Today is the day! I'm am so happy to be participating in this year's Open Adoption Bloggers Interview Project. This year there were over 100 participants! You can read all of the awesome interviews here. I had the pleasure of being paired with Sarah from My Little Lantern. She and her husband have adopted two adorable kids from Taiwan. Her love for her children shines through her blog and the many photos of their family activities. My interview with her is below. I hope you enjoy! She also interviewed me. You can read all about it at http://www.mylittlelatern.com.
1.) What brought you to your decision to adopt? How did you decide on international adoption? How did you decide on Tawain?
We waited for several years after we married to try and start a family. We tried to get pregnant for about a year with no luck before deciding that we’d rather pursue adoption than to investigate and pursue fertility treatments. We decided on international adoption because we wanted to adopt a relatively young child as first time parents, and most importantly… did not want to wait for a birth mother to choose us. We did not like the idea of waiting and waiting and potentially never being chosen. We preferred to wait in a line for a program that we were eligible for, and know that we’d be matched with our child eventually. We went to an international adoption seminar thinking that China NSN would be a stable program choice. We then learned that we’d have to wait until I was 30 to get in line, the line was growing horribly long, and rule changes on the horizon make us not eligible to adopt from China. Somehow during massive internet searches I learned of Taiwan adoption programs, researched the differences between several different programs, and chose an agency and facilitator that fit our needs on ethics, fees, reviews by other adoptive families, and wait times. I firmly believe that God had a hand in helping match us with the children that were just right for our family at the times of their adoptions, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
2.) You have adopted two beautiful children from Taiwan. How were your two adoption experiences similar? How were they different? Was the waiting period easier or more difficult the second time around?
Yes! They are quite cute! It helps get them out of trouble when they do things like knock my glasses off my face and break them or smear chocolate on the couch. Our adoption experiences were similar in that we used the same home study agency, same adoption agency, and same facilitator in Taiwan. They were different in that our daughter lived in the “baby house” that facilitated our adoption where our son lived in government sponsored foster care. We had significantly more updates about our daughter while we waited for her adoption to be completed in comparison with what information we received on our son. It was more difficult to feel emotionally invested in an adoption when months and months and months go by with no updates. Waiting for our daughter’s referral was very difficult because the extremely short wait we expected turned into 15 months of waiting for a referral thinking every day for a year… this referral could come any day now. I experienced my first anxiety attacks due to the wait, and they were very real and scary. The second time around, we got in line to adopt again before we were even sure that we wanted to adopt again. We were very busy and blessed by having a daughter, and there wasn’t the longing that tugged at my heart like there was while waiting for our daughter’s referral.
3.) It is obvious from your blog that you place great importance on teaching your children about their culture (Which by the way I think is awesome and so important!). How do you go about finding authentic and enriching experiences for your family to participate in? Do you live in an area where this is easy or difficult? Have you faced any prejudice or obstacles? Have you made any unexpected friends or connections along the way?
While we place importance on learning about and celebrating Chinese and Taiwanese culture, we do not label this as "their" culture. Our children are Taiwanese Americans living in an American culture. While we hope to instill in them an understanding and appreciation for Chinese and Taiwanese culture, we know that by living in the U.S. they will never truly be a part of it, and are stuck somewhere in the middle. We explore culture as a family, for all of us to celebrate together.
(That is so true! Culture may not have been the right word choice, but I do think that what you are doing is great. Knowledge about our roots is extremely important in forming our identity.)
We live in small town Indiana, surrounded by beans and cornfields, where there is a significant absence of diversity. We’ve made friends with the few Asian Americans that are local to us including mainland Chinese immigrants, a Korean American family, and transracial families with children that are Korean and Chinese adoptees. We participated in Chinese school last year, driving 45 minutes to weekly classes. We make it a priority to socialize with other Taiwan adoptive families. We’ve traveled to Colorado, Texas, southern Indiana, and trips to Chicago several times a year. We’d like to go to California next year for a huge Taiwan adoptive family gathering, but may need to spend that vacation money on a down payment of a larger home. We enjoy Chinese/Taiwanese cultural events and exploring new foods. One year we went to Ann Arbor, Michigan, for spring break just to check out some authentic restaurants and stay at a hotel where our daughter could swim. I don’t think this is easy, but we make it a priority. We’re blessed to live an hour and a half away from another family with a daughter that lived in the baby house at the same time as our daughter. We travel to their house for play dates about every other month, and feel that this relationship is very valuable for our daughters. I don’t feel that we’ve experienced prejudice or obstacles, but I know what it feels like to be an outsider when trying to participate in activities with groups of Chinese Americans. A few are welcoming, a few look down on us, some stare, and most are indifferent to us. I’ve made unexpected connections with adult Taiwanese adoptees, some of which are in reunion with their birth families in Taiwan. I didn’t expect these connections to happen or be as important as I hold them.
4.) Openness in adoption is fast becoming the norm in U.S. domestic adoptions, but is less common in international adoptions. But it does happen (which I learned from you!) What has been your family's experience? How do you help your daughter and son feel connected to their birth families? How much information were you given about their birth families, medical history, early experiences etc. I know they are young, but have either begun to ask questions? How do you anticipate things will change as they grow older?
Child adoptees from Taiwan often have a significant amount of information regarding their birth family, family medical history (at least from their birth mother), and social background information. Taiwan’s national household registration can help facilitate finding people in Taiwan, provided that they are registering with the government when they move. I know of some Taiwan adoptees that were abandoned and thus do not have information about their birth parents, but these cases are rare. We met our daughter’s birth mother and family when we met our daughter in Taiwan. Our daughter is certainly loved and celebrated by two families, and we hope that she feels so as she grows up. With the help of internet and social media we are able to keep in contact with our daughter’s family. Photos can say a lot when you don’t have a common language. We were not able to meet our son’s birth family, but we do have a lot of information and some photos. We were blessed to Skype and then meet with our son’s loving foster mother, and hope that we can continue to communicate with her via our Taiwan adoption facilitator. Our daughter doesn’t ask a lot of questions, but she has met and knows the names of several children that are Taiwanese adoptees about her age. She liked to talk about what we were going to do in Taiwan the months before our trip, and now brings up her favorite parts of the trip. Last weekend she asked, “Mama, can we go back to Taiwan some day?” “Of course we will! I want to go back, too.” She listed all of the names of the people she wants to see again, including our friend’s dog, and requests to go to church in Taiwan again. That made my heart sing! Our son is nearly two, and his limited vocabulary is centered on eating and playing with cars, trucks, boats, and airplanes. I have no idea how this will change as they grow older. Every adoptee feels differently about their experiences, so we’ll follow their lead. Our children are very different little people, and I imagine that they’ll feel differently about their adoptions as they grow.
5.) What advice would you give to someone just starting the adoption process? About the process in general? Specifics about international adoption? Thinking back, what helped you the most during your adoption journey(s)?
Advice? Could start by going to agency seminars. Get some recommended readings. Research ethics on programs you are interested in. Research ethics some more. The thing that helped me the most during our adoption journeys was getting connected with other Taiwan adoptive families that had previously completed and were in process for their adoptions. Get connected, as you’ll need someone to lean on post-adoption. Life is significantly harder post adoption, and post adoption depression is real. I’m thankful to have a great local adoption support group and lots of Taiwan adoptive mamas to share with online.