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Corrie Lynne O. Player

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Different cultures, different needs
by Corrie Lynne O. Player   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, August 20, 2007
Posted: Monday, August 20, 2007

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Corrie Lynne O. Player

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Adopted children have unique needs
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I’ve been corresponding with many of you about adoption and foster care and been involved with online discussion groups as I’ve conducted research for my new book, “The Everything Parents Guide to Raising the Adopted Child.”

I’ve been corresponding with many of you about adoption and foster care and been involved with online discussion groups as I’ve conducted research for my new book, “The Everything Parents Guide to Raising the Adopted Child.”
We’ve talked about various aspects of the process, as well as whether or not to adopt a child of a different race or through a foreign country.
If you adopt a child from another country, you’ll face cultural and language challenges, as well as the usual adjustment problems that come with blending a family. Acceptance of different races can vary, depending on where you live, so you should ask yourself these questions before making a decision:
1. How will I help my child cope with two cultures?
2. How will my extended family respond?
3. Will my neighborhood and town accept a child of a particular race?
4. What steps will I take to promote bonding?
5. Will I be able to cope with a child who may have been neglected or abused?
The answers to the first questions are easier if you realize culture is more important than race in shaping personality. Human beings are alike in fundamental ways and skin color has little influence on the kind of person a child becomes.
An older child from Korea and oriental parents from America will face more challenges than an oriental baby adopted by white parents and raised in America.
If you adopt an older child from a different culture, you’ll spend huge amounts of time helping the child adjust.
For example, May Lin, a Vietnamese 6-year-old orphan was adopted by Jaime and Fred M, who had three boys, ages 8, 12 and 14. She arrived knowing three English words: hi, yes and no.
As her new family taught her their language, May Lin taught them some of hers. She learned to eat hot dogs and hamburgers, and her parents and brothers sampled foods they’d never heard of.
Jaime and Fred encouraged May Lin to reminisce and observe differences in the Vietnamese way and the American way.
For instance, Vietnamese children show respect by not looking directly into an adult’s eyes. In this country “not meeting” someone’s eyes is a sign or cowardice or deceit. Also, children who have been neglected or abused avoid eye contact, because they are disengaged and don’t trust. Exploring the reasons for such differences with her parents helped her successfully bridge two cultures and to connect with her adoptive family.
Many inter-country adoption agencies recommend against enrolling a child in school for up to a year after adoption. You should make that decision based on your child’s command of English, the attitude of school personnel and his or her need for socialization.
The answers to questions about bonding and dealing with the impact of abuse or neglect are much more complicated.
You must be properly trained and psychologically prepared to confront the very real challenges you will face; it won’t be parenting as usual.
Abused, neglected children respond very differently from those whose first months and years are spent within gentle, accepting arms. What you might consider willful defiance may be terror and self-protection.
Because your child has probably lost several mother figures and needs the security of full-time mothering, you’ll need to put career plans on hold and be a full-time parent. You’ll need to understand your child’s perspective and feelings that underlay negative behaviors and be able to be loving and nurturing, instead of punitive or authoritarian as you become the safe, capable adult for a child who is not able to trust.
Aside from certain physical and cultural realities, including curiosity, grief and fear, adopted children are like any other children with the same needs and stages. But adopted children bring unique qualities to their families.
Blessed are parents privileged to raise such children. Adoptive families explore the greatest depths of love and humanity.

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