Second Class Citizens? (with a PSA for PAPs)

by Luanne

As an adoptive mom of almost thirty years and an adoptive sister of . . . well, never mind how long, I am used to the occasional patronizing tone when someone finds out how my family was created. It’s recognizable when someone  sees my kids and says too brightly, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to adopt!” as if we were talking about adopting puppies at the shelter. Or when someone uses childbirth or breastfeeding as the end-all-be-all example of being a mother. It was especially noticeable when the kids were babies and somebody would say, “You’ll probably get pregnant now. That’s what happened to my sister-in-law. Their new baby looks just like my brother did when he was a baby!”

Underneath all their reactions is their belief that adoption is somehow not the real thing, not the best way to create a family.

Is adoption the second best way to create a family? That’s what John Eastman, Chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, thinks. Read this article by Adam Pertman.

http://www.chicagonow.com/portrait-of-an-adoption/2013/11/you-are-not-entitled-to-your-own-facts/

If adoption is second best does that make adoptees second best kids?  How can people who think like John Eastman be willing to relegate 1.5 million children in the United States to second class status?

One of the most insidious places, though, for this type of thinking can be found in the minds of some prospective adoptive parents out there who feel (because after all it’s a feeling problem more than a thinking problem) somewhere in their hearts that adopting will be somehow “lesser” than giving birth to their children.

To all PAPs: I’m not saying adoption won’t be different from having bio children or that there won’t be some very different issues, but if you are honest with yourself and recognize even a whiff of this “lesser than” feeling, PLEASE DON’T ADOPT.

After all, adoption is a huge undertaking and, as with all parenting, lasts for the rest of your life. I know it’s National Adoption Month, but this event shouldn’t be about persuading people to adopt children. If you can’t go into it knowing your family will be a first-rate family, then go to the shelter and find a cat or dog. They have a way of being grateful to you–and that’s probably what you most want.

Adam Pertman

Adam Pertman

Adam Pertman is Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a national nonprofit that is the pre-eminent research, policy and education organization in its field. Pertman – a former Pulitzer-nominated journalist – is also Associate Editor of Adoption Quarterly, the premier research journal dealing with adoption and foster care. He is the author/editor of two newly published books, Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming Our Families — and America (which has been reviewed as “the most important book ever written on the subject”) and “Gay and Lesbian Adoption: A New Dimension in Family Diversity”, and has written many other chapters and articles on adoption- and family-related issues in books, scholarly journals and mass-market publications.

Creating a Strong Family Story

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

Smore Stories – Daring To Journey Through Adoption..

by Marisha

Tara Bradford has initiated an exciting new series on her blog. As an adoptee and an adoptive mother, she has a wealth of experience from both perspectives which can inspire and enrich the rest of us. Follow the link below to read her description.

Thank you, Tara!

Smore Stories – Daring To Journey Through Adoption...

Tara Bradford

Tara Bradford

Help Us Celebrate!!

It’s been ONE YEAR today that we started the blog Don’t We Look Alike?, and what a ride it’s been!  We’ve learned a lot about adoption and related issues and have met some wonderful bloggers and other individuals along the way.

Coincidentally, this is also our 200th blog post!!!

English: Independence Day fireworks, San Diego.

English: Independence Day fireworks, San Diego. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Luanne:

When my husband and I adopted our two children in the 1980s, the only thing we knew about adoption was what we learned from local sources. My brother was adopted as a baby when I was eight, so adoption was familiar to me (link to my very first blog post about my brother). When we decided to adopt, we first thought of fostering because we knew the need was great, but we were told that because we didn’t have any children we didn’t qualify and were encouraged to adopt a baby for our first child. That seemed like good advice.

To do so we were asked to attend an “Adoption Information Meeting.” That evening five agencies were represented, and the bottom line was that if we wanted to adopt a baby we could go through Bethany, which represented Holt in Michigan.  Through that agency, we could adopt a Korean baby.  Within a year or so our son was in our arms. We then requested another child through the same agency because we felt it would be in our son’s best interests to share ethnicity with his sibling. Things were different in the eighties than they are today, and I still believe that was a good choice.

At that time, we didn’t have the internet to get information. Our information came from adoption-related sources, such as our case worker, the agency, other parents from our city who had adopted, etc. When the kids were little, we were connected to this network, but when the kids got older and were extremely busy with other activities and we moved away, we became less tied to any “adoption community.”

We never lost sight of our own notion that adopted children and children in transracial families couldn’t have their special circumstances ignored. But it often seemed like we were the only people around us who felt that way. People insisted that they “never thought” of our son or daughter “as Korean” or “as Asian” or “as adopted.” We would grit our teeth because ignoring realities doesn’t do our children any favors.

It wasn’t until Marisha and I started this blog that I found a whole community on the internet of people who “get” what adoption means, who understand that adoptees undergo trauma (often as infants), and that there are many political issues related to adoption which need to be considered. In fact, it feels as if the issues of adoption are just heating up.  Adult adoptees are leading the campaign to reform the way adoption works in this country.

I also didn’t know diddly about open adoption until reading like mad–blogs, articles, books. Open adoption is very different from the situation of my children’s adoptions, so it’s been such an educational experience for me to learn so much about it from the mouths of others.  We don’t know yet what adult adoptees are going to tell us in the future about their open adoptions, but I want to keep up on all this because it’s so important.

I feel passionate that reform is needed in certain aspects of adoption and foster care issues, while I am realistic about the impossibility of a system which works perfectly for every circumstance. I believe that the interests of children should be put ahead of the interests of adults.   I’d like to see our society work at becoming a “village” that cares for the various needs of foster children and children in need of adoptive families.

Thank you to all our readers and those who have participated in discussions on our blog.  And thank you to the other bloggers about adoption and foster care who share your hearts and experience with the world.

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Marisha:

I have done quite a lot of reflecting lately about this past year–mainly regarding my adoption. Seeing as this is the first year anniversary of our blog, I wanted to write a post about how amazing it is for me to see how much I have learned about myself, my mother, and other adoptees and parents.

I see most of my progress in how I now react to the different situations I am put in regarding being “Asian” and being “adopted.” The stigma has slowly started to drain away, and I am happy to feel a sense of relief when I think about my own adoption issues. In the past I would be overly sensitive and get hurt too easily by the comments someone would make to me such as the “tsunami in Japan” incident or my middle school crush telling me “I’m only into blondes.” I used to think that those comments were a reflection of how people saw me, or that I wasn’t good enough. Instead, I resound in knowing that most of those incidents and experiences have in fact, nothing to do with me or who I am on the inside or outside. Being comfortable in one’s skin is never easy– it would be false to think that one can fully live a life of confidence and not have any insecurities or flaws within them. I have accepted my flaws and faced my insecurities. I face them every day, in fact.

I am so thankful for my mom for being patient with me these past 25 years. This blog has not only bonded us even more, but has given us an honest outlet to communicate with each other about the problems we both are facing in life and with each other. It has been a rocky year personally for both of us. I have done some things that I am not particularly proud of, but have learned from them and found it easier to move on from the past because I have given myself the time to understand my issues of abandonment and insecurities about being an Asian-American adoptee.

At the same time, the amazing adoptees I have been in contact with or have shared some of their stories on our blog or on their own blogs have educated me. They help to fill a void–that feeling of being alone. It has given me a comfort to know that I am not alone in this. That a lot–if not most– adoptees face the same feelings I do at some point in their lives. I am inspired by that.

This next year is full of excitement. I ring in the one year anniversary with the blog by announcing my new journey. I will be playing one of my dream roles: Mimi in the musical RENT! I have waited my whole life for this moment, and I feel as if it has come at the perfect time for me to start this next chapter as a proud adoptee and woman. I have learned to not let my race or my cultural position define me because at the end of the day, that doesn’t matter. What you choose to do and how you choose to live your life is material enough to create a success out of oneself. I am so proud to see the world start to change to give opportunities to people like myself, despite what we look like on the outside or where we come from.

