Twin Sisters + Response

Last month, the independent film Twin Sisters aired on PBS. This documentary tells the story of twin sisters from China who were separated, one adopted by a Norwegian couple and the other by an American couple. The filmmaker does a beautiful job juxtaposing the hustle bustle of life in Sacramento and the quaint, timeless feel of Fresvik, the little town of 234 people in Norway. Moreover, the film captures a wide range of emotionality for the girls – from longing to be together, to the awkwardness of language barriers, to the goofy, free-spiritedness of ten year olds. The film is well-done, and I would recommend watching this film as well as taking some time afterwards to reflect on the situation. Many have found it to be a beautiful story, but I find it more heartbreaking than anything else. This post will discuss the questions raised for me.

For the next three weeks, you can stream the film online here: http://video.pbs.org/video/2365338330/

The film begins with a narration by Alexandra (the Norwegian twin), who says, “Even if I run and run, I just can’t stop thinking about her. My biggest wish is that one day she will come here and see where I live. Maybe she would like it here? I think about her every night because I miss her so much.” Within the first few minutes, I was already crying. Alexandra then shows the camera the bed she’s made in her room for her twin, waiting for the day Mia (the American twin) can come be with her. At this point, I thought about how much I longed for my first family when I was young. I didn’t know who they were or where they were, but I knew they were important to me. As I tried to empathize with Alexandra, I can’t imagine how painful it must have been to know her twin, someone she shares 100% of her DNA with, through photographs, letters, and phone calls, yet still not have access that person in reality.

In the next scene both sets of parents discuss their journeys through infertility that led them to adoption and eventually to their daughters. The filmmaker uses the home-footage provided by both families when they first met Mia and Alexandra. As Mia cries, her new American father says, “What’s wrong Mia? We’re here now. We’re going to take care of you for the rest of your life.”  Of course there’s something wrong! This baby has just been placed in the arms of two strangers and pulled away from her nanny, the woman who loved her while she was at the social welfare institute, and quite possibly the only caregiver she remembers. To me, that sounds like an occasion to cry.

Another problematic element for me was when Angela, the American mother, says that her daughter was “just the most wonderful gift.” I understand her sentiment, but this phrasing continues the objectification of adoptees. Additionally, a gift implies that there is a willing giver in a celebratory manner. I don’t think child relinquishment is ever celebratory, and I don’t think we can assume abandonment for all children coming from China, given the pervasive amount of trafficking.

When the two families meet and see the girls, who look identical and have identical birth dates and other details, the families talk about their confusion. The orphanage director denied that the girls were twins, but the families exchanged contact information in case they were related somehow and even asked about DNA testing while they were still in China.

To me the most disturbing line of the film is in the clip above, when Wenche, the Norwegian mother said, “I was worried they might start a process to have both girls.”  I understand how much time, money, and most of all, emotional energy both couples put into their adoptions, but I fundamentally believe the girls should have been kept together once the DNA results were confirmed.

Interestingly, both couples in this film described adoption as their second choice. While I know this doesn’t negate the love they have for their daughters, a part of me winces every time I hear that word choice. I think my primary objection to it in this case is that biology was so important to these couples when trying to have children. Only because that didn’t work out, they decided to “try adoption.” The American father says that finding out the girls were identical twins was great news for Mia because most girls adopted from China don’t have a biological connection with siblings or parents. And while he’s right about that, I don’t think these parents evaluated the significance of  being separated from each other for their daughters, who so obviously long to be together.

The American mother says, “there was no conversation between Wenche, Sigmund, and us about the girls living together because by the time we found out, it was six months after we had been home.” Six months is nothing compared to a lifetime apart. I see the argument that the girls already belonged in each of their families as a very selfish one.  In this case, the parents ultimately got what they wanted – children, while Mia and Alexandra sacrificed not only their first country, language, families, but were forced to sacrifice each other for the happiness of their parents.

Alexandra says repeatedly, “I wish Mia and I could be together a lot and not separated.” She even asked her parents to move to the U.S.A. so they could be close. During the process of making this film, the twins were able to spend more time together and see each other twice in one year. Even if the girls were able to see each other 20 times in one year, by not being raised together their relationship has been fundamentally altered.

The birthparent narrative we often tell is that the child’s birthmother loved him/her so much and wanted him/her to have a better life, so she made the ultimate sacrifice by giving him/her up. We often times consider this to be a beautiful and heart-wrenching decision, and we depend on this narrative to continue adoptions.  In the horrible situation of these twin girls’ separation, I think the most ethical thing to do would have been to perform the DNA tests as soon as possible instead of waiting six months when they were already settled, and unfortunately one of the families would have had to “make the ultimate sacrifice.” I’m sure this comment will not be well-received, but if we expect first parents to do it, I think we can expect one of these sets of parents could have done it as well, because it was in the best interest of both of the children. Of course the family would still love their daughter, but there were other options. The families could have put pressure on their agencies or the social welfare institute in China. They could have adopted again after they grieved their loss. The twins had no other options or ways of staying together, and I think their best interests should have been prioritized.

A lot of the comments on this film have been praising the adoptive parents, stating how beautiful it is that they’ve kept in touch all of these years. The only beautiful part of this, or the silver lining the girls might be able to see when they grow older, is fact that the two sets of parents meeting was completely coincidence. Since the Norwegian father was ill and they had to process their paperwork with the American group, the two families could have never met. Even more “fate-like” was the fact that the girls were both wearing red and white gingham dresses.  Perhaps this is the part Mia and Alexandra will focus on because the alternative, that they could have been kept together had the parents truly wanted that, is too heartbreaking.

 

In an update from the parents after the the release of the film:

On whether the girls will be seeing more of each other:

It’s hard to say if the girls will see each other more in the future.  It’s not easy for our families to see each other considering the cost of travel between California and Norway.  Another issue is time off work and school.  One of the main reasons we agreed to do this documentary was to provide the girls more opportunities to see each other. It worked out great this year because we got 2 unexpected trips to Sweden and Norway.  The girls [use] Face Time every weekend but there is nothing like seeing each other in person.

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82 responses to “Twin Sisters + Response

  1. Achingly, beautifully written RTB.
    Your thoughts are pretty much identical to mine as I watched the documentary. The first thing I said after watching it was that I sure would not be proud of myself if I were one of those adoptive moms.

    • I agree wholeheartly with you. I felt heart sick for Mia and Alexandria. I would have moved mountains for the sisters to stay together. It’s beyond me to see that after only 6 months upon finding out the truth, that the couples did not come together and make the heartwrenching decision to allow the girls to be raised together.

    • My opinion is that the best has been done for the twins and everything is as it should be. The same force that made them wear the same dresses in China is strong enough to make them live together, but it didn’t. As an adult who has spent time in different parts of the world, I also think that there lives are richer for having to know Norway and the USA through each other. Life is a long stretch and the girls are well and every human needs warmth and love when young. They will grow up and decide how to enjoy each other more. Let us be in the present and not speculate. Do not focus on what you DO NOT HAVE, but rather on WHAT YOU HAVE. They are happy to be in contact and I believe Mia said, she knows that her sister will always be there. Things are not static and there is not one way of being happy, just like being brought up by a single mum, for example, is not always worse than being brought up with both parents. I guess we can agree to disagree but do not find holes where there are none. I don’t know about your life, but probably if you reflect upon it deeply, you may be reluctant to point fingers at others. Well done both parents and I hope the children will not get caught up in our lovely divisive media – that always seeks to destroy. This is not a work of wholesome love but of judgement

      • I totally agree with you Sheila. . I think it is disgraceful and very narrow minded for people to flippantly judge these parents and criticise them so harshly.

    • It’s not love. It’s narcissistic selfishness. One of the adoptive parents needs to become visiting aunt and uncle…otherwise, they reap the karmic consequences of being cruel.

      • I’ve wondered if Alexandra might study at high school in Sacramento, and then the girls could possibly live together. I think going abroad for high school is less common in the United States than elsewhere.

  2. “Six months is nothing compared to a lifetime apart.”

    I said this out loud in my living room watching this documentary. Could not agree more with your measured response. Though I found it odd that in a documentary that is purported to be about the girls, most of the talking was done by the adults. We never saw Mia without one or both of her parents standing over her shoulder, until she visited Norway.

    • Thanks for the compliment, MaryK. I agree that the girls should have been given more voice – particularly Mia. I think your observation about Mia could be a reflection of her parents’ overprotection and constant activity as opposed to Alexandra who can do whatever she wants. But you’re right, that is a very problematic pattern in adoption film.

  3. I agree with many of the comments above – and as an adoptive parent I would have done everything to do the DNA testing immediately and keep the girls together after learning they were siblings! However, I can’t imagine having to decide which family would be the one to give up their baby and which one would be given the opportunity to raise the girls together. It would be an agonizing decision – not one where one of us “would just go adopt another baby.” That is such an ignorant statement. I think you have an incredibly naive and limited understanding of the adoptive parents’ experience. In the same vein of attempting to bring more awareness to understanding the adopted person’s reality I would encourage you to work on developing more awareness of the adoptive parents’ reality and varied experiences. NO ONE experience is alike. I also feel angry that you have the audacity to say that “we shouldn’t express the feeling of our daughters being a gift.” True a gift is often (but not always) freely given and I get your point to dine extent, . However, the unknown, painful and even horrifying circumstances of my children’s relinquishment or does not invalidate my children are less of a gift. I cherish my daughters while also being acutely aware of how they became available for adoption. But i would feel any child to be a blessing and gift whether they are biological, adopted or fostered – as all parents should feel. and that feeling only makes me want to understand their perspective more – not less, being their Mother is a privilege that I never take for granted. Do yes – fir Me personally, parenthood IS a gift.
    Adoption is a complex relational, emotional
    and socio-cultural, political experience. Please stop trying to polarize adoptive parents and their adopted children by categorizing everything into a black and white category. I wonder what you would think or feel if you actually spent time learning about a wider range of adoptive parents’ experiences instead of assuming your know what I or another adoptive parent actually thinks and feels. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about my daughters’ birth families and circumstances. Or my own path that brought us together. The Red Thread concept is a nice idea but a truly oversimplification of an intensely complex relational experience. I admire people who try to increase awareness of complex issues and am tireless myself in working on that related to many serious social and cultural problems and issues. Your earnestness to promote awareness from the adoptee’s perspective is much-needed but please be aware of reducing all adoptive parents and their perspectives into a one-dimensional image.

