Adoptees at the Hague Special Commission

Next week on 4-8 July, the 104 signatory countries of the Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption will gather online together at the Special Commission meeting to discuss Post Adoption and Illicit / Illegal Adoption matters. It is a significant event that happens usually every 5 years and this marks the first time there will be broad representation of intercountry adoptees attending as Observers. Historically since 2005, International Korean Adoptee Association (IKAA), the network representing Korean adoptee interests has been the only adoptee organisation to attend. In 2015, Brazil Baby Affair (BBA) was the second adoptee led organisation to attend with IKAA. Due to COVID, this current Special Commission meeting was postponed and over the past years, I can proudly say I have helped to spread the knowledge amongst adoptee led organisations of HOW to apply and encouraged lived experience organisations like KUMFA (the Korean mothers organisation) to represent themselves. This year, we proudly have 6 adoptee led organisations representing themselves and their communities. We have progressed!

Back in 2015, I wrote the blog titled Why is it Important to have Intercountry Adoptee Voices on this website. Many times over the years I have advocated about the importance of our voices being included at the highest levels of government discussions. So I say again, our voices are immensely important at these highest levels of adoption policy, practice and legislation discussions.

Some critics might say we change nothing in intercountry adoption by attending these meetings, however, I would like to suggest that merely seeing us represent our adult selves in numbers, helps governments and authorities realise a few key points:

  • We grow up! We don’t remain perpetual children.
  • We want to have a say in what happens to future children like ourselves.
  • We help keep them focused on “who” we really are! We are not nameless numbers and statistics. We are alive people with real feelings, thoughts and a myriad of experiences. Their decisions MATTER and impact us for life and our future generations!
  • We help them learn the lessons from the past to make things better for the future and remedy the historic wrongs.
  • We are the experts of our lived experience and they can leverage from our input to gain insights to do their roles better and improve the way vulnerable children are looked after.

One of the advantages of the framework of the Hague Convention, is that it creates opportunities like the upcoming Special Commission where adoptees can have visibility and access to the power structures and authorities who define and create intercountry adoption. Domestic adoptees lack this framework at a global scale and are disadvantaged in having opportunities that bring them together to access information and people which is important in advocacy work.

I’m really proud of our team of 8 who are representing ICAV at this year’s meeting. I have ensured we cover a range of adoptive and birth countries because it’s so important to have this diversity in experiences. Yes, there’s still room for improvement, but I’ve been limited by people’s availability and other commitments given we all do this work as volunteers. We are not paid as government or most NGO participants at this upcoming meeting. We get involved because we are passionate about trying to improve things for our communities! Equipping ourselves with knowledge on the power structures that define our experience is essential.

Huge thanks to these adoptees who are volunteering 4 days/nights of their time and effort to represent our global community!

  • Abby Forero-Hilty (adopted to the USA, currently in Canada, born in Colombia; Author of Colombian adoptee anthology Decoding Our Origins, Co-founder of Colombian Raíces; ICAV International Representative)
  • Cherish Asha Bolton (adopted to the USA, born in India, President of People for Ethical Adoption Reform PEAR; ICAV USA Representative)
  • Colin Cadier (adopted to France, born in Brazil, President of La Voix Des Adoptes LVDA)
  • Jeannie Glienna (adopted to the USA, born in the Philippines, Co-founder of Adoptee Kwento Kwento)
  • Judith Alexis Augustine Craig (adopted to Canada, born in Haiti; Co-founder of Adult Adoptee Network Ontario)
  • Kayla Zheng (adopted to the USA, born in China; ICAV USA Representative)
  • Luda Merino (adopted to Spain, born in Russia)
  • Myself, Lynelle Long (adopted to Australia, born in Vietnam; Founder of ICAV)

We represent ourselves together with our adoptee colleagues who represent their own adoptee led organisations as Observers:

I’m not expecting great changes or monumental happenings at this upcoming meeting, but it’s the connections we make that matter whether that be between ourselves as adoptees and/or with the various government and NGO organisations represented. Change in this space takes decades but I hope for the small connections that grow over time that accumulate and become a positive influence.

The next few posts will be sharing some of the key messages some of our team put together in preparation for this Hague Special Commission meeting on Post Adoption Support and what the community via these leaders, wish to share. Stay tuned!

