When Times Were Different: My Search for My Biological Family

In this post, a WACAP staff member shares her story about growing up adopted and the search for her biological family. More than 60 years after her adoption, she’s found some of the answers she was looking for and invites us along on her journey.


Grayscale photo of Karen as a child next to picture of Karen today

(Left) Karen as a child; (Right) Karen today (Image Source: WACAP Staff)

My Search for My Biological Family

By a WACAP Staff Member and Adoptee

Wondering If There Was Family Out There

As an adoptee I found myself wondering many times if there was family “out there.” Even an aunt or uncle, grandmother or grandfather. Did they know about me? Why had they never searched for me?

I was adopted in 1951. I came to my mom and dad when I was six weeks old. Mom was 37 and Dad 43.

They’d tried to have children for years with no luck and their being able to adopt me was truly an answered prayer.  Due to some health issues, they could not adopt again.

What My Mother Told Me, and What She Didn’t

I knew I’d been adopted from a very young age, but it was not something my mom wanted to discuss nor did she want others to know. She was terrified that someone would come take me away and due to her insecurities, she told me that my mother had died in childbirth and that my father had been killed in the Korean War.

It wasn’t until I was near the end of my pregnancy with my first child (1977) and having some health issues related to the pregnancy, that my mother finally told me my biological mom had not died in childbirth, so that I could tell my doctor. (She never said anything about my father.)

Behind Curtains of Shame and Fear

My mother was so ashamed that she had lied but still so scared that I would find my bio mom and fall “in love” with her. It was a sad, but true worry she clung to. As a result, I never did much searching for family members out of respect for her wishes and her fears.

I am sure she felt inadequate not being able to bear a child and on top of that, she didn’t want others to know that I was, as some would have called me, “illegitimate.”

Times were different then.

Looking for Something

Time didn’t stand still, however, and neither did my desire to know more about my biological family.

In the late 90’s, I did do some internet searches, but I came up blank.

Mom passed away in 2006. I still felt I needed to honor her wishes that I not search for my bio mom.

However, in 2008, I began working for WACAP, where I heard stories about adoptees’ birth family searches, and helped answer questions about WACAP’s search and reunion services. After a few years, I learned about the at-home DNA and ancestry testing kits that were becoming so accessible and thought they might help me piece together parts of my story. In late 2016, after much debate, I finally sent in a kit through 23andMe.

I’d been able to obtain an original copy of my birth certificate with my bio mom’s name on it and waited eagerly for news of a DNA match that might tell me more. For months, I heard nothing encouraging.

Finding a Match

In February of 2018, I received notice I was a 23 percent DNA match with a girl who was likely my niece. I was in shock.

Lo and behold, when I contacted her, she knew my biological mom’s name, where my bio mother was from, and announced I had a brother and three sisters, all living in Colorado.

Sadly, I learned my bio mom had passed away in 2016.

There was still some uncertainty about who my father was, but my niece convinced her great uncle to do a DNA test as well. He was my uncle. His brother was my bio mom’s husband and my bio dad.

He’d passed away in 1997, but I had found him.

Uncovering Stories From a Different Time

Since both of my bio parents were deceased, it was evident that neither my siblings nor I would ever know the full story of why I was put up for adoption.

Since my bio mom had only been gone for just over a year, at first, I wished I had searched sooner. But apparently, my niece was also trying to honor her grandmother’s wishes for privacy, and had not done the DNA test until after her death. I wished for what I could know.

I learned that my bio parents were married about two months after my birth, and they went on to have four children together in seven years that followed.

I have since been in contact with all my newfound siblings and discovered that, though their mother told several of them she had given a child up for adoption, she gave them very little information beyond that.

They knew the child was a girl, they knew my birth date, and that I was born with club feet. My bio mom feared this condition was due to her binding herself to hide her pregnancy, and she’d made it clear to my siblings that she didn’t want to discuss anything further about this.

Times were different back in the 1950s for an unwed mother.

The Good and the “Weird” of It All

People who know my story are always asking me how I feel about all this. My initial response: “weird.”  I am sure that seems like an odd thing to say, but there is still so much going through my mind regarding my story’s twist and turns.

For one, the siblings I’ve gained “welcomed me to the family,” but at least for right now, they don’t feel like family.

Next, we were raised in very different circumstances. We share “nature” (DNA) but not “nurture.” As an only child I know I had many opportunities they never had. How different would my life have been if I had not been put up for adoption? Would I have been able to attend college? It is likely I would not have traveled as extensively as I did.

