Kinship is relative at adoption event

Families: American adoptees and their parents gather to celebrate their lands of origin.

November 05, 2001|By Donna W. Payne | Donna W. Payne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Americans from China, Vietnam, Korea, the Philippines, Russia, Romania and the United States met in Elkridge yesterday to celebrate their cultural heritages.

Some of the delegates wore diapers.

Foreign-born adopted children of all ages and their adopted families gathered at St. Augustine Church for an afternoon of multicultural crafts, games, foods and socializing.

"November is National Adoption Month, so we try and have a celebration every year around this time," said Ellen Warnock, associate administrator of Catholic Charities' Center for Family Services, which sponsored the event.

Sandy Reusing of Pasadena, one of the event organizers, said that the adoption celebration "gives the children a chance to bond with each other and to understand a little bit more about adoption and to give them a little bit more knowledge about their countries."

The multicultural afternoon featured a lunch of Chinese food, games for the children and ethnic items on display and for sale. A "Maria Clara Barbie" in Filipino dress was available for purchase, and five little girls in grass skirts and flowered necklaces entertained the gathering with Filipino dances.

At the activities tables, the children decorated pictures with chopstick frames, learned to play an ancient Asian board game or solved word search puzzles that contained the names of their countries of origin.

For dessert, two large pink and blue cakes carried an icing message: "Celebrate National Adoption Month."

Foster mothers from Korea, Keum-Ok Kim and Hae-Soon Shin, also attended as honored guests. Each has cared for about 90 orphan children in Korea during the past 18 years. The children lived in their homes from a few months to several years until they were adopted.

Soo-Yeon Lee, child care chief from the Holt adoption agency in Korea, interpreted for the foster mothers, who are called umma - Korean for mommy. "When a baby leaves for adoption, they feel empty so much," Lee said.

Holt arranged the trip for the foster mothers, Lee said, to "show them that the children who grew up [in the United States] are very happy."

While here, Kim and Shin have reunited with five of their foster children. Shin smiled as she recalled an emotional reunion with a boy who had lived with her for two years. She remembered how much he liked the seaweed-wrapped treats that she used to fix him.

The ummas said that they were very glad that the children had found so much love in their American families.

Paola Manna-Robb and Bryan Robb of Ellicott City attended with their 6-year-old birth daughter Lilli, and newly adopted baby daughter Sara Yun. Sara is from Korea. Manna-Robb said she wants to give her daughter a link with her Korean culture.

Manna-Robb, a native of Italy, said she remembers looking for Italian faces when she first arrived in this country. She plans to teach her daughter to speak Italian but wants to help her know about Korea and meet people who look like her.

"It's important to know where you come from," Manna-Robb said.

Warnock said that most foreign adoptions in the United States are from "Asia, Latin America and the former Soviet bloc," and that an "umbrella of situations" converge to allow the adoption of orphaned or abandoned children from these countries and not others.

"Most Asian countries have no tradition of adoption except for adopting relatives," she said. In other countries, economic rather than cultural pressures play a role. Warnock said that the Philippines has a history of adoption but that with its current high unemployment rate, "too many kids" need homes "due to poverty or family breakdown."

"Tons of countries have a lot of refugee kids," Warnock added, but they cannot be adopted here. Sometimes a country has a hostile relationship with the United States and will not allow American adoptions.

In other cases, a country cannot supply the records that U.S. immigration law requires. Because of war and famines in African countries, records rarely are available to document that a child is an orphan.

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