Run by Ann Patchett

New for the book club

I have just started reading this book and would like your thoughts . . . I really enjoyed Bel Canto by Ann Patchett and only recently learned that Run is about two transracial adoptees and their family.

From the author's web site:

Since their
mother's death, Tip and Teddy Doyle have been raised by their loving,
possessive and ambitious father. As the former Mayor of Boston, Bernard Doyle
wants to see his sons in politics, a dream the boys have never shared. But
when an argument in a blinding New England snowstorm inadvertently causes an
accident that involves a stranger and her child, all Bernard Doyle cares about
is his ability to keep his children, all his children, safe.

Your thoughts? 

Run by Ann Patchett

I have just started reading this book and would like your thoughts . . . I really enjoyed Bel Canto by Ann Patchett and only recently learned that Run is about two transracial adoptees and their family.

From the author’s web site:

Since their
mother’s death, Tip and Teddy Doyle have been raised by their loving,
possessive and ambitious father. As the former Mayor of Boston, Bernard Doyle
wants to see his sons in politics, a dream the boys have never shared. But
when an argument in a blinding New England snowstorm inadvertently causes an
accident that involves a stranger and her child, all Bernard Doyle cares about
is his ability to keep his children, all his children, safe.

Your thoughts?

More on Asian adoptees as a Hollywood trend

A few days ago I linked to an opinion piece by Mike Seate, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune. Seate’s essay, "Adopting Asian kids becoming latest fad" has unleashed a lot of uproar in some parts, and it was only after some readers to this blog directed me to the comments that I got wind of the controversy this piece created.

Only, instead of being outraged at Seate or his opinion piece, I am disappointed by some of the adoptive parents who commented.

I agree wholeheartedly with Papa2Hapa and Ann, who commented on my original link to the piece, that this seemed like more of a dig on Hollywood, who has certainly made adopting Asian children seem like an accessory. It was also a questioning of why people aren’t adopting Black children in the U.S.

I’ve made the exact same statements or questions on my blog, many times. I wrote a review about "Then She Found Me" and had a very similar critique as Seate. I have also questioned many, many times the justifications that are given for why people chose to adopt internationally from Asian countries versus Black children in the U.S. Many adoptees I know would agree with Seate. On one list-serve I’m on, some of the adoptees thought it was hilarious. In terms of the the idea of Asian adoptees being a "luxury" item, I know that a common thing for us adult adoptees is to talk about how much we "cost." Of course, not every adoptee would agree, but many of the opinions I hear/read from adoptive parents are as insensitive to me as Seate’s comments are to adoptive parents.

So, I wonder if it was Seate’s tone in writing, or that he is neither an adoptive parent, social worker or adoptee, that is causing so much vitriol from the adoptive parent community.

Because truthfully, I find some of the comments aimed towards Seate and his opinions more problematic and personally hateful than anything Seate expressed in his sarcastic and snarky essay. And, as a Black man, I think he has the right to wonder why so many adoptive parents go overseas to adopt Asians than adopt Black children in the foster care system. Seate might not know (or at least, does not seem to reference or indicate in his piece that he knows) all the complex reasons for this – but he is entitled to his opinion. God knows I hear opinions about adoption every day that disturbs me.

Contrary to some commenters, I definitely don’t see how Seate "doesn’t approve of your family’s skin color." No where in the opinion piece did I see anything that suggested Seate is suggesting only same-race adoptions. Seate’s "rice paddy" reference was ignorant and off-putting to be sure. But that doesn’t mean Seate is against transracial adoptions. But, I don’t see his piece as journalism, but an opinion. Much like the opinions I express here on the blog, including some opinions that I have received lots of heat for expressing.

And p.s. Just because one does not have children, does not mean that one can’t have a solid, researched, informed opinion about something. And, just because one has children doesn’t mean you have a magical, omnipotent understanding of the issue. Somehow, adoptive parents who adopt transracially often seem to use the "until you’ve parented, you’ll never know . . . " yet at the same time, think that they can know what their transracially adopted child will know or experience. These might be some of the same adoptive parents who tell me, "My child won’t experience this or that" and I respond back, "Really? Unless you’ve been transracially adopted, then you’ll never know . . ."  (I say this because many of my TRA friends have been told, "you’ll understand when you become a parent yourself" as if their entire lifetime of experiences AS a TRA aren’t enough).

