Category Archives: Adoptees

From Adoptee to Adoptions From The Heart Founder: Maxine Chalker

Interview with Maxine Chalker: Executive Director and Founder of Adoptions From The Heart

We all have those causes near to our hearts – charities that we support on a yearly, monthly, or even weekly basis. Everyone has their stories of how the organization was started – in the basement of a home, after a meeting with a prominent political figure, the list is endless. For Maxine Chalker, the founder and Executive Director at Adoptions From The Heart, the cause was definitely close to her heart. As an adoptee herself, Maxine cultivated an organization that has flourished since 1985 in the realm of open adoption. She has taken her own personal background and experience, and channeled it into something extraordinary – Building beautiful families through adoption.

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What is your role in the company and how did it get started?

I am the CEO and Executive Director at Adoptions From The Heart. I am an adoptee myself, and started off working in a public agency. What inspired me in starting AFTH was my own search for my birth family. I was involved in a closed adoption, and I wanted more openness in the process. I started in a small office, as one of the only open adoption agencies in the area. From there, it only grew.

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What motivates you?

AFTH has been very successful at creating beautiful families. For over 30 years, I have watched us grow from a single office in Ardmore, PA to eight offices in the northeast. The most rewarding part of our work is hearing the stories – both from adoptive families and birth families.

Through Love

What was the most fulfilling moment that happened to you?

One of the most fulfilling moments was seeing the first open adoption placement at our agency. The adoptive parents and birth mother came into the office at the same time (each for a different reason), and the birth mother ended up choosing them in the end. It was very heartfelt.

What separates Adoptions From The Heart from everyone else?

Adoptions From The Heart prides itself on being open in our adoption process. We strive to emphasize the relationships in the adoption triad (adoptive parents, birth parents, and adoptee) throughout the child’s life. This is very important to us, as many adoptees will grow up not knowing their biological roots. We also have a strong connection to adoption – I was an adoptee myself. Lastly, we have a high presence on social media, which definitely sets us apart from the rest. We love to engage with our community.

Do you have any upcoming events in the next few months?

We have our 6th Annual Find Her Footing 5k on Sunday, April 15th at Delaware County Community College in Media, PA. This event raises funds for our Expecting and Birth Parent Support Fund, which helps birth parents who are struggling financially. We can provide support with anything from monthly rent to transportation costs. This is one of our funds at AFTH.


What do you love most about what you do?

Hearing all the success stories solidifies my love for this type of work. Adoption can be a bumpy road, but it certainly has its ups. It’s another way to build a beautiful family, and the number of letters and thank yous we get is overwhelming. People love sharing their stories.

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We are so grateful for our work here at AFTH. If you ever have any questions about adoption, the process, or any upcoming events, do not hesitate to reach out.



We were happy to participate in an interview and blog post with our friends at Fortified Roofing. To see the interview Maxine had with Fortified Roofing, follow the link here:


Adoptee Speaks Out About Her Adoption Story!

Q&A with Maddie O’Brien who we had the pleasure of speaking with about her journey through finding out she was adopted. Maddie is a nursing student at Desales University.

How long have you known you were adopted?

I have known for as long as I can remember. I don’t remember being told a certain day or at a certain age— it’s just something that I’ve always known.

Do you remember how you were told?

My mom used to read this book to my brother and I when we were little called How I Was Adopted. She also used to tell us bedtime stories repeatedly pertaining to our adoptions. My story always was that I came home through the PHL airport, and every single person in my family who met me there ALL got sick— fever, chills and profuse vomiting. My dad, who is a teacher, had a surprise baby shower for me the next day and there was a “beautiful cake that said Welcome Maggie” (my name is Maddie haha) and the sight of that cake made my dad throw up even more.

Maddie and her father.

Maddie and her mother.

Were you adopted as an infant?

I was adopted at six months old through Pearl Buck. I was born on March 26th and my Gotcha day is October 1st.


Do you have other siblings that were adopted?

I have an older brother who is from Korea and was also adopted at six months old through Pearl Buck. We are not blood related even though everyone swears we look alike. We are 18 months apart and we are best friends.

Maddie and older brother Jerry.

Have you met your birth mother or father?

I have not met my birth mother or father although I wouldn’t be opposed to it. I unfortunately had a closed adoption so it’s very hard to find your parents in that case. My friend, who was always so intrigued about my culture and my birth parents, would constantly do research about Korean adoptees and eventually found this group I could be a part of through Facebook called Korean Adoptees of America. This is a closed and private Facebook group where people can share their stories about their adoption and our culture. Through this group, you can be sent a DNA kit in hopes to find your birth parents in Korea. Supposedly there is a huge desire in South Korea where parents who gave their children up for adoption are yearning to find their birth children. Parents who are in that situation were given free DNA kits, as well as Korean American adoptees in hopes that they will be connected. I requested a DNA kit and it’s actually sitting on my desk right now. I am very apprehensive to take it. Although it would be cool to see if I could find my birth parents or any other siblings I may have, it’s not super important to me because I love my parents and brother here. Those people are my family and DNA is the least of what makes someone family. My friend and I have tentative plans to visit South Korea next summer.


What is your adopted family like?

They are amazing. They have given me a life I couldn’t have ever dreamt of. My mom and dad are both teachers and my brother is a business finance student at LaSalle University. My Irish Catholic parents have raised my brother and I to have great morals and have blessed us with an amazing house, education, amazing vacations and best of all, their endless love.

Mom, dad, Jerry and maddie

Any advice or words of wisdom you live by? comments

I read this quote one time that said, “if the world was blind, who would you impress”. That quote stuck with me ever since because something I am a huge believer in is good character. Also, it is crazy because I didn’t think that answering these questions would bring back so many emotions and thoughts I haven’t even thought of. I still have my bag that I came home from Korea with- it has two outfits, a bottle and a blanket. And I looked at my birth certificate and it said that I was 2.3 pounds when I was born which is so crazy.

Maddie and Jerry today.



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.

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


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.



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


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


“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


“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


“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