At the KAAN Conference This Weekend

I am attending the annual conference of KAAN, the Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network, in Chicago this weekend June 30-July 2. I am looking forward to it for several reasons.

One is that I will be presenting a workshop with my colleagues at Adoption Mosaic. The workshop is directed toward adoptees and adoptive parents, and is titled “Educating Your Adoptive Parents: Not Your Burden.” We have found that many adoptees, when they are adults in their 20’s, 30’s 40’s, and even older, would love for their adoptive parents to learn more about adoption—about the role of trauma, racism, identity, search reunion, and more. That education, though, should not be the burden of the adopted person—it should be the adoptive parents’ responsibility to learn and gain more understanding.

Another reason I am looking forward to the conference is that I will be bringing “Lions Roaring Far from Home: An Anthology by Ethiopian Adoptees” to sell and to talk about at the conference. As a co-editor, I appreciate this opportunity. KAAN has worked on reaching out to other adoption communities, and I look forward to bringing the book there.

I am also looking forward to meeting up with folks I know and haven’t seen for years, and also to meeting folks who I “know” via Facebook or otherwise, folks who I feel as though I know but have not yet met in person.

And, of course, I look forward to listening and learning from the wisdom that will be shared there.

Sweden to Investigate Adoptions from Ethiopia

Yesterday it became official that the currently ongoing state adoption investigation in Sweden will also examine the country of origin Ethiopia alongside the countries of origin Colombia, Chile, Poland, Sri Lanka, China and South Korea.

This news is from Tobias Hübinette, a professor in Sweden and a Korean adoptee, in a public post today on his Facebook page. Here is the full post, translated via Google Translate from Swedish:

“Yesterday it became official that the currently ongoing state adoption investigation led by Anna Singer will also examine the country of origin Ethiopia alongside the countries of origin Colombia, Chile, Poland, Sri Lanka, China and South Korea.

In total, approximately 1,300 children from Ethiopia and today’s Eritrea have been adopted to Sweden, and over the years the country has been rocked by a large number of adoption scandals and repeated reports of irregularities. In 2018, Ethiopia chose to finally close the country to all foreign adoptions and until the end, the thoroughly corrupt Swedish Adoptionscentrum was active in the country at the same time that virtually all other western countries (except Sweden) had already left Ethiopia before then due to the extensive corruption within the adoption business.” (English version via Google Translate)

The 1300 Ethiopian/Eritrean adoptees to Sweden are among the oldest in age in the Ethiopian adoptee community. While the number may be small in comparison, say, to the United States (some 15,000 Ethiopian adoptees), the activism and advocacy of the Swedish international adoptees is well known: Sweden is already investigating adoptions from six other countries, per the post above.

An increasing number of countries (Sweden, Chile, Ireland, Australia, the Netherlands, more) are investigating fraud and corruption in international adoptions. South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission is actively investigating adoptions from their country, largely spurred by Korean adoptees in Denmark.

The global mobilization of adult international adoptees is growing. Concerns about fraud, corruption, inaccuracies in medical and social histories, lies told to first/birth parents—the ramifications are worldwide, and the activism and social media are spreading the news worldwide.

Here is the original Swedish version from Professor Hübinette:

Igår blev det officiellt att den just nu pågående statliga adoptionsutredningen som leds av Anna Singer också ska granska ursprungslandet Etiopien bredvid ursprungsländerna Colombia, Chile, Polen, Sri Lanka, Kina och Sydkorea. 

Totalt har ca 1300 barn från Etiopien och dagens Eritrea adopterats till Sverige och genom åren har landet skakats av ett stort antal adoptionsskandaler och upprepade rapporter om oegentligheter. År 2018 valde Etiopien att slutgiltigt stänga landet för alla utlandsadoptioner och in i det sista var svenska genomkorrupta Adoptionscentrum verksam i landet samtidigt som i stort sett alla andra västländer (förutom Sverige) redan hade lämnat Etiopien innan dess p g a den omfattande korruptionen inom adoptionsverksamheten.

