Wo Ai Ni Mommy, newly-adopted 8-year-old Faith is shown kneeling in a Buddhist Temple in Guangzhou, China. Many adoptive families visit this temple in Guangzhou to receive a Buddhist blessing of their newly adopted babies, some out of respect for Chinese culture, some because it's a "touristy" thing to do, some, I assume, because they are Buddhist.
But what struck me in the scene is that Faith knew what to do at the temple. Certainly, she could have kneeled because someone off camera told her to, or she could have kneeled because she saw other Chinese people doing so. But it could be that her foster family was Buddhist and regularly visited Buddhist temples. It got me thinking -- in older child adoption in particular, what obligation, if any, does a new adoptive family have to continue the child in his or her faith tradition?
In the matchy-matchy days of adoption, where all aspects from hair color & texture to social class of the child and the parents had to "match" before an adoption was approved, this issue wouldn't come up. Social workers would never have placed a Catholic child in a protestant home, or vice versa. Only Jewish parents would be allowed to adopt a Jewish child. Even for newborn adoption (like newborns HAVE a religion?!), religion had to match.
We're much less matchy-matchy these days, in all aspects including race and religion. Children from Haiti, which is overwhelmingly Catholic, are commonly adopted by non-Catholics. Children from China are rarely adopted by Buddhists in America. And what about children raised in an orphanage run by a Christian charity, presumably raised Christian -- should a Jewish family be permitted to adopt those children? What about an atheist family?
We frequently talk about the importance of maintaining "culture" for internationally/transracially adopted children -- how does religion play into this, especially for older children who have been raised in a particular faith tradition? Certainly, religion is a subset of culture, but it is much more than that, too, isn't it?
So what do you think? Should adoptive families, especially those with older children, work to keep their children connected to their original faith traditions? Why or why not? Discuss thoroughly!
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