Grief, my hidden treasure.

This Saturday is my dad’s birthday (May 30th). He’d be 65 years old if he were still here. He died suddenly, unexpectedly when I was only 3 years old. I’ve often felt I didn’t have a right to grieve the loss of my father, Owen. When I shared parts of my story or someone would ask a question, I’d quickly follow it up with, “I was so little when he died. I don’t remember him. It’s ok.” 

Grief often felt self indulgent to me.

I had a beautiful childhood. One of privilege. It wasn’t perfect, as nothing ever is, but, I was loved, safe and cherished. I have a mother who is my best friend and an aunt who is my second mother. My (step) dad loved me, and still loves me, even when I relentlessly try to push him away and keep him at a distance. Amidst all of this, grief was illusive to me. Something I was chasing. And, I didn’t know what I was looking for. 

My dad died on the side of the road. On December 23rd no less. We were on our way to Florida (from Indiana) for Christmas. My mom, brother, maternal grandparents and I were all in our station wagon. My dad was driving. As the story goes, my, at the time, 32-year-old, uber healthy dad started to feel funny. Tight in the chest. Shortness of breath. Dizzy maybe. He said out loud something along the lines of, “I’m not feeling so well.” He pulled the car over and passed out. My mom and grandfather quickly pulled him out of the car. It was evident he hadn’t simply passed out. We were losing him. My mom, a practicing nurse at the time, started CPR. My grandfather helped. It wasn’t enough. He died right there. On the side of the highway. My brother and I were in the car. 

My mom blames herself. She thinks if she had performed CPR better he’d still be here. Somewhere deep inside, she knows that’s not the case. She and my grandfather did everything they could to save him. An autopsy later revealed he had a heart defect. He had recently had the flu/pneumonia, and likely the infection combined with his heart, caused his death. No one could have saved him. At some point his heart would have been compromised by something. 

I don’t (cognitively) remember any of it. Nothing. I’ve heard stories. Those have shaped some “memories.” Though I don’t “remember,” something changed on that day. I was forever different. I suffered a loss so profound grief became etched in my DNA. On a physical, primal level, I wasn’t the same. Three year olds may not hold memories in the traditional sense, but based on what I now know, they remember. Their bodies remember. Their hearts and souls do too. 

It’s no wonder I now work in field cloaked in grief.

Gosh, I’m not sure where I could find more grief if I tried. Working in adoption, you’re confronted with the triad of grief. The infertility grief an adoptive family brings to table. The grief a birth mother experiences when she places her child in the arms of another. And equally as important, the grief an adoptee feels. Her life began with loss. Trauma. She was born into one family. Raised in another. There’s possibly no loss quite like it. 

We can’t intimately know another’s grief.

I’ll never know the hurt of a couple trying to start their family, only to be faced with disappointment, loss and heartbreak time and time again. I can’t begin to imagine what a birth mother feels when she finds herself in a time and place unable to parent her child and thus she walks out of the hospital empty handed. And, I don’t know the pain of an adoptee who feels there is hole in her heart. Something missing. Curious about where she came from. Desperate for answers. Wanting to understand. 

But, I do know grief. In the depths of my soul, I know it. I haven’t always been able to find it. But, it’s there. I once attended a continuing education class (for my social work license) on grief and children. Basically, how to help children grieve. We were practicing exercises to use with kids. As one activity, we were given paper and crayons. Told to draw grief. It was left at that. I grabbed the yellow and black crayons and started creating. I wasn’t thinking. Just drawing. This is what ended up on my paper. 

A few minutes later, we were asked to share our picture with the group. Describe it. I wasn’t exactly sure what I had drawn but I started talking. “I think this is my grief. This hidden treasure. And, it’s buried. If I can dig deep enough to get to it, uncover and unearth it, I’ll have found the gold, the gift. If I can hold it and get to know it, I can begin to heal.” 

My entire life I’ve been trying to uncover my grief.

Trying to let it breath. I now have the sacred honor and privilege of helping others in the adoption triad do the same. I get to be a guide and support. I wish I knew how to better help them. How to make their pain go away. I don’t. I don’t have any of the answers. I’m just now starting to learn how to help myself. But, I’m not afraid of walking with them. Of guiding them to their grief, their buried treasure, and sitting next to them in their pain. Because grief was written in the depths of me the day my father died. It’s a part of who I am. One of my favorite authors, Glennon Doyle Melton, writes, “Grief, like joy, is holy. Grief is love’s souvenir. It’s our proof that we once loved.” Maybe we shouldn’t be so afraid of it at all. 

The night before my father died, we were staying in a hotel. My brother was in a bed with my mom, and I was sleeping next to my dad. He turned to my mom as I lay next to him asleep and said, “have you ever seen anything more beautiful in your life?” 

There are no videos of my dad. I’ve never heard his voice. I have only a few pictures. There were no letters left for me (from him). But, he left me with a gift. He left me with this grief. My hidden treasure. I’m able to walk with others as they hunt for their treasure too. It’s the humbling work of my life. It’s freakin’ hard most days. But, I was made for this. And, he’s with me. Every step of the way. 

Happy 65th birth to my father, Owen, who left me with his love and this grief, too. I will forever work to find it, and in turn I know I’ll be making my way back to you.


COVID Statement

Dear Friends~

Everyone on staff at the Adoption Support Center is anxious to get back into the agency to collaborate and support all families in the adoption journey.

As this is an evolving situation, we continue to monitor this situation in real-time to ensure the proper precautions are being taken so everyone feels safe.

Since the agency is in Marion county, we are following the guidelines of this county. We are considered essential business; we have a staff person in the office every day. All other staff has been and will continue to work remotely.

June 1st we are moving to phase 2.

We are allowing two staff members in the agency at the same time, while practicing social distancing. We are allowing coordinators to meet with new expectant mom’s, practicing social distancing in an outdoor environment, with PPE. We will start having prospective adoptive families meeting expectant mom’s after a video or phone conference has happened, if both parties wish and feel safe.

Lots more telecom meetings and less time as a group in the agency together.

All education classes, home studies, office interviews, and planning meetings will continue being done via Zoom. The post placement visit will be done in the adoptive family’s home, taking all the possible safeguards we can.

We plan on staying at phase 2 until we see how the city handles the children going back to school.

The agency is not equipped for outdoor visits at this time, however families are welcome to use the agency as a meeting point and take a walk together, as the weather permits. Keep in mind, there are no restroom facilities currently available.

As all of you, we are aware there will be a new normal! We envision Phase 3 being our new normal for a while. Lots more telecom meetings and less time as a group in the agency together. More on how Phase 3 will look as the city decides what best for our children come August.

Thanks for your understanding and STAY SAFE!


Adoptive Families, Questions you need to be asking.

As we were recently doing some spring cleaning around the office, we came across this book, Adopting in America: How to Adopt Within One Year. We also stumbled across Adopt the Baby You Want. Not sure any of us have read (or recently read) these books as they were written in 1993 and 1990, respectively. We can’t really speak to the content inside. But, the titles alone caught our eye! They screamed, especially the first one, “Adoptive parents, let’s talk about the fastest route to your baby!” And, “Find the professional that is quick, quick, quick! It’s all about speed!” And the end result, a baby.

Along with other recent blogs and posts we’ve read among the adoption community (we’re not the first to write about this), it got us thinking…what are prospective adoptive families looking for in an adoption professional? These are the people, the organization, tasked with helping you start/grow your family. It’s an incredibly important decision. Historically (as seen in above mentioned books ), it’s safe to assume the most common answer to this question is cost and wait time. It makes sense! Adoption is expensive. In many aspects of life it’s natural to do your research and pick the most cost effective route. In regards to wait time, families adopting are ready to be parents. They’ve likely been trying to start/grow their family for a good amount of time. How can we fault them for seeking the fastest path to their baby? And, we as adoption professionals easily fall into this mindset at times too.

As a larger adoption community across the United States, we’re starting to talk more about what adoptive families NEED to be looking for in an adoption professional.

Should families still be looking for information on cost and wait times? Absolutely. Adoptive families should expect upfront, honest information about cost and where specifically their money will be going and what it will be covering. It’s also reasonable for families to be given average expected wait times. This can help them prepare for the wait. However, if adoptive families are choosing an adoption agency solely on cost and wait times, likely we may be missing the bigger picture…

What if prospective adoptive families started asking different questions? Started looking for more then the quickest road to their baby? And, adoption professionals stopped “selling” it as such. What if we all looked at adoption as a lifelong journey? An often beautiful, yet also complex relationship between adoptive family, birth family, and adoptee. The adoption professional a family chooses will be a guide, teacher and support as they raise their child, specifically the part of their child that is an adoptee. We have to imagine their questions might start to look something like this…

How do you treat your expectant mothers? What kind of care do they get pre placement? Are they encouraged to explore options outside of adoption? Are you coercive in any way? Do you let her see her baby at the hospital? Do you make her pay back living expense money received if she doesn’t proceed with an adoption? Do expectant moms have access to their own attorney? What about birth fathers? What is your philosophy on open adoption? Do you help birth and adoptive families navigate their open adoption after placement? What support and education do you provide prospective adoptive families? What kind of language do you use when talking about adoption adoption? What post placement services and support do you provide for birth mothers? For adoptive families? FOR ADOPTEES?…

Wow, that’s a lot! Not quite as simple as asking, “how much does it cost?” and “when will we have our baby?” Adoptive families deserve more! They should expect answers to all of the above questions. They deserve to know who is guiding them as they start their family and will impact how it happens. They deserve to know how their future child’s birth family will be treated both pre and post placement. All of this becomes a part of their child’s story. It has lasting implications. For an adoptive family, their adoption journey doesn’t end the day their child is placed in their arms. It begins.

We hope to continue to answer these important questions for you. We strive to be as honest and transparent as possible. There’s a lot we do well. And, there are areas where we need to improve. Keep asking us the hard questions. And, keep expecting answers. Adoptive parents, birth parents, AND adoptees deserve this and so much more.


Adoption in the midst of Covid-19

We are living in unprecedented times. Along with so many others around the state, country and world, we are navigating this uncharted territory one day at time. Fear and anxiety are natural reactions to the Covid-19 pandemic. We are right there with you, walking through these complex emotions. We are also filled with hope and anticipation as we watch people come together to fight this thing and protect the most vulnerable.

What does all of this mean for adoption? Earlier this week, the state of Indiana declared a “shelter in place” order. This means outside of seeking medical care, running essential errands like the grocery or drug store, or conducting essential business, you should stay home. The goal is to stop the spread of the virus. Adoption services are considered essential, allowing us to continue this work. However, we are staying home and staying put as much as possible. Luckily the virtual world is allowing us to do much of our work from home so we can do our part to social distance and hopefully flatten the curve.

If you are an expectant mom, birth mother, prospective adoptive family or recent adoptive family, you may be wondering, how is this going to affect my adoption process!? We don’t have all the answers, however, we can assure you we are going to continue this work we are so passionate about and we will support each of you to the best of our ability amidst all of this uncertainty. Hopefully you find some answers below to potential questions you may have!

What if I am an expectant mom considering adoption and I’m just starting this process!

Call us! Our phones are still answered 24 hours a day! You’ll be met by a friendly voice who can help you start this process. When you’d usually meet an adoption coordinator in person, right now you’ll likely meet them first over the phone. You’ll even have the option to video chat with them! We can mail or email you information about adoption, your options, our agency, and prospective adoptive family profiles. And when you’re comfortable, we can come and meet you in person!

What if I am an expectant mom already in the process of considering adoption but I haven’t met the prospective adoptive family yet and I am ready to do so?

Don’t worry! If you are ready to meet a prospective adoptive family but we are still social distancing, you can meet them via phone or video chat to start! We actually had 3 of these meetings this week and they went great! Your coordinator can still be “with you” on these calls for support and help just as they would be in person. And when you’re comfortable, you can meet the family in person as well!

What if I am an expectant mom considering adoption, I already met the prospective adoptive family, and now I’m wondering, can I continue to see them during my pregnancy? What are my options?

We’re so glad you got to meet them before “shelter in place” went into effect! For now, we recommend you continue to get to know them via phone and/or video chat. Based on everyone’s comfort level you’ll hopefully be able to meet up with them in person again soon!

What if I am an expectant mom and delivery is very soon? Who can be at the hospital with me?

Right now, most hospitals are only allowing one person to be with you. No other visitors. This could change again at some point, but this is what we are experiencing right now. You are in charge. You get to pick who is with you. It might be a family member or friend. It might be one of the adoptive parents. It could even be birth father or maybe you want to labor on your own. The important thing to know is you get to make this decision. You may be thinking, but I want both my family and the adoptive parents with me. Sadly, that may not be able to happen right now. We get this is hard. Know we will support whatever decision you make.

