Monday, July 28, 2014

Adoption and Fundraising: When Money to Breaks Down Systemic Barriers for Families

Aselefech runs for family preservation.
There are a number of factors behind why I was placed for adoption.  Economics by far is one of the most pervasive.  My narrative is one among countless that attest to the way in which economics constricts the choices families and parents have--to keep their children, to not experience the removal of their children, to not become pregnant if they do not wish to be.

I have been outspoken for the past five years against adoption fundraisers.  I have been asked countless times over the years to donate my written word or official endorsement to adoption fundraisers, and each time I have declined.  According to my mother's narrative, at the time she stepped off of the plane in her sister's home state where she would birth me, she owned just one change of clothes. It seems irreverent for the wealthy to exchange money for inspirational adoption t-shirts among themselves, too expensive for my own mother to have worn herself, to raise money to adopt her baby.

Hierarchies of power and privilege push impoverished children into orphanages and care and trap them there with their families on the outside looking in, the empty arms of biological families aching.  One adoption fee could vaccinate tens of thousands of children or fund an entire medical center for a village.  The average cost to adopt a newborn from a struggling parent could pay the TANF allowance of a family of four for three years.

Yet we see fit to designate tens of thousands of dollars as a barrier to a home for a child-- barriers to both homes of origin and adoptive ones.  Money becomes a barrier to children returning to their poor families.  Money becomes a barrier to children receiving adoptive families when they need them.  To raise money to maintain this as the status quo is unfathomable to me.

There are fundraisers that should be grabbing our attention and support.  Aselefech Evans will run a half-marathon in Ethiopia to promote family preservation. In her compelling piece entitled "'Orphans' and Economics," Aselefech explains,
I’m holding a fundraiser, but it’s not for adoption. It’s for family preservation in my home country of Ethiopia. I was placed for adoption not because I was an orphan, or because my parents had died, but because they were poor. 
I have told myself I was done fighting with time, I cannot reclaim the past, and I am ready to move forward. Moving forward has meant not obsessing over every specific detail of what happened and what was lost. It’s a struggle.
Aselefech discovered just how difficult it is to garner support for family preservation fundraisers.
I thought $5000 would be an easy amount to raise, and I was wrong. It’s been a struggle, and a reminder that family preservation is far less popular than adoption, at least in terms of fundraising.
While disagreeing with the adoption fundraiser trend, I haven't paid as much attention to offering alternative options.  It is one thing to say what shouldn't be done.  It is quite another to suggest what should be done.  When adoptees head good fundraising opportunities, I should be doing my part to lend support here at The Declassified Adoptee.  Letting the hustle and bustle of life and starting a new job get in the way is no excuse.

My apologies to Aselefech and the families she supports; I dropped the ball not promoting her efforts here until now.  But there are still 20 days left.  Aselefech has reached her goal, but we do not have to stop there.  The next check from The Declassified Adoptee book sales will go toward Aselefech's fundraiser.  I encourage everyone who reads here to consider donating as well.  Money should never be a barrier to a child having a family--certainly when it is their own biological family who could care for them with support.

Aselefech and I are far from the only adoptees who have found the pervasive grip of poverty in our adoption narratives.  The film Closure captured Angela's return to her foster parents' home where she lived for the first year of her life.  Tears poured down the foster mother's cheeks as she explained how she had given Angela physical therapy everyday, loved her, and wanted to adopt her.  They were suitable to care for her until Angela had an adoptive home, but were not permitted to adopt her.  They could not afford to.

I've processed my own journey vicariously in so many ways through this film.  Angela and I were born the same year, in the same city, surrendered through the same office and agency, and both fostered in the first year of our lives.  I have never met my unknown foster mother.  I only know from a medical document here and there that I used her last name the first five months of my life.  I cried when most adults held me, but not for her.  Did she stroke my plump cheeks and feel the love of a mother in her heart?  Did she want to adopt me yet I set off on a path to yet another caregiver due to finances?  I may never know.

Money should break down systemic barriers for children and families, not build barriers.

Friday, May 23, 2014

As Rightful Narrators: Adoption, RAD, and Storytelling


Recently, the New York Times Motherlode blog posted an essay by author Tina Traster entitled, "You're not my Real Mother."  The essay processed her gut reaction to hearing the infamous "you're not my real mom" phrase from her daughter.  Traster retorted "well who is then?" and directed her daughter never to say the phrase again.  Traster described her own hurt feelings while disclosing her daughter's adoption narrative and Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) diagnosis to readers across the globe.  Her daughter's narrative and diagnosis are also embedded in the premise of her book Rescuing Julia Twice.  The reaction to the article exposed sincere concern in the readership regarding the level of information-sharing on the child's behalf in the article.  One Motherlode reader conversely posed the question: shouldn't parenting essays show the challenges of parenting, including a parent's raw and honest revelations however imperfect they may be?

In this entry, I will not comment on the RAD diagnosis (or diagnoses as reflected in the DSM-5) or that how it is popularly portrayed and understood often varies dramatically from the diagnostic criteria.  Rather, I want to respond directly to the above question by explaining specifically why RAD narratives like Traster's are troubling to me.

What do I mean when I call stories like Traster's as one among countless "RAD narratives?"  It has to do with the fact that these stories reinforce the dominant adoption discourse where adoptees and first parents are the topics of discussions that distance the reader from understanding by pathologizing them and issuing second-hand disclosure of their lives.  Rather than being informed of what relational trauma and attachment disruption are like from the perspective of a person who experienced it, these particular narratives tell the child's story on their behalf and the child's role is that of a problem to be solved.  To be rescued.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

"I do not Have to Help Them": Pushing Back Against the Apathy of Those With Power


"The Representative would like to meet with you," came a young woman's voice over the speaker of my cell phone. "It is urgent. You must come to Harrisburg as soon as possible." I agreed to attend, and quickly contacted two other adoption activists. It was the summer of 2010. I was relatively new to adoption activism and knew better than to go by myself. I knew why she had called.  This legislator had submitted a bill that competed with a pending original birth certificate access bill.  After his office ignored our attempts to engage with him personally, we launched a social media campaign in opposition of the bill.  We knew he had heard our voices, yet nothing prepared me for what I walked into that day.

Joined by two other activists, I nervously sat down at the large oval table. Several Representatives were there, including the bill sponsor. He was flanked by numerous staff.  No one looked happy.

"Can you tell me what this is about?" he said sternly. "My offices received so many calls from your organization's call-to-action that our phone lines went down."

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Your Child Should not be Your First Black Friend": NPR, Transracial Adoption & the Powerful Voice of Chad Goller-Sojourner

It has been two weeks since NPR's The Sunday Show aired a segment on transracial adoption that caused outrage within the adoption community.  To give a brief re-cap, Angela Tucker, an African American transracial adult adoptee who is the subject of the documentary "Closure," an adoption blogger, and a former adoption professional was interviewed for the segment only to be told that her interview would not be used.  Instead, NPR chose an interview with a white adoptive parent of three young transracially adopted children.

As the initial point of contact between NPR and Angela, I reached out to the producer once I learned that Angela's interview would not be aired, and with Angela's permission, I urged them to reconsider.  After further correspondence with NPR, I learned that they chose the adoptive parent interview because they were interested in her faith background, her geographical location, and her speaking skills, confident that the history of their show portrayed transracial adoption from "many angles."  The appropriateness of a white parent speaking about the racism experienced by transracial adoptees was not factored into the decision process.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Lost Daughters: Writing Adoption from a Place of Empowerment and Peace....Now Available!

I am proud to announce that Lost Daughters: Writing Adoption from a Place of Empowerment and Peace is now available in ebook format with print copies forthcoming, on Amazon.com.

This anthology, boasting nearly 30 Lost Daughters authors, was edited by Amanda H.L. Transue-Woolston, Julie Stromberg, Karen Pickell, and Jennifer Anastasi. It features a collection of writings aimed to bring readers the perspectives of adopted women and highlight their strength, resiliency, and wisdom.  We thank CQT Media and Publishing and Land of Gazillion Adoptees for publishing this incredible book.

The beautiful cover art of painted flowers was provided by Carlynne Hershberger. Proceeds from this anthology will be donated to a charity to be determined.

"Moving beyond racial, ethnic and professional silos frequently observed in adoption, Lost Daughters brings us together to witness the courage, strength and amazement of a diverse group of women who represent the true fabric of adoption."  --Susan Harris O'Connor, MSW, National Speaker, Solo Performance Artist, Activist Author, The Harris Narratives: An Introspective Study of a Transracial Adoptee

"These are brave, strong essays written from the heart by talented, courageous women who pull no punches. Anyone not already familiar with the inner ramifications of being adopted to the adoptee will be blown away." --Lorraine Dusky, first mother, author of Birthmark, founding board member of ALMA, and founder of [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum.

I thank Lost Daughters readers for their support, and our authors for their amazing contributions to this beautiful and powerful work.  Please visit the book listing at Amazon.com here.