and about those who are without citizenship here in the US. I can only imagine the conversations going on in adoption agencies and among adoptive parents.

It is past time to drop the aged adoption narrative. We must listen to adult adoptees.