What are your experiences as an adoptee?

During yesterday’s show looking at the decline in international adoption, a caller questioned why we didn’t invite adult adoptees on the show to talk about their experiences. He is correct to suggest that firsthand accounts are extremely helpful in aiding listeners’ understanding.

Adoption gets talked about so little in the media that starting the show off with the intention to look at a specific issue will lead to people wanting to know what is it like to be a parent of adopted children and hear adoptees share their experiences. As the caller noted, Minnesota is indeed the “land of a gazillion adoptees” so we are a superb resource of information for prospective parents and we have potential to build a strong support or social community for adoptees.

Another organization, in addition to Children’s Home Society, doing work to accurately assess the needs of the international adoptee population is AdopSource. They are seeking as many participants as possible in this survey of adoptees and parents to better understand what resources families need, desire or find useful. It’s also seeking to help connect existing resources that can sometimes be scattered or hard to discover.

As a Korean adoptee, below is a sampling of FAQs my family has been asked:

Are your parents your real parents? Yes, I arrived when I was 9 months old. They are the only parents I have ever had and have been known to me as “my parents”.

Did you always know you were adopted? Yes, my parents always told me I was and made it very special. They frequently read me a book, “Why was I adopted?” Later, I learned to say, “Of course, I definitely don’t look like my Scandinavian parents.”

Are you and your brother real brother and sister or come from the same place? Yes, we are real brother and sister. He’s the only brother I know. But we do come from different birth parents and cities. I came from Busan and he came from Soul.

Where do you suggest we live? My brother and I were some of the only minorities in a small school district. We felt much better when we moved to a larger school district with racial and socioeconomic diversity. I also suggest traveling to diverse cities. Seeing other people who look like you helps a lot when you’re growing up and figuring out how you belong and perhaps where you belong.

Do you know your birth parents? Have you been back to Korea? I do know my birth parents. Any one of you go through a reunion? We should talk. And no, I haven’t been back yet. I’d love to, but need to find a couple grand first.

What are your experiences as an adoptee? Have you adopted children? Share your stories.

–Meggan Ellingboe, assistant producer

  • Kat Turner

    How is it that when it comes to adoption, the experts are still considered to be social workers and adoptive parents? When people think about adoption, it’s usually in the context of babies and kids, but some of those first generation of international adoptees are actually grandparents themselves!

    While a comment section is better than nothing, I would suggest you do an entire show featuring adult adoptees because there is no more qualified expert to speak on the adoption experience than adoptees themselves.

    MPR should take advantage of the natural (okay, imported) resource this land of gazillion adoptees has to offer! I’m guessing this show would be one of your highest rated and most interactive.

    Kat Turner

    Imported from Korea

    Parent of Two Teen Daughters

  • Meggan,

    My name is Kevin Ost-Vollmers. I’m the adoptee who called in yesterday. What your two guests from LSS/CHSFS may not have told you is that I worked for both agencies in my past life recruiting adoptive parents. I was at both agencies during the “good times.” In fact, I helped CHSFS merge with CHSFS East, formally known as the Adoption Service Information Agency.

    I have three thoughts that I’d like to offer.

    First: This response from MPR is a good start. However, this doesn’t acknowledge the fact that MPR appears to have zero knowledge in regards to the expertise within the adoptee community. For example, Ami Nafzger of the MN Department of Human Services could have offered some startling facts and trends that are directly related to what’s happening in international adoption as it relates to our state. Researchers, such as Dr. Kim Park Nelson and JaeRan Kim, could have talked with you about international trends as they’ve happened over time in MN, how the Hague impacts the declining numbers and how those declining numbers correlate with corruption, changing perspectives in the sending countries, etc., and offer startling statistics about what is truly happening within the international adoptee community, most of which LSS/CHSFS doesn’t want the public to know. All of these insights and more would have given MPR a robust conversation.

    Second: I had follow-up questions for your two guests from LSS that I, of course, didn’t have the opportunity to ask. Here they be: “Why does LSS/CHSFS literally spend $100’s of thousands of dollars on developing new/sustaining old relationships with international country ‘partners’ when you spend almost nothing to support the families you’ve already ‘created’ in Minnesota? How come you shower your country partners, like the one’s in S. Korea,’ with lavish gifts every year when adoptees of all ages could use post-placement support? Why do you ‘leave’ countries and your international partners once the intercountry adoption doors close and the wells dry up? Why do you actively seek out more countries, partners, and children to place instead of becoming true partners of the ‘sending countries’ and work with them to build support systems to help families there raise their own kids? Why not come up with a different business model that doesn’t rely on placement numbers, i.e., children. Why do you insist on commodifying kids?”

    Third: MPR and your guests, who are supposedly experts on the Hague, failed to mention two important points about S. Korea. For one, the legislation Maureen Warren mentioned was written by adult adoptees, first parents, and their allies in S. Korea. Again, adoptees are experts. Additionally, S. Korea has yet to become a signatory of the Hague. So, why does LSS/CHSFS continue to do business with the agencies in S. Korea?

    Thank you for your time.


    Kevin Ost-Vollmers

    Land of Gazillion Adoptees

  • Steven

    As an adoptive parent, I am glad that you are listening to the voices of adult adoptees. My son, now 14, benefited from being part of a mentoring group run by adult adoptees from Also Known As (AKA) http://www.alsoknownas.org/index.shtml

    I think you should do a follow up show and All Things Considered or Morning Edition should pick it up.

  • I came from Korea when I was five years old because my family in Korea was starving. On the plane ride over my sweater and attached identity badge was switched with another little girl, so instead of going to Minneapolis, I was sent to Rochester, where there were very few minorities at the time.

    I was called every pejorative Asian slur in the book, and was even slashed with a sizzors by one boy as he called me “Chinc.”

    I ran away from home as a teen, and ended up pregnant with no father for my baby. I ended up on the other side of the adoption equation. I tried to keep my baby, but eventually had to give her up.

    Thirty seven years after I last saw my Korean family, I reunited with them. Twenty four years after giving up my little girl, I was reunited with her, too. (My husband and I wrote a book about my experience.)

    I have a good husband, and we have a beautiful daughter and son. They both fight over who is most Asian looking, proving that things have indeed changed from when I was young.

    While I certainly experienced some very difficult times, I’m glad that I was adopted. (And I grieve the fact that I missed out on my Korean family.) Things may have been difficult for a adopted Korean girl here in Minnesota back in the seventies, but they might have been far worse for me in Korea.

  • Jeff Olsen

    My wife and I adopted two boys from Korea in the 90’s they are now in their late teens. One is in Korea for the summer working as a camp counselor for a YMCA-type outdoor adventure camp. The older son is in college, is an athlete and works at a local department store.

    We have traveled multiple times to Korea. One son has an open adoption with his birth family and has met them, the other is currently doing a birth search.

    Both attended Sup Sogui Hosu, an excellent korean language camp of Concordia University. The korean village is located north of Bemidji. We cannot say enough good and kind things about the wonderful staff at the camp! It is the only korean language camp in the United States. Our younger son attended for six years and learned korean to such a degree that he felt confident to go live in korea this summer and work at the youth camp.

    My wife and I volunteer for Korean Quarterly, a fabulous newspaper published in the Twin Cities. The paper is celebrating its 15th anniversary and is a voice for the korean community and korean adoptees. It is an excellent resource and the couple that create it are terrific and dear friends.

    We have read and listened carefully to other korean adoptees, including my wife’s sister who was adopted from Korea in the 60’s, and know many korean adoptee parents. We have tried to do our best to be open and loving parents to our two sons.


    Jeff Olsen

  • I disagree with the statement that adoption has “adoption gets talked about so little in the media.” Adoption *has been* talked about a lot in the media, but the perspective overall has been narrow, because it usually only includes the perspectives of English-speaking adoptive parents and adoption agencies in the West.

    I agree 100% with Kat. It would be only right and fair to give equal air time, i.e., an entire new program, to listen to the perspectives of adoptees and parents and indeed families who lost children to adoption. If adoption is really all about the best interests of the child (the adoptee, even if that child has grown into an adult adoptee), then why completely sideline the population that is at the heart of the practice you want to report on?

    If MPR were doing a program about practices impacting the lives of Black people and invited only White people as guests on the show to talk about it, I’m sure everyone would instantly know what is wrong with that. If you did a show on the visually impaired and invited only sighted people to discuss the issues, you would know what’s wrong with that. However, MPR just did a show about about adoption without inviting adoptees. Huh??

    If you want to do fair and balanced reporting on any subject, you have to include multiple perspectives, and especially you must include the perspective of people who are impacted. Therefore, it is so clear that adoptees, their original families, and the organizations that serve/represent them, as well as families vulnerable to separation/adoption, must be included in any discussion on adoption. To not include us and our original families is actually contributing to the ongoing gagging and muzzling by the monied/resourced/English-speaking American population of a vulnerable population who is usually considered “of color” in the U.S. context, and almost always from an economically poor and uneducated background.

