Relative Choices

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Few posts on this blog have received as much response as "Adopting Open Records." The show it complemented, "Report Argues for Open Birth Records," garnered a lot of attention, too. Many of you noted how difficult it is for an American-born adoptee to obtain birth information. On today's program, in the second hour, we'll talk to two persons, born abroad, adopted by Americans, who have tried to find their biological parents — in Korea and Vietnam, respectively. And we'll talk to Jeff Gammage, a staff writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer, who adopted his two daughters from China. All three of them blog for The New York Times, at Relative Choices. After we hear their stories, we'd like to hear yours. Are you a foreign-born adoptee? Have you tried to find track down your biological parents? What are some of the challenges you faced?

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My son is adopted from Romania. I do know his birthmother's name and village from the adoption court papers. My son is 13 and very interested in going back to find his birth family. We are very supportive and hope the information we have will help us to this within the next few years. I think a lot of what is available to adopted children depends on the agency their parents went through. I think people considering adoption should be sure to question their agencies about how they might provide information or services to help adopted children find their birth families in the future.

Sent by CHRIS | 3:32 PM | 11-20-2007

I have two children adopted from Korea, a daughter, 18, and a son, 16. Their feelings about identity and birth parents are complex. A few weeks ago, my daughter asked her brother if he wanted to meet his birth mother. He replied, "Why? To punch her in the face?" It came as something of a shock to discover how raw his emotions are.

Sent by Robert | 3:33 PM | 11-20-2007

I have two children adopted from Guatamala. Both their mothers are in their 30's. Considering the violence and mortality rate in Guatamala their Mothers may be dead before my children are old enough to look for them. Do any Adult adoptees hhave and insight on this?

Sent by Stephen | 3:44 PM | 11-20-2007

We adopted our daughter from China 2 years ago. We have one biological daughter and our Chinese daughter. I feel we did save her. She has a genetic disorder and would have been looked down on in the culture.
After adopting her it took up to 8 months for her not to gorge herself and hid food. It took her that long to realize that the food would always be there and available to her. She was 3yrs old at adoption.
We continue our education of the Chinese culture and work to provide a pride in her heritage.

Sent by Jill Slayden | 3:50 PM | 11-20-2007

I don't understand the notion trying to teach an adoptee the culture of his ancestors. Culture is not genetic. It seems appropriate to teach the culture of the nation where the child will live.

My Grandfather may have come from Denmark but I am in no way a Dane and no amount of Aquavit will change that.

Sent by Stev Andersen | 3:56 PM | 11-20-2007

Doesn't the urge to reconnect an adopted child from a foreign country to the culture of that foreign country create the risk of reinforcing racial stereotypes? If a child is adopted and brought to America, then shouldn't that child become acquainted with American culture? A caller described her son as saying "now I know the people that look like me," but isn't this type of idea something America has been trying to break down for quite some time? Since America is multicultural, to the point of establishing its own unique identity, is it necessary to instill racial pride within these adopted children?

Sent by Brian Gray | 4:00 PM | 11-20-2007

I am curious if any adoptees have seen the documentary "Daughter from Danang" and what their thoughts are on that film. The premise is; a young half Vietnamese half American girl is brought to America and raised as "white with a tan." She returns to Veitnam as a wife and mother and is turned off by her mothers need for help. Her Native family is extremely poor and expects her to help. She being unfamiliar with the culture doesn't realize that it's considered a huge honor and turns her back on them. I found her to be cold and naive, but I have no real world experience with adoption. I'd like to know what others thought if this touching film.

Sent by Jessica Maria | 4:08 PM | 11-20-2007

As the parent of a daughter who joined our family through international adoption, I'm interested in hearing responses of adult adoptees on this one---how do you feel about your adoptive parents searching for information &/or contact with your first family? Many adult adoptees feel that it is their right to do so/not do so, rather than have their adoptive parents involved in such a search. I wonder how much pertinent information would be lost if families waited (years perhaps) for children to grow up and start searching for answers after many years have passed.

Sent by Kelly | 4:10 PM | 11-20-2007

In searching for my birth parents, I was advised to focus on my father - with an uncommon name, he'd be easier to find. A couple of wonderful folks I met on the internet traced him to Riyadh, and were able to contact one of his brothers, who was happy to hear I was alive and well. We discovered that my late grandfather had been the Saudi Minister of Agriculture, and late great-aunt was the mother of King Fahd.

The big let down was that my father had ZERO interest in knowing me.

But armed with what I knew about my father, I contacted the adoption agency, and they agreed to open my file. In it, they found letters from my mother, expressing her desire to reunite. I called her that evening and she hopped in the car and drove 1,200 miles to meet me and my three daughters.

A dozen years later, my youngest can't even remember a time when she didn't have a "Gramma Jan."

Sent by Christina Al-Sudairy | 5:00 PM | 11-20-2007

I have two adopted daughters - one from Honduras and one from Guatemala. Each of them was six years old when I adopted her. We were an especially "public" family because the girls have the same first name. Moving to a small (17,000) but ethnically diverse community where there were other families with children adopted from Latin America made my daughters' experience "normal." We have had on-going contact with the birth families of both girls and have been to visit each girl's birth family and country of origin twice, the last when the girls were young adults. As a result, they feel very connected both to their present and to their past. Each girl has a healthy, well defined identity both as an adoptee and as a Latina. My older daughter was married last year to a man from Nicaragua and has a beautiful baby girl. Each girl had adjustment difficulties in the beginning of her life here with me in the U.S., and occasional "hiccups" as she matured. But I worked very hard to make sure they had other people in their lives who were like them, and we saw counselors when we needed to. And I put aside anxieties that arose about how well they would bond with me in order to keep the bond with their birth families alive and as healthy as possible. I am thrilled with how everything has worked out for my family.

