An Adoptive Parent Writes:
I am the mother of two teenagers, 17 and 16, adopted as infants from Peru. We live in Vermont, arguably the least diverse state in the USA. When the kids were young children, we went to quite a few events and meetings of groups of parents of South American and Central American adoptees. We got a very strong message from both children that this was of no interest to them. They both seemed to want to fit into the local culture of kids, to be more the same than different. Since it seemed like the “ethnic events” benefitted us more than them, and they’d rather stay home, we stopped going.
Fast forward 10 or so years. My daughter, almost 16 now, has been unhappy for several years. It has finally surfaced that she feels separated from her culture of origin, bereft of a real culture, and is quite angry at us for not doing more. While she is a day student at a private school with more diversity than the local schools and far more racial tolerance than most public schools, there are few Latino students there either.
We can’t go back and do it over, but there must be something we can do now; not to repair the damage but to support her and try to help her feel less alone and apart. I would particularly like to find a way for her to be more in touch with her heritage.
Your website is a fantastic find. It was listed right at the top when I did a Google Search on “white parents children of color.” Thanks so much for the fabulous resources.
John Raible Answers:
It makes sense to me that adopted children would not be very interested in attending meetings that are mainly for parents. Even if the topic is “about” their culture of origin.
On the other hand, it also makes sense that your children would want to find a space where they would fit in. Now that they are older, and identity issues are becoming increasingly important to them, it is time to find appropriate cultural events for them to participate in, even if it means that you let them go on their own. I suggest looking for campus groups for Latino as well as Native students. As you know, many Peruvians identify more strongly with Native groups and causes than with Latino or Hispanic culture.You may find that student groups on local college campuses are doing interesting programing that could appeal to your kids. I would let your kids take the lead and decide which activities they feel comfortable attending. They may feel they have more in common with those in a group for international students than with other Peruvians, for instance.
Another idea is to plan a trip to Peru. It is not unheard of for adoptive families to travel back to their children’s country of origin as a family. I would be sure to bring not only passports but also birth certificates and adoption papers, just in case there are any questions about your family going through Customs.
There may be a language school in Lima that caters to North Americans who want to learn Spanish. I know of some in other Latin American countries, so I’d bet that some internet searches would turn up one in Peru. Taking a language course could be a great opportunity for a young adult to do on their own, say, for four weeks in the summer.