Monthly Archives: October 2016

Important Information for Adoptive Parents

This blog is read primarily by people who are adopting or have adopted relatively recently. Those of us who are adopting are benefiting from the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which automatically grants citizenship to children adopted internationally by US citizens. Unfortunately, this was not retroactively effective leaving thousands of adoptees, who were adopted internationally during the previous decades, in a vulnerable position. Not all adoptive parents took the necessary steps to complete the citizenship process for their children.

The sad results of that inaction are that adult adoptees have been and are being deported if they commit even minor crimes. You can read a long list of adoptees deported as adults on the Pound Puppy Legacy website. While I’m sure everyone agrees that it would be better to never have committed crimes such as possession of marijuana or shoplifting, the punishment of being deported to a country where you have never lived and do not speak the language seems excessive. All adoptees whose parents failed to complete their citizenship paperwork are in a vulnerable position if they ever come to the attention of immigration officials. Deportation has increased over the past decadeThese adults are being punished for the negligence of their parents when they never had a choice in being adopted. 

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-10-31-37-amHow does this effect you? As an adoptive parent, please support these adult adoptees who did not benefit from the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 as your children did. This past week, Adam Crapser, an adoptee who came to the US at age 3 from Korea, was denied a reprieve. He will be deported to Korea and separated from his wife and three children. Crapser, who was abused by his adoptive parents and ended up in state custody, seems to be the victim of a huge injustice. Was the state not partially responsible for securing his citizenship when he was removed from the custody of his adoptive parents? You can read what the New York Times refers to as a “bizarre deportation odyssey” here.

Please consider taking action by:

Finally, remember that this is why it is SO IMPORTANT for adoptive parents to stay on top of paperwork. It’s easy to delay once your child is home. I have seen countless adoptive parents say that they have not secured a US issued birth certificate for their child, lost their child’s adoption paperwork or Certificate of Citizenship. People lose these all the time when they move or in fires. Be aware that the cost of a replacement Certificate of Citizenship will soon be increasing from $600 to $1170! If you know you need a replacement and have been putting it off, submit the application now before the price increase goes into effect.

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Adopting Out of Birth Order or Artificial Twinning

This is the 3rd in my series on special adoption situations. The first was on adopting two unrelated children at once and the second was for those considering adopting an older child.

IMG_5573This post will focus on adopting out of birth order and artificial twinning. Disrupting birth order is when you adopt a child who will not join the family as your youngest. If you have a toddler and adopt a 5 year-old, you have disrupted birth order by displacing your oldest. If you have two children aged 6 and 2, and you adopt a 4 year-old, this would not disrupt any birth order because your oldest would remain the oldest and your youngest would remain the youngest. However, it would still be adopting OUT of birth order as the normal order of adding to the family would be to add a child younger than your youngest. In larger families, the birth order is somewhat fluid. Moving from #5 of 8 to #7 of 9 is not as big of a difference as when you are dealing with one or two children who already have an identity as the oldest or youngest in a family.

Artificial twinning is when you adopt a child under 9 months of age of a sibling. For a time they will be the same age and often will be placed in the same grade at school. Traditionally this is frowned upon by social workers because it disrupts the place of the child already in the family. Now he or she has a “twin” which was not there before. This can cause competition and conflict within the family as the two children struggle to determine who is “alpha” or who is oldest. A child adopted from institutional care would typically be more delayed and immature than a biological sibling of the same age. This might seem to make the artificial twinning a mute point at first, however as time goes on the adopted child might be resentful that they do not get the same privileges of the biological child of the same age such as a later bedtime or driver’s permit.

If you are considering adopting out of birth order or artificial twinning, be aware that this might not be allowed by either your placing agency or your homestudy agency. Generally, the older the agency the more likely they are to stick with what are called “best social work practices.”  These are things such as only adopting one unrelated child at a time, keeping birth order, avoiding “artificial twinning” (ending up with two children of the same age), etc. In most other countries these practices are not allowed but our American independent streak rebels at those sort of absolute guidelines. However, many agencies now are allowing these practices, at least in some situations.

Why any agencies not allow these things? Because agencies which have been around for decades have seen a lot of failed adoptions. I spoke with a representative of an agency often characterized as being “conservative” and “having a lot of rules.” I was told that their top priority was finding the right family for a child. They wanted to make sure that the adoption was successful and they didn’t want to risk the child’s placement by matching them with a family with the potential for disruption.  Please take the time to read my post on adoption disruption for a longer discussion on why you need to keep this possibility in mind as you decide whether or not these special adoption situations are right for your family. Although this article is about whether or not your family is cut out to adopt two at once, these same characteristics will be valuable for anyone considering adopting out of birth order or artificial twinning.

