Monthly Archives: November 2014

NAAM Wrap Up

This month I set out to rebel against the common themes of “National Adoption Awareness Month” by acknowledging the impact of adoption issues throughout the entire month. I’ll be the first to say how fortunate I was that Lost Daughters kicked off the #FlipTheScript campaign this month. This led to many adoptees remaining vocal throughout the month. As I posted every day, I encouraged comments from adoptees to share their experiences and perspectives. I wanted adoptees to know this was a safe place free from the pro adoption world that usually exists during NAAM.

What a month it has been! Amazing things have happened and I have learned so much from those that read here and have shared with me. I’d like to share a few comments from the past month that have made an impact on me.

NAAM 14 – Your Voices on Sister Wish

“I kept my mouth shut for 48 years about my adoption pain. I actually thought the way I felt was somehow wrong because everyone told me how adoption was just great!” Adoptomuss

“Trust me expectant mothers, if you are even entertaining the idea of adoption for your child, that high school diploma meant nothing to me then and means less than toilet paper to me now.” Cindy

“I am a mom that gave in. I had nowhere to live, was kicked out of the house, sent to a “home” and gave my daughter to a baby broker. I believed foolishly then she was better off without me and that wealthy married strangers could be better parents than I could be.” Suz

“The most important persons in an adoption are the adoptees, yet no one wants to hear our side, our experiences. How can anyone who isn’t adopted lend a true voice to how adoption affects a child? The only experts on an adopted life are adoptees. Everyone else are merely spectators voicing what they “think” they know.” Janell

“Logic never works in illogical situations, and adoption in most cases is completely illogical to me.” Cindy

“Adoptive parents do need some guidance from adult adoptees in how to best serve their adoptive children. Something other than the prevailing rainbows and unicorns script that everyone is fed by the FOR PROFIT adoption agencies. There are plenty of us who do not agree with that, and we are reading #flipthescript, and we’re listening.” Liz

“I’m still taking apart the well-meaning but terrifying “Your birth parents loved you so much that they wanted you to have a better life so they put you up for adoption.” Unpack that like a literal 5 year old and all you really get is that love = abandonment.” 77Yan

“It is freeing to share truth.” Margaret

“I often say that my parents were early proponents of open adoption before the concept even existed, and what I recall most was a feeling of torn loyalties.” Laura

“ “Open” adoption is not what it is sold to be. Closed adoption is not the answer either. … A better goal for society to be working towards is helping all families & communities stay strong so they can all raise happy, healthy children.” Julie

“None of this suffering of the adoptees and first families is necessary. Absolutely none.” Dana

“I fought for almost two years for my daughter … of course I lost because they were better off and knew the right people. I couldn’t appeal the case when I wanted to because of funds.” Chelsea

“It always bothered me when my a-mother would announce to perfect strangers that I was adopted, like it was something she had bragging rights to.” Loujean

“My adoptive parents had a fear of my natural mother. They didn’t know her, but she was a big presence in our lives. In reality, she was a terrified, abused 19 year old girl, not the boogey man.” Adoptomuss

“Some states had (and likely still do) laws that also allowed for changing the place of birth to the residence of the adopting parents.” Tao

“It is funny, though, how our culture says adoption is the greatest but people instinctively know that it’s not the first choice.” Ariel

“Shame is such a deep familiar feeling etched into our cells. While in the womb I believe it likely started as our mothers were shunned and they were possibly (likely) pressured to feel shame for getting caught pregnant before the ideal time.” Annette

“… when we share about our status as an adopted person that people look in sympathy and silence. We are seen as perpetual children rather than adults.” Samantha

“I’m always on the defensive when I have to “out” myself as an adoptee. It’s not that it’s a secret I keep. It’s the reactions.” Yan

Thank You

Each day, I was so grateful to my fellow adoptees and others that were willing to share their perspectives. I want each of you to know how much it meant to me to have your support and encouragement as you engaged in the conversation.

I also had my first guest post from fellow adoptee Pavel Kurecka who shared his experience of the impact of adoption in his attempt in obtaining his passport. I am thankful he was willing to extend his voice to let other adoptees know they are not alone in these types of experiences.

