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Exploring Adoption: Workshops for Adoptees, Adoptive Parents & Practitioners

Download the discussion guide.

WORKSHOP FOR ADOPTIVE PARENTS

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: International Adoption

• What do you learn from this clip about how the ravages of war or natural disaster affect adoptions? How confident would you be / have you been about adopting in such a situation? Do you feel there were appropriate safeguards when you adopted? Why or why not?

• Korean adoptions began out of a sense of post-war responsibility but also on a flawed assumption that any child would be happier in the U.S. than in Korea. Have you seen that assumption present in other situations? In your view, is it a useful foundation for the adoption process? Why or why not?


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

• How much do you know about the life story of your child's birth family? How much of that information have you shared (or do you intend to share) with your child? What information is most important for a child to know about their family's history and why? If you have already shared that information, what was the response? What are you most concerned about in sharing your child’s history? What do you plan on telling your child about information you do not have?


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

• What's your reaction to the response of Avery's mothers to Avery's attempt to contact her birth mother? What would your own response be, or what has your response been in the past?

• What do you think Avery heard when Tova said, "I'm gonna tell you exactly who you are…"? What do you think Avery might have wanted to hear her family say? ? If your child had questions about who he/she was, who would you tell them they are?


** CLIP 4: LUNCH WITH OLD FRIENDS & CLIP 5: DINNER WITH NEW FRIENDS
(Off and Running)
Topics: Interracial Adoption

• What did you learn from these clips about the challenges of interracial adoption? Given that race matters in the U.S., how do you acknowledge its importance? Do you think it could be divisive within a family? Why or why not? What could you do to prevent this from happening?

• Avery says that she doesn't know how to be black. In your view, did her parents have a responsibility to introduce her to that part of her heritage before she reached adolescence? Why or why not? What might they have done to make Avery as comfortable with her African-American heritage, as well as her Jewish heritage? How do you describe your family’s cultural makeup or heritage?

• Avery’s black friends call her an “oreo.” What does that label mean and how would you characterize its impact? How does that make you feel?

• At the end of the dinner with her black friends, Avery says of her moms, "I don't feel like they understand who I am, how I feel, or anything about the world that I’m in right now." Avery also says that as she begins to identify with her African-American side her moms "don't really seem to fit into that part of my life." In your view, how much of this sentiment is a typical expression of adolescence, how much is specific to adopted children, and how much is specific to the fact that Avery is black and her mothers are white?


CLIP 6: IT ALL BLOWS UP
(Off and Running)
Topics: Relations with Birth Parents, Parenting, Identity

• Avery is confused about her parents' reaction to her finding her birth family. Which of their actions seemed to communicate that they were supportive and which indicated that they were hurt? What emotions does the possibility (or actuality) of your child contacting their birth parents raise for you?

• Tova expresses anger at the way that Avery is being treated by her birth mother. Do you think this is a typical reaction of an adoptive parent? Why or why not? Have you dealt with (or how would you deal with) a situation in which you did not approve of a birth parent’s relationship with your child?

• Clearly Avery's mothers say they love her to the point that they "would do anything for this kid." But Avery says she felt like she "had nobody." Why do you think that was? What are the sources of Avery's isolation from her mothers and what strategies might have helped them bridge the gap? What would you do to reassure your child that you are always available to them? Was there ever a situation in which you could not be “there for them”? What emotions did that raise for you and what did you do?

• Tova says, "She's just making this whole thing so difficult for herself." In your view, is that a fair assessment of Avery's struggle? Why or why not? If not, what is Tova failing to see about her daughter's journey?

• Travis says, "It’s like something really traumatic happened to her, but I don’t think anything did." What was your reaction to this? In Avery's search for her identity, what might she have described as traumatic, and why? How do you think Travis’s reaction affects Avery?


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

• How was this similar to or different from your initial meeting with your child?

• What were Faith's major concerns? Did any of these concerns surprise you?

• What did you learn about intercultural adoption from Faith's questions?

• How do you think adopting an eight-year-old differs from adopting a baby?

• In your view, was Donna well prepared for this initial encounter? If you were Donna, what else might you have wanted to know before meeting your daughter? What role did the orphanage coordinator play in easing this transition or making it more difficult? Do you think something else could have been done?

• How did you feel about how Faith was introduced to her new name? Did you re-name your adopted child(ren)? Why was keeping their name or giving them a new name important to you? How do our names link us to our families and our heritage?


CLIP 8: LEARNING ENGLISH
(Wo Ai Ni Mommy)
Topics: Parenting, International Adoptions, Emotions

• Donna worries that Faith resents having to learn English and thinks Donna should learn Chinese. Should she? Why or why not?

• How strict should Donna be in keeping Faith on task? How do you balance establishing yourself as the parent and showing compassion about the enormous changes that Faith is being asked to adapt to? How do you prepare your child for a world where nobody around them speaks their language? Do you get a translator?

• When Faith says the task is hard because "You are a foreigner and I am Chinese" what do you think she meant? What might her concerns have been? What might Donna have said to Faith in response?

• What do you think Donna wanted Faith to feel at that moment? What do you think that Faith actually felt?


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


• How would you respond to Faith's desire to return to China?

• How would you deal with enforcing house rules in a way that demonstrated an understanding of the tough transition that Faith is experiencing and the added frustration of not yet having the language skills to "use her words."


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

• Dr. Baden voices a common question that children involved in international or transracial adoption ask: Why would you really want a child so different from yourselves (who doesn't look like you, speak your language, or have the same cultural experiences)? What would you say if your child asked you that question?

• Donna's response to Faith's question about why they chose to adopt a Chinese girl was to say that they don't really see her as Chinese. What are all the possible messages that Faith might take away from this answer? How do you think Donna’s response makes Faith feel?

• Dr. Baden notes that race is a very different thing than cultural practices (e.g., Jeff’s references to Yo Yo Ma or martial arts). What is the distinction? How can families involved in transracial or intercultural adoptions go beyond these cultural connections? Do you think it is beneficial for a child to attend cultural activities? Should the family attend, as well? Why or why not?

• Dr. Baden says, “White parents don’t have a real history of talking about race in the same way [as parents of color] because they haven’t had to. It’s not been something that they have had a practice of having to talk about.” Under what circumstances have you had an opportunity to talk about race with your child? Why might it be important for parents who plan to adopt transracially to have that conversation? How does racial awareness benefit the child? Benefit adoptive parents?

• Jeff thinks it is a huge help to Faith to have a Chinese sister. In your view, what difference would it make to have a sibling that looked like you?

• 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 from everyone else. Have you had this experience in your family? 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? Do you feel like Dr. Baden’s comments were helpful to the Sadowskys?


NEXT: Workshop for Practitioners





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