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Archive for December, 2007

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The United States on Wednesday joined an international treaty on adoptions — a move that will protect both children and parents, and make the State Department a central registry tracking all adoptions coming in and out of the country, officials said.Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Maura Harty presented the U.S. ratification of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions during a ceremony in the Netherlands.”We would say that today is a good day for children and parents involved in intercountry adoptions,” said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.”This convention establishes international laws and procedures for intercountry adoption. Cases involving the Hague Convention are to ensure that adoptions occur in the best interests of the children.”

The agreement sets out what the State Department called “safeguards to protect the interests of children, birth parents and adoptive parents.”

It says children may be adopted by prospective parents outside their country only if there is proper and informed consent from the “family of origin.”

The treaty calls for authorities to make sure that birth parents haven’t been persuaded to give up their children in exchange for money, urging countries to take “all appropriate measures to prevent improper financial or other gain in connection with an adoption.”

The treaty covers the other end of the adoption process as well, calling on the country where the adoptive parents live to “prepare a report including information about their identity, eligibility and suitability to adopt, background, family and medical history.”

The rules begin governing international adoptions for the 66 signatory countries on April 1, 2008.

Several countries that are common points of origin for children adopted by Americans have not agreed to the treaty, including Vietnam, Russia, Ukraine and Ethiopia.

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Related: U.S. Joins Overseas Adoption Overhaul Plan

The United States, the world leader in international adoptions, will join more than 70 nations committed to standardizing policies, procedures and safeguards to reduce corruption in the largely unregulated adoption marketplace.

A sharp departure from current practice, the provisions of the treaty could slow the process and frustrate prospective parents. But many more may be spared the broken promises and broken hearts of the current system, which includes no federal oversight of agencies working overseas. The system also has no sanctions against agencies that lure families with photos of unavailable children and encourage them to bribe foreign bureaucrats to expedite an adoption.

With a federal registry of approved agencies, families will have access to information that is currently unavailable. In the last seven years, Americans adopted almost 120,000 children from overseas, according to the State Department, which recently released preliminary data for 2007 showing a decline for the third year in a row.

Adoptions dropped from a peak in 2004, with 22,884, to 19,292 in 2007. Experts attribute the decline to more stringent eligibility in China, the most popular place for intercountry adoptions by Americans, and to on-and-off suspension of the international adoption program in Russia.

China sent 5,453 children to American families in 2007, down from 7,906 in 2005. Russia’s total dropped to 2,207, from 3,706 in 2006. Adoptions increased from Guatemala (to 4,728 from 4,135 in 2006), Ethiopia ( to 1,255 from 732) and Vietnam (up to 626 from 163). China has ratified the treaty; neither Ethiopia nor Vietnam has signed it; and Russia has signed but not ratified it.

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Another video here.
Thanks to Arun Dohle and ICASN

I’m still trying to wrap my head around this one, but find it nearly impossible. Either way I look at it, poor Jade is the one who comes up short through no fault of her own. I can’t imagine what it must be like for her to have been abandoned twice. Not only was she abandoned a second time but publicly blamed for it?

Oh but wait, let me back up. In an earlier report, Raymond Poeteray stated,

“I don’t have anything to say to the public. It is something we have to live with. My foreign ministry knows about my situation. I have also been in touch with the Hong Kong government and they have been very helpful to me and so has my own employer.”

Obviously:

“Peter Mollema, a spokesman for the Dutch ministry of foreign affairs in The Hague, said the ministry was giving the Poeterays its full support “at a difficult time”. Mollema told the Guardian: “This is something which is a private matter and belongs within the family”

So what they’re both saying is yeah, they don’t owe an explanation to the public for leaving this little girl in limbo. Abandonment is “all in the family” since “As far as we know they have behaved within the boundaries of the law and have done nothing wrong.”

Am I getting this right so far? For one thing, we know that “legal” doesn’t always walk hand-in-hand with ethical. It may be legal for one to adopt a child, raise that child for a few years then change one’s mind, but is that ethical? Secondly, “legal” by who’s standards? Still, it seemed they felt justified in “surrendering” little Jade to the Hong Kong system without any need for further explanation.

But ooops…

A spokesman for the South Korean consulate in Hong Kong said the couple had found it difficult to raise the little girl because of “culture shock”.

“[The Poeterays] now have their own children,” the spokesman said. “They decided it was difficult to raise [Jade] because of cultural shock. They said she’s not willing to eat their food. That’s one of the reasons. It’s a strange reason. She was raised from a very early age. It’s a very uncommon case. It’s a difficult situation for us to understand.”

WTF? A culture clash?! From a girl who was adopted at four months? She wouldn’t eat their food?! What? Did she have a genetic memory of Bulgogi and Kimchi? Later on, I guess someone changed their mind because slowly “explanations” did start to appear.

News reports in the South China Morning Post said that after their Korean-born daughter developed behavioural problems, the couple decided to give her up in 2006.

Jade was adopted in 2000, when she was four months old. Later the Poeterays had two children of their own. The girl has been placed in foster care with a non-Chinese family in Hong Kong. In their declaration, the Poeterays rejected the allegations, and said their eight-year-old daughter Jade was suffering from what they called “commitment anxiety”.

They wrote that “contrary to what has been written in the media, we do not want to get rid of our daughter. We never even considered giving her up.”

and this:

Illustrated by a photograph of the couple in evening dress, the paper says Raymond and Meta Poeteray were told to make a statement by the foreign affairs ministry.

In this statement, they tell the paper that they have not formally given up daughter Jade, as reported in the press, and continue to take full responsibility for the girl.

As soon as she joined the family as a baby, it was ‘very hard to make contact with her’, the consul writes. And in 2004, she was diagnosed as having an extreme fear of forming relationships.

Intensive family therapy failed to work and the rest of the family began to suffer, the consul says.

In 2006, specialists in Hong Kong said that it was in Jade’s best interests if she was removed from the family. ‘That was an extremely painful moment for us, but we did not have another choice,’ Poeteray writes.

and this:

Jade, a seven-year-old of South Korean origin, is the focus of an escalating dispute across two continents. At the age of four months she was adopted by a Dutch consular officer based in Hong Kong, Raymond Poeteray, and his wife Meta. But the couple have now surrendered Jade to the Hong Kong social welfare department for readoption, reportedly because the child could not adapt to Dutch culture.

The revelation has sparked protests amid claims that the couple were treating the child as if she were an unwanted present. She had been discarded like “a piece of household rubbish”, said the Dutch daily De Telegraaf.

Mr and Mrs Poeteray, back in the Netherlands yesterday, defended their actions, claiming that they had acted on medical advice.

and finally this:

The senior Dutch diplomat who gave up his adopted Korean child says she was suffering from a severe fear of bonding when the family handed her over to the Social Welfare Department last year.

The statement came as a woman who babysat for the family in Indonesia in 2001-02 said the girl, now 8, was treated differently to the couple’s natural offspring.

Social welfare lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung said he had been told by the Social Welfare Department that the girl’s condition had improved remarkably since she left the Poeteray family. She was now happy and healthy with no mental problems. Mr Cheung, who will meet the girl, said she would remain in Hong Kong.

Raymond Poeteray and his wife, Meta, said in the statement last night that the girl’s condition became so serious in the middle of last year that, on the advice of medical specialists and staff from adoption agency Mother’s Choice and the Social Welfare Department, a decision was made to place her in temporary care.

“After our daughter became part of our family, it proved very difficult to get through to her,” they said.

“In Jakarta, where we were transferred in 2000, it was not possible to identify the cause of the problem. Only after we moved from Jakarta to Hong Kong did medical specialists make the diagnosis that our daughter suffers from fear of bonding in a severe form. We tried to cure her through intensive family therapy, but to our great disappointment she did not get better. On the contrary, the situation got worse and the family began to suffer greatly from it.”

The statement also confirmed the family has since not had any contact with her. “That was a terribly painful and sad moment for us, but we saw no other option.”

Phew! That’s a lot of explaining for someone who doesn’t feel the need to explain. I suppose I can’t blame them considering the amount of criticism the Poeterays received from individuals and organizations like G.O.A.’L (pdf press release)

Still what about the Poeterays failure to get Jade naturalized? Hmm..well:

The Poeterays never applied for Dutch citizenship for Jade, but claim that this was an administrative oversight.

An oversight? Come on! I think we can do a little better than that!

The couple said they had followed Korean law for the adoption.

“The reason [she] does not have a Dutch nationality is simply a result of the fact that all her medical problems have prevented us from completing the naturalisation process. We hope this explanation will evoke some sympathy for our situation.”

Sorry but sympathy for them just isn’t what I’m feeling right now. My thoughts remain with “Jade.” She’s the one who lost everything…twice. And why? Because she was damaged goods and “the family began to suffer greatly from it.” But I thought Jade was “family.”

And see, this is one of the many reasons why this story rubs me in all the wrong ways. If Jade had been one of the birth children, would they have left her in Hong Kong? She was the expendable one, sacrificed for the “the good” of the family of which she is no longer a part.

When all goes well, it’s within the power of the adoptive parents to confidently declare, “We are their real parents.” It’s also within their power to take that away. As an adoptee, Jade’s story drives home that truth. I’m not saying it’s the same for everyone. It’s just one of the many “painful truths” I’m reminded of every time I hear stories like Jade’s.

That’s all aside from reports suggesting that “the damage” might have been done to Jade by the Poeterays. The more I read about this, the stinkier it gets. I don’t think these people should have ever been allowed to adopt Jade.

A nanny who cared for an adopted Korean girl given up by a senior Dutch diplomat and his family claims the girl was not treated like a normal daughter, a news report said Friday.

She was rarely in her mother’s arms and always in the care of someone else, according to a former Indonesian maid quoted in South China Morning Post Friday.

The woman, who has requested not to be named, worked for the Dutch vice-consul Raymond Poeteray and his wife Meta in Hong Kong and when the family was based in Jakarta in 2002.

She said she thought it strange that the girl, now eight, was so quiet.

‘They did not treat her the same way as the son. There was not the love there,’ the maid told The Post.

The statement by a representative for the Korean Residents Association in Hong Kong stands out most for me:

“It is an unfair situation, many Koreans want her to find a new family,” said a representative for the Korean Residents Association in Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s Social Welfare Department said foster parents were now caring for the girl, but declined further comment. “She is Korean and her situation after seven years of adoption is that she is hurting,” the South Korean consular official said.

One of the few bright spots that came from this tragedy is the amount of criticism and outrage that reverberated throughout the adoption community, especially from adoptees and adoptee organizations. It was a loud statement saying, “No Mr. Poeteray, you do owe an explanation because Jade and others like her are no longer invisible and we are watching.”

More here.

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Kim is a Vietnamese adoptee who grew up in Australia. He was kind enough to give me permission to post an article his article which was previously published in an Australian magazine.

Growing Pain – Growing Up As A Vietnamese Adoptee In Contemporary Australian Society:

The Vietnam War, through it’s inception to it’s conclusion has been well documented and represented through media such as radio, television, tabloids, film and literature. The tragic legacy the war left was the countless orphans who were “shipped” out to new lives and families worldwide. Of course, we must never forget those who did not survive.

I was one of those children, a “Product of the war”, and my good friend and “brother”, Dominic Golding has asked me to submit a piece of work to try and explain my individual plight and every adoptees fears and hopes that haunt us as we grow into adulthood.

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Dominic (left), Kim (right)

Mount Gambier, in the South East of South Australia was where Dominic Golding, Tran VanHeeswyk, Son Thompson, Nguyen Mathias, and myself found a new life away from the pain and suffering of the war. My origins are unknown to me as my “extraction” from my birth certificate has both mother and father listed as “unknown”. My earlier life was somewhat sheltered and I had a fairly normal upbringing. Primary School went by with the blowing of the wind and until I reached High School, I never thought of myself as being anything other than an “Aussie”.

Of course, everything changed once the first day at Mount Gambier High School arrived and I will remember it for the rest of my life. I was with my friends and playing a game in the quadrangle when I got tripped by a year 10 boy named Jason Booth, because I looked different and he obviously had some problem with the fact that I was “Asian”, or at least “Asian” looking! That was the first day of High School back in 1987 when I was only 12 years old, 16 years ago! That was my first taste of racism, and I will never forget it, as it tasted like concrete!

That same year, a few year 12 students picked on me for the same reason, making racist remarks and actions. One in particular I remember is Brett Carson, the reason will become evident later. The hypocritical part of it was that one of the guys was also “Asian”, or of “Asian” background, David Medhurst, if I remember correctly, who really should have known better.

At first I had no comprehension as to why those people were being like that, but I soon learnt the hard way and when I did, it made me mad and confused. Mad because there were doing this to me, but confused as to what their motives or reasons were. This is the small town mentality that remains with me, as part of me as an adult, and it is what has infuriated me constantly over the years. Back then I was only 12 years old and obviously couldn’t take on a group of year 12 guys, but that didn’t stop me from throwing stones at them and taunting them back!

Shit!, they had me in a murderous frame of mind and I don’t think to this day that they will ever know what an impact they had upon me. It made me feel EXTREME PREJUDICE and HATE within my very soul towards them and others like them.

Then I got a job at Fiddler and Webb as a night filler and had the “pleasure” of meeting and working with the one and only Brett Carson! Of course, everything he said usually ended with a “DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I’M SAYING?”, as if I were just a simple Fucking “Asian” that couldn’t understand the English language, or “SO WHAT’S THE STORY?”, as if asking for confirmation that this simpleton actually grasped the concepts of what he was saying! This really pissed me off something fierce, and to be honest, if someone had put a gun in my hand, then he would be DEAD. I would have had the Mens Rea and the Actus Reus. “DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I’M SAYING BRETT????!!!!!”

In 1989 I thought that I would get a new start by going across the border to Victoria and study at Hamilton College, leaving the small town mentality behind me. Most of the students who boarded there were from far reaching places, some even as far as Tahiti and Hong Kong. I was very much mistaken and realised it when I was about to leave the boarding house to walk to school and there on the notice board, for everyone to see was a proclamation……..”ALL ASIANS EAT DOGS!” Well, this time Matthew Scarlett from Melbourne had really outdone himself! What a Fucking Cock Forrid. Both he and his friend, James Kerr haunted me during my tenure at the College, which lasted only one semester as my father became ill and eventually died of cancer in July of the year.

As if I wasn’t screwed up both physically and emotionally as a young teenager going through a rebellious stage already. That topped it off and really fucked me up. I even felt jealous of the fact that he was able to come home for my 15th birthday for a few hours and all the visitors seemed to be his friends, not mine! It just didn’t occur to me that for some of his friends it would be the last time that they would get to see him alive and that it would be the last time he would venture out of the hospital before his life expired, or that he was there so I could spend some time with him, as a loving father! What a fucking idiot I was! I regret feeling that way in retrospect, remembering that this is the only father I have known and provided me with food, shelter, education, love, compassion, and so on and so forth. I really wish I could turn back time, so that I could say “Thanks dad for coming out of hospital to see me on my 15th birthday, thanks for being a loving father” I think most of all, I would have liked to tell him that I loved him and that he would be my father for as long as I will live, no matter what, before it’s too late.

Anyway, soon after returning from Hamilton, I found that everything had changed and that I had a new arch nemesis in the making named Jamie Pitson, or “Norm”. On the night of Michael (Mick) Lucente’s birthday he tried to start a fight with me, racism based, in the Pizza Hut car park. Since then, he had been dogging me both at home and school, ringing me up at home, taunting me at school, and trying to emulate his big brother, Ricky “Skinder” Pitson, as he was a well known fighter and Norm just wanted to be a good fighter too. I just happened to look different, and I wonder what would’ve happened if I had been an Anglo Saxon Aussie?

I decided to join the Air Training Corps (AIRTC) and that is where I made some other discoveries. Firstly, that is where myself and Dom were “reintroduced”. I saw him, remembered that once when we were children, he had hit me over the head with a rubber mallet, so I walked up to him and hit him in the head! Hence forth, both he and I forged a bond that still lives. A lot of my anger and frustrations just seemed to melt away as the AIRTC taught me invaluable skills to help me through not only my AIRTC career, but through life in general, and I really put my whole life into my training and my betterment as a person.

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Kim (2nd from left, 2nd row)

I transferred schools half way in between year 12 as Norm was still picking on me, but by that stage, I had learnt to turn a blind eye to it, yet it was having a detrimental effect on my studies, so I decided to eliminate the bull shit and go to a school where I could put my mind to study, not having any other outside factors to distract me. When I transferred to Grant High, I had no problem adjusting, as my reputation had preceded me, due to the fact that I used to hang around the wrong crowd at Mount (Norms group, before Norm). Therefore, I had no problem with anyone picking on me or anything like that and was able to continue my secondary and AIRTC study in peace.

Whilst at Grant High, I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful Contemporary World History teacher by the name of Chris Collins, who allowed me to look into the Vietnam War as my major assignment for the subject. This allowed me to also do some soul searching, because I was curious as to what type of background I was from. I must admit that it effected me in a way I never thought it would. I found myself putting a lot of time into the project and trying to learn as much as I possibly could about this wonderful country that was ravaged by war time and time again. This was the country of my birth…….this was Vietnam.

Now, with a little more maturity and the knowledge and training instilled within from the AIRTC, I was able to evaluate the situation from both a civilian and military viewpoint, but by combining both trains of thought, I found myself getting emotional about the whole situation. Until I began the subject, I hadn’t really put a lot of thought into my origins. In fact, I hadn’t had any inclination to even look, feeling that I was Australian, and that was all there was to it.

However, during my research, I found myself being drawn into a vortex of feelings and emotions as if they had been lying dormant waiting for the right time to surface. Maybe I had to reach a stage in self evolution to enable me to deal with the issues coming to the fore without becoming a gibbering, emotional wreck? Perhaps, perhaps not, whatever – that point is open to conjecture. I found myself beginning to question my whole life until that point. Questions formed in my mind as if they just materialised out of nowhere:-

WHERE AM I FROM?

WHAT IS MY PURPOSE FOR BEING?

WHO AM I?

Many times I found myself going over scenario by scenario as to my specific origins. I became acutely aware of the struggle that my “Vietnamese” ancestors had endured to repel “foreign” invasion over the passing of time since the day dot. The Chinese, Thais, Cambodians, French, Americans and a number of other invaders had all been repelled by my ancestors resisting overwhelming odds. I began to feel a pride within myself. Naturally, the past is the past and will forever remain part of history, yet one cannot deny the spirit of a people such as the Vietnamese who have retained their homeland through centuries of warfare and at great human cost to them. Although I have never stepped on Vietnamese soil, I began to envision myself as being descendant from a race of warriors who fought for what they believed in and felt very proud, yet very sad and angry for the lives lost for that cause. Of course, no adoptee from a similar situation could ever forget that for the very fact that they were orphaned as a result and adopted in the first instance.

As for the second question, I had to do a lot of soul searching to even try and grasp the concept of what my whole purpose of being was, and the AIRTC played a large part in my earlier perceptions of what I was put on this Earth, under this situation, for. Regularly, we would go on weekend camps, or bivouacs, and if we were proficient enough, we would get the chance to go on promotion courses. Most of the training was based around management principles, combined with a broad military education, learning basic field tactics and skills, weapons drill, which involved working theory and practical knowledge of the SLR L1A1 Rifle, which was the weapon used by the Australian soldiers in Vietnam. I felt at home, as if I was born for the military life, as if I was born to be a warrior, to fight, and, possibly die for something I believe in. Nothing could make me happier than using stealth to sneak up on someone in another Flights base camp, even if it took a few hours to get a couple of hundred meters, then proceed to engage that person in conversation, whilst removing their weapon and taking it back to our own base camp without them realising we were even from the enemy base camp, only to realise it in the morning with a swift kick up the arse from their Section Commander! I felt as one with the bush and a rifle, as if it were my destiny, as if I was here to fight for everything that is right against everything that is wrong in this world.

The third question is an ever elusive one and, not unlike a good book, I seem to have twists and turns, plots and subplots, adventure, romance, sensitivity, basic animal instincts oozing in and out of my persona and thus makes it very hard to pin point a definitive answer as to who I actually am. I can only speculate, as everyone will perceive me differently, depending on their own individuality. However, I saw myself as being a young man trying to struggle with inner turmoil as I attempted to answer these questions. To this day, I still have not found a satisfactory answer.

After year 12, a peaceful era of my life began and I have been relatively fortunate enough to have had minimal racist issues to deal with, hence my adult life had begun and I embraced it with open arms. A lot of changes occurred within me. I relocated to Adelaide to study an Associate Diploma of Business and two major events occurred in the two years there.
Firstly, the move gave Dom and myself a chance to really get to know eachother, as adoptees, as friends, as brothers. We had some really great and in depth, intellectual conversations regarding Vietnam, the causes, effects, economics, politics, and so on and so forth. Eventually, however, we came to the same conclusion that the war, when joined by the Americans became a very costly and pointless war, due to the fact the very fear the Americans installed in their countrymen of the “Domino Theory” was not realised, even thought the “Communists” won! What a FUCKING WASTE!!!! We also came to the conclusion that both of us were looking for the same thing, yet differing in perspective. That was someone to talk to who actually knew what it was like to be in our situation and going through a similar identity crisis as we were. Of course, we had the occasional disagreements, yet, through it all, came out better people for the experience.

Secondly, I was able to get the chance to visit America for about two weeks and a highlight of my trip was going to see the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington Cemetery in Virginia, with the changing of the guard, as well as the famous Vietnam Wall Memorial in Washington. Both of these locations are steeped in history, however, I couldn’t help feeling something…….?! Tragic as the reality is, and there seemed to be an unspoken silence, especially along the length of the wall from one end to another, I couldn’t help but think that for every name on that wall, there were 20 to 30 Vietnamese people dead. Not just soldiers, whose names appeared on that wall, but civilians. My view was that, as soldiers, it was in their job description, by it’s very nature, that death may result in the course of duty, yet the civilians killed by these soldiers need to be considered too. They need to have a tomb for the UNKNOWN CIVILIANS OF VIETNAM! I was overwhelmed by an emotional force that almost sent me staggering to my knees as I mourned not the soldiers on the wall, rather the mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, children, and all other civilians that I would never get to meet as a result, be it direct or indirect, of the actions of these soldiers! It was not their job to fight and die, rather survive pressure from both sides in an unconventional war that will remain in my heart forevermore………….

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Three Servicemen Statue

I am now in my 28th year of life, and have made some decisions regarding my future and present happiness. I have moved to the Blue Mountains in NSW and work in the CBD. I am content with life as it presents itself, and am finally getting past any past misgivings. Growing up in contemporary Australian society as an adoptee from a war torn country, and as a result of that very war, has been for me, quite an experience. I have made friends, foes, and acquaintances. I have got out of the small town that was keeping me stuck between a rock and a hard place and am now making a life for myself. Sometimes I still sit and wonder what the answers to those questions are, but do not dwell on it, for I know that one day I will find the answer. I was once brash and wanted the answers instantaneously, yet now I am wiser for I am older and know the answers will come to me and I will be waiting………………..

Kim Nguyen Edgar is one of many orphaned babies who traveled to a land of opportunity and who found a new life with an adopted family. This is one of many stories about the growth of one such baby from infant to adulthood, and the challenges faced by this particular boy as he faced life to grow into a man.

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it is nice to hear about conflict and adoption. My daughter is Chinese and we did adopt her from an orphanage. we have always been up front about the tiny bit of information we have. We went back to her founding site to try and get information with her, so far to no avail.
She lives with the conflict. She started living with it at 9. I am surprised how many families say their Chinese daughters are fine and they never talk about their adoption. I think that they are deluded as most of the parents do not ask. one parent said her daughter is clueless and she has said things to me that makes me certain she is not clueless at all!
As an early adolescent, my daughter is going to have more feelings come out. I feel all I can do is support her and make it ok for her to talk about whatever worries her. She has said she misses her first mom. I have had friends say ” that must hurt you” but you know? it really doesn’t. I want her to know all her feelings are valid and I know this doesn’t have anything to do with me anyway. it is just her trying to figure it out. I sometimes feel I made an error taking her away from her country but it is a done deal so we plan on taking her back a few times and we try to keep her involved. It doesn’t really help though or might not. I don’t know. She loves AND hates China.— Posted by melanie

Melanie, just speaking from personal experience here, but I think it does help just knowing communication lines remain open. I wasn’t equipped with the vocabulary to convey a lot of my feelings so much remained unsaid. Even if I’d had the words to express my curiosity and conflicted feelings, I’d already gotten the impression that my adoption wasn’t a comfortable topic. It was “weird” so I, myself wasn’t comfortable with discussing it.

All children are different, but I think age and environment contribute a lot. Kids do different things at different ages and pick up things not only from their parents but from their peers. A lot of the problems I had stemmed from teasing and rude questions from my peers. Again the problem became communication because I couldn’t talk to my my parents about it.

Some adoptive parents do take the approach of waiting until their child directly confronts them about their adoptions. Not that I’m saying that’s the wrong way, but there is always that danger of unintentionally giving the impression that it’s a taboo subject. Additionally, adoptive parents saying their adopted children are oblivious sends up a red flag especially in the case of TRAs. Kids notice differences at very young ages. If they don’t notice themselves, their peers usually do. If they are being educated about and exposed to their birth ethnicities, how can they not notice? If they aren’t being exposed to their birth ethnicities and interacting with other adoptees and people with similar ethnic backgrounds, then I don’t think it’s the kids who are oblivious.

Your story is beautifully written and speaks directly to the betrayal of keeping identity a secret (sperm doners/donees take note). I was particularly struck by “We should be past the days when adoptees are forced to shoulder the burden of maintaining the illusion that none of it matters.” It’s sad that this is not the case, even in the State of New York. I began my search in 1982. In 1991 my mother died. I never met her and didn’t know until 10 years later. In 2001 I hired an investigor for thousands of dollars to find her. Although my father is named in my birth records (I asked my agency social worker), by law I am not allowed to know who he is. I’ll leave it to the reader to imagine how many secrets & lies are scattered here, and how much it hurt me (and my birthmother) to have been kept from knowing each other.

It’s hard for me to imagine how Sumeia must feel, given that her father – not an anonymous social worker – held on to the keys to her past. The best interest of the child is the truth.

— Posted by Barbara

Barbara, thank you for sharing some of your own story. I’m so sorry to hear you were never able to meet your mother in person. I can barely imagine how you feel also being prevented from knowing your father. What is it going to take to get this these secrecy laws changed?

Our status as adoptees makes it acceptable for us to be lied to, deceived and flat out denied knowledge that for others is only natural to have. This has always baffled and infuriated me. As adoptees, our rights often get trumped when it comes knowing our histories. It all makes me feel very much like a second class citizen. Isn’t it amazing that we’re told to “move on” and “get over it” while in many ways, our “status” as adoptees never really changes?

My best wishes to you.

Until I was going on twelve years of age, I was in several foster homes, having been abandoned by both birth mother and father, and then “adopted” by the father. I also was confused as a youngster about “who” I really was, but when I went to my father and his family I became even more confused with a smoldering anger that burst into a permanent sundering with the immediate “blood” relatives. A successful search for my birth mother after I had married simply added to my confusion and anger. I have felt like an “outsider” all my life even though I am aware of the facts of that life. And yes, I do feel sorry for myself, but I am sorrier for those children who are made strangers in this world through the violence of war and individual acts of the desperate, the confused, the selfish, and the evil. I believe that orphans are always orphaned.

— Posted by george

Hi George, ah so there is another adoptee who was adopted by their own father. No longer the case with me it seems, but thinking that throughout my adolescence and early adulthood was confusing for me as well. Even if I hadn’t been an adoptee, that part of my identity had already been too deeply ingrained in my head. It didn’t do much for my self-esteem either thinking that he’d previously been ashamed to acknowledge me as “his” before he’d changed his mind for whatever reason.

On some level, I agree with you about always being an “orphan”; the outsider, being rootless, not belonging, identity-challenged, lack of closure. It seems we have varying ways to describe the feeling but as adoptees, we seem to point to the same feelings of uncertainty and limbo.

…I will be going to Vietnam in January and would be glad to visit the orphanage and ask for information on Ta Kim Cuc if you wish.

— Posted by Dave Garrod

Dave, thank you for the information and for your generous offer. There are a few people looking for her now so hopefully news will turn up soon. I’ve visited both sites you mentioned (Amerasian Family Finder) and still look through Joe’s on occasion. I also keep intending to email him but am not sure of what to say. Maybe later, if and when I learn a little more about what happened. From what I can tell, I couldn’t have stayed in Hoi Duc Anh for more than a few weeks.

Suppose the adoptive history includes the mother’s history of violent schizophrenia with multiple personality disorder? Suppose mom sequentially abandoned of all of her 6 children some of them in garbage cans? How about birth dad’s drug addiction? At what age does one share this information? As a preschooler? 8 year old? Adolescent? How about the fact that the birth mom is now a missing person who promised to stay in touch, but who disappeared weeks later and cannot be found even with the help of a detective. For me the line in the essay that is most telling is that the child’s is held in trust until the time when he or she is mature enough to receive the information. When will this be? We are not sure, and we admit we are conflicted about this. In the meantime, we are determined not to lie or to give out misleading piecemeal information; however, not all stories are appropriate for childen, even when it is their story.

— Posted by Mimi

Mimi, I don’ t think adoption and all that comes with it should ever be “dumped” on an adoptee as either a child or an adult. It’s common sense when dealing with children and difficult circumstances like the ones you mentioned that age and maturity appropriateness must be considered. When dealing with minors, I think when they are mature enough depends on the individual adoptee. I know that sounds vague but some kids are ready to handle things before others. Honestly, I don’t think there is an ideal time to disclose such things as they aren’t easy for either the one telling them or the one hearing them.

There just isn’t a “right” answer. Certainly one wouldn’t want to tell a child something before they’re able to understand what it means and that the circumstances of their adoptions don’t reflect on them as people.

I hate to leave it at that, but a well thought out answer would require an entire blog post or maybe even a series. Hmmm…you just given me an idea…

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People have asked me if I believe she really even exists. I have doubts after so much deception, but my mind plays tricks on me. Part of it races on to dream about finding Cuc. The possibilities seem endless before I force myself to slam a virtual foot on those mental brakes.

Forefront in my mind, I have an apology on reserve.

I’m sorry I splattered your name all over the internet, but I was selfish and desperate. I was hoping someone, maybe even you would see it and remember. After the passage of so much time, the sense of urgency is overwhelming.

Please, forgive me.

There is that nagging fear in the back of my mind that she might not want to be found or that finding her would unintentionally disrupt her life in ways she might not want.

If you hear rumors that people are looking for you, it’s only me. It was not my intention to disrupt your life, just to thank you and hear your side of the story.

Please understand.

Then there’s that absolute dread that she may not be alive.

As soon I got the address in my hands, I started looking for you. I was so furious to discover dad had kept your address and request to get in touch with you to himself for so many years. Please know if I’d had known, I would have tried to reach you years ago. I’m so, so sorry.

Please, please, be alive.

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Thanks everyone for taking the time to comment. If anything, I think the Relative Choices blog sparked off some great conversations on everything from adoption ethics to adoptee representation in the media. It’s encouraging to see these conversations continue to develop and grow.

I’ll be doing this off and on for goodness knows how long. I didn’t anticipate such a large response!

Have you considered a DNA test?
This would at least tell her if the father in question is the genetic or the adopted father.

I see no reason to feel guilty or disloyal; I’d want to know who my parents are, and I’d be angry and confused about all the lies.

Is there a way to contact the Orphanage?

Best of luck on your search.

— Posted by Marta

Thanks Marta. I have looked into DNA testing. To be honest, right now money is a big factor in why I haven’t had one done. Other reasons are that I really don’t believe he is my genetic father just based on the fact that I seemed to have inherited none of his physical traits. My dad’s side of the family are tall and rather robust. I’m the exact opposite being very petite and standing barely 5 feet. Also I don’t appear to be mixed race at all. It’s not enough to trump needing a DNA test, but sheds enough doubt for me not to feel it so urgent.

My orphanage, Hoi Duc Anh is now a school for the blind. Currently, I’m in contact with Susan McDonald who volunteered in a few orphanages including mine and has helped many Vietnamese adoptees link back to their pasts. She’s a beautiful soul who is also helping me look for Ta Kim Cuc. I’m still not sure what happened to the records from Hoi Duc Anh but am trying to find out.

Hi,
I can only try to understand the feelings of Ms Williams. But I can all too well understand her father. I live that life after another war, another country. My son who is now 18 starts to understand that his dad is not like most other dads, although we walk, talk, live and look alike. Things I did and saw between 1984-1988. He wants to know, I can not tell.
Not only that, I am scared of the questions. After all I am alive and physically unhurt. What else is there to tell?

Chris

— Posted by Chris

Chris, I understand and sympathize with my dad on a deep level. He had to turn off parts of his humanity while in Vietnam and then try to return to a normal life. I don’t think he can completely compartmentalize his memories experience by experience. One memory sparks off another and then another. His way of dealing with that was to lock it all away.

As a social worker, I can tell you that you may never have “closure” over this issue. All you can do is attempt to gather more facts about your past, and this may give you a firmer sense of belonging. However, who you are is who you are and this no mystery. You might try writing to father about this issue and getting how and what you feel spelled out. While I obviously don’t know your Dad, he may feel more comfortable writing down the “facts” in a letter to you. If you have an address, I urge you to write the letter and send it while there is still some hope that this woman is alive. I wish you success in this, and hiope that you find enough facts to set your mind at rest.

Best wishes

— Posted by Elaine Price

Elaine, thank you for your well wishes. Because I’ve had the benefit of interaction with adoptees who have found their first parents (either one or both), I’m aware that a sense of closure isn’t likely. Coming to terms without closure seems the best some if not most of us can hope for. Obviously I have discussed my feelings with my father to some degree or else I wouldn’t have gotten this newly revised version. Much of that new information came in the form of a letter he’d written to me. I have written a letter to the address and will probably write another one. There are also some wonderful people out there trying to physically confirm the address. Hopefully, I’ll hear something soon.

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From Musings of the Lame…

The National Council for Adoption usually has something to say about any adoption issue. One would think they should just based on their name. After all “National Council” makes it sound as if an official governmental appointment was made. That they are the official US stance, made after long thought out meetings by a Council, on all things related to adoption. Alas, that is just a well thought out play on the name made to make one think that is what they are.

By their own Mission Statement, they are something else:

Founded in 1980, the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) is a research, education, and advocacy organization whose mission is to promote the well-being of children, birthparents, and adoptive families by advocating for the positive option of adoption. NCFA is an adoption advocate and expert in the halls of power and the courts of public opinion, on behalf of all parties to adoption and its member adoption agencies around the country.”

continue reading

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