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Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ February 2013

Asian Adoption Family Support Group, ‘Our Asian Kids,’ Started by Residents in Our Neighborhood

By Priscilla Holberton

You may have read several announcements that I have posted on our local listserve about our playgroup for families with a child adopted from Asia.  In 2006, my husband, Ron Alt, and I started on the journey to adoption.  After going to several adoption meetings and conferences, we both determined that international adoption was right for us.

At any one time, there are a handful of countries which are open to foreign adoption; during that time, there were four countries which were open to adoption that we considered, namely: Guatemala, Russia, China, and Vietnam.

We chose Vietnam for various reasons — for me, my friends at my work were mostly Vietnamese; for Ron, he wanted to get a child as young as possible; and for both of us, we love Vietnamese food and thought we could parent an Asian child in a transracial family who would be loved and accepted by our extended family.

At the time, China and Russia had huge foreign adoption programs. We didn’t know it then, but China was just about to slow down to an interminable wait (five to six years).  But, in the past, there have been thousands of U.S. adoptions per year to U.S. families from China and the wait was met in nine to 18 months after all the paperwork was completed and sent to the country.  Here are the statistics for 2006 (from www.johnstonsarchive.net):

CountryU.S. Adoptions
China6,492
Russia3,702
Guatemala4,135
Vietnam163

Both China and Russia have or had huge family support groups in the area due to the sheer number of adoptions.  Vietnam was open to U.S. adoptions from the mid-1990s and closed in 2003; it reopened in 2006.  There was a support group in the D.C. area (Families with Children from Vietnam), but most of the families in this group now had older children; by the time we adopted, the group leaders did not welcome new leadership (me) to help out or to assist in their listserv.

It could take three to 10 days to post a message on the group’s listserv, which makes it impossible to plan meetings and get-togethers.

Adoption support groups tend to be segregated by country of origin.  We adopted from a country with very few U.S. adoptions per year.  But many of us met at waiting-parent meetings at a local adoption agency, the Adoption Center of Washington, in Alexandria, Va.  ACW was the first adoption agency in the country to be open to U.S. adoptions of Vietnamese children in 2006 and it was local to us.  So that meant there are probably more families who started their adoption to Vietnam with them just because they were local.


Boys who’ve been adopted from Asia meet others through the “Our Asian Kids” support group for their local families.  At last year’s Lunar New Year (Tet/Chinese New Year) party, three of boys are wearing traditional “ao dai,” Vietnamese National Dress.  Back row: Brian; Front (L to R):  Danny, Rafael, Adam, and Luke.  (The girls didn’t get in this picture.)

After advertising on numerous listservs, I created a group of families of young children adopted from Vietnam and China.  I included China because a local listserv (but not the big Families with Children from China) allowed us to join their listserv.  At the time, they celebrated one event a year (Chinese New Year) and we participated in that.  But even they had to discuss among themselves to allow us to join because our child was adopted from Vietnam, not China.

After a year, a friend convinced me to open up the group to other Asian children, and eventually our group became “OurAsianKids-DC,” open to anyone who has a child adopted from anywhere in Asia and welcoming all the children in their family, whether biological or adopted from somewhere else.  Our group is online at OurAsianKids-DC.

We had our first meeting at Ellsworth Park in downtown Silver Spring in June 2008.  We had a pretty large turnout, maybe 15 families (30-45 people).  Our child, Danny, was almost a year old when I started the group and he was probably the youngest member of the group for a long time.  Now Danny is 5½ and there are many more children who are younger than he.  He was adopted at 7 months, in January 2008.

This is not a Northwood group or even a Silver Spring or Maryland group.  We have members from around the beltway.  There is a core group of probably nine families who show up most of the time and our children have gotten to know one another.  At least half of the families are from Virginia.  But there are more than 90 members of the listserv.  Some of them have come once or twice, some show up every once in awhile, and some of them never become part of the group.  We meet at local parks around the area.

Now that the children are older (most of them are five and six now, with a few older and younger), we have started to meet at more interesting places.  The last meeting (January 2013) was at College Park Aviation Museum.  It seems like these adoption groups break up when the majority of the kids are eight to 10 years old, so we still have a couple of years for our kid.  I guess families get too busy with scheduling weekend activities that it is not possible to participate after awhile.  But even after the group is gone, we will still have the connections we have made with the families we met when our children were young.

Many people sign up to participate in groups like this one, but many never make the effort to go to an event.  For the parents who put a high priority on attending the events, we get to have connections with other families who have children adopted from Asia.  Most of the adopting parents are White and that makes us transracial families.  I wanted my child to know many families like his own.

We have families in our group who have adopted from the following countries:  Vietnam, China, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Philippines, India, Thailand, Taiwan, and Cambodia.

Now that the Adoption Center of Washington is reduced in size, there is no longer an annual Lunar New Year (aka Chinese New Year or Tet) party with them; we have started meeting on our own to celebrate Lunar New Year.  Two parents from our group are organizing a Lunar New Year event at a Montgomery County activity building in February.


The author’s son models his traditional “ao dai” at home.

And there are far fewer children being adopted internationally as different countries close down their foreign adoption programs or find families for orphans within the country.  Vietnam was open this last time from 2006-2008.  There were found to be too many suspect adoptions from Vietnam.  Unlike China, Vietnam had a decentralized (provincial) adoption process and certain provinces were particularly prone to corruption.  There have been many countries which have opened and closed due to corruption in international adoptions.

We welcome new members to OurAsianKids-DC from around the region.  It is all about meeting and knowing other families like our own.  If you have friends or relatives in the D.C. area, please let them know about our group.

And because each country has its own listserv and group, there is not much information shared between groups. Vietnam has a 1,000-year history of being occupied by China, so the two countries have much in common.  Because of the lack of sharing of information, I created a website which tries to share the information with all families with children adopted from Asia.  It is called MyAsianKidDC.com.  I list Asian and adoption events on a general events calendar and have a special page just for Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year or Tet in Vietnam).

All of these events are family events and are enjoyed by children regardless of whether they are born in the U.S. or in Asia.  Lunar New Year 2013 is February 10.  Local events started 26 January and go on until 23 February 2013.  So maybe there will still be some events to see by the time this is published.  Danny particularly likes the Lion Dance, which we have now seen dozens of times.

[Holberton can be reached through the contact form at MyAsianKidDC.com.]   ■


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