Q.My husband and I, both Caucasian and 41, are attempting to adopt an Asian child who will probably be in the age range of 10 to 18 months old. She will have been in foster care since birth.
This will be our first child and one for whom we have waited a very long time.
We would appreciate some words on the subject of adoption, but more specifically, cross-racial adoption.
I realize it is very important to give this child a sense of where she has come from, her heritage, but to what extent?
A. A cross-racial adoption has extra considerations, and it has extra blessings, too. Your child will be richer for having a double heritage and your own lives will be richer, too.
You soon will think of your child not as Asian, but as Korean or Thai, for your research will make you realize that each nationality is rich and distinct.
You'll want your daughter to keep her last name as her middle name (that's generally her link to her village), and you'll also want to teach her about her country's history and heroes -- but don't overemphasize them. After all, you're rearing her as an American, and her big holiday, like yours, will be the Fourth of July.
As American as she will act and feel, however, the fact that she looks foreign may cause more problems outside of your small family than in it. Bigotry you never knew existed may pop up among your relatives, and strangers may make thoughtless comments, talking about your child as if she weren't even yours.
Others may embarrass you by acting as if you had done something noble to adopt her, when it's you and your husband who feel blessed.
Their ignorance will not be your bliss, but neither will it be worth worrying about, then or now. You have better things to think about.
When your daughter arrives, you and your husband will know the same sort of euphoria other parents face with a newborn, and like them, you'll go through a chaotic time a few weeks later when you'll say, "Good heavens, what have we gotten ourselves into?" After that, there's the somewhat wary settling in that will last a few more weeks or even months, and then one day you take a deep breath and feel that soft, blessed peace -- a sense of completeness that you never had before.
If the transition is tough for you -- and it's tough for any first-time parent -- think how overwhelming it will be for her. This is where your research pays off.
You'll get your best advance information by seeking out people from her country and asking them questions about the eating and sleeping patterns of children there so you can help her adapt when she arrives.
You also can appeal to her senses to make her feel more at home, especially the sense of sound. Greet her with a few words in her language, as well as yours, and play the tonal music of her country, softly.
Hang a picture in her room of a distant landscape -- the kind she might see in her own country.
Evocative smells will comfort her, too. Wear a perfume that includes the flowers of her country and keep a potpourri of native spices in a basket on her bureau. Cooking with these spices will also carry the smells through the house.
As for tastes, serve some of the food from her country at first, cooked in familiar ways. Rice will probably suit her more than potatoes. She may resist milk -- with good reason. Oriental children often don't have enough lactase to process milk sugar well.
And then there's the sense of touch. You've probably bought out the toy store, but consider adding the Rice Paddy Baby, a sort of Asian Cabbage Patch doll. She won't care that it comes with its own passport, but she will like having a doll that looks like she does. If it's not in your toy store, send $35 to the Milton D. Myer Co., Rothesay Avenue, Carnegie, Pa. 15106.
The best hugs she'll get, however, will be from you and her dad -- but go slow at first. An Asian child may not be used to hugging. For more advice, send $14 to East-West Press, P.O. Box 4204, Minneapolis, Minn. 55414 for Oriental Children in American Homes by Frances Koh.
The Adoption Resource Book by Lois Gilman (Harper and Row, $7.95) is your basic book, however, answering more questions than you ever knew you had.
One thing to remember: adoptive families may receive state subsidies and federal tax benefits if the child has a pre-existing health problem -- a measure passed to find more homes for hard-to-place children. Adoptive parents say that your social worker should see that this should be mentioned in the adoption decree, just in case a problem turns up.