    There are many adoptees, as well as organizations, in Minnesota, the U.S., and throughout the world who I’m sure would share their knowledge and connections with you — including contacts with correspondents living in our respective locations — if you would like to pursue another program. The world is very small these days, and communication is very possible.

    Thank you for your kind consideration.

    Jane Jeong Trenka, from Seoul

    *Daughter of Lee Pil-rye and Jeong Nak-hwan; sister to Pyo Joo-seob, Jeong Kyeong-hui, Jeong Sook-hui, Jeong Kyong-sook, Jeong In-sook, and Jeong Young-ok; auntie and grand-auntie to many relatives in Korea and Minnesota

    *Author of “The Language of Blood: A Memoir,” “Fugitive Visions: An Adoptee’s Return to Korea,” and co-editor of “Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption” with Sun Yung Shin and Julia Chinyere Oparah

    *President of Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea (TRACK) in Seoul: http://justicespeaking.wordpress.com/

    *Transferred from Korea to Minnesota through Lutheran Social Service and Korea Social Service in 1972 for the purposes of a completely legal, but unethical adoption: http://jjtrenka.wordpress.com/about/adoption-file/

  • “If adoption is really all about the best interests of the child (the adoptee, even if that child has grown into an adult adoptee), then why completely sideline the population that is at the heart of the practice you want to report on?”

    I couldn’t agree with this comment more. The part of yesterday’s international adoption segment which confused me the most was the fact that there are so many well qualified adult adoptees who are experts in their fields (whether it be in research, public policy, advocacy, post-adoption services, social welfare/social justice) and yet not one of the featured guests was an adoptee themselves. As Jane Jeong Trenka so aptly pointed out, why would there be a conversation about international adoptions without representation from international adoptees? And, as the caller from yesterday’s program pointed out…we live in Minnesota. There are over 30,000 international adoptees residing here–we are an internationally recognized hub in the adoption community. There are numerous adoptee-run organizations and adoptee professionals who would be happy to contribute to the discussion about the decline of international adoptions, in addition to agency perspective and adoptive parent perspective.

    Isn’t a discussion much more valuable when all parties are invited to contribute?


    Kate Sands

    *Adult Korean Adoptee and mother to an active toddler

    *President of AdopSource (http://www.adopsource.org)

  • Lena Soo Hee Wood

    I am a Korean-American adoptee, born in 1983 and brought to the US through CHSFS at 3.5 months. I grew up in the Twin Cities and spent my childhood completely ignorant of the larger historical, political, and economic institutions that brought so many Korean children to this particular state. The stories I was told about my adoption focused only on the individual family-level. The few other adoptees that I knew were all told the same story: our mothers were poor and couldn’t afford to keep us, so they gave us up so we could have a “better life”. No one bothered to consider why all these women were so poor in the first place.

    When I tuned in to listen to this show, I was hoping to hear a nuanced exploration and analysis of the legal, political, economic, religious and historical contexts that have shaped the adoption industry into what it is today. I was hoping that someone would talk about how cultural frameworks of what constitutes “family” determine who is considered “fit to parent,” and the implications those frameworks have on social welfare policies. In other words, why do we continue to see international adoption as a viable, permanent solution to the preventable problem of poverty?

    I was hoping someone would talk about the financial underbelly of adoption–why does it cost so much, and what the heck is happening with that money? I was hoping someone would ask the real question: what are agencies doing to eliminate the need for adoption in the first place?

    These questions, and so many more, are questions that would have offered a rich, deep, nuanced conversation about international adoption. Instead, what I heard was a bunch of agency insiders side-stepping questions about whether this decline in international adoptions was permanent or not, and a bunch of adoptive parents talking about how great adoption is. Not only did this program not actually answer any of the questions it set out to answer, it left a key voice out of the conversations: adoptees themselves.

    I disagree with Megan’s statement that adoption is not talked about in the media. Do a Google search on adoption. There’s a ton of recent articles, blog posts, etc. that come up. It’s on TV shows like Glee and movies like Juno and Kung Fu Panda. There’s a million books, many by adoptive parents and a growing number from adoptees themselves. As Jane Jeong Trenka points out in her comment above, it’s been all over the media in the past several years. Several well-known journalists have recently used public media to share their personal stories as adoptive parents (Scott Simon or John Seabrooke ring a bell with anyone?). After the hurricane in Haiti there was a big NYTimes article about the issue of adoption of “orphans” from Haiti, raising the larger question of the ethics around using “crises” as a reason to increase international adoptions. Adoption’s in the media alright…but from the perspective of adoption agencies and adoptive parents, not birth parents or adoptees.

    So, although I was disappointed that yet once again, adoptees were left out of the conversation, it’s with great sadness and frustration that I admit I wasn’t surprised at how MPR squandered a good opportunity to use the forum of public radio to actually engage in real dialogue. That’s been the status quo for years now.

    Someday, someone’s going to figure out that we are an amazing group of people. There are over 200,000 Korean adoptees alone. We are scholars, teachers, activists. We are poets, musicians, chefs, dancers…doctors, social workers, landscape architects and web designers. I myself am in the process of pursuing my calling to become a nurse-midwife. We are young and old, some of us have children of our own, and many of us are eager to share our stories. We don’t speak with one voice (what group ever does?), but I think most of us could agree that the adoptee voice is woefully lacking in the mainstream narratives of adoption, and there is not a single good reason why…except that few journalists have yet to show the courage to step outside of the space already occupied by the “experts” and invite us to the table.

    I hope that MPR will consider following up on this story by taking Jane Jeong Trenka’s challenge and putting together a panel of adoptees to discuss the trends in international adoption. Shelise Geiseke, who blogs at Land of Gazillion Adoptees, has already put together a great list of possible panelists for you, which you can read here: http://landofgazillionadoptees.com/2012/07/10/wtf-mpr/. I promise that it will be thought-provoking, insightful hour of public radio, the kind of public radio that I would like to support.


    Lena Wood

    Portland, OR


  • Ji In Lugtu

    The exclusion of adult adoptees and birth parents from the program was — while neither a surprise nor an exception to the rule with adoption in the media — an insult to the adult adoptee community as well as a disservice to MPR’s listeners. I appreciate the invitation to comment here to a certain degree, but I echo what my fellow adult adoptees have said above: Why not commit to a more nuanced, representative *on-air* dialogue by breaking out of the conventional model for adoption stories by (and this should not be regarded as a novelty, but a logical approach) featuring the voices of those who are at the center of adoption? Adult adoptees are not mythical beasts; we are professionals, parents, scholars, artists, educators, executives, community organizers, and we are everywhere.

    On the rare occasions in which we are called upon to participate in the adoption discussion, it is typically to reassure and assuage the fears of the listeners/readers by presenting our “well-adjusted” stories of assimilation into our adoptive families and communities. Not only is this a distortion and imbalance of the many-faceted nature of adoption, it is akin to censorship of those among us who have come to a place where we can apply our lifetime of experience and perspective to a critical discussion about why we were adopted: the questionable (often absent) ethics of our adoptions, and what can be done to prevent the fracture of families in the first place. With intercountry adoptees numbering so many especially in Minnesota, MPR has a golden opportunity to bring meaningful change to this standard of exclusion.

    I am a 36-year-old adult adoptee and parent, the fourth daughter in my Korean family, the fourth sibling in my adoptive family, born in Seoul, raised in the Midwest United States in the ’70s and ’80s. I reunited with my Korean family one decade ago, three years before my Korean father died. I have returned once since then to spend a meager month with my mother, sisters, nephews and niece, to connect and network with more than 600 others like myself who attended the fourth international gathering of adult Korean adoptees, and to introduce my husband to the country where I was born and separated from as an infant. 

    When I return again, it will be with my daughter, who shares my Korean heritage, but also shares my estrangement from the language and culture that wedges an unspeakably vast gap keeping me/us from freely connecting with my mother/her grandmother, my blood sisters/her aunts, and my nephews and niece/her first cousins. I struggle on a frequent basis to appease her preschooler’s curiosity regarding my adoption: Why do I have two mothers, but she has only one? Whose belly was I inside? Will she have two mothers someday? Why couldn’t my Korean mother keep me? Will I keep her? Along with her questions about mortality, these questions are the most challenging ones to which I’ve had to cobble together answers — especially considering that I barely manage to grasp the reality of my dual existence myself. The impact of adoption is not only lifelong, but multi-generational. 

    Ji In Lugtu

    Adult Korean adoptee, formerly of Minnesota



    Founding member and former Vice President of Korean Adoptees of Hawai’i

  • Please note, adoptees are more than just observers and reporters of the adoption experience. Adoptees ARE the adoption experience. Without adoptees, there is no CHSFS, no LSS, and no forever families.

  • Lauri Lee

    When adoptees are excluded from discussions about adoption it appears to be because the discussions have an agenda. Generally the agenda of adoption agencies is to promote adoption, and the agenda of adoptive parents is have their choice to adopt validated regardless of whether their adoptions are going great for them or are being particularly challenging.

