Paris Review – “Every Adoption is a Ghost Story”: An Interview with Jennifer Gilmore by Amy Benfer

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Here’s an interview of Jennifer Gilmore who wrote the novel The Mothers about open adoption from the perspective of a prospective adoptive mother.

The interviewer, Amy Benfer, once had almost placed her daughter with adoptive parents and changed her mind at the last minute.

Paris Review – “Every Adoption is a Ghost Story”: An Interview with Jennifer Gilmore, Amy Benfer.

A “Fair” Way of Encouraging Foster Care Adoption?

by Luanne

Have you ever been to an adoption fair?  If you haven’t, maybe you’ve seen one on the television news.  You know those tear-jerker short stories they run to make you feel good about watching their network?  It would be one of those–designed to make soft hearts feel that something is being done for foster children looking for forever homes.

But are they a good idea?  I’m sure there are pros and cons.  It’s good to encourage prospective parents to consider adopting older children and sibling groups. Nothing like having someone in your face to press home the fact that it might be possible to make the lives of these kids better.

I get an image, though, of the puppies and kitties which are brought to Petsmart on Saturday morning to find them homes.  That glass case of tiny kittens curled up together is an adorable sight, but look closely, and the cats are overwhelmed and frightened by what’s going on.  They get picked up and put down and there are swarms of strangers looking them over.

But at least cats aren’t being gawked at and handled by their own kind.  I can’t even imagine what it’s like for a human child to go through this experience.  After all, most of them are old enough to understand that they are being inspected and evaluated by strangers.  Their deepest hopes and fears are stimulated by the event.

The Christian Science Monitor published an article by Alicia Morga entitled “Adoption fairs are speed dating for kids. Families need ‘arranged marriages’ instead” a couple of years ago (March 4, 2011).  In the article, Morga describes her own experience with an adoption fair.

When I was ten years old in the early 80s, I participated in an adoption fair. My family of thirteen – two parents and eleven children – was dismantled when my youngest brother died of malnutrition. I became a ward of the state of California at the age of three. By the age of ten, I was a veteran of several foster homes and, with my options dwindling, was residing at a group home – a sort of juvenile hall with the décor of a dentist’s office – where they stick the “hard” cases.

Being Hispanic and older, my stock was depreciating fast, so my social worker lined me up with about 20 other kids at an adoption fair held at the Los Angeles Arboretum.

There among the trees and in full view of the Queen Anne Cottage, at the time also the backdrop for the popular television show, “Fantasy Island,” a carnival atmosphere was devised. There were popcorn, games of chance, and games of skill. Couples and families looking to adopt milled about. Ricardo Montalbán, the star of “Fantasy Island,” was rumored to be making an appearance.

The goal of the fair was clear to me, even if it wasn’t explicitly stated; I was supposed to sell myself. I stood next to a tree and did my best to appear good.

For a while no one approached me, and I watched other kids attempt to entice the Adopters with strong throws or pretty smiles. The fair encouraged mixing by holding games of leapfrog and partnered up Adopters with foster kids. Finally realizing, similar to a game of musical chairs, that parents were being snatched up, I waded in and leap-frogged a woman while launching a charm offensive on her husband.

I was all good manners and lots of smiles. The husband was brown like me, so I stood close to him hoping he would see himself in me and she, being of a lighter hue, would see what she liked in him in me. We made small talk while I walked the fine line between being pleasing and being obsequious, being engaging and being obnoxious, being energetic and being frantic. We spent about 40 minutes together.

The couple called my social worker a few days later and expressed interest in adopting me. Technically I was given a choice about whether I wanted to accept them as a placement. I say technically, because it’s hardly a choice when your social worker is telling you to get with the program or you’re going back to the group home.

Before I knew it and before the adoption was finalized, as is typical, I was moved into their house. It was pretty clear early on that things weren’t going well. There were red flags. But much like when you move in with a boyfriend, breaking up becomes harder to do. Plus, in the immortal words of my social worker, this was “my last chance.”

