' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: At AAC: Transracial adoption from those who live it

Friday, April 11, 2014

At AAC: Transracial adoption from those who live it

Jane & Julie at Chinatown Gate
Jane here. I'm at the American Adoption Conference in San Francisco with my husband, Jay. Along with hearing some great speakers, I'm spending some time with my youngest daughter, Julie, who moved here from Washington DC last year. Last night the three of us went to Chinatown for dinner.

San Francisco always has special meaning for me because my first daughter, Rebecca, who I surrendered, was born here. While awaiting her birth, I lived only a few blocks from the hotel hosting the Conference. I don't find myself stressed out over this, no grief, no sighs of sorrow. I am happily living in the present, at least now.

My experience at this conference is totally different from my first AAC conference in 1998, a few months after Rebecca and I connected. Then my long held secrets were exploding, bursting to come free. I found myself telling strangers things I had never told anyone. I was so excited to hear others say what I had only thought and was never sure if my thoughts reflected truth or
neurosis. I'm calm now; I see old friends, I sit back and listen to the speakers without my heart pounding; I don't have to restrain myself from shouting Yes, yes!

Lisa Marie Rollins
We had a couple of great speakers Thursday, African-Americans adopted into white families: Lisa Marie Rollings and John Raible. Both had great adoptive parents but suffered from racism projected by other relatives and peers; both lived in a perpetual state of not being recognized for who they were--and not really knowing themselves. Rollins performed a segment from her one woman play, Ungrateful Daughter: One Black girls story of being adopted into a White family ..that aren't celebrities. She's taking it around the country and it's definitely a go-to show.
John Raible

Raible is a professor of Diversity and Curriculum Studies at the University of Nebraska. He's also gay and the father of two African-American boys adopted from foster care. He's brilliant, articulate--and angry about adoption which has been used by the dominate race to destroy other cultures. He excoriated the adoption industry for exploiting the less fortunate to make a profit. He urged listeners to be an ally of social justice, rather than a perpetrator of injustice. Help families stay together, resist imposing our cultures on others. Both speakers got standing ovations.

During the lunch break, I stopped by a table staffed by John Brooks and his wife, a couple of the saddest-looking people I have ever met. They were promoting John Brooks' book about their daughter, adopted from Poland at 18 months, who killed herself at age 17 just before she was to leave for college. From what they said, I understand they lay the blame for her suicide on therapists who didn't understand attachment. I promised to download the book The Girl Behind the Door: A Father's Journey in to the Mystery of Attachment, into my Kindle.

I closed out the day with an Italian dinner with my husband and daughter in the North Beach area which was popularized by the beat poets of the 1950s and 60s. These writers, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Leonard Ferlinghetti, were shocking for their time--kind of like unwed pregnancy--but likely not so much today.--jane
Loving across the Color Line: A White Adoptive Mother Learns About Race by Sharon E. Rush
But white parents do adopt mixed race children....When Sharon Rush adopted an African American girl, she quickly discovered the need to throw out old assumptions and start learning all over again. This is the moving, heartfelt memoir of a mother and daughter's loving relationship that opened the author's eyes to the harsh realities of the American racial divide. Only by living with her daughter through the day-to-day encounters and life passages did Rush learn that racism is far more devastating to blacks than most whites can ever imagine. Some of the stories are funny, others are sad, a few are almost unbelievable. But they all are poignant because they illustrate how insightful a little black girl of three can be about race and justice. With love and spirituality, Rush and her daughter live a deeply joyous life, just as they both have become increasingly active in working publicly and privately against racism. Dr. Sharon Rush lives in Gainesville, FL, where she is Professor of Law at the University of Florida.--Amazon

Repossessing Ernestine: A Granddaughter Uncovers the Secret History of Her American Family by Marsha Hunt

The memoirs of an African-American singer, writer, model, and actress, who discovers that her long-lost grandmother, Ernestine, is alive in an asylum, describes the process of recovering her family's past, discovering a multicultural legacy--as in, a white grandmother--tthat she never knew she had. Trust me, this is a fascinating story for anyone with a mixed race family, whether or not adoption is involved. 


  1. Oh, I wish I had known about this! I would have attended- I live in the Bay Area.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts from the conference. In spite of some sober associations, I hope you are otherwise enjoying your time in my favorite city in the whole world. I could share endless tourist recommendations, but I will refrain (with some difficulty!).

