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Less clear are the cultural hurdles a Vietnamese child faces once part of an American family. So far, all the Los Ninos parents who have completed Vietnamese adoptions have been Caucasian. The McAdams-Paces say they plan to visit Vietnam and teach Phuong her birth-country's history. But they've given up notions of learning Vietnamese, and are still mulling how to introduce Phuong to Houston's Vietnamese population.
"I've been told that we have to decide what part of the country [she should identify with]," Donald McAdams says. "The point was that there are many groups of Vietnamese in Houston, all with different customs and holidays." Not to mention politics. So far, though, the family has received no negative response to their adoption. In fact, they've gotten little special notice at all from both Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese acquaintances. And once, says Anne McAdams-Pace, when she was carrying Phuong in Hanoi, an elderly man gave her a thumbs-up sign.
Meanwhile Phuong, who now knows English, still muses to herself in a mountain dialect unintelligible to her new family. By the time she's old enough to express emotions, her father thinks, Phuong may have forgotten her previous life altogether. She already navigates her new house as if born there. That's almost how it feels to Anne McAdams-Pace. Despite the unknowns of Phuong's health and history, she says, bringing Phuong up is like any parenting.
"You just basically," she says, "go on faith.