Saturday, March 31, 2012

Orphan finds his way home using Google Earth

What a story!
Beyond the novelty of ne'erseen shipwrecks and rooftop sunbathers, the venerable bird's-eye map of the world has emerged, for one man at least, as a beacon, guiding him home after 25 years.

Saroo Brierley was 5-years-old, living in a slum in India when he and his brother were sent to beg for money at the train station. He fell asleep on a train and woke-up ten hours and some 900 miles later in the town of Kolkata on the other side of the country. For a month he wandered the streets, 5-years-old, trying to find his way home.

Eventually he was declared an orphan and adopted by Australians. He spent the next 25 years growing up in Tasmania, more than 8,000 miles away.

All the while he remembered his home, scattered images.

Ten years ago he began the search. City by city, comparing maps to the images in his memory. In the end, it was Google Earth that brought him home. Thousands of hours scouring images, and there was the train station from his childhood. The place it all began some quarter-century before.

He booked a ticket and returned to India, walked the streets, asked of anyone who would listen, and on a narrow roadway in a place buried in childhood memories, he knocked on a door that had been closed nearly all his life. His mother answered.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Russian Duma to Debate U.S.-Russia Adoption

From RiaNovosti:
An adoption deal between Russia and the United States drafted in the wake of a series of tragic episodes involving Russian children and their adoptive American families was submitted to the State Duma for ratification on Friday, a lower house spokesman said.

The need for such an agreement became particularly acute two years ago when a U.S. mother sent her a seven-year-old adopted Russian son back to Moscow on a plane with a note saying she did not want him anymore.

* * *

Russian children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov earlier said he hoped the agreement would be ratified this spring.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Gender Imbalance in China

From China Daily, a look at improving ratios that are still terribly unbalanced, with not a single mention of the role of the one child policy in that imbalance:
The notoriously problematic gap between the number of boys and girls born in China has reduced for three consecutive years, the first sustained alleviation in the gender ratio in 30 years, said a report in Thursday's People's Daily newspaper.
But the figure is still higher than a warning limit and the country faces an arduous task to redress its gender imbalance, according to the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China.

Census data released by the National Bureau of Statistics showed that in 2011, China's gender ratio stood at 117.78 newborn boys for every 100 baby girls, a continuous decline from 119.45 in 2009 and 117.94 in 2010.

This result indicates that government measures, including crackdowns on illegal prenatal gender tests and selective abortions, are proving effective, Zhang Jian, a public communication official of the National Population and Family Planning Commission (NPFPC), told the newspaper.

A natural gender ratio at birth should be somewhere between 103 and 107 boys to every 100 girls. Due to the higher mortality rate of boys, the ratio will balance off by the time each generation reaches an age to have their own children.

However, since ultrasound inspections have enabled fetal gender testing in China in the 1980s, the country's gender ratio for newborn babies has hovered at a high level, and reached 120.56 in 2008.

* * *

And the serious gender imbalance is not only a population problem, but also a grave social problem, Zhang noted.

* * *

Experts have also proposed enhanced efforts to promote equal opportunities and the social status of females as a fundamental solution to the problem.

The preference for boys in Chinese society became conventional in China's era of under-development, when boys were favored as stronger laborers.

The problem lingers in modern China, though. Even in some of the country's affluent coastal areas, gender ratio figures are climbing, the article noted.

Excepting improvement in education levels of girls and women, females are still left behind their male counterparts in job opportunities, career positions and salary, said Yang Juhua, a demographic professor with Renmin University of China.

Mother Reunited With Stolen Child She Was Told Had Died

A reuniun in the Spanish stolen babies debacle:
Manuela Polo is one of hundreds of women who were told their babies died shortly after birth when in fact they were taken and given to childless couples in a stolen baby scandal dating back to the Franco era that has only recently come to light.
The 79-year old from Galicia never fully believed that her seventh child had died shortly after she gave birth in a hospital in La Coruna and after a long search and a DNA test she finally met her daughter last week.
Mrs Polo was told that she had a baby boy and held him only briefly before he was whisked away by doctors who later said he had died. Her husband was shown a tiny coffin meant to contain the corpse.
But the baby, a girl, had been sold to a couple unable to have children of their own. The child was brought up in Valencia with the name Maria Jesus Cebrian, who began the search for her birth mother 12 years ago.

* * *

It is only the second time campaigners have been able to prove that a baby said to have died at birth was stolen and sold in a network in which doctors, nuns, priests and even undertakers were complicit.
More than 1,000 families have registered with campaign groups and are demanding Spain's attorney general's office to launch a full investigation into a widespread scandal stretching over 40 years. Campaign groups suspect there could be as many as 300,000 cases of baby snatching.

Single mothers, those who already had several children, and mothers of twins were targeted on the basis that they did not deserve or need their babies. It began as a policy during the time of dictator General Francisco Franco and is thought to have continued into the early 1990s.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Directions For the Family Tree

At NPR's , a panel discussion about nontraditional families, including an adoptive mother in an open adoption, a gay adoptive father in a transracial, closed adoption, and a mother via donor insemination.  You can read the transcript and/or listen to the story here. Here's a snippet:
LYDEN: So, everybody, moms and dad - let's start with you, Carrie. Your daughter was adopted through what's called an open adoption. You have a relationship with the birth mom. And you wrote in your blog that having an open adoption is complicated. There's so much beauty in allowing an adopted child to know and love a birth family, but with that knowledge comes the burden of truth. And we wondered, what is that burden of truth?

GOLDMAN: The burden of truth is - I look at it this way. Most adopted children harbor a fantasy about their other family, and in their minds it's just this perfect alternative to the family they're in. And, when you're in a closed adoption, the fantasy might just live. When you're in an open adoption, you know the conditions that the birth family lives in.

And, in Katie's situation, her birth family's life is very difficult at times. And we have to balance how much to reveal to her so that we're honest with how much to keep back from her because she's just a little girl and I don't want her to feel anxious or stressed when she learns that her birth family is struggling.

LYDEN: Jay Rapp, you and your partner, Gene, have two daughters. You guys are gay. Both these girls are adopted. How much have you told them about the birth families?

RAPP: We've been honest from the very beginning. My oldest daughter, who's eight, she actually has pictures of her birth mother and her half-siblings. She has two sisters and a brother. And our younger daughter, who is four, actually doesn't have any of those things, so we know very little about her family. And, of course, these are both closed adoptions.

But we've tried to be very honest from the beginning when we talk about our family. And really, although this may sound cliche, really conveying that they came from a very loving family who, of course, would have wanted to keep them were circumstances different, but for a variety of reasons, were unable and, as a result, wanted to provide them with what might be a better life.

A Look Inside China

Forty-one awesome photos from around China, published in the Atlantic.  A must-see for China adoptive parents who want to know about modern China, not just the historical empress-in-silk-qipao version.  Yes, some of the photos are focused on the bizarre, rather than the truly typical, but news photos in the U.S. are, too!  There are some important slice-of-life photos, too.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Child Poverty: Adoption is NOT the Solution

At Huffington Post, by Dr. Jane Aronson, often called the "Orphan Doctor:"
I was with some colleagues today discussing the plight of the children of the world. Sometimes, I think that if I just keep talking, something will come of it. I'm optimistic and hopeful even though the statistics are ugly, alarming and outrageous.

Tony Lake, head of UNICEF, wrote a beautiful piece for Lancet in 2011 in which he referred to the loss of developmental potential for children in the modern world as an "outrage." The research and scholarship on this subject is outstanding as researchers continue to reveal the complex issues of early childhood development in poor children all over the world. When you factor in the long term effects of malnutrition, lack of pre-natal care and stimulation, abuse, neglect, gender inequity, early marriage, child trafficking, child labor, child conscription and institutionalization, it is a fair estimate that half the world's children are living a marginalized life.

