That conversation replays in my mind each time I think about reform efforts to allow adult adoptees to have access to their own records, their own original birth certificates. If you'd like to help change the rule of sealed birth/adoption records, go to change.org and vote to return to adult adoptees the right to their original birth certificates.
But that perpetual childhood for adoptees applies to other issues, too. In an interview with Jane Jeong Trenka about her latest book, Fugitive Visions, and her first memoir, the Language of Blood, she had this to say:
Q: How is “Fugitive Visions” different than (or similar to) “The Language of Blood?”Is that right? When we think "adopted," do we inevitably think "child?" Consider the Evan B. Donaldson report on adult adoptees-- there were children on the cover, an insight I have to credit to Sang-Shil's Land of the Not-So-Calm blog.
A: “Language of Blood” extends the adoptee’s (my) timeline into the past, to connect with the Korean family. Fugitive Visions extends the adoptee’s timeline into the future, into middle adulthood. I’m saying that it’s an extension of a timeline because adoptees are usually thought of within a very short timeline — the span of time in which they live in their adoptive homes — which they only inhabit from the point of separation from their birth families or countries to young adulthood.
I've noticed this tendency in some adoptive parents who have adopted transracially, particularly when it comes to race. I know readers sometimes think it's weird that I'm already worried about Asian Fetish Man, about Asian American standards of beauty, about makeup tips for Asian women with monolids. After all, my kids are only 6 and 9!
I tell my kids that they are my babies, and that they will always be my babies. But the rest of the world won't see them as my babies forever. So I feel that I really need to be thinking about preparing them for an adulthood as a member of a racial minority. While my kids are with me, they are clothed in my white privilege much of the time. But that will end when they leave my house.
Not only do I have to make sure they develop a moral compass that helps them choose right from wrong even when I'm not at their elbow, not only do I have to make sure they develop academic and critical thinking skills to that they can succeed in college and in their work lives, not only do I have to make sure they develop life skills like exercise and healthy eating and learning to relax and have fun, I also have to help them develop a healthy racial identity and life skills to handle racial discrimination and stereotyping. Whew!
One of the things we learned from the recent Evan B. Donaldson report on adult adoptees is that adoption issues do not end with the end of childhood: "Adoption is an increasingly significant aspect of identity for adopted people as they age, and remains so even when they are adults." Duh! Adopted persons still have to work to develop healthy adoptive identity and healthy racial identity into adulthood. Adopted persons do not stop being adopted after their reach adulthood. And reach adulthood they will, despite all desire to keep them children forever.
So, we need to stop thinking about adoption as just a childhood issue, we need to acknowledge that adopted adults are just that -- adults -- not perpetual children, we need to extend the timeline of adoptees beyond the time they live in their adoptive parents' homes. We adoptive parents need to keep that vision in our minds -- our children as adopted adults -- as we parent them as children.