Furthermore, there is some current tension between the siblings that, thankfully, I don’t have to deal with.

Yes, it is all very weird.

Beneath the Desire to Know

Some might wonder what I was looking for. It’s true I didn’t know what I would find, and also that I was content in my life as it was.

So, then, why did I search?

On the surface, a main reason was to learn about my family’s medical history. I was tired of doctors asking me, “Is there a history of (diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc.) in the family?” and me having to say, “I don’t know, I was adopted.” I believe this has caused me to have several medical tests that I might have avoided had I just had some family medical history. My siblings have been great at providing me some of that.

But, deep down inside, there are other reasons; some instinctual curiosity has always been there.

If there was family out there, I had questions:

  • What was my ancestry like?
  • What education did my parents have?
  • What career, if any, did my bio mom pursue?
  • What personality traits do we share?
  • Where did my daughter get her red hair?
  • Who does my 6’ 2” son get that height from?
  • Does baldness run in the family?
  • The list goes on.

Search and Discovery

Although my mother was worried about what would happen if I sought answers to some of my questions, I can honestly say that I have not regretted or resented being adopted for one minute, nor do I hold any ill will against my bio mother and bio father for putting me up for adoption. To me, it would be silly to have regrets. As the expression goes, that’s “water under the bridge,” a past I can’t change.

If I could, I would love to be able tell my bio mom what a gift she gave my mother and that I never for even a moment felt unloved. Over protected, maybe, but not unloved. (I am not sure my new siblings fully understand that.)

Time will tell whether or not my siblings and I will stay connected or if this unusual relationship will fade away.

For now, I am delighted to have the contacts I have made, especially with one of my sisters, and grateful for all the information they have provided me. It’s all a little weird still, and there still questions without answers.

But times are different today, different for me, and perhaps too for the family that knows I’m here.

WACAP believes in providing lifelong support to families before and after adoption. Learn more about WACAP’s Social Services and its search and reunion services


About WACAP’s Home Study Processing Coordinator: Karen joined WACAP’s staff in 2009. Helping families across the U.S. during their home study process, she also assists executive staff and WACAP’s Family Finders team. She’s committed to helping children find families and loves the people she works with. Outside of work, she enjoys traveling, likes crafts including crocheting and rubber stamping, and enjoys gardening and attending theater productions with friends. “Can you tell I am not one to sit around and do nothing?” she’s known to ask colleagues with a smile.  

Posted in Adoptees' Perspectives, Adoption, Domestic Adoption, Staff/Board Spotlight, WACAP | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

WACAP Receives Donation From Local Business Partner

"A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees." -Amelia Earhart

“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” -Amelia Earhart

First Financial Northwest Bank employees donated over $800 to WACAP, raising funds as part of their “Dress Down for Charity Day” last Friday.

We learned about the contributions of the FFNWB staff here at WACAP’s Renton, Washington headquarters today, October 5, a day where people across the country are celebrating National Do Something Nice Day.

Their donation will help WACAP bring stability to children who need it through foster care and adoption.

We hope the story of the FFNWB team’s generosity will inspire you to do something that’s kind and charitable today as well.

WACAP executives accept a donation from First Financial Northwest Bank Vice President Jay Townsend

WACAP executives accept a donation from First Financial Northwest Bank Vice President Jay Townsend

Posted in Philanthropy, Quote | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Agents of Change: Painting Pictures from Family Camp

thank you note and photo from family camp volunteer-organizers with highlighted text about the

Thank you note from 2018 Family Camp volunteer organizers who call out what’s so special about this magical week at Sun Lakes (Image Source: WACAP Family)

Remembering the Pictures We Paint Across Seasons

By M. Harrel, WACAP Communications Editor
Interview with Zoila Lopez, WACAP Clinical Director

“I got a little emotional sitting there, seeing the kids showing off their talent, being goofy, simply being themselves,” says Zoila Lopez.

She’s telling me about a family talent show she attended at Sun Lakes Park last month in Central Washington, one of the stand-out experiences at her first WACAP Family Camp.

A glance out the window from Zoila’s office back in Seattle reminds us both that fall has come quick and change is in the busy September breeze. We stop anyway to reminisce about the summer, a chat that’s overdue. Zoila’s description of Family Camp transports me.

