Today is National Adoption Day.
As some of you may already know, I am an adoptee. In September 2000 my parents, a white American couple with two biological children at the time, adopted me from a Southern China village. About a year after, my parents and I returned to China to adopt my seven-week-older sister Emma (aka urban-hart) from Eastern China. From 2010 to 2014, my family (sans my older brother, who stayed in the States) lived in Xi’an, China, to care for orphans and foster children. Two of those children joined my family, making me an older sister.
My mom tells a story about a grocery trip she took shortly after my adoption. At the check-out counter, the cashier looked at me, looked at my mom, and asked, “How much did she cost?” My mom refused to answer the question. Sometimes I run into these awkward situations when new acquaintances see just one of my parents and assume that the other must be Asian, so I go through the adoption story to clarify the misconception. (Other even more awkward situations entail when strangers see me with one of my younger siblings.)
It’s odd for me, these encounters, because my family is such that, though we’re a 50/50 split of Caucasian and Asian, I don’t notice the racial difference until someone points it out. Sometimes I forget that it exists. This is not some color-blind approach to life. It’s not realistic to go through this world as if race “isn’t there.” I’ve quoted Anthony Peterson once and I’ll quote him again: “We tell children that race is real but that race doesn’t matter, when the opposite is actually true.” That is, race isn’t real on a biological level. In the social sphere, though, it is “real” and, like it or not, it shapes our experiences.
When I say that I don’t notice the racial difference, I mean that I don’t separate myself from the “white half” of my family because my skin is a different color. I’m fully part of my family and, for all intents and purposes, this is my real family. I recall a passage from Adopted for Life, by Russell Moore. Russell’s family had adopted two boys from Russia. A woman asked, after seeing a photo of the boys, “So, are they brothers? …But are they really brothers?” This is the confusion my family runs against. I hear classmates at my small Christian college, where the Ring Before Spring culture is not unpopular, talk about having their “own kids”, by which they mean biological children and I’ll think, “Biology doesn’t equal ‘own-ness.'”
For sure, there are differences. I’m not going to deny the importance of children being raised by their biological parents. This is, I believe, the best circumstance. But we have to wake up and smell the decay of a fallen world. How often does what is the best, what is the ideal, pan out? Rebuking a nation wandered away, Isaiah called the people to truly worship God by freeing the abused and the prisoner; sharing with the destitute, poor, and homeless; and giving to the needy (Isaiah 58:7). James named care for orphans and widows as an element of religion acceptable to God (Jm. 1:27). Whether by parental death, abandonment, or ineptness, millions of children lived separated from their biological families every year. Hence, foster care and adoption.
Foster care and adoption are human-run and, thus, are not perfect. Abuse and corruption can seep into the systems, and reform and stringent regulation are needed. (Regulation is a dirty word in don’t-take-away-my-rights-and-freedoms ‘Merica, but when it comes to children, I think we need to handle with extreme care.) This state of things, however, does not make foster care and adoption illegitimate in and of themselves. It doesn’t make a family built through them one of not-quite-but-almost “own’s.”
Foster care and adoption aren’t for everyone. As much as I want to be rah-rah for adoption 100% of the time, sugarcoating the business will hurt more than help; not everyone can dive headfirst into the messy parenting side, as much as the heart might be tugged. What many can do, though, is learn about and support the children and parents involved. In the United States, over 400,000 children are in foster care, and about one quarter are waiting for adoption. Moreover, about 20,000 turn 18 each year and age out of the system. (In China, the cut-off age is 14.)
In 2018, I published a post for the National Adoption Day for that year, accompanied by a list of resources for prospective foster and adoptive families. This year I want to present a new list, focused on literature revealing more about the experiences in these systems.
For families (nonfiction)
- Adopted for Life, by Russell Moore
- Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other: In Praise of Adoption, by Scott Simon
- The Connected Child, by Karyn Purvis, David Cross & Wendy Sunshine
- No Sugar Coating: The Coffee Talk You Need About Foster Parenting, by Jillana Goble
- Many Thorns, Yet Still Roses: Breaking the Silence with Our Story of Sibling Group Adoption, by Jessie Gallaher
- A Forever Family: Fostering Change One Child at a Time, by Rob Scheer with Jon Sternfeld
- Red Dust Road: An Autobiographical Journey, by Jackie Kay
- Swimming Up the Sun: A Memoir of Adoption, by Nicole J. Burton
- Three Little Words: A Memoir, by Ashley Rhodes-Courter
For YA readers (fiction)
- 180 Seconds, by Jessica Park
- Far From the Tree, by Robin Benway
- Heaven, by Angela Johnson
- Throwaway Daughter, by Ting-Xing Ye
- When the Black Girl Sings, by Bil Wright
For MG readers (fiction)
- Forever, or a Long, Long Time, by Caela Carter <= This one is my favorite!
- Kimchi and Kalamari, by Rose Kent
- One for the Murphys, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
- Pictures of Hollis Woods, by Patricia Reilly Giff
- A Sea of Stars, by Kate Maryon
For elementary readers (fiction)
- The Boy on the Porch, by Sharon Creech
- I Love You Like Crazy Cakes, by Rose Lewis
- Motherbridge of Love, by Xinran & Josee Masse
- The Mulberry Bird: An Adoption Story, by Anne Braff Brodzinsky
Are there any books I left out that you would highly recommend?