Category Archives: International Adoption

as the world turns

earthDo you remember that old soap opera, “As the World Turns?” I wasn’t a fan of the show, but do vividly remember the opening credits, a globe of the earth spinning round and round in space. My favorite soap was “Santa Barbara.” My mom and Grandma Bushmiller got me hooked on that one. When I was in high school, Grandma bought the house next door to us, the same one that our family friends, the Reynolds, lived in for years. I would walk next door to Grandma’s house, and she would have her old RCA turned up so loud that the floors literally shook. Grandma was hard of hearing. She didn’t wear hearing aids, but she sure could have used them. We lived in Bossier City, Louisiana at that time. One weekend, I went to the annual Peach Festival in Ruston, Louisiana, just to meet the actor (A. Martinez) who played the character, Cruz, in “Santa Barbara.” I waited patiently in line that hot summer afternoon to get an autographed headshot. Apparently, A Martinez went to school with some official who lived in Ruston, and that’s how he came to visit the Peach Festival. When it was my turn to get my signed headshot, I told the actor of my dream to pursue acting. He looked at me, not even a hint of a smile crossed his face, and told me not to do it. I don’t remember his exact words, but that was it in a nutshell. Of course, I didn’t take his advice, and after graduating college, I moved to Florida then LA to pursue acting after I’d gotten my SAG card for some bit part I had in a movie. Seems like that time in my life was somebody else’s. I was so young and naive, yet thought I knew it all. I had a lot to learn and, unfortunately, it came the hard way.

Three decades later, I’m still learning. Most people my age have settled into a career and have been at it for years. I’m starting another new job and am feeling the steep climb necessary to learn a new skill set and get familiar with a new role and agency. I do not want to experience anymore transition for a very long time. Speaking of transition, I was in the company of some good friends last night whose son just graduated from high school. I felt for my friends, as I remember the heartache I felt when our daughter left for college. Pure agony. Our kids used to play together, and my friend and I would watch Jane Austen movies while they played. My family and I were in San Diego to celebrate and reconnected with some other families we hadn’t seen in years. We all attended the same church a long time ago. One of the moms said that she was considering pursuing an MSW or Master’s in Education so she could teach. She worked in social services at one time and was familiar with the agency I currently work for. I shared with her the challenges of the social work profession and hoped that I didn’t come across too negative, but felt I had to be honest.

It was really good to see our old friends and their kids. I said that I missed having a school aged child at home. I missed being a stay-at-home mom and all of the running around for extracurricular activities, our daughter’s friends in our home, etc. I taught piano on and off for years while our daughter was growing up so that I could be at home with her. Maybe I should have just stuck with teaching piano. I pursued a Master’s degree in Social Work because I’ve always wanted to help people, especially adoptees and adoptive families. But even more so, I had something to prove to myself, which is probably not the best reason to spend an exorbitant amount of money! In any case, it is what it is. I have a master’s degree in a tough profession. I’d like to believe that over the last few years, I’ve ruled out what I don’t want to do in the profession. It’s taken a pretty big toll on my physical health, but I’m finally in a place I believe I will be happy at for a long time. I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised that it’s taken nearly 2 years following graduate school to figure it out – it follows the pattern of my life – a late bloomer I will always be. I have no one to blame but myself.

So, here’s to new, new beginnings. Ugh, just saying that makes me tired. I pray that it’s the last one for awhile, perhaps forever. Good news, once we get through this month and September, cooler weather and my favorite time of the year, Autumn, will arrive. My oh my, a lot has happened over the last year. I’m beginning to love the area we live in though and finding new stomping grounds. Still commuting to work, so that hasn’t changed. Well, at least there’s one constant…

citizenship loophole limbo

In national news, we’re inundated daily with drama related to the Trump presidency, Obamacare repeal, and Russian hacks, but there is another issue at large that affects thousands of individuals living in the U.S. I’m referring to international adoptees who were adopted to the U.S. prior to the year 1983 who are now at risk for deportation. Despite the U.S. citizenship of their parents, these adoptees were not automatically granted citizenship. In many cases, their adoptive parents did not properly apply for naturalization. Today, many adult international adoptees living in the U.S. are learning that they do not have U.S. citizenship. Without citizenship, adoptees have limited work and travel options, cannot access public benefits or qualify for home loans, and are at risk for deportation to countries where they have no known family, do not know the language or culture, and have less than optimal chances of survival.

