Greek Intercountry Adoptee Advocacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

India Abandoned Me

by Kris Rao, adopted from India to the USA, recently discovered their adoption as a Late Discovery adoptee.

I came across an Indian based podcast called The Filter Koffee Podcast hosted by Karthik Nagarajan. He sits with a guest and as he describes it, has a conversation. “The kind that leaves you richer. The kind that only coffee can bring out.”



Most recently in January of 2022, he sat down with Poulomi Pavini Shukla, a supreme court lawyer, and spoke about orphans in India. This particular episode was titled Why India’s orphans are twice abandoned?

Without getting into too many details of the podcast, here are a few key topics they went over:

  • The different schemes that have been put in place for children in need of care.
    (Government Schemes in India are launched by the government to address the social and economic welfare of its citizens)
  • The money/budget put towards orphans. Which equates to less than 1 rupee per day per child.
  • The estimated number of orphans in India as reported by UNICEF.
  • How orphanages are run and how many should be set up in each district.
  • What happens to abandoned children and their lives as orphans.
  • The differences between female and male orphans.

One of the things that struck me was the estimated number of orphans in India. According to UNICEF, there are 29.6 million orphans in India, approximately 30 million.

And as an adoptee, as one of these so-called social orphans, all I could think of while listening to this podcast was:

Why does India have 30 million orphans in the first place?

What is my country doing that is creating this problem?

What is my country doing to prevent this?

To me, it seems the biggest problem isn’t just that we have 30 million orphans in need of care, it’s that we have 60 million parents that gave up and abandoned their children. And it’s still happening. These numbers are still growing.

Where’s that conversation?

Is it because of religion, caste? What other factors are in play here?

What about reproductive justice?

I am one of the millions of social orphans to have come out of India. And it leads me to ask, is it because my existence brings “shame” upon my family the reason I am an orphan? Does my existence sully the family name?

Was my conception so problematic in the eyes of India’s society and culture that my mother felt compelled to abandon me?

I once wrote the only reason I was adopted is because society somehow failed my mother and forced her to make a decision she shouldn’t have had to in the first place.

What are we doing to change that?

From listening to the podcast, I understand helping orphans in India is vital and needs attention. Having lived in India for 11 years myself, and visited orphanages, yes, I get it.

I think it’s important that every child is taken care of. But why does that include separating them from their families? Why should a child lose all legal ties to their first and biological parents and families (including extended kin) in order to simply be taken care of?

And most importantly, what are we doing for the “social orphans” who are now adults that wish to know their true roots? Access to our ancestry, history, etc.

How can we remove this stigma and taboo I keep hearing about adoption in India?

As indicated by the title, Poulomi says that orphans from India are orphaned twice. “Once by being orphans of their parents and once by being orphans of the state or orphans of the law.”

For international adoptees like myself, it feels as though India abandoned me a third time when it sent me off to be another country’s problem.

The unfortunate and unwarranted circumstances that made me one of India’s “social orphans” put me on a path of being adopted.

And by being adopted not only did it take away my choices but it also took away my chances of finding my roots. 

For more from Kris, check out their latest blog: Kris Shares about Adoptee Anger

Follow Kris at:
Kris-404:RootsNotFound
Twitter @adoptedindian
Instagram @indianlatediscoveryadoptee

Poetry Reflects My Inner World

by Kevin Minh Allen, adopted from Vietnam to the USA.

I came to poetry late, but it surfaced in my life at a time when I needed it most. Poetry has always been a means for me to collect, investigate, and reflect my inner world, which has been undoubtedly imprinted with the indelible mark of adoption. The following poems seek not answers but to raise questions inside anyone who may be listening:

You can follow more of Kevin’s work at website: Sleep is No Comfort

Participating in The Colour of Difference: Long Term Outcomes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Painting My Infant Self

by JS Lee, adopted from South Korea to the USA, author and artist.

When I was in Korea in 2006, I traveled to Daegu to see the hospital grounds where I was supposedly found abandoned. Wandering aimlessly, I hoped for something to feel familiar, despite how decades had passed. This painting was inspired by the photo I took on my trip.

While painting my infant self there sounds pretty sad, it felt amazing—almost as if I’d traveled back in time to tell her she was now in my safe hands.

You can follow more of JS Lee’s works at her website.

Ethiopian Adoptee Anthology

by Aselefech Evans, adopted from Ethiopia to the USA.

I’m so excited to share with y’all the cover of our book, “Lions Roaring far From Home,” an anthology by Ethiopian adoptees of the diaspora, raised in the US, Canada, Australia, Belgium, France, Sweden, and the Netherlands. The cover art is by renowned Ethiopian artist, Nahosenay Negussie.

This is book is a labor of love that took us six years to produce. These stories are sacred, and they challenge the traditional narrative around adoption.

Before going into anti-racist work, my work engaged with the intersections of child welfare and transnational adoptions. I started this work at 17, talking to psychologists and social workers, pushing agencies to understand the complexities of removing children from their first families.

The National Association of Black Social Workers deemed transracial adoption as a form of cultural genocide—and we all must understand the importance of family preservation.

I consider myself a politicized family preservationist, who radically believes that transracial adoption is rooted in loss, racial trauma, and grief. I did work in Ethiopia around family preservation, demanding system accountability which would entail access to birth records and family search. It was and is life-altering work, because justice doesn’t feel tangible. So much damage was done.

Many of us are stolen children, who lost so much. While I’ll refrain from adding my political views on transracial and intercountry adoption here (you can read my views when you get the book), like indigenous people, we adoptees are stripped of our culture, language, and history, and forced to assimilate into white-dominated culture.

Ethiopians are not homogenous people. There are 86 ethnic groups with different histories, cultures, and ancestral lineages, though colonialism will tell you otherwise. “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.” .

This book is powerful for many reasons, and it beautifully integrates the perspectives of Ethiopian adoptees, ranging from ages 8 to over 50.

I pay my deepest gratitude to Korean adoptees, whose shoulders I lean on, as they were the first group of activists, calling out intercountry adoption for its imperialism, domination and corruption.

Lions Roaring Far From Home” will challenge you in the best way possible. Stay tuned for the release date, and meanwhile enjoy this beautiful cover.

I also want to thank my co-editors Kassaye and Maureen—this book would not have been possible without you. Thank you for believing in this book and for staying committed to our vision.

You can read more from Aselefech at her website EthioAmerican Daughter.

Voices Against Illegal Adoptions Speak at the United Nations

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

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

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

This is what I shared in my statement:

Good day, good evening to you all!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our goals are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resource:

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

Finding Strength in the Darkest Hour

My brother, adopted 2 years before I arrived in our adoptive home, died homeless and mentally ill in the Philippines last week. He was an intercountry Filipino American adoptee, just like me.

We don’t know what happened. He was involved with bad company. I have a feeling that the death was assisted. Neglect was involved. It was in Mindanao, in a rural area, where it’s dangerous for Americans to travel into, I hear. Real kidnappings happen there if they find out you’re American. I couldn’t go to see if this was real. The only person informing was a lady who was bad news from the start. She always asked him for money. Hounding my brother to get a hold of my adoptive mother. And she was a part of this death, taking photos of my brother days before he died homeless of suspected alcohol poisoning.

The news hit me and the grief process has been real and harrowing. I had trouble giving the news to my co-workers. The first day back at work, I cried in the last hour.

What I want to write is what I’ve learned from my life and world as a Filipino American adoptee. This life has never been easy. It hasn’t been fun. I was never comfortable with my white, adoptive family. And I had a mentally ill brother who was from my birth country, brown like me, and only two years older than me, and I loved him with all my heart.

However, he was never healthy. He was abusive to me growing up. He was mentally ill and his abuse grew to where he inflicted it on himself. And he tried to involve me with that too, so I had to have boundaries. I waited for him to get better. I thought he would, but he only got worse. And it made me feel worse as the years went on, carrying this pain. Not knowing where to put it, who to blame, why it was there.

After everything, I want to say that there comes a time when you just need to choose. Where instead of reacting as you had before, you look up and take a new breath because it’s all just gotten to be too much. You notice new details in the clouds and realize that you’re still kicking and you can’t keep having the same thoughts, or the same habits. You feel a shift. You see the need to face the adversity and want to grin in its ugly face instead. You see the need to give yourself the space to be the real you. Because there’s no going back.

I spent so many years hiding in the grief and trauma of my past and I guess I’m writing this because those times are over.

All I know, is that from here, I am going to be strong.

I honor my experience as a Filipino American adoptee with reverence. I will never be ashamed of what I’ve gone through. I will not be embarrassed of my suffering, which I caught myself feeling today, around my co-workers. I will not carry the burdens of my brother’s pain anymore either, which I had. I will love myself. I will forgive myself. I will be gentle on myself. I will no longer be so hard on myself, as before.

All this time, I’ve been carrying around the burdens of a life I never had. I held on to the pain of a love I never got to hold.

Of a family I never got to know.

But my brother died, the only person in the world that I probably ever loved. The only person in whom I ever saw to be real family. And something changed in me.

I breathe, writing this. I am alive, writing this.

I am here in the present. I have survived all of this messed up shit. Being orphaned as a baby in the Philippines. Having to traverse the American life I was given, because that’s how the cookie crumbles. We are given what we’re dealt with and you have to deal with it. You have to adjust. And sometime in adulthood, you learn the importance of being kind to yourself and others in the process because wellbeing is a part of one’s survival.

