Six When He Came to Us: A Memoir of International Adoption
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They come with the person you love and sometimes you love them too. Sometimes you do not. Either way you navigate your way for the person you both love. Open adoption is in many respects an extraordinary social experiment. For those of you who find yourselves adopting now, you are part of something very exciting, something that has the potential to make things better for adopted children and their families, both birth and adoptive. On the other hand, when any change becomes the new paradigm it becomes hard to bring up what may be hard or unappealing about it. In the current enthusiasm for forming this new kind of arrangement with birth families I think it is important for adopting parents to feel safe to voice how uncomfortable open adoption may feel, even as they embark on it as a solution to a very complex problem.
Additionally, open adoption will not solve the challenges of those children for whose welfare the biological mother is truly unable to care due to her own deprivations, and for those babies who are subjected to in utero trauma such as alcohol, drugs, or violence. And it still will not be possible in some situations where the birth parents do not want it, however much adopting parents may be willing to do it.
Adoption has always been done a disservice by being sugar coated and romanticized. It seems important that we do not do this same thing to open adoption.
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Adoption is tough for everyone. The more we can minimize the pain and loss for all involved the better, but it is unlikely that we can eliminate it. As an adoptive parent one hopes that the truth that emerges, whatever it is, will help. As I walk this road with my children I am reminded once again that there are no easy answers in life and certainly not in adoption.
I hope by sharing it I can help others. Their lives are their own. So please excuse me if there are patches of vagueness. Many have written about the struggle adoptive families face as a child reaches adolescence. The search for identity is even more fierce than that of other adolescents. The anger at the perceived rejection by birth family sometimes turns against the self and against adoptive parents.
In adolescence the desire to search for birth family often comes more front and center.
In the age of the internet it can be accomplished often with great ease. However, the fantasy of what this contact will bring and the reality of what it begets are often, if not usually, two different things. As adoptive parents we can only hold our children through their feelings about it all, re-mourn our own losses in the process and stand steady as the winds of adopted adolescence whip around us. Adoptive parents find themselves heartbroken over the often self-destructive behaviors of their children. How can their love have not healed such pain?
When an adoption has been closed, as in the case of my children, all members of the adoption story- children, birthparents and adoptive parents- replace unknowns with what they imagine. Children imagine birth parents. Adoptive parents piece together shreds of information from the time of placement to give their children some information about themselves and the circumstances of their adoption. Birth parents are left to imagine and wonder about the children they have relinquished with little or no information about their whereabouts or well-being.
All parties carry narratives that contain small bits of truth from the moments leading up to and through the adoption. Layered upon this truth is the embellishment created by wishes, fantasies, longing, anger, hurt and fear. Imagine then the mind-blowing experience of matching each of these narratives to reality. The unknown that it has taken years to process becomes the known that will take more years to process. This was supported by the profound changes that have occurred in the discourse surrounding adoption.
Openness is now understood as serving the best interests of the child, a different view than when we adopted.
The searches yielded quick results. We found both families and initiated contact with two distinctly different outcomes, one joyful reunion and one painful rejection. Each child has a new journey to navigate, for better or for worse. What they have now is more truth that challenges them to re-write their stories with this new information. Everyone has still lost something and perhaps gained something through adoption. Reconciling this takes time to integrate. I run a support group for adoptive parents, all of whom have adopted foreign born children. Many families bring home children with an inadequate understanding of the developmental delays and behavioral problems that result from children spending the beginning of life in institutional settings and being separated from birth mothers and subsequent caregivers.
This is a dramatic and somewhat dubious statistic, even more so because it is deeply disturbing and gives adoption very negative press. Are we to believe 1 in 10 or 1 in 4 adoptions "don't work out" not exclusively international adoptions of older children, just "adoptions"? Third, tying the issue of foreign adoption to domestic policies such as food stamp programs, funding for education, etc misses the point entirely.
While these are important issues, the questions that rehoming raises do not lie in this arena. Most immediately, it raises the issue of quickly finding a way to regulate and stop this child trafficking in our country. There are many actions that need to be taken to do this form legislative to better adoption education and preparation.
The current Hague Convention rules, designed to stop baby trafficking in adoptions from abroad, need to be amended with an eye to getting children placed in homes as early as possible, thereby limiting early traumatic experience and attachment issues. Prospective adoptive parents need much more pre and post adoption support and education.
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Additionally business practices in adoption need to be reexamined and revamped. Happy national adoption month! As I read about various events honoring adoption this month and check out the many blogs on the subject I am struck by how much adoption has changed since my husband and I set out to adopt our first child in It's now almost twenty-three years since we adopted my son and almost fifteen since we adopted my daughter. As I reflect on all the change that has occurred since then it is mind-boggling.
What has happened in the world of adoption is such a powerful reflection of these changes. When my son was born in adoption was still mostly closed. I remember that California was beginning to have open adoption.
