Foster Parents and Trauma

I just read a post from a hopeful adoptive parent who is kin to a child and would like to adopt them out of foster care – “I just found a Go Fund Me for the foster moms fighting us for custody of my cousin. Is there a point where it really is better for my cousin to stay where he’s at ? They keep arguing about the trauma the move will cause. He just turned a year old recently. They make me feel like a monster for trying to step up and keep him connected to his biological family and that I’ll cause him significant trauma.”

And there was this reply from someone who was in foster care during their youth – Trauma lol. Let that child be a child they don’t want – they could care less about trauma. I was in 24 foster homes. Foster parents don’t pull the trauma card or bonding card with kids they don’t want.

Right now they’re lying and hoping to drag the case out. The truth is they’re causing trauma. I’m sorry to say this but being ripped away from your foster family can’t be compared to being ripped away from your biological family. They want to compare it but they can’t. It’s more painful to be ripped away from your biological family than a foster family. A foster family, you don’t lose anything. Losing your biological family causes life long issues. They want to sound important but they’re not.

And I speak as someone who had only one good foster home (out of 24). Explain how adoption is legal after kids spend years in foster care or with their caregiver, only to be ripped away. My advice is fight until the end. It’s better to be fought for. One day the child will know the truth.

And a foster parent writes – If they were truly concerned about the move causing more trauma they would be working with you on visits and a transition plan. This isn’t about the baby it’s about them. We’ve transitioned a little one before and by the time we made the final move he was just as bonded to his aunt as he was to us. Transitions can happen in a way that is fun and easy for the little one – IF everyone works together. I am so sorry you are going through this. Keep fighting.

Kid’s Count

Someone noted – Foster Care causes 61% of All Child Abuse in America. So I went looking and found this, at The Annie E Casey Foundation – LINK>Child Welfare and Foster Care Statistics. KIDS COUNT is a robust source of the best avail­able data on child well-being in the nation. This includes state-by-state data on child abuse and neglect and chil­dren liv­ing in out-of-home care from the Nation­al Child Abuse and Neglect Data Sys­tem, the fed­er­al Adop­tion and Fos­ter Care Analy­sis and Report­ing Sys­tem, and the Nation­al Youth in Tran­si­tion Data­base. These data help our Foun­da­tion and lead­ers across the coun­try to mon­i­tor trends, assess the child wel­fare sys­tem, and advance poli­cies and prac­tices to improve out­comes for chil­dren, youth and fam­i­lies — par­tic­u­lar­ly for children of color who are overrepresented in the system and more like­ly to expe­ri­ence neg­a­tive outcomes.

KIDS COUNT offers more than 60 mea­sures of child wel­fare, encom­pass­ing how many chil­dren and youth are in the sys­tem, the rates at which they enter it, their demo­graph­ic char­ac­ter­is­tics (includ­ing race and eth­nic­i­ty when avail­able) and their expe­ri­ences in fos­ter care, exit­ing care, being adopt­ed when applic­a­ble, aging out of the sys­tem and more. In addi­tion to child wel­fare sta­tis­tics at the nation­al and state lev­els, KIDS COUNT also pro­vides data by ter­ri­to­ry, when pos­si­ble. Pol­i­cy­mak­ers, child wel­fare agen­cies and oth­ers have used these data for decades to under­stand how well the sys­tem is meet­ing the needs of vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren, youth and fam­i­lies, and how it can be strength­ened so that all abused and neglect­ed chil­dren can heal and grow up with safe, sta­ble families.

Chil­dren and youth who expe­ri­ence trau­ma, includ­ing abuse or neglect, are at increased risk for long-term emo­tion­al, behav­ioral and phys­i­cal health prob­lems, among oth­er chal­lenges. The data measures high-risk behav­ior, such as juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem involve­ment and sub­stance abuse, dif­fi­cul­ties with men­tal health, phys­i­cal health and aca­d­e­m­ic per­for­mance. The con­se­quences of child mal­treat­ment can be mit­i­gat­ed with equi­table access to trau­ma-informed ser­vices and nur­tur­ing, last­ing fam­i­ly rela­tion­ships and support.

