Thursday, May 31, 2012

Beach. Pool. Turtles. Crabs.


More fun in the sun today, but equal fun by moonlight!  We spent the morning at the pool, visited Sea Turtle, Inc., in the afternoon, and walked the beach after dark.

We're staying at the Pearl in South Padre -- you would have thought from their excitement that the girls had built this sand castle themselves:

If you go to the Pearl's facebook page and "like" our photo of the sand castle, and we get the most likes, we win something -- I can't remember what!  I can't say I much care, but the girls would appreciate your "likes!"

The pool area at the Pearl is really nice, and though both my girls are too tall to be in the kiddie pool, they are obsessed with the tiny frog slide, sneaking over there any time no one was there.

I figured as long as there were no little ones for them to bowl over, we could bend the rules just a bit!

Sea Turtle, Inc., is a rescue organization in South Padre, and have been really instrumental in the come-back of the endangered Ridley turtles.  They locate their nests and protect the eggs and also bring in injured turtles and re-introduce them into the wild after they're healed.  They don't have many on site right now, but the girls especially loved the baby ones.
The big turtle in the picture above is a green turtle, not a Ridley.  The worker gave the girls lettuce leaves, and when the turtle saw them, it came right to the viewing window to have its picture taken!  The girls could then throw the leaves into the tank and watch the turtle gobble them down.  Great fun!

After dinner this evening we went for a walk on the beach.  Boy, it was windy, and no way were we going in to swim, but we had a great time walking in the surf and watching for crabs.  We saw dozens, none of which I managed to capture in a photograph, so you'll have to take our word for it!

The girls also enjoyed others' hard work, jumping in every hole dug during the day and circling every last remnant of sand castles.  And of course, they loved looking for clams digging themselves into the sand after the waves deposited them on shore.  It's the little things, isn't it?!


Looking forward to another day of sun (and moon) and fun tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

SPI!

Greetings from South Padre Island!  I have the misfortune of having to attend a work conference here (boo-hoo!), so brought along the girls and Mimi.  After a nine-hour drive and a short meeting for me, we hit the beach for an evening walk.  The girls really loved discovering sea creatures -- ghost crabs and coquinas clams along the shore.  You would have thought we were the only people on earth to have seen the little clams dig themselves back into the sand as the waves uncovered them, which led to many experiments when we returned to the beach this morning -- piling them into the sand sieve and watching them try to dig themselves through the plastic being one of their favorites!




We spent about an hour on the beach before my conference started, and then Mimi took over with beach and pool duty. 




After lunch, we had great fun at the SPI Birding and Nature Center, walking their boardwalk and seeing lots of birds.  Since Maya's class did a section on birds for Science this year, she's been bird-obsessed.  We saw great blue heron, little blue heron, willet, red-winged blackbird, tricolor heron, and who knows what all else!  Oh, yes, we also saw an alligator!  Zoe was pretty pleased since she was apparently the first person of the day to spot one at the center. Forgot the camera, so you don't have to suffer through more pictures of that!

On to dinner, and then probably more pool and beach time this evening.  Tomorrow morning is when my real conference work begins, and then over by noon and more fun in the sun!  I'm pretty sure Zoe and Maya approve!

Netizens' Reactions to Adoptee Searching for Birth Mother in China

A website that focuses on social media in China, Tea Leaf Nation, looks at Jenna Cook's search for her birth mother in China, as China watches through social media.  Read the whole thing to learn the back story, but I found this part about the reaction of Chinese netizens especially interesting:
I am happy that Jenna managed to spread the word regarding her project, and I hope that she manages to find the information she needs. Most netizens share my enthusiastic support for her project, and gave her their full-fledged blessing and approval. Although generally supportive, netizens also voiced their concerns. Many wondered why she still wanted to find her birth parents, given that they had abandoned her in the first place.

Jenna responded via her Weibo, “They gave me my life. I feel very grateful… [When I find them] I want to see how they are doing, and to give them my love. I will try my best to help them.”

Her kindness and forgiving attitude touched the hearts of many. @左海游子 wrote, “You are a kind girl. You are repaying misdeeds with kindness. You still love your birth parents so deeply, and have not forgotten the family who took care of you. Your story is so touching. I sincerely wish that you’ll be able to fulfill your dream of finding your parents!”

Some netizens were more skeptical. @鱼不离水 voiced his opposition: “I advise that you stop trying to find your birth parents. I believe that they don’t have nearly the compassion and broadmindedness of your adopted mother, or else why would they have abandoned you in the first place? Even if you find them, it will only bring them regret and humiliation. Why bother?”

@范凯俊 elaborated, “In China, things are often more complicated. We have an old saying: ‘the birth mother is not as dear as the adopted mother.’ [生母不如养母亲] When you were born, the old concept of favoritism for boys was especially widespread. Your birth parents might have abandoned you for that reason. It’s possible that the truth will disappoint you.”

While some netizens condemned Jenna’s birth parents for their supposed heartlessness, others took a more sympathetic view. @我的春天来了 posed the question, “What if your birth parents were in a awkward position themselves? Suppose that you were born out of wedlock. In that case, your birth parents might have their separate families now, and your sudden appearance would turn their lives upside down. In China, parents usually only abandon their children when they have no other choice. What parents can stand losing their own children?”

We're Deporting Adoptees

At Huffington Post, Adam Pertman of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute writes about the Kairi Shepherd case:
Imagine that your daughter, whom you raised from infancy, was convicted of forgery. You certainly wouldn't be surprised if she were prosecuted for that felony and, while it would be heartbreaking, you'd expect her to be punished, probably even imprisoned. Now let's add one more element to this real-life scenario: How would you feel if the penalty imposed on your 30-year-old child -- who suffers from multiple sclerosis -- was deportation to another country where she knows no one and doesn't speak the native language?

I am not making this up. It is happening today. It is obviously devastating to the woman facing a jarringly disproportionate punishment for the crime she committed, but it is also much more than that. It is a vivid example of the unfairness and inequality that sometimes exist in the world of adoption.

What may be most unnerving is the fact that this is not an aberration; while it is hardly commonplace, it has happened again and again. And there has been virtually no media attention, or public outrage, or embarrassment on the part of immigration officials, or concerted effort to reform law and policy so that people who were adopted into their families are placed on a level playing field with their biological counterparts.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

African Child Policy Forum: Rise in IA from Africa Alarming

The BBC News on a report from the African Child Policy Forum about the rise in international adoption from Africa:
The number of children from Africa being adopted by foreign nationals from other continents has risen dramatically, a report has said.

In the past eight years, international adoptions increased by almost 400%, the African Child Policy Forum has found.

"Africa is becoming the new frontier for inter-country adoption," the Addis Ababa-based group said.

But many African countries do not have adequate safeguards in place to protect the children being adopted, it warns.

The majority of so-called orphans adopted from Africa have at least one living parent and many children are trafficked or sold by their parents, the child expert group says.

More than 41,000 African children have been adopted and taken out of home countries since 2004, the ACPF report says.

More than two thirds of the total in 2009 and 2010 were adopted from Ethiopia, which now sends more children abroad for adoption than any other country, apart from China.

"Compromising children's best interests while undertaking inter-country adoption is likely and adoption can become a vast, profit-driven, industry with children as the commodity," the African Child Policy Forum report said.

The group's director, David Mugawe, said that adoption in some parts of Africa had indeed become a business.

"It's got an element where adoption has now become commercialised. And so it's an industry that some orphanages are benefiting [from] - and they are promoting adoption basically to be able to sustain and maintain the orphanages," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Theater Artists Find Depths in Search for Families

From the Twin Cities' StarTribune, a profile of two Korean adoptees, each performing one-woman shows about their experiences:
Twin Cities actor Sun Mee Chomet was playing Lady Macduff in "Macbeth" at the Guthrie in 2010 when she got a call from Korea saying that her birth mother wanted to meet her. This fulfillment of her years-long process to know more about her biological family hit Chomet hard. She cried that day in her dressing room.

Not long before the phone call, Chomet, a Korean-American adoptee, had appeared via webcam on "I Miss That Person," a Korean reality TV show for adoptees. The show is a hit in a country from which an estimated 200,000 children were adopted by Western families over the past 50 years. Many are seeking to reconnect with their birth families, hoping to fill out everything from health histories to emotional voids.

"There are 10,000 Korean adoptees in Minnesota alone," she said.

Chomet's reunion with her birth mother was a complicated dance of Western expectations and Korean tradition. Her mother is now married to a man who is not Chomet's father. The daughter will not be able to spend a night in her mother's home until after he dies. Still, Chomet learned many things about herself during her reunion with her mother in Korea. For one thing, her mother wanted to become an actor -- a dream cut short when she had Chomet.

The actor, writer and director said that she felt a familial ease being around her mother and aunts, and got a deep sense of belonging. (Her birth mother's husband was kept at bay during their meetings.)
"Going into the search, I envisioned, as many adoptees feel, that meeting my birth mother would make me feel more whole," she said. "If anything, I felt some deep emotions starting to surface that I wasn't aware were there, including shock."

* * *

Writer and performer [Katie Hae] Leo, 40, was not as successful as Chomet in her search for her Korean birth parents.

Leo, who grew up in Indianapolis in a white family with three other adopted children, made two attempts, one hopeful, the other halfhearted. In 1998, Leo visited Bucheon, the former agricultural village where she was born and where, the story goes, she was left on the doorstep of a police station. She placed ads and searched records. She got no results. She returned to Korea in 2007 as part of a large gathering of international adoptees, again unable to find her biological mom.

"The search is fraught with a lot of emotional baggage," she said. "I feel self-conscious about not speaking the language, although I look like I should. I'm fearful about how I would be received. It's all so daunting and a little scary."

All she has is stories, some of which she has made up.

"The story that I was told when I was growing up was that my mother was a teenage prostitute," Leo said. "To me, that sounded Dickensian. She did the best she could for me by giving me up."

In her 20s, Leo wanted to find out more about her ancestry for identity reasons.

"Now," she said, "I need that genetic knowledge for my health. I have a neurological disorder that the doctors say is genetic. I need to know more about it."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

From a Russian Orphanage to American Stardom

From the New Haven Register:
Mikel Beaukel’s story begins as he’s playing with puppets in an orphanage in war-torn Russia; the ending might be scripted by Hollywood.

He’s 20 now, featured in Pop Star magazine as one of its “fresh faces!” and he’s recording a disc of his songs while working toward that big break.

“Good grief, Mikel’s sexy!” Pop Star raved. “He is so hot!”

* * *

The beginning wasn’t pretty nor was it fun. “When my mother gave birth to my twin brother, Alex, and I,” Beaukel said, “she used a fake name so we could never contact her.”

After spending the first six months of their lives in a hospital, they lived in the orphanage for 3-4 years. This was in Moldova, which emerged as an independent republic after the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991. While Beaukel was in the orphanage, war was raging outside.

* * *

Beukel uses the word “rescue” to describe his adoptive parents’ role in getting the twins out of there. “They used an adoption agency in New York. When they saw a picture of us, they fell in love!”  

Alluding to his parents, Carol and Bill Snee, he said, “They gave me everything; I came from nothing. I grew up in a beautiful town on Long Island.”

“Then,” he said, “Pierre came into my life.”

That’s Pierre Patrick of New Haven. You might remember him as the entertainment industry manager, record producer, writer and big-time Doris Day fan I profiled about eight weeks ago.

Beaukel had already attracted the attention of the Suchin Company, the management agency that signed him. “They recommended Pierre.”

As soon as he met and sized up Beaukel, Patrick was ready to be his manager. “I said, ‘Fine, let’s make it happen!’” Patrick recalled. “I AM well-connected.”
You know how I feel about the whole rescue thing, but he's the adoptee and he can tell his story however he wants.  I just hope his adoptive parents didn't tell it that way. . . .


Irish Couples Flock to Florida to Adopt

From the Herald (Ireland):
IRISH couples wanting to adopt are increasingly turning to Florida in the US, new data shows.

Some 17 babies were adopted from Florida last year, statistics released by Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald reveal.

In fact, more children were adopted from the US by Irish residents in 2011 than during the nine years between 2000 and 2008.

The International Adoption Association (IAA) said the proven track record of "transparent and ethical" processes in Florida has made the state a popular choice for couples.

A spokeswoman said: "There are many reasons for this but primarily because other families have effected legal and transparent adoptions from this state and the children are very young when placed for adoption."

It is easier to travel back and forth to Florida from Ireland than the west coast of the US, she pointed out.

There is also an agency in the state which works with Irish parents and in which the applicants have confidence.
So, it looks like Florida is the new Mexico. . . .

Friday, May 25, 2012

"What to Expect When You're Expecting" and Adoption

Yes, I knew there was an adoption thread in the movie "What to Expect When You're Expecting."  Hard to miss it, with multiple reports that J Lo, who had never ever thought about adoption before, sorta kinda maybe thought she could understand why people adopt after her character in the movie did the same, not that she is actually going to adopt, of course. But there's more info about the movie from SisterHaiti UgandaMama, who also puts it in a larger context of unrealistic expectations of prospective adoptive parents:
For several months, I’ve been thinking about a blog series on unrealistic adoption expectations. Off & on, I’d draft rough notes on the topic. But in the last week or so, I’ve really gotten motivated to move forward with the series. One of those motivators was seeing the new movie “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”. I knew that one of the couples in the movie adopted a child and I was eager to see how that was portrayed in the movie.

Wow. What a disappointing, unrealistic portrayal of international adoption. I know it’s Hollywood, and we shouldn’t expect much, but still, this kind of thing only serves to increase the unrealistic expectations of first -timers thinking about adopting internationally.

(Slight spoiler here for anyone concerned.) The desperate-for-a-baby mother and the freaked-out father choose Ethiopia. Just a few days or weeks (!) later they get a referral for and a picture of an adorable, six week old, perfectly healthy baby boy. There’s an “awwww,” from the audience, of course. Months later they travel to Africa and arrive at the care center with a large group of other adoptive families (each and every family carrying an infant baby carrier!). There is a short ceremony where they all stand in a line and repeat an oath about caring for the child and keeping them in touch with their Ethiopian heritage. They then exchange a lit candle for their baby and are pronounced to be a family. More awww’s from the audience.

Easy enough right? Apparently many people assume so.

* * *

Friends, it is time to paint a more realistic picture of what international adoption looks like today.

I am not aware of any adoption program, anywhere in the world where healthy, adoptable infants are sitting in orphanages waiting for families.
An important reminder of what to expect when you're expecting to adopt internationally.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"Children Are Not Tourist Attractions"

Last year I posted about the problems of orphan tourism, the well-intentioned but potentially harmful volunteerism that takes unscreened strangers into orphanages that crop up to take advantage of the money-making opportunity that these charitable impulses create.  Now AlJazeera reports on orphan tourism in Cambodia:


From the print article:
Between the 1970s and 1990s, Cambodia was ravaged by civil war. Since its return to peace there has been a boom in tourism with over two million visitors every year. Keen to help this war-torn country, increasing numbers of tourists are now also working as volunteers. Most come with the very best of intentions - to work in schools and orphanages, filling a gap left by a lack of development funding.

But, inadvertently, well-intentioned volunteers have helped to create a surge in the number of residential care homes as impoverished parents are tempted into giving up their children in response to promises of a Western-style upbringing and education. Despite a period of prosperity in the country, the number of children in orphanages has more than doubled in the past decade, and over 70 per cent of the estimated 10,000 'orphans' have at least one living parent.

And perhaps most disturbingly, stories have emerged that Cambodian children are being exploited by some of the companies organising the volunteers or running the orphanages.

* * *

Most shockingly, in a country which has made international headlines as a playground for Western sex offenders, Sok seems happy to allow Ruhfus and Haan to take children off for an 'excursion'. He even lines the youngsters up so the 'Western volunteers' can choose which ones they want. A short time later, the pair who have taken the precaution of asking a social worker to accompany them (in the guise of an interpreter), drive away with four of the children.

* * *

The Cambodian government says it will clamp down on failing orphanages, and in 2011 launched a campaign entitled "Children are not Tourist Attractions". Meanwhile UNICEF asserts that 'orphanage tourism' and the related increase in the number of children in residential care is in contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Colombia Opens the Door to Gay International Adoption

I posted an article about this case back in December 2011, and here's an update:
A Colombian court has restored custody of adopted sons to a homosexual man, opening the door for gay adoptions.

The Constitutional Court found that the country's Family Welfare Institute simply assumed the father's sexual orientation was a threat to the two boys and did not give any reasons, Colombia Reports said. The court said the agency "cannot rely on appearances, preconceptions or prejudices" when it removes children from their homes.

Chandler Burr, a U.S. citizen, has been separated from his sons since March 2011. The court said the institute ignored the boys' wish to be with their father.

The ruling appears to open the door to adoptions in Colombia by otherwise fit gay parents.
Colombia Diversa, a gay rights organization tweeted: "Individual adoption legitimized for LGBT persons in Colombia with Burr case."

Russia Demands Inquiry Into Death of Child

A Russian child dies in the U.S. under suspicious circumstances, and there's a question about whether he counts as a Russian adoptee or not:
The United States government tried to head off a diplomatic row with Russia on Tuesday after Russian officials demanded an investigation into the death of a Russian child in an adoptive American family. American news media reported last week that Anton Fomin, a nine-year old Russian child adopted into a Nebraska family, died in a house fire while his parents were gone. On Monday, Russia’s children’s rights ombudsman, Pavel Astakhov, demanded an investigation, saying that American investigators had established that the child had been locked in the basement. “Either the boy was punished or he was neglected and got into the basement accidentally,” Mr. Astakhov said, according to RIA Novosti news service. “Why the boy was locked in the basement and why he could not get out, we will ask the U.S. attorneys about this.” The United States Embassy in Moscow expressed its condolences to the child’s family on Tuesday, and corrected what it called “unsubstantiated reports” that he was brought to the United States through an adoption program. “Anton immigrated to the United States with his biological parents, not through intercountry adoption,” the statement said. Russian authorities have repeatedly criticized lax checks on adoptive American parents after a spate of high profile deaths involving negligent and abusive families.
But he was, apparently, adopted, not something really made clear in the NYT article, but only after he emigrated to the U.S., says the Moscow Times:
Nine-year-old Anton Fomin immigrated to the United States with his birth parents, not through intercountry adoption, the embassy said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Children's Ombudsman Pavel Astakhov confirmed that Fomin was given up for adoption after arriving in the United States.

Fomin died last week in a house fire at the home of his adoptive parents in Davey, Nebraska.
So yes, Anton was an adoptee, but a domestic adoptee. Does that make it none of Russia's business?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Why Are Teen Moms Poor? Does Why Matter?

This piece in Slate sums up some recent research I've been relying on in a project I've been working on on minors' consent to adoption -- the research shows that teen moms are poor because they were poor to begin with, not that they become poor because of the consequences of parenting:
Delivering the commencement address last weekend at the evangelical Liberty University, Mitt Romney naturally stuck primarily to “family values” and religious themes. He did, however, make one economic observation that intersects with some fascinating new research. “For those who graduate from high school, get a full-time job, and marry before they have their first child,” he said, “the probability that they will be poor is 2 percent. But if [all] those things are absent, 76 percent will be poor.”

These are striking numbers, but they raise the age-old question of correlation and causation. Does this mean that the representative high-school dropout would be doing much better had he stuck it out in school for a few more years? Or is it instead the case that the population of high-school dropouts is disproportionately composed of people who have attributes that lead to low earnings?

When it comes to early pregnancy, surprising new evidence indicates that Romney and most everyone else have it backward: Having a baby early does not hamper a young woman’s economic prospects, as Romney implies. Rather, young women choose to become mothers because their economic outlook is so objectively bleak.

* * *

Kearney and Levine used data on miscarriages to isolate the impact of giving birth from background characteristics that may contribute to a decision to give birth. When used this way as a statistical control, the negative consequences of teen childbirth appear to be small and short-lived. Young women who gave birth and young women who miscarried have similarly bleak economic outcomes. Similarly, when you compare teen mothers not to the general population but to their own sisters who aren’t teen moms “the differences are quite modest."
In the article I'm working on about minors' consent to adoption, I've been exploring why it is legislatures are so comfortable in allowing minors -- who aren't allowed to make legally-binding decisions like signing a cell-phone contract -- to relinquish their parental rights, which has to be one of the most consequential decisions one can make, given the importance we accord to parental rights. 

We talk about parenting as a fundamental right protected by the Constitution. We won't allow involuntary termination of parental rights by the government absent a showing of harm by clear and convincing evidence, a standard higher than the usual preponderance of the evidence standard we use in other civil actions.  Yet we allow a minor, unassisted by parents, lawyers or counselors, to voluntarily relinquish these parental rights in the vast majority of American states.  In only 15 states are there additional protections accorded to minors who are relinquishing parental rights -- compare that to the 36 states that require parental notice or consent when a minor makes a decision about abortion.

So why is that? I think the prominence of the idea that being a teen mom causes poverty plays a big part in the comfort level we have with separating young moms from their children.  If being a teen mom is the cause of poverty, then it is obviously in the best interest of the teen to relinquish the child so that she can escape from poverty.  Since her decision to relinquish is so clearly the only rational decision she could make, we don't need any additional protections to make sure she makes a reasoned and informed decision.  We can explain her relinquishment as not only in her child's best interest, but as being in her best interest, too. 

