Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Learning to be Chinese in America

The arrival of holidays brings the end of the National Adoption Month. However, adoption experiences continue.

In a recent article in What's Up? Annapolis magazine, Gladney China mom Lynn Schwartz wrote about how Ibbi Fei Yan, her daughter from Shanghai, and her friends learn to be Chinese in America.

On most Saturday mornings, she watched Ibbi Fei Yan and her classmates with awe and pride as their young minds grasp a new language, for the Chinese characters, although exquisitely beautiful, remain a mystery to her.

To read the full article, please click here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

CBS 2's Cindy Hsu Shares Her Experience - Family First: Adopting a Child

CBS news anchor, Gladney China mom Cindy Xu and her daughter Rosy

Cindy has shared her adoption story on CBS 2 during earlier November, the National Adoption Month. Click here for the complete story.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

What A Busy Week! II--More Photos!

And here are some more great pictures from the NY Office Warming Event held on Nov. 15th! Note the popularity of the children's play area:-).

Friday, November 17, 2006

What A Busy Week!

Gladney President Mike McMahon (5th from Left) and China staff in New York Office

Gladney Mom Stephanie at the office warming party on Nov 14, 2006

Gladney' NYO staff Gina, Andrea and Krista (from left to right)

Beatrice Findlay in front of her art work

The Findlay family

Gladney China /NYO News - What a busy week it has been in the New York Office! On Tuesday evening we had a get together for Waiting China Families at the home of Mark and Diane Maas, who so graciously offered their space for the meeting. Wednesday evening was our Office Warming Party. We had over 50 people in attendance, with families from all international and domestic programs paying us a visit. Additionally, the staff from our headquarters in Fort Worth flew to NY for the event, including Gladney President Mike McMahon, Vice-President Marshall Williams, Jim Huey (President of the Gladney Fund), Nonya Jordan (Vice President of Development and Events) and Sharon Casstevens (Executive Director of the Gladney Family Association). The party was a huge success as adults noshed on hors d'oeuvres and children enjoyed coloring pictures, putting together puzzles, and building with blocks in our new play area. Finally, on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, the NY office hosted Waiting Family Parties for our domestic program and other international programs including Viet Nam, Guatemala, Columbian adoptions.

We hope you enjoy the photos from the party!

Ming Lu's Trip to Beijing!

Dear Gongzhan,

Ming Lu and I really enjoyed our evening at the office warming party last night. She could not fall asleep, she was sooo excited!! I wanted to share a mini "photo album" of our recent trip toBeijing. Ming Lu had a wonderful time in Beijing. Her favorite places were Purple Bamboo park, the zoo and the Great Wall. She also loved having jiaozi, jiam bing and cha dan. She traveled very well and we are so proud of her. Beijing has changed, the traffic was bad. The air was questionable on most days. It is becoming more and more cosmopolitan...which loosely translates to $$$$$$. Many of my favorite places were gone, being renovated or being torn down to make way for the new improved version. I am glad I've had the opportunity to see it before too much has changed. We hope to see you soon. ---- Erin

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Thoughts on a Homeland Tour by Steve Ross

Michelle and Amy in Lijiang, Yunan


During this past summer, Sandi, our two daughters, ages 7 and 10, and I returned to China, where the girls had been adopted as infants. For the adults, this was our 4th trip to the PRC over 21 years; for the girls, this was to be their first real chance to get to know their country of birth. Our oldest had been to China at 3 ½ to get her then baby sister, but she only remembers what the pictures tell her of that trip. On this trip we traveled for 35 days all over China, from Lijiang and Kunming, in the southwest near the Burma border, all the way north to Beijing. We got to see an incredible range of historical sites and experience the wondrous variety of sceneries, places and peoples that make China what it is today.

Our girls rode yaks up in the mountains of Yunnan Province, camels in a Song Dynasty theme park outside Hangzhou, bamboo rafts on a gentle river amidst the incomparable scenery of the Guilin-Yangshou region, and bicycle rickshaws in a Hutong area near downtown Beijing. They climbed the Great Wall, walked the Forbidden City in what was at times a downpour, tried their hands at Chinese knotting, cloisonné making, and ink-block printing, and took a boat ride down the Yangtze River through the Three Gorges area.

As importantly, our daughters also had the chance to visit their hometowns and orphanages (i.e., Social Welfare Institutes or SWIs)! Our older girl came to us from a blue-collar, smokestack, industrial city 3 hours from the provincial capital in southeastern China. Now a retirement home, the old orphanage--the one our daughter was at for most of the time before her adoption--consisted of 3 one-storied rectangular buildings that looked like dilapidated bungalows with multiple rooms all facing a overgrown courtyard. By contrast, the newer orphanage was multi-storied white tile and glass edifice, with well manicured grounds and a warm and welcoming staff, some of whom had actually been there long enough to have known our daughter as an infant. While visiting, we were able to see, play with and hold some of the nearly two dozen 12-20 month old children awaiting adoption. The children seemed very energetic, clean, well cared for, with good eye contact and good motor skills for their ages. My daughters were quite smitten by some of the children they played with and held. Indeed, we all were tempted to take a few ‘more’ children home with us! The staff, by the way, seemed fully engaged with the children, and even the male director--who was probably 50 something--held and actively played with the children.
Our younger daughter came from a major city and provincial capital in southeastern China. Like the city itself, our younger daughter’s orphanage has completely changed. Most of the old facility (a model in 1999, with a then new children’s building) has been demolished and the ground has been taken over for still another amongst the many high rises dotting the city skyline facing the Yangtze River, and the remainder of the property (including the once model children’s building) is now used primarily as a senior citizens’ home. The new orphanage, a gleaming, white marble building built around an inner courtyard, has been located completely out of the city to a rice field studded countryside, purportedly because the air is better and the noise is less in the countryside. It was also hinted that many of the children abandoned these days are found in the countryside. Very few young children were actually in this new orphanage when we visited, and those that were there were either small babies who were too ill to be placed in foster homes, or infants with recent surgeries who were recovering, or a handful of older preschoolers who were awaiting adoptions. We were told that many of the orphanage’s charges were actually under the care of foster families, with a few more lodged at the old folks’ home while attending school in the city.

