John Seabrook NPR Segment

Some of you may recall John Seabrook’s recent article that appeared in the New Yorker on adoption from Haiti.  Well here’s a follow up to his story which appeared on NPR’s Fresh Air program.  The story smacked of “saving children through adoption,” and labeling adult adoptee perspectives as “ungrateful/angry.”

Let’s talk about the host, Terry Gross, whose last name aptly describes how I was feeling after listening to her carelessly quip about saving children and the history of “baby-lifts” in international adoption.

But I think perhaps it’s the most maddening to hear John Seabrook, whose only expertise in adoption is the initial research he has done in thinking about his own life as an adoptive father of a Haitian adoptee,  essentialize the entire history of international adoption.  He systematically denies the social contexts of these countries at the time their adoption programs began, and from a very America-centric/imperialistic point of view,  asserts that corruption occurs ONLY in “poor countries,” since they are more prone to be corrupted by their urge to make money…He later remarks almost smugly on how terrible it is that such a wonderful experience (allegedly for the adoptive parent and adoptee) comes out of such tragedy.  I won’t get into it right now, since that could be a totally different post given the circumstances in Haiti, which he tries to acknowledge only to wipe out his own credibility by saying the latter.

He leads the listeners to believe that those adult adoptees making their mark either through film, book, etc. portray painful experiences (he omits questions of race) and that an adoptees’ seemingly “primal” pain can be cured by trips to ones birth country.  As much as he compares adult adoptee experiences to mere “emotional baggage” he exposes his own hand as an adoptive father with relatively no understanding of race, what it means to parent a child of color, and how his “emotions” potentially drive his own opinions on the historical context of adoption.  Seabrook goes on to describe how he hopes his daughter doesn’t grow up feeling angry about her circumstances…

Of course there is always a question about how well an adoptee is “Adapting,” using pathologized and over-essentialized language like “grieving, loss and trauma” to position his own child (who is supposedly the happiest child he has ever seen), in the percentile of adoptees who did not experience or WILL NOT experience such feelings in the past or later in life.

And, sadly he goes on about how when thinking about international adoption, he and his wife believed they had more of a connection with Haiti and how they felt they could represent Haitian culture to their daughter Rose more than perhaps adopting an African American baby or other baby of color.  Again, this statement itself could be an entirely different post.

Overall, the segment left me feeling as though I was not allowed to socially critique adoption without becoming an “angry adoptee,” and that what I perceive to be my scholarly opinions (based on REAL research), are misleading since they are based on my “feelings.” The piece was totally misrepresentative of the WHOLE adoptee experience and it left me questioning how one with such little knowledge on adoption could be called on for a national radio program to discuss the history and alleged “merits” of international adoption.  Would it be so hard to acknowledge that perhaps the best people to call on to discuss international adoption might just be, the one affected the most by it i.e. the adoptee?  No.  The media seems to prefer to turn to the perspectives of adoptive parents who can tie things off with pretty bows denying that there are huge problems with international adoption, policies, and that for every seemingly “happy ending” there is extreme tragedy when a birth family is broken whether it is through “voluntary” or “involuntary” circumstances.

If you care to listen to this cringe-worthy segment, please click the link below.

125 Comments on “John Seabrook NPR Segment

  1. But aren’t you doing just what you’re saying I’m doing — using my experience of adoption to make a more general point about the rightness (or I guess, in your case, wrongness) of international adoption. You seem to have had an unhappy experience. So far our experience has been happy. I think anyone who reads my piece, or listens to the NPR broadcast, will take away, among other things, that the situation is fraught with peril, often born of heartbreak, and doesn’t always work out for the best. But every study I have seen shows that in most cases international adoption does work out for the best.

    There are 157 million orphans in the world. A lot of them are in orphanages, and the only hope they have of getting out is international adoption. Every study I have seen shows that children in foster care or adoptive families do better than children in orphanages. The most recent study, published in the latest issue of the journal Science, found that toddlers placed in foster families developed significantly higher I.Q.’s by age 4, on average, than peers who spent those years in an orphanage.

    The difference was large — eight points — and the study found that the earlier children joined a foster family, the better they did. Children who moved from institutional care to families after age 2 made few gains on average, though the experience varied by child. Both groups, however, had significantly lower I.Q.’s than a comparison group of children raised by their biological families.

    In an ideal world, everyone would remain in the families they were born into. Obviously we don’t live in an ideal world, and many children have no family at all. Sad, but that is the case. What’s your solution?

    • Hi! I am responding to the comment made by John Seabrook. I am the mother of a 4 year old daughter adopted from China. I feel that Mr. Seabrook is greatly underestimating the incredible contribution that today’s adult adoptees can make to the current parents of young adopted children.

      Yes, I have experienced the joy of adoption. Yes, to me it is wonderful and rosy. Yes, my child is happy and healthy and well adjusted. But she is only 4 years old. With age will come questions about her origins and confusion as she tries to find herself as she navigates the water to adulthood. It’s hard enough for a biological child growing up in a similar community but obviously compounded when the child is seen by others as different or feels like he/she is different.

      I applaud the adult adoptees who share their experiences. I know everyone is different and so there are sure to be many different views expressed but the adult adoptees depending on their families, communities, personality.

      As for me, I value every opportunity I have to glean as much information as I can to help my daughter as we start this path in life together.

      • I just want to say a big, “Thank You!!” to Mrs. Lee Anne Bryant for her comment!! It put a smile on my face 🙂

    • John – your comments are those of a typically arrogant ‘white male’ and no, we, the International Adoptee will NOT shut-up and be ‘grateful’ simply to stroke your ‘white male’ ego nor of those fools who choose to follow and be blinded by the ‘white male’ hype (as I see it). I am talking about your selfish ability to think about noone but yourselves. Our countries and cultures have been raped by your ‘white’ ancestors. And yours & others actions of international adoption continue this rape saga. Current affairs in economically developing countries are a direct RESULT of this rape, plundering and disease! Poverty is a ‘white males’ creation and the fools who were blinded by the ‘white mans’ hype.

      It is a good thing that you have made yourself public as it only re-enforces your ‘white male’ arrogance. And for all the reasons that you stated as to why International adoption should be condoned is precisely why it needs to be put to an end. FULL STOP. People like you do not want to ‘help’, you just want your ego stroked. Be honest with yourself. Many ‘white’ folk that I have come across love to see themselves as such ‘victims’. The REAL victims are the CHILDREN. They never asked to be born, they never asked to be adopted, they never asked to be sent back to their country if their adoptive parents did not want them anymore! Yes there are children in need. Do you really believe that uprooting them from their place of birth, culture & surrounds is the solution? Have you considered supporting communities to re-build themselves instead so that children are not faced with the trauma of separation? IF you and all your supporters really wanted to help you would think along those lines rather than fueling a practice that only encourages child trafficking and turning international adoptions into a multi-billion industry.

      I know my comments will not move you, because your basic motive is not to help children from economically developing countries, it is for your own selfish gain. Trust me I know many international adoptees who have had good experiences living with their ‘white’ adoptive families, but who non-the-less are strongly fighting against international adoption. I also know many who have had absolutely revoltingly inhumane experiences and as I quote one adoptee ‘International adoption is a gold-mine for pedophiles’.

      John, disruptions and abuse in adoption do need to be exposed, because they DO happen and they portray the TRUTH. Something that we adoptees are denied of and then labeled as ‘angry’, ’emotional’ and everything else that you mentioned when we search for this – the TRUTH. How dare you dismiss and belittle a birth parents right to know which family their child will be placed with and an adoptees wish to search when older?!. You have birth children right? Imagine your country experienced a natural disaster and you lost all your monetary comforts, but all you had was your children, but some foreign country came to your country and took your children (without your consent and/ or your knowledge) throwing a few penny’s in your hands saying ‘there you go, that should do it’. Tell me John how would you feel and how do you think your children would feel? But the foreign people would just tell you and your children ‘ Oh, its for the best, Oh, I’m doing this out of the goodness of my heart, Oh, I’m acting like a good christian!’ Would that not make you boil with rage, would you not feel stripped of all dignity & humanity?

      John, one more thing: We are not countries you can conquer, we are not here to solve ANY of your problems (which I know you have many), so keep your fingers away from us. If you really want to help us, LISTEN to the adult adoptees AND help our communities to develop so that children can stay in their countries and serve their countries like yours do in your countries. To ensure that inhumane acts like those of your ancestors are never EVER repeated in today’s world. If you live in the states, never forget how your ancestors acquired the USA, it was through rape, plunder, theft and disease. All I see with International Adoption is a continuation of these practices under the guise of religion. Trust me I am no mans fool and least of all the ‘white males’ fool. My thoughts are with your adopted children. They do not deserve this.

    • Dear Mr. Seabrook,

      It’s interesting that you repeatedly mention “studies” (and who are those studies authored by? How many of those researchers are white adoptive parents themselves?) to bolster your arguments but not the perspectives of any real people who have actually lived through and continue to live with the experience of being adopted transracially and transnationally. Think about that. As a journalist, you should be well aware of the irreplaceable value of first person experiences and narratives vs. studies, which can be reductive and abstract. I assume that you became a journalist because you’re, in some way, fascinated by human stories and not just statistics. You might want to start brushing up on the scholarly research being done by scholars who are not focusing solely on markers such as IQ and benchmarks such as “adjustment.”

  2. “You seem to have had an unhappy experience. So far our experience has been happy.”

    Please stop pathologizing. KAD Nexus is not an unhappy adoptee just because he’s critical of the problems in the institution of adoption. There is absolutely nothing in this post that characterizes him as an unhappy adoptee. He’s an adoptee who studies adoption and therefore his remarks are just as valid as yours. You hope your daughter won’t be angry when she grows older; if she thinks critically about international adoption, will you also label her “unhappy”? Will you attempt to dismiss and silence her voice?

    “In an ideal world, everyone would remain in the families they were born into.”

    In an ideal world, children and families wouldn’t be so easily broken up; poverty and gendered violence and capitalism and entitlement wouldn’t drive and sustain a market of children available for adoption. One solution is to look beyond the surface – ie, the numbers of children in orphanages – and to examine the systemic issues that “create” so many so-called orphans in the first place. Once we start addressing those, perhaps we can lower the number of children available for adoption.

  3. My point is that adoptive parents are more often not, the ones contacted as the “experts” when the media comes calling for opinions on adoption. As adoptees, our voices are largely ignored, or regarded as “unhappy” or “ungrateful” which totally ignores the validity of what we are saying. By calling what I say as “unhappy” makes it seem as though what I say is not valid, and that in order to be “happy” or what I think you mean is “well-adjusted” (a term I also detest) that I MUST view every aspect of adoption as positive. All I am asking for is for adoptive parents to think more compassionately about the experiences about adoptees. Especially in situations of transracial adoption, our voices are not coming from an “unhappy” place, our voices are a result of how we are treated as children and adults of color in the U.S. This is not about being happy or unhappy, this about how children of color are raised by Caucasian parents in this country. Still, in your comment you fail to address the complexities of parenting a child of color.

    I appreciate the time you took to read these studies, which I’m sure have some validity. But have you stopped and read qualitative studies from adult adoptees before? And if you have, what have they told you exactly? These “children” you are referring to eventually become adults. In your studies, did anyone talk about their experiences with racism growing up? Did any of these studies talk about how their race being different than yours, or those in their community growing up can affect their racial identity development?

    I’m not denying that children with families are healthier. No need to give me those statistics, I’m just asking that you stop ignoring the racial implications. I’m asking you to think about your child as an adult. I’m asking you to think about what it means for you to be Caucasian and for your daughter to grow up a person of color.

    My question is this, if this is REALLY about doing what’s right for children and to live in “… an ideal world… where everyone would remain in the families they were born into,” why aren’t people giving money to help stabilize social infrastructure in these countries, to help unwed mothers care for their children, to help reduce the social stigmas of having children out of wedlock, to get these children into families in the countries they were born in with proper schooling etc., etc.

    Adoption does not erase the color line in your family. Nor does it erase the history that your child had in Haiti. These are very real issues your child will deal with whether you like it or not. I am pleading with you to accept this and try to understand what I’m saying, for the sake of your daughter. It’s great that you are being so public about your adoption story, but think about how your daughter might feel when she grows up to find links of you talking about her in such a removed way. If you haven’t already, take a look at the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute’s report on the first Gathering of Korean Adoptees. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Institute before. Read it, and see what adult adoptees say about race. Are we all disillusioned, or in your words, “unhappy?” Or perhaps is it that in many cases, adoptive parents are not equipped to understand the racial implications for their child? Maybe it’s not your fault, maybe it was the agency’s job to prepare you and they didn’t. I would agree with that. But now, it’s your responsibility.

    And finally, despite the fact that we disagree, I’m glad you responded to my post. It’s not often that the people I blog about read and respond. I hope this will lead to more dialogue. -GS

  4. “You seem to have had an unhappy experience.” — @Mr. Seabrook, for the record, adoptees’ lifetime experiences cannot be easily summed up into “happy” or “unhappy,” and having legitimate criticisms about the institution of transnational adoption does not automatically mean that a particular adoptee had an “unhappy experience.” I wonder, however, if you will be immune to anything adult adoptees have to say that might be contrary to your opinions, given that it’s far too easy to dismiss us as being “bitter” (as you so neatly did in your New Yorker article re: Jane Jeong Trenka’s first memoir), “angry” or having had an “unhappy experience.”

    If people in receiving countries were really that concerned about the welfare of children in sending countries, given that studies show that children fare the best when kept with their biological families, AND when it is known that many children in orphanages in fact DO have living relatives, then why don’t people in receiving countries sponsor these families, so that they CAN keep their children, instead of taking their children for their own? Doesn’t that say something paternalistic and neocolonialist about who is better fit to parent and which country is better to be raised in?

  5. Mr. Seabrook,

    I think the problem that many of us adult adoptees of color are having is with the binary that you and many others set up in these discussions. It’s as if the only choices are “the adoption industry as it is” or “leaving children to perish in a vastly imperfect child welfare system or in an equally imperfect family or home country.” When we limit our discussions to these terms, we limit our ability to see the possible, and to imagine otherwise. It also precludes us from discussing very important issues of power, which are at the very center of IA, TRA, and every discussion of adoption (since we know that when we are talking about IA and TRA, we are also talking about inequalities in terms of economics, race, gender, war and militarism, education, etc.).

    Since we did not create the mess that we can call the current adoption industry, we resist the notion that we should be responsible for finding a viable solution for it. We also resist the assertion that the best solution to poor and neglected children’s situations around the world is to be adopted by loving middle class white parents in the Global North who are largely unwilling to interrogate their own privilege — or, who like you, seem to be willing to do so, but are instead unwilling to change your behavior based on it.

    If anything, the “solution” you ask for is one that this post points to: We need more voices weighing in on the debate. The very studies you point to are *incredibly* biased by all accounts, often executed by white adoptive parents who are also social workers, researchers, etc. who don’t identify as such, but have a deep personal investment in “finding” that IA and TRA are “remarkably successful” for all parties involved. Just like you had an investment in viewing these institutions as positive, on the whole. And yes, just as adult adoptees of color have an investment in critiquing the terms of the “exchange,” and advocating for a more complex view of the social experiment known as TRA — one that necessarily looks as race and class as just as important determinants of “successful” adoptions, and does not just look at outcomes for 0-20-year-olds (many of us argue that you have to look at outcomes and identities of adoptees who are in their 30s, when they have lived a little and have had to negotiate the complexities of work, personal relationships, and are out from under the watchful eye of their parents and desire to please them and see things their way, in order to really understand the positives and negatives of TRA). Adoptees ourselves, birth parents, and activists from sending countries are currently changing the terms of the debate by voicing our experiences and questioning these limiting binaries — but as Nate points out, we don’t get nearly as much airtime and news holes as APs still espousing the dominant views do. This is quite frustrating to us, as contrary to the “angry adoptee” stereotype, we are quite concerned for the adoptees coming behind us, and want to make sure they don’t have to go through so much of the racial, familial, and other pain that we did.

    I did read your article in THE NEW YORKER, and shared much of Nate’s frustrations (as did many of my adoptee colleagues and friends). I was troubled yet again by the adoptee as merely a commodity to be “traded” in the global market of trade — there was not even the glimmer of critique in the whole thousands of words article — and I was equally troubled by the sense of “colonial nostalgia” you have about the institution of IA in general, that “it may not be here for much longer because people are fighting to shut it down and improve the situation for women, children in families in poor countrie, so I am so happy I get to participate it in while it’s still around.”

    I will never understand why so many adoptive parents think IA is such a good thing, in comparison to domestic adoption, since there is “no chance” that their child will be able to make contact with their home family and culture. Hearing the pain of so many friends and colleagues who are international adoptees, because they will NEVER be able to find out their health and/or personal family histories, meet any of their biological families, etc., has really been difficult. I wish more APs thought of it that way.

    Finally, Holt is not the shining jewel of child welfare that you present it to be. You might want to probe its history more deeply.

    • Thank you Shannon, I couldn’t agree with you more.
      Warm Regards

  6. I’m sick of adoption advocates trotting out the “it’s better to have bad adoption practices than institutionalized children” argument. I’m tired of “experts” say that biology and birth rights are trivial.

    They’re imperialistic, paternalistic, first world colonizers (usually white) who keep imposing their white values of “nuclear families”, “high IQ”, “better education”, “better jobs”, “more money” above traditional values of the societies where international and domestic American adoptees (Native and Black communities, especially) come from.

    Not everyone in this world considers material wealth or western education more important than traditional knowledge. Not everyone in the world considers poverty a burden. Not everyone in the world sees culture as superficial. Not everyone believes that death is a bad thing.

    Stop imposing your beliefs and values on us. Stop indoctrinating us with your ideas. Stop believing you’re such a savior. Stop taking us from our indigenous lands. Stop judging our mores. Stop taking our native environments and forcing us to relocate ourselves.

