Dear Adoption,: NAAM

This is for day 21 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees, and posted on day 22.

The mission of “Dear Adoption,” is for adoptees to “reclaim the adoption narrative by amplifying adoptee voices, so a more honest depiction of what adoption is will emerge.” It was founded and is curated by Reshma McClintock, an adopted person from India who was the subject of the excellent documentary “Calcutta Is My Mother.”

Adoptees are welcome to submit an essay to the site: hundreds have, and their voices are impressive. The writers are international, transracial, domestic, same race, former foster care youth, a wide range. The essays are long, short, poignant, angry, thoughtful, sad, insightful, and more.

There is also an extensive list of adoptee-led, adoptee-centric blogs and websites, as well as podcasts and other resources.

It’s the letters to Dear Adoption, though, that I’d say are especially powerful. You can read them on the Facebook page or on the website. “Dear Adoption,” just celebrated its fifth year of elevating “the astounding, noteworthy work of adoptees worldwide,” and of creating “a better, safe world for future generations of adopted people…through the sharing of our stories.”

That phrasing always makes me think of the Maya Angelou quote, “There is no greater story than bearing an untold story inside you.” And I hope many more adoptees will continue to share their sacred stories.

Adoptee Voices—Supporting Adoptee Storytelling: NAAM

This is day 18 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees.

Sara Easterly, an author and adoptee, founded Adoptee Voices to create a writing community that is all “about supporting adoptee storytelling.” As the website says, “Adoptees, it’s your turn to have a voice in conversations about adoption. You’ve lived through relinquishment. You know adoption from the inside. Your voice in the adoption narrative is both needed and necessary.”

To this end, Sara and her facilitators, who are all adoptees and all writers, have created Writing Groups for adult adoptees with stories to share. They meet weekly via Zoom, use adoption-specific writing prompts, and provide publishing and writing advice. They note that adoptees may all be adoptees, but their experiences may be vastly different. They call for grace and respect, and they acknowledge the reality of sensitive and difficult topics. They also are clear that these are not therapy sessions, but are facilitated peer writing groups, intended to serve a community of adoptees.

In her book “Searching For Mom: A Memoir,” Sara shares how, as an adoptee, she “had difficulties attaching to her mother, struggled with her faith, lived the effects of intergenerational wounding, and felt an inherent sense of being unwanted that drove her to perfectionism, suicidal ideations, and fantasy mothers. When she became a mom, her search to find and become ‘the perfect mother’ intensified … until her mother’s death launched a spiritual epiphany. Sara’s perspective as an adoptee offers insight for anyone in the adoption constellation.”

I’ve known Sara through our work in the adoption community, and was thrilled to hear she had created this series of online writing groups. This Saturday November 19, Sara will moderate a free, online panel along with Alice Stephens, a Korean adoptee and author of the debut novel Famous Adopted People.The eight panelists are all adoptees, from Korea and China, who will discuss what the Adoptee Voices Writing Group has meant to them. Learn more about this UniversalAsian conversation here.

Upcoming Adoptee Voices writing sessions include “Write Your Way Through the Holiday Season,” and “Writing Resolutions Winter 2022.” You can learn about all the writing groups and register for them here.

It is wonderful to have more adoptees writing and sharing their stories.

Deborah Jiang Stein and JaeRan Kim: Truth and Fiction in Adoption Stories

Deborah Jiang Stein was born in a West Virginia prison to a heroin-addicted mother, and then placed in foster care at around 1 year old. When she was about 3, she was adopted by a Jewish couple and raised in Seattle.

JaeRan Kim was left on the steps of a town hall in Korea at around 1 year old. She was placed in an orphanage, and then was adopted by a white family in Minnesota, when she was about 3 years old.

Today, Deborah is a published author and accomplished speaker. Her next book is due out in March; you can learn more about Prison Baby here. It has already received wonderful early reviews. She is the founder of the nonprofit The unPrison Project, which serves women and girls in prisons. She’s working on another memoir, a young adult novel, and a collection of short stories. Deborah travels frequently to women’s prisons to share her story, and to bring confidence and hope to incarcerated mothers. She has written vividly and poignantly about her relationships with her prison mother and her adoptive mother, both of whom have passed away. 

Deborah Jiang Stein

Deborah Jiang Stein


JaeRan is currently finishing up her doctoral degree at the University of Minnesota. She works at the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare, where she manages the Permanency in Adoption Competency Certificate (PACC) program, an advanced training certificate for child welfare and mental health professions. Her Ph.D. work examines research on internationally adopted children with disabilities. She has done a search for her Korean family, but has not found them. You may well be familiar with her via Harlow’s Monkey, which provides amazing amounts of adoption- and foster care-related information from around the world.


Deborah and JaeRan both have written, with grace and clarity, about separation, abandonment, loss, and healing. They are smart, perceptive, and warm. Each is a writer, speaker, and researcher, able to make connections, fascinated by the world and its possibilities. Each is an avid reader.

I’m also an avid reader, and frequently find adoption-related themes in what I read. I just finished Donna Tartt’s brilliant novel The Goldfinch, about a young man who loses his parents and forms new relationships to cope with his losses.

The loss of parents–and the theme of orphans and adoption–appears frequently in fiction for children and adults. Sometimes it’s the fairy tales of Cinderella, her deceased parents, and her stepmother. Sometimes it’s Superman, Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, or Oliver Twist. The theme of adoption runs through children’s literature right into adult’s: Barbara Kingsolver’s Bean Trees, Anne Tyler’s Digging to America, Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed, John Irving’s Cider House Rules, and many others. 

What a treat, then, to read an interview-conversation between Deborah and JaeRan about adoption themes in fiction. Deborah begins the interview with this question: “JaeRan, as a scholar and researcher in adoption and child welfare, what role do you believe fiction can play in the real-life intricacies of the adoption world?”

Read the rest of the interview here, on Deborah’s blog.

I’m also happy to share this important information: For her doctoral dissertation research, JaeRan is looking to interview adoptive parents of internationally adopted children with disabilities. She writes:

“Adopting a child with disabilities can be both challenging and rewarding. Parents who have adopted children from outside the United States with mental health and intellectual/developmental disabilities sometimes struggle to find appropriate pre-adoption education and/or post-adoption support to help them manage the challenges of parenting a child with a disability.”

I’ve written extensively about the need for better pre-adoption and post-adoption resources. This is a wonderful opportunity for families to be heard. You can read more about the study on JaeRan’s site here.