April 29, 2010

Paying respect to Dorothy Height

My commute takes me past Washington National Cathedral on Wisconsin Avenue. When I pulled up to the lights just before Mass Avenue this morning, I could tell that traffic was heavier than normal. Crossing Massachusetts, I remembered why: Dorothy Height's funeral is taking place there this morning.

At 7:50, the line of mourners was already down Wisconsin and curling down Mass Ave. But I wouldn't actually call the people waiting mourners; it was clear from the smiles and laughter that today's funeral will be as much a celebration of a truly great life as it will be a time to grieve the loss of this amazing woman.

In truth, I knew little about Dorothy Height before her death made the news. I had heard her name, but knew little about her role in the civil rights movement. Today she is being called the unsung heroine of the civil rights movement, as this New York Times article states, she "was very much the unheralded seventh [member of the civil rights "Big Six"], the leader who was cropped out, figuratively and often literally, of images of the era."

What a towering life!

April 28, 2010

An adoptive parent checklist to read and ponder

For many reasons I've whined about a gazillion times before, I've given up having a second more personal blog, yet find it hard to be too personal here. It's the kids being adults thing, plus the fact that this blog is more issues focused.

Maybe because I haven't found a place to write more personal thoughts, I love blogs that write from the heart. Raina’s beautiful Faiths and Illusions is a blog like that. I found Raina through Yoli, another blogger of peace and dignity whose blogs focus on the best human qualities. I’m glad I met these ladies online.

A week or so ago, in the heat of the Russian adoption nightmare, Raina posted something that was, in my opinion, so spot on, but delivered with such grace, that I have to call it out in its own post: Preventive maintenance checklist for prospective adoptive parents . What I really like about this post is that it's totally direct, but delivers its message kindly.

In it, Raina speaks to the questions below, providing insights as an adopted person and a mother. You need to read this post and take Raina’s advice to heart:

  • Why are you adopting?
  • What have you done to support the preservation of families, in their own country or culture?
  • How do you feel about your child’s birthmother?
  • How do you expect your adopted child to feel about you?
  • Can you completely surrender yourself to pure empathy for your child’s adoption experience (without bias toward your role in it)?
  • What race will your child be after you adopt him/her?
  • Are you a racist?
  • Will you commit to your child, no matter what?

Every one of these items gets my attention, but the notion of surrendering myself in pure empathy to my child’s experience really grabbed me. Perhaps that’s because I’m at a place in which my role in my children’s lives is changing as they grow into adulthood. I think sometimes we APs think that if we do a, b and c, everything will be squared away and we can put adoption on the back burner. Not so! Our kids change, they grow up and encounter experiences themselves that change their feelings about adoption, themselves and their families. It’s our job as adoptive parents to understand where our kids are at any given time and provide support, even if we can’t understand why they’re there.

Raina, thank you for this post. I needed it, and I know many other APs do, too. And while I’m at it, let me pass on another article Raina wrote recently on the issue of identity: Neither, Nor (or how I learned to hate my face but lived to find some beauty in it)

April 26, 2010

Arizona 1070 and a much-needed dose of Chomsky

This article caught my eye recently: Noam Chomsky Has ‘Never Seen Anything Like This’

I'm chewing on this at the moment:
Chomsky embraces the Julien Benda view of the world. There are two sets of principles. They are the principles of power and privilege and the principles of truth and justice. If you pursue truth and justice it will always mean a diminution of power and privilege. If you pursue power and privilege it will always be at the expense of truth and justice.
May just be a more elegantly-worded version of this, but still explains quite succinctly why, although we might think that liberal politicians would get the human rights abuse of closed records, they don't. There's nothing in it for them, nothing to increase their power and privilege. Politics is politics, truth is truth, and sadly, it seems that never the twain shall meet.

Adding at lunchtime: Admittedly, both Chomsky and Benda offer a Western point of view. I'd really like to understand how other cultures and traditions view truth and justice, because they may offer a better approach to actually achieving justice in this and and other areas.