* * *

And when the question is how do we care for 153 million orphans, the solution is not adoption. Rather, it's about about strategic and thoughtful work to build communities and provide access to medical care and education for children from the moment they are born... to support women so that they can be educated and grow the economic strength of their communities.

It's about preventing poverty and providing hope. There are many models of community-based care and creative tools to help children and families grow and be successful but investment in social work infrastructure and community worker training programs are essential to any model. Midwives, vaccinators, community workers and case managers are the wave of the future.

forced adoptions for unwed mothers around the globe

From Dan Rather at Yahoo News, an article focusing on birth mothers forced or coerced to relinquish babies in Spain, Ireland, Australia, Canada and the U.S.:
Most women describe giving birth to a child as a life changing experience – in a word – “challenging”, “joyous”, “miraculous.” But generations of young, unwed women describe their experience of giving birth to a child as a nightmare – and decades later their suffering has yet to end.

From Australia to Spain, Ireland to America, and as recent as 1987, young mothers say they were “coerced”, “manipulated”, and “duped” into handing over their babies for adoption. These women say sometimes their parents forged consent documents, but more often they say these forced adoptions were coordinated by the people their families trusted most...priests, nuns, social workers, nurses or doctors. 

* * *

Two weeks ago, a prominent Canadian law firm announced that it would file a class-action lawsuit against Quebec's Catholic Church accusing the Church of kidnapping, fraud and coercion to force unwed mothers to give up their children for adoption.

Attorney Tony Merchant represents several hundred women who claim that when they were in maternity homes in the 1950s and 1960s, social workers, nurses, doctors, and even men and women in the employ of the Catholic Church cooperated with government officials to force or, even coerce, young women to sign away their rights to keep their child never knowing they even had a choice.

Merchant was quoted in the Montreal Gazette as saying, "The beliefs the Catholic Church (in Quebec) had about premarital sex and the judgmental approach the church had, made it particularly aggressive in pressuring women into putting their children up for adoption."

In Spain, an 80-year-old nun, Sister Maria Gómez, became the first person accused of baby snatching in a scandal over the trafficking of 1,500 newborns in Spanish hospitals over four decades until the 1980s. The babies were either stolen, sold or given away by adoption.

* * *

We have interviewed numerous women in the U.S. who told us that they were sent to maternity homes, denied contact with their families and friends, forced to endure labor with purposely painful procedures and return home without their babies. Single, American mothers were also denied financial support and told that their children would be better off without them.

In some cases, they too were told that their babies had died. Many signed away their rights while drugged and exhausted after childbirth. Others were threatened with substantial medical bills if they didn't surrender or were manipulated through humiliation. According to Fessler [author of The Girls Who Went Away], these seemingly unethical practices were used against as many as 1.5 million mothers in the United States.

Monday, March 26, 2012

White Adoptive Parents: Keeping Your Children of Color Safe in a Racist World

At Land of a Gazillion Adoptees, Keum Mee asks important questions about the training, knowledge and competence of white transracially adopting parents to teach their children of color what they need to know:
If you have been listening to the news at all lately, you have probably heard the tragic story of Trayvon Martin‘s death. Since adoption is the place my mind is most of the time, I just keep thinking, “How many transracial adoptive parents know that this story is relevant to their own families?” In his Washington Post blog article, opinion writer, Johnathan Capehart, recalls “the list of the 'don’ts'" he received from his mother about how to behave in public when a young Capehart was about to transfer to a predominantly white school. As a black woman in America, Capehart’s mother knew through lived experience the challenges her son would face as a black man in a white world. So when I hear the accounts of adoption professionals like Melanie Chung-Sherman about the lack of attention to race in adoption placement, I worry that our kids of color are not in line to receive valuable skills and information they need to survive as a non-white person in a predominantly white society from their white parents. What if some white parents of kids of color adhere to a our-world-is-colorblind philosophy? What kind of lived experience will they share with their children? What will happen to their children when they leave the protective umbrella of their parents’ white privilege?
So how about you?  What are you doing to help your children grow up SAFE in a world that will make assumptions about them, solely based on their appearance? 

I have to admit, I hate asking this question -- what should the potential VICTIM do to avoid danger?  It's so victim-blaming, like telling girls they're to blame for their own rapes because they wore a short skirt or a see-through blouse.  I absolutely CRINGED when Geraldo Rivera said the solution was for boys of color not to wear hoodies.  REALLY?!  Isn't the solution to END RACISM?! Yes. But. In the meantime, I need to keep my children safe, even when I'm not there to clothe them in my white privilege.  So what do we do?

1. Read. Listen. Learn. I don't have the "lived experience" to know the kinds of racisms my children will face.  So in the absence of that lived experience, I need to listen to people of color, read what they write, and ACCEPT WHAT THEY SAY. No denials allowed.  I can't say, "That doesn't really happen, you misunderstood, you overreacted, that wasn't really racist."

2.  Talk. Teach.  It's imporant to talk to our children about race and racism.  Talk explicitly about these things.  And it's not enough to talk about it as an historical event.  Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks are all well and good, but you can't act like they cured racism in the 1960s, and it's never been seen again.

3.  Recognize stereotypes. Be specific. Do you know the stereotypes associated with your child's race or ethnicity?  Do you know that Asians are thought of as sneaky and untrustworthy? as perpetually foreign?  Do you know that Asian women are considered submissive and sexually exotic?  Do you know that hispanics are thought of as shiftless and lazy?  Do you know that African-American women are seen as sexually available, and African-American men as violent criminals? Do you know how these stereotypes are often manifested? If you don't know, how can you prepare your children to recognize and respond to the stereotypes when they are manifested?  It's not pleasant to put yourself into the minds of people who think this way, but it's necessary to help your children.

4. Lessons.  My children can't absorb lessons about how to respond to the specific racisms they'll face simply by seeing how I face them -- because I won't be facing them.  That means explicit lessons are needed.  We talk about specific situations:  ching-chong speech, assumptions they know karate, the pulled-eyes gesture.  We brainstorm responses.  We role-play situations.  They learn, they feel empowered, they handle the situations when faced with them.

5.  Role models. Since our children can't learn from OUR lived experiences, make sure there are people in their lives who have lived the experiences they will likely face.

So what are you doing to keep your child of color safe in this not-colorblind world? What have I left off the list?

China: Search for Birth Parents Continues

In December, I posted an article from China Daily about then-21-year-old Ming Foxweldon's search for her birth parents in China.  At that time, she believed that her search had succeeded.  In February, Ming posted a comment saying that DNA results showed that the couple who stepped forward were not, in fact, her relatives.  The search is back on, and China Daily again reports:
A 22-year-old woman from the United States is continuing efforts to find her biological parents in Southwest China's Yunnan province after her previous attempt failed last year.
Ming Foxweldon, a student at the University of Vermont, is sending a new poster around to Chinese media in the hope of gaining the public's attention.

She came to Yunnan University in June last year to study Chinese and look for her birth parents. She was abandoned at birth in 1990 because her feet were slightly deformed, and was later adopted at the age of four from Kunming Orphange by a US couple.

At first, she had difficulty getting information about her life in Yunnan. Kunming Orphanage could not give her any useful information about her life before she was adopted because of the lapse of time. She had all but some childhood photos and certificates of abandonment. Language also posed a barrier

After a few months of fruitless effort, things took a turn in November when her teacher at Yunnan University told her story to Yunnan TV Station. After her story was broadcast by the TV station a couple in a village near her birthplace contacted the station, saying that Foxweldon may have been the baby they had abandoned about 20 years ago.

