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Tag Archives: abandonment

Facing The Abandonment Issue

In September of 2002, nearly four months after my 55th birthday, I became a father for the first time in my life. I was in China with Linda, who would later take me as her husband, to adopt our Aimee. Actually, since we weren’t married she had to adopt as a single mother and I was sort of along for the ride, though I was all in.

As part of the process, I had joined a Yahoo chat group especially for parents and prospective parents adopting in China. I also joined a group led by internationally adopted adults who were willing to share their experiences, as well as their admonishments.

I was very active for a while and what follows is one of my posts (from October of 2005) that is still being shared every month with prospective parents of Chinese children being adopted by people in the U.S.:

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Gosh, Gordon. You ask such simple questions. My heart truly aches (along with my head) contemplating what our children will eventually deal with as they grow older and their ability to understand matures and develops.

I agree with you, in that we can’t possibly settle the abandonment issue for them. As you say, they own it and we, at best, are innocent bystanders. (I won’t even discuss on this list what “at worst” might be for fear of provoking a firestorm of protest.) What I think we can do is respect them enough to let them take the lead, by becoming loving, attentive listeners. As they gather experiences and come to realizations about the meaning of their lives, we need to be there for them; nonjudgmental, understanding, and supportive. It doesn’t hurt to read about the experiences of adult adoptees (from their own mouths – or fingers) and their parents.

Even then, we have no guarantee they will be able to answer their own questions, or resolve the issues (real or perceived) they will deal with. As you know, I have been following the discussions on IAT for some time now. It has changed how I view my role as an adoptive parent and, at times, I find myself somewhat uncomfortable with it. I consider the discomfort part of my growing process for, as you also know, it isn’t stopping Linda and I from returning to adopt another child.

I know you and Patti well enough to believe you will give it everything you’ve got (and maybe a little more) to do right by your children. If you haven’t already, you might want to read Cheri Register’s book “Beyond Good Intentions: a Mother Reflects on Raising Internationally Adopted Children.” I hope others will contribute to this thread. I think it’s important to understand these issues as early as possible, preferable before one travels to China.

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Another Letter Regarding Our China Adoption

Had I been paying closer attention, I likely would have realized I sent this email the day before I sent the one I posted yesterday. Nevertheless, they are closely related in both time and content, so I want to share this one as well. I know I also have a file with the emails I sent from the sports bar in the China Hotel in Guangzhou, while we were there completing our adoption of Aimee and, eventually, I’ll post them here as well.

This particular email was in response to a post by another adoptive parent who, in seeking to understand adoption from her child’s POV, wrote “Maybe some of the referrals come with information that stretches the truth, but I think that the act of being placed in our loving arms is not quite as wonderful for these girls as it is for us. Give them time.” Here’s what I wrote:

This has to be one of the most important, and profound, statements I have read on China33* in some time. We must, repeat must, remember what these children have experienced. Each of them has had to suffer two major, life-changing upheavals. The first was being separated from their birth mother (no matter the circumstances under which it took place); the second being taken from either a foster family or the only real home they have known.

We have to control the tendency to see our good fortune in finding them as the only interpretation of these events. We must fight against trying to impose our perception of reality on them. I believe the wisest thing we can do is try and understand their lives from their perspective. They may not be able to give voice to it, and their memories are almost always pre-verbal, but that doesn’t negate the powerful emotions these events evoked.

I have watched our Aimee nearly shut down in situations that were similar to the evening she was placed in our arms. A room full of children, adults, noise, and pandemonium. Even an open house at pre-school has greatly unnerved her. However, with every day she has grown a little more secure in our existence as a family and now, at over four years old, she is finding her place and blossoming like we hoped for her.

The most important thing we can give our children is the knowledge not only that they are loved, but also that they are respected. I can’t emphasize this enough. Remember the concept of “walking a mile in their shoes”. By all means, revel in the joy of finally having her in your arms; the ineffable depth of emotion you feel when holding or even just watching her (or him). Just keep in mind that you are the lucky ones. If our children were truly lucky, the conditions leading to their abandonment would not have existed, and they would still be with their birth family.

Remember, one day they will be all grown up, and they will almost certainly be at least curious about why they were separated from their birth family. You will be doing both them and yourselves a great service by keeping that day in mind – always.

Rick Ladd

* China33 was the name of the Yahoo group we used to stay in touch during those times. When we adopted, the wait time was nearly two years and the time spent in China was three weeks. For some, the anxiety was overwhelming, though it was significant for even the most sanguine among us.


Some Thoughts From Our First Adoption

I became a first-time, adoptive father in August of 2002, when my wife and I traveled to the People’s Republic of China to meet our new daughter, Aimee. I have been loathe to write much about the experience as I didn’t feel it was my place to wave her life, and the circumstances (as I knew them) of our adoption, in public. I did, however, spend the first few years communicating a great deal with other parents of internationally, and transracially, adopted children. I’ve decided now is the time to start sharing my thoughts and recollections. This is an email, dated October 13, 2005, I sent to a Yahoo group used by most everyone who used the facilitator we did – U.S. Asian Affairs – to help us with all the issues our adoption from the PRC required addressing. Most of the people who adopted Chinese children are white, and the issue of racism was even more difficult for many to discuss back then than it is now. Anyway, here’s what I wrote in response to a statement by a fellow AP (adoptive parent):

Mimi:

As my father used to say, “you hit the head right on the nail”. While abandonment issues are the most obvious, they exist because of something that happened at a time certain. That isn’t to say they don’t continue to affect our kids in numerous ways as they grow; just that the fact of abandonment is something that happened in the past and must be dealt with in that context.

Race, on the other hand is (unfortunately) an issue our children will almost certainly continue to deal with all their lives. How we approach it is of paramount importance in how they will cope with it. My research tells me (as do my gut instincts) that parents who choose to believe they can ignore it, or that it really isn’t a major issue, are setting themselves and, tragically, their children up for some major problems.

Once again, I urge all adoptive parents and all prospective adoptive parents, especially families where both members are Caucasian, to learn as much as you can about the realities of racism. I am talking here not merely about the most obvious aspects (such as outright bigotry) but also about the institutionalized and insidious aspects of racism. Those of you who have not given it much thought (this is not an indictment, merely a recognition of reality) will be shocked at some of the things you learn.

Additionally, I can’t stress enough how important it will be to let your children lead the way with respect to their lives. I believe love consists of two major components; affection and respect. I know you will show great affection for your child. It’s important as well that you show them deep respect and you can do this by learning how to listen to them. Children should not be seen and never heard. They should be heard first and foremost. Trust them; listen to them; make sure they will always talk to you and you will become their allies in a battle they will have no choice but to fight.

Know also that you are not in this alone. There are numerous resources out there for you to learn or gain strength from. We should all be thankful for Rick, Karin, and all the folks who contribute to the discussions here on China33. Traveling to China to receive your child is just the beginning of a lifelong journey and you have the opportunity to take it with a large, supportive community. Take advantage of it. Your kids will thank you.

Rick Ladd


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