Stories of Adult Transnational Adoptees and their American Parents

Stories of Adult Transnational Adoptees and their American Parents

June 7, 20112220Views



Promoting and facilitating dialogue between adoptees and their parents …

Lisa Charlie de Morais Teixeira
Dr. Karen R. Benally


We are a mother-daughter team of researchers. Lisa (daughter) is full Korean by birth; she holds both a BA (American University of Paris) and an MA (University of Washington) in International Studies, with focus on Korean Studies, and currently lives in Hawaii, on the island of Oahu. Karen (mother) holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from Northwestern University and lives with her second husband (Navajo by birth) in a rural community in the northeast corner of Arizona, on the Navajo Nation.

Our mother-daughter adoptive relationship has been complex. Although we have worked through many of the challenges that have faced us, we’ve done so “by the seat of our pants,” experimenting along the way and often feeling quite lonely and confused in the process. Together, we have become interested in other transnational adoptive family relationships, in part because ours has at times been strained. Like many transnational adoptees, Lisa has needed to explore issues related to her identity as an adoptee, as an Asian, and as a Korean American. Like many white adoptive parents, Karen’s “color-blind” point of view tended to minimize the significance of race and racism in American society; she thought that “love would be enough.” Our differences in perspective have sometimes felt like a major chasm. Until recently, we assumed our experiences were unique, shaped by circumstances particular to us. The research literature suggests, however, that many of the issues that we faced are quite common among families that include children who were adopted transracially and transnationally (e.g., Freundlich and Lieberthal 2000; Pertman 2009). Barb Lee’s poignant film, Adopted (2007), captures the sense of deep loss that both adult transnational adoptees and their adoptive parents feel when this chasm has not been bridged.

While important and significant, little of the academic, adoptee, or adoptive parent literature has, to date, combined the voices and experiences of adult transnational adoptees (ages 18+) and their adoptive American parents. Our IRB-approved research focuses specifically on that relationship. It explores the process by which transnational adoptees and their parents negotiate the complex and sometimes thorny issues related to adoption, race, and cultural/ethnic identity. We are collecting survey data from a large sample and combining it with oral histories gathered from both adoptive parents and adult adoptees so that we can hear, compare, and combine those varying perspectives. Our goal is to open up a meaningful dialogue among and between adoptees and their adoptive parents on issues related to transnational adoption.

We expect that the results of this research – and the book that follows – will provide transnational adoptees and their adoptive parents not only with a better understanding of some of the issues that may come up over time but also with a sense that they are not alone in the process; that there are positive ways to address whatever challenges may face them.

If you are an adult transnational adoptee – or the adoptive parent of an adult transnational adoptee – and you would like to take part in this research, we welcome your participation. Information on both the survey and the oral history interviews will be posted shortly. In the meantime, feel free to contact us:

Dr. Karen R. Benally

PO Box 2005

Red Valley, AZ 86544

Lisa Charlie de Morais Teixeira

66942 Kamakahala Street

Waialua, HI  96791

Visit Web site here



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