The Importance of Culture

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Maintaining your child’s connection to their culture after adoption is extremely important. EVOLVE’s staff helps provide resources and insight to understand why.

How do you define culture?

“Culture is a set of traditions that is a part of someone’s identity and how they grew up and currently live.”

Sarah Sanvik, EVOLVE MSW Clinical Intern

“Customs, practices, and beliefs that define and unite a community.”

Stefanie Palmer, EVOLVE Foster Care Family Worker

Culture to me is a person’s collective set of beliefs, values, and overall identity. Culture begins to develop as soon as you are born and is impacted by your personal experiences. While this may change and expand as you grow older, it is always important to remember the roots of where you came from. Without this understanding of your own culture you can feel like a part of your identity is lost. It is important to celebrate and embrace a child’s culture throughout their life so that later in life they will feel comfortable being truly who they are.”

Lisette Cando, EVOLVE Lead Social Worker – Foster Care

Why is it important to maintain a child’s culture throughout their lifetime?

“It creates a sense of belonging and identity that they can develop throughout their life.” ~Cristian Lozada

Cristian Lozada, EVOLVE Foster Care Family Worker

“It’s so important for a child’s culture to be maintained throughout their life because it opens your eyes to different cultures, you build everlasting connections with people from your child’s culture that can support you, and because a child’s culture should not be hidden from the world but embraced so you or your child can educate others and so they can be proud of their culture.” ~Christina McCutcheon

Christina McCutcheon, EVOLVE Adoption Process Coordinator

10 Steps to Maintaining Your Child’s Cultural Connection

The key is to make learning about cultures fun, rewarding, easy, normative and possible for the engagement of your entire family.

  1. FOOD
    Cooking with kids is a fun way to learn about culture and diversity. It’s a great learning activity too! You can try a new food each week, and discover what kids in other countries eat for different meals.
  2. CLOTHING
    Some celebrations and traditions in other cultures have certain clothing and attire that is worn.
  3. TOYS
    An example with dolls is that most often, the dolls that children get are ones that look just like them. But a better idea is to get your child one that looks completely different. Showing your child that it’s awesome to embrace a doll with different features will teach your child to love real people who are also different.
  4. HOLIDAYS/CELEBRATIONS
    Keep a calendar of upcoming holidays celebrated in other countries and cultures. Celebrate national holidays just as people who celebrate that culture do. Study up on each holiday as it approaches. Decorate your home as you would find streets, businesses, and other houses for their observed holidays.
  5. MUSIC AND ARTS
    Listen to samples of music from all over the world. Put some on and have a dance party! Another way to learn about and remember a new country or culture is through tactile experience, such as in the form of arts and crafts.
  6. BOOKS
    Make sure your home is full of books that feature diverse characters, and not just books that talk about history. Find books that have leaders, athletes, musicians, artists, and inventors who look like your child. They need to be able to see themselves in any career.
  7. TRADITIONAL CURRENCY/MONEY
    Why not bring culture into the home with a little show and tell? Showing the different kinds of currency used throughout the world can be a great way to connect with different cultures.
  8. EXPERIENCES
    Attend cultural festivals in your area and meet new people. Museums are also a great family-fun place to generate excitement about learning other’s cultural heritage.
  9. ROLE MODELS
    Children become culturally sensitive and respectful when they see adults who are culturally sensitive and respectful, and who take a stand against bias, racism or insensitivity.
  10. GAMES
    Play is not only affected by cultural influences but is also an expression of culture. Traditional games can teach us about a country’s people, language, geography, climate, environment and more.

Personal Stories

MICHAEL

Michael shared a post on Facebook in 2019 which talks about his experience of reunifying with his birth family. He opened this up to EVOLVE and gave permission to share his story with others.

“I was born in South Korea and placed with a foster family right after my birth. I was then brought to America when I was six months old and was adopted by my adoptive parents John and Ann. Early on my adopted parents tried to keep some of my birth culture in my life through camps for adopted Korean kids. When I was adopted from Korea, Minnesota had the highest population of adopted Korean children, so there were quite a few camps going on. After a while, I stopped showing interest in these culture camps, so my parents stopped taking me to them. I was bullied a lot when I was younger in 1st through 3rd grade, to the point where I moved schools. When I was getting picked on for being different, I did not understand why and I myself did not realize that I was different from the other kids.

So not many people know this, but in July of this year, I started the process to search for my biological family. Growing up I never had the urge like a lot of KAD’s (Korean Adoptee) to search for them. I knew that I was placed for adoption because my biological father lost a limb in a factory accident and they already had a child and could not afford another. I knew I was placed for adoption out of love.

I was lucky enough to be adopted from an area of South Korea where there is an officer who commits his time to reuniting KAD’s with their biological families. I sent my adoption papers over to him and a week later I received an email from him stating he had found them, and they wanted to meet me. WHOA……. My case was every KAD’s dream scenario. I sent over pictures and the officer was planning a meeting. After seeing a picture of them seeing me, and seeing pictures of my biological sister, her husband and son I knew a DNA test was not needed.

My wife, Kerry and I had booked a honeymoon trip to South Korea for November before I started searching. The trip I’m sure is the main reason I started the search. Our honeymoon adventure that would be us exploring and hiking and eating and sleeping in had turned into a reunion that would be filled with emotions.

After a week in South Korea, we boarded a train to the city where my birth parents lived. The plan was to get in a day early and to relax and see the city. We decided to meet for dinner on Saturday and the day of the dinner I was nervous, actually, I was absolutely panicked on the inside. The officer who helped located my birth family and a translator were going to meet us there as well. Kerry reminded me she was sure they are just really nice people. Turns out she was right. The meeting was filled with a lot of emotions, tears, and laughter. I was able to hear the story of why my parents made an adoption plan and throughout the meeting, my biological mom and father kept saying sorry. The one thing I wanted to stress was that I was great! I had an amazing childhood with two loving parents, John and Ann, who provided me with everything I needed and loved me unconditionally!

I got to spend time and talk to my bio sister and play with her son or my nephew. They also made a huge dinner for my birthday! After that Kerry and I went to coffee with my bio sister and her husband as well. We had a blast. The next day we went to lunch before they dropped me and Kerry at the train station for our next city. My wife asked me a while later if this was a life changing moment or just another stop in the journey? I believe it is just a stop in the journey of life and was meant to happen.”

Michael Toscano
Michael’s Biological Parents
Michael and his wife Kerry sharing a meal with Michael’s biological family

WILLA

The story of our adoption to Willa has been a journey of faith, persistence, and of God’s grace and love to our family.  We filed the initial paperwork in February of 2016, after feeling God’s leading through several circumstances. I cannot do justice to the whole process in a paragraph but want to convey that we are not the same people that handed in the initial paperwork. The adoption process–every piece of paperwork, every disappointment, every hard next step allowed us to be the mom and dad that said “yes” to the little 3 1/2 year old Asian girl with a complicated heart in September of 2018 when we were presented her file.  She is a gift, a blessing, and has changed us in so many countless ways.

Because our daughter is Asian, and spent the first 3 1/2 years in China, we make it a priority for her to have a connection to her country.  We talk a lot about China, and where she came from, our trip to China, and videochat her orphanage directors to stay in touch.  We hosted a Chinese New Year’s celebration at our home in January also. We decorated our house, invited our family and friends, and ate Chinese food together. This meant so much to Willa, and our kids learned a lot about China and its traditions as well. I’m sure this will be a yearly tradition in our house.  We also have some Chinese songbooks that Willa can sing with and have incorporated some Chinese keepsakes into our home decor. One way we can show Willa how much we love her is that she knows we respect her story and her country.

Written by Willa’s adoptive mother Tricia Veldkamp
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Willa at home

Article Written by:
Kristine Olson, EVOLVE Family Services, Social Worker, BSW, LSW

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