the adopted life

Strengthening the adoption community by empowering adoptees

Is There Something You're Not Sharing With Your Adopted Child? Why?

Last year, I received a phone call from Susan*, an adoptive mother in Ohio. Susan explained that her 8-year old child's biological father had just committed a murder and that the local news would be covering the story. With panic in her voice, Susan asked; "How do I shield him from seeing this? He knows his birth-father, so he'll recognize him on the 5 o'clock news. I don't want him to know that he's related to a murderer!"

I happened to be in Columbus, Ohio the following week as I was consulting with the Office of Children and Families Department in their adoption unit, so I offered that we meet while I was in town. She breathed a sigh of relief, while I inhaled deeply hoping Susan might be amenable to my approach. My straightforward, adoptee-centric stance on sharing difficult information has long been that fearing the worst is worse than knowing the worst. I was about to advise her to tell her son about his birth fathers' crime.

Susan and I had a few phone conversations leading up to my arrival. She shared about her son’s developmental age and his ability to handle difficult information. I learned of his temperament and about the other aspects that combined to create his busy life. We discussed the potential what-ifs, and her concern for his emotional well-being and ramifications if she chose not to tell. Ultimately, Susan decided that now was the right time and thus she and I were able to work together to inform her son about his birthfather’s crime in a way that he was able to handle. We also offered space for him to ask any questions that he may have. His first question? "Can we go drive by the jail? I want to see where he lives now." So we did.

Susan texted me a few months later, stating that her son often wants to make a point to drive by the prison when they're on their way to his dance lessons, basketball practice or simply to the grocery story. As they drive by, he typically inquires about 8-year old stuff, for example "Do they celebrate Christmas in jail?" or "Does he get to play any video games?" or “What kind of food do you think he gets to eat?”

FB Live with Beth.jpg

On Friday, March 30th, I will be continuing my Honestly Curious series on Facebook Live. I've invited Beth Hall, co-author of Inside Transracial Adoption, to join me to discuss scenarios which may elicit fear and apprehension on the part of adoptive parents. The Facebook Live medium allows viewers to comment during the broadcast, so we can respond in real-time. I'd love to hear from you! What difficult truth are you wondering about sharing with your child about their history? 

 

*Susan is not her real name to ensure privacy. 

Two Recent Articles About My Work

I am feeling sheer gratitude with regards to how my work has been portrayed recently! Wanted to share a couple of articles that have been published within this past month.

Yes! Magazine published a piece entitled What Happens When White Parents Adopt Black Children and Move to Black Neighborhoods. I've spent a couple of years journaling about my experience feeling dissonance between recommending some transracially adoptive families to consider moving to nieghborhoods that racially reflect their childre, while recognizing that this advice has inadvertantly contributed toward the gentrification of nieghborhoods. It's such an honor when my journal scribbles can provide helpful fodder for others. Please give the piece a read! 

Sometimes the best intentions to bolster identity and culture contribute to gentrification and displacement of the Black community.

The South Seattle Emerald is running a wonderful series on "Revolutionary Women" for which I'm honored to be included. Marilee Jolin wrote about how my advocacy work has impacted her, which has served to fuel my mission to continue to educate. She kindly wrote:

In addition to supporting adoptees, Angela’s program works with birth families. This aspect of her work has been particularly compelling to me. Angela exemplifies a deep compassion and understanding for birth mothers, birth fathers, and extended biological families, advocating for adoptees to maintain or build connections with their families and communities of origin. In witnessing her compassion and advocacy, I realize that I’ve internalized incorrect, racist, and harmful messages about birth families and adoption.
— Marilee Jolin

Year 6: Searching For Rachel

My birth-sister's name is Rachel. I'm not supposed to share that publically, but after 6 years of inaction by the Montgomery County Orphans' Court I'm now taking the search for my birth sister in to my own hands. Below is a transcript of my email conversation with Helen Blair Schuler, the Administrator of Pennsylvania's Orphans Court. I'm posting this on my blog primarily for my own records as I move forward in this search. 


