Sunday, November 20, 2016

My (fill in the blank) is Adopted But Is Not Interested in Searching

Photo credit: Adoptionlearningpartners.org
If I had a quarter for everytime somebody said the statement, "My ______ is not interested in searching" I could go on a nice vacation.

Somebody said it to me me this week.  I cannot remember who but I remember it being said and it causes my mind to swirl with emotions and begin to shut down.

I react to this statement viscerally because I'm sure it could have been said about me at some point in my life.

And on top of that, I feel that this statement is a way of  negating anything I ever said to that person about my own adoption search, anything that they have ever heard me say about adoption or read that adoptees experience being adopted -- and even everything they heard from their adopted friend/cousin/niece/nephew/grand child) who doesn't want to search gets thrown into the box.  Then the box is labeled "Adoptee who Doesn't Feel Like You."

It may sound dramatic and you may accuse me of over-reacting and that's o.k.  Because I've heard it so many times that I completely understand why it is used so much.  People like neat categories to help them make sense of things they can't control.

"Adoptee A is a bit of a rebel and has 'problems' -- his birth father was an alcoholic."

Adoptee B is an honor student and is not interested in searching."

See how that works?

I actually overheard a conversation similar to this at work a few years ago which prompted a blog on a similar topic.

It's an Us versus Them--- US are the adoptees who search and speak out about our adoptions and learn that their birth families are less than perfect.  Then there is THEM-the ones who never even think about it let alone act on it!   It's a way of separating us into two camps, both camps opposing each other.

We have in Camp 1 -- the inquisitive, questioning, outspoken, wanting answers, bad, adoptees who won't let it rest and we have in the opposite corner . . . .

Camp 2-- the compliant, happy, contented, good adoptee who accepts what he/she is told about her adoption and never questions that narrative (even in her own head).

Yesterday I read a life-changing article titled What We Lost: Undoing the Fairy Tale Narrative of Adoption by Liz Latty. I urge you to read it from start to finish.  This paragraph really jumped out at me.

"As a child, I never let on that I didn’t feel as excited as my parents did to celebrate my Special Day. This is a complicated hallmark of an adopted childhood. Adoptees often take on the emotional labor of holding our difficult feelings in places where no one can see them because we want to protect those around us from feeling hurt. There also often exists a very real and primal fear of further rejection. We understand we are loved and we understand love is tenuous, so we hide our feelings away because what if we didn’t? How will you feel? Will you be mad at me? Will you be hurt? Will you love me less? Will you send me back? I don’t want you to feel sad or think that I don’t love you, so I hold this hard truth. I hold it for you. I celebrate this day, in this way, for you." 

We hold many hard truths.

We hold our feelings inside as a way to protect you.

We don't tell you about how we had an urge to yell at the teacher for assigning a family tree assignment.

We don't talk about how we are thinking about where our birth mothers are because we know it will hurt your feelings.

We try to pretend the comment about us not looking like the rest of the family didn't hurt our feelings.

We don't mention that we wanted to throttle the cashier at Walmart for asking us if we feel lucky because we are adopted.

We don't tell you about the kid at school who said our real parents didn't want us.

We don't tell you about the girls in middle school who said we we weird for being adopted.

We don't tell you about how the next door neighbor commented about how "you never know what you are going to get" about the adoptee in his family.

We didn't mention about the choir teacher asking if we were grateful we were not aborted (because whether you acknowledge it or not, my being adopted somehow prompts people to ASSUME I was seconds away from being aborted)


If you live in a family that does not value the discussion of feelings, you can fly under the radar like I did.  My parents just assumed I was a kid who did not have many feelings (they never saw beneath the veneer that I am a highly sensitive person).  I learned to never discuss what I was feeling in my childhood home.  It was never safe and I don't mean in the sense, that somebody would have been violent.  I just never felt safe to talk about my feelings.


Have you ever watched the television series Dexter?  It's about an adoptee who is a serial killer. In the show there are flashbacks to Dexter growing up and being trained by his adoptive father on how to channel his killing instinct into a positive way (he only kills bad people who have killed others).  He trains and teaches Dexter how to FAKE his feelings and emotions so that other people will see him as normal. Dexter is able to fit in at work, in his neighborhood and even with his unsuspecting girlfriend.  As I watched this last night, I was thinking about the irony of how this applies to real life adoption.

