Thanks for stopping by! Whatever Things Are True covers politics, policy, and parenting in international adoption. Too often, the way we talk about international adoption reminds me of that old fable about The Blind Men and the Elephant – we tend to confuse one small part of the animal for the whole beast. Although I’m the mother of three via international adoption, I try to take a child-centered approach to adoption issues. I hope you’ll stick around and share your thoughts, too.

For More About International Adoption

  • All the Social Orphans
    Suffolk University Law Professor Sara Dillon on International Children's Rights and Social Orphan Policy
  • Center for Adoption Policy
    Center for Adoption Policy provides research, analysis, advice and education to practitioners and the public about current legislation and practices governing ethical domestic and intercountry adoption in the United States, Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa.
  • Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute
    Educates federal policy makers about the need for adoption reform, and coordinates efforts of policy makers and public groups to improve the lives of children.
  • Harvard Law School Child Advocacy Program
    The Child Advocacy Program (CAP) at Harvard Law School is committed to advancing children's interests through facilitating productive interaction between academia and the world of policy and practice, and through training generations of students to contribute in their future careers to law reform and social change.
  • Joint Council on International Children's Services
    Adoption advocacy organization comprised of adoption agencies.

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February 06, 2011


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Judi Kloper

Hi Sharon (and Malinda),
Thank you for this conversation. My kids are Indian and Chinese, with one birth kid thrown in the mix as well, all between ages 17-34. My feelings about the importance of race, culture, and heritage have grown stronger from having traveled throughout India more than 20 times and having worked there to find homes for kids with special needs, as well as from parenting my kids in a mostly white university city in the northwest. To sum it up for this blog, let me just say that we gave to our children more exposure to their heritage and culture (though I believe you can't teach culture, you have to live it), and more connections to others of their own ethnicities (including our daughter from China and our birth son's connection to his siblings' birth heritages) than they'd ever get from their orphanages. What did their orphanages (or any orphanage, or most orphanages, for that matter) provide for them? Culture? Only the culture of an institution with four walls that didn't provide an education for the kids, didn't let the kids out to play much if at all, and didn't allow them to experience life outside of those four walls so that they could observe and live their country's complexities, beauty, contrasts, magic, pain and joy. Two of my kids came home at age 7 and 9 years; their connection to India and their Indian heritage was maintained by us. We worked hard to instill in them and the younger kids a pride of their birth country and heritage. They would have had none of that had they stayed in their countries of birth. So...to summarize (at this too early on a Saturday morning hour), race, culture, ethnicity, heritage, they're all important parts of an adoptee's identity though not the sum total of who a child is, and international adoption (i.e. placing a child with a family not of the same ethnicity or race), when following guidelines to protect children and birthfamilies (i.e. an ethical process) is the best solution for most children without families who cannot be placed within their own country or with a family of their own ethnicity overseas. I've come to this belief after 29 years of personal experience in international adoption and the same amount of time as a volunteer and a professional in the field.

Malinda Seymore

Sharon, I saw the NYT report of the study about people identifying as mixed race -- very interesting stuff. Of course, there are some similarities between mixed race kids and TRA kids, that between-two-worlds stuff; but there's one big difference, that mixed-race kids are with parents of both races! I'll be interested to read your thoughts about it.

I think the race part is the thing international APs want to deal with the least. It's scary stuff, having to recognize that race still matters in America, when we, as white parents, have always been the advantaged ones in the race wars.

No matter how thoughtfully one considers how race should matter or not matter, it doesn't change how race does matter to others and how race might matter to TRA kids/adults. I am concerned that Simon is much too dismissive of race -- preferring the softer "ethnicity" is one symptom of this -- than a white adoptive parent of non-white children should be. But the issue isn't really about Scott Simon -- he's just better known than most adoptive parents!


Malinda, thanks for stopping by and commenting! I know that you and many others who feel discomfort with Simon's book aren't anti-adoption, so maybe that isn't the right term. I do think the adoption conversation tends to be very polarized and there is a lot of anti-adoption sentiment "out there," along with the idea that "adoption is always great," neither of which is true.

Simon truly seemed to be coming from a perspective in his book that I don't hear much: thoughtful and mindful about race and ethnicity but not "worried" about it. Is that a dangerous influence? I don't know. Maybe adoptive parents who aren't thoughtful or who are scared and nervous about dealing with race issues might see Simon as giving them permission to avoid them. However, I also think it's possible he's onto something too. In the next few days, I want to post a follow up about a study of young people that found more are identifying as mixed race, more entering into mixed race relationships etc. Adoption adds it's own layer of complexity for our children, but at the same time society is shifting and evolving and the society our kids live in as a adults will be different from ours. I guess I found his approach fascinating, and something to think about.

Malinda Seymore

Thanks for continuing the conversation here! Not "praising" adoption is not the same thing as being "anti-adoption," though. I take issue with Simon's characterization of race as not an issue in his transracial adoption. There's a difference between culture and race, and while Mandarin school and cultural events are important (we do those things, too!) they are not sufficient, especially when children are told that ethnicity doesn't matter. It might well matter to them, but when their parents tell them it doesn't matter, it creates huge identity problems. And it isn't anti-adoption to say so! Well-respected pro-adoption organizations (like the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute) say the same thing! I hate to see someone with a natural platform, like Scott Simon's, to advance a view of adoption that replicates all that we've learned NOT to do in raising transracially adopted children!

Jennifer Zilliac

Thanks for this post, Sharon. I hear Simon's voice as I read his comments. I'm really trying to wrap my mind around the anti-international-adoption rhetoric. While there are certainly problems in the world of adoption, I can't fathom how little weight people give to the heartbreaking problems associated with the alternatives to international adoption.

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