Seate may be flip and sarcastic, but I wonder if there is a grain of truth in his words that is causing such defensiveness by so many adoptive parents. I mean, don’t you think we should all be behind his main point – that Hollywood is portraying Asian adoption as a trendy option, and that it’s distasteful to do so? Can’t we agree with Seate when he writes,

But for some reason, even Hollywood is marketing Asian babies as somehow superior and more desirable.

When was the last time you saw the adoption of a Black or Latino child in a glamorous Hollywood movie?

Yeah, me either.

Which family would you choose?

In Thursday’s post, I outlined a girl, "Jane," who was waiting for adoption and gave 4 family scenarios. Typically, I would receive a variety of home studies for all these types of families. Interestingly, most people think the Anderson family would have been their choice and some even commented that this decision was "too easy."

I was surprised that the following questions were not asked:

  • What race is the foster family?
  • How long has she lived in the foster family’s home (thus, in the school and community)?
  • What about the mentor, Tammy?
  • What is Jane’s feelings about the church she attends? Is it that she attends because of the foster family or for her own reasons? In other words, is it the choir or the doctrine Jane is committed to?
  • Has Jane expressed interest in her Native American tribal heritage?
  • What are Jane’s feelings about having adoptive siblings?
  • Are any of these families willing to continue having continued relationships with Jane’s siblings? In the previous post, I did not indicate that any of the families were open to continued contact; I only mentioned the Anderson family lived close by and that does not necessarily mean they will continue contact.

Some good questions were posed. Including:

  • What is Jane’s preference? Great question. Even though at 10, Jane can not legally say no to being placed in an adoptive home, obviously you would want to get her input since her acceptance will be a big part of how well Jane adjusts to her adoptive family.
  • The suggestion that the Connor family might be amenable to keeping Jane in her current school is a good call
  • Is age a factor? (and yes, it might be!!)

So let me add a few more things about each family and see if you still feel the same way.

The Anderson Family

Nobody mentioned what "the city" meant. It means, inner-city. Clues that the neighborhood is 50% African American and that they live in "the city" should have been a hint that they live in an area that many social workers will have an inherent bias against. Also this means the school district is likely a neighborhood school. So, some of the reasons workers might pick the Anderson family: two-parent
home, diversity, close proximity to Jane’s siblings. Reasons workers
would not pick the Anderson family: their ages, their neighborhood,
their school.

The Brown Family

One of the comments mentioned that home schooling could be good or bad for Jane’s learning needs, and it is true. Sometimes kids who don’t fit in to a traditionally structured school do much better with home schooling. This may not be an issue for Jane as I cited that she did well with supports despite her dyslexia. Some of the reasons workers might pick the Brown family: two parent
home, at-home parent (often very valued by social workers), home school (some feel home school parents
actually do better because they customize curriculum for all different
needs). Reasons workers might not pick Brown family: location, lack of
diversity in area, home schooling (some feel the home school education
might not be specific enough for learning disabilities). What if the Brown family lived a few communities away from a tribal reservation? Or, if they were willing to drive to the city once a month for visits and/or have Jane’s siblings visit her for weekends/vacations/holidays?

The Connor Family

I didn’t mention who the Connor family was friends with, I only said the community they lived in was about 10% diverse, and didn’t specify what kind of diversity that was. Given that the daughter in the family has the same ethnic make-up as Jane would want to make me ask if Ms. Connor has ties to the African American community. The Connor family is also the only family that lives in the community where Jane lives. If they would be willing to allow Jane to continue with her same school, that would be two areas that Jane would not have to make new changes. Also, it is easily possible that the Connor family could participate in Jane’s current church if desired; also could continue mentorship with Tammy. The Connor family is a single parent family, however there is a large extended family. Some reasons workers might pick Connor family: same community, daughter
has same ethnic make-up as Jane, has diverse network of family and
friends, close enough to continue sibling visits, and continued
mentorship with Tammy. Reasons workers might not pick Connor family:
single parent, does not attend church, wants to switch schools, is
Native American-focused.

