Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Adoption & Abuse

Sometimes it's HARD to decide what to blog about.  My usual problem is not finding something to post about, but in deciding what NOT to post about.  Believe it or not, I don't actually blog about everything that crosses my mind or my computer screen, though some days I know it seems I do! 

I've been trying to decide whether to post about an article, which is a followup to something I posted about before, but couldn't decide if it was "new" enough to bother.  And I admit, I'm sometimes leery about posting on topics that annoy readers (doesn't always stop me -- UNICEF, anyone?!), and this one seems to. But when a recent news story caught my attention, I figured I needed post again on the topic of adoption and abuse.  It is important enough.
Remember a while ago I posted about the spike in reported cases of starvation abuse of adopted children in Washington state? The article noted that the state was appointing a study group of experts to study the issue of child abuse in adoption, to determine whether there is a link between adoption and child abuse, what causes it, etc.  I think the unanswered questions are important enough to report this followup that lists the questions the group will be trying to answer:
  • Are neglect and abuse, including withholding food, on the rise? And are they more prevalent in adopted homes?
  • Are changes needed to foreign or cross-race adoptions procedures? Or in the foster care adoption process?
  • Do child welfare agencies maintain adequate long-term data on adoption outcomes?
  • Does a push to have more foster children adopted sooner created risks to child safety?
The story that made me think I should post these questions?  This one about the death of a child at the hands of her prospective adoptive father:
A Fort Drum soldier wounded in Afghanistan in 2009 admitted Tuesday that he killed a 4-month-old girl he and his wife were trying to adopt by banging her head against a hard surface and throwing her into a crib.

Jeffrey Sliker, a native of Middletown, R.I., could get 15 years to life in prison at sentencing on March 14 — almost a year after his arrest at the couple's home near the military post in northern New York.

Sliker, 23, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Laurne Clark, also known as Mollie Sliker, who was found dead with a head injury after Sliker's wife alerted authorities.

Prosecutor Cindy Intschert said Sliker told the judge "he had had very little sleep, he was getting ready for work, the child was crying and he became frustrated."

* * *

Defense attorney Sheila Crowley said Sliker was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The most important thing now, I think, is to figure out what we can learn from these cases to try to prevent them in the future. 

Yes, I know biological parents also abuse children, so it can't be exclusively an adoption problem. But what can we do in adoption -- better screening? better preparation? better post-adoption support? -- to prevent abuse?

I think the study group, which expects to issue a report in May, is asking the right questions. What other questions do you think they need to answer?

Special Needs Adoption From China

The Chicago Tribune has a story today on China's Waiting Child program:
When Megan and Keith Nakamoto started the China adoption process in 2005 they knew they could be in for a wait. Three and half years later, the Lincoln Park couple decided to switch from the traditional Chinese adoption program and adopt a special needs child.

"Who knows? We probably still would have been waiting. It's almost like you see this goal and you want it so badly, but it gets harder and harder and you think it's not going to happen," said Megan Nakamoto, 48, who welcomed her daughter, Tessa, in 2010. "We switched to the special needs program, and then you have a new hope. Then, it's scary all over again because you're adopting a child with special needs."

Experts say more families are choosing to adopt special needs children through China's Waiting Child program, which releases children with minor and significant health issues in as little as a year. Adopting a healthy child from China took one year to 18 months in 2006. Now it can now take more than six years, straining both prospective parents' patience and pockets.

"I think now the biggest change we're looking at is that there are families who are willing to adopt special needs children. That really is the wave of international adoption," said Bob McNeill, an adoption worker at Sunny Ridge Family Center in Bolingbrook.
In China, international adoption for special needs kids is about the only option for permanent family.  Disabilities are considered curses on the family, and is the primary reason for abandonment of special needs kids.  They are, because of that stigma, highly unlikely to be adopted domestically in China. Sometimes, adoption to a Western country is the only way for the child to get needed medical treatment since China puts only limited funds for such treatment in the hands of orphanages. So it's a good thing, isn't it, when internationallly adopting parents choose the special-needs program over the non-special-needs program, right?

One of my perpetual concerns about special needs adoption from China is that folks might be more interested in getting a child quickly than in actually parenting a child with special needs. The desire to "jump the line" by switching to special needs may not be adequately thought out. Prospective parents might be overly optimistic about what special needs entail.  I'll hear prospective parents say things like, "It's just albinism;" or "It's easily corrected with surgery."  Really?  Did you know that albinism comes with an increased risk of congenital heart problems?  Did you know that cleft palate repair might involve a series of surgeries, not just one?  Did you know children with cleft palate often have hearing problems? Have you thought of how you will facilitate attachment when you immediately subject your newly-adopted child to painful surgery with a recovery period that will have you saying no to them frequently, preventing them from touching their mouths, denying them certain foods?

Of course, lots of parents handle special needs like champs.  But are the "line jumpers" really prepared? Does the family have the time, money, health insurance, ability to take off work, emotional wherewithal to handle special needs?  Consider this post about remarks Amy Eldridge of Love Without Boundaries made about unprepared special needs adopters:

Amy also said that adoptive parents need to be prepared before adopting. When they have seen disruptions of adoption in China -- where adoptive parents decide not to go through with a special needs adoption even before returning home -- it's usually because they have not been adequately prepared. She received a call from a family who had switched from the NSN program to the special needs program to adopt a cleft child who had been an LWB child. LWB had repaired her lip, though her palatte repair needed to be done when she was older. Amy knew the child was perfectly healthy, chubby, interactive -- everything you'd want from a institutionalized child. The dad said to her, "Do you know that when she drinks her bottle, milk comes out of her nose?" Duh, yes, Amy knew that and the family would have known that if they had read ANYTHING about cleft-affected children. 

I'm also bothered that those with potentially the least resources -- single parents -- only have the option of special needs adoption from China.  Yes, I'm a single mom and I'm handling two kids.  But given the fact that I'm the only wage-earner in the house, making it difficult to take off for long stretches of time to care for a special needs child; that I have lousy health insurance and don't have t he option of putting the kids on my spouse's plan; that my extended family in the area is only my mom who, as fantastic as she is, is still only one person; that I'm really bad about asking for help; I wouldn't be a very good parent for a special needs child.  That is often -- but not always, I know -- the case with single parents

And if adopting one special needs child would be difficult, how difficult would it be to adopt two at a time?  China used to restrict adoption to one child at a time, except in cases of twins/triplets/etc.  Now, for some hard-to-place special needs kids -- called Special Focus kids -- China allows adoptive parents to adopt a second child at the same time.  That second child can be healthy, special needs or special focus. Here we go again -- in the case of special needs children who potentially need the most support and attention, you're allowed to split your limited resources (EVERYONE has limits on their resources) between two newly-adopted kids, with all that that kind of transition entails. And I've heard prospective adoptive parents talk about this two-fer program as if a healthy child is the "reward" for taking a special needs child, as if the special needs child is the price you have to pay for jumping the line to get a healthy child fast.

