January 29, 2007

New Post at Anti-Racist Parent

I have a new post up at ARP for Question Monday. It's a question I've wanted to ask for a long time, in my opinion the bottom line question. Please comment over there, I really am interested in what you think.

January 28, 2007

Great Weekend

We had such a good weekend.

I went shopping with The Girl on Saturday afternoon - Target followed by lunch at McDonald's, totally mundane. We bought some stuff we needed, and lots more that we didn't. And we laughed and talked and joked all afternoon.

And - wonder of wonders - The Boy went shopping with Third Dad and me on Saturday evening. We went to Ikea to get two chests for our bedroom, and The Boy joined us to look for storage solutions for his room. We ate meatballs in the Ikea restaurant and went through the entire store. And we laughed and talked and joked all evening.

I used to think there could be nothing better than being a mom to babies and toddlers. But now I think there's nothing better than teens. It's amazing to see your children nearly grown, and incredible to be able to talk to them like friends.

Yes, it was a very good weekend indeed.

January 25, 2007

Don't Misses 1-26-07

Lots of good writing out there this week:

Jane Jeong Trenka's Update - I really like this post because of the way Jane simply claims what is hers.

A moving post about her daughter's first mother by Mommela - My Rapist

Mom2One shares sadness on her son's behalf at having No Photo.

And don't forget the posts from Amy and Mia I linked to yesterday on opening closed records - The Real Deal and My Records.

Enjoy!

Open those records NOW!

Read this - The Real Deal. Mia absolutely nails what's wrong with closed records. Wow.

And this from Amy - My Records - which also hits it on the head. Wow again.

January 24, 2007

All's Bad That Ends Badly

This series of articles in the Washington Post yesterday and today covers the battle that Shaoqiang and Qin Luo He have waged for the past seven years to recover their daughter, now named Anna Mae, from foster care. The Hes say they placed their daughter temporarily with the Bakers, a foster family from their church, but that the Bakers later refused to return custody of the child to the Hes.

So much is wrong here, and not just with foster care and adoption - the disadvantage our legal system places on immigrants (He was accused of sexual assault while a student at the University Memphis, and although acquitted, lost his scholarship and student stipend as a result); the cultural bias of the area in which the Hes lived; and, taking nothing away from the love I'm sure the Bakers felt for Anna Mae, their sense of entitlement to the child.

The first article quotes the ruling from the Tennessee Supreme Court, which should be applauded for stating this so clearly: "Financial advantage and affluent surroundings simply may not be a consideration in determining a custody dispute between a parent and a non-parent."

But the judge in Memphis who took away the He's parental rights in February 2004, suggesting their custody battle was simply a ploy to delay their deportation, needs serious reeducation. He is undoubtedly not alone in this need.

No winners here, especially Anna Mae. This transition will be hard for her, and I hope she receives the support and counseling she needs for as long as she needs it, here and in China when her family returns.

Chinese Parents Win Back Their Daughter 1/23/07
Court Rules Against Foster Parents 1/24/07

January 23, 2007

Getaway

The holidays are a treasured time for me - a time to let go of pressures and deadlines, to relax and enjoy. A getaway.

This year, like every other since our children arrived, the holidays became a time to be a family - not an adoptive family, just a family. For several blessed weeks, my thoughts focused on just being with my husband and children. No thoughts of adoption, no thoughts of what the future might bring, no worries.

It took no time to forget. From the moment I gave myself permission to let it all go, the thought of adoption didn't cross my mind until we returned from our family visit and life returned to its normal pace. I had flipped a switch and turned it off, just like that. As the thoughts slowly crept back, one by one, I pushed them away, not wanting the interlude to come to an end.

And honestly, if I had wanted to, I could have kept those thoughts away permanently.

I experience adoption's losses second-hand. Although I recognize that my children live with loss on the front lines, as do their first parents, I can only sympathize, not empathize. They don't have the luxury of being able to turn it on and off as I do. We adoptive parents can flip that switch any time we choose, and we often do, because we believe that pushing thoughts of loss and pain out of our lives is the best way to ensure a happy family.

I think there's a more honest approach, though: to acknowledge the losses and respect them as part of the entire adoption experience. To recognize that they can coexist with happiness and satisfaction and the myriad of other emotions we feel. To accept them as one of the many facets that make up our lives.

So I flip the switch, and the thoughts of adoption and its losses come back. Unwelcome though they may be, they're part of my children's reality, their first parents' reality. And, if only from the sidelines, mine.

January 22, 2007

Surfacing Momentarily with an Important PSA

Because January 31 is approaching fast, please help Jenna and the Council of Accreditation spread the word. There's good news and bad news.

The good news: On July 12, 2006 the U.S. Department of State named the Council on Accreditation as the only national accreditor for Hague Convention Accreditation and Approval. Through January 31, 2007, COA is seeking public comment regarding agencies seeking accreditation. A list of adoption service providers seeking accreditation can be found here. If you have had an experience with an unethical agency - or an ethical one - share your comments here.

The bad news: The COA is seeking accreditation reviewers as well - primarily from the adoption agency sector. I think a blitz of applications from adoptees and first parents is in order - living adoption for a lifetime, perhaps having been victimized by one of the agencies that attempts to gain accreditation, should qualify anyone for this role.

For more information about the Hague Convention, visit the following sites:

Hague Conference on Private International Law
U. S. Department of State

Adding Hague Information to the Activism Page for future reference.

January 15, 2007

Open Mike: Do parents love adopted children differently?

There's an interesting discussion on Anti-Racist Parent today: Do parents love adopted children differently? ARP is approaching it from the perspective of race based on some comments that Angelina Jolie made regarding her feelings toward her three children, and how her feelings toward the daughter born to her differ from those toward her adopted children.

