Saturday, April 30, 2011


That's all it takes.  That's what adult adoptees want.  That's what adult adoptees deserve.  Show a little respect, and you'll find out that those so-called "angry adoptees" are totally easy!  So says Joy:
We aren’t given any respect, oh find out what it means to me! It is always, it was so hard for your mothers and whatnot. I am sure it was, try being in the center of the whole implosion though and being told repeatedly that you don’t matter. That your feelings are imagined, that you need a second opinion about your own life and that is a reasonable statement? Srsly?

* * *

All you have to do is believe us, not ridicule or minimize us. For so many people, calling us ‘angsty girls’ or whatnot, that is beyond their capacity despite its simplicity.
That you need a second opinion about your own life. Wow, that's a powerful statement.  Meditate on that a moment.  How would that make you feel? Disrespected?  Exactly.

Joy was nice enough to say some kind things about my blog, that I was "respectful and kind in her treatment of adoptees," and this is what I had to say in the comments:
I don’t know how I could be an adoptive parent without listening to adoptees. Seeing all the issues you talk about appear in my very-verbal oldest daughter from practically the beginning, I had to listen, didn’t I?!

And y’all are SO entitled to respect, especially from adoptive parents — listening to you makes us better parents. Simple as that. We owe you.
Of course, I was really honored by her kind comments (and others who posted in the comments, thanks, too!), but at the same time, it's really sad that it's something to be complimented for!  Every human being deserves respect.  And from adoptive parents, adult adoptees who share their feelings so that we can learn to be better parents, those adult adoptees deserve more than respect -- our understanding, our support, our gratitude still wouldn't be enough. But giving respect?  That's easy!

Friday, April 29, 2011

My Takeaway

A British woman has published an adoption memoir about her adoption from Mexico called Mexican Takeaway. (Yeah, I just had to share the cover.) In  British-speak, "takeaway" equals "takeout," like the icky references to China adoption as "Chinese Takeout" to distinguish it from "homemade" kids.

Mexican Takeaway -- most offensive title for an adoptive parent memoir ever, as Dawn queried?  I'd sure put it on the top 3 list!

I haven't read the book, but between the author's website descriptions and what I could read through Amazon's look inside feature, the basic theme seems to be that she and her husband wanted to offer a home to a needy child and everyone in Britain tried to stop them.  So off they go to Mexico to rescue a needy child.  Part of the attempts to stop them from adopting were British social workers who deemed them "too white" to adopt.  In fact, Too White to Adopt is the title of the first chapter of the book.

You know, SOMETIMES it isn't about the race of the potential adoptive parent.  SOMETIMES it's about racial ATTITUDES of the potential adoptive parents. It's like a case I teach in Adoption Law, where white foster parents sue the state when it won't approve their adoption of their African-American foster child.  It's gotta be because they're white, right?  Never mind that the mom initially said she didn't want to foster any black children because she didn't want anyone to think the child was hers and that she'd slept with a black man.  Never mind that she told the social worker she didn't know how to take care of black kids, like they were some other species.  Never mind that she told the psychologist that she didn't think it important to do anything different to help an African-American child form a positive racial identity.  Never mind that she told the social worker she had no black friends and "wasn't going to manufacture" black friends just to help her potential adopted child.

So, I gotta wonder here, with an adoptive parent who could use such an insensitive book title, whether she was "too white," or whether her attitude was dismissive and insensitive to racial differences . . . .

That's my takeaway.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Should we talk to young children about race?

With the blatant racism of the whole "birther thing," (sorry, guys, I know you don't like it when I talk politics, but this stuff has been outrageously racist), it's fitting that Psychology Today has a piece on talking about race with young children:
Colorblindness dictates that we should not notice or talk about race, and thus the right thing to do in polite company is to not acknowledge difference. The goal is noble: as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. movingly said, we want to judge people "not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Accordingly, a large study of racial socialization (Hughes et al., 2006) concluded that parents of majority and minority children alike do emphasize hard work, virtue, self-acceptance, and equality when raising their children.

Yet, in our increasingly multicultural society, our children are going to be exposed to race-related issues sooner or later-and they need to be prepared. Children may witness acts of exclusion or rejection based on race, or will themselves be targets of discrimination. It is precisely for these instances that parents must provide their children with a framework for understanding difference, for helping them place such experiences within a developmentally appropriate narrative about the meaning of race both within their family and their culture. Think for a moment about how you might best react if your child saw or even experienced bullying. I doubt many parents would cope with the problem by not talking about it. Rather, a likely response might be to shower our child with love, remind them that we are always going to be in their corner, to avoid that bully, and additionally make sure that our child doesn't go hit somebody else. A lot of these strategies apply to racism - but they cannot be enacted if we don't broach the topic directly, albeit in a developmentally appropriate way.

It is important to understand a couple of reasons why a strategy of avoiding conversations about race simply doesn't work with kids. The first reason is that while many parents don't talk about race, peers certainly do point out differences, and it is critical to equip our children with the scripts and strategies to navigate these early conversations successfully. But the second, and more important, reason is that the words we say (or don't say) are only one modality through which children learn about their world. When children see their parents or other adults tense up around members of other groups, or notice that adults' social networks are not very diverse, or pick up on racial segregation in their environment, there is a clear message being communicated. That message is that skin color does matter, just in a secret way that nobody is going let you in on. Thus not talking about race can make the subject even more confusing. And when children are young, the only way for them to resolve this confusion may be by concluding that people of other races are "bad," thus setting the stage for exactly what many parents seek to avoid: prejudice.

As far as the data goes, the research is clear. Kids have the capacity to notice race from a very early age- infants will stare longer at faces of people from races they are unfamiliar with, which tells us they notice difference. Yet difference is a long shot from racism-an awareness of stereotypes and racism doesn't begin to happen until about age 6 (McKown and Weinstein, 2003). Between those ages, there is a lot of time for parents to teach valuable lessons to their children about how to confront difference. Rather than avoiding race through a colorblind strategy, I recommend that parents do talk about difference. Parents should strive to go one step further than simply saying "it doesn't matter." Rather, parents can adopt a message of acknowledging and celebrating differences- talking, for example (and as a first step), about different cultural traditions, or dishes that different people cook. This is known as a multiculturalist strategy - one that recognizes and celebrates our differences. At the same time, however, the message of multiculturalism needs to be complemented by a message about our common humanity- in other words, the things that unite us. A children's book that mixes these messages well is Sesame Street's "We're different, We're the same... and we're all Wonderful."
I've written about talking to young kids about race as well, and trying to adress the HOW question, how do we talk to our kids about race and racism?  See here.

Student Guest Post: A night with a new foster mom

by Sarah Burdan

The other night I got a phone call from a friend. She and her husband had gone though an agonizing process of applying to adopt hard to place children. After all the paperwork, processes and trials she received a call and a little girl and baby boy were dropped off at her place a few days ago. The children had just been taken by CPS from their mother. They were terrified. She called me thrilled to have children and heartbroken at how sad they were. She called me for advice. I showed up at her house and spent the evening helping her with the basics- what clothes needed, supplies, and every tip I could think of in a crash course of the first 24 months of a child's life.

The little ones were crying and desperate to be held. My heart broke for them, innocent victims of a irresponsible parent. It took a tremendous amount of comforting to get them to sleep. We walked, sang, held, fed and created shopping lists for all the things they would need. I watched my friend go through the nine months of emotions in a night…the thrill, joy, terror, and heartbreak of having children. I walked through those emotions during my pregnancy and birth of my daughter and I was honored to get to escort my friend through a similar journey. It didn't matter what process we went through to have children, what matter was we had them. I watched her rock and sing to a baby that was thrust into her arms without knowing anything about the child. I have had the benefit of slowly learning the unique preference and tendencies of my child and it never occurred to me that when foster parents were given the children to watch over how little information they received about the kids. I never though through that when children were taken from their parents by CPS that the parents did not say what there children were allergic too, if they used a pacifier, what there favorite foods were, if they had a favorite blanket or toy, how they slept at night. All of things that I knew about my daughter, my friend had to discover through trial and error. I was in awe of her determination and the love she freely gave to these terrified little children.

