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 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?

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

by Luanne

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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But What Do YOU Think About the Baby Box?

by Luanne
Last Monday, Kasey wrote about the Baby Box in Korea. She talked from the perspective of an international Korean adoptee who has been thinking more in-depth about adoption recently.

The Baby Box is one of those painful controversies where it seems both sides have very valid concerns and the best of intentions. Pastor Lee and the people who support the Baby Box are concerned for the lives of babies who might be at risk because their mothers feel they cannot keep them. Opponents of the Baby Box view it as dehumanizing and a permanent severing for these children from their rights to their own familial and genetic histories.

Many adoptees feel a powerful need to search for their birth families and to learn more about the people they come from and the genes they carry. This will never happen for babies left in the Baby Box.

Here are two videos to help you decide. Then look at the photo of the baby girl left in the Baby Box. Maybe you will cry, too.

Baby girl left in baby box

Baby girl left in baby box

A Korean Adoptee On The Baby Box

by Kasey Buecheler

Living in the InKAS (International Korean Adoptee Service) guesthouse, I have met and made many adoptee friends who come from all around the world (Australia, Denmark, France, Belgium, and Sweden, just to name a few!).  As a result, I have developed a stronger interest in the adoptee community that exists in Korea.

Meeting all kinds of adoptees during my stay so far in Korea has opened my eyes to new issues that I never recognized before.  Growing up, I had many adoptee friends, but we were all from similar families, with similar financial upbringings.  I didn’t have a broad perspective on the subject of adoption, but I did learn to embrace it.  However, coming to Korea and hearing different opinions has really changed the whole way that I see adoption.  In some aspects, I can say it has made me a bit more cynical, but I am glad to have been made aware of certain topics.

One specific topic that has gone viral within the past few weeks is the issue of the baby box in Korea.  Although it has been in use for a while now, recently it has gained media attention due to a documentary called “The Drop Box.”  In this documentary, Pastor Lee is commended for his humanitarian effort with his baby box, which is a box he created as a means of “collecting abandoned babies” that are unwanted by their mothers.   Many believe that this box is saving the lives of children who would have otherwise been abandoned on the street to die.  When I first heard of this story, I was also moved by Pastor Lee’s actions and began to read more on the subject.

The more I read, the more I began to realize the problems that arise with the usage of this baby box.  While some may perceive it as a way of saving babies, it also encourages an unethical method of giving up babies.   Instead of going through the proper steps in putting a child up for legal adoption through an adoption agency, it enables single mothers to abandon their children, leaving them with no birth registration. I can understand the importance of having this information, as many of my adoptee friends have sought this information in order to do birth family searches and know more about their past.  I have met adoptees whose information was incorrect/missing and seen how devastated they are when they come to this dead-end.  On top of this, there is also no way to know for sure who put the child in the box to begin with (which, in itself, has some scary implications).

While I am certainly no expert on the subject, I have read enough to know where I stand on this issue and encourage others to learn more about it and form their own opinions as well.

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What’s a Korean Adoptee Doing in Korea?

Here is what Korean adoptee Kasey Buecheler has been doing in Korea!

by Kasey Buecheler

I am back in America from Korea and visiting family while I figure out the rest of my year.  As some of you may have read before, I have been keeping myself busy studying Korea, teaching English, and participating as part of a mentor program for domestic adoptees in Korea!

I began teaching English through the Language Bound program, started by InKAS (International Korean Adoptee Service).  This is a special program where adoptee teachers are sent to teach children from low-income households who may not be able to afford English classes for themselves.  I had never taught English in this way before, and being employed by InKAS gave me experience in a classroom and memories I will never forget.  My kids were absolutely wonderful. I soon found myself looking forward to each class.  It was so rewarding to see my kids develop an interest in learning–and for me to provide them the opportunity to do so.