Fos­ter care is meant to pro­vide safe, tem­po­rary liv­ing arrange­ments and sup­port ser­vices for chil­dren who have been removed from their fam­i­lies due to mal­treat­ment, lack of safe­ty or inad­e­quate care. The rate of children entering foster care has hov­ered at 3 or 4 per 1,000 for two decades. Kids ages 1 to 5 make up the largest share (29% in 2021) of chil­dren enter­ing care. Nation­al data also show that Black and Amer­i­can Indi­an and Alas­ka Native chil­dren con­tin­ue to be over­rep­re­sent­ed among those enter­ing fos­ter care. The rea­sons for this are com­plex, and efforts to improve racial equi­ty in child wel­fare have been under­way for many years.

In encour­ag­ing news, placements with relatives increased from 25% to 35% dur­ing 2000–2021, while place­ments in group homes or oth­er facil­i­ties were cut in half, from 18% to 9%. Few­er chil­dren are placed in pre-adop­tive homes (4% in 2021) or have tri­al home vis­its (5%), and some old­er youth live inde­pen­dent­ly with super­vi­sion (2%). Over a third of fos­ter chil­dren and youth expe­ri­ence more than two place­ments each year, mean­ing their liv­ing arrange­ments change at least three times a year.  Child wel­fare agen­cies are work­ing to min­i­mize these moves, as they are dis­rup­tive, stress­ful and often trau­ma­tiz­ing. Sta­ble rela­tion­ships and home envi­ron­ments are crit­i­cal for healthy child and youth development.

Of the more than 54,000 kids adopt­ed out of the child wel­fare sys­tem in 2021, over half were young kids ages 1 to 5, con­sis­tent with pre­vi­ous years. Most of these adop­tions are by the fos­ter par­ents (either rel­a­tives or non-rel­a­tives), who cared for the chil­dren while in fos­ter care. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the medi­an amount of time in fos­ter care has increased over the last decade — from 13.2 months in 2011 to 17.5 months in 2021, based on chil­dren who exit­ed care in each year. How­ev­er, the per­cent­age of kids who spent 5+ years in care declined slight­ly from 7% to 5% in the same time peri­od. Among chil­dren who exit­ed fos­ter care in 2021, about a third (35%) were there less than a year, while near­ly half (48%) spent 1 to 3 years in care and 12% stayed in fos­ter care 3+ years.

More than 19,000 youth left fos­ter care in 2021 with­out reunit­ing with their par­ents or hav­ing anoth­er per­ma­nent fam­i­ly home. Thankfully, this fig­ure has declined since peak­ing at near­ly 30,000 in 2008. The tran­si­tion to adult­hood is a sig­nif­i­cant and chal­leng­ing devel­op­men­tal phase of life for all young peo­ple, but youth aging out of fos­ter care on their own must face this with­out the sup­port of a sta­ble, lov­ing fam­i­ly. Many also lose access to ser­vices and sup­ports that were offered to them through the fos­ter care sys­tem. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, these youth and young adults are more like­ly to expe­ri­ence behav­ioral, men­tal and phys­i­cal health issues, hous­ing prob­lems and home­less­ness, employ­ment and aca­d­e­m­ic dif­fi­cul­ties, ear­ly par­ent­hood, incar­cer­a­tion and oth­er poten­tial­ly life­long adver­si­ties. In line with the racial inequities not­ed ear­li­er, youth of col­or are more like­ly to expe­ri­ence these chal­lenges. The tra­jec­to­ries of these young peo­ple are not unavoidable. They can be pos­i­tive­ly influ­enced by poli­cies and prac­tices that ensure these vul­ner­a­ble youths receive cul­­tur­al­­ly-respon­­sive, trau­­ma-informed tran­si­tion ser­vices and sup­port to nav­i­gate the steps to adult­hood, achieve sta­bil­i­ty and reach their full potential.

The Battle Unwed Fathers Face

It’s not unusual for me to be short on time – especially when I have to go out and do the weekly grocery shopping. However, this is an important story. I am aware of other “unwed” fathers who have fought successfully to retrieve their children from adoptive parents. It is a lengthy battle and expensive. I don’t know if racial bias in our justice system is a factor in this case but I wouldn’t be at all surprised, if it was.

You an read the complete story at this LINK>Tampa father fights for daughter after she was given up for adoption without his permission. Some excerpts and details. His daughter, the baby he loved from the day she was born, is now five years old. “I’m her father. Her real father. I’m not trying to adopt her. I’m her father,” Ulysess Carwise said.

Carwise is fighting for his daughter after an adoption agency took her two days after she was born without his knowledge or consent. His case reveals the battle unwed fathers can face over parental rights, who determines what’s best for a child, and the Florida laws that allow this to happen.

The adoption agency, Bethany Christian Services, and prospective adoptive parents referred to only as Katrina and William Doe in court records, took Carwise to court in Orange County to terminate his parental rights, arguing he had abandoned his daughter because he did not financially support her while she was not in his custody. Carwise’s rights were not terminated. But his daughter stayed with Katrina and Willian while they filed an appeal. As months turned into years, his little girl has grown more attached to the only family and home she has known. “Now she thinks they are her parents,” Carwise said of the prospective adoptive parents.

The prospective adoptive parents then filed a new lawsuit in Hillsborough County this year, another petition to terminate his parental rights. “It’s just getting difficult. Ok? It’s getting real hard,” Carwise said, overwhelmed with emotion. “That’s the first time it hit me hard. I’ve been like fighting these people, fighting these people.” One of his younger sisters, Rosalyn Green, has stood beside her brother as he fights for his daughter. “It’s a huge eye-opener,” she said. “That the law would allow these people to literally, legally, take someone else’s child.” Carwise plans to live in Green’s house when he gets custody of his daughter. “He has the support that he needs to take care of this child,” Green said. That includes the support of his 26-year-old daughter, who he raised as a single father.

More about this story at the link.

Field Notes from an Adoptee

This guy, Brad Ewell, now has a monthly column at lavenderluz LINK>Field Notes from an Adoptee. He also has that “mini-series” at this LINK>Empowered To Connect Podcast. There is read, “A Texas Police Officer minding his own business, Brad got a Facebook message at age 48 that completely changed his life. As he pulled the threads of his own life story, even he couldn’t have predicted the twists and turns that emerged.”

From Lori Holden’s website – Lavender Luz – Introducing Field Notes with Brad Ewell. He is a Late Discovery Adoptee. He didn’t learn he was adopted until 2019 at the age of 48. He writes – “In the four years since my discovery, I’ve reunited with much of my birth family, lost my adoptive father, hugged my biological father as he walked out of prison, lost members of my birth family, and met a lot of adoptees. I’ve also taken a hard look at adoption and how growing up adopted, and with my true story unacknowledged, may have impacted the man I grew up to be.”

It is his desire, to expand the connections he has made since then, to reach further out of the adoptee echo chamber because he doesn’t believe growth and change occur when we only talk to people who are similarly situated to us. His aim is to speak openly and honestly about adoption’s good parts as well as it’s challenging parts. He hopes to improve adoption for those we love and everyone else involved.

He invites you to email him at mpebrad@gmail.com or connect with him on Instagram: @a_late_discovery.

DNA Matters

DNA Matters. If it didn’t non-adopted people wouldn’t do genealogy. We can’t pretend that it isn’t important. My adoptee mom had to quit working on a family tree at Ancestry based on the adoptive families of my two parents (both adoptees) because she couldn’t get over the knowledge that it wasn’t “real”. I am still committed to eventually getting the actual family trees for each of my parents into Ancestry and maybe on 23 and Me as well. I just haven’t found the time.

Today, in my all things adoption group I read – “An adoptive parent was asked why does she want biological children when she has two adopted kids. Her answer ? She wants a child that has a piece of her and her husband without any outside involvement. So, DNA DOES MATTER. It matters to all of us but many try to erase the DNA of adoptees and foster children. As if their DNA doesn’t matter and they should be grateful for it.”

My youngest son was sad when he realized that he doesn’t have any of my DNA. My donor conceived sons have contact with their donor at 23 and Me, if they wish to pursue contact. They have met her on several occasions but she lives far away and we don’t make long trips of several weeks duration out west currently. Yet, I knew DNA did matter and getting their DNA tested (both boys and their father) gave us an opportunity to explain why they were conceived the way they were.

Because they gestated in my womb and have been with me most of their lives pretty much 24/7, there is a strong bond between us. I also breastfed each of them for just over a year. My husband puts slide shows of our photos of our boys on his computer. I get lost in watching and remembering what it was like to have babies in my life again after so many years. My husband and I were married for 10 years before we started trying to conceive. I had my biological, genetic daughter when I was 19 and she has given me two grandchildren. My sons add a richness to our lives (myself and my husband) that I do cherish. I love it when they interact with me from a love that we have developed over decades. Even so, I know that DNA matters.

