Governor Christie, Can You Read 3 Little Pages, Please?

by Luanne

Julie Stromberg’s story “Let’s Pretend,” in Perpetual Child: Dismantling the Stereotype (Adult Adoptee Anthology), takes the reader inside the experience of an adoptee who learns that her birth certificate is a lie. Her adoptive parents are listed as her  birth parents. With that lie in place, how can she trust the rest of the information on the document? What if everything else about it is a lie?

Although Stromberg is now an adult adoptee in reunion, with a family and a successful career, she still feels as if she is stuck in a game of “Let’s Pretend.”

Like many of the pieces in this anthology, Stromberg’s is short. Like the others, it hits me hard and takes me time to absorb all the thoughts and feelings it conjures up.

To think that adults are being deprived of knowledge about themselves is medieval.

Maybe Governor Christie should read Stromberg’s story. He has until April 28 to decide on the New Jersey Adoptees’ Birthright Bill that would give adopted adults over 18 access to their full original birth certificates. He vetoed a version in 2011, and he’s been dragging his heels on a decision on this one.

So far, only seven states –Alabama, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Ohio, Oregon, and Illinois –have passed access legislation for adopted adults since 1999. I hope that Governor Christie will allow New Jersey to be the eighth. Then we need 42 more states!

Adoptee rights advocates have stiff opposition in this fight.  You know what groups are against adoptees having access to their own records? New Jersey Right to Life, the state Catholic Conference, the New Jersey State Bar Association, and the American Civil Liberties Union New Jersey chapter.

That’s pretty bad when the ACLU doesn’t think adoptees should have rights. And how does giving adoptees the rights to which they have a right! affect abortion? Do you really think in this “day and age” that the stigma of illegitimate births is a big deal? Do you know what the statistics are for births occurring outside of marriage today? More than half of babies are born to unmarried women.

The whole thing is ridiculous. It’s 2014. Why are adoptees being left back in the days of repression and secrecy?

 

 

 

Should I Read The Excerpt in the Anthology or the Whole Book?

A few carefully chosen sections from Catana Tully’s memoir, Split at the Root: A Memoir of Love and Lost Identity, were selected for inclusion in Perpetual Child: Dismantling the Stereotype (Adult Adoptee Anthology). I’ve reviewed Tully’s book before at “Split Between Privilege and Denial, The Truth Brings Wholeness.” Check out the review for a better idea about this important book for anyone interested in adoption identity issues.

When you read this section in Perpetual Child you can get a sample of Tully’s powers of description and the fascinating and original details of her life story.  The selections have been very carefully chosen and arranged to tell their own story within this anthology.

It might even be better, though, just to skip this section and order your copy of Tully’s book now. Read the whole thing. You won’t be satisfied with this excerpt once you see how caught up you get in her story.

Back to the portion in the anthology. There is a haunting (and gut-wrenching) scene in here. It so clearly shows what it’s like for an adoptee to have her boundaries trampled by others and to be forced to discuss in public things she doesn’t understand in her own mind and heart. In this scene, the mature adult Tully is interrogated mercilessly by a six-year-old demanding to know about Tully’s birth mother and her origins. She relentlessly hammers the woman with questions that serve to emphasize how little Tully has dealt with these issues. This child is both her own real person, but also a representation of all the children and adults and institutions that perform similar aggression on adoptees.

Read Tully here or read her in her own book. But READ HER.

A Focused Mind, A Bursting Heart

Karen Pickell’s story “The Letter,” in Perpetual Child: Dismantling the Stereotype (Adult Adoptee Anthology), takes the reader on an emotional ride through the narrator’s mind.

The scenario is simple, chronicling the trip to mail a letter.  The narrator is an adult adoptee with children of her own. Through a “Search Angel,” she has found the name and address of her original mother and has carefully composed a letter to her. The story begins when the narrator is getting dressed in the morning, the letter already sealed, stamped, and addressed.

The narrative is addressed to this mother, the intended recipient of the letter. In one beautiful rushing movement, like a wave that dissolves into another wave which then dissolves into another, the narrator shares her varied thoughts about the letter, her mother, her adoption, her own needs and wants, and the politics of adoption.

