Articles

Birth Country Travel: What Age is the Best Age?

From Life Books to Face Book—Traveling Into My Space
(How a Heritage Journey Helps Build a Strong Sense of Identity in Kids)

Group Travel or Not? A frequently asked question.

Culture Camp & Birth Country Travel

Traveling to Adopt

Additional Articles – In The News

 

Traveling to Your Child’s Land of Birth
What Age is the Best Age?

By Becca Piper
Founder/Co-Director
The Ties Program—Adoptive Family Homeland Journey & World Ties

Even as parents are making plans to adopt an internationally born child, most are already thinking about the day when they will return to their child’s country of birth as a family. More and more, parents are realizing that a heritage journey is one of the most significant factors in the identity building process of internationally adoptive children.

With increasingly more preparation being done by adoption agencies who understand the importance of post adoption services, families are realizing that in time, their children will benefit from embracing their birth culture first hand. In putting together the pieces of their identity, it is important for kids to make a connection with their place of birth or founding, the orphanages where they lived, their caretakers and perhaps birth family.

But in how much time? What age is the “best” age for a homeland journey?

Realizing it or not, what parents are really saying is:

“I want my child to become a warm, wonderful, genuine person integrating all of who they are…..at what point in their lives will a homeland journey help my child do that? And, what is it about a homeland journey that does that anyway?”

In my mind, those are the real questions.

The journey is about giving kids the experiences, the information and the tools they need to get comfortable with who they are. More than comfortable. The journey is about giving kids what they need to become self confident, emotionally healthy, productive people. Experiences that encourage a strong two-culture identity.

The Ties Program has long maintained that the single most important message children receive on a homeland journey is that the people with whom they share their heritage are warm, wonderful, genuine people.

In receiving that message, kids are given a significant and meaningful piece of their identity. We have found that given opportunities, kids of any age take in the message, and use it throughout the rest of their lives.

Ian Hagan is proof positive that kids can “get it” from an early age…..

Many years ago, I was standing on a street corner in Seoul with Ian and his family…Mom, Dad and three “stair step” kids ages 7, 9 and 11. Ian was the youngest of the three Korean born children, and we were having chops made, Korean signature stamps. As adoptive families tend to do when traveling, we were drawing some attention. A crowd of Korean men took an interest in what was happening, and as they watched, they would talk, then laugh. It was the kind of laughter that made you feel comfortable, the kind of emotional warmth most adoptive families feel the world over.

We knew whatever was being said was coming from gentle hearts and kind souls. The scene continued—a circle of talking and laughing. Finally, one man who could hold back no longer, walked toward Ian, gently tussling Ian’s hair. As he made this magical gesture, we again heard the warm laugh. It was at that point that little Ian turned to me with a HUGE smile and said, “Mrs. Piper, aren’t Korean’s NEAT!!!”

Over the years, I have replayed that moment in my mind many times. It was almost as if you could feel the message float through the air. What a gift for a young child to reflect on as he integrates the life he was born into with the life he lives in his adoptive family. I know, some of you are saying, “But he won’t ever remember the details of the trip.” It may surprise you to hear I agree. Kids of any age (and even the adults) forget the details but remember the feelings the details created.

In feeling the messages, the imprint is deep, lasting and useful in the “work of identity building.”

Kids on a homeland journey are “imprinted with positive messages” by interacting with people in their birth country. One young Vietnamese adoptee recently relayed this story to me. “I never felt pretty before I went to Vietnam. But then, I was in a shop, and a Vietnamese woman came up to me and said, ‘Oh what a beautiful girl you are.’ It felt so amazing to have someone who was really Vietnamese think I was pretty.”

It was a fleeting moment with a profound impact. A homeland journey is full of such moments. The experiences become even more profound as we visit places of birth or founding, the orphanages where the children lived, meet caretakers and sometimes birth family. On Ties Program evaluations, nearly all kids say these visits were the most meaningful part of their journey. Children of all ages secure those moments into their hearts and souls to be used in the life long work of identity.


But the journey’s significance is deeper yet because it allows kids to grieve the losses of adoption, heal and move forward. No parent ever wants to see their child hurting, but if they are hurt, we would all like to see them heal. A homeland journey allows for healing by giving kids a chance to grieve in the ways kids grieve, which is almost always a different experience than what parents expect.

