adoptees

Episode #2 - The Adopted Life

In July, Bryan and I traveled to Los Angeles, where I interviewed two sets of transracially adopted siblings. All four of the teenagers had bottled up a lot of their adoption-related feelings. When their interview time came, it was as if they were ready to explode! It was an incredibly humbling experience for me to assist in allowing their truths to come out. What a privilege! 


In addition to extending positive thoughts towards these four brave individuals, I'd encourage you to use the sentiments they've shared toward the betterment of the adoption community by sharing the video with your friends and family. You never really know who may be impacted by adoption and may also find power or healing through these voices. 

In case you missed Episode #1, you can find that HERE

Sharing Your Story Alleviates Stereotypes

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In watching Chimamanda Adichie eloquently speak of The Danger of a Single Story, I couldn't help but to reflect upon my own experience with Closure. Over the past year I have felt a nagging conviction that although Closure is affecting people positively and in droves (awesome!), I often find myself editing my words during the Q&A portion after screenings of the film. I am constantly searching for the words that help to reinforce the fact that my story is just one of many unique, valuable and beautifully tragic adoption stories. I'm often asked questions such as "...has being in reunion with your birth family brought peace and happiness or more struggle and confusion?" followed by "...would you suggest all adoptees to search?"  I work really hard to consistently only answer from my experience only, hopefully helping folks to understand that my answer and this film shows only one story. That my answers are not every adoptees' answers, and that my style of searching, the age I chose to start searching etc., was simply one approach. Chimamanda's TED Talk beautifully explains the danger of attributing one single story to an entire subpopulation.

Chimamanda Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story

I found this TEDTalk to be a remarkably great reminder that although we learn a great deal by watching documentaries, reading memoirs, autobiographies and listening to keynote speeches etc., we shalt not think to apply these details to all who happen to fall within the same category. The danger in this is that by attributing my answer to all other adoptees you're branding all other adoptees as intensely curious, psychologically minded, introverted, basketball playing, pianists who are determined to respectfully find their birth families at all costs. Or that we read Night (Elie Wiesel), and that we then think of all holocaust survivors as people with a resolve to understand the inhumanity that man is capable of, or that we read The Reason I Jump, and attribute Higashida's thoughts and words to all people with autism. There is a danger in hearing and interacting with a single story and that is the risk of attributing one's story to everyone else within that category.

I am moved by the amount of adoptees I've met while since Closure debuted. So many of these adoptees stated that they felt ready and interested in sharing their own story.  Please do join me on this liberating (and scary) adventure in vulnerability.

 

Do Transracial Adoptees Know Anything About Transracial Adoption?

NPR contacted me and asked me to be a part of the Sunday Conversation that aired yesterday morning. I spoke in depth about my story, my upbringing, the challenges and joys of my experience being raised by White parents, only to receive an email the next day stating that they had chosen to go another route. I responded kindly by stating “I sure hope you’ve chosen to include an adoptees perspective for your segment.” I awoke to hear the one-sided, tired, age old perspective that we’ve heard so many times before. A loving, White adoptive parent of three African American children was the only voice to hear. While her voice is valid and valuable, it should not have been the only voice featured on this segment.  NPR’s tagline for this show is, “Each week, Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin brings listeners an unexpected side of the news by talking with someone personally affected by the stories making headlines.”  When the Senior Editor of the show contacted me, she stated that in light of the recent comments about Romney’s grandchild they wanted to expand on the topic of transracial adoption. I was glad for this opportunity; hopeful that NPR would do it justice by interviewing not just adoptive parents, but adoptees themselves, and birthparents as well. I was disappointed upon learning of the parent-centric and staid approach they took.

I wonder why NPR didn’t want to air my story? What were they trying to shield their listeners from hearing? Are the powers that be afraid that the adoptee voice will disrupt the current narrative of trans-racial adoption?  Is it safe to assume that NPR doesn’t feel the listeners can understand that I, a transracial adoptee, had both a wonderful upbringing and some exposure to African-American heritage while living in a predominately white city, yet also had a need to find my roots and search for my birth parents? Perhaps it is a bit difficult to understand that an adoptee can be both glad for life opportunities afforded only through adoption, yet also wonder about what their plight would’ve been had an adoption not gone through. This is our reality! While transracial adoption is a necessary solution at this juncture in time, it’s also a solution that comes with a lot of complexity, and may not be easily “fixed” by hiring a black mentor or teaching your child about Rosa Parks.

