Though Lina Vanegas was born to a Colombian family, she was forced to assimilate as a white jewish person. 38 years later, she’s unable to fully connect with her bio family nor speak their language. Forced assimilation is trauma.
Her mission is to educate people on adoption trauma. In the episode, she gives a crash course on why adoption is trauma, what to do if you want to adopt in a trauma-informed way, and how to go down the rabbit hole of being adoption-trauma informed.
What we discussed
(00:32) Can you make up for 38 years of loss?
(05:08) Forced assimilation in childhood
(07:11) Can’t speak my own language
(09:14) Rescripting the narrative
(10:31) If you’re thinking of adopting, do THIS.
(20:05) Why she’s educating the public
(24:42) Adoption is preventable trauma OR Mental health and adoption
(28:07) Suicide among adoptees OR Why is adoption trauma? [EXPLAINED]
(31:57) Intervention for adoptees
(38:07) Finding an adoption-competent therapist [HOW-TO]
(42:00) Educate yourself
(43:50) Connect with Lina Vanegas
Hi everybody, welcome back for season two, episode two. We are recording with Lena today and just to give a quick intro to who Lena is. So Lena is currently a social worker. She identifies as a transracial and transnational displaced person and her lived experience has motivated her to train, speak and consult on trauma, mental health, adoption and suicide.
Lena, thank you so much for being here today. We're excited to talk with you and just learn more about you and your story and what you're passionate about. If you don't mind sharing, can you just tell us a little bit about your adoption story or your origin story?
lina vanegas (00:42.602)
Yeah, thank you so much for having me on your podcast. I was listening to a couple of your episodes earlier. I love I love, love what you're doing. Everyone should be listening to this podcast. I was like super I'm super excited after listening and I've listened before, but I wanted to be like super familiar. So I'm super excited to be here. Thanks for having me here. And as you mentioned, I'm a trans racial and transnational displaced person. I was purchased by a white Jewish couple in the Midwest.
I'm from Colombia, that's where I was sold from and then I was brought here to the United States. I am not in any kind of connection with my, the people that bought me, which was a decision for my mental health and it's been a really good decision. It's been a long time now. I am, I did reconnect with my family in Colombia and it's a hard situation to navigate reunion and I hate that word reunion, so I say like connection because it's like,
We never really, we were always connected, but I guess reconnecting. So it's hard because I don't speak Spanish. I don't speak the language. So there's that whole language barrier, and I'm in a different country. So the culture that I was raised in, I was forced to assimilate in, is not the culture that I would have been raised in there. It's a different language, different food. I was assimilated into white supremacy as we all are.
So there's a great divide with language and just lived experience and it's hard like to connect with people, you know, and we were always connected, but years went by and I didn't know who they were, they didn't know where I was. And then all of a sudden 38 years into my life and I've lived a life, I've had kids, I've been married, you know, been to school, done a bunch of things and I pop up, you know, and it's like to establish a relationship.
When 38 years has gone by, you don't speak the language, it's never gonna be the same. You're never gonna be able to make up for 38 years of loss and being raised in a completely different culture in a completely different country. So the reunion, the reconnection, it's a good thing. Like I'm glad it happened, but it wasn't like, okay, I found my family and now everything's great. I'm happy, like happily ever after all my traumas gone.
lina vanegas (03:00.25)
wow, like I don't have sadness, I'm not angry anymore. It's not like that because it opened up so much more, and then I realized just how much I lost. And when I connected with my family, this is really, it will show you it's dated, I didn't get to see them in person. We didn't meet in person. It was on Skype, and that was when Skype was a thing, so that tells you, I'm seeing my family after 38 years. I'm meeting a sister I never knew existed.
I'm seeing my 91 year old grandma. I don't speak the language, I'm on Skype. So it's like so many emotions to not be able to speak that language but then to see your people, people that actually reflect, you know, like look like you. I have my kids and they look like me but it's different. Like that's my mom, that's my grandma, that's my sister and I can't speak the language. So super frustrating and that's like another level of trauma, you know, to be.
not even able to speak the language, not even to be able to hug them. It's Skype. So, I mean, it opened up a lot of things. I'm glad I'm glad for it, you know, but it didn't solve everything. And it kind of catapulted me into more like more work and realizing like this is what I need to be doing. I need to be raising awareness around suicide and trauma and trans racial transnational adoption and the mental health, you know, issues that we all struggle with and many of us struggle with. So kind of.