It's no wonder that the incredibly unjust and immoral Arizona Senate Bill 1070 is now the law of the Arizona land and Americans are pretty much just standing by and watching. Apart from boycotting, you may think there's nothing you can do. But you can: Urge your legislators, as I am doing, to boycott any activities they might have planned in Arizona. Let your churches know that you believe this is an immoral piece of legislation, and demand them to speak out. Don't attend Arizona team sports events. Sign petitions decrying it: here, here, and here for a start, and please add the others you find to the comments. Don't let this thin edge of the ugliest wedge in recent history go into effect silently.

To those who believe, as I've seen already, that "boycotting hurts the wrong people:" Encourage those people to speak out, too. If everyone sits back because they're afraid someone in Arizona who is equally opposed to this legislation is going to suffer, well then maybe it'll mobilize them to do a better job of fighting similar legislation in the future. It's just like here in VA, where after the 2008 presidential election, we Democrats opened the door to the biggest bunch of jerks the Virginia statehouse has ever seen. Shame on us, we only have ourselves to blame.

April 23, 2010

Mommy, look!

I was driving to work this morning through a residential neighborhood near my office, when I passed an intersection bounded on one side by a playground, and another by a church. Traffic was heavy, and slowed as it went through the intersection. As I began to drive through, with the church on my left, I noticed for a brief moment a young woman sitting on the church wall with a little boy who looked to be about a year old or so in her lap. Just as they entered my field of vision, the little boy leaned forward, no doubt watching the children in the playground across the street, and pointed.

Mommy, look! I could almost hear him say, before he settled back into Mommy’s lap.

It’s hard to describe the flood of emotion that this little boy’s gesture brought back. I could almost feel my kids snug in my lap, and could remember the thousands of times they pointed their little fingers excitedly at something, crying Mommy, look! to get my attention. How I used to love to kiss the tops of their little heads, too, their hair sweet as only children’s hair can be, and soft as velvet.

It’s truly amazing how such an everyday scene can evoke such powerful memories. I used to think I needed to document every milestone to the nth degree in order to preserve it for the future, to the point that you can see where the eye-rolling starts in some of our family photos, because Mom is asking for just one more. But it really isn’t that way. As the kids, and probably more importantly I, get older, I find that the smallest things conjure up unbearably sweet memories. It’s amazing, too, how many of those things have nothing to do with my kids and family at all, but come from the everyday life occurrences that we all experience. These days, it seems like every little thing has the power to send me into the past.

The bad news is that I have to keep the tissues close at hand now, because I never know when a memory is going to trigger tears.

The good news is that so many memories are there, as strong as the day we lived them.

April 22, 2010

One reason adoptee access to their OBC must be framed as a human rights issue

Because In the history of the world, no one ever washed a rental car. We care only about what we own.

I heard this phrase yesterday in a radio interview with Aaron David Miller. The subject was peace in the Middle East, but it struck me immediately how applicable this phrase was to adoptee rights. It makes me really angry to observe how nonplussed the majority of lawmakers are about adoptee rights, and I think this little phrase offers at least a part of the explanation.

In terms of adoption, it's an ugly phrase, and although the issue of open records is the "rental car" here, I am pretty sure it will be triggering to many adoptees. I apologize for any pain that reading it will cause, and hope you understand that I use it purposefully, because I want to demonstrate how dismissive lawmakers are of adopted adults and their justified demand for equal rights.

Lawmakers get and even feel ownership of some of the issues that intersect with adoption. They'll speak out for the need to find homes for kids in care - kind of a no brainer, although I wonder if they get the complexity. If they're of a particular political point of view, they'll speak out against abortion and will support anything to limit it, which of course bumps right into first mother privacy and then on to OBC access. Some of them even got transnational adoptee citizenship, although by failing to provide for adoptees over eighteen at the time the law was passed, I think they got it wrong, at least in part.

