I enjoyed participating in the Adoption Blogger Interview Project arranged by Heather of Production Not Reproduction. I was paired with Kohana, a blogger from Australia. Kohana is an American adoptive, biological, and foster mother to four children. She and her Dutch husband currently call Australia home, and “enjoy nesting in the space where cultures collide”. She blogs at Growing Family. Below you will find our Q & A. My questions are in bold followed by her answers to me.
As an American, an adoptive parent, living in Australia, what is your opinion on the recent Australian Apology to mothers who lost their children to adoption? Do you think anything like that could happen in the United States? If not, why not?
I was very pleased with the New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell’s apology. Of course, as many have argued, an apology does not right a wrong, but acknowledging that wrong has been done is a key step in preventing the same offenses from recurring. In 2008, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gave a formal apology to Australia’s Indigenous Stolen Generation (between 1869-1969 parliamentary acts allowed for the forced removal of Aboriginal children by government agencies and church missions). I thought that the government taking ownership of their human right’s violations was fantastic, and provided the clear break from past practices necessary for the country to move forward.
Similar atrocities occurred in American History with the First Nations Peoples, slavery, and forced adoptions, but I am not aware of any similar apologies being made, and I don’t anticipate there will be.
In America, apologies seem to go hand in hand with reparations, and because the question of appropriating reparations is such a massive, complex issue, the apology never comes. America is a much more litigious society. Admitting wrong is absolutely linked to paying for damages. In Australia, the apology can stand on its own, separate from reparations.
What advice would you offer to prospective adoptive parents considering adopting trans-racially?
Seven years into my trans-racial parenting experience, I think relationships are absolutely key in raising children that find pride in their ethnic heritage. I also think that in America, if you do not have those relationships in place pre-adoption, they can be incredibly hard to build post-adoption. I’m not talking about finding a doctor or a teacher or a coach that shares your child’s ethnicity, even though those relationships can be very important. I am talking about you as a parent having a best friend, or having a family that is close enough that you vacation together, or someone that you really share life with, that reflects your child’s ethnicity.
Buying multi-cultural books, attending cultural celebrations, or even attending an adoption support group is easy. Forging close friendships later in life is already challenging, and forming real relationships across racial lines in America can be very difficult, in my experience. Not impossible, but not a walk in the park.
What are your thoughts on the topic of “color blindness” in adoption?
How silly is that concept? I think people mean that they don’t let color define the way they see a person, but to me it is not a goal I am working towards. In our family we talk about skin color, hair texture, and eye color often. I always laugh when people try to describe a person but talk around the most obvious defining physical features because they’ve been taught that mentioning color or race is bad manners. We celebrate the ways we are different, and the ways we are the same. We talk about it all!
Living outside of America’s race dynamics had been fantastic for our family because we have had the opportunity to solidify our family identity, with less outside criticism than we received in America. I hope that wherever we are in the world, my children will carry with them our value that we see the individual beauty in each person, including their unique physicality and the strengths of their ancestors.
What are your thoughts on adoption being “Gods plan”?
First let me say, I think there are many, many unnecessary adoptions, and unethical practices in adoption that need our attention and advocacy.
The idea that it is God’s plan for a family to experience trauma, and ultimately disruption, and for a mother and child to be separated, before a child experiences adoption, does not correspond to the character of the God that I am spending my life loving. My framework for thinking through these issues comes from scriptures that are dear to my heart.
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)
Good things come from God. That is His character and He does not change.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
God does plan things for our life. He plans good things – prosperity, hope, and a thriving future, not sickness, poverty, death, sadness, or trauma. Those things definitely come into our lives, but I don’t believe they come from God’s hand or God’s plan.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
To me, that is really the pivotal scripture when I think about adoption and God’s “plan”. Adoptions take place in the aftermath of tragedy. I don’t think God causes the family disruption, but I think He can bring beauty and healing out of the aftermath, for the original mother, father, and family, and for the child and the adoptive family.
This is a silly question but please consider: If you had magic wand and could totally change one aspect of adoption, what would it be and why?
I would love for adoptive parents to approach adoption with the heart to love their child through a lifetime of growth and healing, and to understand and access the fabulous resources specific to adopted children’s needs. Rather than expect an adopted child to slot right into a family, and fulfill our dreams of what a perfect family looks like, I would like us (adoptive parents) to view them as they are – part of an existing family, and hurt by early experiences. I would love us to be ready to love the children that need family, even if that stretches our comfort zones. At the end of the day, I really do believe in adoption, and I would love if we were doing it more thoughtfully, and with greater intention.
To read my interview at her blog, visit Kohana at Growing Family.