On 30 July, I ran our Reunión y más allá webinar, part 2 of this series in searching and reunion in intercountry adoption. I couldn’t be more proud of our 8 panelists who did an incredible job of sharing some of the nuances and complexities involved! Thank you to each of them!
Ae Ra (born in Sth Korea, raised in Belgium), Alex (born in Romania, raised in Germany and New Zealand), Jonas (born in Haiti, raised in Australia), Sam (born in the Philippines, raised in the Philippines and the USA), Maria (born in Greece, raised in the USA), Ben (born in Guatemala, raised in the USA), James (born in Colombia, raised in Australia), and Raya (born in Russia, raised in Canada).
For those who are time poor, I’ve provided a time code so you can flick to the relevant parts. For those who want a summary of our key messages, they are also included as a pdf.
00:00:00 Intro – Lynelle 00:01:32 Why this webinar 00:07:16 Introduction of panelists 00:07:22 Ae Ra 00:09:17 Jonas 00:10:33 Maria 00:11:25 Raya 00:13:10 Ben 00:15:42 Alex 00:16:52 Sam 00:20:40 James 00:23:05 Questions 00:23:15 What do you recommend in preparation for reunion? 00:23:30 Maria 00:28:33 Ben 00:32:20 Raya 00:35:25 What challenges have you faced in reunion? 00:35:42 James 00:40:22 Jonas 00:43:19 Raya 00:45:48 Ae Ra 00:49:35 Tips for a media facilitated reunion 00:50:05 Alex 00:51:34 How to deal with differences in language and culture? 00:51:51 Ben 00:55:38 James 01:01:04 What role do I want for adoptive family in / after reunion? 01:01:26 Alex 01:03:10 Jonas 01:06:34 Ae Ra 01:09:47 How do I support myself in reunion? 01:09:53 Jonas 1:11:14 Maria 1:16:12 Sam 1:21:19 How do we manage the financial requests? 1:21:42 Sam 1:23:58 Alex 1:26:12 Ben 1:29:30 What’s it been like to find answers to your questions? 1:29:41 James 1:31:58 Raya 1:34:39 Sam 1:36:52 What role should government and adoption agencies have in reunion? 1:37:12 Ben 1:39:18 Maria 1:42:49 Ae Ra 1:45:56 Closing remarks and thanks
I was born in Cali, Colombia in 1993 during the midst period of civil war, disruption, political instability known as ‘la Violencia’. This period saw the degradation and exploitation of state civil services through corruption, war and systematic racism, which in turn resulted in tremendous damage to the lives, human rights and cultural heritage of millions of Colombians, Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Colombians whom who were displaced from their tradition lands an often subject to violence and systematic oppression. As a result of these circumstances and internal corruption within the adoption industry, I was separated from my biological mother and adopted to Australia at the age of one. I have a close but complex relationship my adoptive family.
Growing up, I loved to be outside and activate like most Aussie kids at the time and spent most of my time, fishing, kicking the footy around, and riding bikes around the neighbourhood with friends.
While I was always social and enjoyed making friends, I also struggled with bullying, racism, and the spectre of isolation/identity crisis/lack of racial mirrors that many of us adoptees experience. I fondly remember finding refuge and solace in books, stories, myths, and legends, everything ranging from magical fantasies like Harry Potter and the Homer’s Iliad to biographies and the encyclopedia on the Fall of Rome.
I distinctly recall being in grade 1 and recall reading Harry Potter and afterward, daydreaming about an imaginary time when my biological family would appear in a fireplace one day, tell me I was a wizard and take me off to enrol at Hogwarts with the other Wizards.
As a child, although I recall some intense moments of isolation and loneliness, I also had a close relationship with my younger brother, immediate and extended family who always made me feel welcome and as part of the family. It is only as I entered by teenage and adult years that these relationships began to shift and change, not as a result of any ill intent but largely due to the development of my own awareness about my place in the world (or lack thereof) as a black Afro-Colombian/Afro-Australian and subsequent experiences with racism and micro-aggressions.
This tumultuous but unique start to life, in conjunction, with the lived experience of navigating the word though the lens of an Afro-Colombian/Afro-Australia male, has aided in the development of a nuanced but balanced understanding of cultural, adoption and racial politics of today’s multicultural Australia.
This lived experience, is further supplemented by an academic background in law, investigations, government, politics and international relations, the pursuit of which in retrospect and with the aid of therapy, was both my innate curiosity to learn more about the world, a desire to effect change, and my inner child seeking validation and identity through achievements.
It was during this period, that I spent a year studying and playing college basketball at Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom. Not whole lot of studying was done and the academic transcript upon return was not great but I can honestly say this was one of the best years of my life. I say this, as it was the first time in my life where I was not the only person of colour but also the first time in 21 years that I was around racial mirrors and a large Afro British/West African community. I think, in only my second week, I joined both the African and Latin American societies and immediately felt welcomed and at home.
Fast forward to 2022 and that sample feeling of what it was like to belong, in conjunction with the covid pandemic and the BLM movement, I was motivated to start to take some concrete steps to look into my own background and search for my biological family in Colombia. I really started to ‘come out of the adoptee fog’ as we tend to call it.
I joined a number of extremely welcoming and supportive online adoptee support and re-unification groups and through one of these groups, I was fortunate to connect with an extremely kind and amazing Colombian adoptee who explained further the history of illicit adoptions in Colombia and how and what documents I would need to start my search.
I diligently followed the advice provided and unearthed the limited documents I had (a birth certificate, a few medical records, abandonment certificate and adoption paperwork) and wrote a short blurb about myself with some baby and current photos. I then posted to range of reunification groups both here and in Colombia.
I was sceptical that anything would come of it especially knowing the current social and political climate of Colombia both now and at the time of my birth. I had grieved and accepted that I would most likely never find my biological family or that that they would be deceased.