But most just don’t seem to get how egregious it is to isolate a segment of our population from the rights the rest of us enjoy. Maybe it's because they have no personal connection to adoption, in which case, they ought to get some real-life education from some adopted people.

I'm also getting sick of the "ethics experts" who debate this issue from whatever angle they find to prove the point they want to prove. It's real simple folks: Adopted individuals deserve the exact same right to their birth certificate as those of us born to our families do.

You’ll roll your eyes at yet another of my references to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, but I have to say it again: These people should be all over adoptee rights, but they're not. I’m not talking about the CCAI, the educational institute that grew out of the CCA. It functions pretty much like the NCFA except they say they don't endorse legislation. I'm talking about the actual Congressional coalition, the group of senators and representatives who have joined the CCA and say they’re concerned about adoption. Well, that should mean they’re concerned about adopted adults, which is what the kids in need of families they're rightfully concerned about will grow up to be. Listen to the adoptees, CCA, listen to the adoptees.

So, yeah: In the history of the world, no one has ever washed a rental car. Our job is to give Congress the title and keys and force them to own it.

* * * * *

A good place to start is with this petition to give adult adoptees this basic right; please sign and spread the word.

Message to Theresa: Remember our list of CCA members? CCA is actually posting one now and updating it with each Congress. Everyone, when you get ready to write to your congresspeople, you can see if they're members of the CCA here.

One more announcement, which you'll hear more about: Korea passed a law allowing dual citizenship yesterday. Kudos to everyone at G.O.A.'L and to every KAD who has worked to make this law a reality. There are issues that remain unfinished, including Korea's military service requirement and how that will affect dual citizenship for adoptees, so stay tuned to G.O.A.'L for more news.

April 20, 2010

Bloggity manners and a little blog biz

No, this one’s not about more online nastiness, although there’s plenty more where THAT came from - like here, another round of AP unkindness. Some of the comments on this post were really hard to read, really hard. They also triggered some more searching around the internet into established "Christian adoption movement" activities, and what I found makes me sadder still. But that's all for another post.

No, this one is about doing a little blog maintenance.

First and foremost, if you have taken the time to click that FOLLOW button in the sidebar, THANK YOU. I haven’t been very good at returning the favor (* hangs head in shame *) so I went through the list and have followed all of you I wasn’t following before, presuming you have a non-commercial blog. If I’ve missed anyone, please let me know – email’s up there on the right or leave a comment. And I'm going to try to keep up better.

I also added this blog to Networked Blogs in Facebook, since it seems that a lot of folks are using that. If you’re there or you use Networked Blogs, you can follow there, too, or here in the sidebar. Please be sure to let me know if you have a blog listed so I can do the same. I think I've found all my Facebook friends' blogs, but if I missed yours, please give me a heads up.

Finally, I did some template maintenance recently. The person who designed it is no longer online, so I’ve had to undertake the maintenance myself. It was designed using something called faux columns, which can be very cool if you have a way to host the long image you need to use as your background. I learned recently that many of the sites that host them for free are blocked by corporate networks. And let me tell you, the template looks plenty weird without that file.

So I spent an evening last week finally delving into the CSS I needed to do away with that long file, and what you’re looking at is the result. The only thing I had to lose was the dimensional gray borders down the middle – Firefox doesn’t handle the CSS versions well, so I’m settling for a simpler border. I may play more later, but I think it’s OK. Let me know if anything is out of whack.

Thinking out loud about adoption disruption and dissolution

Content removed by author.

April 19, 2010

An adoptee describes disruption

Ash Clouds and Adoption Bans

Skip the adoptive parent stuff at the top, and go down to Orlando Modeno's story. Orlando's thoughts on international adoption of older children:

I would ban all older international adoptions if I could, all of them. I’m still healing, it’s a rupture that occurred in my life. It’s still a process, a process that will take probably the rest of my life.
Listen to an interview with Orlando Modeno here. It will break your heart. And it will make you think hard about older child intercountry adoption.

