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  • Monday, February 04, 2013 00:00 | Ember Goldstein

    Difficulties of girls taken away in 1960s by adoptive parents are revealed, with many complaining of prejudice and alienation


    Hong Kong orphans taken away by their adoptive British parents in the 1960s experienced racism, prejudice and alienation, according to a UK report [1].

    The findings have raised concerns about whether local organisations arranging interracial adoptions place enough emphasis on preliminary guidance for interested parents.

    It has also led to calls for Britain to review its adoption reform proposals [2] and consider the long-term impact on children adopted by parents of a different race.

    The report by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) was published in The Observer newspaper on Sunday.

    The 72 Hong Kong-origin respondents were among more than 100 girls sent to mainly white families during the 1960s.

    They said common experiences included "varying levels of racism, prejudice and feelings of belonging and difference within their adoptive families and wider communities".

    Fifty-four per cent said they felt "uncomfortable" hearing remarks that they looked different from their adoptive family and three-quarters admitted they wanted to look less Chinese.

    For a minority, the report said, "race-based bullying" and discrimination "had a substantial negative impact on their well-being". The BAAF added: "For some women … separation from their birth family and being Chinese in the UK has proved to be difficult."

    Race-based bullying and discrimination had a substantial negative impact on their well-being

    Figures from the Social Welfare Department show there were 26 overseas applications for adopting a Hong Kong child pending by the end of last year.

    There were also 191 local applications and 19 "private" applications from people such as the children's relatives.

    A total of 110 children were available for adoption at the end of December. None of them was described as "normal and healthy" and 71 were disabled.

    Currently, the department accredits three non-governmental organisations - International Social Service Hong Kong Branch, Mother's Choice and Po Leung Kuk - with arranging inter-country adoptions.

    Neither the department nor any of the service providers were available for comment on Sunday.

    Social welfare sector lawmaker Peter Cheung Kwok-che calls on the adoption service providers to take a more forward-looking approach when communicating with would-be parents. Photo: Oliver Tsang

    Social welfare sector lawmaker Peter Cheung Kwok-che, of the Labour Party, called on the groups to adopt a more forward-looking approach when communicating with would-be parents.

    He said: "In the second interview of the screening, for instance, parents should be reminded, at a later stage, to prepare their children against future discrimination."

    But he added it would not be appropriate for follow-up evaluations to be carried out on the adoptive families.

    The department says on its website its priority is to place children with families "of the same cultural or ethnic background".

    It adds: "Inter-country adoption should only be [for those] in need of a permanent adoption placement, but where no suitable local homes are available to them." It said this usually applies to older children or those with special needs.

    Additional reporting by The Observer

    Topics: 
    Racism
    Orphan
    International Adoption
    Britain
    Hong Kong People
    British Association for Adoption and Fostering
  • Friday, January 11, 2013 00:00 | AFHK Committee (Administrator)

    Authorities to encourage adoptions in wake of fire at Henan orphanage

    Following fatal fire at orphanage, ministry says it will encourage adoptions and may smooth path for NGOs to set up facilities


    The Ministry of Civil Affairs will formulate rules to encourage individuals and families to adopt orphans, as well as mulling regulations to make it easier for NGOs to set up children's homes on the mainland, state media reported.

    The ministry's plan was announced amid public anger over dereliction of duty by authorities after a fire killed five boys and two girls, all aged four or five, at an unlicensed private orphanage in Henan's Lankao county last Friday.

    "The Lankao fire has exposed leaks in our orphan assistance system. The ministry must learn the painful lesson," ministry spokesman Wang Laizhu told the People's Daily on Wednesday.

    "We will enhance our orphan assistance capacity by making efforts to perfect our regulations on individual adoption and on orphanages run by non-governmental organisations."

    The ministry says the mainland has some 615,000 orphans. It said government-funded child-welfare agencies had been set up in only a minority of counties, with only 109,000 orphans having been taken in by 400 such agencies across the country. More than 80 per cent of orphans were cared for by relatives, guardians or private orphanages.

