“Then you’re waiting for updates,” Yee said. “You’re waiting to put a face to a name. How big have they grown? Is the photo you’re looking at current? Do they have health issues?”
With many countries passing stricter adoption laws out of fear of human trafficking, American international adoptions have significantly declined since 2005, dropping from 22,734 that year to 8,668 in 2012, according to the US Department of State. Long the world’s adoption leader, China, too, saw a corresponding decrease from 7,903 international American adoptions in 2005 to 2,696 in 2012, records show.
But Taiwan, which made up less than 1 percent of American adoptions worldwide between 1999 and 2012, recorded an uptick during the same period, the sharpest increase occurring between 2008 and 2010, when some Taiwan R.O.C.ks parents adopted their children, records show. A 2009 article published in the Taipei Times attributed this spike to parents giving up kids because of the bad economy.
Just Taiwan, please
To meet the demands of an ever-growing number of American families adopting from China, organizations like Families with Children from China provide a support network to help non-Chinese parents navigate the choppy cultural waters of raising Chinese-American children.
But the cofounders of Taiwan R.O.C.ks said they wanted to create their own group specifically tailored to Taiwan — one that both celebrated and embraced the rich culture and history of their children’s birthplace.
“We do have friends from China,” Reitan said. “But I tell [Paige], ‘They’re from a different country. They’re from China. You’re from Taiwan.’”
For non-Taiwanese parents, bringing Taiwan’s culture into their homes can be as much a learning process for the adults as it is for the kids. Reitan, for instance, said she has taught herself to prepare certain Taiwanese dishes, like three-cup chicken (三杯雞), from recipes she has found on the Internet. “I’ve made them for the last three years as part of our tradition,” Reitan said.
Still, Reitan added, there are many things about Taiwan’s history that she does not know and hopes to learn, so she can someday teach her daughter.
Yee and her husband teach Chinese culture to Gracyn and their two biological children, but Yee added that she is “probably one of those parents who doesn’t go above and beyond to force culture.”
“Gracyn knows she was born in Taiwan,” Yee said. “She knows there is a difference in the flag.”
Rockaway said that she and her husband, David, regularly talk about Taiwan with Hayden, but because of her age, she does not fully understand the complexities of the China-Taiwan relationship.
“It is its own country, and it has its own history, and I want Hayden to be really proud of it,” Rockaway said.
Sitting down with a map of Taiwan, Rockaway said she points out all the different counties to Hayden, including Chiayi (嘉義), where she was born. When Hayden is older and begins to ask more questions, the Rockaways said they plan to teach her more about Taiwan’s history. For now, though, Hayden, like most four-year-olds, is just interested in being a kid.
“I want everyone to know that we all love Taiwan,” Hayden explained. “It’s a very nice place, and so beautiful. Can we go back right now, mommy?”
Like Hayden, many of the adoptees know they were born in Taiwan and remember fragments of their life there. But because of their age, they have trouble articulating what being a Taiwanese American means to them.