Another Country Heard From: China Adoption

This morning I noticed a link to my blog at “China Adoption,” and stopped by to check out the blog. Sadly, this is not the first time I’ve been attacked by a mandatory open records advocate, and I suspect it won’t be the last. However, I’m not alone in advocating for a standard of mutual consent with regard to birth records.

The situation is simply not as cut-and-dried as the open records advocates suggest. And frankly, parents who adopt internationally come from a very different place than those of us who foster-adopt or who adopt domestically. Because of this it’s very easy — but also very unfair — to make snap judgments about other people’s motivations and beliefs. It isn’t necessary to vilify those who have a different point of view, based on their own journeys. In an ideal world, we can even learn from each other — so long as both sides work from a presumption of good will.

China Mom, I hope you are successful in helping your children find their birth parents, if that’s what they want. You certainly have a long road ahead of you, and I wish you the best. I can understand why this would be a deeply felt need — just as my kids will one day want to see their parents again. Which is something I will support when they are adults — because I already know this is what their birthmother wants.

Adoption is complicated, and no two triads are exactly alike because of the variety of circumstances and personalities that created that triad in the first place. There are some absolutes: Children deserve to be raised in a safe, stable  environment, securely bonded to the parents who love them. Parents deserve to make choices on behalf and for the benefit of their minor children, based on the information they have at the time. And all three sides of an adoption triad need to respect and honor the other two sides, recognizing that all three sides share a permanent bond.

“Respecting and honoring” can mean something very different from one family to the next. For some, it may involve searching and finding missing family members. For others, it means interpreting the events of the past as gently and with as much compassion as possible. “Speak the truth in love,” is the standard of St. Paul, and it applies very well to parents. The way of compassion and forgiveness is the way of healing.

It makes me sad when I read angry posts from members of an adoptive triad. It makes me wonder what good can come from wasting this kind of emotional energy, which could be much better spent just walking alongside those on the same path. However, when I encounter these individuals, I’ve learned that not much can be gained from prolonged discussion, as the same arguments tend to get rehashed over and over, with neither side willing to concede a point. There is too much pain and anger and frustration.

Sometimes the healing process can be a painful one. The other day I held my daughter as she got her H1N1 vaccination. She DID NOT WANT THAT SHOT. She screamed and kicked and raged at me for holding her down so the nurse could administer the vaccination. If it had been up to her, there is no way she would have allowed it. But as her parent, I knew it was my job to make that choice for her. Later, she asked me, “Mommy, why didn’t the shot hurt Christopher like it hurt me?”

I said to her, “Christopher didn’t struggle, honey. He was brave, and let me tell him a story to distract him while he got his shot so it didn’t hurt too much. Maybe next time, you’ll cooperate and let me tell you a story, and it won’t hurt you so much.”

There are some aspects of adoption that are a bit like that shot. Unpleasant, even painful. But easier when the child learns to trust the parent making choices for him. The story changes over time — the details are adapted or even added according to the needs of that child in a particular place and time. Ultimately, the child needs his parent to help him work through the big feelings and questions; it is the bond of family life that helps him find healing for his hurts, and answers for his questions.

Miracle Monday: Letter from a Birth Mom

Today at The R House I came across this letter from a birthmother to her child, explaining the way she came to decide on adoption. Mrs.R’s post “Another Reason I Love Open Adoption” is a compelling one. And I wanted to pass it along in case you’re interested in reading about open adoption. (I believe Mrs. R is a foster-adoptive mother.)

Bottom line: The birth mom in this letter had a loving, supportive friend made it possible for her to weigh her options — all her options — completely and without judgment.  You can read the story here.

Like many young moms, she started out vascillating between motherhood and abortion. Only gradually, as she learned more about adoption and realized how unprepared she and the child’s father were for parenthood, did she find the courage to reconsider her original position.

It’s not often you find such selfless courage. May God bless her for it.

What Should I Do with My Child’s (First) Name?

because1If you’ve been following EMN for any length of time, you know I’m a fan of birthmother counselor Patricia Dischler. Today her KIDSAKE newsletter (Feb 09) has the following article, which I’m reprinting here with permission. (If you’d like to subscribe, see below).

