Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Adoption Changes Everything

As a family building choice, adoption changes everything, now and forever. Sometimes the change is obvious because the children wear adoption on their faces. These "visible families" often find themselves on the receiving end of intrusive---even outrageous---questions from perfect strangers; at least the topic is on the table from the start and they develop some coping strategies for rudeness.

Not always so when parents build their families to achieve "invisibility." These families "pass" at first blush, and it can be tempting for parents to simply sidestep the issue of adoption. A version of don't ask, don't tell.
While there are still adults who learn of their adoption only when their parents are deceased and they are going through old papers, it's difficult for me to believe that there are youngsters with no preparation for understanding how they came to be part of their families.

Pearle Vision has created a beautiful video ad for Mother's Day (click here)
. In it, a PV exec and adoptive mother says, “I have seen tears in the eyes of an abandoned child in China. And even though I knew I was taking her to a better place, all she knew was that she was being taken away. I have seen my daughters, born on opposite sides of the earth, become true sisters. But most of all, I have seen that being a mother is not in the blood but of the heart."

Please take a minute to follow the link above, but don't forget to come back! When you do, let me know what YOU think in the comments section below.

Don’t count the days---make the days count.


Stories at a Gathering

TOP: Anna Johnson, Barb Tremitiere, Cindy Peck, Arlene Stabile, Filis Casey, MIDDLE: Nancy Fox, Dawn Degenhart, BOTTOM: Lynne Jacobs, Joan McNamara, Andrea Stawitcke, Sherry Smith

I recently had a unique opportunity to spend sev­eral days with a group of women who, collective­ly, totaled more than 570 years of adoption experience. Cindy Peck, agency founder, member or various boards and publisher of Roots and Wings Magazine, among others, convened a group of adoption pro­fessionals for, two purposes—capturing the histo­ry of international adoption from the mid 50s to the present, and looking forward to where inter­national adoption is heading as we move into a post-Hague world. I initially felt quite intimidat­ed at this gathering which included women I have known (some only by reputation) and respected for many years: Barb Tremetiere, Joan McNamara, Dawn Degenhardt, Nancy Fox, and Filis Casey, among others. But as we spent the days sharing our experiences, it became very clear to me why this group had come together.

Our experiences shared the common thread of working and advocating for the interests of chil­dren around the globe—children who had no options for a better life unless they became part of a family in a country far from their birth. Each woman added her unique perspective on how adoption has changed over the years, in terms of countries, governmental regulations, attitudes of adoptive parents and even the process itself. I learned so much simply sitting among this dynamic group and soaking up their recollections, stories, insights, convictions and reflections on how international adoption has transformed over the last decades. I felt privileged to be able to share my own memories (more recent, but still equally valid) of the coun­tries I have visited, the children I have seen, the many wonderful individuals I have met who have dedicated their lives to the service of orphaned and abandoned children. There is a possibility that this oral history of sorts may find its way into a documentary film, that that is definitely in the future.

The second half of the meeting was more sobering as we looked forward into a future of increasing regulations and more challenges to adoption in the countries that allow it. The collective wisdom seemed to be that, in order to survive, agencies are going to have to become more flexible, more open to ways of operating not considered in the past (merging, collaborating, branching into related fields, etc.) more willing to think outside the box and respond to shifting paradigms. I left our gathering with enormous admiration for these spectacular women who inspire me, but also left with a renewed sense of purpose. I feel strongly that adoption is going through a transitional phase and that we must continue to work for the benefit of those who have no voice, no one to advocate for them and those who rely on our sense of honor and commitment to do our very best for them.

Written by Gathering participant Andrea Stawitcki, Ex. Dir. of Bay Area Adoption Services in San Francisco, for her agency newsletter.