Turns out I “chose” adoptive parents who were wholly incapable of handling a ten year-old stranger in their home, much less their lives. I was a child, but I had already had a whole history – one that didn’t square with their expectations for a cute young girl, but was more akin to a distrustful, jaded old maid. It was a choice for me that resulted in some very difficult years until I turned 18 and moved out.

I’m not sure what the answer is because obviously it’s important to find homes with loving adoptive parents for children who need them and want them.

What do you think about adoption fairs?  Are they a positive development, a necessary evil or an evil which should be abolished?

Some Thoughts On Adoption: Part Two

Here’s an interesting post from a blogger who was adopted. Lots to think about and discuss here . . . .

 

The Importance of Story

by Luanne

“People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around.”
― Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad

Everybody and everything has a story.  According to Terry Pratchett, we are all shaped by stories.  This quote might mean that reading a variety of stories helps develop us into who we are.  But, in fact, we are shaped even more by the stories which are unique to our selves.

We create stories out of our complex lives.  To understand ourselves and others around us, we tell ourselves stories that make some sense out of it all.

As Patrick Rothfuss puts it:

“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”

Most of us come to our consciousness with family stories told to us by relatives.  Even in families which are reticent to talk about the past, there is a pattern which is story in hearing that one has the same stubborn streak as one’s father and that he has hammer toes because his mother couldn’t afford to buy him new shoes when his feet grew.  These elements become part of the story of the child.

Some people have stories which are missing big gaps.  Imagine having amnesia in your fourth grade year.  You can remember the rest of your life, but there is a hole where an entire year should be.  Many adoptees have a hole larger than this.  If an adoptee was not part of an open adoption, it’s probable that she was not given much information about who her birth parents were, what their stories were, and what their lives were like when she was not yet born.

The person who was adopted might not know anything about her own birth or what her life was like as an infant.  When there is information shared, it can be sparse and not tied into a narrative.  It might not even be accurate.  It could be lies.

I was not adopted, and I have been told plenty of family stories.  I grew up with family stories and photos.  Many of the dots were connected for me.  Recently I’ve done some genealogical research, and it astonishes me how some of the stories I was told turned out not to be accurate.  However, the most fundamental information has been true, unlike that for some adoptees.

My children were adopted as babies in international adoptions.  We received some pages of information from the agency.  Mainly, we learned about their medical exam results while living in the orphanage (son) or with the foster family (daughter). We learned their weight and health when they were brought to Holt. But there is also information on the charts listing the ages and education levels of their birth parents, and what areas they came from.  When we read these pages with our case worker, she filled in information, providing us with story fragments.

I took all the information we had been given—both written and oral, guesses and facts—and wrote up stories for both children, providing them with a story which pre-dates their lives in our family.

It seemed important that they have their own stories.

“[T]here’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”
― Mitch Albom, For One More Day

Think of this: “behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin” [my italics].

So while it seems important that the kids have their own stories, these stories had to begin with the stories of their birth mothers.

Next time you wonder why many adoptees search for their birth families and wish to to learn information about these families, remember that you are who you are because you have your own story.  They are only searching for part of their story, a story that is important to their very identity.

There’s Really a Magazine About Foster Care?

by Luanne

Yup, there really is a magazine about Foster Care.  It’s called Foster Focus.    

They have a great website, as well, and a fan page on Facebook.

You can subscribe for 12 issues for $25 if you go through Paypal.

Here is a reprint from their “about” page on the website:

Judges, lawyers, caseworkers, advocates, foster parents, adoptive parents, foster care alumni, guidance counselors, teachers, principles and current foster youth all read Foster Focus. The go-to source of foster care news and information for anyone involved in anyway with the foster care industry.

Foster Focus is a monthly magazine dealing exclusively and entirely with the Foster Care Industry.  The core of the magazine are seven monthly featured sections, Anonymous FacesAsk a ProEditor’s NotesFamily AdventuresGuest Speaker, What Do They DO? A nonprofit profile and Lawmakers.  These sections coupled with cover stories and coverage of events focused on foster care will, in fact make for the most in depth view of the Foster Care Industry ever published.  Accomplished doctors, attorneys and psychiatrists and New York Times bestselling authors make up the writing staff for Foster Focus they add credibility and project a sense of understanding to our readers. A range of stories and subjects are covered, highlights include; interviews with Country star Jimmy Wayne and From the NFL’s New Orleans Saints Jimmy Graham, exclusive stories by Dr.John DeGarmo, Rhonda Sciortino, FCAA CEO Adam Robe and Casey Family Planning CEO William Bell.

Another service offered by Foster Focus is the website, which can be viewed at http://www.FosterFocusMag.com, It has excerpts of the magazines authors and highlights of the monthly sections and allows non-subscribers the opportunity to subscribe via the internet.

 

Thoughts On A Transracial Adoptee’s Identity In Relation To Authority & Voice

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In my piece “To JK Rowling, From Cho Chang,” I misrepresented both Chinese and Korean naming practices. First, though I knew that Cho and Chang could be Chinese names, I phrased the joke in a way that did not show that information. Second – Chang, if it is a Korean name, should be pronounced Chong/Jong (장). Unfortunately, this line got turned into a gifset (gotta love Tumblr) and it understandably offended many people. Though I was trying to prove that Cho Chang’s name was stereotypical and badly researched, I ended up perpetuating further ignorance.

 

 

But this post is not about my embarrassment or guilt. I’ve done my best to address my mistake in my subsequent blog posts and response video.

 

 

This post is talking about why I made this mistake, and how it relates to my identity as a transracial adoptee.**

I grew up in a…

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Off-Broadway Makes The Call, About Adoption and Race, Opening April 14 – Mobile Playbill.com

Guest blogger Lisa Ercolano sent us a copy of this Playbill article.  We can’t wait to read the reviews on this production about international adoption.  If any readers get a chance to see the play, we’d love to read what you think about it.

Kerry Butler, Kelly AuCoin, Eisa Davis Make The Call, About Adoption and Race, Opening April 14 – Mobile Playbill.com.  The text images below are copies of this linked article.

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Click on the photo below for a different article about the production.

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Kerry Butler, Russell G. Jones, Crystal A. Dickinson, Kelly AuCoin and Eisa Davis
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

An Adoptee Finds Some Answers

by Luanne

Count on Steve Hartman for some wonderful stories on his CBS Evenings News segment, “On the Road.”  The episode I saw Friday (April 12, 2013) was about international adoption, war, a baby, and a hero.

Click here for an inspiring and heart-warming story of a woman born in Vietnam and adopted in the United States.  Kimberly M. Miller is president of a non-profit organization that helps veterans.  But she started out as a baby in war-torn Vietnam.  She searched for her roots and what she found out will make you tear up.

Click on the photo below for an article about Kim in NYDailyNews.com.

The Long Story in Short Takes: Matthew Salesses’ I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying

16256715We asked a new MN blogger (tinyprivatejet) to review Korean adoptee Matthew Salesses wonderful book I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying. The blogger loved it, and gave it a big thumbs up!

The short short story has been around through the literary ages, brevity and verbosity taking turns in fashion.  The term Flash Fiction arose with the new millennia and the dowdy “short short story” emerged reborn as the righteous Flash Fiction.  And we like it.

Fancy modern monikers aside, it is often within mundanity that we live the small episodes that comprise our modern life.  Further, within the person next to us, we find different versions of ourselves.  And so it is, in the pithy yet detachedly casual poetics of Matthew Salesses flash fiction novel, I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying, that we see a life in flash fiction.  Herein lies the story of a lost…

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Statistically Impossible: What Would You Ask?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today is Father Friday rather than Foster Friday 😉

Statistically Impossible: What Would You Ask?.

As you can see, by the screen shot above, the blog Statistically Impossible is written by a birth father who “stuck around.”  What a great read!  In this post, he asks what types of questions you would have for him if you were attending a presentation he is giving at the adoption agency.  Just click the link above or the screenshot itself to visit his blog.

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