Monday, May 31, 2010

Maya's Poem: Feelings Come to Me

Feelings Come to Me

Sadness comes to me
because I couldn't stay forever

Loneliness comes to me
because I'm different & feel left out

Happiness comes to me
when I think of my forever family

Sadness & loneliness leave me
when I share with those I love

Zoe's Poem: Whole Heart

Grown in My Heart's new adoption carnival asks for original poems about adoption.  Here's Zoe's entry:

Whole Heart

There is a hole in my heart.
I can't fill it in.
My heart is full of love, family & friends.
But there is still a hole.
The hole inside my heart is sadness & worry.
My birth parents would fill in the hole.
If I knew, my heart would be whole.

White Mind

Thanks to Mama C who posted a link on facebook, here's an interesting take on white privilege in children's literature from children's book illustrator Anne Sibley O'Brien at Coloring Between the Lines:
So how can it be that in 2010, this is where we find ourselves:

*The percentage of published children’s books featuring characters of color is far smaller than - perhaps less than half - the percentage of people of color in the U.S. population, and the majority of these books are still created by white writers and illustrators.

*Many of the most popular book series, particularly in fantasy, have no significant characters of color at all.

*Cases of “whitewashing” book jackets, of editors requesting that an author erase a character’s ethnicity so that a book “can reach a larger audience,” of booksellers or librarians passing on certain titles because “our community doesn’t respond to those kinds of books,” suggest an assumption that white readers won’t respond to characters of color.

And so on.

I want to suggest a cause for the gap between our intention and the reality we’ve created: the patterns formed by white American socialization, which I’ll call White Mind.
Of course, the post is about more than children's books; that context, however, makes the concept of white privilege very accessible, I think.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Asian American Hero: Hazel Ying Lee

AAPI Heritage Month is coming to an end, so tonight the girls and I watched A Brief Flight, a documentary about Hazel Ying Lee and the WASPs.  In 1932, Lee was one of the first Chinese-American women to earn a pilot's license (Katherine Cheung is credited as the first).  When Japan invaded China, she went to China to volunteer with the Chinese Air Force, but was rejected because she was a woman.  She returned to the U.S., and in  1844 joined the WASPs.

It's not the world's greatest documentary, but it was an inspirational look at someone who defied the conventions of her time to do what she loved.  The girls thought it was interesting, and liked the fact that she "has a Chinese middle name just like us!"  They also liked the mention that Lee went to Chinese school, just like them.

Zoe says she's glad she watched it, but she would not recommend it to other kids because of the sad ending -- Hazel Lee was killed in a flying accident and 3 weeks later the family learns that her brother was killed in the war.  The saddest part, though, was that when their sister picked out a burial plot in Portland, Oregon, the cemetary refused to bury them because they were Chinese. They eventually allowed it after the family threatened to bring the War Department in on it, since they were refusing to bury true American heroes.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Kids Say the Darndest Things

A bit of frivolity for the weekend -- Art Linkletter, TV host of Kids Say the Darndest Things, passed away Wednesday at age 97.  In his honor, tell us in the comments the darndest thing your kid has ever said!

Friday, May 28, 2010

I Feel Your Pain -- But Only If We Are the Same Race

A new study out of Italy, reported by CNN, says:
Humans are hardwired to feel another person's pain. But they may feel less innate empathy if the other person's skin color doesn't match their own, a new study suggests.

* * *

In the study, which appears in the journal Current Biology, people of Italian and African descent watched short film clips that showed needles pricking black- and white-skinned hands. As they watched, researchers measured the participants' empathy (i.e., their nervous-system activity) by monitoring sensors attached to the same spot on their hands. They also tracked the participants' heart rates and sweat-gland activity, a common measure of emotional response.

"White observers reacted more to the pain of white than black models, and black observers reacted more to the pain of black than white models," says the lead researcher, Alessio Avenanti, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Bologna.

The researchers also showed clips of a needle pricking a hand painted bright purple. Both the Italian and African participants were more likely to empathize with this intentionally strange-looking hand than with the hand of another race, which implies that the earlier lack of empathy was due to skin color, not just difference. "This is quite important, because it suggests that humans tend to empathize by default unless prejudice is at play," says Avenanti.

The researchers gauged prejudice by testing the participants on how readily they associated good and bad concepts with Italians and Africans. The people who showed a strong preference for their own group in this test also tended to show the least empathy when the hand belonging to the other group was needled, the researchers found.

Hmm, what do you think the implications of this study are for transracial adoption?

Needy Parents?!

OK, I didn't get past the first paragraph of this article about international adoption:

Adopting a child especially through international adoption process is not an easy decision to take. Both the needy parents and the adoption agency have to look after various factors . . . .
I don't think the author intended sarcastic social commentary about the fact that adoption these days isn't so much about finding families for needy children, but is instead about finding children for needy parents. . . .

What's that saying?  Many a truth is said . . . by accident?!

Ten Facts. . .

. . . You May Not Know About Asian American History

Jen Feng of Reappropriate (a really terrific blog, btw) blogs at's Race in America, highlighting 10 important facts about Asians in America from the first documented Asians in America (Filipinos who settled near New Orleans in 1763) to the race-based murder of Vincent Chin in 1982.

How many of these points in Asian American history did you know?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Adoption-Competent Therapists

A great factsheet from Minnesota Adopt, Adoption-Competent Therapist Traits, introduced as follows:
The need for adoption-competent mental health services is critical to the ongoing wellbeing of adoptive families. Feedback from adoptive families reflects a struggle to meet the mental health needs of their children due to a failure of some mental health providers to understand the unique issues of adoption that are related to mental health. Health and behavioral health care providers need to have expertise related to adoption in the same way that a provider might specialize in substance abuse treatment or in a specific diagnosis such as autism.
The most important trait, I think, is the one listed first: "Knowing that adoption is a lifelong process that includes universal experiences as well as unique individual feelings and perceptions."  Dr. Gregory Keck's book, Parenting Adopted Adolescents, devotes chapter 9 to the therapist's role, and notes the need to keep adoption issues in perspective in therapy:

Some therapists dismiss or minimize adoption, convinced it is not a contributing factor to the presenting problem.  Others blame all of the child's difficulties on the fact that he was adopted.  As with most things, the truth of the matter lies somewhere between these two polarities.
I think that's another important trait -- that the therapist doesn't attribute all behavior to adoption, but who knows that adoption may affect a host of behaviors.

There are two other factsheets relating to psychotherapy & adoption -- Choosing an Adoption Therapist & Working With an Adoption Therapist.

Whether any of this information is relevant for where you and your children are right now, please hang onto it just in case.  Remember how many bemoaned the lack of post-adoption services when Artyom's mother returned him to Russia -- alone -- on an airplane?  I'm building my toolbox for the future right now! 

When is it too much?

I've been thinking about this for quite a while now -- we all know that it is perfectly normal for adopted kids to think about their birth parents.  They have a very natural curiosity about them, they may build elaborate fantasies around them. They need to incorporate their lives before us into their identies and lives now. Some of their thoughts of their birth parents involve the big WHY question -- why couldn't you keep me? They have to come to terms with this felt rejection as they develop self-esteem. All quite normal for adopted kids.  But is there ever a point when children think TOO MUCH about their birth parents? 

