Bolivian Adoptee Anthology Book Review

I was really excited when I heard there was a book created by a global network of Bolivian adoptees! I LOVE that we are hearing from them because although they are not as numerous as the Colombian or Chilean cohorts of intercountry adoptees, they are part of the large numbers who have been sent out of South America as children. Their voice, like all groups of intercountry adoptees, is really important!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Communal Histories of Displacement and Adoption. It covers a wide range of 20 Bolivian adoptee experiences sent to countries in Europe (Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, France, Netherlands, Norway), the USA and Canada. What I immediately responded to was the beautiful artwork that draws you in visually, providing a sense of the colourful, vibrant Bolivian heart and soul within these lives, despite the effects of displacement and adoption.

I feel the choice of the word “displacement” in the title is very progressive, a reflection of the wider adoptee journey of awakening. It has taken the global community of adoptees many decades to come to terms with and find our own voice about being the products of forced adoption, i.e., being removed from our countries without a choice. Adoption is something that happens to us, we had no say in the matter and not always in our best interests as some of us attest to decades on, and some of these voices include this sentiment in this book.

What I also love is that this book is funded by the Belgium Adoption Support Centre – Steunpunt Adoptie, a non-profit organisation subsidised by the Belgium government. They are mainly responsible for post adoption services and in the past few years, they support adoptees via their annual call for adoptee led projects. The Network of Bolivian adoptees twice received funding: for the first Bolivian adoptee meeting in Brussels in 2019; and then for the book in 2020. Let’s hope this encourages other countries around the world to provide funding for adoptee led projects like this anthology!

The book is a nice short read (98 pages) with a wide range of writing styles. If you have a spare hour or two and want to better understand the lived experience of Bolivian adoptee voices, I highly recommend you grab a copy!

You can purchase the book at this link.

Resources

Facebook group for Network of Bolivian Adoptees

Related resource: Colombian Adoptee Anthology Book Review

Abby Forero-Hilty at the Hague Special Commission

by Abby Forero-Hilty, adopted from Colombia to the USA; Co-founder of Colombian Raíces; author of Decoding Our Origins
Speech for Day 3, Session 1: Introductory Post Adoption Matters Panel

Artwork by Renée S. Gutiérrez, co-author of Decoding Our Origins

Top 3 Areas of Concern based on the Post-Adoption Services Discussion Paper with excerpts in italics.

1. (2.4.2. Raising awareness of post-adoption services)

Points to Consider:

The best way to ensure that adopted people are receiving relevant, targeted, and high-quality post-adoption services is by having trauma- and adoption-informed adult intercountry adoptees working with the adoptee community to compile a list of such services. These adult adoptees would be PAID for their services. Intercountry adoptees, especially those who are trauma- and adoption-informed, are the only true experts in the needs of intercountry adoptees. Their expertise must be recognised, financially compensated, and required in the provision of any and all post-adoption services. We recognise the paucity in the number of trained, licensed, and qualified intercountry adoptee providers and therefore acknowledge that qualified non-intercountry adoptee providers can also be beneficial (with significant trauma- and adoption-informed training).

Recommendations:

  • All post-adoption services should be provided free of charge to the adopted person (and family of birth) throughout their lifetime, recognising that each adopted person is different and that some individuals may request/require support starting early in life, while others might only start on this journey decades after their adoption.
  • Adoptive families should be assigned a trained, trauma and adoption-informed intercountry adoptee who can serve as a single point of contact for the adopted person, to ensure they have confidential access to these services when they need them.
    – The State should ensure that the adopted person knows how to – and is able to – access this person
  • Access to full birth records and identifying information on the adopted person’s mother and father
    – Birth records must be easy and confidential for the adopted person to access at any point in their lifetime
  • Assistance in translating and understanding the birth records and other associated adoption paperwork (as each country is different, this must be country-specific assistance)
  • Preparation and education on race and racism (in cases of transracial adoption, the White adoptive parents cannot equitably provide the necessary social and cultural preparedness to adopted children of colour as they are not members of the adopted child’s racial and cultural community. White adoptive parents in White dominated spaces do not have lived experiences of being targets of micro-aggressions and racism.
  • Reculturation, or the process by which intercountry adoptees reclaim their original cultural heritage, should be supported through education and immersive experiences such as birth country trips to their country of origin.
  • DNA testing and databases are models of adoptee support in several countries with problematic adoption practices. DNA testing and country sponsored databases should be promoted, supported, and maintained at no cost to adoptees or first family members.
  • Citizenship (country of birth) re-acquisition support and processes should be offered to adoptees who desire to become dual or full citizens of their countries of birth.

Psychological, emotional, and mental health support via psychotherapy and counselling modality/modalities as chosen by the adopted person and offered by trauma and adoption-informed providers.

2. The right of the adoptee to obtain information about their origins is well established in international law, in particular in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, Arts 7 and 8) as well as in the 1993 Adoption Convention (Art. 30).

Questions:

  • How is the collection of true and accurate information on the identities of the natural mother and father ensured?
  • When and by whom is that information checked and confirmed in both the sending and receiving countries?
  • What procedure is in place to absolutely ensure that that information is preserved and can be given directly to the adopted person – without having to go through the adoptive parents?

Recommendations:

  • There should be no barriers in place (such as minimum age requirement, consent of birth and/or adoptive parents, etc.) in order for the adopted person to easily and confidentially access their own familial information.
    – Some central authorities require adoptees to provide a psychological referral and proof of ongoing counselling (presumably paid for by the adoptee) when the adoptee contacts the central authority for birth family information and search. This practice is unfair and must end.
  • The desire for confidentiality on the identity of the birth parents, either by the birth family or adoptive family, should never be a reason to deny the adopted person their identity. They have the right to their identity. That right should supersede any other party’s desire for secrecy. The secrecy in adoption must end.
  • Central Authority websites must have a clearly marked section for adoptees of all ages to access information on birth family search and reunion:
    – There must be a transparent and simple procedure for accessing this information that is clearly presented on the website;
    – This information must be presented not only in the language of the country of origin, which most transnational adoptees will not be able to read and understand, but also in a language the adoptees themselves can read and understand, e.g., English or German;
    – This information must be made accessible to adoptees with vision and/or hearing impairments
  • What is truly in the “best interest” of the adopted person must be prioritized.
    – Denying someone the truth of their identity is never in anyone’s best interest.

3. Regarding the professionals involved in the post-adoption services, some States arrange for the same professionals to prepare prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) and provide post-adoption services, 30 while in other States the professionals are different ones. 31 For other States, the professionals involved depend on the region and / or the case at hand

Questions:

  • What qualifications do “professionals” have?
  • Who determines who a “professional” is?
  • There is a major conflict of interest when the “professional” is “preparing” the Prospective Adoptive Parents AND providing post-adoption services to those displaced by adoption.
    – How can the “professional” who is responsible for facilitation adoptions also be providing adoptees with post-adoption services? There is substantial mistrust in the adoptee community of “adoption professionals” who facilitate adoptions – and rightfully so.

Recommendations:

  • In some instances, professionals who both facilitate adoptions and also provide post adoption services may be engaged in dual roles with adoptees and their adoptive families, creating an ethical dilemma. Hence post-adoption services should be provided by separate parties and entities than the adoption service providers.
  • Intercountry adoptees, who are often transracial as well, who have undergone training in the social service field and or are licensed mental health providers, are poised to be in the best position to lead and guide post-adoption services given their lived experiences and extensive training. Ideally, post adoption service providers will represent a broad array of birth/first countries to better serve adoptees from various sending countries.
  • Although we strongly recommend that qualified intercountry adoptees are at the frontlines of facilitating and providing direct post-adoption services, we recognise the need for quality post-adoption services exceeds the potential numbers of professionally trained intercountry adoptees available. Therefore, we would be supportive of non-intercountry adoptee post-adoption service providers if they are licensed mental health providers, have evidence of adoption-informed training to include significant education and understanding of culturally responsive strategies as they apply to intercountry adoptees.

Read our previous post: Adoptees at the Hague Special Commission

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