Posts Tagged ‘adoption’

Final at last

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Seven years. Seven years! Congratulations to Suann Hibbs of Edina, Minnesota, for staying the course and finalizing the adoptions of her 8-year-old twins and their 7-year-old sister. The girls lived in five different orphanages and don’t yet speak English. As you know, adoptions between the US and Guatemala closed in December 2007, leaving hundreds of cases stranded in process. Adoption between the two countries remain closed, and likely will for the foreseeable future.

Here’s my plea to friends from that part of the country: Please reach out to Suann Hibbs! I bet she would welcome support from fellow adoptive parents, and her girls would love to meet other Guatemalan children who have lived here longer. No one understands the road Suann and her girls will be traveling as much as the families and children who have been there. We gain strength from each other. Again, congratulations!

Watch the news coverage here.



Thursday, January 17th, 2013

I have to tell you, at least several people known to me wish I were a little less obsessed with the subject of adoption, and one of the most vocal of these lives in my own home. I’m not naming names, but last night, again, this person said to me, “Mom, why can’t you leave the house like other mothers? Join a gym or meet someone for coffee. Go shopping. Think about any topic except adoption and Guatemala. Do something besides write. Please!”

I don’t disagree. Because, honestly, I’m not sure what drives my obsession or why I believe it possibly can do any good. But then, earlier this morning, I read an article titled “Romanian orphans face challenges decades after adoption,” which includes these sentences:

The Bucharest Early Intervention Project (BEIP) has studied the effects of institutionalization on orphans in Romania for the past 13 years. Working from a small lab in a former Bucharest orphanage, researchers from the US and Romania have compared children growing up in institutions with those living with families.

“We found that institutions are a particularly toxic environment in which to raise young children,” says BEIP’s lead researcher Charles Nelson, a professor of pediatrics and neuroscience at Harvard Medical School.

Institutionalized children exhibit everything from reduced IQs to reductions in brain size and activity, he says.

The researchers say that although any time spent in non-family situations is harmful, their work suggests institutionalization past the age of 2, and in some cases earlier, causes irreversible effects.

That’s grim news for the 8 million children UNICEF says are living in institutions worldwide today.

… I read those paragraphs and thought, Somebody’s got to care about this. Somebody’s got to pay attention, and think about this, and write about it, until more people pay attention and change is made.

For now at least, one of those somebody’s seems to be me.

And based on the evidence—the recent Russian protests against Putin’s adoption ban; the countless news reports and blog posts about the reformers, filmmakers, and aid workers who continue to work toward ethical and transparent adoption; my conversations with fellow adoptive parents whom I know personally and virtually, who are doing their best to raise great kids while staying connected to birth culture and birth family; my chats with friends who are not associated directly with adoption, yet still care about the plight of children without parents around the world—I realize, in a deep and very encouraging way, obsessed I may be. But I am not alone.

Today, for my family’s sake, I will get out of the house. Maybe run over to my favorite local bookstore and see if there are any new books about adoption. Or Guatemala. Or even better, both.



A quarterback and his birth mother

Friday, December 7th, 2012

I’ve written many times about searching for and finding our children’s birth mothers, and how, for our family, that connection remains vital. But not everyone feels the way I do, as evidenced by this article about the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaerpernick, who was relinquished at six weeks, and his birth mother, who would like to establish a relationship with him as a grown man.

There are many 49ers fans who would love a moment of contact with quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

But the one with the deepest, yet most tortured connection is Heidi Russo, his biological mother who gave him up for adoption.

When she watches him from the stands, she hopes that one day, they can again meet.

“Then the other half of me calms me down and I just sit there and cheer like the rest of the people,” Russo told Yahoo’s Jason Cole. “I kept looking at him, thinking our eyes might meet. He might finally see me. I kept thinking it happened, but he never came to see me after the game.”

For his part, Kaepernick hasn’t sought out contact, and Russo said she respected his decision.

But she has also met with Rick and Teresa Kaepernick, the couple she turned her baby over to six weeks after he was born.

“I knew they were the right people immediately,” said Russo. “The first thing Teresa did when she met me was give me a hug. They were such giving, wonderful people from the moment I met them.”

They also set the stage for Kaepernick to grow up in a comfortable, two-parent home which the then-19-year-old Russo could not.

“I know I couldn’t have given Colin everything he needed growing up,” Russo said. “But I ask myself a lot of the time, ‘Would loving him have been enough?’ . . .

Be sure to read the comments following the article; they demonstrate the range and depth of emotion surrounding adoption, for people who are adopted and for the mothers who relinquished them. Once again I’m reminded that nothing about adoption is simple, or easy.


Adoptive parents who are older

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

As an older adoptive parent to two young children (ages 10 and 7), I’m always interested to see how other people handle the situation. Notice I didn’t write “challenge,” because for many folks, older parenting doesn’t present any more challenges than parenting when younger. In fact, couldn’t one say that parenting at any age challenges some more than others? The struggles remain constant regardless of age.

Parenting a child requires love and energy, of course, but it also requires dedication, and a single-minded drive to go the distance. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. More important than chronological age is level of commitment.

In this article on Huffington Post, Too Old To Adopt? Not The Case For These Parents, Ann Brenoff profiles several women and men who adopted as older parents, and whose children seem to be growing and thriving and doing just fine.

You’re never too old to adopt or love a child, say adoptive parents who were midlifers when they welcomed new family additions. In some cases, the parents had already raised children; for others, it was jumping on the parenting train for the first time before it left the station for good.


Lori McCoy’s adoption story had a more painful beginning: She lost her seven-month-old son to a form of muscular dystrophy. Her recovery from the death of her son took years. McCoy, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area (and blogs for The Huffington Post), was 47 when she and her husband adopted Chanti, a 3-1/2-year-old girl from Cambodia. That was 10 years ago.

At 57, Lori finds she’s not the only older mom in her daughter’s class. “I know many who are my age or darn near close to it. Honestly, my age isn’t even a factor in our lives.


Karen Bradley, a 50-year-old single mom in the Phoenix area, had three biological children and then adopted another three. At the time of her last adoption, she was a week shy of her 46th birthday. “From a very early age, I always knew I wanted to adopt,” she said. “I fostered kids for nine years, and after seeing children returned to homes that were less than ideal, I decided to pursue international adoption.” Her first adoption was at age 40 — Kevin, a 4-1/2-year-old boy from China. She then adopted two more times: Bryndan, a 2-1/2-year-old girl from China when she was 43 and a seven-month-old baby girl, Macyn, from Ethiopia when she was 45.

“In some ways, being an older parent is easier,” Bradley said, “because I feel like I am more patient and have realistic expectations. I understood, and accepted the fact that adopting at such a late stage in my life would mean pushing retirement out until [Macyn] graduates college,” Bradley said, adding, “[it's a] small price to pay for the absolute joy she brings to our lives.”



NY Times article on adoption from China and why I believe all adoptions should be open.

Monday, September 19th, 2011

The Sunday, September 18 New York Times ran this article, For Adoptive Parents, Questions Without Answers. An excerpt:

On Aug. 5, this newspaper published a front-page article from China that contained chilling news for many adoptive parents: government officials in Hunan Province, in southern China, had seized babies from their parents and sold them into what the article called “a lucrative black market in children.”

The news, the latest in a slow trickle of reports describing child abduction and trafficking in China, swept through the tight communities of families — many of them in the New York area — who have adopted children from China. For some, it raised a nightmarish question: What if my child had been taken forcibly from her parents?

The details of the story felt familiar to me. As an adoptive parent to children from Guatemala, I also wondered whether or not the adoptions of my children were legitimate. The longer I parented my children, the more deeply I understood the loss endured by their birth mothers. What if those women had been coerced to relinquish their children? Or worse, what if my children had been kidnapped?

