' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: November 2008
Join Lorraine in Indianapolis! She will be opening the IAN conference on Friday morning. See details on sidebar.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Are Birth Mothers Motivated by Selfishness?

As National Adoption Month draws to a close today, I find myself irritated with myself that I let the thoughtless remarks about birth mothers who search from an acquaintance get to me as much as they did. He basically said that birth mothers searching and longing for a reunion was motivated by selfishness, and selfishness alone. Our deep-seated guilt and continuing sorrow over abandoning a child to genetic strangers? Oh, well. His attitude, I would guess, is formed by the many adoptive parents he knows as well as that lovely movie, Juno.

An email response to his wife alerted both of them that the heated discussion about adoption that we had in September got out of hand and hurt me deeply. He called on the cell the evening before Thanksgiving just as my husband and I sat down to dinner. He was apologizing, but I did not actually think he knew why he was doing so. I said, let's get together, we just sat down to eat...

The meeting never happened. He did have a busy Thanksgiving weekend at his house, but his house in less than a half-mile away, and he has no kids demanding time and attention. He may have thought I wanted to berate him and dissolve into tears, and while I told myself I expressively did not want to do that, He didn't know that and I was insisting we meet in person. Now I am sorry I set any kind of pre-condition. I assumed we were better friends than we were. My mistake. I just need to let him move out of my life. Or at least, move away from the place where he can upset me so much.

I've been attacked many times over the course of the last three decades when I published the first birth mother memoir, Birthmark. And I've always been able to brush aside the fusillade, even though my adrenaline is coursing through my veins. Talking about adoption for me is never merely an intellectual exercise; it's always intensely personal and strikes my core.

But Lordy, even writing about this incident again feels like too much messaging of my sore ego. Now he's probably on the way back to the city in this miserable rain; I just want to drop this whole thing and move somewhat away from him (not as easy as it sounds, given our multiple connections), but be able to sit next to him comfortably at a dinner party. But when he asked: What part of the pie chart of a birth mother who searches is 'selfish'?, I wish I had quickly responded: "What part of the pie chart of adoptive parents who are against a birth mother making a reconnection is 'selfish'? The woman gave the adoptee life, doesn't she have any rights? How did all the rights move over to the side of the adoptive parents? The condition of anonymity was not requested, it was imposed on birth mothers."

What this contretemps taught me is that here are a lot of people out there who really really think our curiosity about the children we lost to adoption--what we feel is so much more than that word conveys--is motivated only by base and selfish reasons. We've got some educating to do. In that respect, I ought to be grateful to this man. Now I know how he, and many, many others, feel. To them, open adoption is pretty much unthinkable.

Now the good news: In the Zanesville Times-Recorder, columnist Lori Law writes of adoptive parents who make the birth mother a part of their lives. And in the Fredericksberg Free Lance-Star there is the story of an adoptee who was happy to be found by her mother. So progress is being made.

Happy Adoption Month...Well, I don't know if I'd go that far.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Foreign Adoption continued

This is the last of the three posts from Lorraine, Linda and Jane about international adoptions. We all have similar but somewhat different takes on the issue. If you're interested, take a look at all three posts--they are in succeeding order, starting with the post of Tuesday, November 25, "Good News: Foreign Adoptions Decline." (And take a look at Linda's cool photograph of her mantle.)

Last night on 20/20, "When Adoption Isn't Happily Ever After," we learned about the huge psychological difficulties that sometimes come with adopting older children who have been badly abused either in institutions or horrific home situations. The havoc such maladjusted children can wreak on families is deserving of our sympathy, not disdain for we have not walked in their shoes. The Department of Health and Human Services reports that 81 children in 14 states were transferred into foster care after being adopted overseas, but the number is thought to be much higher as children are often transferred among families without state involvement. Kids sixteen and older may go into Jobs Corps, where they learn a trade, get help obtaining a GED, a high school diploma, or finding a job.

Besides these adoption "disruptions," as they are called, there have been 15 documented murders of children adopted overseas. Here the question isn't whether these people deserve our sympathy, but sorrow that there were no avenues for the parents to get help before they snapped.


By Jane Edwards

I saw a little Asian girl while grocery shopping today. As I always do, I looked for the adult accompanying her. I was relieved when I saw the woman was Asian. Since my reunion 11 years ago, I’ve come to oppose adoption of children from foreign countries unless necessary to provide medical care that the child cannot obtain in his own country.

I feel like a traitor because I have a very good long term friend who adopted two boys from Brazil and one from India. My friend is a loving mother to these young men. As the same time, as a mother who lost her first child to adoption, I know that these men had mothers who loved them. No matter our nationality, we are hard-wired to grieve when we lose our children.

Adoptees too suffer from being separated from their mothers and being displaced from their countries, cultural camps and homeland tours notwithstanding. Jane Jeong Trenka, adopted from South Korea, writes:

Would I rather have not been adopted? I don’t know. ... How can I weigh the loss of my language and culture against the freedom that America has to offer, the opportunity to have the same rights as a man? How can a person exiled as a child, without a choice, possibly fathom how he would have ‘turned out’ had he stayed in Korea? How many educational opportunities must I mark on my tally sheet before I can say it was worth losing my mother?” (The Language of Blood)

Katy Robinson also born in South Korea, coped by denying her identity. “As a child, all I ever wanted was to not be adopted. I grew up convincing myself that I was just like the rest of my family—copying their personality traits, mannerisms, and idiosyncrasies as my own.” Although she believes that her adoption “was the kindest thing my family could have done for me,” she searches for her mother. “There is something about the bond with the woman who gave you birth that is like no other in the world.” (A Single Square Picture)

Joan Shumack, MI OK Song Bruining South Korea, and Peter Dodds, adopted from Greece, South Korea, and Germany respectively oppose international adoption. Joan Shyumack spoke at the American Adoption Congress convention in 2008 and Song Bruining in 1999. Dodds is the author of Outer Search/Inner Journey: An Orphan and Adoptee’s Quest. All three tell of their pain from being forced to live with a family and in a culture where they did not belong.

While the adoption industry has planted in our minds images of children left at train stations or along roads none of these adoptees were abandoned. In fact, the availability of adoption seems to have contributed to Trenka and Robinson being surrendered.

Children adopted internationally often have behavioral problems stemming from the loss of their families. A Google search shows that evaluation and treatment for foreign adoptees is a thriving business. Abuse is not uncommon. Russia has curtailed adoptions in part because Russian children have been murdered by their American parents.

International adoptions do nothing to end child poverty. The 20,000 children adopted from abroad each year are only a small fraction of the tens of millions of poor children living in orphanages. The money spent bringing children to the United States, about $30,000 per child, would be better spent helping their families care for them.

