Adoptee vs. Adoptee


Like many other international and transracial adoptees, I am often asked to state my “official position” on IA or TRA.

People are curious after they read my poetry or essays and my blog
or listen to my presentations to adoptive parent groups. Sometimes I’m
hard to pin down. They look for clues in how I write about my adoptive
parents. Am I more negative in how I describe how I was raised, or do I
seem sufficiently “grateful” and “positive?”

If I write or say something critical of adoptive parent attitudes or
behaviors, or adoption agencies, or adoption policies, folks rush to
the conclusion that I’m one of those “angry” adoptees who hate all
adoptive parents and think IA and TRA should be banned.

On the other hand, if I write or say something positive about
adoptive parent attitudes or behaviors, or adoption agencies, or
adoption policies, folks decide that I’m one of those “happy” adoptees
who think IA and TRA is wonderful and should continue.

Like spaces in a crossword puzzle, these clues are mentally penciled
in, one after another in an attempt to flesh out the hidden “statement”

It’s a precarious tightrope for us IA’s and TRA’s to walk on, and
any slight puff of wind could cause us to lose our hard-earned balance
and tumble to the ground.

Never more is this unfairly thrust upon us than when we are asked to defend a position against others of us.

Recently, the largest adoption agency in my state sent out an e-mail response to the news article I previously linked to, legislation proposed in South Korea that
would end international adoption. The adoption agency, naturally, does
not want international adoptions from South Korea to end.

One of the crucial points, according to this agency, is the assumed
influence of “angry” Korean adoptees living in Korea, who are talking
about their negative experiences. The agency’s strategy was to contact
all the Korean adoptees connected with said agency, urging them to
write to the legislator and tell her their “happy” adoption experiences
and encouraging the South Korean government to continue IA’s.

The assumption that adoptees who had “positive” adoption experiences
believe that international adoptions from Korea should continue and
that adoptees who had “negative” adoption experiences think it should
end is problematic. Again, this kind of either/or positioning is what
makes adoptees such as myself want to scream.

The adoption agency has positioned us in the boxing ring, with the
🙂 and the 😦 adoptees taking jabs and punches at each other.
Meanwhile, I can’t help but think that it’s all just diverting
everyone’s attention away from the real issue.

Which is: that South Korea has decided that it’s time for them to
implement a stronger domestic adoption policy and work towards solving
the child welfare problems in their own country. After over 50 years of
North Americans and Europeans telling them what to do with their
children, South Korea has decided to take control for themselves. This
is nothing new; many stunted attempts have been made before. And, this
new attempt may not ultimately prevail either – but it’s clear that
continued efforts will be made, and I think that the rest of the world
should back off. It is ethnocentric and arrogant to think that the
United States has any business telling another country how they should
manage the problem of orphaned, abandoned or relinquished children. We
can’t even solve this problem within our own shores.

As a social worker in the field of adoption and child welfare, I
rejoice in being able to work towards making my job obsolete. That is
the ultimate goal, is it not?

We say that as a society we want children to be raised in loving families. A whole profession has been built on this belief.

It is a dangerous thing for us to be more concerned with the
self-preservation of our profession than the cause for which we were

Positioning adoptees against each other in order sway public opinion
is exploitative. It is reinforcing a polemic battle, of which there has
to be a winner or a loser. Why must we continue to look at things in
binary ways? It also reduces the human experience into opposing
paradigms of either/or when in actuality, our experiences are more like
waves on the ocean; sometimes moving forward and sometimes receding,
but forever changing.

I refuse to participate in this battle. I do not want to be reduced
to 🙂 or 😦 just because it is easier for people to categorize. My
thoughts and opinions on TRA and IA change almost daily, as I educate
myself more about these issues and as I listen to those who have been
through the experience – both adoptees and adoptive parents.

When it comes to looking at the future, let’s not forget to consult
the past. History has shown that especially in regards to children and
families, what has been considered "best" practice in one decade is
often considered bad practice one generation later.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

9 thoughts

  1. Good for South Korea. As a recent adoptive parent with a daughter from Guatemala my constant issue with Guatemala is the contradictory nature of “safe guarding” children from IA because it the process they have created in their own country isn’t “transparent” enough. Meanwhile, their government is doing nothing to effect social change and support for unwed, single, or young mothers. And, the Mayan people are not afforded appropriate polictical power. I would like to see the government actually effect change on social welfare and encourage and make it affordable for domestic adoptions to occur – until then the idea that stoping IA is somehow “better” just doesn’t quite compute for me – or at least is full of contradictions.
    PS – I am so happy to have found this and have been passing it on to every gringo mother of latina and latino sweeties I meet.
    thanks —

  2. yes yes yes. In a span of 2 days I was cyber-blasted by one AP for challenging the adotion industry and cyber-flamed by an adult adoptee for not being angry enough. A precarious tightrope, indeed.

  3. I and my 2 brothers and my twin were adopted out at 10 yrs old i am despearately seeking my brothers and sisters…. can’t afford much or just talk feelings if any now I am 44 and something is missing….not sure….

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