Monday, January 31, 2011

Foreign Adoptions to U.S. Hit 15-Year Low

According to David Crary, AP's adoption reporter:
The number of foreign children adopted by Americans fell by 13 percent last year, reaching the lowest level since 1995 due in large part to a virtual halt to adoptions from Guatemala because of corruption problems.

China remained America's No. 1 source of adopted children, accounting for 3,401, according to figures released by the State Department on Monday for the 2010 fiscal year. Ethiopia was second, at 2,513, followed by Russia at 1,082 and South Korea at 863.

Guatemala was the No. 1 source country in 2008, with 4,123 adoptions by Americans. But the number sank to 756 for 2009 and to only 51 last year as the Central American country's fraud-riddled adoption industry was shut down while authorities drafted reforms.

The overall figures for 2010 showed 11,059 adoptions from abroad, down from 12,753 in 2009 and down more than 50 percent from the all-time peak of 22,884 in 2004.

The last time there were fewer foreign adoptions to the U.S. was in 1995, when there were 9,679.

Abandoned, Adopted, Abandoned

From the Times of India:
Manisha (name changed) is 15 and brighteyed . She might be the regular teenager . The adults in contact with her say she is polite and disciplined and is always ready to help anyone in trouble. But Manisha is not a regular teenager and hers is no ordinary story. She lives in a home run by an NGO in Gurgaon for abandoned or abused children or those with special needs. She is the helpless victim of inter-country adoption gone terribly wrong.

Six years ago, Manisha was adopted by an American family from a centre in Mumbai. But soon enough, they were unwilling to keep her, blaming Manisha's newly apparent hyperactivity, mood disorders and depression. Rejected and abandoned all over again, Manisha was sent across the seas and has been in the children's shelter from early 2010.

* * *

If Manisha is indeed fine, she is one of the luckier ones. There are no statistics of the number of Manishas all over India — abandoned children, who were adopted overseas and then turned out like a troublesome puppy.
The American family also adopted Manisha's younger sister, but kept her when they sent Manisha back.  Wonder how they explain that to her. I imagine that can be a difficult issue when there is a sibling group available for adoption, and a family is only interested in adopting one of the children.  But it must be even more difficult to explain when you've adopted two, and sent one back . . . .

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Transracial Adoptee on American Idol

Happy Fred Korematsu Day

From Mother Jones, a day honoring an Asian-American hero:
This weekend, American civil rights activists celebrate a new icon: Fred Korematsu, the Japanese-American who resisted placement in a World War II-era internment camp. It's the first holiday in the US commemorating an Asian-American—and it's proof to some judges and civil rights activists that a new generation of Asian-American leaders can't be far behind.

Korematsu's story is an instructive one for civil rights advocates.

During World War II, fear loomed in the lives of Japanese-Americans. The United States government moved more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans and immigrants from the Pacific coast to internment camps inland. Korematsu, who refused to go, was arrested and convicted for his defiance. His conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1944. Although the exclusion order was rescinded in 1945, it wasn't until the 1980s, when Korematsu reopened his case, that the courts overturned his conviction. In 1988, the United States declared Japanese American internment unjust and paid retribution to its victims and their heirs.
The L.A. Times also has a nice story on the new state-wide holiday, A hero gets his day.

Chinese School CNY Celebration

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Anonymous Birth & Adoption in France

France takes adoption secrecy and amended birth certificates to the extreme, according to this report:
Under a long-standing arrangement called accouchement sous X, women - usually those whose pregnancies are the result of their being "in trouble" - can deliver babies in absolute anonymity. These babies become wards of the state, which records them as having been "born to" their eventual adoptive parents. But anonymous delivery has lately become controversial. Adults with no prospect of identifying their biological parents have protested, formed pressure groups and lobbied the National Assembly for recognition that their ignorance of their origins constitutes a violation of rights.

France's participation in international children's rights agreements - such as the 1989 Convention of New York (Xetra: A0DKRK - news) , which established a child's right to know his parents - has also put anonymous delivery under a cloud. In 2003 it only narrowly survived (by a vote of 10-7) a suit in the European Court of Human Rights. It was partly by championing the rights of those born "sous X" that Ségolène Royal, the Socialist candidate in the 2007 presidential elections, rose to national prominence as minister of families earlier in the decade. This month Brigitte Barèges, a member of parliament for the ruling UMP party, submitted a report to the prime minister urging that anonymous delivery be replaced with a system that would allow adoptees to know the identity of their birth mothers once they have attained majority.

* * *

Mme Barèges's means of effecting this change is to replace "anonymity" (in which no record is left of the woman's delivery unless she wishes) with "discretion" (in which the state keeps a dossier of the birth under strictest secrecy).
 And the solution to the problem of secrecy . . . is American-style secrecy.  Sigh.

Maya's Family Tree

Maya's first formal family tree assignment came from Chinese School, not regular school.  So not only does she have to produce a family tree, it has to be in both pinyin and Chinese characters!

Two issues make a family tree difficult in our family.  First is the daddy-less girls thing. We have no branches for the father side of the traditional family tree.  And in Chinese, it really shows, since you have different grandparent names for father's parents and mother's parents.

Second is the adoption issues.  What if you want to include birth parents?  There isn't a spot for them on a traditional family tree.

So Maya wanted to make an actual tree for her family tree assignment, with her as the trunk.  She decided she wanted to include her birth parents, but wasn't sure how or where.  Should they just be other leaves?  Should they be fruit among the leaves?  We finally hit on roots -- so those brown nodules among the roots are her birth parents.  We couldn't find the Chinese for birth parents, so they say Chinese ma-ma and Chinese ba-ba.  The leaves include big sister, four cousins, aunt and uncle, and Mimi, Grandpa & mama. With the leaves kind of randomly placed on the tree, the absence of a father-branch isn't so noticeable.

Maya had a great time making the tree after we came up with a design. If you're facing the same kind of project, here are some links to help with the dreaded family tree assignment:

Adoption Competent School Assignments

Oh, and a great book about the family tree project for an adopted kid:  Lucy's Family Tree.

Friday, January 28, 2011

U.S. State Department Meeting on Ethiopian Adoptions

Ethica (an independent voice for ethical adoption) has very helpfully posted their notes from the Monday, January 24, 2011 meeting of the U.S. Department of State with stakeholders in Ethiopian adoption.  Some really discouraging news about how some agencies operate and about how some adoptive parents behave in-country.  A really unfortunate thing reported: "At one point, it seemed that there was some movement toward Ethiopia becoming a Hague Convention country, but it does not appear to be on the agenda now."

Ethica promises to post the official Department of State minutes of the meeting when they become available.

Poor Daddy-less Girls

I posted last year about the Butterfly Ball, the annual father-daughter dance at the girls' school.  It's a little earlier this year -- next month -- and Zoe took it into her own hands to find a date for the dance.  She emailed my brother who lives out of town (but whose been coming into town more frequently since my dad's death to help out our mom).  Here's the email -- do you think he'll be able to resist?!
Dear Phillip,

The butterfly ball(father daughter dance) is coming up in February 25th. And well, just 1 teeny tiny thing, we dont have a daddy! Do you think you or one of the boys could come and take 2 poor little daddy-less girls to the butterfly ball?

PLEASE!!!!!!!!!(begging you)

Zoe and Maya
Zoe thought her email was really funny and clever, a big joke.  But Uncle Phillip couldn't resist the manipulative drama-queen guilt trip, and is coming to take the girls to the ball! Yahoo!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

DNA doesn't make a family

A WONDERUL post, When DNA isn't just DNA, from adult adoptee Anne (who usually posts about her work as a doula) in response to a blogger who wrote, "DNA doesn't make a family."  Anne responds:
Simple statement, yes? But even seeing the title and the opening lines, even before reading the rest of the post itself, my gut was protesting. No, DNA alone - whatever that could possibly mean - does not equal Family.

