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Joint Council vs Land of Gazillion Adoptees: Round 1

So here it be!  What you’ve all been waiting for – the Land of Gazillion Adoptees podcast conversation with Tom DiFilipo of Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS).  Woo-hoo!

Now, setting all excitement aside, I’m certain some of you will be disappointed in the tone (civil), that I didn’t ask certain questions, that I didn’t pounce when I had the opportunity, etc.  That’s fine.  Bring on the critique.  We’re absolutely open to them here.  But come on.  What good does it do if folks like Tom and adoptees like yours truly yell at each other all of the time (there is a time and place for that, though)?  Besides, we here at Land of Gazillion Adoptees are always thinking about the long road; there will be future conversations.

Enjoy Round 1.

->Tom DiFiliop<-

Topics covered: JCICS, JCICS symposium, adoptee/JCICS relations, adoptee tokenism at the JCICS symposium, JCICS membership’s ongoing responsibilities to the adoptee community, adoptee deportation.

17 Comments on Joint Council vs Land of Gazillion Adoptees: Round 1

  1. Thanks Kevin. I do agree that a dialogue is needed and I do like to be hopeful but trust also needs to be built and time will tell.

  2. Kevin, you should have let people know how long that interview was. That is a long period of time to listen to softball questions and fluff answers-time that I unfortunately can’t get back. You most certainly could have asked tough, direct questions without yelling and name-calling. Righteous anger does not equal unprofessional. What is unprofessional is sweeping all the real issues under the rug, like Tom did. He washed his hands of postplacement issues. He is cherry-picking this adoptee deportation issue because it made the news. Things like disruptions don’t make the news.

    The tone that I greatly disliked was how you addressed PoundPup Legacy and how you let Tom yuk it up about the serious concerns that PoundPup brings to the table. Righteous anger is good and necessary. Kissing butt is not good.JCICS most definitely represents agency *interests*. That is what the issue is. No one thinks that they cherry pick one agency and go to bat for them. They were behind unchecked Humanitarian Parole in postearthquake Haiti. They went to Ethiopia to investigate the “situation”, promised a report and it is over 2 years later and have not delivered. Tom washed his hands of “regulating” his agencies. JCICS has so many conflicts of interest including that Tom heads COA, the Hague accreditation body. Don;t even get me started about the “independent” Ethica that he started.

    JCICS should not be leading squat because they continue to have only their own interests at heart. They self-regulate themselves in foreign countries. They should not be the hand that decides when one family gets preservation and the next gets international adoption.

    Triple FacePalm when Tom says JCICS represents the “family unit.”

    • Rally, your points are very valid and, if you don’t mind, I’d love to post it as a stand alone. Arun Dohl wasn’t happy about the interview either, and he’s given me the go ahead to publish some of the stuff he said on FB. Together, both of your points of view would be a great critique. Let me know.

  3. I agree with Rally that I was uncomfortable when the conversation turned to Pound Pup Legacy. Niels and Kerry have done a tremendous amount of work to bring documentation, education and discussion about abuse in adoptive homes, child trafficking and other difficult issues to the public domain. These issues are real and far more common than the adoption community wants to admit–issues the JCICS has never to my knowledge addressed.

    • Point well taken, Kim. I have nothing but respect for Pound Pup Legacy. In fact, another person I were talking about Niels and Kerry on Friday and their work. Again, if you’re open to it, I’d be happy to include your comment in a follow-up post.

  4. declassifiedadoptee // March 19, 2012 at 11:09 pm // Reply

    I thought it was an interesting interview. I am someone who is not as well-versed on issues surrounding inter-country adoption as you and your other readers are. I approached the interview not knowing perhaps as much as I should about the JCICS. I felt like I needed to point out my ignorance in this regard before continuing with my comment.

    That being said, I think everyone who commented here has valid points, some of which also came across my mind when listening to the interview. I will say that there were definitely many things that you let go without question. Perhaps it was due to lack of time–some of Mr. Difilipo’s answers were a bit superfluous. Perhaps it was the manner in which he seemed to approach the conversation–on the defense and appearing to be willing to admit to certain wrongs. As he was someone presenting himself as being willing to be so humble in regards to the lack of adoptee input and disconnect when it comes to JCICS, having pushed back harder on your part could have equally been critiqued by those who disagree with your standpoint and that of the adoptee activist community. The stereotype of the angry adoptee was stacked against you here before the interview even began.

