Category Archives: Adoptees

Talking With Your Kids About Adoption

Having that first talk about any subject matter with children is difficult. The “adoption talk” can seem daunting. However, it does not need to be this way. There are certain steps you can take in the adoption journey, especially when explaining it to children. We are here to alleviate some of that stress for you because we know it not an easy subject matter.

Do it Early and Do it Often

Being able to talk about your child’s adoption story early and often is important. By utilizing adoption terminology as early as when they are an infant, they can slowly become accustomed to the words as they grow older. By reverberating their adoption story from a young age, this can help them better understand where they came from.

It’s also important to anticipate – children ask a lot of questions. By being prepared for questions they may ask, you, as parents, can feel better equipped to answer them. If you are in a two-parent family, it’s also good to be consistent with your child’s adoption story. This prevents confusion and miscommunication. Coordination is key.

Keeping all of this in mind, it is also important to realize the developmental aspect of it. In other words, keep the talks “age-appropriate.” One of the most common questions kids start asking is about being in their “mommy’s tummy.” At that age (around three or four), kids are obviously still figuring out the world around them. By utilizing story-telling language to explain their journey to this world, it can aid in the child’s understanding.

It is also seen through developmental and behavioral psychology that repetition for a child is crucial. Certain aspects of life must be explained repeatedly to a child, and that’s okay. That’s normal. Explaining their adoption is no different in that way. It is a complex concept, and sometimes the information is emotionally laden for a child. Talk when they are ready or bring it up.

Be Honest and Let Them Express Their Feelings

Understanding adoption as a parent is hard. Understanding adoption as an adopted child is even harder. It’s important to be honest with them when you need to be. They have a right to know their story, but it’s important to realize that what you tell them when they are six years old is a lot different than when they are thirteen.

As parents, we want to make every boo-boo better, every bad day a good one, and every sad face a smile. Children are little people; they have bad days, sad days and everything in between. Help them express those feelings when beginning to tell them their adoption story. They may feel anger, sadness, betrayal, along with many other negative emotions. It’s always good to find outlets for those feelings – drawing is helpful, as well as writing. As they get older, an adoption journal may be beneficial.

If they ever feel a need to express those emotions, utilize it as a teaching moment. Ask them why they feel that way, and go from there. Give them an opportunity to sort through their thoughts. Of course, every child is different, and we learn from that.

Adoption can be tough to talk about with your child, but there are ways to alleviate that stress building up. By taking a few of these tips, you may find it easier to explain their adoption journey. We love our children, and ultimately want what’s best for them. We learn from them and feel what they feel. Remember, you’re all in this together. Family is family, no matter where or how it started.

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Family Films About Adoption That Teach You A Little Bit More

How does one portray adoption on the big screen? To do it with care and finesse is difficult, but attainable. There are movies that do not portray it in the best light. However, there are others that pinpoint major themes in an adopted child’s journey. Not only that, but they also accurately highlights the birth mother’s journey and adoptive family’s journey. These three movies, although possessing a comedic element, depict adoption in a unique, but relatable fashion.

Juno (2007)

Juno is a story about a high school girl (Ellen Page) who experiences an unplanned pregnancy with her crush (Michael Cera). Throughout the movie, Juno’s wit never fades as she’s faced with multiple decisions regarding her baby. We also see every step of her pregnancy. She chooses a family that seems like they fit the “American Dream” ideal pretty closely. While getting to know them, she learns that the adoptive father isn’t ready to have a baby, and thus, asks for a divorce from his wife (Jennifer Garner). But all ends well, as Juno realizes that as a single mother, the wife would do an excellent job raising her baby.

Elf (2003)

Although a bit more unrealistic, this story follows the life of “Buddy (Will Ferrell),” the estranged baby from New York that makes his way into Santa’s sack on Christmas Eve. Upon his return the North Pole, Santa realizes that an infant had crawled his way into the sack. They grow to love the child and raise him as their own. However, Buddy, like many adoptees, soon realizes that he is not like the others. After a discussion with “Papa Elf,” Buddy embarks on a journey to find his birth father in New York City. Although his reception is not initially a warm one, Walter (Buddy’s birth father) learns to love his elf son. In the end, Buddy maintains a healthy relationship with both his birth father and adoptive elf father.

The Blind Side (2009)

This beautiful story of adoption follows the life of Michael Oher, a present-day professional football player. Throughout the movie, we see the struggle of Michael and his birth mother. Many nights, he is left on the street without food or a place to sleep; that is, until his adoptive mother finds him. After staying a few days in their beautiful place, Michael feels out of place. He retreats to his birth mother, who only turns him away once more. Throughout the movie, the viewer develops a sense of empathy for Michael, who struggles to find his identity in this world. In the end, Michael is adopted by the loving birth mother (Sandra Bullock) and her family, and experiences a new take on life. He even develops a relationship with his birth mother so she can stay in his life.

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.

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.

Celebrities Adopt: Inspirational Quotes About Adoption

“Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.” – Oprah Winfrey

“I have a lot of respect for my birth mother. I know she must have had a lot of love for me to want to give what she felt was a better chance.” – Faith Hill

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“We look at adoption as a very sacred exchange. It was not done lightly on either side.” – Jamie Lee Curtis

“They’re as much my blood as I am theirs.” – Brad Pitt

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“However motherhood comes to you, it’s a miracle.” – Valerie Harper

“You don’t have to give birth to someone to have a family. We’re all family – an extended family.” – Sandra Bullock

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“I don’t think of them as adopted – they’re our children. Deb and I are believers in…I suppose you call it destiny. We feel things happen the way they are meant to. Obviously, biologically wasn’t the way we were meant to have children. Now as we go through life together, sure there are challenges, but everyone’s in the right place with the right people.” – Hugh Jackman

Adoption and Back to School

Back to school means new friends, fun projects, and of course lots of learning. Despite the excitement of this time of year, it can also be a nerve racking one for adoptees and their parents. If your child is old enough to understand the concept of adoption and its role in their life, you might start to wonder if and how to go about discussing adoption with their teachers and classmates.

“Will my child be made fun of?”

“What if there is a family tree project in history class?”

“Will their teachers understand how to be inclusive to all types of families?”

“How will my child react if his or her friends and teachers don’t seem accepting or understanding of adoption?”

These are all questions you may be asking yourself. However, there are many great resources and ideas for you and your child to utilize. After all, you want to make sure they are as comfortable as possible so they can learn as effectively as possible.

Prepare your child

Talking with your child is the first step you should take in preparing them for back to school. Answer any questions they may have themselves and then discuss possible questions others may ask them. The answers you arm your child with depend on what makes sense for your family, but below are some questions you can expect other kids will ask…

  • “Who are your real parents?”
  • “Why did your real parents give you away?”
  • “Where did you come from?”
  • “Why is your skin a different color that your mom’s?”
  • “Do the parents you have now love you like my mom and dad love me?”

These questions can be tough to answer even with positive adoption language. With unknowing children, it can be even worse. Prepare your child for what they may hear and how they can answer when they want, in a way they are comfortable answering.

Connect with their teacher

The first thing you can ask your child’s teacher for is a curriculum and/or summaries of lesson plans. Let the teacher know your family’s situation and go over the planned classwork with them. If and when you see potentially exclusive lessons to “traditional” families, offer up some ideas to welcome everyone, including your little one.

Some projects you may see in the classroom to discuss with your child’s teacher are…

  • Family tree
  • Timeline projects
  • English or Art biography assignments that involve
    • Illustrating your family
    • Writing a story about your family
    • Etc.

Click here to find more adoption friendly versions of these long held school projects.

You may also consider speaking with your social worker or attorney on educational materials you can provide to your child’s teachers and administrative staff.

Get involved in the classroom

Offer your personal experience and expertise and get involved in the classroom. Many teachers will have parents come in as a guest for story time. Offer your time and read an adoption related story. Check out some great ones here. Contribute to your child’s career day by asking your social worker or attorney to come in and talk about adoption and what they do to build beautiful families like your own!

Talk with other parents

Take time to introduce yourself to other parents in your child’s class. If and when you feel comfortable telling them your experience with adoption, be willing to tell them more about adoption in general and answer questions they may have. If the parents know and understand about adoption, it will glean a positive influence on their children.

When you’ve found other parents who are understanding to your family dynamic, try setting up play dates. Your child can make a new friend and you can have the peace of mind knowing the family will make sure both children are as comfortable as possible!

Paint a picture for other parents. They may be step parents, single parents, an interracial couple, have multiple religions in their family, or other non-traditional dynamics. Explain that adoption is just like their family. It’s “non-traditional,” but it’s just another way to build a wonderful family in a loving and happy home.

Celebrate adoption!

Schools are often looking for volunteer and community service opportunities for students, their families, and faculty. Suggest some local events and fundraisers through adoption agencies like the Adoptions From The Heart Paper Heart Project, or Find Her Footing 5K , which includes a kids dash!

You may also want to talk to your child’s teacher about celebrating your little one’s adoption day at school, similar to a birthday. Offer to come in and explain to the class what an adoption day is and bring in a special treat.

Understanding and celebrating others begins with you and your child. Encourage your child to be welcoming to all of their classmates and open to all different types of people, just as they hope their classmates will accept them.

 

No matter what steps you may take to help your child with back to school, the most important aspect is their ability to learn and grow. Make sure to check in with your little one and ask about their day and what they learned. School can be tough for any child. Parenting a child having school difficulties isn’t easy either. Reach out to your agency and social worker for more resources and specific thoughts on how to help your child thrive in school.