It catapulted me into more work and more research. And that's kind of where I ended up. I'm trying to think of what else I said a lot. I'm like, I don't know if you have specific questions or.
if there's anything you want.
Dr. Noelle (04:43.545)
Thank you so much for sharing that, Lena, and welcome. I'm a little bit curious about what your childhood was like. What was it like growing up in the household where you were raised?
lina vanegas (04:57.706)
Well, I was forced to assimilate into a Jewish white affluent family. I didn't have the racial mirrors. I didn't keep the language of Spanish. I didn't have my culture around me. So it was forced assimilation and just basically my identity was erased. I'm somebody else. You know, I'm filling this role of someone that the people that bought me couldn't have. So and those issues were not dealt with, you know, and so many adopted parents come into this looking at.
looking to other people's children for a plan B, C, D, but they haven't dealt with what led them to that. So they're coming with their own trauma, their own grief, their own loss. And then it just complicates everything for us. So I would say it was not a good childhood. Experienced a lot of abuse. I was not supported. I was not seen. That was a lot of racism and, you know, the people that were supposed to be raising me and the people that they knew.
It wasn't a safe place, you know, and then to be raised in a religion that would never have been my own, that's really messed up. Like I had a bat mitzvah, I was able to read from the Torah, but I can't speak Spanish. Like that just is really kind of like as I get older, like I realized like how messed up that is. I mean, my childhood was, I think it was a performance too, you know, I mean, it's like we have to do what we have to do to survive. And if we knew the truth.
As children, I don't think we would survive our childhood. Like if we really connected all the trauma, grief and loss and we were like validated and like, this is family separation, this is genocide, you were trafficked. I mean, a kid doesn't even have the support for that and there's nothing that I could have done to like save myself, you know? So had I run away, like, you know, maybe I end up in foster care, maybe I go back to those people that bought me. So my childhood was not...
This is not a very positive adoption story.
wondering if you can speak a little bit more about, you talked about racial mirroring and just not having a sense of identity from like the Jewish Jewish culture to not being able to speak Spanish, like how did that affect you? How is that affecting you now?
lina vanegas (07:22.146)
Well, I'm like super like, it's kind of like, it's crushing not to speak one's own language. You know, it's crushing to see your family and not be able to speak. And it's also crushing to go into public and people speak to me in Spanish and I can't speak it back and they get mad. And it's like, I didn't choose, this isn't my fault. You know, I didn't choose to be brought like so many thousand miles away and raised by, you know, these white people that I don't even have a connection to. So that is kind of like.
it makes me very mad that wasn't kept. The Jewish part, I don't practice Judaism at all. It was one of those things when you're forced to do something. For me, that doesn't really motivate me to wanna continue. And then even after doing DNA, I don't have any, that's not my DNA. You know what I mean? It was one of those things as a child, we do what we have to do to survive. And so I think the older I get, it's just like an anger.
you know, I was a force to assimilate and that force to assimilate into, you know, culture that's not mine into a race that's not mine. That's trauma, forced assimilation is trauma. It's like, it's racial trauma. So it's like, it just, the older I get, I think it's just like, it just makes me like more angry. And there's nothing I can really, I can't go back. We can't go back and, you know, change that. But I guess my take on it is I'd like to educate.
so other people don't have the lived experience that I had. Like if I can leave this earth and know that I've made a difference in changing the narrative, re-scripting the narrative, making changes and educating people on these harms and then love to see it not happen anymore, then I'll know I can rest easy, you know what I mean? And I'll be happy about that.
So you mentioned rescripting the narrative. So I know that you host your own podcast called Rescripting the Narrative. Can you tell us a little bit more about that and how that came to be and just like the story behind that?
lina vanegas (09:22.922)
Yeah, my friend, Sol Yaku, who's also Colombian, we connected through social media. I think it was like an adoption, adopted from Columbia Group. So we connected there and we had such great conversations and these are all like phone conversations and we didn't meet each other until last year we finally met each other in person. So we were having such great conversations and we felt like we should take these conversations to like a larger platform.
