An Indian Adoptee Reclaims His Voice in the Desi Diaspora
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A Mea Culpa and some Clarification- Part Two

May 6, 2010

In my last post here, I discussed ways in which a child stay connected with their birth culture. Over time I think there has been more of an emphasis placed on helping an adopted child stay in touch with their heritage than there was 20 years ago or more.

In that post, I talked about the demographics of adoptive parents. I used anecdotal evidence to say that in general I thought they were wealthier and better educated than the general populous. I also insinuated that perhaps they were more culturally aware.

The majority of adoptive parents who I interact with, that have adopted internationally already, or are in the process, would be described as middle to upper class. I live in the Washington, D.C. area, many of them reside in Northern VA and the Maryland suburbs as well. Both are expensive places to live. The DC area is racially diverse and the schools have a mixture of white, Hispanic, Asian, African-American and a bunch of ethnicities and races in between.

According to the 2000 census, I was partially right about adoptive parents having advanced education and greater financial means. The 2000 US Census. There is quite a bit to read there, but here’s a breakdown of stats to show you what I’m talking about.

To be clear, there is no delineation between internationally adopted children, and domestically adopted ones in the stats for average education and income, but I think these numbers give a decent quick snapshot. If someone can find numbers that solely deal with international adoptive parents, please share. I could not find them after exhaustive Google searches.

The median education for parents who adopt children internationally is higher than those who have only biological children. 18% of adoptees under the age of 18 live with parents who have at least a Bachelors degree. And again- a higher percentage, 15%, live with parents who have graduate degrees. This is more than either biological children or step-children.

Whether that can be attributed to greater cultural awareness because of their increased income, I can’t say. I would also think that being better educated means they would be more conscious of the wider world around them, but I can’t back that up with statistics.

Also the top states for international adoption have a pretty good demographic mix. The top five states according to this State Department report are New York, California, Texas, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Of course besides Pennsylvania those are some of the biggest states in overall population in the US.

Large numbers are not going to the West and the South, which I found interesting. There is a substantial number of adopted people in the Midwest. I know that without stats. Wisconsin is where I was raised, and Minnesota I’ve heard referred to “as the land of 10,000 lakes and adoptees.” The figures show I was correct in my assumption, Minnsesota processed 451 adoption last year, while Wisconsin finalized 337.

The average income for those who adopt in general is also higher as well, which doesn’t surprise me. As I wrote about before, international adoption is an expensive process. Again, these numbers are for both types of adoption, domestic and international. I could not find ones solely for internationally adopted children.

One-third of all adopted kids lived in households with incomes of $75,000 or more. Eight percent lived in households which made $150,000 plus, more than the average for both biological and step-children’s households. So is everyone who adopts middle class or better? Not necessarily, but it looks like people with money certainly adopt.

I spoke quite harshly about those who want to adopt, but have no interest in raising their children with their kid’s birth heritage. I apologize for that. And though I never used the word indoctrination, I found Carolyn’s response to be an extreme view:

“I think you take a very black and white view of adoption here – indoctrination? Really? You provide no qualifiers or examples of what a supposed exposure to one’s birth culture involves and indicate that the obvious opposite is “indoctrination”. This is a giant, unsubstantiated leap into a very strong accusation.”

First of all, I would not say that if a parent raised this child without birth culture connections that it would be “indoctrination,” it would just be different. I would think parents are going to raise their children in a way that is first and foremost comfortable for them.

Indoctrination is such a strong word. Kids are raised or brought up. Hitler youth were indoctrinated. To me, the definition is quite different. Indoctrinated is a very harsh term and I would not use it. If that’s how my statement was interpreted, I’ll apologize for that, but it was definitely not my intention.

If you were raised in this country, then you were brought up more than likely with your parents’ culture. One’s parents are going to raise them in the way they know, and with cultural traditions that are comfortable for them. Some parents will not be eating their children’s ethnic food, helping them learn their native language, or moving outside of their own comfort zone with their children. I’m not suggesting that not doing so is wrong. I was trying to make the point that I think parents who adopt now are trying, or at the very least have more options to raise their children with birth culture. Because as I mentioned here, there are a number of resources which make that easier than ever it was in the past.

