Posts Tagged ‘ international adoption ’

Honoring National Adoption Day: Illustrator Mary GrandPré Talks About Adopting Her Daughter

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Red crochet booties for a girlNovember is National Adoption Month, and this Saturday (November 23) is National Adoption Day. My colleague Lisa Milbrand, who adopted two children from China, recently wrote about her mixed feelings on “Gotcha Day,” when parents celebrate the day they adopted their child.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Harry Potter illustrator Mary GrandPré. She shared her experience adopting her daughter, Julia, from China seven years ago. Read the excerpt from the interview below.

Q: I watched an ArtOrg video from 2005 where you mentioned your adoption process. Can you speak a little about that experience?

A: I’m an older mom and I’m married to a man who has three adult children, so he was quite a trouper to want to go through this again, and I owe him, big-time. It was an amazing experience. I had always wanted to adopt a girl from China, and after we had lived in Florida for a couple of years, we went to China and we were matched with a baby girl. The process in China [means] … you don’t know who you are going to get. I’m not sure how they match, but they did an amazing job; it was like they picked the right girl for us. We had to wait about a week, [but] we were in China for two weeks. So we were doing all this touring and we were seeing the most amazing things, but all I could think about was having a baby, getting the baby, getting my girl. I couldn’t even concentrate. It was like I was in labor.

Even though she has grown brothers and sisters, Julia’s basically an only child. I never knew that having a child could be so life-changing and so wonderful. There are a lot of issues that come up with her birth parents [that] we’ve talked about it. A lot of people that adopt from China talk about it like [the child was] abandoned, [but] we don’t want to bring that up in our house and we don’t talk about it in that way because we don’t believe that she was abandoned. We talk to her about the one-child rule in China and how her parents didn’t have a choice. We want her to understand where she came from and why that situation was part of her life, and that her birth parents undoubtedly loved her because they put her in a place to be found.

We honor her birth parents. We honor her mother on Mother’s Day and we honor her father on Father’s Day, and we make cookies and we put them in a special mailbox in the backyard. We talk about it as much as she wants to, and we watch [what we call] the “Gotcha Day” video every “Gotcha Day.” [That’s the] the day we got her [when she was almost 2]. She was screaming her head off and didn’t want anything to do with us, but she thinks it’s quite funny now. I think she viewed me as threat because she was connected to her nanny quite a bit. By the time we got back home and the big dogs greeted us at the door, she was on me and she liked me. So from then on it was fine.

We’re going back to China in a couple of years, and Julia is very excited. She’s very proud of her heritage and she has dual citizenship.

 Read the full interview with Mary GrandPré and children’s book author Jennifer Dewing.

 

Image: Crocheted booties for a girl via Shutterstock

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National Adoption Month: Should You Celebrate Gotcha Day?

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

It’s a debate that’s raged on for more than a decade in the adoptive community: Should you celebrate the day when your child came to you—and what should you call that day? And as part of their National Adoption Month coverage, the Today Show decided to step into the fray and cover the drama on a segment all about the most controversial thing to call it: Gotcha Day.

To those who love the name, it speaks of the joyfulness of the adoptive parents over finally getting to hug the child they’ve been hoping to hold for years. And that the children finally get the family that they’ve been missing.

But its opponents have some pretty strong arguments against it. “Gotcha Day” tends to be pretty parent-centric, and ignores the fact that children may not have all rosy feelings about that particular day. It can remind them of how much they lost—their first families, their cultures and everything they knew, from their caretakers to the familiar sights and smells of their foster home or orphanage.

“Gotcha Day” can be pretty traumatic for kids. Most international adoptions happen fast once you’ve completed the mountain of paperwork and have finally gotten clearance to go meet your child. The kids are often handed over to their new parents swiftly with a quick run-through of care and feeding instructions. And if you’ve ever seen a baby unceremoniously dumped into the arms of a stranger, you know just how badly they react to it. I actually have a hard time watching the video footage of our daughters’ first days with our family, as I can see now what I missed back then. I used to see my oldest daughter drinking her first bottle with us. Now I see that her fists are clenched near her ears, and her eyes are darting every which way, fearful. (It’s no wonder that she developed a nasty stomach bug about 24 hours after we became her parents—her entire system was clearly shut down.) My easygoing youngest looks a little more comfortable, at least with her dad and me, but her brand-new big sister clearly seemed sketchy.

I’m not a big fan of “Gotcha Day.” And it’s not just the editor in me, who cringes at the incorrect “gotcha.” I prefer Family Day. It’s not a big celebration in our family. We acknowledge the days we met our daughters, a week and two years apart. And we split the difference in between, and have a day when we eat Chinese food and give our girls the gifts we bought them during our travels in China—jade necklaces and porcelain dolls.

And besides, we don’t need a special day. I know just how lucky we were to be entrusted with these two awesome kids, to get to watch them grow into two amazing young ladies, to get the chance to kiss them good night every night—to get to be their parents. I feel like we celebrate that every single day.

Image: Adoption terms by Kheng Guan Toh/Shutterstock.com

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The New International Adoption Powerhouse: The United States?

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

International adoption is on the decline, with most of the once-popular sending countries fewer and fewer children to the U.S. each year. But there is one country that’s becoming bigger in international adoption every year—and that’s the United States. Surprised?

I was, when I first heard about it. When you think of U.S. international adoption, you think of the hundreds of thousands of children who come into our country through international adoption, from China, Ethiopia, South Korea and the like. But the numbers, though small, are growing in the opposite direction, as hundreds of families in Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, and other countries have been adopting African-American babies each year. (Accurate numbers are hard to come by, but experts suggest it’s more than 300 children per year.)

Parents who choose to adopt from the U.S. need to go through a process that’ll sound similar to American families who adopt domestically—after background checks and home studies are done, they need to submit a birthparent letter introducing themselves to potential birthmothers, and wait for someone to select them. Many times, they don’t have to wait long—some are able to adopt in less than a year. Foreign families are sometimes preferred by birthparents over American families, because birthparents feel that African-American children may experience less racism and prejudice in other countries than they do here. And adoption lawyers who help facilitate these international adoptions say that people in other countries are more “colorblind” than those here in the U.S. “Most American families were, and still are, interested in adopting a white infant,” attorney Steven Kirsh of Kirsh & Kirsh, who has helped hundreds of families abroad adopt African-American children, told CNN. “The Dutch families were just interested in adopting an infant. The color of the child’s skin didn’t matter to them.”

Families who adopt from the U.S. often attempt to help them maintain a bit of their culture—like ensuring they speak English and celebrating Thanksgiving with them, for instance. (Just like my family incorporates Chinese holidays like Lunar New Year and Moon Festival into our calendars, thanks to my daughters’ Chinese heritage.) And because the overwhelming majority of American adoptions are now at least partially open, many of these kids have contact with their birthfamilies, something I know my daughters wish they had.

What do you think about international adoptions from the U.S.? And do you agree with the adoption lawyers’ assessment that U.S. parents are less likely to adopt transracially?

Image: Transracial adoption by Varina and Jay Patel/Shutterstock.com

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