Back in the '60s, the adoption professionals told parents who had adopted from Korea to raise their kids just like any other Amurrikin kid.
In the early '80s, Holt International Agency took a group of adult Korean adoptees on a trip to Korea. During the trip, the director heard from these Korean adoptees that they felt the "Americanizing" had left them bereft of any knowledge of their heritage--where they came from, what it was like, why they were adopted, what were the circumstances, what it was like to be around people who looked like them.
There are now heritage camps for adoptees from many, many cultures--India, Korea, China, Russia, Ethiopia, Latin America. It's not enough. It's a drop in the bucket. But it's a start.
The Chinese Heritage Camp we went to with the Dotter is part of Colorado Heritage Camps. Since OmegaDotter is only 4.5, the things they did were pretty basic: Build a paper dragon boat. Create a faux ribbon dance ribbon. Learn to sing Happy Birthday in Chinese. Begin exploring the question of adoption through a HeART Talk. Learn the story behind the Moon Festival.
Older children learned Chinese dances, took Tai Chi and Kung Fu (the leader of the Kung Fu school is an amazing man. Just amazing. Imagine getting 60 kids into disciplined, organized order. Just imagine it. This man can do it.), explored things like paper block making, baking moon cakes, creating a journal on adoption, Chinese calligraphy.
Each year, the programs the kids are involved in become more complex, more engaging. For instance, this year there was a panel of teen and adult adoptees one afternoon for teen adoptees to attend.
The counselors at the camp are mostly late-teen/early adult Asians, both adopted and second-generation immigrants. Most of the teachers are Asian. I think half the benefit of being there is simply being in a place where the majority of people you interact with are of your own race--without it being an "in your face" oh-darling-here's-your-token-Asian-role-model. They see teen and adult Asians being themselves, being individuals, some very involved and highly motivated, some being--well, just being teens, with short spiky hair, bling on the fingers, and blase teenage attitude.
There are workshops for the parents, as well. OmegaDad and I attended a presentation on growing up as an Asian-American female in the U.S.; I attended a talk on "emotional regulation". There were lifebook presentations, discussions about trips back to China with your child, strategies for home-based language learning, how to start a Chinese speaking playgroup, and (of course!) scrapbooking techniques.
Each evening, there was an all-camp gathering of some kind. The last night was a typical camp experience, where all the kids performed the dances, Tai Chi, and Kung Fu they had learned.
It was a bit overwhelming. You start off the day running, and it's not over with until 9 p.m. At which point, you fall into bed exhausted, only to wake up the next morning to start all over again.
When we arrived, we were a little intimidated and shy--we didn't know anyone, we didn't really know what to expect. I had planned to meet up with two of the folks I'm on email lists with, and was expecting that to be our buttress. But as I was leafing through the list of attendees, a name popped out at me.
"OmegaDad. Look! The T's are here!"
"S. and S.! They're here with L.!"
"Ohmygawd! That's great!"
The T's were travelmates with us when we went to China to meet OmegaDotter. Their daughter's assumed birthday is one day off from OmegaDotter's. We were thrilled--they were our favorite folks from the trip. We ended up spending a great deal of time with them, and our daughters hit it off very well (though it was incredibly difficult to get a picture of the two of them together--they were like satellites careening around each other, rendezvousing then bouncing away, over and over again). After the end of Sunday night's festivities, the two girls took over the presentation stage while the roller-rink music played, and danced their tushies off. And I have an indelible memory of the dotter being carried out of the Kiva (meeting commons) by OmegaDad, her elbow on his shoulder, her hand cupping her chin, looking utterly sad that she was leaving L.
Like I said, it's not enough. It's a drop in the bucket. But it's a start.
Next up: Reviews of the adult presentations.