Archive for May, 2011

Good news for Guatemala900 Family; open birth certificate editorial; my reading in Santa Rosa

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

At last! A happy ending for one of the waiting families of the Guatemala900. After four long years, Kinsey Reyher joined her adoptive parents, Brittney and Danny Reyher, and brothers, Kainen and Gabriel, in Terre Haute, Indiana, the Brazil Times reported on May 31, 2011.

Brittney and Danny, along with some family members when they had time, made 14 trips to visit with Kinsey, appeared for two court hearings, struggled through a change in lawyers and went through eight different agency coordinators to try and finish the adoption process.

“There was delay after delay… So many people were out there praying for us. And we could feel the prayers. This process brought our whole family closer together.”

On June 17, 2009, Brittney and Danny and the other 402 waiting families waiting for their children to come home, along with their supporters, marched on Washington to bring about public awareness to the Guatemala 900.

***

While the Reyher family enjoys their lives together, Brittney and Danny stay in touch with the families still waiting for their children to come home from Guatemala.

“I would like people to know about the remaining 300 cases that are still in limbo in Guatemala,” Brittney said, adding there are at least two other families from Indiana who are waiting for their child to come home from Guatemala. “One family is from Farmersburg and the other Greencastle. We are all friends and a huge support to one another. Even though our adoption is complete, we won’t feel complete until all the children are with their forever families.”

May this be one of many cases soon to be resolved.

In another must-read article, my good friend and fellow adoptive mom Laura-Lynne Powell argues that open birth records benefit everyone–from mothers who place their children for adoption to children who deserve to see evidence of their biological roots. ”Adoptees shut out from birth records” was published in the Viewpoints section of The Sacramento Bee on Sunday, May 29, 2011. Here’s a short excerpt:

My own school-age sons were adopted in open adoptions and we continue to enjoy loving relationships with members of their first families. We visit and exchange gifts and letters. We’re all Facebook friends.

But neither of my sons have a legal right to see their birth certificates. It doesn’t matter that we already know the details of their births. Because we live in California, they can’t see the documents. I can’t see them. The women who gave birth to them can’t see them.

So my question is this: If Barack Obama’s birth certificate is so important, then why aren’t the birth certificates of all Americans – including those who happen to have been adopted – important as well? Why can’t we get past this outdated prejudice?
Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/05/29/3660060/adoptees-shut-out-from-birth-records.html#ixzz1NxoIxAhq

Finally, I’ll be reading from Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir at Copperfield’s Books Montgomery Village, this Sunday at 1 p.m. At the moment, this is my last scheduled reading in the Bay Area. Please stop by and say hello~

Sunday, June 5, 2011 at 1 p.m.
Copperfield’s Books Montgomery Village
2316 Montgomery Drive
Santa Rosa 95404
707-578-8930

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Antigua photos by Dave Adair

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

If you’re like me, you’re always looking forward to your next trip to Guatemala, whenever that may be. In the meantime, I’m posting a link sent to me by a friend and fellow adoptive mom, Laurie-Ann, who forwarded it to me from her friend, photographer Dave Adair. If you’ve visited Antigua, you’ll recognize a few spots. If you haven’t, you may want to, after seeing these pictures~

Photos around Antigua, and a walk in the surrounding hills by photographer Dave Adair.

Enjoy!

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Mamalita in San Diego; NY Times on Jacobo Arbenz

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Two wonderful items from San Diego:

Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir is a finalist in the Seventeenth Annual San Diego Book and Writing Awards in the category of Memoir. Winners will be announced in a ceremony on June 11, 2011.  What an honor for our story to be nominated! My fingers are crossed.

Also, the online San Diego Jewish World featured Mamalita in American tells of love for daughter and Guatemala. Written by publisher Donald H. Harrison, the article is part of the “World-at-Home” series, in which readers can ’travel’ the world without ever leaving San Diego County.

As Mr. Harrison quotes me as saying: “I love Guatemala… I’m obsessed with Guatemala. I am fascinated by the country.” Sounds like me, all right: always happy to call attention to my favorite place.

