The process of adopting a child can be protracted and difficult. Members of families formed through adoption, especially international or transracial adoption, often find that others treat their family as not fully real or legitimate. I analyze stories told by five adoptive mothers about the remarkable circumstances through which their children joined their families and their attendant sense that larger-than-human forces must have played a role. Critics of international adoption object that such stories depict birth parents as expendable and mask political and economic inequality. I argue that such an interpretation results when the stories are overgeneralized and stretched beyond their meaning-making capacity. When told within and among adoptive families, they valuably stabilize mothers’ identities and assure children that they belong.

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