Tuesday, July 3, 2007

journey abroad

In accordance with the Hague Convention, all prospective adoptive parents are now required to complete 10 hours of "adoptive parent" training. It must be completed before the home study can be finalized. Vista calls theirs "Journey Abroad." It was held over 3 Wednesdays. The first two classes were 3 hours and the last class, which included a potluck, was 4 hours.

I was definitely apprehensive about the classes. What if there were no other single parents? Who would I connect with? What were we going to talk about? What if it is boring? Well, when I walked into the class the first night, one of my biggest concerns was realized. I was the only single parent. There were 4 couples and me. Oh boy. As the night went on though, I realized that they were a great group of people. At that point I hadn't decided to adopt from Vietnam; I was still thinking about Guatemala. Each of us was adopting from a different country - China, Haiti, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Our facilitator was nice as well. She was a little off the first night (she forgot our manuals) but she was very supportive and provided great information.

We discussed various topics over the three nights including: why we were adopting, what we were worried about, what we hoped to learn from the classes, developmental milestones, institutionalization, common behavior issues, adoption gains and losses, discipline, attachment, medical issues, culture and handling post adoption questions. A lot of the information was common sense and a lot I knew from my social work days, but believe me when I tell you that it was extremely valuable to discuss these topics with others. It was interesting to hear the different perspectives, concerns and plans.

For the second class we were asked to bring an item that connects us with our culture or religion. I really struggled with this. What is my culture? I'm a Caucasian American. My grandparents were born abroad but I don't know much about their ancestry. Basically, I couldn't come up with much. So, even though I'm not very religious, I ended up bringing a wooden dreidel. I can't tell you how surprised I was to find that 3 others in the group were Jewish. Two of the others brought mezuzahs and the third brought a Kiddush cup. It was interesting to hear everyone describe their items and what they meant to them.

The last night was a potluck. By that time I had switched countries to Vietnam. Each couple (and me) were supposed to bring a food from the country we were adopting from. Well, I am not a great cook. I mean, I make a mean brisket, lemon pasta, pasta carbonara, honey mustard chicken and ribollita. I am also quite the baker; my daughter will never want for cookies or cupcakes. But most nights, since I'm single, it's pasta, soup or take out. So, coming up with a Vietnamese recipe was no easy thing. I searched for hours online but found that most recipes were for fish and I'm not a big fish eater. Also, I knew there were vegetarians in the class. I just didn't see myself making egg rolls, especially on a work night. Some of the desserts actually sounded pretty good, but didn't seem very authentic. So, I wussed out and ended up finding a Vietnamese restaurant, Le Saigon, nearby. I ended up ordering Cha Gio (vegetable imperial rolls) and Goi Cuon (shrimp spring rolls). Of course, when I got to class, I discovered that I was the ONLY one who didn't cook. In fact, one of the husbands actually made these Pierogi type things that were delicious. In the end, my rolls were a big hit. In fact, some of the "vegetarians" even ate the shrimp rolls. Everything was yummy!

I have to say that I loved the classes. I so enjoyed getting to know the other couples and it was nice to talk with others who were going through the same process. On the last night, I brought my camera and we took a group photo for prosperity. We left the last class promising to stay in touch and some of us have. One couple even had a dinner party for the group. (I could go on and on about how amazing their house in Glendale was, but I won't.)

So that was my "journey abroad" experience. I can assure you that the learning does not end there. I've been reading up on Vietnam and am planning to read "What to Expect in the First Year." I have a feeling I'll be learning for the next 18 years.

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