Latin America Parents Association
Newsletter | New York | Spring 2015
Around 40 years ago, several American families supposedly met while in the airport in
Bogotá, Colombia, ready to bring their newly adopted children home. They realized immediately that they all would benefit from the support they could give one another as the
children grew. They had been through a difficult process, and also understood that they
could use their experience to help those who followed. And so according to the legend,
LAPA was born. It officially received incorporation from New York State as a not-for-profit
corporation on January 5, 1976.
Most LAPA members have heard this story as it was passed from generation to generation
of new members. But is it true? Who were these people? How exactly did LAPA come to be?
What is the actual “back story”? To date, we have not found a written record. But no matter what the details, we all owe a great deal to the people who brought LAPA to where it is
today and to the people who have kept the organization alive all these decades.
So the LAPA Board of Directors is kicking off the 40th Anniversary Year with the
Traditional Latin American Picnic on Saturday, September 19, 2015!
P.O. Box 339-340, Brooklyn, New York 11234,
(718) 236-8689 (Outgoing message only).
On the web: http://www. lapa.com
Where is Home?
I Will Always
Officers for 2014-2015
President: Andrea Quatrale
Vice President: Christian Smeets
Treasurer: Joan Giurdanella
Recording Secretary: Lorraine Lepler
Trustee: Sharon Carty
Trustee: Jack Lieblein
Trustee: Dorothy Marks
Trustee: Brian Mulligan
Trustee: Steve Ressel
Historian: Ermine Bennette
¿Qué Tal? Designer: María Giuliani
Webmaster: Joe Tartaglia
Latin America Parents Association (LAPA) is a not-forprofit
organization registered in the state of New York. LAPA is not an adoption agency. It is an all-volunteer organization of families who have
adopted or who are in the process of adopting children from Latin
America. Our mission is to provide accurate and timely information
as well as support before, during, and after the adoption process. To
accomplish our mission, we make accessible to our members: current information about sources and conditions within Latin America;
networking with families involved in all phases of the adoption process; invitations to social, cultural, and educational events; and participation in international relief programs throughout Latin America.
Membership in LAPA is open to all those interested in Latin American
adoptions. Yearly dues from June 1 to May 31 are $50 for both full and
associate members. Full members are those who have adopted; associate members are those who hope to adopt a Latin American child.
¿Qué Tal? is the official newsletter of the
Latin America Parents Association.
Submissions and Articles
Please make sure to include the names of the child, parent(s) and
sibling(s), birth country, date of birth, and adoption date.
Photos should be clear, mostly of the child’s face.
Be sure to include the child’s name, birth country, and any other
information you wish to include in the caption.
Send submissions to:
Authorization to reprint material from ¿Qué Tal? is granted,
except where noted for specific articles.
Please give full credit to author and ¿Qué Tal?
We would appreciate a copy of the publication in
which our material is reprinted.
Where is Home?
Response to the New York Times Article on Korean Adoptees
Returning to Korea Barbara Freedgood, LCSW
It is hard to imagine that any adoptive parent could read Maggie Jones’s article about Korean adoptees returning to live in Korea without a tsunami of emotion. To her credit, Jones raises some of the most difficult
and important questions that arise regarding adoption, especially international, transracial adoption. She
also does an even-handed, soul-searching job with regard to her own experience as an adoptive parent who
has adopted transnationally.
Unfortunately the article’s title is sensationalistic, causing it to be misleading. It implies that an entire
generation of adoptees has returned to Korea when in fact about 500 have taken up permanent residence in
their birth country. I wonder if the title was her choice or that of the New York Times editors.
That said, where there is adoption, there is loss. Where there is diaspora, there is hurt, anger, and longing. Where there is transracial adoption, there is inevitably a painful gap in understanding between white
parents and racially different children who leave their white homes each day to navigate a racist society.
When we speak of adoption over the past six decades during which time approximately 200,000 Korean
children were adopted out of their birth country, we are looking at multiple histories. We are looking at the
history of a country, the history of adoption, and the history of each individual involved. The truth is nuanced, not black-and-white.