In 2000, the Child Citizen Act (CCA) was implemented to protect the status of adopted/foreign-born children by allowing them to acquire U.S. citizenship automatically. This law became effective on February 27, 2001. However, in order to be protected by this law, a child had to be born no earlier than February 27, 1983 – in other words, children who were 18+ years of age when CCA was enacted were left out of the Act causing a loophole to exist.

Many of the adoptees left out, who also committed minor crimes, and whose adoptive parents did not properly apply for naturalization, have been deported, or are at risk for deportation back to their country of origin. Most of them have lived almost all of their lives in the U.S. Adam Crapser, a name many adoptees are familiar with, is a 41-year old adoptee who was deported to S. Korea last year and is consequently separated from his wife and daughter in the U.S. Through no fault of his own, Adam was adopted at the age of 3 years by physically/psychologically abusive parents – parents who obviously did not seek naturalization. As a result of the trauma he experienced, Adam faced several challenges. You can read more about Adam’s story here. Most recently, adoptee, Phillip Clay, took his own life after being deported to S. Korea in 2012, his country of birth. It has been reported that Phillip suffered from psychological issues, a malady not uncommon to many international adoptees.

Efforts continue to be made by the Adoptee Rights Campaign, and other groups (National Korean American Service and Education ConsortiumKorean Resource Center) to re-introduce the Adoptee Citizenship Act (ACA), first presented to Congress in 2015 by a small group of senators. The bill, SB2275, provides for automatic acquisition of United States citizenship for certain internationally adopted individuals. In 2016, a group of representatives introduced House companion bill, HB5454. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass through all stages in the (2015-2016) 114th sessions for Congress. The bill could have granted retroactive U.S. citizenship to all internationally adopted individuals regardless of when they were born, addressing the issue that left multitudes of adoptees who were born prior to February 28, 1983 unprotected by the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

You can make a difference, however! Sign the 2017 Adoptee Citizenship Act Petition here urging members of Congress to support the Adoptee Citizenship Act, and encourage your family and friends to do the same. Through our collective voice, legislators will take action, and those adoptees who are threatened by the loophole will have equal rights and protection. Please write and/or call your legislators to help bring awareness to this important legislation. Thank you for your support.

Watch Vice News report (HB0) on Adam Crapser’s plight below. Read, “Deportation a ‘Death Sentence’ to Adoptees after a Lifetime in the U.S.” here published at the NY Times, July 2, 2017.

adoptee book review

old-books-436498_1280Just wanted to thank Andrew Adams, an adoptee from S. Korea, for reading my book and providing a review! Andrew and I connected via social media on a facebook page he created, #adopteesfromasia. Andrew lived in Indiana, but recently moved and is working in S. Korea! Read his review below, and if you haven’t purchased your copy of Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity, click here.


Finished the book in 5 hours! From start to finish, Marijane Huang’s story pulls you in for a roller coaster of emotions. I laughed, cried, and sometimes even both at the same time! Beyond Two Worlds is a beautifully written memoir about a very real, and relatable human being in search of answers – only to find new questions at every turn. The short, succinct chapters are packed with memories and orchestrated in a way that weave her childhood recollections with today’s introspection. And at the same time, we get to know the author and her family and friends more and more throughout the book. For example, at times in the book, I was upset with her mother’s behavior, and other times, I was 100% sympathetic. More importantly, Marijane illustrates each person in her life so well, it makes us want to know more about them, ask them questions, and just give them a hug. This is the kind of person we find out that Marijane is – a curious, inquisitive, and loving individual who reflects herself so well in writing that we end up feeling the exact same way. As an adoptee from Asia myself, I can relate with many parts of the book. In fact, all of the questions that Marijane presents, most adoptees have asked. Those questions are tied to deep level insecurities, abandonment, and hope. But this book is for anyone. The hope and persistence will inspire you to keep going, especially when you are ready to give up. Feeling alone and heartbroken? This book shows us that there are people in the world waiting to meet us. And for myself, Beyond Two Worlds, makes me proud to be who I am today knowing that I can embrace every part of me unapologetically and that there will always be more questions, more to learn about ourselves.

Taiwan ROCKs Seattle 2017

group photoIt’s always hard to say good-bye. My daughter and I spent a weekend in Seattle, WA for the annual Taiwan ROCKs event where adoptive families with kids from Taiwan get together, catch up on each others’ lives, and make some fun memories. Each year, the event is held in a different city. There were about 16 families and 25 kids adopted from Taiwan, not including non-adopted siblings, and one sibling adopted from the DRC. We’re now heading back to CA. It was an experience I’ll always treasure. We met so many wonderful families!

