Understanding Positive Millennial Adoptees


I’m not a angry or jealous about positive adoptions. I don’t deny they exist. With more than 25 years experience working in adoption and orphanage advocacy, I have met some wonderful adoptive parents who have reached out to adoptees like myself. I’ve met numerous adoptees that have wonderful lives and adoptive families. Positive adoptive parents are not that much different from naturally formed families where parents sacrifice to give their children love, attention and the support needed to enhance chances of creating the best possible outcomes in life.

Some adoptees are sent to the best schools afforded, given opportunities to attend heritage camps, afforded psychological counseling and most importantly, given committed parent who foster the parent-child relationships that we were robbed of from our beginnings. I will never deny that such relationships can exist. There are deeply committed people with so much joy, love, and care who also have the understanding, discipline and patience to be wonderful adoptive parents. I am grateful that such adoptees are given this opportunity. I am happy for them!

In recent years, I have written several pieces that have looked at adoption under a critical eye. My articles are posted on the internet at InterCountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV), the Pressian online journal, Land of Gazillion Adoptees and other adoptee blogs and forums. After writing these critical pieces, I get inundated with negative emails. The backlash of criticism from the pro-adoption adoptee community has been growing over the years and it comes specifically from Millennial adoptees. What got me thinking aboutt this was the recent viral success of Simon Sinek’s critical analysis entitled “What’s wrong with Millennials in the workplace”. The video went viral on YouTube and has had more than eight million hits. I then made the connection that it was the positive Millennial adoptees who were inundating my inbox. I revisited the comments made in emails and I think I found a way to understand the disconnect between some of the older versus younger generation of adoptees.

Negative Narratives May Not Be Theirs

Even though we have this connection through adoption – the adoptee population is as diverse as any other community. Like any segment of the population, we are comprised of diverse backgrounds. Even amongst a group of adoptees adopted from the same country, e.g., Sth Korean adoptees, I still find diversity. I find diversity even in a group that isn’t supposed to be too diverse. For example, despite the taboo for Koreans to bring up other people’s children, I have found some cases. On my first return trip to Korea in the 90’s I ran into an adoptee raised by a Korean diplomat. This adoptee was the caucasian child of his American colleague, killed in a car accident. During my travels in Europe, I also met a Korean adoptee adopted into a Korean family and another adoptee raised by a Jamaican family. I appreciate the diversity found within the adoptee community.

Hearing from all sides of the issues is important. When an adoption problem is shared it doesn’t mean the individual is attacking positive adoption outcomes nor does it negate the legitimacy of their complex experiences. I understand that positive adoptees may not identify with negative narratives on adoption but how does a lack of empathy or an inability to validate another person who is sharing from a vulnerable position help them overcome obstacles in life? Experiences that are considered “negative” may not be your narrative but these experiences have a time and location and are just as valid as the “positive” stories.

They Want to be Heard

I had a private conversation with another Chief Financial Officer (CFO) about Millennials in the workplace. He expressed his frustrations about them being vocal without taking time to understand the rules and regulations of an organization. Much of what we do is heavily regulated by Congress and the fast changes they seek are often impossible to implement. I understand Millennials are more vocal in stating they want to have their voices heard. I think bringing them into the conversation is a good thing overall. In general, Millenials are passionate and want to make a positive impact in areas they care about. I know we can mutually learn from this group along with the older generations of adoptees. Millenials have a strong understanding on how to leverage technology and social media platforms to their advantage. I think it is great if Millenials share their narratives whether these be different or similar to the older adoptee generations. I welcome their voices. We all have a story to tell.

Ignoring The Wrongs in the Big Picture

It’s been estimated by government agencies that 30% of Guatemalan children were stolen from their homes. Numerous concerned parents and several watch groups believe the theft of hundreds of children from perfectly good homes have occurred in China, India and other countries. The “happy adoptees” refuse to believe that they could be the victim of such dealings or ignore the issue altogether on the basis that they experienced a great adoption.

Can such positivity erase transgressions in the bigger picture of intercountry adoption?

Attitudes that largely ignore these issues result in human lives being placed below that of merchandise goods. For example, when a computer is stolen and if able to trace the whereabouts of the stolen merchandise, the buyer must give it back to the original owner – regardless of how much was paid. The original owner of the computer is protected by the law. In contrast, a child’s life is not considered as valuable as a computer. When a child is taken away from their families without consent, through coercion or bribery, it is largely ignored by the entire international legal system.

