DNA Testing: The Risks vs Rewards

dna

Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, 1.5 Million DNA kits were sold online by AncestryDNA, a US-based DNA testing company. The sudden increase for DNA testing may be due to YouTube and Facebook’s large cache of emotional stories about the outcomes of DNA testing. Two YouTube video’s that stick out for me are: “DNA Journey” series by Momondo where individuals are shocked to learn they have DNA from groups they did not know about; and History Channel’s video where a man repeatedly checks his mailbox for test results – he learns of a small amount of Viking genes and celebrates this heritage with his daughters, by dressing up in traditional Viking garb on his front lawn.

The videos were emotional and popular with each getting around 4 million reviews. I didn’t need these stories to motivate me to get a DNA test. I already had a degree in biology and was scouring the internet for reasonably priced DNA tests and was one of the first individuals to test with 23&Me. The motivator for me was curiosity. I was hoping to gain some detailed information about myself that I didn’t know already. Along with most adoptees, I took a DNA test for numerous reasons:

  • Health: Some adoptees are worried about their health and have nothing to determine their risk. DNA tests can provide extensive health related information.
  • Curious: Many adoptees have a curiosity of who they are and would like to know more about their genetic make-up.
  • Search: Numerous adoptees want to search for their families. Several databanks exist that allow individuals to share their DNA data to be cross-matched for relatives
  • Validate: Some individuals may have found people potentially related to them. The surest way to determine if individuals are related is by taking a DNA test to confirm.

My Background

For me it’s frustrating to listen to people who have little to no understanding of basic science, or the courtesy to contact experts within the field, before they make judgment about DNA testing. Many people can be skeptical and ignorant about the science behind the new research and technologies. I dealt with this while woPicture1rking at United States Army Medical Research Unit Kenya (USAMRU-K) while assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, Africa. Our labs employed more than 600 doctors, research scientists, and nurses to work on cutting-edge research to combat Malaria, HIV and Leishmaniosis.

I began DNA testing in Europe with a non-profit organisation (NPO) 325kamra. Their mission was to give away free DNA test kits (minus a small shipping and administrative fee) to Korean adoptees who lived outside the United States and to relinquishing parents. The aim was to facilitate finding biological relatedness. A false rumor being spread was 325kamra was profiting by exchanging genetic information to laboratories.

DNA Testing Fears

Something can always go wrong in life and people have fears about DNA that are no different to anything else in life. In my experience, this sector is highly regulated and followed by numerous watchdogs across the globe. In the United States the U.S. House of Representatives foresaw issues and passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) in 2008. The law prohibits the use of genetic information for use by health insurance companies and for employment. However, I still read newspaper articles that use scare tactics and sensationalism to induce fear. A recent article that circulates on Facebook states that the police can use your DNA test against you in court. I find this highly unlikely, I make this decision with more than 20 years of experience working in hospitals as a CFO, nurse and as a paramedic. The reasons why I think this is impossible hinges on confirming the test on its accuracy. The sample could have been contaminated, individuals may have switched the vials, aliases could be used and most importantly, there is no chaDNA Testing Europein of custody that shows that the DNA was accounted for during collection, through shipment and as it arrived to get tested inside the labs. Furthermore, there is also an issue of variance within the industry.

Companies run different algorithms to determine their results. Each laboratory has their own standards and policies – all of this produces variance. Like any standard warranty, evidence can be obtained to be used against someone suspected of committing a crime. However, it’s highly unlikely that the police will ever request or use DNA samples from a DNA testing company. Furthermore, it is far easier to obtain a search warrant to obtain DNA specimens from the individual or from their home. We all leave traces of our DNA everywhere as we touch the surfaces of things. The traces of saliva left on the toothbrush, traces of spit on the forks left in our dirty dish piles and the hair follicles that land on the bathroom floor from brushing our hair.

Test Result Differences

There has been some criticism by people because they found differences in their DNA results when taking multiple tests from competing companies, or when variances are found testing against a close relative. People need to remember that DNA testing is relatively new and companies incorporate findings at different rates. I saw this in my own DNA test. When I first read my DNA composition in 2007, 23&Me stated I was 100% Korean. Today, when I read through the report, the company updated its haplogroup information and now it has identified 4 distinctive ethnicities within my DNA. These are not necessarily mistakes on the part of a DNA testing company.

Research Lab in Kenya AfricaSome of the reasons we get different test results from different labs include:

  • Differences Between Siblings: It is true that children receive 50% of their genetic inheritance from their mother and the other 50% from their father. However, the segments shared by the parents are random. This is why one child is taller, had darker hair or is smarter than other siblings from the same parents. When siblings take a DNA test, the results will be different because of the random distribution of genes. DNA companies predict a relationship between two people in part by looking at the amount of DNA they share and it’s measured in a unit called centimorgans (cM). Closer relationships will have share more centimorgans of DNA with you.
  • Mistaken Identity: I have been asked by people on numerous occasions to do a DNA test on someone because they found someone who looks eerily similar to them or they found someone who had similar traits. I recommend viewing the YouTube video on DNA testing on a set of doppelgangers where it was found the individuals had no genetic relationships at all, despite the fact they looked identical!
  •  But My Family Said: You may be one of the lucky few who have already found your biological parents and were told you were half Italian or 100% Korean but your DNA test shows  you are way less than expected. Families often hide embarrassing facts, trace only one side of the family tree, or simply do not know the truth – they only know of the more recent events. Genetic tests can trace over 1,000 years and can show you within a range of certainty of when the genes were passed.
  • Just for Men: The three big DNA testing companies in the United States (FTDNA, AncestryDNA, and 23&Me) use autosomal testing and both men and women are tested the same way. There is another test called a Y-chromosome, also known as a mitochondrial DNA test that reflects the direct father-to-son relationship. The mitochondrial testing can look deeper into your family tree and get results dating 10,000-50,000 years, compared to traditional testing that focuses on a few hundred to a thousand years.

Norway testing

In closing, individuals need to realize that the processes used to do DNA testing is different amongst companies. One company looks specifically at programmed locations for specific values, other companies offer a full scan of all 16,569 locations during a full mitochondrial testing. Each year, new haplogroups are found each year and the results change over time as more people participate in DNA testing.

The science behind DNA testing technology is advancing rapidly and surpassing Moore’s Law in driving down the costs and increasing the speed of testing. It will only get better over time. I recommend people keep an open mind about DNA testing. Hopefully the results will provide some answers to previously unanswered questions .. and who knows, you may find a cousin or two, maybe even 1,000 of them!

Question: Have you taken a DNA test and were you surprised by the results? Would you recommend taking a DNA test and why?

kenya 2

For additional Reading:

DNA testing between the big 3: http://thednageek.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-the-main-autosomal-dna-testing-companies/
DNA Sales record: https://www.wired.com/story/ancestrys-genetic-testing-kits-are-heading-for-your-stocking-this-year/
325KAMRA: http://www.325kamra.org
USAMRU-K: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5U7n8KDz7HA
DNA testing facts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhQoYYHcHRE
Ancestry DNA ethnicity estimate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjZiT6YDbgI
Doppelganger DNA Test: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_370DhsvQGI
History Channel: https://www.facebook.com/HISTORY/videos/1398297886941748/
DNA Journey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fw7FhU-G1_Q


My DNA History

DNA Brief Hansen Short 2018

Click on the link above. You will then be asked to OPEN or SAVE the file. If you want to watch it – click OPEN. If you want to keep the file – click SAVE.

This is a Microsoft PowerPoint slide show with audio inserted in most pages.

Click onto the speaker symbol on the middle of the page and hit the play button.

The powerpoint show is about my own DNA History. How I became who I am today.  How did I get British gene’s? Japanese? Chinese? And Korean? Is it coincidence that my birthday and my sister’s birthday have landed on Korean holidays that celebrate the Japanese liberation movement?

I use my background in Biology and History to explain how I think I became who I am today. It takes about 1-2 minutes to download. File size is 39.5MB.

Enjoy the presentation!

Jayme Hansen

 

Parenthood Made Me Better

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One of the most memorable moments, forever ingrained in my memory, is the birth of my son. I remember the anxious months waiting for my beautiful son, developing inside his mother’s womb – feeling his small frame kicking about and waiting to be born.  I remember staring at the ultrasound pictures and wondering who he would look like. Would he look like me? His mother?

I remember rushing my wife to the hospital and the miracle of birth as he brought into the world. I felt scared and excited at the same time as I stood in the delivery room, watching the nurse wipe him clean and cut his umbilical cord. I was in awe, wonder and amazement as he suckled at his mother’s breast. I witnessed a miracle of life and entered the realm of fatherhood. I wanted to give my son a life that I never had: to give him happy memories, a sound education and the best things I could afford. But little did I realize my son would give me something in return, far more than anything I could ever do for him.

