Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from the two cutest '50s girls in the world!  Mimi made their skirts, and they just love them.  Zoe is sure she can wear it to school on her birthday, since she gets to be "out of uniform" that day.  I can't seem to convince her that "out of uniform" means regular clothes from this century! At least now that Halloween is over I don't have to try to talk them out of sleeping with them for fear of messing them up. . . .

Hope you and yours had a safe and happy Halloween!

Korea: Should overseas adoption continue?

That's the question asked by the Korea Herald, and they offer both pro and con arguments:
YES:Homeless kids deserve a better chance
I strongly believe that inter-country adoption, or ICA, needs to continue indefinitely in Korea because the children have a fundamental right to grow up in loving families, whether they are adopted in Korea or overseas. Every effort should be made for birth families to raise their own children, and the next priority should be given to place them in homes domestically, and the remaining children should have the chance to have their own families overseas. I also believe that the ICA needs to come to an end someday, but now is not the time as there are so many children growing up in institutions who need homes. The ICA should only be discontinued when there are no more children to be sent abroad.

* * *

NO: Single moms need support
As a Korean adoptee who has grown up in a Western country, I acknowledge that war and poverty are good reasons for international adoption. Based on my upbringing in Sweden, I find it hard to accept discrimination toward unwed mothers and the lack of a social welfare system as good reasons for why Korea still is one of the biggest providers of adoptees, especially since Korea today has one of the world’s strongest economies.
Not really plowing new ground, but good to see discussion on this important issue.

LGBT Adoption: Every Child Deserves a Family Act

From the Advocate:
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York introduced legislation Friday that would help almost half a million children in foster care find homes by ending the far-reaching discrimination against LGBT adoptive parents.

The Every Child Deserves a Family Act would eliminate state laws, policies and practices that exclude prospective adoptive and foster parents because of marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity. More than 400,000 children await homes in the nation’s foster care system, and some 100,000 are waiting to be adopted.

According to a news release from the senator’s office, “The Every Child Deserves A Family Act would prohibit an entity that receives federal assistance and is involved in adoption or foster care placements from discriminating against prospective adoptive or foster parents solely on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. Congress annually invests more than $8 billion into the child welfare system, and many of these children could be adopted by LGBT couples if the bans in local jurisdictions were removed.”

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Centralia Orphans Chime In

Remember that post a while back about the Centralia (Ohio Illinois -- thanks for the correction, commenter) High School with the mascot name of "the Orphans?"  Well, someone with lots of friends from Centralia High School posted it to facebook, and they've been commenting on the blog post.  The comments are pretty predictable, but you should check them out -- you know me, I want everyone to have their say!  I figured since the post was a couple of weeks ago, regular readers would miss the recent comments unless I mentioned it here.

The wish to deny the facts

I liked this blog post (as always, read the whole thing!) about adoptive parents' persistent denials about trafficking in adoption from a German adoptive parent's blog, Eth.i.A:
As many other adoptive parents, I was once deeply convinced, and I believed from from the bottom of my heart, that the institution of adoption is a proof for the good in people, and an act of humanity. I was also convinced that it would be helpful not only for the child himself, but for his entire community.

What I have learned throughout the roughly five years I was involved in an adoption process and the building of an adoptive family, is, that apart from all these whishes, there is a reality hard to bear:

For some, adoption is a business they make a living of. Not a frugal one, that’s for sure.

For some, adoption is a natural right of infertile adults, consequence of an entitlement to be a parent, no matter what.

For some, adoption created circumstances in their lives that are beyond imagination.

For some, adoption is a fact of life they will have to deal with throughout their lives. They see themselves as survivers.

For some, adoption simply hurts.

For some, adoption is something the Lord has told them to pursue, not only to support orphans, but to „spread the Word.“

For some, ethics in adoption is a term to ridicule – mentioning it means interfering with the Lord’s plan for each child and with the personal dedication the PAP has.

For some, ethics in adoption is a contradiction in terms; they believe there are no „good guys“ in adoption.

For some, adoption means to save lives.

For some, adoption means to create a family with life long relationships between the two families of an adoptee.

For some, adoption means to take over responsibility within their childrens’ country of heritage.

All of these very different concepts of adoption are something that one learns to see as a given variety of views.

There is one reality in the concept of adoption I have been finding hard to accept as a reality. It is that of trafficking into adoption.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pumpkin Patch!

 The girls were out of school on this chilly (well, chilly for Texas!) but beautiful Friday, so we headed to the pumpkin patch.  They had a great time with the hay ride and the hay-bale maze, and were happy to pose anywhere I put 'em!









Sensitivity to Adoption in the Classroom

On Twitter, I found this link to a blog for the Master of Arts in Teaching program at USC, with a student, who is also an adoptive parent, posting about sensitivity to adoption in the classroom:

Last week I was in a 7th grade History class doing my weekly observations for the MAT@USC program. The lesson was about matriarchal lineage in West Africa. Homework was a triple-generational family tree due the following day. Lineage has to do with tracing blood lines, explained the teacher, “but if you are adopted and don’t know your blood lines you can use the blood lines of whoever you live with.” I was taken by surprise by her comments. Sure, a literal translation of lineage is the trace of ancestral blood lines, but adopted children should be secure in their family whether they know their actual blood lines or not. Calling a student’s family “whoever you live with” is highly insensitive and completely inaccurate in the case of adoption. Adopted children may face challenges other children do not, but I am sure that to many adopted children hearing that they are the exception to the rule when it comes to a simple family tree may be disheartening. Adopted students may never have thought about their relationship with their family in those terms. I don’t think a 7th grade History teacher is the person that should point out how they are technically different from their classmates.


Hmm, I'm not sure he's identified the real issue here!  I would have hoped for more from a student getting a degree in teaching. Here's what I said in response in a comment to the post:


Actually, true sensitivity to adoption in the classroom would be to recognize that adoption is in fact different instead of pretending that it is the same as biological relationships.

What the teacher in this classroom should have done was not to pretend that adopted children don't have biological relatives in addition to adopted relatives, but to modify the assignment to allow space for BOTH families on the family tree.

There is actually quite a lot of literature about sensitivity to adoption in the classroom. Have you looked at it? Take a look at the following link to links for a starting place:

http://chinaadoptiontalk.blogs...


I kept it brief.  What else should I have said in the interest of being helpful to a budding teacher?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Reunion for Kidnapped Child

I've posted before about Carlina White, kidnapped from a New York hospital at 19 days old and raised by the alleged kidnapper. New York Magazine has a long piece about the difficulties in the reunion and Carlina's apparent feelings of split loyalty, which remind me a bit of similar issues in adoption:
Netty Nance is 24 but can seem much younger. Her hair dangles in long, wild braids over enormous gold medallion earrings. On her hand, tattooed in thick script, is her daughter’s name, Samani. “She’s my miracle baby,” Netty tells me. “If it wasn’t for me getting pregnant, this never would have come out.” She is referring to the discovery she made, one so dramatic it upended her life and the lives of the people closest to her. She’s spent much of the past year both embracing what she learned and trying to wish it away.

Seven years ago, Netty was a senior in high school living in a poor section of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and got pregnant. By the fall, she couldn’t hide it anymore, and didn’t want to. She was excited. Her cousin Brittany was pregnant, too, and now they could be mothers together. But she needed prenatal care, and to get free services from the state, she had to have a birth certificate. Her father, Robert Nance, was a sometime drug dealer who only saw Netty now and then. It was her mother, Ann Pettway, who raised and supported her. But when Netty asked her mother how to get the documents, Ann brushed her off. “She said she was going to handle it,” Netty says.

