honoring one’s cultural roots: the invisible red thread

TheInvisibleRedThreadSome 8,668 children were adopted into U.S. families from abroad in the 2012 fiscal year; 105 international adoptions took place right here in Arizona (U.S. Dept. of State, 2013). Although declining in number since 2004, intercountry adoption is still prevalent throughout the U.S. and is so often misconceived. One of the most complicated areas of transracial adoption is the development of identity. I read somewhere recently that identity is defined both by what one is and what one is not. Identity is affected by all members of the adoption triad. Adoptees who are born into one family, a family who will probably remain nameless to them, lose an identity then borrow one from the adopting family. Birthparents are parents and yet are not. Adoptive parents who were not parents suddenly become parents. Adoption, for some adoptees, precludes a complete or integrated sense of self. Adoptees may experience themselves as incomplete, deficient, or unfinished, or may lack feelings of well-being, integration, or solidity associated with a fully developed identity. We often lack medical, genetic, religious, and historical information and may be plagued by questions such as: Who am I? Was I merely a mistake, or an accident? Why was I relinquished? Do my birthparents ever think of me? This lack of identity may lead adoptees, particularly in adolescent years, to seek out ways to belong in more extreme ways than many of their non-adopted peers. Furthermore, adoptees may wish to search for their birthfamily or reconnect with their birth country.

To honor the cultural roots of an adoptee is a necessity. We must make every effort to help adoptees develop a strong sense of identity, to help them navigate through the process of identity development, to maintain the cultural connection to an adoptee’s birth country. This can be difficult, as we know that the tendency to assimilate to the predominant culture is strong (although having a parent of the same ethnic background or who speaks the language of the country from which the adoptee was born lessens the cultural disconnect).

In an attempt to address these needs, we are hosting an event, Honoring One’s Cultural Roots, on Saturday, June 1st. We will screen the film documentary, The Invisible Red Thread, written and directed by Maureen Marovitch of Picture This Productions in Montreal, which I’m very excited to see. Following the movie, Stephanie Withrow, M.S., LPC, will facilitate a discussion as we explore the intersection of adoption, culture and identity and what it means to honor one’s cultural roots. Stephanie and her husband have three adopted children from China. The event is for the whole family, although the film is recommended for children 10 and older. Admission is $10/person; children under 12 receive free admission. Reservations and pre-payment are also required. To make reservations, please contact Mj Nguyen at mjnguyen7@cox.net. For all the details, click on the The Invisible Red Thread- An AZ Premier link located above.

The Honoring One’s Cultural Roots event will be held at The Chandler Public Library, 22 S. Delaware Street, Chandler, AZ 85225, in the Copper Room (2nd level). Please join us for what I think will be a memorable and exciting event! I hope that many will leave feeling a greater sense of community and understanding the importance of honoring adoptees’ cultural roots. Please see the Honoring One’s Cultural Roots facebook page. Screening of The Invisible Red Thread is made possible through Picture This Productions of Montreal, QC (Canada).

5 thoughts on “honoring one’s cultural roots: the invisible red thread

  1. Pingback: “Stuck” and Slavery, living #adoption | lara (author-blogger)

  2. marijane

    Hello- Thanks for stopping by my blog! You can purchase the dvd at the film website. Here’s the link to purchase a home video: http://theinvisibleredthread-themovie.com/home-video/. I think it would be well worth it to purchase it. I watched last night, and it was very moving. Through the eyes of an adoptee, there were many scenes in the film that brought me to tears, but this, of course, is from my own personal perspective. I wish you and your family the best. I’m so happy to hear that you are doing all you can to keep your daughters connected to their birth country.


  3. calamity4e

    We don’t live in AZ– I will have to look for this documentary elsewhere. I would like to see it! I have read and heard from other Transracially adoptees that for them the identity development was a bigger issue than being adopted. We have really tried to foster a positive outlook for our daughters toward China. They participate in a China Cares program at a local university and take Chinese language and dance lessons. I regularly cook chinese dishes as part of our staple meals. We also seek out and attend several Chinese events throughout the year sponsored by the local Asian community.


  4. Sarah

    I am so excited to let you know that we received our final decree and should being getting travel dates next week. If we are still here we would love to attend this viewing. My biggest fear is her feeling like she has a loss of identity. When the birthfamily does not want to be involved, how can we start young to meet these type of needs?


    1. Marijane Post author

      Hi Sarah, that is exciting news. I’m happy for you and your husband. I think because your husband speaks Mandarin, that will help very much to keep the cultural connection to Taiwan. When your little girl gets older, talking about Taiwan and the culture will also help her. Studies show that the stronger the parent’s positive orientation towards the race of their adoptee, the greater the likelihood of a positive attitude on the part of the child towards his or her heritage. If the parents recognize that intercountry adoptive family life involves defining themselves as an American-Korean (or-Chinese, Taiwanese etc.) family, the children acquire similar perceptions about themselves. I also read that other important variables, like ethnic discussions within the home, parents having friends or work colleagues who are Asian, and the community in which the child lives, can assist in fostering a positive ethnic identity in transracially adopted children. I think though for the first couple of years, it will be a time of adjustment for everyone. Your little girl may experience grief and feel the loss of leaving everything familiar to her behind. I’m not sure if she’s living with a foster family or orphanage now, but in either case, she will likely grieve. There’s a great book called The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier who explores why adoptee’s grieve. It’s a good one. I wish you and your husband the very best as you plan for your trip to Taiwan!



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