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Adoption and Child Separation at the Border

On June 1, 2018 Rebekah Henson published an important thread on Twitter critiquing the hashtags #FamiliesBelongTogether and #Ke...

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Earlier this year I wrote a book, and included part of the story below. However, in fear of full vulnerability I did not tell the whole story. I did not complete the experience of carving my own skin, craving my own blood, digging deep inside myself for emotions I wasn't sure I could feel. I tell the full story here:

   My sister has a double sliding-glass closet door. We spend countless hours hunkered amongst piles of teen pop magazines: Seventeen, Young Miss, Teen, and Sassy. In these pages, I learn how to properly brush my hair, wash my face, apply astringent, select my signature perfume, and dress for a prom that I will never end up going to. What I don’t learn is how to apply eye shadow to my hooded eyelids, or how to make my nigger lips less puffy, or my gook eyes any rounder. No matter how many spiral perms I go for, my hair is always the wrong texture; regardless of how much I tan, my skin is always the wrong shade of brown.

   It seems like all the other girls have had boyfriends since we were sixth graders. The beautiful boys and girls pair off and bop around in their bubbles of coolness, of happiness, decked out in their tight-rolled Guess jeans, plastic Liz Claiborne purses, and Eastland loafers.

   I’m too funny-looking to be considered pretty, and it’s not until freshman year that a boy expresses an interest in me. It’s a confusing situation. I haven’t learned to be discriminating, haven’t needed to tell a boy no, so I don’t know how. I’m flattered by the attention, and sort of embarrassed for feeling flattered. I don’t know how to be cool about it, and because I don’t know how to say no, I don’t. We start dating, which consists mainly of writing silly notes during school and kissing after school. I don’t know how to kiss, am I doing it right? Where is the tongue supposed to go? Is it supposed to be slobbery or dry? Is he doing it right?

   We sneak into the woods behind school as often as we can. We kiss. He wants to do more, but I don’t even know what more is. What leads to what? How do I tell him when to stop, and how do I know when? These are my inadequacies. I’ve never learned to be a woman. It seems that there are powers that the other girls possess, that they all know about, but it’s a club I haven’t been invited to. I’m not a normal woman like they are, and so I don’t believe in my own feminine powers. I don’t know how to control them.

   After we make out, I return home feeling dirty and used. Is this what love feels like? I don’t believe my heart knows how to feel love anymore, for it has completely grown over with callouses from being over-chafed. I think I’ll never be loved, and I think I’ll end up marrying this boy I call boyfriend because he is the only boy who will ever realize I’m alive, who will ever want me.

   I descend the stairs to our basement and search. I’m looking for something to help me know if I am feeling love, if I’m feeling anything at all. I find what I’m looking for, a box cutter, and slip it into my pocket. Back up the stairs. Into my room. Close the door. I slide the blade out of its sheath and press it against the dark skin of my forearm.

   I slide the blade across my flesh, at first drawing only the impression of a line. Then I retrace the line, pressing deeper, tearing at the layers of my young, flawless skin as crimson beads break through the surface. Breaking through another line and then another, rows of cuts, and I am mesmerized at the sight of my own alien blood. What does this blood mean? Whose blood do I carry?

   I realize that this blood is mine alone. I begin and end with myself, for me family is nothing more than a surface experience. The ties that bind me are shallower than those around me, and I fear the breaking of them. Other families are made of blood, but mine is made of legal documents and love that I cannot understand.  Because I have no shared blood, I pull my own out--I want to scar myself, to keep the image of my blood in ever-present sight as a symbol of my singularity.

   Yes, I feel something--not romantic or familial love, but something more primal. I feel isolation that yields determination. I feel a cold loyalty to my own flesh and blood above all. I won't abandon or betray myself. I won't depend on anyone else enough to be vulnerable to abandonment or betrayal. I feel an emotion more sustaining and lonely than love--a dogged self-reliance that needs only survival.

Soojung Jo is the author of Ghost of Sangju, and has contributed to several adoption-related anthologies. She has an American family that raised her and a Korean family that lost and found her. Both families met in 2013. Find her at www.soojungjo.com or on Facebook as Soojung Jo.