    Under the mainland's one-child policy, families that already have a child are banned from adopting an orphan. Many parents also abandon babies born with disabilities for another chance to have a healthy baby.

    Professor Ai Xiaoming, a specialist in the welfare of children and women at Guangzhou's Sun Yat-sen University, said a lack of respect for life on the mainland and the absence of a comprehensive social-welfare system would hinder the reform of orphan care, especially when many orphans were abandoned because of their disabilities.

    "Life has never been respected in our totalitarian society. We should realise that adoption is an act of respect for life," Ai said.

    "In Western countries like the United States, local governments provide training courses for families who are planning to adopt disabled children."

    Ai also highlighted the free medical support in the US for children with disabilities, calling it a key reason why American families adopted hundreds of disabled baby girls from China every year.

    "What the US has done is not brag about their achievements, but show a common value - respect for life," she said.

    "In our society, under the slogan of 'maintaining social stability', will our government dare take responsibility for social welfare and take care of the human rights of families or NGOs when they demand government support for disabled children?"

    Professor Wang Ming, from Tsinghua University's NGO Research Centre, said encouraging non-governmental organisations to play a role in the care of orphans was the best approach to solving the problem.

    "The ministry's figures show us that they couldn't get the job done over the past decades," he said, adding that officials focused more on bureaucratic procedures and advancement than on service delivery.

  • Monday, November 05, 2012 00:00 | Ember Goldstein
    Click here to read this article on how international adoption numbers have decreased dramatically all around the world -- to the lowest point in 15 years. Story by The Associated Press.
  • Sunday, October 21, 2012 12:00 | AFHK Committee (Administrator)

    Charity helps adoptive families and adoptees in Asia

    A local charity is providing much-needed support for adoptive families by helping them connect with each other, writes Liana Cafolla


    Celine and Herve Bonnel maintain an open conversation with their children Teo and Lea about their adoption. Photos: Edmund So

    When Mina Weight and her husband, Guy Facey, found they could not have children, they knew exactly what they wanted to do - adopt from China. It was a country they knew and loved; both had travelled extensively in the country on business and spoke fluent Putonghua. But they had to break down walls of bureaucracy and incomprehension in their native Britain before they could make that dream come true.

    The mainland was not on Britain's list of accepted adoptive source countries when Weight and her husband began their adoption battle 20 years ago. Joining other would-be adoptive parents in a lobbying campaign, they eventually convinced the British government to add to the register and, in 1993, the couple became the first people in Britain to adopt legally from China. Their two mainland-born daughters, Alice and Louisa, are now in their late teens.

    But as Weight discovered, being at the head of a pack was not necessarily a good place to be. "You feel so alone, you don't know what's going on ... And then once your child arrives [there's] the shock of suddenly being a parent after waiting so long," she says of those early years. Raising her daughters in Britain was difficult without a support network, especially at a time when overseas adoption was viewed with misgivings by some in the community.

    Mina Weightwith her daughter, Louisa Facey.

    So after she and her family relocated to Hong Kong four years ago, she soon became an active member of Adoptive Families of Hong Kong (AFHK), the only charity in Asia that connects adoptive families, adoptees and professionals. Now serving as chair of its committee, Weight, a homeopath, is eager to spread the word about the help and encouragement fellow adoptive parents can give each other.

    "We're here for people to make friends, to connect with others who have been through a similar process and have had children in a similar way, and for their children to have fun with other children."

    Many parenting issues for adoptive families are no different from those confronting biological parents: How do you train your child to sleep? How do you choose the right school? How can you teach your child to respect themselves and others?

    Adoptive parents, however, are likely to face additional decisions. When and how do you tell your child that he or she is adopted? How can you teach your child to be proud of their birth culture? How do you and your child deal with intrusive questions about adoption? These are just some of the issues that AFHK helps adoptive parents and their children to cope with.

    Perhaps AFHK's greatest strength it that is run by adoptive parents whose advice is based on their own, often hard-won, experience. Seven of the eight volunteers on its steering committee are adoptive parents (the exception is an adult adoptee).

