Children Are Such Open People

We live in such an internet driven, open society and yet I was reminded recently by someone inquiring about recycling wine corks (which we haven’t done for years now) that it is nearly impossible to get information off of google once it is there. Sometimes that is good, other times not so much. I said once it is out there – it’s eternal. This story from a kinship guardian reflects some concerns that many caregivers have.

Kinship here (legal guardianship). Not a “traditional” adoption, but this is regarding my 10 year old niece whom I have custody of. Her parents are not in the picture at all. How do I express my concerns to my 10 year old niece regarding her disclosing information to her peers, without shaming her for it ? My niece is VERY open about the fact that she lives with Aunt instead of with her parents. She even includes the “why’s” behind it. Again, I am NOT trying to silence nor shame her. I, however, have some concerns:

1.) Whatever my niece shares now, cannot be “unshared” in the future… for MANY years to come. Children live in the moment. Many of us have made public “mistakes” as young kids, that we now look back and cringe at — whether it’s a bad haircut, odd fashion styles, or an obsession with pink glitter Barbies everything. But those are temporary. Information is permanent. What if my niece changes her mind in the future, and decides that she doesn’t want people knowing who/what/where/when/why??? It’s too late… people already know.

2.) As my niece gets older, she will feel differently about her parents. My niece sees her parents in a positive light now, and seemingly has “no issues” with her kinship placement. However, things change as people get older, and they begin to realize that life isn’t all about rainbows and unicorns. There are things that she’ll need to process down the road.

3.) Other people’s responses. I can’t control nor protect my niece from people who respond in a cruel manner. I worry that my niece isn’t emotionally mature enough to handle various different types of responses — both good AND bad. She is a sensitive child. Also, some people assume very very terrible things about kids who do not live with their parents.

Adoptees were quick to point out – It is her story and she should be able to share it as she chooses. Even if she is 10. Even if she may grow into a more nuanced understanding. There is nothing shameful about a child talking about her life and she should feel that nothing is too much to ask the world to handle with her.

An adoptive parent shared – I struggle with this too. My daughter is not quite 5 and so we are just getting into the stage of other kids asking questions, some of which she has never asked herself because to her it’s just normal to have two moms and two dads. I have to remind myself to trust her to make her own choices, since like one adoptee said, it’s her story. But I also worry about the fact that you can’t “unshare” things you have told people. Her class is working on a project right now about babies and her mom has been helping with some of it, and I was wondering if this is going to lead to more questions and whether or not I ought to be managing that more explicitly… but I think we are going to just keep on keeping on, showing what’s normal for our family.

Though there is this practical consideration – it’s totally reasonable to have periodic, age appropriate talks about boundaries and privacy, but at the end of the day, she needs to lead. She will figure out where she missteps, and what she wants to censor/disclose as she matures.

One adoptee shared her real life experience – I wouldn’t say anything. Just show support if something happens and someone is mean. I think the period of me telling my peers was the most important when it came to how I choose to disclose my adoption. I was able to learn and make the decisions based on other people’s reactions. At no point did I ever feel like information was chasing me or out of control.

Realistically – help her with handling cruel responses. It is not your job to protect her from the real world. It is your job to prepare her and help her handle it. She is going to experience the cruel world one way or the other, let it not be a surprise after a sheltered life,

We All Want To Feel Safe…

Safe by Kristin Brantley Poe<LINK

I was inspired by this adoption related painting to consider the concept of Safe. I found a related kind of article at LINK>Fostering Perspectives, an effort by the North Carolina Div of Social Services and their Family and Children’s Resource Program.

Safe can be defined as free from harm or hurt. So, feeling safe means you do not anticipate either harm or hurt, emotionally or physically. One emotion we often feel without consciously knowing it is the feeling of safety.

It’s likely you’re able to recall at least one time in your life when you didn’t feel safe. Do you remember what emotions you were experiencing when this happened? Several emotions often compete for attention during traumatic events like this. The author of the article writes – When I was feeling unsafe, I was scared and anxious, and my body just froze in place. My heart pounded and my mind was racing to figure out what was going to happen next. Because I was not in control of my body’s reaction, panic was closing in.