April 18, 2010

Adding insult to injury

I spent Friday night doing what I haven't done in a long time: blog surfing. I was at it into the wee hours of the night, and found my mind chewing on four posts in particular, so much so that after my PC was shut down and I was tucked in bed, I booted up again, to leave a comment.

There were several posts that showed in bright red bold CAPITAL LETTERS that APs and PAPs can be downright cruel. I'm trying to put my finger on it - is it pure entitlement? deficient preparation? something else? I just don't know. I do know, though, that this cruelty adds insult to the injury that adoption can do, and has to stop.

First, please go read these posts, and be sure to read the comments, because in some cases that's where you'll find what I'm talking about:

Did you read? If so, the theme should be pretty clear: adoptive parent preaching, and verbal abuse and bullying of adoptees and first parents.

And yes, I chose those words abuse and bullying on purpose.

If you've been reading here for awhile, you know this is a hot button for me, as well as topic of a number of posts - the two that best describe how I feel about this are here and here.

The net of those two posts is that adoptive parents aren't the stars of the adoption show. By and large, our experience is marked by gain - a child added to our family, parenting added to our life experience. Adoptees and first parents, on the other hand, can never live adoption without loss. They may find ways to keep it from derailing them, but it's never gone from their lives.

At any rate, the posts and comments I found this weekend demonstrate a pattern of verbal and emotional insult that have become rampant in the online adoption world, and maybe in some real-life adoption communities as well. The trend is disturbing.

Let's start with the preaching, shall we?

We live in a country that guarantees religious freedom for our citizens. Whatever faith you choose to follow and how deeply you choose to follow it is your personal decision. It should be a private matter, but in our increasingly religiously-charged world, plenty of people think it's perfectly OK to share their beliefs uninvited.

With the "Christian adoption movement" (which makes the, in my opinion, unreasoned case that since there are references to God's adoption of humanity in the Bible, we are all called to adopt children) I'm seeing a lot more overt religion in online adoption dialog. It scares me at the best of times, because I personally believe this notion is way off the theological mark. It's one thing for religious organizations to encourage their members to adopt children truly in need; everyone should have a care for others. But it's another thing entirely for them to try to make the case that God had anything like current adoption practices in mind when He inspired the scriptural passages that speak to huiothesia, the Greek word often translated as "adoption."

Add the Bible's judgment of sex outside of marriage to the belief that you've been "called to adopt," throw in some bad manners, and you've got the perfect recipe for an AP bully pulpit that is increasingly out of control. I don't know where adoptive parents get the idea that they have the right to inform unmarried first parents of their "sinfulness," to judge them, or to offer to save their souls. We have no such right - none whatsoever.

Now on to the bullying.

Language is powerful. It can wound as deeply as any knife, and when used to harm, can drive people to dispair and even suicide. Words can trigger wonderful memories and bad ones. Nowhere is this truer than in the adoption world.

It is simply not OK for ANY adoptive parent or would-be AP to resort to terms like "breeder" or (my jaw is still on the floor with this one) "brood sow" or "uterus" or any other such words to label first mothers. It's cruel, it's wrong, and frankly I'm sick of seeing it.

What utterly shocks me is the fact that you can find APs using this kind of language publicly and with impunity. Do they stop to think of what their child's mother might think if they saw it? Or their child? Worse still, maybe they don't care. I honestly don't get what any AP could possibly think makes this acceptable. No heated dialog, no difference of opinion, nothing justifies it.

Please, everyone, when you see this going on, stand up and say something. We need to send the message loud and clear that adoptive parent preaching and bullying are wrong.

April 16, 2010

Epiphany

I have figured out why I have been so verklemmt ...

... Facebook.

I've been sitting here for over three hours wanting to catch up on blogs and maybe even write something, but instead I've wandered back and forth between Google Reader and Facebook, basically wasting the entire three hours. And tonight's not the only night I've done that this week, although I've been sitting here longer than most.

I love the mindless chatter over there, but clearly it isn't good for production. I am going to have to break that habit.

April 13, 2010

April 11, 2010

Out of touch with adoption reality

In a comment on my last post, I said, I think this shows how out of touch the majority of people are with the REALITY of adoption. No wonder we can't get their attention on open
records.


I found a perfect example of what I mean: Foreign adoptions usually turn out well, experts say.

An adoption attorney, Rob Kirsh of Memphis, leads the story by giving us his opinions on this little boy's return to his native Russia. The article states that "Kirsh is an expert on adoptions and although he specializes in infant adoptions, he's very familiar with the international process as well."

"It gives adoption a bad name," he said. "I know when someone handles an adoption thoughtfully, it's wonderful -- it's a win-win-win for the birth mother, the child and the adoptive parents."
Kirsh goes on to give sage advice on adoption alternatives for prospective adoptive parents:

"I suggest people who are considering adoption look at all types," he said. "If they want to save a a life, an international adoption is the way to do it. If they want to save a teenager's life, DCS, Department of Children's Services, is the best way. If they want an infant adoption, they can go through an agency or a private attorney."
This AP-centric adoption menu misses the point of adoption - to serve children who truly need families - entirely. No wonder prospective adoptive parents get the impression that adoption exists to serve their selfish desires (I put myself in this category, because gosh knows that it was all about me when we set out to adopt our kids) and savior complexes.

I sincerely wish that individuals who purport themselves to be "adoption experts" had the sense to point out its complexities, loss, pain, injustices (think closed records) and misuses, every single time they spoke. When they run back to that old win-win-win every time something negative about adoption appears in the media, we all lose an opportunity to address the things about adoption that we so desperately need need to change.

April 10, 2010

No shades of gray

Blogland and Facebook are buzzing with posts and discussions about the seven-year-old little boy's return to Russia by his adoptive mother. I'm sure the forums are, too, but you know how much trouble I get into there, so I'll trust you all to share what you hear.

There were several comments in one Facebook discussion that demonstrated empathy for the boy's adoptive mother. They pointed out - rightfully so - how incredibly difficult it is for adoptive parents (I would say any parents) to raise a child with serious emotional and attachment issues. Several shared personal experiences or those of friends who have struggled for years raising children whose illness sometimes are never resolved.

That kind of pain is something I haven't shared, but can only imagine. And what I imagine is a parenting experience largely devoid of the joys that I have taken for granted watching my kids grow to adulthood. I doubt I would have had the strength to face the pain that many parents have faced as they have tried, often unsucessfully, to help their children find balance in life.

It's therefore not for me to judge the decision of any adoptive parent to terminate the adoption of a child with serious emotional illness. To be honest, it bothers me that this avenue exists for adoptive parents, and more so that there are people out there who seem to see this as perfectly acceptable in adoption. Case in point are the comments on this post, which I stumbled on in a google search for posts about this case. You'll know the ones I mean, which I'm not entirely sure don't belong to a troll. But presuming they're not - well, when people look at kids as chattel, no wonder adoption practices can be as screwed up as they sometimes are. Maybe this is the mindset that makes Sheriff Boyce skeptical about whether or not a crime was committed when that little boy was put on that plane.

But back on topic: I am unqualified to speak about the challenges of raising children with serious emotional and attachment issues. I know, though, that some of you who read here have faced or are facing them right now. I have several real life friends who have also done so. I've watched them struggle with the pain and exhaustion of it all, and with the sorrow for their children's loss of childhood and secure relationships. Even though I haven't experienced it myself, I know from what I've observed that it's very hard. But none of you or them have turned to the solution we witnessed this week.

As this story unfolds, we'll undoubtedly learn some things that may share some of the blame around with other individuals and agencies involved in this adoption. But no matter what mitigating facts may come to light in this incredibly sad story, we have to be careful not to dismiss this action because of them.

Some things are just plain wrong. Sometimes there are no shades of gray.