* * *

However, a DNA test showed there was no blood relation between her and the couple, so she returned to the US to continue her studies.

"Although I am living happily in the US, still I hope to find my root in China," Foxweldon said in a poster sent to China Daily on Monday.

"I want to say to my birth parents: thank you for bringing me to the world. Whatever the reason you gave me up I totally understand. I hope to have a chance to thank you for giving me a life and to fulfill my duty as your child," she said.
In the meantime, in her comment, Ming asks: "Until then, should anyone have information about Kunming or Yiliang Yunnan, please let me know, via my blog. Chinese name is 白宜民 according to the records! Thanks again! =)" She blogs at The China Experience.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

China: Newborns' Safe Haven Sparks Debate

According to China Daily, a Chinese orphanage has set up a safe haven for abandoned babies:
A child welfare institute in the capital of North China's Hebei province has provided the mainland's first safe haven for abandoned newborns, an act that sparked heated debate among child welfare promoters and legal experts.

The safe haven, located outside the gate of Shijiazhuang Social Welfare Institute, is a cabin-shaped shelter designed to protect babies who have been left in the care of the institute.

Qin Bo, an official at the institute, explained its decision to set up the shelter.

"For many years, infants were dropped off outside the gates of the welfare institute and the drop-off locations extended to streets 100 meters away," Qin said.

"We gave serious thought to what we could do to improve the situation, and that's how the safe haven was invented."

* * *

With the safe haven, babies can be left either at the incubator or in a crib inside. The bell rings after a delay of several minutes and then the institute's security guard comes to fetch the baby. The security guard also checks the incubator every two hours.

Once a baby has been left in the safe haven, staff members from the institute contact police to verify that the child has been abandoned. Later the baby will be sent to receive a health check.

* * *

The welfare institute's decision has created controversy among child welfare promoters and legal experts, some of whom say that the decision could encourage the act of infant abandonment.

"Some parents give up a baby girl because of gender discrimination or birth defects. Is it right to allow these selfish parents to give up their children?" asked Chen Wei, a lawyer from the Yingke Law Firm in Beijing.

Chen is worried that this kind of safe haven for abandoned children will encourage some parents to abdicate their legal responsibilities without good reason.

In response, Qin said that statistics from the institute showed that setting up the haven has not encouraged infant abandonment, and abandoned infants are not flocking into the institute.

According to statistics, the institute has received 75 abandoned infants, including 26 abandoned at the haven, since the haven was set up on June 1. There were 83 in 2010 and 105 in 2009.

"For parents, abandoning their babies is not an easy decision," Qin said.

"I don't think parents would decide to abandon babies simply because we set up a cozy temporary shelter. Most parents wouldn't do that even if we set up a haven with the standards of a five-star hotel."

Ji Gang, director of the domestic adoption department of the China Center for Children's Welfare and Adoption, believes the setting up of the haven is meaningful.

"It prioritizes a child's right to survive," Ji said.
I've posted before about safe haven issues.  I asked there whether there was a different value in safe havens in a place like China where some children are going to be abandoned anyway, so what we're doing is encouraging "safe abandonment" (oxymoronic as that sounds). . . .

"Baffled" that Adoptive Parents Prefer Girls?

According to this article, adoption agencies are "baffled" by the fact that boys wait longer for adoptive families than girls do:
At Children's Home Society & Family Services, Molly Rochon and her team of adoption professionals remain steadfast in their resolve to find loving families for all their waiting children.

But Rochon is baffled by a new group sharing longer waits to be adopted, along with older children, siblings and children with chronic health conditions: boys.

"When it comes to families, we just have more boys [waiting] than girls," said Rochon, senior country relations manager at the St. Paul agency. "We place more girls. It's just what families want."

How many more? In 2006, families expressing a gender preference chose girls over boys 391 to 166. In 2009, the split was 213 girls and 88 boys; in 2010, 121 and 38. Last year, it was 78 girls and 31 boys.

The drive for daughters, Rochon said, cuts across the agency's international and domestic programs and is noted regardless of the child's age; families frequently express interest in a girl "as young as possible."

Could it be that there simply are fewer adoptable boys in general? Nope. Boys are more commonly eligible for adoption than girls. Said Rochon: "It's just unexplainable."
Really?!  Baffled?! Unexplainable?! It's a pretty well-known phenomenon, that adoptive parents have a gender preference for girls.  I've posted about it here and here.

In that second post, I addressed the "why" question about the preference for girls in this way:
Several reasons have been advanced for that phenomenon. First, women are more likely to be the decision-maker in a "mom & dad" adoption, and are thought to be more likely to prefer girls. Second, while boys are often seen as the ones who "carry on the family name", there's an unconscious idea that non-biological children should not be carrying on the family name. Third, boys who are available for adoption might be perceived as more "difficult," while girls are seen as more malleable and easier to parent. Fourth, to the extent that singles or same-sex families are adopting, there are far more women than men adopting, and they may see themselves as better able to parent a same-sex child.
Regardless of the reason for the preference, it's well-documented and has been the case in the U.S. since the 1920s.  Seems odd to claim bafflement!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

October Baby, A Review

I don't plan to see this movie, so I wanted to share this review at the blog On Incarus' Wings, from a self-described Christian (the intended audience for the film) birth mother:
October Baby is the latest feel good film from the Christian film industry. I loathe the premise behind this movie. Lets break it down shall we? A note: there are plenty of spoilers in this review.

If you want the quick version of my criticism it is this: This film is full of adoption cliches that are largely believed by society, mainly Christian society. It once again proves that the telling of a story to propagate a pro-life agenda is more important to filmmakers than finding out the intricacies of adoption and portraying them in a realistic light.

* * *

When the adoptive parents reveal to Hannah that she is adopted they also reveal that she is the result of a botched abortion. Here is where I personally take the biggest issue with this movie. Yes, this is a possible story. Yes, there are women that have abortions that do not work and the result is the mother giving up their child for adoption. But this story line? It makes me angry. The vast majority of birth mothers did not consider abortion for their child.

* * *

I get angry when the church and pro-lifers say that adoption is the alternative to abortion. It is not. Life is the alternative to abortion. Adoption is the alternative to parenting. These are two separate decisions that should not be made at the same time. Every woman that has ever been in a crisis pregnancy knows that first you decide if you want to have and abortion or not, then you decide what you are going to do with the baby once you decide to let the baby live. Once again, adoption is not the alternative to abortion.

* * *

In conclusion, “October Baby” proves that it is pro-life propaganda instead of a honest portrayal of adoption. It makes me sad that adoptees are going to go to this movie and once again hear the myths and stereotypes that they are all too familiar with. It makes me sad that people will see this movie and think they know about adoption instead of an accurate portrayal of what adoption really is. It is upsetting that once again birth mothers will be vilified and yet at the same time portrayed as heroes for giving their child life. It angers me that this will be a catalyst for someone to adopt, not knowing the realities of adoption.
Have you seen the movie? What did you think?

Stigmatizing Single Motherhood

A new bill introduced in the Wisconsin legislature illustrates clearly that despite the prevalence of single motherhood these days, the stigma remains:
In Wisconsin, a state senator has introduced a bill aimed at penalizing single mothers by calling their unmarried status a contributing factor in child abuse and neglect.

Senate Bill 507, introduced by Republican Senator Glenn Grothman, moves to amend existing state law by "requiring the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect."