  7. Obviously you are well versed in international adoption, research and such. I am curious how many adult adoptees you have spoken to personally and know the intimate details of their lives?

    Perhaps Mr. Seabrook would be willing to speak to a group of adult adoptees at a luncheon?

    We are not statistics from a study but living beings with stories; the good, the bad and sometimes the VERY ugly. I do not discount studies but believe in human interaction, interfacing and dialoguing to find real answers.

    I concur with Nate, that adoptive parents, adoption agencies/professionals need to offer an equal balance and provide the pov of the adoptees.

    So when are we meeting for lunch?

    Adopted from the Philippines

    • Ha, ha. Love this! Yes, more direct dialogue is definitely needed. Count me in, would love to be part of the luncheon! I was adopted from Bangladesh and currently reside in the UK.

      Warm Regards

  8. I find it to be an extremely irresponsible act for Mr. Seabrook to assume the blogger in this case has had an “unhappy experience”. All adoptees, both child and adult have a right to be defined by more then just the words angry, bitter or unhappy. Each of these terms seem to be used as labels by those on the other sides of the Adoption Triads from Us. Would it be equivalent for me to say that Mr. Seabrook must have only had happy experiences in his life, and that he must lack the ability to feel emotion beyond happy?

    We exist as a group of people who are told consistently that we should be grateful for the lives that we have. If we aren’t, something must have gone wrong with our adoptions. Why should the biological child be any less grateful for the lives that they have been born into, but are never actively reminded by society as a whole to BE thankful?

    I am puzzled however by why Mr. Seabrook seems to have a solid grasp on the importance of family for a child, but does not seek to adopt the children in orphanages or foster care within the boundaries of his own country? There would certainly be less of a need on his part to find ways to share culture or adopt a like-skinned child to soften the blows of racism that’s coming fast on the heels of his Haitian born child’s introduction to the world.

    The media needs to be reminded that as an Adult Adoptee, we are experts as well. Many of us are willing to share our stories, our experiences, our lives and views with others. We will not always agree, but an open mind and a good dialouge would be far better then flinging the word Unhappy at Us.

  9. Great post – thanks for writing this. I appreciate and have appreciated your insight, research, and experience with Trans-racial adoption as posted in your blog. I think your posts always bring up great dialogue, which is exactly what is needed.

    I think one of the problems with media attention to adoption is that is focuses so much on the adoption process, and from the adoptive parents’ perspectives. There isn’t enough well-publicized media on the stories of adult adoptees or research (which many adoptees create or participate in) focusing on adult adoptees. The stories of adoption as something that affects people on a life-long spectrum are woefully underrepresented.

    Mr. Seabrook mentions the stories of adult adoptees in his interview, and calls them “canaries in the coal mine” stating that the first Korean adoptees are “only now 55 years old”, and that “We haven’t seen a whole life lived through of an adopted, internationally adopted child yet” and that it’s “an ongoing social experiment”. I see this as a problematic, but typical response. At what point do our adult lives and opinions become valid? When does this stop being a “social experiment”? Do adoptees have to start dying at an old age before we can have a valid “whole life”?

    I am a 29 year old Korean adoptee, and the adoptees I know who do speak about their lives are people who are in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s. They are single, married, divorced, straight, gay, bisexual. They have their own children, some biological, some were adopted, or have no children. They have GEDs, college degrees, PhD’s, MDs. They own their own business, have high-ranking and low-ranking jobs, they have been happy, depressed, joyful, in a rut, mad, glad, and everything in between. They are so different and complex – how can what they have lived not yet be a valid life? Or not yet given them the ability to speak intelligently, meaningfully about their own lives?

    I have met the author of this blog and many artists, writers, and filmmakers who have created works out of their experiences as adult adoptees, incuding Jane Jeong Trenka. Some works do include unhappy thoughts, things that are hard to swallow. But simply because they give voice to these thoughts, they are often labeled with the stereotype of the “bitter/angry adoptee”, as if these thoughts represent their entire life and being. And people often let that overshadow any other way we could view what they are saying.

    If the opinions/research/feelings/emotions of adoptees are continued to be reduced to equations of: Uncritical=Happy, Critical=Unhappy; Happy = Valid, Unhappy = Invalid, then how can we continue to have meaningful dialogue on what is a very complex issue? How can we move on from representing adoption as a singular incident to the reality of something that affects adoptees, adoptive families, birth families (mothers, fathers, siblings and half-siblings, etc.), and adoptees’ children and spouses and partners for their entire lives? How can we speak about how domestic/transracial/transnational adoption affects race and ethnicity and identity and family and what it means now and in the future?

    I don’t have any perfect solutions for children without families, but at least in the area of international adoption, let’s start by getting everyone at the same table. Let’s recognize, that right now, we have adopted adults who are willing and eager to voice their opinions, to share our research and experiences from our perspective. And that we’ll listen to everyone else’s voice too (We just listened to Mr. Seabrook, didn’t we?). And that any voices regarding international adoption, no matter how critical or “unhappy” they might seem, are worth listening to without blindly invalidating the person who told it.

    And, Mr. Seabrook, in regards to the higher IQ that Adoptees supposedly get – We’re definitely using it, so listen up.

  10. But you aren’t listening to me. That’s the thing I was saying earlier — you’re seeing me as you want to see me, not as I actually am. Which is why these discussions about adoption are so useless.
    You, for example, are twisting my remarks about not having lived a whole life through and hearing them as though I’m saying your opinion isn’t valid. Which is no way what my words say. In fact, the opposite. And then using that straw man as a way to come to conclusion that everyone has to sit at the same table and discuss — which is exactly what I said at the beginning. Or posters above are dragging out the tired grad school put down “binary” to characterize my views on adoption, and then proceeding to see all adoptive white parents as racists or imperialists or neocolonialists. Talk about a binary!
    The weird thing to me about these discussions is the opinion end up sounding like the opinions of the 1950’s social workers — that people shouldn’t be encouraged to adopt interracially because it violates some kind of law of nature, or God, or multiculturalism, or political correctness. Somehow and racists and multiculturists have ended up on the same side. Which is one of the weirder ironies of history.
    Hey, I’m not an adoptee! I had almost nothing in common with my parents — and I was born that way! My piece is a first person account written from the point of view of an adoptive parent. It doesn’t pretend to have any special knowledge of what adoptees think about their experience, and in fact says explicitly that my only information came from books. I’m not planning on writing a follow up on the adoptees experience. I only wandered in here because when someone was “quoting” words I never said, mischaracterizing my “sad” delusions that my wife and I could actually believe we could have a connection with a Haitian child, all of which made him cringe, poor fellow.

    • John, don’t try to worm your way out of this one. You have contradicted yourself several times now. You say your statements are singular, coming just from you and yet on your first comment you back up everything you say with what other adoptive parents have said/ experienced. Maybe this should be a lesson to you that open discussion with living, breathing international adoptees may be more valid and realistic than theories and stats from a book? In the best interest of your adopted child from Haiti, has it ever crossed your mind that you could perhaps learn a thing or two from us, the adult adoptee? Maybe?

      And yes, I believe that international adoption is not the solution for any society as it only breeds child trafficking practices and makes it a money making business. For that reason I believe international adoption should be stopped. Full stop. Supporting communities and allowing them to develop and grow is for me a far healthier and humane option. Wouldn’t you agree?

      My thoughts are with your adopted child.

    • Your quick dismissal of the “opinions of 1950s social workers” makes me think you received a bunk history lesson somewhere down the line. Go figure. Clearly race issues in our country have progressed since the 50s – as has everything – but I believe you were aiming to point out the ludacracy of such optinions, right? Maybe you have read the NABSW’s CURRENT stance in support of same race adoptive placements when possible . . . a position aimed at building strength and solidairty within the black community? Because that’s happening now, in 2010. Google it. And, for your daughter’s sake, I hope you’ll broaden your horizons and tap into what’s currently being researched and considered best adoption practice (at least by those who are not profiting from the industry).

      I wonder what are you afraid of losing by acknowledging that it may be easier for a black child to identify with black parents and black community than with the white community? Consider being raised as the only white child in an Ethiopian family in Ethiopia or a Chinese family China. Can you even imagine that experience? No, probably not. The adoptees who are critical of your statements are living the reality of the situation. You may write well but they know well. Love, connection, toys, clothes, college, church, your white priviledge . . . all the wonderful things you can and surely will provide to your child will not mask or change her reality. Do you not see that we Americans eat, sleep and breathe a racist, imperialist, neocolonial society? It’s not something to scoff at. It’s reality and as a parent of a black child in this country, you’d better figure out how to prepare your child for it. And though it may be easier to take the comments from adoptees as personal attacks on your character, your race – whatever, these will be the same people to reach out to your daughter and support her through the feelings and experiences you may never understand. Someday that will be worth so much to you and your daughter. You should celebrate the critism and learn from it. And you should have considered that fact before making the public statements you’ve made.

    • “…poor fellow”? Seriously? “But you aren’t listening to me?” I don’t think you could sound more like a petulant child if you had tried.

      “Or posters above are dragging out the tired grad school put down “binary” to characterize my views on adoption, and then proceeding to see all adoptive white parents as racists or imperialists or neocolonialists.” If the shoe fits Mr. Seabrook. Read the comments again. For the most part, the posters you refer to were not characterizing ALL adoptive white parents as racists or imperialists or neocolonialists. They were charactering IA and TRA as these things.

      All in all I think my friend Sarah Kim is right when she wrote, “I wonder, however, if you will be immune to anything adult adoptees have to say that might be contrary to your opinions, given that it’s far too easy to dismiss us as being “bitter” (as you so neatly did in your New Yorker article re: Jane Jeong Trenka’s first memoir), “angry” or having had an “unhappy experience.””

  11. Hello all, and thank you Nate for hosting this discussion.

    I have read Mr. Seabrook’s article, and I would like to reply with some facts.

    Mr. Seabrook mentioned the Holt agency in his New Yorker article as having built a reputation for ethical conduct. The Korean government audited the Holt agency in Korea in 2008 and 2009. Some of the findings:

    They found that Holt was in violation of various government guidelines. They overcharged for international adoptions; they promoted int’l adoptions over domestic adoptions; they overused the escort system; and they miscategorized over 13% of their budget.

    You can read more about it in Part 3 of this four-part article.

    Part 4, which was written months before the New Yorker article came out, is titled, “Sweet False Generosity Makes Bitter Adoptees.” (I thought, why not go with it.)

    In “The Last Babylift,” Mr. Seabrook said, “Also, domestic birth mothers often change their minds about giving up their children. That doesn’t happen as much in international adoptions … For all these reasons, we decided that international adoption made the most sense for us.”

    Please stop and think for a moment about why it might appear that mothers overseas might not “change their minds” so much. I was designated for international adoption on the very same day that my mother brought me to the orphanage. How could she “change her mind”?

    Read about abuses that include in the most ethical adoption country, Korea, here:

    I am an adoptee who is frequently made angry by the **structural violence** inherent in mass international adoption as it is practiced. I am in fact righteously OUTRAGED.

    If you know these facts, and you are still not outraged, I wonder — does your heart beat?

    Best regards to all, from Seoul.

    • Thank you so much for this, I think these FACTS should help ‘white’ adoptive parents to make a more educated decision before adopting. Unfortunately practices such as those of Holt encourage the uneducated and most ignorant of people to adopt such innocents. It is an outrage and one of complete inhumanity.

  12. Sadly, I don’t think you are hearing us either. We have extended open invitations to have a conversation with you and to let you hear us.

    I don’t see one post stating that IA is against nature or God, simply that we as adoptees can never say what the best road in life would have been for us since the choices were made for us.

    Personally, I’m offended that you would compare our differences or similarities to our AP’s to whether or not you, Mr. Seabrook were anything like your parents and you were “born that way”. Once again you are dismissing our voices through comparison to your experiences.

  13. I feel so proud of the adoptees and allies who so generously took on the education of Mr. Seabrook, who comes off as a supremely entitled and woefully ignorant adoptive parent. There is so much wisdom collected here in the original post and in the comments.

    Thankfully, we can anticipate that his daughter will grow up to be welcomed into an accepting community of like-minded adult adoptees and allies who can validate what will most likely be her own painful experience of being raised by a misguided and unprepared father who never bothered to examine his privilege, and who refused to own up to his complicity in taking advantage of the global adoption industry.

  14. Dear Mr. Seabrook,

    No one is seeing you as *you think* they’re seeing you, but rather they’re contributing their researched and experiential knowledge to this thread to talk about the complexities of overseas adoption. No one is calling adoptive parents racist or imperialist. In fact, other adoptive parents share the view that adoption requires a more nuanced and thoughtful perspective, which your New Yorker piece sidestepped during key moments. Please visit, an adoptive parent blog, to see how others parents are equally as critical of your essay for very similar reasons as the adoptee community represented here in this thread.

    It’s important that adoptive parents inform themselves about adoption’s irregularities in order to be stronger advocates. Adoptive parents such as David Smolin and Richard Boas have made significant contributions toward thinking through the structural reasons why families continue to be vulnerable to adoption. As fathers like you, they’ve engaged with their children’s lives and first families’ experiences and sought to respond proactively to social injustices deeply entrenched in their adoption experiences. Like the adoptees in dialogue with you now, Smolin and Boas among others recognize that adoption need not be practiced as it’s currently done but that it can be improved to be more equitable, more empowering for all. Furthermore, they acknowledge that becoming defensive or blind out of fear does not help us to critique structural asymmetries that perpetuate unethical practices.

    So rather than becoming defensive and blind, please be open minded with an open heart. This is not about political correctness or other caricatured abstractions but rather about people’s lives — your child’s family and hers before she became your child that cannot be bracketed or looked past despite geographical or cultural distance. And because you’ve published an essay perpetuating harmful adoption cliches without realizing it, this is about helping you to recognize how your words deeply influence our lives as adoptees, your daughter’s life as one of us, and your own as her father.

    Jennifer Kwon Dobbs

  15. @Seabrook – in fact, it is you who are not listening to us. Your defensive postures are “tired.” As adult transracial adoptees, we are tired of hearing adoptive parents react with such denial & dismissal when confronted with the reality of our experiences. We are not characterizing white adoptive parents as evil people with evil intentions. BUT – we are pointing out that transnational adoption was set up and continues to endure with a backbone of racist and neocolonialist policies & cultural attitudes. It’s possible to participate in a corrupt system and still be a “good person” and a “good parent.” What was so disappointing about your article in The New Yorker was that while you brushed the surface of the problems/issues of transnational adoption, you dismissed them in favor of exercising your privilege (which you seem to have a tenuous awareness of) anyway, only citing research that supports your views of transnational adoption & Holt while dismissing more critical works as bitter writings of unhappy adult adoptees. It is indeed sad that the adoptive parent voice continues to be the voice of mainstream thought about adoption.

  16. As a young adoptive mom I was so much like John Seabrook. I was so in love with my child, so enamored by what adoption had brought into my life, so convinced that this love fulfilled our desire for a child and our baby’s need for a family. As regretful as I am to write these words 26 years later, I was also colorblind and thought love was all our baby would ever need.

    I didn’t have the benefit of hearing the voices of adult adoptees when I began this journey and I am so thankful for all who have found the courage to speak loudly of their poignant sense of loss and of their disappointments, frustrations, sadness and yes, anger at a system which has never been, first and foremost, about the babies. Many young adoptive parents are hearing this truth and their children will be your legacy.

    Our family was lucky. We had our son. Guided by his gentle hand he taught his dad and I what it meant to grow up in our Caucasian community. He was a strong role model to his younger sisters who became comfortable having their own voices heard. It was not easy. No parent wants to hear that the love they have given is not enough. It wasn’t that our love was wrong. It just wasn’t all that our son needed. And we love him. We valued his voice. He began quite simply by telling us of all that he was learning, recommending anthologies by other adoptees, sharing books and blogs. He spent time talking with us at length in the most tender way. He opened our world. It was so simple to just hear him, to hear our son.

    When I first listened to the NPR piece I said to him that I hoped John Seabrook’s daughter, Rose, would be as tender with him as she grows up, as our son is with us. But, in truth, life for Rose will shine so much more brightly if John listens to the voices here on this page and the many strong voices of adult adoptees who have found the courage to speak out.

    And finally, I sincerely hope that John never has to read the unkind assumption about his daughter that I read on these pages about my son – that Rose must have had an unhappy adoption experience simply because she speaks her own truth.

    • Dear Adoptive Anonymous Mom,

      Thank you for your comment. I did not quite make out what you were trying to say in your last paragraph?

      You sound like a humane individual who encourages learning. I hope you don’t mind me asking, but Is your relationship with your adoptive son good and strong?

      My adoptive parents do not hear me and never had so for my own sanity I have left them. They were physically & emotionally abusive as well.

      My experiences have shown that there are so many high expectations of the adopted child. I grew up believing that I was a ‘second class’ citizen that I did not deserve anything because of all the ‘sacrifice’ my adoptive parents had to go through to have me and bring me up.

      I used to speak at adoption prep groups and always tended to protect my adoptive parents so that the audience would not get upset i.e. I’d say well, in the 70’s there was not much support for adoptive parents etc..’ as if excusing their acts of violence towards me & my birth sister who was adopted with me. She displayed her trauma as a child by holding what my adoptive parents labeled as ‘tantrums’, but if anyone was being screamed at and beaten, I think they would react in this way. Where as me they described as ‘the sulky, stubborn’ one because I was very quiet and barely reacted to their abuse.

      I no longer give talks in support groups nor to potential adoptive parents, nor do I attend adoption panels as I no longer support them. I believe international adoption to be unethical and inhumane. Supporting communities and helping families to raise their own children who in turn will grow up to develop their communities is by far the more humane solution.

      Thanks again for your comments. It is reassuring to know that there are humane adoptive parents out there.

