How Are International Adoptees Doing?
Study Shows Fewer Behavioral Problems for Children Adopted Internationally
Education Is Key
Pertman says parents who adopt internationally these days tend to be more sensitive to the identity issues and other problems their children are likely to face than they were in the past.
"Gone are the days when white parents adopting a child from Korea were told to just raise the child as if he were born in the U.S.," he says.
He adds that it is critical that parents who adopt internationally educate themselves so that they will be prepared when the questions come.
Susan Soon-keum Cox was one of the first international adoptees to the U.S. She says the No. 1 mistake that parents make is trying to raise their adoptive children without acknowledging their background and cultural heritage.
Soon-keum, who was adopted from Korea in 1956, grew up in a small town in Oregon with almost no contact with other Asians. She now works with the adoption agency Holt International, which has placed more than 50,000 children from other countries with American families.
"These days, with the Internet and greater awareness, there are many more resources for children, even those who live in small towns," she says. "The barriers of distance have been greatly eliminated."
A Mom Weighs In
Suburban Atlanta mom Susan Williams has two adopted daughters from China -- Ella, who is 5, and Zelda, who is 2. She has already incorporated her daughters' native culture into their lives, going so far as to dress up in traditional Chinese dress to deliver a 30-minute talk at Ella's preschool on the Chinese New Year.
She says she feels fortunate that her young daughters have contact with other Chinese adoptees, knowing that this support system will become even more important as they grow older.
"I know that I won't be able to smooth over everything for my daughters, but no parent can do that for their child," she says. "All I can do is deal with it with a mix of humor, honesty, and love."
She says Ella has already been questioned by other kids about being different. Though they have talked about her adoption, it has been in general terms. Williams says she knows the tougher identity questions will come later.
"I have told her that every family becomes a family in a different way, which is true," she says. "I have seen parents who tell their children every little detail about their adoption the minute they can sit up. I think that is just crazy."