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Exploring Adoption: Workshops for Adoptees, Adoptive Parents & Practitioners

Download the discussion guide.

WORKSHOP FOR ADOPTEES


GENERAL QUESTIONS
(can be used with any clip and any audience to get the discussion going)

• Was there anything in the clip that “spoke truth” to you?
• How was what you saw like or unlike your own experience?
• What question(s) did this clip raise for you?



CLIP 1: WAR SHAPED MY DESTINY
(In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee)
Topics: Policy, Emotions

• Deann says, “I feel I’m not supposed to question the charity that determined my fate, but I cannot help but wonder about the motivations for my adoption.” What role did an agency play in your adoption? What role do you think agencies should play? Have you ever struggled with issues around gratitude? How did you handle that?

• The clip shows that a lot of people were involved in Deann’s adoption, from agencies and governments to individual employees and family members. Do you know who made the decisions in your adoption? The adoption agency/orphanage? A government organization? Do you think your birth parents had any say? What about your adoptive parents? At what age do you think a child’s opinion should be considered?

CLIP 2: MY BIRTH MOTHER’S HISTORY
(In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee)
Topics: Relations with Birth Parents, Emotions

• How did you feel when Deann said: “I’ve never felt critical of my mother for giving me up. But for some reason during her visit, an unexpected anger welled up in me. I realized there was a mutual betrayal: She’d given me up for adoption and I betrayed my entire family by forgetting them.” How is this like or unlike your own experience, both in relation to your birth and your adoptive families?

• Deann’s anger is mitigated by learning about her mother’s personal history. What do you know about your birth parents’ experiences and how does what you know influence your feelings towards them?


** CLIP 3: I’LL TELL YOU WHO YOU ARE
(Off and Running)
Topics: Relations with Birth Parents, Identity

• In contacting her birth mother, Avery takes a risk that she won’t receive a response. Why do you think it is so important to her to receive a reply to her letter? Her brother Rafi says that if she doesn’t hear anything that “really nothing has changed, has it?” Do you agree with Rafi? If not, what do you think will change for Avery? Why do you think it is hard for her family to understand her anxiety?

• Avery explains that she wants to know “who I am, who my birth parents are. I want to know where I come from, family background, more than what I have…” What was your reaction to Tova (Avery’s mom) when she said, “I’m gonna tell you exactly who you are…” Why do you think Tova responded that way? If you were in Avery’s shoes, how would you have wanted your adoptive family members to respond?

• How do you define who you are? What role does the identity of your birth family play in your construction of who you are? What role does your adoptive family play? What have, or could, your birth and/or adoptive families do to help you integrate who you are?

• Have you ever thought about writing, or have written, a letter to your birth parents? What did you want them to know about you? What did you want to ask? What did you ask? Did you get a response? Was it what you expected? Was it helpful? Did it raise more questions?


** CLIP 4: LUNCH WITH OLD FRIENDS & CLIP 5: DINNER WITH NEW FRIENDS
(Off and Running)
Topics: Race, Identity, Friends, Transracial Adoption

• What do Avery’s friends do or say that provides support or comfort? What do they do or say that makes things more difficult or uncomfortable for Avery?

• What do or don’t Avery’s Jewish friends understand about her being black? What do or don’t her black friends understand about her being Jewish? With one foot in two very different worlds, what is the potential for someone like Avery to bridge worlds or increase mutual understanding? Does she have a responsibility to do so?

• How do you think Avery felt when her friend at the pizza parlor asked if she feels safe at Erasmus High School? How about when her friend at the dinner party called her an “Oreo”? If you could write the perfect script, what would Avery’s responses have been to those comments?

• Avery describes the experience of being the only black kid in her class at Hannah Senesh School. Have you ever experienced being asked to represent your entire race or religion? What did it feel like? What might have made it easier?

• When Avery talks to her friend Isaiah about being “cool” with her parents, she was referring to the fact that she has two moms. What does this add to her identity? What does it add to the challenges she faces?

• Avery says, “I am very new to black culture and I don’t fully understand it. And I’m learning a lot from my friends, and they’re helping me out because they know I have no idea.” What is the difference between learning your culture from your friends and learning it from your parents? Where did you learn about your cultural or racial heritage?

• Avery ends the segment saying that as she begins to express the African-American side of her identity, her moms “don’t really seem to fit into that part of my life.” Can you think of anything that her moms could have done (or could do) that would help them fit into that part of her life?

• What do you learn from Avery’s situation about interracial adoption? Do you think it matters which races are involved (e.g., what if Avery had been Asian or Latina, or if her parents were not white)?

• Did you learn anything from Avery’s situation that is instructive for your own life?


CLIP 6: IT ALL BLOWS UP
(Off and Running)
Topics: Identity, Parent/Child Conflict, Relations with Birth Parents, Transracial Adoption]

• How is Avery’s search for her identity affected by the fact that she is African-American and her adoptive parents are white?

• As all teenagers transition to adulthood they separate from their parents and form their own identities. What makes Avery’s situation different from the average teenager’s? In what ways is her situation the same?


CLIP 7: FIRST MEETING
(Wo Ai Ni Mommy)
Topics: International Adoption

• Do you remember first meeting your adoptive parents? What was it like? How did it compare to Faith’s experience? What did you most want to know about your new family? What did you want them to know about you? What was the biggest challenge or fear? The biggest joy?

• How do language barriers change the dynamic of a first meeting? How about leaving the country and culture of your birth to live in another country? What do you think the adults in this situation did well in terms of easing Faith’s transition? If you had been in Faith’s shoes, what would you have wanted them to do differently? What did your adoptive family do that was helpful? Could the adoption professionals have done something different that would have made your transition easier?

• What do you think about Faith’s parents giving her an American name rather than continuing to use her Chinese name? Is there a special meaning or story behind your name?

CLIP 8: LEARNING ENGLISH
(Wo Ai Ni Mommy)
Topics: Identity, International Adoption, Transracial Adoption, Intercultural Adoption

• What role does an adoptee’s age play in transitioning to a new family? How might Faith’s experience have been different if she had been adopted as a baby?

• Drawing from your own experience (if you were old enough to remember your culture of origin) what changes, other than language, is Faith going to have to adapt to? Which of these changes are/were the easiest or the most difficult for you? Were all the changes reasonable, or did some seem unfair? If you had been with Faith in that hotel room, what advice would you have offered her? What advice would you have offered Donna?


CLIP 9: I WANT TO GO HOME
(Wo Ai Ni Mommy)
Topics: International Adoption, Parenting


• Donna and Jeff have to strike a balance between understanding the ways that Faith copes with her transition and helping her learn family rules. Where do you think you would draw that line? Should the rules be different for Faith? Why or why not?

• If you have siblings, did you see anything familiar in this scene? How did you learn to get along with your siblings when you were young, and what did your parents do to help? What could Donna and Jeff do to make the transition easier for Faith and her siblings?

• How do you think you would respond to Faith if she told you that she wanted to go back to China?


CLIP 10: MEETING WITH A COUNSELOR
(Wo Ai Ni Mommy)
Topics: Interracial Adoption, International Adoption, Intercultural Adoption, Identity

• Dr. Baden says that she has worked with kids who say that their family picture looked perfect except for them, because they looked so different than everyone else. Do you have a picture like that? What do you think about when you look at it? What specific things can parents do to make a child feel like part of the family when the child doesn’t physically resemble other members of that family?

• Donna’s answer to Faith’s query about why they adopted a Chinese girl is that “we didn’t see you as being Chinese.” Dr. Baden points out that this makes sense to them, but not necessarily to Faith. Why wouldn’t it make sense to Faith? How would you feel if your parents said they really didn’t see an important part of your identity?

• What do you learn from Dr. Baden about the challenges of interracial, international, and/or intercultural adoption? What do you think about her responses to Donna and Jeff’s comments? Does she seem to be on target or would you have responded differently?


NEXT: Workshop for Adoptive Parents





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