I’ve never been to Sun Lakes, but as Zoila talks about her week away, it’s suddenly August in the Sun Lakes campground, and I’m there:

A bright, eager sun dances over the lakes sunup to sundown. Children pass the day with friends and laughter, imbued by a sense of surety and freedom in a place they’ve come to know well. Families find time to connect, confident of their children’s safety. New friendships grow or grow stronger. Children adopted from many different countries are able to connect with fellow adoptees, surrounded by a community that belongs to them.

Listening, I can feel the magic that keeps generations of families returning to Family Camp year after year. It’s heartening to hear, and it’s nice to chat with Zoila, clinical director at WACAP. She’s someone who helps both colleagues and the families she works with “push pause” between seasons.

Talking with her about summer, you’ll come away remembering more vividly the pictures you’ve painted—joys, tears, family adventures—and you’ll realize they’re part of the canvas you’re carrying with you into fall.

What she’s brought into fall from Family Camp is her memory of the camp’s warmth, literally and figuratively. “Sun Lakes in August was hot! 112 degrees, hot!” she says brightly. “I’m glad there was air conditioning in the cabins,” she continues, her laughter melting into a song about the indelible mark made by her week with WACAP families. “The intensity of the heat was parallel to the strength of the connections.”

For Zoila, the talent show sticks sharply in her mind. This child-focused and family-centered event where children were delighted to be themselves “showed the impact families had on these kids’ lives,” she says. In groups or on their own, children performed, acted, giggled, and smiled to an applause of friends and family … and love.

Again, I can see it:

Each talent show moment, extraordinary. Every child, loved. Each with a family that has their backs through the best moments … and the hardest. Zoila adds, “The magnitude and value of the work that we do as a group of people here at WACAP, as advocates for children, was highlighted in the faces of all these children and their parents.”

From Family Camp, Zoila brings back a picture of “agents of change”:

  • “Parents, so powerfully and significantly impacted by adoption, who are caring for and teaching their children.”
  • “Children, who can see themselves represented in the friends and families that look like theirs, and who are sharing valuable lessons with their parents—what it means to have grit, perseverance, and strength of the human spirit.”
  • “Families, who recognize the common experiences adoptive parents have, and support each other.”
  • “A community of volunteers and advocates who help create lifelong bonds.”

WACAP is committed to providing lifelong support to families before and after adoption. Learn more about WACAP’s support services.


mh-photo-profile-wacapAbout WACAP Communications Editor Missy Harrel: Missy joined WACAP’s communication team in 2011. She spent the first part of her career in nonprofit program management focused on child welfare and early learning, as well as teaching in higher education. Growing up with family and friends who were adopted, she has an ongoing interest in sharing about family and the stories they create together. She blends her communications background with a love of learning and technology. She enjoys reading a good poem, sipping a nice cup of coffee, or a seeing a child jump carefree into a mud puddle, overcome with the sense of opportunity that every child deserves.

WACAP_Zoila_LopezAbout WACAP Clinical Director Zoila Lopez: Zoila joined WACAP in 2016 as the organization’s clinical director. She is an adoptive mom, a former foster parent, and has an extensive work background as a therapist and adoption coach, working to support all members of the adoption triad. Within her community, she helps organize and plan trainings and events that support families built through foster care and adoption. An advocate for adoptees, children in foster care, and families, she is committed to connecting children and families with supportive communities and resources that help them thrive.

Posted in Adoption, Events, Images of Family, International Adoption, Reflections, Volunteerism, WACAP | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Opportunities Ahead: Back to School Images from WACAP Families

Here are a few of the images shared by members of WACAP’s Board of Directors and WACAP families as their kids have prepared for back-to-school this fall.

They’re embarking on a new year with learning opportunities ahead, families who have their backs, teachers who’ll help guide their steps, and love that welcomes them home.

first-and-fifth-grades
cheer
siblings ready for fifth and second grades
in-his-happy-place
loves-her-rainbow-shirt

WACAP believes that every child deserves the love and stability of a family, every day. If you have questions about foster care or adoption or the countries where we work, contact us at wacap@wacap.org


Source of Images: WACAP Families.