IMG_0584I see people asking about these three situations extremely often in online adoption related groups.  As I mentioned in my post on When You’re Asking the Internet About Adoption, please remember that these groups are full of people who are happy with their experience, and so you will most likely not hear from people who would tell you that they adopted and had a bad experience.  You can hear from many people who disrupted birth order in their family, adopted two unrelated children at the same time, or adopted an older child who was aging out and tell you how amazing it was for their family but that does not help you to know what YOUR families experience will be like.  You are a different family, adopting a different child or children.  That doesn’t mean I’m trying to talk you out of it, I’m trying to make sure that you’ve seriously considered all aspects of the situation.  Thinking about the hard aspects of adoption will only give you more tools to succeed.  Educated and informed families are the best families for children.  

Adopting out of birth order is probably the most common special adoption situation. With the average age of a child adopted from China being 3, there are many families with a toddler at home who do not want to wait for only for files of children who are very young. There are also plenty of families who consider children up to around age 5 with younger children at home. Best social work practice would say that you should adopt a child who is at least 9 months younger than your youngest child on the theory that this would be the closest naturally occurring spacing between siblings. Someone who adopted at the same time as I did spent several months convincing her agency that it would be acceptable for their family to adopt a child who was a mere 8.5 months younger than their youngest so some agencies hold very strictly to these guidelines.

If this is something you want to do, you will need to discuss it with your social worker and placing agency. Much of the success will be determined by the personalities of the children involved but unfortunately you won’t know your new child’s personality when you are making the decision. Here are some questions you should consider before pursuing this path of adoption:

  • Have we considered the personalities and birth order identities of the children already in our family? How will the children in our family likely feel about their new birth order place in the family?
  • What are our expectations for the child we want to add into the family? Have we considered the likely immaturity and behavioral problems of the new child?
  • Are we aware of the natural tendency to compare two children of the same age and how do we plan to deal with that?
  • Can we give a child adopted at an older age the time as “baby” that he or she needs, even if the child isn’t chronologically the youngest in our family?
  • Are we prepared for the baby of the family to imitate undesirable traits modeled by a recently adopted older sibling? Do we have a plan for meeting the needs of the youngest even as we are meeting the needs of the newly adopted child?

Resources on adopting out of birth order and artificial twinning:

 

If you are just beginning your adoption journey and found this post helpful, you might consider buying my book which has all of this information and more, including several chapters on travel.

Guest Post: Adopting an Older Child

This guest post is from Allison who recently adopted a 10 year old boy. They have been home 5 weeks now, 7 weeks since meeting him in China. She shared this post in the Considering Older Child Adoption From China group and agreed to let me post it here on my blog as well. It is a very balanced view of the ups of downs in the early days of adopting an older child.

Edited to add: You can read a 4 month update on Allison’s blog.

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WOW, it seems like he’s been in our family much longer! Overall all things have gone very well. The hard stuff we have been going through is pretty much on par with what I expected  and not what I feared could be.

Andrew is 10 years old and will be 11 in December. He was at the orphanage since he was 10 months old. He has a bleeding disorder called hemophilia; it is severe in his case. He was not allowed to go to public school like some of the other boys in the orphanage due to his hemophilia. He was in simple orphanage classes but is able to read Chinese characters but doesn’t know much pinyin. He is familiar with the alphabet but cannot identify all the letters. He had pretty much no English exposure. He can add numbers but not great at subtraction. He does not have any cognitive issue, as far as we know now. He is bright and seems to pick up on things quickly. As far as his age, I believe it is very accurate. He has a Half the Sky scrapbook that chronicles his early years in the orphanage. He is short for his age and only weighed about 50 pounds when we got him (I think he’s gained a couple of pounds since then.) I chalk up this lack of growth mainly to diet and to lack of muscle since he was not allowed to due many physical activities due to his hemophilia.