Reactions?  What have I gotten wrong?  How to solve these problems?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Ethnic Identity Formation in Chinese Adoptees

A Harvard student has started a blog to let us follow along as she researches and writes her senior thesis on ethnic identity formation in Chinese adoptees:
My name is Alexa and I am studying Sociology and Global Health/Health Policy at Harvard. I'm writing my senior honors thesis on ethnic identity formation in children adopted from China. I'll be using this blog to document my progress and share my research leading up to the publishing of my thesis in March, 2012.
Judging from Friday's post about parents' strategies for raising Chinese adoptees, you'll find lots of relevant and interesting information:
Parents’ socialization strategies face two central tensions:
  • The tension between sameness and differentness within the family
  • The tension between Chinese and American identities.
Richard Tessler (1999), a scholar of China to U.S. adoption, outlines four models of socialization. My research will investigate what factors influence parents' choice of socialization strategy. The four models are:
  • Assimilation: focus on American culture (rejection differences)
  • Acculturation: focus on Chinese culture (acknowledgement of differences)
  • Alternation (or bi-cultural socialization): balance American and Chinese culture, with the goal of making children feel comfortable alternating between cultures (acknowledgement of differences)
  • Child choice: parents allow the child to decide which strategy to pursue (My research will not address the child choice model, as I believe that even if the parents want their child to lead the way in identity formation, the parents’ actions and attitudes exert huge influence on the child’s choice.)
If  you're interested in the subject of parenting strategies used by white parents who are parenting Asian children, you might like this post, which explores another research project on the subject.

Asian American Dolls

And I mean real dolls -- not calling Asian American girls and women dolls, which is completely yuck. And now weird guys with an Asian fetish are going to come to my blog.  Sigh.

At the Jade Luck Club blog, the best dolls for Asian American/Pacific Islander girls. The blogger is surprised by all the dolls available, because there weren't many when she was a child:

In browsing all the doll choices at Amazon labeled Asian, I was struck by the multitude of Asian baby dolls. These did not exist when I was little. I wonder if this market niche will continue to grow as the Asian market overseas has more purchasing power. I was also surprised by the specificity of the dolls: Asian baby with Down’s Syndrome (?!) and also Tipi from Laos. Interesting, huh? What do you think of all these choices? And, do your kids have a favorite doll? Please share!

So go add to her list! Our most recent Asian doll purchase was a porcelain doll.  I don't know why, but Zoe has become very interested in porcelain dolls. She's always loved dolls (Maya is more into stuffed animals), and at age 11 still loves to play with her baby dolls.

Once when we were looking at dolls she mused, "I wish there was a porcelain doll with dark hair and a panda!" Ding ding ding!  I knew I'd seen one on some website somewhere.  Didn't track it down again in time for Christmas, but got it for her anyway! Here it is, one of Zoe's new favorites:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Chinese New Year, Egg Roll Edition

We love the fact that Chinese New Year lasts two weeks -- that gives us the chance for multiple celebrations!  We've had CNY, performance edition; CNY, adoptive families edition, where we went out for Chinese food with a big group; CNY, Chinese School edition, involving learning and singing and fun; CNY, family edition, where just the three of us celebrated; and now CNY, egg roll edition, involving all the essential elements of Chinese New Year -- family, friends & food!

We spent the evening with Chinese friends to celebrate the new year, and for the girls to learn to make egg rolls!  They had a great time -- Zoe & Maya loved playing with our hosts' daughter (with the grapes on a stick!), S. (adopted from China) and her little brother J. They also had fun with arts & crafts, including making Chinese lanterns.  Our host's father is an artist and art professor in China, and this is one of his works -- it's from 1 Corinthians 13, the well-known love verse:

The highlight of the evening was learning to make egg rolls:

Don't you love the inventive use of the chopsticks to scoop the filling onto the egg roll skin?!

(A spoon made it a bit easier!)

Then it was roll. . . .

. . . and roll again.

And then fold in the corners before one more roll . . . .

Then a deep fry, and VOILA!  Egg rolls!

And yes, they tasted as good as they looked -- completely yummy. We are so fortunate to have Chinese friends who can help my girls learn about their heritage, and feed us wonderful food at the same time. What a fun way to ring in the new year (again)!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Birth Father Wins in Utah Supreme Court

Hmm, maybe the tide is turning!  Utah is notoriously unfriendly to birth fathers, but in this case the Utah Supreme Court has reversed a trial court's ruling that the birth father was not entitled to any say in his daughter's adoption, and remanded for a hearing on whether he had fully grasped the opportunity to be a legal parent:
The Utah Supreme Court ruled Friday that a Colorado father was improperly denied a say in his infant daughter’s adoption and sent the case back to a lower court for a rehearing.
In a split decision that establishes a new ground rule for future cases, the justices said Robert Manzanares’ consent to any adoption was necessary. The majority held Manzanares did not know and reasonably could not have known that a birth and adoption would take place in Utah, entitling him by law to more time to intervene in the proceedings.
Although Manzanares stated in a paternity petition filed in a Colorado court months before his daughter’s birth that he feared his girlfriend might flee to Utah, those were "yellow flags" and not the same thing as having knowledge of such a plan, the majority said.
Manzanares reasonably relied on Carie Terry’s denials, stated in Colorado court filings, of any intention to come to Utah to give birth and place their baby for adoption.
* * *
The Utah Supreme Court instructed the district court to hold a hearing to determine whether Manzanares fully complied with Colorado’s requirements for establishing parental rights to his daughter, referred to in court documents as Baby B., and whether he had demonstrated a full commitment to his parental responsibilities.
Manzanares was nearly speechless after learning of the court’s decision.
"It is still an uphill battle but as I’ve said from day one, I won’t stop climbing that mountain until I have [my daughter] in my life," he said. "I’ve missed so much of her life. It is incredible to know that I could be with her soon."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Former U.S. Diplomat Testifies in Argentina's "Baby Stealing" Trial

A follow-up by the AP to the story I posted yesterday about information the U.S. holds, through classified documents and past diplomats, about Argentina's military junta stealing children from dissidents and placing them with families loyal to the regime during the "Dirty War" of the '70s & '80s:
A former U.S. diplomat testified Thursday that American officials knew Argentina's military regime was taking babies from dead or jailed dissidents during its "dirty war" against leftists in the 1970s, and it appeared to be a systematic effort at the time.
Elliot Abrams testified by videoconference from Washington in the trial of former dictators Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone and other military and police figures accused of organizing the theft of babies from women who were detained and then executed in the 1976-1983 junta's torture centers.

Abrams said U.S. officials were aware that some children had been taken and then illegally adopted by families loyal to the regime.

"We knew that it wasn't just one or two children," Abrams testified. There must have been some sort of directive from a high level official, he suggested: "a plan, because there were many people who were being murdered or jailed."

"It was a very serious problem because these were children who were alive," Abrams added.

* * *
The junta apparently saw the program as a way to prevent children from growing up "communist," Abrams said. Also, enabling loyal families who couldn't conceive to adopt the babies was seen as a blessing by the regime, he said.

Listen Up, Adoptive Parents!

Margie of Third Mom has something important to tell us:
If you are the parent of an internationally-adopted child, you undoubtedly love that child so much and care for him or her so tenderly that you cannot imagine why someone would want to deny another child the same, especially if you believe that the only alternative is life in an institution. You see how good intercountry adoption can be, and believe it is the very best we can offer to children in need, here and around the world.