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Naming your child is a big event in the process of becoming a parent. It ranks higher than deciding how to decorate their room, buying the outfit for their first trip home and being sure you have enough diapers on hand. There seems to be so much pressure on making this decision. Do you pass on a family name? What will the initials be? Can it be rhymed with something bad that other kids will use to tease them? Your mind is constantly trying new ones on for size and then analyzing it from every direction in order to decide if it will make your “list.”


While this pressure to find the perfect name is a standard for any parent, for adoptive parents there is a door that opens up to a whole new set of questions that can become completely overwhelming. The birthmother. Will she choose a name first? If she does should we keep it or change it? If we have the opportunity, should we discuss it with her and decide together? What if we have a name we’ve always wanted? What if she doesn’t like the name we do? The questions can flow over and over into an adoptive parents mind like waves crashing on the shore, erasing each idea that was written in the sand and washing it out to sea.


As an adoptive parent how do you face these questions? As a counselor, what kind of advice can you offer them, or the birthmother? Is there a “right” way to do this? We are unique individuals. This is why each adoption is so unique, and also why making a decision for a name will be unique as well. But understanding what some of the options are, and taking the time to discuss them openly will be your keys to finding the answers that are right for you. Most importantly, understand that your opinion DOES count. Talk about how you feel, be open and honest. On the other hand, also be respectful of what you hear from others and how they feel. When everyone approaches this with respect and honest emotion, the answers will come. When I placed my son for adoption in 1985 I was told that if I wanted to name him, I could, but that it was likely the adoptive parents would change it. I was okay with the idea of them changing it, they would be his parents and I understood how important naming your child can be and didn’t want to take that from them. But I also didn’t want my son to be called “the baby” for two weeks. So, after much thought, I named him Joseph Paul. My little gift to him, it would go on his original birth certificate and always be a reminder of his beginnings. And that was enough for me. Then, later that year when the first letters from his parents arrived, they extended a gift to me. His mother wrote that they decided to keep the name I had chosen because they felt that I must have had special reasons for choosing it and it was their gift to me. He wouldn’t be leaving his “beginnings” behind, but rather would keep his time with me forever – represented through his name. They said it also represented names within their family so it was the perfect blend between my family and theirs. I could not have been more honored and happy. At that moment my heart totally broke open with love and trust for this couple. Their sign of respect for me came full circle as I then became full of respect for them. This became the foundation for an amazing relationship.


Today, there is typically more communication between birthmothers and adoptive parents in the beginning. Adoptive parents who let the birthmother know they respect her opinion and would like to hear it will do much for building a respectful relationship. If the birthmother’s suggestion is something that works with your family (such as in my case) then it would be a wonderful symbol to agree to keep the name. If not, you may wish to use it as a middle name instead, or suggest something close to it.


When choosing names it is important to “remember the why.” Adoptive parents who understand why a birthmother chooses a particular name will have a better foundation for making their decision. For example, if a birthmother picks a name simply because she likes the sound of it, it may be there are other names she will like as well. But, if she picks a name because of the significance to her or her family (as I did) then the adoptive parents may wish to give it more careful consideration before choosing to change it. Anytime you can show respect for BOTH families in the choosing of a name, the better.


Even when there is no contact with a birthmother, as in many intra-country adoptions, your child may have been given a name already. Consider incorporating this into the name you choose as a sign to your child of respect for their heritage.

The focus should always be the child. Sometimes, a name is just a name. And that’s okay! Sometimes it holds great importance, and that’s okay too. Take the time to discuss it, share expectations and respect what you hear from each other. With the thousands of possibilities of names in this world it seems incredible that both parties wouldn’t be able to find one that everyone can agree to – especially if their focus is on the child and not themselves.


Names reflect who we are, what our parents were thinking about at the time of our birth, our heritage, and so much more. Taking time to respect these issues when choosing a name for an adopted child will give them a story of love – and a name – they can carry with pride!

Reprinted from KIDBIZ Newsletter, an ezine by child care author and speaker, Patricia Dischler. Subscribe at If you like this newsletter, please pass it on to your fellow colleagues.

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