Once they were asleep I hugged her and left. I was exhausted as I drove home, processing all the emotions and events of the night. I was honored to be apart of pouring life into a child and supporting my friend in such a memorable time. My eyes were opened to what a demanding and emotional job it is being a foster parent it. I have been through a difficult pregnancy, a week of pre-labor and 12 excruciating hours of birth. I have my battle scars of becoming a mother. Now, my friend has them as well… I saw her go through the labor and birthing pains of a mother…not the same as mine but just as real and just as intense as what I went through. I watched her pick up the children and I smiled at her…she was a mother. She smiled back at me with tears in her eyes and screaming children around her and my heart melted… 'Welcome to motherhood my dear friend, you will be a great mom.'

To all foster parents thank you for your love and sacrifice.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Obama Released His Original Birth Certificate

(See here.) When will American adoptees be able to do the same?

Student Guest Post: Post-Adoption Scrutiny

by Anonymous & Anonymous

In light of recent stories, should adoptive families receive more scrutiny post adoption?

Yes. Absolutely, yes.

A Denver couple adopted Edward and Austin Bryant in 2000. By 2003 the boys had disappeared. Conflicting accounts of their whereabouts place them with relatives, in institutions or as runaways. A missing persons report was never filed. Other adopted children in the home have recently come forward, concerned about the brothers’ disappearance. There have been accounts that the brothers were often locked in trunks for days, deprived of food and rolled into blankets like burritos as a restraint mechanism. The boys were often seen covered in bruises and welts and the younger Bryant was found scavenging for food in a garbage can. Despite the boys’ disappearance, the adoptive parents continued filing the paperwork necessary to receive a $1,700 monthly subsidy from the state. Nearly a decade after their disappearance, the boys are now actively being searched for.

In Florida, 10 year old Nubia Barahona was beaten to death by her adoptive father. Four days later her body was found in the back of her adoptive father’s pick up truck parked in West Palm Beach; her brother was chemically burned, but still alive, in the front seat of the truck. The arrest warrant stated that the children were “repeatedly beaten, willfully tortured, maliciously punished and unlawfully caged.” In this case, abuse was reported, however the caseworker failed to adequately investigate. She stopped by the house four days before Nubia’s death, knocked on the door, asked the adoptive mom if everything was OK and then left without ever seeing the children. Her position was terminated.

So…how does this happen?

Unfortunately, once children have been adopted, the adoptive families are treated just as any other naturally occurring family. The state only intervenes if there are reports of abuse or neglect and it is up to the adoptive parents to seek out resources. This seems especially problematic because families who adopt out of foster care, especially older children and children with special needs or a history of abuse face very particularized problems. These are considered “high-risk” adoptions and even the most stable, loving and well meaning adoptive parents struggle as they encounter problems such as difficulty communicating, bonding, and trusting. Children can be defiant, angry, and even abusive to other children or pets. Adoption disruption and dissolution has become a growing trend.

Where is the breakdown?

Professionals have expressed concern that recent public and private initiatives to increase adoptions and decrease time to adoption might lead to inadequate selection and preparation of adoptive homes. All adoptive families are put through a fairly rigorous pre-screening process, but how effective is it? One component of the screening process is a home study and according to the Texas DFPS, “the purpose of the home study is to discuss your personal history, family interests and lifestyle, childcare experiences, the types of children you feel would best fit in your home, and your strengths and skills in meeting the children's needs.” Certainly adoptive families are putting their best foot forward at this time, so how well can parenting techniques actually be determined? The information gathered during this pre-screening process is imperative to the success of the adoption and the health and safety of the children and yet it seems as though children are often being placed for the sake of placement regardless of “fit”. A negative adoptive placement negates the state’s policy of providing permanency for foster children through a stable family environment.

The importance of post-adoption scrutiny

Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out. As in the case of the Bryants and Barahonas, adoption was the worst possible thing that could have ever happened to those children. And the most distressing part is that the state absolutely could have intervened. The detective investigating the Bryant brothers’ disappearance said to the press, “I can’t even receive laptops for my department from the state without annual reports and reviews and being able to lay eyes on every single computer.” So why are high-risk adoptions that involve the distribution of state subsidies not being monitored as closely as state issued computers? Not all parents are created equal, and not all adoptive families have good and pure intentions. When children are in foster care, the state is their parent and it’s the state’s duty to ensure these children are well cared for and placed in safe, supportive environments. Pre-screening adoptive families is just not enough, there has to be post-adoption accountability.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Photo Essay: Korean Adoption

A photo essay with poignant pictures of Korean babies placed for adoption, birth mothers from Korea, adult adoptees returning to Korea. . . a must-see.

To give you an idea, here are some of the captions -- you MUST. GO. NOW. to see the photos!
One week after her delivery, Sae-Rong, 18, put her baby girl up for adoption. She was unaware of her pregnancy until 7 months in, when she noticed she had gained weight. With strong objections from her family to keep the baby and no support from her boyfriend's family, she made the decision, like many Korean unwed mothers, to put her baby up for adoption.

While staying at a home for unwed mothers, she wrote a letter to her baby, saying " When we were sending you off, I wanted to keep you in my arms. How could I be giving up my own flesh and blood? Please don't forget about me and please look for me."

After escaping North Korea and living in China for the past five years, Keum-Joo, 30, made it to South Korea. There she delivered a baby at an unwed mother's home in Pyeongtaek. With no family and little support, she chose to place her baby boy for adoption so that he might have a better life than she could provide.

Go.  Bye-bye.  See ya later. . . .

Why are you still here?


Student Guest Post: Why Adopting From a Large Private Agency is a Great Idea

by Anonymous

For the past several years, I have been convinced that becoming an adoptive parent someday is a calling for my life. Last summer I spent time volunteering at a large private adoption agency to get a better idea about what adopting through an agency is all about. I was hoping that I could learn about the process, and continue my dreams of someday becoming an adoptive parent. It was an incredibly positive experience.

The agency I worked with is one of the oldest and largest adoption agencies in the country, and it was created by people who loved children and saw a need for older children who were living on the streets to be placed with families so that they wouldn’t have to take care of themselves anymore. Originally these children came down to Texas on trains from big cities on the east coast. They stayed with the adoption organizers until they were placed with Texas families. Over the last hundred years the agency has grown and changed to specialize more in infant adoption.

My time at the agency was spent mostly tying up any loose ends that the employees needed done to make their workdays a little easier. I spent a lot of time in the insurance department helping file insurance applications and agreements for expectant mothers who were either living at the agency or living at home and keeping contact with the agency during their pregnancies.

The woman in charge of the insurance department was a lovely woman with a heart of gold. She was constantly on the phone trying to get Medicare, Medicaid, or any other possible financial help for the expectant mothers’ quickly growing medical bills. She worked her fingers to the bone, and she was almost completely buried in paperwork. She had a love for every expectant mother who walked through the doors because she knew how much work it would take to get all those bills paid, being a mother of four herself. She took care of the insurance needs of expectant mothers who had just recently contacted the agency all the way back to women who had given birth years ago. It did not matter if the mothers had given their children for adoption or decided to raise their own children, she made sure that all of their paperwork was filed on time and taken care of so that they would not have to worry about their medical bills.

I also helped make the calendars in the event planning department. This agency has the wonderful resources to plan events for birthmothers, adoptive families, and adoptees so that they may keep in touch. The agency helps introduce adoptees to one anther so that the kids can make friends who share similar stories and experiences. Event planning was a lot of work. The woman in charge had to plan for different regions throughout not only Texas, but also in other states. She had to take into account holidays and other scheduling conflicts to make a best time for most invitees to attend. The agency didn’t just plan one event per region per year. She had multiple events per region every month. She worked hard to make sure that everyone involved with the agency could participate as often as possible even if they had relinquished parental rights or adopted children years before.

