Friday, June 29, 2012

Fabulous New Children's Book





I love teaching my children about African American history.  When I found this book at my local library, I was thrilled.  The illustrations are stunning, and the story is well-written.      Plus, it features an African American male, which is rare.

I had the honor of interviewing the book's author recently:

Rachel:  I recently discovered your book Freedom Song: The Story of Henry "Box" Brown. Can you summarize the book for my readers?

Sally Walker:  The book is the story of Henry Brown, who in 1849 mailed himself to freedom. He made the journey inside a wooden box. His trip was from Richmond, Virginia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He had to remain silent the whole trip, which lasted more than 24 hours, so no one would discover him and return him to his master. Why he finally felt he had to make the trip I won't say. That's for readers to discover.


R:  Why did you decide to tell Henry's story? What do you hope readers take away from the book?

SW:  Family is very important to me. My children are the loves of my life, so Henry's story struck a particular chord in me and I felt so badly for him. Music also plays a large role in our lives. So, discovering that Henry liked to sing seemed a natural focus for telling his tale.

I'd like readers to realize that everyone, even in the darkest of times, has an inner strength that can give them the courage and fortitude to carry on and take action. I think, ultimately, Henry's story is one of hope.
 
 
R:  Do you plan to write more books featuring African American characters? Will you write anymore historical biographies like Henry's?

SW:  I have actually written two other biographies, both early readers, about African Americans. Bessie Coleman: Daring to Fly is about the first African American woman to get an airplane pilot's license. The barriers she had to overcome were huge, but she was determined to accomplish her goal. I can tell you one thing: I would never have the guts to fly in the type of planes she did!

The other book is about Jackie Robinson. (Good for this time of year, as it's baseball season!) I wrote that one because Jackie Robinson was one of my dad's heroes. He saw him play a couple of times in the 1940s, shortly after Jackie broke the major league color barrier. My dad always told me Jackie was a man of honor and great courage.

Both Bessie and Jackie can be found in most public library collections. And summertime was made for relaxing with a book. I always like to remind parents--new and old ones--that a library card is free and gives kids a ticket to the world.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What's the Magic Number? Or, In Other Words, What Is The Limit?

We are often asked, "When are you adopting again?" or "Are you adopting again?"

(It's sort of like asking a couple who can have bio kids, "When are you gonna get it on and conceive another baby?"  Ok, not quite...)

I don't know what our magic number is.   I'm really open to God's plan for our family.   I often feel the nudge to pursue foster care adoption---but we've been told that we wouldn't be approved for kids older than our children.  I really considered adopting an African American sibling group----a triple minority in the foster care system:  black, siblings (multiples), and older (age).   Sigh.

But as always, domestic infant adoption tugs at our hearts, because we've done it twice.  We feel prepared and comfortable to do DIA again.    And there's a bit of relief when it comes to parenting a child who comes to us so young.   Birth order isn't disrupted.   Breathe.

I doubt we'll ever adopt internationally.  It's too hard to do with our jobs (we can't take that much time off work) and with our girls (take them?  leave them?).   And it's very costly, much more than domestic, which is about $18K for us, or foster care adoption, which is free.

We're also often asked, "Don't you want a boy?" or "Are you going to get a boy next time?"  The assumption is that we aren't satisfied parenting two girls or we feel something is missing without a boy. 

I don't know what our future holds.  I'm excited to see what each season of life brings our way.    One thing is true in adoption----whatever you plan for, it won't happen.  :)    Be ready for life's next adventure by throwing caution to the wind, trusting God, and being thankful. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ask Rachel: Domestic Adoption Profile Books

Ren, a blog reader, recently left a comment and asked if I have any suggestions on creating your domestic adoption profile book.  

Here are some tips and thoughts regarding profile books:

1:  Tell the truth.    :)      Don't worry about having the prettiest, most exciting, full of glitter (haha--like the couple on Modern Family who had a musical-pop up-glitter profile book---what a riot!) profile book.   Let your book reflect who you truly are.    If you love baseball----include those baseball game photos.   If you like to garden---include a picture of your garden.   Active family?  Travel often?   Love movie nights at home?   Gather photos that show your family's true colors.  

You want to be chosen for who you truly are.    Don't be deceptive!

2:  Captions count.   Put captions under your photos.   State who is in the picture, the date, and what is happening.    

