A heart for the homeland for Valentine’s Day. What age is a good age for an international adoptee to visit his or her homeland? What things should be done to prepare? What places should be visited? What expectations should you have? There are a lot of good articles on the web addressing each of these questions. While I will not attempt to answer these, I want to briefly share our recent journey and perhaps spark a desire in the hearts of others to make a journey of their own.
Regarding age, one must ask if recommendations are based on chronological age or developmental age. A child’s readiness for the journey will often depend more on developmental readiness rather than actual age. Our daughter, who is in the middle of her 6th grade year in school, seemed ready and we had the opportunity to go back to her birth city for the first time since we adopted her 8 years ago.
We were unsure if we would be able to locate her orphanage, and if we were able to find it, we did not know if anyone we had met initially would still be working there. We had hopes and dreams but no expectations. We hoped we would find familiar faces. We hoped it would be a good experience for our daughter. And we were amazed and delighted with how our adventure turned out.
When we entered the staff office, one of the first people we met was a familiar face. On our first day to meet our daughter, this staff member held her on his lap and also signed her pillowcase that we had taken for a memento. Then, a social worker who had prepared our daughter’s file came into the room. What fun it was to watch all of the staff as they realized what was taking place. Then, our daughter’s main teacher/caregiver came into the room. Nothing could have prepared me for the emotions of that moment. The joy! The embracing! The exclamations! Even the selfies…
We spent time exploring the grounds, running into other caregivers who remembered our daughter, looking at photo albums, and even having lunch together. The rest of our adventure included site-seeing, eating Thai food three meals a day, and experiencing many wonderful parts of the culture of her homeland.
Hopefully, that will not be her (or our) last visit. . .as we could easily see her heart for her homeland.