Charlottesville mother's Facebook album goes viral

Wagner's adopted daughter's photos draw attention, controversy

“The questions I received when I was younger were primarily out of curiosity and I don’t recall taking offense to them,” Sager said.

Charlottesville mother and photographer Kim Kelley-Wagner has attracted international attention after posting pictures of her adopted daughters on Facebook holding signs bearing offensive comments directed at them about their adoptions.

The Facebook series, entitled “Things Said to or About My Adopted Daughters…” features the girls holding dry-erase boards inscribed with quotes such as, “She speaks really good English” and “But what are her emotional issues?” More than 3,000 people have liked the album on Facebook.

“This was a project we decided to do at Christmas time, when we had a little time, and it was just a way for us to say people do this and [that they] shouldn’t,” Kelley-Wagner said. “We wanted to create a project of awareness. I had no idea it would go viral.”

A single mother, Kelley-Wagner adopted both girls, now seven and 13-years-old, from China at a young age.

Critics have accused Kelley-Wagner of exploiting her young children. In response, she said she considers her daughters mature enough to understand the situation.

“The majority is positive feedback,” she said. “A mistake that is commonly assumed is that I’ve done this for attention. I had no reason to expect this. Nothing I’ve ever done before has gone viral. As far as exploiting my children, I’m not really sure what they mean by that.”

Second-year College student Noa Sager, who is adopted, expressed mixed feelings about the project.

“I find it understandable that [Kelley-Wagner] feels offended at the insensitive comments,” Sager said in an email. “However, I have reservations regarding how and to the degree she is incorporating her kids into the issue.”

Sager said she was concerned about the effect the campaign may have on the girls.

“Their reactions and opinions will be largely shaped by the example their mother sets for them and her opinions and ideas she chooses to share with them at this time,” Sager said. “The mother directly placed them in a sensitive spotlight which has now received national attention.”

Kelley-Wagner said her children were both completely fine with the project.

“The little one, she’s ready to do anything,” she said. “Even though I explained what it was, she’s just like, ‘Yeah, whatever.’ For the 13-year-old, this was more her and [my] project, because she has memory of receiving these comments. She thought it was rather cathartic.”

Sager said she does not recall insensitive comments directed at her during her childhood.

“The questions I received when I was younger were primarily out of curiosity and I don’t recall taking offense to them,” she said.

Kelley-Wagner is a professional illustrator and photographer. Her page, “Kim Kelley-Wagner Images,” now has more than 5,000 likes.

Published March 4, 2014 in FP test, News

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