BY VAL PETSCHE
Dr. Chrys Egan presented the animated French film, “Approved For Adoption,” in Fulton Hall Wednesday, March 1. Translating to “Coleur de Peu: Miel,” the story follows the life of Jung, a boy from Korea abandoned at the age of five and adopted by a French family in Belgium. The audience could understand the challenges of this life unknown to most, yet experienced by many.
In the story, Jung is introduced to four siblings in addition to his new set of parents. Conflicts arise both externally, as Jung’s appearance distinguishes himself from the rest of the family in a Belgian society, and internally, as Jung struggles to perceive love and acceptance from his adopted mother.
The film explores the complexity of the concept of family and its multifaceted dimensions, which make it extremely intricate.
“It seems really easy at the surface, but it isn’t at all,” Egan explained. She posed a question regarding what a family is composed of, and who is a part of it, perhaps unrelated by blood.
Egan further asked the viewers to consider how we define who we are and the idea of possessing multiple identities shaped through the entrance and exit of people in our lives.
A discussion followed the screening, led by a panel of three women with personal experiences adopting children. The panel included Melany Trenary, lecturer in Communication Arts, Vicki Smartnick, Salisbury resident, and Chrys Egan, Associate Professor of Communication Arts.
Smartnick adopted a two-and-a-half-year-old boy from China. She reflected on the movie’s relevance to her own insight. “There was a lot in the film I could relate to with my own son,” Smartnick said, then discussed her son’s past behavioral problems of lying about chores and school work.
“I think it’s almost as if he’s saying, are you loving me enough to pay attention to what I’m doing?” Smartnick said, explaining that his actions were thought of as a test.
Trenary is the guardian of a girl from Guatemala, and she was asked to answer the question of whether the concept of family changed when she saw her child for the first time, a child, moreover, that did not resemble her own appearance.
“I guess I never equated the concept with looks. It never really occurred to me,” Trenary said.
Smartnick concurred. “It never really occurred to me either. I was handed a two-and-a-half-year-old, but it was the same deal as when I was handed an infant.”
When Smartnick began the adoption process in 2007, her original intent was to request a girl from China, for she assumed that was the demand in need. But she learned, however, that the real need was for boys with medical conditions.
“There are actually more boys waiting for adoption in China than girls,” Smartnick said.
This statement was surprising, considering the common myth that girls are more likely to be given up for adoption.
Nastia Jones, a sophomore majoring in Secondary Education, was adopted from Russia at the age of nine.
Jones is commonly asked the question, “Would you be happier if you were adopted younger?”
“The nine years I lived in Russia made me who I am today. I am more grateful for my education, I am more grateful for where I live and I am more grateful for my parents,” she reasoned.
Throughout the film, Jung learns to feel comfortable with his place in the family as he bonds with his siblings among other things. Though he was always welcomed by his family, Jung struggled to achieve his sense of belonging emotionally.
Jones explained the cause of this challenge.
“The first two years are the critical years to establish an attachment to your parent, and he has had five years before his adoption,” Jones said. “He’s already built a life—it’s not like he was adopted at birth.”
Dr. Derya Kulavuz-Onal, Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics at Salisbury, was present to ask the panel, “We’ve seen in the movie [that] this kid is really struggling to find his identity, and not knowing where his place is. Have you had any identity crises with your adopted kid?”
“I think it’s hard for her because she’s got to balance two worlds. She goes home to Guatemala and it is so different. To fit in here as a teenager, can you just imagine?” Trenary responded on behalf of her daughter.
Smartnick recounted a similar experience relevant to establishing identity. “One day my then seven-year-old said, ‘You know, he’s starting to look like us. He doesn’t really look Chinese anymore.’” she stated.
“We don’t really think of him as Chinese, we just think of him as one of us,” Smartnick added.
Among members of the audience was Dr. Claire Kew, Associate Professor of French at Salisbury. She directed a question to Egan, who adopted a child locally. She asked Egan if she waited to disclose the adoption to her child as a follow-up to Smartnick, who explained of her intent to disclose his adoption as early as possible.
“I’m behind the mindset that adoption had to be something that was secret, it was shameful, and we don’t keep things secret unless we’re ashamed that we should be talking about it,” Egan replied. “Adoption is not like that, and I think we’ve done a good job about changing the cultural thinking.”
This screening provided both an informative as well as emotional account on the topic of adoption. There is a prevalent need for adoptive parents today, with over 100,000 children waiting to be adopted, according to Good Housekeeping. Meanwhile, according to SOS Children’s Villages, an estimated 140 million orphaned children remain worldwide.