If that sounds like everything including the kitchen sink, it doesn’t feel that way. It’s all so seamless, so intense, and so well thought out.

The narrator is understanding about the reasons her mother wouldn’t have been able to keep her. She understands about being a Catholic girl, about what it might have been like in 1968, about how her grandparents could have had a hand in the turn the story took.

Her mind worries through a list of all that can go wrong with the letter itself. It could fall under her car tire if she throws it in the mailbox. It could be opened by a man in her mother’s house–someone who will throw it away.  Her mother might throw it away herself, without even reading it.

If her mind sounds a little obsessive, that makes sense. The narrator has been waiting 37 years for this moment. She’s nervous, and it shows in her thinking.

Underneath all that thinking is her bursting heart.

As the waves move forward, each one breaking gently into the next, the suspense builds.  Will she actually be able to mail the letter?

I guess you’ll have to read this story yourself. Did I mention that it brought me to tears? I suspect it will bring you to tears, too.

An Invitation to Contribute to “Letters for Them”

If you could write a letter to your birth mother or birth father, what would it say?

Here’s an invitation for adoptees to do just that–through a project by an adoptee at Rhode Island School of Design:

 

Hello!

I’m Robin, a junior studying Graphic Design at the Rhode Island School of Design. I recently launched a project called Letters for Them. This is to be an ongoing project, and I’m hoping some of you will join me in this work.

Kindergartner Robin and her mom, 1998

Kindergartner Robin and her mom, 1998

A little background about me and my work, I was adopted when I was eight months old from Hefei, China, and as a young child I always struggled to fully understand my story. As I’ve grown up I found that art helped to work through and express the complexity of thoughts and emotions. Even now at RISD, I’m constantly looking for ways to explore my personal history in my work.

For a while now I’ve had this idea…It all began when I found some old drawings I had made as a kid (maybe six or seven years old). They were letters that I had written to my birthparents when I was first beginning to understand where I came from. They were never sent as neither I nor my mom know my birthparents nor had any way of contacting/finding them.

One of Robin's childhood letters to her birth mother

One of Robin’s childhood letters to her birth mother

My mom and I went back to China between my senior year of high school and my first year at RISD. While there, we were able to visit my orphanage, which has changed quite a lot. We saw my file, which as we had expected, offered no new information as to who these unknown people were/are. Since then I continue thinking about what I’d want to say to them if I ever did have the chance to meet them. Letters for Them came as an idea that perhaps other adoptees think about this as well. Wouldn’t it be cool if we all had a common place to send these technically unsendable letters? Thus, Letters for Them was born.

Leter received for "Letters for Them"

Leter received for “Letters for Them”

Letters for Them is an open invitation to any and all adoptees. No matter how old you are or where you were adopted, whether you know your birthparents or not, if you are an adoptee, you are invited to participate. This is meant to be a public, open space for adoptees to write to their birthfathers and/or birthmothers.

To learn more about the project and ways to participate/get involved please visit: http://www.lettersforthem.com/.

Thanks!
Robin

Who is Peter Pan in the Adoption Story?

This is my third post about Perpetual Child: Dismantling the Stereotype (Adult Adoptee Anthology). Lynn Grubb’s essay “Mother May I?” is a thought-provoking reflection on the perpetual child syndrome.

In this piece, Grubb structures her personal experience as a how-to manual for a game. Only it’s not a game, but her very life.

The government and the adoption agencies and her (birth) mother have all conspired to keep the narrator a perpetual child. She’s not allowed to have any knowledge of her origins unless they decide she can know. She describes the hoops she has to jump through to find her mother.

Ultimately, she does find her mother, when she’s past 40, and she asks about her father. Her mother says she has no information and, anyway, he’s a “bad man.”

The narrator tries to find the father through a DNA test, but who she finds is someone else with a dead-end.

The last part of the essay describes the feelings of rejection that she got from her mother’s decision.  It wasn’t a “loving choice” or a “desperate decision” to the narrator.

Grubb describes feeling like a perpetual child in a way that I can’t stop thinking about:

Realize that you are similar to Peter Pan in that you can never grow up according to the authorities inside the adoption world.

