She's Adopted

They just didn't tell her

What did your adoptive family do to help you settle in and feel like a part of the family (if that happened)?



Here is a small portion of the post from Lisa, who was introduced to Attempting Agape when she talked a bit about her journey through foster care.

 Continue reading the whole post here  for some first hand answers from an adult who spent some of her formative years in foster care and then went on to be adopted by her last and final foster home.

Thanks for sharing Lisa!




The first thing was the discussion of names. They made it clear that we could change our names if we wanted to. We could change our first name, last name, both or neither. I knew immediately that I wanted to change my last name. I wanted to “belong” and to me that meant we all needed to have the same last name. I think it meant a lot to them too that we all had the same name, but I know they wanted us to feel comfortable with the decision. My brother and I both ended up keeping our original first and middle names and changed our last names to match our parents.

The second thing was the adoption party. My parents threw a huge party celebrating our adoption and welcoming us to the family. All of our relatives from both my mom and dad’s side of the family were there. I got two presents that day that now mean the world to me. My grandmother gave me a bible with a beautiful inscription and the date. And one of my dad’s relatives gave me a bracelet inscribed with my name and the date of my adoption. This dates means a lot to me and even though we don’t really celebrate it, I always call my parents on that day.

The biggest thing was just creating our own family traditions and memories that we still follow and talk about today. There’s the Summer Rain Dance, the Ice Cream Bowl Ceremony, and heart-shaped meatloaf and pink mashed potatoes on Valentine’s Day. There’s the time when my brother ate horseradish sauce for the first time, the time I got a new bike and proceeded to crash into our neighbor’s mailbox and the time we all dressed up in matching shirts to sing Happy Birthday to my dad at work. These are the things that create a family.

Who is Attempting Agape?

I am Alisa.  I happen to be 33 years old and have been doing this foster care thing solo for the past 2.5 years.  I have had so many ups and downs that don’t appear on this blog – but I try to capture the overarching ebb and flow of the life of a single foster parent.  I love photography, coffee and the rare adult conversation (about something other than play-dough).  I also love Jesus, mucho.

I was licensed in June 2010 and desire to love kids from hard places the way that God has loved me, with mercy, grace and truth. It also my hope that this blog could serve as a vehicle to connect all those involved in the foster & adoption world: the parents (birth, foster and adoptive), the children and adults (adoptees and foster alumni) and the social workers involved in the child protection system, both in the US and overseas. Lets keep learning, so we can learn from our mistakes and make it better for the next generation.







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30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself

by Marc Chernoff

30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself

When you stop chasing the wrong things you give
the right things a chance to catch you.

As Maria Robinson once said, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”  Nothing could be closer to the truth.  But before you can begin this process of transformation you have to stop doing the things that have been holding you back.

