A Filipino Adoptee’s Plea to Not Be Erased

Dear Intercountry Adoption Board (ICAB) of the Philippines,

I’m a 33-year-old Filipino American adoptee and I refuse to be erased. I refuse to be ignored. I was born in the Philippines and it was not my choice to leave. But it is my choice to return as an adult and to regain my citizenship. Because, ICAB, I am still here. And I am a human being with civil rights and I deserve this choice.

To date, I’ve been requesting your assistance for dual citizenship and to also retrieve my Filipino birth certificate, but I haven’t heard back from you nor received support for my requests.

Why you, you ask? Why do I keep reaching out and consulting you? And, why is this important, you wonder?

I seek you out, ICAB, because you have been the keeper of my biological records. You have been the storehouse of my Filipino history and the last remains of my Filipino identity. You are the legal witness to my orphaned situation. You have been the writer and transcriber of my last remaining Filipino past. You have been the watcher, overseeing my welfare as I’d lived in an orphanage in the Philippines from infancy until I was two years old. You have been the manager of my international adoption process from the Philippines to the United States. You have been the selector, approving my very adoptive parents and sole caretakers.

You have been the landlord switching over my vacant Filipino estate to another country, transferring me to Holt International’s adoption process in the United States, for me to be naturalized. You are now my living treasury of the last of me, holding my human files, history, heritage and remaining rights of my birth country. So, please don’t ignore me now, when I need you most, to help me recover my history. You are the one that knows best, of what was lost. Please, don’t abandon me now.

I know I am just one adoptee, sharing a plea to not be erased. But one adoptee is vital to the Philippines, because one erasure, is an entire lineage of Filipino heritage and descent. One adoptee, represents all Filipino adoptees because neglecting one, is allowing a different administrative direction to take shape, and human values will be lost with this attitude and transaction of erasure. Neglecting one Filipino adoptee’s needs–will be lowering the bar for others. This action will degrade the virtues that all our adoption agencies, global humanities and civil rights reflect.

Please, grant me access to my Filipino birth certificate. Please, allow my information to be retrievable in an expedited manner, please don’t give me obstacles in my requests. Please, endorse me for citizenship since you are the only one who can prove my Filipino heritage. Please, support me. Please, listen to my needs today, and tomorrow. Please, assist me in trying to make a new pathway to citizenship and a better relation with immigration in the Philippines, because of what this action stands for. For, I am not just one Filipino adoptee, but all Filipino adoptees. And you are the last remaining world and glue holding all of our remains, together.

You, ICAB, are the keeper of all of our futures in the Philippines, and nobody else can govern our past and future citizenship but you.

Thus, today, I push for another step in reunion. Today, I push for more recognition of my human history. Today, I push for regulated acknowledgement of my civil rights. And today, I push for a pathway back to citizenship in my homeland, my motherland, my birth country from where I was born, in the Philippines.

This to date, is a vital goal as to why keeping all Filipino adoptee birth records and information legitimate, accessible and retrievable at all times is important. As in this collective, positively goal-minded action, we, together, keep ICAB erected with the intrinsic values that our global community and sense of Philippine Kapwa is built off of.

Dear ICAB, we will need to work together now, to be able to knit identity back together in the Philippines because the goal of adoption is not to give away, nor to erase, but to restructure, and to rebuild. Adoption is a positive solution, and so is this request, which aligns with the goal of all international adoptions.

The very nature of all adoption efforts combined, is compassion.

On a positive note, I can imagine Filipino adoptees able to give back what we’ve learned on our journey abroad. We are not entirely lost to the Philippines. We can relearn what it is we forgot having lived away from our birth country for so long. We can build new connections and relations with the culture of the Philippines, and regain a new sense of repurposed identity to help the Philippines become a stronger leader in diversity. We can help the Philippine and global economy. We can learn from each other. We can heal the past and that painful separation, with hope.

So please ICAB, don’t erase me. Please, don’t ignore me. Please, see me as still a part of our country, the Philippines, the homeland that had shaped my fate and the country I had been born into as a citizen, long ago. I implore you. Please, don’t forget what it is you’ve been responsible for, taking me in all those years ago. Please, don’t see my requests and questions today, as trivial. Please, don’t ignore my emails. Please, don’t ignore my heart’s calling to reinstate my civil rights to my birth country. I know I’ve been away for quite some time, but I’m still here, and I haven’t forgotten where I come from. Please, don’t give up on me, Philippines.