* * *

When Ann came through the door that night, she went straight upstairs to Netty’s room, sat down on the bed, and started weeping. In her whole life, Netty had never seen her mother shed a tear. “What are you crying for?” Netty asked.

“Your mom left you,” Ann Pettway told her, “and she never came back.”

It was a full seven years before Netty learned the rest of her story. Her real name was Carlina White. She had been abducted as a newborn baby, nineteen days after her birth, from Harlem Hospital and never seen again. And Ann Pettway was not only not Netty’s real mother—according to the police, she was her kidnapper.
It's an incredible story.  Be sure to read the whole thing, and let me know what you think -- is there a parallel to adoption here?

A Korean Adoptee's Plea to Parents

This article, Cultural Citizenship, Not Colorblindness,printed in the Korean Quarterly and shared at the Korean Focus website, is especially timely in light of some of the recent tone-deaf comments about race and racism in response to this post about racist Halloween costumes:
Adoptive white parents’ reluctance to talk about race is like a tumor that, if not removed, grows and becomes malignant, spreading throughout and ravaging a person’s body. The mismatch between the worldview of adoptive parents and an adoptee's realities can grow so large that it can kill family relationships like a tumor kills the host organism

* * *

Becoming a cultural citizen for your children means that as a white parent, your racial and cultural identity is different from your Korean child’s. To make up for this deficit requires some changes in behavior. For example, when your child brings up race, you need to talk about it and be honest. It also means that if your child does not bring up issues of race, you must be brave and break the ice. Parents of all minority kids need to talk about the racism that exists all around us and the fact that Asian Americans are not immune from it; it is not simply something black people endure

* * *

If you do not discuss race, power, and privilege on a consistent basis, do not believe that the “tumor” (that I discussed above) will go away by itself. Adopted Korean children will endure stereotypes and racialized identities such as “model minority,” “yellow peril,” “perpetual foreigner,” or ___ (fill in the blank). As a parent and guardian, it is your responsibility to discuss with your children that all of these pejoratives, and even the “positive stereotypes” such as model minority have two common themes: Racism and white privilege

* * *

My plea to adoptive parents and/or people who are considering adoption is to take the process seriously and to realize that you are becoming more than adoptive parents or surrogate parents. You are, or should be, becoming cultural citizens for your children. You will not be able to understand fully what your adopted children face or experience, but this is okay. The best way to persevere is to be honest with yourself and your family.

Talk about race, and talk about feelings. Speak with your adopted child frequently and reassure him/her that although you are white, you are willing to jointly learn about the Korean culture with them. Acknowledge your fallibility and avoid romanticizing the adoption process. Lastly, encourage your child to conduct a birth search if s/he feels compelled to do so. Make your child feel safe if s/he does in fact decide to search, and be willing to support him/her during the process.
Please read the whole thing, and then look again at the photos of Halloween costumes that exploit cultural and racial stereotypes.  Would you still say to your minority child that it's all just good fun?  If the answer is yes, then prepare for tumor removal later in life, and hope the relationship survives the surgery.

China: Black Market Babies

The Atlantic has a piece up on adoption corruption in China, leading off with the story of babies confiscated by birth planning authorities and sold into adoption:
This spring, the business magazine Caixin made headlines around the world when it uncovered corruption at Chinese adoption agencies involving children stolen from their families in Hunan Province and sold for steep prices in the international adoption arena. The news hit hard in the United States, which is home to about 60,000 children adopted from China, mostly girls. Adoptive parents are grappling with the news now that the myth they were once sold on -- that orphanages are overrun with abandoned Chinese girls -- has been shattered.

For years, even social scientists supported this narrative. Two decades ago, when the gender ratio first started to skew sharply toward boys, they assumed these official figures were distorted by millions of unreported newborn girls. The country's strict one-child policy, they reasoned, prompted a widespread number of parents to conceal their additional children to avoid harsh penalties. Because of an enduring preference for boys, they surmised, many parents hid their girls or simply abandoned them.

In recent years, that theory has come undone. "The more we look at the data, the more we realize the hidden children, they are not there," says Yong Cai, a sociologist at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "They have never been born or they have simply been aborted." While some do conceal their children or abandon them, sex-selective abortion and poor health care for baby girls account for most of the sex ratio disparity for very young children, which now stands at about 120 males for every 100 females, Cai says.

Here, we tell the stories of families on both sides of the adoption scandal -- an adoptive mother in the United States who discovered her daughter's adoption papers were forged and a Chinese father whose baby was taken from him. We have not used real names to protect the identity of the American woman's adopted daughter and for the Chinese parent's safety.
Even without names used, it's clear that the story of the adoptive mother in the U.S. is the same one reported here by the New York Times (again, anonymously to protect her daughter's identity); the Chinese father's story is likely the same as reported in Caixin Century magazine.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Native American Children & Foster Care

NPR is doing a three-part series on American Indian children in foster care in.  From Part I, broadcast yesterday:
The Indian Child Welfare Act mandates that, except in the rarest circumstances, Indian children must be placed with relatives, a tribal member or at the very least, another Native American. It also says the state must make every effort to first keep a family together with services and programs.

The law was passed in 1978 in response to a century-long practice of forcing Native American children into harsh and often abusive boarding schools where they lost contact with their culture, traditions, language and families.

Except now a generation of children is once again losing its connection to its culture. This time it's through state-run foster care.

In South Dakota, Native American children make up only 15 percent of the child population, yet they make up more than half the children in foster care. An NPR News investigation has found that the state is removing 700 native children every year, sometimes in questionable circumstances. According to a review of state records, it is also largely failing to place native children with their relatives or tribes.

According to state records, almost 90 percent of the kids in family foster care are in non-native homes or group care.

State officials say they're doing everything they can to keep native families together. Poverty, crime and alcoholism are all real problems on South Dakota's reservations and in the state's poorest areas. But, state records show there's another powerful force at work — money. The federal government sends the state thousands of dollars for every child it takes.
Click for Part II. (I'll add the link for Part III when available.)

More About "Cole Babies"

I've posted before about the Cole Babies -- "infants delivered by Coral Gables-based naturopathic physician Dr. Katherine Cole, who profited from falsifying birth certificates and selling babies to infertile couples up and down the Eastern Seaboard."  Here's more:
Josette Marquess, a retired Florida adoption official, has guided dozens of Cole babies through mostly fruitless state searches, and has become the state’s expert on Cole.

Marquess said working with Cole babies was “heartbreaking, because I knew there was really nothing I could do to help them.”

“In order to have a reunion, you really need a paper trail to follow and the particular nastiness of Dr. Cole was, she made sure there was no paper trail.”

Cole — known throughout the Coral Gables community as “Granny Doc” — operated an illegal abortion clinic and a legal adoption center from the mid-1930s to the late 1960s. Young pregnant girls who “got in trouble” would visit her clinic, and Cole convinced them to give their babies up for adoption, Marquess said.

Marquess said the doctor owned a number of apartment buildings within a three-block radius of her clinic. Both the pregnant girls and the adopting couples would stay there until the delivery.

Cole would assess each infertile couple individually, charging anywhere from $25 to $10,000 for a baby.

“All you needed was a wedding ring and $5,000 and you were good to go,” Marquess said. “She probably placed, at a minimum, 200 babies a year and she operated in Florida for more than 30 years — even with a little prison stint in there. That’s thousands of people who will never know their true identity.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More Adoptions From Foster Care Than Internationally? Always

The Denver Post reports that "most kids adopted by U.S. families now come from the child-welfare system" as if that's something recent:
Images of children from distant countries, from Bulgaria to China to Russia, have been the public face of adoption in America.

