The Search for Mother Missing: A Peek Inside International Adoption

“The topic of adoption is a minefield fraught with dangers. The topic of international adoption even more so.

Reviewed By Fiona Ingram:  “In fact, many adopted children never knew that their parents had returned to the child center in question, only to be turned away. Their child had already been adopted. Many children are adopted while still having families. Several high-profile adoptions have attracted problems, with Madonna’s controversial adoptions in Malawi highlighting the trauma when biological parents change their minds, but the adoptive parents still want to go ahead. Selling orphans to the highest bidders (especially prevalent in Ethiopia), and other corrupt tactics have been exposed and highlighted as this ‘industry’ draws more international attention. The dangers of innocent children almost being ‘trafficked’ in a way are revealed, with a chilling example given in this book of Korean-born Suzanne Jones, who was adopted by the cult leader Reverend Jim Jones. Suzanne, luckily, escaped the self-imposed massacre of 1978 in Jonestown, Guyana.

“Adoptees” we’re not who they think we are.

Adoptees: We Are Not Who They Think We Are by Janine Myung Ja highlights excerpts from other books by the author on the topic of adoption. This short book uses the author’s own experiences as an adopted child, with her twin sister, as well as the experiences of others to discuss key points. Janine and Jenette, Korean, were adopted by an American family and, from the author’s narration, appear to have had a happy life with loving adoptive parents. However, Janine’s book discusses cases where children have been permanently viewed as orphans, even once adopted, and were not supplied with the necessary documentation to claim their rightful place in a new society. Some adoptive parents, the twins’ included, are not happy about the idea of their adopted child wanting to discover their cultural roots (if a cross-cultural adoption) and/or meet their birth parents. Often the adoptive parents cast aspersions on the cultural heritage of their adopted children without giving them the opportunity to visit, explore, and see for themselves where they came from and what their heritage is all about. But sometimes it is not the homecoming one imagines… Another huge problem is that children adopted from another country by US citizens should automatically become citizens of the US, the country Janine writes about, but the trauma involved regarding ignorance of the law and possible deportation is harrowing.

“I learned more about Korea and International adoption from this book than I’ve ever learned in 36 years of life.”

Janine writes about her journey of discovery in a relaxed, conversational style, in a present tense first-person voice, and this draws the reader into the conversation. The style is immediate and immersive. Janine’s love for her adoptive parents is very clear. Her dad was the “Top Swan,” a man of honor and integrity, a real straight arrow. Subsequent chapters are contributed by adoptees, also writing in the first person, and this enables the reader to feel as if they are sitting having a chat with the person relating their story. The stories are horrific and, as one can imagine, adopted children from other countries can be subjected to sexual and physical abuse. Another story relates the experience of a mother in India who unwittingly signed away her two daughters, thinking they would live in a comfortable hostel and have a better life.

Janine advocates for the right of adoptees to retain their own documentation, not to have their previous existence ‘wiped out’ by the stroke of a bureaucratic pen. The adoptee should have the right to explore their biological family and culture without being told they are ungrateful for what they now have, although in some cases the horrors of the new life far outweigh the disadvantages of the old life. Adoptees from another country may also suffer discrimination, a sense of displacement, and become targets of racial profiling. Janine calls upon adoptees and readers, in fact, to trust themselves and their instincts, to open their minds and to value themselves, not to look to others for validation.

I chose this book for review because I am an adoptive parent who decided to make sure my daughter stayed in touch with her biological family. I found this book to be a real eye-opener on the topic and extremely moving. While not every adoption will be a bad one for the child/ren involved, there is enough information in this short read to make the reader think deeply and research further by reading Janine’s other books. Many countries are now closing the doors to international adoption by US citizens, given the problems that have made their way into the press (for example, Romania, Russia, Ethiopia, Guatemala). Janine is a staunch and passionately vocal advocate for the rights of adoptees and gives links at the end of her book for interested readers, who may be adoptees, to consider. Are adopted children the ‘forgotten’ children? This book will make you reconsider what you thought you knew about adoption.”

Janine Myung Ja
The rEvolutionary “Adoptee” Collective

“Adoptees” we’re not who they think we are ebook available now.