Potluck

January 28th, 2015

On Sunday, Olivia and I attended our annual potluck for adoptive families with children born in Guatemala. Mateo wasn’t feeling well, so Tim stayed home with him while Olivia and I drove over the Richmond Bridge to the East Bay to join the group.

What Olivia probably would tell you about the day is that it solidified her belief that I must get an iPhone or GPS, because we wasted our usual half hour driving in circles, lost, with me freaking out. The reason we got lost is that I, yet again, relied on unreliable directions downloaded from the Internet. And a paper map. We only got there, finally, because I flagged down a truck driver in a gas station and asked for directions.

But what I’ll tell you is that some of the children in this group are now teenagers in high school, and their parents have been meeting since the kids were toddlers. What I’ll also tell you is that many of those kids consider one another “BFFs,” although they may meet just a few times a year. What I’ll also tell you is that the minute I met several members of the group, my gut told me: These folks are committed! To their children, to Guatemala, to the idea of learning all they can about adoption, at every stage and in every phase.

Finally, what I’ll tell you is that an “adoption group” is really about friendship. We listen and we talk. We laugh and we eat. Our annual potluck is not a big, special deal. Simply a bunch of adults sharing casseroles and stories at long tables in a recreation hall, delighted to watch our children run around or do crafts or hang out listening to the same iTune or YouTube video. We’re happy to be together.

I know I’m lucky to live in an area with an active adoption community. Believe me: It’s the main reason we can never move! If you’re reading this, and haven’t yet connected with a larger circle, I urge you to reach out. To do the research. To make the effort. To show up. To find your way there, somehow. ~

 

 

 

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BBC report on Korean adoption

January 17th, 2015

I admire adults like Jane Jeong Trenka, adopted from Korea, who have returned to Korea to try to change the laws stigmatizing single women who become mothers, and to lobby for adoption in-country. Her cause seems noble to me, and one that is to be supported.

However, cultural mores are slower to evolve, as shown in an article by the BBC. Here’s an excerpt:

“The problem is that adoption in Korea is taboo, so the gap left by the fall in foreign adoptions has not been filled by adoptive Korean parents. Those who do adopt sometimes do it in secret.

When Choi Hyunjin was adopted, her new, adoptive parents kept it secret even from their own close relatives.

The couple sit on their sofa in a high-rise apartment near Seoul and say with one voice: “We didn’t even dare tell our own parents because we knew they would disapprove. They would only say ‘Why are you bringing up other people’s children’?”
***
The taboo arises because the importance of blood-lines in Korea is ancient and deep-rooted. Korean Confucianism places great emphasis on ancestors…This means that orphans – who cannot explain their familial past – have a hard time of it.”

Find the article here: Taking on South Korea’s adoption taboo

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-30692127

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NY Times article on Korean adoptees returning to Korea

January 14th, 2015

Maggie Jones is the adoptive mother to one child born in Guatemala and another born in the US to mixed-race parents. She writes often and well on adoption issues. In this article in the NY Times, Why a Generation of Adoptees is Returning to Korea, Jones reports on the wave of adults born in Korea and adopted to the US and other countries, who have moved back to Korea.

I think it will be interesting to see how our Guatemalan-born children continue to respond to adoption issues as they grow older. Many of us maintain contact with birth families, visit Guatemala, live in diverse areas, and count among our friends many adoptive families. Yet with all this, our children still must endure profound loss–that of their (birth) mothers. Will there be an exodus to Guatemala by our children? If my children wanted to move to Guatemala, I would encourage them. (That is, if I haven’t moved there first.) In the years we’ve been in contact, some members of our kids’ birth families have migrated to the US. Will the reverse also be true?

Here’s the link to the Times article. If for some reason it doesn’t work, Google “Maggie Jones Korean adoptees return to Korea New York Times” and you will find it.

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Response to the Karen/Anyeli case

January 9th, 2015

Today I heard a fascinating radio interview on PRI about the Karen/Anyeli adoption case, which included comments by Erin Siegal McIntyre and the lawyer for the Missouri couple who adopted Karen/Anyeli, Jared Genser. The piece is titled “One girl’s controversial adoption, and what it says about Guatemala’s broken adoption system.” If you haven’t read McIntyre’s original article in Guernica, click on the link in the PRI story to do so. I also urge you to click on the link to Jared Genser’s comprehensive response to McIntyre’s article. Reading Genser’s complete response filled in some blanks, for me, about the saga.

 

 

 

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19 adoptions still pending

December 27th, 2014

For reasons we all know, adoptions between the US and Guatemala closed as of December 31, 2007. That means hundreds of adoptions in process at that time were stalled. In the intervening seven years, thankfully, the majority of those cases have been resolved.

However, as of December 1, 2014, nineteen of the original cases have not been resolved. Nineteen of the original cases still are pending.

Last year, the Associated Press stated that the Guatemalan government had created a task force to finish all adoptions by calendar-end 2013. That didn’t happen. I found the post I wrote about it then, dated September 27, 2013. Here’s an excerpt, pasted.

Sometimes, I’ll take out a calculator and estimate the number of work hours that have transpired since the shutdown began, and try to imagine how it’s even possible to drag out a process for so long. Say a person works 30 hours a week, for 40 weeks per year. (I’m estimating generous vacation and legal holidays.) That’s 1,200 hours annually, which over five years, equals 6,000 hours. For one person, one single employee working on a case. And surely many more than one are assigned to process adoptions.

Anyway, you can see how crazy-making it becomes, for me who simply is observing, much less for families trapped in the never-ending Mobius strip of changing rules and requirements…  Then, yesterday, the Associated Press unleashed onto the world this bold announcement:

“Guatemala’s ambassador to the United States says a task force recently created in his country will help expedite the pending adoptions of 115 Guatemalan babies.

Ambassador Julio Ligorria says in a letter that the goal is to complete the pending adoptions by U.S. couples by year’s end.

Etc.

When I think about this situation, I think of my own children, adopted from Guatemala. One of things they crave most is stability, routine, predictability, a world they can trust. What must it be like for the children whose lives have been on hold for seven years? Here, but not here. There, but for now. These people, for a few days. This place, although not forever. Somewhere else. Someday. Maybe.

Here’s hoping that 2015 will be the year the remaining 19 adoptions are resolved, permanency is granted to the children whose lives are in limbo, and the ordeal ends for the waiting families.

 

 

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On loneliness, again

December 23rd, 2014

I wrote this blog in 2012 and hope you don’t mind if I re-post.

For more than 10 years, after my first husband divorced me and I moved from New York to California, before I met Tim and we adopted our children and became a family, I felt very lonely around the holidays. True, my parents and siblings loved me (and still do), and so did my friends. Nevertheless, my isolation, never easy on many days, could almost crush me this time of year.

That experience taught me how painful and harsh loneliness can be—in some ways, its own debilitating illness.

Today I feel very lucky to be surrounded by family—Tim and our kids, my sisters and brother and their families, my parents. But I’m remembering people who aren’t in the same state, and sending them a silent wish for better days ahead. xo

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An arrest

December 18th, 2014

The government of Guatemala has arrested Nancy Bailey, the founder of the orphanage Semillas de Amor, according to this article in the Associated Press. From the AP:

Guatemalan authorities have arrested an American accused of human trafficking and participating in illegal adoptions.

Prosecutors say Nancy Susan Bailey was apprehended in El Salvador and turned over to Guatemalan authorities via Interpol at the border between the two Central American countries.

The arrest warrant for Bailey was issued in 2008 and charged her with taking children and putting them up for illegal adoption for fees as high as $40,000, according to a statement released by prosecutors. She was arrested Tuesday.

Bailey founded the orphanage “Seeds of Love” outside the Guatemalan capital in 1996.

Guatemala’s International Commission Against Impunity issued a report in 2010 saying it found 3,342 irregular adoptions, mostly to U.S. couples.

The commission described networks of child-trafficking in the country for the purpose of illegal adoptions.

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Organizing, continued

December 12th, 2014

We don’t get real weather out here, not like the East coast where I grew up. But yesterday it rained and rained and they closed the schools, so the kids were home. Then the electricity went out at Tim’s office–they’re not a hospital, and thus no hospital-level emergency generators–so he came home around lunch-time, too.

While Olivia did Olivia things in her room and Mateo watched too many movies (current favorite: the Sherlock Holmes series, with Basil Rathbone), Tim dragged out the plastic containers of 1,000+ photos that I had stashed downstairs and forgotten, and declared we must sort them into categories: “Us, before kids, aka: Man, we were young,” “biking pix,” “our wedding,” “JOD Family,” “Tim family,” “Olivia in Guatemala,” “Us in Antigua,” “Mateo,” “birth family visits.” ETC.

I set up a Costco table and chairs in the living room and for the next five hours we arranged the pictures into stacks. (Yes, I do photo books. Another ongoing project! Most of the images I’m talking about here predate digital.)

At the end of the five hours, Tim and I looked at each other and said, “We have a life together. A history.” Even after all this time as a family, that felt like a revelation.

And that’s how we spent our rainy day. xo

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Update on the Karen/Anyeli adoption case

December 4th, 2014

The Limits of Jurisdiction, by Erin Siegal McIntyre (“Finding Fernanda” and the “Embassy Cables”), offers the latest update on the adoption most commonly known as the “Case in Missouri” or the “Karen/Anyeli” case. Karen has lived in Missouri with her adoptive family since December 2008. But a family in Guatemala remains convinced she is their kidnapped daughter, Anyeli.

Every time I re-read the facts of this case–which I just did again–and take in the magnitude of it, the amount of time, the number of players involved, the years representing a percentage of a person’s life time, I am left breathless.

Here’s an excerpt:

For the past six years, the child known as Karen has lived in Missouri with her adoptive parents, Timothy and Jennifer Monahan. But Loyda Rodríguez and Dayner Hernández, a young Guatemalan couple, are convinced the child is their daughter, Anyelí, who was kidnapped in November 2006. Although a Guatemalan judge ruled that Karen should be returned to Guatemala in 2011, the Monahans have kept her.

Today, both families hope to do what’s best for Karen. But understanding what that means is just as complicated as understanding what actually happened to the child.

In Guatemala nearly a dozen people, including government officials, have been charged with serious criminal offenses related to Karen’s adoption, including dereliction of duty, human trafficking, and falsifying documents. Two women, a nursery director and a lawyer, have been found guilty and are serving jail time for their involvement with the child.

The case pits American against Guatemalan interests, a family against a family. It can be seen as a study in the failure of cooperation and international diplomacy, or as an examination of influence, wealth, and power. The situation forces questions about the definitions of what is right, what is moral, and what, exactly, is criminal.

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Intercountry adoption now

November 26th, 2014

EJ Graff, who writes often about inter-country adoption, authored a summary of its current state as seen through the lens of Ethiopia (mainly). The article is thorough and well-researched, although the title, to me, feels gratuitously offensive: They Steal Babies, Don’t They? (Is that the way to open a productive conversation? With an insult? Note to EJ Graff: You lost a big chunk of your potential audience right there.)

In any case, Graff’s main idea confirms that inter-country adoption, as it was practiced in the past (by some), is over.

“It’s been 14 years since the U.S. Senate ratified our nation’s entry into the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. Slowly, the State Department and Congress have put into place the rules, regulations, and laws that make it possible to keep open international adoption agencies that do their work carefully and respectfully—while at the same time closing agencies that “find” children for adoption through bribery, deception, coercion, and kidnapping. With the right kind of oversight, international adoption may be able to shed some of its systemic problems. It will never be perfect, but it can return to its roots as a system that finds families for needy children, instead of looking for children to fill families.

“In 2004, the peak year for international adoptions, Americans adopted nearly 23,000 children from other countries, according to the U.S. State Department. For years, those numbers had increased every year, mostly infants and toddlers. By 2012, Americans adopted only 8,668, and a larger proportion were older and special needs—the children who most urgently do need new homes abroad, according to international child welfare experts. And as surprising as it may sound, that’s good news, for families and children around the world.”

My wish for 2015 is that folks who write and think about adoption could acknowledge this paradigm shift and move on to discuss the new challenges in front of us. Such as: The lives of our children who are here now and how they navigate two worlds and cultures; and the lives of present and future children conceived through assisted reproduction and embryo transfer, and their natural and inevitable questions around identity.

Yes, remember the past. Look at the past. Learn from the past. But move on and move forward.

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