So we decided to create Rescripting the Narrative and just working to rescript the narrative and educate people and say the things that need to be said. And we're an unscripted podcast, you know, and we just speak freely and it's not censored and it's not overly, you know, edited. We want it to just be like a very organic conversation. And we just started having guests on as well, which is nice because we want to.
amplify other voices of people that were trafficked, fostered, and adopted. It's important to amplify those voices.
lina vanegas (10:35.86)
Dr. Noelle (10:39.479)
So when we're thinking about amplifying voices, I'm thinking about your voice as an adoptee, and I'm thinking about what it is you might have requested or said that would have made a positive difference in your experience as an adoptee, especially as a transnational, transracial adoptee. What would you have asked for? What would you ask?
adoptive parents to do differently than what you experience.
lina vanegas (11:12.366)
How much time do we have? I was like, that's like a, I mean, I have like lists in my head and it's like, I did another podcast and I'm like listing, listing. I would say anyone that's looking to adopt, you need to stop right there and you need to research. You need to research adoption and not from the voices of adoptive parents or agencies. And you need to really do like a deep dive of the information out there. Read some Dorothy Roberts, you know.
know that child welfare is connected to adoptions, connected to, you know, prison, connected to so many other things, right? It's all connected. So do the research. I mean, she's been researching this for 30 years. So she knows she's just like a badass researcher. Read some Dorothy Roberts, listen to the voices of people like ourselves, listen to those voices, heal any kind of issues that have led you to adoption. So if you're dealing with infertility,
You know, that's a loss. I want to validate that that's a loss, but it needs to be healed before you even consider bringing someone else's child to your family. So you need to work through that with someone that's professional that can help you on that journey. I would say if you heal and you've done the research and you still want to go through with transracial, transnational adoption, I would also research family preservation and listen to the voices of mothers.
who have lost their children to adoption. It's important to listen to those voices, how did adoption happen, what's really happening here, and connect that and think like, is that something I feel good about participating in? Do I feel like this is ethical? And then I would look at where do I live? Do I live in an all white neighborhood? And if so, like you have no business bringing a black or brown child to that neighborhood.
Who are your friends in your life? Do you have all white friends? What kind of books do you read? What kind of church do you go to? How do you practice anti-racism? How do you practice anti-oppressive work? Are you decolonizing? And if you're not doing any of those things, then I would say you need to start doing those things, but you can't just start and do something performative and then say, oh, now I can adopt a black or brown child. You need to think like.
lina vanegas (13:34.67)
How am I equipped to do this? And again, keep listening to the voices, listening to podcasts. I have tons of events. I do trainings. You guys have your podcasts. Many other people have podcasts. So you need to sit with it. But you also have to think, in the end, now I've done this research. I've listened to the voices. This is where I live. This is what has led me to adoption. Do I feel, is there another way that this child could be cared for?
you know, is do I feel, am I gonna feel good about bringing a child that I have no biological connection to, no racial connection to here, and then am I gonna be okay when this child is not able to bond with me? And that's normal, that's gonna be a normal thing. A stranger's child should not bond with you. It just shouldn't, that's not what it's meant to be, right? We bond with our mothers. Are you okay with that? Are you okay with the child
having lots of struggles, having big emotions, wanting to know where do they come from, wanting their mom, telling you they hate you, struggling with mental health issues, struggling with addiction, struggling with suicidal ideations. Are you gonna be okay when they ask you, I wanna find my mom? Do you know how I can find her? Are you gonna be supportive of that? Or are you going to feel, you know?
oh, this is not right, like I've raised this child, they should be grateful, their family doesn't matter, are you gonna dismiss them? Are you gonna be prepared for the child has, addiction struggles, the child has a suicide attempt, are you gonna be able to provide support professionally? Do you understand adoption trauma through a trauma-informed lens? Have you taken any classes or met with professionals that teach this?
Who are the people that you're thinking of as experts? Is this something you're going to be giving your all to? And then second of all, are you still gonna try to have your own biological child? And if you are, then you have no business adopting. And what if you get pregnant? What are you gonna do? Because if you have an adopted child, all your attention needs to go to that adopted child. And it has to be about the child. It can't be like, oh, we lost a child before.
lina vanegas (15:58.722)
So this is the replacement. You can't do that to a child. That's not what a child's for. So are you able to just say, I'm gonna put my all into this child. I know it's gonna be way, way harder and more challenging than if I had my own biological child. Can I handle that? Also, how many kids are you looking to adopt? Are you thinking you're gonna get kids from all over the world, like Africa, someone from...