But that picture is overdue for an update.

Most kids adopted by U.S. families now come from the child-welfare system: about 52,340 in 2010, up from 15,000 in 1988.
Indeed. But this isn't anything new.  There have always been more foster care adoptions than international adoptions!  When those 52,340 kids were adopted from the child-welfare system in 2010, there were only 11,058 kids adopted internationally. The article notes that since 1997, "about 750,000 children have been adopted from foster care in the U.S."  In that same time period, less than a third of that number were adopted internationally.

So there's no news here.  Yes, more kids are adopted from foster care than internationally.  Yes, it's always been that way.

No Racial Drag, Please!

Title courtesy of a tweet by @disgrasian, but photo and info about the "We're a culture, not a costume" campaign courtesy of a blog post at Angry Asian Man:

I love this campaign. These posters were created by Students Teaching About Racism in Society, a student organization at Ohio University. The campaign addresses all the ridiculous "ethnic" costumes that idiotic people like to wear on Halloween, something I've had to address here for many years every time October rolls around. What a great way to create awareness around the issue.


I'm really impressed with the student group that came up with this! You can see more of their posters here. For previous posts about racist Halloween costumes, click here and here. And for musings on race-bending costumes for minority kids, click here.

Adoption & the College Application

OK, so you've decided to apply for college in Texas using the convenient Apply Texas online application, tag line "Many Schools, One Application."  How convenient! Things are going along swimmingly until you start on the scholarship application. They ask about your family -- no problem!  Unless you're adopted (I copied from the sample/preview application which is partially filled out, so ignore the information in the blanks!):

Information about your family

  1. With whom do you currently live?






  2. Marital status of the person(s) with whom you live:





  3. Biological Father's Information
    1. ORDeceased
    2. ORNot Applicable
    3. $ .00
      OR No Income
  4. Biological Mother's Information
    1. ORDeceased
    2. ORNot Applicable
    3. $ .00
      OR No Income
  5. Step Parent's Information
    1. ORDeceased
    2. ORNot Applicable
    3. $ .00
      OR No Income
  6. If you are living with someone other than a biological or step parent, please provide their information below.
    1. OR Deceased
    2. ORNot Applicable
    3. $ .00
      OR No Income
    Suddenly, we have a problem! How in the world is an adopted person supposed to fill this thing out?!

    The adoptive parent who pointed this thing out on an adoptive parent forum said wisely, "for many teen adoptees, questions about their biological parents raise lots of anxiety. Applying for college is stressful enough without insensitive and incorrect wording on the application adding to it."

    And I do think wording on school applications matters. When I applied to law school, one application asked for three character references, "preferably lawyers." I didn't know any lawyers. My family didn't know any lawyers. We didn't socialize with lawyers. I can tell you exactly how that question made me feel, because I remember it to this day: I didn't belong. I was not the kind of person who should go to law school. This particular law school didn't want me or my kind.

    And remember that I was applying to law school after applying to college -- fully an adult, older than the kids who will be filling out this undergrad application.

    So what do you think about the Texas application? Is it a problem for adopted kids?

    Black Parents Adopting White Children

    We're used to the opposite, but The Grio reports on black parents adopting white children:
    Mary Riley knows what some people have to say when they see her and her boys. But, the 68-year-old Georgia resident says simply: "I pay no mind to that."

    The stares, the occasional negative comments and the questions are a fact of life, she acknowledges, for as long as she raises them.

    Riley, 68, is black and her three sons -- Austin, Dustyn and Justyn -- are white.

    * * *

    Most transracial adoptions involve white parents adopting black children and the controversy surrounding that isn't new. However, despite this influx of transracial adoptions, the number of black families adopting outside of their race is almost unheard of -- in some opinions, rightfully so.

    The issue is thorny for different reasons. Chief among them is the argument that with a disproportionate number of black children available for adoption, there is no reason for a black person to adopt a child outside of his or her race.

    * * *

    When Riley first got the boys they were 5-, 7- and 9-years-old. Two years into her new role as a foster parent, the courts terminated parental rights of the boys' biological mother and father.

    Without a parent or guardian to claim them, the boys would be shuttled back into government care where they would join the more than 400,000 children in the foster system -- with 107,000 of them waiting for adoption.

    "I didn't always think about adopting, but when I got these boys I fell in love with them and got attached to them," she says. "I couldn't let them go, and I was afraid they were going to get separated from each other."

    Bethany Christian Services, one of the largest adoptions agencies in the country, arranged the adoption for Riley. It finalized in April 2010.

    Snarky remarks and curious reactions were not enough of a deterrent for Riley who says she would do it again in a heartbeat.

    "Sometimes people stare at us and ask questions," Riley says. "But, I accept these boys and they accept us, so I ain't worried about anybody else."
    In my travel group to China to adopt Maya, there was a hispanic couple.  Someone in the group asked me, sotto voce, "Why don't they just adopt a hispanic child?"  Hmmm, why is it strange that they are adopting outside their race and not so strange that the rest of us, the WHITE rest of us, were? The unspoken assumption was that there were plenty of hispanic children available for adoption, and that for most, including the speaker, transracial adoption is a second-best option, an option of last resort. From the child's perspective, that is often so.  But coming from a transracially adopting parent?!  Yikes!

    Monday, October 24, 2011

    Guatemalan Court Sentences Lawyer/Agency Representative in Adoption Trafficking Case

    Remember the Guatemalan court's order that recognized that a young girl was kidnapped and then illegally offered for adoption to an American family, and that the American family should return the child?  A Guatemalan court has now sentenced two women involved in the case to significant prison terms:
    A court in Guatemala has sentenced two women to 16 and 21 years in prison for trafficking a stolen baby who was given for adoption to a U.S. family.

    Special prosecutor Lorena Maldonado says the sentences handed down to a lawyer and the legal representative of an adoption agency will reinforce the birth mother’s bid to get her daughter returned from the United States.

    The Eighth Penal Tribunal sentenced lawyer Beatriz Valle Flores to 21 years in prison Monday for human trafficking, criminal association and using false documents.

    A 16-year sentence went to the legal representative of the agency, Enriqueta Noriega Cano.

    Steve Jobs: Chosen, Special

    The L.A. Times publishes excerpts from the 60 Minutes transcript of an interview with Walter Isaacson, whose Steve Jobs biography comes out today;  here are some bits about Jobs' adoption:
    WALTER ISAACSON: He was very petulant. He was very brittle. He could be very, very mean to people at times. Whether it was to a waitress in a restaurant, or to a guy who had stayed up all night coding, he could just really just go at them and say, "You're doin' this all wrong. It's horrible." And you'd say, "Why did you do that? Why weren't you nicer?" And he'd say I really want to be with people who demand perfection. And this is who I am."

    ISAACSON BELIEVES THAT MUCH OF IT CAN BE TRACED TO THE EARLIEST YEARS OF HIS LIFE, AND TO THE TO THE FACT THAT JOBS BORN OUT OF WEDLOCK, GIVEN UP BY HIS BIRTH PARENTS, AND ADOPTED BY A WORKING CLASS COUPLE FROM MOUNTAIN VIEW, FROM MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA.

    * * *

    JOBS ALWAYS KNEW HE WAS ADOPTED, BUT IT STILL HAD A PROFOUND EFFECT ON HIM. HE TOLD ISAACSON THIS STORY FROM HIS EARLY CHILDHOOD DURING ONE OF THEIR MANY TAPED INTERVIEWS:

    STEVE JOBS TAPES: I was, I remember right here on my lawn, telling Lisa McMoylar from across the street that I was adopted. And she said, “So does that mean your real parents didn't want you?” Ooooh, lightning bolts went off in my head. I remember running into the house, I think I was like crying, asking my parents. And they sat me down and they said, “No, you don't understand. We specifically picked you out.”