My last day at the agency happened to be the beginning of one of the agency’s Adoption Orientation weekends for prospective adoptive parents, and I had the privilege of attending and observing. The agency provides an orientation weekend for adoptive parents not only to inform them about the adoption process, but also to make sure that they are serious about adopting. The agency provides workshops at the orientation where prospective adoptive parents can look at profile booklets, learn about their options with tax information, religion, the legal aspect of adoption, and many other aspects of the process.

The agency also had two expectant mothers come in to talk about their experiences with the agency. One had chosen a family to adopt her child when he was born, and the other was still deciding if she wanted to raise her child or place him for adoption. The prospective adoptive parents were able to ask them questions about their care and treatment at the agency and their goals for the future with adoption. Also, an adoptive family came in to talk about their experience with the agency, the birthmother who relinquished her parental rights to them, and their two year-old bundle of joy. Prospective adoptive parents asked them questions about their experiences with the agency and any advice they had for those who were serious about completing the process. Some of the couples seemed eager to get the process started, while others had more questions they needed answered before continuing the journey. The agency made sure everyone walked away from the first day satisfied that knew what they were getting into and all of their options.

I feel like adopting from a large agency like this one would be a good idea simply for the fact that it is well staffed and well equipped to deal with all sorts of situations and needs. The people I met who worked there were wonderful. They obviously love their jobs. They feel like they make a difference in people’s lives, and they enjoy themselves. The expectant mothers I met seemed extremely satisfied with the care they received and the help they were given in choosing the right option for them, or the right adoptive family for them. The adoptive parents I talked to seemed overjoyed with their child and with the journey they undertook to bring that child into their home. Overall, everyone was happy and excited with the outcome. The process was productive, everyone’s rights and wishes were respected, the birthmother placed her child with a family she felt would raise her child with the values she held, and the adoptive family received a new addition that they were excited to raise and love.

Large private agencies may not be the best option for everyone when considering adoption, but from what I can tell, the agency I worked with seems to have the kinks figured out in the adoption process so that it can go as smoothly and happily as possible. Because this agency is so big, it has more resources at its fingertips, a larger staff to handle any issues that may arise, more one-on-one care for both expectant mothers and adoptive families, and it sincerely strives to make the experience joyful for everyone involved. A smaller agency or direct placement arena, while just as caring, may not be able to provide all of the amenities that a large one can. This is not to say that direct placement is a bad idea. Each person looking to get involved in adoption needs to find what is right for that person. Perhaps a large agency is not best for everyone, but since I was involved in it firsthand, I can see the advantages of going through the larger arena simply because of all it can offer. I look forward to the day that I get to become an adoptive parent, and I hope that I can have the wonderful experience that those previously involved with this large agency felt.

Children underfed in Ethiopian "transition home"

From the Toronto Star's parentcentral:
While the operators of an Ontario adoption agency were allegedly squandering their clients’ money on vacations, a horse and clothes from Holt Renfrew, food was running out for dozens of children living at the agency’s Ethiopian “transition home.”

Kitchener lawyer Ted Giesbrecht arrived at the complex in July 2009 to find a mountain of unpaid bills, adoption files in disarray and 46 children existing on “a kind of grain.”

“I would say they were not getting enough to eat,” Giesbrecht said in a recent interview after fraud and breach of trust charges were laid against Rick Hayhow, 46, and Susan Hayhow, 45.

* * *

“We knew it was bad,” Giesbrecht said. “There were allegations of food running out. Liquids running out. Certainly money had run out long ago.”

After landing at Bole International Airport, he went straight to the home, in a residential section of the city. “The facility was in good shape physically and was a modern, spacious, clean and bright place for children to live while waiting for their adoptions to be completed.”

“The courtyard and play areas were also well-outfitted and clean.”

But “it was true they were lacking food and lacking supplies and (staff) had not been paid for a considerable period of time,” Giesbrecht said.

The children, who were living at the home during the final stages of the adoption process and waiting to fly to Canada with their new parents, were between three months and three years old.

* * *

Employees of the home were bringing their own food to keep the children from going hungry, but were really in no position to do so because the agency hadn’t paid, he said.
This isn't a charity doing the best it can with limited resources -- we often hear those kinds of stories in orphan care.  But this isn't orphan care, this is a BUSINESS that squandered its resources and ignored the kids.  Sad sad sad.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Student Guest Post: Open. Closed. Or somewhere in-between?

by Kate

For a while now there has been an ongoing debate concerning the adoptees' access to their records, whether they should have full access, no access, or a type of controlled access. The information at the center of this debate includes:
 the adoption decree

 information about birth parents and their families gathered during pre-placement interviews

 the Original Birth Certificate
There seems to be a trend at this time to move (slowly) toward more transparency for the adoptee. The following states offer some degree of transparency if not complete open records:
New Hampshire
New Jersey
There are often stipulations on who is entitled to have their records in most of the states listed above. For instance, while Alabama is completely open, Iowa only allows access to those records that were finalized prior to 7/1/1941.

I am not an adoptee nor have I adopted so I can't speak from personal experience on this matter but I do wish to briefly relay the arguments on both sides.

To grasp what we are talking about here, I can explain it this way, if I were looking to get my vital information such as my birth certificate, I could do it in person for a nominal fee, no questions asked; or not have to leave the comfort of my own home by paying the fee to a service or a state office that will then happily send it on.

For an adoptee in a closed records state the court has sealed this information and they are denied a chance to even look at their original birth certificate much less get a certified copy. Instead of being given their original birth certificate they will receive an "amended" birth certificate with only their adoptive parents name. They will not know their birthparents' names nor will they even know their original name or if it differed.

The amended birth certificate is what the adoptee uses her entire life as a non-adopted person would use their unaltered birth certificate; for school admissions, passports etc. Naturally most adoptees are curious about their origins, for a multitude of reasons ranging from the physical to the emotional. So why were they sealed in the first place?

Until the early part of the last century birth certificates were treated as public records. However, about eighty years ago, around the 1930s there was such a stigma and an attitude of shame that surrounded the idea of adoption that state governments began sealing the records to protect the birth families, adopting families, and the adoptees from the social stigma associated with the birth family such as poverty or addiction, depravity, or mental illness (often women who became pregnant outside of wedlock were diagnosed as mentally ill just because they were pregnant out of wedlock). There was also a pervasive idea that the adoptive family had to be protected from the birth family and their possible malicious actions or effect on the child. In essence the court wanted to forcibly "protect" the privacy of all parties involved.

Many of the stigma of those times past either no longer exist or have been diminished substantially, so in today's society we are asking what is more important the child's natural curiosity and sometime actual need to know or the "privacy" of the birthparent?

Some of the current arguments for closed records:
• The adoptive family is more than adequate to satisfy the identity needs of the adoptive child, so they shouldn't need knowledge of their birth family

• There are voluntary consent registries the parties can easily find out what they need to know that way.

• DNA testing is able to provide more information about the adoptee's medical predispositions than the medical records of her birthparents.

• You can confidentially get medical records through the court with a "showing of good cause" - no court has as of yet set a test to determine what "good cause" is

• There will be less adoptions because birthmothers can't trust that their anonymity will be protected
Some of the current arguments for open records:
• The adoptee needs to know where they come from and that access to their part of your ancestry is a part of that

• There are very low match rates for the voluntary consent registry- 2% in 1998. These low success rates are likely caused by lack of knowledge of their existence, both parties have to register, which requires the adoptee knowing she is adopted; the registry requires accurate information concerning the child's original name, and proper place and date of birth which may or may not be accurate on the amended birth certificate. So essentially you have to produce information that you don't have to receive information that you don’t have

• Medical histories, Geneticists say that there is no profile of genetic tests that can retrospectively determine what their family might have been carrying. Most genetic tests originate out of the knowledge of a predisposition for a certain trait based upon family history

• There has been no statistical proof in states that have open records that that has been the cause of a lower adoption rate.
These are all arguments that have been brought up at various times throughout this debate, some of them have merit and some of them don't. Firstly though, I suggest we look at the word "right." Right, I believe, is one of the more misused words in our vocabulary. In this debate you hear statements like, "Birth mothers have a right to privacy" or "Adoptees have a right to their records." But do they really? What is a right?

