My Adoption Story: Alyssa

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Hello readers! I am excited to be one of the newest members of Adoptions From The Heart’s Marketing team. As AFTH’s Donor Development & Marketing Coordinator and an adoptee myself, I want to introduce a recurring blog segment called My Adoption Story.

My Adoption Story will reveal personal adoption stories from all spectrums of this unique reality. My goal in designing this interview-style segment is to offer a platform to the diversity of life stories created by the adoption experience. For our readers, I want to invite you into the incredible variations of family, life and love that adoption creates.

As our first story, I will share my own

A brief background:

In 1987, as a newborn infant, I was adopted from Bogota, Colombia by Jewish, American parents from Long Island, New York. My parents, Pat & Irv Brookstein had also adopted my brother Jesse four years before me from Bogota through the adoption agency FANA (Foundation for the Assistance of Abandoned Children).

I was born on March 21st 1987 severely underweight and suffering from bronchial pneumonia along with many other babies in the agency at the time. My mom told me every moment until arriving in Colombia that she suffered greatly from being unable to soothe and comfort me in my fragile state.

My adoption was closed and I departed from Bogota with a name and nationality that would soon be replaced. The Colombian, Adriana Gonzalez without a home or family soon became Alyssa Brookstein, a US American with two loving parents and an adoring older brother.

Do you have a memory of finding out you were adopted?

I have no memory of finding out. It has felt like I have always known. Apparently, my brother told me upon his own childhood impulse when I was a toddler. He broke the news to me during playtime. I took the news without a care and continued focusing on what was in front of me, my toys!

Why did your parents decide to adopt?

My parents chose to adopt after years of trying to get pregnant. My mom experienced multiple miscarriages culminating in a near death experience from an ectopic rupture. During her ectopic rupture, she died on the table and remembered having an out-of-body experience. She recalls floating above her body and wanting to go towards a light but a message was communicated to her that she had more work to do. Soon after this defining experience my mom decided to adopt.

While growing up did you ever struggle with your adoption or feeling like you belong?moonshooting.png

I never felt like I did not belong with my family because my mom constantly told my brother and I that she wanted children more than anything in life which reinforced the knowledge that we were dearly wanted, even wished for long before we were born.  As an adolescent, my family’s obstacles overshadowed my personal struggles so I kept my pain to myself and struggled inwardly. In retrospect, I can see that some of my struggles were related to adoption but I was so silent with my confusion that I would have had no idea how to communicate my inward struggle. So, the answer is yes, I struggled but so silently even I was unaware of the anguish.

As an adoptee, do you ever feel like something is missing in not knowing your birth-family?

I do have a faint recollection of what came before Alyssa Brookstein and with that, a faint curiosity. This question is difficult because my experience is like Plato’s allegory of the cave; my reality is such that I am so far removed from my Colombian reality that it is near impossible to imagine it. In addition, I have experienced boundless love from my mom & brother that never made me want for someone or something else. I also love the diversity adoption has blessed me with, I am a Colombian, American Jew! I am empowered by my adoption mystery because it adds immensely to my sense of self. I find peace in my personal unknown.

Do you want to search for your birth family?

I do not have a great need but a small curiosity which holds the potential to grow. I believe that everyone has numerous roots across the world that could lead to incredible self-discovery, I am no exception. Because I am Jewish, Israel is a motherland and I returned. Poland is a motherland because it is the land of my ancestors and I returned. Colombia is a motherland because it is the land of my blood and I will return. When I return, I plan to let my instinct lead the journey. In my mind the search for my birth family will find its own way without plans and details; if it is meant to be it will be.

It is often said that adoption is built on loss. As an adoptee, how do you deal with loss in your life?

As an adoptee, great loss revives intense and disorienting waves of emotion. I have no waking memory about the 1st great separation I experienced in life but I have an acute emotional awareness that I survived something catastrophic as an infant. In the wild, newborns will not survive without the protection of their mothers. I feel I was aware that my life was threatened, first because I lost my lifeline, my mother, and second because I was gravely ill. I feel that every living being knows when their life is teetering on the edge of death no matter their state of consciousness. I was no different.

As an adoptee, the loss of a mother has been the most profound experience for me because I have lived through it twice. My mom Pat passed on in 2014 after surviving 14 years with cancer. In a strange way, I feel like I was more equipped than most to cope with great loss because I had already survived the greatest loss in the most vulnerable condition but my experience also made me that much more fearful. Could I survive the loss of a mother for a second time? My adoption has given me a deep, inner wisdom about loss but I still struggle immensely on how to manage the compounding losses.

