Sunday, March 15, 2009

Great Wolf Lodge with OCDF

What a fun weekend we had! Our Chinese Daughters Foundation (OCDF) is doing Great Wolf Lodge Weekends, where there are seminars for the parents and arts and crafts for the kids, at Great Wolf Lodges around the country. In case you haven't heard of them, Great Wolf Lodges have indoor water parks as their highlight.
The girls had a ball. In addition to arts and crafts, they attended a seminar session, Ask Emily, where they could ask 15-year-old Emily what it was like to live in China for the past 8 years. (Emily is Jane Liedtke's daughter, and Jane is the head of OCDF.)
The adult seminars were interesting, about living & working in China, general Chinese culture, and orphan care in China. Not much was new to me, but here're a few tidbits I hadn't heard before:

* There are more birth defects like spina bifida and cleft lip/palate in Northern China than in Southern China because of lower levels of folic acid in the diet in Northern China. Also, people in Northern China eat more corn, which is susceptible to a mold that, when ingested, inhibits the body's absorption of folic acid. The Chinese government is now requiring a pre-marital health check and are providing about-to-be-married couples with folic acid tablets.

* Requirements to get a Chinese visa have changed for English teachers. You now need a college degree related to teaching or English or have an ESL certificate (makes sense, but used to be you just needed ANY college degree and be a native English speaker).

* Children in China may end up in orphanages because parents have died in car accidents, because Chinese are superstitious, and the child might be considered "bad luck," so extended family won't be willing to take the child in. Jane thinks this may also be the reason adoption of the quake orphans is so slow.

* When children adopted from China turn 18, CCAA will let them see their adoption file -- wow, this is a big deal! I had never heard that before. Jane says she doesn't know what's in the file, but figures it's probably the orphanage file, plus the adoptive parents' dossier, but who knows!

Jane also told us about some situations where people visiting China unexpectedly found birth family. She says she knows of 11 cases. One of the first stories she told us about was a family on an OCDF tour. When they visited the orphanage, the director told their guide NOT to take them to the vilalge where the child was found. That made them curious to go, and they did find the finding place on the doorstep of the first house in the village. The homeowner was not home, but the neighbor told them about her neighbor finding the baby. They took pictures, and later lost their camera. They decided to go back the next morning to re-take the pictures.
In the meantime, the homeowner returned, and the neighbor told her about the family coming. The homeowner CALLED THE BIRTHPARENTS! She knew who they were, because after abandoning the child, the birth family came into some money, and came back to the house to reclaim the child several years later. They had left the child there, because they knew the family didn't have children and thought they would keep the child to raise her. But the grandparents put pressure on them to take the child to the orphanage so they could have children "of their own." When the homeowner told the BPs the child was taken to the orphanage, they went to the orphanage to reclaim her, but the orphanage director said the child had been adopted internationally. So THAT'S why the orphanage director didn't want the adoptive family to go to the village -- he knew the woman at the finding spot knew the birth family.
Well, the birth parents made arrangements to come to the homeowner's house to talk to the neighbor about the adoptive family's visit the next morning. Sure enough, when the adoptive family came back to retake the pictures, the birth family was there! Wow.
Jane also told us two stories of adoptive parents who found birth parents but decided not to make any kind of contact, even through an intermediary -- including one family where the child had a heart defect and family medical history would have been helpful to have. Jane was with that family, and tried to get them to let her act as intermediary, told them they'd regret it, and sure enough, a month later she heard from them asking if they thought it was possible to make contact now.
Then she told us about a Swiss family who found birth family, and discoverd that their now-9-year-old son had been stolen from his birth family by vengeful neighbors and abandoned. The Swiss family decided to RETURN THEIR CHILD TO HIS BIRTH FAMILY. Six months later, seeing how miserable the child was, the birth family RETURNED THE CHILD TO HIS ADOPTIVE FAMILY. Arrrgghhhhhh! I can't think ANY of this was in the best interest of the child. Certainly, when a child is stolen, the equities on the birth family's side of the equation are great, and there are strong reasons for having lengthier contact with birth family -- maybe yearly visits and then spending the summers there, etc. But returning the child after 8 years?! Without any kind of transition?! Poor kid!
All in all, a fascinating weekend. I'll post more about it in the next few days.


Wendy said...

We attended the same event in Sandusky, OH, I was pretty much in the same boat as you but it was fun for M. She asked a few weeks back if we could go back to Sandusky so she could make more Chinese crafts with her friend (on of the OCDF mom's daughters). I had to let her know that they wouldn't be there, but we could go to the waterpark sometime--she said she would wait until her friend went there again. :-)
M has the same crafts--did your girls make the puppet--M loves that one.
I think the seminar is helpful for most AP's--I think for many of us who visit this site, research birth parent search, read and keep current on Chinese law and happenings, etc it is old news, but M enjoyed it.
Glad the girls had fun!

Lynne said...

This just sounds like a great time for the girls. They look so happy in their picture! I am going to check and see if there is another one planned next March.

Diane said...

Wow. It breaks my heart to hear about adoptive families who turn away from the first family. I can only imagine the complexity of it all...the fear...but I just couldn't do it. I pray that their change of mind was not too late. Thanks for sharing.

Spring said...

Thanks for sharing this, Malinda. I've always wondered about the place where my 2nd daughter was found and I suspect there is some kind of a similar story there as well.

Louanne said...

That sounds like it was great.

Lela said...

Well I recognize your girls, but I think I missed getting to talk to you at the OCDF event!

I sent my husband to all the meetings and kept asking him if there was anyone in there who mentioned a stint living in China. I thought you might be in attendance. I stayed with our other kids and broke fingernails off getting those awesome lanterns put together.

The kids did have a really good time together -- they were so fun to watch!