Adoptee Review of Ra Chapman’s K-Box Play

by Kayla Curtis, Korean adoptee raised in Australia, social worker and counsellor specialising in adoption.

I want to share some reflections from going along to the K-Box Adoptee Takeover Night at the Malthouse and seeing Ra Chapman’s K-Box play in Melbourne, Australia on 9 September.

Personally, I am feeling an excitement from seeing K-Box because it captured so much of my personal adoption experience with confronting and emotional clarity. My comments to Ra afterwards were: “They could have been my parents on that stage, the set was my family home and the script was very close to the conversations I have navigated with my family over the years. Thank you for shining a light on some of what we have to navigate and including some of the uncomfortable and confronting issues that are so covert and invisible to others, especially our families”.  

K-Box is written and directed by Ra Chapman, a South Australian Korean adoptee, currently Melbourne based. This play is one of a kind and is the first to shine a bright light on the complexities and nuances of the intercountry adoptee experience in Australia and to have an intercountry adoptee as the leading protagonist. Ra wrote the play based on hers and other adoptees lived experiences of adoption. Feedback from adoptees who saw the play on Friday night was that the portrayal of the adoptee’s experience was not only relatable but a provoking and truthful representation of their own adoption experiences.

The play was about a 30+ year old Korean adoptee navigating relationships with her adoptive mother and father and was also about her journey of coming to understand the impact adoption has had in her life: how it has influenced her identity, her internal working model and sense of self and connection with her adoptive parents. It touched on many of the core themes of adoption including identity, belonging, loss and grief, race, the life-long impacts of adoption, racism, stereotypes, attachment, belonging, white privilege/white washing, ‘dangers of single stories’, family as well as how we talk about adoption issues and navigate these difficult discussions with our families. What the play did well is to explore the impacts on the adoptee and family relationships when these core issues are not understood, validated, explored, or supported. As is normal for many adoptees who begin to explore and pay attention to these issues, there can be a destabilising effect on the family relationships as the adoption ‘fairy-tale’ or ‘happy adoption’ narrative begins to come apart. 

L to R: Jeffrey Liu, Ra Chapman, Susanna Qian

For any professionals working in the area of adoption, this play is a great resource, providing a deep and valuable insight to the dynamics, relationships, interracial experiences, and challenges intercountry adoptees have to navigate within their adoption experience and adoptive families. Of course, this was delivered extremely cleverly with the play using comedy/satire as well as emotionally intense and beautiful monologues and symbolism complimented by outstanding acting from an intimate cast of four performers. 

It was powerfully delivered and received, leaving many adoptees who attended feeling emotional and unsteady but also connected, seen, and supported. Likewise, it may also leave adoptive parents feeling unsure, confronted, and curious about their role in their child’s adoption. In the end, I think it brings everyone together: adoptees and parents, opening up possibilities of how we can partner up around the adoption experience and do better for the journey of the adoptee.

Following the play, I valued the emotive speeches and other performances by adoptee’s sharing their creative work and projects. In addition the evening mentioned some other exciting adoptee led projects and creative works in development that I will be following closely with anticipation.  

The main takeaway for me from the evening was the amazing way adoptees were able to come together through this event, which I think highlights the collective healing power for adoptees when surrounded by community, elevating the adoptee voice in a safe and supported way and feeling a sense of strong belonging by being seen and heard. It is great knowing that the Australian adoptee community is going strong!

I hope that we can continue having open and welcomed discussions together as a community so we all can benefit in learning from those with lived experiences especially from adoptees.

Dearest Ra, please know the powerful impact you have had and how your creative work is helping to shape all of our learning and better capacitate the adoption community in Australia.

I encourage all to see Ra Chapman’s play K-Box showing only until 18 September; adoptive parents, adoptees, adoption professionals and the broader community.

Check out our Photo Album from the evening.

The 9 September K-Box Adoptee Takeover Night at the Malthouse event was proudly presented to us by Malthouse Theatre, supported by Relationships Australia Intercountry Adoptee and Family Support Services (ICAFSS) small grants, InterCountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV), International Social Services (ISS) Australia, and hosted by our wonderful adoptee led organisations and community-based groups – ICAV led by Lynelle Long and Ra Chapman from Korean Adoptees In Australia Network (KAIAN).

Coming Next at ICAVs blog is some of the Adoptee Artist performances from our Take Over of the Malthouse Night and artwork from the ZINE magazine which was handed out at the event.

Ra Chapman and some of the Korean adoptees who attended the evening
Photos by Lynelle Long

Resources

Deep Regret or Great Love? Adoptee play showcases desire for connection

K-Box: Questioning middle class Australia with blitzing comedic flair

Embracing Therapy as an Adoptee

by Oleg Lougheed, adopted from Russia to the USA. Founder of Overcoming Odds.

I remember the first time I went to therapy.

I was ashamed of it.

I disliked every aspect of it.

I saw it as a sign of weakness.

Out of all of the things I looked forward to, this was at the very bottom of my list.

I remember the drive over.

“Why do I have to go here?”

“I don’t need this.”

“This is stupid.”

With each remark, I became more and more angry.

I remember exiting the car.

Not a single word, arms folded together, sprinting ahead of my parents in frustration.

“Welcome!” said the receptionist.

I didn’t respond.

“Through the double doors to the right, please.”

As I opened the double doors, my eyes immediately met them.

A room full of kids who were much younger than me.

I scanned the entire room.

Everybody was doing something.

Some were putting together puzzles.

Others were drawing.

“This is not for me,” I whispered.

I made my way toward the spot.

The spot I became far too familiar with throughout my life.

The corner of the room.

I sat there in silence, waiting for the clock to strike 8 PM.

“How are you doing?” asked the therapist on duty.

No response.

It took weeks before I said my first words.

I remember sitting in the corner of the room when the therapist approached me.

