Category: Adoption

Accessing Education for Children With Special Needs in China

Accessing Education for Children With Special Needs in China

Many children with special needs in China are denied educational opportunities because China’s public schools are literally inaccessible to children with physical disabilities and they don’t have the resources to support children with mental disabilities. It is an unfortunate fact that many Chinese families view their children as their support network as they age. If a child has any disadvantage that would hamper their ability to provide for their parents when they are adults, parents often have to make the heartwrenching decision to put the child up for adoption and try again. While many children with disabilities could still be productive adults capable or caring for their parents, that possibility becomes nearly impossible without access to education.

Back to school fun!

As an aside, this is a problem not just in China but worldwide, that people with disabilities earn less money than their able-bodied counterparts. In America, disabled people earn on average 68 cents for every dollar their non-disabled counterparts earn, while in the UK, disabled persons often earn as little a 40 cents on the dollar compared to non-disabled workers. Of course, in those countries, that is an employment issue. When it comes to education, both countries are much better at making sure all children – no matter their disability – have access to schooling. In China, when a child does not have access to education, the chance that the child will then be able to have a productive career is almost non-existent.

But there are even more hurdles for families in China trying to access education for their children. When the public schools are not an option, some families with the means will turn to private schools. These schools are usually much smaller with many more resources than public schools. And since they are for-profit, they generally will do whatever they can to accommodate families with special requests.

But sometimes those “special requests” clash when it comes to children with special needs – and there is significant prejudice and ignorance when it comes to children with special needs.

Our daughter has unique challenges, but we found a fantastic kindergarten in Yangshuo for her. The school’s principal used to work in the adoption field, so she really understands our daughter’s needs. The teachers are very kind and patient and go out of their way to make sure our daughter gets the most out of her classes. The classes are also very small, which has given our daughter the chance to improve her social skills in a way that is not overwhelming for her. It has been a wonderful experience and in the six months she has been going to school, she has made remarkable improvements.

But apparently, things were not going so smoothly behind the scenes.

Our daughter’s principal is a secret badass.

The school’s principal told me yesterday that there is another mother with a daughter with special needs who would like to attend the school. Some of the other mothers found out about this and have vehemently objected to admitting the child, even going so far as to say that they will remove their children from the school if she is admitted. These mothers believe that the child with special needs will have a “negative effect” on their own children.

I was very surprised because our daughter has been attending for several months. The other mothers must see this and know that having a special needs child in a class does not hurt the other children. It is usually the other way around. The children who are more able are able to help the children who need the extra attention. I asked her if there was anything we could do to help. But that was when she dropped the bombshell.

“The other mothers don’t want your daughter to attend school here either.”

I am sure the shock and anger showed on my face because she was quick to tell me that we didn’t need to worry about it. She could handle the other mothers. The implication was that since we are foreigners, our daughter’s enrollment in the school is not up for debate. Even in a country where we are a significant minority, our white privilege is strong. But since the other mother is Chinese, the other mothers feel they have the right to bully her and her daughter out of the school.

I share stories like this to better exemplify the challenges parents in China face when their children have disabilities. Many times, even money cannot overcome prejudice and ignorance. It will take a drastic overhaul in both policy and attitudes before parents in China will be able to access quality education for their very special children.

The Children Everyone Wants

The Children Everyone Wants

“Why do you want to adopt a baby no one else wants?”

This is one of the most common and offensive questions when it comes to adoption. Many people are genuinely curious about the adoption process, which is understandable, and I’m happy to help educate people about the joys of building their family through adoption. But the idea that adopted children are people “no one wants” is wrong.

While some birth parents might give up their children because they weren’t ready to become a parent, for the most part, parents who put their children up for adoption here in China want to keep their children. Birth control pills, condoms, and abortions are all readily accessible here. And while China’s sex-ed is lacking and unwanted/unexpected pregnancies do happen, almost 100% of children who are abandoned here in China have a significant special need. These parents want to parent their children. It is only because of extreme circumstances that they are forced to relinquish their kids.

There are two main driving forces resulting in abandonment and adoption in China.

The first is China’s family planning policy. Once a one-child policy, now a two-child policy, it really doesn’t matter how many children the government wants to include in their draconian method of unnecessarily controlling the country’s population. By limiting how many children a family can have, parents are forced to make horrifying choices that most of us in the world can never imagine.

