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The Quiet Revolution

A Garden Variety Family: Adopting from China

This week we have a Smart Woman Online interview. It's something I used to do on this blog every week, but I've gotten away from it. Perhaps this wonderful look at adopting from China will help get me back on track. Watch for more Smart Woman and Smart Men Online in the future.

Today we're talking with Karin Marlett-Choi. Karin helps out at WME Books on book covers and blogs. She's a talented young woman with a focus on the future. One focus of that future is the adoption of a child from China. Here she is - giving us the ins and outs...

Yvonne: You have a very nice blog called Garden Variety Family...that's focused on something specific. Tell us what the topic is and how you came up with the title.

Karin: The topic is 2-fold. First of all it is following the journey my husband I are taking to adopt our daughter from China. I have already blogged the paperwork phase of the experience now I follow it with the wait and and preparations to become first time parents adding to it the additional dimension of adoption.

The term “garden variety” means normal or everyday, nothing special. When I think about the words separately I wonder to myself how those 2 words came together to mean nothing special? Gardens to me are peaceful places that are about growth and diversity. All the different plants and flowers growing together are what make a garden.Variety is diversity something that I hold very dear. I took that contradiction as my title--while on a quest for an average family --my husband and I are already an transracial couple and we are looking to adopt a child from the other side of the world--not exactly average, huh?

In a perfect world I’d love our family to be viewed as normal but I also don’t want to be blind to our diversity but to celebrate our family just as other families are celebrated.

So, wrapped up in my title is the focus of the blog, to celebrate all kinds of families filled with the variety of a garden.

Yvonne: So, why blog the experience? What's in it for you? What's in it for me, the reader?

Karin: I would like to help rewire the responses people who are adopting sometimes get when they announce their happy news. As a society we learn appropriate responses for life events like sympathy for loss, congratulations for success and pregnancy... I want people to respond the same way to people who are adopting because it is something to celebrate and congratulate! I encourage questions, but reactions like: “Did you consider in-vitro?” or “Wow, that’s going to be expensive!” And, “Can’t you have any of your own?”-- just aren’t appropriate.

My blog is morphing to include celebrating adoption as well as challenging perceptions of traditional families, both of those who have adopted or plan to adopt and those who aren’t. I want to celebrate families that may not be viewed as “traditional.” After noticing that advertising and movies or television shows are really lacking in images of families who aren’t monoracial, I thought I would launch a project aimed at celebrating diverse families. A family is nothing more than a group of people who live together and love each other, right? People don’t have to look like each other to be a family. Gosh, we have pets who are considered part of the family and we share very few physical characteristics with them!

I am working on a project to celebrate families, I call it the Garden Variety Calendar. I am collecting images of diverse families to fill the months of the year.

I chose a calendar because it is the command center for lots of busy families. Seeing images of families that aren’t monoracial is essential for both monoracial families and families of diverse races. You rarely see that diversity represented in the media and if you don’t live in a very diverse area where are you going to see that? As a marketing guru yourself you know how much the things we see can form our opinions. If we see images of diverse families everyday then it will be treated as “family as usual.”

The goal is to sensitize both adults and children to the fact that it doesn’t matter if your parents are different races, if you are a different race than your parents, you have 2 moms or 2 dads, that you grandmother is your parent...it is about celebrating true family values--people who live together, love and nurture each other.

Yvonne: Is adopting a difficult process... share some of your experiences so far - and tell us how they made you feel as you were going through them.

Karin: It is a fairly straightforward process. I think it is actually easy but it is the steps, the scrutiny, the time that are hard. You definitely have to be good at reading comprehension!

The most difficult part is going through the approval process for USCIS (U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services). We have to get approval to bring a National of another country, into the U.S. to become a citizen. The hoops you have to jump through can seem silly. Each form we obtain, like one that outlines our financial status, has to be notarized, then the notary stamp must be certified by the county, then the state has to authenticate the county certificate after that the Chinese Consulate gets to authenticate the state. Of course everyone has to have money and the farther up the line you go the more expensive it gets!

A good agency will guide you through the process. Now that our paperwork is finished and in China, I think we are actually embarking on the most difficult part of the process, the WAIT! There are rumors that it could be close to 3 years before we meet our daughter! China is working to remedy the backlog of referrals for children. We just have to have faith that it is going to get better in the meantime we just have to just live our lives so that time goes by quicklyA_garden_variety_family_home!

Yvonne: This is pretty common, isn't it? I mean, everyone is doing it, right? Folks here in the U.S. are eager to adopt from overseas. Or, is that a misconception?

Karin: The rate of international adoptions is still below the rate of domestic adoptions in the United States. International adoption is more common than it was a few decades ago. The best statistic I have been able to find is that 1 person in 6 is touched by adoption.

I think the main attraction of international adoption is that you aren’t presenting yourself to be chosen by a birth family. Rather, your application is placed in a cue and you are matched with a child on a first come first serve basis. Also, with China adoption (as well as most other international adoption programs) as prospective parents you don’t “choose” your child. You know who your child is before you ever travel to meet them. I know people who have adopted abroad and were presented with several children to choose from to be their child. I personally, couldn’t make that kind of decision.

China’s program has been touted as very predictable and corruption free. I think that is attractive to a  lot of prospective parents. But again the wait--we didn’t predict that! As it is in life, an when people have children through birth you never know quite what to expect. We all have our challenges, right?

Yvonne: You and your husband must have had a lot of 'talks' about this before proceeding. What were your biggest worries? What worries you now?

Karin: One of the greatest things about our family plan is that we knew from before we were married that we would adopt. We knew that pregnancy would be difficult for us and decided that we were not going to seek invasive forms of having a family. Now, my main worry is starting my child-rearing years a little late and having the wait make it even later!

One thing I know is that starting with a toddler in a couple years is going to get me into shape. Thinking about that process scares me sometimes!

Join Karin in creating a wonderful new calendar celebrating a journey to create a family through adoption. 


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A very interesting conversation you had there with Karin. I admire her insights about life especially about family and I just hope her the best with regard to her long wait. I guess patience will be very much needed in this aspect, not to mention the adjustment when the child has already arrived. Good luck and thanks for sharing. Keep posting! :)

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