Adoption needs overhaul or abandoning say people adopted as children

In Adoption Trafficking, Excerpts, Rights by Adoptionland News

LOUISE MILLIGAN: This is what has angered many adult adoptees: Tony Abbott with actor and adoptive parent Deborra-Lee Furness promoting fast-tracking inter-country adoption.


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: The benefits of inter-country adoption seem obvious when a child from the developing world is given a chance at a better life.

It’s had widespread celebrity endorsement of course, with people like Angelina Jolie and Cate Blanchett adopting overseas, and even the Prime Minister has promised to fast-track the inter-country adoption process.

Interestingly though, adults adopted as children themselves have a range of views about whether it’s a good idea. Some of them say that even if their adoptive parents are wonderful and loving, they still have lifelong scars due to the separation from their mothers and their birth cultures.

Louise Milligan reports.

PENNY MACKIESON, ADOPTEE: Joining Melbourne Football Club was very much about belonging to something that was enduring when somebody who’s adopted and doesn’t really know their identity necessarily fits right in.

LOUISE MILLIGAN, REPORTER: A sense of family is something Penny Mackieson always felt was missing.

Penny was born at Melbourne’s old Queen Victoria Hospital. Her mother, Carol Smith, called her Lisa Jane.

PENNY MACKIESON: A sheet was put up so she couldn’t see me. She was told she wasn’t allowed to see me or hold me.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Three weeks later, she was delivered to a doting adoptive family and became Penelope Kathleen Mackieson.

So what does it say?

PENNY MACKIESON: “Cancelled. Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages. Canceled.” It was like my life was canceled. My identity was canceled. I was no longer that person.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: In Australia, there is increasing public discussion about making adoption easier for prospective parents, but adoptive children who’ve grown up feel they’ve been left out.

NAHUM MUSHIN, FMR CHAIR, FORCED ADOPTIONS APOLOGY REFERENCE GROUP: Adoptees are finding their voices. They’re beginning to speak out and I think we as a society need to listen to them. They are troubled. They are very troubled and they have mental health problems in many instances and we can’t ignore that.

PENNY MACKIESON: I was very grateful for the good parenting I got, but at the same time, I wasn’t grateful for having been separated from my mother and having had no choice in that.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: This is what has angered many adult adoptees: Tony Abbott with actor and adoptive parent Deborra-Lee Furness promoting fast-tracking inter-country adoption.

PENNY MACKIESON: I can feel my heart palpating now. It makes me very angry. It literally churns my guts.

NAHUM MUSHIN: I would say to all politicians, not just the Prime Minister: we need to be very careful about not making this about the adoptive parents. We’ve got to make it about the children.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Australian research has found adoptees are four times more likely to have a severe mental disorder. Penny hoped to help other adoptees by working at Australia’s Intercountry Adoption Service, but she became disillusioned by the prospective parents.

PENNY MACKIESON: From my perspective, we were working in a program that was about finding families for vulnerable children, but from their perspective, we were a service for family formation for them.

SHARNA CIOTTI, ADOPTEE: For me, growing up in an Anglo-Saxon-Italian family, we didn’t eat Korean food, Korean food wasn’t cooked, I didn’t use chopsticks. I grew up eating a lot of traditional Italian food.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Looking Korean in an Italian-Australian adoptive family, Sharna Ciotti always felt different.

SHARNA CIOTTI: I grew up feeling a sense of profound loss that was often hard for me to articulate or to put words to. It was something that just stayed with me. And I also thought of my birth mother often, and when I thought of her, it was tinged with sadness, but guilt at the same time because I was in a very loving, happy family and I felt as though I wasn’t entitled to think about my birth mother.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Sharna was adopted at four months old.

SHARNA CIOTTI: My initial understanding of the reason as to why I was put up for adoption was because my mother and father were separated and unmarried at the time of my conception and my mother, as being a single mother, was unable to financially provide for me. Years later, when I was 10 years old, I found out that this was not true and that my parents were married and that I had three older sisters and one younger brother.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Sharna’s experience made her question Tony Abbott’s plan to fast-track adoption and its stated aim to be saving children.

SHARNA CIOTTI: It’s not always the case that children are in need of saving or are destitute or orphanage-bound or impoverished.

AMY LAMOIN, UNICEF AUSTRALIA: It’s important to realize that in Cambodia, for example, three out of four children who are in orphanages aren’t genuine orphans and they are in the orphanage because parents are unable or unwilling to care for them. And poverty’s an important part of this picture. And according to international law, poverty shouldn’t be a driver that separates children from their families.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Sharna Ciotti joined a group of inter-country adoptees who recently visited the Prime Minister’s office to voice their concerns.

SHARNA CIOTTI: We made warnings around the risk of child trafficking operations – children are kidnapped, parents are coerced unfairly into relinquishing their children, children have to endure pretty horrendous treatment in some of these dodgy orphanages that pop up, but are really trafficking stations.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: UNICEF is providing local alternatives to inter-country adoption.

AMY LAMOIN: That means supporting children to stay with either family or extended family, building foster care and support systems.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: In Phnom Penh, two-year-old Mith Sovann was abandoned in a park when he was three months old. UNICEF paid for surgery to correct Sovann’s cleft palate and provides regular financial assistance and support for his foster family in his own community.

Jane Hunt is CEO of Deborra-Lee Furness’ Adopt Change. She points out that there are seven million children in orphanages around the world and not all can be helped by programs like UNICEF’s.

JANE HUNT, CEO, ADOPT CHANGE: There are also children that at the moment don’t have that opportunity and are growing up in institutional care. And so, having adoption as a possibility so that they join a loving family is also important.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: She says the key is keeping connections to birth families where possible and lifelong follow-up for children and their adoptive parents.

JANE HUNT: Every adoptive child and adult is worthy of our compassion and our support and our care and we need to be able to ensure that adoption practices are ethical, that they’re safe and that families are supported through the process.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Former Family Court judge Professor Nahum Mushin helped draft Julia Gillard’s forced adoption apology and speaks to hundreds of adoptees. It’s brought him to a controversial conclusion: radically overhauling or even ending adoption altogether.

NAHUM MUSHIN: We still need to have that national discussion about whether we should be doing it at all. I think there are moral and ethical imperatives to it which we need to talk about.

SHARNA CIOTTI: I think that people sometimes forget that inter-country adoptees grow up, and even though children and babies might find themselves in new loving families, it doesn’t mean that they won’t grieve the loss of culture, the loss of their birth family, their loss of identity.

LEIGH SALES: Louise Milligan reporting.

Original Source.

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