Posts Tagged ‘ adoption ’

Paralympian Tatyana McFadden: “We should all be included as one.”

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

The Sochi Winter Paralympics took place March 7-16. Previously known only as a summer Paralympian in wheelchair racing, Team USA member Tatyana McFadden took on the snow in Russia—where she was born before being adopted into an American family at the age of 6. As part of Team Liberty Mutual, McFadden rose to the top. Born with spina bifida, the now 11-time medalist (track and sit-ski) chatted with Parents about overcoming obstacles—in life and in athletics, her adoption experience and her family, and fighting for equality in sports.

P: How does it feel to have won even more medals now in the winter Paralympics?

TM: It was just an amazing, fulfilling experience for me. I definitely exceeded my expectations. I really expected just to be in the top ten for the 12k and I got fifth and then in the sprint, I just really wanted to make the Finals and I medaled. And in the 5k I really wanted to be top 10 again and I got seventh.

P: Summer Paralympics, Winter Paralympics, New York Marathon, Chicago Marathon, the list goes on. What was it like to train for so many different events simultaneously? 

TM: It was very difficult. I ran marathons all the way up until November [2013] and at that time I was still in college. I graduated just this December [2013], so as soon as I graduated I headed out to Colorado for snow training. It was a very continuous schedule.

P: You encountered quite a few obstacles in your childhood. When you were in the orphanage in Russia, how much of an understanding of your condition and your potential did you have? 

TM: Living in the orphanage for six years, I never saw myself as any different. I walked on my hands for the first six years of my life. I didn’t have a wheelchair, but I was a child of determination and drive. If I wanted to get somewhere I would do it and I would do it by walking on my hands. You know, many others think that living in the orphanage was a huge setback in life, but being adopted into an American family brought me opportunities to rise on so many levels, as a student and an athlete.

P: Do you think that your lack of wheelchair as a child led you to gain the strength that has now served you as an athlete?

TM: I think it was just the personality that I have. I wasn’t going to let anything stop me. I always had a Russian saying “Yasama,” which means “I can do it myself and I can do it by myself.” I didn’t want anyone to help me and I think walking on my hands made me extremely strong. But it was just having that drive and determination at such a young age. As soon as I was adopted, I became involved with sports to help be gain a healthy lifestyle.

P: Tell me a little more about your family and the adoption process and coming to America.

TM: The adoption actually saved me. I was very sick and very anemic living in the orphanage. I was born with spina bifida and I was laying in the hospital with my back open for 21 days, so it was quite a miracle that I lived without getting an infection and dying. I do believe there is a purpose for me being here and being alive. I also believe in fate and I remember a woman walking in [to the orphanage] and I looked at her and I told everyone that was gonna be my mom. It was just the strangest feeling. From that moment I really connected with my mom and here we are 19 years later. She’s been so supportive in helping me be the person that I am today.

P: You have two younger adopted sisters, Hannah and Ruthi. What’s that like all having different origin stories and coming together in one family?

TM: There’s lots of culture involved. I mean, we love each other. My middle sister Hannah is also a Paralympian. She’s missing a tibia and fibula, so she’s an amputee. She was in the final of the summer Paralympics with me in the 100 meters. That was the first time ever in track that siblings competed against each other. And my younger sister Ruthi, she plays basketball. We’re all involved with sports and athletics. It’s fun just having that one thing in common. I’ve always wanted a big family.

P: When did you first discover your passion for sports?

TM: Around age 7 when my mom got me involved with a para sports club called the Bennett Blazers. She got me involved with a sports club because being so sick and very anemic, the doctors said, “She probably has a few years to live, just help her try to live a healthy lifestyle.” But my mom really thought otherwise and she said, “No, I’m gonna help her get healthy.” The way to do that was to get me involved with sports.

I started gaining weight. I started becoming a lot stronger. I was able to be more independent. I could push my own wheelchair. Then I started to do my own transfers in and out of the wheelchair. Before I knew it I could do almost everything by myself. Sports allowed me to do that and I wasn’t even focusing on how far I could take this sport. I was just focusing on Wow I can live a healthy lifestyle. If it wasn’t for my mom, I wouldn’t be a healthy person and have fallen in love with sports.

P: Your work with the Bennet Blazers and your battle to pass legislation for equality in high school sports is so important. Tell me a bit more about your quest for equal access to athletics. 

