Operation Identity:Cooperating to Protect the Identity of Vietnamese Orphans
Trish Maskew, President of Ethica, recently returned from Vietnam. While in Hanoi, she met with the U.S. Embassy staff, who revealed something that is terribly shocking and upon which Ethica feels compelled to act. U.S. Embassy staff revealed that approximately 85% of the children being placed for adoption now are reportedly abandoned. 85%! The Embassy strongly believes that most of these “abandonments” are in fact staged abandonments. And indeed, the history of the past 10-15 years lends credence to that belief.
The importance of identifying information to adopted persons cannot be overstated. Every adopted person, no matter who they are or who they were born to should know their origins if at all possible. When adoptees for generations have discussed their pain about the lack of info, and their longing for more, there can be no doubt that for the children this is one of the most important things about any adoption. Indeed in the last 15 years there has been a huge push to open adoptions to address the harm that secrecy causes. And yet, in Vietnam evidence suggests that someone is depriving them of this most essential of life’s information. Who is doing it? We don’t know; there are several possibilities discussed in more depth below. It is our sincere hope that no agency or agency contractor is doing so intentionally, and we believe that not all, or even most, agencies are. But these questions must be answered.
As mentioned on both Harlow’s Monkey and Borrowed Notes, Ethica has initiated a project “designed to encourage the accurate identification of Vietnamese orphans and to prevent skyrocketing abandonment rates from impacting the future of adoptions from Vietnam.” The jump in the number of “abandonments” should be an immediate red flag. To think some of these might have been staged in order to make things “easier” fills me with such outrage. As someone who’s only recently discovered the tangled web of lies and deception in regards to my own history and identity, I can’t help it.
Even during the days when I thought my history was simply “lost,” I felt its absence like a constant presence in my life. It sounds crazy to say an absence is a presence, but I’m referring to “the void” left by my lack of access. Nothing was something and that something never went away. It wasn’t always a conspicuous part of my conscious mind but it didn’t have to be. The nature of the beast was subtle which made it all the more difficult to understand.
Unknowingly, I’d shaped much of my life around the disconnect. Even more telling was how I’d tried to fill the emptiness. Again, that’s not to say that I attribute everything to the loss, but think it factored in much more than I’d previously thought.
Over time, I tried to come to terms with the loss, but don’t think I ever really did. Coming to terms meant acceptance of its existence which is something I found impossible to do. Acceptance felt like saying my history and identity weren’t important and they were. Not having access to my history or a strong sense of identity only added to my feelings of being apart from my environment rather than being a part of it.
Every illusion I’d construct for myself would eventually fall apart until I had no choice but to pursue the truth. To later learn that my adoptive father had not lost but in fact hidden an important part of my history wreaked havoc on my already weakened sense of self as well as our relationship. Once again, everything I thought I knew about myself was cast into doubt making much of my life feel like a lie. Despite any good intentions he might have had, his decision to hide and manipulate the truth felt like a betrayal.
As Kevin says in his post:
Like I’ve written, time and again, children do not stay children forever. And, one way or another, these children, when they grow older and become adults themselves, will hold their adoptive parents, agencies and foreign governments accountable for those decisions that ultimately affected their lives.
Adoptees have the same fundamental right to know their origins. I can’t stress enough the importance of recognizing that right and ensuring that access to the truth is available when possible. Some may never want to know, but there will be many who will.
Like Jae Ran, I sympathize with the long wait potential adoptive parents must endure but cannot ignore the recent warnings issued by the DOS. Those warnings combined with the jump in “abandonments” in Vietnam to a whopping 85% and the lack of transparency should send up a red flag that should at least be investigated. How can one not be concerned if there is the slightest possibility that a child is being put up for adoption through unethical means?
As history shows in cases like Guatemala, without transparency and tight safeguards the potential for abuse and corruption is high. When I discuss adoptions from Vietnam in regards to my generation and the deception that was sometimes involved, people often explain it away using the “chaos of war.” Vietnam is no longer the “war-torn” country from where I sprung.
Poverty and social pressure seem to have replaced war as the reason for the rise in abandonments. Still, some part of me finds it all a little too convenient. Given the lack of transparency, I think it at least warrants a thorough investigation. It would be sad to see the country of my birth replace Guatemala as the default country to cite during discussions of adoption abuses and corruption.
Harlow’s Monkey – My Right to Know
Borrowed Notes – Operation Identity
Land of the Not So Calm – Operation Identity and Vietnam Adoptions