Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project

It is my distinct pleasure to participate in Heather’s ‘Open Adoption Interview Project’, for the first time.  I got matched with Seriously?! from http://stillseriouslyandlovinit.wordpress.com/   Seriously?! has participated in the project before.  She is an adoptive mom who lives in Canada with her newly domestically adopted little one--named "Little Miss" and her husband and fun lab.  Seriously?! teaches 13/14 year olds.  Her blog is an honest and often humorous but emotional journey from Recurrent Pregnancy Loss, to Adoption, to Parenting.  I was very intrigued to hear her perspective of being a new mother and negotiating her relationship with the birth family.  She is also starting the journey of a transracial adoption.  I hope you enjoy my interview questions for her below:

1) What are you doing to transition from being a Caucasian family to being a family of color?


We are in the process of trying to research which Nation/Band Little Miss is a part of.  We have applied for her First Nation’s Status through the Canadian Government, which will be very helpful to her long term.  Currently, our understanding is that she is part Chilean, Cree, and ‘unknown’ aboriginal (if that makes sense), thinking Stolo…but still trying to figure this out.  The great thing is that our school programs offer Aboriginal Support Workers that work with the kids weekly to help celebrate pieces of their heritage that they may not get elsewhere.  Luckily for me, being a teacher, I’ve got someone to pick their brain for ideas at home.  So, once we get a better idea of Little Miss’s lineage, we can look at celebrations/cultural pieces that are specific to her Nation(s)…through that in with a Spanish mix, and we’ll be having quite the party! I’m excited to introduce this to our entire family!



2) What surprised you the most about adopting--both the positive thing you weren't expecting and the challenge you were not expecting?


What surprised me most, was how open I actually became with our birthmother/family.  Openness really scared me in the beginning because I just had no idea of what it looked like.  And now, I enjoy our visits so much together and want Little Miss to know her sisters and her mother.  I truly do love her other sisters so much.  They are quite an ‘at – risk’ family; it always breaks my heart leaving them because I know that Little Miss’s upbringing and lifestyle will be so drastically different.  It makes me sad but I know that I can’t adopt them all, nor should I.  Birthmom loves all of her girls very much and is doing the best that she can.


The challenge, was that I had trouble attaching in the beginning.  I’ve written about that before and do attribute it to being so terrified that she would be taken back, after she was born. We had quite a bumpy start with our birthfamily and my RPL history led me to be very protective of my heart.  I couldn’t take another loss.  It took me a couple of months to let go of that fear and open my heart completely; accepting all of the risks that came with loving her.  It was almost like starting a new relationship after a break-up.  You are guarded, unsure if you can completely let go, but then when you do, it is the most rewarding experience ever.



3) How are you talking to your daughter about being adopted?  I know that she is too young to be verbal about it, but what are you doing now (like celebrating


Little Miss will always know that she is adopted.  We have several story books already to help guide our conversations.  She is still an infant so these conversations haven’t really started happening. It’s not something that you can really plan out, it will just be a natural part of parenting.  Questions will arise and we will always be open to answer them.  As she grows older, her understanding will deepen, and conversations will broaden appropriately.  But the great thing is that she’ll always know her birthfamily; we’ve made a very strong effort to keep that tie strong.  While it may change over the years, Little Miss will always know how loved she is by all of us.


We make a big deal of all of the dates that surround her coming to our family.  The day we called the agency, the day we got the call, the day she became ours ‘forever’.  I’m so glad that I was blogging during that time as I hope to show her just how amazed and excited I was that she was coming to join our family.  I can just see her rolling her eyes at me when she’s a teenager…”Today was the day that…blah blah blah…EEEEEEEEEEEEK I’m so excited”.  “Oh Mom!!!”  ;)



4) What "advice" would you give someone who is planning on adopting that you wished you had received?


Be really honest with the birthfamily and always know what your limitations are.  Our boundaries can always change but can also become very blurry when you are still in the ‘match’ process.  Draw your line in the sand and start on how you intend on continuing.  I actually did receive this advice from a dear friend in the ALI community, but it would have been very helpful to have known that before the drama started to arise during our placement/match process.  You have to remove yourself from the ‘outcome’ of bringing that baby home and stay true to your values/beliefs on how you intend on having your relationship continue.  Detach from the outcome – period.  Emotions can often drive us into situations that we are very uncomfortable with.  ‘Reason’ needs to prevail during this incredibly difficult and exciting time.



5) What are the major issues that have arisen around open adoption? Both the things that you expected and the things you did not?


