Tag Archives: blog banter

Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age: Anthology and Giveaway

See that gap on your bookshelf, those empty kilobytes on your eReader? They are ready to be occupied by this new anthology of adoption reunion stories that just came out, edited by Laura Dennis (whom you’ve met on this blog before).

Available now in eBook (less than $6) and paperback, Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age: An Anthology is a must-read for anyone involved in adoption, especially adoptive and adopting parents who wish to hear from possible grown versions of their children who have traveled an adoptee’s path.

More than 20 voices are featured, neither in harmony nor unison nor discord. The experiences they share are varied, the viewpoints unique. You’ll hear about adoption reunion from not only adoptees but also from first parents and even adoptive parents (I contributed Chapter 6, “We Didn’t Want Reunion So We Chose Openness Instead”). Other voices include social workers, therapists, activists, a novelist, a DNA testing adviser and a minister.

Speaking of that minister, her name is Deanna Doss Shrodes, and I have the pleasure to interview her about her chapter, “When a Reunion Isn’t a True Reunion.” Deanna writes regularly at Adoptee Restoration, and you can read an excerpt from her chapter by clicking there. But you’ll have to get the book to read her transformative Casket Chat!

Below are Q&A between Deanna and me. And below all that is information on a giveaway of this book. You can also read Deanna’s interview with me.

You were able to reunite with your mother and sister and brother, and you are in the midst of a search for your father, with a very hot lead. To what degree do these points in a series of reconnections have in giving you back your pieces, in healing the wounds you have as a result of having been adopted?

Pastor Deanna Doss ShrodesFor me, these connections are huge. The knowledge, without the “reconnection” or relationship is tremendously helpful in itself.

As far as the search for my father, the lead we currently have is on a man who is deceased. A lot of people have said to me, “Don’t you hope that DNA proves this man to not be you’re the one, so you will still have a chance that your natural father is alive?” No. Of course I would prefer not to find a grave at the end of a search if I had my druthers, but having some answers is better than having nothing.

Right now this man is our only lead. And with this lead, I have found a paternal family that accepts and welcomes me, should DNA prove us related. Even if they did not, just knowing the truth of where I come from is huge. In my personal experience, with every bit of history or truth I receive, another part of me settles down inside. I thought everything about this would be solved when I met my natural mother. It wasn’t. However, a great deal of what was unsettled inside me did settle down.

I’ve never expected to find perfection in reunion. I just want truth. Whether it’s good, bad or ugly…I just want reality instead of the fantasies my mind wandered to for 27 years on the maternal side and now 47 years on the paternal. All that wandering gets tiring. Not bragging at all here, but simply to make a point…I’ve accomplished some important things in my life. But I wonder how much more I could have accomplished had I not been constantly distracted by thoughts of the unknown. Every person whether adopted or not will face questions about the unknown. However, adoptees deal with this issue at the very core of our identity. That is not easy and even if you are a Christian, you have a relationship with God and a strong spiritual walk, those questions will roar. A lot.

I’m so tired of wondering about those things and wish I could have it settled once and for all.

You say “I believe every human being has a right to look into the eyes of the two people they originate from, at least once.” When mediating among competing rights, how does one decide whose right trumps the others’? How should the law (if indeed it is a legal issue — maybe it is more of a moral issue) handle mothers sharing information on the identity of fathers in order to fulfill the rights of the resulting child?

The child is the one who is actually adopted. If it’s all about doing what’s right for children, then do that. The law is handled simply by providing adoptees with their original birth certificate (OBC) and requiring that they be provided the names of their original mother and father. Simple as that. I believe this is a separate issue from contact, reunion or relationship. Knowledge is different from all those things.

In response to the closed-lips your mother maintained about your father until her death, you have become super-open with your children. Do you think there are any bits of info that a parent might hide from a child, for his/her own good? What are the effects of such secrets on a child? Could that outweigh the possible effects of revealing those secrets on a child, even an adult child?

I believe there are things we may keep from our children for their own good that have nothing to do with them. I’m extremely open with my children but I don’t gather all of them together and drop a bunch of information on them that doesn’t touch their personal lives. I don’t tell my kids “everything” in the literal sense. I do not break confidences within my personal friendships or that which regards my job. But if something is about them personally or has an effect on their lives and they are the rightful owners of that information as well as me — then, I tell them.