Thank you for tuning in to the blog every week and thank you for allowing me and my mum the freedom to share our stories without judgment. I look forward to many more stories in the future from us and especially from all of you!!!

To help us celebrate, please consider donating to help foster children.  As an example, here is a news story about an Arizona charity (not yet rated by the BBB or Charity Navigator) which seeks funds to send foster kids to summer activities of their choice.  We donated for dance classes for a boy who wanted to take dance. Click this link to read the article.  In the article is a link to donate.

How We Became A Family of Five

DWLA is sharing the adoption story and interview of adoptive mom Kate Donovan Hodgkins in several parts–here is the second installment.  Part one is found here.

by Kate Donovan Hodgkins

When we decided to adopt a second child, we began the process through the state and then did respite care while waiting for a placement. It helped keep our minds off the wait and gave Chase a chance to see what it would be like with another child in the home.

Two years later,  almost to the day (one day shy of the date we got the call about Chase), we got the call about a little 7-month-old boy who was being placed for adoption through our state DFC.  Joshua’s adoption, although not quite the adventure we had with Chase’s, was another miracle.

Chase now had a little brother and we had a complete family.  Joshua’s adoption was a legal risk situation, and we had a very long legal battle to adopt him.  There were court ordered visitations with his birthfather that were very difficult for Joshua.  He had separation anxiety when social workers would take him for his visits and would have night terrors the night of visits.  We went to every court hearing and tried to be advocates for Joshua. We knew he was meant to be our son and we never lost sight of that goal.

In April 2007  we got a call that Joshua’s birthmom had given birth to a baby girl at 27 weeks.  The baby was only 2 lbs 2 oz, and they were not sure if she would make it.

Three months later, when we weren’t expecting it, we got a call asking if we could take the baby for a week or two respite. She was now out of the hospital and a little under 5 lbs.  Mom had disappeared after giving birth, but the birthfather was visiting daily.  His son was going to adopt the baby so she’d be with family.

Two days after we picked her up, we got word that the paternity test came back showing that the man named as father was not the father.  Because she was Joshy’s half-sister we could adopt her without going through a lengthy process.  When our social worker asked if we’d be interested in adopting her, the boys and I had already fallen for her. My husband just turned to me and said “go buy your ruffle butts.”  His way of saying yes to adopting her.

In September of 2007, Joshy’s adoption was final.  Joshua got to put the seal on his adoption paperwork, and Chase got to bang the judge’s gavel.  We were now legally a family of four–and soon to be five!  The judge told us she was looking forward to seeing us again soon to finalize our third adoption.

In August 2008, Amilya’s adoption was final and we once again sat in the judge’s chamber. As before, Joshua put the seal on Amilya’s finalization and Chase got to bang the gavel.  We were very content and looking forward to our future as a family of five.

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Chase has been on the honor roll at school and loves to play soccer and swim.  He is a healthy, happy, loving boy and is very open about his adoption.

Over the years it became evident that Joshua struggled with  ADHD, OCD and PDD. He has been getting therapy and working hard to overcome the challenges this presents.  Josh is an intelligent, happy guy who loves life and always has a smile for everyone.

Amilya was diagnosed with Broncho Malacia and severe asthma at a very early age, but she does not let her medical issues get in her way of living her life.  She is a trouper and takes most everything in stride.

Watch for Luanne’s interview of Kate next Friday, June 21!

Suggesting A New Image for Adoption

by Jaye Roth

Jaye blogs at Jaye’s Brain about “family, my 25 jobs, and brain cancer.”

