Symposium Presenters, Panelists and Participants
Protecting Families from the Crisis of Adoption Trafficking with Education
Curated by the Vance Twins, Adoption Truth & Transparency Worldwide Information Network (ATTWIN) and the researchers and field investigators at Against Child Trafficking (ACT) have combined efforts to host a powerful all-day private event in Tacoma, Washington. In hopes of evolving the world's understanding by countering adoption's mainstream narrative, individuals will cover topics related to the historical and ongoing trafficking practices found within domestic, transracial, and international adoptions. Come hear the voices of adoptees and separated family members from the U.S., First Nations, India, South Korea, Haiti, Sierre Leone, Chile, Guatemala, Paraguay, and Colombia. You won't want to miss this incredible event, together we can inspire change!
Rev. Dr. Janine Vance (aka Janine Myung Ja) | Program Director ACT USA
Rev. Dr. Janine Vance (aka Janine Myung Ja) is the Visionary and Program Director of the Adoption Trafficking Awareness Symposium and the director for Against Child Trafficking (ACT USA). An international multi-award recipient and a gold-medalist author, Janine has spent more than twenty years researching and investigating the practice of international adoption. She has independently written and curated more than twelve books, a series of screenplays, and documentary scripts on the diverse evolutionary experiences of adopted people. You can find her books The Search for Mother Missing: A Peek Inside International Adoption, Adoptionland: From Orphans to Activists, and Adoption: What You Should Know (note: the textbook version is called Adoption History), plus other books in the collection she calls “Rare Adoption Books for Adults” at online stores everywhere. Janine's latest interview can be found with Donna Seebo of Delphi International and on BBC Radio.
Anjali Pawar | Presenter
Against Child Trafficking ACT India
Anjali Pawar is an attorney and Consultant for Against Child Trafficking (ACT INDIA) and the Director of Sakhee in the field of child protection issues located in Pune, Maharashtra. She and Arun Dohle have been fighting illegal adoption and child trafficking for years. They have reunited 40 adoptees with their biological families via tracing and investigation. "Some of the observations that she’s made while working on these cases is that unwed mothers usually want to keep their children, but are often 'convinced or even threatened' to give them up." ACT monitors intercountry adoption practices worldwide and conducts research on child rights issues, particularly those that affect children deprived of parental care and trafficked children. She has been quoted by “The Times of India” for her concerns on how children land in institutions in the first place and on the impact of inter-country adoption. Pawar has reunited seventy-two adoptees to meet their Indian parents. Link to Stolen Futures on CNN.
Tyler Graf | Panelist
Tyler Graf was adopted from Chile. Last year Tyler was told there was a DNA match with his Chilean mother, and it was then that he learned he also has three sisters. He learned that his mother lived in the countryside. She went to the hospital for a C-section but was told that her infant had died at birth. Tyler was kidnapped and sent to an orphanage three months before being adopted overseas. The doctors, nurses, lawyers, social workers, and judges involved were part of this adoption scheme, and his paperwork was considered legitimate. The adoption agency did not do their due diligence to research outside of the country, and the financial, home and criminal backgrounds checks are done in the United States. Today, Tyler set up an NGO called Connecting Roots, which focuses on providing adult Chilean-born adoptees and their parents with free DNA kits to speed up the process of potential reunions and to spread awareness and education to hopefully reach Chilean mothers and adoptees. ABC News: Video One & Video Two
Christopher Emanuel | Panelist
When Christopher’s girlfriend became pregnant, he was extremely excited and supportive of her and the pregnancy. The couple even prepared to move in together and become a forever family. However, the mother’s parents disapproved of the inter-racial relationship. The grandparents pushed their daughter towards adoption, and the predatory agency convinced the pregnant mother to pre-select the adoptive parents. The mother of his child slowly grew distant as her pregnancy progressed. She eventually gave birth without telling him. Their child was secretly adopted-out in 2014 without his consent, signature, authorization, or knowledge. Fortunately, upon the advice of his friend, Christopher signed the South Carolina Responsible Father Registry. After months of fighting a stressful legal battle, he won custody of his daughter! Christopher founded The Sky is the Limit Foundation and serves as Executive Director. He takes pride in educating, empowering, and equipping fathers, families, professionals and organizations on parental rights and adoption in relation to the Responsible Father Registry. Oprah named Christopher Emanuel an Honoree Dad on the OWN website, and his story has been highlighted in the New York Times, The Atlantic, and ABC Nightline News to list a few, and preserved in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress."