3:  Put it together well.    I recall a birth parent telling me that she saw a few profiles that were black and white copied pages stapled together.     One, copies aren't the best way to display photos.   Two, where is the care?    Make a photo book from scratch or on a photo website so it's easy to read.  Plus, if you make the photo book online, you can easily order more books as needed, and most sites store photos and photo projects forever.

4:  Have fun!    The profile book isn't just for expectant parents; it's also for you.   Adoption is a journey, and your book reflects where you have been and where you hope to go.     Enjoy putting it together! 







Thursday, June 21, 2012

Touching My Child's Hair...

is like me touching your freshly done manicure.   I will probably ding your polish in some way...making it less than ideal, even pointless.   You took time to get that manicure.  It took money.  It took effort on someone's part.  It looks nice.  But despite all these things, I feel entitled to touch your nails.   How does that make you feel?

Touching my daughter's hair is inappropriate and uncool for the following reasons:

1:  You don't have permission to touch her.  

2:  She's not a pet.

3:  It took me a LONG time to do her hair and your hands mess it up.

4:  Touching African American hair can damage it.

5:  It's annoying.

6:  It's invading her personal space.  And yes, a 3.5 year old and a 1.5 year old are real people, even if they are small and young.

7:  It's weird. 

8:  It's unnecessary.

9:  I don't know where your hands have been.

10: My girls don't exist to satisfy your curiosity about black hair.

I've always thought, so it's ok to randomly touch people?!  A pregnant woman's stomach, for example?   A disabled person's wheelchair?   What's an ok and not-ok touch?  

Is it ok if you rub my child's head if I just reach out and rub your boob?  Your butt?   Your neck? 

Just.

Don't.

Do.

It. 

Thanks.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Attachment Resources

Recently, we had a guest speaker at one of my adoptive mama meetings.  Shirley Crenshaw was incredibly helpful and knowledgeable!   Here is a link to her webpage which features resources on the subject of attachment.   Happy reading!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Resources!

Friends,

If you haven't visited my Resources page in awhile, take some time to browse!  I'm adding new titles every week, giving my blog readers many educational titles on the subjects of adoption, diversity, siblinghood, African American history, and more.

Summer is a great time to catch up no reading!


Some of my favorite recently added books include:

I'm Here (Peter H. Reynolds):  A story featuring a boy with autism.  (Fab illustrations!)

Being Lara (Lola Jaye):  A fiction title written by a former foster child.  Her main character, Lara, copes with being transracially adopted and reunites with her birth mother.

Another Brother (Matthew Cordell):  Poor Davy!  He loved being an only child, but then mom and dad kept adding to the family until there were 12 brothers!   Davy can't catch a break as his brothers are constantly in his way.   Is there hope? 

Freedom Song:  The Story of Henry "Box" Brown (Sally M. Walker):  The book jacket says it all-:  "Walker weaves a lyrical, moving story of the human spirit" as she shares the story of Henry Brown, a boy who grows into a man who loses his family to slavery.   Henry hides himself in a box and is shipped to his freedom and hopefully, to his family.          


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Have an Adoption/Race/Healthy Living/Etc. Question?

Send it my way!  whitebrownsugar AT hotmail DOT com

I've been getting some great questions these past few weeks.   If you'd like your question (and my answer) published on my blog, let me know.  I won't disclose your name and location unless you want me to.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

My Most Popular Blog Post

If you blog, you'll probably notice that your blog has a "stats" section where you can see how many times your blog has been viewed, who views your blog (geographically speaking), and which of your posts are the most popular.  

I decided to find out which post of mine was most popular.  I am surprised.   It's not one that rants on and on (well, that's not really a surprise), or one that offers a giveaway or interview, or a Q and A on adoption.  

My most popular blog post is where I share the story of the adoption of our second daughter.

The post is simple, straightforward, and well, beautiful.

People are curious about adoption.   They want to see what this whole adoptive parenting thing is about.  

I am honored that our story can be shared and celebrated.  

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Response to an Interesting Comment

My most recent blog post on adoption ethics has spurred some interesting responses.  

First, let me say that I really do appreciate all responses, even those that don't align with my viewpoints.

Second, I love your readership!

Third, I think it's so important that we are thinking about and discussing these issues.  It makes us better, more educated, more deliberate adoptive parents!