This research turns this thinking on its head.  If poverty is not the inevitable consequence of teen parenting, then perhaps relinquishment isn't the only rational decision.  And if it isn't the only rational decision, maybe we should consider altering the requirements for relinquishment when the mother is a minor.  Maybe more than 15 states should consider requiring some grownup other than the adoption agency representative be in the room when a young mom is making that decision. Some options include requirements that minor moms be appointed independent legal counsel or a guardian ad litem, sign relinquishment papers only in the presence of a judge, notify the minors' parents, and/or require independent psychological counseling.

What do you think?

Genetic Sexual Attraction

GSA is pretty well known in the adoption community, but it makes the mainstream with this ABC News piece, where adoptee Julie DeNeen talks about these inappropriate feelings during her reunion with her biological father:
"I realized how similar we were … We could finish each other's sentences," she said. "It was a combination of elations. And there was the adrenaline and on top of the grief, thinking why can't you go back in time. And in that combination of grief and need and feeling that you fit with someone, you get a concoction that made things very confusing."

"I had this strange falling in love feeling, holding my Dad's hand," said DeNeen. "It wasn't like a daughter, it was like something else."

Psychologists say that taboo is normally in place when family members grow up in close proximity by virtue of reverse sexual imprinting, or the Westermarck effect, which desensitizes them to later sexual attraction. Researchers hypothesize it evolved so biological relatives would not inbreed.

The phenomenon was first identified by Barbara Gonyo in the 1980s. She wrote a book, "I'm His Mother, But He's Not My Son," that recounted her personal story of reuniting and having sexual feelings for a son whom she had placed for adoption when she was 16. Gonyo fell in love -- a byproduct of delayed bonding that would normally have taken place in infancy, had they not been separated by adoption.

Gonyo, now a retired grandmother, created an online support group and DeNeen, who has a background in psychology, has taken up her work on a new website that she launched just two weeks ago, educating and intervening when others fall into the dangerous emotional trap of GSA.

* * *

GSA is "not incredibly common," but is seen among parents and adult children and between adult siblings, according to Susan Brancho Alvarado, an adoption therapist from Falls Church, Va.

And because of that, mental health experts are not experienced in helping patients. They often mistakenly confuse GSA with incest or sexual abuse, shaming adoptees.

"They just don't have the training and the topic is completely foreign," she said.

Alvarado, who has treated four families with GSA, also blames the adoption process itself.

"It fuels the secrecy and builds up the fantasy about what the other family might be like," she said. "It is mitigated when you have open access to records and birth certificates and the family from infancy is included."
The website DeNeen started, mentioned in the article, can be found here.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Crowdfunding Adoption

At the New York Times Motherlode blog, a piece about crowdfunding (a fancy way to say fundraising) fertility treatments and adoption:
In vitro fertilization (I.V.F.) and adopting a child are expensive ventures. They’re also dreams that many people can sympathize with — when someone tells a friend, or even a stranger, “we’re trying to have a baby” or “we’re trying to adopt,” people often just want to help. Crowdfunding — putting your hopes on a Web site that allows others to donate money to their realization — is the latest way to make that possible.

“After two long hard years of trying on our own to conceive,” Kimberly Sparkman writes at her campaign on Indiegogo.com, “we were diagnosed with infertility.” Insurance, she says, doesn’t cover the procedure, and she tells a story that will be familiar to anyone who’s been through it: tests, procedures, hope, loss and none of it free.

* * *

For years, crowdfunding, in some form or another, has been common in the adoption world. As an adoptive parent, I’ve seen online auctions and other fund-raisers, and many Web sites have a “ChipIn” button that allows friends, family and readers to contribute. With I.V.F., too, it’s mostly friends and family — Adam, who with his wife Arielle created a campaign to pay for an adoption (they asked that I not use their last names, as the domestic adoption process is fragile), says that of the 100 donations they received in raising $6,935, only nine came from strangers. They did receive many donations from “Facebook friends” they hadn’t seen in years, “people we would not initially have thought to reach out to.”

* * *

Would you finance your infertility procedures, or an adoption, this way? Donate to a friend’s campaign, or to a stranger’s? (There’s a kind of seductive quality to the idea of anonymously helping someone else’s dreams come true, isn’t there — like being the genie in the lamp?) Or do you find something off-putting in raising money for so personal a cause?
I've posted before about fundraising for adoption, a topic that tends to produce strong opinions pro and con.  It seems to me, though, that they're asking the wrong question at the NYT blog -- how about asking what effect fundraising for adoption has on adopted children who were the objects of those charity campaigns?

Mother Lists 3-year-old for Adoption on Craigslist?



The story from a Fresno TV station:
Two days after launching a website to try and give away her son, Corenna Waller of Fresno pulled it down. Not because she had second thoughts, but because she says it served its purpose of getting the attention of the media and Child Protective Services to take her seriously.

At face value, you would think the webpage was one for adopting a puppy, but as you read closer you find that it's a 3-year old boy who is up for grabs.

"Yeah it's way outside the box, but I never felt I was putting my son in danger because I had no intention of him meeting anybody,” said Corenna Waller.

Corenna Waller is the 27-year old Fresno woman who created the site. The overwhelmed single mother even posted a link to it on Craigslist. Her objective? To temporarily give up her son until she could get her life on track.

She's claims to have cried for help to agencies like child protective services, but no one would listen.

"I just felt I had exhausted all my resources and I kept hitting walls when it came to finding new resources. I finally felt that if I got the word out people would take me seriously,” said Waller.

And people have. Folks who spotted the page became concerned. They notified us at CBS47 as well as social workers at C.P.S. They are now involved with this case trying to draw up an alternative game plan.
Reactions?

Race Day

 That would be Dragon Boat Race Day, of course!  One exciting change from Saturday's practice, this time the boats were decked out with their dragon heads and tails.  Zoe definitely had a ball, declaring after the third and final heat that she was ready for a fourth!  After 7 hours melting in the Texas heat, I was ready for HOME and some nice chilly air conditioning. 

Both girls also enjoyed the rest of the festival -- lion dances, dragon dances, various Asian dancers, and festival foods both familiar (funnel cake!) and exotic (Thai corn patties!).

Oh, and we're pretty sure we WON the youth division -- it helps that we were the only youth boat entered!



Saturday, May 19, 2012

Dragon Boat Race -- Practice Run

Tomorrow is the DFW Dragon Boat Race & Festival, and today the FCC youth boat team practiced!  This is Zoe's first year -- she finally hit the age 11 minimum.  She was the youngest, but not the smallest.  With a whole 45 minutes of practice, I have full confidence that this team will WIN -- or at least have tons of fun!





Thursday, May 17, 2012

How should adopted kids be included in family history?

That's the question for advice columnist Amy:
Dear Amy: My sister and I are the family historians.

While getting all of my other siblings' information about their children, I was asked if I would put the adopted children down as children born to the family. I said I would add them, but not as born to the couple. This has caused a real problem.

Am I right (I would add them as adopted and the year in which they entered the family unit)? I'll stand by your answer.— Family Historian

Dear Historian: I solicited opinions from several different family historians and received opinions across a wide spectrum.