When Leslie was 18 years old, she was sent to a Catholic Unwed Mother’s Home. The religious orderlies gave her a different identity. In the home, she discovered that if the pregnant women waivered from surrendering their babies, the authorities automatically placed the mothers in isolation. This would prevent the soon-to-be mothers from being influenced to keep their babies. Leslie was groomed and then forced to relinquish her son during her stay. She was told never to mention his existence to any future husband and simply forget about her baby. Years later, she became brave enough to write letters to him and gave the letters to the agency if he searched for her. Leslie is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and a board member of Concerned United Birthparents. Leslie has been on Dan Rather’s investigative report, “Adoption or Abduction,” CNN to discuss the impact of the internet on adoption, and Katie Couric’s show with her son alongside Philomena Lee, the woman from which the movie “Philomena” is based. When interviewed on Katie Couric’s show, Leslie’s son revealed that the agency withheld information from him on multiple occasions. They said his “birthmom” did not want contact with him, and they attempted to keep her letters from him. Fortunately, because an employee slipped out information, the two were able to reunite. Leslie says finding her son has made her whole again.
Osmin Ricardo Tobar | Panelist
Osmin Ricardo Tobar, son of Gustavo Tobar, was stolen from Guatemala at six with his one-year-old half-brother and placed in an orphanage. Even though the adoption attorney sent Osmin to Pennsylvania and his one-year-old brother to Illinois, Osmin blames himself for the separation. “They took part of my soul from me.” He believes he did not protect his little brother. Osmin’s memories of his mother became his biggest motivation to go back to Guatemala while being raised in the United States. His Declaration made Osmin the first person to win a case against the Guatemalan Government over fraudulent adoptions. In 2011, Osmin and his dad, Gustavo, were able to reunite in Guatemala after Gustavo found his son through Facebook. Now, together again, the Guatemalan father and son are the faces of Justice against adoption trafficking. Learn about the issues Guatemalan adoptees face from this NBC report: A Painful Truth.
Melisa Trejo | Panelist
Trafficked from Colombia in 1987, Melisa and her two younger siblings were adopted by US Citizens. Within hours of meeting their new adoptive parents, Melisa and her siblings were naked in a Colombian hotel shower, being photographed by the adoptive father, a prominent teacher. Prior to the adoption, his sister warned the agency that she and her sister had been sexually abused and raped by their brother (the new adoptive father). Despite the warning, the children were adopted. At age eight, Melisa reported sexual abuse to the local police. Despite the adoptive father's confession, the abuse was ignored and Melisa was admitted to a group home for troubled youth and delinquents at age 14. For her survival, she moved far away but holds guilt for leaving her siblings behind. Devastatingly, Melisa's little brother was found dead years later. Recently, Melisa has been pushing to pass the Childs Victims Act in Wisconsin. The symposium gives her hope and validity. “This adoption, massive systemic failure, and cover-up of child sex abuse ruined our lives, and ultimately resulted in my little brother’s death.”
Jesse Graf | Panelist
Jess was born a twin in Paraguay and by her first birthday had been stripped of her birth name, twin status, older brothers, cultural relations, and ancestral lands. Today, Jess is a single mom to three sons, two of whom are twins. When her Chilean brother learned he was stolen from a hospital that lied about his death before he was adopted, Jess scanned her own forms and found a known corrupt baby finder listed within. The adoption agency reported that her twin had died, a claim Jess never believed. As Jess searches for answers she hopes her experiences as an international adoptee will help others. Here you can find more from a New York Times article called "Adoptions in Paraguay: Mothers Cry Theft" archived on Pound Pups Legacy
Rachel Krohn | Panelist
Rachel Krohn discovered she was pregnant at 16 years old. The adults surrounding her referenced all the families “created through adoption” in her church, and it took one meeting with a pastor to be pre-matched with a hopeful adoptive couple across the country who ultimately took her daughter from the hospital four days after birth. Despite the secrecy surrounding the adoption, Rachel found her daughter 18 years later, and they’ve been reunited for five years. She has since become a staunch advocate for the rights of adopted people. Her goal is to save families from experiencing the same trauma and grief.
Donna Seebo | Master of Ceremonies
Delphi Vision International Broadcasting streams programming to over 128 countries worldwide. In September of 2014, Warriors for Peace, was introduced as a weekly show. Donna is considered one of the top broadcasters in the country by authors who have been interviewed by her. The primary theme of her eclectic programs is Personal Empowerment. Guests are featured from all over the world, from all walks of life and various economic, professional and social levels giving their knowledge and expertise to the listening audience.Here is a link to Donna's interview with Janine on the topic of international adoption based on Adoption History.
Arun Dohle | Executive Director
Against Child Trafficking ACT Europe
As the Field Investigator, Researcher, and Executive Director of Against Child Trafficking (ACT EUROPE), Arun is an expert in child rights. A German couple adopted Arun from an Indian orphanage in the 1970s. The Indian orphanage did not want to provide access to his file upon his return in 2010. Arun addressed the Indian Courts, and it took 17 years to finally obtain access to the desired information. Following a significant trafficking scandal that came out in 2005, Arun took up the cases of several Indian families whose children were kidnapped, sold to orphanages, and adopted abroad. The media reporting about his case led many Indian adoptees to contact him. Arun gave up his job as a financial consultant to dedicate his life to child rights and to correct the injustice of inter-country adoption - one case at a time. Here is a link to his latest podcast interview on his activism. Mr. Dohle has been included in Adoptionland: From Orphans to Activists. He has been interviewed by numerous journalists and in the media worldwide and was also featured on Tedx in India at the National Institute of Technology Silchar
Jenette Yamamoto aka Vance Twins
Adoption Truth & Transparency Worldwide Information Network (ATTWIN) | Cofounder
Jenette Yamamoto (aka Vance Twins) and her twin established Adoption Truth & Transparency Worldwide Information Network (ATTWIN) in 2011. Whereas most forums on social media are set up and monitored by adoption agencies or adoptive parents, ATTWIN is one of the largest forums on social media and consists of adopted people, families separated by adoption, and parents of loss. Jenette has been the administrator of the group since its formation. She curated the presenters, panelists, and participants of the Adoption Trafficking Awareness Symposium and a board member of Against Child Trafficking in the USA. She and her twin are the organizers of this educational event. Jenette curated the educational program. Adopted? Separated because of adoption? Link to AT@TWIN 24/7 peer support.
Mohamed Nabieu (Nabs)| Panelist
Mohamed Emmanuel Nabieu (“Nabs”) is a global child advocate for orphaned and vulnerable children and their families. He spent ten years of his childhood living in one of the most respected orphanages in Sierra Leone, West Africa. After completing university, he was employed as the Director of the same orphanage he grew up in. Under his leadership, he successfully transitioned the orphanage to family-based care. This ensured that the children had the opportunity to grow up in safe, loving families. Nabs is passionate about keeping families together due to his experience of being separated from his loved ones. He is focused on creating a holistic future where vulnerable children and their families can thrive with dignity, rather than being separated and dependent on external assistance. He works as the Director for Mission Advancement & Partnership at Helping Children Worldwide, a nonprofit organization based in the greater D.C. area, which supports over 600 vulnerable children and their families in Sierra Leone. Nabs is a thought leader, a motivational speaker, a child advocate, and a Master Life Coaching Practitioner. He holds a master’s degree in Applied Organizational Psychology and Leadership. He finds immense pleasure in engaging, equipping, and empowering vulnerable populations to go beyond dependency to self-sufficiency. Article from the Post and Courier and On TedxUSW.
Renee Gelin | Panelist
Renee was misinformed and misled about adoption when she was pregnant at 41. Because of her high-risk pregnancy, mounting debt from a failed business and no ability to obtain maternity coverage, she was overwhelmed, hopeless and panicked. She lost hope and felt as if she was not enough. The social worker employed by the adoption agency did not tell her of other resources that could help her and never offered any other options but to relinquish her rights to her son. As the days ticked down to her due date, she felt more and more hopeless. Losing her son to a devastatingly unnecessary adoption, Renee felt like she had died. Renee copes with her grief and loss by helping expectant mothers through her charity, Saving our Sisters (SOS), by educating them on their rights to keep their children as well as providing resources. Now a national network that has volunteers in every state, Saving Our Sisters informs women of the persuasive coercion strategies used by adoption entities across the country today to convince them to relinquish. Tactics include but are definitely not limited to: pre-birth activities such as 'matching' with people who want to adopt, paying bills or rent, providing clothing and in some cases flying them across the country to be in a state that is more 'adoption friendly' than the mother's. Using the promise of open adoption and having people who want the mother's infant in the hospital while the mother gives birth are some of the ways that obligation is put on unsuspecting mothers considering adoption today.