On a positive note, international adoptions are down because China, Russia, South Korea, and Guatemala are keeping their children. Those seeking a child may take another look at some of the 125,000 US children awaiting homes.

Foreign Adoptions Cont'd and Thanksgiving Leftovers

By Linda Bolton

Somewhere in my family tree is an ancestor whose big toes look like reverse quotation marks and they passed that trait on to me. I have spent the past five days recuperating from surgery to straighten out my big left toe; the right toe was fixed about 15 years ago--twice--so I know I need to be relatively immobile. Of course I'm 15 years older, so I'm not bouncing back easily--I've spent most of the week in my chaise or napping. Complete recovery should take three to six weeks, which means I get to wear this heavy boot with everything from pajamas to business attire. The upside is my husband cooked Thanksgiving dinner for two (and did very well) and is making a turkey soup with the leftovers, so I can blog.

When Lorraine asked me to write about foreign adoption, I replied with the following e-mail:

I'm no authority on transcultural adoption. I'd rather see kids adopted in their own countries, of course, but if there are couples who want to spend their life savings and beyond to parent kids who are supposedly in need, how can I argue with that? I certainly don't have the means, financial or otherwise, to do it. What I am opposed to are the Angelinas and Madonnas who use foreign adoptions as publicity stunts. Of course I have no idea what their parenting skills are like, but I read this Associated Press blurb online last week:

Madonna and Ritchie have agreed to arrangements for their children. Their two boys — Rocco, 8, and David Banda, 3, are likely to split their time between Britain and the US. Lourdes, 12, Madonna’s child from an earlier relationship, will remain with her.

What kind of parenting is that? What kind of message does that send to a 3-year-old boy who's already lost his biological family and his culture?

Two families in my adoption support group received Angels in Adoption awards related to their transcultural adoptions; I hope these parents are the rule more than the exception. One couple adopted three kids from Romania and another from Guatemala. They've had trips to their kids' homelands; some, if not all, met their families of origin. The parents were almost in tears when the told of meeting one family, who thought they were seeing a ghost...they believed the stories that children relinquished to adoption became organ donors.

The other couple, who joined the support group when I did over a decade ago, raised two sons and then started a second family by adopting two girls from different regions of India, just a couple of months apart, so they're almost like twins. This couple is devoted to these girls. For several years one of the girls couldn't stop talking about how she missed her birthmother, and the a-parents were at a loss, the kids were practically abandoned by the side of a road (strict Indian culture and all) and there's no paper trail. It's a 100,000 to one chance that these girls will find their birth families. But two summers ago they had a trip to India, visited both girls' birthplaces, and were able to visit one girl's orphanage. They dress in saris on Indian holidays, of course eat a lot of Indian food, attend culture camps. The girls seem like any other pre-teens (they like to tease their father, who embarrasses them with his lack of cool). In other words, they're just an ordinary family.

A while back(March 2006)Lorraine and I read a NY Times article about Asian-born female adoptees coming of age. They were all about 18, and most said they were American, not Chinese, and we speculated about their sentiments in another 5, 10 years.

As most birthmothers on FMF have posted, we're not completely anti-adoption, and not all adopters are the enemy, and sometimes adoption is the absolute only course of action for a happy ending. Everyone agrees adoption is/should be about the child's best interest, not the adoptive parents with money to burn, nor should adoption add even more trauma to the distressed birthmother facing what's probably the most difficult crisis of her life. If only we could stick to that premise...

If you're around tonight, be sure to watch 20/20 on ABC (10 pm EST). One of tonight's stories is about [drum roll] foreign adoption. The web site teaser line says "'I Didn't Want Perfect Children' Adopting from overseas has created more pain than joy for some parents." And the first thing I thought was "THAT should make foreign-born adoptees really, really happy."

Finally, I wanted to tell readers that I've taken their advice. While I was confined to my chaise I was able to get a jump start on my holiday cards. And while I was addressing envelopes, I addressed one to my estranged daughter. It's the same card I've sent to family and friends, a photo of my mantle decorated for the holidays that appears at the top of the blog; a perfect seasonal greeting. No note. In my "Happy Birthday, Sarah" blog [October 2008], TheRightThing responded with the following:

"For 39 years I didn't want my mother sending birthday cards to me, but she did anyway. She never sent flowers or included a gift...I hated the cards. In fact, I would throw them in the trash. Of course this was after I read them...Now, that we are back in each other lives, I wished I would have kept every card she had sent me.
It didn't matter then that she sent them, but it matters now that she sent them. She showed me that she still loved me by sending the cards..."

Hopefully, one day my daughter will share TheRightThing's sentiments. Hopefully, one day seeing my return address in the upper left-hand corner of the envelope won't send my daughter into panic mode. Hopefully, one day she'll be glad she kept every card I have sent her, it will matter to her that they were sent, and she'll realize that I stay in touch (or at least try to stay in touch) because I loved her then, I love her still, and I'll love her always.

Hope your Thanksgiving was abundant in every way.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Good news: Foreign Adoptions Decline

by Lorraine Dusky

The good news is that "Foreign Adoptions Drop Sharply" according to an Associated Press story that shows the continuing decline as some countries clamped down on foreign adoptions and other battled with allegations of fraud. The number of adoptions is down to its 1999 level. China is no longer in the top spot for adoptions, having given that to Guatemala, where fraud and child snatching appear to be rampant.

And then a few days later we had the story about the California couple who were trying to adopt from Guatemala when they saw that some paperwork had to be fake. A doctor's signed statement attested that DNA samples of the mother and baby had been taken on a day that the Jennifer Hemsley, the prospective adoptive mother, knew the baby was with her. To her credit, Mrs. Hemsley reported the discrepancy to the authorities, and thus was not able to bring the child to America. But how many other cases have there been when the adopters saw the irregularity but said nothing?

We first mothers have mixed feelings about foreign adoptions, and we will be posting our thoughts over the next week. But what I think we are all in sync with is that when we see a child that is from a different culture than the parents, we internally gulp. We think about a woman somewhere without a child. We wonder what were the horrible circumstances that led to her having to give up a child today. We wonder how the child feels about looking different from everybody around them. We wonder if their parents are really dead, if the child was really abandoned, if she really had been languishing in an orphanage. We wonder if the country made any effort to have her adopted in her native land.

And we wonder if the child was stolen.

