Healing as a Transracial Adoptee

by Kamina the Koach, transracial adoptee in the USA.

I am a domestic, transracial, late discovery adoptee born in 1979 just outside of Dallas, Texas in the USA. At 42, I identify as just another African American woman but I actually didn’t know I was black until I was 14 and even then, I only thought my mother had an affair, or at least that’s what I was told. I believed this lie because I wanted to believe my parents, until I found out, by accident, that I was adopted. 

When I found out at 32 that I was indeed adopted, I was going through SO MUCH that I just could not bear to face this truth. I acknowledged it and suffered the ignorant comments people made about me being adopted, to include questions about why I hadn’t searched for my family. It all made me even more defensive. I’ve always had, what I determined to be, rage issues. That certainly didn’t help the matter, constantly being confronted with questions I couldn’t even answer for myself. Instead of facing this horrible new truth, I locked it away and left the USA for almost 10 years.

My adopted home was full of racism, chaos and confusion. I was homeless at 15 because my female adopter put me out. She called the police and they came and waited for me to pack my things and leave. I asked them where I was supposed to go. They said that they didn’t care but I couldn’t stay there because my frail white female adopter was afraid of her big black burden. The best thing that ever happened to me was getting out of that home, though it did prove to make life quite a bit more complex than it originally should have been. Up to this point, we had been fighting over a man almost 15 years my senior that she had been allowing me to see. Until I started to unearth all my trauma, I didn’t even realize that this too was abuse. Nonetheless, in the time she spent with him helping us sneak around to see each other, she fell in love with him. I will leave that first home right there but not before also mentioning that my female adopter’s biological son sexually abused me and when I finally had the courage to bring it up, I found out she knew. So yes, let’s leave them right there. 

I had so much trauma in the works before I found out I was adopted that I had spent almost 10 years attending to those wounds before I could even consider the journey out of the fog. I looked to religion, even attending seminary to become a chaplain in the Army. The book “The Secret” began my spiritual transformation. While I am not religious at all anymore, I am quite deeply spiritual as that book set me on the path to study Quantum Physics and other ideas and theories that not only supported my soul but also didn’t go against science. I needed to make sense of it all.

In China, I found the book A New Earth by Ekhart Tolle and started to learn more about energy and discovered I could control my menstrual cramps by focusing on the energy I hold in my body. That led me to discover energy medicine and energy healing, from which I took my atunement to become a Reiki master. Living outside the white noise of the USA gave me an opportunity to explore myself in a way I never had before, and so I did. Meditation became easier and I started growing and changing as I continued to feed my mind with knowledge about my soul and the powerful energy that we all share that is inside us. 

I became quite a devout Muslim while living in Saudi Arabia and I studied Buddhism quite a bit while living in Thailand and Myanmar. I was constantly seeking a way to fill up the hole in my heart where a family should have been. Religion didn’t do it. Science didn’t do it. And let’s be painfully direct and say that spirituality didn’t do it either. I desperately wanted to have kids of my own but that was yet another attempt to fill that hole.

I returned to the USA after almost 10 years of living and working abroad in eight different countries during the worst time in my life to be an American, March of 2020, the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m an introvert and an empath, so being at home was great but the problem was I could literally FEEL all the pain of the country. At one point, I was curled under my office desk in tears shaking and crying. The loneliness finally broke me on my birthday, a bad day for many adoptees and I’m no exception. This was the second time I self-sabotaged on my birthday and almost succeeded in ending my life. I was supposed to go see a guy I liked and he went missing. Instead, I got up, got dressed and went out to get the attention I so desperately thought I needed. I was arrested for driving under the influence on my way to who knows where. I was so out of it that I didn’t even know I had driven all the way to another city before I was pulled over and arrested. 

That was it for me. I began my reunion journey shortly thereafter. Wherever you go, there you are and I had been running from myself for far too long. In the 10 years I was abroad, groups have formed to assist domestic adoptees in searching for free, using only non identifying information and DNA results. I’m a research fanatic and that’s how I ended up making a turn down the adoptee rabbit hole. I had joined an adoptee group once before and left because I was overwhelmed. Same this time. I joined many groups and each time I would find myself out of place or wildly uncomfortable. Luckily though, not before I made two amazing adoptee friends who are also women of color and transracially adopted. I’m so very thankful for their presence in my life, but I still avoid groups for the most part. I hate discourse that ends up in bickering. The one group I continue to enjoy is one for adoptees who have cut ties with their adoptive families. I have not found another group where I felt this safe.

