Adoption Training Recap

September 27, 2005 at 12:39am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

The Missus and I spent all day Friday up in Omaha at a training session for adoptive parents hosted by Adoption Links. My parents were kind enough to join us as well, both as a show of support and as part of their effort to figure out what this whole interracial adoption thing is all about. As it turned out, they were the only non-prospective parents at the event. In addition to The Missus and me, there were four other couples and one single woman.

I didn’t have high hopes for the quality of the training session. I’m rather cynical about these sorts of events because I’ve been to bunches of them covering a host of topics, and I’ve been disappointed far more often than I’ve been impressed. In regard to this particular event I was concerned that the persons running the show, not being adoptive parents themselves, would present their information according to their worldview as social workers and administrators, rather than according to the worldview of a bunch of hopeful parents who are all a little overwhelmed by the adoption experience. To a small extent my fears were realized, but not nearly to the degree they could have been. In fact, the overall experience was pretty positive. I was pleased to leave the event dwelling not on petty matters like “Gawd that video was boring!” but rather on larger, more critical issues like…hair.

There was some boring, unhelpful stuff. In one exercise we were supposed to write words and phrases that came to mind when we thought about different topics. Topics like “racism” and “birth father.” The point of the exercise was to get us to think about topics from many different perspectives. That’s fine. But the exercise, as carried out, was mostly fluff and little substance. That was unfortunat

e, because the woman leading the exercise was clearly full of substance, in addition to being an excellent communicator. I wish she would have focused more on exploiting her superb conversational skills and less on her Communication 101 textbook’s shallow insistence that “effective communication” requires one’s audience be made to use pretty magic markers.

There was also a lot of really good material. Most of it came from actual adoptive parents. (All mothers, actually. Where are all the dads?) In fact, the parents really helped convince me that The Missus and I not only can do this, but that we can do it really well. For a while I wasn’t so sure.

In part, my concern was because I just don’t agree with some of the reading materials we’ve been given. Two common themes are (1) all white people are racist, and (2) black children need to be raised to be black, which means subjecting them to every imaginable cultural stereotype. OK, that’s not actually what the materials say. But after reading article after article after article that comes close to saying those things, it’s pretty easy for the mind to take the next step. (I will have more on this topic later.)

The parents did an excellent job of putting real faces on the notion of interracial adoption. These were real people; they weren’t heroes or culture-robbers or anything else. They were just everyday moms with everyday kids. I found that I could relate to them. When they finished talking, I was excited about adopting. I mean genuinely excited. I imagine I crossed the line that biological parents cross when they go from trying to conceive to actually finding out from the doctor that they are pregnant. That excited. It was a feeling I hadn’t expected to achieve until we receive The Phone Call sometime next year. Now that I think about it, that would have been really late. I’m glad I have the feeling now.

The thing I liked best about the parents was how matter-of-fact they were. Their worldviews were so different from the worldviews of the authors of a lot of the articles I had read. I was reminded of the distinction between theory-minded ivory tower types versus world-educated individuals on the ground. Their experiences and lessons were so practical and so simple, and they were not nearly as negative as the tone of many of the articles. It was very refreshing.

We also learned a bit about hair. Now, I knew that black peoples’ skin and hair are different than those of white people, but then my skin and hair are different than that of most white people (if you know me, you know what I mean), so I really didn’t think much of it. I figured I would figure it out when the time came to figure it out. After listening to the parents, though, I realized I have a lot to learn, enough that I probably ought to start learning sooner rather than later.

The Adoption Links people really pushed the open adoption concept. A couple months ago I didn’t think much of open adoption; today, I’m all for it. I’ll be writing more about open adoption in the future.

OK, that’s enough rambling for now. I have a pounding headache, and I fear this post isn’t nearly as coherent as I had hoped. I’d better shut off now before it gets even worse!

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The Comments

Mr. T September 27, 2005 at 2:06am

Kudos for keeping us informed of this (what I would consider a very private family matter) experience Mr. Wilson. One question…did the program bring in adoptive children as well (not just parents)? I would hope so. Bringing in (what I am presuming are all white) adoptive parents and neglecting to bring in adopted children of color would raise a flag for me if I was in your position, whether I was white (which I am not) or any other race.

Mr. Wilson September 27, 2005 at 3:03am

Unfortunately, no. It was a school day after all, and most (all?) of the children were of at least pre-school age.

What flags does that raise for you? I don’t see any, but maybe I just have blinders on.

I should note that The Missus went to a session earlier this summer at which children were present. I didn’t make it to that one; I was probably umping.

Mr. T September 28, 2005 at 4:02am

Well The Missus prolly covered it then. I would (if I was in your position at least) be eager to learn the perspective of adoptive kids of color in regards to any number of issues. It strikes me as being important that the kids know why the parents made a decision to do so in the first place, what thoughts they had, and so on. I would be interested in knowing what the kids thoughts were of their parents in these regards. Anyway, keep up the excellent reporting Mr. Wilson.

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