Sent by Sue Douglass | 8:55 PM | 11-20-2007

not proud of or even curious about my heritage. isolation. segregation. reinforcing stereotypes (positive and negative). please sell me a book that tells me and "my people" who we are. label please. simplify for survey sake.

Sent by jonathan | 2:19 AM | 11-21-2007

I as an adoptee think its wonderful if adoptive parents search for their children's parents. See with the Hague Conventions coming into focus, international adoptees will have their records. Sadly domestic adoptions will still be run amok by adoption agencies.

Sent by Amy Burt | 10:10 AM | 11-21-2007

"I am curious if any adoptees have seen the documentary "Daughter from Danang" and what their thoughts are on that film." I have seen Daughter from Danang and share some thoughts on my blog:
Thoughts on Daughter from Danang "...how do you feel about your adoptive parents searching for information &/or contact with your first family?" Opinions on this vary depending on age, experience and personality. Personally, I would have appreciated my any attempts my parents made. However, I would have preferred for them to let me decide whether I had contact or not. As a young child, this would have been confusing. There is no set answer to such a complicated question but I think communication is key. Let them know you have it, that it's okay to talk about it (or not)and that the information belongs to them to do with as they choose.

Sent by Sumeia Williams | 3:47 PM | 11-21-2007

I think part of being adopted is to be curious about your roots, your birth culture, and birth family. The family who adopts a child from a foreign country should keep an open dialogue with their child; let them explore their curiosities if they want to explore their identity and help them learn about both cultures. Non birth parents should realize that this curiosity is a natural progression for some adoptees and not necessarily a movement to replace them as a parent or guardian. I was adopted form Korea along with my biological sister and reared on a small dairy farm in the Midwest. Life growing up in the Midwest was difficult, having been teased and singled out for being different. Also having been raised in a strict home it was difficult to explain how I felt, what pains and problems I had to go through alone as an adopted child, and the thoughts about the past. Having lived in a closed community that has very little diversity was awkward and built up a lot of emotional scarring and resent for individuals who were unlike me. I did everything not to be like my tormentors. I realized that some of my teachers who were Caucasian had showed kindness to a waifish Korean boy who felt like the odd piece in a puzzle box, not fitting in. In my early adulthood I searched for over 4 years looking for my biological family and find a place to fit in. I went to some Children United Birth Parents meetings and was fascinated and gravitated to other Asian cultures. As an adult I was able to find my biological father and meet with my half brother and sister, it wasn't the dramatic experience I thought it would be. I was able to live in Korea for several years and learn about my culture and meet my Korean wife. I was unable to find my biological mother, I even went on national television in Korea to search for her. Meeting the biological family is rarely what adopted people think it will be. Each individual is different and have their own specific taste, there should be no surprise then that there are varied reactions from adoptees. Individuals who meet adoptees; please do not ask where we really came from, do tell us we are lucky-not all of us are, do not assume that we are spoiled, treat us like any other person. I wish the best of luck to all those who are part of the adoption process.

Sent by jayme hansen | 2:08 AM | 11-23-2007

I adopted a 4 year old from Ethiopia in Sept. 04. She was raised by an aunt in Addis Ababa. We used our agency's social worker to make contact with the family and discovered that our daughter has an older half-sister. She was not yet in school but we are now able to sponsor her education through our adoption agency and I hope the two girls will have contact in the future. I felt I needed to search for my daughter's birth family because it is so easy to lose the trail. It will be up to her if she ever wants to contact them but I'm grateful to know about them, be able to help them in a small way, and to have more information about her early years when she wants it. I know many people w/children from EThiopia who have contact with birth families and relatives.

Sent by Susan Poisson-Dollar | 12:47 PM | 11-27-2007

"I don't understand the notion trying to teach an adoptee the culture of his ancestors. Culture is not genetic. It seems appropriate to teach the culture of the nation where the child will live."

While this may be somewhat true, you must also realize that many adoptees go through a deep sense of loss. That their life in their home country was over before it ever began.

and

"Doesn't the urge to reconnect an adopted child from a foreign country to the culture of that foreign country create the risk of reinforcing racial stereotypes? If a child is adopted and brought to America, then shouldn't that child become acquainted with American culture? A caller described her son as saying "now I know the people that look like me," but isn't this type of idea something America has been trying to break down for quite some time? Since America is multicultural, to the point of establishing its own unique identity, is it necessary to instill racial pride within these adopted children?"

I noticed these were both posted by men, and I pray that you do not have adopted children. Growing up in a country or an area where you are the only one that looks different, encountering discrimination, etc...

I dare you to judge those adoptees who do seek their biological families. If you have not lived through this, then I believe you should not prejudge or even wonder how an adoptee can want to find their biological family. If you are not adopted, then you know WHERE you came from. You have that knowledge of your family history, you grandfather this, your grandmother that. It's just THERE, and you just know it.

If you ARE adopted, then you don't have the simplest knowledge of things in your biological CULTURE.

Sent by kealoha | 12:05 PM | 6-11-2008