Ethiopian Adoptee-Writer-Entrepreneur: “Lions Roaring Far From Home”

“…Reading these stories has helped me feel less alone and more connected to a community of people who share similar experiences…” ~Kiya Herron-Sabi Goura

“Lions Roaring Far from Home,” the first ever anthology of essays and poems by Ethiopian adoptees, has been available on Amazon since last December. It has received great reviews from amazing people such as Lemn Sissay OBE, Hewan Girma Ph.D., Yadesa Bojia, Nicole Chung, and Shannon Gibney.

Per the back cover:

Equally important are the reactions and reviews of the writers themselves as they have read the whole book. We recently heard from Kiya Herron-Sabi Goura; she is Kiya Herron in the book.

It’s comforting to know that there are others out there who understand what it’s like to be adopted and the unique challenges that come with it. Reading these stories has helped me feel less alone and more connected to a community of people who share similar experiences. I appreciate the honesty and vulnerability of the writers and the effort put into creating this book. It’s an important contribution to the adoption conversation and I hope it reaches many others who can benefit from it. Thank you again for giving adoptees a platform to share their stories and be heard.

That is an absolutely beautiful comment, Kiya—thank you so much.

We also want to note that Kiya has started a business: Gelane Hair Oil, specializing in Ethiopian hair oil and butter. You can learn more about it on Etsy, and also on Facebook. We love the fact that Kiya is an entrepreneur, and that she is connecting with the beauty of Ethiopian culture.

We are, of course, proud of all our writers, and there is a special joy in sharing their accomplishments outside of our book.

South Korea Truth and Reconciliation Commission Agrees to Review Hundreds of Adoption Files

South Korea has the distinction of the largest and now oldest group of international adoptees, sent mostly to the U.S., Western Europe, and Australia. Is it a bellwether of sorts that South Korea is now examining the records of those adoptees for falsehoods and inaccuracies?

According to an AP article today, “South Korean inquiry to look into 237 more foreign adoptions suspected to have laundered origins.” the South Korea Truth and Reconciliation Committee has agreed to investigate nearly 300 cases of “South Korean adoptees who suspect their family origins were manipulated to facilitate their adoptions in Europe and the United States. 

More than 370 adoptees from Europe, North America and Australia filed applications last year demanding their cases be investigated. 

When the commission said it would investigate the first 34 cases in December 2022, it said the records of many adoptees sent to the West had clearly been manipulated and falsely described them as orphans or faked their identities by borrowing the details of a third person.”

The article goes on to say that “Most (Korean adoptees) were placed with white parents in the United States and Europe during the 1970s and ’80s. South Korea was then ruled by a succession of military dictatorships, which were focused on economic growth and saw adoptions as a tool to reduce the number of mouths to feed, erase the “social problem” of unwed mothers and deepen ties with the democratic West.”

The description of South Korea could apply to the sending countries as well, of course. It will be interesting to see if, as is possible, South Korean adoptees bring legal action against their agencies or against the government as a result of the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee.

Help Mike Davis, Ethiopian Adoptee, Get Home to His Family and Friends

Please help Mike Davis, adopted from Ethiopia in 1972 by a U.S. Army officer, return to the United States. Mike is now 60 years old, living thousands of miles from his family (including grandchildren he has never met), and dealing with medical and dental issues. His GoFundMe will help improve his health, which is important for him as an older person, but, even more importantly, will raise funds for a legal resolution to getting him U.S. citizenship and bringing him back home.

Mike was deported to Ethiopia from the United States in 2005. In the mid-1990’s, he discovered that his citizenship had not been processed correctly. He got in some legal trouble, served his time, and was then deported. The U.S. allows international adoptees, here with the legal approval and oversight of both the sending country and the United States, to be deported if they cannot prove citizenship. For almost 20 years, Mike has lived in Ethiopia, a place where, when he arrived, he had no friends, could not speak the language, and had no way to make a living. In the U.S., he’d run several successful small businesses, married, and was supporting his family.

