Thursday, July 20, 2017

Found Daughter

My mother & I doing a Facebook Live event.
The woman who gave birth to me lives two miles down the road from my house. Ours is a fairly ordinary mother / adult daughter relationship. She is the one who picks up my kids when I can't do so, or checks in on the dog if I am out of town for the day. She helps me out with my direct sales business on occasion, and we get together for a movie or a meal when we can find the time. We don't see each other as often as we'd like because we both lead extremely busy lives, but we take comfort in knowing the other is nearby. All in all, our relationship is most remarkable in its unremarkableness.

Unremarkable, that is, except for the fact that we didn't see each other at all for the first 30 years of my life. We were separated on the day of my birth, and I was placed for adoption in another family.

I grew up happy yet broken. That may seem like a contradiction, but it isn't really. I grew up in a loving, stable family in a small town in a beautiful part of the country. I had friends. I did well enough in school and participated in extracurricular activities. I hit developmental milestones and seemed fine. But there was no acknowledgement that I had experienced profound loss. Not from others. Not from myself.

The mini breakdowns began in my twenties, and I would spend the next twenty plus years processing the grief and anger that I had so successfully stuffed down in my earlier years. When I was 29 years old, my original mother and I reconnected and began our reunion. Though geographically far apart, we formed a close relationship rooted in the written word. Through the years we saw each other on a semi-regular basis, usually about once a year. Having her in my life again was wonderful, but it didn't fix the brokenness. Writing helped. Connecting with the community of adoptees helped. Meeting and forming a relationship with my original father, as I eventually did, helped. But though I was mostly happy and okay, there remained a lingering sense of not-right-ness. It had been there my whole life, even when I couldn't acknowledge it, and I had come to believe that nothing could shake it.

Then two years ago my mother moved to my area, and we became all that I described in the first paragraph of this post. And just like that, the not-right-ness simply evaporated.

I have hesitated to tell my story in adoptee spaces. I am aware that what I have is so rare, and I don't want my story to be a pain trigger for those whose adoption stories have no happy ending. But my Lost Daughter sisters have encouraged me to write this post, and I love them for reminding me what I knew but had forgotten: that all adoptee stories have their place in the collective narrative. Even this one.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Official Apology & Clarification


I want to use this oppertunity, to offer a sincere official apology, to first and foremost my fellow LD sisters. Second, I also apologize to readers, followers, associates, women, single mothers, the LBTQ community, and fellow adoptees. 

I did not want my post to be misinterpreted as it appears to have been. Occassionally the topic of same sex adoptions is brought up for official and political discussion. At the time I wrote (and published the original post) such debate was once again discussed in national media.

If anything my post, was meant as a societal reflection on the topic and not meant as a direct reflection of my personal opinion on said topic. I actually applaud every single mother out there, because parenting is never easy and once sexual oriention does not determine wheter or not someone will be an illsuited parent or not.

Believex it or not, but in terms of single adoptive parents I think there's a slight but not so insignificant difference. If you do, eventually end up raising your children as a single mother - then it is what it is. But when you conciously decide to pursue single parent adoption you already know you do so on your own. That and only that is the only difference - single mothers and single adoptive mothers either have to be very stubborn and determined or have a larger support network. It seems especially important if there is no present father figure , or for that matter a make role model around.  

Of course, a single (adoptive) mother can be the best mother for her children - even without a support network. But too me that seems like a too heavy burden to carry on your own, one I would not recommend - but not be opposed to (if someone is very determined that is.)

So no, I don't and never have believed single parents automatically are worse parents than other parents. What I do think, however is that it perhaps isn't wise to bring an innocent child into a dysfunctional family. Single parent households, aren't automatically dysfunctional - they can be, but dysfunctional families can exist in stereotypical family constalations too.

Speaking of same sex adoptions, I personally (actually), (have no problem with it.) Its the 21st century- afterall, family constalations are no longer man, woman and child. It can be two men, or two women, or two men, one woman and children, or even two men, two women and children. What's remarkable and perhaps, frustrating is that most countries of foreign adoptions used to be very strict with prospective parents sexual orientation.

Therefore it used to be more challenging for a European same sex couple to apply for overseas adoption. Even though most European countries are in the liberal forefront, the countries that send children for adoption, could have laws against homosexuality. The very reason why China stopped adoptions to Sweden, out of fear that the prospective single mothers could be living as lesbians.

Does this mean there are no gay (adoptiveparents in Europe?

Well, the ones who wants to raise a family eventually do so. But they usually have to enlist the help of female friend, or a lesbian couple agree to raise and share responsability of future children with another homosexual couple.

Requited love (and even unrequited love too done extent) are the greatest thing exisiting on this earth. It should be irrelevant if there are requited love between two or more people. If you ask me what I honestly believe then I'd say that love in its purest form should be celebrated, accepted and respected.

I want to stress, yet again that it isn't someone's sexual orientation that automatically makes them a bad parent. No more than, a single woman's decision to persue motherhood alone. Society is actually very fast to judge anyone that doesn't adhere to the usual accepted norm. Being a same sex couple, or a single mother usually means they have to endure much criticism from all corners of society.

Not every individual, makes a good parent - to be an adoptive parent is actually an even greater responsabilty one should not take unless you are wellprepared (not that you really can prepare for it) but try to do your best. Don't start a family - by biology, law, adoption or otherwise - thinking that child will solve all preexisting problems automatically. That usually never works - it may temporarilly do so but not in the long run.

I want to use my voice, to advocate for the innocent children - who ususlly rarely have a voice (in matters that concerns adoption. This time, I recognize and realize that by siding with and for the children, I automatically and unintentionally probably not only alienated - but offended and spread 
the very same prejudices about single adoptive parents as well as prospective same sex couples (wishing to adopt), thereby insulting the entire LBTQ community. This is what should have been added and edited into my monthly post, but unfortunately never was. For that I am forever sorry and regret. I know that once something is posted online it will be there forever. I made a huge mistake, and for that I am sorry from the bottom of my heart.

I am well aware of the fact, that it is to be considered a great privilege to be granted permission to write on this site. If this is to be my last post on Lost Daughters, then so be it. It is a decision, I leave in the hands of the LD founder and the remaining fellow Lost Daughters. I understand - but please do not punish Lost Daughters or any of my fellow LD sisters (for something that I previously expressed in my monthly posts.) If anyone should be punished or forced to take the consequences let me do so alone. 



Friday, July 14, 2017

Adoption Jokes and Adoptee Punchlines: Journalists Should Do Better

I get it. Adoption jokes are low-hanging fruit. They dangle within easy reach. Tempting. Requiring so little effort. Overripe and starting to rot, yet still solid enough that if thrown at flesh they'll sting and leave a bruise.

And adoptees? We're just such easy targets.

Some folks simply can't help themselves. They pluck that fruit, take aim and hurl it, then snicker a like grade-school boy who just used his armpit to imitate the sound of a bodily function.

Because adoption jokes are funny

Remember this one?


 



And this ?


Funny, right? Sure...in a "you throw like a girl" kind of way.

More recently, there was this exchange between New York Times writer, Sopan Deb, and White House correspondent James Oliphant:





The entire thread is notable not only for the original interaction, but for the overwhelmingly affirming responses. Angela Barra, Huffpost contributor and adult adoptee, countered the sentiments with her post, It's Not Okay to Mock Adopted People Even When Taunting Trump!, saying, "7.5k people liked Sopan Deb's tweet, and this evidences that many people think that this kind of casual disparaging humor is okay."


There is a mass lack of understanding of the varied and complex experiences of adoptees, so much so that being the butt of the joke, yet again, isn't too surprising. This isn't the first time adoption jokes have been addressed at Lost Daughters. We've been tackling this for years. Take for example this post from 2013this post from 2014, and this post from 2015. When adoptees say we're weary of repeatedly addressing the same issues, it's not hyperbole. 

Do Deb and Oliphant truly hold adopted people in such low esteem? Probably not. Oliphant's comment, while mean spirited, leaves me scratching my head and isn't worthy of further response. Deb's, however, has hooks. Taken to its logical conclusion, the idea expressed is that adopted sons and daughters aren't really sons and daughters at all. The actions of an adopted son would be inconsequential because he is, after all, only adopted. Here, the adoptee is condemned to an adoption no-man's-land, legally severed from biological family and relationally severed from legal family, all in fewer than 100 characters. Funny, funny stuff indeed.

It's tiresome to continually encounter derogatory remarks such as these, and especially disturbing to see them coming so publicly and unabashedly from members of the press. Professional journalists shouldn't need reminders to choose their words wisely, but when it comes to adoption, these two apparently do.


If members of the press wish to write about adoption, there is no dearth of issues for them to explore. Deportation of adult adoptees, adoptee rights, fraudulent practices, adoptee experiences of racism, adoptee abuse, and rehoming of adopted children are only a few topics worthy of journalistic endeavor. Start by learning from adoptees. Our blogs, podcasts, books, research, and professional papers are easily accessible. If you need help finding information, ask.

It's time to stop using adoption as an insult and adoptees as punchlines. We're not here for your entertainment, we're not less-than, we owe no defense of our own existence, and we're not ashamed.


Yep, some people are adopted.


And that's no joke.





Sunday, July 2, 2017

KAAN - Learning to Listen

Me, Grace, Rosita, Shaaren, Emily, and Susan sharing a moment
“Welcome to Pittsburgh,” the flight attendant cooed over the intercom. “If you’re visiting, I hope you enjoy your stay. For our other passengers, welcome home.” 

The once quiet cabin was suddenly filled with passengers getting out of their seats, stretching their stiff limbs, and rattling the overhead compartments in search of their luggage.

It had been 10 years since I had visited Pittsburg, and in more ways than one, a lot had changed since then.

The weekend marked the first time I would be sharing my story at an adoption conference. And I was a little nervous.

When Rosita asked me last summer if I’d be interested in sharing my experiences as part of a panel of transracial adoptees, I told her, yes of course. But as the weekend drew closer, I started wondered if I was going to feel out of place. I mean, it was called the “Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network” Conference. What was an adoptee from Haiti going to share? How I would I be received?

But despite my apprehension, over the course of the weekend, I was openly welcomed into the Korean adoptee community.  

On Friday afternoon, I was a part of a session called “The Global Diaspora.” With Rosita moderating, Grace, Shaaren and I shared what it was like to be adoptees from China, India, and Haiti. As Grace and Shaaren spoke, I found myself nodding my head throughout their segments.

Sharing with Rosita and Grace.                  Photo: Allen Majors

I listened as they each shared their struggles of identity growing up. All three of us talked about feeling more comfortable with ourselves when we moved away from home. Through college, different cities, and new friends, we shed our “adoption background story” and learned how to rebuild ourselves.

We talked about finding mirrors for ourselves through movies, our children, and connecting to adoptee communities online and in person. We also discussed our frustrations and successes in searching for our birth families.

There was so much that the three of us shared. Our histories, although separate, had some of the same threads woven throughout.

And as the weekend unfolded, I found that I had a lot in common with other adoptees too.

On Saturday morning, Rosita, Shaaren and I hosted a session on how being an adoptee influences our mothering. We had other adoptees sit in the inner circle, and for an hour we had a candid discussion. We cried about the obstacles that our children face - some of the same obstacles we endured growing up. We laughed about the craziness of pregnancy, and we connected over the desire to have children - to see our faces and features in someone else for the first time.

During our two sessions, I felt comfortable sharing. During the question and answer period of our sessions, people asked me questions. I talked. I explained. I described. And they listened.  

Listening and learning with Shaaren.        Photo: Allen Majors

But after Saturday morning’s session, I decided to stay quiet and become a listener again.
I listened to a panel discussion about Asian masculinity. I went to a session about navigating the sometimes complicated relationship with adoptive parents as an adult adoptee.

I attended a packed and very lively discussion about racism. The participants talked about white guilt, micro aggressions, and being an ally. There was so much to take in. So much to unpack. But I (tweeted) and listened.

Listening means holding back. Listening is humbling. It’s quiet. It means sometimes wanting to say something, but then turning the thoughts over in your mind. It’s taking notes. It’s honoring the voices that are so often silenced.

Sometimes listening is more powerful than talking. Listening says, “I see you. I give you this space. I want to learn.”

In every conversation that weekend, I saw myself. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t been born in Korea. I felt a sense of community among my fellow adoptees.

It’s a powerful feeling being surrounded by people who get you. Conversations are different. Sometimes you can skip the pleasantries and talk about the things that matter. There are some things that only transracial adoptees have experienced.

On Sunday afternoon, I boarded my flight to go back to South Florida. I was exhausted. But I also felt at peace. I had spent a weekend with a group of people, that regardless of where we were born, understood each other.

Another chirpy flight attendant came on the intercom. “If you were visiting Pittsburgh this weekend, I hope you enjoyed your stay.”

I looked out at the window, silently saying goodbye to the city, and smiled.

