No Progress


No progress. I just haven’t done anything in a few months. I have been busy. There is always some excuse though so it doesn’t really matter what it is. I hope to get back on the Search during May.

It is so easy to get distracted/suppress these feelings and just push things off. It isn’t fun and it is really complicated which certainly doesn’t help anything. I have also not been able to see my therapist given our conflicting schedules which has made me feel even more stagnant. We have decided to part ways and I am looking for someone else to see and get back into a routine of process and taking steps forward.

I have been doing a better job of being “real” about how I feel with friends and my sister which feels good. You know, just admitting that things weren’t great or that I didn’t feel loved unconditionally as a child…etc. It is just nice to be able to speak about those things with people who, although they may find it hard, are still able to see that the point is that I am trying to share and speak about my experience not blame or make others feel guilty.

I recently read a book called See No Color by Shannon Gibney and it was one of the first times I had read about the adolescent experience in transracial adoption. A lot of the emotions and feelings that the main character had resonated with me and hurt to read. Probably the hardest part of that book was reading her reunion with her biological father and the first words they share. It just felt like such an implausibility for me. I had never really walked myself through what that first meeting might be like and watching this 16 year-old girl do it in See No Color was mortifying.

It is a good read and quite quick.

I have also been running more frequently and I hope the development of that routine will lead to other habitual things in my life like making more progress on an OCI and searching.

I wonder…


I wonder if my parents ever think of me.

I wonder if they love each other.
I wonder if they ever loved each other.
I wonder if my dad has patchy facial hair.
I wonder if my mom’s eyelashes are dark and beautiful.
I wonder if they are my parents.
I wonder if they walk to work.
I wonder if they have enough to eat.
I wonder if they have their own maid.
I wonder if their house has a marble floor.
I wonder if they lived through the 2004 Tsunami.

I wonder what their names are.

I wonder if they remember me.
I wonder if they are healthy.
I wonder if I am healthy.

I wonder what it felt like to say goodbye.

I wonder if they had a choice.
I wonder if they named me.
I wonder if they are alive.
I wonder if they died happy.
I wonder if I have siblings.
I wonder if they know I exist.
I wonder if they love me.
I wonder if I love them.
I wonder if I’ll ever know them.
I wonder if I have someone’s eyes.
I wonder if I have someone’s laugh.

I wonder what its like to hug them.
I wonder what their voices sound like.

I wonder if I could understand them.

I wonder why they couldn’t keep me.

I wonder if I’ll ever know.

Stories


I have been trying to stories of other Indian adoptees who have searched to try to gain some perspective on what it takes. I have found a few stories and have posted questions in a few different FB groups to see what kind of support can be found there. Some general thoughts are that there isn’t a whole lot of support for Indian adoptees searching and that there aren’t many publicized stories. This may be in part because someone said there are under 15,000 Indian adoptees in the U.S. which isn’t really that many and who knows what age range they span.

A few of the stories I have come across are listed below:

Monisha – “My name is Monisha. I’m 29 years old and I was brought up in the Netherlands. I was born in a government hospital in Sawantwadi, Maharashtra, in May 1985.”

Nitin Ganatra –

‘The Fairy Tale of an Indian Adoptee’

Nisha G. – Strongly recommend checking out Nisha’s blog and the documentary of her search, “You Follow.”

I would like to talk to a few of these folks and will be looking for ways to connect with them in the coming weeks. Another name that kept cropping up while Googling my little heart out was Arun Dohle who seems to have been involved in helping a few people in their searches for biological relatives. I have also realized that most of the voices I am finding are of women who have searched, not as many publicized stories about men. I bet part of this has to do with there being more female adoptees from India than males.

Well, I’m losing steam for right now but will pick this back up later. Maybe I’ll work on my OCI application this week and try to get that moving while I consider how to keep moving forward. Oh, I also saw this therapist who specializes in adoption. It was a good visit the first time and I am looking forward to our next conversation at the end of the month. I’ll write more after my second visit with her.

Onward, I suppose.

Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry


I got a response from Illien Adoptions International. Its not good or bad news. They said that they had turned their records from when my adoption was processed (late 80s/early 90s) over to the Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry.

Does anyone have experience with using registries like this? I’ll be honest and say I didn’t even know they existed. They require registration, obviously, and then a small fee to have them research your file. I plan on registering but wanted to know if anyone out there had experience with this type of thing.

My assumption is that these types of databases are tailored for domestic adoptions and not those adopted from other countries. It is also my assumption that they won’t really be able to provide me with the information I thought might be most helpful, information related to the case worked in India at the time of my adoption who was responsible for referring me to Illien.

