Karen Madeiros, Executive Director of AFABC, is the adoptive mother of two children from the US. She has personally experienced and been witness to the development of openness in adoption. In this article, which is an updated version of a previous article, she reflects on what she has learned about openness.
This morning, I had a talk with a neighbour in my office building about why she is leaving her job. As a black woman, she feels the presence of a glass ceiling and feels that within that company she can never achieve her potential.
As white people, do we dismiss these stories as isolated incidents? Do we discount the cumulative effects that racism has on people of colour? We do not see the daily slights that people of colour live with, and then we do not understand when someone blows up at that “final straw.”
Our adoption story started in the fall of 1984 when I experienced a near fatal health emergency as a result of a genetic illness. My wife and I decided not to have biological children, as there was a strong possibility that my illness would be passed onto our children. We were aware of adoption, but never considered it seriously — we’d heard that it could take years and years.
While many adopted teens appear to navigate the challenges of adolescence in a similar manner to their non-adopted peers, there is consensus that the teen years can present special challenges for adopted children. For this reason, parents are well advised to at least inform themselves about what these might be.
Spending a few hours with David Kirk, author of the books Shared Fate, Adoptive Kinship, and Exploring Adoptive Family Life, is a remarkable experience. He has lived through so much in his life and has much to say about politics, religion, sociology, and, more personally, what it means to be Jewish, a father, and an adoptive parent. He is one of those people who can make meaningful connections between events and experience, effortlessly.
I was adopted at birth, 22 years ago, but I've never felt like anything was missing from my life. Then I received information about my birth parents. I got butterflies in my stomach when I saw the letter in the mailbox. It had also been awhile since I’d really thought about what it means to be adopted.
Getting that information: height, weight, and characteristics of the people whose genes I share, made me aware of a piece I didn't know had been missing.
Tell me about your family.
After 10 years of infertility, my partner and I decided to adopt a child. The race of the child was not an issue for us, we simply wanted to be parents. Looking back on it, I admit that we were naive.
"If I were an adoptee, I think I'd want to search for my birth parents. I'd be curious, I think," Cathy tells me. "Oh, no, I wouldn't want to," says Joanne. "I was raised by my biological parents and I may look like them, but I am nothing like them in personality. Who cares whose nose or hands you have?"