In this issue
Hope. Support. Understanding. Pass it on!
A Different Kind of Loss and Grief
Parent Perspectives: Using the Internet
to Search for Birth Parents
Wish C.A.S.E. was closer
to you? Take our Satellite Office Survey!
C.A.S.E. 7th Annual Benefit
Golf Tournament -
May 16, 2008
Support The Center for Adoption Support and
Understanding. Pass it on!
Since 1998, The Center for Adoption Support and Education has provided
clinical and family support services to help hundreds of adoptive
families build the love, trust and communication skills they
need to strengthen bonds
and navigate through the normal, sometimes difficult legs of
their adoption journeys.
Help us celebrate our 10th Anniversary by telling others about C.A.S.E. Whether
you're a client, former client, friend or colleague, no one
understands the work we do - or recognizes families that need hope,
support and understanding - better than you. To help you, we're creating
easy-to- carry Heart Cards to tuck in your wallet or purse.
Now, when you meet a family who needs adoption-sensitive family
support, you can discreetly hand them the information
Look for your Heart Cards in the mail - or email us (link below)
to get your heart cards.
Thank you for helping us make the first 10 years so successful!
Debbie Riley, M.S.
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Kind of Loss and Grief
by Memi Miscally
My parents tell their adoption story like this: I was abandoned. Then
I met my mother at the Chicago O'Hare airport. As my sponsor carried
me off the plane, a huge silent tear rolled down my cheek. My mother
took me into her arms, changed me out of my Korean clothes and drove
me home to El Paso , where my father took me into his arms. They
told me this moment was the happiest of our lives.
As a child, I got a lot of questions. I repeated my parents' adoption
story as if I were on auto-pilot. Reactions were typical: looks
of horror followed by joyful declarations that I am lucky, indeed.
I never really talked about "the before." The first, short
statement seemed simple enough for people: I was abandoned and only
four months old when I came to the U.S. What could I possibly remember
about my birth parents and Korea ?
I certainly didn't know them. My parents are my real parents—they are
the ones who took care of me. I am American, not Korean.
While growing up, I couldn't articulate what exactly about my adoption
story bothered me. I just knew that I had more and more questions. At
first they were the basic ones. Where does my tall height come from?
Do my birth parents like rice as much as I do? How do they eat—with silverware
As I got older, the questions became more complex. If I had stayed with
my birth family in Korea , would my birth mother have taught me how to
cook Korean food? Would my birth parents be disappointed that I am not
married and do not have kids? Do we have a family history of certain
These days I have just one burning question: Has my birth mother found
her own kind of inner peace and beauty, regardless of how flawed the
world sometimes seems? I may never find the answers to these questions
because I have lost most of the facts in my case—my adoption file is
brief. Indeed, loss takes many forms.
I have discovered (through books and conferences and such) that many
birth mothers live with secrecy, shame and guilt. It cuts them off from
relationships with husbands, children and friends. It leaves them feeling
worthless. It affects their health and well-being. I can only imagine
this is the same for birth fathers. I don't understand why any human
being should have to suffer so.
These questions and thoughts usually hit me during those “in between” moments,
when I'm riding a bus, waiting for a meeting to start, or standing at
the grocery check out line. They push me into a deep abyss of sadness,
which I hide from the outside world. It's like grieving behind a one-way
As a child, I dealt with my loss and grief by throwing unexpected temper
tantrums, until I became an adult and searched for other outlets. One
was to volunteer for hospice, the only place where I could explore loss
and grief in the midst of professionals who welcomed any opportunity
to educate the outside world that these experiences are normal. It helped,
but it was not enough. Until I turned 30, I felt so much and understood
so little, usually alone.
Then I started getting therapy at C.A.S.E. When I first called the organization,
I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to deal with the negative things
that therapy might stir up. In fact, I have been able to face my loss
and grief, realizing that it's better for me to pay attention to my thoughts
and feelings, rather than stuff them inside. I have also begun to talk
about my adoption story with my parents, and it has brought us closer.
Today, my therapy is as regular as eating and sleeping.
I also started seeking connections with other adoptees. As we tell our
adoption stories to each other, we realize that we share a loss and grief
that we don't have to explain to each other, because we just know. We
search for ways to educate others, who don't always understand immediately
but who do usually express an open mindedness.
With this support, I am learning how to articulate my adoption story.