But maybe, like my family, you’ve experienced shoddy adoption practices or even adoption corruption first hand, and it makes you so mad you want to spit, even if your child made it through the experience unbroken. If you haven't, you might be sick of adoption for profit, first parent coercion, trafficking, lack of legal protection for intercountry adoptees, adoptive parent entitlement and apathy, or something else.

I live with both of these conflicting thoughts in my head, all the time. Some days I tell myself that the only thing that matters is that a family is found for every child, no matter what it takes. But seldom does that thought linger for long, because I immediately remember that there are reasons those children need families, and that I as an adoptive parent have a responsibility to put those things right.
Here!  Here! Hallelujah, Amen!

Diane Rehm Show: Adoptees Using DNA to Find Family

Today's Diane Rehm Show on NPR was about adoptees using DNA to find family, as discussed in this New York Times piece.  Not surprisingly, the show addressed closed adoption records, too (you can't discuss one without the other, it seems to me).

You can listen to the show here, and/or read the transcript here.

Past Adoptions From Mexico Questioned in Ireland

The Irish Times reports that some are questioning past adoptions from Mexico to Ireland, in light of the latest scandal involving trafficking allegations involving 11 Irish couples who tried to adopt in Mexico:
A claim by the Minister for Children that there is no evidence that previous adoptions in Mexico by Irish couples are unsafe has been challenged in the Dáil.

Frances Fitzgerald referred to the controversy in Mexico where 11 Irish couples had been questioned following the discovery of an international child-smuggling ring, after the arrest of three local women accused of buying children from their mothers.

During a Dáil debate on inter-country adoption, Ms Fitzgerald assured parents who had previously adopted from Mexico that the Adoption Authority of Ireland “has no evidence that previous adoptions are unsafe or are affected by the recent events in Mexico”.

Socialist Party TD Clare Daly questioned the statement and said that of 92 children adopted by Irish couples, 60 were arranged by a lawyer called Lopez, who was being sought by police in Mexico.

“How can the Irish Adoption Board say adoptions from Mexico are safe if the Mexican authorities are seeking an individual who has arranged two-thirds of those adoptions?” the Dublin North TD asked. The lawyer was being sought for “illegal practices in adoption involving 60 children adopted by Irish parents, yet the adoption board is on record as stating that all existing adoptions of Mexican children by Irish couples are safe. Both those scenarios cannot be correct.”
Good question -- how can they say past adoptions from Mexico to Ireland are safe -- proper -- legal --ethical -- when two-thirds of them were handled by the same Mexico lawyer who handled those 11 adoptions that have been branded trafficking?

If you were one of those adoptive parents, who had previously adopted from Mexico through this lawyer, what would you do?

If you were the Irish government, what questions would you be asking?  I'd have a few, including whether those adoptive parents had been screened at all for adoption placement. . . .

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Classified U.S. Documents Relevant to Argentina's "Stolen Babies" Trial?

I've posted before (here and here and here and here) about the trial in Argentina over the systematic stealing of babies from murdered/imprisoned/disappeared leftists by the military junta during the Dirty War of the '70s '80s. Those babies were placed in politically-connected families, often military families. In a new twist, classified U.S. documents are now being sought for the trial, as reported by Women's eNews:

The trial, expected to close this year, is being closely watched by a group of women now in their 80s or 90s, known as the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo.

For 30 years they have driven a very public effort to find stolen grandchildren and to bring their children's killers to justice.

Now they are finding an ally in a Democratic Congressman named Maurice Hinchey, who represents the 22nd district of New York, northwest of New York City and bordering Pennsylvania.

Hinchey announced last week that he'll retire at the end of this year. For now, he is seeking the declassification and release of CIA and Pentagon records that could help identify some of the missing grandchildren.

* * *

The State Department in 2002 declassified 4,700 documents pertaining to the Dirty War.

Carlotto and her group's lawyers believe that one of those documents proves there was not only a systematic plan to appropriate children, but that it was sanctioned by the highest levels of power.

That document is a 1982 memo by Elliott Abrams, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs, who is scheduled to testify here this month.

In that memo, Abrams wrote: "I raised with the ambassador the question of children in this context, such as children born to prisoners or children taken from their families during the Dirty War. While the disappeared were dead, these children were alive and this was in a sense the gravest humanitarian problem. The ambassador agreed completely and had already made this point to his foreign minister and the president. They had not rejected his view but had pointed on the problem, for example, of taking children from their adoptive parents."

Carlos Osorio, director of the Southern Cone Documentation Project at the National Security Archive at George Washington University, said in a November interview that the Abrams memo is key.

"The Grandmothers are pointing to this little nugget as evidence that declassified documents help to bring some justice in Argentina then, and thus they want to call for CIA, FBI and Pentagon declassification on Argentina," Osorio told Women's eNews.

The Power of Ghosts

At International Adoption Reader, a helpful post on an important subject, being open to birth family in international adoption:
When we began our adoption process, we believed we would adopt fully orphaned children; some of our views had been formed by the books of Melissa Faye Green, and so we expected children who had been cared for in an Ethiopian orphanage after the death of both parents, probably due to HIV. We were absolutely convinced we were doing something entirely helpful, just as we were later convinced we were being part of a flawlessly ethical process.

After a series of very long and complicated turns and twists, the details of which I am not free to share because they belong to my children, and facing the results of research and inquiries, we now know some major facts and minor details we had not been aware of before. And we now have family in Ethiopia.

When our children are asked about brothers and sisters, they tell the number, including our biological children and their biological (half)siblings, without hesitating. It was a long way to get there, and this long and sometimes very painful way has formed our views on international adoption and open adoption.

* * *

The basic difficulty, though, behind openness seems to be an emotional one: Openness means, on a daily basis, facing the fact that the adoptive mother is the second mother, and, come what may, there is someone else who shared the primal relationship to the child, who looks like the child (vice versa, I guess) and who was close in a way that cannot be substituted. It may not be easy -on an emotional level -to accept. But it is the undeniable reality the child will have to learn to cope with, so obviously, the adults can be asked to do a comparable step, which for them, at least, does not touch their sense of personal identity as it does for the child.
So many people choose international adoption in order to avoid birth parent issues -- my shame is that I was one of them.  I knew that my children were not technically "fully orphaned," given the circumstances that drove abandonment in China, but I expected that they would be emotionally fully orphaned, uncaring and uninterested in these wispy, insubstantial ghosts we call birth parents.

What I didn't know then is the power of ghosts. That even in their absence, and in part because of their absence, birth parents are central to our children's lives, to our family's life.  Without knowing who they are or ever meeting them, my children long for them, to know who they are, what they look like, how they live (if they are even living), where they live, whether they are safe, why they could not parent them. Even if we never mentioned them, never acknowledged the existence of ghosts, their birth parents would still be present in our lives. There is a power in what's missing.

It was a process, but I got over that emotional hurdle that demanded exclusivity -- that I be the only mother.  It was actually pretty easy to do once my children became real to me, when my love for them demanded that I fulfill their needs.  As my children became real to me, so did the ghosts.

