Have you thought about adopting a child of a different race or ethnicity? Are you up for the job? How can you be the best family for this child? Join us when we talk with Meggin Nam Holtz, a Licensed Master Social Worker, and a Korean adoptee. She has a private counseling practice specializing in adoption. She created an award-winning documentary film, Found in Korea, about birth search, country of origin travel, identity, and adoption.
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Dawn Davenport 0:00
Welcome to Creating a Family talk about foster adoptive and kinship care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am the host of this show, as well as the director of the nonprofit, creating a family.org. Today we're going to be talking about whether you should consider adopting a child of a different race or ethnicity. We'll be talking with Meggin Nam Holtz. She is a Licensed Master social worker and a Korean adoptee. She has been involved in adoption, advocacy, awareness and support for over a decade, she created an award winning documentary film found in Korea, about birth search, country of origin, travel identity and adoption. She has a private counseling practice specializing in adoption. Welcome, Nam to Creating a Family, we're so glad to have you.
Nam Holtz 0:45
Thanks so much, John, I'm very happy to be here.
Dawn Davenport 0:47
So I just want to start by saying we think in terms and over broadly, I think our over an hour, they really have transracial adoption, being white parents, adopting children of color, either a black children, or it could be that's what we predominantly think of, but it can also be white parents adopting Asian or Latin X kids, as well as Asian Latin X and black families adopting white children. So it is a broader concept I think that we think about, but I do think that in the United States, the predominant is white families adopting. So I just wanted to acknowledge because I don't want to exclude and make it seem as if that families of color don't also adopt transracial they because they do. But starting with a white parents. So if you are a white parent, are there different issues you need to consider depending on the race of the child, you are considering adopting?
Nam Holtz 1:45
I think that's a great question. And overall, the short answer is yes. In my opinion, I think there are some overarching topics that everyone should be considering when adopting a child of another race. But as you zoom in to the specifics of a race, yes, there are differences to consider. Absolutely.
Dawn Davenport 2:08
And, you know, sometimes we hear less perhaps now than in the past, but we'll hear families, when they're considering adopting, they'll say, Well, I would prefer to adopt if I'm going to do transracial adoption, I would prefer to adopt a biracial child, rather than a child who is all black are all Latinx. And that's an interesting thing. And it worries me some, so what are some issues that they should consider if that's how they're feeling?
Nam Holtz 2:36
It worries me as well, when I hear that, and I, and I'd like to pull apart why they think adopting a biracial child would be maybe easier for them. That's anger. And I and I really wonder if if they have done the research and understand the complexities of being a biracial person in this world today. And maybe they think that part of their identity as White would also relate to their identity as white parents, maybe that's what they're reflecting. But I truly believe that it is even more complex to have a biracial person in the in the fold, because it is more identities that need to be realized and recognized.
Dawn Davenport 3:24
But if one of the identities is white, let's assume it is a child that is a black and white, biracial, African American and white child, would the theory is for many parents who are thinking well, it would be we can always bring the the white, we are white, so we can bring that culture in. So it's that thinking, so what would you say to that?
Nam Holtz 3:47
I would say that experiencing the world as a biracial person is a liminal experience in itself. And there are less people that will understand that experience. And so it is even more difficult to find mentors and people who understand walking through the world as a biracial person than it is as maybe one single race. And I think that it is, it is a big mistake to think that because you have a white identity, that that will, and this is putting it bluntly, that that will help that child see their white identity because there are they aren't white. That's the reality is they are not they are not walking through the world
Dawn Davenport 4:35
as white, they are biracial. And that is an identity and unto itself and as you said, then if you're trying to help that child identify you're helping help them identify as biracial. And your options are, it's harder to find. Yeah, absolutely. You know, I also worry a little that, that parents think that so if we adopt a biracial child, they're Korean light Oh, or they're black light, or whatever they're not, they're not really black, they're not really Korean, or they're not really Chinese, are Hispanic, they're, they're only a little bit. And I think that's one of my main concerns is not understanding if this child's identity is going to be as a biracial person, or as a black person or as a Korean person,
Nam Holtz 5:23
right. And then when we really pull apart the concept of Korean light, or black light or anything light, we get into a little bit of racial bias. And we really start looking at why do we think that might be better?
Dawn Davenport 5:38
Or easier? I think it's probably easier is or maybe the subconscious is better. That's a valid right.
Nam Holtz 5:43
And then it also to me, points out the fact that there has not been a lot of racial work that has been done if you have that mindset.