In the adoption world of agency, adoptee, adoptive parent, birth parent, government, and the media, only the adoptee is Peter Pan. And Peter Pan is a fantasy story, not real life. It’s time that Peter is allowed out of Neverland and into the real world with knowledge of his origins and background and his larger connections in that world.

Art from Adoption

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m taking great care in reading Perpetual Child: Dismantling the Stereotype (Adult Adoptee Anthology). Last time I talked about Amanda H.L. Transue-Woolston’s essay, “Discovering My Imposed Age & the Effects of the Institutionalization of Perpetual Childhood.” The second piece in the book is a lyric poem. As a poet, it thrilled me to find such excellent poetry collected alongside essays.

The poem is “Everyone Loves An Orphan,” and it was written by Nicky Sa-eun Schildkraut, a Korean adoptee. According to her website, her bio (there is also one in the back of the book) looks like this:

I am a poet, scholar and teacher who teaches creative writing and college composition in Los Angeles. As a Korean-American adoptee, my creative and scholarly work reflect an ongoing interest to explore the emotional and historical aspects of the Korean diaspora as well as transnational adoption.  Previously, I collaborated on avante-garde music and art projects with composers and visual artists. I have advanced degrees in poetry, (M.F.A. degree in poetry, 2002 and M.A. in Literature, 2010) and a Ph.D. degree in Literature & Creative Writing from the University of Southern California (2012).  My first book of poetry, Magnetic Refrain, was published in February 2013 by Kaya Press. I am currently completing a second book, lyrical and narrative poems Until Qualified For Pearl and a non-fiction critical book about adoption narratives in literature and film.

The premise, if you will, of “Everyone Loves An Orphan” is the story is of an orphaned child “born from a field of weeds / they later called lilies.” She learns to fantasize a story about her origins. Questions–such as was her mother the mistress of a married man, did her mother work in a garment factory, and so on–came to her, but eventually she discovers that  a deception surrounds her very origins–that she wasn’t an orphan at all.

The child was adopted by a family in a strange land.

. . . you’ll learn

another language. In your sleep,

you’re already talking

to yourself, filling in

the rest of the story.

Once upon a time,

there lived a family . . .

Notice that the poem is written in 2nd person (you, rather than I or she). I believe this creates a distance that almost frames the story, thus drawing focus. It creates the illusion of objectivity, but increases the poignancy.

This poem isn’t a simple display of emotion, but a complex and beautifully written exploration that forces the reader to think and feel more deeply about what it means for a child to grow up with lies and secrets.

Do You Have Hidden Bias about Adoption?

I’ve been reading Perpetual Child: Dismantling the Stereotype (Adult Adoptee Anthology) very slowly. It’s hard to read it and not feel as if slammed in the stomach by the reality that our culture and, yes, people see adult adoptees as children. I also feel the need to spend time processing what each page has to tell me, an adoptive parent, so I am resisting my usual speed reading.

Amanda H.L. Transue-Woolston, in her essay “Discovering My Imposed Age & the Effects of the Institutionalization of Perpetual Childhood,” describes her doctor saying, “‘I do physicals on prospective adoptive parents all the time when they adopt children. I guess I never imagined those children all grown-up.’”

This statement reflects the way we approach children, in general–that they are kids. What if we, instead, saw them as adults-in-the-making? If more child abusers saw them as the latter, they might think first before abusing someone who will grow up and look back at them with an adult mind. Even regular decent parents might put a little more thought into each interaction if they truly saw their children as adults-in-the making.

So why do adult adoptees get seen as kids and not adults-who-were-once-children?

According to Transue-Woolston, our laws surrounding adoption have institutionalized perpetual childhood. By not giving adult adoptees the choice to find their own original identities, the government is forcing them to live as forever children–people not qualified to know what the rest of humanity takes for granted about themselves.

She asks us to examine our subconscious biases.

So let me ask you a question. Most state governments “think” that the privacy of birth or original mothers is more important than that adult adoptees learn the truth of their origins. Do you agree with the government? And if you do, what is your hidden bias that makes you automatically assume that mindset is correct?

Adoption: Teary-Eyed Blessing or Horrific Abuse Factory

by Luanne

You know those happy adoption stories that the media loves to feature? Adopted woman meets birth father just before he dies and all is well. Yay! Five siblings have been in foster care for three years with no hope of reunification. They are adopted by a middle-aged librarian and all is well. Yay!

