Stuck: A Review and a Recommendation

Last night the families split up to watch the very excellent documentary called “Stuck”. I highly recommend it, and will be bugging families and friends to watch it.

The thesis behind the documentary is that the Hague Adoption Convention is not working. The convention was ratified in the United States with the understanding that:

  • It would cut down on the level of corruption surrounding adoption
  • It would increase the number of international adoptions

In fact, according to UNICEF, there has been no reduction in corruption. International adoptions in the United States has decreased by 60% in the past 6 years.

This decrease is not because there are fewer orphans.

It’s not because there are fewer families willing and wanting to adopt internationally.

It’s because there are hoops. Lots and lots of hoops. And while would be parents jump through those hoops, kids age out of the system.

What the Documentary Misses

While not really part of the thesis to the film, a key point missing is how difficult international adoption is after adopting the child. One might walk away from the documentary thinking adoption is wine and roses. It’s not. It can be very hard. And I always get nervous around naive would-be adoptive parents.

That said, there are tools and resources that help parents. And there are many wonderful parents who would do wonders with domestic and internationally adopted children.

If I were King of the World

Look, this is a complicated issue. Corruption is bad. Orphanages are a lesser bad (as compared to starving and living on the streets). The rights of birth parents need to be respected. International politics are convoluted (see Russia: Adoption). The Hague Convention had good intentions but unintended consequences.

But if I were King of the World, I’d put a time frame in place (say a year) then declare adoptability – international or otherwise. Children should not grow up in institutions if they do not have to. A clock is ticking.

Finally, Download the Film

Watch the film. It’s good. It can be viewed and purchased here:


Day Before Ramblings

We came home in 2010 on January 28th. We’re leaving in 2013 on January 28th. January 28th is also Monica’s birthday. This feels oddly symmetrical.

Being repeat adopters (with the same country and same family!) you can’t help but continually run comparisons. The next month will stir up lots of memories – many of them told through this blog – and I’m excited to create a layer cake of experiences with Colombia, ICBF, Neiva, Lucia, and, of course, my girls and son. Traveling will easier. There are maps in my head of where we’re going and how we’re getting there (the simple things like finding grocery stores and ATMs).

While there’s less stress concerning traveling, there’s more stress at home. It’s hard saying goodbye to our girls for a few weeks. They’re nervous. When they get nervous the ticks come out. Lots of blinking and funny facial contortions. It’s sort of cute. Life for the past three years has been blissfully predictable and stable. It will continue to be so, but the family equations will run a bit differently. Plus, mommy and papi are gone for a long time. Stressing out is understandable.

Still, their behavior and spirits are upbeat. Which, in the end, says a lot and amazes me at the same time. It’s a reminder of how much they’ve grown and matured in three years. And a memory I’m going to take with me to Diego (ha! especially the first time he wigs out over something simple like brushing his teeth).

Also interesting to compare is the fact that back in 2010 I started a new job (eLearning Coach) and this year I started a new job as well (Director of Technology). I’m a sucker for figuring out new professional responsibilities while trying to figure out this parenting thing at the same time (and balancing the two…which, for me, is really, really hard). That said, if you want to be an adoptive parent I’m not sure there’s a more supportive professional field than education (perhaps the ministry?).

It sounds cliched, but I’m feeling pretty good about Renee and I living life to the fullest. And we’re only 35!


Diego Adoption Update

Yesterday Nicole excitedly called us to say that our official referral paperwork arrived in the United States. We’re one (major) step closer to adopting Diego as our son.

Roughly, the next steps are we send an “official” acceptance letter back to Colombia (which, oddly, we’ve already done when Colombia formally asked us if we’d like to adopt Diego in the first place). We send a flurry of papers back forth with our adoption agency who then file updates with the US Government so that we can (essentially) get Diego’s visa moving. Once our government gives us the thumbs up, we can get Colombian visas and buy plane tickets.

The process is expected to take 12 weeks or so. We’re now looking at tentatively leaving in February.

As any adoptive parents would say, the process feels frustratingly long (especially when you have a good idea of the child you are adopting). However I try and give thanks for the fact that we have not hit any major roadblocks or hiccups (so far!)…just an exercise  in patience.


Sorta Latin

Note: This a cross post from

In my experience, white, Dutch Americans typically lumber into a dance with rusty, jerky, mechanical movements that resemble tin men without the grease (anyone ever see Dutch Dancing?). It’s a natural condition, no doubt fostered by a Calvinist/puritan roots skeptical of displaying too much emotion and a climate of cold mid-western winters that discourage displays of passion.  But, although it is a natural condition, it can be changed with persistent practice and a healthy appreciation for beat and rhythm.

Last Monday Ren and I had a double date with Jeff and Kristen. We went Salsa dancing. It’s part of our concerted effort to seek out latin cultured everythings. I am acutely aware of the difficulties of maintaining our daughters’ Latin American roots in Cincinnati.

My 17 year-old self learning to dance Lambada in Brazil

Anyway, we danced Salsa. Or tried to. I was having problems with my hips. They wanted to take my torso along for the ride. This, apparently, was a no no.

Before folks think I’m just a funny, skinny looking guy trying to dance I want to mention that I’m a halfway decent dancer (or at least not terrible).  My year in Brazil was one long, continuous dance (samba, lambada, foho). When Ren and I started dating we frequently went swing dancing (popular for a brief period of time in the late 90s). I can feel a beat and follow it.

Still, since moving to Cincinnati we’ve had such little opportunity for Latin dance. We were rusty. And, listening to the Porto Rican band play that evening, I realized I’ve grown rusty in many ways.

I love Latin America. This love began when, at 16, I spent a year living in Brazil. Since then I’ve studied in Chile, backpacked and hitchhiked through through the Andes, gotten lost in Jesuit ruins in Argentina, graduated with a degree in Latin American Studies, asked Ren to marry me on a beach in Brazil, taught History in Spanish to ESL students in Houston, and, now, am adopting two girls from Colombia. The people, the languages, the history, the beaches and the mountains, the stories and songs.  I love them all. I’ve often joked that mi corazon es latino (or the Brazilian version “minha coracao e brasilero”).

Yet these past few years have felt so, I don’t know, middle American. Part of this is because Cincinnati, while a great city, is not necessarily a mecca for latino immigrants (and, of course, any place that lacks “the other” tends to have greater xenophobic views of them). I rarely speak Spanish. It’s hard to come by a decent taqueria. There tends to be a rather narrow world view.

Before adopting I was somewhat at peace with this. We still get 3 month off out of the year. We can travel to other places (indeed, Ren and I had planned to go to Brazil this summer before – happily – finding out about the girls). I would have to work harder at engaging my Latino interests, but I could get by.

Now it’s different. I don’t want my daughters to loose their identification (and my identification?) with their Latina roots. While certainly not the most pressing issue (bonding and attachment definitely take precedent), it’s an issue that sits on the back burner.

Our identity as a family is changing. I’m thrilled and happy with the change, but I wonder what it all means. Is there a wise way to do this? How important – their Colombian roots – will it be to them? What is Ren and my relation to Colombia now? Are we obligated to keep abreast of its current events and its culture? Is creating opportunities with other Latinos the same as creating opportunities with Colombians?

Just some random thoughts that pop up from the back of the mind.