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  In the past decade, the number of foreign children adopted by Americans has nearly tripled to more than 20,000 a year. Most come from poor and troubled parts of the world, and a life in America offers new hope. But it also means separation from their birth culture. Fifty years of experience with international adoption has led to new approaches in bringing up a multicultural child, but the success of international adoption brings perils, too. The past few years have seen an explosion in adoption groups and companies competing for clients, often over the Internet. Finding Home: Fifty Years of International Adoption explores the pull of adoption across lives and borders.


Korean Adoptees Remember

International adoption accelerated dramatically after the Korean War ended, and Americans began taking in war orphans. Korea would remain the major sending country to the United States from 1955 to 1995. Korean adoptees now make up the largest group of adults who can describe foreign adoption from the inside. And their experiences have influenced how adoptive families raise their children today.


Listen to the hour-long documentary or read the transcript.

Through American Public Media's Public Insight Journalism initiative, American RadioWorks seeks your stories of international adoption. Read the diverse and moving accounts we have received.

View two photo essays by Steve Schapiro:

Two Worlds in One Home Diego's life in the United States with reminders of his Guatemalan roots

Finding Family in America
Leah at home with her family following their trip to China

An audio diary from an adoptee repatriating to her birth country.

Making an adoption official can be bittersweet. Adoptive mother Laurie Stern witnesses one such moment.

An adoptive family interviews their son's birth mother to try to get information they can tell him someday.

Families who want to know more about their children's birth mothers sometimes hire a birth mother finder.

Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, on the adoption phenomenon

How did this project come about?

What laws cover international adoption?

Going back to follow the money trail.

Links and resources



Preying on Parents

In the past decade, the number of foreign children adopted by Americans has nearly tripled. At the same time, there has been a rapid growth in adoption groups and companies vying for clients, often over the Internet. Many companies are honest and the adoptions are successful. But when adoption companies aren't honest, it's hard to stop them from preying on prospective parents. This is the story of two families whose dreams of adopting orphans ended in heartbreak.


Finding Home in Two Worlds

Fifty years ago, many adoptive parents believed the best thing they could do for a child from overseas was to ignore that child's cultural differences - to help the child become American. But today, more adoptive parents are trying to help their children to know their two worlds. Some families go to culture camps or take homeland tours. But very few have relationships with the child's birth family. Laurie Stern and Dan Luke are trying to bridge the thousands of miles and the cultural divide that separates them from their son's birth family.


Ghosts of the Orphanage

"Why you no get me when I a baby? Why you leave me there so long?" the five-year-old asked her adopted mother. Leah had spent almost four years in a Chinese orphanage before being adopted. "I tried," her mother, Becky, told her. "I came as soon as I knew you were there." In this story, Leah Helgesen, now 13, and her family describe her long journey to learn how to become part of a family, to adjust to life outside the orphanage and to catch up with her peers in school.


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