Adoption from the eyes of Adoptees

November is National Adoption Month. So each week for the month of November, I be posting some adoption related info, links, books, and shouting from the rooftops that our beautiful world sadly has many beautiful children in it without families!

The familiar adoption narrative is almost always told through the eyes of the adoptive parents.  These narratives often focus on the positive and redemptive aspects of adoption experience, as seen through the parents eyes.  We rarely hear the adoption story through a lens of loss, confusion, frustration, heartache, and even anger that are experienced by the adoptee.  Many adoptees learn to “parrot” the redemptive,positive adoption narrative as told by their parents since it seems to be the more accepted perspective and also because this is the narrative their adoptive parents prefer to hear.

Especially for children adopted internationally, their entire wold was virtually flipped upside down when they were adopted so their perspective on the adoption experience is typically one of fear, unfamiliarity, and confusion.  In other words, the opposite of their adoptive family who are overjoyed after waiting and waiting to bring this child home.  These “homecoming” stories however are not where the experience of adoption end for the adoptees.

Psychologists, therapists, and counselors will all tell you that hushing of the adoptee is the wrong way to approach the adoption narrative. Children and adult adoptees alike should be free to voice their experience and their parents should be there to help facilitate and welcome those discussions, even if they are painful for both parent and child.  As Patty Cogen states in her book Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child, “what is mentionable, is manageable.”  Parents and communities need to open our minds to hearing about the adoption experience through another lens.  This is how the healing process can begin for the adoptee, and adoptive parent’s fears that talking about it will make it worse are completely false.  The fact is that having the airwaves open for these discussions will help the child to feel more, not less, connected to their adopted family.  They will feel more understood and accepted by their adoptive family, which is why these discussions are such an integral part of the process!

You don’t have to take my word for it, even though I could talk your ear off on the subject for hours, but I won’t…  BUT if you want to read more check out the book referenced above or this one!

Hearing about the adoption experience through the eyes of adoptees shouldn’t be something new, but unfortunately, theirs is often not the version of the story we hear.  If we as communities, families, & churches are going to throw our support at friends and family who decide to adopt, then we, as a community, should also be listening to the adoptee’s stories and learning what we can do to support them through their healing process and beyond.

Now, I will step down from my soapbox, but please lets hear adoptees voices during National Adoption Month!  #flipthescript on adoption!

See what they have are saying in some of the video clips below…

Or view the extended version of the above video here.

 

World Adoption Day

Thats right, it’s World Adoption Day.  Social media is full of links, stories, and adoption love.  Check out #worldadoptionday on Twitter and Instagram!

What is it?  Check out why the founder of Adopt Together, Hank Fortener, says we need #WorldAdoptionDay

Then check out this excellent post written by Kristen Howerton from Rage Against the Mini Van about starting a family through adoption: Always thought about adopting?  Here’s why you should do it FIRST

National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month. So each week for the month of November, I be posting some adoption related info, links, books, and shouting from the rooftops that our beautiful world sadly has many beautiful children in it without families!

Adoption is all around us whether we see it or not. Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes it’s not.

Based on a recent survey, nearly 40% of American adults have considered adoption. Now if we do the math, 40% of American Adults is roughly 80 million people. I was surprised when I learned that adoption was so widely contemplated.

Today in the U.S., there are more than 423,000 kids in the Foster Care system. Of these 423,000 kids, roughly 115,000 of them are available for adoption. Or in case I’m not being clear, we have roughly 115,000 kids that, by definition, are orphans in the United States. These 115,000 children are 100% legally adoptable. If their birth parents are living, their parents’ parental rights have been terminated, leaving these children without a family to call their own. Every year more children become legally adoptable than are adopted, adding to the 115,000 waiting.

Are you ready for a really hard truth? This one stings a bit. Last year 23,000 kids aged out of the U.S. foster care system with out an adoptive family. 25% of these kids were without a high school diploma and based on statistics, only 6% of these kids will go on to complete a 2 or 4 year college degree. 40% will spend time homeless. 33% will not have enough food at some point within the year. Only 48% of them will be employed in their early 20s, and of those who are employed, they will make lower wages than their similarly aged peers. Additionally, 50% will have some sort of substance abuse problem. The conclusion that I draw from these statistics is that, despite a well-intentioned foster care system, sending an 18 year old out into the world on their own does not result in a high level of success.

I have heard far to many people respond by saying “So what?” to those statistics. To those who respond this way, I have a few questions: How many of you were truly on your own at age 18? Even if you were, how similar did your situation truly look to a foster child who lacked a permanent living situation? What things did your support system do to prepare you for the world? Do you think most children who grew up in the foster care system were equally as well prepared? And, wasn’t it nice, after you turned 18, to have a parent’s home to come to for Thanksgiving or Christmas? How about health insurance? Whose plan were you on when you were 19 or 20? I could go on and on… But the fact is that turning 18 is not the same for a foster child as it is for other kids.

My intention with the paragraphs above is to bring some clarity to the realities of those not legally adopted by the age of 18.  With that said, not every Waiting Child is nearing 18 years of age. The age of Waiting Children is one of the largest and most prevalent myths about adopting from the foster care system. In truth, the average age of a Waiting Child from the U.S. foster care system is 8 years old. Allow me to be the first to say, that adoption in general is not for everyone. And similarly, adopting a teen is also certainly not for everyone, but children of all ages are in need of a family. It’s easier to naively believe that orphans are only in far off lands, but nope, many are right here in our own backyards. In my state alone there are over 1,500 kids waiting for families. How many are there in yours?

Now lets go back to those 80 million Americans who have considered adoption and how they connect with the U.S.’s Waiting Children. If just 1 out of every 500 of those individuals who considered adoption were to adopt, then every Waiting Child could have a permanent family. One out of every 500. That’s just 0.2% of the adults who have considered adoption and out of roughly 200 million total adults in the U.S., this would equate to only 0.08% of them choosing to adopt.

While the number of waiting children in the foster care system is far too large, the tiny percentage of our population that it would take to reduce that number to zero is the even more incredulous statistic in my mind.

My goal for November is simply to honor the many children in the US and elsewhere who are without families by sharing some of the facts and a few of their stories. I hope that this information might cause you to pause. Hopefully you will share something you learn with someone you know! Who knows, maybe you will spark a discussion that strikes a chord with someone out there.

The Time I gave out “Condoms” on Halloween

You know those things in life that at the time feel mortifying, but as time passes, you begin to see the humor in them? For me, this was one of those times…

I will be honest. I don’t put all that much thought into what candy we give out on Halloween. I just insist that if its chocolate, it has to be ethically traded chocolate. Not hard to find. My husband thinks my insistence on this for Halloween is a bit over the top, while I think not doing it is hypocritical, since its all we buy otherwise.

A couple nights before the holiday, I bought a couple of bags of Halloween chocolate squares from a Fair Trade brand. Sure, its a little more expensive, but we really don’t get many trick-or-treaters and spending a few dollars more on Halloween candy isn’t going to break the bank. I think it actually tastes better than some of the cloyingly sweet cheaper options.

Halloween night, we were heading to a party at my parent’s house and wouldn’t be home to pass out candy. So I planned to dump the bags of chocolate in a bowl, turn on the porch light, and leave the bowl of candy on the stoop. We were in the process of rushing out the door (late as usual), but when Tim saw me holding the bowl of candy he said, “Are those condoms?!”

What is he talking about? I began scanning the ground for something that might look like a condom, but he provided the clarification himself. “Is that the candy? It looks like we are giving out condoms to elementary school kids.” He looks at me as if trying to ascertain whether or not I have gone off the deep end and decided to make some inappropriate safe sex advocacy statement to young, costumed children.

I never would have thought of that when looking at the plastic wrapped chocolate squares, but as soon as he mentioned it, I couldn’t get past their resemblance to condom wrappers. Embarrassed, I encouraged him to try one in an attempt prove that they are in-fact chocolate.

He picked one up to verify that it is indeed not a condom and shook his head. He concluded, “Every parent is going to look at that bowl and think ‘What the heck?!’”

I lamely tried to defend myself with some stupid statement about Fair Trade candy having fewer options and that “kids don’t care – candy is candy.”

Tim whole-heartedly disagreed.

At this point, we were extra late, so I plopped the bowl full of condoms – I mean candy – on the front porch and left.

When we got home, my supposedly indiscriminate, candy-loving trick-or-treaters had failed me. Even kids didn’t want my “condom candy.” The bowl was still completely full. Oops.

