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