Wednesday, March 31, 2010

See anyone you know?

Take a look at these photos for Angry Asian Man's census photo contest -- you may see someone familiar! And then get your census photo emailed before the end of the day tomorrow, April 1, to be included in the contest.

China as Champion of Gender Equality?

That's the premise of an article in the Asian Journal of Comparative Law, Changing Mindsets: How China's Abnormal Sex Ratio Is Turning Its Government into a Champion of Gender Equality. Here's the abstract:

A combination of factors has led to an increasing imbalance in the sex ratio of China's population. China's sex ratio at birth is 119 boys per 100 girls, far above the global norm of 106. This paper will focus on the abnormal sex ratio as a consequence of traditional Chinese gender attitudes holding women inferior and subordinate to men, which have been brought to the fore by a combination of fertility decline and technological advancement. Accordingly, any solution to the demographic problem must address these prevalent, entrenched mind-sets. The government appears to realise that existing laws prohibiting sex-selective abortion and infanticide will fail to correct the sex ratio. This paper examines the trend in government responses towards efforts to address traditional gender attitudes and argues that the demographic crisis may have turned the Chinese government into an unlikely champion of gender equality.

An Illusion of Citizenship

Another person adopted internationally is being deported under immigration laws that make virtually mandatory the deportation of non-citizens who have committed crimes, according to an article in the Tacoma News Tribune:
Tara Ammons Cohen doesn’t speak Spanish.

She hasn’t lived in Mexico since she was 5 months old.

For nearly all her 37 years, she thought she was a U.S. citizen.

Turns out she was wrong, and now she faces deportation to her native country, where she knows no one, doesn’t speak the language and fears for her life.

“I’ve been an American all my life,” Cohen, a mother of three, said recently in an interview at the federal Northwest Detention Center on Tacoma’s Tideflats. She has been there since July 2009.

Cohen faces two big problems in trying to stay in the United States.

Under federal law, she is not a U.S. citizen and never was because her American parents didn’t take care of paperwork to make her a citizen when they adopted her as an infant.

And though Cohen is not a citizen, she is a felon – and that set up her deportation with no chance of returning to the United States.
Ah, my two worlds collide -- adoption and criminal law! Interestingly, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down an opinion today relevant to deportation of non-citizen defendants. The court held that it is ineffective assistance of counsel for a criminal defense attorney to fail to advise a non-citizen client about potential deportation consequences of a criminal conviction. In this case, the attorney did more than FAIL to advise -- he erroneously told his client that he "did not have to worry about immigration status since he had been in the country so long." Sheesh.

These international adoption cases are not simply a particular individuals's personal tragedy, or just public policy issues about the fairness of visiting the sins of the adoptive parents on the adopted person. They are a reminder for criminal law practitioners that defense counsel may need to ask their clients more probing questions than simply, "Are you a citizen?" And if you ask, "Were you born in the U.S.," an answer of "No, but I was adopted as an infant," means you better ask more questions.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Daily Mail Baby:" A Vietnam Airlift Story

Above are then-and-now photos of 3 babies airlifted from Saigon to the UK at the end of the Vietnam War. In the middle is Viktoria Cowley who writes in the BBC News Magazine about tracking down other children on that flight and her return to Vietnam:

Thirty-five years ago next month I was plucked from an orphanage in Vietnam and flown 6,300 miles from my birthplace to a foreign country at the behest of a British newspaper.

After years of war, the capital of South Vietnam, Saigon, was teetering as the communist North Vietnamese army closed in.

A mass exodus was under way as thousands feared violent repercussions by the invading troops, and among those helping with the evacuation was Britain's Daily Mail newspaper.

I was one of the 99 babies brought over to the UK on a plane chartered by the Mail - and within 12 months I was living with my newly adoptive family in Eastbourne, East Sussex.

My new family never kept my past a secret and I had been happy with my life as it was. But for years I toyed with the idea of starting a journey into my past. I always knew that searching for information about my history would be a difficult and probably fruitless task.

I didn't know how to go about it so it just seemed easier to ignore it and get on with life. About a year ago, I threw myself into finding and meeting others who had been on the flight to Britain.
Click to read the whole thing -- including reunions with other Daily Mail babies and her visit to Vietnam. And check out the side bar titled, "A Publicity Stunt?" If you're in the U.K., you can watch a video about the "Airmail Orphan."

Rightful "Claims" on Adopted Kids

At Creating a Family, Dawn Davenport has a compassionate and forthright response to a query from an adoptive parent worried about attempts by their recently adopted son's Korean foster parents to contact them:
While you are 100% your son’s real honest-to-goodness parents and will be for life, he also has two other sets of parents—birth and foster. This is both confusing and sometimes hard for us adoptive parents to accept. Even if we accept it on the intellectual level, it’s another matter entirely to accept on the emotional level.

I sense an underlying concern in your question of the foster family’s attachment or “claim” on your son. While I completely understand how that can be unsettling, especially during the time you are trying to establish this sense of attachment and claim yourself, I do want to gently suggest that they indeed are, and have every right to be, attached to your son, and they do have a claim to him. That’s the nature of love. It is this very love that they felt for him that has given him such a healthy start in life and laid the foundation that your love will build on. Who would your son be if he wasn’t so thoroughly loved and claimed by his foster parents? It is possible to foster a child just for the money without forming that sense of attachment, but it
isn’t best for the child. Your son and you are blessed that this family chose the harder route of falling in love even though he wasn’t going to be theirs forever.

* * *

It is worth examining your feelings about his foster family because in addition to a foster family, your son has a first family, and many of the same feelings you have about his foster family are likely intensified in your feeling about his birth family. Working through your discomfort with the foster family’s love for your son and the “rights” they feel towards him will help pave the way for greater comfort towards his first family and acceptance of their “claim” on him and on his possible desire to have a relationship with them when he is older.
The whole thing is a must-read, including the suggestion that some of what is bothering the adoptive parents (naked baby pictures taken by the foster parents) may be merely cultural differences.

More on the Census

Ive already posted some links to issues surrounding the 2010 census, in particular the adoption and race questions. Here are a few more:

AngryAsianMan is hosting a contest -- chance to win a tshirt by sending in a photo of yourself/family holding your census (or if you've already sent yours in, holding a sign that says "I count!"). The contest is really just a fun way to encourage Asian Americans to send in their census forms.

Also from AngryAsianMan, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) has complained to the U.S. Census Bureau about continuing problems in the Bureau's programs and outreach to Asian Americans.

The 2010 Census: Don't Put Me in a Big White Box, from NPR, the difficulty of being multiracial and having to choose which box to check.

Census Sensibility from Mama C and the Boys: "I shared my enthusiasm with my students about my first opportunity to fill this out as a mother, and how important it felt to me that I was recording my multiracial family accurately on the form."

From Adoption Mosaic, Adoption on the Census:

I know many people in the adoption world are upset about this singling-out of adopted children, for a variety of valid and understandable reasons. The issues range from parents, who have both adopted and birth children, feeling they are being asked to unfairly differentiate between their children, to people who feel the profiling amounts to “othering” – singling-out adoptees as exceptions to the norm, to feelings that the question is personal, and frankly, none of the government’s business. (I am simplifying these positions for the purpose of brevity, but welcome comments that explore them further)

Although I respect and understand these viewpoints, I see it a little differently. It doesn’t bother me when adoptive families are shown to be different. It bothers me much more when they are viewed to be the same.