After all of this, I feel a sense of palpable resolution in the bones of my being. It is to be strong. It is to love what I have in this world today. And it is to not give up.

My resolution is to keep working. To live a healthy life. To be authentic. To live true. I am still here in this world. And I am alone, but I made it out with my faculties in tact.

I haven’t made a lot of friends on this path but I was stern in working hard, turning to a world of art, libraries and schools for an outlet.

I lead a life of reserved strength. I developed my own expression of creative media, wild in my own intellect and undertakings.

And I am just starting out in this world even at 36-years-old.

I don’t know if anyone will relate to this blog but if someone does, just know that I am never going to give up and I don’t want you to ever give up either. Because I’ve been blessed with hearing the stories of just a few of you, and having met a few of you on Christmas, and it has been something to treasure. And you are so vital in this world, you truly are.

I will believe in you and in love as I did when I was younger and I will never stop. Just the way I believed in God as I did when I was younger and I never stopped either. I won’t stop believing in the human race. I won’t stop working towards a higher purpose because that is what gets me up in the morning.

I am here today to say, that the pain and the trials and the struggles will serve a purpose in time.

There is a reason for living and you will find it.

In the darkest hour, you will find strength.

Or strength–will find you.

Read Desiree’s previous blog at ICAV: What I Lost When I Was Adopted

A Tribute and Legacy to My Sri Lankan Mother

by Nimal van Oort, adopted from Sri Lanka to the Netherlands. Founder of NONA Foundation.

About eighteen years ago, my twin brother Djoeri and I received a message from Sri Lanka that would change our lives forever. For a long time we had been looking for our mother in Sri Lanka, but the message told us that our mother had sadly passed away many years before.

The cause of her death made us sad and actually furious. She had been raped several times and was abandoned by family and the environment because she allegedly – by being raped – would have become a disgrace to the community. Because of this and the lack of protection and medical care, she died at the age of 21 .

To be fair, at that moment I really didn’t see life. Our biggest dream of ever meeting her would never come true and knowing that our mother had suffered so much injustice, I really didn’t know what to do .

I went to Sri Lanka then to be able to be at her grave. On the way – during my first days in Sri Lanka – I saw a lot of young girls who made me think of my mom. Because they were victims of sexual abuse too, they were abandoned by everyone despite their young age. These girls had no one.

When I was at my mother’s grave and my grandmother told me about her daughter’s short, but difficult life – I realised that I may not be able to help my own mother anymore, but I would out of love for her, and as tribute to her, I would start trying to help the girls of today.

Once back in the Netherlands I started preparing for this and I created the NONA Foundation. Honestly, nobody trusted my plans. Everybody told me that doing something from the Netherlands for girls and women in Sri Lanka who have no value for the society there, would be impossible. Above all, I was too young, inexperienced, and not highly educated enough to fulfil my vision .

Yes, I definitely had a vision, or actually a dream. I wish these girls and women of today never have to experience what my mother and a lot of other women went through. I wanted them to have a chance for a humane existence.

A royal award from the deputy mayor of Amsterdam. Nimal was appointed the ‘Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau’ award for his work in NONA Foundation (2020).

Today, 18 years later, we have actually been able to help over 1900 girls with shelter, care, education and empowerment facilities. Making them self-confident and independent remains our main starting point. I am also still very honoured that I have received a Royal Award in 2020 for this work and that we are also taken seriously at a high level in Sri Lanka.

What I’m most proud of is that we’ve really been able to help a lot of girls and women regain their passion for life and they’re now back in the middle of society. Most of them now have a nice family and a nice job. We are one big family in which everyone is equal: from the girls and women we help, to the board of directors, from the cleaner to the chairperson. We are one team with the same mission — to make the lives of these girls and women less risky and more meaningful; a life with freedom, justice and being treated like a human being .

Last month, a girl who needed our help badly in 2011 was appointed as a teacher with us . Isn’t this beautiful?

On Sunday 10 April, we will celebrate the NONA-Day in Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam. On this day we will share more about our work in Sri Lanka, what we have done, but also about our ongoing projects and future plans. There are also inspiring guest speakers and various singing and dance performances. There will also be another delicious Sri Lankan – Indian buffet. I personally invite you to attend this, really everyone is welcome and you can register at www.nonadag.com.

And if you cannot make it to the NONA Day celebration, but you might want to contribute to our organisation in any way, please contact us because we could really use your help.

Many special thanks to my loyal board members Djoeri, Ad, Dhilani, Shivanie, Hartini and Varishna who have been fully volunteering for our organisation for many years.

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