Tag Archives: What I’m reading

Book review: The War That Saved My Life

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I recently read both The War That Saved My Life and the sequel The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Both books are about a girl named Ada who has a club foot, lives in a difficult family situation, and has her life changed for the better when she and her brother are evacuated from their London home during World War II. The War That Saved My Life is a Newbery Honor book which is read by middle grade students in many schools. If you have an older adoptee who will be reading it, you should be aware that it could trigger strong feelings in them but it could also be a wonderful platform for discussion.

While these books aren’t about adoption in a way that relates directly to the international adoption experience, I was really struck by how accurately Bradley portrayed trauma through Ada’s choices and reactions. When you are being educated about trauma as an adoptive parent, it’s all very abstract. It’s hard to visualize what this might look like in your life. While Susan, who becomes the caretaker for Ada and her brother, responds in an intuitively connected way that is rather unlikely for the time period, I think that she serves as a wonderful model.

As you read through the books you will find Ada:

  • Reacting instinctively out of fear
  • Displaying food anxiety
  • Disassociating as a coping mechanism
  • Struggling to assimilate into normal life after a deprived upbringing
  • Persisting in her role as primary caregiver to her younger brother
  • Pushing away Susan so she won’t be disappointed by her loss later
  • Experiencing nightmares
  • Being calmed by being wrapped tightly in a blanket
  • Sabotaging birthdays and holidays
  • Benefiting from hippotherapy (riding and caring for horses)
  • Being conflicted about her feelings toward her mother

If you want to learn more about connected parenting for children who have trauma,  I recommend the reading lists compiled by Elizabeth at Ordinary Time and Becky at Full Plate Mom. But after you’ve read the manuals, consider picking up these two as supplemental reading.

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What I’m Reading #21

I know it has been a while since I updated the blog. First, we’re past most of the big changes so there hasn’t been a lot to report. Secondly, one of my sons has had a big surgery and has been in and out of the hospital so I’ve been busy with his care. However, I didn’t want National Adoption Month to pass by entirely without a blog post so here are all of the articles I’ve saved over the past few months.

The biggest news is that about a week ago the CCCWA released instructions regarding foreign adoptive parents traveling back to visit orphanages on heritage tours. Orphanages can no longer charge for these visits, they must let families tour the orphanage, view the child’s file, and be generally welcoming. You can read the initial China News Net release here using Google Translate.

The Atlantic recently ran a feature about Second Chance Adoptions called When Families Un-Adopt a Child.

Korean-American adoptee Nicole Chung recently wrote a memoir titled All You Could Ever Know which has been well received in adoption circles. The Fraught Language of Adoption is an interview with her which explores her feelings about adoption.

The National Council for Adoption has an interesting breakdown of the financial aspects of international adoption agencies in their post Where Does All the Money Go?

From China File, a look at how China’s NGO law has effected international adoption.

Chuck Johnson, of the National Council for Adoption, penned an opinion piece for USA Today accusing the US State Department of being anti-adoption and blaming their policies for the steep decline in intercountry adoption over the past 15 years. I feel the decline is because the population of children available to be adopted internationally has changed from healthy infants to older children and those with special needs. However, many in the adoption community share Johnson’s opinion.

On WACAP’s blog read the heartwarming We Could Have Missed This: Adopting a son.

The Global Times ran an article looking at the factors involved in China’s increasing birth defect rates.

Elizabeth Curry responds to the ever popular question of why anyone should consider adopting internationally when there are children in the US needing homes.

Holt’s blog has a post on considering alcohol exposure as a need for your child. This is typically seen in Korean adoptions rather than China because there is no birth parent information in Chinese files. However, it is still good information to keep in mind.

From WACAP’s blog, a summary of the changes they’ve seen in the China program and why they still feel it’s an excellent choice for families.

Adoptee Ashley Westerman reports on international adoption for NPR’s Morning Edition. You can find links for both parts here.

Kristin writes a poignant post for NHBO on her feelings about not being able to move forward with adopting a specific child after China’s eligibility changes last year right after they had sent in LOI.

MLJ Adoptions has a good post on protecting your child’s privacy while fundraising for adoption costs.

Greg Eubanks writes how his perspective has changed over the years about their decision to change their son’s name at adoption.

