The Mandalorian

So, I’m not a Star Wars fan. I was once told I reminded a Salon participant at Jean Houston’s home of Yoda. I went looking. I have to admit there was some physical resemblance. LOL

Anyway, today I learned from a Time magazine article about The Last of Us that The Mandalorian had an adoption theme. That I did find interesting (though I am still not going to watch it). I did go looking and found quite an extensive article at Adoption.org LINK>What Does ‘Star Wars’ Have To Do With Adoption? In that article I found some answers.

From the article –

There is also a series in the Star Wars universe that is an amazing picture of foster care in the most untraditional sense. The Mandalorian explores the question of “who is family” when the main character is charged with capturing and eventually protecting a young creature who bears a strong resemblance to Yoda. He is strong in the force, but the Mandalorian is set in a time when being a Jedi is outlawed, and Jedis are killed without impunity. The Mandalorian becomes a makeshift foster father to the little guy who finds all kinds of ways to get into trouble and create drama. The war-hardened Mandalorian grows to love the little guy and does everything in his power to keep him safe and to get him back to “his people.”  At the end of the first season, we see Grogu go off with Luke to learn about the ways of the force, but it probably isn’t the last time we’ll see the little guy. 

Maybe it is just because adoption and foster care are such a huge part of my life that the themes of adoption, found family, and foster care stand out so starkly, but I don’t think so. The entire series falls apart without twins separated at birth. It doesn’t work without friends who didn’t know each other becoming the best allies for one another. The connection they feel is what ties all of the stories together. One of my favorite parts of the movies is that Jedi “become one with the force” when they die. When someone is “one with the force,” they turn invisible but can still interact with the living Jedi. They can still root their family on from beyond the grave. Even though our family is gone, they are still with us. Everything is connected by “the force.”  What a great allegory for the love believers are supposed to share. 

Even if you know nothing about Star Wars, you know about the swords. Almost everyone has swung a plastic, colorful sword and made the noises “swoosh, whoosh, bzzzz” as they “fought.” My adopted kids think it is the best ever. Star Wars and adoption are like popcorn and coke. You don’t need to make the association. However, if you have the popcorn anyway, the coke makes it so. Much. Better. Honestly, though, we couldn’t do this adoption thing without mentors and help from the people around us.  Luke and Rey had big feelings about their past. They felt betrayed by their parents until they knew the truth.

Rey stops to think about the people who loved her. The people who helped shape her into the person she was, the people who cared for her when she didn’t know what to do. And she found her name. She called herself Rey Skywalker. She had no “legal” claim to that name. She hadn’t officially been adopted by Luke or Leia, though Leia ended up being her greatest mentor. She chose to associate herself with the people who loved her when she was struggling and when she triumphed. 

There is much more at the link. The author, Christina Gochnauer, is a foster and adoptive mom of 5. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Letourneau University. She currently resides in Texas with her husband of 16 years, her children ages 3, 3.5, 4.5, 11, and 12, and her three dogs. She is passionate about using her voice to speak out for children from “hard places.”

Closing The Door

From a domestic infant adoptee, now 35, who has been contemplating changing her name to her real last name. Also possibly changing her first name too. The more she’s worked through her life experiences and struggles, the more she wants to close the door on who raised her. She goes on to admit that – they were probably decent parents. But I don’t recall any feelings of love, attachment, safety or comfort. I’ve harbored resentment for them both and as I try to work on myself, it only gets worse. She says, I’ve gone through all the phases of trying to be ok with my story. But I’m not ok with it. I can’t forgive them. I realize that I actually do hate these people. My first name is nothing special. She heard it back in high school and liked it. Her biological child has full family “heirloom” name. When I hear her say my name, it makes me grind my teeth.

Another adoptee notes – a name change is a very personal decision, one you have every right to make for yourself !! If you connect more to your birth name, then I say go for it. It’s probably a very empowering feeling to go do this for yourself.

Another said – If you know your true name and you want to claim it, CLAIM IT!!!!

One shared –  I’m in the process of socially changing my name right now while I wait for the funds to legally change it. I’m changing it back to my birth name because it’s a name I’ve always loved and it’s a bit more androgynous and I don’t like my feminine name. I really knew I had to change my name when I couldn’t bear to tell my son what my name was.

