Family Adoption Story: A Father’s Perspective

 

As Father’s Day approaches, we want to honor all dads, especially those who have opened their hearts and homes to adoption. When it comes to stories of parenting, fathers do not often take center stage. That is why we asked two adoptive fathers to share their experiences during and after adoption. Each faced unique struggles on their journey, but their success and words of encouragement are an important reminder of the power of a strong father.

Ryan, who was initially in our Mexico program but adopted from a dissolution, shares how experiencing hardship through his adopted daughter helped him to be more compassionate toward everyone around him.

“To me, adoption means opening your home, family, and yourself to offer love and support for a child that needs it. It’s is about putting your family and a child before yourself. I was always nervous about adoption. I feel like I barely knew what I was doing with the 2 kids I already had and I wasn’t sure if I was a good enough parent or person to handle a child that has been through the trauma that adoption brings. I still get the same feelings now at times, even 5 years into being an adoptive parent.

          “A big consideration is the cost of adoption. Adoption costs are expensive and they were very much a concern when we started looking more into adoption. We did some fundraising to help offset some of the costs. After adopting, we also took advantage of any and all adoption tax breaks that we qualified for. We were able to recoup a significant amount of the costs with just these two methods.

          “Since adopting, I have grown a lot as a parent and as a person. My daughter may have learned some things from me, but I think I have learned more from her. I have a much better understanding of how trauma affects people and I try to use it in my interactions with other people as well by trying to give people more grace because I don’t know what they have, or are currently, going through.

          “My advice to anyone wanting to adopt is to throw your expectations out the window because in my experience, expectations are nothing like reality when it comes to adoption. Some things are easier than you expected while other things are harder. If an adoptive parent is afraid he won’t be able to love a child who is not his biological child, I would say It definitely takes time and unconditional love. I don’t think any reasonable person would expect you to deeply love your adopted child when you first meet. I have found that attachment can be very hard, for both parent and child. Perseverance, patience, and communication have helped us when attachment wasn’t going well. As long as you continue to strengthen your relationship, love should come naturally.”

Joe, who adopted from Nigeria, discusses his faith as a guiding light through the ups and downs of adoption.

“From the time we started the adoption process to the time we finally brought our child home was five and a half years. The process was long and hard…. but unforgettable! We have learned that adoption is very much like a roller coaster, both in the process and in your emotions. For us, there were times we thought the process was moving along very smoothly, the never-ending paperwork was getting done and everything seems on schedule. But then, out of nowhere, something would happen and cause a delay. After a while, the pace would pick back up, sometimes even too fast! Up and down we would go.

 

“Our emotions would be on the same roller coaster as the process was. When things went great, we felt great. When things were delayed or doors were closed, we felt sad and hopeless. We have learned that this is just how the adoption process is. So, if you are going through that, you are right where you should be. You will have ups and downs, happiness and tears, excitement and fears, joy and anger. The memories of this journey will always be with you. And in the end, if you stick with it and don’t give up, you will have a precious child to share your life with, forever.

 

“For us, God specifically called us to adopt a child from Africa. We knew it was His calling. So whenever one of those delays or setbacks happened, we always reflected back on that calling. Did God still want us to adopt? Every time we asked Him, we got the confirmation to continue, despite the feeling of giving up. And we had good reason to feel that way! There were so many roadblocks and hiccups along the way. We had to switch countries from Uganda to Nigeria after a year and a half in the adoption process. We were officially matched with three children and almost matched with two or three others. We almost traveled to those countries twice. We were even matched with a child for a year, sending him letters and gifts, only to have it fail in the end. All those opportunities of adopting those children fell through, except the last one. The last child we were matched with worked out! We officially adopted our son in October of 2019 and the following year, in October of 2020, he came home!

 

“The adoption process is so complex and difficult to understand that we just need to trust those people that know what they are doing and trust in God that He will see it through.”

 

 

In these fathers’ accounts of the rewards and hardships of their adoption processes, the need for perseverance is a clear theme. Setbacks can be discouraging, and you may find that you have much room to grow once you are united with your adoptive child. This June, take time to appreciate the fathers in your life who give so much of themselves for their families.

 

co-written by Julie Conner & Casey Kutrip

Transracial Adoption Panel 2

 

There are many places to receive education and training during the adoption process. In addition to books, online resources, and professional trainings, we want to offer personal experiences from some of our transracial adoptive families through an online Q&A panel. These parents offer just some of their personal perspectives for you to read and consider for your individual family situation.

  1. Introduce us to your family.

 

X family (requested names and initials be changed for confidentiality): Our family has 5 people.  We, the parents, are white.  We have one daughter (11) biologically, one daughter (8) through adoption from China, and 1 son (4) through adoption from China.

 

C family: We are white parents to 4 adopted children – Issac (black, 16 years old, boy, adopted through foster-to-adopt); Vivianna (Caucasian/black/Mexican biracial, 14 years old, girl, domestic infant adoption); Jayden (black, 13 years old, boy, foster-to-adopt); and Jasmine (black, 9, girl, domestic infant adoption).

