August 31, 2010

When new adoptive parents talk about adoption

Joy has a post up about the Scott Simon interviews that you must read.  I wish he would read it, but something tells me he has enough people giving him attaboys to keep him away from any consideration of  serious issues for a long time.

A friend respectfully suggested that maybe we shouldn’t beat him up so much.  He is a new adoptive father, and is expressing publicly what many adoptive parents feel when they first adopt.  I remember that intense feeling of love that hit me with every memory of my children’s arrivals, and it is powerful.  Very powerful indeed.

What I don’t understand (and have said before - sorry to keep beating this horse) is how a journalist for a respected media outlet wasn’t more tuned in to the reality of intercountry adoption.  I'm not saying that only journalist APs have an obligation to talk to all facets of the adoption experience.  I'm saying that someone whose words will spread far and wide, because they have the strength of the media behind them, should be particularly careful about what they say.

I’ve been struggling with my decision to adopt for a long time now, and recognize my role in the process.  It’s clear to me now that with the support of society, fewer women will decide to surrender a child.  My children may very well not have been my children had the world offered their mothers and families that support.  I still grapple with, had I known then what I know now, whether or not I would have still adopted.  I believe that with complete information my decisions may not have been the same in each case, although at the end of the day I also know that the strength of my desire to be a parent and the persuasiveness of the win-win argument were incredibly powerful.  So at the end of the day, I just don't know.

Maybe Scott Simon will get it one day.  Maybe he, like Rick Boas, will have an ah-ha moment that spurs him, with his considerable resources, into action to  raise awareness of the pain and sorrow and grief of his daughters’ mothers, and raise resources to make it possible for them to keep their children.  Maybe he’ll recognize that he has the power in the adoption equation, and will start working on behalf of the women of China who are pushed to surrender their children, instead of pushing a book that promotes the status quo.

We’ll have to wait and see.

August 30, 2010

More skewed media coverage of intercountry adoption

I guess when you work for NPR you have something in your contract that says if you write a book you get to plug it x number of times on NPR shows.  Scott Simon had a big chunk of the Diane Rehm show today.  It was a love fest, that's for sure.

At the risk of being smacked down for voicing any positive feelings about adoption, let me say that I get Mr. Simon's love for his daughters and his family.  I get the strength of the connection he feels; my family feels equally connected.

But we have heard it all before.  And in this umpteenth telling of the Joy of Adoption, NPR skewed the issue. The callers were overwhelmingly positive in their attitudes toward intercountry adoption, and the few that had more challenging stories to tell got a nod, followed by a subject change back to something warmer.

Message to Diane Rehm:  If you want to be as unbiased as NPR claims to be, then please plan some programs that focus on adoption practices worldwide (including closed birth records right here) and invite only adoptees and mothers who have lost their children to adoption.

So frustrating.

August 27, 2010

Another journalist fails intercountry adoption

This time it's Michael Gerson, a Dub Bush speechwriter who was recuited by Karl Rove.  Nuff said about what I think about his politics.

You be the judge of what he says about intercountry adoption at this article: International adoption: From a broken bond to an instant bond. My comment was this:

"Ethnicity is an abstraction ..."

No, ethnicity is not an abstraction. It is the stuff of which many, many human beings define their very selves.

I could not agree more with you when you describe the serendipity that leads to strong, loving families, including mine. But I couldn’t disagree more that this somehow dismisses our obligation as adoptive parents to respect and nurture the genetic and ethnic connections our children bring with them. These are not ours to dismiss.

If intercountry adoption were the simple matter of placing the life of a child on one side of a scale, and the preservation of that child’s racial and cultural identity on the other, perhaps you would be making a point that could be taken at face value. But as a journalist, you should know better that it’s not that simple. The orphans that people believe they are “saving” through intercountry adoption often aren’t orphans at all, and often would not have had to leave their families or mothers had those families and mothers had a little financial and societal support.

Supporting just intercountry adoption, nurturing our children’s birth heritages, and helping to end the tragedies that lead to intercountry adoption aren’t mutually exclusive. How I long for someone with a public pulpit to acknowledge this.

Margie Perscheid
Adoptive mom of two incredible young Korean adults

Please go add yours.

August 22, 2010

Direct Adoptions, direct to my mailbox

I got an unsolicited email the other day from a New York PR firm announcing a new online adoption "community." is a new on-line community founded by adoptive parents to empower birthmothers and adoptive parents by increasing their direct access to private, affordable, open adoption. It is committed to providing a process, based on a social networking platform, that includes many of the positive attributes of traditional agency adoptions, such as professionalism and confidentiality, yet offers the further advantages of simplicity and affordability.
On its webpage, DirectAdoptions advertises the following, also stating that it is not an adoption agency:
find birthmothers
  • Make your own match outside the agencies.
  • Contact birth mothers directly.
  • Get support and guidance.
find adoptive parents
  • Contact adoptive parents directly.
  • Meet other birth mothers.
  • 100% anonymous. FREE.
We've created a community for adoptive couples and individuals to meet birthmothers and one another in a SAFE, SECURE, and ANONYMOUS environment.
I tried to figure out where Direct Adoptions might be doing business, but the closest I could come was to Chicago, where the cell phone number they offer as their biz line is located.

Things get complicated at the DA website.  Several of the pages include a navbar stating that DA is endorsed by the "National Adoption Foundation."  Hmm, 23 years in the adoption community and this is the first I've heard of them.  I surf on over to the NAF webpage, and find nothing to indicate that they are indeed a 501c3 or any other established non-profit.  I do find that they endorse one organization: Direct Adoptions.  I wasn't the least bit surprised that the "Ask a Pro" button on the NAF website responded with "Coming Soon," but the options to donate to the NAF or get your very own NAF credit card worked just fine. So did the payment plan options on the DA site - $295 initial fee for PAPs plus $59 a month "maintenance fee," all of which would be waived for the first 50 visitors to the NAF website.

A little digging brought me to an article on a webpage on bnet, the CBS Interactive Business Network.  The National Adoption Foundation is apparently the brainchild of a Mr. Norman Goldberg, who was in bnet's "conservative spotlight" in that 2000 article.  Interestingly, one of the addresses I have found for the NAF (two in Danbury, CT and one in Patterson, NY) happens to coincide with the divorce practice of a Ms. Judith Goldberg.

Oh - is on Facebook.  There are comments on their wall, but I presume they're by moles, because there's no comment block.  Maybe you have to like them first, and I'm not going there.

It makes me grind my teeth.

August 20, 2010

Scott Simon and "Meant for Each Other" on NPR

Scott Simon, author of Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other was interviewed on NPR this morning.

I was disappointed, first by the interview itself, which was quite dismissive of the importance of racial, ethnic and genetic inheritance.  It also bothers me that someone who works in the media and has very young children has become a spokesperson for adoption, although the story he tells is a very personal one.

I was frustrated by Simon's acceptance of the status quo for his children's mothers, too.  If he's a journalist writing about adoption, he has to be aware of the work that Korean adoptees and many otthers are doing in Korea in support of unmarried Korean mothers and needed changes to adoption laws.

Anyhow, go read, and if you find my comments appropriate, please "recommend" them.  And please leave your own and let me know here so I can do the same.  Here's what I said:
I'm the adoptive mother of two young adults, both of whom are Korean. I understand the love that Scott Simon feels for his children, as I have that same, visceral love for my kids.
Expressing love and rationalizing differences are the easy part of the intercountry adoption story. Adoptive parents must also speak on behalf of the marginalized women who gave birth to our children and see no other future for themselves or their children than permanent separation. We must speak loudly against the traffickers who take advantage of this, as well as adoption agencies who rationalize the "fudging" of adoptee histories and adoption records. We must also work in support of adoptee access to their original birth certificates, a right that has been denied them.
What is downplayed in this story is exactly what I know are intrinsic and deeply personal facets of the identities my children have defined for themselves: their race, ethnicity and genetic inheritance. It’s my job as an adoptive parent to make sure this fact doesn’t get lost in the feel-good adoption stories that abound.

August 18, 2010

Race: An artificial distinction?

Nondiscrimination laws should be applied equally among all citizens, including those who happen to be white. The need for inclusiveness in our society is undeniable and irreversible, both in our markets and in our communities. Our government should be in the business of enabling opportunity for all, not in picking winners. It can do so by ensuring that artificial distinctions such as race do not determine outcomes.
Back in July, Jim Webb, a Democrat and Senator from my home state, Virginia, wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal’s online edition entitled Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege. If you haven’t read it, do.

The article speaks little to white privilege as we typically discuss it in the transracial adoption community – that is, white privilege a la Peggy McIntosh. The article instead presents a case in favor of ending affirmative action programs.

There are stats which, if unspun, make points that certainly explain some of the frustration voiced by affirmative action opponents. I get that; I understand that when you look at individual life situations, not every white person lives a more affluent life than every person of color, which may lead them to feel disenfranchised. I can understand (not agree with, but understand) why some whites may feel ignored by their government when programs designed to support recent immigrants ignore their own need.

But I cannot agree that the need to support minority communities and reform immigration means that white privilege does not exist. I suspect that Mr. Webb had nothing of Peggy McIntosh’s definition in mind when he wrote this opinion, but the responses I have seen online include many that applaud his point of view and proclaim that white privilege is dead.