You might be able to sit in the comfort of your home and think, “I could never give up my child just because the government told me to,” but you’ve never had the government actually tell you that. If a government official came into your home today and told you that if you didn’t give up your much-loved second child, you would lose your job and your home, you would not be able to access healthcare, and your other child would not be able to go to school, what would you do? Really? Again, it is so easy to say, “I’d rather be homeless” when you have a home. I know this sounds like something out a dystopian novel, but it has been going on here in China – for every single family – for more than thirty years. Countless loved, wanted children have ended up in the adoption system because of this disgusting policy.

And the family planning policy extends to adoption. There are actually many families in China who would love to adopt but can’t because they already have one or two children. Chinese adoptees are not “unwanted” by their birth families or by Chinese adoptive families – they are simply not allowed to stay with their families or be adopted. In Xinran’s book Message From An Unknown Chinese Mother, she gets deeply personal about her experience trying to adopt a little girl after she had already given birth to her son.

Being forced to have only a limited number of children feeds directly into the second reason many children are abandoned in China – no access to medical services for children with special needs.

Here in China, it is extremely rare to see people with disabilities. I can count on one hand how many people in wheelchairs I have seen. Or blind people. Or people using sign language.

This is a bit of circular reasoning. In China, there are no services for disabled persons. For example, there are many places you simply cannot access if you are in a wheelchair. Therefore, you never see disabled people in public. So why build services for disabled persons if there aren’t any in public? But you never see them in public because there are no services for them…and so on.

When it comes to having children, many people realize the difficulties that people with disabilities face. Chinese families also have a very dependent set-up. There is no social security system from the government or retirement benefits from your employer. Parents raise their children, and the children show thanks by supporting their parents in their old age. If a child is born with a disability, the likelihood that the child will then be able to earn enough to support their parent later is greatly diminished. So many children with disabilities are abandoned at birth or abandoned later if a healthier sibling comes along.

Even if a family wanted to keep the child with a disability, as I already said, the services don’t exist. Where we currently live, speech and physical therapists don’t exist. And even if they did, many people won’t know what they are, how to access them, or be able to afford them.

Even though my husband and I have access to top quality medical care and have the money to pursue it, raising a child with special needs is hard. There have been many days when I have felt frustrated and alone and worry about our daughter’s future. I can’t imagine the agony our daughter’s birth parents endured before they made the painful decision to let her go.

So before you think – or hear someone else say – that an adoptee was “unwanted,” stop. The child was probably desperatly loved and wanted by far more people than you realize.

Separating Children From Their Parents Is Wrong

Separating Children From Their Parents Is Wrong

The focus of this blog is usually politics and social issues here in China, since that is where we live. But we are also Americans, and we very actively follow politics back home. This is not just because we are interested in what is going on back in the States, but because as American citizens, the actions of our government impact us in very real ways every day. So some things that are happening in America I just have to talk about.

The separation of migrant children from their parents at the border is horrifying, disgusting, and wrong, and America – and anyone who supports such policies – should be deeply ashamed.

Let me tell you a story.

About four years ago, while driving his motorbike to a dentist appointment, my husband was pulled over by the police in Shenzhen, put in the back of a police car, and taken to jail. I was able to find him at a local police station where Zoe and I spent several hours, until almost midnight, trying to get him released to no avail. Eventually, I had to watch my husband put in the back of a police van and be driven away.

I had no idea where he was going, what would happen to him, or when I would see him again.

We were told he would only be detained for ten days, but that after that he would be deported. I called the consulate in Guangzhou the next day and they sent a representative to the jail to talk to him. He mentioned at one point that while my husband should only be held for ten days, they could “escalate” the case and hold him indefinitely, so he should be on his best behavior.

We were both frantic and terrified. It took several days before I was even able to see him and make sure he was okay, and then we could only talk for ten minutes.

The next ten days were true hell. I called everyone I knew, begging for help. I talked to dozens of people and had to make many trips to the bank to collect enough funds to pay certain people to help us. When I wasn’t working on securing my husband’s release and trying to keep him from being deported, I was physically sick in bed. I couldn’t function. I ended up having to take the two weeks off of work because I couldn’t think of anything except my husband.

And I was out. I was home. I had food to drink and Zoe to take care of me. What I went through was nothing compared to what my husband experienced inside a Chinese jail – but that is his story to one day tell.

In the end, my husband was released at 9 am on the 10th day and wasn’t deported. We survived and my husband sometimes tells other people about the experience at parties.

But it was a deeply traumatic experience. We still have separation anxiety and minor panic triggers related to those ten days.

