Conflict Induced Adoption

Illustration by Nat Castaneda)

An interesting custody battle is taking place. I am going to summarize. You can read a more detailed account at this ABC News LINK>Baby orphaned in military raid now at center of custody battle with her relatives and Marine.

In September 2019, a weeks-old baby girl was found badly hurt but — miraculously — alive in the rubble of a raid by U.S. special operations forces. Both of her parents were killed in the operation and she was placed under the temporary medical care of the U.S. military to recover from burns and physical trauma. The military had targeted a home in central Afghanistan, looking to capture or kill suspected foreign fighters associated with al-Qaida.

Today, the 3-1/2 year old girl (known as Baby Doe) is claimed by two families who are fighting a complex legal battle over the right to raise her. On one side are her paternal uncle and cousins in Afghanistan, with whom she was placed by the Afghan government in early 2020. Her uncle’s son and his wife, referred to in court as John and Jane Doe, cared for her for 18 months. Baby Doe and her Afghan family fled the Taliban and came to the US. John and Jane Doe have now resettled in Texas.

On the other side is a U.S. Marine lawyer who was in Afghanistan at the time of the raid and who successfully petitioned a local Virginia court to grant him an adoption order. An attorney for the Marine, Maj Joshua Mast, has contended in court filings that the girl had no surviving biological relatives (which the U.S. government says isn’t true). Mast’s attorney described her as an “orphan of war and a victim of terrorism” and Mast used the adoption order in Virginia to take custody of Baby Doe in September 2021. Baby Doe currently lives in North Carolina with Mast, his wife and their children. In September, John and Jane Doe filed a federal lawsuit suit against the Masts, claiming that the Masts unlawfully took Baby Doe.

The case is being reviewed in both Virginia and federal courts. Also involved are the Pentagon, the State Department and the Justice Department, who say the child should be returned to her Afghan relatives.

Following Afghan cultural traditions, Baby Doe should have then been taken to her next closest relatives. But who was she? Who were those relatives? Was she even Afghan? The US worked with the Afghan administration of then-President Ashraf Ghani and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to locate Afghan relatives who could raise her as their own, in line with local customs.

Mast was serving in Afghanistan at the time, as an attorney for the government’s Center for Law and Military Operations. In that role, he was involved in discussions about what to do with Baby Doe and took a keen interest in her welfare. He advocated for her transfer to the United States, so she could be placed for adoption far away from the dangers of “a country known for child abuse, neglect and sexual trafficking of children,” as an attorney for Mast once wrote. Mast’s court filings have also stated that Baby Doe’s parents were likely combatants, not collateral damage from the 2019 military raid. In late 2019, when Mast and his wife, Stephanie, sought an adoption order, they claimed Baby Doe was stateless and needed continuous medical care. John and Jane Doe claim that Mast abducted Baby Doe days after he had helped them arrive in the US in August 2021, as part of the chaotic US evacuation from Afghanistan.

The Justice Department filed a motion that argued the case should be moved to a federal court. The motion also stated that the Masts’ adoption should not have been granted, citing a U.S. government decision that Baby Doe should be returned to her Afghan family. The State Department likewise said in a recent statement to ABC News that the baby should have been brought back to her relatives. “Reuniting the child with the family members in Afghanistan was the right thing to do,” a department spokesperson said.

“We need a full investigation on this case and how this child could have been adopted away from her relatives,” Lisa Lawrence, a Defense Department spokesperson, said. “The investigation could lead to loopholes that need to be closed within our system. There shouldn’t be anyone from any rank of military that can push something as significant as an adoption through without following proper protocol and procedures.”

Processing Grief

From my all things adoption group –

Posting for a friend who does not have Facebook. We are both adoptive parents. Her adopted daughter is 7 years old. My friend just found out that her adopted daughter’s mother passed away before Christmas. It was a fluke that she even found out as they did not have regular contact. Her adopted daughter has experienced 2 great losses this year (biological grandmother and adoptive grandmother) and is still struggling with these. They are very open about her adoption and biological family but her adopted daughter does not want to engage in any conversations about her adoption, so they tread carefully between offering information and following her lead.