    Discussions at the group's regular support meetings range from practical matters such as getting a Hong Kong identity card for their child, or sorting out citizenship to more thorny questions of identity.

    As treasurer Ember Deitz Goldstein has learned from discussing adoption with her sons, even the most progressive parents can stumble.

    "We talked about our sons' adoption stories with them in different ways from the day they came home, and I really thought we were being very open and clear about it with them," she says. "But then when my older son was not yet three years old, I read Joanna Cole's children's book How I Was Adopted to him. I made a classic mistake of not reviewing the book before I read it to him, so I wasn't prepared for the page that shows a fetus inside the birth mother's uterus. My son realised when he saw that picture that it meant he had not been inside my uterus, and it made him incredibly sad."

    Nevertheless, Deitz Goldstein managed to turn the situation around and use it to deepen her bond with her son. "Would I have preferred that he was a bit older before we dealt with this part of his story? Sure," she says. "But in the long run, his understanding of this fundamental part of his adoption story has helped us form a bond."

    With many people adopting across cultures, additional pressures arise because the physical differences make a "conspicuous family", she says. "Because of that, you have to prepare yourself, I think, if you want your kids not to be traumatised one day by the person who comes up and ask a question that is a completely uneducated question."

    French teacher Celine Bonnel finds being able to share such knowledge helpful. She joined AFHK in search of information and real-life experiences when she and her husband Herve, an environmental consultant, were about to adopt their first child in 2007. The Bonnels now have two children - Lea, 5 ½, and Teo, 3 ½ - and maintain an open, ongoing conversation with them about their adoption.

    "My husband and I have told both our kids how they were adopted from the day we took them home, adding more details as time goes on and as they ask questions," says Bonnel, who teaches French part time. "We introduced the words 'adoption' and 'adopted' very early on so they could actually say the words just like any other word, it's part of their vocabulary. We read them children's books about adoption in French and English. From the time they were very young babies, we've shown them pictures of the first day we met them, and the video of when they came home after they said goodbye to their respective foster families. And they still ask regularly to watch those videos and see the pictures."

    Having benefited from others' hard-earned wisdom, the only way to give back is to volunteer her time, says Bonnel, who now serves as AFHK chair for membership.

    One of the toughest issues for adoptive parents is when adopted children begin to search for their birth parents - tracing their roots, and it's one many families dread.

    "The fear - the almost primal fear - of an adoptive parent is that the child at some point might reject them and return to their biological parents, which is a fantasy," says Weight.

    While Weight has no such anxieties, especially now that her daughters are older, she wasn't nearly so confident before meeting her elder daughter, Alice, for the first time. She had previously been cared for by a foster family and "I was really scared that at five months old, she would take a look at this strange gweilo and burst into tears", Weight recalls. Instead, Alice fell asleep in her arms during the long drive back to their hotel; the tears came when she woke up later.

    "She cried for hours," Weight recalls. "She must have realised I did not have the same smell, sound, touch, and so on, of her foster mother. Eventually, after I paced up and down the hotel room for hours, trying to give her a bottle, she relaxed, took her first bottle from me, and fell asleep. I did not sleep a wink!"

    The fact is adoptees almost never reject their adoptive parents, Deitz Goldstein says. "The reason why you read stories about it is because it's so rare. Just because your kid wants to explore their roots and understand more about their background doesn't mean that you're going to lose them."

    But for Bonnel, rejection remains a niggling worry: her children are half-siblings and she reckons that makes it more likely they will search for their shared birth mother.

    "We do think about it; we hope that we are making everything as right as possible to avoid rejection," she says. "In our case, we pretty much know that at some point they will go through the root-tracing process ... being half-siblings, they are very, very close and they will motivate each other in that search. We will, of course, respect and support whichever actions they want to pursue when it is age appropriate."

    Adoptees often start to trace their roots when they're about to take a major life decision - such as marrying or having a baby - highly emotional times at which adult adoptees need extra help, says Deitz Goldstein. "Support is really valuable at this time," she says. "We want to help provide that and link people up with the sort of therapy and help that can take them on the journey with them. You don't know what you'll find if you knock on that door."

    That's not to say they believe adoptees should not retrace their past. "We're just saying prepare yourself and don't go it alone in trying to connect with biological family because it can be traumatic. It can be wonderful - you don't know."

    Well-meaning people sometimes attribute charitable motives to parents who adopt and regard their action as a kindness, Deitz Goldstein says, but it's the opposite.

    "So we try to say that we just wanted to be parents, and we're the lucky ones because these children are in our lives."

    familypost@scmp.comTo find out more about AFHK, go to afhk.org.hk

  • Sunday, October 21, 2012 11:00 | AFHK Committee (Administrator)

    Janette Pepall: An adoption pioneer, by Liana Cafolla


    Organising an array of thought-provoking seminars and workshops for counsellors, parents and their helpers, a new steering committee at Adoptive Families of Hong Kong has been breathing new life into the group.

    Australian consultant Janette Pepall was the keynote speaker at a series of talks last month. She pioneered the fostering and adoption of Hong Kong children with disabilities during the 1990s, and now provides training for people dealing with children at risk.

    A warm, motherly woman from Melbourne who has five adopted children from across Asia in addition to a birth child, Pepall speaks from personal as well as professional experience.

    While all parenting is difficult, she says, it can be even more so for parents of adopted children. "They might have lived in an institution or they've been moved around a lot [or] they haven't been cared for properly," she says. "So we've got to deal with the identity issues, the loss issues, their resiliency."

    Groups such as AFHK are important because they give adoptive parents an opportunity to share concerns with others in a similar situation who understand the issues and who do not judge.

    Pepall advises adoptive parents to tread a fine line between sharing the fact of their child's adoption with others, and protecting the child's privacy, especially while they are at school.

    "They're going to get questions, they're going to be teased, even if they look similar," says Pepall. In the case of her adopted children, who now range from 31 to 41, she used a combination of humour and firmness and practised role-plays to prepare her children for what they were likely to face.

    "Children will often say, 'where are your real parents? How come they gave you up? Where are they? You must have been a bad baby'," she says. "Children can become very defensive and feel very upset about that, but [you can] empower the child, around [the age of] seven or eight, to choose a response. You can choose to ignore it - you can teach a child that it's OK, you can just walk away. You can respond with humour. You can say, 'thank you, but it's none of your business'. For us, that's usually what our children said. We taught them that their history is their private business."

    For parents with children from another culture, helping them connect with their birth culture can help build confidence.

    "Encouraging the child to be proud of their heritage is vital," she says. "It's part of their self-esteem - the identification of self.

    "For instance, for our children, we had videos, we had books, we belonged to the Sri Lanka society, the Vietnamese society, the Chinese society. We went to special events, they wore national costume, I learned how to cook their food. That builds their self-esteem, that makes them proud of their heritage.

    "Here, I would advise the same thing. If they're Chinese, they need to be aware of the culture. And how wonderful if they can learn to speak Mandarin or Cantonese. I think it's part of their identity. We need to value that and encourage it."

    For more information about Pepall's work, go to janettepepall.com

  • Thursday, September 20, 2012 13:30 | Ember Goldstein
    Click here to listen to RTHK Radio 3's broadcast of an interview on "Education and Its Joys and Challenges" with AFHK keynote speaker Janette Pepall and AFHK Steering Committee member Louise Garnaut.

    N.B. Those using Apple computers may need to install either RealPlayer or Flip4Mac (to play using Windows Media).
  • Monday, August 06, 2012 14:14 | Ember Goldstein

    Dear Members and Friends,

    Welcome back!  I hope you and your families had some restful and happy times over the summer wherever you were.  This year AFHK are beginning the Autumn season with a bang!

    On Wednesday, the 19thof September (just 4 weeks away), we will welcome Australian social worker, adoptive parent of 6, and educator Janette Pepall to Hong Kong for a special series of events.

    That evening, Janette will give the keynote address, "'Yes, They Are All Ours!': Reflections on a Parenting Journey including Birth, Fostering and Adoption”, at our Annual Dinner. Tickets are available here  and the Early Bird price has been extended until 31stAugust!

    Meanwhile, the series will have already begun that morning, with a Case Consultation Workshop for Professionals involved with adoption and fostering, led by Janette and supported by Erica Liu Wollin, Ph.D., our in-house psychologist and adoptive parent.

    On Thursday morning, Janette and Erica will present AFHK's first-ever Domestic Helpers Training on Adoption Sensitivity, along with a post-training debriefing/bag-lunch for Employers on Friday midday.

    Just a note on the Helper training: We have been asked many times over by our members to provide this kind of workshop, so we are thrilled now to offer it with Janette, who has trained childcare providers working in orphanages and foster homes all over the world. Don't miss this opportunity.  The training will arm your helper with positive adoption language to cope with curious, intrusive questions about your children.  It will also provide vital, basic information about adoption and about attachment.  We also strongly recommend that you attend the de-briefing on Friday so you can assist your helper to use and reinforce the skills we will teach them.

    Finally, on Thursday evening, Janette will lead a special Parent Support Meeting entitled – “Education and its Joys and Challenges for Children of Adoption.

    Early Bird pricing for ALL EVENTS IN THE SERIES has been extended until 31stAugust, so please click here for more information and to purchase your tickets.

    I especially want to thank all our volunteers who have worked so hard over the summer organizing these events, improving the Web site, answering enquiries etc.  Also a heartfelt thank you for all your generous donations which have enabled us to bring these events to you this Autumn.

    We always need help, so please consider AFHK when looking for something interesting and fulfilling to do with your free time.  You can help at a single event, by offering your IT or marketing skills or even join our Steering Committee. Many hands make light(er) work! So please do come and create a caring, fun and informative organization.

    Next year we will be celebrating our 20thAnniversary, so watch this space!

    Looking forward to seeing you all at some of the events in September.

    Mina Weight
    Chair and External Relations

  • Sunday, August 05, 2012 12:00 | AFHK Committee (Administrator)

    Wonderful way to form a family

    On behalf of Adoptive Families of Hong Kong, I would like to commend Elaine Yau on the positive and encouraging article in Family Post on adoption in Hong Kong ('The chosen few', July 22).

    Couples who are beginning their adoption journey and families who have already adopted may like to know that our volunteer-run charity (www.afhk.org. hk), which was established nearly 20 years ago in Hong Kong, is here to provide them with support, encouragement, information and social activities for all the family.

    Adoption is a wonderful way to form a family and empirical studies have shown overwhelmingly that it is a great success.

    Of course, bringing up children is never easy, and with adopted children sometimes there are unique challenges to overcome.

    For members we hold monthly parent support meetings in which we discuss everything from behavioural issues to roots tracing.

    These are organised and supported by a professional psychologist and social worker who are also adoptive parents.

    Next month we are organising a series of workshops led by our Australian guest speaker, social worker and adoptive parent, Janette Pepall.

    Several of these workshops will be on how to talk about adoption with your child, family, helper, friends and the wider public.

    Like any other family we all want to have fun together.

    Throughout the year we plan a range of social activities for all age groups, including our annual summer picnic on Victoria Peak, festive party with Santa, book club, teen events, dinners and other casual get-togethers for members of our community, which includes families waiting to be matched with a child, two- parent and single-parent families, and adult adoptees.

    We hope that more couples will consider adoption as a way of building their family and that families living in Hong Kong who have already adopted will consider joining the vibrant and diverse adoption community that makes up our organisation.

    Mina Weight, chair and external relations, Adoptive Families of Hong Kong

  • Sunday, July 22, 2012 12:00 | AFHK Committee (Administrator)

    The chosen few, by Elaine Yau

    When Connie Wat Hong-ying and her husband Philip Cheng told their families six years ago that they wanted to adopt, her parents and in-laws baulked. Both sides wanted the couple to have children who would maintain the family bloodline.