But I don't think this question applies only to multi-racial adoptive families with adopted and non-adopted children. I think it's worth talking about generally.

Since both of my children were brought into our family through adoption, it's hard for me to imagine how I would love a child born to me, and if I would love that child differently than I do the kids I know. But what about the bond created at birth? What effect does that have on a mother's love for that child over the years? Or the lack of it?

If you have children of different races, please answer at Anti-Racist Parent and add a comment here letting everyone know that you did, so we can look for your thoughts. But if you'd like to add your thoughts here, too, please do!

And so, here's the latest Open Mike question, with thanks to ARP for raising it:

Do parents love adopted children differently?

January 12, 2007

Presenting at KAAN with Claud

The 2007 KAAN Conference will be held from July 20 to 22 in Boston, MA. I haven't missed a KAAN Conference yet (this year's will be my ninth), and, with my friend Michelle Howard of Korea Homeland Tours, was the coordinator of the 2003 KAAN Conference in Washington, DC (photos here), so this forum is near and dear to my hear.

I'm excited to announce that Claud and I will be presenting together this year! Well, I'll be introducing and facilitating questions, and Claud will be doing most of the talking - but we'll be working together and I think it's terrific.

KAAN, which is the Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network, is a conference jointly supported by adoptees, adoptive parents, Koreans, and Korean Americans. The voices of first parents have largely been absent from the conference, not that conference organizers haven't tried to include them. Indeed, a session with first mothers was part of the first KAAN Conference in Los Angeles in 1999, and again last year at the conference in Seoul. But language barriers and the cost of travel from Korea have made it difficult to bring first parents into the conference on a regular basis.

I've presented at conferences in the past, mostly on topics related to raising children from another race and culture. But the experience of blogging has had a profound effect on me, as it's brought me into contact with mothers I am proud to say are friends, and who have been willing to share their experiences with me.

And so I reached out to Claud to see if she might be interested in working together. She was, and we developed the concept for a session called Universal Motherhood, Universal Loss that we hope will increase understanding of the experience of adoption loss and reunion, and will dispel the myth of closure. Earlier this month we were accepted, and will be presenting on the afternoon of July 21.

Claud, thank you for your willingness to work together and to reach a new audience.

January 8, 2007

Racial Motivations

The Washington Post of December 24 ran an op-ed by David Nicholson, Why Doesn't White Adopt Black? In the article, Nicholson wonders if the adoption of Asian children by white adoptive parents might be construed as a racist attitude. He asks, with so many African American children in need of permanent families, would prospective adoptive parents choose to adopt from other countries. And although he acknowledges a number of pragmatic reasons why this is the case, he raises the racial attitudes of adoptive parents as one possible reason.

The article, in my opinion, was a simplistic view of a complicated subject, and Nicholson is clearly no expert. However, his perspective on the role of race in intercountry adoption deserves consideration. Soul-searching, serious consideration.

Yet here are just a few of the comments I read from white adoptive parents in the comments to the article and a letter to the editor:

From the adoptive father of a little girl from China:

In the domestic arena, there is a dominant trend toward open adoption, in which birth parents have continued access to adopted children. Merits (or lack thereof) notwithstanding, we viewed this arrangement as 18 years of potential extortion, especially given court cases in which the adoption was reversed after the birth parents changed their minds and sued for reestablishment of parental rights. Foreign adoptions have no such worry.

From a non-adoptive parent:

If I were in a position to adopt and wanted to do so, I would go out of the country pronto. There is far less stress, baggage and angst involved. People will not be coming out of the woodwork a year later, looking to reclaim their little cherub.

These comments are are an example of much that's wrong with intercountry adoption - the entitled attitude toward another country's children, incredible disrespect toward first parents, and disregard for first parent rights. The expressed fear of first parents is used to rationalize the racial considerations altogether. And the sense that the children are simply pawns, there to fulfill adoptive parent dreams, is pervasive.

It disappoints me that the Washington Post, which certainly has the resources to do some serious journalism on adoption, chose to run this article instead. It disappoints me even more that some adoptive parents so totally missed the point and responded as they did.

We have a long way to go.

I'll be posting my thoughts on the racial perspective on AntiRacist Parent soon.

January 5, 2007

Post-Holiday Blahs

I've got 'em bad.

The holidays are a time I look forward to all year. For me, they stretch from Thanksgiving to the week after new year, and are a time to get away from the day-to-day rat race. I allow myself to take it easy, and let my usual high energy and level of activity wane a bit as I relax and get away from the grind.

The problem is that all good things come to an end, and when my holidays end, the reality of day-to-day life can be a bit of a shock. At this time of the year I see clearly how much I overextend, how I let my desire to do do do bring me to bite off more than I can chew, or at least chew with my mouth closed.

While I've been loafing around, I've noticed that adoption hasn't really entered my mind much these past few weeks, and only fleetingly when it has. There are many milestones and holidays on which my children's families are a strong presence, but it's odd to me that Christmas and New Year aren't among them. There's almost a selfish quality to the way I push adoption out of my thoughts during the holiday season.

It's significant that I can be entirely joyful at this time of year. Not so the mothers and fathers and adoptees who spend the holidays separated from one another - they don't enjoy the luxury of letting adoption take a back seat. This time of year may be a time of sadness, loneliness and longing for first parents and adoptees, rather than of happiness and contentment.

Adoption can weave itself through every aspect of the lives it touches. Some experience only its joys, finding it hard to imagine there could be a darker side. Others know its pain, but are able to untangle themselves from it from time to time to catch their breath. But for many, there's no respite, no break or rest. Recognizing this should bring us all to show greater compassion and respect to those we know are experiencing the pain.