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.

If Dad Were Here


It’d be so much easier if you were here. You would remember names, places, stories and details I was too young to remember and mom was not present to experience. Your encouragement, practical insistence, on me returning to India before you died was the only reason I have ever been back to India in my life. It is no coincidence that I haven’t returned since then and since you have died.

It really pisses me off sometimes that you died. I mean, what the fuck? Especially when we were still young. I feel like I never got to know you as a person outside of my father.

I know you would’ve wanted me to return, connect and explore my connection to India. Even just that expectation from you would be enough pressure to move me forward, I hated letting you down, especially when you were sick. I remember when we left for India both us kids crying because we didn’t want to leave you, not know if we’d see you again. You were right, I needed to go, but I also needed you to be there to make me do it. I need you again, I need you to make me do this. You knew I wanted to but didn’t know how and here I am again in a similar situation. You quite literally brought me across that ocean once before and helped me find my way back the first time, I need help again and you are no longer here.

It hurts so bad to do this without you here. Without your support and guidance. I don’t know what I’m doing and sometimes just want to be able to ask for your help. Its so strange that it has been almost exactly 10 years since we last spoke. As I sit here writing about how badly I wish you were here to tell me what to do, I know I would probably just ignore it anyway staying true to my obstinate form as an adolescent.

I miss you dad, trying to channel your inner calmness and acceptance of the world, challenges and all, to help move me in this direction I want to go but don’t quite know how to go.

Thanks for listening.

Deadlines


I am the type of person who flounders without structure. I completely wilt and avoid doing anything productive without some external (or at least perceived as external) force holding me accountable. One crucial piece of motivation I need is a deadline, or deadlines, even self-imposed to spur me into action.

As I begin this searching process and am trying to take it more seriously in the past I find myself avoiding doing anything related to the search. I make up excuses like I am too tired or should respond to emails instead or watch a show…etc. Somehow it is never important enough to take time away from other things in my life. I am sure part of my avoidance has to do with my fear that the search will ultimately lead to some type of rejection. I go through painstaking work each day to avoid even the smallest instances of rejection which cannot be healthy.

On a more practical level the complexity of the task irritates me because I want there to be a straight forward process that I can follow or a template that someone has created that I can fill in with all my little details and then follow along. As I pointed out in my previous post it is unclear to me what step 1 in this process is and that it is impossible to know which avenue is the most effective at the beginning. I should just shut up and start somewhere, right?

Related to the difficulty I am having getting myself to actually start anything is the fact that I feel like I don’t have specific deadlines. In some ways I feel like given the vast uncertainty of the state of any of my biological relatives I should be working as fast as possible to find someone. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard stories of the adoptee who waits and waits and when they finally decide to search and do find someone that someone is dead. Its heartbreaking in ways I’ve never felt before (and would prefer to avoid if at all possible). In this line of thinking I fee like I am simultaneously already too late so what’s the point of rushing and should be moving as quickly as possible. It frustrates me.

As you may be thinking and possibly even wanting to say to me, “Kumar, shut up. Yes, this process is complicated but you will never know anything by not doing anything. Sitting around trying to hide from rejection isn’t cute so cut it out.” You are right, thanks for that pep talk.

Back to the deadlines thing, I am going to create some arbitrary deadlines that I hope will spur me into action, heck you can even scold me if I don’t keep myself to them if you’d like.

The first two will be simple:

  1. Say What You Know – November 25th I will share with you, dear of interweb spam bots and occasional people, what I “know” about my personal history in India
  2. What Do I Want? – December 6th I will articulate what I am trying to get out of this whole searching process, besides the obvious (finding someone(s))

Ha! Take that unstructured life! I think these first two deadlines will help me think about the search from more than just a “logistical” point of view and more of a reflective stance which I hope will help guide me as I keep making up arbitrary deadlines to trick my silly brain into doing something.

Step 1


I like to plan things, create routines, prioritize and then move forward. Given this proclivity I like to layout a plan for how things will go and determine the best and most efficient way to get from point Here to point Over There Somewhere. In this mindset it is always good to determine both the starting point and the end point. In this case, the search for biological relatives of mine, the end point is finding a someone(s) or searching forever! Ok, hopefully searching forever is not what happens but who knows, it is hard to believe that once I dig in I will be able to walk away without some answers.

The starting point is a bit more tricky to pin point and so I have laid out a few of my possible step 1s below. As a planner at heart it is very frustrating to not know where to start as any setback will make me second guess my initial approach which breeds all sorts of nasty self-deprecating thoughts and blame which is no fun for anyone!

Step 1 – Approach the search like I imagine a personal investigator would and go looking for all the “facts” with a magnifying glass and a device with a 4G data connection and the all knowing Google. This approach would probably require that I buy a leather brief case, a trench coat and a deerstalker hat. Since I don’t have any of the appropriate wardrobe nor an investigative spirit this seems like an unlikely starting point.

Step 1 – Somewhat more seriously I could go the route that many adoptees in the U.S. go which is sending swabs of my DNA to a bunch of laboratories to see if I have a strong genetic match with anyone else who has submitted their DNA. This is a relatively attractive, accessible and seemingly low-risk option that I have heard is all the rage these days. I have also heard that it is a much more effectively tool in populations that have a relatively high level of participation, in the U.S. that participation is driven by predominately Caucasians. I, am not caucasian (surprise!), and it seems doubtful that my biological parents were and equally doubtful that they participated in one of these DNA banks, especially one connected to these ones in the U.S. All that to say it is pretty darn unlikely that it would prove useful for me to do one or more of these kinds of tests at all. Plus I do find it fucking weird that I would send my DNA to anyone for any purpose. If you are thinking, well, why not? I agree except it is kind of expensive to do a lot of them and I am not convinced it is the best use of my monies, at this time.

Step 1 – I am also a bit OCD and seeing Step 1 written three times is a row is really frustrating, alas, I will march valiantly on. I do have some connections in India, and notably ay the orphanage where I lived for some amount of time before I was adopted. I could reach out to the contacts I have there and try to determine how I arrived at the orphanage and then trace those connections backwards until the very second I was born thus finding out my true identity (sorry, it is late and I’m becoming snarky and rather flippant, apparently). This seems like a very strenuous way to go about searching because it involves relying on other people who live far away, speak different languages, are in different time zones and probably don’t have nearly as much as I do about what I am trying to accomplish and may have an direct interest against my searching, if I am being cynical which I almost always am. It most likely would also warrant a visit or multiple to India. This is not a bad thing, but in talking about resource allocation towards this search it is certainly an expensive option.

Step 1 – To the courts! I could trace back the legal documents that were issued to me when I was a baby in India by the courts and see where they get me. I have two somewhat to very official documents issued by the Indian government: one, which I have written about previously, is my affidavit of abandonment in lieu of birth certificate or as I like to call it my AALBC second, I have an Indian passport which verifies that I was, indeed, at one point an Indian Citizen so back off all you damn birthers trying to say I was born in the U.S. and am eligible to run for president, get over it, Kumar is never going to be the POTUS. This option, given what I have heard from a few others with some marginal experience in searching and inquiring about legal birth records in India seems like a closed door with limited if no avenues for openings given the cultural views of orphaned children and the social havoc they can wreck on a family, in many cases. I try not to dwell on this too much or else I worry I may ruin someone’s life by showing up and claiming to be there long lost son, cousin, uncle, brother or secret keeper.

Step 1 – What about the agency? Its true, there was at least one adoption agency involved in facilitating me being adopted and my mother has hinted that the woman in charge of the agency may still have some information on how I came to be at the orphanage in Trichy as a wee little one. This is probably really easy to do as long as I can track down the agency. I mean it would probably just be a phone call or an email if I am feeling hesitant or even a fax if I am feeling adventurous. Maybe I could con my mom in to doing it for me?

Step 1 – Hire a personal investigator. Its probably not going to be the first thing I do but mostly because I don’t have the cash money for it. I think it would be good for me maybe to consult someone who is trained at looking for people, wow just writing that sounds creepy and awful. Nonetheless people look for people and find people and so I bet some people who have done that would talk to me if I paid them.

Ok, step 1 is getting a little overwhelming. It is likely that given the options I have provided above and the many I have not included because I want to go to sleep that just starting is more important than where I start. I’m not going to figure it out on the first try and it is likely going to be an expensive, taxing and long journey. The one thing I certainly do not have on my side is time. I do feel a strong sense of urgency and already a feeling of regret that I hadn’t started sooner.

I feel like for the first time I have really allowed myself to start thinking about this as if it is happening and an inevitability which is heartening and terrifying at the same time. I am glad I’m doing this but sacred shitless of the outcome, any outcome.

The idea of searching has begun to trickle its way from my brain into other parts of my body, headed for the heart no doubt.

P.S. sorry I did not proof read this post in advance!

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