Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Open Thread -- Wo Ai Ni Mommy





Please share!

Adoption & "Living in Sin"

A Georgia trial court denied an adoption request by a foster mom who was living with a man to whom she was not married.  The unmarried couple was licensed as foster parents, had fostered over 80 kids, and had fostered the child they wanted to adopt for 3 years.
The superior court denied the petition of Theresa Goudeau to adopt her foster daughter and ordered the Department of Family and Children’s Services to remove the child from Goudeau’s foster care, finding that placing the child with Goudeau violated this state’s “public policy” because Goudeau was not married to the man with whom she lived.

* * *

Goudeau, 66, testified that she and Lovett, 46, were in a committed relationship and had been together 20 years, treating each other as husband and wife. He was a father figure to her son and she was a stepmother to his children. They attended the same training programs before being approved to foster children in their home, and had cared for A.C. since she was two days old. She further explained that she had been married twice before, both times to abusive men, and did not want to marry again, although later she clarified that she meant she did not want to marry “by going to a preacher [and] getting it on paper.”

* * *

In a written order issued a few weeks later, the superior court denied the petition for adoption and held that Goudeau and Lovett should not have physical custody of A.C. because of their relationship with each other. The court found no common law marriage existed between Goudeau and Lovett and found that clear and convincing evidence established they were “living in an immoral, meretricious relationship, ... and that the adoption and their continued custody is inappropriate.” Quoting from cases involving illegal contracts, change of custody and visitation cases between divorced parents, and criminal statutes prohibiting sodomy, fornication, and adultery, the court held that allowing a child to be adopted by an unmarried person living with someone else violates Georgia’s “public policy,” which favors the institution of marriage. The court continued:

DFACS has adopted a policy, in contravention of Georgia law, that persons living in meretricious relationships may serve as foster parents and adoptive parents. DFACS’ Adoption Services Manual (March 2007) expressly confirms this policy by requiring “significant others” to attend [adoption orientation and training]. DFACS’ policy violates the established public policy and laws of this state favoring the institution of marriage, and declaring meretricious relationships as immoral. Georgia recognizes the legitimacy of married couples and single individuals. It does not recognize any other status, regardless of the mores of some members of society who have thrown off long-standing social, moral, ethical and religious constraints. DFACS’ policy offends the laws of this state, the sensibilities of this court, and the common conscious [sic] of the moral, ethical and religious citizens of this state.

The superior court then stated. . . “The trial court must not only protect the child’s best interest, but it must also ensure that an adoption does not violate the public policy or laws of this state. It cannot be in a child’s best interest to be placed in a household which the courts of this state have condemned as immoral.”
Thankfully, the appellate court reversed the trial court:
In this case, absolutely no evidence supports the denial of the petition to adopt. All of the witnesses, including the guardian ad litem appointed by the trial court to represent the child’s interests and the DFACS adoption specialist testified that this adoption was in the child’s best interest, and that to remove her from the only family she has ever known would be “devastating” to the child. The trial court in its order barely refers to the child’s interests, except to make the conclusory finding that her continued exposure to what the court describes as a “meretricious relationship” was not in the little girl’s best interest, and “would have an adverse effect on her moral character.” Nothing in the record supports this finding. Regardless of the trial court’s moral views about unmarried people living together and its conclusion that DFACS acts in contravention of the law by allowing unmarried people to adopt or serve as foster parents, the adoption statute clearly does not prohibit this adoption.

The General Assembly has not prohibited unmarried couples from adopting children. This court applies the law, not its personal viewpoint of social mores. No evidence supports the trial court’s conclusion that adoption was not in this child’s best interest; in fact, all of the evidence was to the contrary.
Th law blogger who highlighted this case further opined:
The trial court’s response that “It cannot be in a child’s best interest to be placed in a household which the courts of this state have condemned as immoral” strikes me as deeply inadequate. And any argument that a policy of barring unmarried couples from being foster parents (or barring unmarried people with live-in lovers from being adoptive parents) would be good for other children in the future also strikes me as unsound: It’s not like our system is so awash in would-be foster and adoptive parents who are willing to raise babies born with cocaine in their systems that we can afford to reject apparently eminently loving and effective parents. Again, the matter might be different if we were considering a preference for married parents over unmarried ones, when there was a choice to be made. But that does not seem to be the case here, or in many other situations.
So what do you think?  I think that if the rigidly "moral" people who decry the orphan crisis really wanted to find families for orphans around the world they wouldn't care about prohibiting unmarried couples or same-sex couples or single parents from adopting.

Monday, August 30, 2010

PBS Shows 3 Documentaries on International Adoption

Those of us interested in international adoption have an exciting couple of weeks ahead of us on PBS, with three documentaries about IA showing:

August 31:  Wo Ai Ni Mommy
What is it like to be torn from your Chinese foster family, put on a plane with strangers and wake up in a new country, family and culture? Stephanie Wang-Breal’s Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy is the story of Fang Sui Yong, an 8-year-old orphan, and the Sadowskys, the Long Island Jewish family that travels to China to adopt her. Sui Yong is one of 70,000 Chinese children now being raised in the United States. Through her eyes, we witness her struggle with a new identity as she transforms from a timid child into someone that no one — neither her new family nor she — could have imagined.
I reviewed Wo Ai Ni Mommy here.  I encourage everyone to watch it and let me know what  you think.

September 7:  Off and Running
Off and Running tells the story of Brooklyn teenager Avery, a track star with a bright future. She is the adopted African-American child of white Jewish lesbians. Her older brother is black and Puerto Rican and her younger brother is Korean. Though it may not look typical, Avery’s household is like most American homes — until Avery writes to her birth mother and the response throws her into crisis. She struggles over her “true” identity, the circumstances of her adoption and her estrangement from black culture. Just when it seems as if her life is unraveling, Avery decides to pick up the pieces and make sense of her identity, with inspiring results.
September 15: In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee
Her passport said she was Cha Jung Hee. She knew she was not. So began a 40-year deception for a Korean adoptee who came to the United States in 1966. Told to keep her true identity secret from her new American family, the 8-year-old girl quickly forgot she had ever been anyone else. But why had her identity been switched? And who was the real Cha Jung Hee? In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee is the search to find the answers, as acclaimed filmmaker Deann Borshay Liem (First Person Plural, POV 2000) returns to her native Korea to find her “double,” the mysterious girl whose place she took in America.
If you go to this page, you can put in your zip code and find out when these documentaries are showing in your area.  You can also watch the documentaries online at the PBS website after each one has aired.

Transracial Adoption/Racial Identity Video

AFABC - Transracial Adoption Racial Identity from Fire and Light Media Group on Vimeo.

The teens/young adults speaking here grew up in white families in Canada.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pink Pagoda?

I ran across a mention of this "organization," Pink Pagoda, a couple of years ago -- it allegedly rescues Chinese girls who are in danger of being killed or abandoned by their parents, and takes them to orphanages instead.  They claim to pay parents cash to give them the children.  Here's an article from a Canadian newspaper about the founder, Jim Garrow:
For the past 10 years, Garrow has run an organization he calls Pink Pagoda. He says he works with 142 people in China to rescue baby girls whose parents might otherwise abandon or kill them. When his team hears about unwanted babies, they collect them from their parents and deliver them to local orphanages or the arms of friends and relatives, Garrow says.

When needed, he adds, the organization can provide money and supplies for a child’s upkeep.

He says Pink Pagoda is responsible for saving 34,000 baby girls since 2000.

Reclining on the front porch of his two-storey Guelph home, Garrow speaks with pride about his role in the organization. His grey hair is streaked with golden-brown hues and falls to his shoulders. A trimmed white beard frames his face.

He says Pink Pagoda has consumed him.

“Am I a zealot? Am I almost religious in my fervour for what I do? Yeah, beyond belief,” he says, leaning forward.

