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Culture and heritage

A mother's thoughts on cultural pride

By Leceta Guibault

I have been working on instilling cultural pride and a positive cultural and racial identity in my children since Kahleah (10, from Guatemala) and Tristan (7, from Colombia) were infants.

Our children are "different" in a sense. We choose to celebrate our children's differences and of course their "sameness" (for lack of a better word). Celebrating their differences will not make them feel more different. Most likely, as in our case, they feel less different.

It wasn't enough for us to introduce Kahleah and Tristan to other children who are also adopted from the same countries, although this too is important. I realized that when Kahleah was four she thought everyone with brown skin was adopted. We had taken her to a large Latino Community Fiesta in Montreal. She looked around and said with big eyes, "This is the biggest adoption picnic I have ever been to in my whole life!!!" That statement opened my eyes!

It was a wonderful opportunity to sit down and discuss adoption, birth and different types of families. She began to become aware at that point that in that particular situation, at the fiesta, Mommy and Daddy were minorities! We were white! Kahleah, Tristan and everyone else were different shades of brown! Cool!!!!

I was so proud watching them dance and play with the other children from the Latino community. As much as my kids are accepted, valued members of "our" community, I was well aware of the fact that I wanted them to feel a part of and comfortable in the Latino community. Right now, they don't feel "different" in either community.

Like many families with "minority" children, we don't have the choice of where to live, because of a job situation. We make the point to drive a distance once or twice a month to attend fiestas, Latin American restaurants, concerts, etc. The children love these outings now ... maybe when they are a little older they will reject this, but the seed of interest is planted.

We also decorate our home, not just the children's rooms, with artwork and handicrafts from Latin America or with a multicultural theme. We have piles of adult and children's books on multiculturalism, Guatemala, Colombia, adoption, etc. We have also made friends with families who have immigrated to our area from Latin America. I have learned so much from these people. They take great pride too, in taking my children "under their wing".

We visit Kahleah's school to talk about Guatemala. She participates and beams with pride. Of course, everything we do is age-appropriate.

I hope I have shared a few ideas to help instill cultural pride without being a fanatic. Let your children take the lead. If they roll their eyes and say, "Not this again!", cool it ...
Leceta Guibault lives in Joliette, Québec. For more, see her articles in "Heart of Adoption", Birth Country Adventures, in which the Guibaults meet birth family and foster family in Colombia and Guatemala.

Adoption Gifts, Links to 17 sites offering cards, dolls, jewelry and multicultural items. See "Adoption Gifts", halfway down the page. M. Gummere, Michigan.
Also-Known-As, Building cultural bridges for adult adoptees (mostly from Korea), language classes, motherland visits. New York.
Asia for Kids, 4480 Lake Forest Dr., #302, Cincinnati OH 45242; 800-888-9681; Catalog of Asian cultural resources; books, videos, CD-Roms, dolls, posters.
Becoming "Rooted": Annie's Reunion, Taking a 7-year-old back to India. Chris Futia.
Bilingual: Bilingual Families Web Page, To raise your children bilingually. Cindy Kandolf.
Bilingual: Bilingual Parenting in a Foreign Language, Parents speak a foreign language to their children, to raise them bilingually. Renée Johnson, Kristina Shurts.
Bilingual: Learn Mandarin Chinese With BaoBei the Panda, DVDs for teaching Mandarin Chinese to children aged 1 to 5. Ni Hao Productions, San Francisco.
Bilingual: Multilingual Children's Association, Raise a bilingual child. Tips, tools, parent discussions, resources, products. Christina Bosemark, San Francisco.
Bilingual: Raising Bilingual Children: The Best Parenting Methods, Day-to-day methods for raising multilingual children. Christina Bosemark, at
Chinese Cultural Centres, Multicultural Centres, Associations, Cross-Canada list of Chinese cultural resources. FCC Toronto.
Culture camp / Directory: Culture and Heritage Events, List of U.S. culture camps by country and U.S. state, and heritage camps abroad. Adoptive Families magazine.
Culture camp: Colorado Heritage Camps, Culture camps for kids who are Chinese, Korean, African-American, East Indian, Filipino, Latin American, Russian. Pam Sweetser, Denver CO.
Culture camp: Hands Around The World, Week-long culture camps to celebrate your child's birthland culture, in July in the Chicago area. Gail Walton, Arlington Heights IL.
Culture camp: Kamp Kimchee, Korean culture camp for Korean adoptees and their families, founded 1981. Baxter MN.
Culture camp: La Semana Latin American Culture Camp, Kerry Noyes, 3925 Hillcrest Way, Deep Haven MN 55391; 952-476-0546;,
Culture camp: Vietnam Culture Camp. A family camp held Sept. 7-9, 2001 and annually in Maple Lake MN (70 miles from Minneapolis). Adopted Vietnamese children, parents, siblings, and extended families come to share Vietnamese heritage and culture. Caroline Ticarro-Parker, Catalyst Foundation, 1505 West 137th St., Burnsville MN 55337.
Culture camp: Vietnamese Heritage Culture Camp, A Colorado Heritage Camp.
Hambun-Hambun [half and half], Claiming Your Identity, Half Japanese. Susan Ito.
Homeland Visit: OCDF China Tours, "Helping your child fall in love with China." Orphanage visits. Panda hugs tour. Kite Festival. Homestay. Jane Liedtke, Our Chinese Daughter's Foundation, Bloomington, IL.
Homeland Visit: Ties Program, Homeland journeys. Adoptive families take culture and heritage tours to birth countries to see the sights, experience the culture and reconnect with significant people and places related to the adoption. Becca Piper, Wauwatosa WI.
Ideal Maternity Home, "Home Of The Butterbox Babies". Bob Hartlen, Nova Scotia.
Interracial Families - Multi-Cultural Parenting, Articles on transracial adoption, keeping ties to heritage and culture.
Is That Your REAL Brother?, Growing up in a multi-cultural family. Kaitlyn Kerry, Adoptive Families.
Korean Focus for Adoptive Families, Connecting adoptive families with Korean-born children, with each other, with Korean culture and with the Korean-American community. E-mail list, newsletter. Margie Perscheid
Life Books: Allie's Albums Adoption Scrapbooking, Adoption scrapbook supplies. Scrapbooking email list. [URL?]
Life Books: Publications - Lifebook Pages, Build-your-own lifebook. 50 pages to download separately, free. Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents' Assn.
Life Books: Scrapbooking: Capturing Your Child's Journey Through Life, Tips for creating your child's lifebook. Nancy Reynolds.
Mandy's Moon, Multicultural products. Rohnert Park CA.
Transracial and Transcultural Adoption, For prospective parents adopting from another race or culture. Help children develop a strong sense of racial or cultural identity. Confront racial comments. Enhance self-esteem. Child Welfare Information Gateway, 1994.