I couldn’t hold it anymore. I broke down.

Fighting back tears, I told her everything.

I told her how much I missed my birth family.

I told her that I was being bullied at school.

I told her about the struggles back home.

I felt a huge relief with each spoken word.

Unfortunately, this was one of the last sessions.

I turned back to what I knew best, silence.

It wasn’t until 10 years ago, I spoke the word, “therapy” out loud.

I was a freshman in college.

I needed someone to talk to.

The past was on the back of my mind.

I went straight to the counselling/mental health department.

I wasn’t ashamed of it anymore.

I remember the walk over.

The feeling of empowerment with every step I took.

I accepted therapy into my life, on my own terms.

Going to sessions helped me tremendously.

They helped me process and reframe many of my past traumatic experiences.

They helped me get curious about the subject and the stories I chose to believe in.

The stories of it being seen as a sign of weakness, not a strength.

The stories of therapy as something I should be ashamed of.

Curiosity helped me change many of these narratives.

Curiosity helped me embrace therapy as a part of my identity, part of my life.

For more from Oleg, read his last blog Adoptee Fear and Vulnerability
Follow him at Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn @overcomingodds

Money never makes up for what I’ve lost as a First Nations Canadian

by Jen Etherington, born as a First Nations Canadian and adopted into an Australian family.

It looks like the final payments for the sixties scoop has started going out. I get mixed feelings about it and the process.

I feel a sense of loss of culture, family and country. I’m not saying I’m not grateful for my adoptive parents and all that life has given me here in Australia but it also doesn’t mean that I don’t feel the sense of loss for everything else.

My bio parents died when I was 9 years old and that hope of meeting them was gone forever. My partner and I are currently listening to Harry Potter and I cry because I can relate to the loss of his parents and how he feels, as well as the pining to know about them. People from home in Canada tell me stories about them and I get so happy and so sad at the same time.

I see posts from bio cousins about different cultural events and traditions and I feel sad that I don’t know my culture. People here in Australia get excited when I tell them I’m First Nations Canadian and ask about my culture and I don’t have anything for them.

My bio parents didn’t have any more children because they didn’t want them to be taken away (or so I believe). I always hoped I’d have a long lost sibling out there.

I feel a big sense of loss about my last miscarriage because that was my last chance at experiencing a biological connection.

Anyway, the payment was $25,000 and I know there are people out there where this amount of money will help and make a difference but I also feel like it’s kind of hush money. I don’t feel like it is much for what happened to so many of us.

Further Reading

$25,000 settlement for Sixties Scoop Survivors, a “Slap in the Face”

Where do I belong?

by Charisse Maria Diaz, born as Mary Pike Law, cross cultural adoptee born in Puerto Rico

Pote de leche are Spanish words for “milk bottle”. Where I was born, this is how someone is described when they are too white. Yes, too white. That is what I was called at school when bullied. In my teens, I spent many Sundays sunbathing in the backyard of our home. This was one of the many ways I tried to fit in.

My tendency has been to consider myself a transcultural adoptee and not a transracial adoptee, because my adoptive parents were Caucasian like me. Recently, I realized their looks do not make my experience too different from the experience of any transracial adoptee. I was born in Puerto Rico from an American mother and English father and adopted by a Puerto Rican couple. Puerto Ricans have a mix of Native Taino, European and African genes, our skin colors are as varied as the colors of a rainbow. The most common skin tones go from golden honey to cinnamon. For some, I looked like a little milk-colored ghost.

My adoptive mother told me that an effort was made by the Social Services Department, which oversaw my adoption process, to make the closest match possible. She said the only things that did not “match” with her and my adoptive father were my red hair and my parents’ (actually, my natural father’s) religion. I was supposed to be an Anglican but was going to be raised as a Catholic. This was part of the brief information she gave me about my parents, when she confessed that they were not dead as I had been told at 7 years old. She also admitted that I was not born in Quebec, which they also made me believe. I was born in Ponce, the biggest city on the southern shore of the island. She gave me this information when I was 21 years old.

So, at 21 years of age, I discovered that I was a legitimate Puerto Rican born in the island, and also that my natural father was an English engineer and my natural mother was Canadian. I was happy about the first fact and astonished about the rest. Suddenly, I was half English and half Canadian. At 48 years old I found my original family on my mother’s side. Then I discovered this was a misleading fact about my mother. She was an American who happened to be born in Ontario because my grandfather was working there by that time. I grew up believing I was a Québéquois, after that I spent more than two decades believing that I was half Canadian. All my life I had believed things about myself that were not true.

I learned another extremely important fact about my mother. She was an abstract-expressionist painter, a detail that was hidden by my adoptive family in spite of my obvious artistic talent. I started drawing on walls at 2 years old. My adoptive parents believed that art was to be nothing more than a hobby, it was not a worthy field for an intelligent girl who respected herself and that happened to be their daughter. This did not stop me, anyway. After a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and a short career as a copywriter, I became a full-time painter at the age of 30. To discover that my mother was a painter, years later, was mind-blowing.

Identity construction or identity formation is the process in which humans develop a clear and unique view of themselves, of who they are. According to Erik Erikson’s psychosocial stages of development, this process takes place during our teen years, where we explore many aspects of our identities. It concludes at 18 years old, or, as more recent research suggests, in the early twenties. By that age we should have developed a clear vision of the person we are. How was I supposed to reach a conclusion about who I was, when I lacked important information about myself?

My search for my original family started when there was no internet, and it took me more than 20 years to find them. I did not arrive in time to meet my mother. A lifelong smoker, she had died of lung cancer. I connected with my half-siblings, all of them older than me. They were born during her marriage previous to her relationship with my father. Two of them were old enough to remember her pregnancy. They had been enthusiastically waiting for the new baby, just to be told that I was stillborn, news that hurt them so much. Before she passed away, my mother confessed to my siblings that I was relinquished for adoption. Through them, I learned what a difficult choice it was for my mother to let me go.