    • Joanne, I didn’t suggest that the family would just hop on a plane and go adopt another baby. I did, however, say that would be a possibility after the family had grieved that loss and made such a heart wrenching and, as you said, agonizing decision.

      I also never said that you shouldn’t think of your daughter as a wonderful, precious, cherished, unique, and beautiful human being. I just brought up some of the complications and problems with referring to children as gifts.

      Joanne, please believe me when I say that I love my adoptive parents with all my heart and do not wish to or attempt to polarize adoptive parents and their adoptees. It is my belief that a coalition of adoptive parents with adopted children is one of the most logical and one of the most powerful coalitions that might come from understanding adoption. Since so much of the current adoption system is adoptive parent centric, their voices are a powerful source for change. With adoption, parents agree to unconditionally love and support their child and to walk with them through life. Walking next to adoptees in the activist movement is a way of showing adoptees continued support, care, and a desire to understand this complex issue.

      I agree that adoption is “a complex relational, emotional and socio-cultural, political experience.” And in this political experience, adoptive parents have been given all of the power, privilege, and voice over adoptees and over first families. Thus far in the adoption community, “an awareness of the adoptive parents’ reality” is the dominant reality, so I remain strong in keeping this a platform for the underrepresented and unheard voices of adoptees and our allies, though I welcome comments from all perspectives to drive an open dialogue and increased awareness.

      I also agree that the “red thread proverb” is a simplification and romanticization of adoption, which is why my blog is called Red Thread Broken. You can read more about the name here: https://redthreadbroken.wordpress.com/about/this-site/

      Lastly, Joanne, please, if you say you want to “understand [our – former foster children / adoptees’] perspective more” please come to these spaces with an open heart, an open mind, and open ears.

    • Well, there would be the option that both familes could take both girls for extended periods of time … maybe the school year in Norway and summers in USA, or 6 months to a year in one spot and then in the other. Either way, it is only fair for the girls to have access to each other.

      • I completely agree, Katie. There were certainly other options. My guess is that the parents didn’t want to think about those possibilities because they would inherently complicate their lives even further. But I think they owed it to the girls to do whatever was in their power to keep them together.

    • Joanne, how did you manage to read this piece and then make it all about you? You call the blogger ignorant and naive because she rightly points out the huge loss these girls have experienced and will continue to experience because they are not being raised together. She in no way denies that it would have been extremely painful if one of the families had allowed the other to adopt “their” child. To me, and I am an adoptive parent, that would have been the true act of unselfish love. I have always heard parents say that they would do anything, even die, for their child. I guess that isn’t true if it means having to let them go in order to do the right thing? We obviously don’t know all that would have had to be considered in regards to that even being a possibility, but it was never even explored because the parents weren’t unselfish enough to give it real consideration.

      As for the blogger needing to understand, adoptive parents, adoptees have spent their entire lives listening to adoptive parents who constantly tell their stories on blogs, in the media, on adoption websites, and in person. Why is it so difficult for adoptive parents to try to really understand them without becoming angry, dismissive, and judgmental?
      We chose adoption, but most adoptees did not choose to be adopted so, yes, I think that it is our responsibility to become aware of the complexity of their lives, feelings, and struggles for identity, not the other way around.

      I appreciate the fact that you love your children and how they have enriched your life so you feel they are “gifts.” However, do not negate the fact that the blogger and many others, myself included, hear that word and picture a precious object ( object is the key word here) being given to someone. Adoptees are not gifts.They are people who have come into our lives because of great personal loss, for them and probably most often for members of their first family. We love them, cherish them, feel privileged to be their parents, but we should not objectify them or their complex histories.

    • So, Your saying you would have given up your child? Or sent your child with strangers across the world to live part of the time? Or given up your child the minute you thought they looked alike, after your “Gotcha” day? Or spent money you did not have, to travel to Norway or America several times a year? Your comments not only idealistic but they trivialize the adoptive-parent child relationship to a point that it is hard to believe you are actually an adoptive parent? You would know the bond between you and your child began at first glance. I would not give up my child for any reason. I Would do Anything in my Power to make a relationship happen for my child and their sibling, as the tragedy of the situation is not lost on me. However, the bottom line is that there are no easy answers. But I’ll be damned before I judge these parents, as I honestly cannot say that I would do any of the things I listed above, with my child.

      • Dana,

        Please consider the implications of using the phrase “Gotcha Day” which is extremely triggering and harmful to many adoptees. https://redthreadbroken.wordpress.com/2013/11/08/whats-wrong-with-gotcha-day/

        Moreover, adoption is not about money. And it’s not about adoptive parents. I would suggest that not doing what is in the child’s best interest is what actually “trivializes the adoptive parent – child relationship.” When adoption decrees are signed, parents commit to loving, protecting, and advocating for their child. Sometimes the greatest acts of love are the hardest to do. The relationship that began in the womb as twins should have been prioritized over the relationship that would eventually have developed and turned strangers into family.

  4. I (at 5yrs old) and my brother (two years younger) was rather lucky to have been able to be adopted by the same 200 acres owned farm family; and adopted from Korea… However, I wish while I was watching the movie, that the American-raised child treated her twin sister like she was a baby to get her to learn English, but BARELY even TRIED learning ANY Nordic words… Now that was just idiotic… I loved the twin from Norway…, the other not so much. It just goes to show how lazy Americans are to adapt to different environs, trust me I’ve traveled and saw other issues with “stupid ‘mericans”…

  5. Ok. So they’ll ditch their adoptive parents at around 20 or so after figuring out that they were screwed by both sets. One will go live with the other (probably Alexandra will move to the US, since there are most likely more career opportunities there for her than for Mia to move to Norway), and then they’ll be together. They’ll go to therapy for a few years, they will have feelings about the situation for the rest of their lives and then they’ll go on. These are headstrong, intelligent and gutsy girls. Btw, I moved from horrendous Sweden to the US at 21 and couldn’t be happier. Adoption is always a second choice – as is leaving your child on the street, which is where I was found in an Asian country. You go girls – childhood will be over in 10 years and you will be FREE….

    • I’ve wondered if Alexandra might study at high school in Sacramento, and then the girls could possibly live together. I think going abroad for high school is less common in the United States than elsewhere.

  6. It strikes me that the breaking up of sibling groups has always been a problem with adoption. Indeed, my grandmother and her siblings had to deal with this; Depression-era Appalachia wasn’t exactly teeming with families willing or able to foster several girls. I suggest that we consider this in the cases of Mia and Alexandra and all the other siblings adopted to different families (I include children like my daughter whose foster sister went to another family on the other side of the country). China was and, to a large extent, still is a very poor country. It seems likely to me that orphanage workers coming from such a background would think the decision to break up siblings heartbreaking but perfectly rational: “Keep them together, and the odds are that they’ll stay in this cold, dark orphanage until we have to turn them out in their teens. Separate them, and the odds are that they’ll all go to loving families where they will be loved and well-fed.” What happens to an orphan girl in China (or South Korea, or Guatelala, or Ethiopia) who ages out? This, I think, is what prompted the decision to split up the girls. I understand it even while I regret it’s effects on the children.

    As for the parents not immediately offering to give up their children (“Oh, no, please: YOU take them.”)… Quite aside from the fact that Solomons are rather rare, do we really want to swap children around like baseball cards? To separate them from yet another set of caregivers? If six months isn’t too much time, then what is? And what about (dare I ask it?) the parents? While I’ve learned that there are those terrible moments where a parent may feel compelled to give up a child for the child’s own sake, it would have to be a damned serious situation for me or my wife or the grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, etc. to part with our little girl. Is this selfish? Or is it that we love OUR CHILD?

    Adoption is not a fairy tale, as anybody with even a passing familiarity with it knows very well. I must agree with Joanne Ramseyer above: there is nothing to be gained by making it so totally black and white or by pitting parents vs children. I also agree with her regarding the use of the word “gift”: what else SHOULD a parent call his child?

    • Yes, but the girls deserve to be together during their developmental years. People who genuinely love them would see that that is done. There are biological and psychological needs that are met from being with genetic kin during your formative years. Knowing similar DNA is vital to feeling a connection to the larger world.

      • Would that the world was so easy. Ideally, they would “know the similar DNA” of their birth parents and extended family. Unfortunately, things didn’t happen that way. It seems to me that both sets of parents are doing the best that they can to see to it that the two girls see each other as much as possible. Asking that one family give up a child that they love, another family to take a child that they may not be able to handle, a child to give up parents she regards as hers AND move to a totally alien country is asking just a bit much. How would they make such a decison? Draw straws?

        May I also say that what you are pleased to call elsewhere “narcissistic selfishness” is generally called “love” and is just as generally considered to be one of the best and noblest of human emotions. Pray don’t denigrate parents for wanting to keep the daughters that they love. Or is the Cult of the Birth Parent so strong that we adoptive parents are ipso facto villains?

    • Jim – separating twins was not about processing children through the system faster. There were plenty of families who wanted more than one child. When my parents adopted me in the first wave from China, they were licensed for twins, but China had a one child at a time policy back then.

      The parents had doubts about the cleanness of their adoptions from day one. The DNA tests should have been administered immediately, so six months hadn’t gone by. You’re right children aren’t playing cards and can’t be swapped out or traded for each other. You say that only “a damned serious situation” would compel you personally to part with your daughter. I personally think that potentially being separated from an identical twin is “a damned serious situation,” and one that is not in the best interest of the girls. If both parents wanted to be involved (naturally) the girls could have spent the school year in U.S. and summers in Norway. One of the families could have physically moved to the same area as the other and had a split custody arrangement (preferably the Norwegian family, so the girls would have grown up in a more racially diverse area). There were so many ways both families could have stayed involved while keeping the girls together.