After struggling through German Literature (The Song of the Nibelungs: A Verse Translation from the Middle High German, Hermann Hesse, that sort of thing;) and a single day of Russian Literature (you didn’t need a Swastika but I had the feeling it would have helped), I found my needed credits buried deep in the hidden pages of Shakespeare. I totally “got” the damned spot that the lady was trying to wash out, and even in my early 20’s I deeply understood that the “lady doth protest too much” was a lesson hand-made for me: the more I told people it didn’t matter to me, the more it appeared as if I did have something to hide.

I’m talking of course about my adoption (again).

I always thought adoption was kind of interesting in general–the way I find the difference between sushi (yummy) and cooked fish (gross) interesting. Everybody has an opinion.

In a similar way I found my brain surgery interesting: “All this would be fascinating if it weren’t happening to me.” There were certainly days that adoption felt like that.

Mostly, even in the challenging adolescent years, I felt that I was lucky to have my parents, George and Bernice, and that they were lucky to have me. There was a connection there that couldn’t be explained to others, and I gave up trying to explain it. I felt that the word “chosen” was a bunch of crap, but it was OK to say “wanted.” Chosen made me think of meat, hanging in the window at the local butcher. We didn’t talk gushy love stuff around the house too much, but it was understood that we were all on equal footing, and no one was chosen over the other.

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Language for the practice of adoption often includes the popular terms “triangle” or “triad.” I have no issue with these terms designed to depict the bond between the birth mother, “child” and the adoptive mother. The family that is formed–the good, bad and ugly–will always have an asterisk by its name (in the hearts of some) like a steroid-injected major-league baseball player. That is why I used the popular multi-colored puzzle cube for my own adoption image: three sides just didn’t seem complete to me. Where the triad gets the conversation going, the cube adds room for deeper dimension and inclusiveness.

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My personal cube illustrating my top thoughts about my family starts with my earliest memories, my middle sister (mother to two adopted children, domestic and international) and my lost sibling. An entire side of my cube would have to be devoted to Helen, who lived less than two days. My mother told me this story when I was much too young to understand what she was saying. Unlike my“chosen story,” which was repeated over and over again, I never heard this tale from her again. I remember it as “mother couldn’t have the baby (physically forced to delay giving birth until a doctor could arrive). Involuntary manslaughter by today’s standards? Perhaps. Rather than dismiss this drama as a sad thing that happened before my time, I have come to see it as integral to the family story.

When you twist the cube, you get all sorts of possibilities. Often you can’t get it back to the original colors and patterns. Sometimes you get aggravated and throw the cube against the wall. (Oh wait. That’s me). For some people, it is easy to solve. There are, of course, more sides to some stories than others; I like the image of the cube as a way to begin breaking away from the idea that adoption only affects three people. Adoption affects the world, one family at a time.

A Pink T-Shirt re-post

imagesby Luanne

This post, originally published on July 16, was the 2nd one I wrote for our blog.  It’s about the moment when I knew Marisha was going to be my daughter.  I thought I’d trot it out because some of you might feel like you know both Marisha and me a lot better now and get a kick out of it.

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T-shirts wallpapered the shop. They hung three deep up to the ceiling and stacks of them rose from every surface. A tiny pink one called to me. But I didn’t have a baby girl at home to wear it. At least, not yet.

When I paid for it, my husband said, “Isn’t it too early to buy something?” Yet as we left, it felt important to me that I was carrying my first gift for the baby we were adopting. It was February 1, and we had finalized our paperwork with the agency the previous September.

Now we and our three-year-old son Marc were waiting for a baby girl from Korea to complete our family. We planned to name her Marisha. Three years before, Marshal and I had gone through the same wait for Marc. That time we hadn’t known what to expect with a new baby. This time, we had already gone through exhausting nights and broken lamps and mashed-banana baths. We had discovered that dogs make good vacuum cleaners underneath the high chair. And how to change a diaper in ten seconds if necessary.

