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Should You Bring a Camcorder on Your Adoption Journey?

By Allison Martin

The pros and cons of using a camcorder to record your international adoption. Capturing your international adoption journey with a camcorder - absolute requirement, fun addition or inconvenient distraction?

·         The Positive Side of Videocameras

There are many benefits to videotaping your adoption journey – for yourself, your children and for your family.

It will make a treasured keepsake as your child grows up. When children are young, they love to watch videotapes of babies and children, and tapes of themselves are especially enjoyable. As they grow older they will come to understand more fully what is happening in the tape. It will bring reality to their thoughts and questions about their birth parents and the country and circumstances in which they used to live. While the tapes will probably be watched less often as your children grow, it is likely that they will pull them out once or twice a year to see them. At each stage of development, watching these tapes by themselves or as a family, gives them a chance to revisit their adopting and past, with new eyes and a comfortable sense of familiarity. Adoptees often have a large gap in their past, with no or few memories, few mementoes and often few pieces of information. Thus a tape can be a real blessing by capturing important moments of their past. Pictures of the birth family, their care givers, the orphanage, hospital and town in which they lived will have meaning for them all their lives.

In the future, if they or you wish to search or make contact with their birth family, the pictures may prove beneficial.

For your family, watching the tapes together can be a time of happy memories. Watching the tapes, even if its years apart, can be a special time to bring the family together by remembering fondly a unique, shared experience. Pop some popcorn and make it fun evening event. Your movies can be used as a means of reminding our children how much we wanted them and care for them.

Capturing those early days with your child can also be fun, as children change so fast. I recall that just in a few days when we were alone in Ho Chi Minh City, my daughter moved from rolling and crawling to walking, as she became more confident that she was safe and secure. Her first bath when she laughed and played in the tub is a memory I will always keep. It would be wonderful if I have been able to capture it in a movie!

Tapes also give you the chance to share this special trip with your extended family members who are unable to travel with you. Older and younger children, grandparents, and perhaps even your marriage partner are likely to be very interested in seeing the place where your child was living.

Vietnam is a beautiful country, and as they grow up, children will enjoy seeing what it was like when they lived there. It is changing so fast, that it is likely to be very different by the time they return. Plus, this will provide them with solid memories and images of this wonderful country, which will help their self esteem when they run into negative remarks about being adopted or being Vietnamese.

As they grow up and spend some time learning about their culture, and even at times, teaching others about at school, etc. This tape can help form some images in their mind to share with others.

Just as with all adoption information, you will want to decide how much of these tapes you wish to share with others. Personally I would treat them as private information for your child, and share them primarily with close family or very close friends. But there is no need to make a big fuss if your child wishes to share them with her friends, you don’t want to create a sense of shame. In fact, just the opposite, your videotapes can shed light on what is for many adoptees a rather mysterious past event.

·         The Downside to Camcorders

This sounds great, but what is the negative side to videotaping your adoption journey? The main negative point is that camcorders and the taping process can be intrusive and awkward. Most people in Vietnam are not wealthy, and they can be yet one more sign of ostentatious wealth. And since they are expensive and the camcorder and its contents are valuable to you, it is also a distraction in your concern for safety and possible theft.

Carrying the camera with you and taking pictures while also coping with paperwork, complicated transportation arrangement and confusing crowds can be very difficult. Not to mention trying to handle a baby! This is made easier on trips with two people sharing the camera work. Or ask a friend in your adoption group to help you tape. Often adoptive parents will share tapes together of their trip, after they return.

One primary concern is that you also do not want to discomfort people in your travels. Generally Vietnamese people are shy of the camera, but usually do not object to videotaping. However, this might change as camcorders become more ubiquitous. It is best to be polite as ask ahead of time if you can tape. When you do use your camcorder, please take pictures very discretely. Fame is not as positive a virtue in Vietnam as it is in the United States, and even here most people object to overly strenuous camera action! Not all parties to the adoption will want to be taped, either.

It is important that the videotaping not become the focus of your attention. Nor should your camera work distract others from the important situation at hand, the adoption of your child. You do not want to intrude on your own adoption experience, or that of the other parents. Nor do you want to show discourtesy to your hosts.

During the ceremony or visits to the orphanage and certainly during your meeting with your child and their caregivers, you will want to keep attention on these important people. This is a precious time, and allowing yourself to feel the emotions of the moment is invaluable. If your main memory of the adoption is the camera angle, you are doing yourself and everyone involved a big disservice!

·         Types of Camcorders

If you wish to update your camcorder, you have lots of camcorder options, including two types of digital camcoders.

HDD camcoders are small, relatively expensive camcorders, with internal hard drive storage. You don't need discs or tapes, but you have to transer your video to computer, dvd or discs.

DVD camcoders use digital video discs, which work in DVD players or can be copied via your computer.

Recommendations for Traveling with Your Camcorder

Carry extra memory, discs, etc.

Consider using one of the newer, small camcorders.

Keep your camcorder with you or in a safe place, like the hotel safe.

Ask for permission before shooting if it’s a personal situation or you will be up close.

Do not be intrusive in your shots, take pictures discretely.

Do not shoot continuously as if on a tour. Take time to let yourself and others react naturally to what is going on.

Share the camera around so you are in some of the pictures.

Do not hide behind the camera. Interact with others and refrain from always putting them on stage or putting the camera between yourself and others.

Hold your child, not just the camera!

·         Scenes and People You Will Want to Capture on Videotape

Birth parents, and their family



Adoption workers


People around Vietnam in the hotel, shops and streets


Orphanage and/or living situation


Your child’s Province

Street scenes

Places you visit

Key buildings, famous places

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