'Hurtful Things People Say To Or About My Adopted Daughters'

14/08/2014 16:59 | Updated 20 May 2015

Things said to or about my adopted daughters Kim Kelley-Wagner

A mum has recorded some of the hurtful things people have said to her two daughters in a powerful photo series called 'Things said to or about my adopted daughters.'

When Kim, from Virginia, America, decided to adopt two children from China, she had no idea that by doing so she was inviting strangers to comment on her family.

But over the last 13 years, Kim and her daughters have grown used to being approached by people who are intrigued by their differing appearances.

One Christmas Eve, whilst waiting for her car to be fixed at a garage, Kim Kelley-Wagner, 55, noticed that one of the mechanics kept staring at her daughters.

He clearly had something on his mind and it wasn't long before he made his way towards the family, looked the older girl in the eye and said,

"You realise that's not your real sister right?"

"It really is incredible," Kim told Parentdish. "People feel the need to express themselves regardless of whether you want them to or not."

"I would just like to go shopping with my daughters without worrying that I'll have to answer a million questions."

Kim has recorded some of the comments that strangers have directed at her family in a powerful photo series called 'Things said to or about my adopted daughters.'

"I don't think people intend to be mean," she said. "They say these things out of ignorance, which is why I am sharing some of the comments, in the hope that it will encourage people to think before they speak."

Kim's younger daughter Meika, seven, was born with a cleft lip and palate, and some people have felt inclined to approach Kim to ask why she didn't pick a child that was 'perfect.'

"I don't understand why anyone would talk about a child like that - as if they weren't human," said Kim. "It's beyond me."

"Thankfully Meika is still at an age where she's mostly oblivious to the remarks, but my older daughter Liliana, who is 13, has become frustrated by the plain stupidity of some of the comments."

Kim, who is a website designer and photographer, hoped a family photo project would help to empower her daughters by teaching them that people's thoughtless comments were not a reflection on them.

"We took the photos for ourselves," she said. "I had no idea that they would go viral."

Since she posted it on Facebook, Kim's album 'Things said to or about my adopted daughters' has been shared more than 800 times.

"I've had such a lovely response from adoptees saying, 'I grew up with this,'" said Kim.

"The one that sticks with me the most was a Korean adoptee who said that when she was a child, her parents would never respond to people's comments. They would just put their heads down and walk away.

"She was left with the feeling that there was something wrong with her and that her parents felt the same way as the people making the comments.

"She thanked me for the pictures as she said they showed that no child should feel that way."

Now if anyone asks Kim's daughters if they're 'real' sisters they know simply to respond with a short, sharp 'yes.'

Although if they're feeling feisty they have been known to say, "Oh my god! She is real! I thought she was a robot all this time!"

In the hope of creating a more positive dialogue around children's identities, Kim has now embarked upon a second project called 'The only words that define us are our own words.'

She would like parents to upload pictures of their children holding signs describing how they see themselves on the project's Facebook page.


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