Yesterday I participated on a panel at the Annual Adoption Conference of New England held in Milford, MA. The first thing I noticed when I walked into the conference were the large number of adoption agencies and prospective (predominantly white) parents racing back and forth looking at posterboards of children from all over the world taking notes in their ACONE supllied folders.

It was like a marketplace. This wasn’t the first time I had encountered something like this before, but I couldn’t but feel powerless. I was the product, or an investment. Like a CD I had finally matured to my fullest capicity and here I was on display for all to see the potential investment that could be had. If felt surreal walking up a hallway seeing endless walls of adoption “counsellers” (also predominantly white) dotting the floorplan of what had become a worldwide adoption menu. I approached the check-in table and inquired about where my presentation room would be. The lady behind the table pulled out a floor diagram pointing to the room I would be in. “Just follow the walls of vendors-ahem I mean adoption advocates, and you’ll see your room right before the court yard.” At least someone else noticed the consumeristic through-line here.

The panel went well-productively I thought. Most of the parents in the room asked intelligent questions and seemed to genuinely want our opinions to help raise their children. Others seemed indifferent and forced by their partner to come and “hear us out.” One woman towards the end of the program put me on the spot with a question that I wasn’t quite ready for.

“I was wondering, as an adoptee with adopted siblings of different ethnicities, do you think it would be more important to construct my family with all Korean adoptees, or with a multiracial family?”

I’m still sort of plowing through what I should have said without much luck. It was an interesting experience, and with each experience I’m able to compile new insights that hopefully can help a-parents grapple with adoption. Hopefully next time I’ll be more prepared.


7 Comments on “ACONE

  1. Hey, actually, I’d like to know the answer to that question, too. After you have time to give it some thought, I hope you’ll post about it.

  2. Stupid rich white imperialist assholes!!! They order babies like a bunch of yuppies ordering McDonalds!!! They only care about how they look to their yuppie friends!!

    You know what should really be focused on?? How these white jerks are taking away opportunities from Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese adults looking to adopt Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese babies (repsectively, of course)!!! Literally!! I bet these horrible, underfunded orphanages have tons of racially appropriate adults just banging down their doors, only to be turned away because white assholes want (what would have been) their babies!!

    Ignorant, stupid white bastards!

  3. VA,

    Thanks for your comment. I think many of us can agree on the consumeristic, and global capitalism involved within transracial adoption. I do think that for the most part many prospective a-parents do not quite understand the historical, or the racial undertones that exist within starting a transracial family. In fact many grapple on to the common agency mission statement of philanthropic, misguided religious humanitarian garbage.

    I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic when discussing how there are individuals in these countries who are seeking out adoptions, but I hardly agree this is the case. Perhaps in some European countries, but in many Asian countries domestic adoption is not necessarily the top of the list in terms of starting a family. I know that in Korea it’s still somewhat of a social stigma, despite the Korean government’s recent attempt at raising awareness. Many of these families in Korea who do adopt domestically don’t even tell their children because of the potential discrimination they might face.

    I think that I agree for the most part that perhaps the money going into intercountry adoption could be spent more wisely by strengthening social welfare systems that provide assistance to many un-wed mothers who are forced to give their children up for adoption due to the social stigma of having a child out of wed-lock. That as a jumping off point, I agree that there is really no shortage families from Asian sending countries who are looking to start families. But I do think that it is hard to encourage domestic adoption when government’s such as Korea profit so heartily on sending children to other countries. Furthermore, the acceptance of domestic adoption is still not largely accepted and would be unable to accomodate despite a social welfare program that does provide assistance to birth mothers and families.

    I agree with you in most of your analyses. But I don’t think that this means that there aren’t any a-parents who are particularly sensitive to these concerns. There are a select few who don’t necessarily understand these issues but are making a concerted effort. I agree with your analysis but I hope that we as adoptees can create these dialogues not as a way to alienate (although I sometimes feel as though I want to) but to raise awareness of the many racial consequences that questions such as these raise. I get just as pissed and upset by these sort of comments and questions too. The next step is whether we can educate a-parents of their inherent misunderstandings related to white privilege, class privilege, neo-liberalism, and their privileged ability to access adoption as an option within reproductive technologies.