TM: I was a very different high school student. Coming into freshman year, I came back from the Paralympic games in Athens winning a silver and bronze medal and the only thing I wanted to do in high school was to be part of the track team. I was the only physically disabled wheelchair athlete at my high school and I remember the principle saying, “Get involved!” I wanted to be involved with track. First, they denied me a uniform, and then at track meets they had to stop the entire meet and let me run by myself. That’s not what it should be about. We should all be included as one.

P: So the idea is to have integrated teams of those who are in wheelchairs against those who are not? Not for a separate division or town leauges?

TM: It’s for people with physical disabilities to be part of high school sports. It was never to compete against, it was just to run along the side of. That’s what should happen especially if you’re the only athlete. If there were several others than of course we would have our own heat. It’s just about showing your athletic ability. It’s the 21st century and no one should be denied that. And if they’re denied high school, imagine what problems they’re going to run into later in life that they could be denied. Now it’s a federal law.

P: What is your message to kids with differing abilities and to parents of those kids?

TM: There are definitely gonna be challenges in your life and there’s definitely gonna be several setbacks, but it’s about being able to come back from those setbacks and rise in your own way. For me, I rose because of my mom and then in high school I rose because of the lawsuit creating opportunities for others. Now being an 11-time Paralympic medalist, I know these setbacks make us stronger so we can rise as individuals.

One mom’s story about adopting a child with spina bifada:

Adopting a Child with Spina Bifida
Adopting a Child with Spina Bifida
Adopting a Child with Spina Bifida

Photograph: Tatyana McFadden; Courtesy Liberty Mutual Insurance

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Was the IRS Targeting Adoptive Parents?

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Let’s face it: No one likes the IRS. But lately, the organization has had more reason than ever before for raising ire. There are allegations that they unfairly targeted certain groups for evaluation of their nonexempt status. And now, it appears they were also targeting another group—adoptive parents.

The adoption tax credit is meant to make the adoption process—which often costs tens of thousands of dollars—more affordable to lower-income families. It allowed you to get back more than $13,000 of the costs of the adoption. For my family, it meant we could recover the bulk of the costs of our adoption (minus that pricey airfare to China!). But the adoption tax credit changed in 2009 to make it fully refundable—a boon to low-income families who could now get all of their adoption fees reimbursed at tax time, instead of possibly waiting for years to get the full credit. And so, the IRS decided to flag 90 percent of those returns, requiring the families to produce receipts in very short time frames to substantiate their claim, then holding up the paperwork–and the refunds—for months at a time. The IRS claims that since generous tax refund programs like this are prone to fraud, they reserved the right to delay all of these refunds.

But in the end, the government found that almost every single one of families who claimed the tax credit deserved it—less than 2 percent of adoption tax credit claims were denied for lack of paperwork, and there were no criminal or fraudulent cases sent to the authorities. The government had to pay $2.1 million in interest to people who were left waiting for months and months without their refunds—and that’s not counting the millions in man-hours spent for IRS agents to review all of this perfectly legit paperwork.

But few people talk about the impact of this delay on these families. There’s the added stress of trying to document and find receipts for every adoption expense—stressful when so many adoption fees, especially in international adoption, can be hard to document. And after the mountains of paperwork of putting together the adoption, this just seems to add insult to injury. There’s also the fact that so many of these families, who make on average about $60,000 per year, are counting on getting their refunds in a timely manner—people who often took out second mortgages, held second jobs, fund raised or otherwise begged and borrowed and stretched to cover these daunting expenses. (And odds are, the interest the IRS paid didn’t hold a candle to the interest these people were potentially paying on maxed out credit cards or lines of credit.)

Hopefully, with the new scrutiny the agency is facing in the wake of these scandals, this won’t be a problem for future adoptive parents.

What do you think? Should the IRS have held up the refunds for this long?

Image: Tax form by Creativa/Shutterstock.com

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Hold My Hand

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

I think as parents we can all agree that, despite the amount of sleep that our children make us lose, they make us better people. Their innocence, purity, and blunt (sometimes brutal) honesty keep us grounded. And the love that they fill our lives with is immeasurable. But in the U.S., 400,540 kids are living without permanent families, according to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

For many parents who are looking to add a little one to their family, the things standing between them and their baby are the massive amounts of paperwork and waiting that make up the adoption process. With expenses, meetings, background checks, and birth parent arrangements (to name a few), adopting a child can be intimidating.

