A non-profit adoptive family support center
Serving families, professionals and educators since 1998


E-Newsletter - April 2008

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 Education

 Hope. Support. 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 they need.

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.
Executive Director

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A Different 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 of chopsticks?

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 illnesses?

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 mirror.

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 and beauty.

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Embrace the 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, like infertility.

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 understanding.

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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 birth parents.

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 of adoption.

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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.

Take 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 Golf Club.

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 bender@adoptionsupport.org .

Support The Center for Adoption Support and Education

Workplace giving 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.!

You can also donate online

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  Updated 17 April, 2008                 top See Our Privacy Statement | Contact Us  
17 April, 2008