  4. Wow, thanks for your very articulate and thoughtful response to that comment.

    I just wanted to add that we have neighbors who are Chinese citizens living in the U.S. They are not legally able adopt a Chinese child, though they would very much like to. Apparently there is NO legal system for Chinese children to be adopted by Chinese citizens. I was really surprised by that.

    So, intracountry adoption does face economic, social, and even legal barriers in various countries. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be promoted more (I firmly believe it should), but it is true that major systemic changes need to take place before it can become widespread.

    Thanks again for your response and for your commitment to education and dialogue with APs.

  5. Hi Kendra,

    Thanks for commenting. Are you saying that your Chinese American neighbors are not U.S. citizens, or permanent residents etc.? It’s an important distinction to make, because as far as I’m aware, there aren’t restrictions based on racial family make up in the United States.

    I just wanted to reiterate what I mentioned before. I do believe that while there are largely institutional level changes needing to occur to address many of these important issues, this does not relieve the burden from a-parents completely. We must wage campaigns toward adoption agencies and governments that acknowledge these issues, while also making space to challenge the racial component of parenting within a transracial family. Adoption agencies effectively misrepresent transracial families by asserting assimilationist rhetoric boasting that such Asian adopted babies are easily moldable into mainstream “white American families.” For the purpose of marketing, they must prove such statistics in order to “sell” their product. And yes I am using “sell” because I think it is an appropriate term to apply when we are talking about adoption within the overarching institutional level of capitalism where there is a supply, demand, and inevitably a profit to be made. Sure, agencies need to be able to reach out to families to promote adoption, but in doing so their marketing techniques are dangerously denying many important factors needed to consider when understanding the makeup of a transracial family.

    What I’m trying to say is, while we must include global capitalism in our analyses of transracial adoption, that cannot take away the importance of education and (as my partner would say) “decolonizing parents.” What is meant by this is exactly what I highlighted above. Those white parents who are looking to transracially adopt, must be able to recognize first their privileged status in the form of their ability to adopt. I find that many well-meaning a-parents find it easier to cling to this globalized approach because it’s something that is abstract, and indirect as it is more institutional in nature. But similarly, on an institutional level a-parents must confront the racial nature surrounding transracial adoption. I could go on but I think I have derailed off track enough as it is.

    I just wanted to make clear that there’s a lot to take in for a-parents. There’s a lot to consider, and understand, and it’s not an easy learning process. I’m currently undertaking such a process with my a-parents as they are attempting to grapple with these very same issues. I am glad that I can attempt to supply my a-parents with the proper education, but I think largely these sort of roles are only facilitated by what many call the “angry adoptee.” Meaning, those adoptees willing to confront adoption issues and confront their a-parents’ misinformation, ignorance, and privileged status. What I’m trying to say is this. The process of decolonizing and stripping away at the inability for many a-parents to see their privilege, and inevitably the U.S. racial hierarchy (which is tied into the U.S. wealth gap), is too often placed in the laps of adoptees.

    For a long time now, race relations in this country have been plagued by a perverse myth that it is the job of people of color to inform white people of how race, racism etc work since they are the ones being effected by it. It is just as much if not more the role of white people to confront these issues as it is for people of color. In this same vain, the flow of information and education between adoptee and a-parents needs to also acknowledge this. If a-parents truly care about the well-being of their children, there needs to be much more effort to tackle these issues head on. It’s hard, and not many a-parents can understand what it means to transracially parent, but it is their obligation to attempt. Thanks for being present for these dialogues, and I encourage you, whether you are an a-parent or a prospective a-parent to continue to learning about these issues.

  6. Right, they’re not U.S. citizens. They are living here, but still hold Chinese citizenship. Since they aren’t U.S. citizens, they can’t go through the system that most people in this country use when adopting from China. The Chinese government has no procedures in place for them to adopt a Chinese child.

    They are actually considering adopting from Cambodia (open to China, but currently not the U.S.) as an alternative.

  7. Kendra – I’m guessing the snafu with your neighbors being unable to adopt from China has to do with their residency gumming up the works for China. I’ve been told that China has a good domestic adoption program, and that they have structured the international adoptions in a way that they lose money adopting their children out of the country. Odds are the bureaucrats never considered the possibility of Chinese ex-pats wanting to adopt.

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