    Generally adoptees agendas start off much simpler, they seek their personal truths from all that has been hidden/sealed/denied from them by an industry built on hiding/sealing and denying information from adoptees, their natural parents and the adoptive parents. What gets complicated is when adoptees who are invested in finding out their own personal truths find out the bigger picture truths and pause to question why this is going on. Instantly adoptees who were previously asked to validate the positions of agencies and adoptive parents find their questions and opinions are no longer wanted.

    What I find worth commenting on, is did MPR have such a hard time finding an adoptee ‘yes-man’? Or did they just not try? Or did it completely fail to occur to them that an adoptee presence was missing??

    I am Korean adoptee and here’s a list of personal truths I came by from merely searching for my origins.

    1) The adoption agency I was adopted through charges a lot of money to adoptees to access their records and does not immediately disclose that there is a hardship waiver on the form letter they use to respond to first contact with adoptees with.

    2) The adoption agency did not give me my full records (I have found out through various adoptee networks that a key piece of my paperwork is missing).

    3) What my records show is that papers were drawn up/fabricated to make me adoptable 2-3 days after my adoptive parents were told the little girl they were initially going to adopt died.

    4) When I visited their office in Korea, I was given an extraordinarily long interview by the head social worker to merely tell me there was insufficient information in my folder to assist in finding my family (yes many of us who have resisted the brainwashing of who we call our family refer to those we lost with our adoptions as our family).

    5) The adoption agency also told me that no record existed of who my foster family was, and yet my adoptive grandmother visited my foster mother in Korea via information from this agency in the 1970s.

    6) The adoption agency tells me that the orphanage I was in closed down the year following my time there, despite me having met someone who was in that orphanage for longer.

    7) I had already arranged to visit this orphanage which had relocated and merged with another orphanage (but not closed down) a number of years after my time there. The orphanage director tells me there was a fire in which all my records were destroyed. The multi-storied brick building this fire was supposedly in was still standing and looked remarkably unscathed (must have been a very small and particularly targeted fire). They also take my info ‘in case’ some info turns up. I am also subjected to the trauma of being prayed over with something I would describe as psychotic fervour and told that I shouldn’t dig around in the past because it will only bring unpleasantness.

    8) I find my family via a 2 minute long appeal on YTN (a Korean TV station) screened 5 times for one week only.

    9) My family never relinquished me for adoption.

    10) “When blood sees blood

    Of its own

    It sings to see itself again

    It sings to hear the voice it’s known

    It sings to recognize the face” – Suzanne Vega

    After 40 years I know who I am again, whose genetic code I am part of the continuum of, where my traits and talents come from. I finally feel free of being an exotic anomaly and part of a real family tied together by genes which makes us alike and yet still highly individuated.

    11) My family had been looking for me for over 35 years since I disappeared from the orphanage my care had been temporarily entrusted in.

    12) My Korean name and clan family name were correct, as was my DOB as expressed in Korean lunar calendar, on my documentation from the adoption agency. There seems to be no honest reason they did not have more identifying information on me, which would have appeared on the documents they did not supply me with.

    13) In case this was caught in your “adoption is beautiful” filter: MY FAMILY NEVER RELINQUISED ME FOR ADOPTION. My father was a well educated man so there is no reason to believe he would have signed something unknowingly. There was no reason for the orphanage to believe he was abandoning me as he visited me bringing powdered milk supplies as gifts to the orphanage. He was pleased I had a wet nurse. I was in the orphanage less than a month. He was denied access to me on his second visit. I had probably been transferred into the hands of the adoption agency at this point.

    14) Uncle’s and aunts on both my mother’s side of my family and my father’s side of my family participated in trying to retrieve me from the orphanage with my father. They obviously had little success.

    15) My father has since died, and I was not able to have a reunion with him. I would have been 17 or 18 when that happened, and hardly truly orphaned by that age. My brother lived with other relatives, as I would have if I had not been misappropriated.

    16) My father died a broken man. He not only lost his wife (my mother) to an early death through illness, but his daughter from entrusting her care in the wrong people. My brother who is older than me lived with this legacy.

    17) It’s not just natural parents who lose children through unethical adoptions, it’s also siblings and whole extended families.

    18) When I went my mother’s hometown to visit relatives, completely unrelated elderly villagers came out to see the little girl who had disappeared. They remembered me. People remember when children go missing.

    19) I can’t speak directly with most members of my family as I do not speak Korean, the place where I live does not have somewhere offering Korean language lessons.

    20) I am married and although my husband and I would dearly love to be able to live in Korea to be with my family, this is not feasible with his work. Being “saved” from the fate of a loving natural family doesn’t come with the privilege of being able to afford sustainable reunion in the same country, that kind of reunion costs, A LOT.

    21) Korean culture is foreign to me, even if I lived in Korea I will never fully regain a culture that I was not raised within. I will always refer in generalisations as to what Koreans think/believe, not what I (as Korean) think/believe because I was raised to think and believe western values.

    22) The problem with reunion is that I’m still missing 40 years of knowing and being affected by family and affecting them. I have no childhood memories of my brother and all of his are tainted with loss. I have no memories of my parents and I can’t make new ones. I didn’t grow up around my aunts and uncles telling me stories about my mother by which I could come to know her by. I didn’t grow up knowing who my father was. He died never knowing what happened to his daughter. I am sure he’d have been angry to know she was raised being told Koreans don’t value their daughters, and was probably abandoned for this reason.

    23) Lies.

    Here are some general truths I’ve learned in this search:

    1) I am not alone in how the adoption agency treated me as an adoptee, in general attitude and in the information not disclosed, nor in the discouraging attitude towards search.

    2) This adoption agency is still doing business in Korea well past the years of poverty that supposedly lead to the need for our adoptions. It has been doing so well out of adoption that it has many agencies in different countries.

    3) When numbers of babies started to decline in Korea, this agency opened up homes to “help” unwed mothers. Significantly more mothers relinquish their children for adoption than in a similar home not attached to an adoption agency.

    4) I am not alone in finding out I have dodgy paperwork, and being told there was an orphanage fire which destroyed my/our files. Nor am I alone in finding out that I/we were not relinquished by our parents and this information was suppressed under these circumstances.

    5) I am not alone in being an adoptee placed with a dysfunctional family who was theoretically vetted but who was none-the-less ill-equipped to parent a transracial/transnational adoptee.

    6) I’m very far from being alone in suffering identity loss, cultural loss, and lived with profound sadness for a loss that was taboo to articulate, for our mothers, for our families.

    7) I am not alone in feeling the financial burden this places on us in order to search for our roots and maintain physical contact.

    8) I am not alone in my frustration over communication with my natural family, nor in untangling cultural things unfamiliar to us.

    9) I am not alone in questioning why these losses and costs are being promoted in generation after generation of international adoptees, whereby adoptive parents pay exorbitant amounts of money to adopt when that money would be better spent in countries in need, supporting children in their home countries. I realise the answer is simply adoptive parents want a child, and supporting families in other countries doesn’t get them that child, and it’s far too convenient to ignore what adoptees are saying about their experience of loss, especially if not assisting to diminish developing world poverty is a good way to find a kid to “rescue” for keeps. Or in the case of Korea, finding it convenient to support the stigma of unwed motherhood in Korea by creating a convenient way for a society to sweep this “problem” under the carpet making it not visible enough to address it in the way western countries were forced to several decades back.

    10) I am not alone in doubly questioning the above when the trafficking of children follows the international adoption market around because money can be made out of supplying children to this market.

    11) I am not alone in believing if you truly purely love a child you should want them to know the security and love of their family and culture and not rip them away from these if this can be preserved.

    12) I am not alone in believing that children should have the right to be raised by their natural families in their nascent culture in their homelands. I am not alone in believing this should be promoted over guaranteeing the loss of all of these by the action of international adoption. To this end international adoption SHOULD decline. It SHOULD decline because people have developed the humanity to support family preservation and work at the root problems of poverty or support the organisations that give homes to children in their own country and culture. You SHOULD direct your attention to these issues, not adoption as a means to build your own family.

    I did not walk into search looking for dubious motives and corruption or wanting to become angry about the international adoption system, but one doesn’t walk away from being treated the way I was by the adoption agency and discovering the truth about what happened to ones family with all the sorrow of loss one carries as an adoptee and feel like promoting or validating a system that does this not only to one or two individuals but so many of them that websites abound keeping track of adoption corruption and group after group of adoptees trying to heal adoptees.

  • Mollie

    As a white adoptive parent, I want to add my voice that is usually amplified in the media to the eloquent and far more knowledgeable voices of adopted individuals who’ve already commented. The framing of the show about the decline in international adoption was narrowly focused. Please learn from this experience and don’t repeat it! When I consider the many roles of adopted adults it seems to me they are the only group that has such multifaceted experiences with adoption – personal experiences being placed, removed trafficked; adoptees who become parents and grandparents through birth and/or adoption; individuals some of whom have experience navigating kin relationships some of which are not legally and socially recognized as valuable; professional experience as researchers, social workers, therapists, adoption agency staff, etc. The decisions that led to the panel members who were included should be reconsidered in light of the adoptism that resulted in the exlusion of vastly more qualified adopted people.

