Tag Archives: Adoption

our screening event

The Invisible Red Thread made me laugh, made me cry, made me more attuned to the disturbing fact that orphaned and abandoned children in this world are far too numerous. On Saturday, June 1st, we screened the film documentary at an event called Honoring One’s Cultural Roots. Twenty-two people attended, including adoptive parents and their adopted children. There were seven adoptees, three were adults.

The documentary was filmed in 2010 by directors Maureen Marovitch and Dr. Changfu Chang and follows two adopted adolescent girls from China who live on opposite sides of the planet. We accompany 15-year old Vivian, who lives with her family in Toronto, Canada, as she and her adoptive father, Hubert, travel back to China to meet Shumin. Shumin, 14 years old at the time of filming, was adopted within China by the Zhu family due to the One Child Policy. Unfortunately, Vivian’s adoptive mother was unable to travel to China with her and her father due to a sudden illness.

The film was about an hour long. I laughed when Shumin introduced Vivian to shopping outdoor market style where many interesting and live foods were being sold, including frogs, snakes, and all kinds of seafood. We watched Vivian squirm as she walked with Shumin up and down the aisles of the market holding her nose. On the flip side, Vivian took Shumin and her family to the city, which Shumin had never visited before. Shumin used a fork and ate toast and jelly for the first time. Watching Shumin’s facial expressions as Vivian showed her how a toaster worked was priceless. Vivian pondered what life would have been like for her in China had she not been adopted.

We also met Shumin’s birth parents, as well as another birth mother who was searching for the daughter she gave away in hopes that Vivian might be her daughter. This adoptive mother was obviously feeling so many emotions as the filmmakers documented her story. Vivian was not her daughter. Without fail, whenever I see the pain a birth parent feels due to the relinquishment of his/her child, I’m deeply saddened.

After the film, therapist, Stephanie Withrow, facilitated a discussion with those who were able to stay. One of the highlights of the discussion was how international adoption has evolved since it first became “popular” in the U.S. after the Korean War. One parent pointed out that because much has been learned about international/transracial adoption over the years, adoptive parents are more informed and educated about the challenges of raising an internationally and transracially adopted child. It’s possible that adoptees today may even experience fewer problems with identity and race because adoptive parents are more sensitive to these issues, facilitate an open dialogue with their adopted children, and seek opportunities to help their child develop a healthy sense of identity. I think more research is needed to demonstrate how changes in international adoption over the past few decades may affect adoptees and their families compared to previous decades. Finally, Dalena Watson prepared some information on homeland tour agencies for families interested in perhaps planning a trip one day to their adopted child’s birth country.

As a final note, I wanted to again thank all those who came out and spent the afternoon with us. It was a pleasure to meet all of you and your families. Your thoughts and comments are invaluable, and we hope to continue hosting community adoption events that you’ll be interested in attending.

the invisible red thread

Shumin_Vivian2Over the last couple of years, it seems that there have been a number of film documentaries made on inter-country/transracial adoption. But many people in Arizona do not have the opportunity to see such films, which are typically introduced at film festivals and then screened via special engagements. Earlier this year, we were able to host a screening of Somewhere Between by Linda Knowlton Goldstein through Tugg. We had a super turn out and even sold out of tickets. I received much positive feedback after the event from friends and adoptive families.

In 11 days, we will host another film screening on adoption in Chandler. This event is called, “Honoring One’s Cultural Roots.” We’ll screen the film documentary, The Invisible Red Thread, from director Maureen Marovitch, although this event will be slightly different, as the movie is shorter (approx. 55 minutes), and we’ve invited psychotherapist Stephanie Withrow to speak after the movie. Stephanie has a private practice inTempe, AZ and works with adoptive families. She and her husband, Doug, have adopted 3 girls from China. In addition, another friend and colleague, Dalena Watson, LPC, FAMI, MT-BC, has helped to coordinate the event. She and her husband, Dustin, have 2 adopted children from China and Korea. If you live in the Phoenix-Metro area, I hope that you’ll be able to join us. You can find all the details at the link above entitled, The Invisible Red Thread- An AZ Premier. The film is recommended for kids 11 and older. Reservations and pre-payment are required, so be sure to reserve your seats. You can actually pre-pay for the screening by clicking on the Paypal button located on the right sidebar of this site. If you cannot attend the event but would like to contribute to the cost of bringing the film to Chandler, you can make a donation by clicking on the same button. For more about the movie, see the official website by following this link.

Come out and meet other adoptees and adoptive families who live in the valley!

Stephanie and her family

Stephanie and her family

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).

poet jena

I am so happy to share the following piece below with my readers. It was written by one of the people I hope most to meet one day in person. Ma-Li and I connected a few years ago when she contacted me with news that she was also adopted in Taipei from The Family Planning Association of China. We are just a year apart in age. I was so excited that someone who once lived at  the same orphanage contacted me. Ma-Li currently lives in Germany, but was raised in the UK by British parents. She is a gifted writer and poet. You can read some of her beautifully written poetry at Poet Jena’s Blog. Please stop by for a visit. Here’s a little about Ma-Li in her own words:

Ma-Li2I am a writer, a poet, a thinker, a philosopher, a storyteller, a lover of children and animals and beauty –  an artist, love-junkie and music addict which, in terms of taste, can mean anything and everything…. ! My background is a ‘story within a story’ in the way that there is a ‘play within a play’ in William Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Hamlet”.  It involves being given up to adoption at an early age and adjusting to foreign cultures.  It is a story of a lonely upbringing and at the same time the never ending search for identity.  Above all, it is the archetypal journey from the life saving pages of a diary begun as a despairing teenager to the crystallization of thought as found in the adult poetry of my current writing.

By Ma-Li:

In an television broadcast I caught by non-coincidence, I was reminded of the adopted part of me, what in the end may only amount to a story in an ocean of stories, but still, I felt immediately connected to this interviewee, this woman called Sarah Fischer.

Existence beyond duality says we are all ONE. To find a little piece of ourselves in another is the seed of the hope of this awareness.

Others who have lived a part of our own lives strike us to the very core, or so I have always found. They awake inside us what it is we mean to ourselves. Or what we may have believed we have meant to ourselves for the longest time. As if by magic, there is the sudden and extremely moving recognition of a deep knowing – a sense of timelessness almost.

But perhaps what resonates for me most is when she says, to paraphrase, – it was of great importance to her that the man she met and eventually married had ‘roots’.

Something else which touched me deeply: in order to find out that Germany was her true home, she had to first undertake a trip around the world.

It reminds me that no matter in which ways we choose to do it, whether adoption or by other means, the underlying journey of which this globetrotting, to me, seems to be only an allegory, is one of self-discovery, and moreover, ‘re’-covery. And in it, one sees the soul’s intense longing to finally be acquainted with itself. And what relationship is there or was there ever going to be which is more essential than that?

Sarah Fischer, Globetrotter | Talking Germany | DW.DE | 01.03.2013

http://www.dw.de/sarah-fischer-globetrot

In her current book, “Heimatroulette”, Munich photographer Sarah Fisher describes her search for her own roots. She was adopted by a German couple as baby.

A few closing words from Ma-Li:
I came into contact with the writer of this inspiring blog some time ago during my own attempts to uncover aspects of my adopted past.  It is now coming up to more than forty years since the day that I myself got on that JAL airlines plane headed for a new and unknown life. Finding her was not only a surprise, but a huge unexpected delight. Imagine someone so close in age to me and even having been born in Taiwan!  And that is how the connection began. At present, time will not allow me to write more than this.  Suffice to say that like all adoptions it is a story, and a somewhat involved one at that, whose multifaceted details are to this day still not all known to me.  But for better or worse, adopted, I am. And nowadays I am starting to come around to the thought that the adoptees journey is not as rough a one as I might have believed in the beginning. Although we have never met in person, there is somehow a sense of closeness for me to have met someone such as this, in that space, as her blog so aptly says, “beyond the two worlds”. Simply put. It is an honor to know you Marijane.  And, without having ever been adopted myself our paths might never have crossed.
 

reunion video captures anguish of Korean birthmother

The other day I happened upon a video of an adoption reunion posted by writer, Vicki-lynn, who blogs at adoptionfind. The video, called “Recovering What Was Left Behind,” by Korean adoptee, Kira Donnell, documents her reunion with her birth mother, which took place in October 2010. Kira also blogs at starlingblue. Vicki-lynn describes the footage well in this statement, “you are privy to the torment many birth mothers carry in their hearts after relinquishing a child.” It is a reminder of the grief and loss experienced by many birth mothers who must give up a child due to poverty or their status as unwed, single women. The footage also speaks to the adoptee’s need to know in many instances and desire to connect with her/his birth heritage. I often wonder if my birth mother mourned the loss of her fourth child (my biological father secretly relinquished me due to financial stress). As a mom, I cannot imagine being separated from my own daughter. There was such a strong emotional and spiritual bond I felt immediately following her birth. It’s almost indescribable. We were inseparable from that moment on. My heart goes out to any woman who is forced to relinquish a child or consider such a plight because of adverse circumstances during that period in her life. Kira and her birth mother celebrated their reunion, although not all reunion stories end as happily. Kira sends out a beautiful poem at the end of the video meant for her birth mother. Watch the video (approximately 7 minutes) below. Thank you, Vicki-lynn, for sharing this story.

somewhere between makes impact in phoenix

I was talking to my friend, Kathy, today about the Phoenix screening of Somewhere Between, directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton (the one I’ve been plugging for the last month!). Last Thursday evening, adoptive families, friends, and members of the community joined us for the feature length documentary. It was such a wonderful event in many ways. Kathy and her husband, Dave, adopted a little girl from China at the age of 15 months five years ago. Jade is now six. She has such an infectious personality that all who meet her cannot help but fall in love with her. Kathy and I talked about the film for over an hour and its implications for adoptive families, adoptees, and international adoption in general. I thought about how international, or inter-country adoption has changed from the time I was adopted, an era when adoptive parents did not talk to their kids much about their adoption or birth culture.

Not quite a full house yet

I was so happy that our screening sold out, which means that there is a thriving community in Phoenix of those interested in international adoption. I was worried that we would not meet the threshold set by Tugg, Inc. to secure the Phoenix screening, but as it turns out, there weren’t enough tickets. Over half of the audience was adoptive families, including four teen adoptees from China, Kyndra, Hannah, Kiara, and Cassandra. One family I met is in the process of adopting a little girl from Taiwan and currently awaiting finalization. Of special mention, the mother-in-law of director, Linda Goldstein-Knowlton, who lives in the Phoenix area, was a member of the audience. Mrs. Knowlton was accompanied by her daughter and other extended family members. It was very cool to see so many adoptive families and to have many personal friends come out to support the film – big thanks to Maria, Kathy, Diane, and Ted!

For me, the film did exactly what the director hoped it would. In the words of Linda Goldstein Knowlton:

I hope the film will create an emotional experience for viewers, and in the process educate and help create a language that helps describe what it means to be “other” in the U.S. I also hope the film will inspire reflection on how we all form our identities, and on our growing global and personal interconnections, especially those networks of women and girls that have been formed due to this large wave of adoptions.

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One of the most poignant segments of the film was Haley’s reunion with her birthfamily in China. SPOILER ALERT! I found it heart wrenching to watch the emotional reaction of Haley’s biological father upon their reunion. He was obviously happy that she had found him, yet guilt and remorse over her abandonment was painfully evident. Haley’s biological mother, due to financial distress, surrendered her without telling anyone, including Haley’s biological father. Haley’s reunion with her biological mother was equally painful. The difficulty her biological father had in relinquishing her yet again at the end of their reunion that just about broke my heart. Likewise, I was moved by Run-yi’s story, another little girl with cerebral palsy whose adoption was partially documented. As she realized time drew closer for her departure, which meant leaving everything familiar to her in China, she cried inconsolably. In an attempt to comfort her, her new adoptive mother wrapped her up in her arms, but she was a complete stranger to Run-yi. It confirmed that, although adoption is often framed as “growing families” and “one of the most loving things to do,” there is grief and loss that accompanies it, and it’s felt not only by the child separated from his/her birthmother/father and environment, but by the birthparents who are often forced to relinquish them due to desperate circumstances. We see just how very vulnerable the adopted child is, as well as the birth parent(s).

I very much enjoyed the film. I thought that the four teen girls, Fang, Jenna, Haley, and Ann, whose stories we follow were very thoughtful and wise in understanding where they are in life considering their identity, family, and being adopted. They demonstrate a maturity that is impressive and perhaps beyond that of kids their own ages, as they’ve had to grapple with issues like identity and belonging that other kids take for granted. It would be interesting to see how they continue to mature at different developmental stages.

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Following the screening, we had a discussion. It was a great forum in which to hear from many adoptive parents who shared information and experiences. I felt a real sense of community and support amongst everyone there. Thanks to all who came out to see the film. It was a pleasure to meet and talk with many of you. And finally, thanks to Tugg for making our screening possible. I do hope that we will have more opportunities to come together as a community in the future. Please keep in touch!

(Note: If I got your name wrong or misspelled it, please contact me and I’ll correct it!)