Increased popularity of adoption prompts introspection for adoptees

Senior Jorja Meere and her mother, Kristen Meere, in China right after Meere was adopted, in November 2004.

Alisha Soni | The Chronicle

Blood relation is not the only formula for a family.

Senior Jorja Meere was just one day old when she was found near the gates of an orphanage in China. At nine months old, she was adopted on October 31st by her adoptive mother in the United States.

Since Meere had been adopted at such a young age, she has no remembrance of her life in China. For the most part, the entirety of her life has been lived in the United States with her adoptive mother. However, being adopted has had an impact on her life and a few questions have arisen about her past.

“Knowing I was adopted sometimes made me wonder where I belonged when I was growing up,” Meere said. “[But] most of the time I didn’t really question where I came from and that was ok with me.”

Society creates the expectation that people should gravitate towards their ethnic groups. However, when adoption transcends ethnic groups, it adds a new challenge for many to connect with their cultural background.

Growing up with a single white mother, Meere had faced internal pressure to fit into her Chinese culture. Her mother was open for her to further explore her culture, but Meere has recently noted that it feels like more of an obligation for her to force a connection with the culture. Meere said that even without added exposure to the culture, she still maintains her Chinese identity.

“I’m not as connected with my culture,” Meere said. “My mom would give me a lot of opportunities to try to integrate myself in Chinese culture and community, but I found that I wasn’t all that interested. I feel like I’ve started to learn that I don’t need to be into [the] culture to be Chinese.”

The day that sophomore Elena Hildebrand was born, she was put up for adoption and directly sent into foster care. Hildebrand’s adoptive parents were legally kept from adopting her until her biological father was found to sign the papers. Through a closed adoption, Hildebrand was officially adopted seven months later in October 2006.

Although Hildebrand’s parents are open about her adoption, little information is known about her biological family. Hildebrand said that especially if the reason why the birth parents place a child up for adoption is unknown, many adoptees end up questioning their self-worth. Hildebrand said that her biological parents putting her up for adoption was to most likely save her from factors such as financial difficulty and give her a chance at a better life. Although there are many reasons that people look to put children up for adoption, adoptees seem to struggle with the thought of being unwanted.

“A big problem for adoptees is thinking, ‘my parents didn’t want me and I am worthless because of that,’” Hildebrand said. “But a lot of the time, that’s not the case. It’s because your parents wanted a better life for you because otherwise you probably would have struggled in your childhood.”

Meere has also experienced feeling unwanted but has started to understand that many other factors are taken into consideration when putting a child up for adoption. Besides the chance that her biological parents were unable to care for her, Meere was also born during China’s “one-child policy”, where families were permitted to have only one child.

Growing up with a single parent and fewer relatives, life for Meere would often just consist of her and her mother. With the undivided attention and love from her mother, she knows that she has always been her mother’s “person.” The bond between them has helped Meere understand her importance and value. Especially with their relationship, Meere said she finds herself lucky to have been adopted.

“[My mom] made me realize how wanted I was,” Meere said. “There are so many people that have not been adopted and are still struggling with either a foster care system or not having a family, so it just made me realize how lucky I am.”

In the eyes of both Hildebrand and Meere, the adoption system has its flaws. Its complication and disorganization affect its ability to serve its purpose. Foster care has other imperfections, with many adoptees’ experiences being more negative than positive. Hildebrand said that although her former foster parents were very kind, foster care, as a system, is something that should not ideally exist.

“Foster care is not a permanent thing,” Hildebrand said. “It’s just sort of this middleman history between biological parents and adoptive parents. If the system [ran] smoothly, foster care wouldn’t exist. It would be that the [biological parents] sign the papers and [then] you’re off to your adoptive parents.”

Adoptees do not immediately become a perfect fit for a family once adopted. It takes time and effort. However, adopting can grant a child a chance at a better life. As people look to continue to adopt, Meere said that the most important thing about having a child is accepting who they are.

“Keep an open mind,” Meere said. “Some people want kids so badly, but if their kids are trans or gay, they will disown them because of who they are. Despite whatever views you have, if you want a child, you should love the child for whoever they are.”

Photo contributed by Jorja Meere