Thursday, March 31, 2011

Kyrgyzstan Officials Reluctant to Lift IA Freeze

Interesting article -- focuses on some of the rumors and facts that make Kyrgyzstan officials reluctant to lift the freeze:
In 2008, responding to local rumors that foreigners were adopting babies to harvest their organs, the Kyrgyz government imposed a moratorium on international adoptions.

* * *

Since the collapse of Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s administration last spring, new officials have promised to lift the moratorium and allow the adoptions to proceed. But Minister of Social Protection Aygul Ryskulova, who served as Minister of Labor, Employment and Migration under the old regime, says the government is just too busy to deal with the adoptions. What’s more, concerns linger about the process and the Americans’ motivations. “The facts are still being investigated,” Ryskulova said of the motivations behind the original freeze. “During the last three years the Kyrgyz government found out the whereabouts of most of the children [who had been adopted prior to the ban]. Some of them were adopted by Israeli families, some by Germans, some of them by US parents. But we still don’t know where some children are. We don’t have an exact number of internationally adopted children, where they were sent, how they live now. We have to find out this information.”

* * *
MP Shirin Aitmatova, who has pushed for the adoption process to be reformed, says , , , anyone wishing to help with reforms must combat the persistent rumors that foreigners are using the Kyrgyz children for profit. “There was fear that children could potentially be used as organ donors. Some people also assume that since American families that adopt receive certain financial benefits and tax breaks, they must be doing it less out of the goodness of their hearts and rather to supplement their income. Many unfounded ideas circulate in the local population regarding foreigners who express the wish to adopt local children,” Aitmatova explained.

* * *

Yet it seems a knee-jerk fear remains a persistent challenge to any hopes for reform. A parliamentary deputy and former human rights ombudsman, MP Tursunbai Bakir uulu, says that Kyrgyz society is right to be concerned about how these children, often living in underfunded institutions in Kyrgyzstan, will be treated abroad. Without providing evidence, he told EurasiaNet.org: “There are so many stories in the world when adopted children were abused, humiliated, even killed. I don’t support international adoption."
I think there have been "organ donor" rumors about international adoption in all sending countries at one time or another.  But I found interesting that people see the adoption tax credit and adoption subsidies as proof of a profit motive.  Wonder how they'd react to all the "fundraising for my adoption" posts . . . .

Adoption Agencies from the Inside: One KAD's Perspective

An adult Korean adoptee who worked for a large adoption agency shares his perspective on the business of adoption from the inside, as a guest poster at Slant Eye for the Round Eye:
In the whole scheme of things, this adoption agency was good to me. It brought me to the states as a seven year old and placed me with my adoptive family in rural Minnesota. It was somewhat involved in my reconnection with my birth family in Korea. It additionally created a new position for me after I was let go by the second largest adoption agency in the state. And I made lifelong friends there; I consider one of its past vice presidents and directors true adoption advocates. Yeah, it was good to me.

Conversely, I was good for the agency. What better way to recruit adoptive parents than have a composed, well adjusted, transracial Korean adoptee who loves adoption? (“It’s the best thing since milk and cookies!”) What better way to engage potentially pissy adult adoptees than with an adoptee who openly talked about his pissy, non-well adjusted past? What better way to confront strong adoptees, with constructive arguments against adoption than with another adoptee who could easily express, with conviction, equally compelling arguments in support of adoption? Yeah, I, the poster boy transracial adoptee, was good for the agency. I played the “good Asian” role very well.

As they say, all good things must come to an end. I left the agency in 2006, absolutely disgruntled with the whole “adoption thing.”
It's a long post -- go read the whole thing, it's well worth it!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Survey Says! Free Course!

Adoption Learning Partners, which has on-line courses for prospective adoptive parents and adoptive parents, is offering a free course to those who take a survey.  I've taken a few of their courses (Conspicuous Families & Let's Talk Adoption to name two) and have enjoyed them. I took the survey so I'm now perusing the list to decide what else to take!  Hmmm, what will it be. . . .

 Click here for the survey.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ching! Chang! Pok!

Last week, I posted a link to a 3rd grade lesson asking "What is an Illegal Alien?"  Now Angry Asian Man posts to another 3rd grade lesson, this time one claiming that Rock Paper Scissors in Chinese is Ching!  Chang! Pok! He says:
1. Seriously -- "ching chang pok"? That can't be right.

2. Does anyone find it strange that someone has actually written out detailed instructions to explain rock-paper-scissors to school children?

3. I would really like to see the corresponding reading comprehension questions that followed this passage. "What sign beats rock?"

4. I can just imagine kids taking this test, then hearing the scattered sound of little white kids chanting "Ching! Chang! Pok!" all over the playground during recess.
Zoe learned the Chinese version of Rock Paper Scissors when attending kindergarten in China in 2007.  She
tells me it's most assuredly not Ching! Chang!  Pok!, it's "Jian Dao Shi To Bu!"  In fairness, she said maybe that's what it is in Cantonese, since she only knows Mandarin.  But since the passage is allegedly set in Beijing, we'd expect kids there to be speaking Mandarin.

So my list goes:

1.  Someone thinks all of Chinese is ching-chong speech.

2.  Maybe Rush Limbaugh wrote this passage.

3.  What about the kid taking the test who actually knows Chinese?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sofia's Journey

A story about a girl adopted from China, the subject of Dr. Changfu Chang's latest documentary, Sofia's Journey, seeking her birth family:
Her journey begins with a question: Who am I?

There are the things she can see — the glossy black hair, the luminous smile, the dark brown eyes — and the things she feels.

She feels like dancing. And she feels like singing. She feels a kinetic forward momentum, a perpetual simmer that makes her want to fly.

She feels the fence beneath her feet. On one side of it, she’s the American daughter of Marilyn and Peter Robinson, a text-sending, ballet-dancing, homework-doing, shoes-buying teenager who is plugged in and accustomed to having her voice heard. On the other side, she’s a daughter of China.

In Grand Junction, she looks different. In China, she feels different.

Who am I?

* * *

When Sofia entered middle school, she started asking aloud the questions that had always floated through her subconscious: What about my birth family? Where are they? Who are they? Why did they give me up?


Marilyn and Peter were reminded that to be adoptive parents is to assume a certain humility, to know that there is room in a child’s heart for both families.

“I felt that’s what a mother would do is love (Sofia) so much that I would bring her home,” Marilyn explained in “Sofia’s Journey.”

Having spent decades in marketing, Marilyn launched a campaign to find Sofia’s birth family. Fliers with baby photos of Sofia said, in English and Chinese, “I lost my parents in June 1995.” She and Peter called the orphanage, called government officials, called everyone who might be able to help. With only sporadic success, they nevertheless planned to go to China in June 2008.

From a Yahoo! group she’d joined, Marilyn learned about Chang, a documentary filmmaker and professor of video production at Millersville University in Pennsylvania who specialized in documentaries about adoptees returning to China to search for their birth families. Marilyn emailed him to ask for advice, and discovered he’d be in Xiamen, Fujian Province, at the same time as the Robinsons.
And so the documentary was born.  I remember attending a talk by Dr. Chang where he mentioned this documentary in the making.  The local FCC chapter is having him back for a viewing of the new documentary May 1st.