The bill would require educational and public awareness campaigns held by the board to emphasize that not being married is abusive and neglectful of children, and to underscore "the role of fathers in the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect."
Did you catch that?  NOT BEING MARRIED is abusive and neglectful of children.  "Hello, my name is Malinda, and I'm a neglectful child abuser."

And, of course, the CURE for this abuse is fathers . . . or adoption by a man-woman two-parent married couple.  So if I can't find a father for my poor fatherless babies, the solution is obvious, says the legislator -- "Whether that leads to more people paying attention and having children after they're married or whether that leads to some others making a choice for adoptions," he's happy. 

Racist America's Complicity in the Trayvon Martin Shooting

You know, in light of my last post, I'm not going to introduce this one by saying, "If you're parenting an African-American boy, you should care about this."  Instead, if you're a human being living in America, you should care about this. Tim Wise explains how George Zimmerman was taught to fear black men by society:
It should be especially unsurprising that Zimmerman would have internalized racially-biased assumptions about black males, given the society in which he (and we) reside. And although this hardly lets him off the hook — one must be responsible for one’s own actions in any event, no matter the social contributors to those actions — it is worth noting a few things about the milieu in which this wannabe police officer was operating. In other words, Zimmerman’s culpability, while total and complete, is not solitary.

After all, we are a society in which research has shown quite conclusively that local newscasts overrepresent blacks as criminals, relative to their actual share of total crime, and overrepresent whites as victims, relative to our share of victimization.

A society in which other studies have shown that these racially-skewed newscasts have a direct relationship to widespread negative perceptions of black people. Indeed, a substantial percentage of anti-black racial hostility can be directly traced to media imagery, even after all other factors are considered.

A society in which the disproportionate incarceration of black males — especially for non-violent drug offenses, which they are no more likely (and often even less likely) than whites to commit — feeds the perception that they are so treated because they are dangerous and must be kept at bay.

A society in which criminality is so associated with blackness that whites literally and almost instantly connect the two things in survey after survey, and study after study, even though we are roughly 5 times as likely to be criminally victimized by another white person as by a black person.

A society in which anti-black racism has been so long ingrained that not only most whites, but also most Latinos and Asian Americans, demonstrate substantial subconscious bias against African Americans in study after study of implicit racial hostility (and even about a third of blacks themselves demonstrate anti-black racism).

George Zimmerman was very simply taught to fear black men by his society, and he learned his lessons well. And while he must be punished for his transgressions — and hopefully will be, now that the Justice Department is investigating and a Grand Jury is being convened — let there be no mistake, he cannot and should not take the fall alone for that which stems so directly from a larger social and cultural narrative to which he (and all of us) have been subjected.

Black males are, for far too many in America, a racial Rorschach test, onto which we instantaneously graft our own perceptions and assumptions, virtually none of them good. Look, a black man on your street! Quick, what do you see? A criminal. Look, a black man on the corner! Quick, what do you see? A drug dealer. Look, a black man in a suit, in a corporate office! Quick, what do you see? An affirmative action case who probably got the job over a more qualified white man. And if you don’t believe that this is what we do — what you do — then ask yourself why 95 percent of whites, when asked to envision a drug user, admit to picturing a black person, even though blacks are only 13 percent of users, compared to about 70 percent who are white? Ask yourself why whites who are hooked up to brain scan monitors and then shown subliminal images of black men — too quickly for the conscious mind to even process what it saw — show a dramatic surge of activity in that part of the brain that reacts to fear and anxiety? Ask yourself why whites continue to believe that we are the most discriminated against group in America — and that folks of color are “taking our jobs” — even as we remain roughly half as likely to be out of work and a third as likely to be poor as those persons of color. Even when only comparing persons with college degrees, black unemployment is about double the white rate, Latino unemployment about 50 percent higher, and Asian American unemployment about a third higher than their white counterparts.

George Zimmerman must be held accountable for his actions, and hopefully he will be. Innocent until proven guilty of course, there is a process for determining matters of formal legal responsibility, and may that process now move forward to a just conclusion. But beyond the matter of legal guilt or innocence, beyond that which can be addressed in a court of law — one way or the other — there is a bigger issue here, and it is one that cannot be resolved by a jury, be it Grand or otherwise, nor by judges or prosecutors. It is the none-too-minor matter of the monster we as a nation have created, not only apparently in the heart of George Zimmerman, but in the minds of millions: individuals far too quick to rationalize any injustice so long as the victim has a black face; persons for whom no act of racially-biased misconduct qualifies as racist; persons who have allowed their own fears, anxieties and occasionally even hatreds to numb them, to inure them to the pain and suffering of the so-called other.

Race Isn't a "Big Deal" Until It's YOUR Kid?!

A prospective adoptive parent, considering transracial adoption, writes that she's become "race obsessed," after growing up "in an environment and at a time (when was that?!) when race wasn't a really big deal:"
One of the decisions we’ve made is that we’re open to transracial adoption. My husband and I are both white and we’re on the path to adopting a child who is black. In many ways, this is not a big deal. My best friend is black and many of our other friends are, too. We live in an area that is predominantly black and many families in our church, school and neighborhood are interracial.

In other ways, this one decision has been one of the more difficult. There’s no other way to put it — I’ve gotten a bit race obsessed. I’m hyper-sensitive, in ways I wasn’t before, to jokes, internet memes, disparate treatment and everything else that minorities deal with every day.

* * *

I’m fine with joking about race and always have, but some things that are passed off as jokes aren’t funny in the slightest. A father of a friend recently told a joke that was so racist that it just made me sad. He’s old enough to fit into my “too old to fight” category on these issues, but I don’t want my children — white or black — to hear these things.

Even 30 Rock, a show I love, occasionally wearies me with it’s post-ironic racism. I was blessed to kind of grow up in an environment and at a time when race wasn’t a really big deal. Even being the only white kid in my kindergarten was a great experience. My best friend and I have been together since junior high school, so we certainly — she certainly — dealt with a bunch of race-related weirdness. That’s because we had both moved to a very rural and very white area. But the race stuff was mostly of the harmless variety. It didn’t hurt that she was the most beautiful girl in school.

I think that during those years, I developed a certain coping style where the right thing to do was to act as if any racial stupidity that came her way was no big deal. I sort of followed her lead. And since then, I’ve adopted that same attitude. If other people are racist, that’s their problem. And for the most part, that’s right.

But when it’s your own kid? Then it’s your problem, too.
Wow. Racism, racial jokes, aren't "a really big deal," "racial weirdness" is "mostly of the harmless variety," until it's your kid suffering?!  Nice to care when your child is affected, but what does it say when it didn't matter to you before?

And I'd like to know, when was that golden age in America when race wasn't a really big deal -- I mean, to people who aren't white, that is. I'm a History major, and I've lived in this country for 51 years, and I can't seem to identify that ideal period! I think we need to file this one under "Sh*t White People Say," when they're trying to be well-intentioned.

And her take-away from all of this?  It's not that she needs to learn how to be an ally to her child AND other people of color, to parent intentionally to help her child develop a positive racial identity, to develop strategies to help her child deal with racial teasing, to make race talk a normal part of family conversation, to learn how to deal with challenges affecting transracially adopted kids.  No, she thinks she needs to figure out a way not to be "race obsessed," a way to go back to the good ol' days when she thought race was no big deal! She needs to learn "to check my obsession and get to a better place where I can parent without such concern, anger and worry." I'm sorry, there's little way to be a sentient being in America without concern, anger and worry about racism.  And there's NO WAY to be an adequate parent to a child of color without concern, anger and worry about racism.