Our fundamental rights, those enumerated and protected by Federal constitution and can be found in the Bill of Rights, such as the right to practice or not practice a religion of your choice; the right to a fair, speedy and public trial; the right to speech, etc. We certainly know that the "right to information" is not one of those protected rights; is privacy?

Privacy, as described in Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965), is granted by the specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights that have penumbras formed by emanations from those guarantees which give them substance. Essentially saying that there are "zones of privacy" such as right of association, the right to be secure in one's person, house paper, effects, etc.

The Tennessee Supreme court answered the question of privacy as applicable to the privacy of the birth family by saying that Tennessee constitutional law provides the right to privacy to encompass the right to procreation and the right to care for one's children without unwarranted state interference but those rights differ fundamentally from the decision of whether to surrender a child for adoption. The right of adoption is statutory (not fundamental). It was created to protect the interests of children whose parents are unable or unwilling to provide for their care, and not to advance a procreational right to privacy of the biological parent.

So from that opinion we can glean that the birthmothers "right to privacy" is not one that is constitutionally protected but one that is statutorily created….kinda. There is still no "statutory right to privacy" in the adoption papers, there is no right of privacy promised to the biological mother, and the adoption is not contingent on that right to privacy. However, there may be a violation of a privacy right to non-disclosure of personal information without the birthmothers consent; but still not a constitutionally protected right.

What it comes down to I think are the reasons for and against and as stated before I think there are arguments on both sides that have merit. If it were up to me I would say that the records should be left open, because you do need access to your family medical history and you do need to be given the opportunity just as everyone else is, to know where you came from. That is a part of what makes us who we are.

Having said that, I don't know every birthmother's situation, obviously it wasn’t ideal or the adoption would likely have not taken place, maybe there is a very good reason for her to not have contact with her child. So maybe a compromise would be more ideal. Some states allow adoptees to see their records but according to the wishes of the birthparent, don't permit contact. That might be the solution here.

What do you think?

Borrowing heavily from:
The Open Records Debate
Video by Jean Strauss:  Vital Records

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Second-Hand Children = Second-Hand Clothes

From the Michigan Messenger:
Under a new budget proposal from State Sen. Bruce Casswell, children in the state’s foster care system would be allowed to purchase clothing only in used clothing stores.

Casswell, a Republican representing Branch, Hillsdale, Lenawee and St. Joseph counties, made the proposal this week, reports Michigan Public Radio.

His explanation?

“I never had anything new,” Caswell says. “I got all the hand-me-downs. And my dad, he did a lot of shopping at the Salvation Army, and his comment was — and quite frankly it’s true — once you’re out of the store and you walk down the street, nobody knows where you bought your clothes.”

Under his plan, foster children would receive gift cards that could only be used at places like the Salvation Army, Goodwill and other second hand clothing stores.
I've been known to shop in clothing resale shops, and as a middle child had my share of hand-me-downs, and Maya gets Zoe's out-grown clothes, so I'm not taking the snobby position, but really?  Foster children can ONLY have second-hand clothes?!  I love "smaller government," "don't tread on me" Republican proposals!

India: "Adoption a commercial deal"

From Indian Express:
Child adoption process in the country came under the Supreme Court’s scrutiny on Thursday with the court demanding an explanation from the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the government’s Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) on the charge that adoption of babies has become nothing more than a “commercial transaction” involving private placement agencies.

A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia, issued notices to the government and CARA to explain why adopting parents are made to wait for months, entangled in “reams of red-tape”, and foreign parents find it easier to adopt than their Indian counterparts.

The CARA has “failed on every count” to monitor and regulate placement agencies, contends the petition filed by 2011 Padma Shri winner Nomita Chandy’s adoption agency Ashraya.

“Total apathy and corruption of the respondents (ministry and CARA) has led to the adoption process being reduced to a farce, and empowering opaque state-run children’s homes and criminal private individuals to play with the lives of adoptable children and adopting parents, very often reducing the solemn process of adoption to a commercial transaction involving little babies.”

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Same-Sex Parents: Should They Exist in the United States?

The Social Periodical asks that question:

Who would rather see a child suffer in sub-standard living conditions without the support of a loving family than see that child adopted by a financially- and emotionally-stable homosexual individual or couple? It is difficult to imagine that any person would inflict suffering upon a child in order to fulfill his or her own ideological desires, but through political action—or lack of political action—many persons are denying individuals or couples who identify as homosexuals the privilege of adoption based on their failure to conform to the supposed standard of heterosexuality; many are consigning children to sub-standard conditions while they wait to be adopted by a heterosexual family. This is neither fair to the individuals who are seeking to adopt nor to the children hoping to be adopted. Homosexual individuals who otherwise meet the legal qualifications that heterosexual individuals meet—whether they are single, in a marriage, in a civil union, or in a domestic partnership—should have the privilege of adopting children.

Student Guest Post: Step-Parent Adoptions

by Cheryl S.

I didn’t realize to what extent I was personally touched by adoption (my dad was adopted by his step-dad) until I started taking adoption law. The more stories we heard in class, the more I realized that I could relate. I never really gave it much thought because I grew up knowing that my dad had been adopted by his step-dad when he was a teenager but we would visit his biological dad every now and then (we lived about 9 hours away). My dad always seemed comfortable in his biological dad’s presence but then again, I never really thought about what he may have been feeling inside. My dad never really talked about being adopted but I do think he harbored some animosity towards his mom because of the whole situation.

Once I got older, I learned that my dad didn’t even meet his biological dad until he was 18 years old. My grandmother and bio-grandfather were married at one point, had my dad, and then divorced. My grandmother then remarried. My dad was adopted by her second husband who also had a biological son with my grandmother. My grandmother and her second husband ended up divorced as well and he stayed away for the most part (I have never met my dad’s legal father). While my dad was growing up, he was told that his biological dad was basically not worth knowing, so my grandmother was not helpful to say the least when my dad would ask about him. He eventually took it upon himself to find his biological dad once he turned 18 and they finally met face-to-face without my grandmother knowing.

I could only imagine what it would be like to meet a bio-parent for the first time, especially when you have only heard negative things about that person. I think that is what caused some of the hard feelings my dad harbored for his mother after he graduated from high school (his reaction was to join the Navy). My bio-grandfather was always nice to us when we would visit so we never saw the bad things that my grandmother had described to my dad. My dad felt like he was unjustifiably denied access to his dad for so many years when he could have been getting to know him.

My dad ended up meeting all of his biological half-brothers and half-sisters and still maintains contact with them today. My bio-granddad was actually the only grandfather I’ve ever known but my interaction with him was not very extensive in my adult life. My granddad passed away back in February and I was unable to attend the funeral. The thought did run across my mind about maybe feeling awkward at the funeral if I did go. My dad went and was listed in the obituary.

I think about my dad’s situation sometimes and wonder if he truly felt like part of his dad’s family. My dad made it a point to find all of his siblings and maintain contact, so to him blood really is thicker than water. Now that I have taken wills and estates and adoption law, I wonder what is going to happen when my dad’s “legal father” passes away if he doesn’t have a will. I know my uncle (dad’s half-brother on his mother’s side) still talks to his dad every now and then but my dad hasn’t spoken to him in years. Legally, he is still my dad’s father but my dad’s biological father ended up being more of a dad to him in the end.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Children of Hangzhou: Connecting with China

We had a long weekend, so we figured we'd head to China and take pictures at the Great Wall. . .


I know, it isn't April 1, but the girls wanted to try to fool you anyway!