My girls need me to include their birth parents in our lives, so I do.  I'm the grown-up, so I have the responsibility to put aside my issues, to get over any issues that interfere with my children's well-being. We deal with the ghosts, because never mentioned, never acknowledged, their birth parents would be the proverbial elephant in the room (to mix metaphors!), squeezing out the possibility of any other authentic relationship entering that room. 
I know what you're thinking -- when it comes to birth parents, we have it easy.  In China, children are abandoned and no birth family information is given.  Dealing with imaginary birth parents -- with ghosts -- is far easier than dealing with the real thing, so I should just get over my big, bad self, I hear you cry.  I'm not sure I agree that it's easier, but it is different. 

I do know parents who are working hard to maintain an open international adoption (we're searching, hoping to be one of those families, with no luck so far), and it is hard work, given differences in language and culture, time and distance.  But it can also be  hard work with unknown birth parents as well -- the continual not-knowing, the difficulty in separating fantasy from reality, the feeling of disconnectedness.  The power of what's missing. But we plug away at it, because it's worth it.

My takeaway: If, because of circumstances beyond your control, you can't have an open relationship with the actual birth parents, at least be open with your children about their existence, their significance. Without acknowledging what's missing, your relationship with your child will be haunted by ghosts.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Born in Prison

Huffington Post offers an excerpt of what looks to be a powerful new memoir, Even Tough Girls Wear Tutus: Inside the World of a Woman Born in Prison, by Deborah Jiang Stein. She's an adoptee who knew she was adopted but discovered a letter at age 12 that revealed that she was born in prison to a heroin addict.  Her reaction to this discovery:
It can't be true. How am I lovable if it is true? Who loves anyone from prison? If people find out my secret, then what?

My skin itches as if tiny ants crawl along the bones in my forearms and I scratch so hard, red streaks rise on my skin. I splash water onto my burning face but give up. None of it washes away what I know isn't there, but I think I'm coated with grime on my cheeks, hot to my hands. I can't stop splashing my face to get rid of the gritty scratch in my eyes and to rinse the sourness in my mouth.

Born in prison? Nobody's born in prison.

Then something sinks in. My "real" mother's an addict and criminal. My "real" home is a prison.

While I don't understand until decades later, the trauma of learning about my prison birth sent me into a deep dive, an emotional lockdown behind a wall which imprisoned me for almost twenty years. The letter forced me into an impossible choice between two mothers, two worlds far apart. One mother in prison, behind bars, a criminal, a drug addict, a woman who tugs at me, her face and voice, images and her sound buried deep in my subconscious. The other mother, the one I face every day, the one who keeps fresh bouquets of flowers on our teak credenza. I don't connect with this mother.

I'm not hers. Not theirs.
This is only an excerpt of the excerpt, so go to Huffington Post to read the whole thing.  And if you've read the book, tell us about it in the comments.

Same-Sex Couple Sues Over Michigan's Ban on Second Parent Adoption for Unmarried Parents

I've posted before about the benefits of second-parent adoption to protect families and children. A local TV station reports on a lesbian couple in Michigan suing over the ban on unmarried parents jointly adopting:
Imagine not being allowed to adopt a child you had raised since birth. That is what some same-sex partners are facing. Michigan is among a handful of states that still offers no legal protections for gays and lesbians – and that can have major consequences for their children.

* * *

A local lesbian couple has been raising three children since birth, kids who otherwise would have been in the foster care system. One of the women adopted one child – while the other woman had to adopt the other two – that’s because the law in Michigan won’t let them jointly adopt all three kids. And they’re hoping this lawsuit will change the lives of children all over Michigan.

April Deboer and Jayne Rowse have dedicated their lives to raising three small children – two of whom have special needs. April and Jayne are both nurses – and they have been in a committed relationship for more than a decade.

* * *

Because the Michigan Constitution bans same-sex marriage – same-sex couples cannot jointly adopt children.

“I don’t see how that puts the best interest of the child at the forefront,” says Rowse.

* * *

Nessel says the legal rights of children of same-sex couples are being hurt in many ways. If one of their parents dies, the other parent would have no legal claim to the child.

“So in the event something happened to her, not only would her children lose their mom, but they would also lose the only other parent they know and their sibling,” says Doboer.

Also, when April takes the boys to the doctor, she has to take Jayne with her. “I can’t legally sign for treatments. I can’t legally sign for anything. I have to wait for her to show up to the hospital in order to get treatment,” she says.

Lawyers say the children of same-sex couples also don’t have the same inheritance rights that other kids do. They also can’t receive social security disability from the non-adoptive parent, or health insurance. Also if a same-sex couple separates, they have no legal ability to see the children that they didn’t adopt.
Yeah, explain to me how this state of the law is good for children. It doesn't prevent gay people from adopting, it doesn't prevent gay people from parenting, if that's the goal of the lawmakers. It just makes sure that children are punished because some policy makers disapprove of the families their parents have created.

DNA Testing Leads Some Adoptees to Family

Interesting article in the New York Times:
Growing up, Khrys Vaughan always believed that she had inherited her looks and mannerisms from her father, and that her appreciation for tradition and old-fashioned gentility stemmed from her parents’ Southern roots. But those facets of her self-image crumbled when she was told, at age 42, that she had been adopted.

She began searching for her origins, only to find out that her adoption records had been sealed, a common practice in the 1960s. Then Mrs. Vaughan stumbled across an ad from a DNA testing company offering to help people who had been adopted find clues to their ancestry and connections to blood relatives.

About five weeks after shipping off two tiny vials of her cells from a swab of her cheek, Mrs. Vaughan received an e-mail informing her that her bloodlines extended to France, Romania and West Africa. She was also given the names and e-mail addresses of a dozen distant cousins. This month, she drove 208 miles from her hometown here to Evansville, Ind., to meet her third cousin, the first relative to respond to her e-mails. Mrs. Vaughan is black and her cousin is white, and they have yet to find their common ancestor. But Mrs. Vaughan says that does not matter.     
“Somebody is related to me in this world,” she said. “Somebody out there has my blood. I can look at her and say, ‘This is my family.’”
The article seems to accept as a given that adoption records are sealed.  If that's an immutable thing, then of course DNA testing -- with its expense and imperfect ability to track relatives -- is a work-around that allows some to find some family.  But doesn't the problem really speak to a different solution -- unsealing the records or not sealing them in the first place? The article provides evidence of that -- DNA tests allowed Khrys Vaughan to find a 3rd cousin, but unsealing her adoption records is what allowed her to find her birth mother.
I rarely agree with Elizabeth Bartholet (as illustrated here), but I do agree with what she had to say in this NYT piece: "Elizabeth Bartholet, an expert on adoption at Harvard Law School, said the proliferation of testing highlights the need for broader access to adoption records."  But no need to worry, the agreement didn't last long -- the next sentence is pretty obnoxious: "In the meantime, she says, adoptees would be better served by nurturing the relationships they already have."  Right, just ignore your roots and concentrate on your adoptive family!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cooking in the Chinese New Year

Last summer I attended a cooking demonstration class by Grace Young, known as The Wok Queen, The Poet Laureate of the Wok, and a Wok Evangelist, and author of lots of cookbooks.  She's sharing three health-conscious stir-fry recipes at Weight Watchers, in honor Chinese New Year.

She also talks a little about Chinese New Year customs, and the importance of food:
What part does food play in all this?