As I moved through my reunion journey, I continued to hear people say that I NEEDED a therapist. I couldn’t afford one at the time and didn’t have insurance to help. Instead, I joined a support group for adoptees of color. I didn’t fit in there either. It was decent the first session but after that, I began to feel like an outsider yet again. I began to ask for help more to see if anyone had any ideas and one of my new adoptee friends turned me to Joe, one of the very first adoptee psychotherapists to start to write about this. His website stated he offered help for free to those who are moving towards reunion. Nonetheless, after our first session, he started discussing money. He was also an older white male which made me uncomfortable and he attempted to overcompensate by telling me he had a a black girlfriend. It was very creepy and uncomfortable. Needless to say, that didn’t work out either.

After Joe, a former military friend pointed me to a military funded therapist. I was so thankful to find out she was also trained in EMDR. I knew about EMDR because a friend of mine died in another friend’s arms and an Army chaplain suggested I research it to help him process his trauma. However, she ended up being quite racist, calling me a reverse racist. After two sessions, she ended our relationship via a text that almost snapped my soul in two. I had started seeing a very sweet person I was in love with and I was certain that I wouldn’t be able to maintain the relationship or navigate reunion without help. It was like being broken up with, like death. Abandonment has always equalled death to me. 

Those two failed attempts at therapy didn’t deter me from continuing my healing journey. Dr. Gabor Mate is one of my favourite trauma experts and he asserts that all of our mental hang ups are a product of trauma, including addictions. He also endorses psychedelics for healing, though that wasn’t the first time I had heard about this. The first time was probably when I was wondering to a friend about near-death-experience and they mentioned DMT, the manufactured version of the plant medicine ayahuasca. At this point I had read a book on how people are able to rewire their brains through following an intensive meditation modality, but that ayahuasca had been able to achieve the same results, often with only one dose. As I went further down the rabbit hole, I found the psychedelic groups on the social media platform ClubHouse, and that’s where I first turned my attention to psilocybin, the psychedelic chemical in magic mushrooms. I had never thought of them before but began to study them more closely. I found they have the same capabilities to rewire the brain and quieten the ego portion of the brain so I could look at my trauma for what it truly is. 

When I moved to Arizona in July of 2021, I finally had access and began the search for the medicine (magic mushrooms) while still studying what people had to say about the process. Science has done plenty of studies but I wanted to hear what the natives had to say about it as well. Colonization has allowed white people to appropriate everything and make it seem as though it was their ideas, but these natural healing modalities have been around for 1000s of years. I wanted to hear what everyone had to say so that I could make the best decision for myself. ClubHouse offered that opportunity as well.

In the process of searching for magic mushrooms, I began to search for a therapist. My romantic relationship ended quite violently and I just couldn’t bear the idea of hurting anyone else with my hurts. I believe the concentrated positive energy of my adoptee friend, led me to my new therapist or at least aided in my search. Not only is she very aware of her whiteness and the privilege it yields her, she isn’t uncomfortable to talk about it. She’s also adoption informed, trained in brainspotting and psychedelics for healing. Brainspotting is even more effective than EMDR and requires less prep work. I found her using https://www.psychologytoday.com/us. I like this site because it allows me to search for therapists who accept my insurance, the modality I wanted, and the area of specialty. I always searched for adoption informed first, but would have accepted merely trauma informed. I’m happy I found the therapist I have now because she trusted my intuition about my own healing, even before I did.

At this point, I have done three sessions of psilocybin and 5 therapy sessions and I’m stunned at the breakthroughs and progress I’ve made. I love myself, probably for the first time in my life — truly love myself. I mourned what I lost when I lost my family and have developed deep compassion for myself. My biggest fears to date have been my rage and my issues developing boundaries. Guess what I’m now working on? That’s right, my rage and my boundaries. Why now? It’s amazing what you’re willing to do for someone you love, especially when that someone is yourself! It’s still scary but I know for sure that I’m worth the effort. Now, I’m actively using psilocybin on my own and using my therapist for integration after each ceremony.  

I will wrap up by saying that we are all unique, even though we share adoption in common. Before you begin such a radical healing journey, please consider where you are spiritually and emotionally. Also, don’t take other people’s word for anything. Take everything with a grain of salt, even what I have written here. Though people may have a title like doctor or therapist, that doesn’t mean they know which healing path is best for YOU. Only YOU truly know that.

If you don’t have money for a therapist, which I understand wholeheartedly, there are so many resources online that will point you in the right direction and help to give you some insight into your struggles. Take plenty of time reflecting on yourself, your journey and where you want to go before you make any decisions. All the healing you need is already there inside of you. The trick is finding the key to unlock it.

One last thing, healing is a journey, not a destination. Though I am making huge leaps and bounds, I will always be walking down this road. You can’t rush it and you might even hurt yourself if you do. Have patience with yourself, though often easier said than done. Sending love and light to all who read this as you move along your healing path.

Recommended Resources for Healing with Psychedelics

I also recommend joining in on ClubHouse and the groups that discuss this topic. Specifically, there is a couple that I have joined who have been doing this for 14 years i.e., healing people with magic mushrooms. Their names are Tah and Kole. They are VERY knowledgeable. 

Find Me

YouTube: Kamina the Koach
Email: KaminaTheKoach@gmail.com

ICAVs other posts with adoptee experience of Magic Mushrooms : My Game Changer & Deep Truths.

Relinquishment, Adoption and Grief

by Bina Mirjam de Boer adopted from India to the Netherlands, shared for November Adoption Awareness Month at Bina Coaching.

At the moment when adoptees experience that they have lost part of themselves due to relinquishment and / or adoption, they suddenly come into a grieving process. A kind of mourning that they themselves, but also their surroundings, often cannot comprehend or contain.

A special event such as a pregnancy, the birth of a (grand) child or a wedding can suddenly lose its colour or shine. A demise, loss of work, or a move can suddenly become the most dramatic and prevailing event of an adoptee’s life.

The previous loss that hitherto sat dormant in the unconscious is triggered. Suddenly the unconscious wakes up in the conscious and throws back the adopted one into the previous loss trauma with the corresponding behavioural change. The emotions that come with this seem to absorb everything, structures and controls disappear and chaos prevails.

Often adoptees who previously considered themselves “fortunately adopted” suddenly feel the emptiness and try to fill it up by looking for their self, their identity and / or their mother. But the emptiness, sadness and fear does not dissolve during this quest or in reunification. There often remains the history, the secrets, the guilt and the shame between both.

Because of the fact that this form of loss and mourning is not recognised in our society, adopted people do not have the option (e.g. leave period) to mourn, give meaning to their loss or experience a farewell ritual like a funeral of their adoptive parents. And often they have no memories of their first parents with whom they can comfort themselves. Because of this, it will often remain a never ending story and the wound will remain open.

A mother and child separation causes lifelong loss, which we carry in our body until the end of our life and is also transferred to the next generations.

That’s why it’s important to raise awareness for the loss and trauma during relinquishment and adoption and the impact of missing our descendants data. Adoptees should experience as much entitlement to support in their grieving process as those not adopted.

For more from Bina, read her other ICAV blogs:
Imagine losing your parents twice!
Forget your past

A Journey in Re-defining My Identity

by Maya Fleischmann, a transracial adoptee born in Hong Kong, adopted into a Jewish Russian adoptive family. Author of the fictional book Finding Ching Ha, A Novel.

“The more you know yourself, the more clarity there is. Self-knowledge has no end – you don’t come to an achievement, you don’t come to a conclusion. It is an endless river.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti

The journey of self-discovery

This quest to discover who we really are is the stuff that novels and movies are made of. Though our self-perception transforms with time, events, social, and physical settings that alter our connectedness with different people, groups, and places, the foundation upon which we build our identity remains the same (although the perception of historical events can change). As an intercultural adoptee, my unknown beginnings have been an unstable bedrock in the explorations of my identity.

Who am I? In 1972, I was adopted by a Russian Jewish expat couple living in Hong Kong. I was three, or maybe four years old (my adoptive parents had told me both ages, so I am going by my fake birth certificate that was issued four years after my date of birth, also listed on the same certificate). I was raised in a household that observed Jewish traditions as well as Chinese and Russian holidays, such as Chinese New Year, and Russian Easter and Christmas. We also celebrated holidays, such as Boxing Day and the Queen’s birthday, that were observed by my British school and the-then-British Crown Colony of Hong Kong. Memories of my years before four are a blur of nightmares and dreams, memories and fantasies. I am not sure which is which anymore, which is why I wrote Finding Ching Ha, my novel about a Chinese girl who is adopted by a Russian Jewish couple, as fiction. 

Where am I from?

I remember asking my parents this question once, maybe twice, in their lifetime. I remember the way they looked at me, eyes large, teeth digging into lips, fingers fidgeting with imaginary dirt under nails, and them looking away. It conjured an awkwardness and angst, as though I had caught them having sex, that I didn’t broach the topic of my Chinese ancestry with them again. I didn’t ask, and they never did tell me, what, or if, they knew of my past. 