Dawn Davenport 5:55
And so if you are considering adopting a child of a different race, that's the work that needs to go in before? Absolutely. Did you know that one of the resources creating a family provides is an interactive training support curriculum for foster adoptive and kinship families? This curriculum can be used for support groups, it can be used for training of adoptive foster or kinship families. It's a turnkey curriculum, we have a library of them, we have 23, currently 23 topics. Each topic comes with a video a facilitator guide handout, and additional resources. It also comes with our certificate of attendance, if you need CPE credit, it is a terrific resource, it is super easy to use. So if you have the need to train, or if you're running a support group, or if you belong to a support group, I would encourage you to check it out, go to creating a family.org. And it is under our training tab. You know, you mentioned at the beginning, when I asked about does it matter the race of the child? And you said the there are some overarching issues which we're going to talk about, but you said but they can do the specifics that differ as to the race of the child. What are some of the specifics that you can consider? And let's There are obviously many different races, but let's say black, let's say would you be comfortable saying Asian rather than breaking it down? Okay, so Asian, and then Latinx. So what are some of the things that the specific things that parents should consider, depending on the race, and I will throw out depending on where they live?
Nam Holtz 7:37
Huge questions. And you know, it's also going to depend on that child.
Dawn Davenport 7:42
Sure. Yeah, exactly. And the temperament and the personality and everything else, right?
Nam Holtz 7:46
Absolutely. It's going to depend on that chart. So you're going to put it be putting all these things together. I think you need to immerse yourself in that specific child's world, you need to understand what it will be like to walk through that child's life as that child. And so you would need to find a community find mentors, find people that can be in that child's world that will be specific to that race, maybe culture, but provide mirrors and mentors for that child. So you're going to have to look, and you brought up depending on where someone lives you might have to move might have to move to provide the best environment. And that's a big one. Sure. I think it's a really big question. If if you're looking at specifics of black kids. And what I've been hearing is, this is hard to say. But you need to have preparation to talk about dealing with law enforcement, the history specific to blacks in America. And this is going to go with every single race. And you're going to have to dive into each specific history of Asians in America, Latin X and America, you're going to have to go specifically into those things. And you can't when you start going in, you can't help but learn about other minority quote unquote, minority or global majority, whichever you want to call it.
Dawn Davenport 9:20
Yeah, I was just gonna say it's still only the minority. So we may be careful of that word.
Nam Holtz 9:25
Yes. Yes. I think that as you go down the path of learning about a specific race, use, you cannot help but learn about others, which is I think, great.
Dawn Davenport 9:37
Sure. For us and for our children. Yes, absolutely.
Nam Holtz 9:42
And like learning about the stereotypes, because you're going to need to learn how to how to handle microaggressions and be prepared for preparing the child to handle micro aggressions and they're all specific. They're all very specific.
Dawn Davenport 9:59
It is seems like maybe the foundation of what you said was at the very beginning that depending on where you live, you're going to need help. As a parent, you're going to need people of your child's race to teach you. And so you need to look at where you're at. And, and, and your own comfort level of immersing yourself in that environment. And in that culture, to help you decide whether, whether that's a good fit for you and your family to be the best parent for this child. It brings up an issue is there a difference between transracial and trans cultural adoption?
Nam Holtz 10:35
There absolutely is. And for a long time, the concept of trans racial encompassed is cultural, I think there's been a great shift into differentiating that trans racial, and trans cultural are things that people should be talking about in a different way. There are obviously some trans cultural adoptions that can be same race.
Dawn Davenport 11:03
I think that's people don't recognize that. But very, very often, when you are adopting a same race child, the birth family will be coming from a different culture. And that can throw especially with open adoptions can really throw families for for a loop. It sure can.
Nam Holtz 11:21
Sure can. So I think in, in recognizing that transracial, adoptions are literally a different race child joining a different race, family, and trans cultural or you're coming from another country, joining a different a different culture. And there are different considerations. There are language considerations, there are, you know, traditions last, but that you're not going to know unless you do the research. There are different foods and sounds. It's a it's a different, it's more dramatic, I think, to add that layer. And so I think it's great that people are talking about the fact that transcultural and transracial adoptions are not the same.
Dawn Davenport 12:10
So I guess our goal is parents primarily is to raise children that have healthy self identity as well as racial identity. How do those two differ?
Nam Holtz 12:21
I think they're intertwined. self identity and racial identity. self identity is the whole, the whole gestalt, the whole person, the whole, including racial identity, which can be a leading factor in identity, for sure. But it's not the only factor, right? It's definitely not the only factor. And, you know, allowing youth to express what they're most interested in discovering, at that point in their lives is the goal. Right? So sometimes, they'll be very interested in looking at their race, and sometimes they will not be Yeah, so leaving that door open, and making sure that it's okay, to talk about those things is the goal, I think,
Dawn Davenport 13:10
right, I have a friend who was dropping her daughter who was adopted from China off at a large university, and she made a point of driving by the Asian society, it was a group that, and she wanted her daughter to see it was there. And her daughter said, Mom, that's not my only identity. That's one part. But that's not I may want to join them. But I may not I may want to join the LGBTQ community, I may want to join at, there's so many things that I want to consider. But of course, as a typical 18 year old Felter mother was shoving it down. And the mom understood it, she goes, Yeah, I'm I get it that for me, this is I'm worrying about you. And I want to make sure that you are focusing on your racial identity is is a great opportunity for you to do that. But I also appreciate that you have many identities that you are working on, and you get to prioritize. So yeah.
Nam Holtz 14:05
Right. How do you walk that line between, you know, giving them agency and being supportive and not shoving it down their throats? It's
Dawn Davenport 14:14
very hard, it's apparent, all I'm going to say is it is a fine line. And honestly, it's, nobody does it you. I always say I throw it out there. I throw the ball out there. It's their choice whether to catch but I'm also aware that even by throwing it, that I'm making a statement to them, and I think that sometimes is that they would rather I not, but I don't know how to indicate to them that I am totally open for the conversation without periodically throwing it out. So I throw it and they can let it drop. You know,
Nam Holtz 14:47
you know, a lot of the kids that I work with, say they kind of roll their eyes when they throw that ball. Oh, you do but at the same time, you know, I think deep down they're like, comforted and I'm grateful that it's there. Because if it wasn't there, I feel I feel like it would be more difficult to even acknowledge it. And so they're like, well, if my adult figure in my life is not afraid to toss that ball, maybe it's not such a big, scary, terrible thing to talk about or think about,
Dawn Davenport 15:20
or they're not, I don't want them to think that we're not comfortable talking about it. And if you don't throw the ball, you're giving them the idea that this is a topic that mom and dad don't want to talk about, or uncomfortable to talk about. Right? And so if anything else, I figure that night. Yes. And you the roll eyes, you know, sometimes they're gonna get stuck that way.
Nam Holtz 15:44
So and so maybe maybe it's not a ball, maybe it's like a balloon with a little helium in it. And it stays lofted, and if they want, they can, they can get it, you know, just a little bit, so it's kind of just lofting there.
Dawn Davenport 15:55
It's just hanging there. And they can either choose to batted away, but they can't bear it too far.
Nam Holtz 16:00
Right. I mean, it's but it's there. And they know it's there. And it's light. And it's, it's, it's for them to do with what they want.
Dawn Davenport 16:08
Yeah, I like that analogy. The jacket being family foundation has supported us throughout the years. And one of the things they do is help us provide 12 free courses that are available to you. They are courses focused on parenting, adoptive Foster and kinship kids, you can find them at Bitly, slash JB F support bi T dot L Y, slash JBf. Support, they are free to you, they can if you need continuing education credit, you can receive that from that you get a certificate of completion. They're just terrific. And we thank the jockey Bing Family Foundation for their support. So you alluded at the beginning a little bit, but let's talk about what does it take, as a parent to raise a child and a parent who doesn't share the race of their child? What does it take to raise a child to have a healthy racial identity? And with that, knowing that that is a part of having a healthy self identity? You mentioned that the things you mentioned at the beginning, were finding mentors, and finding a community for that child to be able to, to feel one with. So what are some other things that parents need to think about when they're considering adopting transracial?
Nam Holtz 17:29
Well, I, I think, before any of that, before the decision is made, you need to ask yourself and investigate what why are you? First of all, why are you adopting? And then why are you adopting a child of another race? Add that to the mix? You have to ask yourself that question and give yourself an answer. And think about the fact that you are going to need to give that answer to your child at various ages. So considering that, wondering if you've done the research, have you listened to other transracial adoptees? Have you listened to the voices of other people's experiences? have you investigated some of your fears? Really looking at your fears? And being honest about them? Have you sought professional support? And advice? And if you have not, if it's not available to you? How will you get it? These are big questions. Have you thought about? And I mentioned this before? Have you thought about prepping to deal with micro aggressions and boundaries?
Dawn Davenport 18:40
Give an example of micro aggressions? We have talked about it on the show. But yeah, give an example. So that for
Nam Holtz 18:46
the thing that I guess me personally, I'm an Asian female. Sometimes I get, oh, you speak English. So well. That's an example of a microaggression. They might be very well intended. But it still is othering. Have you looked at your resources? Have you taken a good look at your circles, your concentric circles, your close close people, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your community? The teachers that will be involved? The people, the helpers, the coaches? Have you thought about if those people are adoption, aware adoption informed? Have you thought about if there's specific to the race of your child? Have you thought about how comfortable you are with people, the race of the child you're going to adopt? These are big questions. These are you know, you have to investigate your own willingness to investigate your own humility and your own cultural unknown. And how how willing are you to say I don't know this and How willing are you to say, I don't know this, and I need to figure out how to learn more about it. So yeah, I discovered a lot of things.
Dawn Davenport 20:09
No, that's perfect. And what are your options for Have you thought about what your options are for learning more about this, and let's ask your child, your child's culture,
Nam Holtz 20:18
right. And those are a few if we can set up all those things, before that all goes into providing a safe environment, where your child will hopefully have the means to develop a full healthy identity, and ask the questions and feel all the feelings, you know, because you want to be able to let that whole thing unfold as that child is ready.
Dawn Davenport 20:46
So before you consider adoption, you really need to think about whether you are the right family to adopt a child of this race. without judgment, perhaps just saying, Am I Am I equipped? Right?
Nam Holtz 21:01
Right? And if and if not, really think about why am I wanting this? If I am admitting that I'm not equipped? And what am What am I willing to do to make myself equipped and the people around me? And my, my, my maybe partner? Or maybe not? Or my and my family? Well, will they be supports? Will they be with me on this?
Dawn Davenport 21:23
I am so glad you raised family, because I think that, you know, we jokingly say sometimes adoption is a family affair. And but it really is. Because when you adopt a transracial child, you are you adopt trans racially a child of a different race, you're changing, not just your family, because you need to acknowledge that you will no longer be a white family, you will be a family that is a mixed race, because you have a child in your family that is not white. But it also is your extended family. And so I do think that's really important to give some thought to. So how should prospective adoptive parents? Or how can they prepare their extended family members for the adoption of a child of a different race or culture?
Nam Holtz 22:09
It's such a great, great question and topic. And I think it gets overlooked. So often
Dawn Davenport 22:15
I do too. And
Nam Holtz 22:16
it's it, there's so many resources, you know, start sharing some resources, have some conversations, really get to understand their feelings on this topic, because you might hit some sticky stuff. And it's great to work it out. Before you introduce a child into your family. It's better to do it before, then during and there might be some places that you feel that you need to shield, you know, your child, it's really it gets really hard. And so sharing resources, making space and time for those conversations, seeing how much you and your family can tolerate the uncomfortable places. It's a good gauge to kind of get in there and say, I admit this is gonna be challenging. So are you how prepared are you to be supportive? And that can be a gauge? And then you'll know, because it's very hard to have someone 100% on board, when they don't even know what that means.
Dawn Davenport 23:23
Yeah, yeah, I do think that we as parents sometimes spend a lot of time preparing ourselves. And then we drop this on our parents or our siblings or our extended family. And we expect them to jump on board immediately forgetting completely that we were on board completely at the beginning, we had to think through and say and learn. And, and and do some thinking. But that adds time. And a lot of times once we have decided, okay, this is we think this is a thing for us. We don't allow the grace to our extended family to have that time as well. And I think we don't talk about it enough.
Nam Holtz 24:04
It's a great point is because we do look at it as a continuum. And so you started here, and you've had all these months and years to prepare. And you're asking people to jump on board, now that you've made this bigger decision. And yes, they're starting their starting point.
Dawn Davenport 24:22
Yes. And if you if you have somebody in your family that you know well and you are not sure that they're ever going to be fully on board, or they're going to have to change a lot and you don't know whether they're going to be able to change. You have to be prepared to think you use the word shield and that's a good one. Your obligation once the child is here is to protect that child that is that's what you're signing up for. And that can dramatically change your relationship with a person who you don't think it's a healthy it's not treating your child fairly. Are is making In racist comments or whatever, right? And it helps to think that through I think we another thing we think is that they'll come around. And sometimes they do. Very often they do. But sometimes they don't. And you need to be prepared. If you've got somebody in your family that you think I really hope they come around, but I'm not sure you need to think of how you're going to handle it. If they don't,
Nam Holtz 25:22
it's a big question, as it can alter, how you relate to those relatives, oh, it
Dawn Davenport 25:29
should alter how you relate to those relatives,
Nam Holtz 25:31
it should, and it will, in many times, the child gets removed from that situation, or that that person, the relative gets removed at times. Yeah, it's, it's a big deal.
Dawn Davenport 25:42
It is, and it helps to think about it ahead of time. Because I mean, you may look at your family and go, you know, they may, this is going to be different for them. But you know, they're going to be fine. But most time, you know, in your heart that there's if there is someone who is going to really struggle with this, you can't necessarily assume and you have to be prepared for what will I do if they are not able to be around my child and in a way that is safe for my child's emotional, emotional, exactly.
Nam Holtz 26:12
And I think when we're talking about this subject, it's great that you're looking at the close the first, the first circle, you know, the family circle, but this concept extends into the community and to neighbors into people who are going to be in your buzzing in and out of your world.
Dawn Davenport 26:30
Yeah. And that's in some ways. It's, it's both harder, but it's also easier, it's easier because they're not in your can, they're not in the tight circle. But it's harder because you have less control over over that and in removing yourself. I want to thank one of our partners, Vista Del Mar, they are a licensed nonprofit adoption agency, with over 65 years of experience helping to create families, they offer home study only services as well as full service, infant adoption, international home studies, and post adoption support. They also have a foster to adopt program. You can find them online at vista del mar.org/adoption. You mentioned earlier about finding role models that racially mirror your child or finding role models of your child's race, and how do you find those role models for your child? And how awkward can that be? It can be
Nam Holtz 27:31
Dawn Davenport 27:33
Yes, it can.
Nam Holtz 27:34
It can be extremely awkward. And so you let your child lead, but also do the work yourself. So again, it's a similar concept as tossing that balloon and having them available. I worked with someone who is an Asian adoptee and their family used to watch Pocahontas and I can't remember the other the Chinese New Movie, Mulan, Mulan, and they watched it with the family. And they they confided that they hated watching those movies. Because it made them feel awkward. And other interest and so how do you? How do you how do you fold in media that isn't going to make your child feel awkward and others when you're trying to support them? It's really hard. But I think having the conversation with the child is the most important part. If that family has said to you like watching this movie, do you want to watch this movie? We don't have to watch it now maybe you want to. We've watched it. Maybe you want to watch it by yourself first. Maybe you want to see how that feels. Really listening to the comfortable level comfortability level of that child, the interest level of that child and talking about why you think it's important to have role models and things that represent them in their lives. And saying, I think this is important, because blah, blah, blah. You know, you want to be able to say why you think it's important. Like mom, mom and dad or mom and mom have this person that they they looked up to. And so we thought it might be nice to have this for you. And that's the reason why. So if the child understands the reasoning, and the intent, it could be open up a huge conversation. And maybe they're not ready maybe they're not developmentally ready for that conversation. But I think really letting this the child have a say in how much they want to grab on.
Dawn Davenport 29:48
Yeah, that's in it's hard. Because it because sometimes in and I've personally found that children's books were such an effective way of doing that. But not just reading the As books to my translationally adopted children, but they, but also reading them to the whole family, fairy tales and things like that from from their birth cultures? Well, I thought was great, and then reading it to the whole family, not just to that child and then reading other other fairy tales from other cultures, so that I was not necessarily othering. That's a great point. Yeah, that's great.
Nam Holtz 30:24
So having it accessible to everyone in the circle in the Family Circle is great. And because yes, we're not just doing this for you. We're doing it for everyone. We want everyone to have these these role models, because
Dawn Davenport 30:36
Sure, exactly, well, and also because we are a family that has this right, we are a family of this race, because we have a child in this in our family of this race. So maybe with the Mulan maybe, you know, alternate between frozen and Mulan and Pocahontas, so that you're not okay. We're all sitting down getting our cultural lesson here for for Susie. Right? Yeah. So someone a little frozen, if you can stand up. The other day, finding racial models in your community is a challenge, or it can be a challenge, it can also not be a challenge, if you're living in a community that is, has a large percentage of people of your child's race, then it's it's not. But thinking in terms of if you're blessed to be able to are in that situation, then looking for a pediatrician looking for a dry cleaner, that type of and seeking out if there's a teacher of that race in your child's school asking to have your child placed in that that person's class. Those are, those are ideas, it's harder when you're not living in an environment. You have to you have to work harder at that.
Nam Holtz 31:45
It is and you know, my supervisor, Dr. Baden always says, if you are in a racial void, you need to move to a place that's not. And that's, you know, that's a commitment. That's a huge life change. But if that's not one of the things you're able to do or prepared to do, maybe you need to reevaluate, and ask yourself why you think it's okay? To not have that in your community. And if you need to drive a little while to get there, think about how that makes that child feel. Think about, you know, it's really, it's a really big deal. And it's a really big commitment, but so is bringing a child into your family. And if we can't do that, so she always says may be prepared to move to a community that you can have that access. And I will add one thing that I usually say to people, if you're adopting trans culturally, and this is really hardcore, but I say, learn the language. Learn the language of the child that you're adopting of the culture of the country of the child that you're adopting from. It's a big deal, but there's no way you can learn a language and not learn culture, learn things that are nuanced, and makes that transition that much less traumatic. It's a big thing to say, I know. Well, for those
Dawn Davenport 33:09
of us who are language challenged, yeah, I struggle with English. So the thought of, of learning a different language. Yeah, we learned the I love you very much. We learned Thank you. We learned those things. And we included those as a family. But I must say we did not learn. They don't even have that option. As far as I took the lessons. However, it was interesting. With my child, yeah, that's,
Nam Holtz 33:35
that's that's something that says something. I know, it's very hard for me to say that. But
Dawn Davenport 33:42
it's something to consider though. I hear you. Yeah. So what does the research show us? I, I am such a research geek. I always, I always love to take things past just the anecdotal. And because there's been a fair amount of research on people who have been adopted trans racially, what does some of the research show?
Nam Holtz 34:03
Well, some of the research that I'm aware of is that trans racially adopted people fare better when their families fully acknowledged their race, and domains of mental health and functionality, which is a very basic thing to think and look at. But it's, it's, you know, we had this whole colorblind concept. We've seen a race with love is enough. That's the best, but we realize that that's actually quite detrimental to the people of color that need them there need their identities to be seen. So that's one piece of the research. Another sad piece of research is that adoptees are over represented in mental health and substance use facilities. Even Were only 2% of the population still massively over represented. And they're four times more likely to commit suicide. And it is even more. The numbers are more intense and higher for translationally adopted people.
Dawn Davenport 35:18
Nam Holtz 35:19
Dawn Davenport 35:20
It is sobering. It absolutely is sobering. We always say that friends, let friends know about podcasts. I certainly know that is the case. For me, I find out most of the podcasts that I listened to have been suggested by others. And that's how others will find out about this podcast. So do us a favor, please let your friends your family, anyone you come in contact, know about the creating a family.org podcast, we want to continue to grow to inspire and strengthen these families. And we can only do so if people are listening. So please let people know. We've talked about what to do if somebody in your family is you don't think it's going to be trading you're and the bottom line there is to be prepared to cut that person out if they can, if they're hurting your child, then you have to be willing and able to do that, as well. What are some of the issues that come up with open adoptions when adopting across racial lines? Now that can happen predominantly with domestic adoptions, but it can also happen some in international adoptions, but let's focus primarily on domestic adoptions?
Nam Holtz 36:32
Well, I was gonna say that, you know, with the international adoptions right away that communication is an issue. So
Dawn Davenport 36:39
yeah, it's a huge issue, both for adoptees as well as adoptive families.
Nam Holtz 36:43
Exactly. And that, that brings me back to the language comment. But sure, in domestic adoption, it is open adoptions are there's the word is so broad, covering so many levels of openness, it's slightly deceptive. I think it's a slightly deceptive word. And the concept is, is great, but very rarely do we hear about successful open adoptions. And some of those some of the reasons that I've seen and heard that they're challenging, is because the agreements that people thought they could do, once they get into the life, they find they cannot, for many reasons, and it can be distressing, extremely distressing can be extremely emotional. And it needs to be handled with a lot of professional help and care, I think. And sometimes we can run into issues of race, racial differences, sometimes we can run into classism issues. Sometimes we can run into there are other children from family of origin that are still with birth family. Why? Why me? Which is a really sticky one. Sure. Why
Dawn Davenport 38:06
did they why are they parenting my brother? And did not are not parenting me.
Nam Holtz 38:11
Right. And that's, that can create some really hard discussions that sometimes aren't handled. I think
Dawn Davenport 38:18
that is one of the advantages, however, of an open adoption is because you have the answers. There's usually a reason why the parent is parenting a brother and our sister, a sibling and not this child. And as opposed to not having contact with the birth family. You have the you have the answer. There's usually a reason it may not be an easy reason. But there's usually a reason. And when you're in closed adoption, you're imagining the reason and making it up. But literally with opened options. I am surprised, I would love to. That's an interesting comment you made at the beginning about there aren't a lot of successful open adoptions. I guess. I see them I see successful ones. And this goes back to the anecdotal part. Without a doubt, they can be difficult. And I think your point at the very beginning was such a good one is that there is no really definition of open when open adoption is and it can mean anything, anything as long as there's, it can just be you know, once a year sending a picture. But it can also be all the way up to having that having the birth parents babysit on Friday night. So it can be a whole lot of different things. And I think that's part of the problem when trying to do is it successful? It depends on what you're trying to achieve.
Nam Holtz 39:34
And your it depends on who's who you're asking, Is this successful? Sure. Actually asking family of origin is this successful open adoption? Are you asking adoptive parents? Are you asking the adoptee? Yeah, can be a different answer from every single person. So that's hard to say.
Dawn Davenport 39:53
Yeah. And the answer probably differs a lot. Timing, you know, the age of the child And the where the birth parents are in their life. So yeah,
Nam Holtz 40:03
yes, it can vary, it can change. And it does.
