Thoughts: Long-term Effects of Child Separation at the Border

The detainment, imprisonment, and separation of families at the border are not the first time the United States has participated in such acts. Our nation is founded on the premises of family separation and relocation that have affected millions of people of color both in the United States and across the globe. As you may have seen, there are already several articles that have pointed this information out and spoken to the extreme trauma, harm, and evil that is being done to these children. There are no processes in place to reunite the children with their parents, and the United States is just not prepared to humanely take care of the thousands of children that are flooding the Department of Children and Families.

While Trump has decided to sign an executive order to end child separation, it still gives me pause for the children that are still being affected by this policy, especially those who cannot speak for themselves. As an adoptee, as a person who was separated from their birth mother, and as a person who was institutionalized for the majority of their first year of life, this pains me like no other. The harmful effects lead to so much more than people can fathom, even for those that are adopted into homes that love them.

Unfortunately, there is a high probability that they will not. While there are orgnaizations that are working towards reuniting families, resources can only go so far. Without help, finding parents for a child is nearly impossible. Many of these children are unfamiliar with the intricate bureaucratic systems of the dependency system in the United States or speak English. Many of them will get trapped in a system that is already failing our most vulnerable youth.

As someone who has researched and learned more about the Foster Care System over the past five years in the United States, this is an issue that is far, far more damaging than is currently being reported. I do not claim to be an expert, nor do I have “credentials” that would assert me as such, but I do have knowledge that I think is highly applicable to what is occurring now.

Many children that enter the dependency system, especially older children, do not get adopted. Instead, they bounce around from place to place until they age out of the system altogether, ultimately funneling the youth, primarily youth of color and LGBTQ+ identified youth, to prison. The United State already has a pandemic of mass incarceration. They are placed in a system that is overcrowded, underfunded, and ultimately destined to fail. Even though the vast majority of youth in care wish to attend higher education, only 55% enroll in programs, and only 8% of students complete their programs due to barriers of financial support, housing stability, and more.

The worst part is, the violence does not end here. The cycle of foster care and violence can affect a family for generations. However, some non-profits and communities have been able to work with youth and young adults to disrupt these systems and have positive results. However, this is not enough. We need more people, institutions, and local governments.

 

What can you do to help?

1. Call your representatives. Demand change in immigration policy that protects children and families. Keep calling. Once a day. Once a week. Just keep calling. Get your friends and families to call.
2. While adoption can be positive, your first step should be to advocate for family preservation. No family should be separated because of circumstances outside of their control.
3. Donate your time and money to organizations that focus on assisting youth throughout their time in foster care, age out of foster care, and are no longer supported by the government through services. The support should not end once the foster care alumni reach an arbitrary number. A non-profit like, Educate Tomorrow focusing on a continuum of care.
4. Educate yourself on the inequity that that affects low-income communities and communities of color.
5. Make your own damn list of how to be more involved.

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Thoughts on #nationaladoptionmonth

It’s a week into November, and on several of the online communities I am a part of, #nationaladoptionmonth has been trending. I remember learning about this month several years ago under the Obama Administration, and now I am reminded it again under the Trump Administration. This is the first year I have ever read the proclamation from the Executive Branch, and I take issue with several statements that have been made.

First, I would like to discuss how Trump views Adoption.

 

 “My Administration recognizes the profound importance of adoption for the American family. Adoption is a life-changing and life-affirming act that signals that no child in America — born or unborn — is unwanted or unloved.”

 

Adoption is indeed a life-changing commitment. However, I am unsure if it is particularly life-affirming. In the past few months alone, there have been reports of children that have been killed or severely neglected by their adoptive parents. Adoption does not always promise a better life, but it promises a different life. I recognize that I use international adoption as an example, and I recognize that I am an international adoptee. My experiences do not apply to “no child in America,” yet here I am due to the (un)fortunate experiences of globalization and the adoption industry. This removal provides me a particular insight on adoption in how Trump discusses that no child is unwanted or unloved.

 

Earlier this year, Trump decisively declared a crackdown on immigration and the deportation of anyone who came to the United States undocumented. However, it is incredibly important to note that most of the undocumented immigrants that are residing in the United States were here legally at one point. Some were seeking asylum, refugees from wars that the United States participated in, or simply students. Language barriers, lack of support and opportunity, and just general hassle of complicated bureaucratic systems can prevent individuals from attaining legal status.

Many children that are in the system are not unloved or unwanted. They are part of families that are systematically discriminated against and oppressed. Yes, there are circumstances in which biological families relinquish children or horrendous parenting misdeeds, but those are not the only reasons how a child ends up in in the System. For example, before the sudden complete repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, Tump stated that DREAMers could stay, but their parents had to go. This is at the core root of how to separate a child from their family. These children are not unwanted or unloved, but they would be placed in a system

Trump later states in the proclamation:

“We must continue to remove barriers to adoption whenever we can so that the love and care of prospective adoptive parents can be directed to children waiting for their permanent homes. This year’s National Adoption Month, we focus on our commitment to helping older youth experience the transformative value of permanency and love.”

He’s right. Adopting older youth and providing the care and value of permanency of love is great if that was the only thing that mattered in an adoption. Speaking as someone who was adopted as an infant and has no history of my past, I still struggle with the value of permanency. If you add documentation into the mix, legal separation from a family you’ve known your entire life, and more…I can only imagine the trauma that may come from it. Older children that are waiting on permeant homes are not always orphans or in desperate need of loving supportive parental figures. They’re in desperate need of the family that was just deported.

The irony of this all is that Adoption is usually celebrated in a way that brings people together. It’s supposed to build families and have happy endings. But adoption does not always end like that. Adoption, more often than not, means the breaking of another family. There are several policies across the Trump administration that contributes to this. Cutting of family planning resources like planned parenthood, the deportation of undocumented immigrants, and so much more tears apart families more often than bring them together. The stigma of adoption still lingers. The prioritization of biological families still reigns supreme. It is not so simple to just say, let us adopt more youth. There is a shame if you cannot take care of the family you create.

Look, I’m not sure what the right answers are when it comes to a lot of these things. I do not have the educational background or the experience to say what is wrong and what is right. Nor do I think that this is an attack on Trump. Under President Obama, there were more deportations than any other President of the United States in modern history. There is a failure to address the deportation of international adoptees under both administrations. Adoption is a particularly hard subject for a lot of people. I am not pro-adoption nor am I particularly anti-adoption. I just think we need to begin to have an honest conversation about adoption in this country and around the world. Adoption ties into so many other factors and is the result of many poorly planned policies that do not always have the desired impact. We need to support young parents who decide to keep children; we need to be able to have realistic sex education for everything (inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community), we need to have better school systems, we need to acknowledge that adoption is not a solution.

I’m not an expert by any means, but I do come from the perspective of an international Chinese adoptee who has had both an incredibly positive and negative experience with adoption. I know I cannot separate my personal feelings when speaking on this topic, but I do not see that as any less deserving of consideration. I urge us to dive deeper into this topic and recognize that yes, adoption can be an amazing and beautiful thing, but it is also an indication of things that are much more insidious going on within a country.

Politicization of Death

Funerals are for the living, never for the dead. I learned this at a young age, but I’m not sure if I actually understood it until this past year. I went to the funeral yesterday because I needed space to mourn. I needed space to mourn the countless unnoticed adoptees, and I needed a space to mourn for myself. As someone who has gotten quite used to the idea of asking is my life worth living, and as someone who is still terrified of the stigma surrounding mental illness, I feel like this has to be said. If I were to ever act on my ideation of suicide, please never politicize my death. Please never have cameras or reporters at a funeral. Do not use my death to further an agenda one way or another. Suicide and the decision to take one’s life is tragic, heartbreaking, but ultimately something that is caused by a multitude of factors and cannot be blamed on one single thing.

The politicization of death has become very common in recent years, especially with the advent of social media. Whether they become hashtags or used as examples for people to take action, I question the purpose of using names as taglines. I understand the significance of remembering names and not being forgotten but do we truly want to remember individuals in a moment, rather than who they were? I feel like I’m at an impasse. On the one hand, I think it’s so important that people are made aware of these events and that policy does move forward and provide the necessary services. I believe that adoption agencies should be held accountable and not treat adult adoptees as a burden when they have used our bodies to make a profit. People think of adoptees as babies, sometimes children, but they never realize that we grow up. Holt and every adoption agency have a responsibility to ensure that they children they place are placed in good homes and fight for adoptee rights, like ensuring that adoptees adopted pre-2000 are guaranteed citizenship and fight for the undocumented adults that were sent back to their countries of birth to return. The list can go on and on and on and on. However, Holt is not the only institutions to blame. There are other instances of people and organizations and government agencies to intervene. To blame one organization ignores all of the others that should be held accountable as well.

It pains me to know that we have to use people’s stories to push for these changes to happen. We have to politicize a death of a man or the death of anyone in order for our words to be heard. Not even heard. They’re used in exploitative ways for spectators, validation, views, and so many other things. We are all responsible for how a story is produced and consumed. We are all responsible for how we remember.

I hesitate to send this out into the world. I hesitate because I’m afraid it can be polarizing. I hesitate because it’s generally what I do when it comes to my thoughts and opinions. The politicization of death is how we get people to care, I just wish it never needs to come that far. And even then, whose death actually matters? Does it matter how the life ended? Does it matter if that life was a productive force within our society for it to matter? How many bodies do we need to have for people to care? Do we even need to have people care about these things before we change systems that are inherently wrong and destructive?