Our DNA can also tell us about the much more recent past. If we concentrate on the most recent bits of our DNA family trees, we can learn about the history of our modern human ancestors—when, where, and with whom ordinary people lived or moved about. I learned a lot about my own origins from Ancestry and being able to track a lot of details about my parents’ relatives. If you are not an identical twin, your DNA is unique. This means that no one else in the world has the same DNA sequence as you. Because your DNA is unique, your physical appearance, or phenotype, is also unique. 

Your genes play an important role in your health, but so do your behaviors and environment, such as what you eat and how physically active you are. Epigenetics is the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. Unlike genetic changes, epigenetic changes are reversible and do not change your DNA sequence, but they can change how your body reads a DNA sequence. Your epigenetics change as you age, both as part of normal development and aging and in response to your behaviors and environment.

A Present Danger

I’ve written about this before reading this book, especially for the role that Evangelical Christianity played in the election of that former guy (the ex 45th President). There is a very strong converting the heathen masses tendency in this religious persuasion. The parallels in Octavia Butler’s prescient novel are deeply unsettling. Modern day “Crusaders” become cruel vigilantes in Christian America. They take the children of those they deem in need of re-education and place them for adoption into good Christian American homes.

The protagonist of her novel, Lauren Oya Olamina, has her infant daughter taken from her. The home that Larkin is placed in is not a happy one, echoing what so many adoptees say about their own experiences. The adoptive mother is cold and not nurturing. The adoptive father has wandering hands over the young girl’s body. Her birth mother searches for many, many years to uncover what became of her daughter. A huge upset occurs when she discovers her brother Marc knew where Larkin was all along and that as a whole-hearted believer and even minister for Christian American churches, he lies to the child (even though her mother had asked for his assistance in locating her daughter) and tells her that her mother died.

I found this WordPress review by LINK>Alive and Narrating. Like the blogger, ” I feel incredibly fortunate that I chose to read Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents to “officially” delve into Octavia Butler’s oeuvre.” I am almost finished with “the Talents” and have read “the Sower”.

The reviewer writes accurately that “Parable of the Talents is also the story of Lauren’s daughter, Larkin, renamed Ashe Vere after she was snatched from Acorn and her parents, the first in a series of crimes committed in a prolonged ordeal of violence, degradation, and suffering enacted by religious militants, members of The Church of Christian America.”

Her review continues – The United States, tired of the apocalyptic chaos the country has experienced during the past decade, has voted into power the fanatical and fascistic president (*)Donald Trump Ted Cruz Andrew Steele Jarret. (At one point he actually says as part of his campaigning that he will “make America great again. *SHUDDER*). Jarret is the founder of the powerful, right-wing Church of Christian America. He preaches a return to godliness, in the form of persecuting, prosecuting, and “saving” any American who refuses to lead a good Christian life. And that includes stamping out all “cults” who go against the bible’s teachings and allow women to speak and hold positions unacceptable for their gender. (*) blogger’s note – I would add Gov Ron DeSantis to this worrying mix of bad characters.

An armed group of Christian America militants invade and destroy Acorn, turn the place into a “re-education” camp, and enslave all the adults with electric collars they use to administer excruciating punishment. All the children are stolen and sent for “re-education” elsewhere to be fostered and adopted by Christian American families. Larkin Olamina—renamed Ashe Vere Alexander—grows up in one of these Christian American homes, unloved and abused by her adoptive parents, never knowing who her biological parents are. Only as an adult does she learn that her mother is none other than Lauren Olamina, founder and leader of the now-powerful and widespread religion Earthseed.

Parable of the Talents is a harrowing and frightening yet soberingly realistic story of a future United States where the separation between Church and State no longer exists, where in the absence of law enforcement on behalf of the government or even the police, the Church of Christian America steps into the void and enforces its own violent set of edicts. It’s the story of religion as a social force, used in order to uplift or to subjugate, and the ways in which it unites people out of fear and desperation, and also out of the need to believe in something more than just this universe, or simply to be more than who or what we already are.

It’s also an intimate, personal story of a mother and daughter, each of whom spend their lives needing each other and not getting the person they wanted. The true story of many adoptees and their original biological/genetic mothers who lost them to adoption, often with the coercion of their religious leaders. It’s a story of guilt, regret, bitterness, and deep, heartache pain of not having each other. Humanity needed Lauren’s Earthseed philosophy, needed to embrace change, needed something to reach for and aspire to. In adopting Ashe as his own, rather than give her back to Lauren, Marc imposes his own power over what he thinks the world should like and what his own family should look like, all from his position of power as a minister of the Church of Christian America.

The entire thing is a hopelessly and painfully knotted set of familial relationships as seen through the lenses of religion, power, morality, and destiny. These books are about people, and the humanity of people, which includes both the admirable and the detestable and all the variations in-between. Like the blogger, I feel lucky and blessed to have read these books, to have read them now, and that they exist in the universe for people to read and be inspired by. 

What is also amazing to me is that Octavia Butler wrote this “current” story in 1998, which goes forward for over a decade or more beyond our current time. Octavia Butler identified in a 1999 interview the line between duty and selfishness, between caring for and saving the world and caring for and saving one’s own family. It is not a clear dividing line for most of us.

A Missing Mom

Tina Turner with sons

Tina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26 1939. Her parents, Floyd Richard and Zelma Priscilla Bullock, were sharecroppers. She was raised in Nutbush, Tennessee, where she recalled picking cotton with her family as a child. She sang in the tiny town’s church choir. When Anna Mae was 11, her mother Zelma left her abusive husband (Tina’s father, Richard) and moved to St Louis. When her father Richard remarried, he left Anna Mae in the care of her grandmother. True this was a kinship guardian kind of situation and not all that uncommon then – or today. It still left wounds of abandonment. blogger’ note – I did much the same, leaving my 3 year old daughter with her paternal grandmother, when I took a leap of faith to try and earn enough money to support the two of us (since there was no child support forthcoming).

Tina became pregnant during her senior year of high school. She moved in with the father, saxophonist Raymond Hill, who was living with Ike Turner as part of his Kings of Rhythm band. She welcomed her first child, Craig, in August 1958, though the couple had already broken up before he was born. Tina Turner lived as a single mother until she began her relationship with Ike. Tina then helped raise his two sons from his previous marriage to Lorraine Taylor – Ike Turner Jr and Michael Turner. Tina and Ike Turner had one biological child together, Ronnie, who was born in 1960. Ike adopted Craig and Tina adopted Ike Jr and Michael. Tina adopted Buddhism and feels the practice of chanting has had a positive effect on her life.

Tina suffered the deaths of both her biological sons during her lifetime. In 2018, Craig died by suicide at the age of 55. He had been working as a real estate agent and had struggled with his mental health. Tina is known to have said that he was always an “emotional child.” She described his death as her “saddest moment as a mother”. She scattered his ashes off the coast of California. Ronnie Turner was born two years before Tina and Ike married in 1962. Ronnie had dabbled in acting, including with his mother in a biopic movie based on his mother’s life titled What’s Love Got To Do With It. His father, Ike Turner died in 2007 at the age of 76. Ronnie spoke at his father’s funeral. It was shortly after that, when his own health battle began leading to his death in 2022 from the complications of colon cancer.

Ike Turner Jr has spoken about the estrangement he and his brother experienced when their mother moved to Europe. She was the “only mother he knew” and he felt that she had abandoned him, saying “I haven’t talked to my mother since God knows when – probably around 2000. I don’t think any of my brothers have talked to her in a long time either.”

Tina has said – “I had a terrible life. I just kept going. You just keep going, and you hope that something will come.”

Wondering and Asking Questions

Liann Ross

Today’s blog comes courtesy of LINK>Right To Know – who believe that “It is a fundamental human right to know your genetic identity.” I totally agree and that is what drove me to discover my own adoptee parents’ (both were adopted) origins.

She writes – “In 1998, my sister let it slip out that my parents were divorced for 3 years before I was born, thinking I already knew.  I only started wondering and asking questions like…what were the circumstances of my conception ?” I remember when I was in middle school, I discovered that I had been conceived out-of-wedlock by counting the months between when my parents married and when I was born – 7, not 9.

She writes that in 2005, her Dad passed away. She says that was when she started wondering whether or not he was her biological father. Her mom was in the early stages of dementia due to Multiple Sclerosis. Her sister asked the question for her –  “Is it possible that Dad is not Liann’s biological father”?  Her mom immediately said, “I know he’s not”.

Liann does feel that she was lucky to be able to have a conversation with her mom and that her mom was even able to give her some answers. She  was a product of an affair with a married Jewish man. So much like my own dad, who’s mother had an affair with a married man much older than her.

In 2017, she did the 23 and Me test. So much of what I know about my own origins is thanks to inexpensive commercial DNA testing. 23 and Me brought me much of what I now know about my dad’s mother through my own genetic cousins. In 2018, she did Ancestry’s DNA. I have also done both and really one should do both as what they can get from each is different. She discovered a half-brother but was asked to keep what she now knew about her genetic father a secret as he was still married and the couple had worked through years of his infidelities.

The problem for Liann was that the whole goal of her own journey was to no longer be “the secret”.  So she did personal work on her own self-esteem so that she could get to a place in her own heart where she would be able to handle rejection, if that came her way again.  She needed to be strong enough in who she knew herself to be, that she would know deeply that whatever her genetic relatives response to her was, it was not about her, who and how she is. 

In September 2021, she sent her half-sister (who she had been asked to keep the secret from by her half-brother) a Facebook message explaining who she was, as delicately as possible given the circumstances of her own existence. Her half-sister did respond, though understandably shocked by the revelation and started asking questions. She notes that – while it was a very sensitive situation, the communication had a very different vibe than with the half-brother.

She was in therapy but her therapist ended up NOT being the right one for her. She says there is no way to understand and it is difficult trying to work through the depth of trauma this knowledge causes. She spent many years, sorting through memories and connecting the dots for her own self.  She is exploring alternative modalities of healing (including inner child work/shadow work and ancestral trauma), support groups for those who experience a non-paternity event, learning self-love and connecting more deeply to her authentic self. 

She admits – Finding out the man who raised me is not my biological father caused my foundation to crumble from underneath me.  I had to put the puzzle pieces of my foundation back together without having the picture of what it should look like. She ends on this positive note – If there is one thing I realized through this journey, is how much of a hero my Dad actually was in my life.  He raised me without question, and I know deep down he knew.  That’s the kind of man he was.  I feel him with me all the time and I see his name everywhere.  I feel the connection we have now is even stronger than I could have imagined.

Like A Wrecking Ball Hitting Identity

Today’s story is thanks to the Santa Fe Reporter – LINK>Junkyard Girl. Carlyn Montes De Oca lived for 57 years before she found out she’d been adopted. An investigation into her own past to unravel the clues—included interviews with siblings and cousins (all of whom seemed to know more about her than she knew about herself), old photographs and the delusive evidence of memory. 

She’d spent her life believing she belonged to a family of six—her parents were Mexican immigrants, and her sister and brothers were first-generation American citizens—who lived in Carpenteria, California. Still, though she always believed she was tied to the family by blood, she had the sense something was missing. Something about her was different, and it kept her at a distance. When a DNA test revealed she shared scant genetic material with her presumptive family, her sister decided to break the promise she’d made to her parents to keep Montes De Oca’s adoption a secret.

Carlyn explains – “For two years I pretty much dealt with this topic by myself. I didn’t realize that there are a lot of other people who have gone through a similar situation—taking a DNA test for fun and suddenly discovering, ‘Holy cow, I’m adopted. I have a sister, I have a brother. This isn’t my parent.’”

Though once it was common to keep adoptions a secret, today only 3% of adopted children in the US aren’t told they’re adopted. Carlyn decided, when she learned she was adopted, that she faced a choice: “The tethers that bound me to my family, the family I grew up with, in some ways were cut. There was a sadness with that, a loss—but also a freedom. It allowed me to stand on my own and to choose what family means to me.”

I know that feeling. Even though my parents’ adoptions were not a secret, they died knowing next to nothing about their origins. I made it my mission to learn about my family’s origins. What I did not expect was how that would make me feel about the “family” I had while I was growing up and actually for over 60 years of my life. They were not actually my blood relatives and it did have an unexpected, profound effect on me. It took some time to re-integrate the adoptive family as being “real” to my lived experience, even as I learned there were actual genetic relatives living their lives with scant, if any at all, knowledge of my existence, nor any knowledge for me of theirs. It takes time to begin to build a bond with the people we discover we are genetically related to but didn’t know for decades of their own lived experiences. It is not an easy process for any of us in this world of severed birth families.

Carlyn contemplates the saying “blood is thicker than water.” Usually this means one’s birth family is the strongest tie. She did meet her birth sister, aunt and mother, but hasn’t maintained a strong relationship with her biological family. I understand, as I related above. Carlyn notes – “For me, it was the family that was not really mine by birth—the water of the womb—but the family I spent my life, my culture, my experiences and love with.” I think it was something like that which allowed me to re-integrate my parents’ adoptive families back into my mental map of what family is.

We choose our families through what we share with them, even if it isn’t blood. This could include our closest friends that become a kind of family for us.