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American Idol & Birth Parents PDF Print E-mail

American Idol & Birth Parents?

Believe it or Not


Do you watch American Idol?  Did you happen to catch the "American Idol Gives Back” special? In case you missed it, this was a charity effort for both kids in the U.S. and around the world, in particular “AIDS orphans” in Africa. This footage had the most gut-wrenching scenes. American Idol producers managed to take the phrase, “Aids Orphans" and made them into real people. Living, breathing and laughing.

So how does this relate to adoption?  We need to do the same thing when it comes to our in-laws- birth parents. Move them from that clinical phrase "birthparent' into real people --- living, breathing, AND laughing. This helps our kids because it can make an adoptee feel more real. It means they came from a person versus an abstract concept. Too bad we don't have the resources of American Idol. Too bad many of us don't even have a name to use for birth parents.

Hmmmm. No name? Is there any reason you can't give a name to a birth parent? It makes sense to me to give a name (or affectionate nickname) for ' today' until you find out the actual name. Maybe the Chinese name for Mama (Hey, that's MaMa).  Perhaps a common name in that country. Or something "culturally respectful" such as Lilly or Wen. Or Tatiana if she is from Russia. Or Rasawn if this is a birth father in the U.S.

If your child is old enough, ask them directly. "What would you like to call your birth mother?"  You could end up with some very interesting answers. If I had even had a first name for my birth mother growing up, I know it
would have helped. That 'mother stuff’ gets so messy. First names, whether created or actual, make it cleaner emotionally and much more personal. It helps create a connection. We want out kids to feel connected!

But there's more. Try this. Use the new birth parent name in everyday life. Say that name out loud more than once a year or when you're reading the lifebook. Say it until it becomes easy for both of you. Ask silly questions. "Do you think Lilly likes to eat broccoli for breakfast?” Joke around and get giddy. Give a doll her name. Pretend to call her on the phone. Write her a letter. Ask your kid for help with that letter. As adults we know the power of putting something in writing even if it doesn’t get mailed.

I didn't say this was easy. In fact this is a project I'm working on as well (with my daughter and the kids I work with). The goal is to make Ms. Lilly Birthmother an earth being. We'll tackle birth father and sibling(s) another time.  If you can sneak in a few laughs along the way, this helps dry the tears of the future.  Or helps calm the rage.

So thank you American Idol. You'll never know just how much you may have helped adopted kids everywhere.

Beth O’Malley M.Ed is an adoptee and adoptive mother. She has worked with children in the foster care system for 22 years. Her newest work is “ My China Workbook—A Lifebook Tool for Kids Adopted from China.” Take a look at  or visit

Copyright 2007.
New Book Available PDF Print E-mail
A new book is available entitled, "China's Smiling Faces:  Children Across the Land."  The book is published in support of World Vision's environmental projects in China whose goal is to significantly improve the living conditions of the children within the communities that  World Vision serves.  The book will reportedly offer cultural understanding as well as visual enjoyment.  For more information, contact Paul Lau at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or to view pages from the book visit
New Service Available for Parents of Children Adopted from China PDF Print E-mail
Red Thread Maps is a service where customized maps are available for adoptive families with children born in China.  Maps of the country or specific provinces maps can be personalized.

What's unique about the province maps is that they list all known orphanages in a province where international adoption occurs. 

The designer is a mom to twins born in China.  She draws the maps by hand and customizes them electronically including information you request such as your child's full name, finding location, date of birth, family day, etc.  Maps can be small enough to fit into a lifebook or large enough to display over your fireplace. 

Families are allowed to proof maps before finalizing and paying for the order. 

Red Thread Maps, Telephone: 410-30308414
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Asian Flush and Alcohol: Prepare Your Teen PDF Print E-mail
This article was reprinted with permission from  For more interesting articles, visit their website.

Han Fan Lim was only 19 when she discovered, after drinking only a quarter of a glass of beer, that she could not stay awake.  Her face was all red and she couldn't walk.  As she got older she continued to notice that when she drank even a few sips of wine her heart would pound.  What Lim has is a hereditary condition common to 40% of Asians that makes her system unable to process alcohol normally.  Those who have this condition and do no know it and continue to drink put themselves at higher risk for alcohol-related diseases like liver or esophageal cancer.

Asians with this condition who drink have unacceptably high levels of the toxin acetaldehyde which their bodies can not properly get rid of because they lack an enzyme called ALDH2.  When consuming alcohol in any form (including cough syrup) they can get red, blotchy skin, feel dizzy and nauseated, or have an irregular heart-beat.  The inactive enzyme (a variation of the normal ALDH2 enzyme) is found in 45% of Chinese and Japanese people, 30% of Koreans, 10% of Thais and 1% of Filipinos according to German researchers at Hamburg University.  About 5% of these five groups have inherited the trait from both of their parents, making them almost completely alcohol-intolerant.

Some physicians recommend getting tested for the deficient gene.  Common medical advise is for Asians who discover they have "Asian Flush" to just not drink.

With peer pressure to drink in high school and college, our children need to be aware of Asian Flush and how even low levels of alcohol consumption can cause serious problems, including death.  While normal fatal levels of blood alcohol are 2.25mg to 6.23, for people with Asian Flush the fatal range is much much lower.  Social drinking with peers in the teen years becomes a very high-risk activity for unknowing adoptess.

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