AP Exclusive: US alleges baby-selling in Vietnam

Korea Times: “Civic Groups Campaign for Single Mom’s Education”

/ Courtesy of Social Welfare Society

Single mothers and their babies often lead difficult
lives due to the difficulty young parents have in finding work in light
of their typically poor academic backgrounds.

Civic Groups Campaign for Single Mom’s Education: from the article:

Campaigner Song Eun-kyung, a manager at the welfare group, said
providing second educational chances for these mothers is extremely
important because it secures them the chance to be with their children


“Those who take the tests and receive higher education tend to accept
the barriers and prejudices around them but also fight against them.
They later find their lot easier than those who don’t. They are less
reluctant to identify themselves as single mothers and have greater joy
in life,” she said.


“In this way, we can reduce the number of abandoned children. We can
also save our country from being one of largest adoptee-exporting
countries,” she said.

Read the whole article here


Life in the fishbowl

I’m about 3/4 of the way through Signe Howell’s book, The Kinning of Foreigners: Transnational Adoption in a Global Perspective
and while I’m finding it a very interesting read, I’m also finding myself surprisingly sensitive to feeling
like a caged monkey being poked and prodded for the purposes of
research and science.

I’m always conscious of being in this strange world as an adult transnational and transracial adoptee who is also an "adoption professional" and soon to be adoption researcher;  this third space,the proverbial fence or tightrope, attempting to balance or straddle (or whatever overused cliché seems applicable) between didactic notions of being.

Research has tried to define me in terms of these dyads – Am I more Korean or American? What has had a greater influence in my life, nature or nurture? Are we, as adoptees, researched from a perspective of our strengths or our pathologies? Studies seem to indicate we’re "well-adjusted" or completely f*ed up. What is given more credence, empirical research by "professionals" or the personal narrative?

And so it goes with how I’ve used my life in the adoption fishbowl thus far.

I think it’s pretty common for individuals who were adopted to use personal narratives as a vehicle for making connections – personal, psychological and spiritual – with each other. The personal narrative has been very important for me. Through sharing my experiences in exchange with other adoptees I was able to normalize my experiences and that helped bring me out of isolation which I’ve learned is so common among transnational adoptees.

The problem with sharing the personal narrative is that eventually it feels very pathological. Not only do you risk sounding whiny, but you also risk being critiqued. Unlike research, however, what’s being critiqued is your very essence. Especially when it seems people really want drama-filled, angst-ridden stories. We tend to gravitate towards Brother’s Grimm or conversely, Disney’s happy-ever-after endings. My life just hasn’t been that tragic nor Pollyanna. That’s why I bristle when people want to use strictly anecdotal evidence to prove a larger point.

I’m cognizant of this and so I set boundaries around what information I share. Knowing that everything that is written on a public blog is open to anyone with internet access means I sometimes struggle over whether to share something personal or whether to highlight yet another research study. Both are important; one must see one’s experience as both a singular existence and as part of a pattern of larger social behavior too. Sociologists and psychologists compare you with a cohort of others and
look for correlations in either your socialization and/or genetics with
your current status and rate you on some bell curve of "normalcy." 

I also question the dependence on research studies. Call me cynical too – it’s not that I mistrust all researchers who happen to also be adoptive parents – but I’ve learned to be wary because sometimes there are biased researchers. Either way, as I’ve said before, we need to take both into consideration. For example, I know that in a so-called random sample study on the "adjustment" of transnational and/or transracial adoptees the outcome might be that adoptees are "well-adjusted." Usually the metrics for what constitutes "well-adjusted" are things like mental health diagnoses, behaviors (often reported by adoptive parents, not the adopted individual), whether the adoptee has friends, or scores in a certain range on some ratings scale. If I were to take those research studies at face value, I’d have to agree that it looks like transracial/transnational adoptees do, in fact, do well.

