Archive for the ‘Adoptee Blogs & Websites’ Category

By now, the “family medical history moment” is so common and expected that it’s barely worth mentioning anymore.  You know, it’s that moment when the nurse or doctor asks an adoptee if there’s any history in the family of diabetes, breast cancer, etc.  The unfortunate adoptee who has very little or no information about their birth family has to deal with the inevitable, “I was adopted.  I don’t know.”

It use to be a serious source of stress for me, but I guess I just got use to it.  It’s gotten to the point where I say it or write it down without thinking much about it – or maybe I’ve just resigned myself to the idea that there’s nothing I can do about it.

My last doctor appointment, however, brought it all back.

As expected, the nurse starts going down the usual list of questions:

“Are you allergic to any medications?”

“Not that I’m aware of.”

“Any serious injuries in the past that we should know about?”

“Nothing more serious than a broken arm when I was three.”

“Any history of cancer, diabetes, etc?”

“I have no idea.  I was adopted.”

*laughs “Well!  That makes it simple, doesn’t it?”


I wish someone had been there to record of my facial expression.  It must have been as indescribable as my feelings at the time.  I think I actually debated with myself for a few seconds on whether or not to point out how dismissive, insensitive and ignorant-seeming her statement was.  It might have saved the next adoptee she encountered some grief, but sometimes you have to pick your battles.  The only justification I have is that I just wanted to do what needed to be done and get out of there.

“I wish,” was about all I could get out of my mouth.

What I really wanted to say would have turned into an hour long lecture of why it did anything but make things simple.

My mind immediately went to Julia and so many like her who might have benefited from knowledge of their family medical histories and access to genetically related family members.   All those “what if” questions came flooding back along with all the anger.

They are questions that most of us will never have answers to because someone didn’t think our lives prior to our adoptions meant anything.  Adoptees who have no access to information that most people take for granted are left to wonder and hope that the day they need it to save their lives never comes.

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Child’s short life has run from abandonment in the forests of Vietnam to the caring arms of an adoptive family

Watching 2-year-old Phung Thien Nhan scoot merrily around an examination room at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, making excited conversation with strangers and burning through toys with a toddler’s fickle taste, one would never know that he’d been rescued not once, but twice from life-threatening situations.

The first rescue came when villagers found the newborn Nhan abandoned by his teenage mother in a forest in central Vietnam, still alive despite 72 hours in the wilderness and severe injuries from an animal mauling. Doctors were forced to remove his right leg, but they saved his life, prompting a group of Buddhist monks to give him a name that means “angelic child.”

But Nhan also needed a second rescue when Vietnamese journalist Tran Mai Anh found the boy living in poor conditions with his grandparents.

Worried for the boy’s safety and health, Anh fought a five-month battle to adopt Nhan with her husband, Phung Quang Nghinh, and began to raise money for the boy’s medical care. Their efforts led Nhan to the Rehabilitation Institute, the second medical stop on a cross-country tour of the United States.

“He has been very happy, very active and cheerful,” Anh said as she watched Nhan place stickers on her husband’s face. “He’s been singing a lot of songs, and he didn’t sing before.”

On Tuesday, Nhan was evaluated at the institute by prosthetic specialists, who said that with modifications to his prosthetic leg and physical therapy, he should be able to walk normally in a matter of years. The good news followed successful surgery in New Hampshire on groin injuries the boy suffered during his abandonment, his parents said, and accompanied an upwelling of support from Vietnamese and American organizations and citizens.

“It gives the parents a lot of hope to see a lot of love out there for them and their child,” said Son Michael Pham, founder of Seattle-based non-profit Kids Without Borders, which is helping pay for the trip. “And it gives them a lot more energy and will to make sure we can do whatever is best so he will have a normal life.”

Nhan’s discovery was a popular news story in Vietnam in 2006, Pham said, a rare case of child abandonment in a country that prides itself on family values. But after the country’s attention drifted, Nhan was sent from to live with his mother’s family, who neglected him further.

When Anh found him in 2007, he was eating nothing but bananas and cold rice and sleeping in a corner of the family’s hut. Alarmed, she started the lengthy process of formally adopting the child, earning guardianship in March and bringing him to her family’s Hanoi home to live with her husband and two sons.

Not used to the comforts of modern living, Nhan struggled at first with simple behaviors like sleeping in a bed and eating new foods.

“Everything we gave him to eat, he threw away. I think he was scared of it,” Mai Anh said. “After a few days, he began to eat a lot, and we had to hide the food.”

Nhan’s celebrity has also regrown in Vietnam, where his second birthday in July was celebrated by more than 100 people who have followed the boy’s progress on a Web site started by supporters, Anh said.

That celebrity has spread to Vietnamese-American communities in the United States, said Greig Craft, president of Vietnam-based Asia Injury Prevention Foundation and an organizer of the family’s trip. When the family ate at a Vietnamese restaurant in Chicago’s Chinatown on Monday night, the owner paid their bill—and threw in a $100 donation, Craft said.

Donations can be made at www.kidswithnoborders.org, the family said.

Related: Bellevue group helps ‘Miracle Baby’ begin road to his recovery

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Ethnically Perplexed by Sume

Years ago my father sent me a folder containing a family tree that stretched back to 1776, an old newspaper article about one of his ancestors and a picture of the family crest.  He is a proud Southerner, and his pride naturally extends to his European ancestry that he’d traced all the way back to Wales.  Throughout my childhood, he’d never failed to impress upon me the importance of heritage.

continue reading

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Seems like as good of a time as any to re-post this. Much has changed  in South Korea since the documentary first aired, but perhaps there are still lessons left for us to learn from the history of adoptions from South Korea.  I’ve always noticed strong parallels between it and the history of adoptions from Vietnam.  At the very least, I hope we are reminded of how international adoption is always one step away from human trafficking.

This is the first critical documentary to come out of Korea about inter-country adoption. Aired May 2005 in Korea. English subtitles KBS synopsis: A 20-year-old unwed mother asked the In-Depth 60 minutes team to help her find her baby. According to her, the baby was taken by an adoption agency without her consent, as soon as she gave birth at an Ob&Gyn Clinic. The transaction of money in the background was traced between the clinic and the adoption agency related to this. Why is money involved to secure babies for adoption? 2300 children are adopted abroad among a total of 3800 adoptions annually. Human rights organizations criticize the government’s encouragement of exporting babies. Especially, overseas adoptions have a lot of problems due to the lack of a proper system to provide post adoption services. This is a shameful portrait of Korea, the world’s 10th biggest economy and a member of OECD. In-depth 60 Minutes is investigating the truth of rumours regarding overseas adoption through shocking stories of unwed mothers who were robbed of their name of “mother” and through the voices of adoptees who are returning to Korea.

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Piece written for China Connection Magazine

More than 30 years slipped away before my mother and I really discussed my adoption. My earlier attempts were delivered in the form of sporadic, cautious hints. I would mention Vietnam or one of my writing projects in the hope it would develop into further discussion. However, only silence resulted, followed by her strategically changing the topic. Why did this have to be so difficult?

Baffled and infuriated by her continued reluctance, I had to accept that dancing on eggshells would get me nowhere. Direct confrontation would eventually be my only option. So during a recent phone conversation, I told her that I’d been researching my adoption history. She asked if I’d spoken to my father to which I replied, “Yes but I need to know what you have to say.”


“You know that’s all water under the bridge…” she began before I cut her off.

My frustration had reached its peak, “Mom, I don’t want to do this anymore. Whatever it is, all I’m asking for is your side of the story.”

It really was that simple, which left me wondering why it had been so difficult in the first place. I’ve yet to fully understand why we never talked about my adoption in depth and still look back with great sadness. Establishing honest communication lines between us might have prevented years of misunderstanding and offered a more solid foundation on which to build our relationship. The silence fostered only presumption, frustration, and mistrust and led to more silence.

Establishing Dialogue

Those are some of the reasons why the subject of open, honest dialogue and its benefits has become so important to me. Writing about my adoption has become a means by which to open communication lines between me and other adoptees, adoptive parents and the Vietnamese-American community. My early, tentative steps toward communicating with others about my experiences and thoughts came in the form of a blog that I created “Ethnically Incorrect Daughter.” Blogging brought with it many rewarding experiences but it wasn’t without its challenges.

Initially, my intent was to reach out to other adoptees, but over time I began to hear from adoptive parents. Some were seeking advice, some offered advice and support. Then there were the ones who took a defensive stance seeming to wish I would just go away. I was surprised by all the assumptions many readers made about me, my parents and my life as an adoptee. Worse still, there were those who seemed to forget that I was an adult with children of my own. Many times adoptive parents met my more critical writing with patronizing comments suggesting I seek therapy in order to help me “move on” or “get over” my adoption.

Like my mother, I became the reluctant one – less willing to engage in active exchanges with adoptive parents. I’m sure these conversations were happening in other places, but I wanted to retire to my own quiet circle to flesh out my ideas among my adoptee peers. There it was safe and validating at a time when reassurance was what I badly needed. In the meantime, I was receiving requests from moderators of Yahoo! Groups to submit some of my writing to online discussions involving only adoptive parents and potential adoptive parents. All of this began to feel quite uncomfortable with adoptees and adoptive parents – perceived as voicing criticism of the other – standing on opposite sides and gazing at each other from afar.

The subject of adoption can be overwhelming for both groups. And each of us needs our safe haven. But remaining within them does little to help us understand one another.

Exchanges Among Members of the Adoption Community

As an adoptee, I’ve sought to acknowledge and understand the root of my own wariness when it comes to engaging adoptive parents. Much of it could be boiled down to a fear of being labeled and judged – possibly the result of my early experiences with some adoptive parents. Is it possible that those same adoptive parents felt I was judging them for their parenting choices or their decision to adopt?

I think most adoptees who speak critically of their adoption experiences are aware that they represent possible outcomes rather than the inevitable result of either “good” or “bad” adoptive parents. Some of us had loving, attentive parents who not only supported our explorations, but became actively involved in assisting us. Some of us did not, but somehow found ourselves on the same page as those who did. The reasons why are unique to each adoptee, and this shatters the widely held notion that adoptees who have critical things to say about adoption had unhappy childhoods or resent their parents.

It would stand to reason that we are also aware of the dangers of judging adoptive parents in a similar manner. That is another reason many of us articulate that there is no “one” answer or guidebook for raising a “well-adjusted, happy adoptee.” Again, this brings me to presumption and judgment. Who said we were unhappy? And who is to judge whether we’re well-adjusted or not?

Even most adoptees I know are cautious about coming to those kinds of conclusions. What I think we can offer is insight into our experiences and how we interpret them as adults, common pitfalls and possible ways of dealing with them, and the wider view of adoption that we have cultivated. Let us not forget that this can be an actual exchange of perspectives, offering ideas for possible parenting strategies, and can pave the way to a more active dialogue between us. Adoptees should not be thought of as “resources” but as equal members and contributors within the adoption community.

In my experience, interactions with adoptive parents have provided possible insights into my mother’s perspective. Was her seeming unwillingness to talk the result of uncertainty more than anything else? It’s probable that she simply didn’t know how to talk about the circumstances of my adoption. When do I tell her? Should I tell her? How do I tell her? What will happen if I do? Perhaps she was waiting for a cue but I was mistaking her uncertainty for reluctance so I never gave her a definite one. She then took that as a sign that I didn’t want to know and our cycle continued unbroken until now.

Both adoptees and adoptive parents can benefit if we can keep honest communication lines open. Some level of trust must be established. In order to accomplish that, the defenses have to come down opening the way for honest exchanges. That means becoming aware of and addressing misperceptions we might have about one another and reminding ourselves that we must seek to understand as well as be understood.

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August 2008

Documentation related to intercountry adoption of children born at Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City is unreliable, according to recent field investigations by U.S. officials. Specifically, U.S. officials conducting verification reviews see a pattern of false information in documentation pertaining to the birth mothers of children born at Tu Du Hospital. Field investigations indicate that one particular facility possesses the correct information. U.S. officials have been told that they do not have permission to review hospital records or interview hospital staff regarding any individual case; therefore verifying the orphan status of these children is extremely difficult. U.S. officials have also recently been informed that it is Tu Du Hospital’s policy to document all children as desertion cases regardless of the actual circumstances leading to their being made available for intercountry adoption.

In light of these discoveries, the Department of State and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recommend that U.S. adoption service providers refer children born at Tu Du Hospital only when the child is a special need child or when all parties can ensure that the information pertaining to the birth parent can be verified, where a birth parent can be identified and/or when a birth parent can be interviewed to confirm that the child qualifies as an orphan in accordance with U.S. law. State and USCIS will continue to process cases already filed for children born at Tu Du Hospital; however, prospective adoptive parents should be aware that the circumstances discussed above have resulted in significant delays in the verification process of their cases. State and USCIS understand the severe impact of these delays, and commit to working expeditiously on these complex cases. To the extent possible, State and USCIS will process cases on a first in, first out basis.

USCIS and the Department of State are committed to seeking an ethical and prioritized resolution to these cases. The U.S. Government continues to reach out to local authorities who oversee the hospital’s actions in order to achieve greater cooperation in conducting field verifications. Prospective adoptive parents may contact USCIS through HCMAdoptions@dhs.gov to address specific questions they may have regarding their case.

It pains me to think that the unmaking of yet another adoptee’s history might be happening before my eyes. How many more instances have gone unreported? How many more will they find after the fact? Every time I read something like this, my brain fast-forwards years into the future. I feel for the adoptees who may end up searching only to be slammed into that brick wall built of lies – even more so for those who are told that none of it really matters.

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Aloha! Get ready to register for the Asian Adult Adoptee Gathering & Film Festival, presented by Korean Adoptees of Hawai’i this October 10-13 in Honolulu!

All transnational and domestic adult adoptees (age 18+) of Asian and mixed Asian heritage are invited to attend this international event – the first of its kind to be hosted in Hawai’i.

Full registration for the Asian Adult Adoptee Gathering will include meals, conference sessions, optional activities, and the inaugural Asian Adoptee Film Festival, showcasing the artistry and expression of Asian adoptee filmmakers.

Online registration for the Asian Adult Adoptee Gathering & Film Festival will begin this Saturday, May 31, at http://www.kahawaii.org/mini08/registration.html

Register early, from May 31 through June 15, to take advantage of the discounted registration fee of $75. General registration will be available from June 16 through August 10, for $90. Late registration, from August 11 to October 1, will be at an increased rate of $125.

Registration fees will cover your materials, the Aloha Dinner on Friday, film festival tickets and transportation between the Hawaii Prince Hotel and theater on Saturday, Sunday’s breakfast and conference sessions.

Optional add-ons include cultural and recreational tours and activities, souvenir T-shirt, and a Sunday evening gala luau (including food, drinks, entertainment and transportation).

Guests of adoptee attendees may also register for the entire event, or for the film festival only, plus optional cultural and recreational tours and activities.

Payment will be available by PayPal (credit card or bank transfer), or by mail (check or money order).

Visit http://www.KAHawaii.org/mini08/ for complete information about the Asian Adult Adoptee Gathering & Film Festival, and to register starting May 31.


* CONFERENCE SESSION PROPOSALS due June 1 (e-mail to info@KAHawaii.org)
Download the proposal form at:
Forms are also available at:

* DISCOUNTED HOTEL RATES at the Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki
The Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki, a luxury oceanfront hotel ideally situated at the gateway to Waikiki and diagonally across the boulevard from world-class shopping at Ala Moana Center, will serve as the official hotel for the Asian Adult Adoptee Gathering. Why stay at the Hawaii Prince Hotel? Registration, some meals, conference sessions, and transportation to/from the film festival and other activities will all be provided here. Transportation to/from other locations will not be provided.

A specially discounted rate of $155 USD (plus taxes) per room per night has been arranged for Asian Adult Adoptee Gathering participants. This rate – a generous reduction from the regular rack rate of $425 – is available for room check-ins starting Sunday, October 5, through the check-out date of Saturday, October 18. All guest rooms have ocean views, high-speed Internet access and many other amenities.

For reservation information and complete hotel details, including golf club discount, parking rates, spa/salon info, cancellation policy and more, please visit our website: http://www.kahawaii.org/mini08/hotel.html

Visit our website at http://www.kahawaii.org/mini08/travel.html to view an overview of the available discounted rates provided by Hertz.


We look forward to welcoming you to Hawai’i this October! Please view our website for complete details about the Asian Adult Adoptee Gathering & Film Festival: http://www.KAHawaii.org/mini08/

E-mail us at info@KAHawaii.org with your questions or comments.


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