It wasn’t until years later when I sat with other adoptees and shared the memories of my son’s birth and they too shared how they were overcome with a flood of deep love and extreme emotions at the birth of their children. For many of us adoptees, with our constant issues of abandonment and loss, I wonder whether the birth of our child is far more meaningful and overpowering than to the non adopted person? I believe there are several reasons why I think the birth of our child is more overwhelming to us:

First Family

For many intercountry adoptees, the chances of finding biological family is literally one in a million. Our birth papers are often forged, misplaced or incomplete. The birth of our child could be the first person we meet who is biologically related to us.

family genetics

Shared Genetics

We grow up hearing strangers and family members talk about having a relative’s eyes, nose or other body features. I have been curious about my physical features and who I inherited mine from. I am no longer jealous of other people because now I see my traits passed onto another human being and I can experience what it is to share genetic features, gestures, and traits.

A new Respect for my Birth Mother

I watched my wife suffer from morning sickness, frequent trips to the bathroom, and fatigue. Motherhood changes the body and hormones – the kicks of the fetus, the need to eat unusual foods, the thousand other quirky things that happen to a woman during pregnancy. I could not help but imagine what my mother experienced with me during her pregnancy and realize it’s a life-changing event that one cannot forget or dismiss.

As a Parent, understanding what it means to Sacrifice

For an overwhelming number of adoptions, a large number of mothers were either single or the family was placed in a financially precarious position and forced to relinquish their child. Despite the hardships, the mother’s still carried their child to full term. As a father, this was the first time I had to routinely place the needs of someone else above my own. I now understand what it means to sacrifice as a parent – even if it means the smallest person in the household gets the last cookie.

My Life became Fuller

Having a child changed my social life dramatically. I ended up shuttling little people to lessons, classes, and clubs. I gained an appreciation for silence. I tried new things I never dreamt I would do. Children tested my patience and expanded my ability to accept things I could not tolerate before. It’s because of these experiences that my life became richer and fuller.

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First time I understood “Longstanding Love

The Greeks believe there are six types of love. Many of them I felt within my first relationships. I had experienced Eros, the sexual passion. Also, Philia, the deep friendship with those we are really close to. But the first time I felt Pragma, the longstanding love, was when I had children. Pragma is where I am willing to give love rather than just receiving it.  If you had asked my younger self whether I would love sitting on the couch watching Dora with my daughter, enjoy playing tea or spend hundreds of dollars finding an Asian version of “American Girl” doll with matching outfits for her – that younger me would be in disbelief!

Closure and Peace

I once felt as though I were an empty vessel. Relationships, commendations and achievements could not fill this void. I’ve worked hard. I’ve traveled to dozens of foreign countries to fill my mind with the sights and sounds. I’ve spent thousands of hours searching for my biological family and looked for things that could give me closure with my adoption experience. Nothing seemed to help until I had children of my own. They gave me the love and satisfaction to be myself and gain the closure I needed, to move on with my life.

I have met individuals who have rushed into having a child, mistakenly thinking it would resolve relationship issues. I am not recommending that at all. I think that is a wrong motive to have a child and could actually lead to a repeat of what happened to our birth mothers who lost their child to adoption. This happened to my biological sibling who was raised with me in our adoptive family. Sadly she lost the custody of her children. I saw her fall into despair and into the deep abyss of depression and denial.

For me having a child changed me forever and helped me to re-connect with the world and bring meaning to my life. I could say my child was the catalyst that helped me to start living a better life. Becoming a parent forced me to change for the better. It was the catalyst for me to accept my adoption journey and helped me to find closure with the issues that once bothered me.

Sharing: Have you experienced similar things as an adoptee when you became a parent? Would you recommend single adoptees get pregnant if they decide to stay single forever and want a child? How did having a child change your life?

Not Good Enough

I was an artistic child and I spent much of my free time drawing when I was a child. I drew my interpretation of Star Wars. I was not allowed to watch the movie because my religious parents believed it was evil to try and interpret the future. Our hired handNGE 1 found my drawings in the trash and he took them out and framed them. I was shocked to see my drawing hanging up on his walls. The man gave me encouragement and told me they were some of the best drawings he’d ever seen.

Some months later, when I was 12 years old, I won an art competition from the pool of local schools and won a hundred dollars for the best Christmas drawing in the area. My picture was placed in the local paper and when I rushed home to tell my parents about my accomplishments, their response was, “It’s not good to brag!”

I was 18 years old and returned home from Desert Storm. I was asked to stay on active duty to help process the returning soldiers from the war. I worked very hard and stayed up late processing documents. I made calls to the Pentagon to get answers for my boss. I worked many late nights, improving the old documents to capture the data that we needed and became close friends to everyone whom I worked with. I wantedNGE 4 to serve the individuals who flew back from the war and my boss was impressed with my work ethic. He surprised me with an award. My parents lived about an hour and a half away. My boss recommended I invite them because it was a significant accomplishment. He was thoughtful enough to extend the invite to my parents to attend the awards ceremony.