His passion has inspired a groundswell of support from some quarters. There are more than 500 members on Pink Pagoda’s Facebook page and Garrow says he’s well-known and appreciated by elite figures in China.
I have to say I think it's all bunk.  I don't think Garrow is doing any such thing as "rescuing" children in China as he claims. Maybe he did one or two because of some employee in China coming to him with a problem, as he claims on his website.  But a wholesale nationwide program with its own private aircraft?! I just don't see any way that he could do as he claims he has -- funnel 34,000 baby girls into Chinese orphanages -- and fly under the radar. I just don't see China letting him get away with it. And if he is doing as he claims, he's engaging in child trafficking, paying money for children.

Brian Stuy isn't quite as convinced that it's hokum. Read his account of phone calls he had with Jim Garrow, which he includes on his website.  Actually quite chilling listening to the claims Garrow makes. Here's what Brian thinks:
Is Garrow really doing what he says he is doing, offering poor Chinese families money vouchers to turn their children into the orphanages for international adoption? It is very possible. Is he doing it with the full knowledge of the Chinese government? Also possible. As we saw in the Hunan scandal, the government is less concerned with stopping the baby-buying than it is with saving face in the international community. The abduction of children unwillingly from birth parents seems to be taken seriously by the CCAA and the rest of the government; but the willing relinquishment of children for money to IA orphanages is systematically ignored, and even encouraged by the government. Thus, there is every possibility that the Chinese would allow a program such as Garrow's "Pink Pagoda" one to operate freely in China's orphanages.

* * *

In the end I don't know if Garrow is actually doing what he says, or is simply seeking attention and money. Reporters from the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, as well as Dateline have investigated and found no substantiation of his program in China. But it could be happening on a localized and informal basis.
So what do you think? Is this a wonderful organization saving China's children?  A child trafficking group? A crazy man's delusion of grandeur?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gender Equality & International Adoption -- Are They Connected?

-- Dee made a special mention of Jane Jeong Trenka's latest blog post about IA in the comments to my post about Michael Gerson's treacly pablum about international adoption.


--Bukimom made a comment to the same post about what role adoptive parents should and could take to work for elimination of China's one child policy.

So I thought I'd share this particular part of Jane's post:
Click here for gender gap rankings from the World Economic Forum. South Korea ranks 115th in the world, between India (114) and Bahrain (116). In the general pattern, I think you can see that countries with high gender equality = “receiving countries,” such as Norway (3), France (18), and the U.S. (31). Countries with low gender equality = “sending countries,” such as Ethiopia (122) and China (60) and the Russian Federation (51). What does that mean about what women really want for the babies they give birth to? Are women really exercising “choice” when they “give” their children for adoption?

In the case of South Korea, I think that the international adoptions enable the government to avoid making a real social welfare system to support unwed mothers. They also enable the government to fail to create a real culture of ethical domestic adoption. Because of this, we are faced with illegal domestic adoptions that are called “secret” (because not even the adoptee knows), and that is a real problem. Both are huge problems and the government must deal with it. We have been waiting for 60 years!
So, is there a connection between gender inequality and international adoption?  It seems inescapable that the answer is yes, doesn't it?  Is the one child policy in China an instance of gender inequality?  Again, that has to be answered in the affirmative, doesn't it?  So perhaps there's an obligation that adoptive parents work for gender equality around the world.

Here's a small start -- how about encouraging the U.S. to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)?  Go here to learn more.

Friday, August 27, 2010

"International adoption instructs our culture"

Another old white guy heard from -- Michael Gerson, Washington Post columnist, concurs with Scott Simon that adoption is a miracle, and like Simon, it's for very personal reasons:
When a columnist has a conflict of interest, he should disclose it. My wife, born in South Korea, was adopted by an American family at the age of 6 and welcomed into a Midwestern community. I first saw her when we were both 10, and I have never recovered. Years ago, we visited the orphanage where she lived in Inchon — orderly, cheerful, but still with dirt floors. The director said she remembered my wife. She produced the police record relating how On Soon had been found as a newborn abandoned in the market, a note with her name pinned to her blanket.

Life is a procession of miracles, but this one stands out to me. A 6-year-old girl walks off a plane in America, speaking no English, loved by a family she had never met, destined to marry, of all people, me. A series of events that began in a Korean market created my family, my sons, my life. And now my Italian, Jewish, English, Korean boys view themselves as normal, unexceptional Americans. Which they are.
 Not surprisingly, his view of adoption is positive and positively sentimental, and all wrapped up in patriotism as well:
It is an unexpected form of human affection — meeting a stranger and, within moments, being willing to care for them, even to die for them. The relationship results from a broken bond but creates ties as strong as genetics, stronger than race or tribe. It is a particularly generous kind of parental love that embraces a life one did not give.

International adoption has its critics, who allege a kind of imperialism that robs children of their identity. Simon responds, “We have adopted real, modern little girls, not mere vessels of a culture.” Ethnicity is an abstraction — often an admirable abstraction, but not comparable to the needs of a child living in an orphanage or begging in roving bands. Adopted Chinese girls are refugees from a terrible oppression — a one-child policy that Simon calls “one of the great crimes of history.” Every culture or race is outweighed when the life of a child is placed on the other side of the balance.

It is one of the noblest things about America that we care for children of other lands who have been cast aside.
Yep, another old white guy heard from, to tell people of color that "ethnicity is an abstraction." Another non-adopted person telling adoptees that their loss of culture doesn't matter compared to what they gained. A white non-adopted person telling adoptees that the bonds of adoption create ties "stronger than race or tribe." Another Westerner extolling Americans for rescuing "children of other lands who have been cast aside." Another ignorant person calling adoptive parents saints, praising us for our "particularly generous kind of parental love that embraces a life one did not give." 

A whole host of distasteful and uninformed international adoption themes is presented here -- the superiority of receiving countries to sending countries, the superiority of adoptive parents to birth parents, the need for adoption as "rescue," a preference for assimilation into dominant culture to maintaining a distinctive racial identity, the "othering" of foreign people who "cast aside" their children, the complete sufficiency of the adoptive family so that knowledge of the biological family ("tribe") is unnecessary.

And this is what passes as a feel-good piece on international adoption. . . .

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Adoption & Ancestry II

I'm still fascinated by the ancestry question -- Does Zoe's "ethnic group" include French because her Mimi is French? Is M., adopted from China, "related to"' Abraham Lincoln because her father is a biological descendant of Lincoln? Are adoptees disinterested in their adoptive parents' ancestry, more interested in their biological ancestry (I absolutely get wanting to know their biological progenitors, wanting that genetic mirror, etc.  But what about more distant ancestry, the great-great-greats?).  Amanda at the Declassified Adoptee shares her perspective:
As a White woman adopted by White parents, I was expected to just be whatever they are. When I told my [Adoptive] Mom that Priscilla had helped me trace my Natural roots, she initially didn't want to talk about it. She wanted to know why I didn't consider their ancestry my own ancestry. She felt that by claiming my biological roots, I was rejecting my Adoptive Family.

I felt like she was rejecting me by not wanting me to claim my roots as my own (things are better now, as you know).

Is there a difference between pretending to be the direct descendant of a German immigrant who was wounded in the Civil War rather than acknowledging that you're the direct descendant of an English immigrant from the Mayflower? I think so. Why? Because one belongs to someone else and the other belongs to me.
(Go read the whole thing -- lots more there!)

I'm sure that none of us would argue that adoptees must research ONLY their adoptive family's ancestry, or that they must NOT research their biological ancestry.  But I think sometimes adoptive parents will think that our ancestry is a perfectly fine substitute for biological ancestry when information about biological ancestry isn't easily available.  I find that attitude pretty dismissive of biological ancestry. But is Amanda right that her adoptive parents' ancestors belongs to someone else, not to her? (I'm not suggesting Amanda is wrong -- how she feels about it is what is right for her, and I absolutely get why she feels that way.  Maybe I'm asking whether it is weird for an adoptee to feel differently.)

Back on a previous post on the topic, Wendy mentioned in the comments that her husband was biologically related to Abraham Lincoln, and I asked whether it meant that her daughter adopted from China was related to Abraham Lincoln.  For her daughter, the answer is no -- she doesn't see herself related to Lincoln.  My question is whether other people would say that M. is related to Lincoln?  I'd suspect they wouldn't see M. as related to Lincoln, and while I find it perfectly fine for M. not to see herself as related to Lincoln, I have to ask what it means when other people don't see her as related to Lincoln.

