Friday, December 26, 2014

Join Us at the American Adoption Congress Conference in March

We are thrilled to share that Lost Daughters will conduct a panel discussion at the American Adoption Congress International Conference on Saturday, March 28. The conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge, Massachusetts (Boston). We are workshop 503 scheduled for 11:00 a.m.

In the spirit of our popular roundtable posts, ten of our contributors will discuss "Diverse Narratives within the Collective Adoptee Voice" (read their bios here):

  • Jennifer Anastasi
  • Amira Rose Davis
  • Annette-Kassaye
  • Rosita Gonzalez
  • Rebecca Hawkes
  • Lara Trace Hentz
  • Cathy Heslin
  • Karen Pickell
  • Amanda Transue-Woolston
  • Angela Tucker

Our conversation will focus on the challenge of amplifying the collective adoptee voice while respecting each individual’s story. We will explore places where our narratives intersect or diverge and examine how adoptees can build supportive, compassionate communities despite our differing journeys and viewpoints.

This panel discussion will tie in with our ongoing Flip the Script campaign, which aims to elevate the valid voices of adoptees within the broader adoption discourse. Adult adoptees are the best authority on the adoption experience, and every adoptee story matters.

We hope many of you will join us for this important discussion. Our anthology Lost Daughters: Writing Adoption from a Place of Empowerment and Peace will be available for sale and our panelists will be signing copies following the workshop.

Early registration registration rates have been extended through March 24!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Jesus Christmas Story: An Opportunity to Talk to Your Kid about Transracial Adoption?

I was raised as an adoptee in a Christian home and have wondered how different my experience would have been if more discussion about faith stories were viewed through the lens of adoption and opened up conversation between myself and my parents (we did not always know how to talk about the complexity of adoption). I remember learning about how the apostle Paul uses the word "adoption" to talk about humanity being "adopted" by God, but that was about it. Too easy for that one to become simple and pat. Often I did not feel connected to the Christian stories. But there are, in fact, a lot of rich Bible stories that deal with tricky family situations without sugarcoating them (Moses' transracial adoption story is one), and I want to offer some thoughts on how the traditional Christmas story might provide an opening for families touched by transracial adoption who are seeking ways to talk about it.

Even if you don't identify as a person of the Christian faith or believe the narrative, you probably at least know the basic story of the birth of Jesus Christ: Roughly 2,000 years ago a teenage woman in a conservative Jewish community became pregnant. A son of mixed origins--part human, part spirit--was born into poverty, in a stable among stinky animals. The first nativity. The scene is viewed as holy by the church precisely because of those mixed origins, and the poverty, controversy, suffering and social ridicule that Mary--and likely soon Jesus as a growing child--endured. Partly, too, because the ending of the story is known, that this boy would become a prophet, the savior of all the world's people including non-Jews, and die brutally and sacrificially on a cross. He was viewed as by the elite of society as lesser due to dubious place of origin ("Can anything good come out of Nazareth?") People find encouragement in the story because it shows that God does not ignore the "lowly," that God was willing to become human in the first place and then dared to pick a poor family from an oppressed people group as the vessel for a miracle.

I wonder if there are ways that pieces of this Christmas story could link to modern-day adoptees of mixed origin in healthy ways to begin conversation. It would NOT be healthy to communicate that adoptees are valuable only if they "rise above their circumstances" and change the world for the better. Imagine the pressure! And besides, Jesus did not "rise above his circumstances" in terms of wealth, which is part of the point.

Perhaps it would be good to recognize and linger on the troubling narrative threads that were likely not fully resolved. It wouldn't be a stretch to assume that Jesus was teased for being different (and possibly for looking different? He certainly wouldn't have phenotypically taken after his adoptive father), for having questionable origins. I know several transracially adopted adults that can share similar memories.

"Have you ever felt that way?" you could ask.

The story could also open up a conversation recognizing the flaws in our society. Here was a birth mother who chose to keep her child--what would have happened if Mary had decided to discreetly give away her child to a relative to raise? Or to a wealthier stranger family outside the community who wanted a child? The second scenario is more equivalent to what happens today. Not that adoption is all bad, but it IS quite often a result of failings in our society that women aren't able to or don't feel they have enough support to raise their children. You could talk about how situations are complicated and we can't assume, as many do, that adoption is always the best answer.

Continuing the scenario of Jesus raised by a family outside his community... It would not be the same story if he were cut off from his Jewish roots. If his identity were "sealed" as we say today when adoptees' original information is legally concealed via falsified birth certificates. It was important to the story that he remain connected to that Jewish community, and to the lineage of David. Absolutely necessary.

"How is this scenario the same and how is it different than a child being raised outside of his or her culture today? Do you think it's important to know your ethnic/biological history? What do you think about the practice of sealing information in adoption? What kind of struggles might Jesus have endured as part of the minority group in his country? Any of those remain today?"