Dawn Davenport 40:07
Yeah. But since we're talking transracial and trans cultural, I think it's important to acknowledge that race comes into play in open adoptions, because these people are your child's parents. First parents, you are also their parents to share a child. So that comes in and in the the cultural and the classism. There's some power dynamics that are very challenging, very challenging, very challenging. Yes. That's, and so I
Nam Holtz 40:35
think it's gonna take a lot of support, to navigate that, and some working through feelings of humility and guilt. As an adoptive parent, as an adoptee, confusion, identity, identities, code switching comes up. I think it's a really challenging place to navigate. And, again, it's going to be very individual for each, each family and family.
Dawn Davenport 41:07
Sure. Yeah, it absolutely. Well, I'm glad you raised the term code switching. And we all do that. But transracial adoptees, I think have to do it more. So let's talk a little about that. And from a parent's standpoint, understanding both what it is, but understanding the stresses that it can cause for their child.
Nam Holtz 41:29
Yes, yes, I think I think understanding that that is something that we all do is great. And that's that's some basic understanding of what it what kind of stressful situation that puts you in, I think being able to have conversations, acknowledging the fact that this child will be looked at and seen differently when they are not with their adoptive family is a big concept.
Dawn Davenport 41:57
It's a huge concept. So when are the typical times? It depends also on where you live, as well. But when are the times the one that comes to mind is, of course going to college? But what are some of the other times?
Nam Holtz 42:10
Yes, yes, absolutely. Going to college, going to camps, different various camps, going on specific trips, school trips, in school, if you're changing schools, obviously, college is a huge one. You know, it continues into adulthood. With a new job, with an new move a new location at
Dawn Davenport 42:31
that point in adulthood. You're not seen as part of your birth your family or adoptive family. So how is it show me examples of when it comes up with your, because you're not a part of your family? At that point,
Nam Holtz 42:44
I'll just use myself as an example. There was a time that I had to move to another country to do a job. And I was shocked at the assumption that I was either Chinese or Korean. I had never occurred to me, you know, when I opened my mouth, I have an American accent, I speak English. But in another country, it was it was almost I'll use the word devastating to recognize that, my when you see me, I am an Asian female. Exactly. And, and I had experienced glimmers of it obviously, before in my life, but I think it was just such a ground shaking recognition being already and foreign ground, but still not having any tether to any specific family member or any friends in this situation. It was, it was I think, that is an example of something that I was not prepared for. And I don't think anyone in my circles knew to prepare me. And so it was just something I had to go through figure out learn. And the ironic part is that I was, I was in a job for, for an Asian performance with all other Asian people. So it was it was doubly impactful because I was I felt like, you know, you have the imposter syndrome.
Dawn Davenport 44:15
I was just gonna say, Yeah, tell me. We felt like, I'm not a real Asian. I'm not a real Korean. I'm not. Yeah,
Nam Holtz 44:21
absolutely. And so you're dealing with this, and I'm speaking from my perspective, because I don't want to talk for anyone else. You're dealing with this, this identity issue with Wow, I'm recognizing that I'm perceived and seen as this, but yet, I know I feel different. I feel I feel comfortable in this situation and in this situation in this situation. And I don't think that people recognize that I don't feel comfortable in this situation with all these other Asian people. And it is a really nuanced conversation to have. And again, I don't know how to prepare people for that, but the concept of Understanding when you go somewhere without us as a family, you are going to be seen with this race.
Dawn Davenport 45:09
Yeah, exactly. And that's something to as parents, we have to realize is that, in a lot of parents will say, people don't, they just see her, as in your case, your parents might say, or your parent might say, she's just a hoax, you know, or she's just a Smith or whatever. And that's true to a certain extent, because we do tend to as parents, we run in the same relatively small circles, we see the same people, the school gets to know us, and they get to know that we have kids, and they see a Asian child or a Hispanic child, and they go, Oh, that's probably a Smith. You know, that's probably one of the Smith kids. And your church is, you know, has it so it they, our children are seen as part of us. But as they grow, your comment of a camp is a good one. So the child goes to camp and the other kids in the in the camp, have not seen the parents drop them off. So the parents come at the pickup time, and run up and are hugging the child. And it's like, Who are these white people hugging? You mean? Why are hugging you? And that your child is aware of that? And when you go to college, and you have a picture of your family? And you know, why do you have that white people? Why do you have those white people on your on your bulletin board? Absolutely. So then you have to think as a as an adoptee well, do I want to put a picture of my family up there? And invite the or am I being disloyal? To not do that? But do I really want to draw the attention that you have to explain? So yeah,
Nam Holtz 46:39
there's another really quick story that I'll share is that, you know, I was meeting my sister somewhere at a workplace. And she's, I have a white sister. And she was like, just telling me or my sister. And I said, Amy, they're not going to believe me. And she was like, oh, yeah, like it just doesn't register sometimes. So having that registration, like making sure everyone is on the same page, and recognizing that that's going to happen. And so the adopted person doesn't always have to remind like, well, actually, no, they're not going to believe me that I'm your sister.