I recently sat down with reality stars and proud adoptive parents, Bill Horn and Scout Masterson (aka The Guncles) to discuss their adoption journey with their 3-year-old daughter, Simone. “The road to bringing Simone home was long and hard. We wished there was someone there to hold our hand,” they said. But after learning the ropes and having their toddler Simone as their happy ending, Bill and Scout are not only ready to do it again, they’re also extending their expertise to those tackling adoption for the first time.

Through their free mentoring service, Hold My Hand, Bill and Scout help with everything from tips on how and where to start the adoption process to utilizing social media to connect with a birthmother. They can even help decorate and furnish the nursery!

“Adoption can be very difficult. We know one family who waited three and a half years for their baby. But the most important thing is to remain hopeful. You have to believe that your baby will find you,” Bill said.

You can learn more about Bill and Scout’s organization at GunclesOnline.com.

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Is Adoption from China Ending?

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

In the last 30 years, nearly 100,000 children from China have found new families around the world, thanks to one of the most stable and popular international adoption programs. And I’m the mom of two of them. My family was created there, when my husband and I adopted our two amazing daughters.

But a lot’s changed over the past eight years, since we first met our oldest daughter in a Civil Affairs Office in China. Since then, China and the U.S. both signed the Hague Convention governing international adoption, which required checks on the histories of all children, to determine if they are truly orphans and available for adoption. (This is to help prevent the child trafficking and corruption that has occurred in some international adoption programs, including China’s.) China instituted new limitations on the parents who would be eligible to adopt from China—though the parents who met those new limitations are still stuck waiting to be matched with their children (six years later and the wait is still growing, thanks to a 20,000+ backlog of parents hoping to adopt from China). China’s wealth has been increasing, which means more children are being adopted domestically, and more parents manage to afford the fines the Chinese government levies on families who go over the one-child limit. And China may be holding still other children back in their orphanages, hoping to take care of their children within their own borders.

And so, it was no surprise to me that the numbers of international adoptions from China had dropped precipitously yet again. Last year, only 3,311 were adopted internationally from China throughout the world—compare that to 2005, when we adopted our oldest, and 7,903 children came home to the U.S. alone. And the other number that was equally interesting—75 percent of the children adopted would be classified as special needs, as they were older or had known medical issues. In fact, that is how we managed to adopt our second daughter—we would still be waiting for a match, six years later, if we hadn’t found her on our agency’s “special needs list.”

Adopting a special needs child is currently the only viable option for most parents looking to adopt from China, as the wait for a “healthy” baby continues to grow—and will likely reach nearly a decade of waiting within the next few years. But it’s not an option for everyone—many countries won’t even allow their citizens to adopt special needs children.

We are thankful that it was an option for us, and that we’ll be celebrating five years with our youngest daughter later this year. But for many other prospective parents, the China adoption program seems to be another door closing, and another option for building a family gone.

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Parents Daily News Roundup

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Goody Blog Daily News Roundup

Adam Lanza’s Father, Peter Lanza, Meets With Newtown Victim’s Parents
The parents of one of the 20 first-graders killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre met with the gunman’s father for more than an hour in an effort to bring some closure to the tragedy, asking him about his son’s mental health and other issues. (via Huffington Post)

Humanoid Robot Helps Train Children With Autism
“Aiden, look!” piped NAO, a two-foot tall humanoid robot, as it pointed to a flat-panel display on a far wall. As the cartoon dog Scooby Doo flashed on the screen, Aiden, a young boy with an unruly thatch of straw-colored hair, looked in the direction the robot was pointing. (via Science Daily)

Study: Women Abused As Kids More Likely To Have Children With Autism
The study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, is the first to examine the potential legacy that a mother’s experience with childhood abuse could have on the health of her own children. (via Yahoo News)

UK: Public OK With Creating Babies From 3 People
Britain’s fertility regulator says it has found broad public support for in vitro fertilization techniques that allow babies to be created with DNA from three people for couples at risk of passing on potentially fatal genetic diseases. (via Yahoo News)

Pediatricians’ Group Supports Gay Marriage, Adoption Rights
Children’s health and well-being are better off when parents who want to marry are allowed to do so regardless of their sexual orientation, a leading pediatricians’ group said today. (via Fox News)

Older Fathers More Likely to Have Autistic Grandchildren
Men who have children when they are older are more likely to have grandchildren with autism, according to a study which shows for the first time that risk factors for autism may build up over generations. (via Reuters)

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Did You Read “We Found Our Son In a Subway?”

