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The following letter was sent to family and friends to share information concerning our adoption and adoption related issues....

Dear friends and family,                               January, 2004

As some of you know, we are in the process of adopting a baby girl from China. Since we haven’t had a chance to tell all of you and those who do know have asked about our progress, we thought we would share some details.

The adoption process from China has three major steps. (1)The first step is called the “PAPERCHASE” for obvious reasons. It involves applying to the agency of your choice, completing a home study (where your personal, professional, financial, and family life is thoroughly investigated) and applying to the immigration office to bring a foreign adopted child into the US which includes an FBI fingerprinting. What you end up with is a bulging file of dozens of documents. We have just completed this much and are waiting for the immigration office to send us our acceptance letter. Once that is here we will need to send this small mountain of documents to various government agencies to have them notarized, certified, and authenticated. Our papers (or dossier) will then be sent to China where we will be given a log-in date...this will be a day of great celebration, as we are then DONE with the paperchase. But now is the hardest part...(2) The WAIT. Currently the waiting time lasts 8 months, but we are hopeful for it to lessen this year. This is the time our papers are translated, processed, and shuffled around a bit in China. But, after the wait comes...(3) The REFERRAL. This is a photo(s) of the child China has matched with us along with as much information about the child as China has. Upon our acceptance of the child, we would be given travel approval and be expected to travel to China a month or two later.

This much information may be adequate for many of you. However, others may have questions about the myriad of issues that circle around the adoption issue. We are attaching some more information about Chinese adoption and our process for those who would like to know more.

Why Adopt? Why China?

We’ve been asked many times now, “Why did you decide to adopt?” and I always find it difficult to really put into a brief response something that has grown deeply in our hearts through numerous circumstances over the past couple of years. The simplest and truest answer I can give is that this is what we feel God has called us to do. We‘ve had some interesting “coincidences“ in coming to this decision. One of the most interesting was the first time we discussed names when Pat said, “What about Miyah?”. Miyah is the very name I had used in praying for a tiny girl in China for many months.

Our initial reason for adopting was a mix of seeing the need (having watched a program on Chinese orphanages really started much of it), and sensing a growing desire to add to our family. Our desire to adopt has deepened out of the research and information we‘ve read. The number of orphaned children is staggering, and as one author put it, “All it takes to bring the statistics to life is to look into the face of one small child. Then all the numbers come with faces--and they are not easy to look in the eye.” We were amazed to hear there are more than 30 million orphaned children around the world. Nearly 2 million of them are in China and it is estimated that only 2% of these children are ever given a mommy and/or daddy or a place to call home. Every year in China, hundreds of thousands of baby girls are put into orphanages. And of course, China is not alone. Many other countries have similar stories. Africa is estimated to have 5.5 million orphans and our own foster care system is flooded with children who are longing for a home. The numbers are compelling, making the feelings of loss and aloneness almost palpable for those who dare to read them.

For over a year now, there has been a scrap of paper tucked in our computer desk with an ancient Chinese belief scribbled on it. It reads, “An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break.” The proverb is said to refer to those we will one day marry, but many parents believe it applies to those children that God has birthed in their hearts, that will one day be theirs. Over the last year the thread has stretched and there may even be tangles in the coming months, but we’ve held tight to the promise that the thread will never break.

Because of Megan’s love for the people and culture of China, our home has had many handmade paper lanterns hanging around during the lunar New Year, we’ve visited Chinatown while in Honolulu to buy silk outfits and other Chinese trinkets, and have learned to write Chinese numbers and characters through the years. We’ve all begun to feel connected to China. One day while watching a program on Chinese orphanages, the need seemed very personal and the footage of multiple babies in tiny cribs pleaded for our response; not for our pity, but for our action. There seemed to be no question that God had put China on our hearts for a reason. The red thread had always been there, we are just recently beginning to feel it’s tug on our hearts.

