This post was written by Adoption STAR Founder and CEO, Michele Fried
I have always believed that National Adoption Month and Thanksgiving were perfectly placed on the calendar. How wonderful to bring awareness and celebration to adoption and culminate the month with a time of thanks giving.
At Adoption STAR, we celebrated adoption every day in some special ways, including:
- – Tweeting ideas to honor the month
- - hosting a fundraiser for special needs adoption
- - talking to the media about the importance of the month
- - attending an adoption conference and speaking to rooms full of people interested in the adoption topics we were addressing
- - hosting an adoption information night
- - facilitating an infant wellness class for our staff
- - buying frosty certificates benefiting adoption at our local Wendy’s
- - running a hair and skin care class for adoptive families who are parenting Black children
- – being thankful for the many clients we have been honored to work with
- - Much, much more
Personally, November is a month of genuine thankfulness. It is the month I became a mom. It is a month my husband and I and oldest son fondly refer to as “our anniversary of becoming a family.” Zack was born in November and we met him in November. I remember our very first Thanksgiving in that little apartment in Philadelphia. It was the most important and special Thanksgiving of my life.
This November 20, Zack and I attended the APC Annual Adoption Conference in New York City along with other Adoption STAR social workers. It is my favorite conference as I enjoy connecting with our professional adoption peers and having the opportunity to meet and educate so many people who come to learn more about adoption and the process. While “touring” the exhibit hall, I brought Zack to “the adoption agency” that placed him into our home. I introduced ourselves to the woman who was representing the agency and quickly learned that the founder of the agency and the social worker that placed Zack with us would be at the conference later that day. First, I could not believe our luck and second, I could not believe that Roberta, our social worker was still around 24 years and 3 days later (our placement day was November 17, 1987.) A short time after, there they were!
We were all so caught in the moment of this really neat reunion that we never even thought to take a photo! I know it was amazing for Roberta to meet the tiny baby who she helped find a forever family for because I know that feeling myself, after being in the adoption field for 23 years, I too, have had the joy of connecting with young adults who I first met as newborns.
I have been an adoption educator for years and remember the days when I sat as a conference attendee listening to others share their adoption knowledge. I had always hoped to be in that “teaching role,” but never imagined I would stand beside my adult son and co-facilitate. What a special gift that is for a parent.
I hope your November was just as special!
On behalf of Adoption STAR, please accept our very best wishes to you during this Holiday Season.
For many years the traditional American family was “mother, father and 2.5 kids.” That has changed over the years, and according to a CNN feature article there are more and more families with single parents, same-sex parents, and stay-at-home fathers then ever before.
According to the article there are currently between 1.5 million and 5 million same sex parents, compared to approximately 300,000-500,000 in 1976.
Adam Pertman, who is the Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, said that Americans have become a lot more accepting of same-sex families in recent years. “As support for legal gay marriage has grown, along with the body of research that shows same-sex parents to be just as committed, so, too, has the acceptance of gay parenthood,” Pertman said in the article.
The article also looked into single-parent-adoption. Pertman said that one reason there has been a rise in single-parent-adoption is that as women “find good careers and their earnings grow, there’s less need to find a partner to make having a family feasible.”
The article interviewed Jo Trizila, who adopted her daughter Kate two years ago, and she said that while there are times she wishes she had someone else to ask ‘am I doing this right,’ that her family and friends have been a big help in raising her daughter. She also questions if being a single-parent is that out of the ordinary in today’s culture. “”Are Kate and I that unusual?” Trizila asks in the article. “Look at the divorce statistics. There are a lot of single moms — they just didn’t adopt.” Trizila is right, as the article states that about 25 percent of all kids are raised by single parents.
The third type of parent the article looks into is the stay-at-home-dad. According to the article many fathers have found themselves staying at home to take care of the children after losing their job. The article said that 70 percent of the jobs lost during the recent recession belonged to men. The troubling economic times have pushed more men into stay-at-home-parent roles, and according to Scott Haltzman, M.D., who co-wrote the book “The Secrets of Happily Married Men and The Secrets of Happy Families,” this has begun to change people’s opinion on gender roles in the family. “We’re slowly rejecting the old stigma that if a guy is home with the kids, there’s something wrong with him,” Haltzman said in the article.
While there are now more stay-at-home-fathers, Haltzman said in the article that there are still challenges these men will face. “many men find themselves shut out of the social infrastructure that surrounds at-home parents, since they’re still mostly female,”Haltzman said.
The view of “the traditional family” is ever-changing, and it is great to see that there are now more viable options then ever-before for children to have forever families.
CNN recently posted a feature story on the plight of adoptees from the World War II-era, who were born to white German mothers and African American male soldiers who were in Germany on military duty. According to the article, “couples were often split apart by disapproving military officers…and the single mothers of the African American babies struggled to find support in a mostly white Germany and were encouraged to give their kids up.”
According to the article, many of these romances occurred because “many women German women perceived the black soldiers to be kinder than their white counterparts.” While the African American soldiers “wanted to seize the advantages of being away from Jim Crow America.”
The article said that between 1945-1955, about 5,000 “Brown Babies” were born, and as of 1968 “Americans had adopted about 7,000 of these German children.” Many were not told they were adopted until they were adults. One of the main reasons that these children were placed in America, according to the article, was Germany’s “national identity was strongly tied to white German heritage.”
One of these adoptees was Daniel Cardwell, who has been searching for most of his adult life for his biological roots. According to the article, Cardwell was adopted at the age of four by an African-American family in Washington DC. He has gone to great lengths to find out more about his birth family including traveling “the country in search of aging documents, hypnotism therapy,build(ing) relationships with distant family members and visit(ing) Germany several times.”
The article said that time may be running our for Cartwell and other “Brown Babies” to find their birth parents.
“People’s mothers are passing away, their fathers are passing away, and people are starting to wonder who they are,” Henrietta Cain, a “Brown Baby,” said in the article. “Now even we are passing away, and it’s a story that needs to be told.”
While many have been unable to track their roots, Cain said she has been able to find her biological sister and mother and now has a close relationship with both. She said that her birth father passed away before they could meet. She now devotes her life to helping other “Brown Babies” find their birth families according to the article.
The article said that there has recently been two documentaries on this topic. “Brown Babies: The Mischlingskinder Story” was released in the summer of 2011 and “Brown Babies: Germany’s Lost Children” was shown on German Television in the fall.
Everyone family has their own Thanksgiving traditions. My family’s tradition consists of “my dad cooking the turkey, my mom and younger sister running the Turkey Trot, and me and my older sister sitting on the couch watching the Macy’s Day Parade and football….Everyone has their roles.”
Earlier this week we asked our Facebook followers what their favorite part of Thanksgiving was, and got these great answers:
Amanda S: “Pie!”
Erin L.: “Spending time eating a nice homecooked non rushed meal with my peanut!”
Brandy H.: “Being w/ family and eating GREAT food!!! Love Turkey!!!”
Belinda R.: “After everyone has eaten and we sit around the table and talk.”
Parker G.: “Saying a blessing over each of our beautiful girls. We do this once a week for Shabbat and we do it at each holiday meal.”
Michele S.: “At my families get together it is LOUD! But I love being with ALL the family!”
Dana L.: “Family”
What are your favorite parts of Thanksgiving?…
Recently, the Huffington Post published a blog post from a teenage adoptee about her reunion with her two biological brothers. The author of the post, Susie Q., and her two brothers were adopted from Columbia and all lived in close proximity of each other in America, but Susie didn’t know her brothers existed for many years.
Susie writes that one day she asked her mom if she had any biological siblings, and her mother responded that she had two brothers and one had written her a letter years ago. Her mother kept the letter hidden for years because she was worried about confusing Susie, but decided this was the right time to share the information.
“I had to be understanding,” Susie wrote about her parents keeping the letter from her. “My parents never want anything but the best for me – I might have done the same thing.”
After Susie wrote to and eventually spoke to her brothers, the three families all got together. Susie writes that she was concerned this would change her relationship with the brother she grew up with.
“When I found out about my biological brothers, I was worried that meeting them would change the way my brother felt about me. I didn’t want him to think I was replacing him, but he was so happy for me and I realized how much he really cares for me,” Susie wrote. “The experience of meeting my biological brothers brought my love for the family I was raised in to a new level. I have never been more grateful to have such a large support system in my life.”
I enjoyed reading this post because you don’t always get to hear about adoption from the prospective of the young adoptee. Hiding the letters written by Susie’s brother could have backfired on her parents, but by answering Susie’s questions about biological siblings openly and honestly when the opportunity arose, it seems to have taken a great deal of the pain out of a potentially troubling situation.
It is a difficult when biological brothers and sisters are split up in different homes, but this story seems to have a happy ending. If you’re an adoptive parent whose child(ren) have biological siblings living elsewhere how do you handle these relationships?
Recently the US Department of State released statistics on international adoption in 2011. According to the report US citizens adopted 9,320 children from foreign countries, which is a 15 decrease from 2010.
This is a continuation of a descending trend since 2004, when US families adopted over 22,000 children from foreign countries. The report said that the number of internationally adopted children in the US has dropped steadily each year since.
