NPR’s Scott Simon Discusses Adoption on Fresh Air

NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon was interviewed on WHYY’s Fresh Air.  He discussed his new book “Baby We Were Meant for Each Other,” and his experiences with adoption.  He and his wife adopted their seven year old Elise when she was eleven months old, and their four year old daughter Lina when she was seven months old from China.

It came as no surprise to me that the person talking about adoption, was an adoptive parent.  As always, it appears as though adoptive parents are the only “authorities” on adoption.  I come back to this same problem every time I hear a program on adoption.  Why aren’t adoptees being called on to discuss their experiences?  There are professors, researchers, artists, musicians, and poets who all have incredibly interesting stories to tell and who are professionals with opinions on adoption that go beyond the merely personal.

There are three topics I’d like to address with this post.  First, I will look at adoption, assimilation rhetoric, and the “magic” of the familial integration.  Second, I want to discuss a few things related to how Mr. Simon and his wife have decided to parent their children.  And third, I will discuss the politics of racial identity.

As with most of my posts, I want to first start by saying that this is not meant to be slander, nor is it meant to be malicious by any means.  The point of posts such as these, and the point of all my posts on my blog, are to discuss representations of adoption in the media, and the often overlooked discussions of race and identity for transracial adoptees.  Whether you are an adoptee, adoptive parent, member of the triad, or any other concerned individual, this post is meant to inspire dialogue.

For as long as I can remember, adoptive parents have talked about their child(ren)’s first moments with them as being instantaneous and almost magical.  “That first moment was magical.  We knew, that s(he) was ours.”  In so many ways, adoptive parents want their child(ren) to feel as though they were meant for each other.  I do believe that these sort of narratives can gloss over some of the more important details that are occurring to an adoptee that are invisible to adoptive parents.

Some parents recount their experiences saying how the transition was seemless, or minimal at most.  The effects of adoption on the adoptee are often dismissed as children are perceived to be “fitting in,” to their new environments.  There is no discussion of trauma, since many who adopt children believe this to be the least traumatic experience for a child.  I’m no expert on child psychology, so I can’t speak to this last point much.  But I can say that, adoption can be very traumatic.

I’ve met many adoptees who were adopted later in their lives – some are four, five or even six years old when they are adopted.  So many of them have completely lost all memories of their homelands.  Most are completely devoid of any bilingual language capabilities that they once had.  Think of it this way.  What sort of moment in your life could be so traumatic that you push all memories of it out of your mind permanently?  Adoption is no easy thing for an adoptee, regardless of age, I have to believe that even young children can sense these things in one way or another.

At one point Mr. Simon said “she immediately became our child.”  No doubt, she became your daughter at that very moment.  However, I would urge Mr. Simon to not forget that she will forever be not just your daughter, but her birth mother’s daughter too.  Continue to celebrate her life in China as much as you do in the U.S.  Too often, I hear about adoptive parents who celebrate the day they arrived in the U.S. with out any concept of the life they lived or lost before they were adopted.

I do want to point something out which I found encouraging in Mr. Simon’s interview.  He stated that he and his wife wish to provide their daughters with as much of their heritage as possible so that they can make their own decisions for themselves later in life.  These things may not necessarily be relevant to them now, but it is important to present these aspects of themselves as important parts of them that should be available to them early on.  Simon is referring to a Chinese school that both his daughter are enrolled in over the summer that teaches Mandarin, Chinese cooking and cultural celebrations.  Now, I can’t speak to the quality of these things but I do think it is encouraging to hear that they have considered the importance of making these things available to their children at an early age.  He and his wife even went as far as attempting to only hire Chinese babysitters for their daughters.

Finally, I wanted to comment on a particular comment I found confusing towards the end of the interview.  Mr. Simon said that he does not believe it is healthy for one to confuse identity with ethnicity.  I think that the word ‘ethnicity’ has become a code word for race more recently.  Some folks balk at using the word ‘race’ when referring to their adoptee children, especially when they are Asian.  However, I think it is incredibly important to acknowledge this.  He says that his daughters are aware of the fact that they are Chinese.  They will be made VERY aware of what it means to be Chinese American, Asian American and how this collides with their identities as young women soon enough.  And I believe that this can not and should not be left out of the conversation.  Race, whether we like it or not, is part of the American subconsciousness.  Children are exposed to this at a very young age through television, the media, the other children they are surrounded by as they grow up.

These conversations need to happen.  I’m partially encouraged by some of the things Mr. Simon had to say.  However, there is so much left to change.  I would encourage Mr. Simon to consider helping change the all too common adoption narrative to one that encourages and embraces the opinions and perspectives of adult adoptees.  For the most part, adoptive parents are the ones given the microphone to talk about their experiences and frame how adoption is talked about in the media.  Adult adoptees are an important part of the equation since your child won’t be a child forever.  I would love for there to be an NPR program that includes adult adoptee scholars, writers, educators, bloggers etc.  Our voices are out there, but for the most part, we’re not listened to or honored as much as yours.  As adoptive parents, and as reporters and journalists I hope you’ll consider our voices as important as your own and give us opportunities to be a part of the dialogue.

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Adoptive Parent Charged of Abusing Adopted Son

Here’s some more bad news.  An adoptive mother in Raleigh has been charged with abusing her 3 year old adopted son from China.

Apparently the child was physically abused so much so, that he was hospitalized for a skull fracture and bruising on the front part of his brain.  And now he is in a coma.

“Records also show Wake County Child Protective Services has previously investigated abuse and neglect reports concerning the child since he was adopted.”

“Investigators later learned that the child had been admitted to the UNC-Chapel Hill Burn Center in January with second- and third-degree burns to both his hands.”

“In February, workers at the day care Adam attends noticed bruises on his back and leg. They also noticed that the child had lost weight since enrolling.”

How in the world did these incidents NOT alert social workers of this child’s frequent abuse?  Why didn’t his day care workers do something when they noticed these bruises on his back and leg?  The child is in a coma now.  So tragic.

————————-

Published Fri, Apr 09, 2010 10:43 AM
Modified Fri, Apr 09, 2010 10:46 AM

Adoptive mother charged with child abuse

RALEIGH Police have charged the adoptive mother of a 3-year-old with felony child abuse, court records show.

Apex police have charged Michele Andi Stein, 39, of 121 Homegate Circle, Apex, with one count of felony child abuse, severe bodily injury, according to an arrest warrant filed Tuesday night at the Wake County Magistrate’s Office.

Apex investigators have accused Stein of assaulting Adam so severely March 19 that the child is in a coma at Duke University Hospital. The child has a fractured skull and large bruises on the frontal region of his brain, police reported.