Although my multi-cultural background was a conversation starter for as long as I can remember; my lack of foundation, and my insecurities about my unknown origins, made it difficult for me to respond to the questions and comments that I encountered. I was always flummoxed by perceptions and judgements people made that negated my beginnings, my history, my life. “Oh, you’re not Jewish if you haven’t been bat mitzvahed.” “You’re not really Chinese if you don’t speak Chinese.” “Your adoptive parents’ Russian history isn’t your heritage, because they’re not your real parents.” “Aren’t you a lucky little girl to have been adopted?” “Who knows what your background is?” And each remark about my identity was made as nonchalantly to me as if they were recommending a menu item, “Oh, don’t order the soup. You won’t like it.”

Growing up with all these pronouncements made me wonder about my identity – or lack thereof. If I wasn’t entitled to my Chinese heritage because I had been adopted out of it, and I wasn’t entitled to partake in any ownership of my parents’ history because I wasn’t born into it, then who exactly was I? Where did I belong? Even the British (albeit Hong Kong British) identity I embraced the most as a child, disappeared in 1997 during the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China. 

At an early age, the answer was for me to disown my Chinese background. More and more I noticed my Chinese face in the synagogue, and social circles filled with Westerners, or at the parties where everyone who looked like me was serving food or washing dishes. And, with this awareness, came annoyance and shame about being Chinese, not fitting into the country of my birth, nor into the home of my new family. Even as an adult, I shied away from organizations that were based on my ethnicity, lest I be asked, “how can you be born and raised in Hong Kong, be Chinese, and not speak Cantonese?” Instead, I joined groups and made friends based on common interests like reading, writing, or parenthood. 

As the base of experience in life grew, I became more comfortable in my sense of self, as well as the subject of my missing self. With Finding Ching Ha, I struggled to convey how Ching Ha assimilated into the different cultures of her new life. Writing this made me realize that my own childhood shame and self doubt, the triggers to unidentifiable emotions, and my angst in eking out an identity in the mosaic of cultures, were real and challenging. Writing the novel helped me make sense of my own emotions growing up and come to terms with some of these complexities. 

Who am I today?

I’m in my fifties now. The sense of being ungrounded has faded. I have created a family history with my own husband and children. My feng-shui’d household is infused with traditions and stories from Russian and Chinese cultures, the Jewish traditions, and a sprinkle of Buddhist and Stoic insights for good measure. Still, in a culture filled with contentious conversations about race, where boundaries are so clearly defined, even when there are many people of mixed race, I find myself still wondering about my past — especially when I fill out medical forms inquiring about family history. So, a week ago, I decided to take a DNA test. Perhaps I can learn about my genetic makeup, and glean insight into current and future medical conditions, or get confirmation that I am 100% Chinese. Ultimately, my deep desire is to find someone, or something, that will quell the dream and voice that wonders if there is someone looking for me.

If in two weeks the DNA results reveal nothing new, I won’t be too disappointed because I have found familiarity in the unanswered questions. Though there will be no one to tell me the tale of my origins, my journey of self discovery will continue, for I am the writer for the rest of my story. 

Since the writing of this article, Maya has received her DNA results. Click here to read her blog post and find out what she discovered: https://findingchingha.com/blog/finding-family/

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Maya Fleischmann is a freelance writer and the author of Finding Ching Ha and If You Give a Mum a Minute. Her book reviews are published in book industry trade journals, such as Foreword Magazine, Publishers Weekly, BookPage, and Audiofile Magazine. Her stories and articles have appeared in travel and cultural magazines and books, to include Peril and Chicken Soup for the Working Mom’s Soul. You can find out more about Maya at mayafleischmann.com and findingchingha.com. Finding Ching Ha: A Novel, is available in paperback and ebook on Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and Kobo and other leading bookstores.

Spending Thanksgiving on My Own

Holidays have always been a bit of a bugger, at least for me. And to make things worse, I’m spending Thanksgiving alone this year but I’m happy to at least have a couple days off this week because of the holiday! I have some new goals I will be occupying my time with too. Like for one, I hope to start taking local photographs of Hawaii. I think this goal is great because it can motivate me three-fold:

  1. My goal would encourage me to learn more about beautiful Hawaii.
  2. It will motivate myself to meet new people.
  3. I can also refresh my portfolio.

Life in Hawaii as a new single has been peaceful but I do have to admit, it can be lonely. It was tougher in the beginning but I’ve actually had some small periods of joy in passing moments these days.

My List of Little Things That Bring Me Temporary Joy (as a Newly Made Single Person in Hawaii)

  • Listening to Bhutanese pop music on Spotify
  • Sitting at my Favorite Secret Spot overlooking the ocean
  • Junk journaling at home with a movie on
  • Going for jogs next to the highway
  • Eating pokē at any time of the day
  • Talking to friends
  • Checking in with my support groups or creative workshops

Next month will be Christmas.

