Adoption in America

By Jordan Upton

In 2007 the National Public Radio morning show Morning Edition began a series titled “Adoption in America”. This four-part series examines the highs and the lows of adoption with four families and adoptees. The listener learns various aspects of adoption and how lives are impacted in sometimes unforeseen ways.

Part one talks with Judy Stigger and her now 26-year-old adopted son, Aaron. Over 30 years ago Judy and her husband, after discovering infertility issues, decided to adopt. They adopted two biracial children. Judy and her husband are both white. Judy and Aaron discuss the obvious and unexpected issues (such as the skin color of the angels on the family Christmas tree) involving race the family have faced.

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In part two, NPR’s Steve Inskeep hears a harrowing story from the Smolin family who adopted two girls from India in 1998. The Smolins were told that the girls were orphans who were looking for a new home in America. But, when the girls arrive in Atlanta the Smolins learn this was not the case. The two girls, Manjula and Bhagya, were emotionally distressed and tell their new adoptive parents that they had a home and a mother in India and that they were taken from her. The Smolins learn that the biological mother of the two was poor and in order for her daughters to be taken care of had temporarily placed them in a boarding school. This school turned out to be an orphanage and the director essentially sold the girls overseas and had given false information to the adoption agency in America.

Part three has Susan Soon-keum Cox tell her story of being adopted by an Oregon couple after spending her first four and a half years in South Korea. Adopted in 1956, Susan was one of the first children from overseas to be adopted in America. Susan’s childhood was spent learning how to be an American and she essentially lost all touch with her Korean heritage. Cox, now the vice president of an adoption agency, advocates for the retainment of an adopted child’s heritage and culture, which was not the case when she was adopted.

Finally, in part four author A.M. Homes talks about being adopted just after her birth. Growing up with no intention of finding her birth mother, Homes, then 32 years old, came home to find a voicemail stating that “someone is looking for you”. That someone, was her birth mother who wanted to get in touch. Homes talks about the complicated histories of her birth mother and her birth father, who she would also eventually meet, and how these events and histories have shaped her own understanding of identity.

These heartfelt, unique, and diverse stories are all available for free online at

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12138181