The Waiting Period for my Birth Certificate

I received another email from ICAB on June 28, approximately 15 days since I’d emailed a signed form requesting the retrieval of my birth certificate. This email had the subject: “Post Adoption Concern” which made my heart flutter since it sounded so serious and official. The content of this email basically said that ICAB has acknowledged my receipt for request sent on June 22.

ICAB said they would also retrieve my folder for the photocopy of my birth certificate and request the security paper copy from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). ICAB would inform me once my birth certificate becomes available.

In this waiting period, I’ve felt isolated but my life in the United States (U.S) has shifted and blossomed into new pathways. I’ve started a new job at a different school here in Northern Arizona, still close to the Navajo Reservation where I’m building a small, specialized library for K-12 grades, at a fully sustainable charter school. I finished with a mixed media art series that will be shown at a downtown restaurant on a First Friday Art Walk in August. I was able to move into a bigger room in my house for the same rental cost, so I have a more spacious bedroom now for myself and my plants.

I’ve been able to realize my dream even more–of wanting to live in Hawaii one day and work at a library there. I’ve been tweeting obsessively about the children being separated by immigration at U.S borders and forcibly brought into the U.S foster care system. Oh! And I also started wearing contacts, which has been awesome for me since I’ve had glasses all my life.

Personally, I still acknowledge there are missing pieces to the fabric of my identity in some ways. Culturally, I’m estranged. Family-wise, I still live life mostly single and wish to one day have a family for myself. But the good thing is that creatively, I’ve been able to restructure some of what I’ve lost having been orphaned as a baby. And, professionally, I’ve found the best outlet in the work that I do, as the profession I’ve chosen mixes well with the introverted personality that I’ve developed as an intercountry adoptee in the U.S.

I can’t say that everything is fine, because it isn’t. There’s much that still needs to be fought for, shared and brought to awareness. But on a positive note, I think we’re at a better place than a few decades ago when all we had was an old-fashioned mailing system to rely on. I look forward to what innovations life and the rest of our adoptee community can create, especially if we keep believing that our voices matter in this world.

Immigrant Children Being Separated and Placed into U.S Foster Care

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Since May, over 2,300 immigrant children have been forcibly separated from their parents at the Mexican border due to President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. When I watched the news, I was speechless. I was terrified for the children being placed into foster care because they don’t belong there. These children belong to families, they are wanted and certainly aren’t in need of new care. And I believe foster care should never be used in this way–their services shouldn’t be used to house children who belong to families.

How was this even made possible? I wondered.

And another thought struck. Where is this leading to?

I read recent news to find out how the funding evolved. It looks like back in 2014, the Obama Administration created a network of foster care programs back when immigrants and unaccompanied minors were crossing the Mexican-United States border. Now, in the wake of Donald Trump’s recent “zero tolerance” immigration policy, these foster care facilities are being used to house the children who were forcibly separated from their families too.

This is what shocks me. Back in May, 2014, it looks like the federal U.S government gave a US$2.28 billion budget to help set up state-licensed shelters and foster care agencies around the country, for these unaccompanied minors. From this Newsweek article, I learned that the White House established a linked network of foster care programs to cater towards these immigrant children too. Thus, now presently, these foster care programs are funded in the same way that state or county laws and regulations govern domestic foster care.

Additionally, the news article states that the children who are removed from their parents by ICE are still legally considered “unaccompanied alien children.” Because of this technicality, these children could spend an average of 51 days in a temporary shelter before they are put into sponsor homes with relatives already living in the U.S — or be placed into the U.S foster care system. And this is where my horror turns into anger since the immigrant children at the border were accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

I’m shocked because the U.S is not being truthful in its own administration–which from experience can be extremely damaging for these children in the future when they become adults. This detail is also destructively misleading, assisting children into dangerously enter the world of foster care and the adoption industry where so many risks are involved.

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My Personal Statement

As a Filipino-American adoptee, I was orphaned at birth because of destitute poverty. My birth family couldn’t take care of me. I was relinquished and had to live in an orphanage until I was two, then adopted in the U.S, where I grew up experiencing the hardships of my displacement and my adoption placement. I wouldn’t want to wish this on any child especially for those that aren’t a part of the intercountry adoptee realities.

I believe these immigrant children do not have the same qualities surrounding their displacement as intercountry adoptees.

