“Sex, The City, And Who’s That Adopted Asian Kid?”

Yes, I am ashamed to admit I loved Sex and the City, even though there were no people of color, somehow, in SJP’s impossibly white NYC. However, I WAS stabbed in the heart when Charlotte ends up adopting at the end of the series (Sorry for the spoiler for anyone who hasn’t seen the show).

Of course, a bunch of my Korean adoptee friends are talking about seeing the movie now that the trailers give us a glimpse of Charlotte’s Chinese daughter. Fantasy mirrors reality (or is it the other way around?) – I too was the older adopted Asian kid with a bio sibling hot on my heels.

Here is one opinion of the portrayal of the adopted Chinese daughter in the movie.

What I was trying to say

Last week I attempted to make a critique and because of my bad judgment in timing, botched my message up completely. I wanted now to clarify what I was trying to say. People incorrectly assumed that I am anti-adoption and anti-Christianity. There were two points I made in that post last week, and this post is expanding on point #1.

I really wanted to say that people don’t need to go overseas in order to help kids without parents. I felt that there was a lot of emphasis on the family’s organization promoting international adoption. I am a staunch advocate that we need to take care of our own kids too, and as a country we are failing at that. When the earthquakes in happened in China, adoption agencies were being flooded with people calling about how to adopt the orphans. It happened in with the tsunami in Indonesia and the southeast Asian countries in 2004. Yet there are thousands of children in foster care in the United States and these kids are just as "deserving" of families as kids in other countries.

I originally linked to one of the One Church One Child programs which was founded in Illinois. Basically, the One Church One Child program was to promote and recruit adoptive families within faith organizations. The premise and belief is that since there are more churches in the U.S. than there are children in foster care, that if every church congregation would be committed to supporting the adoption of one child or sibling group from foster care then there would be no children waiting for adoption.

I am NOT saying that children in other countries are less "deserving." I AM saying that children in THIS country are JUST AS "deserving."

What I get so frustrated by is the way our society has privileged the foreign "orphan" over the domestic foster care child. I believe (and this is just my opinion) that the continuation of our country’s participation in international adoptions has not just positively affected children in these countries, but has hurt those countries – and their future children too – by enabling these countries who don’t have to have child welfare services and/or programs to continue not caring for their children because international adoption BECOMES their child welfare program.

I also really think that when people from the U.S. (and other places too) adopt despite the warnings that children are being procured illegally that we really smear adoption and make it worse.

And I am so tired of the misinformation out there about adoptees and first parents.

We/they/all of us need to look at the
underlying reasons why children are parent-less and maybe that
preventative part makes us overwhelmed. We might feel we can’t eliminate poverty, or war. We can’t control natural disasters. We aren’t able to cure AIDS. We haven’t gotten rid of chemical dependency or mental illnesses.

But we can take in a child – that much we can do.

I’ve said it again, I’m sure you have all heard it over and over – adoption should be about finding families for kids, not finding kids for families. Children are not pets at the pound. Yet, I’ve had prospective and adoptive parents get angry at me, saying that this is a nice ideal but ultimately it should be the family’s choice who they want to adopt. Foreign adoptions are preferred and the reasons that are given are usually 1)because the myth about the birth parent coming back and taking the child away and that 2)American kids in foster care are more damaged.

We put up with those opinions and biases (and by "we" I mean those of us who work in the adoption profession/industry) because we have to. The social or adoption worker’s job depends on the adoptive parents so everything is tailored to accommodate them. And that’s when the demand for certain kinds of kids over others, and the justifications that are made for illegal adoptions, makes me feel like nothing is ever going to change and that adoption is just about this big old industry of parents buying babies.

We talk about the "best interests" of the child, but let’s be honest. Who are we really catering to?

It seems like a no-win situation sometimes.

Believe it or not, I think that adoptive parents often suffer just as much as the adoptees. When adoptive parents are told that kids from foreign countries are blank slates, they have been duped. When adoptive parents are informed that birth parents in foreign countries never come looking for their children, they have been misled. When adoptive parents are told that adopting kids from other races or cultures won’t impact their lives and the kids will never have any issues related to racism or racial identity, they have been lied to. When adoptive parents are told that all they need is love and their family life will be happily-ever-after, they have been deceived.

I come to the subject of adoption through the lens of my own experiences and those of friends I know and love. I have never said that I was unbiased or that I look at these things from a completely unemotional place. The thing is, I know that I have these biases. I know that I view life through my own frames. But there are many times when I do bite my lip. There are lots of times when I try to look at the adoptive parent from their perspective. I don’t always succeed, but I am always trying.

I think that adoptive parents must recognize their biases and look at things from the perspective of the adoptee. (edited to add, and the family of origin, including the mother, father, siblings and extended relatives who might all feel the grief and loss of the adopted individual).

I wonder if she supports an open adoption

Given that she knows that David’s father is alive and cares about him, I can only hope she will do the right thing and have an open adoption relationship with David’s father.

From People

It’s official: Madonna’s dream of adopting David Banda from Malawi has come true.
The High Court in the Malawi capital Lilongwe granted the singer, 49, permanent adoption order for the 2-year-old toddler on Wednesday. In his one-hour ruling, Justice Andrew Nyirenda said he is satisfied that Madonna and her British filmmaker husband Guy Ritchie "are perfect parents" for the toddler.

"I am glad this is over now. I am happy for David," his father said
Wednesday. Banda, 33, who ekes out a living growing maize, tomato and
onions, said his family will meet and plan a celebration.

Read the whole article here.

MEPA/IEPA

A long, long while ago (as I brush off the blog-brain cobwebs) I wrote that I was going to tackle the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA) and I never got around to it. With the report that came out yesterday from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, I figured this was a good time to tackle the subject. This post examines my thoughts about the legislation.

I have been interested in the MEPA and it’s follow-up legislation the Interethnic Adoption Provisions Amendment (IEPA) for some time now. It was the basis of my MSW paper, “Considering Culture in Placement Decisions: Conflicting Best
Practices for the Indian Child Welfare Act and the Multiethnic
Placement Act”  (and the subject of a presentation at the St. John’s Adoption Conference in New York in 2006).

It’s not just the language used in MEPA and IEPA that confounds me, it’s the whole philosophy behind it. Why are social workers prevented from helping adoptive parents examine and consider their abilities to parent a child from a different race and/or culture? And why do prospective adoptive parents get so ruffled when asked to examine and consider their abilities to parent a child from different race and/or culture?

If you were the social worker and you had a child on your case load that was hearing impaired, would you feel you could only place that child in a home with hearing impaired parents? Or, would you consider a family who was hearing, but either knew ASL or was willing to learn ASL for the child?

See, it’s not just about race-matching, which is what people always think MEPA is about. MEPA/IEPA wasn’t just created to prevent race-matching in placement, it also effectively declared that asking adoptive parents to even consider the racial, cultural or ethnic needs of a child or their ability to parent a child cross-racially or culturally was illegal. This isn’t just about giving a child a bed and a roof and 3 square meals a day. This is about parenting and raising a child in a loving and nurturing home; a home that loves and nurtures a child’s racial and cultural identity.

Although MEPA/IEPA language does not specify the following, here are some of the reasons states or agencies were fined for violating the law:

  • In 2003, social workers in Ohio were accused of discriminating against
    a white couple by requiring them to prepare a plan to address the
    child’s cultural needs and to evaluate the racial demographics of their
    neighborhood. The state paid $1.8 million in fines.
  • In 2005, a social service agency in South Carolina was fined $107,000
    after workers used a database to match children to prospective adoptive
    parents, which the federal government said overemphasized race.

MEPA and IEPA don’t specify the trainings or questionnaires, etc. but
these were tools that were being used by agencies that were found to be
in violation of MEPA. Therefore, the Office of Civil Rights and the
Administration of Children, Families and Youth came up with a guideline
(here at http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/mepa/interneval.html) that includes the following below (RCNO stands for Race, Culture, National Origin):

How does the agency ensure that the following practices do not occur?

[In other words, that persons interested in adopting or fostering across RCNO lines are required to]:

  • answer additional questions because of the interest in adopting or fostering across RCNO lines?
  • take additional training courses because of the interest in adopting or fostering across RCNO lines?
  • move to a more diverse community?
  • write additional narratives, such as a transracial adoption
    plan, because of the interest in adopting or fostering across RCNO
    lines?
  • have additional caseworker visits because of the RCNO context?
  • justify their interest in children of a different RCNO?
  • meet different or higher licensing or approval standards in
    order to become a foster or adoptive parent of a child of a different
    RCNO?

If the philosophy behind MEPA was truly about the best interests of the child, all the needs of the child would be considered for a placement. INCLUDING the needs for the child to be raised in a culturally sensitive home. This is not to say that white parents can’t be culturally sensitive – but the the philosophy behind MEPA is that it doesn’t matter either way (As my husband called it, it’s the "Don’t ask, don’t tell" of child welfare, only we’re talking about parental racism instead of sexual orientation).