The event began on Friday night with a pizza fest at Angle Lake, a park within walking distance from our hotel. There were water features + playground equipment, and the kids looked like they were having the time of their lives. This year’s event was organized by Molly Gleason O’Brien and Kerry Murphy, two local moms. Lexie and I were warmly welcomed and were struck by the support and friendships extended to us. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Tien, the very woman who helped me find my birth family in Taipei, standing across the way talking to a family. Then it dawned on me that Tien lives in Seattle – I’d forgotten! Almost every family there, if not all, were connected to Tien in some way. We spent the afternoon with Tien yesterday touring the city and eating lunch. It was lovely to spend time with her after our trip to Taiwan together in 2012, 5 years ago. My how time has flown!

TienOn Saturday evening, I talked to the group after a BBQ dinner about my new book, “Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity.” My heart melted afterwards when young adoptees came to introduce themselves and get a copy of my book. The best part of the trip was getting to know these kiddos and their parents. We talked about how much international adoption has changed since the era when I and many other adult adoptees were adopted. I was struck by how many families had already taken their kids back to Taiwan. Some adoptees had the opportunity to meet their birth mothers and extended biological families. The trips were prompted by their kids’ curiosity about their early beginnings. It was unheard of years ago for adoptive parents to encourage their kids to explore their birth cultures. I found that the parents at the event are well-educated and culturally sensitive. They understand the importance of open dialogue with their kids. I was very inspired by the support the families provide to each other and to their kids as they continue to ask questions about their birth heritage. One mom told me that her daughter, age 11, wrote an essay about her adoption/birth family and loved to write. Most of the adoptees fell between the ages of 6-10. It was such a great pleasure to talk with them and learn their stories. Some of the other evenings events included rock painting and slime-making!

Taiwan ROCKs has approximately 400 families within its network. I was told that the Seattle ROCKs event was one of the smallest compared to past years. Nevertheless, I enjoyed every minute of it. Tien told me she believed that approximately 1,000 Taiwanese adoptions have occurred since the 1990’s, and most likely more, including adoptions that were private, or occurred without the assistance of an agency. Adoptions from Taiwan have declined significantly, as have international adoptions across all countries. There is a whole generation of young Taiwanese adoptees who I hope one day will support one another and perhaps even write their own memoirs! Thank you to the families who attended Taiwan ROCKS 2017 for your support and for making Lexie and I feel like a part of the group! We hope to keep in touch.

Taiwanese American film festival

TAFFYesterday, I had the great pleasure of attending the first annual Taiwanese American Film Festival at the Downtown Independent Theatre in LA. It was super fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The purpose of the festival is to celebrate the achievements of new and rising Taiwanese American and Taiwanese international cinema artists. It was established by the Taiwanese American Professionals of Los Angeles. The event showcased film screenings by filmmakers from all over the world. It gave me a sense of pride as I reflected upon my own ever growing exploration of what it means to be Taiwanese American. The festival offered morning, day, and sunset sessions with an industry panel and a night block featuring an awards ceremony and closing feature. There was a closing party afterwards (which I didn’t attend, but am sure was loads of fun).

My friend and I arrived just in time for the Opening Shorts Block. These films ranged from stories that focused on family, culture, and the past. As audience members, we had the opportunity to vote for our favorite film afterwards. I enjoyed all eight, but one in particular really resonated with me, “My Adoption.” The director, Chuang-Chieh Liao, discovered he was adopted in his adult years, and his film explores this newfound knowledge in a conversation with his adoptive mom. Interestingly, Chuang-Chieh was adopted by a Taiwanese family in Taiwan. He wrote the film as an international student during his first quarter at DePaul University in Chicago where he was pursuing a MFA. He stated about the film, “I just wanted to face the fear that was always in my mind. I had lost part of childhood memory. Three years ago, I found out that I was adopted. That’s when the memory came back to my brain. After I came to Chicago, I decided to call my mother and ask the details about my adoption for the first time.” 

I don’t want to give too much of the film away, but the emotions behind the question that Chuang-Chieh asks his adoptive mother are quite tender, and we see how deeply he struggles to grasp at answers. Some members of his family were very conservative and opposed his adoption. As a result, he grew up without their love and support, and his adoptive parents were blamed for their inability to have a biological child. Especially poignant, we see childhood pictures of Chuang-Chieh with his adoptive parents in flashes as he converses with his mother over the phone. His parents loved him – it’s obvious, and we learn why they withheld sharing his adoption for so long. As I sat and watched this film, I was reminded that whether adoption occurs domestically in the US/abroad or through inter-country adoption, adoption is complex. But also, adoptive parents love their children. I’m not talking about abusive parents, neglectful parents, or parents who adopt for the wrong reasons. And this post doesn’t address the corruption that exists in adoption. Adoption is just complex on many different levels. It’s a tangled web of emotions and discovery across the lifespan that takes time to unravel, and it’s certainly a life-long journey for the adoptee, biological parents, and adoptive family. I”m sure that Chuang-Chieh continues to process the decision his adoptive parents made to adopt and love him despite such opposition from their own family in Taiwan. There is a social stigma that exists in Taiwan (and other Asian countries) towards adoption, especially if the child has a special need.

I wanted to know more after watching this brief, yet powerful film. It was one of the shorter films, approximately 4 minutes, and subtitled in English, as most of the films were. Unfortunately, Chuang-Chieh wasn’t present at the festival. I would have loved to talk to him about his experience and film. How cool it was to see a Taiwanese filmmaker explore his own personal experience of adoption.

My friend and I missed the Centerpiece Shorts Block, as we had lunch with some of her friends at a nearby restaurant, but some of the shorts are available to watch on Vimeo. Click here to see a listing of all the films and synopses. We did attend the Industry Panel featuring 5 actors/producers/writers: Lynn Chen (actress) of “Saving Face,” by Sony Pictures, Alan Pao (Producer) founder and CEO of Tunnel Post Production, Kai Wu (Writer), Charles Yu (Writer) and Kelvin Yu (Writer/Actor). Kai writes for the NBC TV series, “Hannibal” and CWs, “The Flash.” Charles writes for HBO’s “Westworld” and has authored multiple books. Kelvin currently writes for the Fox animated series, “Bob’s Burgers” and the Netflix comedy, “Master of None.” Very interesting and entertaining to learn how each of the panelists began their careers.

I hope that you’ll take a few minutes to watch, “My Adoption,” by Chuang-Chieh Liao. I’m linking his short here via Vimeo. Thank you, Chuang-Chieh, for making such a meaningful film that will surely resonate with other adoptees.

 

 

rambling

couch_potato_sketch_by_darkthinker-d5bsomo.jpgI am so tired this morning that I simply cannot budge from our sofa. I have given new meaning to the words “couch potato.” One of the ways I manage stress is through writing. This particular post is not especially riveting other than to share with you some of the projects I’m currently working on.

First, I’m preparing my manuscript to submit to a larger publishing house. No guarantee that they’ll like my manuscript or accept it, but it’s at least worth a try. The good thing is that I’ve already done most of the hard work. I’ll be writing up a detailed proposal, completing some light editing on the manuscript, and can only hope that they like my work!

Second, next weekend, I’ll be heading up to Los Angeles for the first annual Taiwanese American Film Festival at the Downtown Independent. The festival is being organized by TAP-LA, Taiwanese-American Professionals of Los Angeles. I’m not sure what to expect, except a lot of great films. I don’t get out a lot these days, so I feel a little out of sorts, like what do I wear? I hope it’s casual! I’m looking forward to meeting new people and enjoying some amazing films.

Second, my daughter and I will be traveling to Seattle next month to meet several adoptive families at Taiwan R.O.C.K.s. The group meets annually, and the families who attend have all adopted children from Taiwan. I’ve been wanting to go to this reunion for awhile, but something has always prevented me. I’m very excited to meet the families and will be sharing my book with them. Special guests from TECO (Taipei Economic and Cultural Office) will also be visiting. This agency in Taipei eventually led me to my birthfamily in Taiwan. Seattle, here we come!

Third, I’m excited about my upcoming Book Launch Party at Gatsby Books in Long Beach on July 30th. If you’d like to attend, please stop by Facebook and click on the Going link to RSVP. Hope you can stop by. I’m looking forward to another author event at the Chandler Public Library in Arizona during the Chinese New Year 2018. If you’re a Chandler resident, you can check the book out now from one of their Library locations. More details to come on the author event. 

Finally, I’d really love to go back to Taiwan some time next year. I’ve been pondering an idea to organize a kind of heritage trip back to Taiwan for other Taiwanese adoptees. There are many factors to consider, however, in planning such an event. If not next year, perhaps the year after. In any case, I do hope to make the trip back myself soon to see my birthfamily again.

Wishing you all a happy and safe Fourth of July weekend and holiday! I’m going to enjoy my 3-day weekend. By tomorrow, I should have the energy to actually get up and get out of the house! Cheers.

book launch party

FullSizeRender

If you’re in the Long Beach area or nearby locale, please stop by and visit me at Gatsby Books on July 30th for a book launch party. Event starts at 3:00 pm. If you plan to attend, kindly click Going at the Facebook RSVP link so I can plan refreshments accordingly. See ya there!

a book review

glasses-books.jpgI am so pleased to present a new review of my book, Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity, by Carol A. Hand, BA, MSSW, PhD (University of Wisconsin-Madison). Carol has served as social work faculty for universities in Wisconsin, Montana, and Illinois where her primary emphasis included organizational change, community development, and policy analysis and advocacy. Carol is a contributing author at Voices from the Margins. She currently teaches at The College of St. Scholastica SW satellite at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Minnesota.

What’s in a Title?

Carol A. Hand

What deeper messages do titles convey? That’s a question that arises as I contemplate a powerful poignant book I just finished reading, Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity by Marijane Huang. I read this work from a unique perspective as an Ojibwe scholar who has studied the history of Indian child welfare, as a descendant of a culture that has survived despite centuries of Native American child removal policies. I reflected on Huang’s experiences as a daughter who witnessed the deep emotional scars my Ojibwe mother carried as a result of the joyless, demeaning years she spent in a Catholic Indian boarding school. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the topic of child removal, particularly adoption, triggers so many thoughts and memories for me. Often, I need to turn to critical scholarly reflection for balance to consider the underlying questions.

Together the myriad of cultures makes up an intellectual and spiritual web of life that envelops the planet and is every bit as important to the well being of the planet as is the biological web of life that we know as the biosphere. You might think of this social web of life as an “ethnosphere,” a term perhaps best defined as the sum total of all thoughts and intuitions, myths and beliefs, ideas and aspirations brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness. The ethnosphere is humanity’s greatest legacy. (Wade Davis, 2009, p. 2)

Huang speaks of the “primal wound” adoptees suffer due to “multiple losses, the most significant being the loss of the adoptee’s birth mother, but also that of culture, language, and original family” (p. xvi). Removing children from their families, communities, and nations causes harm on many levels and can be viewed as a powerful form of ethnocide. Huang’s account hints at the life-long suffering of her birth mother and family of origin because her father made choices he felt necessary in a context that wasn’t supportive of children and families. It reminded me of some of the stories I heard during my research about Ojibwe child welfare, aggregated into a poem I later wrote

…All the child welfare system could do
was take a mother’s children away.
No one ever asked why she always had tears in her eyes.
Although her daughter cried for her beautiful mother every day,
no one ever asked what her mother needed to heal.
So the young girl spent her childhood with strangers,
a grieving mother mourned, and the White strangers felt virtuous.
The Ojibwe community lost yet another child to county removal
and the child welfare system closed the case, its job complete… (https://carolahand.wordpress.com/2016/08/02/reflections-the-legacy-of-continuing-loss/ )

Huang’s courage to confront her fear of the unknown and her tenacity to keep moving forward despite so many obstacles are deeply inspiring. It wasn’t too late for her to reconnect to her original cultural legacy and some of the family that she lost as an infant. Her honest, gracious, and moving narrative brought me inside her experiences. She brought me inside her feelings as she discovered her adoption papers when she was in her 40s and learned of her heritage for the first time. And I felt as though I stood with her in the Taipei airport in Taiwan anxiously awaiting her first meeting with her two older sisters who had last seen Huang as an infant.

Huang’s healing journey brings joy and tears. I’m grateful for the chance I had to travel along with her. Her first book ends with a powerful realization.

Without a doubt, the reunion with my birth family has been one of the most significant, life-altering events of my life. (p. 159).

Learning to see the world through different cultural lenses is always s gift, and Huang does such a powerful job taking us beyond two profoundly different cultural worlds to see both the importance of being in touch with our cultural roots and the human bonds that connect us across cultures.

To acknowledge the wonder of other cultures is not to denigrate our way of life but rather to recognize with some humility that other peoples, flawed as they too may be, nevertheless contribute to our collective heritage, the human repertoire of ideas, beliefs, and adaptations that have historically allowed us as a species to thrive. To appreciate this truth is to sense viscerally the tragedy inherent in the loss of a language or the assimilation of a people. To lose a culture is to lose something of ourselves. (Davis, pp. 201-202)

I hope Huang will have an opportunity to return to Taiwan and eagerly await her next book.

Work Cited:

Wade Davis (2009). The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World. Toronto, ON, Canada: House of Anansi Press, Inc.

Marijane Huang (2017). Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity. Bloomington, IN: Author House.