Posted in Adoption, Art and Creativity, Images of Family, WACAP | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Tips for Grandparents Welcoming Home Foster and Adoptive Grandkids

Illustration - grandparents - welcoming your grandchild through foster care and adoption

Welcoming Your Grandchildren Through Foster Care and Adoption (Plus Five Tips)

“Grandparents have a really special role,” says WACAP’s Director of Social Services, Elana Roschy. Reflecting on her parents and the connection they have with her son, she smiles and says, “For them, as grandparents, the pressure is off.” The pressure is off because, for many grandparents, the comprehensive parenting responsibility goes away, while the ability to love a child stays put.

For those whose grandchildren join their family through adoption and foster care, the opportunity to enrich a child’s life is no less rich and rewarding. At WACAP, we’re privileged to celebrate the special and singular role grandparents play in the lives of the children and families we serve.

Five Reminders for Grandparents

  1. Know you may feel loss or sadness about becoming a grandparent through foster care or adoption, and you’re not alone in that. Hearing this news might mean you’re saying goodbye to dreams you’ve long held, whether that’s rocking an infant granddaughter to sleep or passing down heirlooms to a grandson and namesake. Though you may face a different set of realities than you planned, you and your grandchild will have new opportunities to learn about each other and share in each other’s customs, traditions, and histories.
  1. Give your child (as the parent) time to attach to your grandchild, and know this time may be longer than you think. It’s typical that children who’ve joined families through foster care and adoption need more time to attach to their parents and to adjust to their environments than a new baby would. Likewise, your grandchild may require more time to attach to attach to you.
  1. Understand that you’ll become a “conspicuous grandparent” though adoption or perhaps though becoming a multicultural family. Talk to your child (as the parent) early and regularly about how you can respond to any stares or uncomfortable questions so that you affirm your grandchild and your relationship, honor your grandchild’s privacy and story, and respect your child’s wishes in the process.
  1. Take stock of the photos in your home, and make sure to include photos of your grandchild, and of you together. How many past and current photos do you have of you, your family, other grandchildren? If a child in foster care is joining your family temporarily, make sure that child is included in your family’s photos and displays and in photos with you.
  1. While you’re waiting to meet your grandchild (or between visits), there’s a lot you can do to help make your grandchild’s transition into your family and home smooth. Here are a few things you can do:
      • Learn about your grandchild’s place of birth, birth country, background, and culture, and discover how you can incorporate your grandchild’s culture and traditions into your family.
      • Learn to cook food your grandchild likes and recognizes.
      • Familiarize yourself with projects and crafts your grandchild will enjoy.
      • Start to learn your grandchild’s language, if different than yours, and start to procure books that you can read to your grandchild.
      • Incorporate artwork that reflects your child’s culture in your home decor.
      • Childproof your home, invest in safeguards for medicines or other potential hazards, and secure breakables.
      • Create a plan for your pets for when your grandchild visits. Your grandchild may not know how to respond or may be afraid of your pet or vice versa.
      • Find out what items you may need to purchase, and go shopping early for items you’ll need later—e.g., toys, books, booster seats, stroller, games, craft supplies, special equipment or supplies, etc. Look for books, toys and stories that reflect and celebrate your grandchild’s culture,  ethnicity, traditions, personalities, hobbies and interests, etc.
      • Make an introductory photo book for your grandchild about visiting you that includes …
        1. Photos of you and others you live with.
        2. Pictures of your home—the outside and the rooms inside.
        3. Your pets.
        4. Nearby parks or places you may visit with your grandchild.

On behalf of WACAP, thank you to the grandparents and the soon-to-be grandparents opening their hearts to children.

WACAP is committed to providing lifelong support to families before and after adoption. Learn more about WACAP’s support services.


Written By: WACAP Communications Editor M. Harrel with contributors WACAP Director of Social Services Elana Roschy and Past Vice President of Social Services MaryAnn Curran.
Image Source: Canva stock illustration/WACAP design.

Posted in Adoption, Foster Care, Support Services, WACAP, Welcome Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Six Things to Know This Fall About Adopting from China

Family Finders staff member and adoptive parent Jo Reed loves the fall, a time of year she finds full of opportunity. For those considering international adoption, Jo offers six things you should know about adopting from China, explains the changes we’ve seen in the adoption process, and underscores what hasn’t changed: that there are children who need a families’ love, no matter the season.


Elated child playing in a pile of fallen leaves

Enjoying fall’s possibilities … (Source: WACAP Family)

“Autumn Thoughts on Adopting From China”

by Jo Reed, WACAP Family Finders Program Manager

Fall is here, the world is shifting, the air is … well, it’s … different. Change is coming. September has always been my favorite month. As a kid I liked school and was always stoked about my bright new notebooks and the smell of yellow pencils; I couldn’t wait to find out who my teachers were and whether my friends would be in my classes. As an adult I still feel that sense of possibility and a new energy, free of the sleepy heat, and am inspired to take on formerly daunting projects.