MEPA isn’t about helping African American kids to permanency; it’s about privileging white adoptive parents who are angry that they couldn’t get the child they wanted because a social worker wanted to find a racially-matched home. Why is it that all of the court cases involved in MEPA are because white adoptive parents are protesting being asked to show that they can meet the racial and cultural needs of the child? I think that is so telling. I can’t even begin to tell you how often prospective adoptive parents get angry at adoption social workers for discussing transracial adoption. It’s like they think we believe they’re stupid or they feel entitled to get what they want without having to have any education. Immediately people think that they’re going to get called a racist for being white. I really wish prospective adoptive parents could stop thinking it’s all about them, and start thinking about their future child!

The other issue with MEPA/IEPA is that no one seems to care about the other part of the legislation – that is the recruitment and retention of a pool of adoptive families that reflects the diversity of the youth in care.

The recruitment and retention part means that if a county agency has 60% of children in their care who are African American, than approximately 60% of the prospective parents in the agency’s pool of families at any given time would be African American. But because the fines and penalties are only enforced with the placement part and there are no fines or penalties if agencies don’t follow the recruitment and retention part, guess which part of the law gets the focus?

MEPA is known for its champion, Senator Howard Metzenbaum. Metzenbaum himself believed that race and culture should be considered, although not as the sole factor, in placement, stating "Let me
make my position clear: If there is a white family and a black family
that want to adopt the black child and they are equal in all respects,
then the black family ought to have preference." (Congressional Record Senate S14169, October 5, 1994)

Continue reading

Article in the NYT

I’m quoted in the NYT article, "De-emphasis on Race in Adoption is Critical."

Doing this article was another example in which I feel we adult adoptees always have to be vigilant in the way we are represented. I have a good working relationship with the reporter of this piece (about two years ago he had interviewed myself and several other adult transracial adoptees but unfortunately the piece did not make it to print).

However, on Saturday, I received a call from a photographer who wanted a photo to accompany the article. The photographer asked if my parents were in the city. Baffled, I asked why he wanted to know this. The photographer then said that he wanted my parents in the photo with me, and asked if I had a photo of them that could be run in this article since they don’t live close to me. I told the photographer that in principle, I objected to having a photograph with my parents because I didn’t see what my parents had to do with this article.

I was interviewed as a social worker who also happens to be a transracial adoptee. But, at almost 40 years old, I am frustrated that an article – that is NOT about ME (that is, it is not my personal story), has to include a photo of my parents. Would the photographer have asked Dorothy Roberts, a black child welfare legal scholar, to include her parents in an article in which she talks about racial disparities in child welfare? I mean, that would be relevant right? She’s black, so is her parents, and she talks about child welfare issues in the black community.

When will I be able to be seen as a separate entity apart from my parents? Yes, I was adopted. But why do I need to be seen in the context of my parent’s child at my age?

When will adoptees be able to have their professional and personal views accepted as the individuals we are?

*more articles about the Evan B. Donaldson report:

Washington Post

Chicago Tribune

Associated Press

Post-Gazette

Click here for the summary of the report: FINDING FAMILIES FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN CHILDREN: THE ROLE OF RACE & LAW IN ADOPTION FROM FOSTER CARE

Continue reading

“Through the Looking Glass: Caitlin Brackett Meets Her Indentical Twin”

Through the Looking Glass: Caitlin Brackett Meets Her Indentical Twin

From the Boothbay Register

Caitlin Brackett of Boothbay, adopted as an infant from Korea,
used to dream she saw her twin coming toward her through a
mirror.  And she used to wonder what it would be like to share
life with someone identical to herself.

But her musings didn’t go far, as she knew her twin sister had
died at birth; that’s what it said on the records in her
adoption file.

It was not until March of 2003 that she and her parents learned
her twin sister was very much alive.

The Adoption Show – Sunday May 25, 2008

Sunday May 25, 2008

9:00 PM (EST)

www.theadoptionshow.com

KALI COULTAS

Kali talks with Kevin Minh Allen about current and past adoption
practices in Vietnam. Few know or understand what’s going on in
Vietnam, such as its 42 operating adoption agencies. What’s disturbing,
but not surprising, is that no one is consulting the daughters and sons
adopted out of this country: the true voice and perspective of
international adoption.

About Kevin: Born Nguyên Ðúc Mînh in Gia Ðịnh district of Sài Gòn on
December 5, 1973, Kevin Minh Allen was adopted at 9 months and flown to
the U.S. in August 1974. He grew up in a suburb of Rochester, NY, until
at 27 years of age, he moved to Seattle, where he is currently enjoying
the view. He has written and published poetry, book reviews, news
articles and information panels for a museum exhibit.  His work can be
found online in Tiếng Magazine, Asian American Movement Magazine, The
Fighting 44s and the Poetry Superhighway, and in print as well, such as
The Northwest Asian Weekly, The International Examiner and HazMat
Journal.

Check out the blog Misplaced Baggage: http://misplacedbaggage.wordpress.com/ run by Vietnamese adoptees: Kevin Minh Allen, Sumeia Williams and Anh Dao Kolbe

 

ADOPTEES MARK 10 YEAR MILESTONE OF RETURNING TO HOMELAND

ADOPTEES MARK 10 YEAR MILESTONE OF RETURNING TO HOMELAND
Overseas adopted Koreans commemorate with conference in Seoul, Korea

SEOUL, Korea – Adult adopted Koreans, families and friends of the
international community are invited to Seoul, Korea, August 1-3, 2008,
to take part in “Our Space: Reflections on 10 Years of Community
Building,” the 10th Anniversary Celebration & Annual Conference of
Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link (G.O.A.’L).

The 10th Anniversary Celebration & Annual Conference will offer a
special reception for G.O.A.’L member & volunteer alumni; a diverse
program of conference sessions and workshops; exciting cultural
performances & activities; and “Our Space: Six Perspectives,” a
unique photo exhibition that will “take a fresh look at Korea, a place
we have all known and imagined in our minds, realized through the
points of view of six adoptees who have chose to make the journey back
to where they were born.”

The 10th Anniversary Celebration & Annual Conference seeks to
celebrate and recognize all who have contributed to the building of the
present-day thriving global adoptee community in Korea during the past
10 years – adoptees, native Koreans, families and friends – both living
in Korea and visiting from abroad.

Online registration for the 10th Anniversary Celebration & Annual
Conference is NOW OPEN. Additionally, participants qualify for special
discounted hotel accommodations at the Seoul Olympic Parktel, a 4-star
hotel situated on the edge of Olympic Park, a sanctuary of peace and
lush green surroundings and home to the 1988 Summer Olympic Games, in
the Jamsil area of Seoul.

  Program details and registration & reservation instructions can be found on the G.O.A.’L website (www.goal.or. kr).

Companies, organizations and individuals interested in supporting the
10th Anniversary Celebration & Annual Conference are invited to
contact G.O.A.’L for further information.

———— ——— ——–

Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link (G.O.A.’L), is an adoptee-run registered
non-governmental organization (NGO) and non-profit organization located
in Seoul, Korea. Since 1998, G.O.A.’L has supported overseas adopted
Koreans in accessing Korea by bridging barriers of language &
culture and advocating for adoptee rights through lobbying the Korean
government, organizing an annual conference addressing adoption-related
issues, publishing a regular bi-lingual newsletter and coordinating
public education, networking & social events.

G.O.A.’L provides adoptee-focused post-adoption services including:
birth family search assistance, translation/ interpretation, Korean
language education support, advice on visiting/living in Korea and
assistance with setting-up basic services in Korea (F4 visa, mobile
phones, internet, etc.).

# # #

Nicole Sheppard
  Vice Secretary General
G.O.A.’L – Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link
Tel:  +82-2-325-6585 / 6522 (birth family search)
Fax: +82-2-325-6570
Cell: +82-10-4116- 3401
  http://www.goal.or. kr
************ ********* ********* ********* ********* ********* ****
  Support by becoming a G.O.A.’L member today!
Yahoo!Groups: goal-info (open to all) / goal-discussion (adoptees only)
  Facebook: G.O.A.’L Korea

Famous adoptee

After seeing pictures of accessories designer Joy Gryson and reading that she was born in Korea, I did some on-line searching and lo and behold my suspicions were right. According to Target’s press release:

Joy_gryson
Born in Korea, Gryson was adopted at the age of three and a half and
has been a New Yorker ever since. After graduating from the Fashion
Institute of Technology, Gryson traveled the world designing and
developing some of the most recognized handbags in the industry.

Joy is married to Peter Gryson, who is also her business partner, and
they have a five-year old daughter named Olivia. Having been adopted,
Joy dedicates much of her time to help raise awareness and funds for
the not-for-profit adoption agency, Family Focus Adoption Services,
where her mother is the Executive Director.

“An Adoption Nightmare”

From ABC News, an article about Fleas Biting blog author Desiree Smolin and her family

An Adoption Nightmare
– An American Couple Adopted Indian Sisters, Only to Learn They’d Been Stolen

One of the things I’m always looking for are the sound-bites from "experts" and how these statements continue the typical rhetoric and justification for the continuation of the status quo. For example, this following bit from Adam Pertman, Executive Director for the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

"The truth is there are problems with the international adoption system. But American parents are often saving children from poverty, pestilence and war and we should not let the bad guys taint the good work many agencies are doing," he said. "If there is one child kidnapped and adopted, that is one too many. I can’t speak about every adoption and bad stuff does occur, but the majority are above board."

"Parents need to be careful. They need to be good consumers — not consumers of children, but of services. Too many people get caught up in getting a child that they miss the red flags," he said.