These were my last few hours in Ethiopia. My daughter’s adoption had been finalized and we were on the way to the airport in Addis Ababa. As an international adoptee myself, I knew that I was not taking my daughter “home.” We were leaving her homeland and I had great respect for the power of that moment. I held a deep reverence for the loss that she was experiencing within her, even though she could not voice it or make sense of it, yet.
I’m an international adoptee. I’m also the parent of two children delivered into my life via adoption from Russia and Ethiopia.
We’re an international family created through adoption. We love each other and we have so much fun together.
We are also Americans; immigrants to the U.S. and citizens by naturalization. We contribute and we serve this nation, our community, our family, and our friends.
Recently, I read a staggering statistic: International adoption by Americans has declined by 81% since 2004. And, crippling new policies and practices are projected to completely end international adoption within the next five years. (How to Solve the U.S. International Adoption Crisis, by Nathan Gwilliam, Ron Stoddart, Robin Sizemore, and Tom Velie, adoption.com, March 19, 2018)
On this episode of The Greater Than Podcast, I speak with Rachel Garlinghouse, author of the book, The Hopeful Mom’s Guide to Adoption: The Wit and Wisdom You Need for the Journey. Rachel has been part of the adoption community for a decade and is mothering four children, all of whom were adopted domestically and transracially. Rachel has shared her education and experiences on CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NPR, and Huff Post Live, just to name a few.
In this episode, Rachel and I discuss transracial adoption and, my brave friend speaks openly about her journey as a diabetic and breast cancer survivor. In addition, we talk about the ways in which we can navigate the losses in our lives. There is such hope in Rachel’s message: such inspiration found in living a life of healing verses in living to be healed.
“One day this will all make sense.”
This was told to us in the midst of an extremely emotional and troubling time. At that moment, I clung to those words as if they were a life raft and I was stranded in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight. We had just been told we had lost the referral of a beautiful baby girl only days after our pup, my soul dog, lost his fight with kidney disease and Cushing’s Syndrome. We fought like hell for almost a year to keep Stormy with us, and to this day I would give almost anything to spend just five more minutes with him. In the midst of our grieving, we received the referral of a beautiful baby girl, only to have her ripped from our grasp just days later. It was the first time a referral had been taken back in the program’s almost ten year history, and I was completely devastated. My poor husband felt powerless. He watched me mourn for the pup that made me a mom, albeit a fur mom, and now had to tell me we lost the girl we thought was our daughter for three days. I know how selfish I sound here…looking back on it now, I am so thankful her birth mom was able to change her mind and raise her. I truly am. But at the time, my emotions were controlling me, and they had me a complete mess. I am beyond blessed with my family, and feel so honored to not only have witnessed, but experienced firsthand our story unfold.
Take me home, ’cause I don’t remember. Take, take me home.
These are lyrics from the song, Take Me Home, by Phil Collins. I don’t know when this song was initially released but I heard the remastered version recently.
The words go something like this: There’s a fire that’s been burning right outside my door. I can’t see but I feel it, and it helps to keep me warm.
These lyrics strike a deep and heavy chord with me…
This month marks the 6th anniversary of when two small children stood on our front stoop, accompanied by a social worker, searching for a place to lay their heads that night. They seemed tiny and scared — both defensive and hopeful all in the same breath. Within 30 minutes, the social worker had left and the two children remained. We were a houseful of strangers, my husband and I realized. We didn’t know what to do or what to say because we had no idea how deep their wounds went.
On this episode of The Greater Than Podcast, Family, Foster Care, and Adoption, I speak with Jamie Finn of Foster The Family blog.
We discuss the importance of family, foster care, and how we can work, together, to improve the system. Jamie speaks of why it is essential to respectfully and compassionately talk about birth families, and the ways in which we can show up and support foster families and children in our communities.
Jamie expresses such wisdom within this interview. I am so honored to share her voice. And, I appreciate her letting us peek into the window of her life as a parent through adopting and fostering.
Michelle: Was adoption something that was always on your heart, Rachel? Or was there a moment, or experience that you recall that awakened you to this form of family building?
Rachel: I’ve always worked with kids and loved kids. I worked as a nanny, at a day care… I was a writing camp counselor. I babysat friend’s kids, always for fun, never for pay. I just love being around children, so I think I always knew we were going to have children, but I didn’t do a lot of planning on how that was going to happen, just because I was finishing my college degree, and then we got married. I got married when I was twenty one. About four or five years into our marriage, we started thinking about having kids. At that point, the big thing happened. I had been sick for about a year and a half and I went to five different medical professionals and no one could figure out what was wrong with me. I was misdiagnosed with anorexia, and being a hypochondriac, and I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease when I entered into a state called, diabetic ketoacidosis. My body was shutting down. Multiple doctors came into my room and said, “I don’t know how you are alive, this is a miracle.” And I knew in that moment—because I knew that Type 1 could make a pregnancy potentially dangerous—that we would choose adoption. Now, my husband wasn’t on board yet, but I was like, “This is what we are doing.” Adoption is a really difficult decision for a lot of people, it was not for me. I just knew.
If there is one thing I know for sure, it’s this: the adoption community is a healthier one when its experiences and stories are shared out loud. We’ve learned, over many years, that silencing the voices and perceptions of those within our community will never help to forge deeper levels of understanding and inclusion.
What was once thought as a healthy choice: distancing adoptees from the truth of their birth stories, is now known to be of great disadvantage to their overall well-being. We’ve learned the importance of supporting and hearing all members of the adoption triad. We’ve arrived to an empowering place within the adoption conversation as we speak this declaration: the adoption community will no longer be treated as a secret society.
November is National Adoption Awareness Month: an initiative of the Children’s Bureau with a goal to increase national awareness and bring attention to the need for permanent families for children and youth in the U.S. foster care system.
On any given day, there are over 400,000 children in U.S. foster care. Over 100,000 foster children are eligible for and awaiting to be adopted. The average age of a waiting child is 7.7 years old and 29% of them will spend at least three years in foster care.