The Davis Family

The Davis family lives in a suburb, but I did not specify how diverse it was. They have the same religious affiliation so maybe they would be willing to change the church they attend for Jane’s continued relationships she’s made there and for them to develop relationships to the African American community. They could also reasonably continue the mentorship with Tammy. Reasons workers might pick Davis family: two-parent home,
professional status of parents, attend same church denomination,
private lessons,possibility for continued visits with siblings, might be willing to keep mentor.
Reasons that workers might not pick Davis family: heavy work schedule,
lack of experience in parenting, no current connections to African American or
Native American communities.

Continue reading

How do you choose? An exercize in placing a child in an adoptive home

I thought I’d give you a tiny little glimpse of what being a child’s adoption/social worker is like, and how difficult the placement of a child into a home can be. This exercise is based on one that an agency I interned at had their prospective adoptive parents do on their first day of pre-adoptive parent training – at any given day, when I worked for the County, I might have up to 4-5 home studies for kid(s) on my caseload. So, the differences and similarities between types of families inquiring after children represented here are fairly realistic.

Keep in mind that as the social worker, you would be making this decision on top of a caseload of anywhere from probably 25-40 other kids (depending on the county/state you work for) and in addition to making all of the legal decisions about this child (foster care, school, and medical issues).

Finally, keep in mind that "matching" is based on how well the prospective parents match the needs of the child, not how much the child matches the needs of the parents. One of the questions I always have is how much workers/decision makers in foreign countries really consider the needs of the child when matching to parents – or, how to make this decision when the children are young and/or the workers don’t really have the time to get to know the child enough to make a match based on their needs.

Here is your child: "Jane"

  • 10 year old child, 1/2 African American, 1/4 Native American, 1/4 White. The Indian Child Welfare Act does not apply.
  • Currently lives in a foster home in the suburbs, but the family is not going to adopt
  • Likes her school a lot – public school in a suburb, about 10% diversity
  • She has two younger siblings ages 2 & 3 who were adopted by a family in the city. Jane wants to keep in touch with her siblings. Right now she sees them once a month and at holidays.
  • She attends a Baptist church that is majority African American and sings in the choir.
  • Jane would like to take music lessons and dance.
  • Jane has an IEP for dyslexia but does fairly well in school overall with additional assistance
  • She has a college-aged mentor, "Tammy," who is African American, who has spent a lot of time with her for the past two years. Tammy often takes Jane to her hair salon and they have their hair done together.

In Minnesota, you make a match based on the following factors:

1. the child’s current functioning and behaviors;
2. the medical, educational and developmental needs of the child;
3. the child’s history and past experience;
4. the child’s religious and cultural needs;
5. the child’s connection with a community, school and church (or synagogue, mosque,
    temple or other religious community);
6. the child’s interests and talents;
7. the child’s relationship to current caretakers, parents, siblings and relatives; and
8. the reasonable preference of the child, if the court, or other child placing agency in the case of a voluntary placement, deems the child to be of sufficient age to express preferences

Continue reading

Asian adoptees as fashion accessories in the movies

From Red Orbit. Thanks to Andrew for the tip.

Adopting Asian Kids Becoming Latest Fad

By Mike Seate

Call me cynical, but since when did Asian children become "must have" fashion accessories for upper middle-class Americans?

Along with Calloway golf clubs and season tickets to football games,
paying $30,000 to $40,000 to adopt an exotic baby is suddenly viewed as
the most chic purchase this side of a pair of Manolo Blahnik pumps.

Never mind that thousands of babies of other races — most of them
black — go without foster homes and adoptions here and elsewhere in
this country every year. It doesn’t cost tens of thousands of dollars
to adopt a black, Latino or mixed-race child.

But for some reason, even Hollywood is marketing Asian babies as somehow superior and more desirable.

Read the whole article here.

How children learn racism

If there is one book I think every transracial adoptive parent must read, it’s this one. Especially for folks who believe that children don’t notice race, or that we live in a world that is "colorblind." In fact, I think I would recommend this book for EVERY parent, everyone who cares about being anti-racist, whether you are raising kids of your own race, culture and ethnicity or not.

The First R: How Children Learn Race and Racism by Debra Van Ausdale and Joe Feagan is stunning in its findings – that children as young as 3 years old, even when attending a pre-school that has a strong anti-bias curriculum, and even with parents who support and promote "diversity" in their homes – use racism and racist behavior and language in sophisticated and complex ways, despite the adamant protests from adults that these children are incapable of such behavior or thought. And that children of color know and understand that there is an unequal hierarchy in society, even with nobody "telling them."