    'I was just 30 then, and they said I should try to conceive for longer,' Wat says. 'We kept explaining that we really wanted to be parents, and adopting a baby could make our wish come true.'

    Wat and her husband had been advised to seek fertility treatment but both had ethical concerns, and went ahead with their plan.

    For all the doubts expressed about adopting, the family elders' objections quickly faded when Wat brought home a 14-month-old baby named Abby in 2007.

    'They fell in love with her at first sight. They are the ones who spoil her the most now,' says Wat.

    A new member joined their family three years ago when Wat finally conceived and gave birth to a girl named Elly. 'I am glad Abby has a companion. They play with each other all the time now.'

    Figures from the Council on Human Reproductive Technology show that the number of fertility treatments in Hong Kong nearly doubled from 4,693 in 2009 to 7,749 in 2010 (including donor insemination, artificial insemination by husbands and other reproductive technology procedures).

    Although the figures on fertility treatments do not directly correlate to the number of people seeking treatment (one person may try several times, using different methods), the sharp rise suggests there is a significant pool of people eager to have children.

    Yet the increase in local adoptions is low by comparison: there were 96 cases last year, compared with 83 in 2008.

    Wat, the supervisor of adoption services with Mother's Choice charity, says the slow rate of adoption shows most Hong Kong people cling to traditional concepts of having biological offspring.

    'They think a child with their own blood is better than one without,' she says.

    Adopting is a big step, of course. 'Parents must be 100 per cent certain that they are ready for adoption and not have any doubts about raising a child with no blood links,' Wat says.

    Few were better prepared for adoption than Wat, who had worked in adoption services for five years before she was introduced to Abby.

    'Adoption is a lifelong commitment. It's more than simply bringing a child home. The child comes with a past that parents and child have to live with for the rest of their lives,' she says.

    'Many adoptive children, especially the older ones, lack a sense of security. Some of them might have switched abodes and foster parents a couple of times before they finally got adopted.

    'Even those who are adopted straight from the institution can lack trust in people. The carers cannot fulfil all the babies' needs, and their craving for physical touch is sometimes not satisfied.'

    That's why organisations providing adoption services, such as International Social Service and Mother's Choice, encourage adoptive parents to go out of their way to help their children shake off the sense of alienation that comes with abandonment.

    Abby's response was typical. Although just over a year old at the time, she was visibly anxious and stressed when she first came to live with Wat and her husband.

    'She lived in a foster home for a year before meeting us and clung to her foster mother [at the introductory session],' Wat says. 'She became frightened that her foster mother was no longer around. She refused to eat and would cry whenever I put her down. It took three months for her to like us.'

    All adoptions by local families were conducted through the Social Welfare Department until 2010. Then the government authorised three organisations - Po Leung Kuk, International Social Service and Mother's Choice, which previously only handled overseas adoptions - to vet applications and match children with prospective parents.

    The process can take between a few months to several years. All applicants must pass rigorous vetting to ensure the child can enjoy a decent standard of living in the adoptive family, says Anita Ng Yuen-han, ISS' director in Hong Kong.

    For instance, couples must have been married for at least three years.

    'Their marriage must be stable and the parents must earn decent salaries,' says Ng. 'Adoptive parents come from all walks of life. Some young couples turn to us after they fail to conceive a baby through artificial insemination. Others have concentrated on career achievements and by the time they want to have children, they have missed [their chance].'

    Applicants may specify the age range and gender of the child, but other than that, they do not have a say over who they adopt, Ng says.

    'We don't want any child to face any rejection,' she says. 'But we make sure prospective parents get all the information about the child - [the agency would spell out any medical problems so the applicants can make an informed decision, for example] - and accept it before we arrange for them to meet.

    'But those who consider adoption are always kind people. They always fall in love with the children at the first meeting.'

    Wat says all adoptees have a portfolio about their origins that enables them to learn about their past when they grow up.

