The complexity of adoptees returning to whence they came

Five friends who are not adoptive parents have now sent me the NY Times Magazine article “Why a Generation of Adoptees Is Returning to South Korea.” (So lucky that so many of my friends get me!) So yes, I’ve seen it. And yes, I can imagine my daughter going back to Ethiopia. As a matter of fact, it would not surprise me at all if we moved there as a family before she grows up.

The logistical challenges these adult adoptees face are not a surprise. The emotional toll of not feeling a complete sense of belonging in their birth country is painful to consider but not surprising. What I do find utterly mind-boggling is adoptive parents viewing their child moving back to their birth country as a rejection of them. I would consider it a great success if my daughter feels confident enough in her own identity that she wants to go live in Ethiopia and pssst to adoptive parents, it’s not all about you, assholes!

With that said, the article was not without pain for me. “I was a transaction.” <– The moment my daughter comes to this realization will be the most agonizing of my life but this time will come. It is inevitable, because as much as I tried to avoid it when I adopted her and as much as I don’t want to think about it, it’s true.


2 thoughts on “The complexity of adoptees returning to whence they came

  1. Maybe it’s because my (adopted) son is ours through an open, domestic adoption, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him as a transaction. And I would be surprised if he ever came to that conclusion.
    We live in the same town with his birth parents and see his birth family (even half siblings) several times a year. Sometimes we even bump into birth family members on accident– at the mall, the bank, at a red light. So… I know our adoption is very different from a child who was removed from their country and brought to a totally different culture.
    Even though we went through all kinds of paperwork to adopt him, those transactions were like a necessary formality to us– like someone finally getting to marry the person whom they’d already given their heart to.
    I wonder, and will spend the day thinking about this, if recognizing that the child adopted through international adoption is a “transaction” is actually true.
    Thanks for the food for thought. And I totally know I’m on the outside looking in.


  2. It sounds as though your adoption process was very different from mine. I do think that adoption can occur (or at least I really want to think that it can occur) without the child becoming a transaction but in my experience, it happens more often than not and though it is nearly universal in international adoption, domestic and foster adoption are not immune.


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