Tuesday, December 05, 2006

gittin' a ejukashun

Yesterday was our International Adoption Education class. This was held at Lancaster Church of the Brethren - which has an excellent facility and I trust an equally impressive ministry.

The class focused on the language of adoption, attachment issues, and all the issues around becoming an intercultural family. Let's set aside attachment issues for now, but the language of adoption and cross cultural concepts are linked to some degree. I'm sure you're thinking, huh?

Here's what I'm talking about. Much of the language we use revolves around habit. For instance - think about once we are home with CJ. If someone asked you who her REAL parents were, what you would say? Some lady in Guatemala? Melissa and me? Not sure?

The point is not that we might answer this question the wrong way - it's about the language we use. CJ will have birth-parents and adoptive-parents. But you really should only use those terms when speaking on the matter of adoption itself. There was a day when even adoptive parents would introduce their kids - "these are my 2 son's and my adopted daughter." Can you imagine how the adopted daughter would feel? Another issue I had not considered was how to discuss adoption with other person's of authority such as teachers, Sunday School teachers, coaches, etc. In many cases, people are apt to actually be less critical of an adopted child for fear that they may react differently than everyone else. 95% of the time, this is not the case. Adopted kids misbehave for the same reasons as their peers.

Now, thinking about becoming a multi-cultural family - one's initial reaction might be "isn't she going to be an American." Oh yes, of course - she'll be integrated into our culture just as much as a biological kid would be. But we cannot ignore the fact that she'll always look different, and others will consider her Latino first, adopted second, and an American third. It will be unfair of us to ignore her birth culture, and we don't plan to do so. Bethany encourages all adoptive families to find ways to expose their children to the arts, food, and heritage of their home-country. I'm sure more of this will come up as we continue in the process. This is not about political correctness (don't get me started on that), it's about understanding what's really happening through adoption. A color blind society is about equality not sameness.

Getting back to that looking different thing. During the class, we reviewed a series of situations where others will be nothing less than rude. Even in today's America, people will judge a person based on how they look. Rude comments will be heard in the line at the grocery store. Strangers will ask if she is adopted, acquaintances will inquire how much we paid for her. Friends of friend who are not aware of the adoption will wonder if one of us "slept with a Mexican." (this is a real quote by the way). There's so much wrong with that last statement, I just won't go there yet.

On a more positive note, we learned a great deal about how to handle these situations. We also discussed certain steps we can take to prevent attachment problems after returning home. Think about it - adoption is a scarier ordeal for than child than for anyone else. First, she is carried in the womb by a mother who lovingly chooses life. Then that mother makes the extremely painful decision to place her for adoption. Next, she is cared for by a dedicated and capable foster family who provide her needs, witness her first milestones, and simply wait for a placement.

Several months later she's given to a new by a couple who sound different, stick her on a plane for 7 hours, then start to introduce her to brand new smells, foods, and people. Those first few weeks after returning home are critical to developing not just a bond, but an attachment between baby and parents. But all is not so frightening - we are her "forever family" - a term we heard several times yesterday. As time passes, we'll have to deal with the issues mentioned above, but if we become a strong family (with the help of all our rod chairs) we can face anything.

Here's a cute tidbit our social worker, Jessica e-mailed around today.


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