Adopting a Child with Special Needs: What Does It Mean and Why it Could Be the Right Choice For You

There are so many children with special needs waiting to be adopted into loving families. For some adoption agencies, children with special needs are often thought to be more difficult to place than other children, but for other agencies all it takes is finding a family that is equipped with the resources to care for and the room in their hearts to love a special needs child.

Adopting A child With final
Adoption.com explained some of the legislation surrounding this area of adoption. The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-89) has focused more attention on finding homes for children with special needs and making sure they receive the post adoption services they need. Congress enacted the law to ensure that children in foster care, who cannot be reunited with their birth parents, are freed for adoption and placed with permanent families as quickly as possible. We will continue to outline some of the important points to know if you are considering a special needs adoption.

What Does Special Needs Mean?

Love Without Boundaries: Adopt Special Needs outlined different types of special needs that infants and children may have. It is highly recommended to speak with an experienced and trusted physician for more in-depth analysis of each condition. Here is the list they compiled:

  • Alcohol and drug exposure: drug exposure and fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Blood conditions: hemophilia, lead poisoning, and thalassemia
  • Chromosome disorders: down syndrome and turner syndrome
  • Congenital heart defects: atrial septal defect, complete transposition of the great arteries, double outlet right ventricle, endocardial cushion defect, patent foramen ovale, pulmonary atresia, and tetralogy of fallot
  • Craniofacial conditions: cleft lip and palate, hemifacial microsomia, and microtia
  • Development needs: autism spectrum disorder, institutional autism
  • Digestive system conditions: imperforate anus, gastroschisis, megacolon, and pyloric stenosis
  • Infectious diseases: congenital syphilis, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV, meningitis, polio, and tuberculosis
  • Metabolic disorders: diabetes, failure to thrive, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and phenylketonuria
  • Neurological conditions: apraxia of speech, arachnoid cyst, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, hydrocephalus, and spina bifida
  • Orthopedic conditions: amniotic band syndrome, arthrogryposis, brachial plexus injury, club feet, dwarfism, fibular/tibular hemimelia, funnel chest/pigeon breast, hip dysplasia, osteogenesis imperfecta, radial club hand, rickets, syndactyly, and torticollis
  • Sensory conditions: blindness/visual impairment, cataracts, deafness, glaucoma, microphthalmia, nystagmus, ptosis, sensory processing disorder, and strabismus
  • Skin conditions: albinism, burns, congenital blue nevus, congenital nevus birthmark, eczema, ichthyosis, and scabies
  • Urogential conditions: ambiguous genitalia, anorchism, concealed penis, cryptorchidism, hypospadias, and polycystic kidney disease
  • Vascular conditions: hemangioma and lymphedema

It is important to not only discuss with a medical professional, but to consider all options as a family. There may be certain conditions you feel capable of caring for, but others you don’t. The adoption process whether you are open to special needs or not is all about doing what fits best and feels right for you and your family.

Understanding a Child with Special Needs

Sometimes parents, whose children have special needs, the path to understanding can begin before the child is even born. Adoption.com explains that chromosomal differences such as Down Syndrome can be detected prenatally, and other developmental disabilities can be predicted with varying rates of accuracy based on the parents’ genetic history and previous children. However, that is not always the case. Parents might discover their child has some special needs once they are a few years old or once they start going to school. If you think your child might have some special needs, but don’t really know where to start or how to determine exactly what they may be, there are some early steps to take.

  1. Evaluate your child’s medical history/academic history if that is available to you. If there are medical clues that indicate a particular special need you might not have noticed before. Review medical records if you have them or reach out to your social worker or child’s birth family to see if you can get a more detailed copy of records.
  2. Establish the special need and to what degree your child’s needs are. As described above, special needs come in many shapes and sizes. Whether your child has physical impairments that are easier to spot, or cognitive disabilities that are harder to pin point, talking to a child psychologist or any specialist might help you to understand what obstacles your child might have in the future and what you can do to help prepare your child to overcome them.
  3. Support you child and don’t be afraid to let other’s help you. No one wants to feel different than their peers and children can become very upset at the thought of being different. Being a support system for them and having a supportive friend group is beneficial to every child, but especially a child with special needs. Seeking professional or emotional support as a parent is also important.

Knowledge is power and by actively working to understand your child’s special need, you will be able to provide the best care possible.

Real Adoptive Parents and Their Experiences with Special Needs Children

In an Adoption.com article, adoptive mother Joy Lundberg expresses what it was like to have adopted a child with special needs. “We learned so much about what can be done to help children with disabilities. Most of all we’ve learned to focus on her abilities instead. We discovered that our love for her is her greatest asset, and ours. She is indeed a special child. And some days she still drives me crazy. But then I hug my husband and we remember to laugh at the humorous moments. When they’re not staring us in the face, we look for them, and we find them.”

Other Resources:

http://www.lovewithoutboundaries.com/adoption/realistic-expectations/
http://phdinspecialeducation.com/special-needs-parenting-handbook/
http://www.specialeducationguide.com/