Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives.
Rooted in Adoption
By Veronica Breaux
In 2005, while I was away at college, I came across a book entitled PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives by author Frank Warren. If you have never heard of this book, I highly recommend you check it out.
PostSecret allowed people from different parts of the world to submit secrets or confessions anonymously through mail on homemade postcards. The project was so successful it was said that Warren received more than a million submissions. Warren took all those juicy, little secrets and put them together in one book.
Inspired by this idea, I wanted to create a similar way in which adoptees could express their innermost thoughts on adoption without revealing their true identity. Most of us do not openly discuss feelings related to our adoption experience, in fear of getting deemed as the “angry, ungrateful adoptee” or even worse, rejected by those who love us.
In 2019, I approached film maker and fellow adoptee Shelby Kilgore about the project. Without hesitation, Shelby was on board. On May 1, 2020, Rooted in Adoption: A Collection of Adoptee Reflections was released.
Rooted in Adoption is a compilation of 48 different narratives from those who have been adopted. Adoptees of various ages, backgrounds, and experiences were asked to discuss the joys of adoption and the struggles of living a life of secrecy and lost identity.
Rooted in Adoption elevates the adoptee voice and helps to bring truth and social awareness to the adoption experience. Internationally recognized trauma expert, motivational speaker, and psychotherapist Jules Alvarado shares her insight on adoption related trauma. Rooted in adoption reminds us that no matter our experience, adoption is rooted in our very beginnings. Roots are the foundation that not only help give us resilience but also strength.
The following passages were taken from Rooted in Adoption: A Collection of Adoptee Reflections:
“My adoptive family experienced the death of one of their children three years before I was born, and this tragic event had immeasurable effects on each person in the family and how my being adopted into this particular family went. In the early 1980s, perhaps the vetting of adoptive families was less comprehensive than now, but for them and for me, I would have changed this aspect of my adoption (that is, greater vetting, connecting them and us to resources for grief recovery).
Related to this, but somewhat overshadowed by the above, a white family adopted me and I am a biracial person who presents and identifies as a person of color. My adoptive family took a color-blind approach, which is most certainly something I would change about my experience. My own racial-identity development has been a long process (it’s still going on) and, looking back, I wish this had been a focus of my family.
I am a psychotherapist and, when I began to make contact with my bio-family, I refocused my time in my own therapy to have a place to process what was occurring and what and how I was feeling—this has been immensely helpful. I’m not sad about my adoption or adoptive experience. Perplexed, maybe, wishful for different aspects? Sure. My bio-mother is not open to reunion and I believe she holds the keys to finding my biological father, so this is painful; it feels abusive and selfish, but I don’t have control over that.”
Adopted at only three days old, the bi-racial female adoptee who shared her words above demonstrates the way adoption can have lifelong ramifications for adoptees, causing a myriad of intricate emotions. This narrative shows that adoptive parents endure their own loss, whether it is the loss of a child they were unable to conceive or the physical death of one. A loss so profound must be grieved. If not, adoptive parents will be ill equipped to help their adoptive child, possibly even projecting expectations of that lost child on the adoptee. It tells us that we cannot raise children to be color-blind in a world where racial inequalities still exist. Furthermore, it reminds us of the harsh reality that not all adoption reunions give us a happy ever after.
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“Mother’s Day the year I turned fifty was a turning point in my life, because it was then that I realized I never celebrated the mother who gave me life. So, I made a conscious decision to give props to my birth mother and father on those respective days because without them, I would not be. And then, for my fiftieth birthday, I wanted to pursue finding them. I contacted the orphan’s court in the county where I was born and began the arduous process. Every day I waited for the mail, and finally the letter came. It had no name or anything. Just some words on official letterhead. Nothing. What a waste of time and money. I wondered if I would ever be so fortunate as to find them. I guess at this age I probably won’t, and that will always haunt me.”
Adopted at four months old, through a closed adoption, the Black, female adoptee who shared her words above reminds us that adoption can affect some of life’s most precious milestones and celebrations. Every birthday, holiday, graduation, and Mother’s Day are a reminder of the loss. Some adoptees search for years to find their lost family. Others give up after dead ends become too painful.
As someone in the mental health profession, I constantly urge adoptive parents to educate themselves on adoption-related trauma. This may include finding a support group, reading adoptee authored literature, and most importantly seeking guidance from other adoptees. There may be times when adoptive parents need guidance-plus real insight, real knowledge, and the voice of an expert. Only adoptees can truly unravel the complexities of the adoption journey.
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Lastly, a sixty-one-year-old white male adoptee shares his wisdom:
“If I were to give advice to prospective adoptive parents, it would be to do what it takes to minimize your own insecurities so you can embody the uniqueness and differences of adopted children. Help them feel accepted unconditionally just as they are. Let them know they belong.”
During the entire month of November, Rooted in Adoption can be purchased through the BookBaby BookShop for 40% off its original price by using the discount code RIANAM2020. This discount is only applicable through BookBaby.
Also available on Amazon, NookBooks, Goodreads, and a variety of other online bookstores.
Veronica Breaux is an adoptee born through the closed adoption system. She is currently working toward licensure in mental health counseling.
Shelby Kilgore is an international adoptee and filmmaker. In 2012, Shelby launched her first YouTube Channel, where she shares films on adoption and foster care.
Contact Veronica and Shelby through the homepage www.rootedinadoption.com, where you can also find a direct link to Shelby’s YouTube Channel.
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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter