adoptive parents

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

Are Adoptees Selfish For Wanting To Search?

One of my birth sisters was placed for adoption just one year before I was born - I am hoping that someday I'll get to meet her. Is my desire to find her being fueled by an attitude of entitlement? Since I was able to find all of my other birth relatives does that somehow mean that I should be able to find her too? When does it end? When should I draw the line? I have seven siblings in my immediate [adoptive] family, many nieces and nephews, parents, aunts, uncles and have had host of foster siblings over the years, yet I want more. I want so badly to meet my birth sister. Is this desire selfish?

This question has been posed to me many times over the past year during the Q&A's after Closure screenings. Folks have asked this question in a myriad of ways:

Your adoptive family is so great! Why would you need anyone else?

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What if you find out something that you wish you hadn't known?

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What if your birth sister doesn't want to know you? Doesn't she have rights, too?

Debate.org posed the question "Should adopted children be allowed to seek their biological parents without their consent?" Aside from feeling slighted by being continually referred to as an adopted child, I find this question irksome as it inherently suggests that an adoptee learning of their roots and kin is somehow not our right. 19% answered "No," one comment read:

The adopted child should get down on his knees and THANK GOD who intervened on the child's behalf and provided warm, stable, loving parents, and I for one (who is an adopted parent, a REAL parent, btw) would be insulted if my kid told me he wanted to seek his bio parent.

I'd like to suggest that the person who left this comment view Lisa Marie Rollin's one woman stand up show entitled Ungrateful Daughter. Lisa, an adult adoptee turns the "Why can't you just be grateful?" question in to a comedic fare.

Perhaps adoptees are labeled chameleons since we have difficulty understanding when we are allowed to have a say and make a choice. Our birthparents decided to create us, and then somewhere along the line someone (the State, birthparents, foster parents etc.) decided that we should live somewhere else. So, we adjusted and acclimated to new smells, new rules, new schools, new bedrooms, a safer/different environment etc. How are we expected to grow into competent, strong adults if decisions are continually made without our consent? How will we learn to navigate which decisions are ours to make and which aren't?

I'm grateful that my [adoptive] parents raised me to pursue my curiosities, to strive towards satisfying my incessant existential questions, and to simply try things - even though I may fail. I'm thankful that both my birth family and my adoptive family support me in this endeavor as unfortunately, this isn't the case for all adoptees. I'm glad that my family understands that my desire to search and learn more about my roots does not simultaneously cease my desire to be a part of my [adoptive] family. Finding my birth family has never been an attempt to replace anyone else, but simply an effort to find myself. Selfish? Maybe...although I'd wager to guess that I'm not alone in my human desire to know how and why I'm alive, or, more simply, to be able to see a physical reflection of myself in someone else. I'm thankful that the great majority of people are able to access this information with relative ease. What makes me (and other adoptees) jealous is that those who question our motives to search are often the same people who brazenly take for granted getting to know foundational knowledge about their life. Adoptees are keenly aware of this injustice and in the absence of this vital and axiological information we search, and search and search (and sometimes we have to defend ourselves while we're at it).

Is Adopting From Third World Countries Necessary?

A mom who gave birth to surprise twins! A not so unusual happening without the aid of ultrasounds.
A mom who gave birth to surprise twins! A not so unusual happening without the aid of ultrasounds.

Is Haiti's instability as a nation and chronic poverty a justifiable reason for adoption to a developed nation? Surely parenting looks different for those living in the poorest country in the western hemisphere, but does this automatically necessitate women making adoption plans?

Children's Home and Adoption Program (Now called Heartline Ministries) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti used to be filled with children and the adoptions were frequent. The homes emptied of children after the 2010 Haitian earthquake as children left in droves thanks to the humanitarian parole which allowed the adoptions already in process to be expedited. This natural disaster lent way towards the perfect excuse for Tara Livesay (a mid-wife) and her staff to stop taking in orphans and to instead turn their focus solely to prenatal care and prevention work. Heartline turned catastrophe into opportunity. They reorganized their mission and began teaching about family planning and birth control - offering free Depo Provera as well as monitor women in labor, facilitate the delivery, postpartum needs and infant developmental care. The moms stop by the homes every week throughout their pregnancy and then weekly until babies are six months old. Out of approximately 350 births at Heartline only one woman placed her baby for adoption since 2009 (that child now lives with a wonderful family in Vermont and his birth mom still stops by to get photos of him on occasion)! From Tara's experience, orphanages tend to ascribe to the belief that if women are poor they cannot parent and then proceed to help find a "better" place for the child via adoption. Tara's co-workers demonstrate through speech and attitude they absolutely can parent their children. In Tara's words "They can bond, they can breastfeed and they can raise the precious child because they have what they need."

A new momma outside her home.
A new momma outside her home.

Food and money are oftentimes tight, lack of support is commonplace and resources are not plentiful. All of these factors certainly aid in making parenting hard, but these women do not lack joy or moxie! And thanks to Heartline, they don't lack parenting skills either. International adoption is a beautiful second choice solution to meet an unfortunate yet very necessary need. I have many international adoptee friends and others who are in the painstaking process of becoming adoptive parents to beautiful children, but are awaiting the countries process, ensuring that all ethical aspects of the relinquishment of the child are met before their children can fly out of their home country to be with them here in the U.S. I certainly am not anti-international adoption as there are many true orphans needing homes all around the world. I was, however surprised to learn of Heartline's statistics which clearly show that moms are able to parent their children when given the tools and support. What if we worked towards establishing more services like Heartline instead of more adoption agencies in these areas? Would this take the novelty and romance out of our feel good tendency towards a rags-to-riches view of American adoptions from third world countries? What do you think?

***Photo credit: www.livesayhaiti.com****

"I Think My Birthmom Is Just Like You"

Screen Shot 2014-03-01 at 6.36.48 PM
Screen Shot 2014-03-01 at 6.36.48 PM

Meet Valeria - a transracial adoptee.

This darling 8th grader from Southern California will surely be rocking this world with her wisdom and beautiful mind in the coming years.  After viewing Closure with her mother at the Refresh Conference, Valeria bravely came right up to me and told me that she imagines that her birth mother is just like me. I asked her why she thought this and we proceeded to have a conversation that was uniquely adult, yet sweetly innocent.  I loved her continuing spew of questions and couldn't help but to see my younger self in her words as I listened to every single word she said.

"Do you think I'll ever find my birth mom?" "How can I find her?" "I know that my birth mom gave me to a friend, then my foster parents picked me up from a prison. That's all I know. With this information, how do I find her?"

Valeria and I discussed searching, and some routes towards locating her birth mother, including someday taking a trip to her birth place - Columbia. While I signed a DVD for Valeria, she asked, "Do you think my birth mom has allergies?" I was formulating my answer but Valeria's brain got there before mine, she continued "I don't think she does - I was stung by a bee three times in fifth grade, and it didn't even hurt or get swollen. I'm pretty sure that my birth mom wouldn't be affected by a bee sting either." Her curiosity about her self, deep longing for truth and middle school youth was palpable. I could feel her words hanging in the air. I felt so honored that Valeria felt able to trust me with these questions as she sought to integrate these multiple aspects of her own identity.

I'd fashion that Valeria's resounding beauty comes from the combination of a wisdom one can only gain from allowing strangers to adopt and parent you at an older age, combined with the safety and structure of having a home and a family. I do believe that many adoptees have this same mesmerizing spark that Valeria has, but that this sparkle can be dulled by many things - including well meaning adoptive parents not allowing these curiosities and questions to come forth, unsure if their child can handle it.  It seems obvious to me that Valeria's future is bright, as historically some of our world's greatest leaders are people who know how and with whom to ask the tough questions.

I am often asked to weigh in on the "correct age" to introduce conversations about their child's birth mother, or when/if to encourage their child to begin searching for their birth parents...Let's take a cue from Valeria (and her mother, who lovingly stood by allowing Valeria to direct where she wanted the conversation to go). What's the harm in her curiosity? Perhaps there are unforeseen beauties within a child's questioning. Even though our conversation centered around her story, she may never truly know how deeply impactful this conversation was for me. The ripple effects of allowing an adoptee to feel free enough to ask questions could be endless (likely both in some difficult and positive ways).

In the grand scheme of things I know that my conversation with Valeria is just beginning. Thankfully we were able to get in a final hug, but not before she asked me "Do you ever feel mad at your birth mom?"

***   This post was written with the permission of Valeria's mother, who lovingly stated "it was as if you were the only two people in the room. It was beautiful; I saw a spark in her eyes."  ***