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Exploring Adoption: Workshops for Adoptees, Adoptive Parents & Practitioners

Download the discussion guide.

WORKSHOP FOR PRACTITIONERS

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

• What insights does Deann's experience offer about adoptions from countries that have been ravaged by war or natural disasters? What would constitute "best practice" in helping orphaned children from places experiencing societal instability? Do you feel there are effective safeguards currently in place for international adoption? What else could be done?

• What do you learn from this clip about identity formation and the importance of having accurate information about who you are and where you came from?

• In this instance, is American paternalism an appropriate response, or is it based on a flawed assumption that 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?

• What part does “business” play in the adoption process? Does this sway the “best interest of the child”?


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

• In your view, should the United States require extra recordkeeping for international adoptions so that birth families could locate children who have been adopted? Should there be different regulations for children placed voluntarily versus those where parental ties have been severed due to abuse or neglect? Why or why not?

• What are the ethics of facilitating adoptions of children from economically disadvantaged countries? Whose interests are best served by Americans offering to adopt rather than offering economic assistance to widows and their families so they can raise their own children in Korea?


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

• How would you counsel each of the people involved in this clip?
- Avery, who is worried that her birth mother will reject her.
- Tova, who is trying to be supportive by telling her daughter "exactly who you are."
- Avery's brother Rafi, who doesn't really understand Avery's choice, which is different from his own.

• In general, how can you help families work through the issues that arise when a child wants to contact a birth parent? Do you have feelings that impede your helping them do so? How do you deal with your own feelings?


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

• What issues do these clips raise about identity formation in transracial adoptions?

• How much of Avery's struggle to find her identity is an inevitable part of adolescence and how much is unique to being adopted?

• What things could Avery's family have done while Avery was growing up that might have eased her identity crisis? What is the responsibility of an adoptive family to embrace a child’s culture and what support mechanisms would help them do that?

• Given the history of race in the United States, is there something unique about white parents adopting black children, or would the same issues be present in any transracial adoptive family?

• Do you think that families are given the resources to adequately prepare for adopting across racial lines? Why or why not? What else could be done to assist them before or after the adoption?

• When Avery talks to her friend Isaiah about him being "cool" with her parents, she is referring to the fact that she has two moms. What does this add to her identity? Does it add to the challenges she faces? If so, in what ways?


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

• How would you respond to Tova’s observation that Avery is “just making the whole thing so difficult for herself.” Why do you think Tova feels this way? How would you respond to Travis’ comment that “It’s like something really traumatic happened to her, but I don’t think anything did.” Why do you think Travis feels this way? What supports or services might have been helpful for this family?

• How might you help Tova deal with her anger towards Avery's birth mother?


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

• What do you learn from this clip about the concerns of adoptee children when they are taken away from their country and culture?

• What do you learn from this clip about the things that adoptive parents need to do to prepare for an international adoption? How does that preparation differ from adoptions that are not international, intercultural, and/or interracial?

• One of the first things that Sui Yong learns is that she will be addressed by a different name: Faith. In international adoptions, what are the pros and cons of replacing a child's given name with an American name? How do our given names serve as expressions of our heritage and family history?

• If you were the supervisor of the orphanage coordinator, how would you evaluate the coordinator's work in facilitating Faith's adoption?

• What do you think was most helpful to Faith and Donna in forming their bond?


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

• Evaluate Donna's "drill and practice" method of introducing English vocabulary, not in terms of how effective it might be for helping Faith learn English, but for how it made Faith feel. What types of activities might have eased both Donna's and Faith's stress and still helped Faith begin to learn the basics of a new culture and language?

• Should adopting families learn their child’s language? Why or why not? How might this affect the child and families adjustment?

• If you could write international adoption policies that would make things easier for children in China (or other countries) who need parents, what would those policies be? Would they include age limits? Requirements to help children stay in their country of origin before making them eligible for adoption? What else?


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

• Faith is eight, and clearly needs to be subject to family rules and discipline, but she is also going through a difficult upheaval in her life. How much leeway would you give her in terms of "acting out" behaviors, especially given her limited English proficiency? What supports would you have liked to see provided to the Sadowskys to help them with situations like the one presented in the clip?

• When Faith encounters difficulties, she insists that she wants to return to China. How would you advise families to deal with a child who wants to return to their birth country or family? What are some initial response lines that a parent might use that do not devalue a child's feelings or their birth culture?

• When things get rough, sometimes families reconsider their decision to adopt? How would you counsel a family who is considering disrupting the adoption?

• Faith wants to see her "Guangzhou sister" (a foster sister and playmate) back in China. Do you think this is a good idea? What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of such contact?

• Donna acknowledges that things are going to be difficult for Faith for awhile. Is there a point at which the difficulty of learning to live in another culture outweighs the benefits of adoption?

• Compare this American family's experience adopting a child from China's child welfare system with an American family adopting from the U.S. child welfare system. From the child's perspective, which do you think are the differences?


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

• What did you think of Dr. Baden's responses to:
- Jeff's statement that Faith asked he and his wife why they wanted a Chinese daughter
- Donna's answer to Faith that "we didn't see you as being Chinese; we saw you as a beautiful girl who needed a family."
- Jeff's speculation that when Faith "comes home, her sister is also Asian. I think it is a huge help to the two of them."

What would have been your responses?

• Jeff, a white, Jewish American, struggles to embrace Chinese culture beyond Bruce Lee and Yo Yo Ma. How can you help families involved in transracial or intercultural adoptions go beyond these connections?

• Dr. Baden notes that white parents who have adopted transracially "don't have a real history of talking about race in the same way because they haven't had to. It's not been something that they have had practice talking about." How could you provide opportunities to talk about race to white parents considering transracial adoptions? What do you think they would or should learn from those conversations?

• 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. 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 think Dr. Baden gave the Sadowskys good advice?

• Is there pre-adoption training this family should have received or post adoption supports that would have been helpful? What would it consist of?

• What do you think is the long term prognosis for this family? Why?

• Is there training you would like that would make it easier to work with families adopting internationally? If so, what would it consist of?





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