You don't say exactly what sort of family history you are pulling together.

My own view is that you should include all children in your family as children in your family, no matter the circumstances of their birth.

For you to do otherwise, and to note the date of their entry into the family but not their actual birth date makes it seem that on the one hand you are denoting them as not quite "real" and on the other hand you are implying that their lives started not on the dates of their birth but on the date they entered the family.

Include all children of the family in your family tree. If you are compiling a "key" or narrative to accompany the family tree you can note adoption dates, etc.

You want to tell as complete a story as possible, but adopted children are "real" family members and your history should acknowledge this reality.
Hmm, what do you think about the advice? I'd give Amy big points for acknowledging that adopted children actually have lives before they joined their adoptive families, something that not even all adoptive parents seem to get. . . .

Artyom's Mom Ordered to Pay $1000 a Month Child Support + $100,000 in Damages and Attorney's Fees

So says a Tennessee TV station:
A judge in Tennessee has ordered that an American woman who sent her adopted son back to Russia pay more than a $100,000 in damages, child support, and legal fees.

In 2010 Torry Hansen was living in Shelbyville in April 2010 when she put her then 7-year-old adopted son back on a plane to Russia alone with a note saying she no longer wanted to care for him. The adoption agency sued, and in March, a Tennessee judge ruled she's liable for child support.

On Thursday, that same judge ordered Hansen to pay her adopted son $58,000, the adoption agency $29,000 and attorney fees of nearly $63,000 as well as $1,000 a month in child support.
Next fight -- trying to execute on the judgment!

Adoption, DNA & Secrets

At Forbes, an example of how DNA technology explodes the idea of secrecy in adoption:
But another 23andMe user got quite a surprise when she went looking for relatives on the site. She discovered a full brother. Via the Wall Street Journal:
Neil Schwartzman, a 52-year-old 23andMe customer who lives in Corte Madera, Calif., took his DNA test in 2010 to learn more about his medical background and as a last-ditch effort in a decades-long search for his birth family. An adoptee, Mr. Schwartzman received a message last spring from another 23andMe customer that said, “I think you’re my brother.”
The writer, Jolie Pearl, indeed shared the same mother and father as Mr. Schwartzman, though she hadn’t known her mother had given up a baby for adoption.
Ms. Pearl confronted her elderly mother, who confirmed the adoption, and the three eventually met in person.
Technology has this amazing way of unearthing secrets.
Moral of the story: Stop trying to keep secrets in adoption.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"He's Adopted," Adoption Stigma & Missing Adoptee Voices in Media

The "joke" in The Avengers, that Loki's adoption explains his murder of 80 people in 2 days, has made the mainstream in a piece at the New York Times' Motherlode blog, but is only a part of the larger picture of the absence of adoptee voices in media:
As an adult adoptee and media-studies scholar, I am increasingly alarmed at the under-representation of first-person adoptee voices in American media. The process and experience of adoption has always been a popular theme explored (and exploited) in both television and film, with recent examples ranging from the critically acclaimed film “Juno,” to ABC’s 2009 series “Find My Family,” and the story of Catelynn, the birth mother in MTV’s series “16 and Pregnant.” There are countless other examples.

While adoption is a theme addressed in popular media, adoptee voices are rare for a number of reasons. First, the stigma surrounding adoption may make adoptees more reluctant to speak out. Although many online adoptee communities do exist, communication is often exchanged anonymously for fear of “outing” birth mothers or other family members. Second, adoptees often feel that our dissent at representations of adoption might be perceived as critical of our own life experience, an injury to the families that have loved us and raised us. However, it seems only appropriate that the media should attempt (when possible) to balance popular media with the lived experiences of adoptees.

* * *

As more and more Americans seek to build their families through domestic and international adoption, why did a joke about adoption play so well? And if it played so well here in the U.S., will it play even better in other regions in which adoption is not as socially or culturally accepted? No doubt, some will think adoptees are overreacting. But what does this mean for adoptees, and perpetuating the stigma surrounding adoptee status?

I am embarrassed that Marvel and Disney would include such a cheap one-liner in their film. But I am not embarrassed to admit that I am adopted. And I am not embarrassed to admit that I walked out of their movie. Because no real hero would so casually dismiss family.
You might also be interested in this blog post about the non-adopted reaction to adoptee/AP complaints about that line in the Avengers. I didn't get bullying reactions to what I posted, but I sure got defensive reactions!  A friend on facebook, who I don't think regularly reads my blog but loved the Avengers movie, even commented that as the uncle of adoptees, he could tell me that I was overreacting!  Always love that kind of "some of my best friends are black" explanation for why something isn't racist, so of course I was completely persuaded by this argument when it came to adoptism!

Guatemala Mom to Ask U.S. Courts to Return Kidnapped Child

ABC News reporting:
A Guatemalan mother who says her child was stolen and later turned over to a U.S. couple for adoption said Tuesday that she will go to a Missouri court seeking to get her daughter back now that the U.S. State Department has said it doesn't have jurisdiction to help return the girl.

The State Department confirmed Tuesday that it has informed Guatemala's government that it can't help return Anyeli Hernandez Rodriguez because the U.S. and Guatemala had not signed the Hague Abduction Convention at the time of the alleged kidnapping in 2006.

"We're obviously deeply concerned about allegations regarding stolen children and inter-country adoptions wherever these cases come up," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement. "We consider the appropriate venue in the United States for pursuing this case is in the state courts. They're the competent organ for holding a full hearing on the merits and the best interests of the child."

* * *

In a phone conversation with The Associated Press, Rodriguez said she still has hope she will be reunited with her little girl, now 7, who she hasn't seen since she was 2.

"I'm looking for a law firm that will pursue this in the courts in the United States," she said. "Even if she can't come home, to at least be able to have contact with her."
Interesting that Missouri is where the courts are dealing with the Encarnacion Bail Romero case, where an undocumented worker from Guatemala lost her son to adoption while she was in jail for immigration violations. . . .

Native American Adoptees Seek Knowledge of Culture and Birth Mothers

At Indian Country, an article looks at a reunion between a Native American adoptee and her birth mother, who is an adoptee herself: 
 This year, for the first time in a long time, Mother’s Day didn’t bring with it the painful unknowns for Jeanne Winslow and Rachel Banks Kupcho of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Jeanne and her daughter Kupcho met for the second time last October, more than 35 years after Winslow gave her newborn up for adoption. “The day I got the call was the day I knew my life had changed forever,” says Winslow. That call on a cool October day carried the news that her daughter had found her and wanted to meet.

Their reunion was not a made-for-TV event filled with balloons and flowers. Winslow recalls that seeing her daughter for the first time in such a long time was quietly powerful, a bit like the first time she heard the drum and knew deep in her body that she was American Indian. Like Kupcho, Winslow was put up for adoption as a newborn and raised by non-Indians. Their story puts a quintessential Indian twist on the standard Mother’s Day tale of maternal perfection, and shows the inexorable pull of blood and spirit that so many Native people describe when they speak of wanting to know their culture.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The One Question Not to Ask APs

Hmmm, there are so many!  But Forbes brings it down to just one, and since it's Forbes, you can probably guess which one:
Without overstating the obvious, modern parenthood is expensive. The escalating costs of lessons of every description, enrichment classes, summer camp and orthodontia round out an unending list of ‘essentials’ that are endlessly discussed over skim lattes at Starbucks and on playgrounds all over the country.

In this era of ‘TMI,’ it seems everything related to child rearing is fodder for conversation. Everything, it seems, is open for discussion except how much it costs to have the child. Unless, of course, that child is adopted.

* * *

When my daughter was still a baby, I recited a truncated version of that story whenever I was asked about Madeline’s “real parents.” Over the years, I’ve been asked questions that have struck me as odd; some have been downright ridiculous (“Does she only like Chinese food?” inquired a neighbor when she saw my baby daughter for the first time). Now that Madeline is in elementary school and is all ears whenever anyone talks to me in front of her, I’m less likely to give ad hoc lectures on adopting from China.

There is one question that when asked by someone, however well-meaning they may be, stops me in my tracks.

“How much did she cost?”

I was dumbfounded the first time someone actually uttered those words and thankfully, it doesn’t happen often. But now, when it does, there’s usually a first grader in the vicinity that I need to protect from someone else’s cluelessness.

What Adoption Has Taught Me About Parenting

Kristen Howerton of Rage Against the Minivan has a post at Huffington Post entitled What I Learned About Motherhood by Being an Adoptive Parent.  Stikes me as a perfect theme for a blog carnival!  I'll kick it off with a few ideas here, and ask anyone else who blogs on the topic to put a link to your post in the comments. I think the topic is broad enough for everyone to write about -- birth parents, adoptees and adoptive parents. Please spread the word, and see if we can get some interesting posts going!

Boy, I could write forever on this topic, but I'm going to limit myself to three points -- things I would NEVER have known if I had come to parenting in any other way.

Biology matters.  No, not in the way some outside of adoption think, that somehow one can't love a child who is not yours biologically (don't know why people insist on linking love and biology -- we're all familiar with loving those not related to us, or we'd all be marrying our cousins!).  But nonetheless, biology matters. 

We hear all the time in adoption that biology does not make one a parent -- it's the parent who takes care of a child who gets to be the "real" parent.  I reject that notion, taking the position that my children each have two mothers -- their birth mothers and I are all REAL parents. Biology DOES make one a parent, despite protestations to the contrary, so my kids came to me already having parents. They have parents whom they do not know at all, but they still love them, miss them and wish to know them.  Zoe felt that loss as a toddler -- one of her first spontaneous mentions of her birth mother was as a 3-year-old when she informed us that on her birthday, her birth mother would put a candle on her cake and sing her happy birthday.

My kids' birth parents are part of their lives, even though absent.  Because of that, they are part of my life, too. 

Biology makes a difference to my children.  No, they don't love me any less because we aren't biologically related, any more than I love them less for that reason.  But as a recent conversation made crystal clear, they recognize a connection to their immediate biological family and their long-ago biological ancestors, too.  They are my children, but they don't see my ancestors as their ancestors.  They want to know about that long line of Chinese ancestors going back into the mists of time, that is what is meaningful to them.

So yes, adoption has taught me that biology matters.  It's important to recognize that our children come to us with their own story, their own history, their own biology.  Ignoring that does not serve us well.

Race matters.  Parenting children of color is different.  If my children were white like me, I guess I could go through life believeing we're living in a color-blind world where racism is simply the ignorant actions of a few misguided people.  If my children were white like me, we could bask in our white privilege, ignoring systemic racism.  If my children wre white like me, we could prove our color-blindness by never, never, ever mentioning race.  Parenting children of color doesn't give me that luxury.  And since my race is different from my children's race, they really can't learn from observing my reaction to personally-experienced racism.  So we have to talk explicitly about race and racism, and we have to do it a lot. 

Race matters, because a healthy racial identity is important, and something harder for children of color to acquire by osmosis when living in a white family.  We have act intentionally to bring Asian role models into their lives, to incorporate lived experiences common to Asians in America, to create a positive yet realistic picture of their homeland.  That explains weekly Chinese School and living half a year in China and countless other daily interations.

Transracial adoption has taught me that race matters.  It's important to explore our own ideas of race, and to prepare our children for living as people of color when they are away from us, no longer protected by our umbrella of white privilege.

The truth matters.  The thing that drives me the most crazy about adoption is the secrets and the lies.  Trust is so fundamental to the parent-child relationship, and nothing can be more corrosive to trust than secrets and lies. 

As Maya put it, she thinks parents are sort of afraid to tell their kids because they think maybe their kids won't love them if they find out. It's silly to think that, Maya says, because you have two families in one, and they should be ok with that.  Yet adoptive parents still persist in ignoring the fact that their children are adopted, not wanting to mention it, not wanting to talk about it for fear of planting ideas in their kids' heads, not wanting to tell any part of the story that involves hard truths or even birth parents.

I sympathize, really I do.  I was pretty insecure before adopting, not wanting to "compete" with birth family for my children's love, which is how I once thought of it. I've confesses before that one of my greatest shames is that I chose China to adopt from because I thought that would mean we wouldn't have to deal with birth parents (little did I know!).

Who knows, if my kids looked like me, maybe I'd want to "pass" too.  We want to protect our children from all pain, and we sometimes fear that talking about adoption will cause pain. But I believe the pain comes from NOT allowing our children to talk about what's important to them, and, see above, biology and race matters to them.  I firmly believe that my relationship with my children is stronger BECAUSE we talk openly about adoption.  Without that openness, there would always be this unspoken barrier between us.

So the truth matters.  It is their truth, so our children deserve to hear it.  Not talking about adoption causes pain, it doesn't alleviate it.  Our children will love us more, not less, when we give them the gift of truth.

So what have you learned about parenting from adoption?  What lessons have you learned from adoptive parenting that you might not have learned otherwise?  Please share!

Forced Adoption Practices Still Persist in U.S.

An article at RHReality Check looks at the recent attention to the Baby Scoop Era forced adoptions, and worries that that attention creates the impression that all those problems are in the past:
I'm concerned that the conversation about forced adoption is being framed in such a way as to imply that adoption coercion is a relic from the past. I'm concerned that mothers who lost children to more recent unethical practices are discouraged from sharing their stories in order to support this conclusion. I'm concerned that women who might consider adoption now or in the future will incorrectly believe that today's agencies and facilitators are above reproach because reports say that coerced adoption ended in the seventies. While its true that contraception and abortion access have reduced the number of infants being surrendered for adoption in recent years, corruption is ever-present.

* * *

Now, instead of the secrecy and shame that surrounded the girls who went away during the Baby Scoop Era, adoption agencies promise expectant mothers unlimited contact with their children. Technically, modern facilitators are being truthful when they say that most of today's infant adoptions are open, since “open” is a blanket term used to describe any situation in which the mother has some form of contact with the adopters. This can mean anything from a few meetings during pregnancy to exchanging pictures and letters via an intermediary to a coveted lifelong relationship that includes phone calls and visits. However, many agencies promise expectant mothers that they can decide how much contact to have with their children. This is untrue. Legally, once an adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents have all the control and can cut off contact at will. And they frequently do. One mother who complained to her adoption agency that her daughter's adopters were not following through on the level of contact they promised was told that the adopters close more than 80 percent of the open adoptions that are initiated there.

* * *

There's no need to argue whether or not adoption has changed in the past thirty years. It has. The problem can be summed up with the old adage: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Not only are modern adoption practices coercive as were their predecessors, but we have to contend with the War on Women that currently threatens to take women's rights back to the '50s. As conservative legislators rush to deny funding to Planned Parenthood, limit access to contraception, and prevent abortion by any possible means, the shadow of a second Baby Scoop Era is looming over America. Will we learn from the past, or will we repeat it?
The article talks about reframing relinquishment as "making an adoption plan," adoptive parents in the birthing room, "Dear Birthmother" letters promising the moon, talk of "loving choice," etc., as more subtly coercive tactics today.  Go read the whole thing.

Monday, May 14, 2012

U.S. Won't Return Guatemalan Girl to Her Mother

Remember the case of a Guatemalan girl, kidnapped from her mother in Guatemala, and ultimately adopted by an American Family -- a Guatemalan court ordered her returned to her family?  I blogged about the case here and here and here.  Well, sadly but not surprisingly, the U.S. has notified Guatemala that it has no intention of returning the girl:
The U.S. government has told Guatemala it won't return a girl adopted in 2008 after being snatched from her Guatemalan mother, because the two countries had not signed the Hague Abduction Convention at the time of the kidnapping, a Guatemalan official said Monday.

Foreign Relations Ministry spokeswoman Celeste Alvarado quoted a diplomatic cable from the U.S. State Department as saying the two countries formally ratified the convention on Jan. 1, 2008, more than a year after toddler Anyeli Hernandez Rodriguez was abducted in November 2006.

Alvarado said the U.S. note cites Hague Convention articles indicating it isn't required to return the child if there was no treaty in force at the time.

The girl was adopted by a Missouri couple, and a Guatemalan judge ordered last year that the girl be returned.

* * *

A leading Guatemalan activist in the case disagreed with the State Department's position, arguing that the U.S. government is obligated under international treaties to return victims of human trafficking or irregular adoptions that have occurred within the past five years.

The girl left the country on Dec. 9, 2008, according to court records, and that date and not her abduction date should be taken into account, said Claudia Hernandez, assistant director of the Survivors Foundation, a human rights group that filed the court case for the child's biological mother, Loyda Rodriguez.
I find the reasoning bizarre -- why would the date of the abduction be the determinative date?  The adoption -- the creation of a legal status -- occurred almost a full year AFTER ratification of the Hague Convention by the U.S. and Guatemala.  Thus, the legality of the adoption should be determined under the Hague Convention. 

In Praise of Single Mothers

Given that last week was the @#%$ Butterfly Ball, also known as the father/daughter dance at my girls' school, with the usual I-don't-have-a-daddy sadness to follow, despite attendance with daddy-surrogates, I was happy to see this article in the Atlantic written by the daughter of a single mom:
A lot has been said about single mothers. Most of it has been less than flattering.

In a notable nugget Senator Rick Santorum said at a town hall meeting, "We are seeing the fabric of this country fall apart, and it's falling apart because of single moms." Not long after that, in a public appearance in Erie, Pennsylvania, he accused single mothers of "simply breeding more criminals." This past fall, he argued that single mothers voted Democrat because their lives were so hard and urged Republicans to "build two parent families" in order to "eliminate that desire for government."

This Mother's Day I confess that I am very proud to be from what some would call a broken home. Not because it was easy watching a young woman struggle to be a mother on her own after ending a violent marriage, but precisely because it was so very hard. And "hard" seems to be a word we now avoid, disparage, and devalue in our insta-everything culture.

In other words, the very values that Senator Santorum and so many others say these solo moms undermine are just the values I learned from mine -- and the community of women like her I grew up with outside Washington, D.C. What did we learn from these women who worked one or more miserably paid jobs while battling domestic turbulence, hunting for child support, hustling to pay rent, and forcing us to do our homework all on their own?

Everything.
Thanks, I needed that.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!


My Mother's Day was spent watching my children in their ballet recital -- twice!  They were in both the 2:00 show and the 6:00 show, and of course, they were AWESOME!  It wasn't a very relaxing Mother's Day, but it was a fun one.  I was one of the backstage chaperone moms for the 2:00 performance, so I only so bits of that performance.  I got to watch the 6:00 one from start to finish, and really enjoyed it.  The ballet was Hansel & Gretel, and Zoe was an angel in Act I and a villager in Act II.  Maya was a red bird in Act I.  During the 2:00 performance, Maya had a wardrobe malfunction -- her "wings" came untied.  But she handled it like a pro -- just kept on dancing!








I was blessed with a wonderful show, many hugs and kisses, cards and surprises today. For all mothers who got to see and hold their children close, I hope your Mother's Day was full of joy. For all mothers who missed their children today, I hope you find peace.

China: Sister Acts

From China Daily, a story about nuns taking care of special needs orphans:
Shi Junfang may appear similar to most young, Chinese single women in her 30s. She is hard working, loves chatting and telling jokes and exudes charm with a quick smile. Yet, her character is remarkable since she has devoted her life as a Catholic nun caring for disabled orphans in Biancun Village, a rural community in Central China's Hubei province.

She works with 17 other sisters of the St.Theresa of the Child Jesus order. They live at the Liming orphanage, which houses 130 of their charges.

Shi, known here as Sister Maria, must use all her energy to protect them from harm. The youngsters get proper education, eat nutritious meals and play in the courtyard on a regular schedule to promote and maintain healthy lifestyles.

The children suffer from debilitating illnesses and disabilities and need constant medical care. But most of all, Sister Maria says, the children have a right to happiness and it's her job as director to ensure smooth operations.

She must show a positive attitude to maintain a harmonious living environment. This is no easy task.

"Those children need a lot and in my profession, I must never show my frustrations with them," she says. "At times, I'm emotionally excited to help these children and at other times, I feel like I can only give them so little."

She appears full of confidence. However, when she visited the orphanage for the first time in 1996, she expressed reluctance to work full-time there. She described the conditions as "primitive and smelly."

Afterwards, she prayed for the children and realized that she must "serve them." She wanted to improve the sanitary conditions, raise donations and provide better medical treatment for them. As a young girl, she had grown up near the orphanage.

Mothers Share a Special Bond After Open Adoption

Most interesting thing about this story for me -- the caption under the photo of adoptive mom and birth mom with photo of child: "Michaela Stanberry (left)[adoptive mom] and Sara Smoak [birth mom] pose next to a portrait of their son, Mathis, at Stanberry's home."  Their son.  Wow.  Read more here.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Inside the Celebrity Adoption Trend

In the midst of this celebrity-adoption story, I was surprised to find some cautionary words:
While a family with means adopting a child from an orphanage in a poor country might seem, on the surface, like the best thing for the child, not everyone agrees. Some adult adoptees from foreign countries who were brought to America in the '60s, '70s, and '80s have banded together, creating a grassroots movement over concerns that their birth parents were coerced into giving them up for adoption.

"There are a lot of people in the international adoptee community who really have some strong negative feelings about transracial and international adoption," says Johnson [described elsewhere in the article as "Deborah Johnson, a Minneapolis-based, adoption-focused social worker"], who herself was adopted from Korea as a child. "They're sitting back and being a little more cynical about it and are kind of voicing that concern. It's even more evident when you have [adoptive parents] who are super wealthy, super rich. Even on a subtle level, if you're a poor villager in Guatemala and some rich famous celebrity swoops in and says, 'I can give your child a better life,' it's pretty easy to be dazzled by that."

Though most adoptive parents follow every rule and take every precaution when adopting from outside of the country, it can be impossible to know a child's background for sure, insists Johnson. "American agencies will say, 'Well, we don't know what goes on in the intake process into orphanages. Yes, it's legitimate from the time they're into their U.S. adoption, but who knows how those kids wind up in the orphanage and what those birth parents are told about all of that."

Update on Investigation of the Makeni Children

E.J. Graff did a series in Slate about the Makeni Children, those children from Sierra Leone whose parents claimed they had never consented to their adoptions by American families.  She writes this update at Slate:
While I was reporting the story, Sierra Leone President Ernest Koroma appointed an official commission to look into the families’ charges. By all accounts, the group painstakingly heard testimony from anyone even remotely connected with the case: birth families, HANCI officials, police, and many more. Kim Kargbo, an American missionary who lives half-time in Sierra Leone and had helped bring together some of the Makeni children with their birth families, and who had testified in front of the commission, told me that she felt that the commissioners listened carefully and fairly and were genuinely concerned about the welfare of the children and the facts of the case.

The families had high hopes for the commission’s findings. As a skeptical journalist, I had my doubts that the three appointees would do any serious digging. But then, to my surprise, last month the commission released its findings and concluded that the “so-called adoptions” were fraudulent. In the commission’s words, the biological families “cannot be said to have genuinely consented” to the adoptions, as they did not understand the concept of giving up their children forever; had never signed any agreement to relinquish their children; and were never informed that their children would be sent to the United States. Further, the commission concluded, HANCI had failed to inform either the parents or the Sierra Leone court system that those children would be sent to live with American citizens permanently. The commission instructed the nation’s police to reopen a criminal investigation, using all the sworn testimony filed with the commission, “with a view to preferring criminal charges” against the wrongdoers within six weeks. The wrongdoers weren’t named, but the commission did order that HANCI be shut down and its books audited at HANCI’s own expense.

Finally, the commission advised Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Social Welfare to make contact with the United States government in order to help the birth families make contact with their long-lost children. The families say they do not expect those children to come back permanently—but they are desperate to see and talk with them again, and to find out how those children are.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Motherhood for an Adoptee a Priceless Bond

A must-read for this Mother's Day weekend, a Korean adoptee writes movingly about adoption and motherhood and her son's birth.  ALL of it is worth sharing, but I'm only giving you a snippet so you'll go read the whole thing:
With my son's arrival came something magical: a blood relative I could hold on to.

Family, I know, is not about genes. When you are born in Asia and raised by white Midwesterners and have nine cousins with blue eyes and fair skin, you learn that families can be cobbled together.

But adoptees must believe in the power of biology. What else ties us to our mothers, our fathers, who left us decades ago? Shared biology allows us to tell ourselves that someone out there still longs for us, still weeps for us, still dreams we will figure out how to get home. We yearn for these shadowy figures and the answers only they can reveal.

At the heart of it, though, is the simplest of things. It would be nice to know someone who looks like you.

Those first months as a mother, I searched for my own features in my son's face. We shared deep brown eyes and inky hair, but no distinctive characteristics. "He looks Asian," said a friend, "but he doesn't look like you." I snapped hundreds of photos, but had none of my own to compare them with.

Then a few weeks before my first Mother's Day, while cleaning out my desk, I happened upon a forgotten black-and-white image: Perched on her foster mother's lap is a girl wearing a cap and a checkered wool outfit, just days away from settling in another land, another language.

Chubby-cheeked and full-lipped, she looks timid and bewildered. I knew that look.

I laughed, then cried, then cried some more.

The face is vaguely my son's. And in that moment, I understood that in him are echoes of my birth mother, my birth father.

In all these years, I have never searched for them, believing it would prove fruitless. Yet somehow they have found their way here.

My boy doesn't look like me. He looks like us.
Wow. Just wow.  Zoe is my wondering girl when it comes to adoption, so I always wonder what biological motherhood might mean to her.  Right now, she's convinced she'll adopt, since both the sex part and the labor part sounds completely gross to her, but I wonder if she'll stick to that (oh, I know the sex-is-gross part is going to get jettisoned, I'm not THAT naive!).

Romney on Gay Adoption

I try to avoid politics, but can't here, where it's squarely about adoption! From ABC News:
Mitt Romney has consistently opposed same-sex marriage, but he again expressed support for gay adoption on Thursday, calling it “fine” and noting that it’s legal in his home state of Massachusetts. But he also stated his preference for every child to have a mother and a father.

“I believe marriage has been defined the same way for literally thousands of years by virtually every civilization in history and that marriage is literally by its definition a relationship between a man and a woman,” he told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto. “And that if two people of the same gender want to live together, want to have a loving relationship and even want to adopt a child, in my state individuals of the same sex were able to adopt children. In my view that’s something that people have the right to do, but to call that marriage is, in my view, a departure of the real meaning of that word.”

Romney has made statements in the past in support of gay adoption, something social conservatives oppose. He has been consistent in supporting it, but has called for an exemption for religious institutions that have adoption services.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Another Adoptee Faces Deportation

Joining Joao Herbert, Matthew Sherer, John Gaul, Tara Ammons Cohen, Tatiana Mitrohina, Jennifer Haynes, Seo, and many, many more, and those unnamed and unknown, that long list of international adoptees facing deportation because of the failure of their parents to secure their American citizenship is Kairi Shepherd:
Kairi Shepherd was an orphan living in India when a Utah woman adopted her in 1982 — a seemingly good turn of luck for the 3-month-old, which included her obtaining legal permanent resident status in the United States.

But when she was 8, her adoptive mother died of cancer. When she was 17, she was arrested and convicted of felony check forgery to fuel a drug habit. Now 30, she is facing likely deportation after a 10th Circuit Court ruling Tuesday that upheld the federal government’s right to remove her from the country.

Judge Scott Matheson, in a 23-page decision, wrote the court simply didn’t have jurisdiction over determining Shepherd’s legal status.

Instead, Matheson denied her petition based on a series of technical procedures, including a failure to file a second appeal through the Board of Immigration Appeals as well as Shepherd’s attempt to get her petition reviewed prematurely.

Shepherd’s lawyer, Alan Smith, said he was disappointed the court didn’t tackle a "mistake" made by the federal government that allowed an immigration judge to uphold his client’s legal status after she provided a birth certificate, legal adoption papers and the argument she qualified for citizenship under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

The next day, however, government lawyers discovered she missed qualifying for the Child Citizenship Act by a few months and appealed the immigration judge’s ruling.

The government was successful.

* * *

According to her sister, when her mother died, she was passed between older siblings. At 17, she was introduced to meth by a co-worker. On top of that, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She served several months in jail and was placed on probation.

"Yes, she made mistakes. And she should be held accountable. But she has been," her sister Kristi Tafoya said at the time. "Why aren’t adopted children protected?"