Most kids do not go through the trip overflowing with tears. In fact, on a typical Ties trip, kids (and parents) are singing on the bus, laughing hysterically, and enjoying the sense of “being” in their birth country with other kids who share a similar history.

When grief comes in the outward and “traditional sense” it comes in waves and bursts. But for most kids, it comes in ways that go pretty much unnoticed by all around them. It comes in linking—the finding and holding on to points of connection.

When our 15 year old son Michael died of leukemia, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to the depth of loss adoptees feel at a core level. Grief stricken myself in the very “adult stereotypical way” I was very aware that our teenage son Joe was reacting very differently. Distraught with loss, he “linked” to his brother in ways that brought him comfort and healing. He wore his brother’s favorite sweatshirt every day, took to sitting in his brother’s chair, and even tried out for and got a part in the high school musical…something Joe would never had done, but Michael would surely have been a part of. Through these connections, these “links”, Joe is working through his loss, something we all need to do for our souls to be mended.

That’s what kids do with adoption related grief and loss, and we see it time and time again as we travel.

Just a few days ago, I was once again reminded of Amy Anselmino. Now a young adult, she was standing in our office, retelling her story of grief and connection….something that happened when she was just nine years old traveling with The Ties Program.

Amy and her family were visiting the clinic where Amy had been born. They were scheduled to meet the doctor who delivered her. After their visit, Amy’s Mom came to my hotel room, crying. She said the visit had been awful. “Amy couldn’t have cared less. While we were in the waiting room, she was all over the place, first sitting in one chair, then another. She really didn’t care about being there.”

We hugged and talked about visits not always being what we dreamed about. Mom left and I was sad.

About 30 minutes later, there was a knock on my door again. It was Mom. Through her tears, she said, “Amy just told us she sat in every chair in the waiting room so that she would be sure to sit in the chair where her birth mom must have sat.Linking. At nine years old.

In Peru, three young adoptees found plastic bags and as we traveled, collected what appeared to be insignificant “stuff.” But when asked what they were doing with that “stuff” they replied, “Stuff? These are pieces of our ancestors!” Linking.

After her trip to China, Libby came home and returned to her life and friends. At a casual glance, her China trip is a past moment. But look carefully into Libby’s room, and you will see a picture from the trip, or a gift she was given in China (perhaps by an orphanage caregiver or foster mom), or a souvenir she purchased along the way. Try and move those treasures, those precious links that continually allow her to connect, and you will find how deep the emotion goes.

So, when you ask, “What age is the best age?” and hope for a chronological answer, perhaps the best answer comes in the form of questions.

  • At what age would I like my child to know that the people with whom she shares her heritage are warm, wonderful, genuine people?
  • At what age would I like him to create links that will help him heal?
  • At what age would I like to give my child the experiences and tools she needs to form a healthy identity, integrating the culture she was born into and the culture she lives in?

There is no question that as children become older, most kids can cognitively process the experiences in a more adult way. But they can feel the messages at all ages.

The important “stuff” of a homeland journey doesn’t come with a magical chronological age, but rather with experiences taken in by an open heart.

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IDENTITY BUILDING

From Life Books to Face Book—Traveling Into My Space
(How a Heritage Journey Helps Build a Strong Sense of Identity in Kids)

By Bea Evans
Co-Director
The Ties Program—Adoptive Family Homeland Journeys & World Ties

Cameras flashed as Dave and Jody arrived home from China with their infant daughter. Scores of pictures were taken at Sam’s first birthday party, just days after he arrived from Guatemala. Video tape captured Rose’s soccer game, the cameras still rolling twelve years after adopting her from Vietnam.

Pictures help parents recall memorable moments shared with their children. These images, the basis of a “lifebook,” form a visual timeline of a child’s life. As each picture is worth a thousand words, the tales that accompany the pictures are told over and over again. Eventually, as the stories are internalized, a child begins to weave them as their own.

Stories take on a different flavor each time a new storyteller begins. Further, kids create new anecdotes, recalling important events that they are now able to tell about themselves. The movement from “lifebooks” to “face book” is symbolic of the transition from hearing one’s story to telling your own.

Telling a story about a remembered event is clearly easier than retelling one you’ve heard. As a children retell information they’ve heard about themselves, questions arise, sometimes accompanied by a desire for further information. For children who joined their family through international adoption, these questions reflect not only curiosity but also loss.