How can any adoptive parent not ask the same questions? If one follows newspaper articles, blogs, books, and TV reports, one would believe every birth mother was coerced, and every child kidnapped. What if that described our situation, too?

So I searched for my children’s birth mothers, to hear in their own words the reasons why they gave up their children. Now I don’t have to wonder. I know. My kids don’t have to wonder, either; they’re young, but they’re old enough to understand hardship, and tough decisions, and what it means to feel like you have no other options. At the same time, my kids know they are loved. How? Their birth mothers told them so.

The birth mothers of my children don’t have to wonder, either. “Ana” and “Juana” have seen their children, and touched them. Held them on their laps. Ana and Juana know their babies are alive and healthy, and loved–not only by them, but by me, too. Our family circle is enlarged. At the center, there is no mystery.

The situation in China reinforces my belief that all adoptions should be open–that is, birth mothers and adoptive parents should be allowed contact, and encouraged to communicate. Questions can be answered. Fears can be put to rest.

On a recent trip to Guatemala, I asked our “searcher” how many cases of coercion or kidnapping she had discovered during her interviews with thousands of Guatemalan birth mothers. Her answer: zero.

Wouldn’t adoptive parents like to hear that information from their children’s birth mothers, themselves? That, for reasons of their own, their Guatemalan mothers relinquished their children, not without pain, but with free will? By definition, adoption involves great loss. What it doesn’t need is silence.


Please sign the Guatemala900 petition to Senator Mary Landrieu

Friday, May 6th, 2011

The Guatemala900,  the group comprising families stuck in adoption limbo with the closure of adoptions from Guatemala in December 2007, is circulating a thank-you note in the form of a petition to Senator Mary Landrieu. I signed the petition and urge you to do the same. The Guatemala900 petition preamble reads:

The children and families of pending adoptions in Guatemala have been waiting anywhere from 3 to 8 years for the process to complete.

Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu recently traveled to Guatemala to meet with President Alvaro Colom as well as the heads of the various entities that govern Guatemalan adoption in an effort to break the gridlock that these children’s cases have encountered.

For this amazing devotion, the Guatemala900 offers this letter of thanks to Senator Landrieu.

Please show your solidarity for the children in Guatemala and their waiting families by clicking on the link and signing the petition.
Thank you.


Adoption in USA Today

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

We’re in San Diego for Spring Break, with plans later to go to the beach and fly our kite. Right now, the kids are still asleep and Tim’s on a bike ride. I’ll take advantage of the time to post a link to this article from USA Today, Adoption changes spur growth in multiracial families. About 130,000 children are adopted in the US every year–that’s a huge number!–with most adoptions occurring from the foster care system:

With 130,000 children adopted each year in the USA, researchers find growing numbers involve kids whose race is different from their parents’.

The latest data show that about 40% of adoptions in America involve such families; among children from other countries adopted by American parents, 84% are transracial or transethnic, says Adam Pertman, executive director of the nonprofit Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a research, policy and education organization.

The most common type of adoption in the United States is from foster care, comprising 68% of adoptions, compared with 17% for infants adopted domestically and 15% from international adoption, Pertman said.

The article concludes by addressing the issue of transracial parenting, an issue with which many readers of this blog are familiar.

Research by Gina Samuels, an associate professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, has focused on identity development among transracial adoptees. Samuels, a multiracial adoptee who has worked in child welfare, has found that the goal of being “colorblind” that white parents often espouse may not be the best approach for white parents to take with their kids of other races.

 ”Colorblindness actually creates discordance,” she says, because parents set their child up to believe that race doesn’t matter — until the kids find that often race is an issue in the real world and they haven’t been prepared for it.

As the adoptive mother of two children born in Guatemala, it didn’t take me long to figure out that many people “see” my children differently from the way they see me. My awareness has been raised. But I can always use a reminder to remain sensitive to my children and their experiences as they interface with the world.