Friday, March 1st, 2013

If you haven’t, grab the tissues. Published in yesterday’s New York Times Opinionator column, We Found Our Son in a Subway tells the story of a man who found a baby in a subway station, and was given the chance to adopt him by a kindly judge. When the man and his partner married, they could think of no one more appropriate to pronounce them a family.

We first shared this family’s story here at Parents nearly a decade ago, not long after their adoption became final.

It’s a powerful story. For families created by adoption, it often feels as if fate may have played a hand in bringing you together – whether you are chosen by the birth family, matched with your child by bureaucrats  half a world away who you will never meet, or you find a baby in the corner of a subway station. Somehow, by luck or chance or happenstance, you find each other, and you find love and you find family. And the judge in the story obviously saw the perfect family waiting for this little boy in the kind couple who found him and fought for him.

It’s an incredibly touching tale, and one that’s definitely worth the read. But what’s even more beautiful, at least in my eyes, is that the comment section is overwhelmingly filled with positive and loving messages toward this family. I think even a decade ago, this heartwarming story would’ve been met with a lot of hatred and homophobia – and to me, that’s almost as powerful as the story itself.

Let me know what you think after you read it! I’d love to hear your take on the update – and on our original story.

Image: Drawing from Matthew Jacques/Shutterstock.com

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Mom’s “Birth Announcement” for Son Shines Spotlight on Older Child Adoption

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Odds are, you probably have thousands of photos of your children stashed on your hard drive, stuffed into scrapbooks or displayed in picture frames. But for kids who aren’t adopted until they’re much older, baby pictures can be hard to come by, if not downright impossible. For photographer Kelli Higgins, that issue hit home—two of her children, Latrell and Chanya, were adopted by her when they were 10 and 5 years old—and came to her family without a single baby picture.

Fast forward to this year: As Kelli prepared to do a baby portrait for one of her clients, Latrell mentioned how he wished he’d had a baby picture of himself. While the family joked about him in all those classic newborn poses, the idea stuck with Latrell and his mom. “I was very sad too because I didn’t have any photos of him either,” Kelli told the Today Show. “I think it’s really hard to have children and not know what they looked like when they were younger.”

And so, Kelli arranged a photo shoot for her son and crafted a standard baby announcement, sharing the news of her son’s birth—13 years later. The images went viral, and Kelli hopes that they bring attention to the 100,000+ older children who are available for adoption here in the U.S. through the foster care system.

What do you think about her birth announcement? If you’ve adopted older children, how have you dealt with the lack of baby pictures and other mementos from their first years?

Image: Latrell’s birth announcement by Kelli Higgins Photography

 

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Parents Daily News Roundup

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Goody Blog Daily News Roundup

Stores to Recall 150,000 Nap Nanny Recliners After Deaths
Four national retailers agreed to recall more than 150,000 Nap Nanny baby recliners after at least five infant deaths and dozens of reports of children nearly falling out of the recliners, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said Thursday. (via Associated Press)

Kindness Is Key to Happiness and Acceptance for Children
Children who make an effort to perform acts of kindness are happier and experience greater acceptance from their peers, suggests new research from the University of British Columbia and the University of California, Riverside. (via ScienceDaily)

U.S. Jolted by Russia’s Proposed Adoption Ban
Waiting to give orphans from Russia a new home, American families are worried about an adoption ban that the Russia parliament has approved. (via USA Today)

TIME’s Breastfeeding Cover Mom Has No Regrets
The infamous pose she struck in May for TIME Magazine standing hand on hip while she breast-fed her 3-year-old son as he stood on a chair, landed her as much publicity as any supermodel. (via Today)

After Newtown, Some Parents Impose (Toy) Gun Control
As the nation debates gun policy following the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., some parents are imposing a different kind of gun control in their own homes: They are taking away their children’s toy guns. (via Today)

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