Monday, February 28, 2011

Straddling the Line Between Two Worlds

This article, Straddling the Line Between Two Worlds, about 58-year-old Andy Livesay, reminded me of a line uttered by Dr. John Raible in the documentary Struggle for Identity: transracial adoptees will eventually find their way back to their communities of origin (paraphrased):
Livesay was adopted and raised by non-Indian parents.

* * *

Livesay speaks proudly of how his adoptive parents reared him.

“To adopt a minority back in the 1950s, that said something,” he said. “My parents were pretty forward thinking people, kind of proud I was an Indian, but they didn’t teach me to be an Indian.”

Fortunately, the family lived near what Livesay said was a “pocket of natives” in Tulsa.

“They were my buddies and friends, so I got to grow up in both worlds,” he said. “I started going around to all the elders, back when I was 14 or 15 and learned from them.
Livesay had no say in the article's headline, I'm sure, but "straddling two worlds" sounds to me like a precarious and uncomfortable place to be.  I see my goal as a transracially adopting mom as trying to ensure that my children feel comfortable in both their worlds.  If Zoe and/or Maya want to move to China and/or reject everything white/Western, that's okay with me -- I want to give them tools as they grow that allow them multiple choices when it comes to living out their multiple identities.

Part of what Dr. Raible talks about in the documentary is the importance of how adoptive parents react when their transracially adopted kids (as teens and adults) seek to return to their communities of origin;  he mentioned how great it is when adoptive parents are PROUD of the fact that their child has moved back to Korea, for instance, rather than feeling threatened by it.

Suppose your internationally adopted kid wanted to move back to their country of origin -- how would you feel? What are you doing NOW to ensure your child's ability to choose?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Race in America -- A Microcosm

OK, this is going to be one of those posts where I'm not quite sure what I'm saying or whether I have a point to make.  I'm trying to process something, and I'm hoping that writing it out will help, and if not, maybe your comments can help. . . .

This evening we went to McDonald's after Chinese School with another family -- it's become a bit of a tradition after Chinese School.  It gives the kids a chance to run off steam after 3 hours of hard learning, and it gives the parents a chance to talk.  Sometimes it's more than one other family, but this time it was just Zoe and Maya and our friend M. and her parents.

It wasn't very crowded when we got there, and then a large group, all African-American (yes, that's going to become relevant later), came in for a birthday party.  Zoe and Maya and M. were playing well together, and then suddenly M. came to her parents, upset and crying that she wanted to go home.  All three girls complained that it was crowded in the play area and that some kids had been mean to them.  It was near our usual departure time, so we picked up and left.

Driving home, Zoe said, "Those African-American kids were really mean to us, but they said we were being mean to them, but we weren't." I was formulating an answer, to basically ask her whether race was relevant here, when Maya chimed in, "Yeah, one of the girls called me a 'white girl,' and I told her I wasn't white!  Why did she call me white?"

Hmmm, maybe race was implicated in this "mean kids" encounter. Or maybe not.  Maybe it's just one group of kids who know each other wanting to play in the play place without interference by another group of kids they don't know -- and that can go both ways.  Zoe and Maya admitted they sometimes get irritated when they are playing and another group of kids comes along to play in the same place.

How to address the "white girl" comment?  I said I didn't know why the little girl called Maya white -- maybe she didn't know very many Asian people, and just thought since Maya wasn't black, she must be white. But what about the other racial overtones, if any?

I encouraged the girls to  talk about every way these kids were mean, including the fact that they used "the sh- word" (that would be "shut up," not that other word you're thinking of!), with Zoe sheepishly admitting that maybe she used "the sh- word" first.  But I made them tease out what each individual kid did;  instead of "THEY took a toy that Maya had found and dropped," I asked, "OK, WHICH kid took it?"  I wanted them to start thinking of individuals acting badly instead of a group acting badly.  We then talked about all our African-American friends, and how they are not mean, so it isn't right to think that these kids were mean BECAUSE they were African-American; just like it wouldn't be right for the other group of kids to think Zoe and Maya and M. were mean BECAUSE they were Asian American.

I left it at that, but admittedly feel unsettled about how I handled it.  I keep reminding myself that I can always have a "do-over," a chance to talk more about it with my kids.  But I'm not sure what I'd say differently in that do-over. 

Any advice?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Butterfly Ball 2011

Remember the sweetly manipulative email Zoe sent to Uncle Phillip asking him to take two fatherless girls to the school's annual father-daughter dance?  Well, that dance was tonight! I dropped them off at the ball, and I'm afraid the evening progressed just as it began -- Zoe and Maya excitedly ran into the gym leaving their escort behind!  Indeed, from Zoe's and Maya's description, it's a good thing I warned Phillip to bring something to entertain himself with!  After one obligatory dance, the girls completely ignored him to run around with their friends, who had also abandoned their escorts.  Still, they came home bubbling about how much fun they had!  Phillip, I owe you big time!!!! But at least you got to escort the two most beautiful girls at the ball!

TRA: "What Would You Do?"

ABC News has a "What Would You Do?" series where they have an acted-out scenario in public to see how people will react.  This week they tackle transracial adoption:
What would you do if you witnessed one woman berating her friend for having adopted a child of another color? "What Would You Do?" decided to find out.

Waiting at the counter of Mastoris Diner in Bordentown, N.J., our actress Traci watches the door, awaiting her friend, Diana, another WWYD actress. Both women are white. Diana plays a woman who has recently "adopted" a little girl (also an actress, who understands that the harsh words she may hear are only 'make believe').

Traci is excited about meeting the young girl for the first time, and she talks excitedly to other diner patrons about her anticipated encounter. But when Diana arrives, hand-in-hand with her black daughter, Nyree, Traci cannot hold back her shock and disdain.

"I thought she was going to be white," Traci says to her friend. "It doesn't make any sense. You should have a child that looks like you."

These blunt remarks turn the heads of customers who can hardly believe their ears. But what they don't know is that our "What Would You Do?" hidden cameras are rolling to discover reactions about how everyday Americans view interracial adoptions.
They also do the scenario with an African-American mom adopting a white child and her African-American friend disapproving.  How do you think that scenario will play out?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Guide to Citizenship for Adult International Adoptees

Ethica has released this invaluable resource for adult international adoptees, and explains the importance of confirming citizenship status:
If you were under 18 on or after February 27, 2001 and your adoption by a U.S. citizen parent was finalized before your 18th birthday, you may have acquired U.S. citizenship automatically, under the Child Citizenship Act (CCA). But if you are a foreign born adoptee who turned 18 before February 27, 2001, it is possible that you have not acquired U.S. citizenship even if your adoption by a U.S. citizen parent was finalized. If you are a foreign born adoptee who was under age 18 on or after February 27, 2001, it is possible that you have not acquired U.S. citizenship if your adoption was never finalized by a U.S. citizen parent.

In all cases, it is extremely important that you confirm and obtain proof of your citizenship status before engaging in activities that only U.S. citizens are permitted to do, such as voting in Federal (and some State and local) elections, performing jury duty, or claiming citizenship at any U.S. border or port of entry. Establishing your citizenship may also be important if you are charged with any criminal activity or are questioned by any U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials or other government entity.
It's really a shame that the onus has to be on adult adoptees for something their parents should have done while they were children.  At Resist Racism, the same opinion, passionately expressed:
When I am the Despotic Ruler of the Universe, I will punitively enforce draconian regulations against privileged persons whining about things that “cost too much money.”

And adoptive parents of kids from other countries will be required to acquire their children’s certificates of citizenship and valid passports.

