Wanting a Daughter, Needing a Son: Abandonment, Adoption, and Orphanage Care in China (Anglais) Relié – août 2003
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For adoptive families, Kay Johnson has provided an invaluable insight into the circumstances that led to children being available for foreign families. Stripped of the emotional overlay that accompanies so many books about adoption, Kay Johnson fearlessly examines her own preconceptions to get closer to the truth by talking to birth parents, spending time with orphanage officials and pouring over statistics. Kay Johnson shows us what happened, what changed and what could change in the future.
While I personally hope that there will be an international adoption program in place for many years, I am also respectful of Kay Johnson's belief that children are best off being adopted in their birth countries. The children in China's orphanages have been helped enormously by both the international adoption program and by better domestic adoption policies. Kay Johnson, almost alone of the authors and journalists who write about Chinese adoption, recognizes the contributions of the adoptive families to the orphanages as well as recognizing other contributions that have dramatically improved the care of children whose welfare is overseen by the orphanages.
This book offers a unique insight both for those who erroneously leap on the orphanages as a token of the depravity of the Chinese and for those whose choice to adopt in China has given them a life-altering link to a country halfway around the globe.
Every adoptive parent should take the opportunity this book provides to understand more fully the lives of their children before those children belonged to an adoptive family. A lot of this book is surprising and unsettling, but a thorough reading will help adoptive parents make sense of the miracle that ocurred when they traveled to China for a first look at a small person they would love for the rest of their lives.
"Wanting A Daughter, Needing A Son" is a snapshot in time of the socio-political circumstances leading to the abandonment and international adoption of thousands of China's daughters. The facts and statistics that Dr. Johnson cites as part of her research, reflect a complex Catch-22 of a patrilineal society moving from desperate economic survival towards prosperity, and of population laws and policies that are unevenly policed and out of sync with the current emotional lives of Chinese parents.
"Wanting A Daughter, Needing A Son" is not a band-aid; it's truth won't banish our children's feelings of loss, or give adoptive parents the kind of explanations that would allow us to put a loving or heroic spin on the sad act of abandonment. But Dr Johnson's important work broadens the China adoption picture, gives it depth, and hands us the knowledge our children will eventually need in order to comprehend the complicated facets of their own Chinese/American/adoptee identity. Kay Ann Johnson's research uncovers the surprising fact that many thousands of abandoned Chinese babies actually do find happy homes (legally and illegally) within their own communities, despite our previous understanding of the one-child policy and domestic Chinese adoption. In an added twist, our children may someday realize that they have "adoptee peers" in China, who grew up in loving families with Chinese adoptive parents, and without the associated alienation of cross-cultural, trans-racial adoption that our China girls and boys must learn to live with here in the USA.
Dr. Johnson's interviews and statistics also tell us that the majority of our children most likely have a sibling or two living in China with our child's family of origin- bittersweet data that may someday provide a genetic connection for adult adoptees seeking birth information. I am appreciative of Dr. Johnson's illuminating research on a subject so close to my heart, and grateful to have her book to share with my daughters in the future. "Wanting A Daughter, Needing A Son" will be a solid resource for them in teen- and adulthood, and will help them to intellectually understand the time and place, cultural mentality, and forces of power that spun their young lives halfway around the world.
The only criticism I have is that the author seems to go to great lengths to show that Chinese society has come to value daughters in a way that it did not do so in the past (thus, the book's title). The author asserts that, after having a first son (who will be relied upon for social security in the old age of his parents), Chinese families are more than willing to accept and value a daughter as a second child. However, while there are certainly parents who will make this claim (perhaps because it would be shameful to claim otherwise), the fact remains that almost every infant abandoned in China and almost every child living (and dying) in a Chinese orphanage is a girl. This hardly reflects a new-found appreciation of the value of girls. And the fact remains that more sons will result in more old-age security for the parents. Chinese parents who value one son for the security he can offer will value two sons for the added security.
If you have been touched by adoption from China or just have an interest in China or its population control policies, then this book is worth its weight in gold. Kay Ann Johnson has done a wonderful job.
Be careful about non-academic works written on this subject... they are often a lot of "fluff" based on emotions and rumors, instead of fact. If you are looking for a book to educate yourself and your adopted daughter on China's population policy consequences, then this book would give you an accurate picture.
There has been a lot of news articles recently (3/2006) about Chinese orphanages that are buying/stealing children for sale to American parents. I wonder how the author would consider this in future books?