South America, you know, Korea, are you looking to do that? And if you are, I don't think that's a good idea because you're bringing so many different children from so many different places and cultures and you can't possibly provide those racial mirrors. So if you are going to maybe adopt one child, figure out how you're gonna support that child. Do you have the means for therapy? Do you have the means for, you know, all the different support they're gonna need? Can you be a fierce advocate and put your own ego aside?
and realize this is about the child. This child has lost and been separated from their culture, from their family, from their religion, from their language, from the scents and smells they were accustomed to, the foods they're used to tasting in utero, they know their mom's voice, they know their mom's scent. You know, is that something that you can do? And I would hope people would pause and really give this a thought and think like,
Is this really what I'm capable of doing? And how am I going to do all these things? Am I willing to go into therapy myself? So I can have support from someone that is not, not someone that's adopted that hasn't done the work, but from a therapist who is adoption trauma informed. And they understand and they can validate that adoption's trauma, it's grief, it's loss. And this is intergenerational trauma. So you have the support too when the child's having big emotions, when the child's dealing with
suicidal ideation, the child's telling you, I want to find my family, you're not my family, or the child runs away, or the child's having, you know, learning disabilities, or the child's having like physical, you know, like sickness, you know, how are you going to do this? And I think if people pause more to think about this, then I don't think the rush would be like, let's adopt, because nobody's entitled, no one's entitled to anyone else's child, you know, and I'm sorry, a lot of us don't get what we want, right?
lina vanegas (18:23.15)
and children are one of those, but it doesn't give us the right because we want a child to go adopt someone else's child, not do that child justice, just kind of like hastily, okay, I'm gonna go here and adopt, and think everything's gonna be happily ever after. It's just gonna create more trauma. So I'm hoping that people will pause, listen to the voices, do the research, make sure they have the resources, think about, well, I live in like...
a sundown town, like that's not gonna be good for a black or brown child, you know, like, and they're able to put themselves aside and say, like, there's other ways to care for children, you know, there's other things I can do to be around children. Maybe I can like help families stay together. Maybe there's organizations that you could volunteer to like work with children and help children. I'm sure there might be children in the family, you know, that you can, you know,
love and mentor, but yeah, I would hope people would not just rush into it as a plan B, C, and D, and like a knee-jerk reaction. And I think that's a lot of why people end up with adoption.
I think we can drop the mic right there, Lena. That was so much good information that I really want adoptive parents who are out there listening to this episode to really run that back and listen to every single question, every single statement that Lena just said, because there is no way in hell that people are thinking about those things. We wouldn't have these.
abusive situations and all of these different things going on if people were actually taking the time to consider those things. So thank you so much for naming those things. So you talked a lot about like mental health and how you know if we were if we as kids understood, you know, the genocide, the white supremacy, the trauma, the separation, all of that. Like we probably wouldn't be able to cope with it. So I'm wondering for you, how did you get from
you know, not really understanding all of it as a child to now being a social worker. What did that, what was that transition like? How did you land or end up in this field and doing this work?
lina vanegas (20:37.71)
I think so many of us come to like helping professions, if you will, you know, because it's like we're trying to understand ourselves and we have so much pain and we have so much trauma and we're just kind of like, we gravitate towards understanding people because we're trying to understand ourselves. So I kind of came to social work because I love helping people and I got my degree when I was like super young, right? And I was like, I don't know, I didn't practice at first because I was like the pay I feel like were undervalued.
completely undervalued and I was like, I'm not gonna work for $10 an hour, I can't do this. So I did some other things and then I wasn't in a place to, I don't think I would have been the person that I am now, because my brain, at that time I was under 25 and it's like our brains not fully developed. So I had a lot of healing to do and a lot of realizations and a lot of things to go through before I could be here and do this work. So I took a break and then I always did.
you know, things on the side where I was helping people, like volunteering, I did some hospice stuff, I worked on a sexual assault crisis line, I was always about, you know, social justice and helping people and then, you know, life happened and I think really what catapulted me was, you know, reconnecting with my family and realizing like, this is what I need to be doing. You know, it's just so much has happened to me and so many other adopted and displaced people.
