Book Review: The Red Thread by Ann Hood

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Although I hoped to enjoy the story line of this book, I ended up being very disappointed. For your reference, you can read more reviews and information about the book here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7020981-the-red-thread

The storyline is best summarized as:
“In China there is a belief that people who are destined to be together are connected by an invisible red thread. After losing her infant daughter in a freak accident, Maya Lange opens The Red Thread, an adoption agency that specializes in placing baby girls from China with American families. Maya finds some comfort in her work, until a group of six couples share their personal stories of their desire for a child. Their painful and courageous journey toward adoption forces her to confront the lost daughter of her past. Brilliantly braiding together the stories of Chinese birth mothers who give up their daughters, Ann Hood writes a moving and beautifully told novel of fate and the red thread that binds these characters’ lives. Heartrending and wise, The Red Thread is a stirring portrait of unforgettable love and yearning for a baby.”

My Review:
Obviously, I work in the adoption field and fear that readers get a very wrong idea about what it’s like to pursue an international adoption.

The points I would like to make about this book are:

~families are never perfect and social workers shouldn’t expect them to be, but they MUST be stable to adopt. Amongst the dynamics of the prospective adoptive families, there was adultery, substance abuse, partners who were only doing it to please their wives, unresolved infertility, a mother that couldn’t accept a special needs daughter, a last minute pregnancy, unresolved grief and loss issues, etc. These are all issues that would have been massive red flags in the real adoptive world. An agency director having knowledge of these issues and encouraging applicants to move forward without addressing/resolving the issues fully – shouldn’t be working in the field at all.

~babies adopted internationally may appear “perfectly healthy” on record, but there is no assurance that there will not be any challenges going forward. Grief and loss issues (to varying extremes) are an absolute, and this wasn’t mentioned a single time in the book. There is certainly full disclosure on known medical history, etc. but since an abandoned child’s family history is almost entirely unknown – the child’s future should be accepted as holding unknowns as well. Stable families open to adopting internationally should have been better educated on the possibilities, rather than being repeatedly assured that the babies were “healthy!, perfect!, adorable!,” etc.

~Home studies are conducted on prospective families and the way the book describes the process really downplays the service. If any changes occur in a household – an updated home study is required. Education for the family is a huge component to the home study. And, if either of these facts were mentioned, the story line would have played out completely different (and perhaps been more enjoyable for readers like me).

~ Finally, at the end, the agency director moves forward in a manner that is a total conflict of interest. A director shouldn’t be using her own agency in this manner. She also would not be able to use an outdated home study to achieve her end goal. I could go on and on… but finding closure to unresolved grief issues over losing one child – by adopting another is also completely ridiculous.

I don’t want to entirely spoil the story for others… but, what occurred in this book would never be allowed in a true adoption scenario. This kind of story completely perpetuates the negative stigma attached to adoption. If you read this book, consider it to be a completely fictional tale.

Please also note: Many years ago, adoptions did evolve with less bureaucracy, monitoring, etc. However, this book was written in 2010. If you are a prospective adoptive family – please know that something is very very wrong if your adoption proceeds in a manner that resembles this story.

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Maintaining Your Child’s Chinese Culture: A Trip Opportunity

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All of us belong to an ethnic group by birth. For most of us, our belonging is part of our life experience. For transracially internationally Chinese adopted children, this may not be the case. Because the majority of adoptive parents in this population are Caucasian, much effort must be applied to maintaining an affiliation with the child’s culture of origin and ethnic identity.

Many families choose to join play groups, attend culture camps and access Chinese community events to encourage an ongoing connection with their child’s heritage.   Many families also celebrate country specific traditions and holidays within their homes. They also proudly display artifacts and mementos – and prepare dishes unique to the child’s homeland on a regular basis.  A large number of families also entertain the idea of future trips to revisit the child’s country of origin.

Chrysalis House, Inc. has recently learned of a Chinese Culture Trip opportunity and wishes to share the opportunity with our families:

POP’s Foundation and the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office (in Beijing) are pleased to invite your family to participate in our Summer 2013 China Culture Trip. This heritage tour is designed specifically for families who adopted from China and are interested in bringing their children (age 10+) back to visit the land of their birth. We will enjoy many tourist venues and cultural performances, but we will also have the special opportunity to visit schools, orphanages, a factory, and many more behind-the-scenes destinations. An official welcome by high level Chinese government officials and scheduled activities with local Chinese children will make this tour truly the trip of a lifetime!

This summer will be our 4th tour in China with families like yours, and our diverse itinerary showcases the wide variety of experiences that China has to offer. Highlights tentatively on our itinerary include:

·         Beijing: The Great Wall and Tiananmen Square

·         Tianjin: The Prince of Peace Children’s Home

·         Xian: The Terracotta Warriors

·         Yangshuo: Li River cruise

·         Guilin: Reed Flute Cave

·         Suzhou: Humble Administrator’s Garden

·         Shanghai: Shanghai Children’s Palace, Bund waterfront, and General Motors plant

TRIP DETAILS:
Tour dates: June 30th -July 13th, 2013 (14 days).
Cost: $1745 USD per person (age 12+), $1480 per child (age 10-12). Cost includes hotels, most meals, entrance fees, transportation for the duration of the tour (domestic flights, high speed rail, overnight train, and bus), and tour guide tips. It does not include international airfare/visa fees, insurance, or personal expenses. This trip is partially subsidized by the Chinese government and we promise you won’t be able to find a better deal anywhere else!
Short trip: For interested families, we are also able to offer a partial 9-day trip (June 30th – July 8th), visiting only Beijing, Tianjin, and Xian. Cost for the partial trip is $530 per person (age 12+) and $490 per child (age 10-12).
Application and payment deadline: Application package and payment must be received by March 29th, 2013. Please note that participation is limited and space may not be available through this date.
Questions? For application forms or questions, please contact Maisie at the POP’s Foundation office at POPCHeNewsletter@gmail.com or (510) 723-2425. We hope to hear from you soon!

Additional Contact Information:
POP’s Foundation
3536 Arden Road
Hayward, CA 94545
www.facebook.com/POPChinaCultureTrip

In closing, CHI would like to remind you that all children have different personalities, levels of maturity and emotional needs — so you, as parents, are the best people to decide if a culture trip may be suitable for your family/child.  Preparation will be key: Discussions should be held on a myriad of topics before traveling to minimize surprises proactively.  Talk about what to expect, potential challenges, whether the child would like to visit their orphanage and the place they were found (if abandoned). Conversations about hopes and fears can be integral to ensuring a positive experience for the entire family!

If you’re considering a culture trip for your family, this tip-sheet may be of use to you in deciding whether and when to go: http://testnuke.wiadopt.org/Portals/wiadopt/Tipsheets/Culture-Diversity/LandofBirth.pdf

**Please note that Chrysalis House, Inc. is not affiliated with POP’s Foundation and that this post shall not serve as an endorsement.  We seek to share resources with our families and do encourage you to research this opportunity fully, in the event you may be interested.