Saturday, December 31, 2011

Overseas Adoption: Micro v. Macro Views

At the Korea Times, Pastor Kim Do-hyun, director of KoRoot, a support organization for Korean adoptees, looks at international adoption from South Korea from a macro view:
Some years ago, during a seminar about overseas adoption from Korea, I stated that the practice is “child abuse rather than child welfare.” Some of the social workers who were working for overseas adoption agencies looked very shocked when they heard my presentation.

After the seminar, some of them came to me and made strong complaints and protested. They argued, “Why do you insult and disgrace us, while we try to find sweet homes for abandoned children through overseas adoption?”

* * *

From a micro-perspective, overseas adoption can be seen as child welfare. In view of this, certainly I am very grateful to the adoptive parents in Western countries, who have looked after the abandoned Korean children with “philanthropic love.” I also am deeply appreciative of the various social workers in adoption agencies, police stations, maternity clinics and orphanages, to name but a few, who have tried to provide a sweet home for abandoned children. However, from a macro-perspective, the overseas adoption program of Korea has been deeply related to the international social system.

First, overseas adoption is a kind of child abuse by the state. Second, the overseas adoption policy of the government was likely a part of its economic development strategy, which means the overseas adoptees have been used as part of a project to create wealth and prosperity for the rest of the South Koreans.

Overseas adoption is the forced expulsion of children from the society where they are supposed to live. In this sense, overseas adoption is a social violence against children. As humans, we exist as part of a gigantic ecosystem. The existence of the biological parents of adoptees can never be annihilated nor denied. Accordingly, while adoptees are growing up, they should be given information about their biological parents and be able to interact with them. By doing so, adoptees can form their identity with less conflict.

Overseas adoption is a forced separation of children from their natural ecosystems, as well as a way of forcing them into compulsory unity with settings different from and unnatural to their genetic and original social systems. Through this forced separation and compulsory unity, not only the adoptees, but also their biological parents, adoptive parents and their family members suffer trauma.

The overseas adoption of Korean children can be seen as child abuse since it has been interrelated with the economic development strategy of the government. How can we call the overseas adoption program of Korea “child welfare” when we create wealth and prosperity by forcefully expelling them?
Go read the whole thing and let us know what you think. He's certainly addressing one of the biggest conundrums of international adoption.  It's like that damned starfish story -- adopting one makes a huge difference in the life of that one.  But what about the negative societal consequences that come from adopting the one?  The dangers of creating a money-driven adoption economy that leads to corruption, coercing poverty-stricken parents with few other options to relinquishing children, and "out-sourcing" adoption to countries with child protection and legal systems completely inadequate to handle it responsibly, just to name a few. . . .

Government Conferences on Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children

From Foreign Policy's Shadow Government blog (Notes from the Loyal Opposition), a look at two conferences, one hosted by the Congressional Coalition of Adoption Institute and the other by USAID:
I recently participated in two groundbreaking events focused on highly vulnerable children. The first in November was the Way Forward Project Summit sponsored by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI)which brought together African and U.S. officials and experts in this field to make recommendations for strengthening child protection systems in six African countries. The event was held at the State Department and Secretary Clinton gave solid remarks making her the first Cabinet level official to specifically address this important cross-cutting issue.

The second event in December was an Evidence Summit on protecting children outside family care. It was sponsored by USAID with participation and support from over a dozen U.S. government agencies or offices that work with vulnerable children. For the first time, a true ‘whole of government' approach was presented that is beginning to break through the silos that typically define our government's approach to children's issues globally. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah drew from his personal experience in Haiti seeing the devastating toll of the earthquake on children and ended his opening remarks by noting that the most important line of protection for vulnerable children is a safe and loving family.
Secretary Clinton's remarks, referenced above, included the following:
And we know, not only from our own personal experience, how we feel when we see a child being abused or neglected or in some way denied the rights that children should have, but that is backed up by scientific and sociological studies going back more than 50 years. Consistently, the studies prove that children in residential institutions too often experience developmental delays, attachment disorders that obviously impact their ability to mature and their success later in life. One recent study showed that, on average, children reared in orphanages had IQs 20 points lower than those raised in foster care.

Now, over the past several years, many countries have taken steps to get children out of orphanages, off the streets, into kinship and community care situations. But UNICEF still estimates that there are at least 2 million children in orphanages around the world, and that is likely a vast underassessment. So there’s clearly more work for us to do.

What you’re doing today with The Way Forward Project is bringing policymakers, investors, and implementers together. And we are so proud to be partnering with Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, and Uganda, and we applaud the leadership of those countries for putting your children first. We’re seeking ways to improve the full continuum of care for vulnerable children. For example, in Ethiopia, USAID is helping return 400 children from institutions to family care or foster care. We’re working with the Ethiopian Government to improve the oversight of all children in care. And the ideas discussed today, we hope, will turn these good ideas into policies. And I’m pleased that next month, USAID’s Secretariat for Orphans and Vulnerable Children will follow up on this event by hosting the first-ever Evidence Summit on Children Outside of Family Care.

Let’s improve coordination between different government programs. Let’s try to provide more support to families to be able to take in children who need kinship care. When separation is unavoidable, let’s promote early childhood development with local adoption foster care and, when desirable, inter-country adoption.
Clinton's last paragraph states the subsidiarity principle from the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption.  I like the emphasis of both conferences on strengthening existing families. Reactions?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Red Letter Day

A big day for Zoe today -- her first pointe shoes!  She approached it with excitement and trepidation, though the real fear won't come until her first class on pointe on January 15.   Of course, it isn't as magical and ethereal as it all looks -- she learned about toe pads and toe spacers and mesh bags to air out the shoes after sweating through class. But after 8 years of ballet, this is a true milestone for my biggest ballerina (Maya, three years behind Zoe, is so jealous!)!

But Maya did get her red letter day on Christmas day -- she finally managed the much-anticipated loss of her second front tooth so that she could sing "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth!"

Yes, another thinly-disguised excuse to post cute pictures of my incredibly cute kids!

Failed Adoptions at Age 18

So reports the New York Times:
Lamar West has lost parents twice in his life. The first time was when he was 4; the second was a month before his 18th birthday. The circumstances differed, but the outcomes did not.
When Mr. West, 20, tries to remember his biological parents, his eyes close and his face goes still. He remembers his mother’s name, Rochelle Griffin. Then he recalls a place — a hallway, an office — and fragments of conversation. “Records. Drug abuse. Termination.”

At age 5, Mr. West was adopted from the Illinois child welfare system. His four siblings went elsewhere. Parental rights were terminated. His child welfare case was closed. His last name and birth certificate were changed, listing his adopter, Frankie Lee West, as his mother. He had a new family.
He lived in Ms. West’s Roseland home with her and her eight other children (six of them were adopted) for years. But in 2008, he went to stay nearby with a family friend for a few months because Ms. West’s new house on the Southwest Side had become too crowded. He remained in regular contact with her. Then, in January 2009, he went to her home and discovered it empty.

She had moved — “upped and went,” as Mr. West said — to Atlanta. It was a month before he turned 18, and a month before the checks she received from the child welfare system on behalf of Mr. West were scheduled to stop.
“I’ve never felt pain like that before,” Mr. West said of finding the empty house. “My heart was beating so fast. It was like someone was punching me from the inside of my chest.”