  • Meggan

    Thank you all so much for sharing. While my post wasn’t as expressive as I would’ve liked it to have been, I’m glad that it at least served to kick off this much needed discussion. I hunger for more connection and knowledge with the rest of you. I think the older I get, the better I can articulate how I felt growing up and the frustrations I still feel at times. It’s always nice to hear what fellow adoptees and parents feel and have experienced as it makes me realize my family was not alone, is not alone. There’s so much more to adoption than a general listener would realize. We probably do have listeners who are thinking of adopting and want to understand our experiences. So please keep commenting and sharing. Your knowledge is our knowledge. And I hope that we can better serve our community the next time we cover this topic.

    As to saying there’s not much media coverage, I’d like to expand. First thank you for the info and suggested titles. That is a service to me and hopefully others. However, I agree with who said that coverage is so narrow or the mainstream media needs to do better.I think that’s what I meant when I expressed that there’s little coverage. I often feel it’s the scandals or stories framed as another celebrity saving a child that receive the big headline. Mainstream coverage doesn’t feel as layered as it could be. I’m sure perspective parents desire information and knowledge or guidance on resources.

    I wonder if the internet and social media will help adoptee communities better connect and support each other these days. I know growing up that we didn’t have google to search for groups or books or writers.My parents supported my brother and me in whatever we wanted to do learn more about Korea. However, I know we wished we would’ve known more than we did.

    Anyways, thank you for your feedback. We appreciate it. Let’s keep this conversation going.

    It’s important.

  • Dear Meggan,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response to the comments.

    You mentioned you need a couple grand to get to Korea for your reunion. I have a couple of suggestions for you.

    #1 http://www.inkas.org/

    InKAS is an organization serving adult adoptees in Korea. This year, they offered airfare for adoptees coming to Korea for their summer camp. Maybe you can try next year.

    #2 How about getting MPR to buy you a ticket to come to Korea to interview adult adoptees and organizations as part of a series with KADs in MN and Korea? You could come for business and also leave some space/time for your reunion. Grueling, but possible if you just need the money. It is difficult for us all. If you need somewhere to stay, I suggest KoRoot, a guesthouse for Korean adoptees. You get breakfast, lunch, and a dorm room for less than $15 a night.


    There is a support group through GOAL for reunited adoptees. GOAL also runs a “First Trip Home” program, but I am not sure about the airfare.


    If you do artwork, you may also find the funds to come to Korea through a grantors such as the Jerome Foundation.


    Universities such as Inje University and Geumgang University offer programs that give free or nearly free room and board to “foreigners” if you can manage to get here.

    Best wishes to you, Meggan, and all of us KADs who are figuring things out.

    Jane Jeong Trenka

  • Meggan,

    Eleana Kim (not an adoptee, but Korean-American and an anthropologist) has written an entire book on the development of the Korean adoptee community identity and politics. She explores the 50-year evolution of a global collective identity as Korean adoptees, and how the internet was instrumental to the creation of that space.

    There is a long history of adoptees using internet and social media to connect with each other…and the wide community of adoptee blogs is a rich source for conversation and diversity of perspectives on adoption.

    Anyway, I can’t recommend Eleana’s book highly enough. If you haven’t read it, check it out.

    Also, in response to this comment:

    “As to saying there’s not much media coverage, I’d like to expand. First thank you for the info and suggested titles. That is a service to me and hopefully others. However, I agree with who said that coverage is so narrow or the mainstream media needs to do better.I think that’s what I meant when I expressed that there’s little coverage. I often feel it’s the scandals or stories framed as another celebrity saving a child that receive the big headline. Mainstream coverage doesn’t feel as layered as it could be. I’m sure perspective parents desire information and knowledge or guidance on resources.”

    Yes, I do think prospective parents are looking for information….but we’re not sharing our stories just for the edification of curious parents or agencies who want to share “success stories.” We want to share our stories because, as Shelise Geiseke has said on her blog

    “We are the ones who ultimately deal with the consequences of adoption. But, many of us don’t rely on our personal experience alone to make us experts. We study, analyze, and thoughtfully critique the adoption experience, because we don’t want to make a buck, we want to make the experience better for our community.”

    And yes, you’re absolutely right, mainstream media does a horrible job of showing the multi-layered complexities of adoption…but you know, there’s a pretty easy way to start addressing that problem, and it starts with MPR.

  • Soon-Young Oh

    Another adult Korean adoptee here from Minnesota. Kat, Kevin, Jane, Kate and Ji In have already commented thoughts that I also share.

    All I can add is that I have felt critique over the years for being “angry” – even though us adult adoptees know that our experiences are far more complex than just being categorized as “happy and grateful” vs. “angry and ungrateful.”

    It’s times like this, when our voices are not brought to the table from the start when I ask: “And you wonder why adoptees seem angry?”

    For me, the failure to include us in this conversation from the start is yet another example of feeling invisible as an Asian-American, and infantilized as an Asian adoptee.

    Soon-Young Oh

    *Vice President of AK Connection

    *Transracially adopted from Gimhae, South Korea to Chaska, Minnesota in 1978

  • Katie Leo

    My fellow KADs have already articulated my thoughts on the MPR segment with authority and eloquence in these comments. I am always troubled and disappointed, but not surprised, when international adoption is discussed within a narrow supply-demand framework without considering the impact of this system on adoptees and first families. I echo the call for a program featuring a global panel of adult adoptees. Any of the people who’ve commented here could connect the producers with a broad community of experts who would bring depth and richness to the topic of international adoption. Go on, MPR. I dare you.

    Katie Hae Leo


  • stephanie

    I’d like to echo Meggan’s thanks. We often get complaints from people saying that we didn’t tell their side of the side, but usually that is all they say. I’m glad with your criticisms you also gave us your stories. Thank you.

  • I am a Korean American Adoptee who is currently living in Seoul, failing to learn Korean, and struggling though the ongoing reunion experience with my first family. Thank you to each Adoptee who is sharing their lived experience as a person who was adopted and lives every day as an Adoptee. I feel deeply troubled by both the framework and voices featured on MPR’s expert panel discussing adoption. As I listen to the story, it is quite clear to me that international adoption has made my body a product that only has worth when it can be sold to families with privilege who are shopping for a love story. The voices on this panel reflect the ways that international adoption is a practice of systemic dehumanization of the most vulnerable children. Moreover, the framework simplifies adoption to trending numbers that add up to an adoptive family’s love story. This further demonstrates that the experiences of those who were adopted is irrelevant to the institution of international adoption. Finally, I want to assert the transnational adoption industry is contingent upon the destruction of families targeted by white supremacy. While I believe that adoptive families want to provide a child with a forever home, I fear that white adoptive parents end up colluding with a system of racism when they do not think critically about this context. I do not think it is an awkward laughing matter to consider the ways that white adoptive parents perpetrate racism against the child they adopted. I think it is sad. I know it is a reality.

  • I am an adoptee who has returned to his place of birth, Lebanon. I have been living here for eight years now, and in attempting to make sense of my adoption have instead plumbed the depths of depravity that represent child trafficking (euphemistically referred to as adoption). I would not wish what I have learned on my worst enemy.

    I would like to express praise and thanks for all of the adoptees who are raising their voices on this subject.

    I also think it is worthwhile to point something out that worries me whenever we get into one of these discussions. The idea of adoption is a given, and we talk about reform as if adoption is written into the Consititution. I think we should always push this to the logical conclusion that questions the institution of adoption in terms of moral and ethical validity at its very foundation. I am very serious when I say that we are reliving the days of abolition as concerns adoption.

    Having said that, my other worry is that this devolve into a “50-50” debate; as if there are two valid sides, on equal footing, both with a point of view. I have argued and do argue that given the legal, governmental, medical, religious, social, cultural, and mediated leanings that paint adoption endlessly as a given, it seems that much in the way of “due response time” need be allocated to not just adoptees, not just to their true mothers, but to their families, communities, and indeed, all others who have been dispossessed, displaced, and marginalized out of a valid existence by the economic and political forces that also enable the adoption industry.

    What I mean to say is that even if MPR did a radio show that was nothing but dead air, silence over the airwaves, this would, due to the force of the dominant mode of thinking, still lean in a pro-adoption direction. If adoptive parents were to stay silent for the next thousand years, the discourse would still lean toward their view of the world and our place in it. If MPR is honest in its desire to give voice to the Voiceless, there is much more to be done along these lines than simply allowing a few blog posts and a one-time radio show.

    For some further resources on adoptees:



  • I’m an adult transracial adoptee part of the first organised group of transracial adoptees to the UK in late 50s and early 60s.