I have sent a follow-up email with a few questions to Illien to try to get some information from them, not even about my case specifically but about what types of files they had that they passed along to the Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry. Since I am internationally adopted I was kind of hoping I wouldn’t have to deal as much with the confidentiality mess that plagues access to records for domestic adoptions here in the U.S. but that seems less likely now.

We shall see.

Dear Anna Belle Illien


This is a letter to Anna Belle Illien who was one of the people, or at least her agency, Illien Adoption International Inc., responsible for my adoption about a quarter of a century ago. I have never reached out to Illien the person or the agency but it is one of the connections that I have with my past and so I have drafted a short letter to Anna Belle to see what stance she will take in my request of information and support. I know that many have had negative experiences with adoption agencies especially in regards to searching but I can’t deny the fact that they could be a resource if they find any interest in my endeavor.

I will plan on sending this letter out in a few weeks and would welcome and comments and suggestions that others have if they have done similar things. I like to think I am open to constructive feedback and so if you have ideas about ways you think my letter could be more effective with the goal in mind of getting information from Illien I certainly welcome your words of wisdom.

“Dear Anna Belle Illien,

First and foremost I hope that this letter finds you well and warm this winter. I am writing to you as an adult adoptee who is beginning the searching process for biological relatives in India. As early as 1986 my parents hired your agency, Illien Adoptions International, to help them identify and adopt a baby. In early 1991 with the help of Illien and coordination with Lutheran Social Services my family officially adopted me from an orphanage in Trichy, India (SOC SEAD) and I was naturalized as a U.S. citizen nearly a year later.

As I continue this process of searching for biological relatives I have come across many documents and records pertaining to my adoption process. Much of these items are correspondences with you in the late 80s and early 90s. Your agency and social workers were instrumental in connecting my parents with an Indian child, ultimately me. I am trying to piece together my past and had a few questions and inquiries I wanted to make of you and your adoption agency.

I would very much like to learn more about my past and my life and biological relatives lives in India. I do not know your personal beliefs or your agency’s stance on searching or reunion as it pertains to adoptees but am hopeful you will see my requests as non-threatening and genuine.

It is my hope that you understand and empathize with my desire to reconnect with the culture and potentially relatives from which I came. In all likelihood any records you and your organization have are the best records and information that exist pertaining to my origin and journey to adoption.

My requests are simple and I see them as a beginning to a conversation, not demands or ultimatums but an invitation to collaborate as I try to find my way back to a foreign place I called home a quarter of a century ago.

Thank you for your time and entertainment of this unusual request. I hope to hear from you shortly.

Respectfully,

Kumar”

Ok, what did you think?

Should I include my requests in the first letter or should I save them to see if they respond to this initial letter? I feel like it is maybe a good idea to just send this “feeler” letter and then in a subsequent communication include the things I am hoping they will share with me. I am probably over thinking this but that’s what I get for waiting so long to start this process.

“What White Parents Should Know About Adopting Black Children”


“There’s no manual for raising children. Black children are no different, but black parents raising black children have been black children. White parents of black children have been white children. The disadvantage is nearly insurmountable. The victory is never flawless. And the preparation is never enough.” – La Sha

What White Parents Should Know About Adopting Black Children

Thanks for writing this La Sha and glad it got onto Huff Post. Its not flawless, but nothing is.

Do You Remember Me?


One of the adoption agencies that worked with my parents to help them identify a child was called Illien Adoption International. I’ll admit I have not done a lot of research about the organization and thus have not really formulated an opinion about whether or not I feel they are helping or hurting the cause, or both. Given my short amount of research I have decided to write the director of the agency who also just so happens to be the case worker at the time who worked with my parents to locate me.

The abbreviated story as I have had it told to me is that my mother and father were moving around a bit and first enlisted Illien to help them in their searching for a small Indian child to adopt (this began before I was even born). At one point Illien found me or hear of me through one of their social workers in India. At that time my parents moved again and switched to Lutheran Social Services who connected my parents with the orphanage where I was eventually adopted from. The link between the two being that it is thought that I was born in New Delhi where Illien had their social worker and I was then sent down to Trichy to stay in their orphanage and was subsequently adopted there. Doesn’t quite make add up does it? Well, the crucial piece of information is that the baby who Illien identified in New Delhi reportedly  had the same birth date as me so the thinking is that I was that same baby! Crazy huh? Well, it might be but its all rumors as far as I can tell, which I have already explained I think most of my life in India is pretty much made up of second and third hand rumors. Additionally, these rumors don’t match up with my reported birth place which is a very small town in southern India, but again we have to remember we don’t know if any of this information is accurate or was just created at some point out of necessity.

