An Adoptee’s View
I was buttoned up warm in a red and white striped sweater when I was first given to my parents. They traveled oceans and continents to adopt their daughter from China, and were eager to finally hold the infant they had only one small picture of. The Chinese caretaker put me into the eager arms of my mother, and at that moment I was given a family.
I have a picture of my mother in the hotel room in China unfastening the buttons of the red sweater I had on. I was five months old. The sweater would have been too big for baby me if I did not have multiple additional layers. My mother was supposed to give back all of the clothes I came to her in, however for some reason she accidentally kept the red sweater and it came home with us to the States. For the last twenty-two years she cherished this small sweater, serving as a reminder of that special day.
On the night of my graduation dinner with my family, my parents gave me one of the most precious gifts; pieces of my first five months of life in China. Included was my adoption paperwork, a small tea set my parents bought for me in China, a sheet of rice paper with my Chinese name written on it, and the red sweater. The red sweater was the first box I opened. Even though I had never seen it since I wore it twenty two years ago, I immediately recognized it. I put it up against my cheeks, feeling the soft red threads. I was overcome with emotion. My receiving of these gifts was my adoption journey coming full circle. I have always been proud of my adoption and being Chinese, but year after year I have become more appreciative of exactly how my adoption plays an integral part of my life .
My red sweater represents my adoption story. It represents the bridge between my first five months in China and my life as an international adoptee in the US. It represents my
beginnings in China I might never fully know, but will always treasure because it has given me my family. As both an international adoptee and as a social worker, I hope to aid adopted children, both from foreign countries and in the US, to embrace and accept the duality of their beginnings in their countries of origin or with their birth parents, and their life as an adopted child. I also hope to support children who are dealing with any complications or issues that may stem from their identity as an adoptee. With the Rutgers Master of Social Work degree, I wish to be another adoptee’s ‘red sweater,’ by helping them love who they are.
I believe identity issues within the adoption population in the United States is a significant problem that needs to be addressed and more adequately aided. Whether it be a child going through the difficulty of finding his/her place in their surroundings because of their racial/ ethic background, or a child having a difficult time settling into a foster or adoption family, adoption is joyous, but it can also bring about challenges. There are numerous resources which cater to adoptees to help them connect with their cultural background and other adoptees, and the value of these resources is tremendous. But, the issues of identity and place are always going to be of concern for the adoption community. Identity is a normal growth process that all adoptees go through. Now, some may have a harder time with it than others, but I do believe most adoptees ask themselves the question of “who am I?” and “where do I belong in my world?” at some point.
Social Workers specializing in adoption have the crucial role of helping these adopted children and adoptive families find their place. I believe the “post-adoption phase” where social workers keep in contact with their adoptive families to make sure the child is settling in is one of the most important tasks because it ensures the child’s safety and happiness. I also think social
workers have the vital task of preparing the parents for their new addition. During the process of my adoption, my parents were also prepped by their social worker. As new parents, they were definitely anxious to finally have their baby girl, but the social worker also discussed with them my Chinese-adoptee identity, and how I might explore and discover it as I would grow up. Social workers can alleviate these issues of identity for an adoption child because they know adoption is an emotional journey. Instead of claiming that a adopted child’s identity struggle is just a phase or is just hormones, a social worker has the ability to see that the child is not comfortable with his/her identity as an adoptee yet. A social worker should be the extra support system for the child if need be.
What I hope to gain from Rutgers’s Master of Social Work program is the knowledge to help an adoptee who is struggling with any kind of issue. I am certain that the program at Rutgers will improve my oral skills in order to communicate on behalf of either the child, the adoptive parents or the birth parents, and to facilitate a healthy relationship between all parties. I also believe the Master’s Program at Rutgers will help improve my critical thinking and problem solving skills when given different situations. I am aware that each case a social worker encounters is unique and that no one method of work is sufficient for every case. There are various factors that determine how well an adoptee finds his/her place within their new surroundings. Where the adoptive family lives, the country of origin of the international adoptee, and simply if the child is a boy or a girl, all alter an adoptee’s experience. With the strengths I will be taught at Rutgers Master of Social Work Program, I hope to strike a balance between being an emotional support who knows the experiences on a personal level while also being a professional who will provide the best services for each case.
Time management has always been one of my strengths as a student. After reviewing the field education requirements of the four courses out of the twenty and the class work expectations, I will manage to fulfill these requirements because I will be committed to the program. I acknowledge the importance of having both the field requirements and the course load. I will prioritize my commitments in order to succeed. Because I commuted to Rutgers- Camden for my undergraduate, I have the experience of working a job off- campus twenty hours a week, while also excelling at my studies. I am familiar with the pace of working during the week, and going to class. I am organized about what I need to do, and when to do it. Working in an agency or an advocacy organization while going to school I believe will not only be rewarding, but also similar to how I progressed during my four years of undergrad. It will be easier to transition from school to work because I will be able to take what I learned from my courses and apply to my field experience and vise versa, unlike going to school and then working at a car dealership.
I am passionate about the work I will be doing as a social worker not only on a personal level, but also on a professional level. I hope to give a child a life like the one I was given twenty two years ago. Like the Chinese proverb of the red thread which details that no matter the distance, two people are destined to meet, I, as a social worker, would like to be the “red thread,” woven in my own red sweater, and connecting children and families through adoption.