    It is imperative that such organisations as yours proactively seek out and make connections with groups, communities and organisations that support the adoptee. Not every adoptee has had a happy life, many transracial adoptees suffer in silence until the reach mature adult hood with the scars and trauma of transracial adoption, cultural dislocation and identity issues. I have come across many adoption forums, groups and support organisations that champion adoption and actively encourage transracial adoption as an alternative to infertility treatment, and as a quicker way of adopting a child domestically ALL of which trouble me greatly

  • Mary Margaret Jung Reagan-Montiel

    Our world has become a place where we are all challenged to think beyond what we know or have experienced…we owe it to ourselves to be informed producers and consumers of information. The practice(and perceptions) of adoption (trans-racial and domestic) has yet to change from the practice of “saving a child” to “raising a whole child”.

    Fact of the matter is that there will always be adoption when there is uneven distribution of power and wealth in any community. And, to simply focus on a decline of adoption (exchange of goods for money) does NOT truly expose all the dynamic layers of human relationships. I, too share the sadness (and disappointment) at such lost opportunity to challenge the “happy ending” ideas of adoption but it does remind all of us that there is more work to be done! And, we need to build bridges with organizations like MPR to enlighten and challenge the statuesque!

  • Thank you for giving a voice to adult adoptees on this topic. Many of us have braved the stereotypes of being “ungrateful” and “angry” to speak our truth ~ adoption is not the win-win situation that our society believes it to be. We live our lives silenced. Adoption laws are influenced by a supply/demand based industry and yet adopted individuals are stripped of our very birth identity, birth records, and histories. Our children and grandchildren are robbed of their genealogy. When will America wake up?

    Genealogists predict that within four more generations NO American’s family tree will be accurate due to archaic “sealed records” laws in adoption and “amended” (falsified) birth certificates. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was right when he said “When justice is denied to one, it affects everyone.”

  • Meggan

    This has been one of the hardest weeks at work. In some ways I felt responsible because I had let my colleagues down in not guiding them to members in the community. In other ways, I felt frustrated because I couldn’t best convey why it’s important to have adoptees at the table. In talking to today’s round table guests, I realize I’m still finding and learning words to articulate why it’s important we have a voice in the media.This may be a an going process. First, we are part of an experience where the focus is often on parents or agencies whether intentional or not. Second, some of us are already part of groups where we zero-to-barely exist in the media.

    Today because of your feedback, we have put together a round table of panelists to talk about the adoptee experience. All three guests have strong points of views and knowledge to share. They may say things you agree with or disagree with or may or may not relate to you. We share similar experiences, yet we have our own personal narratives within our families or communities. While this may or may not be the perfect or exact discussion you want, I hope it can still give people a glimpse of some amazing work done by adoptees for adoptees and their families. I hope it can give people a glimpse of our experiences.

    I admit when I first posted I had know idea where to start. Do I write something really personal (like the roller coaster ride of my reunion) and cry in my cube at work or do I do something light to get things started. I kind of went with the latter, trying to point out the questions one has to start answering when you’re a kid w/o training or tips on how to answer. Just one aspect. So thank you for listening and running with this blog space to share your stories, feedback and resources. My colleagues have learned how emotional, complex and layered the adoption experience is. I want thank them for listening and allowing this round table to happen.

  • Thank you for featuring knowledgeable, competent, and professional adoptees to further the discussion on international/transracial adoption. As an internationally adopted Latina person, the racism, white parent protective factors, and identity development were prescient factors in my life.

    It’s incredibly important for these discussions to continue.

  • Scott Brazil

    We adopted our daughter from Guatemala in 2006. We are fortunate to belong to a church that has a vibrant and active Latino community, which we try to be involved with. We hope this helps connect her to the culture, though I think it has been good for our entire family as our circle of relationships and understanding have grown. Admittedly, we have not done a good job of learning the Spanish language, but we are working on it.

  • I am an “American” born adoptee. The whole adoption system is wrong and corrupt. To deny anyone the most basic knowledge of who they are has life long effects.

    What does a social worker or childrens home worker know of this?

    What does any government know of this? NOTHING!

    No one except the adoptee should be talking about this period!!



  • Thank you MPR, and thank you, Meggan, for creating a space for adult adoptees. Let’s make it a permanent practice. Best wishes to all. Cheers ~

  • Thank you MPR. Most importantly, thank you Meggan! The roundtable today was fabulous, and I hope this is just the beginning of a longer conversation. Bravo!

  • Mary Margaret Jung Reagan-Montiel

    Dear Meggan (and MPR team),

    I didn’t listen to the first broadcast (for the same reasons that my fellow adoptees stated above but I did listen to the follow-up broad cast today. I, in my brain understand what the experts where talking about AND I felt acknowledged in my heart. Your second panel of experts where passionate, enlightened and knowledgeable about the issues that matter to me and many others. I grow up in a family of 10 adopted kids – 5 from Korea and 5 domestic adoptions in a very small town in northern Minnesota where everyone was related (except us, of course). So, in my experience I have felt everything that was expressed today. I appreciate your willingness to bring such a topic to light even at the risk of letting yourself be vulnerable. Thank you!

  • David

    I didn’t get to call in to today’s show but if I would have, I would like the panelists response to Monday’s show with Children’s Home Society and Lutheran Social Services in regards to this being a temporary lull in international adoption. I was appalled by the agencies attitude that they are waiting for their triumphant return to their glory days.

    In my opinion, their goal should be the elimination of international adoption and the white savior industrial complex. But the adoption agencies need to perpetuate it to survive. Don’t you think 123 years of profiting from the sale of children has been long enough?

  • Albatross

    I could list the lies and indignities that were heaped on me during my successful adoption search, or mention that it took me 12 years to FIND my birthparents and that 16 years after finding them they were both dead, meaning that nearly half of my possible time with them was denied me.

    But instead let me just urge MPR and those reading impartially to consider this:

    Take a given adult citizen of the United States. Is that person supposed to be the equal of every other adult citizen, or not?

    Adult citizens who were adopted as children are NOT treated equally. They are arbitrarily denied contact with their genetic forebears.

    Think about how an adult obtains a restraining order against another adult – the offender has to be pretty threatening, and a judge has to agree with the victim that this threat exists.

    Adult citizens who were adopted as children have a prejudicial restraining order against them contacting their genetic forebears.

    These restrictions place adult citizens who were adopted as children at greater risk. First there are genetic diseases, about which we learn more every day. It is insufficient to suggest a one-time medical update or snapshot suffices to address this risk – medical information changes and can be incorrect. In my case, for example, my maternal grandmother was listed in my case notes as being ‘hospitalized with cancer’ when I was born. In fact, she was an alcoholic drying out in a sanitorium at the time, but of course back in the 1960’s nobody would say that. So I pay higher insurance rates due to my “higher risk” of cancer, while as it turns out alcoholism is a severe risk of which I remained unaware until my 30’s.

    Then there are other risks. There are adoptees who, kept in forced ignorance of their backgrounds, HAVE ENDED UP DATING OR MARRYING THEIR BLOOD SIBLINGS. Rare? Sure. Devastatingly tragic when it happens? Definitely. And for what reason?

    The adoption agencies, places that should be extremely transparent in order to safeguard the welfare of children, obscure their activities by keeping birthparents and their relinquished children separate and unable to compare notes. Because not all children are “relinquished.” Some are kidnapped, as news reports out of Chad and Haiti illustrate. But even lesser insults and offenses remain hidden.

    And I come back again – WHY should adult citizens who were adopted as children be placed at risk for any of this? The REAL reason is so that adoption agencies can continue to do whatever it is they do without oversight, critique, or review.

    You’d think a news agency would be all over that secrecy, trying to discover the truth of how vulnerable women and even more vulnerable infants are treated. So when adoptees see the agency propaganda being swallowed uncritically by news agencies, we are further distressed.

    Finally, these risks do not stop with our generation. Two adoptees who marry have little genetic medical background to offer their own children. Why should the CHILDREN of adoptees be at greater risk of inherited diseases simply so that adoption agencies can continue to function without oversight?

    Please think critically about this, MPR, and challenge your assumptions about the adoption industry.

  • jane

    As a Korean adoptee, I have always felt that I was lacking an “essence” of what it is to be “Asian”, let alone of what it is to be Korean. And so I have sought to understand, capture and possess that essence, to be and feel Asian and Korean. … But I have come to learn that I am Asian and I am Korean, by nature of what I look like and where I was born, and the history of who I believe to be my biological ancestors; therefore my experience is a valid Korean and Asian American experience. Korea, Holt International, and other agents that created this diaspora of Korean adoptees forced this expansion of what it is to be Korean, a community that, in MN, is larger than Koreans who are not adoptees. … I will say that I am not the only one to believe there is something beyond appearance and place of birth to be able to “claim” Asian or Korean identity. I’ve been told by both non-Asians of all races and Asians that I am not Asian. People judging me for not being a good “Asian” because I do not know “my” language or culture. … Identity is something I have to negotiate on a a daily basis, validate who I am, my choices, and my experiences (whether or not I am “Asian”, for not knowing Korean language or culture, and for not doing/being all-things-Asian). It is “faking” for me to be wholly ok with who I am and my choices in regards to the things just listed; and it is lying for me to say that it doesn’t bother me.

  • Meggan (and the folks at MPR),

    Thanks for the space you’ve created on the Daily Circuit to share the adoptee experience. Today’s roundtable showcased the tip of the iceberg in the complexities of the international adoptee experience. There will always be room for more conversation, but this was a wonderful start.

