Friday, October 28, 2011

National Adoption Month

I wrote and posted this one year ago - but it holds true this November as well!

National Adoption Month
November is national adoption month, so I gathered some thoughts about adoption and asked my kids as well.

Ten Things to Know about Adoption- from an adoptive parent’s perspective

1. Adoption is a very personal decision that an individual or couple makes on how to build a family. Don’t automatically assume they have fertility issues or it is a “second-best choice.” It is a permanent, court approved loving decision and one way that parents and children come together. The choice to adopt domestically or internationally is based on many factors and we frequently just “know” our children are waiting for us.

2. Adoptive parents are not “saving” a child and/or looking for “gratitude” from our kids, particularly if the child has been adopted from a developing country. As any adoptive parent will tell you, we are the lucky ones to have these amazing kids in our lives. We will work hard to make sure that they have a full understanding and appreciation for their birth country and heritage.

3. If you are really interested in adoption, the costs and the process- most of us would be happy to discuss our experience or refer you to our adoption agency. We do not, however, want to have these conversations in front of our children. And we will probably not discuss our child’s or their birthparent’s personal history with you.

4. Yes, there are costs involved in adoption, but we do not buy our children. The costs are for attorney fees, travel, paperwork, medical care and orphanage support. Similar in fact to the costs associated with pregnancy and delivery- without the healthcare insurance.

5. We are our children’s “real parents” and they have “real brothers and sisters” in their families. Our children have birthparents who gave them life. We have the joy of raising them and are their parents.

6. It is important not to belittle birthparents. We often have no idea as to why the painful decision was made to place a child for adoption. Even when a child is officially abandoned without record, as often happens in China, there are numerous factors- poverty, government policy, family and cultural pressure that led to the decision.

7. The vast majority of adoptions are wonderful experiences. The media, however, will report on the rare occasions when it does not work out well and an adoption is interrupted. Yes, these are sad and heartbreaking stories and trust me, we have already heard them. Just as a pregnant woman does not want to hear about labor and delivery horror stories, an adoptive or prospective adoptive parent does not want these to be repeated time and time again. We work with our adoption agency and or counselor to prepare for problems that we could face.

8. My child was not “chosen” for adoption because he or she is special. That terminology puts an unnecessary pressure on a child to stay special or perfect. It is actually, the parent(s) that is selected and must live up to certain criteria to be matched with a child. It is our responsibility to make it work.

9. My child is not permanently damaged because he or she was adopted or spent time in foster care or an orphanage. Yes, problems can occur and there are many programs and therapies available to offer solutions to parents and children. However, I don’t assume every behavioral issue or act of misbehavior is because my child is adopted. We are vigilant in getting our kids the help they need – just as parents of biological kids deal with their kids issues. Studies show that the vast majority of adopted kids adjust well and become successful in life.

10. As fellow parents, please speak up when you see an adoption myth being perpetuated in the media or in conversation. Help us spread the word about adoption and help your kids understand that our families are very normal- we just built them in a different way.

Thoughts from my children about adoption

7 year old’s perspective

• Coolest thing about being adopted- “meeting my mom and dad”
• Why did your mommy adopt you – “we matched’
• What do you think about your birthparents in China- “they still love me but could not take care of me.”
• What do your friends ask you about being adopted from China – “why don’t you speak Chinese?”

11 year old’s perspective

• Coolest thing about being adopted –“it is cool to have an interesting background”
• “Don’t like it when people look at us strange or stare because you are white and we are Asian, I think most people who stare do not know what adoption really is all about.”
• Do you ever think about your birthparents and a loss with them not in your life-
“No, because with a loss comes a gain, I am curious, but do not get sad about it.”
• “What matters most is the scenario or family you get adopted into “
• What is more challenging to deal with- being adopted or a being Asian – “being Chinese – it is more noticeable”

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Circle of Friends

Maeve Binchy wrote a wonderful book a number of years ago called Circle of Friends. It was then made into an equally good movie starring Minnie Driver and Chris O'Donnell. Circle of friends- that phrase is stuck in my head today. I attended a reunion this weekend of the adoption travel group for my youngest daughter, Avery. We all traveled to China together 7 1/2 years ago to adopt the baby girls that became our precious daughters. Beyond being amazed at how these sweet girls have grown and blossomed, I was struck at how quickly they bonded and connected. We have not seen one another for many years and in one case- since the trip to China. But this group of 8 year-old girls were off playing, laughing, having "scream offs" and we had to drag them away from one another when it was time to go. I know that part of that is just being a kid- the "hey, let's play" mentality when you meet a new person that adults unfortunately forget and replace with judgement and wariness. But it was beyond that- they hugged and played as if they had known each other forever- which actually they have when you think about it.

The girls shared an orphanage and have common history, ethnicity and similiar stories. They actually have more in common than most of their classmates. I watched them in their "circle" and was reminded of the value of friendship. The parents are part of a circle as well, people who would probably never have met if it were not for this experience.

Think of the circles in our lives and how they change over the years, sometimes overlapping and sometimes fading over time. Common interests, shared experiences and stages of life all lead to the creation of our various circles of friends. Of course, there are the precious friends who you meet because of one experience and the connection is so strong that you stay in one another's lives forever. I have one friend who is living on other side of the world and I haven't seen her well over a year, but I still feel connected. We helped one another through some tough times and I will always treasure her friendship. I hope my daughters develop these friendships- some deep and lasting and some more circumstantial...they are all important.

You always here so much about the importance of family...and it is important. However, so are friendships. I think sometimes that we need to be reminded of the value of the people that we choose to add into our lives- our friends. These connections can bring us joy, support, laughter, compassion and fill our hearts much as family can many times.

Celebrate your circles of friends...or better yet- create a new one!