Wednesday Wisdom 24/06/2015

“I believe one of the most sacrificial acts of love adoptive parents can do is to give up their preconceptions and agendas about what their child’s views “should” be and be open to hear the conflicting emotions and thoughts their child often experiences.”

Sherrie Eldridge

* Taken from the book Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wished Their Adoptive Parents Knew

Wednesday Wisdom 29/04/2015

“Being adopted is something that has been a part of me since the beginning. It is something that I am so incredibly proud of, and I would shout it from the rooftops if I could. I feel so special, like my parents chose ME. They wanted ME. Sure I’ve had my doubts and confusions along the way, but at the end of the day, family means everything.”

Rachel Jenkins, Adoptee

* Taken from her blog Walk By Faith.

What an Adoptee Wants You to Know About Adoption

Very good read on thoughts around adoption out of an adoptees’s perspective.

What an Adoptee Wants You to Know About Adoption

Disclaimer: I am but one person with my own experience. Adoptees are human beings, so of course our feelings and experiences vary from black to white to every shade of gray. I cannot and do not speak for everyone, but will always stand up for everyone to have a chance to speak.

When I was a baby, I lived in a car for a time. My birthmother left me behind one day and did not return. I was adopted when I was a little over a year old. Adoption is how I came to be with my family. I know people in supermarkets and school registration lines always seem to have a lot of questions when they see a family that was obviously built through adoption, and I certainly get a lot about mine, so in case you were wondering and because I have shared it with people since I was very young, this is what I want you to know in response to years of questions.

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1. Foster kids are not like the foster kids you see in the movies. Yes, I was in foster care for a while, but I do not have red curly hair, a really furry dog or a gang of plucky girlfriends who can sing. Foster kids are kids. They are not damaged goods. They are children who have endured hardships that many of us cannot imagine; children who deserve safety, security and love. There are thousands of these sweet faces who “age out” of the system at age 18, still without a family to call their own. We ALL need a family. At 42, though she is with God now, I STILL need my mom. I still want somewhere to go for Thanksgiving. I want someone who cares if I have taken my vitamins or who always has a place for me. Don’t we all? The difference is that you and I HAVE that. It’s likely we take it for granted. These children still want and need a family.

2. Adoptees have different feelings about their own adoptions. I have never questioned why my birthmother left me behind that day. I am thankful, and in a time when many say adoptees should not be and don’t have to be thankful, that is the best word I have for it. Adoption is where my family came from. Where my love and my life truly began. Some adoptees will always feel the loss of their biological family or the life they might have known and choose not to be “thankful,” and that is their prerogative.

3. Adoption is not something that should be a secret or something that anyone should be ashamed of. I think that is why it has never been a big deal for me. I have ALWAYS known I was adopted. It’s never been anything more than the way I came to be with my family. If you always know, then it just IS — there is never a feeling that someone kept something from you. For me, it is as normal as having a belly button; it has always just been there. If you are a parent through adoption, tell your child FROM THE START. Be honest and always keep the lines of communication open. And remember, an adoptee’s story is theirs. If you are a parent through adoption, you have a great responsibility to let it be that way, and strangers and even friends must understand that they may not know every detail.

4. Adoption is NOT a second-best choice for family building; it is just another avenue. Not everyone who adopts suffers from infertility. I assure you, though I was adopted and my sister was not, I was never second best. My mother was no less a mother, nor I less of her child, because I was adopted. I was no less of a pain in the butt through my teens or no less sweet and loving as a toddler. She was no less present and would have taken a bullet for either of us. The time, the attention, the love — all the SAME. I am not #2!

5. Some adoptees say, “I was adopted,” and others say they “are”; either way, we are many other things, as well. I do not wear a badge that says, “HELLO MY NAME IS MADELEINE AND I AM AN ADOPTEE.” I want you to know that I WAS adopted. I am a million other things besides an adoptee, and I am not defined by it. It is just ONE part of my story, just as it should be for all children of adoption. Please never refer to a child who was adopted as “the adopted child.” He or she is a child. In their mind, today, they might be a cowboy or a ballerina. When they grow up, they might be a doctor, a parent, a friend, a dog lover and a basket weaver. Let them be the million other things as well.

6. While it is not right to judge or to quantify what type of adoption is best, it will happen; others seem to always have an opinion. Whether it is foster care, domestic infant adoption or international adoption, if it was done to provide a loving home for a child, it is a good thing, and that is all that matters. No doubt parents through adoption will continue to be asked if they adopted from the same agency as Madonna or how much their baby cost, but people are curious, sometimes ignorant and other times just without manners. There will ALWAYS be people who judge you, whether it is regarding your sexual preference, choice of hairstyle, your neighborhood or how you choose to decorate your lawn for Christmas. People will judge, and adoption is no different. Remember: No matter how you built your family, YOUR family comes first — ignore other people’s judgments.