China Synopsis

If you have children, please use discretion in sharing some of the following information with them. To give our daughter the best chance of developing a healthy self-image, we will be very careful in how and when we tell her about the circumstances of her abandonment (to the extent that we will know them). While we plan to be very open and honest with her about her adoption from the very beginning, some issues need to be handled carefully and at the appropriate time. Please decide what to tell your children about her and the Chinese culture after you read the following pages, using gentle words that will not someday be fed back to our daughter in an unwittingly hurtful way (we‘ve heard of children innocently telling an adopted child their mother threw her away in the garbage because she didn‘t want her...obviously misunderstanding what she heard her parents saying.)

China Facts

China is the most populous country in the world with 1.2 billion people (22% of the world’s population). The one-child policy is enforced in varying degrees in different regions of the country. In some places, a couple must apply to the government and receive an authorized schedule of when it is “their turn” to try for pregnancy. The penalties for having unauthorized children are severe if discovered and can consist of being fined a year’s wages, the loss of a job, imprisonment, social ostracism, etc. Forced abortion has been a common practice to both eliminate an unauthorized pregnancy or a baby girl.

Preference for Boys

China is primarily an agricultural country where hard labor is necessary for survival, and therefore there is a need for men and boys. Cultural practices are also at work in the desire for sons. The sons take care of aging parents and carry on the family name and farm. A son is “social security” where there is no government care, 401(k) or pensions on the rural farmlands of China. As a Chinese girl grows up and marries, she goes to the home of her in-laws to live and serve there. If one only has a daughter, there is no security in retirement. When one father was asked why the quest for a son after having seven daughters, he said, “My girls will belong to someone else. Only my son will feed me rice when I am old.”

Abandonment of Baby Girls

It is illegal in most of China to give birth to a second child. It is also illegal to abandon a child, though many have no other choice since there is no system where a parent can place a child for adoption. This is a Catch-22 for birthparents because they can neither keep the child, nor make an adoption plan for the child, so most are forced to leave their child anonymously. Birthmothers typically leave their baby girl in a conspicuous public place where they know she’ll be found and cared for, like the a busy public market or the gate of an orphanage. Some birthmothers leave a note of the child’s birth date with possibly a little more information and a brief reason why the child has been left. But, for many there is no birth record or history to be traced. The orphanage will determine how old they believe the child to be and give him/her a birth date and name.

Chinese Orphanages

There are about 1,000 orphan facilities in China, and only 250 are licensed for international adoption. This means they (the licensed facilities) have income from adoption fees that allow them to provide a relatively good environment for the children. According to everything we have read, the children receive relatively good care and love from the orphanage staff. Although many orphanages are short of resources and cannot give each child adequate personal attention, the caregivers - called nannies - do become quite attached to the children. Because of the love and care received in most of the orphanages, babies from China, in general, are not showing significant attachment problems. Furthermore, the health of the Chinese adoptive children is predominantly good. They may be malnourished, and some may be somewhat delayed in their gross motor skills, but these issues are usually easily and quickly rectified after a short time with their families. There are organizations such as “Half the Sky Foundation” that are training orphanage staff about child development and the importance of nurturing (esp. physical contact) to help children develop physically and emotionally healthy. In the last few years, due to the efforts of these organizations, many of these orphanages have beautiful play rooms where the children play and receive much physical interaction with their nannies. Despite the strides made in updating and educating orphanages, there is, of course, a natural concern about the emotional and physical safety of any child who has spent up to a year or more in any orphanage. Yet, we know that this is what God has called us to do and He will give us the strength and resources to deal with any issues that may arise (which most times are few or none). Please join with us, as I know many of you have already, in praying for the health and safety of Miyah and all children without homes.

The saddest part of this story are the remaining (750) orphanages who have little resources (because they do not get any income from international adoption) and are unable to provide basic services like nutrition, medical care, education, or even heat for the lost children in their care who most likely will never leave. At the end of this letter I have listed information for organizations if you’re interested in finding out how you can help these children left in the orphanages.

