“Aftermath of Adoption”

A co-worker noticed this article and passed it on to me.  I am typically a NAM supporter, but this article was poorly written and there are a number of issues that I have with it.

“Welcoming and raising an adopted son or daughter is similar to the traditional parenting experience.”

I love these sweeping generalizations…

“Rick and Jules Nolte of Arizona are quite skilled in welcoming and raising adoptees. The colorful family includes 12-year-old Nicholas from India, 8-year-old Jacob from California, 4-year-old Marissa from China and 5-month-old Matthew recently adopted from Vietnam.”

“Skillful???!?!?!”  Poor word choice, and all I can seem to picture is one of those got milk commercials except something that says “Got Multiculturalism?”  ugh…

” ”Be careful who they attach to,” Sunnie Frank said. ”Make sure they bond with the parents and not (as much with) siblings or close family friends.””

I’m not much of a psychologist, but this sort of rationalizations just seems sort of wrong.  Any TRA psychologists want to chime in here?

” ”I think they realized how fortunate they are and are able to appreciate all the opportunities they have,” Theresa Hack recalled.”

”  ”I think she saw the poverty her birth family lived in and realized her mother gave her up for adoption to give her a better chance at life,” Theresa Hack said.”

Again I disagree with this sort of depiction of adoptees needing to be thankful, and being rescued.

” ”The camps give them more kids to connect with, people to identify with and strategies to deal with a lot of the issues they face,” she said. ”For example, they suggest children ignore the teasing, tell the teaser to knock it off or tell someone in authority.”

After camp, Josh was better equipped to deal with his peers that periodically referred to him as ”Chinese Chopper” despite his Vietnamese heritage. The teasing eventually subsided and Josh developed into a well-adjusted teenager.”

Tell them to “knock it off” seems like a pretty weak strategy for dispelling racial epithets. ….

And the last highlight reel…

” ”I worried I couldn’t love them as much as I love my own (biological) children, but that’s not true. I love them just as much, maybe even more,'”

Here is yet another classic adoptive family fear.  And yet, she ends by saying that she now loves her adoptive children more than her biological children??!?!

I guess I’m a bit steamed over this article and extremely disappointed in the NAM staff.  I am however, encouraged by several of the adoptive mothers who did write in comments addressing some of these issues.  That’s it for my rant. – GS

Aftermath of Adoption: Adjusting to the Culture

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Nguoi Viet, News Analysis, Venus Lee, Posted: Jan 26, 2008

For years, China has been the Asian superpower when it comes to adoptions, but Vietnam is becoming a viable option for Americans seeking to adopt a child. Nguoi Viet is looking at the history of Vietnamese adoptions, at the cost and the waiting time of the process, the experience of traveling to Vietnam to pick up a child, and then how the youngsters assimilate into American culture.

All four Frank children eagerly peered down the hallway of the Chicago O’Hare International Airport awaiting the arrival of their parents and brand new sisters.

Suddenly, Trey spotted his father, Pete, carrying a two-year-old Vietnamese toddler, Mikayla, in one-hand and rolling a stroller with the other. His wife, Sunnie, followed close behind proudly showcasing their 5-month-old daughter, Mikenzie, who was sporting a patriotic outfit with the American flag flashed across her tiny chest.

Trey waved his hands vigorously to attract their attention.

And the couple, though exhausted from their multiple flights carrying them halfway around the world, were all smiles as they exchanged hugs with everyone and introduced the newest additions to the family.

Trey’s younger brother, Tyce, could barely contain his excitement. He jumped toward his mother, wrapping his hands and feet around her in a giant bear hug.

Each of the Frank family children took turns holding each of the girls. Trinity was grinning from ear-to-ear as she cradled her much-awaited siblings in her arms.

”I’ve waited so long for sisters,” Trinity said. ”Right now I enjoy doing their hair, but I can’t wait until they are older so I can do girl things with them, like teach them to ice skate and put on makeup.”

Parenting similarities

Welcoming and raising an adopted son or daughter is similar to the traditional parenting experience. Moms and dads nurture, educate and provide for their youngsters. The ritual is filled with joyous milestones as well as sleepless nights and an influx of baby-related bills. Family and friends fawn over the child.

Rick and Jules Nolte of Arizona are quite skilled in welcoming and raising adoptees. The colorful family includes 12-year-old Nicholas from India, 8-year-old Jacob from California, 4-year-old Marissa from China and 5-month-old Matthew recently adopted from Vietnam.

Despite their experience and exposure, the Noltes faced constant challenges helping the newest addition to their clan adjust to his new home since he was the first infant they took in.

First, Matthew needed some time to get used to the noise level of a house with four children.

”I noticed he was startled and cried a little easier during those first few days,” said Jules Nolte, who brought her son back less than two months ago. ”We both had difficulty adjusting to the time difference (which is 14 hours). He would sleep for two hours at a time, wake up crying and wouldn’t go to anybody but me.”

Since then, he has taken a liking to for the rest of the family. He often calls ”Dadada” in the middle of the night allowing Jules Nolte to stay in bed and forcing her husband to get up.

Matthew has been in the spotlight since the day the Noltes received his referral. They plastered pictures of him all over their blog and could not stop talking about him. His older siblings, Nicholas, Jacob and Marissa, longed intently to meet him and help their parents prepare for his coming.

pooolThe siblings are pictured swimming with Dorothea Kalatschan, who adopted the Vietnamese American boy and Vietnamese girl.

Like the Franks, Jules and Matthew Nolte experienced a similar homecoming after their five-week stay in Vietnam.

As she waltzed through the Phoenix airport, she held the blanket around Matthew so her family could not see him. Once the entire family gathered around her to catch a glimpse of the baby, she removed the cloth and exclaimed, ”Ta-da!”

Her three other children screamed in excitement as they jostled for a closer look.

”People around us were laughing and saying, ‘Aw, cute. She must have brought home a new baby,’ Jules Nolte remembered.

Marissa, then 3, quietly inspected her new brother.

Finally, she nodded her head and told her mother, ”Yup, you picked a good one.”

Jules Nolte quickly responded with a smile, ”I’m glad you approve.”

Now, even after two months at home, Matthew’s appeal has not diminished. The highlight of everyone’s day is to play with him.

After his mother picks him up from the babysitter, Matthew indulges in several hours of showcasing. First, Marissa and Jacob play with him. Then, when Nicholas returns from school, he walks through the door, briefly acknowledges his mom and grabs the baby for his turn to play.

According to his mother, Nicholas always says ”Matthew must’ve had a horrible day because he missed his big brother so much.”

The Franks can definitely relate to the Noltes’ experiences.

”Everyone is centered on them and wants to hold them,” Pete Frank said of Mikenzie and Mikayla. ”It’s hard because we want to shower them with all our love and attention. But we have to be careful not to put the spotlight on only them and neglect our other four children.”

Despite the desire to spread the love and affection, Sunnie Frank also warns parents against falling into another relationship dilemma.

She had spent nearly two months caring for Mikayla and Mikenzie in Vietnam. She noticed, in the following weeks after returning to the United States, that her two daughters were becoming especially close with their aunt, who often babysat and showered them with gifts.

”Be careful who they attach to,” Sunnie Frank said. ”Make sure they bond with the parents and not (as much with) siblings or close family friends.”

Sure, she was grateful for the love and time her daughters received, but she wanted to ensure the girls formed a lasting bond with her and understood that she was their mother. Therefore, she asked her sister-in-law to tone down the visits and presents for a little while.

Parenting differences

Raising an adopted child may be similar to raising any other child. But keep in mind that the experience also is accompanied by issues biological families may not have to tackle.

One of the most obvious is questions regarding identity. Those adopted often wonder about their background and who they are.

Many Vietnamese adoptee families suggest parents are straightforward with children from the beginning and integrate them with their birth culture at an early age.

”They love hearing their adoption story,” said Karen Calvert, who has two daughters from Vietnam. ”My daughter Madison frequently begs me to tell it to her… For us, it’s a bedtime story that children grow in your heart and not in your tummy.”

Although 9-year-old Madi-son’s younger sister, Ally, is not as eager to listen to details about her background, the 7-year-old likes participating in cultural events and learning more about her heritage.
The Calverts, similar to many families adopting from Vietnam, are not of Vietnamese heritage. Yet they fully embrace its traditions and try to blend them into their family life. They celebrate the T?t holiday and have taken the youngsters to see the dragon boat races in Boston. They keep a collection of books and online resources for their girls to review at their own pace and plan to take their children to Vietnam in three years.

Revisiting their homeland can be very helpful for foreign adoptees, especially if they are struggling with identity, balancing their past, present and future.

In 2005, Tim and Theresa Hack took their three adopted Vietnamese kids on a long tour. Josh, Emily and Nathan Hack visited the orphanages they came from. They met their caregivers and saw the numerous babies in need of a loving home.

”I think they realized how fortunate they are and are able to appreciate all the opportunities they have,” Theresa Hack recalled.

Emily Hack was lucky enough to meet her birth family who lived in a small rural village.
”I was so excited to meet them, find out more about them and tell them about me,” she said.
There was a significant language barrier, but Emily was able to communicate through gestures and pictures.

”I think she saw the poverty her birth family lived in and realized her mother gave her up for adoption to give her a better chance at life,” Theresa Hack said.

The difference in lifestyle and opportunity was evident by comparing Emily to her twin sister who resided with her birth family. Emily enjoys hearty meals, a generously-sized wardrobe, a good education and the chance to join in extracurricular activities such as dance, choir and sports. In contrast, her sibling lived with parents toiling to buy enough clothes for everyone in the family and put food on the table.

Apart from the eye-opening trip, the Hacks continue to promote the Vietnamese culture by regularly eating at Vietnamese restaurants and celebrating traditional holidays. They also keep in contact with the other adopting American families they travelled with during their Vietnam trips and send their children to culture and international adoption camps.

Since the Hacks live in a small rural community in Nebraska, gatherings allowing interaction with racial minorities are few, said Theresa Hack. The family depends heavily on such relationships with adopting families as well as the camps to provide their youngsters a crucial connection.

three girls

There are four major camps in the United States for adopted international children. The Colorado Heritage, Holt Heritage and Hands Around the World camps invite children of all ethnic backgrounds. In contrast, the Catalyst Foundation Vietnam Culture camps specifically caters to children of Vietnamese heritage.

The activities allow boys and girls to learn more about their background and link them with a network of children who share similar experiences.

”It’s important for them to form a community with other adopted children,” Karen Calvert said. ”The experience of adoption is more important than their home country. As the child gets older, they might have issues. And I’ll be so thankful they have a friend the same age they can talk to.”

Camp counselors also offer advice for dealing with intrusive questions and rude comments regarding their non-traditional background.

Theresa Hack found the training especially helpful for her son, Josh, who endured a lot of ridicule from his classmates when he was in kindergarten.

”The camps give them more kids to connect with, people to identify with and strategies to deal with a lot of the issues they face,” she said. ”For example, they suggest children ignore the teasing, tell the teaser to knock it off or tell someone in authority.”

After camp, Josh was better equipped to deal with his peers that periodically referred to him as ”Chinese Chopper” despite his Vietnamese heritage. The teasing eventually subsided and Josh developed into a well-adjusted teenager.

Parents report dealing with adoption and racial issues at different ages. Experiences are mixed depending on the child, family environment and composition of the community.

”I worried I couldn’t love them as much as I love my own (biological) children, but that’s not true. I love them just as much, maybe even more,” said Paula Davis, who has not even met her two daughters. She is tentatively scheduled to travel to Vietnam this month to pick up Reagan and Riley, who are born three days apart but live at the same orphanage.

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One Comment on ““Aftermath of Adoption”

  1. I think they realized how fortunate they are and are able to appreciate all the opportunities they have,” Theresa Hack recalled.

    People who adopt with that mentality are people who wear their children as a badge, who LIKE the constant attention, even if its negative, and like to proclaim to the world how wonderful they are because they saved a starving child, one who might have died out in a third world country if not for their loving home.

    Blech. I agree with you.

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