No, we're not in China, we're at the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History, which has this cool exhibit, Children of Hangzhou:  Connecting with China. Included in the exhibit is this panoramic shot of the Great Wall of China, and blocks (which the girls are holding) to build your own Great Wall.

The exhibit starts at the bus stop, where this young lady welcomes you;  you can take the bus to school:
Or head for the countryside to plant rice:

You can write Chinese characters with a wet brush on a dry chalkboard:

Or create a poem with character cards:
Zoe's poem reads:  Quiet mountains, Peaceful water, Bright sun; Calm lake.

The girls also had a chance to pick out costumes and step into a Chinese scene:

This is where we had a nice surprise -- the girls were recognized by a blog reader!  She said to me, "Wait!  Are you a lawyer?  Do you write a blog?"  And she said I could put up a cute picture of her kids, one of whom came home from China on Christmas Eve:

What cuties, huh?  Then my cuties had to get into the drumming spirit:

It was a good exhibit -- lots of stuff to do crammed into a really small space.  We'd definitely go again!

The Nation: The Evangelical Adoption Movement

If you've been paying attention to the Christian adoption movement, not much in this article will surprise you, but this passage is particularly worrisome, especially coming from the most pro-adoption of the pro-adoption groups:
“We’re killing ourselves with these ethical lapses,” says Chuck Johnson, president of the secular adoption lobby group the National Council for Adoption (NCFA). “I think Christians are the worst at this sometimes, about the ends justifying the means. ‘I will do anything to save this one child’s life’; ‘I will falsify a visa application if I have to.’”

In early 2010, Johnson told me, NCFA held an online ethics seminar that drew roughly twenty-five representatives from religious and secular adoption agencies. As part of the webinar, NCFA took a blind poll of participants’ responses to various ethical situations. Either through ignorance or a willingness to bend the rules, 20–30 percent of agency representatives gave answers that were tantamount to committing visa fraud or other serious violations. “You’ll hear people saying, I’m following God’s law, not man’s laws,” Johnson says.

Brian Luwis, founder of the evangelical agency America World Adoption and a Christian Alliance board member, says ardent adoptive parents can wreak havoc for those coming after them. “I call them ‘adoption crazies,’” he says. “They’re such strong advocates, they’ll do things in desperation to have a child they think is theirs. Some are really unlawful, falsifying an adoption or something like that. Many won’t get caught, but once you get caught, what have you done to the system?” It’s not hard to imagine how movement rhetoric that casts international adoption as emergency rescue and spiritual battle could inspire a willingness to use any means necessary.

There are indications that such rule-bending occurs at the top levels of government. Blogging about the 2010 Adoption Policy Conference in New York for The Huffington Post, sociologist Philip Cohen reported a troubling statement made by Whitney Reitz, an official at US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)—the Homeland Security agency that oversees the entry of international adoptees. Reitz, who is credited with crafting last year’s “humanitarian parole” program for Haitian children, told the crowd, “The idea was to help the kids. And if we overlooked Hague, I don’t think I’m going to apologize.”
It was really tough to narrow down to one snippet from this article -- the whole thing is a must-read.  Go!  Now!  Read!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Huffington Post: Problems Foster Care Faces With Looming Budget Cuts

A promised two-part series, entitled Foster Care's Web Of Policies, Problems And Promise Keeps Kids In Waiting:
In the first part of this two-part series highlighting the hardships that half a million foster children face each year, Enrique Montiel shared his story. As a foster care alumnus, he now works as a social worker within the system that took him, and his five siblings, from his parents when he was only 9.

Montiel advocates for teens who share the experiences he endured and the problems that persist in America's foster homes. His story provides hope for those who continue to deal with the rampant race issues, homophobia that results in the abuse of LGBT foster children and the denial of adoptive opportunities for LGBT potential parents, problems in education stemming from emotional stress and frequent relocation, and health hazards that result from neglect and abuse that plague the foster care system.

However, as looming budget deficits force states to scramble to reduce recessionary spending, many may cut the programs that provide services to foster children. A report from The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities indicates that in 46 states and the District of Columbia, social services have been sacrificed in the latest round of cuts.

Student Guest Post: The Not-So-Stereotypical Birthmother and Her Adoption Story

by Jeanette

The stereotypical birthmother is often thought of as young, single, poor, promiscuous, uneducated, highly emotional, weak, and even desperate. However, just as with all stereotypes, not every birthmother fits this description. When I was sixteen, I lost my virginity and got pregnant all in the same night. Yes, you read that correctly—you can get pregnant the first time! Although I was young and single, I was not uneducated. I was a sophomore in high school taking all AP and honors classes and I didn’t let being pregnant keep me from my studies, even though at the end of pregnancy it was a bit difficult to fit in those tiny high school desks. As an individual I was pretty poor. At the time I only made minimum wage working at Tom Thumb Video. However, I am from a middle-class family and my parents have always been able to provide my brother and me with everything we have ever needed. I would not have described myself as weak or desperate; scared, yes. Instead I viewed myself as strong and selfless.

I prayed over my decision for months, but knew that adoption was the best choice for Kaylee. Although there will always be a feeling of loss, as I miss Kaylee very much, I have never regretted placing her with Cindy and Joey. The adoption agency I went through counseled me on numerous occasions and provided me with a comfortable and trusting environment in order to work through my options and come to the best decision. I never felt pressured by any of the staff, my family, or my friends to choose adoption. Instead I felt loved, cherished, and blessed to have such a wonderful support group, and I fully believed that the choice was mine to make. Cindy and Joey are two of the most amazing people I know. I could not have picked a better family to place Kaylee with, as they love and cherish her just as much as I do. We have always been on the same page about wanting Kaylee to know about me, but also wanting to let her decide when, and if, she wants to be a part of my life. Cindy and I have even talked recently about how we long for that day to come and that we know it will be a joyous day filled with tears and an overflowing amount of love. Although I have always been fearful that Kaylee may not want to meet me, I do know that she will absolutely know that I love her and have always loved her since the moment I found out I was pregnant.

My adoption experience is a fairy tale story. I know I was blessed every step of the way, and I will be grateful and humbled by that for the rest of my life. However, I also understand that there are horror stories out there of psychotic birthmothers coming back for their children, or adoptive parents abusing the child, or of people kidnapping children in order to place them for adoption and earn a quick buck. But, I tell my story so that others know there is hope and there are fairy tale stories that exist. I also tell my story to the sixteen year-old girl, or any other age for that matter, that finds herself pregnant and scared. To you, I urge you to seek counseling from a number of different sources and I urge you to contemplate all of your options. Do not make a quick and hasty decision, because I promise that no matter what you decide it will be a decision that you will have to live with for the rest of your life. It is not one that can be swept under the rug and never thought about again. For the attorneys or counselors out there, I ask that you please take the time to get to know your clients and that you do not judge them, but instead that you help them in making the best decision for all of the parties involved under the specific circumstances. This will most likely be the most difficult decision that the birthmother ever has to make in her life, and she needs all of the love and support she can get. Not all adoption stories end up being a fairy tale like mine, but everyone involved should at least strive to make it a happy ending.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Student Guest Post: My best friend is adopted

by Anonymous

My best friend is adopted. We have been friends since we were 12 (I am 25 now) and she was the maid of honor at my wedding. I talk to her almost every day sometimes multiple times a day and I feel like I know everything about her. Yet I realized that I do not know anything about her feelings about being adopted. I decided to ask her a few questions about her thoughts on adoption and her experience being adopted. When I called her I found myself feeling a bit awkward and nervous about asking the questions. This is one of the people to whom I feel closest and who has been by my side since childhood and yet there is this huge portion of her life that I am totally unfamiliar with. I’m not sure if she never talked about it because she was uncomfortable with the subject or just didn’t really care about it enough to bring it up. All I knew before our conversation was that she was adopted and her birth mother was very young.

