When teen adoptee Anna reached out to us on social media to ask how she could support adoption, we welcomed her to share her thoughts and experiences as an adopted individual. Anna is the current Miss Pride of NY's Outstanding Teen, she is passionate about leadership and entrepreunership, and she recently received the NYS Senate Youth Leadership Award. Thank you Anna for contributing to the blog!
By way of introduction, please tell us a little bit about yourself and your connection to adoption.
Hi, my name is Anna Spaulding and I am an international adoptee. I was born in China and because of the one-child policy at the time, I was abandoned by my birth parents. I was only one year old when I was adopted but I have a strong connection to my heritage and past. My family has been blessed by adoption three times. My youngest sister was adopted from our local foster care system in the U.S., and my older sister was adopted from China like I was. My parents were born and raised in northern New York and opened up their hearts to adoption. I will be a senior in high school this fall and I love volunteering and advocacy. I am sharing my story to inspire people to get involved in their communities and to consider supporting adoption or even choosing adoption.
What are some of the most important things you want others to know about adoption?
Adoption is a beautiful process and every adoption story is different, but the goal should always be to provide a child with a loving home, so please consider opening your heart to adoption. Just remember that DNA does not make family, love does.
What was your experience like being transracially adopted and living in a primarily white town?
I live in a town with a population of about 800 people and there are only a handful of people of asian descent including me and my sister. I am extremely lucky to have such a loving and accepting town despite being on the conservative side. My parents have helped my sister and I embrace our Chinese heritage by incorporating it into our daily lives. One thing my family does to celebrate my heritage is to put up a Christmas tree with cloisonne ornaments. Cloisonne ornaments are ornaments from china with a special metal outline. I highly suggest looking those up, they are very beautiful and a great addition to Christmas.
I receive lots of love and kindness, however, I do still receive racism and hate. I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt but sometimes I must stand up for myself and my asian heritage. I think it’s important to educate myself and my community by having those difficult conversations about race and racism. I also have to remember that racist and ignorant comments should not make me feel ashamed of who I am.
I have a great support system and I encourage everyone to educate yourself on things like race and racism. The world is evolving and we have to open our minds to change.
Do you have any advice for other adoptees or for adoptive parents that you want to share?
For adoptees, I encourage you to show your gratitude to the people who support you. For both adoptees and adoptive parents, reflect upon your family’s journey and share your story with others. This will help spread adoption awareness by you advocating for adoption.
For people who are genuinely interested in being more educated about adoptees’ experiences, what are some good ways to go about that? What are some things they should definitely not do or say when talking to an adoptee about their experiences?
I find the best way to learn more about adoptee experiences is just simply asking or doing research. In terms of how to ask, well that is definitely dependent on the circumstances. I advise people interested in asking to be very kind and accepting when asking. Adoption is a very personal experience and some people are not comfortable sharing with strangers or people they do not know very well. I advise people not to just walk up to a person they think is adopted and ask questions like, “What are you?”. I totally understand that starting the conversation is the hardest part, especially when it seems like a random topic. Please start by introducing yourself before asking questions, this helps the conversation, especially because it is a personal topic. Then you can kindly ask what nationality or descent the individual is. A lot of the time, an adoptee will naturally say “I’m adopted from ____.” But, there are a million different scenarios so, please be kind. You can kindly ask if the person is adopted by explaining you’re interested in learning more about adoption.
For people who already know an adoptee but are interested in learning more from a specific person, always ask if they are comfortable talking about their adoption first. Then you can explain that you’re interested in learning. The adoptee might be open to a conversation or the adoptee might want time before answering or the adoptee might not want to share which is totally ok. Talking about adoption might require multiple conversations because every story is unique.
Do you have any final thoughts you want to share?
I know adoption is not traditionally the first option potential parents think of. I have to say that I think our world is becoming more accepting and I see more people considering adoption. Adopting is not for everyone but it is worth being educated about and advocating for as a positive option for children who need a permanent, loving family.