The notion that goods have more legal protection than a human life also applies to identification. If a VIN number on a car is destroyed or tampered with there are legal consequences if caught. When a person tampers with an a person’s identity and produces fake paperwork identifying them as an “orphan”, the most they get is a slap on the wrist with a small jail term and/or a fine.

I find the systematic erasure of a child’s birth identity via adoption to be fundamentally wrong. Legal systems and governments around the world recognize it is a basic human right for anyone to know who they are and where they come from. Yet an individual’s birth certificate (essentially their VIN number) and adoption documents can be altered, made up and fabricated with very little consequences in place to deter. And most importantly, nothing is done for the child who’s identity has been robbed, nor the family whom the child belonged to by birth.

A car or computer receives more protection under the law than an adopted child. This lack of value on our lives delays personal healing for those impacted. It also contributes to the endangerment of hundreds and thousands of children across the globe because of the message it sends: that their histories can be erased, separation forced and enabled via intercountry adoption with no-one to investigate whether the children were indeed stolen, lost, or fabricated and even on the rare occasion when the wrongs are obvious, there are little to no consequences and certainly no justice for the child who has been removed nor the family who has lost their child legally, forever.

Emotion Overrides Logic

Suspicion and fear drove American settlers on the path to annihilation of millions of Native Americans. The movement to relocate and fight the Native Americans was driven by emotion and fear. These feelings led to the genocide movement on American soil. Here is one account:

“On November 29, 1864, one of the most infamous events of the American-Indian wars occurred when 650 Colorado volunteer forces attacked a Cheyenne and Arapho encampment along Sand Creek. Although they had already begun peaceful negotiations with the U.S. government, more than 150 Native Americans were killed and mutilated, more than 2/3 of which were women and children.”

Members of Congress and prominent citizens across America were vocal about the removal and out right war to eradicate the Native Americans. This view remains and is held by some Americans to this day. John Wayne was asked about the removal of Native Americans and he replied, “I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them … our so-called stealing of this country was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

Statements made by proadoption movements, many made by Millennials are as equally hurtful and dismissive as the statement above. At the time of the Indian Wars, some individuals firmly believed they were on the morally right side. Many believed they were protecting settlers and companies that advanced the country to greatness. If we were to ask them today, they would not have believed they would be judged so harshly for their actions.

I believe intercountry adoption is the modern version of Trail of Tears. Globally, thousands of Native American children were stolen and killed for the betterment of the whole group. Intercountry adoptees, like the Native Americans, have been systematically moved from their homes and countries and resettled into unfamiliar territory. I understand that some adoptees can only imagine the wonderful lives they have lived and would like others to enjoy the same. We understand their positive intentions, however, we cannot override the logic with emotions to justify the means to an end.

I’m also not suggesting every Millennial adoptee has a positive adoption experience. The point is, Millennials are maturing and becoming more vocal about their experiences. It is possible a larger number of Millennial adoptees are better adjusted to their adoptions and have more positive outcomes compared to adoptees of my generation. I truly hope this is the case because this is why I speak out – in the hopes that others who follow may have a somewhat better experience.



Simone Sinek: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hER0Qp6QJNU
Adoptions in Korea: https://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/05/economist-explains-32
VIN: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/culture/commuting/what-your-cars-vin-means—and-why-you-cant-change-it/article625547/
Native Americans: http://www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/american-indian-wars
John Wayne: http://sites.austincc.edu/caddis/great-plains-wars/

7 Replies to “Understanding Positive Millennial Adoptees”

  1. Mirah Riben – Author of "shedding light on...The Dark Side of Adoption" (1988) and "The Stork Market: America's Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry" (2007). http://mirahriben.blogspot.com
    familyadvocate says:

    1. I agree that there are wonderful adoptive parens. But on top of my list of admirable traits for adopters, are those who recgonize the loss ll adoption sare built upon and who encourage reunification.

    2. I disagree that the “happy adoptee” syndrome is generational. Many older adoptees remain “grateful” and fear “biting the hand that feeds them.” If they “dare” to search, it’s done secretively or after their adopters are deceased fo fear of hurting them. They feel very indebted. The founders of BN, for instance, who are I believe are part of the Baby Boomer generation, likewise focus on the upward mobility of adoption that provided many of them Ivy League educations. Their (generalized) stance is that there is nothing wrong with adoption as long as adoptee sget their OBC as adults.

    Mirah Riben

    1. I’m not a “founder” of BN, but I am a member. In my experience, the range of views on adoption within bastard nation is just as wide and varied as anywhere else. What unites that group is the conviction that adoptees deserve the same access to their original record of birth that every other adult has, regardless of how they feel about adoption.

