Adoptive Parent Decision Making in Intercountry Adoption

With the popularity of This is Us and the New York Times story about the black baby swapped out for a white one, it’s valuable to take a look at adoption’s portrayal in popular media.

In both my work-in-progress and on my blog, I take a retrospective look at the paucity of adoption resources – both professional and general – to paint a bigger picture of what led people to adopt a child outside their race and country. Today’s article focuses on how Russia and China’s portrayals in the media affected an adoptive parent’s decision to adopt.

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Framing Adoption:_The Media and Parental Decision Making
Heather Jacobson

Article Summary

Prospective parents perform research during the adoption process, often based on articles released by popular news media outlets. Jacobson revealed prospective parents’ reactions to these articles and how news stories impacted their decision to adopt.

Key Points

  • Russian mass-media stories are portrayed more negatively than Chinese ones
  • Russian adoption is reported on more frequently than Chinese
  • Negative Chinese adoption stories focused more on logistics than on the child’s potential mental health issues
  • Since the prospective parents interviewed for Jacobson’s study were coming to adoption after risky infertility situation, they showed a desire to avoid additional risk

Discussion

A certain amount of skepticism is healthy when approaching the decision to adopt a child not your own; after all, it is a huge decision, one impacting the life of a child who had no choice. The author found that, regardless of each news article’s overall tone, the general conclusion she made was that adopting a child into a loving home is fine, but prospective parents may be treading on dangerous political ground.

When adoption becomes politicized, there’s a tendency to dehumanize the child. The child is not a political pawn, some poor waif smuggled out of a war-torn country into a loving home. When media articles portray adoption this way, the child’s developing identity is negatively impacted by these prejudices. Not only may the adoptive parents, despite their best efforts, absorb these damaging viewpoints, but inevitably people less emotionally invested in the adoptee will undoubtedly, without any other frame of reference, use these articles as a way to formulate opinions on the topic of adoption.

Adoptive parents reported being influenced by these articles, some mentioning reports that Russian babies have more attachment issues than Chinese led them to adopting a Chinese baby. This is disturbing, because many adoptees are noted to have attachment issues; it’s not a country-based phenomenon. As Jacobson points out, “the majority of adoptees from both China and Russia have experienced institutionalization that can have serious consequences for child outcomes.”  Many of us adult intercountry adoptees reading this can attest to this reality.

Other intercountry adoptive parents used the articles they read, as justification against domestic adoption and in preference for intercountry adoption. They would read of stories featuring local biological parents looking for their child and wanting them back. As reported in the research, in their minds as adoptive parents, this would be intolerable as many experienced their own suffering via infertility or stillbirths.

The views expressed in Jacobson’s research reflect the adoptive parent-centric nature of adoption; the adoptive parents consume the media, the adoptive parents make the ultimate decision to adopt. Obviously adoptive parents need some way to inform their decisions, but slightly concerning is that racial features overrode Russian adoption risks. Adoptive parents persisted in Russian adoptions despite warnings, because they were eager to obtain a child bearing a closer racial resemblance to their own. We need to question that decision, because appearance cannot predict a child’s future outcome.

As transracial and intercountry adoptees, it’s our duty to remain alert to these news articles and ensure the mass media fairly portrays our struggles and political representation. If they don’t, it’s our responsibility to cut through the emotionally-driven bias toward adoption by producing articles that provide balanced accounts.

7 thoughts on “Adoptive Parent Decision Making in Intercountry Adoption

  1. Adoption includes a natural mother and family – and the child is not voiceless and using that terminology excludes the child’s mother and immediate family members – THEY ARE NOT VOICELESS and such words demeans and dehumanises the natural mother – so please refrain from using such terminology – adoption is a legal process – and with inter country adoptions every child deserves a loving warm home to grow up in – but before any adoption can be considered as the child is not a commodity for those who cannot produce their own offspring – MY RIGHTS that echoes around the world today – ADOPTION is not a solution to world issues either – THERE IS A NATURAL MOTHER – FATHER – SIBLINGS AND EXTENDED FAMILY – and one only has to watch documentaries when an adopted person through inter country adoptions as an adult returns to their home land to find their natural mother and family members – the destruction adoption causes so many people’s lives cannot be ignored – it is not an ADULT WANT WORLD – it is the sacred bond between mother and child that is the most important – and in countries where children are orphans we enter a different area of discussion – PLEASE REMOVE YOUR TERMINOLOGY that the child is voiceless because if their natural mother and natural family members are respected they are the voice of the child – every child born (when we were born ourselves) our natural parents were our voice – and all the articles from past adoptees that show the EMOTIONAL LOSS AND GRIEF they suffer has to be a warning sign to those pushing inter country adoptions – BUT every child does deserve a warm loving home – so the first place is assist the mother to raise her own child she has already formed a sacred bond with ONE UNIT that should never be DIVIDED INTO TWO HALVES

    1. sunnyjreed

      Hi Brenda,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my article and respond! I am sorry that the use of the term “voiceless” offended you. When I chose that word, I was thinking primarily of children whose biological families were unable to literally act in my best interest because I – as an infant – was unable to articulate my wants and needs.

      The loss and trauma of adoption is real, no matter what side of the triad you are on. Children do deserve warm, loving homes so they can grow and be nurtured into wondeful adults.

      I appreciate you comments and I hope to hear from you soon. Thanks again!

      Sunny

      1. There is not one baby born who has a voice – the natural mother is the voice of her newborn infant – the natural mother did not have a voice – defenceless in saving herself and her newborn infant – these were crimes against humanity and to divide ONE UNIT into two halves – is a crime – mothers were never involved in adoption triad – NEVER EVER – as adoption is legal process – the ongoing falsehoods that continue are disturbing – when you use the word voiceless you may be referring to relinquishment which is once again demeaning the natural mother – if she made a choice to relinquish her newborn (I cant even imagine why but as spokesperson for National Advocacy Group for Mothers – I will never judge those mothers) what you are saying then the infant had no voice AGAINST THE MOTHER’S CHOICE to relinquish – I just felt you need to clarify what you are meaning because the National and Victorian Parliamentary apologies were about those who did not have a choice – MOTHERS WHO DID NOT HAVE A CHOICE – authorities making illegal decisions for baby trafficking and baby farming crimes – I see the subject from all angles as my sister and brother in law are adoptive parents – and I can 100 percent assure you MOTHERS WERE NEVER INVOLVED IN THE LEGAL PROCESS OF ADOPTION – FACT – and the word triad was a word put into place by authorities to keep control and power over mother and now adult son/daughter – triad – means medical – social worker – and adoption agency – the three points of where the crimes were committed and by whom. Does not mean mother – child – adoptive parents – it is falsehoods set up by adoption community and I make these comments with the greatest of respect – but unless we share – we will never get to the bottom of the core issues

  2. lynellelong

    Brenda .. I must apologise for both Sunny and myself as owner of this blog. I should have picked up that the words might have caused offence for mothers and fathers who have lost children via adoption. I have gone thru’ and edited to fix up so that our intention is clearer. We totally validate and have empathy for our mothers and fathers of loss. This post was intended to look at a certain article and critique it and demonstrate how wrongly media portrays adoption and gives it’s biased perspective. Our blog, our network as adult intercountry adoptees is dedicated to empowering the voices of adoptees and parents of loss because in intercountry adoption, parents of loss are simply not visible. We thank you for helping us realise how easily words can hurt and retraumatise. I hope that with the modifications to the original blog post, we can embrace each other in sharing our perspectives with mutual respect. Thank you for your input and being brave enough to tell us directly.