Thoughts on re-naming children

By julie j

Had requests to re-post this one publicly.

Adoption does not legally require changing any part of a child's name, nor is it really necessary in order to "protect the child," as some AP's like to justify their actions. It is something almost all adopters choose to do anyway for any combination of these reasons:

1) Just because they can.  (Entitlement).
2) To mark their new territory.  (Possession).
3) To create greater challenges for & greater distances between the child & his/her natural family.  (Interference).
4) To create a greater comfort level for themselves as adoptive parents.  (Selfishness).
5) To more closely imitate the actions of what natural parents do.  (Delusion/more entitlement).
6) It's foreign or hard to pronounce (Not a good excuse.  Try harder to learn it).

It is not necessary for families to all have matching names either. Plenty of children, siblings, & their parents today do not have matching names for one reason or another. When an adoptive family really feels the need to match, would that be important enough for them to consider changing or combining their own given or surnames to match the child's? (Probably not). Then the child should not have to sacrifice any part of their name either.

It's not news anymore that there are no blank slates.  All children, even newborn babies, are already complete, full people before adoption happens to them. Adoption is not re-birth; it is taking over raising someone else's children who are already born & named. Their name is an important part of their original identity. Children are all deserving of love, care, and everything else that all children are worthy of, just by virtue of being human. They should not have to change in any way, in order to have all of their needs met.

Imagine there are 2 equally-qualified prospective adoptive homes for a specific child, except for one important difference. One will agree to honor that child's name, and the other will insist upon taking away that child's name and assigning them a different one. Perhaps the latter is not the best-qualified home for that child (or for any child in need of an alternate home). The child is already perfect exactly as he/she already is. Let us try to remember again, for whom adoption is meant to serve. The child is supposed to be the real beneficiary of the arrangement, not the adopters.

Changing their names sends the message, "You are not good enough for us as you already are. We cannot accept you as you really are. Therefore, we must try to make you into something (or someone) else more pleasing to us first before we will love & care for you." That's conditional love, not unconditional. It also shows that the adopters are in denial about what adoption is. It is not about creating a child for themselves. It is about taking over where the child already is. It is disrespectful to the child to unnecessarily force them to give up the one thing they have left after losing everything & everybody else in their world - their name. I have even heard of adoptive families who have tried to color a child's hair or change them in other ways in attempts to make the child conform more with whom they want them to be, rather than just loving them for who they already are.

It's absurd to even inquire if a child wants their name changed just because they are being adopted or because they may have experienced trauma.  We would never suggest that to any other child as being "necessary in order to move on."  For example, "Broke your leg?  Want to change your name to help you move on?" Or "Your pet died?  Here's a list of names you can choose from to help you move on." Or "Your parents are getting divorced?  Changing your name will help you move on."  You get the idea.  Trauma is part of life.  We all deal with it.  Changing their name adds to their trauma column, while being on the "plus" side for the adopters.  Please, let's start putting the child first, and have the adults navigate around that, rather than expect the child to have to adapt to yet one more thing, and a major one at that.  And let's not disguise it either by saying the child came up with the idea.  Even when a child agrees to do it, think about how much of that may really be influenced by their unspoken fears or desires to fit in or to not be rejected.  Anyone can easily change their own name at age 18 if it's really their own idea.

A suggestion - If having a child named "John" or "Mary" or whatever name they like, is that important to an adoptive family, perhaps they should wait for a child who already has that name who needs a home, and inquire if they are a suitable placement for that child, because children with other names are obviously not a good fit for them, and all children deserve better than having their names stolen from them, particularly without their knowledge or consent.

Bottom line - changing a child's name, any part of it, is an unnecessary form of identity theft.  People who feel entitled to do that are being disrespectful to the child.


julie j is an adult adoptee who was stolen from her family as a young child. She was in American foster care in the early 1960’s and then later illegally adopted. She has happily been in reunion since ’93, thanks to ISRR. She recently acquired her OBC through a court order :)  julie j is a wife, mother, business owner, family preservationist, activist for adoptee rights, child advocate, and adoption search angel. Her other interests include reading, theater, genealogy, music, games, & working out. One of her future goals is to become a CASA volunteer.