 Adoptees will do whatever it takes to fit into their families -- many times the cost is their silence.

That is an important takeaway for adoptive parents who read adoptee blogs to understand.

We are taking a giant leap of faith by admitting how we feel now -- it may be after we are all grown up, but we do it to support other adoptees. 

Adoption is complicated.  It does not fit into neat little boxes.

You can't put us in two separate camps, because the truth is a non-searching adoptee this year becomes a searching adoptee next year.  

A compliant, happy adoptee this year becomes a sullen, angry, grief-stricken adoptee next year.

You can't control it.

The boxes don't help. They shut down the conversation.


Adoptees have been well trained to hold pain for others and not grieve their own. We know what we stand to lose and we won't open up unless we feel safe.  








Thursday, November 3, 2016

How Ancestry.com Can Become Your New Best Friend


The yellow is my 11% Irish :)

You've seen the commercials . . . . . .she didn't know she was Native American . . . .he didn't realize he was Italian . . . . . .but what the commercials don't tell you is that by simply paying $99.00 and shipping your spit off to Ancestry, you can learn this. . . . . . . .

1.  The name of your biological father that left you were when you were too small to know the story of what really happened.

2.  Your mother gave up a child (your sibling) in the 1970's before you were born and before she married your father.

3.  Your parents never mentioned you were actually adopted.

4.  Friends or neighbors you personally know are actually related to you.

5.  Your father was busy in the 1980's and you have several new siblings to prove it.

Ok, all of these situations sound pretty shocking and your first reaction might be, "But I don't want to know!"

Fair enough.

However, knowing that you have a different blood line than you believed can actually save your life. I mean, what if you need an organ transplant?  What if you are having a multitude of unidentified physical or psychological symptoms and when you meet a close family member, the mystery is cleared up about certain medical conditions that run in the family?

Maybe that one blood family member you never really thought you cared to know actually has something positive to add to your life?  Sure, it could be a disaster -- meeting relative strangers could potentially go down in flames (when Pandora's Box is opened) and when family members have to find a way to fit you into the picture -- but again, it could be amazing and beautiful as well! You could develop lifelong relationships with one or more of your new cousins!

Building a family tree is a fun and popular hobby for many people -- but for those of us who were not permitted to know our blood lines as both children and adults due to discriminatory laws, find genealogy to be life changing in so many ways.  Even if you have no skeletons in the closet, or skin in the game, the cheapest, fastest way you can support an adoptee in your life is by purchasing an autosomal DNA test.


The adoptee you help may just be your niece!

So what are you waiting for?  Order your Ancestry DNA kit today!

You'll never know what you didn't know until you spit into the little tube and mail it back to Ancestry.com!

This has been a public service announcement -- not for the purposes of advertising a product but for the purpose of celebrating National Adoption Month 2016 by improving the lives of adopted people and bringing truth and transparency to adoption.



Thursday, August 4, 2016

Heading to National Conference of State Legislatures - Chicago 2016

NCSL-Minneapolis, MN - 2014

The Adoptee Rights Coalition is gearing up for another exciting opportunity to speak with state legislatures and their staff members about sponsoring bills in closed record states for equal rights for adoptee access to original birth certificates.

This year will be different in that we will be educating lawmakers on the boom in DNA/genetic genealogy testing and that through this testing, there is no longer any reasonable expectation that privacy or anonymity exists between a parent and their offspring (adopted or not).

For $99.00, anyone can purchase a DNA test and be matched up with cousins and sometimes, close family members, who also have tested.  Just a few years ago, it was only a lucky few who were getting close matches.  Nowadays, people are getting first cousin, grandparent and sibling matches on a regular basis.

I myself have a first cousin match at Ancestry which has allowed me to see which of my other matches are maternal versus paternal.  I am fortunate to be adopted in the state of Illinois which allows most of their adoptees access to their OBCs.  A majority of adoptees are still discriminated against in their home states of adoption.

Gaye Tannenbaum of the ARC has written about this phenomena in her blog titled DNA Game Changer - Part I: Thoughts on the "birthparent privacy" argument.  Please share this article far and wide.

If you will be at the NCSL, please visit BOOTH 824. We will have DNA tests as door prizes.

Hope to see you there!

Lynn






Friday, July 15, 2016

How Can You Support an Adoptee?

