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

Adoption: Teary-Eyed Blessing or Horrific Abuse Factory

by Marisha and 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 of our examples except the celebrity ones are made up, but representative of what we’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?

What About Children Who Were Adopted by Koreans?

Guest blogger Kasey Buecheler is still living and studying in Korea. She is involved in an organization which seems quite unique to me. InKAS Mentoring: Normalizing Domestic Adoption in Korea offers a mentoring program to domestic adoptees in Korea. The service is provided by international adoptees like Kasey who want to help change the situation for Koreans who were adopted within Korea.

We spend a lot of time talking in the adoption world about the first choice for children is to stay with their biological families. The second choice is usually to keep a child in her own culture, in her country of birth, rather than sending her to a family in another country. But in Korea there is still a stigma associated with adoption.  Kasey and her peers want that to change and in the meantime they are helping other adoptees.  Here is information from their website.

For international adoptees, the concept of a “closed” adoption is difficult to grasp. While Korean children who are adopted internationally are met with unconditional love, domestically adopted children face a much different environment — one filled with secrecy, shame, and varying degrees of societal scorn. The government is trying to promote domestic adoption and eliminate the secrecy that perpetuates the stigma behind it; but unfortunately, Korean society and its emphasis on bloodlines needs another push. InKAS, with its ground-breaking mentoring program, aims to provide just that.
Through InKAS‘ “Mentoring Program: Promoting Awareness of Korean Domestic Adoption” we provide a safe atmosphere for domestically adopted children. While all of our mentees have had “open” adoptions, they still confront circumstances largely unacknowledged and unsupported by Korean society. We want domestic adoptees to feel comfortable in their own skin, never feel the need to conceal a part of their identity, and push for a more tolerant society that is open to all types of families.
Our program pairs an adult international adoptee with a teenage domestic adoptee, as well as the mentee’s adoptive parents and, in some cases, a bi-lingual Korean translator. Through an overnight retreat and individually-scheduled meetups, mentors and mentees form a strong and long-lasting bond. This bond, though new, lays the foundation for conversations about greater triumphs and deeper struggles (either about adoption or anything) in the future.
Sadly, due to budgetary constraints, our end of the year dinner (Friday, December 13th) will be the last mentoring program event InKAS can fund.
We want to continue the events, so we can continue to build strong relationships with our mentees, make them feel comfortable with their 언니s and 형s, and be proud of who they are. In order to do this, we need your generosity.
Once in January, and once in February, we will have large-group gatherings in Seoul. The itineraries haven’t been decided yet, but they will be one-day events filled with food, fun, and maybe a theatrical performance. A lot of the programming depends on how much we receive in donations.
Your donations will enable us to continue doing the work we love and give greater hope to those we serve. By investing in our mentors, you’ll not only be contributing to the continuation of this program, you’ll also be sending a message to our mentees. The continuation of this program will show the mentees, as well as their parents, that the international community does not disapprove of their situation, will not shy away from it, and will not buckle under societal pressures. Donation or not, your consideration and conscientiousness has already planted the seed for a shift in perceptions on domestic adoption.On behalf of InKAS, and everyone participating in this program now and in the future, thank you so much.
Click here to make a donation!

Yae-song and Katelyn were a great team during our balloon race!

If you would like to help these young people mentor other young people and make the world a little better for some adoptees, you can donate here.

The Education of Empty Nesters

by Luanne

Usually when I sit down to write a blog post it writes itself. It’s not that hard to look back at how adoption issues touched my family when we were younger. It’s not difficult to figure out where I stand on contemporary adoption issues, especially after doing some research and reading other blogs and articles.

But I’m not sure how to write this post because the territory feels so uncharted. I’m talking about being the parent of adult adoptees. Maybe this blog post is to sort out this role in my head.

Like all parents, adoptive parents grow into their roles and those roles change as the children get older. The parent of a baby is different from the parent of a young child is different from the parent of a teen.

