I am deeply troubled by what currently passes for research in adoption. View all research in adoption with a critical eye and look for two serious issues:
Positioning: this is a term that comes from ethnographic research and asks the question, “What’s it to you?” In the case of adoption, it means, “Hey researcher, are you adopted? Are you an adoptive parent? What’s your personal investment in your research?” Be wary of research in which the authors do not specifically state their involvement in adoption. If left unaddressed, it often means they have no personal involvement and thus are not privy to the inner workings of adoption. Research like this is rife with holes-questions unasked and opportunities for discovery missed.
Kim Park Nelson, in the book Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption (2006) writes, “I am critical of researchers who do not reveal their personal stake in their research,” (p. 90). Kirsten Hoo-Mi Sloth, an adult adoptee, echoes this sentiment saying, “…research influences-or should influence-adoption policy and practice. Research results interpret adoptees’ realities. They inform our assumptions about what is right and what is wrong in adoption…We cannot leave this task to nonadopted academics alone,” (p. 253).
LACK OF DATA
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute has been calling for adoption data to be collected for years. Here is what they say about the unavailability of national adoption statistics in the United States (from their website): “The total number of adoptions each year has not been comprehensively compiled since 1992. While there are reporting mechanisms for foster care and international adoptions, states are not legally required to record the number of private, domestic adoptions.”
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute also informs us that adoption data is not collected at the state level either in the U.S., since this has not been mandated since 2001. The next time you read an article about adoption in the U.S. written after 2001 and it states that Americans are only interested in adopting healthy white infants, be aware that there is no reliable data collected at the state or national level to support that assertion. It is merely conjecture. Nothing more than someone’s opinion or guess.
WHAT CAN I DO?
If your cable has gone out and you find yourself, late at night, hungry to read adoption research with some meaning, check out the work of:
- Jane Jeong Trenka.
- Julia Chinyere Oparah.
- John Raible.
- Sun Yung Shin.
- Kirsten Hoo-Mi Sloth.
These authors and researchers are adult adoptees and while they will suffer the same dearth of data as all researchers do, at least they can offer us the view from inside the adoption triad. I realize I am privileging the work of adult adoptees. Theirs is an important voice, a voice long unheard in our community. Let us welcome them and listen carefully so that we might better parent our own children.