• Richard Tannenbaum

    Families

    When An Adopted Child Won’t Attach

    In her new memoir, Tina Traster chronicles adopting a Russian child whose mercurial mood swings turned out to be a common problem among orphans from the Far East.

    We are driving down the New Jersey Turnpike on a raw Sunday morning in March. Julia is snuggled in her car seat asleep, her chest rising and falling gently. Her papery eyelids flutter. Finally, some peace for her. For me. For Ricky.

    When Julia’s awake, she’s a constant symphony of sound. Not words, of course, but an ongoing emission of verbal fragments. Her mouth is always open. She is never pensive. She doesn’t lounge with a faraway look in her eye. Transitioning from motion to stillness requires relinquishing control, but to do so, Julia would need to fundamentally believe the world is a safe place. Something in her wiring has taught her that relaxing her defenses is dangerous. When I’m in a high state of anxiety, I fear sleep, too. Staying awake tricks me into believing I can ward off danger or control the outcome of whatever is plaguing me simply by turning the issues over in my mind a thousand times. It’s a fallacy, but that’s how you think when you believe you are alone, that the world is a quickly shifting, unreliable place where bad things happen. I know how I got there, but why does my baby behave like that?

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  • Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

    Adoption

    The Woody Allen Adoption Question

    Do abuse accusations affect adoptions? Only if investigators know about them—and thanks to state laws that differ widely, they might not.

    Barbara Walters sparked a controversy of her own this week when she decided to take sides in the increasingly explosive controversy surrounding Dylan Farrow’s allegations that her filmmaker father, Woody Allen, molested her. On Tuesday’s episode of The View, Walters said, “I have rarely seen a father as sensitive, as loving and as caring as Woody is—and Soon-Yi—to these two girls. I don’t know about Dylan. I can only tell you what I have seen now.”

    But Walters may have unintentionally raised more questions about Allen’s parental qualifications. After all, Allen’s two daughters with Soon-Yi are adopted, just like Soon-Yi had been before her relationship with Allen began, and just like Dylan Farrow, the daughter who, as an adult, maintains he molested her. Though the allegations against Allen have never been resolved in a court of law and the Oscar-winning director has strongly denied them, it does raise a number of serious questions. Perhaps chief among them: Is it odd that someone accused of molesting one girl was able to adopt two others?

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    Courtesy of the Noone family

    Living history

    Vietnam Babylift Orphans Reunite

    Participants in Gerald Ford’s famous 1975 evacuation have found each other on Facebook and are set to reunite this summer.

    It may have been 38 years ago, but Col. Dennis “Bud” Traynor says April 4, 1975, is seared into his memory. Despite the traumatic details, he talks of the day matter of factly. He was 31 years old at the time, an Air Force captain passing through the Philippines. The war in nearby Vietnam was growing more dire daily when President Gerald Ford ordered the evacuation of orphaned and surrendered babies from the besieged, divided country. And that morning when he was called to duty, Traynor was, as he says, “just the next pilot in the pinball machine.” His would be the first of 30 flights of Operation Babylift, as it came to be called, that were ordered between April 4 and April 16. Two weeks later, North Vietnamese forces conquered Saigon. But his Lockheed C-5A Galaxy didn’t have the smooth ride that Traynor had planned.

    In Saigon, he packed the plane, the world’s biggest model at the time, with evacuees. The littlest ones were belted in upstairs, a few to a seat, with a pillow and milk or juice. But shortly after takeoff, the rear doors blew out, two hydraulic systems went down, and the captain was forced to crash-land the aircraft in a nearby rice paddy. Traynor crawled to the ground from the pilot window to help pull the injured from the wreckage. Within four minutes, emergency rescuers had arrived at the scene to gather the 176 survivors, but another 138 children and adults died in the crash. The younger ones, as it would turn out, constituted most of the survivors, as the older kids had been assigned to the lower level, which was mostly destroyed.

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  • PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI: Orphaned children lay on mattresses inside a delivery truck at the Maison des Enfants De Dieu orphanage on January 20, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Many countries including the United States have fast-tracked adoptions in the aftermath of the powerful earthquake. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

    Parenting

    Marching On Washington For Easier Adoptions

    U.S. parents will press lawmakers to clean up the labyrinthine process for international adoptions.

    I remember August 2002 vividly. My husband and I spent a grueling month assembling a fat dossier because we wanted to adopt a baby from Russia. Gathering documents, getting referrals, being finger-printed—it all seemed endless then. In November 2002, we had our referral and in January 2003, we took our first trip to Siberia to meet our 8-month-old baby. Three weeks later, we returned to Siberia to take her home to New York.

    The process took six months. Six months!! It happened so fast, it was overwhelming. A decade later, I realize how lucky my husband, Ricky, and I were, because today international adoption is a bog. In fact, international adoptions fell from 22,991 to 9,319 between 2004 and 2011, a 60 percent drop.

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  • Cyndi Lane and her mother Audrey Gilligan pose for a family photo. Lane, who was put up for adoption as a baby, decided to search for her birth mother in her 30s. After 8 years on dead ends, Lane found Gilligan after two days after making a facebook group. They were reunited after 44 years apart in mid-April.

    Mother and Child Reunion

    Reunited by Facebook

    After 44 years apart and a desperate search, mother and daughter find each other again via Facebook.

    Once, Cyndi Lane had parents and cousins and aunts and uncles, and then she had none. Eight years ago, a cousin came to visit with Lane’s newborn son, and the two had an emotional heart-to-heart. “I need to tell you something that’s going to change the rest of your life,” the cousin suddenly blurted out. It was what Lane had always subconsciously known: she had been adopted. For decades, her dark-haired Italian family refused to admit to their suspiciously blonde-haired, blue-eyed daughter that she wasn’t their biological child, even though the whole family knew otherwise. When Lane confronted them—and announced that she wanted to search for her birth parents—her adoptive family became upset. They haven’t spoken with Lane much since the blowout.

    Meanwhile, the revelation launched Lane—now 44 and an insurance adjuster—on a seemingly impossible search for her birth mother, a woman she knew only by her “non-identifying information”: hairdresser, 37 years old at the time of her birth, four previous kids, C-section patient. For eight years, Lane hired multiple private investigators, poured through microfilm hospital records, and filed requests of New York’s state adoption agencies. “It was one dead end after another,” she says. Despite this, the search consumed her, and she pressed on. “I just couldn’t stop. I thought about it every day of my life.”

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  • Chad Hunt

    Parenting

    An Adoption Close Call

    World-famous ‘orphan doctor’ Dr. Jane Aronson on how a New Yorker article almost ruined her plans to adopt a child from Vietnam.

    Before we met Ben, there was a hitch in our adoption plans, something that explains part of the eagerness with which I ran into the orphanage that day when we were finally able to travel to Vietnam to bring him home. In July of 2000, five weeks before we were scheduled to travel, an article about international adoption, “The Orphan Ranger,” written by Melissa Fay Greene (who graciously contributed the essay “The Science of Happiness” in this book), appeared in The New Yorker. I knew the gist of what Melissa would write, based on her many interviews with me over the course of the prior year. Wishing not to appear academic, scientific, and one-dimensional, I had phoned her one day to say that I wanted to be open about my sexuality in the article. I was tired of being a doctor without a real life. With impending parenthood, I wanted to be as open and honest with readers of the magazine as I planned to be with my child.

    I received a call from the social worker from my adoption agency in late July. My dossier to Vietnam was being held in D.C. by the Vietnamese consul. They were questioning something in the application. The social worker was evasive. She then got to the point of her call. “You know that article in The New Yorker? Well, it might have been better if you had talked to us beforehand.” I could hear the disapproval in her voice. In this moment, I had the terrible realization that something bad could happen in our adoption process and that we might not get Ben. I heard the social worker say, “We will respond to the inquiry about your dossier and get back to you.” She said that they needed a character letter or something like that. I never found out who they contacted or what this person ultimately said or wrote on my behalf, but about 10 days later I was cleared and we set off in August to get our son.

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  • Chris Pizzello

    Learning To Surrender

    How Adoption Changed Me

    Shonda Rhimes, the creator of ‘Grey's Anatomy’ and ‘Private Practice,’ on how adopting two babies taught her to let go and just love.

    I am sitting in a parking garage inside a rental car in Detroit, Michigan. The car is not moving, but my hands are gripping the wheel like I’m in a high-speed chase. Mary J. Blige is singing “No More Drama” on the radio, and from now on, whenever anyone mentions Detroit, this song will pop into my head. It is June 2002. At this moment, four floors away, inside an operating room, my daughter is being born.

    I am sitting in my car in Los Angeles, California. My mind is racing, the car sits running but still stuck in rush-hour traffic. Frank Sinatra is singing on the radio, but I don’t notice because I am too busy shouting questions into my cellphone. It is February 2012. At this moment, two states away, my daughter is being born.

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  • A woman walks with orphans on March 19, 2013 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Sean Gallup/Getty)

    Babies for Sale

    The Fake-Orphan Racket

    Kathryn Joyce uncovers how conservative Christians have come to dominate the international adoption circuit—and its dark underbelly.

    In 2009, a van from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, carrying seven young children and babies, was stopped as it drove outside the rural, central Ethiopian town of Shashemene. The children in the van were wards of Better Future Adoption Services (BFAS), a U.S. adoption agency, and had been declared abandoned—their families unknown—in the capital city of Addis Ababa. Police outside Shashemene arrested seven adults riding in the van, including five BFAS employees. The staff, it appeared to some, had sought to process children who had living family as though they had been abandoned in another region of the country, so that their adoptions to the U.S. could proceed more quickly.

    At the time, Ethiopia was in the midst of a dramatic international adoption boom, with the number of adoptions to U.S. parents rising from a few hundred per year in 2004 to more than 2,000 five years later, and around 4,000 worldwide.The boom had brought substantial revenue into the country, as agencies and adoptive parents supported newly-established orphanages that became an attractive child care option for poor families; some agencies paid fees to “child finders” locating adoptable children; and the influx of Western adoption tourism brought money that trickled down to hotels, restaurants, taxi-drivers and other service industries.

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  • Children sitting on potties in an orphanage for HIV positive kids in Moscow, June 13, 2006. According to official figures published today the HIV epidemic continued to progress in Russia in 2011. (Maxim Marmur/AFP/Getty)

    Russia's Adoption Ban

    "These Children Arrive In Our Arms With Emotional Issues."

    One mother speaks out about the challenges of adopting a Russian orphan—and why Putin's ban must end.

    A few weeks ago, Olga Loginova, a filmmaker for Radio Free Europe, spent the day with my family at our home in upstate New York documenting our “ordinary” moments. She was working on a six-minute documentary that she said was urgent. She wanted to show the world, and particularly people back home in Russia, that there are “successful Russian adoptions.”

    The issue of Russian orphans—and whether American adoptive families are successfully parenting them—has become a flashpoint in a complicated political struggle. It began when the U.S. government passed The Magnitsky Act, which took aim at Russia’s handling of human rights cases. The conflict escalated after Russia retaliated by shutting down adoptions to Americans after more than two decades. The Russian propagandists are using a small number of notorious cases gone bad to vilify American adoptive parents as a group, and to perpetuate the notion that Americans are monsters.

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