Dawn Davenport 47:10
Yeah. Yes. Yeah. And, and I will also say, for the other children in your family, when they come to that realization, we experienced that as a family that one of our older kids, somebody questioned, one of the younger ones, whether and it just really upset them, because they, this was their sister, and they adored this sister, and it was, you know, the, and it really, really upset them that somebody would question the executive. No. And, yeah, so it's preparing the whole family. The whole family. Yeah. But it's, it's not an accident that that or I think parents need to consciously realize that specially when their children leave home, that they need to prepare. And it's a hard thing to prepare a bit because it's a nuanced thing. It is. I mean, what do you say to your child, you're going to be seen as an Asian female. Da, is what your child will say back to you
Nam Holtz 48:09
know what it might be worth exploring? How do you feel when people see us as a family? Hmm, then just and go from there? Because, you know, some people experience extreme discomfort going out to a restaurant. Uh huh. And, and feel like the waiter staring at them. Why are you there kid? Yeah, people have that experience a lot people sometimes when they go on vacation, and they're not around people who know their family or exactly stuff like that. So
Dawn Davenport 48:38
when you change the circle you run in, then you will get stares. It's the idea of your conspicuous family.
Nam Holtz 48:45
Exactly. So having maybe start investigating that dynamic will make the child more aware that that's how the family is perceived. And that's that's one concept of understanding identity with the family, which is important and understanding the concept of the dynamic without the family.
Dawn Davenport 49:06
And for those people considering adoption, transracial adoption, the realization that no matter what you think, you will become a conspicuous, you will become a family that stands out, you will become a family that when you walk into a restaurant, people will notice you and they will stare and what is your comfort level there? And how are you? I mean, there's not a whole lot of things you can do to handle it, but you need to be aware of how do you feel? How do the other people in your family? If you have other children living in your family? How are they going to feel about becoming the center of attention? Yeah, because you will.
Nam Holtz 49:46
Yeah, it's a huge thing to acknowledge beforehand. That's huge thing to think about beforehand. And that's kind of what I was thinking about with with preparation in terms of boundaries, because we will get questions you will get Guess you will get inappropriate questions and comments. And so preparing yourself to say something in the face of those, those comments and questions is important because you will be taken off guard. And so that prep also aligns you with being able to be an ally to your entire family.
Dawn Davenport 50:20
I'm so glad you said that at creating a family, we do have resources to help families prepare. But since we're primarily talking about people at the considering stage, you need to know that that's part of the preparation, because as you said, non very well, you will get inappropriate questions. And the funny thing is that it's often they're not in into effect, in my experience, almost always they're not ill intended. Right, but the audience that you really are looking at is the child assuming that their child is there. And so you're you need to prep for how you're going to handle the question in a way that is affirming to the child, not for the person who's asking the question, because quite frankly, you don't have any Oh, any obligation to them. Right. But to your child, you do. So do. And all of this goes into making the decision? Are you the right family? Are you willing to not begin to not get angry when somebody asks an inappropriate question? Unless it's terribly inappropriate? And you feel like that's the correct response? But are you a person who rather likes the being in the center and, and likes the idea that, that people are looking at me and making good judgments about me? Because I'm a person who adopted trans racially? And that says something positive in my mind about myself? But how is but what if? What if the child is already in your family? doesn't like being the center of attention? What's that going to do to that child? And what's it going to do? What if the child you adopt really doesn't like that? And so how are you going to handle that?
Nam Holtz 51:54
Huge questions. And again, it is I love how you're saying, you're, you're focusing on on the child because each child is going to be different.
Dawn Davenport 52:04
Sure. Some may relish it and just, you know,
Nam Holtz 52:07
some may think it's fine. makes me special. Yeah. Right. So make it feel good. And it also may change at different stages. To being age specific, sensitive, being stage specific, sensitive, being child specific, sensitive is so important in all these conversations. There is no one right answer there isn't.
Dawn Davenport 52:27
That's because there's no one that we there's not we are not generic as humans. No, but realizing that at the beginning. But when you're considering adopting trans racially, I think it's so important. It's if we can't give you the specific answers, but we can, we can tell you that all these things are things that you need to consider if you're partnered, you and your partner need to consider and yeah, I think all that's so very important. Well, thank you so much. Megan, Nan Holtz, for being with us today to talk about this. I think it is an important, it's an important topic. At the beginning before we've spent so much time talking to people after they have adopted, but I think it's so important to talk with folks when they're considering.
Nam Holtz 53:14
Absolutely, thanks so much for having me.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai