We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

One-way dialogue

I’m taking a break from the London travelogue (is it boring you to pieces anyway?) because of some recent news on adoption.

Adoption, and especially transnational and transracial adoption, has been in the news a lot over the past several months, even aside from the usual rumors and speculations about celebrity adopters. A recent series of blog posts in the New York Times angered many when one of the contributors referred to her Chinese daughter’s “Mongolian features” (cringe). And then the Times didn’t publish many critical comments from adoptees.

To be fair, the series also included some good pieces, including one called “I Am Not a Bridge” by Sumeia Williams. Williams writes about her pain growing up without any Asian peers in her white, midwestern community. She has a great line which may not make any sense out of context, but here goes: “Perhaps the role of the adoptive parent could be viewed, not so much as a bridge, but as a builder of bridges, connecting their children to themselves and their ethnicities.” Very inspiring.

In other news, the French citizens who (allegedly) kidnapped not-really-orphans from Chad were referred to as thwarted adopters.

A Dutch dimplomatic family made headlines when the parents disrupted the adoption of their seven year old daughter, who had been their daughter since she was four months old. The daughter was born in South Korea, though her parents abandoned her in Hong Kong. The parents never processed the paperwork for their daughter to become a Dutch citizen, so now this girl doesn’t even have the Dutch government (her father’s employer) looking out for her. This one is particularly shocking to me.

In October, I posted about adoption ethics and mentioned a great article by Elizabeth Larsen in Mother Jones Magazine. Larsen has a follow up news piece currently on the Mother Jones website, which is what inspired this post today.

Larsen talks about the discourse in adoption, about how it’s a “one-way dialogue” controlled primarily by adoptive parents. She writes, “in some adoptive-parent communities, anything questioning the current practices in the adoption universe leads to a virtual stoning of the messenger.” I have experienced this personally. I’m active (though less so now) in some online adoption forums, and I really pissed off some folks when I raised questions about the ethics of Ethiopian adoptions generally and more specifically about practices of the agency we used for both boys’ adoptions.

I was accused of stirring the pot and making trouble. Moi? Yeah, probably, but nothing I said was speculative. I was asking questions, sharing stories, and making observations.

All of this lead to, most recently, me being called anti-Semitic and racist.

I can take all that. What’s really troubling, though, is that many of my own insights come from adult adoptees who have shared their stories via memoirs, fiction, and blogs. Yet many adoptive parents dismiss these folks as “angry adoptees,” as if their anger means their points are invalid, or as if we adoptive parents could never make the same mistakes made by earlier generations of adoptive parents.

Parents who want to adopt are required, at least in theory, to do a fair amount of self-education, mostly self-policed, and some people take this more seriously than others. And for some people, the education ends when the homestudy is done or when the new child is home.

But some adoptive parents keep reading and thinking. That’s a big part of the reason we’ve ended up in Egypt (which is ironic considering the racism here, but that’s a story for another day): I want my kids to know the world beyond the US, in a diversity of cultures and places.

I do wonder how, as adoptive parents, we can move past our own selfish joy and really listen to valid criticism. It can be hard not to feel defensive when stories like the ones I mentioned above, about the Dutch couple who abandoned their daughter and the French charity workers who abducted kids, are in the news and reflect poorly on all of us. But international adoption is fraught with corruption and scandal, and we can’t pretend away our own culpability.

12 December 2007 - Posted by | adoption, in the news


  1. I feel like adoption is a minefield I’m trying to navigate without blowing myself or anyone else to pieces.

    I’m a relatively new reader and I’d love to hear more about your process of adopting from Ethiopia. And about adopting as an Expat, if that’s how you did it.

    Comment by Kohana | 12 December 2007

  2. […] December 2007 at 1:46 pm · Filed under adoption Yesterday I mentioned a Dutch family in Hong Kong who dissolved the adoption of their seven year old daughter. Jae Ran at Harlow’s Monkey […]

    Pingback by The Dutch family and adoption dissolution « We Four in Egypt | 13 December 2007

  3. […] fear of emotional attachment.”Here’s something that really didn’t make sense. I mentioned earlier that the parents never processed their daughter’s Dutch citizenship. The IHT quotes them as […]

    Pingback by Dutch (mis)treat « We Four in Egypt | 14 December 2007

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