April 28, 2009

Intense weekend, and no time to recover

This is not going to be the post I had hoped I could write about the American Adoption Congress conference in Cleveland last weekend. I got home late on Monday, woke up to a really intense work day, and have another trip to prepare for on Thursday. And to be honest, I've got so much personal email and other stuff to catch up on that the thought of starting after being tied to my PC at work all day makes me faint.

So for the moment, I'll just say this:

The conference was excellent: great sessions, Jean Strauss's deeply moving film For the Life of Me, Saturday keynote by Paula Benoit of Adoptee CARE, a wonderful performance by Darryl McDaniels at the Saturday benefit, excellent books available - it was really, really good. There was even the very unexpected news that my sister-in-law's brother was one of the recipients of ANC's annual Triad Advocate of the Year award - talk about six degrees of separation!! But the best thing of all was being able to get together with people I've met in real life and online, and to make new friends as well. That was better than good, it was terrific.

First and foremost, I give a deep bow and huge thanks to Suz for agreeing to do our session Nine Months: Gains and Losses at the conference. Our session contrasted the time before an adoption from our very different points of view. My portion was a piece of cake, but Suz's brought back many painful memories, which she shared with great courage and dignity with an audience that made it very clear how validating it was to hear her. I'm in awe of that, and of her ability to communicate. Thank you, Suz!! (I'll post later about the session, and about the other one I did on transracial adoptive parenting, but I want to do them justice and now's not the time - too much to do to get ready for vacation #2 on Thursday.)

The blogger contingent was there in force, and it was great seeing friends like Suz, my friend Marilyn and her daughter, Judy (I love laughing with you, Judy, cannot wait to do it again!), Marley (who has the most encyclopedic brain you can imagine, along with a great sense of humor), and Pam (I want to be Pam when I grow up.) On top of seeing these wonderful people, I also got to meet others I have wanted to know for a long time: Dawn (and Pennie, Madison of the 50K watt smile, Noah and Brett, too), Shannon (omigosh she is incredibly smart), Jenna (so, so sweet, just the nicest person you would ever meet). A bunch of us had lunch together on Saturday and had the best time. These are women I wish were closer so we could do that every month. It was THE BEST! I love you all!!

And then there are the new friends: I was leaving the building on Friday after a session and literally bumped into Malinda - amazing woman, and great fun! I met a terrific Dad from California who joined us for lunch on Sunday, and another great young man, a bi-racial adopted person who works for an adoption agency who is doing outstanding work on transracial parenting preparation. There were many more, but I was happy to have the chance to get to know these new friends, and hope our paths cross again soon.

I wish I had photos, but I forgot my camera - Suz has a great slideshow up, though, and Marley has photos here and here, too.

One more thing, which I'll post more about later: be sure to visit Darryl McDaniels' and Zara Phillips' YouBloom site to hear their song I'm Legit, which they performed at the benefit on Saturday night!

Thank you to everyone at American Adoption Congress and Adoption Network Cleveland for a job very well done. It's hard work to put on an event like this, and you did it beautifully!

Wow this ended up being more than I thought it would be, but there's still more to come.

April 18, 2009

Don't Misses 4-18-09

What a week at work. I swear my eyes are blurry from being attached to my PC as much as I was. That plus working on sessions for the American Adoption Congress - Adoption Network Cleveland conference next week, plus ever-more college paperwork for The Girl, pretty much took care of the week.

We're having one of those brilliant-blue-sky days in DC - gotta get out in it, so I intend to get out into the yard a bit. It needs it, and so do I.

I do have a couple of things to share, though, some new and not-so-new blogs on race and racial issues.
And now, it's me against the weeds.

April 10, 2009

You won't believe this ...

... but it's true.

Lawmaker defends comment on Asians
Call for voters to simplify their names not racially motivated, Terrell Republican says

OCA representative Ramey Ko's main point in this hearing was the following:
Ko told the committee that people of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent often have problems voting and other forms of identification because they may have a legal transliterated name and then a common English name that is used on their driver’s license on school registrations.
to which Brown replied:
“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” Brown said.

"you and your citizens?"

Please, no one even THINK of trying to defend Brown and her comment - this is pure, unadulterated racism.

April 9, 2009

Lori Phanachone reinstated

April 8, 2009

For more information:
Khin Mai Aung
Staff Attorney
212.966.5932 ext. 219
Click here to email

Honors student previously disciplined for protesting English Language Learner testing

New York, NY — In a welcome but abrupt about face, Storm Lake School District has reclassified Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) client Lori Phanachone as English proficient and restored her National Honor Society membership. After stripping the 3.98 GPA student’s National Honor Society membership for refusing an English Language Learner (ELL) test, the school district has met AALDEF’s demand to restore her membership. The district has also met AALDEF’s demand to reclassify Ms. Phanachone as English proficient.