 

  1. When starting the adoption process, what made you open to adopting a child outside of your race?

X family: Adoptive mother (AM) lived in China for a semester in college and had the opportunity to volunteer in orphanages, spent several years studying Mandarin, and ended up in a career teaching English to kids from around the world.  Adoptive father (AF) was drawn to the idea of adopting a child in true need of a family and kids with special medical needs are at the top of that list.  The China program fit. In an ideal world, no child would be separated from their biological family and adoption should not be a first resort.  We really wanted to be a family for kids who didn’t have another option.  Out of honor and respect for the trauma our own children have endured, we support the Unity Initiative by Love Without Boundaries that works in China to keep families together by providing for the medical expenses of kids with special needs so families don’t feel so desperate that they end up choosing to abandon (https://www.lovewithoutboundaries.com/programs/medical/unity-initiative/).

C family: We had been dealing with infertility, and were anxious to close that chapter of our life and become parents as soon as possible. So when we were being trained as foster parents, we were told the more open we had our home, the easiest we would receive a placement.

  1. What is something unexpected you have experienced, either positive or negative, as a transracial adoptive parent?

X family: On the positive end, we have gained a connection to our local Chinese community which has been so beneficial to our children.  Our kids have access to Mandarin classes, Chinese Fan Dance, Kung Fu, and more.

On the negative end, there is a cultural movement that elevates racial identity above all to the point where adoptive parents are being labeled as colonizers for not finding a way to place a child with parents of their race of origin.  We find this unfortunate because that often is not possible and leaves children waiting on an ideal that may never exist. We believe in a historic Christian, biblical view of race. We are one race – the human race, made in God’s image first, diverse in ethnicities and cultural practices.  In our opinion, a child gaining a family should not be limited by their ethnicity.

C family: A negative is that people often think we adopted our kids as an act of charity. What we’re really doing is raising our kids just like any other parent.

  1. What have been the reactions from members of your community that share your child’s race? Any comments, questions, or experiences with them you’d like to share?

X family: We live in a predominantly Asian community (this is an intentional choice to support an integrated identity for our children).  We have experienced acceptance by them and support in helping our children stay connected to their culture of origin.  Our local Chinese school teaches them Mandarin, celebrates cultural holidays with us, and provides opportunities for cultural dance, cooking, and lessons in cultural stories and traditions.  Local Chinese families have cooked traditional foods for my children as a gift.  The Chinese Parents Association at my children’s elementary school invited me to join so that my kids don’t miss out of cultural events they host.  They invite my bio daughter to join activities too.

The comments we receive most often from Chinese people are about how “lucky” our children are and how “wonderful” we are for adopting them because they would have “no future” in China given their special needs and orphaned status.  We usually respond with, “we are the luckiest parents in the world to have these children.” While these comments are well meaning, they aren’t helpful.  No child is lucky to lose their birthparents, to have little to no information about their origins, and to be raised in a family where they “stick out” as different.  We are not saying that adoption isn’t good, just that it isn’t “lucky.”

C family: We occasionally receive unsolicited advice on our kids’ appearance. Especially Jasmine’s hair. We’ve been approached by strangers recommending salons and stylists we should try. Years ago, our reaction was total humiliation and devastation. But we’ve become more confident to stand up for ourselves and our ability to care for our kids and their appearance.

A lot of this confidence has come from other black families who have supported us and given us great advice. “I’ve never had a black woman say anything about my daughter’s rough-looking hair at the end of a long week,” they tell us. “They said that because you’re white.” We’ve found this invaluable and encouraging.

  1. There has been a lot of learning, discussion, awareness, and conflict this past year regarding how people of color are seen and treated in our society. What lessons learned this year would you want to pass along to other families considering or currently parenting a child outside of their own race?

X family: We have been intentional from the start with our kids about helping them have an integrated identity.  We want them to know that every part of them is valued in our family, including their first language and culture of origin.  They attend Chinese school to keep their Mandarin alive. One of our hopes is that they will achieve bilingual fluency so that if they ever want to go back to China and look further into their story, they can do so without the complications of a translator.   We celebrate Chinese New Year and Mid Autumn Moon Festival.  Since we live in LA, we also have easy access to cultural events.

We have also chosen to live in a predominantly Asian area where our kids don’t visually stand out amongst their peers.  They have racial mirrors, young and old, whose presence communicates to our children a normality about being Asian American. Actually, our blond haired, blue eyed bio daughter is the one who sticks out.  One year she communicated a longing for straight black hair and brown eyes so that she could be like her peers at school.

We would encourage any current or prospective transracial adoptive families to consider what the community around your children will communicate to your children about who they are.  If they rarely see another person of their same ethnicity, will they feel connected to and comfortable with their dual identity or seek to suppress or even reject connection to their culture of origin in order to fit in with the majority group?  What will this mean to them when they are older looking back?  When they go to college or enter the workforce and are assumed to have certain identity markers specific to their culture of origin, will they feel lost – not belonging in any particular world?  How will you prepare them for this?

C family: We regularly have conversations with our kids to be aware of micro aggressions targeted at people of color based on stereotypes that people still don’t realize they have. We always validate our childrens’ feelings and experiences, and teach them not to assume intention. We tell them, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions like ‘what do you mean by that?’ and ‘where is this coming from?’ or ‘why are you asking?’”