Your interest in adoption related topics including foster care and family preservation is probably why you read this blog. It is highly probable that you may have heard the expression “safety, permanence, and well-being” before. We use these terms to compartmentalize the vision we have for child’s welfare. Caring people want children to have a permanent family who will be there for them for the rest of their lives.

The concept of safety is always evolving. Historically, we may have thought of safety as simply being free from physical abuse, free from sexual abuse, free from emotional abuse, and free from neglect. This type of safety is a critical first step on the road to well-being. We can broaden our definition of safety to include the concept of feeling safe; a concept that is called psychological safety.

What research tells us is that permanency and general well-being alone are not enough. It matters if a child does not feel safe. To have the kind of a good quality childhood that allows the child to develop, grow and be well in all aspects, the child needs to have a feeling of psychological safety as well.

At every age in a child’s development there are things that help a child to feel safe. When they are very young it might be a pacifier, a special blanket, sucking their thumb, a stuffed toy, a loving caregiver, a kind word, a smile, a hug, or the act of either rocking back and forth or being rocked. As children grow older, a feeling of safety might take the form of a friendly voice on the telephone, a comfy pillow, a special meal, friends, clubs, a special location, spiritual beliefs, or books.

Unfortunately, some seek safety through unhealthy behaviors – over-eating food, getting drunk on alcohol and/or high on drugs.

One important thing to remember is that children who have experienced trauma may get a sense of safety from things we hardly ever think of being related to the concept – food being readily available to the child at all times might just help them feel safe from hunger. The comfortable temperature in a room might help them feel safe if they have experienced homelessness or inadequate shelter.

It can be surprising to learn that things we may believe should create the feeling of safety such as a comforting hug or a hot bath could actually cause a child who has been abused to feel terribly unsafe. Sights, sounds, smells, people, places, things, words, colors and even a child’s own feelings can become linked to trauma. Afterward, exposure to anything associated with the trauma can bring up intense and terrifying feelings. Often, these associations to a trauma will be completely unconscious.

This is why it can be challenging for non-related (genetically and biologically) caregivers to actually help. It could help to become a really good detective. Such an effort might help a child identify things that make them feel safe. It could also help eliminate or minimize the things that cause the child to feel unsafe.

All caring people should understand that just because a government agency has certified a foster/adoptive/kinship parent as “safe” (often meaning such obvious factors as having the right locks on doors, or that there are no criminals living in the home, and that family pets are up-to-date on their rabies shots) does not mean that a child moving into this home will feel safe. In fact, what government agencies define as a “safe home” has very little to do with a child placed there feeling safe.

“If your (adoptive) parents or foster parents go on and on about what happened a long time ago, that’s kind of putting you down and not really making you happy.”
~ Angel, age 13

Using Detachment To Make Space

Adoption trauma refers to the shock and pain of being permanently and abruptly separated from biological family members and can affect both the birth parent and the child who is being adopted, given the circumstances of the separation. We now know that a child’s attachment to her mother starts in the womb, so even a child adopted at birth can experience severe attachment disruption later on in life. A friend was recently expounding on attachment and it seemed like some worthy thoughts to put in this blog.

She writes – Had a conversation recently with a loved one about loss, trauma, wounds, living in a bubble where the sense of belonging is not clear. When we lose loved ones, for example, due to death or breakups, when we are rejected, or misunderstandings separate you from people who are important to you – places where there is lack of warmth, lack of connection, a kind of coldness and cruelty that is hard to put in words and if you do put into words, you look weak – it is embarrassing, humiliating – further you go into the wound, building a fence around you made of loss, confusion, distorted or loss in sense of purpose, aloneness, pain, trauma, rejection, grief, loss of control. You can create narratives that preach positivity and strength but the heart is wounded, the heart has a stab pain, bleeding your life away, whispers in your inner ear of why you are not good enough – if only you were this or that..then maybe it would be alright. What can you do? A silent rage covers the wound, like a thin skin to help you function. A fight for your life that feel a fight in a dark room with no light in sight.