Last year when I was in therapy for eight months, they knew. This affects their day-to-day lives. Children are perceptive and know something is wrong even when we say nothing. Rather than make them wonder, “What is wrong with mom? Why is she crying a lot? Are her and dad fighting? Are they getting a divorce?” and sending their minds in a tailspin as to what could be wrong, I sat them down and told them the truth. I shared what had happened between their grandmother and me, and why I was in therapy. Had they been younger, I wouldn’t have used the same exact words.

When the boys were very young, I faced secondary rejection when my natural mother declined to meet me after the confidential intermediary contacted her. I was distraught. I tried to hold it together in front of my two little guys, and most days I succeeded but some days I failed. Our middle son, Jordan, was too young to verbalize or ask what was wrong. He was still a baby in diapers. But Dustin, a preschooler, was so intuitive and verbal and he came out and asked, “What’s wrong, Mommy?” I remember explaining to him in very basic terms that someone I cared about hurt my heart, and this was the reason for my tears. Years later as they grew up they heard the full story. In fact, all three of my children have read my story on the blog even though they already knew the whole thing and lived through it. As they grew in maturity my explanation of things expanded.

The question above may imply that your mother kept your father’s identity from you for your own good. But I sense that is not the case, that her reasons were more self-protective. What are some of the thoughts or techniques or verses from scripture that helped you find forgiveness for your mother in your Casket Chat?

It’s an ongoing process and I call on God daily for wisdom and strength. He has been faithful to give it, daily. I could share a plethora of things He has imparted to me from the time of the falling out with my natural mother, until now. I’ll pick two.

My natural mother declared to me even before she knew she was sick that she would “go to her grave with my father’s name”. I held out hope that she wouldn’t, after she got sick. But, she did. I have to admit, there are still some days I wake up even today and say to myself, “Did that really happen?”

I remember feeling the most intense defeat I have ever felt in my life, when she died. Yes, because she was dead, but also because she died with my natural father’s name.

It felt hopeless, utterly hopeless in those first few days. One of the most powerful moments for me, and I’ve held onto this every day since, was when my friend Michelle, a Lost Daughters blogger, wrote on my Facebook page: “She is not the victor…”

I felt the opposite of Michelle’s declaration at the time. But I held onto it and knew that even without having knowledge of my natural father (yet) I was a victor for who I had become in the process of the previous months. I learned a lot about who I was in 2012 even though a lot of my history is still a mystery. My natural mother wasn’t treating me with kindness during that year, but my therapist reassured me that mounting courage and walking into her hospital room in her final hours was more a statement about who I am than how she was treating me.

I’ve gone to a whole new level in my life of learning what it means to do the right thing, as far as it depends on me. Verses that have been lifelines to me are:

My life verse:

No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous… — Joshua 1:5 and 6

Also this:

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. — Isaiah 41:10

Some days the thought of forgiving was so overwhelming I could only wail. There were days words failed me completely but God said, “You’re right Deanna, you can’t do this on your own but I will strengthen you, help you, uphold you and enable you to do what you can’t do on your own.”

He is faithful.

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Deanna Doss Shrodes is a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God and has served as a pastor for 26 years, along with her pastor-husband, Larry. They have been married for 26 years, have three children and live in the Tampa Bay area.  Adopted in 1966 in a closed domestic adoption, she searched and found her original mother, sister and brother and reunited with them in 1993.  Deanna blogs about adoption issues at her personal blog, Adoptee Restoration, and also serves as the spiritual columnist at Lost Daughters, and well as being a regular contributor at Adoption Voices Magazine.

Want more of this anthology? Click over to read Deanna’s interview with me.

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One eBook is available for giveaway through this post. Please leave a comment below by February 7 and I’ll use random.org to select a winner. Make sure I have your email address to notify you in case you win.

**Northern Star — you win! Look in your emailbox for further information.**

Thanks to Pastor Deanna for sharing her resilience, determination and reclaiming. For more posts by and about contributors to this anthology, see below.
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Does Open Adoption Get Easier?

Last week I led workshops on openness in adoption in Seattle, Portland and Eugene (OR) for an agency whose values closely align with my own, Open Adoption & Family Services.* The staff members at all three offices were incredibly hospitious (to employ a term Jim Gritter coined about using the hospitality model in adoption), as were Monika and Heather, who generously opened their homes to me and let me hang out with their delightful family members.

The Portland workshop was attended by my bloggy friends Heather, JoAnne, Liz and Lisa. One of the questions that came up from the general audience, a woman who is preparing to adopt, is the question the Open Adoption Bloggers now puts forth to you:

Does open adoption get easier?

It was another participant who gave this insightful answer — in the form of another question: Does marriage get any easier?

