Yesterday was Adoptee Remembrance Day, and tomorrow is the start of National Adoption Awareness Month in the US. It is a fitting time to learn more about adoption, or better understand the experience of being adopted, or hear a variety of perspectives on what “being adopted” means.
The book includes essays and poems by 32 writers, ranging in age from 8 to over 50, and raised in six different countries (Canada, France, Sweden, Australia, the Netherlands, and the U.S.). The perspectives on adoption vary, and that is one of the strengths of the book.
It is the first (and currently only) anthology by Ethiopian adoptees.
It received advance praise from Lemn Sissay, Nicole Chung, and Shannon Gibney, all acclaimed writers who are also adoptees.
The stunning cover art is by the incredibly talented Ethiopian artist Nahosenay Negussie.
We are grateful to the folks who have read the book, and those who have shared a review and stars on the Amazon site.
We hope more folks will read it, talk about it, and share it with others.
It is a groundbreaking book, reflecting the hearts of our writers and the realities of adoption.
Please help us get the book into the hands of Ethiopian adoptees, other adoptees, Ethiopians, adoptive parents, adoption agencies, adoption therapists, and others.
I am still certainly a work in progress as a parent, even as my children are all adults and I have two granddaughters. We need to keep learning, and making mistakes, and remaining curious, I think, even as our children grow up. The impact of adoption is lifelong.
Here are a couple of pull quotes from the podcast:
If you have a chance to listen to the podcast, please let us know your thoughts. Thank you!
I am among those quoted in the book, and am looking forward to the publication and to the conversations the book creates. The adoption community is incredibly active these days, with podcasts, books, and more. Lots of voices, some conflicts, some challenges, lots to think about.
It may be overdue, but there is no doubt that the views and voices of adult adoptees are increasingly being heard—including the challenging ones.
I recently presented at the COFFEE Ethiopian Heritage Camp that takes place near Mount Hood in Oregon. The weather was beautiful, and the energy from the kids—biking, skateboarding, swimming, playing basketball, walking around in chatty groups—was wonderful and palpable.
For some of the kids, it’s one of few times where they are surrounded by other adoptees and by other Ethiopians.
For the parents, mostly white couples, it’s a chance to visit with friends and also to learn from the workshops presented by Adoption Mosaic.
In fact, the parents got to hear from an Adoption Mosaic panel of adult adoptees from Ethiopia, Colombia, and the U.S. All had been transracially adopted by white parents.
All the adoptees had different experiences growing up, of course. For some, their adoptive parents had been unaware of racial identity and adoption trauma issues, though they were loving. Some parents did a lot of work on racial equity, and still fell short sometimes. Some parents were unaware, uncaring, unreachable.
Adoption Mosaic founder Astrid Castro, adopted with her sister from Colombia, brought other staff with her as well, adoptees from Korea, India, and China: incredible mentors and sources of wisdom for all the camp attendees.
And that said, it is not the responsibility nor burden of any adoptee to educate adoptive parents. The emotional labor can be intense.
At a general session with the adoptive parents, the adoptees literally held the microphone, and the adoptive parents, while they could ask questions, could not hold the mic.
I found that a powerful metaphor, a reflection of the past when only adoptive parents held the mic, and adoptees and first/birth parents were an afterthought at best. We still, in the adoption community, need to work on centering the voices and lived experiences of adopted people and of first/birth parents.
That said, I am also a believer of inclusion, and really everyone should have the physical mic at in-person meetings so that everyone can hear equitably. Questions from adoptive parents were repeated by adopted people with the mic, so that was helpful. The symbolism, though, of who holds the microphone (at a conference, at a policy meeting, at a hearing, etc.) was valuable.
At the same session, Astrid noted the wealth of information available from the Adoption Mosaic staff, and also asked if the adoptive parents looked at #adopteetwitter or adoptees on TikTok. There are some wonderful, challenging, wise adoptees posting videos and sharing their truths.
We adoptive parents need to do the work of learning about adoption whether our kids are 8 or 46.
In fact, that phrase “do the work” permeated the time at camp with the adoptive parents.