It’s hard to get used to hearing a new one but it sounds better in my brain than my old name. Lots of friends/family are resistant to calling me my new name and that’s been pretty hard. My adoptive mom threw a fit basically. Trying to explain why I’m changing my name and why they should respect that and call me my chosen name has been very difficult because they just don’t understand and think I’m being ridiculous.

I feel a sense of euphoria when I meet someone new and I tell them my (new) name and then they call me that. I started trying my new name out online or for take out orders and stuff before I took the plunge, just to see how I’d feel, and once I realized I liked it I started going more mainstream with it.

Yet another adoptee admitted – My adoptive parents translated my name, then shortened it. I grew to really dislike that name. I have “reclaimed” my actual name and everyone calls me that. I truly wish my adoptive parents had never altered it. My name was really the only thing that I had that truly was my own.

It is easy to see why a lot of adoption reformers are suggesting NOT to change your adopted child’s name. Better yet, chose guardianship rather than adoption if at all possible.

Desaparecidos Of Argentina

Today’s blog is thanks to an article in The Guardian, LINK>Adopted by their parents’ enemies: tracing the stolen children of Argentina’s ‘dirty war.’

Back in the 1970s, after a military coup in Argentina, at least 500 newborns were taken from their parents while in captivity and given to military couples to raise as their own. Today, Russia is accused of doing something similar with children taken from Ukraine. Jorge Videla, was known as the “Hitler of the Pampa,” after the 1976 coup. Two years ago, the Argentinian government sent hundreds of DNA testing kits to its consulates around the world in an effort to put names to unidentified victims and to find the children of the disappeared, known as desaparecidos. Many of these children are still living today but unaware of their true identity. The Abuelas de Playa de Mayo is a human rights organization whose mission is to find the children who were illegally adopted during those years. (I wrote about these Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo in a blog some time ago.)

One of those children is now a 45-year-old banker living in London. His name is Javier Penino Viñas, and his biological parents, Cecilia Viñas and Hugo Penino, were abducted in 1977. Javier was illegally adopted by Jorge Vildoza (a high-ranking Argentinian navy officer) and his wife, Ana María Grimaldos. When asked to appear in court, Vildoza fled the country in a panic, taking the child with him. “After the Videla regime, there was a democratic transition, and in that period the trials against the military began,” says Javier. “My adoptive father was quite high up in the navy, and the family knew that the transition to democracy was starting to cause problems for anyone in the military. That’s when we moved to Paraguay and ended up changing our identities.”

Some experts say that behind the illegal military adoptions was a quasi-Catholic belief that, while the parents of the children were irredeemable sinners who deserved to die, killing their newborn children would be a sin. However, the Argentinian historian Fabricio Laino believes there was a more cynical logic at work. “The military were convinced they could ‘save’ and ‘reform’ these children. They wanted to redeem them from families who, according to them, would surely have raised them in a subversive environment.”

Baltasar Garzón is a former Spanish judge and human rights activist. He believes that “The appropriation of children, as well as rape, has always been aimed at humiliating and subduing the enemy. Taking away the enemy’s child was a bargaining chip.” They change a person’s life by taking them out of their environment and away from their biological family. The method used in Argentina was especially perverse. A pregnant woman was held in captivity until she gave birth. Then her baby was taken away from her. After torturing her, she was killed and effectively made to disappear.

Therefore for decades, hundreds of children have been raised by the same people who were responsible for the torture and death of their biological parents. After the return to democracy, members of the military fled with their adoptive families – often to countries where extradition was prohibited.

It could be that the taking of Ukrainian children is due to a similar intention by Putin. To, in effect, change these children’s lives by taking them out of their environment and away from their biological family. Then placing them with a Russian family on Russian soil. Time will tell the true extent of such efforts and hopefully reveal the number of children affected. War is such a hideous exercise. My wish is that these children ultimately find their way back to family in Ukraine.

What Is And Is Not

My nearly 6 year old (in my care since she was 6 months of age, came to us from foster care) emotionally shared the other day that she’s embarrassed being seen with my husband and I at school drop off/pick up because she’s aware it’s making her different from the other children who have their birth parents pick them up and how she wishes her Mum could come to pick up sometimes (her Mum passed away tragically two years ago so it’s literally impossible).

There is no real clear physical difference between us – so it’s really just that she knows we aren’t her birth parents and she grieves what could have been. I told her I understood why she feels sad about that, that it makes sense she’d love her Mum to come and that I’m really sorry I can’t make that happen. I also pointed out other children wouldn’t know (for the most part) that we aren’t her birth parents because we’ve been private about her story (however, she recently shared with her class that she had scattered her Mums ashes). There are other kids who could be in the same situation as her and she wouldn’t know.

