Wed, Jul 23, 2014 - Page 12 News List

Family affair

Taiwan R.O.C.ks, a support group based in the US for Americans who have adopted Taiwanese children, creates a space where the youngsters learn about their heritage and identity

By Chris Fuchs  /  Contributing reporter in New York

Hayden Rockaway, second left, and Paige Reitan, second right, have become best friends thanks to Taiwan R.O.C.ks, cofounded by their mothers Julie Rockaway, left, and Lisa Reitan.

Photo: Chris Fuchs

Flying in from as far away as Hawaii, 27 families who have adopted Taiwanese children gathered July 19 on New York’s Long Island for their fourth annual Taiwan R.O.C.ks “family reunion,” an event that aims to bring together Taiwanese adoptees and their American parents to celebrate their children’s Taiwanese heritage and identity.

Lisa Reitan, one of the group’s cofounders who lives on Long Island and arranged this year’s reunion, said it attracted more East Coast families than ever before. As in past years, the gathering included a host of cultural events, such as a showing of the popular Taiwanese cartoon film Grandma and Her Ghosts (魔法阿媽), as well as fun time at the beach to let the kids be kids.

“I think the most important thing to come out of Taiwan R.O.C.ks are the friendships that the kids develop,” said Reitan, 50, a New Yorker who adopted her five-year-old daughter, Paige.

“The girls and boys are very comfortable with each other, even though they only see each other once a year,” she said.

Reitan, along with Julie Rockaway, Lisa Chaney and Tiffanie Yee, who have all adopted from Taiwan, established Taiwan R.O.C.ks (Reuniting Our Children for Kinship and Support) in 2010 after connecting with one another through blogs and social media. A year later, the group held its first family reunion in Texas, where Rockaway and her husband, David, live.

“We have an appreciation for this particular culture,” said Rockaway, 47.

CHALLENGES

Cross-cultural or interracial adoptions are naturally filled with challenges for both adoptees and parents, which makes support groups like Taiwan R.O.C.ks all the more important, the mothers said.

Besides helping parents from around the US who have adopted Taiwanese children connect with one another to share their experiences, Taiwan R.O.C.ks gives the dozens of Taiwanese adoptees a chance to build an unbreakable bond of friendship that will last well into adulthood.

It also introduces parents and children alike to Taiwanese culture — something that groups like Families with Children From China, which is focused on parents who adopt from China, cannot do.

“By opening up your homes to these children, you have created for them a world filled with love and support,” New York’s Taipei Economic and Cultural Office Deputy Director General Brian Su (蘇瑞仁) told families at this year’s Taiwan R.O.C.ks reunion.

“Just as you have given them an American experience, we hope they can inspire you to experience Taiwan,” Su said.

Compared to just a decade ago, American international adoptions today, whether from China or Taiwan, are not as common as they once were. The number of children from abroad adopted by Americans dropped steeply from 22,734 in 2005 to 7,094 in 2013, according to the US Department of State. China, which leads the world in international adoptions, also recorded a marked decline from 7,903 American adoptions in 2005 to 2,306 in 2013, the data show.

STRICT LAWS

Stricter adoption laws are one big reason for the drop. Owing in part to fears of human trafficking, many countries, including China and Taiwan, have taken steps to encourage more domestic adoptions and have significantly lengthened the time it takes to bring home an adoptee.

For China, the average adoption took 257 days to complete in 2013, and for Hong Kong 338 days, according to State Department figures. Although the numbers did not list an average completion time for Taiwan, Rockaway said the process was long.

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