Birth Mother Needs a Kidney

We see lots of cases where adopted persons need transplants and seek out birth family in the hopes of a match. I'm sure there have also been cases where a birth mother (or some other birth family member) has needed a transplant and has, therefore, sought out a child relinquished for adoption, though I don't have any particular case in mind.  I'm curious as to what people think about that scenario.  Do you feel differently about those two scenarios -- the relinquished child seeking a transplant from birth family vs. the birth family seeking a transplant from the relinquished child?

I ask because of a discussion in my Adoption Law class;  the issue was similar, but not the same.  Under Texas law, a relinquished child can inherit from and through birth parents who died without a will (only a handful of states allow such an inheritance).  A birth parent whose legal rights in the child have been relinquished or terminated cannot inherit from or through that child.

No one in my class thought that a birth parent should be able to inherit from a relinquished child.  But a number of students in my class thought the child also should not be able to inherit from birth parents.  Here are the arguments they advanced: Birth parents are legal strangers to the child.  It seems that the child is getting an undeserved windfall from actual strangers (but then explain why it's okay to inherit from Great-Aunt Mildred whom you've never met?!).  It would diminish the inheritance of any other heirs of the birth parent, including children who were not relinquished but were raised by the birth parent. It seems almost punitive, a "tax" on relinquishing birth parents.

(Of course, all of this applies only to birth parents who do not leave a will. A birth parent can leave money to anyone they like, including a relinquished child, or exclude anyone they want, including a relinquished child.)

More than the legal issues, I'm curious about what people think about what I'll call the "reciprocity" issue.  Should it flow both ways?  To the extent there are moral obligations or connections that can't be severed by law, should birth parents inherit from birth children to the same extent that birth children should inherit from birth parents?  Should it be acceptable for birth family to seek out birth children for kidney/bone marrow/whatever transplants to the same extent it is acceptable for birth children to seek out birth family for the same?

The Good Shepherd

An audio story of an international adoption from Ethiopia, described as:
Adoption officials told Fisseha’s new, American family that his family had died. Upon his return to Ethiopia, Fisseha’s adoptive family learned a far more complicated truth.
Well worth 9 minutes of your time.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Madonna, Malawi & Mismanagement

From Radar Online:
Malawian education expert and academic Dr. Steve Sharra wants superstar Madonna to return her two adopted children David and Mercy if she doesn’t build her promised school for needy African kids, RadarOnline.com can reveal.

Dr Sharra is furious that Madonna and her Raising Malawi charity has scrapped her plans for a $15 million school for about 400 impoverished girls due to mismanagement.

And he used his Twitter account to attack the famous performer by writing: “Madge, if you don’t change your mind about the school, I might consider asking for David [and] Mercy’s return.”

* * *
Raising Malawi has ousted its board of directors and replaced its members with a new set of officials that includes Madonna and her manager, according to the New York Times newspaper.

Rabbi Michael Berg – the co-founder of Raising Malawai - sent an e-mail to the charity’s members stating: “A thoughtful decision has been made to discontinue plans for the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls, as it was originally conceived.”

The Malawi school had collapsed after spending $3.8 million on the project and its executive director, the boyfriend of Madonna’s former trainer Tracy Anderson, left in October amid criticism of his management style and cost overruns.

Madonna issued a statement on Thursday saying she was still intent on using the organization, which has raised $18 million so far, to advance improvements in the beleaguered nation.
The problem with "asking for David's and Mercy's return" is that it's pretty much an admission by Malawi that they sold the children in the first place, that the adoptions were a quid pro quo arrangement, that they approved the adoptions in exchange for a $15 million payment.  Doesn't make Malawi look any better than Madonna -- selling children and buying children are equally bad, aren't they?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

More on Japanese Quake/Tsunami Orphans

Where Will the Tsunami Orphans Go? From Yahoo News:
Days after the earth heaved and waves pummeled northern Japan, Western comment boards and blogs lit up over the fate of the tsunami's most vulnerable victims: the newly orphaned. "I want to take 1 or 2 of these kids [home] with me," wrote a commenter on The Imperfect Parent. "I'm rich and I can afford it," another person posted on Yahoo! Answers. A prospective parent on CNN.com gushed that their "little orphan baby" would be brought up "with lots of love!" Even formal organizations, from the Kyrgyzstan government to the National Association of Japanese Canadians, explored the idea of temporary shelters, adding to a now familiar chapter in stories of war and natural carnage.

"The motif is in place," says Karen Dubinsky, author of the book Babies Without Borders, a study of child-lift operations in the Americas. "Oh, a disaster. We know what to do: go get the babies."

* * *

Foreigners hoping to adopt one of these youngsters, however, shouldn't count on success. "Japan isn't Haiti," says Adam Pertman, director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, referring to the Caribbean earthquake of 2010, when more than a thousand orphans were sent to America. He might have added that Japan is also not India--which shipped nearly 500 kids off to the States after a tsunami in 2004--or, for that matter, Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Romania, Russia, Guatemala, or any of the nations where so-called disaster adoptions have spiked at some point since World War II.

One difference is economic: Japan is a wealthy, modern country with the resources to shelter its needy. But perhaps the biggest reason is cultural. Japan is among the most adoption-averse nations on earth, with extended families usually stepping in as surrogate parents when there is need.

* * *

"I believe we'll see very few [new] orphans," says Tazuru Ogawa, director of the Across Japan adoption agency near Tokyo, because "we consider orphans as those with no other family at all." The water and rubble were deadly, in other words, but no match for the whole family tree.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Official Photo


Remember the Butterfly Ball?  The father-daughter school dance my funny and manipulative girls invited my brother to with an email from poor daddy-less girls?  Here's the official photo. 

I grew up with this fellow; and I get to see these girls every day.  And I can't believe how gorgeous all three of them are!

I got a tattoo!

Not really, but I made you look!  A much better title than Subsidiarity, huh?!

Actually, I'm not allowed a tattoo.  Or any piercing.  Or any weird colored hair.  At school pickup the other day the girls saw a mom (or babysitter or older sibling, who knows?) with green hair.  I opined that I would look totally AWESOME with green hair, to screaming disapproval from the girls.  I then suggested I'd get my nose pierced and a tattoo to more screaming disapproval.  Zoe suggested the only tattoo I could get was one that said "Don't Get a Tattoo," to much ensuing hilarity.  I then suggested I'd wear such sartorial wonders as mini-skirts, fishnet stockings and combat boots, which met more disapproval.  That led me to say I'd remember all of this when they were teenagers.  Both girls stated with much certainty that they would NEVER want any of those things, which made me want to say, "Speak into the recorder, please!"

All this to introduce an adoptive mom who did get a tattoo:
SOME tattoos represent the epitome of coolness for me. Big emphasis on SOME. Because if you have ITALIAN STALLION emblazoned across your chest, and STALLION is spelled wrong, that’s not cool. Also – butterfly wings down there adjacent to your pockanoose, a Confederate flag on your chest, the phrase INSERT COINS IN SLOT above your butt crack, and eyeballs tattooed on your eyelids – all NOT COOL, dude.

But I like a little permanent ink that represents something. Soccer star David Beckham has Mandarin Chinese characters running down his side that translate to: Death and life have determined appointments, Riches and honors depends upon heaven. Heavy swoon factor there. My trainer, Son of Sam, has lots of tattoos, and he has a story for every one. I even sort of like Mike Tyson’s Maori tribal ink on his face.

But I’ve never gotten a tattoo, partly because I didn’t know what to get and partly because Hot Firefighter Husband was opposed, and he asks so little of me that I thought I’d honor this small request. I mean, the guy doesn’t complain when I stop shaving my legs and abstain from daily showers. It seemed the least I could do.

Still, I always thought about it, and decided that my pipe-dream tattoo would be something written in Vietnamese, to honor my oldest daughter, born in Vietnam, and in Spanish, for my younger two children, who were born in Guatemala.

AND THEN! For my birthday in December, Husband gave me a gift certificate FOR A TATTOO! Because he totally dug my idea! And I was all, OH SHIT, now I totally have to go through with this thing.
Go see what she got! The last paragraph makes me cry just like Love You Forever does.

Adoption Website Upgrade

Take a look at the Department of State's intercountry adoption website.  Same information as in the past, but they've done a nice job of upgrading to make it more user-friendly and "prettier!"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Subsidiarity

Now there's a sexy title!  I'm sure it will draw countless readers to this blog post. . . .

I've been thinking about subsidiarity a lot this week since my Adoption Law class will be turning its attention to international adoption next week, and since news broke about people trying to adopt Japanese quake orphans when Japan can very well take care of its own, and since I read this sweet story of a family going back to Ethiopia to adopt the biological brother of the two children they had previously adopted:
Three siblings from Ethiopia have been reunited in Canada thanks to the efforts of their adoptive parents and an outpouring of support from a Saskatchewan town.

Four years ago Ryan Killoh and Treena Constantinoff of Warman, Sask., adopted a brother and sister, Tseganesh and Misgana, from the impoverished African nation only to learn that a second brother had been left behind.

Tseganesh, who was five years old upon her arrival and spoke little English, "was trying tell us about someone named Tesute," said Constantinoff.

"It took about six months for us to figure out that she was talking about an older brother that was still in Ethiopia."

"I said to Ryan, ‘I'm going to fly to Ethiopia to see if I can find him,'" she told CTV News Saskatoon.

Constantinoff contacted the orphanage in Ethiopia, which led to the village where Tesute lived with his grandmother.
It is a sweet story;  I think most people would agree that siblings ought to be together in adoption.  So what has me fretting?

That grandmother.

And subsidiarity.

Here's a simple explanation of the principle of subsidiarity:
The principle of subsidiarity, as applied to child welfare, states that it is in the best interest of children to be raised by family or kin. If immediate family/kin is unable, or unavailable, domestic placement with a foster or adoptive family is the next best option. Finally, if neither of these alternatives is viable, then permanent placement with an appropriate family in another country through intercountry adoption is best.
The Hague Convention respecting intercountry adoption [yes, I know Ethiopia isn't a signatory of the Hague Convention, but I'm talking not so much about this particular story, but about intercountry adoption more generally] contains that subsidiarity principle.  In its preamble it says that "each State should take, as a matter of priority, appropriate measures to enable the child to remain in the care of his or her family of origin," yet recognizes that intercountry adoption may be appropriate, but only for a child  "for whom a suitable family cannot be found in his or her State of origin." 

So there you have it, one, two, three.  Biological family first, domestic adoption second, international adoption third.  The principle of subsidiarity. I freely admit that I was a third best choice for my kids -- and depending on your attitudes toward transracial adoption and single parenting, I might be the fifth best choice for my kids.  That's the principle of subsidiarity in a nutshell.

My concern isn't about this little boy being adopted and thus able to join his previously-adopted siblings.  My concern is that the first two children were adopted internationally when they had a grandtmother who was apparently able and willing to take care of at least one of her grandchildren.  Was she unwilling to raise the other two? Could she afford to raise only one of the three?  Would she have been able to raise all three if offered support?

Now, I'm not making the argument that adoptive parents should take the money from the adoption, and give it to impoverished families so they can raise their own children (while a laudable sentiment, it's not likely to happen). But we must all recognize that many, many more extended family members would be quite capable of raising orphaned children if given assistance.  With that assistance, the subsidiarity principle becomes a practice rather than a principle more honored in the breach than the observance.

What changes would have to be made to intercountry adoption to make the subsidiarity principle meaningful? One would be for the U.S. to restrict adoptions from non-Hague countries who may not feel bound by the principle in the first place. Another would be for the U.S. to restrict adoptions from sending countries with weak family preservation infrastructure. What other changes would you suggest?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Random Links

OK, these feel like REALLY random links, but really interesting and worth sharing, I think!

Third graders asked "What is an Illegal Alien?" A school assignment that asks third graders this multiple-choice question:
What does the U.S. do with illegal aliens?


A. The U.S. puts them to work in the army.

B. The U.S. shoots them into outer space.

C. The U.S. puts them to death.

D. The U.S. sends them back where they came from.
A crying shame:  China's lost baby girls, an interview with Xinran about her book, Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother, recently published in Canada (still not in the U.S., drat it!).

Vinzetta's lifelong search reaches touching end, a search and reunion story that touches on closed records as well.

The great mother who revives an ill-fated boy, the story of a Vietnamese woman who adopted an abandoned baby who lost a leg and genitals to a wild animal before he was found, and her efforts to get him reconstructive surgery.

The kids aren't all right when gay parents can't have both their names on an adopted child's birth certificate, says the Texas Observer.

Ted Nugent tracks down adopted lovechild.  Not much more to say!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Foreigners Looking to Adopt Japanese Earthquake Orphans Need Not Apply

That's the title of this article from Fox News:
Foreigners looking to adopt a Japanese child orphaned by the recent earthquake may be surprised to know their help, in that respect, is not wanted at the moment.

“I have been receiving many strange emails, from mostly U.S., and was asked, ‘I want girl, less than 6 months old, healthy child,’ Tazuru Ogaway, director of the Japanese adoption agency Across Japan, told FoxNews.com. “I honestly tell you such a kind of emails makes Japanese people very uncomfortable, because for us, sound like someone who are looking for ‘what I want’ from our terrible disaster.”
Exactly.

P.S.  As much as I liked the Fox News headline, New York Magazine's Daily Intel blog beats 'em: Japan Is Pretty Creeped Out That You’re Trying to Adopt Its Orphans Already.

Orphanages as Barriers to Family Reunification in Haiti

I posted a short blurb a few weeks ago about the International Rescue Committee's efforts to reunite children and families who were separated by the 2010 Haitian earthquake. It seems that some orphanages in Haiti are a huge obstacle to these reunification efforts:
"Stop reunifying children with their families!"

These were the words that greeted me when I arrived at work one morning a few months ago, from the director of a Port-au-Prince orphanage, furious at me for doing my job: tracing the relatives of children separated from their families.

"You are destroying my business," he screamed.

We suspected that the orphanage director, who runs one of an estimated 600-plus orphanages in Haiti, was making a profit by using children to garner donations and fees from dubious adoptions.

* * *

Orphanages that promise a better life for children may appear attractive to poor families, but there is often no way of knowing whether the children are treated well and given access to health care and education, or whether they are being exploited, abused or trafficked. Some Haitian orphanages are run by well-intentioned people who have the means and ability to properly care for groups of vulnerable children, but many of these facilities are unregulated and routinely disregard basic human rights.

* * *

[T]he many for-profit orphanages are using the challenging post-earthquake situation to their advantage by operating under the radar to lure children from poor families and then offer them up in the interests of international donations, dubious international adoptions or trafficking. As Frantz Thermilus, chief of Haiti's judicial police, told the New York Times, "so-called orphanages that have opened in the last couple of years" are actually "fronts for criminal organizations that take advantage of people who are homeless and hungry. And with the earthquake they see an opportunity to strike in a big way."

A recent report by the international aid organization Save the Children detailed these "recruitment" campaigns by unregulated institutions, outlining how children from poor families are then sold for profit to child traffickers and shady adoption agencies. The report criticizes the financial and material support of such agencies, often by unwitting or unknowing donors in foreign countries, noting that such support can actually lead to an increase in the separation of children from their families and result in psychological and emotional damage to children.
An important reminder to carefully consider where your humanitarian donations go . . . .

Monday, March 21, 2011

"Weak Oversight" of Adoption Agencies Explored

The Atlanta Journal Constitution explores "weak oversight" of the 336 private agencies involved in adoption in Georgia:
She was 24, a fair-skinned, curly haired brunette from California’s San Joaquin Valley. She quit school after the 11th grade but wanted to go back to become a teacher or maybe a corrections officer. She said she liked “shopping, swimming, going out.” Her favorite food: Mexican. Her favorite places: the mountains and the beach.

She smoked while she was pregnant.

For Krista and Luis Arduz, she represented their best hope for a baby.

Early last year, the Kentucky couple agreed to adopt the California woman’s infant through a Georgia adoption agency. Like many modern private adoptions, this was to be a complex multi-state transaction, conducted mostly through e-mails and cellphones, Web sites and text messages — not to mention wire transfers involving thousands of dollars.

And the way it unraveled sheds light on the state’s weak oversight of the 336 private agencies that arrange adoptions and foster care and operate group homes in Georgia, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows.

Just three times since 2008, the Journal-Constitution found, has the state imposed penalties against agencies that exclusively handle adoptions: two fines and one license revocation.

The newspaper’s review of more than 1,500 reports of inspections and investigations found that regulators repeatedly forgave violations of rules fundamental to safe adoptions: failing to check parents’ criminal records, for instance, or not documenting safe environments in adoptive homes.

Several agencies received citations for failing to show that payments to birth mothers covered only legitimate medical or living expenses. At least one agency — Valley of Hope Adoption Inc. of Woodstock, with which the Arduzes worked — was cited for having money for a birth mother’s expenses deposited into its executive director’s personal bank account.

None of those violations resulted in penalties.
Hmm, not very different from an investigation of Florida agencies finding weak enforcement, and, I'd guess, no different from any of the remaining 48 states that haven't reported investigations. . . .

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Japan: Adoption After Natural Disaster

It was only a matter of time before a question like this came up after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan:
I've read many forums where people say that the Japanese don't give their children in adoption to people who are not Japanese or permanent residents from Japan. However after the tsunami, I can imagine how many kids are left without families, and we think it could be the time to start looking for a child to adopt. Any information will be greatly appreciated.
Looks like it's time for a refresher on the inadvisability of adoption in the aftermath of natural disaster.  Consider this, published in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami in 2004:
Adoption experts say the best thing people can do is to donate money to causes that directly help the children. They say it’s wrong to take a traumatized child away from the environment that they have grown up in.“Adoptions, especially inter-country ones, are inappropriate during the emergency phase as children are better placed being cared for by their wider families and the communities they know,” said the charity Save the Children in a statement released Jan. 6, 2005. International Adoption needs to be well planned. “The last thing they need to do is be rushed away to some foreign land,” said Cory Barron of Children’s Hope International, an American adoption agency. “We have to think of the child first.”
And this, published after the earthquake in Haiti:
When you see any child who has lost their family on the news, your natural instinct is to want to go and pick them up and cherish them. You should not feel guilty about this instinct, it is part of being human and most of us share it. There is also a deep wisdom in this reaction about the need for a proper long term solution for the child not just one day's hot meal. However before taking steps toward trying to adopt an earthquake child, you should stop and think:

1) Is you adopting them the best solution for the child? A child who has started growing up in a community and their lost parents still has some inner security from knowing their environment, knowing other adults, familiar weather, the sound of local language or accents and their general surrounding (even smells, humidity and temperature). You may feel you can offer the most caring environment in the world, but it may not be the one where the child feels most secure.
And this, recently published by an adoption agency, about adoption in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan:
Disasters such as the recent events in Japan or the earthquake in Haiti can stimulate humanitarian efforts to bring the children to America and often spurs an increased interest in international adoption. In situations of conflict or disaster there are inevitably children with no apparent close family. These children are not necessarily orphans, so international organizations use the term “unaccompanied children” to distinguish them. The term orphan can only apply to children whose parents are declared or known deceased. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has introduced measures to protect and assist these unaccompanied children.

Initial efforts are directed towards locating the child's family or finding community members who can care for this child. This and other international organizations work tirelessly to prevent additional unnecessary separations and reunite children with their families as quickly as possible. They try to ensure the children receive the protection and assistance they need, and to find a long-term solution for each child. Therefore, in an emergency situation, an unaccompanied child is not adoptable, at least in the short term. Efforts must first be made to trace family members and to provide basic protection such as food, shelter, and emotional and psychological care. Every attempt must be made reunite children with their biological families. In general, a relatively long period of time must elapse before international adoption is considered. During times of catastrophe, the international community tacitly agrees to not displace children to other countries right away and that adoptions will take place only after civil order has been established or re established and all in country resources have been identified for children. Such placements could add to the trauma they have already suffered. In addition, it is essential that civil order is re established to ensure that all adoptions are processed ethically and in the child's best interests.
So channel your humanitarian instincts toward donations to reputable organizations offering aid in Japan, not toward adoption.  If you're particularly interested in helping children, consider donations to Unicef and Save the Children.  The Happy Hearts Fund, founded by a survivor of the Asian tsunami and dedicated to rebuilding children's lives after natural disasters, is soliciting funds to rebuild schools in Japan.  Please add links to your favorite organizations working in Japan in the comments.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

CHILDREN’S HUMAN RIGHTS TO NATURAL BIOLOGICAL ORIGINS AND FAMILY STRUCTURE

This paper focuses on assisted reproductive technology and "designer babies," but notes that some of the same issues arise in adoption:
Some old and new phenomena – adoption is old, assisted reproductive and genetic technologies and same-sex marriage are new – have recently thrown the issue of children’s rights with respect to their biological origins, biological families and family structure into the public policy spotlight and public square debate. Adoption has long challenged children’s rights with respect to their biological families.

* * *

It is one matter for children not to know their genetic identity as a result of unintended circumstances. It is quite another matter to deliberately destroy children’s links to their biological parents, and especially for society to be complicit in this destruction. It is now being widely recognized that adopted children have the right to know who their biological parents are whenever possible, and legislation establishing that right has become the norm. [In Europe, but the U.S. is woefully behind in this matter.]

* * *

Ethics, human rights, and international law – as well as considerations such as the health and well-being of adopted and donor-conceived children – all require that children have access to information regarding their biological parents. And it is not just these children who have this right, but their future descendants as well. Children deprived of knowledge of their genetic identity – and their descendants – are harmed physically and psychologically.
An interesting read (I don't agree with all of it) -- especially as an antidote to Elizabeth Bartholet's human rights vision of fungible families

Friday, March 18, 2011

Adoption Envoy Visits Cambodia/Vietnam

Looks like the U.S. will not be lifting the ban on adoption from Cambodia, despite (or perhaps because of) a visit from U.S. Ambassador for Children's Issues Susan Jacobs, says Voice of America:
A US envoy for children’s issues declined to lift a ban on US adoptions from Cambodia Friday, despite the 2009 passage of an adoption law, officials said.

The US banned adoptions from Cambodia in 2001, after allegations that mothers were being paid to give up their children to adoption agencies.

Susan Jacobs, the US Ambassador for Children’s Issues, told Cambodian officials the country had made improvements in children’s protection.

But after her two-day fact-finding mission, the US Embassy said in a statement, “The United States has not set a date for resumption of inter-country adoption with Cambodia.”

Cambodian officials say they expect to begin initiating a 2009 law in April this year to bring the country in line with international standards.
The Cambodian Law Blog points to further problems with initiating Cambodia's new adoption law:
An article in today’s Daily reports on the unlikelihood of the 2009 inter-country adoption law being fully implemented next month as originally indicated. Although the government plans to start accepting inter-country adoption applications next month, the law requires that before this can take place, the Inter Country Adoption Administration in Cambodia must conclude agreements with its foreign counterparts.

To date, no such agreements have been concluded. Many foreign governments may be waiting to see how successful the implementation will be. At least one government has indicated it is reluctant to initiate such an agreement until the registration procedure for adoption agencies has been clarified.
Ambassador Jacobs will be visiting Vietnam next, to talk about intercountry adoption.  At this time, adoptions from Vietnam are also suspended.

An Ethiopian-American's Perspective

From Ethiomedia, a website with a stated mission to "provide a forum for exchange of views among Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia on matters that would have significant impact on the welfare of the people and survival of our country - Ethiopia," an Ethiopian-American weighs in on the adoption situation in Ethiopia:
Since 2009, the media accounts surrounding alleged fraud involving adoption of children from certain countries including, among others, Ethiopia continues to be very troubling. Direct recruitment of children from birth parents by adoption service providers or their employees has been documented and reported widely in the United States and in Ethiopia. If undeterred, the present abuses will invite legal, social, economic, psychological, and political consequences of great magnitude.

* * *

Therefore, we commend the Ethiopian Government’s recent assurance of a thorough investigation of documented cases of adoption fraud for prompt prosecution and further praise the leadership’s intention to strengthen the legislative framework and Ethiopia’s institutional capacity to protect children and families from exploitation by unscrupulous agencies and brokers.

However, in light of the seriousness of recent contentions, the Government’s response, although measured, is not sufficient. Persistent accounts of fraud and child trafficking have infuriated the Ethiopian Diaspora community, in the United States, and are therefore deserving of extra attention by Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs.
Although the article is dated March 18, it doesn't seem to address the recent slow-down.  Still, I thought the perspective an interesting one and wanted to share!  And yes, I recognize that it is just one person's opinion.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Playing it Out

Zoe was the first one to remember Tuesday morning that it was Maya's "gotcha day" (we're back to calling it that, even though I don't like it, because the kids like it).  After all, Zoe says, it's natural that she'd remember since it's HER "gotcha day" too, since she got Maya for a sister!  I'm sure I would have remembered eventually that it was the 15th, but have to admit that being on Spring Break and in a hotel room in Abilene means it would have taken awhile!

The girls are really great travelers -- we don't have a DVD player in the car, we don't listen to music the entire time, the girls don't play their electronic games the entire time.  Mostly, they act out stories with the dolls and stuffed animals they bring and it is great fun to listen in to those stories.

Driving back from Abilene (about 2.5 hours), Maya played by herself while Zoe listened to music on the iPod.  And the play was all about adoption.  In one story, Lambie was in an orphanage and Wolfie came to adopt her.  Wolfie explained what adoption is: "You know what an orphan is, right?  Well, since you're an orphan I've come to make you part of my family forever.  That's what adoption is."  Wolfie and Lambie go off happily together.  In another story, Lambie's mom and dad tell her they can't take care of her because they are too poor.  They assure her they love her, and that she will be adopted.  They take her to the orphanage, and Wolfie comes to adopt her.  Over and over again, scenario after scenario, Maya worked through -- or played through -- adoption issues raised by this anniversary. After awhile, the play veered off in another direction, issues seemingly dealt with -- at least for now.

Quite a healthy way to deal with it, I think. Here's a previous post about using play to discuss adoption issues.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Gay families more accepted than single moms

MSNBC reports on a Pew Center study:
Highly visible gay families . . . may be changing the way Americans view the world. And a new report by the Pew Research Center seems to bear this out. Its nationally representative survey of 2,691 people found that Americans are more accepting of families led by gay and lesbian parents than of single moms.

The survey found that when it comes to opinions overall on non-traditional families, such as those with gay and lesbian parents, single mothers, and unmarried parents, the country is split three ways: a third of Americans (dubbed Acceptors by Pew) are comfortable with a wide variety of family situations, a third (Rejectors) consider non-traditional arrangements to be damaging to the country’s social fabric, while the final third (Skeptics) are mixed in their views — approving of some arrangements, but not others.

When it comes to [gay] families . . . the news is all good. The vast majority of Acceptors and Skeptics believe gay and lesbian families are at least OK — and might even bring something positive to society.

But single mothers are less accepted, the poll found. That’s where Acceptors and Skeptics differ the most, says Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center.

“If you took out the question about single mothers, there would be only two groups: Acceptors and Rejectors,” Taylor says.

While 98 percent of Acceptors think there’s nothing wrong with women raising their children alone, 99 percent of Skeptics and 98 percent of Rejectors believe that’s bad for society. (The survey only asked about single mothers, not single fathers.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SIx Years Ago Today

Six years ago, Maya joined our family! Such a sad, scared little mite of 18 months, wondering how and why her life was changing, missing her beloved foster mom, shyly willing to connect with these strangers.

Today, at 7 AND A HALF (today being Maya's official half birthday as well!) Maya says she misses her foster family, wants Chinese food for dinner, wants to laugh and be silly, and wants to sleep in her beloved big sister's bed tonight.

My heart grieves for all Maya has lost, for her birth mother and foster mother, and rejoices in all that Maya is -- smart, funny, tender, silly, mellow, happy, and so so lovely inside and out. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Abilene, Abilene


"Prettiest town I ever seen . . . "

OK, all I can say is that country singer hadn't seen many towns if Abilene made the list of prettiest towns!

Seriously, we're in Abilene for the night; driving straight through from Carlsbad just wasn't in the cards today.  We took a break to visit Frontier Texas, a museum in Abilene. The museum focuses on the period between 1780 and 1880, and the settlement of this area.  It was quite well done, though very settler-centric.  Yes, there were many mentions of the Indian tribes in the area, and even that they must have seen the settlers as coming to steal their lands, but it was very heavy on the cruelty of the Indians and the righteous cause of the settlers.

The girls liked it (exept the movie at the end that featured lots of loud noises like gun fire and thunder, which Zoe most definitely did not like).
Back home tomorrow, and back to our usual blog programming!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

In a Cavern, In a Canyon

It's as amazing as I rembered!  I took my oldest nephew to Calsbad Cavern when he was 10, and now he's 25.  And it's as amazing as Mimi remembered -- she came in 1959 when she and my dad were driving from California to Louisiana for a new military posting.

None of our photos do it justice, but I'm posting them anyway!

The highlight for the girls was being sworn in as Junior Rangers, which included quite a long oath promising to preserve the cavern, respect national parks, and share their experiences with others.
We topped off the day with swimming in the hotel pool and then a barbeque dinner:
Last thing before bed, manis and pedis all around in our hotel room!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

WASP Museum, Sweetwater Texas

We are in Carlsbad, New Mexico for Spring Break!  Whew, a long drive, but the girls were great travelers, as usual.  We stopped around midway in Sweetwater, Texas to visit the WASP Museum -- that would be the Women Airforce Service Pilots, not the flying insects!  I've posted before that the girls like the documentary about Hazel Ying Lee, a Chinese-American pilot who flew with the WASPS.  That was enough to make them very excited about going to the museum.

The museum is in "Hanger One," where the WASPS trained.  It has a mockup of the barracks where the women lived

A car and luggage from the era
Even the outhouse the women used!
There was a mockup of the "Link Trainer" where the WASPS did simulator training.  The girls were amazed at how small the space was.  In the first picture, Zoe is pointing to a picture of Hazel Ying Lee in the Link Trainer.
And here's one of the airplanes the women flew. 
The main job of the WASPS was to pick up airplanes fresh from the factories and ferry them to training bases for men to fly, or to shipping points where the planes were packed and shipped overseas.  Imagine how dangerous that was -- these women were often the first to fly a freshly-manufactured plane and thus the first to find out its flaws, some of which were fatal flaws.

One slight disappointment for the girls was that there was little evidence of Hazel Ying Lee in the Museum.  We found one picture, as I mentioned above, and Hazel's name on the list of WASPs who died in the line of duty:
Still, the girls had a great time, and want to go back for the annual WASP Homecoming when Maya is 8;  they give free airplane rides to children 8 and up!

Friday, March 11, 2011

The New Murphy Brown

I'm old enough to remember when Vice President Dan Quayle attacked TV character Murphy Brown for having a baby "out of wedlock," and in Quayle's words, "mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another 'life-style choice.'"  In fact, I was 32 and seriously contemplating single parenthood.  Murphy Brown didn't convince me to become a single mom, and Qualye's criticism didn't talk me out of it.

Now, almost 20 years later, another political figure makes the same argument.  Last week, Mike Huckabee, once and perhaps future Presidential candidate, spoke out against Natalie Portman, the actress who appeared on the Oscar red carpet pregnant and unmarried.  Huckabee said it was "problematic," and that her situation gave a "distorted image" of single parenthood because "Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can't get a job, and if it weren't for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care."

Really?  Melissa Harris-Perry talks about her experience as a single parent and says:
In fact, my lived experiences of single parenting are more representative of the unmarried mom experience than Huckabee’s fantasy of starving children fed by the state. Data from a 2009 report on unmarried parents show that 80% of custodial single mothers are gainfully employed and fewer than 10% are recipients of Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF). Poverty rates are certainly much higher among single parents. Nearly 27% live below the poverty line. But this number does not approach the “most” which Huckabee claims. These data show that although they are more often poor, most single mothers work despite the obvious difficulties of working while raising children without a spouse. They further show that our government actually does very little to support these women. These moms are hardly cash-sucking drains on national or state economies.
So, as a single mother, I have a question for Mike Huckabee -- why are we still scapegoating single mothers after all these years?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Danger of Suppressing Anger

I posted earlier in the week about allowing adopted persons to feel and express anger surrounding their adoptions.  Then I came across this description by an adoptee of a show, Heavy on A & E, featuring a dangerously obese adoptee:
At an early age, Johnny began to hoard food as a way to cope with the abandonment of his biological mom that was battling a 14 year drug addiction and living a life style as a prostitute. Johnny was placed in Child Protective Services, and placed in the foster care system. This is when Johnny turned to food as an outlet for comfort. He felt that food was the only thing that would never leave him. At the age of 6, he was adopted by a family that felt he struggled to transition into their family and have that sense of "belongingness". Therefore, his adoptive family believed that his behavior problems stemmed from there. He was then placed in a military school.

While Johnny was working with a trainer, one of his workouts was a boxing drill. His trainer was yelling at him to dig deep inside and find out what makes him mad to increase his aggression and increase his power behind his punch. Johnny yelled "my biological mother"! The trainer asked him to repeat what he said and he again yelled "MY BIOLOGICAL MOTHER"! At that moment I could see the pain in his eyes and the pain behind all the punches he was throwing against the wall. That anger that is hiding deep inside many adoptees. Since losing weight and progressing through his treatment plan, Johnny decided to do a Google search on his family's last name and found his half brother Chris. He was able to reach them via phone and Chris answered the phone. Immediately Chris yelled out to his grandma, "Oh my god it's John-John"!
I didn't see the show, but I found the description so evocative I wanted to share.  It paints just one picture of the consequences of suppressing that anger. . . .

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Skinny Jeans

Yesterday was Mardi Gras -- Fat Tuesday -- which my Catholic-school attending girls know is the last chance to gorge on whatever it is you're giving up for Lent!  Both girls have decided to give up sweets, so planned to finish up the Valentine's Day candy, but Maya, my carnivore, also wanted MEAT -- ribs or steak -- to fortify herself for 7 meatless Fridays.  So we went out for a big dinner; as the hostess was seating us, I joked that we needed to fatten these girls up on Fat Tuesday.

Zoe replied, "Mo-ooom, we don't get fat!"  That's actually true;  they both eat like the proverbial truckers with no discernable effects.  They definitely eat more than I do -- really! -- and no one would call me skinny! 

I said, "That's true. Part of the reason some people are fat an others are skinny is genetics. It looks like you both got skinny genes from your birth parents."

Maya got the joke -- "Huh.  Skinny jeans.  That's funny!"

Zoe, not so much!

Where Did I Come From? Some Stolen Children Don't Want to Know

I've posted before (here, asking about the right not to know) about the baby-stealing for adoption that was part of the Argentinian military junta's "disappearance" of dissidents in the 1970s & 80s.  Robert Krulwich comments on two cases, asking about the right to know and the right not to know for the adoptees, the birth parents and the grandparents:
Bottom line: what began as a movement to find abducted babies has now become a struggle between the right to know and the right not to know. The stakes are very high on both sides, because the truth can be so double-edged and so painful.

* * *

I don't know. Different people will probably have to differ on this, but in the end, I find myself almost siding with Francisco Madariaga, who says, he just wanted to know the truth about his adoption. For 32 years his adopted family told him lies, he says, "And lies cannot last forever." Well maybe they can. And sometimes maybe they should. But who decides? That's what I don't know.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rainbows, Unicorns, Hearts & Smiley Faces

A great post by Dawn Davenport at Creating a Family, Adoption -- It's Not All Hearts and Smiley Faces, includes the perspective of a 15-year-old adopted as an infant from China.  Here's a snippet:
I’ve been thinking a bit more about my adoption, and I realized that I have been suppressing a lot over the year. I can finally say that I am mad at my birthparents and not feel guilty about it. It [feels] really great, and also because of that I think I can be more open with [my parents]. I’m just needing to realize that it was okay to be angry at my birth parents . I think the reason why it was so hard for me to realize that was because my whole life they had been characterized as good people who loved me very much but couldn’t keep me. Maybe they loved me, but they just didn’t love me enough. I thought that they loved me, so I had to love them. Now I get that I do love them, but I am extremely mad at them, and that’s okay because well, I know they care about me and they’d be okay with me being mad at them. Heck, I bet some days they get mad at themselves.
The whole thing is a must-read.  If you're helping your child deal with anger issues relating to adoption, here's a post identifying some adoption books that allow the adoptee to be angry.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tired Adoption Tropes

Why do all bloggers and editorialists think they know something about adoption?  The description of this guy who opines in the Guardian (UK) reads, "Ed West is a journalist and social commentator who specialises in politics, religion and low culture."  Nowhere in there does it say he knows anything about adoption in general or transracial adoption specifically.  Yet here he goes:
There’s nothing more noble in this world than adoption, giving an unwanted child a chance in life, where otherwise the alternative is a care home, abuse, violence and eventually prison or the streets. And I would like to think that I may do it myself one day. Personally I’d go for a Chinese kid, because they’re good at maths and I can train him to do my accounts.

But in all seriousness it doesn’t matter where a child’s ancestors came from, and if this is different to where his adopted parents’ forefathers sprung up; the only thing that matters is that they love them, and give them a home.
Yeah, love them and give them a home where racial stereotypes flourish -- good at maths, indeed. And where all the tired old tropes are trotted out -- "noble" to adopt, children up for adoption "unwanted," if not adopted, the alternative is mayhem, prison and death.  Even the obligatory "I may do it myself one day" -- seeing how he's noble and all that.

And he says all this to criticize a piece where the author makes the rather unremarkable statement that we still live in a racialized world; and if transracial adoption is to happen white parents need to show what they will do to mitigate their white European view of the world so they can help their children form positive racial identities and navigate a racialized world.

Sigh.

Two Family Reunification Stories

Haiti, One Year After the Earthquake
It's been nearly a year since I first arrived in Haiti to help lead the International Rescue Committee's efforts to reunite children and families who were separated by the 2010 earthquake. Many thousands of children lost their parents in the disaster, and thousands more lost contact with their living relatives in the chaos that followed.

The IRC went to work immediately following the quake, collaborating with the Haitian government and a network of international and local organizations to identify, find and register these separated children, to train Haitian social workers in family tracing, and to begin the complex, painstaking job of tracking down and reuniting these separated families.

One year later we've managed to reunify more than 1300 children with their families, and one year later I continue to be deeply impressed with the courage displayed by Haiti's youngest citizens.
City judge's defense of troubled families offends many caseworkers
To Judge Jimmie Edwards, the 800 St. Louis foster children technically in his legal guardianship are all "children" — be they babies with pacifiers or runaways with tattoos.

Sometimes he even calls them "my" children.

Edwards, 55, is only the second African-American to preside over a family court in St. Louis in 40 years. He grew up in the same segregated, poor neighborhoods as most of the city's foster children. And he's heartsick over the disproportionate number of minorities who have been removed from their families and put in foster care both locally and nationally. In Missouri, nearly 90 percent of the 9,100 children in foster care are black.

"Too often in this country we confuse neglect with poverty," he said last month in his office on the second floor of the city's Family Court building, which handles all cases involving city children in the care of the state Children's Division.

So if he's going to make long-term custody decisions regarding his foster children, he said, he's going to err on what's best for the child. And in most cases, he said, it's the hope that many will reunify with a parent and return to their natural family, even if those families currently are in profound disarray.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Speed Dating is Not For Children

From the Christian Science Monitor, a heart-wrenchingly personal and impressively researched article about adoption fairs:
Singles everywhere are still faced with the arduous task of finding love. It’s a job many children up for adoption know well.

Potential adoptees often engage in their own pursuit of love, a speed dating of sorts called adoption fairs. At least 20 states run adoption fairs these days. Children available for adoption are brought together in a party-like atmosphere to mingle with would-be parents. The idea is to see if there is a mutual attraction. And like speed dating events everywhere, there’s usually an imbalance in attendees (sometimes the adoptees outnumber the prospective parents) and everyone wears nametags.
Alas these fairs are not all fun and games. Adoption fairs are ineffective, set the wrong expectations, and are damaging to the children. They should be eliminated. Instead of speed dating, kids would be better off if states used “arranged marriages” to place them in homes with certified “professional parents” – parents ready to handle all the challenges and joys that adoption brings.

I would know.

When I was ten years old in the early 80s, I participated in an adoption fair.
So what do you think about adoption fairs?  Photo listings"Wednesday's Child" features? Up side -- may work to find a family for a child in need of adoption.  Down side -- smacks of marketing, commodification, objectification; invades a child's privacy.  On balance, is it worth it?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ethiopia Cutting Back International Adoption by 90%

From Voice of America:
Ethiopia is cutting back by as much as 90 percent the number of inter-country adoptions it will allow, as part of an effort to clean up a system rife with fraud and corruption. Adoption agencies and children’s advocates are concerned the cutbacks will leave many Ethiopian orphans without the last-resort option of an adoptive home abroad.

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs has issued a directive saying it will process a maximum of five inter-country adoptions a day, effective March 10. Currently, the ministry is processing up to 50 cases a day, about half of them to the United States.

A copy of the directive provided to VOA says the reduction of up to 90 percent in cases will allow closer scrutiny of documents used to verify a child’s orphan status.

Ministry spokesman Abiy Ephrem says the action was taken in response to indications of widespread fraud in the adoption process.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Study: Behavioral Adjustment of Adopted Chinese Girls, Two Year Followup

Reported in the journal Child and Adolescent Mental Health, a study by Tony Xing Tan, looking at changes in behavioral adjustment of adopted Chinese girls.  The children were sorted into three groups -- preschool age for both phases, preschool in phase I and school age in phase 2, and school age in both phases. He reports that adopted Chinese girls  do not seem to have a higher risk for suboptimal adjustment than non-adopted children. The non-adopted U.S. sample for maladjustment pegs it at about 18% for all three age groups, and all three age groups of Chinese adoptees averaged below 18% -- 10.3% in Phase I and 16.9% in Phase II for internalizing problems (internalizing behaviors include anxious, depressive, and overcontrolled behaviors), 9.0% in Phase I & 11.3% in Phase II for externalizing problems (externalizing behaviors include aggressive, hyperactive, noncompliant, and undercontrolled behaviors), 9.6% in Phase I and 13.8% in Phase II for all problems (note the increase over 2 years). The behaviors are determined via the Child Behavior Checklist, which you can see here for preschool and here for school age if you're interested.

When the results are broken down into the three age groups, there are some significant differences.  For the preschool age group, the "average internalising problem score and the rate of suboptimal internalising problems increased significantly. The trend of increase in the average internalising problem scores seems to resemble clinical girls rather than the healthy girls, from the normative sample."  In fact, the rate of girls with internalizing problems nearly doubled over two years. The study's author opines that the increase might be attributable to these preschool children moving toward school attendance -- many moved from no school to preschool over the two years. "[T]he school setting might be a source of stress for some children as it somewhat resembled the orphanages (e.g. large number of children, non-relative caregivers, eating and napping in a group setting), in addition to separation from the parents and the usual stress associated with learning. Of course, this speculation requires extensive research (especially qualitative inquiries) to verify."

For children in the transition group -- moving from preschool age to school age -- there were significant increases in internalizing, externalizing and total problem behaviors. This was different from same-age girls in the non-adopted population, who experience an increase in internalizing problems but a decrease in externalizing problems and total problems over these years. The author speculates that "the adopted children’s pattern of increase in behaviour problems during this developmental stage might be an indication that they were undergoing marked cognitive changes that enable them to better understand the meaning and implication of adoption, " citing David Brodzinsky's The Psychology of Adoption.

In the older school-age group (from average age 8 in Phase I and 10 in Phase II), there was little change
between the two phases.  However, this age group reported higher suboptimal scores than the two younger groups.  And for internalizing behaviors, this group was significantly higher than the normative sample for the population at large.

Also, the results showed that adopted Chinese children who showed "suboptimal adjustment" in the first phase were highly likely to show suboptimal adjustment in the second phase two years later -- in fact, the odds of suboptimal adjustment in Phase II ranged from about 10 to 15 times higher among the children who scored suboptimally in Phase I -- maybe that says something about whether you should wait to get help when you identify problems. . . .

The study concludes:
Overall, the current study found that as the children got older, their behavioural adjustment worsened, especially during early and middle childhood. While suboptimal adjustment seemed to persist over time, internalising problems became more serious among the adopted Chinese girls. These findings point to the critical need for early detection and early treatment of suboptimal adjustment problems. As middle childhood appeared to be a particularly vulnerable stage of development for the adopted Chinese girls, parents, teachers and mental health professionals should work closely with these children to process their experience of early abandonment and to promote a positive attitude towards being adopted transracially.
Certainly some good news -- better adjustment than the non-clinical general population. But also some worrisome news that adoptive parents should pay attention to early. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Recent Adoption News Links

Opening the books on adoption, from the Minn-St.Paul StarTribune, about search and reunion.

Future uncertain for children in Thai baby scam, reporting on an operation using Vietnamese women as surrogates for wealthy childless couples overseas who placed orders for newborns online.

State probes religious foster care agencies over discrimination, the Chicago Tribune reports on an investigation into foster care agencies who receive state funds and reject gay couples who want to foster and adopt.

South Korean Consulate Appeals that Adoptee Not be Deported -- this is a SECOND South Korean adoptee facing deportation, not the case I blogged about here in January.  

Argentine dictators go on trial for baby thefts from women dissidents captured and tortured during the heyday of the military junta, 1978-83; the children's identities were changed and they were placed for adoption with couples sympathetic to the regime.
 
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes star Jane Russell dies at 89; the Guardian (UK) reports that Russell adopted three children because of infertility caused by botched illegal abortions, and started an adoption agency after she experienced difficulties in adopting.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The U.S. as Sending Country

The headline in the Irish Times reads, Adoption body sent delegation to US.  So why do you think the Adoption Authority of Ireland sent a delegation to the U.S.?  They are newly-Hague-accredited, maybe they want our advice?  No, they want our children:
THE ADOPTION Authority of Ireland (AAI) sent a delegation to the US last week to discuss inter-country adoption with officials there.


The delegation was headed by its chairman, Geoffrey Shannon.

It is understood there is an increased level of interest from Irish couples in adopting from the US.
The fact that the U.S. is a receiving country in international adoption, that U.S. citizens adopt children from abroad, is very well known.  Less well known is the fact that the U.S. is also a sending country, with children born in the U.S. being adopted abroad.  Statistics from the State Department peg out-going adoptions at a very low level:  25 kids in 2008, 26 kids in 2009, 43 children in 2010.   Children from the U.S. were adopted to Austria, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, United Kingdom & South Africa. The State Department even publishes a Guide to Outgoing Cases from the United States.

A few weeks ago I chided South Korea for placing children for international adoption:
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 what does it say that the U.S. places children in international adoption?

A grand social experiment

I had a feeling, a very bad feeling, when I saw the title of the blog post, Conspicuous Family — Or Ambassadors?  I knew I should avoid it. . .  but I read it anyway.  Yep, just what I expected:
Beyond comments made when they were too young to understand them, my children (three by birth and one by adoption) haven’t been adversely affected by being “conspicuous.” If anything, they have received extra smiles from strangers, smiles they must attribute to their natural charm and beauty! Maybe, beyond giving my kids the occasional shot of self-esteem, there are more benefits to being a “conspicuous” family. Perhaps families like ours are like that porch light, lighting up and even maybe changing the world.

* * *

[Quoting Craig Juntunen] “I believe that international adoption will lead to the evolution of a global society, where the cross-pollination of races and cultures will shrink the planet. Families created through international adoption are ambassadors, because their children become part of the communities they live in and everyone gains from that experience,” he said.

Ambassadors. Yes, yes, I’ve felt that many times.
So you, adoptive parent, feel like an ambassador of all that is good in your conspicuous family.  But what do your kids think of it? Really.

Look, what I'm about to say has been said by many people far more eloquent than I am -- the barest possible reading about transracial adoption would introduce adoptive parents to this concept.  But apparently it needs to be said again, in light of this post.

Our children did not sign on to be subjects in a grand social experiment on the "cross-pollination" of races and cultures. They had no say in whether to be a "bridge between the races." They did not consent to being "ambassadors" for global peace, love and understanding.  They did not consent to being "ambassadors" for adoption. It was OUR decision, not theirs, to be a conspicuous family.

If you want to work for social justice, racial equality, cultural tolerance, worldwide love, great!  But don't consider your transracial adoption as a step in those causes.  Would you marry a person of another race or culture in order to promote global harmony?  Of course not!  You marry out of love,  yes?  Now, that love may make  you more sensitive to issues of social justice, racial equality, etc., but would you hold  yourself out as an example of such?  I hope not, but if you do, at least you are both adults who consented to the relationship.

Adopting children as a social cause, a grand experiment, is not fair to them.  Holding them out as ambassadors, when they had no say in the matter, compounds that unfairness. Yes, work for social justice, racial equality, cultural tolerance, and worldwide love, but make it YOUR issue, not theirs. And don't offer them up as successful lab rats in a grand social experiment.