Just some ideas for opening up conversation. I think it's important to offer children and adolescents who are adopted-- especially cross-culturally-- opportunities to speak their own truth. They may not want to, and that is OK too. But it might feel more safe to talk about if they can see glimmers of a story they can relate to within a dominant narrative that is part of their experienced culture. Particularly in the face of mainstream media's take on adoption that often spins the story AWAY from the adoptee's experience, which can make adoptees feel silenced or that there is not a place for their complex feelings of struggle, being misunderstood, sadness, and loss.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Home is Where Your Story Lives: Giving and Receiving Narratives of Origin by guest author M. Anne Cunney

As we move from November National Adoption Month, into the final month of December it might be a good time to consider that this has been the global year of orphaned and homeless children. UNICEF has just declared 2014 to be one of the most devastating for children on record.  Up to 15 million have been displaced, driven from their homelands or having lost their families in the Syrian War, the Gaza/Israeli and Ukraine conflicts. This also includes the Central American refugee children at our borders, the now ostracized Ebola orphans of West Africa, as well as many others across the planet.
All of these children will be forever marked by their abandonment and displacement.
I am, myself a once-abandoned child. Now in my sixties, finishing my masters in the Narrative Medicine Program at Columbia University, I have come to realize how essential giving and receiving a personal story of origin is to finding a sense of both self and home.
As a child I never allowed myself to imagine where I came from or who my birth parents might be. Only after my “life” mother’s death did I feel free to explore my own story of origin.
I recently learned that at birth I was immediately placed in a children’s home for six months. The adoption agency report I received contained details that had been unknown to me, allowing me to piece together that precious period of infancy and to begin to imagine my story of origin.
On the first page the report notes that during the initial interview with my birth mother “she used gestures while talking and appeared to be a ‘typical French girl.’ She was high strung, nervous and very proud, it was difficult for her to accept assistance.” I now can picture her to have been both conflicted and courageous.
After my birth, during those first formative months of life, it was recorded that  “you kissed your caretaker on the cheek, you laughed to yourself and hummed a sleepy song when you were in bed at night.” In my aloneness I sought solace, trying to establish safety, trust and connectivity, essential experiences that influence an individual for life. With these details I could begin to imagine what I experienced.
Arthur W. Frank wrote in The Wounded Storyteller that “to experience we have to imagine; imagination is conscious struggling to gain sovereignty over experience.” Imagining one’s story of origin and the benefit that comes from being able to share this story led me to explore how abandonment has been imagined, or represented throughout literature, which is replete with stories of orphans and the displaced.
Seeming to reflect my own experience, Charlotte Brontë writes about the effects of abandonment on orphan Jane, in Jane Eyre: “To this crib I always took my doll; human beings must love something, and, in the dearth of worthier objects of affection, I contrived to find a pleasure in loving and cherishing a faded graven image, shabby as a miniature scarecrow.”
An historic example of the results of refugee displacement is captured in the story of the Hmong, a tribe of China, oppressed and driven from their homelands time and again for centuries. In The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman, she explains their amazing gift for maintaining their own culture while living within cultures that both reject them and yet expect their assimilation.
Throughout Hmong folktales there is the recurring character of the Orphan, a young man whose parents have died, leaving him alone to live by his wits. Symbolic of the Hmong’s ancient struggle, the Orphan lives on the margins of society, reviled by others, yet ultimately succeeding in the community.
The importance of belonging and connecting with others is central to the discipline of Narrative Medicine. Giving one’s self to another by encouraging them to tell their story and being there to listen is referred to as the giving and receiving of story, as we must acknowledge the value we too receive as listeners. Gabriel Marcel stated this beautifully in Mystery of Being:
“When somebody’s presence does really make itself felt, it can refresh my inner being; it reveals me to myself, it makes me more fully myself than I should be if I were not exposed to its impact.”

Returning to our origins, to our homes, is a central part of life for many, but what about those for whom home and origin are only a memory, now only an imagined or re-imagined place? Perhaps one of the most important things we can offer anyone abandoned or displaced is to truly listen to their story and to provide them the connection with others that establishes a sense of self and home.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Secrets by Anonymous Guest Author

Submitted by: Anonymous Guest Author

I’m writing this as an anonymous guest post for several reasons. First, I believe this would really hurt the people who love me and think they know me, including my parents and husband. Second, I believe that I would be judged harshly and I don’t have the energy to deal with that. Third, I don’t want to alarm anyone.

I’m a model of citizenship, success, and happiness. I have a rich marriage, beautiful children, and a fulfilling career in an industry that I feel really makes a difference in the world. I am highly educated and meet every benchmark of modern success. I also write about adoption topics because I am at peace with my journey out of the fog and hope to be some help to others who are still on a journey, whether adoptee or someone who cares about an adoptee.

In real life, I’m about as normal as they come. Most people would describe me as well-adjusted and happy. Many people in many different circles of my life have told me how much they admire me. These are family friends, personal friends, professional colleagues, and beyond.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Guest Post: A Korean Adoptee's Experience, by May Smith/Kim Chae Won

"The only reason your real parents gave you away is because they didn't love you!" Words like acid spilled from my bully's mouth on the playground. He was a year older, a second grader, and impossibly large to the first grade version of me. I can only assume, many years later, that he singled me out since I was, as far as I can remember, the sole Asian student in my private, Catholic elementary school. As an adult looking back, I can't even begin to comprehend how a seven- or eight-year-old could know to say something so hurtful and mean. Perhaps he didn't fully understand the weight of his words (it is even more disheartening to think that he learned those words from an adult). But their stinging, corrosive effect has lasted me twenty years.

Up until two or three years ago, I was living an ignorant and uneducated existence when it came to my adoption, who I was, and how it all affected me. I had been fed - and had whole heartedly believed - the all-too-common dialogue of, “Your birth mother loved you so much that she gave you away so that you could have a better life” and “What matters most is that you have a family who loves you, who wanted and wants you, who will always be your family” and “Think of the life that you might have had if you had stayed in Korea! It would have been terrible! You have a family that saved you from what could have been a terrible situation!” It is certainly easier to believe that all of those things are true. Why would anyone, especially a child who had been relinquished for adoption, want to believe that perhaps her biological mother not only did not want her, but could never want her? Why would anyone want to believe that she gave her child up for adoption because the culture shunned her and looked down upon her for having a child out of wedlock? Why would anyone want to believe that her adoptive family may not have been the best choice for her or that being taken from her homeland, her culture, her language, her people was not necessarily better than remaining there?

Monday, December 15, 2014

NPR Almost Gets it Right When Covering Adoption in 2014

As a journalist who has a passion for news and human interest stories, I have long been a listener of NPR’s programming efforts. I have a two-hour daily commute and NPR often makes it feel as though I have a friendly companion riding shotgun. As with all relationships, however, there are sometimes bumps in the road.

I am quite pleased that the interview NPR conducted with Chad Goller-Sojourner was selected as a favorite of the year by editor Jordana Hochman and producer Chris Benderev. The segment is extremely insightful. Goller-Sojourner is a friend and his perspective is incredibly valuable when it comes to the transracial adoptee experience. As an adoptee myself, hearing other adoptees share their thoughts and insights in a media setting appeals to me as a listener, reader, and watcher.

Unfortunately, NPR seems to have rewritten history a bit regarding exactly how the media outlet came to interview Goller-Sojouner. Hochman states "And it wasn't our first story on the topic of trans-racial adoption. A couple weeks before we aired our interview with Chad we had a conversation with a white woman about adopting African-American children, and we talked with her about what that experience was like."

Christmas, Both a Blessing and a Curse

Oh Christmas Tree!
I love Christmas.  It's one of my favorite times of the year.  I love the sights, the sounds, the smells, pretty much everything.  My house has been decorated since before Thanksgiving (oh the horror!) and I've been cheerfully waltzing around enjoying every minute of the season that will come to a screeching halt December 26th and then we're just in "Winter" (someone please remind me why I don't live in a warmer climate?).

Once Christmas is over however, I tend to get the blues.  I came home with my parents at the beginning of January.  It's a painful reminder that I didn't spend my first Christmas with my parents.  I have "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments from the year after I was born.  As a kid, I never quite understood why they were the wrong year, but as I got older I sort of put two and two together.  It was a harsh reality.

My adoption paperwork was signed December 31st.  The last day of the year was the day I lost my original identity and was made available for adoption.  My parents had been chosen and they would receive a call January 2nd (because the 1st was a holiday).  They had five days to prepare for my arrival.  It's a story my adoptive family likes to tell, because for them it's only a feel-good story.  They all banded together and got my mother everything she needed in five days.  She had a fully stocked nursery for me to come home to, diapers, and all the other baby related stuff a new mother might need.  My mom didn't even have to lift a finger.  Her wide support network got it all together.  From the sheets to the clothing to the teddy bear I still have.  It was all done quickly and efficiently.  My adoptive family members love that story because for them, it shows how excited everyone was to meet me and how they couldn't wait for me to get there.  And it shows how close-knit my family is because they were all there for my mom when she needed the help.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Social and Biologial Heritage

Small note and warning this post may come across as more pro adoption friendly, which might be true judge for yourself but please no negative comments or remarks about it. If you have been a regular follower of my posts or a reader of LD then you should know my viewpoint of this matter. 

As an adult adoptee, I recall many situations when I was reminded of my different ethnic heritage-my biolgical roots. Sometimes, the strangest things can act as a trigger, but I might disappoint you now this post will not deal with subject of biological roots (which obviously is something I don't share with my adoptive parents.) I still refer to them as mum and dad even now as an adult and young woman.
Sleep , sleep my beloved, without worry without fear,although my soul does not sleep, although I do not rest.- Gabriela Mistral, The Sad Mother
Man being blind ignores that where you step, you leave , A blossom of bright light, that  where you have placed your bleeding little souls a redolent tuberose grows- Gabriela Mistral, Tiny Feet
I have a soft spot for languages and poetry and the poems sad mother as well as tiny feet I've chosen as tribute for my birth mother. The mother who I never got call mum... also to all women and mothers who lost a child to adoption...

I won't lie that it has been difficult and painful at times to grow up in Western Europe as an Asian woman and adult adoptee, but for this particular post I reserve the right not say so much about it. 

My father and mother or 아버지 (Oemoni)and 어머니(Abeji) are instead something I prefer to call my biological parents, my Korean birth parents. I know I inherited a lot of things from them each-equally as much. I know who I resemble and I is for sure my mother's daughter. Biology is important, I know that there's the risk of passing down diseases and other medical factors that might become more or less important. There's also the very important thing of finding your own voice and identity as a teenager. You (might) want to know who your parents were/are or simply find out what they look like and the reason for why you were abandoned and adopted...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Sisters" by guest author Amanda Kutner

When I set out to find my older sister, I had only her first name.

Our biological mother placed her for adoption in 1983, eight years before she placed me into my own adoptive home.

For our biological mother, she remained a hazy memory. I asked for details, but our mother could not (or would not) reveal enough information to help me find her. While I had reconnected with the rest of our family when I was 11, Stephanie was known only as “the sister in California”. I met my biological family and loved them, although we had precious little in common. Raised in an Italian-Jewish agnostic household in New York, I was unprepared for the conservative Texans who would become my kin. Stephanie lived in California. I imagined a fellow artist and traveler- an older, worldlier version of myself.

My desire to find her my have been whimsical but my methods were calculating. I searched Texas birth records from 1983, looking at all the “Stephanies” born in Dallas that year. I did not know her adoptive parent’s last name, so I crossed off names that were seemingly Hispanic (Caucasian parents most often adopt Caucasian infants.) I narrowed down my list of names and went on Facebook, looking at the photos of these strangers who might be my sister, scrutinizing the shape of their eyes and their coloring, attempting to find some resemblance.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Review of Out of Love, an Adoption Reunion Novel by Noelle Sickels

Out of Love by Noelle Sickels is a novel about an adoption reunion that takes place in 1984. The story is told from the viewpoints of a birth mother and birth father who embark on a search for their relinquished son after learning he has been trying to find them.

Sickels begins the tale with a brief description of the lost son’s conception in 1965 and the forced end to his parents’ teen romance, then skips ahead to the initiation of the search, filling in important details about the years in between as the book progresses.

At first, Out of Love reminded me of another reunion-themed novel I recently read—Where We Belong by Emily Giffin. I settled in for another easy read that would only skim the surface of the complexities of adoption and reunion. The two books share an unfortunate tendency to resolve difficult situations via extraordinary coincidences, but I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of many true-to-life details in Sickels’ story—about Baby Scoop Era relinquishment and its aftermath, as well as the attitudes of some adoptive parents and the questions many adoptees have about their origins.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Unlock Our Lives

 A few weeks ago, my husband and I were blessed to be at a screening of
"The Good Lie", starring Reese Witherspoon. 
It is the riveting true story of Sudanese refugee children.  
Brave brothers and sisters survived a thousand mile trek across the desert, through three different countries to find refuge in Ethiopia.
 Although the eldest brother was tragically separated from the rest of the family, his siblings never lost hope they would someday be reunited.    
Eventually they were brought to America.
Those who helped them rebuild their lives honored and preserved their names,
their courage, and their journey. 
What struck me the most was the dignity with which the refugees carried themselves, even in the midst of devastating loss.       
Years later, a brother of the lost boy risked his life to go back and search for him. 
Their only hope of finding each other in the crowded refugee camp was by reciting their names out loud, along with the names of their ancestors, which they knew by heart.  
They never forgot who they were and from where they came.   
Alex Haley wrote, in his classic novel, Roots,
“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage- to know who we are and where we have come from.
Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness. ”
There are over 6 million adopted people in the U.S. who aren't offered the dignity of being able to speak or know their own birth name, or the name of even one ancestor. 
Adopted individuals are the only group of American citizens who are denied the
RIGHT of owning their original birth certificate.       

Several states have passed legislation, recommended by the
Child Welfare League of America,
restoring the unconditional right of all adult adoptees to have access to their original birth certificate.  
Kansas and Alaska have NEVER sealed original birth certificates from adult adoptees.  
There are two common myths surrounding adoptee access ~ the myth that abortion rates will rise if adoptees gain access to their birth information,
and that of "birthmother confidentiality". 
The good news is that data shows in states which have passed adoptee access laws, abortion rates have actually declined more than the national average.  
And to address the myth of birthmother confidentiality,   
in the past, just like today, if a mother surrendered her child for adoption,
but for some reason the child was never adopted,
his/her original birth certificate was never sealed or amended.    
These laws were enforced upon mothers and adoptees, specifically to protect the newly formed adoptive family.
They fail adult adoptees, because they deny us and our children, 
the life-giving knowledge of our genealogies and on-going medical histories. 
Foster children "age out" of the system and are emancipated into adulthood,
but archaic sealed record laws treat adult adoptees as perpetual children, or even criminals, simply to obtain even the most basic information about ourselves that every other American citizen takes for granted. 

Research has shown that, as a whole, mutual consent registries and intermediary programs are not successful. 
My first mother, for example, was not allowed to see me after giving birth in 1968,
and was told that she had delivered a boy.  She passed away when she was 32, after having signed up on several registries; but they failed to provide a successful match.
Our first families have no way of knowing our new names, and sometimes even birthdays and birth places are changed during adoption proceedings. 
State adoption codes have evolved from a child-centered service model into a business-based economic model, legalizing fees and marketing strategies designed to increase the number of "available" children, rather than serving those already in need of care.
Who is the true customer in adoption when it is being used as a tool to "build families",
and has grown to an unregulated billion dollar per year industry?   
When unethical practices can be hidden behind a sealed record, we have reduced human-beings into commodities. 
This makes adoptees feel less than human.
 I once spoke to an adoption attorney who asserted that a new name and "amended" birth certificate must be assigned to an adoptee in order to prevent them from being seen as "second class". 
 This gives adoptees the message that our very being is shameful.  
The more I thought about it, the more I realized: it is the act of changing and sealing our identities that actually makes us "second class". 
Whose interest does this serve? 

