Archive for the 'Adoptees' Category

An Opportunity for Virginia to Celebrate Adoption

No matter how you lean politically, it must be admitted that Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell loves adoption. Back in May he launched a his “Virginia Adopts: Campaign for 1,000″ initiative, which aimed to find adoptive homes for 1,000 children in foster care. In July, he added a social media campaign called #100Kids100Days, where each day for 100 days the administration shares the photo and story of one child who is in foster care in Virginia awaiting adoption.

Encouraged by the success of these initiatives, today Governor McDonnell launched a new social media effort with the purpose of increasing support for adoption in Virginia. The new campaign, which is called #IHeartAdoption, invites Virginia families who support adoption to tell the world about how adoption has touched their lives.

Any Virginian can participate in the campaign by printing out this template and writing in why you love adoption. The official website isn’t completely clear, but it sounds like you’re then supposed to take a photo of yourself holding the printout and email it to VAadopts@governor.virginia.gov. You can also post your photo on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #IHeartAdoption. Before sumbitting it, understand that all submissions could be included on the Virginia Adopts website, Facebook, Twitter or other promotional material. They plan to get the word out widely about how much adoption rocks!

I especially love that the campaign doesn’t limit participation to adoptive families. Any Virginian can share why they love adoption, including birth parents, adoptees, siblings of adoptees — anyone. I hope that this will send birth parents the message that Virginia supports the heartwrenchingly hard decisions they have made. I hope this will send adoptees the message that Virginia supports and cherishes them. I hope this will send foster children the message that Virginia has not given up on finding permanent homes for them. I hope this will send everyone the message that adoption is all about love!

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

Celebrating National Adoption Month


It’s been a while since I posted, as things have been busy, busy, busy at The Vaughan Firm! Welcome to all my newest clients, and congratulations for those who are celebrating their finalizations this month.

November is National Adoption Month, a time to celebrate, learn about, and teach others about adoption. To kick it off, I’ve compiled an interesting list. Most everyone knows what celebrities have adopted a child. Do you know which celebrities were adopted themselves? Here are a few.

Steve Jobs
Art Linkletter
Kristin Chenoweth
Edgar Allen Poe
John Lennon
Faith Hill
Jamie Foxx
Debbie Harry
Tim McGraw
Sarah McLauchlan
Nelson Mandela
Leo Tolstoy
Nat King Cole
Babe Ruth
Malcolm X
Snooki

I bet you never expected to see a list that included both Leo Tolstoy and Snooki. There you have it, folks. Did I miss any of your favorite celebrities who were adopted? Post them in the comments!

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

A Support Resource for Anyone in an Open Adoption

I just learned about Open Adoption Support, a lovely support community for any person involved in an open adoption – adoptive parents, birth parents, and adoptees alike. Adoptive mother Dawn Friedman has created a safe, ad-free space for members of the “adoption triad” to talk about the issues, challenges, joys, and questions that arise in open adoption. What most attracted me to their site initially was their list of beliefs:

    Our Beliefs
  • We honor the connection adoptees have to both of their families.
  • We recognize the love and joy as well as the losses and grief of adoption.
  • We do not diminish one family in favor of another.
  • We are flexible, understanding that needs and circumstances change.
  • We set boundaries on the basis of what is best for our children.
  • We understand that open adoption looks like different things for different families.

    I think this list should be posted on the wall in every home that has been touched in any way by open adoption. What do you think? Is there anything you would add to this list?

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

  • Social Media: A Game-Changer for Adoption

    This month’s issue of Parenting magazine includes an article about a couple who found a child to adopt by putting the word out among their friends on Facebook. Lisa Belkin recently wrote an article for the New York Times about the joys and dangers of birth parents and adoptees finding each other through social media sites. There’s no doubt about it: Social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, as well as the profusion of search sites like MyLife, have been a real game-changer for the adoption community.

    Adoptive parents today are able to get the word out much faster to a much larger number of people about their wish to adopt a child by posting to social media sites and asking their friends to re-post. There are even social media sites dedicated solely to adoption. Birth mothers could also use this method to find an adoptive family, although for a variety of reasons many birth mothers feel more private about their decisions. The elimination of the need for agencies or facilitators (both of which can be expensive and not always honest) to match up families could be a wonderful development, giving all parties more choice at lower cost.

    For adoptees seeking to find their birth parents (or vice versa) the Internet is also an amazing tool. It’s easier than ever before to find a person’s contact information. This aspect of social and search media is more of a mixed blessing. It can be a wonderful thing to eliminate the gatekeepers that so often serve to keep adoptees from knowing more about their histories. However, it can also be scary for people (be they adoptees or birth parents) who don’t wish to be found. I have heard stories about children as young as 13 being contacted online by birth parents without the adoptive parents’ knowledge, which is very disturbing.

    What do you think? Do any of my readers have stories about social media and the Internet affecting their adoption stories?

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

    Adoption Nation: New Edition

    I was excited to learn that there is an updated, 10th anniversary edition of Adam Pertman’s influential book Adoption Nation now available. The book, which is based on a Pulitzer Prize-nominated series Pertman wrote on adoption for The Boston Globe explores the issues surrounding adoption and how it has changed our families and our society. Given how much has happened in the world of adoption in ten years (increase in open adoption, decrease in international adoption, the increasing focus on gay and lesbian family issues in the news, and a number of adoption and foster-care scandals, to name a few), the updated version is timely and important. As Pertman himself writes on his website, “I believe that understanding our ‘Adoption Nation,’ so that we can shape a more humane, more ethical and more ‘normalized’ institution, one that truly serves the needs of children and all their families, is more important than ever.”

    Hear, hear. A fascinating book that I highly recommend to anyone with any interest in adoption topics.

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

    The Adoptee Community

    “Adult adoptees are a primary source for knowledge about adoption as an institution. Their perceptions are unique, for adult adoptees are actually the only persons who can tell us what it is like to live adoption in a society in which most people are not adopted.”

    –Child Welfare League of America

    Learning about the perspectives of adults who were adopted as children is an excellent idea for all adoptive and prospective adoptive parents. Reading about these viewpoints can be difficult for adoptive parents, because it’s not all positive. While most adoptive parents know about the feelings of sadness, emptiness, and rejection that adoptees can sometimes feel, fewer are aware that some adult adoptees are very angry about the adoption system and certain aspects of their adoptions. These feelings can be hard to read about, but the truth is that ignoring them does not make them go away. Learning about the adoptee community and its varied perspectives is an important way that you can prepare to be an informed ally to your adopted child. Here are a few resources to get you started.

    Any book by Betty Jean Lifton: Betty Jean Lifton was an adoptee who wrote beautifully about the lifelong experience of being adopted. Her books are Lost and Found: The Adoption Experience, Twice Born: Memoirs of an Adopted Daughter, and Journey of the Adopted Self: The Quest for Wholeness.

    Bastard Nation Don’t be put off by the name – Bastard Nation is a well-respected adoptee rights organization that is active in issues such as adoptee access to original birth records.

    Dr. John Raible Online Dr. John Raible is an Assistant Professor of Diversity and Curriculum Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is an adult adoptee who was adopted transracially, and his research focuses on racial identity, particularly in adoption contexts. He is an insightful writer and speaker whose perspective includes his personal experience as well as his extensive academic research.

    Harlow’s Monkey A blog about transracial adoption from an adoptee’s perspective. Includes an excellent page for adoptive parents on how to be an ally to transracially adopted children and adults.

    Heart, Mind, and Seoul A blog by an adult adoptee from Korea who is also a mother to one adopted son and one daughter by birth. Her perspective as both an adoptee and an adoptive parent is insightful.

    The Declassified Adoptee Amanda is an adult adoptee who has reunited with her birth mother. She is also an adoption activist and adoptee rights activist who writes with eloquence and grace about her own experiences as well as adoption issues generally.

