“To understand this increased risk of sexual or physical harm, it is helpful to consider the lack of oversight which occurs when both biological parents are no longer working as a team. Ideally, parents work together to teach children body safe rules, observe children in play particularly with older peers, and thoughtfully choose care providers. Post-divorce, this doesn’t always happen. Another explanation for these increased risks of harm connects to the potential negative/dangerous role older step/bonus siblings can play in the lives of younger children. (Even when sexual or physical abuse by an older step/bonus sibling is not a factor, children who live with step/bonus siblings are more aggressive.) Yet, most significantly, one must face the difficult truth that the primary cause of harm to children in blended family settings is the unrelated, usually male, adult – brought into the mix through romantic involvement with the biological parent.”
To all my Texas peep,
We would like to ask for your support, either by calling your representative, or emailing them. You do not need to be a birth parent, adoptee, or an adoptive parent to support HB2725 (which gives adult adoptees the option to access their original birth certificate). But if HB2725 aligns with your beliefs, please reach out.
This is what I wrote to my Representative:
I am a constituent of yours and I want to thank you for your support of the adoptee HB2725. It has been a long fight for those who have been working on this year after year with great passion and some heartache.
Adoptees just want fair and equal rights like all other Americans.
I am a birth mother. I had the great honor of giving birth to two sons. One I parented. And one was adopted out. I was lucky to have an open adoption relationship.
My sons are now 19 and 20 years old and I am very proud of the men they are becoming. However, they both do not have equal access rights to their original birth certificate. I see my sons as equals, as adults, as Americans, but it is discouraging that the state does not see them both as equals because of MY decision. It feels like one of my sons is being punished because of MY choice. No one ever promised me anonymity when I signed relinquishment papers nor should they.
Growing up adopted comes with its unique life experiences. And it impacts each adoptee in many different ways. HB2725 has the power to restore dignity, bring awareness and knowledge, and mend broken pieces. Most importantly, it allows adult adoptees to own what is rightfully theirs by birth.
Thank you so much for your support and consideration,
Adoption has become a political hot topic in the last few years. What better time to discuss these issue then during National Adoption Awareness Month.
Evolving from a controversial “closed” secretive past filled with shame where women went into hiding, to a postmodern “open” adoption era where women are posing as social media “poster” birth moms, we have seen a shift in adoption. However, when it comes to OBCs, adoption remains stagnant and secretive. Adoptees are trying to change that.
Most states implemented sealed records during a time when women had few rights or choices and were oftentimes railroaded towards relinquishment. One could argue that these laws were enacted to punish un-wed mothers, an estimated 1.5 million women, who were sent away to hide their pregnancy and the birthing of their child. There was deep shame associated with an unplanned pregnancy. Families did everything they could to sweep these babies under the rug and hide their very existence. Erasing the child that was born out of wedlock was supposed to save the mother and child from societal disgrace. In turn, it would also save the family from scandal.
While laws to protect secrets may have been intended for one purpose, it resulted in a far greater impact that violated adult adoptee’s rights.
One strong debate for OBC access is regarding medical history for adoptees. Adoption should not come at the expense of vital information.
Humans have an innate yearning to know where they came from. Adoptees should not be judged for wanting to know their DNA history, no matter how a blended-family was formed.
Adoptee Rights Groups are fighting hard with some success nationwide. Seven states have enacted less restrictive laws in the last three years. Currently, nine states have unrestricted access to OBCs. Eleven have access with restrictions, and nine have partial access or partial access with restrictions. The remaining states, including Texas, are sealed.
This political cause is relevant, sensible, and in need of fresh eyes and modern laws enacted. Adoptees do not remain children forever. They grow up. They become adults with rights like every other American. Access to our own birth records should not be determined based on our biological, step, foster, or adoptive family status.
Family is Family. Rights are Rights.
To learn more, please read my Op-Ed in the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung
This is what a Second Chance Adoption would look like for me. This is my story. A true story. We need to put our self in the scenario or our child and wrap our mind around it. What happened to Forever Family?
It is time to put a stop to this.
I was a bed wetter. I wet the bed until I was in high school. Of all the experiences I have talked about in my life, this is one of the most embarrassing ones for me to admit. Even at the age of Fifty-four years old, it is still uncomfortable to confess publicly.