During my search, well-known discrimination against Latinos in sectors of the American culture gave me an additional motive to fear rejection. I didn’t know I had nothing to worry about. My siblings welcomed me with open arms. Reconnecting with them has been such a heartwarming, comforting, life-changing experience. We are united not only by blood, but also by art, music, literature, and by ideas in common about so many things, including our rejection of racism. It was baffling to learn that my opinions about society and politics are so similar to my natural parents’ points of view, which were different, and sometimes even opposite to my adoptive parents’ beliefs.

My siblings remember my father, their stepfather, fondly. With their help I was able to confirm on the Internet that he had passed away too. His life was a mystery not only to me, but to them too. A few years later, I finally discovered his whereabouts. He lived many years in Australia and was a community broadcasting pioneer. A classical music lover, he helped to establish Sydney-based radio station 2MBS-FM and worked to promote the growth of the public broadcasting sector. His contributions granted him the distinction of being appointed OBE by the British government. My mind was blown away for a second time when I learned that he had dedicated his life to a field related to mass communication, which was my career of choice before painting. My eldest half-brother on his side was the first relative I was able to contact. “Quite a surprise!”, he wrote the day he found out that he had a new sister. Huge surprise, indeed. My father never told anyone about my existence. Now I got to know my half-siblings and other family members on his side too. They are a big family, and I am delighted to keep in touch with them.

My early childhood photo

With each new piece of information about my parents and my heritage, adjustments had to be made to the concept of who I am. To be an international, transcultural, transracial adoptee can be terribly disorienting. We grow up wondering not only about our original families, but also about our cultural roots. We grow up feeling we are different from everyone around us, in so many subtle and not so subtle ways… In my case, feeling I am Puerto Rican, but not completely Puerto Rican. Because I may consider myself a true Boricua (the Taino demonym after the original name of the island, Borikén), but in tourist areas people address me in English, and some are astonished to hear me answer in Spanish. More recently, I have pondered if my reserved nature, my formal demeanor, my cool reactions may be inherited English traits. And getting to know about my parents, even some of my tastes, like what I like to eat and the music I love, has made more sense. But in cultural terms I am not American or British enough to be able to wholly consider myself any of these. Where do I belong, then? And how can I achieve completion of my identity under these conditions? It is a natural human need to belong. Many times I have felt rootless. In limbo.

A great number of international adoptees have been adopted into Anglo-Saxon countries, mostly United States and Australia, and many of them come from places considered developing countries. The international adoptee community, which has found in social media a great tool to communicate, receive and give support, and get organized, encourages transracial and transcultural adoptees to connect with their roots. My case is a rare one, because it is the opposite of the majority. I was adopted from the Anglo-Saxon culture to a Latin American culture. I never imagined that this would put me in a delicate position.

Puerto Rico has a 500-year-old Hispanic culture. I am in love with the Spanish language, with its richness and infinite subtleties. I feel so honored and grateful to have this as my first language. We study the English language starting at first grade of elementary school, because we are a United States’ territory since 1898, as a result of the Spanish-American war. We are United States citizens since 1914. We have an independentist sector and an autonomist sector which are very protective of our culture. Historically, there has been a generalized resistance to learning English. In my case, I seem to have some ability with languages and made a conscious effort to achieve fluency, for practical reasons but also because it is the language of my parents and my ancestors.

In 2019 I traveled to Connecticut to meet my eldest half-brother on my mother’s side. That year, a close friend who knew about my reunion with natural family told me that someone in our circle had criticized the frequency of my social media posts in the English language. Now that I am in touch with my family, I have been posting more content in English, and it seems this makes some people uncomfortable. But the most surprising part is that even a member of my natural family has told me that I am a real Boricua and should be proud of it. I was astonished. Who says I am not proud? I have no doubt that this person had good intentions, but no one can do this for me. Who or what I am is for me to decide. But the point is some people seem to believe that connecting with my Anglo-Saxon roots implies a rejection of Puerto Rican culture or that I consider being Puerto Rican an inferior condition, something not far from racism. Nothing could be farther from the truth! I was born in Puerto Rico and love my culture.

Puerto Rico’s situation is complicated, in consequence my identity issues became complicated. I am aware of our island’s subordinated position to a Caucasian English-speaking country; that this circumstance has caused injustices against our people; that our uniqueness needs to be protected and celebrated. Being aware sometimes makes our lives more difficult, because we understand the deep implications of situations. There was a time when I felt torn by the awareness of my reality: being Puerto Rican and also being linked by my ancestry to two cultures which for centuries dedicated their efforts to Imperialism. I am even related through my father to Admiral Horatio Nelson, a historical character that embodies British imperialism. How to reconcile that to my island’s colonial history and situation? Where I was going to put my loyalty? To feel that I was being judged for reconnecting to my original cultures – something every international adoptee is encouraged to do – did not help me in the task of answering these difficult questions.

Even when they were not perfect and made mistakes, my natural parents were good people with qualities I admire. The more I get to know them, the more I love them. The more I know them, the more I see them in me. If I love them, I cannot reject where they came from, which is also a basic part of who I am. Therefore, I have concluded that I cannot exclude their cultures from my identity construction process.

To connect to these cultures until I feel they are also mine is a process. I am not sure if I will ever achieve this, but I am determined to go through this process without any feelings of guilt. To do so is a duty to myself, to be able to become whole and have a real, or at least a better sense of who I am. And it is not only a duty, it is also my right.