Two things have me thinking about this -- Zoe's note to her birth mother on Mother's Day where she says she thinks of her every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week. . . . and ends, "I can never stop thinking about you." Yes, that's surely an exaggeration, but feelings and thoughts of her birth mother were really triggered this Mother's Day, and it holds a kernal of truth, too.  And the second thing is this comment to another post: "My 7 1/2 yr old daughter is obsessed lately with her birthmother and the possibility of finding her. . . . Its amazing but is becoming dispruptive. Ive had to tell her lets put it on the shelf and we will bring it out at night and talk about it when I put you to bed."

So how to tell when normal thoughts of birth parents crosses a line?  In thinking about it, I've come up with three factors, which are really not independent, but quite related: frequency, intensity, & disruptiveness.

1.  Frequency

How often does the child think about her birth parents?  I'm not sure that's ever quantifiable -- the only thing we know is how often she talks about her birth parents (or how often her behavior cues us in to the fact that she's thinking about her birth parents).  I've found with my kids that it comes in peaks and valleys, with high frequency at some times, little interest at other times.  When the periods of high frequency last longer and longer, that might be a problem.

2.  Intensity

There's a difference between passing thoughts about birth parents, or pleasant thoughts of birth parents.  But when those thoughts bring on intense feelings of grief, that, too, is worrisome.  Of course, loss of birth family causes grief, but a growing intensity of grief might indicate a problem.  No one should expect an adoptee to "just get over" the grief, but when she's "stuck" there, and can't move forward, maybe it's time for extra attention to the issue.

3.  Disruptiveness

Disruptiveness of thoughts of birth parents is really the external manifestation of frequency and intensity of those thoughts, I think.  If the thoughts are disturbing relationships and play and learning and sleep, Houston, we have a problem!

So what do you do when/if you think your child is thinking TOO MUCH about birth parents?  You don't want to shut down the thoughts, you want to maintain open communication on the issues so you'll know what she's thinking rather than driving the thoughts underground.  I like the "lets put it on the shelf and talk about it at bedtime" approach, but it is a delicate balance . . . .

And at what point do you decide your child needs extra help -- talking to the school counselor, finding an adoption-qualified  therapist?

So is this all pretty funny coming from me, such a passionate advocate for talking openly with your children about hard issues in adoption?  I'm not calling for an end to the talking, just asking for insight on how to deal with the Genie who comes out of the bottle 5 times normal size! Please share your experiences, I really want to know.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Ah, the sandwich generation -- those of us parenting young children and helping elderly parents at the same time.  Since adoptive parents are older than average, it isn't any wonder that more of us are feeling sandwiched right now.  Usually it's a nice PB & J sandwich, plenty sweet even when it's a bit sticky.

You might have noticed that I'm off my blogging game -- fewer posts, and more posts that send you somewhere else instead of giving you something substantive to read here.  My excuse is being a bit sandwiched right now.  The kids are almost finished with school -- Maya finished last week, and Zoe just has 2 more half-days.  My classes are finished, but I'm trying to complete my grading -- 93 essay exams  -- which is challenging without the kids being in school.  An open-faced sandwich, maybe turkey drowning a bit in gravy.

And then to top off the sandwich, my dad is in the hospital.  He's doing fine physically -- he's in a long-term hospital facility for pulmonary rehab. As I've told the kids, he's no sicker than he was, he's just in the hospital to help him become stronger.  The problem is that he doesn't do as well mentally when he's in the hospital.  Like calling 911 to report he'd been kidnapped and held against his will.  Really.  When Maya and I visited him the morning after the 911 incident, Maya spent the rest of the day marveling at how grouchy her usually sweet Grandpa was.  I don't know what to call this sandwich -- maybe a wrap sandwich not quite tightly wrapped?! And I don't mean Grandpa -- I'm the one not quite tightly wrapped.  Sigh.

Anyway, stick around and I'll try to do better, maybe a hearty beefy sandwich in the next day or two!

Crash Course in Transracial Adoption

Great post by John Raible, offering a crash course in transracial adoption:

Here, free of charge, is a Crash Course for transracial adoptive parents. Think of it as your guide to getting the education that you will absolutely need in order to effectively and ethically raise an adopted child of color in the United States (and possibly in comparable white settler nations, such as Canada and Australia).

The unabashed assumption and unapologetic bias behind this Crash Course is that the best teachers of adoptive parents are adult transracial adoptees who have lived through the experiment, especially those adoptees who are also adoptive parents. The second best teachers are experienced transracial adoptive parents who, even though they may not be adoptees or people of color, nevertheless have figured out how to become conscious anti-racist advocates and allies.

Allies, you ask, in what struggles? In the joint struggles against racism and on behalf of adoption reform.
Really important stuff here, with a humorous approach.

Monday, May 24, 2010

U.S. Parents Duped by Indian Agency

From the Economic Times of India:
US-based Desiree and David Smolin were elated when they adopted two girls from Hyderabad. But their happiness was shortlived. Within weeks, the couple discovered that their two lovely daughters were not orphans, but victims of child trafficking.

That was 12 years ago. The Smolins now operate a website, in which they have catalogued international adoption injustices and offer advice to adopting parents, based on their own experience [the only website I know that the Smolins are involved in is Fleas Biting, which hasn't had a post since 2008 -- does anyone know of a more current website?].

The Smolins, who have five sons, adopted nine-year-old Bhagya and 11-year-old Manjula from Action for Social Development (ASD), a Hyderabad-based adoption agency, Nov 18, 1998.

"The girls were terribly depressed and one of them had suicidal tendencies," Desiree told IANS in an e-mail interview. The Smolins were saddened by the emotional state of the girls. Luckily, they got some information. The girls had told a friend at ASD about their past, which prompted the Smolins to probe further.

"When the girls finally began to open up after about six weeks, they told us that they were not orphans, but were stolen and sold to us. They were even threatened and forced to lie to the embassy official, who interviewed them," said Desiree, who still can't believe it after 12 years.
I met the Smolins in 2004, when they presented at a conference on international adoption that my law school hosted. He has written quite a bit about adoption corruption since that time. I've always remembered Desiree's presentation about language loss and acquisition -- she explained how children the age of her adopted children lost their original language at a rate greater than the acquisition of the new language such that they were incapable of even thinking, much less expressing, complex thoughts. How frustrating is that?!

Transracial Adoption & the Imperfect Parent

Interesting post from Jana Wolff, author of Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother, and a white adoptive parent of a son who is African-American and Latino, on how their attempts to incorporate culture failed to protect their son from racism :
When we adopted our son in 1991 — he is African American and Latino; we are white — there weren’t many images floating around (either in my mind or in the media) of transracial families. Neither were there many books on the subject of parenting a child of another race nor many agencies educating adoptive parents on the right way to go about it. (Little did we know, there isn’t a right way.)

In not knowing quite what to do, we did a lot: sought out friends of color; talked openly about race and racism; went with our son to culture camp; got books and artwork depicting different ethnicities; wrote letters to accomplished men of color for advice; read about racial identity and history; celebrated Kwanzaa; visited a Baptist church; even traded homes one summer with a family from a Black and Hispanic neighborhood in Oakland, CA.

There’s plenty we didn’t do, too: We didn’t move to a community that was racially mixed in the way our son is; our closest family friends were still white; our gung-ho efforts to pursue ethnic friends and experiences petered off as our son got older; and we chose to send him to a better school than the one that had more kids of color.