Why the hell am I reciting this awfully boring and inconclusive portion of my origin story? Well because it matters! As I painstakingly make clear in my post Step 1 there does not seem to be an immediately obvious step 1 in this searching business, but I have come up with a common sense way to cut through the confusion, ambiguity and lack of facts. I am just going to try and reach out to the people who I know were involved at some level in my life in India and see if I can at least dispel one or two of the narratives I’ve become accustomed to hearing.

First, I shall write a nice letter to Anna Bell Illien, the Found and Executive Director of Illien Adoptions International, Inc. I am currently drafting this letter and will post it before I send it over just in case any of you smart cookies have any words of wisdom for me.

Dear Mike Berry & The Good Men Project


This is not what I wanted my next post to be about but after reading the article I just read I can’t not respond to it, although I know this response has been written thousands of times. Grrrr, so frustrating.

Just a short hour ago I was reading an article I had seen come across my news feed a few days ago written by Dr. Robin Diangelo entitled, “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism.” It was a great piece that I feel brings up many good points about the difficulties that surround the topic of race in these United States. After reading it I decided to peruse the rest of the The Good Men Project website since I know a few contributors and have enjoyed other pieces they have published. After just a few seconds on their home page I ran into an article entitled, “The Top 10 Reasons to Choose Adoption” by Mike Berry. If you are familiar with my blog you can probably stop reading now as you already know how I feel about pieces like this one which glorify adoption and actually actively recruit people to blindly adopt because it is their “calling.”

I don’t have the time right now to go through each point but I want to make a few things clear about the viewpoints put forth in this article.

  • At the core the article is not about creating a better place for children who are in the unfortunate circumstance of not living with their biological relatives, it is about making each person feel like they have been called to adopt and to ignore any hesitations they may have had. Its essentially an advertisement for making impulsive decisions without thinking critically about any part of that decision. Just a reminder, having kids, anyway you choose (if you are lucky enough to be able to choose) to do it is a big deal! And guess what, when having children its probably a good idea not to just think about what you as prospective parents want out of this experience but what said child will get out of the experience as well.
  • The article does not in anyway seem to humanize the children who are to be adopted. The focus of the article is on persuading people that adoption is the right thing to do for the world. It essentially is arguing that there are kids in need of homes (true) and people wanting children (also true) so why not pair both of them, voila happy family. Look, I am in total agreement that children should have families but I am not in favor of blindly calling out to all who want children to adopt because it is the “right” thing to do or that it will make the world a better place. In my opinion, the first and foremost concern throughout an adoption process, from the first time adoption as a means for having children crosses someone’s mind should be the well being of the potentially adopted child. One way to make the world a better place is to create a space in which a child can thrive and succeed, yes that is true. But adopting a kid doesn’t make you a good person and it sure as hell shouldn’t make you feel like you are some sort of savior. Ahhhhh, I want to keep ranting but its probably not even helpful, alas.
  • Just, what the fuck!?
  • I am immediately skeptical of anything written that just tells people that they should adopt. There are some people who should not adopt children. Is this a hugely unpopular thing to say, yes? Why, well lots of reasons because how the hell do you decide who or who should not have “the right” to adopt a child? I mean even that framing of the situation immediately frames the situation as an issue largely affecting adults interested in adopting not in finding the appropriate home for a child without a family. Adoption needs to be child focused. Every single part of the process needs to be focused on what is best for the child. I believe that when the process focuses on the well being of a child the result is more likely to be positive for all parties involved. Just wanting to adopt a child or just having thought once in your life that maybe you would like to adopt does not mean adoption is the right option for you or the child you may adopt.
  • Read through those ten points and count the number of times the author refers to “you” and is talking about your needs, not the needs of a child that you may decide to adopt.
  • There is so much more but I can’t keep going it is just making me angry.

I am disappointed that The Good Men Project decided to post this type of piece as a part of its content. They put out a lot of pieces that I feel are critical and difficult reads because they take issues and pull them apart. This article, however, was a complete disappointment that I think does more harm than good.

Blehhhhh, I never feel good after writing like this.

Adoption Therapy: Here I Come!


I have decided that in my searching process I would like to have some support as I move along, thus I have begun looking for a suitable therapist/social worker/mental health professional to help me along the way. I had at one point wanted to wait until I had a significant other who I felt would be able to support me but waiting for that to happen is like waiting for George R.R. Martin to publish the next book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, hopeless. Thus, I have decided to have some “professional” support, plus I am fortunate enough to have health insurance that will help cover the costs (being thankful for how lucky I am).

It turns out there are not a ton of people who work in the adoption support world professionally but living in a big city you don’t really need that many people you just need a few. I found someone who I had a great phone conversation with and I am looking forward to our first meeting. Things I was looking for specifically: someone with experience working with adult adoptees, a person of color, someone with experience in transracial and/or international adoption, someone who took my insurance and someone who was not contracting or working professionally with any agencies actively involved supporting the placement of children into non-biological families. You may be wondering why the last one, well it is important to me that whoever I choose to work with understands and fully accepts my not-so-rosy view on the way most adoption agencies are run. I did not want to work with someone who may be making most of their money (or any really) off of prioritizing the placement of children in families without the critical evaluation of whether or not that process was the best of even necessary step taken to support said child.

I understand that no one is perfect but I did want to find someone whose motives felt more aligned with me own. I am hoping this first individual will be that person. For others out there who may be looking for similar support I found this particular specialist and others using https://www.psychologytoday.com/ and using their “Find a Therapist” tab. I was very surprised at how helpful it has been thus far. When I asked my primary care physician he, unsurprisingly, didn’t really have any idea what resources he should point me to but suggested I contact adoption agencies, which I was not very excited to do given my brief explanation above.

I keep moving forward, slowly, but forward, I think. Maybe 2016 will hold a more consistent schedule of work towards this endeavor, it is so easy to push aside but I will strive to do more.

Happy December 21st.

What I Know or The “Facts”


It turns out I have kind of a lot of information about the process surrounding my adoption. There are lots of pieces of papers, many from the Indian Government or court system and many from the two adoption agencies that my parents utilized in their quest to find the perfect child, me! They utilized Illien Adoption International and Lutheran Social Services. My understanding is that when my parents began seriously exploring international adoption they utilized Illien and then switched to Lutheran Social Services after I was found. This is the first time I’ve looked up Illien and it seems they are still in business. Looking into these now would be too much of a distraction from the task at hand: saying what I know.

I feel like I have read through all of my “file” numerous times and each time I feel I learn new and surprising things. I also seem to find conflicting information. Today, I think I’ll just focus on the information provided by officials in India including the director of the Catholic organization that ran the orphanage where I spent the earlier years of my childhood.

Most of what I am going to share are pieces of information I think will be helpful in The Search. To set the mood I want to start with a few quotes from a document dated “Monday, the 21st day of January, 1991” and titled, “In the Court of the District Judge of Tiruchirappali.” The document is printed on old flimsy paper with worn and ripped edges, stapled together, the words typewritten in purple smudging ink and in total is 5 pages long not including attachments, which I cannot seem to locate in our own records. The document seems to be split into numbered sections:

  • “(3) Minor Kumar is presumed to have been born on 18.4.1989. He was surrendered by his unwed mother, Mary to SOC SEAD on 2.3.90. The authorities of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Cross of Chavanod [SOC SEAD], Tiruchirappali tried to find Indian parents…..But no one came forward to adopt the child……hence the authorities of the [SOC SEAD] have offered minor Kumar in adoption to the petitioners [my parents].”
  • “(6) Admittedly the minor child was surrendered by his unwed mother. No one in India has come forward to adopt the child. The petitioners are genuine in their desire to have the child. They undertake to bring up the child in good atmosphere. The child may not have any bright future, if it remains in India. An orphan or an abandoned child is considered as a curse in this land [India].”

A few short notes before I head to bed, I had no idea how much energy this would take, this is going to take longer than I had anticipated. On section (3), I am inclined to think that the usage of the verb “presumed” means that there is some uncertainty as to the date of my birth. This is something I have sort of known for a long time or at least assumed. My logic was that if the details about my early time in India was hazy then how could we really know if my birthdate was correct. This has also led to me not really being that interested in celebrating my birthday each year, because it feels fake and not like a celebration of my birth but like a celebration of an unknown. Another point of interest is that the section names my “unwed mother” as Mary. I find it highly unlikely that my mother’s name was/is Mary, but what the hell do I know, right? I guess it seems plausible that if there was a young Indian woman in India who surrendered a child to a Catholic orphanage that her name may very well be Mary, especially if she sought out the Catholic orphanage. Either way, the name in of itself doesn’t seem particularly helpful on its own.

Lastly, I am somewhat surprised that the SOC SEAD attempted to find Indian parents for me, and most likely other orphans they provided for. I am not too surprised that none came forward especially given what is written in section (6). Section (6) is not very nice sounding, it kind of hurts my feelings. It is nice to hear about these petitioners coming from afar to take this unwanted orphan but it sucks that the cultural context in India at the time was not favorable to placing orphans in Indian families. It worries me much that this cultural belief is referenced in court documents from the earl 90s because of what it may say about the attitude of the contactable biological relatives I may have in India. As I have written before, it scares me that me searching for someone could lead to social ostracization of biological relatives or even worse being disowned. It also makes me very wary of seeking out help from the Indian legal system as it was developed and is probably still quite influenced by such cultural norms and stigmas toward unwed childbearing and orphans.

I’ll continue to add information in the coming weeks as I continue to dig through old gems like this court document. Thanks for sticking with me folks.

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