The question is… when and how should they approach the conversation about her mother passing away. The adoptive mother and her husband have a bit of a different view. She feels sooner than later is best but also acknowledges the fact that their adopted daughter is already struggling with lots of grief and loss (naturally) and some other new challenges that have recently popped up. Her husband thinks they should wait until the adopted daughter asks about her mom but she doesn’t feel that’s appropriate. I would love to be able to offer some specific information and ideas, if possible. Though I told her about this group, she asked that I post this on her behalf.

First response was this – Her husband is 100% wrong. This child needs a therapist and a safe space, if she doesn’t have one already. They need to tell her.

From an adoptee – Life doesn’t operate at a pace that is necessarily easy for any of us. We can’t control that. But the thing that all parents can control is whether or not they prove to their children that they are reliable and transparent. I understand, wanting to protect this child- but it’s not going hurt any less to find out later. It would just complicate the issue with a lot of questions about the delay. I would treat this in the same way that any other death was treated. She has recently learned about two people dying, why should her first mother’s death not be an immediate conversation ?

From another adoptee – Transparency is extremely important in building and maintaining trust between adoptees and their adoptive parents. Further delaying this information can damage this trust.

So Very Sad

Disclaimer – image is unrelated to today’s story.

Also not my personal story. It simply breaks my heart.

I’m a kinship care provider to my nephew and I’m really struggling right now. There is no possibility of him going back to his parents because they both died over this past summer. His mom was my sister. It was a murder/suicide perpetrated by his father and I feel like that’s really relevant to the situation. Which is sort of complex and multifaceted, but I’m just looking for some guidance or opinions. Also I am white, my husband is Puerto Rican, and my nephew is mixed black/white. He just turned 2 at the end of December.

This past week he’s started calling me mom and my husband dad, and we’re both very emotional about it and not sure how to respond. We think it’s started because his friends at daycare all call their parents mom and dad and he hears that all the time. When we show up other kids will also tell him that his mom or dad is here. The teacher always corrects them, but toddlers don’t really get the difference sometimes. Anyways we don’t want to make him feel like we’re rejecting him by correcting him every time, but we also don’t want to erase his parents. My sister and her partner had a very rough relationship with each other, but they were both wonderful parents who loved him with all their hearts. We show him pictures of them, and have them around the house. Whenever he asks about them in the pictures we refer to them as mom/dad. I just don’t know what to do.

The other issue that I’m starting to worry about is him feeling connected to his paternal family. Currently, there is a no contact order in place against one paternal aunt. When everything first happened they couldn’t believe their brother would do it and started threatening me and my husband as well as my mom. I understand the initial shock/trauma response, so I don’t want to hold it against her forever but I’m also not sure if contacting would be safe. I also would text a different paternal aunt at first but she cut contact after the stuff with her sister and no one from that family has reached out to ask about him since. I know I wouldn’t feel comfortable with my nephew staying there alone, at least at first, just because I know several of members of that family were abusive to their own children. I also know that this is a cross racial situation and I want him to feel connected to his culture. I do my best to stay educated, listen to voices of people of color, and be aware of the situations he will face in life, but I will never have the lived experience. As a white woman, I’ll never get how it feels to face racism every day. The closest thing I’ve experienced is the occasional racist mad about my blended family, but even then the color of my skin means I can seek protection much easier than my husband or nephew.

One adoptee confirmed – its totally fine for children to call their permanent caregivers mom and dad even if they aren’t. Let him. You are the acting parents in this situation, and kids (especially kids with a trauma background) need to feel a sense of normalcy in their life. Regarding paternal family connection is important but so is safety. Regarding cultural connection – some of the big ones are going to be immersion in black culture, mirrors in that kiddos life, and making sure that your neighborhood and school has a lot of other black children.

What Is Child Endangerment?