As far as attachment, he’s doing beautifully. Really amazingly well. His was one of those dream adoptions where you feel instantly connected to the child from the moment you meet them. We had video chatted some and that helped, but of course hard to prepare you for meeting in person. He is the type of person that makes you fall in love instantly. It’s just who he is. He’s got a genuine smile that comes from deep in his soul and it melts your heart. It’s all him. It’s not us, believe me. My goal was to try to go into the adoption trip with no expectations, just be open to who he was and what he behaved liked, etc. That is hard to do. We brought our 9 year old bio son and that helped as well. It was good for both of them. He started calling us Mama and Baba right away (now it’s mommy and daddy), he wanted to be called Andrew right away. I instantly felt like he was my son. I can’t explain why and I know it’s not the norm, but that’s how it was for me:)

14721458_10210838971436070_7058250333556207044_nAndrew is an extrovert and thrives on social interaction and needs to be engaged with people.
He was very close to a couple of his teachers at the orphanage, they were like his big sisters. He still keeps in contact with them via WeChat. He loves affection, kisses, hugs, holding hands, etc. It’s all very appropriate and natural. No signs of abuse or exposure to lewd material, if you know what I mean. He is modest about his own body and also appreciates and understands that others need privacy, too. (Still the occasional potty/ penis humor typical for boys, he does act younger than his age, but nothing much different from my other 3 boys at home.) He gives the BEST hugs and makes great eye contact. He has pretty good manners, aside from picking his noses with his finger often and of course smacking (but his oldest sister told him how it’s her pet peeve so he’s working on that but also thinks it’s funny when someone smacks at the dinner table because he knows it’s driving her crazy, lol.) He LOVES music and singing and dancing. He prefers to interact with people rather than play alone or on the iPad (he likes the iPad but is not addicted). He’s kind, considerate, loving, open, funny and just an all around great kid.

So for the challenges… it started in China with his first emotional grieving time a couple of days after we got him. Long story shorter, he wanted to go back to the orphanage, but there were a lot of people away for a training that week and they told us his teachers wouldn’t be there and his friends wouldn’t be there. He REALLY wanted to go and became very sad at the thought of not seeing them again. We worked through that time and he let us somewhat comfort him and be near him until he calmed down, it was mainly crying and sad. We wound up going to the orphanage and his teachers with whom he was close were there and they took us out to lunch. I’m very glad we went for many reasons. So important to see where he grew up for the first 9-10 years of his life and also it was important that we met the teachers that he wanted to keep in contact with. I wanted to see what that relationship was like. I had some initial concerns and “momma instincts” that the relationship may be too close, I don’t know how to explain it, but it concerned me that a 10 year old boy was so close to a 24 year old woman. It turns out that there seems to be nothing of concern. We decided that he could use my WeChat account but we didn’t allow him to keep his QQ account. This way I have a way to monitor the chatting and exchanges. From what I can tell, he was just a favorite of these young teachers, and I understand why. He is like their little brother, but he has always referred to them as “teacher.” One in particular was very close to him and shed many tears the day we left. She was very protective of him. He still keeps in contact at least once a week. Now that he has started school, he seems to want to tell them more about that. He also just connected with this Ayi on WeChat and he said she was with him for 6 years.

Okay, I digress, the hard stuff…. he has had unregulated emotional meltdowns starting in China (when we were out somewhere and he got tired or bored.) And they have continued but have grown farther apart. In China it happened a few times when we were out and had to walk, we brought a wheelchair, but he felt ashamed to use it. Because of his untreated hemophilia, he has joint damage and very low muscle tone. He tires easily and he has chronic discomfort since he has arthritis like an 80 year old in a few joints. This is why we brought the wheelchair, but it didn’t go quite as planned, lol. The worst in China was him refusing to move and yelling and crying and stomping when we were trying to get a restaurant in Guangzhou. My husband offered to carry him piggyback, no go. It took A LOT of persuading and I think him finally realizing he couldn’t just stay on the sidewalk. We had some travel companions with us who helped. But he did refused to eat lunch. There were a couple of other instances like that. It seemed to be his way of dealing with a situation or feelings that came up that he didn’t like.

14712631_10210839048758003_4581670611795732931_oHe will still do this, just a recently as Sunday. His younger brothers were annoying him and not being quite, he was tired, he laid back down in bed and started crying, I tried to ask what was wrong, and tried to help, but he had already started down the spiral of emotions and this is where the frustration comes in, on both our parts. He won’t accept help or comfort and proceeds to make the matter much worse and anger comes out and there is no going back, he just has to work through it… usually 30-60 mins total and then he will apologize (he always says “sorry”), he will give me a hug and a kiss. These “episodes” rocked me when we first got home because I had hoped we left them in China, lol…. but I’ve since learned to let him work through them, to try to talk to him afterwards to see if he can learn to regulate his emotions before they get out of hand. He always agrees that is a good idea, but then a few days later, it will happen again. It’s crazy because it’s soooooo not like him. 90-95% of the time he’s happy and joyful and cooperative. But when he’s not, he’s REALLY NOT. Now, I will say, no violence towards us at all. He threw some things around his room once, but usually it’s just a release of anger, frustration, perhaps fear of unknown, and a plethora of things he can’t even put into words.

