Adult Adoptee Says: Pursue Them Harder

My name is Sarah Barnes, I live in Georgia and I was adopted from China when I was 14 months old.

I feel like I’m finally at a place in my life, and my adoption story, where a lot of my scars have healed. I can only attribute that to the redemptive powers of my Savior. I feel like it’s been a very long struggle of trying to blend and balance with the culture I’m from and the culture I live in now. If my journey to self-acceptance and learning to see myself the way that my Creator sees me can help someone else, then I absolutely want to share my story. 

One of the things that bothered me the most while growing up was that I felt very alone. I always knew that I was adopted. I knew my parents loved me and did everything they could for me and my sister. I loved them, but I had a hard time expressing how I really felt. Often I probably came off as ungrateful.

When I was young I liked the fact that I was adopted because it made me feel special…and I liked the attention. However, as I got older the attention bothered me more and more.

I was never bullied severely, but I did get the occasional Asian jokes about my eyes, if I was good at math, or if I ate dog. Growing up in a small southern town with almost all Caucasians caused me to stand out and draw unwanted attention. About halfway through high school my family was able to go to a short summer camp for Chinese adoptees. There were probably 60-70 families with adopted children and at the time it was so helpful for me to have a community of people who were just like me. The after effects were that I was more confident in myself and about the culture I had come from. 

If I had the chance to speak to my biological parents I would want them to know I had amazing adoptive parents who raised me in a Christian home and that through this I had become a follower of Christ. I would want them to know that I think about them and that I’ve tried to keep as much of my Chinese heritage as I can.

To people out there considering adoption, I want them to know that adoption is never an ideal situation, but it is a beautiful experience. It’s not perfect, and it’s really messy sometimes. My advice is to love the child you adopt. Never make them feel like they are indebted to you or that you are their savior… just be their parent. Even when they’re hurting and push you away: pursue them harder with love and open arms. My parents always did that for us even when we lashed out or tried to withdraw, and it really made a huge difference. Even though we acted out we always knew they would be waiting for us with love. 

Another piece of advice that I think is important, is try to be as involved as you can in cultural activities related to your child’s birth country. That could be summer camps, getting together with other adoptive families, etc. For us it was Chinese New Year celebrations and such. I think one of the saddest things is when adoptees lose all connection to their birth country and heritage. I have always loved learning about China and I study Chinese in college, and I believe this has really brought the two sides of my life together in harmony. It’s helped me in forming my identity by having my two heritages meet somewhere in the middle. 

I used to try to erase my Chinese heritage and pretend that it didn’t exist and that just didn’t end well…it didn’t help to pretend that part of me didn’t exist. Through all of these things I’ve learned to be proud, truly proud, of my roots. 

I want the world to know that the world needs to care for orphans. As I get older I have to face the reality of what my life might have looked like if I hadn’t been adopted. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home with a loving mother and father who taught me about the most important person in life, Jesus Christ. I want that for all orphans all over the world. Children should never have to prove themselves worthy of love or have to beg for a family. 

~ Sarah

To follow Sarah’s journey, you can find her on instagram: @sarahbarnes_