I wanted to follow up on one comment in particular:

But how can you really speak to it, if you haven't had failed placements?

Not that I'm saying that a birthmother should have a child she doesn't want to give up ripped out of her arms, but the longer you have the child, the more attached you are going to become. That's why placement happens in the first few days... Yes, it's bad timing with hormones, but that's why you spend the prior 9 months (hopefully) discussing and making these decisions and being sure about it.

I've watched multiple couples go through failed placement through failed placement through failed placement.

Your daughters biological parents come to you NOW and say they made a terrible mistake... You'd give them back?

I hope the answer is heck no! They are your children!

What I have seen is that many birth mothers would like TPR to happen quickly so they are not forced into bonding with their children when they know they do not want to parent, or are incapable of doing so, or aren't able to, etc.

I think it would be so much harder on them and their families if there was a minimim, say, 3 week waiting period where they were forced to spend time with their babies when they did not WANT to. The shorter time periods are not just for the adoptive parents. They protect our birth mother's hearts too.


Dear Reader,

First, I believe that no matter how many failed placements a family has had, be it one or twenty-five, we still cannot compromise.  We cannot forgo doing what is right because WE are the ones who are hurting.    Again, I do not want to minimize the loss that an adoptive parent has faced which lead them to adoption.    That loss is real and raw and horrible.   I have also had friends who have experienced failed placements, and we have faced situations where we were "chosen" only to be told that adoption wasn't going to be the birth mom's choice after all.  Was it sad?  Yes.  Disappointing?  Yes.   Defeating?  Yes.

But that's the nature of adoption.    And adoptive parents CHOOSE to face these ups and downs, the unknowns, and the heartaches---all in the hopes that one day they will be placed with a baby.

Adoptive parents----adoption isn't about us!   We think it is.  The agency tells us it is.   But it's not!

You also mention the the mom had 9 months to make her choice.  True.  But carrying a baby in-utero is not the same as having the baby in her arms.   Many adoption professionals say the mom has to not only decide parenting or placing prior to the baby's birth, but the decision has to be remade afterward---because, once the baby is in mom's arms, it's really really really really real.    And that mom has every right to take as long as she needs to make her choice.   Sadly, I think too many agencies play the "minimum" card as the maximum.  Meaning, if a bio mom can sign her rights away starting at 72 hours after birth, the agencies are hovering outside, ready to pounce on the mom at exactly the 72 hour so they can hopefully get her to sign before she changes her mind.  :(   Many adoptive parents are able to be at the hospital with the mom---and though it's well-intended, the presence of adoptive parents can word as a double-edged sword.  One positive is that the adoptive parents can support the mom and bond with the baby.   But an overwhelming negative is that the presence of so many pro-adoption individuals (social workers, counselors, adoptive parents, maybe even the medical staff) puts pressure on the mom to place.

I do see your point, that shorter TPR guidelines can benefit the birth mother.   I think they can, maybe, if the mom is REALLY REALLY REALLY sure about placing.  But from my experience, many birth mothers (who aren't birth mothers until they sign TPR) aren't REALLY sure.    It's unnatural to hand your baby to someone else to parent FOREVER.  It's totally normal for the mom to have doubts about the decision to "give her baby away."     I was with a woman when she placed her baby for adoption.    There was NOTHING normal or sure about what she was doing, even when she knew and was convinced it was the best decision.    


This brings up the point that it's so important, in my view, that there is a federal TPR law, not a state-to state law.   It's crazy how some states have a 48 TPR law while other states have a 30 day law.     There needs to be extensive research done to determine what a "fair" TPR law is.    I honestly don't have a suggestion, but I don't think 48 hours is appropriate given the mom just gave birth a few mere hours ago and then is asked to sign documents which TERMINATE (strong word, right?) her parental rights.

I love that the county we adopted in requires two things of a mother wanting to place.  1:  She may sign TPR at 48 hours.  However....  2:  She has to appear in court (usually a week or so after the baby's birth), before a judge, and with her own attorney, to answer a slew of questions regarding her decision BEFORE TPR is considered official.  They question her to make sure she understands her decision and that she hasn't been coerced in any way by the adoptive family, the agency, or someone else.      She may opt to appear in court later than one week, from my understanding. 

This means the birth mother must decide 2-3 times that yes, adoption is her choice.   She might decide before birth, after the birth, and again, a week or more later.    The baby, in the meantime, goes into an interim care home where he or she is well cared for until a decision has been made.

A mom who is trying to decide, post-birth, if adoption is the best choice for her baby can opt in or out of putting her baby in interim care, which the agency pays for (so the mom has no financial responsibility in this regard). 

Finally, Steve and I discussed what we would do if the birth parents asked for their child back after TPR had been signed and officially accepted by the court.   At what point would we return the child?    The answer is, when the child had become ours, we would not return her.  Meaning, when her older sister started calling her sister, when we felt like we were truly the child's parents (which can take weeks or months for adoptive families), and when we felt that returning the child would be harmful to the child.

I know that is very vague, but I do believe it is situational.  


In conclusion, I think all the laws and rules that ultimately, I see as pro-adoptive parent and anti-birth parent, are in place because adoption is a business that only makes money off placements.   If a mom parents, the agency loses money--the time and energy they invested into counseling, into helping mom get on state aid, etc.  When a placement occurs, the agency makes a large sum of money (hello, seen the adoption bills?!?  eeek!).   The agency isn't doing placements out of the kindness of their hearts.   

And sadly, society sees birth parents as the bad ones in the situation and the adoptive parents as the saviors of the "poor needy children who need good homes."     It's so easy for us, as adoptive parents, to dehumanize birth parents because our "gain" is tied completely to the birth parent's loss.   If we can, as a society, continue to drag birth parents through the proverbial mud, we can keep them in the place we feel comfortable---beneath us, less than.  

And that is why I feel adoptive parents must pursue the most ethical adoptions possible---from every decision they make, to every word they write or utter, to every action they take or do not take.  Because we hold the power in the situation---according to the agency (the customer pays, the customer receives), according to the birth parents (we are the ones who supposedly have it all together and are fully prepared to parent), according to society (we are the good ones, the saviors).  

It's a big responsibility.    And it's life-altering. 

 






Monday, June 4, 2012

"Good" Adoption States, Loss, and Ethics

This is mostly a rant.   Just to let you know up front.   It's full of opinion and experience.  Here you go:

Once upon a time, there was this couple who wanted to adopt.   They were THRILLED to learn that in their lovely home state of IL, a birth mother could sign TPR at 72 hours.   At that point, unless some legal catastrophe happened, TPR was final.     BIG  SIGH  OF  RELIEF.     What an adoption-friendly state they lived in!   At least if the mom "changed her mind," they'd only have to wait a few days to find out....and if she did change her mind after 72 hours and she'd signed TPR, well, too bad, so sad.   Just get into the safe zone, baby, and then live happily ever after.  No looking back.

I hate to admit that I know this couple well....because it was me and my hubby!  

I am sickened when I hear adoptive families talk about "good" or "friendly" adoption states.  Translation:   adoptive-parent friendly states.

But, if you really think about it, in states where TPR can occur at 48 or 72 hours, these states aren't really even adoptive-parent friendly, and here is why.

Think about this:   Do you really want to parent a baby whose birth parents decided, after a few days without their child, that they made the wrong choice?   Do you want to keep a baby from his or her biological parents because you just can't possibly bear to give the child back?    The baby you've been holding and bonding with for two, three, four days?  A week?  A few weeks?   What heartache that would cause!   

Shoe on the other foot----can you imagine spending a lifetime without your baby, all because in the "heat of the moment" you made the wrong choice to place your baby for adoption?   Because influential people in your life---your boyfriend, your social worker, your mother----were telling you to choose adoption because it was "best" for the baby and it was the only "unselfish choice"?     Can you imagine living every single day without your baby, the child you bonded with for nine months, the child who looks like you, the child who has your blood pumping through his or her body?

(Have you ever read or experienced what it is like for a woman post-birth? Her hormones are all over the place. She's still raw from childbirth. Her world is upside down and inside out. And nearby, there's a social worker thrusting paperwork into her face, asking her to make the most difficult decision of her life despite all the emotional and physical effects of childbirth.)    

Then can you imaging mustering the courage to tell your social worker, I made the wrong choice.  I want to keep my baby.   I am sorry that this will hurt the adoptive parents, but I just cannot do it.

The imagine the adoptive parents, who are legally the parents, saying no to you?   Saying no, I just can't bear losing this child I've had for three days, the child I've waited three years for.  NO.   NO.

