I Will Be Speaking At Book Passage Corte Madera Sunday Feb. 26th At 1PM

the-girl-behind-the-door-9781501128349_hrI’ve been invited back to Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, to speak about my book, The Girl Behind The Door, which has been released by Scribner in paperback. It chronicles my search for answers to my daughter Casey’s suicide. Casey was a Redwood High School senior who leapt from the Golden Gate Bridge on January 29, 2008. My search led back to her infancy in a Polish orphanage, a trauma which we learned too late was likely at the root of her demise. Casey’s story has touched a great many readers, with two literary awards and over 100 extremely satisfied Amazon customers. Recently The Girl Behind The Door was published in Germany and Poland.

Please join us Sunday for what should be a moving and thought provoking event!


My Book Is Now Published In Poland!


I’m excited to announce that the Polish publisher Prószyński i S-ka released “The Girl Behind The Door” in Polish language in January. It is titled, “Mogło być inaczej: Prawdziwa historia rodziców, którzy zrobili wszystko, by ocalić córkę” which translates into English as “It Could Have Been Otherwise: The true story of the parents who did everything they could to save their daughter.”

I only found out about this through a woman in Poland named Monika, who is an adoptive mother who read and embraced the story and has become our new friend. In fact, she sent us something that truly blew our minds. She found the orphanage in Mragowo where Casey spent the first year of her life. It was closed down long ago and re-purposed into a nursing home for children and youth with disabilities, which makes sense because most of the children in the orphanage back then were handicapped.

The building has aged quite well having been tastefully repainted; there is even a new front drive of attractive pavers. Below is the orphanage as we saw it in 1991, and the “home” (at bottom) as it is today.




A Sobering Article on International Adoption

18adoption_ss-slide-I1HM-master1050This story made the cover of yesterday’s Sunday New York Times Magazine. It is a sobering account of the plight of Korean adopted children (now in or near adulthood) who had been adopted in a wave that extended throughout the 80’s and 90’s. It brings up a number of issues that may be difficult for adoptive parents to digest yet they are all so true. In many countries from Asia to Eastern Europe, Russia, Africa and Latin America, culture, shame, economics and lack of support often thrust women into the gut wrenching decision to give up their children for adoption.

I remember when we adopted Casey from Poland in 1991, her mother was reported to have given instructions that she never be contacted. But now, 24 years later, I look back at those same instructions and wonder, did she really mean it? Did she sign a document only to regret it later? How could she not think about her daughter? This same logic applies to the Times article. It points out so many things that parralleled my own conclusions about adoption, all of the misconceptions and myths that I bought into. Simply removing them from an orphanage and loving them wasn’t enough, at least for us. But many adopted children do just fine.

The title of this story says it all to me: “Her Choice Was No Choice At All.” Precisely. In the adoption triad, we adoptive parents have choices, even if we find them difficult. Birth mothers also have choices, but they are all pretty much bad. Adopted children have no choices. They could be spirited away from an impoverished land and home to the lap of luxury in America, Europe or Australia, but they didn’t ask for it, so don’t be surprised if they don’t lay on the gratitude.

This article confirms a number of things I’ve learned that run completely counter to my belief system when we adopted Casey, but you have to put the child’s needs first.

  • You can’t simply paper over the complexities of an international adoption, especially where race is involved. We didn’t have the race issue as Casey was Polish and could easily pass for our daughter in the Safeway checkout line.
  • Open adoptions are healthier for the child even if they’re difficult for the parents.
  • Separating a child from her origin, race and culture can be damaging no matter how well intentioned the adoptive parents.
  • As such, maybe an international adoption should be seen as a last resort.

The bottom line is, put yourself in the child’s shoes. How would you feel if this was your life?


Join Me For My Next Author Event, San Rafael Downtown Public Library Wed Dec 17 @ 6:30P!

Dear Friends and Neighbors – The San Rafael Public Library – Downtown Branch – has been kind enough to invite me to speak and read from my book on Wed Dec 17 from 6:30P-7:30P. My first event went super well and I have more planned and hoped for in Tiburon (Mar 2) and Mill Valley and San Francisco (TBD).

San Rafael

A Tale Of Two Orphans: Casey and “Joseph”

Our first image of Casey in April, 1991 came through another American couple who were in the process of adopting a 2-year old boy named Joseph (not his real name). He lived in the same orphanage as Casey did in Mrągowo, Poland. They snapped a couple of pictures of her while they received Joseph, pictures that we’ll cherish forever. We kept in touch over the years, sending Christmas cards and photos of our children as they grew from infancy to toddlerhood to middle school and high school.

We led different lives.

They lived in a rural area, were very conservative and devoutly religious. We lived in a famously liberal, affluent suburb outside of a world-class city. We were active in our local Episcopal church, but our connection was more social than spiritual.

Every Christmas I’d share their cards and photos with Casey, re-explaining the nature of our connection. But as she reached her teen years, she reacted as most teens would – superficially. She poked fun at Joseph’s ears (poor kid did have elephant ears that stuck out) and sniffed at his involvement in church groups, scouts and his aspiration to become an auto mechanic. He was certainly not marriage material for Casey Brooks. 

After Casey’s suicide, I tracked down Joseph’s father online; we’d lost touch. I wanted to break the tragic news to them but also wanted to know how Joseph was doing, especially in light of my discovery of attachment disorder. He was older than Casey when he was adopted from that orphanage. Surely there was emotional residue from his longer time there. I needed to understand more about Joseph’s life narrative since I knew so little about Casey’s. I emailed Joseph’s father hoping I’d get a reply, but “teen suicide” is a toxic subject and most parents slam the door shut.

You are left alone.

Joseph’s father did write me back. His response was both illuminating and unsatisfying.  

They had one biological son but wanted another child and couldn’t conceive a second time. Joseph was the product of a neighborhood affair, and spent much of his first year at home in a rocking cradle. His birth father was legally blind and couldn’t care for him, so he and Joseph’s birth mother agreed to give Joseph up for adoption so that he could have a chance for a better life. He had been in the orphanage in Mrągowo for less than 6 months before he was adopted and, according to his adoptive father, bonded to his adoptive mother “amazingly fast.”

His life since then had been pretty normal, much like Casey’s. He adored his older brother and his dog, loved NASCAR and entered a training program in auto mechanics at the age of 22. His father admitted that Joseph had some learning disabilities and issues with his eyesight, but nothing like that rages and outbursts we’d seen in Casey. 

This left with me with a multitude of questions. 

  • Was his father being truthful with me?
  • Were they in denial as I had once been?
  • Did they even tell Joseph about Casey’s suicide for fear of freaking him out?
  • Was the fact that Joseph had been at home for his first year rather than institutionalized a deciding factor (as adoption experts assert)?
  • Was Joseph’s “older brother” a critical source of security for him? Should we have given Casey a sibling? Was her dog Igor not enough?
  • Were Joseph’s parents simply better parents than we were? Were we just complete failures?
  • Should we have been more conservative and devout?

Would any of this have made a difference in whether Casey lived or died? Why would two children from similar circumstances go down such different life and death paths?

These are the kinds of questions a grieving father grinds through every day for the rest of his life.