Facebook Page of Our “Lions Roaring” Anthology by Ethiopian Adoptees

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.

Two Opportunities for Adoptees to Speak Out: NAAM

This is day 11 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees.

Here are two opportunities for adult adoptees to be heard at large forums. Please share with internationional and transracial adult adoptees.

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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.

Sincerely,

Office of Children’s Issues
Adoption Oversight Division
U.S. Department of State

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The second invitation, for transracial, multiracial, and/or international adoptees, is from NPR’s All Things Considered, via Facebook.

Adoptees should always be the first considered for stories or forums on adoption. Again, please share this with adult adoptees who may be interested.

“Colin in Black and White:” NAAM

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.

Ava DuVernay is a co-creator, director, and producer of the series.

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.

That hair.

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.

Inter Country Adoptee Voices: NAAM

This is day 5 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees.

Inter Country Adoptee Voices (ICAV) was created by and for adoptees all around the world. Based in Australia, ICAV is adoptee-led and adoptee-focused. The site includes an impressive list of adoptee-led groups in multiple countries, as well as groups focused specifically on adoptees from various countries/continents (Bangladesh to Vietnam).

ICAV also maintains a list of adoptee academics with links to their research, as well as a Memorial page for adoptees who have died by suicide or at the hands of their adoptive parents. There are links to blog posts about mental health and other issues. There is a substantive list of post-adoption services provided by adoptees around the globe.

ICAV has a public Facebook page, as well as a private Facebook group for intercountry and transracial adoptees.

I have known Lynelle Long, ICAV’s founder, for a while, and I know she is rightly proud of ICAV’s recent Educational Video Resource Project. I’ve watched several of the videos, which feature a variety of Australian adult intercountry adoptees speaking out about trauma, racism, and other adoption issues. Professionals such as doctors, teachers, and counsellors/therapists are among the intended audience; please share this resource with them.That said, all of us in the adoption community can benefit from the videos.

Therapists Who Are Adoptees: NAAM

This is day 4 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees.

All of us humans may benefit from therapy at some point in our lives. Adoptees show up in therapy at higher rates than non-adopted people.

The statistics bear this out. According to the American Psychological Association, “Higher proportions of adopted persons attend therapy (17.71%) than nonadopted persons (8.76%; Miller et al., 2000), and some adopted individuals may struggle with certain issues as adults, such as loss and grief particularly during milestone events like marriage and childbirth (Nydam, 2007; Silverstein & Kaplan 1988); building and maintaining close relationships (Corder, 2012); distress over lack of genetic information; and issues with identity development (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2004).” There are several other studies listed at the APA link related to “clinical considerations for psychologists who see adult patients who were adopted during their childhood.”

Many adoptees and adoptive parents seek out therapists who are also adoptees. Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker, a psychologist who is also an adoptee and adoptive parent, curates an incredibly valuable list of U.S.-based therapists who are also adoptees.

Anyone connected with adoption may want to find a therapist who, at a minimum, is adoption competent. The notion of “adoption competent” can be complex. It should be a baseline standard for anyone who works clinically with adopted people. The Center for Adoption Support and Education defines it this way: “An adoption competent mental health professional understands the nature of adoption as a form of family formation and the different types of adoption; the clinical issues that are associated with separation and loss and attachment; the common developmental challenges in the experience of adoption; and the characteristics and skills that make adoptive families successful.”

There is more to their definition; this link goes to C.A.S.E.’s Module on training adoption-competent therapists. (Transparency: Years ago, I worked for C.A.S.E., writing grants and occasionally participating on workshop panels. )

Therapists who work with adoptees should also be trauma-informed, another complex qualification. Many people don’t see the link between adoption and trauma, and that can be true for therapists as well. And “trauma-informed” can have many definitions, especially in relation to adoption.

Two final notes: One–if you’re an adoptive parent and your child is going to therapy, you should also go to therapy to learn what your child is going through, what they are learning in terms of strategies from the therapist, how you may inadvertently be contributing to the trauma, and how you can best support your child.

Two—This upcoming conference is the first of its kind, and will be amazing. “Expert Voices in Adoption” will take place online November 20. It will be “the only National Adoption Awareness Month event solely featuring the voices of adoptee clinicians.” The program will be hosted by Dr. Wirta-Leiker, mentioned above. I have registered, and I am sure many other folks have and will as well. It is an incredible opportunity for all of us.

Adult Adoptees Speak Out on Suicide Prevention

On October 26, 5pm pdt US/8pm est US, United Suicide Survivors International will host a free webinar “Adoption and Suicide Prevention: Adult Adoptees Speak Out.” The panelists are amazing: Jessenia Arias, Kevin Barhydt, Lynelle Long, and Amanda Transue-Woolston. I have the honor of facilitating this conversation.

These four panelists have a wide range of experience and wisdom. Each has deep skills, whether as an author, a therapist, an online advocate for adoptees, a same race adoptee, a transracial adoptee, an international adoptee. All have the lived expertise of having been adopted.

And each one has agreed to share their stories and insights related to suicide and suicidal ideation. This is a very tough topic to speak and to hear about. I am deeply grateful that they will share their hard-earned wisdom, because the rest of us are needing and ready to learn.

Please join us for this important webinar, and please feel free to share the USSI registration link.

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN__JIIYzloQ2G-FaGb4uf4oQ

Transracial Adoptive Parents: Will You Fight Racism, or Will You Ignore It?

Transracial adoption is essentially built on racial inequity. The vast majority of transracial adoptive parents, especially those who adopted internationally, are White, and the children they adopt are often placed for adoption due to the pervasive economic disparities that are a result of race. I wonder if there are any White adoptive parents who have not been told that they have given their adopted Black or Brown children a better life. That usually means better schools, safer neighborhoods, and higher standard of living.

It would be so wonderful, a privilege really, if we could just stop talking about racism. Imagine if there were genuine equity in our society, in education, health care, employment, income, housing, and more. No voter suppression. No laws needed about discrimination based on Black natural hair. No teaching Black sons where to put their hands when Driving While Black. No Asians being harassed or worse for the “China flu.” No verified, well-researched reporting of income disparities among races.

That would be great. And we aren’t there yet by any means. In the wake of George Floyd’s death, we Americans seemed poised to take a look at our history as a country, understand the legacy of racism, and genuinely begin to heal. As the White adoptive parent of Black children, I’ve seen personally how racism has affected my children, in overt and covert ways. They are strong, successful people. They and other Black people have dealt with racism every day, individually or systemically. We White adoptive parents who have raised and are raising Black and Brown children know we hold economic and other power by virtue of our race. We cannot bury our heads in the sand. We must continue to learn, and to prepare our children for the world that is not racism-free.

Yesterday, President Trump issued an order pertaining to anti-racism trainings for federal government agencies and workers. It seeks essentially to bury the history and current entrenched system of racism in America, and to deny the reality that Black and Brown people live through in terms of inequities in health care, education, housing, environmental justice and more. 

Under the President’s new order, trainings for federal workers that mention white privilege or assert that racism is part of our country’s foundation “engender division and resentment” and “undercut” the federal government’s “core values.”

Who feels resentment? The White people who are not and never have been affected by racist policies in the U.S., and don’t want to hear about it.

Racism—via slavery, segregation, redlining, denial of voting rights and more—is indeed part of our country’s foundation. We are at a pivotal time to face that reality and make positive changes to end systemic racism. 

However, our current leadership calls anti-racism trainings “anti-American.”

The President has instructed the OMB Director to ensure that “federal agencies cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions.” 

Federal agencies are to list all government contracts related to trainings about critical race theory and the idea of white privilege, and then do anything they can to cancel the contracts. 

Black scholars like Dr. Derrick Bell and Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw are among those who developed critical race theory. White privilege is real, and disrupting it is part of anti-racist work, so that we live in a genuine anti-racist society. 

This may be one of our President’s most disturbing decisions yet. Watch who supports it, and who opposes it.

It would be nice to wish racism away, but that’s not what 400 years of American history tell us. That’s not what Black scholars, PhDs, and highly skilled researchers tell us. That’s not what Black friends and family tell us. That’s not what many transracially adopted adults have said here, here, here, and here. (There are lots more examples, if you want to look.) That’s not what Harvard Business Review tells us. That’s not what Doc Rivers tells us. It may be what some White men tell us, the White men that have traditionally held power in the U.S.

As the White parent of Black children whom I love beyond words, I will continue to acknowledge racism, to learn how it affects me and them, and to work to end racism and inequity. It’s the least I can do, with eyes wide open.

Do We Need More White Adoptive Mothers Writing About Their Transracially Adopted Children?

No, we do not. I say that as a white adoptive mother who could share some terrific stories about her transracially adopted children, as kids in school, as teenagers, as young adults. I mean really riveting stories, with drama, heartache, humor, intrigue, and more. Their stories are theirs alone, however—not mine to tell, and certainly not if they are minors. My children are in their 30’s now, and I still would not tell a single story without their permission. And I mostly do not have permission.

I believe this is especially important within adoption, where adoptees had no agency for the decisions made for them, where the heft of economic and other societal powers is held by the adoptive parents, and where the birth family has little if any opportunity to be heard in an equitable way.

A while back, I got an email from a white adoptive mom who is writing a book about her children’s struggles and challenges. She asked to talk, I guess to pick my brain about it. She was surprised that I was not encouraging, that I did not think she should share her children’s stories, whether they had given her permission or not. They are minors, and minor children cannot give genuine, meaningful consent. She got a bit flustered as I expounded on why I thought it was a bad idea. She told me I was being hostile, at one point.

Yes, I suppose I was. Politely hostile, if that’s possible.

I asked if she had spoken to her family’s therapist about the book. Yes, she had, and the therapist thought it was a great idea. Memo to file: This is why we need more adoptee-therapists, and adoption-competent therapists. Here is a terrific list of U.S. therapists who are also adoptees. The list was assembled by Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker, a licensed psychologist who is herself an adoptee as well as an adoptive mother.

My hope is, regardless of what therapist one works with, that the therapist would say, “No, do not share your young children’s stories in public at this point, regardless of whether they have ostensibly given their consent, or whether you feel your story will inspire and help others.”

I am not a therapist but I’d also add: “Wait until they are adults, and can ethically decide whether they want their struggles and meltdowns and medications shared forever with strangers on the Internet or in print. This is especially true, white adoptive parent, if your child is transracially adopted. And do not share about their birth parents’ ages, prison time, addictions, other children, or any other information without the explicit permission of the birth parents. When your children are adults, feel free to encourage them to write their own stories, including about your parenting.”

And I’d close my remarks by saying that “There are many, many excellent adoptee-written blogs and adoptee-led podcasts and adoptee-authored books. New ones are burgeoning every day, as more adult adoptees find their voices and the empowerment to use them. Give them the respect they deserve for their lived experiences, and absorb what you can from those with professional expertise. Compensate them fairly for their time and their sharing of their stories and insights. Tell other adoptive parents about them. Listen and learn.”

Newport Beach, OR © Maureen McCauley

In Newport, Thinking of the Hart Family

National Adoption Awareness Month, 2018

The horrific story of the Hart family plunging off a cliff last March made headlines around the world, perhaps most searingly in the adoption community.

Adoptive parents Jennifer and Sarah Hart drove their 6 children down the west coast, from Washington state through Oregon on to California. Their journey began on March 23, 2018, and ended in death three days later.

Based on cell phone pings, the family was in Newport, Oregon, on March 24. I’m in Newport now, at a conference/retreat totally unrelated to adoption or the Harts.

That said, as I was driving here, I had the family on my mind. In part, that’s because November is National Adoption Awareness Month. I had all 6 adopted children—Davonte, Hannah, Markis, Jeremiah, Abigail, and Sierra–in my heart and on my mind.

Newport was one of the last places where the Hart family was known to be. Did they stop to look at the stunning ocean here at Nye Beach? Did they get coffee at the Human Bean or the Starbucks drive-through? Did the kids stretch their legs and poke around the Bayfront?

Where’d they sleep? Did they sleep?

They were all dead two days after they were here in the town where I am now.

The bodies of Devonte and Hannah Hart have still not been found.

May they all rest in peace.

