The Gap Adoptees Live In
“Adoption creates a split between a person’s biology and biography, and openness is an essential way to help adoptees heal this split.”
— Intro to NCFA’s Adoption Advocate No. 174
I’m excited to share with you a writing project that recently debuted through NCFA, the National Council for Adoption, in which I share 3 key principles and new ways of thinking about openness in adoption.
Messages like the one I received below affirm that the article is being received the way I hoped it would be, as a resource for both adoption professionals and parents who wan to better understand how adoptee-centered parenting looks and feels.
“My heart is so full after reading this article. As a birth mom and adoption social worker, it is what I’ve thought about for so many years. The research[*], the framework, the examples, ALL of it was really amazing.”
— Katie Monroe in CA, adoption social worker and first mom
The current edition of NCFA’s Adoption Advocate is available to read and download for free. The ideas within it were largely informed by the workshops I present for adoption agencies and the families they serve, and refined by my 3-year collaboration with Sara Easterly (adoptee) and Kelsey Vander Vliet Ranyard (birth parent) around our upcoming book, Adoption Unfiltered.
(In addition to being my co-authors and friends, Sara and Kelsey have also been my teachers for all things adoption. The insights they and others have offered me are infused throughout the article.)
There Is No Recipe or Formula
The original request from NCFA was to write a piece that covered how to navigate adoptive and birth family relationships. I knew the article would need to cover boundaries and what to do when problems emerge, but I didn’t want to write something formulaic like “if the birth parent does this, then the adoptive parent does that.” It’s tempting to think we can approach relationships in a straightforward way, like you would a recipe — just follow the instructions and everything will turn out fine.
In truth, we know that relationships are anything but straightforward (yet don’t we wish there were recipes for relationships!).
But There Is an Orientation You Can Uncover
Instead, I wanted to deliver something of deeper value, a framework that can be applied more generally than just to specific situations. Even ChatGPT would not able to come up with The Right Answer to every single parenting situation that could arise.
So what are the broad strokes? Rather than the words to say or the actions to take, my aim is to help adoptive parents cultivate and embody an orientation from which to generate their words and actions. Something not formulaic, but from an intentionally heightened sense of awareness of self and others.
This orientation is supremely important when relating with our child — and broadly applicable for setting boundaries — because of what Dr Brad Reedy told me when he was my guest on Adoption: The Long View:
“The key is where the boundary is coming from. If it comes from a place of fear, control, anger, resentment, or insecurity, you can’t get it right.
If it comes from a place of love, capacity, awareness, kindness, and creativity, you can’t get it wrong.”
— Brad Reedy, PhD, Clinical Director of Evoke Therapy Programs
A Call for True Openness
So how do we more consistently come from a place of love, capacity, awareness, kindness, and creativity when relating with our child’s birth parents, as well as with our child?
That’s what I sought to offer in this NCFA article. While you won’t find a recipe, you will find ideas for key ingredients, how to grow them, and ways to blend them together using your own expertise and intuition.
I hope you enjoy and share.
* Sources include (in sequential order): Works from JaeRan Kim, PhD, Angela Tucker, Sara Easterly, Kara Andersen, Robin Gobbel, Leah Campbell, Debbie Riley, Kelsey Vander Vliet Ranyard, Tony Hynes, Prentis Hemphill, Brad Reedy, PhD, and Jason Johnson.
4 Quick Announcements
- Time-sensitive! Join our free discussion of the book The Giver by Zoom on September 28. You may have already read it, or always meant to read it, so my co-authors and I invite you to read it now through the lens of adoption. Turns out, The Giver can be interpreted as highly adoption-themed! For more information, to register, and to download the discussion guide, visit AdoptionUnfiltered.com.
- Next month I am co-presenting a webinar for NCFA that is geared toward adoption professionals who want to help their clients bridge gaps and become more adoptee-centered. I’m thrilled that my friend and colleague Janelle Ison, who is both an adoptee and a first mom, is co-presenting with me.
- Sara, Kelsey and I have new conversations on our YouTube channel. Last week’s was about problematic adoption tropes (such as in The Blind Side), with featured guest Alice Stephens, a novelist (Famous Adopted People), Korean adoptee, book reviewer and editor. Coming soon is what effect these tropes have for those in transracial adoptions, with featured guest Melissa Guida-Richards, author of What White Parents Should Know about Transracial Adoption.
- Soon I will soon open coaching slots for adoptive parents who want to cultivate more openness. Also, soon I will open my spring 2024 calendar for appearances both virtually and in person for adoption professionals and adoptive parent groups. Get on my calendar to schedule a free introductory meeting for either one-on-one coaching or presenting for a group.
Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.
Her first book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life. Her second book, Standing Room Only: How to Be THAT Yoga Teacher is now available in paperback, and her third book, Adoption Unfiltered, will be published in late 2023.
Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.