The media loves those stories and so, too, do we. By “we” I mean our culture. We eat up this stuff. It makes us feel as if all is well with the world.

We don’t look behind the stories to see that this woman had to wait until she was 55 to meet half her DNA.  She lived through being a baby, a child, a teen, a young woman, a pilot, a mother, and now a first-time grandmother without this knowledge. Without knowing how he felt about her or if he even knew about her.  Without ever meeting him.  We don’t like to think about what those kids have gone through in order to have this happy “ending” (which it is not–an ending or unendingly happy either) with the librarian. Or what baggage they all (librarian included) bring to the table.

On the other hand, the media loves horrible stories about adoption. The child who is locked in a cupboard, fed only scraps, and eventually discovered weighing thirty pounds at age eleven. The child of a celebrity who either dies of a drug overdose or accuses her adoptive parent of abuse who is always identified as “adopted son” or “adopted daughter” by the press, as if that is a title or name.

By the way, all my examples except the celebrity ones are made up, but representative of what I’ve read.

Why does the media do this? Apparently it is what we demand. We want these superficial and dangerous images of adoption. We want to tear up with joy and we want to fill with outrage.

What we don’t seem to want to do is think rationally and with common sense about adoption.

What would happen if we did? What would change about how our culture sees adoption? And how we treat adoptee rights and issues?

What do you think?

Camp for Siblings Split Up in Foster Care

Did you know that over 70% of siblings placed in foster care are separated from one another and have limited ability to interact?

In some cases, programs like the one above provide the only opportunity for these siblings to connect and develop a bond that has proven to be critical in positively impacting their life’s path.

From someone I know who is involved in this program:

This summer marks our 10th year of offering our Camp to Belong, MA program, a week long camping experience in the Berkshires, and we thought it was an appropriate time to celebrate this milestone.  I hope you will consider attending our 10th Anniversary Celebration which is designed to be a night filled with good food and drink, lively entertainment and also provide you with a glimpse in to the experiences our campers enjoy during their week at Camp to Belong, MA.

If you live in the Boston area, you can register for the event by clicking on this link below. There are also opportunities to promote your socially responsible business. They are looking for sponsors!

Register Now!

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Increase of kids in the babybox, same number as always in the garbage | Tales of Wonderlost

Recently, both Kasey and I have posted here about the Korean babybox. A Korean-American adoptee living in Seoul writes the blog Tales of Wonderlost. Thanks to Kasey sharing this post, here’s what this blogger has to say about the subject:

Despite claims that the babybox saves lives, infanticides in Korea are continuing…

Abandonments had been going steadily down for three years before the babybox was created. After the babybox was created, abandonments have gone steadily up. In other words, the babybox encourages abandonment as a legitimate form of child welfare. Women may be pressured into abandoning their child this way by boyfriends or parents…

Despite the fact that there was a small, yet diminishing, child abandonment problem for years and the babybox was made in 2009, we heard nothing from the adoption agencies about this until 2012, when their business became more regulated by the Special Adoption Law.

We did hear about abandonment from the adoption agencies, however, less than two months after the law was implemented. It means that they and their supporters did not wait to see the effect of the law enforcement. Usually in public policy, you have to wait a year in order to evaluate an intervention. Instead, the adoption agencies and their supporters artificially announced that there was a crisis and then proceeded to create one. They have actually created the problem that they say they are trying to prevent. [by creating a media circus which has brought more and more attention to the babybox, making mothers think this is a viable option]

Abandonments have risen. This is true. However, abandonments did not rise in a statistically significant way directly following the implementation of the Special Adoption Law. They shot up after legislation was introduced to re-revise the Special Adoption Law and there was high media attention on the box. This began in January 2013.

READ MORE HERE:

Increase of kids in the babybox, same number as always in the garbage | Tales of Wonderlost.

COME TO FIND OUT, THE BABYBOX HAS MADE ITS WAY TO THE CZECH REPUBLIC, TOO.

Česky: Venkovní strana babyboxu

Česky: Venkovní strana babyboxu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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