    WALTER ISAACSON: He said, "From then on, I realized that I was not — just abandoned. I was chosen. I was special." And I think that's the key to understanding Steve Jobs.
    Today's advice to adoptive parents is to avoid that "chosen child/you're special" meme -- children told they are "special" and that that specialness led to their being "chosen" can worry that if they aren't perfect they might be un-chosen, that if their parents discover they aren't "special" after all they'll be abandoned again.

    Some might argue that, given Jobs' obvious genius and success, telling him he was special and chosen worked wonders. But I see his striving for perfection, his "meanness," as growing out of a fear that he will be abandoned again unless he is continually "special."

    Yes, the world benefitted from Jobs' belief in his own specialness. But did Jobs?

    Sunday, October 23, 2011

    International Adoption, an "Enabling Violation"

    From the NYT's Opinionator blog,  Drucilla Cornell, adoptive mother and philosopher, examines issues in international adoption:
    On April 24, 1993, I legally adopted my daughter in Asuncion, Paraguay. I will never forget that day. I was a complete nervous wreck. Our adoption was being expedited because the first free elections in decades were to be held that spring, following the 35-year rule of the dictator Alfredo Stroessner, who was ousted in a military coup in 1989. There was much uncertainty as to whether the election would even take place, and concern that another military coup might prevent it. Tanks were in the street, and there was a sense that the country might well fall in to a civil war.

    Against this background, adopting a baby might have seemed like a small issue. But in fact, all the opposition parties agreed on one thing: they would quickly stop all adoption to the United States, and indeed, in 1995, a law was passed to suspend adoptions from Paraguay until there had been a complete overhaul of adoption procedures.

    I will never forget — having always considered myself a progressive person — the night my hotel was surrounded by demonstrators protesting against us for stealing Paraguayan children. I was staying in a hotel whose guests were exclusively United States citizens adopting Paraguayan children. I tried to comfort myself by remembering how scrupulous I had been in working with my Paraguayan lawyer to follow all the rules and procedures that were to govern adoption under the old regime. But of course, the old regime was a dictatorship, and completely corrupt. So how could we really be sure that we had not fallen into a corrupt situation, one in which the children being adopted had not been given up willingly by their families, or at the very worst stolen and trafficked?

    * * *

    As an adoptive mother, I have had to think about my own responsibilities towards an adopted child from Paraguay, who, by all signs at the time, would not have survived if I had not adopted her. The way I think of it now is that my own action was what the literary theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak has called an “enabling violation.” I enabled my daughter’s life by adopting her, but in another sense it was a violation for my daughter, who was uprooted from her home, her language and her country of birth. I may have violated the people of Paraguay by participating in an adoption process that the vast majority of Paraguayans deeply disapproved of and ultimately sought to end. I have of course tried to make sure that my daughter always knew the story, not only of her adoption, but of what I could gather of her birth mother’s decision. But I will never feel at ease until my daughter and I visit her birth mother and hear it directly from her.

    There is no easy way in which the adopted child’s imaginary domain can be facilitated, although dual citizenship seems to be a minimum guarantee to adopted children, so that they can return to their country of birth if they so desire. Ultimately, international adoption is profoundly implicated in relations of inequality that cannot be addressed on the basis of one family alone. Perhaps, then, if we at least recognize international adoption as an enabling violation, we can avoid the worst kinds of self-righteous humanitarianism, and find ourselves pointed towards a struggle for a more just world.

    Saturday, October 22, 2011

    Bringing Home (Adopted) Baby

    WebMD gives 10 essential tips for newly-adopting parents; among the good advice are two often-overlooked reminders:

    5. Prepare for a Grieving Baby.

    You are overjoyed that your new baby or child is coming home with you -- but they may not feel the same way, at least not at first.
    "Your baby or child is being separated from everything they know," Harder says. "They may be grieving and might act out in various ways, like constantly crying or not being able to sleep. Work with your adoption social worker to learn about grief and loss in adoption and be prepared for what those first days, weeks, and months might be like."

    * * *

    9. Don't Plan on Love at First Sight.

    New parents' expectations for the moment when they first meet their baby or child are often sky-high -- but the reality can just as often bring them crashing down to earth.

    "You may expect to fall in love with your child instantly, but that might not happen," Walton says. "You think it'll be this lovely picture, where you sit and nurture your child and they gaze into your eyes right away. But you may not feel that instant bond. You may like, but not love your child right away."

    Don't beat yourself up if you don't fall in love with your baby or child on sight. Parents don't always admit this, but even when you give birth to a child, sometimes you don't always feel that instant rush of love. "Relationships take work, attachment takes work, and little people take work," Walton says. "It doesn't always happen all at once. That's normal."
    These two together are not something many adoptive parents will admit to, that the usually-idealized first meeting might be less than wonderful. Check out the comments to this post, Not Always Love at First Sight, where adoptive parents describe the trauma of that first meeting between parent and child -- it should be mandatory reading for prospective adoptive parents.

    Friday, October 21, 2011

    Haitian Orphanage, Suspected of Neglect, Abuse and Child Trafficking, Finally Closed

    From an AP report at MSNBC:
    An orphanage where the director was accused by U.S. missionaries of not feeding children and selling donated goods was closed Friday in a rare crackdown by Haitian authorities.

    Police officers and child welfare officials sealed off the unpaved street in front of the Son of God orphanage and 46 children who lived there were loaded into a UNICEF bus and taken to new homes. Police also took the daughter of the orphanage's founder in for questioning.

    * * *

    The Son of God orphanage is a three-story building in Carrefour, a densely packed and dusty city along the edge of the sea to the west of downtown Port-au-Prince. The director, Maccene Hypolitte, was arrested in July on suspicion of involvement in child trafficking based on allegations presented by U.S. missionaries. Under the Haitian legal system he has been jailed pending a judicial investigation and has not been charged.

    The report compiled by a coalition of five U.S. Christian missions and the aid group Catholic Relief Services alleges that Hypolitte had offered to let a missionary take a child away to receive medical care in exchange for a payment of $1,250, a figure that was later raised to $2,000. The missionary, working with Haitian authorities, returned later with part of the payment and Hypolitte was arrested.

    His wife, Marie Andree Hypolitte, has been running the orphanage with the couple's 30-year-old daughter, and she denied any wrongdoing. She said the American missionaries have accused them of trafficking and abuse because they want to take over the business.

    * * *

    The U.S. missionaries who raised the original complaints welcomed the closure.

    Seth Barnes, executive director of one of the groups, Adventures in Missions, based in Gainesville, Georgia, said he and workers at six other organizations learned of the problems after visiting Son of God last year to check on donations of clothes and other goods and to see if the children needed any help.

    Barnes said they found that donated clothes had gone missing and donated food disappeared from storerooms even as the children appeared to be going hungry. He said some kids simply vanished without any records or adequate explanation from the staff of the orphanage.

    Barnes described conditions as "horrific" and said they began complaining to local authorities.

    "We knew as of a year ago that there was a serious problem," he said.

    Number of Gays Adopting Triples in Last Decade

    As reported in the L.A. Times:
    The number of gays and lesbians adopting children has nearly tripled in the last decade despite discriminatory rules in many states, according to an analysis of recent population trends.

    "It's a stratospheric increase. It's like going from zero to 60," said Miami attorney Elizabeth Schwartz, who has coordinated more than 100 adoptions for gay and lesbian families in the last year. "I think many really dreamed of doing this but it wasn't something they ever thought would become a reality."

    About 21,740 same-sex couples had adopted children in 2009, up from 6,477 in 2000, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. About 32,571 adopted children were living with same-sex couples in 2009, up from 8,310 in 2000. The figures are an analysis of newly released Census Bureau estimates.

    * * *

    While the number of gay couples adopting is increasing, the overall number of same-sex couples raising kids is actually declining, said Gary Gates, demographer at the Williams Institute.

    "The bulk of parenting among gay people is still people who had children at a young age with a different sex partner before they were out," Gates said.

    Thursday, October 20, 2011

    How Parenting Across Racial Lines Can Change You

    E.J. Graff blogs about being a white woman parenting an African-American child in a world where African-American college student D.J. Henry was shot by a white police officer:
    Did D.J. Henry die because he was black?

    This one haunts me. I am a white woman raising an African-American child. Less than a mile from where we live, a white cop arrested professor Henry Louis Gates for trying to get into his own house. It brings tears to my eyes to think that in just a few years, some cop might look at my tall, strong, funny young man—the kid who likes “Another One Bites the Dust” and can’t get enough math—and might see not a person but a dangerous black kid, and arrest or shoot him. Or that such a thing could happen to one of his equally unique and beloved friends, the kids who tumble in and out of my house and yard and car, the kids I stare down when they get too rambunctious on my watch and who hug or high-five or fist-bump me when I pass them on the street. Parenting my eight-year-old has changed my racial identity, even more than having other black and biracial relatives has, in ways that are hard to describe (although others have tried). I was easily outraged about racial unfairness before, but now I have a nauseating fear about how easily my boy could be harmed for no other reason than the color of his skin.
    Be sure to read the whole thing -- how middle-class privilege, which we sometimes rely on to protect our minority children, didn't help D.J. 

    Has transracial parenting changed you?

    Adoption by Gay Men & Lesbians: New Report from Donaldson Institute

    The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute announced today the publication of a new report, EXPANDING RESOURCES FOR CHILDREN III:  RESEARCH-BASED BEST PRACTICES IN ADOPTION BY GAYS AND LESBIANS:
    Despite laws in some states that impede the practice, a growing number of lesbians and gay men are adopting children in the United States – at least half of them providing families for boys and girls from foster care and 60% adopting transracially, according to the results of an extensive new survey by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

    * * *

    "We know the majority of adoption agencies readily work with gay and lesbian clients, and our research shows that most want guidance about how best to do that," said Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Adoption Institute. "Our hope and belief is that by providing greater knowledge to professionals, policy-makers and the public, the result will be more families for the children who need them."

    In addition to the statistics cited above, major (and interesting) findings in the Institute's report include:
    • About one-third of the adoptions by lesbians and gay men were "open," and the birth families' initial reactions regarding sexual orientation were very positive (73%). Interestingly, male couples more often reported having been chosen because of their sexual orientation than did lesbians, explaining that the birthmothers expressed a desire to remain the child's "only mother."
    • Over 10% of the children adopted were 6 or older – a population generally perceived as more difficult to place – and 25% were at least 3 years old. Interestingly, the household incomes of respondents were high – and more so for the male parents, $212,380 vs. $115,467, indicating (among other things) that more lesbians adopted as individuals and more gay men as couples.
    You can read the full report here.

    Adopting Out the Children of Illegal Immigrants II

    I've posted before about this case (see herehere), but here's an article that gives a nice overview of the case of Encarnacion Bail, whose child was taken and adopted after she was jailed for immigration violations:
    Tonight, in a modest brick row house in the sleepy city of Carthage, beyond the Ozark Mountains and the mines of southwest Missouri, past the poultry plants and churches along Interstate 44 and U.S. 71, down the block from the Jasper County courthouse and historic town square, a five-year-old boy is going to bed.

    Chances are the boy is unaware of the battery of lawyers debating his future. He's probably oblivious to the national immigration debates he has stirred, the newspaper headlines he has generated, the two school-district employees whose firings are directly linked to his circumstances. He very likely has no idea that the Guatemalan Embassy in Washington, D.C., is in his corner, or that a lone circuit court judge will decide his fate this winter.

    To some the boy is known as Carlos Bail; others call him Jamison Moser. The Carlos contingent contends he was unjustly taken from his mother; the Jamison gang argues that she abandoned him.
    The only new-to-me information in the article was that Laura Davenport, the school district's "Parent Educator," who tried to bully Encarnacion into relinquishing parental rights while she was in jail, and then talked smack about her in court when she wouldn't relinquish, was FIRED by the school district.  So there's one bit of justice in this f*cked-up situation. . . .

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    Domestic Adoption Issues in Nepal

    This article addresses some of the corruption issues in international adoption from Nepal, leading to a decline of international adoption, and then proposes that Nepal should work to increase domestic adoption:
    What the [Nepali government] should now consider is that if inter-country adoption is decreasing because of difficulty, an emphasis should be placed on domestic adoptions, which will be easier to handle. Nepal has a growing middle class and like any other country, there are couples aplenty that faced the burden of infertility.

    But for this, the Ministry needs first to address the social stigmas associated with adoption. As a matter of fact, biological children are preferred by Nepali couples so much so that more often than not, they’d rather live without children, or go for surrogacy and test tube babies, rather than opt for adoption.

    Apart from the social stigma associated with adoption, legal difficulty has been the other main hindrance in facilitating domestic adoption too. For instance, prospective adoptive parents are asked to furnish medical reports certifying infertility, marriage certificate, details of family property, parental income sources, copies of citizenships and a list of other documents.

    To many adoption hopefuls, it is not just a hassle but a mockery to have to register the domestic adoption case in respective District Land Revenue Offices, as though you are buying or selling a piece of land

    The complication in the procedures speaks of the government’s negligence towards domestic adoption. Amid this chaos, adoptive parents may not only lose their confidence in the system and opt for an illegal channel.
    A "mockery to have to register the domestic adoption case in respective District Land Revenue Offices, as though you are buying or selling a piece of land."  Indeed.  But this is also how adoption used to be accomplished in the U.S., through "adoption by deed."  The adoption deed was then filed in the property records. . . .

    "What are my birth parents to you?"

    This blog post raises a good point -- do we have adequate words to describe relationships in adoption?

    While eating dinner the other night, Rhubarb posed a provocative question: "What are my birth parents and birth siblings called to you?"

    We all paused to reflect upon the fact that there are no special terms coined for the birth families that help to form forever families. Just as my husband's mother is my "mother-in-law" because of her special place in my relationship, shouldn't my children's birth parents also receive a special term in relation to me? Likewise, since her sister and brother's birth family hold an important place in the heart of our youngest child, born into the family, what might she call them?
    Reactions? Have you addressed this in your family?  What names/words have you come up with?

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    Finder's Fees, Baby Hatches & Safe Havens: Incentivizing "Safe Abandonment"

    I've been thinking for a while about this comment to my blog post about Chinese orphanages buying babies:
    Seems to me this is more likened to an, albiet disgusting, "finders fee" and perhaps an ill advised way to keep babies from being left in spots they may be more vulnerable?
    I've heard this argument before, that the finder's fee incentivizes parents so that children won't be abandoned in dangerous places.  I see similarities in this argument to safe haven laws: we can protect children by incentivizing safe circumstances for their abandonment.

    There's just one problem with that -- people who abandon children are usually beyond the reach of the reason needed to be incentivized.  Or at least that's the case in the U.S., according the the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute's report on the unintended consequences of safe haven laws:
    It is clear that a lack of anonymity and a fear of prosecution (the two issues these laws focus upon) do not motivate women to leave their infants in dangerous circumstances – denial and desperation do.  [R]esearch shows that the affected population – especially teens experiencing unplanned pregnancy – are so distraught or in denial that they act in panic rather than with the thoughtfulness required to take a newborn to a designated site.