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There was no internet. Nobody had a website. There was no Google. There was not the huge access to the vast amount of information and opinions that we have today. There were no blogs! Tell them they can search for their birthmothers when they get older, preferably at age eighteen. We are now rocking on the sea of anger at these presumptions. This is creating dramatic and lasting change. There are many common features to most adoptions: loss, grief, fantasies of lives not lived, anger at abandonment.
It is easy to become stuck along the way and even easier to assume that, because there are many common experiences, there is one "correct" way to feel about them. This strain in the current narrative of adoption forecloses on the great variety of emotion and experience that all participants in the adoption have. We need to make space for many voices, most especially the voices of change. Adoptees are working to open records and claim their full identities. Birthmothers are gaining a voice and power in the decision to place their children and maintain relationships with them.
I would like to raise my voice for the changes that adoptive parents are experiencing as the world of adoption opens. I notice that, as the voices of a hurt and anger in both adoptees and birthparents have taken their justifiable place on the stage of adoption, there has developed at the same time a tendency to disparage adoptive parents. While this is not always the case, it occurs often enough to be identified as a theme that deserves to be challenged.
I remember my shock at seeing adoptive parents referred to in some places as "adopters. As we challenge the narratives of the "chosen baby" who can only be grateful he or she was adopted and the insistence that adoption is "best solution" for the children it touches, I would caution that we not swing in the other direction and vilify the many parents who have adopted their children after suffering their own losses and have walked the heroes path to raise them. I adopted my children in the last years before the changes that are now occurring, that is to say in closed adoptions.
As the adoption world has opened I have been challenged to rethink what I was told over twenty years ago. Again, no two situations are the same! In order to do this, I have had to soul search and let go in ways I never imagined years ago when we were given the advice I refer to above. For my other child, questions were put to rest, but the birth family did not want connection and my child was challenged to grieve again. I think these two results of search and reunion serve as reminders to us all that no two situations in adoption are the same. As we ride the tide of change that is opening us all to each other it is so vital to hold in mind that extreme positions and assumptions about the meaning of our adoption experiences do not allow us the room to have our own individual stories and to learn and grow from them.
I run a support groups for adoptive parents. With everyone's permission I set an e-mail chain in motion.
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What followed were rounds of e-mails filled with the incredible wisdom and love of mothers searching for answers for their foreign born children adopted from institutional settings and foster care. Their outpouring of support for each other was filled with thoughtfulness, generosity and compassion.
The first e-mail came, a cry for help: a mother struggling with her three year old daughter, just home from Russia for seven months. She describes her child as crying over everything, defiant and yelling, and saying no to almost every request. She feels worn out and is wondering if she's losing her mind. Any kind of heavy work - like lifting heavy cushions, etc. Lots of structure, with not too many activities in a day Unstructured, creative activities for periods within the routine, including art.
Allowing anger, but not letting it disrupt routines. The ritual of lying down and resting often led to sixty minutes of sleep in mid-day until kindergarten, and it clearly helped her to manage herself. And we have a really early bedtime to this day - lights out at - because we notice if that slips, her behavior does too. Incentives, not consequences Similarly, time-ins, instead of time-outs. I still don't like to leave her alone when she has a tantrum although sometimes I do.
There is something about her needing to be reminded of our connection and love that steadies and calms her more than anything else most of the time. Consistency of care with grown-ups - we found that switching babysitters as seldom as we could was a really good thing, and new people still jar her A body sock. This tool hugs the body and calms the child.
It can be found online. Occupational Therapy is enormously helpful for kids who were under stimulated in institutional settings and who suffer low impulse control Somatic Experiencing is a therapeutic modality that is helpful for children dealing with traumatic beginnings. Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child by Patty Cogan is an incredible resource book Remember: nobody likes their child all the time! Our quest for origin and, by extension, identity is universal to the human experience.
For the twenty-five contributors to Somebody's Child , the topic of adoption is not—and perhaps never can be—a neutral issue. With unique courage, each of them discusses their experience of the adoption process. Some share stories of heartbreak; others have discovered joy; some have searched for closure. Somebody's Child captures the many unforgettable faces and voices of adoption. Somebody's Daughter is the story of nineteen-year-old Sarah Thorson, who was adopted as a baby by a Lutheran couple in the Midwest.
After dropping out of college, she decides to study in Korea and becomes more and more intrigued by her Korean heritage, eventually embarking on a crusade to find her birth mother. Paralleling Sarah's story is that of Kyung-sook, who was forced by difficult circumstances to let her baby be swept away from her immediately after birth, but who has always longed for her lost child. An inspiring true story of the tumultuous nine years Ashley Rhodes-Courter spent in the foster care system, and how she triumphed over painful memories and real-life horrors to ultimately find her own voice. You must mind the one taking care of you, but she's not your mama.
As her mother spirals out of control, Ashley is left clinging to an unpredictable, dissolving relationship, all the while getting pulled deeper and deeper into the foster care system. Painful memories of being taken away from her home quickly become consumed by real-life horrors, where Ashley is juggled between caseworkers, shuffled from school to school, and forced to endure manipulative, humiliating treatment from a very abusive foster family. In this inspiring, unforgettable memoir, Ashley finds the courage to succeed - and in doing so, discovers the power of her own voice.
