Overcoming the Psychological Challenges of Transnational Adoptees

Smiling girls hugging each other(DGIwire) – As if being adopted weren’t enough of a strain on a young person’s psyche, recent research from the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs—and reported in The Korea Herald—adds some sobering extra insight. According to the study, six in 10 Korean transnational adoptees have sought treatment for mental conditions, while 68.2 percent experienced discrimination while living in their adoptive countries.

To make matters worse, 14.7 percent of study subjects said they had been discriminated against by Korean nationals for being transnational adoptees, and 72.1 percent said they had experienced an identity crisis at least once in their lives. Among all adoptees who participated in the study, 42 to 48 percent said they had been discriminated against by their friends for being adoptees or for their racial features.

Meanwhile, 83 percent of the adoptees said they had been interested in finding their birth parents, while 71 percent said they had pursued the search already. However, only 28 percent of those who had tried to find their birth parents were reunited with them. Among those who had not been reunited with their biological parents, 13.2 percent said their parents refused to meet them even after being located and contacted.

Stephanie Fast can relate to these stark findings very well. Biracial and born in South Korea during the Korean War, Stephanie was abandoned by her mother at age four and a half at a train station, to fend for herself like a stray animal. After living on the streets for years, being abused and ultimately winding up close to death on a garbage heap, Stephanie was rescued by a passerby—a nurse who heard God tell her to change her normal route home. That rescue was not the final one for Stephanie. She had to endure a few more years of agony until eventually, an American couple—both missionaries—took her back to the U.S. with them to raise as their own.

Now Stephanie has written an honest and compelling memoir, She Is Mine: A War Orphan’s Incredible Journey of Survival, retelling her story. Today, she is a global orphan advocate and a hands-on mentor for troubled post-adoptive teenagers and young adults. Stephanie has become an expert at recounting what her background means to her—and has meant to others. She is knowledgeable about the many resources available to help adopted children, teenagers, young adults and their families, and she can explain eloquently why she is desperately concerned about the plight of orphans here and abroad. She is also able to convey how each of us is impacted, and what we can and must do about this deeply tragic situation.

“Whether originally from Korea or other developing nations, many adoptees brought to prosperous Western nations are at risk for depression and other psychological ailments,” says Stephanie. “The serious danger is that they will turn to self-destructive behavior to deal with their feelings. I listen to their stories and can offer them spirit-to-spirit healing because I truly know what they are going through—I, too, had to find my way home.”

“Coming to peace and acceptance with their story must be a key before each adoptee can live with a hope that their future is bright,” she adds. “True peace comes when all three parts of who they are—body, mind and spirit—cooperate and work together for their own happiness. None of us can have all our questions answered, but we can choose to accept who we are. We, the adopted, can learn to carry our label with pride, not shame. Our past does not define us.”

In light of the popularity of transnational adoption, the problem of adopted children’s welfare is key. Stephanie Fast is on the front lines to assist those facing the stresses they may encounter.