This is the last of the three posts from Lorraine, Linda and Jane about international adoptions. We all have similar but somewhat different takes on the issue. If you're interested, take a look at all three posts--they are in succeeding order, starting with the post of Tuesday, November 25, "Good News: Foreign Adoptions Decline." (And take a look at Linda's cool photograph of her mantle.)
Last night on 20/20, "When Adoption Isn't Happily Ever After," we learned about the huge psychological difficulties that sometimes come with adopting older children who have been badly abused either in institutions or horrific home situations. The havoc such maladjusted children can wreak on families is deserving of our sympathy, not disdain for we have not walked in their shoes. The Department of Health and Human Services reports that 81 children in 14 states were transferred into foster care after being adopted overseas, but the number is thought to be much higher as children are often transferred among families without state involvement. Kids sixteen and older may go into Jobs Corps, where they learn a trade, get help obtaining a GED, a high school diploma, or finding a job.
Besides these adoption "disruptions," as they are called, there have been 15 documented murders of children adopted overseas. Here the question isn't whether these people deserve our sympathy, but sorrow that there were no avenues for the parents to get help before they snapped.
By Jane Edwards
I saw a little Asian girl while grocery shopping today. As I always do, I looked for the adult accompanying her. I was relieved when I saw the woman was Asian. Since my reunion 11 years ago, I’ve come to oppose adoption of children from foreign countries unless necessary to provide medical care that the child cannot obtain in his own country.
I feel like a traitor because I have a very good long term friend who adopted two boys from Brazil and one from India. My friend is a loving mother to these young men. As the same time, as a mother who lost her first child to adoption, I know that these men had mothers who loved them. No matter our nationality, we are hard-wired to grieve when we lose our children.
Adoptees too suffer from being separated from their mothers and being displaced from their countries, cultural camps and homeland tours notwithstanding. Jane Jeong Trenka, adopted from South Korea, writes:
Would I rather have not been adopted? I don’t know. ... How can I weigh the loss of my language and culture against the freedom that America has to offer, the opportunity to have the same rights as a man? How can a person exiled as a child, without a choice, possibly fathom how he would have ‘turned out’ had he stayed in Korea? How many educational opportunities must I mark on my tally sheet before I can say it was worth losing my mother?” (The Language of Blood)
Katy Robinson also born in South Korea, coped by denying her identity. “As a child, all I ever wanted was to not be adopted. I grew up convincing myself that I was just like the rest of my family—copying their personality traits, mannerisms, and idiosyncrasies as my own.” Although she believes that her adoption “was the kindest thing my family could have done for me,” she searches for her mother. “There is something about the bond with the woman who gave you birth that is like no other in the world.” (A Single Square Picture)
Joan Shumack, MI OK Song Bruining South Korea, and Peter Dodds, adopted from Greece, South Korea, and Germany respectively oppose international adoption. Joan Shyumack spoke at the American Adoption Congress convention in 2008 and Song Bruining in 1999. Dodds is the author of Outer Search/Inner Journey: An Orphan and Adoptee’s Quest. All three tell of their pain from being forced to live with a family and in a culture where they did not belong.
While the adoption industry has planted in our minds images of children left at train stations or along roads none of these adoptees were abandoned. In fact, the availability of adoption seems to have contributed to Trenka and Robinson being surrendered.
Children adopted internationally often have behavioral problems stemming from the loss of their families. A Google search shows that evaluation and treatment for foreign adoptees is a thriving business. Abuse is not uncommon. Russia has curtailed adoptions in part because Russian children have been murdered by their American parents.
International adoptions do nothing to end child poverty. The 20,000 children adopted from abroad each year are only a small fraction of the tens of millions of poor children living in orphanages. The money spent bringing children to the United States, about $30,000 per child, would be better spent helping their families care for them.
On a positive note, international adoptions are down because China, Russia, South Korea, and Guatemala are keeping their children. Those seeking a child may take another look at some of the 125,000 US children awaiting homes.