    Let’s keep it going…there’s so much more to explore!


  • NanIe Yi

    I completely agree with David’s comments: “I didn’t get to call in to today’s show but if I would have, I would like the panelists response to Monday’s show with Children’s Home Society and Lutheran Social Services in regards to this being a temporary lull in international adoption. I was appalled by the agencies attitude that they are waiting for their triumphant return to their glory days.”

    One thing I felt was off immediately was how MPR got to choose the very narrow focus of the discussion, which was limited to race/discrimination, while the original broadcast covered the very large and expansive topic of why IA’s numbers are down. I thought the adult adoptees were going to be given a fair chance to respond, challenge and add their POV to that original topic. I felt it was disempowering to narrow the talk to race and discrimination by the decision of the host. Nevertheless, it was a breakthrough moment for MN Adoptees. Cheers to them!

  • Hoon

    I did not listen to the first airing on Monday but made sure to listen today (which I did).

    I am a 33 year old KAD who also grew up in small town MN that dealt with the common racial and physical abuse growing up due to being “Chinese or Japanese”. My white parents never understood me but as being a parent myself now, I think they did their best within their means.

    Last year I reunited with my Korean family and I must say I have never felt so loved before in my entire life. It was a refreshing experience for me. The separation was painful and coming back “home” to the US made me miss them more. That little glimpse of unconditional love surfaced painful memories growing up and (still) makes me angry and sad for not being able to be (or grow up) with my Korean family. This and other reasons, I am starting to immerse myself into a Korean adoption community that I didn’t know existed.

    I enjoy reading/hearing other KADs experiences on their adoption and/or reunion. It helps me find words to explain the emotions I’m feeling. Even listening to white adoptee parents on their experiences (including my own) is intriguing.

    However, I’d like to bring up a different point that I’ve seen expressed by others and wasn’t discussed much in today’s show (hopefully in the future?) in which the focus should be on helping to build infrastructure to poor countries and families that would allow them to keep their children. That adoption agencies should focus on helping parents keep their children instead of selling us as a product. But that’s not good business.

    To Meggan, I am proud of the efforts you are doing. Even though the initial response you received wasn’t what you expected, I think your intentions were good and it’s a place to start. I’m proud of you for doing a follow up post and adding your comments. This is my first public post of a slice in my life. Sharing one’s story is hard and I’m slowing coming out of my “shell”. I too have found myself randomly crying during my commute, where I’m alone and no one can see me. Reunion is still very hard with me and I know that it will continue to be the more I learn from my past and the exploitation of international adoption.

  • Katie Hae Leo

    Thank you, Meggan, for your openness this week in such a public space, and thanks to MPR for providing a forum for the views of adult adoptees. There’s so much more of our experiences and knowledge base to explore. I hope that this is just the beginning!

  • Indigo

    Thank you Meggan Ellingboe and MPR for finally seeking out these invaluable views by transnational adoptee professionals and academics based in the U.S. with the world. And to Kevin Ost-Vollmers for raising this issue and persisting on its importance.

    The work of Assoc.Prof. Kim Park Nelson, and Jae Ran Kim is known and sort after world wide. As an Australian academic, this is why I have drawn on their scholarly insights in publications, and was also honoured to do a panel with Dr Park Nelson at an international academic conference in Canada . It was also great and very informative to hear from author Kelly Fern.

    It’s also important to note that many of the writers of comments above are pioneering writers, community figures and active members of forums, and of course, scholars who are adoptees who also make an enormous contribution to improving insights and practices in adoption. This includes adoptees such as Lena Soo He Wood, Kate Sands, Ji In Lugtu, Daniel Ibn Zayd, Katie Hae Leo, Soon-Young Oh, Lauri-Lee, Lucy Sheen and others.

    Also in the comments above, author Jane Jeong Trenka is absolutely correct that the media would not do a story on any other population without asking core members of that population to contribute insights. She, with her editorial colleagues Chinyere Oparah and Sun Yung Shin, also adoptees, have been crucial actors in reversing adoption trends that have overlooked adoptee writings on how they perceive the practice of overseas adoptions and its long term implications for their lives, showcasing the stories of a broad range of adoptees, transnational and transracial, in their pioneering edited collection of adoptee writings: Outsiders Within: Racial Crossings and Adoption Politics*.

    The interview panel with adoptees can now stand out as a sound example to other journalists of how to take a well balanced approach to exploring contemporary transnational and transracial adoption. Media like The Huffington Post and The New Yorker should follow suit, as they have previously done features with adoptive parents and overlooked adoptee expertise and community input.

    Let radio shows like the adoptee panel on MPR be part of an ongoing turnaround in the media. Especially when so many of adoptees, in MN and globally for that matter, have a wealth of academic, professional and community experience, as highlighted by Kevin Ost-Vollmers and Shelise Gieseke in the Land of Gazillion Adoptees, but also by non-adoptees who have an understanding of the important role of adoptees such as academic Dr Sarah Park.

    Best to all who have been a part of this panel, on and behind the scenes, and here’s to more adoptee inclusion whenever adoption is discussed on how to best consider the best interests of children.

    Dr Indigo Willing, Sociologist, Australia.

    Vietnamese adoptee.

    Founder: Adopted Vietnamese International

    Contributor to Outsiders Within*

    *Trenka, J. J., Oparah, C., & Shin, S. Y. (Eds.). (2006). Outsiders Within: Racial Crossings and Adoption Politics. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.

  • Hey Meggan,

    As a former member of the media, I know it can be difficult to balance the personal with the professional when it comes to topics that hit so close to home, but you did a nice job of helping the adult adoptee community start to have a more prominent voice in the discussion of adoption-related topics, and that is a very good start!

    When I worked at WCCO I had co-workers who have adopted internationally and another co-worker who is a KAD (like myself). The irony—just like you being at MPR—is even with all that, so many people remain unaware of what life is really like for international adoptees, even though they live and work with us. I had the opportunity to share on-air about some of the KAD experience twice with Kevyn Berger when she was on FM107. She had worked with the same people I did at WCCO and one or more producers at FM107 were KADs, but she also wasn’t really aware of the various issues I raised until she interviewed me.

    It just goes to show we need to keep the dialogue open and hope that people in a position like you, will continue to fight for air-time for more discussion—especially being in Minnesota where there is such a high concentration of international adoptees!

    I hope next week is a bit calmer for you 🙂

    Kat Turner

    Nashville, TN

  • Jean Provance

    As a domestic adoptee, growing up with people different from oneself has it’s own additional tasks.Even when you can “pass” as “one’s own child” it doesn’t change the fact that often matching skin color doesn’t mean matching culture, heritage, or ethnicity because you look alike.

    Adoptees will still feel how different they are when adoptive parents do not help the adoptee to connect with all aspects of their inheritance, be it ethnicity, heritage, culture or anything else that is part of the adoptee that isn’t necessarily inherent in the adoptive parents and their extended family.

    When you take a child from not just their original families but also their country, their language, people who even look like them, the issues are ten fold and need to be addressed with that respect. The issues need to be respected and recognized more widely especially for the international and transracial adoptions.

    The voices of adoptees need to be the focus of adoption, not the agency, not the adoptive parents, because after all this was done in our “best interest” yet when our best interest is something that we are able to speak up and stand up about often our voices are the ones not turned to first.

    I hope MPR has learned from this expereince, and will ask the adoptees first next time adoption is addressed.

  • Lauri Lee

    Thank you Meggan and MPR for this space and for the Roundtable broadcast with Kim Park Nelson, JaeRan Kim, and Kelly Fern. Thank you also for putting your broadcasts online for those of us who couldn’t otherwise hear them. And thank you to the above mentioned panelists.

    Even though everything in that discussion was pertinent to a topic brought up (by Kevin O-V) at the end of the “International adoptions down…” broadcast and needed to be said and is important as public knowledge about the experience of international adoption, I was hoping with the expertise available in the adoptee community some kind of balance could be addressed with an adoptee perspective regarding the topic of “International adoptions down…”. Frankly I found that broadcast disturbing in its assumptions and focus.

    As much as I truly appreciated the Roundtable panel discussion topic and the expertise the panelists brought, it still strikes me as part of an ongoing type of patronisation that adoptees can be relied on to talk about their experiences but not about the systems which have so impacted their lives, the lives of their original families, and also their adoptive families. Adoptees have valid perspectives in the decline of IA, many have contributed towards impacting this decline. Many supported the Hague Convention on IA, and many have felt disappointed by what are seen as its failings. Many adoptees support initiatives in their nascent countries to support women and families to enable them not to fall victim to IA. Adoptees perspectives do not place themselves and other adoptees as tantamount to consumer products, with supply difficulties, in the family building exercise as your “International adoptions down…” panelists did, but as human beings worth more dignity than this.

    Meggan – Sorry to hear this has been a rough week for you, I think most of us understand, but I hope it has also had it’s rewards. It’s very much appreciated what you’ve been doing. Please don’t feel the need to sound apologetic, we all struggle with finding how we make sense of and articulate the complexities of our lives/situations.