March 16, 2012

Hi Helen,
I left you a voice mail at the end of the day on Friday inquiring about the status of the letter I had sent requesting the opening of my birth sister's file. I had addressed it to Judge Stanley Ott, but it's my understanding that you open it first. I have asked the Bethany Christian Services caseworker, Heather Bert, about the status and she stated that you would be requesting consent for this search from my birth mother.  

I received a receipt for the $200 check I sent the Orphans Court for my search. Thank you. I wanted to check in with you to see if you've been able to locate/make any contact with my birth sister? Are you able to give us any more information? Please let us know if you need us to do something. 

Angela

 

March 25, 2012

Angela, I just received your e-mail.  I apologize for the delay in responding, the county system diverted to a spam file. I am still gathering information in an effort to locate your birth sister.  I am currently working on search requests which preceded yours, in addition to various other work responsibilities which demand my attention.  

In the meantime, you may be interested in writing a letter of introduction to your sister.  Once you have completed the letter you can send it to me.  If I am able to locate her I can tell her of your letter.  I have attached a guide for writing a letter in case you need it.  

Helen

 

May 15, 2012

Hi Helen,

I've attached the letter to my birth sister for you to forward along. I will be anxiously awaiting your reply. 

May 15, 2012

To my dear birth-sister,

My name is Angela Tucker, and I live in Seattle, Washington. I was born Chattanooga, Tennessee in September 1985, and was adopted to a wonderful family one year later in 1986. Our birth mother, Deborah Johnson, gave birth to me just 19 months after she gave birth to you – your birth date (January 1984) is the only piece of information that I was given about you.

I am reaching out to you, as it has been my dream to meet you and learn all about you. I am hoping that upon receiving this letter that you’ll understand that my sole intention is simply to get to know you better. Through great efforts and many years of working with the orphan court and the adoption agency, I am under the impression that you live/have lived in Pennsylvania, I’ve always wanted to visit the east coast! If you aren’t comfortable with meeting in person, perhaps you’d consider exchanging emails or being Facebook friends – I’d welcome any mode of communication.

I’ve thought about you an awful lot over the years, curious about your family and your upbringing, your interests and hobbies. Do you have siblings? What was the town like that you grew up in? My questions are endless.

Last summer, I located our birth family, and found that we have three more half siblings! My husband, my family and I traveled to Tennessee over the 4th of July weekend last year at which time we met everyone for the first time. It was a joyous occasion. I’d love to tell you more about it.

I pray that this letter reaches you, and that you can understand my intentions, and that we can develop a healthy and comfortable relationship from here forward.

Your birth-sister,

Angela Tucker

June 27, 2012

Hi Helen, I'm assuming that you have not heard anything since sending forth my letter, is this correct? Can you tell me how current the address that you had for her was? Thanks for your assistance.

Angela

 

June 28, 2012

Angela, I have not heard from your sister.  I did receive an e-mail from an attorney responding to my letter to your sister.  I was asked to contact the attorney to discuss the matter.  I responded that I needed authorization from the adoptee giving me permission to discuss the matter with the attorney.  I have not heard anything since.  I need to have your sister's permission before  I can discuss anything.  

Helen

 

July 12, 2012

Helen, I'm not sure I understand why you'll need to speak with an attorney and furthermore, how might you obtain permission from my birth sister if you don't know her whereaouts. Did the attorney state that he’s representing my birth sister? If so, why would you need my birth sister’s approval?

Is it possible that my birth sister has a guardian and thus has an attorney appointed? Would a cognitive disability constitute needing an attorney to represent her in adulthood? Thanks again.

Angela

 

October 13, 2013

Hi Helen,

I thought I'd just take a shot in the dark, and ask if you've heard from my birth sister or her attorney since last summer? There is a documentary that might put her at ease as it's about my search to find my birthfamily. Might you be able to get this link (www.closuredocumentary.com) to her attorney? 

Hope you're well,

Angela


My search continues - and I won't be paying any more monies to the Montgomery County Court in Pennsylvania. I can't wait to meet my birth-sister, Rachel.