Monday, November 7, 2022

Check out the #voicesofadoption on Tik Tok!

 Hey guys! I haven't been blogging much these days but I attended the Concerned United Birthparents Conference last month in Tampa Florida where I learned about the active adoptee Tik Tok community.  Come on over to Tik Tok and share your stories or just listen to the many varied voices of adoptees!

You can find me at The_Adopted_Genealogist where I am posting daily for #NationalAdoptionMonth.


Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Letting Go of False Beliefs

 

I was recently chatting with Jennifer Ghosten, podcaster over at Once Upon a Time in Adopteeland and she mentioned something that has been on my mind. It was the topic of healing.  

I have always been of the belief that we may never completely heal from complex trauma caused by relinquishment; in fact, the world has yet to recognize that adoptees as a minority group have complex trauma.  

However, I am committed to move toward healing by facing my fears, examining my triggers and processing the grief surrounding my adoption. 

Once we can uncover who we are genetically, learn and understand many of the missing pieces of our heritage, our work is not complete.  

If you consider yourself someone who leans toward a growth mindset, then you may want to attempt to uncover any false beliefs you hold lurking around and cause suffering.


We all carry around false beliefs that were taught to us by our families, society, religion and people we have close contact with.  

In my own healing journey, I have learned that there are sets of false beliefs that as a young person I accepted as true. 

The challenge when healing is determining which beliefs we want to hang on to and which ones we need to let go of. One of my favorite books that touches on this topic is called, “The Way of Integrity” by Martha Beck.

Belief 1 – "I was abandoned because of some flaw in me."

Adoptees as a group have a lot of abandonment issues, rightfully so.  Even if we weren’t left at a remote location unattended, even if our birth moms created an adoption plan and placed us through professionals of some sort, many of us still FEEL abandoned.  Feeling abandoned sets us up for false beliefs about being unloved, unwanted and unworthy in some way.

I can attribute my strong sense of self to the good enough parenting on the part of my mom (the one who adopted me) and a set of genetics that worked in my favor.  My mom instilled a level of trust and self-confidence in me that helped me to realize my worth. That’s not to say I had great self-esteem--at one time it was really bad.  If you have listened to my memoir, you know that I once had a physically abusive boyfriend. 

When I was in kindergarten, I asked my mom about a neighborhood latch key child who was also a bully.  I inquired, “Doesn't his mommy love him?”  By the age of five, I already knew that being physically present for your child was a form of love.

I know now that my birth family did not want me. My maternal grandmother wanted me gone so her daughter could get married with a clean slate and the family could bypass any shame from their upper crust friends. If I sound bitter about it, it's because it still angers me at a deep level that our society took part in a collective lie surrounding closed adoption (but I digress).

Yet, I know now, standing from a place of confidence, high self esteem and healing, that my relinquishment had  absolutely nothing at all to do with my worthiness.  My birth family's decisions said something about the culture at the time, their way of coping with crisis and about what they valued.  

I was innocent and deserved my birth family to love and care for me as we all expect our families of origin to do. 

My belief changed.  My worthiness is in no way tied to my birth family’s decision.  We are all born worthy. I deserved to be raised by people who loved and valued me (and no, this is not an adoption promotion campaign.)  All children deserve to be loved, protected and valued by their families of origin.

Belief 2 – "My birth family will be like me."

This one totally killed any chance that I could continue a reunion with my maternal side.  When reality smacked me in the face – that we had very little in common – I just could not process the sadness, disappointment and the reality (or unreality) that was presented to me surrounding my conception circumstances.  

As someone who highly values the truth, I was gob-smacked that I could be brought into the world by a person who does not live in the same reality as me.  I kept staring at my birth certificate wondering if it was fake.  I now know for certain we are related thanks to DNA. But back in 2006, I was thrown for a loop when my belief – “my birth family will be like me” was challenged.  

Living forty years with fantasies contributed to the shock and trauma of meeting my birth family.  I lay responsibility on the closed adoption system for the disaster that my reunion truly was. Do I have some physical resemblances? Sure.  Do certain talents and careers run in the family and remind me of me? Yes.  

However, our values and way of living on both sides of my birth families are radically different than the way I have chosen to live my life.  This does not mean I feel superior or inferior but I do have a new belief: “it’s o.k. to be different from my birth family.”

So that wraps up the two beliefs that plagued me for many years, which I am now happy to report have been resolved for me.  Time, therapy, self-care and understanding my own values has helped me to ferret out any false beliefs that cause me harm. 

One belief I hold today is this: We all deserve love, peace and happiness. 

What are some false beliefs you are carrying around with you?

Is it time to let any go?



 

 

 

 

 

 


Monday, July 4, 2022

Adopted and Pro-Choice: A Reproductive Journey

It was January of 1987 and I had just turned 21.  My long-term relationship was over and I stopped taking the pill.  Not long after, I found myself hanging over the toilet at work throwing up.  A co-worker who heard me helpfully suggested, “You better take a pregnancy test.”

My roommate and I watched as the red line of the pregnancy test turned dark. The fear and disapproval of my parents loomed large and thoughts of birth, parenting or adoption not anywhere on my radar. With adrenaline fueled urgency, I called the Woman’s Clinic and scheduled the abortion right away.

I was fortunate.  I had a job and a supportive partner.  We could afford to pay for the procedure out of pocket.  I was not forced into an unwanted ultrasound or a time-delay.  Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood and several clinics in my area provided options.  I decided to have the procedure done close to home.  This right protected me so when I was ready to have children later, I was still able to. (Abortion is safer than birth). 

Some people say their abortions were traumatic.  For me, being pregnant was traumatic, but the actual procedure, referred to as MVA (manual vacuum aspiration) was quick and for the most part, painless.  What was needlessly traumatic were the pro-life picketers that were screaming at my ex-boyfriend and I as we entered and exited the building. 

I have never understood why people who are involved in the pro-life movement believe that aggressive tactics will lead women to change their minds.  I think about the guy who drives a beat-up station wagon with pictures of bloody fetuses affixed to the hood, sides and back end of the vehicle. He parks it at the grocery store as if this is a normal thing to do.

In the 1980's, one pro-life extremist followed my friend and I around a department store when he recognized that she was a medical assistant at a local abortion clinic.  We stopped to talk to him in the parking lot and he spewed his rhetoric and handed my friend a book for later reading.  She continued to work at the clinic despite these types of scary interactions. (Here is a former pro-life leader who has rethought his position.)

In the 90's, I briefly volunteered at a pro-life women’s clinic.  The clinic offered free pregnancy tests and financial support to pregnant women.  It was God’s will, according to the script, that all pregnancies should be carried to term.   

During our training, we were shown a propaganda film about a late term abortion procedure invented by a doctor in my hometown.  The movie stressed the fetus’ physical pain.  There was no mention of women who died because of childbirth complications or women who had to make agonizing decisions about a fatal condition in the fetus.

I stopped volunteering and moved firmly into the pro-choice camp for good.

After meeting the man I eventually married, I went on to have a full term baby and later, two miscarriages. One of them was during the second trimester.  I delivered a very much wanted but unviable fetus in the same wing other women were delivering live, full-term babies. My husband and I were devastated. We named him Park, after the grandfather I never knew. 

When you are adopted, you often get asked, “Aren’t you grateful you weren’t aborted?” by people who usually consider themselves Christian.  The first person who asked me this was my neighbor, a Catholic adoptive parent.  I was in shock that this otherwise kind and friendly man was asking me such a deeply personal and inappropriate question in the church cafeteria.

Many years later I met my birth mother, a staunch pro-life Republican, who upon learning of my pro-choice stance, unkindly shouted that I was conceived during a date-rape and should be grateful I was not aborted.

I believe in the unequivocal right of women to decide when and with whom to have children. And yes, I understand the mind twist this can create because I am adopted.

Each burden you pile on top of women with unexpected pregnancies will create further trauma above and beyond the stress of deciding what to do.

Because of the Supreme Court’s overturing of Rowe v. Wade, women in many states will now be forced to travel to receive a safe and legal abortion.  This means they will be forced to carry a fetus longer than they otherwise would have due to overcrowded clinics, forced waiting periods and a higher financial burden. Women of color and women in poverty will be most affected.

One in four women will have an abortion.  25% of pregnancies will result in miscarriage.  The women affected are your neighbors, co-workers, sisters, mothers, daughters and granddaughters. They are the the only ones who will risk death or disability carrying a pregnancy to term.

Reproductive health decisions belong to the woman and her doctor. Full Stop.

If we don’t pay attention to the erosion of women’s reproductive rights, we will all bear the financial, emotional, and psychological consequences of forced birth.

American women deserve accessible, affordable reproductive health care close to home. 

It’s our human right.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

NAAP Presentation -- "The Story Behind the Story" - June 3 at 7:00 p.m. (Eastern)


Hey adoption friends! I am giving a Zoom presentation this Friday (June 3) as it relates to my newly released audible memoir, "Hidden Identity." 

I will share who/what inspired me to document and share my journey in addition to sharing lots of photos. I will not be telling my actual adoption story (listen for free to hear that) but will be sharing back stories about the memoir process, interviews, research and share stores/photos about The Cradle Adoption Agency and of course, some tidbits about  my biological father.  After the presentation, I will answer any questions you have.  

If you want to listen to the memoir, go to my podcast The Adoption Experience and start with the Introduction.  You can find it at Podbean, Spotify or Apple podcasts.

For those wondering, I may eventually publish the full version (the podcast is a condensed version) as an E-book, but for now I am enjoying the spring planting in my yard and visiting with out of town family. 

If you are adopted and have any specific genealogy questions you need help with, feel free to reach out to me on social media @theadoptedgenealogist (Facebook, IG, Tik Tok).

For other happy hour presentations and support for your journey, join the NAAP Facebook group.

Hope to "see" you Friday!




 

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Firmly Rooted in Time and Place

 










 

“Walking, I am listening to a deeper way.  Suddenly, all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say.  Watch and listen.  You are the result of the love of thousands.” Linda Hogan, Native American writer

I was listening to this podcast yesterday where Ande of The Adoption Files interviewed adoptee Becky Drinnen.  

As Becky shared the long meandering road to understanding her identity, beginning in her early 20’s and culminating in her 50’s, something really struck me that the two were discussing:  every bit of information we receive about our birth family and our history, no matter how seemingly insignificant to somebody else, matters and helps to build a more cohesive narrative. 

And even though the search and reunion process may not take so long for some, given the quick nature of consumer DNA testing, the journey of discovery can continue for a lifetime.  It seems there is no end to the discoveries available as more data is loaded into genealogy websites and more public records are accessible on-line.  (Keep an eye out for the 1950s census becoming available next month!).

My most exciting discovery of late was that a man named Mr. O, an Illinois native who personally flew my biological father into the country, was still alive.  He called me up one day and recounted a story from 1958.  He remembered every detail and I was blown away.  When Mr. O’s plane was in Lima, Peru about to return home, one of his three passengers decided not to get on board.  The available seat was offered to my father, Antonio, for the reduced cost of $50.00.   In a move that still boggles my mind, Antonio impulsively decided to take this passenger’s place, leaving his home country forever and arriving in Illinois with no family support.

Something about hearing that story and digesting it over a period of months helped me to feel more whole for the first time.  This might seem obvious, but it suddenly dawned on me that I would not exist, nor would my son, if Antonio had never gotten on that plane.  That one decision changed the trajectory of so many lives. 

In her podcast interview, Becky shares how she tenaciously kept going back to the adoption agency for more information about her first three months of life.  Each time she was charged a fee and each time she did not receive what it was she was wanting to know.  A gatekeeper would not provide any details or information as it related to Becky’s baptism and who took care of her during the months before placement with her parents. It was not until that gatekeeper retired, that Becky was able to receive information she knew in her gut existed in the adoption agency files, including photos. 

My first contact with the adoption agency as a young adult, stopped me in my tracks. I received some non-identifying information (a very basic biography without names of my bio parents) and a letter that was very disheartening which I posted here at my Instagram.  In that letter I learned my birth mom had never made contact with the adoption agency in 25 years.  My search came to an abrupt halt. Records were sealed and clearly, my birth mom wanted nothing to with me?  Right?  Wrong.

But that is a story for another day.  I shared my reunion journey with Louise and Sarah at Adoption: The Making of Me podcast last weekend.  The actual episode won’t be released for some time but check out the other episodes!  They are so much fun and easy to talk to. 

Thirty years after my initial inquiry, the knowledge of my birth parents and ancestors has reached a peak.  This has resulted in my feeling more grounded.  I also like and accept myself on a much deeper level.  The most helpful thing I ever decided to do was to reach out for support from others in the adoption community where a safe space was provided to both write and tell my story. 

I am at last firmly rooted in both place and time and comfortable in my own skin, secure in the knowledge of the people who walked before me, leading me to this very moment.

 

 


Thursday, March 24, 2022

How Consumer DNA Testing Is Changing the Conversation Around Original Birth Certificates (OBC)


DNA Game Changer (Part I of II)

THOUGHTS ON THE BIRTH PARENT PRIVACY ARGUMENT

by Gaye Sherman Tannenbaum originally published at the Adoptee Rights Coalition website.

NOTE:  New York State has opened its original birth certificates since the writing of this article.

Legislative efforts to restore access to original birth certificates have, unfortunately, focused primarily on search and reunion. Emotional testimony from adoptees, first parents and "adoption experts" have been countered by equally emotional testimony and speeches by agencies, legislators, and other "adoption experts".  There is talk of "balancing the rights" and "compromise" as if any other individual's rights to his or her OWN record of birth is also subject to permission from the state, a judge, or the parents named thereon. 

Advocates focusing on restoring the right to access birth records have tried to keep the two separate, pointing out that, in most states, even reunited adoptees are not allowed access to their own birth records, and that the birth records of long deceased adoptees are unavailable to their descendants. 

Mutual consent registries, like the one in New York, will typically "reunite" registrants that have been matched but access to the birth record still requires a court order which a judge will not give you because "you already have the information". Other states will provide a "birth transcript" or "identifying information contained in the birth record" but not the birth record itself.  For those who need the information to advance their searches, the chance of having the information within their grasp is enough to make them support "compromise" legislation that may be to the near term and long term detriment of themselves and many of their fellow adoptees.

But what if we could separate "search and reunion" from access to the original birth record? What if there was a better way to search that would reveal information that was not on the original birth record or even in the adoption file?

Once upon a time, sealed records were impediments to search and reunion.  If an adoptee did not have access to his or her sealed adoption file, there was little chance that a search for family could even be started, much less successfully completed.  Successful searches relied upon adoptive parents retaining a memory of a name mentioned or a document seen.  In direct contradiction of what courts, legislators and agencies are NOW telling us, some adoptive parents were actually GIVEN documents that contained the names of the relinquishing parents.

As time went on, laws changed and adoptees were given "non-identifying information" as a pacifier in lieu of access to the original birth record. While not a restoration of access rights, "non-ID" was a tremendous boost for many searches. Some states even passed legislation to provide birth information access for some or all of their adoptees. Adding online resources for genealogy, people search and social media to the mix initiated a flood of successful searches along with a growing population of adoptees (and descendants of adoptees) who had never searched before because they had zero information to start with.

The argument started to shift.  On the one hand, advocates demanded equal rights to that Simple Piece of Paper. Not reunion. Not medical history. Just the birth record. On the other hand, opponents were still pushing the "what if your mother doesn't want to be found?" argument. Advocates explained that there were "plenty of other ways" for searches to be completed but opponents countered with "we don't have to make it easier for you", implying that only a few lucky adoptees were successful in their searches and that sealed records would still prevent the vast majority of adoptees from "intruding" on an unsuspecting birthmother's life.

Then came the DNA revolution.

                                                       ****************

DNA Game Changer - Part II:

Implications for OBC access

"There's just really no way to ensure complete confidentiality." 1
 – Chuck Johnson, President, National Council for Adoption

When I saw those words, I rejoiced. The NCFA, until recently the most outspoken opponent of restoring access to original birth certificates (“OBCs”), was close to admitting defeat. How did that happen?

As Chuck Johnson also stated in the same article: 2

“Once a person has a name and originating city, the Internet and modern-day services — from private investigators to confidential intermediaries — make it easier than ever for adopted and birth families to connect.” 

All true but it only tells part of the story. First, adoptees don’t need a private investigator or confidential intermediary to do this. Second, we don’t even need a name or an originating city. 

We already possess everything we need in a half-teaspoon of saliva. Everything you need is in your DNA – The stuff of life, and ancestry, and answers.

While various state legislatures were debating whether adoptees truly deserved to know who their parents are, modern direct-to-consumer DNA testing has been creating a revolution in genealogy circles.

But what exactly is this “DNA testing” about?

The most popular DNA test is an autosomal test, covering all ancestral lines with an effective range of 500 years. This is not a deep ancestry test on the strict paternal line (Y chromosome DNA) or strict maternal line (mitochondrial or mtDNA) so it can be used to identify close to moderately distant ancestors.

For $99 ($79.00 when on sale), you can order a DNA test from Ancestry.com, the largest for-profit genealogy company in the world. Two other companies sell similar tests: 23andMe (with an additional focus on medical genetics) and Family Tree DNA.

When you receive your AncestryDNA test in the mail, you register it to your online account at the company, spit into the tube, cap it, shake it, and mail it back. In about four to six weeks, you will get an email telling you that your results are ready.

When you log in to your account, you will see your ethnic breakdown in percentages: 23% Irish, 37% Scandinavian, etc. 

You will also see an extensive list of DNA matches, people in the company’s database who have some DNA that is identical to yours, meaning that you probably have a common ancestor within the past 350 years or so. That list is the key to searching for an adoptee’s biological family.

Surprise! You’ve got relatives!

After the initial shock of seeing a list of several thousand people you are genetically related to wears off, you can explore your match list in greater detail.

Your match list is ranked by the amount of DNA you share – ranging from Twin (having virtually identical DNA) to Distant Cousin (5th cousins and out who share only a tiny part of your total DNA). Of your matches, which will number in the thousands, about 95% will be in that Distant Cousin category. Several dozen to a few hundred matches will be in the mid-range “Fourth Cousin” category, indicating a common ancestor within the past 200 years or so.

When Ancestry launched their autosomal DNA test in 2012, following launches by 23andMe (2007) and Family Tree DNA (2010), we were all hopeful that the expected size of Ancestry’s DNA database would allow more adoptees to identify family by “triangulating” their 4th cousin matches. We expected that more than a lucky few would “hit the DNA lottery” with a second cousin match. We were not prepared for what happened once Ancestry’s DNA database hit one million tested in July of 2015.

More people (not just adoptees) did indeed get second cousin matches. Actually, many people got more than a few second cousin matches. They also started getting matches to half-siblings, aunts, uncles and, yes, even parents. Adoptees, search angels and genealogists alike were all astonished. Instead of congratulating someone on getting a second cousin match, we were consoling those who “only” got a couple of second cousin matches.

People in the DNA databases are overwhelmingly customers with no known connection to adoption. This is not like a reunion registry where people are “looking for someone”. The people you match with are generally not looking for you.

While third and fourth cousin matches can be used to identify immediate family through a method known as “triangulation”, it’s usually the case that those matches aren’t too concerned about some distant cousin’s scandalous pregnancy. The situation is different when the adoptee gets a second cousin match.

Second cousins share great grandparents. One of the adoptee’s birthparents is a first cousin to one of the DNA match’s parents. There is a very good chance that this match knows one or both of the adoptee’s birthparents. They probably don’t know which of their mom’s or dad’s cousins placed a child for adoption, but they are often eager to help the adoptee figure it out. If the adoptee has some good non-identifying information from the adoption agency, a comparison of ages, family structure, occupations, and locations is usually enough to identify the right person. At the very least, there will only be a few “candidates” to research. Even if your new cousins don’t respond, experienced search angels can build a tree starting with nothing more than a name or Ancestry ID.

When an adoptee gets an even closer match – a first cousin or a half-sibling, for instance – even if the adoptee never attempts contact, the match can easily figure out that this is someone very close but not someone already known to them. The adoptee’s existence is no longer a secret.

We are just beginning to see what DNA testing can do for adoptees

Recently, author Blaine T. Bettinger 3, well respected in genetic genealogy circles, posted a survey on Facebooks DNA Detective's group 4, a nearly 60,000 person strong collective led by genetic genealogists focused on finding biological family for adoptees, foundlings, donor-conceived individuals, unknown paternity and all other types of unknown parentage cases. His survey was limited to adoptees who had done their first DNA test in 2015 or 2016, and he wanted to know what their matches looked like when they first got their results. He received nearly 600 responses and the results were nothing short of amazing as we now had real data, not just an anecdotal string of success stories.

The key findings:

         68% of adoptees had received a second cousin or closer match upon first opening their results.

         33% of adoptees had received a first cousin or closer match upon first opening their results.

         52% have since found at least one sibling or parent.

Those results are based on initial match lists from when the combined DNA databases of all three companies (adjusted for a 20% overlap in people tested) was between 1.5 and 3.0 million people. The vast majority of respondents (90%) had tested with Ancestry.com.

Implications for access to original birth certificates

On November 2, 2016, Ancestry.com announced that they had DNA samples from 2.5 million customers in their DNA database (up from 2 million in July). We fully expect Ancestrys DNA database to hit 3 million by March of 2017 and the combined database number to hit 4.5 million by the end of 2017. As you can see in the chart below, the growth of Ancestrys DNA database is accelerating. 

Between DNA testing, social media, and other available resources, most adoptees will be able to learn the identities of both parents if they so desire. In most cases, the OBC will not contain the name of the biological father but DNA testing does not discriminate. In some ways, DNA testing is a superior tool when compared to OBC access. Legislators, for the most part, have not caught on to the fact that vast numbers of adoptees are identifying their families (as well as the families of their adopted parents and grandparents), no matter what the laws and restrictions in their various states may be. We’re finding our families and we still want copies of our original birth certificates.

Nearly all of the recently introduced bills and recently passed laws assume that (a) without access to identifying information, an adoptee has little chance of identifying any parents, and (b) the only reason an adoptee would want a copy of the OBC is so that they can identify, and contact, those parents. You can hear it in the arguments, both supporting and opposing. “Adoptees need and deserve to know.” vs. “We cannot release identifying information if there’s any chance it might be detrimental to any parties.”

If the adoptee already has identifying information on his or her parents, opponents can’t make the usual argument that disclosure may be harmful. Eternal anonymity, for those who still insist that it is "vital to the adoption process”5, is an antiquated notion as well as a false promise. With genealogical DNA tests, lack of the OBC is no longer an impediment to identifying parents. It's merely an inconvenience. Just like posting a “help me find my family” plea on social media, connecting with close family via DNA matching is not the most tactful way to make contact.

What advocates for restoring access should be asking legislators is this: 

Doesn’t a disclosure veto merely create the illusion of anonymity given that adoptees are surprising their biological families by getting DNA matches to their first cousins and half-siblings?

Wouldn’t it be more private to release the OBC to the adoptee so that he/she can (if desired) make direct contact in a sensitive and discreet manner rather than clinging to the archaic concept of "adoption secrecy"?

Advocates for restoring OBC access may want to make those points when talking with legislators. 

-------------------------

 1 http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-mother-daughter-reunited-after-adoption-met-20160520-story.html

 2 Ibid.

 3 http://thegeneticgenealogist.com/

 4 https://www.facebook.com/groups/DNADetectives

 5 Matter of Hayden, 106 Misc 2d 849 [Sup Ct, New York County 1981]

****************************************************************

As of 2022, Ancestry DNA has more than 20 million testers. 

Check out the #voicesofadoption on Tik Tok!

 Hey guys! I haven't been blogging much these days but I attended the Concerned United Birthparents Conference last month in Tampa Flori...