Next year, I am buying boxes of Nerds. Forget about chocolate. Lesson learned.

Tim: 1 point

Maria: 0 points

Africa

It takes a lot for news and issues from the continent of Africa to make US headlines or get air-time.  My theory is that the only reason the Ebola outbreak got so much media attention was because of the potential threat it posed to folks outside West Africa’s borders.  But when Africa’s happenings aren’t perceived to impact us, the media is quick to program coverage over their scheduled time slots – in this case -in favor of things like an extensive debate about the defense’s case in the Chris Kyle murder trial or the Democratic National Convention.

Where has the coverage on the civil war in South Sudan been?…

Heard much about the Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda lately?…

Sure, you can argue that Boko Haram has been in the headlines over the past year for the kidnapping female students.  But, where was the media coverage in January when Boko Haram murdered more people than any other month to date?  Yesterday, how many of you heard about the deadly blast they caused in a Nigerian market?  The truth is that Americans eat-up humanitarian stories with catchy social media-ready phrases like “#bringbackourgirls,” but when it comes to the well-being of the African continent, without the hip-phraseology, US airtime will be allocated elsewhere.

About a week ago, Tim and I were watching the nightly news on CNN when we saw an ad that the following Wednesday (this past Wednesday) their Inside Africa show would be doing a story on how the lakes and rivers in Uganda are helping industry, ecology, and the Ugandan people.  As a couple adopting from Uganda who are hoping to learn as much about the country’s culture as we can glean from books, TV, and the internet, we programmed our DVR, added the day/time to our phone calendars, and made sure we were home from our little dinner out in time for this show.

But instead, CNN decided to cover other things (see the first paragraph).  The scheduled programming reader-board teasing me with the “Inside Africa” title still showing.  Maybe they will just jump to it late.  Maybe its actually on next.  Or, maybe CNN decided, once again, to ignore Africa in favor of analyzing something that they had covered all day to death.

All right America, stop hash-tagging catchy slogans – I’m talking about you #bringbackourgirls and #blacklivesmatter – when they are popular, and start prioritizing programming that highlights black cultures in positive ways.  Contrary to popular belief, some of us were actually looking forward to watching!

Feminism and Women in the Military

Women are capable of anything that we put our minds too. Women have the right to equal access to education, equivalent pay, non-discriminatory hiring practices, and performance-only based raises and promotions. Equal hiring practices should be enforced for people of all genders, faiths, orientations, and familial statuses. It should only be their skills and qualifications that matter.

In general, I consider myself a bit of a feminist. I love supporting women owned companies and feel strongly about organizations that strive for female empowerment. With that said, I do have to turn in my feminist card on one issue: women in combat.

But not for the reasons you may expect….

This issue has been hotly debated ever since Leon Panetta, in conjunction with the White House, announced that combat positions previously only open to men, would be open to women starting in 2016. This includes elite units like the Army Green Berets and Navy Seals.

This topic made its way to the front page of the Wall Street journal again last month with an article entitled: “Marine Corp Puts Women to the Test.” While the article covers a study intended to answer the question of whether or not women can perform the tasks necessary for these jobs, my concern with the issue has much less to do with the female tank operators and artillerymen (artillery-women?) that this article focuses on. If a woman can hoist a 100 lb. artillery shell repeatedly at the same rate as her male counterparts, then I will happily congratulate her and wish her the best of luck in her new role!

I may not be entitled to an opinion here, since I have never served in a combat or even in the military. With that said, I have been the worried loved one home while my husband deployed. My husband served for almost a decade with the US army. After graduating from Ranger School, he served as a Field Artillery Officer. While on deployment with this unit, he was exposed to some of the more elite groups, and decided to try out for the Army Special Forces – more commonly known as the Green Berets. He made the cut and became a Team Leader of a highly specialized 12-man team, with whom he served on several deployments. The comradery of these 12 men is something that I will never fully understand. His brothers in arms are my husband’s brothers and family, as much if not more than his blood relatives. I will never fully grasp the extent of their bond, but what I have come to learn is how vitally important this comradery is to the functionality of their team. They all have complete trust in one another’s ability to perform their job and perform it well. They would do anything for one another during a mission and in life.

I will not get into the debate of whether or not a team like this is a suitable environment for a woman, nor will I put in my two cents on whether or not women would have a detrimental impact on this comradary (although, the barely-there-bikini clad women on the calendars in Tim’s old team room may be able to offer some insight). Having never been in these men’s shoes, I don’t feel qualified to make that type of judgment call.

Through our friends still in the armed forced, we have heard that certain military branches are pre-emptively changing the performance standards and amenities of combat unit training exercises and courses. They are changing these standards now so as not to say they changed or lowered any standards once women are allowed in the units.

Several nations including Canada already have women in elite combat units. These nations claim that changing the standards to avoid discriminatory activities like pull-ups, which a woman’s body isn’t optimally built for, has not resulted in decreased performance.

The entirety of my concerns are surrounding the number of men I know who have been injured in combat. Most of them have been attended to and often carried to safety by one of their brothers in arms.

At our good friend Tony’s wedding, we had the honor of meeting the man who simultaneously collected Tony’s teeth from the ground (yes, his actual teeth) and carried Tony to safety. Tony is about 6’0 tall and weighs over 200lbs. What if a woman my size had accompanied Tony on a mission that day? Would Tony still be with us? I know with all certainty that I could not have put a man Tony’s size on my shoulders and carried him to safety – although I may have been able to pick up his teeth.

Biology is a funny thing. While I think we got the short end of the stick with the whole child bearing thing, there are some legitimate differences between our structural aptitudes. Women’s bodies simply aren’t made for the weight bearing activities required by some of these jobs. My husband’s backpack in the Army weighed over 80lbs. I am pretty strong for my size, but lets face it, that is almost 80% of my total weight. I can’t fathom carrying it for more than a couple of blocks, let alone day after day

I know I can’t possibly be alone in this fear. My aunt whose husband is a firefighter worries about this same issue if her husband were injured on the job. There are a number of female firefighters at his station. Would one of them be able to carry him or others to safety?

If we were chatting over coffee, I would rattle off a dozen more examples… but allow me to leave you with just one more. When my husband was in ROTC in college, there is an annual marathon-length ruck-sack march. Typically, this is a team event. You choose a team and stick with your teammates for the duration of the race – female teams vs. other female teams and male teams vs. other male teams. One brave girl decided to go it alone because she didn’t want to go as slow as the other women participating. The cool part is that she beat all of the other girl teams! First place! The other important caveat to this story: She finished over one hour after the winning men’s team. Over an hour…

Alright, I will spit it out already, even if it’s unpopular. In a combat environment with some of these elite units, would women be a liability?

The truth is, I appreciate the sacrifices that the men and women who defend our country make too much to insist upon potentially endangering or hindering the performance of a unit by trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. I want to see all of these men and women return safely. I don’t think pride is worth risking mission success or others’ lives over.

Go ahead. Take away my feminist card.

Foster Parents…. You rock!

Tim and I had the opportunity to help out with an event hosted by three Seattle area churches this weekend. The event was called “Foster Parents Afternoon Out.” The idea was to give Seattle area foster parents a much-deserved afternoon off. We wanted them to take advantage of some free childcare while knowing their kids were safe and hopefully having fun. It was full of the usual suspects at events like this: crafts, games, chaos, pizza…

Some kids were clearly wise beyond their years, reluctant to participate in any of the festivities. Others were more than eager to join in the festivities. The trauma that most foster children have experienced by being removed from their birth families is unimaginable. But, you guys, you cannot imagine the joy and hugs and kisses and “I love yous” that were exchanged between these foster parents and kids.

The love, care, and invested time that I saw from these parents towards these kids are truly amazing. Let’s all remember that these are children are in their homes for an unknown amount of time. For a few of them, their foster parents may adopt them someday but this not allowable in the majority of situations.

The thought of pouring love into a child and then having to say good-bye makes my momma-bear instincts ache. But then, I think about what an incredible GIFT they are giving these children. I am sure the kids don’t realize it now, but their foster parents are demonstrating that adults can be trustworthy, kind, caring, genuine, and selfless. The sense of stability, structure, and consistency, even if it is fleeting will leave their mark somewhere in the fabric of their memories. These are valuable lessons that will embed somewhere inside their being.

Foster parents, you rock!