Had my voice been aired on the show, viewers would've heard me speak my truth about how I felt when being discriminated against in the town I grew up in. What we heard about discrimination in the NPR piece instead was “…it made my husband and I very uncomfortable, but our kids didn’t notice. They were just coloring and being children…” The adoptive mother was asked by NPR host if she fears the stereotypes her black son may face as he grows. Why not simply ask a trans-racially adopted man how discrimination has affected his upbringing and adulthood?

BREAKING NEWS: We no longer need to speculate about the challenges trans-racially adopted children may face as they grow. The first hand answers for these important questions can be answered by qualified, educated, articulate adult adoptees (or birthparents) found by doing a quick Google search.

I have allowed my story to be shared in a documentary which is told not just in my voice, but also features the perspectives of my adoptive parents, birth parents, siblings who were adopted, birth siblings who weren’t adopted, my parents’ biological daughter and my husband and others – all of these voices have a place in the discussion. Closure is a valuable resource, not because my story is the best out of all adoption stories, not because I am an expert on other transracial adoptions – that, I am not. It is a valuable story because there is a shortage of resources where the adoptee’s voice and experience is included.

I know many White adoptive parents who are raising their children of color wonderfully. Comments about this conversation should not lean towards questioning an adoptive parents’ love for their child, or capability of raising their child of color.  There are plenty of adoptive parents who are doing a great job seeking out appropriate resources and asking tough questions about trans-racial parenting both publicly and privately. This discussion is about how the mainstream media chooses to portray transracial adoption. This discussion is about adult adoptees. Please stop speaking for us and assuming that your speculations are our realities. This discussion is about coming to terms with the fact that adoption ethics, practice and policies will not change until the public is willing to hear out more than just the adoptive parents’ perspective or their hopes and biased desires for our lives.

Trans-racial adoptees have a unique bond.  This is the reason why adult adoptees were so outspoken about the Baby Veronica case, and why we are speaking out now.  We adult adoptees acknowledge our different paths and childhoods, and understand that no two adoption experiences are exactly alike or give any one adoptee more credibility than another. We understand the struggles inherent within being adopted in a unique way that nobody else can understand – not even our own well intentioned, loving, adoptive parents.  However, those of us who were trans-racially adopted no longer need our parents to speak for us. We are grown up now. We can do it.

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There are so many Davion's

15 year old Davion went to his church one Sunday, got up in front of the congregation, and made his case for why someone (within the church) should adopt him.  His story has gone viral resulting in over 500 phone calls to the church Davion attends, apparently from prospective adoptive parents/agencies/social workers.  What was it that compelled all of these people to step forward and act? Does every older child looking for a family need to make a public plea that goes viral in order for people to consider them adoptable? Are these children truly invisible to us, until they find a way to meet us in the way we want to be met (apparently that's via videos that can be viewed in the comfort and privacy of ones own home)? Northwest Adoption Exchange features many children in the northwest who need homes - now. They post write ups with photos as well as featuring videos of the children telling us why they'd make a great sibling or child (oh the irony that these children are not only without permanency and stability, but that we ask them to make political, charming and persuasive speeches in order to entice others into seeing their value and worth). Take a look at Jaidin (click the link "A Family For Me Video). If his video went viral would that increase his chances of a permanent place to call home? Do we expect teens in foster care to do more than they're already doing to finally be seen and heard?

The "orphan movement" within the realm of evangelical churches tends to focus on the international orphan crisis and domestic infant adoption, while there are still approximately 400K older kids such as Davion, and Jaidin pleading to be adopted. Are the evangelical churches making a silent claim that domestic teenagers aren't "orphans," in their defined sense of the word? Why do teens need to come to us in order for us to see them? With the ever growing lists of prospective adoptive parents waiting for newborns to adopt, it seems that we're doing a pretty good job of seeing those unborn children.