But she has help in her delusions.  After all, "All the books the adoption agency has given me have said that I can’t make too big of a deal about race."  Sigh.

Friday, March 23, 2012

New Study: Post-Adoption Depression

From Purdue University, a new study on factors contributing to post-adoption stress and depression:
Fatigue and unrealistic expectations of parenthood may help contribute to post-adoption depression in women, according to a Purdue University study.

"Feeling tired was by far the largest predictor of depression in mothers who adopted," said Karen J. Foli, an assistant professor of nursing who studied factors that could predict depression in adoptive mothers. "We didn't expect to see this, and we aren't sure if the fatigue is a symptom of the depression or if it is the parenting experience that is the source of the fatigue. It also may be reflective of a lacking social support system that adoptive parents receive. However, a common thread in my research has been an assumption that if the mom didn't carry the child for nine months or go through a physical labor, the parents don't need help in the same manner as birth mothers do."

Other predictors of depression in adoptive mothers included expectations of themselves as mothers, of the child, and of family and friends, perceived support from friends, self-esteem, martial satisfaction, and parent and child bonding. These findings, published this month in Advances in Nursing Science, are based on survey results of 300 mothers who had adopted within the past two years. The average age of the children at the time of the adoption was 4.6 years.

* * *

"Bonding with the children often comes up in post-adoption depression. If adoptive mothers cannot bond to their child as quickly as they expected, they commonly report feeling guilt and shame," Foli said. "These parents have the expectation to quickly attach to the child and they see themselves as superparents. But what happens when the child they adopt is a teething toddler or unknown special needs surface? It's a difficult stage for a parent who has known that child for two years, let alone someone who is establishing a new relationship with the child."

The study also showed that depressive symptoms were more likely higher for mothers who did not have the complete background or biographical information about children, who, after placement, were considered special needs children. However, depression was not correlated with parents who were aware they were receiving a child with known special needs.

"We also found that mothers of children with different ethnic or racial backgrounds did not report more depressive symptoms than those mothers who did not differ from their children's ethnic or racial backgrounds," Foli said. "Interestingly, these moms did report perceiving that society was less accepting of their adoptive family.

Explaining Adoption to 3-5 Year-Olds

At Adoptive Families, some advice for talking adoption to the preschool set:
When children are very young, your tone and your comfort with the topic are as important as the facts, so you can stick to a simple version of his story. Think of it as a sketch that you’ll fill in with more details. The only caveat is to be honest and avoid saying anything you’ll have to contradict later.

* * *

Adoptive parents sometimes skip the birth step when telling their young child his story. They may say, “Mommy and Daddy couldn’t make a baby, so we called an adoption agency. They found a baby for us, and that was you.” Other parents start talking about adoption by focusing on the child’s birth country. Lily, age five, from Lawrenceville, New Jersey, thought she was born “from China.” Keep in mind that preschoolers are literal thinkers. It is not unusual for a child this age to conclude that “adoption” means being hatched, delivered by plane, or some other non-natural process. Include your child’s birth in her story even if you know little about it; your child needs to know that she was born normally, like any other child.

* * *

Preschoolers begin to differentiate between birth and adoption as different ways of entering a family, and to realize that they have two sets of parents. They’ll start asking questions that they’ll pose many times over, in different forms, in the years to come. Why did they place me? Did they give me up because something is wrong with me? Children tend to feel responsible for whatever happens to them, and may worry, Maybe I cried too much, didn’t eat enough, and so on. Reassure your child that nothing he did or didn’t do led to his being placed for adoption, and that his birthparents could not take care of any baby because of their own situation.

On the other hand, don’t give the impression that something is wrong with his birthparents. Even if you have troubling information about the birthparents, try to send the message that they did their best, given their circumstances. At this age, your child needs to feel that he was born to good people.

Don’t tell a preschooler, “She placed you because she loved you.” This may only lead your child to worry that you, her loving parent, could place her again.

* * *

If your child is of a different race, or has clearly different physical features, from your family, she’ll become aware of this around age four. She may notice it herself, or overhear someone commenting on her appearance. Explain that the birth process is the same for everyone, but that people from different cultures have distinguishing physical features and their own rich heritage.

Although it is tempting to smooth over your differences, you should acknowledge them and help your child take pride in his cultural and racial heritage.

* * *

The most important goal at this stage is to create an open, empathic family atmosphere in which adoption is freely discussed and all questions are welcome. Laying this foundation will serve you and your child well in years to come, as her feelings about adoption become more complex, or if you have negative information to share.
Remember, it's never too early to talk to your kids about adoption. The key is to make it developmentally appropriate. And one of the best parts about starting young (even younger than age 3) is that it gives YOU the opportunity to practice and become comfortable with adoption talk while your child is still too young to understand much of what you're saying. That early practice, and laying a foundation to build on later, will benefit both you and your child. Remember, too, that adoption talk is not a one-time deal -- you'll be talking to your child about adoption forever.

There's good, basic advice in this article, and practical suggestions of actual words to use -- something I always find helpful! And if you're just getting started with adoption talk, you might want to check out these posts: Ten Commandments of Telling and Talking Adoption Tips.

This part tickled my funny bone: "All children at this stage are egocentric, so if he gives it any thought, an adopted child will probably assume that all children join their families by adoption."  That's EXACTLY what Zoe thought at this age!  She once asked why her birth parents couldn't adopt her!  Didn't seem to matter that the story had always been, "You grew in your birth mother's tummy until it was time for you to be born;" Zoe still thought that the only way to have stayed with her birth family was for them to adopt her. . . .

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Different Racisms

An important essay, by an Asian adoptee, about racism affecting Asian-Americans:
My senior year in Chapel Hill, I finally got up the courage to take a course in Asian American literature. Stupidly, I treated it as a little experiment. As an adoptee, I had grown up with white parents in a white town in rural Connecticut. My only knowledge of Asian culture was Chinese food and, when I was growing up, a number of meetings of adopted children that still haunt me, though I realize that my parents had my best interests at heart. They had taken me to these meetings for connection, but what I remember was the disconnect: the awkwardness of forced interaction between children who thought of themselves as white and didn’t want to be shown otherwise. We hated being categorized as adoptees, or I did and I read those feelings into the others, who to me did not seem friendly, or familiar, only more strange for their yellow faces.

Those meetings made me feel classified by my parents as other. One of the things I most remember from that time (and from books like We Adopted You, Benjamin Koo) is the common experience that the adopted child has when one day he looks into the mirror and all of a sudden realizes that his skin color is not the same as his parents’. Up until that moment, he sees himself as white (in the case that the parents are white). I saw myself as white. When I closed my eyes, or when I was in a conversation and seemed to be watching from above, I was a skinny white boy, a combination of my parents, just like other kids. Sometimes, if I am being honest, I still catch myself looking down at my conversations with white people and picturing myself, in that strange ongoing record in my head, as no different from them.
The essay goes beyond memoir, as important as that is, addressing larger issues of racism against Asian Americans:
The truth is, racism toward Asians is treated differently in America than racism toward other ethnic groups. This is a truth all Asian Americans know. While the same racist may hold back terms he sees as off-limits toward other minorities, he will often not hesitate to call an Asian person a chink, as Jeremy Lin was referred to, or talk about that Asian person as if he must know karate, or call him Bruce Lee, or consider him weak or effeminate, or so on. Bullying against Asian Americans continues at the highest rate of any ethnic group.
A must read for adoptive parents of Asian kids -- actually, a must read for EVERYONE.  Please, read the whole thing.