April 9, 2010

Adoption nightmare at 30,000 feet

I decided today that I would blog a little tonight. I'm actually putting a toe back into the waters of adoption tomorrow, and will be going to the Barker Foundation's annual conference.

Didn't have to look far for material. This has me speechless.

The how and why and who of the story have been rolling around in my head since I read the first article - there are a gazillion out there, including this one, which points out some critical information: a young Russian boy was adopted in September of last year and seen by social workers, who found nothing of concern, this past January. Eight months total in which to decide a seven-year-old child is beyond help, and to place him on a plane to fly back to an uncertain future.

The Voice of Russia carries several articles: here and here, and this reaction from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

With respect, President Medvedev: An intergovernmental agreement isn't what's needed. The human will to overhaul adoption practices, domestic and intercountry, to ensure they focus on the needs of children who truly need families is needed far more - as well as the bureaucratic balls to get the savior mentality out of adoption so prospective adoptive parents can enter into it with realistic expectations.

I do not deny that the adoptive parent in this instance may have found herself in a situation she hadn't anticipated with a child who needed more help than she could provide. But to condemn such a young boy and move in such a short timeframe to the dramatic action she chose - something is just plain wrong about that. No matter her fear, the a-mother made a commitment to this child that she clearly took lightly.

What really scares me, too, is this, from the ABC News article:
This is a touchy deal and I'm not sure if anything illegal has been done or not," Boyce said.

The sheriff said, "Our plan is to have the adoption agency check with the people in Moscow or whatever part of Russia they're in and check with this child and see if they see signs of abuse."

Boyce said he intended to move slowly and carefully in his investigation.

"We're breaking new ground here... There may be no crime at all when you really get down to it. Maybe some bad judgment in the way she turned this child back," he said.
"Bad judgment?" Does Sheriff Boyce honestly believe it's OK to put seven-year-olds on one-way flights without assurance that they will be cared for when they arrive at their destination? This little one wasn't flying to Dubuque to see grandma - Grandma put him on a plane all by himself, with a note telling a driver they had hired at the other end to take him to Russia's department of education. Imagine a seven-year-old arriving at Dulles, being picked up by a strange driver, taken downtown and dropped at the front desk of DoE - it's mind-boggling. And it's abandonment.

Or does Sheriff Boyce somehow see this as less-than-criminal because this child was adopted? I shudder to think that's the case. It is certainly not outside the realm of possibility for a biological parent to do the same thing to a child with a passport from another country. I wonder if Sheriff Boyce would consider the same action criminal in that case. If so, then the whole thing makes me sicker still.

The adoption of an older child is a serious and complex undertaking. It should never be considered by someone whose eyes aren't wide open to the possibility that the child could experience serious emotional illness. Clearly, an adoptive parent who gives up on a seven-year-old after eight months was unprepared, no matter how you look at it.

Unbelievably sad, most of all for this child.

Reactions from a few adoption organizations:

Joint Council on International Children's Services
National Council for Adoption

April 5, 2010

Grown and all-but-grown

The Boy turned 21 today. The Girl turned 19.

We went down to Charlottesville yesterday to spend Easter with The Boy and celebrate his coming of age. Thanks to the miracle of Skype, The Girl joined us virtually for cake, candles and opening presents. I had sent hers the week before, but the stinker couldn't wait for Sunday, and opened everything the day they came.

It was a good day, although it would have been better if The Girl had been home. It didn't help that there was another earthquake on the west coast this morning. Although the epicenter was in Baja California, The Girl felt it in LA. She talked to Third Dad about it, and appeared pretty nonplussed. I wasn't - seriously, it makes me nervous just thinking about it.

21. Just thinking about this makes my head spin. It'll probably spin right off when The Girl turns 21 in two years.

No one prepares you for this part of parenting. You can find books and classes on all kinds of parenting subjects, but I haven't found one yet that tells us how to parent ourselves through our children's entrance into adulthood.

It's a heck of a lot harder than I expected.