Press Release

LARGE NUMBER OF ADOPTEES IN NEW STUDY SEARCH FOR BIRTH FAMILIES, REPORT DISCRIMINATION

Media Advisory: For Immediate Release

 

NEW YORK, Nov. 18, 2009 – A huge majority of adoptees, responding to the largest study of its kind ever conducted, report that they have tried to search for their birth relatives – and a large minority say they experienced discrimination as children simply because they were adopted.

The groundbreaking study also adds a new dimension to professional understanding of adoption itself, with respondents reporting that adoption did not abate as a major part of their identities as they grew past adolescence but, rather, remained important through adulthood.

“Last week, we spotlighted the segment of our research that affects transracial adoption, especially from other countries; now we are widening the focus to include the many men and women who were adopted as infants in the U.S.,” Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, said today. “In doing so, we see that the implications of this new work are deep, broad and can be used to improve laws, policies and practices – as well as public understanding – on an array of issues that affect the tens of millions of Americans for whom adoption is a part of everyday life.”

The study, launched with funding from the Kellogg Foundation, is the centerpiece of a 113-page report by the Adoption Institute entitled “Beyond Culture Camp: Promoting Positive Identity Formation in Adoption.” It is the most extensive examination of adult adoptive identity to date, based on input from the primary experts on the subject: adults who were adopted as children. Key findings, based on the responses from a large cohort of White adult adoptees born and adopted in this country include:

    • Eighty-six percent said they had taken steps to find their birth families, and 45 percent reported having succeeded. Significantly, they said contact with biological relatives was the single factor that most helped them achieve a positive adoptive identity. Many current U.S. laws, policies and practices do not reflect the realities reflected in these findings, and some impede them.
    • Both adoptees of color and their White counterparts reported discrimination because of how they entered their families; this was a more significant issue for the latter group, while the former identified racial bias as a bigger problem. Experiencing discrimination was linked to lower self-esteem and less comfort with adoption. Most Americans probably do not perceive that adoption discrimination exists, per se, but this finding makes clear that stigmas and negative stereotypes linger in our culture and adversely affect adopted children and adults.
    • Over 70 percent of respondents rated their identity as an adopted person as important or very important during young adulthood. The findings of this study counter the prevalent notion that the salience of adoption abates after adolescence – an understanding that has implications in policy and practice for parents, professionals and the adopted persons themselves.

Among the Adoption Institute’s key recommendations, based on this research, are:

    • Promote laws, policies and practices that facilitate access to information for adopted individuals.
    • Educate parents, teachers, practitioners and the media about adoption’s realities to erase stigmas and stereotypes, minimize adoption-related bias, and improve children’s experiences.
    • Develop empirically based practices and resources to prepare transracially and transculturally adopted youth to cope with racial bias.

The survey at the core of this research was completed by 468 adult adoptees (making it, to our knowledge, the largest study of adoption identity in adults to date in the U.S.). For comparison purposes, we focused on the two largest, most homogenous cohorts within the total group: 179 Korean-born respondents and 156 American-born Caucasian respondents, all adopted by two White parents. It is noteworthy that 1 in 10 of all Korean American citizens came to this country by adoption.

While these two cohorts are at the heart of the study, it is important to note that an extensive Adoption Institute review of decades of relevant literature (Appendix I), as well as the Institute’s examination of transracial adoption from foster care (see “Finding Homes for African American Children” at http://adoptioninstitute.org/publications/finding-families-for-african-american-children-the-role-of-race-law-in-adoption-from-foster-care/), make clear that many of the findings and recommendations in this new report apply to other domestically and internationally adopted persons and families as well.

The part of the Institute study focused upon last week dealt with transracial adoption and found:

    • A significant majority of transracially adopted adults reported considering themselves to be or wanting to be White as children – a stark message to parents and professionals, though most eventually grew to identify themselves as members of their racial/ethnic group (in this case, Korean Americans). Even as adults, a minority have not reconciled their racial identity.
    • The most effective strategies for achieving positive identity formation are “lived experiences” – in particular, travel to native country and attending racially diverse schools for the transracial adoptees, and contact with birth relatives for Whites adopted domestically. A majority of adopted adults in both categories said they had searched for their roots in some way.

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute is an independent, nonpartisan, national nonprofit that is the pre-eminent research, policy and education organization in its field. Its mission is “to provide leadership and support to improve laws, policies, and practices – through sound research, education and advocacy – to enhance the lives of everyone touched by adoption.”

For more information about “Beyond Culture Camp” or to schedule an interview with Executive Director Adam Pertman, email apertman@adoptioninstitute.org or call 617-763-0134. To read or download a copy of the Executive Summary or the full report, go to http://www.adoptioninstitute.org.