Archive for August, 2011

Korea to end most adoptions to the U.S. as of July 2012

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Today, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute posted an article, dated June 30, 2011, from the Korea Times, New law said to restrict adoption by foreigners.

From July next year, foreigners will be restricted from adopting a Korean child, unless the government fails to find his or her foster family here. Under the Special Law on Adoption and its Procedures passed the National Assembly Wednesday, the government will be responsible for reducing the number of babies and children adopted by parents abroad. It will also be required to draw up measures necessary to make them remain in the care of a Korean family. The law will take effect one year after promulgation, which is expected to take place within two weeks.

“It puts the top priority on the welfare of adopted children,” said Rep. Choi Young-hee, a lawmaker of the main opposition Democratic Party who proposed the bill.  She argued that those adopted abroad are more vulnerable to identity crisis and abuses by foster parents.


Government statistics show that of 8,590 abandoned babies and children in need of care last year, only 1,462 were adopted domestically while 1,013 were taken home by foreigners. The number of adopted children by foreigners has seen a decrease in the past few years since the government reduced the quota for overseas adoptions since 2007. The number of children adopted abroad was 1,888 in 2006, but it nose dived to 1,264 in 2007, 1,250 in 2008 and 1,125 in 2009, according to the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs.

For opponents of intercountry adoption, who view the system as profoundly broken and beyond fixing, this announcement will be heralded with satisfaction. My hope is that permanent loving homes will be found in Korea for the remaining 6,115 “abandoned babies and children in need of care last year” who were not adopted, and the children of the future who will likely join their ranks.


Book giveaway–Win a copy of “Love You More” by Jennifer Grant from Sharon Van Epps

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

My friend, fellow blogger, and adoptive mom Sharon Van Epps is hosting a book giveaway on her blog, Whatever Things Are True: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the World of International Adoption. The contest closes on Sunday, September 4 at 5 p.m.

The winner will receive a signed copy of Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter, by Chicago Tribune columnist and mother of four (through birth and adoption), Jennifer Grant.  In my endorsement of the book, I called it “smart and funny, like a conversation with a good friend.” Here’s what Sharon Van Epps wrote:

Jennifer Grant had a strong marriage and three happy, healthy children. She had a fulfilling life as a full-time mother and part-time newspaper columnist and a home in an idyllic Chicago suburb. To a casual onlooker, her family would seem complete. But Grant and her husband David knew better. They felt that their family still lacked one member, and felt themselves drawn to consider adoption.

In LOVE YOU MORE: THE DIVINE SURPRISE OF ADOPTING MY DAUGHTER, Grant details the exciting and at times gut-wrenching, search for Mia – the daughter she eventually found in Guatemala. Grant walks the reader through the family’s decision to adopt, the strenuous search for their child, and the process of adjusting to life as a multicultural family. The author also addresses difficult topics like spiritual doubt, miscarriage, and the ethics of adoption.

Love You More will a great addition to your adoption library. And it’s free!

Click here to enter. Good luck~


Summer’s last gasp

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Hard to believe, but Olivia and Mateo started back to school today. For years, people have told me childhood passes like a flash, but I could never quite believe them. Now I can.

Here are a few pictures from the last days of summer. The one above is from yesterday, when Mateo and I took a final spin along our favorite bike path. In the photo below, Mateo is showing off his new soccer ball from Guatemala.

In the last picture, Mateo greets his first day of school with a smile. Summer’s over, all right. I’m sorry to see it go.


Travelojos on Mamalita and the uphill climb

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Thank you to Steven Roll of Travelojos for reviewing Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir. I’ve always viewed Mamalita as part travelogue, and I’m glad Steven saw the book that way, too. What I also loved is that Steven understood the many-layered challenges adoptive families face—not only “dishonest adoption brokers, government corruption, and endless bureaucracy,” but also a prevailing suspicion of outsiders in general. Steven writes:

“My interest in the book was piqued by my visit to Guatemala last year. I had learned about the country’s adoption reform initiative before I attended a language school in Xela for a week in May. The language school’s application asked if I preferred to stay with a family with or without children. This seemingly innocuous question gave me pause because I had read about instances of mob violence in Guatemala arising from suspicions of child snatching. Guatemala is one of the top sources of adopted children in the world. In 2007, the country tightened its adoption regulations following allegations of profiteering and infant trafficking.

“Suspicion there runs so deep concerning foreigners’ intentions with children that the U.S. State Department warns tourists against interactions with them. The tourists who do risk becoming victims of mob violence.