Finally, on a separate note. Here are the first two sentences from Guatemala To Restore Legacy of President U.S. Helped Depose, an article by Elisabeth Malkin that ran in the New York Times on May 23, 2011. Anyone who follows Guatemala’s history will want to read the entire piece.

After President Jacobo Arbenz was overthrown in a C.I.A.-backed coup in 1954, the Guatemalan government reversed his policies and branded him a Communist, all but erasing his brief presidency from history.

Nearly six decades later, a democratic Guatemala has promised to restore his legacy and treat him as a statesman.

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Nine!

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

This weekend, Olivia turned nine. Our celebration was small— my sister over for Olivia’s favorite dinner of Tim’s spaghetti, and a few hoped for gifts: a sewing kit with scissors and thread (sewing small stuffed animals by hand is Olivia’s current passion), a cookbook, a puzzle, and a pack of origami paper with a booklet of instructions.

Mateo entertained, pushing together some deck chairs on which he hopped and shuffled in a free-form tap dance; Olivia modeled the earrings she beaded for herself–dangling clip-ons in her favorite colors, purple and  pink. As my sister showed Olivia and Mateo some of her favorite origami designs, I learned something new about my husband. “Origami” was his favorite class in kindergarten; that and “Abacus.” I knew Tim spent his formative years in Japan and Germany—his dad was in the military–but had no idea he’d mastered origami. You think you know everything there is to know about someone, and then discover a new detail.

The day ended with the annual Ladybug release. The bugs are good for the garden–reportedly they eat aphids, although that population continues to thrive–and every year Tim buys Olivia and Mateo a box. According to Tim, if you release ladybugs in the evening when the weather’s cool, they won’t stray far from home. As Olivia turned one year older, that sounded good to me.

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“Finding Aster” by Dina McQueen

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Connecting with other adoptive parents ranks as my favorite outcome from writing Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir. Instantly, we launch into our stories, using a shorthand we each understand.

So it happened last January, when I read from Mamalita at Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In the audience sat Dina McQueen, adoptive mom to a daughter named Aster, born in Ethiopia. As we chatted I learned Dina also had authored a book about her journey to motherhood. Finding Aster: an Ethiopian adoption story was published in February by Inkwater Press.  Naturally, I bought a copy, and quickly read the compelling tale. True, I knew the book’s ending, but still, I found it hard to put down.

Since then, Dina and I have discovered we share a deep commitment to adoption, and to writing and thinking about adoption. In addition, we both love reading to our children.  In a recent blog post, Dina compiled a list of her favorite Children’s Books for Multi-Ethnic Families; from it, I gleaned a few new titles I didn’t know about, which I plan to add to our family library.  Check out Dina’s list and Dina’s book, too. You’ll enjoy both.

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US Embassy alert about travel to Peten

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

From CNN World, May 15, 2011: 27 people found dead at a Guatemalan farm

“Security forces in Guatemala have found 27 bodies, the majority of which were decapitated, at a farm in the northern region of Peten, Col. Rony Urizar, an army spokesman, said Sunday. Among the victims were two women and 25 men, he said. Peten is the northernmost part of Guatemala, which borders Mexico. Urizar declined to say what might be behind the killings, but did not rule out the possibility they could be related to drug trafficking.”

Travel Alert from the US Embassy:
May 16, 2011

Dear American Citizen: 

The following is a Warden Message concerning Security in Peten. Please share the following information with any other U.S. citizens you know, as soon as possible. It should be disseminated as widely as possible within the U.S. citizen community. Please contact the American Citizen Services Unit via e-mail (amcitsguatemala@state.gov), fax (2331-3804), or telephone (2326-4501) if you have any questions. Thank you very much for your support and assistance. 

The following notice was received from Asistur, the Guatemalan agency that helps tourists. We are passing this notice to you for your information. 

“We are informing all that due to the latest incidents in the Department of Peten, we recommend not to travel to that destination to avoid any inconvenience that might arise and to protect the physical safety of local and foreign tourists”

There is an increased level of violence in areas of the Peten, characterized by murders on a finca in the municipality of La Libertad and shootings and bombings in Flores and Santa Elena. The U. S. Embassy wishes to alert travelers to exercise extreme caution when traveling through those places. Travelers going to Tikal should bear in mind that the airport for Tikal is in Flores and the road passes through Flores and Santa Elena before reaching Tikal.