“This trend is not right, and it is not good for children. Given the increasing number of orphaned children worldwide, the continued decline in intercountry adoptions means that children’s most basic needs and rights are being denied,” Chuck Johnson, the president and CEO of the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) said in the report. “As intercountry adoption programs close or decrease in number, more and more children remain in institutions and temporary care situations, aging out without ever securing their basic right to a permanent loving family of their own.”
According to the report, South Korea, Uganda and India were the three countries with the most adoptions by American families in 2011 with 734, 196, and 168 respectively.
The report also broke down how many American families in each state adopted internationally. 450 families in New York state finalized their adoptions abroad, which was third most to California, which had 469 families finalize their adoptions abroad, and Texas, which had 482.
There have been several scandalous reports of abuse and fraud throughout the adoption process in several countries, which may have an impact on the decline in international adoptions. While the report condemns these allegations and stresses the importance to prevent such abuses, it states “adoption process abuses are the exception and not the rule, and should not be exaggerated at the expense of the millions of children who still await love, safety and permanency.”
Thanksgiving is a time of the year when many family members come together, it’s a time to catch up with that third cousin that you only see once or twice a year. It’s also a time to put your “politically correct small talk” skills to work.
I recently found a Yahoo! article entitled “10 Things Not To Say to Your Childfree Friends,” that may be helpful for everyone at Thanksgiving.
The list included gems such as:
– “I only invited other parents”
– “This must be birth control for you”
– “Your dog/cat/parakeet is your baby”
It also included the more subtle lines like:
– “Are you hungover?”
– “You’re so lucky you get to sleep in/shop/travel”
Are there other comments that you would add to this list?
November 17 is the day Adoption STAR Founder and CEO Michele Fried and her husband Chuck became parents for the first time when they brought home their son Zack, who is now Adoption STAR’s Intake Specialist. Michele wrote a two part story on their open adoption journey six years ago when Zack turned 18, and we shared part one yesterday, and are happy to share part two today. Part two of their adoption journey is below, and you can click here to read part one.
Adopting Zachary was one of the greatest experiences of our life. I can remember it as if it were yesterday. If you don’t mind, I will take you from 3 days old to 18 years later as fast as I can… we drove to the hospital to meet the birth mother and the agency social worker and take home our baby… sounds simple but you know it wasn’t. After having my husband pull over due to my intense cramping from nervousness, we almost never got there. Arriving at the hospital we learned that the birth mother was so emotional that she couldn’t get dressed to come back to the hospital to sign her surrender papers. After what seemed hours, I was convinced that at any moment we would be told to go home without the baby. As I shared with you in Part One of this article, we had already experienced many adoption miscarriages and I truly felt that I could not bear another loss. We eventually were called into an office in the hospital where we were introduced to the birth mother and her mother. There were hugs, tears and surprisingly some giggles. She and I caught one another trying to look at the other. I remember holding hands and hugging her. I remember truly thinking that it was okay if she took home the baby. I told myself that I was able to wish her well.
Her mother cried a lot and talked a lot. She herself only recently realized her youngest daughter was pregnant. By some sheer miracle, I heard his birth mother say, “I want them to have the baby.” My husband and I embraced and cried. How do you thank someone for the greatest gift in the world?
Fast forward to age 15 months. My husband went to some conference in NYC… why I can’t remember… this is the same guy who let me do all the learning about adoption now he was so involved in learning more himself… he came home excited with new information on what open adoption really meant. He reported that it didn’t mean being “picked” and sharing the photos and letters we reluctantly sent to the agency. It meant bigger (and scarier) things. Scary for me, yet it seemed like “the meaning of life” for my husband. I thought it meant that he didn’t love our son as much as I did. What he was purposing was preposterous. Yet somehow in the next few months I was convinced to write a letter to our son’s birth mother including our telephone number and inviting her to call us.
One evening the telephone rang. It was his birth mother and her mother. It took us off guard but birth grandmother actually was distrustful wondering if we were thinking of “giving him back.” My maternal reaction set her straight. The birth mother was joyful believing she was never going to see him again until he was 18.
Our open adoption began with a visit in a restaurant without our son; then a visit at McDonalds with our son when he was 2 years old; then celebrating at his 3rd birthday party in our apartment!
After that we saw each other one to two times per year, sometimes more often, including them in all special events, especially as our family grew. Our parents and siblings and other relatives got to know them and our relationship grew each year and we truly became extended family members. Even when we moved out of state I worked hard to maintain contact.
So let’s fast forward to age 18 …. Where has she gone? His birth mother I mean. I have her phone number and her home address and she has ours. But she didn’t show at the last family picnic in Philadelphia and hasn’t called in the past few years on his birthday. I am grateful that her parents remain in touch. But the other children she is raising are younger and have relied on their mother to keep in touch with their older birth brother, so naturally we haven’t heard from them either. Nonetheless, I have encouraged my son to keep in touch and to drop her a note the last few birth mothers’ days. But he never seems to do it on his own so I get out a card and send my best wishes and ask if he wants to sign the card too. He usually does and I mail it. I ask if he wants to telephone his birth grandmother, sure he answers, but doesn’t pick up the phone.
For 18 years I have worked my hardest to maintain and grow our open adoption. I have to keep on reminding myself about something my son’s birth grandfather said to me when I was devastated that his daughter didn’t show for the annual picnic. After all, we did travel to Philadelphia for the visit. I was angry and very sad. Was I sad for myself or for my son? “It’s about time Michele that you stop painting a perfect picture for him.” I think his birth grandfather actually shouted at me. “You can’t cover for her and try to protect him all the time. It’s not real life. Real life is the truth and my daughter’s choices are often irresponsible.” In reality he said some harsher things but his message was clear. Did she hurt Zack by not showing up? Was I hurt because I was projecting my feelings onto him? Was this open adoption too much for her after all these years?
I have tried to discuss her non-involvement in the past few years with my son but it never turns into a deep conversation. I told him that now the ball is in his court if he desires to push things further. He is disappointed about the ceased contact with his birth siblings. He said he just might need to show up on his birth parents’ door steps at age 18. How ironic as that is EXACTLY what I was trying to prevent for him by having an open adoption. Well, at least he has their contact information.
“If that’s what you feel you need to do,” I told him. “You would have to be there with me,” he responded.
I wouldn’t change having an open adoption as I still can easily site the benefits for my children and for myself. However, if I had to do it all over again would I call her to remind her to call “our” son? I did several times as he was growing up. Would I have sent her all those letters encouraging her to keep in touch with him? I don’t remember a time that she wrote back. Would I have pushed her to urge his birth father to show up even for a few minutes during one visit? He did show up for a few minutes that afternoon, but never again. Would I continue to make excuses for her embarrassing lateness to almost every visit and event? I did every time. I learned a great deal from my son’s birth grandfather – who by the way – stays in touch. I remember the first time we really spent time with him (at his home) and as he was saying goodbye to us he said, “this open adoption thing is really a beautiful thing.”
The funny thing that occurred is that I miss keeping in touch with his birth mother. I now force myself not to call her… Though I seem to be forever sending those birth mother’s day cards… I guess because I will always be grateful to her for giving us the greatest gift in the world and because I will never truly know the great sacrifice she made.
The memories of the past many years rush by me, often second guessing my actions. I realize now that I sought after the perfect open adoption. Only to learn that there is no such thing. It’s just a relationship – a relationship with real people in real life circumstances.
November 17 is the day Adoption STAR Founder and CEO Michele Fried and her husband Chuck became parents for the first time when they brought home their son Zack, who is now Adoption STAR’s Intake Specialist. Michele wrote a two part story on their open adoption journey six years ago when Zack turned 18, and we would like to share these posts again today and tomorrow. Part one of their adoption journey is below, and part two will follow tomorrow.
Our adoption journey was one filled with great ups and downs. The first potential match fell through before it came to be when I surprised my husband at our celebration dinner at our favorite restaurant by saying I did not want to be matched with this pregnant woman. Why? I remember quite a bit of information about her even today and though there was nothing specific about her or her background that made me say no, it just didn’t feel right. So I said no. Saying no was hard, but it was the right decision.
Our next match we accepted. It was exciting as we received updates for close to three months. It all ended though when the birth father’s mother decided to raise the baby herself. Left with this information and never learning the gender of the baby, I will forever remember this loss (soon to be coined an “adoption miscarriage.”) I cried incessantly and called our home study social worker in hysterics, feeling foolish and lost, only to find her reassuring and spectacular not to call me crazy! I called my friend from my childhood town and cried to her. She too surprised me with great compassion recalling her mother once telling her of an adoption loss she and my friend’s father once experienced.
In a short time I realized that I needed to continue with our adoption journey so I spoke to an attorney who promised quick results with a Colombian adoption, but after a few calls, I didn’t feel comfortable with the attorney. So I looked into agencies in another State. I learned of a toddler who needed a family and found myself challenged by his social worker who asked me, “Why would a white couple want this child?”
After these and other ups and downs we found an agency that was in its first year of operation. This is where we heard the term open adoption. I remember sitting in their office with my husband… nervously waiting to meet with the social worker. During that wait, in a cramped office in the outskirts of Philadelphia, the director of the agency bounced in the office and waved at us. I don’t recall her exact words but it was something to the affect of: “What a young cute couple you are! You will be picked so quickly!” Picked? What did that mean?
We soon learned that “being picked” meant “open adoption,” at least to this new agency. We were shown a large three-ring notebook with one-page (back to back) profiles held together by a plastic insert. I remember flipping through the book and viewing countless profiles of married couples of all ages hoping to be “picked” by a potential birth mother.
Wow. So many couples; so many people to compete with; I was overwhelmed. I was not so concerned about a to-be birth mother choosing an adoptive family for her baby. But I just didn’t want to be “one” of a large group of people. I told the social worker how I felt and she seemed genuinely surprised. “I want you to profile us when you really think that we would be the right family for someone. All of these families can’t be right for everyone.” She didn’t debate me and after a brief dialogue seemed to say okay. In retrospect it was probably because we were open to a baby of all races that there was no reason to debate as the people in the book were seeking a healthy white infant. I wanted her to realize however that healthy white infant or not, how could a woman flip page by page and find the right family… and by the way, how did one get put first or last in the “big book?”
Well, being open to race or not, didn’t make our being “picked” any easier. There were times the phone rang and other times they didn’t. The first call was regarding a pregnant woman who was parenting two to three children already. After receiving some basic information about her, I agreed that our profile could be shown. A day or two later the feedback was we “were too young for her.” What happened to being young and cute?
More time passed and then the call came. He was born already and we could pick him up tomorrow. The funny thing is neither of us remember hearing whether the baby was a boy or girl. We just remember hearing about a baby, being selected and taking a baby home the next day. We were numb with excitement. You know what I mean if you have experienced “the call.” The social worker says she told my husband it was a boy, but he didn’t remember by the time he had me pulled out of the class I was teaching. It was a baby. That’s all he could remember.
Come back tomorrow morning for part two of Michele, Chuck and Zack’s adoption journey.
We’re just over one week away from Thanksgiving, a day to feast with family and friends and remember everything in our lives to be thankful for (this year that actually includes a good football game to watch during the day when the Detroit Lions take on the Green Bay Packers.)
If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, it’s never too early to get your children in the planning, execution, and clean-up of Thanksgiving dinner. TLC has created a great five-step process to getting your kids involved in Thanksgiving.
Step 1 is the planning and preparation for the day:
The article says that one way to involve kids in the planning for Thanksgiving dinner is to ask them “what special side dish they would like to eat?” One example the article gives is making sweet potato fries instead of sweet potato casserole or other more “adult” dishes. Having your kids help shop for the groceries can also help involve them in Thanksgiving.
Step 2 is decorating the table for the feast:
One great way the article gives for having the kids decorate the table is allowing them to create custom placemats for all of the guests. “Simply provide the necessary supplies (construction or butcher paper, crayons and markers, scissors and glue), and keep a watchful eye as children create one-of-a-kind place mats that can be laminated and saved for future feasts. Popular themes for Thanksgiving place mats and other crafts include turkeys, Pilgrims and pumpkins.”
The article gives many more creative ideas for ways kids can decorate the Thanksgiving dinner table, including making a “Thanksgiving tree.”
Step 3 is the preparation of the meal:
The article says that some activities for younger children can be washing fruit, mashing the potatoes, stirring the cake batter and other simple tasks. For slightly older children, the article gives the idea of allowing them to decorate freshly baked cookies with sprinkles or icing while the adults enjoy coffee after dinner. You may want to have an adult or teenager supervise this process so that more of the icing ends up on the cookies and not the floor and cabinets.
Step 4 is Setting the Table:
The article suggests that “Thanksgiving is the perfect time to begin teaching your children the basics of table-setting etiquette.” One way to do this is to give your children “printable table-setting cheat sheets, which show children where the various utensils and dishes should be placed.”
Step 5 is the dreaded clean up:
Two ways the article gives to make clean up fun for the younger kids is making it a game or sing a song. If you have older children who are giving you a difficult time about helping cleaning up, the article says that one tactic that usually works is withholding dessert until the kitchen is spotless.
How do you get your children involved in Thanksgiving?
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OPENNESS IN ADOPTION:FROM SECRECY AND STIGMA TO KNOWLEDGE AND CONNECTIONS
Authors: Deborah H. Siegel, Ph.D. and Susan Livingston Smith, LCSW Published: 2012 March, New York NY: Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute Document Type: Practice Perspective Read more..