Adoption — it touches me every single day. You see, three of my four children are adopted.
Perhaps you also have personal experience with adoption. The Donaldson Adoption Institute estimates that over 100 million people in the U.S. have a connection with adoption. Yet those who have been adopted, as well as the parents that brought them into this world and the families they are adopted into, face discrimination daily.
As a parent who has adopted, I am often asked adoption-related questions or I find that others willingly share their opinions about adoption — without any prompting on my part. Because I am an adult, have years of parenting experience under my belt, and work as an adoption professional, I can confidently navigate most situations quite well.
Although I have “armed” my kids — taught them to have several plans of action for the comments, questions, and stares that often accompany adoption — I worry. The questions, comments, and stares occur with increasing frequency as my kids navigate their roads to adulthood, when they are also working through identity issues (similar to all moving through adolescence) and tackling what it means to be adopted. As tweens and teens, my kids are more vulnerable to the questions, comments, and ogling (since we are a multi-racial family) because they spend more time with peers or are in the “firing line” of those who may or may not know them or have compassion for adoption.
Compassion is the ability and desire to feel and understand another with great empathy; this enables humans to interconnect and provide understanding and support for one another. Judgment falls to the wayside.
For those of you who are not adoptees or do not parent adopted children, have you deliberated on what it is like to not have been adopted?
Have you considered the benefits that you derive from your non-adoptee status?
I am a non-adopted person. In reflecting on this “invisible” status, I realize that I take much for granted:
I know exactly when and where I was born. I know how my mother gave birth to me, how long she labored before expelling me in the world under the bright white lights of the sterile surgical suite. I know I was wanted and that my parents enjoyed creating me.
I have had no problem getting my birth certificate, before I married my husband or when we adopted our children. All of my birth information is on my birth certificate; nothing is redacted. My birth certificate is not a delayed birth certificate.
I know my story. And when I have craved to know more, I have been able to ask my parents and grandparents, read family letters, and explore the genealogy contained within the front pages of my mom’s family Bible. I relentlessly peppered my grandmother with questions about her father and was eventually rewarded with a fantastical black sheep family story. Such information provided me with history that fascinated me and helped me to understand her and appreciate the fortitude of my family.
I see myself reflected back in the shared physical characteristics of my brothers, nieces, nephews, and the son born to me. People have always shared how they can pick us out of a crowd. I know that my dimples, curly hair, and ruddy complexion come from my father, and my stature, smile, and eyes are gifts from my mother, whom I resemble more and more as I age. I share left-handedness with my maternal grandfather, who died when my mom was just 2 years old.
I know my medical history and the issues and diseases that occur frequently within our family gene pool. I know what my mother, brother, and grandparents died from. I know about the fertility and female health of the women in my family. I can provide answers in confidence when asked by my physicians.
I am not wary of others when they inquire about my family. I am not concerned about being judged by the moral or political biases others hold about adoption, my birth mother/parents, birth country, or culture of origin.
I do not wonder whether I should share my status as adopted. I am not asked a range of questions about adoption or expected to be a bridge for parents who adopt or for people of my race or ethnicity.
I am not expected to feel gratitude for being part of my family. I am not made to feel that being curious about where I come from or seeking answers make me ungrateful or “angry.”
The non-adopted cannot walk in the shoes of those who have been adopted. However they can, through reflecting on their non-adopted privilege, begin to understand and develop the tools of empathy and compassion for those who have been adopted. The non-adopted can intentionally work to be considerate of adopted persons, their birth parents, and the families who have adopted. They can think before they speak or act.
CIRCLE OF FRIENDS
Thursday, Dec. 10 — Northern Region Adoption Info Meetings, Jordan’s Furniture Reading: IMAX Conference Room - 50 Walker’s Brook Dr., Reading. 6 p.m. RSVP: 978-557-2734.
Thursday, Dec. 10 — Family Support Group, Jordan’s Furniture Reading: IMAX Conference Room - 50 Walker’s Brook Dr., Reading. 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Open to families from all regions who are waiting, matched, or placed with a child. This is safe space for families to share their thoughts on the adoption process and receive guidance and support from other families. RSVP to 978-337-6500.
Monday, Dec. 14 — Southern Region Adoption Info Meetings, Mass. Department of Children and Families, Police Station, 1492 Washington Street, Canton. 6 p.m.-8 p.m. RSVP to 508-894-3830.
Wednesday, Dec. 16 — Boston Region Adoption Info Meeting, DCF Boston, 451 Blue Hill Avenue, Dorchester. 4 p.m.-5:30 p.m. 617-989-9209.
Wednesday, Dec. 16 — Post Adoption Support Group, Emerson Hospital, Community Agencies Building, Concord. 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. A support and education group for parents of adopted children ages birth through 8. This month’s topic: “Transracial Parenting — Your Child’s Culture.” For more information call 978-287-0221, ext. 218.
Thursday, Dec. 17— Southern Region Adoption Info Meetings, Morton Hospital, 88 Washington Street, Taunton, Margaret Stone Conference Room, first floor. 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m. RSVP: 508-894-3830.
Ongoing — Federation for Children with Special Needs Parent Trainings. Free and open to the public, these trainings cover a range of topics: Effective Communication and the IEP, Basic Rights in Special Education, Understanding My Child’s Learning Style, and more. Visit fcsn.org/ptic/workshops/schedule for a schedule and descriptions.
Ongoing — Group for Adoptive Parents. Adoption Associates, 34 Lincoln Street, Newton. For parents of children in elementary or middle school, this monthly group focuses on understanding the impact of loss and trauma; learning to manage difficult and challenging behaviors; strengthening the family bond while preserving identity; and more. For more information, contact 617-965-9369 or email@example.com.
Ongoing — Group for Adopted Teens. Adoption Associates, 34 Lincoln Street, Newton. For adopted children ages 14-19, this group focuses on identity development, self-esteem improvement, confidence building and communication skills. Participants will use conversation to reflect upon the experience of adoption and belonging. For more information, contact 617-965-9369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ongoing — Group for Adoptive Parents of Teens. Adoption Associates, 34 Lincoln Street, Newton. This monthly group focuses on understanding the impact of loss and trauma on children ages 14-19; learning to manage difficult and challenging behaviors; strengthening the family bond while preserving identity; and more. For more information, contact 617-965-9369 or email@example.com.
If your group or organization is holding an adoption information or support group and would like to have information posted for readers of baystateparent, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thirteen-year-old Emily would like to be a hairdresser when she grows up. This beautiful girl of Caucasian descent loves to watch movies, take dance classes, and play on her iPad. She can be shy yet funny and is a “people pleaser.”
Emily can struggle academically as she has experienced absences due to several moves. She likes consistency and knowing what to expect. There is an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) in place for her academic needs.
Legally free for adoption, Emily does not want a home that is very busy or has dogs. She has been able to voice that she does not want a family that goes on many trips or hosts many parties. Emily would do well in a single- or two-parent home with childcare experience and one that is open to maintaining contact with her two adult sisters.
For more information about Emily, or the adoption process in general, please contact Department of Children and Families Adoption Supervisor Grace Kirby-Steinau at (508) 929-2033. The DCF Adoption Office in Worcester holds monthly informational meetings about the adoption process. Please call (508) 929-2143 for specific information about the next meeting.