Adopting a child from China involves voluminous paperwork, flexibility to travel at a moment's notice, and having more cash in hand than most people feel comfortable carrying overseas. But the rigors of the international adoption process are merely a prelude to the long-term acclimation process that Asian children face with their new families in the U.S.
Dorothy Boothe (BS 1983, MS 1985, PhD 1991) has two adopted children. Her son Luke is native born, and her daughter Christina was born in China. "You can't look at my son and know immediately that he's adopted," says Boothe. "Whereas, you see my daughter Christina and you know she's an adopted child. There are issues for parents that have adopted trans-racially and trans-culturally, and you have to be aware of those things to help a child grow up and function in today's society. We try to instill in Christina the pride that she's from China, but she's also an American citizen — she's both."
Ping Ma understands the adjustments that 8-year-old Christina Boothe is having to make in order to adapt to the differences between Asian and American culture.
"The way you talk, the way you dress, the food you eat, even the way you make jokes. Just everything…it's hard to explain to people," says Ma, a Terry College senior from Beijing who is lending a helping hand to children like Christina as president of the Asian Children Mentoring Program. Her efforts recently earned ACMP a Student Organization Achievement & Recognition (SOAR) Award in just its second year of existence.
"She has done a wonderful job," says Boothe, who helped start ACMP in 2006 and who serves as its advisor. According to Boothe, ACMP really took off after Ping Ma became president in 2007. "It's basically been under Ping's leadership that this organization has done so much, especially this semester."
Ma began her term by calling each family to determine its needs. Families then reapplied under a more stringent membership process to ensure the best match between mentors and children. A licensed social worker was brought in to conduct a training seminar for mentors. At the start of the semester, Ma told the officers, "Our goal is not to think about getting big, but to serve the parents we have."
The changes Ma brought about generated instant success. One highlight was an adoption panel, which featured seven adults discussing their experiences growing up as trans-racial adoptees. "Most of the parents say it was one of the best programs they ever attended," says Boothe.
Ma is majoring in risk management-insurance, and Terry legal studies professor Marisa Pagnattaro says her adopted daughter, 4-year-old Sophia Ying-Mei, cherishes the time she spends with her mentors.
"Sophia loves to look at photos taken with them," says Pagnattaro. "I know from my conversation with other parents that this kind of special, one-on-one activity is leaving a lasting impression for entire families who want to know more about how we can celebrate our children's Asian heritage."
For Ma, the experience has been amazing. "I'm proud of myself for being able to go to another country, speak another language — and do things for people, no matter where they're from."