    Sherrie Eldridge Sherrie Eldridge is an adult adoptee and author of many books on adoption, including Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew. She writes, speaks, and coaches with the goal of helping adoptive parents and their children enrich their relationship.

    In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories. This book is one of the very few written from adoptees’ perspectives.

    Do you know of other great resources for learning more about adoptees’ perspectives? Post them in the comments or email me at evaughan (at) vaughanfirm (dot) com.

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

    Adoptee Access to Birth Records

    Although my clients are primarily birth parents and adoptive parents, I try to stay plugged in to what is going on in the adult adoptee community. Why? Because as someone who is devoted to what I call a “child-centered adoption practice,” I believe that there is no one more qualified to tell me what is in the best interests of adopted children than adults who were adopted as children. For that reason, I am keenly interested in the adoptee-rights movement to change the laws regarding birth certificates for adopted children.

    In most states, when a child is adopted, he or she will be issued a new birth certificate listing the adoptive parents’ names, exactly as if the child had been born to them. The original birth certificate is then placed under seal, meaning that not even the adopted child or the birth parents can access it without a court order. While on the surface it may seem to make sense that the adoptive parents, as the child’s only legal parents, should be treated in this way in the records, this practice causes several fundamental injustices. Most glaringly, it denies an entire group of people (adoptees) access to the basic facts of their own lives. It can cause embarrassment and invasion of privacy to adoptees who are forced to explain that they are adopted in cases where an employer or government agency requires an original birth certificate, while they have only an amended one. It hides the identity of birthmothers, whether the birthmothers themselves wish to be hidden or not. And even if you don’t feel strongly about adoptees’ and birthmothers’ rights, you must admit it is a little disturbing that the government has the power to change the recorded facts about events.

    I have more mixed feelings about laws that keep original birth records open except in the event that the birthmother wishes to remain anonymous. Drawing the line between adoptee rights and birthmother rights is a difficult question, for me. Still, there is no question that the law as it stands today is in need of improvement.

    I encourage adoptive parents and birth parents to get involved in the adoptee community to show adoptees that you care about their rights. One place to start is The Adoptee Rights Demonstration.

    This is a hot-button topic and I know many of you have opinions about it! Post them in the comments or email me at evaughan (at) vaughanfirm (dot) com.

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

    Happy Holidays from Adoptivity!

    Whatever holiday you celebrate,
    However you celebrate,
    However you define “family,”
    I wish you and your family joy and love this holiday season.

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

    “I Think We Were Born Together” – A Tale of Twin Merediths

    This month’s Reader’s Digest magazine features a fascinating article about twin girls from China who were adopted from the same agency, Jiangmen City Social Welfare Institute, by two separate families. The agency allegedly did not know that the girls were twins. In a bizarre coincidence, the adoptive families, both of whom live in the United States, met in an Internet chat room for families who had adopted from that agency. After exchanging photos and stories, they began to suspect that their girls had known each other at the agency. Further investigation including DNA testing confirmed that in fact they were fraternal twins. So many remarkable facts stand out about this story. Both families named their daughters Meredith. Both girls had talked about having a sister from a very young age. The two share some mannerisms, interests and expressions.

    The families arranged for the girls to meet when they were four years old, and now arrange yearly visits with each other. The two Merediths, now 10 years old, keep in close touch. According to the article, Meredith Ellen’s first words to her sister Meredith Grace when they first met were, “I think we were born together”.

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

    Adopted Children and the Holidays

    A very happy Thanksgiving to all my readers! As we enter the holiday season, I want to offer a few tips for parents of adopted children at what can sometimes be a difficult time. The holidays are, almost by definition, a time for family, and that can make them a confusing and emotional time for adoptees. Depending on the child’s age, you might notice him acting out, withdrawing, or maybe just asking more questions about his birth family and where he came from. Below are a few tips for supporting your child during this time.