But what about the parent of an adult? Isn’t that where we’re supposed to wipe our hands, satisfied that we did the best job we knew how to at the time? We can say have a good life, call me a couple of times a week, and I’ll see you on the next holiday!

 

I’m starting to think it’s not quite like that for the parents of adult adoptees.  At least it hasn’t been for us.

While my kids were growing up, my husband and I knew adoption was a big issue and that doctors and counselors and teachers didn’t credit it with being as “big” an issue as we felt it was—for adoptees, not for parents. These adults seemed to look at things through the lens of parenting, not of growing up as an adopted person. Sometimes hubby and I would grumble to each other that so-and-so didn’t really get it. And sometimes we would wonder if we were over-estimating the influence of adoption on human emotions and identity and personality formation.

What’s strange is that although we did recognize that adoption was a key element to who our kids were, we still just didn’t get it. But that’s also because our kids didn’t get it. They didn’t understand that adoption had an effect on them, and they didn’t realize that it could be behind—or partially behind—some problems that they had.

What had to happen first was that our kids had to grow up. Then, as adults, they began to learn more about themselves.  But they can’t do that completely on their own during the most stressful years—the years just past high school and college where people decide who they are and what they will do with their lives.  Hubby and I had to learn this new territory with them. We couldn’t do it for them.  We couldn’t even help them do it. But we had to go through our own process alongside them and be there for them in any way necessary. We have to go through process. I’m correcting the tense because we’re still going through it.

This stage for the adoptee might not come until decades later for some, but I would argue that in many cases that is because the parents weren’t taking this journey with their child. In today’s adoptive families, there is often times so much more knowledge and understanding than there was in past decades. That means that a lot of parents of children today will be parents of adults in not too many years, wondering as hubby and I have how to negotiate this new territory.

Maybe we need something in place that helps guide older teens and adult adoptees in their 20s—and their parents as well—in learning the role of adoption in their own character development and relationships.

Do you think it’s possible to create support for newly adult adoptees and their parents?

What Happens After the Headlines

A thought-provoking post. If you’re not sure the blogger is correct, look at the image!

An Invitation to Parents of Adult Adoptees

by Luanne

Guest blogger Lisa and I are at the stage where our children are adults. We can’t find a private Facebook group (or any, for that matter) for Parents of Adult Adoptees. So we are proposing to start one IF there is enough interest.

What seems amazing at this point is that their problems as adult adoptees at times seem larger than when they were children. And their relationship with their adoption changes, too. What they feel and think at 13 is not the same as at 18 and not the same as at 24 or at 29. Who knows what it will be like as they age into their thirties and beyond.  We want to be knowledgeable about ways to be supportive to them.

Here’s your invitation:

If you have older kids, 17, 18 and above, would you like to meet in a Facebook private group to discuss issues relating to our adult adoptees in a supportive environment? If you do, ask to join here. We can’t wait to see you over there!

I’M ONE OF THE BAD GUYS

by Luanne

The more I’ve learned about the world of adoption, the more I feel myself (an adoptive mother) an advocate for adoptee rights. I’ve become more aware of the situation of birth parents and, I hope, more sensitive to them, as well. Much of my time reading blogs and articles and sharing this information is related to adoptee issues.

But today I want to write about something else.

With the wonderful new movements pressing for adoptee rights, it does sometimes feel that with the shifting viewpoints, I am seeing a growing wave which demonizes adoptive parents in general. The articles about “re-homing” have reinforced this trend.

While there are bad people in every group, all adoptive parents are not bad people or bad parents. Many of our adoption laws and institutions are fraught with injustices and callous disregard for the children and for birth parents. Too many are interested in the money that can be made from a trio (child, BP, AP) in need.

But that’s not the individual APs. I am here to speak up for the thousands of good people who parent children by adoption. This is for them. (I in no way mean to diminish what the adoptive child goes through when I say the following).