      Jim, as a regular reader of my blog, you know I don’t want parents and adoptees to be pitted against each other. And I’m angry that the media has made the decision to do that every single time it discredits the voices of adoptees and their allies. Likes I wrote to Joanne, “It is my belief that a coalition of adoptive parents with adopted children is one of the most logical and one of the most powerful coalitions that might come from understanding adoption. Since so much of the current adoption system is adoptive parent centric, their voices are a powerful source for change. With adoption, parents agree to unconditionally love and support their child and to walk with them through life. Walking next to adoptees in the activist movement is a way of showing adoptees continued support, care, and a desire to understand this complex issue.”

      In regards to what a parent should call their child instead of a “gift,” I also wrote in my response to Joanne: You can call your daughter a wonderful, precious, cherished, unique, and beautiful human being. I just brought up some of the commodification and objectification involved when referring to children as gifts and people as things.

      • RE: breaking up twins / sibling groups

        If it would have been so easy to keep the twins together, why, then, did the officials decide to break them apart? Laziness? Bloody-mindedness? Corruption? Or is it more likely to be as I have suggested, i.e. the officials realistically believed that it would be harder for the girls to be adopted at all had they stayed a sibling group? Given that this sort of thing apparently happens fairly often and in countries other than China*, I really do think that it’s motivated by what the orphanage workers genuinely believe is best for the children.

        I have a friend who is a foster parent to two out of several siblings. Based on what he tells me, it’s hard (though obviously not impossible) to find people who will take on more than one child at a time. Again, I suggest that this was in the minds of the orphanage officials living in a country where a single child can be a huge burden to a family, where the question is not, “Same or separate bedrooms?” but rather, “How can we afford to feed them both???”

        RE: best interest of the children

        Yes, it would have been better to keep the twins together. We cannot say why this was not done. What we can say is that it WAS done. I am not about to judge parents for NOT giving up their child to another family once they found out what had happened. Further, how would the parents have known whether it would be “better” to ship their child off to the other family? Is growing up with a biological sibling the sine qua non of a happy life?

        RE: adoptees v parents

        Juxtapose these two sentences:

        “[T]he parents ultimately got what they wanted – children, while Mia and Alexandra sacrificed not only their first country, language, families, but were forced to sacrifice each other for the happiness of their parents.”

        with

        “I don’t want parents and adoptees to be pitted against each other. And I’m angry that the media has made the decision to do that every single time it discredits the voices of adoptees and their allies.”

        I do not mention the other comments that drip with contempt for the parents – wicked, horrible, terrible people! – of the two girls who won’t move to another country, ship their children off for months at a time, or just flat give them up in order for them to live together.

        Joanne Ramseyer really hits the nail on the head: this is not a black and white issue. Just as it’s possible for you as an adoptee to love your parents even while you have problems with the adoption system, it’s possible for us parents to support adoptee voices even while we are grateful for the process (flawed though it is) that has brought us the children that we treasure. And, may I say, be a bit unwilling to be pilloried for it.

        I add that somebody can be your ally even if he doesn’t agree 100% with you. If adoptees want adoptive parents to be more supportive of adoptee voices, then it seem to me that those voices might be a slower to imply (if not outright state) that the parents are selfish pigs who’ve done their children a life-altering injury and a bit quicker to realize that the parents are exactly that: PARENTS who love their children. Not every adoptive parent is a Tina Traster or a Douglas Barbour.

        RE: children as “gifts”

        I really don’t see that viewing a child a “gift” (or treasure, or best-thing-that-ever-happened-to-me, or greatest-thing-in-my-life, or any of the other words or phrases that people use to describe their children) is objectifying them at all. To the contrary, it’s an expression of love for them as unique and cherished individuals. Personally, the word that often springs to my mind when I look at my daughter is “miracle”. Yes, I know: the path that brought us together was terrible for her, and her first eighteen months were not at all what anybody (least of all me) could have wished for her or any other child. But it is what it is, and I think that I may be forgiven for saying that I give thanks to God that she is my daughter, that I love her very, very much, and I hope to be the best father to her that I can be.

        =====

        (*) Twins Samantha Futerman and Anais Bordier were also separated at birth in Korea. Futerman went to a family in NJ; Bordier was raised as an only child by a French couple. Ditto Anna Kandl (NC) and Ella Cuares (MI), as well as Lily McLeod (Keswick, ONT) and Gillian Shaw (Windsor, ONT). For that matter, Ivy and Lynette Mullin (now together in Westville, OK after being adopted). As I wrote, my own family history includes siblings being sent to different homes. It happens apparently often enough for me to think that it’s a matter of (perhaps unwritten) policy and not a one-off.

      • Jim – you say, “if adoptees want adoptive parents to be more supportive of adoptee voices, then it seems to me that those voices should be…”. IMHO, adoptive parents have an OBLIGATION to want to support adoptee voices.

        If they cannot find the love in their hearts to 1) educate themselves about experiences common to adoptees, 2) support adoptees to find and use their own voice, and be comfortable with their own voice, and 3) support an adoptee’s legal and human right to know and understand their own story about their own lives and origins, then IMHO, those people have NO business adopting children who will likely suffer from a life of inequality and silence/voicelessness perpetuated by those purporting to “love” them.

        When those types of people adopt, that isn’t love, that is when adoptive parents are behaving selfishly and narcissistically. It’s not adopted people’s fault if adoptive parents don’t want to support adoptee voices. Just like it’s not the adoptee’s fault that their adoptive parents adopted them under those or any conditions. For those who blame adoptees or feel that adoptees are wanting too much, please spare them and don’t adopt.

        I’m heartened that some adoptive parents take the time and effort to educate themselves, and understand/respect adoptees’ voices to describe their own experiences.

    • Re: Twin Separation

      Jim, you’re right – twin separation has been a cruel practice in adoption in various countries historically. The circumstances surrounding it that I and many others believe to be true is corruption. Having two families adopt the girls separately means to sets of agency fees, two sets of orphanage donations, and two sets of adoption fees. Unfortunately, international adoption has become an industry driven by money, and it is also charged with strong emotions. The money involved in adoption is so skewed to Western wealth. “Agencies claim the costs pay for the agency’s fee, the cost of foreign salaries and operations, staff travel, and orphanage donations. But experts say the fees are so disproportionately large for the child’s home country that they encourage corruption.”

      Here’s the engaging article that quote is from: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2008/10/15/the_lie_we_love?page=full

      Re: Best Interest of the Children

      Like I said in my first comment, the parents didn’t even consider other possibilities of keeping them together. “If both parents wanted to be involved (naturally) the girls could have spent the school year in U.S. and summers in Norway. One of the families could have physically moved to the same area as the other and had a split custody arrangement (preferably the Norwegian family, so the girls would have grown up in a more racially diverse area). There were so many ways both families could have stayed involved while keeping the girls together.” Of course these are not solutions to the problem, simply ethical reactions to the situation. And yes, these suggestions would have required some sacrifice on the parents’ part, but that’s what parents do when they love their children. They put the kids’ needs above their own.

      Re: Adoptees v. Parents

      I am not saying the parents involved are “wicked, horrible, terrible people.” Please do not assume that, and do not woefully project that assumed judgement onto yourself. My comments are regarding the ethicality of this large decision (or lack of a decision), not other aspects of their personhood. I do not know them personally and can only comment on what I’ve seen.

      Also, I have to say I know what living in the gray space is like – I do it everyday. And I know that these issues aren’t black and white; they are deep, messy, complicated, situational, historical, and inextricably connected. And that is precisely why it’s so important to have these tough conversations and think critically on them.

      I think if adoptive parents want to be true allies to adoptees, they are the ones who must extend empathy, a listening ear, an open mind, and a heart absent of judgement. Adoptees have been disempowered through adoption, disempowered by adoption agencies that have lied, disempowered by the media, disempowered by adoptive parents who wish to only give rise to voices that align with theirs. Ally adoptive parents must differentiate themselves by being willing to sacrifice a little pride and truly hear where adoptees are coming from.

      Re: Children as Gifts

      Adoptees are not gifts. We are people who have endured monumental personal loss. I know that you are trying to be the best dad you can be and you can love your daughter, cherish her, feel privileged to be her father. But comparing people to objects, things, commodities, is not an expression of love. Calling her unique, cherished, delightful – those are expressions of love. Please, do not objectify adoptees or our complex histories.

      • RE: Twin separation

        Yes, the unfortunate fact is that money has distorted the system. I don’t know if we can say to what extent this has driven the decision to split up sibling groups. My understanding is that there isn’t (if I may use the term) a “volume discount” for adopting sibling groups, so I don’t think that money is the primary driving factor. Rather, I suggest that “culture” plays at least as great a role: especially in China with decades of “One Child Policy”, would it not be natural for people to assume that few people would want a sibling group?

        RE: Best interests of the children

        This is a value judgement in this case. What is better for the children? To be kept (finally) with parents, or to be shipped off to yet another family to be with a sibling(s)? I say the former.

        RE: Adoptees and parents

        No, you haven’t said that we parents are terrible people, but other commenters have certainly done so (I consider “selfish” and “narcissistic” to be pretty much synonymous with “terrible” in this case).

        A very hard lesson that I have learned in this process is that there are human limits to what parents would do for their children. Prior to starting down the path and learning WHY children go up for adoption in China (and other countries, obviously), I had the happy idea that, “Why, OF COURSE: a good parent would starve to death rather than let his child go without food” or “A good parent would do whatever is necessary to get his child medical care” or “A good parent would defy the world to keep his child.”

        I have learned that there are “good parents” who DO give up their children. God be between all of us and such a terrible decision.

