Posts Tagged ‘adoption’

Annual gathering of GuateAdopt families

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

Here I am at the front door in my huipil from Coban, Guatemala, as our first guests arrive for our annual party for adoptive families with children from Guatemala. Our community is what makes this party amazing. About one hundred people attend: Kids everywhere, while parents share stories, fellowship, and food.

I’m always happy when I read about other folks/organizations around the country also hosting gatherings. It’s very special to watch our kids grow up together while we grow as parents. We love our community!

photo by Susan Hurst.

ShareThis

Interview on birth country connection

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

A week or so ago I posted about Sliding Into Home, the new YA novel by my friend and fellow Guatmama Nina Vincent. One of the themes in Nina’s book is connection to birth country. Nina interviewed me on the subject, posted today on her blog. Thanks, Nina!

Here’s an excerpt:

NV  I know that you have made it a point to have your children learn Spanish. Can you talk a little bit about why you felt that was important?

JO’D  The first year we went to Latin American Heritage Camp in Colorado, we attended a panel discussion led by young adults who’d been adopted from Central and South America. The audience was filled with adoptive parents and the question was asked, “What’s your advice for us? What’s one thing you’d like us to know?” And to a panelist, each of these young adults said, “Teach your children Spanish. Even if your kids rebel and resist. Keep trying.”

Language is power. It’s the way we connect with one another. You’ve heard the expression: “We speak the same language.” When we go to Guatemala, it’s great to be able to communicate directly with people. Speaking another person’s language often leads to deeper understanding of that person.

What’s interesting is the way my kids’ attitude toward Spanish has evolved. When they were younger, they studied the language because they didn’t have a choice. They took Spanish in school; they studied for a month every summer in Guatemala; and for five years, Olivia attended a two-week Spanish immersion camp in Minnesota (Concordia).

All that learning was directed by us, their parents.

But as teenagers, they’re out in the world as independent operators. Because of the way they look, strangers start speaking to them in Spanish. Kids at school who are bilingual speak to them in Spanish. My kids want to speak Spanish if only because everyone assumes they do. To become fluent is their goal now, not mine.

And let’s face it, being able to speak another language is totally cool.

ShareThis

Hidden Figures

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

Drop everything you’re doing and make time to watch Hidden Figures. Mateo and I saw it this afternoon with two friends, ages 12 and 13. The film touches many subjects important to our community: civil rights in America, women in math and science and academia, single parenthood, family, achieving one’s potential, feeling empowered enough to dream.

Funny, smart, gripping. My vote for the Academy Award still goes to LION. But thrilled to see Hidden Figures in the race. What a terrific season for movies!

ShareThis

Movie Review of “Lion”

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Yesterday, the kids, my sister Patrice and I saw “Lion.” As you probably know, the film tells the story of a five-year-old boy in India, Saroo, who is separated from his older brother at a rural train station. When Saroo gets off the train hours and miles later, he is alone and lost in the teeming city of Calcutta. Saroo spends several harrowing months surviving on the streets before a woman who runs an orphanage places him with loving adoptive parents in Tasmania, Australia, where he lives for the next twenty years. As an adult, Saroo is happy and healthy and seems well-adjusted. But, inside, Saroo is tormented by the loss of his family in India—Where is his mother? What happened to his brother? And wouldn’t they have spent the past twenty years worrying about him?

Through the wonders of the newly hatched Google Earth and after months and years of obsessive calculation, Saroo is able to recreate his journey and locate his family in India. His mother, thankfully, is alive. His brother, tragically, was killed on the same day he and Saroo were separated. The film ends with a gorgeous scene of reunion.

If you’re reading this, you may know my daughter Olivia is fourteen, my son Mateo twelve. We searched for and found each of their birth mothers in Guatemala when the children were seven. We visit Guatemala every year, often with my sister Patrice, and are grateful we are able to maintain birth family contact.

Okay. Back to the movie. Caution: The themes are mature. The theme of adoption, first. The theme of losing one’s family and being separated from people who share one’s blood. The theme of not-knowing where your birth mother is or what happened to your siblings. As every adoptive parent knows: Those themes can trigger very strong reactions in our children. Nightmare-level reactions. And they’re front and center in ”Lion.”

Second, the theme of treachery by adults. When Saroo is lost and alone, bad people do bad things, to him and to other children. Nothing awful is shown on screen—everything is alluded to and suggested. Yet, still: It’s terrifying to watch, certainly for young children, and, depending on the individual, for tweens, teens, or adults.

That said, the film was mesmerizing. My normally squirrelly kids didn’t move or talk. They forgot to eat their popcorn. We knew how it would end, but the ending still deeply moved us. When Saroo finally walks through the streets of his village, remembering places and colors and smells, and then his mother appears and they recognize each other and embrace, my very cool teenage daughter, who rarely reveals her emotions, sobbed. Broke down, weeping. Twelve-year-old Mateo was also moved, although he didn’t cry. “Here come the waterworks,” he whispered to me as he leaned in close. “You and Olivia.”