Then the idea “don’t be attached” sounds like more abuse, more alone, squeezing the heart tighter, as if trying to end what you are, your life. “Don’t be attached” feels like more of a stab. Abandoning yourself, your hopes. Hearing the word detachment can feel shattering. ..that as bad as you feel, now, don’t be attached.

Don’t be attached doesn’t mean withdraw from love, hope, from what you care or cared about. Particularly not withdrawing from the part of you that hurts. Not being attached is to draw closer to the hurt parts, abandoned parts, wounded parts. Not being attached is separating your self from the *story*, situations, to change the focus from the situation to the wounds to learn from them what you need to, to take time to transform into a newer version of yourself that has yet to be embraced and has navigated billions of hurts and disappointments, sometimes flat out rejections and absolute betrayals and abandonments, some that go very deep. The deep wound can cause even the lightest slights to feel exaggerated. We become sensitive to how the wind is blowing. We haven’t embraced our pain fully enough to heal. Everything that brings that pain to the surface or creates those feelings, it is a chance to embrace the wounded part, look at it, reason through, let others off the hook for a time, look at yourself, the wound, be alone with yourself, giving yourself time to heal. Otherwise, we might not sense when we are in relationships with people that abandon, hurt, reject – – because we haven’t yet developed a healthy one with the wounds we carry – using that as proof over and again that we are not worthy of more or pursue it, or even how…where.

Detachment is a short term method to make space to see yourself differently, to tend to your wounds properly, to love yourself rightly, to see things thorough and to come to terms once and for all – help yourself, gently, so we can evolve beyond the wounds.

**I do also consider there possibly being a radical process to detachment. A leap – as if off a cliff into a void, another world – where if you could do it – as if die to what you are – you would open to a world you had no idea is there, that you have only been seeing your thoughts and hardly reflecting anything at all but those thoughts – not reality. I imagine a Remembering, a rejoining with something exciting and pure. Personally, I find the idea and concept curious, the thought intriguing, and at times dwell on getting beyond idea and thoughts and wonder if there is another world..maybe a real world, reflected from a free conscience, a surprise, beyond *your* mind.

She ends it with this advice – Think about that then turn and say something silly and reveal your human flaws and personal prejudices. Even though your mind is there, inching in miles toward a leap.

What It’s Like To Age Out

Today’s story (not my story) –

I’m in Kansas. From age 2 to 18 I was in and out of the foster system. I aged out 4/27/2022, 11 days after my 18th birthday. The state aged me out and left me with nothing. I stayed living with my kinship placement for awhile. The night before graduation she kicked me out and the day of graduation texted me telling me she expected me to come home and get ready for graduation. She kicked me out again, after I told her I was taking a semester off before starting college. I spent the hottest part of summer homeless and couch surfing. I came back to her house 9/21/2022 and it’s been rocky. She continuously threatens to kick me out, which would be fine but I have nowhere to go. I have a Div of Child and Family Services worker at the moment, who is somewhat helping me out but she is hard to get ahold of. I am currently working as a server and about to become a manager as well as starting college this month. I don’t have many options right now and don’t really know what to do.

One adoptee offered this advice (which I agree with) – Don’t go back to that house. And honestly if u make more as a server don’t take the management position unless it’s more money. I’ve only taken lead server roles where I made more hourly and got to keep my tips also. Look on LINK>Roomster – it’s an app for roommates. That way you can at least get a room of your own. While you work on yourself. And it turns out that the management position is $2 more than what she is making now. And if she get tips while being a manager, she gets to keep them.

Since she indicated transportation issues, one person suggested that in some states, the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation will provide Driver’s Education classes for people who need to be able to drive themselves to and from job searches/work. She wrote back – I passed the driver’s education class, but had to be medically cleared. By the time I was finally medically cleared I had to retake to test and haven’t been able to.

Re: the housing issues, after someone suggested Catholic Charities (and talking to an advisor at the college about what might be available to share), she adds – “I did have rapid rehousing with Catholic Charities but when I worked at Amazon, I lost it because I made too much.”

And I didn’t realize Reddit could be helpful – there was this – Reddit is more anonymous and you can post on your local sub (probably r/”city name” as well as r/assistance, r/almost homeless, r/ex_foster and r/fosterit.) Your college might also have some resource suggestions, google “college name” + “counseling department.” Assuming you’re in the US, call 211 as well.

I rented rooms in apartments and houses from age 19-28 with roommates I found off of Craigslist, despite it’s bad rap. Many rooms do not require a credit score (I moved countries once, and credit scores don’t transfer.)

Also look up YMCA Host Homes to see if that’s a thing in your city, it’s a small program but could be an option.

All this, just to give you an idea of what these young people are up against. There is much more and I am hopeful that somehow my group which is so resourceful will be able to help this young woman somehow.

Adoption Disenfranchisement

I was attracted to a Medium article today with the title LINK>Understanding Adoption – Epistemological Implications by Shane Bouel today. The image hits a deep place. It was created by Thoughtless Delineation – AI ART. Just today, I posted “There are 2 good things in life – Freedom of Thought and Freedom of Action.” I am borrowing from and adding my own insights and understandings to the article linked above.

However in reading the linked article I find reason for deeper contemplation – “All social behavior is guided by values. Thus the study of social behavior can never be value-free if value freedom is interpreted in the sense of the absence of values because the values of the society under investigation form a part of the social facts to be studied by sociology.”

He goes on to say – “Knowledge and power are linked. In order to reveal the nature of the knowledge/power nexus and its relationship to the process of adoption we must not only ask what we know about adoption but more importantly, ask how we come to know what we know about adoption.” He is actually talking about adoption in Australia but I expect what he has to say applies here in the United States as well.

Adoption is a social construct. The understanding of adoption by those considered experts – social workers, mental health professionals and policymakers – places them in a powerful position as the creators and arbiters of knowledge related to adoption. Their understanding of adoption has a particular influence on the way it is presented and represented both theoretically and as practice. Therefore, some understandings are a result of distortions of the knowledge process. These distortions are products of validating certain kinds of knowledge by promoting certain narratives and silencing others.

Statements about the real nature of adoption become everyday knowledge for most people, especially those with no direct experience of the practice. The habit of understanding social phenomena like adoption with our personally unquestioned beliefs (because they are scientifically legitimate) instead of first attempting to understand the nature and origin of those beliefs is especially evident when we take a holistic view of the experience of being adopted as expressed by many adoptees.

Some would have us believe that the primary motivating force behind much excluding, value-free social research has been conspiratorial, that it has been little more than a premeditated and conscious desire by the powerful to control the less powerful. However worse is the acceptance, legitimization and application of objectified, positivistic notions about the real nature of adoption. These deny us access to the multi-level experiences of those (adoptees and birth parents) who have been subjected to it. Moreover, blind faith in the power of positivistic social science has further resulted in the institutionalized devaluing and belittling of those suffering its effects. Those individuals who have been, in some way, consumed by the process and who have spoken out loudly about their experiences have been viewed as little more than emotionally charged, angry and therefore irrational persons out of touch with reality.

Not only has the individual affected been blamed for the socially created, contradictory, unintended and unwanted effects of the adoption process but they have also been systematically alienated, ridiculed and stigmatized. Adoption has been portrayed and presented as given, unalterable and self-evident and as a consequence, it confronts the individual as a historically and scientifically justified, objective and benign process and therefore, it is undeniable fact. The biography of those consumed by the process is apprehended merely as a reactive, subjective personal episode, separate and distanced from the institution of adoption. Many affected persons experience adoption objectively as coercion and in many cases worse, as an oppressive force.

He has much more to say. It is time well spent to read his worthwhile essay.

A Never Baby Person Parented

Kelsey Graham with baby daughter

I’m a family preservation, never adopt out if one can help it, person and so I really liked this story in the LINK>Huffington Post – “What It’s Like To Be The ‘Young Mom’.”

Kelsey admits – “I was never a baby person. Growing up, when family members would have kids, I stood back, adoring the baby from afar, but passing on chances to hold it. I never babysat beyond watching my younger brother. And while it’s true what they say — when it’s your child, it’s different — it was still overwhelming being responsible for another life when I was just starting to lay the foundation for my own.”

She was in her sophomore year of college when she got pregnant and was 20 when she had her baby. I can relate. I was 19 when I had my daughter. My pregnancy was deliberate as I was married and all of our “married” friends also had young children and so, I didn’t see any reason to wait. Really, I was still a child when my daughter was young. My marriage didn’t last and unlike the author of this story, I didn’t go on to college until much later when I picked up a few hours but never graduated.

Happily, for Kelsey – she is still with her then boyfriend and now father of her daughter. With a strong support system from her family, her boyfriend, and his family, she was able to finish her degree. At 27, she was fortunate enough to return to school to earn her master’s degree. During that time, she worked in the Graduate School Office as an assistant with other students ranging in age from 20-year-olds who had just graduated with their bachelor’s to others in their 30s. She says, “It was nice to be around people closer to my age and, even more, to be back in the school setting I loved and where I felt like I belonged.”

Often feeling like she didn’t fit in, which she describes in quite a bit of detail in her op-ed, she realized that women are judged for whatever choices they make, especially if they deviate from the very narrow idea of what’s “normal.” I also understand this from my own personal experiences but thankfully, I do have friends who seem to understand my unconventional life experiences are what make me – “me”.

I do know that I have always been living my life as best I could. I know my experiences matter just as much as those who have trod more conventional paths. I am glad for my Facebook friends today. I realize these woman include all the women who have also taken the path less traveled. It’s comforting. The author notes – “Being a young mom is what brought her to me, and I’ll always feel lucky for that.” Yes, I can say the same about my own daughter – despite the bumps on our own journey together, when I could not financially support the two of us and didn’t have the kind of family support the author had on her own journey, I was no longer married to my daughter’s father and he didn’t believe in paying child support nor did I want to fight him for it.

Kelsey is a Copywriter and Freelance Writer. You can find her at LinkedIn here – https://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamkelsey/.

The Foster Care Problem

Today again, for the umpteenth time, I learned of 2 children being removed for neglect when that neglect was fixable! It’s criminal these kids are removed.

Being part of the Foster Care System in a non-kinship capacity makes you part of the problem:

If being a foster parent is such a good thing, if they are doing right by these kids, then why do we have these statistics?

Half of foster youth will never graduate high school

One in five will enter the homeless population

One in four will be involved with the criminal justice system

The False Belief: Neglected, abused children are pulled from their home and placed in welcoming environments that are stable and safe

The Reality: More than 1/3 of youth in foster care have documented abuse in foster homes. The act of removal adds additional layers of trauma

So you, who are wanting to become a foster parent, are thinking you are one of the good ones right ? You would not abuse a child – so fostering is the right thing to do because you’re a good guy.

Awesome, but to fight for these kids, you often have to really fight and you are at the mercy of the state. You really have no leverage. You are a glorified babysitter in many cases.

That means your fighting for these kids could be one mis-step away from crap with the caseworker that will cause you to lose that child to a home that WILL abuse them considering how high the likelihood of abuse in foster care is.

So before someone else says it – let’s talk about “what’s the alternative, just let children be abused by their parents ?”

The False Belief: Children removed from their homes are removed “for a good reason”; otherwise they would not be removed

The Reality: “Neglect” is cited in 76% of the cases but what is considered neglect runs the gamut: lack of proper supervision, food insecurity, housing/utility issues, medical challenges, safety issues, assumed neglect due to poverty level, assumed neglect due to the race of the family.

What would solve the “Neglect” issues cited above ? These are ALL solvable issues and addressing them would reduce the number of removals by 76% !!

Why do so many NOT see how the money, time and energy, that goes to Foster Parents and/or the Foster Care system, could be put to programs for family preservation. Doing so would vastly reduce the number of removals and keep children with their families.