It's tricky, though. It is “taboo” enough to talk about the loss and
grief associated with the death of a loved one; however, some people
will eventually discuss it. Yet how do I talk about a different kind
of loss and grief, one about birth mother and birth heritage? Adoption
stories have historically excluded such realities, so there's little
from which I can draw. The best that I can do is simply tell the truth,
which is that I'm neither happy nor unhappy about my adoption. It, quite
simply, is what it is. I know this makes people uncomfortable, but all
I ask for is acknowledgement of my loss and grief, which does not have
to venture into the realm of saying or doing something to make me feel
better, because no one or nothing can ever fill the hole. Fortunately,
I have access to a lot of resources, which help me embrace my loss and
grief, honestly and lovingly, and thus make room for my own inner peace
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Significance of Birth ParentsDoing So Can Alleviate Your Child's Sense of Loss & Grief
by Ellen Singer, LCSW-C
During one of my very first Talking with Children about Adoption workshops,
a mother raised her hand (right in the middle of my talk) and said, "You
keep using the word loss. I don't understand why." I will never
forget that moment.
Truth be told, that adoptive mother is not alone. The idea of loss
often doesn't register. While it is hard for parents who adopted children
at older ages (and who have memories or had relationships) to embrace
the significance that their child's birth parents hold, it
is nearly impossible for parents of children who were adopted as
infants to comprehend.
Many adoptive parents (and even some professionals) wonder how
can a child feel loss for someone they never even knew?
In Being Adopted, David Brodzinsky explains “… even for adoptees placed
at or close to birth, the loss involved can shape the child's
entire personality. Adoptees who are placed in the first days or weeks
of life grieve not only for parents they never knew, but for other aspects
of themselves that have been lost through adoption: the loss of origins
(cultural and biological heritage), of a completed sense of
self, of genealogical continuity.”
Whether they verbalize it or not, adoptees frequently feel a loss of
stability in relationships, particularly with their adoptive parents.
Many reason, “If one set of parents could relinquish me, why can't another?” Add
to this burden, society's view that adoption is not the typical way to
build a family (and therefore ‘second best') and it's easy to understand
some adoptees' sense a loss of “social status.”
Most people are surprised to learn that grief experienced by adopted
children is more complicated than many other childhood loss experiences—including
death of a parent and divorce.
Brodzinsky explains, “…although adoption, parental divorce, and parental
death all involve significant loss for the child…the pervasiveness of
loss (though less obvious) in adoption, coupled with diminished societal
recognition and support for this loss, as well as the realization that
restoration of a relationship with the lost individuals is a possibility,
combine to complicate the grieving process for the adoptee.”
The major reason adoptive parents wrestle with the concept that their
child could feel loss is based firmly in the fact that adopting their
child has brought them joy. Associating sadness or negativity with their
happiest moment is virtually impossible. For some there is the feeling
that acknowledging the significance of birth parents somehow diminishes
their place as parent. For other embracing birth parents can resurfaces
unresolved feelings of loss adoptive parents experienced prior to adoption,
Most parents believe their major role it to protect their children from
harm and pain. Therefore, it can feel counterintuitive to let allow any
painful emotions associated with adoption experience to be experienced—let
alone discussed—in the home. “Why create problems where none exist? She
never mentions is. Why instill thoughts that weren't there in the first
place?” is a common refrain.
But the thoughts are there. Whether or not children bring verbalize
them. When parents broach the subject (as they do with topics like strangers,
drugs, safety, etc.) the vast majority of adopted children and teens
experience enormous relief at finally being asked. Finally they are able
to express their feelings.
Children thrive on learning how to articulate what they feel, but cannot
quite explain. And in the process of talking adoptive families quickly
discover that understanding loss and being given permission and assistance
to grieve is incredibly helpful. It helps them make sense of irrational,
difficult, often self-defeating, self-destructive behaviors and distressed
relationships that are the result of denied or unexpressed grief.
Adult adoptees tell us over and over the importance of allowing and
encouraging adopted children to talk about their complex emotions, to
feel and experience all of them (good and bad) and ultimately understand
their loss and grief.
