Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Raising Children in a Transracial Family

Becoming a transracial family, I have always wondered and worried about my daughters’ self-esteem. My daughter Anna often brings up how she wishes she had blond, curly hair. I usually tell her how much I wish I had long, beautiful silky hair like she has and her beautiful tawny brown skin (versus my pale freckly version). She is truly a beautiful girl and I just want her to know that. Often her comments shock me, because I just see her as my daughter and don’t notice the differences.

This week, I read a wonderful article on racism that really hit home. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-blueeyes26-2009mar26,0,3179239,full.story . The article was written by a journalist, who was adopted from Korea and raised in Iowa. What was most interesting was this journalist's meeting with a blue-eyed teacher also from Iowa, who in the 1960s did a racism experiment with her class that captured the nation's attention – Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes. More than anything, it gave another view of how my girls must see the world and how the world sees them. I don’t fully understand, but I want to…I love these two children more than anything, but there will be a piece that being Caucasian, that I won’t.

There have been times that I do worry about how our girls view themselves in our middle class neighborhood in suburban MN. Have they experienced racism? How should I best prepare them for when they do? They have had kids make the occasional nasty remarks, but are these typical playground remarks? When do you need to worry about them being more than that? What are you doing to be proactive in preparing your children for the fact that our world may still judge them by the color of their skin? And finally, do you think it is “easier” for a child to live in a large city as a transracial adoptee than a child in a small town?

Karen Maunu

Associate Executive Director

Monday, March 30, 2009

Just One Word

Several of us at LWB have been learning how to Twitter, and for someone who writes stories which are always WAY too long, learning how to get a message across in 140 characters or less is quite a feat. (The rest of the team is doing much better than me at it, by the way). Today I was thinking about brevity and wondering if I would be able to sum up some of my experiences with orphaned children in just a few words. To challenge myself, I decided to only allow one word per experience. It was harder than I thought!

Give it a try. If you could only use one word to get across how you feel about adoption, what would it be? These will be the shortest comments in history. : -)


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Social Change

Our charity question of the week:

“Social change” is the current buzz word in the non-profit world... It is not just about simply helping people, but how charities are bringing about a larger change in society. Reading recent articles about this topic this past week has caused me to reflect on who we are and what changes we are creating with the work we do.

LWB started out by helping one child with heart disease. From that, the ripples grew with more medical children, our school programs, foster care, and orphanage assistance. We know that we are making a difference one child at a time, but have we affected social change in what we are doing?

Three years ago, we developed the idea of a special needs manual to educate orphanages on how adoptable so many children were. Our goal was to get the manual in the hands of as many of the orphanages throughout China and tell them how many families would love to have these children in their families. After the completion of the manual, we started trainings for orphanages, teaching them about special needs and providing training on how to file adoption paperwork. The program worked, and many new orphanages began to submit files on the children with special needs in their care.

In addition, in the orphanages where we work, we have continued to have conversations with the staff about the fact that every child, regardless of their needs, deserves a family. This has resulted in many more children with special needs having their adoption files submitted. For example, one orphanage in Hunan where we have a school program submitted paperwork on only 3 children in 2007, but in 2008 submitted 25; all children with special needs and many in our school. Beyond this, with our foster care programs involving children with special needs, local people have begun to interact with these children and realize that they are just normal little children. We have seen an increase in domestic adoption and a general shift in how children with special needs are viewed in the villages where we work.

The social changes that we have been making have been a ripple effect of our primary goal....providing direct aid to the children. As I have been reading articles on the importance of social change...I have to ask, is that enough? Is it the duty of a charity to set about making changes purposefully? Or is it enough to have change happen haphazardly as an after effect of our charitable actions? What do you think?

Karen Maunu

Associate Executive Director

Friday, March 27, 2009

Photo of the Week

So busy today that we didn't have time to blog, so good thing it's Friday and time for the favorite photo of the week that I've seen. This is actually an older one that I saw for the first time today, but I absolutely loved it. This is a little boy that we treated at our Heartbridge unit. I think it's the perfect "Hooray it's the weekend!" picture.

Hope to keep connecting with you all on Monday.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Special Needs and Teasing

When I first adopted my son TJ, I looked at his special need as a fairly insignificant one. He was born without his right forearm, but after being his mom for five minutes I already could see that he would be able to do anything in life that he wanted with one hand. Our whole family quickly forgot at home that he even had a special need. However, out in public is a completely different story. Every time we venture out, TJ’s missing arm seems to draw a lot of attention. Children pull their parents over to see his missing arm, unkind children make rude comments, and even adults have said things that leave my mouth on the floor. I honestly had no idea that my son would have to almost daily defend himself because of missing a hand.

I think almost all of us have been in a situation with our children when they loudly announced that someone in their line of sight looked different, but I have found there is a definite difference between kids who are just curious (which never bothers me) and kids who are hurtful. I have also found there is a big difference in the way parents handle these situations. I have been surprised that most times parents just choose to ignore an offensive remark as if it was never said (out of embarrassment perhaps?), but in my mind that teaches the child nothing. Others have been so rude as to agree with their child that my son has a “funny arm”, and I am sure you know my feeling on that! I always struggle with whether it is my job to educate someone else’s kid, but I have to admit to reaching a point where I often do for my own child’s sake. Now if someone says “what a freaky arm”, I count to three to give the parent of the child a chance to intervene, but if they don’t….then I step in. Normally I will just say, “that was very unkind”, and then explain that TJ can do everything with one hand. It honestly is the more rare occasion that a parent will say “I am so sorry” and then turn to their child and explain that someone missing a hand is perfectly okay.

How do you think these situations should be handled? As a parent, do you take a proactive approach with your kids to let them know that children born with special needs are just kids? How have you handled it if your own child has said something unkind? If you are the parent of a child who is teased or singled out frequently, how do you manage rude comments in public? I would love to know your thoughts.

Amy Eldridge

Love Without Boundaries Foundation

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Do Tax Deductions Matter When giving to Charity?

Continuing our discussion on charitable giving....I would like your thoughts on an article I came across in The Chronicle of Philanthropy regarding Obama’s charitable giving plan - http://philanthropy.com/live/2009/03/obama/index.shtml. The article discusses with a panel, the early stages of Obama’s proposal regarding the change in charitable giving to be used to help finance the country’s health-care system.Here is the proposed plan cited from the blog:

In a document outlining his 2010 budget plans, President Obama proposed limiting the value of the tax break for itemized deductions, including donations to charity, to 28 percent for families making more than $250,000. In other words, taxpayers would save 28 cents on their federal income taxes for each dollar donated.

That would reduce by as much as 20 percent the amount wealthy taxpayers could get in tax breaks. Under the current system, taxpayers who are in the 33 percent or 35 percent tax brackets use that rate to claim deductions.

The president says the proposal on itemized deductions — which would also apply to claims such as mortgage interest — would raise $318-billion over 10 years. That money would help pay for a 10-year $630-billion reserve fund designed to help make health care more affordable and available.

After reading this article, it made me wonder if wealthy Americans, who often donate large amounts to charity, will still continue to give at the rate they have been giving. Do you think that this proposal will have a negative effect on non profits? When you donate, in whatever income category you are in, how important is getting a tax deduction in your decision to help a charity?

Karen Maunu
Associate Executive Director
Love Without Boundaries

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Economy and Charitable Giving

It goes without saying that just about everyone knows our economy isn’t in a good place right now. People are putting off buying a home or purchasing a car and are trying to save as much as possible. So where does charitable giving fall into that mix?

Just about every charity director I know has told me that their donations are markedly down this year while requests for help are way up due to the harder financial times. One of our LWB volunteers works in a local food pantry once a week, and she told me that the number of families applying for services has doubled. As I speak to groups about helping orphaned children in China, more and more I am asked directly, “why should we help in China when so many people right here in the US are hurting now?”

I believe so fully that a child is a child is a child, no matter where they happened to be born, and that any child who is hurting deserves to be loved and helped. Children who are orphaned have a very special spot in my heart as well. During these hard times, I still recommend LWB enthusiastically to people as a charity to support because I know the dollars are going exactly where we say they are, because I know we produce results and change lives with those donations, and because I know our amazing volunteers are thanking donors and keeping them informed of how their donations are used. But I am wondering what the rest of the world is thinking.

In our current economic crisis, do you think each country needs to care for “their own” first and foremost? Or do you still support international giving? Has your family had to make the decision to not give as much this year due to shrinking 401Ks and job instability? Let us know your thoughts. And as always, let us know if we need to be doing anything different to show our gratitude. Every morning I get up and give thanks for everyone who chooses to make a difference in the lives of children in China. We absolutely couldn’t do it without you.

Amy Eldridge
Executive Director
Love Without Boundaries Foundation
“Hope and Healing for Children in Need”