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.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

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

At Lost Daughters, we struggle to re-contextualize our content within an "adoptee-centric" space. This becomes necessary when our voices reach beyond fellow adult adoptees--our intended audience. Our conversations are halted to explain to guests what for many adoptees goes without saying, for example, that companioning each other through adoption-related grief does not mean we had "unhappy childhoods." Unaccustomed to adoption-related content designed to serve an adoptee audience, some commenters have even critiqued us for not writing from the perspective of other adoption constellation members.

Granted, we are doing something new by existing and co-existing alongside of other adoptee-centric spaces. We are balancing the discourse by providing dialogue that values adoptee voices. We are providing universality to fellow adoptees who may feel underserved in mainstream adoption spaces. We are respecting the adoptees who went before us whose silence was demanded by a culture of adoption that favored secrecy. We are carving a path for the adopted youth who will walk in our shoes to be welcomed warmly into public discourse. And maybe it is time, at least at Lost Daughters, to discuss what an adoptee-centric space is and what it means for a space to center on the idea that adoptees are important.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


If the plant transported to foreign soil thrives,
Celebrate consciously, cautiously,
Breathe deep sweet breaths of relief,
Remembering always that other soil.
If the plant transported to foreign soil fails to thrive,
Then what?
Blame the plant? Blame the soil?
Water, sunlight, air?
Is it ever enough?
Somewhere there is a soil,
Dark, damp, and waiting.

Somewhere there is a place where roots can grow.


Rebecca Hawkes is an adoptee by way of baby-scoop-era infant adoption and a parent by way of birth, adoption, and foster care. She blogs about adoption, family, and other matters at Sea Glass & Other Fragments and The Thriving Child. Her work has also appeared at Adoption Voices Magazine, BlogHer, the Huffington Post, and Brain,Child magazine, and in the anthologies Lost Daughters: Writing Adoption From a Place of Empowerment and Peace, Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age, and Adoption Therapy: Perspectives from Clients and Clinicians on Processing and Healing Post-Adoption Issues. She lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband, her three daughters, and a dog named Buddy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

25 Things National Adoption Month Teaches Me About Life, Love & Family*

  1. If you really love someone you will give them away to complete strangers.
  2. It is more selfless, courageous, moral, and loving to give your child away than it is to keep and raise your child, particularly if you are young, uneducated, and/or poor.
  3. Possessing love and the desire to raise your children is not enough to be worthy to parent, rather you must ultimately be wealthy, affluent, and educated.
  4. Poverty, death of a parent, and/or medical issues within a family demand that the custody of these children be relinquished by their families so that the children can remain in an orphanage until a wealthier, more well-suited family comes along to care for them.
  5. The ends justify the means, especially in the exchange of children.
  6. Profound loss and grief are negligible and compensated for by the fact that others can look at your life and conclude that enough good things have happened since then to ignore any tragedy or trauma.
  7. Losing ones' original family, culture, people, nation, language are inconsequential when you are transplanted to a wealthy, foreign family and given the opportunities to become a productive, educated member of society.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Why Must We Search for Our Birth Parents?

Photo by Carmen Jost via Flickr

Lately every time I see a story about an adoptee who is searching/has searched for her birth parents, I think this one thought: How crazy is it that we MUST search for our own parents?

Why must we look for our own parents?
Why must we try to find our own parents?

Besides stories of actual searches, I notice adoptive parents saying things such as “we will help you search when you’re ready” and “we support your search” without any examination of why the act of searching is required in the first place.

Some adoption agencies and government agencies offer assistance to adoptees searching for their birth parents, typically for a fee. The irony of these agencies requesting payment to undo a situation they created in the first place seems to be lost on them.

We must search for our birth parents because when we were adopted our identities were altered. We must search because our parents’ names and whereabouts have been concealed from us.

Why must it be this way?

Adoption does not need to be handled this way. Adoptees’ names do not need to be changed. Birth parents’ identities do not need to be kept from their children.

Adoptees’ birth certificates do not need to be altered; the adoption decree itself is enough. Adoption does not need to erase the identity a child is born with.

We would not need to search for our birth parents if they had never been lost to us.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Importance of Culture and Languages

When I wrote this post I choose to publish it on the 9th because that day is significant for Swedes the reason is that it's Father's Day (at least in Sweden). What better why could there be than to choose such an emotional and day who just happens to be in the month of November that is National Adoption Day. I wold like to celebrate all fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers and husbands too but also remind fathers - and mothers as well that culture is important for adoptees and especially languages. As strange as it may sound I would like to dedicate this post to my father, my dad and my grandpa. I love my birth father just as I love my dad and loved my grandpa for the two later I was their pride and joy while I still mourn the loss of the father I will never know. (More on this in a future post.) For me there are five dates which always remind me of my loss; my birthday,  the day I came to my new country,Mother's Day, Father's Day and Christmas. Because of that I don't like to celebrate my birthday and cannot understand the fuss people make about birthdays. That is nothing personal it is just my opinion that I may be alone in having.

I am an adult Korean adoptee, this means I am an interracial adoptee-and as such I can also say with shame that I am bilingual but not in Hangul Korea's official language. Had I been fluent in Korean that would make me trilingual. The languages I know are presently English which is my second language while Swedish is my offficial language and my mother tongue that once replaced the Korean language. Honestly though I wish I was trilingual or had been introduced to Hangul earlier in life. My hope and dream is to one day know enough Hangul and be fluent enough to be trilingual-fluent in Korean, English and Swedish. And yes in that order.

Goddag, hur mår du? Tack så mycket. Ingen fara, det var så lite så. 

By not being presented with choice or oppertunity to learn the language of my birth culture earlier in life I lost a big part of my birth culture and thus my understanding of the ancient and proud Korean culture was not what it could have beern. Had I been introduced to something as simple as the language alone as a toddler or young child it is my firm belief that I would have achieved another form of respect and understanding for the culture and its people.

Friday, November 7, 2014

One Badass Adoptee (I heart Loki) ... (#flipthescript on the bad guy)

Am I cursed? 
What am I?  
You're my son.  
What more than that...?
conversation between Loki and adoptive father, Odin, in Thor...

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Where I Belong


Relentless questions drive my soul.
How many hours have the wondering stole.
Like pounding waves that wear away the strongest rock day after day.
My weary bones nearly give in and let the persistent pounding win.
But there are those who lend me power where there is no sun in my darkest hour.
When the doubt hounds daily at my door and I feel I can't take anymore.
They whisper the truth into my ears with hope and love resolve my fears.
I hold the goal within my sight and remember the reasons I continue to fight.
To find what I lost so long ago the place from where those questions grow.
How many hours have been lost in days and years what was the cost?
The time I've spent in somber thought and sorrowful reflection perplexed about.
What I'm to do with all I feel when unseen bonds remain so real.
I had a taste of reality when fractions of truth I was allowed to see.
Fate had brought us back together, the soul deep ties could not be severed.
To know the tragic parting was not in the end to be forgot.
And that somehow soon they'll find a way to share with me those missing days.
I'll wait until the time I'll know.
The place from where these questions grow.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Woof! I Want Open Records!

I've written about ten blog posts and deleted them over the last few months.  Something that used to come effortlessly to me has now become a lot harder.  I mean, I used to blog every single day without fail.  And now, it's been months and I can't seem to get anything out there.  So I'm just going to go for it today because something has to give.

I got a dog.  She's amazing.  I love her to pieces.  And she seriously dug up some adoption crap for me in surprising ways.  I'm shocked that sometimes, we treat our animals better than we treat people.  Disagree with that statement?  Read on.

My puppy is a purebred.  I know lots of people like to debate shelter vs breeder and so forth, but my husband and I did a lot of research and decided to go for the purebred dog.  I love shelter dogs.  I hope to adopt from a shelter in the future.  Our first dog just needed to be as predictable as we could get (as much as an animal can be predictable I guess).  I met with the breeder, got to meet the stud, and feel in love with my puppy.  Bringing her home was amazing and terrifying.  She slept most of the first night, but it took a full week for her to get used to us and our home.  My heart ached for her because the adoptee in me knows what it's like to lose a mother.  And to do it in a way that you don't get what's going on (because you certainly can't explain to to a pet or a baby).  I was seriously conflicted because the triggers were all there.  I felt flat out horrible for a full week, even knowing that this happens to almost every single dog (unlike adoptees who are in the minority).  I cried for me, for her, for everything.  And then I snuggled with my puppy who made me feel a little bit better.  I've slowly come to terms with everything.  But darn those stupid triggers!  For once I'd just like to be "normal", you know like "normal" people who get dogs and don't feel that huge hole in their hearts when they think about taking their puppies away from their mothers to the point where it makes it hard to function.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

#FliptheScript on #NationalAdoptionMonth

Candles! The flash of the bulb! Signage! My mother’s attention to details … she sat up all night cutting those construction paper letters. I loved my birthday as a child.

As I have grown up and realized how meaningless my actual birthdate is, November has become a curse for me. The uncertainty of my birthdate haunts me ALL. MONTH.

To know that the month of my birth (most likely November as the Korean government doctor assigned me a very unimaginative mid-November birthdate) is also National Adoption Month seems like a slap in the face.