“The U.S. State Department’s profile for Guatemala notes that:

in 2007, two foreigners (including an American citizen) and a Guatemalan kayaking on a river near Chicaman, Quiche were accused of stealing children and seized by a 500-person mob (estimated). Although threatened, the individuals were not physically attacked. The incident occurred after the group had been talking and joking with a local boy on the river bank. In Sayaxche, Petén, rumors escalated into mob action against a Guatemalan couple believed to be involved in child stealing. The husband was beaten and burned to death, and the wife threatened, but was eventually turned over to the police. A local American resident was also seized and threatened with death when he tried to intervene with the mob. In the same area, a family of American tourists, along with several Guatemalan motorists, was held overnight at a road blockade for possible use as human shields. Mobs have also targeted police, resulting in delayed or ineffective responses by law enforcement.

“Unfortunately, O’Dwyer’s book makes clear that the paranoia surrounding this issue causes problems for families who have only the best intentions. It often makes them easy prey for dishonest profiteers.”

Read Steven’s entire review here. And if you know anyone with an interest in Central America, please tell them about Mamalita.


Good news for 44+ pending cases in Guatemala, reports Associated Press

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Reported by Nacha Cattan of the Associated Press, in an article titled Guatemala to renew adoptions halted midway by ban, on August 21, 2011:

“Guatemala has issued a decree that could speed up dozens of adoptions by U.S. couples that have been stuck in limbo since the Central American country suspended adoptions in 2007 amid allegations of fraud and even baby theft.”

“The decree says that parents whose adoptions were halted midway by the ban can complete the process if they prove a “prolonged” relationship with the child and that they were not responsible for any fraud, among other requirements. The possibility of a domestic adoption must also be ruled out.”

“But it might not go far enough to solve all pending cases, says Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who will visit Guatemala this week to, among other things, push to expand the program to more U.S. adoptive parents.”

This is a positive step in the right direction. Read the entire article here.


Missouri and Moguate Summer 2011

Friday, August 19th, 2011

My mother reared five children and I still don’t know how she did it. Around this time of year, she likes to remind me of her favorite cartoon from that era: The final frame depicted a mom throwing flowers at a departing school bus as it carried her children to their first day of school. I laugh every time she tells me.

Which is just another way of apologizing, yet again, for being delinquent in posting. Summer! It’s nonstop! And we’ve been all over the place. Believe me, I have loved every minute of school vacation–the kids are the perfect age for traveling, filled with wonder and enthusiasm, up for anything and everything–but our activities haven’t left much time for blogging.

Here are a few photos. The one above, taken by adoptive dad Mark Acker, is of the group from Moguate, a gathering of families with children from Guatemala. The name derives from Missouri, where the organization is based, and Guatemala, of course. Founded by the hilarious and charismatic Cindy Swatek, Moguate is held at the Tan-Tar-A Resort on the Lake of the Ozarks the first weekend in August. If you live anywhere nearby, I suggest you go. The weekend’s main activities are ripping down the waterslide, cooling off in the giant swimming pool, and eating pizza. But in the meantime, we adoptive parents share life stories, and in their own way, our kids do, too. In a summer of wonderful activities, Moguate stands out as a highlight.

While you’re in the Lake of the Ozarks, check out the kid-friendly activities in the area.  One of our favorites was the Meramec Caves in Stanton, Missouri. The hour-plus walking tour ended with a recording made by the late great chanteuse, Kate Smith, belting out “God Bless America.” We didn’t try the zipline, but we did sample the dark-chocolate homemade fudge. Outstanding.

I insisted we drive to Branson, and because our kids are fascinated by books about the Titanic, we visited the Titanic Museum. The exhibition included vintage photos, letters, and objects, as well as a re-creation of the ship itself. I don’t know who enjoyed the experience more–the kids or my husband and me. For those few hours, the Titanic’s ill-fated voyage felt very real.

Driving back to the airport in St. Louis, we stopped at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City, to view the newly restored and spectacular murals by Missouri-born artist Thomas Hart Benton (above). The excellent guide at the Capitol tipped us off to a locally famous ice cream parlor, the Central Dairy. In honor of my southern-born mother, I ordered a double scoop of her favorite flavor, black walnut.

That one cone alone made the trip worthwhile.


Reading in Mill Valley, CA on Thursday, August 18; and at the Wordstock Festival in Portland, OR in October

Monday, August 15th, 2011

I’ll be reading in my neighborhood this Thursday, August 18, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the O’Hanlon Center for the Arts in Mill Valley, California. The reading is part of the O’Hanlon’s “Local Women Writer Series: Readings and Conversations.” Our theme is “Hellos and Goodbyes.” Other readers are Blair Campbell, Karen Benke and Katy Butler. If you live in the Bay Area, please stop by to say hi!