In a court affidavit made public earlier this month, police said that Michele Stein and her husband adopted Adam from an orphanage in China in November.

Police began investigating the Steins when a Duke physician told investigators the child’s head trauma was inconsistent with his parents’ account of how he was injured, court records show.

Records also show Wake County Child Protective Services has previously investigated abuse and neglect reports concerning the child since he was adopted.

Emergency workers took the child on March 19 to WakeMed in Raleigh. He was breathing but unconscious, police reported.

When emergency workers arrived at the home, they found the child at the bottom of a staircase, Apex Police Department detective Worth T. Brown stated in the court affidavit earlier this month.

Michele Stein told the EMS workers that the child had fallen down the stairs earlier in the day while her husband was still at work, Brown stated in the search warrant application. She said she thought Adam was fine and put him down for a nap.

Adam was transferred March 20 to Duke, where Dr. Karen St. Claire, who is with the child abuse and neglect team, determined the injury was inconsistent with falling down six carpeted stairs.

Investigators later learned that the child had been admitted to the UNC-Chapel Hill Burn Center in January with second- and third-degree burns to both his hands.

Michele Stein told authorities that she had turned on hot water in the bathtub to give Adam a bath and had left him briefly unattended while she went to get him clean pajamas. Investigators with the county’s child protective services suspected abuse, but determined the incident to be more consistent with “poor supervision and neglect,” police reported.

In February, workers at the day care Adam attends noticed bruises on his back and leg. They also noticed that the child had lost weight since enrolling.

Michele Stein is in custody at the Wake County jail, where she is being held under $200,000 bail, a jail spokesman said this morning.

The Apex woman will make her first court appearance this afternoon, the spokesman said.

thomasi.mcdonald@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4533

Intercountry Adoptions hits 13-year Low

I just caught this AP article on the Globe website.  Apparently intercountry adoptions are down 27% since last year, and 45% lower than the peak of intercountry adoptions in 2004.

As we all know, foreign policy, strict adoption policies, socioeconomics and of course the dreaded “C” word (corruption) have caused many programs to shut down over the years making way for new programs to emerge.  As China and Russia’s adoptions continue to taper off, Ethiopia’s intercountry adoption program has emerged.  For some prospective adoptive families it’s just a matter of wait times.  Some who decide to adopt from China can be wait-listed for years.  Whereas Ethiopia’s adoption program is much faster (In many cases, less than a year from what I hear).

What makes this article so interesting for me is what this means for the post-adoption service needs of Chinese adoptees.  Apparently there are now more Chinese children with special physical or emotional needs coming to the US via adoption.  This drastically changes the post-adoption service needs of Chinese adoptees who are adopted after the first major wave of adoptions from China.  With so many Chinese adoption agencies in the US shutting down, will service providers be able to accommodate the emerging needs of this new generation of Chinese adoptees?

Please read  GS

Foreign adoptions by Americans hit 13-year low

By David Crary, AP National Writer  |  December 17, 2009

NEW YORK –The number of foreign children adopted by Americans plunged more than a quarter in the past year, reaching the lowest level since 1996 and leading adoption advocates to urge Congress to help reverse the trend.

Big declines were recorded for all three countries that provided the most adopted children in the previous fiscal year. In China and Russia, government officials have been trying to promote domestic adoptions, while in Guatemala, a once-bustling but highly corrupt international adoption industry was shut down while reforms are implemented.

Figures for fiscal year 2009, released by the State Department on Thursday, showed 12,753 adoptions from abroad, down from 17,438 in 2008 — a dip of 27 percent and nearly 45 percent lower than the all-time peak of 22,884 in 2004.

The last time there were fewer foreign adoptions to the U.S. was in 1996, when there were 11,340.

China was the No. 1 source country in 2009 — but U.S. adoptions from there dropped to 3,001, compared with 3,909 in 2008. China has been steadily cutting back the numbers of healthy, well-adjusted orphans being made available for adoptions; a majority of Chinese children now available to U.S. adoptive families have special physical or emotional needs.

Guatemala was the No. 1 source country in 2008, with 4,123 adoptions by Americans. But the number sank to 756 for 2009, virtually all of them in the final few months before the Central American country’s adoption industry was shut down while authorities drafted reforms. It’s not known when adoptions to the U.S. will resume.

The biggest increase came from Ethiopia — 2,277 adoptions in fiscal 2009, compared with 1,725 in 2008.

Russia was No. 4 in the new listing with 1,586 adoptions, a 15 percent drop.

Adoptions from Vietnam — where the industry, like Guatemala’s, has been plagued by corruption allegations — dropped from 751 to 481. The bilateral U.S.-Vietnam adoption agreement expired in September and has not been renewed.

Chuck Johnson, chief operating officer of the National Council for Adoption, said the new figures dismayed him and other advocates of international adoption.

“This drop is not a result of fewer orphans or less interest from American families in adopting children from other countries,” he said. “All of us are very discouraged because we see the suffering taking place. We don’t know how to fix it without the U.S. government coming alongside.”

According to Johnson, the State Department considers its current adoption mandate to be assisting U.S. citizens with foreign adoption procedures and monitoring the integrity of foreign countries’ adoption industries.

Johnson said he would like the mandate expanded to give the department explicit authority to encourage more international adoptions, and he suggested a first step could be made if Congress passed a proposed bill called the Families for Orphans Act.

Johnson also said all parties who have tolerated corrupt adoption practices bore some of the blame for the dwindling numbers.

“People in the practice of adoption worldwide have made ethical blunders that have cast a shadow over intercountry adoptions,” he said. “It’s highlighted how difficult it is for some of these countries to adequately supervise the adoption process, and led some countries to decide it’s just not worth the effort.”

Thomas DiFilipo, president of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services, predicted the numbers for fiscal 2010 would be even lower — down to about 9,800 — if adoptions from Vietnam remained suspended by the U.S. government and China continued to cut back.

DiFilipo said he’d like to see the State Department become a more active promoter of international adoption.

“One of their primary functions is to help potential adoptive parents, when their focus should be on children in need of adoptive families,” DiFilipo said. “The Families for Orphans Act would fill that void.”

Adoptions of Chinese children by Americans peaked in fiscal 2005 at 7,906 and have fallen steadily since then. Some U.S. families have been waiting roughly four years for their adoption applications to be completed.

At Great Wall China Adoption, based in Austin, Texas, spokeswoman Kelly Ayoub said the agency placed nearly 1,000 children from China in 2005 and would probably place only one-fifth of that number this year.

“Of course families are frustrated by the wait,” she said in an e-mail. “Families that are being matched right now have waited 45 months — an investment of time that no one expected.”

Like some other agencies, Great Wall China is branching out geographically — advising families to consider Ethiopia, Rwanda, Mexico and the Philippines, among other places.

Among the Americans engaged in a long wait for an adoption from China is Steve Curtis of Millburn, N.J. He and his wife applied in October 2007 to adopt a second child as a sister to Amelia, whom they adopted from China the previous year.

“Unfortunately, we are STILL waiting, with no end in sight,” Curtis said in an e-mail last week. “We’re thinking of throwing in the towel but are keeping the faith.”

Chinese Adoption Corruption

This is pretty heart-wrenching stuff.  I came across this article on the K@W listserv and unfortunately I’m not surprised.  This sort of thing happens all the time and usually we don’t hear about it.  Many of these babies are being torn from their parents and SOLD to adoption agencies reaping huge profits and breaking the hearts of many Chinese families.  Many families are in vulnerable situations and are taken advantage of.  This is an important article that reminds us that when there is money to be made, even in the case of adoption, there WILL be corruption.

latimes.com

Chinese babies stolen by officials for foreign adoption

In some rural areas, instead of levying fines for violations of China’s child policies, greedy officials took babies, which would each fetch $3,000 in adoption fees.

By Barbara Demick

September 20, 2009

Reporting from Tianxi, China

The man from family planning liked to prowl around the mountaintop village, looking for diapers on clotheslines and listening for the cry of a hungry newborn. One day in the spring of 2004, he presented himself at Yang Shuiying’s doorstep and commanded: “Bring out the baby.”

Yang wept and argued, but, alone with her 4-month-old daughter, she was in no position to resist the man every parent in Tianxi feared.

“I’m going to sell the baby for foreign adoption. I can get a lot of money for her,” he told the sobbing mother as he drove her with the baby to an orphanage in Zhenyuan, a nearby city in the southern province of Guizhou. In return, he promised that the family wouldn’t have to pay fines for violating China’s one-child policy.

Then he warned her: “Don’t tell anyone about it.”

For five years, she kept the terrible secret. “I didn’t understand that they didn’t have the right to take our babies,” she said.

Since the early 1990s, more than 80,000 Chinese children have been adopted abroad, the majority to the United States.

The conventional wisdom is that the babies, mostly girls, were abandoned by their parents because of the traditional preference for boys and China’s restrictions on family size. No doubt, that was the case for tens of thousands of the girls.

But some parents are beginning to come forward to tell harrowing stories of babies who were taken away by coercion, fraud or kidnapping — sometimes by government officials who covered their tracks by pretending that the babies had been abandoned.

Parents who say their children were taken complain that officials were motivated by the $3,000 per child that adoptive parents pay orphanages.

“Our children were exported abroad like they were factory products,” said Yang Libing, a migrant worker from Hunan province whose daughter was seized in 2005. He has since learned that she is in the United States.

Doubts about how babies are procured for adoption in China have begun to ripple through the international adoption community.

“In the beginning, I think, adoption from China was a very good thing because there were so many abandoned girls. But then it became a supply-and-demand-driven market and a lot of people at the local level were making too much money,” said Ina Hut, who last month resigned as the head of the Netherlands’ largest adoption agency out of concern about baby trafficking.

The Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs, the government agency that oversees foreign and domestic adoption, rejected repeated requests for comment. Officials of the agency have told foreign diplomats that they believe that the abuses are limited to a small number of babies and that those responsible have been removed and punished.

For adoptive parents, the possibility that their children were forcibly taken from their birth parents is terrifying.

“When we adopted in 2006, we were fed the same stories, that there were millions of unwanted girls in China, that they would be left on the street to die if we didn’t help,” said Cathy Wagner, an adoptive mother from Nova Scotia, Canada. “I love my daughter, but if I had any idea my money would cause her to be taken away from another mother who loved her, I never would have adopted.”

Twisting the laws

The problem is rooted in China’s population controls, which limit most families to one child, two if they live in the countryside and the first is a girl. Each town has a family planning office, usually staffed by loyal Communist Party cadres who have broad powers to order abortions and sterilizations. People who have additional babies can be fined up to six times their annual income — fines euphemistically called “social service expenditures,” which are an important source of revenue for local government in rural areas.

“The family planning people are even more powerful than the Ministry of Public Security,” said Yang Zhizhu, a legal scholar in Beijing.

Throughout the countryside, red banners exhort, “Give birth to fewer babies, plant more trees” and, more ominously, “If you give birth to extra children, your family will be ruined.”

But the law does not give officials the power to take babies from their parents.

Some families say they were beaten and threatened into giving up their daughters, or tricked into signing away their parental rights.

“They grabbed the baby and dragged me out of the house. I was screaming — I thought they were going to knock me over,” said Liu Suzhen, a frail woman from Huangxin village near Shaoyang in Hunan province. She was baby-sitting her 4-month-old granddaughter one night in March 2003 when a dozen officials stormed her house.

She said they took her and the baby to a family planning office, where a man grabbed her arm and pressed her thumbprint onto a document she couldn’t read.

Once a child is taken to an orphanage, parents can lose all rights.

“They wouldn’t even let me in the door,” said Zhou Changqi, a construction worker whose 6-month-old daughter was taken in 2002 by family planning officials in Guiyang, in Hunan province. Zhou tried repeatedly over three years to get into the Changsha Social Welfare Institute, one of the major orphanages sending babies abroad, until one day he was told:

“It’s too late. Your daughter has already gone to America.”

Perverse incentives

In much of China, villagers live in dread of surprise visits from family planning officials. It was certainly the case for the residents of Tianxi, a mist-shrouded village of 1,800 people tucked high in lush mountains near Zhenyuan.

No matter that the village is a two-hour drive down a rutted dirt road and then a 30-minute hike uphill, family planning officials make inspections as often as twice a week. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, when families were too poor to pay, the officials would punish them by ransacking their homes or confiscating cows and pigs, residents say.

Then, in 2003, things changed. The year after the Social Welfare Institute in Zhenyuan was approved to participate in the burgeoning foreign adoption program, family planning officials stopped confiscating farm animals. They started taking babies instead.

“If people couldn’t pay their fines, they’d take away their babies,” said a retired municipal employee from Zhenyuan who used to work as a foster parent for the orphanage.

“We were always terrified of them,”said Yang Shuiying, the 34-year-old mother whose daughter was taken away.

In December 2003, Yang gave birth to her fourth daughter, delivering her at home with the help of a midwife. It was an unplanned birth. In fact, her husband had gotten a vasectomy just a few days before she realized she was pregnant again.

“I hadn’t planned to have another baby, but once I did, I wanted to raise her,” said Yang, a soft-spoken woman who told her story with downcast eyes.

Her husband, Lu Xiande, felt even more strongly that the girl belonged at home. Away at the market when the baby was seized, he erupted in fury when he discovered what had happened.

“I’ll get her back,” he promised his distraught wife. He headed off to China’s east coast, hoping that as a migrant worker he could raise the money to pay the family planning fine. But Lu fell sick and had to return home. Shortly afterward, he tried to slit his throat with a butcher knife.

Almost everybody in the village knows somebody whose baby was taken away. An old man leaning on a hand-carved walking stick told of how his granddaughter was taken away. A younger man spoke of a niece.

The villagers resent the suggestion by some that they don’t love their daughters and readily abandon them.

“People around here don’t dump their kids. They don’t sell their kids. Boy or girl, they’re our flesh and blood,” said Li Zeji, 32, a farmer who says his third daughter was taken in 2004.

Under Chinese law, officials are required to search for the birth parents of abandoned babies. Four months after Yang Shuiying’s daughter was taken, her photograph ran in a notice in the province’s Guizhou City Daily along with those of 14 other babies.

The ad claimed, falsely, that the baby was “found abandoned on the doorstep” of a home in Tianxi village.

“Whoever recognizes this child should contact the orphanage in 60 days; otherwise, the baby will be considered an orphan,” read the Aug. 14, 2004, announcement.

The parents say they never saw the notices because they lived in remote villages where newspapers were not available. In addition, many of the parents are illiterate and they had been told by family planning officials that the law allowed them to confiscate the babies, so it did not occur to them to complain.

The truth emerged because a teacher with relatives in Tianxi village heard about the confiscations and reported them to police and a disciplinary agency. When there was no response, he posted complaints on the Internet, which made it into the Chinese press in July of this year after a few earlier stories were censored. The teacher is in hiding for fear of retaliation.

The U.S. Embassy said in a statement released in July that it had been advised by China’s Central Adoption Authority “that seven officials implicated in this case have been arrested.” It added, “The United States takes seriously any allegation that children were offered for inter-country adoption without their parents’ knowledge or consent.”

But in Zhenyuan, officials denied that anybody had been arrested or fired from their jobs. They said the penalties ranged from demerits to warnings placed in their files. Shi Guangying, the official who took Yang’s baby, was demoted.

Zhenyuan officials angrily defended their conduct.

“It’s a lie that they took babies away without their parents’ permission. That’s impossible,” said Peng Qiuping, a party official and propaganda chief for Zhenyuan. “These parents agreed that the children should be put up for adoption. They understood that they were greedy and had more children than they could afford.”

“They’re better off with their adoptive parents than their birth parents,” argued Wu Benhua, director of Zhenyuan’s civil affairs bureau.

From 2003 to 2007, the orphanage in Zhenyuan sent 60 babies to the United States and Europe. Given the suspicious clusters of the babies listed in the notices and the remoteness of the villages where it would be difficult to hike in and abandon a child, many, if not most, are believed to have been confiscated by family planning officials.

Wu said the money received from adoptive parents, $180,000 in all, went toward food, clothing, bedding and medical care for the babies and to improve conditions in the Social Welfare Institute.

But most of the babies had been housed with families who were paid only $30 a month for their services, according to one foster parent. And there were no obvious signs of renovations at the institute, a grim three-story building where a couple of senior citizens could be seen through barred windows lounging on cots. Reporters were not permitted to enter.

“We don’t know what happened to the money, and we don’t dare ask,” said Yang Zhenping, a 50-year-old farmer from Tianxi.

Brian Stuy, an adoptive father in Salt Lake City who researches the origins of Chinese adoptees, has noticed an unusually large number of older babies reported as abandoned. He suspects these were babies who were confiscated, stolen or given up under duress.

“If you don’t want a girl, you give her up as soon as she’s born,” Stuy said.

He believes that the $3,000 adoption fee — about six times the annual income in rural China and usually handed over in new $100 bills — has inspired abuses.

“It is international adoption that is creating the suction that causes family planning to take the kids to make money,” Stuy said. “If there was no international adoption and the state had to raise the kids until they turned 18, you could be sure family planning wouldn’t confiscate them.”

Tricking parents

China’s family planning laws don’t just restrict the number of children in a family. Couples are supposed to get a birth permit before before conceiving. Women must be at least 20 years old and men 24. Couples must have a marriage certificate, which requires that each partner have proper hukou, the cumbersome residency permits that control where people live.

Residents in Gaoping, a small town in Hunan province, say family planning officials have used the fine print of the law to confiscate even first-born children.

Yang Libing and his wife, Cao Zhimei, both migrant workers, said their 9-month-old daughter, Ling, was taken away in 2005 because, as migrant workers, they weren’t able to gather all the documents to register their marriage. The local family planning officials struck when Yang’s elderly parents were baby-sitting.

They told Yang’s father that the family would be fined the equivalent of more than $1,000, but that if he signed a document saying that the baby was not their birth child, but adopted, they would be spared the fine.

“They were people I knew. I trusted them. They tricked me,” said the father, Yang Qinzheng, a Communist Party member who, though literate, didn’t read the document carefully because of poor eyesight.

The officials then took the baby to the orphanage in nearby Shaoyang, promising to bring her back after her registration papers were filed. The family did not see her again.

The couple, who had another child later, a boy who is now 3, still grieve for their daughter.

“Everybody in the village adored her. She had big eyes like saucers and a smile for everybody she saw,” said Cao, the mother. “I think of her all the time. I wonder if she looks like an American now.”

In all, residents say, about 15 babies were confiscated in Gaoping. A schoolteacher helped families from villages around Gaoping write a petition in 2006, which they submitted to a deputy of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislative body.

When the news broke in the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, some of the family planning officials were reassigned to other posts, but no one was arrested and none of the families recovered their children.

“They still have jobs. Nothing really happened to them, but they at least stopped stealing our children,” said Yang Libing, who was a leader of the group.

But the practice continues elsewhere. In December in Dongkou county, 10 miles from Gaoping, family planning officials took a nearly 6-week-old boy out of his mother’s arms, saying the family owed more than $2,000 in penalties because he was a second child.

“They didn’t say what they were going to do with the baby, just that they would send him to the orphanage, but I realized that they were planning to sell him,” said the baby’s father, Hou Yongjun, a driving instructor. Unable to raise the money on short notice, he telephoned everybody he knew, including a journalist.

At 10:30 that night, Hou’s wife heard a noise and looked out the window to see two people running away. Thirteen hours after he had been taken, she found the baby on the doorstep, hungry but unharmed.

Adoption experts say that China’s system is badly in need of repair.

Deng Fei, an investigative journalist based in Beijing who has written frequently about the issue, believes there should be more scrutiny of the cash paid by foreign parents.

“That money is a windfall for the orphanages and local officials,” Deng said. “It seduced them into going to look for babies to send abroad.”

In Philadelphia, Wendy Mailman, who adopted in 2005 from the orphanage in Zhenyuan that took in confiscated babies, now questions everything she was told about the girl who orphanage officials said was born in September and abandoned in January.

“Why would a mother who didn’t want a baby girl be so heartless as to wait until the dead of winter to abandon her?” she said.

She wonders what she would do if she discovered that her daughter was one of the stolen babies. She knows she could never return the Americanized 6-year-old, who is obsessed with “SpongeBob” and hates the Chinese culture classes her mother enrolled her in. But she said, “I would certainly want to tell the birth family that your daughter is alive and happy and maybe send a picture.”

“It would be up to my daughter later if she wanted to build a relationship,” she said.

For many birth families, that would be enough.

“We’d never make her come back, because a girl raised in the West wouldn’t want to live in a poor village like this,” said Yang Shuiying’s mother-in-law, Yang Jinxiu.

“But we’d like to know where she is. We’d like to see a picture. And we’d like her to know that we miss her and that we didn’t throw her away.”

barbara.demick@latimes.com

Nicole Liu and Angelina Qu of The Times’ Beijing Bureau contributed to this report.

“Why Fewer Americans Are Adopting Chinese”

Just caught wind of this article on Angry Asian Man, but also on the K@W listserv.

“In 2005, American citizens adopted 7,906 children through the state-run China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA). In 2008, that number fell to 3,909 kids.”

Take a look. -GS

Why Fewer Americans Are Adopting Chinese Kids
By KAYLA WEBLEY / HONG KONG Kayla Webley / Hong Kong Tue Apr 28, 10:40 am ET

Becky Freer says adopting a ten-month-old baby girl from China is the best thing she has ever done. When Freer, a 44-year-old resident of Austin, Texas, recently decided to further expand her family by adopting a sister for her now three-and-a-half year old daughter, she thought China was the obvious choice. But as a single woman, Freer is no longer eligible. “Three years ago I was an acceptable parent and now I’m not,” she said. “It seems kind of unfair.”

While her daughter will have a new sister – Freer has since been approved to adopt a child from Ethiopia – she is one of a growing number prospective parents who are unable to adopt from China under new adoption laws Beijing put in place in May 2007. The stricter guidelines, intended to limit the overwhelming number of applicants to China’s well-regarded adoption program, have been effective – international adoptions from China to the U.S. have dropped by 50 percent, according to the U.S. State Department. The new regulations require, among other things, that adoptive parents be married, not classified as clinically obese, under 50, not have taken antidepressant medications in the past two years, not have facial deformities and meet certain educational and economic requirements. In 2005, American citizens adopted 7,906 children through the state-run China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA). In 2008, that number fell to 3,909 kids. (See pictures of American children up for adoption.)

But the new laws are only part of the reason that fewer Chinese children are being adopted by American families. While the Chinese government does not release domestic adoption figures, U.S.-based adoption agencies say more Chinese children are also being adopted at home. “You have this cultural shift along with the economic shift, where more and more people can not only afford to adopt a child, but culturally, it’s more accepted,” said Cory Barron, foundation director at Children’s Hope International. Historically, adoption was not socially acceptable or a viable economic option for many families in China. But orphanages were getting more crowded, prompting the government to open up to international adoptions in 1992. Josh Zhong, founder and director of Chinese Children Adoption International in Colorado, remembers what it was like in China just 10 years ago. “You would see hundreds of thousands of children,” he said. “Orphanages begging you to come in, saying, ‘Please help us, these children need to go home.'” A slow shift in gender perception may also be playing a role. While girls still make up 95 percent of children at orphanages, Zhong says that, too, has shifted. “Peoples attitude toward having girls is changing dramatically,” Zhong said. “I have friends [in China] who have girls, and they are just so excited.”

With fewer children being put up for adoption but the foreign demand going strong, China can afford to be more selective. “I think they are saying, you know what, we have fewer children now and so we are looking for better parents,” Zhong says. His organization has experienced a drop from 1,152 China adoptions in 2005 to 422 in 2008. And while Beijing’s new standards may sound harsh to Americans with their hearts set on a baby, they have little influence in the matter. “These are China’s children and they can set the requirement to what they deem is best,” says Barron.

International adoptions in the U.S. gained popularity in the 1990s as families reached out to poorer corners of the world to adopt a child in need. Adoptions increased in not only in countries like China, which has always had a trustworthy system, but also in countries that didn’t have a good system of checks and balances. By 2006, the U.S. began implementing some provisions from the 1994 Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, a treaty intended to crack down on abduction, exploitation, sale and trafficking of children. The U.S. went on to fully adopt the regulations in April 2008, and has since stopped processing adoptions from Vietnam, Guatemala, Liberia and Kyrgyzstan until those countries meet the Convention’s standards. At the same time, China tightened its own laws, resulting in a worldwide drop in international adoption from a peak of 22,884 adoptions in 2004 to 17,438 last year.

Adopting a child from the CCAA has never been a simple task. After submitting a long list of required documents, including home studies completed by social workers and federal background checks, applicants’ paperwork is approved by the CCAA and the wait begins. Fees and expenses can amount to upwards of $20,000 before families are cleared to take home their new child. And the wait can be long. Today, China has a backlog of approved applicants from around the world, and is just now placing children into homes of families who were approved for adoption in March 2006.

For some families, that’s too long, and so they look to China’s “waiting child” list of children with special needs, ranging from everything from cleft lips or deafness to more severe physical and mental disabilities. Prospective parents can read about a child’s disability in a national database and decide if it is something they can take on. “Kids who would probably never be adopted in China, and maybe wouldn’t have been adopted in the U.S., are now getting homes,” Barron said. Lee Ann Laune, a 37-year old director of special education programs in Missouri, says she probably looked at more than 100 children over the past two-and-a-half years before finding her daughter, Hope. “When we first got into this, there was a six-to-nine month wait,” Lee Ann said. As time passed, Lee Ann said she and her husband, Paul, would look through the “waiting” children to see if they came across a child that was meant for them. In April, the Launes were approved to adopt Hope, a four-and-a-half year old deaf girl from Hunan province in China. “When we looked into her eyes, it was an automatic for us. It was ‘We can handle this,'” she said. “It’s unbelievable to know we are going to be that saving grace for her.”

5th Biennial Adoption Conference

Hello all.  Just wanted to give a little update on Chinese Adoptee Links (CAL) and what they are doing these days.  Thanks to Jennifer for sending me this information.  Make sure you check out their website for details:  www.chineseadopteelinks.org

You are Cordially Invited…
Chinese Adoptee Links (CAL) International
FALL 2008 EVENTS

24-25 October 2008

NYC

The 5th Biennial Adoption Conference

CAL’s Presentation: “Bridging Global Girls”

with Dr. Amanda Baden, Ann Boccuti, LiLi Johnson, Jennifer Jue-Steuck, Dana Leventhal

Saturday, October 25th, 1:30-3pm

NYU’s (New York University) Silver Center 405

Washington Square East at West 4th Street, Greenwich Village, Manhattan

5-22 November 2008

HONG KONG

Hong Kong’s First “Adoption Festival”

Hosted by Mother’s Choice

41 B Kennedy Road

Hong Kong

(**November is National Adoption Month in the USA**)


Hong Kong Workshop Hosted By Jessica Emmett & Jennifer Jue-Steuck of CAL

T-SHIRT DESIGN BY JESSICA EMMETT

*****

FALL 2008 ANNOUNCEMENTS
CAL’S “GLOBAL GENERATIONS” POSTCARD PROJECT
Edited by Jenna Cook & the CAL “(G2) Global Girls” Teen Ambassadors
(Details TBA online soon!)
HELLO CAL MEMBERS IN NEW ZEALAND
CAL member Laurie and her daughter are moving from the USA to New Zealand this fall.
They would like to meet you and your New Zealand communities!
Please contact them at ChineseAdopteeLinks@gmail.com, “ATTN: LAURIE in NZ”
WOULD YOU LIKE TO EARN  £380 (roughly $600 USD)?
Participate in a Language Study conducted by Professor Jeff Bowers at University of Bristol, England.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO CONNECT WITH FELLOW ADOPTED TEENS…?
….OR PARTICIPATE IN A TEEN ANTHOLOGY by EMK PRESS?
….OR START YOUR OWN REGIONAL G2 “Global Generations” TEEN CLUB?
Email: Grace Cheung at GlobalGenerationsInc@gmail.com
WOULD YOU LIKE TO RECEIVE CAL NEWSLETTERS IN PRINT?
Subscribe to:
ADOPTION TODAY Magazine (www.AdoptInfo.net)
&
MEI Magazine (www.MeiMagazine.com)
Happy Fall and Best Regards from CAL’s Board of Directors,
Dr. Amanda Baden (NYC)
Dr. Mei-Mei Ellerman (Italy & USA)
Kim Prusak (Los Angeles)
Jennifer Jue-Steuck (San Francisco)
and
The Fantastic All-Volunteer CAL Team (ages 8-84) on 4 Continents

Chinese Adoptee Links (CAL) International
“The First Global Group Created by Chinese Adoptees & Friends – Linking Generations Worldwide”

Olympics instill pride in adoptees

Found this article while searching for adoptees in the Olympics.  It’s a very short story on Chinese adoptees, their families and their views of the Olympics.  I agree with the one parent who was careful in stating that while watching the Olympics in Beijing with her children was enlightening it isn’t necessarily something she can claim as helping them learn their culture.  Which I think is a sentiment widely shared by several of the other parents in this article.  I agree.  It’s enlightening, but to say you are teaching your children Chinese culture by allowing them to stay up late and watch the Olympics is a bit of a stretch for me.  But again it’s nice that these adoptees have someone to look up to in Corrie Lothrop.  GS

Olympics instill pride in adoptees

Adoption as Human Trafficking

Just another story of how fragile the international adoption process can be.  Thanks again to K@W for this lead.  GS

Talk outlines risks in international adopting
By: Ashton Shurson – The Daily Iowan
Posted: 3/25/08
As Chinese adoptions increase around the world and especially in the
United States, a few UI students have been looking into the darker
side of adoptions in the Asian country.

UI law students Patricia Meier and Joy Zhang gave a presentation
Monday on the Hunan baby-trafficking scandal and how it exposes
vulnerabilities in Chinese adoptions to the United States.

In November 2005, police in China uncovered a baby trafficking ring
involving six orphanages and babies primarily from the southern part
of the country.

It is unclear how the children were obtained, but defendants claim
the babies were abandoned while prosecutors in the case accused the
Hengyang Social Welfare Institution of knowingly buying abducted
babies.

Zhang said that the primary reason for the adoption trafficking was
to garner more money – Hengyang received roughly $1,000 from the
orphanages for each child and the orphanages could collect
approximately $3,000 for each adoption placement.

While many involved with this specific case were arrested and
punished, many questions remain about the whereabouts of the children
and if Hengyang was an isolated case.

Either way, it has illustrated that the Chinese adoption process is
easy to corrupt, Zhang said. Meier said inter-country adoption means
large incomes for orphanages that are often misused.

In 2006, 10,000 children were adopted from China, with 7,000 going to
the United States. Adoptive parents usually pay around $15,000 to
$20,000.

Meier said that adoptions are just one part of human trafficking in
the large country. Traffickers often target migrant worker families
who aren’t connected with politics or the government.

While many grass-roots organizations search for missing children,
Meier said, international law is lacking in the effort to stop baby
trafficking. The United States leads the world in prevention of human
trafficking, Meier said, but its human-trafficking law doesn’t
directly address adoption trafficking.

Iowa Writers’ Workshop student Michael Potter, who was domestically
adopted and was at the lecture, said adoption should be scrutinized
in the United States as well.

“I believe the international adoption industry is a form of cultural
imperialism,” he said.

Meier said prospective adoptive parents should do research before
adopting.

“If you’re looking into inter-country adoption, be aware these acts
happen and do everything possible to ensure you do not adopt a child
obtained illicitly,” she said.

E-mail DI reporter Ashton Shurson at:
ashton-shurson@uiowa.edu

http://media.www.dailyiowan.com/media/storage/paper599/news/2008/03/25
/Metro/Talk-Outlines.Risks.In.International

.Adopting-3281430.shtml

First Teen Chinese Adoptee Conference

A friend of mine notified me about the first Teen Chinese Adoptee Conference which is being held Friday – Sunday, July 25 – 27, 2008, at Chinese Children Adoption International Headquarters in Centennial, Colorado.  It’s put together by the Chinese Children Adoption International which I believe is an adoption agency specializing in adoption from China.

The registration is $50 and is strictly for Chinese adoptees 13-19 years of age.  Program highlights include:  “Older adoptee panel discussion, creative projects, small group activities, mini Chinese Cultural Camp, Dragon Boat Festival, dance, games, and much more!”

Here are the details from their website.

China Adopteen Conference

Join us for the first conference designed especially for teenage adoptees from China – a conference where you will find connections, support, friendship, resources, inspiration, and lots of fun.

Chinese Adopteen Conference Website 

When: Friday – Sunday, July 25 – 27, 2008, at Chinese Children Adoption International Headquarters in Centennial, Colorado

Who: Adopted Chinese teens between the ages of 13 and 19, as well as adoptees older than 19, are warmly invited! If you are not yet 13 years old, we ask that you be turning 13 by September 30, 2008.

Program Highlights: Older adoptee panel discussion, creative projects, small group activities, mini Chinese Cultural Camp, Dragon Boat Festival, dance, games, and much more!

For more info you can email:

adopteen [at] chinesechildren.org

Phone: 303-850-9998
Fax: 303-850-9997

Choose Your Reality

So many of the articles I see related to transracial adoption are of the adventures of a-parents romping around “third world” countries “rescuing” children and writing their futures in the U.S.  Sometimes I’m just sick of it.

Here’s an article that was published in the NY Times not too long ago discussing the connection that these adoptive families, but more specifically adoptive mothers have in New York.  The “interwoven” lives of these families brought together through adoption and their children’s shared orphanage bonds.

But again, adoptees’ voices are missing.  I acknowledge that many of these Chinese adoptees are still in their youth.  It’s essentially waiting for their generation to come of age, much like how KADs have.

But one of the issues I take offense to is this whole re-writing of reality, choosing which story to tell their children.
“As the girls get older, their mothers will ration out the precious few remaining details of their stories. But first, they have to decide which story they want to tell.”

The story to tell is the truth.  There is no room for manufactured reality.  It’s not their job to decide or shape the reality or circumstances of their birth or relinquishment.  Especially when most of these “truths” that are passed to their children can heavily affect the ways in which these adoptees come to understand who they are.

“Nor is she alone in these feelings. Having read about older transracial adoptees, some of whom say they resent having lost their cultural identity, these three mothers worry about what their daughters will think when they are no longer the silent characters of their own stories but their authors — and editors.”

It strikes me as disingenuous for these mothers to worry about their daughters coming of age and potentially re-writing their lives, when it is them who are deciding exactly which story or angle they wish to pass on to their children.  They worry that this will happen, and I assume they are choosing their reality in attempts to steer their children clear of these “angry adoptees.”  Well let me say, getting Chinese take-out is not getting them in touch with their roots, and it’s not from a fortune cookie that I’d be looking for answers if I were them…  G.S.

The New York Times
January 6, 2008 Sunday
Late Edition – Final
Fortune’s Sisters

BYLINE: By BROOKE HAUSER

SECTION: Section 14CY; Column 0; The City Weekly Desk; Pg. 8

LENGTH: 2171 words

THERE is an ancient Chinese myth that people who are destined to meet are connected from birth by invisible red thread. For three Brooklyn mothers who were strangers until a few years ago, the legend has a deeply personal resonance. In early 2004, when they traveled in the same group to adopt year-old girls in China, Martha Laserson, Molly Parker-Myers and Lauren Uram made a discovery that would thread their families together for life.

During a visit to the orphanage where the babies lived, in Anhui Province of southeast China, the women were told that their daughters not only knew one another but were also crib mates.

Before they became Annabelle Laserson, Hazel Parker-Myers and Leah Potoff, the little girls were Dong Dong, Ping Ping and Qiang Qiang, and they slept side by side. Before they developed a taste for New York-style pizza, they ate a rice porridge called congee from the same spoon.

Before the well-tended pigtails and chin-length bobs, they wore matching institutional buzz cuts. And now, living in brownstone Brooklyn, nearly 7,000 miles away from the place they were born, they are best friends.

”It was still dark as we headed out, and we were all in our private bubbles of nervousness and joy. We were going to meet our babies. As it got lighter, I marveled at the countryside — the water buffalo, the fields, the little villages — I wanted to memorize the surroundings to describe to my little girl in the years to come. She, after all, would be raised in Brooklyn (along with two of her crib mates), and not one of these farm villages we passed, although she may well have started out there.”

From Molly Parker-Myers’s diary, Jan. 5, 2005 (the first anniversary of the girls’ adoption)

Four years ago, Mrs. Parker-Myers, Mrs. Laserson and Ms. Uram were delivered to their daughters. These days, the girls see one another regularly, marking the passages of childhood by attending one another’s birthday parties and eating Chinese takeout with their families. Thanks to their daughters’ unique bond, the three women also belong to an exclusive mothers’ group of three.

All these connections played themselves out during a late summer picnic in Prospect Park. The women took turns breaking up bubble-blowing fights and watching the girls collect bouquets of sticks under a canopy of trees. When the mothers weren’t wiping little noses, their talk gravitated to subjects like New York’s ever-growing population of adopted Chinese girls. While there is no exact count of the number of Chinese adoptees in the city, nearly 70,000 have found homes in American families since 1992.

”That’s one of the biggest reasons why we chose to adopt from China,” said Mrs. Parker-Myers, who has a heart-shaped face and thick brown hair. ”I felt like it was this sisterhood in a way. Our daughters will have someone else to grow with and bounce around ideas with, but they’ll also have a connection to their babyhood. That’s invaluable.”

Given the local prevalence of children adopted from China in recent years, it is not uncommon for New York families to uncover orphanage ties. Dr. Jane Aronson, a Manhattan pediatrician who specializes in treating children who were adopted abroad and who is known as ”the Orphan Doctor,” often overhears her patients quizzing one another in her waiting room about the circumstances under which they adopted their Chinese babies.

”Looking for missing answers — and there are so many — when you have a moment of connection, it’s very powerful,” Dr. Aronson said. ”It’s wonderful because it’s history, it’s roots, it’s family — it’s orphanage family. And often it’s the only family the kid has from the country where they were adopted.”

In Search of Memories

”Finally, we were let out at the lobby. We knew we would be leaving this place with our babies in our arms. The lobby was adorned with lavish decorations for the upcoming Lunar New Year, and was a sea of red and gold. We noticed only vaguely, I think, because we were all so thrilled — and because we all had to pee desperately! I remember all the moms-to-be rushing to the bathroom together, chatting, chatting, filled with nervous energy.” Jan. 5, 2005

In an effort to mend their daughters’ broken ties to their birthplace, the three mothers cling to the few scraps of information they have and, in their different ways, try to piece together a patchwork of memories, however threadbare.

Mrs. Parker-Myers, 35, a preschool teacher who lives in a two-bedroom apartment in Kensington with her husband, Lars, a manager of jewelry trade shows, is the writer of the group. She chronicled their two-week journey to China in an eloquent adoption diary that includes comment on everything from the sparrow kebabs and goat testicles that she encountered during her first days in Beijing to the mothers’ attempts to absorb the essence of the country that their daughters never knew.

Ms. Uram, a quiet-mannered illustrator with ginger-colored hair in her late 40s, is the archivist. In the Lefferts Manor brownstone where she lives with her husband, Leni Potoff, an art conservator, she has carefully stored away dozens of artifacts from the couple’s trip to China, among them a Going Home Barbie, a limited-edition doll given to adoptive parents that is accessorized with a detachable Chinese baby, and the clothes Leah wore in the orphanage, carefully wrapped in red tissue paper.

Mrs. Laserson, a social worker with a petite athletic build who is in her early 40s, lives in Park Slope with her husband, David, a stockbroker, and their 9-year-old biological son. Unlike the fastidiously organized Ms. Uram, Mrs. Laserson is a bit of a pack rat. But despite the jumble of toys and books that clutter her two-story brick home, she can meticulously recount each laborious step of the adoption process.

It’s unlikely that the three women would have become fast friends had they not traveled together to Asia. But they waited together in China. They were in the same room when their babies were placed in their arms. They were together at the orphanage when they discovered that their daughters had shared the same crib. They were even together when they saw the locations where the three abandoned babies had been found before being brought to the orphanage.

”I know that if anything ever happened to me, Leah could always come to you with questions,” Ms. Uram recently told the other two women. ”Because you were there.”

The Threads of Their Lives

”The main caregiver took Ping Ping in her arms, crying and saying her name and giving her lots of hugs and kisses. It was very emotional. She held Ping Ping and Dong Dong (Annabelle, another future Brooklynite) together, and we told her how they were going to live in the same place in the U.S., and they’d see each other often.” Jan. 8, 2004

The girls are now 5, the age at which many adoptive children are just beginning to understand that they are somehow different.

One fall morning, Hazel Parker- Myers followed her mother into the family’s living room and put to her a tricky two-part question: ”How many childs do you have?” she asked, scribbling invisible notes into a pad. ”And how did they come into your family?”

Like Ms. Uram and Mrs. Laserson, Mrs. Parker-Myers has often told her daughter the story of her adoption. One Sunday morning over homemade biscuits and marmalade, they looked through the pictures in Hazel’s adoption album while her mother recited the abridged version of Hazel’s story: In addition to Leah and Annabelle, its characters includes the caregivers at the orphanage, or aunties as they were called.

”You were in China living with your aunties, right?” Mrs. Parker-Myers prompted, as they paused over a picture of a tearful Chinese caregiver cradling two toddlers in pink and blue bunting. (Annabelle, the baby in pink, has the identical photograph in her album.) ”And we were living in Brooklyn, and we wanted to adopt a baby.”

As the girls get older, their mothers will ration out the precious few remaining details of their stories. But first, they have to decide which story they want to tell.

On the one hand, there is the heartwarming tale of the three orphans who shared a crib in China and are now friends in Brooklyn. But as Mrs. Parker-Myers put it, ”We don’t want to be seen as clueless adoptive parents who are just thinking that our child’s life is a fairy tale, because obviously it’s not.”

Soon after the adoption, Mrs. Parker-Myers stopped subscribing to the red-thread theory, which many adoptive parents of Chinese children have embraced as a way to imagine the fated bond between parent and child. ”You can’t rely on mythology to explain their story because it isn’t the whole story,” she said.

Nor is she alone in these feelings. Having read about older transracial adoptees, some of whom say they resent having lost their cultural identity, these three mothers worry about what their daughters will think when they are no longer the silent characters of their own stories but their authors — and editors.

The conflict over what to share and what not to share underscores the differences among the three women. At the picnic in Prospect Park, Ms. Uram bristled when Mrs. Parker-Myers began to tell one of Hazel’s favorite stories, about how the orphanage caregivers lined up the babies at the edge of their crib and fed them congee from the same spoon.

”I don’t think you should do it,” Ms. Uram scolded. ”It’s a sad story.”

Mrs. Parker-Myers shrugged off the comment. ”I think it seems pretty practical myself,” she said. ”If I had triplets, I’d feed them like that, too.”

There was a pause. Finally, in an effort to ease the mood, Mrs. Laserson said, ”I think it’s a big cultural difference.”

Growing Up, Perhaps Apart

”It’s really been fun to get to know these other families. This is a real bonding experience. The three Brooklyn families are already planning to have a mothers’ group with our girls.”

Jan. 9, 2004

As their memories of the trip to China fade, the three mothers from Brooklyn try to blend subtle touches of their daughters’ first culture into their lives and their homes.

Annabelle and Hazel recently took a Chinese ribbon-dancing class together in Park Slope. At Leah’s house, Ms. Uram and her husband now celebrate Passover with matzo-ball soup served with chopsticks and Chinese ladles. There is already talk of a joint ”homeland trip” when the three girls are older.

Still, as their lives unspool in different directions, their invisible red thread will begin to stretch. It already has.

Especially during that first year after their return from China, the mothers relied heavily on one another for support. But as their bonds with their daughters grow stronger, the women are depending on one another less and less.

In part, this is because they have different ideas about child-rearing. Mrs. Parker-Myers wants a progressive education for Hazel, who on a recent afternoon could be found in the family’s living room playing with castanets and shrieking with laughter. Ms. Uram prefers a more structured approach for Leah, who attended preschool at the Red Apple School in Chinatown, perhaps the city’s best-known bilingual school for Chinese students, and is tutored privately in Mandarin.

As the girls grow older, it’s likely that they will also grow apart. The Parker-Myerses are adopting another girl, who is in China awaiting her new family, and they are considering moving away from the city as early as next fall, perhaps to Philadelphia.

On a recent outing to a Chinese restaurant in Park Slope, Mrs. Parker-Myers was tense with expectation and anxiety. ”I can’t predict the future,” she said, fumbling with a message from a fortune cookie that offered no clues. ”It doesn’t seem very hopeful that we can stay in New York, because, frankly, we can’t afford it.”

The mothers are also preparing themselves and their daughters for the challenges they are likely to face as they get older. But the girls will have to fight certain battles themselves.

”As they move into school, they’re getting the sense that there is a stigma associated with being adopted,” said Amanda Baden, a New York psychologist who specializes in transracial adoptions, and is herself a Chinese daughter of Caucasian parents. ”They may get more self-conscious about the fact that their parents look different from them. And they’re starting to understand that for them to have this family means that they might have lost another family.”

It is at that point, the mothers hope, that their daughters’ crib connection, tenuous as it might seem, will be of use to the girls.

”They have other adopted friends from China, but no one else they shared a crib with,” Mrs. Laserson said. ”There will be times when they don’t want to be adopted and Chinese. But there will be other times when they need to feel adopted and Chinese. And no matter where they are, they have two other people they can talk to.”