When we waited for Marc we didn’t know if we would get a boy or girl. He came home to us from Holt International, through an agency called Bethany. Their rule was that prospective parents couldn’t request the gender of their first baby. That was fine with us. We expected to hear about our first child sometime in the fall. That summer, Marshal and I made a trip to visit family in Canada. On August 19, as we drove back to Michigan, I felt a thud in my chest and looked over at Marshal behind the steering wheel. “We’re having a boy,” I said.

“What?”

“We’re having a boy.”

Marshal tipped his head and glanced at me. “How do you know? What are you talking about?”

“I don’t know. I just know we’re getting a boy.”

Two months later, we got the call from our case worker that we were, in fact, getting a boy. What was more remarkable is that our baby was born on August 19.

Now it was 3 1/2 years later, and Bethany had let us choose the gender of our second child, so we requested a girl. As I imagined baby Marisha, I hoped she would be strong and smart and healthy. If she were pretty, that would be great, too. Why not have everything when you’re daydreaming?

I began to feel even more impatient than when we had waited for Marc. Marisha was getting Marc’s oak crib and changing table. The antique dresser from my great-grandfather’s farm in Caledonia, Michigan. Although I worked in our small family-owned business and was a grad student, I felt that I didn’t have enough to do to get ready for her.

The first photo

Finally, we heard that she was coming home in May. Our case worker came over with a document and photo of Marisha. Even in her sleep, she looked wise and boasted a thick cap of black hair. She was living with a foster family in Seoul until she could be released. She was born, that’s right, February 1, the day I bought the little pink T-shirt. I wasn’t there physically when she was born, but I was with her on some other level, just as I had been with Marc.

I can’t help but wonder if others have had similar experiences in their own families.

Everybody Creates This Family

by Luanne

I had a brainstorm in the shower.  After I got out, I scrambled for a pen and couldn’t find one.  So now, hours later, as I sit down to write this post, I am sorting through my thoughts to find the right words to express what occurred to me.  I’ve written and deleted close to ten first sentences.  What is it I want to say?  Let me see if I can explain.

In the past, I’ve considered the two families that go into the history/life/essence of a person who was adopted.  Both families contribute to who the person grows up to be.

English: Nature vs. Nurture

English: Nature vs. Nurture (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Based on individual stories we are all inclined to put an emphasis more strongly on nature or nurture for certain traits.  But there is no doubt that both families contribute to who that person is “today.”

With my own kids, their love of animals and general outlook on the world around them was influenced by hubby and me.  My son’s friends say that he sometimes stands, holds his body, and talks like my husband.

Both my son’s and daughter’s outgoing personalities must be genetically predetermined—something that they got from one or both birth parents.

It’s not only the question of nature versus nurture.  In the case of an older child who has lived with birth family, there is even more influence of that family on the child.

Even in the case of children who were adopted as infants, the family of origin has other connections, outside of genes. For example, that it was my husband and I who adopted our kids was because of what occurred in the lives of their birth mothers, all of which triggered a chain of events which culminated in their adoptions into our family.  Of course, that’s true about the chain of events in our lives which led to it, also.

But there is something limited about this thinking.  We always talk about a child being adopted into a family or by a family as if the family is some finite, specific unit which expands for that child and changes that child forever.

What we forget is that the family is an adaptive entity, which itself is created by all the family members.  A child who was adopted has just as much impact on the nature of the family, on what that family becomes, as any other family member—mother and father included.

Every child that enters a family changes that family into a new “being.”

While this difference might seem slight, it shifts my view of everything about adoption, as if the camera filter was changed.  I think it gives adoptees more control of their own subjectivity and more power.

In the case of my family, I am a different person (than I would have been) because I am the mother of my children.  All the specificities that make up my kids are now things that are important to me: their interests, their health and illnesses, their country of origin, and their identities as adoptees.

Probably every parent, even if his or her children are biological, has a notion of this aspect of parenting.   Nevertheless, for some reason, the discussions and language surrounding families by adoption doesn’t take this understanding into account.