I’d say that “do the work” for us adoptive parents is to be willing to listen and take in a variety of views about adoption; to dig deeply into anti-racism work; to learn about the role of money in adoption; to educate ourselves about grief, loss, depression, and confusion in adoption; to recognize that even if our kids aren’t talking about adoption they may be thinking about it (and absorbing all kinds of messages about it from friends, the community, the Internet); and to recognize the both/and of adoption (adoptees can love their adoptive parents and also want to see adoption abolished, for example).
Adoption Mosaic offers classes for adoptive parents, including one I co-facilitate, called “Seasoned Parents.” The 6-week online class is for adoptive parents whose kids are now in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, or even older. Back when we “seasoned” adoptive parents adopted our children, the preparation process was limited at best. From the Adoption Mosaic website: “When people adopt, they are oftentimes told that love would be enough. Your kids are now adults with their own thoughts and feelings about adoption; unfortunately, love alone is not enough for you to engage in tough conversations about adoption with your adult adoptees. In the class, we reflect on why we chose adoption, and what we have learned over decades of raising children. We dig into the challenges of talking about adoption as an industry, as well as about gratitude, anger, adoption fog, search, reunion, and race. And we practice talking about these adoption issues with our adult children and with others, in ways that are clear, respectful, and helpful.
Often adult adoptees ask their parents to take this class, including adoptees who are estranged from their parents.
Kudos to the folks who organized the camp (it’s a lot of work), and who attended the camp. Gratitude to the Adoption Mosaic crew for sharing their years of lived experience and professional work in adoption.
May we all keep learning not in isolation but in community.
While it focuses on Australia, the report has great relevance to other countries, both sending and receiving. More research is needed, and there is enough research globally (especially from Europe and the US) that action is needed as well.
Please share this report with adoption agencies, adoption organizations, therapists, and anyone with a connection to the adoption community. We need both more research and more prevention strategies.
Recommendations from the report from authors Ryan Gustafsson and Patricia Fronek include the following:
Increased collection of data on adoptee suicide.
A question on connection to adoption in all health care settings (i.e., “Are you affected by adoption?”)
A question about connection to adoption in practitioner interviews following suicide.
Increased identification of risk and prevention strategies in the intercountry adopteee community.
Development of practice guidelines (for therapists, counselors, health care practitioners) including adoptee experiences to inform interventions for at-risk adoptees.
Increased awareness in adoption communities, in schools, and for therapists and health care practitioners, about suicide and intercountry adoptees.
Adoptees Connected with the Report
Among the adoptees who contributed to the research cited in the report are the following: Amanda Baden, Tobias Hübinette, Hollee McGinnis, Gina Samuels, Lina Vanegas, Indigo Willing, Soorien Zeldenrust, Dong-Mi Engels, and Inter Country Adoptee Voices (ICAV).
The art in the report was created by three Australian adoptee artists: Gabby Malpas, Ebony Hickey, and Jonas Haid.
Here are a few takeaways from the report.
“Barriers to communication about the adoption experience and the disconnect between how an adoptee is expected to feel and how they actually feel are commonly reported experiences. Living with a set of ‘unknowns’ can be particularly challenging during significant life events such as searching for first family or visiting country of origin, medical diagnoses, childbirth, or loss of family members. Moreover, these challenges are not necessarily resolved when an adoptee is able to reconnect with their first families.”
Impact of Racism
“In addition, experiences of racism, discrimination, and microaggressions have been documented in studies on transracial adoptee experiences (Fronek & Briggs, 2018; Hübinette & Tigervall, 2009). The isolating impacts of racism can be exacerbated if adoptive families are dismissive of adoptees’ experiences and can lead to ‘topic avoidance’ around issues of race within adoptive familial contexts (Chang, Feldman, & Easley, 2017; Docan-Morgan, 2010; Samuels, 2009). Racism, including everyday racism, functions to intensify difference and is a common experience for many adoptees in Australia as well as internationally (Walton, 2012).”
Studies on Suicide Risk and Adoptees
“Von Borczyskowski et al. (2011) compared outcomes for adoptees and non-adoptees born between 1946 and 1968, and found adoptees had higher rates of suicide, 8.5 compared to 5.2 per 1000 men and 3.9 compared to 2.0 per 1000 women. Although the researchers point to heritable risk factors, they also suggest that adoption itself may lead to increased suicide risk. In their investigation of the link between school grades, parental education, and suicide among Swedish birth cohorts born between 1972 and 1981, Björkenstam et al. (2011) found the suicide rate for adoptees was more than twice that of non-adoptees and a correlation was found between low school grades and suicide risk.”