Valentines to Guatemala

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Having worked in PR in my former life, I was happy to see a press release about the Guatemala900 posted on PRWeb,  a site that provides story ideas and information to news media outlets. The title tells it all: Valentines to Guatemala: Heavy-hearted US Adoptive Families Reach out to the Guatemalan Children they Desperately Love and Wait For.

February 14, 2011 will mark the fourth Valentine’s Day, at a minimum, for hundreds of US families awaiting the homecoming of their adoptive children from Guatemala. The Guatemala900, a family initiated campaign dedicated to bringing home the hundreds of children caught in a political nightmare, is hosting a heart-wrenching collection of expressions of love this month. In the spirit of Valentines Day, the entire month of February will be devoted to showcasing love letters written by the adoptive families to their waiting children. A daily valentine will be posted from a waiting family:


All those associated with Guatemala900 believe in the sanctity of family and promote fair and ethical adoption practices. Families are committed to the children of Guatemala; they are proud of their heritage and embrace the beauty of their country of origin. Families entered into these adoptions in good faith with the expectation that their rights to a fair adoption process and their adoptive children’s rights to a family would be protected and honored by the U.S. and Guatemalan Governments.

On the day that celebrates love, I hope this story receives the media coverage it deserves.


Jennifer Lauck in The Huffington Post

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

My publisher, Seal Press, posted a link to an article by Jennifer Lauck on The Huffington Post: Abducted Versus Adopted: For 1.5 Million of U.S. Adoptees, What’s the Difference? Lauck is the bestselling author of Blackbird, a memoir of a childhood that includes the early deaths of her adoptive parents and the upcoming Found: A Memoir, about her search for and relationship with her birth mother. Lauck writes:

Carlina White said she always had a sense she did not belong to the family that raised her. The twenty-three-year-old woman had been abducted in 1987 from a Harlem Hospital when she was nineteen-days-old. White was then raised by her abductor, Ann Pettway. Pettway is now in custody for kidnapping.

What White expresses about her sense of belonging is what I have felt for all the years of my own life — only I am called adopted versus abducted.

I have to wonder, what is the difference in these terms, especially when I consider the circumstances of my own birth and subsequent relinquishment.

Lauck goes on to tell how her 17-year-old unmarried birth mother was forced to relinquish Lauck as a baby, without ever holding the baby in her arms.

In my own case, the Catholic agency placed me in the home of a terminally ill woman. My adoptive mother died when I was seven. My adoptive father died when I was nine. I was homeless and wandering the streets of L.A. by ten. A long investigation into my case revealed that the Catholic agency knew of my parentless circumstances, noting the deaths of both my adoptive parents in their files, but they did not inform my original mother.

And it turned out that my original mother became a very good mother despite the fact she was told such a reality would be impossible. She married my father when she was eighteen and they had a second child. She went on to have another child as well. Both of my mother’s kept children grew to be successful, well-educated and productive adults.

*** (more…)


Third PBS documentary about adoption, “In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee”

Monday, September 13th, 2010

PBS’s award-winning non-fiction showcase, Point of View, will broadcast a third documentary about adoption, tomorrow, Tuesday, September 14 at 10 p.m. Titled In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee, the film was directed by Deann Borshay Liem, born in Korea and adopted by an American family. Please note: some PBS affiliates are screening the show at a later date. Check your local listings for air time by clicking on this link and typing in your zip code.

Here’s the PBS synopsis: 

“Her passport said she was Cha Jung Hee. She knew she was not. So began a 40-year deception for a Korean adoptee who came to the United States in 1966. Told to keep her true identity secret from her new American family, the 8-year-old girl quickly forgot she had ever been anyone else. But why had her identity been switched? And who was the real Cha Jung Hee? In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee is the search to find the answers, as acclaimed filmmaker Deann Borshay Liem (First Person Plural, POV 2000) returns to her native Korea to find her “double,” the mysterious girl whose place she took in America. A co-production of ITVS in association with the Center for Asian American Media and American Documentary/POV.”

As always, I welcome your comments and impressions.