She’s really dislikes having a different surname than us because “you’re my parents and you’re my family, so why can’t I have the same name?”, even though we’ve never made an issue of it and we tell her how much we love her name and that families don’t require the same last names as each other. She has been asking for the last few weeks, can she please change her surname to our surname at school/extra curricular activities. She’s started calling herself and her little sister (who is her biological sister but also has a different surname, not the same as hers) *their names* with our surname.

One of my big hesitancies is the future her, looking back on her work/awards and seeing a name she might not identify with anymore and being upset we allowed her to use a different name. We are foster parents who became guardians but we specifically didn’t pursue adoption because of what we learned about the feelings of adult adoptees.

One suggestion was to hyphenate her surname with the guardian’s surname, not legally but just on paper, so she can see you are listening to her feelings, without changing anything legally. The guardian liked the suggestion – that way she doesn’t have to feel like it has to be one way or the other, either this part of my family or that part of my family. The guardian said “I definitely have no intention of changing her name legally, that’s something she can navigate once she’s an adult. But just socially, maybe hyphenating could be the solution.

Another suggested – could you explain to her that the surname was one of her first gifts from her mother ? Explain to her that there are some kids whose moms have gotten remarried and her kids don’t share her new last name. And even though it isn’t the same situation as she is in because her mom is no longer here like the other kids, it is similar with the last name situation. The reply was – I did try telling her how kids have different last names to their Mum’s sometimes because of marriage and such but she was like “but you and Dad have the same last name so that’s not the same thing.”

One answers from experience – This is tricky. I was given the choice to keep my last name or change it, and I kept it. There were so many times in school when I wished I just had the same last name as my adoptive family. It would have erased so many questions I didn’t want to answer. I’m 42 now and I’m 100% glad I kept it. I didn’t even fully let it go when I got married. On the other hand, my biological sister was all too happy to shed that last name when she got married (at 8 years older than me, she was 18 when we went to our adoptive family. So I don’t think changing to her last name was ever brought up). Our last name came from the guy who abused us. All that to say, I don’t think there is a concrete right or wrong answer here. *I* would say keep her last name but see if the school will just call her by yours, sort of like a nick-name? My sister on the other hand would say let her change it. Hugs to you as you try to navigate this.

Another shares – I have two last names and I say them proudly. Would she be willing to make a final decision after a bit more contemplation? Have her practice saying and writing the new name combo – you can call her anything for now. She might find just being able to say her new name and know that maybe one day she will legally be both names. The guardian answers –  I’ve responded to her saying “let’s keep chatting and thinking about it, so we make the best decision for you” and she seems okay with it thus far.

Another opinion was – I would honor her desire and let her change her name. I think you can do that and let her know if she ever changes her mind and wants to change it back, you’ll support her no questions asked. Or if it’s possible to change it with school and such without doing the full legal piece, maybe that could be a good compromise. I was under guardianship as well until adulthood, and I always struggled as a child with feeling like I didn’t truly belong and the uncertainty about where I’d spend the entirety of my childhood was deeply unsettling. I was under familial guardianship, so I was with family, but I just always felt like I was an add on, not a core part of the family. To this day, it’s something I still feel in my core when I’m with my family and I’m 37. I can understand why having a different name could exacerbate that feeling for her. Part of it is just inescapably that our childhood was different and more traumatic than those around us and even the best support systems simply cannot undo that. And that’s hard to understand as a kid and it leaves lasting changes to one’s brain. And for me at least, the uncertainty about whether I’d be able to finish out a school year, let alone all of K-12 in the home I was in, was always hanging over me. It just didn’t feel permanent (though it did turn out to be). There are SO few things that are in our control when we are kids, and the lack of control over any aspect of our lives can be overwhelming.

A school staff member noted that – our school has “legal” name and “preferred” name. “Preferred ” name can be changed at any time without any documentation, it shows up on attendance and display but all legal documents show their legal names. She even adds that – I did this as a child until I was legally able to make the decision to formally change my name.

 

Why?

One of my newest and quickly a favorite, adoptee writers is Tony Corsentino. In this essay, LINK> Wtf Is Wrong with That? he shared the Tweet imaged above. He writes, “I took to Twitter in what might have looked like a fit of pique, though for once I wasn’t piqued.”

Every adopted person who searches for their biological parents could answer – why. His answer ? “I decided I needed to learn the identities of my biological parents because, after being diagnosed with cancer and, soon thereafter, becoming the father of two children, I realized that I was no longer content with telling doctors that I knew nothing about my medical history.” I remember those days myself and both of my adoptee parents could never tell medical professionals about their own medical history. This is one of those inconvenient truth about being adopted in a closed, sealed record type of adoption. 

“All men by nature desire to know.” ~ Aristotle I certainly wanted to know, my mom certainly wanted to know, my dad claimed he didn’t. He cautioned my mom against opening a can of worms. I think he was afraid to know.

Tony notes that this knowledge is forbidden. Certainly, my mom tried and was forbidden to know by the state of Tennessee. Tony notes, “I decided, somewhat in the manner of Huckleberry Finn, that if I was courting damnation to do this thing, then so be it, let me be damned.” You have to love that spunk !!

I remember long ago learning not to ask questions but to let people tell me what they wanted me to know on their own initiative. Tony says, “Questions are not obnoxious or offensive in content, but as asked in particular contexts. Imagine being asked if you cheat on your partner, or why you don’t have children. If you and I are more or less strangers and I put those questions to you out of the blue, you would of course be right to protest that it is none of my bloody business.”

Tony suggests that “question intrudes on a zone of privacy that people should respect. There may be no knowing what pain lies underneath an adopted person’s relation to the decision to search, or not to. To ask the question could be a trigger. Compare this to ‘Why did you terminate your pregnancy?’ or, of course, ‘Why did you relinquish your child for adoption?’ Whole histories of hurt might have preceded, and culminated in, these decisions.”

He goes on to share his thoughts about justice and power –

He adds – “To the extent that severance causes such harms, and that discovering one’s genealogical identity can help (or even be essential) to assuage these harms, then we can give real content to the idea of needing to know our genealogical identities.” Then adds, “part of what I was suggesting in these tweets is that we must separate needing to know from deserving to know.” ie Normative ideas grounded in our overall picture of human dignity and freedom.

He concludes by saying “if people better understood how deeply adoptees like myself are committed to reclaiming our moral dignity, and how central to that dignity the question of knowing really is (and is it really that difficult to see?), then we would not need to practice so much forbearance.”

Tony did have more to say than I have shared. The link is at the beginning of this blog if you care to read it all.

A Tough Way To Go

From direct experience (not my own) –

He was in the foster care system from age 3-18, with a failed adoption from the ages of 4-8. This is how broken the foster care system is and how adoption is not always rainbows and butterflies. Excerpts from his story – For a portion of my life my identity was ripped from me, changed, and those who were looking for me could not find me. I was in plain sight living under a different name. After 20 years of silence, I am finally ready to tell my story.

Trigger Warning – What you’re about to read is graphic, disturbing and may be triggering.

I was adopted – Twice. In my personal opinion, I lived a better life with my second adoptive parents than I would have ever lived without them. Yes, I am thankful for the opportunities I do have because of my adoptive parents. Yes, I have chosen to see the good in my life and be grateful for everything I do have. But this is the mature, 27 year old man speaking, not the boy who endured so much trauma that causes the 27 year old man to still go to therapy on a weekly basis. Today, I am what most would consider a successful man.

I was adopted the first time at the age of 4 to what the world thought was a loving home. From the ages of 4-8, behind closed doors I was brutally beaten daily. Some nights I would be locked outside at night in the cold rainy Washington state weather nights in nothing except my underwear. I would be stabbed by forks at the dinner table to the point I was bleeding because I would gag on and throw up my food, then be forced to eat my throw up. I would be told to stick out my tongue, just for her fist to slam up under my jaw, forcing my teeth to slam together and viciously bite my tongue. I would be tucked in at night not with a warm hug or a loving kiss, but rather a hand over my face suffocating me until I stopped moving. Her eyes turned into a cold, chilling midnight black, and she would grit her teeth together and say “I will not stop until your body is done moving. Once you stop moving, I will stop.” I would be grabbed by my neck and choked and slammed to the wall with my feet dangling, my entire 30lb body off the ground and glued to the wall from my neck. She has this super strength, black eyes, and could hold me off the ground by my neck, not letting go until she was satisfied knowing she held the life of the little boy between her palms, against the wall.

I would cry when it was time to line up for the bus at the end of the day in kindergarten while all the other kids would be jumping with joy to be picked up by their parents. I would cry because of the home I knew I was going to. Kids would ask me why I was crying. It’s the end of school and I should be excited. But I wasn’t excited, I was jealous because I knew the first graders got to stay the whole day, but I only stayed half the day, and I was going back to a place worse than hell. I would be asked by not only teachers, but doctors as to why I had bruises all over my body, just to tell them they were from my siblings to avoid my abusive adopted mom from ever finding out I told anyone because I knew if I told anyone I would be brutally beaten. I can go on and on, but I’ll end it here for now because as I type this I am getting dizzy, sick and shaking.

I also had to hear the muffled cries of my brother as he would be choked, beaten and abused while fear and adrenaline would shoot through my veins as I listened to the muffled cries of my twin as I watched his body stop squirming, and almost peacefully slowly stop moving knowing I was next. I quickly learned that once the hand covered my mouth and nose, the quicker I would lay limp, the quicker she would be satisfied and leave the room. I would run away at the sound of punches, slaps, screams and terrifying, gasping cries of my sister knowing my 30lb self had no ability to protect her.

My biological mother gave me up to this family because she trusted them. At first she didn’t give me up. At the age of 3 we were taken from her because she was an alcoholic. We were placed in this home but still visited our mother often. My mother would end up signing away her rights so the family could adopt us. My mother died never knowing the truth about what she signed her rights away for and where she sent her three young children. My mother thought I was going to a home that could provide more love than she could, even though she was an Angel and nothing but comfort to me. I didn’t know what money was, nor did I care she didn’t have any. I didn’t know what drugs or alcohol was, nor did I care that she used/drank them. All I knew was what the warm motherly feeling of love, compassion and dedication was, and that is what I felt in my mothers arms, and only in my mothers arms.

I have struggled with abandonment issues and identity issues my entire life. As a young man I cheated on the mother of my daughter because if I got a glimpse of love or attention from a woman, I did not know how to turn it down. I yearned for love and affection. I dealt with losing my sister. No, she didn’t die, I was ripped away from her after the first adoption failed because the next home simply didn’t want 3 children. I would live in the same town as my sister, the only piece of my mother I had left, just to be denied the ability to see her for years at a time. I have matured immensely and have learned from my mistakes, but the trauma is still rooted deep within. I have used my childhood as motivation to stay strong and push foward to obtain a simple, successful, happy life. That’s all I’ve wanted and that’s all I work towards every day, and to make sure my children have the most loving, stable home I can possibly provide for them.

Even when the hardest part of my childhood was over and I was adopted for a second time, this time to the most amazing, most loving family I could dream of who did everything to love and protect me, I had identity issues. Not with sexual orientation, but with who I was genetically. Where I came from ancestrally. I knew nothing about ME but I lived inside me every day. I never understood why I wasn’t enough for my biological mother and father to change so they could take me back. Why was I never good enough? That’s what I asked myself every day. I asked myself this every time I was told to pack my bags and given a trash bag. I would be moving to yet another foster home. I was told I had no biological family, but I did. Dozens of biological family members existed in the very state and county I lived in, and they were looking for me. I love my second adoptive parents very much, and I am the man I am today because of them. My parents mean absolutely everything to me.

A song I associated myself with, and feel with every fiber in my body is “Concrete Angel” by Martina McBride. As a young boy, I would listen to it and it would resonate with me as if the song was specifically written about me, and just for me. There’s no reason why an 8 year old boy should hear that song and feel such a strong connection to it and understand it so perfectly, but I did. No one knew what was happening, and if I told people who knew the family, they wouldn’t believe me. Even one of my adoptive sisters who lived in the home during the abuse denies it and claims it never happened, despite it being my whole world every day living in abuse, because only my brother, sister and I were abused. But it was hidden so well, that some of my abuser’s own biological children weren’t aware – although I know one was, and unfortunately, she inherited the abuse after the adoption failed.

Culture and Identity

I am going to try and summarize a complex situation which could apply to others who might be reading my blog.

So a 17 year old got pregnant. A relationship that had lasted almost 2 years had broken up about a year before she got pregnant but they were still ”seeing each other” on and off. He wanted her to terminate, citing that he had a very traumatic childhood and was not ready to bring a child into the world, much less with someone he no longer wanted a relationship with.

She decided against it because she had previous losses and suspected infertility due to PCOS. As soon as she saw her baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound screen, she knew she didn’t have it in her to terminate. That child is now 4 years old and carries the woman’s maiden name.

So the father then shamed her for her decision and told her she would regret it, tried to convince her to “at least put the kid up for adoption so it has a chance at a good life” and she honestly heavily debated doing that as they weren’t the only one to shame her and try to convince her she couldn’t be a good mother. She was very lost, confused and scared but ultimately decided she would keep the baby and try to give it the best life that she could, prepared to do it all on her own.

Before giving birth, she met someone. She had a gut feeling that she was capable of having a healthy relationship with this man. He there for her throughout the pregnancy, cut the umbilical cord and helped name the baby. After getting married to him, she discovered that she was again pregnant. She thought about changing her first daughter’s name but wondered if that was the ethical thing to do because she technically had another parent.

Recently, she reached out to her daughter’s estranged father and discovered that they had both changed exponentially. However, the father still does not think it’s a good idea to have contact with his daughter. He thinks his presence would somehow “mess up” her life because he still has personal issues he needs to work on. Her father is indigenous and this mother doesn’t want her daughter to grow up not knowing half of her lineage. She feels that her daughter is missing out on the rich and beautiful culture that she descends from. She says that he is not a bad person at all.

One commenter said – You are asking the right questions. You’re approaching this with humility and a desire to uphold what is best for your daughter, even if there are “easier” solutions that others are pushing for. Consider allowing her to decide when she is of age, whether she would like to be adopted by her stepdad. Adoption can be a good choice WHEN the adoptee’s needs, desires, and AGENCY are fully recognized and active. It’s as big a choice as marriage (perhaps more so!), and it is a decision that no adult should make for her, especially since she may want to consider tribal affiliation in the future.

Why ICWA Matters

On November 7th, I wrote a blog titled – LINK> Will the US Supreme Court End the ICWA ? but it bears repeating – this time from someone’s direct experience. In February 2022, the Supreme Court granted all four petitions and consolidated the Haaland v. Brackeen case related the Indian Child Welfare Act. The parties’ legal briefs were submitted throughout spring and summer 2022 and the case is scheduled to be heard in November 2022. Here’s the appeal from an Indigenous family –

Our nephew (now son) was prioritized to be placed in a kinship home first along with his siblings. This allowed them to continue to have connections with their family, siblings and parents. Because we are his family and also Indigenous, he understands family structures in the way we know. That he is allowed and it is normal to have multiple moms and dads, uncles and aunties, grandmas and grandpas, and brothers and sisters. This gives him a sense of abundance, not scarcity. He proudly states he has two moms and two dads, lots of brothers and sisters, uncles, aunties, grandmas and grandpas.

Because we understand the protective factors of knowing who we come from he still retains his name. He is still the son of his birth parents. We acknowledge all sides of his families and I continue to learn who his relatives are that we aren’t related to. Because he was placed with family on our reservation, he has access always to our rich culture which opens up his support networks even more with more kinship systems than he already had. Additionally he has access to our traditional healing pathways through ceremony and language.

Because of ICWA, he still retains his culture, heritage, family and most importantly his identity. That although there is trauma attached from his removal, he does not have that continued trauma of trying to understand the root of who he is. Our culture, our identity and our kinship systems are our protective factors. The United States Government has attempted multiple times to dismantle them. In our resistance, reclamation and resilience phase we can never allow them to be taken away again.

What To Do ?

Today’s question – A woman adopted 2 kids years ago and has raised them since they were very young. Now that they are older, some truth came out that the situation that caused the adoption wasn’t as bad as she had been led to believe.

1) She wants to know if there is a way for their birth certificates to revert back the originals? She thought she had to change them in order to adopt the kids. (This is a common misperception that adoptees are trying to change because it almost always matters to them.)

And/or

2) Can she help their birth mother regain custody so that she can finish raising her own children ? Or un-adopt them, is that even possible?

A complication is that the kids say they don’t want a relationship with their biological mother or even to meet her. The woman is not certain they are telling the truth. Maybe they don’t want to hurt her feelings?

Some responses –

1) She probably did need to change the birth certificate to adopt, that’s still the case in many jurisdictions. It’s why guardianship is often preferred, though what that means also varies from one jurisdiction to the next, sometimes it is viewed as not allowing for stability.

2) The first step is for the kids need to get to know their mother again. If they refuse, I’m not sure what she can do other than to gently encourage it and never speak poorly of their mother. If they get to that point, what comes next varies widely from one jurisdiction to the next.

The mother may be able to re-adopt her children. However, if the allegation was neglect or abuse determined by Child Protective Services, that may not be possible. Same with guardianship. She might be able to take guardianship of her children, or not, depending on the situation.

These options may fail. It may be possible for the adoptive mother to give the original mother a power of attorney, should the children move in with her, and/or unofficially she could share custody of them, just like some separated/divorced parents do.

The woman definitely needs to consult a lawyer, so that she can determine if the court might view her as a possible risk. This assumes that Child Protective Services removed the children from her care. If her Termination of Parental Rights was a private relinquishment (that would make all of the above FAR easier.)

Another possibility is an adult adoption, which could restore the information that was originally on their birth certificates (by again changing the documents to finalize an adoption). If these children are already teenagers, that makes this option easier, as long as they are in agreement.

And this is the most important point, from an adoptee – It’s very possible that they don’t want a relationship with their biological mother, if she hasn’t been in their lives. Listen to what they are saying. I would never have wanted to leave my adoptive family to go and live with my biological family. It would have felt like a complete rejection of the life I had lived. I wouldn’t want another name. I am the name I have been for a long time, not baby girl “x”. These kids need to be the ones leading. Everyone else needs to just sit back and listen.

Therapy. Individually. Let them heal their own traumas. Create a space that’s safe and secure enough that they know they can speak honestly about how they feel about their biological family.

Another adoptee admits that she wanted so badly to have a relationship with her biological family. “It was freaking awful. The worst.” It’s not always what the adoptee thinks it would be like, either way.

The most important thing is their healing and security. The rest will come, if that is the right direction. They don’t deserve to have the process of reintroduction rushed, if they say “no” for any reason. It should be their lead.

Recognize Your Worth

Many adoptees don’t even realize that they are carrying unhealed trauma with them throughout their lives. Because for infants who were adopted, this trauma occurred during a per-verbal stage of their lives, they lacked words to describe what their emotions were saying to them. Both of my parents were adopted when they were less than one year old. My mom was adopted after having been placed temporarily in Porter Leath orphanage as my desperate maternal grandmother tried mightily to find a way to support the two of them with Georgia Tann circling them like a vulture. My dad was adopted after the Salvation Army coerced my paternal grandmother into relinquishing him. So both of my parents were carrying unhealed trauma throughout their lives.

The various ways people anesthetize themselves . . . is a wail from the deep. I once listened to Marianne Williamson’s A Course in Weight Loss on cd. I gained a lot of insight into my own compulsive eating experiences listening to her. I see how clothing our bodies in excess weight is a protective device. Both of my parents were more or less overweight their entire lives. I am told that my father was still breastfeeding with his original mother when he was taken for adoption. My mother struggled with her body image due to an adoptive mother who was obsessed by eating and weight issues. I have one memorable experience of that with my adoptive grandmother when she took me to England and embarrassed me dining at The Dorchester in London when I reached for a warm dinner role. I didn’t talk to her for almost 24 hours but gave it up in favor of not ruining our whole experience there together.

Your Blogger at The Dorchester

My mom was passive and secretive about eating. Some of that behavior certainly filtered down to me. My dad struggled with some drunken experiences, one that I didn’t even learn about until after he died, when my sister and I found a letter from him about spending a night in jail for DWI and praying not to lose his job and family over it. But after he was “saved”, he didn’t stop drinking – though he was never a violent alcoholic – and able to work even double shifts and nights at an oil refinery.

Joel Chambers writes about The Lifelong Challenges of Adoptees at the LINK> Search Angels website – Adoptees face more traumas, and more challenges, than many other people, and it affects their lives in ways that we are just beginning to understand. He has also written a post, speaking at great length about how addiction, in all of its various forms, is all too common among adoptees. These have experiences such as grief and loss, self-esteem and identity issues, substance abuse and addiction, mental health, and challenges to the types of relationships that they can form with their adoptive families. Adoptees also deal with feelings of grief, separation, and loss for their biological parents and birth families, even if they never knew them. 

A healing I didn’t even know I needed started in the Autumn of 2017, when I began learning what my parents never knew – who my original grandparents were. Then, it was only natural that I really begin learning about this thing called adoption. My daughter once said to me – “it seems like you are on a mission.” True, guilty as charged.