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Sudbury speaks on transracial adoption

While pop culture fiends and media are buzzing about celebrity adoptions like those of Madonna and the Jolie-Pitts from Africa and Cambodia, Mills Professor Julia Sudbury co-launches a book that shifts focus to critically examine the bigger picture of the transracial and transnational adoption system.

Outsiders Within: Writings on Transracial Adoption features writing from people who have been adopted by families of another race and often another nation, primarily children of color taken in by white families, and others active in adoption systems.

Contributors explore their personal stories and question the colonialist adoptive system that favors removal from struggling communities of color.

After the West Coast book launch at Mills on Thursday, Nov. 9, Sudbury, an adoptee who uses her birth name Julia Chinyere Oparah for the book, sat down with The Weekly to talk about her work.

Sudbury co-edited the book with Jane Jeong Trenka and Sun Yung Shin and says the idea for the book came about because previous literature on adoption was limited, often celebrating the benevolence of the adoptive system.

“What we’re really questioning is, what about taking a couple of steps back and looking at why these children are being made ‘available’ for adoption,” says Sudbury.

She says the book looks at a range of factors in the U.S. and internationally that make it harder for families to stay together. In the U.S., for example, which she says is the world’s “most avid incarcerator,” many children end up in the adoption system because their parents end up in the criminal justice system.

“We need to look at how this country has become a nation that relies on prisons to solve social problems instead of investing in poor communities and enabling people to take care of their families and their children,” Sudbury says.

Internationally, Sudbury says third world debt for restructuring after colonization is another example of how countries and communities don’t have the financial resources to support families.

“We talk about adoption as though it’s completely a separate issue, and that it’s just the individual child leaving their family,” says Sudbury. “But in fact the reason that many of these children leave their families is because of these very issues.”

Sudbury says a fundamental problem in the adoption system is the idea that it’s better to remove children from their homes rather than investing in the communities and helping families raise their children.