      Best Wishes

  17. Pingback: The Transracial Korean Adoptee Nexus and John Seabrook «

  18. I want to thank the anonymous adoptive mother for her cogent and well-stated comments.

    @ John Seabrook, because you have the benefit of generations of adoptee and progressive adoptive parent experiences, your daughter will not have to be the one in a vacuum “teaching” you best practices in child rearing or guiding you tenderly — if at all — to see her positionality as a woman of color and a Haitian diasporic subject. How will you guide her to see your white privilege, to help her understand why that privilege doesn’t extend to her even though she’s your daughter, and how to be strong against and to diffuse racism’s effects on her life? Please begin your journey *with* your daughter perhaps by reading Cheri Register’s Beyond Good Intentions and Barbara Katz Rothman’s Weaving a Family.

    Moreover, it’s insulting of you to assume that adoptee criticism extends from our hatred of our adoptive parents or as symptomatic of their failure to love us. That’s a terrible caricature against our families, and it’s one that I hope you will never hear about your family. Do not attack my family because you defensively perceive a slight toward yours.

    Adoptees, who have articulated their questions and structural criticisms along with parents and others who are not stakeholders, have suffered backlash of all kinds ranging from death threats, stalking, hate mail, libel, employment discrimination, among other unsavory tactics. I recall a group of adoptive parents gathering around a young male adoptee after his presentation and telling him that his criticisms emerged from his hatred of his parents and that he just go “kill himself.” Your response is not at this level, of course, but I share this anecdote in order to contextualize your rhetoric on a spectrum of strategies seeking to silence, diminish, discipline, and/or dismiss adoptee voices and by extension our parents who loved and raised us to speak up for ourselves.

  19. I feel so proud of the adoptees and allies who so generously took on the education of Mr. Seabrook, who comes off as a supremely entitled and woefully ignorant adoptive parent. There is so much wisdom collected here in the original post and in the comments.

    Thankfully, we can anticipate that his daughter will grow up to be welcomed into an accepting community of like-minded adult adoptees and allies who can validate what will most likely be her own painful experience of being raised by a misguided and unprepared father who never bothered to examine his privilege, and who refused to own up to his complicity in taking advantage of the global adoption industry.

    So this person is saying that this community is going to better at raising my daughter than I am? Do you have any idea of how many hours we put into my daughter every day? And do you really think that the only hope for her is to be delivered us to your community? You really think that? I’d like to know.

    • John, your arrogance yet again resonates in your comments here. Your adoptive daughter in not a ‘hopeless’ case and you are NOT her saviour! Wow, you had to put so many hours into your daughter every day. THATS WHAT PARENTING AND RAISING A CHILD IS ALL ABOUT!!! If that is not what you had bargained for when you got her you might want to re-think whether you are ready to take on the natural responsibilities of parenting a child let a lone one that has experienced the trauma of being separated from their birth family & culture.

      Your arrogant and ignorant comments are very worrying or maybe you just do not know how to communicate your emotions well. Either way I now really worry for your adopted child.

      • We all have to remember he has a 11 year old biological son as well, so it’s not like he’s had NO first-hand parenting experience.

        I can’t decide if that makes his arrogant and patronizing views better or worse 😦

    • “So this person is saying that this community is going to better at raising my daughter than I am?”

      From your expressed views in writing and speaking, I almost believe that to be true.

      That aside, you wholey miss the point, once again.

      Regardless of how “perfect” or “great” her childhood could and hopefully will be, she will think about her heritage, where she came from, etc. Your daughter, Rose, will want to speak to, meet, interact with, listen to, etc., people who have also been adopted. When she gets to that point in her life, a community of adult adoptees will be there to welcome her. THAT is the only point the poster you quoted was trying to make.

      What is so threatening to you about the fact that these adoptee children grow up to be adoptee adults?

  20. And you really think that your daughter is a blank slate upon which you can write your love, and that that will erase her blackness, Haitian-ness, and the global and economic power lines that have grafted her into your family?

    Despite my “tired grad school paradigm” of the binary, I insist yet again that you are falling back on the notion that your daughter cannot be part of your family AND adopted, black, Haitian-American, and the only person of color in a white family. But all of these are facts.

    The fact is, Mr. Seabrook, whether you like it or not, your daughter already IS an adoptee of color. And she will therefore grow up to be an adult adoptee of color. Nobody has to be “delivered” anywhere. She will just seek out people who reflect and support her experience and reality. That is all.

  21. Mr. Seabrook,

    First off, I realize that this is an extremely sensitive topic for you as well as for adoptees. I know that all you want is the best for your daughter, and like a caring parent, want to be able to shield her from all the pain and evils in the world. My parents were and are that way, but the fact *is* that you will not be able to. There is pain and confusion that comes with transracial adoption that you have no control over, but that you may be able to help her cope with or even prepare her for, if you understand what those issues may be. The social construct of race is out of your hands. Racism is painful. But it is even more confusing for a child when their experiences and insides are Caucasian, and strangers immediately see them as separate. What group, if any, does this child truly belong to? And, like many issues, It doesn’t matter if you know the answer. To put it in more conventional terms – May your daughter never bring home a boy that doesn’t deserve her. You will quickly find out how little your knowledge counts. However, in these social issues arising from transracial adoption, you can be there to comfort and support her if you understand them.

    I haven’t read all of the responses to you, but I picked through to read yours. I get the impression that you’re slightly offended, and think that the backlash against your article or interview, which I admittedly have not read or heard, is specifically calling you a bad parent. I would hope that hasn’t been the case. The points that people are trying to make are to help you be a *better* parent.

    I’m sure you will be a wonderful father much of the time, a terrible father some of the time, hopefully a beloved father for generations, and most assuredly a hated father on occasion. No family is always laughs and good feelings, an obvious fact but one which may escape an idealistic, new father. I’m not saying that it has or that you are one.

    Anyway, to the point. Your complaints:

    “You, for example, are twisting my remarks about not having lived a whole life through and hearing them as though I’m saying your opinion isn’t valid. Which is no way what my words say.”

    “Or posters above are dragging out the tired grad school put down “binary” to characterize my views on adoption, and then proceeding to see all adoptive white parents as racists or imperialists or neocolonialists.”

    My (perhaps our, I don’t want to pull people into my words) complaint:
    “You seem to have had an unhappy experience.”

    You most likely went into reading the initial article with a certain mindset. You read it with that mindset. And you came out at the other end with the same mindset. Since I can not validate my assumptions as to your mindset pre and during reading, the only thing I can address is what you wrote afterwards. Yes, you can be damned by that single sentence: “You seem to have had an unhappy experience.” Those are your own words and that is the lens through which you look back on the article. You categorized it in (dare I say) a binary manner. To you, all of over-there-that comes from a place of unhappiness. No, not just a place or piece within, but an entire *experience* of unhappiness. Not only did you judge the author, his life and family relations, but you also judged his parents and their ability as such.

    Over-there-that will not touch right-here-this because we *are* happy. We have been happy, we are happy, so we will be happy. I don’t have to think about over-there-that as long as I keep my daughter happy. Those thoughts are not possible without an experience that can be looked upon as unhappy. I am a good dad, a great dad. I will be the best dad that this child could ever have and she is the luckiest girl in the world to be taken into my home, our home.

    Maybe I’m off base and you’ve never had any of those thoughts. Human emotions are complex and maybe you, as a person, make no sense to me. By no means do I claim to understand all of humanity. You can brush me off as completely misunderstanding you and your motivations if that’s the case. I have a penchant for wasting time and air.

    However, if you truly want to be the best father you can be. If you take away only one thing from what I wrote. Remember that our racialized society will not view your daughter the way that you do. One of the most painful and imprisoning experiences for me was something simple that you most likely take for granted. When I took the SATs, the LSATs, any standardized test. When your child will take them. She will have to submerge everything that makes up her entire being. Her thoughts, her culture, her experiences. She will have to submerge her soul, submit to our country’s racial structure, and imprison herself, by way of a checkmark, into the box for African Americans.

  22. John: I know the pain of hearing the words on this page. As an older adoptive mom I know that it is nearly impossible to imagine that adopting a child out of the purest love and intention might actually cause harm to our beloved child.

    The voices on this page cannot raise your daughter better than you and your wife can. They don’t have the awe and wonder of being with Rose every day, of truly knowing and loving her. What they do have, though, is abundant knowledge about what it is like growing up as children of color in transracial families, combined with the clearly cellular sorrow of being separated from their birth moms. They know that Rose will one day realize that although you adopted her with the very best of intentions, and although her love for you and your family will remain strong, her losses will be felt deeply. And what I have found is that only other adoptees who share kindred pain and refection and healing will be able to help your daughter on her journey

    It is not that the adoptees on this page are not hearing you. It is that they have heard it all before – over and over again, from me and hundreds of other well-intentioned but ill-informed adoptive parents and social workers and adoption agencies. It is time now for us to hear them. This is difficult, I know, but the opportunity of hearing the voices of young men and women who are passionately protective not only of your daughter but of all adoptees coming up behind them, is a privilege and an opportunity to be a better dad than you ever thought possible. I missed this opportunity.

    I always knew I was a good mom, but I was hindered by my lack of guidance about what is truly important to children growing up in transracial families. That this dialogue exists today and that you are willing to come back again to face these passionate voices shows your true love for your daughter.

    • Anonymous….thank you, thank you, thank you.

      Your reply is a breath of fresh air (ha ha, no pun intended) on this post fraught with anxiety, fear, defensiveness and misunderstandings…misunderstandings, I might add, that do not seem to be disappearing any time soon.

      As a KAD, as a doula, as a teacher, as an advocate, I so appreciate your words as an adoptive parent who “gets” our need to be heard. I don’t need to be agreed with 100% all the time. I just need to be heard, without judgment.

      That, Mr. Seabrooke, despite the animosity of some of these posts, is really what most of us are asking for. We didn’t ask to be adopted. Some of us are angry and “bitter”, some of us are blissfully ignorant of the political structures and economic inequalities that led to our adoptions…but none of us are the same, and we all have stories that we can share with each other to learn from.

      Hearing these stories, even when they’re painful, angry, bitter, etc. can enrich our understanding of the human experience of adoption, deepen our compassion, and ignite our passion for advocacy for the women who are forced into the horrendous “choice” of placing their babies for adoption.

      Like Anonymous, I don’t doubt that you will be a loving parent. I personally have no wish to attack you, your family, or your choices. I only ask that you consider keeping an open mind and an open door in your heart to the stories and voices of adoptees, and that Rose be allowed full freedom and support to be able to to share her story, whatever she makes it out to be.

      All the best,

  23. I might also add that I do identify with being Korean, but really think about that checkbox. Your daughters scores will contribute to a group of people based solely on her heredity and all the hours that you’ve put into her every day are meaningless in that context. They will be attributed nothing. You should also be disturbed by them. It is an implicit indication that our society deems what a person looks like as more important than where a person comes from. Again, you and I know that it isn’t true or more important, but children learn from everything they come into contact with. Any sensible child does not off-handedly dismiss what societal institutions tell them on their own. It takes time to reason everything out and is hard to do alone.

  24. Dear Mr. Seabrook —

    You say, “You seem to have had an unhappy experience. So far our experience has been happy.” Are you speaking for your child, too? Because I guarantee that your daughter’s story of her adoption is going to be a lot more complicated. The metaphor I’ve used before is that if you have a house and your house burns down and you’re given a new house, it doesn’t mean that the new house makes up for the loss and trauma of losing your first house. We who get nothing but gain in adoption (we adoptive parents) too easily miss the loss that comes before. We diminish our children’s right to frame their own experiences when we focus solely on the “new house” in adoption. Adoption exists in large part because it is easier to move children to more privileged parents with wallets ready than to make more lasting changes. See Search a Child, Pay Cash, a German documentary about international adoption:

    I hope that you will see this on-blog conversation as a valuable opportunity to learn more about what it means to be an adoptive parent to a transracial/transcultural adoptee and how we can be better allies to our children. As an adoptive parent of a daughter who came to our family via a domestic, open, transracial adoption I know how hard it can be to have our beliefs/stories challenged by so-called “angry” adoptees. But these adults have been where our children are now and dismissing their criticism as an emotional response that our kids surely won’t have is incredibly misguided.

    The adoptive parent narrative is still the strongest in the public experience of adoption. We have an obligation to use OUR voices to support other members of the adoption constellation who have been dismissed and silenced. The first parents of our children, the adult adoptees — their stories must be part of the discussion. We owe it to the children we are parenting to LISTEN to the adult adoptees who are speaking out; to read their blogs and their books, attend conferences where they are speaking and to honor the truth of the critical stories along with the ones that keep us comfortable.

  25. Dear Mr. Seabrook,

    Word of advice, stop responding to this prattle on the internet and tend to your child, job and marriage.

    For some background on where I’m coming from I am old enough to be your dad. Hence the tone of condescension divorced from any indignation surrounding your instant expert status on all things adoption related. Being of the cadre of ’50′s vintage adoptees from Korea I had eyes on the ground so to speak during those early days of international adoption you speak of. I’ve also raised 3 children of my own and expect to hear of the sex of my next grand child any day now. And frankly having been raised white, I know how YOU people think.

    My adoption was by all measures was a success. I joke that I suffered as a child from being universally adored. But I still feel the role of the Outsider thrust upon me by, in my day, a white Anglo Saxon society.

    Also, since I did not read your New Yorker piece, only heard snippets of your conversation on Fresh Air and skimmed the post/responses on this blog, I feel free to expound on your utterances unfettered by context.

    The one snippet of the Fresh Air interview I took note of was about the disdain the established “adoption experts” of the time had for the Holts. I think you missed the role their fervent Fundamental Christian world view played in pissing off the more mainline Protestant organizations and the secular Social Worker establishment of the time.

    As an example my parents looked askance at the Holts because my mother was raised Presbyterian and was advised to “speak their language” in every letter she wrote to them being sprinkled with bible quotes and copious praising of the Lord. You see they were the ones organizing things on the ground and she feared little help if she was seen as a “Heathen”

    In short if you didn’t accept Christ as your Lord and Savior you just failed their only criteria for placement.

    So why does every one here hate your guts? You are a convenient target. You made a decision to exploit your child’s adoption professionally and through some hasty research regurgitate a history of International/Trans-racial adoption peppered with your own experience for an article in the publication that employs you.
    Hey, you write what you know, correct?

    Compelling? Fresh Air has to fill time with topics “in the news”. Your piece came along at the right moment in time, published in a “name” publication. Not to belittle your writing ability. Much.

    Nothing about Adoption of any kind is without trail and tribulation. Come to think of it life is kind of like that isn’t it?

    We are born and if fate wills it the shit storms pass us by. I don’t know you but I would guess that your life, besides problems with fertility, my sympathies by the way, has been devoid of the level of aggravation faced by your average poor person the world over.

    Just know this, as a parent you will be making mistakes. It just comes with the territory. Nothing you can do some days will be right. And if in your heart of hearts you never feel like this or admit to yourself that you are, well you just aren’t trying vary hard are you?

    I wouldn’t think for one moment anyone here would take on the burden of raising your child. I know I wouldn’t. I’ve got a white grand kid to take care of thank you very much. And unlike you, I don’t live in a neighborhood that mirrors his ethnic make up. Nor is there any one besides me to take care of him, as my wife is the bread winner in the family. So you got me there. We’ll just have to confront his splintered self-identity like I did, by confronting it head on.

    So my “Fatherly Advice” to you is as follows:

    Any child born to you or adopted deserves better. Every thing you will do in an earnest attempt to be a good father will fail miserably. Your child will on alternate days hate you and vilify you to any one who will listen. Then love you with the pure love only a child possesses. Live for these days.

    Just try to be a better parent than the people that raised you. That’s worked for me.


    David Um Nakase

  26. Mr. Seabrook said: “So this person is saying that this community is going to better at raising my daughter than I am? …And do you really think that the only hope for her is to be delivered us to your community? You really think that? I’d like to know.”

    As “this person,” let me clarify for you what I think: Even if you turn out to be the best white adoptive parent who has ever raised a black child, even if you love your daughter more than my parents loved me, or more than I love my own adopted black children, even if you suddenly have an epiphany and understand blackness and how it feels to move through society as a young black woman, even if you provide all the resources and opportunities that your privilege can by for your daughter, we adult adoptees who were raised by well-intentioned, privileged families who love us and whose love we continue to return, despite their limitations as our dear white relatives, even with all that, as parents, we can take comfort in knowing that a community of adult adoptees will be there to welcome your daughter.

    After all, we adult adoptees understand implicitly the double whammy of Race and Adoption. This is not a reflection on you or your parenting. In fact, it has very little to do with you. Adoption isn’t about us, as adoptive parents. It’s about the adopted children who grow up to spend the rest of their lives as adult adoptees, who must live as adults of color in a racist society. I’m saying that, despite your predictable limitations as a parent, at least there will be a community who understands your daughter and can validate her experience as a survivor of the double whammy of Race and Adoption.

  27. Mr. Seabrook, I can just see you looking at these comments from adult adoptees and looking at your daughter, and saying, “Not MY Rose. MY child won’t say these things. MY child won’t be one of those unhappy, angry adoptees!”

    As an adoptive parent, one who went through the same honeymoon stage you are now inhabiting, let me tell you a child’s adoption experience has VERY little to do with us — they will form their own opinions. But you can be their ally or you can be their enemy as they form these opinions.

    For me, the decision to be an ally came as I watched them grow into their own persons, when they experienced the grief and loss that precedes all adoptions, and their pain became real to me. That’s when I began to listen to the voices of adopted persons, those who share so honestly their experiences. They could help me understand my 9-year-old who says she thinks of her birth mother every second of every hour of every day. They help me understand my 6-year-old who says she doesn’t even want to think about her birth mother because it hurts.

