Monday, May 3, 2010

China Adoption, Birth Parent Searches, Corruption Conversations

Adoptive Families magazine has a number of interesting articles this month, including a look back and forward at China adoption (p. 35).  If you've been following China adoption even a little bit, nothing in the article will surprise you.  Kay Ann Johnson, author of Wanting a Daughter, Needing a Son, is frequently quoted in the article, but if you read O Solo Mama's interview with her, nothing there will surprise you, either. AF doesn't put all articles from its current issues on its website, so you'll have to get the hard copy, or wait a couple of years!

There were two side bars to the article that I found particularly interesting.  One, titled the Birthparent Riddle (p. 37), talks about birth parent searching in China with quotes from Brian Stuy, Kay Johnson, and Dr. Changfu Chang, a documentary filmmaker who has made several films about birth parents and adoption in China.  Interesting quote from him in this paragraph: 
The Chinese government hasn't taken an official position on search, but Chang is sure that 'the CCAA and Ministry of Civil Affairs are keeping a close eye on the ongoing searches by U.S. and European families."  At this point, they seem to be taking a 'wait and see' approach, though attitudes differ greatly from province to province.
The second sidebar, Talking About Corruption (p. 38), has helpful advice from Amanda Baden, Ph.D., who specializes in transracial and international adoption.  First thing that caught my attention -- unless you have proof that your child was kidnapped or confiscated by birth planning authorities, etc., "don't imagine a worst-case scenario," but also don't whitewash or lie about it.  Second important point:  "This isn't a topic to get into with a 3-year-old.  Baden recommends tackling it . . . at 6 or 7."

For those of us who are looking for the perfect way to explain this difficult issue, no luck:
'There's no great explanation -- it can't be spun in a way that makes it happy,' says Baden . . . 'The challenge is to be honest, and frame it so that a child can understand the situation, reflect on it, but not internalize a lot of negative feelings about China as a country.'
Also, take a look at this Adoptive FamiliesCirle blog, where an adoptive mom describes a conversation about birth parents with her 6-year-old adopted daughter. Struck me as familiar -- Maya is 6, and this weekend she told me all about a school project of making a flower, and putting on each petal who they pray for (Catholic school, remember?!).  She proudly listed each person in the family -- "you and Zoe and Mimi and Grandpa and my birth mother. . . ."  Looks like Maya is entering a new phase;  she's moved beyond avoidant mode in talking about her birth mother!

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

It seems like 6 or 7 is too young to talk about corruption (child trafficking, etc. ) in Chinese adoption. But I am not sure what age I would want to raise that topic. What do you think?
Sue (aka anonymous)

malinda said...

It does seem a little young -- but I think anything can be explained in an age-appropriate way. The argument for younger rather than later, it seems to me, is how ubiquitous the news about adoption corruption is. China's Stolen Children, and the like. . . . I certainly don't want my kids to hear about it first from someone else.

Anonymous said...

So have you said anything to them yet? Other than suggesting that not everything that we were told about their lives in China may be true, I'm not sure how to explain that in a way that would be appropriate to a 6-7 year old. I think I will ask Jane Brown about that when we're in Austin.
Sue (aka anonymous)

Wendy said...

I don't see it as a problem for a six year old, unless they are very immature. If one of the "maybe" scenerios has always included that possibility I think it will be easier to understand and accept. It can be approached age appropriately. In all honesty, how is trafficking any worse than needing a son, or the possibility of grandparents making the decision, or because of physical or mental differences, or due to the lack of finances (as that can tie into), or because family planning did not allow it. The fact is the child is not with their parent, lost what was theirs by birth regardless of cause. It hurts all the way around, no one reason is "easier" or "better" than another. If we say we are going to be honest with our kids than we must do that. The truth is always best (of course in age appropriate ways and doses), but sizing one up againest the other just makes no sense to me. I think because our Western sensibilities believe one is harsher to hear, we want to avoid it. However, before knowing the truth of M's situation I included that option and she never thought ohhhh....trafficking and the others okay. They were all painful in some way and she tried to deal with each of those possibilities. Remember, not all trafficking is kidnapping and yes, that happens here as well. We prepare our children for safety so they do know about stranger danger, they know things like that exist.
I think Zoe's comment about not knowing proves that the reason doesn't matter--death, disability, gender, trafficking. They are all hard and the not knowing is the worst.

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking a lot about what to say. I have an 11 year old and a 7 year old and I think whatever I say to one will probably be heard by the other so what I say is not going to vary that much based on their age. The younger one is actually more likely to ask questions and want more details than the older one. I think I might say something like, "We can't be sure that all the information that we have about your life in China is true and there is other information that we just don't know." Then talk about the reasons a child might wind up at an orphanage. "Often children are left somewhere safe where someone would find them, but now we're learning that some children may have actually had a person, who may or may not have been part of their birth family, take them to the orphanage. These people may have been paid for doing this, even though that is against the rules." That doesn't sound too bad to me and it leaves open the door for questions and for more information that might be discovered letter. My 11-year-old could just as easily find Bryan Stuy's site and read all this information herself! I don't think she is remotely interested in it (she is not very deep when it comes to these topics), but it's out there for all of our children to find and someday they probably will.

I read some info on the web last night about talking to kids about sensitive information regarding their adoption history. The situation is different because most of us don't really know if anything unethical happened in China, whereas some parents actually have negative information, such as that their child was conceived through rape. The article I read recommends sharing difficult information, possibly with the help of a therapist, before the child becomes a teenager (see http://www.pactadopt.org/press/articles/diffhis.html). I think there are some other ideas in the article that might be applicable, especially if you do know or have strong suspicion that something is amiss.
Sue (aka anonymous)

Anonymous said...

oops! "letter" should be "later."

malinda said...

Sue, thanks for sharing the link to the PACT article. The conversations I've had with my kids about corruption have been sporadic -- when talking about money in adoption, I compared paying for services and paying for kids, and talked about the fact that sometimes finders are paid to bring in babies, and sometimes people might steal kids for money, etc.

I like the way you've outlined a possible conversation -- very helpful.

Anonymous said...

Money (and poverty) is definitely a problem. But the other problem is that the one child policy has screwed things up. It can make it difficult for people to raise their own (over quota/female) children and it also makes it impossible for people who can't parent to relinquish their child in a reasonable way. And so we have abandonment, trafficking, and other undesirable ways to deal with "problem" which might not even exist if not for the one child policy. I think that my way of explaining it is simple enough for a kid, but really explaining it fully would be hard. I mean, I even have a hard time wrapping my mind around the whole thing, let alone trying to put that into words that a child can understand. I'm not sure if I'll raise the issue or just kind of wait until an opportunity arises.
Sue (aka anonymous)