Thursday, August 18, 2011, 7 to 9 p.m.

O’Hanlon Center for the Arts
616 Throckmorton Avenue, Mill Valley, CA 94941
Local Women Writers Series: Readings and Conversations
Cost: $10, $8 OHCA members
Theme — Hellos and Goodbyes. Readers — Blair Campbell, Jessica O’Dwyer, Karen Benke, Katy Butler

While I have your attention: I’m delighted to announce I was invited to the Wordstock Festival in Portland, Oregon, on a date TBA between October 7 to 9, 2011. Details to follow.


Both Ends Burning Campaign to stage march on Washington DC

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

Two weeks ago, our family attended MOGUATE, a gathering of adoptive families in Missouri and neighboring states. While there, I met an American mother, Y, with a daughter, Z, from Guatemala. When Y accepted the referral of Z, her daughter was a baby only a few months-old. Today, Z is a four-year-old girl.

Z has been home with Y and her husband and son for seven weeks. The case dragged on for four long years.

Y is a member of the Guatemala900, the families who have been trying to finalize the adoption of their children since the shutdown of adoptions from Guatemala in December 2007.  Y told me that the turning point in their adoption process occurred after she participated in a march on Washington, DC. After that, someone, somewhere, in a position of authority, reviewed Y’s case, recognized the paperwork was legal and in order—simply, for no real reason, stalled–and moved it forward. This being a case in international adoption, complications naturally ensued. But at least an end was in sight, and, finally, came.

Every day that a child is in institutional care is a day that child pays for later down the road.  I’m sorry, but from my observations, conversations, and experience, it’s that simple.

On Friday, August 26, from 2 to 5 p.m., the Both Ends Burning Campaign will stage a march on Washington, DC, Step Forward for Orphans. The event will take place on the National Mall-Childrens Carousel near 9th and Jefferson, Washington, DC.

If you are in the area, or can get there, please add your voice to the plea of parents everywhere who are waiting for their children.


International adoption article in Slate

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

I was shocked to discover reference to my “excellent” book in What Stolen Children Mean for Adoption by KJ Dell Antonia in the August 5, 2011 edition of Slate. From the third paragraph:

Every single adoption is its own story, with its own tragedies and triumphs, and every adoption has to be handled individually. That’s not a view that’s going to make adoption any cheaper, or faster, or easier. But better to move closer to a system of one adoption at a time, as Ethiopia is doing, than risk either more corruption or an end to international adoption. Because for every story like that of Yang Ling, stolen in China at 9 months old, there are untold happy endings…  There’s Jessica O’Dwyer, whose excellent book, Mamalita, chronicles her experiences within the corrupt Guatemalan system as an adoptive parent. She moved to Guatemala for months to care for the child she planned to adopt and worked her way out from under a corrupt lawyer and facilitator to eventually locate her daughter’s birth mother herself and hear her story before the adoption was finalized.

I’m thrilled by the mention, because Dell Antonia’s article is one of the few I’ve ever read that discusses adoption’s real and challenging complexities. The final paragraph says it all:

Every single adopted child has a different and complicated story of heartbreak and joy and tears and sorrow. Every single one has a birthmother with another story, and an adoptive family with another story. When it comes to adoption, particularly international adoption, many people (like a number of the commenters on this morning’s New York Times piece), want to reduce those stories into generalizations and policies, when we should be trying to do just the opposite, and make sure that all of those stories have a place to be told. When we try instead to create rules that cover everyone, we tend to put in place systems that are even more easily corruptible than individuals. The easy answer to the “question” of ethical international adoption? It’s always got to be hard.

Amen, KJ Dell Antonia.


A commercial interruption…

Monday, August 8th, 2011

I still want to say more about this summer—Latin American Heritage Camp in Colorado; a visit to Guatemala where we met up with Service Trips to Guatemala with Leceta and Common Hope; and a week in Missouri that included our first-ever attendance at MOGUATE, a gathering of families with children from Guatemala.

But first, I want to officially thank Adoptive Families Magazine for naming Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir to AF’s 2011 Best Books List. The other four titles named are No Biking in the House Without a Helmet by Melissa Fay Greene; The Waiting Child by Cindy Champnella; The Kid by Dan Savage; and In Their Own Voices, edited by Rita M. Simon and Rhonda M. Roorda. I’m honored our story is included among such esteemed company.

Thank you, Adoptive Families!