Adoption History 101

An Orphan's Research

Non-Fiction - Historical
222 Pages
Reviewed on 11/15/2018
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Janine Myung Ja is best known in the adoptee-rights circle as the compiler and co-editor of Adoptionland: From Orphans to Activists and The "Unknown" Culture Club: Korean Adoptees, Then and Now. These anthologies serve to tribute domestic, transracial and intercountry adopted people and families left behind while validating their experiences and informing them of their rights.

Janine has written several feature-length screenplays on the transnational adoption experience and authored two books based on her own coming-of-age (and identity) Generation-X experience and her search for her Korean family as an adult. (Twins Found in a Box: Adapting to Adoption, and The Search for Mother Missing: A Peek Inside International Adoption) She can be reached at

Janine supports Against Child Trafficking’s (ACT) investigational work into unethical adoptions. She and her twin co-founded "Adoption Truth & Transparency Worldwide Network," a social media resource intended to validate and empower individuals, families and communities separated by adoption. She also cofounded:

    Book Review

Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite

In Adoption History 101: An Orphan's Research, author and adoption rights activist Janine Myung Ja uncovers the ugly underbelly of the modern world-wide adoption industry and recounts some of the heartbreaking and even shocking truths about historical adoption movements and programs. In a well-researched, well-referenced text which she humbly describes as “a short summary,” she educates, advocates, and warns. We need to understand the history of adoption movements, she tells us, and how some were tools in child indenturing, religious conversion, or ethnic subjugation. We need to support changes to laws, she urges, so that adoptees have full human rights, including easy and direct access to any records related to their own birth and parentage. And, she warns, we need to recognize that adoption is a very lucrative and effective screen for criminal child trafficking taking place around the world today, and which leaves countless victims in its wake.

Myung Ja wrote Adoption History 101 not just as a concerned human being, but as an international child adoptee herself who struggled to learn the truth of her own birth and was met with barriers and runarounds at every turn. “This book is a portrait of adoption from the back door,” she writes, “a view that no one really wants to look at, talk about or even acknowledge, but to me is vitally important because adoption is not always a ‘win-win-win’ for all.”

This may be a difficult book for some to read. It’s an emotional topic and an eye-opening one. In the United States, adoption has been so commonplace that any of us may have ancestors who were adopted; or friends and family who are adoptees or adoptive parents; or we may be adopted ourselves. The image of orphaned children, abandoned children, or children willingly placed for adoption being given a better start in life than they would otherwise have had, is a touching and sympathetic one. Unfortunately, it isn’t always a true one.

Divine Zape

The first European Children brought up in adoptive homes, who are made to feel as though they were abandoned by their parents or as though they were an unnecessary burden to them, endure an experience that leaves them "cold" and "empty." The author, adopted from Asia, explains the feelings as coping with lifelong curiosity and being without answers. Were they really without a family that cared? In this nonfiction book, Janine Myung Ja explores the startling conundrum of adoption, a flourishing business that leaves several wounds and brings to light the sordid transactions that violate the rights of the adopted. She notes that even “Those involved, including the major child care agencies and charities from the United Kingdom, offered no respect to (or even proper acknowledgment of) the poverty-stricken mothers and fathers.” Adoption History 101: An Orphan's Research by Janine Myung Ja lifts the veil and lets readers in on the “back alleys” of the adoption business.

Adoption History 101: An Orphan's Research narrates the author’s story of adoption and features the experience of many others like her. Starting with the history of adoption from foreign countries—a phenomenon that started 400 years ago—she explains how it crystallized into a lucrative business, enriching a select few while plunging the lives of many children into pain and uncertainty. She clearly documents the lies, the machinations, and the conditioning that the adopted suffer. From the encounter with a Korean father speaking in broken English about wanting to study English to be able to speak to his adopted child, the author explains how parents suffer to let their children go. Janine Myung Ja’s book is well researched, beautifully written and filled with compassion. The tone is strong and the voice compelling and firm. This book exposes an evil to which the world has shut its eyes for a very long time, one that directly attacks the fundamental rights of every person and one that must be fought and eliminated.

Edith Wairimu

Adoption History 101: An Orphan's Research by Janine Myung Ja presents the hidden truth that is rarely told about adoption, specifically, international adoption. As an international adoptee herself, Myung Ja recounts her story of trying to trace her birth parents in South Korea. The more she researched, the more she began to question everything she knew about adoption. She relates how unsuspecting parents are duped to believe that their children will have a better life overseas; others are not even aware what the whole process of adoption involves specifically. She also presents profound research on adoption from the 17th century to the 21st century, across the European, American, Asian and African continents. She notes, “For every family created by adoption, another family is forever torn apart.”