But DNA is almost always more than just DNA.

I understand the importance of the nurture portion of the equation. It's what my parenting decisions are based on, in fact. But the ability to make statements like the above is a luxury that only non-adopted people* can make.
(The asterisk is to Anne's recognition that she is not the "spokesmodel" for all adoptees, and that other adoptees might feel differently.)

Anne's statement really resonated with me; being dismissive of DNA, ancestry, biological connections, is something done almost exclusively by those who are quite aware of their ancestry, who can look at their parents and see a mirror of themselves.  Having my dad's eyes and, heaven help me, the Mississippi-farmwoman physique that was my biological destiny, is something I've always known simply by knowing him and my grandparents and my aunts and uncles.  It's something my children don't have, and it's something they long for, especially Zoe, who so wants to know what her birth parents look like.

Then in talking about a film her birth sister is making, Anne makes this insightful comment:
So, returning to the post that got my own wheels turning. During my own interview process, both on film and in outside discussions, Kate and I spent some time discussing the Standard Public Narrative of adoption, the one where adoption is an inherently virtuous act, where adoptive parents are the shining armor benefactors, the baby is lucky to be rescued from what would surely be a terrible fate, and the birth mother is, if anything, an afterthought - an afterthought who is often commended for her courage and/or thanked for her sacrifice, but ultimately doesn't really count. Because DNA doesn't make a family.
See the power of this simple statement -- DNA doesn't make a family -- in the standard adoption narrative?  Anne notes that that is what allows for this kind of conversation:
Point out that it would be better if babies could remain with their mothers, in an ideal world - and people will seriously say "But what about all the wonderful infertile couples out there who can't have children of their own?"
I've had those conversations, have you?  "DNA doesn't make a family" allows us to forget that the natural order of things -- the thing that happens as God and biology designed it -- is for  babies to be raised by their biological parents.  In saying, "DNA doesn't make a family," we make family a social construct rather than a biological one, where mothers are fungible and it doesn't matter who raises whose baby. 

I don't have a big problem with egg donation, sperm donation, embryo "adoption," gestational surrogacy, adoption, to build a family (so long as all ethical rules are followed and parents are prepared todeal with it, instead of ignore it, with their children).  But when we say "DNA doesn't make a family," we don't need to concern ourselves with the biological beginnings of children. We can ignore birth parents, proclaim that as the "parenting" parent, "I'm the only real parent" in the equation, and ignore our children's loss and grief. Privileging nurture over nature grants permission to ignore what happened in our children's lives before we met them.

"DNA doesn't make a family."  Not such a simple statement after all. . . .

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Celebrity Adoption: Jennifer Aniston?

HollyBaby breathlessly reports:
Jennifer Aniston has left the dream of marriage behind and is starting a family as a single mom– she’s adopting a baby from Mexico! Star magazine is reporting that Jen has signed all of the adoption papers and will welcome her first child just in time for her 42nd birthday on Feb. 11. “The long wait is over,” a friend tells Star. “The time has arrived.” We are so excited for Jen!

After several secret trips to Casa Hogar Sion orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico, sources say that Jen came to the realization that she was ready for motherhood. Cofounder of the orphanage Carmen Gonzalez says that during Jen’s visits she “got on with all the children, but spent most of her time with the babies…she loved them. She was in the nursery for a long time, playing with them and cuddling them.” But whether Jen has chosen to adopt from this orphanage is still a closely guarded secret, although friends say she has always wanted to adopt a child from Mexico. “She loves the culture,” a friend explains. “She says that they’re our neighbors, and there are so many children there who need a good home.” We agree, Jen!
HollyBaby reports based on Star Magazine -- the question mark in the title to this post is a reminder to consider the source. . . .

Conflicted . . .

An adoptive father, who is also a human rights activist working to end child trafficking and exploitation, writes about the conflict he feels because he knows international adoption does, in fact, fuel trafficking:
I am the father of 6 children. My 4 youngest are adopted. I am the President & Co-founder of a human rights organization working to end child trafficking and exploitation. I am deeply conflicted. Here is why:

When I was in Cambodia about 8 years ago, the Director of a large human rights agency asked me; “Do you really want to do something practical to stop child trafficking?” I of course answered yes. She said; “Then do something about international adoption.” At the time, I honestly wasn’t sure what she meant. She then went on to explain about how international adoption, if not done well and with vigilance, can fuel child trafficking.

To be truthful, my immediate reaction was defensiveness. I was even a little offended. Mostly because I am an adoptive father and I believe that adoption can be a viable and compassionate response to the global orphan crisis. But also offended, or more aptly put… mad as hell that traffickers would prey on the most vulnerable; turning orphans into commodities.

Since that conversation I’ve learned a lot and continue to learn, from my daily fight to end child trafficking and exploitation, as well as from our family’s own journey of international and domestic adoptions.

I’ve discovered she was right. Intercountry adoption, if not regulated and monitored can contribute to the trafficking of children.
Go read the whole thing, then tell us what you think.  As an adoptive parent who has adopted internationally -- twice -- I often feel conflicted about international adoption.  Do you?

A Tale of Two Expats

The Economist compares and contrasts the lives of Western expats living in China and Chinese expats living in the West:
Western expatriates in China have a far easier time than they did a generation ago. They no longer huddle in drab hotels and endure Maoist standards of food and service. These days they can have almost anything, for a price: soufflés and sushi, Western-style villas with gardens, private schools with famous names for their children. (Harrow and Dulwich College, two posh British schools, both have offshoots in Beijing.)

The air in China may be gritty and the censorship irksome. Conference calls with head offices in America at 4am are tedious. But life is otherwise comfortable. And business in China is more exciting than perhaps anywhere else on Earth.

* * *

China’s spectacular growth over the past three decades has prompted hordes of businesspeople to jump onto aeroplanes and move house. Western multinationals have sent many of their most ambitious executives to the country, to find new suppliers, set up factories or sell jet engines and whisky to the Chinese.

In recent years a swelling number of expatriates have also moved the other way. Chinese firms are increasingly global. They scramble for oil and copper in Africa. They scout for investment opportunities in America and Europe. They are starting to set up offices throughout the world. Naturally, they are sending out Chinese executives to run them.

* * *

Their situation is in many ways like that of a Western expatriate, but there are glaring differences. Western expats in China have typically moved from a liberal democracy with a sluggish economy to an authoritarian state with a fast-growing one. Chinese expats in the West have done the opposite. Each journey presents its own challenges. This article seeks to illustrate them, unscientifically, by contrasting the life of a Western expat in China with that of a Chinese expat in Europe.
You know why I post this stuff about expats in China, right?  My kids and I did the expat thing in China for a short time (5 months) in 2007 (you can read about our experience here).  I know increasing numbers of China adoptive parents who are interested in giving their children the experience of living in their home country.  So there you go.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Partial Victory for Immigrant Mom Who Lost Her Parental Rights

Remember Encarnacion Bail Romero, whose parental rights were terminated after she was swept up in an immigration raid and her son was adopted without her consent? She wins a partial victory in the Missouri Supreme Court:
The Missouri Supreme Court has sided with a Guatemalan immigrant in a child custody case, ruling that the state failed to follow its laws in terminating her parental rights and allowing her son to be adopted by someone else.
Why only a partial victory?
Tuesday’s decision does not automatically return the child to the mother. Instead, the court ordered the state to follow proper procedures and hold a new trial on whether the mother’s parental rights should be terminated.
So it is still possible that the mother will lose her parental rights. You can read the 92-page Missouri Supreme Court opinion, which includes concurring and dissenting opinions as well, by clicking here. I'll write more about it when I have a chance to read it all!

