Saturday, September 8, 2018

Back on the Birthfather Rollercoaster Awaiting DNA Results


Benjamin Bratt, actor whose mother
is Peruvian
Peruvians are the
 smallest percentage
 of Latinos in the U.S.
I am trying to keep my mind busy while I await the results of an Ancestry DNA test in order to solve a life-long mystery. An excellent candidate has been found that fits a large part of the description of my biological father, including mine and my son’s DNA results.  However, in many ways this candidate may not fit.  Let me share with you why.

I have a significant amount of outright conflicting information:  from the non-ID the adoption agency kept, to interviews with friends and family, it has felt very similar to crime stories where the investigators profile the murderer and try and create stories from the evidence at the scene of the crime.  

Problem is, similar to criminal cold cases, there are many possible scenarios and memories that have become more convoluted over the years as time has gone by. We are talking about 50 years ago. Many of the people from that time period are dead or can’t remember details.

Here is what I know for sure:

I was conceived around St. Patrick’s Day March of 1965.  I was born December of 1965 and relinquished at birth for adoption to The Cradle of Evanston, IL.  My maternal birth family, located in 2006, had roots in a suburb of Chicago, several generations marrying in this area. Big fish in a little pond, the search team has found all sorts of documentation of my family being the opposite of what you hear today about families who relinquish children for adoption.  1965 was during the middle of the Baby Scoop Era and white, unmarried women who were middle or upper middle class just didn't keep their babies without severe consequences to their reputations and future.

My maternal birth family had money and status, which partly explains why the identity of my biological father has been a closely-guarded secret amongst the inner circle of my birth mother and her friends.
The Cradle Adoption Agency, still in business. This is Nina, a
social worker who located my birth mother
in 2006 standing in the museum section of the agency
Illinois is where my search team has focused their efforts over the last several years.  I was directly told by my birth mother I was conceived in a particular place in Illinois. In 2012, while in Chicago for an adoptee rights event, I got reacquainted with a friend from high school, Denise, who now lives close to my birth family roots.  Denise, my husband, Mark, and I took a walk back in time while visiting cemeteries and the properties owned by my maternal birth families back in the 60’s.  This field trip, along with obituaries and other research at the library, helped me to understand the context of my maternal birth family in the 1960s.

When I was in L.A. last month for the National Conference of State Legislators, my roommate, an experienced DNA search angel, said I needed to take a different approach in this search.  She gave me some specific search ideas that had not been focused on before and specifically told me to look at Ohio.  When I arrived home, one of my search team members had come to a similar conclusion and was hot and heavy on the trail of an international student named Julio who was in college a couple hours away from my birth mother, in Ohio, where I have lived for 50 years.  My birth mother went to college in Ohio and graduated the same month I was conceived.  However, by then, it was believed the family (yes, oddly, the entire family moved to Ohio during my birth mother’s 4 years at university) had already moved back to Illinois. 

Flashback to several years ago:  I had a long-awaited phone call with my uncle, who sadly, passed away before I was able to meet him.  He shared with me the following words . . . .

“Your father’s name was Julio.  I am 95% sure he was from Bogota, Colombia.  When my sister became pregnant, he fled back to Colombia.  My family was very upset.  You are my niece and I love you.”

Thank God for my uncle.  He confirmed a similar story by a friend of the family who was interviewed.   

About a month ago, the search team started digging into Ohio and this new Julio candidate.  I got a membership to Newspapers.com and the search team went to work.  We found an unbelievable amount of information on my maternal family and Julio in Ohio.  Julio (sadly, deceased) was from South America and came into the U.S. at 18 and went to college in Miami, FL.  He then transferred at approximately age 20 to a college in Ohio where he was a part of a fraternity, played and coached soccer and majored in Chemistry.  Newspapers.com and Ancestry.com told the story of his marriage, divorce, return to South America, and his children. They settled not far from where I currently live and if this is our guy, I have 5 known siblings.  It’s a lot to take in!! 
DNA results show that my father was likely Peruvian

Trying to find this needle in a haystack called “father” has been nothing short of a roller coaster.  Something I would have never anticipated being completely na├»ve to reunion and the adoption community when I met my maternal birth family in 2006.  Silly me! I thought my birth mom would just tell me the truth!  12 years later, I have learned that I am in good company.  Between false naming of fathers on birth records and adoption records, to outright claiming no knowledge of who the father is, this seems to be a common theme in the adoption community. 