What is it like in the country where I was born? Do I look like people who live there? What kind of houses do people live in? Do people wear the same kind of clothes that we do? Do kids go to school? Where was I born? Does anyone remember me? Does my birthmother think of me? Do I have any brothers and sisters living there? Do they know about me?

For many kids, there is a longing to echo Paul Harvey in saying “And now you know the rest of the story.”

The opportunity for a child to visit his or her birth country helps fill the gaps by providing a stronger sense of story, self and identity. Jenny Bailer, an adoptive mom who has traveled to Korea with her kids states, “In my humble opinion, a trip like this is a MUST for kids to fully form their identities and begin to understand where they fit in a world that includes two cultures.”

Traveling Into My Space via a Heritage Journey

With increasing frequency, families formed through international adoption are returning to visit the country where their child was born. Often referred to as a heritage journey, this journey back is also a journey forward. The experience adds to the sense of story, and nurtures a sense of self.

Here’s how.

Sense of Beginning – Internationally adopted kids have few if any pictures of themselves or their life before joining their family. Because little concrete evidence exists of that time, kids often feel their life began as they joined their adoptive families. Intellectually they know this is not true, creating unsettled feelings. Returning to the place where their story began seems to acknowledge that time period and validate one’s presence in it. As 15 year old Theresa points out after her journey to Peru, “You will know your own history from experience.”

Sense of Information – Each time a different person tells the same story the emphasis, importance, and recollection of details vary. When it comes to telling their own story, children need to gather information about and assign importance to the details of their life. Participating in a heritage journey encourages children to think about the beginning of their life and explore what missing pieces of information are important to their rendition of their story. Some of those missing pieces may be sought and found when traveling. Or perhaps different threads to one’s story are discovered. And sometimes it is the lack of information that leads to the acceptance of one’s story.

Sense of Place — Kids living in a country other than where their life began straddle a bridge between “over here” and “over there.” Learning about their birth country through their parents’ memories, exposure to information, and participation in culture camps and other events creates an awareness of similarities and differences. The opportunity to visit the place where life began moves awareness to ownership and pride. Upon her return from Cambodia, 10 year old Jesses writes, “I can’t believe I came from here. It’s so cool.”

Sense of Belonging – Several years ago, Greg and his mother traveled to Chile, Greg’s country of birth. They returned to the Massachusetts Cape during the height of the tourist season and frustrated by the slow moving traffic, Greg told his mother it was time for the tourists to go home. Mom reminded Greg that just a week ago they were tourists in Chile and no one asked them to go home. Greg quickly responded “You might have been a tourist, but I was a native.” The conviction of this statement gives voice to the strong feelings of belonging kids experience after visiting their birth country.

Those feelings are a direct result of meeting, interacting, and being accepted by people they meet while traveling. As Emily wrote after visiting Paraguay, her country of birth, “I can say with pride that I have two countries to call home.”

It is important to recognize that feelings of “loss of place and belonging” are part and parcel of identity building. Thirteen year old Lucy described her loss in these words: “I learned that even though I was born in Paraguay, I have not lived here and experienced their culture so I am therefore not a TRUE Paraguayan.” Interestingly, on the very same trip, 18 year old Jesse adds, “Paraguay is what makes me “ME”. It is those conflicting pieces that when added together help a child find “self.” And that’s a good thing!

Sense of Connection – A heritage journey provides kids the opportunity to discover links, or connections, with their country of birth. For some, like Amy, these links are intangible. During her stay in Korea, she and her parents visited the clinic where she was born. While in the waiting room, 11 year old Amy flitted from one chair to the next pausing momentarily to sit in each one. Although her parents observed this behavior as boredom, Amy later announced she had sat in the same chair as her birth mother. And indeed she had since she sat in each and every chair. She was connecting in a way that worked for her. I have often pondered that day for Amy, being so thankful that she was able and willing to share with her parents what might otherwise have gone forever unnoticed, an intangible connection cloaked in what seemed like disinterested behavior.

Other times the links are much more tangible and recognizable. For example, while in Peru, three girls sharing the journey each carried a plastic bag while visiting ancient ruins. As they boarded the bus one day, the guide noticed the bags were full of sticks, stones, bottle caps, and assorted other “finds”. She asked the girls if they planned on taking home this “junk”. Incredulously the girls replied, “Junk?!? These are pieces of our ancestors.” Time and again, we have seen kids collecting soil from their birth country, bringing home bits and pieces of a country they want and need to stay connected with in order to move forward.