  1. Start spending time with the right people. – These are the people you enjoy, who love and appreciate you, and who encourage you to improve in healthy and exciting ways.  They are the ones who make you feel more alive, and not only embrace who you are now, but also embrace and embody who you want to be, unconditionally.
  2. Start facing your problems head on. – It isn’t your problems that define you, but how you react to them and recover from them.  Problems will not disappear unless you take action.  Do what you can, when you can, and acknowledge what you’ve done.  It’s all about taking baby steps in the right direction, inch by inch.  These inches count, they add up to yards and miles in the long run.
  3. Start being honest with yourself about everything. – Be honest about what’s right, as well as what needs to be changed.  Be honest about what you want to achieve and who you want to become.  Be honest with every aspect of your life, always.  Because you are the one person you can forever count on.  Search your soul, for the truth, so that you truly know who you are.  Once you do, you’ll have a better understanding of where you are now and how you got here, and you’ll be better equipped to identify where you want to go and how to get there.  Read The Road Less Traveled.
  4. Start making your own happiness a priority. – Your needs matter.  If you don’t value yourself, look out for yourself, and stick up for yourself, you’re sabotaging yourself.  Remember, it IS possible to take care of your own needs while simultaneously caring for those around you.  And once your needs are met, you will likely be far more capable of helping those who need you most.
  5. Start being yourself, genuinely and proudly. – Trying to be anyone else is a waste of the person you are.  Be yourself.  Embrace that individual inside you that has ideas, strengths and beauty like no one else.  Be the person you know yourself to be – the best version of you – on your terms.  Above all, be true to YOU, and if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it.
  6. Start noticing and living in the present. – Right now is a miracle.  Right now is the only moment guaranteed to you.  Right now is life.  So stop thinking about how great things will be in the future.  Stop dwelling on what did or didn’t happen in the past.  Learn to be in the ‘here and now’ and experience life as it’s happening.  Appreciate the world for the beauty that it holds, right now.
  7. Start valuing the lessons your mistakes teach you. – Mistakes are okay; they’re the stepping stones of progress.  If you’re not failing from time to time, you’re not trying hard enough and you’re not learning.  Take risks, stumble, fall, and then get up and try again.  Appreciate that you are pushing yourself, learning, growing and improving.  Significant achievements are almost invariably realized at the end of a long road of failures.  One of the ‘mistakes’ you fear might just be the link to your greatest achievement yet.
  8. Start being more polite to yourself. – If you had a friend who spoke to you in the same way that you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow that person to be your friend?  The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others.  You must love who you are or no one else will.
  9. Start enjoying the things you already have. – The problem with many of us is that we think we’ll be happy when we reach a certain level in life – a level we see others operating at – your boss with her corner office, that friend of a friend who owns a mansion on the beach, etc.  Unfortunately, it takes awhile before you get there, and when you get there you’ll likely have a new destination in mind.  You’ll end up spending your whole life working toward something new without ever stopping to enjoy the things you have now.  So take a quiet moment every morning when you first awake to appreciate where you are and what you already have.
  10. Start creating your own happiness. – If you are waiting for someone else to make you happy, you’re missing out.  Smile because you can.  Choose happiness.  Be the change you want to see in the world.  Be happy with who you are now, and let your positivity inspire your journey into tomorrow.  Happiness is often found when and where you decide to seek it.  If you look for happiness within the opportunities you have, you will eventually find it.  But if you constantly look for something else, unfortunately, you’ll find that too.  Read Stumbling on Happiness.
  11. Start giving your ideas and dreams a chance. – In life, it’s rarely about getting a chance; it’s about taking a chance.  You’ll never be 100% sure it will work, but you can always be 100% sure doing nothing won’t work.  Most of the time you just have to go for it!  And no matter how it turns out, it always ends up just the way it should be.  Either you succeed or you learn something.  Win-Win.
  12. Start believing that you’re ready for the next step. – You are ready!  Think about it.  You have everything you need right now to take the next small, realistic step forward.  So embrace the opportunities that come your way, and accept the challenges – they’re gifts that will help you to grow.
  13. Start entering new relationships for the right reasons. – Enter new relationships with dependable, honest people who reflect the person you are and the person you want to be.  Choose friends you are proud to know, people you admire, who show you love and respect – people who reciprocate your kindness and commitment.  And pay attention to what people do, because a person’s actions are much more important than their words or how others represent them.
  14. Start giving new people you meet a chance. – It sounds harsh, but you cannot keep every friend you’ve ever made.  People and priorities change.  As some relationships fade others will grow.  Appreciate the possibility of new relationships as you naturally let go of old ones that no longer work.  Trust your judgment.  Embrace new relationships, knowing that you are entering into unfamiliar territory.  Be ready to learn, be ready for a challenge, and be ready to meet someone that might just change your life forever.
  15. Start competing against an earlier version of yourself. – Be inspired by others, appreciate others, learn from others, but know that competing against them is a waste of time.  You are in competition with one person and one person only – yourself.  You are competing to be the best you can be.  Aim to break your own personal records.
  16. Start cheering for other people’s victories. – Start noticing what you like about others and tell them.  Having an appreciation for how amazing the people around you are leads to good places – productive, fulfilling, peaceful places.  So be happy for those who are making progress.  Cheer for their victories.  Be thankful for their blessings, openly.  What goes around comes around, and sooner or later the people you’re cheering for will start cheering for you.
  17. Start looking for the silver lining in tough situations. – When things are hard, and you feel down, take a few deep breaths and look for the silver lining – the small glimmers of hope.  Remind yourself that you can and will grow stronger from these hard times.  And remain conscious of your blessings and victories – all the things in your life that are right.  Focus on what you have, not on what you haven’t.
  18. Start forgiving yourself and others. – We’ve all been hurt by our own decisions and by others.  And while the pain of these experiences is normal, sometimes it lingers for too long.  We relive the pain over and over and have a hard time letting go.  Forgiveness is the remedy.  It doesn’t mean you’re erasing the past, or forgetting what happened.  It means you’re letting go of the resentment and pain, and instead choosing to learn from the incident and move on with your life.
  19. Start helping those around you. – Care about people.  Guide them if you know a better way.  The more you help others, the more they will want to help you.  Love and kindness begets love and kindness.  And so on and so forth.
  20. Start listening to your own inner voice. – If it helps, discuss your ideas with those closest to you, but give yourself enough room to follow your own intuition.  Be true to yourself.  Say what you need to say.  Do what you know in your heart is right.
  21. Start being attentive to your stress level and take short breaks. – Slow down.  Breathe.  Give yourself permission to pause, regroup and move forward with clarity and purpose.  When you’re at your busiest, a brief recess can rejuvenate your mind and increase your productivity.  These short breaks will help you regain your sanity and reflect on your recent actions so you can be sure they’re in line with your goals.
  22. Start noticing the beauty of small moments. – Instead of waiting for the big things to happen – marriage, kids, big promotion, winning the lottery – find happiness in the small things that happen every day.  Little things like having a quiet cup of coffee in the early morning, or the delicious taste and smell of a homemade meal, or the pleasure of sharing something you enjoy with someone else, or holding hands with your partner.  Noticing these small pleasures on a daily basis makes a big difference in the quality of your life.
  23. Start accepting things when they are less than perfect. – Remember, ‘perfect’ is the enemy of ‘good.’  One of the biggest challenges for people who want to improve themselves and improve the world is learning to accept things as they are.  Sometimes it’s better to accept and appreciate the world as it is, and people as they are, rather than to trying to make everything and everyone conform to an impossible ideal.  No, you shouldn’t accept a life of mediocrity, but learn to love and value things when they are less than perfect.
  24. Start working toward your goals every single day. – Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.  Whatever it is you dream about, start taking small, logical steps every day to make it happen.  Get out there and DO something!  The harder you work the luckier you will become.  While many of us decide at some point during the course of our lives that we want to answer our calling, only an astute few of us actually work on it.  By ‘working on it,’ I mean consistently devoting oneself to the end result.  Read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
  25. Start being more open about how you feel. – If you’re hurting, give yourself the necessary space and time to hurt, but be open about it.  Talk to those closest to you.  Tell them the truth about how you feel.  Let them listen.  The simple act of getting things off your chest and into the open is your first step toward feeling good again.
  26. Start taking full accountability for your own life. – Own your choices and mistakes, and be willing to take the necessary steps to improve upon them.  Either you take accountability for your life or someone else will.  And when they do, you’ll become a slave to their ideas and dreams instead of a pioneer of your own.  You are the only one who can directly control the outcome of your life.  And no, it won’t always be easy.  Every person has a stack of obstacles in front of them.  But you must take accountability for your situation and overcome these obstacles.  Choosing not to is choosing a lifetime of mere existence.
  27. Start actively nurturing your most important relationships. – Bring real, honest joy into your life and the lives of those you love by simply telling them how much they mean to you on a regular basis.  You can’t be everything to everyone, but you can be everything to a few people.  Decide who these people are in your life and treat them like royalty.  Remember, you don’t need a certain number of friends, just a number of friends you can be certain of.
  28. Start concentrating on the things you can control. – You can’t change everything, but you can always change something.  Wasting your time, talent and emotional energy on things that are beyond your control is a recipe for frustration, misery and stagnation.  Invest your energy in the things you can control, and act on them now.
  29. Start focusing on the possibility of positive outcomes. – The mind must believe it CAN do something before it is capable of actually doing it.  The way to overcome negative thoughts and destructive emotions is to develop opposing, positive emotions that are stronger and more powerful.  Listen to your self-talk and replace negative thoughts with positive ones.  Regardless of how a situation seems, focus on what you DO WANT to happen, and then take the next positive step forward.  No, you can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control how you react to things.  Everyone’s life has positive and negative aspects – whether or not you’re happy and successful in the long run depends greatly on which aspects you focus on.  Read The How of Happiness.
  30. Start noticing how wealthy you are right now. – Henry David Thoreau once said, “Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.”  Even when times are tough, it’s always important to keep things in perspective.  You didn’t go to sleep hungry last night.  You didn’t go to sleep outside.  You had a choice of what clothes to wear this morning.  You hardly broke a sweat today.  You didn’t spend a minute in fear.  You have access to clean drinking water.  You have access to medical care.  You have access to the Internet.  You can read.  Some might say you are incredibly wealthy, so remember to be grateful for all the things you do have.