Despite those initial reservations, approximately 24 hours after I had posted the search, I woke up to hundreds of messages on Facebook from people all around Colombia (nurses, doctors, private investigators and ordinary people ) offering to help or sending pictures of profiles of people who fit the description based on the information I had provided.
One of the groups who reached out was Plan Angel (an adoptee led organisation that specialise in biological reunification in Colombia). They sent through Facebook the profile of a lady with the same name as the woman listed on my birth certificate. Funnily enough, this happened to be a profile I had come across in my own searches but had discounted it as the date of birth did not match my birth certificate.
Plan Angel explained they had been contacted ‘by a lady, who knew a lady, who use to baby sit children that looked like you’ and asked whether I ‘would like them to make further enquires to confirm’. With my heart in chest, I replied, ‘Of course!’ 8 or so hours later, Plan Angel called at 7am in the morning saying, ‘We have confirmed that it is your biological mother, would you like to arrange a time to speak to her’. I calmly replied yes, expecting that this meeting would occur in few days, weeks or months but to my great surprise, the lady pressed a button and in a little box at the top of my cracked iphone and for the first time in 30 years, I saw the face of my mother, this illusive woman whose face and personality I had imagined since as long I could remembered; a woman and a queen who had generously carried me around for 9 months and made me 50% of who I am. I think in that moment, even if it was for a split second, I felt at peace and knew what it was to truly have a point of reference for identity and place in this world.
As soon as we saw each other, we burst out in tears because we knew. Looking back, I can honestly say this was a call that changed my life, as I went from not knowing my place in the world, feeling culturally isolated and from a close loving but small two sibling family, to 25 minutes later being the 3rd oldest in a crazy Afro-Colombian family of 13 and finally understanding and having a sense of culturally finding home and place! Here, I was not only accepted for who I was, but I was celebrated.
Since that day, life and process of navigating the reunion process has been one wild, humbling, joyous, sad, grief filled, soothing yet erratic adventure that has really felt like the screenplay to a classic Latin telenovela. It has an unpredictable mix of horror, happiness, scandal, secrecy, crime, horror, drama, pain, love and family all mixed together.
A big part of what made this journey possible and survivable, has been the ongoing support, guidance, mentoring, exchange of shared experiences, friendship, healing education and community offered/provided by Lynelle and other adoptees through ICAV, Plan Angel as well as the wider adoptee community. It is my hope, that by sharing my tale, I am able to pay it forward, raise awareness around the realities of adoption (the need for improved support services), hopefully provide guidance and a relatable perspective to other intercountry adoptees both in general and for those who are thinking about reunification.
Click here to RSVP to ICAVs upcoming webinar on Reunion and Beyond:
The following blog series will be dedicated to our Búsqueda en Adopción Internacional series. These individual stories are being shared from our Papel de perspectiva that was also shared with our Webinar, Searching in Intercountry Adoption by Adoptee Experts..
por Desiree Maru, born in the Philippines, raised in the USA
I was born in destitute poverty in the Philippines in 1985 and hence relinquished to an adoption agency on the day that I was born. I was taken care of at Asilo de la Milagrosa, in the care of Catholic nuns who were social workers at the time, and adopted via Holt International to the USA when I was about two years old. I did not know my adoptive parents, nor did they come out to the Philippines to get to know me. My name legally changed, and I was flown from an airplane and delivered to Caucasian strangers that were my legally binding family.
I grew up in Wisconsin, in the Midwest, and had an adopted brother, who was two years older than me, who was also adopted from the Philippines, from a different orphanage. We grew up not being taught about the Philippines. We grew up with a lack of pride or understanding of our home culture, heritage, customs and language. Instead we were heavily assimilated into the Western culture; we were asked a few times about our culture from our adoptive parents but it wasn’t enough support to keep us connected to our home traditions.
Barriers included a lack of being informed from our adoptive parents about our homeland, ancestry and we also lacked emotional-psychological support for intercountry adoptees in the Midwest at the time. I vaguely remember a time when my adoptive mother sat me down in the living room, back in Wisconsin, she told me I was adopted, and I said, “I know,” and walked out of the living room. I went back to my bedroom to be by myself. That’s the tone of my childhood, where I was showing like I didn’t care when in fact, the whole experience was difficult for me. But I didn’t know how to reach out or talk about it to anybody.
My brother had a lot of issues and we moved to Arizona in high school to try to start over as a family. This is a time when my adoptive mother came into my bedroom and showed me my biological papers. She said she had to wait until I was 18 to give these to me, but I was close enough to the age, or something along those lines. She left, and I looked at them and I cried. I saw the name of my birth mother, and I longed to know more about her.
I imagined my birth mother a lot in those days. I wrote poetry, and it was never enough to fill the gap and missing pieces of my heart.
Obstacles in searching at the time was that my biological papers, which had been established by social workers in the Philippines, didn’t preserve much of any functional information for independently searching for family members or family history. These biological papers lacked any kind of suitable, identifiable information that preserved in any way my heritage and family tree information, which would be necessary to piece together my past without needing the very individuals to re-establish the knowledge of my heritage.
My biological papers revealed next to nothing about my father, which later on, I would find that the information that was volunteered by my birth mother was also false. But as a teenager, when all I have are these old, governmentally-certified papers from my home country, that’s all that I had. So these old-fashioned, brittle documents were my only hope, which were papers that scarcely were able to certify my birth on thin, fragile paper. I had a feeding schedule from my orphanage and a mighty, descriptive report of what I looked like and acted like as a vulnerable baby in the orphanage. And that was all I had of my entire past. These artefacts showed I was just a product of the adoption process.
