Posts Tagged ‘Adoption’

matching pinks


Lately, I’ve been making some matching pieces. In the world of adoption, bonding and attachment are critical. Obviously, that’s true for non-adoptive families as well. But, in families where children and parents don’t always share physical characteristics, the same race, birth country and history it is nice, when parents and children share something. My own five-year old is happy we both have glasses, still likes to match same-colored shirts and I’ve made us matching mother-daughter necklaces. If I’m going away for a while, even for a night meeting and not home before bed, I can kiss her necklace and she’ll wear it and “carry” my love and she will “kiss” mine so I can carry hers.

Also, sea glass is special, because as with people two pieces can never be exactly the same. The history of each is unique and though pieces can be made to match in color and size and shape, they are still unique. Beads and wire and necklaces can make pieces “go together” better but each and every piece of sea glass has a story all her own. And I do think of these children of the sea as lost, tossed, scattered, broken in a fight or an accident. Later, the sea, like love, changes their shape and texture, but can never steal their history and their past even if is unknown. So, the “matching” pieces have meaning to me. They help celebrate and connect mothers and daughters.

Here are some “sets” and I have to say I wish I was a better photographer. The hue of pink isn’t captured. The light aqua color almost translucent isn’t revealed by my photo taking limits. The purples barely blare their color. But, here’s an idea of what the matching pieces can look like.

These are small matching purples.






These aquas are lovely. The color matches though the wire styles are different.







clearer view

I am trying to learn how and where to display pieces. This is a newer white with green on top. I am a fan of the colors many consider common (white, green and brown) as much as I am of the much harder to find, reds, pinks, purples and virtually any shade of blue.


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How Could Anyone

I heard this today, in song, at a Unitarian service for families. It was such a fantastic service. I don’t know who this is by (please leave me a comment if you do). I want to share it as it’s touching to anyone.

It spoke to me. At other points in me life it would have stung and healed the survivor girl but today it was the mother in me who heard the words. I looked at my little girl born in China who recently ask me if all people who give birth have their babies go to others to be adopted. She is just starting to grasp that some, indeed most, who deliver children do go on to raise them. The mind, always approaches complicated subjects, from many angles.

The song or poem is:

How Could Anyone

How could anyone ever tell you

You were anything less than beautiful?

How could anyone ever tell you

You were less than whole?

How could anyone fail to notice

That your loving is a miracle

How deeply you’re connected to my soul.

-Catch of the day: Another one of gratitude for the card, with the hand-written note, the invitation to this service. To the person who sent it and went out of her way, though sick, to make sure I met many people and felt comfortable and who has a fabulous and kind family. It was a wonderful way to start my Sunday. My girl was so at ease and running and crawling and playing after arriving feeling reserved. I am finally learning to honor her personality.

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O.k., this is the third and final section of my notes about this ASAP conference. It was a panel discussion led by Hollee McGinnis who works for the Evan B. Donaldson Institute and who founded Also-Known-As, Inc. (see websites at the end of the email).

She opened the talk and then talked more between and at the end of the panel discussion. I’m going to record some of her comments. Also, since all of the panelists were under 18 and I didn’t ask if I could quote them, I’m not going to include their comments. However, these notes will be the most fragmented because her comments aren’t all being recorded as part of a sequential talk so some things are a bit out of context. However, with that, Hollee McGinnis had a lot of important points for families so I’ll do my best:

  • If you’re doing things right for adopted kids, you’re doing things right for all kids
  • In Jan. of 2008 the results of an Adoption & Identity study will be released. It has over 45o people participating (about half were adopted domestically and half internationally) and the ages of those who responded ranged in ages from 19 to 70
  • It was interesting that for most respondents, the adoption identity grew in importance throughout the life cycle and racial identity was most significant in college and young adult years.
  • It will be wonderful to read the entire report to get the actual stats and also the way the stats are analyzed, the way the questions are worded and what respondents said.
  • For those who experienced racial discrimination sometimes or fairly often, it was done by classmates, friends and teachers most often
  • For those who experienced adoption discrimination, it was done most often by extended family.
  • Adoption discrimination, she said, “Assumption that everyone has ready access to genetic/biologic information.” She talked about school assignment and well-meaning questions, the question being asked regularly, “Why were you adopted?” and she said, “No ones asks why were you born” and if we inserted the word born into questions people ask about adoption we’d realize how personal, private and intrusive many questions are.
  • She said there are also assumptions of adopted people as “lucky, not wanted, saved, not loved, orphaned,” and she said, “Our stories are complex.”
  • As for transracial adoptees she said, they are expected to represent their entire race. Also, she said how people will assume you’re foreign, (how she’s been complimented on her excellent English), how schools don’t often emphasize contributions of people (ex. Asians in building U.S.) 
  • Adoption, she said, can be like a cake with many layers. The number of layers vary depending on people’s history and experiences. One layer might be family of origin, another layer, adoption, another layer foster care, another layer race/ethnic identity, another layer is transracial adoption.
  • She said, for her, she came to a point where she came to be with all of her story. She said, “the question of who I am can only be answered by who am I?  
  • Professionals generally recommend ages 8-11 are best for a “homeland tour” with the initial visit to make “ghosts” real. She said, “birth country visit is not the same as a trip to Italy.” She said many people wait and don’t always remember a trip at age 11-12. Many people go in high school or college. She said, it’s complicated. There’s pride and also, “that’s the country that sent me away.”
  • When people commented about the importance of culture camps she said, “It wasn’t the fan dancing or Tae Kwon Do that was great but the one week reprieve from having to explain myself” that people appreciated.
  • She said, adult mentors of same race important. Not forcing culture but opening the door.
  • I wish I had heard an entire keynote address as she was a great speaker, summarizing facts and research and mixing it up with more personal stories or quotes as well. LOOK FOR THE REPORT FROM THE EVAN B. DONALDSON INSTITUTE COMING OUT IN 2008 (jan. i think) on ADOPTION AND IDENTITY!!!!

Evan B. Donaldson Institute:  http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/index.php

Also-Known-As, Inc: http://www.alsoknownas.org/

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As promised, I’m adding more notes from the conference on November 10th, 2007. This time, the heavy-hitter of a speaker is Joyce Macquire Pavao. For a little about her and her organization, there’s a link to the organization she founded AND an excerpt of her biographical sketch at the bottom of these notes:

She followed Boris Gindis who probably didn’t mean to sound grim and make us feel a bit worried. So, her light-hearted opening, “You too can have a Harvard-educated faculty if you’ve adopted.” She talked about being adopted as an infant. She said many things and I wasn’t working as a reporter so my notes are subjective and not meant to be comprehensive. Still interested? Here goes. These aren’t 100% quotes but close and are paraphrased pieces of the talk:

  • Adoption is a complicated subject and what we often have is case-history from or about one of us personally or professionally. But, it’s much too broad a subject to do that. My note: I’ve heard this from Beth O’Malley as well who respects personal AND professional experiences but values nothing more than a combination of both.

  • Adoption, like marriage, incorporates families. You get the birth family because they come with the child. They are a part of your family. You incorporate them in your mind and heart if not your life. Like, in-laws, you don’t have to like it or like them but they are a part of the package.

  • She reminded audience of parents (adoptive) and teachers, that in schools many kids are touched by adoption. If the student isn’t adoptive he or she may have a relative who is. Also, she emphasized that some things that we learn about adoption are same for emotionally adopted families (foster families, kids in kinship care, guardian-care, families formed through alternative reproductive technology, step-families, etc.) and that remembering this “normalized adoption.”

  • She said “root families” where the same people conceive, deliver and raise their children are probably more uncommon.

  • People pathologize adoption still and adopted children, adoptive parents and birth parents. She says people still come up to her and when they hear she’s adopted say, “I’m sorry.”

  • Adoption isn’t an incident or an event.

  • In Hawaii, adoptions are open and there’s a phrase, “hanai” which has been done for centuries. She said, for many cultures, process of birth goes to age two and at that age their is a ceremony where primary family (adoptive family) is acknowledged and where birth family is treated forever as aunt/uncle and a part of the family.

  • She said she heard a man speak of being “hanai’d” and being the “holder of 2 families” and wished we had that openness in U.S.

  • She said things are getting better in the U.S. but impression is still that it’s really “too bad” and it isn’t at a point where adopted people are respected (or adoptive parents or birth parents – especially birth mothers).

  • In the 1950’s she said, there was no acknowledgement of the loss aspect of adoption, it was a “get on with your life” time and “love will fix everything.”