that's just like a crime against humanity and so unjust. And it's just like unbelievable if you think about what's actually happened to us and it's so gaslit. So I think that like, I was like, I'm totally motivated. You know, I want to share my story. And then it came to like, as we do more work, it becomes more than our story where we want to lead from a place of like, I want to help other people. I want to make sure this doesn't happen. I want to educate. So I started sharing, you know, and I never imagined it to be
platform. I just started sharing it was like in 2020 when we all had a lot to you know think about we were home a lot so I shared for um now and I was like I'm just gonna post you know and then it turned into something where it's like this is really people are really listening you know I'm getting like lots of positive feedback I'm gonna keep doing this and it went on and on and it's like I connected with a lot of people that weren't adopted and they're like we'd love to have you speak here or can you do this so then I realized like
lina vanegas (23:03.99)
This like the sky's the limit on this right now because it's not being done. So I can take this and like I just recently co-created a class on transracial adoption that's gonna be starting this Wednesday night. So I wanna take my lived experience as well as like the research I've done and the reading that I've done and like working with adopted people and use that to educate the public in hopes that this isn't gonna be the lived experience for other.
you know, other adopted children and that things are going to change. So my it's really my goal to create change and, you know, end a lot of the systems and a lot of what's going on now, because I don't, I just, it just shouldn't happen. Like this should never have happened to any of us. So if we, if I can use my lived experience and the knowledge that I have it to toward like use that to educate people and I feel like people are starting to listen. People are receptive. You know, I get a lot of people.
with a lot of mean things that they want to say to me, like a lot of mean messages and DMs and whatever. But then I also get people that are like, wow, you've completely changed my view of adoption. You've opened my eyes. I didn't even know. So that, to me, it is a bad day. And sometimes I'm like, this is just a lot. It's exhausting. Is this what I want to do? And then something like that happens or an opportunity happens. And I'm like,
this is what I need to be doing, right? I mean, this is where I need to be. So I feel like it's led me into like a place of hope because I realized there are people listening and that everyone's gonna like respond to you. You know, like some people will contact you and then people are listening quietly. And it's like, all of us are planting seeds right now. Right? So it's like, we're gonna see everything grow, you know? And I'll feel good about that because I just don't want, I don't wish to send it anybody.
Dr. Noelle (25:00.331)
I'm also a transracial, a domestic transracial adoptee, and I appreciate that there are significant additional things that transracial adoptees experience on top of the traumatic realities of adoption. I'm wondering if you could talk to us a little bit, especially from your professional standpoint, about what the impact on the mental health
of transracial, transnational adoptees actually is, what are we looking at in those children and adults?
lina vanegas (25:38.114)
Yeah, we're looking at exactly, we all know this, what we're looking at. It's like everything that we've probably experienced. We're looking at lots of anxiety, lots of depression, lots of pathologizing, because people see us for our symptoms, right? And a lot of the symptoms and diagnosis that we have are just simply trauma, right? We're seeing over-representation in addiction facilities.
You know, over representation in mental health facilities, in prison, lots of suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, death by suicide, struggling with eating disorders, being under house, having challenges with relationships, self-worth and self-esteem. I mean, the list goes on and on. What I have seen does not make me pause and say, oh, maybe it.
maybe I've been wrong about adoption and like this is a good thing. Everything, every adaptive person that I speak to, every, I mean, it's, it's just like again and again, like I need to work for this not to be a thing because nobody's story has been, oh, well, yeah, I could see how that would work. Nobody, there is not, there's not ever going to be like a perfect adoption or a good adoption. You might have great adoptive parents and you could have support, but it's still going to be trauma, grief and loss.
And what is that worth? Like it's preventable trauma, adoption is preventable trauma. So why would we care for kids in a way where we know we're creating higher rates of addiction, higher rates of like suicidal ideation, suicide attempts. Why would we want intergenerational trauma? Cause it is going to impact other family members, moms who have lost their children to suicide. I talked to a lot of them. I've worked with some of them.
They have very parallel struggles. My mom happened to die by suicide. So that's kind of what's catapulted me to speak so openly and speak all the time about adoption and suicide because she was impacted having lost me and my brother to adoption. Talk to other family members. Other family members are harmed by adoption too. You know, they're looking for their family members. I mean, it's like.
lina vanegas (27:51.298)
There's not one instance where I'm like, I've been wrong, I think adoption's a good thing, let me just change everything I've been doing. So the mental health, just looking at that alone is daunting and that should be enough for society to pause and for people that are looking to adopt to pause and say there's other ways that we can, why don't we think about other ways we can envision taking care of children? Because the toll to children and adults is too much. Why would we?
perpetuate and support a trauma that's preventable. Why would we do that?