It has been a great month of hearing from adoptees during NAAM (renamed National “Adoptees Articulate” Month). I look forward to hearing more voices as many more adoptees are beginning to create their own blogs, write books and share their voices freely online and through many media outlets.

Thank you to all of you!

Family Preservation

I’m an outspoken critic of the current system of adoption, especially domestic infant adoption. I think it’s a coercive, manipulative system that takes advantage of women in certain situations. If these moms simply had support, they would have been able to keep their baby in most cases. I don’t think a woman should feel like she has no other choice than to relinquish her infant to adoption because she is young, poor or lacks education.

I’d like to highlight some methods and programs to offer support to families typically targeted by the adoption industry. The goal is to create an environment that is supportive of parenting efforts and this support can be offered in a variety of ways including emotional, material or financial.

#NoTeenShame

What if we stopped shaming young parents and instead showed them respect and looked for ways to support them? #NoTeenShame is a hashtag used on Twitter. If you search this hashtag, you will find the voices of many young parents who are sharing their successes in parenting. They are showing that they can not only parent well but are actually excelling in their efforts.

We cannot disrespect young women by telling them they should not keep their baby because they are too young to know their own needs but then say that women should be confident and secure. By becoming involved in the conversation and highlighting the positive voices of young parents, those of us in the adoption reform community set the example in respecting their voices and advancing the dialog around family preservation.

Moms Helping Moms Foundation

I love the idea behind this New Jersey organization. Moms Helping Moms Foundation accepts donations of new boxes of diapers and wipes and new and very gently used clothing and baby gear. Moms Helping Moms Foundation has partnered with local organizations to distribute these items to local families in need of assistance. They also connect individuals to services that help support them during pregnancy during the first 3 years of parenthood. It’s that simple! No money paid for the donations and no money collected from those that need it. I love the simplicity behind it.

New Life Center for Family Preservation

New Life Center for Family Preservation is an organization that serves homeless pregnant women and teens in Polk County, FL. They are literally dedicated to family preservation by providing housing and support to those who are homeless and pregnant by meeting their spiritual, emotional and tangible needs. “Our organization is focused on family preservation and our program reflects our focus by meeting the needs of homeless pregnant women, supporting them in their desire to keep and raise their baby.”

Second Chance Homes

Supportive home environments for young teen moms are active in many states. Second Chance Homes is one of many programs ran by the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power and Potential (GCAPP). “The Second Chance Homes Network help teen mothers become self-sufficient by providing them a stable living environment, educational support to complete high school, parent skills and life skills.”

What’s Near You?

If you are near any of these programs, I’d like to invite you to become active with them or to find other organizations in your area that support young families. Whether it’s collecting a few baby items to donate to an organization, making financial donations or becoming involved in a larger conversation highlighting successful young parents and their stories, all of these efforts are ways to support family preservation.

If you would like to highlight programs that you’re familiar with that support young mothers or other programs that support natural family preservation, please post links in a comment. Thank you!

Edit: Fantastic guide of family preservation programs by country and state in this post at Lost Daughters.

Shame

Recently I was in a situation where I met several people at one time. We were all strangers to each other so nobody knew who I was or any of the details of my life either professionally or personally. I tend to be nervous going into these types of situations. I feel awkward sometimes even in social situations with people I know well.

On this occasion I had convinced myself that I would just be me and hope that it would be enough to be accepted. While doing introductions (that dreaded moment where you introduce yourself and tell a little about yourself), I was open about my accomplishments and passion for adoptee rights and adoption reform. Throughout interactions, I had the opportunity to talk about adoption and recent successes and setbacks in reform and legislative activities. I also talked about the complexity and emotional components of adoption openly.

Eventually, someone asked how I had become involved in this movement. I sort of froze in that moment and suddenly I felt small. I knew as soon as I said “I’m adopted,” they would know. They would know that my mom gave me away.

Adoption Shame

This situation sent me straight back to being seven and wanting to deliver the playground speech. You know the one where you follow up “I’m adopted” with, “well you know my mom loved me so much. She wanted me to have a better life.” I wanted to cover over the shame by reasoning it out for them. I wanted them to know I was worthy of love just like those who had been kept by their moms.