I still don’t understand why in 2010, parents would adopt a child, internationally and trans-racially, and then raise that child without any awareness of where they came from. That just does not make sense to me. I don’t get it. If you want to adopt a child, for the sake of being able to love and support a child, because that child needs a home and parents, maybe you should look into the domestic route. Then you will have a child who at the very least has your same skin color. But if you feel the same way, but want a child who is from another country and racially different, don’t you owe it to your child to get them in touch with the culture of their birth?

Is it fair to a child to be raised in a house where they are aware of their skin color differences, but no mention is made, and no explanation given as to their origins? I don’t think it is. Or will that child then grow up already more confused about who they are?

I’m not going to get back into the argument of love vs birth cultural connections. I made it clear in my last post that love and care trump all, but with a supporting, loving, comfortable environment it still seems like there’s something missing if birth cultural connection is not somehow involved. Again, I’m not judging the way people were brought up 20-30 years ago. I’m talking about today.

The last point is one about being raised as an adopted child and then exploring adoption consciousness as an adult. I’ve given numerous examples for parents to help their children get in touch with their birth traditions. I understand there is a fine line between celebrating one’s differences and just fitting in, especially at a young age. Every child just wants to be accepted. I get it. I was the same way. But at the same time, I knew I was different because I had brown skin.

I was not saying that if an adoptive family does not celebrate birth culture, tradition and heritage then they are “dishonoring or disrespecting one’s roots.” I was merely making a distinction between doing those actions, and raising a child without any sort of birth culture connections. If my parents had not raised me with an awareness of India, I would never accuse them of dishonoring where I came from. They love me unconditionally, no matter where I came from. This I know. But for me, they also thought it was important to be raised with knowledge of Indian culture, because they love India so much.

While they first and foremost, loved and accepted me for who I was, they also chose to expose me to my birth culture. I’m thankful they made that choice.

Adam Ramesh
May 7, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Here I actually am posting my responses for this post and the last post. I strongly agree with you in that in today’s world, there is no excuse to not expose an Internationally Adopted Child to their country of birth because of the plethora of sources which are available to them in this day in age. Also, especially for us Indian adoptees, the growing presence of Bollywood films and the growing presence of desi artists such as The Bilz & Kashif, etc. also bring South Asia closer to home. Also learning the traditions of a birth culture is accessible through the large immigrant communities in the United States and a language also pretty accessible through online programs or books & audio programs, and even tutors. With that said I’m going to somewhat contradict your last paragraph of your last post. You posted “I was not saying that if an adoptive family does not celebrate birth culture, tradition and heritage then they are ““dishonoring or disrespecting one’s roots.”” But, in fact i in a way do believe that statement is true because as you said and i agree with, that there is a large and growing number of resources for adoptees to get aquainted with their birth culture, so for the parents not engaging or interacting w/the birth culture would be just ignorant. On the other hand, i do agree with you on the point that if my parents did not raise me with any awareness of India, i would still love them but i would be disapointed, and i would be proactive about it and go about learning the culture by myself. In a way, with Hindi, i cant say i feel not angry but i really wish i continued speaking the language, i wish they had a tutor speak with me or s’thing because its really annoying to have my Indian friends blame me for not speaking it.

May 20, 2010 at 4:52 am

Hello! Our mutual friend Claire Buxton pointed me to your site. I haven’t had a chance to read through it but read your most recent post and agree and hope to read more later. I am also an adult, interracial/international adoptee but from Korea. I have two, adopted, Korean, non-related siblings and am also an adoptive parent. My husband and I are working to promote orphan care (including foster/adoption) ministries in local MD churches. I also blog a bit about adoption on our personal blog.
http://www.graftedfamilies.com (ministry site)
http://www.thecorkusm.com (personal blog)

    August 5, 2010 at 12:33 am

    Melissa
    Sorry to have never responded to your post. Things got crazy in the end of May and then the summer hit. Thanks for checking out my writing. I’ll take a look at your blog as well and be in touch.

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