Because I refuse to give up on you.

Sincerely,
Stephanie Flood

Birth name: Desiree Maru
Birth country: The Philippines
Relinquishment: Day of birth in Cebu, Philippines
Orphanage circa 1985: Asilo de la Milagrosa
U.S. Adoption Agency used circa 1987: Holt International

Finding Love

Denny walked into the library and I greeted him at the circulation desk. Immediately, I felt that he was my soulmate. Later on, I found out he felt the very same thing. He’d visited a few more times, and then disappeared for a few months. In that time, I started learning how to fly by myself. I worked rigorously at the library, explored Oahu, shyly started dating using Tinder, and one day we ran into each other at a gym–on the staircase of all places. He gave me his number. The next day, we met at a natural grocers and drove to the coastline together to see the ocean at night. We stared up at a star-filled sky, gazed in awe at billowy clouds, and found out how similar we are to each other. There was an ease and a familiarity with him that I’d never felt before. We think alike, I told him, astounded.

We’re on the same wave, he said.

Starting a relationship has been terrifying for me as an intercountry, Filipino-American adoptee because of my past.

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Last night, he told me he wanted to grow old with me. I told him that I’m scared, and he asked me why.

This question made me think, really think.

A Moment of Self-Discovery

The answer to that question, let me to self-discovery. I realized that as a child, I lost the first person I’d ever loved and that was my brother. He was damaging to me and must have broken my heart a billion times, until I moved out at 18. And only in my early 30’s, did I start to heal with therapy. All this time, I’d become extremely absorbed in personal work, art, creative outlets, academics and spirituality, basically avoiding relationships because deep down, I’d been so scared of being close to anyone. This is because I’d been scared to lose what it is that I love the most.

I dug deeper and finally came to a conclusion.

I never thought anyone could ever love me, I said.

My Fear of Falling in Love

This fear, I realized, came from the trauma I’d experienced in my early childhood. I felt that this stemmed back to having felt abandoned by being orphaned as a baby. Those feelings followed me in my early years living in an orphanage. It clung to me through my adoption and relocation to the Midwest, and onward, since my big brother, also adopted from the Philippines, had extreme PTSD. And even though I loved him deeply, he triggered and traumatized me until I was 18.

Starting a relationship is challenging, but Denny’s words of hope have been the seed to a new beginning, watering a new feeling that I can be loved despite my brokenness. It’s watering the hope that I’m not as alone as I once was. And in this constantly reforming present, I am believing in myself more. I am stronger and healthier. And I’ve found what matters most of all–the relationship and love that I have with myself–for in the light of love, I find myself more and more everyday.

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Overcoming Challenges

Even though this is amazing, to curve my own difficulties, I have to go at my own pace. I must remain independent, and keep focused on my own dreams. I have to give myself space to process and do the things I need to do to remain in check with my own personality quirks and needs. I am still set on becoming a librarian. I am also still set on being a writer and to keep on with my travels, collecting beautiful photos, and artifacts of my offbeat spirituality and meditations along the way.

At 33, I am a late bloomer and all I can say–is that to try is better than not trying at all. To be hopeful, is better to not have any hope.

To keep your dreams alive, is better than living a life empty of them.

Love exists, in a myriad of forms, despite the hardships of yesterday. And what I’ve learned on this journey of a lifetime, is that even if you might not believe in love anymore–this love will still believe in you.

Discussion Question

Do you have a successful experience with “falling in love?” Did you have any challenges  that came from having a difficult past or from being an adoptee, and how did you overcome these challenges?

 

Reinventing Myself

I can hear the crickets chirp outside as I write this in my tiny but cozy bedroom in Hawaii. It’s been five months since my departure from Arizona to Oahu, and everything’s been changing. I’ve been changing. And life has been a whirlwind, as everyday brings in new surprises, challenges, love, and especially, books, since I work with books everyday.

A full-time library job that has challenged the very core of my being. Boogie boarding. Learning how to ride the waves. Climbing boulders barefoot as the ocean crashes below me. Sunrises, the color of pink and tangerine. Wind in the trees. Hiking trails that have taken my breath away.