Khin Mai Aung, Ms. Phanachone’s attorney at AALDEF, said: “Storm Lake is finally moving in the right direction by reclassifying Lori as English proficient, and restoring her hard earned National Honors Society membership. We are thrilled about this development, but continue to seek assurances from Storm Lake on other pending matters.”

Ms. Phanachone was mislabeled an ELL for naming Lao as her home language, without an English proficiency assessment, when she moved to Storm Lake two years ago. Ms. Phanachone has since been subjected to yearly ELL testing while excelling in advanced courses taught in English. This year, she boycotted a yearly ELL test in protest, resulting in a 3-day suspension, exclusion from extracurriculars and loss of her National Honor Society membership.

Lori Phanachone said: “We still need a lot of answers, but I feel really good that my academic honors have been restored, and I no longer have to worry about being classified as an ELL.”

Among other things, the following demands by AALDEF are still pending with Storm Lake School District:

  • Remove all references to Lori Phanachone’s suspension and other disciplinary action from her school records;
  • Assure in writing that it will not impose further disciplinary action on her;
  • Clarify Storm Lake’s procedures for classifying students as ELL upon enrollment; and
  • Explain how and why Lori Phanachone was initially classified as an ELL under Storm Lake’s classification procedures.

# # #

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), founded in 1974, is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all.

No room left

I just went on a reading binge and finished, in quick succession, Beneath the Mask: Understanding Adopted Teens by Debbie Riley and John Meeks; Somebody's Daughter by Marie Myung-Ok Lee; and A Euro-American on a Korean Tour at a Thai Restaurant in China by Chris Winston.

All good, for various reasons. Beneath the Mask offered useful insights into the issues adopted teens face, along with equally-useful suggestions that families can use to support one another through them. A Euro-American on a Korean Tour at a Thai Restaurant in China (Chris, that's a mouthful!!) shares a dedicated adoptive mom's experiences building ethnic connections to her children's community; every adoptive parent will take away an idea from Chris's book, and will benefit from her wisdom. Somebody's Daughter tells of one adopted person's search for family, side-by-side with the story of her mother. No spoilers here, though, you must read it yourself. Marie Lee isn't an adopted person herself, so it isn't a personal account. Her knowledge of Korea and the Korean American community, and her close relationship with Korean mothers gives her a unique perspective, though, that makes this book a wealth of information, as well as a moving story.

Three very different books, yet I took away the same message: The heart of the adoption experience is not about me.

There is a passage in Chris's book that zeros in on this. It describes the reunion of a Korean father with is child. Looking through the copious photo album documenting the life his child had lived with the adoptive family, the man commented that they had given his child everything; there was no room left for him anymore.

Food for very deep thought.

April 7, 2009

Lori Phanachone's NHS Membership Revoked

This is unbelievable.

April 6, 2009

For more information:
Khin Mai Aung
Staff Attorney
212.966.5932 ext. 219
Click here to email

Storm Lake School District violates earlier assurance that honors student’s membership is safe

New York, NY—Directly violating earlier written assurances, the Storm Lake School District in Iowa has revoked the National Honor Society membership of Laotian American student Lori Phanachone, after the 3.98 GPA senior refused an English Language Learner (ELL) test. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), which is representing Ms. Phanachone, has called for reinstatement of her membership and removal of all disciplinary action from her school records.

Khin Mai Aung, the AALDEF staff attorney representing the student, said: “Storm Lake explicitly assured us in writing that Lori Phanachone’s National Honors Society membership is safe. Now it has gone back on its word. This demonstrates precisely why Ms. Phanachone needs full redress, including removal of all disciplinary action from her record.”

Ms. Phanachone was mislabeled an ELL for naming Lao as her home language, without an English proficiency assessment, when she moved to Storm Lake two years ago. Ms. Phanachone has been subjected to early ELL testing while excelling in advanced courses taught in English. This year, she boycotted a yearly ELL test in protest, resulting in a 3-day suspension, exclusion from extracurricular activities, and loss of the National Honor Society membership. Contrary to earlier written assurances from Storm Lake’s attorney, Ms. Phanachone received a letter revoking her membership on Friday, April 3. In the letter, Craig Lyon, faculty advisor for the school’s National Honors Society chapter, stated that Ms. Phanachone’s membership was dissolved due to her failure to maintain “standards of scholarship, leadership, service and character[.]” AALDEF is appealing the dismissal.