I told her that I had to write a blog post about adoption for class and asked her if she was comfortable answering a few questions about her experience and she agreed. My overall impression from the conversation was that she feels lucky to have been adopted by a loving well-to-do family and she chooses not question it. She sees her adoptive parents as her only parents and does not feel the need to seek out information about her birth family. I asked her if she were ever curious about who her birth mother and father were and she replied by saying that if someone presented her with the information it would pique her curiosity but she would not seek it out. I also asked her if she ever asked her adoptive mother about her birth mother and she said she did once but she would never want to press the topic for fear of hurting her mother’s feelings. Eventually she cut our conversation short and said she had some things to do. I took this as a sign than she didn’t want to delve much deeper into the topic. I decided not to try to continue the conversation another time.

Although my friend was born somewhere in South Florida she tells people who don’t know her that she was born in Peru which is where her adoptive family is from. She has completely taken on their culture and family identity as her own. Some might find this to be strange but I think why not? This family who raised her is her family. Her entire Peruvian extended family does not question that she is one of them. She finds peace and comfort knowing who she is. Just because she is not related to her family by blood means nothing to any of them. It is almost as if she has rejected her identity as an adopted person.

After taking this course about adoption I have learned (and I suppose common sense would tell you) that many adopted people have an almost primal urge to know about their biological roots. Knowing myself, I think that I would be one of those people who would feel a deep need to know. As counterintuitive as it sounds, my friend seems more than content not knowing. Who am I to question how she copes with her feelings about being adopted? As her best friend, I just want her to be happy and I will always support her. Should her feelings one day change, I will be there as well to help her look.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Student Guest Post: Deciding Against Adoption

by Anonymous

When I found out I was single and pregnant, like others, I was faced with an important decision: Do I keep the child or adopt the child out? I knew from the day I discovered that I was pregnant that there was no way I could not know my child. That child was a part of me and always would be. So my choice was between raising the child myself and finding a way to have an open adoption. Of course, this was before I took Adoption Law and found out that most open adoptions are not enforceable in a court of law.

When my parents discovered that I was pregnant they came to me and told me that they would support any decision that I made, even if they did not agree with it. I told them that the only decisions I would consider were an open adoption or keeping the child and raising the child on my own. Over the next couple of days my parents talked and then re-approached me. They told me that if I chose adoption, they wanted to adopt the child so that I could still be “mom.”
I realize that not many people are as blessed as I am to have such wonderful parents who would do this for them and stand by them regardless of their decisions in life. This, however, made my decision all the more difficult. There was a child growing inside of me and that was a part of me. I knew that if my parents had adopted my child, he/she would be well taken care of and grow up in a very loving home. I knew that my parents were better able to provide for my child than I was at the time. As time went on, and I began to experience the pregnancy and the flutters and movements of the child, I fell completely in love with my child, even before birth. I knew I would never be able to give my child up at that point.

I had to try and was lucky enough to have parents that would help me and support me through the experience. I realize that not everyone has as supportive of a family as I have. However, I believe that even if my family were not supportive I would have made the same decision: to keep my child. I have nothing against adoption. In fact, adoption is very cherished within my family. I have several family members and friends who have been adopted. Yes, having the parents that I have did make the decision easier, but there is no way that I ever would have been able to give my child up.

Student Guest Post: Reactive Attachment Disorder

by Jessica D. and Kyra K.

The outrage surrounding Torry Hansen’s decision to send her adopted son back to Russia has focused the discussion on Reactive Attachment Disorder (“RAD”) in institutionalized overseas orphanages. Popular media churns out stories of ‘international adoptions gone wrong’ due to attachment and behavioral disorders resulting from the overcrowding and limited resources associated with orphanages, especially in Eastern Europe and Russia. Yet, this disorder is not exclusive to children left to languish in orphanages. Statistics indicate that 800,000 children with severe attachment disorder come to the attention of the child welfare system every year due to abuse and neglect. This number does not include children with attachment disorder adopted from other countries. These stories fail to delve into why this is happening or what can be done about it, and instead focus on who failed these children who have now ‘gone wrong.’ What happens after the news story ends - what becomes of these children?

Dr. Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D., made a career of studying the effects of trauma on child brain development and had become a prominent figure in the RAD community. In The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, Dr. Perry explains the signs and causes of RAD in a way that evokes a sympathetic understanding of the biology behind these children. The following are a few excerpts taken from different areas of the book:
“…marked by a lack of empathy and an inability to connect with others, often accompanied by manipulative and antisocial behavior. RAD can occur when infants don’t receive enough rocking, cuddling and other nurturing physical and emotional attention. The regions of their brains that help them form relationships and decode social cues do not develop properly, and they grow up with faulty relational neurobiology, including an inability to derive pleasure from healthy human interactions.”

“…many RAD children can be inappropriately affectionate with strangers: they seem to see people as interchangeable because they were not given the chance to make a primary lasting connection with a parent or parent-substitute from birth. These indiscriminately affectionate behaviors are not really an attempt to connect with others, however, but rather they are more accurately understood as ‘submission’ behaviors, which send signals to the dominant and powerful adults that you will be obedient, submissive, and not a threat.”

“If the child has RAD, the lack of connection goes both ways. There is a reciprocal neurobiology to human relationships- our “mirror neurons” create this. As a result, these children are difficult to work with because their lack of interest in other people and their inability to empathize makes them hard to like. Interacting with them feels empty, not engaging.”

“The anger and despair that their coldness and unpleasant behavior can provoke may be the reason why so many parents are attracted to therapies for it that are harsh and punitive and why therapists often converge on these harmful techniques.”

“The brain needs patterned, repetitive stimuli to develop properly. Spastic, unpredictable relief from fear, loneliness, discomfort, and hunger keeps a baby’s stress system on high alert. Receiving no consistent, loving response to his fears and needs, Leon never developed the normal associate between human contact and relief from stress. What he learned was the only person he could rely on was himself.”
While it is important not to underestimate the challenges that arise from raising a child with RAD, they are not insurmountable. Parents of children with the disorder should arm themselves with effective techniques that chip away at the child’s emotional issues, while simultaneously recognizing that they as parents have individual issues that need to be addressed. Often, the focus is on the child’s inability to attach, while ignoring that some adoptive parents can have attachment issues of their own. First and foremost, it is imperative that a medical professional evaluate the child’s basic physical and emotional needs. This allows both the medical professional and the parents of the child to know the full extent of the child’s issues. From there, treatment should be tailored to the child’s individual needs. Treatment usually involves therapy for the parent and the child, therapy for the entire family, and education classes for the parents about the condition. Treatment can also include medication for various conditions that tend to accompany RAD, like depression and anxiety. It is also important that the parents of the child not use techniques that have been proven to be ineffective and particularly dangerous for children with RAD, including holding the child tightly in an effort to increase bonding, forcing the child to eat or drink, withholding basic necessities such as food as punishment, or triggering anger in children in destructive ways. The most important thing to take away is that proper medical and therapeutic intervention is necessary for treatment of RAD, and that patience and a willingness to help a child succeed will go a long way in healing the child’s wounds.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Another one!

OK, the last letter looking for advice on whether to tell a child she was adopted involved an almost-15-year-old.  This one is a 17-year-old.  Argh!!!!!!
Q. My husband and I have a wonderful 17-year-old girl whom we adopted. We have never told her she was adopted, and my husband feels we need to. But I don’t want to. Should we tell her now or wait until she is older?
A psychologist tackles this answer, and gives pretty standard advice, though she avoids directly telling these adoptive parents that they have royally screwed up.

She also encourages talking about the adoption as a "positive event," as a "loving and positive act."  I don't disagree, but you also need to create space for your child NOT to feel positive about her adoption.  I think one of the hardest things for adopted kids is that everyone around them, including their parents, are telling them what a wonderful thing adoption is, and they might not feel that way.  Letting them know that they are free to feel however they want to about their adoption, and that they can have quite mixed feelings, too, is really important, I think.