Are you one of those people who starts thinking about adoption at this time of year? Maybe for you, the other children have been sent off to school so your day is quieter. Or the crisp sky makes you think of family holidays to come, and of your longing for a child, or for another one.

Today my list is about why it’s a great time to start your adoption in China. There have been some changes in China’s adoption process (most of us aren’t crazy about adjusting to changes), and I suspect some families are hesitant to get started. I hope this list will give you the little push you need to jump right in!

  • We’re seeing more children on China’s shared list of waiting children than ever before, and more of the kids are waiting longer to be matched.

—Now that China is no longer working with agencies for partnerships with specific orphanages, all of the children eligible for international adoption go directly to the list. This gives all agencies the opportunity to request the files of more children.

  • The time frame for your adoption in China will be comparatively short.

—The adoption of a child who is already waiting to be matched with a family is taking about 12 months, from the beginning of the homestudy to bringing the child home.

—If your completed dossier is registered in China to adopt one of the children with milder needs, it will take about 12 months + the time waiting to be matched. The time frame for matching is usually 1–12 months, depending on the needs, age, and gender of the child you hope to adopt.

  • Not being matched with a specific child at the beginning doesn’t change the length of your adoption of a child in the Special Focus group.

—Although U.S. Department of State policy now requires your family have a completed homestudy before you can be matched with a certain child; your overall time will still be about 12 months.

Child looks up at maple tree's colorful fall leaves

Taking in a colorful fall day. (Source: WACAP Family)

  • You can now be matched with a child whose file is with any agency at the time your home study is complete.

—Under the Dept. of State guidance, adoption agencies are now required to share information about children they are advocating for with families from any agency, and if your family chooses to adopt the child, his file must be transferred to WACAP.

  • WACAP’s Promise Child Grants for waiting children will apply no matter which agency has the child’s file.

—WACAP has always provided grants, attached to the adoptions of specific waiting children with moderate to significant needs. These are based on the child’s age, medical and development concerns, in addition to the family’s income.

—Now children transferred from other agencies to WACAP are also eligible for WACAP grants, depending on the child’s age and significance of the concerns in the child’s file.

  • When you adopt any child from China, your impact will be immeasurable, and will last for generations. But there is a way to make an even bigger difference:

Adopt a boy. Boys wait for families so much longer than girls do, and the majority are never adopted at all. This is where the greatest need lies, and will shorten your wait for your child too!

—-We’re seeing school-aged boys in good health and with manageable needs on the list, and many younger ones with moderate and manageable needs who are waiting longer than in the past.

—Be open to a child with moderate to significant needs. We encourage you to research a wide range of needs, and talk to families with kids who have various concerns. Keep in mind that all medical needs occur in forms that may be very mild to very significant, and everything in between.

—When you know more, you may be surprised that your family does have the resources and willingness to consider loving a child others may have overlooked. While WACAP staff will never encourage anyone to adopt a child with needs they aren’t comfortable with, knowing more about how needs do (or don’t) affect the child’s day to day life often prompts families to consider more possibilities.

Walking at the park in the sunshine, I’m mesmerized by the scruffle scruffle sound of my shooshing through the leaves, to the trees whispering and rustling, and I’m aware I’m waiting for the unexpected, the changes, the new things that fall will offer me. I’m surprised to find the clear silhouette of a nearly bare tree is as striking as it was when it was garlanded in green. Still amazing; still beautiful, just … different.

Like your adoption.

Two kids running on leaf-covered sidewalk in fall

Brothers at play on a fall day. (Source: WACAP Family)

Contact us to learn more about adopting from China, or to learn more about WACAP’s foster care and adoption programs.


Jo Reed of WACAP's Family Finders Team smilesAbout WACAP Family Finders Program Manager Jo Reed:
Jo came to WACAP in 2004 and with her, an unyielding commitment to bringing children and families together. An adoptive parent of two children, Jo is also a daily advocate for every child growing up without permanency. Through her work with WACAP’s Family Finders, she has helped share the stories of thousands of children who needed advocates and a family.