The Journey Continues
From Life Books to Face Books – Traveling Into My Space can be viewed as a metaphor to describe child development. It recognizes that a child’s sense of self is initially described by a parent, eventually grows to include outside influences, and continues to be a work in progress. The opportunity to visit their country of birth enables the international adoptee to interact through concrete experiences to their heritage and story. Empowered by the messages of journey—belonging, pride, and understanding—the journey “into my space” continues as kids build a strong sense of who they are.

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GROUP TRAVEL OR NOT?Group Travel
Q & A by Eva Ash, adoptive parent and clinical psychologist

One of our most frequently asked questions has to do with . . . 
 
Group Travel or Not?

So, we posed this question to Eva Ash, an adoptive parent and clinical psychologist:

Q. As an adoptive family that has taken a homeland journey, how did you feel about traveling with a group before you traveled? What was it like to travel with a group? Are you happy or unhappy that you decided to travel with a group, and why?

Eva’s answer is “classic.” It is what we hear from pretty much every family that has ever had qualms about group travel. Thanks Eva for your great input!

A. This was the exact question we had as we began to plan our homeland journey! We are not group travelers. But as we began to think seriously about how best to do a homeland tour, we realized several things that pointed us toward group travel in general and The Ties Program specifically.

• First of all, if we had traveled independently I (the mom of the family) would have become the tour guide, travel agent, translator, and referee. Plus I wanted to still be on speaking terms with my family when we returned. We knew that by traveling with Ties all of the logistics would be taken care of for us.

• Second, we knew that homeland travel (and actually any travel involving children) comes with extra stresses. We wanted to be able to “just” be parents on this trip so that we could take care of ourselves and our son should the emotion of homeland travel overwhelm one or more of us.

• Third, we suspected that especially as an only child our son would benefit from traveling with other kids. And boy were we right on this one! The kids on our trip formed an amazingly close bond. While in-country, the kids loved to sit in the back of the bus chatting with each other, playing each other’s handheld gaming devices, and looking out the windows appreciating the beauty of their birth country. They loved knowing all the other kids at the hotel pools (the honeymooning couples didn’t seem to appreciate our group as much).

• Finally, we thought that traveling with the support of social workers would benefit our whole family as we processed our experiences. Some of us swore before traveling that we would opt out of this part of the trip, but as it turned out none of us did. And surprisingly it was our son (famously a non-talker when it comes to adoption issues) who enjoyed the chat sessions the most!

But there was an added benefit to group travel that we hadn’t anticipated: having other adults to keep US company! We had so much in common since so many of us were anxiously excited about the trip: Would our kids love us or hate us for visiting their birth country? Had we picked the right age for homeland travel? Had we made the right decisions in terms of connecting (or not) with significant people from our kids’ early lives? Were we really going to eat the local delicacy of deep fried tarantula as we had promised our kids? (2 kids and 4 adults did!). It was also nice to travel with other families that look like ours and understand the particular politics of adoption from our son’s birth country.

So yes, in the end we were extremely satisfied that we made the choice to travel with a Ties group. In fact, we are planning a family trip to Paris and might just become group travelers. If only Ties led tours of European capitals…

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Culture Camp & Birth Country TravelAdoption or Culture Camp

We are often asked if we see culture or adoption camp as an important step for adoptees. That question typically leads to the question of how camp influences an adoptee’s birth country experience. So, a while back, we asked the experts—campers themselves. Here are their answers….

Emily

Culture camp was my first introduction as to how different America and my birth country are, and my first glimpse of issues like poverty, hunger, and disease. The leaders introduced it in a way that made us aware that these two places were different but did not scare us. Being exposed to issues of poverty and hunger early helped me to form a background for what I thought it would be like. When I went to my birth country, I did not have too much to go on, and so my ideas of what it would be like were formulated from culture camp. Being exposed to poverty at a young age made it less shocking to me when I saw it up close. This also helped when I was trying to figure out why my parents gave me up. It gave an understanding of the difficulties that my family was facing and that I was not unloved. Also just having the opportunity to learn about the culture helped me to feel more at home. I had already eaten the food and heard the music at camp so although it was a huge change in culture, I felt more comfortable.