  2. Tiffany, this is more than a one-day conference. It goes on through Saturday, and probably Sunday morning. Check the website of the American Adoption Congress.

  3. Jane,
    I'm glad you were able to enjoy the conference and your visit in San Francisco without being negatively triggered by your experience with Rebecca's birth and relinquishment. San Francisco is one of the most beautiful, exciting, and friendliest cities in the country.

    This is off topic, but did anyone watch 20/20 last night? I missed it, but I understand the expose was about a couple who didn't want to go through the proper channels to adopt a child (according to them because it takes too long), so they decided to post an ad on Craigslist. A young woman contacted them and told them she was pregnant and planned to give up her child. And it turns out the whole thing was a hoax. She wasn't really pregnant. Can you believe? Sheesh, these people were entitled to post an ad online and should have been able to get a baby.

    I'm wondering if the show investigated the ethics of trolling for a baby in this way in the first place? I don't understand how this isn't considered peddling in human flesh. I can tell you that if my first parents had found an adoptive family for me in such an unsafe manner, I would never have spoken to them. Angela's decision not to meet her first mother(see earlier post) would have seemed like child's play.

  4. I find it so very helpful to hear how your relationship to adoption has evolved over time. Thank you both for sharing your invaluable thoughts and experiences.

  5. Robin:
    If anyone doesn't believe the market for babies is what is driving the billion-dollar adoption industry today, the story you describe on 20/20 proves it. You can only pull a scam like that because there are so many people willing to pay for a baby--and get him or her through any means possible.

    Mirah Ribin's book, The Stork Market, ought to be read by prospective adopters.

    Now I'd like to see 20/20 do a piece on the people who convince a vulnerable woman that they will keep the adoption totally open for all time, and then renig on that promise. Talk about heartbreak.

  6. Like I said, I didn't watch the show. Actually, I couldn't even bring myself to tape it. From the short piece I read about it, it seemed that the sympathies were towards the PAPs for having been duped. I mean, of course we should all feel bad for them when here they were finally convinced that 'THEIR' baby was coming home to them. Oh, puhleeze! Yeah, Lorraine, I'm sure your suggestion would go over big with the show's producers {insert sarcasm}.

    And Jane, I am so pleased to read about transracial adoption from those who have actually lived it. They are the people who should be speaking front and center about this issue, not those who have no first hand knowledge but are just being politically correct.

  7. Lorraine, I tried replying from my phone this weekend, but was having troubles. And I never found time to be at the computer.

    I had already promised my daughters the zoo this weekend (they had an exhibit called "The Scoop on Poop" that my older daughter was terribly excited about... no really, she was! :), so I couldn't have attended with short notice, but thank you for letting me know. I did look up their website and bookmarked it to keep an eye on in the future.

    I put several of these books listed on my wish list. I will pick them up soon to read, as I am the mother of a transracial adoptee, and they sound very helpful. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Jane, as always, Lorraine and you flood us with engaging blog posts! And then it is frustrating when I get so busy I cannot engage.

    Anyhow, I really enjoyed reading about your conference experience in SF. Our son is a transracial African-American adoptee. His African American heritage is one that neither my husband nor I are able to offer. We are learning about it, but that of course is not the same as living it.

    One thing that he does have and cherishes are his "godparents" (that is in quotes because I am not using the term in a religious sense, they are more like loving "life guides" for him), who are our very good African-American friends. They have been such an awesome presence in Lenny's life and have given him much pride in his African culture and origins. Through them, we have acquired a secondary African-American family and friends that have become important to him.

    One thing we have noticed, as he is getting close to being 6 years old, is he has become much more conscious of his skin color and ethnic origins. Even though I, his adoptive mom, am brown, he sees it (the "Indian" brown) as a different kind of brown from the "African" brown. And on the day you posted this blog, Lenny was at a baseball practice where he saw an African-American coach and asked my husband if he could get him to be Lenny's coach because "he looks like me."

    There is no doubt he is looking to identify with others who are African-American. In the past year, he has transitioned from being sad that he does not look like my husband (straight hair, hazel eyes, ash-blond hair) to reveling in his curly hair, brown eyes and brown skin. Yay for that, and yay for the community that helps him feel that comfort about himself.



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