Since 1971, American parents have, by conservative estimates, adopted more than half a million children from foreign countries, particularly girls from Asian orphanages. These children have been given loving homes, but the cultural and psychological implications of these adoptions are seldom discussed. A study released on Monday by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute examines the first generation of adoptees from South Korea and concludes that many have struggled with ethnic and racial identity. This conflict typically was mild in early childhood but intensified in adolescence and adulthood.
“Race/ethnicity is an increasingly significant aspect of identity for those adopted across color and culture,” the report states. It also says, “A significant majority of transracially adopted adults reported considering themselves to be or wanting to be White [sic] as children.” In an article in the Sunday New York Times, two Korean adoptees speak of their satisfaction with the study:
“This offers proof that we’re not crazy or just being ungrateful to our adoptive parents when we talk about our experiences,” said Mr. [Joel] Ballantyne, 35, who was adopted at age 3 and who grew up in Alabama, Texas and, finally, California.
Jennifer Town, 33, agreed.
“A lot of adoptees have problems talking about these issues with their adoptive families,” she said. “They take it as some kind of rejection of them when we’re just trying to figure out who we are.”
Some 468 adopted adults responded to an online survey for the study, making it the largest study of its kind, the authors of the report said. The Times article, an unusually candid discussion of the report, also quotes another adoptee:
Sonya Wilson, adopted in 1976 by a white family in Clarissa, Minn., says that although she shares many of the experiences of those interviewed in the study — she grew up as the only Asian in a town of 600 — policy changes must address why children are put up for adoption, and should do more to help single women in South Korea keep their children. “This study does not address any of these issues,” Ms. Wilson said.
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