What the research says about Me

The big news, if you haven't heard, is that November is National Adoption Month and that means it's an extra busy month for me, being all about adoption, ya know. I've wanted to respond to a number of things I've seen around the blog world, but wow, that would take me more time than I have right now. I really do wish I had time though, there is some interesting stuff being written.

Although I wasn't quoted, I spoke to the reporter of the New York Times piece at length about the Evan B. Donaldson study that was released on Monday. This study is actually so big and there are so many aspects to it that I think it will take me a few blog posts to get all (most) of my thoughts written down.

I'm going to try and tackle the Korean adoption identity part first; later on I do want to address some of the other aspects of the study, namely the white, domestic, same-race cohort that was used as a comparison to the Korean adoptee cohort, and I also want to address the New York Times piece itself, and then discuss the policy and practice recommendations from the report. I'm not sure if anyone else cares, but I want to mention aspects of the methodology as well, since it matters to anyone who is attempting to interpret the findings. The report is insanely long, at 113 pages so I hope this will help break it down for people who don't love to read research articles!!

So hang on folks and please be patient as I try to carve out time to get these posts written (as it is, I'm taking a break from working on my final presentation for one of my doctoral classes, Ethical Issues and Moral Dilemmas in Family Life. For those who are interested, my presentation will be a case study look at the situation of the Nyberg adoption story featured on This American Life last spring).

New York Times article about new Evan B. Donaldson study

This New York Times article features several fellow adoptee friends! It's great to hear their voices.

Adopted from Korea and in Search of Identity

As a child, Kim Eun Mi Young hated being different.

…Growing up in Georgia, Kansas and Hawaii, in a military family, she
would date only white teenagers, even when Asian boys were around.

“At no time did I consider myself anything other than white,” said Ms.
Young, 48, who lives in San Antonio. “I had no sense of any identity as
a Korean woman. Dating an Asian man would have forced me to accept who
I was.”

It was not until she was in her 30s that she began to
explore her Korean heritage.

…The experiences of Ms. Young are common among adopted children from
Korea, according to one of the largest studies of transracial
adoptions, which is to be released on Monday. The report, which focuses
on the first generation of children adopted from South Korea, found
that 78 percent of those who responded had considered themselves to be
white or had wanted to be white when they were children. Sixty percent
indicated their racial identity had become important by the time they
were in middle school, and, as adults, nearly 61 percent said they had
traveled to Korea both to learn more about the culture and to find
their birth parents.

Like Ms. Young, most Korean adoptees were
raised in predominantly white neighborhoods and saw few, if any, people
who looked like them. The report also found that the children were
teased and experienced racial discrimination, often from teachers. And
only a minority of the respondents said they felt welcomed by members
of their own ethnic group.

As a result, many of them have had trouble coming to terms with their racial and ethnic identities.

You can read the whole article here.

Babies as young as 6 months discriminate based on race

From Newsweek, a fascinating article about how children as young as six months old recognize racial differences.

What is remarkable about this study, and the excellent book The First R: How Children Learn Race and Racism by Debra Van Ausdale and Joe Feagin, is that there is evidence that young children DO understand a lot more about race and racism that adults want to believe.

From the article:

The goal of Vittrup's study was to learn if typical children's videos
with multicultural storylines have any beneficial effect on children's
racial attitudes.

…Vittrup's first test of the kids revealed they weren't colorblind at
all. Asked how many white people are mean, these children commonly
answered, "Almost none." Asked how many blacks are mean, many answered,
"Some," or "A lot." Even kids who attended diverse schools answered the
questions this way.

More disturbing, Vittrup also
asked all the kids a very blunt question: "Do your parents like black
people?" Fourteen percent said outright, "No, my parents don't like
black people"; 38 percent of the kids answered, "I don't know." In this
supposed race-free vacuum being created by parents, kids were left to
improvise their own conclusions—many of which would be abhorrent to
their parents.


…To Vittrup's complete surprise, the three groups of children were
statistically the same—none, as a group, had budged very much in their
racial attitudes. At first glance, the study was a failure.

through the parents' study diaries, Vittrup realized why. Diary after
diary revealed that the parents barely mentioned the checklist items.
Many just couldn't talk about race, and they quickly reverted to the
vague "Everybody's equal" phrasing.

Of all those
Vittrup told to talk openly about interracial friendship, only six
families managed to actually do so. And, for all six, their children
dramatically improved their racial attitudes in a single week. Talking
about race was clearly key. Reflecting later about the study, Vittrup
said, "A lot of parents came to me afterwards and admitted they just
didn't know what to say to their kids, and they didn't want the wrong
thing coming out of the mouth of their kids."

Why is this article important for white adoptive parents who have adopted children transracially and internationally?

Minority parents are more likely to help their children develop a
racial identity from a young age. April Harris-Britt, a clinical
psychologist and professor at the University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill, found that all minority parents at some point tell their
children that discrimination is out there, but they shouldn't let it
stop them. Is this good for them? Harris-Britt found that some
preparation for bias was beneficial, and it was necessary—94 percent of
African-American eighth graders reported to Harris-Britt that they'd
felt discriminated against in the prior three months.

Preparation for bias is not, however, the only way minorities talk to
their children about race. The other broad category of conversation, in
Harris-Britt's analysis, is ethnic pride. From a very young age,
minority children are coached to be proud of their ethnic history. She
found that this was exceedingly good for children's self-confidence; in
one study, black children who'd heard messages of ethnic pride were
more engaged in school and more likely to attribute their success to
their effort and ability.

So the point? Parents – even liberal, "color-blind", "we are all part of the human race," parents, even those who live in the "diverse" areas but are waiting for their kids to bring up racism – need to talk about race and racism from day one.