The buyer's market in babies has led to all kinds of deceptions to get babies to feed the demand. There have been enough reported cases of kidnapping that we know there are many many more. Mirah Riben has documented this in her book, Stork Market. Yet we know there are children--older children, children with problems, teenagers in foster care--who desperately need homes here in America, and yet go begging for parents. But people don't want to take in those children. Most want healthy infants without strings, aka a first mother. Or they don't want an African-American child, which is why so many of ours were sent to Canada to be adopted. Maybe Obama's ascendancy to the presidency will have some impact on that, and that would be a good thing.

A recent book, The Brotherhood of Joseph, details the trials and tribulations of adopting from Russia, and though reading made me angry page after page, I had to see where it led. I certainly did not end up liking the writer, Brooks Hansen, but at least he was honest about his feelings.

Hansen is in love with all things Russian, exp. Prokofiev and he manages to work that into the little speech he gives to the judge about why the wanted to adopt from Russia, because he feels a special connection yadda yadda yadda....and I quote from the book here:

"There was some discussion of the birth mother as well, more than I was comfortable with. Katya [one of the emissaries they hired] kept taking notes but I tuned out a little, not because I was afraid of what I might hear or because I didn't want to humanize her too much [Oh really, it certainly seems that it the point] --or just that [meaning what, just that? Sounds like you don't want to humanize her but can't bring your pompous self-righteous soul to admit that you can't stand to humanize her because that would make you aware that somewhere out there is a mother without a child, that your child didn't come via The Stork]--but the whole conversation struck me as being a little too conjectural. Apparently they hadn't been able to track her down, so she was either out of the region or still 'indigent.' They'd used that same word back in July, but what did that mean? No address? Elizabeth and I had already discussed this. No address for a thirty-year-old would have meant something, but twenty-two? That could just mean you're sleeping on your friend's couch, in which case half of the 20-year-olds I've know were indigent."

He goes on at some length throughout the book about his love of all things Russian...and how they will let the child be aware of that (actually the kid is from Siberia).."his native land is a place we care about deeply and if he wants our help in finding it, [my ital] we will be there for him with full and open hearts as we intend to be there for him in all things. [Except possibly knowing his roots any more specifically than generally which is why you settled on Russia/Siberia anyway, your love of Prokofiev notwithstanding.] It was that birth mother problem, wasn't it?

Yet. Some of these children would be, one assumes, languishing all their lives in an institution, and I don't imagine that poor countries have very nice institutions. So I have mixed feelings about foreign adoptions. The two people I know--both older men--who spent most of their childhoods in institutions here in America ended up less than emotionally healthy. One is a recluse poet, the other someone who ranted and raved at me when he learned I had written a memoir about the pain of giving up a child.

I personally know so many adopted kids from elsewhere I sometimes feel like I'm trapped in a New Yorker cartoon, a figure with black thoughts over my head as I see the foreign faces coming at me like rain. Three Chinese teenage girls in Sag Harbor alone, or four, if you count the one whose parents are only friends of friends. A professional acquaintance who adopted from Guatemala. That's only a partial list. If I include the friends of friends, such as my real but tenuous connection to Mr. Hanson, it grows way longer.

What I do know is that because of the demand, babies are stolen from their mothers, mothers are coerced into giving up their babies, fraud is built into the system. And the commodity is human flesh.

My husband got a 2009 calendar put out by The Onion. One of the photographs depicts Chinese babies in swings coming down an assembly line. An American couple stands nearby, looking over the goods, presumably to pick out one to take home.

It's a screwed-up world.

--Happy Thanksgiving, y'all. --lorraine

Monday, November 24, 2008

Living in Interesting Times

Become a crusader and life never is boring...Today I'm thinking about that Arab curse that goes something like: May you live in interesting times.

A few months ago, as readers of Firstmotherforum know, I was scathingly attacked by a friend, a hot-shot bankruptcy lawyer and rainmaker, for having searched for my daughter and effecting a reunion with with her. Mind you, I've known "Aston" for nearly as long as I knew my daughter--since 1981. Aston started a cancer-care foundation for people who live on the East End of Long Island and my husband, Tony, is an active member of the board. We see Aston and his wife for dinner; we have mutual friends. Aston, incidentally, is godfather to the Chinese adoptee of mutual friends who have a home down the street. Aston and his wife,Marci, are childless; his mother argued against adoption and so they did not. I've known his wife for longer than I've been married, and I've been married 27 years. Shortly before this incident, she and I spent an afternoon together at a horse show. We're aren't, say, BFF, but we like each other.

Aston was not against adopted people searching and meeting their natural parents, but he was really against, really really against, first mothers searching. This would disrupt the adoptive family that has been getting on just fine, thank you, without interference, he insisted. He spoke of other mutual acquaintances who adopted from Gladney and then moved to Texas, where the wife was originally from, as really "taking a chance" because then the first mother might have an easier time finding them. (I don't know if this is one of Gladney's "open adoptions." Apparently the adoptive mother was worried about what the girl was eating during her pregnancy, and so at least knew something about her.) All of Aston's sympathy was for adoptive parents, who were there in the middle of the night, fixed the scraped elbow, read the nighttime stories, paid for orthodontics and SAT prep tests, et cetera. There was not an ounce of compassion for any first mother who searched. Marci, there at the dinner table also, said nothing. My husband felt she was anxious that Aston was going too far.

Finally, he asked: "What part of your pie chart in doing so is selfish? I just want to know." How do you answer that? The question was designed to make all first mothers who search look bad.

I have been quite torn up by this incident, for it made me acutely aware of how many people--including friends and acquaintances-- see me, a first mother who had the audacity to search, as well as the whole shebang of open records, particularly giving first mothers information about their children. We've got a lot of educating to do, and some people we will never reach. Aston represents legislators who will never vote for open records.

Except for answering the phone the time he called for my husband and I was curt, I have not spoken to him, or Marci. They have an annual party Thanksgiving weekend. I threw out the invitation. We did not RSVP. This morning I found an email from Marci asking if we are coming, that it's been too long since we've seen each other, signed "love." I have no hard feelings toward her at all.

In the larger world of searching and adoption reform, this incident is small potatoes. So what if my feelings are out of joint? Or even if this is the end of a friendship? This too will pass. I'm just venting today to friends who read this blog. You have to put aside the personal happenings and insults if you believe in a larger cause, one that you know is just and right, even when it seems everyone is against you. I know I sound hopelessly petty today, please forgive me, but I'm feeling blue.

Here is what I emailed Marci.

Dear Marci--

The conversation with Aston about adoption hurt deeply and has stayed with me and I would feel really uncomfortable coming to the party. Being a birth mother entails lifelong pain. It isn't something that happens once and you get over it. I have turned that into lifelong crusade both for opening sealed birth records for adopted people and the rights of mothers to find out what happened to the children they gave up. Aston's attack that night was therefore an attack on who I am so it is very hard for me now to know how to relate to him at all. It's also becoming increasingly awkward for Tony because of ------Foundation.

