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3rd International Conference of Adoptive Families of Filipino Children: Reflection By Mark Kunkel

Posted by FAN Admin in Back To Our Roots, Connections, Our Stories on 10 4th, 2005

3rd International Conference of Adoptive Families of Filipino Children: Reflection

By Mark Kunkel

icab from hubert2 (2)

This summer, the Inter-Country Adoption Board of the Philippines hosted the 3rd International Conference of Adoptive Families of Filipino Children.  Over 160 adoptees, adoptive families, and adoption professionals attended the conference, held from August 15 – 16, in Manila.  Adoptees from the Philippines and from around the world gave presentations about our experiences as adoptees – our challenges and successes, searching and connecting to our Filipino roots, and our hopes for the future of Filipino adoption.  As Ian Truelove, a 15 year-old adoptee from Albion, Indiana, said,

“It was inspirational, a more-than-imaginable experience.”

One highlight of the conference was Lorial Crowder’s introduction of the Filipino Adoptees Network, the first global organization of Filipino adoptees.  FAN’s website, supportive services, and plans for the future were well received by the international adoption community.  The Inter-Country Adoption Board, child caring agencies in the Philippines, and foreign adoption agencies all expressed support of FAN’s mission to, “link the past to strengthen our identities.”  Lorial reported,

“This visit was significant to me because my mother was accompanying me for her first time to the country that I once called home.  We spent the first week traveling through the Northern Cordilleras, and the following week and a half attending the conferences organized by the Inter-Country Adoption Board.  I was especially elated to bring more recognition of the Filipino Adoptees Network to the international adoption community.  I felt as though I was another step closer to rebuilding my past, while also uniting global Filipino adoptees and bringing attention to the need for post-adoption services.”

The conference was a wonderful opportunity to meet other adoptees from different parts of the world.  Adoptees from as close as Manila and as far away as Norway told about our challenges, successes, identity struggles and discoveries, and gratitude.  Becoming acquainted with one another expanded our perspectives:  Adoptees from the United States told of developing our identities as people of color in America, our experiences in our multi-cultural families, and the unfolding processes of reconnecting with our Filipino heritage and culture.  Adoptees from the Philippines told of prejudices and challenges they had experienced growing up, as well as the love and support they had received throughout their lives.  We all expressed gratitude for the privileges we enjoy, and marveled at the elusive meaning of it all.

Ms. Marilyn Kirby gave the opening remarks for the conference.  Hailing from Virginia, she traveled with her adoptive mother to search for her biological mother.  For Marilyn,

“Preparing for this trip was a last minute decision, because a majority of people didn’t expect me to find my family, especially my biological mother who had been missing for years.  I was very excited when I found out that the RSCC (Research and Study Center for Children) found other family members.  I instantly knew that this was the moment I had been waiting for all my life.  On top of that, at the conference I was given the honor to speak about my experiences, struggles, and challenges as an orphan while growing up.”

Marilyn was successful in reuniting with her biological mother, along with numerous other relatives eager to meet her just before the start of the conference.  Her words spoke of her emotions before, during, and after her reunion with her biological family.  Speaking at the conference drudged up many emotions and feelings for Marilyn, and sharing her story with the audience at the conference was also very intimidating.

“Talking about my struggles brought back flashbacks as if they were yesterday.  It also made me reflect on the person I have become, and realize how much I have accomplished.  It inspired me to write honestly, so that I could motivate other young adoptees and families who have similar struggles to believe that everything will work out,” said Marilyn,

“Imperfection is perfection.”

The 3rd International Conference brought together many first time delegates.  FAN delegates were delighted to encounter Rosario Malayo de la Rosa, otherwise introduced to us as Rhea.  She was adopted domestically in the Philippines when she was an infant.  Rhea’s mother is the Executive Director of Kaisahang Buhay Foundation in Quezon City, and encouraged her daughter to accompany her.  Rhea commented,

“I have never attended a conference like this before, and the only reason why I went there was to support my fellow adoptee friends who were presenting that morning.  It was worth a try to attend and sit there listening to the speakers.  The thing that struck me most were the friendships that I made with them.”

Also at the conference, Mark Kunkel, from California, gave insight about his experience growing up in Virginia, and his hopes for the future.  Mark advocated,

“At the 30th anniversary of the Inter-Country Adoption Program, we now have the opportunity to develop post-adoption resources for current and future adoptees:  Adoption is a transformation of relationships, and the creation of the Filipino Adoptees Network is an opportunity to transform isolation and diaspora into community.”

Additional sessions at the 3rd International Conference of Adoptive Families of Filipino Children included reports from child caring agencies and foster families about specific processes for “Letting Go Of A Filipino Adoptee” and “Information Needed By Adoptees In Searching For Their Roots.”  The former is an important topic on which there is much work to be done to improve existing systems, practices, (lack of) organization, and (lack of) collected information, and where FAN can make important contributions.

For all who attended, the 3rd International Conference of Families for Adoptive Families of Filipino Children was very meaningful and significant.  As Tia Truelove (Ian’s older sister) astutely commented,

“It made metake a deeper look at my abandonment/adoption.  The conference caused so many emotions to surface – among them sadness, joy, anger, and immense gratitude.  The whole experience made me feel small yet part of this wondrous phenomenon – Filipino adoption.”