It is, of course, live and well. You don’t have to look to affirmative action programs to find it, you simply have to look into the hearts and minds of white Americans who do not accept that their whiteness provides privileges that make their daily lives secure in a way that people of color may never enjoy.

I don’t disagree that the way our government addresses racial disparities is necessarily the best way. But I do disagree that the right response to improving such programs is to say the reason it was started in the first place no longer exists.

We are of many races; the distinction is real. Those of us who are white enjoy the collective benefits that centuries of dominance have provided. It’s up to us to work to ensure that our privilege is made possible for every single person in this country.

August 17, 2010

Thank you, KAAN, thank you

There actually is a reason I felt it was time to return to this blog: KAAN.

I went to the conference this year with no small amount of my own baggage. Being an adoptive parent doesn’t mean that your journey is straightforward and understandable, and I’ve come to realize that my youngest’s departure for college hit me differently than I had expected it would.  I’ve felt all the typical “empty nest” emotions, but I’ve also found myself feeling less like an adoptive parent, and more like a plain old mom.

And that has made me less patient with extreme attitudes and loud voices in the adoption community. Seems strange, but after much soul-searching, I really see the connection.

KAAN was like a balm this year. First, I got to see the friends I have made over the years, and made some  new ones, too.  From the drive up to Harrisburg with a buddy who was in DC for a conference, to the nights at the bar and hanging out in our rooms, to lunches, dinners and sessions, everywhere I looked I saw a friend. What touched me beyond my ability to express here is that many of them saw that I was pretty down in the dumps, and freely offered their comfort and support. I can’t really convey how much it helped.

Then there were the sessions and activities. Although I didn’t attend many (I do registration and was at the reg table a lot) the ones I attended provided opportunities to discuss feelings and experiences in a safe environment. A highlight was the showing of Resilience on Friday night. I can say honestly that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, nor a person who wasn’t deeply moved.  This was reflected in all the discussions of the movie that took place throughout the weekend.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Korean adoption conference if there wasn’t some KOREA there. There’s a fabulous performing group in central Pennsylvania called Selaheart, and I was given the plum job of escorting them to and from their rehearsal and helping with anything they needed. I got to watch some amazing performers, including a Korean national living treasure performing Korean folk songs. It is impossible not to smile when you’re watching traditional Korean music, let me tell you.

The very best memory, though, came from our usual hang-out time after Saturday night’s dinner and performance. Senator Paull Shin spoke, and his words brought the entire audience to their feet. Selaheart then performed, and as everyone left the celebration, our mood was high. Someone suggested continuing the party in a room, so a good 30 or so of us met, wine bottles, beers and sodas in tow. It got to the point of standing room only, and became a real party, with everyone laughing and talking – I’m so glad Terra had her camera to preserve the moment.

Being that this was a Korean American celebration, at some point there had to be a song, so one by one, we all started joining in to sing Arirang. I looked around the room and realized that in that small space was every experience you could find in adoption from Korea: adoptees with all kinds of experiences and points of v iew; a Korean father was there with the daughter he found again after many years; a Korean mother who came to the U.S. to find her half-American son and ultimately found him in Australia; adoptive parents, some with their families and some alone; people who work in adoption; and Korean Americans who support the conference.  Before too long, everyone was linking arms and adding their – our – voices.

There was laughter and there were tears, some happy and some poignant. Most of all, there was the unspoken sense that, although we as individuals might not agree on every issue, we recognized that we are doing our best, for ourselves, our families and for Korean adoption. That kind of mutual respect (along with the knowledge that what we talk about at KAAN stays at KAAN) is a treasure, and allows people to open up. I crave that kind of dialog, and it is everywhere at this conference.

With the memory of KAAN 2010 strong in my mind, what I want to do here now is clear again: To write in a way that makes that same sense of connection possible. To accept the journeys of others to allow me to learn from them. To work to change what must be changed, with encouragement rather than criticism, by supporting the work of those who have found a better way.

Thank you, everyone who works to make KAAN possible every year and everyone who comes to the conference. Thank you.

August 7, 2010

Korea's Lost Children on BBC World Service

Yes, I have reposted old posts.  No, I'm not sure if I will be posting again here.  But this program featuring Jane Jeong Trenka and Suki Leith was worth coming out of hiding to post about.

Article and links to a variety of players here:  Korea's Lost Children

Listen on BBC World Service's player here.

I think Jane said it best when she pointed out that the way to help a woman in need of support of one kind or another is NOT to take her child away.  Compounding loss and grief and sorrow serve no helpful purpose to that woman at all.

I hope life has been good to everyone this summer.  Keep cool!