Working out at a gym that has a jacuzzi and steam room. Wearing new, pink glasses. Enjoying a membership at Costco, a consumer’s theme park of food and galore that I visit at least once a week–mostly for the free samples. Partaking in first times. Getting a past life reading in China Town. Going to a Kirtan, meeting a new girl friend. Falling in love with a guy who could be my soulmate, which has been frightening.

Even my clothes have been changing. I’m wearing brighter colors, creative patterns and organic jewelry that have crystals, stones or wood. I’m taking care of my appearance better. Taking care of my skin. Eating healthy food most of the time. Practicing yoga as regularly as possible.

Everyday, has been a process and an opportunity to work on myself. Training my mind with The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, has transformed my mind into steering clear away from toxic, negative thoughts that have a way of leaking into my reality. Some days are better than others. The book, Practicing the Power of Now by Eckart Tolle has also made an impact during my time in Hawaii.

I am alone here with no friends or family of my own, so I have to try harder and be more serious about managing myself than others. I have found that it is easier exploring this island on my own.

As a Filipino-American adoptee with a missing a heritage–who was also relinquished to an orphanage the day I was born–remembering myself as a child has been liberating. And, in recent meditations, I found that by viewing my past as not a victim but a victor, or a person that had a choice, I can mend my own past by restructuring my own mental story of it. Mostly alone, but with the occasional company of roommates, co-workers, friends from devotionals, and secret lovers, I slowly become a braver, more wholesome, an eccentrically rooted woman.

And at the end of the day, I hear the crickets chirp in my small but cozy bedroom. I burn some incense, light a candle, sometimes meditate. I sink into my bed, cuddling up with my blankets and pillows.

I am not an orphan anymore, I am barely even an adoptee, I am just a human being with a past that has humbled me into understanding people’s pain and wanting to change this world for the better. As it gets darker outside, I fade into the night. Hawaii keeps my soul warm as I dream. And when I wake, a whole new day begins.

Moving to Hawaii

Leave the past behind, and walk away. When it’s over, and the heart breaks, and the cracks begin to show,” the lyrics of an electronic song plays in my headphones as I write this in Hawaii. It’s Sunday when I finally start this blog about what’s been going on in my adoptee life, during a spell-bound phase of cloudy weather on O’ahu.

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I’m sitting on my bed in my bedroom, in the lower half of a five-bedroom house, shared by three male roommates and one other female.

My favorite roommates are Juan, a Mexican man in his later 30’s, and Delano, who is half black and Mexican, and my age, 33. Juan is a serious but insightful human being, I’ve discovered. And Delano, is by far the most humorous and entertaining of my roommates.

My new workplace is a public library that is about a mile away. Here, everything is new and foreign to me.

Nature is Everywhere

The ocean coast can be seen from my bedroom window. A better view of the water can be seen from the balcony and the backyard. Roosters roam and crow at every other odd hour of the day. There are horses in the private property just behind the backyard, in the valley below.

Green lushness is everywhere–a sight that I am still getting used to, especially when driving on a highway through the middle part of this island.greeneverywhere.jpg

The nature in Hawaii is unreal. It is vast and jungle-like, growing wild and extreme in the distance. It’s been a dream come true being able to live so close to this nature that might be kindred to the Filipino in me.

I moved here two months ago, not knowing if this would work out. But I needed a change, or risk living hampered in a complacent, stagnant life I’d been living in the rugged territories of Northern Arizona.

Healing as an Adult Adoptee

As an adult adoptee, I am healing from my difficult and complicated past.

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Day by day, I’ve been unearthing within the importance of self-love, forgiveness, accepting myself as I am and accepting my past as what it was to me. Day by day, I am rising and falling as the human being I am, equipped with the quirks and the delicacies of my own strengths and weaknesses. Day by day, I change.

Every time I see the beauty of Hawaii, I am inching away from yesterday’s pain and struggles. And each time pain and emotions arise, I console myself gently through yoga, meditation and mindfulness.

Gradually, I melt the cold walls that have blocked my heart from loving the way I eagerly loved as a child. Slowly, I get to know others.

My Own Therapies

I boogie board as much as I can. When I’m out there, I empty myself of all of yesterday’s thoughts and emotions. I ride the waves. When I’m done, I lay on the beach with the sun flattening against my body, warming up my organs. I breathe. I focus on peace.

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I love to watch the sun set in Hawaii. This gives me a sense of closure and enchantment each day. The sunsets and sunrises reveal a living, natural world that is strong and vital. The sun have nothing to do with having been born an orphan in this world. The sun has everything to do with the waking present and the choices that affect our lives today.

Fear and Insecurities to Overcome

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Sometimes, I’m scared but I choose to try to rise above this fear even when I’m feeling inadequate. As an adult adoptee, I’ve been so accustomed to biting down a matrix of hidden anxiety, heartache and stress. But it’s time to release my fears. It’s time to move on.

Fear had haunted my everyday life because I didn’t have the normal support of friends and family most people have to lean on in life. I grew up afraid to make any wrong steps and of not being good enough, often isolated in my adoptee complications. This fear pushed others away. It had also pushed me onward in life to adulthood.

Now, I am realizing that this fear doesn’t serve me anymore.

This fear keeps me from enjoying the present moment. This fear holds me back from being the person I want to become. And so, I work on meditation and mindfulness to transcend my insecurities.

Having all of my possessions in Hawaii, I have also felt insecure of my life’s security too. It was all or nothing, coming here.

Neverless, my life is with me now and all I can do is move on.

Changing Habits

At night when I stare up at the stars, I whisper prayers. I ask God to guide me and for love to find me, and love me as I am.

Where my habits of yesterday are changing. I’m eating better. Being more active when I’m in or out of the water. Taking in more sun. I’m exploring nature, cliff sides and exploring places more. I’m slowly coming out of my shell with my roommates and new people I meet.

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I can’t fall into past habits of negative thinking. Instead, I live my life without plans, each day ridding myself of worry and doubt.

Working full-time at a public library has also kept me busy here.

Practicing Positivity in a New Job

About 40 hours of my week is consumed with working hard at a public library out here. At work, I’m checking in books, checking out books to the public at the circulation desk, organizing the videos and audio books, and mending damaged library books in the backroom of the library.

mending.jpgPresently, I’m waiting out a 6-month probationary period where after that, I can apply for a higher paid position since I just received my Master’s of Library and Information Science degree last month.

Until then, I have to continue on with this entry-level job at this library, which keeps me occupied all week, 8 am til 5 pm.

What’s been getting me through the rough times is thinking positive, even in challenges, which arise almost everyday at work too.

Staying positive has been getting me through everything.

Gratitude

At the end of the day, I am grateful for the small things.

I don’t have much to my name, but I have cultivated compassion and forgiveness that I feel is worth more than gold. I am proud of these personal accomplishments and all that I’ve done to help others along the way despite my hardships.

I look forward to this new adventure that I’m on and to where I’ll be guided to, one step at a time. As day by day, I live on.

As wave by wave, I move on.water.jpg

Turning Negativity into Positivity with Buddhism

The meditation hall at Garchen Institute in Chino Valley was brightly colored with royal reds, canary yellows, lush greens and deep blues. Buddhist thankas adorned the walls. A gorgeous mandala was in the center of the floor that held sacred items and offerings. Brilliant candles and Buddha statues lined the front. Reverent lamas sat in the front right, reciting traditional Tibetan mantras. I sat on the opposite corner, behind the mandala, near the isle, hidden from sight from the lamas. In this meditation space, I received my Vajrakalaya empowerment. In this space, I gave my Bodhisattva vows.

Why was I doing this, you ask?

In light of the storm of adoption awareness month and the struggles within me as an adoptee, I was here to purify my heart and mind.

The Vajrakilaya and Vajrayana Buddhism

In this Vajrakilaya Drupchen retreat, I generally understood that the empowerment was designed in a way to vanquish the obscurations in my heart and mind, to clear the “poisons” that tend to aggregate within me in the material world, which cloud the original pure nature of every one of us–that is love and compassion. According to Garchen’s website, Vajrakilaya is a wrathful manifestation of Vajrasattva, the Buddha of Purification. Thus, the practice in this Vajrakilaya retreat focuses on removing intense inner and outer obstacles to peace, happiness and enlightenment.

The Vajrakilaya is a part of Vajrayana Buddhism, and these teachings express that the source of suffering is the self-grasping of the “I” that doesn’t exist. The altruistic goal in these practices is to cultivate Bodhicitta or enlightened compassion within ourselves, which is also the nature of the Buddha. This compassion cultivation is the antidote that can dispel all suffering from ourselves and others. Thus, the Vajrakilaya is like a vehicle that cultivates compassion inside us, and in an accelerated pace.