It was also through InKAS that I became involved in the Korean domestic adoptee mentoring program, which I can say is one of the most rewarding accomplishments for me from last year.  In Korea, adoption is still very much stigmatized in society and adoptive families usually choose to keep this aspect of their lives secret.  This mentoring program was designed to pair us up with a younger domestically adopted child and help them accept their adoption and learn it is nothing to be ashamed of.  We went to an over-night retreat where we were first introduced to our mentees (mine a 14-year-old girl) and spent time getting to know each other.

It was not easy at first. I had one of the oldest mentees, and she was very shy and seemed really uncertain about her participation in the program.  However, I could tell right away how supportive and encouraging her family was (her mother ran up to me and gave me a big hug the first time we met) and we have been able to get closer by meeting up after the retreat finished.

At one point, her parents invited me and a couple other mentors (who were assigned to two of their other children) to go with them to a church service/adoption get-together at their adoption agency (which I’m assuming specializes in domestic adoptions only). It was amazing to see these families celebrate their adoptions together and feel absolutely no shame in doing so.  It reminded me very much of adoption get-togethers that my own family would go to when I was younger. Food, fun, and friends.  This mentoring program helped me to realize how different the problems of the domestic adoptees are from international adoptee. However, seeing the families connect with each other at this agency made me realize how much we have in common as well.

InKAS Mentoring group

InKAS Mentoring group

Split Between Privilege and Denial, The Truth Brings Wholeness

by Luanne

I finished a book the other day, and I’ve had an irresistible urge to talk about it to every person I’ve seen since then.  Have you had that experience from reading?

If you want to feel that way, read Catana Tully’s Split at the Root: A Memoir of Love and Lost Identity.

It’s a book about adoption, but then it’s not quite about adoption.

Tully was born to a Guatemalan woman of African origin, but she grew up in the household of a German family living in Guatemala. She became a proper German young lady and eventually moved to Germany, where she became a fashion model and movie star.

Although many questions arise for the reader about Tully’s background, the girl herself doesn’t question the narrative she has been given by her German mother.

Only belatedly does Tully realize there is much to be learned about her origins.

Tully moves to the United States where she suffers an identity crisis. She isn’t African-American, although she is a Black woman. Eventually, she realizes the hard truth that she is racist toward African-Americans because she has so absorbed the subtle teachings of her childhood.

She studies and ultimately teaches Ethnic Studies and learns that she has been colonized by the German family who raised her. She begins the long struggle to learn who she is and from where she comes.  To do so, she must search for her birth mother (who has since passed away) and her birth father. Along the way, she meets her birth siblings and another father who tells her that he is her birth father. Additionally, after years of a difficult relationship, she reunites with the German sister who was old enough to be her mother and helped raised her. All this is necessary for Tully’s identity education.

I found Tully’s search to be suspenseful and fascinating. The book reads like a mystery or detective novel in the latter half.  The reader learns the truth along with Tully.

What makes Tully’s story similar to the stories of other transracial adoptees, such as my children who were born in Korea, and what makes it different?

The way Tully absorbed the culture of her German mother and didn’t really “see” herself as the birth child of a Black woman seems true to the experience of many transracial adoptees.

Where I think it differs is here:

SPOILER ALERT

It’s not only where her experience differs, but something that upset me on behalf of the young woman Catana Tully. She was never legally adopted by her German family. Therefore, when the mother dies (the father had been gone for years), the older (bio) daughter inherits the estate, but Tully does not. Tully writes about this injustice, but presents it fairly objectively. Rather than Tully telling the reader how to feel, the reader must pick up the responsibility and get angry (and I sure did).

So Tully had no legal rights as a daughter of the only family she knew at the point that her German mother died.  That she was loved very much is evident, but she was betrayed by this loving parent who didn’t do right by her in death.

The way the book ends answers most of my questions, although I still felt that the German family was an enigma. But what was important was that Tully’s birth parents came to life for me and surpassed the German mother’s heavy influence. Tully’s life seems to blossom into wholeness by the last words of the book.

The only weak point I could find is that the book could have used another editor’s eyes for typos, but I’m picky about those, and many readers might not even notice them.

Split at the Root is a well-written and thoroughly engaging memoir even for those not interested in adoption, and for anybody connected to adoption it is a must read.

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