Thank you for sharing so candidly. I'm so sorry for the loss of your mom by suicide. So we know that the statistics out there say that adoptees are four times more likely to attempt suicide. I'm wondering if you can just speak a little bit to that in terms of like why this is happening so much. And also,
lina vanegas (28:33.655)
You know, we often say adoption is trauma, and I think a lot of times people don't understand what we mean by that. Wondering if you can talk a little bit about that as well.
lina vanegas (29:01.15)
Yeah, I mean, I would say the four times more likely to attempt suicide is low. That's like the rates. That's a 2013 study. So I'd say it's much higher based on the people that I talked to. There's not a day that goes by where someone doesn't tell me about an attempt or an ideation or someone that has died by suicide that has been adopted or displaced. So, I mean, the rates are shocking. And then when we add in any other intersections, you know, say we add in transracial adoption.
you're adding a whole other level of trauma, the racial trauma, you know? So that's gonna, and racism, like obviously we know that's a public health issue. That is, that's an adverse childhood experience. So that's gonna like add onto the trauma of adoption. And you could add in like identifying in the, like as LGBTQ+, that's another intersection. We know that LGBTQ+, people have higher suicide attempt rates.
So it's like you add those all in and you're just, it's a horrible situation. In terms of adoptionist trauma, if we think about mother and a baby being separated, the baby has just been born, the mother doesn't nurse the baby, the mother doesn't hold the baby, see the baby, or maybe the mother does, but the mother or the birthing person has been carrying this child for nine months. They have bonded. They've bonded in utero. Both of them have bonded. The baby knows the mother's.
voice and the scent. The baby's going to look for the mother, you know, after being born, that happens with newborns. So when you take that bond away, you know, you just sever it, that's going to be a recipe for disaster. And people recognize this. If you remember in 2018, what was happening at the at the border, you know, what was that president doing? And people were irate and they were like a bunch of psychologists came forward and said, this family separation is equivalent to torture.
Well, that's exactly what adoption is, but nobody connected it. If it's like a mother died during childbirth, people are going to be like, that poor child, like that is a loss. The baby lost their child. But when we're adopted, it's still a loss. But nobody's going to say that because they're like, oh, the baby's being saved. They're so lucky they were chosen. They're given a better life. The mother loved the baby so much that she gave him up. You know, so it's like people are there's a disconnect there. And the reason is, it's like
lina vanegas (31:24.226)
there's so much propaganda around adoption and we're all so indoctrinated into it that people miss the connect and they're not connecting dots. So it's like, if you say the word adoption with anything, people automatically, well, most people automatically think, oh, it's beautiful, the child's so lucky, they're so privileged, all these things, and they don't think about the severance of that tie and that relationship and the loss and the trauma because we can very easily recognize it in other situations. But when it comes to adoption, people...
don't make that connection. They can validate the trauma in other situations. The mother died at childbirth, you know, or like the mother dies from cancer when the baby's two, but they don't think about that with adoption. But adoption is trauma.
Dr. Noelle (32:13.695)
Thank you so much. That resonates so much with me and especially when we think about the ways in which people address other kinds of loss and are completely incapable of seeing adoption as loss, the surrendering of a child as loss. Can you talk to us a little bit about some of the ways that you would suggest people intervene in the lives of
adopted folks around better mental health, about mitigating the risk of suicide. What are some of the things that people could be doing to be helpful?
lina vanegas (32:56.618)
I would say people need to be reconsidering adoption. Maybe don't adopt. The less adoptions we have, the less preventive we're preventing trauma, right? But if the child has been adopted, it's the responsibility of the country that has adopted that child to provide mental health care, to provide medical care, to provide, I would say honestly, reparations. This child has been torn apart and severed and...
lost their family and it's like, it's just family destruction, it's genocide, human trafficking. So the child should be, if it's really a better life, they need to be providing all these things so the child has support. The other thing is society needs to, there needs to be like education of society and society has to be at the point where we can, until we can say across society that adoption is trauma, it's, we're not ever going to be fully...
validated in a safe, inclusive and affirming way because if I go see a provider and they think adoption is great or they adopted themselves, that's going to harm me. And I might not ever go see a provider again and they're going to see me as my symptoms. They're going to label me and say, oh, you know, she has reactive attachment disorder or, you know, oppositional defiant disorder. Those are things that were often diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
But unless you can see the trauma, you're just gonna see the symptoms. Like, oh, well, I'm using substances and they're just gonna see me as someone using substances. But until we get to the root of the cause and say, what happened to this child? We're not gonna be able to serve children. So I would say providers, like schools need to, whether it's medical school, whether it's nursing, teaching, coaches.