Gustavo Tobar | Panelist
Gustavo’s sons were taken from him and placed in an orphanage without his knowledge or consent. When he complained and attempted to retrieve them, he was attacked by two men with machetes who cut at his hands, arms, and face and threatened him to stop talking. The boys were sent across borders internationally to the United States but devastatingly to separate homes. Mr. Tobar tried to stop the adoption by reversing a Declaration of Abandonment, a legal document that permitted the Guatemalan Government to send the boys out for international adoption. Gustavo was afraid to contact the American adoptive parents before his older son turned 18. The Guatemalan father feared that the US couple would move and he would lose contact with them. Gustavo tried desperately to keep informed and updated on the status of his sons by reading articles written about them. Featured on Pound Pups Legacy, an archive of adoption practices by Against Child Trafficking by and for adopted people.
Maline Caroll | Panelist
Maline Carroll was born in Haiti and spent several years in an orphanage before she was trafficked into a white family. She struggled to grapple with the reality that she really was not an orphan but a “paper orphan.” Her adoptive parents were missionaries that built villages; instead of empowering villagers, they created dependency. Maline knew something was not right, so she sought answers. It was not until she was in her mid-30s that she had a chance to connect with some of her biological family. After months of getting to know them, she finally began to learn truths, and these truths, in part have set her free. She learned that her adoptive parents paid a lawyer money to buy someone else’s documents, and her adoptive grandfather paid $30,000 for her adoption. Today Maline is a Consultant at Post Adoption Services for Adoptive Parents with Kids of Color and an author of twelve books on adoption. Featured on ListenNotes Postcast.
Sandy White Hawk | Panelist
Sicangu Lakota of Rosebud Reservation
Sandra White Hawk is a Sicangu Lakota adoptee from the Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota. She is the founder and Director of First Nations Repatriation Institute.
First Nations Repatriation Institute (FNRI) is the first organization of its kind whose goal it is to create a resource for First Nations people impacted by foster care or adoption to return home, reconnect, and reclaim their identity. The Institute also serves as a resource to enhance the knowledge and skills of practitioners who serve First Nations people.
Sandra organizes Truth Healing Reconciliation Community Forums that bring together adoptees/fostered individuals and their families and professionals with the goal to identify post adoption issues and to identify strategies that will prevent removal of First Nations children. She was a Commissioner for the Maine State Indian Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission and was an Honorary Witness for the Truth and Reconciliation on Residential Schools in Canada. Featured on the documentary Blood Memory.
Dr. Gopal | Presenter
Is the Founder and President of Safe Coalition for Human Rights, a healthcare intervention with evidence-based training and rehabilitation in combating human trafficking and complex trauma. She works with mainly sex and labor trafficking survivors but started her work on human trafficking with cases of adopted children.
Panel Moderators |
Amy Barker D'Alessandro, LMHC
Jennifer Joy Phoenix, LSWAIC
Amy and Jennifer work closely together as Adoption & Trauma Therapists, retreat facilitators, presenters, and creatives. Both have trained in anti-trafficking and are passionate about shining a light on its intersection with adoption as it has impacted them personally and professionally.
Amy is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Clinical Supervisor in private practice in Shoreline, WA focusing on Adoptees and Parents. She previously worked in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Turkey with trafficking victims and care providers. Amy is the Newsletter Editor for Concerned United Birthparents (CUB). She’s also an Adoptee from a closed adoption in long-term reunion and has ongoing contact with her grown son of an open adoption.
Jennifer completed her Masters in Social Work at Columbia University, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and is certified in Relationally-Focused Psychodynamic Psychotherapy. She has a private practice in Yakima, WA focusing on those impacted by adoption. Jennifer has a unique open adoption experience with 20-year-old Chloë and her adoptive family.
Adoptee Rights Council
"Why do we do it? The reason I took up other adoptees' cases is that I don’t wish anyone to have to give up their profession. To travel to India forty times. To fight in the courts for seven years. And to lose everything. As I did. I want to share my experience with other adoptees, help them navigate the Indian bureaucracy, and together challenge the laws that keep our identities secret. A sense of justice. I love the work I took up against trafficking and for adoptee rights. I believe that the authorities must acknowledge the wrongs committed and assist us, adoptees, with re-establishing our identities. The truth must be acknowledged." Click here for more: ARCs MANIFESTO - Adoptee Rights Council. By Arun Dohle