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Saturday19 April 2014

Things to Consider When Deciding on a Homeland Tour

By Pat Hoopes, MSW, LICSW

Homeland tours are becoming increasingly popular in the adoption community. Parents are opting for these trips as a way to help connect their family, and their adopted children in particular, with their children's country of birth.

Homeland tours differ. Some focus solely on cultural experience while others are adoption focused as well. The former is essentially a tour like any that a non-adopted person might choose to take and may include the following:

  • Visiting historical sites such as temples, churches, and seats of government.
  • Dining in restaurants that offer authentic dining experiences and regional cooking.
  • Visiting museums of art, crafts, and historical artifacts.
  • Travel to small towns and large cities of historical significance and notable beauty.

These trips are carefully orchestrated to provide the traveler with the opportunity to see, smell, taste, and hear all that makes the country unique and wonderful. This trip will provide the adopted person with an opportunity to experience the culture of his/her country of birth while in the midst of people who look similar to him/her.

Some families are looking for a tour which offers all that plus an experience that is uniquely relevant to their child's birth. The tour described earlier responds to the question, "who are they?"(Koreans, Colombians, etc) while the adoption focused tour responds to the additional question, "who am I?"

An "adoption focused" homeland tour provides opportunities for obtaining child specific adoption information by offering some of the following:

  • Arranging adoption file reviews with the child's orphanage or the child welfare institution that placed the child. File reviews may reveal information that is new or different from what was given at the time of referral.
  • Arranging meetings with foster families. It is surprising to see that foster families really remember the children they cared for so long ago!
  • Visiting orphanages. These may or may not be the child's actual orphanage. Families are often able to engage the children in the orphanage by holding them and playing with them.
  • Visitng a Maternity Home where expectant women are deciding whether adoption placement might be the right choice for their child.
  • Meetings with birth family. This may be a birth parent, sibling, or other relative.
  • Visiting places of birth such as the town or village where the child was born or even the hospital if it still exists.
  • How much information each child will obtain varies a great deal, but the experience is very personal none the less.

When deciding which tour option is best for your family, you might consider the following:

  • Most importantly, what do you want your family/child to get from this experience? Is it a general "feel" for the country, a positive and uncomplicated experience? Or, a more personal experience that may answer some questions that your child has about his/her adoption?
  • Do you envission this as a first of subsequent trips to this country or is this a "once in a lifetime" event?
  • Which type of trip may be most age appropriate for your youngster? Is your child mature enough to cope with what may be difficult or disappointing information? Is your child one who may benefit from "knowing" in spite of how difficult the information may be?

When choosing a tour organization, consider the following:

  • How long has this tour organization been in operation? How often have they led groups to your child's country of birth?
  • Who escorts the group? What is their experience/background? Are any escorts adoption professionals (essential if the tour is adoption focused?
  • How large/small is the group?
  • How much time is actual touring? Is there enough "down time?"
  • If adoption focused, what do they provide for emotional support?
  • What do they offer for orientation and preparation?
  • Ask for references of families who have traveled with them to your child's country of birth.
  • What can you expect your total costs to be?

Taking your family on a homeland tour is a gift of love, understanding, and celebration. Go if you can! A listing of organizations offering Homeland Tours is available in our Post Adoption section.