Janine Myung Ja’s Adoption History 101 tells of the hidden side of adoption that many people choose to ignore. For a long time, birth parents have been shamed for giving their children up for adoption while the adoptees have been expected to remain silent and be grateful for the opportunities accorded to them. This notion has denied many victims their own rights and funded a multi-billion dollar industry. Myung Ja’s research helped me reflect on the gaps that exist within the adoption system and how facilitators often exploit unaware mothers around the world. Some of the ideas put across by the author also open up new discussions and also provoke thought regarding international adoption. One such point is that poverty alone is not a good enough reason for justifying international adoption, considering that often the information presented to the respective parents is usually misrepresented. Deeply profound, Adoption History 101 is a great read for readers with an interest in the topic.

Joel R. Dennstedt

If you are ever tempted to deny the power of the written word, especially when used to shine the light of truth upon disinformation, and most especially when that truth puts to shame the most odious misconceptions ingrained in your favorite paradigms of everyday life, consider these astonishing words shared by Janine Myung Ja in her massively important book, Adoption History 101: An Orphan's Research: "Adoption is a billion-dollar industry and, as the saying goes, 'ignorance is bliss.'" The perception of adoption as an extreme form of altruism and charity is so strong that the uninformed public often persecutes and demonizes anyone courageous enough to criticize it. Criticize it, she does. With fervor, relentless research, and the power of voice given to her by personal experience – both hers and the growing number of adoptees willing now to speak out and desperate to be heard.

Adoption History 101 is true to its implied promise. Janine Myung Ja has scoured the many and varied historical records, literature, and memoirs to re-tell the tale of a process akin to, and too often literally involving, human trafficking. With the blessing of Christianity and iconic leaders like Billy Graham, massive child migration has been with us a long time, painted solely as a moral undertaking, resting on a foundation of societal misconceptions, good intentions, and often downright pernicious deceptions about the conditions and beliefs of other countries, leading ultimately to the incredibly vast and profitable business of international adoptions. This is a powerfully revealing and enlightening book, deserving of major recognition in a largely overlooked area demanding the light of evolutionary change.

Lorraine Cobcroft

Janine Myung Ja's Adoption History 101 might radically change your views on adoption. It might make you look critically at those television advertisements showing emaciated children in third world countries. It might end your adoration of someone you believed to be an outstanding Christian missionary and savior of the disadvantaged. It might cause deep distress and even a complete loss of faith in humanity. It will not entertain you, but everyone who cares about children should read it.

Janine Myung Ja believed she was an orphan - a street child. For fun, she told people she was 'born by a giant metal stork, a Boeing jet'. She believed that she came from a non-existent family, until she traveled 5000 miles to enter an adoption agency where - as an adoptee - she had to use the back door. There, she began to uncover shameful truths. Twenty years of research followed, studying the effect of adoption on adoptees. Adoption 101: An Orphan's Research reveals what she learned.

Taken from her home in Korea to the United States, Janine Myung Ja was ostensibly 'lucky' to be 'saved' from a life of poverty and hardship and given a family and opportunity. 'Every child deserves a family', right? That's what the adoption agencies tell us, while they are raking in billions from what Adoption History 101 exposes as really nothing more than a form of human trafficking - one that capitalizes on the defenselessness of young children, the desperation and weakness of mothers experiencing hardship and the desires and affluence of childless women.

Janine Myung Ja went back to Korea to search for her family. A desperate man pressed a pleading note into her hand - a note that exposed the awful suffering of parents deprived of the opportunity to love their children; denied even the right to know if their children are safe and well. Adopters might claim these parents are unfit. They may claim parental sacrifice is necessary to give a child a chance in life. But Janine Myung Ja exposes the adoptee's feelings of dislocation and deprivation. She speaks of their yearning for identity; for knowledge of who they are and where they come from; for the right to be part of the family and community and culture into which they were born.

Many recent investigations and reports have lifted veils covering organized and legally sanctioned programs that removed children from their families. All over the world, politicians are being forced to offer national apologies to the victims of these programs and to acknowledge the harm they caused. Clearly thoroughly researched, objectively written, and with meticulous attention to accuracy and acknowledgment, Adoption 101 is 'a portrait of adoption from the back door'. It presents a view that most don't want to see, and that adoption agencies, lawyers, politicians and bureaucrats often take pains to hide. It may be distressing for adoptive parents, but it should be compulsory reading for every would-be adoptive parent, and for everyone concerned for the welfare of children.

Kim Jackson

I think this book is amazing and not what I expected… it was actually way more. Thank you for writing and opening my eyes to the bigger picture of adoption. Really enjoyed it.?

Kim Jackson

I think this book is amazing and not what I expected… it was actually way more. Thank you for writing and opening my eyes to the bigger picture of adoption. Really enjoyed it. I heard you are having some kind of Adoption Trafficking Awareness’ Symposium based on this book too. I wish you all the success! It’s going to be epic!