30 Things to Start Doing for Yourself

Remember today, for it is the beginning.
Today marks the start of a brave new future.

Please  visit Marc Chernoff’s blog for more inspirational and Practical Life Tips:

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Grown Adoptees and Birth Mothers Building A Relationship

This was in in response to a question that appeared on HubPages “Questions” section:

“I found my birth mother on Facebook and i want to know how to have a better relationship with her?

The Response to the Above Question by Lisa HW:

Based on your choice of words, your question suggests that it may be hard for you because things didn’t go the way they (ideally) should when a child is adopted. It’s not clear whether your birth mother placed you for adoption as an infant or not, so I’ll assume, for now, that that’s the case.

I think you need to start by beginning at the beginning, in your own mind:

I think one thing you need to keep in mind is that, in so many cases, birth mothers believe (either in their own hearts or because “the world” has convinced them) that the only way their child stands a chance of having a whole, happy, childhood is to place them for adoption. They may believed that the adoption screening process guarantees great parents (or they may know there’s a chance the adoptive parents won’t be ideal but hope the odds of that aren’t great; and feel as if they have no choice but take that chance). The point is birth mothers generally feel they have little or no choice but to place their child for adoption, and the more they care about what kind of mother their child has, the more likely they may be to believe adoption is the only way to do what’s right for their child.


Birth mothers are often young, and it isn’t, by any means, a rare situation for a young girl to be influenced by others, who tell her there’s no way possible she can ever offer her child what a child needs. Sometimes it may, in fact, be true. Sometimes it may not be.

The point is, most birth mothers have gone through the awful process of placing their babies for adoption because they believed it was the right the to do.

One problem is that none of us can ever guarantee our child the kind of childhood we hope she’ll have. A child born to “the greatest parents in the world” and to “the best home-life in the world” can lose a parent to illness or accident. I had “the best (biological) parents in the world”, but when I was six my mother was hospitalized for months because of Tuberculosis. I recall sitting with my father in my mother’s doctor’s office, as the doctor told my father how someone would help him arrange to place me, my older sister, and my toddler brother in foster care. I recall my father saying little at first but then saying he’d work something out. My father had to work full-time. Someone had to watch us. Fortunately, my mother’s sister was able/willing to quit her job and take care of us during the days. Fortunately, my father was willing/able to hand over most of his pay to make up for what my aunt would lose by leaving her own job to take care of us. The point is, even when we’re fortunate enough to spend our childhoods with two, loving, birth-parents; there aren’t always any guarantees; and all any parent can do is her best.

Whether our child is one we have and raise, have and place for adoption, or adopted as our own, parents just can’t guarantee that all will be as they hope, or as they believe it will be, for their children.

I’m an adoptive mother of a son in his early thirties. He’s among the many people who were not voluntarily placed for adoption. He was adopted in infancy, but it was after he had sustained injuries at the hands of birth parents. Even with that, though, the truth is that his birth mother, herself, had been raised in a severely disadvantaged situation and has been said to be “of limited mental capacity”, so I’ve always tried to point out to my son that sometimes women can’t be “the right kind of mother a child needs” through no fault of their own. I never wanted him to think she didn’t want him or was “evil”. I always hoped he’d understand that she, herself, just had too much going against her as she was growing up.

I had my two younger children myself, and I cannot imagine ever having to go through the process of placing either them or their older brother, with whom I’d bonded since his infancy, for adoption. My point is that, for one reason or another, birth mothers have gone through one wrenching thing or another. Few who haven’t placed their babies for adoption could ever imagine what birth mothers go through (not just when they place their babies for adoption, but often for the rest of their lives in a lot of ways).

My sister and I were recently pondering what was harder – losing our mother or losing our father. We went back and forth about the ways it was a little easier in one way with one parent, and a little easier in another way with the other. After simultaneously coming to the realization that it’s generally pretty rotten to lose a beloved parent under any circumstances, we kind of laughed as we said, “Face it. Death is never easy.”

I think that’s kind of how it is with an adopted child’s birth story. There are all kinds of reasons and circumstances a birth mother feels the only thing she can do is place her child for adoption; but regardless of what they are, the birth story always had some difficult and sad element to it.

Comparing a birth story to losing someone through death is, however, not a very good comparison; because the birth of child (often a very wanted child, even when circumstances make keeping her impossible) brings the same kind of joys to all mothers, whether or not they will be able to keep their child. So often, children who will eventually be adopted bring extra joy with them, as their adoptive parents eagerly await their arrival. It’s just that amidst so much joy, there is always that element of sadness when a child is placed for adoption that isn’t there when she isn’t.

My point is that I think you have to start by keeping in mind that what followed after your birth wasn’t how your birth mother would have chosen it. If she could have kept you and offered you what she believed a child needs, she would have. If she had to place you for adoption, you can bet she believed you would be placed with wonderful parents.

Once you begin at the beginning, maybe spending a little time considering the middle might help too:

If your parents (adoptive parents) were horrible, evil, and abusive people; the people you should be angry at are them and anyone involved in missing their questionable “issues” when they were being screened – not your birth mother.

Any time anyone is “pure evil” and just abusive to a child (whether that’s a birth mother who loses custody or an adoptive one), there’s no excuse. I think all anyone can do is “write them off” and be glad to be done with them.

A good part of the time, though, most parents who mess up in some ways aren’t really unfit (and truly aren’t evil). So often, parents and kids run into difficulties (whether or not the child is adopted). It can be easy to point to adoption as the reason for the problems, but sometimes it’s more a matter of adoption’s complicating problems that would have otherwise existed anyway.

Sometimes, too, well meaning adoptive parents just don’t know exactly how to handle some issues their child may have. In fact, what’s the best thing to do with one child may not be the best thing to do with another one. So, as even “the best parents in the world” who are raising their birth children often do, adoptive parents can do one thing or another isn’t the best for one particular child.

What I’m getting at here is consider the overall childhood with the adoptive parents and ask if those parents were “just horrible people” (in which case, they and the adoption agency should be blamed and, ideally, held accountable), or were they generally good, loving, people with whom their child ran into family disagreements and difficulties? If that’s the case, that kind of thing can happen in all families. A whole lot of kids with their birth parents end up in foster care, not because the parents are abusive or negligent, but because kids start to rebel and parents don’t know what to do but seek help outside.

Stepping back and considering that it may have been more of a family problem than an adoption problem may help make the unfortunate circumstance of being in foster care seem a little more understandable (and a little less reason for anger in some cases).

Why even bothering “looking at the middle”? Because sometimes it’s easier to move past the past if we understand how things happened a little better. Sometimes it’s easier to forgive and see something things as “unfortunate but not really anyone’s fault or intention” than to think, “I was the victim of people who were nothing but horrible”.

Before thinking about moving on to the future with the relationship with a birth mother:

I think you have to also keep in mind that a lot of time and growth has passed between that birth story, that “middle” (childhood), and the present. While some adoptees will report “clicking” with their birth mother almost immediately, many don’t. In fact, many can’t relate to their birth mother at all.

My son was glad to have some “blanks” in his birth story and birth family filled in when he met his birth mother, but he certainly didn’t “click” with her. He said she expected more from him than he was able to offer in terms of a relationship. He was glad to have some of those “blanks” filled in by his birth mother’s sister, but his birth mother was a disappointment to him. She had been a troubled person when he was born, and she remained a troubled person. For lack of a nicer way to describe them, her family was “a can of worms” when it came to “issues”. My son didn’t quite know how to process a lot of it. After about a year of all the “newness of it all”, things gradually soured, and my son “phased out” first the birth mother and later the siblings, as well.

Maybe it was good that he saw how troubled she was, because I think it was clear to him that she wasn’t really “mother material”. Her other children had issues with her as well. That one aunt was the one among the whole group who gave my son the answers he needed and whose answers seemed most to him to match (and complete) the information I’d given him when he was younger.

In my son’s case, it was the birth mother who wasn’t able to keep in mind how much time had passed, or how different he would be after 21 years with the family he felt closest to. In some situations, though, it can be the adoptee who expects a little too much once reuniting, especially, perhaps, if there have been problems between the adoptee and her adoptive family. It’s natural to believe that finding one’s “real” mother might fill any emotional voids. Sometimes some voids are, in fact, filled. Sometimes none are.

Either way, I think it’s important for adoptees to realize that while they can certainly expect their birth mother to fill in all those blanks that need to be filled in when it comes to their birth story (and their birth mother’s story), it is often unrealistic to assume that it’s possible to immediately have some of those emotional voids filled in by being reunited.

On the one hand, there will always be that unique connection between a birth mother and the adoptee. On the other, much of the time there wasn’t that bonding that takes place after a mother brings her baby home and over the months that follow, as she cares for her baby and grows to love her more and more. So, in spite of that undeniable and permanent connect that will always exist as a result of a birth mother’s being the one to have given birth to the child, there’s a kind of break “in the order of things” when it comes to the adult adoptee and the birth mother.

I think (and this is only my own opinion, although I’ve read about this issue and am not offering an opinion based on nothing but my own experience) there can be a “damned-if-you-do/damned-if-don’t” thing when it comes to an adoptee’s feelings toward the birth mother in adulthood, as it applies to how “warmly” the adoptee can feel (at least immediately) toward the birth mother. Why? Because if the adoptee has had all the things that non-adoptees have between the child and the parents, that relationship would lead the adoptee to have fewer, if any, voids that needed to be filled. Such a person wouldn’t be very open, emotionally, to the birth mother in a lot of ways, simply because she wouldn’t feel that kind of need.

At the same time, if an adoptee had a far-from-perfect adoption in which her relationship with her parents left little else but one kind of void or another, she might be looking to her birth mother to fill voids that cannot be filled once a person is an adult. I’m not implying that all is hopeless when it comes to building a new relationship with a birth mother, but I’m saying I think it’s important to keep in mind that it may have start out slowly and build naturally, and on different terms than the adoptee may be hoping for. One easy example might be the adoptee who had an adoptive mother who never showed up for school events. She may have been left feeling short-changed in this (and other) ways and may kind of hope her birth mother would, in some way, make her feel less short-changed.

Having a second chance at a “new and better” mother may seem to hold a lot of promise (and may, especially in the case of a bad adoption) contribute to making the adoptee feel more whole. What I think adoptees need to be careful about, though, is that there is no returning to those years when a child waited for his mother to show up at school events, only to have her not show. The birth mother can’t give that time back and make it better next time. So, there will always be things (some less significant than others) that a birth mother may not be able to offer.