Really, I just didn’t want them to know how ashamed I still feel, even as an adult. I’m an adult who can speak openly and loudly on all types of issues within adoption, but I still felt shame to say those words – to have someone know my mom didn’t keep me. I haven’t had to tell anyone in such a long time, the feeling that accompanied those words surprised me.

As soon as I said “I’m adopted,” my new acquaintances responded with blank faces. I felt like they felt sorry for me, and I sure as hell didn’t want sympathy. When people feel sorry for others, it’s easier to be dismissive of that person. Maybe they weren’t trying to be dismissive, but I felt like I was losing ground in having the legitimate voice I previously had while speaking on adoption issues and it made me angry. I was angry at the adoption industry which sells the idea that adoption is beautiful, but then leaves people feeling sympathy for those that are adopted. I was angry that the language we are taught as adoptees actually further the ideas of sympathy for the adopted. I was angry at myself for having a strong voice, yet letting my own insecurities quiet me.

I decided to grab my power back as fast I possibly could. Instead of delivering the playground speech, I said, “Sometimes people dismiss the voices of people who are adopted when it comes to adoption issues and reform. They think we’re too close to the issue have a valid and objective opinion, but it’s because we are so close to the issue that makes our viewpoints credible. We lived it.”

One of the people listening piped up quickly. “I could see that. They think you have too much skin in the game so they won’t listen to you.” He got it! The ‘poor you’ look disappeared and his look changed to one of respect. More questions came but, I felt stronger and ready.

Perspective is a funny thing. I certainly felt shame and maybe it is something I will carry with me each time I have to tell another new person that I’m adopted. I was definitely reminded of the power of shame and how it can affect us. But I also reminded myself that I’m not seven anymore.

Shame is powerful but my voice has the power to overcome it.

Thanksgiving Thank You

My post today will be short. I’d like to say thank you to my readers here on my blog. It has been a long month but it has also been insightful and wonderful. I am very grateful to each of you that has read, shared and commented. I learn from each of you every time you share your story with me. I learn from you when you point out things to me that I’ve written that may either agree with or conflict with your own ideas and experiences.

I am grateful you have stuck with me all month!

Today I’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving with my family – my husband and daughter, but I will also be thinking of my fellow adoptees who face difficult situations during holidays due to the complexity of adoption. I realize some adoptees may be alone today, have very small gatherings, have redefined what “family” means to them, may have to choose one family or the other or may be facing open hostility from family over their own thoughts and feelings of family and what it means for them. As you can see, the complexity knows no boundaries when it comes to adoption. A holiday sometimes brings additional complexity.

I hesitate to post large “Happy Holiday” type greetings because for many adoptees, it may or may not be the happiest of days. I don’t want to trample on the feelings of adoptees that I cherish.

Instead, I’d just like to say that I’m very thankful for having this space to express myself and to hear from other adoptees (or others). I’m grateful that you have shared your individual thoughts, feelings and perspectives throughout this month with me. You all have made National “Adoptees Articulate” Month a month of sharing, learning and connection.

Thank you.

Forever Family

“Forever family” is a term that bothers me. I originally thought it was used in reference to families that adopted from foster care. Some of those kids had spent an extended amount of time in the foster care system and were bounced from home to home. Having finally been adopted, some adoptive parents referred to themselves as the child’s “forever family” since the child would now have permanency.

Recently I’ve seen it used much more liberally. Families who have adopted internationally or from domestic infant adoption are also now using the term “forever family” to describe their family to others.

The term “forever family” reminds me of a life sentence that I am trapped in and will never escape. I can imagine some sinister character saying “Now you’re trapped with your forever family … forever!! Just try to escape” and following it up with a menacing laugh.

It’s no secret on this blog that I’m not exactly on great terms with my adoptive family, but to some extent, it is true that they will be my “forever family.” I can actually gain some distance both physically and emotionally, but my childhood memories, the images I have of “mom” and “dad” and my frame of reference for mentions of family are still tied to my adoptive family or “forever family.” In that sense, “forever” is true. This is a fact that makes me sad.

Another aspect of the term “forever family” that I don’t appreciate is the qualifier of “forever.” It implies a comparison to my other (biological) family and suggests that they did not last forever. It’s also no secret on this blog that I’ve never felt that way about my biological family. As I described early on when I began writing this blog, the first time I remember seeing my biological mom, I was 4. She came to visit me in my home, knelt down to me, and it was like home had come to me. The connection, bond and love was undeniable. She is also my “forever family.” This is a fact that makes me happy (and sad).

And what if an adoptee grows up and wants to reconnect with his original family? Will all those times he’s heard “forever family” in reference to his adoptive family influence that decision? Was it meant to? The fact is, adoptees have two families. For the most part, both are considered “forever” but we could simply refer to them both as “family” and drop the time limits or speculation.

“Forever family” denotes that the child is “ours” now. There is no honor in that. Honoring the child says “I love all the parts of you, and you don’t need to be ashamed of any of those parts.” Honoring the child says “I’m sorry you can’t be with your other family, but I’m happy you are here.” Honoring the child says “Your family is important. All of your family.” No qualifiers needed.

A Post of Questions

Should adoption be a chess game? Is it a competition? And should natural parents be viewed as opponents to be annihilated by any means necessary?

Is it acceptable to dissect a natural parent’s past to determine her ‘fitness’ as a parent? If so, shouldn’t adoptive parents have their past discussed and analyzed publicly as well? If a misdemeanor disqualifies the natural parent from being considered a suitable parent, shouldn’t the same standard apply to adoptive parents? Shouldn’t all parents be required meet the same standards? In considering standards, if it is okay for potential adoptive parents to raise money via donations online to pay adoption “fees,” shouldn’t natural mothers also be able to raise money in the same way to pay for her expenses? Why would that be considered any differently?

If a man is unaware of the rules that govern his right to parent, should adoptive parents or the industry capitalize on that by fighting him in court for a child? Who all should be concerned about the putative father registry? If you are a male, have you registered every time you had sex with a woman to take responsibility for any children that resulted? Did you even know that it is required by the system we have in many states?

If adoptive parents or the adoption agency makes promises to a woman while she is pregnant and then breaks those promises once the child is adopted, will that matter to the child later in life? Is it reasonable to expect that an adult adoptee may want to know how his or her mom and dad was treated during adoption proceedings and after? (How do you feel about people that don’t treat your mom or dad well?)

If a child is won in a legal battle against a child’s parent, has anything really been won?

If an adoption is successful because of corruption, lack of ethics or abuse of power, is anybody responsible for answering to the adoptee about why this occured? If adoptees expect answers from adoptive parents, are they also entitled to answers from the adoption agency, social worker, guardian ad litem, judges and others involved in the adoption? What might adoptees’ recourse of action be if all of the above are found to have acted in unethical or illegal ways? Should all be named publicly in an attempt to shed light on such corrupt practices? Might an adoptee release all records publicly? Can you imagine the shock of those in the community to discover that an “upstanding professional” who had worked for years to build his or her reputation had actually been involved in such underhanded dealings?

Is it possible to create an adoptee in an attempt to create a family? Will that ‘created’ adoptee harbor righteous anger and resentment toward those who were willing participants if the adoption involved destroying the natural parent? Will these ‘created’ adoptees grow up to be loud, outspoken, passionate critics of an unethical system that took advantage of them and their natural parent?

Might that passion drive those adoptees to be the loud voices that finally take a stand for the parent and in opposition to a system that victimized their mothers and fathers? Might those created adoptees be the ones to say this isn’t a game of chess, but rather, it’s our lives, it’s our family, it’s our identity, it’s our heritage, it’s our future generation, it’s was our infanthood, it was our childhood, it was our missed opportunity, it was our connection, it always was and always will be … our passion?

Wouldn’t it be a shame if those involved in corrupt, unethical and illegal adoptions underestimated the passion in those they had actually created? If we are created adoptees, should those that were involved in that creation be appalled at our loud, outspoken criticism of corrupt, unethical and illegal adoptions? Will those that created us try to ignore and silence our voices? Will they be shocked when they are are unsuccessful? Are we not being exactly what we were created to be?

Or did we grow stronger, louder and more passionate and influential than your intention when you … created us?