An online platform, created by three Chinese adoptee women, is striving to open up adoptive narratives and explore their identities as Asian adoptees.

The three women, Hannah Feben Smith, Josephine Jay and Addie Bara, met via Facebook in 2019 before officially meeting in an Edinburgh cafe in 2020.

The Herald:

Hannah Feben Smith, a student at Edinburgh University, said that throughout her childhood she struggled to come to terms with “what being adopted actually meant”.

She added: “I felt like I actively sought to repress that part of my identity, It was only until I moved to university that I started to question my identity as an adoptee.

“This shift was partly due to the change of racial environment, there’s so much more diversity in Edinburgh than at home, It was because of this that I began to acknowledge my position as a Chinese adoptee living in the Western World.

“To be honest, I think this was one of my lowest points, I was confused with my identity and felt quite alone in the world.

"It wasn’t until I discovered online adoptee Facebook groups and various podcasts that I began to embrace my identity as a Chinese adoptee, I felt that these were spaces where I could fully fit in and be understood.”

Josephine Jay, is a recent graduate based in Edinburgh, she said that as a teenager all she wanted was "to be normal”.

“Coming to terms with my adoptive identity is a very back and forth process and one I don’t think I’ll ever finish completely, some days are better than others.”

She continued stating that as a teenager: “there were questions that I kept coming back to and ones I knew weren’t going away anytime soon.

“Going back to China to travel, live and eventually look for and find my birth family helped me come to terms with my identity and eventually acknowledge and embrace my adoption.

Addie Bara, currently studying in Missouri, said it wasn’t until a few years ago that she started to slowly allow herself to ask more questions.

“I feel that traveling to Asia, surrounding myself with different people and curiosity allowed myself to fall into the unknown and out of the fog.

“It is an intimate experience that I struggle to put into words.

“Although it felt painful at times, I feel like it has been positive because I’ve been able to connect with other adoptees in different countries and the greater online community.”

The aim of Whatever Next? Is to explore the identities of Asian-adoptees centred on the Chinese experience and document the women’s ever-changing ideas on adoption as they get older.

The women stated that adoption as a whole is such a multi-faceted phenomenon and the project aims to draw out some of these conversations to include people beyond the adoptive triangle, these being the adopted child, adoptive parents and birth parents, to also include friends and partners.

The website has several sections to explore: Adoption 101, ABCs of Adoption, Coffee Chat, Whatever Now?, most Googled Q’s and a culture section.

Josephine explained each section stating: “Adoption 101 focuses on explaining some of the basic terminology and concepts within adoption.

The Herald:

“We have our ABCs of Adoption as shown by Leafboi on our Instagram which break down terms such as The Fog, WAPs, White Adoptive Parents, and Identity Crises.

“Our Coffee Chat section is where we talk to people in our lives outside the adoptive triangle to try and understand their position on the subject.

“We have interviewed friends, families and partners to try and expand the narratives within adoption and make it more accessible and open to anyone with questions.

“This is split into several sections; Dating, Adoptive Parents, Whatever Now?, Childhood and Going Back,” Josephine said.

The Herald:

The section on Whatever Now? contains interviews with US/UK adoptees to compare their experiences. It also has a section called ‘Splitting Hairs’ which explores some of the more controversial issues within the adoptive community.

The Most Googled Q’s section tackles some of the classic - 'No, but who are your real parents’ intrusive questions adoptees face regularly.

Josephine continued, stating that the culture section: “looks at elements of Chinese culture such as food, history and recommended reads.

“We felt this part of the website was crucial in bridging some of the culture gap adoptees sometimes feel having grown up in the west.”

Whatever Next? aims to grow into a larger platform where they are able to connect with more people in the community. They would also like to expand outside the English-speaking world, “break the language barrier and expand outside just the UK/US,” said Hannah.

If you are interested in finding out more about the online platform you can visit the Whatever Next? website.