    Right now you’re probably thinking I’m one of those “bad” adoptive parents who produce “angry” adoptees. Nope. I’m pretty fine with how I’m doing with my kids. But if I hadn’t been reading everything I can get my hands on that adult adopted persons write, I’d be ignoring my kids’ pain and talking about adoption as if it were all rainbows.

    I hope in the future, as Rose grows out of infancy and becomes her own little person, you’ll look back on this exchange a little chagrined by your defensiveness, laughing at how parenting changes us, and accepting that your best ally in raising your daughter are the adopted persons who’ve been there.

    • Malinda, you sound like a very grounded adoptive mom who is in touch with her humanity.

      Thank you.

  28. Thanks all for the conversation. I have a few thoughts. I’m both an adoptive parent and a researcher whose done some work on adopted children’s wellbeing (talk about a dichotomy: “has disability” / “no disability” – that only gets you so far toward “wellbeing”).

    I agree it is unfortunate that adoptive parents are so often the voices the media go to. That is partly because they’re rich and White and highly educated, of course, but also because the boom in international adoption was relatively recent, and y’all are just being “discovered” as adults by many people. That’s very exciting, and seeing that coming is a source of encouragement to parents who worry about the struggles their children will experience and how they will respond to them. It is natural that the members of this diverse group who speak up “as” members of the group are those who feel the connection most strongly, including those who are critical. (See Marx — or Gramsci — on how a class “in itself” becomes a class “for itself” [but now I’m dating myself].)

    I believe international adoption can be done ethically, even though existing systems are often flawed. People have biological children, or adopt domestically, for reasons I think are bad, too. Lots of parents are awful. Adopted children and adults have their own kinds of loss and redemption, and complicated relationships with their families, just like anyone might. Race in America causes endless grief, including to people who are not minorities within their own families; the experiences are many and varied. Adoptive parents should try to understand the implications of racism in America. Of course, so should everyone else.

    I generally don’t think it’s a good idea to adopt a child because you want to help someone, help solve world poverty, or save girls from patriarchy. (I have had to stick up for China when Americans tell me they don’t love girls there; ugh.) I think it’s alright to want a child, then decide on international adoption because it’s good for a child who needs a family, or needs expensive medical care — but what are the odds you’re doing the very best thing possible to help humanity? That’s aiming a little high, and I don’t recommend using an individual child for that goal. So the complaint that they should adopt domestically, for example, doesn’t work for me. Raising a child well is a good thing, but it’s not the best thing you can do for the world. For humanity larger, people should vote, protest, send money, or whatever they think is best for the ends they want — and those are things we should argue passionately about. In adoption, people should take care of their kids, and that’s complicated.

    As an aside, I wish folks would stop using “Caucasian.” It really doesn’t make sense.

    • Hello Philip,
      ‘Caucasian’ is what ‘white’ people use to categorize their own race. I do not believe that International Adoption can ever be ethical, because people will always be prepared to abuse it no matter how good yours and other people’s intentions will be in setting up what-ever kind of systems etc. As I reiterate from previous posts, international adoption encourages child trafficking and turning it into a money making business. I only recently saw a documentary where young couples in Korea were having babies and giving them up for adoption as a way of earning money i.e. to pay for college etc. So you see, I really can not see this working.

      International adoption needs to be stopped. Full Stop. Focus needs to be directed away from ‘giving charity’ or ‘saving a child’ to empowering communities and helping them to help themselves. I think this is the least that ‘white’ Europeans can do for economically developing countries after all the rape, plunder, theft, false ideology and disease that their ‘white’ ancestors had committed in the past. Its time we acted humanely and with common sense.

      • It feels rude of me to quote my own post back at you, since it’s right up there on the screen — but you seem to have missed the part where I said:

        “I generally don’t think it’s a good idea to adopt a child because you want to help someone, help solve world poverty, or save girls from patriarchy…. For humanity larger, people should vote, protest, send money, or whatever they think is best for the ends they want.”

        Given that, I shouldn’t have to say this: I don’t think the point of adoption is, or should be, “giving charity” or “saving a child.”

        BTW, people also have biological children for purposes of child trafficking (broadly defined), biological children are also a money-making business, and have been as long as there has been money. Evil people do evil all day long – whether they adopt or procreate.

  29. Others have said much of what I would say if I were to say a lot here, but as an adoptive parent I do not have much to add to what the adoptees are trying to say.

    But this I do have to say to Mr Seabrook who has made himself available in this thread.

    Mr Seabrook,

    When you say “Which is why these discussions about adoption are so useless” you are not just dismissing some brilliant comments, you are shutting down your daughter’s chance to question and grow. She may always love you and hopefully will never doubt thatyou love her but she will not feel anymore respected by you than you would by your parents if you use language like USELESS with her. Truly, you need to understand that when you use that word with adult adoptees you are, in fact, speaking to her, whether nor not she ever voices a word of dissent or asks a single question about why her life went one direction, when her bio-family’s lives went another.

    And a small criticism: In practically a throw-away sentence about adoptee memoirs, I did not appreciate you summarizing The Language of Blood” by Jane Jeong Trenka as “just plain bitter”. Jane’s memoir changed my perspective on international adoption and changed the way I set out to raise my internationally-adopted children. I have met Jane and have an ongoing e-friendship with her and is she angry? Yes! Anger is a sane response to what she learned about her own adoption and many many others. And her anger is a very creative and fruitful kind of anger. She is in Korea supporting birthmothers and fellow-returning-adoptees. But bitter? No. She is one of the sweetest people I know. In fact every so-called “bitter” (questioning, sad, angry, scared, happy) adoptee I have met, including my own husband and my adopted brother, has a rare kind of sweetness–when they are invited to show it, without risk to their pride and perceived honor.

  30. I have two sons from Ethiopia, and I’m a white woman, a mother through adoption. When I first began the process of adopting from overseas, I read voraciously about adoption, about Ethiopia, and finally words written by adult adoptees. I am so grateful to those who have shared their stories. I have learned so much from them–in particular, I learned about the real loss my children experienced through reading Jane Jeong Trenka’s The Language of Blood (which I didn’t find bitter at all). Jae Ran at the blog Harlow’s Monkey has also educated me a great deal. I am a better parent because of them.

    John, if you’re still reading, please know this: we have much learn from adult adoptees. And the very first thing is just to listen. Welcome to the world of adoptive parenting.

  31. “And, sadly he goes on about how when thinking about international adoption, he and his wife believed they had more of a connection with Haiti and how they felt they could represent Haitian culture to their daughter Rose more than perhaps adopting an African American baby or other baby of color. Again, this statement itself could be an entirely different post.”

    Indeed, that is sad, because his daughter, IS an African American, born in Haiti, and adopted by US parents.

    Somehow, I think an adoptive parent has to find a way to detach a little and then, listen to the experiences of adults, and be glad that our children will have a community when they mature where their feelings and experiences will be validated. Wouldn’t it be nice if adopted parents could stop for a moment and listen, and be able to appreciate that their child might have a different point of view about adoption and then, validate that possibility?

    To me, listening has been extremely helpful, but also very sad, no real parent would want to cause pain. I am glad JJT addressed Holt, because agency practices are the best way to start to combat the problems and irregularities in IA.
    Again, no real parent would want to be the source of pain for their child, and good intent doesn’t matter.

  32. Thank you KAD Nexus for this important article, and to the many adoptee researchers, published authors, long-term community professionals and volunteers who have written above posing questions about John Seabrook’s article and views on adoption. While his views are that of an individual, they are symbolic of a greater structure of privilege that many of the adoptees of colour above have witnessed in everyday life, as well as studied and discussed, filmed or written about elsewhere. I really hope his daughter gets a father who’s going to be strong enough to use the conversations above constructively, even though he appears eager to dismiss them now.

    Mr Seabrook, I urge you revisit and read the work of Dr Raible, Ms Trenka, Dr Dobbs, Dr Gibney and others above. It will be of benefit to your daughter and you. I hope you do meet Ms Crowder. Make the most of these people who’ve engaged with you, including the adoptive parents who offer their support to the adoptee authors in this thread.

    Again, thank you to all the adoptees of colour above.

  33. I just wrote a long comment, but deleted it because I realised that I can summarise it in two points:

    1) Those of us who are white, non-adopted APs do not know what it is like to be a person of colour adopted into a white family. We may think we know what it should be like, but we don’t actually know what it IS like.
    2) If we want to know, we have to stop talking and start listening respectfully. Adoptees really do know more about this than we do. No, really.

    Take courage, Mr Seabrook. You can do it. You obviously love your daughter. Do it for her.

  34. Mr. Seabrook:

    It’s unfortunate that critical discourse is often interpreted as anger and unhappiness. It seems as though it may be easier for you to attribute negative aspects of anger or discontent to the voices of adult adoptees because we are providing information that you don’t want to hear or are not ready to hear. I acknowledge that what we say may make people feel uncomfortable and produce feelings of insecurity, particularly for some adoptive parents. Maintaining your defenses, however, to the degree of attributing personal defects to adult adoptees, does not prevent or avoid the implications of race, culture, and White privilege. I would encourage you to pick up a book on oppression theory. Critical discourse does not always equate the voice of anger, but it may be easier and more comfortable for you to interpret our words as such, because we are challenging the fundamental nature of your beliefs.

    Additionally, as discussed by Shannon, the research you mention (and I’m wondering what studies you are citing exactly) as well as the history of adoption research is profoundly skewed. In addition to adoptive parents as researchers, most data collected from “outcome” studies on IA and TRA have been based on the parental reports of voluntary participants. This clearly reflects the dominating voice of adoptive parents, which they later regurgitate to us in effort to “inform us” about ourselves. Even so, these “outcomes” are premature and have used myopic standards for well-being (i.e. higher intelligence scores). As opposed to the hegemonic view of well-being that has been imposed on us, I want to remind you that well-being is subjective, Mr. Seabrook. I encourage you to think about how you conceptualize the notion of “well-being” and being “better off” and explore where those beliefs come from.

    And finally, just a general rant: although I too detest the immediate stereotype of being an “angry adoptee”, I would like to defend the feeling of anger for one second. It’s disappointing that anger as an emotion is discrediting, because anger is a natural reaction to injustice and pain that is compounded when continuously minimized and misunderstood. Anger in the most progressive sense is inspirational and provides the fuel to work toward social change. Anger certainly has a purpose.

  35. “You seem to have had an unhappy experience” is a black and white way of viewing what an adult adoptee has to say, and that such a statement indicates a closed mind to begin with.

    If adoptees are angry, they are angry for a reason. And they will be the best allies for your daughter – because they’ve been there. They’ve walked those footsteps that your daughter is about to walk.

    I’m sure your love for your daughter is as vast as the universe. I’m sure you’re thinking “No, not my child! My child will NEVER feel this way! If I just love her hard enough, it will all work out!”

    Love does not conquer all. Love does not make things magically work out. I’m not saying love isn’t important. But it’s just not enough. Good intentions are a start, but you need more than that – because, after all, don’t people make mistakes all the time with good intentions? People always do what they think is best, even if it doesn’t end up being that way.

    Adoption is particularly complex when it comes to love and good intentions.

    My parents love me more than the entire world put together. Yes, I’m aware that its cliche. But it’s also true. And yes, they had good intentions about adopting me.

    Their love and good intentions were not enough to shield me from the pain of contacting my biological family. I know that is very, very difficult to read. But it is my truth, and the truth of many other adoptees who have returned to their birth countries. And it was something I had to do. I couldn’t not know. I couldn’t not discover. I couldn’t not reconnect.

    Yes, it was going to pain me. We all knew that from the start. But it was – and continues to be – a part of me, and my parents respected that. Not being adoptees themselves, their understanding is limited. But they still respected that, and let me go in discovery in my family and heritage.

    This pain I speak of – which Jane writes so eloquently about in her memoir – is the pain of being separated from her blood kin. I felt it too, on a very primal level when I left my biological family as a reunited adult. Maybe your daughter won’t feel this grief. Maybe she won’t want to reunite. Maybe she won’t want to search or have anything to do with her heritage.

    But if she does?

    You’re probably thinking she won’t.

    I’m asking you: but IF she does?

    Are you willing to take the chance of dismissing adult adoptees and what they have to say? If, in twenty years from now, your daughter suddenly develops an interest about her roots, will you consider that?

  36. I have time to address of few points. Here’s one:

    “It’s as if the only choices are “the adoption industry as it is” or “leaving children to perish in a vastly imperfect child welfare system or in an equally imperfect family or home country.” When we limit our discussions to these terms, we limit our ability to see the possible, and to imagine otherwise…..We also resist the assertion that the best solution to poor and neglected children’s situations around the world is to be adopted by loving middle class white parents in the Global North who are largely unwilling to interrogate their own privilege — or, who like you, seem to be willing to do so, but are instead unwilling to change your behavior based on it.”

    Hello? I’m writing about a child. It’s not about middle class white parents in the Global North — those are just words from books. It’s about a real child. A child who was so hungry that her belly button popped — either from the hunger or from the screaming about it. My perspective is the child I can now hear singing to herself in her crib upstairs. Who is no longer hungry. Who has a family and a bright future, with whatever complications being black brings. From that perspective the above argument seems really petty. It reminds of that E J Graff essay in Foreign Affairs. Clever people making clever arguments their esteemed colleagues will esteem without any heart in the arguments at all. Not that this endeavor isn’t important to one’s career, but from my perspective it’s very far from the point.

    Also I have read comments bemoaning the fact that the adoptive parents are the ones who get on Fresh Air, or whatever, and the adoptees never get heard from. Want to know how to get on Fresh Air?. Write a compelling story about your experience that a lot of people want to read. Not an academic account of the Global North blah blah blah. A real and honest account about your experience. It seems to me that adoptees as a whole are far better educated and have much more access to media than adoptive parents, but I don’t see them getting their point across. There’s not a conspiracy here.

    Which reminds me of the poster who talked about Jane Trenka. I never said that Jane Trenka herself was bitter. Please if you are criticizing me do me the favor of reading my work carefully. I said as an author she came off as bitter. The scene of her adoptive mother not wanting to go to her birth mother’s memorial, and her adoptive father hanging up on her because she swore at his wife — that is bitter. Not bitter in the sense of oh you don’t appreciate what you have. Bitter in the sense that it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. Again, my reading. But I speak as myself, always.

    Ok what else? I’ve been thinking about this comment all day, and I was thinking about it this evening when Rose and I were playing with the hose in the garden. It’s a truly horrible thing to say.

    “Thankfully, we can anticipate that his daughter will grow up to be welcomed into an accepting community of like-minded adult adoptees and allies who can validate what will most likely be her own painful experience of being raised by a misguided and unprepared father who never bothered to examine his privilege, and who refused to own up to his complicity in taking advantage of the global adoption industry.”

    Truly, and I have been on the Internet for a long time and wrote my first book about it, I can’t remember a more stunningly ignorant, offensive, and mean-spirited comment than this. In the first place, you know nothing about me as a father, yet it is you who are calling me ignorant. In the second place, I took the trouble to not only think about this for a long time, but to articulate my thoughts in writing, to publish them, and to open myself to comments about my article. And yet to you I am unprepared, misguided, and unexamined. Well maybe I am misguided, but I am not unprepared. .

    Which leads me to this old chestnut — that anyone who dares to defend themselves in cosy chat rooms of like minded people who compliment each other on how intelligent they are is being “defensive.” Which I guess is the wrong thing to be? When people are talking smack about you and your children? Or which is weak, somehow? What is the better thing to be, offensive? Dismissive? Silent? If you talk about me as a father, and if you talk about my children in a patronizing way, I’m going to defend us. Call it defensive if you want but I assure you it’s not coming from a feeling of inferiority or apology.

    I do appreciate your attempts to educate me. There may come a time when I find it useful. With a nineteen month old there are other things on your mind. What I would find useful is some advice on how to get my eleven year old son more into the whole thing. Best, John

    • John,
      Your manner in communicating with us reminds me so much of my adoptive dad. Full of self-pity, defense, finger pointing, contradiction and an intolerance to recognize that we, international adoptees as humans in our own right can express our-selves eloquently. I refer to your comment to about the adoptee who talks about the ‘Global North’ and that he must have taken it out of a chapter from a book. For you information, we have gained our ‘knowledge’ from first hand experience!

      Yes, your baby is all cute and playful now…..the FACT that you are now asking for advice on how to integrate your son in this whole process is a very clear indication of the social complexities that are already being established in your own home and things that you, Rose & your family will experience sooner or later in society. Our comments are here to help you understand where we a coming from as well as historical facts about your OWN ancestors (how their acts have contributed to the poverty and corruption in economically developing countries) and how we can see this happening and repeating itself to Rose if you continue to dismiss our experiences as simple ‘blah, blah’.

      My thoughts are with Rose. I am sorry to say, but I have little sympathy for you as your current presentation of yourself, in your comments etc. Maybe one day you will stand down from your believed position of superiority and self-pity and face reality rather than your ‘ideology’. It did not happen to my adoptive dad. All I wanted was to love him and to be loved, but he was so blinded in his belief that I was ‘ungrateful’ for all the ‘sacrifice’ he’d put in for me that he never saw me and never grew with me. For my own sanity I have broken ties completely from my adoptive parents. They were also physically & emotionally abusive, but were hailed by colleagues, friends and employees as such saintly catholics and how proud and lucky we must be to have such wonderfully charitable parents. Thinking about those times makes me puke, if only they knew the abuse that we faced every single day. I am happier now than I ever was under their care.

  37. Mr. Seabrook –
    You must feel a bit uncomfortable at this juncture. Please understand that nobody is undermining the love you have for your daughter. You might consider reading some adult adult adoptee blogs in the future, especially those who experienced transracial adoption. John Raible Online, Harlow’s Monkey, Exile of Xingnan, Faith and Illusions (she also adopted), Seumnida, and this blog would be a good start. Try to keep an open mind. What sounds like a blistering attack is really just an invitation to understand better and more deeply.

  38. Oh and one other comment — there is a running assumption in many of these posts that the posters have a better understanding of what Rose’s experience is going to be than I do, because they are people of color who have grown up in white communities. Rose is living in a predominantly African American community in Brooklyn, where three of every four faces she sees on the street are black, her friends are black, her caregiver is black, and she is living within a few miles of the second largest Haitian community in the US, and, I might add, in a country with a black president. Correct me if I am wrong (like, I have to ask), but I am assuming most of the posters here did not grow up in those circumstances. So isn’t it possible that Rose’s experience is going to be vastly different from yours, and your collected wisdom is going to be very out of date or irrelevant when it comes to Rose’s experience?

    • You disgust me with your mockery over our experiences.
      History repeats itself, unless people choose to learn from their past, are you aware of this??

    • Seriously? Do you think your daughter is somehow going to be protected from the effects of white privilege simply because she has black caregivers and black friends? Do seriously you think, 18 years from now, institutionalized racism is going to be “magically” swept away? And that your daughter will, somehow, magically, not suffer the loss of her BirthFamily? Her culture? Her native life?

      Have you not thought that your child is going to grieve for her BirthFamily from a very early age? And that she will wonder — and worry — about race and how she fits into the world being a black child with white parents?

      My son is 6. He tells me almost weekly that he wants to be with his “brown Mommy”. He asked me, “Did my BirthMommy cry when she gave me away?” despite the fact that I have never used that term (“give away”) with him. Are you prepared to hear that from Rose, four years from now?

      Rose is black now. She is African American, now. Her experience is the African American experience, regardless of how many black friends she has. Her experience will NEVER be anything like your experience, as a white male in the United States. Add to that, the fact that she has loss that you will NEVER be able to heal. She will be sad, angry, BITTER, and she will need a parent who is able to understand that her experience is her’s ALONE, and that no matter how much that parent wants to make things better for her, he can’t.

      The best you will ever HOPE to offer her is understanding. And the kind of UNDERSTANDING you will need is the exact kind of understanding that adult adoptees have.

    • Mr. Seabrook,

      You are absolutely correct in saying that Rose’s experience is going to be different from any of ours.

      But “Out of date or irrelevent”? Really? To put this in context, our knowledge about this society’s race structure will possibly (yes I’m giving you your small due) “be very out of date or irrelevent.”

      What an utterly ridiculous string of words. At best, it’s an ignorantly wild, optimistic dream. You may be aware of the new Texas grade school curriculum. You may have also heard about the removed proposal to refer to our “black president” as Barack Hussein Obama. I’m assuming that you understand the significance of that. This new school curriculum will be in place for at least TEN years in the ENTIRE state of Texas, with massive ramifications for surrounding school districts due to the textbook-buying power of the state. So please forgive me for being extremely fking livid when I see you say that OUR understanding of the racial structure of this country could in any conceivable way be OUT OF DATE OR IRRELEVANT.

      Yes, it’s great that you live in that area and that we now have a black president, but in case you did NOT get the memo from the rest of the freaking country – the fact that we now have a black president does NOT erase racism, hate, or IGNORANCE. Your generation is the one who fed mine the bullshit about our hand-holding melting pot. Maybe I’m too sensitive, but EVERY racist amendment, bill, and ruling is a direct attack on my person.

      You’re so preoccupied with making the decision for all existing adoptees about whether or not they should be happy or unhappy that you refuse to see that there are parts of being adopted that are necessarily unhappy. There are parts about being a transracial adoptee that, in the present society, will necessarily bring pain. Bec F does an amazing and much more level-headed job of explaining the simultaneous duality of joy (for some) and tragedy in being adopted.

      I can only hope that in a time of trouble in your daughters life that you will not remind her of what a happy girl she used to be. “What happened to my happy little girl?” The only way she’s going to fulfill the adoptive parent ideal of a happy child is if she’s incapable of seeing and connecting our society’s racism to herself or if she completely disassociates herself from the black portion of her identity. We, the minority don’t get the option to be ignorant about racism in this country. Our only similar options are stupidity or denial.

      Yes, you’ve cared for your daughter’s shelter and nutritional needs. What people are trying to tell you is that there is an extremely wide array of psychological needs that you haven’t even imagined. What people are upset about is that you seem to have a mental demarcation about what constitutes a happy or unhappy adoptee, assuming the existence of a painless adopted experience and dismissing every adoptee that vocalizes problems by mentally imprisoning them with your “unhappy” label.

      It was extremely disheartening to come back and read your latest round of responses. How should you act? I don’t know. So often, my elders have been disappointing and the notion of “acting like an adult” seems more and more the myth. I don’t know why I expected any different, but I can’t seem to shake the habit of giving a stranger the benefit of the doubt. It seems to me you should ignore the haters, they’re obviously younger and frustrated, or perhaps less willing to let you remain your current incarnation. Don’t be defensive, it’s weak. Accept your mistakes, we all make them. Correct misunderstandings. Is it so hard for you to imagine that you might be out of your depth in a discussion with transracial adoptees about the subjects of *adoption* and *race*? Are you truly that arrogant, ignorant, or naive? I mean, whatever. Act like an “adult”, filter through, and take the warnings and advice or don’t. I’m not your fuckin dad.

      For what it’s worth, I wish your family the best. Whatever that may objectively be.

  39. Oh, can’t leave this one without comment.

    “Let’s talk about the host, Terry Gross, whose last name aptly describes how I was feeling after listening to her carelessly quip about saving children and the history of “baby-lifts” in international adoption.”

    This is a wise comment? Making fun of someone’s name?

    • It’s just about as “wise” (and dismissive) as comments such as, “…Not an academic account of the Global North blah blah blah. …”

    • Dear Mr. Seabrook,

      I wanted to respond to your description of Rose as someone “Who has a family and a bright future, with whatever complications being black brings.” I would encourage you to stop thinking of “being black” as bringing complications but of the real complication or problem as “being black in a racist society.”

      Please, for Rose’s sake, don’t pathologize “blackness”. I’m sure you see being black as more complicated than what I quoted above, but I noted the same hint of pathologization in your original New Yorker article (as if she was creating the problems).

      I’m not writing this to attack you, but to help your daughter, as she is the only black member of your family, including, I assume, both sides of her new extended family (which matters too), despite her Haitian nanny and Haitian and black communities you’re ensconced within. Being the only person of color within a white extended family will render her hyper-visible. Being black with white parents in your black community will render her hyper-visible. This isn’t to say, “You shouldn’t have adopted her” or “adoption is wrong” or “it is better/worse/different than being raised in an orphanage”–aside from those arguments, you have her now, in the U.S., and you are trying to do the best for her and your family. This isn’t an attempt to criticize you to death so that you avoid all adult adoptee conversations in the future. But, as other APs have mentioned in this thread, you should be aware of what you’ve gotten yourself into.

      You may have family members who unknowingly say racist things to Rose or act differently towards her. In fact, I can almost guarantee it, even if they mean very well. And you might not hear about all incidents from Rose because she may want to protect you and your wife. The reality is that most white people in America just haven’t made the effort to really see racism (its institutionalized structures and the daily “microaggressions”) and understand how it affects people of color. I think that does first require listening to people of color without getting defensive, even if you end up disagreeing with certain comments, critiques, or conclusions.

      I would also encourage you, if you haven’t already, to try to keep her first language, which sounds like it was Creole, in her life, not just through her nanny and neighbors but with yourself and her brother (if possible, without threatening his identity), so it’s not just “her issue,” which Shannon Gibney writes about so well in one of her posts here. One of the major difficulties that adoptees have in returning to their homeland or reconnecting with birth family is language. Language loss/detrition/attrition can be extremely painful and an ongoing source of shame, grief, dissonance, etc.

      • Also, I should add/clarify that I believe that being a “person of color” can be a great source of pride and joy–the histories of resistance and community, the bonding with others, the warmth and hospitality that many communities of color (and other ethnic groups, too) have as a result of holding on to community traditions that tend toward collectivity over individualism, the creativity that can come from multiple perspectives. It’s a mistake to see blackness or coloredness as “abject” or problematic in my opinion. The problem is not color but racism.

  40. I’m also a white adoptive mother to two daughters, one born in Guatemala and one born in Ethiopia. My daughter from Ethiopia is 9. She came to the US with me at 7. On the day of her readoption here, she told me it was one of the saddest days of her life because her real family wasn’t here. She was not an “angry/bitter adoptee”. She was a little girl expressing her grief over missing the life she should have had. As she grows, I know that she will continue to express her thoughts about adoption and those thoughts may be happy, sad, angry and any other emotion under the sun. That’s okay because they’re her thoughts and emotions.

    I, for one, am very grateful for the adult adoptees who take the time to express a whole range of thoughts on adoption, and particularly transracial and international adoption. Over my time reading forums and blogs written by many of the people who’ve commented here as well as many others, my eyes have been opened to so many things about how my daughters *may* feel, how to help them cope, new perspectives on adoption and race, and on and on.

    Most of us adoptive parents are not adoptees. Who better to educate us about the issues our children will face than adult adoptees who’ve been where our children are?

  41. Mr. Seabrook you say “So isn’t it possible that Rose’s experience is going to be vastly different from yours, and your collected wisdom is going to be very out of date or irrelevant when it comes to Rose’s experience?”

    Perhaps she has a great chance to experience other people of similar color as I did growing up. In fact, in my lovely neighborhood I had Asian neighbors I grew up with and played with on a regular basis. I was very aware of where I was from, the circumstances that brought me and my sister to our family. My parents were also very aware that there would be things in my life I would not be able to process or handle on my own, so they offered a chance to participate in the Holt culture camps and took me to local meetings with other adoptees. Out of this I found a sense of community – yes, even at the young age of 9 I knew these were a sub-culture to which we all belonged – that has helped me deal with my adoption.

    I can not begin to impress on you how important the influence of adult adoptees was to me and to my peers. They had the ability to hear me on a level my adoptive parents could not, and they had words of wisdom no one else could have ever shared with me. I grew up knowing I was not alone in this world of adoption. In fact, I have the honor of still learning from those counselors, I still let them know how much I appreciate them and in my 30’s I still look to them for advice.

    I went back as a counselor for Holt a few years ago, and the faces I looked into could have been my own. These beautiful happy children who clearly loved their adoptive families, shared things with me that broke my heart. There are some things in this world, that an adoptee will only share with another adoptee. There is healing in these bonds, this family we create for ourselves.

    So no, I don’t think the adoptee experience has an expiration date on it. There is a whole generation of them growing up right now who will be there for Rose when she needs a mentor.

  42. “What sounds like a blistering attack is really just an invitation to understand better and more deeply.”

    I don’t know. It sounds more like a blistering attack to me. With all due respect . . . I read many of the authors responding here, and as an adoptive parent I have a huge amount of respect for the adult adoptees willing to share their experiences. But I must say, picking apart Seabrook’s parenting, motives, and intentions does not seem like a productive way of inviting him (or any adoptive parent) into any sort of dialogue. It seems like Seabrook just became the internet whipping post for international adoption at large, and the level of projection, assumptions, and word-twisting is a bit astounding to me when held up to the actual article and interview in question.

    • I’m with Jae Ran’s take on this. If he wants to dismiss the comments that he finds too personal that’s his prerogative but there are plenty of other comments that are much less heated but say more or less the same thing. Also I’m sorry that he’s ignoring the fact that adoptee voices get silenced, he can look back at the response to Tama Janowitz’s post in the NYT a couple years back and see how the adoptee voices there were shut down while adoptive parents got through in spades. But, you know, he’s new to adoption really. He’s new to the adoption stories outside of the adoptive parent narrative. Most of us DON’T know about them at first; I hope that he will come to realize what a gift it is to have access to them.

      I am THRILLED that Mr. Seabrook’s daughter is safe and thriving. I am glad that your sons are with you, too. It doesn’t negate what came before and it doesn’t negate their losses. They will grow up and have a right to feel all sorts of ways about their adoptions including angry that their first parents and home country could not care for them. On an individual level adoption may be the best answer for some children (I don’t in any way deny this) but it’s not an easy answer and it may be a painful answer. I cannot eliminate my own daughter’s pain but I can bear witness to it and in that way, I hope, give her the strength and courage to be her whole true self and write her whole true story even if it means I don’t get to come off as the person who “solved” her problems by adopting her.

  43. Appreciated, Kristen. However, in scanning the comments again, most are striving to be respectful while pointing out the stuff that’s often obscured or just never even considered. No one takes in these ideas quickly or readily anyway. I see lots of comments from people saying, don’t give up and go away completely. I hope he doesn’t.

  44. @ Kristen, I could not disagree with you more. Mr. Seabrook is the only one here mocking the adult adoptees. The adoptees have been pretty respectful. Mr. Seabrook is the sarcastic one, mocking adoptees. I am sure anyone would feel defensive when their ideas are challenged, but reading through this thread, it is the adult adoptees that Mr. Seabrook is challenging, not the many adoptive parents who have made similar points. You say the adoptees are picking apart Seabrook’s parenting, motives and intentions – yet isn’t and has not Mr. Seabrook done the same to the adult adoptees – and in a much more demeaning way?

  45. Kristen: It’s not an attack. Well, maybe the posts about white privilege and colonization are a bit blunt, but they’re not attacks.

    I find the problem is that the very issue of race and privilege makes an adoptive parent uncomfortable, as it challenges the notion that their love isn’t enough or intentions weren’t good enough – so they take it personally and spring right back.

    So, really, there is no way to have a discussion like this without tiptoeing around each other, holding our hands and gently whispering in one’s ear to get the message across. And we can’t have a discussion like that, because it requires far more backbone than that.

    “But I must say, picking apart Seabrook’s parenting, motives, and intentions does not seem like a productive way of inviting him (or any adoptive parent) into any sort of dialogue.”

    Ah, but adoptive parenting is all *about* parenting and intentions, is it not?

    When someone offers up a critique about IA, the adoptive parent takes it personally as if it is an attack on their ability to parent or about their good intentions. Well, isn’t that inevitable in most cases, considering what adoptive *parenting* is all about?

    Unless we gently hold your hand and whisper into your ear, chances are you will feel defensive on some level. Unfortunately, we were/are not being listened to even when we did hold hands to gently whisper our messages about race and privilege.

    For the sake of our future adoptees, we cannot remain silent, either. There is no “nice” way to have a discussion like this without making an adoptive parent uncomfortable to some extent. There just isn’t.

    • Thanks Mei-Ling, well put. Just like the debate on Racism I quote Jane Elliot when she states firmly ‘ There is nothing ‘nice’ about racism’

  46. “I must say, picking apart Seabrook’s parenting, motives, and intentions does not seem like a productive way of inviting him (or any adoptive parent) into any sort of dialogue. It seems like Seabrook just became the internet whipping post for international adoption at large, and the level of projection, assumptions, and word-twisting is a bit astounding to me when held up to the actual article and interview in question.”

    What is of interest to me here is that whenever adult adoptees of color speak the truth about our personal experiences, we are accused of being “emotional, irrational, angry,” etc. And then, when we try to frame our concerns and critiques in a more nuanced, removed, global and structural (and yes, academic, because many of us *are* academics — we went into the academy searching for some way to comprehend the myriad and complex social forces that created our “freakish” subjectivity…and I say that from my own lived experience of being in a black female body, but of paradoxically being deeply fearful of other black and black female bodies — the very same bodies that ultimately unlocked the key to self-empowerment and understanding — until my mid-20s) way, we are accused of some kind of elitism or distancing arrogance, when all we are really trying to do is find another way to express the truths of our lives…one which those in power can hear. But I guess that will work with some folks, and others are determined not to hear you at any cost.

    Per Kristen’s comment about Mr. Seabrook being an “Interbet whipping post,” I would urge you to consider the fact that he stepped into an adult adoptee space when he posted his (not-so-nice, I might add) comments here. When I say this, I don’t mean that non-adoptees are not welcome here (this is not my blog anyway, I am just referencing the fact that this is a space created by an for adoptees of color, and specifically Korean adoptees, to share information and resources, because, contrary to Mr. Seabrook’s argument, there really aren’t many spaces like that for us/them, relative to the mainstream), but that you can’t be surprised that mainstream AP perspectives are not being embraced in a place that does not exist for you …At the risk of invoking a cliche, don’t play with fire if you don’t want to get burned (or will complain about said burns). Kristen, if you respect adult adoptee voices as much as you say you do, you will also respect our right to disagree with your narratives of our families, experiences, parenting strategies, and understanding of the institution of adoption itself.

    My feeling is that Mr. Seabrook had no idea of the thorn’s nest he was stepping into when he posted his response to Gang Shik’s post, or when he “simply told his story” about adopting his daughter in THE NEW YORKER, or discussed it on NPR. He probably approached it as he would any other story, doing his research (which I’m sure he obviously thought he did responsibly, contrary to the eventual outcome), and filing his story on deadline, and within the word count. This story, he seems to be saying, is attracting so much attention because it is a powerful narrative — that is all. But this is what so many people with discursive and etymological power HAVE THE PRIVILEGE to say — that their stories are context-less, that they have no relation to other stories told by other similarly raced, classed, gendered, and educated bodies: That we live in a meritocracy, and that the power of their words, social location, etc. is the result of their individual brilliance and effort. But what we are saying is that, unfortunately, your words actually DO align with those of others in similar positions of privilege, that we have heard them before, and that they exist to the detriment of what Tricia Rose has termed “intimate justice,” as well as social, political, and economic justice. This cannot be a mere coincidence, as they also uphold and reify the existing imbalanced power dynamics. As adoptees of color, we exist within the heart of the heart of Empire (the White American middle class family — perhaps still the most sacrosanct institution on the planet), which is why we often understand you better than you understand yourself. Our very survival depends on it.

    And Mr. Seabrook, per your important question about how to get your 11-year-old son more involved in Rose’s life in your family, I would urge you to lead by example. Your son will see your willingness to engage the complexity of Rose’s experiences both in your family and the various communities she will have to negotiate as a challenge and expectation to him to do the same. One thing my parents and I have come to on the difficult and amazing road we’ve been on was that it was ultimately harmful to our family for them to frame my adoption as “something that happened, and then was over.” This was because my adoption had ongoing and deep implications for me, as a black girl growing up in a white family, and in this frame, the only way this could be viewed was as, “those are Shannon’s racial problems.” What would have been far more useful, and perhaps could have avoided the eventual fracture between my older biological (White) brother and I (we have not spoken for 8+ years now, and I honestly don’t see that changing anytime soon), was if my parents viewed our family as an *interracial* one from the moment I was brought into it, and that it was therefore *everyone’s* responsibility (rather than just mine) to educate themselves about blackness, black culture, white privilege, etc.

    Julia Scheeres’ excellent and moving memoir JESUS LAND would also be quite useful, on the issue of white siblings. It is a very powerful first-person account of her childhood with her adopted black brother. And is also quite critical of the institution of TRA as it stands now (as are more and more white siblings, we are finding).

    • Please do not put words in my mouth. I do not disagree with your narrative or experiences, nor did I call anyone angry, emotional or irrational. I thought there was a lot of projection and word-twisting levied towards Seabrook, and you’ve just illustrated what I’m talking about by doing it to me.

      • Kristin, I’m genuinely interested if you think it is just the adoptees who are exhibiting a “lot of projecting and word-twisting” or whether you think Mr. Seabrook has also done some projecting and word-twisting. And this is not meant to be an attack, but it seems you are willing to give Mr. Seabrook more allowances than adult adoptees and I’m just wondering if there is a reason for that. I’m interested because I’m having a hard time seeing it, and I’ve seen you comment on other forums before and have seen a more balanced perspective from you than I’m seeing here, so I was just curious about why that is.

  47. “Also I have read comments bemoaning the fact that the adoptive parents are the ones who get on Fresh Air, or whatever, and the adoptees never get heard from. Want to know how to get on Fresh Air?. Write a compelling story about your experience that a lot of people want to read. Not an academic account of the Global North blah blah blah. A real and honest account about your experience. It seems to me that adoptees as a whole are far better educated and have much more access to media than adoptive parents, but I don’t see them getting their point across. There’s not a conspiracy here.”

    Mr. Seabrook, to me, just this little snippet alone, is a “blistering attack” on the many great books written by adult adoptees. “The Language of Blood” is a compelling story, beautifully written and very honest. Jane Jeung Trenka’s book is lyrical and poetic, in fact, it is up there as one of the most important books I have read, which is why I passed it around to all the adopted parents that I know. Even if the topic was on something other than adoption, this book is compelling, almost has a musical tone to the writing. The have been other books mentioned here, all compelling, but when an article comes out in the major news, who gets the attention as an expert? Parents like yourself, new to adoption, who really don;t have the experience of time behind you.
    To answer your other question, the adult adoptees who take the time to share their experiences with you DO know far better than you will ever know what it means to be a person of color, and to be adopted by white parents. Yes, they really do know better than we will ever know.
    I know what it feels like to be afraid, to experience the defensiveness that you are displaying, it is not easy to face some of these truths, because we have been led to believe a different perspective which doesn’t take into account the voices of the adult adoptees. You say this isn’t a conspiracy, but I well remember a few years ago, the New York Times actually censured the comments from adoptees and allies who offered a different perspective.

  48. I’m coming late to the conversation, but it took an overnight to see if I had anything to say that hadn’t already been covered in the substantive content of this post and comments – important, penetrating, fascinating. I extend my gratitude to everyone who has participated.

    I speak as the white mother of two young adults ,a son by birth and a Korean-born daughter by adoption.

    Mr. Seabrook, although I don’t know if you’ll be returning to read this, I’d like to address you directly. Your pain is so clear in your comments. I can only imagine how raw your heart is these days as you do everything in your power to surround your daughter with all the love and care you can find and more, and to try to heal the wounds of her early suffering. I can only guess at your own suffering as you imagine her as a starving infant, when you couldn’t be there to protect her. It is every parent’s nightmare.

    So I can see that what these voices are suggesting – that somehow your decision to bring your daughter home, keep her safe and surround her with love is somehow also wounding her – is unbearable to contemplate. The deepest impulse of a conscientious adoptive parent is to be the haven, the place where pain stops and healing begins.

    But no matter how much we wish otherwise, no matter how we as their parents can’t bear to hear it, what transracially-adopted adults are telling anyone who will listen is a simple truth: removing children from their family, their culture, their language, and their country inflicts enormous losses. Sometimes it is the best solution at the time; sometimes, as perhaps in the case of your daughter, it is necessary to save the child’s life. But it remains that loss is the ground in which adoption is born. And with each complicating factor – adoption, transracial, international – the losses compound.

    Our family is living one of those international adoption success stories. I feel as if my daughter and I were meant for each other, that we’ve belonged together from the beginning of time. I can’t imagine life without her. I love her with a depth and fierceness I didn’t know I possessed. Together with her father and brother, the four of us have created a loving, joyful, deeply bonded family. Our daughter is thriving as a strong, centered, independent and successful young woman who fully claims both her Korean and her American identities.

    None of this changes the fact that in being removed from the family, culture, language and country which were her birthright, she endured tremendous losses which she will carry for a lifetime. We did everything “right,” starting with the fact that I grew up in Korea, speak fluent Korean, and have lots of Korean extended family members. None of that could make up for what had been taken from her. As early as six years old, our daughter had outbursts, crying and raging that, “I should have been able to stay in Korea! Why couldn’t I stay in Korea?!” All I could do was cry with her.

    I suspect that the ferocity of some of the comments here is in response to what seems like your refusal to acknowledge the losses *inherent* in removing children from their culture and country and bringing them home to a race-conscious society where they become children of color in a white family. Whether you mean it or not, this sounds likes the all-too-familiar attitude of so many white adoptive parents who seem incapable of examining their own white conditioning and the impact it has on their children, and angrily dismiss the testimony and expertise of adult adoptees suggesting that awareness is essential.

    What I hear being asked of you is to acknowledge the automatic losses that international transracial adoption inflicts on children (even as it may be saving their lives). Given the demands of your current life with your very young daughter, perhaps you can’t do that at this time. (I notice that you did respond, “There may come a time when I find it useful.”)

    And I want you to understand that whatever it feels like, the comments here aren’t personal. When someone suggests you might be “a misguided and unprepared father who never bothered to examine his privilege,” as much of an attack as that might sound to you, no one is suggesting that you aren’t a deeply loving father who is doing everything he can imagine to care for his daughter. You can be both at the same time. The people commenting here know this because some of them have, and love, parents who are or were both. And others by their own admission were those parents.

    Despite what we might feel in hearing these difficult truths, the adult adoptees here aren’t attacking adoptive parents, they are trying to reach us, by any means necessary, to say, “Here are some ways you can spare your children some of the struggle that we had to endure.”

    There is one piece of good news amidst all this painful reality: the way out is through. As our daughter has taught me, she didn’t need me to try to fix things, and God knows she didn’t need me to pretend that the losses weren’t there. What she needed was someone to stay close and support her as she moved through the process of grieving, exploring, and finding her own way through. It’s a process that will continue through the rest of our lives together, one precious part of the gift of getting to be her mother.

    p.s. Re. your son’s involvement: Every person’s place in the family mobile is radically shaken up when a new member is added. It takes awhile for each person to discover how he/she is essential in new roles. Our son was only four when our daughter came home at age 8 months, but once he found something he was uniquely qualified to provide, the transition went more smoothly. For instance, he discovered that when she fussed, his loud voicing of the Batman theme music – “Na na na na, na na na na … Batman!” – caused her to cheer up instantly.

  49. When I quote Jane Elliott on ‘ There is nothing ‘nice’ about racism’. I relate it to here where there is no ‘nice’ way to describe the facts of our adoption experiences as International Adoptees. Thanks.

  50. Dear Mr. Seabrook,

    Rather than focusing on the personal, let’s look at collective history, which many of the adoptees you’re speaking to in this thread have worked very hard to research and to analyze through the lens of our common experience. Rather than dismissing this history as academic blah, blah, let’s please be thoughtful and recognize how adoption persists due to vulnerabilities affecting families who sometimes do not understand what adoption is. It’s very possible that Rose’s parents do not have a complete understanding of overseas adoption as the termination of their parental rights, memory, and even presence in their daughter’s life and the generations that come through her. In fact, it’s very common for adoption as we understand it in the U.S. not to translate over into sending countries’ contexts. You can read more about my work on this issue here:

    In Korea, for instance, there are two sets of kinship rights — parental and custodial. Fathers have the right to register children up until a few years ago, and so only fathers had the right to surrender us for adoption. By Korean law, many of us were illegally relinquished. This is a little known fact that Korean adoption agencies have exploited for generations. In addition, Korean law allowed for us to keep our citizenship if we requested it shortly after our adoptions, but none of us kept it because our parents were either not informed or were counseled against it by the agencies.

    In Korea, there is an extensive network of maternity homes that are agency-owned and so provide a direct supply line to adoption. TRACK, an advocacy organization that Jane Jeong Trenka and I both work with, uncovered this information and posted it for adoptees to see, but we were asked by the government to take this information down. In other words, the history of adoption, the real practices on the sending side, and the realities that begin to respond to all adoptees’ most basic question, “Why was I adopted?” (whether this question is articulated or even shared with the parents is another matter), are oftentimes highly political issues that the sending country might not want publicized. In response to TRACK queries last summer, the Korean government advised that adoption is in the nation’s interests. It was surprising to hear what I had always suspected that adoption is not about the child’s interests alone.

    Anyway, adoptees have been at the forefront in asking why and in uncovering the real circumstances and realities — not the myths that we have been told or that our parents were told and naively accepted — that have led to our adoptions. The lessons from the past are cogent for the present and for future adoptions, and they will help you answer your daughter’s eventual question, “Why was I adopted?,” beyond the simple phrase, “Because you were loved.” This phrase is a beginning, but it’s not enough as so many adoptees have shared with you in this thread. It’s a beginning for dialogue, but it’s not an answer given the complexities of adoption.

    I would like to propose to you, if you are reading this thread still, whether you might present an adoptee-authored article to The New Yorker as a follow-up to yours. This might be a wonderful way to move forward in a constructive way toward continuing dialogue beyond this blog thread. Please consider this option and advise.

    Jennifer Kwon Dobbs

  51. The recurring terms “critique,” “race” and “privilege” are crutches that aren’t helping here. What is the bottom line? If the “critique” is that the APs shouldn’t have adopted the children they now love and protect, there is no way it’s not offensive and the APs will never stop being defensive (me included). If it’s about “race” and “privilege,” then APs have the same obligation to think that through as anyone else in a racist society.

    There are political and policy issues about international adoption, which, as I’ve written ( ), might best be handled without the APs in the room. And there are questions about parenting strategy, style, awareness, etc., which are genuinely useful and interesting — but will never get anywhere with the parents when couched in the “critique” that says the adoption was wrong.

    Just because it’s impossible to convince parents their adoptions were wrong (and I’m not saying they were), that doesn’t make the adoptions a good thing, policy-wise — but if the intention is to stop international adoption, there is no use beating up on the adoptive parents. The target for that argument is politicians, international agencies, social movement orgs., etc.

    • “And there are questions about parenting strategy, style, awareness, etc., which are genuinely useful and interesting — but will never get anywhere with the parents when couched in the “critique” that says the adoption was wrong.”

      Yes. There is an important message here that is being lost as Seabrook bears the brunt of every frustration of the adoption system.

  52. Love your own discomfort. Appreciate it, hold on to it, listen to it. As Martha would say . . .

  53. Mr. Seabrook,

    I may not be as eloquent or as experienced as some of my fellow posters, and I admit I’ve only heard and read pieces of your article, but I would like to express my thoughts. I am a good friend of KAD, and like many here, I am an adoptee raised by Caucasian parents. I’d like to applaud you, first off, for opening your heart and and home to Rose. I was raised by two loving parents and a wonderful brother, who was also adopted, and in time got to be the older sister to another adoptee. My family was then predominantly Asian, and we loved each other and I always thought that our family being together and loving each other was the most important thing.

    Living in an affluent, white community, I saw myself as a caucasian deep down. To me, we were all accepted among our family and good friends, and we were treated the same. The sad truth hit me in elementary school, that we are not all the same. I can remember, quite vividly, walking through a playground and looking at two caucasian students and friends, singing “Chinese, Japanese, look at me, I have the best eyes as you can see” while making grotesque faces, fingers slanting their eyes. I didn’t quite get it, but I remember looking into the mirror at the play ground, and seeing my almond shaped eyes, and realizing they were talking about me. I told a teacher, who talked to the students, who most likely didn’t even truly understand what they were saying, but still, I realized in that moment that I was different.

    I’m now 21 years old. In my town I was acknowledged of being Asian, but that’s all that would come of it, I was a local and that was good enough for them. I left my hometown for the big city of Boston, which is quite diverse. I remember meeting my dorm mates for the first time, and asking several of the Asian students where they were from, and I was shocked to hear they had Asian parents as well, and had come over only years before with their parents. The “true Asians” quickly realized I wasn’t one of them, and, while I was friends with them, I was never accepted. Afterall, I didn’t speak the languages they did, I didn’t have the same experiences. The caucasian students at school, only saw me as another Asian face, and quickly overlooked me as well, and I found myself being in the awkward position of being an Adopted Asian American. All the love from my parents couldn’t help me cope with how I felt being an outsider.

    I was a “Twinkie,” a “Banana,” white on the inside but Asian, or “yellow” on the outside, as companions of mine have grossly put. I longed for a long time that I could change my skin and be white. There are moments where I still do. But then I met some amazing people at Boston Korean Adoptees, who KAD introduced me to. They understood how I felt! It didn’t matter that they were Korean and I was Taiwanese, they all accepted me and they taught me what it menant to be an Adopted Asian American.

    Again, I can’t quote statistics, or offer you any studies, but I can offer you my personal experiences. The neverending love from my parents definitely helped me grow and feel appreciated, but it wasn’t enough. I always felt different, and Rose will feel different as she grows up as well, no matter what community. She may have ‘black’ caregivers and friends, and be near a Haitian community, but she is not ‘black’ and Haitian, she’s an Adopted Haitian American. She will have questions that you may not understand or be able to answer- talking to my parents, it feels terrible. And her questions, these ‘black’ friends and caregivers and the Haitian community will not understand. You’re right, her experiences are different from ours… but they’re also different from the ‘black’ and Haitian community. All you can do, though, is to love your daughter, teach her values and morals and how to be a good person. The adopted community isn’t asking to raise your daughter, just to be there to accept her as peers in a way you can’t, and to help her come into her own and to be proud of who she is.


  54. “There is no “nice” way to have a discussion like this.”

    Oh, but there is. I have watched this discussion unfold through the eyes of an adoptive parent and am grateful for it. The majority of the comments are very well written and thought provoking and very much appreciated on my part. I can not begin to express how grateful I am for the bloggers who share their experiences so openly and honestly. You have all changed me as a parent.

    But….but… I can understand why Seabrook feels attacked when he is labeled misguided and unprepared or supremely entitled and woefully ignorant. It would be a very rare parent would could really *hear* anything anymore after being labeled like that. Labeling only puts people on the defensive and we all shut down when we are on the defense.

    We all come to the table of parenting being somewhat misguided and certainly unprepared. Parenting is a journey and we all evolve along the way. Five years into my journey, I have evolved into a much better parent, mostly because of the wisdom of transracial adoptees who have been willing to share their experiences. As a new parent, it was extraordinarily difficult to read these experiences and know that my child would suffer in that same way– to acknowledge that I could have done something–anything– that would hurt this beautiful baby boy who took my breath away. The paradox of transracial adoption is that in order to help our children, we first have to see that our actions have hurt them. That takes time. Seabrook is new to the journey of adoptive parenting. If your goal is to examine him as an adoptive parent, to express your thoughts and resentments about the corrupt system, to have a safe place to do all that, then continue on. You deserve that and I would never take that away from you. But if your goal is truly to educate him, to help arrive at a place where he will be a better parent, then keep talking, but gently. Share thoughts that make us uncomfortable (of course they will!), but stay away from labeling him. Be honest, but kind.

    Thank you for listening. I know that the education of adoptive parents is the last thing you should have to do. Please know how much it is appreciated.

  55. I’m an adoptive parent of a child of another race, and I just want to echo those other voices urging John Seabrook to listen to adult adoptees. What disturbs me most about his posts is his defensive posture; he seems to have taken the stance of a debator intent on sticking to his preordained opinion, rather than a listener who is open to other ideas, however uncomfortable they may make him. I think that he is probably right that his daughter will have a different experience than transracial adoptees raised in exclusively white communities; at the same time, this does not mean that Rose will or should cheerfully accept the differences within her family without question or anguish. I think that it’s sad that Seabrook, who evidently has good intentions that are more complex than a simplistic rescuer complex, has seemingly closed his ears to people who have much to teach and ask him and his family.

  56. Mr Seabrook-

    Your words bring me to tears. I am an adult adoptee, Indian, I grew up in multiracial New York City with the kindest, most liberal, and yes, whitest parents. Educated and in the publishing world, I am sure you have run into them at a cocktail party or two. I have no doubt they had the best of intentions for me, and that they love me. But I have experiences they can never understand, and when I left the world of childhood and their protection I experienced racism in a way they can’t even conceive of. Their belief that their love was enough has nearly killed me. Their lack of understanding for my need for a biological connection brings me to tears.