        I also suggest that there are good parents who don’t move to another city / state / country / continent so that siblings can be together 24 / 7, or who don’t give up their children for the same purpose. This does not make them “selfish” or mean that only they “get what they want” while the children “sacrifice”: it means that they are human beings deciding in favor of what they regard as the lesser of two evils.

        Now, as far as being an “ally parent”… I am, as you know, aware that you were kicked off an adoption board. I deplore that decision; I may not agree with you, but you ought to have the right to be heard. However, it seems to me otherwise an exageration to say that adoptee voices have been suppressed, put down, or otherwise silenced. Rather, to the extent that they haven’t been heard, I suggest that this is the natural result of the facts that:

        1. Until recently, the vast majority of international adoptees have been children. Even the oldest of the children adopted from China, for example, are just now leaving college. Fair or not, adults get heard; children get patronized

        2. Until the internet, outlets for ANYBODY were limited to a relative handful of newspapers, magazines, and TV and radio programs

        3. Adoptees have been and are a relatively tiny fraction of our population. Further, many are domestic adoptees who don’t have the cultural / racial problems that are faced by many international adoptees. In short, few people outside the adoption community really care; they are much more interested in sports scores or the antics of Hollywood celebrities

        This isn’t supression: it’s indifference.

        RE: Gift

        I shall consider what you say on this subject. You’ve been there: I haven’t.

      • Jim – you say “it seems to me an exaggeration to say that adoptee voices have been suppressed, put down, or otherwise silenced”.

        I think you really, really, really should open your mind and expose yourself to more adoptee voices describing their experiences. It is absolutely NOT an exaggeration that adoptee voices have been suppressed, put down, or otherwise silenced.

        I can imagine that some of what’s written may be difficult for you to read, but I urge you to educate yourself about more experiences as written by adult adoptees on their own lives. Or start supporting adoptee rights to their own sealed birth records or advocate for adoptee voices. You’ll find that MANY other adult adoptees, not just RTB, are treated as perpetual children by the media, the laws, their family members, and society. Even 70 year old grandparents (who were adopted as children) are put down for not deferring to others “who know what’s best for them”.

      • Re: Twin separation

        China’s One Child Policy has actually been more of a “One Birth Policy.” Twins and triplets are fine and not separated because they were all born at the same time – now I’m not so sure how 2009’s “Octomom” would be received there…

        Re: Best Interests

        We obviously disagree about the strength of DNA and the strength of the bond between twins, especially for adoptees who have no other known biological connections. One of my good friends is an adoptee and twin – I know these kind of stories horrify her because being a twin is one of her primary identity pieces.

        Re: Adoptees and Parents

        It seems that we will also have to disagree on parenthood and sacrifice, because that’s what I believe parents should be willing to do for their children. These girls have already sacrificed so much.

        Re: Adoptees being suppressed

        While you may think of this as an exaggeration, it is the truth. That’s the entire reason we need magazines like Gazillion Voices, the first adoptee run adoptee magazine, that started in 2013. We need to turn to blogs, Gazillion Voices, and independent publishers to speak our truths because you can’t find our voices (or only specifically chosen who don’t make waves) in the mainstream media. Counterculture allows us to find validation of our experiences and stories because the mainstream culture has told us ours aren’t worthy of being heard.

        1. You are incorrect when you say “until now most international adoptees have been children.” The United States have been adopting from Korea since before the Korean War broke out in the 1950’s. The Indian Child Welfare Act, the Federal law that governs jurisdiction over the removal of Native American (Indian) children from their families, was enacted in 1978. Adoptions of Native children were happening prior to this. The U.S. started adopting children from Vietnam in the early 1970’s with “Operation Babylift.” So while that statement is true for Chinese adoptees, it is not true in general.

        2. You are correct that the internet has been an accessible outlet for adoptees’ voices to finally be heard.

        3. More than 65% of Americans are affected by adoption (friend, relative, adoptee, birthparent), so I think it’s time people care.

    • Jim, I don’t know why the staff in China chose to separate these twin girls ,but i am almost 100% sure that it had absolutely nothing to do with worrying that they would languish in the Social Welfare Institute because no one would adopt them. They were healthy baby girls and the adoptions took place after 2000 when people from all over the world were adopting from China. Many families that we knew would have been capable and thrilled to adopt twins. In fact, some came back from China with a child and shortly thereafter started the paper chase for a second child.

      As for your comment that this is a common practice or has been in adoption and foster care, that does not make it right or in the best interests of the child. i worked in foster care for many years, and it was extremely hard to find families who could take large sibling groups because of space or other family considerations. Note that I said large sibling groups, usually four or more. We constantly sought homes that could/would be appropriate for sibling groups because we realized how devastating it would be to lose contact with your siblings when you have already lost so much.

      I understand why you think that it would be so unthinkable for one set of these parents to have relinquished their daughter to the other so the twins could be together. I am an adoptive mother, and I remember thinking of my daughter as my daughter from the very moment that i saw her referral picture.However, these children should have rights, too, and their right to be together should trump the desire of people who want to parent, as absolutely heartbreaking as that would be. Someone said in another post that if one of those couples had allowed their daughter to be adopted by the other family, they would never be able to adopt again. Given these extenuating circumstances, I doubt that would be the case. And, you are right that children are not to be treated like trading cards. In fact, that is EXACTLY how they were treated, being separated and then sent to live so far way from each other.

      You say that it is too much to ask one set of parents to move closer to one another or to allow their child to be with the other family for long periods of time. Isn’t that what was done to them? Removed from their homeland with no choice of where they would end up, separated from each other, and then asked to be away from their sibling for HUGE amounts of time? Why is that the price that they must pay? Because the adults in their life are unwilling to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to keep them closer together? If that is love, I want no part of it.

      You say that the blogger’s comments drip with contempt for the parents, implying that they are wicked, horrible people. I didn’t see or sense that anywhere, rather a sentiment that the parents put their own desires above the needs of their children which, in my opinion, is true. I would have moved heaven and earth to have brought my daughter closer to her twin if she had one.

      I have responded to the whole issue of using the word “gift” in relation to adoption in my comment to Joanne above. Please think about it. I know what the word means to you, but you need to hear what it means to many adoptees and what it might mean to your own daughter as she matures. If you truly love her and I believe you do, you will open your heart to the complexities of adoption and try realize that every critique about adoption practices or certain behaviors of some adoptive parents is not a personal attack on you , a diminishment of the love adoptive parents feel for their children, or an attempt vilify all adoptive parents. please keep trying to have an open mind and heart.

      • We shall have to agree to disagree on most if not all these issues.

        — I do not accept that taking a child away from their parents is a good idea for any reason not involving the immediate health of the child. Please mark the word “parents”: so many of the posts here on RTB have to do with adoptees being “objectified” or otherwise treated as less than “real” (i.e. biological) children. What does it say when anybody can blithely claim that they should be given up a second time to be with a sibling(s)? Are adoptive families really of such little account? Is the relationship with a previously-unknown sibling so much more important, so much more “real”, than the relationship with the parents? Are adoptive parents mere temporary caregivers who get to enjoy the trinkets they selfishly bought until the child – glorious day! – turns eighteen and can get out of their clutches?

        — And who makes the decision which family gets the children, and how? Racial diversity has been mentioned. Is this what parenting the adopted child comes to: who has the most money or lives in the area with the most racial diversity or who can offer the child the most “opportunities”? We would never dream of taking a child from a poor family to give to a rich one, or taking a child from his family to move him far away in the name of “diversity”. Why, then, would we do this to adopted children? How is this different from taking immigrant children or poor children or American Indian children or Aborigine children from their families to give them the “advantages” of being raised with other families? May I also say that this obsession with “diversity” and “birth culture” smacks of balkanization if not outright racism?

        — The idea of readoption also presupposes that Parents v3.0 will be good caregivers. Not an unreasonable assumption given how many approvals people have to get to adopt, but perhaps the children adopted by the loathesome Barbour family might think differently. And, again, are we really to swap children like baseball cards?

        Nobody can be pleased with what happened to adopted children. They lost, for reasons they likely will never know, their entire birth families. It is reasonable to assume that many adopted children have siblings whom they will never know. They (and their parents) will face challenges in life that biological families won’t. I don’t see what is to be gained by taking them away from yet another family and, by extension, reinforcing the idea that they aren’t in a “real” family to begin with by denigrating (if not outright discarding) what we are told is the most important relationship in a child’s life: the one with his parents.

    • Jim, in response to your comment to Carol that “We would never dream of taking a child from a poor family to give to a rich one” – THIS happens all the time! When looking around at the adoption community and seeing that the vast majority of brown kids are adopted by white parents, it’s clear that money is at play. In fact, that exact rationale is so often told to poor first mothers, especially poor single first mothers, even more especially to poor single first mothers of color, both domestically and abroad. Adoptions are often propagated by this very belief that a family with greater capital who can offer a middle/upper-class upbringing is better and more valuable than biological family who happen to be poor, and thus poverty has repeatedly and continues to justify family separation. Think of the lines we tell scared or desperate first mothers considering adoption – “Think of your child.” “He/she will become an American citizen – don’t you want to give them everything possible?” “Think of the opportunities your son/daughter will have with this family.” “Look at you. You’re on food stamps; what kind of life could you offer your child?” “How are you going to support him/her – don’t you think you’re being selfish?” So, Jim, I completely and fundamentally disagree with you when you say “We would never dream of taking a child from a poor family to give to a rich one” because it happens all the time.

      Additionally, Jim, your comment that “this obsession with “diversity” and “birth culture” smacks of balkanization if not outright racism” is deeply horrifying to me. I’m also puzzled because I know you have bought your daughter Mulan and Asian dolls, so aren’t you to some extent fostering her “birth culture?” I have a great interest in Chinese history, art, politics, film, and literature. I am also trying to achieve fluency in Mandarin. My parents encouraged my personal growth and cultural awareness by first taking interest in China themselves. I think adoptive parents have a responsibility to keep their children’s roots alive, which is a promise most make at the time of adoption anyway. I can assure you my parents don’t feel “balkanized” by my desire to regain my first culture. And I feel sorry for your daughter, if she is like me, and learns to love China, the food, the people, and the culture – and if you would see that as an irreconcilable conflict instead of a beautiful piece of her identity, as your wordage “balkanization” implies.