I arrived at the idea for this post thinking about all the amazing people I have met, seen and heard through the Facebook room called DNA Detectives.  The group is managed by genetic genealogists who spend hours a day helping total strangers seek out and find their roots - many of these members are adopted.  When I feel myself losing hope in my own search, I log into DNA Detectives and read posts about people who have searched for decades without much to go on, due to sealed records and secrets, but were able to get a breakthrough thanks to autosomal DNA testing.

So, what can YOU do to help an adoptee, even if you are not part of the adoption constellation? You don't have to be a birth parent, an adoptive parent or an adoptee yourself to do a few very important things to help adoptees find their roots.

1.  TAKE A DNA TEST AT ANCESTRY
My ethnic breakdown

Normally, the test at Ancestry cost 99.00 but you can get it on sale for 79.00.  How does this help an adoptee?  Simple -- every new tester in the database is a potential relative of an adoptee who is waiting for answers.  Using your saliva and a simple process of shipping via mail, you can learn of your ethnic breakdown.

Ancestry will also match you with your genetic cousins and statistically, you will be related to an adoptee somewhere on your tree.  Be sure to log in regularly to check for new matches.  Also check your messages both at Ancestry and your Message Requests folder on Facebook. My closest match at Ancestry has not logged into Ancestry in a year and she does not have a tree.  There are other steps to take after you test at Ancestry and joining DNA Detectives can guide you.  An adoptee will thank you for your efforts.

2  BUILD A PEDIGREE FOR YOUR FAMILY

When you have a well-documented tree on Ancestry, you are helping other members research their own genealogy and you are helping adopted people find their roots.  Your tree must be set to Public to help others.  Even when your tree is set to Public, your living relatives cannot be seen by other members -- only your deceased ones.


3. VALIDATE AN ADOPTEE'S NEED TO KNOW

This seems so simple that you are probably wondering why it is even on a list of things to do, which is what makes it so powerful.  Validate in words of support when somebody does not know who their biological family is and is taking active steps to learn about them. My husband always asks people who don't understand an adoptee's plight this question,

"Do YOU know who your mother and father are?"  (usually a yes follows this question).

"So, do I". (if you have ever heard my husband's deep, booming voice, you can imagine the silence that follows.)

4.  SUPPORT ADOPTEE RIGHTS.

This could be as easy as writing a quick letter of support to your state representative or sending money to an adoptee rights organization. Go here to learn more about adoptee rights.

The Adoptee Rights Coalition, which I am a board member, is a group of volunteers (adoptees and friends of adoptees) who travel at their own cost to the National Conference of State Legislatures annually to educate that adoptees' birth certificates are treated differently than non-adoptees' birth certificates in a majority of states in the U.S.  If you are able, please donate to the ARC to fund the NCSL 2017 Boston booth, go here (the donate button is to the far right)

Supporting an adoptee is as simple as words of validation, understanding and participation.

An adoptee in your life will thank you!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Tending to my Own Garden by Seeking My Roots


After spending a decade privately compiling information about my relinquishment, adoption and birth family, I created a search team to help me look at my search with new eyes.  This team has uncovered stacks of information from various sources.

However, I still do not know the man who fathered me.  I know quite a bit about him through my DNA, interviews and stories I have learned of over the years, and my Non-ID.  I just need that special clue that will set me in the right direction.  That is where you all come in!

It's hard for me to ask for help; however, I am no longer alone.  I have a whole adoption community out there that want to help me and for that, I am very grateful.

Sometimes you have to be realistic and accept that even though certain secrets and lies are old --- really old --  family members many times die with their secrets.  DNA testing is helping so many people, but with my father being a recent immigrant to the country, I don't yet have a cousin match to identify my paternal family.  (Hint:  If you want to help an adoptee or others separated from family, spend the $79.00 to test at Ancestry).

There are people who are alive right now who know my story.  I have been advised by one of them to tend to my own garden and just be happy.  (I always find it humorous when a non-adopted person in one breath is bragging about her own genealogy, but then in the next breaths assumes that if I am looking for the truth about my ancestors, I must not be happy). 

Some refuse to reveal the story.  Others don’t know they have information that could be helpful.  That is where this graphic comes in.  This graphic was created by an adoptee who is part of my team who has walked this path before me.  Her support has been invaluable.

My hope is to reach a wider audience with these graphics and generate some leads.  

Thank you in advance for sharing this blog and/or the graphics!  







Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Adoptee Triggers and a Sense of Belonging at the World A'Fair

World A'Fair 2016 - Dayton Convention Center
I had an amazing experience this past weekend when I took DD to our local World A'Fair. Many communities put these on, or you may be familiar with the Epcot Center at Disney World, which is the same idea.  You will experience different countries, cultures, foods, dancing, and become educated on what products and ideas came from which country (Example:  Ethiopia's claim to fame is coffee).

This was DD's first trip to the World A'Fair and she was mesmorized from the moment we walked in. We were handed a passport to make our way around to the different countries where someone would stamp the passport and answer the trivia question that was posed in the passport.

First stop -- Colombia!  It is purported that my biological father was Colombian so we made our way over to try out the amazing beef empanadas and churros.  SO DELICIOUS!  I had a conversation with a man from Bogota, Colombia who gave me the lowdown on the cheapest and safest way to visit Colombia.
El Meson--beef empanadas from Colombia

We made our way around to the different countries, DD trying out different dances, foods and asking lots of questions.  Before DD even asked, I shared with her that she was German, Irish and a little bit Native American.  I felt compelled to share with her which cultures were part of her heritage as I did not want her to experience the emotional pain that I felt attending the World A'Fair many decades before with my own mother.

As I reflected back to that time many years ago, I remembered looking around at all the different countries, envying how each culture  of people running the booths, cooking together, dancing together, and laughing together, looked alike, knew their history and knew that they belonged in that group.  I was deeply sad that I didn't know which country and culture was part of my history and it left me reeling and apparently, brave.

I said out loud that I wished I could find my birth mother.

My mother's response to this wish was to share a story about a birth mother who had never shared with her husband that she had relinquished a child and when the adoptee showed up, the woman's life was devastated.   In my usual fashion, I retorted back, "Well, I guess that is what happens when you lie." which abruptly ended that conversation.

This memory has always stayed with me as it made clear where my mother stood on my wanting to know about myself.  It may have been the reason I have not regularly attended the World A'Fair as well.

On Sunday, sharing my first World A'Fair with DD, I looked around and caught a glimpse of Italy (the country I most identified with for all those years of not-knowing), and felt a sense of peace that since taking an autosomal DNA test, I now know the truth (I am not Italian!).  I can walk up to Mexico and know that some of these people are my people!! I can visit Germany, and although German food is not my favorite,  I can embrace that this culture is part of me.  I can eat Colombian food, and feel a sense of belonging, even without knowing for certain who my father is.
DD dancing with a Lebanese dancer

For the first time in my life, I walked among the diverse cultures and countries, and knew that I belonged somewhere!  It was also such an amazing bonding experience to be there doing all this with DD, who like me, is adopted; however, has all of the information about her background.

I hope, she too, felt a sense of happiness and belonging at her first World A'Fair.






Saturday, April 9, 2016

Looking for your birth parents? Create a Facebook Search Party!

photo credit:  engage.synecoretech.com
Today I am writing about a collaborative approach to finding one or both of your birth parents. This is especially helpful if you have already gone down the genetic genealogy/DNA testing route but you don't have close enough cousin matches to make a connection with one of your birth parents.

Keep in mind that statistically, you could get a close match any day, with the number of people testing; however, there are certain adoptees, like myself who have a parent who was a recent immigrant to the U.S. that may prevent you from getting close enough matches in a timely fashion.  For example, you will be looking in your DNA, and see all sorts of distant cousins from Italy, but you just can't pinpoint who that parent is, because you only have clues, and not cousin matches close enough to begin investigating their genealogy.

But looking at your ancestry breakdown, you realize that this parent is at least 1/4 Italian, maybe even 1/2 Italian and you notice that a big majority of your matches have ancestors living in Detroit, Michigan.  You may not have a close cousin match, but you have some valuable information to use when you create your search party.

Creating a search party is really simple on Facebook.  You create a new secret group (make sure it is secret because you will have sensitive documents and information posted in this Facebook room). Once you have created your secret group, you can begin to invite people to join your search group.

Here is how I did my own.  First, I thought about all the people who were currently helping me or following my journey in some way and invited them into the room, which is very easy to do on Facebook.

photo credit:  spynotebook.org
Some of the people I chose were related in different ways within the adoption community.  Here are some examples of the people I chose and why:

* my friend who is a genealogist and has been working on my tree since 2006
* my search angel who was already familiar with my case and has interviewed people in the past
* a group of writers that showed interest in my search and/or knew my story and wanted to help
* a few friends I met through this blog who felt compelled to help me.

*Note, sometimes the more obvious people you know will not be the ones to really dig in and help you.  Your best friend may not be a good choice for your search team or he/she may.  You decide.

I chose around 40 people, but I know other people who have less than that.

These are the special skills you want your search party to have:

* good genealogy skills -- very proficient in looking up information on Ancestry.com, Familysearch.org, etc. (obituaries, newspaper articles, city directories, etc).

* good legal skills -- knows where to find what legal information and where (i.e. marriage certificates, divorce decrees, etc.)

* Very persistent diggers, people with analytical minds and good intuition (can go from point A to B really quickly, can sniff out falsehoods, can find yearbook photos in a single bound and can create a "story" out of your information)

* Thinks outside of the box (not afraid to write to strangers for information, will purchase and send DNA tests to potential relatives, etc.)

* Genetic genealogy skills -- a thorough understanding of what the DNA results mean and how to interpret them properly

* Good people skills  and social media skills so as not to offend those people who will be providing leads or information and locating relatives on social media

* People with psychic gifts (if in doubt, read this book for further understanding on how a psychic helped adoptee Rhonda Noonan find her grandfather, Winston Churchill.)

Ok! So you have invited your friends who are smart and savvy, but you may be lacking some people with skills you need.  What I did, is I posted a general update on my main Facebook page asking if anyone wanted to join the search team.  I was very fortunate to find a new person with all of the above skills rolled into one person.  She is the rock star of search angels and was able to take my search to a whole new level.

If you still need people with skills, start asking friends for referrals. Think of people who are into genealogy, who enjoy investigating or love crime shows (raises hand!).  Think of your friends who are problem solvers and actively love following a trail to its conclusion.  Invite them! Leave no stone or person who can help unturned.

Important warning! Only invite people you trust to keep your information confidential or have the confidence of somebody you trust.  You may create your search party and become uneasy about one or two of the members, especially if you do not know them face to face.  If this happens, do not be afraid to remove them from the search party once you have gotten to the bottom of your unease.

Next:  Begin to upload documents with the "story" of your birth/adoption and your search.  I will give you examples of how I did this:

First I posted a document I received from my adoption agency (the Non-ID) so everybody could read it. I later posted my original birth certificate when one of my searchers asked what it said about my father on there.  Many adoptees do not have their original birth certificate due to closed record laws; however if you do, be sure to post it for your searchers to see.

Next, I posted a summary of the interviews with friends and relatives as well as conversations I had with key people so my searchers could read them and interpret them for themselves.

Next, I posted what my DNA was leading me to believe about my ethnicity, location of ancestors, etc.

You want to post these documents in your secret room but do not make them novels. Each of my posted documents were one page and summarized the information to the best of my ability.  Details are important but telling every detail is exhausting and possibly confusing to those who are new to your search.  Here is an example of how one aspect of my search party unfolded:

In my own search for my father, my non-ID from the adoption agency is contradictory to the interview with one of my relatives who remembered my father.  This is very common as adoption agencies were notorious in not getting proper information or documenting outright untruths during the closed era.  Let your searchers figure out what THEY believe is the correct scenario.  You have looked at this stuff until you are blue in the face.  You want a fresh perspective from your search team on what they believe your story is leading to.

From there, each of your searchers will take a lead and run with it or will "profile" your parent and the story of how you came to be (think of criminal profiling -- it's similar).  One might start looking up friends of one of your birth parents on Ancestry.  One might start combing through yearbooks for clues.  One may research at the library.  One may contact you individually and ask more questions about a particular angle of your search.

The hoped-for result will be many new documents posted in the room for all to see, many new leads, new people to talk to and fresh ideas on where to go next.  The best result, of course, is to find your birth parent.  It can happen! Just have faith!

Be sure to be available to answer any additional questions your searchers may have in a timely manner so you can keep this ball rolling.

When you create a search party, anything is possible and magic will unfold if you have the right chemistry in the room!!  Be prepared to find anything!

And please drop me a line if you are successful in this endeavor.  Would love to hear from you!