Between and the mids, several thousand Canadian-born children were adopted by families in the United States. At times, adopting across the border was a strategy used to deliberately avoid professional oversight and take advantage of varying levels of regulation across states and provinces. The Traffic in Babies traces the efforts of Canadian and American child welfare leaders—with intermittent support from immigration officials, politicians, police, and criminal prosecutors—to build bridges between disconnected jurisdictions and control the flow of babies across the Canada-U.
Karen Balcom details the dramatic and sometimes tragic history of cross-border adoptions—from the Ideal Maternity Home case and the Alberta Babies-for-Export scandal to trans-racial adoptions of Aboriginal children. Exploring how and why babies were moved across borders, The Traffic in Babies is a fascinating look at how social workers and other policy makers tried to find the birth mothers, adopted children, and adoptive parents who disappeared into the spaces between child welfare and immigration laws in Canada and the United States.
Three days later a policeman took the little girl, clutching what was now only a fistful of crumbs, to a police station and told her that she'd been abandoned by her mother. Fast-forward almost 20 years and Kim's life is unrecognizable. Adopted by a young New Orleans couple, she spends her youth as one of only two Asian children in her entire community. At the age of 21, she becomes involved with a famous French businessman and suddenly finds herself living in France, mistress over his houses in Provence and Paris, and stepmother to his eight year-old daughter.
Kim takes readers on a lyrical journey from Korea to New Orleans to Paris and Provence, along the way serving forth her favorite recipes.
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- Nicole Chung on Finding Her Birth Parents as an Adoptee - The Atlantic.
A love story at heart, this memoir is about the search for identity and a book that will appeal to anyone who is passionate about love, food, travel, and the ultimate search for self. As an adoptee, do you have mixed feelings about your adoption? If you do, you are not alone —- adoptees often experience complex feelings of grief, anger, and questions about their identity. Sherrie Eldridge is an adoptee and adoption expert, and in this book she draws on her personal experiences and feelings relating to adoption as well as interviews with over 70 adoptees.
Sherrie reveals how you can discover your own unique life purpose and worth, and sets out 20 life-transforming choices which you have the power to make. The choices will help you discover answers about issues such as: Why do I feel guilty when I think about my birth parents? Why can't I talk about the painful aspects of adoption? Where can I gain an unshakable sense of self-esteem? Sherrie also addresses the problem of depression among adoptees and common dilemmas such as if, when and how to contact a birth mother or father.
Nobody's experience is identical, but they all share knowledge of the unexpected bumps along the way. There are emotional highs and lows, process changes and stressors, and reactions from others to handle, but in the end, these families all achieve the ultimate triumph — the addition of a beloved child to their family. The Waiting Child is an extraordinary story of human resilience in the face of tremendous odds. Adopted by an American family at age four, Jaclyn goes to her new home with a great burden. Her new family had to leave behind a little boy who had been under her charge at the Chinese orphanage.
Jaclyn inspires two families, several agencies, and two governments to cooperate to reunite her with "her baby. After reading an article about the thousands of baby girls languishing in Chinese orphanages, Jenny Bowen and her husband adopted a little girl from China and brought her home to Los Angeles, not out of a need to build a family but rather a commitment to save one child. A year later, as she watched her new daughter play in the grass with her friends, thriving in an environment where she knew she was loved, Bowen was overcome with a desire to help the children that she could not bring home.
That very day she created Half the Sky Foundation, an organization conceived to bring love into the life of every orphan in China and one that has actually managed to fulfill its promise. Thanks to Bowen's relentless perseverance through heartbreak and a dose of humor, Half the Sky's goal to bring love the lives of forgotten children comes ever closer. Wish You Happy Forever chronicles Jenny Bowen's personal and professional journey to transform Chinese orphanages — and the lives of the neglected girls who live in them — from a state of quiet despair to one of vibrant promise.
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He grew up among siblings with illnesses and disabilities and, in addition, his brother and sisters are all internationally adopted. Eske writes of their tumultuous coming of age in rural Nebraska that leads to the eventual disintegration of the family. He absorbed their original surroundings and even met their very first caregivers.
When did you start writing My Family? While reading your book, I wondered if you discovered why you traveled while you were writing or if you had a set goal and purpose all along? I think it started off as an urge to travel and explore these places that were so life-changing and life-starting for my family.
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Then the purpose started to take shape once I learned more and started making sense of what I was experiencing. What are some of the unique challenges of international adoption? Is the race consciousness of America an issue? Race is only a problem because society makes it one. You honestly stop noticing. But yes, my siblings growing up in Nebraska 20 years ago did have to deal with stupidity, so it was a challenge. You write about how your family fell apart.
Do you have any regrets with the role you played in shaping your family? Oh, of course. I could and should have done a lot more—still probably should—to reach out to my siblings.