These children belong to families who want them.

They had not been abandoned or relinquished and they should not be termed “unaccompanied” when they were accompanied. These children were forcibly separated by the U.S government, a traumatizing action which will need healing and repair for each family that this is impacting.

Shame on the U.S government for creating a funded system in place that would even begin the process of orphaning these immigrant children at the border. In my opinion, the U.S. government should be reprimanded for the mistreatment of children and for the flagrant misuse of today’s foster care system.

And, I think we should all care about this issue–because the misuse of the foster system and the systematic funding that allows this, especially in a leading developed country like the U.S, jeopardizes today’s foster care system and adoption industry on domestic and international levels.

My Plea

I urge spotlighted attention to be placed on the immigrant children being placed into foster care and shelters. I am asking journalists, writers, social media networkers, lawyers, caring citizens, adoptees, non-adoptees and everyone to watch the news and make sure that these children are being treated well and will not be placed for adoption. We need to see that these government funds will be used to reunite these children back to their families.

Discussion Prompt

Intercountry adoptees and adoptive families, what are your views? Do you have feedback, or ideas of what can be done or ways to keep an eye on each immigrant child that is placed in U.S foster care and shelters?

 

Our Mothers and Families?

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Part of my personal goal in the past couple of years within ICAV, has been to find ways to help empower the voices of our first families in the intercountry adoption arena. For some years I have been pointing out they largely have no voice and remain invisible. Having not found my own Vietnamese mother yet, I often wonder about the circumstances that led to my relinquishment. Now, as an educated professional raised within western thinking, I view the larger picture of intercountry adoption and wonder how much our journey’s as intercountry adoptees and those of our families, could be prevented. In speaking with other adult intercountry adoptees from all over the world, I know I’m not alone in this pondering.

Last year in October, I had the privilege to meet online an inspiring young woman, a Colombian intercountry adoptee raised in Germany. She spoke with enthusiam about a project she was about to embark upon which connected with my personal goal. I shared with you here about Yennifer’s goal to raise awareness of the experiences Colombian mothers live, who have lost their children via intercountry adoption. Like me, she was driven to do this because she too had always wondered about her mother and what caused her own relinquishment.

Now, just over half a year on, I interview Yennifer to hear how her first journey to homeland has been, together with an update on her project.

Read here for Yennifer’s update on her project entitled No Mother, No Child.

Adoptee desire to know the Truth

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Today I want to share a powerful life experience of an Indian intercountry adoptee raised in Belgium, a member of ICAV, willing to share about her desire to know the truth of her life before adoption.

Being adopted from India, it is usually very difficult to search and find one’s genetic family. This is for a variety of reasons such as the Indian intercountry adoption laws that do little to promote searching and reunion, coupled with the lack of documentation, and/or truth of the documentation from either the birth or adoptive country.

What Serafina’s story demonstrates is that because she was willing to question everything told to her, sometimes the outcome is unexpected.

Enjoy reading Serafina’s story to find out for yourself how her journey unfolded and the message she wishes to share!

Self Care and Healing

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Last week, I was fortunate and privileged enough to attend a 3-day Adoptee Self Care Retreat funded by the Australian Government for adoptees from the Forced Adoption era and for people who have been in State care.

I want to share my thoughts of what I gained from attending as I found it to be such a positive experience. I have always advocated and requested a retreat like this, but sadly, to date, I have not seen or heard of one specific for adult intercountry adoptees.

I went not knowing the other dozen adoptees who attended and all were domestically adopted in Australia. The retreat focused on self care via yoga and meditation with amazing home cooked and grown food. I was raised in my adoptive family as a vegetarian because of their Seventh-Day Adventist beliefs so I loved being served food that was wholesome and nutritious. At home, I’m so busy with kids, dogs, family and school life with adoption thrown in when I have time, that often I go without barely eating.

The yoga, meditation, massage and facial was just awesome! I had needed to get away from life’s busy chaos and give to myself. I normally spend a lot of time nurturing other people and forget to nurture myself – but this retreat was a great way to remind me to do daily self care and to understand by living it for 3 days, the massive benefits when I do. I came home so much more relaxed, at ease, at peace and most importantly, connected back to my body. Being in this state helps me deal more positively with the daily challenges of life.