* * *

As a transracial adoptee, with a brother who was born to my parents, I imagine how I would have felt as a child, or teen, had I found out that my parents chose not to complete a (mandatory) survey because they didn’t want to state that I was adopted and he was not. I think it would have been completely confusing to me, and would have caused me to ask the question “What’s so bad about being adopted?”
In Mean(ish) Girls and the Census (those are actually two unrelated topics under one heading!), the complications of filling out the census with a Caucasian mom, a Taiwanese dad, a mixed-race biological child, and a mainland-Chinese adopted daughter.

Jenna from the Chronicles of Munchkin Land reprises her blog post on the census at The comments there are very interesting. Here's what I said in response to comments claiming that in the absence of open adoption records (which I support) census data would not help adopted persons:

I think gathering the statistics, as imperfect as they are, is helpful to adopted persons as a group. No, no individual adopted person will be helped in terms of geneology or birth parent search and reunion.

But in the way it helps a school district to know when to build an elementary school depending on the number of children reported on the census for a particular area, that group information about adoptees is helpful.

Consider the schools example for a moment -- when universities and teacher colleges see how many adopted children are reaching school age, they can see the importance of training teachers and counselors about adoption issues. Counseling anyone? Given that adopted persons have more mental health needs than non-adopted persons, knowing how many adopted persons there are tell us how many adoption-trained therapists would be needed.

Yes, this is the way census data is used -- it isn't about any particular individual, it's about groups and trends and predictions about the allocation of resources.

If we "hide" how many adopted persons there are in the United States, how do you think it will benefit adopted persons?
Queer the Census, decrying that the census is not explicitly counting gay and lesbian individuals or families headed by gay or lesbian parents: "The data collected impacts issues critical to every American – like our health care, our economic stability, and even our safety. And when LGBT people aren't counted, then we also don't count when it comes to services, resources ... you name it."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Chinese School Easter Egg Hunt

Not much Chinese-y about it, but Saturday's Chinese School ended in group pictures, an Easter egg hunt, and a small party with snacks, musical chairs and a chopsticks contest for the adults. Still, we find value in everything at Chinese School, whether it is language learning, cultural exposure, or the rare experience of being in the majority.

Re: Special Needs Adoption From China

From the Lawrence Journal-World, Most adoptions from China now special needs cases:
Starting in the early 1990s, and as recently as a few years ago, the large majority of Chinese children adopted by foreigners were healthy baby girls abandoned by their parents, often because of a preference for a son in a country rigidly enforcing a one-child policy.

Between 1995 and 2005, Americans adopted more than 60,000 children from China. The peak was 7,903 in 2005.

Circumstances have changed dramatically since then. China has eased its one-child policy, fewer baby girls are abandoned, domestic adoptions of healthy orphans have increased, and the waiting time for foreigners to adopt a healthy infant has tripled to roughly four years.

As a result, U.S. adoptions from China have plummeted more than 60 percent, to 3,001 last year. And of the children now adopted, roughly three of every five have special medical needs.

One contributing factor is China’s rate of birth defects, which a government family planning commission said increased by nearly 50 percent between 2001-2006.

Amy Eldridge of the Oklahoma-based Love Without Boundaries Foundation, which oversees several programs to aid Chinese orphans, says many children with birth defects — boys as well as girls — are abandoned, and they now comprise a majority of the orphan population.

“Some parents feel the child will bring bad luck to their family,” said Eldridge, who has traveled often to China. “And we’re seeing many poor families abandon children
with medical needs in hopes they will get care.”
I think the quote from Amy Eldridge is the first I've seen that says that a majority of China's orphan population is now children with special needs. I've seen figures that say that a majority of the children adopted are now special needs, but that's not quite the same. I think some prospective adoptive parents are still under the impression that there are tons of healthy infant girls in China's orphanages, and that China is simply giving preference to special needs adoption. Thinking that way, they live in hope that non-special-needs adoption from China will magically speed up once China decides to make it so.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Adopting NORTH Korean Orphans?

Keeping in mind that international adoption from Korea means from SOUTH Korea, consider this article from the Korea Herald:
A U.S. congressman introduced a bill Friday calling on his government to help American citizens adopt stateless and orphaned North Korean children adrift in other countries, according to Yonhap News.

Rep. Edward Royce (R-California) filed the bill, urging the U.S. government to "establish pilot programs that identify and provide for the immediate care of, and assist in the international adoption of, orphaned North Korean children living within South Korea" and surrounding countries, according to Young Kim, an aide to Royce.

Most North Korean refugees, fleeing poverty in the reclusive communist state, head to South Korea via neighboring China.

South Korea has received about 18,000 North Korean defectors since the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War. The U.S. has taken in nearly 100 North Korean refugees since the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004.
Stateless North Korean children in South Korea or other countries, even when unaccompanied by parents, are not necessarily orphans. Unaccompanied children are just that -- unaccompanied, not lacking a family. And establishing whether they are orphans or not would be extremely difficult, given lack of access to North Korea, where the children might well have parents and/or extended family. Trying to make them subjects of international adoption seems highly problematic.

And this sudden compassionate interest in North Korean orphans might come across as more sincere if we had taken in more than "nearly 100" North Korean refugees in the past 6 years. I'd bet if we brought more North Korean FAMILIES to the U.S., there would be fewer orphaned North Korean children living within South Korea. And if we "established pilot programs" to assist stateless North Korean FAMILIES in South Korea, not just North Korean orphans, there would also be fewer North Korean orphans. This bill looks more like a way to provide more children for Americans to adopt than some kind of compassionate outreach to North Korean refugees.

Chinese Cyber-Attacks on International Adoption Agency

From Global Times:

After months of online abuse culminating in an attack on its website last week, international adoption agency Children's Hope International (CHI), has reacted to critics who have labeled the agency a "human trafficking organization."

The claims, most of which were posted on the Chinese discussion forum, center on allegations that the "revenue" generated by international adoption of Chinese orphans is so high that prospective Chinese parents are being forced "out of the market." The critics say this forces prospective Chinese parents to look for alternative methods to find babies for adoption.

* * *

According to [founder Melody] Zhang, the criticism is not based on reality, but is in fact a hate campaign, launched in response to her organization's role in trying to save an infant's life last month.

At that time, according to reports published on, a disabled baby which had been left for dead at a hospice in Tianjin, had been "kidnapped" and brought to Beijing, "for the safety of the child," by a worker at the hospice. Zhang became involved when she requested that the baby be saved, much to the chagrin of the baby's parents, who preferred the baby be left to die rather than "suffer a life of pain and hardship," according to the baby's father.

* * *

Regarding criticism that catering to foreigners makes domestic adoptions harder for Chinese nationals, Zhang was most vocal. "I think it's the other way round, that helping foreigners adopt Chinese babies brings more and more awareness to orphans and adoption issues in China." "Chinese people see foreigners adopt Chinese babies and decide to find out more about it. When they do, many then decide to adopt for themselves, which is the best thing for everyone. Children's Hope China supports domestic adoptions 100 percent. It's what we want to see the most," she added.

Is International Adoption Dying?

That's the question Karen Maunu asks at the LWB Community blog after attending the recent Joint Council on International Children's Services (JCICS) conference on international adoption:

One of the more sobering things about attending the conference, however, was hearing how many adoption agencies have had to shut their doors due to a decrease in international adoption. Membership in JCICS has dropped by over 60 members this year and over the past three years, international adoption has dropped by half the number of children. Tom DiFilipo, President & Chief Executive Officer of JCICS, cautioned that within five years, international adoptions could drop below 5,000 children a year and there may be only be five international adoption agencies left. Some very large organizations are actually completely against international adoption.
What are you feeling about the decrease in international adoption?

