On Tuesday, August 31, POV premiered on national PBS Stephanie Wang-Breal’s documentary Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy. It is the story of Fang Sui Yong, an 8-year-old orphan, and the Long Island Jewish family who travels to China to adopt her. Through her eyes, we witness Fang Sui Yong struggle during her first year and a half in the United States with a new identity and a new family.
First of all, I would like to recognize the courage and generosity of the family that allowed the process of their older child transitioning into their family to be filmed so that others might learn from their journey. This film is an honest portrayal of the challenges, hopes, losses and joys each member of the family experiences. It is of particular use to the adoption community because it provides some insight to the mixed emotions and the different types of loss a child who is older when adopted experiences. There are so many lessons to learn from this film. However, the ones I hope that waiting parents will learn are:
That children adopted above toddler age:
- Will take time to attach, that just because a caretaker tells them to call her “Mommy,” it is meaningless until the relationship has time to build.
- Will be incredibly frightened and sometimes resentful of the new life.
- Will clearly grieve relationships with other children and caretakers in the orphanage or foster family, the loss of language, the loss of some aspects of one’s identity.
- Need more time playing and interacting than being given English lessons in the first month.
- Need parents committed to them in the face of initial rejection and difficult behavior because this eventually enables the children to change and move beyond their fears and sadness.
I applaud this film for giving us insight into the hearts and minds of children adopted at an older age.
Rita Taddonio, LCSW
Director, Spence-Chapin Adoption Resource Center (ARC)