Archive for November, 2007

Via Ethica News:

Dear Ethica Supporter:

Ethica has submitted comments on the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) new administrative procedures for the ratification of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. The USCIS comment period ends this Monday. We encourage adoption community members to contribute their thoughts on these procedures which can greatly influence the way adoptions are conducted.

Ethica’s comments can be downloaded here:

Your own comments can be submitted through the regulations website:

Step 1 – select “Documents with an Open Comment Period”

Step 2 – select “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services” from the
drop down list

Step 3 – select “All Document Types” from the drop down list

Step 4 – select “Docket ID” from the drop down list, enter USCIS-2007-0008

Step 5 – select the yellow bubble under “comment” in order to
contribute your views

Please notify us at info@ethicanet.org once you have submitted your comments.

Thank you for your support and for keeping adoption as a just and ethical option for children and families.

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August Rush

Fairy tale-ish but interesting…

The story of a charismatic young Irish guitarist and a sheltered young cellist who have a chance encounter one magical night above New York’s Washington Square, but are soon torn apart, leaving in their wake an infant, August Rush, orphaned by circumstance. Now performing on the streets of New York and cared for by a mysterious stranger, August uses his remarkable musical talent to seek the parents from whom he was separated at birth.

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This is so disheartening and infuriating. Several times I’ve expressed concerns about adoptions from Vietnam. I was hoping to be wrong, but the baby market again rears its ugly head. It’s sad to think that some adoptive parents are unwittingly benefiting from what amounts to nothing less than child trafficking.

I’ve heard some of the arguments. “They’re better off anyway.” “There is no proof that _____ wasn’t adopted under unethical circumstances.” All I can say in reply is, “Yeah, you tell yourself that if it helps you sleep at night.”

It’s not that I believe all children adopted from Vietnam involved unethical practices, but really, how do you know?  Adoptive parents are part of the first line of defense here.  Anyone looking to adopt from Vietnam should be very concerned by this news.  Even with a high level of safeguards in place, there is no 100% guarantee that a child was not obtained unethically.  What little they have in place now leaves a huge crack through which heaven only knows how many children are slipping.

I’m happy to see the US is aware of the problem and is taking measures, but there’s only so much they can do from this end.  The rest is up to the Vietnamese government.  I hope they do something soon.

Adopted Children Immigrant Visa Unit
Announcement Regarding Adoption In Vietnam, November 2007

In recent months, US Embassy Hanoi and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Ho Chi Minh City have seen an increase in the number of irregularities appearing in orphan petitions and visa applications in Vietnam. This has resulted in a similar increase in the issuance of Notices of Intent to Deny.

The ongoing number of irregularities that we are currently seeing strongly indicates that the adoption process in Vietnam still lacks sufficient oversight and regulation. Specifically there is insufficient control of the so-called child finders and an inadequate regulation of the fees paid to individuals and institutions. Despite its stated intention to do so, Vietnam has yet to publish a schedule of fees. We are extremely concerned by reports of significant increases in the number of abandoned children since 2005, especially in the provinces of Phu Tho and Thai Nguyen.

We recognize that a decision to deny a petition is an extremely undesirable outcome for adopting parents and for children, who themselves may be the victims of unscrupulous agents. For this reason, we urge adoptive parents to be extremely diligent in reviewing qualifications and standards before selecting an adoption service provider. Unfortunately, as news stories and blogs often reveal, the glowing report of an adoptive parent who successfully “brought home” a child cannot be taken as evidence that the adoption was ethical or fully legal.

We at the Embassy have a legal responsibility to ensure the integrity of the adoption process when that process is part of the request for an immigrant visa. Moreover, we have an ethical responsibility to ensure that international adoptions include adequate safeguards for the rights of the children, birth parents, and adoptive parents throughout this process.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Intercountry adoptions signed by the U.S. and Vietnam in 2005 was the beginning of a step towards an intercountry adoption program that would meet international standards such as those established by the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions. That convention contains a number or protections and safeguards currently lacking in Vietnam. For that reason, we are urging the Government of Vietnam to push forward with its efforts to become a Hague partner.

The MOU was designed to increase transparency and reduce corruption, and came after a period when adoptions had been suspended in Vietnam because of significant problems involving corruption and “Baby buying.”

We continue to encourage the DIA to work with provincial authorities in Vietnam to improve the integrity of the adoption system. We recognize there may be legitimate questions concerning the DIA authority in these cases. Whatever the cause, to date we have seen little remedial action to address the problems. Even more important, we have seen little if any action to identify and prosecute those responsible for fraudulently documenting the abandonment of children, offering monetary inducements to families for relinquishing children, and offering children for international adoption without the consent of the birth parents.

We strongly endorse international adoption as an important option for Vietnamese children who do not have permanent families. We are deeply concerned, however, by confirmed cases of child selling, and by evidence that children are being released for adoption without the consent of the birth parents.

We are continuing to work with the Government of Vietnam to find ways to strengthen and improve accountability in the adoption system. We continue to urge Vietnam to pass a new, responsible, comprehensive law regulating adoptions, one that puts in place a process that protects the interests of all parties involved in and adoption and one that meets the standards of the Hague Convention. We look forward to the day when both of our countries are full participants in that convention.

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Our very own Soon Young, author of Peace of Rice has an article in the Pacific Citizen.


With the highest number of Korean adoptees in any state, Minnesota is in a unique position to help build networks.

By Caroline Aoyagi-Stom, Executive Editor
Published November 16, 2007

At the age of 4, Kimberly “Soon-Young” Therres reached up to touch her mother’s eyelids “with their prominent folds” and wondered, ‘how come mine don’t have folds like that?’

It is the earliest memory Therres, now 29, has of realizing for the first time that she was different from her German American adoptive parents and two older brothers. She is an adopted Korean.

Born in Gimhae, South Korea, Therres’ biological parents made the difficult decision of putting their daughter up for adoption in 1978. By the time she was five months old, her adoptive parents had come to take her to her new home in Chaska, Minnesota.

“I knew I was adopted, even at that young age,” she said. “I don’t push away who I am because of how I was raised. I’ve always stressed my Korean blood, my Korean heritage. I’ve always felt a sense of pride about it.”

continue reading

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Hey out there. Second post is up. Most of my regular readers might have read my thoughts on that particular subject before. It’s still weighing on my mind and will continue to as long as I keep seeing it in discussions on transracial/transcultural adoption.

For those of you who I haven’t told, I’ll be on NPR’s Talk of the Nation today along with Katy Robinson, Jeff Gammage and Peter Catapano. If you miss the live broadcast, you can catch the stream later. Hope to hear from some of you during the show!

*update  There is also a discussion board here.

Again, thanks to all of you who’ve sent your support my way.

Regular blogging will resume in December with my first order of business being to reply to some of those comments I received on the Relative Choices blog.

Shoutout to the SH posse!

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Special thanks to Anh Ðào for her contribution. From the day I learned of her hike across Việt Nam, she’s had my admiration. A talented photographer, she shared much of her trek with rich, poignant photos.  Girl’s a powerhouse of talent and spirit.  Go Anh Ðào!


In Search of Lan Bui Thi, the Orchid Dust Girl

I genuinely wonder if I would be understood better if I hadn’t been robbed of my native tongue. I wonder what kind of thoughts would pour out. I wonder if I would see the world through my almond eyes very differently. I wonder what words would leave my mouth. And even more, I wonder if more of the world would sit up and listen.

As a transracial/transnational adoptee, we are forever trying to find our mother tongue; our true voice. So what would I say first if I woke up one day and out came Việt Namese? Would I be seen differently or the same me with just a foreign voice?

I was born somewhere outside Sài Gòn, Việt Nam in the 1970s. My passport which is Việt Namese does not belong to me and has a foto of me when I was six. I still cannot make the connection of why such an old picture of me exists on my allocated Việt Namese passport, when I came over when I was eighteen months. It just doesn’t make sense. Somehow the dots are disconnected. When did they change the foto to one of me? What happened to the little girl on the passport who is the true owner? Who removed her foto? Who gave them that permission? What did she look like? What does she look like? In search of Lan Bui Thi. Lan meaning Orchid, Bui a typical Việt Namese last name and Thi, the extraneous word in between.

My Dearest Lan –

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of you. I wonder what you are doing right now; where are you in this world; what you are eating – are you even eating? What smells are around you; what you are looking at and even more, what you are feeling, if you even have that privilege. What luxuries am I taking for granted now that we have swapped places? Where do you sleep at night? Are you warm and save? Do you even care about these things at all? Do you feel whole or lost? Is your life simple or complex? Again, do you really care? Are you even alive?

I was born somewhere outside Sài Gòn, Việt Nam in the 1970s. My biological mother had me and left the next day from probably Tu Do Hospital. I was put into an orphanage, To Am aka Warm Nest. Months later, I find myself at An Lac, but for some reason Betty Tisdale, the Operation Babylift “Angel”, says she can’t find me on her list. HER list – does that mean I never existed? Or that all she cared about were the children of Operation Babylift? Like the rest of the world, Viet adoptees that were left before and after 1975 seem to be insignificant, though we were bought and sold just like the rest of them. Maybe I should ask her about you. Maybe you are on her list. Maybe she can reunite us – then again, maybe you are dead, like my biological mother (I do not know if this is true – it’s always been speculation that I created at a very young age). They say that’s how I got your passport. That you were just a name and I was just a face, so they paired us together with the only logic reason for doing so was that we looked the same age. But how can we look at the same age if you are faceless and I am ageless?

There is a foto that my adopted mother has of me – one of the first ones taken of me. I am being held by another child. Next to her is another child holding another baby of similar age. I can’t remember which one I am supposed to be – I think the one holding the balloon. But I wonder if that’s you. That I was the “lucky” one to leave and you were not. If we both knew what the other one had, would we have traded places? I am sorry that I haven’t written sooner – what’s my excuse? Surviving life.

So would you and I ever be friends or would our paths never cross – or would they cross and I would have no idea?

I think no matter how much love you have been given, to have your birth rights taken away from you, leaves you still craving some sense of validation in this world. I used to say that I could be in a room full of people who know, love and respect me, but still feel alone. I now truly understand why. To look at someone who has some sort of remote biological connection to you speaks volumes. To have been left behind to be rescued to be shipped off to return as an adult, yet still a child to be seriously alone to be united forever has offered me no sense of closure. Not as I thought it had or would.

When I left Việt Nam in 2003 after returning and seeing it with my adult eyes for two months, alone, I felt I had closure – that there was no need for me to be looking back over my shoulder to a life I had left behind – not by choice mind you. But there is a stirring in me and again I find myself misplaced and displaced – lost again, all over. Hopeless, craving something more – that something I my life is missing – a severed connection between past, present and future – aimlessly wondering with nothing in sight ahead of me.

I imagine you to be laughing right now – tying your long black hair back, coyish smiling at some boy you have a crush on – somewhere at some café in the sun; your almond eyes glistening. I call out your name under my breath – “Lan” – and I see you turn to see who has said your name. I can’t believe how possible that it would be for you to hear me, as I am on the other side of the world whispering your name. Are you still alive? Please tell me that you are. You are very popular and make friends easily. When you smile, the left side of your lips raise first – opposite to mine. You lack the hot under the collar temper I can’t seem to get rid of, but your passion for life is as intense as mine. The only difference is that you have ambitions and somewhere along the way mine died. And of course the biggest telling difference is that you are all imaginary, while my life is real; too real at times, that’s its vividly overwhelming. Am I allowed to get overwhelmed Lan? Or is that one only child syndrome issue I still need to work hard on shedding? Tell me, would be good friends or sworn enemies? Who’s the ying, and who’s the yang? I know you do and or did exist. I just don’t know how or where…

A fellow adoptee once said to me when I was struggling to see the point of my life, since we all survived a war we can survive life. In deconstructing this a little further, I have realized that I didn’t survive a war, I escaped it. And now I want to escape life.

Sincerely, Anh Ðào

Born outside Saigon, Vietnam, Anh Ðào Kolbe came to the United States via New York City in 1972. She left two years later and grew up with her Greek and German parents in the Middle Eastern countries of Qatar and Oman. She came back to this country via Boston, but didn’t exploit her starving artist talents until after college. At the beginning of 2003, she returned to her motherland for the first time since her adoption and backpacked solo for two months around the beautiful country with camera in hand. For a sample of her portfolio, go to www.adkfoto.com

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Fellow Vietnamese adoptee, friend and hero, Indigo Willing has been kind enough to offer a few thoughts to make up for my lack blogging. Same sex adoption is a subject that I rarely speak about on my blog, but I think it’s a subject that deserves our input as adoptees. Thank you, Indigo!

The Same Sex Adoption Issue – Challenging Prejudices and Improving Collaborations

–by Indigo Willing OAM.

The question of what adopted people think of Gay and Lesbian
adoptions is most timely and the issue deserves our deep
consideration. Before I detail six particular thoughts I have on
the matter, I feel it’s important to disclose that I do not have any
personal experience of being adopted by Gay or Lesbian parents. My
interest in the topic arises from a social justice perspective, from
being an adoptee and from my professional work researching the wider
topic of adoptive parenting.

My first thought is that I think it’s important to commend people
like Sume – who amongst others, shows much resourcefulness, courage
and community spirit in gathering her cohorts’ views and experiences
with adoptions. Adopted people hold remarkable personal insights into
the practice and are also steadily building up additional
professional and academic expertise in the area.

My second thought is that, personally, I am very keen to see
Heterosexuals, Gays, Lesbians, Bi-sexuals, Queers and Transgender
(GLBQT) populations ALL collaborating with adopted people under the
common aim of developing a range of strategies to improve the well
being of children who are adopted from overseas.

Thirdly, and this thought cannot be made clear without some back up
details, is that I think there is a need to identify and then resist
how a lot of the moral discussions, as well as much of the political
discourse that opposes Gay and Lesbian adoptions, almost always
relies on reproducing damaging stereotypes and myths about non-
heterosexuals. Sadly, there are many arguments against non-
heterosexual adoptions that ignore the body of sociological and
psychological literature that demonstrates how the presumption that
children with parents who are same-sex attracted will fare worse than
those raised by heterosexuals has no scientific basis.

For example, an upcoming article in The Gay and Lesbian Issues and
Psychology (GLIP) Review journal by Philip Duffey, a legal scholar,
directs us to the work of Jenni Millbank who revealed in a 1998 study
that, to date, there is not “a single social scientist conducting and
publishing research in the area of children’s development who claims
to have found that gay and lesbian parents harm children”. She does
however, observe how the “data is often ignored or overlooked in
favour of the speculative view”. Damien Riggs, an Australian scholar
in psychology, has also published work that assists with moving past
the myths and exploring more informed assessments. Across the
Pacific, Suzanne Johnson and Elizabeth O’Conner’s psychological
research on Gay and Lesbian adoptions in a 2002 study in American
also stands as one of the more recent efforts to break through the
prejudice and stereotypes and instead focus on proper data.

My fourth thought is that there is a need to gain a further
understanding into what the current laws on adoption by Gay and
Lesbian populations actually are, and to learn from overviews that
are more detailed than those provided by newspapers and other media
reports. The problem is that very few researchers have been able to
clearly communicate the legal intricacies of the issue, and
outline the status of same-sex attracted people’s rights in a
comprehensive yet easy to understand manner. Such work is absolutely
necessary if the general public are to be able to truly understand
issues of rights for Gay and Lesbian populations in matters of
parenting and adoption.

My fifth thought, following insights from adopted colleagues such as
Lynelle Beveridge (founder of the Intercountry Adoptee Support
Network) is that adoption is a complex field, and that we should
continue to be open to considering a much broader and richer number
of approaches in adoption rather than thinking there’s one magic
answer. In addition, because there are multiple ways that people can
experience adoptions we need to always stay aware of how the numerous identities that can come into play are currently subject to an unfair hierarchy of privilege in society. Thus, there remains a need to identify and understand how the politics of (White) Gay and Lesbian adoptions in Australia, while marginalized, still intersects with wider questions of race and class privilege (as with White heterosexual ones).

The point here is that there is an enormous gap in access to power
between those who are most likely to adopt and those who are adopted;
this is particularly the case with inter-country adoptions.

Questions of power and their connections to Gay and Lesbian adoptions
that are transracial and inter-country can be explored in more depth
in some of the emerging literature by authors such as Damien Riggs,
David Eng, Laura Briggs and (transracially adoptive parent and
Lesbian) Arlene Ari Istar Lev.

Finally, my sixth thought concerns the need to continue to work with
adopted people themselves. Whilst the use of sociological and
psychological literature on the levels of self-esteem and social
identifications of adoptees works well to reveal how negative
attitudes towards Gay and Lesbian adoptions have no ‘rational’ basis,
I do not believe that the best interests of children who are adopted
across perceived lines of ‘racial’ and ethnic difference can be
easily assessed by some of the more traditional (colour-blind)
research approaches used to date.

Thankfully, a number of social scientists and particularly
sociologists and anthropologists are now beginning to learn from the
advice, research and general life-experiences of adopted people.
Texts that are authored by adult adoptees include a growing body of
academic and creative literature, as well as personal narratives and
memoirs by those who were adopted by Whites (mostly heterosexuals but can include people who are same-sex attracted) and have now reached maturity. What is important to note is that this body of work clearly reveals that for many adopted people their sense of well-being went awry due to a politics of identity in their families and society based on perceived racial and ethnic/cultural differences; this is separate from any impact that their adoptive parents’ or own sexual identifications might have had on their identity. The question of how to best work with cultural biases in adopted people’s birth countries also needs to be worked upon (rather than being allocated to the ‘too hard’ or ‘impossible’ basket) with adopted people and a
range of others.

In closing, I think a good way forward is to resist subjecting GLBQT
populations who wish to adopt to old stereotypes or measuring them to
heterosexual notions of parenting. Instead, everyone should be trying
to improve the practice of caring for children in general through
seeking more collaborative approaches and by referring to
contemporary research rather than outdated and damaging speculation.
I look forward to seeing a task force on this topic eventuate and am
open to hearing more about how adopted people (who are also parents)
like myself can offer their support.

Ms Indigo Willing is a doctoral candidate (sociology) at The
University of Queensland in Australia. Her dissertation is explores
the experiences of adoptive parents with children from Africa and
Asia. Willing is also a Vietnamese adoptee and founder of Adopted
Vietnamese International.

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