Is it a good thing when others don't see an adoptee as related to a distant ancestor of the adoptive parents?  It's certainly an acknowledgement of the importance of biology, isn't it?  It confirms what adult adoptees tell us -- biology is important, knowing your biological roots is important to identity formation, having access to original birth certificates is important because it provides the information needed to search for near (in time) and distant (in time) biological roots.

But that runs counter to the "same as" narrative of adoption -- adoption is the same as biological relationship.  Adding a child to the family via adoption is the same as adding a child to the family via birth.  For the "same as" narrative, M. is related to Lincoln, isn't she?

And herein lies my ambivalence on the subject.  I reject the "same as" narrative.  Adoption is different, bringing an origin in loss and grief and pain, bringing different parenting issues, bringing additional work for a child in healthy identity formation.  But at the same time, I don't want anyone to take anything away from my children because of their adopted status, not even their adoptive ancestry if they wish to claim it.

I think I'm guilty of wanting to see adoption as only additive  -- you acquire more ancestors through adoption, but  you don't lose any of your biological ancestors because of adoption.  So as an adoptee what is available to you as ancestors is whoever you choose from your adoptive family and from your biological family.

So if Zoe wants to see herself as Chinese & French right now, that's fine.  And if another day she wants to see herself as just Chinese, that's fine, too.  But then, what if she were to decide she was only French?  Not so fine.

Because ancestry and ethnic group has an additional layer in transracial adoption. . . .

I've said before that writing helps me think through issues, so the stream of conciousness writing above is really thinking through my fingertips.  Tell me what you think, that helps me figure out what I think, too!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Maya Handled It!

Maya was so proud of herself today -- a schoolmate made an unkind remark about her being Chinese, and Maya handled it. I told her I was so proud of her!

A little boy in her class told her she couldn't sit next to him because she is Chinese.  Maya promptly told the teacher, who told the little boy his behavior was wrong and asked him to apologize.  He did.

Yep, that exciting.  But I think Maya has been sort of expecting and dreading something happening since Zoe's encounters with the "Chinese eyes" teasing (see here and here) and the mean girl at ballet who said her skin looked dirty, like it was covered with mud.

So today it was like she'd survived a rite of passage.

Maya was giddy with excitement.

I was sad.

P.S.  I talked to the teacher involved today -- not Maya's homeroom teacher, but another first grade teacher who was there.  She clarified something Maya had said that I didn't quite understand, and it makes me even more delighted with how the teacher handled the incident.

Mrs. M. asked the boy to apologize, and then asked Maya if she forgave him.  She told Maya, in front of the boy, that Maya shouldn't say, "It's OK," in response to the boy's "I'm sorry."  What the boy did and said wasn't OK, but if he was sincerely sorry, and Maya felt she could forgive him, she should say, "I forgive you."

I really like the gravity she brought to the incident, not accepting the pro forma "it's OK."  Because it was so NOT OK.  And you shouldn't say it is when it isn't.  It certainly impressed Maya, and I bet it impressed the little boy, too (OK, I can dream!).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Children are not commodity

That's the headline from this Voice of Russia article about international adoption:
“At present some Russian 700,000 children need the care of the state. So the issue of adoption legislation have gained a greater than ever importance. In the last several years we came to realize that we must remedy the situation with orphaned children. We also learnt that we have too few children – 26 million or so. This number in the United States, for one, is 72 million. Demographers say Russia is facing the problem of reduction of children’s population, so by 2025 their number can fall to 22 million or so. Compared with the United States again – that country can boast some 100 million children or more. To whom are we going to give the helm, and how strong and competitive will Russia be then,” asks Pavel Astakhov, ombudsman for the protection of children’s rights.

Astakhov says that every Russian child is worth his or her weight in gold. This country cannot afford losing 2,000 children’s lives in car crashes and another 2,000 or so in accidents at home as we had it last year. The problem is not much spoken about, but it must be focused on to find ways out, to speak on the issues of adoption. As things stand now, few orphans find new Russian families. Anything that helps to bring them into families is good, be it guardianship, patronage or adoption. We should offer incentives to adults who want to adopt a child but hesitate not knowing enough about the necessary procedures. As a matter of fact they are rather simple, given that just one precondition is there – the assistance of domestic guardianship bodies. Of course any psychologist would tell the parents adopting a child that they would have problems with him or her. But adults should be able to cope with children‘s problems, seeing their ultimate goal of raising full-fledged citizens with every right they are guaranteed by the state.

“This brings us to the theme of adoption by foreigners,” said Pavel Astakhov. “In the past 16 years Americans, for example, have been very active adopters. They took children from Vietnam, China, Ethiopia, and other countries. Many prefer Russian children and are ready to stay on long waiting lists, because they find them especially gifted and talented thanks to their roots. Americans have already adopted more than 60,000 Russian children.

* * *

Ireland had recently announced it would not adopt Russian children any longer. This does not hurt us,” Pavel Astakhov said, adding that he is confident that it would not take too long before motherless Russian children would be adopted by Russian families.

The Challenge of Adopting Internationally

From AfricanNewsLive a sobering look at disruptions from Ethiopia and elsewhere, including a statistic that 31 international adoptees have ended up in the custody of the state of Utah over the last 4 years:
The message posted to the Yahoo group for parents who have adopted children from Ethiopia was startling to many who read it.

“I am helping a friend look for a new family for her daughter,” it said, and went on to detail the 5-year-old child’s family and medical history: Born to a single mother who died from AIDS. HIV positive. Diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder. Inappropriate sexual behavior. On the plus side, the post said, the girl had learned English easily, is bright and loves to dance and sing.

“They cannot continue to have her in their home as they are not equipped to deal with her needs and they have other small children they need to protect,” the writer explained.

The post ignited a firestorm among group members.

Some were outraged at the public disclosure of the child’s personal information and the seemingly cavalier approach to finding her a new family. Others were dismayed the adoption had failed a little more than a year after the family brought the child to Utah from Ethiopia.

There were defenders of the family as well, saying they understood the havoc and heartbreak of a problematic adoption.

* * *

In May, the Yahoo group heard of another failed adoption — this one involving a 12-year-old Ethiopian girl whose adoptive father is charged with sexually abusing her just months after her arrival in Utah. Her mother also decided to find a new home for the girl and her younger brother
Experts say most foreign adoptions succeed, but these cases illustrate that screening of children and families isn’t foolproof, preparing parents for inevitable challenges is critical and post-adoption support is a must.
As the debate swirled among the Yahoo group, the first girl’s mother came forward to apologize for what she said was unintended use of her daughter’s life history and to offer her own defense.

“I understand that this path doesn’t make sense to everyone,” wrote Lacey, a pseudonym The Salt Lake Tribune is using for the Utah mother. “We have worked and prayed and loved a child who could not love us back because of the traumas she has faced in her very short life.”

* * *

Once Lacey made the decision to find a new family for her daughter, her first call was to the agency. She said the agency was “wonderful, supportive” but did not have any families ready to adopt a child with her daughter’s needs. She also couldn’t afford its nearly $1,000 fee.

So in May, she began her own search.

“We chose to lay it on the line, saying, ‘Here is a little girl who needs a family,’ ” said Lacey, who at this point was desperate, exhausted and overwhelmed.

But that do-it-yourself approach — also used by the 12-year-old girl’s family — puts a child in a potentially risky situation, with few safeguards or oversight.

“People trying to take care of an extraordinary situation without professional help is a formula for more problems,” said Adam Pertman, director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute based in New York.

Lacey said she talked to hundreds of people about her daughter before finding a new home with a single woman she knew “somewhat” through a “friend of a friend.” She gave the Washington woman temporary guardianship of the girl and then began a private adoption, which would have included a home study and background check.

But the placement fell apart quickly. The new adoptive mother was arrested during a domestic violence incident that Lacey said involved an argument over the child’s behavior.

The next stop for the child was a relative’s home, where she remained until August, when Lacey found another family for her. Lacey and her husband’s parental rights have been terminated and the new adoption is proceeding.

“It is not like I am just discarding this child,” Lacey said. “I have fought more for this child than I did while she was in my home. All I can say in the end is we did the best that we could.”

Monday, August 23, 2010


There's a long line of comments, some typical, some interesting, at the NPR story of Scott Simon's interview promoting his book about adopting two children from China, Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other. One comment is Simon's:
Thanks for all of the comments. I think this will be my last in this forum. To answer a few negative remarks: our daughters could not have been adopted by a family in China. It is against the law.
Huh?  Since when?  The same 1992 laws that allowed foreigners to adopt from China allowed for domestic adoption in China.  Amy Eldridge knows there's domestic adoption in China, citing the growth of domestic adoption as one of the reasons fewer non-special-needs kids are available for international adoption from China. This China Daily article from 2008 tracks the growth of domestic adoption in China, leading one inescapably to the conclusion that domestic adoption is not against the law in China.  The CCAA site has a category for domestic adoption -- you know, that CCAA, the Chinese government body that oversees adoption, both domestic and international?  Remember all those post-earthquake articles (see here and here  for example) about Sichuan earthquake orphans being adopted in China by Chinese? Would those articles be out there, in Chinese media no less, if domestic adoption was illegal in China? And as a last resort, one could read the actual adoption law of China, and see that no distinction in the law is made between domestic and international adopters.

Wouldn't a journalist of Scott Simon's stature have had access to this and similar information?

And yes, I felt the need to comment at the NPR site!  My last line: "I hate to see incorrect information from a noted journalist, especially from one who has two very good reasons to stay abreast of adoption in China."

Mom & Adoptee Talk Disruption

From M(ichigan)Live, a disruption story in a domestic adoption, and in this one you actually get to hear from the adoptee:

She was a heralded supermom who fought long and hard for her children and made national news for a landmark case involving transracial adoption more than a decade ago.

But today, Regina Bush says she can no longer parent one of her five adopted children and she wants the young woman — who has long history of aggression and mental health issues — out of her home.

If she refuses to care for 17-year-old daughter, Bush risks being charged with neglect — which could cause her to lose custody her other children.

If she allows the teen to stay at home, Bush believes she is putting her whole family in danger.

It is, she said, an impossible choice.

“I don’t know what else to do. If somebody gets hurt, we are all going to say what could we have done to prevent this,” a teary-eyed Bush said. “I’ll look like a bad mom no matter what I do.”
The girl's side of the story:

The young woman herself, who the Journal is not identifying because she is a minor, denies wanting to hurt anyone, saying that she is taking medication that helps her control her moods.

“I have an anger problem but I’m doing better,” she said. “I’ll be honest. I went though a big depression because I’ve been through a lot but I’m not the same person I was.

“I’m doing what I need to do. People are going to say stuff to try to set you off but I try to walk away now.”

The young woman graduated from high school this year and wants to go to college. She admits that in the past she has caused people “harm.”

“I feel like I’ve come a long way,” she said.

But, the teen said she’s always felt like she was treated differently at home.

She also is hoping to get legal permission to move out of her mom’s house into an adult foster care home — a sometimes lengthy and complicated process for people under the age of 18.

“My mother and I just don’t have a good relationship,” she said. “She wants to get me hospitalized.

“I feel like she’s not seeing any of the good. She just wants to kick me out. I think she’s making it out to be bigger than it is.”
Nope, I have no idea who is "right" or "wrong" here.  I don't even know if there is a right or wrong here.  I do know it's very sad.
BTW, the landmark transracial adoption case?  It was African-American Regina Bush adopting a white child.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Scott Simon, "Meant to Be," & Ethnicity

Did you catch Scott Simon's in-house interview at NPR?  I've always liked him as a host at NPR -- clever, low-key humor, good with the human interest story.  I didn't much like his story about how he talks to his daughters about their adoptions, and said so here:

I wish it could leave it as just a cute story, but I have to mention that the story he tells Elise -- we wanted a family, so we went to China -- is woefully incomplete. He is telling HIS story, not hers.
And when I first heard of his soon-to-be released book, Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other, and announced it here, I had to mention that I didn't much like the title, given my feeling about the whole "meant to be" thing. To me, "we were meant to be parent and child," is saying that a child was meant to lose their first parents with all the pain and grief that comes with it, that the birth parents were to suffer life-long grief and loss and pain, so that the child could join its adoptive family.  I don't believe that all of that happened so that my children could be mine as it was "meant to be" from the beginning.  But from his choice of book title and the interview, it sure seems that Simon is pretty sanguine about a birth parent's losses.  As Margie of Third Mom commented at the NPR site:

Expressing love and rationalizing differences are the easy part of the intercountry adoption story. Adoptive parents must also speak on behalf of the marginalized women who gave birth to our children and see no other future for themselves or their children than permanent separation.
"Meant to be" is such a dismissive way of talking and thinking about birth parts -- it's Rosie O'Donnell saying her adopted children just grew in the wrong tummy before becoming hers and hers alone.

And then there's the ethnicity part. Several of you saw the connection between yesterday's post about Zoe's lesson on ethnic groups and Simon's completely dismissive view of ethnicity for transracial/transethnic adoptees.  My favorite was kantmakm's comment:  "I'm guessing his oldest has not yet gotten to the Social Studies assignment that Zoe was working on. . . ."  As a commenter at Margie's post noted, "And starting the title with "Baby" to me shows that he is really not thinking about his children's experiences as older adoptees as they grow out of their cute, innocent babyhood."  Indeed.

I guess I should have expected, for one thing, his preference for "ethnicity" over "race" as the focus.  I posted before about a piece that Simon wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "How to Say Thanksgiving in Mandarin."  Here's his take-away about transracial adoption:

When my parents—a Jewish man and an Irish woman—married in the 1950s, they were warned, as transracial adoption families often are, that their children would face bigotry and hostility. But today, our 6-year-old niece Juliette, a California blond, slips her arm around the shoulders of our daughters and says, "We're cousins for life, right?"

Our Chinese children sit at the Passover table and scrounge for Easter eggs. They wear "South Side Irish" green scarves around their necks on St. Patrick's Day. It's all in the family.

My wife came home one day from our daughters' Chinese culture class to announce there would be no class next week. "Because of the Jewish holidays," she explained, straight-faced. Only in America. Our girls speak French, like their mother. My wife and I join our girls to sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" in Mandarin. We've learned that families mixed by marriage or adoption don't shrink or starve a heritage. They nourish it with newcomers.
First, think about how facile his explanation compared to how Zoe is working on issues with her ethnic identity.  (How do you think he'd answer Zoe's question -- to him, is she Chinese, French, Irish, English, Scottish?) And second, look at the emphasis on culture over race.  Sure, cover the culture/heritage end;  I think that's important in transracial, international adoption.  But it is only a starting point, as the title and the substance of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute report on racial identity formation focusing on transracial adoptees from Korea, BEYOND CULTURE CAMP: Promoting Healthy Identity Formation in Adoption., suggests

But in the "Thanksgiving" piece, he was talking about being all-inclusive -- that doesn't make him dismissive of ethnicity, does it?  Well, how about this from his interview:

For Simon and Caroline, that instinct was so strong that it drowned out any concern they may have had about there being an ethnic barrier between them and their adopted children.

"That baby is so much more to you than its ethnicity," he says. "First of all, they're hungry, they're thirsty, they're crying, they need sleep — all of these kinds of things that have nothing to do, certainly, with ethnicity."

And while Simon and Caroline are determined to expose their daughters to Chinese culture through history and travel, he says their ethnicity is still only a feature of their personality, not a defining trait.

But not everyone sees it that way. Simon says he was shocked when a friend asked Caroline if she felt guilty for taking her daughters away from their native culture: "My wife just answered, 'No, not really.' I think I would have had a tougher time holding my tongue."

Simon says it's best not to invest too much of one's identity in ethnicity.

Best not to invest too much of one's identity in ethnicity?!  Yikes!  This is what I had to say in the comments to the NPR piece, after identifying myself as an adoptive parent of Chinese children:

How easy it is for white adoptive parents to say that our transracially adopted children's ethnicity/race doesn't matter to us. However, it is very likely to matter to our children. When my 3-year-old said, "I wish my skin was light," I could have said "it doesn't matter, I love you and your skin isn't what you're all about." But the fact that she asked the question showed that IT MATTERED TO HER. And as she's gotten older it has mattered more & more. She's extremely proud of her Chinese heritage, but it hasn't protected her from racial teasing - the "Chinese eyes" taunt, being told her skin looks dirty & covered with mud.

Mr. Simon makes light of a subject -- racial identity formation -- that is far more complex than he acknowledges. Easy for him to ignore race/ethnicity, not so easy for his children.
One of my favorite things -- white people telling people of color how to feel about their color.  Sigh. It's  so disturbing when a well-known adoptive parent forwards this "race/ethnicity doesn't matter" meme, contrary to what adoption experts, and most importantly, adult adoptees of color, are saying.  All Simon is doing is giving explicit permission to other white adoptive parents of non-white kids to ignore race and ethnicity.  I have to admit, my life would be easier if I did.  But my kids' lives wouldn't be.

Friday, August 20, 2010

"Mom, do you have an ethnic group?"

While doing her Social Studies homework last night, Zoe was copying definitions from the glossary of the book onto index cards.  After finishing the card for "ethnic group," she asked, "Mom, do you have an ethnic group?"

I had't seen the definition, so I asked her first to read it to me so I'd better understand what she was asking.  It was something like "people whose ancestors came from the same place."  OK, now I know what I'm dealing with (sort of!).

I answered, "Well, I'm half French and half I'm-not-sure, since we're not exactly sure where Grandpa's ancestors came from -- probably Scotts/Irish/English."

And then I returned the question -- "How about you -- do you have an ethnic group?"

Her answer, "Well, I'm half Chinese and I'm half you, so I guess I'm part French and 'I don't know,' too."

Hmmm.  So we talked about whether ancestors in this context means biological relationships, in which case she is fully Chinese.  Zoe was adamant that Mimi is her ancestor, and Mimi's mom is her ancestor, so clearly her ancestors are French. 

And then, good Catholic school girl that she is, she decided that she and Jesus share an ethnic group since we call him the Father!

It's interesting watching Zoe try to define her identity -- last year, her answer to a similar question was, "No, I'm Chinese. But I know some French culture."

I blogged before about ancestry and adoption -- I'm not sure that my ambivalence on the issue has really changed, but I did enjoy re-reading the comments to that post.  Go take a look, and let me know what you think -- are Zoe and Maya French?  And since we're related, am I Chinese?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

About "Mao's Last Dancer," the Movie

From USA Today:
Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to remind Americans how good they have it. Australian-born filmmaker Bruce Beresford and a Chinese-born former ballet dancer named Li Cunxin are happy to oblige.

On Friday, Beresford's latest film, Mao's Last Dancer, based on Cunxin's best-selling 2003 autobiography, arrives in U.S. theaters, following a successful opening last year in Australia and a fistful of nominations and awards. Besides spectacular dancing and music, the film packs an emotional wallop about the power of art and love to transcend borders and America's continuing allure to freedom-seekers.
The book was absolutely fabulous -- if the movie is even half as good, it will be terrific.

"Asian Fit" Glasses

Interesting and thought-provoking perspective of an Asian adoptive parent with an adopted child from Taiwan -- keep reading and you'll get to the part about glasses:

I still belong to some adoption groups, and usually ignore the emails flying back and forth, but happened to read one recently that totally got my back up. An AP wrote something about how it took forever to find glasses that would fit her newly adopted older children “because the bridges of their noses are so flat. OK, nonexistent.” In a follow-up email she referred to her son’s chin as “the biggest protrusion on his face.” Who says things like that? A non-minority who is so secure in how people should look. But based on other things she says, it seems she really is trying. Still, I wish she would watch how she says things about her children. These are kids who now live with white people in a super white area who stand out because they look different from everyone else around them and they don’t need their white parents to say shit like that.

I have to say again that I don’t consider myself an angry Asian (though lately I’ve been thinking I might be a closet angry Asian). But it really bothers me to know that around the country, there are a ton of Asian children who were adopted by people like the AP mentioned above, or worse. How many APs are not even on these forums at least trying to talk about racial issues? How many of them don’t think about or care about the loss of their children’s cultural identity? Who think the best way to deal with racism towards their children is to ignore it? Given the number of adopted children from Taiwan, and the number of APs in my forums, I’d have to say a lot of APs out there just don’t care and don’t make it a priority. That bothers me a lot.

But I get why they don’t. Being a parent is hard enough to begin with without throwing all that other stuff in. To quote myself from my more clueless days, “People who adopt just want a baby to love. They don’t want to join a crusade.” So yeah, I get that – but I’ve changed my mind. Now I think if you do plan to adopt a child that is of a different race than you, then you have a duty to educate yourself and them about their birth culture, and expose them to the food, people, and language of that culture. And not say shit about their flat noses.
I agree that saying shit about your child's Asian features is out of bounds.  And there are lines of glasses designed for better fit for Asian features -- like this company, for example, which explains why "fit" is different for many Asians:

Most of the eyewear products available are tailored for Caucasian features. As Asian facial characteristics are different than those of Caucasians, it’s no wonder Asians have scarce choices of eyewear products that fit them properly. Asians have higher cheekbones and lower nose bridges, so the hunt for the right eyewear could be a frustrating experience.

After almost two years of trial and error, the TC Charton eyewear collection is ready to offer optical frames and sunglasses that will truly fit Asian features. While no Asians have the same head sizes and nose bridges, all of TC Charton eyewear models offer the following components that will address the common needs of Asian features.

•Less front curvatures
•Narrower distance between the lenses
•Extra long pad arms for the metal models so one can easily adjust the desired distance and height of the nose pads
•Extra high and pronounced nose pads in all plastic models so the frames can sit properly on the bridge and will not slide down or sit on the cheeks.
But what about this post, titled Oakley "Asian Fit" Sunglasses: Offensive, or Brilliant?:

I recently learned about Oakley's Asian Fit sunglasses, and initially, I was a little offended, because the implications of making an Asian Fit mean that the "normal" fit would be Caucasian, and once again heteronormativity is portrayed as a white male, while everyone else is labeled as "other." Or in other words, everyone who is not white is seen as a freak (Am I reading too deep? Perhaps, but if you get offended and can't realize why, it probably boils down to something along these lines.). Even though I think they should call it something else like "Class A" fit or whatever, once I put aside my initial reaction, I decided it was brilliant. Eyewear should be made to fit everyone well, and I hope the trend spreads to everyday glasses.
So what do you think of "Asian fit" glasses -- offensive or brilliant?

Answering Obnoxious Adoption Questions

From Parenting.com, Answers to Obnoxious Adoption Questions; noting new there, but notable because a mainstream parenting site is addressing the issue:

Along with the joy of adopting a child comes a stream of sometimes prying or hurtful questions. Be prepared with these brief and effective answers:

Is that your real child?

Yes. I'm a real parent raising a real child.

Are your kids from another country?

We're a family, so we live together.

* * *

He's so lucky to have been adopted.

We're the fortunate ones to be his parents.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Well Done, Sister Suffragette

Today marks the 90th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment:  "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."

Short and very, very sweet.  Though this song from Mary Poppins is more tongue-in-cheek than genuine homage to suffragettes, many a truth is said in jest, and I just plain love the exuberance of it!

Our daughter's daughters will adore us
And they'll sing in grateful chorus
"Well done, sister suffragette"
Well done, indeed.

The 14th Amendment and Asian American Citizenship

Interesting piece on the 14th Amendment and citizenship, with a discussion of the historical Asian American citizenship issue:

Until 1965, there were no numerical limits on immigration from countries in the Western Hemisphere, so the issue of illegal Mexican immigrants, which so alarms today’s critics of the 14th Amendment, didn’t arise.

The closest analogy in 1866 to today’s illegal aliens were immigrants from Asia, forever barred from American citizenship. The Chinese aroused considerable hostility among white Americans, especially on the West Coast, and with an eye on congressional elections, the amendment’s opponents charged that it would make citizens of Chinese children born in this country. The amendment’s authors didn’t retreat in the face of blatant racism. They chose their words carefully; when they wrote “all persons,” they meant it.

The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that birthright citizenship applies to every American-born child and equal protection of the laws to citizens and non-citizens alike. The key cases, decided in the late 19th century, were U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, which affirmed the citizenship of children born to Chinese immigrants, and Yick Wo v. Hopkins, which overturned a San Francisco law discriminating against Chinese-owned laundries.

The juxtaposition of the 14th Amendment with the bar on the naturalization of Asian immigrants long affected Asian-American life. In the early 20th century, California barred aliens ineligible for citizenship from owning land, so Asian parents transferred title to their homes and farms to their citizen children. Not until World War II was China given a quota (all of 105 persons per year) of immigrants eligible for naturalization. Only with the immigration reform of 1965 did Asians achieve the same status as other immigrants.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Let Them Eat Pork

I remember seeing this story when it first came out, but it fell off my radar too quickly to blog about it. I was reminded of the incident when the Daily Show did a send-up of it last night.  Here's the real news story in the Baltimore Sun (not to be confused with the Daily Show story, which was pretty accurate in any event) about the Muslim mother of 5, formerly a foster child herself, who says she's always wanted to be a foster parent:

Tashima Crudup, 26, said she contacted Contemporary Family Services in July and went through 50 hours worth of training classes to become a foster parent. The organization is a private company authorized by the state to place foster children with families.

The complaint alleges that Crudup's application was denied after it was discovered during the interview process that she prohibits pork products in her Middle River home. In a letter dated Oct. 12 from Contemporary Family Services, the company tells Crudup that the application is being denied out of "concerns raised by statements made during the home study interview, specifically your explicit request to prohibit pork products within your home environment. Although we respect your personal/religious views and practices, this agency must above all ensure that the religious, cultural and personal rights of each foster child placed in our care are upheld."
Yes, the letter the agency sent rejecting her application listed one reason, and one reason only, for rejecting her -- the fact that she would not have pork products in her home.

I wonder, is the agency also rejecting applicants who won't have pork products in their homes because they are Jewish, vegetarian, vegan, just don't like pork?  Somehow I doubt it.

And can you think of any religion when one is REQUIRED to eat pork?  That would be the only way that a child's religious rights might be violated by a foster parent's refusal to let them eat pork. And here's a crazy idea -- maybe, just maybe, there are Muslim or Jewish or vegetarian or vegan  or pork-hating children who would love to be placed in a pork-free home!  Wanna bet the agency wouldn't have a problem with placing a Muslim child in a pork-filled home?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mexico Supreme Court Upholds Gay Adoption Law

Adoption of children by gay couples is now legal in Mexico:

Mexico's Supreme Court voted Monday to uphold a Mexico City law allowing adoptions by same-sex couples, drawing jubilant cheers from gay advocacy groups and angry protests from Roman Catholic Church representatives.

The justices voted 9-2 against challenges presented by federal prosecutors and others who had argued the law fails to protect adoptive children against possible ill effects or discrimination, or to guarantee their right to a traditional family.
Mexico joins Argentina and Uruguay in allowing adoption by same-sex couples. That doesn't mean, however, that these countries will allow international adoption by same-sex couples.  But I wouldn't be all that surprised if that were to follow.

At one time, the conventional wisdom about international adoption by same-sex couples was that it was the sending country, not the U.S., who would be opposed:

However, conservative or religious countries (and often developing countries) may not be as receptive to gay and lesbian couples. Adoptive parents need to be aware that foreign governments and courts are making placement decisions based on their cultural standards and what they feel is in the best interest of the child.
The approval of same-sex marriage and adoption in these three conservative, Catholic countries seems to suggest that foreign countries are more open-minded that we expected.  And it's the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service that would likely be the stumbling block. That agency won't recognize same-sex marriages because of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act

Thus, a same-sex COUPLE could not get approval as a COUPLE.  Even if a foreign country would allow the adoption as a COUPLE, the immigration approval to bring an adopted child back to the U.S. would have to be done as a single adopting parent. 

And then there's the issue of whether a same-sex couple adoption from another country would be recognized in the U.S., which I've blogged about before.

So maybe potential sending countries like Mexico, Uruguay & Argentina, "making placement decisions based on their cultural standards and what they feel is in the best interest of the child," have a few things to teach us in the U.S.A.

Fear Over Mali's Missing Children

From the BBC:

According to Mr Coulibaly, his four-year-old daughter Adjaratou was abducted from in front of his house in September last year.

Four months later, in January this year, Adjaratou was spotted by a friend. She was with a German couple in central Bamako.

The Germans had legally adopted Adjaratou and were due to fly with her to Germany in a couple of days.

* * *

The head of the orphanage Adjaratou was adopted from, Pona Hawa Camara, says the child was brought to her by a woman one evening and she reported the arrival to the police.

"The woman said that she'd had the girl for a week and that she'd taken the child from door to door and even to the head of the neighbourhood, and that no-one recognised her."

The head of the police department in Mali which deals with such cases, Ami Kane, says, however, that Adjaratou's arrival was never reported to them.

Many families accuse the police of not taking the cases of missing children seriously Ms Camara said she would give the BBC the date the child arrived at her orphanage and the name of the person who handed her over.

She now refuses to do this or to answer any more questions.

The German organisation that assisted in organising the adoption, Help A Child, refused to make a statement about the case.

White Privilege & White Guilt

An excellent must-read post about Peggy McIntosh's article about white privilege (I posted about it here),and the reaction to that article from adoptive parents on this forum (which is what motivated my MUCH less useful Move Along, Nothing to See Here post), from the wonderfully named blog I Will Pull This Blog Over:

One of the major response from adoptive parents who do not accept the idea of white privilege is the idea that they have no reason to feel guilty about having white privilege because there are reasons that others don’t have privilege. However, guilt has no place here and guilt is counterproductive. There is nothing to feel guilty about. You are not responsible for white privilege. You didn’t ask for white privilege and you did nothing to deserve it or achieve it except have the fortune of being born with white skin. You did not create the conditions that result in white privilege. And even if you did feel guilty, you can’t get rid of your white privilege. You benefit from it- accept it. But at the same time also accept that other people do not have that luxury. Spending all your energy protesting how you aren’t going to feel guilty is an easy way to avoid looking at the real problem.

White privilege is also about the racism of institutions and socialization far more than it is about the racism of individuals. When someone talks about white privilege, they are NOT calling all white people racists. They are talking about the results of years of socialization, most of which is unconscious and unacknowledged. They are talking about the end result of a GROUP of people who have historically held power over another group-maintaining that power through an intricate web of economics, education, policies, practices and in some cases brute force. Beliefs and practices that we all internalize because we are socialized from birth to believe these things all without ever even realizing that it is happening. Practices that have instilled the dominant culture (in this case white) as the norm and everything else as “other.”

That is what white privilege is all about, plain and simple- it’s not about calling a person racist, it’s not about people feeling guilty. It’s about one group being the norm and the resulting benefits that result from that fact.
Go read the whole thing!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Move Along, Nothing to See Here . . .

That's what police officers say to the looky-loos who want to cluster around the scene of an accident or crime.  And actually there's quite a lot to see, isn't there? But it's "Move along, nothing to see here."

One of the classes I teach is Criminal Law, and one of the subjects we cover is rape law.  Every semester, every time we get to rape law, and we talk about the gendered nature of the crime, some student stands up and says, "It happens to men, too!"

Yes, yes it does.  And outside of prison it happens in such small numbers that we're likely to make a Movie of the Week out of a true-life episode.  When it happens to a man, it's a story.  When it happens to a woman, it's a statistic.

But the student who stands up to say "it happens to men, too" isn't really concerned about the social issue of men who are raped.  It's a way to say DON'T see it as a gender issue, DON'T consider it a women's issue.  Move along, there's nothing to see here.

We do the same thing when we talk about race.  "It happens to white people, too."  "Everyone is going to be teased about something."  Move along, there's nothing to see here.

And we do it when we talk about difficult issues in adoption for our kids.  "Would you rather have grown up in an orphanage?"  Mei-Ling has a great post about that shut-it-down question posed by adoptive parents to adult adoptees:

The question referring to orphanages isn’t being used as a honest  true attempt to discuss the realities of orphanages.

It is being used in an inappropriate context to maneuver the adult adoptee into saying what the asker wants to hear – what the asker expects to hear.

It is used as a silencing attempt, a passive-aggressive way to convey: “Be grateful you are even alive and have a family that loves you. You wouldn’t have even gotten that if you’d stayed behind, and because you are adopted, this family is a privilege.”
You're sometimes sad about your adoption?  You're an "angry adoptee?"  "Would you have rather been raised in an orphanage?"  Move along, there's nothing to see here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Back to School Memories of an Adult Adoptee

I wanted to share Yeon Soon's blog post about being a Korean adoptee in school in Australia:

I – like many children – had to endure the “studying” of our families and origins. I don’t think there have been many other times in which I’ve felt more uncomfortable as those moments when I was sitting on the classroom floor, listening to my teacher/s talk about origin and relatives. I remember wanting to just sink into a hole and die, while other kids around me eagerly raised their hands to tell the class about how they were born in Sydney and their Mums had them at such-and-such a time of the day; how they look like their Dads, but not their Mums; how their siblings both have blonde hair; how their parents cook food from their cultural heritages… bla bla bla bla bla. Now maybe I could have been the only one in the class, but it’s obvious that teachers bring up this topic with little consideration into any other kids that might be anything but “normal”. And what better way of making those kids feel even more ashamed of themselves than by focusing so heavily on the “normal”? (Whatever that is.) Seriously… isn’t that the last thing that children should feel: weird? The odd one out? Not normal? Not like everyone else?

* * *

Honestly, I think my heart would break to know that a child I had (or was in my care as a teacher) had felt as though they just wanted to shrivel up and die simply from being at school: a place where they’re meant to feel safe, welcome and a valued member of the class community. Why should we feel condemned at such a young age simply from having been adopted? Sure, you may read this and think: ‘what’s the big deal? It’s just learning about family’, but when you’re five, six, seven… it’s a huge deal. It’s a huge deal to realise that you’re not like those around you and that there’s something different about you. Something that makes you almost less of a person than them.
Breaks my heart.

Finding Family -- Beijing Review

Thanks to O Solo Mama for this link to a Beijing Review article about a China adoptee's reunion with birth family in China:

It took 14 years—and just two minutes—for an adopted Chinese girl to find her biological family. July 21 this year marked the first anniversary of Haley Butler's finding of her biological parents in Maanshan in east China's Anhui Province.

This year's family reunion was an exciting experience for Haley, a 15-year-old girl from Tennessee in the United States, as she had the chance to meet every member of her Chinese family—her parents, three elder sisters and a little brother.

* * *

Haley's American parents have been supportive in her wishes of finding her biological parents and those thoughts soon turned into action.

She returned to China for a 15th time in July 2009—this time to search for her parents.

"The local police were extremely generous in their help," Haley said. They looked through all the documents about abandoned babies and suggested a place to put up a poster.

In just two minutes, Haley had a response. A woman working in the restaurant where the poster was put up said Haley looked like the daughter of her cousin, who had sent a baby girl to others 14 years previously. In a few hours, the woman's cousin showed up, a 50-something man who came with his first daughter all the way from Chaohu to Maanshan to meet Haley.

After she returned to the United States, Haley's family had her hair tested for matching DNA. It turned out the man's DNA showed an almost 100 percent match.

Haley and her adoptive parents had always thought the odds of finding the biological parents were slim to none, and never thought it would be so easy.
FYI, the American family founded Annabelle's Wish, a non-profit organization to provide care and basic necessities for children in orphanages in China.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Back to School: Resources on Bullying and Racism

I was working on this resource list yesterday before I got side-tracked by that discussion of diversity and racial identity I posted about.  Now, these links seem more important than ever:

Building Racial Identity: Choosing a School & The Issue of Race for Private School Children of Color from PACT, the well-respected adoption alliance emphasizing services for adopted children of color.

Bullying Fast Facts, quick statistics on the prevalence of bullying -- may be helpful if your school doesn't think bullying is a problem.

Identifying And Responding To Bias Incidents, dealing with school incidents motivated by bias or prejudice.

Best Practices in Bullying Prevention & Intervention:  Ten-step plan for assessing bullying in your school and creating a plan to stop it.

Teaching Diverse Students Initiative, web-based resources for teachers, courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance website.

How to Intervene to Stop Bullying: Tips for On–the-Spot Intervention at School & Bullying: Guidelines for Teachers:  Great advice for school personnel on intervening in the moment to protect a child being bullied.

For Kids:  What is Bullying? A great all-inclusive definition of bullying that takes it beyond the physical;  might be good for educators who don't think of bullying beyond the physical, either.

Bullying:  Tips for Students, with concrete things kids can do when being bullied or seeing bullying.

Being EXPLICIT About Race & Racism, a post about talking to your kids about race and racism.

Talk With Your Child About Bullying, a one-page handout with suggested ways to explore whether your child is being bullied, something they may be reluctant to tell you about.

Chinese Eyes Again, an account of talking with my kids about a racial teasing incident at their school.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

First Day of School, Shoes Edition

I've already mentioned how important shoes were to this first day of school for Zoe -- as a 4th grader she can now wear saddle oxfords (in a size FIVE, believe it or not!).  And Maya's new sneakers are so white the glare blinds me, a real difference from her completely grungy formerly-white sneakers at the end of the kindergarten year!

But it was other shoes that played an important part in Maya's first day as a first grader.  Her teacher assigned a very cool getting-to-know-you exercise at orientation.  On the first day of class, each student was to bring in four items, small enough to fit into a little brown bag, that described his or her personality ("What's a personality?"  I'm guessing I wasn't the only first-grade parent who had to answer this question for a 6-year-old!).

Maya brought:  1) her stuffed dolphin, so she could say she loved to swim and tell about her Florida vacation; 2) a photo of her in her recital costume so she could tell about her love of music and ballet; 3) a self-portrait, so she could share that her grandmother is an artist and that Maya loves to draw and wants to be an artist when she grows up. . . .

. . . and then Maya wanted a fourth thing to share about being born in China.  She finally settled on the shoes she was wearing when we first met in China, the shoes her foster mother lovingly embroidered and beaded.

Maya recounted her every moment in the spotlight, presenting her four items (she said that the picture she drew was the best one, far better than anything the other students drew!).  She said, "I pulled the shoes out of my bag LAST, and I said they were my baby shoes from when I was adopted in China.  Mrs. I (teacher) said, 'Those are your baby shoes?! (ahem, Maya was 18 months old when she was adopted, so I'm sure her teacher was thinking what a BIG baby she must have been!)  They are sooooo sparkly!'"  Maya was quite pleased with that response.

After talking about her shining moment with her sparkly shoes, I asked, "Do you think your classmates know what 'adopted' means?"  Maya conceded they probably didn't, so I asked, "How would you explain it to them if they asked?"  And Maya's immediate response was, "W.I.S.E. Up!"  I was feeling pretty proud of my parenting skills in introducing the W.I.S.E. Up book . . .

. . . and then I asked, "If you decided to do S (share) or E (educate), what would you say about adoption?"
Maya's response: "I'd say adoption is when your REAL parents can't take care of you, so they take you to an orphanage, and then a mom comes from another country or from the same country, I guess, and adopts you!"  LOL!!!

So we had to do the whole "do you mean your birth parents?" thing, and the "your birth parents sure are REAL parents" thing, and the "feel my hand, do I seem real" thing,  and the "you have two real moms" thing, and I was struck once again (right between the eyes!) by how important it is to repeat, repeat, repeat, and check understanding over and over again. . . .  (And don't worry, I don't expect Maya to take the laboring oar in explaining adoption to her classmates;  I'll be talking to her teacher about it and presenting in the classroom if the teacher and Maya are ok with that).

. . . and the crowd goes wild!

Rumor Queen hits a home run in a blog post discussing the importance of racially diverse schools and communities for transracially adopted children, and garners over 60 comments, many from defensive adoptive parents and prospective parents who disagree.  Here's what she had to say:

From all of the reading of books and blogs, and the conversations I’ve had with adult adoptees (many of them Korean, a few of them my age), I’ve learned that it is of the upmost importance to 1) Make adoption something that is talked about freely in our home without it being a big deal and 2) Put them in a diverse school where they will never ever ever ever be considered (or consider themselves) “other”.

* * *

All kids have to form a self identity, that’s part of growing up… figuring out who you are. As a general rule, kid’s who aren’t white have to do more defining than kids who are white. I’m told that my girls are likely going to go through stages of identifying as more Chinese, then less Asian, then more American and try to ignore the Asian part, then go overboard with the Chinese stuff, etc. Eventually they will find a balance and figure out who they want to be, how they want to identify. And we, as parents, need to be okay with their experiments.

From what I’ve been told, if you put a child into a classroom where they are the only non-white child, or one of only two or three non-white children, then they will see themselves as being “different”, and the process of figuring out who they are gets derailed. But if you put them into a situation where diversity is a fact of life, where they are just one of the diverse and multi-cultured crowd and aren’t seen as being “other”, then they can explore their individuality from a much better place.

* * *

Before we adopted GlitterGirl I considered myself open minded, but I now realize how clueless I was. You know the saying, “Things you know, things you don’t know… and then the things you don’t know that you don’t know.” My understanding of racial issues fell firmly into that last category. There is another saying, the one about white people having the luxury of thinking race doesn’t matter. It took me a while to understand that statement.
Be sure to read the whole thing, and check out the comments, too. I can't think of a word to disagree with in this post (and I've criticized RQ when I've disagreed!), but the commenters sure have.  The discussion has spilled out into the discussion board , as well as at a follow-up post where RQ encourages readers to listen to what adult adoptees have to say. With RQ being such a trusted name in China adoption, and being someone as about pro-adoption as you could imagine, some of her following is really imploding on hearing hard truths!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Adoption in School -- Samples, Handouts & Downloadables

My last post on adoption in the schools required you to BUY resources.  This one features internet resources, handouts & downloadables that are free, free, free!

Dear Teacher A sample letter that you can tailor to your own needs if you want to share with your child's teacher information about adoption.

ADOPTION IN THE SCHOOLS: A LOT TO LEARN, Promoting Equality and Fairness for all Children and Their Families, from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

Adoption in the Classroom, a 2-page clip & save guide for teachers about adoption in the classroom, from Adoptive Families magazine.

Adopted Children in the Early Childhood Classroom  Suggestions for teachers who have adopted children in the classroom.

Teacher's Guide to Adoption, a ten-module guide to teaching about adoption.

Tackling Tricky Assignments, a clip & save guide examining 6 typical school assignments that can be tricky for adopted children.

Adoption Basics for Educators:  How Adoption Impacts Children and How Educators Can Help, a printable booklet for teachers.

Adoption Competent School Assignments, explaining the bias and providing the fix for some typical school assignments difficult for adopted kids.

Helping Classmates Understand Adoption, a handout for parents/students to help them understand adoption when an adopted child is in the classroom.

And yes, those are my big girls, all dressed up and ready to go for the first day of school.  It's a big year -- Maya is now in first grade, so graduates to the plaid jumper, and Zoe is in fourth grade and graduates to the saddle oxfords.  Just ask them, and they'll tell you what a BIG DEAL that is!

Adoption Interrupted

I missed this while on vacation -- a three-part piece on adoption disruption in the Toronto Star.  Click for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.  You have to love the family profiled in Part 3:

Cathy Gilbert, 52, can bond with a child just by reading their biography.

The adoption support worker from Nanaimo, B.C. has four biological children and 12 adopted children — six of whom came from adoptions that didn’t work out.

She and husband Dave, 52, a marine instructor, started “serial adopting” when they realized some children with attachment disorders were being given back to children’s aid societies.

“We’ve had all of it, the lying, stealing, setting fires,” says Gilbert, who has had to padlock the pantry to keep food in the house, drive kids to school because they don’t behave on the bus and sent a teen to wilderness camp so he wouldn’t disrupt a family wedding.

This is not the way she expected to parent, she is quick to admit, but she has had to adjust as she has tackled serious behavioural issues with children who have been abused, neglected and abandoned.

One teenager has still not “attached” to her after a decade. But that’s okay, says Gilbert, as her need for parental rewards have been met by the other children and she is strongly bonded to that child herself.

* * *

But there’s never any doubt that they are hers forever.

“We’re in this for the long haul. This is what we do because we like kids and think they’re fun.”

Monday, August 9, 2010

"It was like stealing"

Maya has been making some very interesting adoption observations over the last few weeks, and this morning she asked if I'd blogged about what she said yet.  I had to confess I hadn't and promised to do so ASAP!  But first a funny Maya story that may or may not have an adoption connection.  While we were in Florida, she drew pictures to illustrate a story she then told me, and it went like this:

Maya:  This is Bubbles.  She's a fish I found, and she's just a little baby.

Me:  She's a baby?  Where are her parents?

Maya:  (It quite the gleeful tone of voice) They're fish fillet!
Yikes!  Later, Maya was looking at a brochure with a map of the zoo (which we did not visit in West Palm), and she pointed and said, "This is the very actual fountain where I found Bubbles.  And this is the very actual restaurant where her parents became fish fillet!"  And my girl had no trouble at all eating broiled fillet of fish for dinner a few nights later!

OK, and now to the story the title of this blog post came from.  Maya and Zoe watched Ice Age 3 (which their oldest cousin Aaron bought them for Christmas) with their youngest cousin William while we were in Florida.  They'd seen it before, and didn't have much of a reaction to it then.  But one story line is that Sid the Sloth finds 3 dinosaur eggs, cares for them, hatches them, and cares for the babies.  Then huge mama dinosaur comes and gets them back.  Hilarity ensues.

Maya came to talk to me after the movie, and she said that when Sid took the eggs it was "like adoption, but it was also like stealing."  Hmmm.  So I asked how it was like adoption -- she answered it was like adoption because Sid was taking care of the babies but he didn't grow them in his tummy (discussion ensues about why men can't grow babies in their tummies). 

So how was it like stealing, I asked.  Because Sid took the eggs when the mama still wanted them, Maya finally explained, after some exploration that took us miles off course and then back again.  I said I thought she was pretty smart to figure that out.  Adoption happens when the mama can't take care of the baby and so AGREES that the other family should adopt the baby; but if the mama can take care of the baby, like the dinosaur mama in the movie, and hasn't agreed, then it is like stealing.  Or, I said, it was like her finding Bubbles.  It would be OK to adopt Bubbles once she knew that Bubbles' parents were fish fillet. Or, if the baby is left somewhere, like she was, we have to be sure to look for the mama and only if we can't find her is the baby adopted.  I explained that was why she and her sister weren't little newborns when I adopted them. They had to stay in the orphanage first to make sure their birth families couldn't be found.

Very interesting to be talking to your six-year-old about human trafficking for purposes of adoption, without ever using those terms. . . .

Then the other night, we were watching Hercules.  We've discussed adoption themes in Hercules before, but this time Maya was taking the lead instead of Zoe.  And this time, Maya wanted to talk about adoption and stealing again.  Pain and Panic, Hades' henchmen, stole Hercules from Olympus and were supposed to kill him.  Instead, they left him on the doorstep of a couple who then adopt him.  Soooo, that lead to more discussion of human trafficking for the purposes of adoption, without ever using those terms.  We talked about the fact that the adoptive parents didn't know Hercules had been stolen.  But we also talked about the fact that  they didn't seem to do much checking around for his birth parents, either, and that that was not good. By this time, Zoe was in on the conversation, and she thought the adoptive parents should have done what Hercules ultimately did when they finally told him he was adopted -- the parents should have used the necklace he was left with to try to find his birth parents when they first found him.  No kidding.

So, have you talked with your kids about how adoption is and isn't like stealing?  About trafficking for the purposes of adoption?  Share your conversations in the comments, please!