    2. Their stance on OBCs is directly related to their mission as an organization, as I understand it. Non-profits are required to have and keep true to their mission in order to maintain their non-profit status. I am not a founder of BN but have followed them for years. I don’t want to speak for them but I believe they have no stance on adoption in general because as adoptees many of us have different views about the adoption industry, our trauma or lack thereof, and search and reunification – none of which have to do with their mission.

    3. I am a gen X adoptee, I started searching my heritage at 18 years old. I was not raised in a weallthy family, I actually worked at McDonalds to help my adopted widowed Mom survive. I landed a nice job through good old fashioned hard work and determination. I am a believer in Bastard Nation and am proud to be a member of a group that fights for total eqaulity and nothing less. Your comment about the BN founders shows blatant immaturity.
      Mona Brant/ Michigan (not so indebted adult adoptee!)

    4. I’m one of the founders of Bastard Nation, I served on their Executive Committee from 1997 to 2001. I am, along with Marley Greiner, a Baby Boomer. The rest of the founding members and leaders were Gen Xers. My adoption was not particularly happy. I didn’t search for my family of origin until my adoptive parents had died, not out of fealty, but because I didn’t find out I was adopted until my adoptive parents were in the ground. What I discovered was that my adoption was a transfer from one dysfunctional working class familty to another dysfunctional working class family. The family dysfunctions mirrored each other, with slight variations (drug addiction was a common theme in my family of origin, alcoholism in my adoptive family). I didn’t go to an Ivy League school (although I did get a scholarship offer to Bennington), I dropped out of high school and hitchhiked around the country for a couple of years. But that’s just me. What BN offers is a political space for adoptees who believe that they have an unconditional right to their unaltered records of birth. That’s BN’s mission, and has been since its inception. BN doesn’t have a litmus test based on whether an adoptee was “happy” or “unhappy” with their adoption. Before “Flip the Script”, BN believed in and continues to believe in the power of the adoptee voice, in letting adoptees narrate their own adoption stories. This has sometimes led others to assume that BN is pro or anti adoption, depending on their own agendas. I learned long ago not to GAF what non-adoptees say about BN, but I did feel that a response to Mirah is necessary, because she chose to shit post about an adoptee-led organization on a blog dedicated to the voices of intercountry adoptions.

  2. As an adoptive parent, I appreciate your thoughts. I do suspect there is a generational difference that reflects changing practices and understanding. My children are 17 and 18, so a little younger than Millenials I guess, and I know a lot of adoptive families through support groups and so forth. When I read accounts on anti-adoption pages, with adoptees talking about secrecy, being raised by Aparents who felt threatened by searches or speaking disparingingly of birthparents, casting kids aside after they’re 18, seeing their adopted kids as second best, etc etc, I think “Wow, this sounds like NO ONE that I know.” We are all thrilled and blessed to have our kids, we have open adoptions and support these relationships, and we understand that adoption involves trauma so we seek support and education to learn better ways to deal with behavior issues that don’t rely on discipline and punishment but instead seek to build connection and healing. I hope the old practices are dying off as we know now that those ways were not healthy for the children (nor the birth families).

  3. Mirah, you live in a fantasy land. I am a founder of BN and I’m a Gen Xer as are most of the founders. I was raised in a lower middle class single parent household and paid my way through a state university, as did most of the other founders. As far as our positions on adoption as an institution, Bastard Nation as an organization doesn’t take any position on it and hasn’t from the beginning, other than the system of sealed records is wrong. (It is also a lot more than our OBC that we advocate for in terms of records). We are the largest adoptee rights organization in the world. Our members therefore have varied positions on adoption as a whole. But speaking just for myself, I think intercountry adoption should be abolished except in narrow, interfamily circumstances. I have spent much of my adult life to preserve and defend ICWA, oppose putative father registries, inadequate revocable consent periods, and other indefensible aspects of adoption. I helped pass the first and only law in the US that gives birthparents access to the entire adoption file. With no assistance from you. Other founders of BN have one important work in the area of late discovery adoptees, a phrase actually coined by one of our founders, and safe havens. Even those founders who had positive adoption experiences so normdispute the inherent issues involved particularly in transracial and intercountry adoption and are forthright about it.

    I actually wholeheartedly endorse and agree with most of this article.

    As per usual, you are just spouting off with misinformation and falsehoods in your neverending quest to bash people and organizations who aren’t interested in serving as a platform for you to promote your book.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply