Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Circle of Moms Top 25 Adoption Blogs by Parents

Well, I'm honored!  I've been nominated! I'm in really good company, too, with many of the nominated blogs on my blog roll.  If you feel moved to do so, you can vote for me (or any of the other fine nominated blogs) by clicking on the little badgy thing:

Thank you!

We Saw Kung Fu Panda 2

Thanks for all the comments about the movie in response to this post; I felt I was able to prepare the girls pretty well for what we were going to see.  As expected, on the surface, it was pretty heavy on the adoptive-family-is-all-you-need theme, but there were some bright spots for me, partly in the educative effect of what folks are doing wrong (and not really getting away with in this movie)!  I'm only going to talk about some things I haven't heard (or read) other people say already. For instance, I really appreciated Raina's perspective in her review here, so won't replow that ground or anything covered in the excellent and varied comments to my previous post.

And let me say here
if you read any further!

First of all, I thought there was a real object lesson in the "adoption talk" between Po and his adoptive dad.  Turns out that Po knew all along he wasn't Mr. Ping's biological son (duh!), but didn't say anything because his dad didn't say anything.  Po says something like, "Why didn't you tell me?"  And Mr. Ping said something like, "Why didn't you ask?!"  Like I'm always saying, if adoptive parents figure their kids aren't thinking about adoption because they aren't broaching the subject, then their kids who are indeed thinking about adoption will read that silence as the answer -- adoption isn't something their parents are comfortable talking about.

Second, when Po does finally ask, and Mr. Ping tries to tell him his (Po's) story, he does what so many adoptive parents do -- he starts at the moment he and Po met, as if there was no Po before that moment.  Sure, he didn't know much, just that Po got into that box of radishes somehow, but simple biology allows for the "you grew in your birth mother's tummy until it was time for you to be born" start.  And, another important point illustrated here, Po wasn't satisfied with the moment-we-met story, saying, "I need to know the beginning."

Third, I was prepared for the ultimate "the past doesn't matter" theme when the seer who is taking care of Po after he is injured tells him that he shouldn't dwell on his past, that the unhappiness of his beginnings doesn't matter, what matters is what he chooses to become.  A little dismissive, yes?  BUT, I was struck by the fact that BEFORE she gives this message, she insists that Po has to KNOW about his past.  She tells him not to fight the memories of his biological parents, that he can only move on after he knows.  Maybe not so dismissive after all. . . .

Fourth, I thought the film was REALLY "birthmom-positive" during the "abandoned-in-a-box" scene, thank goodness.  She was so obviously loving in her good-bye to Po, with a lingering hug as she finally tore herself away from him to lead the murderous wolves away from him.  Maybe it was Po left alone like my kids, maybe it was the damn box, but that was the one scene that made me teary-eyed.

Fifth, I am sorry that the movie makers missed an opportunity to present a different adoption paradigm instead of the easy "past doesn't matter" meme. Maybe that will come up in Kung Fu Panda 3, who knows. Tell me if I imagined this, but was the hammer used by Po's panda dad in the flashback the same hammer used by Master Rhino? If so, I can see in a KFP3 a real connection between Po's bio dad and kung fu as an explanation for where Po's interest and talent comes from, a biological explanation that makes clear that "where you come from" might matter after all.

Sixth, my impression from the reviews and comments I had read was that Po was sort of rejecting his biological family at the end, saying significantly to Mr. Ping, "I know who I am now.  I am your son."  But one thing made me see it differently -- he kept the panda toy he found in the wreckage of his home village, the one he saw himself carrying in his flashbacks.  As he carries two boxes of radishes he brought home for his dad, he reaches into one and brings out the toy, giving it pride of place on top of the radishes.  Maybe it was only meant to signify acceptance of his "beginnings" as the baby panda in the radish box, but it seemed to me that he was bringing part of his former life into his childhood home.

Seventh, I thought the Asian imagery -- the countryside, the towns, Shen's palace that reminded me a bit of the Wild Goose Pagoda, the shadow puppets at the beginning -- was wonderful, and much more pronounced than the last movie.  Maybe because Kung Fu Panda 2 is the first Hollywood animated feature directed by an Asian American woman.

So I'd say it's a mixed bag on the adoption front.  Yes, adoptive parents who want to downplay the importance of birth parents get a message that allows them to do that.  But there's a price to pay to get that message -- the movie's frank talk of birth parents and Po's questions about his will, as Maya put it, "make adopted kids ask questions." The girls enjoyed the movie while watching it -- Zoe said it was much better than the first movie. But afterwards, she said it made her sad because it made her think about her birth parents and she wanted to spend time alone in her room afterwards. And, it really opened the floodgates for Maya, who doesn't often want to talk about her birth parents.  She had lots of questions, and needed a lengthy "cry and cuddle," which Zoe later joined us in. I expect we'll see more processing in the days to come, but they both say they want to see the movie again!


OK, wrong iconic blonde and wrong decade!  But "Clueless" is the kindest thing I could come up with for the comments made by Debbie Harry of Blondie fame, an adoptee herself, about her interest in adoption.  Says the Winnipeg Free Press:
Debbie Harry has thought about adopting children.

The iconic singer - who was adopted at a young age by shop owners Richard and Catherine Harry - has never had children but did occasionally think about the idea of expanding her family.

She said: "I've thought of adoption, which I think I'd be really good at. Now that this terrible earthquake has happened in Japan, there will be lots of children needing homes."

The 65-year-old pop star likes to support various charities, and the eco-conscious celebrity would like to set up a foundation to promote the use of solar panels.

She said: "I spread myself around a lot of causes."
 I could say a lot, but I'll limit myself:

1.  Japan's tsunami orphans don't need you.

2.  Age might be a factor.

3.  Adoption as just another cause?  I hope not.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Crying in Front of the Kids

A recent piece at Salon, My year of tears, about crying in front of the kids, was certainly timely, what with Memorial Day at the National Cemetery where my dad's ashes are interred and the one year anniversary of his death approaching:
Like most mothers, I have wiped away buckets of tears in my time. My daughters came into the world squalling, and they've been doing it consistently ever since. Through scraped knees and overstimulating birthday parties and games of Chutes and Ladders gone horribly wrong and friends moving away, they've always been good at letting their feelings out, secure in the knowledge that Mom would be there with a Kleenex and a hug. But over the last several months, I've been the one doing most of the crying. And I've found myself in dark new territory, caught between the imperative to set the good example of expressing natural emotions and an instinctive desire to shield my children from life's harshest knocks.

Until fairly recently, the only time my kids saw me reduced to sobs was during the final minutes of "Up" or "Charlotte's Web." Then, in fairly rapid succession, I got cancer, one of my best friends got cancer, and two members of my family died. It's been waterworks ever since. And my kids have been right in the front row for a lot of them.
So what do you think?  Do you cry in front of your kids?  Should you cry in front of your kids?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

South Africa Encourages Domestic Adoption

From Independent Online News:
Erin is among the few fortunate children in South Africa who have found a “forever family”. The need for a safe, permanent home runs deep, and everywhere, with between 1.5 million and 2 million children who could benefit from adoption. But only about 2 400 people adopt children every year and even that low figure is on the decline.

Now an ambitious new campaign hopes to turn this bleak outlook for South Africa’s abandoned and orphaned children around.

Next week, as part of Child Protection Week, the National Adoption Coalition is launching its Addoption project to raise awareness about the plight of the country’s “adoptable” children and encourage more people to open their hearts – and homes – to children. The coalition spans the Department of Social Development, NGOs and social workers in private practice who aim to crush the “great mistrust” around adoption and overcome the cultural barriers that exist. It has now set up a website and call centre.

The coalition says South Africans are in a state of “shock and denial” about the crisis facing its children. “The low prevalence of marriage in South Africa, and the resulting vulnerability of single mothers, the weakening of the traditional extended family, and the impact of poverty and HIV/Aids, contribute to increasing the number of abandoned babies,” it says.

* * *

Megan Briede, of Child Welfare SA, says until now, South Africa has not had a strong culture of legal adoption.

“We had a strong sense of community before where a family member took on a relative’s child and cared for them.

“Now with more social problems, there are more and more children needing adoptive families who don’t have any family link at all.

“We’re saying we have to look out of our family, out of our own smaller community circle and into the larger South Africa, to the needs of all children – those children whose parents I don’t know.”

Korean Church Celebrates Adoption Sunday

From the Neighborhood Files:
As six-year-old Isaiah Beiler of Macungie scurried exuberantly with a small herd of other young children, it was hard to believe he had once been shy. But he had been, his mother Holly Beiler said, until weekly visits to the Korean Church of the Lehigh Valley in Whitehall helped to change that.

Beiler and her husband, John, adopted Isaiah from South Korea when he was four months old and as he grew he had questions about where he came from that his parents felt ill equipped to answer. So the Beilers began frequenting the Korean church and found that not only did Isaiah feel at home but so did they and their other son, 10-year-old Jonah.

"Both of the boys take Korean language in the Korean school and they love it," Beiler said at the church's Korean Adoption Sunday, an annual event that seeks to expose children adopted from Korea to the culture they left behind.

* * *

Jon Chung Kim, a tae kwon do grand master, said the church has been holding Adoption Sunday every year since 1997 as a way to show appreciation to American families who lovingly raise children from his homeland. And it also keeps the children in touch with their roots in a place where most of the people look like them, he said.

Little Boy Lost

Story of a Russian adoption, a lawsuit, and a happy-as-can-be-in-the-circumstances ending:
Unable to conceive, Patrick LoBrutto and Mary Greene chose to fill out their family the same way 12,000 Americans do each year by adopting a child from a foreign country. It's a dicey proposition, to be sure, especially when choosing a country like Russia, where the orphanages are filled with abused and neglected children.

But LoBrutto and Greene were prepared. Or so they thought. They were well-educated, they did their homework, they took international adoption classes, they even had one of the world's leading international-adoption experts advising them.

They were intent on having a son, to fill the hole that still pains LoBrutto, years after losing two sons from a previous relationship. The first died from a hole in his heart at 4 months old. The second was killed at the age of 12 when a car struck him as he rode his bicycle.

"I wanted to give Pat a son and have him experience that again," Greene, a Florida native, said last week in a phone interview from her Red Hook, N.Y., home. "We tried to be very scrupulous and careful."

Despite their best efforts, though, their family did not come together as planned.

The couple knew their child would come home with some difficulties, but they said they were adamant in their instructions to Adoption Source Inc. of Boca Raton: They could not handle a special needs child, and they would not adopt a child who had illnesses related to drug or alcohol exposure.

Still ...

When the eager would-be parents arrived in Birobidzhan for the first time in August 2004, the orphanage staff couldn't locate the 1-year-old the couple had planned to name Ben. When workers did find him, in the hospital ward where he'd lived since birth, he weighed just 12 pounds, had the head circumference of a 2-month-old and displayed obvious signs of fetal alcohol syndrome.

In the referral, the hospital admitted, the family was given the wrong baby's records. Their expert, Dr. Jane Aronson advised them to walk away.

They did, resolving to come back to Russia for a second try.

But when the orphanage found them another boy, an adorable child they named Peter, his referral came without the helpful guidance of a video of the boy and without enough photos to gauge his development. LoBrutto and Greene pressed the orphanage for better photos, but their request was denied.

And Greene says Adoption Source officials consistently gave them a dire warning. The couple had already fallen in love with a 2-year-old girl they were intent on adopting from the same orphanage.

"If we aggravated the Russian authorities too much … they might deny us permission to adopt Sophie," Greene writes in her blog, "When Rain Hurts," which she hopes to turn into a book.

On top of those troubling signs was this one: Peter screamed every time Greene came anywhere near him or even uttered a sound. But the boy instantly bonded with LoBrutto, who pushed aside his wife's growing concern. After losing two sons and having to walk away from "Ben," Greene said, her husband was not willing to leave another boy behind. The decision was made. Peter was theirs. And so was Sophie.

"There's that voice we should have listened to," she says now. "Retrospection is a beautiful thing."

Within six months of bringing their new children home, she said, "the floodgates opened."

Peter's erratic, violent behavior grew more troubling with each passing day, and more impossible to control. After extensive testing, the family discovered an alphabet soup of serious disorders plaguing their son: fetal alcohol syndrome, autism, seizure disorder, genetic abnormalities, rickets, intestinal parasites, tuberculosis, ADHD, bipolar mood disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and a suspected case of mitochondrial disease.

Not exactly the clean bill of health LoBrutto and Greene say they were promised.

Officials with Adoption Source, which closed shop in 2009, could not be reached for comment. Their attorney did not return a phone call for comment. But in Palm Beach County civil court filings, the defendants deny the LoBrutto-Greene family's allegations of negligence.

* * *

As for those families coping with the fallout of a problematic adoption, Greene says the secret to survival is perseverance, and the help of available resources. For her family, therapists and counselors have proven a godsend, as have the local developmental disability and mental health agencies.

"Peter is a very damaged boy," his mother says, "but there is a heart in there. There's a very sweet child trapped in all that chaos."

It took the family two years and a lot of support to reach the sweetness and the heart. But today, Greene reports, Peter has progressed immeasurably from the little boy who couldn't stand to hear the sound of her voice, who spread feces on the wall, who vomited on purpose to spoil a family meal, who hurt himself and Sophie, and who seemed wholly unreachable.

Peter will always need 24-hour care, his mother says, but he is a "mostly happy child." He is polite, enjoys soccer and participates on the swim team.

"Peter knows we're his parents, he knows we love him, he knows we want to protect him," his mother said.
Thank goodness they were smart enough and committed enough to access post-adoption services for their son.  Much better than putting him alone on a plane back to Russia with a note saying they no longer wished to parent him. . . .

Saturday, May 28, 2011

No more than two parents per child

That's a pretty fundamental principle of law in American states -- children can have no more than two legal parents.  So when it comes to assisted reproduction, courts and legislatures go to great lengths to recognize no more than two of the potential parents as legal parents.  Statutes exist that say when a married woman has a baby with the use of a sperm donor, the sperm donor isn't a parent, only she and her husband are parents.  Can't have three parents, after all! In cases where one woman's eggs are fertilized by one man's sperm, and implanted into another woman's womb, with the intention that yet another woman and another man will parent the child, courts work hard to recognize only TWO of these potential parents as the legal parents. Can't have five parents, after all!

And when it comes to adoption, the parental rights of the birth parents have to be terminated before the adoption by a single parent or a couple.  Can't have three or four legal parents, after all! About the only exception to this is a California statute that recognizes tribal customary adoption, which allows for adoption without terminating the parental rights of the birth parents.

So that's what intrigued me about this sweet adoption story, a baby born prematurely with many problems, who is now a thriving 3-year-old with three legal adoptive parents:
Bellevue residents Nancy and Ed Peterson, 67 and 75, and their daughter Tami Peterson, 44, are all Danny’s legal, adoptive parents.

“We know we won’t live long enough to see Danny through life,” said Nancy, who with Ed has worked as a foster parent for 43 years and cared for more than a 100 children, many with special needs. “With Tami as his other parent, we can be sure of a seamless changeover.”
Wow!  How did they get a judge to do this, allowing three parents to adopt?  I think it makes a lot of sense in the circumstances, but a lot of courts would pull out the no-more-than-two-parents rule and potentially deny the adoption by the elder Petersons because of their ages.
So what do you think?  Should courts recognize more than two legal parents when it would be in the best interest of the child to do so?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Who's seen Kung Fu Panda 2?

It doesn't look like we're going to be seeing it any time soon.  I was so excited to offer the girls the chance to see it after school today, and they turned me down!  Maya thinks it will be too scary, and though Zoe wants to see it, she doesn't like 3D movies and wants to wait until I can find a non-3D showing or maybe when it comes out on DVD.  So my only chance to see it is I go alone, and that's why I have kids, so I won't look silly going alone to kids' movies!  Sigh.

I'm curious about how they handle the adoption themes.  This review makes me feel a little hopeful that they're not shying away from some of the hard issues:
Kung Fu Panda 2 is a story about adoption. Po's reaction to Mr. Ping not being his real father is akin to what many adopted children must feel when they learn the truth about their birth. Was I not wanted? Why am I here? Who am I really? Doubt creeps into Po's psyche and endangers everything he has learned about himself. The ugly spector of failure rears its ugly head. But Po is not alone, or unwanted. He has powerful allies - his friends, his father, and most importantly, the teachings of Kung Fu. The search for inner peace leads Po to the discovery of an awesome power, inside him, that even the weaponry of Lord Shen cannot defeat.
But my bet is that it'll turn out that he just doesn't need his birth family after all, instead of talking about needing/integrating both families.  I hope I'm wrong, but  am I? Just put "SPOILER ALERT" at the top of your comments for the benefit of others, but I'm too curious not to read any spoiler offered!

The Positives of Regression

This blog post, one of a series in the Guardian (UK) from an adoptive dad, struck a chord with me:
Neither of our adopted children are the age it says on their birth certificates. For example, DD can be anything from four months, to four, to 40 in a given day, in any given moment, and in the speed of light. Sometimes she is being the grown-up because she's learnt how to cope with experiences beyond most children her age. Sometimes she acts like a baby because she hasn't had some of the basic baby opportunities, and sometime she behaves like a ranting, raving toddler because she is one. It can be confusing, occasionally demoralising and exhausting.

"Regression" is a common theme for all children, not just adoptees. That time-warp that exists when children are involved, where the normal passage of time is slowed down or put into hyper-drive, and when things don't follow the normal order, or take far-far longer than usual, or even don't happen at all, will ring a bell with all parents. It can be the thing that makes bringing up our children such fun – seeing our DD climbing trees, or doing jigsaws – achievements we were told not to expect. To make up for some of the stages DD & DS have missed, to teach them how to trust, they need to be able to do those stages again. So, they need absolute reassurance from us that it's OK. And, after all, who wouldn't want to go back to the comfort of childhood, or even infancy? We try to give them the chance to be babies whenever we can – for example, playing peek-a-boo, letting them wear nappies or feeding them.
I quite deliberately regressed Maya;  she was 18 months old when I adopted her, was no longer on a bottle and at least partially potty-trained (they train early in China).  But I wanted to "baby" her, since that is so good for facilitating bonding.  It took a day or two to get her interested in a bottle again, but once she accepted it, I'd cuddle her and give her a nice warm bottle while we made really intense eye contact.  I'd coo to her, telling her what a good baby she was, and telling her what a good mommy I was!

I don't know if that set the pattern, or if it's more Maya's personality, but even today at 7 (and a HALF!) she is my cuddlebug.  Yesterday afternoon I was lying on the couch and Maya laid down on top of me to read her book -- that's a really common position for us!  She loves being the baby of the family, saying she never wants to grow up!  And that's OK, it'll happen whether she likes it or not, and that early regression has, in fact, been terrific for bonding for both of us.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why is it so hard to adopt from foster care?

At Huffington Post, looking at barriers to adopting from foster care in California:
When James and his wife Stephanie, an attorney and bank compliance officer, decided in early 2009 to adopt a daughter through foster care, he assumed it would be pretty easy. After all, there are 68,000 children in foster care in California. Over a quarter of these children are African American, four times their proportion of the general population. James worked at a San Diego nonprofit that trains Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) to protect the best interests of foster children. James assumed that as a two-parent black family, a child advocate and an attorney, a couple who had already became parents to a son through a private adoption, California's child welfare system would welcome them with open arms.

James was wrong.

The entire process, from application to finalization took almost two years. The problem was not the private agency they worked with. James raves about how responsive they were. For James and Stephanie, their experience with California's public agencies is where the adoption process became a story of frustration, unreturned calls, and irrational bureaucracy. It took over a year before they were even considered for a waiting child. Their struggle presents a case study in the obstacles that face anyone trying to adopt a child from a public agency in California.
The article identifies problems that likely apply to other states as well:  budget shortfalls affecting the work of placing children, difficulties with county jurisdiction and adopting across those lines, and lack of recruitment of adoptive parents. I also recognize that different people have different experiences -- I hear stories about how easy it is to adopt from foster care, too.

Transracial Adoptee Gives Advice to Adoptive Parents

A Solution for Teen Pregnancy

I read an article recently proposing something as a solution for teen pregnancy. What do you think that solution was? If you were to propose a solution for teen pregnancy, what would you propose?

Abstinence?  Surely that would prevent teen pregnancy. If you don't have sex, you can't get pregnant.  Nope, that's not what this article proposes.

Birth control?  That makes sense -- access to birth control for teens would surely solve (or at least reduce) the teen pregnancy problem.  Nope, that's not the proposal.

OK, so if the solution to teen pregnancy isn't about keeping teens from getting pregnant, either through abstinence or birth control, what else is there?

Abortion?  A teen would no longer be pregnant after an abortion.  Was that the proposed solution?  Nope.

Birth?  Again, after giving birth, a teen isn't pregnant any longer.  Is that the solution to teen pregnancy?  Nope, not the proposal.

So what else is there as a solution to teen pregnancy?  How about "promoting adoption?"  That's the title of the article in the Journal of Law and Family Studies, Promoting Adoption as a Solution to Teen Pregnancy.

Seriously?  How does adoption "solve" teen pregnancy?  It doesn't prevent one teen from having sex.  It doesn't prevent one teen from getting pregnant.  Now, if you identify the problem as teen PARENTING, then proposing adoption as the solution is a colorable argument (I'll blog later about whether teen parenting is a problem, but this post at Adoption Critique makes a compelling argument that it isn't as bad as we sometimes hear).  Abortion is then also a solution since it will not result in a teen parenting.  Now, some argue that availability of abortion encourages teen sex because there's then a way to avoid the consequences of that sex, but that argument would apply to the availability of adoption placement since it would allow teens to avoid the consequence -- teen parenting. . . .

But don't we really think the solution for teen pregnancy is to prevent teens from becoming pregnant in the first place? We might disagree about how best to do that -- that whole abstinence v. birth control debate -- but we generally think avoiding teen pregnancy is a good thing.

Now, this isn't the only problem with this article (like the author doesn't reveal he's an adoptive parent until halfway through the article and he assumes, without discussion, that the only rational decision for a pregnant teen is adoption placement), but I'll reserve that for another post!

(BTW, this is all part of an article I'm working on about minors consenting to adoption of their children, something I also blogged about here and here.)

Canadian parents wary as China confronts baby trafficking

From CBC's Inside Politics Blog:
When Cathy Wagner of Bridgewater, N.S., heard a CBC story last week about babies stolen from their families several years ago in Hunan province, her reaction was that nothing has changed.

She's the mother of a 5-year-old girl adopted from the same region in China. "It's like a dirty secret", she says, "but it's time we started talking about it."

CBC News' China correspondent, Anthony Germain, interviewed two parents in China who said the family-planning officials who enforce the country's one-child policy seized at least 20 babies, including their own, and sent them to orphanages to be adopted abroad.

"By changing their identities and processing the stolen children through legally recognized orphanages, the chances of any impoverished Chinese parent ever finding their child are almost nonexistent," Germain reported.

The babies were given false papers and sold to orphanages who stood to profit from donation fees given by overseas adoptive parents. One writer has called this practice "child laundering."

* * *

Janet Nearing of Family and Children's Services in Nova Scotia says her agency has been told that the Canadian embassy in Beijing will be informed by China of any kidnapped children who may have ended up in Canada. Nearing added, "This is as much action as I've ever seen on this."

* * *

In Canada, it's hard to determine who exactly is in charge of overseeing international adoptions. The federal government says adoption is the jurisdiction of the provinces. The trouble is, no province has the resources to investigate what's going on in the countries that are supplying babies.

The federal government also says a safeguard against child trafficking is the fact that both Canada and China are signatory to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children in Respect to International Adoption, an agency that encourages member countries to comply with international adoption standards in the best interests of the child.

Peter Spadoni of the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services says that concerns have been expressed to the ministry about whether adopted children haven't been abandoned at all, but snatched from loving parents in China. These complaints, he says, have been forwarded to the federal government.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reporting in China: Child Confiscations in Gaoping

Jessica Chen of Al Jazeera writes about the difficulties of reporting in China, using as an example her video story on the child confiscations by family planning authorities:
Sometimes men show up but don't do anything to stop us. It is against the law in China to obstruct foreign journalists from reporting freely. This was set out in a directive signed by Premier Wen Jiabao. Government officials therefore have come up with creative ways to make reporting difficult and circumvent the central government's rules without technically breaking the law. They might hire local boys to intimidate our team. By sub-contracting out intimidation to non-uniformed groups, there's no proof the government is behind any reporting interference.

It was sheer luck that thugs showed up at Yang Libing's house while he was away. Mr. Yang, if you've had a chance to watch our report, is the father whose baby daughter was forcefully taken away from him by corrupt officials looking to profit by handing children over to adoption agencies. He was running late that morning, and what ended up happening was a rather awkward uncertainty as our team and these thugs looked at each other. They knew we were from Al Jazeera. I don't know how they knew that. They had been driving around searching specifically for us. They stood there and sized us up. In the end, the men sauntered away, ambivalent about the situation themselves. Had Mr. Yang been there, I imagine they would have stayed, their very presence meant to unnerve the person we hoped to interview. I must say we are often saved by the fact that many of the "Black Audi" types don't really understand how television newsgathering is conducted. Perhaps they believed we would also saunter off after a time, given the absence of Mr. Yang. We did not walk away, of course, but waited until he returned to speak to him.

We later learned that after our interview and past midnight that evening, those men came back -- and were not so ambivalent. They interrogated Mr. Yang for more then ten hours and warned him to stop talking to journalists. Since then, Mr. Yang's phone has generally been off.

Intimidating sources and not reporters has become a more common practice by the Chinese government to block information. Often we speak to incredibly vulnerable people at the lowest socio-economic rung. It is easy to bully them into submission. But even then, it is remarkable that in my years of reporting in China, many people remain willing to speak to journalists despite the danger of retaliation. They perceive that a great injustice has been done to them and feel the need to articulate that. Many also feel they have nothing to lose. In the case of Mr. Yang, I do believe he must've felt he had nothing to lose. He'd lost his child. His house was a wood and brick shack, his floor of dirt, and his farming tools not much changed, it appeared, from the ones farmers used in the 19th century.
Thanks to ACT (Against Child Trafficking) for the link.

Adoptee From Black Market Ring Finds Family

A report from a Tennessee TV station about an adoptee, now 63 years old, sold by the infamous Georgia Tann (you can learn more about her in The Baby Thief):
More than 60 years ago, an adoption scandal rocked the state of Tennessee. In 1950, an adoption agency in Memphis was unmasked as a black market baby seller.

Years later, some of the children who were adopted from the Tennessee Children's Home Society are being reunited with their birth parents. They're finding answers to lingering questions that have haunted them for years: Where did I come from? Do I look like my parents? Do I have brothers and sisters?

Ann Sherman, a 63-year-old woman from New York, had no idea what secrets were about to be revealed when she asked to have her adoption records opened.

She remembers the day her records came in the mail.

"I cried. It was very emotional. When I got the envelope, I held it for half an hour. 'Should I open it? Am I opening a can of worms? Am I opening Pandora's box?'" Sherman said.

The clues in Sherman's adoption file helped private investigator Norma Tillman find Sherman's birth family. They're from the Chattanooga area.

"Ann was the oldest of 10 children by different fathers, and each of the 10 was given up for adoption, except the last one. She kept the 10th child," Tillman said.

The unsealed records show Sherman's adoptive parents in New York were misled. They were told Sherman's parents were high school graduates in their 20s of Jewish heritage. They weren't. They were Baptists, first cousins and 16 years old.

Misleading adoptive parents was a common scam by the Tennessee Children's Home Society. The parents were often wealthy couples from New York and Hollywood.

"It was reported that the babies were $5,000 and up. So these people paid for these children. And that's why they called it a baby-selling racket," Tillman said.

The woman who ran the Tennessee Children's Home in Memphis was Georgia Tann. She died while an investigation was pending. Tann's alleged accomplice was a judge who removed children from their homes and placed them with Tann, according to published reports from the time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dr. Changfu Chang, Brian Stuy, Kay Johnson, and little ol' me

In the post Dr. Changfu Chang, Adoption, Trafficking, Corruption, Record-Keeping, Identity, I summarized the remarks of Dr. Chang, documentary filmmaker, after a showing of two of his films at a meeting arranged by my local FCC chapter.  Here's my account of what Dr. Chang shared about trafficking in China:
He said that some (unidentified) people were claiming that as many as 30% of the children in international adoption were trafficked. However, he could assure us that that was not true and that we simply should "stop worrying about it." Only a miniscule number have been trafficked, he claimed. He specifically mentioned the LA Times article about family planning authorities stealing children and the earlier Hunan scandal where a family was convicted on trafficking charges, but did not directly address whether those well-known episodes were part of that very small number he concedes or whether those stories are simply not true.

Dr. Chang did not define trafficking or adoption corruption. He did say that what we in the West might think of as corruption would not necessarily be thought of as corruption in China. He was very concerned that we in the West were making moral judgments about trafficking and corruption without considering the context of Chinese culture.

I did not find his denial of wide-spread trafficking credible because he offered no evidence. I also can't credit that 30% figure since he did not say who claimed 30% of children were trafficked, much less offer evidence in support of it. I felt I knew as much (and as little) about adoption corruption and trafficking in China after his talk as I knew before it. It was pretty much a wash.
Brian Stuy responded at his blog, taking issue with Dr. Chang's assessment of the state of corruption in Chinese adoption, concluding:
 If you define "corruption" in terms of international law, Dr. Chang's statement that "some (unidentified) people were claiming that as many as 30% of the children in international adoption were trafficked", and that it "was not true and that we simply should 'stop worrying about it'" is either gross ignorance, a misunderstanding of the term, or a lie to save face.  There is no other option.
Brian has now posted in the comments the gist of an email from Dr. Kay Johnson, author of Wanting a Daughter, Needing a Son, who is familiar with Dr. Chang and his work.  She says:

I think the main problem here may be the definition of terms. The Chinese term for "trafficking" often includes a word that means abduction (guaimai). US Adoptive parents also sometimes assume that the term "trafficking" means kidnapping or abduction. The way you use trafficking when you refer to finder's fees as "trafficking" is probably closer to the Chinese term fanzi or fanying, which means a dealer or hawker of children, a term that does not indicate how the children were obtained.

So I guess that when Changfu says "this is rare" he may be thinking "guaimai" and he assumes perhaps his audience is asking him about the frequency of kidnapped children being sent into international adoption. Is this really 30% as they have heard? I don't think any of us are prepared to estimate such a high figure for kidnapped children in IA, even if one includes birth planning seizures of birth children. Including seizures of domestically adopted children would increase the percentage considerably but still not to 30% over the last 15-20 years.
Another commenter at Brian's blog said that she had talked to Dr. Chang and that he claimed to have been "terribly misquoted" (I have not heard directly from Dr. Chang about any problems he has with my account.) As I stated at Brian's blog, I stand by what I reported as to what Dr. Chang said. 

I also noted in my post that Dr. Chang did not define adoption trafficking or corruption, which made it difficult to understand what was being described as "30% of the children in international adoption were trafficked," or "[o]nly a miniscule number have been trafficked" or even precisely what it was that we, as adoptive parents, should "stop worrying" about.  Dr. Johnson seems to confirm that that might have been the basis of a miscommunication between Dr. Chang and his audience.

So there you have it, for what it's worth.

No happiness in happiness

Time reports on a research study finding that Asians don't find happiness in happiness:
In a new paper in the journal Emotion, a team of psychologists at the University of Washington finds that not everyone sees positive emotions such as joviality and self-assurance as unequivocally good. Depending on your ethnic background, you may find such emotions suspicious and even dangerous.

The UW team, led by psychologist Janxin Leu, surveyed more than 600 students from three groups: European-Americans, Asian-American U.S. citizens, and Asian immigrants to the U.S.

* * *

Beginning with the provocative hypothesis that Asians may tend to “find the bad in the good,” the psychologists compared 330 European Americans with 147 Asian Americans, all of them born in the U.S., and 156 Asians who had immigrated to the U.S.

The researchers asked participants to rate their levels of stress and depression, including how often they were in sad moods, felt worthless or had changes in sleep or appetite. The participants were also asked to rate the intensity of the positive emotions they felt.

The study found that having positive emotions — “happy,” “joyful,” “proud,” “strong” — tended to reduce stress and depression symptoms among European Americans but not immigrant Asians. The results for U.S.-born Asian Americans were mixed.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Asians Seek Surgery to Look 'Western'

A story at CNN about Asians seeking surgery to have more "western" features, including a 12-year-old Korean girl who has her Korean mother's permission.  Reminds me of the adoptive father who subjected his Asian daughter to such surgery:
The speaker was a proud father. To illustrate his comments about a piece of art that celebrated the wonders of modern medicine (and which he had just donated to a local hospital), he told a story about his adopted Asian daughter. He described her as a beautiful, happy child in whom he took much delight. Her life, he told the audience, had been improved dramatically by the miracle of modern medicine. When she joined her new Caucasian family, her eyes, like those of many people of Asian descent, lacked a fold in the upper eyelid, and that lack was problematic—in his view—because it made her eyes small and sleepy and caused them to shut completely when she smiled. A plastic surgeon himself, he knew she did not need to endure this hardship, so he arranged for her to have surgery to reshape her eyes. The procedure, he explained, was minimally invasive and maximally effective. His beautiful daughter now has big round eyes that stay open and shine even when she smiles.
I said in that post, "Yes, as the article notes, some Asian parents have this surgery performed on their Asian children, but the meaning is completely different when a white parent has his daughter's Asian eyes 'fixed.'"  Several commenters disagreed with that assessment, but I stand by it.  I don't think it's a good thing for Asian parents to do to their children, but when a white adoptive parent does that it is a more profound rejection of the child's race/ethnicity/identity.

Evangelicals Push For Adoptions in Children's Home Countries

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal, a new variety of the Christian adoption movement:
Cristi Slate, whose biological parents adopted eight children from Russia, might seem to be a natural spokeswoman for the burgeoning emphasis on adoption among evangelical Christians.

And she is — but not just in the familiar sense of Americans bringing home adopted children from overseas.

She's also promoting a program to support adoptions of Russian and other orphans by families within their home countries.

"Americans coming in and putting in their programs is not the best thing," she said last week during a national conference, the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit, that drew about 1,500 people at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville. It often leaves "nationals feeling disrespected," said Slate, grants manager for Doorways to Hope, which has supported such things as repairs and expansions to adoptive families' homes in Ukraine.

She wasn’t alone. At the same conference workshop, others spoke up from countries as diverse as Ukraine and Uganda about efforts to recruit adoptive parents.
I find this an encouraging development.

"Where babies come from" for an adopted child

In the New Haven Review, an account of talking about birth, babies and adoption:
There’s a baby in Emily Brownlow’s tummy. Emily Brownlow babysits for my daughter Saskia most Friday mornings so we’ve been watching her belly rise like dough in a bowl and talking about the baby inside.

The timing’s good for us—to see this belly rise, and mull that whole “where babies come from” question. Saskia turns three in about a month, around the time Emily Brownlow’s baby will be born. The timing’s good for us not because Saskia’s going to have a baby brother or sister—we are not, Saskia’s the fourth, our eldest is fifteen and we are done with babies—but because Saskia is adopted and Emily Brownlow’s belly provides an opportunity to talk about birth and babies—and adoption.
What do you think?

"Don't be choosy" when adopting

Icky headline, interesting story in the Malay Mail about Malaysians adopting:
Prospective adoptive parents, selective when adopting a child, have drawn mixed reactions from social groups.

Non-governmental organisations say this mindset, however, needs to change, but acknowledged it is the right of a parent to chose only the best child for adoption.

Pusat Akitiviti Kanak-Kanak Chow Kit's centre manager Ananti Rajasingam felt parents should not be choosy and should change their thinking on the criteria set on baby adoption.

"Babies should not be judged on physical appearance and adoptive parents need awareness on this issue. Please don't be too choosy. All abandoned babies deserve to be adopted."

Ananti felt it might prove disastrous later on in the child's life when he or she learns their selection was based purely on physical traits.

"All I am saying is that babies are created equal. Just accept them. Babies need love not judgment. So, why discriminate? If the child finds out later that he or she was selected for their looks, it might hurt their feelings and jeopardise their relations with the adopted families."

However, Ananti's opinion was not shared by Noraini Hashim (pic), deputy president at the country’s first baby hatch, OrphanCare.

Noraini felt prospective adoptive parents have every right to select babies they want to adopt.

"We can't shove the baby at them and force them to take what's offered. Parents have to be happy with the baby."

* * *

On Wednesday, The Malay Mail front-paged a revelation by the Social Welfare Department on traits more desired by potential parents which, among others, including fair-skinned, curly-haired, chubby and healthy babies, preferably below the age of one.
Also from that Wednesday story:
"It has been quite a problem to cater to the criteria these possible foster parents look for in a child they wish to adopt," said the department's deputy director general (planning), Inau Edin Nom.

"After all, just how many fair-skinned babies under the age of one do we have?

"Just yesterday, a possible foster parent rejected a child we had matched to her because the child has a dark complexion. She claimed no one in her line of ancestors had dark complexion and she did not want to break the pattern."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Adult Adoption

This story reports on a special adult adoption:
At the Polk County Courthouse on Thursday, Denise White and Willie Fulmer of Des Moines officially adopted Ruth Bethards of Osceola.

It was a long time coming. Some would say decades.

Whatever, the highlight of the proceedings might have come at the end when District Judge Carla Schemmel, faithful to adoption-court tradition, jokingly asked the adoptee if she wanted to pick out a toy.

Though Bethards, 41, declined the invitation, her grandson, 1-year-old Carson Jones, came away with a new stuffed turtle.

Carson was about the only person in the tiny courtroom who wasn't crying. Schemmel, however, said crying was allowed on this day because the tear ducts were operating "for happy reasons."

White gave up her daughter, Ruth, for adoption decades ago. They were reunited a few years ago and on Thursday, White and her husband Willie Fulmer, adopted Ruth.

Though the great majority of adoptees in Iowa and beyond are children, a surprising number of adults are adopted, too.
You knew that adults could be adopted, right?  Most people see it as an estate planning tool, or as a marriage substitute for gay and lesbian couples (this aritcle from the New York Times does a good job of describing some of the benefits and some of the pitfalls).  States go both ways when it comes to adult adoption for lovers -- some allow it and others don't.  I tend to caution against the use of adult adoption in this way, since it is extremely hard to undo an adult adoption if the relationship ends.  Marriage has divorce, but a parent-even adult child relationship doesn't.

But the most common reason for adult adoption is usually emotional -- making legal an already-existing emotional parent-child relationship or cementing a biological relationship not recognized in law.  For example, a man might not know he fathered a child and does not discover that fact until the child is an adult.  He might want to adopt that adult child.  And, yes, a birth mother who relinquished a child for adoption and that now-adult child might want to create a legal parent-child relationship after reunion. Check out Cassi's happy announcement when she adopted the son she had lost to adoption. It's sufficiently common that LegalZoom actually uses it as an example in its adult adoption section:
Maybe you finally found that son you've always wanted, but he just so happens to be 35. Or maybe you were reunited with your birth mother and want to make her your official, legal mom. But adoption is just for babies and little kids, right? Who has a brand new daughter that's over 21? Regardless of what you think, it is both legal and possible to adopt yourself a healthy, bouncing grownup. In many cases, your new, adult family member must simply be a legal adult and voluntarily agree to the adoption.
Another fairly common pattern of adult adoption is when foster parents adopt a now-adult foster child.  And even without foster care, an older couple might decide to adopt an adult.  I love this story:
The two older men, partners of 20 years, long considered adoption. However, they never considered adopting a grown man. Likewise, Sampsen stopped thinking about having a forever family.

While completing an adoption training program in the summer of 2008, Hauck and Ferraro listened to teens and young adults share their stories. The young people talked about how a permanent home gave them the support and confidence to succeed. Suddenly, they knew who they wanted for their son.

"He needed us. He needed a family," Ferraro says.

Hauck and Ferraro asked the young man to be their son on Sept. 12, 2008. It took him a few days to think it over and he ended up telling them he was tired of spending Christmas and birthdays alone. He realized, even as an adult, he still needs people close by to provide him advice -- and compassion.

"You never outgrow the need for a family," Ferraro says.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Memo to Arnold from Michael Reagan, Adoptee

Michael Reagan, son of Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman, describes how he felt when he learned he was adopted and "illegitimate:"
My adoptive parents told me I was "chosen," but the kids at school told me I was a "bastard."

The recent headlines about Arnold Schwarzenegger's infidelities and the son he fathered out of wedlock have stirred many old memories and emotions.

I was four years old when I learned I was adopted. It was just before my sister Maureen's eighth birthday. I told her, "I know what you're getting for your birthday."

"Don't spoil the secret," she said. "If you tell me, I'm going to tell you a secret!"

Well, that was the wrong thing to say! I had to know what she was keeping from me! I said, "You're getting a blue dress for your birthday."

Maureen said, "And you were adopted."

I ran off to find our mother, Jane Wyman, in the den. I asked her, "What does 'adopted' mean?"

Mom's eyes flashed dangerously. "Where did you hear that word?" she asked.

After Mom finished dealing with Maureen, she sat me down and explained adoption to me. "You are a chosen child," she said, "and that makes you special. We love you very much."

I could tell that being "chosen" was a good thing. But I also realized for the first time that Mom wasn't my "real" mother—that I had another mother who had mysteriously given me away.

One day, when I was in the second grade, I got into a playground argument with another boy. We took turns one-upping each other. "I'm better than you," I said. "I'm special 'cause I was chosen! I was adopted!"

The other boy didn't know how to answer that, but the next day he came back to school and laughed at me. "My parents told me what 'adopted' means," he said. "You're not special—you're a bastard! Your real mother wasn't married, so she gave you away—bastard!"

That's when I realized there was something horribly wrong with me. I never again bragged about being "chosen," and I never again felt "special." But I did feel marked.
He makes the EXCELLENT point that there are no illegitimate children, just illegitimate parents.  Arnold's child isn't the bastard, Arnold is.

P.S. I wanted to add a link to my post about Zoe's encounter (less traumatic than Mr. Reagan's) with THAT WORD: Is "Bastard" a Bad Word?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Nepal: Left in Limbo

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.
From PBS.

"Family planning still needed"

That's the conclusion of a population researcher, as reported by China Daily:
Though some have argued it is time for the government to relax its family planning policy to offset the country's aging population, an expert in Shanghai said her research reveals that it is still too early to encourage people to have more than one child.

"The average age of females giving birth to a second child is getting older and the first generation of the only children born in the 1980s haven't reached their child-bearing peak yet," said Zhang Liang, secretary-general of the Family Research Center with the Shanghai Academy of Social Science.

There is still a strong desire to have a second child, so it is too early to relax the policy in case of a possible boom in birthrate, Zhang suggested.

The national policy, which restricts most urban couples to just one child, has reduced the average number of children a woman is expected to have in her lifetime from six babies to two since it was introduced in late 1970s, according to official figures.

But the latest research report by Zhang published on Sunday reveals the portion of women of child-bearing age who have a second child had risen from 26.1 percent in 2000 to 29.3 percent in 2009.
It seems that this article is intended as a response to those arguing that the one child policy is no longer needed since Chinese parents are making their own decisions to restrict family size even when the policy would allow them to have more children.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Video Game Forces Father to Face His Own Failings as an Adoptive Parent

From a TV station in North Carolina:
Controversy has erupted after a local father contacted WBTV and told us he was offended by a popular video game that appeared to make fun of adopted children.

The character in Portal 2, is taunted for being adopted: "Alright, fatty. Adopted fatty. Fatty, fatty no parents."

Neal Stapel was playing the game with his 10 year old daughter, when he heard the comments. While he acknowledges it won't be a big deal to most, it is to their family.

"If you're not an adoptive parent it's probably not that big a deal to you," he said. "It's a fantastic game. It's a great game. It's just that one little blurb in there ."

Stapel and his wife adopted their daughter from China and say they've never hidden the fact their child is adopted, they say they wanted to wait until she was ready to talk about it.
Excuse me?  Your daughter is 10 and you're waiting to talk to her about her adoption?!  Waiting for WHAT exactly?! For the world to end on May 21st so you never have to talk to her about it?!  Who knows, maybe that strategy will work for you, Mr. Stapel. 

For the rest of us, let's review:  If you wait for your child to ask questions about her adoption, your silence is telling her that she isn't allowed to ask those questions.  Your silence has already answered her question, telling her there is something taboo about the subject of her adoption. So stop tip-toeing around the issue; that lousy video game has given you a wonderful opportunity for adoption talk!  Consider the 9th Commandment from the Ten Commandments of Telling:
IX. Initiate conversation about adoption.

Waiting until kids ask questions isn't adequate. Look for opportunities to raise the issue of adoption:

1. Watch movies/programs with adoption themes with your child and draw parallels and contrasts to your child's story; use as a springboard to further discussion;

2. Use key times of the year (birthday, Mother's Day, gotcha day, adoption day) to let your child know that you are thinking about their birth family;

3. Comment on your child's positive characteristics and wonder aloud whether they got that characteristic from birth family members;

4. Include the birth family when congratulating your child for accomplishments -- "I'm sure they would be as proud as we are."
So grab the opportunity when it presents itself -- tell your daughter why that video game's treatment of adoption upset you; let her know what you think about adoption.  Don't worry about planting ideas in her head -- research tells us they're already there.  But remember, you haven't talked to her about adoption unless you talk about her birth mother

Video game that makes fun of adopted people:  bad
Parent who hasn't talked to his 10-year-old about her adoption:  worse

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why Adoption Scandal Story Gained Traction in China

At MSNBC's Behind the Wall China blog, they explore the reporting about the confiscation of babies by family planning authorities in Gaoping; interesting information about how the story spread inside China and might answer some who think the whole thing was made up:
Yang's story has the hallmarks of a great tragedy, embodying many controversial issues that touch a raw nerve in China: local corruption, brutal enforcement of the one-child policy, the policy itself, child trafficking, and poverty.

And yet, despite stories by local journalists and a long feature printed in the Los Angeles Times two years ago, his story never seemed to catch on.

Then last week, the highly respected independent Chinese weekly news magazine, Caixin Century, ran a 15,000-word investigative report that featured Yang and several other families in Gaoping whose children suffered the same fate.

This time, the tale of baby-trafficking by corrupt family planning officials electrified China's media. Even the state-run newspapers covered the story, some reporting that an official investigation was underway.

Within a day of publication, teams of local and foreign journalists (including NBC News) began tramping into the lush, terraced hills of Longhui County, perhaps the poorest area in all in Hunan – which is already one of China's more impoverished provinces.

So why did the story suddenly capture the media's attention now?

An obvious reason is that Caixin has a sterling reputation for its investigative journalism. Furthermore, the report was richly detailed and well-researched, the product of four years' long work.

"A few years ago, the story was told very simply," said Shangguan Jiaoming, the Caixin reporter behind the Hunan story. "My report includes a lot of detail and analysis."

Moreover, Caixin is homegrown, i.e., its reporting is done by Chinese in Chinese.

"It really shows that however much foreign correspondents report on China, unless a story gets picked up by domestic media here, there isn’t much...we can do to improve the lives of people here that we interview,” said Melissa Chan, the Beijing correspondent for al-Jazeera English. (Just as it does in the Middle East, al-Jazeera has a reputation in China for moving quickly and aggressively to cover politically sensitive stories. Chan's report can be seen here.)

Another reason is the growing popularity of microblogs like Sina.com's Weibo or Twitter. Although the latter is blocked in China, it can be accessed via virtual private networks (VPNs) that bypass the firewall – a tool widely used by the same crop of intellectual and professional Chinese elites who comprise Caixin's readership.

Through microblogs, news of the Caixin report spread like wildfire. As with many stories of this nature, anything that survives Internet censors for even a few hours can gain traction and reach readers across the country.

But there's another reason – one which might seem a bit surprising given the repressive trend of cracking down on dissidents, activists, and media (especially foreign) in China during recent months: good old-fashioned market competition.
 Though there are no new details about the underlying scandal, I found the reporting about the reporting fascinating (maybe because the only career other than lawyer/law professor I could ever imagine for myself is journalist?!).

Is Adoption "Green?"

In terms of population control, the environment and sustainability, is adoption the answer? Interesting topic tackled at ScienceBlogs' Casaubon's Book:
We know that in China, with its one-child policy, international adoption actually facilitates having *more* children than if the parents adhered to the policy - abandonment of a child permits a family to go on and try for another child, usually a son or a non-disabled child. In other countries, it is not clear whether parents who give their children up for adoption go on to have as many children as their peers, but there's no evidence that they do not - and a parent who is unable to support or feed or care for a child is unlikely to have access to good medical care and birth control as well. Again, the data is extremely unclear, but it seems doubtful that adoption makes a significance in the US or global population - what it appears to do is mostly shift childbearing from one family to another - that is, birthmothers go on to have at least as many children as before, sometimes more, and then some children are shifted around into other families.

Moreover, in the case of international adoption, there are compelling reasons to believe that the environmental benefits of international adoption are actually negative (note, I am *not* saying that international adoption should not happen or is immoral, just that it isn't environmentally beneficial - there are other moral arguments that apply here.) International adoption is environmentally consequential - it involves long plane flights, often several, as many nations require multiple visits before you can take a child home. Moreover, as all of us know population is never considered alone - numbers are multiplied by impact. Taking the poorest children in the world, who consume the least (often far too little for them to live very long) to affluent western homes is not a way to reduce overall environmental impact. Again, this is not an argument against removing children from terrible poverty and institutionalization, but it does not make a positive environmental difference - adoption actually increases the environmental impact of these children, and undermines any difference in the I=PAT equation. So adoption as it exists now does not seem to be a solution to any population problem.

* * *

But what about the adoptive parent end of this? Doesn't this at least reduce the number of biological children that they would have? The answer is yes, but only slightly. Infertile and gay and lesbian couples are more than 10 times as likely to adopt as fertile straight couples - even when there were still fertility treatments available to them to try. And were adoption to be made a more widespread, accessible option for many people, it might well be the case that some parents would choose adoption over fertility treatments (or might not have access to as many energy intensive fertility treatments), or that more fertile couples might choose adoption instead of reproduction or for a second child, reducing the overall birthrate in developed nations.

There are some problems with this vision as well - most first time parents prefer the proverbial healthy white infant, a population that has been shrinking for decades.

* * *

If adoption is to be seriously considered as a large scale way of reducing the number of biological children, we must be prepared to rethink our vision of "having a family." How many families are comfortable taking on a sexually abused, epileptic 10 year old and her two siblings? A gay teenager? An AIDS orphan with stunted growth and PTSD?
What do you think?  Did any of you consider environmental/over-population/sustainability issues in deciding to adopt?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rooted in Motherhood

At Hyphen mag, a wonderful post about post-birth traditions in Asia:
While post-birth care for mothers is not mainstream practice in Western medicine, many Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin, indigenous and other cultures view the month or so following birth as a sacred and crucial time for new moms to recover. Traditions vary by ethnicity, region and religion, but there are common themes: female-oriented, family-centric support networks; a focus on fortifying the new mother’s health; and rites of passage and celebrations marking new beginnings. Many Asian American women abide by or adapt traditions out of respect for the older generation, and some second-generation Asian American women are following the traditions even more closely than their foremothers.

* * *

But many Asian post-birth traditions adhere to the belief that a mother’s health is intimately connected to that of her newborn. For thousands of years, Asian and Pacific Islander families have viewed the initial month after birth as a vital period of growth and recovery for both, requiring the pair to be shielded from the “hostile” world. Therefore, new mothers are typically pampered by their own mothers and relatives — in short, the mothers get mothered.

New mothers also abide by restrictions such as not bathing or washing their hair, eating only warm, low-sodium foods and staying homebound for the month. Often, visitors are not allowed. Also off limits: television, reading, computers and anything that may strain the eyes.
I often wonder what it was like for my children's birth mothers during the first month after birth. Did they get pampered and mothered? Or were post-birth traditions ignored so as to hide the births?

Dr. Changfu Chang, Adoption, Trafficking, Corruption, Record-Keeping, Identity

In response to the post of a video reporting on confiscation of children by birth planning authorities in China, a reader commented:
Just saw Dr. Chang Fu Chang this wekend and he strongly argues that this is not happening in China.
As I've mentioned before, I attended a session with Dr. Changfu Chang, documentary filmmaker, earlier this month.  He said something similar in his meeting with us.  He didn't say adoption corruption didn't happen, but he did say it was extremely rare.

He told us that he was an expert on what was going on in China today.  In fact, he said, he knows more about current events in China than anyone else outside of China.  Furthermore, he said, he's been working on video stories about China adoption for decades, so he is also an expert on China adoption. He also told us he's a very modest person!

He said that some (unidentified) people were claiming that as many as 30% of the children in international adoption were trafficked.  However, he could assure us that that was not true and that we simply should "stop worrying about it."  Only a miniscule number have been trafficked, he claimed.  He specifically mentioned the LA Times article about family planning authorities stealing children and the earlier Hunan scandal where a family was convicted on trafficking charges, but did not directly address whether those well-known episodes were part of that very small number he concedes or whether those stories are simply not true.

Dr. Chang did not define trafficking or adoption corruption.  He did say that what we in the West might think of as corruption would not necessarily be thought of as corruption in China.  He was very concerned that we in the West were making moral judgments about trafficking and corruption without considering the context of Chinese culture.

I did not find his denial of wide-spread trafficking credible because he offered no evidence.  I also can't credit that 30% figure since he did not say who claimed 30% of children were trafficked, much less offer evidence in support of it. I felt I knew as much (and as little) about adoption corruption and trafficking in China after his talk as I knew before it.  It was pretty much a wash.

I asked him whether, separate and apart from issues of corruption and trafficking, the records adoptive parents received about their children were accurate.  He said they probably were not accurate.  In China, he said, falsifying documents is not considered a big deal.  He reminded us of the falsified birth certificates of all the under-age gymnasts competing for China in the Olympics.  And he shared an anecdote from his own life; at one time, admission to college in China was based solely on your score on the national test.  He was graduating high school the year the universities started to consider school grades as well as test results.  He said the principal of the school came into his classroom and said that now that grades were also going to be considered, the school was going to change the students' transcripts to show they got all As.  Ends justify the means.

He also said that orphanage directors wouldn't see it as important to record accurate information about where the child actually came from, what their actual birth date was.  Identity, he said, is a Western concept, so Chinese people don't understand how Westerners feel about needing to know their history or background or genetic code.  He discussed the whole Tiger mom thing, and said what was very Chinese about her is that she insisted her children could succeed in music through hard work;  she wasn't looking for an inherent musical talent handed down from biological relatives that needed to be nurtured.  Chinese people won't ask, "Where did my talent come from?" Since orphanage directors don't understand the important of identity, they wouldn't see it as important to record information accurately.  They would falsify documents simply to make it easier for the child to be adopted.  Ends justify the means.

I asked specifically about the red note the orphanage director gave me and claimed to have found with Zoe.  He said these red notes are like fortune cookies, not really Chinese.  There is no tradition in China of abandoning a baby with a red note.  He said if you asked 100 people in China about abandoned babies and red notes, they'd think you were crazy. He's quite sure the orphanages are manufacturing the red notes because they know how much adoptive parents like to have them.  There's nothing malicious in it, they simply want adoptive parents to be happy with their adoption experience.  Ends justify means.

Not surprisingly, the audience at Dr. Chang's talk was pretty morose after all of this.  He was quite anxious that we be happy (very Chinese of him!), and reiterated several times that we shouldn't worry about corruption in China adoption or about falsified records.  Everything done in China was with the best of intentions.  There was nothing "fishy" going on.

Can't say that made me feel any better. How 'bout you?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Korea: Adoption Ad Stirs Controversy

From the Wall Street Journal Korea RealTime blog:
One of the hot topics online in South Korea today, the sixth Adoption Day, was a soon-to-be-aired baby commercial by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

The issue surfaced late last month when the ministry said it planned to air the commercial, the first of its kind, featuring babies who are waiting to be adopted. The ad is part of its campaign to “find homes to those on the waiting list for adoption,”1,800 in total, and to “accelerate the adoption process.” The one-minute-long clip shows the potential adoptee and basic information including physical characteristics and contact number.

Though it may be well-intentioned, the commercial triggered concerns about privacy and whether it will effectively promote domestic adoption.

In an apparent effort to dispel privacy worries, the ministry said it reviewed potential legal issues and it emphasized that the strategy has been used in the U.S. and U.K. and proved effective in encouraging adoption.

But many remain doubtful.

“In Korean society where open adoption is not common, we remain very skeptical how [the commercial] can have a positive effect in promoting domestic adoption,” an opposition Progressive Party said in a statement.

The statement also noted the urgent need to improve “welfare policies for single parents who shoulder the burden of child-rearing in a challenging situation,” and emphasized “reducing the number of adoptees takes priority over adoption promotion.”

Kung Fu Panda versus Kung Fu Panda 2

It's been interesting watching adoptive parents react to the fact that Kung Fu Panda 2 has "adoption themes." The first movie also had adoption themes -- how else to explain that the panda's dad is a goose?!  Adoptive parents generally found it charming, a trans-species adoption full of love but never mentioned as adoption!

But this sequel?  Are adoptive parents equally excited by the "adoption themes?"  Not so much (be sure to read the comments). Even Angelina Jolie was nervous about her adopted kids seeing the movie!

So what's the difference?  I can't help but notice WHAT the adoption theme is in Kung Fu Panda 2 -- it's about birth family, search and reunion. What?!  Po is one of those "angry adoptees" who wants to learn about his roots?! Quelle horreur!! 

This isn't like Orphan or Despicable Me, where the adoption themes are negative or inaccurate.  We're talking about a natural and normal part of an adoptee's journey.  As Dr.Brodzinsky says in
Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self: 
We are often asked, "What percent of adoptees search for their birth parents?" And our answer surprises people: "One hundred percent." In our experience, all adoptees engage in a search process. It may not be a literal search, but it is a meaningful search nonetheless. It begins when the child first asks, "Why did it

happen?" "Who are they?" "Where are they now?" These questions may be asked out loud, or they may constitute a more private form of searching -- questions that are examined only in the solitute of self-reflection. This universal search begins during the early school years, prompted by the child's growing awareness of adoption issues.

"This universal search. . . ." Completely natural.  Po has to be situated among the 100% of adoptees who search in some way. Why do some adoptive parents have a hard time dealing with this?

Of course, the question is still out whether Kung Fu Panda 2 will do a good job of handling these issues.  But the fact that they are handling the issues shouldn't generate this reaction from adoptive parents. Sure, it's good to be prepared for adoption themes before seeing a movie with your kids, but even as RQ advises, you need to check your own issues about adoption at the theater door.

Video Report of China Child Confiscations

From Aljazeera

My daddy's name is adoption

From BioNews:
On November 2, 2010, Elizabeth Marquardt testified before the Australian Senate. Her remarks included this statement: 'But I also want to make clear that - even with openness - the problems [allegations that donor-conceived children are more prone to social and legal trouble] do not completely go away. There seems to be something else about knowing that the person who raised you also deliberately denied you your other parent before you were even born'.

To those who know about donor conception, the words 'deliberately denied you your other parent' are striking. They seem to allege a wrong. This is no accident of wording, but a foreshadowing of Marquardt's agenda of condemning all donor conception on the grounds that it denies the child access to his or her biological parents. This might be a respectable position, if Marquardt didn't simultaneously praise adoption, despite the end result being the same.
I'm not sure a defense of donor conception that says "adoption is just as bad" is very effective!  But the piece does raise some interesting points.  What do you think?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ballet Recital 2011

Ballet recital this weekend -- the girls were amazing, says this perfectly objective mother!  The ballet was Cinderella, and Zoe was a fairy of the season and Maya was an entertainer at the ball. Here's a mix of photos from the performance, the dress rehearsal and posed shots as the girls hammed it up. The stage pictures, in particular, aren't that great since you can't use flash.  But they still show a bit of their form and that they're concentrating hard and having a good time.  Enjoy!