But there are two concerns I have about these "adjustment" studies. I have the additional information of being closely connected to adult Korean, transracial and international adoptee groups and from personal narratives and anecdotal stories I would say the studies don’t show the whole picture. Many adoptees "look" from outsiders to be "well-adjusted." So as I told one of my former co-workers who once described me as an example of an adoptee who is "successful" – just because we appear this way doesn’t mean we don’t have or have had a lot of really hard times in our lives – and still, as adults, struggle to reconcile what we experienced with our adoptions. If those questions were asked differently or if the research was measuring other aspects of our lives, we might see some very different results.

Secondly, even if those numbers are small, they are important. For example, the number of adoptees I know who were physically, sexually or emotionally abused by their adoptive parents, for example, are shocking. Yet most adoption professionals and adoptive parents are extremely unwilling or unable to give this information any credence because 1) it’s not an empirical study and 2) the numbers are so small that compared to the large overall numbers of adoptees who aren’t abused by their adoptive parents, it can’t be considered legitimately an issue. This is where professionals and parents say things like, "the numbers aren’t any different than parents who abuse their biological children" or, "it’s statistically insignificant." And while both those statements might be valid, it doesn’t invalidate that some adoptees are abused by their adoptive parents and that it’s just wrong and adds another layer of trauma on that adopted individual.

All of this is not to debate the merits of research or conversely to promote the personal narrative but just to say that sometimes I step back and look at my life and realize how much bigger this whole adoption thing has become. I have spent years trying to make sense of my adoption and the majority of the work I’ve done has been with the help of other adult adoptees. I’m this weird hybrid of adoptee, adoption professional, adoption researcher. Three hats to wear, three-headed hydra, always trying to combine them all together. Neither the personal narrative nor the research tells the whole story. Both need to be considered as important aspects of explaining the experience. Sometimes science can provide a name to a feeling or behavior, but it just can not explain at the core what my experiences were or how they made me who I am today.

Sometimes I just feel strange being the subject and object of research. Every now and then, like tonight, reading a book about how transnational adoptees behave and think makes me realize how strange my life has become. I guess that’s part of the reason why I work and study adoption as well as live it in my own life. I didn’t want to always be looking at other people from inside the fishbowl.

Two Documentaries about Chinese adoption – “Found in China” and “Long Wait for Home”

A new documentary about Chinese adoptees. From the official website:

“Found in China,”
a documentary by Tai-Kai Productions, follows a group of six Midwestern
families and their 9- to 13-year adopted Chinese daughters who climb
the Wall, taste the tea, visit their orphanages and the people who once
held them–all the while surviving the emotional and psychological
demands of such a heritage trip. 

You can read reviews and view trailers for the film at the website, Found in China

From the website for "Long Wait for Home":

Despite a surge in media coverage of adoptions from China, there are many unanswered questions: Who are the birth parents and under what circumstances do they decide to give away their babies? How do children end up in orphanages and what kinds of lives do they live there? Moreover, with so many “foreigners” going to China to pick up these Chinese babies, what do the average Chinese people feel and think about Americans and international adoption?

To answer these questions, Dr. Changfu Chang and his team present the widely anticipated documentary, Long Wait For Home. For the first time, we sit face to face with birth parents who share with us the hard decisions they have made and the emotional toll they have suffered; we go to orphanages and take an intimate  look at the living conditions of children usually inaccessible to film crews; we also converse with a wide range of ordinary Chinese citizens and scholars
on the subject of international adoption.


You can read more at the website for Long Wait for Home



“Police Officer Helps Young Korean Adoptees Adjust To Madison”

Police Officer Helps Young Korean Adoptees Adjust To Madison

Bielski Works To Answer Questions About Heritage, Background

MADISON, Wis. — Imagine finding yourself in a
new family half a world away from your home. For adopted Korean
children living in Madison, that situation is a reality.Now, a local group and a police officer are looking to unite and support those children, WISC-TV reported.Madison
Police Officer Dave Bielski, a Korean adoptee, not only delights in
explaining to children what it is like to be a police officer, but he
also enjoys trying to help young Korean adoptees figure out who they
are and where they came from.

Read the article here

Daniel Henney and the Real Man Behind His Role in Interview

From the Chosun Ilbo comes this story about the Korean drama, "My Father" in which actor Daniel Henney plays a Korean adoptee who returns to Korea to find his birth father, only to find he is on death row. In real life Henney is the son of a Korean adoptee and the movie is based on a true story. The real man behind the movie, Eron Bates and Henney speak about the movie in this interview. Some excerpts:

Eron Bates/ Born in 1973, he was adopted by an American family when he was six. He joined the U.S. Army in college and came to Korea in 1996 in an attempt to look for his biological father, whom he was reunited with in July 2000. His father has been held on death row at Gwangju Penitentiary for 10 years.

Daniel Hanney/Born in 1979. His mother was adopted by an American family when she was three, his father is British American. He made his debut in the MBC drama “My Name is Kim Sam-soon” in 2005. He also starred in “Seducing Mr. Perfect” in 2006.

Henney: ‘Yes, because my mother was adopted too. If I understood my mother about 75 percent before, now with this film I understand her 100 percent. She can barely speak Korean, so these days, I teach her Korean.’

Bulgarian adoptee plans school shooting

Mom saw warning signs in son who planned shooting spree. By Scott Zamost and Abbie Boudreau

Richard Sonnen
GREENCREEK, Idaho (CNN) — It was just 2½ years ago when Elaine Sonnen found out that her 16-year-old son, Richard, had been planning a Columbine-style attack at his high school.Unlike Columbine and recent school shootings at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech, Elaine Sonnen did see the warning signs in her son and was able to stop him. Elaine and her husband, Tom, adopted Richard from a Bulgarian orphanage when he was just 4½ years old.

Behaviors & Attitudes of Allies to Transracially Adopted Persons

From my presentation at Rainbow Families Conference

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Behaviors & Attitudes of Allies to Transracially Adopted Persons

Ways to be an ally

  • Interrupt offensive jokes. Even if they aren’t about your child’s racial or ethnic group, if you stay quiet you are “showing” your child it’s okay to make fun of people of color
  • Educate yourself and support the social justice issues and causes of the racial and ethnic community your child belongs to, both in the US and from the country of origin
  • Read books/articles/view films by adult transracial adoptees
  • Interact and find support from other adoptive parent allies and likewise support other allies.
  • Don’t judge others experiences, especially if they seem negative. Seek to understand their experiences. Don’t dismiss experiences of racism.
  • Acknowledge the powers and privileges bestowed upon you based on your social group membership. Understand your privileges as a white person and as a parent, and help others understand their own privileges.
  • Utilize your power to bring about social change that benefits all people, especially those underprivileged from your child’s community.
  • Seek to understand all the different forms of oppression – gender, racial, class, GLBTQ, etc.
  • Notice the numerous intersections between different forms of oppression.   
  • Let your actions speak louder than your words. Participate in your child’s racial/ethnic community because you value the diversity, not just for your child.
  • Don’t make your child be the “bridge” for you
  • Don’t expect external rewards for your work as an ally – feel good and be proud about the work you do.
  • Don’t expect your child’s racial or ethnic community to welcome you just because you want to participate, and especially if you want them to be invested in your child. You need to be invested in their lives as well.
  • Walk your talk.
  • Know there are different ways of doing and seeing everything.
  • Be comfortable with criticism and feedback. Accept that others may stereotype you
  • Don’t buy into stereotypes. Try to acknowledge your own prejudices and baggage. Take ownership in your own conscious and/or unconscious participation in oppression. Use examples that don’t exclude a particular group’s experience.
  • Don’t get stuck feeling guilty for the oppression of the past. Know that the past is not your fault, but the present and future are your responsibility.
  • Demonstrate your ally role through your actions rather than trying to convince others of it through your words.
  • Don’t expect someone else to represent an entire social group, especially just because you are parenting one from their community.
  • Remember to speak only from your own experience, and do not assume your child speaks for his or her entire racial/ethnic group.
  • Don’t assume to know what support others want and what’s best for them.
  • Recognize that no one form of oppression is more significant than another – there is no hierarchy of oppressions.
  • Accept that none of us are experts in diversity.

Materials adapted from: Ederer, Jeff & Barnes, Lori: Allies for Social Justice. http://www.wesleyan.edu/reslife/asj/, ACPA 2000