With early family support (counseling, support groups, books.), this
generation of adoptees can acquire the skills and tools needed to visit
and revisit their personal levels of loss (and gain) more easily. Most
of all, they will thank their progressive, loving adoptive parents for
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Parent Perspectives: Using the
Internet to Search for Birth Parents
I'm the adoptive mother of a 16-year-old daughter. Over the years,
I've learned all I can about adoption by reading books,
attending workshops and support groups. I told my daughter
her adoption story early and have been open to conversations.
Lately, she's been asking detailed questions - especially about
her birth parents and why they placed her. Then yesterday,
she shocked me by announcing that she used an online search service
to locate her birth mother. Help!
During adolescence, emotions become complex. At the same time, teens
who are capable of more sophisticated thinking want deeper answers
to questions about adoption. Did my birthmother care about me? Did my
birthfather care about my birth mother? Why couldn't my birth parents
take care of me?
As the questions get harder, parents worry about how their child may
react to the answers, especially if information is negative. In some
cases, there may be no information about a child's birth family. In others,
adoptive parents may have lost touch with one or both of their child's
Internet searching may seem right to teens who are ambivalent about
talking with their parents about adoption, or who worry about hurting
their parents feelings. Other teens are private about adoption-related
emotions; therefore, the anonymity of the Internet appeals to them.
Without parental guidance, however, it's easy for a teen to encounter
misinformation. Some sites post angry diatribes about adoption. Others
provide skewed accounts that mix reality with misconception. Often, material
is outdated or just plain wrong.
At best, even accurate information, especially data concerning the social
and economic variables that affect placement, is difficult to process.
At worst, teens seeking information about birth parents can step into
emotionally complex situations for which they are NOT prepared.
As a parent, you need to learn all you can about the Internet - from
chat rooms to blogs. Certainly, you'll need to hear and acknowledge your
teen's feelings. But it is equally important that you have frank conversations
about the very real dangers of using the Internet as means for gathering
adoption information and chatting with others.
Since your teen has been using the Internet, you need to discuss what
your teen has found. Ask her to show you the adoption-related sites she
enjoys and explore them together. You should take hold of the mouse,
too, and take her to reliable sites like adoptivefamilies.com/teens and
adoptionsupport.org – and show her how to protect her privacy (safeteens.com).
Prior to contacting birth parents, it is good advice to consult with
an adoption-competent counselor to assess your teen's emotional readiness
and preferred approach to making contact. (Sometimes the need for information
is as far as a teen really wants to go for now.)
The emotional complexity that surrounds search and reunion for adolescents
renders parental guidance and input a MUST.
For teens who act on their own, the potential for wreaking havoc - crossing
boundaries, surprising birth parents that are ill-equipped to respond
positively and appropriately is great. In fact, when caught by surprise,
birth parents may exhibit very different reactions than those created
by a teen's positive fantasies - leaving teens emotionally vulnerable
to tremendous pain.
As the information gateway of the Internet grows more appealing to our
teens, we must consider the negative ramifications of using this as a
substitute for parental involvement.
We must not forget that as adoptive parents, it is our responsibility
to guide and support our children as they journey through the complexities
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Wish C.A.S.E. was closer to
you? Take our Satellite Office Survey!
Based on the distances many of our families travel (up to
60 miles one way!), we know that lots of adoptive families are not
receiving the adoption-competent support services they need simply because
they can't access them.
If, in our second decade, C.A.S.E. could begin to branch out to
more locations, where do you think we're most needed?
One of our primary objectives is provide accessible services to those
who need and want our support. Here's where you come in...
By show of hands (or click of the mouse) take our 2-minute
Satellite Office Survey. Whether you're a client, former client,
colleague or professional, we want to hear from you now.
the Satellite Office Survey now!
C.A.S.E. 7th Annual Benefit
Golf Tournament -
May 16, 2008
Our 7th Annual Benefit Golf Tournament will be held at Whiskey Creek
This annual event brings together friends and supporters for a day of
golf and to celebrate the Center's work with adoptive families. Proceeds
benefit The Center for Adoption Support and Education. To list your name
among our many sponsors and supporters, contact David Bender at 301-476-8525
or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Support The Center for Adoption Support and Education
is a great way to support C.A.S.E. during the year. Your generous gift helps
us provide educational programs, workshops and resources (like
this e-newsletter!) for families in need of pre- and post-
adoptive support and education.
Combined Federal Campaign - code #11123.
United Way Campaign (Nations Capital) - code #8773.!
can also donate online
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