Posted in Adoption, Adoption FAQ, Adoptive Parents' Perspectives, International Adoption, Waiting Children | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Family of Five on What Really Matters: Giving Back Together  

With the start of fall, we’re taking a moment to “spring back” to one of our favorite events this year—WACAP’s Race for Home 5k Fun Run. Here’s one of the many families that made it such a success and is helping us look forward. 


Meet the Harrington family: Patrick and Amy, and their kids, Ryan, Meghan and Brennan (adopted through WACAP).

WACAP Family of Five at 5k Fun Run Race for Home

At WACAP’s 5k Fun Run, Race for Home, with everyone dressed up in blue for Foster Care Month (Image Source: WACAP)

This active family models a lifestyle of giving back, and the children know that no matter how big or small a gift may be, that gift makes a difference.

For parents Patrick and Amy, philanthropy is part of who they are as a family. Together, they participate in charity fun runs, child sponsorship and WACAP Family Camp in August.

When they joined us at WACAP’s inaugural 5k Fun Run in Seattle this year, we asked them about why they model giving in their lives and activities.

Here’s what Amy says:

“I feel like we want to instill in our kids the idea of giving back. The idea that giving is part of what we do as a family and the idea that we have been blessed with plenty, and because of that we share what we have. That is what really matters.”

Learn more about WACAP’s work for children or ask us how you can get involved

Posted in Adoption, Celebrations, Events, Foster Care, Images of Family, Philanthropy, Quote, WACAP | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Name

On his personal blog about adoption, fatherhood, and lessons learned, WACAP CEO Greg Eubanks shares about the relationship he and his youngest son have been working to recreate.

With his son’s permission, he offers a few thoughts, with hindsight and from a trauma-informed perspective, on how important it is to build connections with our children and to be kind rather than right.


photo of red and white roses

“Name”

by Greg Eubanks, WACAP CEO

What’s in a name? Wouldn’t a rose, by any other name, smell as sweet? Of course it would. On the other hand, if names were so disposable, then we wouldn’t care so much about them, would we? They are our introduction to others, the foundation of our identity. They reflect our history, our heritage, and often our lineage. Simply put, a name is a big deal.

And when it comes to adoption, I am frequently asked about the tendency for some adoptive parents to give their child a new name. Ah, there’s the rub.

Confession.

Let’s begin with a confession.  You should probably know that my wife and I legally changed the names of our children who first joined our family through adoption. Sandra Yahaira became Aleksandra Faith. Ramiro, who had no middle name, became Elijah Ramiro. Why did we do this? For one, I think we wanted names that reflected our faith. Second, and this relates to Eli, we thought we were protecting him. We couldn’t finalize their adoption until six months after they had joined our family, so we kept their original names throughout that period. Every time, and I mean each and every single time, we introduced our children to someone new, it was the same story. Sandra’s introduction went without a hitch, but when we would introduce Ramiro, it was always the same reaction.

“This is our son, Ramiro.”

Pause. Blink. Blink. The listener would tilt their head to one side repeat his name without trills or any inflection other than Texan twang. “Ramiro?” (hear it this way: ruh MĒˡ yuh RŌW?)

Pause. Blink. Blink. Pause.

“Hmph,” forced through the nose, without any discernable vowel sound.

The message was one of curiosity, at best, or disgust, at worst, trying to figure out the behind-the-scenes story, because we didn’t seem to belong. In their hasty estimation, at least one of us didn’t fit.

This. Happened. Every. Single. Day. How, we thought, could we saddle him with this reaction for life? We lived in Texas at the time, and Mexican and Spanish culture were prevalent throughout the region. People celebrated some aspects of Mexican culture, misunderstood many, and ultimately maligned others. If we could save him some anguish, wouldn’t it be a good thing?

Therefore, we legally changed their names during the adoption process, and we spent a full year calling him a hyphenate: Eli-Ramiro, which his sister ultimately changed to Eli-‘miro, before eventually dropping the Ramiro altogether. And with that, we lost a beautiful piece of their Mexican and Spanish heritage. We took away and whitewashed a small piece of their identity. Yahaira, meaning “to light, to shine”, and Ramiro, meaning “supreme judge.” Sigh.

Why a name change?

There are many adoptive parents like us, who will change the name of their adopted children for varying reasons: mistaken assumptions about race and identity, concerns for safety or protection (which were never applicable in our situation), or a desire to symbolically claim children and provide a sense of belonging.

For some, this seems biblical, with the idea coming straight from the New Testament imagery of new creations, with the old identity passed away. This occurs throughout the Bible, really. Abram became Abraham, Sarai became Sarah, Jacob became Israel, Simon became Peter, and Saul became Paul.

So I can see it. Clearly, I have done it. But would I do it again?

The more I get to know my children, and the more I listen to adoptees, the more I see the flaws in my own logic. Biblically, the idea here positions one’s past as limiting and is ultimately something to be overcome. Relationally, an adopted individual’s heritage is woven into the core of their identity, and will certainly influence who they may become. It isn’t something that is shameful, it shouldn’t be hidden, and it isn’t remotely ‘less than’. So, in my opinion, we shouldn’t act as if it is.

What do adoptees say?

More importantly, we should highlight the opinions and voices of adopted persons. Seeking the perspective of adult adoptees can be vital to inform and guide adoptive parents consider how we approach decision-making on behalf of our children.  So, as I was preparing to post these thoughts, I chatted with my children about their names and how it impacts them.  Here are their thoughts:

“I always wished my middle name was still Yahaira.  I was very proud of it because it was part of who I was and my culture… I have always been proud of my culture and would always be sad when no one believed me on my race, [or] when teachers would change my race when I circled Hispanic and they would just change it to Caucasian.”  – Sandra, age 25

“I think I get mistaken for white a lot by non Mexican/Hispanics due to my name. I wish sometimes I was more in touch with my heritage and culture. I don’t think it was anything y’all intentionally did, … I think it just has to do with being adopted into a different culture if that makes sense. Like for instance most Mexican and Hispanic people will automatically speak Spanish to me and I think it shocks them that I don’t have the language fully learned.  [But] being adopted is [also] part of my story.  I think I notice more now that I’m older.” – Eli, age 23

What’s in a name?

So now, when I think of changing a name, I wonder what we are trying to escape. We shouldn’t even hint that a cultural or familial heritage is something to be overcome. Rather, we should celebrate and embrace what makes our children unique. Are we adoptive parents consciously or subconsciously trying to deny our child’s history in order to manage our own grief over the fact that these children were not born to us? We didn’t feel them move in the womb. We didn’t hear their heartbeat on a sonogram, nor did we see them take their first steps, or speak their first words. We have much to grieve.

However, and here is the bigger point, our children also have much to grieve. More. Their history is a part of their cellular makeup so any efforts by adoptive parents to deny that history, even though they may be unintended, can be hurtful. We can compound their sorrow by implying that a part of what makes them unique, a part of what makes them who they are at the very core of their being, is something I quickly chose to change.

I’m sorry.

My loss of not getting to choose a name for my child pales in comparison, doesn’t it? Particularly so, when I think through the implications of my choice:

  • I admit that I am actually the one in anguish to even speak your name out loud, because it acknowledges the years I didn’t know you.
  • I imply that biological family members shouldn’t be acknowledged, or discussed, or even exist.
  • I deny your cultural history or country of origin.
  • I frame your adoption in a way that denies your profound loss and sweeps your history under the rug, setting the stage to pretend it never existed in the first place.

“Words are things. You must be careful, careful about calling people out of their names, using racial pejoratives and sexual pejoratives and all that ignorance. Don’t do that. Some day we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally in to you.”
― Maya Angelou


WACAP CEO at orphanage in Africa, children gather smilingAbout WACAP’s CEO, Greg Eubanks: Greg joined WACAP as CEO in December 2014. Serving children and families has been the focus and passion of his 20-year career in nonprofit executive leadership and business administration. With an extensive background in international adoption and foster care, Greg is committed to bringing hope to the children living without a family … and helping them home. He blogs about his experience as a parent and about lessons learned at https://millionmistakes.com

Above post, “Name,” originally posted hereRe-posted with permission.

Posted in Adoptees' Perspectives, Adoption, Adoptive Parents' Perspectives, Foster Care, From the CEO, International Adoption, Quote, WACAP | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Letter to Family Camp and the Community that Makes It Happen

Photo of Sun Lakes with thank you message to volunteers and others who make WACAP family camp special

Water wars. Laser shows. Slip and slide kickball, obstacle courses, and hiking to caves. It’s not a day at an adventure-themed amusement park; it’s a day at WACAP family camp.

This week, dozens of WACAP families are gathered in at the Sun Lakes Park Resort for five days of celebrating adoptive families. Parents have the opportunity to discuss adoption-related topics with WACAP staff, while their kids bond over water balloons and bike rides. There’s an epic bingo game, an all camp dance (with glowsticks!) and the legendary family camp talent show. For four generations of WACAP families, it’s a definite summer highlight.

This sun filled extravaganza wouldn’t be possible without the help of a generous volunteer committee that spends countless hours making it happen. Together they plan activities, tackle logistics, gather supplies, and make camp a positive experience for all.

Arik Korman, lead volunteer, manages the timeline and meeting schedule to keep everything running smoothly before, during, and after family camp. Arik is dad to a 9-year-old-son adopted from Korea.

Kendra Yoshimoto has an eye for detail like no one else, and puts together an amazing carnival for the younger kids, complete with games, prizes, and popcorn! Kendra adopted her 12-year-old daughter from Korea.

Kris Aamot gets everyone where they need to be, by coordinating the registration and assigning cabin numbers. Kris is dad to 5 daughters, 4 of them adopted from China.

Vic Bloomfield is camp’s chief adventurer. He leads a hike to the Lake Lenore caves, and coordinates volunteer assignments for all of the camp activities. Vic is dad to a seventeen-year-old son from Korea.

Robyn Ingham is full of fun and creative ideas, and puts together an eclectic and exciting silent auction. Proceeds from the auction support WACAP programs! Robyn’s 13-year-old daughter is adopted from China.

Amelia Aamot, teen center coordinator, is simply Wonder Woman. She not only runs the late night teen center, she coordinates and supervises activities for the tweens in the afternoon, makes the name badges, and brings incredible energy and creativity to the table. Amelia was adopted from China, and is now studying education at Seattle University.

Thank you to all of these fantastic and committed volunteers, along with the many others who contribute to making family camp such a beloved WACAP tradition.

If you are interested in learning more about WACAP’s work for children, or how you can get involved, contact us at wacap@wacap.org. 


Written By: WACAP Development Writer Meg Alley. Image Source and Design: WACAP. 

 

Posted in Celebrations, Events, Volunteerism, WACAP | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Becoming Sisters: Molly and Chloe’s Story

In January 2014, Megan and Alex traveled to China to adopt their daughter Chloe. After a year-long adoption process, they boarded the flight home, overjoyed to welcome their 2-year-old into their family of six. For Chloe, that meant getting the parents she needed and becoming a sister to three brothers.

Adoption referral photo - smiling child in pink bouncy seat

Chloe’s Referral Photo – September 2013 (Image Source: WACAP Family)

With the family settling into their new routine, the last thing on Megan and Alex’s mind was adopting again. But several months later, they read about Molly, a waiting child. Discussing the care they could give another child, the couple agreed, “Maybe one more.”

Molly, like Chloe, spent her early years in an orphanage. But Molly, who was born with hydrocephalus and spina bifida, needed swift medical attention. Working with WACAP to help expedite their travel process from China, Alex and Megan arrived home with 3-year-old Molly in the spring of 2016 — with four siblings clamoring to meet her, and a family to see her through every surgery she required.

In front of tree

Molly on her fourth birthday – March 2017 (Image Source: WACAP Family)

Today, Chloe and Molly are both 5 years old, and both girls know they’re loved.

three brothers holding hands with their two sisters, alternating blue and pink t-shirts

Three Brothers, Two Sisters – July 2016 (Image Source: WACAP Family)

Through adoption they’ve gained three brothers, become sisters to them and sisters to each other.

Megan and Alex can’t imagine life without their kids, a happy truth we see in their children’s smiles, and in Chloe and Molly’s joyful embrace.

Happy Sisters Day, Molly and Chloe!

two school age girls in matching yellow, white, and blue dresses

Molly and Chloe in matching dresses (Image Source: WACAP Family)

Sisters smile in front of a welcome sign at

Right before “Cheer Camp” (Image Source: WACAP Family)

On grassy field, sisters smiling with their brothers on way home from camp

Picking up two of their brothers from camp (Image Source: WACAP Family)

Two sisters ready for kindergarten in matching

Ready for Kindergarten Round-Up (Image Source: WACAP Family)

Learn more about adopting from China at familyfinders@wacap.org, or find out more about the adoption and foster care programs at WACAP.


Written By: WACAP Communications Editor Missy Harrel. 

 

Posted in Adoption, Celebrations, Images of Family, International Adoption, WACAP, Waiting Children | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment