Foundlings & Irish Twins

They found me in a box.

The box was left in a vacant apartment building across the street from the ocean in Virginia Beach, and from what they could tell, it was only a few hours after my birth.

I spent most of my first week of life recovering in an incubator from being left out in the cold.  After I was released from the hospital, I was placed in a foster home to allow for any of my biological family members to come forward to claim me as well as to make sure I didn’t have any medical issues (physical and/or mental).

Back in the 70s, foster parents weren’t allowed to adopt children because they were supposed to only be a short-term placement for children. My first foster parents were forced, by a court order, to have me removed from their home because they were under the incorrect assumption that they could adopt me because I was a foundling. I was almost two months old when I was placed in another foster home.  A couple of weeks later, my future parents were notified by Virginia Social Services that if they met an employee at a motel in Virginia Beach, they could adopt me and take me back to Williamsburg, VA.   

The date was April 20th, 1974, exactly two months from the day I was found.

My adopted dad was a law and history professor at William & Mary for many years. When received a higher position at the University of South Carolina, our family moved to Columbia, SC where I spent the rest of my childhood. 

I have always been the extrovert of the family when compared with my adoptive parents and sister. And aside from the tragic death of my adoptive Mother from cancer when I was six years old, I had a great childhood thanks to my adoption. I always felt very lucky and very much a part of the family.

That said, I only knew one other adopted person while growing up, and the whole, ‘not being worthy to keep’ issue was hard. Finding out about the whole abandonment issue when I was 21 years old was even harder. But things have really come full circle over the past 10 months.

After receiving a DNA test for Christmas from my in-laws, I was interested in finding out what my ethnic makeup would be after many guesses over the years. My test results were processed March 15th, 2017, I was notified that I am 68% Irish (never would have guessed that before now) and that I had an immediate sibling match. Amazingly, I had a full sister, also abandoned at birth as a newborn, who was only 11 months older than me and truly my Irish twin. From the minute we first talked on the phone, it’s like we have known each other forever.

With the help of my sister’s genealogist, we have learned who our biological parents are, the fact that we have five half siblings, and have met many aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. We even had the opportunity to have lunch with our biological mother seven months after receiving my test results and two months later, we spent three nights in the ski resort neighborhood she lives in with her husband.  The journey to this point has been crazy, surreal, and amazing wrapped into one big package.

Now, I can look forward to sharing the rest of my life with my sister and her family after 43 years of not knowing of each other’s existence. In fact, it has made me want to help and support adoptees, especially foundlings like myself, as they go on their own DNA testing journey.

I believe helping people discover and share their adoption stories can only help those in our community who are struggling, to humanize their own experiences, and reaffirm that they are not alone.

Life, Bit by Bit

My adoptive parents left me in a burning house when I was six years old.

I got myself out, and I knew I was alone.

I saw my adoptive parents simply as guardians, not real parents. My adoptive father gave up on me when I was four years old because he felt rejected by my lack of enthusiasm for him, but we lived in the same house until I turned 18 and moved out.

I was an only child. It was awkward.

I was adopted at six months of age because my mother physically abused me and left me alone in an apartment while she worked full time. Her psychiatrist, a good samaritan, had me removed from my mother by the police on three separate occasions. His interventions probably saved my life.

Twice I was placed with foster families, and then once in a county shelter.

I was born in San Jose, California and adopted in 1965. It was a closed county adoption, but I did manage to reconnect with my birth parents later on. My birth mother is mentally ill. She’s bipolar with many suicide attempts. My father’s wife and kids were very upset to learn about me, so I’m not in touch with either of my birth parents anymore.

Ultimately, I know I was better off being adopted due to the stability it offered, but of course, adoption brought its own unique set of problems.

I never connected with my adoptive family and was very angry during my whole childhood and beyond. I was completely shut down, especially during my infant years. I wouldn’t laugh or cry. I was silent as a stone. I felt half alive, half dead.

I came back to life bit by bit. What helped was good friendships, therapy, forming a family of my own, travel, and falling in love with the power of offering service to others. From the California AIDS Ride to working with destitute villages in Ethiopia, service is ultimately what helped me connect to a sense of belonging on our planet.

My life is full and joyful now. I’m 52 years old, married for 26 years, and have two grown up daughters. I work as a therapist and specialize in life-threatening illness and bereavement. I’m a growth-oriented person and strongly believe in our ability to heal and come back to life.

My adoptive parents died five years ago and I took care of them during their passing. Whenever I get triggered or slip back into a dark place, I know the territory well enough to know how to get myself out of it fairly quickly.

Looking back, the best things about my adoption were access to food, shelter, physical safety and opportunities such as school, piano lessons, and neighborhood friends.

At this point in my life, I feel joyful and free. I don’t feel defined by my story, but rather use it to help others and to appreciate the fullness of life. I wish I had known before I was adopted that I have this life force in me despite the abuse and neglect. The universe will support me, and I’m strong enough to stay alive and find my way to joyful living over time.

This year I’m leading a group of women on a healing journey in Spain, writing a book, and co- leading adoptee healing retreats with Anne Heffron in addition to taking care of myself, my family and my private practice.

I hope that in 10 years time, I will spend my time leading various local and international retreats, have written much more, find time to paint and create, and spend as much time as I possibly can with my family and enjoying our little beach house.

I want to share my story for the sake of helping others. That’s what is most important to me. I believe in the power of sharing stories to help us feel we are not alone or broken, particularly when the world underestimates the pain and trauma of being orphaned.

Belonging makes us stronger. And that’s why I share my story.

Learn to Give Before You Can Get

It was tough.

We didn’t have any food or clean water.

My mother was awful in her own way.

I never knew my real father.

Prior to being adopted, I was in two foster care homes.

The first home was small and crowded.

The second one was larger and inhabited by fewer children.

At the time, I spoke a different language than everyone else, so it was difficult to form relationships, but I do remember the caregivers.

They were very abusive.

My time in foster care ranged from four until six when a family from Germany adopted me.

Back then, I had no understanding of what adoption was nor what it would mean for me.

I couldn’t even speak the same language as my adopters.

Now, I consider it something to be grateful for, and a means to a much better future.

With that said, it’s not as though it has been a particularly easy experience.

Being adopted is not easy.

Having no one to talk to, is even harder.

I was always quite.

I’ve also never had a good relationship with my adoptive parents. We were never able to bond. It’s a problem I’ve always had.

But, this year, I’ve decided that my goal is to find out everything I can about myself and my adoption.

However, I can’t say that I’m not afraid to find out some of the answers to the questions I’m about to ask.

I hope that by asking these questions, it’ll give other people the strength and hope to share their stories, and maybe change their lives or perspectives for the better.

After I explore my adoption, finish school, and move out of my parents' place, I hope to combine my two strongest passions: cooking, and helping others.

I want to ultimately position myself as a helper to those less privileged and fortunate than myself.

Pain to Power

Sharing my story is important because I want others to know that they are not alone. I would also like to share the different challenges I went through as an adoptee, to help educate future adoptive parents.

An upper-middle class family adopted me.

Based on what I can recall, my childhood, after I was adopted, was of an average child with a special attribute to it.

At 13 months, I was placed in an orphanage.

According to some reports, I was found on the doorsteps of a police station.

To date, I wish I knew who my birth parents were and see our similarities if any.

I was born when China had the one-child policy.

I have a feeling that I have a sibling.

I also sense that my parents chose him to carry out the family name and to take care of them as they aged.

Adoption changed everything.

I didn’t know much about my adoptive parents prior to being adopted, but that didn’t bother me.

Since being adopted, I had to overcome multiple challenges, including the feeling of not fitting in anywhere or not being part of the Asian or white culture.

I used to ask myself, “Where do I fit in this world?”

Relationships were also an area I struggled with, especially when it came to friends.

To date, I fear abandonment. I have trust issues.

I am continuously working on my weaknesses.

Since being adopted, I proud to say that I have two sets of parents who love me.

Not Ashamed or Embarrassed

I am sharing my story because there are other Chinese adoptees who are not being heard, and whose stories aren’t being shared.

I believe all stories need to be heard.

I would have loved to know that I wasn’t alone growing up.

I was born in China, in 1996. A year after my birth, an incredibly loving and caring family adopted me.

They have never made me feel as if I was not part of the family.

Prior to being adopted, I lived in an orphanage. Based on what I’ve been told, I was found on the doorstep of a factory that made kitchen supplies.

I wish I could go back and ask my parents why I ended up there.

Once I got adopted, there were multiple challenges I had to overcome, including my realizations that other Caucasian classmates and friends all looked, acted, and spoke differently.

I would be lying if I said that it didn’t take a toll on my self-esteem, but eventually, I began to accept my heritage, and even embrace it.

Despite all of the challenges, I am proud that I finally have pride in my heritage and can call myself a Chinese-American citizen, without feeling embarrassed or ashamed.

Reconnecting the Dots

Throughout my upbringing, I felt incredibly different from the people who surrounded me.

There were things about me that stood out. One of those things being my strawberry blonde hair. I loved to sing and dance. There are home videos of me singing in the lobby of Disney's Grand Floridian at the four years old.

I remember when my second-grade music teacher reached out to my mom and extended a personal invitation for me to attend a music program because she believed I would be incredibly successful.

But, my family did not accept the invitation.

In fifth grade, I showed strong interest in athletics. Despite my petite stature, I was pretty good at shooting hoops. But, this after-school activity was also forbidden.

In high school, I was invited to take Honors courses, followed by AP English. When I danced into my living room with enthusiasm, eager to share the news, I was met with an apathetic audience. They discouraged me from taking on the more challenging courses. I realized that one of our biggest differences was that I seemed to be an overachiever type, and my family was content with keeping a low profile.

Aside from this, I recall that growing up, comments were made regarding my appearance.

I was frequently called, "the blonde girl" and "the little American girl." I never made it known that it bothered me, but it did. According to my knowledge at this time, I was Cuban, just like the rest of my family. I knew how to cook the most traditional Cuban dishes, dance salsa, and I even had a quinceanera (Hispanic coming-of-age ceremony).

So, I felt uncomfortable when people told me that I didn't look Hispanic.

Before I turned two years old, my parents divorced. It turned out that prior to me being born, my dad began seeing a woman and started a relationship. By the time I was four months old, my mother had become pregnant with a son. I don't recall ever living with my father. My dad, and paternal family, for that matter, visited me sparingly. I lived and grew up with my mother and my grandparents. I shared a room with my mom until I could afford to move out at the age of 24.

Following the divorce, my mom became very depressed and developed a borderline personality disorder. She barely left her bed for an entire decade.

It was at that time that my aunt and uncle had unofficial custody of me. They made sure I had a childhood, while my mom was in deep suffering.

During the years 2008-09, we were in a dire financial situation. Had it not been for my grandparents buying their home in cash those fifty-some years ago, we would have been homeless. There were days when we searched the car for change, looking to see if we had enough money to share a six-piece chicken nugget from McDonald's.

During my teen years, I fell in love. I was head over heels for a sixteen-year-old boy who claimed he loved me too. When he broke up with me, I was devastated.

So was my mom.

Her first boyfriend was shot in a terrible accident and she carried that pain with her. She wanted to avoid that I would endure heartbreak and very much desired that I married him. So, she reached out for supernatural help. She met a man who practiced witchcraft and claimed that he would restore our teenage romance. In order to do so, he claimed that he needed to touch me inappropriately. I was frightened and I believed that he held real powers. I was molested at these visits. When I came forward to my mom, she refused to go to the police because she feared that my ex-boyfriend would find his pictures on the evening news. When I came forward and told my dad, he blamed me for the crime committed against me. It may also be valuable to add that my father is a high ranking law official. I wonder if he would say the same to any other victim or even to his other children.

At the age of eighteen, I got into a huge argument with mom following my high school graduation. As I grew older and became more independent, she wanted to become more controlling. I was fighting her to allow me to drive myself to the university. In the midst of an escalated argument, she told me that I was adopted. One day later, she told me that the social worker had given her the name of my birth mother. At this point, I did not have an interest in meeting any birth relatives. It was too much information all at once.

But, I was curious to see a photo. I simply wanted to see what she looked like. I searched her name, along with the city where I was born, St. Petersburg, Florida. What I found was more than what I had bargained for. There was an advertisement of her looking for me.

I found out that I was adopted in June 2009. My mom made arrangements to meet my birth family in November of 2009. Looking back, I was in no way ready for this. I had not fully digested the fact that I was adopted. Things were beginning to make sense to me, such as why I looked different and why my character and talents differed so vastly from those of my family members. But, this information was all incredibly new to me. Alongside, at the age of 18, I also had a lot of maturing to do. This monumental moment was something that I preferred to put on hold; however, my mom claimed that this had to be done, and I quote, "before she died."

So, I spent Thanksgiving with my birth mom, cousins, and birth-family.

As I have matured, I have initiated contact with other family members on my own, without the involvement of my adoptive family. I am close to my aunt and recently made contact with my father. I never realized how nervous I was to reach out until I finally did. As he was writing back to me in the chat-screen, my hands were shaking. I realized that I was longing for his acknowledgment and his love. I longed for a father's love and receiving that was something so monumental for me.

I have an older sister. We are nearly identical. Seeing her in person was as if finding a missing piece of my soul.

As difficult as it is to explain, I loved her my entire life, despite not knowing her.

My birth mother admitted that she had considered placing my sister in the same home. But, the agency did not accept her, as she was an, "older child." In the adoption-world, that means older than 15 months. Since the adoption was closed, both of my families had never met each other.

I spent the Christmas season crying because I missed my sister and I mourned for all the years that we did not spend together. I imagined that life with my sister would have been different.

For one, I would not have been singled out as the only person who looked different.

I would not have to carry the burden of being adopted on my own.

Growing up with a sibling would have liberated me from living on such a tight leash, even way into adulthood.

It was years later that I became involved with adoptee rights.

I started learning about how private adoptions are part of a multi-billion dollar industry. I started becoming more aware of how mothers are coerced to give up their children for adoption. Typically, the reasons why many mothers choose the permanent decision of adoption, is because of a temporary situation, like poverty. I was placed for adoption because I was born to a young, low-income, single mother. Despite being adopted, I was also raised by the low-income single mother. Despite our hardships, I have formed an attachment and a bond to this family.

I am especially grateful for my grandparents. I love them dearly. They salvaged my childhood and provided support in every aspect of my life. It is the only family I have ever known. But, this story is weaved with threads of inhumanity, nonetheless.

Today, I advocate for the following:

1) I frequently see posts on social media from couples asking women to consider them as potential parents for their unborn child. We will not solve the issue of a growing number of orphans by asking more women to orphan their children. I pray that we can empower more women and give them the tools to succeed in order for them to be able to raise their children

2) All adults should have access to birth records. If biological children have access, and adoptees do not, this is discrimination. Quite frankly, the legacy of Georgia Tann, the kidnapper and child seller, needs to end along with this practice, which she initiated

3) All adoptees suffer from trauma due to separation from their birth parents

4) The adoption industry needs to end. Children are not property, therefore, there should be no industry. Adoption needs to be regulated by unbiased parties, who haven't lost objectivity due to financial prospect

5) We need to stop stereotyping adoption triads. Adoptees are not always troubled or rebellious, birth parents are not typically villains, and adoptive parents are not always heroes. Let us celebrate parents for being great parents, not simply for the way that they became parents.

6) People will always be curious regarding their origins. Curiosity is not a reflection on the adoptive parents.

7) Adoption is PERMANENT. Please consider fostering to decide if it is right for you and for your potential child.

Dying Wish

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It's important that others know they're not alone. I think it's also important for the society to hear, and hopefully understand, that adoption isn't always the best option, nor does it guarantee a happy ending.

I was born in San Francisco, CA. At the time of my birth, my parents already had one-year-old twins.

A year after I was born, my younger brother was born, and between those two events our father walked out, leaving my mother with four children ages, three and under. We were poor, as my father provided no support and my mother had limited employment opportunities.

Unable to adequately provide for our family, my mother allowed me to be adopted at the age of 16 months.

Unfortunately, I was "rehomed" at the age of 10, against my express wishes, when my adoptive mother passed away. 

When asked, “How did you get adopted?I respond with, “I was adopted first by my maternal grandparents, then by my maternal uncle. I wasn't taken in because anyone loved me, but from a misguided sense of family responsibility. I was my mother's ‘mistake’ as well as, initially, my mother's ‘replacement.’”

Once I was adopted, there were multiple challenges I had to overcome.

At first, I was angry due to the fact that I was taken away from my mother at a relatively late age. I had frequent tantrums and many episodes of violent behavior.

I met my mother and my siblings once when I was a child, but they were not allowed to acknowledge our relationship.  We reconnected when I was in my 20’s and, while I have ongoing relationships with my siblings, the losses arising from our forced separation mean that we’ll never really be close.

When told I was to be handed off after my adoptive mother's death, I was devastated. The man who'd promised to be my "forever father" was giving me away, and after he did so, went on to become a social butterfly and remarried soon after. I felt completely abandoned and unloved.

The woman who was to be my new adoptive "mother" didn't like me and didn’t want me to be part of her family. The feeling was mutual, and our relationship was strained the entire time I lived with her. She was an alcoholic and abusive, physically and emotionally, and she treated me horribly.

There were times when she told me that my birth mother didn't want me, and did her best to make my life miserable.

The most pressing challenge at this point is my attempt to have my adoption annulled. I've legally reclaimed my birth name, but want to also legally cut off all ties to the people who I was forced to live with.  As an adult, I firmly believe that I should have the right to break the “contract” that decided my fate, but to which I had no voice.

I do not want the adopters to be listed on my death certificate, so an additional challenge is making sure that my executor follows my stated wishes when I die.  The piece of paper that documents my birth may be falsified; the one that documents my death should tell the truth.


Be the Best Version of Yourself

I am sharing my story because adoptee voices need to be heard. The trauma that happens in being separated from your biological family is real and has so often been dismissed for a narrative that doesn't truly reflect the challenges that adoptees experience.

I was born in 1963, in Phoenix, Arizona. My mother was unmarried and relinquished me at birth.

At four weeks of age, I was placed with a childless couple.

I was raised as an only child in a middle-class home.

My parents were very active in their church community, which took priority over bonding as a family.

Looking back at my childhood, I struggled with loneliness and isolation.

I always knew I was adopted and did not look like my adoptive parents.  I always searched the faces of strangers, wondering if we could be related.

Being an adopted child, some of the biggest challenges I had to overcome were loneliness and isolation.

I never attached to my adoptive mother as she had a personality disorder, also known as narcissism. My adoptive father was good to me as a baby and younger self, but he, unfortunately, enabled my mother's problems.

My adoptive mother abused me, physically and emotionally. It caused me to seek affection and attention as a teenager.

I was vulnerable to male predators and made some choices I should not have made, all due to my nonexistent boundaries, as I was desperate to be loved.

Today, I am 54 years old and created my own family with my husband, children, and grandchildren.

Over time I have finally recognized and am working through with the trauma created when I was younger.

Accepting that I've been traumatized and that I need to work through it rather than avoid my pain is the only way through.

It is VERY hard work and some days I just don't want to do it.

But, I take it one day at a time and am constantly self-reflecting on my progress.

For all of the readers, continue working and taking responsibility for yourself. Be gentle with YOU and take things a day at a time.

To Be Loved Through The Pain

I was born in Pontiac, Michigan, but grew up primarily in Detroit where I spent my earliest and happiest days with my Grandma Lois. She was blind and suffered from severe arthritis, which caused her hands to curl inward. She would sit in her rocking chair while I sat in mine and she would tell me stories, lots of them about animals. I didn’t understand what her “Indian stories” meant, but they always made me smile and I always look back on those times very fondly. I remember the neighbors would come over to help arrange things in the house and nuns with whom I would spend time would visit as well. I ate way too much sugar back then. Between the orange slices from the guy with the candy cart and the mounds of sugar I would add to my cheerios, I know it was entirely too much for me. I also remember drawing pictures on the walls and playing with the little boy who lived down the street. These are my happiest memories.

After my adoptive father passed away, all of these pleasant memories fall away to a dark and shadowy time in my life.

At about five years old, my birth father came to take me to live with him and my stepmother. It was then that the abuse cycle started and what followed included every abuse imaginable. The girls I joined the house, my step-sisters, teased me relentlessly. I can still remember them telling me how ugly I was, and them putting their butts in my face. I was sent to the hospital for stitches so many times, I became desensitized. When I wasn’t sent to the hospital, I still endured smaller yet still painful indignities, like cigarette burns.

Then, there was my father. He was gone a lot, and even I knew he was on drugs. But, I didn’t know which was better: Him being at the house, or him being away. When he was away, the girls would abuse me emotionally and physically. When he was there, he would force me to perform oral sex on him in quiet places around the house.

The most memorable thing he did was sitting me on a stool and after some long talk, play a song for me, “Only The Strong Survive.” He later became my savior and the last person in my family I saw until after the adoption. He came home one day and saw how severely I had been burned all over my body from a scalding shower I had been forced to take. The skin that should have covered my left knee hung below where it should have and fresh skin was showing in places on my head from where I had fallen after slipping out of the tub. I remember it felt like days I was suffering in this state. They had put some bandages on some areas of my body. I remember riding in the car and being in the hospital long enough to think it was perhaps my new home. Then, I remember the social worker dropping me off at the house on Hartwell in Detroit. I asked her when she was coming back to pick me up again, and in some ways, I wish she had.

Fast forward to a few years later. The pattern of abuse was still fully present. All of the abuses. I left home at sixteen years old, knowing I would commit suicide otherwise. I’ve attempted it many times since then.

As for my birth parents, I never met my mother, and I never saw my father after the day he took me to the hospital. My case was moved from Oakland County to Wayne County, which I assume was because of the level of abuse. I remember knowing from the way everyone around me spoke about my mother that her permission was required whenever we went on vacation. To my knowledge, she always gave it because we always went. 

My grandma Lois found transportation to come and see me a few times after my adoption too before her family moved her back to Texas.

I also know my birth father died at the age of thirty-three. According to the death certificate my co-worker found, he died from a drug overdose. My co-worker took on the task of finding my family as an ongoing genealogy project but she has yet to find anything on my mother. I guess she’s just too good at hiding.

When I was adopted in 1972, I feel like it wasn’t from a place of love but rather of pity. I just wanted a family that loved me the way my Grandma Lois did.

As an adult, I can see that my “good behavior” and proclivity for alone coming from my childhood. When I went on adoption interviews I did all that I possibly could to present myself as a well-behaved child so they might want to adopt me. I was always the kid at home that did the right thing. To this day, I watch people in my life do bad or destructive things and all I can do is watch. My experiences gave me a tremendous ability to eliminate people from my life, emotionally and mentally. It’s strange, but even now I can deal with someone that I’ve known for years as though I’m speaking with a stranger. I can be genuinely cordial and converse just as though I’m dealing with a customer. It’s a coping mechanism resulting from my trauma but it has certainly served me well at the very least.

Other things I remember from my first few years of adopted life include the fact that my family was undereducated, and would tease me for speaking too little or for using proper English when I did. They also maintained the mentality that if a child misbehaved by say, forgetting their chores, they deserved a “whooping.” Using belts, switches, or extension cords, they would whoop me until I cried, or at least until I pretended to cry, because they would only stop when I did. 

But, today I’m proud of being a survivor, and of being victorious in my struggle. I even let my adopted mother know I forgave her before she died. I even spoke on behalf of her children at her funeral. I’m proud of my behavior in doing those things.

I’m proud of having raised my daughters to be strong, intelligent women with love in their lives and hearts. I surrounded them with activities, time, and attention. I made sure no one hurt them and that their days would be flooded with joy. I’ve learned how to love ME. And I’ve learned that it’s okay to make myself a priority and pursue my dreams selfishly.

All those things tell me that I am in fact living in victory.

I have since designed a nonprofit that provides a roadmap to victorious living to foster and at-risk children. My goal is to have it ready for relaunch by the end of this year.

I hope to eventually become a traveling speaker and advocate for foster, adopted, and at-risk children through Positive FACE, my nonprofit, so that people will see the good work being done. Within ten years, I want to be a strong voice in getting legislation passed that will strengthen protection for children and support initiatives that promote learning sustainable skills for a successful adulthood.

My barriers are money and energy. It’s a hard thing to stand alone, and even harder to get the right people on board. I have support, but only surface-level support. Many people believe in my vision, but not as many are willing to sacrifice to see it through to fruition.

I’m glad I get to share my story with you now because children need to know that life will not always be as bad as it might seem in the moment. They need to believe that they have a right to joy, success, and love. Additionally, I want to share my story because there needs to be a public dialogue around the gaps within the foster care and adoption systems. Neither of these should be a nightmare for a child. I hope I have encouraged some of you to open your homes and hearts to children in need: Forever homes.

People need to understand that just because a child has lived through trauma, it doesn’t mean they’re bad. They simply need to be loved through their pain.


For A Better World

I wish I had been aware of what adoption really meant for my life when I was younger. Knowing how it affected me and the reasons behind it would have made a huge difference in my understanding and perspective while growing up.

Two days after I was born in Yuba City, California I was placed into foster care. And a year later, I was adopted and raised by a middle-class family. My parents wound up getting a divorce, and I spent the majority of my childhood feeling very lonely and missing my family.

The way I was adopted was that my birth and adoptive mothers both went to the same gynecologist, who set up the adoption. The paperwork was all done by a neighbor who happened to also be a lawyer. Despite these close connections, my birth and adoptive mothers never even met face-to-face.

If I could remember being in my mother’s belly, I’m sure it would be my worst memory. I don’t know a lot about it, but what I do know is that she was not at all happy about my existence. My birth father has passed on, but my birth mother and I have been struggling to adjust to a relationship ever since being reunited. It takes quite a toll on me so I blog about it as a form of therapy.

Society needs to take a good look at the reasons for mothers abandoning their children. Those of us who’ve been affected by this, need to stand up and speak up about how their actions affected us in order to bring greater awareness to the emotional pain that follows a child who should have been a gift for their mother, but wound up being regifted instead.

Being adopted had been a challenge my entire life. It has affected my mental state, my physical health, and my relationships. When I least expect it, I get hit with a sucker punch of emotion that stems from deep-seeded feelings of abandonment and loneliness.

It shouldn’t be like this. The bond between a mother and her child is so strong for a reason and that reason is not to give up your child to someone else. I wish I just had a simple life where I could always look up to one mother, who raised and loved me from when I was born to when I became an adult and beyond.


Even as a young child, I could feel the placidness of my relationship with my family. I could tell there was something missing and I always had an implicit urge to search for more as I grew up.

Now, I’m am a grown adult who is glad to have simply survived the whole ordeal. I’ve committed to speaking my truth and becoming a part of the positive and educational force for adoptee rights. Displaced children have many more needs that are currently tended to, and deserve to live in a safer, more comforting world. The right way is out there but so far the administration has gone in other directions.

Sharing my story as an adoptee is important because we all matter. Every story matters and they all add up to a cultural narrative that represents millions of people. Our voices must be heard in order to bring the change we know needs to happen for the sake of creating a more informed and accessible world for people like you and me.

Hear Me Now

I was born two weeks after the ‘67 riots in Detroit. I am biracial with a white mother and a black father and was adopted by a white minister and his wife who had 3 preexisting biological children. My childhood was a good one albeit one defined by race, which had a lot to do with the city's racial history and the fact that transracial adoption was very much in it's infancy.

Upon my birth, I was immediately placed in foster care, where I stayed until I was adopted at three months old after being passed around at a tea party held by Lutheran Social Services. This was a common thing for LSS to do in the hopes of matching potential adoptive parents with children in need of a family.

Adoption has created a lifelong struggle for me to restore the bond torn apart when I was given up by my mother. My biggest challenges have been with relationships, whether they’re with peers, girlfriends, family, or colleagues. Since writing my memoir and putting my experiences into words, I started to understand just how profoundly I was affected by my adoption.

I still find relationships extremely challenging.

Now that I have become more cognizant of my struggles and their implications, I have become able to stop unhealthy relationships before they begin.   Many times I’ve had to walk away from relationships for my own safety and peace of mind.

Being adopted is really the only state in which I have ever lived my life. This coming year my wife and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage;  Although relationships have been and remain a challenge my marriage and familiy life is a source of joy for me now.

I’m very proud of the book I wrote and the commitment I have made to help adoptive families, professionals, and birth parents in their own journeys around adoption.

The next big step I have to take is to truly fulfill my professional potential. Due to the fact that I struggle with relationships, I feel like I’m behind in regard to the impact I would already have made had I not let my struggles with relationships hold me back.

Looking ahead ten years, I see myself as a very active speaker and trainer in the field of cultural intelligence. Nothing to speak of is holding me back. I simply need to take advantage of the opportunities I have in front of me to build my experience and reputation.

I wrote my memoir 8 years ago, and when asked why I wrote it, I would often say it was because I wanted to help other transracial adoptive families. In fact I’ve said that for the past eight years. 

However last year, I partnered with a lifelong friend to do work in the field of diversity and Cultural Intelligence, and then he asked me why I wrote the book I gave my standard answer. And then he asked me why I wanted to help families. With every answer I gave he would ask why, and after about five rounds of this questions-and-answer exercise, I uncovered the true answer to his original questions, “Why did you write this book?”

I wrote the book to tell my story because I want to be heard. I, as an adoptee and as a person of color, simply want to be heard. 

Knowledge Is Power

I was born in 1985 in destitute poverty in Cebu City, Philippines. My birth name was Desiree Maru. I was relinquished to an orphanage in my birth city, Asilo De La Milagrosa after I was born, where Catholic nuns were my primary caretakers.

Here is a link that shows you a digital archive I made of the artifacts of my orphaned past. This archive contains old film photos of my life at the orphanage and digitized government documents from my intercountry adoption process from the 80's, all to education and shows the nature of my orphaned experience and adoption at the time.

I was adopted in 1987 at the age of two and my name changed to Stephanie Flood. I was flown out to the Midwest in the United States, where I lived with Caucasian parents that I'd never met before, and an adopted older brother who was also from the Philippines.

I recall during the first years, I adored my new family, and really looked up to my adoptive mother and father. We got along beautifully. All of us, even my adopted brother in these early years, had fairly normal family dynamics. My brother was outgoing, warm, and I wanted to do everything with him. We did things like puppet shows in his bunk bed, we played out in the snow in the winter time, and in the summer time, we did so many more things together. We were an amazing family unit during those first few years.

Everything started to change as my adopted brother began showing signs of post-trauma, aggression, and a volatile personality. Our family dynamics became severely impacted by the pain that this issue was created for all of us.

My adoptive brother was also verbally abusive toward me and would even try to attack me sometimes. It didn’t help that my parents started spending more time working and less time at home either. They at times my parents exacerbated the problem by bringing out their own frustration towards my brother and I, in different ways.

We moved as a family to Phoenix, Arizona when I was 15 for a fresh start, but the dynamics became more dysfunctional during my time in high school. I moved out of my adoptive family’s house in Phoenix, Arizona when I turned 18. I had to leave for so many reasons. Mostly, I was seeking to experience life on my own. I was desperate to become independent but at the same time, I also had a lot of soul-searching and truth-seeking to do.

I moved to Flagstaff in 2006 where I pursued a Bachelor’s in Journalism. In between my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree, I had lived at my adoptive parent’s house at transitional times, which was very helpful, but ultimately not very good for my self-growth.

I faced many personal challenges as an adoptee. Identity issues, integrating into the American culture, and being brown in a small Midwestern town in Wisconsin are a few examples of what I had to overcome in addition to experiencing micro-aggressions. Having parents that were abusive during my younger years also scarred me. And having an adopted older brother whom I adored, but was post-traumatic was very difficult to deal with.

Additionally, I struggled just to be a normal, everyday American girl. I struggled to fit in.

I had to hide the problems I was experiencing as best as I could too.

Now that I look back, I see that I overcame the challenges by being strong, positive, having countless interests, and having a healthy social life and friends.

I would study different subjects independently and go to the library to read a lot. I would always try out something new to do or a new hobby to work on. I loved listening to music, especially on the radio. I also self-trained in meditation at a very early age as it helped me keep a balanced mind. I was also able to develop my own sense of faith.

Presently, my major challenge is healing while balancing courses for my second Master’s degree and my new library job. Healing for me consists of learning and training in Buddhist practices, hiking, dancing, taking road or train trips, writing and creating art. I recently did EMDR therapy and that allowed me to start confronting suppressed pain from my past.

In this healing process, I've had to keep some distance from my adoptive family too, in order to focus on taking care of myself and my emotional well-being.

I had a reunion with my birth mother in 2012 when I was in my late twenties. We had the reunion in my old orphanage in the Philippines and it was difficult and emotionally challenging. She didn't know English that well, so we had to have a social worker translate for us. She was really different than me in regards to personality. I felt as if something was a little off with her too, especially after she told me troubling details about how she conceived me, and other things; for example, I was the only child out of five she had given up for adoption, my other half-siblings each had different fathers, and she lied on my biographical papers.

She also gave an incorrect birth date by a few days. I felt hesitant with her but was being as polite as possible. She was emotional and talked most of the time in the reunion. After meeting my birth mother, it took me a year to work up the courage to write to the address she gave me at the reunion. I never got a reply from her. To this day, her whereabouts, her identity, information on my birth relatives, and information on my biological history and heritage, largely remain a mystery. I wrote and published this experienced in my multimedia MFA thesis.

At this point in my life, from all the processing and investigations, and from having a "full-circle" adoptee experience, I've come out knowing myself much better, quirks and all. However, I know that my past and adoptee experience is highly extreme relative to most. I’m very aware of the emotional and psychological risks this kind of experience can lead to, but I also know that it brings huge opportunities for positive personal transformations as well.

My challenging moments can be when I’m frustrated with myself. I've had to push myself so hard, alone, while coping with my constant feelings of not being at my best, or of not being good enough at all. Sometimes I can feel a bit drained, but that's when I really push myself to get busy with life; to not stop, to keep going, and to not give up. Even if I'm doing this alone, I know now that am whole as myself. And this is a good start to the life that I want to live.

One thing that I'm proud of is that I never became a drug addict despite many experiences that could have led to that situation. I'm glad that instead of turning to addictive substances, I chose art. I’m proud of the fact that, when times were tough, I found ways to pick myself back up. I have the ability to rise after I've fallen down. I have the ability to kick back even when I'm feeling completely forlorn. I'm proud of my personal accomplishments, and random acts of positivity I've done in life, from the accidental to the ridiculous. I'm proud that I kept seeking solutions and productive things to do, even when I struggled with my direction in my personal life and my career. I'm proud that now, I work out on a regular basis. I try to eat healthfully and take care of my body. I'm proud of myself for finding a path to stability.

I wish I had been given access to all of my biographical and historical information since the beginning. I wish I would have been given information on not only my birth parents, but also my biological family tree, and the heritage from which I came from. I especially wish I would have been given the medical history because this is highly important to have.

After having experienced the ins-and-outs and best-case to worst-case scenarios of adoption, I fully believe that knowing more is better than knowing less, or worse, knowing nothing at all. Information is power. Maybe that’s why I'm studying Information Science in my second Master's degree. Because I believe that knowledge and choice is pivotal to human progress.

Erasing an orphan's or adoptee's past like it never existed is a horrible idea, and I simply cannot rationalize that decision or imagine the reasoning behind it. It only leads to more unnecessary trauma. We need this history and information so that we have personal identifiers. I wish there were historical reports on every adoptee or human for that matter, that is displaced in this world, and that they had guaranteed access to that information if and when they wanted to learn more about their biological history. I don't think there should be a legal age limit to access this information either. That way, a displaced person could, in theory, attain life-saving information without necessarily even confronting their birth family.

I just wish I would have been able to keep my history and heritage.

My goals this year are to finish this Master’s degree in Library and Information Science and to stay at this library job and fulfill my commitment which ends in May 2018. I hope to finish my thesis e-portfolio this summer as well and attain a salaried job.

I want to continue creating an environment for myself where I’m happy every day, taking proper care of myself, being of service to others, and am able to continue with my recycled mixed-media art and to raise awareness of global issues.

In ten years, I hope to be working at a public library where I'm  helping diverse communities, especially individuals in marginalized communities and individuals who are at-risk. I want to also be able to go on paid vacations where I can travel to other countries and visit orphanages and locations of spiritual and cultural significance. And, I want to write a book or a few books by then that document the children in these orphanages.

I want to continue living a stable, healthy life. One where I'm comfortably renting or owning a really nice place to call home, with a dog, and a porch where I can write while I sip cider whiskey on autumn days and take walks to the nearby market.

Those are my dreams and aspirations.

They give me the drive to continue working hard and taking care of myself as best I can.

The only things that are truly holding me back in life right now are technical and academic. I've just been able to find a job in a field that I actually enjoy, which is working in the library, and I have to finish this degree before I can move on to a full-time, salary-paid position.

Sharing my story with you all is the beginning of a new era for me.

I'm changing my own outlook on my past life experiences by owning what has happened to me rather than hiding from my fears any longer.

This life experience brings out marginalized topics and views containing societal workings, cultural identity, governmental systems, personal struggle, global issues, domestic family unit dynamics, human trauma and psychological-emotional development.

Sharing my story is important to me because I feel I hold a lot of wisdom and understanding from this grueling, difficult, life experience, that can hopefully educate others.

Sharing my story is also important because it might encourage others to voice their own stories. And, in the end, I hope expressing my life struggles and views can bring a greater cultural awareness to adoptee struggles, and aid in the much needed, progressive change with inter-country adoption and how orphans today are being treated.

After my adoptee experience, academic studies and knowledge of media, I know that this subject very critical and marginalized and that this is not widely discussed. I think there needs to be more dialogue on this subject since the world is rife with human displacement. I think we can create solutions by bringing what we know, as adoptees, to the collective table.

This is why I had recently agreed to be a United States Representative at Intercountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV). On this site, I’m a regular contributor to my own blog column about my adult adoptee life, and writing on subjects like intercountry adoption and orphaned issues. Raising awareness on this issue is critical to finding local and global solutions.

And, I’m also a multimedia artist and creative writer who contributes work to literary magazines. Please take a look at My Website or my Instagram.

It’d be wonderful to connect on Facebook too.


The Trauma Of Adoption

I grew up in a family who wasn’t like me in any way, physically or emotionally. It was lonely and I felt ashamed of my feelings.

As far as I know, my adoption was arranged privately through Mums GP and my natural Mother’s GP. As soon as I was born, the GP told my Mum about me, who had no intention of adopting a child, but after seeing me decided on the spot that she would. I think I was in the hospital I was born in for at the most, a week or two. I honestly think I can remember being born. I have a visceral memory of terror, of not wanting to come out, of men’s voices and a yucky smell. I think I was terrified to be born and torn away from my natural mother.

I was born in Subiaco, Western Australia, where I grew up with my younger adopted brother. My sister, who was my adoptive mother’s natural daughters, was 17 years older than me and lived overseas, so I didn’t really know her or ever have the chance to bond with her.

I grew up in a very conservative town, and my Mum had a very dysfunctional relationship with my dad, who was a serial philanderer. He left when I was 5, leaving my Mum to run their bakery on her own. That meant my brother and I spent a lot of time either in the bakery, on our own or with babysitters, whom I greatly feared. One yelled at me so much I wet my pants, and I used to wrap up presents from my room to try and make her like me.

When I was 11 and my brother 10, we went to boarding school, largely because Mum didn’t have time to look after us properly and she always said she wanted us to have a good education.

I have met my birth parents though, and we had a relationship for a while, but it hasn’t really lasted. It’s hard to fit into another family when they’ve already established beliefs, relationships, and ways of doing things that you have to fit into. It made me feel lonely and was a painful reminder of everything I didn’t have. They were all normal and together. I had a largely absent father and a very preoccupied mother.

It took me years to find them, and I did it alone. I was born in 1966, so all the records were on microfiche, etc. my father’s name wasn’t on my original birth certificate and my natural mother’s name had changed because she’d been married and divorced twice. Eventually, I stumbled across a document where she’d named the man she believed was the father. So I wrote letters to all the men in Western Australia by that name.

I got a few, “it’s not me” letters back, and then I got his. He still maintained he didn’t think it was him, and that my natural mother had been a bit of a loose woman, (she was 14 when she became pregnant) and that the sex had been “messy”–all way too much information. So he asked for a DNA test and offered to pay. We had the test, and it turns out that he is my natural father. No more escaping the truth for him.

It was another few years before I was able to track down my natural mother. All I really knew was that she had been young when she had me. When I did find her, she didn’t want to meet me because she was worried about the impact it would have on her kids, which hurt because I AM one of her kids. But we met and have had on-again, off-again contact for a few years. It's hard. Being with her is extremely emotional and painful. I can only equate it to sitting next to an open flame. I have so much repressed pain and terror.

I have suffered extreme anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues my whole life. But I’m also the classic high-achieving, well behaved, the people-pleasing adoptee. So I come across on the whole very well, but I do find life very painful and terrifying, and I have never felt like I belong here. I really feel like an alien among earthlings.

During the first few years with my adoptive family, I was a bewildered, terrified, confused child. Why was I here? Why was I with these people? A mother who was older than my friends' parents, and a dad who left when I was 5 in a town where no one got divorced... Why wasn’t my mum nurturing and at home like other mothers?

There is nothing I’m proud of being adopted. Being adopted is nothing to be proud of. It means something went wrong, it means you’re different from regular people. I hate being adopted.

I wish that while I was growing up, there had been some understanding of the trauma that separating a child from its natural mother can cause. I feel I’m still stuck in that trauma, even after decades of therapy, antidepressants, and magnetic brain stimulation, not to mention self-medicating with alcohol.

I think it’s important for people to know this about me because I don’t believe adoption should happen at all. I think it’s a lie.

My adoptive mother raised me, but she isn’t technically my mother, and it’s confusing having to live that lie. Separating a baby from its mother does so much harm to the emotional welfare of the baby. A baby doesn’t care how old their mother is, or how poor, or anything else. The only person in the world who can make a baby feel safe is its natural mother.

Loyalty Forms A Family

March 14, 2017, was when my life changed once again.


I found out I was adopted.

For 23 years, I grew up not knowing it.

When a baby is put up for an adoption, and they are chosen, and that makes them special. Not many babies that come from government hospitals are given that opportunity. Some newborns are left behind, sold for a profit, or even kidnapped.

I was a lucky baby. But, adoption does not always guarantee a better life. My adoptive parents were very careful about what information they shared with me. Because of that, I believe it was never a part of their plan to actually tell me that I was adopted.

I always felt like an outsider growing up because I looked, acted, and thought differently from everyone. Now I know why.

I struggled to live in my adoptive parents household because I was so different.

My skin color was darker compared to everyone else’s, even my adoptive father, which I thought was odd. I did not look like anyone in the family. I would always ask people, “Who do I look like: my mom or dad?” because I never saw a resemblance.

I did not consider myself a girly girl like my adoptive mother, cousins, and aunts. I enjoyed wearing sneakers and boy’s t-shirts way more than flats and blouses. The way I saw the world was the complete opposite of what they saw.

I was more open to change, while they saw the traditional rules as more ideal. I was not allowed to be myself. So, they did whatever they could to create a new person out of me, but nothing worked.

I never asked why I looked different because I knew it was a question that could have potentially turned into a fight. No matter how much whitening soap or toner I applied on my skin, my morena complexion always came back when I stepped out into the sun.

As much as they bought me skirts, dresses, tank tops, and sandals, I always ended up looking like a basketball player or someone just chillin’ on their day off.

No matter how many times I wrote letters to my adoptive mother saying how I wanted things to change between us, she always ended up sticking to the ways she was raised. Because of my differences, I heard a lot of, “You would look prettier if you were whiter,” and, “You should dress more girly like so and so,” and, “You’re wrong!”

Adoption never crossed my mind, but there were times where I did have an inkling that I did not belong. I remember being bullied a lot by my adoptive brothers and cousins. They enjoyed making fun of me and hurting my feelings. They found satisfaction in embarrassing me and what is weird is that no adult was there to tell them to stop.

But, the adults were no better.

I was an easy target for abuse–sexually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. I lost my innocence at the age of 5 and continued to endure this abuse until I was 10, by few members of the family.

I kept most of my feelings bottled up because emotions were never talked about. My head was slammed against walls and my hair was pulled countless times to the point where I did not want long hair anymore. I started self-harming at the age of 15 and contemplated taking my own life which led me to a psychiatric ward. I just couldn’t understand why they treated me so horribly. I thought something was wrong with me. I felt like everything was my fault. No matter how many times I tried to gain their love and support by changing myself, it was never good enough.

I know that I was not an easy kid to raise. I know that I did some wrongdoings as well, but I did not deserve that treatment.

No child deserves to be abused.

The Philippines is a strict, conservative, Catholic country, where sex education is not taught in school and contraception is not encouraged. Abstinence is what the Philippines preaches. Even just sleeping next to the opposite sex is seen as sex to most Filipino parents.

Asia also has a big sex-trafficking market due to the fetishizing of Asian women from tourists. The Red Light District of the Philippines in Angeles City consists of strippers, prostitutes, sex-slaves, etc. Because poverty is so high in the Philippines, so many women are forced to become sex-workers just so they can have money and because they lack the proper sex education.

Jose Fabellas is the government hospital I was born in. It is a tertiary hospital in Santa Cruz,

Manila, the Philippines where women who have little to no money give birth. Women who can’t afford to take care of their baby or accidentally get pregnant due to their business deals go here to either leave their baby behind, put their baby up for adoption, or sell their baby for a profit.

Some babies even get kidnapped without the mother knowing.

I am not sure exactly how my adoption played out, but I do know money was involved. My birth mother was probably just a curious young woman who wanted some experience. Or she was either a sex-worker and doing what she could to put food on the table.

She just accidentally slipped up.

So, she had the choice of either terminating the pregnancy or giving me to a family that would be able to take care of me. No mother wants to give their baby up, regardless of the situation. I may never know or meet her, but I do know she is strong. I come from a place of strength because she knew she was doing what was best for me. She wanted me to have a better life, so it is not her fault. She was just doing what she thought was right.

I understand that I was chosen. My adoptive parents saved me from a life of potential sex-trafficking and/or poverty. They nourished me with delicious Filipino food. Clothed me with clothes from Aeropostale and Cotton On–my favorite clothing stores. They let me have my own room a few times, which I thought was great. They rented apartments and houses that were really nice in good neighborhoods.

On the outside, it looked liked I was being taken care of and appreciated. But little did people know, the home was MY PERSONAL HELL. My adoptive parents made me feel horrible about myself for years. I was never able to talk about my feelings because they would always invalidate them. They were not supportive of anything I took interest in, especially writing.

They kept me from experiencing the world just to be trained as a Filipina housewife. They did not allow me to be myself because myself was too different. They have put their hands on me in ways I can’t even fathom.

In their mind, as long as they were feeding, clothing, and providing for me, they were being good parents. Anything that was emotionally or mentally related, was swept under the rug. I don’t think they realize how much damage they actually did.

I truly do believe that they loved me, but they didn’t respect me. Honestly, I’d rather be respected first over being loved. Blood or not, regardless of age, everyone deserves respect. PERIOD.

I understand that blood automatically makes you related. But, it is loyalty that makes you family.

Adoption seems like a beautiful thing and it can be. But, it is only a beautiful thing if the parents treat that child as their own. There are many adoptees who have had hard lives because they were adopted into such families. They are treated differently and because of this, and they feel like they don’t belong even more. I am grateful that they chose me. They saved me. But they also killed me in ways that make healing seem impossible.

Because of the mistreatment I got from my adoptive family and not knowing the truth for years, I can’t help but feel disrespected and betrayed.

I have so many questions, especially towards my adoptive parents who lied to me for 23 years.

Why didn’t my adoptive parents tell me? Why did everyone else know except me? Why didn’t they respect me enough to tell me the truth? Who helped them out? Why did they really adopt me?

I know it wasn’t because they wanted a daughter, but something else. What was their motive? I am probably never going to know and that angers me because I deserve to know.

In regards to my birth mother, my questions are not as forward and direct. Who is she? What is her name? Do I look like her? What is she like? Is my love for writing passed on from her or my birth father? Does she like to sing like I do? Does she think of me when December 20th comes around? Is she looking for me..?

Again, I am probably never going to know and that saddens me because all I ever wanted was my mother–my REAL mother. I have always wanted to experience a mother’s love and affection. That is why I am so envious of people who have that kind of relationship. They don’t have to experience this empty and lost feeling.

Maybe one day, I will find her. I would like to think our reunion will be filled with tears of joy, relief, and love. I will look at her and know that she is my mother. But if that day never comes or if it turns out the complete opposite, regardless, I will continue to stay strong for me.

I have been through a lot and all I ever really had was myself. I know I am capable of healing and recovering because I have already lost so much and I’m still here. My adoptive family has made me strong as hell despite their abuse and they know that. They have made me into this fearless warrior who just wants to save the world and I thank them for that. If they just treated me like a real daughter, this wouldn’t be an issue for me... But since that wasn’t the case, I will always want my birth mother.

Some of you may think that I should be grateful for my adoptive parents, but you weren’t there. You won’t understand unless you have been through it yourself. I pray that one day, this empty and lost feeling will go away and that I will meet her one day. But for now, I am just going to continue to write, love the people that love me right now, and to stay strong for the people who need hope–especially for adoptees like myself.

From Jinhae to Fort Worth

overcoming odds

I was born in Jinhae, South Korea to a poor woman in the Seo Yo Ak Maternity Home without the support of any family or friends. The country was rapidly changing and the law at the time allowed her to legally and immediately relinquish me without any counsel or assistance.

I spent the first few months of my life under the care of the Eastern Social Welfare Society, and was assigned a number instead  of a name, “86c-584.”

A foster mother took care of me before a volunteer named Lois A. took me to the USA, holding me for the entirety of the 12+ hour flight.

I was then adopted when I was four months old by a loving family in Fort Worth, Texas.

Although I wasn’t equipped with the words to articulate this at the time, it was challenging to grow up in a predominantly white culture and context and to be so far removed from people who looked like me. But luckily, I’ve been able to build many strong relationships with other Korean adoptees from around the world.

I haven’t always felt this way, but I’ve learned to love being Korean.

As for my biological parents, in 2009 I started looking, and in 2010 I was able to reunite with my mother after nearly 30 years of separation.

I have learned so much from other adoptees throughout the years. If sharing my story helps even one other person feel more powerful or confident, then I’ll be happy.

My most recent accomplishment was running a marathon. This year, I want to start my own business and work on my debt.

One day, I want to buy a house, build a family, and invest everything I can in my neighborhood and community.

Australian Formerly Closed-Records Adoptee

Until the closed adoption records were opened in the 1990s, I grew up with a powerful feeling of loneliness, despite having a brother (biological son of adopters) and an adoptive younger sister. Our adoptive status was so taboo that adoption was not even discussed with my sister and I our entire childhood. I had no access to any biological family and was stripped of my entire identity, including my name and forbidden by the State to have any knowledge of my kin, origins, and ancestry. The invention of the World Wide Web in the 1990s coincided with the opening of records to revolutionize my life. When I got my real birth certificate and non-identifying information it was like receiving an "identi-kit," which fundamentally changed my identity: I had to relive my entire childhood with this new information informing all my memories and changing my entire past. No wonder so many adoptees had breakdowns when they were allowed access to the truth about who they were.

My story begins in Sydney, Australia where I was taken from my mother in 1972 because I was born out of wedlock. Her breasts were bound for three days while my hospital records record me screaming for her in another room, refusing food and sleep. Ironically, we were sent to the Catholic Unmarried Mothers Home in the same taxi, but after this, I never saw her again until reunion when I was in my 20s. As a teenager, I would often seek refuge in the back seat of my car and sob. I believe this was because of the unconscious memory of my loss.

My reunion lasted for about 20 years until the birth of my first child. I could no longer continue to humor my biological family, in the way that I had been forced to humor my adoptive family my entire life, that adoption was something in my best interests. My biological family needs to believe that they sacrificed to give me a better life and therefore they cannot hear the truth about the trauma it actually causes to the adoptee. I am tired of protecting the adults in my life and now have children who deserve my attention. My biological father is a thoracic surgeon who refuses to have contact with me, accused me of "invading his privacy" and who obviously thinks of himself as merely some kind of sperm donor despite having had a four-year relationship with my mother in his early 20s. Did my parents start off selfish and that is why they abandoned me? Or is it because of their abandonment of me that they have developed into selfish adults? This is a constant question in my mind.

I do not regret reunion with my mother in any way: now I know the truth of my family, I have extensive family trees on both sides of my family due to and DNA testing and the luck of having distant relatives who have already compiled the trees. For the first time in my life I know who I am and can understand how traumas, patriarchal and religious bigotries, convict transportation and emigration, wars and suffering in my family history enabled the cruelty that was enacted on me by my own family and a wider society who forced and endorsed neonatal removal from unwed mothers.

I was adopted by a loving and loyal Catholic family who funded my education and did not abandon me even when I became extremely distant (and perhaps even hostile).

Growing up in a house full of strangers, with people who seem nothing like you is one of the hardest things you could ever do. Children are narcissistic and believe themselves responsible when bad things happen to them. As a consequence, I thought that I was being punished for something. My first powerful emotion that I remember was shame. To expect a child to be "grateful" for this is extraordinary. You must play a role and try to fit in, suppress your natural inclinations because they are so different. 

overcoming odds

I wouldn’t say that I encountered challenging “moments”, but rather that I am in a constant state of the challenge by a society which endorses neonate removal for adoption and surrogacy and deliberately turns a blind eye to the cruelty of this.

Today, in my forties, I have achieved some level of happiness. With my husband, I have created my own family and for the very first time in my life, I have long-term healthy relationships with people who are actually related to me – with people who are just like me – my children. Combined with these first real connections with kin, my work as an anti-adoption and anti-surrogacy activist gives me satisfaction in knowing that my experience of the loss of my gestational mother has produced at least one good thing: the education of other people about the trauma of maternal-neonate separation and the commodification of babies that is inherent in adoption and surrogacy markets. One day the "penny will drop" for the wider public and the needs, desires and rights of neonates to remain on the bodies of their mothers and be raised by her will be respected and protected and only ever overridden in cases of necessary child protection. One day all forms of surrogacy will be outlawed and adoption reformed so it will no longer be recognizable as adoption as it stands today: with its closed records (still in some countries like the US); its disinheritance; its veto and non-contact provisions; its paper orphans; its difficulty or impossibility in searching its difficulty or impossibility of discharging; its replacement birth certificates; its complete lack of monitoring of child welfare after adoption; its exploitation; its trauma; its abuse, murder and suicide and complete lack of research and statistics to record these things.

My work is hindered by time and money only – it is volunteer work that consumes my life. But I am driven by the truth. The Australian Adoptee Rights Action Group has produced a video and I have published on the ethics of both adoption and surrogacy.

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Refuse to Lose

AdellHarris_overcoming odds

I was Born in Jacksonville, North Carolina and was put up for adoption in an orphanage by my biological parents.

I was adopted when I was three months old by a couple from High Point, NC into a home where I was raised in a verbally and sexually abusive environment.

I spent much of my time in church and playing basketball to get away. My mother was a foster parent who housed approximately 50 children over the course of roughly 10 years, so I had to do whatever I could to get my own time. My adoptive father was never really a part of my life.

I have still never met with nor spoken to my birth parents. We have absolutely no relationship to this day, and I have absolutely no idea whether my life would have been better or worse had they not put me up for adoption.

But, my real life challenges didn’t manifest themselves until my mid-twenties. As a child, I lacked the awareness to process the events of my birth and childhood. We are all programmed with inherited beliefs of and from our environment, and occasionally reach points where we can choose to alter those beliefs and definitions our environment imposes upon us. As I got older, I was able to learn more about my own programming, and am currently redefining my understanding of family and rejection.

I consistently feel the need for identity confirmation. I wish I had the privilege of knowing my biological parents so I could better understand myself. Not knowing them will always be one of my greatest regrets.

But, I am now grown up and independent. I have been so ever since turning 22 when my adoptive mother passed away.

And despite the struggles I was forced to endure because of adoption, I am still very proud to have been chosen at all.

In ten years, I want to be in a position to give back to my community in a big way. I want to build a charter high school in High Point.

I know I can do this. I truly feel as though nothing can hold me back, knowing what I know from my life experiences.

I hope you can find it within yourself to pursue your dreams as well, despite your struggles.

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Education Is Key

I want to impart upon you today, the importance of education when it comes to adoption.

I was born in Burbank California and am the youngest of three adopted girls.

My parents have now been married for over 30 years and decided to adopt when they encountered difficulty conceiving.

As chance would have it, they adopted my biological sister first. She’s 27 now.

My other sister was born in Sacramento, CA and she’s nine months older than me, making her 25 now.

I was one week old when I was adopted. I actually ended up going to a different family at first, but then my birth Mom changed her mind.

I was too young to know what was going on at that point, but in retrospect, I am extremely grateful.

My parents went through a private adoption agency and carried out an open adoption with my birth Mom, but my birth Father didn’t know of my existence until I decided to find him when I was 15 years old.

By now, I know plenty about both of my biological parents. I have always had a relationship with my birth Mom, and grew up knowing her parents, husband, and son.

As for my Father, I found him on after typing in what little information I had to go on. I then started sending letters to the address listed under his name in the hopes that he was still there. Luckily, he was, and I received a reply in about a month’s time.

The rest is history, and now I have a great relationship with him.

Beyond that, plenty of things still challenge me daily.

One of the most challenging things is the general feeling of feeling unloved, or not fully accepted. I’m still trying to understand why a Mother would ever give up her child.

Overcoming feelings like these is not easy, to say the least.

But I have come to believe that you have to be able to find it within yourself to show yourself that love and acceptance when others don’t. At the end of the day, you always need to be able to count on yourself.

Since I was adopted as an infant, I didn’t realize the manifestation of these feelings until I was a good deal older.

But, adoption did create a life for me.

I was dealt these cards because I could handle them.

And everything I have endured throughout my relatively short life thus far has made me into the strong young woman I am today.

So I’m proud of the fact that I have knowledge gained from an adoptee perspective. Knowledge I would never have otherwise. For example, having two sets of parents means I am lucky to be able to easily learn about two distinct sets of cultures and receive two different sources of Nature and Nurture, from my birth parent’s DNA and from my adoptive parent’s caretaking.

That said, the emotional turmoil that results from being an adoptee is not easy to handle. I often wished I had a manual for dealing with my mixed emotions while growing up.

Currently, like many people around me, my goals are to become more independent.

Everyone faces obstacles that life throws at them. At least in that respect, I really am very much like everyone else, and in a small way, I feel more connected because of that.

I know my story is different. But what’s really important is to share my experiences – the highs as well as the lows, so other adoptees know that they aren’t alone in their struggles and that they deserve to voice those struggles.

I personally believe it all hinges on education. Whether you are adopting, being adopted, or know those people within your community, it is critical that we share our experiences and teach each other the importance of our stories.

When this goal is achieved, the world will become a much better and understanding place for adoptees like myself and those in my community.

Fake Asian

Overcoming Odds

Sharing my story is important because I’m sick and tired of people judging adopted kids. We’re human beings, and our parents do not define us. Whether our parents gave birth to us or not, they are our true family because they chose us and they raised us. At the end of the day, they will ALWAYS be my true family.

I was born in Seoul, South Korea.

I was adopted from Korea by two amazing Caucasian parents who also adopted another boy from Korea.

He is now my older brother.

I still live with my adoptive parents.

Before I was adopted, I was in foster care from babyhood until I was four months old.

I am so grateful to be adopted and I love my parents very much. Blood may mean you’re related, but loyalty means you’re real family. I will always know who my real family is.

At first, I didn’t want to have been adopted. I thought that having white parents would make it more difficult for me to fit in with the other Asian kids, but at the same time I couldn’t fit in with the white kids either.

Asian kids would often call me “banana”… for being yellow on the outside and white on the inside. I had to face and overcome a lot of bullying as a child. I felt as if I was a “fake” Asian, which led to a lot of stress and eventually, depression.

But, despite this, I did end up getting along with my parents. We lived as though they themselves had given birth to me.

I feel stronger for having gone through all the bullying, embarrassment, and shame. I’m proud of having gone through all of that and to have come out on the other side.

My goal for this year is to fully accept myself and embrace who I am.

But, I have no idea where I’ll be in 10 years. Unlike the stereotype, I’m not a math whiz, so I will have to explore other paths. I am just going to live life and see where it takes me.

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Back To My Roots

I was born in Seoul, Korea and adopted at four months old. Prior to being adopted a foster family took care of me.

My adoptive family was unable to have more biological children and started to look into adoption. They initially sought to adopt domestically but the process proved to be quite lengthy. So, they started to look into international adoption. Once Catholic Charities sent my adoptive parents my baby picture, my adoptive mother instantly fell in love.  Shortly after I arrived in the States to my new family.    

Unfortunately, my adoptive parents ended up divorcing when I was four years old. A few years later my mother decided she wanted us all to be closer to her family. So, she moved us from Westminster, MD to Clarksburg, WV while my adoptive father remained in Baltimore County. Typically, I would see my father one weekend per month, unless it was a holiday or summertime, in which case I would see him for longer periods of time.

It seems ironic that I was given up for adoption by a single mother only to have my adoptive parents divorce. My adoptive mother struggled as a single mom and their divorce probably affected me just as much as my adoption.

Nonetheless, some of these earlier memories are my most cherished. I felt very happy and free as a child exploring my grandparents’ backyard which seemed so vast and magical at the time. Or playing on sand dunes next to my father’s house which was situated by the Chesapeake Bay, chasing dragonflies or catching small toads.

Eventually, as I became older I began to experience racism and became more self-aware of my differences. These encounters only magnified the dull sense of loss that I felt for my biological mother.

I’m now 35 and have worked through the issues of racism, identity, and loss that I grappled with throughout my lifetime.  Because of this, I decided it was a good time to search for my birth parents. Holt Korea has sent two telegrams to my birth mother notifying her that I’m searching for her. The Korean government is still verifying identifying information on my birth father.

I worry that my birth mother may refuse contact with me or that the search for my birth father will be inconclusive. Yet I’m grateful for this time and for the connections that I have made within the Korean adoptee community. The community is diverse, unique, and full of some of the most supportive and helpful individuals that I've ever encountered. 

Overall, the whole search process has been helpful for me. I’ve reflected on how historical events such as the Korean War, cultural factors such as attitudes towards single mothers, or socioeconomic issues like poverty have all shaped the international adoption industry in Korea.

Then on the other side of the coin, I’ve reopened my old wounds from racism, the feelings of forced assimilation, and made peace with the lack of preparedness or cultural understanding by my adoptive family. Somehow while reflecting on all of this, I feel that enduring adoption has given me a small sense of enlightenment by having a much more complex human experience. I’ve consciously made peace with my adoption, rather than bury or suppress my feelings. This process has driven me to strive to lead each day with empathy, intention, and kindness.  

By telling my story, I hope I can reach other adoptees, or anyone else feeling alone, to feel a little less alienated.  

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