And we are fully functional adults. I cannot imagine going through the same experience as a child. Of having your father or mother ripped away from you, not knowing when or if you will see them again.

While visiting my husband at the jail, I saw many mothers on the inside being visited by their children (the jail had a woman’s ward as well, mostly for prostitutes), who were often crying. I can’t imagine the terror those children must have been facing at being separated from their mothers even for a short amount of time.

I know that my experience in no way compares to what immigrants to America are facing today, but it did make me much more empathetic to their plight. That anyone thinks it is “okay” to separate families, even for a short amount of time, is unfathomable to me. Who are these soulless monsters?

Being an adoptive parent has also made me much more aware of the long-term damaging effect trauma can have on a child. All adoption starts from a place of loss and trauma that can manifest in many ways throughout a person’s life. Even someone adopted as an infant can experience loss and trauma. Trauma can even be inherited from generations in the past. That the US government would willingly inflict separation-induced trauma on children is abhorrent. To say nothing of the trauma inflicted on the parents. I can imagine nothing more horrifying than having my daughter taken from me.

Even though I am adoption advocate, I am a family advocate. We should all be taking every step to keeping families together. Family separation should only ever be a last resort.

One Year of Baby Daze

One Year of Baby Daze

Last week was the one year anniversary of the day we met our little girl. It has been an amazing year. Our adoption journey was so long, and there were times I doubted I’d ever become a mother. But now, I can’t hardly imagine a time when our little girl wasn’t with us. She has come so far, and she makes progress that astounds me every day. Bust just look at how much she has changed! She seems to have gone from a baby to a little girl overnight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She is a smart, happy little girl, and we are so in love with her. Of course, there have been challenges along the way, but I think that is true no matter how your child comes into your life. She is perfect to me, and just what I always wanted. She is my gift that keeps on giving. Sorry if this post is a bit sappy, I started crying just looking at the pictures to put in this post even though she is sitting in the other room, but my heart is full to bursting every time I think about her.

If you feel your family is ready for a child, please consider adoption. I am more than happy to talk to you about it. You can always message me here through the blog or my Facebook page. 

Here are a couple more cute baby pictures because she is simply adorable!

Home Six Months!

Home Six Months!

It’s hard to believe that six months ago, we were still just a couple. But Monday will be the sixth month anniversary of bringing our kiddo home! This is typically a time when parents post before and after photos of their kids to show how much children can improve in such a short period of time when they are in a loving family environment and are receiving the care they need. For parents, it can sometimes be hard to see the improvements our kids are making when we see them every day. So looking back can be a good reminder of just how far our kids have come.

On the left, baby girl had only been home a couple of weeks; on the right, a picture I took today.

She’s getting stronger and learning new things every day. I’m not going to lie and say it has been easy or that everything (anything?) has gone according to plan. What has really surprised me the most is how hard it has been, even in such an advanced modern city like Shenzhen, to find doctors who can meet her needs. We’ve met some really great doctors, but we’ve met some really awful ones as well. I could do a whole post about that.

But overall we are so happy to have our little girl home and are so blessed to be able to help her grow up the best she can. If you want to learn more about adoption, you can check out our agency’s website, CCAI. You can also email me or hit me up on Facebook. I’m always happy to answer questions about adoption or our life in China in general.

Happy Anniversary, Sweet Girl!

Welcome to Spring

Welcome to Spring

Hello everyone,

gosh, yes, I know it has been so long since I posted, but I knew it would be harder to keep up with the blog after the baby came home.

But I have also been focusing on writing! I will have several new books coming out this year. Two are complete and are only waiting on editing and covers and others are still works in progress. But I am super excited to be launching several new book series this year! I hope you enjoy them. The best news is that you can even join my Street Team and have early and FREE access to my new books! All you have to do is agree to post a review in exchange. You can join my street team and find out more here.

And now the baby update, which I know is what you have been waiting for.

Our little girl is doing amazing. She is learning new things every day. Her favorite show is Daniel Tiger, which is really adorable. She recently had her third birthday, which we celebrated with some friends here in China. She went to see her first movie, which was Beauty and the Beast, my favorite Disney movie.

Here are some cute pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I promise I will blogging regularly again soon. Several people are waiting on book reviews from me and I even have some guest posts coming up. If you would like to submit a guest post, check out my submissions page.

Read the book that reviewers call

“Utterly Charming”

“Richly Woven”

“An absolutely amazing read from start to finish!”

Threads of Silk only $2.99 on Amazon!

Two Americans in China And Growing!

Two Americans in China And Growing!

We finally have our little girl home! She came home a week before Christmas, so we did the obligatory Christmas pictures.

People keep asking me how I feel, if I feel different somehow. Other than having issues balancing taking care of a kid and working from home, Seth and I don’t really feel different. I think we just waited and planned for this for so long, finally bringing her home was just natural – it was just right.

We are very happy to finally have our little girl home and we can’t wait to watch her – and our family – grow. We are still getting to know her, but she loves music and the color red!

If you want to know more adoption – especially expat adoption – feel free to ask questions in the comments section or email me. I’m more than happy to help other people grow their families through adoption.

I know that on the global stage, 2016 was terrible. But for us personally, 2016 was amazing. I had three books published, I started my own publishing company, I quit my “day job” and am able to work from home full-time, we traveled to Vietnam and Japan, and we topped it off by bringing our first baby home! 2017 will have a lot to live up to! I can’t wait to see what the future brings.

Happy New Year!

Read the book that reviewers call

“Utterly Charming”

“Richly Woven”

“An absolutely amazing read from start to finish!”

Threads of Silk only $2.99 on Amazon!

We Found Her! Finally Getting Our Match

We Found Her! Finally Getting Our Match

We finally found our daughter! Anyone who knows us or follows this blog knows that our adoption journey has been a long and difficult one. But we are so happy to finally announce that we have found our daughter! Meet little Zofia!

Zofia-8-30-16-7As a blogger and now a mommy blogger, I am still wrestling with how much information to share about her. I am a pretty open person and I love talking about my life in China and the adoption process, but this isn’t only my story. Where does my story end and Zofia’s begin? I’m not sure, and I know I will make mistakes along the way, but hopefully I will be able to strike a balance between sharing just enough information to encourage others to adopt without divulging information that should be hers to share if and when she is ready.

For now, just know that this little girl is already loved and we can’t wait to bring her home!

If you ever have any questions about adopting from China, just ask! And I will do my best to help you. Especially if you are an expat interested in adopting. When we moved to China in 2010, there was no information about non-military families adopting while living abroad. Now, there are whole communities of expat adoptive families!

We still are not sure exactly when we will be home, but when she does, we will have a lot more pictures to share!

I know many of our friends and family members would like to know how they can support us during this time. Here are two main ways:

1 – Donate money directly. You can click on the button below to send funds to us directly through Paypal.

2 – Buy my books! You can buy my books – The Crazy Dumplings Cookbooks and Threads of Silk – from me directly through this site or you can buy them through Amazon (however, I (and the rest of my team) earn a lot more money per book if you buy from me). You can also buy a variety of dumpling related gifts here on the website. 

Of course, adding our little dumpling to our family means a lot of changes. I have already been blogging less because I have been working so much to raise money to pay the adoption fees and several publishing projects are being pushed back. Santa and the Christmas Dragon will be published in the fall of 2017 (with better, updated art!) and Crazy Dumplings III will be published in the spring of 2018.

Thank you so much for reading and being part of our adoption journey! This story is only beginning.

 

Adoptive Families Need Parental Leave Too

Adoptive Families Need Parental Leave Too

The following was originally published in the Shenzhen Daily. 

One day, your parents are gone. Your home is gone. You don’t know where you are. You are in a new, strange place. There are other people around you who seem nice, but they are not your parents. There are other children in this place. You cry and cry and wait and wait, but Mommy and Daddy never come back. Sometimes the other children disappear from this new place. Sometimes the caretakers leave and new ones arrive. You have trouble trusting or bonding with anyone because you never know if they will leave you too.

Chinese-Agape-Foundation_orphans-in-China-05-12-15One day, two new people take you away. You never met them before and don’t know where you are going. They try to hold and kiss you, but why? Will you go back to that place with the other children? Will these people leave just like Mommy and Daddy did?

Even though adoption is a joyous occasion for adoptive parents, parents know that adoption only comes after great loss. Even very little adopted children have experienced loss and abandonment. Adopted children need time to adjust and bond with their new family just like any new baby.

China has very progressive maternity leave allowances. Chinese mothers are entitled to a minimum of 98 days of paid maternity leave. Some provinces, cities and employers offer much more than this. Many parts of China are currently extending their parental leave policies for mothers and fathers because of the new two-child policy. However, Chinese law does not allow for parental leave for adoptive parents.