Alternatively, when people are overly familiar or intrusive, we encourage our kids to not feel an obligation to answer their questions or provide explanations. Their story belongs to them, and they have a right to share it or not share it with whomever they choose.

  1. What books, resources, or people have challenged you to consider your own racial biases?

X family: A powerful book for us was “Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Love and Loss” by XinRan.  This book absolutely tears apart the dominant American narrative regarding Chinese orphans.  They were never the “unwanted”, but instead were at the mercy of cultural, governmental, and societal pressures that led to the loss of their birth families.  The pain of the mothers who have loved and lost their children will stay with us forever.  This is a must read for families adopting from China.

We appreciate the voices of adult adoptees.  The research they’ve taken part in and the forums they have chosen to participate in to help educate transracial adoptive families is so valuable.  We would encourage adoptive families to seek out blogs, books, and research centered around adult adoptee voices.

We are thankful for real life friends who are Asian American who have generously shared their personal experiences, hurts, and challenges with living a dual identity. Their voices help us be mindful of what our children are experiencing and to be more attuned to the specific education, support, and empathy they need.

We have also been so blessed this year by following The Center for Biblical Unity which is founded by a friend of ours from Biola University who is a Person of Color seeking to frame the conversation about racial identity and racial relations/reconciliation around the Bible.  You can find their resources at https://www.centerforbiblicalunity.com, and her podcast at https://www.centerforbiblicalunity.com/all-the-things.

  1. What is something you wish you had considered or learned more about before bringing your child into your home, specifically in regards to racial identity development?

X family: We wish we would have been better prepared for how to respond when people make negative comments about our children’s country of origin.  People have big opinions politically, ideologically, and otherwise about China and will voice them in front of our kids without a second thought.  Sometimes these comments leave our children feeling rejected or that their country of origin is “bad”.  We can certainly communicate to people close to us about how to consider the impact their words may have on our children, but ultimately our kids will bump up against this in the broader community one way or another.  Some people have even thoughtlessly commented that they disagree with our desire to keep our kids culture alive for them, since it was that culture that led to their abandonment.  We never want our children to feel that we reject any part of them.  We teach them that all cultures have both beauty and fallenness.  We celebrate the beauty, because cultures of the world offer unique reflections of God and amplify different aspects of His character.

C family: We learned that finding like-minded families is the most important aspect to being in a community. Other black families have black parents and black kids, so they don’t match our family dynamic in the same way other multi-racial or adoptive families do.

  1. Do you have any good resources to share on how to learn more about your child’s racial experience in the U.S.?

 

X family: Again, the most important experiences for us to listen to for the sake of our children are adult adoptees, who have a unique experience that differs from typical Asian Americans.  We enjoy the these transracial adoptee resources at  “Yes I’m Adopted, Don’t Make it Weird” that is a vlog (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmNviK-KxPVfU4iZD82oQ-A) and Facebook Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/2154616001461723).  The Empowered to Connect Podcast covers the topic of transracial adoption in episodes 17-20 through adoptee interviews as well.

  1. Do you have any children’s books that you’ve read to your child regarding racial identity and/or adoption that you would recommend?

X family: We hired an artist to do basic illustrations of the life story of our children so that they could understand the narrative of their own history from a young age.   There are pages for: birthparents, finding place, orphanage, receiving a care package from us, the day we met, the day we arrived in the US, and a picture of us standing in front of our home.

We own many adoption books, but the favorite of our kids is, “God Found us You” by Lisa Bergren.

We also have several children books featuring Asian characters (not about adoption specifically).  Our kids particularly enjoy “The Mermaid” by Jan Brett, The Moon Lady by Amy Tan, and Really Rabbits by Virginia Kroll.  Our older daughter enjoys books by Grace Lin, particularly “Where the Mountain meets the Moon.”

  1. What has been the biggest challenge for you as you learn to parent a child outside your own race?

X family: The biggest challenge for us is feeling the weight of the division in our culture around race relations.  There are competing ideologies at play, but the dominant narrative being pushed is humanistic rather that biblical. We are trying to frame ourselves around a historic Christian view of race, anchoring ourselves to the truth of the Bible and relying on God to help us participate in true reconciliation and healing among races through the redemption and family offered in Christ.  We are looking forward to reading a recently released book on this topic from a Talbot Seminary professor, “Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth” by Thaddeus Williams.  See the book preview including the ethnically diverse group of contributors here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCuAkzHuRFE

C family: Honestly, we don’t often have these challenges because we’ve approached adoption and race issues very matter-of-factly with our kids. We are always working on finding the right balance between recognizing how out-of-the-ordinary our family is with how we’re just like everyone else.

For example, we don’t all agree with the athletes kneeling for the National Anthem. We’ve even had some heated debates. But we have boundaries and mutual respect for each other’s opinions, and we can laugh off the differences.

  1. What do you see is the main role a parent can play in the lives of their child concerning their racial identity development?

X family: Help them keep both parts of themselves alive and integrated – the culture of origin where their lives began and the culture of adoption where their lives are now. Do this together as a family.  Learn the language with them.  Cook their cultural foods together.  Find community members who can help educate them about their culture of origin or even about what it means to be an American with dual cultural identities.  Listen to adult adoptee voices.  Keep conversations about race, injustice, identity and truth a regular part of family life and stay grounded in the gospel.

