Finnish Adoptees Call For Investigation of Fraud: NAAM

This is for day 25 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees, posted on day 27.

A group of international adoptees in Finland has called for an investigation of fraudulent adoption practices in their adoptive country. The adoptees (from Ethiopia, China, India, Colombia, Taiwan, Austria, South Korea, Thailand, and Bangladesh) are calling upon the government of Finland to look into historic “irregularities” in adoption practices.

The group sent a Letter to the Editor of Hufvudstadsbladet, the highest-circulation Swedish-language newspaper in Finland. Here is the letter in English, via Inter Country Adoptive Voices News‘ Facebook page:

Irregularities in international adoptions must be investigated

LETTER TO THE EDITOR 14.11.2021

Swedish Yle reported (29.10) that serious errors in adoptions are examined in Sweden, and that irregularities can also occur in Finland. Patrik Lundberg, one of the journalists behind Dagens Nyheter’s series of articles on Swedish international adoption activities, says that if it is a question of the same adoption countries, there is also great reason for Finland to review its adoptions. This is because the same orphanage has adopted children to several different countries in the western world, and because the same lawyers and corrupt people have been involved. According to Lundberg, control has been particularly poor in countries classified as dictatorships.

With reference to other countries’ investigations of international adoptions, and given that Finland has in many cases used the same adoption contacts as, for example, Sweden, we demand that Finland also appoint its own independent inquiry.

The issue of adoptions that have not gone right is not only limited to Sweden, whose government recently presented directives for an inquiry expected to be completed in the autumn of 2023, or the Netherlands, whose government earlier this year stopped all international adoptions after a comprehensive inquiry showed that children have been stolen or purchased from their biological parents.

We, who signed this submission, demand that the state of Finland investigate the international adoptions that have taken place to date, from all countries of origin from which Finland has adopted children. This also includes adoptions that took place after the Hague Convention was ratified. The inquiry shall be independent and autonomous and no members of the inquiry group may have any connection to the adoption mediation adoption organizations.The inquiry should engage experts and research competencies in the field, such as lawyers, historians and researchers, so that the international adoption activities in Finland can be fully examined. The investigation must be given sufficient resources, both personnel, financially and in terms of time. In addition to adoptions mediated by adoption organizations, the inquiry must also examine independent adoptions (private adoptions) and the role of the Finnish state in international adoption mediation in Finland.

The inquiry shall contain proposals for measures on how to ensure that today’s adoptions take place legally and ethically. The adoption agency must be quality assured and followed up in a comprehensive way. The inquiry must ensure that corruption does not occur in connection with adoptions today.

Finally, the State of Finland should provide sufficient resources to develop and disseminate knowledge about post-adoption services for adoptees. Adoptees must have low-threshold access to free or subsidized therapy services or other necessary psychiatric care for the treatment of adoption-related trauma. Adopted persons should also be able to apply for financial support for, for example, return journeys, in the same way as adoption applicants can apply for adoption allowance for the adoption of a child.

Signed: Muluken Cederborg, adopted from Ethiopia, Sabina Söderlund-Myllyharju, adopted from Taiwan, Patrik Sigmundt, adopted from Austria, Oscar Lehtinen, adopted from Colombia, Maria Kallio, adopted from China, Mirjam Gullstén-Borg, adopted from South Korea (via Sweden), Kati Ekstrand, adopted from Taiwan, Anu-Rohima Mylläri, adopted from Bangladesh, Kerttu Yuan, adopted from China, Conny Wiik, adopted from Taiwan, Khalid Wikström, adopted from Bangladesh, Ada-Emilia Koskinen, adopted from China, Jasmin Lindholm, adopted from China, Jennifer Lönngren, adopted from China, Anton Sundén, adopted from Thailand, Yuli Andrea Paz, adopted from Colombia, Pooja Sandell, adopted from India, Naa Sippola, adopted from Thailand, Janica Palonen, adopted from Taiwan, Mei Monto, adopted from China, Iida Kuukka, adopted from China, Mimosa Torittu, adopted from China, Saba Holm, adopted from Ethiopia, Belinda Söderlund, adopted from Taiwan, Chris Gullmans, adopted from Hong Kong, Oscar Härkönen, adopted from Colombia.

Article from Hufvudstadsbladet, a Swedish-language newspaper in Finland, about adoptees calling for investigation of irregularities in their adoptions.

The original article in Swedish is here.