  • Accept and acknowledge your child’s feelings. Parents, who are often going through their own stresses at the holidays, are sometimes tempted to deny their children’s sad feelings. “Christmas is a happy time!” they might admonish. This sends kids the message that their feelings are not okay and should be hidden. Instead, try to recognize your child’s feelings. This may require a little bit of guesswork if your child is not old enough to express what she is feeling. You might begin with a question. “Are you thinking about your birth mom? I’m thinking about her today, too.” Although it can be hard to get over your own insecurity and hurt feelings when your child is feeling sad about his birth family, it is essential to show the child that he can trust you with his real thoughts and feelings. Try re-stating your child’s feelings in neutral terms (“It’s hard not having your birth family here, isn’t it?” or “sometimes you wish you could spend Christmas with your birth mom.”). One great book about communicating with kids is How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Another good resource for adoptive families is Helping Children Cope With Separation and Loss by Claudia Jewett Jarrett.
  • If possible, include birth family in holiday celebrations. If not, create rituals. One of the wonderful things about open adoption is that it expands the circle of family, which is an especially beautiful thing at the holidays. If possible, include birth parents, grandparents, etc. for part of your holiday celebrations. If this is not possible, it can be helpful to create a ritual to do together to acknowledge the birth family. Some families light a candle during holiday meals or at times when the child is thinking about her birth mother. Others get out an album of photos of the child’s birth family and look through it together. Whatever you choose, pick a specific time (say, Christmas Eve before bed) and do the ritual every year, but also be flexible and let your child choose to do the ritual when she is feeling sad about her birth family.
  • If your child is from another culture, include traditions from that culture in your celebrations. The holidays are an easy and beautiful time to include your child’s birth culture in your family life. Traditional native foods, music, clothing, crafts, decorations, and traditions are all fun to learn about together, and greatly enrich your holiday traditions.
  • Avoid overstimulation. Especially for newly-adopted children, the holidays can be too overwhelming to handle. Traveling, having guests in the house, disruption of routines, new toys, and bright lights are exactly the opposite of what children need when they are adapting to a new environment. Children who are adopted from institutional settings, especially, are often unaccustomed to a lot of attention or even to playing with toys. Even children who have been in their homes for a while can get overstimulated by holiday celebrations. Try to keep celebrations low-key at first, and to maintain eating an nap schedules as much as possible. Be an advocate for your child by explaining to family members that your child can get overwhelmed easily, so they should give him some time and space and limit gifts to a number that doesn’t overwhelm him.
  • “Being good” doesn’t always mean feeling good. Remember that adopted children hear messages about “being good” differently than their not-adopted peers do. Some children interpret the “you’d better not pout, you’d better not cry” messages of Christmas to mean that they will be rejected or sent away if they aren’t “good.” The holidays are an especially good time to emphasize that you love your child unconditionally.
  • Be aware of what’s going on at school. If you haven’t done so yet, the holidays can be a good time to talk to your child’s teachers about adoption. For example, if your child is newly adopted, you may want to explain that she might have trouble answering questions like “how does your family celebrate the holidays?” Encourage teachers to learn about different types of families and to use inclusive language, especially for open adoptions and LGBT adoptions, where there could be more than one “mommy” and “daddy” involved. One thing that sometimes comes up at the holidays is that schools “adopt a family” by donating gifts and food to families in need. Explain that using adoption language for charitable activities can be confusing for adopted children.
  • Remember that the holidays don’t have to be perfect. This is advice that most families could stand to hear, not just adoptive families! While some families feel pressure to have a picture-perfect holiday that is 100% happy and drama-free, this is a tall order when human beings are involved. The only holiday that is really “perfect” is one where everyone is warmly loved and unconditionally accepted — and knows it. In that spirit, I wish you and your family the most “perfect” of holiday seasons.
  • What works in your family at the holidays? Send your suggestions in the Comments section, or by email to me at evaughan (at) vaughanfirm (dot) com.

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

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