Preparing for an International Adoption
I took a Gender Studies class in college that really opened my eyes to what goes on in our world outside of the US. I saw how people lived, how men treated women, how difficult it was to get healthcare, how far people lived from hospitals, how far people had to walk to find water or go to the bathroom, how many children were homeless – and it made me realize how little I knew about life and the world around me. I wondered about babies and children, and how their lives would change if they were adopted. For this reason, I was interested in looking into the challenges that adoptive families and adopted children might face if the child is being adopted internationally into the US.
A 2016 study posted in the Adoption Quarterly described some “best practices” for families planning to adopt a child internationally into the US. Whether a child is adopted at birth or adopted when they are a bit older, they will want to identify their identity. Knowing that their adoptive family is not their biological family and knowing that they were adopted from another country, coming from another culture, can make things difficult when identifying identity.
A second issue faced by families is that ‘the larger society does not fully accept them [the adopted children] as Americans racially and treats them as “others,”’ as addressed in the article (Chen, 2016). The article goes onto say that there might be a “different physical appearance,” and “ to be truly competent is to accept the reality of international adoption,” and finally, “regarding social communication, adoptees and adoptive families have to deal with the public’s discrimination against their birth cultural background (Chen, 2016).” I think the overall idea here is to make sure that as a family, there’s no “brushing things under the rug” or ignoring something that might need to be addressed because it’s being addressed by others in society. This author encouraged “acknowledgment of difference” rather than “rejection of difference.” I know “rejection” can seem like a harsh word, but I think the author was getting at the root emotion. To “avoid” or “ignore” differences that others are addressing can also seem or feel similar to “rejecting” that “difference,” even if that’s not the intention.
“Cultural identity” is defined as an identity “including self-identification and knowledge about traditions, customs, values, and behaviors shared among members in the group and feelings about being a member of the group” (Martin & Nakayama, 1997). In order for a child to successfully identify their identity as they are growing up with their adoptive family, they should know about the customs and traditions of their adoptive family, but also be aware of the customs and traditions of the culture that they came from. According to the study, “identity develops over time and is created, in part, by the self becoming aware of its own ethnic group as well as through communications with other group members” (Martin & Nakayama, 1997, cited in Abrams, O’Conner, & Giles, 2003, p. 213; Chen, 2016). So not only is it helpful for the adopted child to be aware of all customs and traditions, but it is also beneficial for the child to be aware of their ethnic group, and even communicate with others in their ethnic group. Encouraging the adopted child and family to partake in cultural customs can be done in many ways, such as looking up and celebrating cultural events, learning the cultural languages, meeting regularly with a counselor or other families with adopted children, or speaking highly and positively about the customs, traditions, importance, and values of culture, as suggested in the article (Chen, 2016).
I feel like this study received really helpful results. I agree especially with the idea of “acknowledging differences” rather than “rejecting differences,” because I think many times, feeling ignored can also feel a lot like being rejected. So the important things to remember are to be positive, be open, be communicative, talk about the topics that are the toughest to discuss, and just be the best family you can be!