Monday, December 30, 2013

"It's my Job to Pay Attention:" New Conversations in the Shifting Paradigm of Adoption

From a scrapbook my maternal
aunt made me.
The other day, I had an interesting exchange with one of my best friends.  She is not adopted.  Together, we spoke of family, life, and the holidays.  As I so often do when speaking of both of my mothers, I prefaced "mom" with each mother's first name. I have gotten into the habit of prefacing "mom" with each mother's first name for the sake of clarity.  Simply using "mom" when talking about both mothers in conversation seems to cause confusion.  People interrupt me mid-sentence, "wait, which mom?  Your real one or the other one?" so on and so forth.  The false dichotomization of mothers in adoption as "real" or "unreal" is a microaggression I try to avoid.  Apparently, I have adjusted my speech accordingly.  This friend stopped me in mid-sentence to offer commentary on my use of the word "mom," as so many people have done in the past.  However, what she said was something new and entirely different.  Something new and entirely amazing.

"Amanda, do you call your mothers by their first names?" she asked.  "Do you really think of them by their first names, or both as 'mom'?"

Monday, December 23, 2013

Caring for the Adoptees in our Lives During the Holidays by Honoring their Definition of Family

A holiday photo card for you, featuring an image
of a gift to me from my original mother.
Have you ever had one of those moments when someone says something to you that sums up an ocean of your own thoughts in just one sentence?  I will never forget the moment in undergrad when one of my favorite professors gave a short lecture on what's called the "strengths perspective."  The strengths perspective identifies acknowledges that all people have strengths that can be used to help them overcome problems.  By pathologizing someone instead--choosing to see deficits or assuming the worst of a person--we alienate them from their sources of strength.  We also alientate them from ourselves when we could potentially be a source of strength for each other.  Then he said it, the line I will never forget.  "Be careful not to define 'family' too narrowly for someone else.  Family is a source of strength for many people."

Yes, I thought.  That.

The title version of this post title could be: "Caring for the Adoptees (and anybody) in our Lives During the Holidays (and everyday) by Honoring their Definition of Family (and their experience in life in-general).  I say this because every person needs and deserves respect for their family and the story of their family.  Being in the midst of the holiday season at this time, I am reminded of how intense the topic of family can be for those of us in the adoption community (and anywhere) during the winter holiday season.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

On Turning Five: Learning, Living, and Loving Through Memories

I awoke this morning to the muffled sounds made by my two early-risers down in our kitchen.  My husband quietly sang "Happy Birthday" to our oldest son.  Today is my son's fifth birthday.  A string of memories played out in my mind.


I remember my own fifth birthday like I remember no other birthday.  I awoke the morning of my fifth birthday in our green apartment where we lived until I was ten years old.  I threw off my bed spread and slid down the side of the mattress and box spring until my feet hit the cool, wheat colored hardwood floor.  I excitedly bypassed the enormous refrigerator box at the end of my bed that housed what could only be described as a "ball pit" of stuffed animals.  Normally, I would wake each morning and spring from my bed into my heap of stuffed animals.  That day I did not; I was simply too excited to delay.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Being Adopted and Mothering a Preschooler: The Family Trees Have Started Already

"I thought I would have at least two more years before I would have to do this" I huffed in my husband's direction.  He looked puzzled.  I was performing my nightly comb-through of our oldest son's preschool bag, a canvas tote that I had carefully hand-painted with red and black swirls.  I had pulled out his penmanship practice papers, a mixed media collage shaped like an apple, and then I saw it.  A tree.  A large, finger-painted, green and brown tree on an oblong sheet of paper.  The instructions clipped to the top of the tree paper explained that parents were to paste on to the image pictures of family members to create a "family tree."  I held the tree up for my husband to see and he nodded.  He has witnessed my several-years-long effort to educate others on the acceptance of a person's family as they identify it, including my own right to include my original and adoptive families together in my own tree.

Why did I have such a reluctant reaction to my son's project?  The image of one singular tree with no roots suggested in my mind the image of a traditional family tree that involves children who have two parents, who each have two parents, who each also have two parents.  Although social, psychological, biological, and nurturing connections may be represented in one singular family in one singular tree for many people, they are not for me.  Which means: they are not for my children either.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Declassified Adoptee: Essays of an Adoption Activist.....Published!

I already announced this on Facebook but haven't had a moment to update my blog.  With that said, I am so happy to announce that my book The Declassified Adoptee: Essays of an Adoption Activist was published on October 10, 2013 and is currently available as an eBook on  Print copies will be sold on in November of this year.

This book project was something of which I had never dreamed way back when I started blogging 4.5 years ago.  4.5 years ago I did not know that I enjoyed writing; I did not realize that I really had anything to write about.  Yet, here I am.

I embarked on this blogging journey in an effort to locate my original family.  The process of searching soon became symbolic of finding myself.  The process of unsealing my records soon became symbolic of unfolding myself as a person who was adopted as a child.  Writing moved me from connecting to my family, to connecting to myself, to connecting to the larger community.  The time you have spent reading my words has given my words meaning.  Reading your thoughts has been invaluable.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The "Baby Veronica" Case Through the Eyes of One Adult Adoptee

I have been watching the "Baby Veronica" case for some time now.  I have witnessed the reporting slants of various news outlets; the outrage of concerned citizens; the shock and grief of fellow adoptees; and the powerful replies of the First Nations.  I have observed some tout adoption as the right decision--not because little Veronica's father, family, and tribe are unavailable options--but based upon who legally out-maneuvered whom.  In fact, her father, family, and tribe are capable and fighting to care for her yet they have been rendered legally disenfranchised.  My heart is broken.

Recently reviewing literature on the matter, I was sad to find that unmarried fathers and original fathers are the least represented, the least researched, the least legally protected, the least considered and supported, the least heard from, and the least understood parties within adoption.  This case has exposed numerous policy gaps; Father's Rights being just one of them.  I should also note that "Father's Rights" isn't just the rights of fathers to be respected as parents and to raise their children.  It is the right of children to be raised and nurtured by their fathers if and whenever possible.  Although this is a policy issue worthy of writing I am going to unfold my own reaction as an adopted person to the case from an adoptee's point of view.  I keep asking myself, what would this have meant to me as a young adoptee?

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Life-Long Re-Processing of Being Adopted & Those Who Unknowingly Bear Witness

I was ten years old when we moved into our bright blue house.  After living in an apartment for the first ten years of my life, this was an exciting move.  For the first time I could hang things on my wall and paint it whatever color I wanted.  I chose pink carpets and painted my walls a deep midnight blue.  I covered the ceiling with stars that glowed at night and filled one wall with stencils of fish.  On the far wall across from my bed I painted a mural of flowers.  A pink and blue flowered comforter was spread out across my bed topped with a themed pillow from the best movie ever (The Lion King, of course).  This was perfect.

Two homes on either side of ours were also being built.  A white SUV pulled up to the home on the right of our house.  A short, thin, young blonde woman got out.  Something immediately fascinated me about her.

I was about twelve when Kelly* came over one day to talk to my mom.  Kelly thought we could all be friends because she was between our ages.  Kelly was 14 years older than me and my mother was about fifteen years older than her.  Fourteen.  That was a significant number to me.  I was born when my first mother was fourteen years old; my first mother is fourteen years older than me.  The moment I made this connection in my mind I realized what had immediately fascinated me about this new friend.

Friday, July 19, 2013

How to Testify at an Adoptee Rights Hearing: Hearing Footage and Other Good Stuff

You know those memories that stick with you forever?  The ones where you say, "yes, this is why I am here, this is why I do this." Growing up, I shared many of the same adoption-related thoughts and feelings common to adopted children.  As a young adult, I started to ask, "what does being adopted mean to me?"  Through a series of life events, I decided to search for my original identity and family and obtain a deeper understanding of self.  On a blazing hot summer day about this time of year, I reached out to my state's confidential intermediary for an update on my request for my original birth certificate.  I had been accepting, up until that point, that maybe this information was not really mine to have.  When you grow up having little information, it's hard to figure out what of your history is really yours.  For some reason, I decided to gently share with the intermediary how hard waiting felt.  I will never forget her dry, disinterested reply.  "Well, not everything can favor the adoptee here," she said.

In that moment, an adoption activist was born.  At 24 years old, this was the first time in my entire life that my identity as an adoptee and my identity within the larger group of adopted people had made me feel worthless.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sharing Personal Adoption Details With Others: How Much is Too Much?

I threw my arms around Amy’s* shoulders as she told me her news in excitement. She was pregnant for the first time. She and her husband had waited for the first three months before they shared the news publicly. “Please don’t tell anyone” Amy said, suddenly very serious. I wondered why she would think that I would share her special news with others. I must have appeared perplexed. “It’s just that I told my mom first. She was so excited about being a grandmother for the first time that she announced it to friends and family before I could,” Amy explained. “I hope I don’t sound petty she finished. “But this is my news to tell.”

What does this story have to do with information-sharing in adoption? Simply put, it exemplifies one of many parts of life that makes sharing a story (any story) with others difficult—the intersectionality of our experiences with the experiences of others. In this story, one event simultaneously made one woman a mother for the first time and another woman a grandmother for the first time.  Whose story was it?  Whose news was it to tell?  This story is an opportunity to look the merge of two stories without the stress of considering adoption on top of it.

Human beings are social beings and so much our stories are intertwined with the stories of those around us. It is the intersection of stories that causes curious people to ask our adoptive parents about our lives as adoptees. This is why “how much is too much?” has become one of the most frequently asked questions in the adoption community. This issue impacts each member of adoption in different ways.  As an adult adoptee, I must consciously decide how to answer questions about myself, my immediate family, and my original and adoptive families.  Likewise, fostered adults, original families, adoptive families, foster families all experience being asked something very personal and wondering what they should share or "how much is too much?"

Monday, June 10, 2013

In Sickness & Health.....and Search & Reunion? How my Husband Got it Right

"I thought you sent those things in months ago."  I turned to see my husband standing next to me at the computer.  I was filing through a stack of photocopied pages that held the key to finding my original family and reuniting.  I shrugged.  I had just given birth to my first child, and had left my job to take care of him.  I could not justify spending the near $400 on something that I felt was only for my benefit.  I tried so hard to explain how thinking about taking on this process was making me feel.  I could not spend this money on myself or open this world of unknowns.  "Yes you can," he said.  "What benefits you benefits this family."  It was that day that I wrote the check and sent the forms to the intermediary.  Just what was is that made me walk to the mailbox that day and put this special envelope inside?

I have written about the various many things that lead to me to engage in the search process for my original family.  It was a medical scare that helped me realize that knowledge of my biological roots is important to me.  It was giving birth to my first son and looking into eyes--the eyes of the first genetic relative I had ever known.  It was gathering up the courage to mention my search desires to friends, family, and my parents and feeling empowered by their blessing.  Yet I have never written about the catalyst, the specific push that made me send the forms to the intermediary after holding them for months and pondering reunion for years.  It was my husband.  I had already had his support in searching.  In this moment, he gave me the priceless gift of letting me know that he truly understood why I needed to search too.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I am Adopted, Reunited, and I Changed my Name: What does that Mean to the Adoption Community?

Everyone who came with a lawyer was called first.  I sat alone on my wooden bench in the court room.  The room was smaller than I had imagined and full of people.  One by one I watched as various lawyers and court petitioners approached the podium pleading closure to important issues.  The judge was kind; the corners of his eyes crinkled with his sense of humor.  He called my name and I stepped forward.  He asked me why I was here.  I requested a name change.  He asked me to state in my own words why I wanted this name change. "I want to add two family surnames to my middle name and hyphenate my last name with my maiden and married names," I replied.  He looked pleasantly surprised and expressed fondness for my names.  He stated my new name for the court without one mispronunciation or skipping a beat.   The very name that I have identified with for the past three years was official.

I finally did it.  It seems like forever ago that I arrived to the decision to change my legal name, and now it is done.  After coming to the decision myself, I sought the blessing of my original mother, paternal aunt, and adoptive parents.  A name change is a very personal decision; it helped me to ask for and receive support from my family members.  So many of my friends and family have expressed a heartwarming excitement for me and I could not be more thankful.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mother's Day is for you too: A Letter to my Unknown Foster Mother

I was delighted to discover that one of my blog posts from last year "A Letter to my Foster Mother" was nominated for the "Best of Writing About Adoption and Mother's Day" list at Open Adoption Bloggers.  Unfortunately, sometime between when I was nominated and when the award came out, I must have taken the post down as a part of re-vamping and re-freshing my blog.  It was a post that I had intended to add some things to and re-shape.  A year has gone by since I wrote it and there are some more things I would want my unknown foster other to know, if I had the chance to tell her.  So in honor of my old post being nominated for this award, I re-release the letter for you today.

Dear Unknown Foster Mother,

I have often wondered if you would remember me if we were to meet someday.  I wonder if I was just one child, or one baby, that you cared for or if there were many more.  How would I describe myself to you so that you would know which little baby was me?  Then I remember a story my adoptive parents told me.  They were told I did not have a name and they could not even meet you.  On the day they came to your home to take me home with them, a little boy, maybe your son, slipped into the room to say goodbye.  "Good bye, Sarah" he said.  I imagine peeking over my father's shoulder at him as we disappeared through the doorway of your home, returning that goodbye in my own way.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Exploring the Richness of Identity: My Conversation with Susan Harris O’Connor about the Harris Racial Identity Model for Transracially Adopted Persons.

Susan Harris O'Connor
I first met Susan Harris O’Connor when she and I presented together on the adoption panel at the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Conference, last month. When we spent the day together, I learned about Susan’s work and her book. Her recently published book contains five of her life narratives that she has performed before numerous audiences, including Harvard Medical School, Yale Law and Smith College.  I highly recommend it for anyone connected to adoption, regardless of your racial or ethnic background.  One piece in-particular caught my attention; her narrative had been woven around a racial identity model that she had developed for herself and to deepen the conversation around racial identity. I knew then that I had to learn more. A few nights ago, I was able to interview Susan on the phone.

I asked Susan what prompted her to write The Harris Racial Identity Theory. She told me that Dr. Joyce Maguire Pavao asked her for her thoughts on racial identity after having heard three of her narratives. “I had read most of the literature out there” Susan said. “I knew what the researchers and theorists were saying but it was missing something for me.” Then, Susan began her introspective journey; a 6 month process of evaluating her own racial identity as a transracially adopted person.

Monday, April 29, 2013

20 Quick Tips to Better Advocate for Yourself & Others

In my four years identifying as an activist, I have had the opportunity to learn from other experienced activists as well as engage in the discussion of theories-of-change in my academic social work experience. As an activist, you are never done learning. While I have been an activist for only a short while now, part of my learning process is to explain to others what I have learned. How can we effect positive change if we don't pass on our knowledge to others to benefit from?

The wonderful thing about so many of the tips I have written below is that they are applicable to advocacy at all levels. Meaning, they are skills that can be used whether advocating for yourself, for another individual, for a group or community, or for broad level policy changes. I have used these skills when calling utility companies to clear up discrepancies on my own household bills. I have used these skills to help clients reach resources within agencies that they need. I have also used these skills when being interviewed on the radio, writing opinion editorials, blogging, meeting with legislators and their staff, giving feedback on drafted legislation, and providing testimony for legislative hearings.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Child Catchers: a Guest Review by Sociologist Dr. Gretchen Sisson

The Child Catchers: Changing adoption, challenging God's purpose

Guest Review by Dr. Gretchen Sisson

Systems of adoption have always been enmeshed with the goals of the religious. From the Orphan Trains of the nineteenth century, run by the Protestant Children’s Aid Society, which targeted the “slum” children of Catholic Irish and Italian immigrants (living immigrants, it should be noted; the “orphan” part of the name was a misnomer or, more likely, a lie), to the maternity homes of the twentieth century, so often run by the Catholic Church and targeting the newborns of unwed mothers. For each of these organizations (and countless others doing similar work), adoption has been alternately framed as a pathway towards religious redemption for parents who have committed the sin of non-marital pregnancy, or as an opportunity for salvation for children being reared outside of the true faith. In her new book, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption, author Kathryn Joyce disentangles the complicated relationship between contemporary evangelical Christianity and American adoption.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Discussion of Adoption-Reconstruction Phase Theory with Dr. L. DiAnne Borders

DiAnne and her son Jacob.
Out of all of the theories that I have learned in my academic social work career, I find myself most drawn to theories described in phases and stages.  For me, they are easier to remember and often clearly lay out how individuals can evolve over time.  Theories and models don't describe everyone, but they're important to learn as a basis of understanding people and the challenges that they face. 

A few years back, I was delighted to stumble upon an article that contained a phase theory for adult adoptees.  Written by L. DiAnne Borders, Judy Penny and Francie Portnoy, it was titled Reconstruction of Adoption Issues: Delineation of Five Phases Among Adult Adoptees and published in 2007 in the Journal Of Counseling & Development.

The article described how feedback from a previous research project, where adoptees had responded in-depth about their narratives, prompted the researchers to investigate how adoptees reconstruct adoption.  After conducting research from a sample of 100 adult adoptees, the researchers had developed five (non-sequential) phases of adoption-reconstruction.  The five phases resonated with me personally and were meaningful to every adult adoptee that I shared them with.

Because life is just too short not to engage in dialogue with other professionals and individuals knowledgeable about my topics of passion (like the time I missed being able to extensively dialogue with Dr. Betty Jean Lifton because I hadn't the foggiest idea who she was at the time that she emailed me), I reached out to Dr. L. DiAnne Borders who was listed as the contact person on the 5 Phases article.  She graciously agreed to let me publish the questions I asked her here.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Becoming Adoption Changemakers & Reflecting on the Dialogue After the CLPP Conference

Marisa, Amanda, Kat, Sue, and Gretchen.
This past weekend, I had the honor of being on an incredible panel at the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Conference "From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom."  The plenary/Q&A panel was formed by sociologist, Dr. Gretchen Sisson and featured master social workers Kat Cooley (original mother) and Susan Harris O'Connor (adopted person), community organizer Marisa Howard-Karp (adoptive mother), and me.

The purpose of the panel, plain and simple, was to put adoption discourse on the table.  The word--the concept--"adoption" pops up quite frequently in reproductive justice dialogue.  Yet what does it mean to be adopted, be an original parent, or be an adoptive parent?  Our panel let our audience know a bit about what it is like to be us as well as how to support those who live adoption.  We outlined this in inter-personal ways as well as on a macro-level.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Other A-Word: A Stellar Conference Panel One Week From Today

One week from today, I will be speaking on a plenary panel at the Civil Liberties and Public Policy's Reproductive Justice conference. Included in the panel are Susan Harris O'Connor, MSW; Kate Livingston, PhD candidate; and community organizer, Marisa Howard Karp. The panel will be moderated by Sociologist, Dr. Gretchen Sisson.

Session title: The Other A-Word: Adoption and Reproductive Justice
1:15 to 2:45, FPH 103: Adoption has been co-opted by anti-choice advocates as a “solution” to unplanned pregnancy, teen parenting, and pregnancy in poverty, but has been almost universally neglected by the reproductive justice movement. This panel will apply an RJ framework to thinking through adoption issues, from the struggle of adoptees to access vital documentation and medical history to how race, class and gender influence the experiences of both birth and adoptive parents. Adoption is a complex process that both builds families and engenders loss. Open adoptions, in particular, make visible new forms of kinship created by adoption. Participants will discuss ways of moving towards a more ethical, better-supported system of adoption.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How Not to Shut Down Adoption Discourse--or--How to Ask Someone About Their Family

Those of us connected to adoption get asked some pretty intense questions whether from family members, friends, co-workers, or random strangers.  In fact, one of the most frequently written about topics in the larger adoption community is the "Things People Ask That They Shouldn't" variety.  The answers to the questions run the gamut from snark, to serious answers, to light-hearted replies.  More often than not, the responses send the message that people should feel badly for asking and that they shouldn't ask about adoption.  Perhaps even that they should ignore adoption.  It's not OK to ask anything.  But is shutting down adoption discourse what we really want?

It's true that many of the questions those of us connected to adoption get asked are presumptive, too personal, or even unkind.  Perhaps unintentionally so.  This blog post won't tell the adoption community how to deal with the questions or overlook what makes them uncomfortable about certain adoption-related questions.  I want to appeal to those who may some day ask an adoptee a question to do so in a way that's respectful.  I will cover adoptee-focused questions, although comparable questions may get asked of other adoption community members.

The hallmark of inappropriate questions is that they are filled with micro-aggressions--underlying messages that get sent along with the question.  Micro-aggressions reflect biases and often aren't what you meant to say at all.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"My Name is not Mom": Why Identity is so Important to me

"Hi, are you mom?"

"My name is Amanda.  I am W's mom."

"OK mom.  I'm your son's nurse.  I'll be taking care of him today."

My son recently returned home after both of us had a week-long stay at the hospital.  He was the patient recovering from the effects of a virus on his little body.  I was the worried parent by his side.  During our ordeal, the above scenario played out over and over again, with a few exceptions, each time I would meet a new professional that needed to interact with my son.

All of the professionals were both kind and knowledgeable.  The people who stood out to me the most were the ones who called me by my name, not "mom."  Calling me "mom" may have been their way of affirming an important role I have in my son's life.  However, calling my by my actual name instead is a matter of showing respect.  I am not their mom, I am my son's mom.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Why New York City's Anti-Teen Pregnancy Campaign is a Terrible Idea

If you're visiting a New York City subway anytime soon, you might take notice of new posters featuring small, tearful children.  "Dad, you'll be paying to support me for the next 20 years" one poster reads.  New York City has embarked on a campaign aimed at reducing teen pregnancy rates.  The city hopes that by informing teens of the statistics citing poor outcomes for teen parents and their children, fewer teens will get pregnant.  

Proponents of the campaign maintain that shame is an effective tool to keep teenagers from becoming pregnant.  Opponents point out that the campaign perpetuates gender stereotypes and misleads the public into believing that teen pregnancy is the cause of poverty.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My 40,000 Ancestors: the Defense of Adoptee Genealogical Research

The use of the Internet to disseminate news has brought with it a new and revolutionary platform for opinions about current and historical events to be shared.  The relative anonymity that the internet provides allows readers to comment on these events in ways they might never speak in everyday life.  These comments express both what people really feel as well as harshness that few would ever unfurl before another person were they standing face-to-face.  In adoption news articles, this new reality is no exception.  Harsh feelings, double standards, and hurtful themes unfold before the eyes of the adoption community.  At times, this conjures a sense of hopelessness.  Will the general public ever truly come to understand the people of adoption?

In adoption articles, we see the public's reaction to adoption issues, and we see how the reporting itself influences and conjures biases from readers.  Articles about happy reunions, for example, carry happy, congratulatory comments.  Articles about individuals who are searching, who were rejected, or who did not want to be found elicit a much different response.  People become angry.  They want the adoptee to know how they've betrayed their adoptive family.  They call the adoptee names and remind the adoptee they "should have been aborted."  They advise the adoptee to "leave well enough alone" and stop their search.

With a heavy heart, I plead with each and every person in the public who is not adopted, examine your biases before you condemn an adopted person on an issue so close to their soul.

Searches for biological ancestors, pouring through records, and seeking oral history to guide you along the way are completely reasonable parts of being human.  If this were not so, websites like would not gross well over $100 million in revenue per year. has over 1.5 million users and is rapidly growing.  Yet our biases draw a line in the sand between those who are adopted and those who are not.  Those of the 1.5+ million Ancestry users that are not adopted might be delightfully referred to as "hobbyists."  Adoptees are accused of not "letting sleeping dogs lie."

A year or so ago, I received a message on my account from a complete stranger.

"Are you related to so-and-so?  They wanted to know.  "I've searched up until a certain point and cannot find the last name Thomas* that goes back farther than the past handful of generations.  Have any idea why?"

My reply came.

"Yes, my adoptive mother appears to be your distant cousin.  The reason the name Thomas* only goes back so far into history is because it was not the family's original name.  My mother's great-grandfather was a First Nations tribe member.  He was taken to the Carlisle Industrial School, as was his father before him, was stripped of his surname name, and pulled the name *Thomas from the lottery to replace it."

I sighed before typing out the last few dreaded sentences.

"He was told never to speak of his culture or original surname again.  And so he never did.  No one in the family knows the family name or any information beyond my great-grandfather."

I sent him my mother's great-grandfather's name.  It belonged to him too.

I was so saddened to be the bearer of the solemn news in my adoptive family's history.  I am not biologically related to them yet I still feel their historically inherited pain.  Even still, I was so honored to be the one to tell this man of his amazing heritage that he had never known of before.

I was the first person to ever tell this man--a complete stranger to me--that he descended from a great First Nations tribe.

The thought to criticize this man for his curiosity never entered my mind.  It never once occurred to me to chide him for reaching out to someone for information, whom he perceived to be an oral historian of his family.  "Go on with your life and appreciate the family you have now" never once flew my finger tips onto the keyboard.

"My genealogy is not important to me" say some in comparison of themselves to what they expect from adopted persons.  Some who say such things grew up surrounded by their genetic information, just by observation, and integrated it into their identity formation during those very crucial periods when they were young.  Everyone forms identity based on what information about their family/families that they have; some simply have less information than others to do so with.  Let's not lose compassion for what that might be like for a person.  Let's not fail to examine our own biases in adoption that cause us to have a sour gut reaction to the news of an adoptee doing what so many humans do.  Searching, seeking, and collecting the history, names, and stories that mark their existence on this earth.

I once asked someone that I consider a mentor, an expert in Jungian Psychology, if she believed that my ancestors watch out for me.  She replied kindly, conjuring a memory of a song about each person having 10,000 ancestors dreaming of them.

Knowing I'm adopted she replied, "adoptees have 40,000."

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The View from the Outside: My Aunt Stephanie Speaks

You've read the story of how I first connected with my original family on Facebook three years ago, when I finally wrote about it in this post in 2011.  What you've never seen is the story from the other side of the computer.  My aunt has been a support to my original mom and was there when my mom received that Facebook message from me.  This is the story from her perspective.

I still remember the day we decided to set up a Facebook account for my dear friend and sister-in-law. She was curious as everyone she knew had one, and asked me for help. It was a week before I could when she told me that she had a message and didn't know how to look at it. In fact, she didn't even know the person who sent it. We sat down at the laptop and opened it. We started reading it together and stopped after the first line and just looked at each other in shock. You see, my sister-in-law had given up a baby for adoption when she was 14. This unknown person was her daughter, who was now 24 years old.

Due to the circumstances of the birth, my sister-in-law had limited family support, even though she comes from a large one. I have been married to her brother for 22 years at this point. I knew the story, and I was there for her every year on the baby’s birthday. I also let her speak, and allowed her to vent whenever she needed to. Most of the family would not hear of this child, named Christen.

Christen was missed every day. My sister-in-law felt like there was always going to be something missing. She had no control over what happened with this child. As a child herself, she was told what was going to happen and that is what happened. We had many conversations about what would happen if they ever found each other, and how some tough questions would be addressed when and if that happened.

We also talked a lot about the love and guilt my sister-in-law had about giving her up. My sister-in-law had an idea in her head about how the reunion would look and sound and feel. Needless to say, life happened, and the white picket fence had yet to be built 24 years after the fact.

I read fear and hope in her eyes when we read that Facebook message, and she said “what do I do?”

After a few minutes of conversation we decided she should message her back, understand that my sister-in-law had recently been in contact with a Confidential Intermediary who was transferring info to her about her daughter. She was told that she needed to pay for contact in person and well that was something we were working on. We immediately got a message back from Christen, her family named her Amanda, and phone numbers were traded, phone calls were made, contact was established. They had the get to know you conversation, and I spoke briefly to Amanda myself that day. I could not leave my sister-in-law that day, as she was scared and unsure.

Now Amanda is part of our lives, and loved in words and in actions as much as any of her cousins have ever been.

As her aunt and support for her first mom, Amanda is everything that my sister-in-law could have been, had her life been different. I look at her and see my sister-in-law; I get all weepy whenever we talk about it. These 2 women are strong and independent, and every day I thank God for letting me be part of this, and to see a real miracle. The process has been hard, not all hugs and kisses. Everyone brings baggage. I still support my sister-in-law and now Amanda. I am mother to 2 daughters, and now my sister-in-law and I share another thing. We have amazing women who are confident and strong and excellent mothers themselves. The pride she has for her daughter shines in her. 

I want to thank Amanda for allowing me to share this. I love to tell stories; this is the best story I have so far. It is also true. I am blessed to have one of the most amazing women I have ever met, who has supported me through some hard times, and the younger version of her and the potential that she had, is alive in her daughter.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

5 Things Adoptees Need to Hear from Absolutely Everyone

One of the things people consistently ask me is, "I have a family member who doesn't understand my adopted loved one, how can I help them understand?"  There are many ways to respond.  I could refer them to information on adoption history.  I could make them aware of adoption statistics that dispel stereotypes.  I could send them links on adoption trauma theories or identity theories.  I could reference memoirs of other adoptees that prove any given adoptee isn't alone in how they feel.  Yet I still need to ask myself, "how helpful is this to the individual and their individual situation?"

Books, research, and narratives are vital components of understanding the adoption experience--especially for those who are not adopted.  There are common adoption-related thoughts, feelings, and experiences among adoptees.  However, how these things intersect in an adoptee's story differ because every story is different.  When we talk about making interpersonal relationships better, we are really talking about how to listen and be sensitive to an adopted person.  Here are five things that I personally think adoptees need to hear from those around them.

"I will give honor to your story."
I realize that if I am not adopted or have a different adoption experience, I cannot force your experience through my lens.  I cannot demand that you adapt your story to my comfort level.  Your story, the conclusions that you draw from it, and what it means to you are yours.  I don't have to agree with your opinions to honor and respect the story behind it.  I will let you lead when you tell your story rather than interjecting assertions and making assumptions that leave you wary of saying another sentence.  I will use the terms and language that you use for your story when I ask you questions about what you've told me.  I will deal with the emotions that your story made me feel before I respond to you.

"I will embrace those whom you embrace."
I will not use my own lens of how I was raised or how I view family to tell you how to view yours.  If your reality of having two non-biological parents, feeling you have four parents, or wanting to include your original parents in your life seems peculiar to me, I will understand that I need to investigate why I feel this way before I respond to you.  I will do this to handle your feelings with care.  I understand that your connections are important to you.  Even if I do not understand your connections, they will be important to me because you are important to me.

"I will ask about and listen to your story when it helps you."
I will ask you to talk about being adopted when I sense you want to talk about it.  I will carefully think about my questions before I ask them, and make sure I ask them in a way that is respectful.  The questions I ask will only probe as deep as is appropriate for the level of closeness and intimacy in our relationship.  I will ask questions that help me learn how to support you and other adoptees.  I will not ask questions simply to satisfy my own curiosity.

"I will validate your feelings."
I will not always understand will how you feel but I will do my best to empathize with you.  I will examine how my life experiences may differ from yours which impacts my ability to fully understand what you're feeling about your own life experiences.  I will acknowledge that wanting biological connections as most other people have, or not feeling ready to reach out for them right now are both normal aspects of being adopted.  I will not use my own life experiences to tell you that you feel the wrong way.  Our conversations will be a safe space for you to be yourself.

"I will advocate for you."
I will help you as best I can with what you need.  If you have a petition that addresses a need or inequality, I will sign it.  If you need to petition the court for information, I will drive you there.  If you are calling a loved one for the first time, I will hold your hand.  I will not make you feel as though adoption issues are silly, out-dated, or unimportant because that's simply not true.  If you need to talk, I will listen to you.  I will write to my legislators and tell them that I support the issues that are important to you.  When I hear adoption stereotypes or ignorance spoken about adoptees, I will confront it immediately.

I am sure someone is going to tell me that these active listening skills are not unique to adoption and could be employed in daily life or with any other circumstance.  I absolutely agree.  Responding sensitively, letting the person you are listening to lead their story and supporting them as best you can are key pieces to good dialogue in just about any situation.  What people need to know is that adoption is no exception.  People do not always let adoptees lead their story, accept the adoptee's given family reality, or validate their feelings.  We as a society have become so sure about what adoption means that people not connected to adoption at all sometimes think nothing of shutting an adoptee down completely and walking away.  Adoptees deserve the same time, sensitivity, and attention as anyone else.  Let's give it to them.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Why I Don't Support Compromise Legislation but Won't Fight About it Either

Ahhh.  The art of demonstration poster making.
Bills that seek to restore original birth certificate access to adoptees are popping up all over the country.  These bills come in two general forms; "increased access" (a.k.a "compromised") and "equal access."  There's a lot of debate about these two categories and whether or not the "increased access" bills should be supported by Adoptee Rights Activists.  Many heated arguments have been exchanged between activists in both camps.  This time around I'm asking: shouldn't the exchange about the validity of "increased access" and "equal access" take place between voters, policy makers, and large adoption lobbyists, rather than becoming a line drawn in the sand between activists?

It is not a question as to whether or not "increased access" bills are inadequate.  It's generally agreed that equality is what everyone wants and is ideal.  The issue is whether or not they're acceptable policy in the meantime until "equal access" can be achieved later (not forgetting that the first "increased access" law instated in the U.S. has not been revisited in 14 years).  The even bigger issue is that drawing lines in the sand over bad or inadequate policy takes attention off of the powers that be who drafted it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Do we Really Know What Adoptees Are Thinking? 4 Reasons why I Reunited

Some truth to this?
Mary* was excited about her "gotcha day" each year.  "Gotcha day" is the day when adoptions are finalized, or for some adoptees, when they entered into the home of their adoptive parents.  Mary's "gotcha day" was like a second birthday, full of excitement and love.  Mary's fondness of her "gotcha day" was something I just couldn't identify with when she explained it to me.  I did not like my "gotcha day."  The year I was old enough to realize I had a special day in my family that acknowledged my adoption, I stated my preference not to observe it.  Even when a trip to the aquarium was arranged in the day's honor, I asked not to go.  "I have a birthday," I told my adoptive mother.  And that was that.

After reading this brief glimpse into the life stories of Mary and I, I wonder what people might assume about us and our experiences that led to our views on our "gotcha days."  It would be one of many assumptions people make when they encounter adoption and adoptee stories everyday.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Who is Entitled to my Gratitude?

Have you ever seen an adoptee bristle, or felt yourself as an adoptee prickle, when someone mentions that adoptees need to be "grateful?"  Where does this reaction come from, and what's wrong with being "grateful" anyway?  Gratefulness is a wonderful attitude to have for life and blessings in-general. However, there's a distinct and unfortunate stereotype of "gratefulness" that adoptees tend to encounter.

The "gratefulness" seen in family systems causes one generation to look with fondness and care on the previous generation, if they were well cared for by that generation. The adoption-stereotype-gratefulness takes this to an extreme.  It expects adoptees to leave things behind so as not to "upset" some invisible apple cart people imagine adoptive parents to have.  What we may be expected to leave behind are our original families, original identity, a quest for reunion or original documentation, or mentioning any personal feelings of loss in adoption.

This is an unrealistic "gratefulness" is directed at adoptees, and their families, often in an unkind way. In reality, adoptive parents, like all parents, shouldn't want their kids to put aside what may be important to them. It is the job of every parent to nurture the interests, feelings, and ideas of their children. No one, adopted or not, needs to be any more grateful than anyone else is to their parents for doing what parents are supposed to do.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why Conflating Adoption and Abortion Isn't Really Helping Anything

Some activists, on both sides of limiting or expanding access to abortion, tend to shy away from critically discussing adoption. Some have strong opinions that adoption is an option for unplanned pregnancy, but lack an understanding adoption's impact on those who live it. For those whose primary definition of adoption is that it is alternative to abortion, they may be hesitant to question or change adoption policies. Some go as far as to support bad adoption policies based on how they feel it may impact abortion issues.  This brings me to ask the obvious question.  Shouldn't people active within the abortion debate expand their knowledge of adoption itself, before forming their opinions?

Indeed, there are pregnant people who become pregnant and do not wish to have an abortion and also do not wish to parent. However, when this becomes every pregnant person's story, we've created a stereotype. With stereotypes, we overlook the needs of pregnant people who have abortions for reasons relating to health and pregnancy. We then also fail to see people who have unplanned pregnancies but wish to parent their babies.  When we make policies based on stereotypes, we become oblivious to the net effect of a policy on the real people that we failed to take into account.

One example of this problem is seen in how legislators and activists alike tend to assume that higher adoption rates means lower abortion rates. As a result, people tend to favor an increase in adoption rates in the United States without questioning why or if there are other needs not being met. In my time as an activists, I have encountered legislators supporting bills that seek to limit the time period when surrendering patents can revoke their consent to adoption. As another example, I have encountered adoption policy that encourages pregnant parents to surrender rights to children to whom they have yet to give birth. 

These policies no doubt contribute to an increase in adoption. Not allowing someone adequate time to make a decision predicts that people will choose adoption who otherwise might not have if given more time to process. Campaigns that use isolated findings from less-than-credible research to make claims like "100% of birth mothers choose the level of openness in their adoptions," may influence this decision simply by inspiring a false reality.

Bottom line: making it difficult for pregnant and new parents to change their minds about children they've already birthed (and therefore increasing adoption rates) had nothing to do with preventing an abortion. This simply isn't something ill-informed activists consider when they rely heavily on promoting adoption to solve abortion's problems. When adoption is a "solution" to another social issue, questionable campaigns and policies don't get the scrutiny they deserve.

If we don't properly scrutinize, we run the risk of not only missing our goal but causing problems simultaneously.  For example, the bi-product of abortion-adoption conflation has caused many Pro-Life advocates to oppose the right of adult adoptees to have access to their original birth record. They are afraid that, if original parents cannot remain totally anonymous, that they would opt for an abortion instead. Adoptees are told they cannot have access to the same record all other citizens have in order to control the separate social issue of abortion.

Interestingly enough, states that change policies to treat adoptees equally have seen abortion rates decline. In Oregon, abortion rates went down by 25% after passing its historic adoptee rights law. I don't mean to suggest that passing the adoptee rights law caused abortion rates to decline. However, this this does refute claims that passing the adoptee rights law would cause abortion rates to increase.  This is just one area where it's been proven that the abortion-adoption stereotype is a poor foundation for social policy.

The moral of this story is: abortion and adoption are not two versions of the same decision.  Having an understanding of abortion issues does not mean you automatically have an understanding of adoption issues.  Having an understanding of adoption issues does not mean you automatically have an understanding of abortion issues.  Every issue involving the lives and welfare of human beings deserves attention and not to be understood by stereotypes.  We must always seek to understand how issues intersect and how intersection may intensify or complicate issues human beings may face. Having a stance on abortion does not give you everything you need to know about adoption--there's still much to learn.  Education is the vital key to change in every institution.

This post was last updated on 9/22/2020 and was inspired by Vlog #1 of The Declassified Adoptee YouTube channel. You can watch the Vlog at this link.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cibu International Suggests Asian American Adoptee Takes Racist Product Names "too Personally"

According to Cibu International, all one needs to know about Asian culture is "karate" and "take-out."  Sprinkle in a little sexist exotification of Asian women and viola, you've got yourself an entire line of shampoos and conditioners, including a detangler called "Miso Knotty" marketed alongside an image of a completely nude "Geisha."  Apparently, anyone with a dissenting opinion on Cibu's severe lack of judgement is being deleted from their Facebook page, including women of color who are considered "radical" for their concerns.  I got to interview the adoptee responsible for the petition that asks Cibu to do the right thing and change their product names (and imagery) at Land of Gazillion Adoptees.  Head on over and check it out.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Adult Adoptees on the Kojo Nnamdi Show--Tomorrow!

Adoptee Rights will get an incredible spotlight tomorrow as Amanda Woolston, Susan Branco Alvarado, and Joy Lieberthal Rho are interviewed by Nnamdi on tough post-adoption issues and policy problems.  Among topics discussed will be the discriminatory way adoptees in the U.S. are expected to access their original birth certificates.

The permanent link to the show can be found here.  You can listen to it live on the web during the noon hour (the last 40 minutes of the hour are expected to be dedicated to these three adoptee professionals).  Transcripts and a recording of the segment should be made available on the page sometime after the conclusion of the segment.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

How to Read an Adoptee Blog Without Getting Offended

Reading other people's perceptions about adoption isn't always easy.  There are people within the adoption experience who have different roles in adoption that give them different perspectives.  Regardless of role in adoption, there are different feelings, opinions, and experiences.  Adoption is so deeply personal to those who live it.  Even though another person's experience may be different, when adoption is involved, it still may evoke an emotional reaction in ourselves in response.

Often times, the personal discomfort brought about by reading a discussion on adoption, or something difficult about being adopted, must be addressed first before the message can be heard.  Here are some things that I keep in mind when I am reading another person's story and think readers of adoptee stories should keep in mind too.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

6 Ways I've Come to Appreciate Biology Post-Reunion

My hair.
When it comes to reunion, some might argue that it is not a biological connection that the adoptee is seeking but rather a rekindling of the brief social relationship that began early in life.  As a reunited adoptee, I have never been able to categorize my reunion and reasoning for reuniting so neatly into two clearly separate parts.  At the moment of my birth, my connection to my original mother was comprised of biological, social, and legal ties.  Adoption cut off the social and legal ties with my family.  Adoption practices at the time attempted to cut the biological ties simply by limiting what I was permitted to know about my biological family.  However, adoption did not change my DNA or the fact that I am and always will be the biological relative of my first family.

When I  reunited, I sought to re-establish my social connection with my biological roots.  With my planned incorporation of my original surnames into my legal name, I am seeking to regain some of the legal connection as well.  For this post, I thought of ways that the rekindling of my social connection with my biological family has made a difference in my everyday life.

I've stopped trying to beat my hair into submission

In my teen years, I could never just get a trim when I visited the salon.  Every haircut was different.  I donned both long and short styles.  Twice, I went from near-waist-length hair to cutting off an entire ponytail to donate, embracing a new do that sat well above my chin.  I also never dyed it the same color twice.  Every time my roots started to grow out, I saw it as an opportunity to reinvent my look.  I started dying my hair when I was about twelve years old and by age 20 couldn't tell you what my natural hair color is.

I have battled with my hair for years trying to get it to look the way that I wanted it to.  I had a rule that if I couldn't blow my hair dry and flat iron it, I would wear it up.  When my hair air dried, It would always flip out in the opposite direction that it was cut to fall.  It would never look the way the haircut was styled without some serious intervention from the flat iron and some hairspray.

It never occurred to me until reunion that my hair might actually be naturally wavy and might look nice if I cut and styled it using my hair's natural waves.  Most of the young women in my maternal family wear their hair long, and wavy.  There is nothing like seeing a feature that you have be mirrored by someone else that makes you think, "wow, that's beautiful."

I haven't dyed my hair in four years.  My original mother went gray at a young age; I'm going to enjoy the natural brown hair color I share with several relatives for as long as I can.  I cut my hair in long layers that compliment the waves in my hair when it air dries.

I warily integrate my family medical history

I spent a long time ignoring what relevance biology may have in my life.  Like it or not, I was not dealt very good cards health speaking.  My biological father died from brain cancer when I was eighteen.  Almost every ancestor for three generations in my paternal family has had cancer.  Both cancer and benign tumors run in my paternal biological family.  My aunt was not at all surprised to hear that I had a benign tumor at the age of 21.  I am also genetically predisposed to diabetes on both sides of my biological families.

I did not want this to be my family medical history.  This is what it is and I need to acknowledge that.  I need to wisely use this information with my doctors to make health care decisions.

I have become the "rescuer" and "preserver" of heirlooms

When my husband suggested that he didn't want his grandfather's antique pocket watch any longer and was considering giving it to our four-year-old to play with, I all but hit the floor in response.  I took the intricately engraved bass piece in my hand and found the spring to pop it open.  Inside was a photograph of my husband's great-grandfather as a child.  It bears a striking resemblance to my oldest son.  It is now hidden away with all of my other treasures: old photographs of family members, my grandmother's hairdresser's charm, my grandfather's medal for decades of factory service, my paternal family's china, and my maternal great-grandmother's adoption papers and original birth certificate.

I have created some "heirlooms" myself.  Before I was reunited or even married, I walked into a jewelry store and the most beautiful ring and matching pendent caught my eye.  It was a citrine stone enveloped in a circle of tiny diamonds.  I immediately thought, "this is what I want to wear at my wedding and pass on to future generations."

My husband's disconnect from the pocket watch heirloom is the result of knowing his grandfather but never having a strong connection with him personally.  I keep this in mind with the traditions that I start and the heirlooms of mine that I save to be passed down.  These are not just objects.  These are gifts to my descendants, generations of which I will not be around to meet but helped bring into the world.  These items are my way of saying, "this is who I was," "please remember me," and "please know I loved you all before you were even born."

I reminisce about memories in new ways

Some of my fondest memories are ones I like to turn over and over again through new eyes.

When I was in high school, my friends would eagerly gather at my house to have their hair done before a school social or party.  We'd sit around with curlers in our hair and paint our nails, do horrific amounts of plucking of eyebrows, and convince ourselves that this overpriced mascara really did add volume to our eyelashes.  I'd set up a chair and style everyone's hair into some outrageous up-do.

Can you imagine how excited I was to learn that my grandmother was a hairstylist and had her own salon?  I look back at these memories and wonder how much of my skill at styling my friend's hair was influenced by skills I inherited from her.

I can talk about heredity without having to say "I'm adopted" to make sense

When I was pregnant with my first son, I cannot tell you how many times people asked me these questions:

How much did you weigh when you were born?
I don't know, I'm adopted.

Were you an easy delivery for your mom?
I don't know, I'm adopted.

Did your mom get stretch marks?  They're hereditary.
1.  That's an odd question and 2.  I don't know, I'm adopted.

People asked me "are your parents...?" questions throughout my life in relation to anything from my height, my sensitive skin, my ever-expanding list of things I am allergic to, my skills and interests, and my career path.  I suppose asking someone where they got a skill or interest can be categorized as "casual conversation" or an "icebreaker."

You probably could file casual questions about heredity as, "not too big of a deal."  Unless you're adopted, of course.  The casual icebreaker of, "wow, you're tall, are your parents tall" (aka "who did you inherit your height from?") all of a sudden gets real deep when you respond, "I don't know, I'm adopted."  Subsequently curiosity wins over and a barrage of rather personal questions ensues.  "Do you want to know your birth mother?"  "Are you glad she gave you up?"  "Do you think about her all the time?"  "Why did she give you up?"

Post-reunion, I was able to answer questions for my second pregnancy like this:

How much did you weigh when you were born?
8lbs 6oz.  Exactly one pound lighter than my firstborn.

Were you an easy delivery for your mom?

Did your mom get stretch marks?  They're hereditary.
1.  That's an odd question and 2.  I don't know, I'm not going to ask my mom about her stretch marks.

I don't feel guilty talking about heredity

I have read in more than one research article that one common characteristic of closed adoption is that it can cause the adoptive parents to fear or be intimidated by the unknown biological family.  As a result, the adoptee can begin to mirror this fear.  My parents spoke very highly of this mysterious woman who very much had a psychological presence in our home.  Despite this, heredity was like the proverbial elephant in the room.  It was hard for me to wonder aloud if something about me was learned from my adoptive parents, inherited it from my biological parents, or if was something somehow unique to me.  This is because a huge chunk of information was missing from the equation.

Post-reunion, now we know the answer to many of those questions.  Believe it or not, knowing definitively what I inherited from my biological family has not made my adoptive family feel threatened.  Rather, they learned what things were inherent to me and received confirmation that they had done a good job nurturing those things.  Eliminating the secrets created by the nature of closed adoption and fostering an atmosphere of openness has improved my relationships with both of my families.

These are a few of the ways that I have come to embrace biology post-reunion.  How about you?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Guest Post: What do you Mean "Half Adopted?"

Damian is a donor conceived person, a Medical Researcher, and blogger at Donated Generation who lives in Southern Australia.  As we've chatted and read each other's blogs over time, we've discovered many shared thoughts and experiences.  I asked Damian to post as a guest here today, and to share with me his perceptions of how adoption and donor conception are similar.  By expanding my understanding on the experience of being donor conceived  and perhaps a reader's understanding too, I hope we can also expand the opportunities to be allies for each other in the quest for truth, identity, and all of our various family ties.  Building empathy for others has helped me immensely on my own journey being adopted; I wanted to share a bit of that with readers today.

What do you mean "Half Adopted?"

By Damian Adams

I thought I’d use this post to discuss some of the similarities between adoption and donor conception (DC). While there are certainly some key differences between these two things, which I won’t go into here, there are also many similarities which I will discuss to hopefully give the reader an idea of how they are intertwined. Please bear in mind that this is not meant to be an exhaustive representation of these similarities/links, so if anyone wishes to add some more or discuss these further as comments that would be fantastic. As this post is being placed on an adoption blog I will assume that the reader has an understanding of adoption and in particular the outcomes that can occur for the adoptee. Furthermore it must be stated just as in adoption, in donor conception too, there can be a whole range of emotions and outcomes for the child conceived this way, in that some are completely happy with what has happened to them and feel no loss whatsoever, and there are those at the other end of the spectrum that can be completely traumatised by it.

Monday, January 14, 2013

I Want to tell you a Story of What I Overcame

"These were tough things in my life that adoption intersected through like a cannonball,  striking me right in my gut, leaving me feeling winded and sometimes defeated.  I would not get around these things.  I could not pretend like they did not exist."  I continue what I started here over at Lost Daughters.

Friday, January 11, 2013

I am Going to Tell you a Story

I was uncharacteristically silent on my blog three years ago when I reunited.  I did not announce here that I had found my original family or that I met my original mother.  I mused about events in popular media in blog entries during that time, staying far away from my personal narrative.  I was frozen in silence from the shock of how real my story had become.  I was balancing a complex spectrum of emotions which I couldn't imagine putting into words.

Two years ago, I told the stories of opening the envelope that contained my mother's contact information, contacting her for the first time, and of our first face to face meeting.  What I had gained throughout that first year of reunion was confidence.  What I had received from both families was the reassurance that I could view, interpret, and express my own story, even when it intersected with their stories, in my own voice.  Today, I am taking those stories I told last year and I will view them and write them through new eyes for my book.

This month marks the third anniversary of my reunion with my original family.  This time of year, I again feel the need to tell a story.  At the close of this past semester, we were asked to go around the classroom and say what we had learned throughout our academic career thus far.  My academic career corresponded with the beginning of many things: my activism, my writing/blogging, my reunion, my unsealed records, and finally embarking on the specific career path that I know without a doubt fits my passions and talents.  

To express this to my fellow students, I told a short story.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Social Justice & the Russian Ban on US Adoptions

Photo by Photo: Dmitry Astakhov published at USA Today
In a recent political maneuver, Russia's Vladimir Putin announced that he was placing a ban on adoptions from Russia to the United States.  Putin's ban is reportedly in response to Obama signing the Magnitsky Act, a law which aims to punish Russian officials for human rights violations.  The media has responded in a frenzy.  News articles responding to this ban tend to represent a blend of two angles: the disappointment of prospective adoptive couples who will not be able to adopt from Russia, and the injustice of fewer available homes for institutionalized Russian children.

Critiques of the ban largely neglect to mention what Harlow's Monkey pointed out in this eloquent piece, that this ban is exclusively for adoptions by U.S. citizens.  It does not mean Russian children are not being adopted domestically or internationally to other countries.  The responses of major media sources rely heavily on the view of the United States as superior to other countries in terms of child welfare, including purporting the idea that Russia is incapable of ever caring for its children.

Announcing this ban would have been an opportune moment for Russia to provide further discourse on meeting the needs of their impoverished and institutionalized children as the UN urged.  As Susan Branco Alvarado pointed out in the comments section of a radio interview she participated in,
"President of Russia's Executive Order On Measures Concerning the Implementation of Government Policy on Orphaned Children and those without Parental Care that was issued on 12/28/12. This order aims to provide for more in country care of its children which, at minimum, appears to be moving in the right direction."
Alvarado also stated, the issue of the deaths of the 19 Russian children adopted to the United States cannot be dismissed. Alvarado, who is an adult adoptee, Ph.D. candidate researching adoption dissolutions by death, and Licensed Professional Counselor, pointed out the higher death rate among children adopted from Russia than other adopted children.