My Empowerment

Here is a video of me receiving the empowerment. I enter the video stage left at about 7:12:16. And to be honest, I had no idea what I was doing.

Garchen Rinpoche first applied a scepter to the crown of my head and chanted. I walked to the next lama. In a second, I was instructed to put my left hand out. This lama suddenly poured wine into my palm. At that moment, I felt really surprised, because I simply wasn’t expecting that.

I walked to the next lama, my hand still out. Next, this lama plopped a mid-sized, round seed into the liquid in my palm, and now, total puzzlement descended upon me. I halted, wondering hard at what I was supposed to do. I took a few more steps. “Drink,” this lama instructed, so without hesitation, I basically slammed the contents into my mouth. With the wine and the seed in my mouth, my tongue whirled around the objects, and I swallowed the liquid. I halted in front of the lama with the grape basket.

Oh no. What am I supposed to do now? I thought.

This lama ushered me to take a grape, so I took a grape. Not knowing what I was supposed to do with this grape either, I threw it in my mouth instantly, which I believe was the seed of longevity. The last lama had a bit of a half-grin watching me. It seemed he then remembered to give me a bracelet, and then I walked back to my seat as gracefully as I could.

I gulped the empowerment seed as I found my seat, trying not to choke or make a face. After that, I started reciting prayers.

Taking Breaks

The drubchen is one of the most powerful yidam or diety practices that include continuous recitation of mantras to aid in watering the empowered seed planted within. It is usually for about 7 to 10 days of uninterrupted practice, and for this retreat it was 8 days. Several days of drubchen is equivalent to years of solitary retreat. It is practiced to create a transcendent environment for the deity to arise, and to destroy the forces within us that are counteracting our compassion. At the meditation hall, there was a blend of sacred rituals including trumpets, dances, as well as incense burned to stimulate the senses.

For this retreat, I wasn’t there continuously. The center’s guest quarters were all booked for this drubchen, so staying off site made way for commuting and having breaks. This turned out very good for me.

Knowing myself, I tend to push myself too hard at times. Most new practices for me need to be at my own pace, so I can gently submerse myself.

In my breaks, I stayed in a hotel nearby. I listened to the live Youtube feed that the institute showed during the drubchen sessions, meditating at the hotel. There, I practiced Vipassana meditation too.

I was at the center practicing most days. I hopped in my car early in the morning and drove back at sunset. Still, I felt the need to be gradual for this. I knew that next time, I will be better prepared and more disciplined.

Working With Negative Energies Effectively

I look back at myself in this video and admit, I chuckle to myself. As an adult adoptee with internal struggles, I’ve taken so much of my life and thoughts seriously. But lately, I’ve been practicing Buddhism to shake off my deathly seriousness, and expel my negative energies and obscurations, which have kept me locked into habits and afflictions for so long.

I hope to be lighter and more controlled with what I have inside me–which includes adoptee anger, that Lynelle writes about in a blog post.

By doing these practices, I make a personal effort to control and next, turn my most negative emotions into positive thoughts, feelings and actions.

The goal in these practices is to practically manage my life and energies more effectively, so that I may be useful in today’s society.

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Stephanie taking Bodhisattva Vows at Garchen Institute in Chino Valley, Arizona

What’s Coming Up Next

I’ll be heading to see Amma, a well-known hugging saint, next week in Northern California! I will be attending this Bay Area Retreat with my friend, with more photos and experiences to share soon.

Thanks for reading everyone!

 

Being Alone

I get up in the morning and I try. That’s basically what it’s like every morning as an adult adoptee. Whenever I look back in my mind, my past stretches past a million acres of difficult terrain that’s emotionally challenging and left psychological imprints on me. An adoptive family I never got that close with. A birth family in the Philippines that I met but also couldn’t get close with. Memories that are warm and fuzzy, hard and cold; and the cherished ones I made for myself growing up in the Midwest of the United States that are whimsical–full of bright stars, meditation, books and humorous moments.

As an adult adoptee, I am 33, and I recognize that it’s taken me longer to do many things. It took me longer to find myself, love myself, search for answers, travel, learn about my “sanskaras” or psychological/emotional/spiritual imprints made within me from how I was born, raised and developed as a child through adulthood. It’s taken me longer to understand the world and myself, push past my own fears and barriers, and finally, have healthy relationships which is one of my ultimate goals. It’s taken me longer to find my callings in life and professions that suit my personality and talents too.