    'The portfolio constructs the whole story of why the child is here, with pictures of his place of birth, how he wound up in an institution or foster family, his favourite nurse in the institution and so on,' she says. 'It also records all the milestones in his life, like the day he first met his adoptive parents right up until the day he leaves the institution. Everyone should know about their origin, as it forms a part of their identity.'

    With adoptions from abroad, agencies such as ISS, which has organised inter-country adoption for 50 years, require prospective parents to undergo training before the process can proceed.

    'Parents should exercise extra patience with children who might suffer from developmental delay because of institutionalisation after birth. Living for a long time in a group with strict schedules also makes it difficult for them to adapt to home life,' says Ng.

    'One of the important parts of training is teaching parents how to tell the children that they were adopted. They must tell them as soon as possible. If they are told by a third party, instead of their adoptive parents, or find out after they grow up, the news will come as a shock.'

    With Abby, Wat has taken a matter of fact approach. She made it clear early on that she was adopted and her daughter took the news in her stride. 'Everybody, including our friends and relatives, knows about the adoption, so they no longer see it as an issue. It's just the story of where she came from. We have a picture of her biological parents, which Abby treasures.

    'She tells me she sometimes misses them, and I've promised that we will try to find them later. I wrote a letter to her biological parents through the Social Welfare Department, but they no longer live at the correspondence address. I told her that to prepare her for never seeing them again.'

    Anyone wishing to reunite with their biological parents or children after they grow up must get the consent of the other party before they get into contact.

    Jacob Weisman, 19, who was adopted by an American couple from an orphanage in Mong Kok when he was two months old, is curious about his origins.

    Now in Hong Kong on an internship with an entertainment website, the Berkeley economics and law student is glad to be able to return to his birthplace.

    'I thought about looking for my biological mother. I don't know her, but it's part of my history. It will be interesting to know what happens with her,' he says.

    Weisman had asked his adoptive parents about what led to his adoption and doesn't blame his biological mother for deciding to give him up.

    'She was really young then,' he says. 'She and her boyfriend were not ready for marriage and the boyfriend's family did not want to have a kid unless they were married. She knew she couldn't take care of a baby by herself, so she put me up for adoption. In her situation, it was possibly the best option for her.'

    In any case, his adoption not only led to a new life in the US, it gave him three siblings. One of them, Caitlin, came from the same orphanage. Also on an internship in Hong Kong, 22-year-old Caitlin was adopted when she was just three months old.

    'Although we were too young to remember anything then, we know we always knew each other. We are not biologically related, but seem to look more and more similar as we grow up,' Jacob says.

    Caitlin and Jacob studied at the Chinese International School and lived in Hong Kong until 2006, when the entire Weisman family moved back to the US. Their mother, a social worker, gave birth to a daughter and son after adoption.

    An architecture student at the Rhode Island School of Design, Caitlin says she loves having a big family. 'We play basketball and cards. We get enough people to have two teams, one of boys and the other of girls. My younger brother and sister have red hair but they think they are Chinese because of us.'

    Jacob says because he and Caitlin are about the same age, they are close to each other.

    'It's not because we are adopted. My elder sister takes care of me. We didn't really talk when we were younger. But as we grow older, we talk about everything - like love troubles and studies.

    'She lives on the east coast and I live on the west coast [of the US], but we see each other all the time during the holidays,' Jacob says.

    'The way we see [our adoptive parents] is not that we are grateful to them because they take care of us. We just see them as our parents. They treat us the same [as their biological children].'

  • Thursday, May 24, 2012 13:30 | Ember Goldstein
    Click here to listen to the interview with Crystal Kwok of RTHK Radios 3's Kwok Talk as Ember, Alia and Amy discuss issues facing adoptees, adoptive families, prospective adoptive parents and children in need of forever families in Hong Kong.

    N.B. Apple computer users may need to install Flip4Mac to listen via Windows Media Player or install RealPlayer to stream RTHK radio broadcasts to Apple computers.



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