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I loved meeting fellow adoptees from such a variety of life paths, all with different experiences, but fundamentally to whom I shared so much in common. Attending the “adoptee focused” sessions run jointly by the NSW Post Adoption Resource Centre (PARC) and Relationships Australia, Wattle Place was healing, validating, and connecting. In these sessions, we shared in depth about the impacts of being adopted. We did this in an environment where we were supported and validated for the variety of experiences we have lived throughout our journey so far. It was humbling to receive my fellow adoptees validation and empathy, to hear their journey’s, and as a group, to encourage and support one another.

The power of group healing is so deep! The retreat reminded me of my journey in my early 20s when I first began healing from sexual abuse. I attended group therapy hosted by Wesley Mission and met other women survivors for the first time. I have never forgotten the impact I felt upon hearing their experiences, receiving their validation for the impacts we all suffered, and ultimately, for the sense of connection in being with others who had travelled a similar path, were looking for healing and a way to move forward. It made such an impact on me that I began this network for intercountry adoptees. I wanted to replicate the healing that can come from finding those who have travelled a similar path and struggled with similar issues. Validation, support, and empathy from those who understand, can never be underestimated in it’s power to help us heal.

The retreat also reminded me to honour my path and where I’ve come. Over the decades, I have shifted from being powerless to turning my experiences of adoption into something that can hopefully benefit others. I also now regard my adoptive status as a privilege because without it, I would never have met so many amazing people who carry such deep scars but who display resilience on a daily basis. I hold my hands in that heart place position which we practiced in yoga and thank the powers to be that I was able to find healing. I hope in some small way, the work we do within ICAV will help to empower the healing and connection for many fellow adoptees around the world.

I encourage fellow adoptees to find a way to give to yourself, take the time to do self care even in tiny ways each day, and reach out to connect with others of us who can understand, validate and provide peer support. My utopian wish is to have these types of retreats for us and for future generations of intercountry adoptees around the world.

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Requesting my Birth Certificate

I wrote an email to the Intercountry Adoption Board (ICAB) in the Philippines yesterday introducing myself and requesting my birth certificate. It turns out, this significant birth document hadn’t been with my adoptive family my entire life. And, it turns out, I need this birth document for dual citizenship to prove that I was born in the Philippines. So I can re-assert my citizenship in the country of my birth which I feel is an inherent right.

After I sent my email, I received an automatic reply that stated:

Your email has been duly received and recorded. It will be referred to the proper party for appropriate action. Your message is important to us and will be responded to as soon as possible.

Thank you.

Records Section
Intercountry Adoption Board 

It’s been almost thirty years and it’s taken me this long to ask. When I did, I found out that my family possessed a certificate of birth facts. When I went to the Philippines Consulate in Los Angeles last summer to show them my legal documents and apply, my certificate was denied with a momentary glance at the papers and old Philippine passport that I had. I had to go back to Arizona to find my birth certificate and inquire about this to my adoptive mother, who I’ve been trying to gain distance with for years. It was stressful and disconcerting, that I wouldn’t have this document in my possession. I angrily wondered why my family didn’t have this item that was so intrinsic to my identity and proof of being born in the Philippines.

I also didn’t understand why I have to re-apply for my citizenship.

Yesterday after I sent my emails, I thought, does being adopted into another country for a child strip them from their own citizenship of their native place of birth? Why did this happen to me? Why does this happen to any vulnerable child in their birth countries? Why do I have to re-apply to citizenship? Why was that taken away in the first place? My questions led me to realizing how this administrative process has a lot of cultural and social implications that would create grievances for an adoptee later on.

After requesting my birth certificate at ICAB, I went out to my favorite place in the open ranges to meditate. I realized then, how much I missed my natural connections to my birth country, to my heritage and native culture. There are ancient mysteries and missing stories hiding in my brown skin and my soul longs to recollect this. I also realized a grave, quiet and devastating silence within me, that has been lifelong, which echoes from this systematic, governmental erasure of my human past.

Step by step, I will continue to find my way in this world. I will rebuild my identity by recovering what it is I’d lost so long ago. This process takes time. Psychological, emotional and spiritual healing. Patience. A support network of other adoptees. It takes perseverence to see past the cloud of my own mind and find clarity. I hope I receive my birth certificate soon so I can apply for dual citizenship in my birth country of the Philippines. There is so much to do in recovering from my intercountry adoption process.

Chronicles of an Adoptee in Transition: Living My Dreams

Have you ever had a goal or a dream that you’ve aspired to since you were a child? For me, it’s always been the same one. My dream was to start my own life in a coastal place in an environment similar to my native place of birth. Finding a place I could call, “home,” and be happy.

I had never found that home on the coast. Instead, I’d mostly been an Arizona resident, living in a small town in the mountains.

I wonder, why hadn’t I lived my dreams yet? Maybe because of my circumstances?

Being born in the Philippines, orphaned, and later raised in the Midwest of the United States could have had its limitations! Of all places my adoptive family could have chosen to relocate to, it was Phoenix, Arizona.

For whatever reason, instead of living my dream of finding that home on the coast, I spent my teenager years in the Southwest. I lived in the Sonoran desert for years surrounded by saguaro cacti, shrubs and yucca plants–trying to find out who I am, and what to do with my life.

After high school came college and a need for in-state tuition. My choices for universities were limited to nearby places that were cooler in temperature. I chose Flagstaff, a small town that had a charming, historic downtown. It was smaller than ideal but reminded me of the Midwest. It was two hours North of Phoenix so it was much cooler too. And the nature there was beautiful, tucked away in Ponderosa pines and old, volcanic mountain ranges.

Little did I know, I’d be spending all of my twenties in its university–roaming degree programs and careers, trying to find myself more than anything else.

I’ve been living in Flagstaff for ten years now which hadn’t been my plan. I’d gone to visit so many coastal regions of the United States too. Even recently, I just returned from a trip to California where I had some job interviews.

I looked at housing, the cost of living, jobs and libraries. I could sort of envision myself there, but something was missing.

I recognized it was my own lack of connections there.

So, I vacationed at a some amazing beaches at the end of that trip and I returned, realizing a lot. Feeling humble, slightly sad, but content.

I have one more job interview waiting here in Flagstaff. Now that I’ve returned, I see that it might be more practical living where I am and working on what I’ve recently found I love to do–at libraries.

I could gain more library experience with this potential job and finish my Master’s of Library and Information Science degree in December.

And shift my focus to maybe not fulfilling my dreams right away, but working on what I love to do here, and maybe that will lead me onwards.

From all that I am and come from, I can admit that life as an adoptee for me has been different from the norm and challenging. I’ve struggled with identity and finding a sense of direction in life since I’d had such a conflicting past. Still, I’d grown into myself in the Southwestern region of the United States.

One main challenge here in the Southwest is that I’ve felt stranded and alienated due to its demographics, but the best things here are aspects that everyone of all backgrounds can learn to love. The nature, beauty, decor, art, culture and history are treasures we can all connect with in society.

I think that I’ve arrived at a happy medium in this time of job searching and trying to find ways to live my dreams as an adoptee with my own battles. By simply loving myself in the place that I’m in, and finding something that I love, I hope I can become more of who I want to be, wherever I am.

Chronicles of an Adoptee in Transition: My Last Day

A tiny bird found its way into the library on Tuesday. It spent the whole day fluttering around, flying and swooping in circles and ovals around the ceiling. We left a window open for it. The next day on Thursday, which was also my last day of work, a custodian asked if the bird was still there. “No,” I said, “It looks like the bird found its way out the window.”

Accidentally Messing Up my Last Day of Work

I accidentally left early on my last day of work yesterday. I was lying in bed after having driven back into town, after I’d dropped off a laptop computer to tech services and a book that I’d borrowed from a different school during Adoption Awareness month back in November, A Koala for Katie. I was lying in my bed dazed and exhausted when it hit. That the school’s calendar read, Early Dismissal, so I had thought it was a half day for me too. To my horror, I realized I probably was meant to have a full day out there.

“Oh my God,” I said, sitting up and putting a dramatic hand on my forehead, “I totally messed up my last day of work.”

While downtown with Janek, I emailed the principal a long-winded apology and inquired if I should make up the work on Friday, the next day, but he never replied. So I spent all day today mostly lounging around my house since my roommates are gone for a little while. Resting and processing my experience out at Leupp Elementary School.

Friday in a Hammock and Sending Emails

It’s Friday today and I spent most of my morning lying around in a purple hammock in the back yard of my rental here on the East side of town. I stared up at the leaves, thinking about the mixed media art that I’d like to start making all over again and start selling if I could, the dual citizenship that I still need to apply for this summer, and the writing I’d left behind since my library studies began two years ago. Listening to the breeze shivering through the twinkling green leaves above me. The birds chirping, the cars driving by.

I continued to rock and rest, and later, I sent out an email out to the principal of a different school that is also out near the Navajo Reservation.

I told him that I was still looking for a full-time library position and that I was going to be in California next week, but I could work part-time at the school at least this summer to help with setting up this new library for them. For as it stands, their library is basically a room full of piles of books in dire need to be organized, weeded, and supplemented with materials. It needs a lot of work but I can envision that place looking exceptional and native to the desert environment. It’d be fun for me to work on this, I think. I don’t know if I’d be successful at it, but it’d be worth trying to do what I can for the school and community.

The Accidental Run In 

I’d accidentally run into this principal about a month ago, when there was construction down on the main road that you take to get to Leupp.

I was absently driving my Toyota Camry to work and found myself stationed in the middle of a popular intersection, blocking traffic at all angles, and this principal went walking up to my car window and politely asked me to pull my car up so that others would have room to go. I had Jamaican roots reggae music playing, as Marcela, a substitute teacher, was sitting in the passenger seat staring idly up at him since he was on her side of my car. The man peeked into my car and recognized me from Leupp, and that’s where he told me about a library position that was opening at his school due to recent grant funding.

I told him that I needed to know a few details, so I’d email him when I could.

A Mysterious School Called, The STAR School

The principal works at The STAR School, a small and mysterious school that is situated on the corner of the Navajo Reservation; it runs completely on solar power and is an elementary and middle school. He emailed me today and said his goal was to hire me as a full-time TA/Librarian. I replied on my iPhone trying not to sound too eager or too neutral: “Great! I will be in Cali from Sunday through Thursday, and after that, I should have open availability. Thank you!” An email where I tried to sound casual, but in reality I wrote, erased and re-wrote about twenty times before finally pressing send.

Chronicles of an Adoptee’s Transitions in the U.S.

After working as a library media assistant at an elementary school on the Navajo Reservation for a school year, it looks like I’m back to the drawing board. Back to job searching, since the school I’d worked for lost critical amounts of funding during the RedforEd strike and I won’t be able to return next year. What happened was unexpected for me. But I guess budget cuts happen a lot to small, high-needs elementary schools and other organizations in rural areas.

Now I’m facing new hurtles since I might have to move away because of limited library jobs and spiked housing costs. As an intercountry adoptee, I wanted to blog in this taxing phase because so much of my adopted life has been freckled with transitions like this. I thought it might be interesting to share. That maybe instead of pretending my life is perfect right now, maybe these chronicles could meet someone in their own transitional times too, adopted or not.

Traversing Life as an Adoptee

My life has been immersed with transitions like this so I guess this challenge isn’t new to me, although it’s still terrifying. In a way, maybe I’ve become accustomed to sink or swim circumstances ever since I was adopted and flown to the U.S. to live with white parents whom I’d never met. As a brown-skinned adoptee, I’ve lived mainly in Arizona and have had to navigate a tricky web of socio-economic terrain within the demographics of the Southwest too.

So in my adopted life, I’ve learned to view phases like this as an adventure despite my internal struggles from my complicated upbringing. Needing to view unexpected changes like this as opportunities in disguise.

Two Interviews in Southern California

I’ve been invited to two interviews since my job search started. One in National City. Another one in El Segundo. Both in California, which is awesome but jarring. Mainly because the high cost of living.

One reason why I’ve applied to these areas is to be in a city. To broaden my perceptions since I’m used to demographically limited areas. I grew up in a small Midwestern town. Later, moved to a metropolitan suburbs in Phoenix, and recently I’ve been in a small, mountainous college town in Northern Arizona for ten years. Still not making an adequate living after all these years.

Working for my own Dreams

As an intercountry adoptee, I feel I don’t have Filipino dreams or American dreams. I have maybe an adoptee’s dream, to one day have a home of my own. An idealist’s dream, to better the world. My professional dream is to work at a library and facilitate the progress of all demographics. I want to work with individuals of all ethnicities, build connections, help the youth and others like me to identify with who they are. Push society forward. But it’s scary to think of leaving my comfortable Arizona bubble behind.

I’ve lived in Arizona for so long now.