What I’m Reading #20

As school winds down for the year, it’s a good time to give teachers the resources to plan inclusive assignments for their students. This excellent pamphlet from Adoption Policy gives inclusive assignment alternatives to teachers, as well as succinctly explain why it is important to consider students who were adopted or have other alternative home situations when planning lessons.

Time magazine’s The Realities of Raising a Kid of a Different Race is very well written article on the complexities of racial identity for cross-culturally adopted children.

I was contacted by Daniel Cassiel, an adoptive father, who has developed a Mandarin translation app for adoptive parents. It is available for both Apple and Android phones. You can read more about it here.

WACAP has a blog post offering tips on how to foster attachment to both parents when a child prefers one. This is a very common occurrence that can cause one parent to feel rejected and the other overwhelmed.

Because most adoptions today involve children with special needs, Lifeline’s blog post Nine Things Parents Need to Know About Occupational Therapy will be helpful to many families.

Caroline Wang’s A Letter to Asian Girls is a difficult but necessary read for parents raising Asian girls. Contains profanity in the context of things men have said to Wang.

WACAP staff suggests 18 movies related to adoption or foster care.

On the One Daring Adventure blog, see their 3 week China itinerary for a family trip with their large-ish family. Many families want to make a return visit to China with their children at some point, so consider this inspiration for you.

What I’m Reading #19

The US State Department has announced the fee structure for the new entity of IAAME, which will replace the COA as adoption oversight entity. You can read the announcement, fee structure, and FAQ here.

However, agencies are objecting to this fee structure is being likely to increase adoption costs for parents and possibly shutting down small adoption providers. They say that the above statement is written specifically to present the fee changes in the best possible light. The National Council For Adoption, along with many adoption providers, are asking concerned families to contact their member of Congress on February 7th and 8th to voice their opposition to it. You can read more about this here.

I’m still seeing a lot of questions about the move to an all shared list China program. I have a general post here which explains the changes if you are unfamiliar with them. I cannot give any information as to changes in referral time because many agencies are still receiving partnership files at this time. It is possible that many LID files will still be designated to agencies for matching even after the partnership files have officially ceased. I know this change is causing a lot of uncertainty for people, but unfortunately we simply have through 2018 to see how these changes play out.

The CCCWA’s change to not requiring an orphanage donation is still causing controversy and hard feelings among adoptive parents who have or are traveling recently. The CCCWA apparently released the notice without consulting or notifying the provinces. Many orphanages were completely caught off guard by donations ceasing because, very unfortunately, many families have taken the opportunity to donate little or nothing in order to save on adoption costs. Please families, take the time to read this post from Tammy Wombles, who works at an orphanage in China so is on the ground observing the changes, before you decide to skip the donation.

Don’t forget to catch 28 Days of Hearts 2018, where you can read the story of a child who was adopted with CHD every day in the month of February.

Echo Parenting & Education has a great concise summary of the impact on trauma which would be good to share with educators or family members.

From A Musing Maralee blog, read My Kids Are Not Your Sales Pitch which discusses how adoptive parents should consider their child’s privacy when deciding how much personal information to share. The Lifeline blog has an article on the same topic here.

The lunar new year will be here next week. The Living Out His Love blog has many great suggestions for celebrating including decorations, books, and recipes.

ABC News has an article discussing how bestsellers”Blue Nights” and “Steve Jobs,” expose an unspoken truth in the adoption world: Fear of abandonment is universal.

MLJ Adoptions has great post giving tips on how to help your child adjust to their fear of your family dog.

For a pick me up, check out this video from The Archibald Project focusing on Bethel China.

What I’m reading #18

The big news in the China adoption community is that the CCCWA has announced that the orphanage “donation” is now a true voluntary donation. Parents may donate as much or little as they like. You can read the text of the announcement on CCAI’s blog here. As usual, no reason has been given for this change. Some speculate that it is connected to China’s crackdown on corruption. Others think that it will be replaced with a fee to the CCCWA which will be distributed more evenly.