like mental health providers, medical providers, dentists, anyone working with adopted people, there needs to be a training that's adoption trauma informed because these providers can really harm us and then we're less likely to go seek care, you know, and until they can see the trauma, they're just gonna see us for symptoms and pathologize us and label us. So that's why I've created courses and that's why I do events and that's why I consult because I want people to take the course.
lina vanegas (35:12.33)
so they can really learn more about transracial adoption, about adoption and suicide, because if we're not listening to the people that are most impacted, then we're not really gonna know what that experience is like. So we need to be amplifying lived experience, and it's just like, it's a whole paradigm shift. So it's like, it's easy to say, just get rid of adoption. That's the goal, right? But it's not gonna happen tomorrow, you know? So it's like, we need to have support in, like, for us, because we're here, we're adopted.
this is just what it's going to be. But for the younger people coming along, if we could envision other ways of care, if we could provide support to families, if we could provide financial resources, if we could provide educational resources and support, then families could stay together. That would really prevent the trauma, right? Not to say that there's not trauma in biological families. Yeah, I mean, there's trauma everywhere, but...
If we could cut off the preventable trauma and we could keep families together, we would help in mental health. We would reduce suicide among that with that intersection because there is a huge correlation with the separation that adoption is and suicide and it goes to adopted people and it goes to mothers and birthing people that have lost their children to suicide or lost their children to adoption. And I'm sure it goes to other family members too. So we're protecting
those people and then also our children. If we have children, our children are going to have, you know, they're going to experience the losses that we have, right? I mean, they're like losing parts of themselves and those are things that we are working on reclaiming or not and so our kids are experiencing a huge loss too. So I would say lots of education, having the support there, not ever charging adopted people for any of the care they receive because at the end of the day
We're bought and sold people. We are commodities, right? We're like, promise us better life. So back that up with care. Provide that, you know, provide that to us. It's not a better life just because now we don't have to worry about therapy. That should be there anyways, because we need support. We need to be seen, heard, and validated. Because I think, had this happened when I was younger and I had been seen, heard, and validated, I mean, I'm still gonna have trauma. You can't minimize the trauma. But at least I would have been like,
lina vanegas (37:33.71)
someone sees me because it wasn't until I was like in my 30s before I ever really talked to anyone about adoption and I was like wow they don't like it either you know and it wasn't until you know now we have the advent of like the internet and social media and that brings us all together right where people are connecting that would not connect and so we're feeling less alone but even so we need and deserve all the supports because we didn't choose this and in most cases our families didn't
whatever we can do to support us. And I think if people did like the numbers and the math, and I'm not that type of person, but that's capitalism, and they saw the costs of what this costs, the toll in terms of like suicide, the, yeah, all the tolls with, you know, mental health, they'd realize like, this is costing us more than it's worth and maybe we should provide supports to families. So we're not doing this.
I resonated with so much of what you said. You talked about reactive attachment disorder, oppositional defiance disorder. I know that was part of my experience in being diagnosed with that. And you talked about therapy and just providing that as well. I'm wondering, sometimes people will reach out and they're trying to find a good therapist as an adoptee. I'm wondering if you have any guiding questions or principles that adoptees
can ask when they're looking for a therapist who, I know there's adoption competent, but I know like really it's coming from a place of being trauma informed. Yeah, are there any, do you have any words of wisdom or any advice there in terms of like seeking out a therapist? So, I'm gonna go ahead and start with a question that I've been getting a lot of questions about. And I think it's a really good question.
lina vanegas (39:22.55)
Absolutely. How long do we have for that? I have lots to say. The other thing is with the adoption competent, I think that's like two thumbs down because it's like, I don't go to a doctor who's like heart competent if I'm going to see like a cardiovascular doctor. I don't go to someone who's like an addiction counselor who's competent in addiction. It really needs to be like bigger than that. You know what I mean? It needs to be adoption trauma informed. So first off, I would ask the...
the potential therapist or provider, are you adopted? And they'll tell me yes or no. And some of us want an adoptive provider. So if that's, you know, deal breaker, then you know, like this isn't the person. And if they say they're adopted, I'd ask if they're trans, if you're a transracial, transnational or domestic adoptee and you want to see someone close to your lived experience, I would ask like, are you, you know, like, how do you identify? And then I would ask, do you work in adoption?
