Nia Vardalos, Not So ‘Instant’ Mom

The thing about Nia Vardalos’s book, “Instant Mom,” is that I want to push it onto people. Lots of people. People who have looked at my family and said, “Oh, we’ve thought about adoption.” People who I kind of suspect might, for one reason or another, be thinking about adoption. People who I, in my status as she-who-knows-best-about everything, think should maybe be thinking about adoption. (I would never really do that.)

Ms. Vardalos is, of course, an actor and screenwriter, and now, the mother of one daughter through adoption. She is also a veteran of fertility treatments — lots of fertility treatments. Every fertility treatment I’ve ever heard of and some I hadn’t. She went back again and again, to a self-punishing degree, and emerged grievingadoption and without a baby — an experience she does not gloss over. She may tell you that her daughter is her destiny, but she will not tell you that she enjoyed getting there.

Even after Ms. Vardalos and her husband closed the chapter on infertility treatments, she came slowly to adoption, and even more slowly to the foster adoption program. She had misconceptions about who the children were and how the process worked, she told me, which made her reluctant. “For one thing, I thought in foster adoption, the children came to live with you for a while, then went back home, or might go back home,” she said. “I wasn’t aware of all the children who are already legally emancipated from their families.”

She also thought all, or at least most, of the children in a foster adoption program would have unmanageable problems. “But you know, some children have issues, some don’t — just like any children, biological, or adopted from anywhere,” she said. “That’s just life. “

“But I’m an average person who reads the news and listens to the stories, and of course, fear sells,” Ms. Vardalos said. “Even though I’m surrounded by happy adoptive families, I had only absorbed the negative ones. I’m a middle child Canadian, and I wasn’t looking for trouble. I’m not proud of it, but I want to be honest about it. I had fears.”

Those fears, and what happened after she put them aside, are the subject of Ms. Vardalos’s book, and of her new role as an advocate for foster adoption. Hers is the rare honest look at the adoption of a slightly older child — a child with a history; a child with memories; a child with reason to be angry about her life up until now, but without the ability to understand or put words to that anger. Her daughter, Ilaria, was almost 3 years old when she went to live with her new family — old enough to be confused and to grieve, and to take some of that grief out on her unprepared new mother and father.

Because I, too, am the adoptive parent of a slightly older child (my younger daughter was almost 4 when she came to us), every word of “Instant Mom” rang true for me, as Ms. Vardalos and her husband get through the difficult first days and weeks and find a way into their daughter’s heart. I asked her to describe the first few days after they took Ilaria home, and she laughed — a big, friendly laugh at how she used to be — and then got serious.

“We were suddenly and overwhelmingly in over our heads,” she said. “We were not equipped to help this poor, scared child with anything other than words we weren’t sure she understood, and caresses and kisses that she wouldn’t allow — and she was mad. She was really mad, and I understood. We would say it. ‘This must make you really mad. This must be really confusing.’ ”

Ms. Vardalos describes how they slowly helped Ilaria find enough confidence to relax, enough belief in them to sleep, and enough trust in her new family to speak and eventually to love. Of her choice to begin her life as a parent with a child who was past infancy and babyhood, she said: “I realized I didn’t necessarily see us with a baby. There are benefits to adopting a toddler. They can tell you what’s wrong. And — everything we did with our daughter was a first. Her first tooth fairy. Santa. If you adopt a 16-year-old, you teach them to drive for the first time. If you’re looking for firsts, there are always firsts.”

“Instant Mom” is the book I wish I’d had as we traveled that same road with our youngest daughter. If you have ever considered bringing a child who isn’t an infant into your family, it’s the book you’ll want to read. And if you just enjoy a good, honest memoir, whether it’s an experience you’ll ever share or not (hello, “Eat Pray Love”), it’s the book for you, too.
By KJ DELL’ANTONIA

Credit: NYTimes.com

A Response to Re-Homing News Stories

The recent news stories on “re-homing” adoptees are very disturbing; no child should have to suffer the trauma of being separated from their birth family and then again from their adopted family.

AdopteeWhile upsetting, it is important to understand that these articles are not about adoption practices. The transfers referred to in the recent press happened outside of procedures and safeguards set forth for adoption. In many ways these eye-opening events underscore the need for additional safeguards to be put in place for all children, whether they were born to the family looking to find them a new home, or adopted internationally or domestically. Federal/State child protection laws need to be improved so children are protected from this and other child-trafficking practices.

What these stories do highlight is the need for family assessment, parent preparation and post-placement support.  We know that adoption is a lifelong commitment and that it is important that families always have access to post-adoption services.  “Adoptive families work hard to support their adopted children despite the inevitable challenges that will arise,” said Emily Forhman, Spence-Chapin’s Executive Director. “Having access to qualified adoption clinicians who can counsel parents as well as children is a key component to creating healthy families.” Given the right training and post-placement support, virtually all adoptive parents will be able to provide their children with the permanent and loving home they so deserve.

It is the responsibility of adoption agencies to ensure that parents are properly vetted, trained, and supported and every agency must embrace this responsibility seriously.   In the rare situation where an adoptive placement can’t be permanent, the child’s best interests should be paramount.  The agency(s) involved with the placement of the child with the disrupting family should take on the responsibility of finding a suitable and permanent home for the child; under no circumstances should a family be in a situation where they need to privately transfer the custody of an adopted child to a stranger.

The articles spotlight a real problem and we deplore these situations and the unspeakable hardships that have befallen these children.  At the same time, we are always concerned when the press sensationalizes the circumstances of a handful of misguided families.  The unfortunate reality is that most people gather their information about adoption from hearsay or biased media outlets and tragically, their mistaken views add to the growing number of children left without families and stigmas that adopted persons and their families face to this day.

Note to families:
Despite their critical importance, there is little to no dedicated federal funding for post-adoption services.  Please contact your congressional leader and ask then to make post-adoption services funding a priority.
http://www.congressmerge.com/onlinedb/cgi-bin/leadership.cgi

Colombian Host-to-Adopt Program

Spence-Chapin Services for Families and Children announces the launch of a Colombian host-adopt program for the tri-state community.

Spence-Chapin and Foundation for the Assistance of Abandoned Children (FANA) in Colombia are partnering to present a special host-adopt program in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. IMG_8665The program allows families interested in adopting an older child the opportunity to host a child in their home for three (3) weeks prior to making the commitment to adopt.

School-age children, those who are 8 years old and older at time of placement, are the most overly represented population in orphanages worldwide. However, the fears, unknowns, and myths surrounding the adoption of older children discourage many prospective parents from exploring this option. Currently, close to 8,000 children in Colombia, ages 10 and older, are waiting for a family. The goal of this host-adopt program is simple: to join those older children and sibling groups in need of parents with families who are ready to adopt.

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Having a child in a home before adoption finalization offers many benefits; aside from simply getting to know the child, a hosting period allows families to best prepare for the child’s homecoming – from favorite foods, familiarity with their routines, understanding the child’s personality, interests, and hobbies, families are better able to provide a child with a smoother transition into family life.

For the child, a host-to-adopt program allows for reflection on and a commitment to their adoption process. Children selected for hosting have expressed an interest in adoption; a hosting program offers the child not only a voice in their future, but also a choice. The adoption is a process of mutual selection – the family commits to the child, and the child commits to the family. Because of this, host-adopt programs have been very effective at placing school-age children.

For over 100 years Spence-Chapin has been the leader in adoption in the New York, New Jersey and across the USA finding homes for more than 20,000 children. Spence-Chapin also supports families with a variety of services including counseling, support groups, parent coaching, mentorships, and more. Similarly, the Foundation for the Assistance of Abandoned Children (FANA) has been caring for thousands of children for over 40 years. Through their host-adopt program more than 9,000 children have found fulfilling futures with loving families.

 

Farewell to Linda Wright

After 18 years at Spence-Chapin, Director of Development Linda Wright, retires. In a touching letter, she reflects on her time spent in the organization and gives thanks to those that were fundamental in the success of the development department.

646_LindaWrightWeeding through my piles and files these past few weeks has been a trek down memory lane!

Time and time again many of you have demonstrated your commitment to Spence-Chapin. You have supported the agency financially and phoned other families to enlist their support of our Annual Fund. You have served on committees – African-American Parents Advisory (AAPAC), International Parents Advisory (IPAC), and Long Island Families Together (LIFT); May’s Birth Parent Gathering; Annual Theatre and Adoptionship Benefits; 55th Anniversary of African-American Adoptions at The Studio Museum in Harlem, KOREA35 and CHINA20. You have shared ideas, time, energy and connections as we developed outreach strategies and planned program celebrations, family get-togethers, and fundraisers. And, so the list goes on and on and on.