I finally decided to pursue a reunion when I was in my mid-twenties. I discovered that Holt International actually had a search and reunion department, so I emailed them, and started the process. They reached out to my old orphanage, Asilo de la Milagrosa, and the kind social workers there had found my files. They also went themselves to the address of my birth mother, and thankfully, she still lived there. From that point, they coordinated with her.
I planned a trip to the Philippines with barely enough funds to cover this at the time. It was difficult because my adoptive mother wasn’t supportive at all, and nobody from my adoptive family supported me either. But in a few months, I was able to create an itinerary. I was to leave Seattle, to the Philippines, and I was given a place to stay with the Intercountry Adoption Board of the Philippines, and later, Asilo de la Milegrosa had guest quarters too.
The cost of a reunion is plenty. The cost of travel is hefty. But the main cost to consider is the toll of what you’re undergoing psychologically and emotionally. You’ve spent all your life fabricating an identity away from this place, and now you’re returning, and you’re having to break out of that safety net to acknowledge and face parts of your past that had been concealed all this time. So it is disruptive to the security in our lives. It is a risk one takes as well, because you don’t know the results, and how you’ll process the experience post-reunion either.
The outcome of this search was that I was unknowingly able to have a reunion granted for me, with my birth mother and half-birth brother, due to all of these circumstances leading up to this being uniquely favourable and available to me at the time.
My reunion was in 2012, and it is now 2023 and I’m living on my own in Indiana. My adopted brother recently passed away last year, homeless on the streets of the Philippines, in 2022. He lacked much needed support throughout his whole life, which will always weigh on me, and I miss him everyday. I don’t talk with my adoptive family anymore, although I had kept in touch with my adoptive parents and grandparents mainly. I just have one surviving adoptive grandfather now as well, so life has changed even in their circumstances.
After experiencing the whole search and reunion process, I do have my own perspectives to share. I think what is needed is that every adoption company and governmental organisation should have a search and reunion department for all adoptees to utilise.
Every adoption agency and birth country of an orphaned or vulnerable child should be collecting all of their biographical informationincluding family trees and family members, so that they can have the knowledge of their past to utilise for their own personal purposes. Adoptees should have a right to have their family history preserved and safeguarded, administratively. Their biographical information, including birth information and birth records, needs to be preserved as best as possible, and social workers should make sure that all information is accurate and not in fact made up.
This biographical information is what holds the last of an adoptee’s own cultural identity and historical background, and even medically, this is paramount. This information could give a sense of security and psychological support if anything, which could save society a lot of issues in the long run. It would hold well in the search and reunion process because the more information adoptees are given, the more options adoptees have for meeting or getting to know their home countries in ways that are comfortable for them.
Supportive resources include the adoption agencies free search and reunion administrative support, biological paper filing and holding for the adoptee; it is giving an adoptee full access to their records at any time as well. Intercountry adoption boards or agencies of the home country, and the orphanage that the adoptee was cared for at, all need to be officially accountable. They all need to have proper records of the vulnerable child, and proper process and procedures for the search and reunion. Support should be accessible on a regular basis.
There should be rapid communication readily available for adoptees today such as having proper email addresses, current phone numbers and customer service at hand. Support should be granted such as places to stay when the adoptee visits the home country and on a reunion; they should be informed of the reunion process, given counselling support, translator support, and if someone can document the reunion for the adoptee, that could help too.
Now in 2023, after all these years of living life, pursuing therapies, working and becoming the owner of my own life, I’ve decided to start a new chapter of my search and reunion by requesting a MyHeritage DNA Kit for starting an initial search for biological relatives, and to also learn about my DNA heritage, and where I come from. This DNA kit was free due to the program in place recently, which was why I’d participated in requesting this kit.
The difference in this is that before, I would say, I experienced more of a direct line to my poverty-stricken past at Asilo de la Milagrosa, where in my mid-twenties, I met my birth mother and half birth-brother in 2012. Now, it is simply nice to search in a more discovery-toned, self-paced way, versus having to respond to a critical need to grasp the truth of what happened to me as a vulnerable baby and understand why my mother gave me up when I was born.
In this DNA search, I don’t have to ask too many hard questions, although even to this day, some questions can still linger in my mind from time to time: Why didn’t my biological family contact me all this time? Why wasn’t I able to mend the fabric of my biological family history at a certain point in my life? And, why did my past have to be such a void?
The following blog series will be dedicated to our Búsqueda en Adopción Internacional series. These individual stories are being shared from our Papel de perspectiva that was also shared with our Webinar, Searching in Intercountry Adoption by Adoptee Experts.
por Huyen Friedlander, born in Vietnam, raised in the USA
On Sunday, I learned that my birthfather had died. I’m still sifting through how that feels, a unique kind of loss of a parent. Even though we reunited over 20 years ago, there was still a lot left unspoken, and maybe a lot that we didn’t know or understand about each other. We met in-person twice. The first time was shortly after 9/11. I had his contact information for almost a year, but I wasn’t ready to reach out. Knowing that he lived in New Jersey, so close to NYC where the towers fell, I felt a sense of urgency that I shouldn’t waste any more time. I called on a Friday night. I left a voicemail that my name was Huyen and that I thought he had been a friend of my family in Viet Nam. The next morning, he returned my call.
In the first few seconds of our conversation, I said my name again, said who my birthmother was and said, “I think you may be my birthfather.” Immediately, without any hesitation, he said, “I think I am, too.” That was an enormous gift to me. No denial. No defensiveness. “I thought you and your mother had died.”
He had been told by an army connection that my mother had died trying to make it to Thailand, and that I had died in the Babylift crash. He said he had wanted to marry my birthmother, but wasn’t allowed to because her family had originally been from the North.
It felt so surreal to finally have this information, a little window into what had happened. Within a few weeks, I was headed to the East Coast with my adoptive father, my husband and my 17-month-old son in tow. I was about two months pregnant with my daughter at the time. My birthfather and his wife greeted us at a restaurant, with a hug and flowers in hand. After dinner, they were gracious and invited us home for cannoli and a chance to visit more.