Like what have you done around adoption? And if they say, oh, you know, I worked at an agency and helped with placements, some people might not want to work with that. So, you know, that's a deal breaker, right? Or maybe you're okay. I would make sure if there are, then I would say, have you adopted yourself or do you think you'll ever adopt? And maybe they'll say, oh, I'm adoptive parent too. And then you can think, well, maybe I couldn't work with an adoptive parent or maybe that's not a deal breaker. And then the last question I'd ask is,
what do you think about adoption? Where do you stand with adoption? And they can say, oh, I'm an abolitionist, or I love adoption, it's amazing. And then you can decide, could I work with someone who is an abolitionist, or do I want someone that loves adoption? And you can see how's that gonna work, and then I'd meet with them and see how it works. And then if it's not in the first or second time, if there's not some kind of chemistry and you feel comfortable, I'd move on to the next person. And there are some...
guides, I know you mentioned it on your mental health episode of therapists that are adoption competent. My issue with that list is this, I don't feel like the providers on there are all 100% transparent because I know for a fact some of those people on there are adopted parents and they identify, they say they're adopted, but I feel like to be completely transparent as a therapist.
lina vanegas (41:45.306)
And as a person, you should also say you're an adoptive parent. Because if I'm going into therapy and it's hard, like it's hard to show up and you're nervous and maybe I don't ask these questions. And then four months go by and then all of a sudden I find out they're an adoptive parent. That could be super activating for somebody. So it's important to know, is this person, are they adopted and are they an adoptive parent? Because on that directory, there are some people on there.
I think a lot of them are adopted, and there's a couple on there that are adopted parents, and there's one or two that have adopted transracially, but they don't list that, and I feel like that's not transparent, because we shouldn't have to ask all these questions. We do, I mean, it's gonna make things better, but I also feel like it's a job of a therapist to be completely transparent about if you adopted, you need to state that also if you're an adoptee or an adopted person.
Thank you so much for uplifting that and naming that. I do think, I do agree with you, and I do think it's important to be completely transparent about that. Before we wrap up here, I just wanna ask, what are, what do you wanna leave our listeners with? What do you wanna leave adoptees with? What do you wanna leave adoptive parents with?
lina vanegas (43:01.058)
Another thing, how much time do you have? I'm like, I can talk about this forever. I wanna leave with adoptions preventable trauma, adoptions and adverse childhood experience, and it should be recognized as such. So think about that. Like we could prevent this from happening. And I would hope that the listeners don't just take what we say if they're not an adaptive person.
And they do the research themselves, because we're just three people here. This is our lived experience, and there's so many different experiences, but it's important to do the research oneself so they can really see. Go down that rabbit hole, read Dorothy Roberts, read Catherine Joyce's book, The Child Catchers, follow adopted people, read some memoirs.
come to my classes, you know what I mean? Come to my classes, hire me for consultations. Do the research yourself so you can see and connect dots and then think about how, what is my role in this? Cause we can all be a part of creating change. Like look at the legislation that's going on around adoption. Go down that rabbit hole. Look and see what's happening with ICWA. Look up the Holland versus Burkine case.
Look up how a lot of transnational adopted people are at risk for deportation because their citizenship was not done correctly. Look at this stuff yourself and then think, connect the dots and maybe think about how can I include this as anti-racism, anti-oppressive work, and part of my decolonization if that's something that you're striving to do.
Dr. Noelle (44:51.535)
Thank you so, so much. Can you tell us how people can find you? How can they follow you? How can they access your resources or your consultation services, et cetera?
lina vanegas (45:05.87)
Thank you so much. You could email me at Lena, L-I-N-A. My last name is Vanegas, V-A-N-E-G-A-S, M-S-W, at gmail.com. And then on Instagram, I'm Lena Leads with Love. And same for Twitter. And then I'm Lena Vanegas on Facebook. My website's under construction, but I'm pretty good at answering DMs or.
emails and I do love connecting with people.
Alina, thank you so much for joining us today and just sharing your wealth of wisdom and knowledge. I hope that people walk away from this episode and take away this information and research it and look into it for themselves. Thanks so much for joining us for our episode today.
lina vanegas (45:57.398)
Thank you so much for having me on here and I appreciate the work that you're doing with your podcast. You know, it's great to see other podcasts out there that are, you know, you're telling it, you know, right exactly as it is and you're amplifying lived experience and we need more of this. So I really appreciate the work that you're doing and it was an honor to be on here and talk with both of you.
Dr. Noelle (46:19.375)
Thank you so much. Thank you so much, Lena.
lina vanegas (46:22.73)