Lori Phanachone said: "This has really thrown me into a loop. The school's lawyer promised my National Honor Society membership was safe, and now they've revoked it. I'm mad, sad and confused at the same time--I just don't know what to expect anymore." Among other things, AALDEF has further demanded that the Storm Lake School District also:

  • Remove all references to Lori Phanachone’s suspension and other disciplinary action from her school records;
  • Assure in writing that it will not impose further disciplinary action on her;
  • Clarify Storm Lake’s procedures for classifying students as ELL upon enrollment;
  • Explain how and why Lori Phanachone was classified as an ELL under Storm Lake’s classification procedures; and
  • Reclassify Lori Phanachone, and other affected students if appropriate under Iowa and federal law, as English proficient.

# # #

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), founded in 1974, is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all.

April 6, 2009

This is why I want to go to BELGIUM (the Netherlands, too, though)

Wow, that was a heck of a brain burp!! I saw what I thought was Dutch (but is maybe Flemish?) and didn't even read the caption enough for it to sink in. Antwerpen is in Belgium, which I know but apparently not well enough to catch myself before I posted this. Nothing like a little public stupidity to remind you of your flaws :)

I still DO want to go to the Netherlands, though. I'll just add Belgium to that particular trip list.

Again, many thanks to Pam Hasegawa of Adoption-News-Service for sharing!

2009 spring cleaning

Contains a bit of a rant toward the bottom, read at your own risk.

We had a really good weekend. Really good. Between the kids' birthdays and The Girl's continuing excitement over her acceptance into college, it was packed.

The Girl and I spent Saturday going out to lunch, running errands, working on her college registration materials, and watching 27 Dresses. I love days like that, for whatever reason their memory often stays with me longer than life's big events. The Boy called yesterday afternoon to share that he was going out with friends to celebrate, which we were of course glad to hear. We were gladder to hear that he'll be home for Easter. Third Dad and I have been missing him a lot recently, so we were both glad to hear this. And then Third Dad, The Girl and I went out for dinner, followed by another movie - The Girl's choice Twilight - really liked it, by the way.

Two things marred the weekend, albeit not too much. The first is that, given that the weather's warmed up here, we're in the middle of the annual ant infestation. I hate having to spray, but one year when we didn't, they got into one of the kitchen cabinets and it took ages to get them out. So I did some spraying and will buy traps to put outside, and hopefully we'll get them under control fast. For whatever reason, this is a seasonal event here, so if you fight off their first foray into the house, they go away. I have no idea why.

The other is the continuation of last week's very uncomfortable forum-related communication. I've been kicked off the island for, as it was worded in the email I received, breaking or coming close to breaking confidentiality rules for referencing in this post that the communication took place. Although I personally don't see it, I do acknowledge that the individual in question might have been able to self-identify in the post, so I've removed its content. I'll never know if the forum post this individual wrote that tied to our email conversation and was clearly directed at me, which seems to me to be the same thing I'm being gigged for, was also taken down, but I doubt it.

My removal from this list was actually a good kick in the pants, as it got me thinking about my online life, which needs a cleanup. I started by voting myself off a bunch of listservs I've watched over the years. It has finally sunk in that I don't get the kind of conversation and dialog that I crave in that setting - others might, but I don't. My Facebook is going to get a tune-up, too, and I'll be removing blog content related to my kids. I realized during last week's events that readers who hate me could direct their hatred toward my all-but-grown kids, too; that thought disgusts and enrages. It's up to me to do everything I can to change my behavior to make that as close to impossible as, er, possible.

April 3, 2009

Time Wasted: Part 3

Where was I?

Ah - I was trying to remember the years before The Boy arrived, the two long years of waiting in the adoption process. Funny, though, as I've looked back through the files and papers I've kept, I find that the those months were really filled with infertility treatment more than anything else. After our application to adopt in late 1987, we waited eleven months to be assigned a social worker and begin our homestudy, from November of 1987 to October of the following year.

Eleven months of waiting, and frankly hoping that we would get pregnant. I realize now that at that time, not a single cell in my body had connected with adoption, neither intellectually nor emotionally. It was the backup plan to our first choice, which was to just get pregnant and be done with all the treatment, waiting and pain.

I do remember the pain of that time, very very clearly. It was overwhelming, impossible to shut out or resolve in any way. I wanted to be a parent, to have a child to love, and nothing could soothe it - nothing. It doesn't surprise me now to see how deeply involved I remained with infertility news and support groups; I was simply incapable of thinking about adoption with the depth and attention it deserved.

We got the call from our agency that we had at last been assigned a social worker in mid-October, and had our first meeting with her on November 3rd.

I disliked her immediately.

Retrospectively, I understand that my feelings were far too raw and selfish to have judged her fairly, but I will say that were I to meet her today, I probably still wouldn't like her much. She was impressed by titles, level conscious and cold. Suffice it to say that we didn't click.

When our homestudy began, the realization that pregnancy had become a very dim possibility indeed at last began to sink in. You would think it would have made me turn my attention to adoption with fresh eyes and a positive attitude, but it didn't. Frankly, it made me angry that I had to be going through that homestudy, forced to bare my soul to a woman I could barely stand. It wasn't that I objected to the purpose of the homestudy, I simply wanted no part of it at the moment. And so I began to clam up, to respond to questions with the least possible information. I retreated into myself, where I could pretend I had the tiniest shred of control over what had happened to us. Third Dad, by the way, got along fine with her; he probably single-handedly made it possible for us to be parents, because I'm sure if she'd had her way, that social worker would have kicked my butt out of there.

How much thought did I give to my future children, or their mothers and fathers, their country, our responsibilities as their adoptive parents, or the ethics of what we were doing?


It didn't take too long for our social worker to tire of my monosyllabic answers, and we were put on a little homestudy vacation for a couple of months. Funny, you'd think I would have been a wreck, but interestingly I was glad to chuck it all for awhile. I think that time off, which fell over the holidays through early spring, helped me move thoughts of pregnancy out of my head once and for all, and turn my thoughts more firmly toward adoption. I remember my last homestudy session being a positive, open dialog with the social worker. Our home visit followed in April, and we were approved in May.

Now, you'd think that with this new frame of mind, I would have begun learning about adoption in earnest. Well, not quite. Third Dad and I took an adoption preparation class that needed to be completed for our homestudy to be approved, and found it interesting. I've tried to remember if I did any reading, but the only book that springs to mind is one of Lois Melina's. I was still active with Resolve, and if I remember correctly (which I may not), Third Dad and I began to take advantage of their adoption programs.

Our agency (and I don't think they were different than most) offered little in the way of preparation, even less information about the women whose children were coming in such large numbers to the U.S. and other countries. We accepted the explanation they offered us, that the women had no realistic options to parent and wanted to spare their children the stigma and discrimination they would surely face as the children of single mothers. We took the loss in stride, thinking we were helping them and their children - and giving little real attention to other solutions we might have offered had we not wanted their children so badly.

I explain it in my infertility post this way:
I'm a reasonable, reasonably intelligent person who believes she behaves justly and ethically. Yet during those years, my desire for a child controlled ME, not the other way around. Had I been told then that adoption was unethical, I honestly don't think I would have listened.
My timeline tells me that we received our son's picture on June 12th, 1989. I remember that day, floating through the hours that followed our meeting at the agency, the calls to family and friends to share news. The Boy's pictures showed an intense little boy peering at the camera, and I remember examining every square inch of them to memorize his eyes, the shape of his ears, his pursed lips.

I think that my final separation from thoughts of pregnancy came the day we received The Boy’s photo. I'm still surprised at how quickly it left my life, given the hold it had on me for so long. I'm not exaggerating when I say that once I said good-bye to that pain, it never returned. Ever. So odd.

The last three months of our first adoption were spent preparing for The Boy’s arrival, doing all the things that parents do - preparing his room, buying clothes and toys, enjoying baby showers. I would be a liar if I told you I spared many thoughts for The Boy’s mother than - I didn't. I would think about her occasionally and wonder how her life was progressing, but didn't feel a deep interest in her right then. That would change the moment The Boy was placed in our arms.

As I look back over the nearly two years Third Dad and I spent adopting our first child, I see in myself a person coping with emotions she was barely able to control, someone centered so completely on herself and her desire for a child that none of the information and preparation available during that time had more than a superficial impact. I wonder today if there was anything anyone could have said to me that might have turned my head away from myself toward my future son's mother; I honestly don't know. I do know, though, that the intellectual approach that permeated our homestudy and the entire adoption process - fill out this paperwork; write this check; answer these questions - had no chance at all. Rather than the cool explanation that our children's mothers had no other choice, we needed an emotional connection to them, one we didn't find until their children were in our arms.

Ultimately, the failure to see beyond my own desires lies within and nowhere else. It's hard to acknowledge - but nothing compared to the pain my children's mothers have lived with all these years.

Part 1
Part 2