Posts Tagged ‘international adoption’

Sadness, Certificate of Citizenship

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

A 42-year-old Korean adoptee who was deported in 2012 was found dead in Korea, an apparent suicide. Phillip Clay was adopted at age 10, and his adoptive parents never secured his US citizenship. There is so much about this story by You Soo-sun in The Korea Times that is devastating and sad. One particularly devastating detail is that Phillip Clay was sent back to a country where he knew no one, probably did not speak the language, and lacked necessary and vital support.  (You may recall the case of Adam Crapser, also deported to Korea, who is quoted in the article.)

As noted here many times, US citizenship is not always automatic for people who are adopted. Only a Certificate of Citizenship proves citizenship.
Thank you to my friend Sveta, who lives in Korea, for sending me this link.

May Phillip Clay rest in peace.~

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At the bookstore

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

Last night while standing in line at Barnes and Noble, Mateo noticed the woman waiting behind us carried a purse made of fabric from Guatemala.

“Ask her where she got it,” he said.

“Do you want me to tell her you’re from Guatemala?”

“Just ask,” he said.

The woman finished her purchase and walked toward us. “Excuse me,” I said. “We’re admiring your handbag.”

She looked down at her purse and then at me and then at Mateo. “This? I got it at a county fair, years ago.”

Mateo nudged me, staying quiet.

“It’s from Guatemala,” I said. I pointed out the two different fabrics, cut from the embroidered blouse and woven skirt. “This part is from the blouse called a huipil. This part is the corte. The designs are specific to regions in the country.”

“Wow, I didn’t know,” the woman said. “I always get compliments on it. Now I can tell people it’s from Guatemala.”

Mateo took my hand and smiled. ~

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Movie Review of “Lion”

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Yesterday, the kids, my sister Patrice and I saw “Lion.” As you probably know, the film tells the story of a five-year-old boy in India, Saroo, who is separated from his older brother at a rural train station. When Saroo gets off the train hours and miles later, he is alone and lost in the teeming city of Calcutta. Saroo spends several harrowing months surviving on the streets before a woman who runs an orphanage places him with loving adoptive parents in Tasmania, Australia, where he lives for the next twenty years. As an adult, Saroo is happy and healthy and seems well-adjusted. But, inside, Saroo is tormented by the loss of his family in India—Where is his mother? What happened to his brother? And wouldn’t they have spent the past twenty years worrying about him?

Through the wonders of the newly hatched Google Earth and after months and years of obsessive calculation, Saroo is able to recreate his journey and locate his family in India. His mother, thankfully, is alive. His brother, tragically, was killed on the same day he and Saroo were separated. The film ends with a gorgeous scene of reunion.

If you’re reading this, you may know my daughter Olivia is fourteen, my son Mateo twelve. We searched for and found each of their birth mothers in Guatemala when the children were seven. We visit Guatemala every year, often with my sister Patrice, and are grateful we are able to maintain birth family contact.

Okay. Back to the movie. Caution: The themes are mature. The theme of adoption, first. The theme of losing one’s family and being separated from people who share one’s blood. The theme of not-knowing where your birth mother is or what happened to your siblings. As every adoptive parent knows: Those themes can trigger very strong reactions in our children. Nightmare-level reactions. And they’re front and center in ”Lion.”

Second, the theme of treachery by adults. When Saroo is lost and alone, bad people do bad things, to him and to other children. Nothing awful is shown on screen—everything is alluded to and suggested. Yet, still: It’s terrifying to watch, certainly for young children, and, depending on the individual, for tweens, teens, or adults.

That said, the film was mesmerizing. My normally squirrelly kids didn’t move or talk. They forgot to eat their popcorn. We knew how it would end, but the ending still deeply moved us. When Saroo finally walks through the streets of his village, remembering places and colors and smells, and then his mother appears and they recognize each other and embrace, my very cool teenage daughter, who rarely reveals her emotions, sobbed. Broke down, weeping. Twelve-year-old Mateo was also moved, although he didn’t cry. “Here come the waterworks,” he whispered to me as he leaned in close. “You and Olivia.”

The film allowed Olivia to witness a reunion from the outside—as an observer instead of a participant—and gave her room to experience emotions that may overwhelm her when the reunion is her own. She reacted the same way I react when I see either of my kids with their birth mothers, every time. A complex mix of great love and great sadness, resulting in many tears.

Afterward, Olivia said “Lion” was the best movie she’d ever seen. Her summary: “Saroo grew up in a safe place and then he found his birth family. That’s a good story.” Mateo especially liked the relationship between the brothers; my son’s greatest distress came with the news that Saroo’s brother had been killed. My sister Patrice saw the movie twice. She said the second time around, with us, the film seemed “even sadder.” After a moment, she added, “Aren’t you glad you found their birth mothers? So they don’t have to go through life wondering.”

Yes. Yes. Yes.

“Lion” is based on the memoir by Saroo Brierley, “A Long Way Home,” which I recommend, and which our Adoption Book Group is discussing later this month.

Consider seeing “Lion,” by yourself or with your children. Like all powerful works of art, it will make you feel and think. It may leave you changed. ~

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Guatemala 900

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

The end of the year is nigh, which means I think in a focused way about the waiting families of the Guatemala 900. As you know, the 900 represents the transition cases caught in the pipeline when adoptions between the US and Guatemala closed on December 31, 2007. (Since I started this blog in 2010, I’ve written thirty-eight posts on the subject.)