 

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Guatadopt post

Monday, May 16th, 2011

If you’re connected to adoption from Guatemala, chances are good that you’ve already read the May 11 Guatadopt post on the relationship between CICIG and Senator Landrieu, and the status of Susana Luarca.

If you haven’t, please do. Guatadopt writer “Kevin” offers an excellent summary of both situations; his analysis of the difference between “abnormalities” and “non-serious abnormalities” in the adoption process rings true. As for Kevin’s statement that “all of this is very reminiscent of what has been going on in this debate for far too long.” Hear, hear! Take a look at the Guatemala900 website to learn about families whose cases have been hashed over for a minimum of three years. Many cases have moldered years longer.

As an adoptive mother to one child who lingered in foster care for fifteen months, and another for six,  I can tell you that every day makes a difference–to adoptive parents, yes, but more than that, to the future life of a child. 

The “comments” on the Guatadopt site enlighten as much as the post itself.  Read for yourself, and you’ll see.

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My son and the NPR program on transracial adoption

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

If you’re reading this blog for the first time, you should know that I’m a white adoptive mother to two children born in Guatemala. My daughter, Olivia, is almost 9; my son, Mateo, is 6. Olivia is indigenous Maya; Mateo is what Guatemalans call “Ladino,” meaning his heritage is Hispanic. Each has brown skin; one darker, one lighter. Our family discusses skin color often; see two previous blog posts, Peach and Brown.

On Friday afternoon, as he climbed into the car after school, Mateo asked me “Can brown people marry white people?”

“Of course they can,” I said. “You can marry someone with any skin color.” I skipped my usual speech about marriage, which includes a requirement for love, college graduation, money in the bank, maturity, self-awareness, etc. etc. This conversation was about something else.

I continued, “Did someone say you couldn’t, because you’re brown?”  Mateo nodded, looking miserable. I paused and took a deep breath. “Another kid? Or a grown-up?”

“Another kid,” Mateo said. (And here I will disguise the child’s identity.) “X.” 

Why am I writing to tell you about this? Because I want you to know that, yes, even here in Marin County, Northern California, which considers itself one of the most enlightened, educated places on earth, another kid said those words to my 6-year-old son. And I’m guessing X didn’t make it up out of thin air. He must have heard it from an adult.

On May 11, NPR ran a great “All Things Considered” program that really resonated for me:  The Parenting Dilemmas of Transracial Adoption. Here’s an excerpt from the NPR website:

Today, approximately 40 percent of adoptions in America are transracial — and that number is growing. In decades past, many American parents of transracial adoptions simply rejected racial categories, raising their children as though racial distinctions didn’t matter.

“Social workers used to tell parents, ‘You just raise your child as though you gave birth to her,’ ” Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, tells NPR’s Neal Conan… Pertman’s organization has conducted extensive research on transracial adoption in America. He says turning a blind eye to race wasn’t good for anybody. “We don’t live in a colorblind society,” he says.

University of Chicago professor Gina Samuels — who is multiracial and was raised by a white family — has also researched the experiences of children of color who were raised by Caucasian parents. She tells Conan that parents who take a colorblind approach to raising their children often do so with the best of intentions.

“[It] reflects maybe how they hope the world will be someday,” Samuels says. “But oftentimes what this ends up doing is having children [meet] the world — the real world — unprepared.”

On Friday, my son Mateo came up against the “real world” referred to by Professor Samuels. And please let me assure you, this wasn’t the first time. I’m glad Mateo trusts me enough to talk about it.

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Call for participants in study on transnational adoption

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Lisa “Charlie” de Morais Teixeira (adopted from Korea) and her adoptive mother, Karen Benally, are writing a book on adult transnational adoptees and their American parents. To date, the two women have collected close to 200 surveys regarding the transnational adoption experience from Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Germany, Columbia, and Mexico. In addition, they’ve set up interviews to collect oral histories.  

Lisa and Karen reached out to me because they would like to include information about families who have adopted from Guatemala, as well as other countries. If you’re an adoptive parent to a child who is now age 18 or older,  or if you are an adult over age 18 who joined your family through adoption, please ensure your voice is heard by participating in the study. Feel free to forward this request to any organizations or individuals who may be interested.  Thanks so much.