Well, what's your answer? For me, I'm perfectly OK with international adoption as we know it ending. The first priority should be family preservation, including placements with extended family members whenever possible. When that isn't possible, countries should look to domestic adoption BEFORE any international placements are allowed. It's so much better for children to be placed within their own country, minimizing the losses associated with adoption. With domestic placements, children remain within their culture, maintain their language, and are unlikely to deal with a transracial placement. Children within their birth country are also more likely to be able to maintain relationships with birth family. Only as a last resort should countries turn to international adoption.

Do I think that that ideal will be reached in my lifetime? Somehow I doubt it. . . .

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Asian American Women & Online Dating

From Asian Pacific Americans for Progress, a great blog post, Asian American women and the reality of online dating:
During the past few months, several friends have started dating someone they met online. Sure, they’ve experienced some excruciating false-starts with people they weren’t that into, but they eventually found someone with similar interests (you’re a vegetarian, dog-loving Democrat addicted to Law and Order? Me, too!).

But for Asian American women, online dating can prove more frustrating than fruitful. Sites offer a smorgasbord for men suffering from “yellow fever” and surfing for a cure. All they need do is check “Asian” as their preference and up pop thousands of profiles. But where does that leave Asian American women?

* * *

According to an OCMetro article, a UC Irvine study found Internet dating tends to reflect racial stereotypes, with white men preferring Asian or Latino women and white women preferring African American and Latino men. Cynthia Feliciano, researcher and assistant professor of sociology and Chicano/Latino studies, says negative portrayals of African-American women and Asian men on television and in other media could contribute to those preferences. She goes on to explain that “stereotypical images of masculinity and femininity shape dating choices and continue to be perpetuated in the mass media.”

A friend who is a Korean adoptee admits she’s apprehensive about online dating after her initial experiences. Many men were disappointed to learn she grew up with
Caucasian parents (not “exotic” enough). A couple of guys spent entire phone conversations enumerating the other Asians they’d dated. “I felt like I was part of a collection they had,” she later told me.

I can only imagine the similar experiences confronting Asian American women attempting to navigate the already stressful online dating scene. The thought of the annoying guy in the bar who wants to tell me all about his love for Asian culture being multiplied an infinite number of times in Cyberspace makes me cringe.
I've posted before about this issue, about the need for my daughters to learn to recognize Asian Fetish Man. I thought it was interesting in this blog post that an Asian adoptee might not be "exotic enough" for Asian Fetish Man. Of course, at the first approach, he won't know she's a transracial adoptee. . . .

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ethiopia Revokes Licenses of 9 Orphanages

Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform (PEAR) is reporting that Ethiopia has revoked licenses of 9 charities running orphanages there. In Ethiopia, most adoption agencies run orphanages from which they adopt children. The PEAR post quotes from a subscription-only article:

Ethiopia revoked the license of nine orphanages (charity organizations) who they claim to be involved in "illegal" activities of child rights abuse, APA learns here on Wednesday.

The nine charity organizations have been working to adopt children for the past few years to Europe and America.

However, the office, which is in charge of registering charity organizations at the Ethiopian Ministry of Justice refused to give details as to what kind of illegal activities the organizations were involved with regards to child rights abuse.

PEAR says it is trying to identify the orphanages/adoption agencies. I wonder if there is a link between this story and a previous report from PEAR that the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia has notified adoption service providers that they will be taking additional time with visa clearances for children from the Gelgela orphanage because of the need for "significant additional review of each case and field investigations" because of "recent serious allegations and news reports involving Ethiopian adoptions." Click above if you want to see a list of agencies placing through that orphanage. Perhaps not surprisingly, Christian World Adoption, the subject of investigations about unethical practices in Ethiopia like "harvesting" and child buying, is on that list.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Roll Call!

We haven't done this for a while, so I thought I'd call for a show of hands. Whether you're a new reader, or have been hanging around for a while, tell us about yourself. Where are you? Where does your interest in adoption, if any, come from? What would you most like to read about here?

I'll be VERY disappointed if we don't get at least 50 comments on this one!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How Much Is Because of Adoption?

I've mentioned before that my dad has been in the hospital. Thank goodness, he came home on Monday, after 12 days in the hospital. He has COPD (emphysema & chronic bronchitis), and the hospitalization was because of his fragile lungs. It started out as a one-day-check-if-he-has-pneumonia visit, but ended up with a lung episode (which the doctors are still puzzled by) that lowered his oxygen levels to 54% (normally in the 90s), sent him to intensive care for several days and then back to a regular room for more days, then a lung infection impervious to antibiotics, and so a few more days. Naturally, we've all been worried, my girls most of all. They've asked frequently, "Is Grandpa going to die?" I have to tell them I don't know: "I can't promise you Grandpa won't die. But I can promise to tell you the truth. And the truth is that Grandpa's lungs are very sick, but the doctors say he is getting better right now."

During all of this, the girls were so obviously upset. Maya decided to become a baby again, and at every hospital visit would curl up in my lap and say, "I'm puny. You have to hold me." Zoe cried at the drop of a hat, visible reason or not. And as the girls faced this potential loss, I was left wondering how much, if any, their reactions were influenced by their previous adoption losses.

It's always a little easier to figure out Zoe in this regard -- she is much more willing to talk about her feelings than Maya is. As she blogged, Zoe admitted that worrying about Grandpa raised feelings about the loss of her birth parents. There were many, many more mentions of her birth parents in the last two weeks than normally occurs. Maya, on the other hand, was determined NOT to think of her birth parents, it seems. Several times when Zoe would mention her birth parents, Maya would put her hands over her ears. But of course, working so hard NOT to think of something shows how much energy you are expending on the subject (DON'T think about that elephant in the middle of the living room!).

Perhaps there's no way of knowing how much feelings of loss and abandonment from adoption play into emotions arising from other potential losses. Perhaps it doesn't matter where the feelings are coming from. But this is certainly another way that parenting an adopted child is different -- we always have to wonder. . . .

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Three Views: Adoption & the U.S. Census

Here are three blog posts about how the U.S. Census asks questions about adoption, one from an adoptive mom and two from birth moms:

From an adoptive mom, The Census & Civil Disobedience: No Check Box for My Kidlet:

You see, I've just learned that the government decided to get curious about adoption during the 2000 census and as such, for each child listed, you must indicate whether this child is your biological child or your adopted child. Upon learning this a few nights ago, my first through 12th thoughts were, are they demented? to are they on crack? Why would any parent want to distinguish how his/her child joined the family? Aren't there enough traumas inherent in adoption as it stands as to avoid adding more insult to injury by looking to distinguish adopted from biological children.
From Jenna, a birth mom, the Census and Adoption:

I’m sorry. What? Separate check boxes for biological and adopted children? Really?
As a birth mother, I am offended not only for myself and my daughter’s mom but for my daughter. I’m offended for us all, everyone living within the world of adoption. I understand that the world, adoption included, has changed a lot since the last Census was conducted. But for pity’s sake, you’d think that the language and attitudes toward adoption back then would have made this differentiation even more deplorable. Why are adoptive parents forced to differentiate between their children?

