Families who adopt internationally often try to keep a child's heritage alive by playing music from that country, buying indigenous clothing or gifts or trying to master the child's birth language.Of course, food is a good place to start with culture-keeping, but it isn't the end of it. Remember the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute's report, Beyond Culture Camp: "Positive racial/ethnic identity development is most effectively facilitated by “lived” experiences such as travel to native country, attending racially diverse schools, and having role models of their own race/ethnicity." In that report, 84% of Korean adoptees said that they had dined in Korean restaurants or eaten Korean food, but only 68% said it was helpful in forming a positive racial/ethnic identity. Still, that ranked higher in helpfulness than did having a Korean doll/traditional object (49%), or studying traditional dance or martial arts (38%).
It's critical not to ignore the child's ties to another culture, said Nancy Janus, an associate professor of human development at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., who has researched international adoptions and has three daughters adopted from Colombia.
"That's unquestionable, because it's who the kids are," Janus said. "It's especially relevant where there's no racial similarity. . . . There's a need to understand their differentness."
Food offers one avenue for adoptive families.
I know my kids love Chinese food. For special occasions like birthdays and adoption days, where they are given unfettered choice of restaurants, Zoe ALWAYS picks Chinese. She definitely connects it to her heritage, wanting it especially on those trigger days that remind her of birth parents and heritage. It's not the only time we eat Chinese, but we inevitably do on those days.
So eating ethnic food won't quite get you there, but it is an easy place to start in most areas where ethnic grocery stores make the ingredients easy to get and ethnic restaurants are abundant. Just don't stop there. . . .