Research Study focusing on Adult Transnational Adoptees and their American Parents
 
Korean adoptee Lisa “Charlie” de Morais Teixeira and her adoptive mother Karen Benally are conducting research that explores the manner in which adult transnational adoptees (of all nationalities) and their American parents have negotiated the complex and often thorny issues related to adoptive, racial, and cultural identity. There are two parts to the study. The first consists of surveys of both adoptees and their parents. The surveys are currently available online at:  

            https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Stories_Adult_Adoptee (Adoptee survey)

            https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Stories_Adoptive_Parent (Parent survey)

 The second part involves in-depth interviews that focus on the adoptee-parent relationship and on the adoption experience as viewed both from the point of view of adoptees and adoptive parent(s). To the extent possible, the researchers hope to interview adoptee-parent “pairs,” but they are also talking with adoptees and/or parents whose corresponding “partner” is either unable or unwilling to participate. The interviews began in Hawaii in April; during the summer of 2011, the research team will be traveling to locations in the Midwest, Southeast, and East Coast to talk with additional adoptees and parents. Interviews throughout the U.S. will continue into 2012.

For further information or to follow the results of the study, visit the project website at http://transnational-adoptee-parent-study.webs.com/. To participate in the oral history portion of the research, contact one or both of the researchers at charlieritts@gmail.com or krbenally@gmail.com.  

 

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Hope at last for the Kyrgyz 65

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Back in February of this year, I posted a blog about Frank and Gabrielle Shimkus, who along with other families known as the Kyrgyz 65, were waiting for their adoption from Kyrgyzstan to be finalized. Their plight sounded sadly similar to that of families waiting for children in Guatemala, the group known as the Guatemala900. Gabrielle explained:

We received our referral in Aug. 2008. A little boy, 2 months old, with a cleft lip and palate. He was as frail as could be. We had all of our paperwork here in the US approved and our dossier in Kyrgyzstan. We went for our first visit in November 2008, and spent 2 full weeks with him, loving him.

It was only supposed to be one more month before we returned to go to Kyrgyz court and take him home with us for good, but that didn’t happen. One day the Kyrgyz government heard rumblings of people forging paperwork. It turns out to be vaguely true, but of another country, not ours. That day they decided their adoption laws were too easy and in one fell swoop got rid of every law on the books. They did not consider that there were 65 families in the immediate pipeline to adopt—families, like ours, who were weeks away from that one court hearing that would have allowed us to take our kids home. Their government refused to allow our adoptions to go forward because they no longer had the laws to finish them.

Still they dangled the carrot in front of us. “Just give us a few months. 6 months we promise. You will have your kids by Christmas.” They then placed a moratorium on international adoptions.

After months of hanging by a thread, the country elected a new president, who was the first female Asian president. She heard our pleas, told us to be patient. Months more went by.  A new Parliament was elected and we were promised our legislation would be one of the first to go through. It didn’t happen. The US State Department has been involved all along, but provide us with no concrete answers.

We are now 2 1/2 years since this tragedy began. The 65 families have a forum where we keep in daily contact with each other. We have contacted every Senator, Congressman, and person of influence we can think of. Some of the families have dropped off. 2 of the children have died waiting. Yes, 2 children are dead because they succumbed to illnesses treatable here in the US. It is horrible, beyond words.

The crazy thing is that all along they have said we can have our kids. Very few people are against this. They just don’t have the know-how to finish our process. Crazy to still hold on to hope when everytime it gets ripped out from under us. Still, no one will tell us “NO YOU CAN’T HAVE YOUR KID.” Maybe if they did things would be different. Maybe some of the parents could heal and move on. But the carrot is still out there dangling. We get pictures every few months, and that is the closest we come.

I’m thrilled to report that Radio Free Europe has posted an article titled Kyrgyzstan Lifts Ban on International Adoption. The family profiled is none other than the Shimkuses. As my children would say, Yippee!!

Read the Radio Free Europe article here, and another regarding the official announcement by the Kyrgyzstan government here.

And please keep sending positive thoughts for the Guatemala900.

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