One of the things I have to say at the start of this section is that this will vary for everyone. Every situation is different and every child’s needs are different.
I read a book called, “In Their Own Voices” – I highly recommend it. It’s a collection of stories and interviews of adults who were adopted transracially when they were kids. It might be an Asian adopted by a white family, or an African American adopted by a white family or any other sort of “mix” of races where the common denominator was that there was no way that the parents could look like or pretend they looked like their children. There is no way that you can even come close to thinking that my 12 and 13 year olds could be my biological children, they are way too dark.
Probably the most interesting thing that I took from that book was, well actually two things:
1.) Everyone wrestles with issues at different times. There were stories of kids who wrestled with their heritage when they were younger, there were kids who wrestled with their heritage (how can I live in a white world as a Haitian American?) in their teen years and there were kids who attempted to put those feelings down and didn’t wrestle with them until they were well into their adult years.
2.) Every one of the people interviewed said that eventually they were glad that their adoptive parents kept a connection to their home country (the country of their birth) and even if they didn’t appreciate it at first, they did eventually.
Internationally adopted kids need to feel like you value their “home country” because valuing that is valuing part of who they are. If you don’t care about Haiti but you have a child from Haiti, what message does that send to your child about how much (or how little) you value an important part of who they are?
Not everyone needs it at the same time and to the same amount and some will appreciate it when you do it, some will appreciate it much much later, but they will all, at some point, realize that by being involved in some way with their home country, you are valuing part of who they are.
What are some ways that you can give back? What are some ways that you can support the country your children were born in? What are some ways that you can give back to the country that your children are from? Let me throw out some things that we’ve done and other ideas that people have suggested but we haven’t done…..
Artwork – this is a very easy one. Have artwork from your kids home country in your house. Pictures, drawings, statues and other things that are from Haiti and show that to you, it’s important to show “off” some of the best parts of Haiti.
Food – find a restaurant nearby that serves the food of their home country – visit it frequently. We have one about 20 minutes away and the owner loves getting to see our kids and our kids love going out to eat for Haitian food.
Sponsorship – Whether it’s a school sponsorship or an orphan sponsorship, a consistent, even if relatively small donation that your kids can see as a way of supporting someone else in their country is important to them.
Prayer – pray for people who matter to them in Haiti – pray for Molly, Joyce, Dixie and the rest. Pray for their family in Haiti, pray for the child or children that you sponsor. Show your kids, by example, that it is important to support the people in Haiti by praying for them.
Mission trips – every kid is different and every one of them will be ready to visit their home country at different time frames, but even if they are too young, it’s important for them to see you helping out. So, if you can go back to Haiti and make a difference, it will make a difference in you and in them.
Be an adoption/orphan advocate. Let your kids see that you care not only about them but about other kids who need families.
Pay it forward – if there are people in your church, community who adopt/foster or are thinking about it, come along side them and encourage them in a realistic/been there done that type of manner.