What Would My Utopia in Intercountry Adoption Be?

This was presented by Lynelle Long at the Child Identity Protection (CHIP) Webinar on Friday 18 Feb, 2022, the topic of the webinar was: Respecting the Child’s Right to Identity in Intercountry Adoption (at 2:58:01 on the video recording).

What I hope for the future is possibly just utopia, but sometimes in speaking the words out loud, our words can find an energy with others who share the same desire, which can start the small wave of thoughts that become an activity, then a movement that has ripple effects, that eventually turn and flow into a tsunami. I know there are so many in our adoptee community who are working so hard for these changes to happen. Each of our efforts can seem small in isolation, but together, en-masse, we will eventually effect that change we are working towards.

My utopia would love to see an end all intercountry adoption as it is currently practiced today: obliterate it or as a minimum, redesign The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption to ensure that it respects our right to identity, culture and family relations … and ensure legislation exists that supports our rights as adoptees and for our biological families.

When we do this, we need to also:

  • Remove money from being an incentive for profit and gain.
  • Remove the use of private agencies, centralise adoption and directly hold the responsibility and the risk with the Government / State.
  • Ensure adoptees have the right to annul their adoption and without a cost.
  • Ensure the generational rights to adoptee records i.e., our children and their children need to be given access to our adoption and birth records should we not do so in our lifetime.
  • Improve pre and post adoption supports, make it mandatory that this be free, trauma informed, lifelong and comprehensive; most importantly, in its design, to actively consult with lived experience expertise.
  • Make it mandatory to educate support professionals so they understand the heightened risk of suicide and trauma for adoptees, the inherent racism we face, the identity conflicts, etc .. so many issues we live that need trained and informed support.
  • Stop adoptions that are private/expatriate and from non Hague countries.
  • Create and fund a legal centre of expertise in intercountry adoption to help victims hold agencies and countries accountable where their rights have not been upheld.
  • Create and fund an independent body to monitor and punish Hague signatories who don’t uphold their responsibilities — to deal with issues like deportation by adoptive country, abuse and murder of child by adoptive family. There needs to be accountability for those responsible in placing us into families or countries that are more traumatic than where we came from.
  • Create and fund an international organisation that is setup up to empower and help support bio families search for their children. I meet so many of these bio parents who are disempowered and have nowhere to turn.

But before we even talk about adoption as a solution for a child, we need to ensure the focus and funds prioritises family preservation above all else. If this happened, we should not need intercountry adoption. To accomplish this, we need to help our birth countries implement social welfare alternatives like foster care, guardianship, group homes, simple adoption; and ensure that these are well resourced.

Regardless of whether we have intercountry adoption or not in the future, we need to deal with the past for those who are impacted. This means a historic investigation by an independent body must be conducted into past practices; learn from the lessons, ensure restorative justice for victims, including compensation. Only then when this is done, should we move forward to looking at re-implementing a new model of intercountry adoption.

And let’s not forget, we must make sure we cross pollinate the learnings from intercountry adoption into other family formation methods such as surrogacy – to prevent the further commodification of children and robbing them of their identities too.

These are the things I spend my life working on, creating and joining into the groundswell of people / community working to push for these much needed changes. 

For this to happen, we need to challenge governments and stakeholders around the world to ask the tough question, is intercountry adoption the ethically and morally right thing to do when we know other solutions can exist for vulnerable children that better respect our right to identity, culture and family relations.

Sadly, utopia doesn’t exist and so I can only conclude that until we have a system that upholds our adoptee rights, I don’t believe we should be conducting intercountry adoption in its current form. It is NOT in the best interests of the child to add on layers of trauma that could be prevented when we know better. Yes there will always be children who need support and alternatives .. but, we can’t keep repeating the mistakes of the past and turning a blind eye to what we are doing to so many en-masse. We must do better and challenge ourselves to be honest, truthful, listen to the voices of those it impacts most, and heed the lessons we can learn.

What’s the Future of Intercountry Adoption?

This was presented by Lynelle Long at the Child Identity Protection (CHIP) Webinar on Friday 18 Feb, 2022, the topic of the webinar was: Respecting the Child’s Right to Identity in Intercountry Adoption (at 2:49:30 on the video recording).