The first few chapters are pretty academic but they outline the traditional White, western-based (and developed by white men) theories around child development, but the chapters that follow are compelling and very easy to read and understand. I have so many underlined and highlighted passages that it might as well be just all yellow highlights.

I’ll follow up with more thoughts in a future post, but I just had to recommend this book. I think ALL parents should read it, but especially if you are white and you are parenting a child of color.

Suzy Wong buys shoes at local shoe boutique

I had an irritating racialized moment yesterday. Mr. HM and I were at a shoe store. Normally I don’t go in boutique/specialty shoe shops, being more of a discount/DSW type of shoe buyer, but Mr. HM wanted to look at this place. On the 70% discount rack I found a pair of sandals at a great price and, of all things, in my size (5 1/2) – that combination is a rare sight.

The salesperson who rings up my purchase is an older gentleman, white, Al Bundy-esque. He wants to know my name.

Bundy: And your name is . . ?

Me: Why do you need to know that information? I don’t want to be on a mailing list.

Bundy: Oh! Well, in case you need to return the shoes.

Me: Why does that matter? I’ll have a receipt.

Bundy: Well. . . can I just write in a fake name then?

Me, getting irritated: I don’t care.

Bundy: Okay, how about if I put in Wong, Suzy.

Me, visibly pissed off: NO.

Bundy, flustered: Uh, oh, um, okay how about if I put your name as Mary then.

Me: NO.

Bundy, backpedaling furiously: Okay,  ma’am, I’ll just put down that you paid in cash, and we SURE ARE pleased to have your business and I SURE HOPE you have a GREAT day.

(Meanwhile, Mr. HM is pacing behind me, worried I’m going to go off on this guy. To his suggestion that he enter my name as Suzy Wong, I SHOULD have responded, "Do I look like a Chinese prostitute to you?" I was thinking it but suffer from an ailment called, "IgnoreRacism-itis," learned over years of being told by my color-blind adoptive parents that racism is all in my own mind).

Too white and middle class

From the Guardian UK comes this story about couples being discriminated from adopting because they are too white and too middle class. The story leads in with:

It’s a story that is both emotive and familiar. Couple wants children.
Couple finds they’re infertile, so they try to adopt. Couple is
ignored, rejected or humiliated by bureaucratic, impolite and
interfering social workers. Children are left languishing in care,
while couple is forced to adopt from overseas – if, that is, they can
afford it (and, let’s face it, they usually can, since the story goes
that the most likely people to be turned down for adoption are white,
wealthy and middle class). Now, where was I? Oh, yes: couple goes to
tabloid and tells poignant story of eventually getting their "miracle"
baby from China, but how outrageous it was that their noses were put
out of joint along the way.

The article continues with a story about a local family who ended up adopting internationally because local agencies would not consider them appropriate for adopting a minority child locally. But what is interesting with this article is that it seems, unlike most, to present multiple perspectives on what is going on behind the news stories that scream, "Social workers said we were too middle-class and white to adopt."

Continue reading

“Black kids less likely to be adopted” and other links

  • Adam Pertman and Shannon Gibney discuss transracial adoption and the Evan B. Donaldson report on MEPA at WBUR’s Here and Now radio show

When Theresa Alden adopted two black boys from an agency in
Philadelphia, she changed her lifestyle for them and they changed
her outlook on race. Alden, who is 50 and white, started attending a black church near
her home in Lancaster, established a network of black friends and
acquaintances, began listening to more black music and buying
children’s books by black authors."My boys will be in a minority here. How do you face the issues
that go along with that?" she said when asked about her attempts to
give them role models and points of reference.


Read the whole article here

  • Not adoption related, but a very intriguing and fascinating exploration of the idea of traveling as an extension of objectifying the "other" – "They think they have the right to go wherever they like" at Racialicious. It makes me think of all those Discovery Channel and National Geographic shows in which white "adventurers" go to these remote areas and try to "become" or get accepted into some indigenous tribe. It makes me think how we "foreign-born" children are the opposite. How we are brought to Western places and assimilated. How sometimes it feels like white people just feel entitled to "get" their culture wherever they like, whenever they like. [and yes, I know not ALL white people do this, so please do not comment on how I’m over-generalizing.]