* * *

So go ahead and punish the government by refusing to fork over your $600. Despite the fact that if you had done it when I told you the first time, you wouldn’t have spent so much. But the only person who will really suffer from this is your kid.
When you read about the deportation of an adoptee (like here and here and here), adopted as an infant or small child, who knows nothing about their country of origin and who does not speak the language of their country of origin, and whose adoptive parents dropped the ball,  what do you think about those parents?  Do you want to be one of them?
Didn't think so.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Study: Parents' Feelings Toward Adopted & Non-Adopted Kids

Really interesting study of families with at least one adopted child and at least one biological child, published in the journal, Infant and Child Development:
In the current study, we examined parent gender differences in feelings (negativity and positivity) and perceptions of child behavioural and emotional problems in adoptive and biological parent–child dyads. In a sample of 85 families, we used a novel within-family adoption design in which one child was adopted and one child was a biological child of the couple, and tested whether the links between parent feelings and child maladjustment included effects of passive gene–environment correlation. Parents reported more negativity and less positivity as well as higher levels of externalizing behaviour for the adopted child compared to the non-adopted child, although effect sizes were small and no longer statistically significant after correcting for multiple comparisons. Fathers and mothers did not differ significantly in their reports of positive and negative feelings towards their children or in regard to child externalizing and internalizing behaviours. The correlations between parental negativity and positivity and child externalizing and internalizing were similar for fathers and mothers, and for adopted and non-adopted children. The findings suggest similar parent–child relationship processes for fathers and mothers, and that genetic transmission of behaviour from parent to child does not account for the association between parental warmth and hostility and child-adjustment problems.
Essentially, the study found that  adoptees were regarded with less positivity and more negativity by their parents, and rated as higher in externalizing problems ("acting out," aggression, violence). BUT when these statistics were considered in light of other possible factors, there was not longer a statistically significant difference.

I think the study design -- single families with both bio and adopted kids -- makes the study particularly interesting.   What do you think about the study and its results?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Singer KT Tunstall Talks About Being Adopted

Interviewed by Michel Martin on NPR's Tell Me More, KT Tunstall talks a little bit about being adopted:
MARTIN: I read in an interview that you have a very interesting background, which you talked about some. You are adopted. You're multiracial, raised in Scotland but you know that your birth mother is Chinese. One of the things that you said in an interview that I was very touched by was that you said, you know, you have talked about this, but you don't talk about it a lot because you don't want to wind up hurting someone.

Ms. TUNSTALL: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: Is it because if you sort of plant your flag in one country, then it kind of leaves out all the other countries and...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. TUNSTALL: It's politics - all politics. No, it's more that it's such a sensitive issue, and I think that certainly as an - I mean, I can't talk directly on behalf of my parents, but, you know, I can only imagine what it's like bringing up an adopted child and, you know, making them feel as loved as you possibly can. But there's always going to be that slight disconnect, where I'm not going to understand what it's like for them to adopt a kid, and I'm -they're never going to understand what it feels like to be adopted.

But I think the thing that I've noticed, which I didn't realize, was it never becomes that much less sensitive. You know, we've all got very deep, fragile feelings about this issue and - although we're a very, very strong family. And I did make contact with my birth mother about 10 years ago. It was very fulfilling. It enriched my life. But it's not plain sailing, and that's all I'll say. It's...

MARTIN: Was she nice?

Ms. TUNSTALL: Yeah. She's a good person. But it's just something that I'm dealing with all the time myself. So it's not something that I'm actually qualified to be able to talk to people I don't know, because it's just - it's very private and very sensitive.

MARTIN: But I am always fascinated by the question of an artist who, by definition, plumbs the depths of things that are very difficult for the rest of us, often faces things that often the rest of us don't want to face, how much you share and how much you keep to yourself. And how do you make that decision?

Ms. TUNSTALL: Yeah. I mean, well, exactly and people might question, you know, why is she talking or why did she tell anyone in the first place? And it's like, well, that is an important part of me as a creative person, because no one else in my family is musical at all. So there is this wild card in me that doesn't really make sense unless I say, well, actually, maybe this is part of why.
Read the transcript here and listen to the interview here.

Birds and Bees and Adoption

OK, I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but driving in the car with the kids on Sunday, we discussed sperm banks, which they both declared were "Ooooh, gross!"

Actually, I am sure how we got there -- my rule on every subject (except, Santa, so shoot me!) is that I answer ALL questions age-appropriately but truthfully.  We were talking about some friends who quite tragically lost their two-week-old daughter, and Zoe wanted to know if they were going to have more kids.  I explained that they first wanted to figure out why Addy died, whether their DNA had something to do with the defect in her heart.  If it did, they may explore other ways of having more children.  And there we are with adoption and assisted reproduction and sperm banks! (Oh, and somewhere in this discussion we also touched on birth control pills and condoms, oh my!)

This post at Adoption Under One Roof, Talking With Your Adopted Child About Procreation, reminded me of how talking about birth parents, and really getting what adoption was, brought on the sex talk with Zoe.  This is what I wrote about the birds-and-bees talk with Zoe (who was 6) after we returned from visiting her orphanage and finding spot:
OK, I knew that going back to Guangxi meant there would be tons of questions from Zoe especially – about her birthparents, about her finding place, about the orphanage, about adoption. And sure enough we’ve had those (last night she asked if she was buried in the ground at her finding place, and I was able to reassure her that she was just on top of the ground. Thank goodness she asked – who knew she was worrying about that). But I didn’t expect it to spur the where-do-babies-come-from talk!

I’m not even sure how it happened – we were talking about how she might have gotten to her finding place and she suddenly asked, “How do babies get in the birthmother’s tummy?” And my answer, “They grow there,” just wasn’t going to cut it this time!

Yet another child-rearing moment when I wanted to say, “Wait a minute – let me do a little research on how best to explain it to you. Can you wait a few weeks?!” But they never can wait, can they? So we had to do the whole seed-egg, insert Tab A into Slot B thing. . . .
At age 10, Zoe has asked enough questions to have a sort-of picture of procreation, not a full picture.  But I was a little surprised to find out that one of her 10-year-old friends has NO IDEA AT ALL -- or at least her parent hasn't told her a thing about sex.  At Adoption Under One Roof, Lisa advises:
Ideally it is the parents who provide sex education to their children. But if your child doesn’t ask you questions she is probably getting her education elsewhere, such as from a friend. This being far from ideal, take the initiative by having discussions with your child.

How old were your children when they started asking about the birds and the bees?  Which came first, their understanding of adoption or their understanding of where babies come from?  Does one require knowledge of the other?  Share your favorite birds-and-bees moments with your kids!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Laos & International Adoption

Here's a description of a meeting to discuss international adoption for Lao children (Laos is listed as a state from which American citizens can adopt at the State Department website, with a 2008 law approving international adoption):
Lao government officials and representatives of international organisations learned about inter-country adoption yesterday to ensure all Lao children retain their full rights if adopted in other countries.

Deputy Minister of Justice Professor Ket Kiettisack said the government welcomed the adoption of Lao children by people living in other countries, but it should be ensured the children have full rights after adoption.

“Adopted children should be able to visit their birth parents in their home country,” Professor Ket said at the opening ceremony of the Orientation on Inter-Country Adoption, held in Vientiane.

“A good example is people of Lao ethnicity living in France or the US who want to adopt Lao children,” he said. “In Lao tradition, close relatives are the main people to adopt children, helping big families to reduce poverty.”

The Ministry of Justice’s Nationality Division Deputy Head, Mr Bounleuth Saymikya, told the government would give preference to people of Lao ethnicity living abroad and wanting to adopt Lao children.

“Anyone is welcome to adopt, whether they are single or married, so long as they fulfill the related legal conditions,” he said.
I always find it intriguing to see how non-Western countries view adoption -- adoption tends to be much more open in those societies.

More on TRA in Britain (and the U.S.)

I posted about the new proposals for guidelines on transracial placements in Britain.  At Social [Over]Worker (gotta love that blog title!), a British social worker responds:
Ministers Tell Social Workers Not To Bar Inter-Racial Adoptions

I didn’t realise we were. Thanks for pointing this out to us. I’m so glad that we have ministers speaking out about things which they clearly have no idea about. When was the last time one of them tried to find an adoptive placement for a child on a waiting list?


It is wonderful that they are trying to bring more awareness about the delays which children face, particularly ethnic minority who wait 3 times longer, but they are simplifying down a very complex topic.