What is it going to take for John Q Public to get this and advocate for change ? What is it going to take for foster caregivers to do better and put their time and efforts behind helping families keep their kids out of foster care.

Almost Aborted ?

This story got my attention – LINK>My Family Oversimplified My Brother’s Adoption Story by Carrie McKean in The Atlantic. She writes –

My brother arrived in my life like the rain always did: after fervent prayer and petitioning. With the matter-of-factness of a child suddenly convinced of her cosmic power, I greeted God with a new request: “Can I have a little brother or sister?” True story from this blog author – before our sons were conceived, I prayed for my husband to want children. The rest is obvious (though I never told him about those prayers).

Then, our old family doctor in a neighboring town, a man familiar with my mom’s longing for another baby, asked if my parents would like to adopt a newborn boy. It was to be a private, closed adoption, as requested by the infant’s birth mother, who faced an unexpected pregnancy in a rigidly conservative and nosy town.

In truth, I don’t think my parents ever knew much about the circumstances leading to my brother’s adoption. They never met William’s mother, so the doctor was the only narrator, which left plenty of room to fill in the story’s gaps with details that suited them.  

At a local crisis-pregnancy-center fundraising event, when her brother was already a teenager, her father called her brother up to the stage and announced – “His birth mom wanted to get an abortion, but the doctor wouldn’t do it.” It was the perfect fairy tale for the occasion, featuring a thwarted villain, clear protagonists, and a satisfying resolution. She writes that she joined in the applause. We were the heroes. We’d saved him. We would save them all, if we could.

She admits that – For most of my adulthood, I haven’t thought much about the fact that my brother was adopted. But in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade being overturned, I find myself considering his entry into my life yet again. Watching the gleeful moods of many in the pro-life community post-Roe, I see glimpses of my past. Believing that your brother was “almost aborted” has a way of crystallizing one’s convictions. Growing up in a conservative evangelical community, I was taught that morality was black-and-white. It was an orderly worldview with no room for messy complications; those were hidden behind closed doors. 

She goes on to share – People like me were “single-issue voters,” and the voter guide in my church bulletin told me which politicians were pro-life. Just like so many within the pro-life movement today, we were blinded by our convictions to the uniquely complicating circumstances and considerations in each unwanted pregnancy. 

In the middle of the extremes of a polarized country, the majority of Americans believe that at the least, abortion should be legal in some circumstances and illegal in others. Many lawmakers seem more interested in pleasing a vocal base than they are in having nuanced and thoughtful policy discussions. No person should be reduced to a political pawn. When it comes to aborted or not – we can’t objectively weigh the life we have against the one we don’t. Even in my case, I can’t weigh what my life might have been like had I been given up for adoption because I was not.

Regarding her brother’s adoption, she recognizes regarding his birth mother that – It is possible that adoption was her Plan A, despite the story we grew up hearing. Or maybe she wanted to keep her baby, but her parents pressured her into a different decision. In my own family, my mother pressured my sister to give up my niece. My youngest sister was always going to give my nephew up for adoption. Both were true of the birth mothers in my own family.

The story’s author says – These days, considering that my brother’s mother might have bravely endured a set of circumstances she never wanted because she had no other choice sends my emotions spinning wildly. I move through anger, indignation, and sorrow for the circumstances she faced, for the personal agency she might have been denied, for the losses my brother and she have always had to live with, for the persistent grief that comes from severing a primal relationship. But the spinning can stop in only one place: gratitude for the abortion she did not receive, for the brother that I have. For the family that we’ve made.

Adoption tends to run in families – I know it has in my family – abundantly. The author adopted her youngest daughter. At the age of 10, this girl has begun to grapple more and more with the fact that she doesn’t look like the rest of her family. Her adoptive mother notes – “For weeks, she’d been dissecting our family tree and figuring out how everyone fit together.”

One day this daughter said to the author’s adopted brother – “You’re not my real uncle,” she said, keeping her voice falsely nonchalant and tossing her head so that her long black hair fell to cover half her face. “Because you’re not my mom’s real brother.” He quickly glanced up and caught the author’s eye. They both heard what she was saying between the lines about herself and her place in their family. The author realized that her brother knew better than she ever could, what this daughter was feeling, so she stayed quiet and let him respond. 