The film allowed Olivia to witness a reunion from the outside—as an observer instead of a participant—and gave her room to experience emotions that may overwhelm her when the reunion is her own. She reacted the same way I react when I see either of my kids with their birth mothers, every time. A complex mix of great love and great sadness, resulting in many tears.

Afterward, Olivia said “Lion” was the best movie she’d ever seen. Her summary: “Saroo grew up in a safe place and then he found his birth family. That’s a good story.” Mateo especially liked the relationship between the brothers; my son’s greatest distress came with the news that Saroo’s brother had been killed. My sister Patrice saw the movie twice. She said the second time around, with us, the film seemed “even sadder.” After a moment, she added, “Aren’t you glad you found their birth mothers? So they don’t have to go through life wondering.”

Yes. Yes. Yes.

“Lion” is based on the memoir by Saroo Brierley, “A Long Way Home,” which I recommend, and which our Adoption Book Group is discussing later this month.

Consider seeing “Lion,” by yourself or with your children. Like all powerful works of art, it will make you feel and think. It may leave you changed. ~

ShareThis

Article on adoption by Todd VanDerWerff

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

Genes aren’t destiny, and other things I’ve learned about being adopted,” by Todd VanDerWerff, a writer who is adopted, resonated for me. Number 6, especially, made sense: “Transracial adoptees often have it hardest of all.”

I forget where I was recently, but this conversation came up, and the conclusion reached by the participants was that one of the hardest things about being adopted was the transracial piece–the “not looking like my parents”–because the fact of adoption could not then be avoided. In other words, the reality was plain for the world to see, even if one wished that it weren’t, at that moment, if ever.

This, in addition to the expected issues caused by possibly being “the only [fill in the blank] person” within a large radius. Plus, being subjected to racism–subtle or egregious.

I also admire the way VanDerWerff presents side by side two (seemingly) contradictory statements, such as: “Your adopted family is your ‘real’ family” and “It’s also not your real family, and that can make you feel like an alien.”

Exactly.

The longer I’m an adoptive parent, the more I understand how complex the subject is–to me, there is no subject more complex–and in this article, Todd VanDerWerff expresses some of that complexity. Bravo.

ShareThis

Thoughts on “Gotcha Day”

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

For National Adoption Month, the Huffington Post is running a series of articles on the subject, written by different members of the triad. Here’s a link to a very thoughtful piece by a young woman adopted from China, about the implications of the term “Gotcha Day.” (We don’t use this phrase in our family, just so you know.) The third paragraph is quite profound. Here’s an excerpt:

“Gotcha Day is one of those times when we think about our past and how little some of us actually know about it. We think about our biological parents and wish we knew them and could ask them why they didn’t keep us. We think about what our lives would be like, where would we be, what our futures would look like, had there been no Gotcha Day.”

Gotcha Day Isn’t a Cause for Celebration by Sophie Johnson

ShareThis

Final at last

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Seven years. Seven years! Congratulations to Suann Hibbs of Edina, Minnesota, for staying the course and finalizing the adoptions of her 8-year-old twins and their 7-year-old sister. The girls lived in five different orphanages and don’t yet speak English. As you know, adoptions between the US and Guatemala closed in December 2007, leaving hundreds of cases stranded in process. Adoption between the two countries remain closed, and likely will for the foreseeable future.

Here’s my plea to friends from that part of the country: Please reach out to Suann Hibbs! I bet she would welcome support from fellow adoptive parents, and her girls would love to meet other Guatemalan children who have lived here longer. No one understands the road Suann and her girls will be traveling as much as the families and children who have been there. We gain strength from each other. Again, congratulations!

Watch the news coverage here.

ShareThis

Obsession

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

I have to tell you, at least several people known to me wish I were a little less obsessed with the subject of adoption, and one of the most vocal of these lives in my own home. I’m not naming names, but last night, again, this person said to me, “Mom, why can’t you leave the house like other mothers? Join a gym or meet someone for coffee. Go shopping. Think about any topic except adoption and Guatemala. Do something besides write. Please!”

I don’t disagree. Because, honestly, I’m not sure what drives my obsession or why I believe it possibly can do any good. But then, earlier this morning, I read an article titled “Romanian orphans face challenges decades after adoption,” which includes these sentences:

The Bucharest Early Intervention Project (BEIP) has studied the effects of institutionalization on orphans in Romania for the past 13 years. Working from a small lab in a former Bucharest orphanage, researchers from the US and Romania have compared children growing up in institutions with those living with families.

“We found that institutions are a particularly toxic environment in which to raise young children,” says BEIP’s lead researcher Charles Nelson, a professor of pediatrics and neuroscience at Harvard Medical School.

Institutionalized children exhibit everything from reduced IQs to reductions in brain size and activity, he says.

The researchers say that although any time spent in non-family situations is harmful, their work suggests institutionalization past the age of 2, and in some cases earlier, causes irreversible effects.

