Finding Your Roots
What if there was a way for children adopted internationally to reconnect with their roots?
The Gladney Center for Adoption and the Catholic Welfare Service (commonly referred to as Cathwel) in Taiwan have partnered to plan a roots-finding trip for those adopted from Taiwan. The first trip took place in the summer of 2006, and another one is planned for July 2020.
The roots-finding trip is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for adoptees to explore the land they came from and meet other young people with similar stories. It is also a great way to impact the future of adoption.
A Unique Opportunity
Cathwel in Taiwan offered young adults a special opportunity to visit their children’s home in Taiwan, Jonah House, and spend time with the children there by participating in enriching activities such as games and songs. They may also help with service projects and have a chance to go sightseeing. They can experience the history and culture of a place that is in the heart of every Taiwanese adoptee.
Some attendees may be going back to visit the children’s home they lived in. Others may be able to reconnect with birth families and foster families.
“The upcoming trip in 2020 will be about two weeks long,” says Mary Chapman, Lead Asia Program Caseworker for Gladney Center for Adoption. “Young people will be able to spend time with the children there. Some of them may have lived in Jonah House before they were adopted.”
A Root-Finding Trip
Those who were adopted from Taiwan likely feel a deep connection to its history and culture. The Roots Finding Trip affords them a unique opportunity to connect their past and present while ushering in a bright future.
Another trip is being planned for this summer. Young adults between 18 and 25 years old adopted through Cathwel are welcome to apply here. The deadline is February 29, 2020.
A Trip to Taiwan
Taiwan is beautiful. It is comprised of mountains, farms, cities, and beaches. If you are visiting, the Taiwan High Speed Rail is a great way to see all of the glory of the land. You can also hike their colorful mountains or bike the sun-bathed trails. Shoppers can soak up local culture at famous night markets. If you are up for it, you can even go for a dip in one of their famous hot springs.
Taiwanese cuisine is becoming well-known throughout the world, and a trip to Taiwan is a great way to experience native culinary delights such as basil-rich soups and rice noodles. Afternoon tea is a local tradition designed to allow people to relax and catch up.
Who Is Available for Adoption?
Many children available for adoption, both girls and boys, in Taiwan are between the ages of 3 and 5. Younger children may have special needs or medical issues. Children that do not have special needs and sibling groups are also available. Wait time for a toddler can be up to three years. Waiting children are always available; often, there are siblings who need families as well.
The special needs of children available for adoption have a wide range and include cerebral palsy, ADHD, limb differences, and hearing loss. In many cases, children may be available due to conditions in their birth family homes such as poverty, abuse, and trauma.
Who Can Adopt from Taiwan?
Those looking to adopt from Taiwan should be between the ages of 25 and 50 years old. They need to be at least 20 years older than the child they are adopting. Those looking to adopt children with special needs can be up to 55 years old.
Before you adopt, you need to be in good health and have a stable residence. You will need to provide evidence that you can financially care for the child or children you are adopting. There should be no more than three children already residing in your home, and the child you are adopting cannot cause your home to have more than four children. If you have four or more children, however, you may be eligible to adopt a child over 5 years old or a youngster with special needs. Parents cannot adopt if they have been divorced more than once.
Taiwan will not accept your application if you have a criminal history or a substance abuse history. Parents with significant medical or psychological conditions cannot adopt.
The Taiwan Adoption Process
The first step for adopting from Taiwan is to find an agency that performs adoptions there. The right agency will be able to explain the process clearly as well as give you an accurate idea of the kinds of children available for adoption.
You will need to complete an application and home study. If you find a great agency that completes adoptions in Taiwan but is not in your state, they may be able to recommend a local agency or social worker to partner with them for the home study.
The home study process is not as frightening as it sounds. Think of it mostly as a conversation between you and your social worker about what adoption is really like. You will likely have interviews inside and outside your home in which you will be asked to describe your upbringing and parenting philosophy. It is a good opportunity for you to work through your reasons for adopting and your plans for training and nurturing a child once he or she is brought home.
The home study is also an opportunity to describe the type of child you would like to adopt. You may, for example, be open to adopting a child with minor, correctable needs such as a limb difference or cleft palate. It is important to describe your interests to your social worker so she can match you with the type of child you are best prepared to parent.
Home studies will also include criminal background checks, fingerprinting, and a medical exam that ensures you have a clean record and good health. You may be required to supply written references from nonfamily members who can attest to your good character.
This phase will also likely involve preadoption training. International adoption training can help you prepare for tackling issues such as bonding and sleep training. It can also give you strategies for responding to behavior that is disrespectful when children have experienced trauma.
Don’t be afraid to educate yourself before you adopt! While you shouldn’t become overwhelmed with information, a few good books on adoptive parenting will help you feel more prepared for some of the challenges and triumphs of adopting kids who have a different kind of past. You will learn about introducing kids to their new home and easing them into a new language and culture.
After you submit and receive your I-600A form from USCIS and complete your preliminary package, you will be ready to send it to Taiwan!
A Match Is Made
Once you have submitted your preliminary package, the court in Taiwan will approve a match between you and your child.
If you select a child from the list of waiting children, your home study will be forwarded to the matching team at the partner agency who will approve the match if it is acceptable. Once you are matched, the partner agency will provide you with an adoption contract to sign. If you are not matched, you can wait until you find another child who you think would be a good fit.
Once a match is made, you will file the 1-600 form with the USCIS to initiate the Pre-Adoption Immigration Review prior to filing in the courts.
After the match, you will begin your adoption dossier, which is a collection of documents that reports on aspects of your life and represents you as an adoptive parent. These documents will then be sent to the Taiwan Economic and Consulate Office (TECO) in the U.S. for authentication. Once this is complete, your documents will be sent to Taiwan for the court process.
You may have to wait anywhere from six to eight months for court proceedings to be completed and your adoption to be finalized.
Traveling to Taiwan
Adopting from Taiwan requires one or two trips that are four to seven days long. During the first trip, you must appear before a judge to request a specific child. Both parents need to be present. In some cases, the judge does not require the adoptive parents to attend a court hearing, and only one trip will be required.
During your second trip, you will travel to bring home your newly adopted child. You will obtain a Visa and be able to return to the U.S.
Bringing your adopted child home to meet your family and friends is an exciting time! Be sure to get all of your documents in order before boarding. And don’t forget the games and snacks to keep your kiddo comfortable during the long flight.
Your child may be overwhelmed when you first arrive in the U.S., and that is okay. Remember that adoption is a huge transition for everyone, and it may take a few months before your child begins to feel “at home.” Be patient, loving, and enthusiastic, and your child will eventually begin to count on you as family.
Taiwan requires several years of post-adoption reports after placement. The specific requirements vary between partner agencies in Taiwan. At least three reports will be required to be completed by a social worker, and the remaining reports are family-written reports. Photos should be attached.
Post-adoption reports are updates on how your child is growing and progressing. No parenting journey is perfect! Remember that you are simply letting the country know that your child is being loved, nurtured, and supported as he or she grows.
Traveling internationally can be an exciting experience. Not only are you bringing a new child home, you are also experiencing a little culture that you will remember for the rest of your life.
Remember that you are representing your home country when you travel. It is important to dress neatly, if casually, while you are out and about with your new child. Be respectful and patient with everyone. Bring along a more dressy, conservative outfit for your court appearance.
You may be surprised at what you wished you brought along with you, even if it’s only for a few days. There are lots of groups on social media where you can talk to other parents who have made the trip before you. Did they need adapters for their electronics, ice cube trays, or detergent that was not readily available where they were staying? You will want to be prepared to avoid adding stress onto your trip.
Former travelers may also be able to recommend websites where adoptive parents can get affordable airfare or good trains or car services in Taiwan. Your agency may also have an overseas facilitator who will attend to these matters for you.
Make sure that you make arrangements to speak with family and friends at home. Skype and FaceTime are affordable ways to keep in touch and help you avoid getting homesick.
Bring along clothes in a few different sizes for your new child. You can return anything that doesn’t fit once you get home. That being said, there is no need to overpack. Remember that everything you bring will have to come home with you, along with your child and whatever belongings he or she is attached to.
Let your credit card companies know where you will be so charges made while overseas will be accepted over the course of the week. You should also call your cell phone company and let them know you will be in Taiwan.
A simple child’s painkiller and a basic first-aid kit should do the job of handling any medical emergencies you will experience over the course of a week. You should, however, check with the Center For Disease Control for any precautions about where you are traveling to. Your doctor can help you get all of the appropriate vaccinations and medications you will need.
Bring along some games to keep your child occupied while you are there for a few days. Some parents may also have flashcards ready to teach their child English. It is, however, a great time to soak up local culture and enjoy your time together before coming home to a serious routine.