Written by: Vance Twins, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Hi, this is my first letter to you to share with readers about a very personal challenge my sister and I have been forced to contend with. We were told that we had been "found on a street" and "abandoned" as infants in the early 1970s. The adoption agency even typed up a document called a "Certificate of Orphanhood" in our adoption files, so we had no reason to believe any different while we were raised in the United States. Like many adopted people, we truly believed we were our adoptive parents' real children.
Fifty years into the future
We are now discovering that the adoption agencies routinely claimed the children were "orphaned," "abandoned," and even "unwanted" and then profited from each child processed overseas for adoption. Today, we are participating in a landmark case to investigate adoption agencies and, in our particular case, the Holt Adoption Program.
My sister and I established a group called Adoption Truth and Transparency Worldwide Information Network (ATTWIN) in 2011 and Korean Adoptees Worldwide
I remember choosing the word "transparency" because I thought it was a great play on words when it comes to international and even domestic adoption. There are an estimated seven million domestic-born adoptees in the United States. First of all, trans means across —and adoption certainly crosses boundaries and parental roles, but also adult adoptees have been shielded and left in the dark about their biological history— and this is something that needs to be held against the light, not just on a personal level where adopted people should be given access to their adoption documents and all legal papers that pertain to them like their birth certificate, but also on a global level where the adoption industry should be transparent on the profits made per child processed.
The forum quickly grew and is now one of the largest adoptee-led groups on social media
Today there are more than 8000 members from around the world. For some of us, we don't need to discuss anything. Like twins, we just "know." There is a bond based on shared experience, yet unique and diverse experiences that come with being adopted. We were the first to invite adoptees from Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Africa, families separated by adoption, and parents of adoption loss and encouraged those voices to finally be heard. Our group is unique because we do not preach to the members to "be happy" or "positive" like most groups built and monitored by adoption agencies or adoptive parents, but rather see each member lead themselves from an empowered perspective. We don't lecture or give directions but merely give information because we are big believers that knowledge is power. The goal is for each member to see adoption not just from a personal level as they do (and it can be lonely at times) but also from a bird's eye view. With this expansive perspective, they can see that they are a star among a constellation.
My time in South Korea was the catalyst that led to a decade of research into the practice of intercountry adoption
I began suspecting foul play in 2004 when I traveled to Seoul, South Korea, and a Korean man approached me in the back alley of the hotel we were staying at. I was shocked to learn that he was a father searching for his missing son, taken for international adoption. I had no idea that Korean parents existed (for one thing) and that there was a possibility that they had been looking for their children. His plea to me "opened up a can of worms," as they say in the United States. I started researching intercountry adoption then and fell into shocking and deeply hidden truths about the pioneering couple who spearheaded intercountry adoption in 1954.
Another surprise happened at the adoption agency
We were told at the time that the street we had been told we were found on, according to the adoption documents, did not exist. The "Certificate of Orphanhood" placed in our file gave the impression that we were orphans. We learned later that innumerable children came from living Korean families, families who would return to the agencies to request back their children. Because of the way the facilitators had set things up, the agencies had already flown Korean babies and children overseas.
Because we were not given satisfactory answers, numerous questions arose. Were we merely manufactured (or paper) orphans generated by lines of text?
Were we labeled "orphans" in magazines and in advertising campaigns to make the transaction appear ethical? I later learned that the adoption lobby and special interest groups had manipulated even the definition of the word "orphan" to include children of single and "poor" parents. Because of the expansion of the definition, many poverty-stricken yet trusting parents ‒ not just from Korea but around the world -- have had their children taken by facilitators.
Knowledge is power
How do I know this? After twenty-five years of consistent observation and probably obsessive research, I've finally concluded (as much as I have resisted) that to protect local and global families worldwide, we need to inform the public about the crisis of child trafficking, which fills the insatiable demand of adoption. I've learned that the crisis is not just a problem in Korea; it's been a worldwide problem. For this reason, reading Adoption: What You Should Know is necessary. I discovered through my research that some children have even been abducted from their neighborhood street.
You've probably already heard the happily-ever-after adoption stories
To establish laws protecting families from exploitation, we must acknowledge that there are not-so-happy stories--and that these stories are just as long-lasting, forever, and ever-after as the happy ones. Before you trust the system of adoption or pay the non-refundable and sometimes hidden application fees that can cost up to $50,000 for an "orphan," or before you become attached to a charitable photo listing of a child that might come from a living and loving family, consider arming yourself with information.
I wasn't expecting agency lies.
When I first learned about adoption agency lies, it wasn't easy to believe. I doubted what I instinctively knew for decades. From my first memoir (Twins Found in a Box: Adapting to Adoption), you'll see how extremely loyal I am towards my adoptive family (still am) to the point that I, since the age of twelve, even served as the primary caregiver for my adoptive father who survived a 100-foot fall while hang gliding, resulting in a traumatic brain injury and permanent disability.
I've condensed "The Way of the Activist" into eight easy steps.
My vision of this movement for social justice is for each member to be able to walk in awareness and believe in the value of who they are to truly take care of themselves and the people around them. From a place of information, solidarity, and connection, the adoptee-activist (or whatever they want to call themselves) can be free to express their adoption experiences without criticism but rather point the attention on the truth of who they are (a star among stars). And from this place of truth and transparency, they can uplift others to speak truth to power.
The Way of the Activist: How to start a movement for social justice
Aware: Be aware of the value of who you are. Your life history matters. You matter. (For adopted people, the first few chapters of life are typically missing or hidden from us.)
Beware: This particular letter is motivated by what happened to us.
Care: Care about yourself.
Dare: It's okay to be different. Of course, it can be difficult, but it's okay. People who argue against the mainstream are needed. They help us see from a rare perspective, which can lead to expansion.
Fair: Be fair to yourself (In the land of adoption, we tend to give kudos to others. It may be time to give kudos to yourself for once!)
"When writing your life story, don't let anyone else hold the pen" ‒ Janine.
Questionnaire: The first step to healing is to ask the right questions. Take a moment to explore the author inside of you.
Repair: If you still need to spend time giving yourself the benefit of the doubt, make a plan. Journaling can help soothe the soul. I wrote The Power of Isolation: How Silence is Golden and Going Back to Zen to give you tools to calm the mind.
Share: It's okay to keep your story private and to yourself. You don't have to share with others until you are ready, but sometimes, we are never ready. That's okay. I understand. I get it. My dad waited until he was 88 years old before he published his memoir.
The Vance Twins established an online forum in 2011 that is now the largest group on social media led by adopted people, family members separated by adoption, and parents of adoption loss. To join, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vance Twins, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Rev. Dr. Janine, Philosophy, is a book doctor, feature-length screenwriter, and international award-winning author of many books, including Twins Found in a Box, Search for Mother Missing, Adoptionland: From Oprhans To Activists, The Unknown Culture Club: Korean Adoptees, Then and Now, and Adoption: What You Should Know. She also consults clients on story development and guides them through the writing process and publishing their books worldwide.
Jenette, a Certified and Licensed Occupational Therapy Assistant and Life Coach, was trained in Integrated Psychology and Applied Neuroscience. Jenette became a Reiki Master under the direct lineage of Master Mikao Usui, the founder of Reiki. She enjoys helping people learn about Reiki and develop personalized medical meditations catered to their health goals.
The Vance twins have each worked in their respective fields of expertise for almost 30 years. They recently joined forces to provide personalized guided meditations, How to Write About Life's Difficult Issues Writers Program & Bookmaking Services, and Write-for-Your-Life Retreats for busy people. They are also the cofounders of Adoption Truth and Transparency Worldwide Information Network and Korean Adoptees Worldwide.