Joan Ellen

Because my kids just seemed so comfortable at camp that I got the sense that more culture would be better. Camp made me realize that while my kids seemed all American- they really aren’t, and should have at least one opportunity to really be immersed in that other half of their heritage. It was the camp environment that convinced me that a cultural experience like a homeland journey could be one of the most important events in the lives of my children.

Ben

All the cultural things we did really prepared me. I didn’t feel very awkward because I knew how I was supposed to act already. Also the camp does this ethnic dinner where we pick 3 things from our birth country to eat and then serve them, so we were pretty much used to eating the local foods. I would say that the camp in some ways over prepared me for the poverty level. It’s really not as bad as it used to be. Sure, there is still poverty, but it’s not any where close to how it used to be. And so, for many years I thought my birth country was basically a third world country.

Jesse

Using her camp experience as a foundation, Jesse traveled to Cambodia with many of her fellow campers as well as a few new faces. Her mother writes, “These kids stuck together like glue! They hung out together in the back of the bus, sat together during meals and played together during downtime. They shared their thoughts with one another during their sharing sessions. These kids shared something that no parent could ever share with them because they all understood what each other was going through.” Reflecting on the combination of experiences, Mom continues, “The pride of being a Cambodian American shows up everywhere in her day to day life. She wears all of her Cambodian T-shirts now on a regular basis- those from camp and those she bought in Cambodia. She did an amazing school report and slide show on her homeland and traveling experience. She listens to Khmer music. And when someone asks her if she is from China, she looks them directly in the eye and with pride says, ‘NO, I AM FROM CAMBODIA!’ The way that best describes her transition is that it seems as if she has retrieved a piece of herself that was missing. There is a sense of calm or peacefulness in her being.”

Mara

Because of camp, I had experienced the folk dancing and I thought the food was great. I knew what to expect regarding some customs like kissing both cheeks when you greet someone and the friendliness of the local people. What I didn’t know from camp was how beautiful Romania was. When I visited my birth country, I was a little more prepared but I was still shocked. You can never be fully prepared for the trip of your life.

Julie

The most important part of culture camp for us was to become connected to other families just like ours, reinforcing how important it is for the kids to feel like there are other kids out there just like themselves, and how important it is to acknowledge and honor birth culture. I also feel that the yearly culture camp ritual validates the importance of birth culture to all family members, even to those that don’t attend. It’s like a yearly ‘checking in’, especially for those of us who don’t live in multi-ethnic towns or around many other adoptive families, and is a very important way for Mia to reconnect with children just like her in a fun environment.

Kari

Culture camp helped me see that I am not the only one going through adoption and I get to meet a lot of fun Hispanics like myself. I also think that when I was in the younger groups and learning about the various countries each summer, it helped me see the differences in cultures. The camp helped me sort out stereotypes from reality. In many ways, the camp help prepares you when visiting your birth country. I actually could not imagine going back to Paraguay with out going to camp first.

Our Thoughts on Adoption and Culture Camps

We have often noted that kids who have participated in culture camp experience their birth country through “a wider lens.” As we travel, the food is more familiar, as are the traditions, language, look and feel of the country. Further, kids with camp experience have more likely been around lots of other families who share a similar background. And because more and more camps are drawing on local ethnic communities to help with camp, the kids are more likely to have interacted with people from their birth country. All in all, as they take the huge step in visiting their homeland, camp kids are usually able to experience their birth country more comfortably and with more confidence.

Find a culture camp!

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Traveling to Adopt
By The Ties Program Team

You are about to have one of the most wonderful experiences of your life…

becoming parents of an internationally born child.

Stay flexible and open to new experiences.

Let the country captivate you.

Your love for your child’s country and respect for its people

will forever be important.

Many years ago, Tempo Travel was kind enough to offer office space to The Ties Program, which was initially intended to provide heritage journeys to adoptive families. Then, an interesting thing happened. We started getting calls from pre-adoptive parents who needed help traveling to pick up their baby or child.

As experienced travelers and adoptive parents, we really enjoyed helping with this most precious trip. It has been wonderful to be able to “talk families through” what is often their first experience in both parenting and international travel. After many years of working with adoptive families traveling to adopt, we are pleased to offer this helpful information.

Preparation for Traveling

  • Get your passport early. Some adoption agencies require you have it as you file your first paper work for international adoption. Adult passports are good for 10 years. For detailed passport information, visit the government website for passport information.
  • Carry a copy of your passport and a copy of the passenger receipt part of your airline tickets, secured away from those actual items. In case they are lost or stolen, both are much easier to replace if you can produce a copy.
  • It is never too early to let us know you will be traveling to adopt. The sooner we know, the better we can serve you when the time comes for you to travel. We suggest you complete and return a “Pre-Adoption Information Fact Sheet” so that we have specific information on file so that when your time to travel arrives, you are not caught up in so much detail all at once.
  • Consult your doctor on vaccinations. Physicians get regular updates from the Centers for Disease Control and can advise you with the greatest accuracy based on your personal medical history and makeup.

“Thank you so much for getting us here on time. Elizabeth is now officially our daughter. We are so sorry for having to call you at such an inconvenient hour when we were stuck in Tokyo. Thanks to you for your outstanding efforts. You are the greatest. ~Denise and Steve Petit (email from China)

Airfares

When searching for the best airfares, here are some things to know:

  • Airlines themselves usually have the highest international airfares and always have the least flexibility. When you book directly with the airlines, you will need to make a commitment (even if you don’t have one from your adoption agency) according to the ticket rules.
  • Travel agencies need to comply with airline ticketing rules but are able to provide you with insights helpful in deciding whether it is time to purchase your tickets.
  • Travel agencies can offer a variety of airfares including sale fares, adoption fares, and business & first class airfares.
  • Adoption Fares: Some airlines offer special discounts to adoptive families. At one time they were a huge advantage to families, offering reasonable airfares with maximum flexibility. Over time, prices have escalated to the point of “crazy” and as a result, IF they are offered, they tend not to be very practical at this point. They are not usually the lowest fare in the market, but offer the maximum flexibility, no fees for changes and preferential seating.

“Just a quick note to thank you for your help in arranging our travel to Korea, to bring home our beautiful son. You made the trip SO much easier for us, and the extra info you put in the packet was SO helpful!” ~Nancy, Jim and Kai Covell

First/Business Class

    • Many adoptive parents ask about flying business or first class. Both business class and first class are extremely expensive. One way to reduce the amount significantly is to fly on Adoption Fares that allow a 50 percent discount for adoptive families flying business class. A fare to China, as an example, would then be approximately $6000.

Infants/Children’s Fares

  • Infants to age 24 months traveling internationally pay 10% of a full adult one way fare from the originating airport to the first point of entry into the United States. Infant fares rarely exceed $300. That fare does not entitle the infant to a seat—it is really more of an airline service fee. Infants to 24 months traveling domestically are free.
  • Children (2-12) usually pay 67% of an adult fare from China and Korea and are entitled to a seat. A one way child’s fare from Russia is usually discounted by 25%. Currently one way child fares from Central and South America are not discounted. The fare is usually based from the originating airport to home city airport in the United States. Note: On Adoption Fares, children 2-17 pay half of the adult adoption fare.

Seat Assignments

  • Seat maps for most flights open two to three months prior to flight date.
  • Adoptive parents rarely get even a month’s notice before travel.
  • Those realities create a problem for getting adoptive parents good seats (sometimes any seats) because people who can make their arrangements well in advance secure seat assignments leaving precious little for people who book at the last minute by necessity.
  • The good news is that airlines usually retain about 30 percent of their seats for assignment at the airport on the day of the flight. So, if you do not like your seats or can not get advance seat assignments, arrive a little ahead of the crowd, and chances are the airline will be able to help you.
  • Bulkhead seats are usually first choice for parents traveling with children. The bulkhead is a row where the rows break and you have no seats immediately in front of you, allowing you more leg room and easier access in and out. Some airlines allow pre-assignment of the bulkhead. Most retain those seats for airport check in.

Working As A Team To Bring Families Together

Within the last few years airlines have made the decision to no longer pay commission to travel agencies. One reason for this move is to push the consumer into purchasing their air tickets from the carrier’s own website, thus eliminating the ability to compare fares between companies and reducing the need for customer service agents. The airlines also want a customer to finalize a purchase by securing a name and credit card number so the tickets can be issued and the rules of non-refundability become effective immediately. Families working in partnership with Tempo Travel Service, Inc. have more flexibility and are able to think about their newest family member rather than focusing on their travel arrangements.

Working in adoption, we:

  • Coach families through the waiting process, talking with them before their actual travel preparing for that important day
  • Help families think through their travel plans prior to receiving dates
  • Evaluate airfare choices by looking at prices and change / cancellation rules
  • Provide information on baggage limitations and policies
  • Provide lots of useful information about the in-country experiences
  • Help families evaluate whether it is the right time to purchase their airline tickets
  • Place a family’s name on a waiting list with the airlines if seats are sold out on a desired flight, working to clear space on a flight
  • Provide families with our home phone number and e-mail address in case something comes up during the night or over the weekend (as things do when talking about children)
  • Offer help and follow-up when there are changes or problems
  • Request seat assignments, place other special requests and open frequent flyer accounts
    In order to be able to provide these services, Tempo Travel Service, Inc. charges a per person processing fee that applies only to airline tickets. No further fees are levied to make other arrangements related to your adoption. We provide tailored, professional and compassionate service to adoptive families as well as efficient, accurate and expedited service to adoption agencies on projects that need quick turn around. In short, we become a part of the team that makes the adoption process go smoothly.

Traveling With Your New Family Addition

  • Anytime you travel with kids, the name of the game is to keep your hands free for shuffling passports, attending to little ones, etc. A back pack rather than a diaper bag is really handy. And a baby front pack for infants is a real blessing.
  • Carry an extra supply of diapers and formula in case you are delayed anywhere or suddenly on a 15 hour flight with a baby with diarrhea. Your carry on should also include infant’s or children’s Tylenol as well as a couple of changes of clothes for your child. It is also a good idea to have an extra shirt per adult just in case!
  • Flight attendants cannot legally handle soiled diapers as they are handling your food.
  • Try to keep your baby on the same formula she has been drinking until you arrive home.
  • If you are traveling with children, order a child’s meal for the plane—they are much more likely to eat.
  • Ear pressure can be extremely painful. To help alleviate that pain for an infant, have a bottle on hand for take off and especially for landing, which is usually the more difficult of the two.
  • Learn a few key words in your child’s language, even if you are adopting a baby. Things like “Mama” and “Daddy” and “I love you” for a baby. Add “Are you hungry?” and “Do you need the toilet?” for older children.
  • When traveling internationally with a baby, airlines will provide a bassinet on request. They are designed for very small babies and attach to the wall in front of you in some bulkhead seats.

In all that you do when traveling and in life, remain flexible and calm.
In doing so, you will smile each time you see the moon and recall a phrase we have come to love:

“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on another side of the world.” –Mary Ann Rademacher

Enjoy this beautiful experience!

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Additional Articles – In the News

Note: Some of the material here will be country specific in terms of their “headings.” However, the experiences, emotions and reactions of a Ties Program are universal. We enourage you to read liberally to understand the broadest scope of the journey ahead.

Mother Russia’s Children Return with U.S. Parents by The Washington Post In a difficult year for adoption relations between Russia and the U.S, Russian adoptees visit their birth country with their adoptive parents.

Filling in the Missing Pieces is a really well done article by the new and interesting Wanderlust Review.

A Homeland Tour to Russia by Heather Ames, MSW, LICSW

Born Abroad, Adopted Teens Find Home in Multiple Lands, by Tara Bahrampour, Washington Post

Adopted Natick Teen to Visit Land of Her Birth, by Ian B. Murphy, Daily News Staff.

Travel to Birth Country Can Benefit Adopted Children by Samantha L. Wilson, PhD, Psychologist, Child Development Center, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

Bill Phillips writes about his family’s experiences traveling with Chilean Ties in an article published in Adoption Today.

Sixteen year old Kyle Hunt shares his thoughts about visiting Russia. A short interview with a very sweet and profound ending.

Heather Ames, MSW, LICSW, immediate past Director of Post Adoption Services for Wide Horizons for Children addresses these questions: Do younger children benefit from a homeland tour? Can they tolerate two weeks of travel? How will they feel about visiting their orphanages?

“Adoptee’s trip to her homeland helps her find her place in the world” featured in the Buffalo News recounts 18 year old Jennifer DiBella’s journey to Korea.

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