Chinese Foster Care

Some of the orphanages’ children are in foster care, which is usually better for the child’s care but heart-rending at separation because the foster mother and father are typically devoted and attached to the child.

The Referral

We do not get to choose which child we will adopt, but as many adoptive parents can attest, the match is always a miracle. Just like having a biological child, there are no guarantees our child will look a certain way or be completely healthy. We do however, have some choices in adoption. We have requested a healthy baby girl between 0-12 months of age. We expect our daughter to be between 6-14 months (or even slightly older) at the time of referral.

When we get our referral we will be excited to share the news with you all. What we will receive will be the name (given by the orphanage), one or more photos of our daughter, her birth date, weight, height, some medical information, and possibly general information about her personality and interests (sounds like a personal ad). Sometimes the children will have what is referred to as an orphanage haircut. With so many children to care for and to keep lice at a minimum, the orphanages will oftentimes keep the hair very short or on occasion, shaved.  And many times referral photos show a small child bundled in as many as six layers of clothing, making it difficult to really see the size of the child.  Though we don’t care whether the child is beautiful or somewhat homely (if that‘s possible!), we will be thrilled to finally put a face to our dreams and to see the little one God has chosen for us.

Our Trip

Our family will travel to China for about two weeks (we‘ve decided that the whole family will go). We will first travel to Beijing for a couple of days to meet our guide and the rest of our travel group.  There we will visit the Great Wall, Forbidden City, and Tiananmen Square.  Next we will fly to the area near our daughter’s orphanage, usually in the provincial city, where adoption paperwork is processed. Normally, on the first or second day in the province the children are brought to the adopting parents at their hotel. Once the adoption paperwork is processed in the local province, we will travel to Guangzhou (AKA Canton) just north of Hong Kong, for medical exams, completion of the child’s passport, and submission of application for the child’s visa into the U.S. at the U.S. Consulate. Upon receipt of the visa and passport, we will return home.

Attitude of the Chinese Toward American Adoptive Parents

All reports from those who have made the trip are the same. The Chinese people are quite friendly, and when they learn that you have adopted a Chinese child, they react with great delight and believe the babies are extremely fortunate. One of the things the people say in English is “Lucky baby”. But we know we are the ones who are blessed!

When We Return

Bonding

Because children will naturally attach to those who take care of them and meet their needs, many adopted children go through a grieving period due to the loss of their caretaker. This grieving indicates a healthy ability to attach and attaching is an important social/emotional issue. We know of few problems with children (especially young children) bonding to their adoptive parents, although the amount of time it takes varies; usually the child warms up to his/her parents over a couple of days and bonds in a short period. It still may take a while for her to feel and know that we are her family. Because we will be sensitive to this issue, it will be important for us to have family time and wait to do a lot of traveling and visiting until we feel well adjusted as a family. It’s important for us to remember that she will most likely never have been outside of the orphanage and the sights, sounds, and all the people who look different (her world virtually turned upside down) may be overwhelming to her the first week or so. Therefore, we ask that you understand if she is shy and reluctant to be passed around....after a short period of adjustment she’ll transition into being a normal kid.

Being Open about Her Adoption

Through our actions and love we’ll have to teach her that we are her real parents and that she is our real daughter and that Matthew and Megan are her real siblings. Talking often about the fact that she is adopted and telling her things such as, “I’m so glad we adopted you” and “I love your beautiful dark eyes and black hair” from the time she is tiny, will help her to always know that there is nothing wrong with being adopted or looking different than her other family members. This way, she will not have an abrupt revelation of her adoption that may make her feel awkward or betrayed. We feel like honesty is the best policy, though we realize many issues will need to be handled delicately.

Her Birthparents and “Abandonment”

We will teach our daughter to honor her birthparents in China. Although we will know nothing about them or the circumstances of the abandonment, it is likely that giving her up was extremely difficult. It can be easy to be judgmental of anyone who abandons a child, but the circumstances in China are different than we can imagine and we will give them the benefit of the doubt. We will probably choose to tell her that her birth mother could not care for her, so she left her ________ so someone could find her and bring her to the orphanage where she would be cared for until we could bring her home.

Honoring Her Chinese Culture

There have been some important lessons to be learned from the previous decades of adoptive parents and children. One of these lessons comes from the (now adult) children adopted from Korea in the 1950s. At that time it was more important for adoptees to assimilate or “fit in” rather than keep a connection to their birth culture. Many times in defending the “realness” of their family, these adoptive parents tried to pretend they were like everyone else and denied any differences, leaving a great feeling of loss and confusion for the Korean adoptees. Today most people feel it is important to embrace the differences that exist in an intercultural family. It’s a very complex issue; as one family therapist put it, “Adoption itself carries a primal kind of loss. Add the loss of original country and culture, and you can see the magnitude of the problem.”

It is our desire to provide our daughter with as much opportunity to honor her heritage and pursue any interest she may have of her culture. It is likely she won’t be terribly interested in Chinese culture until she is older and more mature and less focused on “fitting in”. Cultivating respect for her culture and offering as much information as possible during her childhood is our way of keeping that door open should she someday choose to step through.

Our greatest desire is that our daughter will know other families and children that look like her and that we can find the balance between celebrating that she is a normal American kid and honoring and celebrating her heritage. We have met many families who have or are adopting from China through groups such as Families with Children from China (FCC) which has a local chapter in our area and the Children’s Hope International (CHI-our adoption agency) support groups and we have been blessed to find a family who lives around the corner in our subdivision who is also adopting a daughter from China this year. We’ve already received a wealth of information through several Chinese adoption email groups, one with 12,000 families all at different stages of adoption and many who’ve been through the process several times.

Dealing with Comments from Others

One of the most important things we will deal with in public is responding to remarks by strangers who are interested, curious, intrusive, or even rude. It is enlightening to hear those with Chinese daughters tell stories about the comments they receive. We will all have to learn how to respond to comments, most of which are kind, but some of which may be inappropriate. We don’t want to be among the oversensitive, and more important than our personal feelings when people express comments in our daughter’s hearing, is responding in a way that helps her develop a positive self-image.

Here’s a sample of some of the more insensitive comments our e-mail friends have received in front of their child:

Stranger to crying Chinese child: “You’d better stop crying or you’ll get sent back where you came from.”

“Why did you adopt her from China when there are so many kids right here who need parents?”

“Why would you want to adopt from a Communist country?”

“How much did you pay for her?”

“Do you know who her real parents are?” “That isn’t her real sister/brother is it?” (when people don’t realize adoption makes a real family...we will be her real parents, real siblings)

“Isn’t it terrible how they throw away their girls?”

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There’s so much more we could share with you but I fear we’ve told you more than enough already. If you have any questions, are interested in adoption, or know of anyone interested in adoption, we would love to help in any way we can. I don’t believe that God has called us all to adopt, but I do know that He has called us ALL to help orphans in every way we are able. James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” The mandate is clear and yet many people don‘t know what they can do. There are many organizations that work with orphans and I have listed some of them below. I have also listed some resources for anyone who would like to read more about adoption and/or specifically, Chinese adoption.  Feel free to click on the links below to find out more. 

Thank you so much for your time....I know it turned into more of a book than a letter and I apologize. If you ever have a question we’ve overlooked, be sure to ask us. We greatly value and appreciate your support.

Sincerely,

Patrick, Cindy, Matthew, and Megan

email us at k95@comcast.net

You can help by:

-Praying for orphans.

-Participating in missions trips to orphanages.

-Providing financial support to organizations that minister to orphans.

-Volunteering with local state agencies to mentor children in the state foster care system.

-Volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center.

-Donating time, gifts, and talents to adoption agencies, counseling centers, or state foster care agencies.

-Helping organize an orphans’ ministry at your local church.