What I’m Reading: The Professional Altruist

A80fc060ada0e6c980268110.L._AA240_ One of my goals during summer break is to catch up on FUN reading (I have a stack of books a mile high, it seems) but also to get cracking on my preliminary written exam bibliography list which is 125 books and journal articles long so far (and that's not including anything I'll need to read for my dissertation literature review).

First up – The Professional Altruist: The Emergence of Social Work as a Career 1880-1930 by Roy Lubove.

Meet the Goodes

From ABC.com

Goodes Meet Gerald and Helen Goode, a couple who live by the motto WWAGD
("What Would Al Gore Do?"). Gerald, a college administrator, and Helen,
a community activist, are determined to obliterate their carbon
footprint on the planet: They're zealous vegans, they drive a hybrid,
and they recycle everything possible. Even the family dog, Che, is
vegan. In the words of Helen, all the Goodes want to do is buy organic
apples and call minorities by their right names. But despite their best
efforts, something always goes haywire with their politically correct

Like adopted son Ubuntu – Gerald and Helen thought they were doing the
right thing by adopting a baby from Africa, only to learn that Ubuntu
was South African . . . and white.
Now a teenager, he eagerly tries to
embrace the Goodes' love of things like crafts and organic gardening,
even though deep in his gene pool is a drive towards more blue collar
pursuits like driving fast, using tools and violent sports.

The Goode Family is a new animated series from Mike Judge (King of the Hill, Beavis and Butt-head, Office Space), John Altschuler & Dave Krinsky (King of the Hill, Blades of Glory).

Double standards of compassion

A short while ago there was a discussion on an international adoption list-serve I that I have been ruminating about ever since. The discussion began with these two horrific news stories of abuse committed by adoptive parents. An adoptive parent spoke up about the first case, in which the adoptive parent attempted to kill her two adopted Chinese daughters and then herself after what appears to be a long spiral into mental illness. I am especially sensitive to this story since I used to live quite near this family.

The adoptive parent on the list-serve in particular was disturbed that these two cases were posted in succession on the list-serve, as the adoptive parent believed that in the first case it was clear that the parent had been struggling with mental health issues, had reached out for support and never received the help she needed. In this parent's view, it was wrong to compare the first parent to the adoptive couple who sexually abused their adopted Chinese daughter. There was language about compassion for those who struggle with mental health problems. This led to a lengthy discussion about adoptive parents and mental health issues; the difficulties of a mental health system in this country that is inefficient and insufficient. The challenges of single parenthood. The difficulties of adopting an older child (one of the children had been an older child adoption). All of which I agree with.

Many adoptive parents described mental illnesses in great detail.  What struck me was that there was so much compassion for this struggling, single mother who, it is clear, was mentally ill and committed an act of abuse so horrific and terrible that I can't even fathom the trauma she imposed on her children. The discussion led to the difficulties adoptive parents have when they find themselves overwhelmed and without resources. What happens to an adoptive mother when she loses her job, finds herself financially devastated, begins to abuse alcohol, and spirals into the depths of mental illness?

Well, clearly, she deserves more compassion than birth parents who find themselves in the SAME situations yet do NOT attempt to kill their children.

At least, that was what I saw coming out of this discussion.

When I worked at the County, every single one of the youth on my caseload had a mother (most of them were single mothers) who battled substance abuse and the majority of them also had some mental illness. Yet, the majority of them did not abuse – sexually or physically – their children. The children came into the system because of neglect due to these substance abuse and mental health problems, but only two of the children on my caseloads initially came into the system because of sexual or physical abuse. In fact, of the children and youth, the ones who were sexually or physically abused were all abused AFTER they had been removed form their birth parents (and in fact, one sibling group came back into the system after it was found they were physically abused by their ADOPTIVE parent).

Lack of employment, the loss of a job, the stresses that go along with financial insecurity would naturally causes a lot of stress on a single parent. As would the struggle with mental illness. Using alcohol or other chemicals to cope is not uncommon. And yet, I just have to ask – if this woman had been Black, and had her children been her Black birth children, would they have been removed long before the mother decided to kill them and herself? Would child protection have stepped in when the mother was hospitalized for her mental health problems? Would the children have been returned to her so quickly after the hospitalization?

Not a single person on the list-serve mentioned the same or similar stressors that led to birth parents losing parental rights.

If this parent had been a single, Black, unemployed, mentally ill addict, would adoptive parents be rushing to ask for compassion?

Just wondering.

Transracial adoption with a twist

A fascinating story about a Caucasian man adopted and raised in China with Chinese adoptive parents. This link will take you to the page, scroll down about halfway. The story is titled, My Country, My Destiny.


When this reporter first met Zhang Ning in his home in Beijing in April 2009,
the 64-year-old man seemed more Chinese than American, the only difference was
that his nose was not so Chinese, and his eyes were much paler than most. When
he spoke, however, it was pure Mandarin with a strong Beijing accent.
But Zhang Ning is indeed American. His biological parents were
American Flying Tigers, stationed in China during World War II. But he
was brought up in China, by a Chinese general in a Chinese family. It was his special identity, as a “Baby Tiger,” that has given Zhang Ning an extraordinary destiny.

…Although there has not been any progress towards solving his mystery in
the past few years, Zhang expects the truth will someday be revealed.
“I’ve always felt that I lacked a sense of belonging, ever since I was
a little boy,” he explained. “So I really want to find my roots, my
real identity, during my lifetime.”

Taking charge of our own lives

A few years ago, I was interviewed by a college student who was a First Nations transracial adoptee. During the course of the interview, we talked about where each of us had grown up and when I mentioned my hometown, she asked if I knew M. I was shocked to find out that M. was a First Nations transracial adoptee. I had known M. throughout my whole childhood, as early back as elementary school. We lived a few neighborhoods away and played at each other's homes a few times. Like a lot of grade school friendships, we found ourselves in separate social groups in junior high although we often walked to school together and remained friendly. In all the years that M. and I knew each other, it never occured to me that we were both transracial adoptees. Of course, in hindsight, it was perfectly clear. After finding out about M. I wondered why neither of us had ever given voice to our situation. Here I had thought all these years that I was "the only" when in fact, there were more of us than I remembered. This is how the isolation of transracial adoptees functions in majority-White communities, where there is no language to talk about what is going on. We learn to ignore or discount what is right before our eyes.

I bring this up, because this past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to collaborate with and socialize with some amazing fellow transracial adoptees. One night we were talking and one of my TRA friends mentioned how she recently found out a friend of hers in high school was also a TRA. Like me and my friend M., she and her friend had never once discussed their similar situation or experience.

Sometimes when I visit culture or adoption camps for kids and see all these younger TRAs forming friendships, or when my TRA friends in their 20s talk about the friendships they made at culture camps or culture schools, I get a little wistful. I suppose that is why now, at 40 years old, I especially cherish all the TRA friends I have in my life. This weekend, surrounded by John, Lisa Marie, Shannon, Jennifer, Katie, Jen, Kim, Lisa, Michelle, Robert, Lola, Kasey, and many others, nourished my soul. Not only did I have the wonderful opportunity to strategize and plan professional collaborations, it was a chance to be with others in a place mentally and physically where we didn't have to explain so much, where others "got it," and where we could relax and let our shoulders down.

It's not about not loving our adoptive families. It's not about being anti-adoption. It's not about didactic conversations about either/or scenarios.

It is about our lives as adults who have lost so much as a result of the separation from our birth families and birth countries. It's about making sure that all of you – adoptive parents and adoption agencies – understand.


The tide is turning. I can feel it. We still have a ways to go – there are many who still want to infantalize us, treat us paternalistically, like we are still children. But I can feel a change in the wind. It's calling our names.

Towards a Sustainable Transracial Adoptee Movement and Community

It's been one week since I turned in my final paper, successfully finishing my first year as a doctoral student. Since then, I've been busy working on a few side projects, first up is the Pedagogy and Theater of the Oppressed Conference here in my home town this weekend.

Along with John Raible, Lisa Marie Rollins and Shannon Gibney, we are presenting Towards a Sustainable Transracial Adoptee Movement and Community: PTO Strategies + Experiments on Friday.

Workshop description: Are we unified only by the largely unacknowledged
history of white supremacy at the root of the American nuclear family,
or are there also other important areas of our experience to be
explored?  Investigate the possibilities of a multiethnic transracial
adoptee community and movement, by observing and working with adult
adoptees on a series of Theater and Pedagogy of the Oppressed exercises.

“Who’s family did she belong to?”

Several people told me about the This American Life story that aired yesterday. Episode 380, "No Maps" includes the story about an LDS family that adopted from Samoa and found themselves in the middle of a tragedy they were unprepared for. They discovered that their daughter's family in Samoa had been deceived about the adoption. The family made the decision to return to Samoa and find out what really happened.

You can listen to the story here for free at the This American Life web site. The story begins at 31:30.

Korean adoptee Mia Mingus one of Angry Asian Man’s Top 30 under 30

From Angry Asian Man  (thanks Amie for the tip)

Mia Mingus
Age: 28
Co-Executive Director, SPARK Reproductive Justice Now

she's influential: Because she's an agent of real-world change in the
reproductive justice movement. Mia Mingus is a queer, physically
disabled Korean American transracial/ transnational adoptee, living and
organizing in the Southeast. She currently serves as one of the
Co-Directors of SPARK Reproductive Justice Now in Atlanta and believes that reproductive justice is crucial in the struggle for social change and the fight to end oppression.

Read the rest here.

An adult Guatemalan adoptee

A 30-year old Guatemalan adoptee shares his thoughts on YouTube. He also has a blog. David writes,

Being adopted I've accumulated some unique observations throughout the years. Id like to share some insights on what its like being adopted and shed some light on adoption. Children born and raised to their biological parents dont know what they are missing!
The presentation will shed some light on:

•What its like being adopted from another country

•The fun one can have playing the "adopted card"



•What I've learned.

This will have a strong satire and humorous slant and should provide some laughs.