Our second-hand attempts to boost our son’s racial pride over the years have been outweighed and outnumbered by his first-hand experiences with prejudice. Big-impact opportunities he’s had — like meeting a group of Tuskegee Airmen and spending a day with Quincy Jones — are no armor for the small, daily daggers he’s encountered — like being stopped in ninth grade by a security guard at his own high school or being watched like a hawk at 7-Eleven.
For an eye-opening look at the teen-age years, check out her article, the Trouble With Troubled Teens.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


I've shared stories from Tai Dong Huai before (here, here, here, and here) -- she was adopted from China and writes great short pieces of fiction, some with adoption themes.  Here's another piece, Watch, I hope you'll like:
The story as I originally heard it from Zhou Lei, my Chinese teacher every Sunday afternoon at Temple B'nai Chaim, goes like this: a girl named Yan Yu is adopted into a white family and taken to a small town in Maine. Shortly after she leaves China, her birth mother, along with her brother, are killed in a factory fire. Yan Yu's birth father -- a man named Chao -- grieves, but he is not to be reconciled. He decides to search for his daughter.

In his village, Chao finds the right people, says the correct words, presents the appropriate gifts. He's told by an official at the orphanage where Yan Yu had once lived, that his daughter is in a place called "Crooked Bay," and gives her Western name: Molly Kutner. It takes years, and practically every yuan he can gather, but Chao is finally able to immigrate to the U.S. and gets a job as a waiter in a place called The Golden Panda, Crooked Bay's only Chinese-style restaurant.

And here's where he gets lucky. . . .
To read the rest, click here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Responding to John Seabrook

At the Transracial Korean Adoptee Nexus, there's a great conversation going on in the comments in reaction to John Seabrook's NPR interview about international adoption and his New Yorker piece about the same.  In response to the critique of his interview/article, Seabrook responds in the comments.  There are a series of really terrific replies to him by adult transracial adoptees.

Discount Babies

That's the title of a piece in the Economist about price sensitivity in adoption:
The market is not politically correct. It often assigns lower values to humans (their wages) based on their race or sex, even after controlling for education and experience. It's just as cruel to children. A few years ago I was disturbed to learn that it's cheaper to adopt black American children than white. I recently had lunch with NYU Stern School economist Allan Collard-Wexler, who has estimated adoption price sensitivity. He found just how much adoption fees are sensitive to the race and gender of a baby. It’s about $8,000 cheaper to adopt a black baby than a white or Hispanic child and girls tend to cost about $2,000 more than boys.
They're talking about that same study that came out last month about adoptive parents preferring non-black, girls. But it is interesting to hear the Economist's market take on it. 

International Surrogacy Replacing International Adoption

From RHRealityCheck, Human Rights and the Business of Reproduction: Surrogacy Replacing International Adoption from Guatemala:

Inter-country adoption has undergone radical decline and it is no longer the opportunity it once was for building families. In the US, the practice peaked in 2004 with 22,990 children sent to the nation as adoptees as compared to only 12,753 in 2009.

As adoption has become more difficult, the global surrogacy industry has begun to surge to meet the fertility demands of individuals and couples seeking to secure healthy infants.

A handful of adoption agencies and service providers with prior significant interests in Guatemala have been shifting to meet this need. For example, attorney Mark Reder of MLJ Adoptions based in Indianapolis boasts international surrogacy as a practice area of expertise, calling the activity “surrogacy arrangements.” Because Guatemala is recognized by the UN to have the greatest gender inequality in the Western hemisphere and the nation has no regulatory laws on surrogacy, “expertise” on such matters is more about the how to, where to, and with which vulnerable woman to contract the service. In the current environment, the information and service that will be offered will undoubtedly be tailored to meet the needs of those who have the privilege to pay for surrogacy. One has to wonder how information will be imparted to Guatemalan women who may well be illiterate and lack the legal savvy to truly understand the contracts they will be required to sign.

Podcast: International Adoption & Family Difference

Click here to listen to the podcast of Think: International Adoption & Family Difference, which I am proud to say comes from my local NPR station.  The program is described as follows:

What is the state of international adoption today? In light of recent controversies involving Russia and Haiti, we'll spend this hour with UTA Sociologist and adoption expert, Dr. Heather Jacobson. Her recent book on the subject is "Culture Keeping: White Mothers, International Adoption, and the Negotiation of Family Difference" (Vanderbilt University Press, 2008).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Birth Parents Demand Children's Return

From All-Africa News, a story out of Sierra Leone:
Aggrieved parents whose children were adopted by American-based Main Adoption Placement Services, MAPS, have demanded the immediate return of their children.

In a meeting with the minister of social welfare, gender and children's affairs at his New England office yesterday, spokesperson for the aggrieved parents, Kassim Kargbo said: "We want our children back immediately. We were not informed about any adoption."

He said they were told by Help A Needy Child International, HANCI, that their children would be well taken care off and provided with the basic amenities up to university level, adding, "It is rather unfortunate that it has turned out to be an adoption."

HANCI, an organization responsible to look after the welfare of children in the country, facilitated the adoption of the children to MAPS in America.

The organization had earlier claimed that the adoption was done legally and that the parents of the children were fully informed throughout the process.
The story says there's been a year-long investigation by the Sierra Leone government, but no results yet.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

School Assignments, Talking Adoption, and What Kids Hear

As adoptive parents, we worry about insensitive school assignments that might single out our kids as adopted, that might make them uncomfortable about their adopted status, that might be extremely difficult because of gaps in their history.  But what about the poor teacher who gets this assignment from Zoe?!

The class assignment was to write whatever they wanted, fiction or non-fiction, so long as they did a pre-write and a rough draft (I included just one page from the rough draft to save space), and then edited the rough draft with a writing partner in the class.  Zoe chose to tell about, as she says in the pre-write, "how much I miss my birthparents."  And, yes, she presented this to the whole class.  So much for feeling singled out for being adopted!  I have to say, though, that seeing her address adoption in this "academic" fashion is a little weird for me, since she seems so grown-up, while her emotional engagement with this topic is much, much younger.

The paper also revealed that sometimes kids hear what they want to hear, no matter what we say.  Zoe's conclusion reads as follows:  "My mom says I"ll find them [my birthparents] someday.  You never know when that day will be."

I have NEVER said that.  Never have I told her that she will find her birth parents some day.  Any talk of finding her birth parents has always included strong "I don't know, it would be difficult, maybe, very few people do" caveats.  I can't say she will NEVER find her birth parents, because I don't know that to be true.  But telling her about the difficulty of finding them translates for her into "I WILL find them."   So when Zoe brought this completed assignment home, I reiterated that we don't know if she'll ever find her birth parents.  I don't think she heard me this time either.  For her sake, I hope it is true, that she will find her birth parents some day -- you never know when that day will be.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What the [Korean] government should do before promoting adoption

Via KAAN, this article translated from the original Korean into English by the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network:

In a report published by the Ministry of Health and Welfare on the 10th May, 54% of the 2,439 children adopted last year were adopted domestically.

However, when examining the statistics more thoroughly, one might wonder whether the government policy is desirable or not, even though it has contributed a lot to promoting domestic adoption. Last year, 84.9% of domestic adoptions (1116 adoptees), and 89.3% of international adoptions (1005 adoptees) were born of unwed mothers. It demonstrates that the government does not consider supporting unwed mothers in raising their own children in its policy.

* * *

Mee-jung Lee, a researcher for the Korean Women’s Development Institute, pointed out that “Even though the parents are still alive, and Korea is no longer poor like it was after the Korean War, every year about 2500 children are given away for adoption. This is because the Korean government is holding off on providing a welfare system for single-mother families.” Pastor Do-Hyun Kim who runs ‘Koroot’, an organization which helps adoptees to visit their homeland, said “The first principle of child welfare is not about material wealth, but letting these children live with their own families”. He added, “Adoption should be the choice of the individual, not of the government”.
The article also includes an alarming statistic about adoption disruption in its argument for supporting single women who parent their children before supporting a program of domestic adoption: "1,314 children were adopted domestically last year; however, in 866 cases adoptive parents relinquished their parental responsibilities and gave their adoptive children back into care."  Wow.

More "Talking Adoption" Posts

More adoption conversations around the blogosphere, including (be still my heart!) actual verbatim talks:

From Anya, Adoption Conversations at Our House

From O Solo Mama, Talking or Not Talking About Adoption

Be sure to read the comments at both blogs.

P.S. Let me add  one more I found late this evening, from Raina, sharing an adopted person's perspective at faiths and illusions:
Of course, you all know I was raised back in the days when we just didn't talk about adoption feelings. In fact, I'm not entirely sure parents even realized that adoptees were aware and experiencing the whole deal. I'm not sure I even realized it, but I sure do now. So, there were not adoption talks in my house. Just talks about how we were meant to be a family, and the only thing that made me different was that my parents got to pick me (bullshit).

* * *.

And the person I am most terrified of talking adoption with? My mom. The mom who worked her whole life to make mine wonderful. Who has sacrificed without hesitation, who loves me to the moon and back. Who taught me how to be a mom, sister, wife, and woman. The mother whom I admire and respect and love deeply. The mother who, if she knew the truth of my feelings, would be devastated.

Be sure to go read the whole thing. Thanks, Raina, for adding your voice to the recent flurry of blogging about talking about adoption.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Blogging About Talking About Adoption

I started blogging over two years and 901 posts ago because I could find hardly anyone blogging about how to talk to your kids about their adoptions.  Sure, there werea few blogs telling you that you SHOULD talk to your kids about their adoptions (not that many!), but even fewer telling you HOW. 

I'm always told I should just "go with my instincts" when it comes to parenting, but I'm more a "research-based" parent!  I want to know what scientific research says about adoption, what sociologists and psychologists have to say about it.  I want to hear from adopted persons about their adoptions and  from birth mothers about their relinquishments and relationships with their children and those who adopted them,  and from adoptive parents who are having the same conversations with their kids that I am with mine.    That last part was a pretty small segment of the blogosphere 3 years ago. 

I decided to put my toe back in the blogging waters, thinking maybe there were others out there who wanted to know HOW I was talking adoption with my kids.  I figured I'd get some feedback and share what I know and we'd just be a talking about talking about adoption crew!  I've branched out into other adoption topics, too, but that's really what I love -- talking about talking about adoption.

I love how more and more adoptive parents are sharing their conversations with their kids about the hard stuff in adoption.  I don't always agree with them, but I love that they are sharing.  I learn so much from what they say, and I go practically giddy when I get a word-for-word transcript of the conversations they're having with their kids!  One of my favorite "talking about adoption" bloggers is Dawn at This Woman's Work.  One of my recent favorite posts from Dawn comes in reaction to Brian's post talking about talking about adoption with his kids, where he says he does not bring up the topic unless his kids initiate the conversation. Dawn says:
So I bring it up. I don’t say, “Hey, Madison, do you feel so much more tied to Pennie [Madison's birth mother] than you do to me? Since she’s your real mother and all?” Instead I say, “How did you feel when so-and-so was talking about how much you look like Pennie?” If I was Brian Stuy in a closed adoption from China, I’d surely say, “Sometimes I wonder about your birth mom. Do you wonder?” Because I would wonder. And if I’m wondering, it’s not such a far stretch to think that the kid herself in question wonders.
And then Dawn goes on to interview her kids on whether she should raise the issue of adoption or not!

And if that's not awesomeness enough for you, she addressed questions from the comments about whether and when it crosses boundaries to blog about our kids, an issue I visit and revisit all the time  -- not just in my own mind, but in conversations about the blog with my kids.

So shoo!  Go!  Go read what Dawn has to say.  You can come back later to read me!

Transracial Adoption Links

There's been so much about transracial adoption out in the blogsphere since Sandra  Bullock adopted an African-American infant.  A lot of it has been pretty superficial and sensationalized, but there's been good stuff, too.  A lot of it has talked about transracial adoption along the black/white divide, but there's been some good stuff, including the voices of Korean adoptees, on issues in transracial adoption. Here are some links, not all squarely about Sandra Bullock but all about transracial adoption, I've found interesting over the last week or so:

Sandra Bullock, Transracial Adoption, and the Worship of White Motherhood
Little Louis is adorable with his big, dark eyes, curly hair and brown skin. He's African-American and he'll be raised by a white mother. And in a perfect world, this wouldn't be fodder for a clueless mainstream press. But exists because we don't live in a perfect world. We are constantly confronted with racist, sexist, classist stereotypes, like the one of the perfect White Mother.
I'm on CNN with Don Lemon!
Watch the video below, and then read about Lisa Marie Rollins' perspective on her interview. And then check out this perspective at Womanist Musings.

Kin of Another Kind, by Cynthia Callahan, a new book issued by U. Michigan Press:
Kin of Another Kind examines American literary representations of adoption across racial lines at key moments in the 20th century to help understand adoption's literary and social significance. In juxtaposing representations of African American, American Indian, and Korean and Chinese transracial and transnational adoptions, the book traces the metaphorical significance of adoption when it appears in fiction; at the same time, aligning these groups calls attention to their unique and divergent cultural histories with adoption, which serve as important contexts for the fiction discussed. Cynthia Callahan explores the fiction of canonical authors such as William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Charles Chesnutt, Kate Chopin, Barbara Kingsolver, Gish Jen, and Anne Tyler and productively places it alongside lesser-known works by Robert E. Boles, Dallas Chief Eagle (Lakota), and Sui Sin Far, all works that, when reconsidered, can advance our understanding not only of adoption in literature but of 20th-century American literature in general.
And two links thanks to Tonggu Mama's Sunday Linkage, which is always superb, both links to Korean adoptees talking about their experiences as Asian in a white world:

Sometimes I feel like an alien. It’s not a nice feeling. Like the aliens in movies, it feels slimy and icky. I used to tell people that I didn’t like being the odd one out. I couldn’t put it in words at the time, but it was because I was always the odd one out, and it attracted looks from people that made me stand out even more. It wasn’t so much that I was Asian, but it was because I was the only Asian person in a family of Caucasian people. I mean, that’s not really, well… normal. Genetics doesn’t allow for an Asian person to be born from people of European backgrounds! Many adoptive parents think this isn’t really a big deal. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard/seen them say things like: “we don’t mind having an Asian child”; “we’re open to all different races”; “race doesn’t matter to us, we just want a child” etc etc. But the fact of the matter is that race does matter. Maybe not to them, but to the outside world and even the child they’re adopting.
Twice Foreign
Where I reside in Asian-American society, as a Korean adoptee, has been referred to as the “third space.” It is a place that hovers between who I was raised to be and who I was born to be.

* * *

When I first heard the term “twinkie” to describe a person who was ethnically Asian, but was culturally white (or strived to “act” white), I was so relieved to finally have a label for myself. Even though the person who was describing this term was referring to twinkie as a pejorative term, I was just so happy to learn there was a group of Asians with whom I could identify.
And the final entry here -- a provocative piece by John Raible about LGBT parents and transracial adoption:
I’ve heard it argued that LGBT parents have an almost innate sensitivity to diversity issues since they are members of an oppressed minority. There’s an appealing logic to the notion that queer adults would be especially sensitive to marginalization, of being positioned as the Other, in families and at school. It makes a certain sense that queer adults, therefore, would make sensitive and compassionate parents to kids of color. Right?

While more and more LGBT folk are adopting—and anecdotally at least, it looks like many of us end up adopting kids of color—a troubling development has emerged, to my way of thinking. In plain terms, it feels as if in the effort to form “gay families” and have those families recognized as legitimate and equal to other families, lesbian and gay parents have privileged their own equality above other concerns.

As a gay parent, it goes without saying that I am all for equality. At the same time, as an anti-racism advocate with a long-standing interest in and commitment to ensuring the rights and welfare of children of color, I am very concerned that the issues of race in adoption may be overlooked and overshadowed in the rush to increase LGBT legitimacy and visibility.
Whew!  A lot of good stuff. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Beautiful Ballerinas!

Mama bragging rights time again -- another ballet performance has come and gone!  This year, the studio put on Peter Pan, a full ballet, and quite well done.  Zoe was a mermaid and Maya a lilac.  Zoe also took a turn as one of the "big girls" who got to help the little girls -- Zoe helped the 5 and 6 year old daffodils.  The first two photos are backstage before today's performance, the last two from the dress rehearsal.

Zoe was in her element as the boss -- she lives to be the boss of SOMEONE and this time it wasn't Maya and it wasn't ME!  Poor little daffodils. . . . Being a mermaid was also cool -- she got to have a ponytail instead of a bun, got glitter on her arms and shoulders, and got to dive through the waves (the "waves" were long lengths of cloth that even bigger girls got to shake and shimmy).

Maya had a ball -- her class was well versed enough in their dance not to need big girls to help them!  She did a great job in her dance, and managed to avoid the usual 6-year-old ballerina faux pas -- she didn't pick her nose or pick any costume parts out of any place unmentionable! 

All joking aside, they were really remarkably beautiful and talented up there.  I was so proud of both of them!

Chinese American Heroes

Chinese American Heroes is a great website highlighting the achievements of Chinese Americans past and present.  AsianWeek, in cooperation with Chinese American Heroes, has been focusing on one a week for the past 41 weeks.  As a lawyer, I love that the last two Chinese American Heroes have been judges -- Judge Denny Chin and Judge Dolly Gee.  I loved this part of Judge Gee's story:
Born to immigrants from rural China who respectively became an aerospace engineer and a seamstress in America, Dolly Gee grew up in Southern California. Her mother refused to ever teach her how to sew because she never wanted her daughter to have to do the same work that she did. Taking this lesson to heart, Dolly Gee graduated from UCLA Law School in 1984.
Looks like her parents are Chinese American Heroes, too.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Names in Adoption

I've been thinking about names a lot lately.  It started with Maya telling me that she plans to name her children -- MY GRANDCHILDREN -- Elvis and Buttercup!  OK, so Elvis is a better choice than last year's boy name -- Hercules.  But Buttercup?!  My fault -- after all, I'm the one who introduced her to the Princess Bride!  Oh, and this is "names in adoption," since Maya insists she's adopting her children, not giving birth to them.

And then there's a comment from a birth mother at this post:  "My daughter's adoptive mother told her that she changed her name because she didn't want her to get teased about it at school." What a way to diss a child's birth mother.

I've posted before about the importance of keeping a child's pre-adoption name as a part of his or her identity (see here and here and here), and about naming as claiming.  But I hadn't really thought much about how to choose a new name for an adopted child (beyond thinking that Charity is not a good choice!), and whether that's any different from how biological parents choose a name for a child.

But then there were some dueling blog posts I ran across -- I'm not going to link the blogs, because who it is is beside the point.  I do have to tell you this much, though -- a prospective adoptive parent posted on her blog that she would be naming her future Ethiopian child "Ireland," the name that she had picked for her first child regardless of origin.  An adult adoptee suggested on her blog that that name might not be suitable for an Ethiopian child.  Bad feelings flowed both ways.  I submitted a comment at the PAP's blog, but she chose not to publish it (her blog, her right).  I've decided to explore the issue here instead.

Here's what I submitted about naming:

I hope you can look at your name choice in the context of adoption parenting, transracial adoption parenting, international adoption parenting, not simply as a parent who wants to gift her child with her favorite name.

Some of the issues in naming in adoption include the disconnect between name and appearance, the potential for racial and adoption teasing (Annie might lead to "Little Orphan Annie" teasing, for example), whether the name represents negative images of adoption (ex. the name Charity is lovely, but perhaps not for an adopted child who is likely to be viewed as a charity case by many), whether the name might suggest a rejection of birth culture or race (rejecting a given name as "too ethnic"), whether the name furthers stereotypes about race and culture (ex. naming a child from China "Jade"), whether the name is respectful of the birth parents' wishes, if known, whether the child adopted at an older age agrees, etc.

Best of luck with your adoption journey -- it isn't just a travel journey, but a journey of understanding that the focus has to be on what our children need, not on what we want.
So what do you think -- is naming different in adoption?  If yes, how?  What additional factors should adoptive parents consider in naming their children?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

10 Things APs Shouldn't Say

From Babble, a follow-up to their story, 10 Things Not to Say to APs, comes this one, 10 Things APs Shouldn't Say (I'm just listing -- there's commentary under each one at Babble, so go there to read it all!):
1.  “This is how Susie became available for adoption.”
2.  “Don’t tell my kids, but [insert facts about your child’s origins here].”
3.  “Race doesn’t matter. When we look at Kyle, we just see our son; we don’t see White/Black/Hispanic/Asian.”
4.   “We’re Americans. Jenna may have been born in China, but she’s American now, and that’s good enough for us. We don’t really worry about all of that cultural stuff.”
5.   “We used to celebrate our Irish background before the kids came along, but now we feel like we really have to focus on Ethiopia.”
6.   Negative comments about your child’s birth family.
7.   Invented facts about your child’s birth family.
8.  “Asians are good at music, so we weren’t surprised when Jin’s violin teacher told us he could be a real prodigy.”
9.   Disparaging comments about your child’s race or any other race.
10. “This is my adopted daughter, Grace.”
I've heard far worse -- what would you add to the list?

US & Russia Reach Adoption Agreement

So says the Moscow Times:
The United States and Russia have agreed on key points of a treaty regulating child adoptions, and a final draft will be approved Friday for signing within two months, children's ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said Wednesday.

The agreement, which Moscow demanded after a U.S. mother returned her 7-year-old son alone on a plane to Russia last month, will put an end to independent adoptions through lawyers instead of authorized adoption agencies, Astakhov said after a second round of talks with U.S. officials at the Foreign Ministry.

"There will be no so-called independent adoptions because this caused major problems. There was no opportunity to track a child's well-being," Astakhov said in a statement.

He said Russian officials had accepted a U.S. proposal under which agencies that participate in adoptions would have to receive U.S. accreditation and work in accordance with the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, which has been ratified by the United States but not by Russia.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Summer Language Learning

Remember the Chinese Language Camp Zoe attended last summer? Well, now is the time to think about whether your area has similar offerings. You'll recall that the course came about because of a federal program, the Security Language Initiative, and is called STARTALK. You can find all the offerings here, and also search by language (,Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Persian, Swahili, Turkish, Urdu) by state, by residential/nonresidential program. There are 53 programs of Chinese instruction in these states: AZ CA CO CT DE HI IA IL IN KS KY MA MD ME MI MN MS MT NC NH NJ NM NY OH OK PA RI SC SD TX UT VA WA WI WV.

Look for Texas programs here. Zoe will be going to the Birdville ISD/Fort Worth one, which runs June 8-30;  rising 3rd graders are eligible.

Asian American Hero: Victoria Manalo Draves

In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, here's a bit about an Asian American heroine, diver Victoria Manalo Draves, who died last month:
Vicki Manalo was the daughter of a Filipino father and an English mother, in a society in which mixed marriages were generally frowned on. When she was 17, she sought to join the Fairmont Hotel Swimming and Diving Club in San Francisco. As she told The San Francisco Chronicle in 2005, the club’s coach, Phil Patterson, told her that because of her Filipino name she could not join the club.

Instead, she said, he “formed a ‘special’ club just for me — the Patterson School of Swimming and Diving.”

“I think he was a prejudiced man,” she added. “It wasn’t special for me. It was his way of separating me from the others.”

He also told her that she could not compete unless she changed her name to Taylor, her mother’s maiden name, she said. She and her mother reluctantly agreed.

“I don’t know how my dad felt,” Draves said in an oral history in 1991, “because he never said anything.”

In 1948, by then married to her new coach, Lyle Draves, she made history in the Olympic Games in London. In her first competition there, on the 3-meter springboard, Draves trailed Zoe Ann Olsen, a teammate from home, going into her last dive, a back one-and-a-half somersault. As Draves told Dr. Margaret Costa in the oral history interview, “I was so nervous that I would shake before each dive.”

Draves, at 5 feet 1, won that gold medal, then another off the 10-meter platform, her stronger event. She and Sammy Lee, the men’s platform winner and a Korean-American, became the first divers of Asian descent to win Olympic gold medals.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"What to tell -- and when"

Brian Stuy of Research-China offers an opinion on what and when to share about adoption with adopted children, using his discussions with his kids as a contrast to other adoptive parents whom he fears are "force-feeding" kids more information than they want or need:
We have never brought up, unprompted, our daughters' birth parents. We have discussed adoption, conception and pregnancy, and other corollary issues from time to time, but I have never, without having the subject introduced by a daughter, initiated a conversation by saying, "Do you wish you knew your birth mother?" Or, "Do you want to know more about your abandonment?" I have always indicated a willingness to answer any and all questions (not just about adoption but about anything), so I am confident my kids know that if they ask any question we will try to provide them with a good answer. But the point is, I wait for them to ask. Those that force-feed their children the deep issues of abandonment, birth parents and adoption, risk, I believe, getting the kinds of responses displayed above. In fact, by presenting the reality of birth parents before they are mature enough to handle it, for example, I think we risk diminishing our own position as parents to our children.

What do you think? I think my position is made pretty clearly here.  BTW, I'm not talking about Brian behind his back -- I left a comment at his blog!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Academic Paper Analyzing International Adoption

Here's an interesting academic paper on international adoption, A Critical and Theoretical Analysis of International Adoption of Vulnerable Children: The Commodification of Children?  It was presented in 2009 at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting
This paragraph, at pp. 4-5, seems to encapsulate what the article is about:
This research seeks to conduct a theoretical analysis that tests two competing explanations of international adoption: a functionalist model, and a critical and conflict-oriented model. According to a functionalist model, international adoption practices may be explained as a response to need: need of children, need of families, and need of societies to provide structures
for altruistic transfer of children for purposes of building families and providing care and opportunities to needy children. It is hypothesized that, although most research on international
adoption practices is focused on individual outcomes and is atheoretical or theory-weak (Engel et al 2007), the functionalist model is the dominant implicit explanation of international adoption
practices in lay consciousness, the views of experts of children’s rights, international policy, and
academic literatures. In contrast, according to a critical and conflict-oriented model, the roles of
power, profit and poverty are fundamental in facilitating and reinforcing current institutionalized practices of inter-country adoption. These literatures are more peripheral (e.g. Fonseca, unpublished manuscript). From this perspective, ideology about adoption legitimates and reinforces the social systems of international adoption, discourages interrogation of structural features of the systems that benefit specific groups within and outside of the sending country, and inhibits consideration of the implications of global inequality for the welfare of poor children.

Weekend News Articles of Interest

Two relevant pieces in the New York Times over the weekend:

Open Adoption: Not So Simple Math, by a birth mother in an open adoption, basic message -- it's complicated even when it is working well:
I spent the evening chatting with her while avoiding direct interaction with Ben for fear I’d show too much affection, or too little. Open adoption is an awkward choreography; I am offered a place at the table, but I am not sure where to sit. I don’t know how to be any kind of mother, much less one who surrendered her child but is back to help build a Lego castle.
Guest-Teaching Chinese, and Learning America:
China wants to teach the world its language and culture, and Ms. Zheng is one of about 325 guest teachers who have volunteered to work for up to three years in American schools, with their salaries subsidized by the Chinese government. A parallel effort has sent about 2,000 American school administrators to visit China at Beijing’s expense.

Ms. Zheng left her teaching post at a provincial university south of Beijing two years ago to come to Lawton. She is out of her usual element in this city of strip malls and car dealerships surrounded by cattle ranches and an Army base. The culture of American schools is also different.

“My life in high school was torture, just studying, nothing else,” said Ms. Zheng (pronounced djung). “Here students lead more interesting lives,” partly because they are more involved in athletics, choir and other activities.

“They party, they drink, they date,” she added. “In China, we study and study and study.”

And then there's this feel-good story from the Washington Post, Former foster kid overcame odds, with help from many friends, to earn law degree:

McCullough and others say they cannot forget one poignant detail from Freeman's story: When he graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 2002, no one came to watch him cross the stage.
Freeman recalls that as a turning point in his life -- when he realized that the pain of not having an involved family extends beyond childhood.

"This is going to be the time that is different for him," said Marilyn Regier, executive director of Barker, who will join almost two dozen well-wishers this weekend, including McCullough.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Today was a good day -- time spent with my kids, with my mom, with friends.

My hands still smell smokey from our last Mother's Day tradition of the day -- we burned the notes the girls wrote their birth mothers, so that the smoke could carry their thoughts and wishes to China. They each read their notes solemnly before consigning them to the fire. Maya's note read:

Dear Birth Mother,

Happy Mother's Day!  Are you having a good day in China?  I love you!

Love, Maya
Zoe's note read:
Dear Birth Mother,

Happy Mother's Day! Do you miss me? I miss you. I think of you every second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year. I can never stop thinking of you.

Love, Zoe
When I teared up, I could blame it on the smoke getting in my eyes.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

GIMH Mother's Day Blog Carnival

Today, the Saturday before Mother's Day, is Birth Mother's Day.  We don't really celebrate Birth Mother's Day;  instead, we celebrate birth mothers on Mother's Day.  I have no problem sharing that holiday with my kids' birth mothers, since I'm sharing my kids with their birth mothers.  But today the girls finished their drawings for the Grown in My Heart Adoption Carnival, which for this month celebrates Mother's Day. And they chose to celebrate their birth mothers.  These are the directions:

■Post a picture of your mother (the one you most refer to as a mom). This could be your grandmother, your birthmother, your aunt, your sister, your biological mom, your adoptive mom, your best friend, your surrogate mom…Your MOTHER (or both your mothers).

■Include a Six-Word-Memoir with the picture describing her/what she means to you.
You should do the same at your blog, and link it up at Grown in my Heart.

We don't have photos of their birth parents, so Zoe and Maya drew what they think they look like, and added their six (or more in Maya's case!) words to describe them.