At the ceremony, it was explained that a junior soldier such as myself rarely received this distinction. The only comment I ever got from my parents was, “Glad you didn’t get into trouble!”

I look back to my youth and vividly remember trying to gain acceptance, to find a place of belonging, and yearning for love from people who could not give it. As a more mature adult, I realize throughout my adult life I have worked harder and done more to compensate for the internalized messages I received (verbal or not) of “never being good enough”.

I’ve seen other adoptees like myself who’ve given their best, worked above and NGE 5beyond their peers, trying so hard .. but still never giving themselves the credit they deserve. If you can relate … you may suffer like I did, from being conditioned into believing you are never good enough. This feeling lingers in our head and drives us to work so hard it can damage our relationships. This twisted reality can also have negative effects on our health.

I have read some insightful articles that enabled me to work through these negative self beliefs.

We can’t hate ourselves into a version of ourselves we can love.”
Lori Deschene

Karl McBride is a therapist who worked with dysfunctional families for more than 3 decades. He believes that individuals who internalize they are not good enough often come from narcissistic and abusive families. These families could be alcoholic parents who send mixed signals as they sway back and forth between being sober and drunk. For children with narcissistic parents, we struggle to comprehend that our parents are incapable of loving us.

The following is two ways in which we as children respond to these false messages that we are unloveable:

The Fixer

All children want to feel accepted and loved by their parents. A child will unconsciously try to fix whatever the perceived issue is, in order to gain parental acceptance. The child may have an internal dialogue as a means of trying to resolve the situation. It may look like the following:

“If only I was a better kid, this would not be happening.”
“If I did better in school, my parents wouldn’t fight.”
“If I listen to my parent’s problems, maybe they will be less stressed.”
“If I do more housework, maybe my mom won’t be so sad.”
“If I become great at sports, maybe my dad won’t drink so much and want to come to my games.”

This type of child ends up over achieving.

The Lasher

The not-good-enough children either sway back and forth from being the Fixer or they may do the opposite and act out, i.e., they become The Lasher. Lashing out in anger, confusion and frustration trying to gain their parents attention.

Regardless of whichever way children respond to not being loved, children internalize the false message and eventually realise they cannot solve their parent’s problems.

Then there’s The Blame Game in which it is not uncommon for abusive parents to blame their children for their own parental failures and problems.

With narcissists, it’s always someone else’s fault. Some of the warning signs that your parent may be narcissistic are:
Does your parent always have to have things their way?
Are they critical of you at all times?
Is your parent jealous of you?
When you discuss your life’s issues, does your parent divert the discussion to talk about their own problems?
Do you feel that you were a slave to your parents?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, the chances are high that your parent was a narcissist.

So why do we as adopted children respond as we do? Many of us as children have been conditioned to believe we are the ones at fault. WNGE 3e say to ourselves, “It must be me.” Adults are assumed to be more educated, experienced and in control, hence it is easy for adopted children who feel vulnerable to think, “It must be my fault if my parent is mean to me, or can’t love me”.

McBride believes the child ends up carrying the emotional baggage of the family and takes on the burden. The child thinks, “If only I could do more” in order to fix things.

If you find yourself always being tired, always over extending yourself, always trying to achieve more, then I would recommend taking a step back and asking why you are doing these things. You may be compensating to overcome those child beliefs which you have carried into your adult life.

I know I struggle with this. I have been told by many bosses that I work too hard and assume I should do more to self improve. It’s like an endless quest to be “good enough“. I think in all things in life, moderation is the goal. I now I force myself to step back, take vacations and not answer calls on weekends. It took me 45 years to re-condition myself from overexerting and extending myself to realize I have a habit of being like this. I now have to ensure I develop strategies to prevent burn out and learn to relax.

NGE 6


Additional Questions:
Do you feel that you are not good enough? How do you cope with such feelings? Do you think it is something else that triggers these feelings?

More Reading:
https://www.facebook.com/DrKarylMcBride

Do You Have A Narcissistic Mother?

Monarchs and Viceroys: Interracial Couple Issues

IRM 1

I remember learning about Monarch butterflies in college as a Biology Major. Birds and other predators refused to eat Monarchs because they tasted bad from their consumption of milkweed plants. Because of the low predation rates, other butterflies took advantage of this and learned to mimic Monarch’s coloration and design. The most famous of these impersonators of a Monarch is the Viceroy butterfly. To the untrained eye they look identical but today, we know today they are a different species.

This type of mimicry where an edible animal is protected due to its resemblance to another species avoided by predators is called Batesian mimicry. Only in the human species do we find the reversal of Batesian mimicry where the species are the same but the culture, logic, thinking, and behavior is totally different. This is what occurs when an adoptee marries or partners long term with a person from the same birth country.

IRM 3

I am a Korean adoptee and I was raised on a dairy farm in the heart of a little Scandinavia town located in north-central Minnesota. I met my wife when I was stationed in South Korea as a young lieutenant in the US Army. I lived in South Korea for nearly 8 years and I remember having conversations with other servicemembers who had Korean brides and were involved in interracial marriages and I thought to myself, “Wow, I can really relate to the issues that they have.” The men whom I had shared conversations with assumed my marriage was easier because my wife and I are ethnically the same. Yet, I had many of the same issues and problems these men talked about.

These men assumed the relationship between my wife and I was easier than theirs because we looked similar, as does the Monarch and Viceroy. However, as we know, these two butterflies were different species, biologically diverse from one another. My wife and I also look the same racially, but our culture, logic, thinking, and behaviors are totally different. This is why I classify my marriage as an interracial marriage even though we are technically both from Korean descent.

IRM 5

Here is a sample of some of the issues we face as an interracial couple:

Children: My wife is that classic Tiger mom. She is fierce when it comes to my children’s studies. She hovers over them as they do their French, piano, and math lessons. She runs them to karate, boy scouts, girl scouts and numerous other extracurricular activities. I have to navigate our family trips around the school and planned school activities. I see my kids sitting at the table for hours on end and I have to step in as the voice of reason and allow them to have breaks and go to bed. It’s different to the way I was raised and we have to make compromises on how they are to be raised.

Holidays: It was March and my wife was happy with excitement and she asked me to come to the dinner table. I sat down and excitedly uncovered the lid to see what was inside and to my horror, there was a pot of hot slimy green and viscous sludge. She proceeds to tell me it’s Myong-gook, or traditional Korean seaweed soup, which was served after women gave birth and on special occasions. It just so happened to be my birthday and I was fed this special meal whereas, at the time, I much preferred to go out and eat KFC or Thai. There are duplicate holidays that we celebrate such as Choo-suk, also known as Korean Thanksgiving, and there are changes to the traditional menu. It’s not unusual for us to serve the smelly fermented, spicy cabbage called Kimchi along with the mashed potatoes and gravy.

Values: I feel my wife is obsessed with saving money. In the past, she has returned gifts that I bought for her on her birthday, Christmas and special occasions. She tells me not to buy flowers, chocolates, jewelry or anything else because she believes spending money on lavish items is a waste. She would rather see the money pile up in our retirement accounts and do with less. On the other hand, I believe life is about balance. Live a little and enjoy the fruits of our labor as we age. We often have these money talks and come to a compromise. I show her the statements of our retirement account before I ask her about planning a family trip.

IRM 2

Crossed wires: Often communication can end up in a conflict. I’ll be talking to my wife about something at work and she will cut me off to talk about something with the kids. To her, that is more important. She had no idea that she cut me off mid sentence.

Another example is when she asks me if I there is anything she can grab for me while she is at the grocery store, I may pause a few seconds to ponder and return to her with my list. I may respond a half a minute later and ask her to get me my favorite snack and she looks at me with a lost look in her eyes. I have to coax her back into the conversation that we had previously. In her mind, I wanted nothing and was already thinking about something else.

The communication patterns are different and I have learnt to repeat myself over and over again. She also misplaces words by mistake as she translates things inside her head.
“Hey, remember to take the cat to the veterinarian” when she really meant to say to say, “Hey, get some cat food when you’re out”. The crossed wires happens inside her head as she translates and the same happens in other normal conversations.

Name Change: I get a lot of questions and quizzical looks when I introduce myself as Mr Hansen. My name doesn’t match my looks and I’m expecting someone on the US Airlines to pull me off my flight one of these days for impersonating an American. My wife has a similar issue and many people assume she is married to a Caucasian because of the name she took after we were married. We thought about changing our name to my Korean family name but to change all my documents over to a new name seemed exhaustive and we have decided to keep the name for now.

Other Couples: I hate going to another Korean couple’s home when they have a hard time communicating in English. I run out of things to talk about after 5 minutes of conversation which also exhausts all 7 words I can speak in Korean. Many Koreans keep me at an arm’s length away because I’m not a “real” Korean. I feel as though I am the outsider looking in. This also holds true for my wife. She hates attending large groups and intellectually stimulating lectures. She feels as if the whole world is focused on her and when she accidentally slips with the wrong English word – people will make fun of her. I re-charge my batteries being around people and I love to dive into deep conversations.

IRM 4
Life can be extremely stressful, complex, and exhausting at times when married to someone from a different culture. What I found is, it is both rewarding and difficult, just like any other thing worth pursuing. In my education pursuits, for example, it was tough and there were times when I questioned why I was pursuing the degrees that I chose. However, the pursuits ended up well worth the pains and sacrifices I made. Some of the best moments I had were in the dorms of college and the life-long friendships made there, are as meaningful as ever.

The same holds true for a marriage or long term partnerships. I have encountered different issues being in an interracial marriage compared to what I might have experienced if I’d married someone of my adoptive culture and country. But I’ve learnt, not to make assumptions about my partner based on her culture. I also realise our relationship is one in which we are both forever teaching and learning from each other. Like all long term relationships, I will always have to compromise and learn to adapt to changes.

IRM 6

Additional Thoughts: What differences and issues have you seen in your own interracial marriage or partnership?  Do you think the I am correct to call my relationship “interracial” when we are ethnically the same?

Further Reading: Monarch vs Viceroy: https://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/monarch/Viceroy1.html

The Other Half Left Behind

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Many adoptees were sent to orphanages before they were adopted and many do not remember the experiences they had before being sent to their forever homes. At one time, we adoptees may have begun the same journey in life as one of the millions of orphans placed in orphanages. However, a choice made by someone across the globe or down the street changed the course of our lives forever. What started as the same path in life bifurcated into contrasting lives.

Every year, millions of children worldwide remain in orphanages while 40,000 children are moved between more than 100 countries via intercountry adoption. As children, our lives are intertwined and as adults, our lives unravel into separate groups and we do not include the orphans who remain in orphanages when we talk about our journey. When we do talk about orphans who remain behind, we imagine the worst and assume we would have been far worse off than we are now, as adopted people. I hope to discuss the possibilities of being left behind versus the path our lives took as adoptees.

Bad Orphanages Exist

During the past 25 years, I have logged thousands of hours as a volunteer inside over a dozen orphanages located on 5 continents. Many of the places I saw were deplorable and evidence shows that many orphans will suffer from poor health, have underdeveloped brains and experience developmental delays and psychological disorders. The outcomes are bad for many of these children because they will have lower intellectual, behavioral and social abilities than children growing up within a family. These issues seem to be permanent after the age of three and almost every orphanage where I interviewed staff, the orphanage was overwhelmed and poorly equipped to give the one on one individual attention required to promote social and intellectual development for positive outcomes.

Kenya Orphanage 3

Bad Adoptions Exist

If you want to read cases of adoptee abuse, neglect, and murders all you have to do is take a look at the Pound Pup Legacy repository that contains nearly 1,000 horror stories on neglect and abuse. The US Government provides an estimate that 75% of children in foster care have been sexually abused, whereas only 8.4% of investigations of the general public conducted by US Child Protective Services were determined to have been a result of sexual abuse. Adoptee Facebook groups or attendance at adoptee events provides you a learning experience about multiple stories such as mine, of neglect and abuse in adoptive families.

Great Adoptions Can Result in Negative Outcomes

Even when adoptees have loving and nourishing families, they can still end up with negative outcomes. In a recent ten year study published in the online journal Pediatrics, their report stated that adoptees were 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than non-adopted children. Other studies state that adoptees have a higher incarceration rate and suffer from greater mental health issues than the general public. There are preliminary studies from Canada and Sweden showing the damage is done in-utero and pose lifelong consequences with poor health outcomes and even permanent changes to genes.

Despite the popularity of adoption, there is a persistent concern that adopted children may be at heightened risk for mental health or adjustment problems.
Margaret A. Keyes, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

Orphanage KoreaOrphanage Korea 3Orphanage Korea 4

Great Orphanages Exist

I have learned that one should never generalize any group and this holds true, even to orphanages. In my 2.5 year tour as a diplomat to Kenya and as the CFO for medical research labs, I ran across a modern saint by the name of Sister Placida. Sister Placida is a Scottish nun who has been working in the remote town called Kericho, in Western Kenya. She has lived in the area for over 40 years and was taking care of individuals dying from AIDS and giving them proper burials before the disease became identified.

The outcome of the disease left thousands of children as orphans and Sister Placida found a program that helped surviving family members take care of the orphans. Later after the United States had promised to provide billions of dollars worth of free retroviral medications, she started an orphanage to provide food, medicine, and a nurturing environment so those street children had the best chance of survival.

Sister Placida expanded the program and offered training programs to spur entrepreneurship in the local economy as well as educational opportunities through the Live with Hope Centre in Kericho.

Placida

Orphans Can have Positive Outcomes

Being adopted doesn’t necessarily mean our life was spared. I see many adoptees cling to this narrative even when they do not know if this is true or not. I think many Sth Korean adoptees would have had productive and meaningful lives if they had stayed in Sth Korea instead of being adopted. My point of view comes from my eight years of experience living on the peninsula as an adult and the lengthy conversations I had with one of Sth Korea’s premier economists while I was working with him in Afghanistan.

South Korea’s economy is ranked as the fourth largest in Asia and ranked as the 11th largest in the world. South Korea broke out into high-tech industries and has become a leading producer of ships, automobiles, cell phones and other consumer electronics. Currently, South Korea had the fastest average internet connection in the world and enjoys having one of the lowest levels of unemployment. This doesn’t apply only to South Korea. I learned about an orphan from Rwanda when I was working in Kenya by the name of Immanuel Simugomwa who became a millionaire in an impoverished country with the aid of an NGO. I have heard numerous stories all over the world where orphans were thriving within their own country, despite the bad hand life had dealt them.

Kenya Orphanage 2

Adoptees can have Positive Outcomes

One of the perks I have in working for the DNA testing NGO to match adoptees with their biological families is meeting thousands of adoptees all over the world. The adoptee community is as varied as the general public. Someone who works in my lineNaja West of work is LTG Naja West. She is the current Army Surgeon General, a three-star general and the highest ranking officer in the US Army Medical Department. LTG Naja West is also an adoptee.

LTG West is one of the numerous successful adoptees whom I have met. Others are a professional musician, a prominent actor, globally renowned artisan and author, film producer and successful businessman that runs a multi-million dollar firm. Successful adoptees represent a varied cross-section of life and many are successful in their own rights by achieving their goals.

We shouldn’t drive ourselves crazy about what could have happened instead of being adopted. The simple answer is we don’t know and what we think of as truth may be far from reality. The possibilities could have been endless and I wanted to remind my fellow adoptees that we often overlook and exclude orphans out of the equation when we speak. We often gravitate towards relinquishment, adoption and major highlights of adoption.

Sharing: My question is, where were you placed before you were adopted? Do you remember the other children or have any memories of them? Do we forget the other half?

Love to all my fellow adoptees and orphans.

Jayme Hansen

Kenya Orphanage

For additional Reading:

https://www.livescience.com/21778-early-neglect-alters-kids-brains.html

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1649441/orphanages-damage-children-life-says-group-founder

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/810625

http://edition.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/04/13/children.adoption.mental.health/index.html

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080505162858.htm

https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/canstats.pdf#page=2&view=How many allegations of maltreatment were reported and investigated?

https://adoption.com/sexual-abuse

http://www.wvi.org/rwanda/article/vulnerable-orphan-millionaire

Cuts You Deep

abuse 3

Whilst studying for my undergraduate degree in History, I found the similarities of my childhood and reading the history of Nazi Germany opened up my old anxieties. The interrogation methods of the SS were like pages read out about my own childhood. My adopted mother acted like a Concentration Camp guard, always on the lookout to entrap my sister and me in some wrongdoings. She would face the label of the ice cream carton inside the freezer at a certain angle to see if it was ever moved. If it was, we were chastised for stealing food.

My sister stopped me one summer afternoon when I had a few bites due to my lifelong suffering from hypoglycemia and showed me how to angle or place the carton back into the freezer. I didn’t know it at the time but the low-blood sugar levels made me extremely hungry. I was forced to binge eat when I had my episodes and ate entire packets of cookies so I could immediately get rid of the evidence. I felt guilty wasting food and therefore crammed the cookies down in a couple of minutes. I did this because the first time I was caught, I endured hours of humiliation and punishment that didn’t fit the crime.

If my adoptive father was not in a good mood I was given a spanking with the belt or switch and this was followed by my adoptive mother’s tidal wave of rhetorical commentary and questions such as, “We don’t starve you, so why did you do this?” and “Your theft only indicates you will be a criminal when you grow up, do you want to go to jail?”

I wanted to reach out and talk to people about what I was going through but my family was firmly rooted as respected members of the church, work, and community. I felt the only option abuse 2I had was to remain silent. They made up logical stories and explanations to family, colleagues, and acquaintances to explain their side of the story. It involved half-truths to paint the victim as the aggressor, evildoer, and villain. They did this protect themselves. They did this to remain in the good graces of the community they lived in, even though they were the ones doing harm.

They fabricated stories that the child was the one attacking them, stating the child was unruly, dangerous, on drugs, etc. This gave them an external reason to “protect themselves” and rationalize the altercations and find sympathy from individuals who were unfamiliar with the family issues and interactions. Whenever this happened, my sister and I were at greater risk because getting away with one incident of abuse allowed the perpetrators to continue or escalate the patterns.

Abuse comes in numerous forms:

Physical abuse is violent and uses intimidation, isolation, restraint, aggression, and endangerment as a form of control.

Mental abuse gets into your mind and uses gaslighting, silence, manipulation, and victimization as a form of control.

Verbal abuse goes from your ears to your mind via screaming, bullying, name calling, berating, and blaming.

Sexual abuse is about dominance and uses jealous rages, coercion, sexual withdraw, rape, and degrading acts as a form of control.

Emotional abuse forces you into situations that produce intense anxiety, guilt, confusion, shame, anger, hostility, rejection, and fear to be used as a form of control.

Economic abuse is about limiting resources and uses stealing, destroying assets, dependency, refusing access, falsifying records, and interfering with work environments as a means to control.

Spiritual abuse is using your beliefs such as dichotomous thinking, prejudice, elitist beliefs, demanding submission, excommunication, and estrangement as a means of control.

Types of abuse

When adoptees finally confront their abusers at a time in life when they are no longer dependent upon them, they are often met with attacks from other people who may know the abuser at a distance and feel trust and admiration for them, not understanding what has really gone on.

I wrote several months ago on my Facebook page about some of the abuse and neglect that I faced as a child. My nephew shot several scathing messages asking why I was airing dirty laundry in public. I had an uncle who wrote to me and was very dismissive about the abuse stating, “he had it worse” and “corporal punishment was an accepted use of discipline”. I have long since blocked both individuals but realize these family members do not understand the full picture of what was going on.

Upon reflection, I realize they have been told years of misinformation about me from adults who were established in their community. I think this victim shaming and blaming occurs for the following reasons:

  • The abuse often takes place behind closed doors and cannot be validated by others.
  • Abusers deny their actions and when confronted individuals are met with conflicting stories, half-truths, and outright lies.
  • Abusers blame the victim when in reality they were the ones who were the aggressors.
  • Violence is oftentimes preceded by verbal abuse, this is a tactic used to keep the victim at bay.
  • The abuser needs to be right and in control, they may use their authority or moral standing to explain why they were forced to what they did.
  • The abuser is possessive and may try to isolate their child from friends and family as a means to protect themselves.
  • The abuser is often times hypersensitive and may react with rage. When they lash out – they blame you and act as if you are responsible for their anger.

Abuse

I’ve had the privilege of meeting thousands of adoptees around the world and many of them have confided in me and shared their horror stories of abuse and neglect. One of the worst experiences is a young woman who remains connected to her adopted family even though her adoptive mother overlooks the fact her husband was sexually abusing her. I met a pair of sisters in the United States who had a father that made them feel guilty to take care of him in his elderly years, even though he was often missing from their lives. Even when he was home, he ignored them and was “terse” at best. Numerous other adoptees felt their adoptive families were not invested in them, they were not “bad people” but they were not connected to them nor had close relationships.

The issue may worsen when adoptees try to sever the relationship or move away. The parents may feign sickness to draw them back into the relationship or offer them promises they never intend to keep and play a game of catch and release with their heart. They may lash out and do things to make you feel guilty or ways to be part of your life. Some of the ways they may manipulate are:

  • The abusive individual may reach out, stating they have changed and then turn on you and lash out in anger as they did before.
  • They will make promises, with no intentions of changing to draw you back into the relationship.
  • They will leverage your actions, distancing you, keeping your children away to portray themselves as the victims.
  • They will change the story of what actually occurred, stating you have an overactive imagination, that what you say is a lie or back their story with the silence of their codependent spouse.
  • They may use money and resources to leverage themselves to make demands and “compromises”.

Trauma 3

I was caught in this cycle of craziness for much of my adult years. What I found helpful was to speak to other adoptees who faced similar abuse. Some of the braver ones pointed out it was okay to sever the relationship to regain my sanity. They were the first to tell me that I was the victim. They were there to answer questions and their strength helped me to take the steps to separate myself from toxic relationships.

Years later I read an excellent book that went deeper into the issue called Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Susan Forward. It took someone to tell me it was okay to leave my toxic adopted family. This is a personal choice, like other things that could be unhealthy in our lives – such as smoking, drinking or staying in bad relationships. I wish you peace and sanity. I hope this helps.

Further reading:
https://www.facebook.com/SusanForwardPhD/

Bitter Medicine

bitter medicine

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

adoption trauma

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

trauma gurney

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/

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.

Diversity.jpg

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.

ignoring-wisdom.png

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/