by Dr. Mark Andrews
As an intercountry adoptive parent for the past 27 years, my two children (who were adopted from India in 1994 and 1999) have taught me a lot. Above all they have opened my eyes to critically important issues that all parents need to be aware of when adopting a child from another race/ethnicity. In this new series of posts, I want to share with both prospective and current intercountry adoptive parents the things my kids have taught me. Along the way, I’m also going to share some insights from older teen and young adult intercountry adoptees I interviewed (representing 10 different countries of origin) about their own experiences. Additionally, I will add insights from veteran intercountry adoptive parents about what they’ve learned over the years.
Although there has been a significant decrease over the past 15-20 years in the number of children adopted internationally into the U.S., nevertheless intercountry adoption remains fairly popular in this country. Currently, the nations of Ukraine, China, Colombia, and The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are among the leading sending countries of children via adoption into U.S. families. Since the mid-1950’s when U.S. parents began adopting mixed-race (American/Korean) children orphaned by the Korean War, intercountry adoption has been a life-saving event for tens of thousands of orphaned children languishing in orphanages across the globe.
Let me begin by saying that intercountry adoption requires a lot of faith and “grit” on behalf of the adoptive parents. It is not for the faint-of-heart! The faith issue involves a willingness to bring a child into the home who has many more question marks than answers surrounding his or her history. This could also be said for biological children (as neither do they come with an instruction book!); however, with an internationally-adopted child, particularly those adopted at age 3 and older, parents are dealing with additional unknowns involving their child’s physical and mental health history, their biological family history, as well as the complexities of their personal cultural background. The “grit” part involves the parent(s) hanging in there even when they are thinking “what in the heck did I get myself into—I can’t handle this!”
In my upcoming website blogs I will delve specifically into areas such as identity formation, attachment and bonding, loss & grief issues, multicultural & racial awareness, and creative approaches to parenting that touch on all these areas. Thanks for reading, and I hope you will find this weekly series helpful!