I think, too, this is another example of why it’s important to understand the birth mother’s circumstances when she placed her child for adoption; because I think it’s important an adoptee keep in mind that the birth mother can’t be blamed for the fact that the adoptive mother didn’t show up at those school events.

My point is that these kinds of issues are all the kinds of things I think an adoptee needs to sort out before moving too far into a new relationship with the birth mother. I don’t intend to make it seem as if any challenges to the relationship are challenges that can’t be overcome or even that will be all that big. The reality is, though, that once a child is part of that “triangle” associated with adoption (the birth mother/parents, the adoptive mother/parents, and the child) there are those extra issues that need to be understood, sorted out, and resolved by the adoptee.

I think it’s also important for adoptees to keep in mind that while some reunions lead to great relationships with the birth mother, many don’t. Based not only on my own son, but on other adoptees I’ve known, as well; there are times when adoptees (especially those not entirely “thrilled” with their adoptive parents) may discover they feel as if they fit more (even if only in some ways) with their adoptive parents than with their birth parents. Whether the adoptee once believed she was completely alienated from adoptive parents, or instead once believed she couldn’t possibly feel she belonged with a birth mother who is a “stranger”, there can be surprises (both pleasant and unpleasant).

It’s important, I think, for adoptees to be prepared for some surprises and to be open to the idea that building a relationship with the birth mother will be a process of further growth, as a human being (one way or another). Just as no one can guarantee that a newborn child will have a perfectly wonderful childhood, no one can guarantee that the road to a relationship with a birth mother will be a smooth one (or even that it will lead anywhere farther than some initial meetings that eventually answer what questions the adoptee needs answered before the adoptee and birth mother start to notice they have less in common than they believed they would).

So how does an adoptee build a relationship with a birth mother?

There’s not a simple and easy answer to that question. I suppose one simple answer would be, “Don’t expect too much too soon, and let the relationship start out slowly and build from there (the way any new relationship needs to).” I think it’s important to keep in mind that although an adoptee’s history with her birth mother dates all the way back to the day she was born, the interruption in the relationship means that, in so many ways, reuniting and building a new relationship will very much be just that – building a new relationship. I also means, I think, defining that new relationship in a way that helps the adoptee see that her life (and identity and self) has remained one, continuous, life that began at birth, continued through her childhood, and continues to build, grow, and change with time. In other words, adoptees need to see their life as a play, starring them. (In fact, the birth mother needs to see their life the same way.) In a play, the set changes and/or the scenes change. Actors come and go on the stage. The name of the play remains the unchanged, and the one aspect of it that doesn’t change is the actor who has that starring role. I think seeing that continuity is important for adoptees and birth parents (even though one actor has been missing from most of the play until now). Somehow it seems to me that reconciling that short period between birth and adoption, the longer period between adoption and the present, and the “new” period when the adoptee and birth mother meet again is one way from allowing what is sometimes a fragile and shaky new relationship to crumble under the weight of too much expectation too soon.

The “Star of My Own Show”

I’d like to begin winding down this discussion with a story about my son and me. My son was about seventeen, and he and I had gone through a time when we were arguing pretty much most of the time. It didn’t help that my mother (and his beloved grandmother) had recently died and made us both pretty much on edge and not in the best of moods, to say the least. Both of us had gone through some awful, awful, things while my mother had been bedridden; and as his mother, I was absolutely heartsick to know what he had to endure in terms of sorrow. Still, he was a frazzled and sometimes rebelling teen at the time, and there were times he could be pretty unreasonable.

One night he was (as they say) mouthing off at me. I was angry that he was “giving me a hard time” after all I’d been through. As I said, I was heart-sick to know what he’d been through, but I thought it wouldn’t have killed him to think of me too. In any case, he got me angry and I spoke to him in an uncharacteristically loud and firm voice, in my attempt to get him to realize that he wasn’t the only one who had gone through so much. Not generally being someone to assert my own “importance”, I angrily said to my son, “I’M THE STAR OF THIS SHOW!!” My son was taken aback at my uncharacteristic behavior but immediately replied in his own angry tone (but also in an uncharacteristic assertion of his own “importance”), “WELL – I’M THE STAR OF MY OWN SHOW!!!”

When he came back with that I suddenly realized that I, too, had been wrapped up in my own sorrow and loss (and worry about him) and that, in fact, he was the “star of his own show”, just as I was the “star” of mine.

The thing is, birth mother or adoptive mother, child or adult, biological child or adoptee; each of us is the star of own show; and everyone else in “our show” is, at least from the perspective of “self”, supporting cast (even if extremely important “supporting cast”). Sometimes, when it comes to emotional events or circumstances, it can be pretty easy to forget that the other person is also the star of his own show.

My personal belief is that in the adoption triangle, it is always the child’s needs that should come first. That’s not how it always is, but, ideally, that’s how it should be. A good part of the time mothers (birth or adoptive) will make the child the “star” of their show if at all possible. Sometimes, for one reason or another, they can’t (or won’t). As adoptees (or non-adoptees, for that matter) grow up, a shift has to occur that involves the grown child’s sometimes realizing that her mother is also the star of her own show, complete with all the pressure, expectations, and demands that come with being the star of any show.

When a reunion between an adoptee and birth mother takes place it’s pretty much a matter of joining someone else’s “show”, already in progress, as not only a new cast member but a new character. To add to the challenges, there isn’t just one “show”. There’s at least two (that of the adoptee and the birth mother). Sometimes (usually, perhaps) a whole bunch of different people’s “shows” suddenly have new characters and cast members in them. It can be a complicated time that isn’t easy for anyone involved.

That’s why, I think, people need to take things a little slowly at first, be willing to learn, be willing to try, and be careful about expecting too much of any new characters and/or cast members.

None of this is intended to imply that a great relationship cannot be built between a birth mother and an adoptee. The world is full of adoptees who have gone on to have wonderful relationships with their birth mother. There are also those times, though, when the relationship can never be quite what the adoptee hoped it could be (or even when it turns out there can be no relationship at all). While no adoptee deserves to be disappointed, it’s especially important that those who have had a less than ideal relationship with their adoptive parents not set themselves up for yet further disappointment and emotional trauma. Being prepared, taking things slowly, and keeping expectations within reason can, I think, help build a more solid foundation on which to build whatever relationship will be built.

As for my own son, his world was pretty much rocked (and not for the better) because he went into the reunion with a little too much haste, after initially being reluctant to even meet his birth mother. The warm welcome he received from her and her family made him feel like the long-lost child he was to them. There was, however, an “all-that-glitters-is-not-gold” aspect to the warm, initial, reunion and months that followed it; and my not quite-mature-enough, 21-year-old son was eventually disappointed, a little at a time, as was his birth mother.

As an adoptive mother, I’ve so often heard or read things about how adoptive mothers are cautious or reluctant when it comes to their child’s meeting the birth mother. I’ve also read or heard adoptees say they worry about even raising the issue of a reunion with their (adoptive) mother because they don’t want to hurt her. In my case (and I think this is true with a lot of adoptive mothers), the idea that my son would most likely one day want to meet his birth mother/family was something I’d always just taken for granted as part of the “adoption factor” and wasn’t something I was either insecure or emotionally fragile about that he would have needed to worry about “hurting me”.

Back then, when my son was 21 and contacted by an agency who invited him to meet his birth mother, I did believe he wasn’t quite emotionally mature enough to handle it. When he said he wasn’t going to follow up I was the one who said, “At least let her know you’re OK. She deserves that much.” That’s what began the reunion process, and the fact that he wasn’t quite as mature as would have been ideal is what made him dive a little too quickly into waters that would turn out to be far too deep for him. Had my son had just another two or three years to mature, I think his reunion with his birth mother may have turned out more successful than it did.

Another factor that I don’t think helped was that none of the birth family seemed to realize it may not have been helpful in his relationship with the birth mother for them to “swoop in as a group” (well intended as they may have been), overwhelmed him, made him feel (for lack of a better words) like a “Big Cheese”, and then proceed to tell him all about all the mistakes and flaws of his birth mother. His birth mother is an individual who has had many disadvantages and who was said to have challenges aside from some of those external disadvantages. My son is an accepting person and a person who is fairly good at understanding that people can “have issues” or make unintended mistakes. I think if he and his birth mother had had some time to get to know one another better before quite such an onslaught of “welcoming” by the rest of her family began he may possibly have developed a better relationship with her. Since my son relating to the extended family members was easier for my son than relating to the birth mother was, it was, I guess, natural for the family members to step in, make my son feel more welcome, and – in the end, and without intending to – discourage his forming a better relationship with his birth mother.

Whether or not his birth mother is someone with whom he ever could have formed a real relationship is something I don’t know. For all I know, it may have been good that the extended family stepped up and played the role they did. I do know, though, that with their good intentions and haste at making my son feel “like one of them”, they did put down some roadblocks when it came to any potential relationship with his birth mother,

This is why I’ll end this discussion by suggesting that adoptees, themselves, limit (at least to some degree) intensity and time when it comes to meeting and spending time with other birth family members. . It’s one thing to meet them, and I’m not suggesting adoptees not do that. It’s another thing, however, to have a large extended family start having one get-together after another, involving different combinations of people or time spent with individual family members alone. I’m just suggesting taking it slow and limiting numbers when it comes to birth family members.

It may seem natural to welcome back a “long lost” child to a whole family, and it, of course, seems like a nice thing to do to have a big get-together in order to do it. Celebrating meeting an adopted child in this way is celebrating the happiness with which that child is received. I do think, however, that it lays a foundation for a set of dynamics that may not necessarily be conducive to stronger relationships (especially with the birth mother, given that she is the “star” of her particular “show”) in the long run.

To me, it just seems like common sense to realize that when a baby is placed for adoption in early infancy the mother cannot form the same kind of bond that mothers form with babies after they bring them home, care for them, and become increasingly attached to them over the the first few years of the child’s life. I had children, as well as having adopted one. The connection I had with them at the time of their birth was “nothing” compared to the fierce and intense bond that would grow once I brought each one home and began to nurture him or her. When a baby is separated from his birth mother in early infancy there’s never the chance for this kind of bond to develop, so the birth mother’s bond with the child is very limited. Even though she may have her own love for, and thoughts of, the child over the years; it cannot be a “relationship” when the two are not in one another’s lives.

This is why it seems to me that when a reunion is to take place it may be more important than people generally realize that the birth mother and adoptee have a good, solid, chance to begin to build on whatever connection they have; rather than allow extended family members to play too big a role in the early stages of the reunion. I don’t pretend to be an expert on this matter, and I don’t even know if I’m correct in my beliefs. What I do know, however, is what did create fractures in whatever potential there was for my son to form a relationship (even if not a perfect one) with his birth mother.

If nothing else, these are things I think people who are planning a reunion, or who are in the early stages of the reunion process, should consider.

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Adoption: Writing the Letter That Explains ‘Why’ to Your Child

They Will Want to Know Where They Came From

Giving up a child for adoption can be very trying, even for the strongest person you know. Whether you did it so the child could have a better life, or so that you could, every child deserves to know why you did it. All cases are different, being that some adoptions are closed so the option of communication between the child and the biological parents isn’t allowed. But then again, when that child turns 18, they can look you up. And when they do, you should be ready. So whether it’s closed or open, there will always be one thing both cases will have in common, and that’s the curiosity of that child.

Put yourself in their shoes. If you were adopted and brought up around a family that isn’t biologically related to you, you would want to know. You would want to know where you came from, what your biological parents were like, where you get those freckles. As the woman that carried that child for nine months, or the man who helped father the child, the least you could do is take the time. Take the time to think about this child that has spent years in the dark not knowing. Take the time to write down some words that explain why.

I recommend doing it when the child is at an age where they can understand the information you will be giving them. Before you even start writing the final letter, its always best to brainstorm or chart things that you want to cover in the letter. Don’t be afraid to share how scared, selfish or how not ready you were at the time. Details won’t always be pretty, but expressing the truth is where it’ll all count in the end. Start from the beginning, explain to them who you are first. They will want to know what kind of traits you had, how good you were in school and if you excelled at sports while growing up.

Secondly, whether you are the biological mother or biological father, talking about the person who helped you create the child is perfectly okay. If you want, you can explain how you met each other. Let them know what kind of personality they had and what kind of relationship you had with one another. This will let the child tap into a part of your life that led up to the time that they were created. I imagine it would put them at ease to know who you are before they find out your reason(s).

Next, it’s time to go into the time when the adoption took place. Go deeper than the surface and really touch on things that help them understand you completely. Take yourself back to the time when it all happened. Remember the emotions you felt at the time. If you weren’t ready, explain the circumstances that made it so you weren’t ready. If the thought of raising a child scared you beyond belief, tell them that. If you were young and selfish at the time, you have to let them know. Being able to admit being selfish is one of the most grown up things you will do in your life.

After that go ahead and tell them how you’ve grown as a person after it happened. How the whole situation impacted your life. Tell them your goals not only with your own life, but with them. Lastly, let them know where you stand. If you want to work on building a personal relationship with them, tell them so. Even if they are not interested in going that route, you will feel a weight lifted for trying. If you just take the time, then they will know.

I am actually about to write my own letter to my daughter. She will be 10 this summer and I feel it is the right time to do it. The night that I decided to write my letter was a night that she stopped by my dad’s house with her adoptive mother (one of our close family friends) and asked my dad, “Do you know where my birth mother is?” Luckily I was right up the street at work and she surprised me with a visit and her beautiful smile. She has always known me as her “Tummy Mommy,” and for that I am grateful. But now it’s time for her to really know me. I’m excited to get to it. I hope this has inspired you to do the same. (by )

Suggested reading:

The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade

The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade

Amazon Price: $7.73

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Who is Entitled to my Gratitude?


Have you ever seen an adoptee bristle, or felt yourself as an adoptee prickle, when someone mentions that adoptees need to be “grateful?”  Where does this reaction come from, and what’s wrong with being “grateful” anyway?  Gratefulness is a wonderful attitude to have for life and blessings in-general. However, there’s a distinct and unfortunate stereotype of “gratefulness” that adoptees tend to encounter.

The “gratefulness” seen in family systems causes one generation to look with fondness and care on the previous generation, if they were well cared for by that generation. The adoption-stereotype-gratefulness takes this to an extreme.  It expects adoptees to leave things behind so as not to “upset” some invisible apple cart people imagine adoptive parents to have.  What we may be expected to leave behind are our original families, original identity, a quest for reunion or original documentation, or mentioning any personal feelings of loss in adoption.

This is an unrealistic “gratefulness” is directed at adoptees, and their families, often in an unkind way. In reality, adoptive parents, like all parents, shouldn’t want their kids to put aside what may be important to them. It is the job of every parent to nurture the interests, feelings, and ideas of their children. No one, adopted or not, needs to be any more grateful than anyone else is to their parents for doing what parents are supposed to do.

When my adopted identity within my adoptive family exclusively indicates that I need to be grateful, and that gratefulness determines what can and cannot be important to me, I’ve been made out to be a little less human than everyone else.
I am grateful everyday to be the mother of my biologically-raised sons.  I do not want a different standard held to me and all of my parents because I am adopted.  My sons are entitled to my gratitude for the opportunity to be their mother, but I am not entitled to their gratefulness in return.

Very simply, no child has to be “grateful” when their human rights are met. When children receive love and care, it is not by sheer “luck” or “fortune.”  It is justice they are entitled to by nature of being human.

Written by Amanda from The Declassified Adoptee
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Adoption Shouldn’t be a Secret

I would like to say thank you to all of you for supporting this page. It’s an honor for me to get to know you, little by little.

As some of you may know, my cause goes beyond our frontiers… I not only fight for the Adoptee Rights here in the United States but also in Brazil, where I was born and adopted.

Adoptee Rights in Brazil are pretty null. Like me, thousands of people are illegally adopted everyday. The existing law openly protects the parents. There are no support groups, there is no consideration to the Adoptees that are kept in the dark for years until the truth emerges somehow… And what is left? The same feelings Late Discovery Adoptees from around the world experience: Disappointment, loss of trust, discrimination, criticism, abandonment, and pain.

I’ve created a sister page here on FB last December and just this past week, I was able to start working on it. So please, if you know any Portuguese speakers, let them know about this resource. There are not many resources for adoptees available in Brazil. Please help to connect any one that might benefit from it 🙂




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Adoptee Rights Bills to Support in 2013

Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio all have Adoptee Bills in their State Capitols

While the Adoptee Rights Coalition organizes a national demonstration each years, it is vitally important to support Adoptee Rights Bills that come through each state capitol. The vast majority of Adoptee Rights bills are not understood at all by the very state legislators that are required to vote on them. If you need facts, please feel free to use any of the materials on the Adoptee Rights pages here.

I recommend writing a short, yet powerful letter, identifying yourself and supporting Adoptee Rights OBC access. Add some facts and why you support Adoptees Rights. Then keep your letter on file. It is then very easy to  edit it to the right legislators  regarding whatever state bill and send it off when needed.

Follow your state group on Facebook and Twitter or sign up for their mailing lists and when they ask you to do something, just do it! Send your letter, make a comment saying you did, and share the post to your own networks, The only way we will ever restore the civil rights of our friends and children is if we work on their doggedly and with purpose together.

Maryland’s Adoptee Rights Bill HB 22 & SB 165:

Maryland Adoptee OBC access billsAccess Maryland Adoptee RIghts

Website:  Access Maryland


Bill Numbers: HB 22 & SB 165

General Bill info: Adoptee Access to OBC at age 18 including records and report on order of adoption  Disclosure veto offered to all parties.

Edited for clarity: Due to the included disclosure VETO, the ARC is not supporting this piece of legislation. Vetos continue to allow discrimination of adoptees, but now based on the decisions of other parties who already had a choice in adoption rather than treating all adoptees equally.  When you write to Maryland, you can tell them that VETOES are NOT NEEDED and UNFAIR.

Latest Update: SB 165 now has a hearing scheduled in the Maryland Senate on February 12, 2013, at 1 PM

What you can do to help:

  • Write a letter/email of support for HB 22:  to the members of the Maryland House Judiciary Committee members. We don’t know when the committee will vote on HB 22, so it is imperative that the letters/emails get there ASAP. You can write one email and, using the links  here. Copy and paste the same letter into each email, and then add the subject: HB 22 – SUPPORT
  • Write a letter/email of support for SB 165: edit your letter changing the bill number to SB 165 and send to the members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. The bill is the same as HB 22. Links to the members of the Judicial Proceedings Committee are also at the above link.
  • Ask friends and family to send letters of support, too. It isn’t necessary to be a member of the adoption triad to know that discriminating against adoptees and denying them their human right to their original identity is wrong. If you are an adoptee, please explain why having a copy of your original birth certificate is important.
  • Please send a copy of your letters to
  • LIKE Access Maryland on Facebook and Share their Updates!

Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights Bill HB 162

Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights

Website:   Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights PAR


Bill Number: HB 162 in the PA House

General Bill info: Adoptee Access to OBC at age 18

Latest Update:  Introduced by Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre County, 171st Legislative District) and currently co-sponsored by 29 of his colleagues

What you can do to help:

New York’s Adoptee Rights Bills S2490A and A909

New York Adoptee Rights bills

Website:    Unsealed Initiative


Bill Number: S2490A and A909

General Bill info:  Enacts Bill of Adoptee Rights clarifying language and procedures for obtaining birth certificates and medical histories of adoptees; allows adopted adults to learn who their birth parents are when they reach the age of 18, subject to a contact preference filed by the birth parents.

Latest Update:   At the end of last Albany session May of 2012 Senator Lanza took charge of our senate bill and we need a republican sponsor to get our bill passed. Because he took charge near the end of session and because of opposition there was no action on our bill. This session we have more support and are more hopeful in the senate.

What you can do to help:

  • Join Unsealed Initiative to lobby in Albany on Tuesday March 5th!!
    • Contact your legislators in their District Offices. To learn who your state assembly member and senator are, call the Albany switchboard at: 518 455-4218. The phone number in New York City for the League of Women Voters is   (212) 725-3541. There are 150 assembly members and the link to the assembly website is
    • Contact your NY  state senators. One way to find out who your senator is by logging
      on to the senate site,
    • A written letter (snail mail) is of more importance with many legislators. However, some value emails. If your email does not get through, go to SEARCH and type in the name of the legislator for access to their website, as many have their own sites. Then send an email from the site. Be sure to include your address and phone number in your mail. Contact them in support of S2490A and A909
    • LIKE Unsealed Initiative and Share their Updates!
    • Follow them on Twitter!


Ohio Adoptee Rights Bill

Adoption Equity Ohio

Website:   Adoption Equity Ohio


Bill Numbers: ??

General Bill info: The bill will deal with allowing access upon request to original birth certificates for adoptees born and adopted in Ohio between 1964 and 1996, a period during which these records are currently closed. (In Ohio the original birth certificate is available upon request to pre-1964 adoptees and in the vast majority of cases to post-1996 adult adoptees.)

Sponsor:  Representatives Dorothy Pelanda (R) and Nicki Antonio (D) in the House, and Senators Bill Beagle (R) and Dave Burke (R) in the Senate. Each has a personal adoption connection as well as a policy interest, and passion for the cause.

Latest Update: We learned today that the Ohio bill on adoptee access to birth certificates – which is now bills (2 bills) – is being introduced next Friday 2/8/2013. There will be companion bills concurrently in the Ohio House and in the Ohio Senate.  The sponsors have sent out a request for co-sponsors to the full House and Senate. Co-sponsors need to sign on by next Thursday.

What you can do to help:

The sponsors have sent out a request for co-sponsors to the full House and Senate. Co-sponsors need to sign on by next Thursday.


Source: Claudia Corrigan DArcy ~ Musings of the Lame

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How the Real World Sees Adoptees, Adoptive Parents and Birthmothers


In the adoption community there  are tons of conversations about “educating”  the general public about adoption.  Depending on how you are adoption affected, what you think needs to happen will be very different.

Adoptive Parents  want people to accept their families built by adoption  and complain about the stupid questions people ask like  ”Where is her real mother?” There is also many conversations about how the public should respect the birthmothers for being so selfless and brave to make such a courageous choice.  Adoptive parents are the saviors who took in another’s child.

Adoptees are suppose to be happy and grateful that they  were somehow  saved from either ” ending up in an dumpster” or ” from being aborted.  Adoptees are “lucky”. They are suppose to just accept life that they are given and not care about their medical history or the fact that they are discriminated against by the government who denies Adoptee Rights. Adoptees who search  should be “happy with the parents they got” and if they do search, even our government expects them all to turn into stalking identity thieves.

The general public likes to blame the birthmother’s pain on her own irresponsible choices. She is punished for her fertility and the sexual drive that got her pregnant in the first place. I can’t how many times I have heard “well you should have thought of that before you spread your legs”. Our pain at being separated form your children is because we deserved it and, let’s not forget, we all would have abused our kids anyway or lived our poor lives on government assistance.

Basically, unless you are actually adoption affected, and even then, only if you have done your own research and homework, most people have no clue about adoption.

Thanks AGAIN to: