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Land of Gazillion Adoptees comes under fire for its podcast conversation with Tom DiFilipo of JCICS

I knew going into my podcast interview with Tom DiFiliop of JCICS that I would be heavily criticized.  In fact, as folks who have listened to the podcast know, I say as much toward the end of the conversation.  Additionally, I knew during the podcast editing process that I was taking a huge risk because I appear to be passive, allowing Tom to say whatever the heck he wanted with minimal pushback.  However, what I did not anticipate were the mixed reviews.

As you will see below, a number of folks had a visceral response to the podcast with Tom.  The comments all needed to be said; I’m incredibly grateful that folks cared enough to take the time to write clearly articulated arguments.  I repeat.  They all needed to be said.  Many comments on Facebook were similar.

On the flip side, I received an equal number of comments in support of the podcast.  Adult adoptees, who have been working in the community for years, directly contacted me to express pleasant surprise.  Knowing my confrontational nature (I am not Minnesotan in that regard), they felt as though the civility of the podcast was a good step forward.  Some of them noted that we now have on the public record Tom promising some stuff, promises we can now reference if they are not kept.  And some of them explicitly mentioned that we now have establishment figures like Tom directly engaging us in public; for years now “the establishment” has marginalized/delegitimized us by not talking with us and labeling us angry adoptees.  What better time than now to strike on ongoing issues, such as adoptee deportation..?  (Side note in regards to adoptee deportation for those of you who think I would even consider the idea of a JCICS helmed effort: Are you flippin out of your mind?!  Do you know me at all?  Please…)

With that, we give you the evisceration of LGA.  Enjoy.


From Rally

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.”

From The Declassified Adoptee (not a critique of LGA, but a critique of the podcast in general)

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.

From Kim Kennedy

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.

From Karen Moline

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.

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  1. Adoptee Knights in Shining Armor? The LGA Podcast: Arun Dohle talks with Kevin | Land of Gazillion Adoptees

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