The Trauma Inherent in Relinquishment and Adoption

We still have a long way to go to reach the wider public and educate them about the inherent trauma and losses in relinquishment and adoption. To assist with this, I’m trying to connect into spaces that are not adoption specific and share our message.

I recently sent our Video for Professionals to an organisation Stella that provides medical treatment for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) called Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB). Who knows, perhaps it might be effective for some adoptees? Our trauma from relinquishment often has no language because it happened to us as young children or babies, so I am constantly on the look out for new treatments or options that can help give relief to the ongoing emotional minefield that many adoptees live. SGB works on the premise of dampening down our fight/flight response that results from ongoing trauma.

Stella’s chief psychologist, Doc Shauna Springer and the Head of Partnerships, Valerie Groth, both chatted with me and watched our videos. Until then, both had no idea as clinicians about the traumas inherent in relinquishment and adoption. They are inspired to join with me to help educate the public, so here is the short 30min podcast interview they conducted to help facilitate this. Click on the image to listen to the podcast.

If you already know about the traumas inherent in adoption, nothing in this will be new, but if you want a podcast that helps others understand from a first learner perspective, perhaps you might consider sharing it with them.

We also have our compiled list of resources as a starting point for those interested to learn more about the connection between trauma and adoption from experts all over the world.

Lived Experience of Racism in Transracial Intercountry Adoption

A week ago, an amazing panel of 6 transracial intercountry adoptees shared with me about their experiences of racism, growing up in a country where the racial majority does not reflect their skin colour and outward appearance.

The webinar focuses on Australian experiences because we provided this forum during business hours for Australian adoption and foster care professionals. In my experience connecting with thousands of intercountry adoptees around the world through ICAV, racism and how we suffer and live through it, is a globally shared phenomenon, regardless of adoptive country.

Listen to the shared experiences here at the recording of our panel webinar:

Timecode for those who want to get to the relevant parts:

00:00:00 – 00:03:13 Introduction & why we discuss racism
00:03:27 – 00:04:30 Welcome to country
00:04:35 – 00:08:20 Introduction of adoptee panel
00:08:20 – 00:41:14 What does racism look like & its impacts
00:41:15 – 01:09:47 Suggestions on how we can be better supported
01:09:56 – 01:23:14 Questions and answers with audience
01:23:15 – 01:26:02 Thank you and summary of key points

Resources

Our latest ICAV perspective paper on Racism
Our recommended Race Resources
ICAVs Video Resource includes discussions about race and racism
Post Adoption Supports

Racism in Intercountry Adoption

I can’t believe that in the 24 years of running ICAV, I’ve not done ONE paper that brings together our lived experience of racism as intercountry and transracial adoptees! Well finally I’ve addressed this! It’s long overdue and I had the impetus to get this done because of the work in Australia by our Human Rights Commission to create a concept National Anti-Racism Framework paper. I was shocked into action when I read through the paper and realised our minority group does not even get a mention as one of the groups targeted for consultation. I wanted to do something about this, to bring visibility to our community who have long shared about racism and its impacts in our private adoptee only forum. From the many conversations I’ve had with fellow adoptees around the world, racism is one of the top issues we endure yet barely gets a mention in most adoption literature, research, policy, practice or education. At ICAV we aim to raise awareness of racism and the intersection with intercountry and transracial adoption.

Here is the submission we put together for the Australian Human Rights Commission and here is a supplementary paper, our latest ICAV Perspective Paper – Lived Experience of Racism in Intercountry Adoption. Our paper provides a collation of lived experience input to help educate about our experience of racism. We also include in our responses what we suggest be done to better support intercountry and transracial adoptees.

To provide further support and education for professionals and adoptive families, next month on Tuesday 17 May @ 2pm AEST, ICAV will be hosting a webinar Racism as Experienced by Intercountry Adoptees to bring you the voices and experiences in-person. If you would like to attend, you can contact ICAV so we can keep you informed.

Together with our Perspective Paper and the upcoming webinar, I hope these resources will help to begin/continue the conversations about racism in intercountry adoption.