Nye Beach, Newport, OR Photo by Maureen McCauley. November 2018

Further Reading:

JaeRan Kim, Ph.D., an adopted person, wrote on her blog, Harlow’s Monkey: Thoughts About the Hart Family.

Stacey Patton, PH.D., an adopted person, wrote this for Dame magazine: “Why Jennifer and Sarah Hart Killed Their Adopted Children”

Michele Sharpe, an adopted person, wrote about the family here: “The Hart Children: Curse of the Adoptee.”

Nicole Chung’s Memoir “All You Can Ever Know” and the Future of Adoptee-Focused Literature

“All You Can Ever Know,” a beautiful memoir by Nicole Chung, was published October 2 and is already in its fifth printing. The book had been glowingly reviewed all over the map: the New Yorker, Boston GlobeSeattle Times, Buzzfeed, NPR,  and many more, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and from Library Journal.

Nicole is on a book tour that includes chatting with Trevor Noah TONIGHT on The Daily Show. Seriously. I am guessing she is the first transracial adoptee to be on the show.

It’s all off the charts, really. And here’s the thing: it’s well deserved for a book that is nuanced and elegant, telling a story that is woven carefully around family, race, adoption, and the complexities thereof. As the Washington Post noted, “Chung’s search for her biological roots, after being raised in Oregon by white parents who adopted her from Korean parents, has to be one of this year’s finest books, let alone memoirs. Editor in chief of Catapult and former editor of the Toast, Chung has literary chops to spare and they’re on full display in descriptions of her need, pain and bravery.”

There’s not really much I can add to what so many others have already said.

Still, as an adoptive parent (and we ap’s are really good at holding the mic in the adoption community), I will offer this: It’s a beautifully crafted memoir, a carefully balanced story of an adoptee’s efforts to find her way in the world, and especially to find her truth. Nicole’s reflections on her pregnancies, her birth mother, her adoptive mother, her daughters, and her sisters are candid and heartfelt. There are questions and loose ends and tangles and more questions. She’s a Korean adoptee not born in Korea. She loves her white adoptive parents and has struggled with racism and privilege. Perhaps the best part of her search and reunion journey has been the deep bond with the sister she found as an adult.

The memoir reminded me that, as an adoptive parent, as much as we deeply love our children, if we are not adopted ourselves, we cannot fully understand what it means to be adopted. If we are white, we cannot fully understand what it means for our children to be and grow up as people of color. We must acknowledge and not dismiss or minimize those truths. We must listen and learn—and read and talk.

That the book has been wildly successful does not surprise me: Nicole is a highly accomplished writer and editor. (Full disclosure: she was my editor at Catapult for my article “How My Daughter’s Pregnancy Made Me Rethink Adoption.”) The reviews, the tour, and the acclaim are deserved.

Here’s my hope: Nicole’s book (and all the accompanying attention) will open even more doors for adoptees to write and publish their stories, whether they are happy, frightening, shocking, sad, or even mundane. “All You Can Ever Know” will find a solid niche as Asian-American literature as well as adoption literature as well as mother lit and memoir. Some adoptees will embrace Nicole’s story as resonant for them; some will have had a polar opposite experience. We all need to hear the wide and fascinating range of adoptee stories, told not by their adoptive parents, but by the adoptees themselves.

I’d be remiss if I did not say that there will soon be news about the anthology by Ethiopian adoptees from 7 countries,  “Lions Roaring, Far From Home.” I am one of the editors, and while there have been significant, unanticipated delays, we are moving ahead toward publication.

Brava, Nicole! Your book is a gem. I hope you get some rest along the roller coaster of a book tour. I hope John Cho loved the memoir. I hope you continue writing (I know that’s not an issue), and I know that the rest of us will continue enjoying and learning from your stories, your candor, and your generous soul.

With Nicole at her reading at Seattle Public Library, October 4, 2018.

Tell Trevor I said hello.

 

 

 

While “All You Can Ever Know” has received amazing attention and reach, there are many other books written by adoptees as well, and hopefully even more in the future. Be sure to check out AdopteeReading.com for “books written and recommended by adoptees.”

How great if we had a large collection of books by birth mothers and birth fathers as well, from around the world,