So happy Mother's Day AND Birth Mother's Day to Zoe's and Maya's birth mothers, and to all birth mothers.

"Does She Think About Me?"

Maya is talking more and more about her birth parents in the past few weeks.  She's been pretty disinterested up to now, once declaring that talking about adoption was boooorinnggggg!  Even though she's listened in on all of my conversations with Zoe, she needs to plow the same ground for herself. 

The other day she asked, "Do you think my birth mother ever thinks about me?"  I answered that we don't know her birth mother, so we can't know for sure what she's thinking, but that I've talked to lots of birth mothers who say they never stop thinking of their child.  Maya then said, "But she has lots of kids, so I bet she doesn't think about me."  I said we didn't know whether she has brothers and/or sisters in China, but even if she did, I said, I don't think it would make a difference in whether her birth mother still thinks about her.  "I have two kids, and I'd still think about both of you even if I lost one of you."  Maya said, "So you think she'd look at her other kids and there'd be a whole where I'm missing?"  Smart cookie.  "I think it would be exactly like that," I reply.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Transracial Adoption: A 'feel good' act or 'no big deal'

CNN does a follow-up piece about transracial adoption after their piece on Sandra Bullock's adoption of an African-American infant.  They start with reader comments on the Bullock story:
"White people adopt black kids to make themselves feel good... A black child needs black parents to raise it." "Maybe she adopted one because the blacks in the community wouldn't step forward and adopt?" "What's the big deal? If no white person ever adopted a black child, they'd be saying why don't white people adopt black children." "Who cares what race they are? A woman got a child, a child got a's BEAUTIFUL!!! And yes I am black...if it matters."

These impassioned comments and thousands more poured in earlier this week when CNN published a story on the stirred-up debate surrounding Sandra Bullock's recent adoption.
Despite the sensationalized title and opener, and the sensationalized (yet interesting) theme implying that a black woman adopting a white child raises the same issues as a white woman adopting an African-American child (it's actually far more complicated than equating the two suggests) the article does a fairly good job of discussing some of the issues in transracial adoption, though you have to keep reading to the end to get to those points.  For example, the article includes this important reminder:
When handled well, transracial adoption is "a very positive thing," says Rita Simon, who has been studying these adoptions for 30 years and has written 65 books, including Adoption, Race & Identity: From Infancy to Young Adulthood.

"But love is not enough," said Simon, a professor of justice and public policy at American University in Washington. "You really have to make some changes in your life if you adopt a child of another race."

In the case of a white parent adopting a black child, that might mean living in an integrated neighborhood, having pictures in the home of black heroes, seeking out other families in similar situations, attending a black church and finding role models or godparents who are black. The same need to integrate a child's culture applies across the board, whether parents are adopting from Asia, Central America or elsewhere. [emphasis added]
An interesting read, which I don't say often about CNN stories, which tend to be far to short to deal with anything complex.

Sorting People

The PBS documentary, Race -- the Power of an Illusion, explores race in society, science and history. It has a great companion website.  Sorting People asks you to sort people according to race based solely on appearance.  It's an interesting exercise exploring not only our conception of race, but also in the photographed  individuals' conception of their own race.

I did very badly in sorting, getting only one out of four right in each category.  Try it yourself, and post your results in the comments.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Babies Onboard

Here's an interesting article, Babies Onboard, in Foreign Policy, arguing for strengthening oversight of international adoption.  The article notes that the two most recent high-profile adoption disasters occurred in two countries that have not ratified the Hague Convention on International Adoption -- Russia and Haiti.  Ethan Kapstein makes some concrete suggestions for strengthening compliance with the Hague Convention:
Yet states could and should be doing much more on behalf of the HAC. To date, the United States has not provided foreign aid to help countries in the developing world meet their Hague Convention obligations. Since U.S. citizens adopt a large share of the world's adoptable children, and those prospective parents want clean and transparent procedures, the United States should allocate some foreign assistance to educating national governments and judiciaries on their responsibilities under the HAC and relevant U.S. legislation. Other countries whose citizens are active in international adoptions, such as France, should make similar efforts. The United States should also lead a multilateral initiative to provide resources for inspecting and improving conditions in orphanages. Much as the efforts of global activists forced many corporations to open up their factories in the developing world to outside inspectors, a similar movement should work for transparency on behalf of orphaned children.
Kapstein also takes a swipe at Elizabeth Bartholet's excessively simplistic "human rights" argument in support of international adoption:

Some have argued that the emphasis in adoption policy should not be on enforcing the HAC but rather ensuring that the adoption process serves what has been called "the best interests of the child." This view has in turn produced two disparate arguments: one, that children are better off in their own national and cultural environment, and two, that a loving home is nearly always preferable to an orphanage. After all, would it not be better for orphaned children to be raised by families in Europe and the United States than to remain in institutions in the developing world -- even if this process contains hints of so-called baby buying? Bartholet, for example, has compared baby buying in international adoptions to surrogacy. What is the moral difference between these two approaches to having a child?

Yet, surely, there must be an important legal distinction between eggs carried by a surrogate and orphaned children who have already been born. Ironically, this so-called human rights argument risks transforming children into mere commodities or utilitarian goods. This is the real lesson of the recent controversies over the Haitian children and the Russian adoptee. In both cases, the children were treated as goods that could be freely traded -- or returned -- across borders.
Kapstein made the same call to strengthen the Hague Convention in this 2003 essay in Foreign Policy.  This current piece shows we haven't made much progress on that front in the past 7 years.

Arizona Law Worries Asian American Communities

From China Daily:

A controversial new immigration law in Arizona has fanned public furor over its perceived anti-Latino aspects, but increasing arrests of Chinese illegal immigrants has brought the issue to Asian communities.
"The Arizona law is an affront to all people of color and all Americans, and especially people of color who have been subjected to racial profiling," said Norman Eng, spokesperson for the New York Immigration Coalition. "Chinese people are no strangers to that."
* * *

"What is happening in Arizona is a very familiar pattern of anti-immigrant efforts on the local level to discourage immigrants from coming to the US," said Bill Ong Hing, an immigration expert and law professor at the University of San Francisco and UC Davis.

"It's analogous to what happened first against Chinese immigrants with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which banned Chinese immigration for 10 years, and later against Japanese immigrants."

* * *

"Characteristics like language fluency, accent and style of dress will be major factors in whether a police officer decides a person is worthy of suspicion," said Ronald Lee, senior attorney for the Asian American Justice Center.

According to Lee, about one-fourth of Asian Americans in Arizona are classified as limited-language proficient.
Interesting to read this in a China paper -- sure to stoke anti-American feeling and confirm China's belief that the U.S. is a hotbed of racism and discrimination against all people of color.  All Chinese school children learn about Mao's support of African-Americans' struggle for equality.  America's treatment of African-Americans, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., were powerful propaganda tools for the CCP.  This article in a Chinese paper suggests that the treatment of minorities in America is still a powerful propaganda tool.  It's all well and good to say the China's record with minorities is not unblemished, and its human rights record far worse.  That's not what the people of China hear or believe.

Arizona hasn't done us any favors in China, that's for sure.  And it isn't likely to curb illegal immigration from China.  Instead, it plays into the wide-spread belief in China that the U.S. is about to enact another Chinese Exclusion Act, halting all legal immigration to the U.S.  When there's no way to enter legally, the motivation for illegal entry grows.

Immigration isn't just an internal U.S. matter; it affects foreign nationals, so it is no surprise that it is an international issue. International dealings are vested by the Constitution in the federal government, so we can speak with one voice on the international stage.That's one of the reasons we federalize immigration law, too, so that the U.S. can speak with one voice instead of 50 voices in the international arena.  U.S. relations with China will always affect children adopted from China. Anti-American sentiment in China is an issue for China adopted children now and in the future.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Take My Daughter, Please

Do you remember Duan Yueneng, the  Chinese trafficker for whom baby selling was the family business? Well, NPR's Marketplace has interviewed him, and here's the back story, a Reporter's Notebook piece about it:
"Do you want to take my daughter?"

Convicted baby trafficker Duan Yueneng uttered those words moments after I stepped into his apartment to interview him. As far as I could tell (and my assistant Cecilia Chen next to me), Mr. Duan was not kidding. His daughter, by the way, stood about five feet away. This man has been busted for selling Chinese baby girls, and he's trying to offload his own child. I declined
The radio report can be read or listened to at this link.

The report is about the 2005 Hunan scandals, but it certainly is relevant now.  One disturbing thing from the report: "We got one orphanage director on the phone. She told us she's willing to pay $150 for a healthy baby girl."  Doesn't sound like the baby-buying program has ended, huh?

Race to Adopt

On twitter, I came across this blog, Young Ethiopian, tagged as "thoughts on identity, race, social change and self-determination from the new generation," because of an adoption post, Race to Adopt. The author describes her discomfort on being told by a fellow train traveler that she has a nephew adopted from Ethiopia:
Does it offend me? I am not sure. Do I like it? No.It just disturbs me.

Perhaps it is because he has been forever torn from his roots.
Perhaps it is because he will always battle with who he is and his place in society.
Perhaps it is because I know that we have missed the opportunity to raise our own children.
Perhaps it is embarrassment that we can’t take care of our own.

It is a complicated issue that simply leaves me with complicated and confused and helpless emotions. Appreciation for those who want to help and yet an awareness of the consequences for all action and inaction.
I was also intrigued with another post, Why Do They Smile At Me:

Today was no unusual day in the life of an Ethiopian in America. I took a day off to enjoy the city and ended up at the Smithsonian where a nice Ethiopian man working at the espresso bar offered me some tea while we chatted. Then a white couple possibly in their late 50s came to order and looked at both of us and smiled.

Oh the smile, I see it almost everyday now that I live in DC.

* * *

So what do those smiles mean? I compiled a list of things they may be thinking:
I built a well for people that look just like you!
I had something to do with you being here, I worked for the INS!
I donated money during the live8 concerts!
I used to work in Addis Abeba!
I love Ethiopian food!
I just adopted an Ethiopian boy!
Ethiopian women are SO-O-O beautiful!
I know she is Ethiopian, I just know it, I am soo smart!
I know how to Eskesta!
I have an Ethiopian friend called Asefa!

I can’t logically hold anything against people who recognize where I am from. They probably don’t do it out of malice or ill-will. However, I do feel that there are all sorts of generalizations and labeling going on in their minds- which is probably why it makes me feel uncomfortable.
A trenchant insight into standing out because of your race and/or national origin, and a kind of condescension of first worlders to people who represent the third world to them.

Join the Wall!

The group United Chinese in America is putting up a wall of photos of Chinese in America for the American Pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai.  They will accept photos through October 31, but do it now!  You can upload a photo at their website, and include your child's Chinese surname by typing in the pinyin and picking the Chinese character, which you can find on your child's Chinese paperwork if you don't know it by memory.  My kids' Chinese surname is Jin, and that little house-like character in the red box is Jin!  All the Jins will be grouped together on the wall, and I'd love it if other orphanage Jins (Guiping SWI) were there. You can leave a comment about what it means to your children to be Chinese. Everything else in Chinese is from drop-down menus, so it is easy-breezy.

And you can easily capture these cool photos with captions!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

100,000 Served

Sitemeter tells me that we've reached 100,169 hits.  Small beans for some, but I'm excited!  Thanks to all who read and comment, and who share about the blog.  FYI, if you look at the top left of the page, you'll see a button that says SHARE -- if you click it, you can easily share blog content on twitter or facebook.

One hundred thousand thanks to each one of you!

Adoption in the New Yorker

Two pieces from the New Yorker to point you to -- first, the Last Baby Lift, a piece by writer/adoptive parent John Seabrook about his recent adoption from Haiti.  The link is to the abstract;  the full article is only available to subscribers. Second, a provocative blog post by the same author, the Dilemmas of International Adoption:

I want to say a few things about the debate over international adoption . . . . It’s an unsatisfying debate, not because the issues aren’t important—they’re enormous—but because both sides are often less than frank about their interests. The people who support international adoption—and many of the most vocal supporters are adoptive parents themselves—are rarely upfront about the sometimes dubious, and often tragic circumstances by which children become available for adoption. It is, for example, a more or less open secret that people who adopt from former Soviet satellites are often asked to turn up with a suitcase full of cash in order to claim their baby. Even when the transaction is above board, it is still a transaction; wealthy, powerful people are getting children from poor, powerless people—it never happens the other way around. There’s a tendency in adoption literature to frame the event as a blessing, even as a miracle, but, of course, it only looks that way from one side. Adoption advocates need to do a better job of representing the other side.

Although no one will go on record saying they oppose international adoption, a lot of organizations are contributing indirectly to its demise, by pursuing policies that make it much harder to adopt from abroad. Sometimes these policies are pursued by children’s welfare organizations such as UNICEF and Save the Children, whose primary goal is to end child trafficking. That goal would be easier to achieve if international adoption didn’t exist. No one says that, either: instead they talk about promoting domestic adoption within the nations that send children. But the institution of adoption is nowhere near as well established in most countries around the world as it is in the U.S. and Europe, and the adoption of special-needs children, and children of other races, is even rarer. So, in practical terms, what you get is children spending much longer periods in orphanages and foster homes, where conditions are often inadequate, and sometimes abusive.
Reactions?  You can hear more from Seabrook in this podcast, and on Wednesday in a live chat (to which you can submit advance questions).

"Beware of Mother's Day"

Trauma Tuesday, a regular feature at Adoption Under One Roof, reminds us to Beware of Mother's Day, which might be a triggering event for adopted and/or fostered children:
If you are parenting a foster or adopted child, be wary of the approach of Mother’s Day. While Mother’s Day is celebrated by millions of people, it is time of sadness and mourning for those of us who were betrayed by our mothers. In some cases (like mine), the mother was the abuser. In other cases, the mother was neglectful (such as being too strung out on drugs to care for the child) or an accomplice (such as turning a blind eye while her boyfriend rapes the child). If your foster or adopted child has baggage from the actions or inactions of his or her birth mother, then Mother’s Day is likely to be triggering for your child.
* * *
The approach of Mother’s Day can trigger all sorts of feelings inside of the foster or adopted child that she does not even recognize. She might just feel “out of sorts” but have no idea why. She might find herself sleeping all the time or unable to sleep at night. She might cry a lot, be irritable, or just feel numb. All of these reactions are normal
Even without abuse and neglect, even with infant adoption, there is the trauma of that loss of first mothers.  My kids' first mothers are particularly on their minds right now, even (or especially) as they are busily making me Mother's Day presents at school.  Zoe has been weepy for the past few days, and tells me she wants to "bust out crying" about her birth mother this week (I reminded her it was ok to cry, but she says she doesn't want to cry at school in front of people who don't know about her birth mother).  I think this is an especially important time to be checking in with our kids to see how they are processing birth mother issues and letting them know we are there any time they need to talk.