As demonstrated by the illustration above, parental leave for adoptive parents is a necessity. While adoptive mothers do not need time off work for their bodies to heal after a birth, the emotional turmoil that accompanies an adopted child means that the child needs time to get to know her new parents and her new surroundings. New parents need this time as well. Adding a child to your life is always a momentous and life-changing event!

I understand that the main reason why adoptive parents are not taken into consideration in China’s parental leave laws is because adoption was not always popular in China in the past, but that is quickly changing! Prior to 2009, only about 7,000 families adopted children in China annually. But by 2011, that number soared to over 31,000. Today, as many as 45,000 families adopt children in China every year. It is time for China’s parental leave policies to catch up!

china_kids1That number is far behind other countries, though. In America, there are over 130,000 adoptions every year, including over 10,000 annual adoptions of Chinese children. But in America parental leave is the same for birth parents and adoptive parents.

One way China can help support adoptive parents and encourage domestic adoption is by extending parental leave to include adoptive parents. While many families have no problem covering the costs of adoption, quitting their jobs or taking extended unpaid leave to care for the new child is out of the question for most families. How wonderful would it be if Chinese orphans could be adopted by more families in their home country? And now that China has changed the one-child policy to a two-child policy, many more parents might choose to grow their families through adoption instead of birth if they didn’t have to risk losing their jobs to do so.

Adoptive parents are not asking for special treatment – they are simply asking for equal treatment. Adopted children deserve time to bond with their new mommies and daddies just like any other baby.

It is Legal to Buy a Kidnapped Child in China

It is Legal to Buy a Kidnapped Child in China

I had only been in China for a few months the first time someone told me I could buy a baby in China. I had told one of my new friends at our school in rural, northern Hunan about my dream of adopting a child in China. 20111122-Wiki C Xinhua Missing-Kids-QQ-Page“Why bother with that?” she asked. “Just go to the countryside and buy one for 10,000 RMB.” This suggestion is one that I have heard repeatedly during the years I have lived here. I make no secret about our desire to grow our family through adoption, and most people I meet, while curious, are anxious to help. I have been told to “simply buy a baby” in every place I have lived, from rural Hunan to the metropolis of Shenzhen. I usually reply with “well, we have to adopt legally so that we can get our child American citizenship.” This is enough for them, but I can’t help but wonder about just how easy it is for Chinese people to “buy babies.”

A recent story in the Shenzhen Daily was a real eye-opener on this issue. An article entitled “Child Buyers May Face Punishment” explains that “a draft amendment to the Criminal Law being considered by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress advocates ‘light punishment’ for buyers who don’t harm abducted children or hinder their rescue.” The article goes on to say that “most buyers treat abducted children as their own, and won’t be punished, said Chen Shiqu, director of the Ministry of Public Security’s anti-trafficking office.” Currently, people who buy abducted children in China do not face legal consequences if caught. 

Child trafficking in China is a huge problem. China has one of the highest kidnapping rates in the world, with numbers ranging from 20,000-200,000 each year. Too often, kidnapped children are not just sold domestically, but to international adoption agencies as well. The kidnapping problem even affects China’s Southeast Asian neighbors, with many girls and women in neighboring countries kidnapped and trafficked into China as “brides” for China’s growing bachelor population.

I know the pain of not having a child. My adoption journey has spanned over a decade and we are still waiting. Of course, if adoption was as simple as “buying a baby,” it would be tempting. I want a baby more than anything. But adoption laws and procedures exist for many reasons, chief among them the protection of the child. It is important to make sure that adopted children are not stolen and that they will be well taken care of. How could you sleep at night knowing that the only reason you are a parent is because you stole someone else’s child?

A woman holds a candle behind a board showing photos of missing children during a campaign to spread information to search for them in Wuhan, in central China's Hubei province.
A woman holds a candle behind a board showing photos of missing children during a campaign to spread information to search for them in Wuhan, in central China’s Hubei province.

The adoption system is flawed – and I mean every adoption system in every country and the international programs. The rules are too strict and the programs are much too expensive, but you don’t solve those problems by going outside the system – especially if going outside the system means kidnapping someone else’s child.

While I am completely sympathetic to the pain that would drive parents to buy a child to complete their families, I cannot condone their actions. People who buy children from child traffickers are child traffickers, and they should face legal consequences. Every link in the child trafficking chain must be smashed to stop this horrendous crime, and that includes the buyers who only want to be mommies and daddies.

I hope that the Standing Committee endorses the draft amendment that was presented to them that all buyers of stolen children be punished.

What about you? Do you think people who buy stolen children should be punished? Let me know in the comments.