I was interviewed a while ago by PBS. They only used a portion of my responses. Here are my responses in full, with a few new embellishments.
– What are the most important things that parents who are adopting transracially and/or transnationally need to know and learn from adult adoptees?
Adult adoptees, as adults, are capable of forming opinions and analyses about the situations that we came from and grew up in. Many adult adoptees are now professors, lawyers, film directors, artists, teachers, journalists, social workers, etc. The best adoptive parents engage in objective, adult dialogue with us. However, many adoptive parents attempt dismiss our analyses with simple name-calling, calling us “angry” or “bitter” or people with “an axe to grind.” The losers, of course, are their own children. If their cute adopted children grow up to be critical thinkers, as we all should be, what will happen if they dare to produce an analysis about their adoptions that is different from the opinion of their adoptive parents?
– In brief, what facets about the current system of international adoption would you most like to see reformed?
International law needs to be enforced, everything has to be more transparent, and prospective adoptive parents need to stop being so naive. Americans in particular need to realize that the way it’s done in the U.S. is not the way it’s done everywhere else. I think in many cases, the adoption process on the sending side is more corrupt than adoptive parents ever imagined. Because they don’t want to imagine that. They are just focused on the child. But people have to wake up and face the facts about what is being done locally in the sending country and how American money fits into that picture.
– Do you believe that there is such a thing as an ethical international adoption?
Sure! For instance, let’s say an American woman who speaks Spanish and who lives in Arizona falls in love with a widower who lives in Mexico. They decide to get married and to make their home in Arizona. After marriage, the woman adopts her new husband’s child from his previous marriage, and they all live happily ever after in Arizona, regularly traveling back and forth across to see the child’s relatives on both sides of the border.
Does that sound exceptional? Yes, that would be. And an ethical international adoption is supposed to be exceptional, for special circumstances. It is not supposed to be a baby factory that provides supply to meet demand or a highly developed network of unwed mothers’ homes, healthcare providers, government offices and adoption agencies that enables brutal patriarchies to victimize vulnerable women in a systemic way. Who wants to be complicit in an arrangement of gender inequality as harsh as that?
Click here for gender gap rankings from the World Economic Forum. South Korea ranks 115th in the world, between India (114) and Bahrain (116). In the general pattern, I think you can see that countries with high gender equality = “receiving countries,” such as Norway (3), France (18), and the U.S. (31). Countries with low gender equality = “sending countries,” such as Ethiopia (122) and China (60) and the Russian Federation (51). What does that mean about what women really want for the babies they give birth to? Are women really exercising “choice” when they “give” their children for adoption?
In the case of South Korea, I think that the international adoptions enable the government to avoid making a real social welfare system to support unwed mothers. They also enable the government to fail to create a real culture of ethical domestic adoption. Because of this, we are faced with illegal domestic adoptions that are called “secret” (because not even the adoptee knows), and that is a real problem. Both are huge problems and they government must deal with it. We have been waiting for 60 years!
– What advice would you have for people who want to believe that international adoption is mutually exclusive from global politics and the economic market?
They should try to adopt a child from one of the Axis of Evil countries and let us know how that goes. Or conversely, pretend to be a South Korean and try to adopt a white American or European infant. I tried that and found out that the request is so strange to American and European adoption agencies that they either can’t understand the request or they think it’s illegal. Or, with no money, try to internationally adopt a child through an agency. Just tell them that you have a good home to provide.