At the house, I was excited to meet my half-sister, who was also the mother of a young son. My birthfather brought out a photograph of me, probably at about 2 years old, a pristine copy of a tattered photo that my birthmother’s sister had held on to for 20 years in Viet Nam. We never did DNA testing; this picture that they had both saved was proof enough. My birthfather also gave me a gold cross that my birthmother had given to him before he left Viet Nam, to protect him on his way home. Similarly, when my birthmother took me to the Friends of the Children of Viet Nam in Saigon to relinquish me, she had put a St. Christopher’s medallion on a string and tied it tight around my neck, to protect me in my new life. Giving me the photograph and the cross felt generous and thoughtful.
Over the next decade, we checked in periodically by letters or telephone. By the time we would meet in person again, I was widowed, a single mother of two young adolescent children. Having lost my husband, I again felt some urgency in making sure that my kids would meet their biological grandfather. And again, my birthfather was gracious in saying yes to my request. Our visit was sweet and the kids thought he and his wife were fun and kind. Before we left, my birthfather gifted us with an ornate serving set that he had brought back with him from Viet Nam.
Following that visit, much of our communication happened through Facebook, with occasional comments on each other’s posts. Facebook allowed us to see aspects of each other’s lives in a very natural way. I got a tiny idea of his sense of humour, his love of fishing and model trains. Facebook also happens to be the primary way that I maintain contact with my birthmother; we FaceTime and she sees my posts and photographs.
I didn’t want to post anything about my birthfather’s death on Facebook until I had the opportunity to FaceTime my birthmother in Viet Nam to let her know. During that initial visit with my birthfather in 2001, he told my dad that my birthmother had been his first love. This was a gift to hear, even knowing the sad outcome for them, because in some way it validated my birthmother’s faith that he would come back for us. She waited for eight years.
In my reunion video with my birthmother (five years before I found my birthfather), we are sitting at my grandparents’ dining room table. She is beaming at me, with an arm around me, and laughing, she says, “Beaucoup love made you! Yeah, beaucoup love made you.” When she looked at me, she saw him. She’d point to my features and say, “Same! Same!” It seemed to bring her joy, to see him in my face.
I was nervous to call her tonight to tell her the news. I asked my dear friend Suzie to join the call to help translate. I spoke in English, “My birthfather has died. X died. I am so sorry.” And immediately, she let out a mournful cry. Even though my birthmother eventually married and had five more children—the foundation and joy of her life—my birthfather held a special place in her heart as her first love. For a year in their young lives, they had loved each other a lot.
Suzie helped to translate the details that I’ve heard before. It was wartime. There was nothing they could do to be together. 50 years later, my birthfather’s passing is a loss to my birthmother. As a devout Catholic, she is praying for him now. There was a lot I didn’t know about my birthfather, and I would still like to know more, but I can also be at peace with what I know.
For now, I’m staying grounded in the gratitude that I feel for having found him, gratitude that he recognised me, and gratitude for the opportunities that I had to connect with him and his family. I’m saying a prayer for his wife and family as they navigate this loss.
Coming Next: Searching for my family in South Korea
The following blog series will be dedicated to our Búsqueda en Adopción Internacional series. These individual stories are being shared from our Papel de perspectiva that was also shared with our Webinar, Searching in Intercountry Adoption by Adoptee Experts.
por Jose Taborda, born in Colombia, raised in the USA
In the spring of 1978, I was born in Medellin, Colombia. Separated from my first family by adoption, I was brought by my adoptive parents to New Jersey and grew up with my younger adoptive sister in a Northern New Jersey suburb just outside of New York City.
I was lucky as an adoptee because my adoptive parents made a conscious decision to talk to me about my adoption from an early age. They attended a couple of workshops about adopting a child offered by an adoption agency prior to my adoption where they had been counselled to inform me as soon as possible about my adoption so as to normalise it for me. This advice informed their approach in terms of collecting information and artefacts of my adoption. This included stories of my adoption in Colombia in the form of journal entries written by my adoptive mother, a photograph of my first mother, and my adoption records containing identifying information about my first mother.
Upon refection, it wasn’t just luck and good advice, my parents were compassionate people who made the decision to share what they knew about my origins with me throughout my life. They had the right instincts that led them not only to send me a dossier containing every artefact about my adoption while I was in college and I first expressed an interest in searching, but also to support my search when I began.
When I moved to New York City in my mid-twenties, I started searching. At the time, I had a Yahoo! Email account and noticed that it offered searchable interest groups. There was a group called Colombian Adoptee Search and Support (CASAS), which gathered many people like me: twenty-something Colombian adoptees who grew up around New York City and living in the area! I was shocked to find hundreds of people who were sharing resources about searching, so I started making connections and attending meetups and dinners in Brooklyn and Manhattan where we enjoyed sharing stories and Latino fare.
Through these meetups, I had gotten the contact information of a private investigator in Medellin with whom I started to interact about my search. Because I had identifying information about my first mother, it took him two weeks to find her. A couple weeks after that, I had my first phone call with her. As one can imagine, finding my first mother within a month of beginning my search was all a whirlwind and very overwhelming. My excitement got the best of me, and I dove right into making plans for a reunion. Well, all of this came as a shock to my adoptive mother and sister, who weren’t as excited as me. They felt threatened by my news. I remember spending a lot of time convincing them that I wasn’t trying to replace them, but rather, it would be an opportunity to learn about my origins. They were not convinced that it was so simple. Searching for first family by adoptees may bring up many past trauma wounds for all members of the adoption constellation. I have heard stories of adoptees shying away from doing any searching while their adoptive parents are still alive due to the raw emotions around adoption that are very rarely acknowledged and dealt with during an adoptive family’s time living together. And when the possibility of a reunion arises, adoptees may find themselves having to reckon with these complicated emotions. This reckoning is not our responsibility as adoptees, but it may be an unanticipated and unwelcome reality that adoptees must face when searching and reuniting with first family.