* * *

I know that the agencies I work with will always try and identify suitable matches for a child, no matter what the ethnic background of the adopters. We have a chronic shortage of ethnic minority adopters, which means that ethnic minority children are already being placed with white british couples.

I feel that the government ministers, as I said before, are speaking out on sensationalist topics which they have very little understanding or insight into. Quite frankly, it’s hard enough getting children adopted as it is without throwing even more complication into it.
So what do you think?  It seems to me that Britain is having the same debate about transracial adoption that we had in the '80s and '90s.  Since the late '80s I haven't seen any reluctance of American social workers in placing children transracially.  By the time the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) was passed in 1994, most agencies were on board for its basic message -- an agency that receives federal funds cannot deny or delay an adoptive placement because of the race of the child or the prospective adoptive parents.

One of the TRA cases we study in my Adoption Law case is about white foster parents want to adopt their black foster child.  When screened to be foster parents, the mom said she didn't want to take in any black children because "she did not want people to think she or her [adult] daughter were sleeping with a black man."  Later, she said she gave this reason because she was reluctant to give her real reason, that she wouldn't know how to take care of a black child.  Later, they took as foster parents 3 black and 2 black/biracial children.  When they petitioned to adopt Dante, the parents told a psychologist who interviewed them that race had "no impact" on developing a child's identity and self-esteem, that addressing racial issues was not important in raising a minority child, that they would not prepare Dante to deal with racial discrimination but rather would address the problem if and when it occurred.  The psychologist also noted that the family had no friends and no contacts in the minority community; in fact, the mom said that she would "not manufacture black friends."

The state denied their adoption petition;  since that point, the foster parents showed more realization of the importance of the issues and were willing to undertake any course of action recommended by the state to prepare them to meet the needs of a black child. They expressed a willingness to grow and learn.  They, on their own, located and were prepared to participate in a support group for transracial adoptive families.  FYI, the family lived in Pennsylvania.

So what would you do as the social worker in this case?  MEPA says we can't consider race in making adoptive placements -- can we consider racial attitudes?  Does MEPA require us to place a black child with a member of the KKK if they ask to adopt him? This is a pretty typical case, with all the complexities the Social [Over]Worker is talking about.

I'm always amused by adoptive parents who insist that social workers won't allow transracial adoption in the U.S.  Sometimes it's more about the reluctance of the parents to adopt African-American children or to adopt children from foster care, not any reluctance of social workers to place African-American children with white adoptive parents. It's white adoptive parents who are afraid someone will think they're sleeping with a black man!

I do think transracial adoption presents more issues for children -- forming positive racial identity, being conspicuously adopted, dealing with race and racism without parents as role models with lived experience.  At the very least, adoptive parents need to be screened about racial attitudes and need to have good education about these issues.  I still hear about agencies who think that they aren't ALLOWED to screen or educate about race because of MEPA, which is a complete misreading of the Act.

It's pretty easy to scapegoat social workers when minority chilren spend far more time in foster care before being adopted than do white children.  I certainly think agencies and social workers need to do a better job of recruiting minority adoptive parents.  But we can't scapegoat them for the lack of transracial placements without considering current racial attitudes that make some adoptive parents reluctant to adopt minority children.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Born Identity: Adoptees Adopting

From New American Media, Born Identity: Adopted in U.S., Asians Returning to Home to Adopt Their Own:
When Rebecca Eun Hee Viot speaks of her daughter Ruby, her tone expresses a love that clearly transcends words.

“She has basically done what no husband or therapist or boyfriend or girlfriend has ever been able to do,” Viot said. “She’s basically quieted my heart.”

Viot, a Korean adoptee, grew up in the Midwest feeling a disconnect between her US life and her culture of origin. But, through Ruby, her adopted Korean daughter, Viot has filled a void within herself.

* * *

Today, a growing number of adoptees are adopting children from their birth countries, according to a 2009 study released by the Donaldson Adoption Institute titled "Beyond Culture Camp." Of adoptees polled in the study, 30 percent reported that they had adopted at least one child. In comparison, 3.7 percent of households in 2003 included at least one adopted child, as reported by the US Census Bureau.

These figures may indicate a potential trend: “No one’s done that kind of work so we don’t know for sure, but if you look at the study, there was a stunning percentage of adoptees who adopted,” said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Donaldson Adoption Institute.

* * *

In 1961, at 15 months old, Melinda Matthews met her adoptive family in New Jersey. Despite some challenges, Matthews views her experience as a Korean adoptee in a white family as positive. Unlike Viot, Matthews always had a desire to adopt from her birth country.

“Adopting my daughter didn’t feel like baby-buying to me,” Matthews said. “It was, ironically, the sole thread from my own adoption that I felt compelled to continue. I absolutely needed to pass on my adoptive heritage; it meant far more to me than continuing my genetic heritage."

An adopted child was someone Matthews could relate to completely, someone she could guide and understand. "Most importantly, I could love full-heartedly and unreservedly, without passing along the twin specters of guilt and gratitude that have haunted me,” she said.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

UK: New Rules to Encourage Transracial Adoption

The UK will be issuing new guidance to social workers in hopes of speeding placement of minority children for adoption, says the Telegraph:
Ministers want new adoption guidance to allow families who meet existing criteria for a child to be able to adopt regardless of their race.

Under new guidance to be issued next week, councils will be told that preventing families from adopting children of a different ethnic group “is not child-centred and is unacceptable”.

The new guidance will state if a family has met the “emotional and developmental needs” of a child officials are to ignore their ethnic origin.

The guidance does not change the law but will make clear that race should not be a "deal-breaker" if the prospective adopters show that they are able to parent the child.

Current advice states that social workers must give “due consideration to the child’s religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background”.

But the government believes these rules are not being interpreted properly by social workers, who are using race as their deciding factor.

The new “strengthened” guidance also makes clear that single prospective parents should not be discriminated against.

* * *

“Instead of placing obstacles in the way of families seeking to adopt a child of different ethnicity, they should be properly trained to cater for its cultural needs,” [the new guidance will say.]

Friday, February 18, 2011

At Least This One's Not From Texas

There's Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas complaining that sending China money to protect endangered species would go instead into Moo Goo Dog Pan or Moo Goo Cat Pan.  And then there's Rep. Betty Brown of Texas suggesting to Asian-Americans that they adopt names that are “easier for Americans to deal with.”

At least this one is from Kansas instead of my home state:
One week ago, the Kansas House Federal and State Committee held a hearing about in-state tuition being granted to the children of undocumented immigrants, which has been the policy in the state since 2004.

Speaking in favor of repealing the law, Rep. Connie O’Brien (R-KS) began telling an anecdote at the hearing about how her son had difficulty in getting financial assistance to attend college.

* * *

REP. O’BRIEN: My son who’s a Kansas resident, born here, raised here, didn’t qualify for any financial aid. Yet this girl was going to get financial aid. My son was kinda upset about it because he works and pays for his own schooling and his books and everything and he didn’t think that was fair. We didn’t ask the girl what nationality she was, we didn’t think that was proper. But we could tell by looking at her that she was not originally from this country. [...]

REP. GATEWOOD: Can you expand on how you could tell that they were illegal?

REP. O’BRIEN: Well she wasn’t black, she wasn’t Asian, and she had the olive complexion.
 Well, isn't that special?!   You can tell by looking at people that they are "not originally from this country." And everyone with "the olive complexion" is here illegally, except for Asians -- whom I'm sure Rep. O'Brien can tell are "not originally from this country" even if she can't tell whether or not they're here legally. 

WikiLeaks & International Adoption

With WikiLeaks disclosing U.S. embassy communiques, perhaps it isn't surprising that some of them touch on international adoption.  Here are a few examples:

WikiLeaks brings to light suspected baby trafficking from Egypt to Canada
The RCMP and Canadian consular officials in Cairo have been investigating up to a dozen cases where couples are suspected of having trafficked babies from Egypt into Canada, according to leaked diplomatic cables.