Netherlands Ordered to Pay Damages to Brazilian Adoptee

The District Court of The Hague on November 24, 2021, ordered The Netherlands to pay compensation (amount not yet determined) to a Brazilian adoptee.

According to Prakken d’Oliveira Human Rights Lawyers, “Patrick Noordoven was illegally adopted from Brazil in 1980. His parentage was thereby misrepresented, by giving him up as the biological child of the Dutch couple who adopted him illegally. Shortly after his illegal adoption, the police conducted an investigation and concluded that Patrick Noordoven and 41 other children had been adopted illegally from Brazil to the Netherlands. Nevertheless, after the investigation, the State did not take measures to enable Patrick Noordoven to know his parentage and the circumstances of his illegal adoption. The Court concluded that by doing so, the State acted in violation of Patrick Noordoven’s right to identity and knowledge of his parentage.”

In 2018, based on Noordoven’s case, The Hague Appeals Court determined that “a child that was illegally adopted has the right to all information about their adoption. This encompasses, among other things, information about how the illegal adoption took place, criminal investigations into the illegal adoption, and press reports about suspicions of child trafficking.” More information is available here: “Illegally adopted persons have the right to obtain all information about their adoption.”

Increasing numbers of international adult adoptees are searching for their origins, and finding that fraud and corruption were involved. Patrick Noordoven spent 20 years tracking down his truth. This appears to be the first time a country, in the case The Netherlands, has been ordered to pay damages for an illegal adoption.

I am not a lawyer, but I would say this case has global ramifications for illegally adopted people.

Plan A Magazine: NAAM

This is for day 22 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees, posted on day 23.

Plan A magazine is not specifically adoptee-centric. It is though an online magazine found by several Asian American women and men, “a group of Asian diaspora navigating shifting political and social climates, attempting to make sense of the conflicting roles we are thrust into and the conflicting narratives that are told about us.” That description, I think, could apply to adoptees as well. And indeed, Plan A includes Asian adoptees within the diaspora, and within its writers and podcasters.

International adoptees are all immigrants, and they are also members of a diaspora, the dispersion of a people from their original homeland. I would guess that some adoptees feel part of that diaspora, and some do not. Some are accepted as part of the diaspora by their diasporic community; some are not.

Plan A magazine welcomes them, and has a section of both essays and podcasts related to Adoption. A sample of titles: “Imperial Reproduction,” “The Manufactured Crisis: Adopted Without Citizenship,” and “Adoptee Mental Health.” The podcasts, and the rest of the magazine, address a range of issues: tech, humor, racism, sexism, gender, media. There is a Culture section on Fashion, Food, Travel, and Dating.

There may be other diaspora movements that seek to include adoptees. I know of Adopted and Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora, an adoptee-founded and adoptee-led Facebook group. There may well be others. Plan A magazine is different in that it is an umbrella for all Asian diaspora members, inclusive of adoptees.

“By presenting perspectives that are not being discussed at large, we hope to provide new ways to interpret and understand current events through the lens of the Asian Diaspora. What is not being said can be as important as what is being focused on; often it can be more important. Talk to us, we talk back.” Asian adoptees, wherever you are in the world: take a look at the Submissions info. They pay! And everyone can help in keeping writers paid and the magazine going via Patreon.

We need to hear adoptee voices, during NAAM and all the time.

Deported Adoptees: NAAM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Am Adoptee: NAAM

This is day 16 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees.

“A community built around mental health and wellness, by adoptees, for adoptees”: that is the focus of the nonprofit IAMAdoptee. Co-founder Joy Lieberthal Rho, LCSW, was adopted from South Korea when she almost six years old. She has worked in adoption for many years, including in private practice with intercountry adoptees and their families. That work was the basis for founding IAMAdoptee, which curates a wealth of mental health resources, directed primarily to internationally adopted people.

The wellness resources include suggestions for how to deal with Covid-19 isolation, lists of adoptee-led groups around the world, and articles and blog posts about a range of adoptee-related subjects. There is a checklist and overview for adoptees considering searching for birth family, with information about South Korea, China, Colombia, Guatemala, India, and Paraguay. In “Community,” you can find information about culture camps and related organizations, about citizenship, about adoptee podcasts, and about adoptee-focused conferences.

Currently, IAMAdoptee is partnering with SideXSide, “a large scale documentary and oral history project, telling the story of 65+ years of inter-country adoption out of South Korea and 100 individuals, born in Korea, 1944–1995.” (I wrote about SideXSide here.) IAMAdoptee is hosting a series of Reflections on the Adoptee Journey, about the topics in SideXSide’s videos, such as Memory, Birth Family Reunion, and Searching for Answers. Each topic features a video from the SideXSide project, and then a reflection/conversation with an “esteemed lineup of intercountry adoptee clinical therapists,” facilitated by Joy Lieberthal Rho.

IAMAdoptee is actively adding mental health and wellness resources to their site. The Facebook page has additional information and resources. One recent post, for example, was about adult adoptees from Greece seeking to reinstate their citizenship.

The vision of IAMAdoptee is “an act of service to the adoptee community, a place for an intercountry adopted person to connect with others.” An excellent way to honor adoptees during National Adoption Awareness Month (November) is to follow their Facebook pages and websites, and to donate to ensure they can keep their good work going.

“Deported, Not Forgotten”: NAAM

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

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

Listen to adoptees. Support citizenship for all adoptees.

An Ethiopian Adoptee’s Perspective on Adoption: NAAM

This is day 15 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees.

Aselefech Evans is an Ethiopian adoptee who arrived in the U.S. 27 years ago, at six years old, along with her twin sister. Aselefech describes herself as a politicized family preservationist.

About three years ago, she wrote a poignant, insightful post on her blog, about trauma and the “trauma-versery” that occurs every November on the anniversary of her arrival in the U.S. She re-posted it recently, for National Adoption Awareness Month.

An excerpt:

I remember that my new life was supposed to be enough. For some, it may be. But understand that the most resilient soul often still suffers in silence, no matter how well-adjusted they may  seem. My ability to get through this isn’t because I had a perfect life, but it’s because I hold onto the love of my birth and adoptive family—yet, I still struggle with the loss.

Here is the link to this post:

Aselefech and her mother in Ethiopia

Full disclosure: I am blessed to be Aselefech’s mom through adoption, and I could not love her more. I asked for her permission before sharing this, and she gave it. I am proud of her willingness to speak her truth.

Two Opportunities for Adoptees to Speak Out: NAAM

This is day 11 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees.

Here are two opportunities for adult adoptees to be heard at large forums. Please share with internationional and transracial adult adoptees.

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The first invitation is from the U.S. State Department for international adoptees. It is via an email subscription list called Adoption Notices. I have had trouble finding a link to the subscription list sign-up on the State Department website, and have sent an email to the adoption office at State asking for a clean link; they get a lot of email, so it could be a while. The link to International Adoption at the U.S. State Department is here. You can email the Office of Children’s Issues at Adoption@state.gov.

November 10, 2021 

Event:     Interactive Discussion Invitation:  What Do Adult Adoptees Want to Hear from the Department of State on Intercountry Adoption?
Date:       November 30, 2021
Time:      2:30 – 4:00 p.m. EST
RSVP:      Adoption@state.gov (NLT November 28, 2021) – Response should include your name, email address, and if willing to share, the country from which you were adopted. Participation details will be sent by email on November 29, in the afternoon, to those who RSVP’d. 

The Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State, invites interested adult U.S. intercountry adoptees to an interactive discussion with Marisa Light, Chief of the Adoption Oversight Division, on Tuesday, November 30, 2021, 2:30 – 4:00 p.m. EST.

Adult adoptee voices and perspectives are valued and critical to our everyday work on intercountry adoption.  We recognize the expertise that comes from lived experience and want to hear from you.  Last year during our November town hall with adoptees, we ​asked participants to tell us what they wanted us to know about their experience with adoption.  We heard your stories and perspectives and valued the opportunity to learn from you.  Given the tremendous turn out and desire to give everyone a chance to share who wanted to, we actively listened but weren’t able to engage in conversation about these experiences. This year, we want to ​provide you with the opportunity to ask questions and have more of a dialogue about the issues that are important to you. 

As the U.S. Central Authority for the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation on Intercountry Adoption, the Department implements safeguards to protect children and families and maintain the viability of intercountry adoption for children in need of permanency.  We uphold the principles of the Convention – that children “should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding;” that priority should be given “to enable the child to remain in the care of his or her family of origin;” that intercountry adoption should be considered only when “a suitable family cannot be found in [the child’s] State of origin;” and that measures should be taken “to ensure that intercountry adoptions are made in the best interests of the child and with respect for his or her fundamental rights, and to prevent the abduction, the sale of, or traffic in children.”  These principles inform our work and are reflected in our regulation and oversight of accredited adoption service providers. We’re happy to talk more about what this means in practical terms on a day to day basis, how we collaborate with other governments and other U.S. government agencies, current trends in intercountry adoption, and anything else you may be wondering about.

We appreciate wide dissemination of this invitation to internationally adopted persons who may be interested in participating and learning more about what we do. This meeting will take place virtually and will not be recorded.

Sincerely,

Office of Children’s Issues
Adoption Oversight Division
U.S. Department of State

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The second invitation, for transracial, multiracial, and/or international adoptees, is from NPR’s All Things Considered, via Facebook.

Adoptees should always be the first considered for stories or forums on adoption. Again, please share this with adult adoptees who may be interested.

SideXSide, Side By Side: NAAM

This is day 10 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees.

Side By Side” or “SideXSide” is an adoptee-led, adoptee-focused online video installation. That is, Side By Side is a collection of 100 stories of Korean adoptees, raised in seven countries, speaking six languages, sharing both similar and disparate experiences.

The filmmakers are Glenn Morey (he is a Korean adoptee), and Julie Morey. From the website: “We did not seek to insert ourselves, as filmmakers, into their truth. In this, we were absolutely determined. That is why every participant was filmed in exactly the same way, on the same neutral background, with the same lighting and composition. We asked every participant to respond to the same four questions, in order to organize their narrative chronologically: (1) Tell us about your origin; (2) tell us about your adoption or aging-out; (3) tell us about how you grew up; and (4) tell us about the years when you became an adult, up until now.”

The filmmakers go on: “These stories, collectively, do not represent a political agenda of any kind. The purpose of this project is only to open an intensely experiential window of oral history, of social and academic understanding, and of empathy through art. We, as the filmmakers, ask you to recognize each story as that teller’s truth in life. We do not present them here to be judged.”

The Side By Side videos are “neither an endorsement nor an indictment of inter-country adoption.” They seek only to “promote a greater understanding of adoption out of South Korea, and perhaps more broadly, inter-country adoption at large—widely practiced, not only in the wake of wars and geopolitical crises that separate millions of children from their biological families, but also in the course of family disruption and poverty.”

The 100 videos can be sorted by birth year, country, subject matter, and more. In addition to the 100 videos, there is also a prize-winning Side By Side short documentary available on the website that is well worth watching. All of the videos and the documentary are poignant, candid, genuine, wise. Some may also have potentially disturbing or triggering content.

The wonderful site I Am Adoptee (“created by adoptees, for adoptees”) is offering a “pairing” of the Side By Side videos with interviews by adult adoptees commenting on the video-stories.

Here is a recent post from the IAMAdoptee Facebook page: “IAMAdoptee presents the online premiere of ’11 Short Stories’ paired with a conversation with IAMAdoptee co-founder, Joy Lieberthal Rho, and clinical therapist, Katie Naftzger, LICSW, adopted from South Korea. Katie shares all the ways adoptees have internalized the telling of their adoption story by others and begin to give themselves permission to take their time in creating their own story. You can view the eighth Side By Side Project video, ’11 Short Stories’ and listen to Joy and Katie’s reflections video on our website here.”

Side By Side is an incredibly powerful project.

Inter Country Adoptee Voices: NAAM

This is day 5 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees.

Inter Country Adoptee Voices (ICAV) was created by and for adoptees all around the world. Based in Australia, ICAV is adoptee-led and adoptee-focused. The site includes an impressive list of adoptee-led groups in multiple countries, as well as groups focused specifically on adoptees from various countries/continents (Bangladesh to Vietnam).

ICAV also maintains a list of adoptee academics with links to their research, as well as a Memorial page for adoptees who have died by suicide or at the hands of their adoptive parents. There are links to blog posts about mental health and other issues. There is a substantive list of post-adoption services provided by adoptees around the globe.

ICAV has a public Facebook page, as well as a private Facebook group for intercountry and transracial adoptees.

I have known Lynelle Long, ICAV’s founder, for a while, and I know she is rightly proud of ICAV’s recent Educational Video Resource Project. I’ve watched several of the videos, which feature a variety of Australian adult intercountry adoptees speaking out about trauma, racism, and other adoption issues. Professionals such as doctors, teachers, and counsellors/therapists are among the intended audience; please share this resource with them.That said, all of us in the adoption community can benefit from the videos.