Sins of the paper
After reading "Sins of the Son" and the companion article "Adapting After the Adoption: One Family's Story" (9/12/08), I was alarmed by the lack of balancing information with respect to adoptions from Eastern Europe. The family tragedy at the center of the first article is heartbreaking. However, this piece focuses almost exclusively on the negative, and gives readers this take-away: Most children adopted from Eastern Europe are powder kegs waiting to explode and/or are severely damaged with at best, questionable outcomes.
As the mother of two children adopted from Russia, I am aware of the challenges internationally adopted children, especially those who were in orphanages, and their adoptive families, will face. The research of doctors like Seth Pollack and Dana Johnson is immensely helpful to those of us doing the best we can to raise happy and healthy children. But what parent ever really knows what the future holds?
Rita Riehemann, Middleton
I was dismayed by the biased story by Vikki Kratz about the Russian adoptee, Isaac Carlson. It is so sad what happened to the Carlsons, but the whole story turned into a pejorative on adoption.
I am the mother of a son adopted from Eastern Europe who has no problems. If I had read this story prior to the adoption, I may have changed my mind.I hope Kratz's story does not cause others to reconsider the wonderful option of international adoption, so more orphans must stay in institutions.
If this story had been about any other population, for example an African American child, there would be outrage at pegging a child just because of his or her circumstances.
Nicole Fenske, Middleton
"Sins of the Son" and "Adapting After the Adoption" are both powerful, sensitively drawn portraits of the Carlson and Katovich families. But the careful detail devoted to each family's story did not extend to the articles' overly broad generalizations about children adopted from Russia. The unfortunate - and surely unintended - consequence is that your readers may be left with the mistaken impression that most children adopted from Russia are doomed to a host of developmental problems. This complicated issue called for a more nuanced, balanced approach.
Reading about the Carlson's tragedy was like living out the nightmare I had for two years in my own home. We adopted our two girls from Ethiopia at ages seven and eight, very aware of the possibility of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). We asked specific questions of workers to ensure the girls had attached. We were falsely ensured they had.
Initially, our youngest showed signs of moderate RAD and after six months our eldest began showing signs of severe RAD; destroying household items, pulling her hair out, physically abusing us and trying to harm her sister, hurting herself and then telling school officials that we did it. We were sleeping with one eye open and one foot on the floor, not knowing what might happen in the night.
It came to where we could no longer keep her or the rest of the family safe and her psychologist ordered her into an adolescent psychiatric hospital. Her stay lasted 30 days, and included nothing but tests. We were forced to make a decision no parent should ever have to make.
It is time for future parents and the public to learn about this disorder so we can help heal the children, and keep them safe.
Name withheld on request
The story of Isaac Carlson is tragic. It's tragic for his sister, parents and for himself. It's also a tragic misrepresentation of the adoption story for many (if not most) adoptive families.
Our sons were both adopted in the '90s from Bogotá, Colombia. Neither is "damaged in life" despite their early years in an orphanage. Our senior in high school has successfully navigated the highs and lows of adolescence and is on the "cusp" of adulthood. And our 12-year-old is a smart, friendly, athletic, affectionate 7th grader. Neither has "attachment issues and other problems."
Painting such a bleak picture of the foreign adoption process is a disservice to the majority of adopted children and their families.
As I read "Sins of the Son," I felt uncomfortable. I assumed it was because I was reading a horrid story about a terrible act.
But then I got to this line: "Adopting children from abroad became common in the late '90s. Now those children, with all of their attachment issues and other problems, are on the cusp of adolescence. No one knows yet how they will handle it."
Excuse me? "Those children, with all of their attachment issues"?
Many of my daughter's best friends are internationally adopted, and I have yet to notice anything other than kindness, intelligence and laughter.
I understand that the story was about a horrible crime, which had many contributing factors. But please don't generalize about an entire group of people. Isthmus is better than that.
Wow, I am amazed at how biased this story is. To suggest that all internationally adopted children are at risk for lives of crime and pain is just over the top. I know several families of internationally adopted children that are solid, intact and providing outstanding care. These kids are on their way to being amazing contributors to the human family.
Anyone reading the article and not acquainted with an internationally adopted child might certainly come to some very biased conclusions. I feel you owe these children and their families a heartfelt apology.
Candice Schneider, Waunakee
While I generally enjoy Isthmus' coverage, I was absolutely stunned by the cover story "Sins of the Son." The ease with which Vikki Kratz revives old stereotypes about adopting school-age children (particularly from foreign countries) was shameful. Her story too easily embraces the idea that Carlson's son was irrevocably "damaged" prior to being adopted, and glosses over the other factors that may have contributed to ongoing "attachment issues." I think Kratz sends the adoption process a big step backwards by ignoring the documented successes of happy, adjusted adoptive families.
Heather DuBois Bourenane, Sun Prairie
Your story certainly serves as a reminder that we must continue fighting to see that adoption support services receive full funding. While emotional and behavioral problems in children can occur in any family, whether birth or adoptive, those who adopt children with histories of profound deprivation, deep trauma or fetal alcohol syndrome are at risk for particular challenges.
Permanence for children will not be realized unless adoptive families have the supports they need to stay together. Parents need information and assistance to strengthen their families and handle the challenges of adoptive parenting.
Without question, most adoptions succeed, and most adoptive families stay together. I look forward to Isthmus covering one of the many successful adoptions that occur every day.
Amy Steuer, Post Adoption Resource, Center of Southern Wisconsin
Regarding "Sins of the Son": I called Ms. Kratz to voice my concerns. I asked her how she came to take the tack she did on the story, and identified myself as a member of Madison's adoption community. She informed me that I misread her article. Really?
A lead story, a large bold quote judging our children, and a sidebar story about a "special" child whose parents are helping him work through his "issues" certainly implies the subtext that these children are less than desirable.
If that was truly not your intention, shame on you for not doing your job. I have stopped using TheDailyPage.com and don't think I would use the paper to wipe my paintbrushes.
The news editor replies: Our story was about people who adopted foreign children despite perceiving them to be at some risk of damage from their early life experiences. We did not intend to convey that all foreign adoptions turn out badly.
So it took a budget crisis to finally return the Madison Repertory Theatre to the spirit of repertory theater ("Arts Beat," 9/19/08). When I began attending the Rep, the casts were a mix of professional out-of-town actors and talented local actors. We got to see our favorites in different roles. However, the local actors have all but disappeared, and I miss them.
And in recent seasons, even among the out-of-town actors, the phrase "is pleased to be making (his/her) debut with the Madison Rep" seems to appear more often in the cast bios than "is pleased to return to the Rep."
Of course, I want a top-quality, professional production. Of course, I want to see new actors. But Madison is blessed with incredible talent, and I also want to see those actors. I hope the new artistic director doesn't let local actors disappear again.
Mary Jo Cleaver
Berryman a happily married man
I was honored and flattered by the marvelous article by Kenneth Burns about my musical career with partner Lou in the last Isthmus ("Forever Berrymans," 9/26/08). But I do need to make one crucial clarification.
Though I know the line "the saga of Lou and Peter Berryman, who married in 1967 and divorced in 1980, is...a remarkable love story" was intended to refer to the period mentioned, it is being taken by some as referring to the present situation.
For almost 30 years - about half of my life - I have been happily married to Kristi Seifert, and that is my current "remarkable love story." Lou has been married for decades also. Lou and I are good friends, and we like to think we work well together artistically and as business partners. But that is the nature and full extent of our relationship, and has been so for three decades.
Setting it straight
In response to the letters (9/26/08) regarding Rick Berg's opinion column: It is time to set the record straight.
The writer who claimed Barack Obama voted against the Iraq War is wrong. Sen. Obama was elected to the Senate in 2004 and was sworn in in January 2005, so he was not in the U.S. Senate when the war resolution was introduced in late 2002, so he did not vote at all. In fact, Sen. Obama has voted on a limited number of important bills during his short time in the U.S. Senate.
Another writer doesn't believe the current policies have prevented attacks, then claims we have been safe going back to the war of 1812. Has history been rewritten so that World Wars I and II, the Civil War, Vietnam, the Korean conflict and other less-publicized wars never occurred? Do we place the blame for World Wars I and II on Presidents Wilson and Roosevelt? After all, we were attacked in 1941, and Roosevelt had been president since 1933.
Time to stop the fiction and write facts.
Peter Cleven, Fitchburg
If called, will serve
I appreciated Vikki Kratz's article on the Dist. 10 County Board race on the Nov. 4 ballot (Madison.gov, 9/26/08). She asked a lot of great questions, and I was pleased with her in-depth knowledge of county issues. But there's one clarification I'd like to make in an otherwise fine article: I would gladly serve on the Health and Human Needs Committee if the chair and other members feel I can contribute. I don't consider it a burden to learn about the human services programs the county administers.
Make police-call data public
Thanks to Bill Lueders for publicizing transparency issues with local police-call data ("The MPD's Secret Beatings," 9/26/08). I recently wrote Mayor Dave Cieslewicz requesting that Madison create a daily public RSS feed of all police calls. I have yet to hear back.
Citizens are entitled to this information. The Chicago Police Department has provided electronic public, block-level police-call data for a number of years. I hope Madison follows suit.