C family: Be educated! Educate yourself, and those around you. Reach out to mentors within your child’s race for their perspective on social issues.

  1. Anything else you want to share that wasn’t covered by the questions above?

X family: Don’t get swept away by the pressures being put out there by social media, media in general, or the dominant cultural narratives about race.  Have real life, genuine relationships with people of other ethnic and cultural backgrounds and approach the things you don’t know or haven’t experienced with humility.  Listen, learn, and most importantly – stay grounded in Jesus who is the ultimate answer to the fallenness we see all around us.

C family: Please check your motives in choosing transracial adoption. Be careful that it is not your attempt to prove to those around you that you are anti-racist. It is not your child’s job to fulfill a dream for you or to bring diversity to your life. This is actually a form of micro aggression. Adoption should be about finding the best family for a child, not the other way around.

If you are interested in hearing from two more families on this topic, please check out our blog post Transracial Adoption Panel 1.

A Book Review: All You Can Ever Know

 

“No matter how a child joins your family, their presence changes all the rules; they move into your heart and build new rooms, know down walls you never knew existed.”

 

This book offers something very unique through the perspective of an adoptee. It does not hold back about the complexities of adoption and does this by the author’s own lived experiences. By the end, you feel  like you know Nicole Chung, the author, or had spent hours sitting with her, listening to her life and her deepest thoughts. She recalls memories and beautifully weaves them together with her current quest to find her biological family. Simultaneously, she feels torn between the family who raised her and the family she always longed to know.

 

Nicole deconstructs her experiences and emotions from childhood to young adulthood. It’s important to remember that every experience with adoption is different. Nicole’s story is unique to her and her family and her quest is filled with many mixed emotions. She sets out to search for her biological family as she approaches motherhood. At different times, she marvels at the connection and the physical and emotional attachments with her baby during pregnancy and after, that are imminent. She reflects how she does not have any of this with her birth mom, let alone many details of her own birth’s circumstances. It’s a loss she’s grieved but now re-experiencing in a new way.

 

This book will challenge you in many ways  that can only be accomplished through the stories of those experiencing adoption and daily living it. It reveals a hidden layer of self reflection. While we celebrate new stages of families and growing bonds, there is also pain through loss that exists in adoption. For some adoptees there is always a pain or isolation that exists in parts of their story, and although Nicole has the opportunity to find some level of closure in hers, she does not fail to acknowledge the hurt and pain that exists for others in her own story or for others and their own experiences. Whether the whole book or parts of the book are familiar to you, it should not be generalized with every adoption. For example, adoptions are also facilitated by agencies, not just attorneys and levels of openness in adoption can vary.

 

There are several informative topics addressed in the book that any adoptive family, relative or professional, could learn from. We encourage everyone to find space for stories like Nicole’s and gain deeper insight to adoption. Examples of topics included in this book are open & closed adoption, transracial adoption, racism, infertility, pregnancy, poverty, child abuse, grief, trauma, belonging and birth family reunion. You can acquire your own copy here.

 

 If you’re new to hearing the adoptee experience, we also recommend “Closure” , a documentary by Angela Tucker where she and her husband document her search for her biological family. Angela also has a podcast called, “The Adoptee Next Door”, where she features conversations with other adoptees and insights on racism, religion, immigration, trauma, and many other topics.

 

 

Book Review for Birth Moms

 

Once the holidays settled, I was able to dive into an amazing story of a young mom’s journey of adoption- Finding Hope: A Birthmother’s Journey into the Light. I would like to start off by saying this book is also a quick read and you will not be able to set the book down until it is finished. You will cheer on this mom in her low points and even more in her high points. This book is written by Hope O Baker who continues to advocate for birth parents on this journey through conferences, social media, and other outlets. In this book you will follow Hope through her pregnancy, placement, family struggles, mental health, and more.

 

Hope tells us how it was difficult knowing which family to choose to parent her baby when she was looking through adoption profile books. She stated, “.., but it didn’t click,” until seeing the profile book of the family she ultimately chose to adopt her baby. It is often that expectant parents look through a number of books and no connection is felt. When Hope brings light to this part of her journey it brought reassurance that this is a good read for not only expectant moms, but also prospective parents to understand. She shows us the ups and downs of her feelings through this process. She gives us an opening to the anxious feelings that come with selecting a family for her son.

Another main focus that Hope speaks to us about is the struggles with her mom throughout her journey of adoption. In the book you follow along with the arguments and uncertainties of their relationship. This can be seen in many stories of expectant parents. There may be a family member that does not understand an expectant parent’s wishes or the expectant parent is left wondering how to tell their family about their plan of adoption. When reading along through Hope’s story it is evident that the people who the expectant parent(s) chooses to be a part of their journey could benefit from Finding Hope. I do not want to give everything away, but there is a happy ending!

 

Hope lets the readers in on her struggles with substance abuse and mental health. Hope was doing great in her career by making strides and friends at her job, but inside she was struggling with depression, alcohol, and drugs. We hear about a moment in her story where she knew she needed to find better coping strategies or she would not be able to get out of what she was experiencing. Through the journey of her drug and alcohol abuse, she is frank and honest with the readers. We see the realness in how it can take over as a coping mechanism.