 Along with many other adopted people, I have realized that I could not fully understand and accept myself until I found and embraced my dual heritage...
by both birth and adoption. 
Every U.S. citizens deserves the dignity of access to their own unfalsified and accurate original birth certificate. 
I pray our lawmakers realize the importance of this issue and restore this human right for millions of adult adoptees and their families. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Guest Article: I’ve Never Had An Abortion, But I Should Have Been One

It’s a Thursday afternoon in the middle of National Adoption Month and this year, adoptees are claiming space for our voices to #flipthescript and showcase the complexity of our experiences. I’m sitting at my kitchen table listening to the 1 in 3 Speakout, a storytelling event organized by Advocates for Youth to decrease abortion stigma, a name derived from the statistic that approximately 1 in 3 people (they use “women”) will have an abortion in their lifetime. The number is meant to raise visibility, understanding, empathy, and awareness that even if you don’t think you know someone who has had an abortion, the chances are that you probably do, and so it is in society’s best interest to support abortion access and eliminate abortion shame.

In the related #1in3Speaks chat, anti-choice tweeters send bewildered replies to my reproductive rights-laden declarations as they continue to post pictures of “success story” children who were adopted and went on to achieve greatness. I used to be them. Growing up, my opinion was that abortion was unnecessary if adoption was available, and even during my teenager years as a Hillary Clinton feminist, I adopted the line that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare”. My own transformation came as I became more involved in HIV/AIDS prevention, deepened my own understanding of reproductive rights, sexual freedom, and intersectional feminism, and supported many close friends and clients through pregnancy termination and abortion aftercare.

"I Can't Breathe" #BlackLivesMatter

I posted this photo Nov 25th, one week ago on Instagram, the day after the wrongful decision about the murder of Michael Brown. Today, when the unlawful decision about the murder of Eric Garner has been decided (even with video proof), I post this photo again. My lungs are still having trouble. I remain in deep pain and am full of a raging sadness about the way our country continues to violently tell black and brown bodies they are worthless. As a multiracial Black woman adoptee, I am told over and over my body as a Black adoptee and my being as a Black woman - are worthless. I post this in solidarity to express my rage, my grief. I post this to tell Black men I love them. To tell Black women I love them. This is historical hatred. This ache for our breath is not new. They are drowning us, shooting us, choking off our air. Do not be distracted. This is an arrogant back lash against progress, this is blind fear, this is war. I dream of a different world – no I demand a different world, I demand a just world. and I’m calling up the ancestors you murdered for help.

#BlackLivesMatter #NotOneMore #JusticeWhereAreYou #ericgarner #trayvonmartin #jordandavis #mikebrown #amadoudiallo #oscargrant

LisaMarie Rollins @thirdrootprod Lisa Marie Rollins is a Black/Filipina writer, performer and lecturer, currently touring her acclaimed solo theater show, “Ungrateful Daughter: One Black Girls Story of being adopted by a White Family… that aren’t Celebrities”, a comedic and intense look at her experience being adopted into a White family in the 1970′s. Lisa Marie has been a commentator on CNN, NPR, and is one of Colorlines Magazine’s “Innovators to Watch” for her social justice work around transracial/ international adoption and advocacy. Lisa Marie was the Adoption Education Specialist for Pact, An Adoption Alliance from 2006-2008 and is currently a regular Adoption consultant for OFC – Our Family Coalition in San Francisco, CA. She has been an invited panelist, speaker or performer on a multitude of topics around race and adoption, multi-racial and multi-cultural identification, and the politics of inter-country/domestic transracial adoption. As Founder / Director of AFAAD, Adopted and Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora, Lisa Marie helped build one of the first organizations to focus on the needs of adult adoptees and foster care alumni of African descent. Lisa Marie holds an M.A. in Cultural Studies, an M.A. in African American Studies from U.C. Berkeley and is currently on leave from her doctoral program there in African Diaspora Studies. She authored “A Birth Project”, a blog focusing on transracial adoption and black diasporic identity from 2006-2013. For more info visit

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Choosing Adoption. Or not.

By julie j

Most people would respect an individual (child, teen, or adult’s) choice to enter into an adoption contract as their way of being included with another person or a group of people with whom they would desire legal and social recognition of being a family unit. Today I’d like to look at the flip side of that – the idea that some adult adoptees would prefer to no longer be legally & socially connected to an adoption contract someone else made on them as children. I support the concept of adult adoptees having the option of removing themselves from an adoption once they are of legal age. Obviously not all adoptees will choose this route and that’s ok. There are valid reasons for those who do desire this, and they currently only have the legal options of either being adopted by someone else OR of changing their legal name to something else. Neither of these options is adequate in all cases. Let’s consider why some adoptees may be interested in more options, what this concept might look like, and the points for and against it.

It is generally agreed that all children deserve to be in safe, loving homes, preferably with their natural family members. When that’s not possible, then alternate arrangements need to be made for them. (This does not have to be legal adoption as currently practiced in the USA, but for this essay, let’s assume it is). Because the law recognizes that minors are not yet fully competent, they cannot sign legal contracts or decide their own custody matters. Their parents may sign for them, and we have courts that decide custody on their behalf. Sometimes that involves assigning strangers to raise a particular child. Sometimes the courts get it right. Sometimes they get it wrong. Sometimes the adults assigned to children are not people that child, once grown up, would want making important legal, medical, or financial decisions for them or caring for their minor children should the need arise. Once an individual is no longer in need of the courts or their parents to make decisions on their behalf, by virtue of being no longer incompetent by reason of minority, they should, by all rights, be entitled to take over making decisions for themselves. It is common knowledge that adoptive parents, who willingly entered into adoption situations, opt out of them frequently, always at their own discretion, if they feel the adoption arrangement is not meeting their own needs. That option is not ever available to the minor adopted child, who has no choice, regardless of whether they feel the arrangement is meeting their needs. To be fair, that option should be available to them as adults.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Support Family Preservation on This Giving Tuesday

During this year’s National Adoption Month, an organization called AdoptTogether promoted its own special day to celebrate adoption. They declared November 9 to be “World Adoption Day.” They encouraged people to draw smiley faces on the palms of their hands and to post photos of these tagged with #WorldAdoptionDay to promote their cause.

And what was their cause?

AdoptTogether boasts that it is “the world's first crowdfunding site for adoption.” On November 7, the World Adoption Day campaign was featured in an article for Forbes, which disclosed that AdoptTogether had “raised over $4 million and has served 982 families in their efforts to adopt a child.” Prospective adoptive parents need not stress any longer over how they will come up with the fees to “bring home” their new child. They can turn to AdoptTogether to secure funds donated by people like you and me, thanks to the organization’s foundersfolks like “iconoclast” Hollywood pastor Erwin McManus, “a best selling [sic] author,” and supermodel Jessica Stam, “one of the top earning supermodels in the world.”

Many adoptees, including me, feel crowdfunding to adopt a child is an abhorrent practice. Prospective adoptive parents put up websites and post videos of their “adoption journeys” in an effort to tug at our collective heartstrings, enticing us to donate so that they get the child they always wantedor the child they MUST save from what they view as either economic or spiritual tragedy. And now AdoptTogether has raised millions of dollars to assist these wannabe parents.

How far could those millions go in addressing the circumstances that result in children being made available for adoption in the first place? Wouldn’t that money be better spent assisting people who are truly in need rather than helping fulfill the fantasies of Americans who desire to build families or save souls by adopting other people’s kids? According to Amanda Transue-Woolston, social worker and founder of Lost Daughters:
One adoption fee could vaccinate tens of thousands of children or fund an entire medical center for a village. The average cost to adopt a newborn from a struggling parent could pay the TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] allowance of a family of four for three years.
And as Kevin Haebeom Vollmers, founder of Land of Gazillion Adoptees, writes in an article titled “Top Seven Reasons Why Adoption Fundraisers Are Problematic:”
What about the mothers, father, grandparents, and other extended family members who lose their children? What about the birth parents/first parents who are forced to relinquish rights to their children because of social, financial, and familial pressures? What about the parents who have their children stolen from them for international adoption?
I believe that the hearts of many of those who would support AdoptTogether are in the right place. They want to do good in the world. They want to help children in need. But I also believe that we can do much better for children in need than raising funds to separate them from their own families, countries, and cultures.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

It took the #flipthescript village …

Dread and a defeated outlook prompted me to write my post at the beginning of the month. What began as a simple way for me to distract from my birthday ambiguity, became the campaign sensation of #flipthescript on #NationalAdoptionMonth. The hashtag was used close to 18,000 times this month.

The Lost Daughters have spoken before, but we were often marginalized in the adoption conversation and our message, overlooked. A person gets weary with the repeated belittling.

How powerful words are.

Ours began with a Google+ chat, late in the evening with Bryan Tucker recording. No one really realized what kind of magic a well-designed video presence would make.

What happened next?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Where is the Compassion in Adoption?

I was fortunate recently to spend time in person with an online friend. She is an optimistic, energetic, positive and inspiring woman. Being around her is like being around an intense shot of firey, bright sunshine. She is also a mother who relinquished her child for adoption. As we sat in a diner on a cold afternoon sipping hot, comforting beverages and swapping stories, I found myself wondering why the most basic human compassion is so often not offered within the context of crisis pregnancy, infertility and adoption.

My friend conceived under not-ideal circumstances. Taking in her words and seeing her tears as she spoke so honestly with me, I couldn't help but note that while not-ideal, her circumstances had not been horrendously dire or insurmountable. A little bit of basic human compassion--a simple offer of help, a word of encouragement--could have empowered her to overcome the barriers. Those offers of help and words of encouragement were never offered, however. Instead, her deepest fears and insecurities were confirmed repeatedly by adoption agency representatives and she relinquished her child.