“Hey,” his voice softened as he leaned over to gently bump her shoulder with his. She didn’t budge. He playfully kicked her cheetah-print Converse with his mud-caked work boot and she finally looked up to catch his eye. “I’m here, aren’t I? Doesn’t get more real than that.” I looked up at the sky and blinked back tears. His voice, gentled by his West Texas drawl and infinitely tender heart, landed like rain on the brittle places.

Of course, as this girl matures, there will be more questions. It is good that there is another adoptee in the family that she will grow up close to as those questions demand answers.

Mary Ellen Gambutti

Thanks to my friend Ande Stanley, a late discovery adoptee, who’s own effort in the cause she has titled LINK> The Adoption Files, I learned about this author, LINK> Mary Ellen Gambutti, today. In looking more closely at Ms Gambutti, I discovered this site LINK> Memoir Magazine, which I may look into submitting to some time in the near future. She has written several books and has a few blogs available on her author page at Amazon.

I Must Have Wandered is described as a memoir told through prose, and the letters, fragments, and photos of her infant relinquishment at birth in post-World War II South Carolina. Her adoptive parents were native New Yorkers, who happened to be stationed in the state at the time. Common in that time period – hers was a closed adoption. She reflects on the primal loss experienced by many adoptees. In her case, there were also the separations caused by a transient military lifestyle. The book includes her coming of age in the turbulent ’60s and the barriers to truth that many adoptees find, due to their sealed birth records. Add into the mix a culture of secrecy, which is often the adoption experience. Just as often, adoption includes a hefty dose of religious fervor. It is sadly a common enough story but universal in adoptionland and yet always highlighted by individual details. Like many adoptees, this woman’s genetic heritage was obliterated by her adoption, and then similarly to my own roots discovery journey, her quest for identity includes some degree of reunion. 

Gambutti also wrote a book of essays titled Permanent Home. One reviewer wrote that this book blends early childhood memories into what reads like a vision or a dream. Detailed is the trauma and loss many adoptees realize when they learn the circumstances that surrounded their birth. Her search is not supported by her adoptive family and trigger warning – there is abuse. Never-the-less a reviewer says the book is not a downer but reality. Common to the experience of many adoptees is missing health history and not looking like anyone else in their family.

 

He Did Not Give Birth

There is some push back on calling him the “birth” father. After all, he didn’t give birth. Often, the father isn’t actually known or is misrepresented by the woman giving birth. I know of situations where these kinds of circumstances exist.

Birth father has commonly be used to refer to a man who’s child is being or has been placed with an adoptive family. The actual man is certainly the genetic father. Some adoptees will derogatively refer to him as their sperm donor and that is accurate too. Others refer to him as their biodad. More than one will say simply that he should be referred to simply as “dad.”

Throughout history, men have had the easy path in human reproduction. Their contribution takes almost no time at all, whereas a woman must devote as much as 9 months of her life for a completely new human being to emerge into the world. Technically, what is referred to as a birth father is one who pays no child support. Often an adoption is finalized without the birth father’s knowledge or consent. If you are not married to the mother of your child at the time of birth, you are considered a ‘putative father,’ meaning reputed to be.  Often a genetic father denies he fathered a child until forced to do a paternity test which proves the truth (or not) of the situation.

And realistically this – being called birth father or bio father does not diminish what you as the birth mother have gone through. And this came up repeatedly – it really is up to the child what they chose to call their father. Also, the birth mother who started this was reminded that she needs to be very careful whenever she expresses disagreement because her relationship with her child could be snatched away, at any time – for any reason, that the adoptive parents see fit to do that. Don’t risk it over this because if she gets cut off her child will experience yet another loss. She does not get to be a gatekeeper regarding her child’s relationships. Her issues with her child’s father shouldn’t become her child’s issues. It doesn’t matter when his relationship with his child started because at least he has one now.