You Don’t Look Adopted – A Must Read

4177gIUacTL._SY346_You Don’t Look Adopted is a memoir by Anne Heffron about her experience as an adopted person. I think I’ve read or tried to read every book on adoption and the adoption experience from the point of view of the adoptee. Some of the  adoption magazines sugarcoat adoption with pictures of happy families and stories of joy, and  many adoptive families this is true. But for a great many adoption can mean a lifetime of pain, regardless of how much love, affection and privilege is offered.

You Don’t Look Adopted is a uniquely raw account of what it means to be adopted –  the insecurities, attachment issues, identity crises and self-loathing from the trauma of separation from one’s birth parents.

This book is a vital read for any adopted person, adoptive parent or prospective adoptive parent seeking to better understand the mysteries and difficulties of what is a profoundly complex life experience.

On a side note, whereas it took me 3 years to write and bring my book to market, Anne wrote and published this work in a matter of months, a land speed record!

It is currently available only as an eBook on Kindle but look for a paperback copy soon.

The Dangers of “Crying It Out”, By Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D

baby-in-cribDarcia Narvaez, Ph.D is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame. Her research explores questions of moral cognition, moral development and moral character education. She is also author or editor of four award winning books. Someone shared with me this essay with a catchy title about the dangers of letting babies “cry it out.” We learned this cardinal rule from numerous adoption specialists, but only after we’d done everything wrong.Dr. Narvaez’s essay doesn’t specifically address adoptees but the same principles apply, the notion that the baby needs to know that her needs will be met so that she has trust in her surroundings and caregivers. This runs counter to the prevailing “wisdom” that we’d grown with. Rushing to your crying baby was seen as spoiling; your baby had to learn to be self sufficient. Subsequent research has shown that this isn’t necessarily true.

Thank you Dr. Narvaez!

“I Hate Adoption” From The Blog Those Sweet Bare Feet

dads-053I don’t remember where I found this blog post “I Hate Adoption” but the title must’ve caught my eye. What did the writer hate about adoption? The writer, “sistertoten” posted on her blog Those Sweet Bare Feet about her experience as an adopted child whose family swelled with many more adopted children. Adopted or not, in my opinion, her parents were either saints, masochists or both. Come on, readers, having a dozen kids under one roof?

I share it here because it is a very raw and honest experience about adoption and what it really means to the children, warts and all. To this day there are adoption magazines that post only the good stories, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Children are incredibly resilient and can overcome almost insurmountable odds. But many can’t. I speak to them.

Myths About Being Adopted


I appreciated reading this blog post in the Huffington Post written by Mirah Riben, who has researched and written extensively about adoption for many years. All too often, adopted people are seen as “lucky” or “chosen.” Sometimes these comments are genuinely felt (if misguided) by the one bestowing said comment (who was probably not adopted), and sometimes they were an attempt to sugarcoat the realities of what it’s like to be adopted. Some people would tell me how lucky my daughter Casey was to be spirited out of a Polish orphanage to live a privileged life in Marin County, CA. I’d recoil at their suggestion. But I was certainly guilty of the later, trying to make Casey feel included without realizing how excluded she may really have felt. And, by the way, I never want to generalize. There are many adoptees who do feel blessed and lucky for the lives in which they’ve found themselves. Good for them.

Here is a link to the article titled, Living With Adoption’s Dichotomies and Myths.

Open or “Closed” Adoption. Is One Better Than The Other?


Dr. Nancy Snyderman With Daughter Kate and Kate’s Birth Mother

As we in the adoption community know all to well, the process of adoption has evolved dramatically over the years. Up until the 60’s or 70’s it was much like as it was depicted in the movie, Philomena (the movie version being a bit at the extreme end of the spectrum.) The adoption was a hush-hush affair on all sides, the adoptee never knowing that she was adopted. Instead, she was told a lie where she was in fact the biological offspring of the adoptive parents. In most cases there was nothing malicious about this; it was thought that this was best for all concerned, particularly the child. Well, we know how that worked out.

Then there was the stage in which we found ourselves in the early 90’s. The adoption wasn’t kept a secret at all. Unfortunately, many adoptive parents knew little or nothing about the birth parents and birth parents. Oftentimes, the birth mother gave strict instructions that she was not to be contacted, as was the case with us. Again, this was probably not out of malice but, rather, shame or fear. Perhaps the mother had a husband and family. Her pregnancy might have been the result of an affair, which if revealed, could destroy her marriage. Who knows?

For lack of a better word, ours was a “closed” adoption. We were told that Casey’s mother did not want to be contacted. We never told her that out of fear that it would’ve been too hurtful. So we made up a story, the classic, “your mother loved you very much but wanted you to have a better life.” And that was probably true, but then how would you explain the fact that she had other children?

In our neighborhood in Marin County, Casey had 2 other friends who were adopted under different circumstances. Ian was adopted at birth from a birth mother in the Midwest; his parents had her contact information. Esme was received by her parents under an open adoption; her birth parents lived in the Bay Area, and they visited her regularly.

While we always assured Casey that if she ever wanted to contact her birth mother we would do everything we could to reach her. These days, with the Internet, an increasing number of adoptee reunification services and private investigators, it is increasingly possible to connect adoptee with birth mother. But secretly, Erika and I had our fears and reservations. Would the experience blow up in Casey’s face, leaving her even more emotionally scarred? Would we have to endure a complicated, uncomfortable and potentially jealous relationship? Would we be taken advantage of? Would Casey pit both sets of parents against each other? On the one hand I was dying to know what Casey’s birth mother was like, what she looked like, what kind of personality she had, what mannerisms Casey inherited from her. On the other, I was just as happy to keep her at arms length.

I don’t know that there is a magic answer that suits every adoptive family. Open and closed adoptions each have their weaknesses and benefits. But knowing what I know now, I do believe that an open adoption is better for the child, just to have that primal connection with the person who brought you to life. There is always the possible that a reunion could prove disastrous, but I think it’s a risk worth taking. Many adoptees – Casey (and her friend Ian) included – insist they want nothing to do with their birth mother, and that’s understandable. But as one adoption therapist asked me, “Did you believe her?” It never occurred to me to challenge her.

Perhaps a middle ground could be to provide the child with the mother’s contact information, just enough to let the child explore on her own in her own time at her own pace. That’s why we have Facebook.