In my humble perspective, I believe the future of intercountry adoption is slowly coming to its death. I am personally happy about this, as are a vast number of adult intercountry adoptees around the world. I recognise though that not all adoptees agree with my happiness nor want to see the end of intercountry adoption. The argument they pose is probably that we have gained and benefited much and why should we stop others from having the same?

I argue that we are actively robbing countries of their most valuable resource – their children – when we take advantage, with our privilege and resources, to gain from their vulnerabilities. We need to do better – do what’s ethically right, when we know in hindsight that the random positive outcomes do not justify the huge amount of trauma that has been inflicted on so many.

We have seen some countries in Europe start to take responsibility by independently investigating the history of intercountry adoption and come to terms with the wrongs done to so many. COVID has also created a natural dampener to the trade in children, but the efforts of intercountry adoptees and our allies has been building over the past decades to culminate into a worldwide recognition that intercountry adoption as a social experiment, has not been as successful as many hoped for.

If I were to ask myself what I think the future of intercountry adoption looks like, I couldn’t lie and pretend to uphold the fantasy so many seem to have with adoption. From the lived perspective, too many of us intercountry adoptees have struggled and suffered life long consequences of being robbed of our origins, our kin, our country, culture, and language .. it is time we take an honest and critical look at what intercountry adoption truly does. It is the ONLY alternative care option that proactively severs our right to identity and family relations — except in the cases of a few countries (Vietnam, Belgium and France) who allow Simple adoption to exist .. but in reality, it is extremely rare to have a Simple intercountry adoption. 

I can only gauge the future and what it brings, from where we have shifted and moved in the past 24 years that I’ve been actively involved. I have seen the massive change that my adoptee community has undergone in the 24 years I’ve been involved:

  • From being completely isolated from each other, to massively connected now!
  • From being in the fog, to totally awakened to the reality of the structures that have created our lives.
  • From relying on dodgy fabricated paperwork, to embracing DNA technology because it doesn’t lie.
  • From not wanting to engage in the politics, to now fully engaging and seeking / demanding engagement with government and authorities.
  • From not understand our rights, to now finding pathways to uphold our rights through the laws and demanding justice and reparation. 

This is what excites me the most .. seeing the many adoptees demanding justice who are inspired by the success of the pioneers before them – adoptees like Patrick Noordoven who have fought the lack of legal pathway, studied the laws, faced the courts and created a legal pathway to demand justice and access to our truth – our right to identity. We need more of this to happen en-masse around the world!

Then what we are starting to see right now, in the past few years, is that some governments are recognising that they need to better protect themselves because they are realising they are participating in an activity and system that actively robs us of our rights – our rights to identity, origins and family. Once more governments realise the risk they bear, I believe we will see intercountry adoption become almost non existent because it’s too risky, too costly!

Intercountry adoption has always been about money: who has it, who doesn’t, who doesn’t want to lose it, who can’t afford to take the risk. While the risk in intercountry adoption was once historically gauged as low, governments and authorities supported the demand for children – but the tide on that sentiment has turned and there is no going back! I do believe one day we will look back historically on this huge social experiment called intercountry adoption and it will eventually be acknowledge on a global scale, that it was never in our best interests to be removed from our country, culture and origins and add to our traumas.

Hand in hand with this, I’m excited to see some governments start to recognise our adoptee needs and rights! In Australia we’ve been one of the few countries to be given a funded free mental health counselling service and we had a free search n reunion service. Both of these should be a minimum and a mandatory service in all post adoption for every adopting and sending country. Some countries are talking to me about our Australian model and I know other countries are starting to provide either one or both of these services.

But while I celebrate the shifts in some progressive countries, let’s not forget our families of loss still barely have any rights, and usually no access to free counselling or a searching service. I hope in the future we will start to see this change. The voices of our families of origins is still largely unheard, ignored, denied. We have to change that!

I hope intercountry adoption will become only a last resort option, as originally intended under the The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

Recommended Reading

Patrick Noordoven’s Thesis: Intercountry Adoption and the Right to Identity

Adoptee Academic on UNCRC and Intercountry Adoption

It’s awesome to have academics give their input into the field of intercountry adoption – especially academics who are also intercountry adoptees.

Check out the latest research article submitted by Patrick Noordoven who has an in-depth look at the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and Intercountry Adoption (ICA).

What do you think?

You can read more from other intercountry adoptee academics.

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