Just recently, I spent some time on the phone with a man who had been adopted through WACAP over 30 years ago. Prior to being adopted by a WACAP family, his initial adoption had been dissolved and he’d spent some of his earliest years in foster care. Years later, he found he still had many questions about his past, his birth family and his country of origin. While I don’t know his whole story, I know that years ago, WACAP placed him with the family who stuck with him. And decades later, as an adult adoptee, he could call WACAP for support. I was so happy to talk with him, to answer the questions I could and to send him the resources I had available that could help him on his journey.
When I think about what lifelong support means, I come back to this adult adoptee, and others like him. This support encompasses not only our commitment to families as they embark on their adoption, and through their child’s teen years. It is a support that’s about the adoptee: it starts by being about the child, that child’s need for a family, and also that child’s lifelong journey toward feeling healed, whole and integrated. One thing that makes me so proud to work for WACAP is our commitment to providing this lifelong support after adoption.
As an adopted person myself, I know that adoption really is an ongoing journey, and there are going to be highs and lows, and questions and revelations throughout.
Research shows us that most adoptees will, at some point, consider embarking on the search for their birth family. While not all searches result in a happy ending, or happy beginning as I like to say, it’s still a worthwhile experience.
It takes courage to begin the search, and people come to me with anticipation and trepidation, as they don’t know what they’re going to find. That’s why I spend a lot of time to try and prepare each adoptee I work with. I want to find out what their expectations are, and help them consider what might happen if reality doesn’t align with the hopes and often fantasies they’ve built up over the years.
Some years ago, I assisted a young woman named Lisa in her search for her birth mother. In this case, the search was successful, and Lisa and her birth mother happily reunited. They asked to come into the office to meet me and presented me with a thank you card for my part in their story–it was amazing to hear how they each felt so much more whole after finding these missing pieces.
Even when a search doesn’t end with the joyful reunion that Lisa’s did, there is so much to be gained by searching. Taking that step can lead to acceptance, and to unravelling some of the grief and loss issues that adoptees experience, helping a person to feel more complete.
Another young man I spoke with some time ago who inquired, but for the time being opted not to actively search for his birth mother emailed, to thank me for some resources and articles I had provided. “Thank you so much for sending these to me,” he wrote. “These are things I’ve felt my whole life and never had a way to articulate.”
That’s really what lifelong support means to me. It’s about acknowledging that every story is unique, yet none of us are alone. WACAP is always here to help in any way possible. And while I may not be able to walk the entire journey with this young man, I’ve helped him to open the door.
About WACAP’s Vice President of Social Services, Spring Hecht: Spring has worked at WACAP since 2003. She has many years of experience both in direct services to families and in program management. Before taking on her current position, Spring supervised WACAP’s Family Finders program. In addition to working with adult adoptees, she also works with families and children who are experiencing challenges after adoption, providing them with counsel and other support resources and referrals. Spring holds a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University.