When my children were very young, I used to worry that some rather innocent parental choice might cause us to lose custody of them. There was a memorable episode of The Simpsons – LINK>Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily – the third episode of the seventh season. Homer and Marge lose custody of their children to the state. The kids end up in foster care at Ned and Maude Flanders’ house. Marge and Homer were spending the day at a spa, while the children were in school. Baby Maggie was left in the care of her elderly grandfather, Abe Simpson. This caused the parents to be accused of negligence after Bart was sent home from school with head lice and Lisa was found shoe less. Child Protective Services agents arrived at the Simpson house and judged it to be under incompetent care.

This was much less likely when I was growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I do remember getting in trouble for going too far from home on my bicycle. I also remember wandering in wild and remote spaces and never feeling concern from my parents, though in adulthood I learned they weren’t aware of the extent of my journeys LOL.

We never left our two sons alone and never even employed their grandparents (who lived next door) as overnight babysitters. I suppose we have been overprotective but they are still alive and have not gotten into any serious youthful trouble. They’ve been allowed to develop their own character absent being overly influenced by peers. So often I read in adoption related spaces how easily children have been removed from their natural parents for no more than poverty, which this country does pitifully little to address and probably will do even less in the next 2 years with extremist Republicans in charge of the federal government.

Two recent events have gotten my attention. This country has a serious double standard depending on one’s race and class status. One event is alluded to in the image I chose for today’s blog (more on that below). The other I just read about in The Huffington Post – LINK>What Is Child Endangerment? When Leaving Your Child Alone Becomes A Crime. I remember hearing a similar story from my own mother. She left two of us alone to run to the grocery store, I believe. We were discovered by a neighbor. My mom learned her lesson and the police and/or Child Protective Services were never involved.

The Huffington Post story was about two children, ages 2 years and 5 months, who were left alone in a New York City hotel room, sleeping and under camera surveillance, so that their parents could go out to dinner about a block and a half away. Life is what happens next. The father had a sudden heart attack at the restaurant and was rushed by ambulance to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. The mother accompanied her husband in the ambulance. In the midst of this crisis, she asked both a close friend and her parents to rush to her children’s hotel room and attend to them (as she continued to monitor them by camera). However, the hotel denied entry to her friend (which actually is policy, I remember being with my dad but in a separate room in a hotel and he asked the front desk what room I was in and they would not tell him). In the case of these children, the hotel called NYPD.

The issue of a double standard comes up in this case, though the mother does face two counts of “acting in a manner injurious to a child” and is scheduled to appear in Manhattan criminal court on Thursday. One commenter noted – “If she was a poor woman in an inner city she would’ve been arrested.” In fact, some children are left alone in inadequate circumstances by single mothers due to a lack of affordable child care options, while that mother must work to feed, house and clothe her children. Any individual can make a call to the police or to Child Protective Services, triggering a process leading to state involvement, which can include the parent’s loss of custody. New York’s juvenile court has defined such neglect with this example – “A child of 12 might be fine alone for two hours in an afternoon. Yet, the same child may be incapable of responsibly caring for a 5-year-old for that same period of time.”

This case gets attention because the parents are wealthy and well-known. As I have already noted – most other cases involve disproportionately poor and working-class parents who leave children alone when faced with a need to go to work or on a job interview, when they don’t have accessible, affordable child care. Families living in poverty or near poverty are judged far more harshly than wealthy parents. Parents who are taken to family court are at very high risk of having their children removed from their custody and placed in foster care. More often than you may think possible, this leads to the permanent termination of their parental rights.

The Guardian had an update this morning, LINK>No fight or warning before six-year-old boy shot teacher, say Virginia police, regarding the case of the Virginia teacher who was shot by a 6 year old who brought a loaded handgun to school. The 9mm handgun used by the boy was bought legally by his mother and kept in the family’s home. It remains unclear whether the mother will face any legal charges. Virginia does not have a law that requires unattended guns to be stored in a particular way or a law that requires gun owners to affirmatively lock their weapons. The issue will be whether it can be proven that the mother’s actions violated a Virginia law that prohibits anyone from recklessly leaving a loaded, unsecured gun in a manner that endangers the life or limb of children under 14. It could be argued by gun advocates that the child was never in danger – but certainly his teacher was.

I Am Now My Own Parent

My Dad and Mom

I’ve told some version of this story before and can’t promise I won’t again, though with evolving perspectives, these likely do change over time. My dad died only 4 months after my mom. She died first in September 2015 and he followed in February 2016. It was a profound event in my own life as I am certain it is in many lives. After my dad died, my youngest sister said, “We are now orphans.” I remain estranged from her. The cruelty she expresses towards me when we are in contact with one another causes me not to want to be involved with her. Not long ago, the state of Missouri informed me that they held some abandoned asset of my mom’s and I jumped through hoops and ended up with a whopping check for $20. Because I needed to provide my sisters names and addresses, so they could receive their own shares, I contacted my youngest sister’s conservator, who had been appointed to manage her funds. Turns out, he has been free of her for 2-1/2 years and no longer has that responsibility. The judge turned him loose and I understand. My sister is difficult and uncooperative and so, she is on her own now. So be it. I never wanted to take her freedom away from her. It was her own lawyers and the need for a family member to ask the court to look at her circumstances that forced my own involvement.

The topic today was inspired by a Daily Guide for Sunday, July 10 2022 in the Science of Mind magazine written by Rev Dr Jim Lockard. That phrase that is my title today comes from an affirmation he put at the end of his essay. He mentions that some people have never known their family of origin. That was certainly true for BOTH of my parents – as each of them was adopted and they died knowing next to nothing about their origins. I was conceived out of wedlock by a teenage mom. I could have so easily been given up for adoption but thankfully, I was not. It seems that one of my purposes in this life was to reconnect the threads of my parents own origins and I have now made it as far as is necessary for my own peace of mind. I know who all 4 genetic grandparents were, something of their stories and am aware of quite a few living, genetic relatives now that I am in contact with.

After my mom died, I came into contact again with an aunt. She is the widowed wife of my dad’s brother (my uncle was also adopted). A profound experience for me in high school was witnessing my uncle’s slow decline from Lou Gehrig’s disease. She is a nurse who met him when he was a Marine and hospitalized due to an auto accident. I had been thinking about this aunt for several days. It seems we do have a “spiritual heart connection” and so, she had been thinking about me and called me recently. It has been true since my mom died that she still calls me to check in from time to time – mostly to hear the latest for me and adds a few insights into her own life. Mostly, she just listens. I find her easy to talk to, honestly, though she is much more conventionally religious than I am. She usually asks about my sisters and how are they doing. She used to tell me she was praying for my estranged sister and I but she no longer tries to reach me that way. She had only one child with my uncle and he died a few years ago, too young and somewhat unexpectedly. She lives with an elderly sibling and that sibling’s spouse. My aunt is now 90 years old and I never know how much longer she will be in my life but she is totally lucid and I am always happy to hear from her.

Mine is a strange reality to live. Learning who my genetic relatives were and are, has to some extent, distanced me from the ones I grew up with. Even so, I remain fond of the adoptive grandparents I grew up with (now deceased) and with the aunt just mentioned and one other (my dad’s step-sister, who he acquired when his adoptive mother remarried after a divorce). My mom also had a brother who was adopted through the Tennessee Children’s Home before her. I am not all that close to him but did see him at my mom’s memorial service. It was his daughter’s receipt of his adoption file that had her call to tell me – I could get my mom’s. That opened the door for me to become genetically whole again and fulfill an intended life purpose.

Not A Celebration

One adoptee’s story –

I was 1 year old, when my mother was convinced to give up her rights to parent me. I was 2 years old, when I was ripped away from my father who asked everyone for help, even social services. After that, I spent 3 years as a medically complex ADHD autistic child (without even a diagnosis of autism until I was 30!) I was bounced between 6 foster care homes before I was adopted at age 5.

I didn’t want to bang that gavel but the judge, the social worker and the woman who raised me – all made it seem like such a party, a good thing, a reward even.

Fast forward 25 years.

My dad’s parents passed in 2020 and 2021. My parents have been gone for over a decade. The woman who raised me passed in May of this year.

I have never EVER felt more unloved, unwanted, and alone.

I’m not included in anyone’s end of life plans, not provided for, not even mentioned.

Because of adoption, my own and my birth mom’s, I will never know her side of the family. I’ve tried everything, Ancestry, Genome Link, I’ve tried it all. Even asked for assistance from angels in the search groups. There’s nothing.

I have two children, who I cling to for dear life. But I have no family outside of them.

Adoption is trauma. Now with the overturning of Roe v Wade, there will be many more generations of adoptees with trauma to come, maybe for decades.

Parental Death Then What

Sadly, it happens. Parents die and something must be arranged for the ongoing care and healthy development of a child. A lot of make suggestions in our wills or trust regarding our minor children but few think it out from the perspective that the adoption community can bring to the issue. Today’s stories and insights highlight the issues.

I am looking for resources about adoption following death of a parent or parents, NOT adoption due to a lack of support for birth parents. Attachment trauma is a given. Actively honoring the memory of the late parent(s) is a high priority, as is pursuing therapy for all parties. The children know their own stories, have access to their family health history, and retain their birth names. Beyond this, I would like to better understand adoption vs. legal guardianship in the context of parental death.

My sister died, leaving my niece behind. My parents already had guardianship before she passed, but also go full custody as well after. but they are currently pursuing adoption strictly for the legal assurances it gives us. They are in their 70’s and although in excellent health, you never know. If they adopt her, they can “leave her to me” for lack of a better term. With the current arraignment, I would have to totally start over from square one. But they aren’t trying to adopt her in the traditional sense. They don’t want to be called mom/dad, etc. it’s just for custody/legal purposes.

I was orphaned at age 7 when my mother died in a car accident. Legal Guardianship made college paperwork a nightmare, it made school field trips/enrollments and passports and traveling across borders immensely difficult. One time, I had a border patrol agent insinuate my grandfather was trafficking me despite our last names matching on our passports and his drivers license. My mother did not allow my stepfather to adopt me despite him coming into my life when I was 1. I am grateful she didn’t.

Adoptee who was adopted due to the death of a parent. Please do not steal their last name. My name being changed stole my connection to my deceased dad and I still resent it decades later. My last name was all I had of his and it was changed, even though my adoptive parents knew how I felt about it

Guardianship is will be heavily state dependent because states are so different with respect to family law. It could largely depend on the specifics of the court order. A guardianship order for a child who has no legal or living parents would have to ensure the guardians have the same rights and responsibilities as parents, including the ability to sign for a passport / take children out of country. One problem you could run into with guardianship would be – if you did have to immigrate to another country – the children would likely not be eligible on your visa. Only legally adopt if that’s the only option.

Best to not change the birth certificates, refer to yourself as “mom/dad” and do maintain relationships with extended family. Consider long term security in terms of custody (including if you were to die and future guardianship decisions), medical decision-making rights, access to IDs/passports, and so on. Legal guardianship can be tricky to navigate. An informed attorney is a must. As far as I know, there is not currently any state that allows the original birth certificate to remain intact with the finalization of an adoption. Hence the growing interest in guardianships. In some states, children under legal guardianship do not get all the benefits that foster and adoptive children do (example: free college tuition).

Here was a good example of how to talk to people at the child(ren)’s school – always introduce your title – grandma/grandpa, aunt/uncle, etc. Let them call you by your real name/ title (Aunt Carla, Grandma, etc.) rather than Mom. That will require some effort upfront on your part with teachers and so forth. Reach out to their teachers before the start of the school year and introduce yourself – Hi, John and I are Jane’s Aunt and Uncle. I know most kids live with parents but Jane‘s parents are deceased. It’s a tough subject for her – of course – and I know you would want a head’s up so that you can use inclusive language for the students’ families. I think it is important to take the lead with all those kinds of introductions, so the burden to explain does not fall on the child(ren).

MIA Fathers

In adoptionland, it seems that most of the attention is on moms. Birth mothers, adoptive mothers, women who are mature adoptees. Certainly, the gestation of a baby is a huge bonding reality that is severed, if a child is removed from their mother or adopted out after birth.

It is hard to locate as much information about how men feel if they lose their fatherhood. Lots of stuff about men’s fathers dying but less about the impact on men, if they lose the opportunity to parent their children. Lots of stuff about the negative impact of absentee fathers on their children.

I did find one man’s blog in which he describes that since becoming a father himself, he now judges the value of potential friends based upon how they treat their own children. I did find that interesting. I do believe that men do care about their children – my children have different fathers. My daughter has the father that I married at the end of high school. I have written in the past how he ended up raising her with a step-mother, though that was never my own intention.

My two sons have their father because he wanted to be a father badly enough to accept a novel means of conceiving them. Because he was ready to be a father, he has been awesome in his role in the boys’ lives. I believe that readiness is an important factor is whether a man is successful at becoming a father (and in that case, regarding the likelihood of a divorce severing him from his children). I believe readiness is an important factor in determining how willingly a man goes the extra mile for his children.

You may find this blog by CJ Nigh, who writes as Undead Dad, interesting. He describes himself as an East Coast writer with a Midwestern soul. He describes his blog as being about mindful fatherhood in the deadening age of hyper-technology and over-work. I think you may enjoy reading this offering – Finding Out Your Friend is an Absent Parent – for Father’s Day.

It would also be worthwhile to read this piece in Psychology Today – Father Absence, Father Deficit, Father Hunger – subtitled – The vital importance of paternal presence in children’s lives. I totally agree – parents are forcefully removed from their children’s lives, as daily caregivers, by misguided family court judgments. We have laws and policies that devalue the importance of parents in children’s lives and parental involvement as being critical to children’s well-being. In most cases, children benefit from having access to both parents—and parents need the support of social institutions in order to be there for their kids.

Corporation Adoptee

It never ceases to amaze me how often adoption comes up everywhere around me. Last night we watched The Truman Show. In this movie, which is described as a psychological science fiction, is an analogy also for the lives of many adoptees.

Truman was selected as one of five children who were products of unwed parentage. So he was born at the “right time” and from birth was the adoptee of a media corporation who builds a long running TV series from his lifetime.

The director, Christof, claims that Truman came to be adopted not just by the show, but by the whole “world”. Truman’s hometown of Seahaven Island is a complete set built within an enormous dome, populated by crew members and actors who highlight the product placements that generate revenue for the show. The elaborate set allows Christof to control almost every aspect of Truman’s life, including the weather.

They do everything they can to prevent Truman from discovering his false reality, even manufacturing scenarios that dissuade Truman from acting on his desire for wider exploration, including the “death” of his father (an actor) in a sea storm to instill aquaphobia. Constantly broadcasting and printing messages of the dangers of traveling and the virtues of staying home. However, Christof cannot predict all of Truman’s actions. During his college years, Truman was intended to fall in love with and marry co-student Meryl (which does happen), but he also did fall in love with Sylvia, who was intended as an extra on the program.

The movie really is like the unreality of most adoptee’s lives. It is a thoughtful rather than comedic Jim Carrey movie.

Two Men – Adventures in Africa

I am reading the book, Exterminate All The Brutes by Sven Lindqvist, which is not at all what I expected. In yesterday’s reading I found linked two men with books set in the Congo. Henry Morton Stanley, who wrote In Darkest Africa, published in 1890 and Joseph Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness, published in 1899. I read that both grew up motherless, both had been adopted by benevolent father figures and that both ran away to sea, changed their name, home country and identity. This I thought this a worth topic for my Missing Mom blog. So some historical stuff today.

Henry Morton Stanley

Henry Stanley was born in 1841 as John Rowlands in Denbigh, Denbighshire, Wales. His mother Elizabeth Parry was 18 years old at the time of his birth. She abandoned him as a very young baby and cut off all communication. Stanley never knew his father, who died within a few weeks of his birth. There is some doubt as to his true parentage. As his parents were unmarried, his birth certificate describes him as a bastard. His baptism registry indicated that he was the bastard son of John Rowland of Llys Llanrhaidr and Elizabeth Parry of Castle. The stigma of illegitimacy weighed heavily upon him all his life.