I tried to explain my feelings to Aston in a subsequent email but he never responded.

I'm very sorry because we have known each other for a long time--actually since before we had Tony or Aston in our lives. I don't know where we go from here.

This is one of those days I wish I didn't live in interesting times.

PS: In a day or two we'll be writing about international adoption.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Unsung Heroes? --Then why did I feel like a slut?

Well, I just discovered what an unsung hero I am: I gave my daughter up for adoption! According to Gloria Whitcraft, director of Shepherd's Gate, a Lutheran adoption agency in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that is what my "selfless" act made me. Holy cow, I didn't know I was such a saint. Writing in the Fort Wayne, Indiana News-Sentinel, Ms. Whitcraft, says that women who turn over their babies to total strangers are making the"most loving and selfless things anyone could ever do."

Expletive! #@$!!!%$

If that's the case, then how come when I first met my daughter and we did some "play acting" about how she felt about being given up for adoption--excuse me, being made a part of an adoption plan--one of the first things she did is put her hands around my neck and pretend to choke me? If my decision was so loving and selfless, why wasn't she grateful? Answer me that, Ms. Whitcraft. My daughter was raised in a religious, stable, hard-working two-parent family of six in a middle-class neighborhood. She wanted for nothing materially. She had three brothers. She loved and relied on her adoptive mother. She even said she understood how she came to be given up to be adopted, but still--well, let's just say the girl had issues.

Ms. Whitcraft goes on to decry that often women who are surrendering their babies do not receive support from "family, friends and society" for considering such a terrific option. Progress! These family members sound like they have figured out what happens what someone is given up for adoption--the whole family loses a member, the first mother will most likely grieve all her life, and the kid...goes up to total genetic strangers who don't understand why he isn't a whiz in math like the rest of the family who scored perfect 800s in the math SATs. I know I'm getting a little cranky here, but the kind of BS that your editorial postulates is what is wrong today when adoption is considered simply an alternate way of making a family.

Although Ms. Whitcraft says she and her trusty band of adoption operatives never --no, non, nien, nyet, niec--never "pressure them into a decision" that leads to adoption, she is so gung-ho about the unsung heroes that we first mothers are, her words ring hollow. It's likely that as the number of selfless mothers goes down, Shepherd's Gate doesn't have enough sheep to tend, and then there goes her job. As for the prospective parents who don't want mothers pressured, I suspect that at least some of their magnanimity has to do with not wanting to have a mother who changes her mind and ends up in court fighting to get her child back. Look, I don't think every adoption social worker is Attila the Hun, or every prospective adopter a member of the hordes pillaging our young women for their babies, but I do not buy this kind of blatant advertisement to encourage adoption wrapped up in pious, self-righteous prose.

Ya' all might want to comment at the site of this nefarious editorial and leave us a word below. And thanks to Maybe for alerting us. Thanks

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Heidi Hess Saxton continued

Heidi Hess Saxton Continued

Catholic adoptive mother Heidi Hess Saxton contends that adoption is the answer for “children born to young teens … children of parents with unresolved substance abuse or domestic violence issues; and children of abusive and neglectful parents.” Sealed records are a necessary component of adoption (Catholic Exchange http://catholicexchange.com/2008/11/11/114414/). To those who disagree she hurls the epithet “anti-adoption.” To which I echo Lorraine “Damn straight we're anti-adoption--unless really really necessary and even then those birth records better be open from the get-go.” http://www.firstmotherforum.com/2008/11/thats-what-adoption-is-fornot-on-svu.html

Saxton admits that adoption is not a perfect answer: It “does not completely shield the child from the consequences of her first parents’ choices. There is no way to shield the child entirely — that is the nature of sin.”

Sounds like a win/win situation – heal the child (well almost) and punish the sinful parents in one fell swoop. Except that children are not chameleons who can adapt to any environment. Except that many children raised by teen parents do just fine and lots of children raised by adoptive parents have horrible outcomes. Except that people who seek to adopt don’t want the offspring of young teens, drug abusers, and other unworthies.

If the parents don’t give up their child or “fix their own messes”, Saxton asserts the child should be removed involuntarily. This happens now, often with disastrous results. According to The National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (www.nccpr.org) “many children taken from their homes and placed in foster care don’t need to be there. These children could have been safely kept in their own homes…. Being taken from everything loving and familiar is among the worst emotional blows that any child can suffer. ... In addition, there is far more abuse in foster care than generally realized.”

If Saxton looked around, she would see countless examples of successful people born to single mothers: Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Oprah Winfree, Jesse Jackson, Ethel Waters to name just a few. Countless others were raised by single mothers, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton for example. Indeed I would put them up any day against George Bush who was raised in what Saxton would consider an ideal home.

And of course adoption is no guarantee that a child will be raised in a stable two parent home. Passing muster with a social worker at the time of the adoption to become parents is no guarantee of a being good parents for a lifetime. Like other parents, they may divorce, suffer from alcoholism, or become unemployed. Adoption may actually precipitate these problems. Adoptive parents can turn into terrible parents who shouldn't be raising any children, let alone someone else's.

Adoption is not a quick fix to social problems. If Saxton were truly committed to helping children, she would support programs that keep children in their own homes rather than trying to justify destroying the families nature created.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cuckoo Birds

Last week I borrowed a book from the library that wasn't my usual read; I wanted light, and this book, a suspense thriller with Russians and Wall Street corruption, seemed safe. Restitution is a debut novel by Lee Vance, a graduate of Harvard Business School and a retired [retired at 45 judging from the book jacket photo] general partner of Goldman Sachs Group living in New York City with his wife and three kids. I'll insert an apology here to FMF fans who are weary of reading about adoption themes in movies and television series for the past few weeks. I had put the soapbox in storage, but then I started reading a formulaic, banal whodunit that, combined with the full moon and raging hormones, turned into a perfect emotional storm. I lost yet another day of productivity and even a half day of work because once again, I was blindsided by...stupidity? insensitivity? ignorance?

Here's the plot summary offered by Restitution's publisher:

"Peter Tyler appears to have it all -- a loving wife, a powerful
job on Wall Street, a sprawling house in the suburbs. But in a
moment of weakness, Peter indulges in a one-night stand with a
beautiful trader. A few weeks later, his house is broken into
and his wife brutally murdered. When the police discover Peter's
infidelity, he immediately goes from grieving husband to prime
suspect. Suddenly, it's up to Peter to prove his own innocence
and find his wife's killer. Written with ferocity and at a lightning
pace, Restitution marks the debut of an intelligent and exciting
new novelist."

