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CULTURE AND IDENTITY


CULTURAL ISSUES FOR INTERNATIONALLY ADOPTED CHILDREN

The importance of cultural identity is increasingly recognized as a part of international adoption. Occasionally the child's country of origin is part of the family's heritage. In these situations, the shared culture strengthens the ties between parent and child ("We chose a child from Ukraine because my grandparents emigrated to the United States from Ukraine," "I've always been interested in Central America since studying Spanish in school," or "I wanted a child from China because I am Chinese-American, and grew up speaking Cantonese at home"). More commonly the internationally adopted child brings a new culture to the adoptive family. A large cohort of Korean children adopted by Americans in the 1950s through 70s were pioneers of "visible" adoption.

The existence of adoptive families with children who did not resemble their parents exposed many cultural issues and identity assumptions inherent in adoption practices at the time. The secrecy that permeated many aspects of adoption could no longer be maintained. Adoption professionals and parents gradually realized that recognition and celebration of the child's cultural heritage was healthier and more psychologically appropriate than the pretense that the child was "just like the parents" and that "adoption didn't matter." That these attitudes seem so odd today is a tribute to the shift in perspective over the past few decades.

 

From THE HANDBOOK OF INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION MEDICINE by Laurie C. Miller. © 2004 by Oxford University Press, Inc. Used by Permission.

 

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