    I’m also conscious that we be respectful to all involved in adoption so hope that our adoptive parents aren’t also feeling invalidated or attacked. Sadly, adoption creates trauma for us all and we must somehow find a way to respectfully share and work out how to support one another and move forward with our pains, hopefully learning from the past and finding a way to dialogue about the future.

    1. Hi thanks for your response – mothers whose babies were stolen never lost them to adoption – they were criminally stolen from mother – defenceless – both mother and child crying for each other – and no one listened to both screams for help – one cannot imagine the trauma the new born infant feels – after 9 months of nurturing within their mother’s womb – sacred bond formed and then both mother and child – torn apart by criminals whether it be local adoption or inter country adoptions – I communicate with many Korean adoptees and what they have been through is appalling reprehensible actions – and within ever adult there is the small child – still crying for its mother and within ever mother – her heart still weeps for the child she nurtured within – as her primary life stolen from her – her identity as well as her newborn babies – it is a matter of UNITY – to understand it is not about ADOPTION – when a tree is planted it is not planted from the top branch it is planted from the seed in the lower part of the soil – and thus motherhood commences from the seed of life – within her womb – and as propaganda tells us adoption commenced from the time of conception – written in reports – clearly stating the conspiratorial intent of corruption by the medical profession and others to STEAL newborn babies for their waiting clients – ADOPTION is a money making machine on the back of the unconditional love of a mother for her baby growing within her own body – as all of us – are still part of our mother’s body – and always will be – the miracle of life – but sadly around the globe motherhood has been decreased to be nothing – just a commodity just a vacuum with many now believing they have the right to rent the womb of young girls because they cannot produce (impossible) their own offspring – it is about MOTHERHOOD – the precious gift of life that has been lost in the overall picture – many mothers relinquished that is not under debate here – it is the crimes – one only has to read what has happened in Spain and Chile – and go back and read what happened in Argentina when medical professionals WERE JAILED for stealing newborn babies – the excitement outside the court that day I will never forget – the mothers – stolen sons/daughters reaching the pinnacle of their own TRUTH – we can strive together to stop the corruption – stop the trading of children – but it is going to take a massive effort which we as an advocacy group are trying to do around the globe – we may loss battles along the way – but WE WILL WIN THE WAR – MOTHER SON DAUGHTER against the corruption of baby and children trafficking – stay in touch we can DO IT TOGETHER

  3. Susan Andrews

    When we decided to adopt, it was because we knew there were children living in orphanages, a history of them growing up in orphanages, without a home or parents, and we felt that it was better to provide love and home for someone here who needed it rather than have a baby and add to the overpopulation. Besides reading a lot of first hand accounts about adopting in adoption magazines, we were given guidance by our agency to spend considerable time thinking about the different aspects about the countries we could adopt from, including practicalities (could we manage 6 weeks in another country doing the legal adoption there), the reasons children might end up in orphanages, and the fact that if we were to be parents of a child born in another country, we needed to celebrate that country’s culture inside our family and enjoy doing so. We did not read news articles to make the decision, but we did read books, research the economic and health issues in those countries, and listened to music, tried food, looked at art, reached out to immigrants from those countries, etc. I would guess that adoptive parents doing independent adoption might have a different learning experience than those going through established agencies. I do know that some people chose Russia because their children would not look as different, which can be seen as racist. I also know that there is a lot of discussion in the adoption world that transracial adoption is problematic. When we adopted in 1995, none of this was a topic of discussion. What did come up was that other countries feared that the babies were going to be sold for organ transplants. I know a lot of people talk about the money making involved in adoption, but when I add up the legal costs, the medical costs, the caregivers, teachers, social workers and other resources involved in caring for the children in our son’s orphange, which I visited and witnessed first hand, our costs were easily justified.

    1. There are so many orphans around the world – that need loving homes – and they all deserve to know their own history – and when adopting gathering that information is essential for when the child gets older and wants to know their heritage – as long as they are orphans and not stolen children – a loving home is not too much to ask for

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