Lab Note #10


This past week the Janchi Show podcast featured my friend Lauren Rees. Lauren and I met at KAAN in 2021 and bonded over our love of knitting! We had followed each other on knitting Instagram and I was so happy to meet her in person.

Lauren shared so much in her interview but a couple of things really stood out to me. In one part of the interview, Lauren says, “supporting racism isn’t love.” I’ve been ruminating on this sentence for days. So often transracial adoptees have adoptive parents, family members, or friends who support racist ideologies, practices, and policies – the very same ideologies, practices, and policies that harm our communities of origin or other indigenous communities and/or communities of color. Lauren’s quote made me think of the phrase, “close to home” because for many transracial adoptees it is the people closest to us, the families in our homes, our peers, and those in our closest circles, who say they love us but demonstrate their negative bias and prejudice for those “like us, but not us.” Our removal from our communities of origin allows these people in our lives to view us as the exception – we are even sometimes upheld as an example of racial uplift. Some transracial adoptees internalize and promote racial uplift.

Adoptees of color experience racism. To know the very families and friends who say they love us support and perpetuate racist ideologies, practices, and policies is to feel pressure to minimize the racial/ethnic/indigenous aspects of our identities in order to be accepted by them. This is conditional love – we are loved as long as we accept their support for racism. If we speak up or speak out, we violate that unspoken agreement, and the love can be taken away. But let me be clear that even if we don’t speak up or speak out, we will not eliminate being subject to their racism – we are only experiencing it silently.

Asking someone to actively accept their harmful behavior is, as Lauren said, not a demonstration of love. If they truly love us, they will see us as part of a broader community. They will care about our communities of origin. They will see us and our communities of origin as humans.

In my book chapter for the anthology “The Complexities of Race: Identity, Power, and Justice in an Evolving America” I describe five facets of transracial adoption justice. I argue that adoptive parents, adoption agencies, child welfare workers, and society must implement these five aspects if they truly want to show they care for transracial adoptees. These aspects are:

  1. Acknowledging transracial adoptees’ lives are impacted by both race and adoption
  2. Understanding how race, power, privilege, and oppression are connected to transracial adoption
  3. Believing transracial adoptees experience discrimination and oppression
  4. Caring about transracial adoptees’ communities of origin
  5. Recognizing transracial adoption affects adoptees throughout their whole lives

Supporting racist ideologies, practices, and policies violates each of the five tenets I’ve described above. Being in the transracial adoptee community for so long, talking with hundreds of transracial adoptees, one of the biggest areas of conflict adoptees have with their adoptive family as adults has to do with race. For many transracial adoptees, adulthood means being able to have a choice where to live and so many transracial adoptees move from racially isolating areas to more diverse areas. Adoptive parents will need to understand that the values that influenced their choice of where to live can interfere with their transracially adopted child’s racial or ethnic identity development. Transracial adoptive parents often choose to live where they feel most supportive and comfortable – even if it’s not a racially affirming place for their transracial adopted child. Often adoptive parents will apologize to me, telling me that they know where they live isn’t diverse but “it’s a great place to raise a child.” I agree with them, it’s a great place to raise a WHITE child. It’s not necessarily a great place to raise a child of color.

When I told my parents about my experiences with bullying I was told I was being too sensitive, that race had nothing to do with the bullying, and that I needed to get a tougher skin. My parent’s response to me when I told them about racial discrimination was informed in part because they didn’t see me as Asian or Korean, and therefore they couldn’t understand why I would be experiencing it. Eventually, I learned that this was one aspect of my relationship with my parents that wasn’t going to be affirmed and I stopped telling them about these experiences. Because my parents didn’t know how to talk with me about racism, and because they didn’t believe these incidents were racist, what could have been a shared opportunity to grow closer became a point of detachment.

In her interview with the Janchi Show hosts, Lauren talked about estrangement from adoptive families and in-laws because of these issues related to race. From both personal experience and from talking with many adoptees of color over the past 20 years, I know estrangement comes only after many, many years and attempts to have their white adoptive parents recognize their racial humanity. To thrive, transracial adoptees need people in their lives who do not think of us as separate from our racial, ethnic, and/or indigenous histories and identities. Recognize us for ALL of who we are; not just the parts that make you comfortable. Be sure to listen to Lauren’s full interview on the Janchi Show.


  • One of the things I’ve been keeping my eye on for the past 10 years is what happens to children of undocumented parents when ICE raids places of employment suspected of hiring undocumented workers. At one child welfare conference I attended several years ago, the presenters warned that South and Central American children whose parents were undocumented were likely to be the “new supply” of children for adoptive parents in the US. A whole system of child protection/child welfare in the US is set up for separating these families through existing laws. This recent New York Times article, US Born Children being separated from parents at the border discusses a government task force tracking the fates of US citizen children being separated from migrant parents during the Trump administration. The link is a gift link for those without a subscription.


Two open-access research and academic items came my way recently that I found interesting.

  • The emergence of team science: Understanding the state of adoption research through social network analysis article (Hamilton, C. A., Vacca, R., & Stacciarini, J. M. R., 2017) was interesting to me because as an adoption researcher, seeing the names of who was most cited and who had the strongest networks says so much about who is considered experts and who dominates published research. I recognize a lot of these authors but there were many I didn’t know. This article analyzes published research from the US as well as other geographic areas and the end of the review period, 2014, is before the emergence of many adoptee researchers.
  • The Family Integrity and Justice Quarterly is an open-access journal about family well-being. This most recent issue includes an article about the harms embedded in the Adoption and Safe Families Act, as well as several other articles related to child welfare and child well-being.


I read and sift through a lot of articles daily about child welfare, foster care, and adoption. Here are some ways I find out about these articles and stories:

  • I subscribe to Child Welfare Information Gateway lists. This resource uploads articles to their library by topic and they also send frequent notices of articles they are uploading. To review and subscribe to any of their lists, click here.
  • I have also created a number of Google Alerts which send me a curated list of articles with the keywords I’ve requested. I have alerts for transracial adoption, intercountry adoption, foster care, and child welfare, among others.

I have been subscribing to Adoptees United, a website that tracks adoption legislation and news in the United States. I highly recommend this if you are interested in adoption policies and laws. They have also started hosting events. I find their information very helpful! You can subscribe here.

The final resource I want to share is a site I recently learned about for Korean adoptees, especially those whose adoptions were facilitated by Korean Social Services (KSS). The website is called Paperslip and this site is a toolkit for KSS adoptees who want to search or find accurate information about their documentation and records. I have been learning that KSS had a standard practice of separating siblings (including twins) in the adoption process and also frequently changed the identities of children for adoption – for example, sending photographs and histories of children to prospective adoptive parents that were not the children that were actually sent to them. This website has some general information beneficial for all adoptees such as those in the USA who wish to complete a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request but many of these resources are specific to KSS adoptees.

Share the Love

Have you heard about the BIPOC Adoptees docuseries? These are available on their YouTube channel. They are working to add more videos to the two currently uploaded on their channel. The organization is also hosting Storytelling sessions. Their next session will be held in Portland, OR on June 11, 2023.

Information from the organization: This event is presented by BIPOC Adoptees and organized by Korean American Adoptees (KADs). We recognize there is strength in numbers as well as other complexities of the international adoption industry. Our goal is to create momentum for all Black and Brown voices and empower intersectional communities. This is a BIPOC Adoptee-centered storytelling event. All BIPOC Adoptees are welcome to attend. For questions, you can email them at

Below is one of their videos.

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