Tag Archives: Adoptees

international adoption connect

It’s been several weeks since my last post. I hate that I don’t have as much time to devote to my beloved blog these days. I’ve started a new job working in memory care with residents who have dementia and their families. Our residents live in a four storied community, and each neighborhood is designed to meet their needs based upon their level of functioning and stage in the disease process. I’m quickly learning more and more about the different types of dementia. My adoptive mom succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease in 2008, so I feel that I have much compassion for anyone facing such a frightful disease. There is no cure, and the prognosis is grim. I have a long commute to work, and the work itself is challenging. After I graduated with my MSW in 2015, I would never have thought that I’d end up working with the elderly with memory impairments, but I’m grateful to have a job, to be learning and growing my skills, and to be working towards my clinical licensure in social work.

That being said, I will always have an active interest and passion for international adoption and connecting to other adoptees. I’ll continue to use my blog as a platform to reach out to adoptees and adoptive families and to discuss important issues related to the complexities of international adoption, which are often not understood by those looking from the outside in. Just the other day, I was speaking to someone about a child who was internationally adopted recently. This person expressed how “lucky” the adoptee was to be adopted to America. I cringe when I hear such comments, which tend to be one dimensional, yet know that many are ignorant to the grief, loss, and trauma related to adoption, especially across oceans. Some don’t understand this perspective, but I’m certain that other adoptees know where I’m coming from. On another note, I find it quite interesting that wherever I go, I cross paths with other international adoptees or people connected somehow to international adoption. At Arizona State Hospital, my colleague and social work partner (whom I really miss working with) was adopted from Brazil by an American family, and the psychiatrist I worked with adopted multiple children internationally from Ethiopia and some other countries – I don’t recall which ones. I recently learned that an outside Care Manager who advocates for several of our residents adopted a little girl from Armenia some years ago and went back to the country a couple of weeks ago to adopt her older brother. They just returned to the States. I look forward to talking with her as well as her adopted children in the very near future. God has a way of keeping me connected to international adoption in the most uncanny way.

My hope one day is to further my work in international adoption. To what capacity, I’m not sure, except to finish my book, Beyond Two Worlds: A memoir, at this time. I know I sound like a broken record! I’ve gotten terribly behind in editing my work due to starting my job. It’s a real bummer. My goal is to finish all editing by the end of this month so that my editor, Allyson, can complete her editing process; however, it’s gonna be difficult. We’ll see. My publisher continues to press me to submit the manuscript, but I can only do what I can do. Despite all the setbacks, the book will be published this year, 2017, something I greatly look forward to! It’s the beacon in my crazy world.

Today is my day off. Sigh…We’ll be spending time with our daughter this afternoon over sushi. Can’t wait. The rest of the afternoon I’ll devote to writing. Tomorrow I must go into work for New Hire Orientation – on my day off 😦 Alas, I’m taking a day off towards the end of the month to make up for it and to write. I wish I had the energy after work every evening to write, but I typically fall on the couch and snooze.

Lastly, I came across the quote featured in this post this morning. It was just what I needed. Hope it inspires you too wherever you are in your journey! Oh, and we never found our bed linens (after our move)…

a Korean adoptee’s search

Greetings from sunny Long Beach, California! Hope you’re enjoying the holiday season. This morning, I wanted to share a very touching video posted by adoptee, Brent Silkey, who was born in S. Korea and adopted by an American family. Brent is currently searching for his birth mother. I saw the video below posted on an adoptee-only Facebook group page, Adoptees from Asia, and knew I had to post it here. The video has received around 136,000 views worldwide so far and close to 3,500 shares.

Brent’s birth mom and dad met through mutual friends and started dating. They enjoyed things like camping together with their friends. After their relationship ended, Brent’s birth mom found out she was pregnant. She had no way of getting in contact with his birth father. She came from a family that didn’t have a lot of financial means and dropped out of school after her second year of middle school (the US equivalent of 8th grade). Brent believes his birth mom helped her family cleaning homes, and she was the eldest of three girls. She lived with her father and father’s parents.

When Brent was born, his birth mom was just a teenager (19 years old in Korea, which is equivalent to 18 in America). He was a full-term baby and was placed for adoption immediately.

Brent expressed: I don’t know exactly why, but I would imagine that she wanted to give me the gift of life, but knew she would have been unable to take care of me with the other demands of her life and family.

I am SO thankful for her. I love her. I want to tell her how thankful I am for giving me the opportunity to be taken care of by such a wonderful foster family and then to be adopted by my parents in America. I have had such a blessed life and I want to give my birth mom a hug and thank her for being courageous enough to have me and to give me a great opportunity to have a wonderful life.

It is my dream to meet her in person, to share with her my life’s journey, and to tell her how my life has been forever changed by the love of God through Jesus Christ.

I would be incredibly honored to introduce her to my beautiful wife and two daughters (her granddaughters!!). We would do whatever we needed to in order to have the opportunity to meet her and to have relationship with her if she would allow us to.

I have only feelings of love, respect, and gratitude toward her.

I hope she has not carried around a sense of guilt or shame for the last 30 years. That is why I want to give her a hug.

I’ve been working with my adoption agency, but we continue to hit road blocks regarding the search. Her name is a very common name and “they don’t have the man power” to search for her.

I hope you’ll join me in supporting Brent and passing this video along. I’m certain that his birth mom never forgot him.

become

shutterstock_449362561A recent post written by another adoptee caught my attention the other day. The author’s name is Kumar, and he blogs at A Stroll Through My Mind. Kumar was adopted from Pudukottai, Tamil Nadu, India. In this particular post, he discusses a book, Daughter of the Ganges, written by author/adoptee, Asha Miro. Miro chronicles her travels back to India to uncover her native roots. She visits India on two separate occasions, the second eight years after the first. What struck me as I read Kumar’s post was his comparison of the two trips and how the impetus of Miro’s journey seems to change over time. He reflects, “Her first [trip] feels naive, innocent and very good natured. She, as I would do myself, trusts that others have her best interest at heart and ends up receiving information that is not wholly accurate.” I have not read Miro’s books, but could certainly relate to the naivety in which Miro sets out to uncover her roots and the receipt of inaccurate information. Kumar shares that he similarly trusted that others had his best interest at heart, as did I when I first began this blog and the initial search for my birthfamily in Taiwan. I trusted my adoptive parents and the information they provided to me only to find out that the information was hugely inaccurate. Unfortunately, I will probably never know where the lines got crossed. Miro’s second journey to India is quite different. Kumar says, “She pushes people for information, gets the necessary help and is able to create some amazing connections.” Adoptees are constantly pushing others for information. It often doesn’t come easily.

I set out to find my own native roots anxious to investigate the unknowns and find answers. I held no ill feelings towards my adoptive parents for withholding what they knew about my adoption, although I had a right to know. Finding and reunifying with my birthfamily has been one of the most significant events in my life, one that I continue to ponder. That my sisters and family never forgot me and wanted to reunite is beyond wonder. As I have researched international adoption and read the stories of many other adoptees and birth mothers, I have lost the naivety I once possessed regarding adoption. Although I gather that many adoptive parents approach international adoption with the best of intentions and for a multitude of reasons, the very nature of international adoption is complex and rooted in loss, which is oft misunderstood or minimized. The loss of a culture and language, the loss of parents/caregivers, the loss of everything familiar is no small thing, and this grief and loss cannot be understated nor underestimated. Most internationally adopted children eventually adapt and assimilate, yet for some of us, the unknowns continue to be painful reminders that our pasts are not quite whole.

I know that my adoptive parents loved me, and despite the challenges in our family, I loved my parents. It was not easy growing up in my adoptive family, and I was often conflicted by their expectations and anger, primarily my adoptive mother’s, and my own insecurities. I’ve come to terms with who I am as a transracially adopted person, although there are days when my drive for perfection and neurosis drives even me crazy. I’m no longer the naive, “good natured” adoptee that I once was, which is actually freeing. I can’t help but be a little cynical and sarcastic. With age and maturity, I’ve come to a new knowledge, perspective, and understanding.

I have many friends who have adopted children internationally, and it’s ironic that I somehow end up inadvertently in the company of others connected to adoption in some way…One of the psychiatrists I worked with at the state hospital had children adopted from Ethiopia and I want to say Guatemala, and my co-worker, also a social worker, was adopted from Brazil. On the long plane ride to the adoption initiative conference in NJ, I happened to sit next to a woman who had an adopted daughter from China. She wanted to know about my experiences and how I managed. Her daughter is a second year college student going through her own set of challenges. Go figure.

I find it difficult to discuss international adoption as the only alternative. I know far too many adoptees around the world whose stories are not characterized by the “forever family” rhetoric and whose adoptions occurred as a result of unethical adoption practices (that’s another story). Search and reunion becomes extremely difficult as you can well imagine because of falsified information or lack of information. But no matter, adoptees are resilient. I think it’s in our genes. We awaken, we learn, we evolve, we transform, and we become. Sometimes it’s a lonely, misunderstood road, but we keep going…And we wish our voices to be heard by those in the industry who would otherwise hope for us to be grateful that we were adopted.

in my shoes

Iinmyshoes enjoy meeting and talking with other international and transracial adoptees. That we are adopted persons gives us a social identity that is unique. The environmental contexts in which we grow up are doubtless very different, and our adoption journeys are unique; however, when I talk to other internationally adopted persons, there’s a connection. It’s like, he or she gets me. We get each other.

Towards the end of my last semester of grad school, I learned that the student who sat right across from me in my Advanced Practice class was also an adoptee. She was adopted from Korea and grew up in Michigan. She is some twenty years younger, yet I immediately felt that kinship with her. We met for coffee one afternoon after class to commiserate over school and swapped stories about adoption. We laughed about stereotyping and how we have managed to live in a predominantly white world. It felt good to connect with another adoptee who also happens to be a social worker!

Earlier this month, I met with another adoptee, a friend. She, too, was adopted from Korea. We met for lunch at a Vietnamese sandwich shop to catch up. During our conversation, she asked me about my feelings towards international adoption after having completed my thesis and if I had an interest in working in international adoption. It is such a difficult question to answer, and I don’t think that I have a definitive one. We talked about our conflicted feelings towards international adoption. On the one hand, orphans need permanency and loving families. On the other hand, the complexities of international adoption are significant, and there is a great need for others to be educated. There is still so much to learn about international adoption, how it impacts the psychosocial development of adoptees, and how to help prepare and support adoptive parents, as well as adoptees – not that any parent regardless of adoptive status or not could ever be fully prepared for parenthood. But there are ways to better educate the general public and adoptive families and to offer a more realistic picture of this process. My journey through adoption continues to evolve. Although I have experienced incredible personal growth through the years, I’m not sure that I could work in international adoption, at least not in the capacity of a caseworker. I’m sure that my own personal challenges as an adoptee have much to do with these conflicted feelings. I can help educate adoptive families, provide cultural training and support, try to impact international adoption policy, but don’t think I could manage the actual adoption process. I have several friends who have adopted children internationally, and I always think in the back of my mind that international adoption is a business. I would support greater efforts to prevent the need for adoption altogether…preventive services and services to keep families together.

While we were sitting and conversing, an older white gentleman walked over to us and interrupted our conversation to ask if either of us knew of a good Asian salon where he could get his hair cut. He told us that most of the Asian women he encounters don’t speak very good English and upon hearing our conversation and ability to speak “good” English, felt like we could point him in the right direction. I felt completely annoyed. I told the man that I did not know of any Asian salons as did my friend. The look on his face was one of complete shock. It told me that he assumed we knew the right salon to direct him to. We did not tell the man that we were adopted and knew as much about Asian salons as the man in the moon. Instead, we watched him walk away, perplexed, and returned to our conversation.

Despite the interruption, I’m glad to have visited with my friend. It was encouraging to hang out with another adoptee, someone who has walked in “my shoes” in many ways. I didn’t ask her if she felt as annoyed as I did by the man who asked us about a hair salon. She seemed to brush it off and was so polite. I took her lead and decided to be polite, too.

 

international adoptee research study

In my last post, I mentioned that adoptees in the U.S. adopted through international adoption are often subjected to racism and discrimination. It’s a subject that interests me greatly because I know how damaging the effects of racism and discrimination are. I chose to investigate this subject for my master’s thesis in social work.

Over the past two months, I’ve sent letters and announcements to numerous adoption agencies, primarily in Arizona, but also California and Oregon. I have contacted adult adoptee groups on social media platforms and reached out to friends who may know of families with adopted children. I continue to search for adoptees 18+ years of age who were adopted from another country to the U.S. by parents of a different race/ethnicity to participate in the study. Participation includes an in-person interview. In the interview, I talk with adoptees about their background, experiences with family, peers, and their community. We discuss incidents that the adoptee has experienced related to racism, racial discrimination, prejudice and stereotyping. My hope is to interview at least ten adoptees for my study. So far, I’ve conducted four five interviews. The interviews are about 1.5-2 hours in length and are conducted in a location that ensures privacy, i.e, a study room at a local library. Participants are informed that the interviews are confidential and no identifying information will be revealed in the study.

How international and transracial adoptees personally cope with racism and discrimination is not an area that is well understood in the literature. It is hoped that this research will produce data that will inform the development of interventions for international adoptees and their families that will provide tools to manage the effects of racism and discrimination. I hope that the study will also prompt further investigation into this particular area. If you know of an adoptee or are an adoptee who resides in Arizona and might be interested in participating in this study, please pass along the above information. I can be contacted privately at mcnguyen@asu.edu if you’d like to know more about the study or would like to schedule an interview. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated!

I believe that this is such an important issue for adoptive families and adoptees. It’s my belief that adoptive families and adoptees who are better equipped to face racism and discrimination will be happier and healthier. Thank you.

 

international adoptees needed for research study

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Hello everyone! I hope that you are staying cool during these hot summer days. We have officially hit triple digit weather here in Arizona! I have written recently that I’m working on a master’s thesis. I’m currently looking for volunteers to participate in this research study.

The purpose of the study is to examine the ways in which international and transracial adoptees experience racism, prejudice, racial discrimination and/or stereotyping and to identify patterns of coping. To explore these issues, interviews with international adoptees will be conducted. Results from the study will highlight the unique experiences of internationally adopted persons and provide a deeper understanding of how adoptees cope with racial derogation and discrimination. In-person interviews with adoptees will be approximately 1.5-2 hours.

To participate in this study, individuals should:

  • Be at least 18 years of age or older
  • Be adopted from another country to the U.S. by parents of a different race/ethnicity
  • Currently reside in Metro Phoenix, Arizona

All interviews will be conducted in a location that ensures privacy and confidentiality.

By participating in this study you will be contributing to the work of understanding how international and transracial adoptees manage racism and discrimination in their lives and how these issues impact the development of adoptees’ identity. The study will help to inform social workers and other healthcare professionals what types of support services would most benefit international and transracial adoptees and their families.

If you are interested in participating or would like more information about the study, please contact me. The link below contains a formal announcement including my contact information. Please feel free to distribute the announcement to any persons you think might have an interest in participating in the study. Thank you!

This research is conducted under the direction of:

Cecilia Ayón, MSW, PhD

Associate Professor

School of Social Work

College of Public Programs

Arizona State University

Click on the link below for the announcement and my contact information:

Study_Announcement_2014

 

our screening event

RedThreadPic

The Invisible Red Thread made me laugh, made me cry, made me more attuned to the disturbing fact that orphaned and abandoned children in this world are far too numerous. On Saturday, June 1st, we screened the film documentary at an event called Honoring One’s Cultural Roots. Twenty-two people attended, including adoptive parents and their adopted children. There were seven adoptees, three were adults.

The documentary was filmed in 2010 by directors Maureen Marovitch and Dr. Changfu Chang and follows two adopted adolescent girls from China who live on opposite sides of the planet. We accompany 15-year old Vivian, who lives with her family in Toronto, Canada, as she and her adoptive father, Hubert, travel back to China to meet Shumin. Shumin, 14 years old at the time of filming, was adopted within China by the Zhu family due to the One Child Policy. Unfortunately, Vivian’s adoptive mother was unable to travel to China with her and her father due to a sudden illness.

The film was about an hour long. I laughed when Shumin introduced Vivian to shopping outdoor market style where many interesting and live foods were being sold, including frogs, snakes, and all kinds of seafood. We watched Vivian squirm as she walked with Shumin up and down the aisles of the market holding her nose. On the flip side, Vivian took Shumin and her family to the city, which Shumin had never visited before. Shumin used a fork and ate toast and jelly for the first time. Watching Shumin’s facial expressions as Vivian showed her how a toaster worked was priceless. Vivian pondered what life would have been like for her in China had she not been adopted.

We also met Shumin’s birth parents, as well as another birth mother who was searching for the daughter she gave away in hopes that Vivian might be her daughter. This adoptive mother was obviously feeling so many emotions as the filmmakers documented her story. Vivian was not her daughter. Without fail, whenever I see the pain a birth parent feels due to the relinquishment of his/her child, I’m deeply saddened.

After the film, therapist, Stephanie Withrow, facilitated a discussion with those who were able to stay. One of the highlights of the discussion was how international adoption has evolved since it first became “popular” in the U.S. after the Korean War. One parent pointed out that because much has been learned about international/transracial adoption over the years, adoptive parents are more informed and educated about the challenges of raising an internationally and transracially adopted child. It’s possible that adoptees today may even experience fewer problems with identity and race because adoptive parents are more sensitive to these issues, facilitate an open dialogue with their adopted children, and seek opportunities to help their child develop a healthy sense of identity. I think more research is needed to demonstrate how changes in international adoption over the past few decades may affect adoptees and their families compared to previous decades. Finally, Dalena Watson prepared some information on homeland tour agencies for families interested in perhaps planning a trip one day to their adopted child’s birth country.

As a final note, I wanted to again thank all those who came out and spent the afternoon with us. It was a pleasure to meet all of you and your families. Your thoughts and comments are invaluable, and we hope to continue hosting community adoption events that you’ll be interested in attending.