Archive for the 'resources' Category


To Camp or Not to Camp?

So summer is almost upon us, and people are contemplating their summer plans.  For many adoptive families those plans include a trip to a heritage/culture or adoptee camp. Early on we thought we’d be one of those families who attended heritage camp each year. We have one that’s held every summer only a couple of hours from our house so it seemed like a no-brainer.

But the first year or two there wasn’t any programming for J. He would have been in daycare while we attended seminars so we decided to wait until he could actually participate in camp-related activities. Then financing became a problem and unemployment meant that camp wasn’t an option. Which brings us to this year, and ironically I have to say that the couple who was thrilled with the idea of heritage camp a few years ago will again not be attending heritage camp. Why this time, you ask? Well, after running the numbers it just doesn’t make financial sense to us.

Here’s a little background. This month J started taekwondo at a dojang with a Korean American instructor that is attended by several Korean American families, and we were given the opportunity to try out our local Korean American school for the remainder of the semester at no cost. So far J is loving both of these opportunities that put him in contact with other Korean Americans on a daily and weekly basis. If we continue Korean school in the fall when the new semester starts, we’d like the whole family to attend given that the school is willing to have an adult beginner’s language course. And, while taekwondo isn’t the cheapest sport out there, we love that it provides a the connection to Korean culture, allows J to learn Korean words, and we believe it’s making a huge difference for J to be around other Korean Americans on a regular basis. He’s figuring out that he’s not alone here as the sole Korean American in our community, which is how I think he felt prior to these opportunities coming along. Eventually my husband and I would like to start taekwondo too.

But both of these opportunities cost money, as does camp. So I priced everything out for our family. What I found was that this year camp would cost approximately $970 for our family of three, including the camp fees, lodging, and meals. (If we tent camped during camp, instead of staying at the lodge, it would be around $460, which is better but still… .) Those figures do not include gas to get to camp, any purchases made at the Korean market they have each year, or any other incidental expenses.

So those “four” days of culture camp (staying at the lodge) would cost the equivalent of eight months of taekwondo (at full price without discounts they offer) or one-and-a-half years of attending Korean school for our whole family. (Even if we tented camped the cost of culture camp would equal almost four months of taekwondo at the full price or one semester of Korean school for our whole family plus an additional semester for one family member.)

If money were no object–if, for instance, our family won the lottery–I’d say we do it all. But given that money is an object, I think we have to get the most bang for our buck. And that just doesn’t seem to be culture camp, at least not the one closest to us. “Four” days of camp is really more like one-and-a-half to two days of actual programming, when you factor in registration day and free time you’re allotted to do recreational things as a family. The camp is run by adoptive parents, which isn’t bad, but I’d personally like it better if the local Korean American community had a leadership role in the camp (local Korean Americans are invited as guests and participate, but to my knowledge don’t help plan the programming). A couple of great things about camp include the camp counselors, who are all adult adpotees, and meeting many other families just like ours. But the likelihood that those families live in our community isn’t great from the stats that I’ve heard, and we have a local program through which we can interact and get to know adult adoptees.

While I’m sure we’d all have a good time at camp, and I don’t dispute it has merit, it just seems like taekwondo and Korean school can provide more for our family right now. Five-day-a-week taekwondo classes and weekly classes at our local Korean school give us regular opportunities to meet and interact with Korean American families in our area, which is one thing we think is really missing for our family. In addition to learning a sport, language, and culture, we’re hoping to make lasting connections and friendships through these opportunities.

Only time will tell at this point. Maybe this time next year, I’ll be back on this blog touting what a wonderful and irreplaceable opportunity heritage camp is. But for now we’re going to stick with the local opportunities that have presented themselves and see where they lead. I’ll keep you updated.


The Whole Life Adoption Book

Are you considering adoption as a way of building your family? Are you just starting the process? How much do you really know about parenting an adopted child? Are you planning to adopt transracial; if so, are you prepared to educate your child about race and racism? If you are considering adoption, then I have just the book to recommend to you. It’s The Whole Life Adoption Book by Jayne E. Schooler.