Things change and get different. Comparing something at the beginning of a journey to something seemingly similar later down the line is like comparing apples and oranges.

And as someone told me when my kids were little and I was exhausted, wondering if parenting gets any easier, “little people little problems; big people big problems.”

I didn’t really get that notion back then. It had been years since I’d slept through the night. I was with the kids, not yet in school, all day. There was crying, frustration, and boredom (not to mention what the kids were experiencing). When my husband came home from work each evening I often felt like hiding in a closet for awhile just to be alone and regain sanity. The problems from this era did not seem small. They seemed huge and unrelenting.

Now I sometimes sleep through the night. The kids are in school much of the day, much of the year. And still we have issues and angst. Bigger issues and bigger angst with higher stakes. We are constantly negotiating household rules. We are helping the kids navigate school and friendships and relationships with teachers and coaches and each other. We have health concerns, treatment plans with the orthodontist, disagreements about fashion and makeup and high fructose corn syrup, negotiations about shower time, bed time, screen time. We mediate between our kids and with neighbor kids. We teach, we model, we teach more and model more. Are we teaching and modeling all the right things? Will we have covered all the important lessons before they are ready to leave home? In less than a decade?

They will be ready to leave home one day, right? We will raise them to be independent, won’t we?

Hence why I don’t always sleep through the night.

So I can’t say that parenting has gotten easier. I can say that it’s gotten different.

Maybe our open adoptions have gotten not easier but better. When we started we had just one first parent around — Crystal. Since then we have connected with Tessa’s birth father, Joe. After talking with AJ on the phone for a few years, we finally got to meet Reed’s birth father (and his parents, wife and daughter) for the first time when he came to town this summer. And we have hopes in seeing Reed’s first mom in the coming months.

The relationships with the people who created our children are gradually shifting from me as caretaker to Tessa and Reed as the owner-operators. So my role is also changing. Whereas my prime responsibility was at first to maintain a wide-open conduit between our family and our children’s birth parents and make sure there was no corrosion, I am now moving into more of a consultant role. As Tessa and Reed begin to helm their own relationships with Crystal and Joe, with Michele and AJ, I will be on hand to assist as requested, to comfort if needed, and to abide, always to abide.

As John F Kennedy advised, “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger people” (gender neutralization mine).

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 Some scenes from my night in Seattle.

Lori Holden leads open adoption workshop

Open Adoption & Family Services adoption workshop

Open adoption agency and workshop with Lori Holden

 Monika and the Seattle staff of Open Adoption & Family Services.

* Check these out on the Open Adoption & Family Services website:

Openness in international adoptions: Part 3

What can be done to help internationally adopted kids?

This is the question Laura Dennis posed to me recently.

While I can talk all day long about theories of openness (and remember that openness doesn’t necessarily mean contact ), I brought in Judy Miller for wise counsel about the practicalities of applying those theories in families created through international adoption. Laura published Part 1 of our roundtable on Thursday, and Judy offered Part 2 yesterday. I present to you the conclusion of our series.

adoption authors and books, Adopted Reality, Parenting Adopted Tweens, Open-Hearted Way to Adoption

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Connecting with Culture

Laura Dennis, authorLaura: I understand child safety issues, and when contact is not an option or cost prohibitive. But what about Skype? Or staying in contact with the child’s orphanage or foster parents — so she can see where she lived before being adopted? To have some connection to her past culture, see what her homeland looks like?

Parents might balk that it’s too painful a reminder of a difficult past. What are your thoughts?

Lori: I can’t speak to this directly, but I do hear adult adoptees say that they don’t want or need to be protected from their truth, from their whole story.

In fact, I hear from many that it’s the gaps in the story that are the source of trouble, not the knowing of certain parts, even painful parts. It goes back to the issue of integrating one’s identity. My book’s premise is that adoption creates a split between a person’s biology and his biology, and openness is an effective way to heal that split. I suppose you could also say that filling in all the gaps in a person’s story, so that he knows the truth of what happened on Day 1, on Day 28, on Day 57, on Day 263, on each and every day until the time he found himself in your arms, goes a long way in helping a son integrate all the parts of himself – biology, biography, and the story in between.

Adoption writer Judy M MillerJudy: It’s the child’s story. Parents don’t have the right to make things up (lie), sugarcoat the difficult truths (encourage fantasy) or omit them. Honesty is best. Personally, prior to adopting my oldest daughter I was concerned about talking to her about the one child policy and infant/child abandonment in China. However my husband and I began to tackle it very early on and honestly, without judgment. Before initiating these talks, I was nervous, filled with sadness and judgment. I realized I risked filtering her story through my (Western) lens, and I had no right to do so or to color hers. We presented the facts. My daughter is very matter of fact about her story, and frames it within the wealth of known Chinese historical and cultural facts.

Openness in international adoption, and searches and reunions, is occurring, even in countries that were so closed/secretive, like China. Parents should be prepared and ready to support their child if he/she decides to search for or seek reunion with birth family members, and they should inform their child of this support.

Raising savvy children in a social media era underscores how important openness (and safety) is. Many adopted children and adults are finding birth family members on social media. Parents, do you have a safety plan in place?

It’s important for internationally adopted children to have connections to their culture of origin—past, present and future. Some children are more interested than others (true among my kiddos), and some don’t become interested until they are older.

Parents should try to to honor the wishes of the child—if travel is feasible and safe, tossing out occasional pebbles to the child who doesn’t want to visit, yet. Visiting and experiencing their birth country, culture of origin, and known places the child was, i.e. welfare institute, can help a lot of the missing pieces drop into the puzzle. I can tell my girls what Guangzhou smelled and sounded like in the wee dark hours of the morning as shopkeepers opened their businesses and I can share with my son how astounding it was to look out over the lush jungle canopy from La Danta at El Mirador in Tikal, but to take it in with their senses? Priceless and healing.

Infusing the Spirit of Openness

Laura: Can you talk a little about ways in which a spirit of open adoption could be applied to international adoption?

Lori: It’s important to understand that contact is not the same as openness . The adoption grid adds a dimension to what we’ve always thought of as a spectrum. While we may not have much control over the amount and type of contact in our adoption relationships, we have total control over how open-heartedly we parent.

Parenting with the spirit of openness comes down to one of the original posts Laura and I exchanged called Half-Breed, which was about embracing a Both/And heartset rather than an Either/Or mindset. Especially with international adoption, parents can affect whether or not the child will end up with two halves of himself, each independently developed (the North American half and the genetic heritage half) — or an unfractured wholeness about himself (“Yes, I am Korean, and I have been exposed to what it means to be Korean, to look Korean, maybe to speak Korean, and yes, I am American and I know all that, too). It’s a very subtle difference, and maybe Judy can address this, as well.

As discussed in the above-mentioned post, you don’t want the Adoptee Math to be ½ + ½ = 1 but rather 1+1 = 1. I’m told it’s easier to integrate one’s identity that way.

So what’s called for from adoptive parents is a spirit of openness. Not just to their child’s birth family, birth culture and heritage, but even more so to the child herself. Being open to her wonderings, open to giving space for the emotions she’ll move through — even grief for her losses. What’s called for is a spirit of openness to the process of raising a child via adoption. There will be bumps in the road – that’s life. Rather than steeling ourselves against these bumps, however, we see if we can open ourselves to the insights, lessons, joys, heartaches, the divine experiences that we’ll encounter along our life’s path. In this sense, parenting in international adoption is no different than parenting in any other kind of adoption.

Judy: Children who are adopted have dual identities, in our family’s case, Chinese and American, and Guatemalan and American. To acknowledge and embrace both identities of the adopted child —birth and adopted — honors the whole child.

It’s important that parents foster exploration and acceptance of both identities and help their children along the occasional bumpy process of integrating both into one identity (more of the 1+1=1). Lori said it so well, but I do want to add that without being open parents can’t help their children be all they can be. No one grows, and no one is fulfilled.

Parents, it’s not about you; it’s all about your children. How are you going to help your children straddle that chasm of ambiguity?

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What are your thoughts on parenting with openness in an international adoption?

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Laura Dennis was born and adopted in New Jersey and raised in Maryland, but she learned how to be a (sane) person in California, where she lost her mind and found it again in 2001. She is a former professional modern dancer and medical device sales director. Laura currently lives in Belgrade, Serbia with her young family. She is the author of Adopted Reality, a Memoir and blogs at Expat (Adoptee) Mommy. Connect with Laura on Facebook and @LauraDennisCA.

Judy M. Miller, MA, CGE is the author of the internationally selling What To Expect From Your Adopted Tween and creator and teacher of Tweens, Teens & Beyond. When not parenting her crew of four, she provides education for and support to parents and families created or grown throughout and outside of the U.S. Judy is a member of the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC), the American Adoption Congress (AAC), and the National Association of Professional Women, who elected her as one of their 2012 Women of the Year. You can follow her @MamaMiller.