Why are Dutch Adoptive Parents Silent En-masse?

by Hilbrand Westra, born in South Korea and adopted to the Netherlands; founder of Adoptee & Foster Care (AFC) Netherlands

An international headache

Adoption is political! Last week there was an article in the Dutch newspaper Trouw by Sam van den Haak. The headline and subtext state:

Support adopted children who are looking for their own parents with a fund
Parents spend tens of thousands of euros to adopt a child. But if adopted children want to find their own parents, there is no money for that. That’s not right, thinks Sam van den Haak, who was adopted from Sri Lanka herself.

It is hopeful to see that since 1989 where I was very involved by providing my critical input to counterbalance adoption debates, more and more adoptees are today emerging who seem to follow in these footsteps. And although I have withdrawn from this shadowy, and at times dangerous, political domain of adoption, I must nevertheless make a comment about the constant protection of adoptive parents by many of these adoptees. These adoptive parents are silent every time and it seems that they are once again sitting out this ‘storm’.

But where Van den Haak talks about prospective parents, it is actually about her adoptive parents at the same time. And it is actually not entirely true that adoptive parents were not aware, or could have been, that there might have been a lot wrong with intercountry adoption (the legal jargon for overseas international adoptions).

A prospective parent who had studied the matter could have known that in most cases there was at least a scent of something not right to it. Now it is mainly shifted by them to governments and adoption mediators – these are organizations that are remarkably often set up by and for adoptive parents.
#STOCKHOLMSYNDROOM

I understand that many adoptees do not wish to criticize their adoptive parents because in many cases that is their last straw to cling to when it comes to a tangible family to belong within. But without these 30,000 adoptive parents in the Netherlands, we would not have the consequences we now see. And if all those adoptive parents did indeed mean well with us, why do they always remain silent en masse and refuse to seek redress from the Dutch government and force it to make better provisions for adoptees who are impacted?

In the meantime, the Ministry of Justice set up an operation smokescreen by organizing a so-called “national consultation” that cost thousands of euros with external consultants who had done little to no preliminary research to create the idea that there would be unbiasedness and room for participation. During one of those first rounds in Utrecht, I already outlined the outcome. The ministry dismissed that as incorrect and premature. Hundreds of hours were in it for participants in these meetings, but in the end I was right. No money for adoptees for things as Van den Haak advocates, but a questionable counter function for post adoption support.

The entire operational execution and money goes to the FIOM in Den Bosch (ISS Netherlands), which also has a questionable reputation in the adoption history by being one of the early facilitators of intercountry adoption.

The whole exercise of the Ministry of Justice could have saved us wasting effort and the money involved could have gone to adoptees. But as is often the case, logic is lacking on these types of cases, and that frustrates many adoptees.

In a personal capacity, Hilbrand Westra

Original Dutch

ADOPTIE IS #POLITIEK (Tammy Chu)
Een internationaal hoofdpijn dossier

Vanochtend stond er een artikel over #adoptie in dagblad Trouw van Sam van den Haak.

Het is hoopvol om te zien dat er sinds (1989) mijn kritische tegenwicht in het adoptiedebat, steeds meer geadopteerden opstaan die in deze voetsporen lijken te volgen. En alhoewel ik mij uit dit schimmige, en bij tijden gevaarlijke, politieke domein van adoptie teruggetrokken heb, moet ik toch een kanttekening plaatsen bij het telkens in bescherming nemen van #adoptieouders door veel van deze #geadopteerden. Deze adoptieouders zwijgen telkens als het graf en het lijkt erop dat ze deze ‘storm’ wederom uitzitten.

Maar waar Van den Haak het over wensouders heeft, gaat het eigenlijk tegelijkertijd over haar #adoptieouders. En het klopt feitelijk ook niet helemaal dat adoptieouders niet op de hoogte waren, of hadden kunnen zijn dat er wellicht van alles mis was met interlandelijke adoptie, het juridische jargon voor overzeese internationale adopties.
Een beetje wensouder die zich verdiept had in de materie had kunnen weten dat er in de meeste gevallen er op z’n minst een luchtje aan zat. Nu wordt het door hen vooral afgeschoven op overheden en adoptiebemiddelaars. Organisaties die opvallend genoeg vaak juist zijn opgezet door en vanuit adoptieouders. Hoe dan?

#STOCKHOLMSYNDROOM

Ik snap wel dat vele geadopteerden als de dood zijn om hun adoptieouders te bekritiseren. Want dat is in veel gevallen wel hun laatste strohalm als het om een tastbaar #gezin gaat. Maar zonder deze 30.000 adoptieouders in Nederland zaten we nu niet met de gevolgen. En als al die adoptieouders het inderdaad zo goed met ons gemeend hadden, waarom zwijgen ze dan telkens massaal en weigeren ze bij de Nederlandse overheid verhaal te halen en deze te dwingen betere voorzieningen te treffen voor geadopteerden?

Intussen werd er door het Ministerie van Justitie een operatie rookgordijn opgezet door een zogeheten landelijk overleg te organiseren wat duizenden euro’s koste met externe consultants die nauwelijks tot geen vooronderzoek hadden gedaan om de zweem te creëren dat er sprake zou zijn van onbevooroordeeldheid en ruimte voor medezeggenschap. Tijdens een van die eerste rondes in Utrecht, schetste ik de uitkomst al. Door het ministerie werd dat weggewuifd als incorrect en te voorbarig. Honderden uren zaten er in voor deelnemers aan deze bijeenkomsten, maar uiteindelijk kreeg ik gelijk. Geen geld voor geadopteerden voor zaken zoals Van den Haak bepleit, maar een twijfelachtige loketfunctie voor adoptienazorg.
De hele operationele uitvoering en geld gaat naar het Fiom in Den Bosch dat ook een discutabele reputatie in de adoptiegeschiedenis er op nahoudt.

De hele exercitie van het MVJ had ons dus bespaart kunnen blijven en het geld wat daarmee gemoeid ging naar geadopteerden kunnen gaan. Maar zoals wel vaker, logica ontbreekt op dit soort dossiers, en dat frustreert menige geadopteerde.