    A few points I would like to make:

    A fundamental problem with what Mr. Difilipo said is the lack of his knowledge of adoptee culture and the experiences of various oppressed groups. Or so I could gather, at least, from some of his comments. Part of being an oppressed person is that you do not have a place at the table. Part of being a power-holder, which he is, is being in charge of the invitations and dismissals from that table. If you are truly aware of your privileges and aware of the variables at play that leave various populations voiceless–you acknowledge that privilege, acknowledge that it is absolutely unearned and that the disenfranchisement of others is undeserved, and you do absolutely whatever you can to make it right! His apparent belief that adoptees, the oppressed group (who may be further oppressed by other factors such as sexism, homophobia, racism, ageism, disablism, etc), simply should invite themselves or make themselves known at the table signifies the lack of acknowledgement of privilege and acknowledgement of his power-holding within the adoption discourse that he has.

    I also felt that he invalidated the needs, many of which are extremely trying and significant, of adult adoptees, by comparing them to children who are in need. His response placed adoptees in the position of having to defend why they need more help and attention than the “children in Guatemala” as he put it, in order for JCICS to pay more attention to adoptee issues post-adoption. When adoptee needs are framed this way, adoptees are put in the position of appearing to be so petty as to vie to take away attention from children for their own needs and thus, the demand to be included and considered has already been labeled petty. In this framing, adoptees just.can’

    The fact of the matter is, ALL human beings are deserving of social justice and support. I was once a Social Services Coordinator for a nursing home. Never once did I tell one of my older adult clients “wow, do you really want to use up resources that could go to kids instead?” That would be completely inappropriate. We never stop being human. We never lose our value with age. All human beings are worthy of being included and supported. The JCICS may attempt to focus on children, however, as you pointed out, Kevin, adoptees were once those children. When children are failed and improperly supported, do those claiming to have their “best interest” at heart get to walk away once the child turns 18? And what about the unique and irreplaceable value adult adoptees would bring to the children being helped right NOW?

    Which brings me to my next observation.

    He focuses only on the challenges he sees by being inclusive of adoptees and how much it will cost his organization. He does not acknowledge the strengths and benefits adoptees will bring. He *says* he wants input from adoptees and that it is a problem that there is not more of it. But he seems to believe that being inclusive of adoptees and the diversity in opinion adoptees may bring is simply problematic at best. He evaded addressing tokenism and instead minimized what tokenism is by framing the feeling of being a token as being wrong or overblown (in other words, microinvalidation). Either he agrees adoptees are too often not included and it is a problem OR adoptees who are scarcely included here and there are ridiculous for claiming tokenism–it doesn’t work both ways.

    You will have to explain to me more about the inclusion of the NCFA with this collaboration you proposed with the JCICS. Foremost, I question their credibility. They also have spent the past three decades dismissing and stereotyping any adult adoptee who so much critiques the institution of adoption or wants equal access to their birth documentation. They’ve consistently neglected to include the welfare and rights of adult adoptees in their mission statement. I guess I can’t ever imagine them taking the ideas of an adult adoptee who does not kowtow to their views seriously.

  5. Karen Moline // March 20, 2012 at 9:56 am // Reply

    Thank you for spending the time talking to Tom. Frankly, I can’t believe you are choosing to align yourself with an organization that claims to be all about “child’s rights” but really is (as much as Tom tries to pretend it isn’t) about protecting the rights of their members, most of whom are still adoption agencies. Sitting down an having a nice, polite gush-fest is all well and good, but come on, do you honestly believe that swallowing this stuff unchallenged is worth alienating anyone who is aware of how many billions flow out of this country to fund–with no transparency–international adoption and whose “rights” organizations like the JCICS will really fight for?

    Just a few points: Tom said that some members left because they decided not to be Hague accredited because it was expensive. Yes, that is true. The process is onerous and costly, especially for small agencies. But he somehow forgot to say that a lot of members left because they were Hague DENIED thanks to their own unethical and corrupt history. Others didn’t even bother to apply or withdrew because they knew they wouldn’t get approved. Some of these agencies, like Celebrate Children International, are still reapplying, clearly believing that hey are innocent little flowers who are just in it for the children. Why didn’t you ask Tom about the book and website Finding Fernanda, which lays out CCI’s horrifying behavior in Guatemala while you had the chance? Why didn’t you ask him WHY the Guatemalan process was so corrupt, and why DNA tests were falsified, and why the $$$$$$$ that went to that country ended up in the pockets of the lawyers and facilitators–and not to the children who needed it most?

    You also forgot to ask Tom what role he played when the COA was writing its regulations – gee, I don’t know, WHY would ADOPTION AGENCIES BE PERMITTED TO WRITE THE REGULATIONS THAT GOVERN THEIR BEHAVIOR? Fox, meet henhouse.

    You might also have asked why the COA is unable to kick out the agencies exposed by former clients and/or the media for egregious wrongdoing – Christian World Adoptions and their well-documented behavior in Ethiopia come to mind. So if CWA was so horrible in Ethiopia, why were they just given a license to process adoptions form Kyrgyzstan? Do you see where I’m going with this? Agency “allegedly” does bad things. Agency gets exposed. Agency claims it hasn’t broken any laws. Agency knows the toothless COA and the hypocritical JCICS and the lazy DOS aren’t going to do anything except spout a few platitudes. Agency’s clients say, Oh it can’t be, they’re such saviors. Agency keeps at it. What happens? Agency gets new license. Meanwhile, the JCICS sits there and talks about how their members are all about “children’s rights.”

    The right to have a family doesn’t automatically infer that this right includes being adopted through a corrupt process.

    By the way, as others have pointed out, where is JCICS’ much-promised Ethiopia report, now 2 1/2 years overdue? What do they have to say about the slowdown due to proven corruption by their member agencies in Ethiopia? What are they going to do about the terrifying exploitation of new African countries by these same agencies? These countries have little infrastructure and few checks and balances to prevent trafficking. Why is ANY adoption being sanctioned from these countries? Does the JCICS think their member agencies are suddenly going to become all ethical in a new country when they just shut down a different one thanks to their corrupt behavior?

    As for Pound Pup Legacy, how dare you impugn their integrity? You said you’re going to get heat, well here it is. I am incandescent with rage that you didn’t defend PPL. It is one of the few sites that has the balls to show all that has gone wrong with adoptions. Even more important, it shows how the rotten players of adoption world are linked, and how they often move from one agency to another when they get found out as traffickers. No wonder Tom doesn’t like them. Furthermore, why should PPL ever want to talk to a lobbying group that DEFENDS and represents the very same agencies whose misdeeds are chronicled in gory detail on their site?

    Obviously, you are aware that the children adopted through corrupt programs by corrupt JCICS-member agencies in corrupt countries are growing up and those who came here during the early 2000s are starting to get old enough to demand answers from their parents. It is not going to be pretty. Nor should it be. If they can hit Google and find out about corruption in about 5 seconds, what are you, Kevin, going to advise them? To go to the JCICS for answers? Really? Someone has to admit responsibility for how rotten the system was and is, and it sure as heck is not going to be the JCICS.

    So, Kevin, if you want to work with the JCICS, go right ahead. But be aware that the JCICS continues to ignore if not sanction the most heinous abuses perpetrated on the most vulnerable of children by their members. All the spin and nice chit-chat in the world is not going to make that go away.
    Karen, board member of PEAR but speaking only for my outraged and fed-up self and on behalf of my Vietnamese-born son who deserves to have answers about the legitimacy of the program I stupidly thought was ethical but was since proved to be riddled with filth. Ask Tom about Vietnam’s two shutdowns and about his “fact-finding” there too. I’d love to know what he has to say since he never had the guts to tell the truth about the utterly disgusting things a lot of JCICS agencies did there before they mercifully got the boot.

    • Wow, Karen! You just ripped open a ton of stuff with that is valid, clearly articulated, and VERY well taken comment. As for Pound Pup legacy, we have nothing but respect for the folks who run it. Please connect with fellow PEAR board member Gina in regards to this. Also, just to clarify, I didn’t say anything definite about working with JCICS/Tom. I agreed to bring adoptees to the table who may be interested in getting support from JCICS in regards to deportation. At any rate, thanks for keeping us honest, and know that there’s much more to come…

    • Kathy Spedding (Sullivan) // March 29, 2012 at 12:56 am // Reply

      EXCELLENT response, Karin! You brought out EVERY issue that has been on my own mind for the past 35 years! And so have the others! Thank you!
      Kathy Spedding (Sullivan)

    • Kathy Spedding (Sullivan) // March 29, 2012 at 2:05 am // Reply

      And I also see that Michael S. Goldstein, ESQ.,LCSW is one of the JCISC sponsors, and his wife and their agency are doing outgoing international adoptions from the USA…mostly to Amsterdam right now if I am not mistaken. This, to me, shows a total lack of understanding as to the effects of International Adoptions on children.
      Kathy Spedding (Sullivan)

  6. Kevin,

    14 years ago, as a victim, I learned the most important lesson the hardest way possible when it comes to corrupt, unethical adoptions. That is, if you want to find the real bad guys, just follow the money. In this discussion, all money leads through and to JCICS member agencies. My daughter and our family are paying a life long price for the crimes committed for adoption money.

    Now, no one in the adoption community is going o come out in favor of the deportation of non-citizen adoptees. There is nothing wrong with those of differing viewpoints setting their differences aside to join forces for a common cause. However, if you are going to lay down with JCICS slime, you best put on the full body condom so you don’t catch anything too nasty from them. Tom D, whether by his own nature or the nature of his position, is, in my opinion, the most two-faced, double-speaking liar I have ever met and he can not be trusted. If the JCICS wants to be the point man for the deportation issue, be aware that they have their own self-interests at heart. Good publicity=more support=more money. Think about it, who should be leading the fight on the deportation issue? How about those most affected who do not have a monetary interest as an ulterior motive? That would be adoptees and their adoptive parents.

    I know where this issue comes from. After fighting for several to keep my daughter and put the criminals who stole her history, birthright and identity in jail, I then had to fight for several more years for her citizenship so we would not live with the fear of deportation. As it turns out, it is a fight I am glad we fought and won, because my daughter has had her youthful indiscretions with the law and may very well have been deported to a country where she knew no one nor he language and culture, had she not become a citizen.

    As for Pound Pup Legacy, I think you do realize, as do the rest of us, that Niels and Kerry labored tirelessly to give us one of the best adoption-related resources available anywhere.

    As far as the other issues brought up in this discussion, the things that will come back to bite the international adoption industry other than its nosedive into global shutdown due to corruption, are twofold. These are the lack of post adoption services and the growing number of disruptions/dissolutions. Both are related as the former is helping cause the latter. Currently, the underground world of re-homing kids whose adoptions are dissolved is growing and will inevitably bubble to the surface and erupt like a volcano. The reaction will be to call for more post-adoptions services at a huge cost to adoptive families. This is backwards and reactionary. The proactive way is to have post-adoption services in place to prevent the volcanic eruption that is on the way. Of course, the JCICS and adoption industry prefer to ignore this because it might involve spending some of their ill-gotten gains on the fix instead of shifting the cost to the adoptive families.

    Follow the money.

    David K, PEAR board member, speaking for himself

    • David, thank you for sharing how all of this connects to the important issue of outcomes. The only “outcome” that JCICS or others in the industry ever measure or care about (I say this because of the lack of providing services or support) is whether the child leaves the sending country and arrives on US soil.

      International adoption disruptions are occuring more frequently. No data exists on this, so I embarked on collecting data and have summarized my current effort today and it can be seen at

  7. Thanks, Kevin, for this interview and for the work you’ve been doing.

    I don’t take issue with civility; in fact, we often have conversations
    with many organizations with whom we vehemently disagree, but we do so in a civil tone. We even collaborate and work with those organizations
    because at the end of the day, we feel we can accomplish more with collaboration and civility and finding shared ground. Isolating ourselves from those who do hold power, whether those folks deserve it, is not
    effective for policy-making. I appreciate the tone of your interview
    and thank you for keeping it civil.

    However, keeping it civil doesn’t mean letting it off the hook. One doesn’t need to actually yell to hold another’s feet to the fire. JCICS under Mr. Defilipo’s watch has consistently ignored reports of
    unethical behavior in its members, claiming that it is not a
    regulatory body. If he wants to speak for “the children”, it would
    certainly behoove Mr. DiFilipo to do his part to ensure a cleaner,
    more ethical system, including one that holds accountable adoption
    service providers (and this is true for both his work with JCICS and
    COA). I do think you could have challenged him a little more
    aggressively. Doing so doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to collaborate in the future, nor should it.

    On the issue of deportation – this is an issue which is broadly and easily supported. I think it is a great idea to work with any other organization who will roundly support and champion this issue because it should have happened long ago, when CCA was passed. Ethica would be thrilled to support a coalition of folks pushing this issue.

    As you know, we recognize that the adult adoptee voice has been underrepresented in discussions and as part of our strategic plan, we are reorganizing our board so that at least one-third of our members are adult adoptees. Thank you very much for helping us make some of those connections.

    As far as Tom, Trish, and Tom’s history with Ethica is concerned (which was somehow dredged up in this discussion and elsewhere), I feel the need to clarify to state that neither Tom nor Trish is involved in Ethica’s activities at this point. Tom once served in an advisory capacity to Ethica in its nascent days (think circa 2003). Trish was the founder of Ethica and she left Ethica about four years ago. It would be fair to criticize Ethica for its current activities but it is unfair to link our current practices today with either Tom or Trish (whether that reflects well or poorly on us). I am shocked that Tom
    publicly identified his loose ancient historical affiliation with Ethica, as it’s been almost 10 years since his involvement. If he has to point to his affiliation with Ethica from 10 years ago as evidence for his commitment to ethics, that should speak volumes for his work in upholding ethics in adoption today.

    Rachel, speaking for myself, not Ethica

  8. Thank you for the podcast.
    I certainly learned a lot and I look forward to future dialogue.


  9. For some reason this pod-cast escaped me when it was originally posted, and since it mentions Pound Pup Legacy, the website I co-founded, it deserves an answer.

    For the record:

    Pound Pup Legacy does not call names as is suggested by Tom DiFilipo. In fact, both Kerry and I are vigilant that our website remains a serious and credible source of information and debate. Over the years, we have in fact lost members because we didn’t tolerate unfounded accusations.

    If our website vulgarly called names, I could understand the criticism, but we do not. We ARE confrontational, but what we say is fact based. Even calling Mr DiFilipo “Tommie”, as talked about in the opening of the interview, would not be our style.

    Whenever we criticize people working in the adoption industry, we only do so when we can back up our statements. This is one of the reasons we maintain such an extensive archive, so we can prove that what we say is based on fact, not just on gut feeling or hearsay.

    As to the Demons of Adoption Awards, that is a spoof on the Angels in Adoption Awards ™, as we mention in every post about the award. In that sense, it is a tongue-in-cheek way to introduce some very serious issues.

    It should be noted that we, as Pound Pup Legacy, do not choose the recipient of the DoA award, this is done by running a ballot on our website all through October. We don’t choose nominees for the award either, this is done by asking our readers to put up their nomination all through the month of September.

    Every time we announce the recipient of the DoA awards, however, we accompany that announcement with a lengthy editorial, explaining the reason why the recipient is deserving this award.

    In 2010, JCICS received the DoA award and we provided a rationale for that choice in this post:

    At no time has JCICS contacted us about receiving the DoA awards. We informed them by email that they were recipient of the award and our website is open for membership and commentary, so at any given time, JCICS could have opened the discussion with us about the grievances we expressed.

    Off the record:

    At the end of the interview, plans are discussed for a follow-up interview, which is reflected in the title of this post, being called “part 1”. I can’t find further parts. How come no follow-up was ever posted?

4 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. “The best way to make a difference in Ethiopian adoption is to have more and more people speak up, especially adoptees who experienced corruption.”: The Land of Gazillion Adoptees conversation with Tarikuwa Nigist Lemma | Land of Gazillion Adoptees
  2. Land of Gazillion Adoptees comes under fire for its podcast conversation with Tom DiFilipo of JCICS | Land of Gazillion Adoptees
  3. Adoptee Knights in Shining Armor? The LGA Podcast: Arun Dohle talks with Kevin | Land of Gazillion Adoptees
  4. LGA is About Adoptees/Leave My Asian Balls, i.e., Masculinity, Out of This « Land of Gazillion Adoptees

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