What I want to stress in this blog is being alone. It’s hard to address because I wish I were more popular and successful as a person but I’m going to write where I am in life now. I’ve been more isolated as a human being in this world and I believe it’s due to my own hardships. Due to its own uniqueness, I’ve had to work on my problems alone, solve them on my own and seek therapies and healing modalities that best suit me as I’ve gotten older. I don’t know if anyone else relates to this, but it is hard doing all of this and feeling so alone.

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A difficult hurtle has been to forgive and accept myself for where I am today. I have flaws, quirks and imperfections. I’m often hard on myself for being sort of odd. I know I don’t fit the image of being normal. I get tired of my ups and downs and everyday is a hurtle onwards. I know I’m at-risk due to my complex background and undiagnosed PTSD, which calls for tight management on myself. I have to constantly be vigilant on my therapies, keeping mentally positive, keeping connected with life and God as best as I can, and keep open and social with others even though it’s hard. Every day.

In the end, I can’t give up. Some answers for my own life is to substitute teach for the day, work in a library or go home and shut out the world, turn on music, make art and journal write. Living in Northern Arizona, I like to hike, drive out to Sedona and visit my favorite stupa or drive to my favorite Buddhist institute, the Garchen Buddhist Institute in Chino Valley, Arizona where I learn, meet others and practice in what I’m passionate about. I feel alone, but every day, I work on my goals, as well as forgiving, letting go, accepting myself and embracing the world as it is. Being in nature helps. And, always learning.

It is a fight at times but it’s worth it.

I began alone in this world but we all do. This life itself has been my most challenging story to tell, a story beyond words. A human story that has so many threads, and naturally, some threads will break in places when worn too thin. But this is where I pick up and weave my own story. This is where I can live all over again in a new way. And, this is where I can connect with others and move forward from the past, by living in the present.

So in this month of November during National Adoption Awareness Month, I encourage everyone reading this, and any who can relate, to keep trying. Every day is a hurtle, a journey, a timeless opportunity of creation. Every day, we can live and weave this life with what we’re given. Even if we feel alone.

We can begin again.

The Waiting Period for my Birth Certificate

I received another email from ICAB on June 28, approximately 15 days since I’d emailed a signed form requesting the retrieval of my birth certificate. This email had the subject: “Post Adoption Concern” which made my heart flutter since it sounded so serious and official. The content of this email basically said that ICAB has acknowledged my receipt for request sent on June 22.

ICAB said they would also retrieve my folder for the photocopy of my birth certificate and request the security paper copy from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). ICAB would inform me once my birth certificate becomes available.

In this waiting period, I’ve felt isolated but my life in the United States (U.S) has shifted and blossomed into new pathways. I’ve started a new job at a different school here in Northern Arizona, still close to the Navajo Reservation where I’m building a small, specialized library for K-12 grades, at a fully sustainable charter school. I finished with a mixed media art series that will be shown at a downtown restaurant on a First Friday Art Walk in August. I was able to move into a bigger room in my house for the same rental cost, so I have a more spacious bedroom now for myself and my plants.

I’ve been able to realize my dream even more–of wanting to live in Hawaii one day and work at a library there. I’ve been tweeting obsessively about the children being separated by immigration at U.S borders and forcibly brought into the U.S foster care system. Oh! And I also started wearing contacts, which has been awesome for me since I’ve had glasses all my life.

Personally, I still acknowledge there are missing pieces to the fabric of my identity in some ways. Culturally, I’m estranged. Family-wise, I still live life mostly single and wish to one day have a family for myself. But the good thing is that creatively, I’ve been able to restructure some of what I’ve lost having been orphaned as a baby. And, professionally, I’ve found the best outlet in the work that I do, as the profession I’ve chosen mixes well with the introverted personality that I’ve developed as an intercountry adoptee in the U.S.

I can’t say that everything is fine, because it isn’t. There’s much that still needs to be fought for, shared and brought to awareness. But on a positive note, I think we’re at a better place than a few decades ago when all we had was an old-fashioned mailing system to rely on. I look forward to what innovations life and the rest of our adoptee community can create, especially if we keep believing that our voices matter in this world.

Immigrant Children Being Separated and Placed into U.S Foster Care

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Since May, over 2,300 immigrant children have been forcibly separated from their parents at the Mexican border due to President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. When I watched the news, I was speechless. I was terrified for the children being placed into foster care because they don’t belong there. These children belong to families, they are wanted and certainly aren’t in need of new care. And I believe foster care should never be used in this way–their services shouldn’t be used to house children who belong to families.

How was this even made possible? I wondered.

And another thought struck. Where is this leading to?

I read recent news to find out how the funding evolved. It looks like back in 2014, the Obama Administration created a network of foster care programs back when immigrants and unaccompanied minors were crossing the Mexican-United States border. Now, in the wake of Donald Trump’s recent “zero tolerance” immigration policy, these foster care facilities are being used to house the children who were forcibly separated from their families too.

This is what shocks me. Back in May, 2014, it looks like the federal U.S government gave a US$2.28 billion budget to help set up state-licensed shelters and foster care agencies around the country, for these unaccompanied minors. From this Newsweek article, I learned that the White House established a linked network of foster care programs to cater towards these immigrant children too. Thus, now presently, these foster care programs are funded in the same way that state or county laws and regulations govern domestic foster care.

Additionally, the news article states that the children who are removed from their parents by ICE are still legally considered “unaccompanied alien children.” Because of this technicality, these children could spend an average of 51 days in a temporary shelter before they are put into sponsor homes with relatives already living in the U.S — or be placed into the U.S foster care system. And this is where my horror turns into anger since the immigrant children at the border were accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

I’m shocked because the U.S is not being truthful in its own administration–which from experience can be extremely damaging for these children in the future when they become adults. This detail is also destructively misleading, assisting children into dangerously enter the world of foster care and the adoption industry where so many risks are involved.

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My Personal Statement

As a Filipino-American adoptee, I was orphaned at birth because of destitute poverty. My birth family couldn’t take care of me. I was relinquished and had to live in an orphanage until I was two, then adopted in the U.S, where I grew up experiencing the hardships of my displacement and my adoption placement. I wouldn’t want to wish this on any child especially for those that aren’t a part of the intercountry adoptee realities.

I believe these immigrant children do not have the same qualities surrounding their displacement as intercountry adoptees.

These children belong to families who want them.

They had not been abandoned or relinquished and they should not be termed “unaccompanied” when they were accompanied. These children were forcibly separated by the U.S government, a traumatizing action which will need healing and repair for each family that this is impacting.

Shame on the U.S government for creating a funded system in place that would even begin the process of orphaning these immigrant children at the border. In my opinion, the U.S. government should be reprimanded for the mistreatment of children and for the flagrant misuse of today’s foster care system.

And, I think we should all care about this issue–because the misuse of the foster system and the systematic funding that allows this, especially in a leading developed country like the U.S, jeopardizes today’s foster care system and adoption industry on domestic and international levels.

My Plea

I urge spotlighted attention to be placed on the immigrant children being placed into foster care and shelters. I am asking journalists, writers, social media networkers, lawyers, caring citizens, adoptees, non-adoptees and everyone to watch the news and make sure that these children are being treated well and will not be placed for adoption. We need to see that these government funds will be used to reunite these children back to their families.

Discussion Prompt

Intercountry adoptees and adoptive families, what are your views? Do you have feedback, or ideas of what can be done or ways to keep an eye on each immigrant child that is placed in U.S foster care and shelters?

 

Requesting my Birth Certificate

I wrote an email to the Intercountry Adoption Board (ICAB) in the Philippines yesterday introducing myself and requesting my birth certificate. It turns out, this significant birth document hadn’t been with my adoptive family my entire life. And, it turns out, I need this birth document for dual citizenship to prove that I was born in the Philippines. So I can re-assert my citizenship in the country of my birth which I feel is an inherent right.

After I sent my email, I received an automatic reply that stated:

Your email has been duly received and recorded. It will be referred to the proper party for appropriate action. Your message is important to us and will be responded to as soon as possible.

Thank you.

Records Section
Intercountry Adoption Board 

It’s been almost thirty years and it’s taken me this long to ask. When I did, I found out that my family possessed a certificate of birth facts. When I went to the Philippines Consulate in Los Angeles last summer to show them my legal documents and apply, my certificate was denied with a momentary glance at the papers and old Philippine passport that I had. I had to go back to Arizona to find my birth certificate and inquire about this to my adoptive mother, who I’ve been trying to gain distance with for years. It was stressful and disconcerting, that I wouldn’t have this document in my possession. I angrily wondered why my family didn’t have this item that was so intrinsic to my identity and proof of being born in the Philippines.

I also didn’t understand why I have to re-apply for my citizenship.

Yesterday after I sent my emails, I thought, does being adopted into another country for a child strip them from their own citizenship of their native place of birth? Why did this happen to me? Why does this happen to any vulnerable child in their birth countries? Why do I have to re-apply to citizenship? Why was that taken away in the first place? My questions led me to realizing how this administrative process has a lot of cultural and social implications that would create grievances for an adoptee later on.

After requesting my birth certificate at ICAB, I went out to my favorite place in the open ranges to meditate. I realized then, how much I missed my natural connections to my birth country, to my heritage and native culture. There are ancient mysteries and missing stories hiding in my brown skin and my soul longs to recollect this. I also realized a grave, quiet and devastating silence within me, that has been lifelong, which echoes from this systematic, governmental erasure of my human past.

Step by step, I will continue to find my way in this world. I will rebuild my identity by recovering what it is I’d lost so long ago. This process takes time. Psychological, emotional and spiritual healing. Patience. A support network of other adoptees. It takes perseverence to see past the cloud of my own mind and find clarity. I hope I receive my birth certificate soon so I can apply for dual citizenship in my birth country of the Philippines. There is so much to do in recovering from my intercountry adoption process.

Chronicles of an Adoptee in Transition: Living My Dreams

Have you ever had a goal or a dream that you’ve aspired to since you were a child? For me, it’s always been the same one. My dream was to start my own life in a coastal place in an environment similar to my native place of birth. Finding a place I could call, “home,” and be happy.

I had never found that home on the coast. Instead, I’d mostly been an Arizona resident, living in a small town in the mountains.

I wonder, why hadn’t I lived my dreams yet? Maybe because of my circumstances?

Being born in the Philippines, orphaned, and later raised in the Midwest of the United States could have had its limitations! Of all places my adoptive family could have chosen to relocate to, it was Phoenix, Arizona.

For whatever reason, instead of living my dream of finding that home on the coast, I spent my teenager years in the Southwest. I lived in the Sonoran desert for years surrounded by saguaro cacti, shrubs and yucca plants–trying to find out who I am, and what to do with my life.

After high school came college and a need for in-state tuition. My choices for universities were limited to nearby places that were cooler in temperature. I chose Flagstaff, a small town that had a charming, historic downtown. It was smaller than ideal but reminded me of the Midwest. It was two hours North of Phoenix so it was much cooler too. And the nature there was beautiful, tucked away in Ponderosa pines and old, volcanic mountain ranges.

Little did I know, I’d be spending all of my twenties in its university–roaming degree programs and careers, trying to find myself more than anything else.

I’ve been living in Flagstaff for ten years now which hadn’t been my plan. I’d gone to visit so many coastal regions of the United States too. Even recently, I just returned from a trip to California where I had some job interviews.

I looked at housing, the cost of living, jobs and libraries. I could sort of envision myself there, but something was missing.

I recognized it was my own lack of connections there.

So, I vacationed at a some amazing beaches at the end of that trip and I returned, realizing a lot. Feeling humble, slightly sad, but content.

I have one more job interview waiting here in Flagstaff. Now that I’ve returned, I see that it might be more practical living where I am and working on what I’ve recently found I love to do–at libraries.

I could gain more library experience with this potential job and finish my Master’s of Library and Information Science degree in December.

And shift my focus to maybe not fulfilling my dreams right away, but working on what I love to do here, and maybe that will lead me onwards.

From all that I am and come from, I can admit that life as an adoptee for me has been different from the norm and challenging. I’ve struggled with identity and finding a sense of direction in life since I’d had such a conflicting past. Still, I’d grown into myself in the Southwestern region of the United States.

One main challenge here in the Southwest is that I’ve felt stranded and alienated due to its demographics, but the best things here are aspects that everyone of all backgrounds can learn to love. The nature, beauty, decor, art, culture and history are treasures we can all connect with in society.

I think that I’ve arrived at a happy medium in this time of job searching and trying to find ways to live my dreams as an adoptee with my own battles. By simply loving myself in the place that I’m in, and finding something that I love, I hope I can become more of who I want to be, wherever I am.