I am an expectant mom and I just delivered my baby. I want to continue with my adoption plan. Am I still able to sign consents? What if the adoptive family isn’t with me right now? Can I still do an adoption?

If you just delivered or will soon deliver your baby, and want to proceed with an adoption plan, you still can. Maybe you’ve already been in contact with us. Maybe not. Either way, we are here. Hospitals are continuing to allow the attorney to come and meet with you to sign adoption consents. In some cases they are allowing our adoption coordinators to come in as well, in some cases they are not. Either way, you can still continue with your adoption plan. If the adoptive family is not able to be at the hospital during labor/delivery with you or in the days after, you can still proceed with an adoption. We will work out the details of how and when you meet adoptive family and baby is placed with them on a case by case basis.

What if I am a birth mother and I recently placed my baby for adoption? Can I still get post placement support?

Yes! Yes! Yes! Whether you placed your baby a week ago or years ago, we are here for you. We offer post placement support services and counseling. The first step is to reach out to our post placement team at either 317-255-5916 or myadoptioncenter@gmail.com. Our post placement team answers these calls and emails on Fridays. They will be able to support you and connect you to a counselor if desired. Post placement counseling is continuing as well! Counseling sessions are taking place virtually right now either by phone or video. We will resume in person counseling when able.

What if I am a birth mother or an adoptive family and we have a visit coming up? What should we do?

Right now, we are recommending birth and adoptive families postpone any visits currently scheduled. This is not canceling a visit, rather it is rescheduling it a little bit out. We have no idea when in person visits should resume. It could be a few weeks, it could be a month or two. We’ll follow the lead of our community leaders on social distancing and shelter in place recommendations, and when able, we’ll encourage you to have that visit you postponed! In the meantime, it might be a great time to catch up via text, phone, or video chat!

What if I am an prospective adoptive family thinking about adoption, however, we haven’t attended your seminar yet or signed on with you? Do we need to wait until all this is over to take next steps?

No, call us! We are still accepting new adoptive families and can start the process for you. We may even hold informational seminars via Zoom!

What if we are a prospective adoptive family already signed on with you, but still in the middle of our home study process? What does this mean for us?

We will continue to walk with you as you complete your home study. Classes, meetings and interviews may be held via video conference for now, and then, when able we will make our way to your home for required home visits.


What if we are an active adoptive family with you? What does this mean for us?

You profile is continuing to be shown to expectant mamas considering adoption. If you are chosen during this time, you will likely be meeting your expectant mom via phone or video chat for the first time. Your coordinator will likely still be present for that call for help and support. Their may be restrictions at the hospital when expectant mom delivers. We will walk with you through that time and guide you best we can based on the wishes of your expectant mom and restrictions at that time.

What if we are an adoptive family and our baby was placed with us recently in the last few weeks or months? What will this mean for finalization?

If you already completed your post placement visit and class, you’ll likely still be able to finalize in the time frames we estimate. You’ll likely be finalizing from home over video! Your attorney will guide you through that process. If you haven’t completed your post placement home visit or class yet, we’ll be reaching out to you on a case by case basis to help you with next steps.

Hopefully, some of the information above has been helpful to you! There are still a lot of unknowns and things that may change. The above is our best answer right now. Please know some of this may continue to change as circumstances evolve over the next few days, weeks. We’ll continue to do our best to keep you informed and updated, and know we will be here to support and guide you every step of the way! It’s our honor and privilege to continue to serve you. Thank you for trusting us in your adoption journey. As so many have said, we are in this together.


Looking back

2006 

Sometimes, the adoption industry moves so fast that I feel dizzy. As a modern and ethical adoption agency, we strive to keep up with current needs from all parts of the triad.

I got a call today that took me back 14 years. She was just 14 and pregnant. She had come to Indiana to live with “Grampy” to escape the rumors of her middle school and the reputation of her middle- income family. 

Her mom called me from out of state to fill me in before I headed over to “Grampy’s” house. Sara is quiet and reserved her mom warned me. She also said she is smart, beautiful and wants Sara to feel no pressure to choose adoption. 

“Grampy” welcomed me into his home and offered me some brewed iced tea. It was a cool spring day and I had my 4-year-old son with me. It was not unusual for him to be tagging along with me with a bag of match box cars. The distraction of a young boy was just what Sara needed to take some of the pressure off her. She played cars with him and easily answered my questions as my son rolled the yellow bus along the back of the couch and down Sara’s arm. 

She was very forthright and honest about sneaking in her boyfriend after her parents were asleep. She said they have a walk out basement and he would wait by the door patiently until she came for him. 

January 2020 

I was driving with my son and we got re-routed, due to a water leak and ended up going through a neighborhood that instantly triggered a memory. It was of a very young pregnant girl living with her grandpa. I told my son, Quinn, about her and how he played with his cars and “Grampy” gave him raisins and vanilla wafers. He smiled that lazy, sweet grin that warms me every time. He said, mom what happened? I said well, the baby came and she ended up choosing to place her son for adoption and he now is the age that she was when she gave birth. 

Today: I just checked my email and this was in the inbox. 

Good Afternoon 🙂 My name is Sara I was reaching out to Amanda just because it has been a lot of years! I gave my son Andrew to John and Linda and was just thinking about how I lost contact with Amanda over all of these years. We are an open adoption success story and continue to be a part of each other’s lives (we attend Andrew’s school plays and they have been out to our house to visit). Not sure if Amanda remembers me but like I said I felt the need to reach out and reconnect. Let her know Grampy is still around and he continues to be amazing! 

Sometimes, I wonder how much I say, how much I educate, how much I eat, sleep and bleed adoption, if I make a difference.

Do people remember the person that came into their life at such a vulnerable time? This message caught me off guard. As I am pulling back from the role of coordinating adoptions, I am finding myself wondering where and who people really are?

Did that family mean what they said to Sara- yes they did. Did Grampy mean it when he said, “oh I am going to be around for a long time”- yes he did. Did that woman who sipped her iced tea and asked just the right questions at just the right time mean it when she said, Sara it’s all going to be okay? Yes she did! 

Here’s to Sara and her son growing up together, yet apart through adoption.

Names have been changed to protect privacy.


Search and Reunion Three Part Series: Introduction

For many decades, adoptions were closed. Birth and adoptive families were not really given the option of an open adoption, or an open adoption beyond a basic simple “contract” of letters sent for an initial few years. This left grown adoptees to search for their birth family in their early adult years. Their curiosity and quest for answers sent them out looking. We can only imagine what adoptees felt/feel when they set out to find their birth family in hopes of filling in the missing pieces of their story. As some adoptees refer to as “the hole in my heart.” 

Thankfully, we’re learning. We’re learning what an open adoption from day one can do for an adoptee. It provides connections and relationships with their birth family. It prevents secrecy and shame. It allows adoptees to explore the entirety of their identity. It gives them permission to ask questions. And then find answers. Open adoption is ever evolving, changing and growing. Thank goodness for that.

However, for the adoptees of generations past, searching and reunification is still very much a challenge they are facing. When an adoptee sets out to find their birth family as a young adult, it becomes an event. Sometimes a very big event. Fear and anxiety often accompany the search. What will I find? Will I be accepted? What if I don’t find anything? We see the viral “happy” picture perfect reunions. But that’s not always the full story. 

In an upcoming three part series by our founder, Julie Craft, we are going to explore the myths of searching, what you may find when you set out on your search and Julie and her daughter’s personal story of search and reunification. The growth of open adoption is changing the landscape of search and reunification. In many cases eliminating it all together. For those of you still on the quest, follow along as we explore the adoptees search and reunification journey. 


BIRTHDAYS

You have this glorious child through adoption – this gift. You want to give them everything – love, family connection, a good education, fun vacations, and generous holidays and birthdays. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like that is what they want from you at all… 

For instance, birthdays. When my daughter was turning about nine or ten, she started rebelling against her birthdays, sabotaging them. She would really act out and just make them impossible. This behavior lasted until she was 15. That was the year I read Sherri Eldridge’s book, “20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew”. In the book, Sherrie pointed out that sometimes a child grieves on their birthday. They know they are adopted (or should know that from you, the adoptive parent) and they grieve the unknown or what life would have been like with their birth parents. They don’t realize they are doing this; they can’t put it into words. But when I read this passage, I asked Lauren about it. She said, “Yes! I didn’t know why I felt that way, but I would sometimes be sad on my birthday.” It prompted the most wonderful conversation. She was grieving “what could have been.” We’ve all done that. Grieved a lost marriage, a job we didn’t get, a boy that didn’t call after a date.

We grieve what could have been.

It didn’t hurt my feelings when she recognized this, I thought it made perfect sense. That was the year we decided to search for her birth mother – it took me less than 24 hours to find her. Ours was a private adoption in the 80’s. Her birth mom was a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend so backtracking just took a few phone calls. 

The reunion with her birth mom was prompted by a deep conversation on her 15th birthday. I wish I had known so much earlier what she was thinking, why birthdays were not all I wished for her. Not every adoptee will feel this grief, but now you might know why your child is sad on such a happy occasion.


Grit

Sometimes I want to walk away. Why don’t I? Yes, why don’t I? This is the argument I have with myself. Especially as the days go on, in this industry and I feel the back of my legs ache as I have been fighting uphill for 20 years. Nothing, I mean nothing has been easy. Most days in fact, have been brutal. The life of an adoption coordinator at one of the largest adoption agencies in the Midwest.  

 This is fighting for the women and men who are vulnerable and fragile consumed with emotion. This is reminding society and all around that yes, she WANTS her baby. No, the adoptive families are not perfect, and YES, they too are vulnerable and fragile. No one in this situation ever dreamed this or desired this. And if they did, they had no idea how uphill they would be going and how it can change you inside out!  

Some Monday mornings at staffing we look around the room at each other and we all have the same look on our faces. Exhaustion, adrenaline, and grit. Grit, is what I want to focus on, because this my friends, is what makes ASC stand out!  

According to Wikipedia: Grit in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s perseverance of effort combined with the passion for a long-term goal or end state! Our long-term goal and end state are clear. An adoptee that is stable and comfortable with their identity. The questions of the where and the why and the who have been answered with open heart and arms. Once an adoptive parent feels secure in his or her role as parent, they can begin to fill the holes that are created with the trauma of adoption. Yes, there is trauma in domestic infant adoption.  

The exhaustion comes in when these adoptive parents are never fully secure in their role. They then fail to be able to fill the holes. Case in point: Twelve years ago, I met a girl named Sara. She was raised in north west Indiana. Her and her twin sister, Laura were conceived out of prostitution.  They were eventually placed into foster care.  Unbeknownst to them or anyone else the twins older ½ brother was already in that foster home. Laura eventually became pregnant by her ½ brother and that baby was removed and placed in a different foster home.  

When Sara turned 18 and aged out of the system, she was determined to never deal with DCS again. At 20 she found herself raising her two-year-old alone and in a domestic violent situation. She contacted ASC to place her daughter and help her start over. I immediately fell in love with her and her Grit. In 2007, Sara contacted me again and was pregnant. She was interested in making another adoption plan. She chose a child free family that doted on her and showed her so much respect and true love. They had a fabulous relationship. It was right after placing her baby boy that Sara decided she wanted to move away and not be contacted as the grief was too much to bear.  

During this year, we did a great job of explaining the process of adoption to adoptive families. Where we fell short was educating on how to do an “open” adoption when the birth family chooses to not be involved. So today, this baby is 12 and the adoptive mom is asking for advice as he’s struggling with his identity where he came from. The mistake we made was not putting more effort into the two adoptive families connecting. So this is the time to reunite Caroline and Thomas. They share ½ of the same DNA. They both have her complexion and grin. They are both beautifully loved. 

(All names referred to in this post have been changed to protect their identities.)


Sisters and Brothers

As an adoption professional with two children who joined my family through adoption, I would often try to get their perspective and views on things. On one such occasion, I asked my oldest, blonde haired, hazel-eyed daughter her views on the wisdom and advisability of a white family adopting a second black child. My daughter was about ten years old at the time, and she had been letting me know that she often felt different from her friends and not always a part of the family. I wondered how race might play into her thoughts.

Her answer had nothing to do with race and very little to do with adoption. Her answer took me aback—“Why would anyone adopt more than one child?” As we talked further, I realized this had nothing to do with either race or adoption. It had everything to do with wanting to be an only child. My daughter expanded her views, voicing her exasperation with her little sister and her jealousy of her friends who were only children. Only children, it seemed, were entitled to such delights as undivided parental attention and horses. And the ability to do whatever they wanted to do whenever they wanted to do it.

It is worth noting that this same ten-year-old child is now past her twenties and a mother of five. Perspective changes with age and circumstance!

But the relationship of siblings in adoption is a topic worth mentioning.

What, exactly, makes for a sibling relationship? Are siblings those people who share your DNA? Are siblings those people with whom you are raised and share day-to-day relationships? 

For families notcreated through adoption, the definition of a sibling is easy to create. It’s the bossy older brother, or the pesky little sister. It’s the person you can bully, but if anyone outside your family tries the same, that bully best watch his or her back. 

On the other hand, for families who are created through adoption, the sibling question becomes a little more tricky. Some families only adopt one child. Others adopt two or three children. Some families adopt children who are biologically siblings. Other families have biological children before adopting children. There are step-parent adoptions, kinship adoptions, and transracial adoptions. You can look at some families and know that there is an adoption story there. Conversely, you can look at other families and have no idea that adoption played a role in their creation.

It’s relatively easy to look at a single family unit and identify the brothers and sisters. No one can push your buttons like your sister! “Stop touching me! Stay on your side of the line! That’s mine!”These conversations can easily be followed with “Let’s go build a fort! Want to play a game? Can I borrow your shirt?”

Often adopted children will ask about siblings.

This simple question can mean a variety of things. A young only child asking about siblings may just be the desire to have a brother or sister in their own family. On the other hand, adopted children may be asking about birth siblings. Sometimes this is because the child doing the asking would like a new playmate. If the child is in his teens, he may be concerned that the person on whom he has a crush may be somehow connected to him through DNA. That could be gross! 

Many adoptee questions regarding siblings have to do with timing, developmental stage, and an understanding of their own identity and adoption story.

Young children are very accepting of different family roles, without a deep understanding of what each role entails. As with most things related to open adoption, the more normal and natural it is to talk about birth siblings, the fewer questions and more accepting the child will be. For a child to discover later in life that there are siblings, the questions about identity again come into play. 

What does this look like in real life? At a recent post-placement visit, big brother was happy to show off his new little brother. This young man, not quite in kindergarten, understood that his new little brother was here to stay, and that he had big responsibility in teaching him what it was to be a member of the Smith family. This same young man had recently shared a birthday party with a younger biological sibling placed in a different family. The young man knew that this other child was also his sister, and this sister didn’t live with him, and really…this was no big deal. 

It was no big deal because all the adults involved were comfortable in their own roles as parents and understood the connections between them. No one worried that the little ones wouldn’t understand. They answered questions as they arose, and celebrated the connections they shared.

Now it’s your turn. How do you—as either birth parents or adoptive parents—navigate the questions related to siblings? What do your sibling relationships look like? Any great challenges? Any great answers?

Until next time,

Diane


Why Adoption?

Ever heard the expression “I can’t see the forest for the trees?” Sometimes working in the field of adoption, this expression comes to mind, and I start to feel a little overwhelmed. Adoption is a tough way to make a living. The emotions of everyone involved generally run high. Prospective adoptive parents who may still be grieving their infertility. Birth families who are grieving the physical loss of their baby. Sitting in grief with both sides of families touched by adoption is a privilege. Yet it’s a tiring privilege.

So why do it?

I do it for the adoptees. 

Adoptees become adoptees completely through the choices of the adults to whom they are connected. Their birth parents make a choice based on their inability to provide care they believe the child needs at that point in their life. Adoptive parents choose to adopt a child because they believe they can provide for that child in ways that the birth family cannot.

Because adoptees do not have a choice in this crucial piece of their lives, it is up to the adults who did make this choice to provide not only for the child’s physical and emotional needs, but also for their identity needs.

Adoptees need to believe that they are wanted. Treasured. Loved.

They have a right to know the parts of their biology that make them a unique individual and the parts of their adoptive family that also contribute to this uniqueness.  

Adoptees do not need to be grateful to their adoptive parents any more than a biological child needs to be grateful to their parents.

I work in adoption because I want to help first moms realize that their decision to place a child was a good one and one that was not made for nothing. 

I work in adoption because I want to help the adults create the kind of environment in which to raise children that lets the child flourish. 

I work in adoption because I want the adopted child to grow up to be a confident adult who knows—really knows—that they are loved and have value. 

That’s why I work in adoption.