 A huge one. Everything we eat during the holiday has a symbolic meaning. When friends come to visit we offer tea and sweets because sweet food guarantees a sweet year. Sometimes a food looks like something you want: scallops and dumplings are supposed to resemble ancient Chinese coins. Or a food's name may have the same sound as the name of something desirable. People eat lettuce because the word sounds like “growing fortune,” fish because the word sounds like “abundance,” and sweet-and-sour dishes because “sour” has the same sound as “grandchildren.”
I'm definitely going to try the Stir-Fried Garlic Lettuce recipe. It might sound strange to Western palates to cook lettuce, but we frequently had stir-fried lettuce (and cucumbers, too, which also sounds strange to cook!) in China, and it was yummy!

Traveling Abroad to Find Home

The Washington Post profiles an internationally adopted teen on a homeland/birth parent reunion tour.  Here's a sample:
As her father catnapped at her side, Deanna Torstenson’s heart pounded and her body trembled. She fixed her eyes on the tiny airplane moving across a video screen on the seat back in front of her. Slowly it approached Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. Soon, for the first time, she would set eyes on the woman who had given birth to her.

“I’d never been in the presence of anyone who was actually biologically related to me,” she later recalled. “So I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh. . . . This is really happening!’ ”

Deanna, 17, who was adopted 15 years ago from a Kazakhstan orphanage and grew up in Springfield, had always felt an invisible thread connecting her to a biological family, long before she ever knew they existed.

Her parents had provided a loving home and all the trappings of American life — at West Springfield High School, she sings classical music and does madrigals in musical theater.
But Deanna couldn’t stop wondering about from where — and whom — she had come. Now, as her plane lowered over Central Asia, she was about to find out.
The article covers a lot of territory, including adoptee identity issues, birth parent reactions to being found, adoptive parents' reactions to their child's desire to search, etc.  And it turns out that the birth mom did not really relinquish the child, she was told the child died. So go read the whole thing.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chinese New Year, Dragons, and Red Underwear

In 2007, we arrived in China right after the Chinese New Year for our 5-month stay.  Our apartment was on the college campus where I taught, and as usual, we frequently saw laundry hanging to dry from balconies and dorm windows (we hung our laundry to dry, too, as the photo above shows!).  One odd thing I noticed was the number of items of RED underwear hanging out to dry.  Panties, boxers, bras, all in red!  I thought that was quite hotsy-totsy for college students!  But I soon learned that it wasn't a Victoria's Secret inspired fashion trend -- it was protection:
For those turning 12, 24, 36 etc. (the Chinese Zodiac uses a cycle of 12), termed benming nian, or the meeting of one’s zodiac year, traditional Chinese belief is that it can be an unlucky year. To ward off any dangers that might befall you in your benming nian, it helps to wear red. Red is one of the luckiest colors in Chinese traditions, standing for loyalty, success and happiness.
If you’re really traditional, you should wear red every day, all year long. If you’re not a big fan of the color red in your outer wardrobe, red underwear is an easy way to protect yourself against the hazards of benming nian.
So all of those 24-year-old college/grad students had all been gifted red underwear for the dangerous Zodiac year!
Zoe was born in the Year of the Dragon, so this year is her first repeat Zodiac year.  We're lucky that her school uniform includes a red sweater or sweatshirt, so she's covered (in more ways than one!) during the week.  But what about weekends?!

We went looking for red underwear for her today, and found PLENTY in adult sizes and risque styles given the proximity to Valentine's Day.  But for little girls?  Not so much (I suppose I should be relieved they don't have little girl panties in red, given that red underwear has the "sexy" connotation.  But that doesn't usually stop the designers -- I once saw a pair of 2T underwear with the word "HOTTIE" on the front.  Yikes!). Might have to dye a few pairs to get Zoe through the Year of the Dragon. . . . .

Happy New Year to you all, and for those meeting the Year of the Dragon at age 12, 24, 36, 48, etc., best wishes for protection and lots of red underwear!

Russia With No Orphans?

At Voice of Russia, Russia’s Ombudsman for Children’s Rights Pavel Astakhov says that within 5 years, there will be an end to orphanhood in Russia:
Despite the signing of agreements on cooperation in the field of adoption between Russia on the one hand and the USA and France on the other, and earlier between Russia and Italy in the outgoing year, Russia’s Ombudsman for Children’s Rights Pavel Astakhov believes that child adoption by foreigners is a temporary phenomenon in this country. “Russia needs 5 years to do away with orphanhood”, Astakhov says, adding that “only specialized orphanages for children who need a complex medical care will remain in this country”.

Hot debates around child adoption by foreigners are currently underway in the Russian society. The supporters of this idea say that first of all, this is good for children themselves since only handicapped children are taken abroad. But in reality the situation is somewhat different, Astakhov says.

"Last year foreign citizens adopted 3,355 children. Out of these 3,355 only 4 per cent – to be more exact, 148 children were handicapped. Which means that Americans adopted 44 disabled children out of more than 1,000. Russian citizens adopt disabled children far more willingly."

There’s one more thing that should be mentioned here - they say that foreigners adopt the children which were rejected by potential adoptive parents in Russia. In reality, they adopt children under 3 years old, that is, the children for the adoption of which Russian citizens are queuing. People also say that foreigners pay children’s surgical operations, thus, saving their lives. Meanwhile, in Russia high-tech medical help was offered to more than 50, 000 children, including orphans in the first place, last year.

* * *

Some time ago Russia’s Ombudsman for Children’s Rights Pavel Astakhov and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov signed a joint address to the Supreme Court, with a request for the necessity of introducing a moratorium on adoption by foreigners. Astakhov is sure that Russia needs 5 years to do away with orphanages and that children who need adoption will be taken into adoptive families in Russia.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

School Interview & Issues of Identity

We've applied for a new school for Zoe, starting next year, for middle school (YIKES!  Next year I'll have a middle schooler!).  The school is an all-girls school that specializes in math, science and technology, the Young Women's Leadership Academy. Zoe is really excited about this possibility, and my job has been to try to manage her expectations -- though it's a public school, admission isn't guaranteed.  The application included teacher recommendations, a two-page essay, and a personal interview -- just as complicated as college application!

Today was the personal interview.  Though it was only 10 minutes, Zoe was pretty nervous about it, which is what I'd expect.  She's quite capable of sailing through it and being quite impressive, but she's also quite capable of turning shy and barely saying a word.  She probably pretty much hit the middle ground (I wasn't allowed in the interview!), but some of that was just luck.  When we got to the room where she would be interviewed, it turned out to be the Chinese classroom!  I think she saw it as a good omen that she could read the characters above the door. There were two interviewers, and one was the Chinese teacher!

If Zoe were applying for a Chinese school, I'd say she was in!  For a math, science and technology school?  Not so sure!

The first question they asked her was an ice-breaking open-ended, "Tell us something about yourself." Zoe told them she was born in China.  The Chinese teacher asked her where in China she was born and how old she was when she came to America.  No problem, Zoe answered that.  The teacher asked her to say something in Chinese, and Zoe told them her name and age in Chinese.  They asked her what her long-term goals were, and consistent with this theme, she said she wanted to learn more about China than she already knew (I love that she had to throw in there that she already knew stuff about China!).  Finally, they asked her why she wanted to attend YWLA, and she explained that she had been bullied at her school for being -- you guessed it -- Chinese, and she didn't think it would happen at a school like YWLA where there were kids from lots of different places. None of this would be a surprise to the interviewers if they read her essay -- she included all of this.  But she also talked about her interest in science and technology in that essay.

So you see why I think she nailed the interview if it were for a Chinese school?!  Not one mention of math, science and technology, though.  Ah, well. It wouldn't be a problem if we stayed where we are -- it would actually be easier for me since I wouldn't have to deal with two different schools on two different schedules.  But Zoe would really be disappointed. . . .

The thing I found interesting, and why I wanted to share it here, is how important, how fundamental, being Chinese is to Zoe identity.  When asked about herself, it's the first thing she shares.  Her long-term goals are wrapped up in being Chinese (in her essay, she said she wanted to be a scientist or a science teacher, but that she wanted to work in both China and America, and help the two countries learn more about each other, so even there, when talking about science, etc., it gets wrapped up in being Chinese). To her, being Chinese is her identity.

I also think it's interesting that she now separates her identity as adopted from her identity as Chinese.  At one time, being adopted would have been the first thing she mentioned, and being Chinese and being adopted meant the same thing, since most everyone she knew who was adopted was Chinese and just about everyone she knew who was Chinese was adopted.  Attending Chinese School, and living in China in 2007, helped her to divorce the two.  Now, this doesn't mean she doesn't think of herself as adopted, that she doesn't still have issues surrounding adoption.  But at least right now, race/ethnicity is trumping adoption.

All musings aside, please say a prayer, light a candle, send out good vibrations, wish us luck, keep your fingers crossed -- we won't know for a month whether she got in, but we can use all the help you can offer!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Adoption isn't the only placement route to a happy childhood

So says the headline at the Guardian (UK), with the subhead, As ministers plan to simplify the adoption process, children's services are keen to promote other forms of long-term guardianship. Despite the headline, the article is mostly about adoption, with the exception of this paragraph:

The ADCS points out that adoption is not right for every child and is rare in most countries except the UK and the US. Evidence suggests that children can do just as well in other forms of stable placements such as long-term fostering and "special guardianship" – a court order that gives a guardian legal parental responsibility for a child without removing responsibility altogether from the birth parents.

What do you think of these alternatives to adoption? Pros and cons?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

High School Newspaper Censored as Bullying for Anti-Gay-Adoption Editorial

Here's a new twist on bullying -- an interesting story out of Wisconsin, where a high school newspaper ran pro and con editorials about gay adoption, to the distress of gay parents whose children attended the school:
A gay couple with school-age children is outraged over a Shawano High School newspaper column that cites Bible passages and calls homosexuality a sin punishable by death.

The column ran on the editorial page of Shawano High School's Hawks Post recently as part of an opinion package about gay families who adopt children. The other side said sexual orientation does not determine a person's ability to raise kids.

"This is why kids commit suicide," said Nick Uttecht, who is raising four children with his partner, Michael McNelly.

Uttecht told school district officials he thinks the piece opposing gays as parents is hateful and should not have run. He worries the strong language will hurt his children and could lead students to bully gay classmates.

School officials apologized and said they will review the process for editing and producing the paper.

* * *

David Hudson, an expert for the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group First Amendment Center, said the column may be distasteful to some, but student journalists were practicing their constitutional right to free speech.

"Bullying is a serious concern, and I don't take it lightly. But I hope it doesn't lead to squashing different viewpoints. I do think (gay adoption) is an issue people are deeply divided about. Hopefully student journalists don't have to fear they'll be squashed if they take a controversial view."

* * *

Although students have the right to voice their opinion, it doesn't mean they should say it in a school paper, said Christine Smith, assistant professor of psychology, human development and women's studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

"High school students are at a time in their life when they are developing intellectually and socially," she said. "To see something like this debated in the paper could be devastating. How would you feel if someone said your family is abnormal, is not acceptable, that your parents never should have been allowed to have you, that they're not suitable to raise you?

"Of course, it's got to be harmful. Kids this age are so worried about discovering who they are and what they are. To have them told their family is immoral and not suitable has to be devastating. To be told by your peers, people you see in the hallways, these people who clearly have passed judgment."
So what do you think?  Should the student newspaper be able to publish controversial opinions that may adversely affect some students?  I'm pretty much a First Amendment purist, but the Supreme Court isn't when in comes to school papers.  The court has said that school administrations can in fact censor school newspapers so long as they have a reasonable educational justification, as I learned to my displeasure as a high school newspaper editor!  Preventing bullying, creating a non-discriminatory learning environment, should qualify as a reasonable educational justification for limiting hateful student speech in the newspaper, right? I don't think I would have bought that argument as a high schooler, opinionated on rights and the perogatives of journalists.

But as a parent?  Maybe my desire to protect my children makes me a tad more sympathetic to the position of the school administration. I wouldn't want my kids to read stupid articles that opined on the inappropriateness of single parenting or transracial adoption or international adoption, or the inferiority of China or the like, and I would be worried that such an article would make other students more willing to bully my kids. But on the other hand, the articles here offered both arguments for and against, the audience was high school and not younger kids, and I guarantee that my kids would have already heard all the pro and con opinions folks harbor about our family structure before they ever saw such an article. But on the other other hand, should my kids have to deal with those obnoxious opinions in school, which should be a safe harbor?!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Asian Americans as Targets of Bullying

Given this incident and this incident and this incident and this incident, it didn't surprise me that Zoe included in her "I have a dream" speech on MLK Day the dream "that children will not be bullied because of their race." At CNN's inAMERICA blog, Jeff Yang writes about the bullying-related deaths of  Private Danny Chen and Lance Corporal Harry Lew, and more generally about Asian Americans as a growing target for bullies:
The more appropriate term for what Chen and Lew faced is targeted bullying — and it's something that's hardly limited to the military.

In fact, recent research suggests that young Asian Americans are facing a bullying epidemic. Last year, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education released a joint study showing that over half of Asian American teens said they'd been the subject of targeted abuse at school, versus around a third of blacks, Hispanics and whites.

* * *

Why are Asian Americans disproportionately targeted for abuse?

A harmonic convergence of factors. There's the perception — and in some cases, the reality — of the "nerd" stereotype. The trinity of social awkwardness, physical frailty and academic overachievement has always served as a magnet for bullies.

There's the rising tide of animosity toward immigrants, particularly those from predominantly countries that are seen as emerging rivals of the United States, like China and India.

There's the plain old fact that those who are "different" in obvious ways — appearance, name, faith, accent — are often the focus of unwanted attention in environments where fitting in is prized, like high school. Or the military.

And especially among immigrants and the children of immigrants, there's the reality that cultural and familial expectations push them to submit to bullying rather than being "disruptive" or succumbing to "distraction."
What are you doing to protect your children from and prepare them for race-based bullying?

Study: Black children form identity through race, not language

I thought this study was particularly interesting in light of the NYT piece I posted earlier in the week, about how Latinos identify by language and culture rather than by race:
Black children in the same age group tend to form their identity more strongly by the color of their skin than a shared language, according to a new study, while the opposite was true for white children.

A study published in the November issue of Developmental Science and conducted by University of Chicago researchers Katherine Kinzler and Jacelyn Dautel presented some preliminary findings regarding how young children identify with others.

According to a report in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, the study cites four experiments, each designed to provide a specific piece of information and control for some variables. Experiments 1, 2 and 4 used children ages five to six, while experiment 3 used children ages nine to 10.

Experiments 1, 2, and 3 used White children and experiment 4 used Black children. In all the experiments, the children. In all the experiments, the children were shown a child and adults and asked, “Which adult does this child grow up to be?”

In experiments 1 and 2, the children picked the adult that spoke the same language as the child in the test, though it was not a racial match. In experiments 3 and 4, the children picked the adult that was a racial match, though they were not a language match to the child in the test.

“The difference between European American and African American children of the same age highlights the potential role of experience in facilitating children’s reasoning about the stability of different social categories,” the researchers wrote.

Washington State Notes Spike in Starvation of Adopted Children

A commenter mentioned this report in the comments to the Right/Wrong reasons to adopt post, so I thought I'd move it "above the fold," for more potential discussion:
An alleged child starvation case near Longview is one of more than a dozen cases -- including one death -- that have state officials reviewing how adopted children are placed and treated.

The number of abuse cases is small compared to all adoptions. But a string of high- profile child starvation cases last year -- including one from May accusing Jeffrey and Rebecca Trebilcock of starving their five adopted children at their Bunker Hill-area home in Cowlitz County -- has state officials alarmed.

"Starting in the beginning of 2011 we started seeing a cluster effect of these types of cases," said Mary Meinig, director of the state's Family and Children's Ombudsman office, who included a section about adoption abuse in her annual report, released last week.

* * *

Officials are concerned at the severity of these cases, the apparent spike in them and that so many seem to involve adopted children. The adoption cases are particularly concerning because screening by the state or private adoption agencies should catch unfit parents before children are placed.

Dr. Frances Chalmers, a Mount Vernon pediatrician who consults with DSHS, began to get a "nagging feeling" that something was up and started tracking starvation cases herself. Meinig started doing the same, finding 15 adoption or guardianship cases since 2009 that involved starvation or severe abuse. Eleven of those cases were in 2011.
The Governor has appointed a study group to consider these cases and the following questions:
•Are neglect and abuse -- including withholding food -- on the rise and are they more prevalent in adoptive homes?
•Did a rapid increase in adoptions let some unfit parents slip through the cracks?
•Does the adoption process itself need to be reworked?
•Does age, race or gender play a role in abuse of adopted children?
I think the article does a good job of offering appropriate caveats that correlation doesn't equal causation, of fleshing out the statistics in this small pool of cases, and of explaining the complex issues the study group will be examining.  So read the whole thing.

Adopted Children Bring Chinese New Year Celebrations With Them

An AP story at the IndyStar about adoption from China and culture:
With its fireworks, family reunions and feasts, Lunar New Year is the longest and most important celebration for millions throughout the world.

For kids adopted from China, it holds special meaning. Lunar New Year makes them mini-ambassadors of a culture they know little about firsthand.

There's no official handbook on how far parents of internationally adopted children should go to celebrate their kids' birth cultures, but marking Lunar New Year -- Year of the Dragon begins Jan. 23 -- is usually one of those times for Asian children.

Their parents decorate front doors, throw dumpling-making parties and stuff red envelopes with money. They clean their homes at the start of the 15-day celebration and hang red lanterns at the end. Others keep it simple, sharing dim sum with friends at a restaurant or watching dragons dance at parades in Chinese enclaves in their communities.

For Myra Cocca in Central Indiana, it's harder as her kids have grown older and busier to observe the traditions they loved when they were small. Her son, adopted from South Korea, is 11 now. When he was little, she dressed him in a traditional garment called a hanbok for the celebration. Today, "sometimes we're not home during the holiday, so we have not always marked the occasion," she said.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Right & Wrong Reasons to Adopt

The Kansas State Collegian opines on the right and wrong reasons to adopt:
Our world is currently full of problems that some of the brightest minds on earth have yet to solve. In situations like those, the media and other sources will often turn to the common man for the solution.

Commercials promising to feed a child for a dollar a day or monetary programs to keep an endangered tiger safe are among the most popular uses of this tactic.

Earth’s overpopulation is one of these global issues that the public is called on to help combat through an extreme and personal decision: adoption. However, adopting a child is too important of a process to undertake for any reason except personal aspiration and the desire to change a child’s life. I believe that people have to understand that before they continue with such a monumental decision.

Adoption, much like anything else, can be and is done for completely the wrong reasons.

Some people adopt to claim a boost on their tax income. Other people will choose to adopt to prove a point or to show how “caring” and “loving” they are, without actually having any interest in the children.

I know two children who were adopted and instantly put to work in their new home, and since then have been used as nothing but labor. These corrupt uses of adoption should not overshadow its design, however, and its main purpose to allow children to have a second chance at a normal and productive childhood, which is the best reason for adoption in the first place.

* * *

Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to adoption: There are many women who turn to adoption because they cannot have their own children, but for couples who are able to have kids, the birthing process is an important step in connecting emotionally with the child. The age of adoption is also important to consider, as well as the cost.
Reactions?  I wonder if the author has considered the right and wrong reasons to give birth -- where would we put "it's cheaper than adoption" on that list?!

SC Court Accepts Appeal of ICWA Case

If you've been following the story of the 2-year-old, adopted at birth, who was returned to her biological father, the South Carolina Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case at the request of the adoptive parents:
The South Carolina Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving a 2-year-old girl whose adoptive parents had to turn her over to her biological father on New Year's Eve.

The (Charleston) Post and Courier reported Monday that Matt and Melanie Capobianca turned over the girl to her biological father, 30-year-old Dusten Brown, an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation from Oklahoma.

The Capobiancos must file their first briefs by Thursday.

The couple says they adopted the girl when she was born in 2009 from the biological mother. Brown filed for custody four months later.

Brown's attorney argued that the girl's biological mother concealed her plans to put their daughter up for adoption, and that Brown believed he signed his custody rights to the mother.
Interesting that the article doesn't mention ICWA at all.  I addressed some of the ICWA issues here. It's possible to challenge the adoption on grounds other than ICWA, of course.  The birth father's attorney seems to be arguing that the father's consent was involuntary because it was based on misinformation.  That's a valid legal ground in adoption law, separate and apart from the ICWA issues.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

I hope you had a good day celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  My kids made a video, giving their own version of the "I have a dream" speech, but wouldn't you know it, I can't get it uploaded! They worked really hard on it, so I'm just sick I can't get my little video recorder to connect to my computer.  I'll keep trying, but in the meantime, here's the text of the speech (at least the pepared remarks, slight variations on the video):

Zoom in on sign reading "I have a dream."  Zoom out and focus on Zoe and Maya in alternating order. . . .

Zoe:  I have a dream that everyone is treated equal [sic!].

Maya:  I have a dream that everyone has good shelter.

Zoe: I have a dream that slavery will never happen again.

Maya:  I have a dream that everyone has healthy food and clean water.

Zoe:  I have a dream that children will not be bullied because of their race.

Maya:  I have a dream that every child can grow up to be what they want to be.

Zoe:  I have a dream that all bad adoption laws against parents and children will be repealed [we had talked earlier in the day about laws that prevented access to original birth certificates by adoptees and birth parents].

Maya:  I have a dream that every adopted child can know their birth parents.

Zoe:  I have a dream that all orphans find homes.

Maya:  I have a dream that everyone can believe what they want to believe.

Zoe:  I have a dream that it doesn't matter where you cme from, because you are just as unique as everyone else, and we all belong to the human family.

Camera zooms in on sign reading "What's your dream?" while voice-over says. . .

Together:  What's your dream?

So, how about answering their question in the comments:  what's your dream, this MLK day?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

International Adoption Scam Busted in Mexico

The Daily Mail reports that 11 Irish families were scammed by a child-smuggling ring in Mexico:
Seven Mexican babies have been seized from Irish couples after ­police in Guadalajara smashed an international child-­smuggling ring.

Officials said the couples believed they were following proper adoption channels but that the babies were actually being sold by their mothers. Up to 11 Irish families
were being questioned this weekend in connection with the scam, centred in the Guadalajara region of central Mexico, where four local women have been arrested.

* * *
Three Mexican women, all aged in their early 30s, were subsequently arrested on suspicion of belonging to a child-trafficking gang.

They are suspected of using newspaper advertisements to find expectant mothers who did not want to keep their babies – then buying the infants from the women and handing them over to wealthy foreign couples who travelled to Mexico seeking to adopt.

The Irish couples were reportedly given the babies at a hotel in Guadalajara and sent to the nearby town of Ajijic, a popular retirement destination for Canadian and American expats, to spend a fortnight with the babies while adoption papers were processed.

The processing was done in the neighbouring state of Colima. It is not clear whether suspected gang members intended faking documents or had corrupt local officials in their pay.

The birth mothers are said to have been paid €70 a week plus medical expenses while they were pregnant.

One local paper reported that after the mothers gave birth, the child-trafficking suspects got them to sign a contract permitting them to ‘hire’ their babies for €30 a day over a fortnight for use in photoshoots for publicity contracts.

Instead, the babies were handed over to the foreign couples and the birth mothers were given a copy of the contract, which they used to justify their babies’ absence to friends and neighbours. Mexican authorities said the Guadalajara-based firm Lopez & Lopez Associates was involved in drawing up those contracts. It is not clear whether the mothers knew their babies would be given up permanently or whether they expected them back after the fortnight.

* * *

As the arrests and investigation unfolded during the past few days, Ireland’s Adoption Authority issued a release on Thursday about intercountry adoptions involving Mexico. The Mexican authorities stated that all documentation must be sent by the ‘Adoption Authority of Ireland, or a body accredited by the AAI, to the Federal Central Authority’ – as per the Mexican notice on the Hague Convention website.

The release also pointed out that Irish visa applicants must clearly state the actual purpose of their visit to Mexico and prospective adoptive parents need to obtain an adoption visa.

‘While some individual States within the Federal United States of Mexico may allow for private domestic adoptions outside public entities, there is no provision for private adoptions in the context of intercountry adoption,’ the release said.

‘No children under five years of age should be proposed for intercountry adoption, the only exceptions being children with special needs or sibling groups.

‘On the basis of the foregoing, prospective adoptive parents should not enter into any private arrangements with private individuals or private agencies.’
In light of that information from the Irish Adoption Authority, I have to say it's hard to believe that the prospective adoptive parents thought they were involved with legitimate international adoption.  It took me three seconds to find out the process of international adoption in Ireland on Google.

Chinese New Year, Performance Edition

Chinese New Year is approaching (January 23), and we've started off the usual round of celebrations with a performance.  The Fort Worth Chinese School, where the girls attend, was invited to perform their lion dance and flag dance at a local adoption agency's adoptive families Chinese New Year celebration (not the agency we used, btw).  It was kind of interesting attending such an event NOT as audience but as performers!

The girls had a great time showing off, and I'm hopeful that some of the adoptive parents present might think about sending their children to Chinese School!
The girls got to partake of the buffet, with Zoe eating her weight in dumplings, as usual, and do some of the crafts available for the kids. (Yes, that's Maya posing with the fan she colored.)
Afterwards, some of the audience kids posed with the lion masks, to the delight of the adoptive parents.  Of course, mine also had to pose -- they're behind these masks (and the ones above) with their good friend Mae.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

For Many Latinos, Racial Identity is More Culture than Color

From the New York Times, an interesting exploration of race versus ethnicity versus culture among Latinos:
Every decade, the Census Bureau spends billions of dollars and deploys hundreds of thousands of workers to get an accurate portrait of the American population. Among the questions on the census form is one about race, with 15 choices, including “some other race.”

More than 18 million Latinos checked this “other” box in the 2010 census, up from 14.9 million in 2000. It was an indicator of the sharp disconnect between how Latinos view themselves and how the government wants to count them. Many Latinos argue that the country’s race categories — indeed, the government’s very conception of identity — do not fit them.
The main reason for the split is that the census categorizes people by race, which typically refers to a set of common physical traits. But Latinos, as a group in this country, tend to identify themselves more by their ethnicity, meaning a shared set of cultural traits, like language or customs.

Orphan still fighting effects of Vietnam War

From the BBC, a story about one of the Vietnam babylift orphans (still called an orphan in the headline after adoption decades before?!):
Lê Thanh is 40 this year. At least, he thinks he is.

His birthday was given to him by a Rhondda dentist after the Welsh family who adopted him at the end of the Vietnam War tried to establish his age through dental testing.

He doesn't know anything about his background - he was just told that when he was taken to an orphanage, he was well nourished, suggesting his family had cared for him before they were possibly killed.

Even his full Vietnamese name Lê Thanh Hung was lost in the confusion of his adoption. He now just goes by the complete name Lê Thanh, without a surname.

Apart from these few details and a photo of him clutching a doll at his orphanage, very little of his life as a toddler is known.

* * *

"Growing up in the Rhondda in the 1970s was obviously very difficult as there were no other Oriental people growing up in that area at that time," said Lê Thanh, who was adopted by a vicar and a health visitor from Penygraig and was brought up with their two other children.

"I was bullied by the school bully but I stood my ground. My philosophy is what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

"But I didn't really have a happy childhood. It wasn't impoverished but I have always been different and I never really fitted in. Even in today's society I still don't really fit in."

* * *

"I now co-ordinate reunions of fellow adoptees and although I mark it as a social reunion, the true reason behind it for a lot of people like myself, with my background, is that they're very much displaced," he said.

"They are still very much uncomfortable in their own skins and have their issues.

"Lots of people who went through this [being adopted] thought they were the only ones. The reunions let us connect and share experiences and feelings."

Friday, January 13, 2012

Children of Haiti: 2 Years Later

CBSThisMorning did a piece on Haiti and adoption today.  Watch the 6.33 minute video above, or read at this link.  Here's an excerpt:
Hill shared the story of a couple from Ohio, Jon and Julie Kraner, who want to adopt a child but face challenges with the process [they've only been married 2 years, Haiti requires 10 years].

The new head of Haiti's social services agency, Arielle Jeanty, is trying to turn things around in the country. But she doesn't see international adoption as the answer, calling it "the last option" for these children.

Jeanty has two major concerns: Child-trafficking, and also the future of this country -- if the children leave, who will lead Haiti into its next chapter?

Even before the earthquake, Haiti was the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. There is no free public education and barely half of the adult population can read. There are few social services. For many, daily life is simply a game of survival. And since the quake, it's only gotten worse.