I’ve been thinking about what it’ll be like visiting my adoptive family in Arizona during that time. It’s been years of estrangement and I haven’t even met a handful of my cousin’s children yet too, so it’s definitely good that I meet them this year.

It will be also nice not being alone, and I hope to also blog in that time.

I’ve also been thinking about my plans in Hawaii. If I should try to move back to the mainland to live and work in a more affordable place. Right now work here keeps me going on Oahu but it’s still fickle. Another idea struck me too: I think it’d be awesome to plan a trip to the Philippines with a few Filipino-American adoptee friends who might want to explore our home country together!

Anybody interested?

Not much else to write about right now, so I will sign off. Please feel free to find me on Facebook or Instagram if you’d like to get in touch!

Does Justice or Accountability Happen in Illicit Adoptions?

by Jessica Davis, American adoptive mum who returned her Ugandan child to her biological mother in Uganda. Jessica has written this post in response to the recent “guilty” plea of staff working at the adoption agency European Adoption Consultants (Ohio) who facilitated the illicit adoption of Ugandan adoptee to the Davis family. Media article here.

It has been many years since uncovering the horrible truth that the little girl we adopted from Uganda had been unlawfully separated from her family. Since reuniting Namata back with her mother, I have been waiting for some semblance of justice and accountability, especially when it came to this particular individual.

Today, Debra Parris, one of the criminals involved in trafficking Namata changed her plea to guilty on every federal indictment she was charged with. Debra was a willing participant in trafficking children from Uganda through intercountry adoption. She caused irreparable harm to Namata, her Ugandan mother and made our lives miserable for years as we sought to expose her and her co-conspirators. She has inflicted massive amounts of harm on MANY vulnerable Ugandan children and their families (and in many other countries I am sure).

Just hearing her voice today was overwhelming let alone hearing her finally admit guilt. Since coming to realize what happened within our adoption was not unique, I made the commitment to never waste an opportunity to work at changing the narrative when it comes to intercountry adoption. This moment will be no different.

To those who choose to believe that what happened to Namata and her mother is the result of just one “bad apple”, I beg of you to stop. I have been working with Ugandan families for over 5 years now and I can tell you that what happened to Namata and her family is not the exception, rather it is the rule in intercountry adoption. Every Ugandan family I have met, even the families that used other adoption agencies, have had similar experiences to share. None of the families of origin truly understood adoption, all of them were going through a difficult time and only needed support. Almost every one of them thought they were gaining access to an education or medical care for their loved one. I’m not saying that there aren’t exceptions, but I have yet to meet a Ugandan family who truly understood adoption.

As an adoptive parent, choosing to look the other way or to remain silent when it comes to these injustices makes YOU part of the problem. When I realized what was happening with our adoption agency, I immediately started speaking to other adoptive parents that had used them as well. I was told over and over that I was overreacting, that this couldn’t be true, or that at least it couldn’t be as “bad” as I was claiming. I have a feeling that even with this admission of guilt, many adoptive families will still say it’s just not true in their situation (which might very well be true) and go on with their lives, as if nothing happened.

This adoption agency facilitated the adoptions of over 30 Ugandan children. Today Debra Parris admitted to bribing probation officers, court registrars and judges in Uganda. She admitted to knowingly submitting fraudulent information to the US State Department in an effort to facilitate illicit adoptions. To assume this was not happening in other adoptions is not only naive but a grave miscarriage of justice.

How many birth families and adult adoptees have shared similar experiences? When will we start listening? When will enough families have been unnecessarily torn apart until we are willing to do something? When will the lives and welfare of these “orphans” matter to us beyond them being adopted?

While, I rejoiced today in this small step toward accountability for the wrongs perpetuated against many of the most vulnerable children and families in our world, I couldn’t help but think about all the Ugandan families (and families across the world) that this has happened to. Families that will likely never see justice or reparations, let alone the loved one they were separated from. I couldn’t help but think about all the adoptees that were handed off between families like trading cards. Adoptees that are silenced and ignored when they speak out about their experiences with adoption. I can’t help but think about all of the harm that has been unnecessarily inflicted on adoptees and birth families because this system seems far too easy to exploit and corrupt.

When is enough, enough?

For more from Jessica & her husband Adam, watch their interview with 1MillionHome Audacious Love

For more from Jessica, read her blogs:
Adoption: Neat & Tidy? Not so much!
The Lie We Love
Not A Tourist Attraction
There Isn’t an Orphan Crisis, It’s a Family Separation Crisis

Lived Experience of Illegal and Illicit Adoption

Intercountry adoption is regulated by the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. This convention was designed to protect the best interests of the child in intercountry adoption and prevent the abduction, trafficking or sale of children for intercountry adoption purposes.