When the adoption process and/or prior life events harm a child, the people who are there to help the child through their troubles are the adoptive parents.

When a child has behavior problems at home and school, it’s the APs who are there to deal with the fallout and get the child help. When a child has anger issues, the APs are the main recipients of the anger and sometimes abuse. When a teen has addictions, the APs go through emotional suffering and get help for the child. When the child is an adult and issues relating to adoption flare up, the APs are still there for the adult child.

We APs give our hearts to our children; our hearts bleed for them. We also give a huge percentage of the time we have on earth to them. We sweat and cry for them. Our minds and lives are transformed to fit the new family that has been created. We don’t turn our backs on our children, no matter how bad things can get. We never give up. We are there for them until we die.

Thanks for listening . . . .

Millions Touched by Adoption

Adoption Search and Reunion

There are approximately 5 million adoptees, which are in the center, 10 million birth parents and 10 million adoptive parents, add brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, etc., and at least 135,000,000 people are affected by adoption.

This is NOT counting spouses, children, grandchildren, in-laws, or friends of adoptees.

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Fla. social worker finds unlikely home for troubled foster child – CBS News Video

This CBS evening news story really touched me.

Fla. social worker finds unlikely home for troubled foster child – CBS News Video.

Here’s a 2nd article:

http://young.house.gov/press-release/representative-young-congratulates-eckerd-adoption-specialist-connie-going-angel

Reunion Between Birthmother and Child She Couldn’t Keep: A Review

by Luanne

Cover of "Reunion: A Year in Letters Betw...

Cover via Amazon

On the advice of Carrie Mulligan @CCMFeltHats, I read Reunion: A Year in Letters Between a Birthmother and the Daughter She Couldn’t Keep. I’m so glad she mentioned it because I hadn’t heard about the book before. What an experience!

In 1996, Katie Hern, a 27-year-old woman who had been adopted domestically, located her birth mother, Ellen Carlson, and initiated contact. They began their reunion through a series of letters and then emails and eventually met in person.

Because both Katie and Ellen are excellent writers, they allow readers into their lives, their personalities, and their emotions in ways that left me feeling as if I knew them both personally and had been witness to their reunion.

Although I prefer Jaye Roth’s image of a Rubik’s cube as a metaphor for adoption, this book discusses the adoption triad or triangle because of how Katie negotiates her new relationship with Ellen, while handling her position in the family she grew up with. Since I am an adoptive mom, I am the 3rd point of the triangle, and so it was really refreshing for me to read a book by the other two “points.”

Ellen is an educated woman who is thrilled to be in touch with the baby, now an adult, she gave up for adoption over a quarter of a century before. Even so, she makes missteps as she has to learn how to understand Katie’s perspective. She’s a willing student.

Katie, who has been the family peacemaker, learns how to teach Ellen to understand where Katie is “coming from.” Katie has a lot of feelings to deal with—feelings she didn’t expect to have.

As they learn how to relate to each other, they learn more and more about each other. They identify similarities and differences.

Katie admits near the beginning that a lot of literature by adoptees “pisses” her off. She doesn’t want to self-identify as a “mythic hero” or “survivor,” as Betty Jean Lifton would have her do. She thinks that the term “adoptee” sounds “like something you need a prosthesis for.”  Above all, she doesn’t want anybody to tell her how she should feel or think about being adopted.

But as the reunion goes on, Katie becomes introspective, learning more about herself, her feelings about having been adopted, and how adoption might have helped shape her personality and outlook on life. She comes to believe that she has a “fluid” identity because she was adopted.  This means that there is a lot of “shifting” involved.

As things go on there are changes, where the relationship between Katie and Ellen deepens.  Rifts occur. I’m not going to ruin the ending by telling you how the book ends regarding their relationship.

The only other thing I’ll mention is that I’m really glad they decided to put Katie’s brother Matt in their letters. I think his story, albeit through Kate’s eyes, is a good addition to the book.

I can’t wait to hear what y’all think about the book!

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