Op persoonlijke titel, Hilbrand Westra

Adoptee Fear and Vulnerability

by Oleg Lougheed, adopted from Russia to the USA. Founder of Overcoming Odds.

I missed my birth family.

I wanted to see them again.

But, it wasn’t possible anymore.

Instead, I had to settle for what was.

The phone.

Me, hearing their voice as it traveled thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

A voice that was filled with elements of fear and love.

Them, hearing my voice.

Reassurance of me being alive and that things were going well.

The wait between the calls was tough to handle.

Each call brought up many emotions.

Emotions I wasn’t prepared to deal with.

I wasn’t taught how to be with my emotions while living in Russia.

Part of me wanted to try something new.

I turned to my adoptive parents.

Yet, every time I’d turn my shoulders and open my mouth, it would immediately close.

I felt that sharing those emotions with them would make them feel less than or as if they did something wrong.

So, I kept them to myself.

Hidden, depths below the surface.

Invisible.

It wasn’t until some time later, I was able to share what I was going through.

The narrative that I believed in, making my parents feel less than or as if they did something wrong, wasn’t serving me anymore.

I broke down while sitting in my bedroom with my adoptive mom by my side.

Looking back at it, she played a huge role in helping me understand how to feel and talk about what I felt.

Her choosing to listen to me made me feel safe.

Her words after I was done sharing provided the much needed comfort and reassurance that was okay to feel how I felt.

Her curiosity in me and about me became a stepping stone in helping me feel for years to come.

For more from Oleg, watch his TedX talk, Overcoming Odds
Follow him at Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn @overcomingodds

Colin Cadier at The Hague Special Commission

by Colin Cadier, adopted from Brazil to France, President of La Voix des Adoptés
Presentation at Session 1, Day 1: Voices of Adoptees Panel

Mesdames et messieurs les représentants des Etats signataires, les délégués et représentants d’associations, d’autorités nationales ou internationales,

Je salue cette espace d’expression ouvert aux acteurs de la société civile, et notamment nous Personnes Adoptées, concernés directement par le sujet qui nous mobilise aujourd’hui et les jours à venir. Je tiens à remercie particulièrement Lynelle LONG (InterCountry Adoptees Voices) pour avoir invité La Voix des Adoptés à se joindre à sa délégation, et également le Bureau Permanent, en la personne de Laura MARTINEZ avec qui j’ai eu l’occasion d’échanger de nombreuses fois, notamment ces dernières semaines pour nous aider à préparer ce panel.

Je m’appelle Colin CADIER, je suis né en 1980 à Recife (Brésil), adopté à 15 jours par un couple Français dits “expatriés”, je réside aujourd’hui à Marseille (France) où je travaille dans l’administration territoriale en lien avec l’international… Je suis binational (franco-brésilien), tricullturel (franco-sudamericain) et quadrilingue (si je me permets de compter l’anglais). 

Depuis 2019, je suis le Président de La Voix Des Adoptés, une association de droit français, existante depuis 2005 qui agit sur tout le territoire (avec des antennes à Paris, Lille, Lyon, Tour, Marseille) en lien avec de nombreux pays (Brésil, Colombie, Guatemala, Roumanie, Vietnam, Bulgarie ) qui participe aux réunions collégiales d’un organe consultatif traitant particulièrement des sujets liés à l’adoption internationale (aux côtés d’autres associations) et intervient par les témoignages de ses bénévoles auprès d’associations partenaires qui accompagnent notamment les parents/familles candidates à l’adoption. Outre les Groupes de Paroles, et les événements culturels ou conviviaux organisés par la quarantaine de bénévoles investis, nous animons une WebRadio, développons un Jeu pédagogique sur l’adoption et nous travaillons conjointement avec notre Autorité Centrale qui a participé à notre récent séminaire annuel de formation de nos bénévoles, l’Association Racines Coréennes (de 10 ans notre aînée), le SSI France, l’AFA, la Fédération EFA et bien d’autres associations nationales ou locales, en France ou à l’étranger.

Au regard des nombreuses demandes que nous recevons des personnes adoptées faisant des recherches sur leurs origines, force est de constater qu’en l’absence d’un référentiel mondial reconnu par les autorités des Etats concernés, un certain nombre de personnes nées dans certains pays puis recueillies dans des foyers d’un autre pays – au cours des dernières décennies du siècle passé, rencontrent des difficultés à accéder aux informations sur leur famille de naissance, ou sur les circonstances de leur naissance jusqu’à leur arrivée dans leur nouveau foyer… Rédiger et adopter ce nouveau texte en 1994 qui a été ratifié progressivement par un très grand nombre d’Etats soucieux d’établir un cadre structuré sur les conditions spécifiques pour “donner une famille à un enfant” (tout en veillant à respecter le meilleur intérêt de l’enfant), a constitué une avancée majeure. Quant aux modalités d’application dudit texte, chaque Etat signataire en la responsabilité au regard de sa législation et de ses politiques publiques en matière de protection de l’enfance… La diversité des situations socio-politico-économiques des Etats, du rôle des différents acteurs publics ou privés, impliqués, démontrent qu’il demeure encore des points à améliorer.

La convention de La Haye prévoit bien des dispositions concernant les informations détenues par les autorités sur les origines de l’enfant et leur accès avec des conseils appropriés (articles 30 et 31), mais un certain nombre de personnes adoptées devenues adultes recherchent des informations sur leur origine et se heurtent à des fins de non recevoir. Les motifs peuvent être très variés, selon la date, le lieu de naissance et les conditions dans lesquelles la procédure d’adoption s’est déroulée, il existe souvent un écart voire un fossé entre les informations disponibles et celles recherchées par les personnes adoptées dans leur enfance.