While it is impossible to calculate exactly how many illegal and illicit adoptions have occurred into Australia, we do know we have specific cohorts of adoptees here from various countries. Ethiopia and India were the most recent countries where our programs closed due to irregularities. Our early history in the 1980s includes trafficked adoptees from Taiwan where Julie Chu was convicted of falsifying paperwork and sentenced to prison for her role as leader of the Taiwan trafficking ring.

Globally, in February this year the Netherlands suspended its intercountry adoption program due to its historic illegal and illicit adoptions. Other European countries such as Switzerland, Sweden, and Belgium have all taken steps to carefully examine their historic adoptions.

What will Australia’s response be to our own history of illicit and illegal intercountry adoptions? Australian policy makers are currently grappling with this question and the implications. For this purpose, ISS Australia and InterCountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV) are pleased to present our free webinar on this sensitive and complex topic with a focus on the voices of those with lived experience. We hope to help educate about the experience from lived perspective, how it impacts, and what impacted people want to see policy makers and professionals take into consideration.

This webinar took place on 10 November 2021 titled Lived Experience of Illegal and Illicit Adoption. We bring you Australian specific lived experience, however, this can be extrapolated to the global arena.

A huge thank you to our panelists: Professor David Smolin, Kimbra Butterworth-Smith, Annita Pring, Clement Lam (as read by his daughter, Marie Gardom).

  • Professor David Smolin is a professor of law at Cumberland School of Lawin Birmingham, Alabama. He is also the Harwell G. Davis Chair in Constitutional Law and director for the Centre for Children, Law, and Ethics. Professor Smolin is a world leading expert on illegal and illicit intercountry adoption and has written and spoken extensively on this topic. He has also been personally impacted by illegal and illicit intercountry adoption.
  • Kimbra Butterworth-Smith has experience working in humanitarian NGOs in Australia and abroad. She is also an intercountry adult adoptee from Taiwan whose adoption was facilitated illegally by Julie Chu.
  • Annita Pring is an Australian adoptive mother to a Thai son.
  • Clement Lam Swee Seng is a retired counsellor in marriage, youth and drug addiction ministry in Malaysia. He also is a Chinese father of loss to a daughter who was sent abroad and adopted into a British adoptive family. Clement has only recently been reunited with his daughter.

Many thanks to my co-presenters at ISS Australia, CEO Peter van Vliet and Deputy CEO Damon Martin.

Reference to the investigation other countries have done already, can be found in the resources list for this past blog: Governments Finally Recognising Illicit and Illegal Adoption Practices.

On the Road to Recovery

I am a 36-year-old Filipino American adoptee and my road to recovering from being orphaned as a baby has never come easy. I didn’t have the resources to return to the Philippines to restore my heritage. I never had the resources to mend the problems I had with my intercountry adoption placement. So, I had to find creative solutions to recover from all of this.

I can’t promise any tips to save anyone from the complications of being adopted or adopting. What I can do is give a few personal solutions that I found in my own adoptee life that helped on my road to recovering from my intercountry adoption journey.

5 Things I Did to Reclaim My Adoptee Life

  1. Creating. I first studied writing and then library and information science. My interests led to making mixed media art and information products that helped me voice my transracial life’s losses and restructure a new sense of identity in innovative ways. I could transform my grief with art and education. For instance, I made a digital archive showing my adoption process and the biological identity that I lost when I was born as an orphan in the Philippines in 1985. You can view my archive here and my Instagram here.
  2. Retreating peacefully. In-between a rock and a hard place, I had to choose what was best for me psychologically and emotionally. I started retreating from the norm in my early twenties. I separated from my adoptive family through geographic and social distancing. I retreated from all of the past relations that failed me in the past and the bad relationships I had. I moved to Hawaii in my thirties, a place I had been mysteriously called to for years. There, I let go. But despite letting go, I never gave up on myself, or the love I have for life, my ideals or the world around me. And to keep myself well in Hawaii, I continued my meditation practices and holistic therapies.
  3. Focusing on Work. There are pathways in Buddhism where one can practice meditation optimally and achieve liberation through intensive work and labor. Work has been the best practice for me. Work caters to my studious personality. It is the best physical, emotional and psychological outlet. I can rebuild a sense of identity in work as well.
  4. Being Involved in Communities. I got involved with supportive communities and support groups. I gravitate towards people that practice meditation, people that are devoted to art or learning, or nonprofit endeavours. I enjoy being a part of supportive networks with people. I ask questions. I volunteer. I like to believe that I restructure the broken bonds of my history by being involved today. Being a part of communities helps me cultivate a sense of belonging. I build a positive foundation around me and support structures.
  5. Taking Care of My Relations Today. Relationships keep me regulated in my daily life. My relations include unconventional ones like taking care of my plants, my cat, work relations and with myself. I’ve started adoptee counselling on a regular basis to cultivate a better relationship that I have with myself and my adoptee world. I am also returning to my adoptive family this Christmas to visit and help heal my relations with them. My relations help me keep well in life today.

Yes, I still feel echoes of my broken bonds affect my life today. I still ache from having been born into destitute poverty in the Philippines so long ago. I still dream of the older Filipino American brother whom I lost in this intercountry adoptee experience. I still carry the void where my biological family’s voices are forever gone. There is no easy answer to recover from these paradoxes.

Despite it all, I do know that I am finding my way day by day. I have been coming out of the fog, and it has been a good thing.

Read more from Stephanie:
Reconstructing Identity & Heritage
A Filipino Adoptee’s Plea not to be Erased

A Picture Conveys a Thousand Emotions

by Sara Jones/Yoon Hyun Kyung, adopted from South Korea to the USA.

I have no photos of myself before I was 3 years old.  I have a few photos after that age taken at the orphanage.  Staff members took photos of children to send to sponsors or potential adoptive parents. In one of the photos, I am wearing a Korean hanbok but I am not smiling in any of the photos at the orphanage.

One of my orphanage photos

A few months ago, I came across a photo (not one of mine) that literally made me feel like I had been thrown back in time. The photo was taken in 1954 at a well. The well has high cement walls and a pulley system.  Rusted metal drums sit nearby.  Two young boys are drawing water while a little girl stands near them. The 1954 photo helped me visualize what life might have been like for me in Jeonju, South Korea. 

Here’s what I see when I looked at that 1954 photo:  I see an older brother, about 8 years old, a younger brother almost 6 years old, and their little sister who is 2 years old. They are poor, but don’t really know anything different. They live with their grandmother and father in a rural village in South Korea. Their father is the oldest of several children and some of their aunts and uncles are still quite young. They are all struggling through the economic disruption that has happened in their country. Their father worked in manual labor and was injured. So the boys help their father and keep watch of their little sister. The little sister is used to staying near her brothers. Sometimes the children go to day care and the boys sneak the little sister extra corn snacks. Her brothers are her protectors.

The children don’t know that their father is making an excruciating decision. Their father can no longer provide for them and thinks his only choice is to send them to the children’s welfare center. The little girl has no idea that she will be separated from her father or even from her brothers. The children also don’t know that their father will soon take them to a well and give them each a tattoo on their arm, using a needle, ink and thread. He is worried he will never see his children again. In the 1954 photo, the children are just siblings, sent to the well for the day’s water.

The children might have wondered why their father was taking them to the well the day he gave them their tattoos. The oldest son cries as his father gives him the tattoo. As the father gives his oldest son his tattoo, he says to him, “I will come back for you.” Before the father gives his little baby daughter her tattoo, he hugged her.

It’s been a long 3 years since I met my Korean birth family. The distance from the U.S. to South Korea feels longer and harder with the pandemic. The language barrier weighs on me constantly. How will I ever communicate with them?  

Some things need no words. Like this moment 3 years ago of my Korean family and I at the well in Jeonju, where my father gave us our tattoos. Watch the video here.

To listen to more of Sara sharing, watch her Ted talk here which has over 2m views
Read Sara’s other ICAV post The Adoption Fairy Tale

Only Child

Katia’s song Only Child is 1 of 6 adoptee created music sound tracks used in ICAVs recently released Video Resource for Professionals.

by Katia Marcello, adopted from Chile to Australia, music songwriter and producer.

I’ve waited so patiently to share my first New Release of an original song I wrote and produced.  

I believe timing plays an important part, and that’s exactly why I felt I was ready to write and release a song about my past .  

Only Child was written for all the Chilean adoptees worldwide and their families who had their basic human rights taken and stolen from them. This occurred under the Dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in the 70s, 80s and 90s. 

I was one of those children adopted out in 1981, knowing only what my parents had been told — that I was abandoned by my mother. It was in 2019 that I learnt the truth.

I was placed in a nursery by my biological mother who signed abandonment papers because the only support system she had, was telling her to give me up, that she had nothing to offer me. My mother fortunately did register my birth but the staff at the nursery got upset asking her why would she do that. My mother responded, saying that she loved me and didn’t want to lose me. The staff answered her, “The children of love do not live, sign this and you will be giving a better life to your daughter because giving up for adoption is also an act of love.”

This piece is for all those who have suffered loss and pain, for those who have been reunited with loved ones and for those who are still searching. 

I hope this song helps create some awareness. Finally, and most importantly, I hope we can put an end to Illegal Adoption and Child Trafficking, not only within Chile but throughout the world.

A BIG thank you to the talented Petra Acker for helping me create Only Child.

My Father’s Death Anniversary

by My Huong Le adopted from Viet Nam to Australia (living in Viet Nam); Co-Founder of Viet Nam Family Search; Director of Nhà Xã Hôi Long Hài.

My Huong’s father, Elbert

I started the quest for the truth of my life when I was a teenager. Despite being told my mother had died, I sent a letter to an address in Vietnam when I was 16 and amazingly, I received a reply. She told me about my childhood and gave me information on who my father was.

In 1989, I searched for this man who had been an Australian soldier in Vietnam, but sadly he had already died. I did a DNA test with potential siblings, but it wasn’t conclusive as DNA testing 30 years ago didn’t have the accuracy that it does today. Nonetheless, I accepted them as being family and over the years I got to know them well and love them dearly.

In 2004, I returned to Vietnam. Having long lost written contact, I searched for my mother and was reunited with her. 14 years later, I received a text message giving details of another woman to be my birth mother. This was to unravel everything I had believed and sent me on an emotional roller coaster.

That following day, was the first time in 47 years that I embraced my true mother. She stroked my hair and through tears in her eyes told me all she ever wanted was to see me before she died.

My Huong’s mother honouring Elbert

That same day, when I showed my mother a photo of who I thought was my father, she said it wasn’t. It turns out that as my mother lay unconscious after having a severe haemorrhage after giving birth to me, two friends from the city came to visit. One of them told my grandmother she would take me to Can Tho and care for me while my mother was sick. My grandmother had my two half siblings at home, two of her own children and with my mother seriously ill, she agreed. Six weeks after my mother recovered, she went to Can Tho to see her friend to bring me home, but this lady had vanished. My mother then spent years in vain searching for me.

The fake woman stole me, telling her boyfriend that he was the father, to convince him to remain with her. She had me taken to her hometown to be cared for by her parents, with everyone believing that she had given birth to me in the city. Nobody was none the wiser. How somebody can be that cruel and deceiving, plotting such an evil scheme is incomprehensible.

My Huong and her mother celebrating her father’s death Anniversary

Having new information from my mother, I set out to search for my birth father. In October 2019 through doing a DNA Ancestry test, I had several close matches with relatives and learnt that my father had already died. Given that he was 20 years older than my mother I wasn’t surprised. What is tragic is that 6 siblings had also died. My eldest sister died four months prior to me finding the family and the remaining died too young. I am fortunate that one sister, Joy, is still alive.

I am very blessed to now be in contact with cousins, nieces, nephews and their children. A week ago, I got to speak to my Aunt Gloria. What she said touched me deeply and afterwards I was filled with a lot of emotion and cried tears of joy and grief.

I could question, why, why, why forever, but what good would that do. The fake women’s web of lies has caused deep wounds. All she ever wanted was financial gain. I always forgave and supported her, believing she was my mother, but she is nothing but a master liar, deceiver and manipulator and has no remorse or regard for anybody. As a result of her actions, I have been robbed of so much time that could have been spent with my true mother and I could have found my father’s side of the family sooner.

I know though I must now focus on the present and am daily thankful to God. He has moved mountains in my life, revealed the truth, and above all my sweet mother is living with me. I am surrounded by a large loving family in Vietnam and I am building relationship with family in the USA who have all been so accepting of me. I hope next year it will be possible to travel there to meet them in person.

Anyway, my Aunt Gloria is 89 and is the only remaining sibling of my father’s. Through all my new found relatives I am learning about those I never got to meet, my father, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I have been given many photos and articles which are priceless gifts.

Elbert, bottom right with his twin brother Albert next to him and two brothers behind them.

My father comes from an exceptional family of 11 children. 9 boys and 2 girls. My grandmother in 1947 was voted “Mother of the Year” by the Naval Air Station as all her 9 sons served in the military at some point. My father joined the navy in 1941 and was at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed. He served 5 years in the navy then enlisted in the Army. My father served in WW 11, Japan, Korea and Vietnam.

According to my mother, my father was a very kind and handsome man. More than anything, he gave her the greatest gift, that of a daughter. Today at my mother’s insistence and according to Vietnamese culture we celebrated his death anniversary. In Vietnamese this is known as đám giỗ.

I have always tried to live a life that is pleasing to God and that would honour my parents.

Today I honour my father on his 30th death anniversary. I also said a special prayer for my siblings.

Read My Huong’s other blogs at ICAV:
My Mother
Evacuation out of Vietnam on 20 April

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