Thursday, February 18, 2010

Transracial adoption: a two-way street?

I was recently asked by a friend what my thoughts were on the adoption trends of white families adopting "cute" Asian kids. My friend wondered why we don't see more of the opposite: Asian families adopting white kids, or Black families adopting white kids.

Because my friend posed the question, I thought my email response would make for an interesting blog post. Reader's Caveat: I acknowledge that my response is anecdotal and my theories are not founded in thorough research. If you're still interested then, by all means, read on!:

Oh, boy.  You've really asked the million-dollar question! I could go on and on about this...but I'll try to keep it relatively brief.
I've seen the article you referenced (a black family who adopts a white child)...and have not seen any other since. I do know of one blogger, atlasien, who writes about her experiences at Upside-Down Adoption because she self-identifies as an Asian "hapa" and adopted a non-Asian child.
Yes, the "trend" of whites adopting Asians (particularly Chinese and Korean) is probably the most common international adoption trend I've seen. There are SO many bloggers who prove this theory (see my Similar Blogs links).  Unfortunately, I've never done a study on why this is.  However, if you're really interested as to the "why", I'm sure that the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute would have some answers. They are a great research institute.
Anecdotally, here are my thoughts:
I don't see many Japanese adopting white children because the closer they are to their Asian roots (meaning: if they have traditional Japanese families), the more stigmatized "adoption" is.  They keep adoptions in Japan very hush-hush. When I lived in Japan, I stopped sharing with Japanese people about my adoption openly because it put them in a awkward position - they didn't know how to comprehend it. It also exposed them to a side of me that is very personal (which is not common for Japanese people to be so open with a private matter).
I think that China has set up a situation for abandoning girls (due to their one-child law and the socially-desirable child is a boy).  That's why we see many Chinese girls being adopted by families here in the States.  A similar situation happened in Korea, as women have out-of-wedlock pregnancies which are just now (slowly) becoming accepted by society...
On a larger scale in the U.S., the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) of 1994 and Removal of Barriers to Interethnic Adoption Provisions (IEP) of 1996 attempted to provide equity in adoption for African American children because they saw the large number of black kids available for adoption and found a shortage of willing same-race families to place them in. The "color blind" interpretations of MEPA-IEP actually restricted agencies from providing post-adoption support for transracially-adopted kids.  Look at the Evan B. Donaldson Institute's website for their recent statement in 2008 about how this didn't quite accomplish what the government intended.

Since this letter was written, I have since found an earlier article about Mark Riding found here in 2007 and a reference to another family in an archived Detroit News article here. But, even I have to admit, this black family-white child topic is hard to find.

I did find one interesting comment on Yahoo! Answers in response to the question, "Has a black family ever adopted a white child?". Check out Julie J's answer which takes into account the supply/demand in adoption.

I would love to hear your thoughts: why is transracial adoption not more of a two-way street? What do you think about seeing these new, "blended" families in your neighborhoods? Would they be well received?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Mixie" Olympiads!

OK. The Winter Olympics are here. And having experienced the Snowpocalypse on the East Coast, I am actually stuck in the house...I mean, sitting down to watch the events.

Now I know this is NOT about adoption - but I couldn't resist posting about the latest speed skating medalists, Apolo Ohno and J.R. Celski. A little background on these athletes: Apolo Ohno's father is Japanese-born and his mother is American. J.R. Celski's father is of Polish descent and his mother is of Filipino descent. Here's a nice article on Apolo and his supportive dad. And if you missed the edge-of-your-seat Short Track: Men's 1500M race, then you can click here to watch it on

I can't help feeling a certain sense of pride when I see these mixed Asians! All of my knowledge about "model minority" stereotypes go right out the window. I mean, who cares that these athletes epitomize the "hard-work ethic" that is often attributed to Asian cultures (and absolutely necessary for anyone aspiring to be an Olympic athlete). I'm just elated to see some athletes that look like me. Or more importantly, athletes that my children can identify with.

As I watch the Olympics with my sons, they cheer for Team USA and Team Japan equally.  They know their roots and connect with both countries on some level. And I'm glad to see that they can find someone who "looks like them" in popular media.

I'd love to hear of more "mixie" Olympiads out there. If you've found them, please share!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Gotcha Day!

After I first returned from living in Japan and began to meet friends who are adoptive parents, they educated me in the ways of "gotcha" celebrations.  What's this? I had never heard of such a thing.

"Gotcha Day" celebrates the anniversary of the child's adoption. It is the day that they were brought home into their new family.  Adoptive families celebrate this day in different ways (as shown here and here) and balance the celebration if there are biological and adoptive children in the family. Actually the term "gotcha" is quite controversial, as seen here.

I've recently been able to flip through the pages of my baby book that my mom (adoptive) kept for me.  I've always felt a special affinity for Valentine's Day and I think there are a couple of reasons for that. One, my "gotcha day" was Feb. 10, 1969 and my parents often mentioned how I was their "Valentine present", which made me feel pretty special growing up. Two, my mother always made Valentine's Day a special occasion with small gifts on our dinner plates that we could open before dinner.

So, Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! And today,  I celebrate my own "gotcha day" (or close to it) and the family that brought me into their lives.

I'd love to hear from any readers who are part of the adoption constellation who celebrate their "gotcha days." I know you're out there! Or perhaps you'd like to share which term you prefer: Gotcha, Adoption Day or something else?  What term do you use to celebrate the anniversary of bringing an adopted child into your family?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Shout out for FUSION!

About two years ago, I attended the White Privilege Conference.  For those who may not follow social justice issues, the title for the conference may seem a bit strange.  But, rest assured, this conference brings in big name speakers and has amazing workshops around all sorts of social justice themes.

It was there I first encountered a group called iPride based out of the San Francisco Bay area. One of their board members was leading the WPC Youth Leadership portion of the conference.

I signed up to receive their e-newsletters, and what should appear in my Inbox this week, but a notice for the FUSION program for Mixed Heritage Youth. I'm so thrilled to see this kind of program in place, "supporting multiracial, multiethnic and/or transracially adopted youth and their families."

MUST give a shout-out to the FUSION program - check it out!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Off and Running-movie about race and identity

photo credit: First Run Features/New York Times

I MUST share this New York Times movie review for "Off and Running," a new film about transracial adoption.  Right now, it is playing in Denver, but  has playdates booked all over the United States. Can't wait until it comes to Philadelphia in May!