      Lastly, I am even more disturbed that you would equate living in a diverse place as racist. I went to a 98% white high school, and being in a less homogeneous setting, namely with other people of color, for college became vital to me. When I was little, I remember pointing at any Asian person passing by because it was a visual affirmation of my own image. While I learned so much from my parents, there were some valuable lessons I learned from other people of color that they couldn’t teach me. When I experience racism, my friends and mentors of color can empathize with me in a different way than my parents. I think the general consensus is that “it is important for children of color growing up with Caucasian parents to be around adults and children of many ethnic groups, and particularly, to see adult role models who are of the same race or ethnic group. These people can be their friends, teach them about their ethnic heritage, and as they mature, tell them what to expect when they are an adult in your community.” [Taken from: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Administration for Children and Families – https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/f_trans.cfm%5D

      • So many things…

        RE: Taking children

        Consider verb use and the implications about the responsible person(s) and his motives. To “take” in this context means that somebody exercizes power and removes a child from his family without the free consent of the parent(s). This, lamentably, has happened in history due to misguided ideas that children would be better off with other parents (“misguided”, of course, being in the eye of the beholder).

        This is generally NOT what happens with adoption. The birth parent(s) might feel strongly compelled, due to various social, economic and / or legal pressures, to give up a child. The parent(s) may endure the “hard sell” to make the decision. But the decision, except in cases of kidnapping, is made BY THE PARENT(S). Further, it is made within the context of social and economic realities that were established long before rich, white Americans / Europeans showed up, dossiers in hand. International adoption in China, for example, exists in large part because of the One Child Policy, not the other way ’round. International adoption in Korea likewise came into being long after Koreans established their cultural views on family, single-motherhood, blood purity, etc.

        I am not so naive that I don’t realize that money doesn’t distort the system, but I also recognize that “brown kids are adopted by white parents” not because the white parents created the system, but rather because brown kids were abandoned and white parents had the means and desire (dare I say love?) to make them part of their families. My wife and I did not “take” our daughter from a poor Chinese family: I did not go to China with a gun or even a fistful of money and a hard sell about how much better she’d have it here with us in the Land of the Big PX rather than with them. Rather, they made the choice to give her up.

        I add here that this is why the Cult of the Birth Parent rankles: “Look, pal: I understand why you might have done what you did. I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt that you did it for what you thought were the best reasons, that you felt that you had no choice. But I’m damned if I’m going to set you on a pedestal for it. I won’t run you down to my – OK, our – daughter; you’ll be a good guy in her book if I have anything to do with it. But don’t think for one little minute that part of me wouldn’t absolutely love to kick your a$$ from Raleigh to Beijing and back for what you did to her.”

        RE: racism, balkanization and birth culture

        Oh, what a can of worms this is…

        Yes, my daughter sleeps with a Mulan doll every night. A Mulan storybook is in her current, (VERY) regular reading rotation. I speak to her in such little Mandarin as I know. A Chinese map of her home province is on the wall next to maps of her parents’ home states. My wife and I intend that she will take Mandarin classes when she is older and will also learn Chinese history and geography just as she learns US history and geography (we will have to do this ourselves as our local public schools don’t teach those courses). She will learn what I can teach her about Chinese Americans such as “Kurt” Chew Een Lee, Hazel Ying Lee, or Chien-Shiung Wu* just as she learns about George Washington, Charles Lindbergh or Thomas Edison. We will do these things because she ought to understand something about where she was born and have pride in her heritage, and I want to be able to say in the years to come that I did my best for her. (She will learn – and how I dread these lessons – about the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Boxer Rebellion, the Yellow Peril, the Yangtze River Patrol, and the Model Minority)

        But wait! IS that “my best”? Should I move to a part of the country where there are more people who “look like her”? Is a smattering of Mandarin and a Mulan book really “teaching her culture”? I’m sure that many people – with some justification – would say “no”. Instead, I apparently SHOULD move to… um… well, SOMEWHERE… that’s more “diverse”, somewhere where she’ll hear Mandarin (or some Asian language) on a regular basis. Where she’ll be exposed less to American culture and more to… Chinese culture?**

        I shouldn’t force my daughter to forget her Chinese roots, but neither should I force her to be anything other than what she wants to be. By teaching her what I can about China, I am giving her the tools to make that decision when she’s older. I am NOT trying to take anything from her OR put a chip on her shoulder.

        In the particular case of the twins’ families, I find it objectionable that there is not only a suggestion that a child be separated from ANOTHER set of parents (abandonment isn’t REALLY that bad, eh?), but also that the calculus includes considerations of “racial diversity”, i.e. with what family will the child see more Asians? Indeed, this is a common objection to international adoption: “You’re putting a child of color with white parents in a mostly white community! The horror!”

        This is what I mean by balkanization and racism: the idea that a person’s culture and environment MUST match their outward appearance, and that, if a person’s “birth culture” is not preserved, then they’ve been done a huge injury. It seems to me that the injury, if such there be, is more likely to lie in teaching a child to be different, to NOT fit in. I know of an adopted Chinese girl who feels exactly that way: she, to some extent, resents her parents’ efforts to “honor her Chinese culture” because those efforts made her feel like even more of an outsider.

        Incidentally, there is an older, somewhat obsolete word for “diverse area”, i.e. where “people look like me”:

        Ghetto

        Yes, I understand that it must be very uncomfortable to be one of a tiny minority, to be surrounded by people who DON’T “look like me”. I also understand that there are limits to what even the best-intentioned parent can do about it. Finally, I understand that, no matter what, international adoptees are their own small minority and always will be: in predominately white America, they will always be minorities, Asian or black or Hispanic. In China, or Korea, or Ethiopia, or Guatemala, etc. they will always be (white) Americans. They will always be somewhere between. This is the reality that I will have to help my daughter to deal with. God grant that society evolves enough, that transracial adoptees are accepted enough, that she won’t have problems.

        I had thought that we as Americans were supposed to be working towards a nation where color and origin and gender don’t matter, but rather where the content of a person’s character is what counts. I am quite aware that we aren’t anywhere near that happy goal, but it seems to me that emphasis on “people who are like me” doesn’t get us any further.

        =====

        (*) http://wholelottalovecdr.blogspot.com/2014/03/when-i-was-growing-up-i-had-avariety-of.html

        http://wholelottalovecdr.blogspot.com/2014/03/role-models-pt-2-parenting-asian.html

        (**) Whatever that means. Culture isn’t something that can be taught like a foreign language or given to somebody like a suit of clothes.

      • Jim, if your reason for responding to adult adoptee blogs is to insist that they are wrong and you are right, I would suggest that you stop wasting everyone’s time (including your own) and stop insulting adults who have lived an experience you have never lived. You are putting a lot of energy into proving yourself right and doing the very thing that you think is over-blown–arguing down adoptees’ voices.

        If you simply cannot do what you’ve been graciously asked to do–open your mind and your heart to truly listening to an adoptee’s perspective (not just reading it to respond with why you are right and he/she is wrong) you’re just entrenching yourself deeper into patterns of thinking that will not help you grow as a father to your daughter (which is why I assume adoptive parents read adoptee’s blogs–to become better parents, not to try to prove to ourselves that we are right in all our parenting decisions).

        The facts that you think being in a diverse place where more people are people of color equates to a ghetto and that you think we should all be behaving as if race and ethnicity don’t matter means you truly have a lot of learning to do to be a father to a person of color. Teaching her Mandarin and Chinese history will give her snippets of what her birth country is/was about. It is safe and comfortable for us as white parents to offer those things up to our adopted kids. Being the only/one of the few non-white kids in her surroundings, not looking like her family, and contending with all the racial stereotypes that come with being an Asian American girl/teen/woman are real things she will need to attend to her whole life. Figuring out who she is when her external appearance and her internalized beliefs don’t match will be part of figuring out who she is as a young adult. You can be uncomfortable with those basic facts, deny that they exist or insist that they should not matter, but that does not change reality for your daughter.

        I have been reading list serves and blogs where adult adoptees share their experiences for 16 years now and I have a few dozen Korean adoptee friends in the “real world”. Their experiences vary a lot, but I can tell you that every single one of them that has been raised by white parents in a predominantly white world have struggled with being a person of color in a white world. What that struggle looked like, how it impacted their relationship with their parents, and how they’ve come to terms with those basic facts varies tremendously, but it is a common issue for people of color who’ve been adopted into white families. It does not mean that they are somehow broken, unhealthy, or lacking in who they are or that they hate their adoptive parents. My real-life friends are fantastic women–I’d be thrilled if my daughter grows up to be like any of them and I’m guessing the same is true for the majority of the adult adoptees I’ve come to know in the digital world as well.

        Given that your daughter is quite young, you have the good fortune to have adult adoptees from China coming into the digital world and sharing their experiences (my daughter is on the early end of China adoptions so there were no adult Chinese adoptees speaking or writing about their experiences when she was young). This is a priceless blessing to parents, if we choose to open ourselves to it. Like their Korean adoptee peers who’ve come before them, they are shining a light down the pathways our own kids will take. Do you want to walk that path with your daughter and support her as best you can or do you want to deny that those pathways are what she’s been given by the decisions her birth parents and adoptive parents have made for her? To me, that’s really the bottom line in my parenting choices.

        I apologize that I am writing this and will not be able to engage in further conversation with you. Real life calls and I won’t be reading/responding in the digital world for several days. I wish we could sit down in a coffee shop and really talk about these issues. We’d probably make each other mad initially, but I think we’d both grow as parents and ultimately, our daughters would benefit from it.

      • Re: Taking Children

        Children are taken all the time for their families. Case workers, officials, and other individuals have been known to persuade, coerce, or convince parents to give up their children. One common method is through suggesting that the kids are being sent away for education abroad. On top of that, no universal definition of adoption doesn’t aid the ambiguity and morality. For example, one study finds that 80% of mothers who had relinquished children in the Marshall Islands thought that their children would be coming back to them at 18 years of age. And in China, where fraud and trafficking are involved in 3/4 of adoptions and local Family Planning Commissions are aggressive, there is no way for sure any of us can claim the children were willingly given up. It’s a heartbreaking prospect, but one that is simply a reality.

        I’m also concerned about your hypothetical dialogue with your daughter’s first parents. I think families who are placed in impossible situations should not have their asses kicked from Raliegh to Beijing and back. Jim, you previously mentioned that you would only consider relinquishing your daughter under “damned serious circumstances.” Why do you assume it was anything less for her first parents?

        Re: Racism and Balkanization

        I don’t say it’s best to have only Chinese friends – simply that it has been psychologically proven to be better for children of color (especially when no one in their immediate family looks like them) to be raised on diverse places and where they can see their image reflected back at them. This is something many adoptees lack, and it informs our ideas of beauty, race, normality, acceptability. If you make your daughter learn Chinese history and culture when no one around her is doing the same, of course she’ll have some objections – to being different, to being the only one. But these efforts are much more supported in multicultural settings where different lifestyles and cultures are more likely to validated and understood.

        Jim, it’s not some foreign thought that children of color need to see other people of color and have POC role models. Many adoption agencies require prospective adoptive families adopting children of color (especially black children) to live in more diverse areas. And I strongly believe that Asian adoptions should be seen as no less of a transracial adoption.

        Lastly, the goal of America as a place where color and race don’t matter is completely unrealistic considering how our country began. Through the exploitation of the Native peoples, 400 years of slavery of Black Americans, reliance on Chinese and Mexican immigrants to do America’s dirty work, acknowledging race is how we make sure these things don’t happen again. The truth is race is incredibly important, and my race and ethnicity are a huge piece of my identity. If someone tells me that they don’t see race, they are telling me that they don’t see the whole me and all of the things that have shaped who I am.

      • RTB: [T]he goal of America as a place where color and race don’t matter is completely unrealistic considering how our country began.

        Does this mean we can cancel Martin Luther King Day and, to the extent that we note him in the history books at all, mark him down as a crank like Harriet Beecher Stowe or Frederick Douglass or Abraham Lincoln or those other fools who actually thought that, given how our country began, we could ever get rid of black slavery?

        Should we teach our children, “See that person over there? Look at his skin color. That tells you all you need to know about him”?

        Which one of us is the white Southern male here?

        I think you might want to reconsider what you wrote and seriously question the mental paradigm that led you to write it.

      • Jim, their strides just show how important race is in this country.(p.s. Lincoln wanted to send the freed slaves back to Africa…) I didn’t say race is my only identifying characteristic or that we should teach children to just notice race. But my race is something that has deeply shaped the person I am. No, I don’t want to be marginalized and discriminated against for being Asian, but I do want people to see me as an Asian American, and not a cultureless, story-less being. The fact that I am Asian means my life is different than yours as a white person. Jim, please consider how much privilege you come to my page with – I think you might want to reconsider your views on colorblindness and seriously question the mental paradigms that lead you to believe allies (if that’s truly what you think you are to me) try to obliterate and discredit the marginalized voice and seek no level of understanding of views that may challenge your own. Though you say you come to this blog for conversation and to prepare yourself for when your daughter is older, this conversation has made it abundantly clear you are not here to practice empathy, compassionate listening, or respect. I fear the only way you will begin to truly seek understanding of my viewpoint is if someday your daughter begins to feel as I do, that international adoption has become an industry and that her racial identity is a key piece of who she is, what opportunities she’ll have, and how others perceive her.

        http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/colorblind/201112/colorblind-ideology-is-form-racism

  7. It is enlightening to follow this thread. I will definitely watch the documentary with all these comments in mind, being that I am in neither of the categories of the adoption/foster life. I do know we each view everything through our own lens. Depending on the situation, our life experience, and knowledge, sometimes that lens crystally clear and can be objective, and sometimes, it is very clouded or even shattered to the point we can never be open to a different thought. My heart goes out to all in this documentary. Only time will probably tell us.

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  9. Given my husband and I had 4 biological children before we adopted, I can not stand in judgement of the choice these two set of parents made which was most likely out of the desperation of wanting to have a child. Who would have given up their child, so that the two could be together and how easy or difficult is it to navigate international adoption laws. Had they given them back in China there is no guarantee that they would have been given to one single family or that they would have been adopted out at all and could have spent years living in an orphanage. My heart aches for the two girls. Thankfully, they ended up with families that were willing to keep the relationship.

    • They could have done a split custody arrangement or at least thought of some possibilities of keeping the girls together. I feel that the parents did what they wanted at the expense of the twin girls’ relationship with each other.

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  11. I write this as a parents of identical twin girls from China and, thus, with fairly significant knowledge of both the subject and with the adoption process. As much as I grieved for the girls to be kept apart and as gut wrenching as it would be to see my girls separated, in no way do I believe the parents should or actually COULD have somehow kept them together.

    As adoptive parents, it is our responsibility to appreciate that adoption is based upon loss. Loss of birth family, birth culture, language, etc. As the adult adoptee (for whom I have the utmost respect, we A-parents would do VERY well to listen to adult adoptees about their experiences) pointed out, by the time the twins are placed in their new parents’ arms, they have also experienced the loss of their interim caregivers. To ask them – or one of them- to then, at age one, be separated once again from her new family and placed in yet a new and different culture, is just too much.
    Of COURSE, once cognizant of the fact they have a twin sister, each twin wants desperately to spend more time together. Of course. But I bet if you were to ask the girls if they would want to leave their existing families to do so, the answer would be a resounding “no.”
    Each family went through hell to adopt their daughter. Believe me, the process is NO walk in the park. And once their daughters were placed in their arms they are THEIR child. To suggest that a parent give up his or her child after six months because he/she is selfish is ludicrous. In fact, it really somewhat demeans the whole idea of adoption to even suggest it. In the eyes of the law and in the hearts of the parents, their daughter is THEIRS. They are not interchangeable with one another, nor with another child from China or anywhere. I believe few would suggest a mother give up her biological six month-old if there were some bizarre flukey situation that arose.
    And we haven’t even touched on the legality of the situation. One of the adoptions would have to be disrupted- a terrible legal process, and then a whole new adoption process begun. The family that had a disruption would NEVER quality to adopt again, so their dreams for having a child would be over. Again, please understand that I can empathize with the magic of having twins together, but as a mom would I give up MY child so she could be raised with her twin a world away? No way.
    Is it a tragedy that the girls weren’t kept together in China? Absolutely. Terrible. I would like to think if the situation happened to me, I would do whatever it took to make sure the girls spent absolutely as much time together as possible. I’d probably eat top ramen for months (but try to feed my better!) to afford a tickets to Norway every summer. I’d sell my car and walk to work so that I could pay for them to go to summer camp together. You get what I mean. Mostly because that’s what best for my kid. But keeping them in the families into which they were adopted and spent their first 6 months is what’s best for the girls.
    As I said in the beginning, adoption is not rainbows and unicorns. It always starts with loss. The vast majority of kids adopted from China will never know their biological families, nor they ever have a biological sibling, let alone one with identical DNA. As such, let’s look at this from a slightly different perspective. Instead of grieving for the girls’ being unable to live together while growing up, let’s be happy for them that they know and love one another and have a long life ahead of them in which they can choose to be together later.

    • In response to your statements that suggesting a parent give up his or her child after six months so that the child could be with their twin and sole DNA connection is ludicrous and demeans the whole idea of adoption to even suggest it, I would suggest that not doing what is in the child’s best interest is what actually “demeans the whole idea of adoption.” When adoption decrees are signed, parents commit to loving, protecting, and advocating for their child. Sometimes the greatest acts of love are the hardest to do.

      Also by saying, “in the eyes of the law and in the hearts of the parents, their daughter is THEIRS,” exemplifies how acceptable it is in our current views of adoption to think of children as commodities and possessions before they are individuals. Why should fulfilling the role of daughter for a few hours triumph over the girls’ rights to remain twins, sisters, and family, an identity they’ve carried since the day they were born – no, since they were in the womb together?

      Also, the parents had a feeling that the girls were twins while they were still in China – before they had even finished processing the adoptions. They could have put pressure on the agency. They could have put pressure on the orphanage to clear up this tragedy. Additionally, the girls could have spent the school year in U.S. and summers in Norway or one of the families could have physically moved to the same area as the other and had a split custody arrangement (preferably the Norwegian family, so the girls would have grown up in a more racially diverse area). There were so many ways both families could have stayed involved while keeping the girls together.