And it’s not just about who each one of the four of us is today.  It’s about who our family is.  We’ve all shared equally in creating this family, and I’m so happy we have.

Maybe this is the way you’ve always thought about family.  Maybe I have, too, but I didn’t realize it until this one particular shower.

Adoption Comes Straight from the Heart: A Book Review

by Luanne

(Originally posted August 13, 2012)

I felt driven to review this book because the title made me so uncomfortable.   I can’t imagine saying to Marc or Marisha, when they were little ones, “Sit with Mom.  I want to read you this great book called My Adopted Child, There’s No One Like You.”  I have never called them “my adopted children” and can’t imagine ever doing so.  They were–and still are, at 27 and 24–my kids.  And I am their mom.  My husband is their dad.  When the kids want to explain to people, they will say, “Yeah, I’m adopted.”  And that’s basically how I answer people, too.  I would never even think of saying, “This is my adopted son, Marc.”  So to say that the title put me off is an understatement.

Nevertheless, since the book was written by Dr. Kevin Leman, a psychologist and New York Times best-selling author, I wanted to see what was inside.  The book is one in a series of “birth order books.”  There are other volumes which deal with being firstborn, only child, middle child, and youngest child.  I will admit that the idea of adding in a book for the adopted child is a good idea, although children who have been adopted can be found in all “positions” within the family.

When I opened the book I discovered that the illustrations, by Dr. Leman’s son Kevin Leman II, are very clear, entertaining, and colorful.  They aren’t the sort of art which wins the Caldecott Medal, but they are pictures which illustrate well the story.  This book has a lot of text on every other page; it’s broken up by a full-page illustration opposite each one.

It turns out that I did enjoy the story and even teared up at one point–that was where Mama Bear tells her little boy, Panda, “‘You were born right here,’ and she touched her furry chest with her paw.”  The heartfelt sentiment and love between Panda and his mother and father is palpable.  That makes this book very worthwhile.

The story is a little specific.  Panda’s birth mother was a young panda — beautiful, kind, and loving.  The bears were able to meet Panda’s birth mother, so Mama can personally tell Panda about her.  Let’s face it, every adoption story is a little different.  So in books about adoption we are apt to get different stories.  The more stories kids read, the richer their minds and their lives.  That’s why I don’t consider the specificity a negative.  And there are other adoption books which are even more specific, if that is what you are looking for.  The question that lingers for me: if a child whose birth mother is unknown (and perhaps unknowable) is first exposed to this book or if it’s the only book he or she reads, how would that part of this story affect him or her?

The underlying plot situation is that Panda’s teacher asks her students to draw their family trees.  This is a common assignment in American schools, so it’s a very real issue for many children who have been adopted.  It’s handled well, even with a bit of an open ending, which keeps the book more appealing to a wider range of readers.

Whether this is a book about transracial adoptions or all adoptions, I think it depends on how you read it.  At one point, Mama Bear explains that Panda is a black and white bear and she and Papa are brown bears.  This can be seen as a racial metaphor.  However, many adoptees go through a period where they may feel different from the others in the family. Because the characters are animals, it frees up the child’s mind to read the book as it makes sense to him or her.

A very small note is that on the first page we learn the teacher’s name is Mrs. Racoonaroni.  This sounds humorous when read aloud, but to a beginning reader it looks daunting on the page.

All in all, the book makes a valuable contribution to the subject of adoption.   Because of its position in the series of “birth order” books, the author or editor titled the book My Adopted Child, There’s No One Like You to be clear about the readership for which it aimed.  I’ve tried to come up with some other titles which would be more palatable to me and still fit within the series.  My Chosen Child? Um, I don’t think so. My Child (by Adoption)?  Not much better.  Maybe you have some good suggestions, but that doesn’t change the title on the cover.

Would I place this book on our family bookshelf?  Yes, but not without other books about adoption.  When a child asks me to read the book, I will put the emphasis on There’s No One Like You.

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