Perspective: If your adoption was in process when the door slammed shut, you and your child have been waiting for resolution and closure for 9 years. Nine. The loyalty, the dedication, the love in that number! Humbling.

Curious about the exact number of transition cases still pending, today I went on the US State Department website and was surprised and happy to see an “Update on Status of Inter-country Adoptions from Guatemala.

Now, if I’m reading this right–I might not be and please correct me if I’m wrong–it seems as though only 4 transition cases remain. Four is still 4 too many, but it’s getting closer to zero.

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Excerpt from Mamalita

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

I’m honored (and surprised!) that Adoptive Families magazine recently posted this excerpt from Mamalita–the final chapter. (Thank you!) As you know, eight years after adoptions between the US and Guatemala closed, some 6 to 8 families still wait for resolution of their cases. As I remember our story, I think of them. ~

Here are the first few excerpted paragraphs:

Because of Olivia, everything else in my life finally made sense. My failed first marriage. My early menopause. The sequence of boyfriends who had rejected me because of my infertility. Meeting Tim. All of it had had a single purpose: to lead me to her.

My parents welcomed Olivia with open arms. Family and friends clamored to meet her. She was the undisputed star of every social gathering. I felt more settled and happy than I ever remembered.

But as the years passed, scrutiny of Guatemalan adoption increased. One night, Tim came home to find me on the family room sofa surrounded by a pile of used tissues. I was watching a television newsmagazine about adoption practices in Guatemala. Much of the show was shot with hidden cameras in the shadowy hallways of a “baby hotel,” which I recognized as the Camino Real. The report focused on one particular “broker,” a nefarious character who kidnapped babies from their Guatemalan mothers and sold them to unsuspecting, infertile couples in the United States. Although the “broker” had been banned from facilitating adoptions by the U.S. Embassy, unscrupulous agencies continued to use him.

Tim stared at the TV screen in disbelief. “That’s our facilitator,” he said. In most international adoptions, contact with birth mothers was impossible because little information was known. In Guatemalan adoption, however, most families had access to a birth mother’s name and cédula number — a national identity card — at a minimum. We possessed that information about Olivia’s birth mother, Ana. It would be possible to hire someone to find her.

Read the rest here.

 

 

 

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Guatemala 900 at Eight Years

Friday, January 1st, 2016

I’ve been trying to find out how many families of the original Guatemala 900 remain waiting, eight years later. If you’re reading this, you know that  adoptions between the US and Guatemala ended in December 2007, with hundreds of cases stalled in the pipeline. One by one, the cases trickled out, until, to my knowledge, only a small group remains.

Each of those cases represents a child, and a family waiting for that child. And eight years of days, equaling 2,920 days.

My hope as a mother and as a writer is that someday one of those children grows up to write the story of what that experience feels like. How it feels to visit in a hotel with American parents and then be returned to the orphanage, or to appear in court and listen to adults discuss reasons why you can’t or won’t be reunited with your biological family, while knowing you won’t be allowed to leave with your American parents, either.

Eight years is a long time in anyone’s life. The photos below show my children in 2007, and in December 2015, eight years later.

To the remaining members of the Guatemala 900: You are amazing. ~

 

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Birth family visit 2015

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

I’ve written a few times about Olivia’s ongoing visits with her birth family. To recap: Olivia reunited with her birth mother “Ana”–a middle-aged widow–when she was seven years old. A year later, at age 8, Olivia met her birth grandmother, Abuela, and her siblings “Dulce” and “Santiago.” Over the next several years, we continued to visit the family, always in a neutral place, not Ana’s small village, because I worried about drawing unwanted attention to Ana and her family. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: In Guatemala, we stand out.

I knew our visit this year would be extra special because in 2015 our family experienced three important milestones. Olivia turned 13 and became a “senorita.” Dulce married her sweetheart and gave birth to her first baby. And Santiago moved away. Big changes, all.

On a Tuesday last June, Ana arrived by chicken bus at the appointed spot at the appointed time, as usual. But instead of clambering down the steps with Dulce and Abuela, she climbed out the back door alone. In my limited Spanish, I asked “Where is everybody?” and Ana answered that this year, we were coming to her house because the baby was too young to travel and the trip wasn’t easy for Abuela, either.

My attitude toward chicken buses is “Don’t ride them,” but what could I do? Nothing except run back to the hotel for our suitcase of gifts. Olivia and I hopped with Ana onto the next chicken bus for the return journey.

One chicken bus, one microbus, one taxi ride, and one uphill hike later, we stood in the lane at the gate in front of Ana’s adobe house, where Olivia’s family has lived for generations–possibly before the arrival of the conquistadors. A sumptuous lunch of fried chicken and squash and rice was served. The blue corn tortillas were handmade that morning from Ana’s own crop, the best we’ve ever eaten. Thirteen felt like the perfect age for Olivia to transition to a new setting. Abuela gave her a rosary necklace and Dulce’s new baby was beautiful.

As we finished lunch, Ana jumped up without notice and disappeared, and Dulce shrugged when I asked her why. A minute later, from the lane in front of the gate, a hundred firecrackers ignited and lit the sky, the snapping racket loud enough for every person in town to hear.

Ana’s daughter Olivia had come home.

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Washington Post essay on adoption

Thursday, November 26th, 2015

For anyone who has waited for a child, fought for a child, loved a child, this Washington Post essay is for you. There are no simple answers. Only complexity.

Is She Happy? Is She Loved? Remembering the Girl Who Was Almost My Daughter by Sharon Van Epps

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Potluck

Wednesday, 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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Intercountry adoption now

Wednesday, 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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