 

Finding Hope: A Birthmother’s Journey into the Light is an empowering story and should be read by expectant parents, loved ones of expectant parents, and parents waiting to adopt. Hope is open and honest about her joys and falls of her journey from finding out she was pregnant to where she is now. Hope states “I’m still broken, but I see those cracks as opportunities.”

What I Wish You Knew: A Birthmom Testimony

I grew up having a fairytale idea of how my life would turn out. I was going to be happily married, a stay at home mom with 6 children, I would have a huge yard with a tire swing and life would be perfect. In reality, I was married… and divorced. Twice. I was blessed with being a stay at home mom for 10 years to 5 amazing children.

 

One of the most important things to me as a mom was to be involved with my kids and provide them with a safe, loving, fun and comfortable home life and to be available to them as much as possible. That became more challenging after becoming a single mom with joint custody and needing to go to work to provide for them. The circumstances were far from perfect, and there were ups and downs, but I worked jobs that allowed me to be home with them when they weren’t at school and I was able to attend most of their school and sporting events. Being a mom, in my opinion, is the most important ‘job’ ever and I always wanted to be the best at it, but I made many mistakes along the way. One of the biggest mistakes I made was not showing them the importance of putting God first. I ‘believed’ in God and I had been ‘saved’, but I had not invited God to be a part of my life. I wanted to live a life pleasing to God, but I still wanted to be in control and do things my way.

 

I was 41 years old, I was not married, 3 out of 5 of my kids were teenagers and still at home, I was expecting my first grandchild… AND I became pregnant. It was not a part of ‘my plan’, but it was part of a bigger plan that I would see unfold in the coming years. I knew every child was a blessing from God. I tried to embrace and welcome the news of becoming a new mom again, but I was consumed with feelings of guilt and shame (for allowing myself to be in this situation). I was anxious and worried (what would my family and friends think)? I was filled with fear (how was I going to raise a baby by myself, could I physically, emotionally and financially meet all of her needs?)

 

I had never felt so alone. Each day brought new fears and worries. I prayed daily, asking God to give me strength and peace and guidance. Every time the thought of adoption came into my mind, I pushed it away. I had heard many amazing adoption stories, but those were other people’s lives, other people’s stories… what kind of ‘mom’ would I be after having 5 children to even consider placing her for adoption? But, what kind of life would she have with me?

 

She was due in September and it wasn’t until July that I reached out to the Nightlight Christian Adoptions. A lot of faith, fear, heartache, tears, prayers and love were involved in the decision to consider adoption and not raise my daughter myself.

 

I changed my mind and my opinions about adoption a lot, during the pregnancy and after. I realize as prospective adoptive parents, you’ve had your own fears and worries and difficult trials that as a birth mom I have never experienced. The adoption journey has a lot of unknowns on both sides. Be patient, be supportive… ask questions, but understand if we aren’t ready or able to answer them. Be open and honest and be yourself – be real.

 

I was fearful that there were no perfect parents for my daughter, but I realized I was far from perfect. I learned to trust God and let Him lead. He chose the perfect family for my daughter. There will always be unchartered territory, on the birth mom’s side and the adoptive parents’ side – journey it together. You don’t have to have all the answers right now.

 

The greatest gift I received from the adoptive parents in my situation, was their acceptance of me and the amazing way they showed their love, their kindness and their gratitude. They helped change my view of birth moms in adoption. I am not a ‘bad’ or ‘unloving’ or ‘selfish’ person. I love enough to want more for the daughter, that I myself could not provide.

 

I originally did not want an open adoption. They were respectful of my decision while gently making it clear that they were there if I changed my mind, and they made great efforts to include me as little or as much as I chose to be involved, without making me feel pressured. We now have an open adoption and being a part of their lives has been a blessing I could have never imagined. I do not have regrets; I do not worry or live in fear for my daughter. I know she is cared for and loved by so many and with the exact mom and dad and family God planned for her.

 

I am praying for each and every one reading this, praying for birth parents, praying for adoptive parents, praying for the children who are a blessing no matter how they come to be a part of their chosen family.

 

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11

 

–written by a Brave Birthmom

Adult Adoptees’ Perspective on Interracial Adoption

 

The Debate on Interracial Adoption: Since the 1970s, there have been debates in America on whether children of one race should be adopted by parents of another. One camp argues that children adopted interracially lose their sense of identity and culture, while the other claims that regardless of race, it is positive because these children are finding homes. So, what do adult adoptees have to say about their experiences with being adopted by parents of a different race?

Kiana’s Experience: On the Archibald Project’s 48th episode, Race & Adoption Advice from Adult Adoptees, Kiana speaks about her experience with being a black child adopted and raised by a white, single mother (https://www.thearchibaldproject.com/). Kiana was adopted at age two with two other girls from her orphanage. She grew up in a community that had many adopted children, so her family unit seemed normal to her until the age of five. When Kiana began Kindergarten, children asked why she did not look like her mother; it was difficult to constantly explain that she was adopted and know what level of detail she needed to share. Thankfully, Kiana’s mother encouraged open communication with her daughters about adoption, and together they came up with a plan on what to say to the other kids.

Kiana’s mother made an effort to incorporate Haitian culture into their daily life. Every Haitian Independence Day, the family would cook traditional Haitian food, fly their national flag, and celebrate. They had dance parties to Haitian music and even attended an annual summer camp with other adoptees from their orphanage. Although she speaks fondly of these memories, Kiana explains that interracial adoption is complicated. As an adult, she is most uncomfortable around black individuals because she fears them calling her “white washed.” She continues by saying, “it feels like you are standing at two tables (black and white), and you don’t have a chair at either one.”

My friend, Dante*: It has been over a decade since I met my friend, Dante. Our friendship has been close, and I am immensely grateful that he chose to share his adoption story with me…and all of you! At the age of five, Dante was adopted from Guatemala along with his younger sister, Agostina*. They were adopted by a white couple in the American Midwest.

This time was scary for Dante as he was in a foreign place and did not speak the same language as his adoptive parents. However, as with Kiana, experiencing this transition with a sibling made it much easier. Over time, Dante and Agostina began to trust and bond with their new parents. His parents took a different approach than Kiana’s as they chose not to incorporate Guatemalan culture into their children’s lives. Although Dante regrets losing his Spanish speaking skills, he still embraces his Guatemalan culture as an adult. Dante loves listening to Guatemalan music and learning about the country. Overall, adoption has been a positive experience for him, and he is extremely grateful that his parents made the decision to adopt. Dante reported, “I am thankful for my parents and everything they have given me. Without them, I would have likely ended up in a gang or participating in illegal activities because of where I came from. Instead, I have a good life.” Dante desires to adopt children of his own some day because he “has seen how adoption can change someone’s life for the better.”

Should I Incorporate the Culture of My Child’s Home Country in Our Lives?: The answer to this is… it depends. When a child is adopted, especially from a foreign country, they need to process their new life circumstances and decide what their identity is going to be. They often experience an inner battle between the culture of their homeland and that of their new home. Kiana recommends that adoptive parents give their children space to feel and process all of the emotions that come with creating a new sense of self. She said her mother did a good job of not taking it personally when Kiana pushed her away during these times. In addition, children in a sibling group may not react the same way to this process. For instance, Kiana enjoys learning about her heritage and visiting Haiti, while her sister has little interest in those pursuits. It is important that adoptive parents give their children opportunities to stay invested in their birth country’s culture. From that point, each child can decide whether he or she would like to learn about their heritage or fully embrace an American lifestyle. No path is wrong, and neither indicates that the adoptive parents are not doing a great job at raising their children.

Conclusion: It is difficult to state which side of the debate is correct. Both adoptees above said there were complications with interracial adoption, but also indicated that their experiences were overall positive. Based on these cases, a successful and healthy interracial adoption can be achieved by adoptive parents who 1) support open communication and 2) present opportunities to incorporate the child’s culture if he or she is interested in pursuing it.

*Names have been changed for anonymity

 

written by Heather Berry

How Hosting Changed My Life

My family was part of the first host program at Nightlight in 1995. It really was a unique program, the first of its kind, as school-aged children from overseas orphanages were being offered an opportunity to visit the United States. Ron Stoddart, Nightlight’s founder, brought over 12 children from a Children’s Home in St. Petersburg, Russia, ages 7-14 years old.  The children performed their version of The Little Prince at venues across Southern California.

 

We had actually only been home with our daughters, adopted from the same Children’s Home, 2 months earlier, so were dealing with our own adjustment as new parents. We agreed to host two 7-year-old little girls from the group of children our eldest daughter had belonged to at that orphanage. It was a wild 2 weeks! It brought up some issues with our daughters as their friends told them they would be going back to Russia and not to believe us that we were their ‘forever family.’ We did a lot of talking, processing of feelings and reassuring our daughters that they truly were here to stay. We became close friends with all the other families involved. It was an amazing experience!

 

We continued to host over the next 23 years, having over 75 children in our home! Nightlight had several years where there were two tours, summer and winter. After the first few years, I began to work at Nightlight and also took on the responsibility for the tour program. We hosted children from China, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Russia, Taiwan and Ukraine. It was a fun experience for our children, as they got to practice their Russian and Spanish or learn words from yet another language. We enjoyed experiencing another culture, as we tried new foods, listened to different music and heard their stories. Ron named the tours, ‘”Every Child Has a Name’” at remind us that each child has a story uniquely their own.

 

We brought the 10-year-old soccer champion team from St. Petersburg Russia one year. It was fun to take the children to different places and see their faces as we went to the beach, Costco, Disneyland or a real, manicured soccer field for the first time. The boys were used to playing with a ball made of tape and on a rocky playground. They didn’t have any equipment. Through families and sponsors, we sent them back with soccer cleats, balls, uniforms and a wonderful sign with all of their names. They were so excited!

 

Most of our tour programs over the first 15 years were performance tours. The children performed traditional folk dances and their National Anthem, having prepared prior to their visit. The first performance, the children would be very shy. However, with each performance, as they received applause and tokens of appreciation, the children blossomed!  They enjoyed sharing their culture with the appreciative audiences.

 

Each child came to the US with a small backpack, sometimes with one or two sets of clothing and a toothbrush, but more often, empty. They left with rolling suitcases and character backpacks stuffed to the brim with clothing, new toys and school supplies. We knew everything would be shared with the other children at the children’s home once they returned, so sent clothing, toys and supplies that would be enjoyed by children of all ages.

 

We saw the tour program as a way to advocate for older children hoping for adoption, we also saw it as a way to learn more about other cultures, share our home with children who may not have had a positive family experience. The children experienced having a story read to them before bed, cooking together and going swimming in the ocean. We kept in touch with some of the children, some for a brief time until they were adopted. We continue to stay in touch with others, long past the time they visited. One even stayed with us as she completed an internship for her university, at Nightlight.

 

The majority of the children did find their ‘forever family.’ However, for those who were not adopted, they had a wonderful vacation where they got to experience a loving family who cared about them and shared their family life. They left with memories that would last them a lifetime. As our 4 daughters grew up, we found we had room for two more children and adopted our sons. We did not anticipate adopting again after our first four daughters, however hosting brought us our boys.  Hosting changed our lives in so many ways, leaving us with so many wonderful memories and best of all, our sons!

 

written by Rhonda Jarema | Executive Director, California Office Nightlight Christian Adoptions

 

 

Adoption Through the Eyes of a Father

My wife and I felt called to adoption for quite some time, but the process always seemed daunting, and fraught with uncertainty. After completing long years of medical school and residency, along with having two children during the process, our family finally had more time together, and life started to feel pretty “comfortable.” However, we did not feel complete, and we knew we wanted to add another child; we just did not know how. Adoption weighed heavy on our hearts, but we were still plagued by doubts and insecurities. We feared the unknown and we held tight to our newly found, and long-awaited, sense of “comfort.”

 

Ultimately, we decided to fast for clarity and wisdom; and God answered in remarkable ways, as we know only He can. Our story leading to adoption is long and detailed, and one we love sharing, but it was during this time He made it undeniably clear our family was called to adoption. God had reminded us that we are not called to a life of “comfort,” rather we have been called to a life of purpose, regardless of the challenges that lie ahead. We have been called to exercise our faith through action, even during times of doubt and uncertainty.

 

Following our fast, we began our home study process, and started making our family profile book. Within a couple months we became a “waiting family,” and several months later we received the call we had been selected. Later that day we held our girl, Hayden Grace, for the first time, and our family was forever changed. Our “gotcha day,” also just so happened to be my birthday; so, every year we have plenty to celebrate.

 

I imagine every adoptive parent has their faith tested and refined throughout their adoption journey, and ours is no different. Over Hayden’s first year, she battled multiple health issues, each one testing our faith in new ways, and each one resurrecting more insecurity and doubt. Yet, through every storm, God calmed our unrest, and reminded us of His greater purpose and of His steadfast presence. Looking back, we cannot believe our fears almost led to missing out on our sweet Hayden. Well-intentioned friends and family often say, “she is so lucky to have you,” and my wife and I feel that statement could not be further from the truth. We are the ones who needed her, and we are infinitely grateful she is family.

 

Hayden just turned one, and she’s far too young for the difficult conversations of identity, grief or any other challenging topic that comes with adoption. Her older siblings have already started asking some pretty hard questions, hopefully helping to start prepare us for what is to come. We know there will likely be difficult conversations ahead, but as we have experienced time and time again, He will be there every step of the way.

 

written by an adoptive father  |  submitted by Lara Kelso

The Honor of Being a Social Worker

I have had the privilege and the honor of serving as an adoption social worker for nine years, seven with Nightlight. I have been able to walk with some families through their most joyous of seasons and have climbed with some families over their highest of hurdles. As a social worker, I often joke with families at the beginning of their process that I will become a member of their family through their whole process of adoption. I often sit with families through their home study process and know all of the nitty-gritty details of their lives. As a social worker, I regularly have the honor to talk with families while they are waiting in the hospital when their profile has been chosen by an expectant parent and they are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a baby. I have sat beside a family when their adoption situation did not pan out in the way we all had hoped for. As a social worker, I have had the privilege of sitting with families when they review their  referral of a precious child that will be joining their family. When a family arrives home with their child, I have the incredible blessing to sit down with families and discuss how their family can best meet the needs of the child entering their home.

 

One of my greatest joys as a social worker is seeing adoptive families come together and creating relationships of their own. I am a firm believer in helping prospective adoptive families build their community. Families need other families to walk through the adoption process with. When families have an established adoption-centered community, it helps their children to grow stronger bonds with their parents and to have a firmer understanding and development of their own identity. I have the privilege to teach a class called, “Life Long Issues in Adoption” for our local office. One of the sections we cover is ‘identity.’ In the class, we do an activity that creates a visual of the prospective adoptive family’s community. I encourage the class members to look around the room and see if anyone else’s community looks like theirs. From this class and other in-person classes, we get to see families creating friendships with one another, taking steps to further build their adoption community. In our California office, we also host a Nurture Group for families with children ages five and under. Imagine a room full young children, tons of sensory play items, and lots of snacks. This is one of my favorite days of the month! The group is child-centered, but often a safe place for adoptive families from all of our programs to continue to share their adoption stories in a safe place and gain support. As a social worker, I not only get to walk families through their home study process, but I have the privilege, honor, and blessing to watch their family grow, bond, attach, and develop year after year.

 

written by Amanda Schaffert, MSW | Adoption Social Worker

It’s 2020: Why Are We Still Afraid of Adoption Telling?

 

This blog was originally published on LavenderLuz.com.

How do I tell my child he’s adopted? And when?

Rant: I’m frustrated that these questions still come up (and surprised because my readers are adoption-savvy, so I start thinking everyone is). Who is preparing adoptive parents for adoption telling? And who should be preparing them? What can we do for the current and next generation of adoptees to help them own their story from their very beginning?

The move toward openness in adoption started in the 1980s, which means for more than 40 years we have been morphing from shame, secrecy, and walls of closed adoption => to => truth, disclosure, and doors of open adoption.

But time alone doesn’t mean all adoptive parents and hopeful adoptive parents have gotten the message of dealing in truth and openness. The adoption professionals who are launching these moms and dads into the world of adoptive parenting are not, as a group, doing a good enough job preparing their paying clients to parent with openness and disclosure (there are definitely some exceptions).

adoption telling from a wall to a door

Prospective parents, though, may bear the ultimate responsibility for learning about current best practices in adoptive parenting. But how can they know what they don’t know? A blind spot is, by definition, a thing you can’t see is there.

Recurring Evidence That Parents Don’t Know When & How to Disclose

A few times a month, someone will ask in a social media adoption group WHEN is the best time to tell their child they were adopted. And WHEN to disclose information about that child’s birth family. We’re not talking about an advanced course in “open adoption” — facilitating actual contact — but merely the basic disclosure that the child’s origin story has an extra element in it: adoption. That the child has first parents.

And that we can talk about it all.

Why Can’t Parents Talk About Adoption?

Time and time again, I hear this from well-meaning parents: We’re waiting until our child is ready to hear.

What I hear behind the words, though, is this: We’re waiting until we’re ready to tell.

But becoming ready doesn’t necessarily happen automatically, which creates a big problem for the whole family, not least of all the adoptive parents.

Sorites: A Paradox

Relevant here is the concept of sorites, a term I learned a few years ago from a New York Times‘ Ethicist column headlined “Should a Sibling Be Told She’s Adopted?”

‘Sorites’ (saw- RAHY-teez)’ — from the Greek for ‘‘heap’’ — is the name of a philosophical paradox. A grain of sand isn’t a heap, and adding one more grain can’t make it a heap, and as you add grains of sand, you reason that another grain can’t turn your pile into a heap. Yet at some point, a heap is what you have. In the temporal realm, there’s an analogous problem. Very often, it won’t do any harm to wait one more day to do something. So you put the deed off until, at some point, you’ve waited too long.

Sorites sins can creep up on well-intentioned people. Maybe your wife meant to tell you, when you first started dating, that she once had a fling with your brother, but the time never seemed right. There was no particular moment when she crossed the line from permissible deferral to culpable silence. A decade later, though, a spiny eel wriggles in her stomach whenever she thinks about it. She prays you never find out.

Sorites sins can rock relationships.

— Kwame Anthony Appiah, NYT Ethicist columnist in 2016

The Effect of Not Telling

Never mind the causes of why some parents can’t (or won’t) talk about adoption. They are numerous, individualized, and because they are in the past, they can’t be changed.

But the effects can be known and mitigated. And this leads to a deeper point than merely figuring out when and how to tell:

Whatever is keeping adoptive parents from telling is probably hindering their ability to parent effectively in other ways.

Because when parents are not disclosing something so big and integral to a child, they are not able to build a fully trusting relationship with him/her. Lies of commission and omission are likely to be devastating to the person they care about, once they realize that parents knew and did not/could not tell.

Not being able/willing to tell can also mean parents are having a difficult time dealing in What Is, in accepting the whole story of how the child came into the family, of the existence and validity of another set of parents — all in an effort to keep their own fears and insecurities at bay. If there is denial going on in one place, there may be denial going on in others (see the 1956 study listed in Resources, below). This compromises the ability to be truthful, which hinders the ability to build trust.

Adoption Telling is in the Best Interest of Parents!

When children sense they cannot trust their parents, they are more susceptible to looking for connections elsewhere. This can manifest in so many nightmarish ways, and as you can imagine can lead to lots of problems for the child and parents.

As I’ve said before, as the tween/teen years approach, parents are going to want to have a clear and trusting channel of communication between them and their adolescent. There really is no other true power in parenting during this stage. Grounding and withholding things can only go so far. Trust and connection are vital for making it through the turbulent tween/teen years in a trusting and connected way (adoptive parents: if you’re not already in this Facebook group, consider joining).

As one wise and experienced parent said in an online group, disclosing early and fully is “so much EASIER. No big reveal, no nervousness, no confusion, no sense of betrayal, no lies. Just the truth.”

What do you think? How should adopting parents find out best practices, and who should be tasked to make sure they do? With a focus on a solution (and not just on placing blame), please offer your ideas for progress for better adoption telling in the comments.

Relevant Resources

Thanks to TAO for those last two.

Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, blogs from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life. Lori was honored as an Angel in Adoption® in 2018 by the Congressional Coalition of Adoption Institute.