Monthly Archives: November 2016

What I’m Reading #14

As National Adoption Month draws to a close, I hope that you have found my blog posts to be helpful in gathering information if you are considering or in processing of adopting through the China Program. Please feel free to comment or contact me to suggest other topics you would like me to write about on the blog.

My son August will be having surgery tomorrow on his leg, so I plan on taking a blog hiatus for the month of December as he recovers and to better enjoy the holiday season with my family. I have gathered plenty of reading material for you in this post to tide you over until the New Year.

Adoption Related

Creating A Family has all the info on 2017’s Adoption Tax Credit.

NHBO has a nice summary post of trust based parenting practices.

Speaking of TRBI, Full Plate Mom recently attended a week long training session in Texas on TRBI. She has a post full of book recommendations for learning more at home.

Elizabeth at Ordinary time has a post discussing how the emotional/developmental age of a child adopted at an older age will not match their chronological age.

WACAP’s blog has a good look at post adoption services for their agency which includes a frank discussion of adoption dissolution. Kudos to them for discussing this taboo topic.

Interestingly, Holt’s blog also ran a post on post adoption services in November, and birth parent search and reunion seem to be a smaller portion of their services than it is for WACAP. I think the amount of time they spend assisting adult adoptees with paperwork issues underscores the importance of adoptive parents doing their due diligence there. Both posts point are good reminders that you should ask a potential agency about their post adoption services.

I’ve enjoyed several of Holt’s blog posts during National Adoption month. This one gives a nice overview of how care in China’s orphanages has changed over the past decades. This one gives advice on sharing photos of your child on social media before adoption finalization. The behind the scenes view of What Social Workers Actually Do was also interesting. You can read my own contribution of how we were matched with our son August here.

Finishing up my agency blog picks, Lifeline’s blog has a great article Holiday Tips For Waiting Families which you will find helpful if you are adoption limbo during the holiday season.

China Related

An essay on the pressures of being an only child in China in the Asian Times.

Sixth Tone looks at the rise of pregnancies across China nine months after China amended the one child policy to a two child policy.

Very interesting essay in Foreign Policy from an Asian American woman who relocated to Hong Kong for several years.

 I had been running away for a long time. I had run away from being a “victim” of American racism to become part of the perpetrating class in Hong Kong. I had hid from the yellow face in the mirror and pretended, with my perfect English and my elite education, that I was someone else. I had tried to “go back to China,” only to find myself more American than I’d realized.

The South China Morning Post writes that the latest government figures put the population of “left behind” children in China at almost the same amount as the total population as Britain.

Sixth Tone has an article on the lack of palliative care in China for the many children in the care of the state who have terminal illnesses.

An adult adoptee discusses her changing perspective on her adoption with a friend who is also an adoptee from China.

China Highlights, a guide service, has a good page on cultural taboos to be aware of before traveling.

Media artist JT Singh has created a 3 minute ode to Shanghai which is beautiful and fascinating, if somewhat dizzying.

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Supporting Adoption

I’ve been blogging this month for National Adoption Month. This past Sunday was celebrated as Orphan Sunday in many churches. Today is World Adoption Day. That’s a big spotlight on adoption this month! Is all of this emphasis simply to get more people to adopt? Nope.

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-12-58-31-pmMaybe you’ve seen a graphic like this one. I think this is a great way to highlight the many ways that people can support adoption. However, I think that these are a little out of order. I think adoption should be down at the bottom of the list. So what do I think should be at the top of the list? Family preservation.

Most of the children available for adoption are not true orphans. They have one or both parents living. In places like China, they are available for adoption because of lack of access to medical care. In America, they might be available because of drug addiction. In Haiti, they are available because of poverty. In fact, poverty is a pretty universal reason for children to be available for adoption. They don’t really need a new family. They need food, medical care, access to education, and a functional family who can care for their needs.

A few months ago I saw a local news story being passed around on social media. A church pastor became aware of a woman who could not care for her toddler twin daughters due to poverty. She lived in another country, in a village where his church ran a mission. He helped the woman to go through the process of making her daughters available for international adoption. A couple in his congregation felt called to adopt the girls. However, the congregation pulled together and raised $50,000 so that the couple could adopt the twin girls. Cue the heartwarming happy ending. Only I was left thinking, wouldn’t it be great if we could intervene with families to help them before they get to the point where their children are adopted into another family?

That’s where the “sponsor” part of the graphic above comes in. Even if you never adopt, and people ever will, you can help keep families together. Here are a few charities with a China connection to get you started:

  • Love Without Boundaries– Providing medical care, education, and foster care to orphans in China. LWB’s Unity Fund provides funding necessary for medical care to families in crisis.
  • One Sky– Originally founded as Half the Sky, this organization improves institutional care through training nannies and founding nurturing and educational programs within Chinese orphanages. The name was recently changed to One Sky when they began programs focusing on the “left behind” children of migrant workers.
  • Morning Star Foundation– This charity provides funding for heart surgeries for orphans in China and Uganda. In addition, their Love Project promotes family preservation through funding heart surgeries for families in medical crisis.
  • Holt International– While Holt is familiar to most as an adoption agency, their primary focus is humanitarian aid. Holt has child sponsorship programs in China enabling you to sponsor a child in a family in crisis—usually a single parent or grandparent-as-parent home. The sponsorship provides the child’s educational expenses, allowing the child to stay in school.
  • Unbound is an excellent organization with child sponsorship programs around the world, although not in China specifically.

Here in the United States, you can volunteer in several way to help with family preservation:

Now we’re getting down to the adoption part of the list! You can help other families to adopt by:

  • Contacting your congressional representatives and asking for them to make the Adoption Tax Credit permanent. The tax credit makes international adoption an option for many families.
  • Supporting grants for children by donating to Reece’s Rainbow.
  • Supporting grants for families who are adopting through charities such as Brittany’s Hope.
  • Support adoptive family fundraisers by doing some of your Christmas shopping on the Shop With Purpose facebook group.

Finally, you can consider adopting yourself. Here are some resources to get you started:

Many families decide to adopt through adoption advocacy. It can be easier to say yes to adoption when you are saying yes to a particular child or children.

I have been advocating for twin boys in China for over a year and a half now. They are four years old, and I cannot confirm that they are even eligible to be adopted any longer. They were born prematurely but are physically healthy at this point. The reason they have been waiting so long for a family that their orphanage no longer considers them adoptable is that one brother likely has mild to moderate autism. At any given time, there are at least a dozen families in process to adopt a child with Down syndrome. However, the stigma against autism seems to be even greater.

There are SO MANY wonderful resources here in America for kids with autism. Parents now expect their children with autism to grow up to be functional adults. Videos of the autistic twin show many good indictors such as good object tracking, crossing his midline, being held and touched in an appropriate manner. He also handles noise and his play being interrupted very well in the videos. If an interested family were to stop forward, we could convince the orphanage to once again make them available for adoption! You can see some additional pictures here or contact me directly atmineinchina@zoho.com for more information.

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My Favorite Adoption Resources

It’s been about three years since I posted my top adoption resources, so I thought it was time to update that post for National Adoption Month. I’ve read a whole lot more adoption books since then! Reminder: I’m not an Amazon affiliate, so when you see a link for a book, it just takes you to an author interview or a book review. You can order them through Amazon using the Love Without Boundaries affiliate link.

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If you are just starting to consider adoption but not quite sure about what it would look like, I suggest:

Baby We Were Meant For Each Other. Simon writes the story of he and his wife’s adoptions from China, but he also includes the narratives of several other families so that a wide variety of adoption experiences are included. Simon adopted back when adoption from China meant healthy infant girls, so keep in mind that his experience is not going to be typical of today’s China adoptive parent. If you are an NPR fan, you’re probably familiar with Scott Simon of All Things Considered.

No Biking In The House Without A Helmet by Melissa Faye Green is laugh out loud funny. While Melissa and her husband are probably not your average adoptive couple since they adopted mostly boys and older children, everyone can enjoy her humorous look at her large international family. She doesn’t shy away from reality though, talking about her difficulty in bonding with her first adopted son, the challenges of “virtual twinning” when they adopted a son the same age as a son already in the family, and even religious issues such as sitting down with the two older Christian boys they were considering adopting from Ethiopia and explaining that their family was Jewish. Melissa will really make you feel that adoption isn’t just for the super parents, but is something that even the average parent can do.

I highly recommend getting familiar with the  Creating A Family website. I listened to hours of podcasts from Dawn Davenport. I started with podcasts on how to decide whether foster, domestic, or international adoption was the best fit for us. I listened to a podcast on adopting when you already have biological children, toddler adoption, and how to consider which special needs to be open to. While we were waiting to bring Leo home, I listened to more specialized podcasts such as language development in internationally adopted children, feeding issues and nutrition in adoption, and bonding with your child while still in country.

IScreen Shot 2013-11-16 at 1.29.49 PMDawn Davenport’s book The Complete Book of International Adoption is a great resource if you decide that international adoption is the best fit for your family. Davenport is very systematic in taking you through the various factors to consider. She includes lots of narratives from adoptive parents, and I love that she always includes an even amount of pros and cons on issues like deciding if you should take your child(ren) with you on an adoption trip. Because this book is older, some of the country information is out of date but most of the information is very helpful, even if you know that Russian adoption is closed down for Americans.

 

If you know you are going to adopt from China and want to know more about China’s adoption situation I recommend:

The Love Without Boundaries series Realistic Expectations and The Changing Face of China’s Orphans.

screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-1-36-29-pmWish You Happy Forever– Jenny Bowen, founder of Half the Sky, writes the story behind the charity.  Her experience adopting her daughter inspired her to change the way orphans were cared for in China, one child at a time.  She writes about the changes in orphan care and population throughout the book.  I was particularly shocked to read about the origin of the AIDS crisis in Henan, which I was unfamiliar with before reading the book.

The Heart of an Orphan by Amy Eldridge, founder of Love Without Boundaries. I absolutely loved this book. However, I can’t say that I couldn’t put it down because I couldn’t read more than a couple of chapters without needing a break. Amy’s book is basically a collection of stories about children she has known through her work with Love Without Boundaries. It’s the heartrending emotional rollercoaster that you would expect.

Each chapter also tells some part of Amy’s story of how Love Without Boundaries grew, but also her personal growth. I really appreciated her nuanced discussion of sensitive topics. She discusses how her view of parents who abandon their children changed as she worked to provide surgeries for children still in their birth families. How she came to recognize the adoptive parent preference for girls as she saw, over time, how the orphanages were filling up with boys but families did not step forward as quickly to adopt them. She even acknowledges the challenges of older child adoption while discussing the plight of children who reach the age where they are no longer eligible for adoption.

I feel a little odd in writing such a short review for a book I want to rave about. It’s simply that it’s hard to describe it in the way it deserves. I think that Eldridge’s memoir, along with Jenny Bowan’s (of Onesky/Half the Sky) Wish You Happy Forever, should be required reading for those in the China adoption program. They are both far more relevant for families in the current process than the frequently recommended Silent Tears.

And, you know, my book. Which I always feel self-conscious about recommending but as far as I know it’s the only book that takes you through the process of adopting from China.

 

If you’re in process and killing time waiting to meet your child, here are the adoption parenting books you should pick up:

Screen Shot 2013-11-16 at 1.44.08 PMWhen parents in online adoption groups are asked for book recommendations, Karyn Purvis’ The Connected Child is always mentioned over and over again. Karyn wrote about her work with children “from hard places” and she was always in demand as a speaker at adoption conferences. Sadly, she passed away earlier this year after a long battle with cancer. The Empowered To Connect website is a wealth of information, with many videos and articles. I appreciated the science heavy information in The Connected Child which explained how things such as prenatal drug and alcohol exposure, trauma, or malnutrition cause chemical changes in the child’s brain. She gave many ideas on how to work through challenges, and many of them were very simple such as offering the child chewing gum because chewing reduces stress.

EMK Press is another website with many good articles available. They offer a free ebook called Realistic Expectations which many adoptive families have found helpful.

Attaching Through Love, Hugs, and Play by Deborah Gray gives practical advice on how to parent your child in a way which fosters attachment. Writing up a more in depth review for the blog is on my to do list.

How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk is not an adoption book, but one I had on my parenting bookshelf already. I find it just as helpful for my adopted children as I did for my biological ones. I find that it goes hand in hand with connected parenting. When my youngest son was melting down multiple times a day because he was frustrated by not being able to communicate in English, I found myself making statements like “That must be really frustrating” or “You are really mad!” Now he has the vocabulary to share what he is feeling. He will say “Dat fwustwating” or more often “I MAD AT YOU!” This is a really easy to read book which will change your conversations with your children for the better.

Love Me, Feed Me by Katja Rowell is a great book focusing on the many food related issues which can be a struggle for children adopted from institutions.

If you want to become familiar with Chinese culture and life:

Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother by Xinran- If you want the back story on how those lost girls ended up at the orphanage, this is the book to read.  Xinran’s book is jaw-dropping and heart-rending, but keep in mind that she collected these stories over 20 years ago so they are not necessarily an accurate account of the situation in China today.

Wild Swans–  This is the story of three generations of women that span pre-revolutionary China to the 1980s.  It is a real page-turner, but will help you to understand the various movements that occurred within the Communist era.  It really helps you to understand the turmoil which went on for decades within China. If you read Wild Swans, read this article as a follow up to see the contrast between those born after 1980 and those who lived through all of the Communist era conflict and hardship.

Home is a Roof Over a Pig by Aminta Arrington. This is my favorite in the “I went to live in China” memoir genre. Arrington is herself an adoptive mother. Allowing her two children from China to experience life in their native culture as well as to obtain Chinese fluency was a primary motivation in their family moving to China.

153607842This is really a combination of what I liked best about Dreaming in Chinese (my review here) and Awakening East (my review here). Like Dreaming in Chinese, Aminta shares how her quest to learn the Chinese language helps her to better understand the Chinese people and culture. The title refers to the Chinese character for home, which is a roof over the character for pig. Learning the Chinese language, especially the characters, gives her insights into her host culture. Amina is also very interested in the Chinese educational system. She teaches university students English at the same time that her three young children are being immersed in the educational system at a local Chinese kindergarten. She shares the strengths and weaknesses that she observes as both a teacher and parent. The Arrington family continued to live in China for many years. I couldn’t help but marvel at the wonderful opportunity it was for her children to become bilingual by moving there at just the right time for them to begin in primary school.

Aminta is a keen observer, both of others and within her own family. She narrates the process of acclimating to the foreign culture. She honestly describes a time when she and her husband realized they had somehow taken the habit of using the adjective “Chinese” in a negative way, as well as their awareness of how it might impact their daughter adopted from China. Throughout the book she relates Chinese cultural habits in a way that always treats them with respect and humanity, unlike other “I lived in China” memoirs which can slip too easily into “Let me tell you how crazy everyone here is.” There are plenty of humorous stories included.

Eating Bitterness, by Michelle Loyalka, is about China’s migrant workers. Unlike Factory Girls by Leslie Chang, this book focuses on the personal stories of migrants who are a variety of ages. Most are married, but a few are single. Some live with their spouse and child/ren while others are separated because of work.  It is also a little unusual in that it is based out of Xian instead of Guangdong Province.  Once again, there are the constant themes of the generational attitude differences and the rapid change in Chinese culture in such a relatively short amount of time.  I think this book is a little easier to read than Factory Girls because of the variety of people and because, frankly, it was edited better.

Five Reasons to Adopt From China

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November is National Adoption Month! I thought I would kick off the celebration by giving some reasons why China’s adoption program might be a good fit for your family.

1. The process is streamlined and predictable. Unlike adopting from foster care, domestic infant adoption, or programs from some (but not all) other countries, the China program has a clearly defined set of steps. Most families will bring home a child 10-15 months after they begin the process. Many people switch to the China program after a failed attempt at adopting through another program, so the stability is appealing.

2. You have the ability to choose your child’s age, gender, and the special needs you are comfortable with. You will not be assigned a child, nor will you be penalized for declining a file which you do not feel is a good fit for your family.

3. China is generous in granting waivers for families or single women who do not meet the program requirements, particularly those regarding family income or parental health. Recently, they even approved a single man to adopt making this one of the few countries where it is possible for single men to adopt.

[Note: As of January 2017, China is no longer granting waivers. Most agencies expect this to be relaxed after a few months as has happened in the past, but no one can guarantee the future. If you do not currently qualify, speak to a reputable agency to find the current waiver status.]

4. Travel is a single two week trip, possibly longer if you are adopting two children, and only one parent is required to travel. Some countries require multiple trips or a lengthy stay in country to complete the adoption. While this gradual approach is undoubtably better for the child or children being adopted, the fact is that many families could not adopt if that were a requirement. China’s travel requirement is one which most families can meet.

5. China allows families to adopt two unrelated children at the same time. While I would urge families to carefully consider this option before deciding to do it, it is something which appeals to many families. [Note: As of June 30, 2017 this is no longer an option in the China program.]

 

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.