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Adoption and Child Separation at the Border

On June 1, 2018 Rebekah Henson published an important thread on Twitter critiquing the hashtags #FamiliesBelongTogether and #Ke...

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Going Home to the Adoptee Rights Protest

Although I’ve always considered the Dayton, Ohio area my true home, the fact is I had a home before this one. In 1965, I was born at Evanston Hospital in Evanston, Illinois and my first mother lived in a maternity home at The Cradle awaiting my arrival. She describes this time as positive and a time to bond with the other soon-to-be-moms. I am thankful that she had a positive place to go through a traumatic event and even had a couple funny stories to share with me from that time period. 

I was placed into a closed adoption. For those of you unfamiliar with closed adoption, it basically means through a process of sealed records, I was not allowed to know anything about my original family and they knew nothing about me. My first mom was treated like a criminal in an emotional sense. Never told if I was o.k or what had become of me.

I have never been back to Chicago as an adult. The place holds so much emotional significance for me that I have avoided it for a long time. When I heard the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) convention and Adoptee Rights Protest would be in Chicago this year, I knew I had to attend. Besides meeting and re-acquainting with the hundreds of amazing and awesome adoptees I’ve met via My Space and Facebook, going back to my original home holds so much significance to me that I consider it the closure I need to complete my adoption journey.

I lived at the Cradle for the first 2 months of my life. I was described as “the happiest baby in the Cradle”. I often wonder if that was true, but my parents assure me it was. My caseworker was Mrs. Magee, a delightful woman according to my mother. Another delightful woman, Nina Friedman, helped me find my first mother in 2006 in one week. I hope to meet Nina next week and re-visit my first home.

I was fortunate my first mother was alive, easy to find due to an uncommon name and also willing to meet me. I was also fortunate that she was willing to fill out the voluminous paperwork required by Vital Statistics of Illinois in order to receive my original birth certificate. I received my birth certificate through this “loophole” as I call it several years ago, before Illinois opened their birth certificates to the majority of adoptees in 2011.

This birth certificate means everything to me. (I proudly post it on my Facebook page if you want to look at it). Mainly because I was told my whole adult life I had no right to see it. But also because it is documented proof of who my first mother was, that she named me and that I actually was born in a Hospital (not a cradle as my childlike mind always believed). I never knew where I was born until I was 40 years old. My second amended birth certificate wiped out this information. I never knew who gave birth to me until I was 40 years old. Never looked at a picture of a face resembling mine until age 28 when I had my son. It’s an admittedly odd way to grow up, but it’s the only life I’ve ever known and I value it. Through reunion with my birth family and bonding with other adoptees, I have come to accept myself and life story as God’s plan.

I feel very blessed to have grown up with an adopted brother and been close to several adoptees. My two closest friends growing up are adopted. One has found her family. The other has no interest. I respect both choices. Some people on the outside may think adoptees are fanatical, angry and unstable. That is a perception I would like to change. I don’t fit into that mold and I know that the majority of adoptees do not either.

The only thing I am fanatical about is that adopted people have the same rights as every other citizen in this country . . .to have a copy of THEIR ORIGINAL BIRTH CERTIFICATE. That is what this protest is about. Education. Adopted people should not be held to a different standard than other citizens just because of a circumstance as children we had no control over. Some of us want to find our original biological families. Some of us don’t. But we all deserve to have our original identity and the narrative of our lives.


I consider it a true blessing and honor to be able to stand together with my fellow adoptees and educate the legislature of these much needed changes.

Looking forward to sweating beside you in the streets of Chicago!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Life, Love & Longing

By Jaesun

What is love, what does it mean? What is it that determines who we love? 

As an adoptee I was never able to grow up with my birth family or to be raised by my birth parents. Instead two strange people were chosen as my new parents and they were the ones who replaced my birth parents. They raised me, comforted me and nurtured me. In time I learned how to love them, as a logical and natural result of my upbringing and childhood. To me they are my real parents, because they were there for me when the ones who should have accepted their responsibility weren’t. Of course I know that the people that I call my mum and dad, are not my parents that brought me into the world. But they feel like my true parents.



 Even so I do confess that my birth family always will have a special place in my heart and that the love I feel for them is everlasting, honestly. Is it the environment that determines or influences who it is that we will come to love? If, so than why do I still feel like I love my birth family despite it all, even though I know that there are no expectations or presumptions of that sort that dictates that I should. Believe me, when I tell you this; even though I’m no longer certain that my feelings and love are reciprocated I can’t help but to feel the why I do. Yes it’s true I love them too.

Why I love my birth family I still don’t know or can explain. I’m certain of course that I do, yet I fail in my attempts to try to identify the reason. Maybe I will never know exactly why I do. I know I don’t have to love them, yet I do.  Could it be because of blood ties whose responsibilities’ has forever been removed? Is it so that it really could be that DNA and blood ties are stronger than environment?



I’m confused, because the love I feel for my birth family might have prevented me from allowing other people getting closer. And maybe in my case it just be as simple as to say that I might just love my birth family more than my mum and dad. Or at least it’s a different kind of love that I feel for the two, the love I had all my life might be stronger because it’s a case of unrequited love.  


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Nature Meets Nature

The writing prompt: There seem to be three camps. One is nature, one is nurture, and the third is a little bit of both. Which camp are you in? How did you come to this conclusion? What did you get from your parents (either set depending on your camp)? What is uniquely you?

I’ve been tossing this prompt around in my head for a few weeks, and have enjoyed the responses put up so far by other Lost Daughter contributors. The concepts of nature and nurture are on my mind in a particularly poignant way in this moment. I am in the process of navigating a nascent reunion with my biological father, and, if all goes according to plan, I will meet him in person for the first time ever in a few days. At the time of this writing I am at my adoptive family home where I am vacationing for a week. I am, in fact, composing this post from my childhood bedroom. Memories of nurture are all around me, and it is in this environment that I am processing my recent phone calls from my original father. We talked for almost an hour last week, and, among other things, he recommended a book for me. I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle and have been reading it here on vacation these last few days; bookish person that I am, there are few things that could have delighted me more than to have been given a reading assignment by my biological father!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Nature and Nurture

Adoptees are in the unique position of providing some experiential insight into the topics of nature and nurture. Please note that I wrote "nature and nurture" instead of "nature vs. nurture." This was a deliberate move and one that sets up my thoughts on the matter.

As a mother and adoptee, it is my feeling that a parent's job is to nurture a child's nature. This goes for natural and adoptive families. My two sons are born of my husband and me. They are mash-ups of their parents' genetics. And they are quite different from one another. What works for one in the parenting department might not work for the other. And it is the job of my husband and I to respect who our boys are as individuals and provide the nurturing most appropriate for their innate natures. And being the natural parents, my husband and I at least have the familial recognition that comes with raising children we created ourselves. Our boys each have qualities that we can recognize in ourselves and this gives us some useful insight regarding how to handle certain situations. Because our boys are their natures. That's the essence of who they are. And if we do our best to nurture their natures, they will hopefully enter adulthood with a solid sense of self and identity.

The current adoption system is set up in way that does not help adoptees understand or connect to our own innate natures and true selves in any way. It's an identity and sense-of-self crap shoot for us. And our adoptive parents are unable to offer the familial connection we need to develop a comprehensive identity. Our adoptive parents are put in the position of nurturing a nature that is unfamiliar and new. Some adoptive parents are able to recognize this and adjust their parenting approach to meet the unique needs of the adoptee. Others, like my own adoptive parents, struggle with it and put familial expectations on the adoptee that go against his or her innate nature.

The thing is that for adoptees, our nature is always with us. From the moment we are conceived. We come into our adoptive families already programmed by our natural families. And because of this, raising an adopted child is not the same as raising a natural child. Adoptive parents must take a unique approach to parenting in order to nurture a child whose nature did not originate in the adoptive family. It is my feeling that the most successful of adoptive parents are the ones who find a way to step back and observe the child they are raising so that they can encourage the child's nature to blossom.

It's not a competition. Nature does not compete with nurture in some odd battle of wills to win the ability to offer an adoptee a true sense of self. Our natures simply need to be nurtured in a way that is respectful and understanding of our life circumstances. .


Thursday, July 12, 2012

My Bi-Racial Life

Guest Entry by C. Pfeiffer


One of our readers asked in the questions section of a previous post if Lost Daughters had any thoughts about being bi-racial.  One of our Facebook fans, Janice Flores, graciously offered to share her experiences.

I’ve always known I was adopted. I’ve always known I was bi-racial.

My birth mother is white, my birth father is black.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Christmas Wish

By Guest Author, Jaesun

I know that this year’s Christmas is still far away, I have chosen to name this story "A Christmas Wish" even though I had that wish for almost all my life….All I really wish for is that I one day will be able to meet my real parents just one more time before I die.  I don’t really know what made me decide to start a birth family search; it could have been 9/11 which made me really, really sad. I began thinking of my other family on the other side of the world that something could have happened to them that they might have died without me knowing about it. On Swedish TV they also started airing "Saknad" where a person who misses someone dear tries to get in contact with a person they miss or has not heard from for long. Initially there where mostly a child seeking his or hers father or mother. And there also was the occasional adoptee hoping to locate their birthparents.

In August it will be exactly one year since the Big Reunion… I am a Korean adoptee; I was adopted to Sweden when I was three months old. My Korean birth family is really big even Koreans tend to think so. I have six older sisters and one younger brother; I was born as the seventh daughter. That makes us siblings 8. I have always known I was adopted from Korea that I had an intact Korean family with several older sisters (at the time of my birth). I have felt like there was something in my life that I missed, like a big empty hole inside not only my heart but inside my soul.

I was raised in a small suburb in Sweden, and when I was young there weren’t many other adoptees or Koreans around in my neighborhood. When I started school I became aware of my different appearance yet I felt like I tried my best to fit in. And I had a lot of friends at first but I was still teased because of my almond shaped eyes, my black hair and my olive skin. The emptiness I felt became really hard to deal with and when I was 14, I remember one assignment in school where we all had to write what we wished for as Christmas gifts. I remember that I wrote:

One day in school I told my classmates that I was adopted and they all asked if I had applied to be on the Swedish TV –show Saknad (Missing in English). After some time I did apply to the show but I can’t remember if they ever replied back, at some point they did. But I guess I knew too much about my birth family which wouldn’t make an interesting story on TV. When I realized that ship had sailed, I was cheered on by my mum and dad to contact the agency to see if they could help me. The agency agreed to help me which was a big relief for me.
Since I had no clue if my parents still were alive and well all I asked to agency to help me with was to tell me if my Korean birthparents still were alive. And I didn’t hear back from the agency until almost 3 years later. By that time I had already started my second year in High School. Not before than would I finally receive a word back from the agency and my birth family (because the agency couldn’t understand if I wanted to have contact with my birth parents or not). I remember when I got a thick envelope which contained pictures of my Korean family and a bunch of letters. For some time, years even we wrote each other letters and they even sent me gifts occasionally.

The same year my birth father would turn 60 my dad suddenly wondered if it wasn’t suitable to tell my Korean family I would like to meet them (that I would come to Korea). They were all excited and extremely happy that I would be traveling to Korea the following summer. The first reunion in Korea was nice and happy but of course it was difficult to with the language barrier and cultural differences.  Because of the language barrier I had already started taking Korean language courses at University level in Sweden. Before that second trip I began thinking about moving to Korea, applying for a joint Korean citizenship. I even went as far as to start to think about moving to Korea permanently.  Therefore I decided that I would return for a second time to Korea, staying longer than the first time.

This second trip back made me realize a lot of things about my birth family and ultimately about myself and the ones who really care for me. I was like tourist by day and almost a family member by evening. Which meant I certainly should not spread my money all around me, show it off and not spend all my money on shopping (when I should I have offered to take my siblings out to dinner). I never did treat my family to dinner because I knew that would be too expensive for me. My siblings are seven and even if I only was expected to treat five of them to dinner it would also include my
sister’s husbands and each of their children. I could not even have repaid the favour of a nice dinner out once, because if I had there would be no money left for me to spend on souvenirs, exciting trips or even meals for myself.

When I returned to Sweden, the reaction to my second experience with my birth family had already started. I no longer received Korean emails, not even translated letters. I was still trying desperately to hold on to the feeling that I had had for over 10 years’ time. I continued to send birthday cards and smaller gifts as my way of showing them how much they meant to me. But I never got to know if they had received the items, I didn’t even get a thank you anymore. I was forced to contact the agency and ask them to forward my worry or questions about where to send the gifts and if it had arrived.

I didn’t realize the truth until I had written to one of my sisters, the one who married a wealthy European. She basically scolded me for having bragged about my money buy not being discreet , instead spent them on unnecessary things when I should have spent them on treating my family to dinner out. And my sister even told me that they didn’t appreciate the gifts I brought with me from Sweden (they were handmade) instead she told me that they would have preferred label goods as gifts.

The thing that really became the tip of the iceberg was when she told me that my Korean parentscwas resentful and reserved towards me because they resented my mum and dad for not havingcoffered them paid tickets to Sweden for at least a week. But they had invited them to Sweden a year earlier just not offered to pay for their tickets. The thing is mum and dad accompanied me to Korea the first time and they realized how much it meant to me, but spending that much money was money that they had to save to. Also, I spent the first few days with my Korean parents at their place.  All I was allowed to do was to sleep and watch TV; I wasn’t allowed to walk outside the front door. The thought of having to pay for my Korean parents’ trip to Sweden was no longer something I felt comfortable with.

Now I realize that our different upbringings in different cultures means we probably never will be able to understand each other. And they will most likely never feel like my real siblings. Now I feel like they no longer loves me, because they honestly only seems to have put up with me because of my supposed wealthy parents. I’m a European like my sister’s husband so I must be just as wealthy as him. I didn’t understand the Korean custom of giving gifts they offer gifts buy saying things like I want to give this to you (what they really mean is that I give you this but I expect something nicer in return). I feel like I have been holding on to an illusion for far too long… now I am in the middle of yet another identity crisis. I am starting to understand who I am but I realize this means I have to figure out what I want to do with my life. As for now I have no interest in writing to my Korean family,
maybe a time will come when I will feel comfortable with telling them the truth.

At times I’m so sick of not only having been adopted but also the fact that I’m Korean. I want to forget and ignore all things that are Korean. I promise you this that if I ever return to Korea again there’s almost no chance I will let my Korean family know when I’m back. Suddenly the thought of cutting them out of my life seems much more healthier than to try to hold on to an unhealthy relationship were there’s only one voice.

I guess I would be sad if I got to know they died, but it wouldn’t really urge me to rekindle the relationship because I realize that since I can’t contribute with anything useful like money they no longer have any interest in me. It hurts to say that, no matter how hard I try I will not be able to put on another costume that would make more Korean not even a fully recognized family member in my birth family. Or maybe that’s just what I’ve become but I refuse to accept the terms of our relationship. I’m only related to them by blood which legally means there should be no expectations or economic responsibilities’ what so ever. Until my Korean family realizes that I see little point in trying to make them understand that let alone continue to keep writing them and definitely not sending any more gifts. At least I got to see my Christmas wish from 10 years ago being fulfilled.

Jaesun is a Korean adoptee who was adopted to Sweden at 3 months old. The reason she was surrendered to adoption was because she was born the wrong gender and was the 7th daughter in the family at the time. She has been in active reunion since the end of last year and has visited Korea twice. She has meet her Korean birth family, all of her siblings and their husbands and children. She has been questioning the truthfulness of what she has been told so far about her adoption. Jaesun blogs in Swedish and English at http://jaesunsaysthis.wordpress.com/ .

Photo credit: Suat Eman

Lost Voice

The Sands of Time

Sifting through the sands of time examining my past.
Watching life I call my own pass through the hour glass.
So much has been forgotten, so much I've left behind.
So much that has been buried I search for but can not find.
People who have come and gone and those still here today.
Faces I have never seen who long since went away.
Missing links and histories leave only gaping holes.
Oh how I'd love to hear all of those stories left untold.
Each has left their mark upon my soul and memory.
This life that was created an everlasting legacy.

Over the last thirteen years since the rejection from my biological family, who refuse to reveal their identities and confront the secret that I am in their lives and coming to terms with the reality of my adoptive family situation and further rejection, I've used writing as a tool as an outlet for all of the emotion that comes with being adopted.  It has been a great way for me to express and share my thoughts, feelings, and fears not just to others, but for myself as well.  Lately though, I've found I've lost my ability to put pen to paper, or really fingers to keyboard, and get through the depression that has stemmed from all the further rejection I continue to experience.

I've struggled with multiple genetic health issues, many chronic and debilitating, since the age of fifteen.  In the last year my physical condition has deteriorated even further.  With that often comes huge depression and I have been in denial not about the fact it exists, but about the fact I have not been able to come to terms with all of it.  And that neither set of my parents seem to care.

Being adopted for those who are not is difficult if not impossible to understand.  Many of the health issues I have like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and the impact of the rest that take a toll not only on one's body but also mind and spirit, are also extremely hard to grasp.  I've been left feeling left out of the regular world most everyone else lives in.  We all have our battles and demons to face but adoption coupled with continual rejection, judgment, and ridicule, can leave a person feeling totally isolated, alone, unworthy, unwanted, and continually misunderstood.

A good deal of the advice I get is “You have your husband, kids, and friends and that is your family you have created” and yeah to "get over it".  Yes, many times that it true you can create connections with others who can be "like" family, but sometimes that is not the case.  Spouses and significant others leave, friends abandon you and move on, and children grow up and leave the nest.”  It does not, nor will it ever, replace the loss of two families.

I believe myself to be a fairly intelligent and competent person.  I usually can find and figure my way out of most of life's dilemmas and problems after all, I've really had no other choice.  This one has me stymied and recently my inner voice has no words left with which to help comfort and guide me.

So, I have decided to pick back up the book I began awhile back and see if somehow my story might help educate and inform others of the realities many adoptees face.  As cathartic as writing can be, it is also an emotional roller coaster diving into all the pent up frustration and anger and below that, the great sadness and loss that plagues the depths of my soul.  Sometimes reopening the whole can of worms can be monumentally challenging, but, I feel the need to write it if not just for myself.  It will also be something to leave for my children and their children since they have lost part of their roots and history as well.  And, if someday my biological family  can ever come forward, I will be able to give them in print my story.  The quest for where I belong in the world, and who I became because of adoption.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Famished


By Mei-Ling

It's one of those days where I am starving.

I open my textbook and see all my scribbled characters from the evenings of homework hours. I take out my pen and start writing characters according to the pinyin. I can recall about 60% of what these notebook drills request me to do, but already, my memory is fading for terms like shufu and fangjia and xiatian.

The days where I could open my book and write them down instantly without pause are long gone. Soon I will not remember them at all. It's not so much about not being able to remember how to write comfortable, holiday, or summer - but that the entire psychological process of retaining language is so careful and precise to grasp - a daunting cliff that you are forever at the mercy of, but without a harness to secure what you've attempted to learn, or salt to keep your grip from loosening.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Nature/Nurture/Something Else?

There seem to be three camps. One is nature, one is nurture, and the third is a little bit of both. Which camp are you in? How did you come to this conclusion? What did you get from your parents (either set depending on your camp)? What is uniquely you?

I have no problem declaring that I'm in the nature AND nurture camp.  However, that wasn't always the case.

When I was younger, I'd defend the nurture only argument until I turned blue in the face.  I should probably preface this with the statement that I'm not really like my adoptive parents.  I'm a very passionate person.  They are laid back and chill people (which makes me seem even more over the top than I actually am).  They have different strengths.  It should have been clear to me.  But it wasn't.

My adoptive parents taught me a lot of things.  They taught me their value system.  They raised me a certain way.  I was taught to have certain personality traits.  Yes, some of my personality was taught.  I truly believe that.  If you were to call my house right now, you wouldn't be able to tell if it was my adoptive mother or me on the phone.  I was taught to answer the phone like her.  I hear myself using her phrases.  We're a lot alike in certain ways.  Some of that was taught.  My sister and I, not related by blood at all, have the same posture and hold our heads the same way.  It's the strangest thing.  That's how people know we are sisters.  Nurture influenced me a lot.

Meeting my first father was like a cold bucket of water was dumped on my head.  We're a lot alike personality-wise.  We both talk with our hands.  We're both talkers.  We could talk to anybody (except each other the first time!).  Our sense of humor is very similar.  We're very similar in a lot of ways.  I share a lot of the same mannerisms at my first mother and sisters.  I see parts of my personality in my first mother at times.  I went into the "family business" without ever realizing it.  There's no denying that I'm a product of my DNA.  My old tried and true arguments went out the window the minute I entered into reunion.

I don't know which one is a more powerful influence.  I do however know that both are at play in me.  And I also know that there are certain things that are uniquely me.  My skill at dance?  All me.  It's not in my adoptive family, nor my first family.  And it's something that I have just for myself.  My experiences have also helped to shape me.  My adoption plays a part in my life and did affect my personality.  That's all me.  It's not inherited, nor picked up via osmosis from my two not-adopted parents.  It's me.

Lately I've been learning something new about myself nearly everyday.  It's part of growing up I think.  I'm learning who I am and slowly becoming the person I want to be.  I'm free to be that person now.  I've met my past.  I'm moving into the future.  I can't explain it but I'm at peace with my background for the first time since meeting my first mother this year and I'm finally moving forward.  I'm learning to be me, not the person my family expects me to be as their raised child, or the person I would have been if I had been raised by my first parents.  I'm learning to be Jenn, the girl who was adopted but knows her roots now.  I'm a complicated recipe with lots of ingredients.  I think I'm turning out alright :-)