[update/note: for new readers, this is full disclosure that I myself am not an adopted Korean. I am a Korean American daughter of immigrant Korean parents. I am an assistant professor at St. Catherine University in the Master of Library and Information Science Program, and I study representations of adoption in children’s literature and adoptee information seeking behaviors. I consider myself an ally and advocate for adoptees and ethical adoption.]
Yes, it’s true. I blog mostly when I’m really annoyed. There’s a whole lot more to the background of international adoption than I can post here, but for a brief background at least on the Republic of Korea, check out Dr. Kim Park Nelson‘s “Mapping Multiple Histories of Korean American Transnational Adoption.”
Recently we have seen several articles regarding the “precipitous decline” in international adoptions; one reason for these declines is that there has been so much documented corruption, child trafficking, questionable behaviors, etc., in international adoption, so some countries have shut down their adoption programs – and rightly so. Countries have decreased the numbers of children they make available for adoption because they are trying to care for the children within their own countries, mostly by way of domestic adoption programs, which is a nice thought but fails to address the root problem of why so many children are being orphaned/made into “legal” or “social” orphans in the first place. Another reason may be that birth mothers are being incredibly brave and choosing to raise their children as single mothers. These are all valid and good reasons to decrease the numbers of children adopted internationally. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not anti-adoption. Adoption is and should be a good thing and a great way for a child to find a home. But in recent decades the institution has spiraled out of control and created a market for children that has broken up many existing families. So I’m actually anti-unethical adoption. Anyway, back to the main topic at hand.
Today MPR had another program on the decline of international adoption . Here’s the panel of 4, as stated on the MPR Daily Circuit page:
- (adoptive father) Dana Johnson: Professor of pediatrics in the division of neonatology at the University of Minnesota, founded the International Adoption Clinic
- (adoptive mother) Maureen Warren: President of Children’s Home Society
- Jodi Harpstead: Chief executive officer of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota
- (adoptive father) David McKoskey: Adoptive father, professional computer programmer and adjunct professor of computer science at St. Catherine University (full disclosure: David has guest lectured in my LIS7530 Internet Fundamentals and Design class – and done a fantastic job of it.)
As usual, there are no adult adopted persons on this panel. There is no shortage of adult adoptees in Minnesota who are adoption professionals, activists, etc., that could have balanced out the perspectives and experiences represented by this panel. Earlier this morning when we learned that this program was happening, adoptees encouraged one another to call-in with their comments in order to get their voices heard. Here’s my (almost) live blogging of what went down:
What MPR talked about:
- The declining numbers in international adoption
- The continuing “need” for international adoption (never mind that the number of global “orphans” are conflated and inaccurate)
- How open adoptions can change the landscape of contemporary adoption
- The impact of the Hague Convention on international adoptions
- How they would prefer the safety of children over volume… but when the volume increased so quickly… that attracted a lot of different agencies and operators… and there “might have been some safety and care sacrificed.”
- The goal is to get the number rising again so children can be placed (which I read as “and also so that our finances can stabilize”)
- They actually talked about adult adoptees who are now professionals: “Particularly adult Korean adoptees that are influencing the arts, that are influencing adoption, that are very interested in contributing to all walks of life in Minnesota” (except even though they are influencing adoption, we haven’t invited any of them to this panel).
- That there’s a “special place in heaven” for the families who open their homes to a child. She needs to read David Smolin’s “Of Orphans and Adoption, Parents and the Poor, Exploitation and Rescue: A Scriptural and Theological Critique of the Evangelical Christian Adoption and Orphan Care Movement.“
- That prospective adoptive parents need to be patient because small delays are just that – small delays in the long run.
- Kevin Ost-Vollmers called out MPR for not inviting adult adoptees to this panel, and MPR answered that the program focuses on the drop in adoptions and therefore they invited people who work at agencies, and rather, that adoptees could call-in with their comments. I’m not sold on this answer, as I think they need to address the root of the problem – that adoptions may happen at the expense of exploited/misinformed families, and that watching out for them should be a major priority for anyone concerned about building/maintaining healthy families.
- 1st caller: adoptee and adoptive father
- 2nd caller: adoptive mother of Korean daughter: “adoption has really opened our family up”
- 3rd caller: domestic adoptee who adopted internationally
- 4th caller: domestic adoptee whose wife is adopted, father is adopted, brother is adopted, and is the adoptive father of 2 children from Ethiopia. Thinks CHS is a great organization. Drives him crazy when people say “Your girls are so lucky. We’re the lucky ones!”
- 5th caller: asked about the role of infertility in the adoption process
- 6th caller: KEVIN OST-VOLLMERS! Korean adoptee, blogger and adoptee activist called out MPR for not inviting Korean adoptees to the program!!! And asked another question about culture and whiteness, but I didn’t catch the whole thing because I was so excited that he actually got through the phone lines. I’m so not satisfied with MPR’s answer.
What I wish MPR had talked about:
- Some real life examples of intentional fabrication/falsification of documents or child abduction and unintended adoptions, as told by adoptees and/or birth families and/or adoptive parents themselves. Consider, for example:
- Jane Jeong Trenka‘s story where false documents led to her unauthorized adoption and legal severance from her biological mother: http://jjtrenka.wordpress.com/about/adoption-file/
- Deann Borshey Liem‘s story where a Korean social worker swapped her in for another child in order to get a daughter to a waiting family: http://www.mufilms.org/films/matter-of-cha-jung-hee/
- Tammy Chu‘s film about a Korean adoptee and his birth mother: http://www.resiliencefilm.com/Welcome.html
- David Smolin‘s story as an adoptive father (and adoption/legal scholar) who found out that his own adopted children had been trafficked: http://works.bepress.com/david_smolin/
And let’s not forget so-called “well-intentioned” Christian organizations that want to expedite and process international adoptions without following established legal procedures. Consider what the Idaho churches tried to do in Haiti after the earthquake: http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_14338123
That’s all, just some real life adoptees, birth parents, (and adoptive parents, although their stories get PLENTY of airtime already), and their real life stories. It gets better, right, MPR? Can we extend this conversation and add another program that features the voices of adult adoptees/adoptee professionals?
2012 July 11 update: As a follow up, check out the following:
- Kevin Ost-Vollmer’s blog post on the MPR program: http://landofgazillionadoptees.com/2012/07/10/wtf-mpr/
- MPR’s response: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/07/09/daily-circuit-international-adoption/
- Sometimes I don’t read the comments because it can be frustrating to read the same (however unintentional) ignorant comments over and over again, but in this case, the comments are what makes the whole thing.
2012 July 12 update: Tomorrow, this is finally happening:
- MPR’s Daily Circuit is doing a follow-up with a panel of adoptees, adoption scholars and adoption professionals (Dr. Kim Park Nelson, JaeRan Kim, and Ami Nafzger)! Please tune in and support my friends/colleagues: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/07/13/daily-circuit-roundtable-adoption/