The White Savior Industrial Complex

Not a word in this Atlantic article about international adoption (really, it's about reaction to the Kony2012 video), but tell me if it doesn't have relevance to IA:
But I disagree with the approach taken by Invisible Children in particular, and by the White Savior Industrial Complex in general, because there is much more to doing good work than "making a difference." There is the principle of first do no harm. There is the idea that those who are being helped ought to be consulted over the matters that concern them.

* * *

One song we hear too often is the one in which Africa serves as a backdrop for white fantasies of conquest and heroism. From the colonial project to Out of Africa to The Constant Gardener and Kony 2012, Africa has provided a space onto which white egos can conveniently be projected. It is a liberated space in which the usual rules do not apply: a nobody from America or Europe can go to Africa and become a godlike savior or, at the very least, have his or her emotional needs satisfied. Many have done it under the banner of "making a difference." To state this obvious and well-attested truth does not make me a racist or a Mau Mau. It does give me away as an "educated middle-class African," and I plead guilty as charged. (It is also worth noting that there are other educated middle-class Africans who see this matter differently from me. That is what people, educated and otherwise, do: they assess information and sometimes disagree with each other.)

In any case, Kristof and I are in profound agreement about one thing: there is much happening in many parts of the African continent that is not as it ought to be. I have been fortunate in life, but that doesn't mean I haven't seen or experienced African poverty first-hand. I grew up in a land of military coups and economically devastating, IMF-imposed "structural adjustment" programs. The genuine hurt of Africa is no fiction.

And we also agree on something else: that there is an internal ethical urge that demands that each of us serve justice as much as he or she can. But beyond the immediate attention that he rightly pays hungry mouths, child soldiers, or raped civilians, there are more complex and more widespread problems. There are serious problems of governance, of infrastructure, of democracy, and of law and order. These problems are neither simple in themselves nor are they reducible to slogans. Such problems are both intricate and intensely local.

How, for example, could a well-meaning American "help" a place like Uganda today? It begins, I believe, with some humility with regards to the people in those places. It begins with some respect for the agency of the people of Uganda in their own lives. A great deal of work had been done, and continues to be done, by Ugandans to improve their own country, and ignorant comments (I've seen many) about how "we have to save them because they can't save themselves" can't change that fact.

* * *

Let us begin our activism right here: with the money-driven villainy at the heart of American foreign policy. To do this would be to give up the illusion that the sentimental need to "make a difference" trumps all other considerations. What innocent heroes don't always understand is that they play a useful role for people who have much more cynical motives. The White Savior Industrial Complex is a valve for releasing the unbearable pressures that build in a system built on pillage. We can participate in the economic destruction of Haiti over long years, but when the earthquake strikes it feels good to send $10 each to the rescue fund. I have no opposition, in principle, to such donations (I frequently make them myself), but we must do such things only with awareness of what else is involved. If we are going to interfere in the lives of others, a little due diligence is a minimum requirement.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Do Celebrities Have an Advantage in Adoption?

From the Huffington Post:
Because adoption is a private matter, some may question whether stars get special treatment when going through the long, expensive and often arduous adoption process.

"Many adoption agencies claim celebrities do not get special treatment, and celebrities have taken the same stance," said Dorothy Cascerceri, senior editor at In Touch Weekly. "Madonna seemed to fast-track the adoption of her son, David, from Africa, causing critics to slam her, but she insisted that it didn't matter that she was a celebrity or had money -- that she was going through the process the same way as everyone else."

According to David Smolin, a professor at the Cumberland Law School at Samford University and an international adoption expert, non-residents are not allowed to adopt in Malawi, but because of the humanitarian aid Madonna poured into the nation, she was able to skirt some rules when adopting her two children, Mercy James and David Banda.

"For Madonna, being wealthy was maybe more important than being a celebrity because she donated large sums to humanitarian efforts in the country," Smolin said. "To some degree, celebrities can get special treatment based on the amount of money they are donating."

Cascerceri agreed, and she admits celebrities often have an adoption advantage due to their financial status.
What do you think?  Does money and fame make a difference? Do you think it's the money or the fame?  Are there ways in which celebrity might be a disadvantage?

Transracial Adoption Becoming Easier -- Does That Make It Right?

At CNN's African Voices, an opinion piece by author Lola Jaye, whose most recent book, Being Lara, is about a transracially adopted adult, her English adoptive mother (a former pop star), and her Nigerian birth mother :
So, with it becoming 'easier' to adopt a child from a different race -- does this make it right? It is a controversial question that I'm not going to seek to answer within the short confines of this article. However, my own experiences of living with a white British family have been positive and one can argue that this was because I still maintained contact with my birth family via visits to Nigeria.

But not every transracially fostered or adopted child's experience is as positive. Having spoken to adults who were fostered or adopted by different races in the past, I hear them speak with a deeply-embedded emotional scar connected with feelings of detachment from their roots and holding onto inaccurate preconceived ideas about their culture.
Indeed, the culturally confused character of my latest novel 'Being Lara' also embodies this detachment. Lara's adoptive white family had done everything a good family should do -- they'd loved, protected and nurtured her- but never had that talk on race. And such a talk is crucial within a transracial adoption setting. In fact, such talks may be necessary frequently throughout the years.

I am by no means an authority on cross-cultural or transracial adoption. It is an emotive and important subject. But whilst a positive outlook is important for anyone embarking on such a journey, the prospective adoptive parent will also need to acknowledge the negativity that could arise and make sure they don't shy away from confronting it. Really confront it.

You can't behave like the mother in my book, who brushes off her daughter Lara's questions after the child is racially abused in the street by saying, "I have ginger hair -- I'm also different."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Report Details Increase in Open Adoption

The Mercury Post summarizes a new report from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute:
The secrecy that long shrouded adoption has given way to openness, and only about 5 percent of infant adoptions in the U.S. now take place without some ongoing relationship between birth parent and adoptive family, according to a comprehensive new report.

Based on a survey of 100 adoption agencies, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute said in a report Wednesday that the new norm is for birthparents considering adoption to meet with prospective adoptive parents and pick the new family for their baby.

Of the roughly 14,000 to 18,000 infant adoptions each year, about 55 percent are fully open, with the parties agreeing to ongoing contact that includes the child, the report said. About 40 percent are "mediated" adoptions in which the adoption agency facilitates periodic exchanges of pictures and letters, but there is typically no direct contact among the parties.
Click here for the full report.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Travel is broadening, or so it is said.  That's one of the reasons behind those 5 months we spent in China, for driving to and from Washington, D.C.  I want to raise kids who are open to different cultures, different ideas, different places.  I think that's important for all kids, but even more for kids like mine -- adopted, Chinese, in a single-parent family where mom and kids don't match.  For many, you look up the word "weird" in the dictionary, and you find a picture of us.

So you can imagine how much I dislike Maya's newest favorite word -- WEIRD.  If Maya hasn't seen it before, if Maya doesn't like it, if Maya thinks it's different, she labels it WEIRD.  Oh, and not in a good way, like "I love weird things!"

Example:  There's a 7-11 on New Hampshire Ave., near our hotel in Washington, D.C.  Maya looks at it and says, "That 7-11 looks WEIRD."  Why is it weird, I ask?  Well, it doesn't have gas pumps in front, or the familiar orange-and-green logo.  "Oh," I respond, "It's not WEIRD, it looks different from what you're used to."  I even moralized after she got an Icee at the 7-11:  "See, it looks different from what you're used to on the outside, but it was the same on the inside, wasn't it?!" (I know, I'm completely insufferable!)

And that became the theme of the trip -- every time Maya called something WEIRD, I said, "You mean it looks different from what you're used to."  It seemed to me that it was working, the number of times Maya said WEIRD seemed to be decreasing.