From Claudia, a birth mom, Are Adoptees Really Different?

And I have to admit, that I want to say Yes.

How can they really be the same? While I know that all adoptees are not the same and it is not right to generalize and that all will have unique experiences and feelings regarding adoption depending on their own personal stories, their own internal makeup and where they are in life.. still, as a whole, it's NOT the same as being born into a family!

* * *

So aside from the fact that I LIKE that someone is FINIALLY is trying to keep some stats of adoption and I DO hope that the census information might possibly show our governments that adoptee legislation is important, I can't feel that indignation that they have NO right labeling adoptees as different than biological children.

I feel relief that they are seeing it; that the government is not pretending that they adoptees are the same. I can only hope that the rest of society can follow the lead and acknowledge that adoption comes with a whole set of things ( I don't want to call them issues because that sounds bad, so we'll just say things) that make adoption different.
So what's your viewpoint on adoption questions on the Census?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cambodia's Stolen Babies

From Reader's Digest Asia:
Law enforcement and human rights investigators say the adoption racket has operated for about a decade and is worth millions of dollars. Cambodian government figures show that, since 1995, around 2000 Cambodian infants have been adopted. Though no-one knows how many overseas adoptions were legitimate and how many involved buying and selling children, a 2003 report by the Dutch embassy in Bangkok concluded that child trafficking cases that have been exposed are ''the tip of the iceberg.''

* * *

The adoption racket is driven by wealthy Westerners eager to acquire cute Asian infants, by unscrupulous adoption agents and orphanages ready to supply them at a price and by corrupt government officials willing to approve fabricated documents for bribes. In Cambodia, many children categorised as orphans actually have living
parents, and almost anyone with sufficient cash can buy a child.

* * *

Adoption petitions and foreign visa applications routinely describe the children as abandoned, birth parents unknown. Yet in some cases they aren't abandoned and the birth family is known. Almost always a child's identity, birthplace and family background are falsified.

* * *

Amid mounting evidence that Cambodian babies were being trafficked, the United States suspended the processing of adoptions from Cambodia in December 2001.By 2005, several European countries, including France, the United Kingdom and the
Netherlands, had put a freeze on Cambodian adoptions.

It hasn't stopped the shameful traffic. In spring 2005, posing as would-be adopters, my wife and I visited half-a-dozen well-known orphanages around Phnom Penh. We discovered that it is still shockingly easy to buy a baby. Who we were, where we came from and whether we had proper paperwork were not an issue. Mostly we were asked, "Do you want a boy or a girl?"
Read the whole thing to hear personal stories from birth families. Amazing how similar the stories are from country to country to country . . . .

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Review of Wo Ai Ni Mommy

I posted a trailer to this documentary about an American family's adoption of an 8-year-old Chinese girl. It received a very positive review from 8Asians blog, which also reveals some more details about the film:

What is amazing is how quickly Faith becomes fluent in English and embraces her adoptive family while also sadly losing her ability to speak Mandarin and Cantonese, so much that the filmmaker’s Cantonese speaking friend is brought over during a visit when Faith speaks to her foster family in China via Skype. We discover that Faith has little opportunity to speak her native language, except for the weekends where she studies at a Chinese language school. This reminded me of my own youth, when I first spoke Mandarin as a baby and little kid, but quickly forgot the language when I entered elementary school (and attended Chinese school on the weekends until high school).

The film reveals a part of Faith who is sad to lose her Mandarin and Cantonese fluency as she becomes more fluent in English, because it makes her feel less “Chinese.” She also has a hard time understanding why a white American family would want to adopt a Chinese girl, subconsciously tackling the issues about race and identity as a Chinese American. I think many of Faith’s struggles are some of the same issues that all Asian Americans growing up in the U.S. have come had to
understand in varying degrees. I personally was surprised to find how much I could relate to Faith’s dilemmas brought up in this film even though I was not adopted.

* * *

But Wo Ai Ni [I love you] Mommy is more than a film about adoption; it is also an amazing story of love and family from both Faith and Donna’s point of view.

If you’re unable to catch the film at other screenings throughout the country, you can catch it on PBS this Fall, as the documentary has been picked up by POV: Documentaries with a point of view. Like others, I highly recommend this film and have become a fan on Facebook! Go see the film!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Structural Violence, Social Death & International Adoption

That's the title of a 4-part series by Jane Jeong Trenka, published in Conducive Chronicle, the blog of Conducive Magazine:
Although there may be up to 1 million Korean family members directly affected by international adoption, these family members are rarely heard from; the adoption program that presumably “saved” children from miserable lives in Korea and that now “saves” unwed mothers from raising their own children has also rendered them socially dead in the process. These social deaths, accomplished by dis-embedding children from their families, exiling them from their country, and changing their names, birthdates, hometowns, and social histories, have been facilitated by the “justice” ministry and the ministry of health, welfare and “family,” as well as the adoption agencies’ web of orphanages, unwed mother’s homes, and the Korean healthcare providers who pressure women into relinquishing children and who have the power to cover up the adoptions.

How sad is this in a culture where a woman was traditionally called not by her own name, but by the name of her child — not “Pil-rye” or “Anne” but “Joo-seob’s mom” or “Danny’s mom.” With the few exceptions of those of us who have returned to Korea, the international adoptees have literally disappeared from Korea, and it seems that the identities of our mothers are lost in a sea of shoddy paperwork and excuses about “mistranslation.”
Part 1 and Part 2 are already up, Part 3 just went up, and finally here's Part 4.

Race: Are We So Different?

I was pleased to see a new exhibit at the Institute of Texan Cultures, entitled Race: Are We So Different? The exhibit began with a short video explaining that race is a socially created category, and exploring the meaning of race at different times in American history. That socially constructed categorization of race was well-illustrated by the photo above, showing which words for race the U.S. Census has used over time. One of the most peculiar – the Asian woman on the far right, who would have had to answer Japanese in 1890, and Korean in 1970, and Asian in 1990.

Next was a microscope and an invitation to examine your skin, which was shown on a large screen.

Maya and I eventually put both our hands under the scope, and she declared our skin very different – but not in color! I have to say that old skin looks VERY different from young skin under that microscope! Yech!

The exhibit also talked about being hapa – of mixed racial heritage, especially mixed Asian heritage. There were index cards and instructions to share your experiences of being hapa. Zoe had to contribute a card:

Can you read it? She wrote: "My name is Zoe. I am half Chinese and half American. My mom is American and I am from China." Hmmm. Not quite the hapa they were talking about, but they won’t figure it out from her card. Though not racially hapa, one could make an argument that Zoe, and other transracial adoptees, are culturally hapa.

The most enjoyable part for the girls and the most interesting part for me were books and puppets in the center of the exhibit. Zoe picked a book to read:

Looks like one to add to our library!

Maya gravitated to the puppets. There were 6 – an Asian pair, an African-American pair, and a Hispanic pair. They each represented a different profession, and Maya picked the teacher, declaring she wants to be a teacher when she grows up. The teacher happened to be Asian – or maybe she picked the teacher because the puppet was Asian? I don’t know for sure, but it certainly wasn't the first time Maya said she wants to be a teacher.

Zoe was more interested in reading than in playing with puppets, so Maya asked me to play. I sat down, and she gave me an African-American police woman puppet. She then picked an African-American doctor and said he was married to the teacher. I picked an Asian-American chef, and said he was married to the police woman (very hetero-centric of us, huh?).

Zoe suddenly put down her book to join in our play. First she insisted that my African-American police woman needed to be matched with the African-American male puppet Maya was playing with. My puppets refused to cooperate, with the Asian chef saying in a very bad French accent, “Non, I will not leave her, I loooooove her,” accompanied by lots of kissy noises that cracked Maya up. Zoe then proceeded to match all the other puppets up according to race, and eventually did the same to my and Maya’s puppets. Then Zoe decided to match them by gender instead.

Maya let Zoe have her way, and then when Zoe picked up her book again, Maya went back to playing with her Asian teacher and her African-American husband. I reclaimed my couple as well. We played some more, and Zoe finished her book. Then Zoe said, “You don’t have to match to be a family.” Nothing in the book she was reading said that, so it was old lessons kicking in, I suppose. I agreed, and my romantic French chef kissed his African-American wife’s arm up to her shoulder, while Zoe giggled. Zoe said, “They should have a baby,” and picked one of the Hispanic puppets to be their baby. No, the kissing didn’t suggest traditional baby-making to Zoe – she told me they adopted the baby!

What an interesting exploration of race (and gender). We might have to invest in a set of puppets – I’d love to see the girls interact with them again. . . . I'm sure we'll have lots and lots of discussions of race inspired by this wonderful exhibit.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Chinese in Texas

As I mentioned in the previous post, the Institute of Texan Cultures had a corner dedicated to the contributions of Chinese people who settled in Texas. I learned quite a bit about the history of the Chinese in Texas. For example, the first known Chinese settlers came in 1870, 300 laborers brought to Calvert, Texas, to build a railway to Dallas. Many stayed in Texas after the completion of the railway, settling in small towns along the railway route. In the 1880s, another railway brought another influx of Chinese settlers -- when the Southern Pacific RailRoad reached El Paso, Chinese workers again settled in Texas.

The next sizeable influx came in 1917, via Mexico. American troops went into Mexico to capture or kill Pancho Villa, and a Chinese community befriended the American troops. They brought food and supplies to the Americans when no Mexicans, who were frightened of retaliation from Pancho Villa, would. In fact, Pancho Villa threatened to kill all "Chinos," because he was angry at them for supplying the Americans. When the Americans left Mexico, several hundred Chinese followed. They settled in San Antonio under the sponsorship of General John "Black Jack" Pershing. Interesting, yes?! I'd never heard about this bit of Texas history before.

As happened in most of the U.S., many Chinese settled in Texas after the Communist take-over in China in 1949. That was the last large influx of Chinese in Texas.

The girls were quite proud to see Chinese people represented in those who settled Texas. I'm interested to learn more about the Chinese families who came to Texas in such small numbers in those early days. It must have been quite a fascinating life.

The museum gift shop had several children's books with Chinese themes, and they also had lots of tiger stuff (Year of the Tiger this year) -- I wasn't surprised to see that they had had an Asian Festival in February!

Institute of Texan Cultures

Today we visited the Institute of Texan Cultures. No, the waffle above was not part of the exhibits, just part of breakfast at our hotel!

I remember visiting the Institute of Texan Cultures as a high schooler on some school trip to San Antonio (Future Teachers of America? Band? Newspaper? Some other geeky club I belonged to?!), and loving it. I also remember taking my nephew Aaron there sometime in the 90s and loving it. And I LOVED showing it to the girls, too!

The museum honors the contributions of the various groups who settled in Texas – American Indians and African-Americans and Germans and Hungarians and Belgians and Czechs and Chinese (more about that in another post) and Mexican and on and on. The girls especially enjoyed the sharecropper's cabin. . .

. . . and the cowboy campfire.

We also learned quite a bit about textiles in Texas – the girls got to pick seeds out of tufts of cotton, watch wool being carded and then spinning wheels making it into thread. We watched a woman weaving rugs, and two women quilting (I told them about 100 Good Wishes quilts, which they had never heard of. They were very interested to hear about a new quilt custom.)

The Institute is just as much fun as I remember it. I don’t remember if there was a Chinese section before – there might have been, and it just didn’t strike me as important! There was a new exhibit, called Race, and I’ll blog more about it later. If you are ever in San Antonio, I -- and Zoe and Maya -- highly recommend the Institute of Texan Cultures. Zoe says she especially liked that the museum talked about racism and immigration and languages and different cultures. Maya especially liked the exhibits that showed the clothes they used to wear.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring Break 2010 -- San Antonio!

It hasn't been the greatest spring break, with Grandpa in the hospital and Maya with bronchitis -- until today. Grandpa was moved from ICU to a regular room, and is expected to leave the hospital tomorrow or the next day. And Maya hasn't had a fever in two days. So our trip to Sea World in San Antonio began as planned! We drove down today, checked into our hotel which is only 2 miles from Sea World, and took the shuttle to the park late in the afternoon.
We only caught a couple of shows, and will head back for the full Sea World treatment tomorrow. We watched a 4-D movie, a pirate adventure, and discovered what the 4th dimension meant after the movie started -- when crabs crawled all over trapped pirates, something "crawled" over our ankles! When the bees buzzed, our seats vibrated. And anytime there was water sprayed in the movie, we got sprayed, too. The announcer warned that the experience might be "intense for small children," but it didn't bother Maya. Zoe, on the other hand, spent the entire film in my lap with her face buried in my neck!

The girls agree that the best show in the world was the sea lion show. And they are agreed that we just HAVE to see it again tomorrow. They are not, however, in agreement about whether to sit in the "splash zone." Maya wants to get wet, and Zoe doesn't. If I cast the tie-breaking vote, we will stay nice and dry . . . .

If you've been reading the blog for a while, you know I stay pretty focused on all-adoption, all the time -- except at spring break and other vacations. We'll return to our usual programming after we return from Sea World!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Parents of adopted children full of love

From China Daily, a Chinese defense of American adoptive parents in the wake of the horrific case of abuse of an adopted Chinese girl by her adoptive parents:
The crime has appalled both Chinese and Americans. The website of the Olympian, a newspaper based in Washington state, was left with plenty of messages condemning the couple and hailing the punishment. Some demand that the penalty be more severe.

Indignation at the couple was understandable. However, this was an isolated case and should by no means alter people's perception of those with children adopted from China.

I have known many of them over the years. In my mind, each of them deserves a medal, or at least a thank-you note, for helping change those children's lives. These children, mostly girls abandoned by their parents and some with special needs, such as a cleft palate, would otherwise grow up in orphanages had they not been adopted by the American parents.

"I want to thank you on behalf of 1.3 billion Chinese" were the words in my mouth when I first met those families in Minnesota 12 years ago.

Fly Away Home -- USA

Remember the CBS News story about Ethiopian adoptions via Christian World Adoption (CWA)? The 13-year-old girl, Journee, who said she was bought and sold? ABC Australia, which has reported on CWA and corruption in Ethiopian adoption before, has more from Journee and from other families who adopted through CWA. Click here for the YouTube video, and click here to read more of the story. You'll hear from CWA's lawyer in the video, and he was apparently so proud of his performance that he uploaded his entire interview with ABC here.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Five Years Ago . . .

Hard to imagine that 5 years ago today Zoe and I became a family of three with the addition of Maya to our family. We were happy beyond words; Maya was not. She said one word, "Mama?", as she was handed to me. She wasn't asking about me, she wanted to know where her foster mom was, the only mama she had ever known. She cried and screamed as I held her, saying, "It's OK to be sad, it's OK." Small comfort for losing the only family she'd known for the last 10 months of her 18-month life. So many changes for such a little girl -- 3 days with her birth parents, two months at Guiping SWI, six months at Mother's Love Orphanage, 10 months with her foster family, and now forever with us.

Back at our hotel, judicious applications of Gerber fruit puffs stopped the tears for longer and longer segments of time. She grieved, but she would come to me for comfort and more fruit puffs. One of Maya's most amazing qualities showed itself early -- the ability to INSIST on what she needed, no matter the barriers. She would put my arm around her to show me how to hold her. And that second day, she woke me up from her crib next to my bed by patting my cheek, and none too gently!

And here she is below, almost two years later, blowing kisses to the camera, a big girl of three, approaching our second anniversary as a family. That second anniversary was a very special one -- spent in China, and looking forward to going to see her foster family. Every time I look at this picture on the screen, I want to kiss that face! Don't be surprised if you see kiss-prints on my computer monitor one day. . . .

I love this black-and-white picture from her first Chinese Culture Camp in Tulsa, age 4. Her only interest in life was to PLAY PLAY PLAY! I was slightly despairing each day as I picked her up at pre-school to hear her teacher say, "Maya didn't feel like doing any work today." Sigh. But I knew what she'd feel like doing when we got home -- cuddling! My Maya is a world-class snuggler, and I can count on her to cuddle close and closer and closer. Whenever she shares my bed, I'm reminded of an old Groucho Marx routine, where a woman tells him, "Hold me closer, closer!" And he responds, "If I were any closer I'd be in back of you!"

And here she is at six years old, a happy-go-lucky girl, proudly sporting her school sweatshirt! She is LOVING kindergarten, and seems to grow into herself with each day as a truly big girl going to the same school as Zoe, not any pesky pre-school anymore! She loves doing the work. . . and still loves to PLAY PLAY PLAY!

Our family day is also Maya's half-birthday, so she is pleased to be OFFICIALLY six-and-a-half now! We had a quieter than usual family celebration today since Maya has bronchitis. We still managed a special breakfast at IHOP, Maya's choice. We also went to see the Three Little Pigs, a children's opera, with good friends. Maya was drooping after that, and we spent a quiet evening looking at Maya's travel scrapbook and telling stories of our first meeting, a day where she cried because she was sad, and I cried because I was happy.

Christian Science Monitor: 3 Adoption Articles, 1 Editorial

The Christian Science Monitor published three adoption articles Sunday -- all international adoption, at that -- and an editorial on the subject:
International Adoption: A Big Fix Brings Dramatic Decline:

When Silvia Sebac’s birth mother made the five-hour bus ride through the mountainous countryside to leave her at an orphanage in Guatemala City, the infant had every prospect of an international adoption – of captivating adoptive parents from the US or Europe.

That was four years ago, when the adoption business was booming and people from rich countries were traveling the globe from China and South Korea to Russia and Ethiopia to find a child to complete their families. At the time Silvia arrived in Guatemala City, her country was giving up nearly 5,000 children annually – 1 in every 100 births.

Adoption was an estimated $100 million industry that attracted thousands of international families willing to pay more than $30,000 to lawyers and agencies and to the capital city’s towering hotels that dedicated entire floors to adoptive parents, catering to their every diaper and baby cream need.

But by the time her two-year wait to be declared legally abandoned was up, dark-eyed Silvia had no takers. Intercountry adoptions had begun to plummet.

An International Adoption Story: Hannah, From Russia:
In 1999, Monitor readers met Hannah, a 3-year-old Russian girl adopted by American parents. A Monitor team – Marjorie Kehe and Melanie Stetson Freeman – chronicled Hannah’s journey from a stark orphanage near Moscow to a new life in Massachusetts. In 2003, they updated her story, finding the 6-year-old negotiating the traumas of adjustment as a “giver” and “a ray of sunshine.” They return now to see the 13-year-old Hannah.
International Adoption Delayed for a Haitian Orphan:
Pierre Payen, Haiti --Chris and Leslie Rollings knew, when they took tiny 15-day-old Olivia home from Heartline Ministries orphanage in January 2008, that it could take years to be legally recognized as her adoptive parents. Having run a non-governmental agency for several years already in this rural seaside village, Mr. Rollings was familiar with navigating the Haitian bureaucracy.

The Canadian couple vowed to go the course without offering the traditional palm-greasing “incentives” key to speeding any official process. They also vowed not to go on a vacation abroad until Olivia had the documents to come too.

It has been two years, and they’re still waiting to take that vacation.

And it promises to be even longer because of the effects of the earthquake that rumbled through this poor nation Jan. 12.

Olivia – a bouncy 2-year-old with a penchant for the sweet bananas growing in her yard – doesn’t seem to be lacking anything, except the Haitian government’s approval of her adoption.
The Monitor's View: Adapting to Foreign Adoptions:
The plight of orphans after a tragedy in a poor nation can evoke an ardent desire in people from rich countries to give them a home. Yet the arrest in Haiti of a group of Americans trying to whisk 33 orphans out of that country just days after the Jan. 12 earthquake shows how that desire to adopt requires safe and legal channels.

A need for safeguards became obvious soon after intercountry adoption became popular six decades ago, when Henry and Bertha Holt started a flow of orphans from war-torn Korea to the United States. Steadily over the years, rules have been put in place, most notably with the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. Simply confirming that a child is orphaned or abandoned, for example, can’t be left to those with a stake in an adoption. And the process needs to be free of profitmaking influence.

Still, that 1993 treaty is accepted by fewer than half of the world’s countries. Fortunately the US – which is by far the largest recipient of foreign adoptees – joined the pact in 2008. This dominant role forces it to accept extra responsibility to
enforce the rules – as it recently did after eyeing shady adoptions in Vietnam.

That’s why the State Department needs to have its adoption-watchdog abilities beefed up. A bill in Congress would do just that.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sherrie Eldridge: Last Installment

It's been just over a week since the Sherrie Eldridge presentation I attended, and I still have this last installment. The second half of Eldridge's presentation was based on her new book, Twenty Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed. It was definitely an adoptive-parent focused look at adoption.

First, Eldridge talked about APs needing to embrace their unique role. She said that APs needed to settle the "real" parent question by accepting that WE are the real parents. Accepting anything less is "falling for the idea that you are second best." She even argued that APs can call themselves "biological" parents since parenting has an actual effect on the brain that changes its physical structure.

The biological argument struck me as a bit desperate -- why, if we are "real" parents, do we have to try to find a biological connection? Aren't we, by doing so, conceding that nonbiological connections are second best?! And while I agree that adoptive parents are "real" parents, I think the was to settle the real parent question is to accept that our children have multiple "real" parents. Embracing our unique role, it seems to me, includes conceding that others also have a unique role for our children. I'm a real parent, but so are Zoe's and Maya's birth parents.

Second, Eldridge talked about the importance of keeping up with current research about adoption effects and parenting. She recommended especially Parenting From the Inside Out.

Third, she talked of the importance of honoring our children's birth parents. Shame, she says, comes from APs' silence about birth parents. Even if we think our children's birth parents aren't terrific people (she mentioned drug or alcohol problems, child abuse, etc.), we need to be positive about them. If there is little else to honor about them, we need to honor their role as giving our children life. Eldridge also said that APs worry needlessly about our children's feelings for their birth parents, that for adoptees it isn't competitive at all. Wanting to know birth parents doesn't make adoptees love their adoptive parents any less.

Fourth, Eldridge spoke about how important it is for adoptive parents to enlarge their vision and look at the big picture of adoption. We need to stop being defensive about critiques of adoption, and we need to accept that adoption as an issue isn't over once you get your child.

Fifth, Eldridge painted a landscape of adoption in different phases, as if in an airplane flying through that adoption landscape:

  • Clouds = Euphoria of first getting your child
  • Turbulance = Anxiety
  • Canyons/Valleys = Grief, yours and your child's
  • Deserts = Loneliness, so it is important to build AP networks
  • Streams = Encouragement from those networks
  • Mountaintops = Wisdom - and faith isn't enough, need skills
  • Oceans = Joy, when your child accomplishes things you never thought possible

Sixth, Eldridge talked about the "sweet spot" of parenting success, adoption style. One of the really interesting points she made was that successful parenting isn't (or shouldn't be) outcome-based. If your child slides his hand through the gap in the prison bars to hold yours and say, "I love you," you're a successful parent. She said it is important for adoptive parents to remember that their children do love them, even if they can't say it. She also said that APs meed to remember that God loves them and meant them to be parents. Their child's adoption is part of God's larger plan (you know how I feel about that!).

Finally, she spoke about "listening to your child's heart." Each chapter of her book has "letters from your child's heart" at different ages. She summed up some of them as follows:

  • Baby: "Hold me close until my body molds to yours. . . This is what I need."
  • School-age: "Speak truth about the hard stuff and be my warrior parent."
  • Teen: "Like the Marines, Semper Fi. That's you, Mom & Dad, always faithful."
  • Adult: "I will finally be able to say what was always in the deepest crevice of my heart -- I LOVE you."
Just a few words about the Q & A session -- one parent asked about how to talk about her soon-to-be child's birth parents in Ethiopia, since her understanding is that one would be dead and the other dying. Eldridge didn't really answer the question, I thought. She instead talked about corruption and trafficking in Ethiopia -- maybe not what the parent asking the question wanted to hear, but maybe what she needed to hear. Then Eldridge talked about speaking at a conference of Ethiopian adoptive parents and being very surprised to hear about all the financial support they were sending to birth parents in Ethiopia. She said she thought that was very wrong, that once relinquishing, the birth parents weren't entitled to anything from the adoptive family. I think the issue is more complex than that, and that international APs need to resolve how they will handle that side of reunion before they begin to search. But I wouldn't say it was wrong to provide financial support in all situations. My concern about payments is whether it will create an incentive to other parents to relinquish, not about any lack of "entitlement."

I'm glad I went to the Sherrie Eldridge presentation, though you can see I didn't wholeheartedly embrace everything she had to say. Even disagreement is a learning experience, and affords me the opportunity to think through my viewpoints. I hope more and more adoptive parents will open their minds to various viewpoints, accept what seems true to them, think carefully about what does not, and only reject those things that ring comepletely false to them. That openness makes us better parents to our kids.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Really, Really, Really Sad About My Birth Parents

Everyday it seems I just really, really, really, really, really, really miss or want my birth parents. What about you?

Sometimes I just think about them, but sometimes something happens to make me think about them more. My grandpa is in the hospital right now, and I'm really worried he'll die, even though Mama says he's getting better. I'm really, really, really, really afraid of losing him, and it makes me think of losing my birth parents. That makes me feel really, really, really sad.

I think the only thing that would make me feel better when I'm worried and sad about my birth parents is seeing them and making sure they are OK.

What makes you feel better when you are really, really, really, really, really sad?

-- Zoe

Adoption News Links

Some interesting news articles I've run across:

The DNA Way to Valid Adoptions: "DNA technology exists to confirm that a supposed orphan doesn't actually belong to a mother looking for her lost child. The technology is affordable and reliable, and if implemented properly, it could enhance our confidence in international adoptions just as it has in missing-persons cases and criminal prosecutions within our own country."

Couple on Probation in Samoan Adoption [Fraud] Case Adopt a Child:
A judge has granted a couple behind an international adoption scandal involving the placement of Samoan children with U.S. families leave to adopt a 5-year-old girl from China.

Scott and Karen Banks are on probation for several misdemeanors. But 1st District Judge Thomas Willmore ruled it is in the girl's best interest to be adopted by the couple, who have cared for her over the past four years, according to court documents.
Transracial Adoption Has Its Challenges:

Jinoo Muther is 19, an age marked for most by the first wobbly steps into adulthood and the search for identity that comes with them.

But for Muther, who buses tables at a Lebanese restaurant and takes hip-hop dance
lessons, that search is complicated by the fact that he was transracially adopted and, as adolescence comes to an end, he finds himself wanting to reconnect with his Korean roots.
Win a Raffle, Become a Parent: You have to read it to believe it.

Haiti Judge: New Charge for U.S. Missionary Leader: "Judge Bernard Saint-Vil says Laura Silsby has been charged for a newly discovered, alleged attempt to bus child earthquake survivors to the Dominican Republic on Jan. 26."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Another Free Webinar: Parenting Children from "Hard Places"

From Adoption Learning Partners and Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a FREE webinar entitled, Parenting Children From Haiti and Other "Hard Places." The webinar will be March 25, 2010, at 7:00 p.m. central time. Here's the description:

Dr. Karyn Purvis will spend one hour answering parents' questions on parenting their children from Haiti, and other "hard places" (which she will define). Feel free to ask questions about attachment, sleep issues, behavior challenges, family dynamics, or any other challenge you are facing.

* * *

Dr. Purvis is co-author of the book "The Connected Child," and the Director of the Institute of Child Development at TCU. Her focus is on research based interventions for vulnerable children. She travels extensively, providing training and consultation for families and professionals working with at risk children.

Click here to register.

And remember that there's another free webinar on March 17 on parenting adopted adolescents -- click here for more information.

"Do foreigners know how to hold my baby?"

I missed one piece in the Economist's Gendercide issue -- a review of Xinran's newest book, Message From an Unknown Chinese Mother (which I blogged about here). I caught it because Osolomama wrote about it in her post linking child abandonment and the high rate of suicide by women in China. I've long known of the high rate of women committing suicide in China, but I'd long forgotten how high -- 500 women a day commit suicide in China according to this source, also provided by Osolomama. Completely shocking. Thanks for sharing that link, Osolomama.

But for me, the most emotional line in the book review comes in a paragraph updating us on the peasant family in Shandong, where Xinran witnessed a newborn baby girl killed because she was a girl:
Two years later, the young couple pays Xinran a visit. They, along with the rest of the young people, have left their village to look for work in cities. The mother says she had two more daughters but her father-in-law gave them away to foreigners for adoption. “Have you seen any foreigners?” she asks Xinran, fearfully. “Do you think the foreigners know how to hold my baby?”
Doesn't that starkly illustrate a birthmother's pain? I want to reassure this mother, and Zoe's and Maya's birthmothers -- Yes, I know how to hold your baby, held tight, lovingly, close to my heart. For always. Because they are my babies, too.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

From the Economist: Gendercide

The Economist has a couple of interesting articles this month about Gendercide, about the war on girls:
IMAGINE you are one half of a young couple expecting your first child in a fast-growing, poor country. You are part of the new middle class; your income is rising; you want a small family. But traditional mores hold sway around you, most important in the preference for sons over daughters. Perhaps hard physical labour is still needed for the family to make its living. Perhaps only sons may inherit land. Perhaps a daughter is deemed to join another family on marriage and you want someone to care for you when you are old. Perhaps she needs a dowry.

Now imagine that you have had an ultrasound scan; it costs $12, but you can afford that. The scan says the unborn child is a girl. You yourself would prefer a boy; the rest of your family clamours for one. You would never dream of killing a baby daughter, as they do out in the villages. But an abortion seems different. What do you do?
Take a look, too, at this article, the Worldwide War on Baby Girls, which takes the issue beyond China, discussing India (of course!), Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Bosnia, and noting gender imbalance in births in Chinese-American and Japanese American families.

Interestingly, the article argues that China's one child policy isn't really the culprit -- even without it, and even beyond China, people are looking at having smaller families. That, together with ancient prejudice against girls and technologies like ultrasound to determine the sex of a fetus, is causing the skew in gender rations. It isn't poverty, either, since in Taiwan and Singapore we see the same skew. South Korea also had a serious gender skew in the 1990s, but the authors of this article say it has now normalizing, and credits change in culture: "Female education, anti-discrimination suits and equal-rights rulings made son preference seem old-fashioned and unnecessary. The forces of modernity first exacerbated prejudice—then overwhelmed it." But, the article notes, South Korea was rich, which allowed this pro-girl culture to flourish.

The article doesn't necessarily plow new ground in terms of facts, but the connections and arguments made are fascinating.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Why don't you just adopt?"

From Her.meneutics, the Christianity Today blog for women, a nuanced look at the question, "Why don't you just adopt?":
“Why don’t you just adopt?” Well-meaning people say this often to those who have used or are considering reproductive technology to conceive because of infertility or a troubling genetic history. The question implies that adoption is the simplest, most loving, and least selfish choice. Wouldn’t it be a better use of resources to adopt a child who needs parents rather than paying fertility clinics to help make a baby? If a couple really wants a child, should they really put their desire for a biological child over the needs of living, breathing children who could use a home?

These questions rely on what theologian and ethicist Paul Lauritzen has called the “myth of unwanted children.” Lauritzen, in Pursuing Parenthood, writes that “even to talk about ‘unwanted children’ may be misleading in situations where a woman is
relinquishing a child not because she is unwilling to care for her child, but because she is unable to do so. . . . To speak about ‘unwanted children’ is to fail to take seriously what is perhaps the most compelling reason women relinquish children, namely, poverty” (p. 126).

For every mother who weeps in relief as her child leaves for a better life, another mother weeps in anguish that she felt compelled to make such a choice. As Christians called to care for “the least of these,” we are also called to help create healthy societies where mothers aren’t forced to relinquish children because they are overwhelmed by poverty, violence, and chaos. Given that our Scriptures frequently remind us that our treasure is not to be found in wealth, we need to guard against believing that a well-off parent is by default better than a poor one.

Beyond these tricky dynamics of wealth and wanting are other reasons that adoption is far from a simple solution.
Read the whole thing, then let me know what you think.

Returning Home to China

PunditMom, who usually blogs here, appears in the Idaho Statesman talking about a return trip to China with her now-10-year-old daughter adopted from Hunan:

PunditGirl has confessed that one reason she's excited about this trip is the fact that for the first time in her life she will be surrounded by people who look like her. "Now you and Daddy will be the ones who look different," she's repeatedly told us, her chest puffing up with pride at the thought of a whole country full of people who share her skin tone and facial features. We've made many efforts to make sure that her world has Asian friends and families in it, but our neighborhood is not the most diverse in the world, so for better or worse, she sees many more Caucasian people than Asian.

Aside from her apparent joy at being the one who will not look different from everyone else, there's also a good dose of anxiety that's showing itself. "What if China Mom and China Dad show up and decide they want me back?" A question full of so many things - the longing for her birth parents to take back a decision they made ten years ago, the need to know that, as her parents, we would never allow anyone to take her from us, and the age-appropriate fantasy about what her life would be like if she had grown up in the country where she was born.

* * *

I'm anxious, too. As an adult, I'm logically able to understand the historical reasons that so many Chinese girls have been available for adoption. When I look at PunditGirl's face or watch her wake up in the morning all warm and snuggly from her sleep or watch her race across the soccer field determined not to let the boys outrun her, I can't imagine being the mother of any other child. But I know for her, no matter how much she nods and says she understands why China Mom and China Dad couldn't keep her, I also know that the thought remains in her head, "But maybe they could have if they'd tried a little bit harder. Maybe they would have kept me if I'd been a better baby."

I'm bracing myself for the possible emotional fallout of these thoughts colliding with the reality she sees in China. PunditGirl has struggled with questions about attachment and permanence - I'm not sure if this trip will help heal those issues or exacerbate them. But in my heart and my gut I think this is the right time to make this first journey to where she was born - to see the baby home and possibly to visit her "finding place" (I think I'm going to need more tissues than I can carry with me for that moment).
If you're interested, you can read about our return trip to Zoe's and Maya's hometown here (heading to Guiping), here (at Guiping SWI), here (finding places), here (seeing Maya's foster family), and here (arriving in Nanning).

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sherrie Eldridge: The Grief Box

One of the tools Sherrie Eldridge suggested to help children and parents deal with the complex emotions of adoption loss was a Grief Box. I like the tool, but would definitely modify it if using it with my kids. Eldridge incorporates Christian themes when using the box, and I think it can be done effectively without that. There's a similar exercise in Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child: Making Sense of the Past, without the religious content.

Eldridge explained the Grief Box in 8 steps:

1. Select a box.

Any box will do. It is representative of the adopted person's life, so a pretty one is nice.

2. Make a list of what you feel sad about from the past and present.

In making up the list with a child, Eldridge suggested providing candy, pipe cleaners, just things for them to fiddle with (wiki sticks would be my choice!) so that they can avoid that threatening eye contact and open up.

3. Find items that are representative of each loss.

Eldridge says the item can be large or small, and suggests the Dollar Store. I think a hobby shop would be another good source. In Eldridge's box she had a small figure of a baby, representing the hurt of knowing that her birth mother wanted to abort her; a bandaid, representing the head of records at her birth hospital who refuses to give her copies of her birth records; a lighthouse figure, representing the loss of her extended birth family who had a long history as lighthouse owners.

4. Tell Higher Power how you feel about each hurt.

She says be explicit and detailed about how each hurt feels. Say HATE if that's how you feel.

5. Ask Higher Power to forgive you and help you forgive others.

The purpose of the project for Eldridge is to move beyond the hurt, so this step of forgiving others who caused you pain is crucial for her. I think I wouldn't push this with my kids. I'd be concerned that trying to get them to forgive would be signaling that they should get over the hurt sooner than they are ready to. I can easily see coming back to the box over the years, adding and subtracting hurts, but I'm not sure that forgiveness will be part of it for us until the girls are much older, perhaps into adulthood.

6. Give thanks for each loss and ask how you might grow.

Again, I have a problem with this one for children.

7. Offer your box to Higher Power.

Rather than offering the box to a higher power, one can just put the box on a high closet shelf.

8. Expect a new perspective.

The new perspective, for Eldridge, comes from offering up the hurts to God and forgiving those who caused those hurts.

I think, with modifications for your own viewpoints and the maturity level of your child, such a project could be really effective to open the door to deeper conversation about adoption loss.