The boy John was given his father’s surname of Rowlands and brought up by his grandfather Moses Parry, a once-prosperous butcher who was living in reduced circumstances. He cared for the boy until he died, when John was five. Rowlands stayed with families of cousins and nieces for a short time, but he was eventually sent to the St Asaph Union Workhouse for the Poor. The overcrowding and lack of supervision resulted in his being frequently abused by older boys. Historian Robert Aldrich has alleged that the headmaster of the workhouse raped or sexually assaulted Rowlands, and that the older Rowlands was “incontrovertibly bisexual”. When Rowlands was ten, his mother and two half-siblings stayed for a short while in this workhouse, but he did not recognize them until the headmaster told him who they were.

Rowlands emigrated to the United States in 1859 at age 18. He disembarked at New Orleans and by his own account became friends by accident with Henry Hope Stanley, a wealthy trader. He saw Stanley sitting on a chair outside his store and asked him if he had any job openings. He did so in the British style: “Do you need a boy, sir?” The childless man had indeed been wishing he had a son, and the inquiry led to a job and a close relationship between them. Out of admiration, John took Stanley’s name. Later, he wrote that his adoptive parent died two years after their meeting, but in fact the elder Stanley did not die until 1878. This and other discrepancies in Stanley’s own autobiography lead some to argue that no adoption took place.

Stanley reluctantly joined the American Civil War, first enrolling in the Confederate States Army’s 6th Arkansas Infantry Regiment and fighting in the Battle of Shiloh in 1862. After being taken prisoner at Shiloh, he was recruited at Camp Douglas Illinois by its commander Colonel James A Mulligan as a “Galvanized Yankee.” He joined the Union Army on June 4 1862 but was discharged 18 days later because of severe illness.  After recovering, he served on several merchant ships before joining the US Navy in July 1864. He became a record keeper on board the USS Minnesota, and participated in the First Battle of Fort Fisher and the Second Battle of Fort Fisher, which led him into freelance journalism. Stanley and a junior colleague jumped ship on 10 February 1865 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in search of greater adventures.  Stanley may have been the only man to serve in all three of the Confederate Army, the Union Army, and the Union Navy. He is remembered for the line – “Dr Livingstone, I Presume ?” Henry Morton Stanley wrote In Darkest Africa published in 1890. This is how his story intersects with the next one.

Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857 in Berdychiv Ukraine. His family called him “Konrad”, rather than “Józef”. His father was arrested and imprisoned in Pavilion X of the Warsaw Citadel. Conrad would write: “[I]n the courtyard of this Citadel—characteristically for our nation—my childhood memories begin.”

His father’s sentence was commuted, and the family was sent to Chernihiv in northeast Ukraine, where conditions were much better. However in 1865 his mother died of tuberculosis. His father also died of tuberculosis in 1869 leaving Conrad orphaned at the age of 11. The young Conrad was placed in the care of his mother’s brother.

Since he showed little inclination to study, it was essential that he learn a trade; his uncle thought he could work as a sailor-cum-businessman, who would combine maritime skills with commercial activities. In the autumn of 1871, thirteen-year-old Conrad announced his intention to become a sailor. At the age of 15, he was sent to a boarding house for orphan boys. The owner’s daughter recalled: “He stayed with us ten months… Intellectually he was extremely advanced but [he] disliked school routine, which he found tiring and dull; he used to say… he… planned to become a great writer…. He disliked all restrictions. At home, at school, or in the living room he would sprawl unceremoniously.”

“Living away from one’s natural environment—family, friends, social group, language—even if it results from a conscious decision, usually gives rise to… internal tensions, because it tends to make people less sure of themselves, more vulnerable, less certain of their… position and… value… ” ~ Zdzisław Najder

After nearly four years in France and on French ships, Conrad joined the British merchant marine, enlisting in April 1878. His book Heart of Darkness was published in 1899 and like Stanley’s account is set in the Congo. To Conrad’s credit, his contains bitter reflections on colonialism. Conrad regarded the formation of a representative government in Russia as unfeasible and foresaw a transition from autocracy to dictatorship. Conrad’s distrust of democracy sprang from his doubts whether the propagation of democracy as an aim in itself could solve any problems. He thought that, in view of the weakness of human nature and of the “criminal” character of society, democracy offered boundless opportunities for demagogues and charlatans.