7. Some adoptees really need to find their birthparents to find closure, or maybe a new beginning — but not all. I have never met my birthparents and never have truly considered looking for them. This is what everyone seems to want to know about when they hear I am adopted. I am not a living Lifetime movie. I have been curious, but have never had the aching need to search. I hope my own birthmother has peace and even a portion of the happiness I have known in my life. Other adoptees seek out their birthparents out of a sincere need to create a relationship. Adoptees are entitled to whatever feelings about their adoption they have. We cannot be put in a box; adoptees are individuals and all have our own thoughts and feelings.

8. Parents’ words and reactions are important. Some children become available because of a loving, thoughtful choice by their birthparent(s) at birth, others because their parents have failed them in some way. Whatever the reason, if your children came to you through adoption, do not ever badmouth their birth family. Your child may feel it is a judgment on who he or she is if you do. If my mom was ever asked offensive questions, I never knew. Be the grace. And for heaven’s sake, if you are a family member or friend or just chatting with someone, please stop and think before you say something inappropriate in front of a child.

9. Real is not defined by biology. My Mom IS my REAL mom. She dealt with tears over math homework and finding prom dresses, and came running when I fell off my bike and picked the gravel out of my knees. She listened as I poured out my heart over the stupidity of teen boys and loved me beyond my biology. Mommies through adoption ARE real moms. Daddies through adoption ARE real daddies. Real in every way. REAL is not defined by DNA, it is defined by L-O-V-E.

10. Adoption is often predicated on some kind of pain or loss. The pain of a birthparent and whatever led them to placing their child. The trauma of a child who has known things in their life that no child should. The poverty and loss of life in other countries. These wounds are not caused by adoption; adoption is often the best solution to very difficult issues.

11. Parents: there is no voice on or about adoption that is more important than YOUR ADOPTEE’S. I think people make a much bigger deal about adoption than they need to. When I was growing up, it just WAS. I had my adoption day celebration each year and that was that. I knew my mom was there if I had questions and that she would be honest with me. We did not have to make a huge “to do” about it, though I know my parents would have done whatever I needed if I had needed more. It was not pre-determined that I would automatically suffer from any number of issues relating to my adoption. I was just a normal kid and sometimes I think even some parents through adoption have a hard time accepting that. If you are a parent through adoption, listen to YOUR CHILD, because ultimately, with all the voices you will hear about adoption, theirs is the most important. Let your child be your guide.

So, when you hear that someone was adopted, or notice because they look different from the rest of their family, know that so many of the stereotypes about adoption are not true. That we did not just step out of a made-for-TV movie. We are individuals and don’t all feel the same way. We are REAL people with REAL families, and there is so much more to us than having been adopted. And parents, love your child and meet his or her needs, adoption-related or not, because that is what parents do.

* This post first appeared on Huffington Post.

Wednesday Wisdom 22/4/2015

“Adoption is a commitment that you enter into blindly, but it is no different than adding a child by birth. It is essential that adoptive parents are committed to making it work, committed to parenting this child for the rest of their lives, and committed to parenting through the tough stuff.”

Brooke Randolph

30 Questions All Adoptees Want Answered

This is a very practical list of questions that most adoptees would want to have answered at some or other time during their life, as they try and piece together who they are and how their story unfolded.

30 Questions All Adoptees Want Answered

Through my work as a court appointed agent with adoptees in search, I have learned that many older adoptees have persistent questions about adoption. As they grew up, they wondered about very basic information but were afraid to ask their parents.

To help other adoptees avoid the same adoption-related identity issues, I made a list of the things that the adoptees I worked with most wanted to know about themselves, their birth parents, and their adoption circumstances. I recommend that adoptive parents try to gather as many answers to these questions about adoption as they can when their children are young and the information is easier to find.

I encourage parents to share this information with their child before adolescence to promote a stronger sense of identity and avoid issues later on. Information that would be matter-of-fact to children at a younger age becomes a crisis if they’re older and don’t know.

I have been busy gathering information to share with my own nine children. It has offered them another piece of who they are.

1. What are my birth parents’ first and middle names?

2. Where was I born (hospital and city)?

3. What time was I born?

4. Were there any complications at the time of my birth?

5. Did my birth mother see me or hold me?

6. Who else was present at my birth?

7. What were the circumstances surrounding my placement?

8. Did my birth mother pick my adoptive family?

9. Did my birth mother know anything about my adoptive family? Did she meet my adoptive parents?

10. What did my birth mother name me?

11. Does anyone else in my birth family know about me? Who knows what?

12. How old were my birth parents when I was born?

13. Were my birth parents married when I was born?

14. Where did my birth parents go to high school? College?

15. What kind of students were they?

16. What religious backgrounds do my birth parents have?

17. What is my ethnic/racial background?

18. Did my birth parents marry each other or anyone else after I was born? Do I have any biological siblings? Do they know about me?

19. Did I go to a foster home after leaving the hospital?

20. What was my foster family’s name? How long was I there?

21. What do my birth mother and birth father look like? May I have a picture of them?

22. Are my birth parents still alive?

23. Do my birth parents love me?

24. Do my birth parents think about me? Did they ever regret their decision?

25. Do my birth parents have any special talents, hobbies, or interests?

26. What traits did I inherit from my birth parents? Personality? Looks? Talents?

27. Did my birth parents write to me over the years (journal/letters in a file)?

28. Are there any medical concerns I should know about?

29. If I called my birth parents or wanted to meet them someday, what would they do?

30. What should I call my birth parents?

*This post was originally published here.

“About The Adoption Option”

Very encouraging post from a Cape Town adoptive mom about the challenges with adoption.

I so much echo her first point about celebrating with a prospective adoptive couple! I have been blessed with family and friends that treated our “paper pregnancy” with the same joy and enthusiasm as if I were actually pregnant. I had several baby showers and everyone counted the days with us with both our kids’s placements. Forever grateful for that!

“About The Adoption Option”

 

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the orphan. Fight for the rights of widows. Isaiah 1 vs 17 (NLT)

This is us, the Kynies – a rainbow nation mash-up. My husband, Ryan, and I are proud parents of two of the best kids. Ilan is three and enjoys ‘dancing like a Zulu’, imitating his sister and riding his bike dangerously down hills. Kira just turned one and is a real busy body – she can handle cuddles in a maximum of five second increments at most, has a deep belly laugh and has eyes only for her brother. We’re a family pieced together through adoption.

Ryan and I discussed our shared heart for adoption before we got married and when we felt ready to start a family, adoption was our number one choice. It helped that we’d seen adoption played out in other families and that we were able to discuss adoption with parents who had pioneered into the world of social workers and courtrooms ahead of us. Even though we felt under-qualified as first-time parents-to-be, we were reassured that ANY family is better than NO family for a child who needs a family.

Our concerns and questions about adoption made me realise that many people – whether it’s something they are personally exploring or never really considered – are also apprehensive when talking about or even approaching the topic. So, having said that, I thought some of the lessons I’ve learnt in my journey so far could be helpful advice to everyone out there – you don’t need to be a Hollywood celeb to broach the subject of adoption.

Celebrate with us!
Please rejoice with us when we tell you that we’re starting or expanding our family through adoption. Please continue to celebrate adoptive parents-to-be in the same way that you’d celebrate a pregnancy announcement – baby showers and meal rosters are very welcome. Please don’t deflate our moment by asking us to explain our motives.

Jumping through (many, many) hoops
So. Much. Admin. We’ve learnt that adoption admin is not for the faint-hearted! Adoption screening is not easy, nor cheap and you never know how long it will all take but all of this fades into the background when you get ‘the call’ to say that you’ve been matched as parents of a precious little one. When you meet your baby for the first time it really feels like you deserve to be there – the home visits, prying interviews and psychological assessments were so worth it. What a gift it is to parent one of God’s very own special ones.

The story
As difficult as it is to keep this information to ourselves, our kids’ stories are not for us to share. Their history doesn’t belong to us. We aim to tell them the best version of their stories in an age-appropriate way as they grow up and if they choose to share it one day, then that’s up to them. South Africans must pray that our collective heart breaks for the issues that break God’s heart. We need to pray that the cycle of poverty and injustice in our country is broken. The reality is that God is building families through adoption despite a fallen world and it is by the grace of God that we don’t find ourselves in the same position as our children’s birth moms. Adoption means understanding, not judgement.

Bite your tongue
Let’s try and choose our vocab carefully. Adoption is such an overused word. Ilan is not our adopted son, he is our son. Plain and simple. Own is also an overused word that is not well received amongst adoptive families, please rather say ‘biological’ if this is what you mean. Our kids are our ‘own’ and yes, now they’re related. Luckyis another oneour kids are not lucky to have us, we are the lucky ones! Please try your best to avoid these words and forgive us if our knee-jerk reaction is to cover our kids’ ears when you use any of these words around them.

African hair, yes we care
We certainly don’t have a whole lot of experience in this department, so if you are someone who does, then help us out! We want to know which barber is going to rip us off and what hair products to use for our kids’ hair. Take it one step further and help our family celebrate our racial differences, see the world in colour and help our kids figure out what it means to be black in South Africa. Adoption is a team effort and we need you on our team.

 

* This post by Julie Kynaston was originally posted here.

“Say This, Not That”

It is common to find people asking questions about adoption, the children and the whole process. Probably due to ignorance more than rudeness, these questions sometimes come across insensitive in the way they are formulated.

This post is a good guidance to rethink the question you want to ask and to formulate it a little bit different. A good read!

“Say This, Not That”

I have had all 6 questions asked to me before, in a few different ways and certainly the one being said/asked the most is – “He is so lucky that you are his parents!”. I do understand the reasoning behind it, but we still firmly believe the WE (their parents) are the lucky and blessed ones to have these special children in our family.