  • She spoke of the big difference between secrecy and privacy. She said a secret is when info. about you is kept from you whereas privacy is not sharing info. at the supermarket.

  • She talked about how in adoption there’s a need to talk to children about these heavy big issues, “before they’re developmentally ready” but it’s necessary. She says you have to tell your child early on and help them deal with feeling of loss – loss of birth family for them, loss of biological child for adoptive parents, loss of child for birth family. She says the loss has to be balanced with joy.

  • She said 98% of children adopted older than age 3 have suggested neglect, physical or sexual abuse so the level of trauma is pretty great (I don’t know if she was speaking about int’l or domestic adoption or both)

  • Even with “adoption at birth,” she says, “loss is there but not of the same essence.”

  • For an adopted person there’s the loss of genetic and cultural history, birth family’s religion, siblings sometimes, being part of a traditional family and self-esteem.

  • For adoptive parents who have faced infertility she believes feelings aren’t “resolved” but they get tempered but still normal to feel loss of reproductive control, contributing genetic material and missing first days, mos. or years of child’s life and having status of normal family 

  • For birth family there is the loss in not raising child, not 100% sure they did the right thing or the loss of approval from others.

  • At pre-school age, anger can cover fear/sadness. She said, sadness sits still whereas anger moves and can be re-directed.

  • She said, kids can get labeled and “children are not mentally ill. They don’t trust adults and why should they? Anger is normal. Normal under the circumstances.”

  • She talked about control issues and how “most adopted children are in training to be So. American dictators.”

  • She said, “we were moved, placed, had identities changed,” and compared adoption to being in the witness protection program. She said, “later you find out you could have been entirely different person.”

  • Control issues are normal. “Behavior is the language of children,” she said, “Pay attention.”

  • We need to speak to children about very hard subjects, to explain why they are with us, why they are not with someone else (birth family), and how it’s “an existential thing” and kids are 3, 6 and 9 and wondering who I am and where I came from. She said, “most adults don’t do (the existential crisis) til grad school.”

  • The parents need to be team leaders she said because the parent is the expert on their child. She said, “if we don’t pay attention to the parents we destabilize. It’s incredibly important.”

  • She said, kids who are adopted are thinking about “complex matters” and school touches on these issues. Of course kids are distracted she says, the readings and assignment can cause emotional difficulties. But she’s clear that children are reacting/acting “normal under the circumstances” and shouldn’t be pathologized. But, we have to be sensitive to what gets brought up and stirred up with certain conversations and discussions and assignments. The subjects kids are learning can interfere with learning even in absence of any learning issues.

  • She said it’s important not to label. She says, “you can’t have an attachment disorder alone. It’s lack of trust. It’s traumatic beginning. Often treatments can re-trigger children. Can’t just medicate or pathologize kids and expect them to be o.k.”

  • She talked about how often parents go to school to help educate teachers and students about adoption. She talked about how this can embarrass kids and cause privacy issues or awkwardness. She suggested parents team up and go to various schools to do training so it gets done but isn’t as personal as having it be done by the parent.

  • In talking about diversity she said it’s important not only to look at student body but how diverse are teachers, the board of directors, will kids have adult role models as well. She said, “no school is perfect.”

  • She talked about the wondering about birth families and said, “The people you don’t know are as important as the people you do know. The children hold these people. Join them.”

  • She emphasized saying/thinking, “normal under the circumstances” as opposed to pathologizing kids and issues.

  • She said sometimes therapy pathologizes but she did think consultations were important, especially for parents.

  • For more about the center she founded and work she’d done: http://www.kinnect.org/who_team.html

  • An excerpt from the kinnect website says:  “Joyce Maguire Pavao, Ed.D., LCSW, LMFT, is the founder and CEO of Center For Family Connections, Inc. (CFFC – est. 1995), Adoption Resource Center (ARC – est. 1973), Pre/Post Adoption Consulting Team (PACT – est. 1978), and Family Connections Training Institute (FACT – est. 1995), all of which are in Cambridge, Massachusetts.”

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So, a week ago today I spent my Saturday at an Adoption and Education Forum. It was sponsored by the Adoption & Foster Care School Awareness Project and had some big name speakers such as Joyce Maguire Pavao and Hollee McGinnis. Boris Gindis was there as well and I have some notes from his talk too. I had not heard of him before but he was interesting. Anyhow, these are just my notes.

Points were made that were interesting, educational and thought-provoking. I’m still sorting out what I believe, feel and need to learn about. Feel free to do the same.

BORIS GINDIS: http://www.bgcenter.com

His talk was titled “Educational Issues in Children Adopted from Overseas Orphanages”

  • language mediates experience. ex. a child can learn boiling kettle is hot by touching and burning hand (that’s a direct and unmediated experience) or she can learn by a parent saying, “Don’t touch. This is hot.” That indirect and mediated.
  • Children in orphanages have had more unmediated learning and when exposed to education are not always ready to benefit by mediated learning. He says education must be rebuilt and re-mediated first.
  • He noted that more school-age children, or “older” children (children older than age five) are being adopted. In 1995, 3% of all adoptions were of “older children” and now it’s 21% of adoptions.
  • The swiftness at which children lose language when adopted is astounding. Even those who can read and write in native language still have a high and rapid language attrition process.
  • 99% of adoptive families do not speak the language of their child’s birth country.
  • A child of three will lose most expressive language in the first three mos. Receptive language may last a bit longer but is generally lost within a year.
  • He says, in an article he distributed, “Language Development in Internationally Adopted Children,” originally published in China Connection (A newsletter for New England Families who have adopted children from China – which I write for as well), the following (about children born in China). “They are monolingual upon arrival (Chinese only) and after several months are monolingual again, only this time in English. He stresses that thinking that these children are bilingual is an “erroneous” approach, especially from an educational approach.
  • Why is language loss so rapid?
  • 1. Initial level of language is low
  • 2. Incentive to keep language isn’t there
  • 3. Children are practical. New language coming in takes up “linguistic pace”
  • 4. Negative attitudes of life before adoption. When adopted, everything is new and language is a link to old life which, if from an orphanage can be a reminder of suffering (even unconsciously in children). In a sense the language of birth country can remind a child who has been in an orphanage of time when they were hungry, cold, etc. He said, “Mere sound of language can be a PTSD trigger.” In fact, he said, having a daycare or nanny who speaks native language when parent does not will impede bonding and attachment with parent (that was a surprise to me).
  • For “older children” losing language, behavior regresses. A six-year old who could read and write in native tongue can lose language and behave like a two-year old. In fact, he said, children with most advanced and developed native tongue can have most difficulty behavior wise. Again, if you realize that language mediates experience, the loss of it means the loss of associated skills which impact behavior.
  • With children adopted at “older ages” the actual readiness for school and the actual “school” age can be very different.
  • It is a mistake to treat IA (internationally adopted) children in same category as ESL learners. ESL learners have mediated learning in home environment usually while IA learners do not.
  • Remediation is recommended in home, school and in community.
  • One shocking statistic was that the age at adoption (six mos. vs. six years, for example) didn’t matter much as ALL children IA are “at risk” with learning. His take on the reasons for this are as follows
  • 1. premature birth (2/3 of all children pre-mature will have learning issues. Adoption status is not relevant)
  • 2. exposure to drugs and alcohol
  • 3. birth may have been difficult
  • 4. exposure to malnutrition
  • 5. neglect
  • 6. abandonment
  • 7. deprivation
  • 8. trauma – in fact, the number of children adopted internationally with Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms is much larger than it is for same-age peers without this experience

The education of teachers is “paramount” he said because so far, most training is “sensitivity based” and provided by adoptive parents. However, he said, “a full assessment of differences in educational means to assess needs” is needed.

He suggested parents put a statement in IEP (individual education plans) saying something such as, “Professionals must learn specificity of children and adapt to children” and list articles, courses, workshops, etc.

He also told schools to remember that unlike many parents adoptive parents tend to be “more educated, prepared, middle class, mature, part of support groups, taking courses, reading a lot and are better prepared than school in general knowledge of their child’s educational needs. Also, they know their legal rights and it would be best for schools to cooperate with these parents.”

Stay tuned for notes from the other speakers (next blogs) and my thoughts. I welcome your comments!

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My aunt sent me this link to an article written by Hollee McGinnis who I just so happened to hear speak an an Adoption and Education Forum held in Pembroke, MA


The cool coincidence is that my aunt didn’t know I went to this conference and that she was the key speaker on the panel.

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