Thirty-two-year-old Thomas Kumar Jensen narrates the challenges he has been facing in his search for his birth family, who reportedly hail from Trichy in Tamil Nadu.

Kumar in a grey blazer and black shirt
news Adoption Thursday, April 07, 2022 - 19:55

When he was 17, Thomas Kumar Jensen stumbled upon a file in his house with details about his adoption. “I grew up with a white family in Ohio (in the US) and had never seen another Indian around me. So I always knew I was adopted. But finding that file really pushed me to start the search for my birth family,” Kumar tells TNM. The 32-year-old climate change expert officially started his search in 2018, but the COVID-19 pandemic derailed his plans to visit Tamil Nadu to continue his search.

Four years later, Kumar has quit his job in Chicago and is now in Tamil Nadu searching for his biological family. He hired Arun Dohle and Anjali Pawar, of the Pune-based NGO Against Child Trafficking (ACT), to help him identify his family. Arun and Anjali have reunited 72 adoptees with their birth families. But in Kumar’s case, they have so far been unable to trace any of the people named in his adoption documents, and are trying other approaches.

Kumar was able to identify the orphanage where he was dropped off as a toddler and the agency that facilitated his adoption. He even found documents in the orphanage with details of his birth parents. However, he has not been able to find his parents or the two witnesses mentioned in the documents.

“The documents say that I was brought to SOC SEAD (the orphanage) when I was 10 months old. My mother was an unwed woman and my father had refused to marry her. I was born in Pudukottai and then my mother took me to Matharasanallur where her parents, lived. After ten months, I was given away to the orphanage,” Kumar recounts.

Childhood pictures of Kumar

The orphanage’s documents identify Kumar’s mother as a woman named Mary and her father as Soosai. When he was just two years old, Kumar was taken in by his white parents and together the family moved to Ohio, which he still calls home. His mother worked as a scientist and academic while his father, who passed away in 2005, was a software engineer. Kumar says that his adoptive parents and sister were supportive of his decision to look for his birth parents.

“I’m aware that my birth mother would most likely have got married and have a family. All I want is that, if she is comfortable with meeting, I would like to spend some time with her or any other member of my birth family. But I don’t intend to shift base to India or live with them permanently,” Kumar tells TNM.

Picture of Kumar in the orphanage 

Challenges

In the last few weeks, Kumar – along with Arun and Anjali – has done tons of interviews with local persons to find leads on his family. However, none of these interviews have thrown up any results. “We found one woman named Mary and a man named Soosai. But a DNA test showed that they were not Kumar’s family members,” Arun explained to TNM. 

Usually, it is possible to trace at least one or two persons mentioned in the orphanage documents. But in Kumar’s case, none of the witnesses or family members could be traced.

While trying to reunite an adopted child with their birth parents, lack of documentation is a challenge, especially if the orphanage is no longer functioning. “When we search for the orphanage or agency, we find that it is shut down and nobody knows where the files are,” Arun says. But in Kumar’s case, SOC SEAD had details of his adoption. The issue was with the lack of verification. “The adoption happened in 1991. At that time, birth families didn’t have to produce their Aadhar cards or other photo IDs to verify their identity. So there is a chance that the information provided about the family was not accurate,” Arun explains.

Kumar says that he hopes adoption of Indian children to foreign countries is stopped. “The government should find a way to keep the children here, and provide resources and facilities for their care and well-being. In so many of these adoption cases, children are trafficked. In cases where they are not trafficked too, the agencies and orphanages still make a lot of money by sending children abroad with couples who are not Indian. This racket has to stop,” he says.

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