Coincidentally, the film “Las Hijas” was going to be screened. It was timely that Maria Quiroga, a local filmmaker, was releasing the film profiling three female Colombian adoptees and their reunions with first family. So I invited my mother and sister to join me. It was an interesting experience because the filmmaker handled the subject matter responsibly in presenting the reality of how complicated reunions between adoptees and first family can be. It helped to see this objective perspective on the emotionally charged situation that was playing out for us. It provided a context for our sensitive conversations, and it helped us to understand that we were not the only ones experiencing the feelings we were. Despite all of that, we continued to have conversations that required my soothing their frayed feelings around my upcoming reunion.
One thing that stands out for me now sixteen years later as I reflect on my reunion as a young man, is that I did not pursue any mental health support to guide me on that complicated endeavour. In my local adoptee community, the discussion was more centred on the topic of search and reunion in my memory and not as much on adoption mental health issues. However, I acknowledge there is a high likelihood my antenna wasn’t tuned to that particular signal, so to speak. More recently, I have read a lot of highly-respected literature about adoption and mental health including La herida primordial by Nancy Verrier and Viaje del yo adoptado by Betty Jean Lifton to name a couple of outstanding examples. I am a regular listener to adoptee podcasts including Adoptados en with host Haley Radke and Adaptado with host Kaomi Lee among others. I have met many adoptees and I am lucky to live close to an adoptee organization called Also Known As, Inc. that hosts meet ups for transracial, intercountry adoptees. Wise adoptees and adoption professionals these days counsel adoptees who are engaged in reunion to set some boundaries that include having a third-party present during reunion meetings, not staying with first family right away, and pursuing therapy before, during, and after reunion. I did none of those things.
All of this gathering of resources and self-education on the intersection of adoption and mental health has demonstrated to me that I took a very impetuous, uninformed, and quite risky path on my reunion journey. I stayed with my first mother and her family for three weeks at their home in an outlying municipality of Medellin. I do have very positive memories from my first visit in 2006 that led me to return in the two subsequent years. However, somewhere down the line some members of my first family started to develop expectations that involved money. It was not much at first, but, with time, their boldness grew. This expectation made me uncomfortable because I didn’t want to have to explain to any of them that I am a professional in a field that is not very highly-compensated. To them, I was just the more fortunate one who was able to escape their humble circumstances. No matter how difficult my personal situation was, they are right that I had many more opportunities in the U.S. than they did in Colombia, but I did not feel that it was my responsibility to have to provide for them. I wanted to just get to know them knowing that it would take time to develop a family bond. Truly, I faced hard feelings when they asked for money and that made things very confusing for me. While I know that my experience is not unique, I wished that it wasn’t part of my reunion story. At some point, I stopped contacting them because it all became too much for me. This is where an intervention such as adoption-focused therapy would have been helpful.
Some years passed and I turned the page on my adoption by quite literally ceasing to think about my adoption and pausing all the actions I had taken to learn about my origins during my twenties. I turned thirty, I got married and became a new father, and I wanted to focus on my new family in Brooklyn. I was also in graduate school, so juggling responsibilities was the theme starting in 2010. Since that time, a lot has changed.
Nowadays, I am divorced, I am co-parenting a budding teenager, and I have settled into a career as a college educator. As I moved into middle-age, I became more introspective, and I found myself interrogating some difficult feelings that felt like depression and anxiety. When I realised that I did not have easy answers to that line of inquiry, I began searching for ways to remove barriers to happiness that had started showing up. It started to dawn on me that my adoption may be the cause of some of my bad decisions in life and the source of a feeling of malaise that crept in every now and again. I remember once sitting on a beach in the Rockaways with my best friend and confidant of many years and reflecting out loud that I should look into therapy for adoption to try to answer some nagging questions.
About six months after that conversation in 2021, I got around to doing some basic internet searching and was amazed by what I found. There was so much work that had been done in the intervening years since I started my search. As I previously mentioned, I went down a path of self-education, I engaged in some adoption-focused group therapy, and I have been attending online and in-person support groups made up of adoptees since that discovery. I have learned so much about myself and adoption since I started to reconnect to my adopted-self. Some of it has been difficult, but I am very happy to have opened myself up to feel, meditate, inquire, grieve, and build community. It is cliche, but I wish I knew during my reunion and prior what I know now.
In short, I hope that adoptees who are on the bold path of searching and reuniting with first family will take careful, well-informed steps. I know from my experience that there are no easy answers, and reunion may be when many hard questions rise to the surface. However, that search for the discovery and recovery of self and identity is worth it all because even if one does not find first family, there is so much to learn about oneself along the way.
I hope that adoptees take the time to explore all of the particular intersections of adoption and mental health including, but not limited to, the Primal Wound theory, the post-traumatic stress implications of adoption, ambiguous loss, and the Adoptee Consciousness Model. Most definitely read the two books by Verrier and Lifton previously mentioned. Check out Damon Davis’ podcast Who Am I Really?, and the two others previously mentioned. Read JaeRan Kim’s brilliant blog Mono de Harlow. If looking for a therapist in the U.S., check out Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker’s adoptee therapist directory curated on her website Grow Beyond Words. If one does not have the money to pursue therapy, there are plenty of books, podcasts, and support groups that could provide information and resources helpful in informing decisions around searching, finding, and reunion with first family. Just start checking out all of the amazing resources on Lynelle Long’s comprehensive treasure of a website Voces de los adoptados entre países. Search on Facebook for a group you can join that holds online support groups, or, even better, search for a local group in your area to meet up in person with adoptees. A great place to search for a local group in the USA is on Pamela A. Karanova’s website Adoptees Connect.
The above is just a cursory glance at some of the most salient resources I have found that have nourished my soul as I step into more consciousness about my adoption on my journey of self-discovery. My greatest hope is that someone reading these words may find something in them to hold onto.
El 23 de abril de 2023, ICAV llevó a cabo un seminario web de panel para brindarle la experiencia de nuestros profesionales de búsqueda en todo el mundo, compartiendo sus mejores palabras de sabiduría sobre qué considerar al realizar una búsqueda en adopción internacional. Representaron directamente a organizaciones de personas adoptadas de Sri Lanka, Etiopía, Corea del Sur, Haití, Colombia y Grecia.
Vea el seminario web aquí: Nota: si está viendo en Chrome, haga clic en el botón Más información para ver el video
código de tiempo
Para aquellos que tienen poco tiempo y quieren saltar a las secciones que son relevantes, aquí hay un código de tiempo para ayudar:
00:20 Introducción, Bienvenida, Propósito 04:30 Introducción de panelistas 04:39 Marcia Ángel 06:48 Rebecca Payot 09:29 Jonas Desír 10:25 linda carol trotón 12:55 kayla curtis 15:22 Hilbrand Westra 17:44 Benoît Vermeerbergen 21:00 Celin Fassler
Preguntas y respuestas
23:28 ¿Qué implica el proceso de búsqueda general? – Kayla 27:30 ¿Qué deben hacer los adoptados para prepararse? – Linda, Marcia 35:51 ¿Cuáles son algunos de los resultados? – Jonás, Kayla, Linda 46:50 ¿Algunas posibles barreras a esperar? – Rebeca, Linda 56:51 ¿Qué ética considerar? – Marcia, Kayla 1:06:40 ¿Cuánto debería costar una búsqueda? – Rebecca, Linda, Celín 1:11:46 ¿En quién confiar? Hilbrand, Jonas 1:16:16 ¿Qué temas considerar en las pruebas de ADN? – Benoît 1:19:18 ¿Qué resultados pueden tener las pruebas de ADN? – Benoît 1:20:40 ¿Qué pruebas de ADN recomienda? Benoït, Marcia 1:23:51 ¿Cuáles son las ventajas de usar una organización de búsqueda dirigida por adoptados? – Celín, Marcia 1:28:28 ¿Qué implicó convertirse en una organización de búsqueda financiada por el gobierno? – Celín 1:30:36 ¿Qué es lo que más se necesita de los gobiernos para ayudar a los adoptados en nuestra búsqueda? -Hilbrand, Marcia
Resumen de mensajes clave
Hacer clic aquí para un pdf de nuestro Mensajes clave de cada panelista
Muchas gracias a los 26 adoptados que querían compartir sus experiencias de búsqueda para que otros puedan obtener una comprensión más profunda. Representan experiencias de 13 países de nacimiento (China, Colombia, India, Malasia, Marruecos, Perú, Filipinas, Rumania, Rusia, Corea del Sur, Sri Lanka, Tailandia, Vietnam), enviadas a 9 países de adopción (Australia, Bélgica, Canadá, Francia , Alemania, Escocia, Suecia, Reino Unido, EE. UU.).
En 2016, ICAV compiló el primer recurso del mundo de nuestras experiencias vividas, las voces que comparten los altibajos de la búsqueda y los reencuentros, específicos de la adopción internacional. No existía tal recurso como este antes y, sin embargo, como adoptados, uno de nuestros mayores desafíos a lo largo de nuestra vida es contemplar si queremos buscar, qué implica y descubrir cómo hacerlo. Quería proporcionar una forma de abordar estas preguntas, por lo que les pedí a los adoptados de ICAV que compartieran sus experiencias, centrándose en las lecciones aprendidas después de mirar hacia atrás. También les pedí que compartieran qué podrían hacer las autoridades y las organizaciones para apoyarnos mejor en nuestro proceso de búsqueda y reencuentro. Publiqué nuestro documento de perspectiva en inglés y francés y terminó siendo un documento (libro) de 101 páginas que cubre las experiencias de los adoptados de 14 países de nacimiento, adoptados en 10 países adoptivos.
Dado que uno de los temas centrales de discusión en la reciente Comisión Especial de La Haya es el apoyo posterior a la adopción, sentí que era oportuno volver a compartir nuestro documento y proporcionar un resumen de lo que captura para aquellos que no tienen tiempo para leer el 101 páginas y para el beneficio de las Autoridades Centrales y las organizaciones de Post Adopción para aprender de nuestras experiencias.
Resumen de temas clave de 'Búsqueda y Reunión: Impactos y Resultados' por InterCountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV) 2016
Problemas y desafíos que enfrenta el uso de servicios de rastreo:
La necesidad de asesoramiento especializado es un tema recurrente en la mayoría de las historias, particularmente para preparar a los adoptados para la primera reunión, proporcionada por alguien que entiende y se especializa en adopción internacional.
Las búsquedas a menudo se realizan a través de sitios de redes sociales que pueden dejar a los adoptados vulnerables y sin el apoyo adecuado para interactuar con las familias biológicas.
Barreras y problemas de privacidad
La necesidad de acceso a los registros de nacimiento para ayudar con la reconexión del nacimiento
Varios casos mencionaron problemas con el pasaporte y las visas.
La agencia de adopción no divulgaría información de identificación sobre su familia biológica debido a la privacidad
Transparencia de los servicios y dónde acceder a ellos
Suposición de que los registros de nacimiento son precisos, a pesar de la corrupción
El sentido de 'reconstruir tu historia'
Dificultad para mantener una relación con la familia biológica debido a las barreras lingüísticas y culturales
Se necesitan leyes y procesos más estandarizados para que las agencias de adopción los sigan cuando los adoptados buscan su información.
Se aprobaron leyes para permitir que los adoptados accedan a sus archivos
Se necesita más apoyo para los adoptados en el asesoramiento y la traducción al buscar
Servicio de asesoramiento facilitado que ayudó con el proceso de búsqueda y reencuentro de principio a fin.
Listado de adoptados como mentores que han pasado por el proceso
Las historias de búsquedas de personas adoptadas y su conciliación de esas búsquedas brindarían apoyo emocional a otras personas adoptadas que estén pensando en comenzar su propia búsqueda.
Sugerencias para mejorar el apoyo a los adultos adoptados cuando buscan familias biológicas:
La documentación es la clave y la adopción abierta es la mejor manera de brindar apoyo
Una educación integral para padres adoptivos para ayudarlos a manejar los problemas de por vida para los adoptados, y asesoramiento asequible para todas las partes en el proceso de adopción, y en particular para tener acceso a este apoyo independientemente de la etapa del proceso de adopción.
Tener un trabajador social 'revisando' a las personas que son adoptadas a lo largo de sus vidas
Mantenimiento de una base de datos que permita realizar la búsqueda con acceso a otras bases de datos como nacimientos, adopciones, defunciones y matrimonios en cada país
Algunos adoptados quieren que las familias adoptivas tengan una capacitación obligatoria que los ayude a manejar los problemas de los adoptados hasta los 18 años: educación en el idioma, historia de la cultura, la importancia de tener todos los documentos, el valor de hacer visitas regulares juntos al país de origen.
Incluya la prueba de ADN del adoptado realizada, S o N en el archivo de adopción
Citas clave de personas adoptadas sobre su experiencia de reunificación:
“La adopción es un viaje de toda la vida e incluso hasta el día de hoy tengo nuevas revelaciones de mi adopción. El impacto “general” ha sido de un profundo empoderamiento que surgió de una gran angustia”.
“Aunque tuve una sesión con un muy buen psicólogo antes de mi reunión, todavía siento que había mucho más de lo que debería haberme informado. Ojalá me hubieran dirigido a otros adoptados dispuestos a compartir su experiencia de su reunión con consejos, consejos y apoyo”.
“Fue devastador para mí darme cuenta de que mi familia biológica son básicamente extraños y si quería una relación con ellos, tendría que sacrificar la vida que construí después de que me rechazaron y volver a alterar la identidad que he luchado por desarrollar, solo para encajar en sus expectativas.”
“Los mayores obstáculos para la búsqueda y el reencuentro en mi experiencia han incluido:
Ser 'turista' en mi país de nacimiento. Me resultó sorprendentemente confrontante y difícil que personas de la misma nacionalidad asumieran que yo era uno de ellos y luego tuviera que explicar mi situación adoptada.
Después de la reunión, es decir, trabajar con las consecuencias de abrir la puerta al pasado, ¡es irreversible! Debería haber estado mejor preparado y mejor apoyado para los aspectos y consecuencias posteriores a la reunión”.
“Me tomó muchos años llegar a un acuerdo adecuado y entender mi adopción después de la reunión. Sin duda ha afectado mi identidad y el curso de mi vida para bien. Mi adopción se ha convertido en algo que he aprendido a apreciar y evolucionar. Saber que mi vida debería haber terminado incluso antes de que yo naciera me ha hecho estar increíblemente agradecida y motivada para hacer algo con mi vida”.
“La herida primaria cuando se separa de las madres se ve exacerbada por el misterio de las preguntas sin respuesta”.
Para leer el Documento de Perspectiva de ICAV completo: Búsqueda y reunión: impactos y resultados en inglés o francés, vea nuestra colección de Documentos de perspectiva.
por Marie, una hija perdida por adopción de su padre chino quien compartió su historia la semana pasada: El pecado del amor
Pongo la verdad en un pedestal, pero también veo cómo ella cambia de forma, cuya forma cambia dependiendo de quién la sostiene y su estado de ánimo. En los pocos meses desde que encontré a mi padre, creo que él entendió mi necesidad de la verdad y trató de ofrecérsela. Pero esa verdad sigue cambiando a medida que mi llegada a su vida ha sido a partes iguales alegre y traumática.
Enfrentado a mí, la hija perdida que tanto anhelaba, también está reviviendo el pasado. Un pasado que ha reprimido porque era demasiado doloroso, solo con recuerdos en una sociedad que borra a los padres biológicos y su dolor, como si fuera algo que tuvieran albedrío para prevenir. No tenía un mentor sabio ni una seguridad a través de la cual procesar su dolor y pérdida, no solo de mí sino de su primer amor. Creo que la mujer que amaba murió para él cuando firmó los papeles de adopción. Aunque reconocía que probablemente ella no tenía otra opción, no podía reconciliar a esa mujer con la que amaba eternamente. Entonces, aunque tenía pistas sobre dónde estaba, nunca la buscó porque su amor seguramente se había ido: la Agnes que amaba no podría haber regalado a su hijo; al hacerlo, lo obligó a firmar también los documentos de adopción. Escondió ese dolor y entró en una vida en la que la pérdida impulsó inconscientemente sus decisiones.
Años más tarde, se casó sonámbulo. Otro embarazo haría que se comprometiera con su esposa y con otro hijo que no podía perder esta vez. Pero Agnes era una invitada silenciosa en su matrimonio y familia; ella nunca se iría, y yo tampoco.
Desde que regresé, la verdad evoluciona y cambia. Agnes ha sido inconscientemente una perpetradora, una mujer que entregó su carne y sangre y, al mismo tiempo, víctima de una madre intolerante y controladora que alteró el destino de los tres. A medida que han ido pasando los meses desde nuestro reencuentro, mi padre ha sido atormentado por el pasado: la culpa, la ira, la confusión y la pérdida lo han acosado con lo que él llama “basura flotante repentina”. Ninguno de los dos puede preguntarle a Agnes qué pasó desde su perspectiva porque murió en octubre de 2016. 4 años antes de que encontrara su obituario y 5 antes de que encontrara a mi padre y confirmara que era ella. En su ausencia, ambos luchamos con lo que sabemos, tratando de armar el rompecabezas que para mí tiene aún más piezas faltantes que gradualmente se están filtrando de los recuerdos a los que mi padre accede en flashbacks y aumentando la empatía por mi madre. Él mira, como yo, la única foto que tenemos de ella, publicada en su obituario. Es joven y sonriente y aunque sus rasgos individualmente no son los míos, de alguna manera su rostro se hace eco del mío. Me vi a mí mismo en ella, sabiendo quién era tan pronto como vi la foto.
Mientras se mueve a través de los recuerdos ahora con una lente de compasión alterada, y tal vez consciente de cómo vería a mi madre y cómo él quiere que me sienta por ella, mi padre ha revelado recuerdos que nuevamente cambian la realidad y la verdad. A medida que se acerca mi cumpleaños, las revelaciones parecen ir en aumento. En sus recuerdos, ahora ella está feliz y sonriente el día que nací. Me nombraron juntos y todo parece estar bien cuando la deja ese día. Pero una semana después lo llaman para firmar los documentos de adopción y un juez lo obliga a hacerlo cuando se niega. Nunca le daría sentido a la decisión y nunca volvería a hablar con Agnes para desentrañar lo sucedido. Su rabia y confusión la mantendrían a distancia con más éxito que su ausencia, hasta que llegué enviándome fotos mías en las que ella está siempre presente. En la última semana, pareció necesitar compartir nuevas piezas del rompecabezas, ya que él mismo lo vuelve a armar. Ahora cree que la ha hecho daño.
En su propio dolor, no podía comprender la pérdida traumática que soportó. Ayer reveló otra pieza del rompecabezas. Cuando finalmente buscó a Agnes, también encontró su obituario, por lo que buscó a su hermano, su amigo, para averiguar cómo murió. Lo que le dijeron lo llevó a creer que ella se quitó la vida. Esta noticia ha vuelto a cambiar la realidad para mí. Si bien no sé nada de su vida, solo puedo asumir que perderme fue un evento devastador que afectó para siempre su estado mental y su vida familiar.
No puedo evitar correlacionar el mes de su muerte con el aniversario de mi adopción. Sospecho que cada año mi cumpleaños en agosto provocaría un dolor silencioso y tal vez se prolongaría hasta el otoño, cuando dos meses más tarde, me fui a casa con otra familia y, en unos pocos meses, sin que mis padres lo supieran, a otro país. No sé si ella lo supo cuando dejé a la madre y al bebé en casa. No tengo claro si estuve con ella durante esos dos primeros meses de vida o si viví en el orfanato adyacente bajo el cuidado de monjas. Implacables en sus puntos de vista sobre lo que era mejor, las monjas le mintieron a mi padre cuando viajó las siete horas desde Taiping para llevarme a casa, donde su madre me esperaba, queriendo darme la bienvenida a su familia.
Lo que la Iglesia le dijo a alguien está en duda y con Agnes fuera, tal vez solo sus hermanos puedan saberlo. Es posible que compartiera algo con su segunda hija o esposo. Cuando pienso en mi hermana materna, ahora me pregunto si mi existencia también revelaría un misterio para ella. Si nunca supo de mí, tal vez su pérdida también implicó un secreto traumático perdido en la muerte y se sumó a su dolor. Sigo atascado en lo que sigue en mi búsqueda, por ahora simplemente feliz de ser parte de mi familia paterna y de todas las realidades absorbentes de conocer la familia y la cultura sin las que viví durante casi 49 años.
El deseo de conocer mis orígenes es una necesidad (y un derecho) humano innato y fundamental.
Mi necesidad de conocer mis orígenes es similar a tu necesidad de respirar el aire que te mantiene vivo.
Solo sabemos que nuestros orígenes son importantes cuando no lo tenemos o no tenemos acceso a él. Para personas como yo, ¡esta es nuestra experiencia de vida diaria!
Como adoptada internacional, vivo toda mi vida tratando de encontrar de quién vengo y por qué me entregaron / me robaron.
Es realmente difícil saber cómo avanzar en la vida si no sé cómo y por qué llegué a estar en esta situación antinatural.
¡Mi vida no empezó con la adopción! Tengo una historia genética, generaciones de personas antes que yo que contribuyeron a ser quien soy.
No podemos pretender en este mundo de adopción y formación familiar que la genética no importa, lo hace, significativamente; No soy una pizarra en blanco para imprimir; hay consecuencias a esta pretensión y se muestra en las estadísticas de nuestro tasas más altas de suicidio de jóvenes adoptados!
Una de las experiencias más compartidas entre los adoptados con los que me conecto es el tema de "sentirse completamente solo", "como un extraterrestre" y, sin embargo, los seres humanos no están destinados a estar aislados. Somos seres sociales que desean conectarse.
La separación de mis orígenes naturales y el conocimiento de estos, me dejó desconectado y perdido de manera fundamental.
Pasé mi vida tratando de reconectarme, primero con mi yo interior, luego con el yo exterior y con los que me rodean, buscando un sentido de pertenencia.
Como adoptada, se me pueden dar todas las cosas materiales del mundo, pero eso no solucionó el agujero que siente mi alma, cuando no tiene ningún lugar y nadie a quien pertenecer, naturalmente.
Mi familia sustituta no se correspondía con un sentido natural de pertenencia.
Busqué mis orígenes porque mis sentimientos innatos y la experiencia de aislamiento y pérdida me llevaron a encontrar de dónde vengo y a dar sentido a cómo llegué a estar aquí.