Tag Archives: What I’m reading

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.


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.


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 focuses on the 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.

What I’m Reading #16

Clearly I’m out enjoying the summer instead of writing blog posts. Here’s some summer reading for you.

I mentioned in my Choosing An Agency series that you should ask an agency’s policy on pregnancy during the process because some don’t let you continue if you should become pregnant. One agency with this policy writes about their reasons for having it.

NHBO features a story from a parent who experienced a difficult transition after adopting an older child but through a long road of hard work was able to integrate their daughter into their family.

Elizabeth Curry has blogged her annotated reading list on trauma. It’s such a wonderful resource that I added it to the updated version of my book. If you are looking to expand your knowledge beyond The Connected Child, look for suggestions here.

Holt’s blog featured a look at life in an area of northern China where the poorest people live in caves. It’s a feature story geared towards increasing child sponsorships through their agency but I found it interesting reading, regardless.

WACAP’s blog features an adult adoptee’s perspective on “Gotcha Day.”

Another WACAP blog post breaks down waiting children by age, special needs, and addresses other issues such as trauma. Kudos to them for moving beyond the kind of “orphan problems would be solved if everyone brought home one adorable baby” stereotype that I often see from agencies.

Andrea Olson guest blogs at NHBO about their family’s preference to adopt a girl and how that changed over time.

NHBO also had a great interview with Amy Eldridge of Love Without Boundaries. Be sure to read Amy’s thoughts on care packages.

Many families are caught off guard by oral adversion–feeding difficulties that often come with older children who were never fed solid foods. NHBO has a detailed personal experience here.

As I have mentioned before in my post on considering which special needs to be open to, few parents are open to needs which involved disordered sexual development. This family shares their personal experience in adopting a child with the special need of ambiguous genitalia which later turned out to be diagnosed as hypospadias.

On the Holt blog you can read interviews with children who were adopted at an older age about what that experience was like from their point of view.

Since China is requiring more couples have a psychological evaluation now, I wanted to share the website of a doctor recommended by many in the adoption community who does distance evaluations quickly for a reasonable fee.

The Donaldson Adoption Institute discusses dissolutions prompted by the State Department’s 2015 report which showed that 59 children adopted from other countries ended up in state care.

Speaking of which, the 2016 report is now available.

The Economist has an article discussing the Han majority and Chinese identity.

At Adoption.com the article Meeting Your Child discusses typical reactions of children on adoption day.

A gallery of Qing Dynasty photos from China before the Communist revolution.

Finally, thanks to Rainbow Kids for featuring the Post Adoption Documents post on their website.

What I’m Reading #15

Allison, who wrote a guest post for me on adopting an older child, has posted a 4 month update on her blog.

The adoption agency EAC has shut down after being debarred from adoptions for the next 3 years because of ethical violations.

What’s the Big Deal About Birth Order? on MLJ Adoptions is a great read for those considering adopting out of birth order.

At The Chronicle of Social Change, a discussion of how more adoptive parents are becoming aware of the need to secure documentation for their internationally adopted child in light of the new immigration policies.

Because the US State Department has received such a high volume of inquiries from adoptive parents, they have issued a notice with information clarifying a number of adoptive immigrant citizenship issues.

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection, a series of hand colored photographs from 1870’s Shanghai.

All Things Considered looks at how scientific research has revealed that institutionalization causes changes to the brain. It primarily focuses on Romanian orphanages, but the information will be relevant for those from China as well.

In Foreign Policy magazine, a young woman compares her life after being adopted by an American family with that of her orphanage friend who was not. You can read a similar article about the same young women at Sixth Tone with many more additional pictures.

MLJ Adoptions has a great post explaining what post placement reports are and why you should complete them.

WACAP’s blog has a post from an adoptee writing about how her feelings about “Gotcha Day” have changed over the years.


Two new memoir reviews

153607842One book which I have seen recommended several times in the Chinese adoption groups is Home is a Roof Over a Pig by Aminta Arrington. I picked it up at my local library. It turned out to be one of my favorite reads in this genre. Aminta writes about how she and her husband decided to adopt a daughter from China after having their first child, a daughter. While they were waiting, they had a son. In 2003, they received the referral for their daughter from China. A few years later, they decided to move to China. Arrington’s book is a memoir of their first two years in China.

This 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.


screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-52-44-pmThe other China related book I read during my break was 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.

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.