It’s always hard to say goodbye. My daughter and I spent a weekend in Seattle, Washington, for the annual Taiwan ROCKs event where adoptive families who have adopted children from Taiwan get together, catch up on each others’ lives, and make some fun memories. Each year, the event is held in a different city. There were about 16 families and 25 kids adopted from Taiwan, not including non-adopted siblings, and one sibling adopted from the DRC. We’re now heading back to California. It was a memorable experience, and I enjoyed connecting with so many families.
The event began on Friday night with a pizza fest at Angle Lake, a park within walking distance from our hotel. There were water features and playground equipment, and the kids looked like they were having a lot of fun. This year’s event was organized by Molly Gleason O’Brien and Kerry Murphy, two local moms. My daughter and I were welcomed, and I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Tien, the very woman who helped me find my birthfamily in Taipei, standing across the way talking to a family. Then it dawned on me that Tien lives in Seattle – I’d forgotten! Almost every family there, if not all, were connected to Tien in some way, as she helped some of the families with their adoptions. We spent the afternoon with Tien yesterday touring the city and eating lunch. It was lovely to spend time with her after our trip to Taiwan together in 2012, five years ago. I have never been able to return to Taiwan since.
On Saturday evening, I talked to the families after a BBQ dinner about my new book, “Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity.” I spoke about how much international adoption has changed since the era that I and many other adult adoptees were adopted. I was struck by how many families had already taken their kids back to Taiwan, as it’s not common for adoptive parents to do so. Some adoptees had the opportunity to meet their birth mothers and extended birth family members. The trips were prompted by the kids’ curiosity about their early beginnings. It was unheard of years ago for adoptive parents to encourage their kids to explore their birth culture. I found that the parents at the event were sensitive to the importance of connecting their children to their birth culture. They appeared to understand the importance of open dialogue with their kids. I was very inspired by the support the families provide to each other and to their kids as they continue to ask questions around birth heritage. One mom told me that her daughter, age 11, wrote an essay about her adoption and birth family and loved to write. Most of the adoptees fell between the ages of 6-10. It was a pleasure to talk with these kids and learn their stories. Truly, the highlight of the trip was connecting with the young adoptees.
Taiwan ROCKs has approximately 400 families within its network. I was told that the Seattle ROCKs event was one of the smallest compared to past years. Nevertheless, I enjoyed every minute of it. Tien told me she believed that approximately 1,000 Taiwanese adoptions have occurred since the 1990’s, and most likely more, including adoptions that were private, or occurred without the assistance of an agency. Adoptions from Taiwan have declined significantly, as have international adoptions across all countries. There is a whole generation of young Taiwanese adoptees who I hope one day will support one another and perhaps even write their own memoir.