The survey was entitled “Adult Adoptee Perceptions in International Adoption.” A link to the survey (through Survey Monkey) was shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and this blog over a 3-week timeframe between November 2, 2017 and November 23, 2017. In all, there were 272 respondents. Of those, 19 were removed once parameter filters were saved, leaving a total of 253 respondents.
The parameters were that 1) the respondent must be 18 years old or older 2) they were born in one country and adopted into another country and 3) they were not biologically related to their adoptive family.
There were a total of 90 questions. Of those, 26 questions offered an “other” option. There were 487 “other” comments that were taken into account and will be shared as they relate. There were three questions that were skipped by more than 1% of the respondents; questions 62, 71, and 75. No questions were skipped by more than 5 respondents. There were 130 free-form responses and they will be posted in a follow-up post to this summary.
A link to the survey will be posted at the end of this summary as well as a link to our current open survey: Natural/Birth Father Perceptions in Infant Adoption. We encourage you to follow us here at the blog as well as our Adoption Surveys Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. Please share our current open surveys in order for those affected by adoption to have a collective voice.
Margin of error calculator (provided by Survey Monkey)
Country of Origin
There were a total of 34 countries that the 253 respondents answered as their country of origin. The majority of respondents were from Korea (51), Colombia (48), India (36), China (24), Vietnam (17), and Sri Lanka (11). There were a total of 20 countries that respondents answered that they were adopted into. The majority of respondents were adopted into the United States of America (154), Australia (22), Netherlands (12), and Canada (11).
The majority of respondents were adopted over a span of 3 decades; 1980-1989 36% (92), 1990-1999 30% (78), and 1970-1979 24% (62). The same 3 decades accounted for the years the majority of respondents were born; 1980-1989 35% (90), 1990-1999 30% (78), and 1970-1979 25% (65). The majority of respondents were adopted between birth and 1 year old 69% (176). There were no respondents who were adopted over the age of 15. It should be noted that 30% (78) of respondents were given random birth dates because their birthday was unknown.
Living Arrangements Prior to Adoption
- 52% (132) of respondents lived in an orphanage/group home for 1 year or less
- 8% (21) lived in an orphanage/group home for 2-5 years
- 16% (42) lived in an orphanage/group home, but were not sure for how long
- .79% (2) lived in an orphanage/group home for 6 years or more
- 13% (35) lived with foster families
- 3% (9) lived with their biological families
- 3% (10) were adopted at birth
- .79% (2) were homeless
- .79% (2) lived in a hospital
- 4% (12) lived with biological family who later relinquished them to an orphanage/group home
Other living arrangements included living with a godmother, an adoption attorney, adoption agency management, residential school, and extended family.
- 64% (162) of adoptions were facilitated by an agency
- 2% (6) of respondents participated in an Orphan Hosting Program (when a child travels to another country to live with a host family prior to adoption)
- 3% (10) were adopted through an Orphan Hosting Program
- 13% (34) were adopted as infants in an Open Adoption arrangement; identifying information was provided for their biological family
- 49% (125) were adopted as infants in a Closed Adoption arrangement; no identifying information was provided for their biological family
- 3% (9) of respondents were “rehomed”; meaning they were adopted, relinquished, and adopted again by a different family
- 1 respondent was rehomed twice or more
- 1 respondent was returned by the adoptive family to their country of origin
A variety of reasons were given to respondents by either their adoptive family and/or adoption facilitator as to how they became separated from their biological families. The most common reasons given were: hopes for a better life 43% (109), a poverty-stricken biological family 32% (83), social stigma 28% (73), and physical abandonment in a public location 25% (64). Reasons not offered, but included in comments were, “China’s one child policy” and “twins are taboo, and I am a twin.” Other respondents answered, “That all Korean adoptees’ moms are whores and that we all have White American dads”. Another, “my mother was suppose to be a drug addict” and lastly, “Mother was probably a druggie or prostitute”.
A variety of reasons were given to respondents as to why their adoptive families adopted them. The most common reasons given were: A desire for a child/more children 56% (142), infertility 46% (116), saving a child 23% (59), and “God’s Will”/religious explanation 17% (44). Reasons not offered as options included “so adoptive mother wouldn’t be lonely”. Another stated “Asian babies are cute.” Other reasons included, “grandparents forced them to adopt”, “because they’re wealthy and wanted to give back to the world”, and another “they claimed to have attended an adoption seminar with friends as moral support and at the end children were offered up – like in an altar call – and the [sic]decided to do it. Story changed all the time.” And lastly, “I was cute.”
- 75% (192) of respondents had their first/given name changed after adoption
- 5% (15) are in favor of a child’s first/given name being changed after adoption
The majority of respondents were adopted by a mother and father who remained married throughout the respondent’s childhood 72% (182). Divorce occurred during the respondent’s childhood in 11% (30) of incidents. Single parents raised a respondent in 7% (20) of incidents. The majority of respondents were raised with siblings who were also adopted 35% (90). There were 3 alternatives that were answered equally; only child 19% (50), siblings were a mix of biological and adopted children 19% (49), and all siblings were biological children of adoptive parents 19% (50). Other sibling structures included, “All of my siblings were adopted and they are my biological siblings” and “I have three step siblings but none of them lived in the home when I did.”
- 55% (140) of respondents said they had strikingly different interests from their adoptive family
- 64% (162) said their adoptive family supported and/or encouraged their interests
- 37% (95) said there was physical and/or verbal abuse in their adoptive home
- 48% (123) said they seriously considered running away or did run away from their adoptive home
- 57% (144) said they do not feel like they “fit in”/belong with their adoptive family
- 52% (134) said as minors they were comfortable talking about their adoption
- 66% (167) said as minors they excelled in sports and/or academia
- 56% (144) said as minors they were encouraged by their adoptive parents to be grateful for having been adopted
- 30% (76) said their adoption story was used by their adoptive family and/or others to promote International Adoption
As minors, 34% (88) of respondents said their adoptive families celebrated their adoption day. There were 17% (45) of respondents who said they enjoyed their adoptive family celebrating their adoption day. Another 7% (18) said they did enjoy it, but it has gotten less enjoyable with time and 1 respondent said it has gotten more enjoyable with time. Comments included, “My (adoptive) family did not celebrate but few times we had a minute just to ne [sic] happy about that date” and another, “didnt [sic] celebrate. my parents held the view that this is up to us to decide if we want to explore our background later in life rather than sort of impose it on young kids. i agree with their philosophy.”
The retelling of their adoption story was something that 44% (112) of respondents said they do or would enjoy. Respondents left additional comments including, “I think it is important to retell my story, and I am proud of where I am today even though sometimes it is hard to talk about.” Another said, “I am not sure I would enjoy it but I do believe there is a need for people, especially those in charge of adoptions (politicians, adoption agencies etc.) to hear other sides of the story, too often adoption is portrayed as a problem-free solution that always works out best for everyone, nothing could be further from the truth.” Other comments included, “I didn’t as a child. As an adult I’m okay with it” and “really depends. I don’t want to encourage international adoption or be any part of perpetuating religious agendas and pro life movements as far as adoption goes. International adoption should be used to save children who are disabled or are truly orphans and can not be adopted by other memebers [sic] in their community. Not some fad for religous people and blondes to start buying asian babies because they’re exotic and poor.”
The majority of respondents are in contact with their adoptive parents as of today 71% (181). Adoptive parents have passed away for 5% (14) of respondents. Another 13% (33) no longer have contact with their adoptive parents due to irreconcilable differences. There were a number of comments that alluded to strained relationships including, “yes after a decade of not having any contact due to irreconcilable differences, I decided that life is too short for a continued radio silence and contacted them. We are now in touch since a year, albeit very rarely.” Another said, “yes, but since becoming a parent and since starting search for bio family the relationship has suffered.” Others commented, “In contact with one, not with the other (fallout when I started searching for my paperwork)” and lastly, “yes but we have very different views of adoption so I don’t open up to them much.. when I do I get shamed.”
- 38% (98) of respondents have completed a Bachelor’s Degree
- 21% (54) have completed a Master’s Degree
- 2% (6) have completed a Doctorate
Respondents were asked if they were citizens of the country that they were adopted into. The majority 88% (223) became citizens of their adoptive country and it was their adoptive family who completed the process. Another 4% (12) of respondents have become citizens of their adoptive country, but it was a process they had to complete themselves. An additional 2% (6) of respondents are presently in the process of obtaining their citizenship. One respondent reported that they had been deported by their adoptive country and 3 respondents are under threat of deportation.
(A resource for adoptees who need citizenship information or are interested in action can be found here:
The majority of respondents were raised in a transracial adoption. A number of questions were asked about race. In regards to appearance, 54% (137) said they frequently received stares/comments while in public with strangers and it made them feel uncomfortable. Another 20% (51) said they frequently received stares/comments, but it did not make them uncomfortable. Comments included, “Yes. The looks didn’t make me feel uncomfortable but the assumptions did” and “Yes, but never thought about it until now.”
- 78% (198) of respondents were adopted in transracial adoptions
- 4% (12) are not sure if their adoption is transracial
- 40% (104) were of the same race as at least one member of their adoptive family
- 72% (183) said they have been racially discriminated against in the country they were adopted into
- 28% (74) said as minors their adoptive family lived in a racially diverse area
- 70% (177) wished for “racial mirrors” or faces that resembled their own as minors
- 66% (167) think it is important that children are raised with “racial mirrors” or faces that resemble their own
- 71% (179) have looked for their own physical features in others when in public
A number of questions were asked about the mental health of respondents. In regards to counseling, 8% (22) of respondents said that they received adoption-specific counseling as a minor. As adults, 22% (57) of respondents have received adoption-specific counseling. As a minor, 28% (72) of respondents said they received appropriate emotional support with being adopted.
As a minor, 63% (158) of respondents said they thought about adoption often. As an adult, 86% (217) said they think about adoption often. There were 80% (203) of respondents who said they have struggled with feelings about who they are versus who they might have been had they not been adopted internationally.
- 81% (207) of respondents have struggled with abandonment issues
- 84% (215) have struggled with identity issues
- 28% (71) have struggled with substance abuse
- 73% (185) have struggled with depression
- 31% (78) said adoption anniversary days are triggering for them
- 43% (108) have considered or attempted suicide in relation to adoption
- 10% (27) were diagnosed with an attachment disorder as a minor
- 43% (109) developed self-soothing habits (rocking, finger-sucking, head-banging) as a minor
- 39% (99) have been diagnosed with a mental illness and/or a mental disorder
- 34% (87) have struggled with hoarding food and/or other items
- 32% (82) have struggled with eating disorders
- 55% (139) have suffered with sleep disorders
Respondents were asked a number of questions about the cultures of their origin and adoptive countries. As adults, 8% (22) of respondents said they connect/identify more with the culture of their country of origin; 37% (96) adoptive country, 27% (70) fluctuate between the two, and 21% (55) feel out of place. Others remarked, “It is not a matter of measurement for me. I identify with both in different ways. Comparison is not possible.” Another commented, “I’ve learned to integrate both cultures (I consider myself half half).” One respondent said, “I only recently start to feel a lost connection with my country of origin.”
- 75% (191) of respondents have embraced the culture of their country of origin at some point
- 54% (139) said they have rejected the culture of their country of origin at some point
- 44% (113) feel comfortable when around people from their country of origin
- 61% (156) have visited/returned to their country of origin
- 32% (82) plan to visit/return to their country of origin
- 52% (133) had personal items kept for them from their country of origin (clothing, blanket, jewelry, etc)
- 32% (82) said their adoptive family spoke well of their country of origin
- 17% (44) said their adoptive family did not speak well of their country of origin
- 27% (69) said their adoptive family celebrated the culture of their country of origin
Some of the comments about adoptive families and the respondents’ country of origin included, “The [sic] spoke very little about my country of origin and it was either neutral or slightly negative and stereotypical”. Others included, “I don’t really remember if they spoke well or not of Korea, but they tried to get me to experience its culture as much as they could.” Some others commented, “I didn’t care about my previous home” and, “Sort of but I was always discouraged from doing anything that made me look “too Indian”, and lastly, “Celebrate might not be the right word. But it was something they wanted to expose me to as much as they could based on their knowledge.” One respondent said, “They lied and told me I was their biological child.”
Respondents were asked a number of questions about their biological families. Identifying information about biological families is known for 49% (126) of the respondents. It was asked of the respondents if they had searched for their biological families. There were few respondents who have always known who their biological families were 1% (4). Of the remainder, 22% (57) have found their biological families and are in contact with them while 2% (6) have found their biological families but haven’t contacted them. Two respondents were found by their biological families. Another 28% (72) are currently searching and 29% (74) have not searched. For 1% (5) of respondents searching for or contacting their biological families could bring shame or danger to them.
There were many comments in regards to searching or not searching for biological family. Comments included:
- “With no information it would be difficult to search. I never searched because I think I will find nothing.”
- “I visited Thailand with my family but I had no interest in looking for my bio family.”
- “Yes I tried, too much corruption in both countries”
- “I am not actively searching but I did do DNA testing and am considering a more active search soon.”
- “Yes, but I was unsuccessful.”
- “no, I am afraid of how things would turn out. I’m afraid of being a disappointment”
- “I am in the process of starting to search but money and feeling mentally prepared has been holding me back/slowing me down. Also figuring out how to handle my adoptive mom (she would be very supportive but I feel she would make it about her”
- “Yes, I have searched but found nothing.”
- “Yes, I know them and don’t want to have anything to do with them.”
For respondents who did search for their biological families, the majority were between the ages of 20-29 when they began their search 27% (67) followed by those who were 19 or younger 14% (36). Respondents were asked if they thought about their biological families as minors, whereas 32% (82) said they did and often, 32% (83) said on occasion, 21% (55) said they did but rarely, and 12% (32) said they never thought of their biological family.
- 29% (75) of respondents have been encouraged by their adoptive families to search for their biological families.
- 43% (111) have had feelings of anger towards their biological families for their separation from them
- 65% (166) have felt a need to mourn the loss of their biological families
Views on International Adoption
Respondents were asked if they believed International Adoption had provided a “better” life for them. For 41% (105) of respondents, they believe that it had. Another 12% (31) said it did not and 41% (104) said it was impossible to say. Comments included, “yes in opportunities not in identity or self awareness” and “I don’t know if it is better or worse. I would say however that adoption provided me with a totally different life.”
A few comments elaborated, “Adoption is simular [sic] to gentrification. The city gets richer and looks beautiful but the soul and unique culture is stripped away along with its unique history. Is it better? It depends from what view point.” Another, “double edged sword on the one had I am Alice which I most likely would not have been on the otjerhand [sic] what I lost can never be returned to me it left me alive but disenfranchised as a human being both culturally, linguistically emotionally and racially” and lastly, “I think it is impossible to say, but I also think the question is partially irrelevant. What we should look at is the macro-level of adoption. Do we think International Adoption is an ethical system safeguarding the best interest and wellbeing of the child?”
- 20% (52) of respondents personally believe that adoption was “God’s Plan” for their life
- 5% (15) have considered placing their own child in an International Adoption
- 56% (142) would/have considered adopting a child through an International Adoption
- 1% (5) have adopted a child through an International Adoption
- 45% (115) would recommend International Adoption to others
Respondents were asked what their overall feeling could be described as when they were minors and now that they’re adults. As minors, the most common feelings were confusion 25% (64), indifference 18% (47), and sadness 15% (39). Comments included “all of the above” and “a mixture” of feelings. One respondent elaborated on their feelings as a minor, “Many of the above, I also suffered from survivor-guilt as I was told my parents were poor and therefor couldn’t take care of me. Therefor I though they might have been dying on the street while I was in The Netherlands being fed. This was when I was around 10 years old and I watched the news and saw people starving on the street.”
As an adult, the most common feelings are confusion 26% (67), sadness 16% (41), and anger 12% (31). Again, “all of the above” and “a mixture” of feelings were included in the comment section. Others elaborated on their feelings, “Complex. Once one allows all those emotions listed to surface, one realises [sic] how complex being relinquished impacts.” Another “Some confusion, gratefulness, happiness, mixed with a little sadness. It’s not a simple thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad” and lastly, “I find the micro-level interest less relevant to research. 360 degrees points of views are welcome and okay. In the end I believe we re responsible for our lives as adults and need to make the best out of it. And all individual emotions regarding adoption are valid. Also they may change over time as adoptees go through many processes of emotions if they fully embrace the adoptee experience.”
Considering recent stories of Human Trafficking in International Adoption, respondents were asked if they suspected that they may have been victims of human trafficking. There were 19% (49) of respondents who suspect they may have been victims of human trafficking whereas 3% (9) said they were certain they were victims of human trafficking. An additional question was asked if respondents had reason to believe that their adoption was unethical and 31% (79) said they did.
As with all Adoption Surveys, the respondents were asked if they believe their arrangement or another would be better for children. Respondents are able to choose multiple answers as well as add their own. In order of response; preserving a biological family 58% (147), Kinship Adoption within a child’s native country 53% (135), Guardianship within a child’s native country 49% (124), Foster care within a child’s native country 39% (100), and Group Home within a child’s native country and International Adoption received equal response with 31% (78/79).
Free-form suggestions included:
- “There is no one perfect solution. Sometimes it’s best to preserve families, sometimes foster care but even here in the U.S. foster care is terrible. Adoption is a great option for many kids. Children deserve families and if they can’t stay in their own they should be adopted.”
- “Internation [sic] Adoption works but there needs to be so much more support for the adoptee and not just the adoptive parents”
- “Familycare [sic] to help the family of orgin”
- “International Adoption should be the absolutely last choice… when everything else has been ruled out. Do we send American children abroad? Nope. Didn’t think so… “
- “We should look for the best child rearing systems and open up the options for abandonment, there are so many other solutions than international adoption.”
- “Givning [sic] sufficient support to the biological mother/family to care for the child”
- “Efforts to eradicate poverty and the social stigma of single mothers/parents in Korea”
- “there are many elements to consider and I don’t think there is only better arrangements, but different ones for different cases and country’s sociopolitical context”
In conclusion, respondents were asked if there was anything they would like to add about how International Adoption has affected their lives. There were 130 responses and in order to dignify the efforts of these respondents, a separate blog will be posted to acknowledge them. It will be posted soon.
The survey can be seen in full at Survey Monkey:
Thank you to all respondents. Your efforts are greatly appreciated. If you find this survey of interest, please feel free to share it on social media.
Our current survey is for Natural/Birth Father Perceptions in Infant Adoption. It will run through December, 2017. Please share the link with anyone that it may apply to:
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