Student Guest Post: "I'm Adopted! . . . Sort of."

by Noelle Bray

At least that is what I told a classmate of mine in high school, upon learning that he was adopted. He looked at me and asked, “How can you be ‘sort of’ adopted?” I explained that my biological father had signed away his legal rights to me, and that my step-father had adopted me. What I did not know then was that this type of adoption actually has a name: Step-Parent Adoption or Second Parent Adoption. What I also did not know then was that second parent adoption or adoption by a relative, is actually more common than what the average person considers when they think of adoption—birth parents give up their child to be adopted by strangers. After I was adopted, the times I actually thought about what that meant were few. But, then, my experience as an adoptee probably has not been “the norm,” if there even is such a thing. Fast forward 12 years later, and I am in law school and have now nearly finished a class entirely on Adoption Law. The class has caused me to face all the various aspects of adoption, and in being an adoptee, that I had never dealt with before. I think it has been good for me, but I still find myself wrestling with some of the same issues I have had since I was adopted. For example, the one I exemplified in my comment to my high school friend—the feeling that I am only ‘sort of’ adopted. Even in high school, I felt that I needed to qualify my status as an adoptee, that my feelings as an adoptee would somehow be discounted or minimalized in the eyes of others because I still have connections to my birth parents. But I do still go through many of the same feelings and thought processes as those who are ‘actually adopted.’

When I was twelve years old, I remember standing in a court room, with other people present, and looking up at someone sitting in a raised area. I do not remember what questions exactly were asked, I just remember the judge, kindly, telling me that I could not just nod my head, as the nice person in the corner had to type what I say, and that person could not type head movements. By the end of the day, I was adopted by my step-father. I knew what was going on, as far as someone twelve years old can comprehend. I knew that my biological father would not have to worry about paying child support anymore (which I knew because, even then, I understood that he was having financial problems, was in debt, and had not paid any support in years). I had also been assured by my mother and step-father that my relationship with my biological father would not change—I would still see him and we could still talk on the phone, like always. Frankly, that was all I cared about. I understood that what was happening was the best situation for everyone, and so long as I still got to see him, I was happy for it to happen.

I did still see him; my parents kept their promise to allow me to maintain a relationship. Though today it is a strained relationship for a myriad of other reasons, I do still see my biological father when I see other members of that side of the family, like my (half) brother.

Intellectually, I have grown to understand the circumstances around the adoption that I could not have processed as a child. My biological father was having financial difficulties, which was a recurring problem. He had also recently gotten remarried to a woman with three daughters of her own, and then they had my younger brother. Her daughters’ father did not pay child support, so my biological father was supposed to support all five of us, at least in some form or fashion. He rarely met his child support obligations for me, even before he remarried, and he was thousands of dollars behind. As for the other half of the parental picture, I had always lived with my mother, and was so young when my step-father married her that I cannot remember life without him. They have always been “my parents” to all my friends, teachers, etc. My step-father has always been the one to take care of me, provide for me, keep me safe, and love me. He is the one I look to as a role model for guidance and advice. He has been my “father” since he met me. Given my biological father’s propensity for irresponsibility, especially financially, it became my parents’ concern that, should something happen to them, I and my inheritance from them would fall directly under his control, and that by the time I was old enough to take advantage of said inheritance, there would be nothing left. So, the intellectual reasons for my adoption were based on concerns of finances, inheritance, and security. Honestly, given what I know now, I believe that giving me up was the best decision my biological father ever made in regards to me.

Emotionally, it is not quite so simple. I deal with many of the same emotional and psychological issues as other adoptees. Most days, being an adoptee is not what I think about, at least until recently. When I do think about what it means, I experience a range of emotions, which are usually positive. I love my step-father and have a great relationship with him (I only call him “step-father” here for clarity’s sake). When people we have just met say they can see the resemblance between us, we just look at each other and smile. To him, I am his daughter. To me, he is my father. My relationship with my biological father is distant, which is exactly as I want it to be. But, there are days when I cannot help but feel, intellectual reasoning aside, hurt, betrayed, and jealous that my biological father essentially gave me up in exchange for forgiveness of debt and the prospect of never having to support me in the future. In short, he gave me up for money. I also think about other aspects where my status as adoptee effects my interactions or conversations with others. For instance, when talking about my family (or in this case, writing) trying to use the right words to describe family members is tricky, since there are so many nuances attached to the traditional words. For example, I do not like to refer to my biological father as “my father” because, to me, he has not been a father. But then, referring to him as “biological father” in conversation often leads whoever I am talking with to believe that I have not had and do not have contact with him. Also, like other adoptees (or anyone else, for that matter), I often question who I am as a person and who I am becoming. If I look at just my step-father and biological father, and not at any of the rest of their respective families, I would prefer to be related to my step-father. But, I am very happy to be related to other members of my biological father’s family. For my (completely biased) reasons, in the Nature vs. Nurture argument, I am a strong advocate for the “It’s Both” answer!

On the one hand, everyone is genetically hard wired with certain traits, a history and connection to genealogy and family. I have a medical history from my paternal side, which, though not terrific, I am at least glad to know. These genetic ties are important to anyone, and they help us define who we are by helping us know where we come from. On the other hand, I know I would be a very different person today had I not had a lifetime of influence from my step-father. He and my mother taught me right from wrong and showed me what it is to have a strong work ethic and a strong faith. They taught me to always strive to do the best I can possibly do no matter what the obstacles. We have been financially stable, and therefore I have been very blessed to have had opportunities to travel and have received an excellent education. But it is exactly the fact that I can write about all of this that makes me feel just “sort of” adopted—I know all of my story, or at least have access to it—other adoptees cannot say the same thing.

In class, we have recently discussed sealed records, and the struggle some adoptees have in trying to find out who their birth families are, and where they come from. Every adoptee is different—some do not care, and others are consumed with a longing that will not be satisfied until they find out. Perhaps it is the difference in this aspect of the adoptee experience that makes me feel “sort of” adopted? When I was adopted, I was twelve. I had relationships with all of my parents. I knew who I was and to whom I was related. Thanks to a few members on each side of my family, our knowledge of parts of our family trees is fairly extensive. Also, six or eight weeks ago, I asked my mother to send me the file she kept of all the documentation for the adoption, and she did. I did not have to go to a state office and request it. I did not have to go to court to show good cause as to why I should be allowed to see my birth certificate, let alone a fairly compete file of the entire process. She sent it to me the week I asked. I was excited and curious—what would I learn that I did not know or remember from experiencing the process as a child? And yet I only read the contents a few days ago. But why? I asked myself, “You know most of your story already! What could you possibly be worried about?” Well, I was worried that reading through it would stir up as of yet unprocessed feelings. I was scared I would learn something new that would be painful. Perhaps they had not told me something then because they had thought I was too young. However, other than learning a few new minor details, and being reminded of things I had forgotten about the process itself, the information was the same. Emotionally, I seem unchanged as compared to how I was before I read the file. Mostly, I just feel lucky that I have the opportunity. I am not kept awake at night wondering about a family I have never met. I am not having to fight a legal system just to learn about myself. I am lucky to have my memories, my knowledge of my family, of what happened, and to have access to my records.

So, yes. I am adopted. I am an adoptee. My experience has been different from that of other adoptees, but that does not mean that I should discount, belittle, or try to qualify how I feel. Psychologically and emotionally, my experiences are very similar to other adoptees. What my experience lacks is not the emotional roller coaster, or the struggles with identity as to who I am going to be, but the mystery of whom and where I come from. It may be a big difference, or not, but that difference should not negate or cause doubt as to the validity or reality of my experience or feelings as compared to those of someone else. So, where does that leave me? “Oh, you’re adopted? So am I.”

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cute Kid Pictures

We had a super-busy weekend, with 3 performances of Willie Wonka, Zoe's 4th grade play; rehearsals for the up-coming ballet recital; Easter egg hunt at Chinese school; school projects for both girls. Zoe's project involved creating and video-taping a "Scary Vampire Verb Story" with 4 other kids.  Maya's was making a "trash monster" out of recylable materials.  You'll be glad that I forgot my camera for MOST of these endeavors. . . but managed to snap a few cute kid photos this weekend!
Oompa Loompa Zoe
Maya's trash monster
Oompa Loompa with Veruca Saltz
Squirrel & Oompa Loompa
Maya's new best friend!
Oompa Loompa & Cand Man Kid
Maya & Zoe

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Misplaced Baggage Photo Essay

Anh Dao Kolbe, photographer and Viet Nam adoptee, has a photo essay at talking writing with portraits of Vietnamese adoptees.  Here's the artist's statement:
Misplaced Baggage: Same, Same But Different is a series of 47 intimate portraits of Vietnamese adoptees who grew up in the U.S., U.K., Europe, and Australia. “Misplaced Baggage” increases awareness of the existence of the Vietnamese adoptee community by exposing the unique individuality of each of us and the ways in which we are more alike than unalike: We share the same blood line; we share our Vietnamese culture (whether reclaimed and/or reinvented); and our misplaced community is our own—a community just as important as other Asian communities.
Click here to see the lovely portraits.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Student Guest Post:Adoption Etiquette

by carriedorothea
[Our class has really benefited from having an adoptee in the class; she is 28, was adopted when 3 days old, biracial, one of 15 children adopted by white parents]

We are taught as kids that certain things are rude to ask: a woman's age or weight, how much money one makes, etc. Too bad we aren't taught what to expect or how to act when meeting your bio family. I am a very curious person and I would love to learn more about my ancestry, but I don't necessarily want a relationship with my bio family. I won't know if they are someone I would want continued contact with until I meet them, but what happens if I meet them and they want a continued relationship and then I don't. Is it selfish of me to have reached out?

I met my bio mom and half siblings 9 years ago. When I asked about my dad it was clear she didnt want to talk aout him. After meeting my bio family, I had never been more grateful for being adopted. It was very clear that I would not be the person I am today if my bio mom tried to raise me. I will always be glad that she chose to give me a better life than she could have provided for me.

Shortly after I met my bio family, they moved and i changed my email adress (not on purpose) and we didnt keep in touch. After almost an entire semester of Adoption law, I looked once again on facebook for any of them. Just last night I messaged my biological half sister after she confirmed my friend request on facebook. At first I was relieved that i found her. She was very excited that I reached out. We have tentative plans to meet in person at the end of May when she will be in town for her sons graduation. However, after a couple of exchanges, I find myself very anxious. I have all these questions but can't just ask them because I don't know if it is polite to just come out and ask her things like who was my father. I referred to my bio mom by her name instead of mom, is that weird? Would my half-sister prefer me to refer to her as mom?
I know there is not a right or wrong answer to these questions, and that it is really up to what I am comfortable with. However, I am a very empathetic person and now I find myself with more questions and anxiety after only one night of exchanging 3 messages.The last thing I want to do is hurt somebody's feelings.
I always wanted to meet my half sister, because I was told that she was 15 and wanted to raise me as her own instead of my mom putting me up for adoption. She was very excited when i contacted her on facebook and I was excited about finding her. But after viewing her profile on facebook, I worried that I wouldn't act black enough for her (she is bi racial as well, but clearly identifies with black people, probably only 2% of her friends on facebook were white). Suddenly, all these feelings of anxiety and questions of racial identity that I thought I had come to terms with, have risen to the surface.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Student Guest Post: Adopting Through the State

by Anonymous (student doesn't want any chance that adoption in process will get derailed)

What we are studying in adoption law strikes close to home for me. My husband and I are currently in the process of adopting a child through the state of Texas. After having been immersed in the state adoption system for over a year, I have come to believe that the system is greatly flawed and unfortunately, I believe that it is the many children who are waiting on adoptive families who suffer. I will share a bit of our experience to illustrate this point.

We began our adoption journey in February 2010. We attended about six classes on Saturdays through the state that were facilitated by a CPS worker. We completed our classes at the beginning of March. These classes do not distinguish between people who want to only foster children, people who want to foster to adopt children or people who only want to adopt a child. There seems to be significant difference between the guidelines for these three areas to justify providing special classes targeting each of these groups, so I’m not sure why all three groups are trained together.

From the beginning, my husband and I have said that we only want to adopt a child. We have made it clear that we are not interested in becoming foster parents. Shortly after we finished our classes, we were contacted by the worker who has been assigned to work with us. First, he kept talking about foster care even after I reminded him that we were not interested in foster care. Next, he said that he thought he might have a child for us. He said that actually it was a sibling group of three children. At this point, he had not met us, seen our home, nor had we had a home study. I told him that we had not had a home study yet and also, we were not interested in more than two children. He finally scheduled a time to come meet with us on the weekend to see our home and make sure that we had completed all of the necessary safety procedures. When he came to our house and we showed him the bedroom where we planned to place the child that we would adopt, the worker immediately told us that we could easily fit three children in the room. We again reminded him that we were not interested in three children, but if we were, they would each have their own room.

In June, we were scheduled for a home study which was completed by an outside private adoption agency. After the home study was completed, we were approved by CPS to adopt at the end of July. Unfortunately, we were given little guidance about how the process worked after becoming approved to adopt a child. It seems that the worker assigned to us has little experience with people who are interested in adoption only. He said we should go onto the state website to look at available children and let him know if we were interested in any of these children. We were told that after we said we were interested in a child, we would receive the child’s file to look at and determine if we wanted to continue exploring the possibility of adopting the child. So, we submitted interest forms on two children. We didn’t hear anything for about two months. Finally, we learned that actually, when you put an interest form in on a child, you don’t automatically get to see the file. It appears that periodically, the child’s worker and supervisor will review all of the files of families who have submitted interest forms on the child and choose one family to move forward with placement for. Our worker also was unclear on what the steps would be after we reviewed the file of a child we were interested in adopting.

In November, we attended an adoption match party, which involved prospective adoptive parents coming together to engage with children who are available for adoption in a casual and fun setting for the children. The children were not to have been told exactly why they were there, but it still felt bit like they were being put on display. Although this was a rather strange event, it was nice to be able to engage with children without worrying about the child becoming disappointed if you chose not to explore adoption of the child. At this event, we were able to meet a boy hat we had submitted an interest form on as well as a girl that we enjoyed visiting with. We let the staff know that we were still interested in the child that we had previously submitted the interest form on as well as the other child we had met.

In January, we finally received the file for the boy that we had been interested in and then a couple of weeks later, we received the file for the girl. We decided that the girl would be a better fit for our family. We were able to meet her again in the middle of February. The first weekend, she visited with us during the day. Then she spent three weekends with us and moved in with us in the middle of March.

It seems like the beginning of the adoption process was extremely slow moving, but then when we met a child that was a good fit for our family, things moved very quickly. I believe things moved somewhat more quickly in our case because our child was not in a healthy foster home and her worker wanted to get her out of that situation as quickly as possible. Again, when we were moving so quickly with the process, we sought guidance from our worker, but he was very unclear on what the steps would be and frequently seemed confused about what was going on. Luckily, the child’s worker was more knowledgeable about the process and has been able to provide us with more information.

We have been frustrated with the way the system works and how little support we have received from our worker relating to the transition process and the legal process of adopting. I can imagine that several prospective parents may give up on the process and get frustrated with the process before finding a child to adopt. I do not know for sure, but I would imagine that the process goes more smoothly when you go through a private adoption agency, because you are paying the agency to guide you in the process and coordinate things for you. Due to my work experience with abused children, we were determined to adopt an older child through the state, but I’m sure that a lot of prospective adoptive families who would make excellent families for these children might not have this strong desire and give up before completing an adoption. Since there are so many older children who are in need of good homes, it is unfortunate that they don’t have stronger advocates to help them find these homes.