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EPILOUGE:

It may be true that adoption is built on loss but it is also built on love. Before I conclude I want to say that being adopted into a family does not mean that the family is always ready, just like many traditional families. Like many moms who dream of having their own children, my mom dreamed of my brother and me and because of adoption her dream came true. My dad was absent most of our lives and for my many years his abandonment caused me to question my adoption in a negative light but without him my mom would have been unable to adopt. Ultimately My Adoption Story taught me that love is what binds people together more than anything else in life, more than genetics, family names, religion or race. Love was passed on to me and my brother which is why he and his wife are now the proud parents of 6 foster children and why I am working for Adoptions From The Heart.

After Seeing Thousands of Adoption Profiles, How Hard Could It Be to Create Our Own?

AFTH’s Director of Marketing and Communications saw a different side of the adoption experience when she and her husband began the journey as prospective adoptive parents. She has chronicled their journey in her Adoptive Families Circle blog

One of the steps of the process challenged her in ways she wasn’t expecting. Read her Adoptive Families Circle blog about the obstacles she faced when creating their profile.

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Going into the adoption process, we knew it was paperwork heavy and that, by the end, we could probably go pro if “avoiding paper cuts” were an Olympic sport. We also knew that there would be parts of the process that would flow more easily than others, such as gathering all the home study requirements (which took more effort and time than I expected).

From the moment my husband and I submitted our application, I was excited about working on our adoption profile and I thought this would be one of the easier parts. I have seen thousands of families’ profiles in the 10 years I’ve worked at the agency. That exposure, coupled with my graphic design background, made me confident in my ability to easily produce a winning profile, if there is such a thing. That is, until I started actually working on it. I had a blast creating the backgrounds and planning the layout, and then my creative juices came to a screeching halt when my husband and I began to add the real content. You would think, being a blogger, that the words would come easily; I mean we are experts on ourselves. I can easily talk about how great a dad and husband David is all day long, or what it is like to live in our neighborhood. The truth is, seeing so many profiles before creating our own was a hindrance. Because I had seen so many examples and ideas, it severely clouded my vision of how I wanted our profile to look.

I tried to jumpstart my efforts by brainstorming different themes to pull through our profile, to show who we really are as a family. I was so excited about the list I made, which included: being a lighthearted and fun couple, the importance of both immediate and extended family in our lives, what a great team we are as parents, and the creativity and laughter that fill our home every day. As it turns out, those are the exact same points every other hopeful adoptive couple or parent is trying to highlight in their own profile. My excitement faded and I found myself stuck and without direction, again.

So, how did I get on the right track? Well, to be honest, attending the agency’s profile meeting was very helpful. I had been too eager to get started to wait for the meeting; shame on me. Social workers displayed examples of what to do and not to do. The social workers also shared feedback from expectant mothers, which was invaluable. All of the things they went over in that meeting were things I knew, but just couldn’t seem to apply. It felt like I was wearing blinders when it came to creating our own profile.

The truth of the matter is that expectant parents choose families for so many different reasons. It could be because of the connection they see between the couple, the neighborhood the family lives in, the parent’s love of Halloween, the activities they participate in, or even because they play Scrabble on the weekends with their neighbors (true story). A woman considering adoption may be looking for a family with children or a family where her baby will be their first. She may want a family who is less than a few hours away to make open adoption visits easier, or she may choose a family in a different state because that is where she visited her grandparents as a child. She may choose an older couple because of their life experience or a single parent because she was raised by her father. She may have no other explanation than “I just knew they were the ones.”

Ultimately, it is the unique qualities of our family that will aid in us being selected. Not that we are more unique than any other family, but something about who we are will foster a connection with her. Instead of trying to create the “perfect” profile, I shifted my focus to creating a profile that most accurately showcases who we are, what it’s like to be a member of our family. We are not a “Leave It to Beaver” type of family. We make mistakes and stumble, just as all parents and people do. We may lose our patience after a hard day at work, or forget that the play date was rescheduled and arrive on the wrong day. To be clear, I’m not going to have a page dedicated to our faults; however, I am going to highlight our humanness. It will be clear that there is always room on our laps and in our arms, and love in our hearts. We want to show that laughter and smiles occur much more frequently than tears, and that kisses and hugs are more numerous than time outs. Most importantly, I want to show that our commitment to our child’s birth parents will not fade. We will keep our promises. We are extending our faith that we will be chosen and she is extending her faith that we will raise her child, our child, in the best way we know how.

With that said, I have thrown away my preconceived standards of what I originally thought our profile should be, and instead focused my attention on creating it from within our hearts. We are who we are, and that will be what makes our profile shine to just the right person.

What Adoptees Want Adoptive Parents to Know

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In the adoption community, you may hear one term consistently used when describing those touched by adoption – the adoption triad. The adoption triad refers to the three corners of the triangle that is adoption and is comprised of adoptive parents, birth parents and adoptees. When reading about adoption in the mainstream media, we often stumble upon articles written from the perspective of the adoptive parent or birth parent. Rarely do we catch a glimpse into the mind of the adoptee, the child who will spend their lives questioning who they really are and why their journey has led them here. It is important to give a voice to these children who grow into inquisitive adults. Their unique perspective suggests an unparalleled assistance to adoptive parents as they navigate adoption. Here, we offer a snapshot of adoption as told by the adoptee. These words of wisdom encompass some of the many things that adoptees wish their adoptive parents knew.


Invite the Curiosity of Strangers

People outside of the adoption triad are not the best at understanding adoption. They fail to use proper adoption language, they ask a lot of questions, and they aren’t aware when they “cross a line” into insensitive territory. Don’t worry about me and how I will handle the millions of questions that our family will be asked on a consistent basis. I understand that adoption is a part of my journey and that there’s a natural curiosity surrounding adoption. Answer others’ questions (if they’re non-offensive or non-invasive), educate them about adoption. Accept that people are going to be somewhat intrusive and that’s okay.

Communicate with One Another Always

The key to every happy and successful family is communication. This is especially the case in families impacted by adoption. Always answer my questions truthfully. Probe me with questions of your own if you sense that I have questions that I’m withholding from you. Try to leave the judgment behind in these painful conversations and invite the love in.

Searching for my Birth Parents Doesn’t Mean That I Don’t Love You…

In today’s day and age, the field of adoption is a completely different landscape than it was decades ago. More and more, we are beginning to see open adoption take off. For these adoptees, I can imagine that there’s a relief to understanding who they are and where they come from. I deserve that same sort of contentment. If I decide to branch out one day and look for my birth parents, please do not take offense. Seeking my birth parents does not mean that I don’t love you. It doesn’t mean that I want to leave you. It simply means that I want to know where my roots are and meet those that I’m genetically tied to.

…But I Understand if You Struggle with My Decision

Just as you must accept my desire to meet my birth family, I will accept that you may be heartbroken by my decision. It’s natural to be fearful of my search. It’s normal to worry that you could lose your child in a metaphorical sense. Your feelings will be validated because I love you.

Thankful Doesn’t Begin to Cover It

At the heart of every adoption is a loss. Though people don’t necessarily consider this as often as they should, it’s the fact of the matter. Despite the fact that a loss occurred in my life, and in the life of my birth parents, I am relieved that I found you through the loss. Thank you for loving me and giving me a forever home and family. Thank you for raising me to be the person that I am today. Thank you for allowing me to spread my wings and fly.

Opening Your Heart to Open Adoption

Opening Your Heart to Open Adoption

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Open Adoption (n): the sharing of information and/or contacts between the adoptive and biological parents of an adopted child, before and/or after the placement of the child, and perhaps continuing for the life of the child.

As a prospective adoptive parent (or even as a new adoptive parent) navigating your adoption journey, the concept of openness can be intimidating. Many adopters struggle internally with questions about openness. How do I explain my child’s story, and their birth parents’ identities, to them? Will I know the right things to say? Will I ever selfishly struggle with the special bond between my child and their birth parents? Is there for a manual for how to do this right?

For every family struggling with the concept of openness, there is a family reaping the benefits of open adoption. A recent study conducted at The University of Texas at Arlington found that birth parents benefit greatly from openness upon placement of their child. Of the 223 birth parents surveyed, approximately 4 out of 5 relinquished their parental rights for financial reasons. Many of these birth parents are in an open adoption agreement with their child’s adoptive parents and they are not the only ones positively affected by openness.

According to Professor Harold D. Grotevant of the Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project, open adoption comes full circle for all. “Open adoption requires us to rethink the meaning of family. Adoption doesn’t simply mean adding a child; it means extending the family’s boundary to include a child’s birth relatives. We have found that adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents alike are all more satisfied when they have opportunities for contact.”

As you consider openness in your own adoption plan, take these key pieces of advice from the adoptive parents who have chartered the waters of open adoption in the past.


Toss Aside What You Think You Know

It’s human nature to think that you have it all figured out. As individuals, it can often be difficult to admit that we don’t know everything. Many families who have experienced successful open adoptions admit that much of their initial hesitance resulted from a belief that they completely understood the process. No one adoption journey is the same and there isn’t a clear-cut process for how yours will pan out. It’s important to be open to as much information as possible. If you’re considering an open adoption, reach out to a social worker from a private adoption agency specializing in openness. These social workers are great references and you may find that you still have a lot to learn about open adoption. Oftentimes, the negative connotations surrounding openness are misguided.

Ask Yourself the Biggie – “What Am I So Afraid Of?”

This question is a soul-searching one where many areas of your life are concerned. This is especially true in the case of open adoption. A common factor regarding openness in many families is fear. Some adoptive mothers fear that they’ll be viewed as second best if their child knows their birth mother. Some adoptive fathers wonder if a child can ever truly be theirs if openness is a factor. Can I be a real parent if there is another father or mother in my child’s life? Identifying your true fears is a way to address them head on and discover ways to combat them in the quest to do what is right for your child and, ultimately, for your entire family.

Dive into the Unknown

Think for a moment about some of the greatest things that you have done in your life. You may be reflecting on falling in love, skydiving, pushing your body to limits that you didn’t think were possible. There’s one common denominator in many of the most life-changing experiences – they require a leap a faith. Open adoption isn’t any different.


Every day, families all across the United States form an indelible bond through open adoption. These families grow together, they get strong together, they ask the tough questions together. In all of the research that has been done on open adoption, the results are the same. Open adoption is the best option for every member of the adoption triad. If you are struggling to make a decision regarding open adoption, reach out to agencies like Adoptions From The Heart for a second opinion. Adoption is a difficult process for everyone involved. With open adoption, however, you create a larger support system for yourself and your family.

Surviving the Wait During the Holidays

surviving-the-wait-during-theThe holidays are a time for celebration, happy moments, and spending time with loved ones. But for those who are waiting to adopt, the holidays may become a source of stress or a reminder of what is missing, and friends and family may not be able to understand. Waiting to adopt can be hard at any time during the year, but it is particularly difficult during the holiday season. Here are some helpful tips for navigating the holidays while you wait.

Avoid Things That Are Triggering

If you know that being around pregnant women and small children makes you upset, limit your time around them. The holidays are filled with social events, but you don’t have to show up to every one of them. Yes, you should attend your office party at work. But, it’s okay to skip the party hosted by your friend with a newborn baby if you don’t feel up to it.

Prepare Yourself for Uncomfortable conversation

Holiday parties are filled with small talk. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself engaged in a conversation with someone you’ve never met before and are met with questions such as “how many children do you have?” Don’t let these conversations catch you off guard. Understand that these questions are bound to come up and prepare your responses ahead of time.

Be Honest

Sharing your feelings regarding your adoption process with family and friends can help to take some of the weight of your shoulders. If you haven’t shared with your friends and family that you are struggling to start a family or that you are trying to adopt, now is a good time to do so. Letting them know now will help them to be more sensitive towards your feelings and to avoid making remarks that may make you upset.

Get Support from Other Waiting Parents

Being surrounded by children and families during the holiday season may make you feel alone. Reaching out to other parents who are also waiting to adopt can help you to realize that you are not the only one experiencing these feelings. Your family and friends may not be able to understand your emotions, but other parents who are waiting to adopt will. Look into joining a waiting parent support group through your agency or connecting via online forums.

Do Something Special for Yourself

Some waiting parents may blame themselves for their inability to start a family. Remember that it is not your fault! Instead of beating yourself up about it, channel your energy into doing something nice for yourself. Have an extra glass of wine, buy yourself a gift, or take yourself out for a spa day.

Take a Breather

You have worked hard all year; you deserve to take a break. Taking a step back to think about things other than your adoption process can give you some time to relax and recharge. Hang out with friends, read a book, go to a family gathering. Remind yourself that you are not running away from the issue, but instead are giving yourself time to breath, and when you are ready to think about adoption again you will come back with a renewed perspective.

Remember That the Holidays Don’t Last Forever

Although it may feel like a foreboding time, remember that the holidays are really short and only come around once a year. Enjoy yourself and the time you get to spend with your loved ones because, before you know it, they will be over!

 

Holiday Tips for New Adoptive Parents

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The saying goes: it’s the most wonderful time of year – and with the crisp smell of winter pine, freshly baked sugar cookies and warm family gatherings, it’s hard not to be of good cheer. But for parents who recently adopted, the holiday season can be just as overwhelming as it is exciting.

Many new adoptive parents wonder how extended family will treat their child, and whether or not they will respect your child’s adoption story. If you adopted along transracial lines, you might wonder if you should incorporate cultural traditions from your child’s heritage.

Here are a few tips that might help ease those worries, so you can have the happiest of holidays!

Educate your family

It is not uncommon to have to educate or teach family members about adoption. Unknowingly, our family may use insensitive adoptive terms or ask invasive questions about the adoption process. It is ok to politely decline sharing details of your journey that you are not comfortable revealing, as well as, helping your family to recognize and utilize more adoption friendly language.

If you’re not quite ready for large family gatherings, you can plan the holidays at home this year or arrange to visit relatives at different times.

Create traditions

If you have adopted a child whose race or background is different from yours, you may find it hard adjusting to cultural differences. However, if you have a relationship with your child’s birth parents – it might be beneficial to learn what holidays they observe and ways you can incorporate that into new experiences with you and your family. You can also find out what holidays are popular within your child’s culture by doing a little research. Talking to other adoptive parents or joining a support group are other great ways to discover how to implement new holiday traditions.

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Create bonds

Just because your child does not have a biological relationship with extended family members, does not necessarily mean he or she doesn’t possess similar traits as your relatives. Your daughter may have the same passion for cooking as Aunt Sue. Maybe your son is just as funny as Grandpa Tim. Despite, physical similarities, you and your child can connect and build strong relationships with family members in many other ways.

Remember the birth parents

Some birth parents may feel a sense of sadness during the holidays, while others may feel pressured to be more involved than they would like. As an adoptive parent, it is completely up to you when deciding how much you would like to involve the birth family. However, if you have a healthy and open relationship with your child’s birth parent, sending something as simple as a “season’s greetings” or “thinking of you” card, enclosed with a photo can make a birth mom or dad feel included and valued.

Finally, as a newly adoptive parent, the holidays will be a unique experience. Don’t worry if things don’t go as planned or the holidays are not picture perfect. You will learn what works for you and your child along the way. Always have realistic expectations, keep a good spirit, and make sure your child knows they are loved. Lastly, just enjoy the season, after all, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Holiday Gift Guide for the Birth Parents in Your Life

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                The season of giving is officially upon us. While many adults devote their next few weeks to holiday shopping for their children, parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles, there are other individuals who deserve recognition. Many adoptive parents grow contemplative over the holidays,wondering what they can offer to their child’s birth parents. What gift can you give someone that can possibly convey how much you appreciate them and how thankful you are for the ultimate gift they’ve given you? Holiday shopping for birth parents can be difficult, but as we all know, sometimes the simplest gifts are the ones that matter most. Here are some ideas for heartfelt holiday presents for your child’s birth parents.


Symbolic Teddy Bear

                Teddy bears are often synonymous with young children. Why, you ask, are we recommending a teddy bear for an adult? Because it’s possible to create a bear that birth parents will not only love, but cherish forever. If your child is a toddler who no longer uses their baby blanket, it is the perfect time for this gift. Use your child’s blanket to create a teddy bear to give to their birth parents. Another possibility? Ask your hospital for your infant’s baby blanket prior to discharge. Use this infant blanket from the hospital to create a bear. Trust us, there won’t be a dry eye in the room when this gift is opened.

Handprint Calendar

Calendars are a useful tool for everyone. Create a calendar template on your computer for the upcoming year. Place paint on your child’s hand and decorate each month with their hand prints in a unique way. Create an American flag handprint for the month of July, a turkey handprint for November, or snowflake handprints for January. Bypass creating the template and purchase a handprint-ready calendar here.

Homemade Photo Magnets

Think again before you begin throwing out your bottle caps and drink lids. Save these items to make custom, homemade magnets with your child. Paint caps and lids before adding an adhesive magnetic strip to the back. Cut out photos of your child and glue them to the front of the caps. This unique present will be sure to warm some hearts. Visit a tutorial here.

Friendship Bracelets

Friendship bracelets are a childhood favorite that even adults can appreciate. Buy some string from a local craft store and help your child make matching bracelets for themselves and their birth parents. This present is one that birth parents can take with them anywhere as a reminder of their child’s love.

Send a Hug

Sometimes, we aren’t able to be with our loved ones during the holidays. In this case, children have the opportunity to send “hugs.” This easy craft allows children to make hugs to send in the mail. This gift is perfect not only for the holidays, but also as a “just because” present as well. It’s never a bad idea to show someone how much you love them and wish you could be spending time with them. For a tutorial on this easy craft, click here.

Matching Holiday Ornaments

For many families, it is a tradition to let children pick out a new holiday ornament each year. When you take your child to pick out their new ornament, buy multiples of the same ornament and give the others to your child’s birth parents. This gift allows birth parents and children to have a special item that connects them each holiday season.


Holiday shopping for birth parents can be a difficult, but with these unique and heartfelt gifts, you can have fun while knowing you will make someone else so incredibly happy.  As Winnie the Pooh once said, “sometimes, the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”