May 09, 2013
Posted by Application
Why did I choose adoption? Well, first off I have to admit it's the hardest and most selfless thing I have done or ever will do in my life. I was physically and mentally abused from about age 4 until about 19. And by other accounts, even before I had memories. My emotional age hasn't fully caught up with my chronological age, somedays, and I don't handle stress well-- for as many years as I've been in therapy. I didn't want to put a child through screwing up, blankout moments, and self-inflicted guilt complexes. A child's whole life is full of the opportunity to bond, but especially the first year. And I didn't want that first year to be full of full blown panic attacks, fear, and self-hatred at the mere thought of becoming frustrated with my beautiful little girl. I know I'd be held through it, but forgiveness has to climb to the surface and in my case, that forgiveness has nothing to hold on to. Self-forgiveness is sometimes like a mountain with no feasible way to climb it, no ridges, bumps or footholds.
I'm not going to lie and say all those maternal instincts didn't kick in when I first held her, bravely, and when I had help in feeding her. That first 15 minutes that I held her, calmly, was the best 15 minutes of my entire life. I can honestly say that. But I know in my heart that she's being taken better care of than I personally, could have. Financially, my resources weren't there either, but anyone can rub two nickels together-- my psychiatric health was not where it should have been at that time, and it had absolutely nothing to do with not wanting to try. I would beat myself up for days, thinking just that; being hard on myself and telling myself I was a horrible, unlovable person. I was stitching my own scarlet letter, and I haven't quite unstitched it yet; in thinking that I've deprived the birthfather of that chance to, well, be a father. I fear sometimes that I've siphoned the light from his eyes, and that I've stolen him from him. Eventually, though, I come back around to the conclusion that i did the right thing. When he holds me in his arms, and takes time to just ask what's wrong-- then I know I'm loved and I haven't actually done something reprehensible. When we're bonded by the love we have for our daughter at a visit, I know I'm not a bad person.
No one can love a daughter exactly like a birthmother, because an adoptive mom and a birthmother are two distinctly different titles, and more importantly two different people; paradoxically bonded by love itself. When I read emails and see the adoptive mom, I can see how much she loves her. I can feel it to the depths of my soul. And I'm sure if it had an energy all its own, I could reach out and touch it, and leave more of an imprint than I've already begun. You'll promise yourself you won't ever do anything rash after the finalization. And this promise will be based on looking in your son's or daughter's eyes for the first time. It will be the most quintessential, unmatchable moment of peace you will ever feel in your life. But the point is, if you do, allow yourself to fall back on your resources like someone jumping to their rescue. There's a lot of holding your breath and sometimes that's all the 9 months feels like is 'holding your breath'. But there is--there will be!-- a moment of exhale. For me, that moment of exhale was when I saw my little one, my precious child, remembered me and my voice, and everything about me. A popular saying for love is '143'. But really, I see it like this. There's one little person, 4 heartbeats resounding in indestructible adoration, and 8 hands to steady ourselves through the journey. So, it's really "148" that means I Love You. I would do anything for you. You are my flesh and blood, the other half of my heartbeat. The reason I pulled it all together...the reason for my smile. Sometimes it's true. It takes a whole village to raise a child.
- Written by Honora, who placed her baby for adoption this Christmas. Articulate, caring, in open adoption. In honor of Birthmother Day, Saturday, May 11, 2013.
May 06, 2013
Posted by Application
A friend recently responded to a post I shared on Face Book regarding an adoptee’s right to his/her original birth certificate. This friend cited problems with sharing
confidential information, including:
• Birth mother was guaranteed sealed records
• If not sealed forever, she may have had an abortion
• Birth mother has no desire to have contact
• Fear of discovery by subsequent children, husband, extended family
• Other avenues exist for a birth mother to contact the child she placed for adoption
Numerous myths and misconceptions persist. Those who do not work in the field of adoption or whose families do not include an adopted child, it is difficult to understand the complexities of being adopted; it is difficult to grasp the complexities of being part of the adoption triad.
Today, agencies in New York State are able to provide adult adoptees with non-identifying information limited to genetic information (birth parents' height, weight, eye and hair color), relationship history (if known/recorded), interests, education and medical information at the time of the baby's birth. This information is but a piece of the puzzle. A birth mother's health information at the time of placement is usually of little value to the adopted person 20, 30, 50 years later and health information is rarely updated through the years.
Secrecy and confidentiality were never guaranteed; certainly implied given the social mores of the day, but there was never a legal document guarantying lifelong secrecy. For those women seeking information on a child they placed for adoption, there are no avenues for birth parents to reach out to the child (adult) they placed - birth parents are only entitled to their own medical information, not their child's. Surely, there are women who placed babies in secrecy and shame. Some truly do want to remain secluded and secret. I've talked with them myself. However, in 25 years work in adoption, the vast majority of women I've spoken with who placed babies do want to know how their child has fared - is he/she still alive? happy? angry or ashamed in regard to the adoption or birth mother? These women have a strong longing and desire to know, sometimes to have a relationship, sometimes just to feel the comfort that their choice did not harm their child.
The adopted person is so often at a loss as to understanding his/her own history, life story, and beginnings. Very few, in my experience, are seeking to replace their adoptive families; rather they have an innate, human need and desire to connect with their roots. I understood that feeling more fully when I traveled to Italy last summer and visited the home town of my paternal grandparents. It was quite powerful to be in the place where my roots began.
Adoptees are the only citizens in the US who are not allowed to have their original birth certificates; this is a civil rights issue. Additionally, having access does not mean automatic contact or relationship. Relationships cannot (should not, in my opinion) be legislated.
The legislative bill that Hillside supports includes a contact preference clause: a birth parent can say they do not want their child (adult) to receive the original birth certificate with identifying information (mother’s name). This is protection for women whose lives would truly be devastated by that contact.
Regarding the question of abortion rates - in states where legislation has passed giving adoptees access to their original birth certificates (OBC), there is simply no statistical (or anecdotal) correlation between abortion and access to OBC. For one thing, we are talking about children (adults) who are already born! And adoption practice today is open for the most part and considered best practice. Hillside Children’s Center only places children in open adoptions. Secrecy for adoptions occurring today is by and large a non-issue. Women are choosing adoption because of this openness - they are choosing control and choice, and it is proving to be good for all involved. It is not co-parenting and it is not confusing (except to those not involved in adoption!).
I sincerely appreciate that a friend took the time to express concerns and ask to be educated. With knowledge comes freedom and growth. Some may still disagree, but I hope to impart a better understanding of the issue.
My friends at the Donaldson Institute for Adoption created a fabulous paper on the subject: http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/7_14_2010_ForTheRecordsII.pdf.
- Lisa D. Maynard
December 03, 2012
Posted by Application
In adoption, compelling stories are shared often, usually of situations that are heart-wrenchingly painful; every now and then filled with hope and joy. Here is an example of what fuels my passion for this work.
On November 17, Adoption Services at Hillside Children’s Center and Livingston County Department of Social Services hosted an adoption celebration and reunion at the Mormon Church in Geneseo. More than 100 people attended - many foster and adoptive families through LCDSS, as well as Hillside families. Hillside’s Dan Roach produced a 15 minute video which included stories from Donna Mankoff, LCDSS home finder and adoptive parent, Laird Gelser, adoption supervisor with 30 years at LCDSS, Sheila and Kevin Long who adopted 8 children through foster care, Bonnie Dietz, foster/adoptive parent, and Bridey Scott, Hillside (supervisor, Community Based Services, Mt. Morris office).
Bonnie and Fred Dietz were honored for providing 50 years of foster parenting through LCDSS. Bonnie, birth mother of four, and her husband Fred have fostered nearly 300 children over those 50 years, adopting 8 of those foster children, bringing their family to an even dozen!
Bonnie’s son Brian, now nearly 40, gave a loving tribute to his parents. Brian (one of the first children on Laird’s caseload as a new social worker at LCDSS) was 11 years old when he was moved to the Dietz home. He told the story of his less than elegant arrival, holding tightly to Lairds’ hand with one hand, a cardboard box full of all his worldly possessions with the other. When Bonnie answered the front door, he told of how he stood there “with tears in my big blue eyes” trying to be brave and intent on not unpacking his box as he “knew the game” believing he would be shortly moved yet again.
He recalled spending many Friday evenings waiting at the front door for his mother’s visit. Mostly she did not show. Fred always welcomed him back into the home, saying “maybe next week, Brian. Let’s go play a game.”
With tears in his eyes, Brian talked about being difficult, angry, and rebellious as a teen, always waiting to be abandoned once more. He barely made it through high school, giving Bonnie and Fred quite the challenge. They continued to provide love and security nonetheless. Brian recalled that when Bonnie and Fred asked if he would like to join their family legally (as they believed that he already belonged) he agreed. He said arriving home from the adoption finalization, he realized that he no longer was looking out of the front door for family; rather he was looking inside to where he belonged.
Today, Brian is a successful businessman. His son has grandparents who love him. His grandchildren know the love of his family. Brian credits Bonnie and Fred and their unconditional love for his success. He ended his story with, “Mom, Dad; I love you. Thank you.”
- Lisa Maynard
November 27, 2012
Posted by Application
I am Italian (75%). My family traditions included sauce on Sundays at midday, large gatherings for special occasions such as communions, confirmations, weddings, funerals and holidays. I grew up in a neighborhood with friends that were, for the most part, Italian, and with families quite similar to mine. Mostly, as a child and young adult I took my heritage for granted.
I have two Korean-born children. As they were growing up, I made sure they had ample opportunity to learn about their birth culture and birth history. We participated in festivities at the local Korean church, they attended Korean summer camp, I bought books in English and Korean, and Korean fairy tales and fables. We were very active in the local Korean adoption support group and sent letters to the Korean adoption agency to keep them up to date with how my children were progressing through the years. We made several attempts to find their birth families in Korea, to no avail. We discussed travel to Korea through the years with varied interest from my children. We (they) have yet to return.
Somewhere in my late 40’s I became more aware my Italian heritage and began to claim it. I went back to the family tradition of sauce on Sundays and started a process to obtain dual citizenship for Italy, a new opportunity for me. I reconnected with extended family on my father’s side. Still, I never felt a longing to travel to my roots other than to experience Italy and European culture and see the world, much like my desire to visit Paris, London, Prague, South African, Greece and Spain; none of which held a personal connection for me.
I had a wonderful opportunity to travel to Italy last summer (June 2012). As we were planning the trip, I wrote to my paternal uncle and aunt for advice on how to manage to see all I hoped to in one two-week trip to Italy; Rome, Tuscany, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Pompeii, the Amalfi coast. They made very helpful suggestions and then asked when we were traveling. We discovered our trips to Italy would overlap, and they generously offered to host us for 2 days in Gaeta, the birthplace of my grandparents.
I fell in love with Italy nearly as soon as we landed. Our first 9 days were spent in the Tuscan valley. There, I felt peace, deep relaxation and a sense of grounded energy that I never before experienced. The countryside is gorgeous, the language musical and passionate, and the people the same. There is something magical about walking through the stone streets of towns that are more than a thousand years old!
We then traveled down to Gaeta. My father had died more than 30 years ago, and we lost touch with his siblings and my extended paternal family. I did not know my uncle and aunt very well prior to our visit, so I was somewhat apprehensive. I didn’t want to impose, and worried a bit about how we would all get along. They were so very warm and loving, and welcomed us into their home in Italy (although they have lived all their lives in the US, they visit Italy for several months each year). They shared the local history and lore. We spent time on the beautiful beaches of this small fishing village and swam in the warm Mediterranean Sea, ate locally grown foods and enjoyed the inexpensive local wines.
On the 2nd day in Gaeta, my uncle took us to the see the homes where my grandmother and grandfather were born, roughly six blocks from each other on the same street. Born 16 years apart, the families did not know each other in Italy. But my grandparents found each other in New York. At 16 my grandmother married my grandfather, 32 years old.
All we could see of thee homes in which they were born was the doorway and wrought iron balconies of each apartment.
To stand in the street below my family origins was a profound experience. I felt that my feet had roots in the earth there. This is where I am from!
Upon reflection, I thought about those who know nothing of their roots, who can never know their birth history or stories. With no connection to any biological family members, my children have a very incomplete story – their birth mothers were unmarried and it was unacceptable to be an unwed mother in Korea when they were born. Had their mothers raised them, they would have no social standing, no access to education and no prospects for gainful employment in Korea. At that time, their birth mothers each felt they had little choice but to place their babies for adoption so that they may have opportunities in life. The extent of their knowledge is pretty obvious in their own faces – physical descriptions of their birth mothers (dark hair, dark eyes, and fair complexion).
My great good fortune in the adoption of my two amazing children is no doubt a painful fortune for their birth mothers, as it sometime is (or may be) for my children in the future. With little information and little ability to communicate and have access to more, how will they ever experience that sense of connection, rooted to their origins, understanding and knowing from whence they came?
The same is true of the thousands of adopted individuals in the U.S. who don’t know their story, who don’t know their origins, who were placed with adoptive families and feel as if they were dropped onto the planet, uprooted and un-rooted. Most love their adoptive families; and at the same time, most do feel a complicated sense of belonging and not. Many have a hunger to know their origins, to hear their family stories, to feel the power of their birth history.
The great cloak of secrecy shrouds their stories. Sealed records ensure a lifetime of not knowing for adopted people in most states. The Geneva Convention (1949) recognized an individual’s right to know their origins, yet 50+ years later, adopted people are still denied this right.
Hillside Children’s Center is leading a statewide coalition to change legislation in New York to allow an adopted individual access to his/her original birth certificate. While this does not solve all the problems of belonging, relationship, or answers to questions of origins, it is a start, a door into knowing.
I grew up in my original family. Although I had little interest for quite some time, I could ask questions whenever I wanted of any one of my dozens of aunts, uncles, cousins, and such. I have my original birth certificate; I am able to trace my grandparents’ travel from Italy to Boston, MA, to Rochester, NY. I can conduct a genealogical search because I have names, knowledge, and connection to my ancestors.
Shouldn’t we all?
November 27, 2012
Posted by Application
Family holidays and celebrations are wonderful opportunities to observe traits, patterns, and to share history and memories.
We traveled this Thanksgiving to my visit my sweetheart’s family and to attend the wedding of his cousin’s son.
Thanksgiving Day was relaxed and filled with warmth. My sweetheart’s family shared stories of his youth and the family military travels around the world. As with most families, they had stories of good times and some travails, recalled with good humor and a nostalgic glow.
The following Saturday, we attended the wedding. The marriage vows of this happy young couple, devotedly Catholic, were witnessed by a church filled with friends and family praying for a happy, healthy lifetime of the bride and groom.
The reception was held in a large hall overlooking one of Minnesota’s thousand lakes. It was a very cold day, with snow softly falling and ice forming across the lake. The banquet hall held the warmth of more than 300 family and friends. The bride and groom’s mothers have been best friends for many years, creating a unique blending of two very special families. Both come from large extended - and prolific - families, the hall was filled with adorable little children so ready to dance!
The bride and groom were married on the same day, in the same church, as the groom’s parents 25 years earlier, adding to the joyful spirit of celebration. Early in the evening, the son and his father sang a tribute to their two brides – “I’ll Give You A Daisy A Day, Love” (I’ll love you until the rivers run still and the four winds have all blown away). The love between father and son was tangible, their devotion to their brides and their family clear, their song filled with emotion.
My mind drifted to the youth with whom we work every day; those who are disconnected from family because of their behaviors, mental health struggles, the challenges of biological families suffering the effects of poverty or substance abuse. Or those whose parents’ rights were terminated because of physical or sexual abuse, or neglect. The scene is much different for them.
Too many of the youth in care will “age out,” be “emancipated” or “discharged” to their own accord. In the midst of our happy occasion, I felt great sadness for all the youth who will never experience the feeling of being wrapped in such love, to be supported through good times and the not so good ones by people not who are not there to collect a paycheck, but are there because of an unwavering love and commitment to each other.
Our work in Family Finding is helping to reconnect youth with biological family, or to help them connect with a new family through Adoption with whom they will find the unconditional love and support they so deserve.
I sat at our cousin’s son’s wedding reception and observed, drinking in the love and caring that surrounded the young couple on this new journey of marriage. The love in the room was profound, the desire to see them succeed palpable. It was exactly what each young person needs as they launch into adulthood.
To be so loved and supported is a gift indeed.
June 21, 2012
Posted by Application
On June 15, the Adoption Services Team (except for our Erie County staff) moved from Metro Park to the Crestwood Children's Center campus on Scottsville Road. Our new home includes offices for staff, a large training/conference room which also houses our lending library, and the Adoption Chronicles video studio. The campus sits in the midst of a park-like setting with lots of trees, open fields, playgrounds and a pool for the children on the campus.
Hillside's Partner Service Center worked hard to make the transition a smooth one for our staff. We are enjoying the friendly feel of the space itself and the warm welcome of the staff and children at Crestwood. It also feels so good to be on a campus with children. Their happy voices ring up to our building, reminding us of Hillside's mission and our commitment to children.
Adoption Services will be hosting an Open House this summer. Stay tuned for details!
June 04, 2012
Posted by Application
On May 12, 2012, Kristen graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Columbus College of Art and Design, three days short of the 22nd anniversary of her homecoming, or what our family calls “plane day”. It is also Mother’s Day weekend. Three momentous occasions in one weekend!
I remember hanging wallpaper in the kids’ bath with my bff Molly. Our children, Alex and Shannon, both under 3 years old , play in the bedroom next door. Our husbands were watching hockey and chatting about sports in the family room downstairs. This evening of domestic tranquility is suddenly interrupted by the ringing of the phone.
Molly and I dash to the phone (pre cell days when one actually had to go to where the phone is stationery!) It is the call we’ve all been waiting for! Marty, our adoption caseworker calls to let us know that our daughter will arrive from Korea in three short days.
The night before we are to pick our daughter up from JFK in New York, I stress greatly about leaving my son to board an airplane. No fan of flying, I worry about the plane crashing and other big things: what it will be like to be Mom to two children rather than one, worry that Alex will be dethroned as the one and only and resent me, worry that I won’t love my daughter as much as I do my son, and worry that I will not be able to live up to my own expectations of motherhood. Halfway to New York, I turn to Kristen’s dad and say, “I’m not sure I’m ready to do this.” His response: “Snap out of it! We are going to meet our daughter!” This story has been repeated so many times over the last 22 years, the edges of worry, excitement and nervous anticipation worn soft by the telling.
Waiting for the plane from Korea to land feels like eternity; then announced by burst of activity from other waiting parents, it arrives at the gate. The escorts push strollers or carry precious bundles. A kind-faced gentleman calls out “Maynard” and we rush to him to meet Kristen. As I take her in my arms, I think, “Oh! My family is complete!” All my worries evaporate that instant – I am in love and in awe once again.
As the graduation march begins to play, I am struck by the incredible passage of time. I see Kristen as a bright and curious baby, as a three year old tearing off her little “swimmies” and jumping into the deep end of the pool not wanting to leave, as a playground protector of her gentler big brother. Teachers often remarked on her “spunk,” predicting that “no one will ever push her around.” And truly she has always been a girl with a lot of spunk and determination. Kristen has not always been easy to parent, but loving her deep in my bones has been effortless.
Kristen has grown from a strong willed child into a confident, creative and strong young woman. She appreciates art, politics, travel, and has many other interests. She has talent and much promise of a future in her chosen field. I am so very proud!
Most of all, she is my treasured daughter, a gift in my life.
- Lisa Maynard