I have been saddened that the general consensus from parents is rejoicing at the savings. Many have been vocal that their child did not benefit from the donation, that there were orphanage directors who pocketed the money, etc. While it’s true that corruption exists and there are still some orphanages with poor conditions in China, most now how toys for the children, better caregiver to child ratios, provide some medical care and therapies. In any orphanage relatively few children will have a file prepared for adoption. Most will live there until they become an adult, or even throughout their lives depending on their medical condition. I am very concerned about the impact the loss of this donation (since apparently few will care to donate more than a token amount) will have on the children. I think it’s possible fewer files will be prepared if the orphanage has no incentive to do so, but we will have to wait to see how it plays out.

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Another big conversation generator this past week was the release of a 30 minute BBC documentary which follows an adult adoptee being reunited with her family in China. The twist in this case is that Katie’s parents in China had left a note with her, asking to meet them on a famous bridge after 10 or 20 years. The parents began waiting every year there for her. They were on tv in China several times. When Katie was around 10, her adoptive parents sent someone to the bridge. They found her parents and had some contact with them. However, they did not share this information with Katie until she was 20. A print article which contains more information than the rather rosy documentary indicates that this has caused some hard feelings between Katie and her adoptive parents.

This is a story which pulls together many of the hard aspects of adoption. Katie seems to be a mature young woman who recognizes the difficult situation her birth parents were in because of the laws in China. Her adoptive parents have been strongly criticized for their decision. I think it’s important to keep in mind that adoptive parents are human, too. Many people choose China specifically because an open adoption is not possible. Perhaps when they found out that Katie had parents in China who loved her and deeply desired contact they became scared of losing her so that is why they shut down contact. On the other hand, there is a vocal minority which says that the decision to search for birth parents should always be initiated by the adoptee. It is not the job of the adoptive parents to make that decision for the adoptee. Because adoptees feel so strongly about either option–to share information or to wait until the adoptee initiates–Katie’s parents could have made the wrong decision either way. They can only know in hindsight that they have harmed their relationship with their daughter by not being more open with the information they had.

In the documentary Katie says that they told her they would have mentioned it if she had asked. She says “but we never talked about adoption.” That’s one reason to listen to adult adoptees as you are raising your children. So many adult adoptees say that adoption and racism were never discussed which caused them to feel they could not confide in their parents. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking your child is too young for a topic, so you will talk about it later. Katie’s mom said Katie was too young, then puberty is a difficult time, then as a teenager you are finding your identity, and the next thing you know she’s 20. It’s so easy to fall into that trap, especially if the topic is one that you aren’t really very comfortable talking about.

My children from China are 6 and 4, so I am far from an expert here. However, because of listening to adult adoptees and experienced adoptive parents, we try to find times to mention adoption or our sons’ first families in China. They don’t have a good understanding yet of what it all means, but it opens the door to future conversations. I think the impulse to tiptoe around these topics must be universal. The other day when I mentioned a son’s first mom in China, my 8 year old said “Shh! Don’t tell him that, it will make him sad!” Maybe Katie’s adoptive parents were trying to spare her feelings or maybe they were trying to spare their own. Either way, please watch the short documentary as a jumping off point for discussions in your family.

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Those two could have been blog posts on their own, but I do have a few more links for you.

For those considering older child adoption, a new book has been released which seems like it will be a great resource. It includes experiences of families who have adopted older children internationally. You can read more about it here.

Holt International has a blog post discussing characteristics that make a family a good fit for older child adoption.

This time of year people often ask about Chinese or Asian nativities. Someone posted this resource in a group. It’s a Chinese screen painting that is available as a laminated or wood mounted print. There are four choices and all are lovely.

In Christianity Today– International adoptions drop as evangelical funding spikes

MLJ Adoptions has a post about the W.I.S.E. Up Powerbook, a resource I highly recommend as well for helping your child to know how to respond to questions.

On NHBO, Stacie writes about life with VACTERL. “VACTERL stands for vertebral defects, anal atresia, cardiac defects, tracheo-esophageal fistula, renal anomalies, and limb abnormalities. People diagnosed with VACTERL association typically have at least three of these characteristic features.” While this sounds scary, Stacie explains how their family has made adjustments and what sounded difficult has become routine.

 

What I’m Reading #17

China’s rule changes have prompted many online discussions about best social work practices and their impact or lack thereof on adoption disruption. Child Welfare.gov has a short handout which discusses known risk factors for adoption disruption or dissolution.

The CCCWA has invited families or Chinese adoptees “who are interested in obtaining additional information about their child’s or their own pre-adoption background.” Some feel this is in response to the increasing popularity of families hiring private agents to find the birth family of Chinese adoptees. You can find the statement and contact info here.

Research-China is keeping a list of birth parents who are trying to find their child. The list is organized by city and orphanage. Matches are verified via 23andme.

Great post with considerations on adopting out of birth order or virtual twinning.

The Atlantic has a photo essay entitles The Chinese Art of the Crowd with visually interesting photos which are unique to the Chinese population.

The New York Times ran a photo essay with previously unseen photos of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

InterCountry Adoptee Voices has an essay from a male Chinese adoptee from the 1990’s discussing his experience being a boy at a time when almost all Chinese adoptees were female.

Someone unearthed this article from Architect Magazine which discusses the US Consulate in Guangzhou as an award winning design.

An article in The Economist discussing the decline of adoption in America.

Instapots are very popular now. If you have one, check out this collection of pressure cooker Chinese recipes.

Liz Larson, an adoptive mom and counselor with a specialty in trauma, gives tips on how to build a loving bond with your child from day one.

Amy Eldridge of LWB writes this essay on the importance of permanence for orphaned children.

No Hands But Ours ran an excellent article discussing the practical side of adopting a child who is HIV positive.

From the WACAP blog, one mother shares her experience adopting a 7 year old boy.

For those of you considering adoption from China, the Stauffer family has been documenting their entire process on their YouTube channel. They are currently in China so it’s a great time to follow their journey. Some of the videos are on Myka Stauffer’s personal channel, such as one on what they packed for the trip.

Book review: One Child

I’ve been wanting to read One Child by Mei Fong for awhile. It finally came available at my local library so I picked it up to read on vacation. I thought this was a solid book which touched on many topics of life in China today which are related, but are typically treated separately. Fong has lived in China for many years, and the amount of interviews she included to illustrate the points really helps you to see what it is like to live this as a Chinese citizen.

Fong discusses the development of the “one child” policy. She was able to interview both people involved in developing it, as well as people who were publicly opposed at the time. She spent some time discussing a campaign to convince citizens to voluntarily reduce the number of children they choose to have. She felt this was more effective than the one child policy would eventually become. It is generally accepted that as a country achieves industrialization and education rates rise, there is a corresponding drop in birth rates. I think it’s likely that this preliminary push to reduce birth rates fell at the same time that China reached this industrialization/education point, so it might not have been the campaign alone. Fong also discusses why she feels the birth rate will not increase despite the lifting of the family planning regulations. For many married couples who are both only children, the responsibility of caring for four aged parents in the future causes them to feel they cannot take on the financial burden of a second child, too.

Fong examines the sacrifices that parents make in order to have their only child be successful in life. This puts an enormous pressure on the child. It also causes the parents to feel some amount of ownership over the child’s life as an adult. For example, the pressure to marry soon after graduation from schooling. Being of Chinese heritage herself, Fong does a good job putting all of this into context of the culture views of filial piety. She also includes sections on the migration of young people of fertile age for jobs, and how the grandparents often end up parenting their children. She looks at the lives of parents whose only child died past the point where they could have another child and how not having a child to care for them could impact their future welfare.

Difficult topics like the means used by the government to enforce the one child policy, such as forced abortions or sterilizations, are discussed by Fong in depth. When discussing the disadvantage that uneducated men have in the marriage market, she travels to one such town. Trafficking women to be sold as wives has become a problem in rural areas like this, but she also encounters a pair of men who were swindled by women who agreed to marry them for a very high bride price but ran away with the money soon after the weeding.

There is a chapter on adoption in China which was mostly accurate. Fong feels that she was an unwanted daughter in a family which highly values males, so I don’t feel she touched on the fact that boys are also available for adoption, nor does she really recognize that in urban areas girls are become preferred because boys are so expensive. She juxtaposes the China adoption program with the skyrocketing infertility rate in China, looking at infertility treatments which are available there. She quipped that there are more wealthy Chinese couples traveling to American for babies (through infertility treatments or surrogacy) than there are American couples traveling to China to adopt. Considering the steep decline in international adoption, I think that’s likely true.