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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

HANAI: Why all adoptions should be open

Since I was writing a memoir about being adopted, in 2005 I started to intensely study adoption and read blogs by adoptees, birthparents and adopting families - the triad. I looked for examples of good, even great, adoption experiences.
In 2010, finally, more and more adoptive families are becoming more sensitive to the children of "mixed race" they adopt. This example of HANAI was particularly striking to me, since I was in a closed adoption and knew nothing about my birthfamily or their names or tribal origins. I wish I had known something and had been given respect for my Cherokee-Shawnee-Delaware ancestry.
It took me many years to know my own name and the names of my grandparents and their parents...

One blogger wrote this review of The Family of Adoption* by Joyce Maguire Pavao

This book is a bit more academic than Birthmother, but still an important read. It examines the adoption experience from all three perspectives, giving special attention to the children. It devotes a chapter to each important developmental stage in the adopted child’s life – exploring common issues and conversations they will have as they grow up. Pavao’s years of psychological training and experience have given her some powerful insights into what makes adoption a successful, enriching experience. Once particular passage in the Epilogue really stuck with me – it was upon reading this that I really became convinced of the beauty of adoption:

Many years ago in Hawaii, I was one of two keynote speakers at a conference, both of us adopted. The gentleman went first. He was native Hawaiian, and in Hawaii there is an ancient custom of adoption called hanai. In a Hawaiian marriage, when you become “related” to the in-law family, you are then considered one family, and you would not “war” against each other. The same is true in hanai — if you place your child with another family, the two families become connected, and are considered one large extended family. This Hawaiian adopted person opened the conference with loud drums and chanting. It was beautiful—stunning—and it went on for quite a while. The entire audience sat very still and listened, mesmerized.

When he had finished, he stated that he had just recited the names of his ancestors. He had chanted the lineage of both his family by birth and his family by adoption. He said that it is a great honor to be a hanai person, as you are the reservoir that holds the lineage of two great families; you are the place and the person where they connect and become one extended family. It is a prestigious position to be the connector of two families.

~~ If adoptive parents read this, please show this respect to the blood and origin of your adopted child. Give them all the information you can to spare them the trauma of not knowing....
Trace, author of ONE SMALL SACRIFICE: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects (2009)
(birthdaughter of Earl Bland and Helen Thrall)
(adopted by Sev and Edie DeMeyer)

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