Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Please, investigate (voices of other DRC adoptive parents)

I have written a lot over the last few years about the importance of independently investigating the story of your adopted child in DRC while in process.  It is important because it helps verify the orphan status of the child and making sure your adoption is ethical and necessary.  And it may also reveal critical information about the child's family that gives your adopted child connection to their family in DRC.  I've talked a lot about this topic.  So, I thought I would let other DRC adoptive parents share their opinions about why an investigation is (or was) important to them. Here are their voices: 

We decided to do an independent investigation for a couple of reasons. There is a lot of money that circulates in adoption at all stages and we wanted to make sure that an investigator would review all these stages without any alliances. We also wanted to find out as much information about our children as we could. When we started we only had a few questions but we felt like we wanted to be able to tell them when they were older that we had done everything we could to get every detail we could. I think this is very important for adopted children since so many have little to no history given with adoption paperwork. We did our investigation mid-process because we wanted to know without any doubt everything that we could. We didn't want to feel like we had questions after they were home. Our investigation did discover some untruths, deceptions and lies and although that was difficult, it gave us the ability to make those thing right. We were able to meet a birth family we didn't know existed and form a relationship that could have been lost forever. I know many people are scared of this because they assume birth families mean trouble - that they want money or to manipulate an adoptive family. But to ignore or hide a birth family during an adoption process is not ethical. An independent investigation can reveal what a birth family was told and what their intentions are without interference from an agency or a lawyer whose intentions may be different. Many agencies offer their own investigations. Our did and the information they gave us was not correct at all. They are not investigators by trade. And it's not in their best interest to find details, especially if those would require document changes or birth families that were unknown before. There is a conflict of interest when a agency is performing the investigation even when you fully trust your agency. We are so glad we did an independent investigation because it allowed us to make some very tough decisions about how to proceed with our adoption, decisions that had we not made them would have been deter mental to our case and to our children's well-being. As an adoptive parent, you are truly the only one with the power to find this kind of information and then decide what to do with it for the best interest of the child. It's a responsibly all adoptive parents should take seriously. Anon., DRC adoptive parent

Though discouraged by my agency, I contacted an independent investigator for two reasons: 1) to make sure my adoption was ethical and that I had not unknowingly stolen someone's children, and 2) to get as much information about my kids' background as possible so that they would have that when they started asking questions. I tried to begin the investigation prior to adoption finalization, but the only investigator I knew of only did post-completion investigations at that time. The report we received was multiple pages long, highly detailed, and it was clear that the investigator and his team had thoroughly researched my children's background and adoption through many sources. I learned that my adoption was completely legitimate. I also learned all about my kids' background, why they were given up for adoption, all about where their family came from, and family names (including grandparents, aunts, and uncles). I even received pictures of remaining members of my children's birth family and was put in touch with their birth father! We now have an open dialogue with their father by email. I am able to send him updates and photos, as well as ask him background questions when they arise. We were even able to obtain birth records for my daughter through her father. This allowed us to correct her erroneous agency-provided birth date and place her in a more suitable grade at school. I could not be more thankful for our investigation. Anna, DRC adoptive parent

We recently completed an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding our son's need for adoption. I went into it feeling convinced that they would not be able to find anything,  but knowing that I needed to at least try, for his sake. I wanted to be able to tell him that we had done everything we could to find out more of his history. 
We were amazed when we received a three page, highly detailed report about our son't birth family and the circumstances that led to his adoption, complete with photographs -- something I never imagined would happen for him. Through our investigator, we've been able to have continued contact with a birth relative -- and even to send her a photo album with pictures of our family. I am beyond grateful and am sure I don't need to explain what a treasure these are. While there weren't any ethical discrepancies that we learned of as a result of our adoption, we did learn much about his birth mom's life that was different from what we were initially told by our agency.
I asked many questions about our son's history and birth family while we were in process...but the answer I received was always the same: You'll just never know. This is Congo. 
I don't accept this anymore. 
My encouragement to adoptive parents is to recognize that they are not powerless. Independent investigations provide you not only with a chance to learn more about (and possibly connect with!) birth family, but also a chance to make sure that you are indeed adopting a child who truly needs a family -- and not playing a role in child trafficking. I truly believe that this is part of our responsibility as adoptive parents. Carly, DRC Adoptive Parent

I decided to have an independent investigation done on my daughter's adoption. Her paperwork from Congo was very vague and I was hoping for more information. With one trip to her orphanage, the investigator learned that her abandonment report had been falsified and she had living birth family in a village in Bas-Congo province. I was able to have the investigator locate her birth father. While he was happy that she had been adopted, I wish I had done an investigation during the process so that her birth father would have known she had been referred for adoption and had the opportunity to decide if that was what he really wanted. I also would have liked for him to be interviewed for her visa so there was a record of him saying he was choosing adoption for his daughter. I have peace knowing that he did want her to be adopted and did not feel capable to care for her. I just wish everything had been disclosed from the beginning so I could have told my daughter her true story from the day I met her.  Anon. DRC Adoptive Parent

It is difficult to search for truth after the adoption has occurred than before it has happened. As time passes it is more difficult to obtain pieces of child histories. Independent investigation is crucial to obtaining every piece of information for the adopted child to ensure that adoption was in the child's best interest, another option for placement could not be facilitated within the birth country for the child, and that no coercion occurred during the adoption process. Additionally, any piece or shred of information about the child's past or first family is essential for the adopted child. Understanding where they came from and who they are will be invaluable to the adopted child and is their own personal and private history. Any connection to first family should be sought through independent investigation and facilitated by the adoptive parent in order to keep connection whenever possible.
We believe that it is vastly important to have independent investigation to safeguard children being adopted from any foreign country. Some adoption agencies do not look out for the best interest of the children being adopted. Be aware of how to spot red flags and listen to your intuition. If things seem too good to be true, they probably are. Don't let the passion to create your family keep you blinded from searching for truth and fact for each child. Anon., DRC Adoptive Family

When we were in the process of adopting our daughter from Congo, the notion of completing an investigation while still in process was never introduced to us. In fact, we were discouraged against initiating contact with our daughter’s birth family, as it might “make things more difficult”. Meanwhile, others praised our decision to adopt internationally, citing how clean and easy it would be to not have to “deal with the birth families”. This never sat well with us. However, it wasn’t until we brought our sweet girl home from DRC that I truly began to process the trauma and loss associated with adoption. Every milestone she met, every first word she said, every birthday that passed- I longed to share with her first family. I mourned. For her. For them. And so we took action. With a small amount of trepidation but a greater sense of anticipation, we hired a trusted investigator to establish contact with our daughter’s Congolese family. This decision to seek out her family was not made without much counsel and prayer. We knew the risks. We knew that we could potentially unearth devastating information surrounding the ethics of our adoption. We knew that it could lead to heartache. We knew that there was a possibility our daughter’s Congolese family wanted nothing to do with her or us. But we felt strongly that we owed it to our daughter and to her first family to at least try.  And so we did. We waited anxiously for our investigator to report back to us, and the day his report finally came through my inbox, my hands were trembling. What had we done? Was I about to open a Pandora’s box full of information that would heap greater pain and sadness into our laps? Thankfully, in our case, there were no big surprises unearthed through our investigation. Rather, I received priceless family stories and information and photographs that I would never have had otherwise. Even more importantly, it opened up the opportunity for our family to begin contact with our daughter’s first family in Congo. We have had the unbelievable privilege to email with one of her family members on a frequent basis. We share photos and stories and prayer, and they do the same. In short, it’s exceeded every expectation we had when we decided to proceed with an investigation.I am well aware that not every investigation story is this picture perfect. However, I will say that the moment we were told, “Thank you. Thank you for looking for us. For thinking about us. Your family will forever be a part of our family, and we love all of you,” I knew that the decision to investigate was one of the best we have ever made. C.A., DRC Adoptive Parent

L., one of the sweet ones we support at


Alex King said...

To APs considering a search, I want to say this: No promises, your mileage may vary, but...making contact with my child's first family changed her. Changed us as parents. Changed them, I think.

You can't imagine the guilt my child left at the side of the road, after hearing directly from a grandparent, 'You are so lucky, not for the things your parents can give you or for your education, but because they never gave up on finding this family again. Go home to America and study hard. Our village knows where you are now.' My only regret is that it took 12 years and 3 investigators (moving further from the agency's endorsed people each time) to get there.

Jess said...

Do you have a list of investigators that are reliable?

Holly said...

Jess--can you contact me by email?

scooping it up said...

I think it is vital for families who investigate to know: there is a good chance the family has been told "the child will be better off" they will see your wealth, your whiteness, your opportunties, and may not ever tell the full story which very well may include "well, we didn't plan on the child being adopted, but now we feel glad because they have such good lives now." There are a lot of first families in DRC, Ethiopia who bought the lie that their kids are better off with American families and feel peaceful about it all now that the kids are gone. They feel even though they didn't intend for this to happen it all worked out. Let me tell you who suffers in this equation: traumatized children who never should have had to leave their families. When at risk families need support, their kids are put in care, and then adopted. So, while after an investigation you may get warm fuzzies, please know that it took two years of contact, phone calls, emails, and then a 4th visit to first family to get the full story, and that was after a week together the real story started coming. It took years, and asking the same questions over and over and over for things to come out. So your "sending a searcher" thing, is unlikely to give you anything but a pat on the back for the good you've done. You may not get the truth. And it all boils down to children who were hurt by international adoption as much as they were helped.