Mr. West is what caseworkers and providers refer to as a “failed adoption.” He is part of a growing group that is entering the local shelter system for homeless youths after their families vanish as quickly as the government checks attached to them do.       
This is a failed adoption, isn't it?  The idea isn't just to get the kid to 18, and then all bets are off, right?  Sure, there's no legal obligation for a parent to support a child past 18, but what does it say when the relationship ends as soon as the adoption subsidy checks do?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Poverty is no reason to take children from families

Oftentimes when we think of families losing children because of poverty we think of it as a third-world problem.  Consider this about Ethiopia from SOS Children's Villages:
The main issue facing countries like Ethiopia is extreme poverty.

When people see birth families benefitting from their choice to relinquish their child, she said, that can have a contagious effect in these communities. "It takes over a whole village very quickly. It's very dangerous stuff, playing with people's poverty, emotions, and needs in a way that's really quite profound."
But this commentary at the Detroit Free Press, by a law professor who works with children's rights cases, talks about poverty in Michigan separating children from their families:
A loving father sees a judge place his children in foster care because his Walmart job doesn't pay enough, and he and his child live with his sister.

Another father can't get his two boys out of foster care because he can't afford to buy them separate beds.

And a baby is removed from her parents' custody and placed with strangers simply because the family is homeless -- despite the parents' attempt to place the baby with family friends, instead.

All three Michigan families share a common denominator: poverty.

The foster care system exists to protect children from being abused by their parents. Yet, every day, children are separated from their families and placed in the system for no better reason than their parents' low income.

A short conversation with lawyers, caseworkers and judges bears this truth out. And in a state like Michigan, where the child poverty rate has increased by more than 60% in the last 10 years, recent cuts in public assistance and a staggering economy have only made things worse.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


A huge hit with the girls this Christmas was the toys my mom found for them -- Kimochis, tagline "toys with feelings inside."  Each doll has a story that describes its personality and characteristics, and each has a pocket in which to tuck little "feelings" pillows.  One pillow is happy, another cranky, proud, brave, etc.  The girls decided the feelings were a little limited, and want to make their own feelings pillows to tuck into the pockets. 

Each doll also comes with a book with tips for parents on talking feelings with their children, games to play to encourage communications, etc.  There's nothing adoption-specific about these dolls, but communicating about feelings in general is really helpful with adoption talk.  And I think it's quite doable to make adoption-specific feelings pillows if you want.

There are five Kimochis -- we have four:  Lovey Dove, Cat, Bug & Cloud.  We'll probably be getting the Huggtopus, too (Huggtopus seems tailor-made for a child with boundary problems, and that isn't a big one for my kids), just because it's so cute! 

Like Maya, Lovey Dove loves to cuddle, but sometimes has a problem in wanting to make everyone happy. And like Maya, Cat asks for exactly wants she wants, but can be a bit bossy.  Like Zoe, Cloud is a little moody and has a hard time controlling his emotions, but is very loveable.  And like Zoe, Bug can overthink things and become a bit paralyzed, but that's because they're both smart and thoughtful.

As you can see, the girls love the Kimochis!  They've made little beds for each one out of the boxes they came in, and Maya won't leave the house without Lovey Dove!  Big hit -- thanks, Mimi!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Estimating Age of International Adoptees

MedPage reports on an article in the journal Pediatrics:
International adoptees often arrive in the U.S. with an incomplete birth certificate and medical history, thus questions arise as to the child's accurate date of birth. As a result, pediatricians are often called upon to render an age determination based on standard measures, such as dental eruption and radiographic bone age.

When making an age determination, a difference of a few weeks or months will not matter as much in children under the age of 1. But for an older adoptee, age determination could influence placement in school, wrote Veronnie Jones, MD, PhD, and colleagues on the AAP Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption, and Dependent Care.
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Delaying any changes on the birth certificate more than a year after adoption allows for "catch-up growth" and extended observation of the child's physical and emotional development, they wrote in a clinical report in Pediatrics.
I've known parents who had their adopted child's age changed, some based on medical evidence that the given birth date is likely inaccurate and some based on an assessment that the child was developmentally delayed and needed to be thought of as younger to allow for catch-up.

That second reason strikes me as problematic, for once the child catches up, they are still physically older than their records indicate.  That would be an advantage in everything from Little League to behavior expectations in school.  And that added year may be a serious disadvantage, too, as this article (where an international adoptee is charged with statutory rape, and there's a question as to his actual age, which would make a difference in whether he is in fact guilty) illustrates.

I'm not generally in favor of changing anything in the child's history before adoption, it just creates a false history, and we already do plenty of that with fake birth certificates.  I see the role of adoptive parents as preserving that history, not altering it. But what if there's reason to believe that history prior to adoption has already been falsified?  Does that make a difference?

There's some uncertainty as to my children's actual birthdates.  Maya's birthdate was estimated in China, and the evidence that suggests Zoe's birthdate may have been fabricated. Still, it's likely that if their birthdates are off, they are only off by days, not months or years, so I think we're luckier than many. . . .

Monday, December 26, 2011

Swedish Adoption Agency Visits Orphans in Ruzhou

From China Daily:
Representatives of three Swedish adoption agencies recently visited Ruzhou Jingeng Hospital accompanied by officials of the provincial civil affairs department to extend their regards to brain paralysis orphans.
The three adoption agencies were Children's Friend, Adoption Center and Transnational Family Adoption Agency from Sweden. They have set up branches and charity projects across the world. Each year, they adopt over 100 Chinese orphans. In this trip to Ruzhou, the three Swedish adoption agencies made preparations to adopt brain paralysis orphans recently recovered in Jingeng Hospital.
I'm not quite sure what "brain paralysis" means in China; the children in the picture are standing and don't seem to be paralyzed. . . .

In Utah, Birth Fathers Can't Win -- or Anywhere Else for That Matter

I've posted before about the difficulty of birth father protecting his rights (if any) in an adoption case. While it's worse in Utah, it's not that great in other states, either, reports the Salt Lake Tribune:
Ramsey Shaud admits the circumstances were not perfect. He wasn’t even sure he loved Shasta B. Tew.

Still, when Shaud learned in 2009 that Tew was pregnant as a result of their casual relationship but didn’t want to be a mother, he stepped up.
Shaud told Tew he wanted to be a dad and would raise the child, with help from his family.
But Tew, then 19, apparently didn’t like that idea and, as she began pursuing adoptive parents for the coming baby, Shaud moved quickly to protect his parental rights. Shaud, who was 22, learned he needed to sign with the Putative Father Registry in Florida, their home state, so he would be notified of any proposed adoption. It turned out to be a simple process: He printed out a form he found online and sent it in, along with the $20 filing fee.
Five months later, Tew’s mother hand-delivered to Shaud a terse three-line note about his ex-girlfriend’s plan to visit Arizona and Utah for the holidays. Shaud feared — rightfully, he says — that the real intent of the trip west was to give birth in a state where he was less likely to be able to assert any claim to the child.
That same day, Shaud had no trouble finding a form for Arizona’s registry online; he printed it, filled it out and mailed it in. But despite hours spent dissecting the Utah Department of Health’s website, which he figured was the logical place to look, Shaud was unable to locate a similar form or information about what he needed to do here.
That’s because Utah, unlike most states with registries aimed at unmarried fathers, doesn’t make a form or directions on how to proceed available online. In fact, the phrase "putative father," used in state law to describe an unwed biological father, isn’t mentioned anywhere on the websites of the health department or Office of Vital Records and Statistics, the agency charged with maintaining Utah’s registry. Utah law requires that forms be made available through local health departments, but office policy is not to do so, according to Director Janice Houston.
"The state makes the form available at the [Utah] Department of Health, but you have to pick it up in person, which is impossible for a father who lives out of state," said Joshua Peterman, an attorney who has three active cases involving unmarried fathers.
Shaud, a resident of Crestview, Fla., is one of a string of men who say Utah intentionally makes it difficult to protect their rights when they oppose adoption.In fact, unmarried fathers face a hodgepodge of approaches across the country regarding their rights. A Salt Lake Tribune review found Utah is not the only state where determining how to protect those rights is difficult — a problem some experts say would be solved by creating a national putative-father registry.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Best wishes of the season from our family to yours!  I hope you had as wonderful a day as we had.  As my dad would say, "I feel sorry for anyone who isn't me tonight!"

