Americans Adopting in Vietnam

Our friend Bob (not his real name) and his wife decided they wanted to adopt two Vietnamese children, so in 2002 they brought two boys they named Wesley and Michael, unrelated, home to the U.S.

The children did well in our suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which has one of the best public school systems in the nation. They were too young when they arrived to remember any of their past, including language, so they grew up as American kids, doing all the things American children do and learn.

Bob had already begun some business ventures in Vietnam, so he was there a lot. Once he came when Larry was there working on his usual fine art projects in 2007 and he and Larry took a translator, our friend Huong, to visit with one of his son’s parents, who lived right off a runway of Noibai Airport.

The family were farmers. What we think happened was that they decided they couldn’t support another child when Wesley came into the world, and they needed the cash, so they put him up for adoption. They already had two sons and two daughters. It was a difficult and heartrending decision, but one they felt they had no choice but to make. Since they were poor, they probably didn’t have access to, or didn’t know about birth control.

The girls were not going to school, as is typical in poor Vietnamese families. Girls are looked upon as not important breadwinners in the overall scheme of life; they will just get married and have children, relegating them to housewife status, so why on Earth would you educate them? Sure enough, Wesley’s older sisters were spending their days in the fields, planting and harvesting to try and keep the family from falling further into poverty.

Bob and Larry, with Huong as the translator, sat down with the father. In the course of the conversation, Bob told the father about Wesley’s life in the U.S., and the father weighed in on his thoughts. As it turns out, although he had no control over where his son would be placed, he was overwrought that it was in our country. Bob and Larry were stunned.

As the father explained his thinking through Huong, it became clear that he had no love of Western culture and its excesses. He felt his son would grow up not appreciating Mother Earth, and all she had to offer. Wesley would not honor his ancestors, as all Vietnamese do, and in fact would never even know who his ancestors were. The father was grief-stricken about these things that had been denied his son.

In December 2013, Bob and his wife Mary took the boys back to Vietnam. All feedback from Bob about this indicates that the boys were very uncomfortable with it. Of course, they look Vietnamese, but when people would try and speak to them, naturally they couldn’t understand a word. Everywhere they looked, there were people who looked like them. However, the behavior of these people didn’t come close to what they were used to in the U.S. and they rejected it out of hand, desperately wishing to get back to familiar territory with their American friends.

Wesley has seen photos of his family, and knows their circumstances. They considered going for a visit, but changed their plans at the last minute, perhaps feeling it would be too disturbing for the boy. Michael, however, has no idea where he came from, as he was abandoned at birth. Upon seeing his native country, it awoke something in him, and he wants to know more.


Go here to learn more about adopting in Vietnam.


Author: Pamela Foard

Teaching and playing professionally since the age of 19, Pamela Foard was appointed a teaching assistant position at her alma mater, Indiana University, while earning a Master’s Degree in Violin Performance. Once graduated, she further honed her teaching skills at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in Milwaukee, and opened her private violin and viola studio in 1978 in Brookfield, Wisconsin, which was active until her move to Los Angeles in 2014. While at IU, Pamela studied with Italian violinist Franco Gulli and Polish violinist Tadeusz Wronski. She has also studied with Gerald Horner of The Fine Arts Quartet, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Dr. Gerald Fischbach, Edward Mumm, former Concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Piotr Janowski of the New Arts Trio in Milwaukee, and Vartan Menoogian of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A transplant from the East coast to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Pamela was barely out of her teens, when her talents as a freelance musician led rapidly to positions as assistant-concertmaster of the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, the Wisconsin Philharmonic, and concertmaster of the Green Lake Festival Orchestra (Sir David Willcocks conducting), violinist with Skylight Opera Theater, and under Music Directors Kenneth Schermerhorn and Lukas Foss, the number one substitute violinist and violist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra from 1970 to 1986. Pamela founded an all string, unconducted orchestra, Sinfonia Concertante, in Milwaukee in 1979, and was the Artistic Director and Administrative Director for four years, where she also served on the board of directors. She was also the Managing Director for Milwaukee’s contemporary music ensemble, Present Music, from 1996-99. In 2006, she and her husband were invited to be artists-in-residence in Hanoi, Vietnam for a three month program, where they collaborated with Vietnamese artists. She commissioned a tuba concerto for her son Aubrey (currently a professional musician in the Charlotte Symphony and head of the low brass department at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music) in 2008 from Wisconsin composer Mark Petering. In a series of fundraisers for various levels of sponsorship of the concerto, she solicited from donors over $20,000. Pamela has published two books: "Wedding Music Essentials" and " In Concert: The Freelance Musician's Keys to Financial Success”. Presently, Pamela continues to freelance and resides in Marina del Rey, California with her husband, the fine art photographer Lawrence D’Attilio, and their cat Dasher.

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