Greek Intercountry Adoptee Advocacy

Logo of the organisation, The Eftychia Project for Greek Intercountry Adoptees

As one of the earliest cohorts of intercountry adoptees, the Greek intercountry adoptee community is represented by the amazing work that Linda Carrol Forrest Trotter does under her organisation The Eftychia Project. I’ve been connecting with Linda over the past 5 years and I love what she has done in advocacy to bring her community to the attention of the Greek government. It’s wonderful when adoptees advocate for themselves!

This was one of the meetings Linda had with the Greek government late last year. Apologies for posting so late but it’s helpful for other adoptee groups and leaders to see what some adoptee leaders are doing around the world to advocate for their community.

Here is Linda’s formal letter which she provided to the Greek government at her meeting. Thanks for sharing Linda!

Excellent work and let’s hope the Greek government steps up and provides much needed supports, services, and rights to the Greek adoptee community which are requested in Linda’s letter. These right and requests need to be recognised as basic essentials to be provided from every country that we are adopted from.

For more on Adoptee Advocacy, see ICAVs extensive list of blogs on some of the work we’ve done around the world.

Participating in The Colour of Difference: Long Term Outcomes

This piece was written for the Benevolent Society: Post Adoption Resource Centre newsletter. Their centre provides post adoption support to adoptees in New South Wales (NSW), Australia.

In the late 1990s, I was in my mid 20s and searching for support as an adoptee born overseas, outside of Australia. At that time, I didn’t even have the language to understand how adoption had affected me, I only knew that I had struggled and was reaching out to try and find support somewhere. I came across the Post Adoption Resource Centre (PARC) in my search but I had initially tried the AA type programs, thinking there must be an “Adoptees Anonymous” somewhere to join into. There wasn’t, so when I found PARC led by Sarah Armstrong, I went and joined in with one of their adoptee days where you meet face to face and talk. PARC took us through guided sessions. I found it really useful but the biggest thing I noticed was there was nothing discussing looking different to one’s family/community, nothing on searching and returning to an overseas country, and certainly nothing on racism or the issues I lived as a person of colour adopted into a white society. So I spoke to the PARC team afterwards and asked if there was anything available more specific to my experience. I didn’t even know the term “intercountry adoption” then. All I knew was that I enjoyed meeting the adoptees but they were all born in Australia except me. So I still felt different and quite alone. I enquired about whether there were other adoptees like me reaching out to PARC. They told me yes, occasionally. I said, “Well if you ever run something for us, I’d love to know about it and if you have those adoptees wanting to connect to someone like them, pleas share them my name and contacts.”

And so some time later, PARC did followup and contact me. They asked me if I wanted to be involved in their new book project where we as transracial adoptees could share our stories to help people better understand our lived experience. I said of course and I jumped at the opportunity. I remember trying to figure out what I’d write about, but once I started, it all flowed.

It was quite a lengthy process to get our book project published, finished, and launched. I think it was around 3 years from start to end? But during that process I ended up being honoured to meet the fellow adoptees who also shared in our book, The Colour of Difference. Participating in the book changed my life and PARC had been sharing my name/contacts to adoptees just like me, so over time, once the project finished, I made up my mind that I would volunteer and continue on from the connections we had made, to form a network to support each other.

So from the almost 30 adoptees from the project and those early days, I built what was then known as the InterCountry Adoptee Support Network (ICASN). We focused on sharing our stories, connecting to each other, and meeting face to face in capital cities. We had State Representatives to facilitate social contact and Country of Origin Representatives to help adoptees with their birth country specific resources and needs. From those early days we connected in closely with the various post adoption organisations around Australia and participated in education events, utilising our lived experience to help inform the future adoptions.

The book had also been part of the funding from the NSW Department of Community Services (DoCS) headed up by March Griffin at the time. I connected with Mary Griffin and her team of social workers and ended up being asked to speak and share my story to their team for training. It was the most vulnerable day of my life but the lovely PARC social worker, Petrina Slaytor came with me as my support and I told my story for the first time to people who were not adoptees, but professionals. Wow, it was such an empowering experience to receive their validation and encouragement to keep doing what I was doing – sharing my story, connecting to fellow adoptees, providing a peer support space. I still have the lovely Petrina and Mary in my life today and they have been some of my most incredible supports throughout my life.

In 2014, after having a couple of years of break due to having my own young family, I decided to continue on from ICASN and to refocus and rename it InterCountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV). This was to reflect the new focus from not just peer support, but to now begin actively advocating at government levels for our needs and rights and to ask that our voices be included in all policy and legislation discussions. I could no longer ignore the very visible global issues I heard daily, after having hundreds of adult intercountry adoptees join into ICASN from all over the world. I realised I was definitely not alone in my journey but that our experiences were replicated all over the world for intercountry adoptees.

In 2016, during government consultation at Federal level, my idea of having a follow on book was taken up by our Australian government. They funded a sequel to our book The Colour of Difference, via International Social Services (ISS) Australia who had been funded to provide our much needed Search and Reunion service. In 2017, we launched the followup book, The Colour of Time to demonstrate how our stories changed over the 15 year time span since we published The Colour of Difference.

Fast forward to today in 2022, ICAV is now representing on behalf of intercountry adoptees from all over the world at international levels – The Hague and the United Nations (UN). We are advocating for our rights and needs and we are ensuring our voices are included in policy and legislation discussions that determine the future of other intercountry adoptees. Recently, I address the UN Committees on the topic of illegal and illicit adoptions from lived experience. It is such an honour to be working in collaboration with so many intercountry adoptees from all over the world.

So from a book project that PARC initiated 24 years ago, ICAV has grown to become one of the leading intercountry adoptee advocacy networks in the world.

Who would have thought that connecting into PARC, sharing my story in the book The Colour of Difference, would have made such an impact on me, and then flow onto all the adoptees who have joined into ICAV today. What a ripple effect! 

Huge thanks to PARC for making this all possible! And I’m so excited to see our book being printed again and made available in hardcopy! It’s incredible to hear from adoptive parents of the newer generations who share with me what a difference it has made for them and their adoptee to read our books, The Colour of Difference, The Colour of Time, which helps to normalise our journey and educate those who want to better understand our lived experience.

To obtain a hard copy of these books, you can contact:
PARC for The Colour of Difference;
or ICAV for The Colour of Difference and/or The Colour of Time.


Voices Against Illegal Adoptions Speak at the United Nations

On 10 March 2022, I was honoured to present in English a short 10 minute presentation representing our coalition Voices Against Illegal Adoption (VAIA) to the United Nations.

The meeting was attended by:
The Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED)
the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
the Human Rights Committee (CCPR)
the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-recurrence
the Special Rapporteur on the Sale and Sexual Exploitation of Children including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material
the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children,
and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

Due to the work of Racines Perdues Raíces Perdidas and Back to the Roots, our coalition VAIA has been privy to the joint work being done by these UN Committee members who are working on a Joint Statement about illegal intercountry adoptions.

This is what I shared in my statement:

Good day, good evening to you all!

My name is Lynelle Long and I am an intercountry adoptee residing in Australia, proxy adopted via a private lawyer, out of the Vietnam War in the early 70s.

I would like to thank you all for the honour of being here and for including our voices for this most important occasion. I was delighted to read the draft text that you have all contributed to. It reflects many of the points we covered in our lived experience perspective paper that I presented to The Hague 2019 Working Group on Preventing and Addressing Illicit Practices in Intercountry Adoption. It warms my heart to know that so many of you are our allies, to help and encourage States to respond in the right and ethical ways to our illegal and illicit adoptions. Thank you!

The message that the draft text conveys is absolutely aligned with what we also seek. Your action from this meeting and if this text gets published, gives us a ray of hope in what has often felt like a never ending sea of dismay and loss as we’ve spent years fighting and advocating for ourselves. It is wonderful to no longer feel alone but to know we have strong allies who also advocate for us. We are the children for whom intercountry adoption is all about. We don’t remain “children” forever. We grow up to have our own voice and we want to speak out and ensure the lessons of the past are learned and that practices and legislation are changed to prevent the same wrongs from happening to others, and to address and rectify the wrongs done to us.

Today I introduce myself to you as a Representative for the Voices Against Illegal Adoptions coalition (VAIA)

Our coalition was created by associations that campaign for the recognition of illegal adoptions, our right to origins, for much need legal changes to support us as victims, and requesting institutional, state, diplomatic and consular assistance to rectify the wrongs done to us.

We officially present ourselves today to the United Nations as a coalition of organizations forming a civil society campaign, it’s an initiative led by adoptees with lived experience expertise.

We are non-governmental and non funded organizations, associations, foundations and collectives made up of adopted persons, biological families and adoptive families.

Together we have launched a civil society campaign to defend our rights and it is in this way, that we are presenting ourselves to you, the United Nations.

Our goals are:

– to demand the recognition of illegal adoptions and their recognition as a crime against humanity when they follow the abduction, sale or trafficking of children and there is sufficient evidence to show that they took place as part of a generalised or systematic attack against the civilian population.

– to present the political and legal actions taken by each organisation around the world.

– to call on States to engage in a dialogue with us on the recognition of responsibility for what has happened and to obtain redress.

Today, we would like to inform the different working groups, the High Commissions, the special reporters, the diplomatic missions and the experts of the different committees, in particular the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances as well as the Human Rights Committee, of the international situation regarding illegal adoptions in connection with human trafficking.

We feel it is essential that there is uniformity in responses following the occurrence of illegal adoptions.

We believe it is also abnormal that depending on the country in which the adopted person resides, that we are not recognised as victims.

We also want to draw attention to the fact that legal proceedings for illegal adoptions are confronted most of the time with problems that prevent us from seeking justice and reparation. For example the statute of limitations, also the difficulty to establish the facts of what happened in our cases when records are kept from us or have been destroyed.

We would like our input and experiences to be considered by the United Nations.

We look forward to seeing your final statement and will do our best to make ourselves available to work with all stakeholders to see its implementation.

Thank you very much for your time, for listening to us and for allowing us to participate.

Together with Racines Perdues Raíces Perdidas we will keep you informed of the progress of our work at the UN.

Here is the list of organisations who make up Voices Against Illegal Adoption (VAIA):

Foundation Racines Perdues
Chilean Adoptees Worldwide (CAW)
Collectif Adoptie Schakel
InterCountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV)
Association Reconnaissance Adoptions Illégales à l’International en France (RAÏF)
Empreintes Vivantes
Plan Angel
Collectif des adoptés français du Mali
Collectif des parents adoptifs du Sri Lanka
Rwanda en Zoveel meer
Association DNA Inde
Back to the Roots
Collectif des adoptés du Sri-Lanka
Child Identity Protection

Resource:

ICAV Perspective Paper: Lived Experience Suggestions for Responses to Illicit Adoptions (in French or English)

What Would My Utopia in Intercountry Adoption Be?

This was presented by Lynelle Long at the Child Identity Protection (CHIP) Webinar on Friday 18 Feb, 2022, the topic of the webinar was: Respecting the Child’s Right to Identity in Intercountry Adoption (at 2:58:01 on the video recording).

What I hope for the future is possibly just utopia, but sometimes in speaking the words out loud, our words can find an energy with others who share the same desire, which can start the small wave of thoughts that become an activity, then a movement that has ripple effects, that eventually turn and flow into a tsunami. I know there are so many in our adoptee community who are working so hard for these changes to happen. Each of our efforts can seem small in isolation, but together, en-masse, we will eventually effect that change we are working towards.

My utopia would love to see an end all intercountry adoption as it is currently practiced today: obliterate it or as a minimum, redesign The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption to ensure that it respects our right to identity, culture and family relations … and ensure legislation exists that supports our rights as adoptees and for our biological families.

When we do this, we need to also:

  • Remove money from being an incentive for profit and gain.
  • Remove the use of private agencies, centralise adoption and directly hold the responsibility and the risk with the Government / State.
  • Ensure adoptees have the right to annul their adoption and without a cost.
  • Ensure the generational rights to adoptee records i.e., our children and their children need to be given access to our adoption and birth records should we not do so in our lifetime.
  • Improve pre and post adoption supports, make it mandatory that this be free, trauma informed, lifelong and comprehensive; most importantly, in its design, to actively consult with lived experience expertise.
  • Make it mandatory to educate support professionals so they understand the heightened risk of suicide and trauma for adoptees, the inherent racism we face, the identity conflicts, etc .. so many issues we live that need trained and informed support.
  • Stop adoptions that are private/expatriate and from non Hague countries.
  • Create and fund a legal centre of expertise in intercountry adoption to help victims hold agencies and countries accountable where their rights have not been upheld.
  • Create and fund an independent body to monitor and punish Hague signatories who don’t uphold their responsibilities — to deal with issues like deportation by adoptive country, abuse and murder of child by adoptive family. There needs to be accountability for those responsible in placing us into families or countries that are more traumatic than where we came from.
  • Create and fund an international organisation that is setup up to empower and help support bio families search for their children. I meet so many of these bio parents who are disempowered and have nowhere to turn.

But before we even talk about adoption as a solution for a child, we need to ensure the focus and funds prioritises family preservation above all else. If this happened, we should not need intercountry adoption. To accomplish this, we need to help our birth countries implement social welfare alternatives like foster care, guardianship, group homes, simple adoption; and ensure that these are well resourced.

Regardless of whether we have intercountry adoption or not in the future, we need to deal with the past for those who are impacted. This means a historic investigation by an independent body must be conducted into past practices; learn from the lessons, ensure restorative justice for victims, including compensation. Only then when this is done, should we move forward to looking at re-implementing a new model of intercountry adoption.

And let’s not forget, we must make sure we cross pollinate the learnings from intercountry adoption into other family formation methods such as surrogacy – to prevent the further commodification of children and robbing them of their identities too.

These are the things I spend my life working on, creating and joining into the groundswell of people / community working to push for these much needed changes. 

For this to happen, we need to challenge governments and stakeholders around the world to ask the tough question, is intercountry adoption the ethically and morally right thing to do when we know other solutions can exist for vulnerable children that better respect our right to identity, culture and family relations.

Sadly, utopia doesn’t exist and so I can only conclude that until we have a system that upholds our adoptee rights, I don’t believe we should be conducting intercountry adoption in its current form. It is NOT in the best interests of the child to add on layers of trauma that could be prevented when we know better. Yes there will always be children who need support and alternatives .. but, we can’t keep repeating the mistakes of the past and turning a blind eye to what we are doing to so many en-masse. We must do better and challenge ourselves to be honest, truthful, listen to the voices of those it impacts most, and heed the lessons we can learn.

What’s the Future of Intercountry Adoption?

This was presented by Lynelle Long at the Child Identity Protection (CHIP) Webinar on Friday 18 Feb, 2022, the topic of the webinar was: Respecting the Child’s Right to Identity in Intercountry Adoption (at 2:49:30 on the video recording).

In my humble perspective, I believe the future of intercountry adoption is slowly coming to its death. I am personally happy about this, as are a vast number of adult intercountry adoptees around the world. I recognise though that not all adoptees agree with my happiness nor want to see the end of intercountry adoption. The argument they pose is probably that we have gained and benefited much and why should we stop others from having the same?

I argue that we are actively robbing countries of their most valuable resource – their children – when we take advantage, with our privilege and resources, to gain from their vulnerabilities. We need to do better – do what’s ethically right, when we know in hindsight that the random positive outcomes do not justify the huge amount of trauma that has been inflicted on so many.

We have seen some countries in Europe start to take responsibility by independently investigating the history of intercountry adoption and come to terms with the wrongs done to so many. COVID has also created a natural dampener to the trade in children, but the efforts of intercountry adoptees and our allies has been building over the past decades to culminate into a worldwide recognition that intercountry adoption as a social experiment, has not been as successful as many hoped for.

If I were to ask myself what I think the future of intercountry adoption looks like, I couldn’t lie and pretend to uphold the fantasy so many seem to have with adoption. From the lived perspective, too many of us intercountry adoptees have struggled and suffered life long consequences of being robbed of our origins, our kin, our country, culture, and language .. it is time we take an honest and critical look at what intercountry adoption truly does. It is the ONLY alternative care option that proactively severs our right to identity and family relations — except in the cases of a few countries (Vietnam, Belgium and France) who allow Simple adoption to exist .. but in reality, it is extremely rare to have a Simple intercountry adoption. 

I can only gauge the future and what it brings, from where we have shifted and moved in the past 24 years that I’ve been actively involved. I have seen the massive change that my adoptee community has undergone in the 24 years I’ve been involved:

  • From being completely isolated from each other, to massively connected now!
  • From being in the fog, to totally awakened to the reality of the structures that have created our lives.
  • From relying on dodgy fabricated paperwork, to embracing DNA technology because it doesn’t lie.
  • From not wanting to engage in the politics, to now fully engaging and seeking / demanding engagement with government and authorities.
  • From not understand our rights, to now finding pathways to uphold our rights through the laws and demanding justice and reparation. 

This is what excites me the most .. seeing the many adoptees demanding justice who are inspired by the success of the pioneers before them – adoptees like Patrick Noordoven who have fought the lack of legal pathway, studied the laws, faced the courts and created a legal pathway to demand justice and access to our truth – our right to identity. We need more of this to happen en-masse around the world!

Then what we are starting to see right now, in the past few years, is that some governments are recognising that they need to better protect themselves because they are realising they are participating in an activity and system that actively robs us of our rights – our rights to identity, origins and family. Once more governments realise the risk they bear, I believe we will see intercountry adoption become almost non existent because it’s too risky, too costly!

Intercountry adoption has always been about money: who has it, who doesn’t, who doesn’t want to lose it, who can’t afford to take the risk. While the risk in intercountry adoption was once historically gauged as low, governments and authorities supported the demand for children – but the tide on that sentiment has turned and there is no going back! I do believe one day we will look back historically on this huge social experiment called intercountry adoption and it will eventually be acknowledge on a global scale, that it was never in our best interests to be removed from our country, culture and origins and add to our traumas.

Hand in hand with this, I’m excited to see some governments start to recognise our adoptee needs and rights! In Australia we’ve been one of the few countries to be given a funded free mental health counselling service and we had a free search n reunion service. Both of these should be a minimum and a mandatory service in all post adoption for every adopting and sending country. Some countries are talking to me about our Australian model and I know other countries are starting to provide either one or both of these services.

But while I celebrate the shifts in some progressive countries, let’s not forget our families of loss still barely have any rights, and usually no access to free counselling or a searching service. I hope in the future we will start to see this change. The voices of our families of origins is still largely unheard, ignored, denied. We have to change that!

I hope intercountry adoption will become only a last resort option, as originally intended under the The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

Recommended Reading

Patrick Noordoven’s Thesis: Intercountry Adoption and the Right to Identity

A Vigil for Christian Hall, 1 Year On

On 30 December 2021, 7-9pm CST we gathered in social media application, Clubhouse to participate in an online vigil, created and led by Vietnamese adoptee Adam Chau. The event was organised in conjunction with Christian Hall’s family who created the physical in-person vigils at various cities around the USA. The purpose of the vigils was to honour Christian’s life, raise awareness about and bring the impacted communities together in solidarity to seek Justice for Christian Hall. You can read their latest articles here and here.

A number of adoptee guests were invited to share our thoughts for the online vigil: Kev Minh Allen (Vietnamese American adoptee), Lynelle Long (Vietnamese Australian adoptee), Kayla Zheng (Chinese American adoptee), Lee Herrick (Korean American adoptee).

I share with you what I spoke about in honour of Christian Hall.

My name is Lynelle Long, I’m the founder of Intercountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV). I’d like to thank you Adam Chau for organising this online event today in honour of Christian. Thankyou Nicole, Christian’s cousin who is on our call, for allowing us to join in with this vigil. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss! It’s a privilege to be able to speak. I am a person with lived experience of intercountry adoption and like Christian Hall, I am of Chinese descent … except I was born in Vietnam and adopted to Australia, whereas he was born in China and adopted to the USA.

The common thread that unites me with Christian Hall is that we both experienced abandonment as an infant. No matter what age we are, for an adoptee, loss of our first family as abandonment/relinquishment is a raw and painfully traumatic experience. It stays with us throughout life in the form of bodily sensations and gets easily triggered. When this happens, these sensations flood our body as fear, panic, anxiety.

Worse still is that when our abandonment occurs as an infant, we have not developed a language as a way to understand our experience. We are simply left with pre-verbal feelings (bodily sensations). It took me over 20 years until I read the first book, The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier which changed my life in terms of coming to understand how abandonment and adoption had impacted me. That book was the first to help give words to the experience I felt up until then, as an entirely somatic experience, as uncomfortable sensations in my body, that I hadn’t understood, which I’d spent my life running away from every time they re-emerged.

