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Department of State After the passage of legislation that eased the adoption process, the practice became increasingly common in the s. These events led many families in vulnerable circumstances to be more willing to give up their infants and young children to be adopted. One of the most visible examples of this situation were the events surrounding the end of the Viet Nam War in One month before the South Vietnamese government fell to advancing North Vietnamese communist forces, " Operation Babylift " was approved by President Gerald Ford that would airlift 2, orphans out of Viet Nam to be adopted by families in the U. After a disastrous first flight that crashed shortly after takeoff and killed children and adults on board, several planeloads of Vietnamese children eventually landed in the U. Also during the s, adoptions from other Asian countries such as China, South Korea, the Philippines, and India began accelerating. In addition to worsening conditions within each Asian country, many of these governments began to streamline their adoption procedures to make it easier for overseas families to adopt children in their countries. While comprehensive statistics on Asian adoptees are very difficult to find, the most accurate information comes from the U. Department of State , who keeps track of all immigration visas issued to orphans, which are required for international adoptions. The table above shows the number of such visas issued by years s and country of origin. The results show that from , China sent the most adoptees to the U. But in the latest year where statistics are available , it was surpassed by Guatemala. However, due to recent suspicions of orphans taken from their families through fraud or coercion, the U. State Department has indefinitely suspended adoptions from several countries, including Viet Nam and Guatemala. Also, as shown in the State Department statistics, perhaps the most notable trend in recent years is the significant increase of adoptions from African countries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria, Liberia, and Ghana. Questions About Legal Status of Orphans The vast majority of these Asian adoptees have been and continue to be girls and this has led to one of the criticisms surrounding such Asian adoptions. Specifically, many people not just Asian Americans feel that because of centuries of deeply-ingrained patriarchy and discrimination against women, these Asian countries continue to systematically value the life of a girl much less than that of a boy. Boys are valued more because they can supposedly contribute more labor and have more legal rights. As critics argue, the result is that when there are too many girls being born, they are too quickly considered " excess property " that needs to be disposed. Many claim that's the reason why so many Asian girls are adopted each year. Although these criticisms are directed toward the cultural, political, and social systems of the Asian country and not at the adoptees themselves or their American adoptive parents, this gender imbalance continues to be a point of controversy for all parties involved in the adoption process. In recent years and despite the passage of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption , there have been numerous suspicions and controversies regarding child trafficking and whether or not the status of these Asian children as orphans is valid. Allegations involving many countries of origin include instances when children are kidnapped outright, or taken from their families through fraud or coercion, or when mothers have been paid money or given non-monetary incentives to relinquish custody of their children for adoption. In fact, several adoption agencies have been charged with fraud involving improper adoptive activities and a result of these issues, the U. State Department has imposed significant restrictions on or even indefinitely suspended adoptions from certain countries. For example, in April and in the wake of a State Department report that alleged pervasive corruption and baby-selling in Viet Nam's adoption system, Viet Nam temorarily suspended all new adoptions to Americans. A similar moratorium on adoptions from Guatemala was briefly imposed as well. In recent years, the legal status of orphans have been subjected to increased scrutiny in order prevent such incidents of fraud and coercion. How Adoptive Parents Deal With Racial Differences On the other side of the adoption process, questions and criticisms have been raised in regard to the cultural appropriateness of such interracial Asian adoptions. In this regard, the issues can become rather complicated. On the one hand, from a cross-national and relative point of view, many argue that despite the cultural barriers and struggles that Asian adoptees might undergo in the U. On the other hand, critics of interracial adoption argue that American political, economic, and military policies through the decades contributed to the push conditions that many Asian countries face. Further, critics feel that non-Asian adoptive parents will "whitewash" these Asian children into White society so that they quickly and perhaps permanently lose their Asian identity and sense of ancestry. Sociologists Jiannbin Lee Shiao and Mia Tuan recently completed a study about various aspects of this issue and in particular, on the parenting styles of parents who adopted from Korea. They found that parents dealt with the racial differences between themselves and their children by using one of three approaches: Within this colorblind approach, many adoptive parents consciously or unconsciously feared that acknowledging racial differences might interfere with the process of integrating their child into their family and their community. Many adoptive parents also did not have the skills to cope with the racial differences between them and their children and used this strategy by default because they were uncomfortable dealing with racial matters. Such parents were basically surrounded by Whiteness their entire lives and had little if any familiarity with other groups or cultures other than their own. Within this colorblind approach, there were often two secondary results. But in doing so, many adoptive parents do not distinguish the difference between Asian and Asian American. This is actually quite common among Asian American in general -- that many are assumed to be foreigners, even if we were born or raised here in the U. The other secondary result of the colorblind approach was to frame their child as an "Honorary White". Even if adoptive parents tried to be colorblind, because their social environment was based on White culture, by ignoring racial differences, they ultimately reinforced Whiteness. By normalizing Whiteness, adoptive parents essentially and unconsciously socialized their children to be White and to see the world from a White perspective. Parents saw themselves as raising their children to be "normal," with little awareness that their definition of normal was White centered. Inevitably, in the process of treating their child as White, they were unwilling or unprepared to deal with incidents in which their child wasn't treated as White and instead, encountered racial prejudice and discrimination based on their Asian physical appearance. In other words, many adoptive parents were open to cultural exploration, but not racial exploration -- "Asian-ness" was seen almost like a commodified culture, rather than a racial identity. Again, this is not to say that adoptive parents were "bad" parents or that they purposely misled their children into thinking that they were Whites. Instead, and in many ways, adoptive parents were a reflection of the White majority culture around them, their thoughts and actions framed by conventional and deeply-embedded racial boundaries. Cultural and Identity Issues Faced by Asian Adoptees As described in studies and books written by Asian adoptees that have emerged in recent years, their experiences confirm that because they tended to grow up in an almost all-White environment, they never had to think about their ethnic identity -- they just assumed they were like everyone else around them. That is, until they experienced some form of racial prejudice or discrimination from schoolmates, strangers, or even relatives of their adopted family. Because their adoptive families and parents either could not shield them from this almost inevitable process, or could not adequately understand or support their feelings, many of these adopted Asians experienced an "identity crisis. The child frequently resisted such efforts because they seemed too different from their "honorary White" lifestyle, and they didn't want to be seen as different. This resistance to Asian culture reinforced and perpetuated the honorary White status. Below are two clips from the documentary Adopted: The New American Family that explores these interpersonal and sociological issues that many interracial and international adoptees faced growing up. In the first clip, a Korean adoptee describes a common situation faced by adoptees: In this second clip, a researcher describes his conversations with young Asian adoptees about their experiences: This second clip is particularly poignant because it illustrates the kind of identity confusion and internalized racism that many Asian adoptees experience growing up. This internalized racism led many Asian adoptees to avoid being associated with anything related to Asians or Asian Americans. This aversion to "Asian-ness" often becomes harder or at least much more complicated when they go to college and come into contact with large numbers of AAs for the first time in their lives, but they aren't prepared for it since they've always disassociated themselves from anything Asian their entire lives. However, this kind of social exclusion is not limited to just Whites. In other words, Asian Americans are not always very inclusive either and can be just as judgmental as anybody else. Positives Outweighing the Negatives While many Asian adoptees have faced this dilemma, this has not been the experience of all Asian adoptees. Rather, many others have enjoyed extraordinary levels of love and understanding from their non-Asian adoptive parents, who have also sympathized and comforted their children when racial discrimination has happened. They have also supported their children's attempts to find their birth parents back in Asia. That is, many adoptive parents implicitly assume that being Asian is the same as being Asian American. Many support groups have also formed across the country for both adoptive parents of Asian children and for the adopted children themselves. Ultimately, the fact remains that while the criticisms about the devaluation of girls in Asia ring true, that should not take away from the happiness and love that most Asian adoptees share with their adopted family who have given them a much better life than what they would have had otherwise. Further, research has also shown that more recent cohorts of Asian adoptees have been much more open and likely to explore their Asian ancestry and racial identity compared to earlier adoptee cohorts. Similarly, more recent adoptive parents are also more prepared and knowledgeable about racial dynamics involving their adopted children. The Asian American community is also becoming more welcoming to adoptees, particularly as the number of US-born Asian Americans continues to increase, who have more exposure and familiarity interacting with people from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. Also in recent years and facilitated by the internet, many Asian adoptees have started to form their own networks and communities to express their and share their experiences and to support others like themselves. Reflecting the diverse range of experiences among them, these efforts range from personal and group blogs , artistic projects, joint "homeland" trips to reunite with their birth family, support and networking groups , and more formal organizations. In fact, research is emerging that suggests that Asian Americans who straddle diverse sets of cultures are happier and report less stress and anxiety when they create their own definitions for fitting in and actively shaping their own identity, rather than waiting around and letting others dictate to them what their identity should be, or trying to gain acceptance into one particular culture or racial group. In the end, from a sociological point of view, Asian adoptees represent just how diverse not only American society can be, but also how diverse the Asian American community is as well. As such and as Asian adoption continues to occur, Asian adoptees are likely to be an increasingly prominent feature of the Asian American population and their diverse range of experiences can be seen as resources in bridging different cultural and racial groups, which will become an increasingly important asset as American society increasingly becomes more diverse, globalized, and transnational. The Landscape of Asian America. Related Articles and Blog Posts.
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