In order to listen to these histories and the wisdom they have to impart, it is useful to take a deep breath.
As an adoptive parent reading this article, one needs to face the fear that one’s child will leave to return to his
or her birth country and/or family leaving behind an unimaginable void filled with the bitter sense that one
has given everything only to receive the news that it is not enough.
As parents, we cannot give our children all that they need. As adoptive parents, we can give our children
many things, but we cannot restore the identity they lost when we claimed them as our own and shared what
we have to offer: our love and our own cultural identities. What we can do is listen to their feelings about
their experience and work as hard as we can to keep an open heart, not take it personally and not take it as
rejection. Being relinquished for adoption has caused our children to feel rejected and so sometimes they
will want to make us feel that way as well so that we can understand.
I remember going to the St. John’s University biennial adoption conference in 2012 entitled: “In the Best
Interests of the Child?” This is a conference that sheds light on a range of adoption practices and provides
a forum for adoptees to speak the truth of their angry conflicted feelings about their histories. There I met
many international adoptees who had taken back their original names. I listened to adoptee’s speeches of
outrage at their losses and their adoptive parents’ inability to hear and see them. In the middle of it all, I realized that by giving my white son, adopted from Appalachia, a name from my Russian heritage I had robbed
him of his identity. And in that same moment I understood that in trying to claim him as a member of my
own tribe, I was offering him my love and inclusion. Epiphany! This is the double bind of adoption.
The history of Korean adoption contains elements typical of most international adoption: a need spawned
by a political and economic crisis, lack of support for mothers to keep their children born either out-ofwedlock or into poverty or overpopulation, and a demand for babies in first-world countries with greater
resources. What began as a solution to needs on both sides became corrupted by demand and profit instead.
Here is the tricky territory of adoption. There is no doubt that many birth mothers around the world
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have experienced pressure, if not coercion regarding the relinquishment of their children. These pressures have been
culturally and economically driven as much as profit driven
by the adoption industry. Uncovering these unethical practices is good because they must be stopped.
There are also children who have been abandoned and in
need of homes throughout the world. For some birth mothers of these children, there is relief and help in the option of
placing their children for adoption, the pain of the loss notwithstanding. It is also unfortunate that the abuse in adoption practices will now make it harder for these children to
be placed in homes as adoption is closing in many countries.
Any adoption entails loss. In international adoption
there is not only the loss of birth mother and family, but also
the adoptee’s loss of birth country and culture. Just as actual
birth parents may not be the wished for ones, so also a birth
country might not match the adoptee’s fantasy. This is a specific instance where there is a collision of their fantasy and
reality. Those who have returned to Korea in the New York
Times article, particularly the women, are faced with gender
issues and the fact that adoption is not favored in Korean
Jones accurately reports that the advice given to adopting
parents in the early days of international adoption, which
began with Korea, was very different than the advice adopting parents receive now. It seems quite ignorant to us now,
but people actually were advised to play down difference and
in effect be “race blind,” as though that were possible. Asian
babies, especially girls, were viewed more as cute little dolls
than as people who would encounter bias. This was particularly true in all-white areas like the Wisconsin town in which
the Korean adoptee in the article Laura Klunder grew up.
Her rupture with her family is indeed sad and frightening to
an adoptive parent. The erasure she experienced because of
her mother’s refusal to see her race and her father’s rejection
of her anger, also explain her need to break free in order to
find herself. The tattoo on her arm of her case number as
an infant is a protest against the objectification she felt as a
commodity imported into white America from Korea.
On the other hand, the story of Benjamin Hauser, another adoptee in the article, is quite the opposite. His parents go
to visit him and his brother who have both returned to Korea. They have been able to respect their children’s decision
and have not reacted to it as a rejection. They have kept their
connection as parents and honored their children’s choices.
The truth is that all children leave. We cannot decide
where they go. If they go back to their birth countries searching for what they have lost, we can make the choice to support them as their parents, reinforcing our love and connection. How we understand this need is so important for
maintaining the integrity of the relationship we have with
Today, adopting parents are counseled to honor the
culture their children come from, look for diverse environments to raise children of other races in, stay in touch with
other families who have adopted from the same country as
practiced by those of you in LAPA. These practices alone
are a world apart from the advice given to the parents of the
adoptees in Jones’s article who have returned to their birth
country looking for a home and an identity they feel they
never had. Interestingly, this community of “KADS” has
formed their own expat family. Perhaps it is among themselves that they feel the most comfortable and are able to find
a reflection for their identity.
Today also, international adoption has all but ended,
perhaps as a result of the unethical practices that have been
exposed. Adoptee outrage about loss of culture and identity
has added to the dialogue. Thus, as people raising children
born abroad now, you may be bringing up the tail end of a
social experiment that is perhaps coming to an end or stopping for a period of time. You will be faced with your children’s and your own feelings about their adoptions as they
grow and mature. You will be challenged to hear their losses
and their questions about why they lost not only a family but
a country and a culture. To truly understand them, you may
need to step outside your race, your culture, and your socioeconomic standing, and examine racism in and around you.
You will be challenged to grapple with the social injustices
that made your children available for adoption and your own
private wish to love a child and have a family. Maggie Jones
asks us to do all these things in her article. These are not easy
things to do. They require courage and honesty. However, in
the end, these are some of the greatest qualities to live by and
to impart to our children.
*This was written in response to an article by Maggie Jones entitled “Why a
Generation of Adoptees is Returning to Korea,” which appeared on January
14, 2015, in The New York Times Sunday Magazine. Barbara Freedgood, LCSW,
is a licensed certified social worker in New York City who has been in private
practice since 1980. An adoptive parent of two children adopted domestically,
she leads support groups for adoptive parents and hosts educational events
on issues related to adoption. This article has also appeared on Barbara’s blog,
Ruminations on Adoption. See http://www.barbarafreedgood.com/barbarasblog-ruminations-on-adoption
New LAPA Family
Has “Awesome” Experience at
Rocking Horse Ranch: Daughter,
9, Makes New Friends and Keeps
Up with Old Friends
Sylvia — spending some
time OUT of the pool with
her new friend Olivia.”
Sylvia — enjoying
the top bunk!”
About a year ago, our daughter Sylvia, who
is nine, was asking to spend more time with other children who “look like her” and who came from countries
like hers (Guatemala) before being adopted. So we were
thankful to find and join LAPA last year and quickly
signed up for the group’s Rocking Horse Resort weekend
in November. In the months leading up to the weekend, we also recommended LAPA and the weekend to a
couple of other families we know, and to our joy, those
families agreed to join LAPA and book the trip as well.
Now horseback riding is not one of my favorite hobbies, to put it mildly, but my
husband and I agree with Sylvia that the weekend was “completely awesome.” We
feel that whatever else is going on in our lives, we’ll make this weekend a part of our
year each year as Sylvia grows. Not only did we get to spend time with other families
we already knew, we also met other wonderful families who had adopted from Latin
America. We loved talking to parents of older children who had been “coming to the
ranch” since their children were babies, and we connected with families of younger
children we’d never met who live in our own city! And Sylvia had new experiences of
independence, as well as athletic and social activities in a safe, friendly environment.
For this article, I asked Sylvia to describe her top favorite three things about the
weekend. Her easy favorite: the pool, with its 250-foot flume ride, geysers, “dumping buckets,” and water walk. Next, she loved getting to sleep in a bunk bed, a longdeferred dream. Last (but I suspect not least), she loved being with lots of friends who
were adopted and whose families look a little bit like ours. She said that it was nice that
“everyone was like me for a change, and probably feels a lot like I do about things.” And
she found out that she likes riding horses a LOT more than her mom does!
if you are a birthparent, adoptive parents, or adoptee, you’ve most likely been asked some awkward or insensitive questions. Even if it is just
out of pure curiosity, questions can still be inappropriate. It is always
great to educate those curious about adoption, but depending on your
mood, the way the question is phrased, or the specific situation, your
answer can often be categorized in one of three ways: humorous, educational, or maintaining privacy. There is a great video on YouTube
called “If You Wouldn’t Say It About a Boob Job” that uses humor to
demonstrate how awkward questions posed to adoptive parents really
can be. Be sure to check out the video for a chuckle.
Here are commonly asked questions and suggestions on how to respond using the above three categories.
Are you worried his birth parents will come and
take him back?
The person asking this question most likely does not know
much about adoption and adoption laws. One way to go about
answering this question is to give the person a brief explanation of the laws, for example: “Well, in New Jersey, after birthparents terminate their rights, the child is legally the adoptive
parents. Every state has different laws and you can learn about
the laws in your state by searching on Google.”
How much was she?
The person asking this probably has no connection to adoption. An educational way to answer questions using inappropriate language is to rephrase the question. For example, “I
think you re referring to the fees associated with the adoption
process” and then if you are comfortable (or if the person is
seeking to adopt), you can share the info about the fees. Most
people find this question much too personal and can simply
respond, saying, “Don’t you think that’s a personal question?”
or “How much was your house?” or “How much was your
bonus?” to drive the its-too-personal point home. Or, our
personal favorite, “Priceless!”
His birth mother was a teenager, right?
Unfortunately, this is a myth that many assume to be true. If
you feel comfortable, you can share your child’s birth mother’s
story, or you can let the person know that it is a common myth
and that a majority of birth parents are between the ages of 25
and 35. You could also let the person know that it is a private
matter by saying, “Our son’s birthmother’s background is his
story to share if and when he wants when he is older.
What is he? Where did he come from?
You can rephrase the question and say: “Do you mean what
is his racial background or what country he was adopted
from?” or you can say: “He is our son and he came from our
Why didn’t her parents want her?
A simple and easy response to this question is: “Her birth
parents very much wanted here but they decided that they
were not ready or were unable to raise a child right now and
chose to place her for adoption.”
Wow he’s lucky to have parents like you.
Most people asking this question don’t realize that adoption
stems from a loss. You can decide how to best answer this
question. Many parents just say, “We are the lucky ones!”
What do you know about her parents?
You can educate by sharing the type of information you have
even if you don’t share specifics. You can tell people it is a
private matter and your child’s story to share. Or you can
take the humorous route and reply: “Well, I’m 5’6” and have
red hair . . .”
It’s too bad you could have a child of your own.
A quick and easy response: “She is my own.”
You’re an adoptee? Oh, I’m sorry.
This statement is usually not meant to be negative, but it can
be very hurtful. Your response can be as simple as “Don’t be
sorry, I’m not.”
Who’s her real mother?
Restating the question is a good idea in this case. “Do you mean
who is her birthmother?” You can also explain that he has more
than one mother and each mother plays a different role in her
life. Or go the humorous route and pinch yourself on the arm
and say: “Ouch I’m right here and most definitely real.”
These questions and answers
are always current in the
adoption world. These
questions and answers
originally appeared in the
Summer 2014 edition of
“Adoption News,” the
AFTH newsletter. They
have been edited and
adapted for this issue.
June 10, 1992 – January 29, 2015
Colombia: August 18, 1992
In January 1990, my husband, Giulio, and I embarked on a journey of faith and
hope: faith that the information and encouragement we received from other couples at
a LAPA meeting were genuine; and hope that we, too, would one day become a family.
It took over two-and-a-half years and the re-submission of every required document
and process that had expired in that time frame (including one lost birth certificate
from Sicily) before we finally brought home our precious four-month-old baby boy.
We were ecstatic! We felt so blessed! Our dream had come true!
If you were to look through old issues of the ¿Qué Tal? you would no doubt find
photos of Gabriel. LAPA was a regular part of our lives as he was growing up, as it still
is today. We actually attended meetings and events for years before Gabriel made the
connection that all the other families were built by adoption, too! Then when Gabriel
was nine years old, we brought home David. Gabriel was overjoyed to finally have a
brother! I had secretly worried about whether I could possibly love another child as
much as I loved Gabriel, but I found out that I most definitely did! My heart felt as
though it could have swelled and burst from joy!
I’d love to be able to complete this story by writing that we lived happily ever after,
but, sadly, that is not the case. We are raising our children among wolves in a cruel and
dangerous world. No family is immune to the threat of what I believe to be the greatest of these dangers among young people today. I’m referring to the lure of alcohol
and drugs. Usage is endorsed and promoted in our society through music, movies,
marketing, and social media. The Hangover is one of many popular comedies that
promotes the “adventurous fun” allure of alcohol and drug use to its target audience of
people from 17 to 24 years old. Beer cans and bottles at 7-Eleven are routinely sold in
24-ounce supersizes instead of the 8–12-ounce sizes formerly sold when I was growing
up. Drugs are marketed directly to the consumer, and readily available from dealers,
websites or grandma’s medicine cabinet. Many are widely accepted as “recreational.”
I’ll never fully understand why my easygoing, tenderhearted, happy, and beautiful boy
ventured into experimentation with such
lethal substances at such an early age, but
he did. And like a lobster in a pot of slowly warming water, he didn’t realize he was
being cooked until it was too late to get
out. Unfortunately, many dark and difficult consequences marked the last third
of Gabriel’s life, and ours as a family, even
as he struggled to break free of the addictions that shackled him. The experience
extracted every ounce of tenacious devotion and every kind of love I could muster, equally testing the depth and limits
of my faith. But the experience, in its entirety, was that of being a parent, after all.
It wasn’t the experience I imagined when
I held my baby in my arms, but children
don’t come with instructions or guarantees. Whether our children have a PhD or
ADHD we love them. Whether they cure
a disease or have one, we love them. The
anguish, stress, and heartbreak of coping
with addiction are not something I would
wish for any family to go through. But I
will always remember the times of closeness and cuddles, times of silliness and
laughter, of pride in accomplishment and
of unrestrained dreaming. I will always
remember the heart to heart conversations, the simple peace of togetherness,
the moments of comfort and consolation.
All of these, along with times of rebuke
and correction, fears and tears, struggle
and failure comprise the fabric of being
a parent. Although I never dreamed our
journey would take us through such a
deep, dark valley, and even though I had
prayed things would turn out differently,
yet I will never regret having taken the
journey. And I will always remember loving my son, Gabriel.
David Scrivano, Gabriel’s younger brother, hopes
to go to Guatemala this summer on a mission trip
with his youth group. The group is planning to
build homes and work at an orphanage for HIV+
children. If you would like to learn more about David’s mission trip, please send an e-mail to [email protected]
lapa.com, and the webmaster will forward it to the
for Fiscal Year 2014
(October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014)
Costa Rica 12
Dominican Republic 9
El Salvador 5
China Ethiopia Ukraine Haiti South Korea 2,040
Hannah, and Matthew
January 2, 2015
By Lisbeth and Mark Schnurman
In December 2014, my family and I had the privilege of visiting Guatemala, birthplace of my
son. Though difficult to put in words, we have tried to describe what this trip meant for us. We
hope you enjoy our story.
In June 2000, we brought our ten-month-old son, Matthew, back to Charlotte, North Carolina, from Guatemala. It had been a long adoption journey as far as waiting and paperwork but
only a brief visit in and out of Guatemala City. As the years passed, Matthew was told his gotcha
story a thousand times. He knew how we spotted his foster mother carrying him outside the
embassy right before we were to touch him for the first time. He knew how we pulled chairs up to
his crib the first night in the hotel and watched him until he fell asleep. He has heard of how his
novice mother ordered a tomato juice on the plane ride home only to have her active son knock it
all over both of them. He has heard the story of our Guatemalan visit as we remember it, through
our memories colored with love, joy, and a lot of bumbling about. But as Matthew was turning
fourteen in 2013, it became clear he needed to return to Guatemala to write his own story.
So began a series of three journeys to Guatemala for Matthew and his father, Mark. The first
two, August 2013 and April 2014, were full of adventure, exploration, and connection to the
people and culture in Guatemala. Matthew’s sister, Hannah, and I joined the boys on their latest
adventure (December 2014). Seven days didn’t seem like enough time but it was all we had for the
entire family to experience Guatemalan adventure, exploration, and connection.
Having been to Guatemala recently, Matthew was prepared to guide us through the routines
of travel including money exchange, interacting with non-English speakers, and how to rough it.
We began our trip with an excursion to Tikal, ruins of the greatest of Mayan cities. We slept in a
bare essential hotel where the electricity was turned off routinely at night by 9:45 and the howling
monkeys did just that (howled) at 5 a.m. Matthew ran up and down the steps of Tikal’s temples
as if this were his home. Mark and Hannah managed the steps almost as well as Matthew. I came
down on my bottom from fear of falling down the steep steps!
Next we took a tour originating out of Antigua, which included a thirty-mile bike ride
through towns and farms and consisted of lots of winding roads. Matthew flew up and down the
hills as if the Guatemalan air gave him super power. The rest of us (well maybe just me) held our
breath as the chicken buses narrowly passed us on the roads and the gravel beneath our wheels
pulled us off track. Next stop, Lake Atitlán where we boated to our hotel built right into the rock
of the lake’s shore. We marveled at the view of the volcanoes across the lake and couldn’t decide if
we thought it was prettier by day or at night. The following morning brought kayaking across the
lake, cliff jumping for Hannah and Matthew,
and a two-and-a-half-hour hike back to the
hotel. Endurance wise, I was the slacker. Ahead
of me, I could see my family climbing narrow
paths with rocks and dirt sliding under their
feet and a treacherously steep fall below. I don’t
think they minded, but I worried enough for
all of us. After this hike, I now call Matthew a
“billy goat” because not only did he run up and
down the hills as if he has done it his whole life,
but he enjoyed the slipping and sliding. Oh boy.
Finally (whew), we segued into the less
physical part of our journey and settled in to
a hotel in Antigua. Here we walked two blocks
to the “central park” which is the hub of this
beautiful city. Restaurants and shops, where
our children fell in love with café con leche
surround the park. Day or night, it would be
easy to people-watch from a shady seat in the
park or wander the cobble streets to absorb the
sights and smells of Antigua. We were fortunate
to be there on New Year’s Eve, which increased
the excitement factor of the city tenfold.
New Year’s Eve also meant being with our
new best friends, Dom and Doreen. They are
the brainchildren and the selfless laborers for
a charity close to the Schnurman hearts called
Phoenix. That evening, after dinner in their
home, Dom and Doreen brought us back to
Antigua. From our rooftop, we watched fireworks light up the town as if it were the Fourth
of July. Surrounding us throughout neighboring villages were similar celebrations, up to separate displays at one time! Red lanterns passed
over our heads filled with private wishes from
the Guatemalan people of Antigua.
The following day, Dom and Doreen
brought us to villages where few Americans
have ever been. Within these villages are beautiful families who speak a variety of Mayan
languages and rarely, if ever, leave their small
communities. Here we walked the unpaved
hills, which led to the homes of the beautiful
Guatemalan indigenous people. We met the
cows and chickens, which “Phoenix” provides
(through donation) to families for both nourishment and a way to raise funds for the two
schools, which they have built and personally
staff and run. We saw the corn grinder, which
will help fellow villagers while simultaneously
raising more funds for a variety of needs. Other fruits of Phoenix’s labor were
evidenced by the recent birth of another female calf (who will hopefully provide
milk and another calf . . .) a tour of both schools, a small farm growing trees for
reforestation, and the introduction to a teacher who was formally a student at
one of the schools. Phoenix is not giving fish; it is helping the villagers fish for
themselves. Before we returned to Antigua, we were invited to eat in one of the villager’s homes who was a friend of Dom and Doreen’s. She and her family opened
her heart and home despite having little themselves.
On the way home to the United States, I asked Hannah and Matthew what
they enjoyed most on the trip. Was it the adventure, the exploration or the connection? They both said it was all about the people. Being with the villagers, hanging around the city, or meeting people while touring, they felt a strong connection
to the Guatemalans.
In my husband’s words:
Our journey to Guatemala was deeply spiritual. For Matthew, returning to
Guatemala, his birthplace and homeland, was a necessity, essential for him as he
discovers his heritage and identity. It was not just a “trip.” It was a seminal part of
his adoption story, a place where he could connect to the land, people and culture.
Guatemala is Mateotenango—the place of Matthew.
This was not an ordinary vacation but a cathartic, adventure pilgrimage to a
holy place for our family. The Schnurmans were on a vision quest, a spiritual journey
that would enable us to learn more about ourselves and our places in the universe.
Our trip was fabulous—we hiked, kayaked, biked, and climbed our way across
Guatemala. Guatemala is one of the most naturally beautiful places in the world. At
every turn, our breath was taken away. Volcanoes, rivers, jagged hills, and villages
dotted the landscape.
However, the landscape did not compare to the beauty of the people. Guatemalans are a handsome people, their pride, strength, and warmth on their faces.
Friendly, helpful, and hearty, we were awed by their physical strength as they carried
produce, wood, and other products on their backs, often hung from straps emanating
from their heads.
All the natural and human beauty Guatemala had to offer paled in comparison
to the experience we shared as a family. We experienced a life-changing event together. We changed, together. We grew, together. We were sated, together.
Looking at the faces of the Mayans and Matthew, I see the same beauty and
prideful spirit that comes from being part of one of the world’s great cultures.
Mark and Matthew have spoken about going back again soon to do another
boy’s trip. I don’t know if we will let them go without us. . . .
To learn more about Phoenix Projects, visit http://www.thephoenixprojects.org. If you
would like to contact Lisbeth and Mark Schnurman regarding family travel to Guatemala,
please send an e-mail to [email protected], and our webmaster will forward it to them.
Harder Than We Thought
When my wife and I were contemplating adopting from Latin America, we went to
workshops and read articles on that subject. We knew that our children would have
problems being Hispanic in this country. But America had had a Civil Rights Movement, right? With a lot of love and some good advice from those workshops and
articles we would be able to arm our children with the weapons they would need to
withstand whatever residual racism they might encounter … Or so we thought.
The problem with those workshops and articles is that we, sort of semi-consciously,
assumed that if we followed their advice everything would be OK. And sometimes,
it’s just not OK. It’s HARD. Because we love our kids we feel their pain when they
encounter racism. I felt short-changed that no one ever clearly explained this to us. I
wanted to forewarn others.
So I welcomed the opportunity to speak as a representative of LAPA to a Transracial
Adoption workshop at an adoption conference in Manhattan in March of 2014.
In preparation for this I reached out to LAPA parents for their take on this topic.
And to the children of LAPA executive board members who hang out with each other
during board meetings. Andrea brought in a great article about what people of color
have to worry about every day that white people don’t have to think about.
I shared some of these experiences in my presentation. My theme was that transracial adoption is not a walk in the park. And that parents and prospective parents
needed to grapple seriously with what that meant. Sometimes there are things we can
say or do to help our children but we should not imagine that anything will cancel out
the damage caused by systemic racism.
Sometimes we can’t just kiss the boo-boo and make it go away. Sometimes, as Joan
said, we just have let them know that we accept their feelings, that their feelings are
real and valid. I stressed the absolutely vital importance of participating in a group like
LAPA.At the end everyone clapped and one woman told me that this was the most
realistic workshop she had attended, that the other workshops were up in the clouds
somewhere. So I felt I did my job.
Thanks to all the LAPA parents and kids whose feedback helped enrich my presentation. For me it was cathartic.
We knew that our children would
have problems being Hispanic in this
country. But America had had a Civil
Rights Movement, right?