This blog post was written by Adoption STAR International Adoption Coordinator, Megan Montgomery.
Trans-racial and trans-cultural adoption presents a family with challenges surrounding race, culture, and identity. “Somewhere Between” is a film by Linda Goldstein Knowlton, an adoptive parent to a little girl from China, and her film follows four teenage girls also adopted from China.
In the film, each girl demonstrates their individuality in how they view themselves as Chinese and American. They show us that there is no right or wrong when it comes to the complexity of identity formation; we are all unique in our experiences, feelings and resulting characteristics. And that is OK.
Having worked in International Adoption for a number of years I wanted to see the film to get a closer look at the youth who are living the adoption experience every day. However, the depth of their journey’s is truly one we can all gain something from.
For a parent I think the film can help us to see life through the eyes of a teenager; reminding us that there are so many factors influencing who we become in life. Or in the case of little Run Yi; a little girl who is brought to our attention by one of the teenage girls, we see just how very vulnerable the adopted child is.
Young adults who view the film will see how life presents different challenges to each one of us and that is it important to be respectful of each others differences.
I don’t want to ruin the film for anyone, so I won’t say more, other than if you are parenting a child through trans-racial or trans-cultural adoption, taking the time to see a film like “Somewhere Between”, that touches on these important issues, is worth your time.
If you’re interested in learning more about Adoption STAR’s international adoption programs, please visit our website, email Megan at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (866)691-3300.
Some other films & podcasts on trans-racial/trans-cultural adoptive families:
There have been many stories in recent years about the corrupt adoption process in China, so it’s always nice to see a an article with a more positive message about Chinese adoptions. CNN recently published a feature on three families who have adopted from China and brought their children back to their birth country to visit their birth-land.
Two of the families did this while their kids were five and six years old respectively. Jenna Murphy, one of the parents interviewed in the story, said that her family was going back to China so that her daughter would think of the country in a positive light.
One of the adoptees featured in the story, Maia, is now 18 and was adopted by her family when she was seven. Maia did not return to China until 2011, and said in the article that it was a difficult experience visiting her orphanage. However, when she graduates from high school, she is looking forward to returning to the country for a year to volunteer at an orphanage as a way of giving back for the life she now has.
One important aspect of the adoption journey that all three families featured seemed to understand, is that it’s important to speak to your children openly about their adoption journey and to celebrate their birth culture. This can be done by cooking traditional meals, celebrating cultural holidays, taking classes or workshops on cultural traditions/language, and many more ideas.
If you are looking for ways to celebrate your child’s culture, you can contact your Adoption STAR Family Advocate for new ideas, or contact the agency directly by email or toll-free at 1(866)691-3300.
To read the full CNN article, please click here.
Jena Heath recently wrote an article in The Austin American-Statesman about the adoption journey she, her husband and their daughter Caroline have gone through.
The couple adopted Caroline from China, and Heath begins the article by talking about her fears of adoption at the beginning of the process and how she prepared herself by studying fetal alcohol syndrome, biracial adoptions, and attachment issues.
Heath said she read so much that she unintentionally and unnecessarily scared herself, but “from the moment Caroline was placed in my arms, she stuck to me like Velcro, and she ultimately relaxed into the loving affectionate 5-year-old she is today.”
Heath went on to share how becoming an adoptive mother was difficult because she was afraid to discipline or punish Caroline for fear of bonding at attachment issues. Finally it was Heath’s own mother who told her to “stop attributing everything she does to the fact that she was abandoned…”
Heath said it took a while but eventually she learned to “set boundaries and stop theorizing that every attempt Caroline made to push them was some unconscious reaction to being adopted.”
The last part of Heath’s article is about closed adoption in China and searching for Caroline’s family members through DNA testing. At first the Heath’s were against attempting to look for any of Caroline’s brothers or sisters because “confirming any suspected blood connection would require a sibling DNA test, essentially, a high-tech probability game.”
However, Heath admits that she has since learned that the technology has advanced to the point where it is much more exact. There are other issues that Heath has thought of such as if they did find a brother or sister of Caroline’s, what would the next step be, and how would they create such a close relationship with another family?
For now, Heath writes at the end of the article, their family has decided that this will be Caroline’s decision when she is older. They have decided if she wants to search for family members, than they will help her at that point.
As adoptive parents have you had any similar experiences to the Heath’s? How did you learn to set boundaries for your child after placement? If you have adopted internationally in a closed adoption, have you thought about searching for your child’s birth family?
Lately more and more information has been released about China and the way the government has handled adoptions for many years. Two weeks ago, the number one Chinese investigative reporting magazine, Caixin, published a long feature on many families who have had their children taken away by the Chinese government because they were in violation of the one-child per family law.
According to a report by MSNBC, This feature opened the eyes of many Chinese citizens who live in cities and were unaware of the situations in the poverty-stricken farmlands of the country.
The Caixin report said that over the past 10 years there have been instances of family planning officials demanding that families pay in some cases more than 10,000 Yuan in Family Planning Violation Fees, or else they will take their second child and sell it into adoption. The article says that the local government officials have supported this Family Planning practice.
The Caixin reported that between 2000-05 at least 16 children from Gaoping, a poverty mountain town in China, were taken from their families because they couldn’t pay the fines. 12 of these 16 children were later sent to an orphanage for adoption.
The article says that once these children are sent to an orphanage, the orphanage must place an ad in a newspaper for 60 days, however if no one claims the child they are given a new name and birthdate and placed for adoption. The biggest issue is that many of these impoverished families living in the mountains never see the newspaper ads and are unable to fight for their children according to the article.
The Caixin article says that China has been practicing population control since the 1970’s and instituted the one-child per family law in 1982. These regulations have been credited with “bringing Gaoping’s population under control” according to the article. However the article also said that the laws go against ancient local traditions such as “sons offer valuable insurance against old age, and more children bring more happiness.”
This post is just the tip of the article’s iceberg, and I would suggest reading the entire article and watching this linked video to gain a better understanding of the current Chinese adoption issues. If you are considering international adoption from any country, working with an agency will help you clear many of the hurdles you may face.
For more information on adopting from China visit the US Department of State website.
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Test Your Adoption Knowledge
Yesterday I wrote about my day at the Infant Adoption Awareness Training Program (IAATP), and how I had to take a test at the beginning and end of class to test my knowledge of the adoption process. I thought it would be interesting to pass along som