I just recently found this book, the original version fo which was published in 1993. In 2008, a revised and updated was published. This review is based on the 1993, which I still feel is an excellent resource for adoptive families, especially those just thinking about adoption or early in the process. This book will lay the foundation of the unique parenting journey you are considering.

The book is divided into four parents. The chapters in Part One deal with the unique challenges adoptive parents face, give 10 critical factors for success in building a healthy adoptive family, and talk about how to parent your family and friends for this journey. Part Two deals with attachment and strategies you can use to ease the transition for your child. Part Three covers communicating about adoption, including critical questions and answers for both parents and children and talking with our children about adoption. Then Part Four delves into growing up adopted, including giving our children what they need, helping teens resolve painful issues, birth family searches, and the special challenges that transracial adoption brings.

My favorite part of the book is The Cultural Heritage Plan by Pamela Severs. This plan lays out racial or cultural root activities that families can do from infancy through the teen years. The plan includes establishing relationships with people who share your child’s racial and cultural background; providing culturally appropriate toys, books, and puzzles; introducing culturally appropriate magazines; learning the child’s language of origin; and so much more.

This is one resource I wish I’d had when we were in process. It covers so much of the very important topics that touch the lives of adoptive families. Even if you’re an experienced adoptive family, I think you can still learn from this book. While I’ve already learned many of the lessons in this book (some of them the hard way), it was still a great refresher for me. Not to mention our family can use the Cultural Heritage Plan for years to come.

I encourage you to check this one out, no matter where you are on your adoption journey. I found the 1993 version at our library, but you can buy the revised and updated version from In comparing the Table of Contents of the two editions, it appears that the chapter on transracial parenting is not included in the updated version. However, after reading one of the reviews it seems that there is extensive coverage of intercountry adoption in the new volume, but I can’t attest to that personally.


Great Link about Identity

I just had to share this link to an article about helping adoptees develop healthy identities.

The article is written by Chris Winston, mother of three grown children two of whom are adopted and author of A Euro-American on a Korean Tour at a Thai Restaurant in China, and Deann Borshay Liem, who has produced two documentaries about her adoption including In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee. I have great respect for both of these women.

This is short little article about making connections–deep, meaningful, lasting ones–with members of our children’s ethnic group, and gives some advice in how to go about meeting and making friends within these groups. It’s a message is that I feel is very important to interracial adoptive families, and one I fear too many families are brushing off as not necessary.

Granted, it isn’t an easy thing to do. Our son has been home for four years now and we’re still struggling to find ways to meet and make friends within our local community. But we haven’t given up; we continue to look for ways to connect in hopes of becoming a part of the community in a reciprocal way that Winston talks about.

So much of what we feel is important for our son is, we feel, in a good place right now. He has lots of friends who are adoptees, mostly transracial adoptees, and we have many friends who aren’t caucasian. We have open dialogue about race and adoption with him. But we do feel that the piece of the puzzle that’s missing is being friends with more Korean Americans and doing more to be a part of that community.

So I encourage you to check out the article. It’s good advice from two people who have been there.


Talk to Me in Korean (.com)

If you haven’t discovered this language site yet, please do. I’m so impressed with it, that it’s become my favorite Korean language site.

The people behind originally worked with, so some of the set up is similar. There are audio files/podcasts and written lessons in PDF form. But the best part is that at all of the content is FREE.

In addition to the podcasts and lesson PDFs, they also have workbooks available so you can test your knowledge and review what you’ve learned.

The site just started in December 2009, but they already have three levels worth of lessons available. I haven’t looked ahead too much but there are 20-something lessons in Level 1 alone.

I can’t say enough about, especially since it’s free, and would encourage anyone who is wanting to learn Korean to check it out.


Excellent Transracial Adoption Resource

When we started the process four years ago, it seemed like there weren’t a lot of resources to help us as we became a transracial family. Thankfully that’s changing. One of my recent Internet searches yield this site:

Yes, it’s the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association but it has some PDFs that can be beneficial no matter where you live. The Cultural Resources page is my favorite part of the site, which is why I’ve linked to it. On it you’ll find a PDF booklet titled “Transracial Parenting in Foster Care and Adoption: Strengthening Your Bicultural Family.” It’s a 48-page guide book that you can print to help you on your transracial parenting journey.

The Cultural Resources page also has links and information about other resources that transracial families can use. Resources are listed for families with African American children, Asian children, and Latino children.

And if you feel you’re creatively challenged when it comes to creating a lifebook for your child, this site has 70 free pages that parents can print and use. You can print the whole book in either English or Spanish, or you can print out individual pages that most relate to your child’s story.

I was so excited to find this resource. I hope it helps you on your journey.


Crash Course in Transracial Parenting

Earlier this week John Raible had a great post over at his site. It was titled “Crash Course in Transracial Parenting.” In the introduction to the course, John writes:

While transracial adoption may be all the rage, most agencies still don’t provide a parenting manual for every white adopter of children of color. No matter how Rich or Famous the parent might happen to be!But you’re in luck. Here, free of charge, is a Crash Course for transracial adoptive parents. Think of it as your guide to getting the education that you will absolutely need in order to effectively and ethically raise an adopted child of color in the United States (and possibly in comparable white settler nations, such as Canada and Australia).

The post goes on to list resources (books, blogs, and movies) that John believes all parents of transracial adoptees should be using. And the source of most, if not all, of the resources on the list are adult adoptees. Yep, while many parents bristle when it comes to adult adoptees, the fact is that those who have been-there-done-that are the most qualified to help us on our journey.

During the last four years, I’ve seen a transformation in myself as an adoptive parent. And much of that transformation can be attributed to listening to adult adoptees (both IRL and those I keep up with through the Web). I think I’ll include more about my transformation in a separate post. But I found it interesting that I’d followed the path John suggests, even before the Crash Course was posted.

So if you’re parenting a transracially adopted child, I’d recommend reading over and going through the Crash Course. You’ll find it here:

Note that there are more resources listed in the comments of the post, including links or where to find some of the resources that John includes in his list. If you’d like company as you go through the Crash Course, some parents have started a blog that will serve as a discussion board for those going through the course. You’ll find that blog at:


Dreaming a World: Korean birth mothers tell their stories

I just finished reading Dreaming a World, edited by Sangsoon Han, which is a follow-up to I Wish for You a Beautiful Life. I read the first book while we were waiting for our son to come home, and it moved me to tears. Dreaming a World has just been published by Yeong & Yeong Book Co.

This book is equally good; in fact, I think I might have liked Dreaming a World a little better than the first book. Looking at the situation from an American prospective, it’s hard to understand the prejudice and discrimination that an unwed mother and her child face in Korea. This book brought to light those difficulties. Many of the stories are more recent, and each birth mother letter/story is followed by an update by the book’s editor, who is the director of Ae Ran Won (a home for unwed mothers in Seoul). Since after reading each story you feel like you know the woman, it was nice to read an update and see how they were progressing.

Another thing I enjoyed about this book is that not all of the birth mothers whose stories were printed chose adoption, and a couple of the stories involved domestic adoption (within Korea). It was interesting to read the stories of the women who chose to parent and see an open adoption in Korea, which is rare.

One stories that really touch me was a young woman who went into labor but was refused delivery at two hospitals because she was alone (no husband or parents). Even when a friend and her mother came to serve as her guardian, one hospital refused to deliver the baby because the guardians must be relatives.

Another theme  I saw in many of the stories was that the birth mothers chose international adoption mainly to have a more open relationship with the adoptive families. Several of the birth mothers stated that since there is a prejudice against adoption in Korea, they felt that a domestic adoption would be close with little to no hope of receiving updates on the child or getting to meet the child in the future. International adoption, they felt, would afford them a chance to receive updates, photos, and meet at some point. The thought of meeting their children spurred the birth mothers on to better their lives, even in the face of hardships.

No matter which choice the mother made, each agonized over doing what would be best. Some felt parenting would be a selfish act since children without fathers have a difficult time in Korea. Others decided to face the hardships head on in hopes of someday being a part of changing attitudes in the country. Each woman loved her child and made the decision she felt was best for her and for her child.

Someday I’ll have my son read Dreaming a World and I Wish for You a Beautiful Life. Both books are great resources in helping Korean adoptees understand the role society’s attitudes play in adoption placement.

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