“Elevated risks of death by suicide”
“The meta-analysis conducted by Campo-Arias, Egurrola-Pedraza and Herazo (2020) found that intercountry adoptees carried twice the risk for suicide attempts. The studies conducted in Nordic countries and Minnesota found elevated risks of death by suicide and non-fatal attempts up to four and five times greater for intercountry adoptees than other sections of the population…
It has been suggested that intercountry adoptees’ experiences of racialisation, racial isolation and discrimination lead in some cases to severe crises of identity and that adolescent adoptees can face additional difficulties regarding belonging and identity due to having to navigate multiple identities.”
“Systemic and everyday racism; Racial isolation, discrimination, and bullying“
“Hübinette (2012) contended that systemic and everyday racism, and the distinct bodily and affective impacts of transracial placements, must form part of analyses of intercountry adoptees’ heightened vulnerability and high suicide rates. Similarly, Schwekendiek (2019) described how the racial isolation, discrimination and bullying experienced by Korean adoptees contributes to social maladjustment.”
Recommendations for Health Care Practitioners
“Graham (2014, p.21) suggested including the question “are you affected by adoption?” in all healthcare intake settings nationwide, including crisis helpline services, as well as increasing awareness among practitioners of adoptee suicide risks. Similarly, Baden et al. (2016) recommended developing and implementing training programs for all clinical practitioners to ensure adoption-competent approaches to service provision and the need to develop evidence-based practices to intervene with adoptees at risk. Importantly, they recommended that instruments be validated, and interventions developed with intercountry adoptees, first parents and adoptive parents. The need for identifying, implementing, and evaluating post adoption support services is recommended (Gair, 2015; Fronek & Briggs, 2018). This is particularly important given adoptees identify that practitioners with limited knowledge of adoption is problematic when they seek help (Fronek & Briggs, 2018).”
The themes of the BGHRA conference is “Art as Resistance,” and I encourage you to attend as many workshops and keynotes as you can. Kassaye and I are thrilled to have been asked to talk about the book, its origins, its intent, and its powerful stories.
Several of our writers, all Ethiopian adoptees, are also Europeans, raised and/or living in Sweden, France, and the Netherlands. There are, of course, many Ethiopian adoptees in Germany, Norway, Italy, Spain, the UK, and elsewhere in Europe.
Our writers also were raised and/or now live in the US, Australia, Canada, and Ethiopia.
We appreciate BGHRA inviting us to talk about the book, about the lived experiences of Ethiopian adoptees raised around the globe, and about how the anthology itself is an act of resistance.
And we look forward to a lively conversation tomorrow. Join us!
We have been thrilled and honored by the response to our new book, “Lions Roaring Far From Home: An Anthology by Ethiopian Adoptees.” It has been selling well, and is at the top of Amazon Hot New Releases in Adoption.
Our hope is that the primary readers will be Ethiopian and other adoptees, especially international and transracial adoptees. From the book’s Introduction: “We want to draw attention to the particularities of being a Black adoptee from Africa, placed with white families.”
We also are hopeful that adoptive parents will read the book, especially parents of Ethiopian adoptees, and also of other international, transracial adoptees.
Of course, we are hopeful that the Ethiopian community, including the diaspora, will read the book, as well as family members of adoptees, along with therapists, adoption agency staff, adoption-related organizations, social workers, undergrad and graduate students, book clubs, anyone interested in reading a great collection of powerful essays. If you know Oprah, Angelina, or Marcus, feel free to share the book with them, and please connect the editors with them also. You can reach the editors and writers at the book’s website: lionsroaringbook.com.
Here are a few questions that adoptive parents have asked me about the book.
Is it a positive or negative view of adoption?
It is a “real” view of adoption. Each of the 33 writers has a different perspective as they speak their truths. The book shows the range of attitudes and experiences. It also shows a range of views based on ages, since the writers are 8 to over 50 years old. Some essays note the adoptees’ Christian faith, and call adoption a blessing. There is discussion in the book of suicide and abuse. Some essays recall experiences in Ethiopia prior to being adopted. Some writers talk about painful childhood events in Ethiopia and in their adoptive country. Some talk about ways they are giving back to Ethiopia. There is mention of optimism, love of family, and resilience. Some essays are matter of fact; some are deeply emotional.
I urge adoptive parents of children of all ages to read the book. You can then talk with your children about it, in an age-appropriate way, whether they are 6 or 38 years old. It could open up a lot of new conversations.
Is the book child-friendly?
It is not meant for young children. The book reflects a wide range of lived experiences: good, bad, sad, encouraging, hopeful, angry, grief-filled, all of it. Whatever your child’s age, they might have had or will have some of the feelings in the book.
Are there essays by adoptees adopted as infants, or who have very little information about their families of origin?
Yes. The writers were adopted at a variety of ages, some with and some without their siblings. One co-editor was adopted as an infant to Canada, and the other was adopted at 6 years old with her twin sister to the US. A Swedish adoptee, adopted at one year old and now in his 50’s, wrote an essay about his DNA search and some unexpected connections. Most of the writers have little information about their Ethiopian families regardless of age at adoption; some have strong memories. Some have searched, some have reunited. Many have not done either, for a variety of reasons.
Here are some questions I haven’t been asked by adoptive parents.
Will I be uncomfortable or unsettled if I read this book?
At times, probably. If you are not an adopted person, you may well be startled or saddened by some of the insights that the writers offer. Some of the essays may affirm your views on adoption. Some may rattle them. That’s a good thing.
Can I just give the book to my teenage or adult son/daughter/child, without actually reading it myself?
Yes. And don’t do that. We adoptive parents must keep doing our work to understand what our kids are going through, to do so with open hearts and open eyes, and to learn how ideas and attitudes can change over time.
Can I give this book to friends, my non-adopted children, other adoptive parents, my Ethiopian friends, my adoption agency, my therapist, my children’s therapist, my parents, my siblings?What about folks with no close connection to adoption?
Yes! Please share the book and information about it with those who are tightly connected to adoption, those who have the rainbows-and-unicorns view, those who might be able to bring about changes in adoption policy: everyone. Thank you for doing this.
And again, thank you to every one of our writers, and to all those who have supported the book.
I could not be more thrilled to announce that “Lions Roaring Far From Home: An Anthology by Ethiopian Adoptees” has been published. You can purchase it (Kindle or paperback) on Amazon.
It is the first ever anthology by Ethiopian adoptees. The 33 writers hail from six countries, and they range in age from 8 to over 50. The essays and poems present a range of views on adoption, and each one is insightful.
All of the writers are Ethiopian adoptees. They were raised in the U.S., Canada, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Australia. Two currently live in Ethiopia.
The co-editors are Aselefech Evans, an American Ethiopian adoptee, Kassaye Berhanu-MacDonald, a Canadian Ethiopian adoptee; I am also a co-editor, and am the adoptive mother of Ethiopian twin daughters as well as two sons born in the U.S.
Deep gratitude to each of the amazing writers for this groundbreaking book.
I am happy to invite you to “Like” and follow the new Facebook page for our soon-to-be published anthology, “Lions Roaring Far From Home.” The link is here. Thank you!
The anthology, the first of its kind, has essays and poems from 32 Ethiopian adoptees who are of different ages and who were raised in different countries. The cover art (shared below; reveal here) is by Ethiopian artist Nahosenay Negussie.
On the Facebook page, we will provide info about pre-order and publication as soon as it is available. We will also be posting excerpts from the book, pre-publication reviews by some amazing folks, and info about upcoming “Meet the Writers” Zooms and other events.
Thanks so much for visiting and Liking the Facebook page! Please share with others. We really appreciate the support.
The first invitation is from the U.S. State Department for international adoptees. It is via an email subscription list called Adoption Notices. I have had trouble finding a link to the subscription list sign-up on the State Department website, and have sent an email to the adoption office at State asking for a clean link; they get a lot of email, so it could be a while. The link to International Adoption at the U.S. State Department is here. You can email the Office of Children’s Issues at Adoption@state.gov.
November 10, 2021
Event: Interactive Discussion Invitation: What Do Adult Adoptees Want to Hear from the Department of State on Intercountry Adoption? Date: November 30, 2021 Time: 2:30 – 4:00 p.m. EST RSVP: Adoption@state.gov (NLT November 28, 2021) – Response should include your name, email address, and if willing to share, the country from which you were adopted. Participation details will be sent by email on November 29, in the afternoon, to those who RSVP’d.
The Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State, invites interested adult U.S. intercountry adoptees to an interactive discussion with Marisa Light, Chief of the Adoption Oversight Division, on Tuesday, November 30, 2021, 2:30 – 4:00 p.m. EST.
Adult adoptee voices and perspectives are valued and critical to our everyday work on intercountry adoption. We recognize the expertise that comes from lived experience and want to hear from you. Last year during our November town hall with adoptees, we asked participants to tell us what they wanted us to know about their experience with adoption. We heard your stories and perspectives and valued the opportunity to learn from you. Given the tremendous turn out and desire to give everyone a chance to share who wanted to, we actively listened but weren’t able to engage in conversation about these experiences. This year, we want to provide you with the opportunity to ask questions and have more of a dialogue about the issues that are important to you.
As the U.S. Central Authority for the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation on Intercountry Adoption, the Department implements safeguards to protect children and families and maintain the viability of intercountry adoption for children in need of permanency. We uphold the principles of the Convention – that children “should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding;” that priority should be given “to enable the child to remain in the care of his or her family of origin;” that intercountry adoption should be considered only when “a suitable family cannot be found in [the child’s] State of origin;” and that measures should be taken “to ensure that intercountry adoptions are made in the best interests of the child and with respect for his or her fundamental rights, and to prevent the abduction, the sale of, or traffic in children.” These principles inform our work and are reflected in our regulation and oversight of accredited adoption service providers. We’re happy to talk more about what this means in practical terms on a day to day basis, how we collaborate with other governments and other U.S. government agencies, current trends in intercountry adoption, and anything else you may be wondering about.
We appreciate wide dissemination of this invitation to internationally adopted persons who may be interested in participating and learning more about what we do. This meeting will take place virtually and will not be recorded.
Office of Children’s Issues Adoption Oversight Division U.S. Department of State
This is day 9 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees.
This series should be mandatory viewing for prospective adoptive parents. Mandatory viewing for adoption agency staff, therapists, and counselors. Everyone should watch “Colin in Black and White,” now on Netflix, but those folks should be among the first in line. Adoption is not the main focus of the six episodes, and Colin Kaepernick arguably is so well-known that he does not need his voice elevated. Still, the story of adoptee Colin Kaepernick, Black/biracial son of white adoptive parents, will resonate with many adoptees. I hope the show generates a lot of conversations about transracial adoption and the need for racial mirrors and mentors. Perhaps it will also elevate the voices of other adoptees as to the genuine work that needs tp be done in the adoption community.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick achieved fame most notoriously for kneeling during the national anthem to protest racism in America. White America punished him severely for that, in a knee-jerk reaction that was not rooted in understanding Colin’s rationale (American history, personal trauma, willingness to take a stand against injustice–a great American tradition) behind the decision to kneel.
This new memoir/documentary/re-creation of Colin’s coming-of-age looks not only at Colin’s high school years, but also at the crushing, cruel realities of racism in America. He got his hair braided (and his head hurt a lot the first time), and then had to cut it in acquiescence to white people’s standards, those of his white adoptive parents and his coaches. Allen Iverson features prominently in that part of the film and his life. Interactions between Colin and Black people in real life were tentative, comforting, confusing, and soul-healing.
Colin’s adoptive white parents came across to me the way a lot of white adoptive parents (that includes me) do: well-intentioned, loving, and missing a strong racial lens. They just didn’t get what it meant that Colin was Black, and would be perceived by the world as a Black boy and then man. Nice people, encased in white privilege. Totally unable to see the racism and micro aggressions that Colin was subjected to. It is painful to watch, and it happens all the time in transracial adoption.
The show also contains a Black history primer, including a re-enactment of the career of the great artist Romare Bearden, who was also a star baseball player. Colin narrates and curates a range of information and history, and integrates these sequences with his own story. I’d love to see another season where Kaepernick weighs in more viscerally on adoption, as well as about his decision to kneel during the national anthem. In any case, this is a thought-provoking show to watch, for all of us in the adoption community, and for anyone who wants to learn more about one of America’s most intriguing and talented sports icons.