Commentary About Oprah's Big Secret

As I'm sure you've heard by now, Oprah's big family secret was a whopper -- her mother relinquished a child for adoption when Oprah was 9, and she and her half-sister have now been reunited. 

Here are some links to interesting commentary around the blogosphere about the revelation:

Oprah’s Secret, Mother Vernita Lee Gave Away Sister Patricia: A Lesson In Shared Shame, at Babble

At First Mother, Birth Mother Forum, Oprah reveals she has half-sister; her mother was afraid to admit the secret

I Quit Oprah, from Chronicles of Munchinland, a birth mother's blog.
Oprah Reunited with Sis Her Mother Relinquished in 1963, including a letter to Oprah asking her to get involved in adoptee rights, at Family Preservation Advocate blog.
From the Grio, Oprah's sibling surprise is all too familiar to black families.
Oh Oprah…What Will You Do With This?, from a birth mother's blog.
Adoption in the news, musings on the Oprah story from an adoptive mom.

And last but not least, links to lots others talking about Oprah from Amanda at the Declassified Adoptee.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Oprah's "Family Secret"

It's supposed to be revealed on today's show, but the media got the jump on it:
TV superstar Oprah Winfrey has a half-sister named Patricia who was given up for adoption by Winfrey’s mother, Vernita Lee, shortly after her birth in 1963.

That’s the big secret.

USA Today’s Judy Keen reports from Chicago that Patricia — whose last name was not revealed — lived in foster homes until she was 7, including some that were “not so good,” Oprah says on today’s Oprah Winfrey Show.

Patricia said she always hoped her birth mother would return for her. By 17, she was a single mother. She has two grown children, a daughter and son.

“Oh my God, I have a family” was her reaction when she found out she had three siblings, Patricia said. One of those siblings, the only one still alive, was Winfrey.

Just before Thanksgiving, Winfrey said, she was told “a bombshell family secret.”

Do You Know Who's Talking to Your Pregnant Teen?

Here's a thought-provoking article:
When you sent your teen to off to school today, you worried that she would fail her test, bomb her audition for the school play, or cut out of gym class to see her boyfriend. You never thought that while in the hallowed

halls of academia, she would be convinced to take her baby and run away from your loving home on the advice of her guidance counselor. Yet that's exactly what happened to Judy Bennett.

Stephanie Bennett was a 17 year old mother and student, living at home in Ohio with her supportive mom and step-dad when she revealed concerns about motherhood to guidance counselor Thomas Saltsman. Instead of bolstering her confidence and encouraging her in her role as a parent, he immediately arranged for her to meet with A Child's Waiting adoption agency on school grounds, during school hours.

Days after their first meeting and feeling pressured to "do the right thing" by her daughter, Stephanie took baby Evelyn and ran away from home. Hours later, she signed the paperwork allowing the agency to take her daughter away.
I've long been concerned about the fact that minors are allowed to relinquish their parental rights without their parents knowing.  A child can go through labor and delivery without her parents knowing.  That's very different from how we treat the abortion decision by minors.  In most states, a minor cannot have an abortion without her parents being notified unless she goes to court first to get judicial approval.

One frequent argument for parental notification in teen abortions is that parents ought to know about medical procedures performed on their children.  What about childbirth by their minor children?  Shouldn't parents know about that?  The risk of death and medical complications is greater with childbirth than with abortion, after all.

The other popular argument rests on the significance of the decision -- deciding whether to have an abortion is such an important thing that minors ought to have the advice of grown-ups in making the decision.  Parents can serve in that role, and if there is some reason why they should not be notified, then a judge can evaluate whether a minor is sufficiently mature to make the decision on her own.  Why don't we do the same for another extremely important and significant decision, whether to terminate parental rights and place a child for adoption?

So engage in a little thought experiment if you have girl children.  Imagine that your 15-year-old is pregnant.  She is considering her options.  Who do you want to be talking to her about her choices?  A set of prospective adoptive parents who answer her "what should I do" question on Yahoo Answers?  An adoption agency whose pamphlet she found in the guidance counselor's office?  Or YOU?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Artyom Update: Mom Won't Pay Child Support

Reported by a Nashville TV station:
According to documents obtained by the Shelbyville Times-Gazette, Hansen's attorney filed a motion to dismiss child support claims made by Hansen's adoption agency, World Association for Children and Parents, in juvenile court in Shelbyville.

The newspaper reported Thursday that Russian authorities want Hansen to pay about $2,500 a month to care for the child, who is living in an orphanage.

Hansen's attorney, Trisha Henegar, filed the response Dec. 28. Hansen has since retained a different attorney, Jennifer Thompson, who declined to discuss details of the case when reached by The Associated Press on Thursday.

Henegar argued that the juvenile court lacks jurisdiction to order child support because Tennessee is not the boy's "home state" and said the termination of Hansen's parental rights is currently being handled by a Russian court.

Henegar said in the documents that Tennessee state law defines the "home state" as where a child lived with a parent for at least six months. She said the boy, who was named Justin Hansen, lived with the family in Bedford County less than six months before he was sent back.
Makes me proud to be an attorney -- argue that the court lacks jurisdiction because the adoptive mom decides after less than six months that she prefers to send the child back to Russia with a note of rejection than parent him.  Sigh.

Gay Parenting More Common in the South

Interesting, and for me, counterintuitive, phenomenon reported in the New York Times:
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Being gay in this Southern city was once a lonely existence. Most people kept their sexuality to themselves, and they were reminded of the dangers of being openly gay when a gay church was bombed in the 1980s. These days, there are eight churches that openly welcome gay worshipers. One even caters to couples with children.

The changes may seem surprising for a city where churches that have long condemned homosexuality remain a powerful force. But as demographers sift through recent data releases from the Census Bureau, they have found that Jacksonville is home to one of the biggest populations of gay parents in the country.

In addition, the data show, child rearing among same-sex couples is more common in the South than in any other region of the country, according to Gary Gates, a demographer at the University of California, Los Angeles. Gay couples in Southern states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas are more likely to be raising children than their counterparts on the West Coast, in New York and in New England.
It makes more sense to me after reading the article -- it isn't that the South has suddenly liberalized on gay and lesbian issues, it's that many of the gay people parenting in the South had their children while in a straight relationship that they entered because of the social pressure NOT to be gay.  Now that's the South I know!

Questions Adopted Kids Ask

This article offers a quick primer on the kinds of questions adopted kids might ask their adoptive parents.  I don't disagree with any of the advice, but I think this part is subject to misinterpretation:

It is completely normal for adopted kids to have questions about their birth family. Since the child has a life before adoption, adoptive parents need to respect that history and the easiest way to do that is to provide age-appropriate, honest information in response to questions. [very good so far]

•Who is my real mom/dad?
•Why didn’t my birth parents want me?
•Do you know what my birth parents look like?
•What should I call my birth parents?
•Do my birth parents love me?
•Can I learn about my birth country?
[yep, very typical questions, I've gotten most of them from my kids]

Depending on the circumstances, adopted kids may wonder if their birth parents will come back to claim them and that is the underlying issue to these questions. [whoa, nelly, we're veering off the cliff!] Adoptive parents can use any question to reassure their child’s permanency in the family and by doing so, build parent-child trust.
I agree SOMETIMES questions about birth parents are concerns about permanency of the adoptive family -- but sometimes questions about birth parents are questions about birth parents!  I don't see how it would "build parent-child trust" to turn questions about birth parents into questions about the adoptive family.  I can just imagine the conversation that this part of the article gives adoptive parents permission to have:

Kid:  Did my birth mother love me?

AP:  Oh yes, but not enough to come back and get you.  You're mine forever!

[Trust built -- NOT!]

I've said before that Maya often asks questions about permanency.  I've blogged before about a question she asked -- "If I ran off to look for my birth parents, what would you do?" -- as a mixed birth-parent/permanency question based on Maya's history of asking "if I ran off what would you do" questions generally.  So I agree that sometimes a birth parent question can be a permanency question. But then there's Zoe, whose birth parent questions are just about birth parents.  She doesn't have any doubts about permanency, completely sure that she's stuck with me forever! 

So while such a question might be about permanency, I don't think we can assume that that's "the underlying issue" of birth parent questions. The danger in doing that is to make your child think that you're not open to birth parent questions, because you seem to deflect each one.  So, sure, address permanency, but make that a separate issue from birth parents.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Was Kidnapped Child Adopted?

The New York Times reports about the 24-year-old who was reunited with her biological family after her kidnapping at 19 days old:
As news came that a baby girl abducted from a Harlem hospital 23 years ago was alive, an array of people in her life began absorbing how the closing of the case was resolving at least two mysteries.

For one, her relatives and the authorities in New York City know now that the child born as Carlina White on July 15, 1987 — and kidnapped from Harlem Hospital three weeks later — grew up in Bridgeport, Conn., with a new name, Nejdra Nance.

* * *

At the home on Hamilton Street in Bridgeport where the girl was raised, a relative of the family who lives there was not talking.

But Shatesse Jefferson-Echevarria, 23, a childhood friend of Ms. White, said that friends at school would whisper behind her back that she had been adopted. “She looked very different from her family,” Ms. Jefferson-Echevarria said. “Different demeanor; different face.”

Ms. White harbored the same suspicions as her friends, first because of her looks, and later because she could not get a birth certificate or Social Security number from her parents, the police said. She continued searching for her identity after moving to Georgia several years ago and eventually came across photos on the Web site of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. She matched those with childhood photos she had and called the center, which connected her with her mother, said Ernie Allen, the organization’s president.
Still nothing about whether the people who raised her are the same as the ones who kidnapped her, or whether this was an illegal adoption from the kidnapper. . . .

Another Deportation

Reported by Hyphen Magazine:
A Korean woman in Arizona, who was adopted and brought to the US when she was eight months old, is facing deportation after a second conviction for theft, reports the Korea Times. The 31-year-old mother of three is currently being held in a federal detention center in Arizona.

According to officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Seo (not her real name) was first convicted on theft charges in 2008, for which she served a seven-month sentence. She was arrested on a second theft charge in 2009, and sentenced to a year-and-half in jail. In January, ICE initiated deportation proceedings against her, requesting for a travel certificate from the Korean consulate in Los Angeles.

Officials say the decision to deport the woman was based on the nature of her crimes and on the likelihood of repeat offenses. Current law stipulates that legal residents can be deported if they are convicted for crimes involving drugs, prostitution or other nefarious activities, or if they are sentenced to more than a year in prison.

The Korean consulate, meanwhile, has requested that the deportation decision be withdrawn for humanitarian reasons, citing the fact that the woman has never returned to her country of birth since her adoption, her inability to speak Korean and her three children, all of whom were born in the United States.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Artyom Update: Tennessee Mom Holds Up His New Adoption

According to the Moscow Times:
A U.S. mother who sent her adopted son back to Russia unaccompanied on a plane last April is holding up the boy's re-adoption by refusing to give up her parental rights, children's ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said Tuesday.

Torry Hansen, 33, told a Tennessee court that she only put Artyom Savelyev, now 8, on a plane because "he asked to see his [biological] mother and she let him go," Astakhov wrote on Twitter.

Hansen sent the boy with a note saying he was psychologically unfit and asking that the adoption be cancelled.

But Astakhov called Hansen's court testimony "cynic slyness" that aimed to avoid making child support payments.

Savelyev cannot be re-adopted by another family until Hansen gives up her parental rights.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

European Parliament Debates International Adoption

The Irish Times headline focuses on Romania, but the debate seemed to go beyond that:
SOME 9,950 children were “exported” from Romania between 1997 and 2000, the European Parliament was told yesterday, during a debate on whether more could be done to save children from a life of institutional care within the EU.

Romanian MEP Victor Bostinaru said his country, which “exported” so many children, would never again “accept such an abomination”. He said people had to learn from what happened as “opening the gates widely for international adoption” had meant for Romania child-trafficking networks, kidnappings and children being sold in western Europe.

His colleague MEP Elena Basescu said Romania was under pressure to resume international adoption, halted in 2001, but there were more families in Romania wishing to adopt than children available, despite about 22,000 children in care centres there.

* * *

Roberta Angelilli, an Italian MEP who introduced the debate, said there were many abandoned children across Europe. They could end up in poverty or exploited by organised crime for prostitution, organ-trafficking and illegal adoption. These children had a right to be adopted and should not stay in an institution for longer than necessary.

Slovak MEP Monika Flašíková-Benová said the problem of abandoned children in Europe was getting more and more serious. “We have to abolish the rights of biological parents if they do not care for the children,” she said.
UPDATE 01/20/2011:  The European Parliament passed a resolution calling for international adoption over foster care, but recognizing the competency of each nation to make their own adoption laws, including bans on international adoption.  The resolution did not encompass the creation of a European agency on adoption, as was proposed by Italian MEPs.

The Key

I'm the first to admit that my key ring is ridiculously large. But it is handy -- I wear it as a bracelet, hang it on a doorknob, tuck the ring into my waistband like a chatelaine's keys to the castle.  And the jingling sound they produce as I walk while carrying my keys has become a signal of sorts for my kids.  When I'd go to pick up Zoe or Maya from preschool, they'd pop out of their classrooms as I walked down the hall, knowing I was coming from the sound of the keys.

Today, Zoe's class was responsible for the weekly all-school Mass;  class members serve as ushers, do the bible readings, etc.  Zoe had a speaking part, so she was eager for me to be there.  Parents sit in the balcony when they attend the school Mass -- not much room for extra bodies in the pews downstairs -- so I was above her when her class walked in.  She didn't see me, didn't turn to look up to the balcony, and I wanted her to know I was there.  So, I took my keys out of my pocket and lightly shook them.  She turned her head immediately, a Pavlov's dog response!  She gave me a big grin and I gave her a thumb's up.  Of course, later in the Mass, she performed her part flawlessly, at least in part, I tell myself egotistically, because she knew I was there to support her.

The symbolism of the keys is evident to me -- it's how we encode ourselves in our kids.  We embed signals, keying in our presence.  We want them to know, even when we are not there beside them, that we are with them.  We love them, we support them -- we have their backs.  We want them emboldened, empowered, to stand up to bullies, to answer awkward questions about adoption and their different families.  We want them to know they can rely on us, so they can be free to reach their full potential.  We want them to feel our love, even when we're not there.

Unconditional love.  That's the key.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gay Dads Want Their Names on Adopted Child's Birth Certificate

I've posted before about why I hate the so-called "amended birth certificate" that states issue for adopted children.  I consider them government-sponsored lies.  Zoe has a Texas birth certificate that lists me as her mother, and her date and place of birth in China.  While I don't recall where I was or what I was doing on November 6, 2000, I do know I was NOT in China and I was NOT giving birth to Zoe.  But that's what her state-issued fake birth certificate claims.  I understand the strongest argument for such certificates -- convenience -- but I don't find it sufficiently persuasive as to allow government-sanctioned lies.