During this search, there have been huge ups and huge downs.  One down I can speak about now was a guy named Julio P. that the team researched for a very long time who was from Bogota, Colombia and attending a university where one of my birth mother’s friends attended.  We felt certain he was our guy.  Also deceased, he had three living daughters in the U.S.  One of them tested and we were not a match.  That was the biggest low. After that, I took about a year break from searching at all.  Searching for a birth parent is emotionally draining and when you have a busy life, a family and a career, it’s easy to get sidetracked into the vortex that searching creates.  One nugget of info leads to another one and on and on you can follow these leads until you end up spending 6 hours on your computer and ignoring your family (yes, been there, done that).

As you can see, this search has taken on a life of it’s own and I have been recently jotting down bits (with the hopes of a possible memoir) focusing on the twists and turns of this search over the last 12 years.  There are so many heroes in this story . .  .from Greg who reached out to me at Family Tree DNA and did the initial legwork at the library and interview process in Illinois to Gaye who has finally convinced me based on my DNA results that I am Peruvian, to Regina who is like a dog with a bone – there is literally nothing that girl can’t find.  To Zack, who has been on this rollercoaster with me, digging up leads for me and other adoptees of unknown parents since 2006.  Bridgett, who creates stories in her head about possible scenarios – stuff I don’t come up with even in my dreams.  So much talent and such giving spirits!  

Our first meeting of my Peruvian cousin and her husband  (2017)
Recently, I was blessed in matching with a Peruvian distant cousin at 23 and Me, who lives in the same city as me!  Our families have met and she has become a friend and beloved cousin.  She was ultimately the one who reached out to the current DNA tester (a family member of Julio).  I have been blessed with so much support and love from the adoption community (and beyond).

I’m fortunate I have a very loving and supportive spouse, Mark.  He has listened to these scenarios and provided insight and advice over the years, even before I found my maternal birth family.  He has made difficult phone calls to family and friends that have rubbed people the wrong way, many times.  But, he is my hero! Of all people (and not adopted), he understands through our family journey the deep need to know where you come from, not only for me, but for our kids, and our future descendants.  It matters.  A LOT.

Stay tuned . . . . 




Saturday, July 14, 2018

You Have No Idea What You Are Talking About!

Today a friend, a public blogger, posted that adoptive parents sometimes tell her she has no idea what she is talking about.  My friend is a first mother and an adoptee . .. meaning she experienced the relinquishment of her daughter, in addition to her own personal reliquishment.  (Let that sink in for a moment).

She was raised by adoptive parents whom she has publicly shared that she loves deeply. She is generous and kind with her hard-won wisdom, yet there are people raising adopted children who believe my friend has nothing helpful to bring to the table.  I have asked myself why people would say this to her.

The first answer that comes to my mind is that they resent that she now stands for family preservation.  She is not out promoting adoption left and right like Evangelical Christians normally do.  She is not shouting from the rooftops that babies need more adoptive parents.  She is saying that babies need their own mothers.  Is this really a radical idea?  How many of you biological parents reading this blog would be willing to surrender your own child to another family?  I have a suspicion the number would be very few (looking at statistics, I know the number is very few).

As a public blogger myself, I have always known that there are going to be adoptive parents and others who choose to cover their ears when it comes to the tough truths of how adoptees experience adoption.  You can choose to read only adoption-positive blogs if that suits your reality better.  However, it really just perplexes me that parents who went out of their way to bring a child into their home, would not want to be educated by people who have actually experienced what their own child(ren) are experiencing. Even when it entails reading and digesting the hard stuff.

As a parent, I seek out resources quite regularly to help me understand my child better.  She has unique circumstances besides being adopted and I regularly read articles, books and talk to people who have experienced her particular circumstances to better learn how to parent and support her.  Isn't that what good parents do?

How is closing our ears and hearts making us better parents?

How is telling an adopted person, "I'm sorry you had a bad experience, but my child is different" ok?

A bad experience does not necessarily mean we don't have something to offer.  I've had lots of bad experiences in restaurants. Haven't you?  I find that these experiences then help me to inform others about opportunities to improve service, training and food quality. (no I'm not a restaurant manager, just a person who loves to photograph and talk about food).

Did you have a bad experience in high school with bullying that taught you many lessons?  How about a bad experience at summer camp?  Bad experiences are life lessons that we can share with others.  If I can save someone else the pain and misunderstanding I learned via the School of Hard Knocks, then it makes me happy to be able to do so.

If I say  "I experienced a closed adoption negatively", it does not mean I am automatically indicting mine and other adoptive parents from the era of my adoption.  It is a call to speak about why and how I believe closed adoption damaged me and others I know and how we can do adoption better (or not at all!).

People seem to be a bit sensitive to learning information that, frankly, they need to hear if they aspire to being good parents.

Babies do need their own mothers. This is not a new idea.  What is new, in our culture, is promoting  adoption as somehow SUPERIOR to biological parenting (it's not) and then shooting the messenger who points this out.

Don't attack people or dismiss people who bring difficult information to your awareness.  Ask yourself, "what can I learn from this information that is bothering me?"  Are there some places in your psyche and heart that may need re-examination?

Denial is powerful.  But it doesn't make you a better parent.  And it's doesn't help your kiddo one iota.




Tuesday, June 12, 2018

God is Not a Birth Parent and Jesus is Not Adopted

This letter is in response to the June 5, 2018 article, “Adopting a Child Mirrors God’s Adoption of Us All”  published in The Presbyterian Outlook.  

I can appreciate that Rev. Glass, herself an adoptee and birth parent, has found something positive about her own relinquishment and adoption within scripture.  Rev. Glass had a wonderful loving adoptive family, for which she is grateful; however, comparing “being adopted” to our adoption by God does not ring true for me 1.  There are many Christians who cannot relate to Rev. Glass’ interpretation of scripture. 2  In fact, hearing this comparison at church does damage to many adopted people who did not have the same loving and positive experience Rev. Glass did.  Where was God for them when they were being abused or re-homed after being adopted? What about the birth family members who were praying that their child/niece/grandbaby could stay with them and not have to live with strangers? Why didn’t God answer their prayers?  

I take issue with the declaration that God is a “birth parent” and Jesus is “adopted”. In addition, I disagree with equating spiritual and legal adoption.  Are you aware that historically, unmarried birth parents were pressured and/or coerced, either by their extended family and/or their church, to relinquish their children to married strangers in the name of God? 3 Are you aware that relinquishing a child for adoption is many times the result of a temporary situation such as a financial difficulty, and with just a little support from family or church, could be avoided?  My own birth mother, a college graduate, married two years after my relinquishment and went on to have two more children.  Her temporary problem was solved:  she found a husband.

If Rev. Glass had mentioned Moses as similar to a modern adoptee, I could get on board with that one, as Moses was aware of the identity of his birth family and had contact with them.   I can also see parallels to adoption as it relates to Joseph, son of Jacob, when his jealous brothers cast him out of the family and sold him into slavery.  Being cast out from your family of origin, without any choice in the matter, relates much closer to how we practice adoption in the U.S.

Jesus Christ did not know what it was like to be an adopted child, in the earthly, human sense. Jesus was born of Mary and had an ongoing relationship with Mary until she stood at the foot of the cross in heartbreak and in witness. In contrast, adopted citizens in the United States are completely severed from their biological kin in law and sometimes in practice.  In the land of “open adoption,” we are still removing adopted children’s genealogy from them by changing their names and sealing their birthright 4.  In 2018, an adopted child living in the United States can still be lied to about their adoption status, and unless they take a DNA test or stumble upon a paper trail in their parents’ closet, would be none the wiser.  

I don’t personally believe God wanted me to be adopted 5.  God placed me exactly where he wanted me:  in my birth family.  My birth family rejected me because of the cultural mores of the 1960s.  Humans decided adoption was my best chance after my human mother relinquished me.  God was not responsible for these events:  imperfect human beings were.  As a Christian 6, I don’t want to hear from the pulpit, no matter the positive intent, that being adopted as a child is comparable to “God’s adoption of us all” or that being adopted as a child gives me a special kind of status or redemption.   Hearing this interpretation of scripture from an authority figure is nothing new: it is now in vogue, among the Evangelical movement, to preach the gospel of adoption. 7  

In U.S. private adoption, there are many more prospective adoptive parents than there are babies relinquished, which has created a multi-billion-dollar industry where children are treated as commodities.  Once a child is relinquished, he is at the mercy of competing adoptive parents and adoption agencies who will profit.  From the point of relinquishment forward, everyone involved is biased toward finalization of adoption and not toward family preservation, even when there are relatives who are capable.   I can picture Jesus now, walking into a local adoption agency, flipping over desks and file cabinets in disapproval.  For every legal adoption, loss of family came first. Adoption is a legal band-aid for broken hearts. 

 Of course, there will always be parents who cannot raise their own children and there will always be couples who are unable to have children.  The answer to this quandary is not necessarily adoption.  Children belong with their own kin when absolutely possible.  Children come into this world with their own unique DNA, heritage, culture, preferences and place in a community – we don’t need to be (legally) adopted to be loved by a family or to experience God’s love. 

Rev. Glass correctly touches on the primal wound 8 of being rejected.  Is it possible that in many cases, relinquishment and adoption take away too much from a child and do not necessarily bring in as many gains?  My hope in writing this perspective is that the Christian community can begin to look at U.S. private adoption with a more critical eye, be cognizant as to how we regularly interpret scripture in a way that glamorizes adoption, 9 and in doing so, alienates many adoptees and birth families.  My greater hope is that faith communities 10 will first support family preservation before they advocate for adoption 11.  I believe that is what Jesus would do. 12

Respectfully submitted,

Lynn Grubb, Adoptee and Kinship Adoptive Parent
Dayton, Ohio

                                                          
                                                         
1 See article, “Adoption, It’s in the Bible” by Pastor Deanna Shrodes.  

2 See “Of Orphans and Adoption, Parents and the Poor, Exploitation and Rescue: A scriptural and Theological Critique of the Evangelical Christian Adoption and Orphan Care Movement” (Regent Journal of International Law, 2012), David M. Smolin. 

3 See Movie Philomena (2013) starring Judy Dench and Book, “The Girls Who Went Away” by Ann Fessler. 

4 See article, “Buried Secrets, Living Children: Secrecy, Shame and Sealed Adoption Records” by Lisa Munro. 

5 See article, “Was it God’s Will I Be Adopted?” by Lynn Grubb.

 6 See article, “Christians: The Call to Adopt: Christians and Adoption” by Bleeding Hearts 

7 See Book, “The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking and the New Gospel of Adoption” by Kathryn Joyce.

8 See Book, “The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child” by Nancy Verrier. 

9 See article, “What We Lost: Undoing the Fairy Tale Narrative of Adoption” by Liz Latty.

10 See article, “How Pastors and Churches Can Help Adoptees” by Pastor Deanna Shrodes. 

11 See article, “The Church and Adoption:  Changing the Narrative” by Bleeding Hearts.

12 See article, “Adoption: What Would Jesus Do?” By Bleeding Hearts.

Monday, May 21, 2018

To my Friend Whose Message to Her Birth Mom Went Unanswered


You did it! You reached the goal line.  You outlived the laws that said you couldn’t have the information.  

You are the Queen of your own life because you didn’t back down.  

You kept the faith.

You didn’t forget the woman who gave you life.  You knew what you needed and you pushed through. 

You supported the person in your life, also adopted, on his journey. 

He supported you.  You had each other and that is no small thing. 

You confided in me.  You trusted me, a complete stranger you met on the internet, to help you walk through this journey with you. 

You cried and you were scared.  And I want you to know that I see you as brave. 

I am sad that your message to your mother went unanswered.  I am frustrated for you that she deleted her Facebook page.  

I want to call her up myself and say, “Look what you are missing out on!”.  You have a beautiful daughter, beautiful grand kids and a great granddaughter!

It sounds like she is not in a place to acknowledge her place in your life. Sadly, I’ve heard this story before . . . but my message to you is this . . . don’t give up hope now!  

You’ve waited this long. .  .you can wait a little while longer while your original mother digests this new reality.  

Maybe a reunion is not in the cards . . . or maybe she just needs time.  

Either way, you are a wonderful human being with people who love you and want to be in your life right now. 

I don’t wish any more pain to be brought your way.  Acceptance by birth family does not have the last word on your worth as a human being.

You are enough.

And sometimes just knowing is enough.

Thank you for trusting me to be part of your journey over many, many years.  I wish you peace and happiness always.

Your friend,
Lynn

Sunday, April 8, 2018

5 Reasons You Should Listen to Adoptees Instead of Adoption Experts

1.       Experts in past eras got a lot of it wrong.

Blank slates, secrets, born-as-if-to and separating twins and triplets in an effort to study nurture versus nature (and provide more babies to waiting families) are just a few examples of how the adoption experts of bygone eras got it so, so, wrong.  Just read up on child trafficker, Georgia Tann, and you will see the corruption that facilitated sealed records.  From doctors and lawyers who “knew somebody” to judges who signed off on questionable adoptions, if we look to the Baby Scoop Era for guidance, there is only one conclusion:  the “experts” got most of it wrong.   20/20 recently reported on this.  


 2.  Most adoption experts are benefiting financially from the adoption industry.

Money tends to cloud ones motivations when it comes to educating about adoption.  Employees of adoption agencies benefit when adoptions occur.  Adoption attorneys benefit financially.  Even churches can benefit financially from adoption (i.e. more members).  When you are watching a talk show or news story about adoption, realize that you are getting biased information if the person speaking about adoption is also benefiting financially from the adoption industry.  Thankfully, there are many adult adoptees who have received training in counseling and social work who are actually experts.  Seek them out.  If you don't know anyone who is both adopted and has professional training, ask an adoptee for a referral.

3.  A professional in one field does not an adoption expert make.

Have you ever gone to a new counselor only to learn that they have zero knowledge about adoption?  (most universities do not educate counselors about adoption).  Have you ever talked to your doctor and realized that they have no concern or plan B for an adopted child (or adult) having no medical history?

Churches are now acting as a form of adoption expert in that some largely embrace the orphan care movement, without also providing proper education and support for the families that are adopting in large numbers within their congregations.  Many adoption agencies have traditionally been run by the church which results in a conflict of interest when deciding who does the church actually support?  In any event, just because someone went to seminary or medical school, does not make them an adoption expert.

 4.  Adoptees Have Lived Experience

There is no professional counselor, social worker, attorney, pastor or other professional who can tell you what it feels like to grow up adopted and to walk through this world as an adopted person, except a person who is themselves adopted.  You can study adoption until you are blue in the face. You can have all the letters you can gather behind your name as you can achieve, but you will never understand adoption on the same level as someone who has lived it. You can empathize and you can listen (and you should); but unless you are adopted, you will never understand how it feels to be adopted living in a non-adopted world.

 5.  Adoptees can help Adoptive Parents and Others Understand Adoption.

Although not all adoptees see it as their mission or responsibility, the reality is that adoptive parents (and the “experts”) have a lot to learn from adopted people.  Some of us grew up in completely closed adoptions, some of us in semi-open, others in open and others in kinship.  What can you learn from us?  Read our blogs, books and watch our documentaries to find out.  Understand the special issues revolving around identity, self-esteem, belonging, mirroring, genealogy, etc.  We have something to teach the world if you will only listen.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Response to the New York Times Column, "What If I Don't Want to See the Child I Gave Up for Adoption?"

Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to the January 24 article, “What If I Don’t Want to See the Child I Gave up for Adoption?”

As part of the adoption community, I take exception to several assumptions The Ethicist makes in his response to a woman who was uncomfortable when the adult adoptee (not “child”) wanted to get to know her and the adoptee's biological siblings.

It would not just be an act of generosity on the part of the biological mother to meet her child and answer her valid questions.  I see it as an obligation of the biological mother for at least a one-time meeting (which this mother offered) with the adult adoptee who was too young to know the circumstances of her conception and birth. (I am not advocating "forced contact"; however, information, photos, and reasons for relinquishment, the father's name, etc. would be a kind response in the absence of a face-to-face meeting). Biological mothers are not entitled to perpetual anonymity, covenant* or not. 

A loving adoptive parent would, of course, want to provide as much known information as to allow the adoptee to form a solid identity, experience genetic mirroring, understand talents and personality traits, in addition to gathering information on ancestry, ethnicity and medical conditions of family members.  Knowing more about the genome can never take the place of knowing which blood relatives have diabetes, cancer, auto-immune disorders, mental illness, etc. Just ask the Surgeon General who urges everybody to gather their family medical history.  The Ethicist minimizes the importance of the above information when he states an adopted child is just merely “curious”.

Is The Ethicist aware that the vast majority of adoptions today are open?  This case illustrates a closed adoption, several decades ago.  It is not representative of today’s adoption landscape.  States are opening birth certificates, DNA testing companies match genetic relatives for $99.00, social media allows unprecedented connection, and the number of genealogy and reunion shows in the media point to increased awareness that all people (not just adoptees) desire and have a right to know where they come from.

Respectfully,


Lynn Grubb, Adoptee and Adoptive Parent

*I did not sign a covenant or agree to be forever separated from knowledge of my biological kin.