And then this morning, the first day back to school after Spring Break, Maya says, "It sure was WEIRD waking up to the alarm clock instead of a wake-up call!"  Sigh.

Single Hollywood Stars Adopting

RadarOnline reports and photos on 14 single stars who have adopted: Charlize Theron, Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie, Mary-Louise Parker, Meg Ryan, Madonna, Ricky Martin, Sheryl Crow, Callista Flockhart, etc.  Some of the internal links in the story are broken, but I'm sure it'll get fixed eventually and you can get all the details you want.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ethical Issues in Special Needs Adoption From China

PEAR (Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform) has issued a warning about troubling issues in China's special needs adoption program:
PEAR has been alerted to some very concerning issues surrounding China’s special needs adoptions. We believe that adoption service providers (ASPs) are stepping up the recruitment and engaging in unrealistic practices due to their financial pressures as well as pressure from CCCWA to place SN children via a rumored reward program: 1 additional non SN referral for every 5 SN placements. We also believe that the long wait for healthy young children has encouraged Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAPs) to underestimate the potential issues surrounding the parenting of special needs children, especially older children, and to overlook unethical practices in exchange for quicker placement of children. We are also deeply concerned with the magnitude of influence of unregulated adoption advocates in the adoption process. In addition to the above, we are dismayed at the lack of candor, transparency, and communication being provided by both Central Authorities involved in governing adoptions from China to the United States.

At this time, we believe that the special needs placement programs involving Chinese children are riddled with unethical, nontransparent practices that do not adequately safeguard the children involved. The result is commodification of children, dilution of the integrity of adoption, and the placement of unwitting children and adults into crises situations.
Click here for additional details.

Home Again, Home Again

We made it home, after our 2,800 mile roundtrip journey to Washington, D.C. and back!  After we dropped Mimi at her home, the girls started singing this song from the Brave Little Toaster!  Yes, we enjoyed our vacation, but we love being home again. . . .

Friday, March 16, 2012

On the Road Again!

We're headed back home now, having left Washington, D.C. on Thursday.  Before leaving we hit the Tidal Basin to see the starting-to-bloom cherry trees, the new Martin Luther King Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial.  We also caught glimpses of the White House and the Washington Monument across the water.

We've driven back a different route, passing through West Virginia, Kentucky, a smidge of Missouri, and a dab of Tennessee.  We're currently in Arkansas, and looking forward to getting home tomorrow.  The girls have been terrific travelers, though they are more than ready to be home now.

As a kid, we didn't really have "family vacations."  Our long car trips were to visit relatives, not to see new and exciting places.  I was always envious of friends whose families headed off to Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon or the beach in the summer.  So now I'm satisfying that childhood yearning, dragging the family halfway across the U.S. for Spring Break! And I've enjoyed every grueling mile, every are-we-there-yet moment!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Moratoriums Protect the Child

A week or so ago, the Globe & Mail (Canada) offered editorial support for the "golden age" of international adoption, and decried shutting down countries to adoption as harmful to needy children.  Now, the paper offers another view:
Some people question why Canada blocks intercountry adoptions from countries such as Cambodia, Guatemala and Nepal when there’s such an apparent need for families for children from these countries.

In such countries, the stealing, buying and selling of children for the purpose of adoption is endemic. The best way to protect these children and their parents is to prohibit all adoptions from these countries.

It’s difficult to determine whether a child is genuinely available for adoption because local adoption facilitators fashion fraudulent death certificates of biological parents, and consent to adoption forms. Finding a child in an orphanage is no guarantee the child is legally available for adoption. Many parents place their children in orphanages for short periods to ensure they have food and shelter, not with the intent of having them adopted.

* * *

So the provinces and territories aren’t really in a position to determine the likelihood of a child being legally available for adoption. The only thing they have is copies of adoption-related documents. Even Quebec officials are not stationed in sending countries; they visit them periodically. This means the provinces and territories are dependent on federal immigration authorities for information and advice.

Canadian immigration officials have tried to validate these adoption documents by searching for birth parent gravesites, by examining DNA tests of people who pose as parents to ensure their DNA matches that of the child, and by interviewing birth parents to determine that their consent to the adoption was freely given.

* * *

Placing moratoriums on adoptions from countries where unethical adoptions occur is a first step to protecting children. (Canada isn’t alone; the U.S., U.K. and Germany also have such moratoriums.) Ottawa, the provinces and the territories should limit adoptions, except for those by relatives, to a small number of countries where ethical practices occur and work carefully with them. There’s no need to limit the number of adoptions, but there’s a need to limit the countries from which the children come.

Washington, D.C. Adventures: Days 2 & 3

Whew, we've been busy!  Or, at least some of us have been busy.  Yesterday I hit the always-terrible third day of an otherwise mild cold, so the girls went off with Mimi, Kim & Brian to the Zoo while I slept the day away in the hotel room.  The girls were excited to see the pandas, but after seeing dozens of them at the panda preserve in China, just two were a bit of a let-down.  Still, they enjoyed the Zoo and the beautiful weather we seem to have brought to D.C. with us.

Today we went back to the Smithsonians.  Arriving a little early to enter the museums, we took a peek at the Capitol, with the girls doing their cutest pose.

Then we hit the Air & Space Museum, traveling in time from the Wright Brothers' first plane, through the time of Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, to conquering the moon, to the Mars rover.  Lots of fun! We were all intrigued to hear Mimi's story of her grandmother going to see the Spirit of St. Louis when it landed in France!

After that, we walked over to the White House, but we couldn't get close enough to see anything, between all the construction on the Mall and special tents put up on the South Lawn to welcome David Cameron, British PM.  We think we saw David Cameron this evening, though we're not sure!  We were eating dinner at a little kabob place on Pennsylvania Ave. when we heard sirens and saw around 10 motorcycle cops come by, and then a few black cars, limos, and black SUVs, followed by MORE cops in cars and on motorcycles!  They were all heading up the road toward the White House, so we decided it must be Cameron -- or maybe some other dignitary attending tonight's State Dinner (to which we were NOT invited!).

Exploring an Adopted Life

Interesting story of one of the first adoptees from China, having been adopted in 1986:
In the world of Chinese adoption, Sarah Mitteldorf stands at the edge of the known universe.
She came first - or among the very first, landing in the United States as a baby in early 1986. That was five years before the People's Republic loosened its laws to allow foreign adoption, and a decade before it began sending children here in large numbers.

She has always been an outlier.

Now, at 26, Mitteldorf is pushing that frontier further, creating one of the first serious works of art by a Chinese adoptee that is based on the Chinese adoption experience - a theater performance that promises to be by turns probing, funny, and searing.

"It's time," said Mitteldorf, of Mount Airy, who is currently directing a festival play in New York City. "I'm finally ready. But I'm still terrified."

More than 81,000 Chinese children, almost all of them girls, have been adopted to the United States during the last two decades. Researchers and parents have wondered how those girls would interpret their hard beginnings - often abandoned at birth because of their gender, swept into state orphanages, then spirited across the sea to new homes in white families. They wondered if the girls would explore the duality of their lives, not just in the high school poetry or pastel self-portraits that have begun to emerge, but in major pieces of sculpture, painting, dance, and music.

In Mitteldorf, they have the beginnings of an answer.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Never Forget

Never forget -- that was the theme of our morning in D.C., as we toured America's wars in monument form. We started at the Lincoln Memorial, with the Civil War.  The girls name the Lincoln Memorial as their favorite monument, even beating out the Washington Monument.  Zoe read the entire Gettysburg Address carved into the wall, and I was struck by Lincoln's surety that the words he spoke there would not be long remembered, and here we were 150 years later reading them.

The World War II Memorial is resplendent, elaborate -- a tribute to a great generation.  But it seemed to glorify that war in a way not entirely appropriate -- a war to end all wars that didn't.  The Vietnam War memorials seemed to set the right tone -- war has a human cost that mustn't be forgotten.

The Women's Memorial for Vietnam Veterans clearly showed that cost of war, with the women ministering to a wounded soldier. How is it that the women's memorial has to have a man in it?!

The wall of names that is the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial is always moving and chilling, the starkest reminder of the cost of war. It couldn't spell out plainer, "Never forget."

We spent the afternoon wearing ourselves out at the Smithsonians.  We only managed two today -- American History and Natural History.  The girls named as their favorite for the American History Museum the First Lady dresses -- one of my favorites, too.  For the Natural History Museum it was a toss-up between the Ocean Life exhibit and the rocks and minerals exhibit.
 And of course, a large part of what made it so much fun for the girls was spending it with Aunt Kim and Uncle Brian!

Tomorrow, first stop, the panda exhibit at the zoo!

More Reporting on the Decline in International Adoption

From the Boston Sentinel & Enterprise:
Rachel Gilbert comes from a background in which adoption is very much a normal way of life.

Gilbert, a civil engineer from Haverhill, was adopted from Korea in 1978, as was her nonbiological brother. Her best friend and her best friend's husband are also Korean adoptees.

So when Gilbert and her husband, Geoff, decided they wanted a baby several years ago, there was little doubt as to what avenue they were going to take.

"I thought that I could be a great mentor to a Korean adoptee," said Gilbert, 35. "My parents were great, but they weren't Korean adoptees, so they don't know how it feels. That's something I could give back to a child."

After wading through a two-year application process, the Gilberts welcomed a year-old baby, Isaac, into their lives. The process may have been grueling at times, but Gilbert said she and her husband would do it again in a heartbeat.

Stories like the Gilberts' are becoming increasingly rare, however. With each passing year it is more difficult to adopt internationally, because countries are tightening their adoption restrictions.

In fiscal 2011, 181 babies were adopted internationally in Massachusetts, compared to 936 in 2002, an 81 percent drop in that 10-year span. Nationally, international adoptions have dropped by 57 percent over that same period, according to State Department figures.
The article also notes that adoptions from foster care in Massachusetts have also declined, for a very good reason:
The number of domestic adoptions processed through the state's foster-care system has also fallen in recent years. In fiscal 2011, there were 663 children adopted through the state Department of Children and Families, the lowest figure in more than a decade, down from a 10-year high of 922 adoptions in fiscal 2005.

This decline is in line with a reduction in the total number of youth in foster care. Today, DCF has 2,000 fewer children in foster care than it did five years ago. Officials attribute this to the department's work to keep families intact, place children with kin, and reunify families when appropriate.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pink Pagoda = Little White Lie?

A couple of years ago I posted about Jim Garrow's Pink Pagoda program, which was described in a Canadian newspaper as follows:
For the past 10 years, Garrow has run an organization he calls Pink Pagoda. He says he works with 142 people in China to rescue baby girls whose parents might otherwise abandon or kill them. When his team hears about unwanted babies, they collect them from their parents and deliver them to local orphanages or the arms of friends and relatives, Garrow says.

When needed, he adds, the organization can provide money and supplies for a child’s upkeep.

He says Pink Pagoda is responsible for saving 34,000 baby girls since 2000.
Back then, I said I thought the claims were pure bunk. Well, now he has a book coming out, and I still say it's bunk!  Here's what World News Daily (his publisher, which also has a so-called news site) has to say about the book:
Published by WND Books, his new book releases in days and offers the tale of one man’s dedication to China’s newborn girls and his compassion for their lives.

It was along about 2000 when Garrow, the fantastically successful chief of the Bethune Institute’s popular Pink Pagoda schools in China, one day found his assistant weeping.

In his book, he writes that he discovered that the worker’s sister and her husband had had a baby daughter. The husband was making plans for her to be “put aside” so that under the one-child policy, the couple could try for a son.

Garrow was an expert at a lot of things, but never before had he dealt with such a situation. Even so, he promised to help.

* * *

The next dilemma was to find adoptive parents, and they had to be foreigners, as Chinese would be unwilling.

Craig and his wife, Kathy, an expat couple living in China, “had literally dropped into my lap because of a hockey game,” Garrow explains.

It was at a pickup game that an American with reddish-blond hair knocked Garrow down. After the game, he apologized for the “unnecessary roughness.”

A conversation followed and in a short time, Craig revealed he and his wife were hoping to adopt.
Garrow’s attention focused instantly.

“How quickly would you want to adopt a baby?” he asked.

“I just knew intuitively that he was a solid guy, and the baby would have a good, stable life back in the United States. I put aside the fact that I had no idea how to set up an adoption, or obtain any necessary documents,” Garrow said.

Five minutes later, after Craig called his wife, he got his answer: “Right away.”
So, Garrow is "fantastically successful" and an expert at many things, rescues small babies from certain death, and can apparantly size up perfect strangers as perfect adoptive parents?! And this isn't the least of the improbable tale he tells of private jets at his disposal and Chinese intelligence officers at his beck and call. Are you buying any of this?!  Brian Stuy has read an advance copy of the book and offers a pretty devastating critique, including the fact that Garrow doesn't even know enough about international adoption to create a plausible story:
I got the same feeling while reading Jim's account of how he found a home for the unwanted baby. He met an American expat living in China whose wife lived in the United States. The man explained that they wanted to adopt, but that it seemed to take a long time to do the paperwork, etc. Jim told him he could adopt right away. Now, I'm sure that most readers familiar with the adoption might at this point be wondering how in the world this adoption could be completed. I will let Jim describe the process:

At this point, there were no documents to accompany the baby and her new parents back to the United States. Those I would discover in one of the best libraries in the world for doing such research—the local beer house, where expats hang out. It was in one of those pubs that I met my “librarians,” who even went so far as to share copies of the documents from their own Chinese adoption process. Paperwork aside, I also learned valuable information about the entire process and what pitfalls to hopefully avoid. I had moved at God’s bidding into the adoption business, and I planned to run that business as efficiently as I did my schools. God bless the fool with a big heart. (pp. 11-12)

No mention of the need for an I-600 (Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative); no consulate interview; it seems that all Jim had to do was produce some forged adoption documents and the U.S. government would issue the infant a visa. The reader can decide how authentic Jim's account feels.
Be sure to read Brian's entire review.  And then let me know if you buy Garrow's story. I'm certainly not planning to plunk down the $22.95 to buy his book, even if the book might turn out the be unintentionally funny.  If anyone reads it, let me know!

We're Here!

We made it to Washington, D.C.!  We spent the day in Virginia, which is ridiculously quaint.  Even along a major interstate highway, there were picturesque farms with real red barns, grain silos in weathered stone, white clapboard churches with steeples reaching for heaven, cow-dotted hillsides -- looking like the whole scene was dressed by the Virginia Film Board. 

We meandered a bit more than yesterday, detouring to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a time.  We visited a huge steel-framed star atop Roanoak Mountain, and took roller-coaster roads back down to the interstate. 

When we headed into D.C. across Arlington Memorial Bridge, the girls squealed as we sighted the Washington Monument, and I confess, I squealed a little, too, because it meant we were almost at the hotel where I could collapse!

Tomorrow begins the real adventure -- trying to negotiate between my mom, the two girls and my sister and brother-in-law in  deciding what to do first! Ah, family vacations. . . .