The other common thread that unites me with Christian Hall is that we both experienced suicidal ideation and attempts. For him, it tragically meant the end of his life by police officers who did not understand his traumas. For me, after numerous failed attempts and ending up in ER, it meant a long process of awakening to the trauma I had lived. 20+ years later, I have spent most of this time helping to awaken our society to what adoption is really about for us, the adopted person.

Being adopted never leaves us. We might try to escape and pretend that it has no impact but deep down to our core, our abandonment wires almost every aspect of our being – most importantly, how we connect or not to others around us and to ourselves. At its core, intercountry adoptees experience loss of identity, race and culture. Unless we have supports around us that understand and help us to overcome the trauma of abandonment early on, we stumble in the dark, completely unaware of how our abandonment impacts us. Many adoptees call it “being in the fog” until we become awakened. Today, decades after Nancy Verrier first wrote her amazing book, we now have many, many books written by adoptees who are THE experts of our own lived experience. These books are a written testament to the complexities we live through adoption and how this impact us.

In the past 2 months, I have worked with others to speak out about the impacts of abandonment and adoption trauma and the direct connection to risk of suicide. I acknowledge that Christian’s family do not relate his tragic death to suicide, but I suspect his feelings of abandonment were triggered as key events led to him being on the bridge that day. I hope that more adoptive families will educate themselves about the complexities we live as people who get disconnected from our origins via intercountry adoption. There are almost 2 million of us worldwide and we are speaking out en-masse to help the world understand it is not a rainbows and unicorns experience. We require lifelong supports from professionals who are trauma and adoption trained. In America alone, there are hundreds of thousands of intercountry adoptees – America remains the biggest receiving country in the world. Too many are struggling emotionally every day, yet in the USA, there is still no free national counselling service for intercountry adoptees and their families. There is also NO national post adoption support centre in the USA funded to help intercountry adoptees grow into adulthood and beyond. Isn’t it a huge shortcoming that the largest importer of children in the world has no lifelong supports fully funded, equitable, freely accessible – how can America expect positive outcomes for children who are amongst the most vulnerable if we don’t fund what we know they need?

I never knew Christian personally. I only discovered him through his death. I wish I had known him. From the many intercountry adoptees I connect to, I know we gain so much emotionally from being connected to others just like us. Being connected to our peers helps reduce those feelings of isolation, helps us understand we aren’t the only ones to experience life this way, helps connect us to sources of support and validation that we know has worked. I wish Christian had met our community. I’ll never know if it would have made the difference so that he wasn’t there that day on that bridge. As an adoptee, I suspect Christian most likely wanted help that day, help to ease his hurting soul, not death. 

Also, let’s take a moment to remember his biological family in China. Whether they ever truly had a choice in his relinquishment, we’ll probably never know but from my knowledge in this field, it’s most likely not. Christian’s adoption was likely the result of the 1-Child Policy era in China where thousands of families were forced to relinquish their children, many of them ending up intercountry adopted like Christian. Please take a moment to consider that through adoption, his biological family don’t even have the right to know that he has passed away. 

The travesty in adoption is that trauma is experienced by all in the triad (the adoptee, the adoptive family, the biological family) yet the traumas continue to go largely unrecognised and unsupported in both our adoptive and birth countries. We must do better to prevent the unnecessary separation of families, and where adoption is needed, ensure that families undertake adoption education, learning about its complexities in full and having free equitable access for life to the professional supports needed.

My huge thanks to his extended and immediate family for being brave and opening themselves up thru all this trauma and allow these vigils where his life and death can be honoured for the greater good. I honour the pain and loss they’ve lived and thank them immensely for allowing our intercountry adoptee community to join in with them in support.

Thank you.

If you would like to support Christian’s family and their push for justice, please sign the petition here.

If you would like to better understand the complexities involved in intercountry adoption as experienced by adoptees, our Video Resource is a great place to start. Wouldn’t it be amazing to create a resource like this to help educate first responders to better understand the mental health crises that adoptees experience.

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