    I always feel inspired and less alone by hearing the articulate voices of other adoptees, I’m so glad to hear them here.

  • Ji In Lugtu

    I want to extend a big thank you to the panelists on today’s roundtable discussion for contributing their perspective, experience, professionalism and authority on the racial and cultural aspects of international adoption. Much of what the three panelists shared resonated with my experience as well, and I congratulate MPR for recognizing the importance of including adoptees’ voices in the ongoing dialogue.

    I would also like to add, however, that the professionals in our adult adoptee community have much expertise to offer concerning adoption policy, reform and trends, and I wish that today’s roundtable could have afforded the speakers the opportunity to expand on the discussion of international adoption trends that Monday’s show addressed.

    Meggan, many of the points you expressed in your blog post and your follow-up comments reminded me of my own experience, from having a Korean-adopted sibling and Scandinavian adoptive parents, right down to the reunion rollercoaster ride and crying in my cube at work (which I actually did, running mascara and all — kudos to you for maintaining your sense of professionalism!). When I moved to the Twin Cities after graduating from college, I had only heard of the great number of Korean adoptees living in Minnesota, but had not personally made significant connections with any others. Once I began meeting other Korean adoptees (they were everywhere I turned!), I underwent a deeply profound shift in my identity, my understanding of family, of race, and of my entire history. It was with another Korean adoptee friend that I finally found the strength to make my first trip back to Korea, search for my Korean family, and reunite with them.

    I urge you to explore the wonderful networks and resources that our fellow adoptees have built, including (in your neck of the woods) AdopSource and AK Connection, as well as the many other adoptee-led organizations throughout the world and online. The sense of commonality, understanding and belonging that I first felt in Minnesota inspired me to help establish a Korean adoptee organization when I moved from MN to Hawai’i. (I am proud that this organization is now six years old and thriving.) On a personal note, I know a whole army of fantastic Korean adoptees in Minnesota, some of whom you’ve already met. I think you’ll like them, too.

    My best to you.

    Ji In Lugtu

  • Vicki

    We spent 5 years searching to find the biological parents of a now-65 year old cousin. During our search we read every book available regarding the effects of “infant-stranger-adoption” (ISA) to the adopted child, the birth family, and the huge amount of funds spent on family and individual counseling by the adoption parents, after the child understands what adoption is. In a capitolist government, anything is for sale, even people; by changing the marketing strategy to use the word “adoption” rather than “infant for sale.” For certain, the greatest force undermining adoption reform in US laws, are people that connot conceive children of their own. So with the demand for this product being great and with no legal services rushing to educate, women loose their children, and natural families suffer greatly in silence for the rest of their lives. Yes, the rest of their lives. Our conclusion is that if the world was serious about maintaining a culture of mental health, ISA would be viewed as unethical, and all countires would keep families together at all cost. Some countries have matured to this level, for example, ISA is now illegal in Japan and in Austrialia. Google “Origins Inc” and the large research project regarding the effects of ISA.

    Here in the US most pregnant women do not have a clue of their legal Constitutional Rights and how due process will keep their family together. Most are scared, uneducated, or ill advised; most likely, conned out of their kids by social workers and adoption organizations like the Children’s Home Society and Catholic Charities that make a lot of money from a free product. Adoption is unregulated in the US. If MPR continues this discussion, contact Bastard Nation; an organization of a few million adult adoptees who are not allowed by law to know who they really are, and lobbying the courts for their original birth certificates. There is also a “huge” adoptee convention in Chicago this summer, that a reporter may be interested in attending. Also, Dan Rather had a special in June that interviewed natural mothers. Really interesting interviews how legal information was purposely with held from them so the adoption community could sell their kid. Keeping this subject in the spotlight, MPR may be the vehicle that changes adoption practices. Our family wishes you well in this effort.

  • Jenette Vance Yamamoto

    For every ‘Forever family’ made in Adoptionland, there is a FAMILY FOREVER torn apart. This is something the adoption agencies never tell you. If you are really interested to hear the ‘TRUTH’ of adoption join our facebook group that consists of REAL mothers and adult adoptees from all around the world who have been separated because of adoption.



  • Kathy

    This has been a very painful exchange to read. I am an adoptive mother, though I almost never use that term. I am the mother of two children, one of whom is adopted. My son is not Korean; he is Indian. So is my husband (I am not). After reading all this pain and anguish, I wonder if there are any other outcomes. Are all adult adoptees in so much pain because they were placed in new homes? Why are there no voices from those who see their situation more positively? I know that I run the risk of being attacked as naive, or only seeing this from my perspective. I get that. But, we do know quite a bit about our son’s birth situation (it seems we know more than most, and the info did not just come from the agencies or the orphanage). We know he is better off here, with us. Please don’t inquire too much about it as it is intensely personal and it is his story to tell when his time comes. (And yes, he is given all information as he can handle it.) But, truly, as a parent, this is heartbreaking. Are there happy adoptees? And I am asking that sincerely.

  • Lauri Lee

    Kathy –

    I would be careful not to disrespect the adoptees here by implying that because we have felt pain we are not favourable “outcomes” or have not had favourable “outcomes”. I assume that’s what you meant by asking for “any other outcomes”. Adoption corruption is not about what kind of “outcomes” we have, it is about a fundamentally wrong practice, out of which many outcomes can happen. I am sure you can find many young adoptees who have not questioned how they came to be in the situations they are in whose “outcomes” you would find pleasing in them choosing not to express loss. That is hardly the point when illegal and immoral things are happening. Would you be content if your children were kidnapped and brought up lovingly by good people? Would you feel no wrong had happened to you and your husband? Would you feel appeased if your children were unaware that the privilege they were enjoying was because they were trafficked?

    The concept of happiness does not exist as a binary whereby all those who have suffered shall have no happiness in their lives. That is absurd. I’m sure you understand the concept of being happy about one’s career but not happy about one’s marriage, or vice versa. Many adoptees can say they are happy about some aspects of their lives but this does not mean that they are happy that they lost their families, nor the failure of ethics which in many cases caused this to occur.

    Can you say that you would be happy if some of the money you spent on your adoption went into the in-country partner agency fund that went to pay child finders who then found any number of other children by kidnapping them from their families for the international adoption market? In many adoptions, this is what happens to some of that money adopters pay out. Surely you don’t think all that money went for paperwork, admin, and your homestudies? It only takes a couple of hundred dollars to make it a good deal for a child finder in a poor country. Can you say you can account for where all the money you spent on adoption went? The kidnapped child might not be the child you adopt, but it could be the child the next couple adopts.

    Frankly I don’t care how much you assert that your adoption was ethical and that how much you know (which you actually empirically can’t, you can only speculate) that your adoptive son is better off with you, the point is that when you participate in a system with corrupt practices you are a participant in the problem.

    I’d guess that you only view what you know about your adoptive son’s original situation against what you provide your son, but don’t look at the alternatives of what could have been done for your son in India if the resources were available. Many agencies in India help children in dire straits without resorting to removing them from their country and culture, unfortunately many are under-resourced.

    I can assure you there is much happiness in my life, I married a wonderful man, we are financially comfortable which has afforded us wonderful adventures in life (but this was not gained without many years of struggle nor does this diminish the adventures we had as we were struggling). However there is great sadness in my life for having lost my family and for living life as a racial outsider in a country I call my home and inside the home I grew up in. All this was unnecessary; I could have lived a life with my family. That would have been a life of other struggles and other joys, but just as valid if not more, as I would be living as my legitimate identity in the security of knowing who I was.

    My greatest happiness in life is having found my family again. As complex as reunion is, and regardless of all the weirdness and sorrow and loss one re-experiences, part of me was just finally at peace. And I didn’t even realise this part of me was not at peace before I felt that release.

    I consider myself to be a pretty fine outcome for all that I’ve been through as well. I’d probably consider myself a pretty fine outcome if I grew up surrounded by my natural family too.

    What is profoundly wrong is agencies creating paper orphans to make adoptable children for affluent westerners because westerners want to adopt. What is also wrong is people overlooking what can be done in countries of great poverty to ensure the wellbeing of children in the country and choosing to remove them instead.

  • Indigo

    Thank you to those non-adoptees who give consideration and recognition for the insights, ethics and courage of the adult adoptees’ posts above, rather than ignoring them for a search for ‘happy’ adoptees.

    Thank you to those who do not try to emotionally manipulate the discussion above (and in other forums) by trying to frame adult adoptees’ emotions for them.

    Thank you Lauri-Lee for reminding people our happiness is ours to define.

    Thank you to those who have the time and desire to see adoptees as legitimate actors in adoption, as having professional expertise to inform in child welfare and policy issues, as offering research-based insights, and as having extensive community engagement experience, and for searching for broader outcomes and information on how we contribute to adoption practices.

    Thank you to those who have given the adult adoptees’ above respect for their views.

    Indigo, adult adoptee.

  • Ji In Lugtu

    Kathy, I have encountered your type of reaction countless times over the years, yet it hasn’t gotten any easier for me to calmly compose a response that will reach you on the level from which you pose your reductive question, “Are there happy adoptees?” It is truly frustrating, to read screen after screen of these thoughtfully expressed, educated, experienced comments from adult adoptees and our allies, laid bare for public consumption, but then to come across such a dismissive (and off-the-mark) summary of these legitimate, authentic perspectives as unhappy outcomes.

    I can add no new ideas to Lauri’s and Indigo’s latest and all of our fellow adoptees’ previous comments, all of which adoptive parents and others need not regard with fear. If our children, adopted or nonadopted, grow up to be as articulate and expressive as any of these indviduals have shown themselves to be here, it is a success to be celebrated. I don’t wish my (nonadopted) daughter to be unhappy, but I do not wish her to grow up with an unrealistic expectation that she will emerge into adulthood as either (a) happy or (b) other, nor do I expect her to reduce her childhood and upbringing as either (a) positive or (b) negative. Why must adoptees fall into category A, or be dismissed as damaged?

    I consider myself privileged to personally know several of the above commenters, and although I cannot — and would not — neatly summarize any of them as merely a happy outcome, I can report that they are some of the brightest, most giving, most accepting, supportive individuals I’ve met. I’ve witnessed and shared in their joys and heartaches and countless moments in between, just as the rest of the world experiences every day. So it angers me to see their responses disregarded in favor of something “happier” or more “positve.” These people have been honest and generous with their thoughts, and as I reread many of them, I’m wondering, how do you read these comments and only see pain and anguish? I see (valid) pain, yes, but I also see passion, patience, integrity, perseverance and resilience.

    Much like Lauri, I’ve found great happiness in my life. I am fortunate to have a comfortable home and a beautiful family with whom to share it, and we share belly laughs every day. I won’t downplay the pain and grief I’ve experienced to make others more comfortable or to make my comment more palatable. My search and reunion changed my entire life and outlook, and brought more questions to light than answers. And although it shouldn’t matter, I maintain a relationship with my adoptive family that is just as healthy and simultaneously dysfunctional as almost every other family (adoptive and otherwise) that I’ve come across. Herein lies one of the greatest adoption myths: Happy adoptees love their adoptive parents, and unhappy/angry/scarred adoptees do not. I apologize that I cannot muster the strength to even begin to outline the fallacy of this notion!

    Finally, I’d like to do some dismissing of my own in refuting the idea of an adoption “outcome” in the first place. What is a positive adoption outcome? Is this the same thing as the fabled happy ending? Finding closure? Turning 18 and saying, “Well, that’s it. I’m happy I was adopted”? Ideas like these suggest that we as adoptees are expected to “get over” or “move past” our adoptions, yet as far as I can tell, at age 36, I am still an adopted person. A 73-year-old friend of mine, with no surviving adoptive family members, is still adopted. Like most adoptees I know, I define myself neither as having achieved a positive nor negative outcome. Rather, our stories are constantly morphing, shifting, changing with each year, cresting at joyous moments and grieving at the low points. Adoption does not afford us a finish line. 

    Adoptive parents who are reading and who have also asked Kathy’s question aloud or silently (and I know you number many), please allow your children more than one or two possibilities. If you only look for the fabled happy outcome, your child will never feel comfortable sharing with you their full spectrum of emotions.

  • Amanda

    Kathy, you don’t allow adoptees the same complexity and individualism you allow for yourself. While you avoid the term “adoptive mother,” you are content to delineate all whom you’ve seen here as “unhappy adoptees.”

    First and foremost, I am a person. And yes, I am “happy.”

    My adoption’s outcome, my current mood at the moment, and whether or not I am “better off” adopted is no one’s concern. What is concerning is the lack of adult adoptees in adoption discourse, corrupt adoption policies, the losses of families and children worldwide, and the fact that when adoptees try to discuss these things, all some people can think to say is “you’re just angry.”

    Angry about injustice? Yep. I think it would be a problem if I wasn’t.

    “Worldwide issues that impact families (which is really what we are discussing here) are tolerable to me because I look at the bright side {insert adoption cliche here}” is not something I plan on saying any time soon. If that makes me a the derogatory term, “angry adoptee,” so be it.

  • Dominic

    Sematics matter in adoption; outcomes, happyness, forever families, orphanages, third world, therepeudic approaches, forced adoptions, white privilage, stolen, assimilation, race, transnational, transracial, cultural genocide, birth mothers, birth fathers, adoptors or maybe a new term the AIC (Adoption Industrial Complex).

    From having done field placement at FIND/DHS adoption records in Victoria, Australia and the Viet adoptee on the Adoption Australia Conference committee language and perceptions matter–alot.

    I’ve noticed that Welfare service providers are divided between foster/permant care/domestic adoption v.s. intercountry adoption. How we interpret the “right of the child” v.s. the “right to be a parent”. As PAPs fill in the home studies applications and social workers make the rounds all trying to tick the boxes that determines “a stable home?”.

    Nobody asks the child about their idea of family, where and with whom. Is adoption a form of Child Protection?

    Outcomes, happy outcomes. The AIC is built on this premise for both APs and BPs. And it is a total myth.

  • KathyDG

    I considered not responding, but that would be cowardly. And I am no coward. Ji In Lugtu, your response was the most thought provoking to me, and I appreciate it. Some of your comments were really instructive and enlightening. Thank you for taking the time to be so thoughtful in your response. My initial reaction was visceral, off the mark, and obviously hurtful and insensitive. Consider my consciousness raised.

    I do not naively think adoptees or any other children (or adult) is simply “happy” or not. Am I 100% happy about the family I was born into? No, of course not.That’s simplistic. Are all adoptions legal or moral. I would be a fool to think so. Are many children stolen and sold? Yes.

    You have all shared personal, anecdotal evidence that is very real. I do feel compelled to say one thing that some of you won’t like. Laurie Lee, please do not assume that you know my son had resources available to him in India. We are intimately familiar with India. We know what was available to him.You do not know his needs, what was being done for him, nor what his likely future was. I have NO RIGHT to assume I know about your individual situation – same goes for you. And, no, we did not pay a lot of money to the AIC.

    So, thank you for responses. I will not write again – I have no place here (Indigo made this very clear). This is your place for your feelings and experiences. I wish you all peace.

  • Indigo

    Personal, anecdotal evidence, and feelings are just one of the many things adoptees have to contribute. That is very valuable but there’s more. The adoptee radio panel, LGA, and commenters above outlining the professional, research based, government, non-profit and community engagement experience also within the adoptee community is also worth re-emphasizing again. The message was getting buried.

    Thank you fellow adoptees above and all out there who promote the idea we can have a voice in adoptee welfare, policy, knowledge and well being, and have contributed to these very things for many years.

    Thank you for those non-adoptees who took the time to listen, learn, respect and grow from the insights adoptees bring.

    Thank you to those who can keep on track on what’s insights have been and can be achieved by the adoptee commenters above, and their efforts for a more ethical, equitable world.

  • Lauri Lee

    Kathy –

    You missed my point entirely. I certainly only assumed that the resources available to your adoptive son in India were extremely limited (now I’m guessing he has some special needs). And no I am not prying for information, I keep making the point that your child’s situation is not the big picture issue.

    However the point is you chose to put money into adopting a child rather than using those funds to improve the conditions of children in India. Your money would go a lot further in India than it does to raise a child in the US. You chose to put money into a system by which people profit from the trade of children, defending your own child’s situation does not stop that you participated in a system riddled with corruption and dubious ethics. That is not an indictment on you, but a wake up call, but evidently it seems you are aware of this.

    Please take the time to re-comprehend what I ACTUALLY wrote: “I’d guess that you only view what you know about your adoptive son’s original situation against what you provide your son, but don’t look at the alternatives of what could have been done for your son in India if the resources were available. Many agencies in India help children in dire straits without resorting to removing them from their country and culture, unfortunately many are under-resourced.”

    Note the words “COULD” and “IF” in “..what COULD have been done..” and “..IF the resources were available” that ‘COULD” and “IF” refers to what people like you COULD have been doing INSTEAD of adopting. Key point: “unfortunately many are UNDER-RESOURCED.”

    Removing children from their country whether they are able-bodied/minded and healthy or whether they are not, does not help a country in its longterm ability to care for that nations children. Investing in the in-country infrastructure that will make a difference for children is ethically sounder and does not put funds into the unethical system of IA which fuels child trafficking.

    This article about Intercountry adoptions latest target continent makes the point that even the cost of the airfares to transport children (and their adoptive parents) would have gone far in many poor countries. http://libertyandhumanity.com/freelance-writing/Adoption-trade-sets-up-shop-in-Africa

    Please consider the positions of David and Desiree Smolin (both very google-able) who are adoptive parents as positive role models in how they interact with the adoptee community. They too adopted from India, but have chosen a position of critiquing adoption practice and advocacy for reform when their awareness was raised, and not offending adoptees with insensitive and “naively” written questions.


    Lauri Lee