Adoptees’ input in intercountry adoption policies

Intercountry adoptees, along with committed allies, have been working for years to raise awareness of illegall/illicit adoptions and over the past few years we have seen some major developments. One of these is this joint statement published on Sep. 29th, 2022 from the Office of the High Commissioner written with the input of a coalition of adoptee groups including:

  • Fondation Racines Perdues – Raices Perdidas – (RP)
  • Chilean Adoptees Worldwide (CAW)
  • Collectif Adoptie Schakel
  • Intercountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV)
  • Empreinte Vivantes – Adoptés belges du Sri Lanka
  • Plan Angel
  • Collectif des adoptés français du Mali
  • Collectif des parents adoptifs du Sri Lanka
  • Rwanda en Zoveel meer
  • Association DNA
  • Back to the Roots
  • Collectif des adoptés du Sri-Lanka
  • Child Identity Protection (CHIP)

In addition to this important recognition of the concerns about illegal intercountry adoptions, this summer I was honored to be asked to participate as a representative of IKAA at the most recent Hague Convention Special Commission regarding the 1993 Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption meeting held in July. I was invited to be present to the delegates and observers as part of a panel of adoptees. My full presentation will be posted on the IKAA website eventually but in the meantime, I wanted to provide some of my key talking points.

My talking points are based on my research of intercountry adoptees who experienced discontinuity in their adoptions. This includes adoptees who were removed from their adoptive home for their protection and safety, and those whose adoptive parents were unable or unwilling to continue parenting them. Some of these adoptees were re-adopted, some were forced to be homeless, and some were sent to institutions. My talking points also are informed by my research of adoptive parents who placed their intercountry adopted child in institutional care due to their trauma-related mental health conditions.

  • The preamble to the 1993 Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption states that children should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding. My research has found that some intercountry adoptees do not achieve a sustained supportive family environment with their adoptive family. Intercountry adoptees who have experienced a post-adoption displacement, and the adoptive parents who placed their child in institutional care, both highlighted the need for better pre-adoption preparation and training which aligns with Article 5, section B of the convention.
  • In particular, both adoptees and adoptive parents discussed the need for prospective adoptive parents to better understand trauma and pre-adoption adversity.
  • My research findings highlight the need for stronger post-adoption counseling and services (which aligns with Article 9, section C; and is also included in the Guide to Good Practice).
  • Several adoptees in my research reported abuse or neglect by their adoptive parents, highlighting the need for better vetting of adoptive parents according to Article 17 section D. The preparation and vetting of prospective adoptive parents have also been articulated in the Guide to Good Practice.
  • Another recommendation relates to post-adoption follow-up reports. Post-adoption reporting was recommended in the 2005 special commission meeting and reaffirmed in 2010. The recommendation related to post-adoption reporting included a time limit, however, since some of the intercountry adoptees in my study experienced an adoption displacement or dissolution many years after their adoption (adolescence seemed to be when most adoptees were removed from their homes) I recommended time limits be extended for a longer period of time.
  • I also recommended that nationality and citizenship should be important aspects of an adoptees’ well-being as these factors are important to an adoptees’ sense of identity and belonging.  Every intercountry adoptee should be granted full citizenship in their adoptive parent’s country/countries in alignment with previous special commission meetings that recommended and reaffirmed the need for automatic citizenship or nationality without the need to rely on the actions of their adoptive parents whenever possible.
  • Adoptees in my study wanted access to information about their family of origin. Intercountry adoptees often lack access to their pre-adoption information or have inaccurate information. In the 2010 Special commission meeting it was recommended states preserve adoption records. These records should be accessible to adoptees.
  • The previous special commission meeting in 2015 articulated the recognition of the life-long nature of adoption. Yet this life-long perspective often is pushed aside because of the focus on children. More research from the adoptees’ perspectives are needed, as most of the research on ICA has been focused on asking adoptive parents about their experiences or relying on adoptive parents to respond to questions about their child.

I ended my presentation by advocating that future Special Commissions include adoptees as stakeholders. Considering the Hague Convention is coming up on its 30-year anniversary, including a specific adult adoptee panel at the Special Commission meeting really highlights how adoptee perspectives have not been considered integral to the policy. For decades, researchers, adoptees, and some adoptive parents have been advocating for stronger protections for children and their families of origin. We are starting to finally see some movement in incorporating adoptee voices – in terms of incorporating first parents/families of origin, there needs to be much more commitment to including their experiences and perspectives. I want to give a special shout out to the IKAA board for including me as a representative for this meeting, and Lynelle Long and ICAV for the additional support.

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