More recently, we recognized that he is able to control this more than we thought. He is essentially throwing a temper tantrum, and although I understand why he has to get this out, I know that he is making conscious choices to act in certain ways. A couple of weeks ago he got upset about something (it’s always some “small” to us, but not to him) and he said, after 20-30 mins of us trying to get him calm and let us help him, he said that he wanted to go back to China (through translation app). I called that bluff and about 3 minutes later he was calmed down and apologizing and saying “no go to China.” I feel that the episodes are getting less frequent, although they always surprise me when they hit. These episodes include crying, screaming, slapping self in the face and head, pinching own skin (but not too hard, no blood), hitting his legs (he made a bruise on his ankle because he bruise more easily because of the hemophilia, I’m sure he knows that and is part of why he choses to hit himself), will scream at us if we try to talk to him, will plop his little boney bottom down on the floor so hard over and over… you get the picture. The past two times he had an episode he said “you, no I love you… me, no I love you”… and went through the household of names. Trying to show my how upset and angry he is. Then after the storm has passed and he calms down he will say “yes I love you” “yes love you…. Daniel, Joshua, etc.” This past Sunday the other kids heard him screaming and they kinda know the deal but they did hear him say “no I love you.” After we got home from church (my husband stayed home with him) he went to his brothers and sisters and said “wo ai ni, I love you” to each of them. He couldn’t stand the thought of them thinking he didn’t care for them or that he hurt their feelings. The reality is that he doesn’t even know or understand or grasp what the word “love” means. I don’t think they really say that in China. And although I know he was loved because he knows how to love and accept love and affection and bond with people, the word is a mystery to him, even in Chinese. But I can tell you, he has love in his heart and soul and it exudes out of him with a grace that cannot be put into words… but shines through his eyes. This boy of mine…. it’s not been easy, but it’s so very worth it. If there is poster for older child adoption, he should be on it;) Yes, I had fear beforehand,… yes, I think you should be a little afraid,…. yes, I think you should say “yes” anyway. We’ve got a long road ahead, full of bumps I’m sure, but I wouldn’t have wanted to take a different path. I know this is where we are supposed to be.  

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What I’m Reading #13

Lucky number 13, just in time for Halloween! As an aside, I fixed several broken links in the adoption disruption blog post.

One of the things that you need to be aware of as an adoptive parent is that when your child is outside of your protective family or community circle, he or she will be perceived as Asian. That sounds obvious, but many white parents assume that their child will never face discrimination or hear racist comments. The past couple of weeks have had some high profile discussion of how well accepted Asians are in America.

  • Fox News ran a segment where Jesse Watters visited NY’s Chinatown supposedly to get the Asian opinion on the presidential election but was nothing more than a way to make fun of Asians through endless stereotypes.
  • Shortly thereafter, an editor of the New York Times wrote about how a woman had shouted “Go back to China” at him when annoyed at his family on the street.
  • The readers’ responses to that article poured in, painting a sad picture of how those sorts of comments are a daily occurrence to Asian Americans.
  • PBS ran an interview with Gene Luen Yang, author of graphic novel American Born Chinese discussing his experience growing up as a Chinese American. While I have not read the graphic novel yet, this sounds like a great resource to share with an older child for discussion.

Why Chinese Buy Trafficked Babies Instead of Looking in the Orphanage– Child trafficking does occur in Chinese adoptions but it is mostly contained to illegal domestic adoptions.

China’s Illicit Adoption Market Goes Online -Looking at illegal domestic adoption within China

Born In The U.S., Raised In China: ‘Satellite Babies’ Have A Hard Time Coming Home at NPR is a look at the flip side of the left behind children of migrant workers, those children of US immigrants or permanent residents who send their children to live with relatives in China so they can continue to work.

Seriously Blessed posts an interview with her three daughters who were adopted at an older age discussing their thoughts on adoption before they were adopted. This is a wonderful resource for anyone considering older child adoption.

Elizabeth at Ordinary Time writes a letter to the new adoptive parent from her perspective as an experienced adoptive mom.

The Holt blog featured a post on how to advocate for your older child to receive the ELL services they need at school.