My heart broke for her as I thought about how I conceived my first child under the most ideal circumstances and still felt many of the same fears and insecurities she expressed. But because I was a married homeowner with a steady job and family support system, my fears and insecurities were met with words of encouragement. You can do this, people told me. You'll be a great mom, I heard. You are exactly what your child needs, I was assured. For us adoptees, these are not the words that many of our mothers heard. You can't take care of a baby, they were told. You can't be a good mom right now, they heard. These other people who are unable to have children of their own can give your child what you can't, they were assured. The same fears and insecurities that are calmed and discouraged with mothers who conceive under the "right" circumstances are instead confirmed and encouraged with many mothers who conceive under the "wrong" circumstances.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ethiopian Adoptees: Orphans or "Manufactured" Orphans?

According to UNICEF, there are 153 million orphans worldwide[i]. UNICEF defines orphans as children who have lost one or two parents to death or desertion. It also reports that the vast majority of “single” or “double” orphans are over 5 years old and usually live with a surviving parent or family member[ii].

It’s difficult to quantify how many adopted Ethiopian children are double or single orphans since our documents usually lack information about our first families. Most adult adoptees have told me that their documents either don’t mention their parents’ names or state that their parents are deceased. However, some adoptees have memories of their first families. Upon reaching adulthood, many adoptees have travelled back to Ethiopia and found their first mothers or first fathers alive. Others have reunited with their siblings, aunts and uncles. Limited financial resources, unemployment, death, illness, cultural perceptions about unwed or single mothers are some of the reasons why so many of us became “orphans”. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mindful As She Comes

The moment I found her came in the middle of the night, where the isolation of the hour served to properly punctuate the solitary experience I call being adopted. Guided by a few unique non-identifying facts and the online family trees of some distantly related DNA matches, I started my mindless nightly search when suddenly those facts began to line up like stars in a perfect universe.

I sat bolt-upright in bed and looked to my sleeping husband “I found her,” but he remained motionless. I spoke her name aloud and observed a host of new emotions as they washed over me like ocean waves. “Pay attention and stay grounded; something very important is happening here.”

Nineteen keystrokes later I found myself within the pages of her high-school-yearbook, and there she was in a perfectly preserved image from 1966. “This is how you looked when we were last together.”

I bring my mind to center with my next breath and push away the urge to search for more. “This image will be first in my mind when remembering this moment.”

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Reflections on Ferguson, and on Raising Black Children

St. Louis on Nov. 23, 2014 Alexey Furman—Demotix/Corbis. Posted from
Even before yesterdays decision on Michael Brown, I've talked at great length with a lot of Ethiopian adoptees about what it means to be Ethiopian and black in America. Adoptive parents often talk about making sure their children are aware of Ethiopian culture, but there is a much bigger issue here.
It's one thing for Ethiopians in Ethiopia to raise their children as Ethiopians. It's completely different for white parents raising adopted Ethiopian children in the United States.

By adopting an Ethiopian child, what obligations do you have to your children? How embracing will you be of black culture? Will you take the path of least resistance and teach your children to only take pride in their Ethiopian heritage, or will you acknowledge the realities of being black?

White America will not give your Ethiopian child a pass. Your child will be subject to racial bigotry and unjust laws. Your child will be pulled over by the police. Your child will be admired for speaking good English, as if that's a novelty. Your child will look like the majority population in U.S. prisons. Your child will rarely see herself in fashion magazines as being beautiful.

It's not enough to eat doro wat at an Ethiopian restaurant or listen to Teddy Afro. Ethiopian children deserve to be raised with black role models surrounding them, loving them, and teaching them. We Ethiopian adoptees are Black in America. I am proud to be black, and to be Ethiopian. I want young Ethiopian adoptees to fully understand their truth.

Please stay tuned to your Fox channel in Washington D.C. tomorrow as Aselefech will be interviewed on her perspective of living life as an adoptee for #flipthescript

Aselefech is an adult adoptee who arrived from Ethiopia to the U.S. in 1994 at 6 years of age, along with her twin sister. She is finishing up her undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland, College Park as a Family Sciences major. In her personal life, she has presented at workshops and Heritage Camps, interned for adoption based agencies, and spoken on panels on issues of race and what it means to grow up in a transracial family. In the past and currently she works with NGOs, such as Ethiopia Reads, to give back to her country of origin. Her dream is creating a world where no child needs to be adopted, where all children are safe, loved, and educated.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Insight for Allies

Definition from

It's been a big month for Adoption. #NAAM and #flipthescript have raised the level of dialogue, with the many voices of adoptees building to a chorus. Our song is beautiful, and it is drawing an audience: this site has more than tripled its readership in the past month alone. It's hard to say exactly who all our new readers are, but very likely a large portion of you are here because you love an adopted person.  Here at Lost Daughters, you have an opportunity do more than just love us, but also to truly see ushear us, and know us

Adoptees are your sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, teachers, students, mothers, and fathers. You are here because you already are or want to become an adoptee ally. We all stand to gain from this alliance.