Of course, as a Development professional, I usually measure achievements with numbers, and particularly those preceded with dollar-signs. Over the last 18 years we – you the star performers; me simply stage manager — have kept Spence-Chapin fiscally strong and ready to respond to new opportunities and changing needs with creativity and kindness. The total contributed during this period exceeds $35 million, a sum derived from several initiatives.

The Spirit of Spence-Chapin Annual Fund, launched in the fall of 1996, has raised nearly $10 million for general operating support. Events to fund Adoptionships for prospective families needing assistance with adoption costs produced almost $600,000. The annual Theatre Benefit, which began in the 1950s, continued to draw together new and old friends who contributed $2.2 million to enable more children to come home. Support for our Granny Program and other relief efforts overseas has reached $1.3 million and now 234 children in orphanages in Colombia, China, Moldova, and South Africa get daily one-on-one attention from 82 loving Grannies who were recruited from local communities. And, our historic Campaign for the Second Century garnered $14.5 million to secure Spence-Chapin’s work for another 100 years.

I am grateful to all of you for your generosity and conviction that Spence-Chapin deserves LJW_Retirement (SKasowitz-Director)your support. I believe we have given Mary Connolly, my successor, a solid foundation for advancing Spence-Chapin’s development program. The thread that binds the Spence-Chapin community together is the belief that every child deserves the unconditional love and nurturing that comes from a permanent family. It is a community willing to extend itself to ensure that Spence-Chapin is here to find and prepare the families eager to welcome a child into their homes and hearts.

This magic happened for 3,022 children during the past 18 years. The children traveled from China, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia; from Russia, Bulgaria and Moldova; from Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Guatemala; from South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to become part of a family in the USA. Our local babies didn’t journey thousands of miles to reach their new homes but, as their birth parents struggled to plan for their futures, they received tender care from our interim volunteer families – another special group in our community.

Today at least 132 million children worldwide are homeless or live in institutions, many of them orphaned or abandoned. In the USA, nearly a half a million children are in foster care, and over a quarter of them are eligible for adoption. Spence-Chapin is their hope for a family, for a future that will allow them to thrive in a loving, safe home. Our challenge individually and as a community is to find the wherewithal for that to happen. During and before my arrival at Spence-Chapin, more than 20,000 have been touched by many of you – some very directly and very immediately. I have enjoyed watching your children grow up, and I have personally benefited from your generosity and friendship. I take a bit of each of you with me and for that – and so much more – I Thank You!

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How do I talk to my child about adoption

adoption, counseling, When you adopt a child, you are giving him/her the wonderful gift of a home.  However, with all of the love that you have to offer also comes the responsibility of being willing to discuss his birth parents at some point in his life. For many parents, this can be a challenging task; it can be even harder for the child.

Most adoptive parents understand that their child not only needs and deserves knowledge of how their family was created through adoption, but also that this knowledge must be provided in a way that will give the child the pride and self-respect every person needs as a foundation in life.

Years ago, parents thought that they should wait until the child was old enough to talk about the adoption. We now know that this way can do more harm than good as many adopted children are finding out about their adoption from other people and feeling betrayed.

Adopted children often have many questions about their heritage and they should be answered by their adoptive parents when they are asked. I have worked with foster and adopted children and families for more 15 years, and every child I have counseled has had questions about their biological family starting at a young age. Some younger children are often unsure whether they should bring up their birth parents to their adoptive parents, in fear that it will hurt their feelings or that it will cause anger and they will be abandoned once again. In some cases their fears are real, while in others they are not.

Prior to adolescence, children are extremely curious about their adoption stories. Although they question the circumstances that led to their adoption, most of them seem to accept the answers calmly – See more at:
Some of the questions adopted children ask are, “Did my mom and dad love me? Did my mom and dad love each other? Why did they put me up for adoption?” These are all valid questions which need to be answered to ensure that the child feels secure.

Adoptive parents have said to me, “I know that I have to talk to my daughter or son about the adoption, but where do I begin?” I think it is best to begin when the child is very young and is able to cognitively understand language — usually at around 1 ½ to 2 years of age. You want to be able to tell your child about the adoption often. Also, if you are married or in a relationship, you want to make sure that both parents agree on the same story. This will make the experience less complicated and stressful for your child. I always encourage parents to practice what they are going to say to the child before talking. It builds parents’ confidence and prepares them for questions. And be prepared — they will have lots of questions!

Here are a few more tips for talking to a child about their adoption.

1. Always be willing to talk about the adoption with your children. The more open you are about it, the more comfortable the child will be.