But once we allow amended birth certificates for adopted children, listing the names of their adoptive parents, then who cares the sexual orientation of the parents?  If an amended birth certificate doesn't mean that the folks listed actually gave birth to the child, who cares whether the parents were in fact biologically capable of giving birth to the child?  That's one of the argument in a Louisiana lawsuit, reported in the Boston Globe:
The question of whether Louisiana must put both parents' names on birth certificates of children adopted by gay couples goes before 16 federal appeals court judges on Wednesday.

Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith of San Diego want the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a unanimous three-judge ruling and a district judge's decision that both of their names must go on their son's birth certificate.

Adopted children get new birth certificates with their new parents' names on them. But the state Attorney General's Office contends that Louisiana's registrar cannot put both Adar's and Smith's names on their son's birth certificate because they could not have adopted him together in Louisiana.

The earlier orders would make the state break its own vital records laws by including names of unmarried couples, who cannot adopt together in Louisiana regardless of sexual orientation, according to a brief filed by Assistant Attorney General Kyle Duncan.

Adar and Smith adopted a boy, who was born in Shreveport in late 2005. They were then living in Connecticut, and went to Louisiana to meet the mother, who gave them legal custody soon after his birth. They adopted him in April 2006 in New York state.

U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey found that the law was so clear that no trial was needed. Louisiana's law requires the state to list adoptive parents' names. Because New York law allows adoption by unmarried couples, Louisiana had to follow that law in writing the new certificate, he wrote. A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit upheld that decision last February. The state asked for a rehearing before the full court.
Your thoughts?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Peace Love Hope

This is what Maya wanted to share on the blog today for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  She drew this picture after listening to King's "I have a dream" speech (in full!  I didn't think she'd sit still through the whole thing, but she did!).

At lunch, the three of us had a good talk about the Civil Rights Movement, and Dr. King's role in it.  And we talked about the fact that the movement was a non-violent one, and how hard that non-violence must have been when police arrested Rosa Parks or sicced dogs on teens peacefully sitting in at an all-white lunch counter.

At some point, one of the girls said something about how happy Dr. King must be to see how his dream has come true.  I cautioned them that there was still prejudice and discrimination in the U.S. and in the world, so the dream hadn't yet come completely true.  Zoe wanted to know how discrimination against African-Americans still happens, and I mentioned that some people might not want to hire someone or live in the same neighborhood as someone who is black (FYI, 86% of suburban whites live in communities that are less than 1% black, and schools are even more segregated than they were when MLK was assassinated).

Then Zoe wanted to know if people still discriminate against Asian Americans.  I said yes, and explained that one of the most common thing I hear Asian adults complain about is that some people don't see them as American, that people might ask them if they speak English or ask who they would support in a war between America and China.

Maya thought that last part, who to support in a war between America and China, was a really tough question she had to answer:  "I don't know. . . I know an awful lot of good people in America, and I came from China and there are an awful lot of good people there. . . ."  Zoe, like a bad law student, fought the hypothetical:  "That's a dumb question.  There won't be a war between China and America.  That's dumb."

I found myself trying to explain the proxy war between North and South Korea in the 1950s and in Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s -- and then said, "Wait a minute, she's only 10!"  and dropped it.  Still, you can see the issue hit home with her.  Here's Zoe's contribution to the MLK Day gallery:

In case you can't read what she wrote, here it is: 

I HAVE A DREAM . . . That Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream will come true.  That everyone will get together.  That there will be no more War. That all races will join together.  That slaves will be set free.  That everyone will be treated equally.  That the world will come in Peace . . .
AND. . .
(OK, I'm hoping that "fight for freedom" thing is metaphorical or the whole peace/no war thing comes across as a bit hypocritical!)
And notice the No War drawing -- a person under a China flag and a person under a USA flag taking aim with guns.

So here's joining my girls in wishing you all hope, love and peace on this special day.

Happy MLK Day!

Here is the girls' tribute to the day from last  year -- don't know what they'll come up with this year!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"Kiss My Butt"

That was the response of Maine's governor, Paul LePage, to the NAACP, a major African-American group, when they complained he wasn’t taking part in Martin Luther King Day events next week: "Tell them to kiss my butt."
Now, I don't ordinarily blog about purely political issues, but this part of the article caught my eye:
He insisted that his decision to skip the MLK Day events had nothing to do with race.

“If they want, they can look at my family picture,” he said. “My son happens to be black, so they can do whatever they’d like about it.”

LePage’s son is adopted.
OK, now, here's the thing -- I'd think that the fact that my son is black would be the number one reason I'd WANT to attend a NAACP event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Raising "other people's children"

Interesting post from the Infertility Therapist:
As clients move forward through [infertility] grief and consider their alternatives, they often express the same fear--that they will be unable to have a fully satisfying parenting experience because they will be raising "other people's children."

This is a complicated issue because when you adopt, or use donor eggs or sperm to create your family, in a very basic, concrete sense you actually are raising "other people's children". In fact, there are an additional one or two "parents" swirling around in the mix. This causes us to reconsider how we define what makes a "parent", and what is necessary for the parental connection to occur.

* * *

To this discussion I would like to add, however, two points that I have not seen mentioned with frequency--the psychological constructs or images the parents develop about their child's genetic origins. The first concept I would like to discuss is how the expectations we develop based on genetic relatedness and family resemblance can affect our parenting experience. From a psychological perspective, when one parents a genetically related child, there is at least the possibility of explaining things about that child from a genetic viewpoint. That Junior has his father's eyes, his mother's laugh, and his Uncle Charlie's love of striped socks, may or may not in reality be true--but these are the hypotheses we create, seemingly reflexively. When parenting a genetically unrelated child, all bets are off, especially if little is known about the genetic parents, as in the case of international adoption, or using anonymous egg and sperm donation. If my adopted daughter, about whose biological parents I know nothing, misbehaves, is it something I did? Is it her genetically-endowed temperament? Is it a mismatch of her environment, which includes me, plus genetics? This difference adds another layer of complexity to the parenting situation.

Although this thought process may seem worrisome to prospective parents, I think in reality it is often found to be beneficial, because it allows you to view the child with an open mind, without as many preconceived notions.

Tiger Mom a Pussycat?

So says Jeff Yang of the San Francisco Chronicle.  Amy Chua, author of The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom, claims she didn't have much say in how the Wall Street Journal excerpted her book or headlined the article Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.  From Yang's article:
Chua responded to a brief message I sent her introducing myself and asking for an interview bysaying that she was glad to hear from me, as she'd been looking for a way to discuss her misgivings about the Journal article. Apparently, it had been edited without her input, and by the time she saw the version they intended to run, she was limited in what she could do to alter it.

"I was very surprised," she says. "The Journal basically strung together the most controversial sections of the book. And I had no idea they'd put that kind of a title on it. But the worst thing was, they didn't even hint that the book is about a journey, and that the person at beginning of the book is different from the person at the end -- that I get my comeuppance and retreat from this very strict Chinese parenting model."

* * *

"I'm not going to retract my statements about Chinese parenting. But I'd also note that I'm aware now of the limitations of that model -- that it doesn't incorporate enough choice, that it doesn't account for kids' individual personalities. And yet, I would never go all the way to the Western ideal of unlimited choice. Give 10-year-olds total freedom, and they'll be playing computer games eight hours a day. I now believe there's a hybrid way of parenting that combines the two paradigms, but it took me making a lot of mistakes along the way to get there."

Love or hate her (or both), Chua's story is far more complicated and interesting than what you've heard to date.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fallout felt from airlift of Haitian orphans

One year after the earthquake in Haiti, are there lessons to be learned about how to respond to child welfare needs during crises?  This article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Fallout felt from airlift of Haitian orphans, explores some of the issues surrounding the airlift of children from Haiti:
And one year later, many international adoption experts and child welfare officials are trying to work with the Haitian government, with limited success, to ensure that this type of hastily planned evacuation [the Gov. Rendell airlift that included children not in the process of adoption] doesn't happen again.

"People always respond in a crisis out of the kindness of their hearts, but this was misguided kindness," said Julie Rosicky, executive director of International Social Service-USA.

The 12 children who ended up at Holy Family, she noted, were not in the midst of adoption proceedings, even though their parents had signed relinquishment papers. They were included because the McMutrie sisters refused to leave Haiti with Mr. Rendell unless those children came, too.

"It broke all the principles we've established as an international adoption community to keep children with their families and in their countries of origin above all else, with inter-country adoption a last resort," said Ms. Rosicky.

Indeed, the mother of 11-year-old Fekkens Souffrant, one of the 12 BRESMA children who came to Holy Family, told The New York Times earlier this month that she had not known, when she signed relinquishment papers, that she would not be able to see her child again and didn't discover he had been taken to the U.S. until she visited the orphanage several days afterward.

* * *

Nonetheless, "if you act too precipitously, you make mistakes," noted Adam Pertman, executive director for the New York-based Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. Mr. Pertman is the author of "Adoption Nation," to be published this spring.

Officials want to find ways to resist the impulse to remove children during disasters.

"The widely accepted position for pretty much everybody is that after a disaster is not a time to start airlifting," said Kathleen Strottman, executive director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, which has been working on developing a new child welfare system in Haiti.
* * *
Of the roughly 1,100 children placed, fewer than a dozen cases have been "disrupted," adoption parlance for what happens when an adoptive family feels unable to keep a child.

The children were returned to HHS care "because the adoptive families were no longer able to care for them for a variety of reasons," said Ms. Parrott. "Those children are placed in residential care facilities until we can find appropriate foster placements with families who would be interested in adopting them."

* * *

After a year, the Haitian orphan tale has had a mostly happy ending.

But the question is, "what happens next time?" said Mr. Pertman. "What have we learned for better or worse that we should apply here?"

John Seabrook Still Doesn't Get It

Remember the rather naive and new-parent-y piece by John Seabrook in the New  Yorker about six months ago, where he wrote of the adoption of his child from Haiti?  And remember the generous outpouring of insight from adult adoptees at the Transracial Korean Adoptee Nexus which Seabrook obviously didn't appreciate from his defensive responses to the comments?  Perhaps not surprisingly, he didn't learn anything from it -- here's his latest on the anniversary of the Haiti earthquake and the adoption of his daughter:
The anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti will probably find me gnawing again on the central moral dilemma of our adoption of a Haitian child, which is to some extent the dilemma in almost every international adoption: that terrible misfortune for some can bring extraordinary joy to others.

* * *

Had the Léogâne fault, having rested quietly for many centuries, slipped eight months earlier, we wouldn’t have been matched with a child yet, and we would have had to start the process over. Had it never slipped, we would have waited years to get our daughter; perhaps her mother would have changed her mind and taken her back.

* * *

The truth is, I don’t want to associate the earthquake with Rose. And in some ways her arrival seems divorced from the earthquake or even from Haiti. She is our child now, not a refugee or a victim, not an orphan any longer. The small everyday responsibilities of being a parent . . . this is the stuff that’s real, and next to it the cosmic coincidence of her getting here seems like an grim abstraction.
I'm the first to admit there's a learning curve about adoption issues for adoptive parents.  But  Seabrook is climbing the hill awfully slowly. 

He talks about the dilemma of loss-joy in adoption, but he can't really come to grips with the real loss, his daughter's loss of her birth mother.  He sees the earthquake as the great loss, when there was no causal link at all between the earthquake and his daughter's initial loss.  In fact, he seems appreciative of the "cosmic coincidence" of the earthquake -- it prevented something even more horrible, "perhaps her mother would have changed her mind and taken her back."

And what about the loss of culture?  of Haiti?  That's easy to ignore:  "her arrival seems divorced from the earthquake or even from Haiti."  After all, "she is our child now." Divorce. Wow, isn't that some choice of words.  Divorce. Separate. Sever. Cut off.  Cut away.  It's that "blank slate" thinking -- that nothing happened in the child's life before she arrived in her adoptive home thinking.

If the Transracial Korean Adoptee Nexus  decides to school Seabrook again, I'll add a link here!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"Something is lacking"

From Safari Dad, a critique of a piece arguing that marriage is all about the biological relationship to the kids:
According to Andrew Haines, writing in Ethika Politika, the blog of the Center for Morality in Public Life, without children, the whole point of marriage vanishes.

* * *

Not surprisingly, Haines is focused on preventing marriage equality from becoming a reality, but along the way he manages to throw an awful lot of others under the bus along with gays and lesbians. Speaking of adoptive parents, he says that “although these couples can raise children, they cannot create them – and the latter is intimately connect to the former. So something is lacking.” Yeah, there’s something lacking in your marriage, your family, your kids, if you adopt.

On the one hand, he claims that parenting is a requirement for marriage stability but on the other, he argues that raising children does not make you a parent, only genetics can do that.

The Effects of Religion and Religiosity on Attitudes Towards Transracial Adoption

A recently released study in the Journal of Comparative Family Studies explores attitudes towards transracial adoptions among religious persons.  In addition to looking at various denominations, the study examines the effects of "religiosity," as measured by frequency of church attendance, frequency of prayer, and frequency of reading of sacred texts.

The study keys off of research on attitudes towards interracial dating and marriage, which has been tied to religion and religiosity. I found this explanation interesting:
Research on race relations has long substantiated a relationship between one's reported level of religious commitment or "religiosity" and racial attitudes in general.  Yet, despite the broad concensus that a relationship between religiosity and racial attitudes exists, the nature of this relationship is a matter of sharp disagreement.  While some have found that higher levels of religiosity (as typically measured by church attendance) are associated with more negative racial attitudes, [others] contended that the relationship between religiosity and racial prejudice is based on whether an individual is intrinsically or extrinsically oriented to his or her religion.  Put simply, it is argued that while higher levels of religiosity are associated with negative racial attitudes to an extent, the truly devout who have effectively internalized their faith (intrinsic orientation) tend to be less prejudiced than those who merely practice their religion for utilitarian purposes or as a matter of institutional devotion (extrinsic orientation).
But how does this all translate to attitudes toward transracial adoption?  Using the Baylor Religion Survey of 2005 and the General Social Survey of 2006, the researcher focused on transracial adoption. The survey question was as follows: "How do you feel about the following marriage and family related issues . . . adoption a child of a different race?"  The available answers were that the respondent felt is was 1) always wrong; 2) almost always wrong; 3) only wrong sometimes; 4) not wrong at all.

First finding is that over 82% of all respondents -- religious, non-religious, Protestant, Catholic, other -- believed that TRA was not wrong at all.  But there were differing degrees of favorability among religious groups.  Protestants were 6 percent less likely that Catholics and over 10 percent less likely than non-religious people to afferm that TRA is not wrong at all.  The researcher concludes: "While support for TRA appears to be increasing among the population as a whole, Protestants, who constitute a majority of the population, tend to support TRA less than Catholics and most, noticeably, those who are non-religious."  Still, it is important to note that almost 79 percent of Protestants found nothing wrong with adopting a child of a different race.

So why would there be a lower level of approval of TRA among Protestants than other groups?  The author points to three explanation from other researchers.  1) Some conservative Protestant opposition to interracial dating is sometimes based on the idea that race-mixing is biblically wrong; and perhaps that attitude extends beyond interracial dating/marriage to other family relationships; 2) for some, a religious commitment to spiritual or moral purity also translates into a requirement of racial purity; 3) conservative Protestants are more likely to adhere to individualistic, anti-structuralist explanations for inequality and poverty among racial minorities, and tend to focus on dysfunctional family relationships of racial minorities as a primary source of their poverty; they may see adopting children of a different race as somehow enabling irresponsible sexual behavior of racial minorities.  The author suggests that further research needs to be done to examine the "why" question.`

Second interesting finding -- religiosity was a significant predictor for a respondent approving of transracial adoption.  Says the author, "For every point a person moves up on the religiosity index the likelihood that she or he finds nothing wrong with TRA increases by 13 percent."  This actually contradicted the researcher's hypothesis that religiosity would be negatively related to approval of TRA.

The study looked at other variables in addition to religion -- this point stood out for me:  "Those who live in the South, are Protestant, less religious, less educated, older, male, politically conservative, and have lower levels of trust for other races are less likely to approve of TRA."

Note that the study is looking at the attitudes of the general public;  the study doesn't look at parents who have adopted transracially and their religious attitudes.  The author suggests further study of adoptive parents:  "This would allow researchers to identify important distinctions between those who merely approve of TRA publically and those who actually tke the step to engage in TRA."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior

From Yale Law professor Amy Chua, a defense of Chinese parenting using herself and her children as examples in a parenting style that makes Mommy Dearest look like Mother Theresa:
A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it.

* * *

Chinese parents can get away with things that Western parents can't. Once when I was young—maybe more than once—when I was extremely disrespectful to my mother, my father angrily called me "garbage" in our native Hokkien dialect. It worked really well. I felt terrible and deeply ashamed of what I had done. But it didn't damage my self-esteem or anything like that. I knew exactly how highly he thought of me. I didn't actually think I was worthless or feel like a piece of garbage.

As an adult, I once did the same thing to Sophia, calling her garbage in English when she acted extremely disrespectfully toward me. When I mentioned that I had done this at a dinner party, I was immediately ostracized. One guest named Marcy got so upset she broke down in tears and had to leave early.
You have to read the whole thing -- it gets worse, so much so that I keep thinking it has to be satire.  But it isn't.
Brian Caplan at the EconLog takes the piece seriously, even while finding it exasperating, in a post called Does Asian Parenting Cause Asian Success?
My initial reaction is exasperation. Yet another essay on parenting that doesn't even contain the words "genes" or "heredity"? A vast literature finds that heredity is not merely part of the reason for family resemblance, but virtually the whole story. How can a professor at Yale act as if this consensus doesn't even exist?
* * *

The upshot is that the tough love that Chua heralds is not just pointless, but cruel. The defender of Chinese parenting might retort, "Well, at least it does no lasting damage." But only massive future benefits could conceivably justify the truly sadistic things that Chua proudly admits she did for her children's alleged benefit.
Your reactions?

P.S.  Several people have mentioned the Resist Racism and Angry Asian Man responses, to I though I'd bring the links above the fold:

From Resist Racism:  P.S. You suck

From Angry Asian Man: Your permissive western parenting is inferior

Sunday, January 9, 2011

China's 16-year-old Women's World Chess Champion

Great piece by Nicholas Kristoff, using the new chess champion as a jumping off point to discuss "Rising China:"
Hou Yifan, the new women’s world chess champion, is the youngest person, male or female, ever to win a world championship.

If there’s a human face on Rising China, it belongs not to some Politburo chief, not to an Internet tycoon, but to a quiet, mild-mannered teenage girl named Hou Yifan.

Ms. Hou (whose name is pronounced Ho Ee-fahn) is an astonishing phenomenon: at 16, she is the new women’s world chess champion, the youngest person, male or female, ever to win a world championship. And she reflects the way China — by investing heavily in education and human capital, particularly in young women — is increasingly having an outsize impact on every aspect of the world.

Napoleon is famously said to have declared, “When China wakes, it will shake the world.” That is becoming true even in spheres that China historically has had little connection with, like chess, basketball, rare earth minerals, cyber warfare, space exploration and nuclear research.

* * *

China has also done an extraordinarily good job of investing in its people and in spreading opportunity across the country. Moreover, perhaps as a legacy of Confucianism, its citizens have shown a passion for education and self-improvement — along with remarkable capacity for discipline and hard work, what the Chinese call “chi ku,” or “eating bitterness.”

Ms. Hou dined on plenty of bitterness in working her way up to champion. She grew up in the boondocks, in a county town in Jiangsu Province, and her parents did not play chess. But they lavished attention on her and spoiled her, as parents of only children (“little emperors”) routinely do in China.

China used to be one of the most sexist societies in the world — with female infanticide, foot binding, and concubinage — but it turned a corner and now is remarkably good at giving opportunities to girls as well as boys. When Ms. Hou’s parents noticed her interest in a chess board at a store, they promptly bought her a chess set — and then hired a chess tutor for her.
 A bit different from the "China hates girls" meme so popular today, hmm?

The Horns of a Dilemma

Maya didn't mean to poke me with the proverbial horns of a dilemma, but she surely did.  Zoe spent the night with a friend Friday night. so that meant Maya slept in my bed (and frequently poked me with her stuffed unicorn's horn, too!).  It also meant that Maya got to pick out a night-time video all on her own, with no interference from big sister.  Not surprisingly, Maya picked Hercules.

After Hercules finds out that he was adopted, he runs off to the Temple of Zeus to follow a clue as to who his birth parents might be.  And that's where Maya's difficult question came:  "Mama, if I ran off to find my birth parents, what would you do?"

Now, Maya loves to ask questions about what I would do if she ran away, flew away, turned into a bunny and hopped away, etc.  The answer she seems to be seeking then is the "permanancy" answer -- I'll follow you, I'll never let you go, you're mine forever.  And she loves getting those answers from me.  I say that it isn't that easy to get rid of me, that she's stuck with me forever, and she giggles wildly.

But now Maya's made it complicated -- what if she runs off to find her birth parents?  I don't want to answer that I won't let her go, which sounds like I won't let you search for your birth parents.  So how to answer?

Finally, I said, "You won't have to run off to find your birth parents -- if you want me to, I'll go with you!  I'll help you any way you want me to when or if you want to look for your birth parents."

Maya was a bit surprised and intrigued by that answer.  She had a slew of questions about how I could help, and we talked about some of the difficulties in searching in China.  She was noncommital about searching.

Finally, I told her, "I love you and always want to help you.  That's 'cause I'm your mom forever and that's what moms do!"  The horns disarmed, at least temporarily. . . .

Saturday, January 8, 2011

"Practice Babies"

A quite astonishing story at ABC News:
Denny Domecon had eight "mothers." And every six weeks, eight more would take their place; planning his nutritious diet, his naps and tending to his every need.

The 4-month-old was a "practice baby" in 1952 at Cornell University's home economics program in upstate Ithaca, N.Y., cared for by a group of "practice mothers" -- young 22-year-old students -- in a "practice apartment."

Denny's real identity was anonymous and, like so many other Domecon babies, his surname meant "domestic economy."

He was one of hundreds of babies, mostly children of unwed mothers, who were on loan from orphanages to colleges like Cornell, University of Minnesota and Eastern Illinois State University and many others. There, students could practice the latest child-rearing theories of the day on a real newborn.

"It was a science," said one of Denny's mothers, Margaret Redmond, who is now 80 and living in Englewood, Fla. "That was the whole emphasis."

After a year or two, the babies would leave their multiple mothers -- in some programs up to 12 young women -- to find homes in adoptive families.
Adam Pertman sure had it right when he said: "It's strange on so many levels," said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York City. "On its face, the fact that we could, as a society, as educated people, think this was a good idea, is quite amazing."

Katie Cramer, RIP

I'm saddened to share that the young China adoptee who needed a bone marrow transplant to treat her leukemia, Katie Cramer, passed away on Thursday.

