How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

A wartime adoptee's search for the 'missing child' he became (Video)

Adoptees face a long list of questions as they grow up, not only who their parents were and why they were put up for adoption in the first place, but who they would have been had they not.

Nelson DeWitt, born in El Salvador, adopted in Honduras and raised in the United States, has gotten more answers than he bargained for. DeWitt, who is making a documentary about his experience, learned that he is one of the hundreds of now-adult children who went missing during the civil war in El Salvador, which lasted from 1980 to 1992.

Many of these children wound up adopted after they were torn away from their families by soldiers, who sometimes kept them, other times funneled them into the lucrative adoption industry. DeWitt, who was raised by his adoptive parents in the Boston area, learned that he was one of these children after receiving a phone call from a long-lost family member. He learned that his birth parents were both revolutionary operatives in El Salvador. After his mother found herself hunted for by authorities, she fled with him to Honduras. She was likely killed soon afterward; by age two, he had been adopted out of a Honduran orphanage, en route to the U.S.

DeWitt's film will be screened at KPCC’s Crawford Family Forum this Friday night. His story is in many ways universal among foreign-born adoptees who wrestle with their identity.

“I always wondered who I was," he says in the trailer above, "and where I came from."

As DeWitt (whose name at birth was Roberto) relates, his search for his roots and his identity began more easily than those of some adoptees, with a surprise long-distance call from Costa Rica to his adoptive parents’ home. As it turns out, his father survived the war, as did his two older siblings, whose grandparents spirited them away to Costa Rica for safety.

He’ll talk about his experience in a discussion following the screening Friday, which begins at 6:30 p.m. More details here.

blog comments powered by Disqus