Adoptive Families Assn. of B. C. Raising Healthy Multiracial Adoptive Families: a Question and Answer Guide for Adoptive Families. Harriet Fancott, editor; 1999. Adoption experts tackles such topics as Culture and Heritage, Stereotypes, Family Life, School Days, Racism, Dealing with Professionals.

[Audio tape] Wisdom of the Grandmothers [CBC Radio program]. 2001. Bruce Leslie was adopted and taken out of his Cree culture. He asks elder aboriginal women to help him understand the old ways and what it means to live an indigenous life. $8 transcript; $18 audiotape. IDEAS Transcripts, Box 500, Stn. A, Toronto, Ont. M5W 1E6; 1-416-205-6010 to order by credit card;;

Cahill, Betty L. Butterbox Babies: Baby Sales, Baby Deaths, New Revelations 15 Years Later. 2006. Fernwood Publishing, Black Point NS,

Dorow, Sara. When You Were Born in China: A Memory Book for Children Adopted from China. Yeong & Yeong Book Co., 1368 Michelle Dr., St. Paul MN 55123-1459, 612-454-1358. ISBN 0-9638472-1-X. How to tell our daughters the story of how and why they came to be adopted from China. Creates a sense of pride in their Chinese heritage.

Gibson, C. R. Our Baby's First Seven Years: A Memory Book for our Chosen Child. ISBN 0-8227211198-1.

Hartlen, Bob. Butterbox Survivors! Life after the Ideal Maternity Home. 1999. 294 Radcliffe Drive, #415, Halifax, NS B3S 1E6,,

Matthews, Blair. Touched by Adoption. Cambridge, ON: Playing with Words. 1999. Volumes 1 and 2. True-life stories written by adoptees, birthparents, adoptive parents and friends of the adoption triad.

Ouston, Rick. Finding Family. Vancouver: New Star Books. 1998.

Palmer, Hazelle. "...but where are you really from?" Stories of Identity and Assimilation in Canada: Anthologized. Sister Vision: Black Women and Women of Color Press in Toronto. ISBN 1-896705-20-0.

Petertyl, Mary E. International Adoption Travel Journal. Folio One. Fill-in-the-blanks diary, in six sections, for the international adopter.

Petrie, Anne. Gone to an Aunt's: Remembering Canada's Homes for Unwed Mothers. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart. 1998.

O'Malley, Beth. Lifebooks: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child.

Register, Cheri. Are Those Kids Yours? American Families with Children Adopted from Other Countries. New York, Free Press, 1991. From her own experience, and her study of American families, Register emphasizes the life-enhancing aspects of a dual heritage.

Sharma, A.R., McGue, M.K. and Benson, P.L. (1996). The emotional and behavioral adjustment of United States adopted adolescents: part 1. An overview. Children & Youth Services Review, 18, 83-100.

Wadia-Ells, Susan. The Adoption Reader: Birth Mothers, Adoptive Mothers and Adopted Daughters Tell their Stories. Seattle: Seal Press, 1995.


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