    * * *

    One of the few abandoning mothers interviewed in the press explained, “When I delivered I was scared, I was afraid, I was panicked, I was frantic – I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was not in a rational state of mind to say, `Oh, I’m going to take the baby to the hospital.’ Additionally, these women experience minimal or no physical pregnancy changes, depersonalization, dissociative hallucinations, and intermittent amnesia. Some women who commit neonaticide “later described having experienced a dissociative episode during childbirth and were “horrified to later discover what had become of their infants."
    Does that sound like a mother who is reachable by rational thought, able to make plans to "safe haven" the child? The reality is that rational women don't need safe havens, abandoning mothers are not rational and will, therefore, not use safe havens. The incentive behind safe havens -- the promise of confidentiality and lack of prosecution for abandonment -- can't work on abandoning mothers in the grips of emotional, psychological and practical difficulties.

    But maybe it is different in China, in other cultures.  Maybe abandonment is seen through more rational eyes (which kind of smacks of birth mother as exotic "Other," doesn't it?).  Well, consider this article about new "baby hatches" in Malaysia.  After extoling the virtues of the baby hatches, and discussing the plans for creating more baby hatches in Malaysia, the president of the orphan care organization behind the baby hatches says:
    [M]ost of the babies and children left at its premises were not placed in the hatch, but handed over with the proper documents by their biological mothers. Only two babies were placed inside the baby hatch.

    "Unwed mothers have been knocking on our doors to give up their babies instead of simply leaving them in the hatch and walking away."
    Interesting, women in Malaysia are not being incentivized by safe havens/baby hatches, either.  They are walking in to place their children, without needing a secret baby hatch.  Yes, there are still abandonments in Malaysia, just like there are still abandonments in the U.S. despite safe haven laws.  Sounds like Malaysia faces the same issue we do -- abandoning mothers can't be incentivized to "safe abandonments (an oxymoron if I've ever heard one!)" by baby hatches/safe havens.

    The article admits that the real solution has been an education program that lets prospective birth mothers know where to go to place a child for adoption, not a program that lets them know there's a safe, secret baby hatch as an alternative to abandonment: "The awareness programmes are important. It is because of increased awareness that unwed mothers now know where to go to if they want to put up their children for adoption."

    So  do finder's fees, safe havens, baby hatches incentivize safe abandonments?  The research, as well as anecdotal evidence, suggests not as to safe havens and baby hatches at least.

    Does money work any better?  There's certainly no evidence to show that it does.  The argument that finder's fees do incentivize "safe abandonment" have to rest on the power of money to influence behavior in this context.  And then doesn't that argument also concede the coercive power of that money in the relinquishment decision?  Where is our free and voluntary surrender of a child then?

    Which concedes that these finder's fees/incentive programs in China are not benign child protection measures, but actually coercive programs that violate the Hague Convention. That's what I argued in this previous post:  Cash, Consent and the Hague Convention.

    "Children choose their parents"

    So says new adoptive mom Denise Richards in a piece she penned for iVillage:
    The process took two years and there were many times during that I felt discouraged. But I always had faith that the right baby would find us (my daughters and me). I've always felt that children choose their parents, and Eloise found me a different way.
    So Eloise chose Richards as her parent?  So, what does that mean about her birth mother, she was just a way-station to her real choice? Or do children also un-choose their parents, so that Eloise un-chose her birth mother before choosing Richards? Is it like this adoptive parent describes, birth mothers as "pass-through bodies?"

    Years ago, when I first began the process of adopting, I spoke with some of my philosophy professors about the theme of adoption and destiny. One said that international adoption may be a new kind of conception, in which “a being may be going through whatever body they can” to arrive in the family and culture where they belong. In other words, destiny will bring them to a new kind of family not based on biology.


    Not so much different from Rosie O'Donnell's infamous explanation of adoption to her son, "you grew in the wrong tummy, but God fixed that." This cutesy children-choose-their-parents notion just doesn't work for adoption, we can see it as so offensively dismissive of birth parents and their losses, adopted persons and their losses.

    You know my opinion of the whole "meant to be" adopted/adopted by me thing (if you've forgotten, read here and here and here);  here's the reaction of a non-adoptive parent to the Denise Richards quote:
    The notion that children choose their parents is interesting to me. I’m not much of a romanticist on any subject, for instance my husband and I consider it a happy coincidence we found each other and decided to make a life together — not fate.

    It had never occurred to me that my babies were ‘meant’ to be mine. Love them as I may, I chalk up their existence to egg A and sperm B meeting up thanks to a bottle (or two) of wine. I just can’t believe we were fated to be a family.
    Well, isn't that a nice, rational response!

    The "kids choose" language also serves to mask a reality in adoption -- kids are powerless and have no choice about whether to be adopted or by whom.  I know, children generally have no choice about anything -- all the adults around them make the decisions for them.  But we don't usually pretend otherwise.  With this idea, that children choose their parents, is applied to adoption, we are indulging in fantasy land.

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    What is this -- a slam at birth fathers?

    In the New York Times, there's an op-ed by James Collins, where he claims to be Mark Zuckerberg's birth father and asks for money.  What is this?  A slam at Steve Jobs' birth father? At birth fathers more generally? A juvenile attempt at humor with no particular point?  And what exactly is funny about the stereotype of birth fathers as not interested in parenting unless there's money in it for them? Take a look and tell me what you think:
    DEAR Mark,

    I have learned from the reports surrounding the death of Steve Jobs, at much too young an age, that he was adopted and that while he knew the identity of his real dad, the two never met. This has saddened me, and I feel that I can no longer justify denying you that same opportunity.

    Mark, I have some news that will come as a shock: Edward and Karen Zuckerberg, two wonderful people, are your adoptive parents, and I, Jim Collins, am your biological father.
    I can imagine your surprise! It’s not every day that a 27-year-old learns that he was adopted, much less a 27-year-old who, according to Forbes, using the August sale of Facebook shares by Interpublic as a basis for valuation, was worth $17.5 billion as of September 2011!

    I want you to know at the outset that in no way do I wish to force a relationship on you. You already have a “father,” in the sense that he provided you shelter and basically adequate nutrition while you were growing up, if not in the sense that you are his authentic, natural child. And while it’s true that the doctors are saying that without a heart-lung-liver transplant I have only a few months to live, I would never want to ask you for anything. I am here, that’s all I want you to know. But — just to say — if you were of a mind to help, making the check out to “Cash” would probably save us hassle on both ends.
    So, I confess, I just don't get the point. Can someone explain it to me?

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    "The Orphans" as a Team Name? Really?!

    Did you know that Centralia (Illinois) High School's mascot/team name is the Orphans?  Oh, and the girls' teams are the Orphan Annies? (Yes, the picture above comes from an Orphans game. With the kids holding the signs, it looks like it could have come from some adopt-an-orphan rally, doesn't it?)

    Says Wikipedia:
    The Orphans got their unique nickname during the early 1900s, when the boys basketball team made it to the state tournament. The school was low on funds at the time, and the team was forced to pick its uniforms from a pile of non-matching red uniforms. The team made it to the state tournament, where an announcer commented that the team looked like a bunch of orphans on the court. The name stuck.
    So what do you think?  Where does this one rank among offensive sports teams' names (assuming it makes the list at all)?  Consider this article, The Dark Side Of Sports Symbols - racism and sexism of names, symbols, gestures, and mascots:
    A school's nickname is much more than a tag or a label. It conveys, symbolically, the characteristics and attributes that define the institution. In an important way, the symbols represent the institution's self-concept. Schools may have names that signify their ethnic heritage (e.g., the Bethany College Swedes), state history (University of Oklahoma Sooners), religion (Oklahoma Baptist College Prophets), or founder (Whittier College Poets). Most, though, utilize symbols of aggression and ferocity for their athletic teams--birds such as hawks, animals such as bulldogs, human categories such as pirates, and even the otherworldly such as devils.

    Although school names and other symbols evoke strong emotions of solidarity among followers, there is also a potential dark side to their use. The names, mascots, logos, and flags chosen may be derogatory to some group. The symbols may dismiss, differentiate, demean, and trivialize marginalized groups such as African-Americans, Native Americans, and women. Thus, they serve to maintain the dominant status of powerful groups and subordinate those categorized as "others." That may not have been the intent of those who decided on the names and mascots for a particular school, but their use diminishes these "others," retaining the racial and gender inequities found in the larger society. School symbols as used in sports, then, have power not only to maintain in-group solidarity, but to separate the in-group from the out-group and perpetuate the hierarchy between them.
    Reactions? Sure, I can make a "positive" argument for the name, a kind of "we're all orphans" argument.  (I'm a lawyer, I can make a pretty good argument for just about anything!)  But given the origin of the name and the Little Orphan Annie (how about a two-fer there, sexist and offensive to adoptees?) reference, the stronger argument is that the name reinforces all kinds of stereotypes about poor, helpless, unwanted orphans that perpetuate the whole "be grateful" meme that adoptees suffer under. 

    No, it's not the most serious offense against adoptees I've ever seen, but does it have to be before we remark upon it?  Again, consider this argument from the article about racist and sexist team names:
    Many see the naming issue as trivial. It is not trivial, though, to the group being demeaned, degraded, and trivialized. Some progressives argue that there are more important issues to address than changing racist or sexist names of athletic teams. This illustrates the contradiction that the naming of teams is at once trivial and important. For African-Americans, whether the University of Mississippi fans sing "Dixie" and wave the Confederate flag is not as important as ending discrimination and obtaining good jobs. Similarly, for Native Americans, the derogatory use of their heritage surrounding athletic contests is relatively unimportant compared to raising their standard of living. For women, the sexist naming of athletic teams is not as significant as pay equity, breaking the "glass ceiling," or achieving equity with men in athletic departments in resources, scholarships, and media attention.

    Faced with a choice among these options, the naming issue would be secondary, but this sets up a false choice. We can work to remove all manifestations of racism and sexism on college campuses.

    * * *

    Symbols are extremely compelling in the messages they convey. Their importance is understood when rebellious groups demean or defame symbols of the powerful, such as the flag. Names and other symbols have the power to elevate or put down a group. If racist or sexist, they reinforce and, therefore, maintain the secondary status of African-Americans, Native Americans, or women through stereotyping, caricature, derogation, trivialization, diminution, or making them invisible. Most of us, however, fail to see the problem with symbols that demean or defame the powerless because these symbols support the existing power arrangements in society. Despite their apparent triviality, the symbols surrounding sports teams are important because they can--and often do--contribute to patterns of social dominance.
    And if team names are so trivial, then it shouldn't be any problem to change them, right?!  And look how upset people get when you suggest that the Washington Redskins should change their name.  Or when a Southern school is asked to stop waving that Confederate flag around.  Suddenly it doesn't look so trivial then, does it?

    So, any adoptees, birth parents, or adoptive parents from Centralia High School out there?  What do you think?  Who wants to start a petition to change the name?!

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    Zoe's "Happy Place"

    The other day after dinner Maya regaled Zoe and me with a convoluted tale of second-grade outrage, sad that a little boy SHE ASKED TO GO AWAY actually did what she asked and mad that he went to play with another little boy she says is "evil."  Ah, the daily soap opera that is Maya's life!

    Wanting to comfort and calm, Zoe suggested that Maya think pleasant thoughts:  "Why don't you imagine you're in a castle in Cloudland with a pony and a pink unicorn, married to Prince Nicolas (the first boy), with David (the supposedly evil boy!) in the dungeon?!"

    Trying to redirect, I asked Maya if Cloudland in a castle with a pony and pink unicorn was her "happy place."  Making a few adjustments (they all became cats a la Warriors), Maya agreed that a castle with a pony and a pink unicorn, etc., qualified as her "happy place."

    Since Zoe did such a good job of nailing the perfect "happy place" for Maya, I asked her where her "happy place" would be.  Her answer was immediate -- "China!  And you and Maya would be there, and so would my birth parents!"

    Ah, yes.  The perfect "happy place," no losses, joining two cultures, joining two families.

    Artyom Lawsuit Set For Trial

    From the Shelbyville (TN) Times-Gazette:
    A trial date has been set over a lawsuit against the family that sent an adopted Russian boy back to Moscow last year, sparking an international incident.

    However, motions will be heard later this month that could possibly bring an end to the litigation.

    January 3, 2012 is the day when attorneys representing Torry and Nancy Hansen and a Washington state adoption agency will appear in Bedford County Circuit Court for trial.
    But a hearing has been set for Oct. 27, when Judge Lee Russell will consider two motions -- a Rule 12 motion to dismiss the case, as well as a motion to amend the petition.

    In April 2010, Nancy Hansen placed Artyom Savelyev on a flight to Moscow with a note from her daughter Torry, his adoptive mother, saying she no longer wanted to keep him because he was violent and had severe "psychopathic" problems.

    * * *

    A month later, a petition was filed by World Association for Children and Parents, the agency that placed the boy with the Hansens, asking that they be appointed as a temporary guardian for the child.

    Attorneys for the agency said last year they went to court out of frustration that no one was investigating claims that the Hansens abandoned and endangered the boy.

    * * *
    When the case brought worldwide attention to Shelbyville last year, local authorities were unable to file any charges against the Hansens because there was no evidence that any crime had been committed in Bedford County.

    Sheriff Randall Boyce said at the time said that if Nancy Hansen abandoned the child, it didn't occur in the county, and therefore, he could not press charges.
    I posted before about the impediments to bringing charges against Hansen for her actions.

    Baby-Buying by Chinese Orphanages

    Sky News (UK) is reporting on their own under-cover investigation that Chinese orphanages are still buying babies, despite recent news about past adoption scandals:
    Though some orphanages said they no longer pay money for children, one worker at an orphanage in Hunan Province said they would pay £300 for a baby. The child required no identification.

    "We'll arrange to meet somewhere at 4am or 5am, you abandon the baby there, and then I'll pick her up. That's how it works," she said, during a recorded telephone call.

    When asked where the child would end up, she said that most adoptive couples were foreign. Chinese families, she said, were "not rich enough".
    And the beat goes on. . . .

    Thursday, October 13, 2011

    Preparing for transracial adoption

    At Boston.com Moms, an advice columnist answers a soon-to-be aunt's letter about becoming a transracial adoptive family, and here's part of it:
    * People can be nosy. When a child doesn't look like parents (or aunts!), people people sometimes stare or ask questions. Have a simple answer ready, one that you would be happy to speak in front of your child even if he weren't a baby. Here's an excerpt from my book on this subject (p. 321):

    "Louise Derman-Sparks, who is white, remembers when her son, who is black, was [a preschooler]. As she picked him up from preschool one day, a classmate stopped tham. "Is that really your mom?" he asked. Derman-Sparks, an early childhood educator who specializes in anti-bias education, was ready with an answer.

    "I bet you're wondering if I'm Doug's mom because his skin is brown and mine is white," she said. The little boy nodded. "I am his mommy. What makes me his mommy is that I love him and take care of him." Children can also be coaxed to answer for themselves: "She's my mom even though h er skin is white and mine isn't. I'm adopted."

    * Develop thick skin. Children in transracial families fare best when adults model a range of reactions, depending on the circumstances. If someone asks, ''Is she adopted?" it may be a genuine, although stupid, question. What is the tone? What is the body language? I once interviewed Susan Caughman, then editor of Adoptive Families Magazine. She told me that part of a parent's job is to "teach a life skill: How to evaluate people's motives
    I didn't include the part of her answer where she suggests a no-secrets policy from the beginning of the adoption -- I agree, but it seems pretty silly advice for transracial adoption, since the fact of the adoption is pretty IMPOSSIBLE to keep a secret!  But then, I do know of one family where the mom is white, the child is Indian, and they haven't told her she's adopted because the adoptive father is also Indian (BTW, update since I wrote about this family 2 years ago -- child is now 7 and they STILL haven't told her. . .  .).

    Child Trafficking & Weibo

    At China Hush, an article about using Weibo (China's version of Twitter) to find kidnapped children; I found this little story stunning:
    In the process of conducting interviews for our film, I’ve learned that one of the things that makes kidnapping so simple is that in many areas of the country, parents who buy kidnapped children can count on their neighbors to stay quiet about it. In the case of one adult who was kidnapped as a child that we spoke to, for example, he showed up at his new "home" speaking a different dialect, and went around actively telling neighbors that this wasn’t his home, and telling them his real parents’ names. At school, kids used to mock him because he’d been purchased by his parents, and he got into fights often. Yet none of his neighbors reported his kidnapping to the police until over a decade later. By that time, of course, it was way too late to find his original family.

    Part of the problem is the social attitude that it’s dangerous to get involved with other people’s problems. . . .
    Wow.  Just wow.

    NYT: Today's Conspicuous Family

    From the New York Times, an interesting profile of a mixed-race family, with adoption also thrown into the mix:
    The Greenwood family tree, emblematic of a growing number of American bloodlines, has roots on many continents. Its mix of races — by marriage, adoption and other close relationships — can be challenging to track, sometimes confusing even for the family itself.

    For starters: Mrs. Greenwood, 37, is the daughter of a black father and a white mother. She was adopted into a white family as a child. Mrs. Greenwood married a white man with whom she has two daughters. Her son from a previous relationship is half Costa Rican. She also has a half brother who is white, and siblings in her adoptive family who are biracial, among a host of other close relatives — one from as far away as South Korea.
    The population of mixed-race Americans like Mrs. Greenwood and her children is growing quickly, driven largely by immigration and intermarriage. One in seven new marriages is between spouses of different races or ethnicities, for example. And among American children, the multiracial population has increased almost 50 percent, to 4.2 million, since 2000.

    But the experiences of mixed-race Americans can be vastly different. Many mixed-race youths say they feel wider acceptance than past generations, particularly on college campuses and in pop culture. Extensive interviews and days spent with the Greenwoods show that, when they are alone, the family strives to be colorblind. But what they face outside their home is another story. People seem to notice nothing but race. Strangers gawk. Make rude and racist comments. Tell offensive jokes. Ask impolite questions.

    The Greenwoods’ experiences offer a telling glimpse into contemporary race relations, according to sociologists and members of other mixed-race familiesIt is a life of small but relentless reminders that old tensions about race remain, said Mrs. Greenwood, a homemaker with training in social work.
    The parallels in the experiences of the Greenwoods and Heather Greenwood's white adoptive mom with three mixed-race kids are, indeed, reminders of continuing tensions about race.  Shouldn't it be getting better faster?

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    On Adoption and Identity

    Ostensibly a review of Korean adoptee Dana Weiner's latest gallery show, this piece is really a rumination on adoption and fractured identity by Max Sparber, Irish by birth, Jewish by adoption:
    I am an adopted child. Ordinarily, this isn't much of an issue, unless, of course, you hide it from your child until he is near adulthood and then spring it on him in a moment of anger. I understand this happens every so often, at least in movies, although it perplexes me. I am nearly 6 feet tall, and my adopted family tends to be between 3 and 11 inches shorter than me, which made things handy when I wanted to hide things from them, as I just needed to put it up on the top shelf. They have darker skin and brown eyes. I am pink and blue-eyed. They have tight, angry coils of dark hair that, left to its own devices, becomes wavy and, in one instance, blossoms into what in the '70s they used to call a "natural." I had blond hair as a boy that darkened into brown and eventually fell out. You'd have to be pretty oblivious to miss these differences until an enraged parent sprung them on you. I mean, for Pete's sake. They are clearly Jewish. I am clearly not.

    Except, through adoption, I am.

    * * *

    But the thing about adoption is that these sort of cultural identities will necessarily be fragmented. There is an Irish Jewish community, but I would have to go to the bigger communities in Ireland to experience them, and so I am left with a jury-rigged sense of who I am, glued together from bits of Judaism, bits of Irish, none of it really sitting together easily.

    * * *

    This is a long introduction to an art show, but the truth is it's a piece I can only understand through my own lens. The art show is "Who Are You?!?" at Burnet Gallery at Le Meridien Chambers, by Dana Weiser — a solidly Jewish last name. Except that Dana is Korean-American and was adopted by a Jewish family in the Midwest.

    * * *

    But Weiser is, in part, exploring the fragmenting of identity that comes with adoption. Unlike me, who tacked bits and pieces of my biological and adopted identities together to form a makeshift sense of self, Weiser seems very much adrift in the show's artistic statement. "I never felt a strong affiliation to any of my communities," Weiser writes. "I was not white, I did not feel part of the Jewish community and I wasn't Asian enough."

    * * *

    I can't blame Weiser for feeling disconnected. And, in some ways, the fact that I could piece together a strange hybrid Jewish/Irish identity is a mark of privilege. I am a white guy, and so society will see me as a white guy, which is, socially, sort of a blank slate; white is neutral.
    This piece is well worth the read (even if you won't be seeing the art show it reviews).We often think of identity issues as the exclusive province of the transracial adoptee; this piece is a good reminder that it isn't, though transracial adoption may make the identity issues more obvious. . . .

    Steve Jobs and Adoption Myths

    After Steve Jobs' death, there was lots of chatter about that fact that he was placed for adoption.  Not surprisingly, many tried to spin some lesson about adoption out of his life story.  This author goes for a two-fer, lessons about adoption AND abortion, arguing how wonderful adoption is and how wonderful that his biological mother chose adoption over the only other alternative, abortion.  And she does so why decrying "adoption myths."  Unfortunately, she puts forward quite a big adoption myth of her own -- this notion that there's an unalterable link between adoption and abortion.

    The myth goes that if only a woman would forego an abortion, she would place the child for adoption.  Completely false.  The most common alternative to abortion for single mothers is parenting the child -- that's why less than 3% of single mothers place their children for adoption. The reason most women have abortions is NOT that they are not able to parent, it's that they are unable, because of their own life circumstances, to be pregnant.

    So this rank speculation that the only two alternatives Jobs' birth parents had were abortion and adoption is more myth-making.  Consider what happened AFTER Jobs was placed for adoption -- his birth parents MARRIED 10 months after placing him for adoption!  I'd say that the only thing that would have happened if they had decided not to place their first child for adoption was that they would have married sooner, and parented that child (if everyone else is entitled to speculate about their choices, so am I!).  And if the time wasn't the 50s, Jobs' birth mom would have parented him as a single mother, as do more than 97% of single mothers today.