That’s grim news for the 8 million children UNICEF says are living in institutions worldwide today.

… I read those paragraphs and thought, Somebody’s got to care about this. Somebody’s got to pay attention, and think about this, and write about it, until more people pay attention and change is made.

For now at least, one of those somebody’s seems to be me.

And based on the evidence—the recent Russian protests against Putin’s adoption ban; the countless news reports and blog posts about the reformers, filmmakers, and aid workers who continue to work toward ethical and transparent adoption; my conversations with fellow adoptive parents whom I know personally and virtually, who are doing their best to raise great kids while staying connected to birth culture and birth family; my chats with friends who are not associated directly with adoption, yet still care about the plight of children without parents around the world—I realize, in a deep and very encouraging way, obsessed I may be. But I am not alone.

Today, for my family’s sake, I will get out of the house. Maybe run over to my favorite local bookstore and see if there are any new books about adoption. Or Guatemala. Or even better, both.

xoxo

ShareThis

A quarterback and his birth mother

Friday, December 7th, 2012

I’ve written many times about searching for and finding our children’s birth mothers, and how, for our family, that connection remains vital. But not everyone feels the way I do, as evidenced by this article about the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaerpernick, who was relinquished at six weeks, and his birth mother, who would like to establish a relationship with him as a grown man.

There are many 49ers fans who would love a moment of contact with quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

But the one with the deepest, yet most tortured connection is Heidi Russo, his biological mother who gave him up for adoption.

When she watches him from the stands, she hopes that one day, they can again meet.

“Then the other half of me calms me down and I just sit there and cheer like the rest of the people,” Russo told Yahoo’s Jason Cole. “I kept looking at him, thinking our eyes might meet. He might finally see me. I kept thinking it happened, but he never came to see me after the game.”

For his part, Kaepernick hasn’t sought out contact, and Russo said she respected his decision.

But she has also met with Rick and Teresa Kaepernick, the couple she turned her baby over to six weeks after he was born.

“I knew they were the right people immediately,” said Russo. “The first thing Teresa did when she met me was give me a hug. They were such giving, wonderful people from the moment I met them.”

They also set the stage for Kaepernick to grow up in a comfortable, two-parent home which the then-19-year-old Russo could not.

“I know I couldn’t have given Colin everything he needed growing up,” Russo said. “But I ask myself a lot of the time, ‘Would loving him have been enough?’ . . .

Be sure to read the comments following the article; they demonstrate the range and depth of emotion surrounding adoption, for people who are adopted and for the mothers who relinquished them. Once again I’m reminded that nothing about adoption is simple, or easy.

ShareThis

Adoptive parents who are older

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

As an older adoptive parent to two young children (ages 10 and 7), I’m always interested to see how other people handle the situation. Notice I didn’t write “challenge,” because for many folks, older parenting doesn’t present any more challenges than parenting when younger. In fact, couldn’t one say that parenting at any age challenges some more than others? The struggles remain constant regardless of age.

Parenting a child requires love and energy, of course, but it also requires dedication, and a single-minded drive to go the distance. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. More important than chronological age is level of commitment.

In this article on Huffington Post, Too Old To Adopt? Not The Case For These Parents, Ann Brenoff profiles several women and men who adopted as older parents, and whose children seem to be growing and thriving and doing just fine.

You’re never too old to adopt or love a child, say adoptive parents who were midlifers when they welcomed new family additions. In some cases, the parents had already raised children; for others, it was jumping on the parenting train for the first time before it left the station for good.

***

Lori McCoy’s adoption story had a more painful beginning: She lost her seven-month-old son to a form of muscular dystrophy. Her recovery from the death of her son took years. McCoy, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area (and blogs for The Huffington Post), was 47 when she and her husband adopted Chanti, a 3-1/2-year-old girl from Cambodia. That was 10 years ago.

At 57, Lori finds she’s not the only older mom in her daughter’s class. “I know many who are my age or darn near close to it. Honestly, my age isn’t even a factor in our lives.

***

Karen Bradley, a 50-year-old single mom in the Phoenix area, had three biological children and then adopted another three. At the time of her last adoption, she was a week shy of her 46th birthday. “From a very early age, I always knew I wanted to adopt,” she said. “I fostered kids for nine years, and after seeing children returned to homes that were less than ideal, I decided to pursue international adoption.” Her first adoption was at age 40 — Kevin, a 4-1/2-year-old boy from China. She then adopted two more times: Bryndan, a 2-1/2-year-old girl from China when she was 43 and a seven-month-old baby girl, Macyn, from Ethiopia when she was 45.

“In some ways, being an older parent is easier,” Bradley said, “because I feel like I am more patient and have realistic expectations. I understood, and accepted the fact that adopting at such a late stage in my life would mean pushing retirement out until [Macyn] graduates college,” Bradley said, adding, “[it's a] small price to pay for the absolute joy she brings to our lives.”

 

ShareThis