C’est pour cette raison que nous, association d’adoptés et EFA (association de parents adoptants/adoptifs), avons adressé un courrier aux trois ministres de tutelle de l’autorité centrale française pour demander la mise en place d’une commission d’experts indépendants dans le but d’éclairer sur des pratiques qui malheureusement laissent AUJOURD’HUI des personnes sans réponses à leurs questionnements. Et pourtant, ces adoptés n’ont d’autre choix que de se tourner vers les autorités compétentes (les autorités centrales et celles intervenant dans la protection de l’enfance) pour tenter d’obtenir des clarifications ou des explications.

Il est vrai que dans le cadre de la récente réforme engagée par le gouvernement français concernant les structures en charge des politiques publiques de protection de l’enfance, notre association a été invitée à prendre part aux instances de gouvernance de la nouvelle entité en cours d’installation. Nous sommes très reconnaissants de cette place qui nous est accordée d’autant plus que nous comptons apporter notre savoir “expérienciel” sur les questions liées à la Recherche des Origines et la mise en place de dispositifs d’accompagnement (administratif, socio-psychologique) ou d’assistance juridique pour les personnes adoptées, et idéalement avec des mécanismes (ou instruments) de coopération avec les autorités compétentes (centrales) des pays dits de naissance.

Nous espérons voir la nouvelle structure se doter des moyens nécessaires pour pouvoir répondre à la demande des personnes adoptées. Il est à noter que de nombreuses personnes adoptées (aujourd’hui adultes, majeures révolues) correspondent à des adoptions qui ont eu lieu avant 1993, comme en témoignent les statistiques (puisque le nombre d’enfants nées et adoptées à l’étranger a diminué de façon progressive mais plutôt significative au fil des années jusqu’à nos jours – passant de plusieurs milliers par an à quelques centaines). Même si pour la plupart des adoptions qui ont eu lieu à partir des années 2000, les données sont disponibles et accessibles, il n’en demeure pas moins un besoin d’accompagnement au moment notamment où la personne adoptées exprime son souhait éventuel de retrouver les membres de sa famille de naissance… Certaines autorités centrales se proposent de faire le nécessaire, d’autres sont démunies ou ne disposent pas des moyens légaux, humains, matériels ou financiers nécessaires… Enfin le paysage des structures privées lucratives ou non lucratives n’en n’est pas moins varié : des personnes peu scrupuleuses ou malveillantes, aux bénévoles dévoués mais pas forcément “préparées” ou outillées pour faire face à des situations humaines complexes voire dramatiques, sans oublier la barrière de la langue… Tout cela nous conduit aujourd’hui à attirer votre attention Mesdames et Messieurs sur cette réalité: Comment orientons nous les personnes adoptées qui sont notamment plus âgées que vos respectifs organismes (créés à partir des années 2000), ou celles qui rencontrent encore, dans certains cas, des difficultés à trouver les informations sur leurs origines ? 
Dialoguer, coopérer et proposer des actions conjointes, constituent un moyen possible et positif pour permettre d’avancer, de répondre aux besoins des personnes adoptées ou des associations qui comptent sur le pouvoir d’intervention des autorités compétentes.

Je Vous remercie pour votre écoute et vous souhaite des échanges riches au cours au cours des prochains jours.

English Translation

Ladies and gentlemen, representatives of the signatory States, delegates and representatives of associations, national or international authorities,

I welcome this space of expression open to the actors of civil society, and in particular to us Adopted Persons, directly concerned by the subject that mobilizes us today and in the days to come. I would like to thank in particular Lynelle Long (InterCountry Adoptees Voices) for inviting La Voix des Adoptes to join her delegation, and also the Permanent Bureau, in the person of Laura Martinez with whom I have had the opportunity to exchange many times, especially in the last few weeks to help us prepare this panel.

My name is Colin CADIER, I was born in 1980 in Recife (Brazil), adopted at 15 days by a French couple called “expatriates”, I now reside in Marseille (France) where I work in the international territorial administration. I am bi-national (Franco-Brazilian), tri-cultural (Franco-South American) and quad-lingual (if I allow myself to count English).

Since 2019, I am the President of La Voix Des Adoptés, an association under French law, existing since 2005, which acts on the whole territory (with branches in Paris, Lille, Lyon, Tour, Marseille) in connection with many countries (Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Romania, Vietnam, Bulgaria ), which participates in the collegial meetings of a consultative body dealing particularly with topics related to international adoption (alongside other associations) and intervenes through the testimonies of its volunteers with partner associations that accompany in particular parents/families applying for adoption. In addition to the discussion groups and the cultural or social events organised by the forty or so volunteers involved, we run a WebRadio, develop an educational game on adoption and work jointly with our Central Authority, which took part in our recent annual training seminar for our volunteers, the Korean Roots Association (10 years older than us), ISS France, AFA, the EFA Federation and many other national or local associations, in France and abroad.

In view of the numerous requests we receive from adopted persons researching their origins, it is clear that in the absence of a worldwide reference system recognised by the authorities of the States concerned, a certain number of persons born in certain countries and then taken into homes in another country – during the last decades of the last century – encounter difficulties in accessing information on their birth family, or on the circumstances of their birth until their arrival in their new home. The drafting and adoption of this new text in 1994, which has been progressively ratified by a very large number of States anxious to establish a structured framework on the specific conditions for “giving a family to a child” (while taking care to respect the best interests of the child), constituted a major advance. As for the modalities of application of the said text, each signatory State is responsible for its own legislation and public policies in terms of child protection. The diversity of the socio-political and economic situations of the States, and of the role of the different public or private actors involved, show that there are still points to be improved.
The Hague Convention does provide for provisions concerning information held by the authorities on the child’s origins and their access with appropriate advice (articles 30 and 31), but a certain number of adopted persons who have become adults seek information on their origins and are refused. The reasons may be very varied, depending on the date and place of birth and the conditions in which the adoption procedure took place, there is often a gap or even a gulf between the information available and that sought by the adopted persons in their childhood.

It is for this reason that we, the adoptees’ association and EFA (adoptive parents’ association), have sent a letter to the three ministers in charge of the French central authority to ask for the setting up of a commission of independent experts with the aim of shedding light on practices which unfortunately leave people without answers to their questions. And yet, these adoptees have no choice but to turn to the competent authorities (the central authorities and those involved in child protection) to try to obtain clarifications or explanations.

It is true that within the framework of the recent reform undertaken by the French government concerning the structures in charge of public policies for the protection of children, our association has been invited to take part in the governance bodies of the new entity currently being set up. We are very grateful for this place that has been granted to us, especially since we intend to contribute our “experiential” knowledge on issues related to the Search for Origins and the setting up of support mechanisms (administrative, socio-psychological) or legal assistance for adopted persons, and ideally with mechanisms (or instruments) of cooperation with the competent (central) authorities of the so-called countries of birth.

We hope that the new structure will be equipped with the necessary means to be able to respond to the demand of the adopted persons. It should be noted that many adopted persons (now adults, past the age of majority) correspond to adoptions that took place before 1993, as the statistics show (since the number of children born and adopted abroad has decreased gradually but rather significantly over the years until today – from several thousand per year to a few hundred). Even if for most of the adoptions that took place from the 2000s onwards, the data are available and accessible, there is still a need for support, especially when the adopted person expresses his or her possible wish to be reunited with the members of his or her birth family. Some central authorities propose to do what is necessary, others are deprived or do not have the necessary legal, human, material or financial means. Finally, the landscape of private profit-making or non-profit-making structures is no less varied: from unscrupulous or malicious people, to dedicated volunteers but not necessarily “prepared” or equipped to deal with complex or even dramatic human situations, without forgetting the language barrier. All this leads us today to draw your attention Ladies and Gentlemen to this reality: How do we guide adopted persons who are notably older than your respective organisations (created from the 2000s onwards), or those who are still encountering, in some cases, difficulties in finding information on their origins?

Dialogue, cooperation and proposing joint actions are a possible and positive way to move forward, to respond to the needs of adopted persons or associations who rely on the power of intervention of the competent authorities.

I thank you for listening and wish you rich exchanges during the next few days.

Read our earlier post: Adoptees at the Hague Special Commission

Two Reasons to Stay in Bloom

by Roxas-Chua, adopted from the Philippines to the USA; author, artist.

For many adopted people adoption is traumatic. I’m not as linear in my story-sharing because I can’t stay very long in breathing that atmosphere. I choose writing, calligraphy, and art to work on my story. Because I didn’t have a good birth, I’d like the chance to have a good death. I’m on a path rebuilding from severed shapes and invisible pieces. It’s a path where you build from your own found illuminations. It’s a place where I am an infant, a boy, and a man happening all at the same time. Writing and making art are not easy although it make look like it is. Here are truths told in two abstractions, two bruises when my senses project a location of pain inside the body. There’s no need to challenge the stories of adopted or infant-abandoned people when it doesn’t fit feel-good narratives of society and media. I ask that you listen, see, and sit with me when I open my body to you.

Listening to Little Things by Ida – https://youtu.be/pmrsYPypQ

See previous blog by Roxas-Chua: If the Moon Could be My Birthmother Now

For more from Roxas-Chua, see their podcast Dear Someone Somewhere and book Saying Your Name Three Times Underwater.

An Adoptee Shares on EMDR Therapy

by Gabriela Paulsen, adopted from Romania to Denmark.

EMDR Therapy Changed My Life!

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy for me, involved the therapist moving 2 fingers in front of my head so the eyes are moving side to side, while I was thinking about a trauma event. The stimuli can also be something I hold in my hand which is vibrating or it can be tapping done by the therapist. The eye movements help the brain to take up the trauma and reprocess it again, so it does not disturb me in daily life. During the eye movements, I sometimes had different reactions such as crying or maybe some body sensations like getting hot or fast breathing because my body experiences the trauma event again. There can many kind of different reactions and the tricky part is that I had no idea how I would react until I tried it!

In my case, I wanted to work with a trauma I had from my time in Romania as an orphan, I think it was from the orphanage, but I am not completely sure as it could also be a memory from my time in hospital.

My trauma was a memory I only got when I was sleeping and when the trauma was about to occur it felt like I might pass out and loose control. In that moment I knew that I would relive the trauma event again. I experienced the nightmare quite often as a teenager. The last time it happened, was around 10 years ago, just before I turned 17-18 years old. The trauma event felt extremely real. I was very scared and after I woke up, I was completely paralysed with fear. I had always thought this was something real, so when my therapist recommended EMDR therapy for me, I said yes and we started to work with this trauma. I only have my nightmare to work from, so it was not much. I had absolutely no idea whether I would react or not and it was actually quite difficult to think about such an old memory during the eye movements!

Session 1
On my first session of EMDR, it took a while before I started to react. I started to sit as if paralysed, I could only look straight forward and talked more slowly because it felt like I was put into a hypnotic state of mind. I then started to remember more of the trauma and I starting to breath faster even though it felt like I was holding my breath. My body was definitely starting to prepare for the trauma event memories and I felt very alert.

After that session, my brain continued to work with the trauma, which is expected. I could feel it because I was very alert, I was scared of being in a dark room and of some gloves I had because they are a symbol of a hand. During a work day, there was a potentially dangerous situation of a woman who was very threatening towards one of my colleagues, who reacted with aggression. I got extremely tense because of that and I was breathing like hell because I was ready to fight. It was a huge and shocking reaction I had and I couldn’t talk properly because of my breathing, so I had to take 5 minutes break to calm myself.

Session 2
I had problems getting my mind to go back into the trauma so my therapist and I had a short break from the eye movements to relax and help me get back into it. After a while I started to react with the paralysed / hypnotic state of mind and quick breathing but within myself, it felt silent and it appears like I am not breathing. After a while, I wanted to move my arm but directly afterwards I regretted this because I immediately felt like I did something wrong. Later, I started to remember more, it was like a part of me was revisiting the traumatic event. It was very interesting to explore because I got new information about my trauma. After going deeper and deeper into the trauma my breathing got faster and faster and suddenly I felt like I was about to break down into tears. I continued for a few minutes more and then I stopped doing the eye movements because I got very sad, I was crying and then my breathing was changing to be very big and deep, from within my stomach. I could feel my bones in my back so much from the heavy breathing. During this, I experienced the most insane feelings inside of me whilst my tears were running freely.

I didn’t understand at the time what happened because my brain was in the present and yet my body was reliving the trauma I had experienced. It was very hard to feel the trauma again. I thought that I must have looked like a person getting raped or tortured. It was a completely insane experience and afterwards I felt very confused about what happened and I asked my therapist to explain it to me.

Afterwards, I was extremely tired and my whole body felt very heavy. My muscles in my arms felt like they had lifted something way too heavy! I was also very alert and the rest of the day and the next 3-4 days, I was in this stressful state of mind. I would feel suddenly deep sorrow and tiredness several times a day without knowing why. It was literally like something was hurting inside me several times a day and like something wanted to come out of my body but I was with family, so I worked very hard to not break down and at the same time, I felt like I couldn’t get the emotions out either. It was very confusing. I also started to not like high noises and I felt scared if there where many people too close around me, like when I was on public transport. I usually do not have such problems. I was still scared of darkness and sometimes I got scared without knowing why. One of the times I was scared I was thinking about the woman who had caused my trauma.

I felt like I didn’t want to sleep after I have my nightmare about my trauma, because I was so scared!

Session 3
After 3 weeks, I was going to do EMDR again and I was very nervous and exciting about what would happened. The night before therapy I had a very short nightmare again which had not happened for around 10 years! This time, it was like I was further in the trauma event as compared to in the past, I had only ever dreamed as if I was at the beginning. In the nightmare some people were about to do something that I definitely didn’t like and I was thinking “stop”, so the nightmare ended extremely short. It felt like a few seconds but it was enough for me to feel again how I actually felt during the trauma event from years past. The next day, I was very stressed and actually scared.

During EMDR therapy session after this, I felt like my eyes were working against me, not wanting to participate. So I talked with my therapist about how I had completely closed down because of the nightmare. I didn’t have huge reactions during that session nor the next 2 sessions. In the last EMDR session, I could nearly get the image of the trauma event in my mind and I no longer felt scared – it was as if the trauma no longer affected me as powerfully as before. Between the sessions, I have felt very bad mentally but one day, it was like gone completely and I felt much happier, more relaxed and not as chronically tense. I also stopped having problems sleeping in a dark room – in the past, a completely dark room signalled that the re-lived trauma would occur.

In the past and prior to doing EMDR therapy, I would get anxiety from the outside getting dark, or having many people around me and high noises. Now all of these things are no longer a problem so I feel like I can go on living as myself once again. My friends have also told me that I seem more relaxed and most importantly, I feel a huge difference in my life!

I can highly recommend EMDR therapy for adoptees especially when it comes to trauma that the body remembers. I feel like I have healed my body and let out a terrible experience. Before EMDR therapy, I didn’t understand that my body was reliving such huge trauma all the time and how much it was impacting me.

Resources

Finding the Right Therapy as an Adoptee

Screening for an adoption competent therapist

What’s In a Name?

by Stephanie Dong Hee Kim, adopted from South Korea to the Netherlands.

Is a name just “but” a name?

The meaning of words and language is so much more than a collection of letters, signs or sounds.

Words and sounds have meaning, these are symbols, they reflect feelings and thoughts. A name expresses your identity: who are you, where are you from and who and where do you belong (to)?

Questions which don’t have an obvious answer for many adoptees and every person who is searching for both or one of their birth parents.

I was conceived and grew to be a human being in my Korean mother’s womb, as the fourth daughter of the Kim (김) family, and my parents named me Dong-Hee (동희) after I was born.

I was adopted by a Dutch family and got a new first name and also a new family name . Lately, to me this started feeling like ‘overwriting’ my identity and I don’t feel senang about that anymore.

I see myself more and more like a Korean woman who grew up in the Netherlands and has a Dutch nationality. My Korean identity is my background and forms a big part of who I am, even though I didn’t grow up in that culture.

There is a slight difference between how I feel about my first name and how I feel about my family name.

I am grateful that my adoptive parents never took away 동희 from me and just added Stephanie so that my life here would be easier. It’s still easier to have a western name nowadays, since discrimination hasn’t disappeared through the years.

I feel more and more that my blood relation and my Korean background is where I want my family name to refer to, I feel proud to be a 김 family member.

I feel less connection with the Dutch family name, because I do not share any cultural and biological family history with this name and the people wearing this name. Also, there has never been much contact nor connection with any of those family members, besides my adoptive father and -brothers.

That’s why I’ve decided to get used to what it’s like to let myself be known by my Korean names, starting with social media . Just to experience what it does to me, if it makes me feel more me and in place.

I would like people to start feeling comfortable to call me by either of my names. I think it will help me sort out which name(s) reminds me most of who I really am, makes me feel home. Maybe it’s one of them, maybe it’s both. I’m okay with all outcomes.

It’s in some way uncomfortable to me because it feels like I’m taking off a jacket and with that I’m a little exposed and vulnerable.

But that’s okay, since I have been identifying myself with my Dutch names for more than 42 years.

This was originally posted on Instagram and redacted for publishing on ICAV.

Resources

What’s In a Name? Identity, Respect, Ownership?

English
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