With another family, we also visited the Shanghai Social Welfare Institute, a model orphanage with a cheerful, new, state of the art facility and with skilled staff ready to handle healthy and handicapped children, each according to their needs. We were told that the social workers monitor the well-being of the children in the institution, as well as doing weekly visits to foster family homes.

From our experiences during the trip, we were able to make some observations and drew some conclusions. First, there is significantly more affluence in China than there has ever been before. Second, China is demolishing and building things so quickly that it leaves one’s head spinning. With all the new wealth and economic activity, it is not surprising that the economic pressures, and some of the political ones too, that have lead to many past abandonments, are easing—at least in some larger cities in China. That means that, comparatively, a greater percentage of the abandoned children are showing up in rural areas than in the past. Another good sign: the placement of orphans in foster families has increased substantially over the past few years (at least since 1999, when we ourselves last adopted). Nevertheless, there still seems to be a lot of healthy, beautiful Chinese children--boys as well as girls--waiting for adoption into good homes; and there seems to be a commitment by the Chinese to provide these orphaned children with nurturance not only of their physical needs but also of their developmental, social and emotional needs. Still the quality of the care and of the facilities varied substantially depending on where the orphanage was located and the economic health of the region. Thus far, most SWIs do not have the resources to establish and operate a model orphanage, with rehabilitation services and even a hydrotherapy facility, like that now in Shanghai. All told, ours was a wonderful journey that gave our adopted daughters a positive and hopefully memorable trip of their birth country.

Steve, proud dad of 2 Gladney girls from China

Monday, November 13, 2006

Book Review: The Lost Daughters of China, by Karin Evans

Reviewed by Alison Sawdey

Last spring I was reading through one of the suggested texts on international adoption, "How to Adopt Internationally" by Jean Nelson Erichsen and Heino R. Erichsen, when I first came across Karin Evans’s wonderful book "The Lost Daughters of China." I found the book’s title compelling and proceeded to run round to my local Barnes & Noble to pick up a copy. Over a long weekend I read the amazing story of Karin Evans, her husband and her daughter, Kelley. I have since shared this book with many of my family members and some of my dearest friends.

Evans is a California-based freelance journalist who only later in life considered adoption (with her second husband). After much soul-searching and a lot of research (she is a journalist after all!), Evans started down the long road to adopt her daughter. The story details this journey begun in 1997. Although there have been many significant changes in adoption from China in the last decade, the book is still very relevant in its scope and articulation of the amazing coming together of this family.

The book is interspersed with valuable statistics on China (these have been updated in the latest edition published in 2001) which help frame the very real societal pressures that have led this ancient culture to establish one of the most popular adoption programs anywhere in the world. Evans walks the reader through the current social, economic and political dynamics that have led to China’s overpopulation, up to the very real dilemma the birth parents encounter before making the heartbreaking decision to give up their children. I found Evans’s compassion for and understanding of the birth parents extremely touching. The latter part of the book focuses on Evans’s return to California with Kelley and her husband and their transition to everyday family life, after the excitement of their time in China. She also weaves in lovely stories of the growing numbers of families in her neighborhood who have adopted children from China and the resulting cultural richness both parents and children enjoy. Lastly, Evans asks some thought-provoking questions as to when and if these children will journey back to China.

I highly recommend this read to Gladney waiting families, families considering adoption from China and all those who wish to learn more about this wonderful family and life experience.

[The Lost Daughters of China: Abandoned Girls, Their Journey to America, and The Search For A Missing Past. ISBN: 1-58542-026-3 Tarcher/Putnam Publishers]

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Our Beautiful Princesses!!!

Dad John Ebbinghouse writes:

Our girls, Sophie 7 and Grace 4, love everything there is about Princesses. They loved getting the make up and hair ready but the wigs did not last too long! They wondered how Sleeping Beauty could keep her wig on that long!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Whitney's First Halloween!

Whitney had a terrific time celebrating her first Halloween. She dressed up as a duck and has enjoyed wearing her costume on a daily basis since it was purchased in August (I like to plan ahead :0)). In fact, as I type this entry, Whitney is wearing her duck hat (note the pink bow in the small tuft of hair) as she hosts a tea party for her stuffed animal friends. Whitney's costume was such a great success that she won the best costume award at her father's Halloween office party! WOW! Whitney has loved ducks since being given a bathtub set at the Chongqing Marriott in February.