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.

Adoptees For Justice: NAAM

This is day 3 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees.

Most people outside the adoption community are often moved by stories of babies and children being adopted internationally, brought to new families, and growing up as proud Americans. It’s the Hallmark narrative, and there are elements of truth to it.

Another less well-known truth is that some of those sweet children grow up not knowing that they’ve never received U.S. citizenship. They don’t learn that truth until they go to vote, or apply for certain financial aid programs, or commit a crime, whether a petty one or a serious felony. Like others (such as biological adult children) who have committed crimes, these adoptees serve their time and handle the consequences. But then, some adoptees, who know only America as their home, are then deported.

it is an outrage. It undermines the heart of adoption, and it is shameful that our United States Congress has yet to enact new legislation to provide citizenship for all international adoptees. I don’t think any other country has failed to do this the way that we have.

The organization Adoptees for Justice has been working to change that. They’ve advocated for the Adoptee Citizenship Act to grant U.S. citizenship to all international adoptees, a status that should have been automatic.

I hope you will visit their website and their Facebook page, for updates and actions. I hope you will contact your federal representatives and ask them to support the Adoptee Citizenship Act, and urge others to do so as well.

Webinar: Adoptees and Suicide Prevention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adoption and Suicide Prevention: An Upcoming Webinar

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

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

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

US State Department Invites International Adult Adoptees to a Town Hall

The U.S. State Department recently sent out this invitation for international adoptees to participate in a virtual Town Hall to talk about their lived experiences. If you are an adult international adoptee, I hope you will consider attending. Please, everyone, share this invitation.

From the U.S. State Department:

Invitation to Adult Adoptees: What would you like policy-makers to know about the lived experience of intercountry adoptees?

Event:     Town Hall: Adult Adoptee Lived Experience
Date:       November 13, 2020
Time:      12:00pm to 1:30pm EST
RSVP:     Adoption@state.gov  (NLT November 10, 2020) – 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 12, in the afternoon, to those who RSVP’d. 

The Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State, invites interested adult intercountry adoptees to a virtual town hall meeting with Marisa Light, Chief of the Adoption Oversight Division, on Friday, November 13, 2020, 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. EST

In adherence with the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation on Intercountry Adoption, the Department believes 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.”  

We are the U.S. Central Authority for the Convention, and we uphold these principles in our day to day work. As policy makers, we place a priority on ensuring that persons with lived experience have a seat at the table in discussions that inform and impact the development of public policy that impact the adoption community. Adult adoptees are important stakeholders whose voices and varied perspectives are critical to our work.  

We appreciate wide dissemination of this invitation to internationally adopted persons who may be interested in participating. We are particularly hoping to reach adult intercountry adoptees who may be unfamiliar with the role we play in intercountry adoption or whose voices we haven’t heard before.  

We recognize that some adult intercountry adoptees are also adoptive parents and/or professionals working to facilitate intercountry adoption. While we respect the integration of these multiple aspects of an individual’s identity, we request that participants in this situation limit their sharing to their experiences specifically as adoptees since we have other venues for sharing perspectives more focused on adoptive/prospective adoptive parents and adoption professional experiences. We thank those participants in advance for their understanding of the importance of providing an opportunity to focus on adoptee concerns and feedback.  

In recognition of the sensitive nature of the topic for some, this meeting will not be recorded. Those who cannot attend are welcome to submit comments in writing to Adoption@state.gov. We look forward to hearing from you. 

Sincerely,

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

This invitation was from the Adoption Notices that the U.S. State Department sends out to those who subscribe: you can subscribe to the Notices here.