2. Keep the conversation age-appropriate. When a child is younger, use a story telling technique (Fisher, 2000) and keep the language simple. As the child ages and becomes more mature, more sophisticated language can be used.

3. Be honest but don’t scare the child. If you don’t know something, then say, “I don’t know.” If the child was a product of rape for instance, “You don’t want to start out by saying your mommy and daddy loved each other very much,” says Lois Melina, author of Making Sense of Adoption and Raising Adopted Children. “You can say something that would imply that their parents didn’t know each other very well.”

4. Help your child learn how to express their emotions about being adopted. This can be done not only through talking but through drawing or making a life book.

Addressing the adopted child’s past is the key to helping them move towards a bright future.

– By Dr. Sue, who is a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Temple University and an expert in parenting, foster care and child abuse. This article was originally posted on montgomerynews.com

Championing the Waiting Child

This summer we traveled to Colombia, South Africa and Uganda to explore opportunities to expand our reach to help more children. Visiting these countries and meeting with their child welfare representatives solidified our resolve to find adoptive homes for children there. During our trips, we witnessed the love and care these children receive but also were acutely aware of the staff making do with what little resources they had. In each country we clearly observed the changing face of adoption and saw the many school-aged children, sibling groups and children with special needs who are waiting for a family of their own. Because we feel that that every child deserves a home, championing the adop­tion of these children is part of what Spence-Chapin does.

Our time in Colombia was inspiring, encouraging and sobering. Having met with the Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF – The Colombian Institute of Family Welfare within the Ministry of Social Protection), our staff was impressed by the level of care provided to the approximately 9,000 children in their custody. In each adoption house visited, we encountered psychologists, social workers and other professional staff helping children prepare for adoption, and yet no forever families were on the horizon for these children.

In South Africa there is no question about the number of children needing permanency; by 2015 there will be more than 5.5 million orphans in South Africa. As one of just two U.S. agencies approved by the South African Central Authority to place children with American families, we are delighted to partner in this initiative with Johannesburg Child Welfare Society (JCW). Our similar mission and history of having worked together on our Granny program, make this partnership a natural fit. We have officially launched this program and are eagerly accepting applica­tions for adoption. We are excited about placing children with black families as well as families who will open their hearts and homes to the children most likely not to be adopted in South Africa because of their age or medical needs.

In Uganda, we learned about the millions of orphans and their extremely limited options. When parents die some children are taken in by relatives but many others try to survive on the streets. While there, we established a strong relationship with MIFUMI, a Ugandan international aid and development agency. MIFUMI is opening doors for us to explore child welfare and adoption needs in Uganda, and while program development can take some time, we are already looking at opportunities for James, a 5-year-old boy who does not have family to care for him, who does not have a local children’s home to care for him, and with no other option, is living in a domestic violence shelter among women and chil­dren experiencing repeated trauma. We see James and the difficult situations he has already had in his short life, and we are moved to create something better for him and the millions of other children in situations like his.

In the past year, we’ve talked much about the changing face of adoption, but what we know has not changed is the number of chil­dren, particularly older children, sibling sets, and children with special needs, waiting to be adopted. Spence-Chapin has refocused efforts to help all families afford adoption by offering Adoptionships and specialized pre-adoptive parent preparation and training that will enable families to feel more confident about opening their homes to these children. It is with your ongoing commitment and needed support that we move forward with passion and dedi­cation as we refine our vision and enhance our services to these resilient children and their adoptive forever families.

Visit our Flickr page to see pictures from this trip.

Read more about Waiting Children on our site.

Today is Giving Tuesday!

Giving TuesdayResearchers have shown that people who commit random acts of kindness are significantly happier than those who don’t, and spending money on others makes you happier than spending money on yourself. They also have discovered happier people help others more – a positive mood makes you nicer!  This makes a circle: giving makes you happy, and when you’re happy you give more, which makes you happier, which makes you give more.

Neuroscientists know that charitable giving releases dopamine, the “reward neurotransmitter” that makes you feel good. The point is that charitable donations aren’t purely rational calculations. Instead, our decisions are deeply influenced by the quirky social machinery of the brain, which is influenced by variables like empathy (how close do we feel to the beneficiaries of the good cause?) and the ability to detect agency (does the charity make us think of other people?).

We bring this up this selfless circle of happiness now because today is #GivingTuesday, a national day of giving. How can you make the world a better place in some way, and live #GivingTuesday every day of the year?  You should take a moment to feel joy at the difference you make and if you want a place to increase your flow of dopamine today, we recommend our Granny program. Our Grannies in China, South Africa, Colombia and Moldova give their time every day…they’re getting their daily dose of dopamine!

 

South Africa Adoption Program: Program Development

Orphanages around the world have one thing in common: beautiful children who deserve a loving family to call their own.  While this theme is consistent, there are numerous differences that set them apart.  As the Coordinator of Program Development at Spence-Chapin, it is my responsibility to establish adoption programs that will be successful.  Success, in this context, is defined as identifying countries where there are children in need of families and confirming that the country has systems in place to process adoptions in a transparent and ethical manner.  South Africa meets these criteria perfectly.

Spence-Chapin South Afica Adoption Program

So what makes South Africa different?  Having placed children with families from Belgium and Finland for many years, Johannesburg Child Welfare Society (JCW) is experienced in international adoptions and has formalized procedures in place.  They are involved in all phases of the adoption process from monitoring the children in care to providing families with a cultural integration program while in South Africa.  JCW is responsible for written reports on the children, assessment of families, and providing the Central Authority with recommendations for placement; the process that JCW has established is about as seamless as it gets.

 

The care of the children is another area where this program differentiates itself.  JCW strives to provide an environment that caters to the overall development of the children in their care which includes their physical, emotional, spiritual, and educational needs. While many orphanages around the world struggle to meet the basic needs of the children in their care, the orphanages we visited in SoutSpence-Chapin South African Adoption Programh Africa were able to go above and beyond.  Understanding the critical impact that physical and emotional contact has during a child’s early stages of development, in 2011 Spence-Chapin established its first Granny Program in Africa at the Othendweni Family Care Center, an orphanage in Soweto that is home to 90 children—30 of whom range in age from just a few days old to four years.  Through this program, children are paired with experienced women in these communities, who spend special, one-on-one time with each of them. During our visit in July 2012 we witnessed the commitment of the staff and Grannies, and the genuine concern for the children.  Additionally, JCW has contracted with outside organizations including The Big Shoes Foundation and Thusanani Children’s Foundation who provide medical and developmental servicesJCW provides the children in their care with a solid foundation which inevitably makes the transition into their forever family that much smoother.

In short, when examining international adoption options, need and infrastructure often do not go hand in hand.  However, South Africa proves that it can be done and as a result children receive the critical love and care they need until they join their forever family.

 Gina Pariani, Spence-Chapin
 

Visit our Flickr set to see more pictures from this trip.

 

“I Feel Like I’m Waiting to Love My Son”

I love the show “Parenthood”.  I love the characters, the family dynamics, the twists and turns of inter-weaving inter-generational lives playing out themes of marriage, raising kids, inter-racial families, and more recently, the adoption of a school-aged child.

Julia and Joel, after experiencing a heart wrenching loss when their domestic infant adoption falls through, decide to approach their local social services agency and open their home to any child that may need one.  Seemingly a day later, with no preparation, a social worker rings their doorbell in the dead of night and brings them Victor, a cute, quite, and mysterious 8 year old boy.

Two episodes into the season, we see Joel and Julia, with no visible assistance from any social worker, trying to integrate their new son into their lives.  Or, rather, walking on eggshells around him while trying to act like everything is normal.  Julia alludes to some reading that she’s doing (good) and that they have to establish trust and help him feel like part of the family (also good), but we also see Victor spending entire days lying on the couch, shooting whipped cream into his mouth straight from the can, and watching violent reality TV shows (not so good), all while ignoring the family activities going on around him.  Finally, after a series of upsetting events, Joel and Julia argue about how best to manage Victor, to which Julia, defeated, finally states “I feel like I’m waiting to love my son”.adotive parents, tv show, partenhood

FINALLY, a genuine moment in this story – for many adoptive parents, and certainly for those adopting school-aged children, this is such a common feeling.  However, the guilt and fear of judgment prevents many families from sharing these feelings with their social workers and support systems.  While it is understandable that this is a scary thing to approach (“If I don’t love him now, will I EVER love him?” is a common thought that families struggle with), it is essentially important, when bonding and attaching with a new child, to keep a few key things in mind:

  •  Love takes time.  Everyone needs time to get to know each other and build genuine emotional bonds that will last a lifetime.  If you don’t feel “in love” it does not mean that you or the child are doing something wrong.  In fact, this can be looked at as a good thing – if a child has had multiple placements and many disappointments, she has built healthy defenses by learning to distance herself until she feels secure.  Use that time to show her that you are trustworthy – providing consistent, kind, and thoughtful parenting with healthy limits, expecting nothing in return, is the clearest way to tell a child that you will be there forever, no matter what.
  • Affection takes time.  Those first days, weeks, or even months, it may not yet feel right to have a hug or a snuggle on the couch.  Instead, a quick pat on the head might do, or kicking around a soccer ball in the yard can be a shared physical activity without the intensity of physical contact.   Find that balance between smothering and distancing – maybe insist on holding hands to cross the street (appropriate for any child under 5), braid their hair, or play Twister. Be creative and don’t forget to have some fun – it’s hard for a child to want to snuggle with you if you look angry or tired!
  • Talk about it to the right people.  Find your right outlet – other adoptive parents, your social worker, a supportive therapist, your spouse, partner, or best friend.  Use good judgment; if an acquaintance has given you the message that she thinks the adoption of your child was a bad idea, that’s probably not the person to share your feelings with.

At the end of episode 2, Julia and Victor have a little breakthrough – he is emotionally vulnerable, she promises help, follows through on it, and is rewarded with a conversation and an awkward hug.  Not monumental when it comes to raising an 8 year old boy, but I was sitting on my couch, excited for these characters and all the adoptive families I have worked with, for that one moment, where even in its tiny doses, they can start to feel the love they’ve been waiting for.

Stella Gilgur-Cook, LCSW, Assistant Director of Outreach, Spence-Chapin Services to Families & Children

Bulgaria Progam Update – February 2012

In December, a new Minister of Justice was appointed in the Bulgarian government, leading to appointments of new deputy ministers in her cabinet, including a newly appointed adoption minster: Velina Todorova.

Spence-Chapin’s partners in Bulgaria attended a joint meeting of accredited Bulgarian adoption agencies in January, where Ms. Todorova shared some thoughts on her new position, including her mission of making adoption procedures (including the process of entering children into the Ministry of Justice register) more efficient. Moving forward, the Deputy Minister has scheduled additional time for the Intercountry Adoption Council to regularly meet, with the intention of making more referrals per meeting session.  Overall, Spence-Chapin’s partners in Bulgaria are feeling very positive about this change in the Ministry of Justice, and we will continue to keep families informed of new developments in the program.

 

Colombia Program Update – February 2012

We’re happy to report that we have a number of families in the adoption process for Colombia,  showing a steady growth of interest for this country program.

We continue to be committed to permanency options for older children in Colombia.  Spence-Chapin is looking for families who would welcome parenting a child or children 8 and older. If you would like to explore this option, please contact us at 212-400-8150.

Cultural Events

On February 11th, Gramercy Arts Theater presents Cronica De Una Muerte Anunciada with live English translation.  Set against the backdrop of a small Colombian town and explores the chain of events, false accusations, petty errors and biases that lead to the unnecessary death of a young man.  Visit www.repertorio.org  for more details.

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Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy – Adoption Documentary

On Tuesday, August 31, POV premiered on national PBS Stephanie Wang-Breal’s documentary Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy. It is the story of Fang Sui Yong, an 8-year-old orphan, and the Long Island Jewish family who travels to China to adopt her. Through her eyes, we witness Fang Sui Yong struggle during her first year and a half in the United States with a new identity and a new family.

First of all, I would like to recognize the courage and generosity of the family that allowed the process of their older child transitioning into their family to be filmed so that others might learn from their journey. This film is an honest portrayal of the challenges, hopes, losses and joys each member of the family experiences. It is of particular use to the adoption community because it provides some insight to the mixed emotions and the different types of loss a child who is older when adopted experiences. There are so many lessons to learn from this film. However, the ones I hope that waiting parents will learn are:

That children adopted above toddler age:

  1. Will take time to attach, that just because a caretaker tells them to call her “Mommy,” it is meaningless until the relationship has time to build.
  2. Will be incredibly frightened and sometimes resentful of the new life.
  3. Will clearly grieve relationships with other children and caretakers in the orphanage or foster family, the loss of language, the loss of some aspects of one’s identity.
  4. Need more time playing and interacting than being given English lessons in the first month.
  5. Need parents committed to them in the face of initial rejection and difficult behavior because this eventually enables the children to change and move beyond their fears and sadness.

I applaud this film for giving us insight into the hearts and minds of children adopted at an older age.

Rita Taddonio, LCSW
Director, Spence-Chapin Adoption Resource Center (ARC)