    I have no doubt of your love for your daughter, but please listen to the folks who are telling you their experiences as transracial adoptees if you want to do the right thing by your daughter, don’t diminish this part of her existence.

    Please, please listen, your daughter will one day be an adult, and she will have deep questions of identity that you cannot answer. What I can never understand is why my parents’ discomfort is always more important than my needs for identity. Please don’t let your daughter feel this way.

  57. @Seabrook – In reading your responses, I can feel your frustration with this very challenging group of adult adoptees. I admit I am a bit intimidated by them.

    I entered adoption confident of my ability to parent an adopted child. Now, 5 months after bringing her home from China, I find myself questioning my ability to fill so much loss in her life. I feel guilty for taking her from a country and “orphanage family” that she loved so much. I am fortunate that my daughter was well fed and cared for until she came to our family at age 6. I am so sorry that your daughter’s circumstances were much more terrible – such poverty and malnutrition.

    I survived the kind of conditions your daughter did. I weighed 19 lbs at age 3, and bore physical scars from abuse. I was supposed to be retarded and would only grow to be a dwarf. The love of my adoptive family gave me a life that surely might have ended early in Korea.

    So, I thought I was ready to parent an adopted child. She is the same race (albeit different nationality) as me and my 3 other (bio) children. I can relate to her adoptee experience in a way that I suppose non-TRA/IA parents would not.

    And yet, I also recognize that whatever I do will not be enough to cover the hole in my new daughter’s life. She will always carry pain from the loss of her birth family & country. She will experience racism, adopt-ism, nationality-ism, etc. I will do everything possible to provide her a fulfilling, successful, happy life – as my parents have done for me. No matter how closely my own experience mirrors hers, it will not give her back what she has lost, and it will not avert what she must endure. How do I know this? Because I have lived it.

    I hope your Rose also has a happy life, and it sounds as if you – like most of us adoptive parents – are prepared to fight to provide that to her. But she will have her own unique set of needs that we AP’s must be prepared to acknowledge, and that is what I sense you are not quite prepared for yet. This adoption thing, if we are honest, is hurtful to all parties involved. Biological families, adoptees and – yes – adoptive parents are all hurt by the truth of adoption. it is often easier for AP’s to turn from that truth, and hold on to the happiness it has given us. Adoptees do not have that option – we cannot turn away.

    Please consider how propogating your views on adoption – without deep consideration for the views expressed in this dialogue – serves to advance the cause of international adoption in a harmful way. I sense that your intentions are good, and that your love for your daughter is immense. What a shame if you are not able to use these voices to inform the way you will parent that child whom you love so much.

    And thank you to all who have commented here. This discussion has been intense and provoking. Every single perspective has been offered in a spirit of improving IA/TRA for adoptees – and that is entirely the point.

  58. It has occured to me that one reading my comment above might misinterpret my meaning. It’s not that adult adoptee experiences don’t help greatly in raising an adopted child, it’s that *no type* of experience will eliminate the loss and subsequent challenges that IA/TRA adoptees will face.

    It strikes me as odd that Mr. Seabrook commented that today’s adult adoptee experiences might be irrelevant by the time his daughter is an adult adoptee. On a personal level, none of this will ever be irrelevant. But on a systematic level, isn’t irrelevance what we all are working toward? That children will cease to be separated from their birth families and exported to “wealthier” countries to sustain an this adoption industry? That conversations about adoptee experiences will no longer be needed?

    One of the most tragic events of my life so far, is that I had the opportunity to adopt my daughter. Things have not changed enough in the past 30 years.

  59. Personally, I’d like to see more discussions like this one. It is almost open.

    The only thing that seems to be holding it back is that you, Mr. Seabrook, don’t seem to actually want to engage.

    Though I suppose I like that you keep coming back to comment, I couldn’t see any of this more differently than you do. I have been an international adoptive parent for over seven years now, and my perspective has changed completely over that time.

    I suppose it would have changed in any case, but I owe it to, well, many of the people posting above that I was able to humble myself enough to accept that what they are saying is real and that it matters and that there isn’t a large enough sum of money, people of color, people of their exact heritage, traveling, Legos, model trains and the best schools money can buy that can give us much hope of understanding what our own children are going and will go through for their entire lives.

    Open your damned heart and just give in a bit and let is simmer in the back of your mind for a few years. You don’t lost your child in the process. You actually gain them.

  60. John Raible is one of the best advocates your daughter will ever have, Mr. Seabrook. You would do well to read his research and writings, and stop thinking , just for a minute, that you have all the answers.

    • I am now even more blown away by the level of discussion here, especially by the way posters have blended heart and mind, and the personal and the political, to put forward a cogent analysis of transnational and transracial adoption. Thank you to the original poster and blog host, Kadnexus, for giving us this space to share our insights. And thank you to Jennifer for the provocative suggestion that Rose’s father use his privilege to help adoptee writers to break into the New Yorker. As someone who considers himself a pretty decent writer (I have to write and publish in academic journals for a living, since tenure depends on it), I have written and submitted several op-eds on adoption, but I have learned that a critical perspective from adult adoptees is not likely to see print. Shannon has articulated brilliantly some of the reasons why (see above).

      Even if Mr. Seabrook cannot appreciate, at present, the depth and breadth of adoptee experience represented in these posts, I take heart in seeing the words of appreciation from other, more experienced, APs who ARE able to hear adoptee voices without becoming too threatened by the truths contained therein. I appreciate that Rose’s father has bothered to return here and contribute further comments, even though I disagree with his closed and resistant stance.

      I will even go so far as apologizing for offending him with my deliberately provocative digs, which were designed to get his attention and provoke further engagement. They were also designed to show other readers that we can and must stand up to and challenge the dominant voices of APs, who over and over get to trot out there tired, predictable, and self-serving adoption “narratives” that, unwittingly or not, end up bolstering the unethical global adoption industry. Being subjected to such voices repeatedly frustrates us, because we recognize that, by taking up so much discursive space, they strangle the less privileged voices of adoptees and birth parents in the same way that parasitic invasive plant species crowd out the undergrowth in a fragile and struggling rain forest. (No, I did not just call Roses’ father a parasite!)

      So, Mr. Seabrook, I am sorry if I hurt your feelings. It was wrong of me to stoop to the level of that group of threatened and selfish adoptive parents who continue to mock and deride adult adoptees by judging harshly the voices of those with whom they disagree. I offer this apology sincerely, man to man, writer to writer, and adoptive father to adoptive father. Whether you choose to align yourself with the AP group I just identified is totally up to you.

      Having offered my personal apology, I will NOT apologize for being pissed off by the recalcitrant arrogance and know-it-all superiority of far too many adoptive parents. Their orientation is so, so familiar to me. As a workshop presenter and educator in the adoption community for more than 30 years (since I was 17), I have seen it all and heard it all before. There is NOTHING in your tone, your attitude, and in your discourse, printed or on the radio, Mr. Seabrook, that is new to me. Nothing you have said is unpredictable, or, in my professional opinion, particularly helpful in correcting what’s wrong with transnational adoption. In fact, I see your recent New Yorker article and your comments here, as well as your radio interview, as part of the problem.

      Not because you adopted Rose, don’t get me wrong. But because, by proclaiming loudly and arrogantly your perspective as Rose’s rescuer—and you did—you are replicating the hegemonic AP discourse that props up the industry AND that systematically overshadows and silences birth parent and adoptee perspectives.

      Our anger as adoptees who are trying to point the way out of the madness created by the industry (and by the systems of oppression from which it arose) comes from the fact that it is people like you, namely entitled white adoptive parents, who get to take up too much space in the adoption community, as if YOUR experience is the most important one, as if YOUR voice is the one that really matters, when, in truth, we know that adoption will never be fixed until there is a rebalancing of voices. Put bluntly, APs need to stop talking for a while and share some power.

      Speaking still as an experienced presenter and trainer, I take comfort in remembering the voices of a handful of rare adoptive dads who have come back to disclose years later, their own version of this message: “It was hard at first to hear John’s anger when my child was small. I didn’t want to believe his message. I didn’t like the way it made me feel. But now that my adopted black child is older, I have come to realize that he was right. And I am a better parent for having found a way to listen.” I hope, as you fall more deeply in love with your precious daughter in the coming years, that your education in matters of race and adoption will deepen at the same rate, or even at an accelerated rate, as your love for her grows.

      In answer to your question about helping your son, I recommend reading In Their Siblings’ Voices, the latest book in the trilogy from Rhonda Roorda and Rita Simon. You can also read my dissertation. It features the voices and experiences of white non-adopted adults who grew up with black and Korean adopted siblings.


    Monday, February 22, 2010
    Call for Full Investigation into Amelya Frances Kirkpatrick’s Adoption in Utah

    According to a court document obtained by PEAR, on February 9, 2010, Scott and Karen Banks, former owners of adoption agency Focus on Children, were allowed to adopt another child, originally from China. The Banks were indicted on 135 Federal counts in 2007 for a fraudulent adoption scheme in Samoa. In 2009, they pled guilty to Aiding and Abetting the Improper Entry of an Alien in a plea deal made with the US Attorney’s office in Utah. They were given a sentence of five years probation during which time they are forbidden to participate in the adoption business and are required to make payment into a trust for the victims.

    The recent adoption occurred after evidence of their illegal activities with their Samoan adoption program were put on record in Utah courts. Also supplied was information regarding the Banks two previously adopted Romanian children.

    According to numerous media sources and their now-adult Romanian daughter’s own affidavit, this child and her sibling were flown to Samoa by Scott Banks and left without legal documentation in 2000, leaving these adoptees in a legal limbo. In addition, according to an affidavit given by their caregiver in Samoa, the Banks have had no contact with either child since their arrival, nor have they supported the children in any way since abandoning them in Samoa.

    Furthermore, a third child of the Banks, suffering from cerebral palsy and also adopted from Romania, has been alleged in various documents to have been severely neglected in their home. This child was placed in a group home in Utah.

    PEAR believes that anyone convicted of crimes involving children should be barred from the possibility of adopting any other children. We also believe that any parents convicted of or with a history of legitimate allegations of child abuse and neglect should be barred from adopting children.

    PEAR opposes any practice that does not protect the rights of the child to live a life free from abuse and neglect with qualified and loving adoptive parents. To not hold these rights paramount in an adoption proceeding undermines every moral and ethical standard that each child deserves.

    We are sponsoring a petition to be sent to the Governor of Utah asking his office to open an investigation into how and why this family was allowed to adopt another child given their dubious history. If you agree with the statements made please take a moment to sign the petition.

    The petition can be found at

    Measure passed by PEAR’s board 2/19/2010

  62. Hi, I am a psychiatrist and an adoptive mom. I have read most of the studies about international adoptions, countless books- both academic and memoirs. However, the most life changing and enlightening material I have read came from the blogs and “voices” of adult adoptees. The blogs, writings and books of John Raible, Ji in, Julia, Harlow’s monkey, Jane Trenka, Sang Shil, Kad Nexus and others, have been hard to read at times, but astronomically important in my life and hopefully the life of my adoptive daughter (a Korean adoptee). They are the reason that I sought out Korean and Korean American people to be in our lives. I know that this was selfishly sought at first- to help me raise my Korean adopted child, but now I am forever changed. I am the one who has gained so much, first by adopting my daughter and then by having all the wonderful diverse friends in my life. I sought friends and mentors for my daugher and gained friends and mentors for myself. When an expert is needed to speak about adoption, the adult adoptees are the only experts as far as I am concerned. I dont think you can be an expert until you have experienced the loss part of the adoption relationship.

  63. I read a lot of blogs and never post on them. I’ve been following this thread religiously in an attempt to understand how my life experiences of love and loss relates to my community – the adoptee community – as they passionately attempt to be heard by Mr. Seabrook. I do not expect to ever truly understand how being an adoptee relates to me personally, although I will forever attempt to reach that understanding. Complex as it is.

    I believe that you, Mr. Seabrook, would call my ‘adoption experience’ (more of a term that could be used by adoptive parents rather than adoptees) a happy one. As I approach my later-20’s I have an exceptionally close and loving relationship with my family (adoptive mom and dad, two brothers who are the biological children of my parents – as well as extended family all not adoptees). I was given a wonderful education (which continues to this day), incredible opportunity for travel and life-experiences that is both expensive and rare, respect and unconditional love. My life would undoubtedly be different, my trials undoubtedly different had I not been placed for adoption. My parents are highly educated, successful and yes, white. My father became fluent in Japanese long before they adopted me from Korea, working as a medical doctor in Japan. I guarantee he has more knowledge of Asian cultural practices and history than I do – he is also more interested in it than I am. Having been to Korea and Japan with him (and my mother) countless times in my growing up and into my adulthood, I would also say that he is more comfortable in Asia than I am. Aside from their strong desire to connect with Asia, their respect for Asian culture and practices – they are amazingly dedicated and magnificent parents. (Often asked, no, I do not believe my adoption was prompted by their interest in Asia.) Do I feel lucky to have them as parents? Absolutely! Do I feel lucky to be adopted? No. I would not wish the experience of adoption on any child. (More so, I would not wish the effects of international adoption on any country and any birth family.) It is a process of extreme complex emotions, self-esteem, misunderstanding, and awkwardness. That said, I am mature enough to know that adoption is not the only life experience that causes such undesirable life-time issues.

    My parents were the perfect people to have around as I battled for several years with an aggressive form of blood cancer. One that might have been fairly “easy” to cure had I never been placed for adoption as a toddler. My parents patience through my cancer journey was inspiring to many people watching from the sidelines – as well as myself. Do they know how it is to be a cancer patient? No. Do they know how I feel? Not at all. They would never assume they do. As good physicians they know that their role in my life during my cancer treatment and afterward could have a huge positive or negative influence on my recovery and health afterward. Likewise is their approach to adoption.

    My mother and father both have medical degrees. My mother also has extensive education in psychiatry and psychology and has worked with adoptive families and adoptees in her professional career. She knows that her role in my life as an adoptee can hugely influence my understanding of self, comfort level in my adult communities, and my overall success as a human being. Does she know how I feel as an adoptee? She could not possibly know this, nor would she pretend to. My mother is grateful to adoption for allowing her the opportunity to have a daughter (a life-time desire for her) – she is not shy in saying so. I have also heard her say that she would never expect me to be grateful to adoption. Her acknowledgment of the fact that her adoption experience is a very different one than mine (hers can be summed up as “happy” – while mine is more complex) is just about as understanding as a parent can get.

    My parents have always encouraged me to be a part of the Korean community, a part of Korea, a part of cancer survivors, a part of adoptees, a part of the professional community I chose to join, a part of my families – both adoptive and birth. They have done so knowing that they cannot expect me to feel 100% in any one of these communities alone. And they have done so knowing that they cannot provide in whole what these communities can for me in parts.

    Exposing your daughter to an all Haitian or black community and limiting as much as possible her exposure to the white world which you are a part of will not, in my experience, guarantee she feel comfortable in her ‘own skin’ as it is different than yours. Is it a good idea? Sure. Will it prove helpful to her later in life? Very possible. But it does not address the fact that she is an adoptee – with a loss that her “own” community of Haitians also cannot understand. And this, I think, is why an adoptee community is essential in an adoptee’s life as well as their larger cultural/racial community. When the adoptees here recommend to you to be a part of trying to understand our adoptee community as well as the birth culture of your daughter, I think they are making a generous and wise recommendation. To turn down such an invitation or dismiss it as a negative experience would be, in my opinion, a great loss to you as a father raising an adoptee and your daughter.

    Wishing you and Rose the best…

  64. Many people far more eloquent than myself have commented here so beautifully on the perils and challenges of transracial adoption. Mr. Raible and Bec F.’s comments so fully elucidate the concerns and experiences of transracial adoptees that there is little for me to add aside from my previous personal entreaty as a member of a community not once removed from Mr Seabrook’s.

    But I have been so truly moved by the level of discourse here that I keep coming back, it’s a clean-well lighted place, I suppose, a rarity for adult adoptees. I want to stay here awhile, not only to express myself but to bask in the warmth of others who understand my lifelong struggle, and whose words express my feelings more fully than I ever thought possible.

    Mr Seabrook, I don’t know what else I can add to the entreaties above. Maybe I can tell you more of my story, just a bit. I grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, my father is an editor of a magazine to which I believe you have contributed, my mother works at perhaps the most well known white-shoe publishing house in New York. I attended integrated schools in an integrated neighborhood, and I was raised among the (supposedly evolved) liberal elite of Manhattan. My parents friends viewed me, I am sure, as intriguingly exotic. As the baby of my extended family, I was adored and never suffered from insensitive comments. With olive skin and brown hair and eyes, I melt into New York. In short, not so far from the situation you describe for Rose.

    Nevertheless…adoption scarred me for life. As Bec put it, I am grateful for my parents but would not wish adoption on any child. I am sure my parents view my adoption as successful and happy. I experience it, on some level, as annhilation. Where did I come from? What if I can never find out? My parents, educated and kind as they are, can never empathize with my loss, don’t understand why I will always be a bit lost, and they had no clue how to help me navigate the world as a brown person, since in their words, the world was becoming “colorblind”.

    The Haitian community in Brooklyn is, I am sure, a wonderful asset for Rose. But they can’t understand her loss, her family, her community, her specific place. They can’t understand the trauma of adoption (let alone transracial adoption), the lingering loss of a person whose body she was a part of for nine months.

    Mr Seabrook I hope you realize we all want the best for Rose. You are being given an opportunity right here that previous generations of transracial adoptees never had. We can’t make you take it, but I hope that behind your defensive posturing is a scared father in whom our suggestions have taken root, and that when the dust settles you are able to LISTEN and learn from adoptees. If your child had a terrible illness, or had been in a war, surely you would listen to those who had been through similar cicumstances. This is no diffferent. And unlike our parents, Rose will KNOW that you have had every opportunity to be educated by those who have gone down this path before. You cannot plead ignorance, only obstinance.

  65. Mr. Seabrook states: “Also I have read comments bemoaning the fact that the adoptive parents are the ones who get on Fresh Air, or whatever, and the adoptees never get heard from. Want to know how to get on Fresh Air?. Write a compelling story about your experience that a lot of people want to read. Not an academic account of the Global North blah blah blah. A real and honest account about your experience. It seems to me that adoptees as a whole are far better educated and have much more access to media than adoptive parents, but I don’t see them getting their point across. There’s not a conspiracy here.”

    Mr. Seabrook, with all due respect, I would like to challenge the notion that it
    should be relatively easy, perhaps even effortless, for adoptees to share their
    experiences with the general public; to speak out as an impassioned group of
    intellectuals, and to establish balance in a narrative that is largely dominated by
    adoptive parents. (Not to mention the privilege necessary to do so.)

    As an educated 22-year-old transracial adoptee, I could write a “compelling story,” but my hesitance to divulge the intricacies of my personal experience is a conscious survival mechanism.

    My life– the always tenuous navigation of paradox, the paralysis of racial/ethnic
    difference, the burden of cultural authenticity/inauthenticity… is not
    something I necessarily wish to commodify, nor to make accessible for an eager pool of adoptive parents who themselves are unwilling to sit in discomfort with
    their adopted children, or with adoptees in general.

    For in so doing, one risks the possibility of internal disruption…. of exposing a
    vulnerability that many adoptees have worked so diligently to protect from the incursion of curious, well intentioned people. Those who attempt to quantify and qualify our experiences often dismiss the privacy of our lives, and deny the multiplicity of our experiences.

    It is one thing to collaborate, to engage in a productive dialogue (as this thread aims to do), but I would urge you to consider what it may mean for colonized/displaced individuals to disclose their histories.

    • Dear Molly,

      I so admire you by the comments you write. You sound like an amazingly gounded 22-year old! I only started facing my adoption ‘issues’ at the age of 26. Before that I felt so full of shame.

      Thank you so much for your so valid points and for sticking up for us. Infact I am amazed by every adoptees comments on this blog-thread. And I also admire those adoptive parents who so embrace our input and acknowlege that parenting any child including international adoptees like us is a learning and growing process for ALL involved.

      Thank you so much.

      Warm Regards

  66. Deep bow to every adopted person who voiced their knowledge and experience here. This white adoptive parent of non-white children is grateful to you all for speaking out.

  67. Thank you KADNEXUS for this thread which seems to me to be an excellent illustration of practical reason and the sort of dialogue that society genuinely needs to have. This discussion does not, as far as I can tell, lead to relativistic ethics. Instead it leads towards truth claims in a concrete praxis. Adoption is a social praxis that absolutely must take into account the experience of adopted persons if it is to evolve.

    I was interested to hear Mr. Seabrook say in his interview with Terri Gross that children are like “rosetta stones” who have experiences for which they do not yet have words. He says that even at sixteen months old a child’s experiences are yet to be told. I want to say that all these words from adopted adults are exactly those words translated from their rosetta stone…enculturated with the language of today…sometimes even the grad school language of today. Too bad the translations haven’t registered with him.

    I want to think that the kind of discourse that can come from adoption study is new and fresh…and can help society think new thoughts about people.

  68. How easy it is to silence the adult adoptee voice.

    My youngest two daughters are from China.

    I am also the list owner of International-Adopt-Talk @ yahoogroups. [] where you can listen to a diversity of adult adoptee voices.

    There’s a long road from toddler to adult, adoptee or not.

  69. I am a completely outside observer who heard Mr. Seagrave on NPR and found this board.

    I am left wondering what the solution is?

  70. Karla, how are you defining the problem? It seems to me that the adoptee voices represented here have not only defined the problem, but have put forward some solutions. Could it be perhaps that you define the “problem” differently, so you are not seeing the solutions offered here?

  71. @ Jenifer – I just wanted to add that your comments above are exactly the sort that raise the hair on the back of my neck as I realize once again that there is such a great difference between my and my children’s perspective.

    The voice of adult adoptees is the only way to accomplish this revelation. I even know what it is like to be forcibly taken away from your mother. That happened to me at age 10. But I still never had any clue what dropping so heavy a barrier on someone’s identity was like.

    Then I saw this in my youngest sibling, who was herself adopted to another family. Watching her develop as an artist, I suddenly saw that her art is entirely about identity. I noticed this actually because of the work by adult adoptees that I was by then studying. And finally I knew that being an adopted person is a very difficult burden.

    Oh, how I wish there was some way to trigger this in more of us so that we can improve the common understanding of the human experience to include these truths.

  72. I realize I have come very late to this discussion. However, I have been keeping up with the discussions surrounding the original New Yorker piece. Thank you KAD Nexus, Jae Ran, John Raible, Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, among others to offer critical insight to this issue. I hope discussions like this continue. These types of engagements makes me proud to be a KAD academic.

  73. I’ve spent the last 2 hours reading this thread. I am blown away by the instant love everyone has for Rose. I am moved by how all adult adoptees and adoptive parent allies care so deeply for her well-being. This is what Mr. Seabrook does not see yet.

    I am so grateful for this community of adult adoptees. I am relieved to know you will be there to support my kids.

  74. “Which reminds me of the poster who talked about Jane Trenka. I never said that Jane Trenka herself was bitter. Please if you are criticizing me do me the favor of reading my work carefully. I said as an author she came off as bitter. The scene of her adoptive mother not wanting to go to her birth mother’s memorial, and her adoptive father hanging up on her because she swore at his wife — that is bitter. Not bitter in the sense of oh you don’t appreciate what you have. Bitter in the sense that it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. Again, my reading. But I speak as myself, always.”

    I am late to this discussion. I am not a racial adoptee, but I am a transplanted person who was taken from one family and adopted by another. Just because I am white and adopted by white people does not lessen the loss. I was deprived of my natural culture and parentage. My adoptive parents never wanted to me to know the truth and never wanted me to know my own full blood siblings. I grew up isolated from my own blood kin in the same city. That experience gives me authority to speak.

    I want to comment on Mr. Seabrook’s above quoted comment. I am an author who has been published in newspapers and social work journals and a memoir. People say that I am bitter. Just as the author Jane Trenka is labeled as bitter for describing what happened, I am labeled as bitter for describing similar events in my life. A writer writes about her experiences. Readers react to what they read. Their interpretations are colored by their own misperceptions of adoption and therefore, the author is labeled as bitter. My experiences do leave a bitter taste in one’s mouth. Because I describe similar situations as Trenka does, should I be labeled as bitter? Or, would a more accurate assessment be that the situations themselves are despicable? The adoptee is simply describing unbearable experiences.

    How to describe the unreasonable actions of a reactionary and angry adoptive mother who storms off at the adoptee’s wedding or the disgust of the extended adoptive extended family who shun the adoptee because she invites members of her natural family to her own wedding? Just because people have their own interpretations as to how an adoptee is supposed to act after a reunion does not mean that these people ought to mistreat the adoptee — and then judge the adoptee harshly as a bitter adoptee for describing events in a published piece.

    I have never Trenka’s work, but for the two examples given, I identify with her in that my adoptive relatives harshly reacted to my reunion. It is my life, not theirs. I am bitter by their mistreatment of me and I wrote about it since being found by natural family in 1974 when I was 18. I am bitter at how I was treated, and continue to be treated, by certain relatives who want to impose their misguided assumptions of adoption onto me. None of the people who have mistreated me because I am an outspoken adoptee have ever bothered to study, read or understand the complexities of being an adoptee. They just want to continue to snicker behind my back and spread rumors.

    I suspect that Jane Trenka has had similar experiences.

    Seabrook needs to know that an adoptee observes and experiences. Adoptees are often the brunt of other people’s attitudes about adoption. When we write about our observations, it is best to look at who does what to the adoptee. The adoptee is more often than not the one left holding the bag of judgment of others.

    Joan Wheeler @

  75. I’ve skimmed through this thread and read a lot of the responses from John Seabrook, other adoptive parents and most importantly, the adoptees. I’m just a graduate student and I’m not good at expressing myself in such an academic and proper way as many of you have. I’m still learning and this thread has definitely given me a perspective.

    But I wanted to voice how I feel. I feel like the only “unhappy” person is John Seabrook. Instead of being open and grateful for the support and advice that so many people are offering, you are getting defensive. And I think that is a valid reaction from a parent who loves their child and my parents would act much in the same way. But last month I took my parents to a Korean Adoption Conference for adoptees and their families where the majority of the weekend was spent listening to each other’s stories and sharing experiences. It the first time for myself and my parents to really get involved with the adoption community. I was grateful to meet other adoptees and hear their stories. My parents said that it really opened their eyes and they said that they wished they had participated when I was a child. They wished they had belonged to such a strong community and support system earlier.

    “So this person is saying that this community is going to better at raising my daughter than I am? Do you have any idea of how many hours we put into my daughter every day? And do you really think that the only hope for her is to be delivered us to your community? You really think that? I’d like to know.”

    To answer your question, no I don’t think “this community is going to be better at raising you daughter”. But I strongly suggest that you DO deliver yourselves to that community. It may not seem like it now, but this might be the most important community you can have when parenting your daughter. And what parent doesn’t need advice about parenting? I’m scared to death of being a parent.

    So regarding your question as to living in a diverse neighborhood: “Correct me if I am wrong (like, I have to ask), but I am assuming most of the posters here did not grow up in those circumstances. So isn’t it possible that Rose’s experience is going to be vastly different from yours, and your collected wisdom is going to be very out of date or irrelevant when it comes to Rose’s experience?” No. In fact it can just open up a whole other can of worms! Kidding, but seriously. I was ignorant to the fact that I didn’t fit in with Koreans and other Korean Americans until I began meeting other Koreans in college. Which is a whole other issue that internationally adopted children have to deal with.

    If you haven’t already, I would suggest not just “living in a predominantly African American community in Brooklyn, where three of every four faces she sees on the street are black, her friends are black, her caregiver is black, and she is living within a few miles of the second largest Haitian community in the US, and, I might add, in a country with a black president,” I would suggest becoming involved in that community. Or even becoming involved in the adoption community. Maybe instead of publishing an article you could actually go to a conference and meet people (face-to-face) to share your story and hear theirs. So much is lost over writing and reading words over the internet. You don’t have as much time to think about what you’ll say back or hide your emotions. I also think that your daughter, when she’s older will greatly benefit from these kinds of things, as I and many others have.

  76. I’m sad to see that Mr. Seabrook gave up. I had so many questions for him!

    As a KAD, you’d think I’d share my story–but no. I have another story to share about another adoptee I once knew. It is sad, and since it is not mine, I don’t think Mr. Seabrook could call me bitter. I was disappointed when I found out.

    He was a black adopted to a white family. I didn’t know this at the time since I was dealing with my own teasing issues. He got teased by the black kids every single day relentlessly. If he cried, they attacked him. If he sneezed, breathed, wheezed, they got on his case. They kicked him out of being black.

    I don’t remember a single kid he was friends with. You know why? When you are being teased relentlessly, and kicked out of what is your own social group that you’re supposed to identify with, you have no friends. No one wants you. For if they accept you, they get teased too. I, personally, had a friend’s mother pull her out of school because she got teased because she became my friend. I imagine it was the same for him.

    So isolated, surrounded by a 90% black school… you know why? Because the kids found out his parents were white and they were viscous about it.

    So, Mr. Seabrook, have you ever been kicked out of a social group you identified with? Repeatedly? Have you ever have to prove your whiteness and could not? I truly want to know. That is just a segment of being an adoptee. If you opened your mind and listened to the voices trying hard to reach you, maybe the mistakes we adoptees experienced won’t repeat again.

    By far from talking to adoptive parents and adoptees, the most important thing repeated time and again is the ability to open up your mind, take the hard stuff in so that one can communicate. The “happy” adoptee as you put it is usually one that had good communication with their parents, who were willing to listen to 100% of their anger, fear, hardships along with their joy even when it hurt. The “angry/bitter” ones were the ones that did not have this. You choose, which will you be? You are quickly looking like the latter.

  77. I’ve read these posts, and all I can conclude, is that the majority of these posts written by adoptees expressing their own viewpoints are as extreme as how they perceive John’s viewpoint. Why is it that because John has a viewpoint about international adoption based on his research and personal experience, that his viewpoint is less legitimate than yours because he’s not an adoptee? Isn’t this just a matter of opinion/a different viewpoint? The first sentence of his response to this blog should have been the only response needed to justify his viewpoint, regardless of whether or not you agreed with him. He didn’t tell you how to think. He didn’t tell you that his viewpoint is the only viewpoint. He didn’t tell you who you are and who you should/will be in the future. But it seems from reading the subsequent posts, that the only viewpoint that is legit, is the one that comes from adoptees. When did we evolve into a society that only a person who is adopted can truly understand the perils and emotions of adoption? A lot of adoptees who have responded to John’s article, interview, and initial comments, sound just as arrogant and extreme as how his viewpoint has been perceived on this blog. Why is it fact that John is so short-sighted about what happens as adoptees grow up, when you can only base your conclusions on your own opinions and your own research. What if I’m an adoptee who agrees with John about his insights on international adoption? Does that automatically designate me as an “uneducated” adoptee who is ignorant of my own family history, the history of adoption, and the studies/research done on international adoption? Because I don’t agree with your viewpoints, but agree with John’s perspective, that I couldn’t possibly understand what adoptees go through? You only speak for yourself in the same way John only speaks for himself. This barage of negative comments against an individual’s viewpoint (just because he doesn’t come to the same conclusion as you) is disheartening for adoptees who want to understand what all parties in international adoption go through…not just the viewpoint of adult adoptees. This doesn’t make me ignorant. This doesn’t make me imperialistic. It makes me a person who disagrees with your OPINION and your research.

  78. So many great and not so great comments, but each has valid and important views and opinions in This Thing of Ours-Adoption. Allow me to give my two-cents worth. Let me simply say that we all ‘should’ try to use ‘qualifiers’ in our adoption discourse. It seems that taking one phrase or sentence out of context or to microscopic examination goes a bit too far, sometimes. Why must we polarize to Anti and Pro Adoption side?
    I believe that both sides have ‘a few’ extremists, those who use all inclusive language against ‘the other side’. Can’t we respect each other more as some indeed do here?

    I have been living in Seoul, ROK, since 1995, was a charter member of GOA’L, very involved in learning the current situation from the point of view of the Korean people. Through the reports of Korean Women’s Development Instititute and MOHWFA (Min. of Health, Welfare, and Family Affaiars) learned that the myth that “Koreans don’t want to adopt” is almost totally false.

    In the last decade KWDI’s reports show that in fact more and more ‘Unwed Mothers” (Gov. term) are KEEPING their children. 2000 less than 10% of unwed mothers were keeping their children. It is now up to 33% roughly of the 9-10,000 babies born each year to Unwed Mothers. (We must also remember that those who KEEP their babies are NOT to be called “Birth Mother” but the NGO’s and government have found Unwed Mother the best terminology).

    Social stigmas here in Rep. of Korea (South Korea) are like the 60’s/70’s in USA. The lack of government financial support (now up to w100,000/ USD $85); birth family’s rejection or pressure to have abortion as the solution; birth father not facing paternity testing nor legal recourse for child support, etc. Natural/birth mothers must face such insurmountable issues that cause STILL 2/3 of the Unwed Mothers TO RELINQUISH their children for adoption. (It has NOTHING to do with Korea being the now 13th economy as some would declare, it is the social prejudices and pressure on the mothers.) I personally support MORE support and hope to see Korean SINGLE women raise their babies BUT also believe that ultimately a woman must have the final Choice, even if she decides to terminate her unwanted pregnancy.

    With Abortion rates at 4,000 per DAY (according to the 700 doctors of Pro-Life OBGYNs) it is a wonder that 21 babies are BORN ALIVE each day! Of these Daily figures- SEVEN are kept by their Mothers; 14 are given up by Choice by their mothers For adoption. Of these 14, only 3.4 (1,250 approx. in 2008) are InterCountry Adoptions (ICA) and Domestic Adoptions account for another 3.6- leaving SEVEN that are adopted secretly to KOREANS by Civil Code Law Adoptions. CCLA, are NOT VETTED but legal way of getting fulfilling a need for a family for the infertile couples. (The Dutch couple who abandoned their Korean daughter was not an ICA but rather a CCLA by the way). These and the Domestic Adoptions(processed officially through 4 Adoption Agencies so at least they are vetted) adoptee are 95% secret, never telling the child that they were adopted. HOW WACKED is that? This is the truth that NGO’s and Government want to keep secret.

    So basically, for every ICA adoption in the decade of 2000 to 2010, there were approximately one Domestic Adoption But TWO Civil Code Law Adoption. The myth is busted.

    Revisions to the Adoption Laws should be out this year, with a combining of the three tracks of adoption into one code. This will help tremendously, but Korean’s attitudes that adoption is shameful will not change the facts that 2/3 of the mother still give up their children. Laws will not change the hearts of Korean society, we must find other ways and trying to “shame the Korean people” HAS NOT WORKED.

    As one who is trying to be balanced, I have been pressing for the Anti-ICA adoptee crowd to come to terms that until the day that Korean women who choose to keep their babies is one hundred percent. Then perhaps domestic adoption and ICA can be phased out, BUT until that day comes (as in Australia hmmm?) both must continue. Adoption is not the best but it is better than the prospects of growing up in one of the 285 institutions or mini-orphanages in Foster Care.

    I believe that a Multi-tiered plan should be continued until then, in our motherland of South Korea with preference first to Family Preservation, next to open/non-secret domestic adoption, next to ethnic Koreans, finally to well vetted families with experience with other Transracial and Transcultural children.

  79. “What if I’m an adoptee who agrees with John about his insights on international adoption?”

    I would ask you why.

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