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It was author Cheri Register who said, “The joy and the tragedy co-exist. That is the paradox of adoption and we are all caught up in it.”

Adopting a child seems a lot easier than it really is. Many families are erroneously led to thinking that the only thing that a child needs in order to adapt to the new environment is love. However, it’s not too long before the new parents realize that there’s a lot more to it than that.

Of the thousands of children that are adopted in the United States each year, international adoptees have become by far the fastest-growing sector. While many of the stories we hear may satisfy the image we have of American compassion and mercy the reality is much more complicated, particularly when it comes to multiracial or intercultural adoptions.

Barb Lee delves into the private lives of two families and exposes the many challenges they encounter on a daily basis. On the one hand, we have a young family that is just beginning the process of adopting a baby from China. They are blinded by optimism and hope.

The second family adopted a Korean baby in 1975. Driven by her adoptive mother’s terminal brain cancer, she tries to forge the emotional connection they never had. She describes what’s missing as a big ravine between them. And even though she is willing to do whatever is necessary to create that bond, it’s not as easy as it sounds. The results are riveting and revealing, especially because the concept of ‘not seeing racial differences’ even though the child is obviously unlike everybody else in the family, can actually cripple the child’s ability to reconcile those differences and heal.

Many people honestly believe that all they need to do is give the child a loving home and that will heal all the wounds and remove the feeling of abandonment. But the truth becomes shockingly evident when they have given all the love they know how to give and the child continues to struggle with the past; a past that might be unknown even to him or her.

The grief over the loss of the birth mother and the feeling of not really belonging anywhere is overwhelming and can even be crippling at times. Ironically, most families prefer to sweep these topics under the rug and pretend that everything’s all right. Overcompensation and sugarcoating the adoption story will never trump the fact that the child knows he or she was abandoned and this knowledge hurts.