False Narratives: Illicit Practices in Colombian Transnational Adoption
2. The Right to Identity and Transnational Colombian Adoptions
- Abduction, sale of and traffic of children;
- Misrepresentation of identity;
- Misrepresentation of adoptability of children of unknown parents;
- No preservation of, and access to, records.
- International recognition, acknowledgement, and reparation of illicit adoption practices;
- Reparative supports to include post adoption services such as trauma-informed counseling, DNA testing, and central authority support to locate birth family members;
- Legal consequence to those found guilty of engaging in illicit adoption activities.
3. Materials and Methods
4.1. Alberto: Abuse of Process–Microfiction, Birthmother Trafficking
Yes, so growing up my mom always had my Registro de Nacimiento [registration of birth]. It had my birth mother’s name on it but not my birth father. It had my maternal grandparents’ names on there. It had their pueblo, where they were from. So, I never knew why I was put up for adoption. And my mom I guess had reached out to the adoption agency, the orphanage [name redacted] to see if they had any more information. I think they just made up a story and just said, ‘oh yeah, she was young. She had a boyfriend, and he was like a travel agent and then he just abandoned her, so she gave the baby up for adoption’. It wasn’t true.
The real story is that she traveled from (name of town redacted), to (name of city redacted), to live with an aunt who was kind of like her mom, was oldest of her generation. And this aunt, married well and was very educated. And she had other sisters who moved from the pueblo to the (name of city redacted) and they were also very educated and professional. And they hosted my birthmother. And they dressed her up like a maid. And she was kind of like, this, you know, from the countryside and she was supposed to study, but went there to be a maid. And then she had a relationship with one of her cousins and got pregnant. And then, hid her pregnancy. And then, my aunt and my aunt/grandmothers, those professional aunts, were the ones who took her to [name redacted] to put me up for adoption. And so she hadn’t spoken to that part of the family since that moment. So, 21 years had gone by.
4.2. Elkin: Birthmother Trafficking, Sale of Child, Abuse of Process–Microfiction
I was born in ’91, the adoption was one of the many (name of state redacted) Colombian adoptees. So my adoption was facilitated by (name of agency redacted). Everything was by the book. You know they had of course all this documentation that this was all consensual, this was all planned out, blah-blah-blah (microfiction). So, it happened 26–27 years later. 25 actually I think, if I’m doing the math right. So, well, anyways, I found her, she immediately asked me if I was ok health-wise. And a bunch of—she—like immediately after her, all of these aunts and uncles and stuff came out of the woodworks—my grandparents. And this is all just still on my maternal side. I still don’t know my paternal side. Yea, they all just started coming out of the woodworks and asking me how I am. Am I healthy? Am I ok? And my bio-mom explained that it sounds like I probably was fraudulently taken. Because basically she told me, and my grandparents back up the stories, that they basically approached her like a day after I was born, and they told her, and this is like the Colombian side of things, they told her that I had some rare heart defect, and that I, I needed emergency surgery to live. She was quite poor, and you know they basically just gave her the ultimatum: sign him away, and there’s White folks out there with cash in hand or, you know, you can keep him, and he’ll die (birthmother trafficking and sale of child). And I was her second child. She had three children after me too that she kept and raised. So she gave me away, and, obviously on our side of things here of the U.S., that’s not what shows on paper (microfiction), but, yea, I think they actually attempted to try and find me a few times. They thought, they were pretty convinced that I was either in Germany or England. But I guess they just, you know, I mean on their side of things, once you sign that—the child away, I mean they don’t have access to any of that kind of records of where I went. So, and they just did not have the money either, to, you know, really do a good search for me. So, they always hoped that I would find them, and I did.
4.3. Sophie: Abuse of Process–Microfiction
So then, she got pregnant with me. She was cleaning homes. And a woman she cleaned homes for told her you should just give up this baby. Why would you have a fourth, you can’t even take care of the three you have.
4.4. Daniela: Abuse of Process–Adoptive Parent Withholding
Yea—I had asked for them, and I was afraid to ask for them, because things had been said when I was younger that kind of just made me—hesitant—like she was—I mean I had known I was adopted since I was really little. And I don’t even remember. She doesn’t remember saying it, but I remember. I was watching MTV’s True Life I’m Adopted, and I just had it on, and that was it. Nothing—I wasn’t saying anything, I watched True Life—that wasn’t the first episode I watched; it wasn’t the last. And my sister—I remember her going into like where my parents’ room was, and then my mom coming out and saying, “If you ever look for your birth mother, it’ll be a slap in the face” (adoptive parent withholding). So, I think that was part of like—the delay. But then like when all of this happened—like when I say she left it on the table—I literally asked for it, it wasn’t a fight, I didn’t have to ask for it more than once. It was just kinda—I came home from wherever I’d been, and it was right there. So, I think she was like really supportive. I think she did have some difficulty when they were found, and we were reunited, and I wanted to go see them and all that. I think that was difficult, but I can understand that.
And then (name of orphanage redacted) put me in touch with someone at ICBF, and then I think they went back to (name of orphanage redacted). Like they needed information. And it was just kind of like a little bit of a process…”
4.5. Elsa: Abuse of Process–Adoptive Parent Withholding-Microfiction
Well, this is kind of messed up. My adoptive family had told me that they didn’t know anything about her forever (microfiction), and then once I finally was like, set my boundaries and just said, you know, we don’t have a relationship anymore. I don’t want a relationship with you anymore. They sent me an email. They were like, ‘There’s some stuff you might want in this [mail]’ (adoptive parent withholding). So, I was like, ‘Ok, just leave it on your porch.’ So, I went there and got it, and her cedula number was on there, and her name was on there. And they had lied to me for 38 years saying that they didn’t know anything.
4.6. Maria: Abuse of Process–Microfiction
Then there were some Facebook messages with my adult nieces and nephews, and emails, and then some other information came in that I was not prepared for, like it was different information from what I had heard and so, then I took another break, because it was too much to deal with. Maybe this is helpful. I remember this quite vividly, because they were saying, ‘No, that’s not true what happened, it was this,’ (microfiction) and so I actually—I had—I went into a slight depression for two weeks. And that was a little scary, because that was my first time, and I was a social worker. I was like, I should know what’s happening! And it wasn’t until my therapist told me, ‘You’re having some symptoms of depression.’ I’m like, ‘I am?’ So, that actually helped, to name it, and then I was able to come out of it,
4.7. Kathryn: Sale of Child, Birth Mother Trafficking, Abuse of Process–Microfiction
Because of the nature of my adoption, it was a complete shock to my birth mother [sic-being found]. And she ended up telling her story when I met her. She had explained that I was conceived when she was raped by a man working at her job, and that her supervisor turned her in to the clinic managed by my orphanage who made her sign lots of papers despite being unable to read and write. She said that she was told I was born dead. So she didn’t know all this time that I was alive.
She had a similar experience with her job when she had her next baby after me. She shared that she was drugged during the birthing which allowed the baby to be taken from her without her consent.
And I wonder if other people, you know—I’m really like—I really wonder if other people in reunion at this level of, being part of black-market adoption are faced with this, ‘cause I don’t know of any—I haven’t spoken to any other adoptees really—who are experiencing this level of, struggle and challenge. It’s not easy to live with finding out that a whole government and a whole Catholic institution, and individuals of a workspace conspired to steal a baby and get away with it. And a challenge for me there, and I’m not saying this for everyone, I’m saying specifically for me it’s like I don’t know how? I can’t sit with this information. Yea, I want justice. Personally. And how do I, one person, take on an entire government of—I mean it’s infuriating, and I don’t know if it’s still happening? Probably sometimes still is? But to argue something that happened in the past is….yea. So, this—so the challenge for me is like this, this, this is a burden on my shoulders now. It’s a new burden.
Before learning this, my adopting orphanage shared with me that my file showed that I had a sibling also adopted somewhere in the United States or Europe. They wouldn’t tell me more than that. But when I received my file eventually through the welfare system, I was infuriated to see two pages were missing. And the pages were so obviously renumbered without any explanation (abuse of process-microfiction).
Obtaining a cedula takes many steps and I discovered my birth certificate and US passport have different names and therefore I needed to do a legalized name change in Colombia before obtaining my Cedula. Again a 4-year process for me. Then I found out that the welfare system’s process is long, antiquated, and filled with inconsistencies and unanswered emails for months. Then I was lucky to receive my file, but pages were missing and renumbered. So there is the avenue of going through the welfare system. There is the avenue of going through your orphanage, or through your, you know, agency. There’s the avenue of going through, umm, hiring private help, umm, and I really think that’s another good idea if you have the resource, but I don’t support the enormous fees that take advantage of the situation. I don’t know how many people go through life like literally having to go through so much on their identity through consulates and legal offices across oceans and languages. And so eventually I found out because I was adopted at 30 days old, so many multiple legal adoption steps were skipped, and now I understand this is because it was a stolen situation. I was a stolen baby. There were other steps that were skipped.
Current best adoption practices mandate a period when birth parents may rescind their voluntary relinquishment.So, she was just explaining everything and all the hardships and everything like that, and actually she gave me up, and, within a couple of weeks, she found a job at a, I think at a farm, and she came back, but I had already been adopted out. And that was kind of—I think it was just kind of final for her, and I don’t—she never made it seem that she thought that she could find me again.
A huge piece of this has been my ongoing work connecting to my indigenous heritage. Since learning that my adoption was non-consensual, it has strengthened my belief that my adoption is part of the continued genocide of indigenous people through forced family separation.
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Sale of Children||When a child is “transferred for profit or when financial inducements are used to obtain parental consent” 2|
|Birth Mother Trafficking||Adoption related trafficking where birth mothers are targeted and victimized and can include coercion, fraud, deception, abuse of power, and or forced labor and delivery. 3|
|Abuse of Process||When an “element of exploitation” 4 or being used unfairly for another’s advantage towards the adoptee, adoptive or birth parent, exists in adoption practice.|
|Sub 1: Microfiction||Adoption histories that are “purposefully or accidently” 5 altered, omitted, or inaccurate.|
|Sub 2: AP Withholding||Adoptive parent(s) purposely withholding adoptee identity related information from the adoptee.|
|Participant||Illicit Adoption Practice(s)|
|Alberto||Birthmother trafficking, Abuse of Process: Microfiction 1|
|Elkin||Sale of Child, Birthmother trafficking, Abuse of Process: Microfiction|
|Sophie||Abuse of Process: Microfiction|
|Daniela||Abuse of Process: AP Withholding|
|Elsa||Abuse of Process: AP Withholding, Microfiction|
|Maria||Abuse of Process: Microfiction|
|Fernando||Abuse of Process: Microfiction|
|Kathryn||Sale of Child, Birthmother trafficking, Abuse of process: Microfiction|
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Branco, S.F.; Cloonan, V. False Narratives: Illicit Practices in Colombian Transnational Adoption. Genealogy 2022, 6, 80. https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy6040080
Branco SF, Cloonan V. False Narratives: Illicit Practices in Colombian Transnational Adoption. Genealogy. 2022; 6(4):80. https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy6040080Chicago/Turabian Style
Branco, Susan F., and Veronica Cloonan. 2022. "False Narratives: Illicit Practices in Colombian Transnational Adoption" Genealogy 6, no. 4: 80. https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy6040080