What does it mean to be an ally? Merriam-Webster defines an ally as one who joins another person or group in order to get or give support. The LGBT community prominently leverages the straight ally community to combat homophobia and support equal rights. In the same way, an adoptee ally can be anyone who supports the voice of adoptees, promotes equal rights for adopted people, or challenges discrimination of all types. 

And just what is it that adopted people need allies for?  What do we want that we don't already have? Here is a short list, and by no means is it exhaustive:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

ROUND TABLE: What Does Your Mother Think? (Part 2) #FlipTheScript

When I hear, "What do your parents think?" ...of my search, my reunion, my writing about my views on shoulders tighten up a bit. It implies that I should have my parents' permission, that I shouldn't speak on my own.

It's hard to imagine other adults in the same situation - discussing an issue, speaking out about their experience, and then comes the first question from the audience...

"What does your mother think?"

Seems kinda ridiculous, doesn't it? But it's something adult adoptees face all the time.

The thing is, one of the reasons I am able to speak my views is that I was raised by parents who acknowledged my adoption, and realized that it effected me. I know that isn't true of many adoptees. I have so much respect and admiration for those who are able to speak about their experience even though they don't have the support of their parents.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

ROUND TABLE: What Does Your Mother Think? (Part 1) #FlipTheScript

One of our recent Round Tables began: "...Some of the most common objections to any adoptee sharing any experience include "what would your parents think?"

So, we thought we would share what our parents DO think. We are a varied group, but we are all women who blog about adoption, and that means our thoughts and opinions are out there for the world to see - including our parents. Just how do our parents feel about us being vocal about our adoption experience?

Today, we continue to #FlipTheScript when we, the adoptees, ask the question of ourselves...

Cathy @CathyHeslin: How do your adoptive parents feel about your views on adoption?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Adoptees Who WON'T Be Working to #FlipTheScript This Year

Yesterday I wrote about the powerful chorus of adoptee voices participating in #FlipTheScript. Today I'd like to acknowledge that not every adoptee is joining that chorus. The following is an adaptation of a post previously published on my personal blog. I offer it with the caveat that all categorizations are simplifications. No adoptee fits into a single box. And yet, I myself can acknowledge that the following descriptions fit me at different times in my life. I suspect that other adoptees may recognize a little piece of themselves (past or present) in these descriptions as well. Others may not, and that's fine too. There is no single story of adoptee experience.

Here are some adoptees who probably won't be raising their voices for #FlipTheScript this year:

1) The early-phase adoptee who does not yet acknowledge adoption issues

Adoption processing is a lifelong journey, and many adoptees go through multiple phases during their lives. The adoptee who insists that he or she is "just fine" at age 20 may tell a completely different story at age 40 or 60 or 93.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

What #FlipTheScript Means to Me: Why This November Is Like No Other

#FlipTheScript is an idea that became a conversation and then a movement. It is one of the most empowering things I've experienced since becoming vocal in the adoption community. For the past few years, I've watched adoptees struggle through November, attempting to raise our voices against the deafening din of celebration that National Adoption Month has become (its original purpose of promoting adoption from foster care overshadowed by the widespread glorification of all forms of adoption). Meanwhile, we consoled each other in private adoptee-only spaces. As the party raged on, we came together to support each other through the month-long oversimplification of our complex lives. We struggled together with assumptions that were made about us (with no one seeming to really want to hear our side of things) and with the lack of acknowledgment of our pain and loss. November was a month-long festival of triggers, and we did what we could to get through it.

This year feels different. There has been a filma New York Times article, and a string of #flipthescript tweets that make my heart sing. I've often said that adoptees don't speak with one voice but together we form a chorus. We are now past the halfway mark of this year's National Adoption Month, and the chorus is going strong, our voices rising up with increasing volume and confidence. I'm hearing the familiar voices of long-time adoptee activists and discovering new-to-me voices who have just joined in or who have been making noise, unbeknownst to me, in other arenas.

Friday, November 14, 2014

ROUND TABLE: What are the Rules of an Adoptee-Centric Space? (part two)

In a world where some of the most common objections to any adoptee sharing any experience include "what would your parents think?" "did you have an unhappy childhood?" "don't you know she couldn't raise you?" the adoption discourse is framed with adoptees at the bottom of an upside-down triangle. At the bottom, the adoptee supports the weight of the complex experiences of two families, holding the families above them with both arms. Rather than a shared distribution of weight, adoptees are seen as entirely responsible for supporting the rest of their "triad." 

I will never forget hearing this concept for the first time at a support group. Yes, I thought. Is this why I feel like I carry so much weight when I talk about adoption?

The triangle is problematic too for its visual representation that all sides are equal in power; which, as explained at Harlow's Monkey in Shifting and Changing Structures, isn't true. JaeRan Kim went on to say that a triangle also evokes imagery of a closed family system, which adoption isn't either.

Today's adopted youth adapt their family trees into neighborhoods with houses, groves of trees, interconnected circles, or trees with many rings. In a post here, Laura Dennis wrote her family tree is an orchard. I see adoptee-centric spaces pushing back that idea of a triangle. Instead, imagine if our trees surrounded us like a grove. Defending us while providing us a platform to be seen, allowing us space to move freely in-between trunks.