***


 Mariette Williams (@mariettewrites) is a transracial adoptee born in Jeremie, Haiti. She was adopted at the age of three and grew up near Vancouver, B.C., Canada. She founded Haitian Adoptees, a Facebook group that serves to connect and offer support to other Haitian adoptees. In July of 2015, she reunited with her birth mother and several members of her birth family. She lives in South Florida with her husband and two children. In addition to being a Journalism and literature teacher, she is a published author and supporter of international adoption reform.



Saturday, June 17, 2017

How to Help an Adoptee with an Unknown Father

If you were in Aurora, IL in 1965, I would like to speak with you.
This topic is very personal to me for many reasons, not least of which I fall into this category as well as anticipating another Father’s Day with no answers.  I found an article written by Adoptive Families Magazine that attempted to address this issue for adoptive parents; however, the article does not go far enough to point out a very obvious issue when it attempts to comfort parents that their child's feelings are more important than facts:  not having facts causes negative feelings. It also gives the parents permission to say, "I don't know." to their child.  Now, granted, if that is the truth, that is fine; however, just because you don't know, does not mean you shouldn't attempt to find out. 

Not having the answers to the basic building blocks of who we are as humans is painful.  It leaves a void that many times cannot be discussed but will be acted out in self-destructive ways. Because adopted people with unknown parentage walk around with this void from an early age, he/she may not realize that this particular void is not experienced by the non-adopted.  This void was something I could never discuss with my own family while still a child.  I found it nearly impossible to voice it even as a mature adult.  It runs that deep.


Now it may be true, an adopted child may not be asking  any questions to the adoptive parents  at “this age” about their birth parents.  That in itself is not evidence of a lack of needing to know.  When I realized that an adoption agency, Spence-Chapin, supports Adoptive Families magazine, the article made better sense to me.  The goal is to help adoptive parents; however it falls short of telling adoptive parents what they can specifically do to help their child besides validating his/her feelings (which is always a good thing).

The writer of this article makes it sound like you have plenty of time to deal with this issue claiming that many kids never ask until adolescence.  Again, the article fails to point out this:  if a child asks in adolescence,  he/she has likely been wondering secretly about it for years.  Yes, even if you directly ask them if they want any information and they deny it. Yes, even if they insist they “don’t care”. 

Instead of hoping and praying that your child is not negatively affected by the absence of any information about his/her father, here is a better plan:  assume an adoptee needs to know even if they never ask and be prepared to do some digging. The article does suggest going back to the agency, etc. to ask questions, but this is not enough to ensure you have answers. 

Remember that even if the adoptee says today they don’t want the information, later in life, when a significant event happens in their lives as adults, a shift may take place.  Events like marriage, birth of a child, death of a parent, divorce, etc. can trigger the adoptee to then begin asking simple questions such as, “Who else in this world looks like me?”  “Why was I given up?”  or “How am I going  to protect my child’s health when my own health history is missing?”

Here are some suggestions for an action plan when an adoptee has an unknown father:

1.  Always tell the truth.  Don't embellish a story to make it sound better.  Don't leave out important facts that you believe your child "can't handle". If there are special circumstances in the child's story that you fear he/she can't handle, seek out an adoption competent therapist. Lies and withholding information damages trust.

2.  Start EARLY. Each year that passes, the trail gets colder.

3.  Using your child's birth date, calculate your child's conception date.  There are free conception calculators on-line.  Write this date down.  I used this calculator.   Here is my result:
This is the weekend following St. Patrick's Day!
This date is very helpful to understand the story surrounding an adoptee's birth.  Where were the parents living at this point in time in their lives?  Where did they work?  In my own search, my conception story begins in Aurora, IL. (If you have ties to this area in 1965, I would like to speak to you!). Email me at stpatrickdaybaby1965@gmail.com.

4.   If possible, order your child’s original birth certificate before it is sealed and amended by the Court.  It is too late to order it from Vital Stats if the adoption is finalized as you will receive the amended copy with the adoptive parents' names.  State laws differ, but I recommend you ask your attorney to get a copy of it.  The father’s name may or may not be on there but this is a very important document to have in your possession.

5.  Keep every scrap of information that the agency, birth mother, social worker, court and attorney gives you.  Even pieces of information you deem insignificant should be kept. I was fortunate that my mother turned over all the court documents that the attorney had given my parents.  I learned in my late 30’s my mother's birth name by studying them, never realizing it had been there all along.

6.  Put your child’s DNA into Ancestry and trace her lineage yourselves. (They are having a 20% sale through Father's Day). Build a family tree and in time, you may be able to discover who the paternal birth family is.  Check with state laws and your attorney, but Ancestry DNA has over 4 million testers currently and is growing every day. 

7.  Contact the attorney who handled the adoption and ask him/her to make contact with the agency or the birth mother and ask questions.  Request copies of the files. (If you are an adoptee, you should always request your Non-ID from the agency who handled your adoption).  If you do not get any cooperation, do not give up. Authorities will many times block your access.  Remember that adoption is an industry and it wants to self-protect.

8.  If you know that the father’s name is in a file, request that it be released to you.  You are the paying clients and this information may become vital to your child some day.  Don’t take no for an answer.

9.   The paternal medical history can become life-saving if your child has a genetic disease that needs treatment and information to diagnose and treat.  I was fortunate to have been healthy growing up; but I know numerous adoptees who didn’t learn until adulthood they have genetic medical illnesses that run in their biological families, and suffered as a result.

10.   If you do have the names, it’s even better if you know some information about the birth parents and the details of why your child was relinquished.  I am not advocating stalking people, but knowing what state they live in, a somewhat recent address, a general idea of the “story” surrounding the relinquishment, awareness of whether the parents married, moved, worked in a particular industry, etc. can be important to your child. Life books are a nice way to organize this information.

If your child is internationally adopted, you will have more road blocks than a domestic adoptee.  However, get advice from adult international adoptees for more insight. Making a trip to the home country before the trail goes cold and incorporating the child’s culture are some tangible things you can do in the absence of any information about birth parents. 

Taking the 23 and Me DNA test would be my recommendation for an international adoptee because I have noticed that most of my international matches (my father is an alleged South American)  show up in 23 and Me.  Go here to read the recommendations of  The Legal Genealogist (an attorney who is also a genetic genealogist).   She advises an adoptee take every autosomal DNA test that you can afford to take.

I have done this myself.  I am in five databases currently (Ancestry, Family Tree DNA, 23 and Me, Gedmatch and My Heritage).  For help in maneuvering the DNA results, I recommend CeCe Moore’s DNA Detectives Facebook Group."

"No matter what the circumstances of the conception - half of that adoptee's DNA still comes from that unknown father. Too many dismiss the 'sperm donor' as never being involved, never caring - which is irrelevant as there will always be a living breathing reminder that 'half' of you is unknown." - Gaye Sherman Tannenbaum


Lynn Grubb is an Illinois adoptee, stepmother, biological mother and adoptive parent.  She is a contributing author to Lost Daughters, and to various adoption anthologies including the newly released It’s Not About You:  Understanding Adoptee Search, Reunion and Open AdoptionHer proudest accomplishment is creating and editing The Adoptee Survival Guide:  Adoptees Share Their Wisdom and Tools.
Besides writing, Lynn also enjoys singing with her church praise team and watching true crime shows, which sparked her interest in DNA and genetic genealogy. Four years ago, Lynn began blogging about her DNA discoveries at her blog, No Apologies for Being Me
Lynn is a volunteer co-facilitator of the Adoption Network Cleveland (Miami Valley) general discussion group in Dayton, Ohio and a board member of the Adoptee Rights Coalition which gives her an opportunity to educate legislators about equal access to original birth certificates.
Lynn lives with her family in Dayton, Ohio.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Why (Interracial Adoption) Still Exist

I know that there are many adult KADs that want to see Korean intercountry adoptions sease. And if it is absolutely neccesary it should be replaced by domestic adoptions.

Maybe that's delusional to try to strive for an ideal word, since the "demand" for orphan babies doesn't seem to end. The only thing that possibly would end intercountry adoptions would be if the South Korean government outlawed interracial adoptions.

After nearly 64 years the practice still remain, which is remarkable even if some social changes has been made to improve the legal rights and protection for single mother's in Korea.

As long as there will be affluent foreign APs willing to raise these orphan babies  it seems like there will be slow progress. International adoptees are not and should not be compared to imported and exported goods. Unfortunately it seems as if they still are and will continue to be seen in this  way.

Maybe that could explain why there seems to be so many different practices of actual deciet;


  • falsified birth records
  • altered birth dates
  • hidden records
  • switched children
  • matched with wrong birth family
It seems as if the South Korean government originally thought these poor orphans never would return. Maybe they use successful cases of reunited families as some sort of PR? Because if there were no success stories then it might seem as if few APs and adoption organizations might want to use that country as a supplier.