      • Thank you so much for your input! I truly value your insight and you make extremely valid points – particularly regarding a parent’s duties regarding doing what is in his/her child’s best interest. It is certainly a balance- take whatever measures would reunite your child with her biological sibling at a high cost, or raise her in the family she has known for six months. It is a terrible situation to be put in.
        Having said that, I have to respectfully disagree with you on two points. The first is actually not even a disagreement, but rather a simple discussion of logistics of the situation. I will start out by saying your blog post has started quite the discussion on our Families with Children from China Facebook page! Which, since the discussion is functionally moot, (the girls haven’t and won’t be living together as kids and so, despite what we think, we aren’t going to affect this specific situation) it us still very important to examine our consciences as parents and/or adoptees to determine how we feel and if there is anything we can do to prevent such a situation in the future.
        Anyway… in China. You meet your baby one day- you sign the paperwork the next and the adoption is official. Both parents had already done this by the time they met the other family. One of my fellow adoptive families had serious question about their daughter’s health and was given 24 hours to basically decide to accept her. They were overwhelmed and disrupted. They were given no other options. The process once in China is fairly ruthless. As much as I WISH and HOPE the situation were different, it is what it is. You have 24 hours and if you don’t accept your child, you are sent home babyless. It would have been in the best interest of the girls if the parents could have looked around, question whether their girls were related, demanded a DNA test on the spot and then made decisions armed with the information their children were twins. Sadly, it would have never have happened. Who would have agreed to this test? The officials who insisted the children weren’t related?
        Additionally, when my girls came home, I had a DNA test performed on them to determine they were identical (I thought they looked nothing alike but strangers at the supermarket kept commenting on how alike they looked! Hah) and it took roughly seven weeks to obtain the results. From a reputable lab here in the US. Even assuming the parents could have obtained a DNA test, their visas and paperwork would have expired during the wait and they would have had to return to the US with no children and with nobody left to advocate for the girls, who would have been entered back into the adoption pool.
        Is all of the above terrible? Of course it is. But it reflects the reality of the adoptive parents’ experience in China and the way the laws and regulations play out.
        But to your point- is it the parents’ duty to permanently reunite the girls after six months? I respectfully request you appreciate my viewpoint. I have never been a transracial adoptee and would never presume to speak on behalf of someone with your experience. And you- at least not yet- have never been been a mother. And to ask a mother to give up her child – a child wanted, planned, prayed for, loved more than anything in the entire world, it’s- well- I can use all the logic I used above (can you tell I’m a lawyer? 😃) but it’s not up to logic. It’s up to being a mother. It transcends all else.
        In closing- I very much appreciate your taking the time to write the original post and to respond to what I have to say. And I look forward to reading your next contributions. At the end of the day, we are all just people who want the best for our kids and hopefully are open-minded enough to learn from others who have already walked in our girls’ shoes.

      • Our agencies had little leverage with China. China runs the show. The real reason the orphanage director probably separated them was that he or she could get double the compulsory orphanage “donation” for two babies going to two separate families. At the time the twins were adopted, this was $3000US apiece. Believe it. Follow the $$.

      • I totally agree Jess. This was about two adoption fees instead of one, not about concern that two children would be difficult to place together. Part of the application process for China was (DK if this is true anymore) to tell whether you are open to adopting twins. Almost everyone I know said they’d be open to twins so there would have been plenty of options for placing these girls together.

        And I do not believe it was coincidence that these girls were matched with families so far away from each other. They were never meant to meet, but once they did some very difficult decisions needed to be made quickly. I honestly don’t know what could have been done in China, probably nothing. It really is an assembly line process with agencies herding people through the several complex steps quickly, with no room for deviations. But that doesn’t mean these new parents didn’t have a moral obligation to figure this out quickly and make some tough decisions once they left China.

        Would it have been easy for one family to relinquish their child to the other? Hell no. It would be heartbreaking, beyond anything we ever expect to experience in our lives. We watched neighbors go through this in a domestic placement when the baby’s birth mom changed her mind 9 weeks into the placement, just before the adoption was finalized. I can’t even begin to describe their grief, but it was the right thing for that child. They mourned tremendously. They were matched about a year later with another child and they have a happy, loving family in spite of a pocket of grief for the daughter they had to relinquish.

        Birth parents bear this grief–relinquishing a child because they feel it is the right thing for their child. How can we not apply this same logic to adoptive parents?

        To wait until they are 18 and put the burden on them to figure out how to be together is not right in my opinion. You could already see how their dramatically different lives were impacting how they viewed the world and their relationship to each other. If the logistics are too tough for parents to figure out, how can two 18 year old girls be expected to figure out how to make their lives work together in meaningful ways?

  12. Having them live together is a nice idea, but here’s a thought: If I were the California parents, I would be reluctant to have my daughter live in Norway in the remote village where she is. I know it would be a balm to the other child but Asian adult adoptees in Scandinavia talk very candidly about how utterly displaced they have felt–often it’s not a good situation. The number people from the PRC living in Norway in 2014 was under 900, and all of those folks were from Hong Kong. Being with your sibling is not going to protect the two of you from a life of being an outsider. The parents should aggressively seek out alternatives and be preparing the girls for living together eventually, which I think is probably going to happen. I doubt you could keep these two apart beyond the age of 18.

    • I agree. That village in Norway was gorgeous! So picturesque! But I don’t think I would have wanted to be raised out there with no other Asian people and no museums/theaters/stores.

    • Thanks for sharing. I’ve read a little about their story. I’m looking forward to seeing the documentary about them! They’ve also recently published a book.

  13. Agree fully – thank you for this excellent post. I’m a mom to identical twin girls, (and I’m also a closed-records adoptee). Watching their bond, their closer-than-close relationship, it is pure magic. I grew up in a family with ZERO in common with my own interests, communication style, looks, preferences – so my daughters’ connection mesmerizes me. The thought of them, or any ID twins, being knowingly raised apart makes me feel sick. It is wrong, wrong, wrong. The APs should’ve made every effort to let Alexandra and Mia grow up together. Selfish, and NOT in their best interest at all keeping them apart. Heartbreaking.

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  15. And adoption is supposedly about the child’s best interests? This made me cry for the loss these girls have experienced, all because the people adopting them couldn’t think of anyone besides themselves..

  16. As an parent who happens to be adoptive the film made me very sad. I agree with most of what RTB has said. It would have been very hard I believe to resolve the situation in China with the CCCA. It would have been best to leave but then get right on the DNA testing and do the right thing. Children first, parents second.

  17. As threads are multiplying and getting unwieldy, I take the liberty of an omnibus response.

    RE: listening to adoptee voices

    1. That’s why I’m here

    2. To listen is not necessarily to agree. To debate (or, if you prefer, to argue) is not to suppress. Indeed, to argue is the ultimate form of listening: if I wasn’t interested in what people have to say, I’d scoff, close the page and go read something else

    3. Which adoptee voices, exactly? As near as I can tell, adoptees (like any other group with more than two members) is not monolithic. While many adoptees have similar experiences and outlooks, they are not all identical. For example, in light of the discussion about race and balkanization, consider this video at about 6:55 where the v-blogger (a TRA) says that she doesn’t prefer to mingle with other Asians but instead with “regular people” (a phrase that she will no doubt regret one day if she doesn’t already).

    I am interested in what a spectrum of adoptees have to say so that I will be prepared for the future, whether my daughter tells me that she wishes she had more Asian friends… or that she doesn’t really like hanging out with other Asians.

    RE: suppressing adoptee voices

    “Adoption agencies and adoption professionals have been the second dominant voice. They, in conjunction with state officials, who listen to professionals and researchers, have played a significant role in rehearsing a teleological narrative of transracial/national adoption, one that posits such adoptions as beneficial and improved from previous practices. Lastly, adoptive parents have influenced adoption discourse by publishing numerous how-to books and memoirs about the challenges and beauty of adoption. Perhaps most importantly, adoptive parents have occupied a privileged position because they often cross into the other three spaces of researcher, adoption professional, or state official, allowing them to have a tremendous voice and influence in shaping discourse, policy, and practice. Thus, the voice of Asian adoptees has largely been absent from adoption discourse and knowledge production.”*

    The author of this is an international adoptee and makes the point that I have been trying to make: it’s far less “suppression” and far more opportunity. The fact is that, simply due to age differences and the numbers game, the “experts” on adoption have historically been white adults, either adoptive parents or academics who’ve made the process and people their area of study. This is changing as more adoptees are becoming adults and getting into academia.

    To the extent that there is “suppression”, such as a white academic telling a TRA that he (the TRA) isn’t an “expert on adoption”, this is a regretable tendency of people in any group: they listen and applaud what they want to hear and belittle or reject what they DON’T want to hear. Steve Kalb who works at Holt has encountered this: he wants to make what he, as a TRA, sees as improvements to the process. For this implied (if not explicit) criticism of the very industry in which he works, that is staffed by people who (incredibly enough) think that they are doing good work and a Good Thing, he’s considered “angry”.

    No doubt people urge him to “open his mind”, too…

    I expect that there will be more adoptee voices heard in the years to come because:

    (1) It’s an active area of research thanks to those nasty ol’ white TRAPs and adoption workers who, however imperfectly, grasped that TRA’s face unique challenges and wanted to understand and help, and;

    (2) A relatively large number of TRA’s, mostly from China, are coming of age and, through the internet, making their voices heard. Some are getting advanced degrees to make themselves even “louder”.

    Personally, I look forward to seeing what their research uncovers.

    “In their articles for this column, both Dr. Myers and Dr. Raible challenged the notion of “objectivity” in adoption research and I echo and agree with their position. Every person who conducts research has a point of view; we do not grow up isolated in a social vacuum. So, what we learn and know about a topic is influenced by where we grow up, the families and communities where we live, and our lived experiences. These contexts shape the questions and assumptions every researcher has about the topic of their study. In short, every researcher has assumptions and biases; the most any scholar can do is be honest about how their assumptions and biases may influence and shape their scholarship

    “Does it matter if the researcher is an adoptive parent, first/birth parent, or adoptee or has a relationship with any of the above? What if the scholar was a former adoption worker? It matters because how a researcher approaches a topic is going to be influenced by their relationship to the topic. The questions that an adoptee may ask about an element of adoption might be different than what an adoptive parent or former adoption professional might ask. This does not mean that one perspective is more or less valid than another’s. It does, though, mean that the research is going to be influenced by the researcher’s paradigm or worldview.”**

    Hopefully, the research will be a bit more accessible to us laypeople than it generally is…

    RE: race and balkanization

    People have a very natural tendency to want to be around others who look, speak, think and behave as they do. The corollary is that they tend to feel uncomfortable around people who are different. I understand this. I understand the desire for a minority person to want role models and mentors from his same minority group. However, it seems to me that too much emphasis on this sort of thing is EXACTLY what leads to balkanization / ghettoization, an unhealthy feeling of insularity and “we vs they”. When parents are urged to move or, in this case, give up their child in part in the name of “diversity”, then it seems to me that somebody is well on that path.

    =====

    (*) http://gazillionvoices.com/alternative-voice-truths-and-knowledge-of-critical-adult-adoptees/#.VFju1Yg8KrU

    (**) http://gazillionvoices.com/pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain-learning-how-to-be-a-critical-consumer-of-adoption-research/#.VFjtWog8KrU

    • Jim,

      Re: Listening to adoptees

      There’s a huge difference between reading adoptee writing and truly reflecting, empathizing, and trying to understand adoptee writing. I think the reason we have conversations are to learn for a different perspective and to grow. And that can only happen if we come to spaces in which we might feel uncomfortable with willing and non-defensive ears.

      To which adoptees? Your statement that adoptees are not monolithic group is not new to me or anyone reading this blog. Additionally, the video you shared is so saddening and only seems to strengthen my argument that race is incredibly important. This girl talks about the extreme and blatant racism against Asians at her school. In this case, of course she wouldn’t want to hang out or associate herself with the marginalized and harassed group of people! It’s a whole lot safer and less challenging (in some ways) to just hang out with the “regular people” in efforts to avoid some direct racism. She talks about how she had more pride in her culture when she was young, probably before she had to a large part internalized some of the racism at her school. It also saddened me when she predicted that she wouldn’t have to deal with racism after high school. The unfortunate reality of being a person of color in the United States is that race affects us in all aspects from dating to job offers to street interactions. Racism never goes away, but I’m glad she’s found YouTube as a place she feels belonging.

      *** Sidenote: the vlogger is incorrect when she says most Asian countries had a One Child Policy. This is unique to China. She is also incorrect when she cites hangings as a potential consequence. Eviction from land, unemployment, lack of medical care, – those are just some of the penalties. Also, China is a 12-14 hour time difference from the United States, not 23 hours.

      Re: Suppression of Adoptee Voices

      Yes, Jim, it has been an outright suppression. And the up and coming Chinese adoptee voices can only be heard if something in our culture around adoptees changes.

      The Silencing of the Adoptee Voice: http://transracialeyes.com/2011/08/24/the-silencing-of-the-adoptee-voice/

      Adopteephobia: http://gazillionvoices.com/adopteephobia/#.VFmRxYvF83Q

      Alternative Voice, Truths, and Knowledge of Critical Adult Adoptees: http://gazillionvoices.com/alternative-voice-truths-and-knowledge-of-critical-adult-adoptees/#.VFmQIovF83Q

      Re: Race and Balkanization

      I’ve already responded to you my feelings on the topic in several of the comments in above threads. No need to re-hash it all out.

      • A final note and then I will be rounds complete. Thank you for engaging.

        RE: the v-blogger

        Yes, it occured to me that she has some serious issues to thrash out with race. HOPEFULLY, she’s decided that, to the extent that she can control it, she will not to let race be a factor in her life. More likely, it is as you suggest: she’s been made to feel so uncomfortable in her own skin that she reflexively avoids other people who look like her. I have seen an interview with an Asian adoptee who stated point-blank that she would even make fun of other Asians in an effort to convince people (including herself?), “Hey, I’m not one of them.” To say that this is saddening is an understatement. If I was her father, I’d be appalled and really feel that I had grossly failed my daughter. How does one encourage in somebody the pride and self-esteem needed to allow them to resist such feelings?

        My point in introducing her was as a rebuttal to the urging to “support adoptee voices”. Again, which ones? The ones that say, for example, that “honoring” birth culture is vital, or the ones who say that it’s pointless and annoying if not outright harmful? Should I or anybody else say to this girl, “Beautifully said! Quite right: it’s best to hang out with ‘normal people.’ You are wise beyond your years!” Of course not. By the same token, should anybody other than her family attempt to help her overcome this apparent problem?

        RE: suppression

        Would it surprise you to know that I totally feel Daniel Ibn Zayid’s pain on this very blog? To your credit, you haven’t banned me or told me to shut up, but I’ve caught quite a lot of flak for (dare I write it?) pushing you and other commenters here out of your comfort zones. I am not the only person who’d been defensive or close-minded: “You don’t agree with me / us! Stop arguing! Open your mind to see that I / we are right and you are wrong!”

        This is a natural result of debate and discussion, so it doesn’t bother me (well, not very much). If one wants to challenge group orthodoxy, he’d better prepared for the consequences. Again, it’s to your credit that you haven’t done as others have done to you and pressed the BAN button.

        Finally, the word “adopteephobia” brings up an interesting philosophical question:

        Does a thing exist solely because somebody believes that it does and even gives it a name?

        I bring in the legal concept of mens rea: if there is no intent to harm or insult, has harm been done or insult been delivered? Is it really a “microagression” if a person, for example, compliments you on your English? Or is it simply that they are, though ignorant and annoying, simply trying to be friendly? Are people really “adoptophobic” for banning an adoptee from their blog, or are they simply not interested in reading implications (if not outright accusations) that they are selfish, narcississtic pigs who steal brown children away from poor families in the name of “White supremacy, patriarchy, class subordination, disability injustice, Christian hegemony”*? Or are they simply just close-minded a$$holes who run their blog simply as a self-praising echo chamber and don’t want to read anything other than how wonderful and thoughtful they are?

        And, seriously: there are people who have an “irrational fear and hatred of adoptees”? What form does their irrational fear and hatred take? Lynching? Police dogs? Beatings? Fire hoses? Exclusion from school with the biological children? Refusal to hire them? I’d like to meet both of them.

        Finally, if adopteephobia exists, does adoptiveparentophobia also exist? After all, I’ve given it a name, and I think I can point to some pretty hateful things said above about adoptive parents.

        Is this the model of life? Groups out to get each other?

        =====

        (*) Where do I go to sign up to be this person’s ally??? WOO-HOO!

    • Jim, your responses are exactly why some adoptees feel silenced. There is a difference between having a conversation and having the need to have the last word.You seem to feel compelled to be right and will go on as long as it takes to try to prove this.You are entitled to your opinion. However, I find it extremely disrespectful that you continue to rehash your same points over and over again, hoping to drill them in by coming at them from a slightly different angle. Enough already.

  18. Thank you for the conversation. There is much to mull over. I, too, have been reading everything I could get my hands on that is written by adult TRAs for 16 years, in my quest to understand the complex issues of IA.
    I won’t venture any opinions yet, other than to correct what I believe is a factual error: even if two children are adopted together, the family pays the orphanage donation (used to be $3k) for each child. They each need passports, medical exams, etc. The only financial benefit I can see would be for the family in that they would only need one home study, and they would pay a reduced agency fee due to only having one guide, one driver, etc. I agree with those who say that this could not have been resolved in China. As others have noted, the process is identical for each adoption as far as the 24 hours, the sequence of events for paperwork – pretty much everything. My agency was run by a native Chinese man, with very good connections (the infamous guanxi), and even he was very, very cautious to remain low key and not cause any disruptions. So I have to conclude that the orphanage was doing what it thought was best.
    Thank you again for your thoughtful blog.

  19. I am not sure there are any easy answers to the situation I watched this documentary several times. I think shock was part of the issue. What would any adoptive parent after waiting for years for a child, looking at their picture for months to do? Go to the side of the room and negotiate an alternative living arrangement? How does one process such an unforeseen and preposterous encounter in the few minutes they had together? Remember, They Immediately Asked, and China denied any relationship between the children, causing them to second guess their thoughts. As I recall, only one set of parents would provide contact information. It is very easy for anyone to comment sitting in front of a computer, but none of these commenters could know what they would do, if in their shoes; no one. Unfortunately we live in a society where people think nothing to cast judgement on people, but these same people likely would have acted in much the same way, should it have happened to them. It’s hard to believe there is a Mother out there that would say, they would have given up their child after six months of bonding(or a minute for that matter); OR that in any way would have been in the best interest of a child. This thought process deprecates the adoptive, parent-child relationship. Any one who know anything about attachment issues knows that one child would be severely impacted by another “switch”.

    • You’re right, none of the answers are easy. And they would hardly have been solutions – just more ethical reactions to a horrible situation. But the truth is they could have performed the DNA test right after they had gotten home and not waited 6 months. They could have pursued some ways of doing what was best for the girls and keeping them together. Sure, if a split custody arrangement had been arranged or if one family moved close to the other or if one family had let the other family adopt both girls, it would have been a great sacrifice. But that’s what love is. Like Carol said, “I have always heard parents say that they would do anything, even die, for their child.” These parents weren’t even willing to sacrifice their own interests for the needs of the twins – to be together and raised as sisters.

  20. I really want to watch this documentary, and soon, but it plays on dreams I had as a child that I had a twin out there somewhere, that someday we would meet and I would see someone just like me, finally. I didn’t believe reunion was a possibility and I so wanted to see myself in someone else. This has been a pretty brutal week for me, and I am not ready to watch it just yet.

    As an adoptee, having only scanned some of the argumentative comment threads above (again, really trigger-filled week for me already), I will say that had my parents known I was a twin and allowed that separation to happen, I would blame them. I would have thought: If my first mother “loved me so much she gave me up,” then why couldn’t my second mother, if I had a twin sister I needed to be with?

    Logic and emotion are not always in sync. But I don’t see the AP argument clearly addressing the “best interests of the child” in separating twins. Seems like the dominant narrative of adoption, in which there is little room for adoptee dissent.

  21. I am an adoptee and I thank you for your response to this documentary. My cousin, who is a Korean adoptee, had/has an identical twin. Her adopted parents were told that her twin died on the flight over to the USA from Korea, but the story given was not credible. My cousin has always felt an emptiness inside her and believes her twin survived and is out there somewhere. The mere knowledge of her twin being alive would make her so incredibly happy. So yes, it is nice that the two sets of parents remain in communication and try to get the girls as much time together as possible. It’s the least they can do for keeping them apart. Hopefully the girls will forgive their adopted parents’ selfishness and “find” each other on their own terms when they are older.

  22. What the agency did should be a crime. I hope the girls sue the agency or their parents from keeping them apart.

  23. i just watched the doc, and i agree with everything on this blog

    and i think that when alexandra gets to high school age, her parents should do the right thing and send her to sacto as an exchange student

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