There are many reasons for my embarrassment. First, of the five kids in our household, I was the only bed wetter. Even my two younger brothers, who were nine and twelve years younger than me, stopped wetting the bed before I did. Yeah, I never heard the last of that. My parents and older siblings reminded me often.
This made me very different in my family and socially unacceptable.
My bed wetting disorder automatically put me in a lower, child-like status within my family and directly impacted my self-confidence.
The bladder skill is the one thing that moves a child from the toddler to a big boy or girl status. It’s a big accomplishment. My lack thereof made me subject to punitive words, punishment, jokes, and ridicule. For about 15 years, I dealt with this on a weekly, almost daily basis. Not to mention my own embarrassment of waking up another morning in a wet bed.
My bed wetting really set off my step-father and siblings at times.
My sister and I shared a room. She was probably my worst tormentor. We were very close. But she also knew how to hurt me. She laughed at me, called me names, told me she wanted her own room because I made the room stink from my pee-filled bed. Her words would seep into my mind and remind me often that I was faulty.
My step-father, who gave me the nick-name, Squirt, also hated this uncontrollable trait about me. I think at first he thought it was a passing phase. I was five years old when he and my mother began to date.
I remember him telling me that he would call me, Squirt, until I stopped wetting the bed. Of course, he never did stop calling me this. And after he realized my bed wetting days were here to stay, he began to hate it. So much so that my mother would try and hide my wet sheets from him so another bed wetting night would not set him off.
My step dad wouldn’t beat me. But it was his eyes, his facial expression of disappointment, and at times disgust that seemed to prevent him from even looking at my face. And then, there were his words that cut me deeper than any whooping. This feeling would haunt me daily and for years to come. Sometimes he blamed my mother for babying me too much as the reason for my bed wetting. Other times, he blamed me. In his mind, someone had to be the blame! And it certainly wasn’t him. It surely could not have been a medical condition. In his mind (and others as well), it was psychological.
I was just acting out. Too spoiled. Too lazy to wake up. Too scared to go to the bathroom. Too immature. None of which were true, by the way.
The truth is I was a very sound sleeper. Mostly because of being mildly deaf in one ear and moderately deaf in my other ear. I never felt the peeing sensation or my wet clothes or bed sheets until I woke up in the morning. I woke up cold and wet.
My family believed that I could willfully choose to wet or not wet my bed. They held onto this mistaken belief, making me feel as if I was doing this on purpose, like an attention getter. Oh, ‘feel sorry for Karen,’ something they felt and cynically said without hesitation. Trust me, the last thing a child wants to get is attention or ridicule for wetting their bed. That’s common sense, 101!
While my bed wetting kept me from going over to a friend’s house once in awhile, when I was allowed, it was not without anxiety. It was a gamble. And most bets would have been against me. We didn’t have pull-ups or adult diapers back then. And while using those can be embarrassing too, waking up over a friend’s house in wet sheets or sleeping bag is far greater of an embarrassment. Trust me. I know!
When I did go for an overnight, whether it was at a friend’s or a relatives, I got the same talk, “Don’t wet the bed!” Sometimes it was a pleading, “PLEASE, don’t wet the bed!” Sometimes it was a threat, “You BETTER not wet the bed or you will NOT be allowed to go again!” Or I was reminded that I may not be invited back because of my bed wetting. The first question when I got in the car or got home was, “Did you wet the bed?” All of which caused additional stress and anxiety.
I had wished many times it was that easy. My childhood would have been much simpler without that one burden. Think about it, what child in their right mind would want to wake up at a friend’s house or a slumber party among elementary, middle, or high school peers in wet sheets? Anybody? I didn’t think so. But that was a reality for me. I had “accidents” at all those places.
This is something that my parents or my family just did not get. They thought by belittling me, embarrassing me, or making fun of me, that I would get tired of their daily antics and stop wetting the bed. They just wanted me to stop wetting the bed! What they didn’t realize is that I too wanted to stop wetting the bed but just didn’t know how.
Can you imagine waking up at slumber party with all your girlfriends and you realize your pajamas are wet. The sheer fear sets in. You start to scheme on how you can hide your wet bed from your friends. You hope that you can go home without anyone noticing. You quickly gather your bedding and take it to their parents in hopes they will keep your secret. Then your mind quickly tries to create a reasonable story or excuse you can tell. You explain why this happened as if this was an unusual circumstance. It must have been all the sodas and snacks and lack of sleep that caused this accident and HOPE that they buy it. Otherwise, Monday morning at school is going to be hell. You will now be labeled as the girl who wets the bed. And then your secret is out so not only your family can make fun of you but now you may become a joke at school too. Then, paranoia sets in. Isn’t that every pre-teenage girls dream?
I remember one time waking up from an overnight stay. My friend’s mother realized I wet the bed. She was calm while speaking with me. She ask me if I wet the bed. I told her I did. She said that she had wished I would have told her about my bed wetting condition the previous night so she could have prepared. What she didn’t understand is that bed wetting is a deep dark secret that families try to keep hidden from the general public. There is shame associated with bed wetters and not just for the bed wetter themselves. Parents and siblings don’t want relatives and friends to know they have a bed wetter in the family.
This mother was trying to be as compassionate as possible. I could tell she was treading her words gingerly so as not to offend or hurt me deliberately. I told her that I was hoping I wouldn’t wet the bed and that sometimes I don’t. Then she said, “You’re mother should have told me.” I think my mother was as embarrassed about it as I was. Maybe even ashamed.
I have to say I have had some wonderful friends who knew about my bed wetting condition and still sincerely loved me. And some of their parents were equally supportive. I sometimes wished I could have switch parents back then.
My bed wetting would create arguments among my parents. So literally, I was the reason my parents fought. Not just my bed wetting but so many other things that were unique to me, unlike my siblings, caused my parents to erupt. I will say my mother was the least to make fun of me. Though, she did join in the laughter from time to time when my siblings made fun of my bed wetting. I would look at her with hurtful eyes. She would scoff it off.
My mother also took a lot of heat from my step dad, which my siblings and I felt bad about. We were loyal to our mother. Back then, I am sure my siblings may have even blamed me on some level, unconsciously or consciously, for the discord in our household. But I no longer feel sorry for my mother. She was an adult. I was a child. She had a choice and the power to be in a relationship. I had no choice or power to stay or leave. She was my parent. I was her daughter. She had a responsibility to protect me. She could have stopped the torment but she chose not to do so.
Yes, of course! I wet my bed for all this wonderful attention from my family and my friends. Who wouldn’t?
The truth is, I wanted to be normal. Or at the very least, treated like I was normal with support and understanding. I couldn’t help that I was a bed wetter.
Maybe I had a week bladder.
Maybe I had primary nocturnal enuresis.
Maybe I experienced some trauma as an infant or as a child. Soldiers have been known to come home from war and start wetting their bed, due to PTSD, who had no previous history of bed wetting.
There was a medical reason for my bed wetting but I may never know what it was.
Maybe that’s why I get it when others make fun of people or ridicule them or belittle or punish or judge or exclude them or kill them for standing up for something that has happened, beyond their control.
Maybe they are considered socially unacceptable.
Maybe their beliefs are considered different.
Maybe their clothes or skin color or disability make them different.
Maybe their neighborhood or economic status or both are tattered.
Maybe their story, their historical lineage comes with tainted fabric.
Maybe they were abandoned by their family, their people, or their country, or maybe all three.
Maybe they’re reminded daily of the troubled past and injustices and hate.
Maybe they’re blamed for something that was out of their control.
Maybe no one protected them.
Maybe no one helped them.
Maybe no one understood.
Maybe they never received credit for all they accomplished.
Maybe others believed in the lies instead of the truth.
Maybe all they ever wanted was a chance.
Maybe…just maybe…there is more to the story…
“And you know I ain’t never wanted no half nothing in my family.” ~Fences quote
Best line and scene in this movie and one that brought tears for me.
I am also a family of halves with no full biological sibling while my other siblings (three sets) that I grew up with each had one of theirs. And yes, we said your dad and my dad and your mom and my mom. Even our halves had halves. Our family is convoluted. And I didn’t want that for my kids or my family.
Growing up, my siblings often reassured me that they didn’t think of me as a half sibling but the facts were there. We didn’t always do things together as whole.
