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The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute: Beyond Culture Camp

Healthy Identity in Interracial Adoption and Culture


The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute released its November 2009, report Beyond Culture Camp: Promoting Healthy Identity Formation in Adoption.

The study focused on the 179 South Korean adoptees and the 156 Caucasian adoptees out of the 468 adopted adults that completed surveys. These adoptees wre all adopted by two parent, White adoptive parents. The 112 page study offers several interesting discoveries and ideas to help better parent transracially adopted children.

The study points out that while culture camps and other types of activities are designed to help a child form a connection to their culture, it's not enough to truly prepare a child to develop a healthy self-esteem, especially when adopted transracially.

Key Discoveries

The report notes the following key discoveries:

  • Even while an adoptee grows and matures, adoption remains an important part of an adoptee's identity.
  • An interracial adoption does not diminish the importance of race on an adoptee's identity.
  • Handling racial bias is an important part of understanding racial identity.
  • Adoption bias occurs more often for Caucasian adoptees and is most often by the adoptee's extended family.
  • A large percentage of interracial adoptees preferred to be White or identified themselves as White while growing up.
  • Birth country travel and same race role models help an adoptee develop a healthy racial identity.
  • An open adoption is considered a best route toward a healthy identity for Caucasian adoptees.
  • Determining whether an adoptee is happy with their adoption identity is different for the Caucasian and Korean adoptee.

Ideas for Future Changes

The study proposes several ideas on how to help facilitate positive change in interracial adoption, focusing not only on the adoptive parents, but the needs of the adoptee and those who interact with the adoptee.

  • Need for more education before and after adoption, especially when adopting interracially.
  • Teaching interracial adoptees how to handle racism and allowing adoptees access to adoption records with open adoption record legislation.
  • The education of others about adoption and adoption issues.
  • The continued study of interracial, cross-cultural, and in-race adoption and how it impacts adoptees.


Like the report said, love is sometimes not enough to help a child develop a healthy self esteem and identity. The planned activities and culture camps, while positive and good, are also not enough. This study found that developing a strong sense of self is a complicated journey, especially when adopted interracially. There is a strong need to implement the recommendations suggested above and to continue learning more about how to help adoptees develop positive identities.

Beyond Culture Camp: Promoting Healthy Identity Formation in Adoption

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