Please read the article in full here. Also, read Resist Racism's excellent analysis of the article here, which points out the very skewed way the writers approached this article, and why so many of us parents of color felt like, "well, duh."

Article: Asian adoptee, now CLU grad student, researches ties

Thanks to Hilbrand for the link.

This was an interesting article about a Korean adoptee, Joy Hoffman, who is doing research on Asian adoptee identity.

From the Ventura County Star: Asian adoptee, now CLU grad student, researches ties.

Part of Joy Hoffman’s postgraduate work at CLU is researching how Asians adopted by white parents form their ethnic identity, a question she addressed in herself.

One of the quotes from the article really struck me.

“I can be open about my adoptee identity, but not always about my
Asian, even within my own family,” said Hoffman, 41, who also works as
director of the Cultural Center at Whittier College.

This is very similar to my own experience growing up. I may have mentioned it on this blog already, but if I were to take all the "issues" or "struggles" I have experienced growing up as a transracial Korean adoptee, by far the majority of those are due to being the only non-White person in the family. My family has struggled to accept me as an Asian American.

Another quote from the article:

Based on those interviews, she found that adopted Asians fare better if
their white parents encourage them to explore their ethnicity, rather
than ignore it in an effort to be colorblind. She also found that
adopted children identify themselves as adoptees before any ethnic

You can read the rest of the article here.

Two perspectives from Korean American adoptees

Poet Jennifer Kwon Dobbs "Home as the direction of search" from the IWP's New Symposium Home/Land.

These are my hands unfolding nothing with care. I am one of 200 thousand – each one different but part of an overseas Korean Diaspora – first created by the aftermath of Hanguk Jeonjaeng, or the Forgotten War as it’s remembered in the United States. Our search for meaning is always in the direction of home (Korea and the North American, European, or other receiving nation that adopted us), not because blood calls to blood or nature versus nurture, but because the human need for narrative requires a beginning for – if Horace is right – “men can do nothing
without the make believe of a beginning.”

Academic Kim Park Nelson's Mapping Multiple Histories of Korean American Transnational Adoption from the U.S. Korean Institute at SAIS.

In this paper, Prof. Park Nelson examines the
socio-political history of Korean American transnational, transracial
adoption, including the pull factors of America's demand for adoptable
children and the social conditions and immigration policies which
facilitated this exchange, as well as the relevance of this growing
community of Korean Adoptees.


I was helping a fellow multi-racial transracial adoptee look for resources on Latino families and adoption, and I was SURE I had some articles from several years ago when I was researching same race recruitment for families, but rats, I couldn't find them. Maybe I'll come across it as I'm organizing my bibliography into EndNote, which is my current project.

However, it frustrates me that over the hour or so I was looking through my university's search engines, I could only find two articles about Latino families and adoption but there are oodles of articles about White families adopting Latino children.

And don't even get me started on the inbalance in the world wide web.

What does that say about where we place our priorities and support?

Schuster Institute’s site on “The Lie We Love”

A friend of mine directed me to this interactive map and accompanying article from the Brandeis University Schuster Institute.


Those of you who know me or have been reading me for a while now know that I am interested in the intersection of adoption, race and feminism/women's rights. This is partly why I am surprised but excited that the Schuster Institute's Gender and Justice Project is where this is being hosted. The site will eventually host the full report of "The Lie We Love" from Foreign Policy. If you haven't read this piece yet, I strongly recommend it. (Non-subscribers will be able to access the story from the Schuster Institute after January).

The map below was created by  Claire Pavlik Purgus for the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, Brandeis University and allows the reader to see a color-coded map of who is adopting, who is sending, and what the issues are in specific sending countries.


NPR: “Adopted Teens Face Higher Risk for ADHD”

People have wondered for a long time whether children who were adopted
in infancy are at increased risk for psychological problems. Now, the
first study of its kind has found that most are psychologically
healthy, though they’re at "slightly increased risk" for behavioral
problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or
oppositional defiant disorder.

Listen to the broadcast on NPR Morning Edition. For another look at the study, check out the Chicago Tribune story. I thought it was very interesting that the children in this study adopted internationally had less of a risk than domestic infant adoptees. From the article:

The researchers had thought that adoptees born overseas would be at
higher risk of psychiatric disorders than those who were born and
placed in the U.S., but they found the reverse was true.

"Our hypothesis was that international adoptees might have faced ethnic
discrimination as they entered the school years and might have
experienced a longer period of exposure to pre-adoption adversity in
their country of origin, which would lead to a higher risk for
psychiatric distress," said Keyes, a research psychologist at the
Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research.

The assessments did find higher levels of separation anxiety among
international adoptees. Teachers also rated this group as significantly
more anxious in general than their non-adopted peers.

Debbie Riley, executive director of the Center for Adoption Support and
Education in suburban Washington, noted that teens who are adopted face
added pressure at a vulnerable time of life.

"Adoption is a significant event in an adolescent’s life which cannot
be ignored," Riley said. "If ever there’s a time when an adoptee is
likely to enter therapy, it’s during adolescence. . . . This is the
time when you form your identity—when you’re faced with, ‘Who am I?’

"These kids have this extra layer, and the issues are very complex."

Experts said other factors might include genetics, prenatal
malnutrition, drug and alcohol exposure, and the post-natal
environment, such as conditions in orphanages. Brodzinsky also pointed
to the significance of being cut off from one’s background and the
anxiety the experience can provoke, even when it occurs at an early age.

"When we experience losses, we grieve . . . but too often, adoptees are
told: ‘You should be grateful.’ They don’t get to grieve . . . and
blocked grief can result in pathology, such as depression," said
Brodzinsky, research director of the Donaldson Institute in New York

Keyes stressed that her study should not alarm adoptive parents. About
1.5 million children and teens younger than 18 in the U.S. are adopted.