The family pics were split. Some with just the whole siblings and some by ourself/myself and some together with the halves. As a little girl, I didn’t always understand. I didn’t know why I had to get out of the picture. Our mom would tell us, this was for their dad or their grandparents, but at the time, I was 4 or 5 and I was the only one being excluded. I didn’t always understand why “they” (whoever they were), didn’t want me in their picture. I remember once, our mother letting me and my half sister take a picture together. It was clear it was to appease me and my insecurities.
Some of the moms, dads, or grandparents were actively involved and some were not. That’s hard to explain to children and a hard pill for them to swallow.
When my brother died and made his will, I was the only one left out, while his full blooded sister and our shared father were both included. It did hurt. I didn’t care about the money. He could have left me $20.00 or a family heirloom. But it was the fact that there was no mention of me at all.
Sadly, it didn’t turn out as good as I had hoped for my boys. I still grapple with the intent of my family to sever my ties with my youngest son. But at least my sons have a full-blooded sibling. They have the same biological mother and father. And they have each other.
I know if anything happened to me, that Noah’s parents would adopt Jaren into their family as well.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I asked some of my friends to share their thoughts and insights of what they learned from parenting.
Encourage your children to be themselves. Allow them to express themselves in their own unique way. Remember it takes a village. It’s okay to ask for help. Take time for yourself. Do things to fill your bucket so you have more to give. ~Allyson
Be patient. You only have them as “little ones” for a very short time. Pick your battles; half of them aren’t worth the energy. ~Arlene
Pick your battles! It’s easy to get caught up in each and every battle with your child, but remember…it’s the joy of quality time that is cherished and remembered, not the ability to clean their room perfectly. Each child is completely different. So, whether you are showing love or reprimanding a child, keep in mind what works for one child doesn’t necessarily work for the other. When you’ve overreacted to your child’s behavior or made a choice that concerned them that you now realize was the wrong choice, be honest with them and apologize. Teach your child that not only is it okay to make mistakes, but “owning” that mistake makes you a person with integrity. ~Kelly
Let go of nagging and let consequences rule, even if you have to bite your tongue. Enjoy them for who they are. It doesn’t take much to create an estrangement – don’t let it be because of something stupid. ~Katie
Cherish every moment, even the frustrating ones. Because before you know it, they’re not little anymore and think they don’t need you. Know that eventually, they will need you again. ~Kim
Two words: Pay Attention. Pay attention to your child. Watch and listen instead of just reacting. Little ones don’t know how to process all of their emotions and they DO feel them: fear, anger, frustration, loneliness, joy, grief, jealousy, glee…. all of them. But they don’t always know what to do with those feelings so sometimes they come out as tantrums, inconsolable crying, apathy or just plain jumping up and down and carrying on. Pay attention so you have an inkling of what’s behind the behavior… pay attention so you don’t automatically react negatively….pay attention so you don’t assume your kid is being a pain in the butt on purpose. And pay attention so you don’t miss anything. It’s so hard to put your adult worries aside and focus, but you will be glad you did (and sorry one day, if you don’t). Listening to your child is the only way you will ever really know who he/she is. ~Grace
Make time. When we look back over our childhood, we rarely remember all the gifts we received from our parents. We remember the moments; the vacations, the dinners, the picnics and the days at the beach or the lake or the pool. We have so many things that can easily distract us. Remember to make time for memories. ~Karen Whitaker
Motherhood has completely changed me. It’s just about like the most completely humbling experience that I’ve ever had. I think that it puts you in your place because it really forces you to address the issues that you claim to believe in and if you can’t stand up to those principles when you’re raising a child, forget it. ~Diane Keaton
Jaren and I have done a lot of service over the years.
I would say my passion for volunteering began when my employer asked me to help organize the United Way Campaign for the employees. It was a week long event where we shared video’s, personal stories, and the many ways to give and serve. I had benefited personally from United Way charities like the Good Will store that our mother shopped at from time to time for us kids, as a single mother of three.
I began to get more involved in service when I worked with WaMu. They were a very service oriented company and gave their employees 12 hours per quarter to volunteer during work hours. It was a wonderful gift. It allowed me to do more, as a single mother. Its harder when you’re a single parent. Time is so precious. Leave in the morning, drop off your child at school, head to work, put in at least an eight hour work day, plus lunch and then pick up your child and head home to cook dinner, homework, sports, spend time together, get them their bath and ready for bed and do it all over again the next day.
I loved volunteering and serving. I always walked away feeling good. So I began to look for service that I could do with my son. I didn’t want for him to be home with a sitter while I was out volunteering.
We served in many different ways, from awareness/charity walks, to serving Thanksgiving dinners at a homeless shelter, to working with special needs kids and many other various events. It really was so much fun serving side by side with my son.
However, I did do a few things without my son, like in 2006, Jaren’s school invited me to join their Campus Involvement Committee. It was a one school year commitment. I enjoyed that and learned a lot about how the schools work. I also got to provide input. It was a great group of professionals to work with.
From 2005-2007 I was invited to join the Community Involvement Team at WaMu and was the Secretary for one of those years.
And lastly, one of the employees of UnityDallas asked me to join their committee to help organize their family event, called Where’s the Beach, which I did in 2008 and in 2010. I was the volunteer coordinator. It was about a six month commitment for the planning of the event.
When I resigned from the bank in 2012, I volunteered at UnityDallas, my church, for about nine months, working one to two days in the office, answering phones and handling minor office duties. It was a lot of fun.
Then, when Jaren got to high school, he began to go even further serving with our YOU youth program at church. He already had the experience. And he enjoyed serving. Even when the folks at the church needed a hand, they knew they could ask him. When they had Open Mic night for the YOUers, who took turns performing along with adults on a small stage, it was Jaren who worked the sound booth, taking a short break here and there to eat or perform his song. And when he graduated, he was able to get his service recognition, thanks to his sponsors and UnityDallas. I will tell you, that meant more to me than any academic or athletic award.
Giving service, whether we are thanked or not, whether we get an award or not, whether someone parades us on stage or not is really irrelevant. In the end, when I walk before God and he ask me and my son, what we did for his people, we will be able to reply, “We did this and we did it humbly with a grateful heart.”
It’s that time of year again. As each week gets closer to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I find myself feeling a little bit mistier and mistier. It’s been 17 years since we grew our family through adoption. Our younger son came into our lives toward the end of December of 1999. How does a family living in Central Wisconsin connect with an adoption agency and family from Texas? The story itself is a long one, but the short version is, it’s a “God thing.”
We were a family of three. My husband, Paul, and I had been married close to seven years before we had our oldest son, Alex, in 1991. He was our first little miracle. I had wanted to adopt children since I had been in high school. After a few more years of trying to have a second child, we continued to have no luck. It was then, that my husband and I decided to look into adoption instead of continuing down the road of having another biological child. We prayed about the decision. Paul and I were getting older and we did not know if adding to our family was God’s plan, but we felt drawn to go through with the application and the home study. We felt if we didn’t take this step, God couldn’t answer one way or the other.
Shortly after deciding to go forward, our family met with a local agency that specialized in foster care and adoption. The actual process was quite complex. Each of us needed to complete large amounts of paperwork as well as be interviewed. A long series of events took place and time went by, but finally, in June of 1999 we completed our home study. We were so excited and filled with anticipation.
One day during that summer, I was taking a walk with a very good neighbor friend of mine. We walked and talked and chatted about everything under the sun. Somewhere in the conversation, the topic of completing the adoption paperwork and the home study came up. My neighbor was surprised since she didn’t know our family was looking into adoption. She mentioned that she had several sisters living in Texas and one of her sisters had a close friend who had adopted several special needs children through an agency in the Dallas, Texas area. My friend wondered if she could give my name to her sister and have her give me a call sometime. We hadn’t heard much from the local agency that we were working with, so I said sure. I didn’t expect that it would necessarily lead to the adoption of a child from Texas, but I was always on the look out for more insights and information about adoption in general. I thought it would be great to talk with someone who had been through this process.
My friend’s sister called a couple of weeks later. She asked if it would be ok to have the family friend who had adopted these children give me a call. A few days after that, I spoke with this “friend of a friend” who had adopted special needs children. This entire string of events eventually led to contact with the adoption agency in the Dallas area. One of the first things that went through my mind, and that of my husband, was to make sure this agency was valid. We contacted our local agency and filled them in. They made some contacts and assured us that all was good. Our next steps included making a book about our family and completing more paperwork.
It wasn’t long, after all of these events occurred, that the adoption agency in Texas contacted us with a potential expectant mother and wondered if we would be interested. We said that yes, we were interested. Our anticipation began to grow.
A series of conversations and events took place over the next several months. At times, things were “on again, off again” with the expectant mother, Karen and her baby. As December grew closer, Paul and I spoke with our respective places of work “just in case” we would need to be gone. Since this would be an inter-state adoption, it required staying in the baby’s home state for a specific number of days. The caseworker also let us know that since this could be taking place during the holiday time, there might be some extra delays.
One December day, while at work, I received a phone call from the adoption agency in Texas that this baby boy had been born. My husband, Paul, and I were elated! We shared a little bit with our son, Alex, but didn’t want to say too much since we knew how quickly things could change. The caseworker said it was ok to go ahead and make plans to come to Texas. Much excitement and planning took place very quickly as the three of us (Paul, Alex, and I) worked to make flight arrangements and ensure everything was still in place with our paperwork and home study. Two days later, my husband and I received another phone call from our caseworker. She called to say that Karen decided to take her baby home and to cancel our plans to come to Texas. Our hearts broke; my heart shattered into a million pieces. For all of us, our emotions were all over the place.
On Christmas Eve morning, the caseworker called again. I called my husband in from the garage where he was unloading 2 x 4’s to build storage shelving in the basement. I handed him the phone because my heart just couldn’t take more news right then. The caseworker spoke with my husband and said that Karen was going to come in to sign the paper work that day. She asked us if we were still interested and if so, would we be willing to speak with both of them, the caseworker and the birth mother, on the phone later that afternoon after all of the paperwork was completed? We said, “Yes, we would,” and made only a couple of phone calls related to the new possibility of traveling to Texas.
It was the longest few hours of my life.
Finally the phone rang; Paul and I each got on different extensions so we could all be included in the conversation. We spoke with Karen, along with the caseworker for a couple of hours. When we finally hung up, we were so very excited! As was our family tradition, we ate our Christmas Eve meal and then went on to church for the Christmas Eve service. One of the hymns that was sung near the beginning of the service was “For Unto Us a Child is Born, Unto Us a Son is Given.” My husband and I nudged each other with tears in our eyes as the congregation sang this song. At this point, we were the only ones who knew we would be on our way to Texas in another day to grow our family through adoption.
A couple of days later, we were in Dallas. We met the caseworker and Karen, along with her mom. We were also introduced to our new baby boy’s 20-month-old biological brother, Jaren. After all of the waiting and excitement, my eyes met with the face of this tiny baby. My heart jumped and skipped as I held our new little boy, Noah, in my arms. We all stood around the room, feeling a bit unsure of things, visiting and getting to know each other. Karen and I made our way over to the couch and took turns holding this precious little one. Karen shared with all three of us a photo book that she put together with pictures of our little ones first days, some poems, and a letter to her son. My husband and I were beyond excited that we were adding to our family, yet it was hard. When we left, I felt both joy and sadness. My husband and I wanted to be happy; we were happy. It was a joyful time for our little family of three that was now growing to four. But there was also an underlying sadness that took place. We knew that our joy was Karen’s heartache and sorrow.
We stayed in Dallas for several days before returning to Wisconsin. Since it was an inter-state adoption, we had been told earlier that it would take awhile for the proper paper work to be completed by each state. A few days later, before we left, the caseworker made arrangements for us to meet with Karen and her son, Jaren, again. We met at a restaurant and had a good visit, all six of us together.
Shortly after that, we returned home, back to Wisconsin.
We kept in touch with Karen, Jaren, and their family through cards, pictures, email, and phone calls. We try to get together once a year. Over the years, the relationship has grown into more than a great friendship. It is now more like one big family.
God brought our two families together even though we lived half a country apart. Through every step, God’s hand has been in this relationship. God knew more than anything we could ever see ourselves. He not only grew our family through adoption, He brought two families together to offer support and friendship to each other and to raise this child. My love and gratitude is never-ending for this relationship, friendship, and family.
My story, One Woman’s Choice, is a true story.
While the agency led Paul and Rebecca to believe that I was “on again/off again” about my intention or choice, I was never sure and never made any empty promises.
This is what I wrote,
“Even though I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go through with the adoption, I had to at least try. I contacted the agency and made arrangements to meet with one of their caseworkers named Kristen.”
I participated in this study. So thankful to the researchers and participants.
One voice at a time…