The details are outlined in American embassy dispatches made public this week by WikiLeaks.

Some of the suspected cases involve priests of the Coptic Christian community in Egypt, who are trying to find homes for street children but run into Egypt’s Islamic law, which bans adoption, according to a spokesman in Canada.

The crackdown began after American and Egyptian investigators dismantled a ring that used false birth-registration papers to bring babies to the United States, arresting 10 people, including two U.S. citizens, said a February, 2009 cable from the U.S. Cairo embassy.
See the actual comminique here.

WikiLeaks publishes first cable from Romania
Wikileaks has published the first cable sent by the US Embassy Bucharest. The document dated April 2006 is related to the international adoptions in Romania and to a letter sent by a Romanian adoption official.

The document is part of the 250,000 and more cables from US embassies around the world that Wikileaks is making public these days. According to Wikileaks, the cable from Bucharest is classified as confidential. It bears the signature of Taubman. The US Ambassador to Romania during December 2005-December 2008 was Nicholas F. Taubman.

The cable speaks of a report showing that none of the 1,092 identified children would be available for adoption, because of a series of reasons which are listed in the document.
Click here for the actual communique.

I suspect we'll see more as WikiLeaks releases more. . . .

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why Second Parent Adoption is a Good Thing

I posted a while back when the North Carolina Supreme  Court voided a second parent adoption there. (This article has a good summary of the facts, and you can read the court opinion here).

The person seeking to void the adoption was a woman who was ending a relationship with her female partner.  The woman was the biological mother of the child, which had been conceived through donor insemination during the relationship, her partner had been involved with the pregnancy, birth and parenting.  The two went to court to have the partner adopt the child;  the biological mother who is now contesting the adoption consented at that time to the adoption.  The trial court granted the adoption, the time for challenging that ruling passed with nothing done by the biological mom.  When the couple split up and were trying to work out custody, the mom decided that her child had only one parent, her, because the adoption was void.

So how does this second-parent adoption thing work anyway?  Well, it used to be there were no special laws allowing a step-parent or second-parent adoption, so when a second parent wanted to adopt, the regular adoption rules applied.  That meant to be adoptable, the child had to have BOTH PARENTS' parental rights terminated.  That's right, when Wanda remarried and wanted Hubert to adopt her child, Wanda FIRST had to relinquish her parental rights in the child, the bio dad's rights had to be relinquished or terminated, and then Wanda and Hubert had to adopt the child as a couple.

Not surprisingly, Wanda wasn't eager to go this route.  She would have to relinquish her parental rights, just like any placing birth mom, and no matter how often we tout the birth-mom-as-saint theme, many people pass negative judgments on women who terminate their parental rights.  Would Wanda want to face that judgment, which might include a self-imposed judgment?

If Wanda did relinquish, she'd have to hope that the court would allow her to adopt her biological child.  And what if the court decides not to allow it, after the home study, the six months probationary period, etc.? Maybe someone calls Child Protective Services with an unfounded allegation of abuse; or maybe Hubert loses his business; or maybe Wanda gets diagnosed with cancer?  All of those could cause a judge to decide the adoption wasn't in the best interest of the child. What happens if Wanda and Hubert divorce, and the state doesn't permit single persons (Wanda's new state) to adopt or requires Wanda to take a back seat to any petitioning married couple?  Suddenly she has no legal relationship with her own child.

And even if the adoption is allowed, suddenly the biological relationship isn't what gives the mom parental rights, it's the adoption.  And no matter how much we trumpet the "same as" narrative of adoption -- it's the same as having children by birth -- most parents would feel it different, and probably inferior, to have an adoptive relationship with the child they birthed.

So, starting in the '70s & '80s, with the burgeoning rate of divorce and second marriages, legislatures started to pass step-parent/second-parent adoption statutes that allowed for a second parent adoption without the biological parent having to terminate her parental rights.  Legislatures also exempted second parent adoptions from screening rules like the home study and probationary periods before the adoption.  The thought was that the child already was living in a familial relationship with the second parent, so all the courts were doing was giving legal status to an already existing relationship. 

Then came the debate about second parent adoptions by unmarried couples, whether gay or straight.  Did a particular states' statute permit only married couples to follow the step-parent/second-parent exception? There's a real mish-mash of statutes and case law and individual court practice on whether unmarried couples can qualify for second-parent adoptions. Three states -- Colorado, Connecticut & Vermont -- authorize second-parent adoption by statute, regardless of marriage or sexual orientation. Appellate courts in a number of states have ruled that the state adoption law permits second-parent adoption, regardless of marriage or sexual orientation, based on a statute authorizing the "spouse" of a parent to adopt. A dozen or so states have no appellate court ruling on the matter, but state trial courts routinely allow second-parent adoptions. Appellate courts have ruled that state adoption law does NOT permit second-parent adoption unless a couple is married in Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin. That leaves about 20 states where it is uncertain whether the state adoption law permits second- parent adoptions by unmarried couples, whether gay or straight.

And that was the issue faced by the North Carolina Supreme Court.  They chose to interprete their statutory scheme to require termination of ALL parental rights before a second parent adoption, unless the adopting parent was the spouse of the biological parent.  Thus, over 5 years after the fact, they said the adoption was void.

After all that legal stuff, I'm not going to make a legal argument about whether the North Carolina Supreme Court was legally right or legally wrong.  I'm going to make a policy argument, and public policy is clearly something courts can take into account in interpreting statutes, especially adoption statutes which most state legislatures (including North Carolina's) say should be liberally construed so as to effectuate the best interest of the child.

Remember the post about the proposed Arizona statute limiting single parent adoption?  Most commenters opined that it was better for children to have two parents.  If that's the case, why do we want to limit second-parent adoptions?  What second-parent adoptions do is make legal an already existing familial relationship.  Even if you are opposed to gay marriage or gay parenting, denying a second-parent adoption isn't going to stop this gay couple from parenting their child -- they'll just have to do it with limited protections for the child.  Is it fair to punish the child for the "sins" of the parents?

All that a legal second-parent adoption does is makes sure that there are two parents who have the obligation to support the child financially -- even if the couple splits up.  It makes sure that there are two parents from whom the child can inherit even if the second parent doesn't have a will.  It makes sure that there are two parents from whom the child can receive Social Security disability and death benefits.  It makes sure that the child can continue to have a relationship with the step-parent after the parents divorce, or if the biological parent dies.  It makes sure that schools, hospitals, Little League teams, etc., can't treat this parent -- who has been living with and raising the child in fact -- as a legal stranger to the child.

Isn't it in the child's best interest to legalize an already existing familial relationship?  It's not like saying no to the adoption will end the relationship, it's just have to limp along without the child having all the legal rights the child is entitled to.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Adoptive Families Blog List

Well, the Adoptive Families blog list is out on the web! I didn't realize when I posted about it this weekend how short the list was -- just 20. And I didn't know what good company I would be keeping!  A number of the blogs listed are already on my blog roll. 

This is what they had to say about Adoption Talk:
The tagline of Malinda's blog, "Talking about adoption, birthparents, abandonment, race, and China with my kids," nicely sums up what she covers. She tackles these topics head-on in intelligent, well-written posts. After every visit, you'll close your browser with something to think about.
I'm really flattered, especially by that last part -- about the blog giving you something to think about -- because truly that's my goal, giving readers a chance to think about their beliefs, feelings, perspectives, when it comes to adoption.  I don't really care if I persuade anyone to think about things my way, so long as I make them think.
Though grateful to be included, I'm ultimately a little disappointed with the blog list.  The list only includes one birth mother blog (the excellent and deserving Chronicles of Munchkin Land) and one adoptee blog (the excellent and equally deserving Declassified Adoptee).  I think Adoptive Families lost an opportunity to give their readers food for thought by including more blogs from non-adoptive parent members of the adoption triad. Maybe that's too much to ask from a magazine focused on adoptive families. . . .
Please check out my blog roll categories for blogging birth parents and adult adoptees if you're looking for real food for thought.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

No Equity in Adoption for Black Children

Reporting on a lecture series about the psychological development of of black children, this about adoption of black children by black families:
Zena F. Oglesby Jr., MSW, director of the Institute for Black Parenting (IBP) asserts that Black families face many of the same obstacles they did 35 years ago. Most agencies still operate under guidelines and practices developed from a White middle-class perspective. Outside of large cities, most public agency staff members are White. Some White workers are uncomfortable venturing into Black parts of town to recruit families, and some Black families are equally reluctant to approach a White agency.

Oglesby, a respected author, speaker and founder of (IBP) claims that the greatest barrier to adoption is workers’ belief that Black families "don’t have what it takes" to adopt from foster care.

He cited several studies including a 1988 federal study of 800 Black families targeted for recruitment as adoptive parents. Of these only two were approved. According to the study, the mostly White recruiters gave reasons for denial such as the applicants were ‘obese or were of below average intelligence’.

Oglesby recalled a San Bernardino family was denied because the mother had to drive to her job in Los Angeles. “She had to get up too early.” Another suggested a blown out light bulb in a home’s hallway leading to the bedrooms signalled “a family culture of neglect”.

The denials Oglesby said were largely based on a theory that you could not find minority families for minority children, a theory that lead to the formation of the nation’s first licensed Black adoption agencies in the mid-1980s.

A student asked Oglesby ‘what happened to those families’. “We turned around and approved many of them. We proved the system was beyond broken,” he said.
I posted on this issue back in October during the St. John's Adoption Conference -- click here for more.

Adoption and Potty Issues

A reader sent an email asking for help:

My daughter is adopted from China at age 10 months from foster care in 2006. She is wonderful, smart, and delightful and on target in every way except one…she is not potty trained. And when I say that I mean potty and poop trained. She is seeing a therapist (for the last year) who has just said that she thinks A. might have Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome with potty training issues. We are working with her just sitting on the toilet in a pull up and cutting a very small hole in the pull up. She hasn’t gotten to the point where she will let a drop come out.

She has gastrointestinal issues and was seriously constipated as a baby and still is and takes Miralax. When we got A. she had anal tearing and scarring so we know that she had major pain when pooping. She will be 5 next month and it breaks my heart to see her so scared to potty. I mean it is real fear and her therapist does not think it has to do with an attachment problem or control problem. Could you ask on your blog if anyone else has these issues and what they did to resolve them? A. is a very shy child and so scared of the toilet, potty, and poop. It just breaks my heart. I’d appreciate anything you could do to help.
Any advice, especially from been-there-done-that parents?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

From China Daily -- he's 104 and she's 99!

Best Blog Nominations Sought at Grown in My Heart

The group adoption blog Grown in My Heart is soliciting nominations for their 2011 Best Blogs list and the deadline is TOMORROW  (I was honored to be included in the 2010 list). There are lots of different categories, so you can nominate lots of your favorites.  If you feel motivated to nominate this blog, I'd be delighted, but I'd suggest that you should NOT nominate me for Best Adoptive Parenting Blog.  Why?

Well, consider the Valentine greeting I got from my youngest daughter at school pick-up today.  After the usual hellos, I saw a tissue-paper flower in her Valentine loot bag, and thinking someone gave it to her, I said, "What a pretty flower!"  Maya responds, "It's for ZOE!  Not for YOU!"  Oooookay.  I say, "That's sweet of you to give your sister a Valentine flower."  Maya then starts the well-known rhyme in a sing-song voice:
Roses are red
Violets are blue
You're a TERRIBLE mom
and I HATE you.
Yikes!  Isn't that a lovely variation on the traditional Valentine's Day poem!?!  Doesn't look like Maya will be nominating me for Mother of the Year, or anything else, for that matter (but that doesn't mean that you can't nominate me for something, HINT HINT (OK, just how desperate do I sound?  I think Valentine's Day brings out all kinds of desperation in me!))

Turns out, when all the dust settles, that Maya was really mad at herself, not me, because she hadn't finished the tissue-paper flower she was working on for me.  And she thought that tricking me into thinking I wasn't going to get a flower was the way to handle it. When we got home and she finished the flower, she presented it to me quite sweetly, noting how much better it was than Zoe's flower, since it came in a cup filled with confetti (oh joy!).  The flower was accompanied by a card with another poem:

Roses are red
Vilits [sic] are blue
You're the best mom
and I love you
Sigh. Couldn't we have just SKIPPED the effing tissue-paper flower (in confetti!) AND all the drama?! A simple "Happy Valentine's Day" and "I love you"  would have been quite enough for me!

But the flower is awfully cute. . . .

British Survey: Who Should be Allowed to Adopt?

From a British survey on attitudes about who should be allowed to adopt:
When it comes to adopting a child, Brits feel that age and lifestyle habits should be much more damaging to an individual’s case than their race, religion, income or sexuality, our poll has found. We gave respondents a list of groups in society and then asked them to judge whether each should be allowed to adopt or not.

•From our list, people over the age of 50 (46% should be allowed, 33% not), the age of 60 (16% allowed, 64% not) and smokers (44% allowed, 35% not) were the least favoured groups

•People on low incomes (53% allowed, 26% not), single people (53% allowed, 33% not) and homosexual couples (53% allowed, 34% not) came next

•The most favoured groups from our list were couples from a different racial background to that of the child (77% allowed, 11% not), unmarried couples (73% allowed, 17% not) and couples from a different religion to the child (65% allowed, 14% not)
Do you think the results would be the same in the U.S.?  Would smokers be less favored than gay people or single people here? Would it be as high for unmarried couples (73% approve)? I think we'd agree on the age thing -- what do you think? What about other countries, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, Australia (I know there are readers from these countries and many more)?

Good News?!

This article from the Korea Herald was tweeted by an adoption agency with the tag line, "Good news for international adoption:"
Despite a falling birth rate here, many Korean children are still finding their home abroad, a report found Sunday.

Of the total 2,439 children adopted in 2009, 1,125 were sent abroad, slightly down from 1,250 in 2008, the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs said.

Adoptions have declined here along with the country’s falling birth rate.

Over the past 10 years, the number of domestic adoptions has decreased from 1,726 in 1999 to 1,314 in 2009, while that of international adoptions has almost halved from 2,409 in 1999.

However, the ratio of international adoption still remains high despite the government’s efforts to encourage domestic adoption.
(Perhaps not surprisingly, this agency tweeted an article about Ethiopia revoking the license of another adoption agency with the comment, "Why can't we all just get along?" Yeah, that's the appropriate response to allegations of corruption.)

THIS is what we mean when we talk about an entitlement mentality -- this belief that ANYTHING that allows us to adopt children is good, and anything that stops us from adopting children is a bad thing.

The fact that South Korea, one of the most economically prosperous countries in the world, in fact, the 4th largest economy in the world, cannot take care of its own children is a tragedy.  We're not talking here about a war-torn, economically impoverished, "third world" country, with millions of orphans languishing in orphanages.  We're talking about an idustrialized nation, a high-tech nation where 98% of the population is literate, 86% of the population is urban, where less than 0.1% has HIV/AIDS.  Does this look like the picture we have of a country that "needs" international adoption?

So why is it "good news" that South Korea is placing more children internationally than domestically? The Hague Convention, last time I checked, still expresses the international norm, accepted by all signatory countries, including the U.S. and South Korea, that domestic adoption is preferred and international adoption is a last resort.
Far from good news, this article highlights a tragedy for South Korea.  Little to crow about here, unless you feel you're entitled to all the world's children.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


I received two lovely early Valentine's presents this week (not that the senders thought of them as Valentine's presents!).  A little blog love from two places.

First, I got an email from saying they'd listed the blog  in an article entitled 50 Best Blogs for Adoption Advice.  Sweet!

Second, I got an email from Adoptive Families magazine saying that it had chosen to include the blog in its first-annual roundup of the top adoption blogs. How cool is that?!  The list will be in the March/April issue, and they'll be sending me a graphic "top adoption blogger" badge to display on the blog.  Ooooh, I love me some bling!

So thanks for the recognition -- I really appreciate it!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Back of the Bus, Singles

Arizona is considering new legislation that would require both state and private adoption agencies to move singles to the back of the line in adopting -- or as the wonderful title to this blog post puts it, Sending singles to back of adoption bus:
[O]ne of the legislators supporting a bill that would make second-class citizens of single people who want to adopt children couldn't understand why there was any opposition to the proposal.

Single adoptive parent Susan Frank was there when SB1188 was being considered in committee. She has fought this battle before.

Essentially, the bill would direct the Arizona Department of Economic Security, as well as private adoption agencies, to give primary consideration for adoption to married couples, making single people eligible only if a qualified married couple is not available (with a few exceptions).

Frank is a lawyer.

She told me, “One senator said, ‘We're not saying that single people can't adopt.' It was later that it occurred to me – and I'm not at all comparing myself to (civil rights icon) Rosa Parks – but it occurred to me that it would be like telling Rosa Parks, ‘We're not saying you can't ride the bus.'”
Your reaction?  Should married couples be given preference?  How about giving preference to whoever, married, single, straight or gay, would be best for the child?  You know, that case-by-case "best interest of the child" standard?  Arizona must take great comfort in the fact that China follows the same rule that enlightened state proposes. And I suspect Arizona is doing it for the same reason China is -- fear of the gay.

Friday, February 11, 2011

China: Internet Ads to Adopt Children

Every adoptive parent who has adopted from China knows this rule -- there is no way to place a child for adoption in China;  it's illegal to do so.  That's why children are abandoned. But there is a growing trend toward birth parents trying to place children directly with adoptive families in China. From the Global Times:
Pei Yajun, a 21-year-old driver in Wuhan, Hubei Province, became desperate after his son, Yuchen, was born seven months ago. Instead of enjoying the new experience of fatherhood, he was consumed with anxiety over whether he could even raise his child after his wife left him.

"I am only 21. I cannot raise the baby myself because his mother left me for someone else," Pei told the Global Times.

In desperation, Pei turned to online forums QQ and Baidu, and searched for someone to adopt the boy.

"I want my boy to grow up in a happy family that can take good care of him," he said.

Pei's case is by no means an isolated one. Many parents, unable to find a legal channel to give away their babies, see this as their last resort. Baidu Tieba, a popular online community, even has one section dedicated to adoption advertisements.

"My baby is due in March, but I can't raise him or her since I'm only 19. I'd like to give it to anyone who promises to give him or her a good life," an Internet user named Lu wrote in Baidu Tieba's adoption section.

The replies came thick and fast. "We want your baby desperately! My husband and I have been married for 8 years, but we can't have a baby," said one of the 20 or so responses.

Thousands of similar threads, in which anxious middle-aged couples search for babies to adopt or desperate parents search for families to raise their children, can be found in various online forums across China.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Abducted v. Adopted: What's the Difference?

At Huffington Post, Jennifer Lauck, author of Found: A Memoir and Blackbird: A Childhood Lost and Found, asks that question:
Carlina White said she always had a sense she did not belong to the family that raised her. The twenty-three-year-old woman had been abducted in 1987 from a Harlem Hospital when she was nineteen-days-old. White was then raised by her abductor, Ann Pettway. Pettway is now in custody for kidnapping.

What White expresses about her sense of belonging is what I have felt for all the years of my own life -- only I am called adopted versus abducted.

Go read the whole thing, and then tell us what you think.

Chinese Dining Rules

As you're celebrating Chinese New Year/Spring Festival (you have until the Lantern Festival on Feb. 17, which is the last day of the celebration), you might find these explanations of some Chinese dining customs helpful:

1. Do not rest chopsticks vertically in rice . . .

[T]he sight of two upright chopsticks in a bowl is reminiscent of the incense sticks that the Chinese traditionally burn in veneration of deceased loved ones. . . .

2. Never turn over the fish

In Chinese restaurants, the standard is for a fish to be served whole.

After working your way through the tender top side, it may seem logical to simply flip the fish and continue. Unfortunately, doing so has an unforeseen consequence.

Meaning: You’ve capsized the boat.

According to Lo, this is of more concern in regions that rely strongly on fishing or are located along the coast. . . .

3. Birthday noodles

Chinese tradition calls for a birthday girl or boy to slurp a bowl of noodles as a celebration of the many years ahead. And as “Lady and the Tramp” so aptly demonstrated, that one long noodle can be a great thing.

Meaning: It symbolizes longevity.

In this case, that long strip of noodle is a metaphor for the long walk of life. Yet this tradition comes with an addendum: do not cut the noodles. . . .

4. Tea tapping is a must

A tea cup should never be allowed to run dry.

Your host, or members of your dinner party, will regularly refill the cups of those around them, who tap the table in response. Go ahead and follow suit.

Meaning: It’s a show of thanks. . . .

5. Always order an even number of dishes

When out with a sizable crowd, you want to ensure you order enough food. A rule of thumb is to order dishes equivalent to the number of people in your party, plus one. But if you’re an even-numbered crowd, this will put you at odds -- in numbers and in fortune.

Meaning: Odd number of dishes symbolizes death (again).

“For regular meals, you’d always order an even number of dishes, because an odd number is usually only ordered at a funeral meal,” says Lo. . . .
Not turning over the fish was the only one on this list that I didn't know when we went to China for 5 months in 2007.  But being in coastal Xiamen, it wasn't long before we learned of this custom.  I'm afraid we dumped a few fishermen overboard before the kindly waitstaff at our favorite restaurant set us straight, though!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Adoption Talk, Going Beyond "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Counselor Robyn Gobbel encourages parents to rethink the "don't ask, don't tell" theory of talking about adoption:
Countless times I’ve sat with the parents of older adopted kids and had them tell me that their child isn’t impacted by the core issues in adoption (loss, rejection, guilt/shame, grief, identity, intimacy & relationships, control/gains- as described by Silverstein and Roszia in 1982). The reason the parents are so certain of this is because their child has never talked about. Adoption isn’t a secret in their house, but their child has never mentioned grieving for their birthfamily or feeling rejected. Their child never talks or asks about their birthfamily. Because their child is silent about adoption issues, parents assume that adoption issues don’t exist.

Can you think of a time in your life when something was really weighing heavy on your mind but you didn’t talk about it to anyone, even your closest confidante? Or a time when you just couldn’t get something out of your mind but you were afraid that it you talked about it, you were certain you’d hurt the very person you love most in your life? Or maybe you’re just a more introverted individual and you aren’t really one to divulge your innermost feelings. There are probably thousands of reasons why people (and children!) keep quiet even when something is really pounding away at their heart.
She promises a future post on HOW to encourage adoption talk.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Can the Internet Help China Adoptees Find Birth Family?

Powerful story about how the internet in China reunited a kidnapped child with his family:
A seven year old boy who was kidnapped in Shenzhen in 2008 has been reunited with his father yesterday, in a miracle that could only have happened in this day and age, thanks to the internet.

The emotional reunion was witnessed and live-tweeted by Phoenix Weekly's 《凤凰周刊》 senior correspondent Deng Fei (邓飞), who accompanied Peng Gaofeng to Pizhou, Jiangsu Province following a tip-off that his son was there. Deng had interviewed Peng three years ago, shortly after his son, Peng Wenle (彭文乐), disappeared, and since then has become something of an activist against child trafficking.

* * *

Peng received a call from a university student in Jiangsu Province who said he saw a child in Pizhou that resembled his son. The student had come across his son's picture, circulating on Sina Weibo, after a grassroots campaign led by Professor Yu Jianrong (于建嵘) inspired Chinese internet users nationwide to take pictures of beggar children they come across and put them online.

Initially, Peng was unexcited by the call. Over the last three years, he had received many such calls and each time he was left disappointed and depressed. The student told Peng that he would try to snap a picture of the child and send it to him. On the eve of Chinese New Year, that picture came. When Peng saw the picture, he felt his jaw dropping to the ground. The child was his.

* * *

On the fourth day of the Spring Festival, Peng arrived in Pizhou with Shenzhen police officials. They were told by the local police officials that the child was currently being adopted by the woman he now lives with.

* * *

At the police station, Peng burst into tears the moment he saw his son. The police had to try to calm him down, telling him he was shocking the child. At this point, the child told the policeman, "That man crying is my dad, I remember him." All this while, his adopted mother was watching by the side, with tears in her eyes.

Overjoyed, Peng called his wife, screaming over the phone, "It's our child, it's our child!" Little Wenle then took over the phone, greeting his mom in their hometown's Hubei/Qianjiang dialect.
I've posted before about the potential of the internet in birth family searches by China adoptees:
This is how I always thought it would work for finding families in China -- it would come from siblings. The older sister who remembers when her baby sister disappeared. The younger brother whose birth was permitted because his sister was abandoned. This is the generation that will leave the countryside, the small villages, the farms, and head for the bigcity. They will go to college and trade school, they'll learn about computers, they will learn English, they will have some disposable income. And they will wonder about those family stories of the disappeared. And they'll post on a family searchboard
There have been a slew of stories in Western media about adoptee/birth family reunions made possible by facebook (see here and here and here for examples);  looks like it's a possibility in the developing world as well.

What do you think?

P.S. Brian Stuy of Research-China posts his take on whether the internet holds promise of birth parent searches in China.  Here's a bit of it:
Adoptive families understandably hope for a simple method to locate birth families -- a DNA or other database that will allow them to put in their child's information, push a button, and out would come the birth family information. Certainly if such a service existed that was open and free to use, there would be little to lose by participating. But in reality, given the "complexities" surrounding most children adopted form China, such a program will result in failure in nearly every case. Technological barriers inside China, birth family participation rates, information accuracy, and many other reasons will prevent successful matches except in rare and very specific instances (kidnapping, Family Planning confiscations, etc.)

If we pursue international adoption, how do we know for sure a child is a true orphan?

Interesting post, with a book recommendation, about adoption and child trafficking at All Things Mothering:
I’m reading Little Princes (William Morrow) by Conor Grennan. It’s about an American who volunteers at an orphanage in Nepal while embarking on an around-the-world trip. When a mother arrives at the gates of the house looking for her two sons, he realizes her children (along with the other kids at the orphanage) have been trafficked. Conor decides not only to dedicate his time to trying to stop child trafficking in Nepal, he establishes a non-profit to reverse the practice and return the kids to their birth parents.

I was captivated by the topic. Ron and I tried to adopt from Nepal last year. It wasn’t until after we began the paperwork that we first learned of child traffickers exploiting children for adoption. We’d heard of child trafficking with regard to sex or labor trade, but adoption? What about the millions of abandoned children in the world? Like the ones I’d seen in documentaries featuring Mother Teresa? Turns out, Ron and I had a lot to learn.

* * *

Ron and I are trying to wade through all this and figure out what it means–for us, for kids, for the future. If we pursue international adoption, how do we know for sure a child is a true orphan? And even if a child has a living mother–a mother who loves him or her–it doesn’t always mean the mother can parent the child (same for a father). But who makes that call? And is it right to take a child so far away from his or her culture and background?
Important questions to ask. How would you answer these questions for a prospective adoptive parent?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lost Children Links

Kids Stolen From Their Mothers and Sold to New Families Looking for Answers, from the New York Post about a baby-selling ring in New York.

Lost Children, from Vietnam News, after nearly five years of searching, a village in Vietnam is finally getting answers about the fate of 13 children placed abroad for adoption.

Sierra Leone Parents Demand Kids' Return, about the 29 families who lost children to international adoption without their consent.

Hundreds of Spanish babies 'stolen from clinics and sold for adoption,' says the Guardian (UK).

The Missing Girls of China: Population, Policy, Culture, Gender, Abortion, Abandonment, and Adoption in East-Asian Perspective, an article from law professor David Smolin.

Individual Cases, Systemic Problems

I was having a conversation about schools with a group of moms recently.  Some loved the public school their child attended, some hated the public school their child attended.  It struck me in the conversation that no one said, "How can you criticize public education when your child attends a public school?"  No one said, "How can you criticize public education when your child is having a positive experience in a public school?" No one said, "You hypocrite! You're only complaining after you've benefited from public schools!"  No one said it, because everyone knows that there are systemic problems with public education in America, even while there are good public schools.

But we do that about adoption all the time -- How can you criticize adoption when you've already adopted?  How can you criticize adoption when you benefited from it?  How can you criticize adoption when you've had a positive experience with adoption?  You hypocrite -- you're only criticizing after you brought your child home! You can't possibly love your adopted children if you criticize adoption. . . .

I can criticize all kinds of things that benefited me -- democracy, capitalism, public radio (pledge drive, anyone?!), public schools, private schools, modern dentistry, books, etc. -- in the hopes of making things better.  Can't I criticize the systemic problems in adoption toward that same end -- in the hopes of making things better?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Scott Simon Responds

Back in August, I posted in response to NPR's Scott Simon's in-house interview upon the release of his new book about adoption. Well, Simon posted a response in the comments.  Since the post was so long ago, I'm not sure anyone will see the comment there, so I publish it here so he can have his say:
I doubt that there’s much I can say to assuage the enmity expressed towards me in postings on this blog. Let me simply state that my wife and I understand that it’s important for our daughters to know and be proud of their culture, and will have our unstinting support to do so.

I find it incongruous, in this month in which we celebrate the Rev. Martin Luther King for hoping his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” that we are assailed for trying to do just that for our daughters. I am keenly aware of America’s racist history and bigoted tendencies. Not a week goes by that I don’t receive anti-Semitic or gay-bashing emails. But as I note in my book, “(I)n China, our daughters might have faced bigotry for being Hui, Miao, Manchu, Yi, Mongol, or any of the other of China's 55 other nationalities that they could be.” They have already been stung by prejudice toward women in the land of their birth, and if someone looks a little funny at our family, or makes some boorish remark, I do not assume that the Klan rides again. We receive about a thousand times more consideration.

I reject the idea that my wife and I should feel guilt for taking our daughters out of their native culture because we remember that our daughters had been relinquished and left to languish in orphanages. Those orphanages, not the China of the Qing dynasty, Chen Rong, or modern adventure capitalists, were their culture. Our daughters will stand a better chance of appreciating the majesty of Chinese culture by growing up and learning about it in our American and French family, than if they’d been left in those orphanages, and slotted into factory or farm work by their teens.

Our daughters are hardly the only Asian kids in their respective classes. I suspect, as they grow older, and kids being kids, someone will kid them about being Chinese. And they, delightful as they are, may kid other kids about being chubby, or red-haired, or big-nosed, Puerto Rican or Russian. Ordinary adolescent obnoxiousness need not be regarded as a trauma. Kids of all ethnicities worry about their identities, even Bushes and Kennedys. It’s a stage of development, for goodness sake, not a crisis.

We can’t predict how interested our daughters will be in their heritage at various times of their lives. They learn the language, songs, dance and food now, but as my wife and I say, “You can drag the girls to Mandarin class, but you can’t make them speak.” They also dance ballet, play with Thomas the Tank Engine, and learn music. If they get interested in African art, French cuisine, Tuva throat-singing, and South African literature, that’s fine, too. They are our daughters. We want to see into their hearts and minds, not just their blood and skin color.

Will they identify themselves as American (and French), as well as Chinese? Of course. We have become a nation of hyphenated identities, and scores of millions of Americans, myself included, have more than one ethnic, national, or religious identity. It’s one the great strengths of both our country and our family. I doubt that Chinese culture, or our daughters, will be diminished by that.

We cannot rewrite their lives, or the laws of China, that would restore them to their birth mothers and the culture into which they were born. But we can give them a loving family to grow strong in, and the background to make their own choices.

Scott Simon
Of course, Simon is entitled to his opinions, as am I.  But no one is entitled to have everyone agree with their opinions!  And disagreeing with someone's opinion is not expressing "enmity!"  I don't think he expressed "enmity" in his comment here.

So you can judge the "enmity" Simon sees in postings about him here, check them all out:

Scott Simon, "Meant to be," & Ethnicity

Scott Simon's New Book -- Excerpt

Scott Simon Talks Adoption With His Daughter

"How to say Thanksgiving in Mandarin"

Now if you want to see enmity, which is distinct from a difference of opinion, check out my opinion of the Super Bowl guy!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Super Bowl versus Adoption: Which is More Important?

In a profile of 4 men honored for never missing a Super Bowl, this little tidbit:
Attending all 44 games is an amazing feat, but what these guys have overcome and given up to get to the Super Bowl is perhaps more spectacular.

It’s one thing to pass up a party or miss a wedding, anniversary or even a funeral, but Jacobson, 71, of San Francisco, tells the tale of giving up the chance to adopt a child.

Jacobson and his wife were participating in an open adoption in the 1970s and he says the birth mother’s only prerequisite was that the adoptive parents be present for the birth of the baby. The problem was that the baby was due on Super Bowl weekend.

“I said it’s no problem,” he recalls. “I’ll take the red-eye (flight), watch the game and take the red-eye back. That was fine with my wife, but it wasn’t with the mother.”

Because of Larry’s growing obsession, he and his wife passed on that adoption but later adopted two biological sisters, neither of which knew until recently the story of the abandoned adoption.

“My daughter said she was glad about the Super Bowl,” Jacobson says. “If we’d gotten that child, we wouldn’t have gotten our daughters. So they think the Super Bowl is a good thing.”
Gee, what a sweet "meant to be" story to share with the daughters whose adoptions didn't interfere with a Super Bowl.

And this is in a magazine called American Profiles, describing itself as a "magazine that celebrates hometown American life. It's a heartfelt reminder of what's good about who we are."  Really?  Really.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day of Captivity 4

Because of the Superbowl, you've probably heard more about DFW's puny little winter weather "crisis" than it warrants.  But it has been a personal "crisis" being housebound with the girls with no school for FOUR DAYS!  Well, not exactly housebound -- you can see that the girls have taken advantage of the unusual snow to practice their limited snow-play skills.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Does Subsidizing IVF Decrease Adoption Rates?

That's one of the questions answered by this paper, Trading-Off Reproductive Technology and Adoption: Does Subsidizing IVF Decrease Adoption Rates and Should it Matter? Here's the abstract:
For those facing infertility, using assisted reproductive technology to have genetically related children is a very expensive proposition. In particular, to produce a live birth through in vitro fertilization (IVF) will cost an individual (on average) between $66,667 and $114,286 in the U.S. If forced to pay these prices out of pocket, many would be unable to afford this technology. Given this reality, a number of states have attempted to improve access to reproductive technology through state-level insurance mandates that cover IVF. Several scholars, however, have worried that increasing access in this way will cause a diminution in adoptions and have argued against enactment of state mandates for that reason.

In this paper, which was selected for presentation at the 2010 Stanford-Yale Junior Faculty Forum, we push against that conclusion on two fronts.

First, we interrogate the normative premises of the argument and expose its contestable implicit assumptions about how the state should balance the interests of existing children waiting for adoption and those seeking access to reproductive technology in order to have genetically related children.

Second, we investigate the unexamined empirical question behind the conclusion: does state subsidization of reproductive technologies through insurance mandates actually reduce adoption; that is, is there a trade-off between helping individuals conceive and helping children waiting to be adopted? We call the claim that there is such an effect the “substitution theory.” Using the differential timing of introduction of state-level insurance mandates relating to IVF in some states and differences in the forms these mandates take, we employ several different econometric techniques (differences-in-differences, ordinary least squares, two-stage least squares) to examine the effect of these mandates on IVF utilization and adoption. Contrary to the assumption of the substitution theory, we find no strong evidence that state support of IVF through these mandates crowds out either domestic or international adoption.
The article is an interesting read;  in addition to concluding that no evidence suggests that state support of IVF crowds out adoption, the article tackles the much more difficult question -- even if IVF subsidization did diminish adoption, should the state nonetheless support it?

Year of the Rabbit

Happy 4709! Today is the start of the Year of the Rabbit, and I love, love, love this humorous piece [warning, those opposed to eating bunnies probably should stop now!], Beware of the Lunar Bunny Craze, from China Daily:
Sales of all things bunny are multiplying like ... well, like the proverbial rabbits. Only souvenirs being made for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in the United Kingdom come anywhere close to the millions of yuan spent on the bunny craze. Even prices of polypropylene fiber and cotton used by China's 6,000-odd stuffed toy makers have rocketed as stores fill their shelves with cuddly rabbits in time for the Golden Week shopping spree.

Bunny mania even burrowed its way into the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, which approved the release of six animation films with rabbit characters, including Legend of a Rabbit, and Moon Castle: The Space Adventure.

But there's one difference between this year's rotating zodiac icon and the soon-to-fade-out tiger: Tigers cannot be bought at pet stores. Across the country, sales of rabbits are surging with people buying them as gifts for their loved ones. High-grade breeds like Holland Lop, Angora and Lionhead are selling for hundreds of yuan.

But be warned, a bunny is for life, not just the new year. And don't forget they can be nasty animals. The fluffy, cute, soft bob of fur that gave birth to the likes of Bugs Bunny, Roger Rabbit and Thumper can actually be aggressive creatures. I should know that because I spent some of my childhood time being attacked by one.

* * *

A white rabbit may be a symbol of longevity in traditional Chinese culture, but your doe-eyed, floppy-eared friend may be headed to the stew pot quicker than you can say Xin Nian Kuai Le (Happy New Year).

Remember to cut off its foot; the Irish swear it brings good luck.
Not exactly a bunny lover (unless in a stewpot), hmm?!  China Daily has a special section devoted to all things Chinese New Year/Spring Festival -- click here and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

International Adoption: Fewer, Maybe Better

At Slate, commentary from KJ Dell'Antonia about the falling international adoption numbers reported by the State Department:
There were fewer international adoptions in 2010 than there have been in any year since 1995: 11,059, down from a high of 22,884 in 2004. Most of those children were from China (3,401), Ethiopia (2,513), Russia (1,082), and South Korea (883). There's no lack of interest from adopting families, and to what degree the lower number reflects fewer children in need of families is debatable. What is clear is that the United States government has increased its efforts to end baby- and child-trafficking in countries that send large numbers of children to the U.S. for adoption, and those increased efforts mean both fewer corrupt adoptions, and fewer adoptions overall.

* * *

That corruption has tainted nearly every large adoption program. Frequent XX Factor contributor E.J. Graff investigated the State Department's discovery of systematic fraud within the Vietnamese adoption system for Foreign Policy in a piece that included these chilling words: "even when the embassy was all but certain that a child had been fraudulently taken from a birth family -- but did not have evidence strong enough to stand up against the necessary 'preponderance of the evidence' standard in [Vietnamese] court -- it still at times had to allow an American family to bring home that child." Who would want to risk being that American family? Allegations of baby-theft, payment for children, and officials tricking women into giving up their infants have been made in nearly every country involved in international adoption, including China, and many suspect Ethiopia is next. (CBC News reported on adoptive parents who found they'd been lied to by officials involved in their adoptions there in 2009.)

Falling numbers and longer waiting times probably look bleak to parents hoping to adopt internationally, but every adoptive parent should welcome the changes that led to the drop—and, perversely, hope for even lower numbers in years to come. Yes, there are more hoops to jump through than ever before. Yes, there are still children in other countries who need homes and futures they're unlikely to find without willing international help. But there are also those who are willing to profit from the those kids, and their victims can be found on both sides of the oceans that separate adopted children from their birth countries. The laws and regulations that attempt to curtail that profiteering are far from perfect, but they're better than the Wild West alternative, and certainly better than wondering, long after the fact, if your beloved child left a grieving family behind.
The full State Department report can be found here.