Saturday, December 24, 2011

China's One-Child Policy: Cost & Benefit

AP has an interesting interactive feature today -- hear and watch video of two sets of parents "who have joined an increasingly defiant community of parents in China who have risked their jobs, savings and physical safety to have a forbidden second child."  And then click over and listen to 3 generations of Chinese women discuss how "the one-child policy [has] harmed women in many ways, but . . . has also opened up opportunities for some."  Finally, click over to check out an interactive chart to see how the number of women in China in the general population, in higher education, etc., has changed between 1980 and 2009 (while the percentage of women in the National People's Congress remains basically constant -- not too different from us).

Friday, December 23, 2011

An International Adoption Reunion Story

OK, am I just imagining this trend?  In November, National Adoption Month, there are tons of happy-happy-joy-joy adoption stories.  And in December, there are tons of happy reunion stories. Hmmm.  Here's another one:
In 1952, Kantor was born in a small town in the Italian region of Bari, a southern region that partially borders the Adriatic Sea. She was born Nicoletta, a name that was changed when she and her older brother, Vito, were placed in an orphanage by her grandfather. Kantor was 3 1/2 and her brother was 5 1/2.

At 3 1/2, Kantor was old enough to remember her birthmother, a woman named Mery Marotta Pesce, and when she would cry out for her mother in the orphanage, she was comforted by the nuns. They showed her a picture of an Italian couple who had recently immigrated to the United States. Kantor and Vito had met them only once, but were told the picture showed their parents and they would soon be joining the couple in the United States.

And what of the woman, Mery, who Kantor remembered as her mother?

“I had a bond with my (birth) mother,” she said. “I missed her and they would lie to me in the orphanage.”

Kantor lived happily with her parents and brother until she was 18-years old when she learned the couple she considered her mother and father had adopted her from the Italian orphanage.

* * *

In 1984, a Catholic priest from Ohio was vacationing in Italy when he met a woman named Costanza. For 25 years, Costanza, her sister, Silva, and their mother Mery had been searching for a daughter and son who had been sent to America and adopted by another family. Their research suggested the siblings might live in Chicago, but they had gotten no closer.

The priest agreed to do what he could to help reunite the family. He called the telephone operator asking for any listings of Vito or Nicoletta Palazzo living in Chicago. His leads came up dead, but being persistent, he asked the operator to try again, this time connecting him to the Chicago suburbs, Kantor said.

Kantor’s name had been changed at the orphanage, then again once she was married, and her brother was unlisted, but the priest was connected to a cousin with the same name, Vito Palazzo.

* * *

Friends and family heard Kantor’s story and helped her travel to Italy to meet Costanza and Silvia. Vito also joined his sisters in Italy.

A few years after Kantor’s visit, a nephew let it slip to his grandmother that he met Zia Nicoletta. Kantor’s birthmother, who she chose not to meet in Italy, flew to Chicago and arrived unannounced at O’Hare Airport, determined to meet her biological daughter.

Kantor was surprised again last summer when Costanza and Silvia met a woman they would later discover is Kantor’s twin.

* * *

Now that she’s back, though, Kantor has a new perspective on her experience as well as the adoption process.

She considers herself a strong advocate for open adoption, and is keenly aware of the devastating effects lies and secrecy can have on adopted children and their parents, both adoptive and biological.

But her feelings about adoption haven’t stopped the bond from growing between Kantor and her biological family.
"The devastating effects lies and secrecy can have on adopted children and their parents."  Indeed.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reddit Tracks Down Adoptee's Birth Family

At Gawker, another social-media-makes-reunion-possible story -- with a weird twist about naked sisters:
It's a holiday miracle: users of the popular nerd hive Reddit tracked down an adoptee's birth parents in a matter of hours. They also found and skeezed over his biological sister's topless pictures. Awkward.

Yesterday afternoon, Littleton, Colorado, Reddit user -steezy_wunda_bred- posted his cry for help on the Denver section of the site.

"So I'm looking for my birth family after nearly 24 years," he wrote. "My birthday is coming up this Tuesday and it always reminds me of my past, so I figured I'd do something about it."

He posted an old picture of his birth parents (above) and some basic details, including their first names and the ages they were when he was born. He knew his biological father played in a punk band in Littleton and that his mother Michelle worked at a local restaurant.

Less than five hours later, a user named Syllabelle had used the information and some impressive Google-fu to track down what appears to be Steezy's family. She posted a link to an adoption registry where a Littleton woman whose information matched his mother was looking for a son born on the same date he was. Sweet success.
I confess, I don't even know what Reddit is --  I barely get twitter and facebook!  But this story is another reminder that technology means that secrecy doesn't exist anymore, so why bother to keep adoptions closed and secret.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Searchers" in Ethiopia finding "fraud, corruption and worse"

At the Atlantic, a story about searchers in Ethiopia looking for birth parents at the behest of adoptive families, and finding corruption, but also threats and violence against the searchers:
Adoption searchers -- specialized independent researchers working in a unique field that few outside the community of adoptive parents even know exists -- track down the birth families of children adopted from other counties. In Ethiopia, searching has arisen in response to a dramatic boom in international adoptions from the country in recent years. In 2010, Ethiopia accounted for nearly a quarter of all international adoptions to the U.S. The number of Ethiopian children adopted into foreign families in the U.S., Canada, and Europe has risen from just a few hundred several years ago to several thousand last year. The increase has been so rapid -- and, for some, so lucrative -- that some locals have said adoption was "becoming the new export industry for our country."

That increase has also brought stories of corruption, child trafficking, and fraud. Parents began to publicize the stories their adopted children told them when they learned English: that they had parents and families at home, who sometimes thought they were going to the U.S. to receive an education and then return. Media investigations have found evidence that adoption agencies had recruited children from intact families. Ethiopia's government found that some children's paperwork had been doctored to list children who had been relinquished by living parents as orphans instead, which allowed the agencies to avoid lengthy court vetting procedures. 

* * *

But, in the past several years, it's become increasingly difficult to find a searcher in Ethiopia. Tasked with determining whether an adopted child is a "manufactured orphan," searchers have faced intense intimidation in Ethiopia as its adoption system boomed and then came under international scrutiny. It took months to find adoptive families willing to share the name or contact information for searchers they had used. The first several times I emailed or called Samuel, he responded with trepidation, confirming with me repeatedly that I was not associated with any adoption agencies working in Ethiopia and that I wouldn't pass on his name or information to any agencies.

He had good reason to be cautious. In August 2010, Samuel was jailed for 41 days in the northern Ethiopian province of Tigray, which shares a hostile border with neighboring Eritrea. He had traveled to the region to film two birth family interviews, one of which Samuel says he did pro bono out of his respect for the family, which had adopted an HIV-positive child. When Samuel met the birth sister of one of the children whose story he was tracking, the local director of a U.S. adoption agency came along, and began accusing Samuel of giving the agency a bad name. (Out of fear of further repercussions, Samuel requested that the agency not be named.) Shortly thereafter, Samuel and his crew were arrested. While in jail, he was told that the arrest was made at the request of the agency, which had accused him of performing illegal adoptions and of filming the "bad side" of Ethiopia to sell to the Eritrean government. An employee of the agency was also arrested -- it's still not clear why -- as well as three of Samuel's friends and a translator.
* * *
The role of searchers won't end any time soon, Samuel is certain. The thousands of Ethiopian children adopted by families in the U.S. and Europe over the last decade will grow up one day. They'll learn about the circumstances around adoption from Ethiopia in earlier years and will want to find out the truth of their background.

Kelly paid $900 in 2009 for her searcher and Samuel charges an average rate of $600. But Kelly has since heard that her searcher increased his rates, asking as much as $3000 to $4000 for a search. When rising demand and supply made adoption an important and rapidly growing source of money in a country that had little of it, even these investigators who are often at odds with agencies have found a place in the adoption economy.

Cambodian AdopteeTeen Talks About Life Before and After Adoption

From TeenInk, via HuffingtonPost:
I think my mom had seen me suffer enough. I’d had enough too! So, to make things easier, my mom sent my sister and one of my brothers to live with relatives in another village. People in Cambodia often take care of relatives’ children. I missed them but knew they were being cared for. I was the oldest, so I stayed; my mother needed me to take care of her and my baby brother, Long.

For a while it was just Long, my mother, and I. But then my brother, who was less than a year old, was very sick and skinny. One day I came home and Long wasn’t there. My mom said she had given him away to someone who said they could take care of him. He wasn’t coming back.

* * *

One afternoon, about a year after Long left, we ­received some good news. A man from the city came to our village and told us that a family in the United States had adopted my baby brother. He showed us pictures. My brother, now named Shane, was smiling, wearing nice clothes, and looking very healthy. Even though we missed him and life was hard for us, my mom and I were so happy to know that my brother was okay.

* * *

After my mother died, one of my aunts took me in. She was very poor, just like my mother. She was mean, and I think she was mad that she had to take care of me, but I had nowhere else to go.

One day the man who had brought the pictures of my baby brother came to visit again. It had taken him a long time to find us because I had moved. He was sad to hear that my mother had died. Then he gave me new clothes, a doll, and more pictures of my brother. My aunt asked him if the family who adopted my brother would want to adopt me too. The man turned to me and asked if I wanted to go live with my brother in the United States. Even though I didn’t know what to expect, I said yes. He said he would find out if it was possible. I waited for what seemed like forever. I started to think that maybe the American family did not want me.

But that wasn’t the case.

About a year later, the Americans who had adopted my brother finally came for me. As I now know, there is a lot of paperwork involved with adoption. They had to get permission from my family, the Cambodian government, and the United States government before they could come to get me.
Amazing story -- go read the whole thing!  Thanks to a commenter for the link. I posted another adoption piece from Teen Ink here, if you're interested.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Adopted Man Gets Box of Christmas Joy From Birth Mother

Wow, what a story:
A woman who gave her son up for adoption presented him with a box of Christmas ornaments she had been collecting since letting him go 44 years ago.

Ann Padmos purchased a new ornament every year and hung it on a Christmas tree in honor of her son, Jeff Quibell of Blue Springs, Mo., who she gave up for adoption in 1958.

* * *

When Quibell finally found Padmos, she presented her son with the box of 44 ornaments, each ornament representing a year they weren't together.

"I'm sitting here wanting to cry just thinking about it," Quibell said, "it was an evening of a lot of laughing and crying and hugging, oh wow, it was just amazing."
You can also watch a video and see the beautiful tree at the link above.

Untitled, Cause I Can't Think of One

How's this for silly?  I've wanted to blog about this for a few days, but I can't figure out a title, so I haven't!  So I'm just going to write for a while and see if a title comes to mind.

As we approached the last day of school, Maya started to ask if we could get a gift for her teacher.  I'd already contributed to the class gift, but that wasn't good enough for Maya.  Some of her friends were bringing in gifts for Ms. C, and Maya felt left out, I think.  She thought we should buy a pillow with a C on it, which was none too cheap, I might add.  I just had this vision of Ms. C, who is early in her teaching career, accumulating TONS of tchotchkes sporting the letter C over the course of a 30+ year career. . . .

I'm trying to do more donation-in-your-name gifts these days;  most everyone I know has WAAAY too much stuff.  Now, not surprisingly, most of my charitable giving since Zoe was adopted has been to family preservation and orphan care organizations.  So my first thought for Ms. C was maybe a donation to Love Without Boundaries.  They even helpfully suggest that gift cards are great "if you are shopping for family, friends, or teachers."

But I found myself reluctant, though I love the work the group does, I've supported it in the past -- even donating a photo for their art auction at their request, I plan to continue to support it, I've blogged about it. . . .

Why couldn't I do it? Why couldn't I make a donation as a teacher gift for Maya's beloved teacher?

It wasn't about the organization, I realized.

It was about the recipient.  And not really about the recipient, whom we love, but about the recipient's relationship with my child. It suddenly seemed to me that making a donation, in her teacher's name, to an orphan care organization in China, where my child was an orphan, highlighted that status.  I didn't want a "poor-thing" reaction from her teacher.  I didn't want Maya to look like a charity case.

So I'll make my annual donation to Love Without Boundaries.  But no one will be getting a card telling them the gift is in their name. And Ms. C got a card telling her that a child in Africa now has a desk, courtesy of her.

Nope, still no idea for a title. . . .

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bill Aims to Maintain Adoptee's Religious Identity

The Jewish Standard reports on a bill introduced in New Jersey:
An Orthodox Jewish member of the New Jersey State Assembly introduced a bill that would require adoptees to be placed in homes that would “maintain a child’s religious upbringing.”

Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Dist. 36), who represents portions of Bergen and Passaic counties, said he introduced the bill out of concern that an adoptee or foster child could be “put in a home where the parents practiced a religion other than that of the child.”

Within a day of the bill’s introduction, Schaer said, it has already received support from David Mandel, the chief executive officer of the Orthodox Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services in Brooklyn and from Aref Assaf, president of the American Arab Forum and an advisory board member of the New Jersey Council on American Islamic Relations.

“Not only Jews and Muslims, but many smaller Protestant sects, and even some people in the Catholic community” are supporting the measure, Schaer said.

* * *

The bill also requires that, in cases where a child is placed with a family of a different religious faith, provisions be made so that the child could attend services conducted in his or her own religious faith.
What do you think?  Religious matching was extremely common at one time, and some states have statutes that require matching if the birth parents request it even today.  We've discussed it before in the context of international adoption, asking if maintaining culture includes maintaining religion.

UPDATE:  Dr. Aref Assaf posted a link in the comments (thank you!) to his column, An interfaith effort to protect foster care children, about some of the problems in the foster care system that this bill is design to address:

Can the State force the change of a child’s religion? An opinion piece I wrote on the relevance of the religious dimension of foster care children has formed the foundation for an important legislation in New Jersey. The columnwas the result of a painful interview I had with the parent of a Muslim child who tearfully related the details of how his son, after being placed with a Christian family, had his faith changed and his name was no longer ‘Abdulrahman”but “Joshua.” Even before the father lost his parental rights, the conversion process was fully underway despite the stern objection of the birth parents.
That such a conversion of child’s faith would occur under the watchful eyes of the state is a case of deliberate negligence at minimum. Delving further, I discovered that our current laws give no credence to the pivotal role of religion in a child self-identification and sense of self worth. The State has in effect become complicit in furthering the trauma and anxiety of children under its care.

Does this change your mind about the bill? Does foster care v. adoption make a difference? 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Birth Parents Sue for Breach of Privacy in Revealing Adoption Info

Courthouse News Service reports:
A couple says Kaiser disclosed confidential birth records to an adopted child who was searching for his birth parents.

The plaintiffs, using pseudonyms, said James Ingraffia showed up on their doorstep, claiming to be their son. The birth parents say this clued them in that Kaiser had given their birth son confidential, sealed birth records.

Ingraffia's adopted parents Salvator and Margaret helped James find his birth parents, the couple says in their complaint in Alameda Superior Court.

"Plaintiffs suffered damages in the form of fear, apprehension, shock to the nervous system and continuous and repeated episodes of severe emotional distress when they learned that although they had taken the necessary legal steps to keep information about James Ingraffia's birth confidential and private, Defendant Kaiser had broken the seal on such records and disclosed them," the complaint says.
You can read the full legal complaint here.

The lawsuit gets an incredulous reaction from privacy news website PogoWasRight:
2. . . . Can you imagine being an adopted child and trying to find your parents, only to have them not only reject you but sue you for invading their privacy?  And for them to ask a court to enjoin you from contacting them again via any means?

3. The adoptive parents are also defendants in the lawsuit for allegedly assisting their child in finding his birth parents, although there is no evidence of that provided, either. The plaintiffs allege that the adoptive parents were negligent and should have known that their assistance would result in pain, suffering, distress, etc. to the plaintiffs. How should they have known that?  Perhaps the adoptive parents thought the birth parents might find themselves glad to see their child after so many years. Or perhaps they realized their child was suffering and they did what good parents do – try to help their child.

* * *
4. . . . The Does’ identities are not only at risk of media publication as a result of the lawsuit leading to media coverage, but  their identities are easily discoverable. . . . [The lawyer] leaving her clients’ home address in the complaint as the location of the offense somewhat undermines calling them Doe in court records. I’ve decided not to name them at this time, but a simple Google search gave me her clients’ names within a matter of minutes.
A commenter at PogoWasRight doesn't have the same discretion as does the blogger, and publishes the names of the birth parents!  And also discloses that the adoptive parents are Hollywood figures and presumably wealthy, opining that the birth parents are interested only in the money a lawsuit would bring. 

What a sordid mess! All that secrecy and shame leading to this. Strikes me as a better example of why there should not be secrets in adoption, rather than a story of why privacy should prevail.

Thanks to facebook community Adoption News and Events for the link!

"Finding Normal"

Essay from high school junior Hannah Guritz, adopted at 4 months from China, trying to find "normal" in her transracial adoptive family:
Growing up, I always got this weird look from people when they saw me with my parents. It was this “are-those-really-your-parents?” kind of look. You see, my parents are white and I am Asian.
I was adopted from China when I was about four months old, but I have no connection with Asia other than the words on my birth certificate. I’ve grown up speaking English my whole life. I go to school, hang out with friends, complain about homework and experience many other things typical of any normal American teenager. Honestly, I consider myself just as American as anyone else in Papillion.
When taking a pre-ACT test for a class, in the section about race, the teacher told us to mark the race we identified with culturally. This caused a minor complication for me, because I knew they wanted me to fill in the bubble marked “Asian,” but that wasn’t who I was. Yes, physically, I was Asian, but culturally I belonged under “Caucasian.”

* * *
I don’t remember when the “Asian jokes” started for me. All I know is that throughout elementary school I was often bothered by kids pulling at their eyes, attempting to make other kids laugh. I didn’t like feeling I was being made fun of, even indirectly. I was very shy in school, so most of the time the jokes wouldn’t be directed toward me. Usually, I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But that didn’t make their jokes any less offensive. Every time this kind of situation appeared, I was reminded that I didn’t look like my classmates. I felt like I didn’t belong and started to wish that I hadn’t been adopted, or that I looked more like my peers.
When I was ten, everything changed. My parents began taking me to a summer camp dedicated completely to adoptees.
Read the whole thing -- great insight into an adopted teen's mind.  At the end of the essay, there's a moving poem by Guritz entitled Where I'm From.

Step-Parent Adoption DENIED

Just about the only cases I've seen where a step-parent adoption is denied are with same-sex parents.  But in this Arkansas case, the court denies the adoption because wanna-be step-mom seems to be restricting the maternal grandparents from seeing the child:
Here, the circuit court found, in pertinent part:
Although Derek and Andrea testified that it was coincidence, the restriction of [Doris]’s and [Bertie]’s contact with [J.P.] began when Derek and Andrea started dating. From an observation of Andrea as a witness, the Court finds Andrea’s attitude toward [J.P.] to be possessive and exclusive of the maternal family. The Court finds that an adoption of [J.P.] by Andrea would not be conducive to fostering a relationship between [J.P.] and his maternal family. A hindrance or loss of a relationship with his maternal family would not be in the best interest of [J.P.]

Considering all the best interest factors, the Court finds that the adoption of
[J.P.] by Andrea is not currently in the best interest of [J.P.] The Petition for
Adoption is denied.
It is clear from Andrea’s testimony that tension existed between her and J.P.’s maternal family.It is that tension that troubled the circuit court and served as the court’s basis for finding that the adoption was not currently in J.P.’s best interest; we do not disagree. That is not to say that it would not be in his best interest at some point in the future. However, giving due regard to the opportunity and superior position of the circuit court to judge the witnesses before it, we cannot say the circuit court’s finding that adoption was not currently in J.P.’s best interest was clearly against the preponderance of the evidence. For this reason, we affirm the circuit court’s denial of the petition for adoption.
What do you think?  I'm generally in favor of second-parent adoption (check out my post titled Why Second Parent Adoption is a Good Thing), since it legalizes an already-existing relationship.  It's not like the step-mom is going to disappear from J.P.'s life because she can't adopt him, but the legalization of that relationship offers him more protections/rights than having one legal parent gives him.

But it is interesting to see here that the court seems concerns about maintaining relaionships with biological relatives as a reason to deny the adoption. . . ..

Adoptive Grandfather Faces His Own Racism

A remarkably honest opinion piece from the grandfather in a transracial adoption facing his own racism:
When I read the familiar Nativity stories in the Bible, I find myself connecting with Joseph.

Because if I take those stories literally, Joseph was a step-father. His son bore none of his DNA. None. Jesus was an adopted child.

And I wonder how Joseph felt about that.

I don’t have adopted children. I have adopted grandchildren. They come from Ethiopia. Neither of them will ever remotely resemble me -- an Irish-Scots Canadian with fair skin, blue eyes, and what used to be blonde hair.

* * *

I hope, I trust, I believe that they will survive the adjustments that challenge all adopted children. So much will depend on the friends they choose, as they progress toward adulthood.

And there I discover a streak of prejudice within myself that I hadn’t known I had. Because I picture them gathering in a cluster of high school youth, who are black like them. In that context, I become the outsider. And despite my efforts to banish any racial prejudices, a shadowy corner of my mind still seems to harbour unflattering stereotypes of rebellious black youths, school dropouts, gang members, Rastas…

I don’t want my grandchildren hanging out with that kind of person. I want them to associate with – well, with educated, intelligent, purposeful kids. Whom I tend to visualize as white. Like me.

I hope – dear God, how I hope! – that as they grow, as they test their limits (and ours!), that I never Never NEVER yield to the temptation to blame their genetic ancestry. If they carried my own DNA, I couldn’t. But they don’t. Somehow, I have to wipe that awareness out of my mind, to see only two delightful children whom I love with all my heart.

And I wonder if Joseph ever had similar thoughts about his adopted son.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Finally! We're Officially on Break!

Today was our last official activity, so now we're free!  Free as a bird!  (Can you tell it's been an awfully busy time for us?!) No more school for a few weeks! All I have is grading to do, and  Friday was the last day of school for the girls, marked by school parties and Zoe's class going caroling at a local Alzheimer's center.

No more ballet for a few weeks!  After all the busyness of rehearsals and performances, we had final demonstration classes and done!

Now we have no more piano lessons for a few weeks, after a fun cookies-and-carols event at the piano teacher's house.

No more boring work parties where Mama makes you wear itchy tights and fancy clothes!  Actually, the girls like this party, since Santa comes and there are crafts for the kids.  The chocolate fountain was a really big hit this year, too!

No more Chinese School!  Today was the last day, culminating in the annual Open House where each class performs and then gets to EAT!  This year the girls learned a flag dance in addition to the usual songs-with-hand-movements their classes do.  Since they've been coming early to Chinese School for WEEKS to practice for it, not surprisingly, they did a great job!  And they'll get to perform it again for a Chinese New Year celebration next year.

Maya's song was about a "cute rose," and each child delivered a rose to her mom -- awwww!

Zoe's class helped a younger class with a Chinese zodiac song -- each child did a sound or a move or something to represent the character on his/her sign, and Zoe is eating grass as a sheep (she's really a dragon, but was happy to settle for sheep since Maya is a sheep!).

This is just an excuse to put up a photo of the cute outfit Zoe put together for today!  Also I didn't get any decent pictures of her during the actual flag dance! (In fact, this whole post is just an excuse to post cute pictures of my kids, right?!)

Here's Maya's line, moving their flags in a way that apparently "drew numbers" as they shouted them out in Chinese.

So now we're free!  Free to sleep late, to play, to be lazy, to breathe!  I plan to enjoy every minute of doing nothing, because it sure won't last for long. . . .

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Culture Isn't Enough -- APs Must Address Race

From the Kansas City InfoZine:
Parents tote their children to ethnic restaurants and cultural festivals, but are often oblivious to the biases and racism their children sometimes face.

“What we find is that parents are pretty good about the culture part, but not very good about the race part,” Victor Groza, professor of parent-child studies at Case Western Reserve University, said. “They don’t recognize racism.”

Groza said parents generally don’t create an atmosphere where it’s all right to talk about race as their transracially adopted children grow up in what are typically white communities.

* * *

Susan Cox, vice president of public policy for Holt International, said the agency, which places about 600 children a year for intercountry adoption, tries to advise parents about potential risks, but the message rarely hits home.

“You could talk about all the things that could be and the things that will happen, but it’s really difficult for a family to relate to that,” Cox said. “When their child is small they think, ‘Oh, that won’t ever happen to me.’”
The piece addresses Jane Jeong Trenka's important memoir, The Language of Blood, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute's report, Beyond Culture Camp: Promoting Healthy Identity Formation in Adoption, and includes quotes from JaeRan Kim of Harlow's Monkey.

And here are my pleas for talking about race and racism with our transracially adopted kids:

Being Explicit About Race and Racism

Parenting While Not Noticing Race

Sisters of Charity Cleared of Adoption Trafficking Charges

I posted about the charges here.  Now IBNLive reports that the Sisters have been cleared:

A Sri Lankan court today dropped charges of child trafficking against a Mother Teresa charity and released a senior nun, an Indian national, suspected of selling babies for adoption. Sister Mary Eliza the head of Missionaries of Charity convent was arrested late November for her failure to disclose an underage pregnancy at the Prem Children's Home at Moratuwa, a Colombo south suburb. The nun who hails from Kerala, was already on court bail. The Criminal Investigation Department, which questioned 55 people, concluded that there were no grounds to charge her with selling children or with failing to report under-age pregnancies. It said all adoption procedures run by the sisters were fully legal.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Transracial Adoption Challenging Even in Racially Diverse City

Great article at the OaklandLocal, some strong adoptee voices, so I strongly encourage you to read the whole thing:
When the school bell rings, most kids are excited for their parents to pick them up and take them home.

However, for Donye’ Brown-Lamm, the end of the day in grade school was the beginning of frustrating and sometimes hurtful conversations.

Her classmates couldn’t understand why she, a black girl, was calling the white woman picking her up "Mom." When she explained she was adopted, she remembers some kids asking why her real mom didn’t want her.

“In junior high, I wanted a black family or wanted to be white because I was tired of explaining myself,” Brown-Lamm, now 19, said. “Little kids are mean, very mean, and if you’re different they’re even meaner.”

* * *

“Many things come into play when forming a strong self-identity around race, gender, etc., and within that puzzle is do we understand who we are and feel rooted in a community and see people doing things around us that we want to emulate,” Professor Julia C. Oparah of Mills College and co-author of "Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption," said. “Being in Oakland isn’t a guarantee of being in a diverse environment.”

Sara Blair, 24, knows this all to well. Growing up in an affluent white family and identifying as “Filipino, African and Jewish with Spanish blood,” she said connecting with other students at the elite schools she attended was difficult.

* * *

“I don’t regret being transracially adopted … I think it proves that we are human,” Blair said. “But I think there needs to be a movement of white parents educating themselves about what it means to be a person of color in this nation.”

“You can still live here and live in demographic isolation. You may see people of color, but you may not interact with them and that can create a problem,” Beth Hall, executive director of Pact - a nonprofit, which serves families of transracial adoption in the Bay Area, said.

While Oakland may be a diverse area, many people still live mono-racial lives, Hall added.

* * *

Gloria King, executive director of the Black Adoption Placement and Resource Center in Oakland, said adoption when in the best interest of the child is always positive, but parents can provide a disservice to children if race is not discussed as a family.

“I think it’s a handicap if you’re colorblind, and it’s setting your kids up for failure," said King, who also works to recruit more black families as adoptive parents. "People are not colorblind, they can see it.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Danger in Drawing Distinctions?

This post about corruption in international adoption generated a lot of interesting comments, including a dialogue about drawing distinctions between various forms of corruption that can (and does) infect international adoption.   Here's a snippet of what I had to say in the comments:
In terms of language to describe "problems in the adoption process," we do sometimes see sloppiness in how people use language for things I see as potentially different problems: trafficking for purposes of adoption, corruption in adoption, illegal adoption, unethical adoption.

I do see corruption as the word with the broadest definition. I see corruption as encompassing both criminal and non-criminal conduct. Corruption would include trafficking, in my view, though is not limited to trafficking.

* * *

Does it matter what words we use? As a lawyer, I tend to say yes! But sometimes the insistence on "correct" language isn't particularly helpful to the discussion, is sometimes used to avoid addressing the real problems.

Yes, kidnapping a child for the purposes of adoption is really, really, really, really bad, arguably worse than many other corrupt practices in adoption -- but problems of corruption can't really be defended by saying, "At least she wasn't kidnapped!"
Little did I know that a few weeks later I'd run across a blog post that exhibits the worst of this tendency to deny problems in adoption by focusing obsessively on the language used:
One area most impacted by AIDS is Africa, so when I read that some people are “concerned” about the rate of adoption among children from Africa because people are “trafficking” in adoption, I am truly amazed. Does anyone really think that people are stealing babies and children to sell them for adoption? Are there not enough babies and children already orphaned by AIDS and other diseases in Africa? Are children left at police stations or with elderly grandmothers who can barely care for them, not truly orphans? Why do these children not deserve a stable home? Is it truly illegal for a judge to rule that this child deserves a family and gives guardianship for a child to a family so that the family can legally adopt the child?

And why is the word trafficking even being used in conjunction with adoption? Trafficking would mean that a child is “adopted” for the purpose of sexual slavery or work. If a child’s paperwork is not in perfect order—that is not trafficking. If the child is brought to the police station and the police see that the child is horribly malnourished and sick, but the police do not have every last bit of evidence that the birth mother and birth father are dead, abusive, or have deserted the child, is that enough evidence to call this adoption illegal at best or child “trafficking” at worst?
Wow.  All I can say is wow.  Actually, I can't really claim to be at a loss for words, because sooo many of the words I spill at this blog is to fight against this attitude.  I guess I'm just a little tired at how useless my words are.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Buy UNICEF Holiday Cards

At the Washington Times' so-called "Adoptive Family Forum," Andrea Poe is using the upcoming holidays as an excuse to bash Unicef in a piece entitled Why I Won't Buy UNICEF Holiday Cards.  It's pretty much a regurgitation of this article she wrote in 2010, and to which I responded here.  Basically I said that her problem isn't with Unicef, it's with the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, because she's protesting the subsidiarity principle, the idea that intercountry adoption is a last resort for children.  Blaming Unicef is like blaming the police for enforcing a law you don't like.

Since I did a paragraph-by-paragraph rebuttal of this anti-Unicef stance before, I won't do it again.  But I will note that I agree whole-heartedly with Dr. John Raible's reaction to the article:

Ever since I was a kid, when I would go “trick or treating for UNICEF” to collect spare change in one of those black and orange milk carton-like coin boxes, I have supported the work of UNICEF. I just took the time to read their position statement on international adoption for myself. Compared to the way the author of the above-mentioned article made the UNICEF statement sound, I found the actual statement both ethical and courageous. In contrast, the bombastic article comes off as polemical and whiny. It’s hard not to read the first article as the self-righteous outrage of an entitled Westerner whose “privilege” (to adopt whomever and whenever she chooses) is being threatened.

Indeed.  And I think the feeling of entitlement that Dr. Raible notes must be pretty strong, since I noted it too in titling my previous post, "Get out of my way, I'm entitled to adopt!"

And while you're thinking about whether to support Unicef, think about these facts:  Unicef has vaccinated over half the world's children against deadly diseases (in China alone, my children's home country, in September, Unicef vaccinated over 100,000 children against measles), provided clean drinking water to 1.2 billion people since 1990, and currently in the famine-ravaged Horn of Africa, Unicef is the main provider of therapeutic food. What has Unicef done in your child's country of origin?  Unicef may be the reason he or she lived long enough to be adopted. . . .

So go out and buy Unicef cards, and send one to Andrea, care of the Washington Times!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chinese adoptee, age 21, seeks birth parents

From China Daily:
Ming Foxweldon, a student at the University of Vermont, came to Yunnan University in Southwest China's Yunnan province in June to study Chinese and look for her birth parents. She had been abandoned by them at birth in 1990 because her feet were slightly deformed, and she was adopted by a US couple as a 3-year-old at Kunming Orphanage.
"According to my orphanage records, I was born on Feb 4, 1990. But my presumed parents in Yunnan province told me I was born on Oct 19, 1990. Who is right? I don't know," She told China Daily.

* * *

"I have always wanted to know my past, my history, why I was given up, and how my parents are now," she said.

In June, she decided to come back to the land of her birth. Through a partnership between the University of Vermont and Yunnan University, she came to China, with the support of her US parents.

At first, she had difficulty getting information about her life in Yunnan. Kunming Orphanage could not give her any useful information about her life before she was adopted because of the lapse of time. She had nothing but some childhood photos and certificates of abandonment. And language also posed a barrier.

After a few months of fruitless effort, things took a turn in November when her teacher at Yunnan University told her story to Yunnan TV Station. Foxweldon was interviewed on Nov 23, and after the program was broadcast, villagers where she was supposedly born called the TV station, she said.

In late November, she went to Jiucheng village, Luxi county and met a couple who are likely to be her birth parents.

* * *

"That day around 20 years ago, we put the baby (Foxweldon) into a paper box on the side of the road that links Luxi to Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan province, and we hid at a distance. We didn't leave until we saw a vehicle with a plate registered in Kunming stop, a man get out, notice the baby in the box, and take it into the vehicle," He told the TV station. "We all prayed that the baby would have a good future."

Friday, December 9, 2011

Ballet Concerto Holiday Special

Whew!  It's been a busy couple of days after a busy couple of weeks.  We've been preparing for performances in Ballet Concerto's Holiday Special.  That means late nights of rehearsal after ballet classes, Saturday rehearsals that have me ferrying the girls between ballet and Chinese School, Sunday dress rehearsal at the studio and then dress rehearsal on stage Wednesday night, performance Thursday morning, and performances again Friday morning AND Friday evening!

Thursday morning's performance was especially exciting, with the power going out and staying out for over an hour!  The event was sufficiently startling to make it a big story in the Star-Telegram:
Many performing arts organizations do shows for schoolchildren. It's good for outreach, community building and giving kids a glimpse of the arts. Hopefully they'll be interested enough to become patrons later in life, if not entertain artistic inclinations themselves. But Thursday morning, the full house of more than 2,000 bussed-in children for Ballet Concerto's "A Holiday Special" got an unexpected but equally important message about the arts: The show must go on.

Just before the show was to begin at 10 a.m., the electricity in Will Rogers Auditorium went out, triggering the safety lights at the front of the house. We later found out that there was an outage in the Cultural District.

About an hour later, the lights came back on, and a shortened version of the show (which was already to be trimmed from the program that will play for the public Friday night) started at 11:15. A few schools had already left, but the majority stayed, thanks to the artists stepping in and doing what comes naturally in such a situation: They entertained. The Ballet Concerto staff and helpers led the children in several rounds of carols, and then the dancers came out to demonstrate dance terms, technique and styles. They even invited some of the children onstage to participate. And then the star of the show, "Frosty the Snowman," was greeted by cheering children.

Of course, what the story doesn't mention is the kids stuck in the basement dressing rooms in the dark for most of that hour!  And I was one of two moms responsible for keeping them entertained and calm!  Whew!

Well, the show(s) did go on, with Zoe and Maya both shepherds in O Holy Night (that's Zoe seated second from the left in the photo above, and you can catch a glimpse of a quarter of Maya, the second standing child shepherd).  Zoe was also an angel in the same ballet, but no pictures -- I was backstage during her performance with her shepherd costume so she could change in the wings.  Her regular ballet classmates were all shepherds, but the director asked if she'd also be an angel in the upper level class, too. That's partly because Zoe is pretty good, and partly because she was available for the upper level class since Maya's ballet class is the same time so Zoe was always at the studio!

In addition to being a shepherd, like Zoe's class -- again, partly because she's good, and partly because she's there when Zoe's class is in session! -- Maya was a Frosty Kid in Memories of Frosty.  That's her leading the other marchers in the picture below.
Both girls did a fantastic job (not that I'm prejudiced or anything!) and had a ball.  And all I can say is thank goodness it's over!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Adoption as Plan B

What do you think of this blog post at Coily Embrace?
[M]any women continue to delay motherhood and when asked “don’t you want children?” their thoughtful response is “One day, and if I can’t have my own, I’ll just adopt.”

“I’ll just adopt.” The way many women quickly say this makes it seem that they believe that adoption is both “easy” and a “back-up” plan. Neither which are quite true.

First, let’s consider adoption as a back-up plan. Bringing a child into your home, and into your life, to raise as your own should be Plan A. Always. Plans can change (and do all the time). But as you go down the road to adoption….that adoption, that child, that experience, should be the current Plan A. Adopting ‘simply’ because you couldn’t have your own children (as a Plan B) is a set up for heartache and suffering for everyone involved. It is important to make adoption your Plan A “before” deciding to adopt.

* * *

Thinking that adoption is a very “easy” Plan B to creating a family is misguided. The women who say “I’ll just adopt”demonstrate that they truly don't understand the complexities of the adoption process. The children who are seeking a family deserve to have parents who view them as “Plan A” and not as a “fall back” Plan B option because they chose to wait too long to have their own biological children.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

8- & 10-year-old talk about racial slurs at school

No, not my kids this time (mine are 8 & 11 now!).  At Racialicious, an affecting video and transcript of two African-American boys talking about being called the n-word at school:
“Why’d you give that n***** your eraser?”
I send my two sons to school to learn, not so that they can be called racial slurs. But on Wednesday, a boy in 10-year-old Mr. O’s fifth grade class decided to make sure that the classroom was an extra welcoming learning environment. He posed the above question to another student, after that kid decided to give my son an eraser.
My son told me about it when I went to pick him up from his after school program and of course I was angry and upset, but I also felt numb. I am the mother of two black males in the United States. That means this is not the first time my boys have been called a racial slur.
I could write about how we are not post-racial and this is exhibit A of why I believe that racism is still America’s most vital and challenging issue. But it came to me that there’s something powerful about letting children–the most innocent of us all–share what it feels like to be called the n-word in class.
Last night I asked the boys if they’d like to talk about the racial slurs they’ve been called, and how it makes them feel. They were excited to share–we all know it’s cathartic to be able to share something painful that’s happened–and I’m glad that they know that they don’t have to keep the racism they face a secret or act like it’s not a big deal–or that it’s something they have to be ashamed of.
I filmed this interview with my boys before they went to sleep. . . .
Go watch.  The most poignant moment for me is when mom asks if they are worried it will happen again, and the 8-year-old says, "Yes. Because I’ve already been called that so many times."  It reminds me of Zoe's response when I told her I was so sorry a child at ballet had called her "Blackie" and said her skin looked dirty like it was covered with mud -- trying to make me feel better about it, she said, "I'm used to it."  Like I said at the time, "How awful to be 8 years old and used to racial teasing and racial insults."

Adopt a Chinese Baby, Move to China

CNNgo reports on adoptive families who are "prolonging 'root-seeking tours' into long-term stays in China for their adopted children:"                       
Guo Jiaming (郭家明), chief of Beijing-based adoption agency Love of Bridge, says his company began offering "root-seeking" services in 2009. The company has seen a growth in demand.

"Last year, 300-400 [international adoptive] families come to us for this service," says Guo.

For some families, however, a quick trip and tour are not enough. Some families are actually relocating to China, where their children can form balanced cultural identities and parents themselves can satisfy their own wanderlust.

* * *

Irish couple Ray Heraty and Sinead O’Donovan, both 39, were living in the United States when they began a three-year adoption process.

A China adventure grew appealing as they waited for their daughter, Jin, and was finalized when they picked her up in Nanchang at the end of 2008.

“Most of the other (adoptive parents) couldn’t wait to get out of China,” Heraty recalls of parents who waited with them in Guangzhou for their children’s immigrant visa. “We loved everything about it.”

Less than a year later, Heraty took a leave of absence from his job as a pilot and followed his wife’s work to China.

* * *

By living in China, they're hoping that a connection to the children’s home culture will give them a stronger sense of identity and self-worth.

“The whole issue of identity for adopted kids is really important,” Elizabeth says.

Since we moved to China for 5 months in 2007, not surprisingly, I think this is a great thing! Not that 5 months is really moving to China! We would like to do this again, and stay longer next time.  I saw the first trip back as kind of a practice run, with the girls only 6 & 3, not quite knowing how we'd do without our usual support system.  We loved every minute of it!  I can't apply for another Fulbright grant for quite a while, so we'll have to find some other way to get back there. . . .

Here's our blog from that time:  Xiamen Adventure.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Indian Adoption Project

This article at Indian Country Today discusses the First Nations Repatriation Institute’s second annual adult adoptees summit, and includes fascinating history as well as current effects of the federal Indian Adoption Project :
I’m an angry Indian,” Roger St. John, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, told the First Nations Repatriation Institute’s second annual adult adoptees summit. The elite panel included child-welfare specialists, judges, lawyers, community activists and scholars. The most important experts, according to the organization’s founder/director, Sandra White Hawk, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, were adult adoptees—such as St. John—who related their experiences at the three-day meeting at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in St. Paul.

“I’m more than glad to tell you I’m pissed off,” continued St. John, a 49-year-old truck driver with dark hair pulled back in a ponytail. “I was the youngest of 16 children, grabbed at the age of 4, along with three older brothers—no paperwork, nothing. The other kids in the family escaped because they took off.” Soon, St. John and his siblings ended up in New York City at Thanksgiving time. The year was 1966: “We were on the front page of the newspaper, along with lots of good talk about the holiday and adoption. We were brought up without our culture, which took a terrible toll on our lives. I grew up angry and miserable.”

* * *
At the summits and other events White Hawk has organized or spoken at since 2003, modern-day adoptees have recounted their dramatic life journeys, sometimes for the first time. “The stories vary from the most abusive to the most beautiful, but that’s not the point,” she said. “Even in loving families, Native adoptees live without a sense of who they are. Love doesn’t provide identity.”

“I never felt sorry for myself,” said St. John, “but if I ever got hurt, it wounded me to my soul, because I felt no one was there for me.” In recent years, he has found his birth mother and connected emotionally with his adoptive parents. “They were so young, in their 20s, when a priest convinced them to adopt four Sioux boys from South Dakota. It was too much—for all of us.”
Please read the whole thing -- I'm betting you'll learn some things you didn't know before.