The major issue is us having to shut down communication/openness with Little Miss’s birthfather for current safety concerns.  We had not expected this but are just moving through it as it currently is.  Understanding him more, has helped us reflect back and helps to explain why some events occurred early in our relationship: things that we were not very comfortable with.  It has also affirmed that your gut reaction is usually always spot on.  Listen to that little voice, always.


If you feel uncomfortable about something/someone; examine it, ask questions, reflect about yourself, and then proceed forward continuing to stay true to your values.  What I’ve always felt is a strong connection towards our birthmother.  It’s really important to be able to separate members of the birthfamily and not let one person’s actions completely dictate your relationship with the other people in the family.  You have to be able to separate things, if you can, and always put the needs of the child first.  For us, safety became an issue a few times.  So we’ve closed the areas that need to be closed for the time being, and left the others open until proven otherwise.



6) If you could do things differently around your adoption process, what is one or maybe a few things you would change, and what are some things you would keep the same?


I wouldn’t really do anything different other than giving the agency a piece of my mind when I thought that they were dropping the ball on us. I’m still pretty upset about the way they handled things.  I know that our adoption situation was very complicated and not a ‘normal’ local adoption, I guess I just expected that the agency would provide more support for us during those challenging times, especially given the circumstances. From what I hear around the blogosphere though, this seems to be a very common theme.  Disappointing for sure.


But would I have another birthfamily just for the ‘ease’ of an easier placement????


Not a chance.  It was all worth it.  And I truly believe that my heart is so much more full because of all of the children (sisters) now in my life.



7) How is it different adopting transracially versus adopting a child of the same race as you and your husband.


We have become very aware now of First Nation’s celebrations and cultural events in our community.  Honestly, it’s like we’re finally listening to information that has always been out there; information that we previously might not have felt we had to celebrate.  Vancouver is a very multicultural community, so we have many celebrations recognized throughout the year.  Now we just have something extra that is dear to our heart.  What’s amazing is how strong the Aboriginal community is here.  The West Coast is abundant with resources, museums, and stories about Aboriginal People.  We’re very fortunate for that.  Now we just have to also figure out more about her Chilean routes.  We’ve become a unique multicultural family; I look forward to the many new discoveries we still have to make!
Through conversations with our friends and family, we’re learning that our adoption has also affected their understanding of transracial families. Some have even gone so far as to say, that they have become more understanding/less judgmental; which is great. I think we’ve all grown personally from this experience. Any time we can lose judgment and open our hearts to more compassion for others, is truly mindful and purposeful living. I’m so happy that we’ve been able to experience our adoption in this way. In a way, we are not only educating ourselves but also those around us. Together, we are all growing as individuals because of this amazing experience.

Thanks Seriously?!, for sharing your experience and letting all of us into your life as you continue to negotiate through the world of adoption and parenting.  Welcome to the world of Transracial Adoption.  I feel like I have made a new friend!  If you’d like to read more of the other interviews that took place with this project that was facilitated by Heather, from Production, Not Reproduction, please click on the link below and enjoy! This link should go live at 1:00 a.m. PST, November 14th.



Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I just had a friend and co-worker send me this article:
It brings to the point another area that we need to think about.  What is your child dressing up as for Halloween?  This is an area that people can say "oh, it is just mean in fun" or "you're being too sensitive" but are we?  What messages are we sending to our children about their racial or cultural identity?  It is important that we are aware of the images that we expose our child to and have around our homes. 
None of these images portray those cultures or races in a positive light.  They are demeaning and harmful.  And because they are "just joking" they are insidious.  The images undermine positive self esteem in a passive aggressive manner. 
Now that it is brought to your attention--it is your responsibility to bring it to other people's attention and to continue to change the world.
That said, though--Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Checking Boxes

As an adoption caseworker, there is a form that my families have to fill out and we jokingly call it the "boxes form."  It is a list of races that the adoptive family would consider for races of the birth parents.  It is always a challenging form.  First we all want to be "politically correct" and here is a place where we have to be brutally honest.  The question is not can we love a child of a different race.  That is easy--"yes"  If I brought in a baby at my first visit and said "here, s/he is yours."  Most (like 99%) of the people would accept and love that child.  The issue is can you raise a child of a different race.  Can you help a 6 foot tall African American man negotiate the world?  Can you help a 16 year old Latina girl with her identity?  Can you help your child at the age of 6? At the age of 10? At the age of 13? of 20?  Our children are babies for a very short time. 

However, we have to make this decision at the very beginning of the adoption process.  We don't want to match people with a birth mother who has fallen in love with them and they meet her and then decide they cannot do it.  It is a time of real soul searching.

It is hard enough to see our children in pain.  But to see them a victim of racism is intolerable.  But that is what we sign up for. 

But what is racial identity?  My daughter is about to go to middle school.  I am in the process of touring and looking at not only what is right for her academically and socially but what is right for her racially.  Where will she see other kids that look like her.  Fortunately I am very lucky in that I live in the Richmond District of SF and the two that I am considering have a large Chinese population.  However, is she really Chinese?  If she goes into a Chinese community and does not open her mouth, they would accept her and think she is Chinese.  But once she starts to talk and behave, she is clearly Caucasian.  If she goes into a Caucasian world, she is clearly not White, so she doesn't "fit" there. 

Here is my current dilemma.  For the school that I want for her, it would help her get in if she were "white" because of the way schools are made up and how things are determined here (a subject of another very long post! and too complex to go into at this time.)  I feel I can actually make an argument and check the "white" box for her.  Although I am trying to raise her to have an understanding and love for the Chinese culture, and am devoted to helping her with her racial identity, will she ever really by "Chinese?" Probably not :(  Can I use this to her advantage at this time?  I don't know.  Since she is neither accepted in either world, can I make a case for her to be in the "white" box?  She currently says that she is half Chinese and half Irish.  So she looks Chinese, but feels both Chinese and Irish.  I think an argument can be made that the "white" box can be checked.

What do you think?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Olympic shot put medalist shouts out for adoption


Although I agree with part of this--and I understand he was adopted at age 5 from foster care, but I have some issues with the reporting of it.  First, why is his mother called his "a mom" for "adoptive mother" and not mother--unless that is something they worked out and his "adoptive father" is just his "father"? 

I don't consider myself an "adoptive mother" or my child to be an "adopted child."  Rather I am her mother and she is my child.  She also has a biological mother and a foster mother and we created our family through adoption, but I am very careful of the labels we use in our home.  I wish the writer of this article had been as sensitive.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Different races, different reactions

As many of you know, I have daughter who was born in China, so my personal experience has been raising a daughter who is of Chinese culture.  I have been taking care of a little boy--13 months old who is Moroccan.  He has beautiful dark brown eyes and curly brown hair and is of medium complexion.  I have been noticing that when I am walking with him, I have been getting noticed by many people who are African American and who acknowledge him (and me.)  I have been told by mothers who are raising African American children that in that culture/race, it is common to acknowledge each other on the street.  As well, this baby and his family live near the Filmore district.  At first I thought it was just because he is cute.  But yesterday I was walking by a younger group of African American girls--teens??  And one of them said "Is that a sister?"  It took me a second to realize she was talking to me (as I was pushing him up hill in a stroller) and my response was that he was a boy, but his eye lashes were so long that it was hard to tell.  She smiled at me and said how cute he was and what beautiful eyes he had and the other girls around him smiled and talked to him.  Along that same street, I had an African American store keeper stop me and give me a balloon to put on his stroller.

Often when I am talking to couples about adopting transracially I talk about the differences and the challenges that occur.  But these last few weeks and these experiences remind me of the wonderfulness of adopting transracially---the invitation into another race and/or culture that as a Caucasian woman I would not normally have access to.  It also reinforces the openness and love that babies bring in the world and that can happen between all races. 

I think at times, we get caught up in how "hard" it is and how much responsibility we have--and don't get me wrong, it is the responsibility of us as parents.  But, please remember how wonderful it is as well.  I would not have had these experiences and shows of love if I had been walking with a child of the same race.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Important Kickstarter Project about Chinese girls


The preview is very interesting and for me personally, was the reason I started the Transracial Adoption Workshop at Adoption Connection.  Take a look and support if you can.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

"African American" or "Black"

In a January 2011 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 42% of respondents said they preferred to be called black, 35% said African American and 13% said it doesn't make any difference, and 7% chose "some other term"

The article went on to say that this younger generation of people preferred to be called "black" instead of "african american" because of many reasons.  1) "african american" sort of screams this political correctedness 2) or it is a word that people who aren't black use to describe black people 3) it is a political tool.  In a Senate race against Obama in 2004, Alan Keyes implied that Obama could not clam to share Keyes' "African American heritage" because Keyes' ancestors were slaves.  During the Democratic presidential primary, some Hilary Rodham Clinton supporters made the same charge.  Last year, Herman Cain, then a Republican presidential candidate sought to contrast his roots in the Jim Crow south with Obama's history and he shunned the label African American in favor of "American black conservative."  Then there are some white Americans who were born in Africa.  Paulo Seriodo is a U.S. citizen born in Mozambique to parents from Portugal.  In 2009, he filed a law suit against his medical school, which he said suspended him after a dispute with black classmates over whether Seriodo could call himself African American.  "It does not matter if I'm from Africa and they are not" wrote Seriodo at the time. "They are not allowing me to be African American!"  And so, the saga of the name continues.