One-third of the way into the book, the reader learns that Peter and his wife of 16 years have tried in vain to conceive, but she's waited too long. IVF treatments aren't working. The couple is in a therapist's office, where Jenna [the wife] felt it was the safest place to tell her husband she wanted to adopt a child. I sent the following e-mail to Lorraine a few days ago:

"I've been on a downward spiral for the past 24 hours and this didn't help...So she wants to adopt. Her husband's against it, something his father told him when he was younger about cuckoo birds: They lay their eggs in other birds' nests. After the baby cuckoo's born, it pushes the natural hatchlings out so it can have all the food. The adult birds don't notice. They go right on feeding the baby cuckoo as if it were their own. Adult birds want baby birds. A baby cuckoo might seem better than an empty nest. But all the care and feeding the world isn't going to make a cuckoo a songbird. Nature always trumps nurture in the end." [This tale was in reference to childhood neighbors taking in a twelve-year-old foster child who was led out of the house in handcuffs by the police. Nature trumps nurture, but not in my case.]

Later this couple is in the wife's therapist's office, where the wife confesses she wants to adopt and he's blindsided by the sneak attack. He says, "It's not my fault we're in this situation. I'm not the one who decided to wait, and I'm not the one with a fertility problem. And yet you blame me because I won't let you compound your mistake. So once and for all, here are my views on adoption: I don't want a three-year-old with fetal alcohol syndrome. I don't want a baby who was shaken, or born addicted to crack, or has HIV. I don't want a kid some Chinese farmworkers threw away like a melon, or to go to sensitivity training so I can learn how difficult it is for our black child to grow up in a privileged white family. I don't want a kid whose parents were fundamentalist Christian hypocrites, or a fifteen-year-old checkout girl at the local supermarket and her bald forty-eight-year-old manager. I don't want a kid who's a f*****g loser. Are those enough words? Do you understand me now?"

I ended my screed with "Improper Adoptee would love to be called a kid who's a f****g loser." And, sadly, the statement isn't that far off base. With a few keystrokes, this author managed to attack, heck--emotionally maim--birthparents, adoptive parents, and adoptees alike. Anyone slammed by adoption knows we're all losers; it's one of very few human dynamics based on loss.

I wondered where the author mined those gems. Is he an adoptee? Did he languish in the foster care system as a youth? Does he have friends who wrestled with infertility? Is he an adoptive parent who went through the wringer trying to fill an empty nest? I'm guessing the latter, and he's not the only one.

My former best friend wouldn't consider adoption because it was dicey, but she had a kinder, gentler way of expressing the character's sentiments. After lots of trial and error, her son was conceived in a petri dish when she was 44 and now they're a happy little family. And when Judasina, my back-stabbing sister who continues to have a relationship with my daughter while I'm exiled to the island of first-mothers-who-aren't-mothers, [this is third party info so I can't vouch for veracity] asked if my daughter would consider adoption (recently diagnosed cervical cancer ends her dream of having a third child) she, the perfect grade A Mercedes Benz of babies relinquished to adoption, replied that her [adoptive] mother was very lucky, but she wouldn't want to chance it because "you never know what you're gonna get." To her credit, she also added she wouldn't want to subject another mother to the heartache I've endured. Maybe life as a crackwhore would have been easier and nobler after all.

The initial SOS e-mail to Lorraine was prompted by yet another e-mail announcement from Adoption News Service for a single adoptive parent conference in Boston. It described the hotel's wonderful amenities and program, but I reacted like a bull seeing red cloth when I saw "Single Adoptive Parent." As I said, combined with the full moon, raging hormones, and overall inability to shake off the temporarily negative wheel of karma, I just felt ripped off. After reading those charming fictitious yet laser-sharp words about adoption, surely at least one reader feels the same.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

That's What Adoption is For...Not on SVU

Continuing on Linda's theme of yesterday...abortion/adoption is everywhere in the media, as regular readers of FFM know. Last night (11/11/08) Law & Order, SVU featured a group of girls at a Catholic prep school deciding to get pregnant and keep their babies! At least one of whom had been in the "abstinence-until-marriage" society...but she gets pregnant from a one-nighter with a sleazy DJ, not her Forever And True Husband (or fath in cyber-lingo) with whom she is not having sex. Anyway, this is a side story to the murder disguised as a suicide...of the first girl who gets pregnant, killed in a jealous rage by her virginal fath.

But the best part of the show for me was that only Eliot, the Catholic cop of the team, suggested briefly that adoption was the right alternative for the girls and their babies. Nobody took him seriously. I felt like cheering, yeah! at least somebody who is writing those scripts is aware that teenagers are not looking upon adoption as the answer, or pushing adoption.

At the show's end, one pregnant teen (whose mother and brother are in jail for acts related to this bizarre story, including murdering the father of her child) is approached by the dead man's father (he would be the baby's grandfather). The good man offers to take her in and and they will take care of the child together. Result: One child, not adopted, growing up with the best solution possible, genetic relatives all around. Okay, I got a little teary when the show ended with them hugging.

So we have a show with pregnant teenagers and only a quick (and dismissed) nod to adoption! Not a Juno in sight. Let's hear it for SVU!

Meanwhile, more Catholic adoption action over at a Catholic blog that Joyce Bahr of New York State Adoption Reform (NYSAR) has alerted us to. Adoptive mother Heidi H. Saxton writes that organizations groups such as Unsealed Initiative and Bastard Nation are anti-adoption. Damn straight we're anti-adoption--unless really really necessary and even then those birth records better be open from the get-go.

Unsealed Initiative comes in for a second slam because it's supposedly anti birth mother since it encourages giving adoptees their original birth certificates--and goodness, some of those women may have moved on with their lives and be in what I will call "forever closets." Do take a look and give Ms. Saxton something to put in her pipe and smoke.

Joyce, as many of you know, is the president of NYSAR and a birth mother, as well as of course moi, and Linda and Jane and the many many first mothers who are an active and vital part of the movement to get those records open. Don't you just love it that it is always adoptive parents who are doing their best to "protect" first mothers from their offspring?

Whenever I hear that the reason to not open birth records is to let these poor women stay in their forever closets I think of all those poor cotton and tobacco farmers in the South who were going to lose their "gracious" way of living once slavery was abolished. In the end, justice has to prevail. This fight seems endless, but WE WILL WIN someday.

Lots of news today. Today's NY Times reports that England is suffering from a "serious" lack of sperm donors since the government decided they can no longer be anonymous:

Each year, Britain needs at least 500 donors to provide sperm for approximately 4,000 women. But in 2006, only 307 donors registered, according to an editorial being published Wednesday in BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal. The editorial was based on a report published by the British Fertility Society in September.

If you do the math, 500 sperm donors that amounts to eight fertilizations...per donor.

If only our government had the good judgment and compassion to do the same--not let sperm donors be anonymous. Here's what one sperm clinic worker in England had to say: “Donors come in knowing about the loss of anonymity. Loss of anonymity is a good thing in terms of children being able to find out about their genetic background. The donors who come forward don’t have a problem with it. "

If any children of sperm donors are reading, do write to the Times and let them know how you feel. Keep it short and pithy. Send to Letters@nytimes.com.

Now back to my book. --lorraine

Monday, November 10, 2008

So THAT''s What Adoption is For!

I recently read American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, a novel loosely based on the life of First Lady Laura Bush. I noted in my Books Read log that it was “way too long, 200 pages could have been cut. Not well written.” (The New York Times agrees with me; it’s currently absent from the Hardcover Fiction Best Seller list).

Early in the book Alice, the narrator, suffers a tragedy during her senior year of high school that leads to an even greater tragedy: she becomes pregnant and obtains an illegal abortion. This same Alice eventually becomes the wife of the President of the United States. Decades later, Alice’s secret is revealed and she braces herself for the possible consequences of that secret becoming public:

If Ella [the first lady’s 28 year-old daughter] finds out I had an abortion, when she finds out, how will she react? On the one hand, I like to think she’s an essentially compassionate person; she is also, presumably, sexually active herself. On the other hand, like Charlie [the President], Ella considers herself a born-again Christian, and as an adolescent, she stuck a bumper sticker on her dressing table mirror the read, ‘IT’S NOT A CHOICE, IT’S A CHILD; she’d acquired the sticker from the leader of her youth group. When I noticed it, I said, “I don’t think any woman wants to have an abortion, honey, but some of them feel that it’s more responsible than giving birth to a baby they aren’t prepared to take care of.” Ella looked at me in horror and said, “That’s what adoption is for.”

Hmm, I thought, so THAT’S what adoption’s for! I actually chuckled to myself when I read that line; it made the book worth reading. I’m sure that FMF readers could debate this passage for hours, if not days. And, honestly, I think we’d all be right--who’s to say whether prochoice or prolife is ultimately right or wrong? I wanted to hug President Elect Obama during one of the debates that addressed abortion. He remarked that women don’t make the decision (to have an abortion) casually and trusted that they can make their own choices with their families/doctor/clergy. He also noted it was a “profoundly difficult decision.” Then I wanted to kiss him when he addressed the issue that everyone agrees on, i.e., that we need to move forward in our efforts to reduce teen pregnancy so that women will be less likely to find themselves in the circumstances where they anguish over these decisions. Sign me up for that!

The preceding paragraphs will generate enough food for thought for one blog, but I also wanted to share another “hmm” moment I had over the weekend. While making the hour’s drive to a dentist appointment (he’s worth the drive) I was listening to a radio interview with Carly Simon. She was discussing her song “It Happens Everyday” from her Hello, Big Man album. She said it’s the one song people always tell her they relate to.

It happens everyday
Two lovers with the best intentions to stay
Together they decide to separate
Just how it happens
Neither is certain
But it happens everyday

It happens everyday
After you break up
You say these words to your friends:
"How could I have loved that boy?
He was so bad to me in the end"

Well, you make him a liar
Turn him into a robber
Well, it happens everyday

But I don't regret that I loved you
How I loved you I will never forget
And in time I'll look back and remember
The boy that I knew when we first met

Still it happens everyday
Two lovers turn and twist their love into hate
But am I so different
From those young girls you used to date?
You used to adore me
You used to adore me
Still it happens everyday

Obviously it’s a song about a romantic break up, but as I listened to it I started to tear up, because it was just as easily applicable to failed reunion relationships. Carly also mentioned that even though she and her ex, James Taylor, have two adult children and now a grandchild between them, he has no contact with her; she has no phone number or e-mail address for him which she said saddens her, but since it was his choice, he must be OK with it. Carly, we know how you feel.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Adoption on Prime Time Alert: Brothers & Sisters

Wow, I just love being on the cutting edge of hipness! Regular readers may recall my October blog about the proliferation of birthmother/adoptee themes in prime time television programs. Brothers and Sisters hops on the band wagon tonight [Sunday, November 9 10 p.m. EST ABC]: "Adoption may not be in the cards for Kitty (Calista Flockhart) and Robert (Rob Lowe) after they meet with a potential birth mother." I saw a commercial for this "very special episode" the other night and immediately ran to Lorraine (well, ran via e-mail). I don't watch the show, but I thought aha! A nice follow-up to my late October post about how irresistable adoption/birthmothers/reunions seem to be to Hollywood writers, such drama! Emmy winning stuff!

I may watch tonight just to see how Calista Flockhart blends reality with fiction. I think most readers know Calista adopted a son, Liam, as a single mother in 2001. I just found this nugget in a Google search from Buzzle.com, written in 2002: "Calista Flockhart, 37, explains part of her motivation as a determination to do good for others: "I will have children naturally when the time is right but I want to give an opportunity to a child who needs a mom right now," she says." Calista will turn 43 on Tuesday; she's been in a relationship with Harrison Ford for several years. Is the time finally right for a natural child, or, as my daughter was fond of saying, has that window of opportunity been nailed shut?

Lorraine (who is busy working on her book and gave me a green light to blog to my heart's delight) has been watching the show; here's her review of the story line:

watched b&s last sunday...Calista got the AMAZING HAPPY NEWS THAT a birthmother in Missouri had selected them. Rob Lowe (imp. senator is off to the Middle East and she gives him the news while he is at 35,000 feet). I jotted down the dialogue... "There is a girl in Missouri who wants to give me her baby." "What if the bm doesn't like us, a million things can go wrong." Yeah, like she could decide to keep him....

Apparently the very hot Tina Fey is also persuing single parenthood on the critically acclaimed 30 Rock (Thursday, NBC, 9:30 p.m. EST). Lorraine's review:

"But the best line came from 30 Rock last week: Did you see/when the social worker is interviewing people at the office and everyone is saying the wrong things...and one of the says: 'Three of my nine siblings were adopted and someday I'm going to find them.'

I watched enough of 30 Rock this week to see that when Tina was spilling her guts to Oprah on the plane she added about wanting to adopt...by the way, maybe they are trying to change their demographic. After Murphy Brown had a baby, the focus of the show changed from office chicanery to diaper drama ... and they lost their original audience...because now it was a family sitatuion comedy, not an updated Mary Tyler Moore Show....so the same thing will bedevil 30 Rock if Tina/Liz Lemon gets a kid, and by all likelihood, she will. Single motherhood is all the rage, ya know.

Yeah, we know.

So, after what will hopefully be a relaxing Sunday, tune in and share your thoughts...perhaps I'm overly sensitive to this whole "adoption lite" approach and just need a reality check from my FMF family.

Friday, November 7, 2008

"Adoption Reform?" Not really. Just the same old story

I sent the following today to Adoption-News-Service, which supposedly is about "adoption reform," as it states on the bottom.

"Could you please enlighten me as to how this announcement--which I seem to have received six times already--relates to 'adoption reform'? It has nothing to do with 'adoption reform.' It has to do with adoption. If I continue to get these kinds of emails, what is the point of being on this list?"

If others agree with me, please leave a note here--and then respond to them directly. I've had it with these noxious invitations to help adopters deal with the "challenging process that feels like an emotional roller coaster." I seriously doubt they want me to show up, and talk about my daughter's difficulties, her adoptive mother's seeming actual dislike of Jane, the various symptoms of neurotic behavior that show up with greater frequency among adopted people. See Adoptees More Likely to be Troubled in Time magazine. Bring this up at a conference about adoption, as I did last year, and you will be hushed almost immediately.

I understand that prospective adopters have real issues and fears to deal with--this child is after all, not carrying their DNA and who knows what that could mean!--but please, do firstmothers want to be reminded of this? Walk in our shoes for a day. Maybe Adoption News Service could send out invitations to all on their list to attend group therapy sessions for women and teenagers considering giving up their children for adoption.


Email: Adoption-News-Service@yahoogroups

In a message dated 11/06/08 19:01:10 Eastern Standard Time, Adoption-News-Service@yahoogroups.


Thursday November 13, 2008
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
JCC of Manhattan, 76th and Amsterdam Ave

Adopting a child can be a challenging process that feels like an emotional roller coaster. JCCA’s Ametz Adoption Program PRE-ADOPTION SUPPORT GROUP is there to help future parents navigate the waiting period in a warm and supportive environment with others struggling with similar challenges.

The experienced group leader, and adoptive mother herself, really understands both the practical and psychological demands of adoption.

Come share experiences and get answers with someone who not only knows that success is absolutely attainable, but can provide the guidance and support to make the wait easier.

If you have any questions or would like to register for one of these groups, please call JCCA at 212-558-9949 or visit our website www.jccany.org/ametz to register. We look forward to your joining us.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Duchess in an Open Adoption

Okay, I'm a sucker for period dramas with amazing costumes and plucky women though I had heard the reviews for The Duchess were less than laudatory, this was a movie I was not going to miss on the big screen. I didn't know much about the story other than the women in question, Georgiana Spencer (Kiera Knightly), was married off to the fabulously wealthy Duke of Devonshire, was involved in the politics of the time even though she couldn't vote, wore fashions that everybody followed, and loved to gamble and drink champagne. Spirited she was: Think Princess Di (Georgiana is a distant aunt) meets Hillary Clinton (with a gambling habit). Okay, maybe I knew a bit about her. The book, Georgiana by Amanda Foreman, was a big seller a couple of years ago.

But what I didn't know is what brings me here today. The Duke (Rafe Fiennes) has been and continues to be a busy philanderer, for one hardly said no to one of the most powerful men in England, Incidentally, he has extra children, including one Georgiana raises after the girl's mother dies. She bears the Duke's two girls (girls! who wants girls?) and, at last, a boy who will be the titled heir. That was the whole purpose of the marriage.

When a friend of Georgiana's moves in with them (there's plenty of space) the randy Duke takes her as a lover too, but it's presented not so much as a betrayal of Georgiana's friendship, but as the only way for the woman, who had been cast off as a wife, to get her children back. In merry ole' England, when there was a separation, or god forbid a divorce, the man of property always got the children...because they were his property. But the Duke is powerful enough to have the children returned to her.

The Duke is a such an all-purpose shit that by this time you really want Georgiana to have a little love in her life. She finds it with gusto with a rising politician. In time, she becomes pregnant with his child. Now remember, she is raising one of the Duke's kids by a peasant. Why not just add to the mix?

Because the Duke will not have it. Georgiana must choose: the children or her lover. Georgiana chooses the children; the child she is carrying will be given to the father's family. Yes...an adoption plan. An open adoption in the works.

The scene where she surrenders the child is brilliant. Ms. Knightly packs into the goodbye all the harrowing emotions that we know, and as she is being pulled away, she turns to the group standing in the road and cries: Her name is Eliza. The whole scene is over in less a minute, but it doesn't pull any punches about what it is like to relinquish a child. I can't think of another movie in which the feelings of a mother for a child she is losing are expressed so raw, so poignantly, so real.

As for the girl's father, Charles Grey: he went on to become prime minister and he is remembered everywhere...as Earl Grey. Yes, that afternoon brew with a hint of bergamot. I'll never drink it again without thinking of that scene from The Duchess.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Waiting for my First Granddaughter

Today having voted I was drinking my free coffee in Starbucks, reading the NY Times, and in walked a light-skinned African-American young woman, and I thought: I wonder if my granddaughter--the one my daughter gave up in a closed adoption in 1986--is voting today. Is she voting in Wisconsin? Is she voting for Obama? Probably....

This granddaughter, the one I don't know, is black/white like Obama. She was born in 1986,which makes her twenty-two as I write.

My daughter's pregnancy occurred at a time when we were not in touch for nearly a year. She had lived with me and my husband for several months, causing all sorts of upheaval with her various crises, and when she left both of us stopped communicating. I knew the rift was temporary. But when Jane's birthday came in early April, I called her--how could I not? She was living again with her adoptive family in Wisconsin. Her father's tone was hesitant, as if he had something to say but couldn't quite bring himself to...I thought it was only because we hadn't been in touch, but it was more than that. Jane had had a baby a few days earlier and was at the hospital. She called later that day, and told me about the baby she named Lisa. She had been there to feed her baby. And went back for the next couple of weeks to do the same.

Hearing that the daughter you gave up for adoption is about to repeat your crime against humanity is--well, one of the worst things that can happen to a first mother. Jane would not listen to me when I tried to talk her into alternatives to a closed adoption. One, the young man's family was willing to take the daughter--and coincidentally, they lived in Inkster, Michigan in the town directly adjacent to the one I grew up in. (What are the odds of that? One in several million? One in a billion? How many town are there in America? The coincidences in adoptions are staggering.) Two, closed adoptions were beginning--would she look into that, could I help her? My words went unheeded. It was as if Jane were determined to repeat history and give up this daughter just as she had been given up. Nothing I could say made the slightest difference.

Years passed. One day when she was visiting me in New York she casually mentioned that if Lisa were to come back, she would not be receptive to her. Jane had a way of saying things for the shock value, and I thought it might be that, for I couldn't believe that she would do that to another human being. After all, she had told her parents she wanted to find me by the time she was a teenager. And now she was going to deny that to her own daughter? I didn't press the issue, for there at that point there was no daughter to argue over. There was only a young girl out there someplace wondering about her identity.

As time went on, I would sometimes call her on Lisa's birthday--April third (or is it the second, I admit I'm not sure). Whenever I mentioned Lisa, I got a stony silence. One year Jane wasn't home when I phoned, so I left a message on the answering machine. She did not respond. After that, I stopped mentioning Lisa.

The last time I saw Jane, when she came to visit over President's Weekend in 2006, with her husband and her other daughter, Kimberly, Jane mentioned Lisa briefly but with steel in her heart and voice. She did not appreciate being reminded about Lisa, she said, and would I not call her on Lisa's birthday? And you have the date wrong anyway--it's--that's where my confusion comes in. Did she say the "second" or the "third"? What I did not want to venture into was what she would do if Lisa came calling--she was twenty at the time, and as Wisconsin has a Confidential Intermediary program, contact was possible. I did not tell her about the CI program because I knew taking the discussion further only would lead to a fierce argument. I was not willing to hazard a disjunction in our own relationship. This was her daughter, not mine; I hoped in time Jane would soften and come to a different decision.

So much was going on there; her biological father had refused to see Jane, and had died before he ever did. He was also someone who walked away from anything emotionally difficult, just as Jane was now threatening to do. So I simply asked that if Lisa did make contact she would at least give her my name and number and let her know that I wanted to meet her. Without a shred of emotion, with ice in her voice, Jane sullenly agreed to do that. I can't say she promised, but she did agree. I figured Lisa and I could take it from there--if she ever came back. What particularly stabbed with the realization that Jane had become one of the first mothers that I rail against--those who refuse to see their children and are the great blockage to open records, sticky platelets clogging the artery leading to the heart of open records. Since I've spent the greater portion of my life arguing against those women having a say over the lives of adoptees, I was appalled. This was my daughter? How did that happen? What hardened her heart so?

As regular readers of this blog know, my daughter committed suicide last December. When I was in her office a few days afterward, Kim pulled out the flat extension that is a part of old desks for one's typewriter. Taped to the surface was a baby picture of Lisa. Kim--who has always known about Lisa, Jane did not keep her secret--was surprised to find it. I wasn't.

I've contacted the appropriate officials in Wisconsin and left word about my daughter's death, and my willingness to be a part of my first granddaughter's life.

And now I wait.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Adoption Day

Oh, who would have guessed? Who could have seen? Who could have possibly known?
All these roads we have traveled, the places we’ve been would have finally taken us home.

And it’s here’s to you and three cheers to you! Let’s shout it, “Hip, hip hip, hooray!”
For out of a world so tattered and torn, you came to our house on that wonderful morn.
And all of a sudden this family was born. Oh, happy Adoption Day.

I first heard this song (now a children’s book), Happy Adopton Day, November 4, 2001. I was participating in a Sunday service at my former Unitarian Church--on my birthday--along with an adult Korean adoptee with a not-so-favorable view of adoption, another adult adoptee frustrated by her lack of information regarding her roots, and adoptive parents. I knew the adoptees from my support group; we were all on the same page regarding adoption.

After a very emotional service—a photographer from NJ’s largest newspaper had taken a photo of me embracing the Korean woman where we appear to be smiling and laughing when in fact we were sobbing and comforting one another—we closed with this song. The adoptees and I looked at one another in disbelief and we stopped singing and just stood there in silent solidarity.

As National Adoption Month gained momentum over the past several years I’d start bracing myself around the end of October for the onslaught of warm and fuzzy adoption stories and the “A Home for Holidays” television special sponsored by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. I’m sure readers know that the late Thomas, founder the Wendy’s hamburger chain, was an adoptee. The show has been hosted by Mariah Carey, Sheryl Crow (who is now an adoptive mother), and Rod Stewart. I realize while I’m not thrilled with the institution and wish it could be eradicated like polio, it does have its place. Being a responsible blogger, I did some homework; here’s what I discovered from About.com:

In 1976, the governor of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis, announced an Adoption Week for his state. Later that same year President Gerald Ford proclaimed that Adoption Week would be celebrated nationally. As more and more states started to participate in Adoption Week it became clear that more time was needed for holding events and in 1990 National Adoption Week became National Adoption Month.

Today National Adoption Month is celebrated during the month of November. The celebration usually includes National Adoption Day with courthouses throughout the nation participating and hundreds of adoptions being finalized simultaneously.

National Adoption Month is a time to celebrate family and to bring about awareness that there are hundreds of thousands of children in foster homes awaiting adoption. States, communities, and agencies hold events during the month to bring the need for families into public view.

How about that? NAM has been around for as long as I’ve been a member of the birthmother sisterhood! It wasn’t created by Dave Thomas; it was started by a Yankee politician!

More importantly, it’s not about separating newborns from their mothers who may not be prepared for the emotional and financial responsibility required to care for their child; National Adoption Month is designed bring awareness to the fact that there are far too many children in foster care who need permanent homes in stable loving families. That’s terrific, really. For the past few years the Heart Gallery, a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to raising awareness about foster children available for adoption here in NJ, has worked with some of the country's most prestigious photographers to create portraits that capture the individuality and spirit of each foster child who is eligible to be adopted. These photographs are then shared via the web and through gallery exhibits in the hope that potential families will be moved to inquire about adoption.

These are kids who have been in the state foster care system system for years, some since birth who have never had a permanent home. Many have lived in several foster homes all their young lives while their parents battle with substance abuse,mental illness,or even prison. I attended the opening exhibit and can attest to the power of the program, which has resulted in happy endings for several children. I even met some of the kids featured in the exhibit; they’d melt your heart. I spoke to some of the photographers and they said they wished they could have adopted their subjects; perhaps some of them did.

For the first time in seven years I’m not dreading National Adoption month; nor should you. If your library doesn’t have its collection of adoption books and movies prominently displayed, nudge them. People like to be informed and enlightened; who wouldn’t enjoy reading The Girls Who Went Away, right? Just don’t ask me to sing Happy Adoption Day.