Chinese adoptee Grace White shares about her life as an adoptee, and how she found a community — and a stronger identity — at Holt Adoptee Camp.
Every adoptee has a story. Although they likely share some similarities, each story is also unique to the adoptee. I hope sharing my story helps other adoptees or anyone from the adoption community speak out and share their own story. Even though it’s truly hard to write my story, I hope it sheds light on the challenges as well as shares the beauty of adoption, the highs and lows, the pros and cons, and not everything that is just black and white.
Hi, my name is Grace White. I am 16, almost 17 years old and this is my story.
My Adoption Story
On December 11, 2003, it was just seven days after my estimated birth date when I was placed on the doorsteps of the orphanage in a province of southeast China called Jiangxi. I spent about 18 months at this orphanage until my family came to China to bring me home to the states along with eight other beautiful baby girls who joined their adoptive families at the same time. Our parents spent two weeks in China.
When I was brought home, I had a hard time adjusting and had a severe case of lead in my system. I had to have doctors intervene to help reduce the amount of lead and had two tubes placed in my ears to get the liquid out. We think that the severe amount of lead is the reason why I have hearing loss as well as other disabilities like my learning disabilities.
In my group that I was adopted with, I had more severe difficulties than the other girls. At the time Mom and Dad adopted, they had a “healthy child” and a “special needs” list.* Most children on the special needs list had very visible special needs, like cleft palates — not like me with my cognitive and neurological disabilities. They actually got me on the “healthy child” list, but you have to not be naive if you are adopting because you don’t know what the child will present in person — it can be different than what the file says. That can be true even with children who have special needs.
Growing up, I always knew that I was adopted; no one sat me down and told me that I was adopted. It helped that I had the group that I was adopted with as well as two cousins on my mom’s side who were adopted.
When I was younger, I wasn’t very self-aware, “into” my adoptee identity or able to voice my thoughts and feelings about my adoption. But as I got older, due to finding out who I want to be as a person, I decided I wanted to dig into these feelings that I have had since I was a young girl.
So my mom signed me up for Holt Adoptee Camp.
Finding an Adoptee Community
Holt camp helped me feel like I am part of a community with other people who understand these feelings that I feel. It also helped because everyone at Holt camp was adopted. This will be my last year as a camper and I hope I can be a camp counselor in future years.
After Holt camp, I founded an iPhone and Instagram group chat as well as became a monitor for an adoptee Discord. I also decided to join many Facebook groups for adoptees as well as follow many handles that have adoptees running them. Also, I joined two Discord servers — “Adoptees United” and “Sisters of China.”
I also founded a YouTube channel, which features the lows and the highs of an adoptee life — as well as advocating for the issues that I strongly believe in and hope to educate people on by watching and sharing with others. So please check that out! There are amazing communities over there on that platform!
The Hard Parts of Being Adopted
Not knowing if I have any siblings or the looks that I inherited from them as well as my birth/health history is extremely hard. My parents are very open with me about my adoption. We don’t really talk about my adoption that much because it is very hard for me, because I am opening myself up and sharing my deepest fears and things that I hold close to my heart. It is hard for many people that I care deeply for to relate unless they themselves went through what I went through. Even if I explain and express my feelings.
It is also really hard because you have a lot of feelings to unpack and sort out. It is really hard to find my adoptee identity as well as my racial identity. It also is hard because it feels like you are stuck between the country that you were adopted in and the one that you were born in.
I have experienced the “fox eye” trend and I used to go along with it because I wanted to be just like everyone else. But as I got older, I realized and learned that the trend is considered to be racism because it mocks the eyes of all Asians. That’s when I noticed that I was shaming my roots because I was bullying my own self about the shape of my eyes.
Whenever people speak ill of China it makes me torn because they are talking about my birth country, but then I live in the U.S. I beg the ground to open up and swallow me up because I feel like all eyes are turned to me during these talks.
For other adoptees, if they are interested in finding any members of their biological family, it can be a lot easier to do so. In China, it is a lot harder to do a search and reunion, especially for adoptees like me who were born in the era of the one-child policy. It is hard when people are not very educated and ask really stupid questions or say ignorant things around this whole topic. It is really hard because of the events throughout my life and the wordings trigger me especially into thinking and wondering about my bio family.
The Beauty of Adoption
The beauty of adoption is that it gives children that don’t have homes a roof over their heads, clothes and food. It helps families that long for a child finally have a child that they can love on and raise. There are tons of children that don’t have safe and loving homes. Adoptive parents open their hearts and want to help raise amazing people and help them reach their goals.
If you want to talk to an adoptee about their adoption story, give them some grace and let them share their story on their own terms.
Adoption is trauma and it affects me and many other adoptees. We are mourning the loss of our birth mother as well as anyone else that is part of our family tree. Adoption isn’t about being lucky or saving someone, it’s about loving them and keeping them safe. It’s about giving them a great home and helping them be the best that they can be.
Grace White | Adoptee
Holt supports adoptees and adoptive families for life. Learn about Holt’s post-adoption services at holtinternational.org/pas.
*Today, almost all children joining families internationally have some kind of special need so Holt no longer makes a distinction between “healthy children” and “children with special needs.” Every adoptive family needs to prepare for at least some minor special needs as well as possible unknowns in the process.