Agency Profile: Vietnam Connection


Susan McKenzie
Focus on Adoption magazine

It's the annual Vietnam Connection Christmas party, and we've invited new families with small children adopted from Vietnam to join us. Bemused, fellow adoptive parent David Kuefler Ter Weeme and I watch the chaos. Our group is, after all, a wildly improbable group of people. But for adoption, we'd certainly never have met. After seven years, the only common trait we’re sure of, besides children of Vietnamese heritage, is stubborn individuality.

“It shouldn't work, but somehow it just does...and I love it”, David mutters. The group has become a part of who we are and how we live. This Christmas, David's family prepares for several years residence in India, and, though I will miss them awfully, we won`t lose them. By now, our “Vietnam connection” is pretty much for keeps.

When adoptive mom Lois Nahirney hosted that first lunch seven years ago and coined the name “Vietnam Connection” (VnC), our children were tiny. Her twins made it to Canada and their new family just before a shut-down in Vietnamese adoption that would last five years.

Not only did this affect how our families subsequently grew, it kept our adoption group small. At inception, our group included just 15 B.C. families, eight of whom have participated ever since. That we remained small, allowing intimacy, was not our only stroke of luck. We also include married, single, gay and straight parents, and biological and adoptive kids; we have relationships with a variety of adoption agencies and a crazy quilt of cultural heritages clustered around Vietnamese roots. Some have adopted children from several different cultures, and for these families, VnC is one of several strands in their family fabric.

The adoption connection felt by groups who travel together to adopt children, or find friendship through adopting from the same culture, can confer on families a relationship sometimes likened to cousins--yet these bonds of shared difference and common experience make sudden cousins of utter strangers, entwining otherwise entirely disconnected lives.

“Adoption, and becoming a transracial adoptive family, redefined us,” my friend Mary Hart (an adoptee and adoptive parent) says. “Ours is a melding of old lives (whatever they were) and new. Regardless of what prior expectations we may have had, we now find we must reach out, look and keep looking until we find the people and ways that can fit the new present and future for these new little ones. Will our children thank us for stumbling down this path and for our perseverance, and, through thick and thin, for sticking with ‘our people’? We will see.”

But while we wait, I say let’s keep on keeping on. More challenges lie ahead. We are invaluable to one another.

Susan McKenzie, husband Blake Johnson and daughter Tien Johnson are members of Vietnam Connection and the Vietnam Family Group.The family also includes Snowy the dog, brother cats Calvin and Hobbes, and 57 stickbugs named Fred. For VnC info, or if you’d like a free stickbug, email Susan at