Mike hopes that this fundraiser will help with legal representation of his case, so that he can return to America, which he considers his home: where he grew up on Army bases with his dad, where he set up businesses, where his wife, children, and grandchildren are.

I have been friends with Mike for several years now. We talk occasionally on WhatsApp, and keep up to date on Messenger. He is one of the writers in our book Lions Roaring Far from Home: An Anthology by Ethiopian Adoptees. Mike is a good, kind, humble person who has held on to his faith and his hope through all the hard years.

I am grateful to the Ethiopian adoptee community in Addis who have befriended him, to the adoptees who have offered him their support, and to the adoptive families and others who have visited him in Ethiopia and brought him medicines, candy, and the balm of their time and interest. Deep gratitude to those of you who have donated so far to his GoFundMe.

I have no doubts the loneliness and isolation have challenged him, but Mike does not complain. He’s had no legal trouble for decades. He’s among the oldest of Ethiopian adoptees, and, I believe, deserves to spend his later years among his family and friends here in the United States.

Please donate whatever you can to Mike’s GoFundMe. Your support is deeply appreciated, and will go primarily to Mike’s legal representation. A small part will go to help pay for a needed root canal and other dental work as well.

Please also share this GoFundMe, and help bring a good man home.

What Can We Do For Deported Adoptees?

Yesterday I wrote a post titled The Shameful Reality of America’s Deportation of Adoptees. In April, I had written about The Loneliness of Deported Adoptees. It is not enough for me to write about this. I would be so grateful if you had a few minutes to help in any way. It could make a big difference for the adoptees who have been deported.

Here are some actions.

  • Share the information about the fact the United States deports international adoptees. Share it with anyone connected to adoption, as well as to those who have no connection.

  • Check whether your federal House Representative has sponsored the Equal Citizenship Act, HR 1386. If yes, thank them. If no, ask why not, and urge them to do so.

You can look up your Congressional reps here. This will give you info about your both the House and Senate.

The bill has not yet been introduced in the U.S. Senate, as far as I know. Contact your federal Senator and ask whether they support citizenship for all international adoptees.

If you have a personal connection to adoption (adoptee, adoptive parent, birth/first parent, sibling of adoptee, grandparent of adoptee, etc.), let your House and Senate member know that.

  • Contact the National Council for Adoption and ask what actions they and their member adoption agencies are taking to help deported adoptees. They are in favor of the Adoptee Citizenship Act, and it is listed on their 2022 legislative advocacy page. If you have a personal connection to adoption (adoptee, adoptive parent, birth/first parent, sibling of adoptee, grandparent of adoptee, etc.), let them know that.
  • If you know of any lawyers who might be willing to help deported adoptees, please contact them. Feel free to let me know also, via the Contact page. I am happy to talk with them.
  • If you know any journalists or writers, or you are a writer yourself, please get the word out about the deportation of adoptees. I am happy to help with this, and can connect writers to the adoptees.
  • Please contact me if you would like to send an email or a package to a deported adoptee. The isolation and loneliness can be brutal, and a friendly word makes a big difference.
  • Please contact me if you would like to make a donation to a deported adoptee. Even a small amount can go a long way, and allows the adoptee to buy medications, toiletries, and food.

We are working on additional fundraising efforts, and would welcome any help.

Any one of these actions would be deeply appreciated. If you have other ideas, wonderful. Please let me know. Thank you very much.

The Shameful Reality of America’s Deportation of Adoptees

Yes, the United States of America has welcomed thousands of children for international adoption. Americans love the stories of the orphans rescued, lives saved, futures secured.

The United States of America is also fine with deporting international adoptees, dumping them back to countries where they don’t speak the language and have no job, family, or friends.

Some talking points about deported international adoptees:

  • They entered the USA legally with the paperwork, oversight, and approval of the sending country and the United States.
  • They were legally adopted by at least one U.S. citizen; often both parents were U.S. citizens. Many were adopted by U.S. military officers or veterans.
  • They were over 18 years old when the Child Citizenship Act (CCA) of 2000 was passed, which granted citizenship only to adoptees 18 and younger. International adoption began in the US in the 1940’s and 50’s; thousands of adoptees who were adopted in the decades before the CCA were excluded from acquiring automatic citizenship.
  • The responsibility for citizenship is with the adoptive parents, not with the minor child being adopted. Adoption agencies share some responsibility for ensuring that the children they have placed acquire citizenship, even if the agency is not legally required to do so.

Why didn’t the parents get citizenship for their adopted children? There are many possible reasons. They didn’t know they were supposed to do so. They thought citizenship was automatic. They filed the papers but not correctly. The U.S. government made errors on the paperwork. The parents were estranged from their children, or abusive toward their children, and decided not to follow through with citizenship.

Why don’t the adoptees just file for citizenship as adults? If (and it’s a big If) they know they are not citizens, and they are over 18, they can file for naturalization. It is a lengthy, expensive process, and many adoptees do not have the documents required to file. The parents might have lost, thrown out, or misplaced the documents. The parents may have died, and no one knows where the documents are. The parents may refuse to give the documents to the adoptee.

Why would an adoptee get deported? Adoptees who cannot prove citizenship can be deported if they commit a crime. The type of crime can be relatively minor or a serious felony; that determination often depends on state law. It’s a felony for non-citizens to vote in elections (even if they don’t know they are not citizens). Adoptees have been subject to deportation for writing bad checks, burglary, firearms possession, marijuana possession, and so on.

If they commit a crime, shouldn’t they be punished? Of course. If an adoptee commits a crime and is convicted, they should serve their time—just like any American, like any family member.

They should not though then be deported. Deportation of a legally adopted person should not be allowed by the United States. It is unethical, inconsistent with the values of “family,” and is a slap in the face of the adoption community.

Do adoptees subject to deportation get legal representation? Yes. That’s a basic tenet of our judicial system. The reality is that many adoptees are inadequately represented, because knowledge of adoption law and of immigration law are not always part of an attorney’s expertise, including public defenders. Some adoptees, after serving their sentence, are then detained by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) for long periods of time without a trial. Some give up. Some have great difficulty hiring and paying for an attorney who can actually represent them effectively. Some get terrible advice from their lawyers, who may not have any familiarity with the adoption laws in place at the time the adoptee entered the country (in the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, etc.). Some are detained for months far from family. Some give up hope.

Once deported, it can be near impossible for an adoptee to find an attorney who will take a case pro bono. Most adoptees have great difficulty finding legal work once deported: they don’t speak the language, they don’t know the culture, they have trouble getting legal permits.

Once deported, the adoptees, welcomed as cute children at the airport with balloons and happy smiles, receive no help or support from the US government, including at the US Embassy. They have to depend on family and friends back home, and on strangers in the country.

Once deported, they cannot receive Social Security, even if they earned it for years, nor Medicare nor Medicaid. Many older deported adoptees have serious medical issues for which getting treatment is difficult.

Many deported adoptees go into deep depression, experience tremendous loneliness, and feel forgotten by the country they love and grew up in. Many feel forgotten by family and friends, and many are correct about that.

Why doesn’t Congress help them?

Strong anti-immigrant views have been pervasive in our U.S. Congress for decades. International adoptees, fairly or unfairly, enter the U.S. as immigrants, with all the legally required paperwork. I would argue that adoptees, as children being adopted by US citizens, should be considered separately. This is admittedly a controversial position in the immigration community and in Congress.

Why has Congress has failed to pass an Adoptee Citizenship Act that would grant citizenship to adoptees not included under the 2000 CCA?

Congress has failed to do this for years, since 2015 at least. Beyond the sweeping anti-immigrant feelings, here are some reasons:

  • Some Members of Congress don’t consider adoptees to be real members of a family, and thus may feel it’s no big deal to deport them.
  • Some Members of Congress don’t recognize or don’t care that international adoptees did not have agency in being brought to this country, nor in their acquisition of citizenship, despite being adopted with all the required paperwork and government approval.
  • Some Members of Congress are afraid of a slippery slope of “illegal immigrants” being allowed to remain in the US.
  • Some Members of Congress have no sense of ethics, nor an understanding of adoption.
  • Some Members of Congress feel if someone has committed a crime, then deportation is what they deserve, regardless of how they arrived in the US.

I struggle with this question, to be honest. I’d love to hear someone explain it to me in a way that shows honor and decency on the part of our Congress.

That said, I am grateful to those in Congress who have sponsored adoptee citizenship legislation, and who recognize it as fair and appropriate. I wish there were more of them with the courage and patriotism to do so.

The Korean Court’s Ruling On the Government Role in Adoptee’s Lawsuit

When the South Korean court ruled this week on the case of adoptee Adam Crapser’s lawsuit, they agreed with some of the allegations against Holt Children’s Services, the adoption agency. The court did not agree with any of the allegations against the government of the Republic of Korea,

According to Lee Kyung-eun (Ph.D. in law), director of Human Rights Beyond Borders, in a March 2022 Korean Times article, these were the allegations about illegal acts by the Korean government:

  • Negligence of its duty to protect its national in the process of inter-country adoption.
  • Unconstitutional use of proxy adoptions, a practice stipulated in the Adoption Special Procedure Act.
  • Negligence of its duty to monitor and audit the practices of adoption agencies.
  • Violation of its obligation to perform due diligence in the process of allowing children to leave the country to be adopted transnationally.
  • Failure to monitor and verify the citizenship acquisition of inter-country adoptees, as prescribed by law.
  • Negligence of its obligation to fulfill post-adoption monitoring of the plaintiff’s adoption.
  • Failure to uphold the international norms that seek to prevent financial gain by allowing the inclusion of such unethical practices in the implementation ordinance of the Special Adoption Procedure Act. 

The court did not hold the Korean government liable any of the allegations in the case of Adam Crapser’s adoption.

Some detailed information about the court decision is available on the Facebook page of Banet, a group for Korean adoptees searching for relatives.

A few points from Banet’s analysis of the court decision:

Because Korea has not ratified The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, it cannot be held responsible for failing to abide by it.

The Korean government had responsibility only for making the procedures possible for adoption. It gave responsibility and authority for supervising the adoption process to the adoption agencies iIn this case, Holt Children’s Services).

The Korean government has no liability as to where the adoptee was placed and with whom. Those decisions were handled by the adoption agency.

While the plaintiff alleged that adoption by proxy is illegal, the court said the Korean Congress made adoption laws, and allowed adoption by proxy.

While the government may not have known about illegal activities or may not have brought disciplinary action against adoption agencies, the government nonetheless did not breach its duty to supervise the agencies.

The government accepted the decision of the state of Michigan regarding the suitability of Crapser’s first adoptive parents.

I am not a lawyer. Nor am I an expert on any of this, and certainly not about Korean adoption law in the late ’70’s, when Adam Crapser was adopted. This legal decision by the South Korean court will, no doubt, be scrutinized by adoptees, adoption agencies, and government agencies responsible for intercountry adoptions.

This is, as far as I know, the first significant decision regarding a Korean adoptee placed in the United States. Adoptions from South Korea began in the 1950’s, and Korean adoptees are the largest group of international adoptees (estimates range from 150,000 to 200,000 adoptees, mostly placed in the US). Some folks see this lawsuit as an important step in the right direction; others think it will be inconsequential. Perhaps the Korean government is relieved; perhaps adoption agencies and other governments are thinking about what lies ahead for them.

Global Ramifications of a South Korean Adoptee’s Lawsuit

When the South Korean Court announced its decision yesterday on Korean adoptee Adam Crapser’s lawsuit against both Holt Children’s Services adoption agency and the South Korean government, it created an incredible precedent in the world of adoption.

The lawsuit alleged that Holt and the South Korean government acted illegally and deceptively in the processing and oversight of Crapser’s adoption.

The court decision is groundbreaking for international adoptees:

  • Holt Children’s Services, a Korean adoption agency, was successfully sued by an adoptee in his country of origin. This is, as far as I know, unprecedented.
  • Holt has been ordered to pay financial damages to the adoptee for illegal acts.
  • The court found Holt responsible to make sure the adoptee had US citizenship, and to report that to South Korea’s Minister of Justice.

Ramifications/Possible Next Steps

I am not a lawyer, but I believe Holt and Crapser can appeal this decision. (The court did not agree with all of Crapser’s allegations.)

This decision could create legal standing for other adoptees to sue Holt Children’s Services, or, I suppose, to sue other adoption agencies.

Rumblings of a class action suit have rolled around the adoption community for years. Perhaps this opens that door.

US citizenship for adoptees was not automatic when Adam was adopted. His criminal record and inability to prove citizenship led to his deportation, despite the adoption having been approved by both Korea and the US. There are said to be thousands of adoptees who entered the US before the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 who do not have citizenship: some know they are not citizens, some don’t know they are not, and some have been deported. At least one deported Korean adoptee, Philip Clay, died by suicide. Many others, in Korea and elsewhere, are struggling.

That a Korean court has held the adoption agency responsible for the adoptee’s acquisition of citizenship in the adoptive country could have huge ramifications for deported adoptees and those without citizenship. I imagine both the US and countries of origin/sending countries are looking at this decision closely.

Crapser’s lawsuit also made allegations against the South Korean government, and the court apparently did not agree to those. More information about this is expected soon.

Korean Court Dismisses Government Liability, But Orders Holt to Pay Compensation to Adam Crapser

According to KBS (Korean Broadcasting System), a South Korean Court has ordered the Holt Children Services adoption agency “to pay compensation to a South Korean adoptee who was illegally sent overseas despite having biological parents in the country.

The Seoul Central District Court on Tuesday sided with the plaintiff, 48-year-old Adam Crapser, born Shin Song-hyuk, ordering the agency to pay 100 million won, or 75-thousand U.S. dollars, plus delayed interest.

The court did not, however, acknowledge the government’s liability for compensation, dismissing that portion of the lawsuit.”

According to the AP (Associated Press), “In reading out the verdict, Judge Park Jun-min did not elaborate on why the court refused to hold the government accountable. Crapser’s lawyers said they will review the full version of the ruling, which the court didn’t immediately release, before deciding whether to appeal.

‘We want to express our very serious regret,’ said Kim Soo-jung, one of Crapser’s lawyers.

‘The (government) knew that children procured for adoptions were not being (properly) protected, that their human rights were being violated — they should have done something about it, but they didn’t. … It seems that the court simply saw the government as a monitoring institution, and not as an actor that directly committed illegal acts.'”

Further, according to the AP, “It remains to be seen whether Crapser’s case inspires more lawsuits by adoptees, who are becoming more vocal with their criticism of past South Korean corruption in adoption practices, which caused a huge but unknown number of wrongful family separations and stymied thousands from reconnecting with their roots.

The Court will apparently release more information tomorrow, and both Holt Children’s Services and Crapser may appeal today’s ruling.

While this may not have been the ruling that Adam Crapser hoped for in terms of government liability, the court case does now create a precedent of sorts for other adoptees.

As the AP article states, “Tuesday’s verdict came months after hundreds of Korean adoptees from Europe and North America asked South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate their adoption circumstances. They say their status and identities were laundered to facilitate marred adoptions.

The commission has opened investigations of dozens of those applications and may take more cases in the coming months, as it proceeds with the most far-reaching inquiry into South Korea’s foreign adoptions yet.

The commission’s potential findings could allow more adoptees to launch legal actions against agencies or the government, which would otherwise be difficult because South Korean civil courts put the burden of proof entirely on plaintiffs, who often lack information and resources.”

The action by the South Korean Truth and Reconciliation Commission, combined with this court case, could hold huge ramifications for international adoptees from Korea and from other countries. Around the globe, especially in Western Europe, international adoptees are mobilizing to demand more information about their adoptions, and, as in the case of Adam Crapser, to hold adoption agencies and governments liable and accountable for “wrongful family separations” and for the inability to find their families and learn their own histories.