While I normally write about personal experiences as an adoptee, my focus has shifted towards how systemic roadblocks control adoption narratives.

Adoptee voices are integral to any discussion regarding adoption, however much of the focus has been and continues to be on adoptive parents. Control of the narrative also continues with support from the government and adoption agencies.

Focusing on adoptive parents without regard to adoptee experiences and concerns is fundamentally flawed.

Keeping adoptee experiences out of adoption narratives allows for adoption agencies, governments, and adoptive parents to wield control and continue to shape the perception of adoption.

Adoption Narratives Pushed by the Government

As a Korean adoptee, the lens from which I view the steadfast role of the government and its power in adoptions focuses on Korean and US policies. The onset and subsequent continual exportation of Korean children have been well documented. Adoption practices in Korea have generated millions in revenue each year. Costs for Korean adoptions appear to be around $43,000.

What about the role of the Korean government?

Lack of Accountability from the Korean Government

With the murder of adoptee Jeong-in, the Korean government has been vocal about the protection of adoptees and more oversight. While I agree there needs to be intensive oversight, I question why it takes public outrage and the murder of an adoptee for the government to publicly acknowledge issues. As far as I am aware, the government has not openly acknowledged harm caused/abuse/murder from intercountry adoptions.

While there is little discussion of how the Korean government has benefited from the revenue generated from adoptions, its support of adoptions versus family preservation is telling. There has been little shift with the social stigma of unwed mothers, one of the biggest factors contributing to Korean adoptions.

President Moon’s controversial statements are reflective of a larger issue, one that has provided cover for the government due to the altruistic view of adoption. Revenue and profits, in addition to social stigma, dictate adoption systems and processes.

Intercountry Adoptions and the US Government

Due to loopholes in adoption policies, there are tens of thousands of adoptees without citizenship. In 2020, there was a concerted effort to bring citizenship for adoptees. The HR 2731 bill, unfortunately, did not pass and will have to be re-submitted this year.

What is interesting is the bill that did pass, HR 1952. This bill appears to focus on why intercountry adoptions have decreased and unsurprisingly the impact of adoption fees for intercountry adoptions.

Discussion focuses on the adoption industry and why intercountry adoptions have declined, with little acknowledgment about the causes of the declines. Adoptee abuse, death, and criticism of transracial adoptions cannot be overlooked.

Adoption Agencies’ Loss of Profits While Maintaining the Status Quo

I’ve written about my experiences with adoption agencies and readily acknowledge my disdain for them. While my perspective is biased, it is also rooted in firsthand experience with US and Korean adoption agencies.

Supply and demand for children have given adoption agencies power for decades. The narratives they have presented, the propaganda they have pushed, have allowed them to control the perception of adoptions. Many may see adoption agencies as do-gooders rather than for-profit businesses that generate revenue from systemic issues related to adoption.

No Revenue Gains by Korean Agencies

Adoption agencies in Korea are now required to send adoptees their file information if requested. As with many things, the response from adoption agencies varies. Some adoptees receive more information, and some receive no new information.

I believe many adoptees are given the bare minimum of information or many times lies, simply because the adoption agencies find adoptees searching more of a hassle than anything. Korean adoption agencies are asked to provide information to adoptees without fees attached, contributing to their lack of enthusiasm.

US Agencies Push Profits

US adoption agencies continue to profit off adoptees searching. My US agency has an extensive list of fees for searching all while knowing Korean adoptee searches are free when working directly with Korean agencies. I’ve seen them attempt to deflect criticism by claiming they can make the process easier by communicating with Korean agencies. This is an outright lie. Throughout my communication with ESWS, I had no issues with communication.

My US agency now touts travel support with in-country meetings as a post adoption service, all while promoting their birthland tours. Everything they do is rooted in revenue generation and profits for the agency.

The Narrative of Adoptive Parents as Saviors

Neither of my adoptive parents was aware I read a letter where my godmother’s parents applauded them for “giving two children a loving home.” I still cringe at the audacity of the letter. The othering of adoptees is pervasive, all while adoptive parents are still held in high regard.

Adoptive parents seen as saviors is nothing new. Adoptive parents hold an enormous amount of power in adoption narratives, with their feelings and thoughts often overriding those of adoptees.

Why? Is it because adoptees are forever infantilized, never quite seen as legitimate contributors to adoption discussions? Or is it because adoptive parents have controlled the adoption narrative for so long that they, as well as others, believe them to be above reproach?

Regardless of the reason, adoptive parents still control much of how adoption is viewed. Adoptive parent saviorism continues to flourish because it is heavily embedded and intertwined with adoption narratives.

Adoptee Voices and Shifting Adoption Narratives

The importance of adoptee voices cannot be underestimated. Adoptee experiences are crucial for shifting adoption narratives and changing the perception of adoption.

I think it’s important to note that adoptee experiences vary. There is no universal adoptee experience, with adoptees having different goals for adoptee advocacy.

Systemic adoptee-related issues cannot move forward without a fundamental shift in power. Power to affect changes in adoption practices, the power to change adoption narratives.

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