I always have the urge to hold my children, hug them tight, when I hear these tragic stories.

Friday, January 7, 2011

When I heard about the website Direct Adoptions, I had the same reaction as Margie and one of her commenters who called the website designed to link up birth mothers and PAPs "adoption pimps."  I figured it really couldn't get any worse.

And then I learned of the Materniteens website -- the headline says it all: Popular Teen Pregnancy Resource, Introduces Teens to Potential Adoptive Parents.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

China Daily Articles

As you know, I love reading China Daily!  Here are a slew of relevant, and, I hope, interesting articles:

Baking as a path to a bright future
Hidden away in Langfang, Hebei province, about 60 kilometers away from China's capital, Bread of Life Bakery is different from the everyday bread house. It is owned and operated by adult orphans, some of whom have physical disabilities.

The brainchild of Americans Keith and Cheryl Wyse, the bakery is a location for young disabled Chinese to learn a trade and earn a wage. The Wyses moved to China in 2002 because they were interested in helping Chinese orphan children.
Village cluster cradles foster care approach, about villages near Datong that have been fostering children since the 1960s:
Over the past 42 years, Cai has provided foster care to more than 30 orphans from the institute. Many of them have congenital disabilities.

Most of Cai's foster children have grown up. Some went to college, married and earned their own livings.

* * *

Many other women in the village have become foster mothers since the 1960s. They bring up these children as their own, build houses for them after they grow up and prepare weddings for them with their own savings.

Located at the foot of Cailiang Mountain in northeastern Datong, Sancha is known as "China's Foster Mother Village", as it has become the country's cradle for this form of parenting.

Villagers have raised more than 1,300 orphans since the 1960s, village Party chief Wang Ting said. About 320 foster children are now being raised in Sancha. More than 90 percent of them have disabilities. Many were born with cleft palates, limb deficiencies or lack of sight.
Outside the ExPat Bubble
Ralph and Melinda Howe took a combined $20,000 pay cut to move their family from Orlando, Florida, to Beijing, in March. Two of their four young children were adopted from China, so the couple decided it was important for the family to spend at least three years here to better understand the country. "We want all four of our kids to learn the language - and us if we are capable - and for all of us to experience, at least in part, what it is like to be from Asia," Melinda, 42, says.

"Our girls who were born here will know that we feel like their native culture is important for all of us to embrace."

But raising a foreign family in China comes with a huge price tag. The cost can become a burden, especially to people who are not on an "expat package": financial assistance provided by companies to overseas hires, usually in the form of free housing, coverage of children's tuition at international schools, medical insurance at Western hospitals and yearly round-trip tickets home.
For orphans, Christmas is all about family

Like most households across the United States, the Slatons view Christmas as a big deal. The house is decorated from top to bottom, a star is placed atop a towering Christmas tree, and the whole family gathers in robes and pajamas on the big day to exchange gifts and spend time together.

But for this family, one might argue that Christmas is a particularly American ritual.

The Slatons, with seven children, are "a blended family", mother Barbara told China Daily. Her husband has three children and she has two, all now in their 20s.

Together, she and her husband adopted two girls from China, TaoZhu and Quinn. The family lives on a farm in Virginia, with the older children scattered around the US and overseas.

Introducing Christmas to TaoZhu and Quinn produced mixed results, Slaton said, with both reacting differently.

"It's really fascinating to watch it through their eyes, who when they arrived in the US, had nothing to compare Christmas to," she said.

"It's very different from girls who are adopted by American families when they're babies, and they're exposed to the holiday from the beginning.

"My daughters were like, Wow, what's this?"

TaoZhu, who is now 15, joined the family when she was 8, just a month before Christmas, Slaton said.

Swiss: Decline in adoptions seen as sign of the times

From the website SwissInfo:
Adoption as a route to founding a family is becoming less and less common in Switzerland with just seven adoptions per 1,000 births reported in 2009.

* * *

Social acceptance of unmarried mothers has also had a impact on children’s destinies. Some 300 Swiss children were offered for adoption in 1980, compared with 25 to 30 per year currently.

International adoption used to be plagued by the absence of agreed standards of regulation set against a backdrop of desperate need.

Shocking images of neglected children in Romanian and Chinese orphanages still endure in the collective memory 20 years after they were first broadcast.

“What’s new now is that in practically all countries there is a middle to upper class of people who are in a material position to adopt these children,” Rolf Widmer of the Swiss Adoption Board told

“The Hague Adoption Convention stipulates that children should first be placed with adoptive families in their own country and only be offered for international adoption when this is not possible,” Widmer added.

* * *

“The challenge for the future of adoption is to raise parents’ awareness about the children really in need of adoption, who are more likely to be a little older and suffer from health problems or a disability,” [says Marlène Hofstetter of the children’s charity Terre des Hommes.]

* * *

Some couples are prepared to pay high fees or “donations” demanded by agencies or children’s homes in the quest for a dream baby.

One Swiss woman who adopted in Central America told she agreed, when asked, to pay $20,000 to the orphanage she was dealing with to expedite the procedure.

“When money begins to change hands, the risk of child trafficking increases,” Hofstetter warned.

“There is a tendency for parents not to see further than their noses when they set out to find a child on their own, without the help of a recognised agency. They may look in countries known for dubious practices. It is a question of a child at any price.”

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Voiding Adoptions in North Carolina

Have you followed the news about the North Carolina Supreme Court voiding a second-parent adoption involving a lesbian couple?  Most have focused on it as a GLBT parenting issue, and it is an unconscionable ruling from that perspective.  But the commentary at Related Topics looks at it as a purely adoption issue:
The case begins with a familiar if sad scenario. Julie Boseman and Melissa Jarrell, a lesbian couple, decided to raise a child together. Jarrell became pregnant via insemination with sperm from an anonymous provider. Their son, Jacob, was born in October, 2002.

Jarrell and Boseman lived together with Jacob until 2006, at which point they separated. There’s no doubt that each of the women acted as Jacob’s mother before their separation, sharing the responsibilities and obligations of parenting. Nevertheless, when they split up Jarrell limited Boseman’s time with Jacob. (Should it be important to you, I’ll note that Boseman paid child support though there was no legal order directing her to do so.)

This far the case resembles a string of others I’ve blogged about where lesbian co-mothers end up in bitter litigation. But there is a very important additional factor here: Jarrell and Boseman recognized that after Jacob’s birth Jarrell had legal rights as a parent while Boseman did not. In order to secure Boseman’s rights, the two women went to court in 2005 and requested that Boseman be recognized as an adoptive parent of Jacob. The court complied with this request.

* * *

Anyway, the women completed a second-parent adoption, which meant that both women had full legal rights as parents of Jacob.     With the adoption in place, when the women split up, you end up with an ordinary custody fight between parents.   That’s never a good thing, but it’s a familiar one–the result generally turns on a court’s assessment of the best interests of the child. . . .

[But here} the NC Supreme Court ruled that the adoption was void ab initio. That means it is as if it were never concluded.

* * *

Generally speaking you cannot challenge an adoption several years after it has been completed.   (This is clearly the case in NC–check out the first lines of the dissenting opinion–page 24.)  There are good and obvious reasons for this.   Once an adoption is completed (here with the complete consent and participation of the first parent), the child’s life is structured around that legal fact.   To allow someone to undo it several years later is to completely disrupt the child’s world.

* * *

The North Carolina court’s opinion doesn’t just apply to Jacob. It applies to all the other second-parent adoptions that have been conducted there–or so it would appear. All the second-parent adoption completed in NC, even those where the two parents are perfectly happy raising their kids in a unitary family, are void. With the stroke of the pen, the NC court deprived all those families of the legal security that the adoptions provided.

What do you think?