Degrees of Being Trafficked in Intercountry Adoption

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As an adult intercountry adoptee, having been outspoken now for 20 years in ICAV, I’ve often wondered whether my intercountry adoption was legitimate or not. That means asking questions like: did my Vietnamese parents really understand the legal concept of “adoption” and relinquishment? Were they offered any other types of support to keep me? Given I came out of war torn Vietnam, was my status really as a true orphan with no surviving parents or family? Was family and kin reunification even attempted before I was adopted out to Australia? And what about any attempts to place me in my own home country first? One day I hope to find the answers to these questions if I’m lucky enough to be reunited with my biological family.

I’m sure other fellow intercountry adoptees ask themselves similar questions at some stage in their life. These are the realities we face as we grow older, mature in our understandings of the complexities of intercountry adoption, and grapple to integrate our realities with the worldwide politics that created our lives, as we know it today.

To consider oneself as trafficked as an intercountry adoptee is challenging because of the legal definition which cuts us out and doesn’t allow any legal scope to take action against the perpetrators.

Human trafficking is the illegal movement of people, within national or across international borders, for the purposes of exploitation in the form of commercial sex, domestic service or manual labour.

Trafficking in intercountry adoption certainly exists but we cannot take legal action because of the fact that no international law or framework exists to allow us to be legally considered as “trafficked” unless we can prove we fit the criteria of “exploitation for sex or labour”.

Yet within intercountry adoption, the degrees to which we can be trafficked can vary immensely. There are those who have:

  • outright falsification of documentation and were stolen from their birth families, sold into intercountry adoption for profit, where legal action was taken against those who profited and it was demonstrated in a court of law, that wrong doing had transpired.
  • documentation that could appear suspicious but at the time not questioned further; demonstrated years later to be inconsistent or incorrect.
  • paperwork that appears legitimate, but at reunion decades later, the story from birth parents does not match in any way the documentation provided by the adoption agency / facilitator.
  • no identity paperwork exists due to having been a “lost” child and with little attempt to reunify back with family, we became sold/transacted via intercountry adoption.

Where does the spectrum of having been “trafficked for intercountry adoption” start or end? Difficult to discuss when the concept is not allowed to exist in law. Even ISS International’s best practice learnings from these types of scenarios don’t label it “trafficking”, but refer to it as “illegal adoptions” in their Handbook. And out of the conclusions and recommendations in that handbook, the question has to be asked how many of the Hague signatories have a process to enable biological family, adoptive parents, or adult adoptees who suspect illicit practices (i.e., trafficking) be given any type of support or process  – financially, legally, or emotionally?

On 7 December 2017, ICAV facilitated a small group of 7 intercountry adoptees representing India, Taiwan, and Sri Lanka to request the Australian Federal Government, via Department of Social Services (DSS), consider providing some financial support to those who have been trafficked in various degrees. For these adoptees, no amount of money is ever going to compensate for their losses and trauma directly brought on by the degree of trafficking they have endured. Not to mention their biological family! But we can at least ask that some forms of restorative justice be provided by the powers to be who facilitate adoptions and allow it to continue.

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There is no way of ultimately fixing the dilemma caused by trafficking in intercountry adoption because adoption IS legally binding, despite the existence of cases of successful prosecution against those who falsified documents.

Sadly, the only legal case that can be made in intercountry adoption for known trafficking is for falsification of documents. The perpetrators get a slap on the wrist, some jail time, and a small fine (compared to how much they profited). In comparison, what does the adoptee or biological family get? Nothing. Not even services to help them move through and past this unnecessary trauma.

I want to raise awareness of the impacts trafficking has on those adoptees who have to live it, forever. Their voices are unheard and diminished by those who advocate for adoption. Their experiences go by without us learning from the mistakes and putting in place much needed processes and international laws to prevent further injustices like theirs. For them, even when the perpetrator is punished by law, they as adoptees are left to live the consequences with NO recognition of what they’ve had to endure. There is NO justice for them.

Please read Roopali’s story. Hers is an example of living the trafficked life and gives voice to the extra challenges endured directly as a result of being trafficked and subsequently intercountry adopted. She was brave enough to share her story to the Australian Government with ICAV in 2015 when we met the Prime Minister’s Senior Advisors. There was not a single dry eye in the room, we were all so affected by the obvious trauma she endures day to day. This trafficking of vulnerable children via intercountry adoption needs to stop.

I hope Roopali’s story encourages others to speak out and demand from their governments that action towards legal recognition of “trafficking” via intercountry adoption AND restorative justice needs to occur.

Adoptive Parent Decision Making in Intercountry Adoption

With the popularity of This is Us and the New York Times story about the black baby swapped out for a white one, it’s valuable to take a look at adoption’s portrayal in popular media.

In both my work-in-progress and on my blog, I take a retrospective look at the paucity of adoption resources – both professional and general – to paint a bigger picture of what led people to adopt a child outside their race and country. Today’s article focuses on how Russia and China’s portrayals in the media affected an adoptive parent’s decision to adopt.

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Framing Adoption:_The Media and Parental Decision Making
Heather Jacobson

Article Summary

Prospective parents perform research during the adoption process, often based on articles released by popular news media outlets. Jacobson revealed prospective parents’ reactions to these articles and how news stories impacted their decision to adopt.

Key Points

  • Russian mass-media stories are portrayed more negatively than Chinese ones
  • Russian adoption is reported on more frequently than Chinese
  • Negative Chinese adoption stories focused more on logistics than on the child’s potential mental health issues
  • Since the prospective parents interviewed for Jacobson’s study were coming to adoption after risky infertility situation, they showed a desire to avoid additional risk

Discussion

A certain amount of skepticism is healthy when approaching the decision to adopt a child not your own; after all, it is a huge decision, one impacting the life of a child who had no choice. The author found that, regardless of each news article’s overall tone, the general conclusion she made was that adopting a child into a loving home is fine, but prospective parents may be treading on dangerous political ground.

When adoption becomes politicized, there’s a tendency to dehumanize the child. The child is not a political pawn, some poor waif smuggled out of a war-torn country into a loving home. When media articles portray adoption this way, the child’s developing identity is negatively impacted by these prejudices. Not only may the adoptive parents, despite their best efforts, absorb these damaging viewpoints, but inevitably people less emotionally invested in the adoptee will undoubtedly, without any other frame of reference, use these articles as a way to formulate opinions on the topic of adoption.

Adoptive parents reported being influenced by these articles, some mentioning reports that Russian babies have more attachment issues than Chinese led them to adopting a Chinese baby. This is disturbing, because many adoptees are noted to have attachment issues; it’s not a country-based phenomenon. As Jacobson points out, “the majority of adoptees from both China and Russia have experienced institutionalization that can have serious consequences for child outcomes.”  Many of us adult intercountry adoptees reading this can attest to this reality.

Other intercountry adoptive parents used the articles they read, as justification against domestic adoption and in preference for intercountry adoption. They would read of stories featuring local biological parents looking for their child and wanting them back. As reported in the research, in their minds as adoptive parents, this would be intolerable as many experienced their own suffering via infertility or stillbirths.

The views expressed in Jacobson’s research reflect the adoptive parent-centric nature of adoption; the adoptive parents consume the media, the adoptive parents make the ultimate decision to adopt. Obviously adoptive parents need some way to inform their decisions, but slightly concerning is that racial features overrode Russian adoption risks. Adoptive parents persisted in Russian adoptions despite warnings, because they were eager to obtain a child bearing a closer racial resemblance to their own. We need to question that decision, because appearance cannot predict a child’s future outcome.

As transracial and intercountry adoptees, it’s our duty to remain alert to these news articles and ensure the mass media fairly portrays our struggles and political representation. If they don’t, it’s our responsibility to cut through the emotionally-driven bias toward adoption by producing articles that provide balanced accounts.

Vipassana Meditation for PTSD

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Vipassana means to see things as they really are. It is a self-exploratory, observational meditation technique that trains you to navigate your body’s sensations and move through them with objectivity. This technique derives from India and is based on the principle that there are scientific laws which govern the phenomenon of what happens in our bodies. By regularly concentrating on the natural occurrences within, we find the roots of our suffering and can slowly untie ourselves from it.

I recently attended a 10-day introductory Vipassana meditation course, from 17 – 27 December at a retreat center in Joshua Tree, California. This is where I spent my Christmas.

This course was assisted by two amazingly trained meditation teachers, but taught mainly by S.N Goenka (1924 – 2013) with recordings. Goenka is a teacher who started in India, 1969, and taught hundreds of thousands of students his meditation technique which spread to the East and West.

Coming from an orphaned birth in the Philippines and with PTSD from my adoption, I wasn’t sure how successful this meditation would be. I’d researched the technique, plus had previous experience in Buddhist yoga practices and meditations. I believed I possessed enough knowledge and context to allow me to understand the technique. I also realised it couldn’t cure personal issues, deep emotional or mental instability, disease, chronic illness, or depression. What I hoped for was the Vipassana meditation technique might give me the ability to heal myself if I was stable enough. Learning this could help me work with my PTSD on my own. This could give me the mental and emotional tools to fight my dark battles within and cure myself of my own ailments in time, and hard work. So, I went through with my plan.

It was tough. The hardest mental work I’d ever done. It was like using the mental concentration of a Master’s program and applying this concentration to myself. I woke up at 4:00am and practiced meditation trainings until 9:00pm for 10 days straight. All in silence. My breaks were during breakfast, lunch and dinner. Stuff rose up within me. Thoughts about past lives. Romantic fantasies. Burning pain. Frozen terrain. Blissful peace.

I fought within. I struggled. I was overcome with sensations. Fears arose. I submitted. I was restless. But, I was determined. I concentrated my attention of my breathing for three full days, practicing pranayama. In the meditation hall, I sat with 80 strong women and many of us caught a cold during this time. We pushed through together.

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In the middle of the 10 days, I had a vivid dream about my older brother also adopted from the Philippines like me. In my real life, he had slowly gone insane with his own PTSD. I had loved him even though he’d been damaging to me. In my mid-twenties, he’d disappeared and scarily turned into a stranger with an off personality. The pain from losing him the way I had was devastating and these memories of him bled through the currents of my whole life.

In my dream, my adopted brother sat next to me in a booth at a restaurant. He had cuts all over his face which he had done to himself. I scribbled him a note, I will always love you. To my surprise, my brother drew over the note. He drew a large house over my words. I woke up. That’s when it struck me. The house related to an earlier teaching from Goenka. A recording of him spoke about how our suffering can perpetuate and build a house we live in. That day, I processed more emotions and hard sensations.

I bolted as fast as I could the morning of the 11th day. It has been a month and I can say my meditation has improved. I am trusting myself and my process more. I am beginning to work through emotions from the past in a more productive and objective way. I now have a tool to start healing myself of my PTSD and memories. And, I’m beginning to use this tool with more precision.

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What I’ve come to discover is the phenomenon of what happens when training in Vipassana meditation and being committed to efforts towards enlightenment, that is, a seed is planted within. The seed grows in spurts, as our thoughts and actions begin to create a practice in itself towards the goal of transcending. To me, it’s like circumambulating around a stupa, every action becomes more focused, not only of the self but also of our greater humanity. This practice changed me from the inside out.

This is why I’m preparing to learn more about meditation and cultivate a regular Buddhist meditation life. As an intercountry adoptee from the Philippines from the 80’s, having been born from destitute poverty and experiencing not only an inhumanly impersonal adoption process and trauma from my post adoption placement, the pain of what happened cannot be ignored any longer. I feel I’ve pushed this pain away all my life. My healing cannot wait any longer.

So in this new year, I’m making a decision to set a new course that grew from this Vipassana training. I’m deciding to set up my life around self healing first, allowing my work and visions of ‘success’ to come second.

This is why I’m moving to Hawaii.

More Reading

https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/about/vipassana

Bitter Medicine

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For me, the interactions I have within adoptee groups are like taking a spoonful of bitter medicine. The sharing I do, the reflections of my past, and all the things I have learned has healed me. It is a forum where I am allowed to share my thoughts, pains and tribulations. It opens my eyes to current issues and problems within the adoption community and learn about individuals affected by adoption and a place to find atonement, strength, healing, love, and sanctuary. However, when I’m immersed within these groups the conversation can often lead to adoptees being divided into two groups: those who are pro or anti adoption.

The adoptee experience is as varied as shoes, apples, numerous as the labels of medication on the shelves of a local pharmacy. Adoptees have their own view and outlook on what it means to be adopted. Some view adoption as something wonderful with great relationships with their parents, raised in nurturing environments, empathetic parents, and open dialogue. They may have even gone to culture camp, experiencing wonderfully happy lives, living the American dream but they can’t understand why other adoptees can be so bitter and negative about the adoption journey.

We all have a story to tell, we can be successful despite how we individually view adoption and it’s impacts. I don’t deny there are not problems but when some are found it doesn’t speak for all adoptees. Some people rush to stop adoption altogether but are they are essentially throwing away the baby with the bath water?

For some, the adoption experience is like the dented and discarded item you find on sale in the back of the store i.e., unwanted, abused, we are damaged goods. Many of us experience the feelings of rejection, the uneasy feelings of not being wanted, and relationships are to be thrown away. The wounds we experience can destroy our bodies, the words echo inside our minds and drives us crazy and hurtful acts cuts deeper than any knife. When we think the pain could not be worse the intensity worsens when we learn the truth about the adoption. Our life is a mere transaction within an industry of suffering and system spreads shame, guilt and pain as it took advantage of single mothers placed in precarious positions without any other options but to give their child away.  The adoption industry steal the life away to everyone involved – forces us to give up every day liberties to search for our families as our mothers lament long nights to hold their child one more time.  We over represent societies inside mental health clinics, drug and rehabilitation centres, and prisons compared to the non adopted public. Those that investigate their suspicions and confirm these facts, and decide to share, exchange or to speak out against the industry and its problems: we become labeled as angry and illogical. We are identified as malicious.  We are told that we are disrupting the Apple cart.

If we dig deeper, there are more commonalities between the two anti and pro adoption groups of adoptees. Both sides have been stung by unintentional calloused comments made by society in general. Comments like,  “Oh, you’re adopted, you must be so lucky”, “your parents are so wonderful”, or “you were chosen”. These comments infuriate us, hurt us, and overshadow who we are and generalize the issues we have to deal with. I often want to respond with, “Do you think I had a choice in this? No, I don’t feel lucky!”

Therapists, counselors and parents cannot fix our issues and more often than not, they do not have the capacity to understand the issues we have to face. Quite often, we have to suffer alone. Many of us struggle with issues of self-worth, shame, identity, and ill equipped to handle relationships. Relationships may frighten us, we allow others to take advantage of us and others replace the love we desire with intimacy. It goes without saying that our friends and lovers may never understand understand us. However, the one space where I am able to share my issues with are the adoptee groups.

In a few sentences jotted online, I can connect with a total stranger half way around the globe. The understanding can cut across educational, economic and social classes. Together we can immediately identify the faint echoes of pain and suffering painted between the lines of a message shared.

What do you think? Do you think adoptees are really this divided between anti and pro thoughts? Do you think adoptee forums help us or hurt us? Should we express ourselves without fear of ridicule from our own peers?

I have gone through many spectrums of change within my own life. I was once a staunch supporter of adoption and believed we fared far better than the alternatives. After travelling the globe and being involved with adoption issues for over 25 years, I now hold a different view. I share information as I learn it myself and I crack open another bottle of medicine and let the gooey disgusting truth flow out. I share this with other people. I take heaped spoonfuls of it from others for my own needs. I take this medicine to heal my own adoption wounds. Gulp, I swallow more bitter truth. Gulp, I join in to more sites, connect and bare more of myself. Gulp, I ingest this bitter medicine to treat my symptoms resulting from adoption.

What medicine will you share with me? What sites do you frequent to get your daily dose?

Adoption Trauma, Not Always Forever

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Most of us have heard the old saying, “the only thing promised in life is death and taxes”. I’m certain many of us can add one or more items that needs to be included to the list.

One thing I think should be added to this list is trauma. If you live long enough, you will most certainly face trauma. Trauma is a badge of life often carried in our minds, consciousness and even displayed by the scars and bruises exposed on our skin. My belief is we all experience things differently. Some people suffer through life-long debilitating conditions. We may have a crazy uncle who cowers in fear when fireworks go off each fourth of July, due to the PTSD he suffers from war; or we see those we love, suffer with a more benign issue such as profusely sweaty hands when having to give a public speech.

During my 45 years of life on earth, I’ve seen and experienced a lot of trauma. As a soldier, I slipped on the bloody floors of an operating room inside a military hospital that minutes earlier, had been used to save the life of a casualty of the Afghanistan war. As a young student, I pumped the chest of a dying man when I trained as a paramedic. As a nurse I observed the slow gasps of air during the last hours of life, called Kussmaul’s respiration. It was an experience that burned into my memory when I worked on the wards of a hospital.Hilo trauma

The shock of any trauma, I think changes your life.
It’s more acute in the beginning and after a little
time you settle back to what you were.
However it leaves an indelible mark on your psyche.
Alex Lifeson

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When an adoptee criticizes the adoption experience or speaks out against aspects within the current system, they are automatically labeled “angry adoptee”. When a successful adoptee uses their influence, money and time to promote adoptee related issues, it is pointed out they are compensating for something. Successful adoptees have some secret character flaw. Behind closed doors they must be dancing naked to Beelzebub or offering newborn kittens as sacrifices to Odin. In reality, such comments do nothing to enhance discourse and upon closer examination, are just good ole fashioned stereotyping. These thoughts or beliefs may or may not accurately reflect reality.

I’ve seen more of this type of adoptee labeling in recent years and a growing number accept these attacks as fact without allowing anyone to examine or recognise it for what it is: an attack on adoptees.

By smiling, we help them do that. Next time you encounter a “happy” and “grateful” adoptee who had “wonderful” adoptive parents and a “wonderful” life, look a little closer.
Julie A. Rist.

When read in a vacuum, this sounds plausible. There is a growing belief spread by adoption counselors that adoptees are damaged goods because every adoption is about separation and trauma.

Recently, I ran across a self-professed adoption counselor who said “Every adoptee has a trauma to resolve even when they appear outwardly fine”. The same person stated, “Another horrible shooting in Texas in a church. It’s clear, God doesn’t protect those who don’t protect themselves.” In the real world bad things will happen to good people.

Be warned about those who prey on individuals who need. I have a seen a growing number of counselors that linger on adoptee sites and peddle their wares. Self promotion of their books, counseling services and advice. Be careful who you seek treatment from. There are many simply out to make a profit from you.

The reality is, we will more than likely suffer trauma during our lifetime. It is the price of admission to life. The deck is stacked against us. Around 50% of marriages will end in divorce. Roughly 40% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetime. The car insurance actuary companies have predicted the average driver will be in a collision once every 17.9 years i.e., around 3 to 4 accidents during their lifetime. Knowing this, we do see people going around to divorcees recommending a lifetime of counseling. Individuals shaken up after an accident given a one-size-fits-all diagnosis. Cancer survivors prescribed to feel a certain way i.e., they must feel guilty to be alive if they beat the odds of chemo therapy.

When I was young, I had a fear of heights. Climbing tall structures was debilitating. As an adult, I overcame my fears and learned how to repel out of helicopters, parachute from airplanes and bungee jump from structures several hundreds of feet tall. People can get over their fears. There are cognitive behavioral techniques such as constant exposure, done gradually and repeatedly exposing individuals to their fear in a safe and controlled way. I am by no means a licensed mental health professional nor am I suggesting people self-treat for diagnosed issues. Nor am I diminishing or trivializing life-long conditions. I am saying people should not automatically diagnose adoption to be life-long traumatic event for all of us. We come from different backgrounds and experiences and the outcomes will vary, like any of the traumas we face in life.

More Reading:

http://www.radiolab.org/story/251876-inheritance/
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/pregnancy-stress-during-1998-ice-storm-linked-to-genetic-changes-in-children-after-birth-study-suggests/article20868841/

All That I Wish I Could Say

I’m sorry that I can’t fully introduce myself. I can’t. If I could, I’d tell you that I was born an orphan in the Philippines. I lived in an orphanage until I was two years old and this set my world on fire, forever altering my life.

I wake in the mornings as an adult and I manage my life’s loss. I confront my adoption. It wasn’t my fault. Now I live without a sense of culture or heritage. Without a biological family in sight – as if they were all dead to me.

You wouldn’t know this because I try so hard to keep myself together. On the surface, I make sure that I present myself in the best of ways.

But in reality, I was forced to live in the United States with strangers. Due to my intercountry adoption process in 1987 and the socio-economic crises in my birth country, all my past relations are unrecoverable today.

What was it like to be adopted, you ask? I wish I didn’t have to say this too. But, my adopted life in the United States of America growing up was traumatic.

I lived in the Midwest with an older adopted brother who slowly went insane. And with parents who would at times make it worse not better.

I endured the worst of life’s cruelties but you don’t want to hear this. It’d be depressing to know that as child and teenager I watched the frail threads of a family that I’d needed so much, break apart. I grew up accustomed to the way the hard edges of the most bitter realities pressed down around me, as I persevered to keep my ideals strong. And that I survived my life carrying a broken heart.

I wish I could tell you all about the real me but I’m afraid you wouldn’t understand. I’m afraid you’d wrongly judge me? Or hurt me, or disappear?

So I’ve stayed mute about this all my life. But now I’m an adult, I see how this silence has become my own prison. And I’m not making any changes by covering this up or pretending this didn’t happen.

Now, more than ever, I want to speak up.

Because now more than ever, I’m beginning to realize that I’m not the only one with a voice here that needs to be heard!

 

Understanding Positive Millennial Adoptees

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I’m not a angry or jealous about positive adoptions. I don’t deny they exist. With more than 25 years experience working in adoption and orphanage advocacy, I have met some wonderful adoptive parents who have reached out to adoptees like myself. I’ve met numerous adoptees that have wonderful lives and adoptive families. Positive adoptive parents are not that much different from naturally formed families where parents sacrifice to give their children love, attention and the support needed to enhance chances of creating the best possible outcomes in life.

Some adoptees are sent to the best schools afforded, given opportunities to attend heritage camps, afforded psychological counseling and most importantly, given committed parent who foster the parent-child relationships that we were robbed of from our beginnings. I will never deny that such relationships can exist. There are deeply committed people with so much joy, love, and care who also have the understanding, discipline and patience to be wonderful adoptive parents. I am grateful that such adoptees are given this opportunity. I am happy for them!

In recent years, I have written several pieces that have looked at adoption under a critical eye. My articles are posted on the internet at InterCountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV), the Pressian online journal, Land of Gazillion Adoptees and other adoptee blogs and forums. After writing these critical pieces, I get inundated with negative emails. The backlash of criticism from the pro-adoption adoptee community has been growing over the years and it comes specifically from Millennial adoptees. What got me thinking aboutt this was the recent viral success of Simon Sinek’s critical analysis entitled “What’s wrong with Millennials in the workplace”. The video went viral on YouTube and has had more than eight million hits. I then made the connection that it was the positive Millennial adoptees who were inundating my inbox. I revisited the comments made in emails and I think I found a way to understand the disconnect between some of the older versus younger generation of adoptees.

Negative Narratives May Not Be Theirs

Even though we have this connection through adoption – the adoptee population is as diverse as any other community. Like any segment of the population, we are comprised of diverse backgrounds. Even amongst a group of adoptees adopted from the same country, e.g., Sth Korean adoptees, I still find diversity. I find diversity even in a group that isn’t supposed to be too diverse. For example, despite the taboo for Koreans to bring up other people’s children, I have found some cases. On my first return trip to Korea in the 90’s I ran into an adoptee raised by a Korean diplomat. This adoptee was the caucasian child of his American colleague, killed in a car accident. During my travels in Europe, I also met a Korean adoptee adopted into a Korean family and another adoptee raised by a Jamaican family. I appreciate the diversity found within the adoptee community.

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Hearing from all sides of the issues is important. When an adoption problem is shared it doesn’t mean the individual is attacking positive adoption outcomes nor does it negate the legitimacy of their complex experiences. I understand that positive adoptees may not identify with negative narratives on adoption but how does a lack of empathy or an inability to validate another person who is sharing from a vulnerable position help them overcome obstacles in life? Experiences that are considered “negative” may not be your narrative but these experiences have a time and location and are just as valid as the “positive” stories.

They Want to be Heard

I had a private conversation with another Chief Financial Officer (CFO) about Millennials in the workplace. He expressed his frustrations about them being vocal without taking time to understand the rules and regulations of an organization. Much of what we do is heavily regulated by Congress and the fast changes they seek are often impossible to implement. I understand Millennials are more vocal in stating they want to have their voices heard. I think bringing them into the conversation is a good thing overall. In general, Millenials are passionate and want to make a positive impact in areas they care about. I know we can mutually learn from this group along with the older generations of adoptees. Millenials have a strong understanding on how to leverage technology and social media platforms to their advantage. I think it is great if Millenials share their narratives whether these be different or similar to the older adoptee generations. I welcome their voices. We all have a story to tell.

Ignoring The Wrongs in the Big Picture

It’s been estimated by government agencies that 30% of Guatemalan children were stolen from their homes. Numerous concerned parents and several watch groups believe the theft of hundreds of children from perfectly good homes have occurred in China, India and other countries. The “happy adoptees” refuse to believe that they could be the victim of such dealings or ignore the issue altogether on the basis that they experienced a great adoption.

Can such positivity erase transgressions in the bigger picture of intercountry adoption?

Attitudes that largely ignore these issues result in human lives being placed below that of merchandise goods. For example, when a computer is stolen and if able to trace the whereabouts of the stolen merchandise, the buyer must give it back to the original owner – regardless of how much was paid. The original owner of the computer is protected by the law. In contrast, a child’s life is not considered as valuable as a computer. When a child is taken away from their families without consent, through coercion or bribery, it is largely ignored by the entire international legal system.

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The notion that goods have more legal protection than a human life also applies to identification. If a VIN number on a car is destroyed or tampered with there are legal consequences if caught. When a person tampers with an a person’s identity and produces fake paperwork identifying them as an “orphan”, the most they get is a slap on the wrist with a small jail term and/or a fine.

I find the systematic erasure of a child’s birth identity via adoption to be fundamentally wrong. Legal systems and governments around the world recognize it is a basic human right for anyone to know who they are and where they come from. Yet an individual’s birth certificate (essentially their VIN number) and adoption documents can be altered, made up and fabricated with very little consequences in place to deter. And most importantly, nothing is done for the child who’s identity has been robbed, nor the family whom the child belonged to by birth.

A car or computer receives more protection under the law than an adopted child. This lack of value on our lives delays personal healing for those impacted. It also contributes to the endangerment of hundreds and thousands of children across the globe because of the message it sends: that their histories can be erased, separation forced and enabled via intercountry adoption with no-one to investigate whether the children were indeed stolen, lost, or fabricated and even on the rare occasion when the wrongs are obvious, there are little to no consequences and certainly no justice for the child who has been removed nor the family who has lost their child legally, forever.

Head vs Heart

Emotion Overrides Logic

Suspicion and fear drove American settlers on the path to annihilation of millions of Native Americans. The movement to relocate and fight the Native Americans was driven by emotion and fear. These feelings led to the genocide movement on American soil. Here is one account:

“On November 29, 1864, one of the most infamous events of the American-Indian wars occurred when 650 Colorado volunteer forces attacked a Cheyenne and Arapho encampment along Sand Creek. Although they had already begun peaceful negotiations with the U.S. government, more than 150 Native Americans were killed and mutilated, more than 2/3 of which were women and children.”

Members of Congress and prominent citizens across America were vocal about the removal and out right war to eradicate the Native Americans. This view remains and is held by some Americans to this day. John Wayne was asked about the removal of Native Americans and he replied, “I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them … our so-called stealing of this country was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

Statements made by proadoption movements, many made by Millennials are as equally hurtful and dismissive as the statement above. At the time of the Indian Wars, some individuals firmly believed they were on the morally right side. Many believed they were protecting settlers and companies that advanced the country to greatness. If we were to ask them today, they would not have believed they would be judged so harshly for their actions.

I believe intercountry adoption is the modern version of Trail of Tears. Globally, thousands of Native American children were stolen and killed for the betterment of the whole group. Intercountry adoptees, like the Native Americans, have been systematically moved from their homes and countries and resettled into unfamiliar territory. I understand that some adoptees can only imagine the wonderful lives they have lived and would like others to enjoy the same. We understand their positive intentions, however, we cannot override the logic with emotions to justify the means to an end.

I’m also not suggesting every Millennial adoptee has a positive adoption experience. The point is, Millennials are maturing and becoming more vocal about their experiences. It is possible a larger number of Millennial adoptees are better adjusted to their adoptions and have more positive outcomes compared to adoptees of my generation. I truly hope this is the case because this is why I speak out – in the hopes that others who follow may have a somewhat better experience.

 

ADDITIONAL LINKS

Simone Sinek: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hER0Qp6QJNU
Adoptions in Korea: https://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/05/economist-explains-32
VIN: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/culture/commuting/what-your-cars-vin-means—and-why-you-cant-change-it/article625547/
Native Americans: http://www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/american-indian-wars
John Wayne: http://sites.austincc.edu/caddis/great-plains-wars/