Adoptive parents---your heartache cannot compare to the birth parents' when it comes to loss.    I've had this discussion MANY times on online message boards with adoptive parents, waiting adoptive parents, adoptees, and birth mothers.     The argument is that loss is loss.   How can one loss compare to another?   Isn't loss relative?   Perception is reality, right?  

I'm not trying to say that adoptive parents don't have tremendous and raw loss in their journeys.    My loss shouldn't be minimized.    Type I diabetes drastically and permanently changed my life.    My opportunity to have biological children was pretty much torn away from me the day I was told I had my disease.  However, I can't and shouldn't make that my crutch---my excuse---to not do what is right.

Ultimately, after much adoption education, I decided this:  I do not want to parent a baby who is not meant to be mine.  No way, no how.   Even if I have to cry many tears.  Even if I want to believe it's not fair.  Even if I had to wait five years for a baby.  Because I am not entitled to someone else's child.   Because the "other" in the situation (be it the child or the birth parent) is a real person with real feelings, and just because the birth parent made some bad decisions leading to a crisis pregnancy situation, it doesn't mean they are stripped of their humanity.

I truly believe that when agencies charge a (taking it back old school) a butt-load of money to make adoption possible to adoptive families, they are sending a powerful message:   You (adoptive families) are those whom we serve.   Fill out the check-list.  Order up!   We serve you.    Please, be entitled.  Be demanding.   Put yourselves first.   The customer is always right.   

Sad.

If you are a waiting adoptive parent, I want to stop and evaluate your own hearts.    Ask yourself the hard questions.    Choose an ethical agency that supports birth parents and doesn't push them to choose adoption at ANY point in the process.     Birth parents need attorneys who will explain to them, clearly, the legal process of an adoption.   The agency should clearly state that they will, no matter what, support the birth parents' decisions, whatever and whenever they may be.

And adoptive parents, you have to "go there."   Have that conversation, and ask "What if?"   What if, after having a baby for a few days or even weeks, the birth parents decide they want the baby back.   Would you do it?    Why or why not?  

And what can you do as you wait, as you battle those fears of a failed adoption?   I highly suggest that if you are a person of faith, you pray.  And I don't mean, "God, don't let them change their minds because I've had infertility issues for ten years and all I want in life is to be a mommy to a precious little baby."   I mean, "God, I am actively pursuing an ethical adoption.   Let me be a witness and a support system to all I meet.  Help me to support a birth parent's choice, whatever it is, whether it is adoption, choosing another family, or parenting.   Help me deal with my doubts, my fears, and my insecurities.   Help me be strong when it's easier to self-serve."  

Even in the days between when we were chosen and when we went to court to gain custody of our children, I asked God to help our girls' biological parents and to give them the courage to "change their minds" if they needed to.   

One woman I know did take home a baby, gain custody, and got a call from the birth mother asking for her baby back.   This woman was tearful, heartbroken, and scared, but she did it.  She gave the baby back to her biological mother.     I find this action to be incredible and selfless.  This adoptive mother recognized that though painful, she couldn't possibly keep a baby who truly wasn't hers.  She couldn't keep a baby from her mother.

Adoptive parents----don't put on an unethical mask when it comes to adoption.  Don't check your ethics at the door because you feel you are entitled to do so because you are paying big bucks for an adoption process. Don't use your pain, your loss, as an excuse to trample on someone else and scoop their baby up as your own.    Stop.  Think.  Pray.  Breathe.    Act.

You can do this.

  

Friday, June 1, 2012

The winner is....

Congrats to our winner!  And thank you to all of you who entered.  What amazing stories!

Anonymous said...
My husband and I felt God had called us to adopt for several years. At the time we were in graduate school and lived on poverty level salaries. We decided to wait until we finished school and got jobs to begin the adoption process because of our lack of resources. Last winter my father was diagnosed with stage four skin cancer that had manifested as three large brain tumors. My dad died five months and one day after doctors found the cancer. What my husband and I did not know was that twenty years earlier my father had taken out an insurance policy for me and my two siblings. It was a large policy that in the event something ever happened to dad we would have college money etc... The first thing that came to my mind after finding out about the money was that God had planned our adoptions for decades and He knew this money was going to
provide for not one but several adoptions. My husband and I told my dad before he passed away about our plan to adopt a son domestically. My father smiled and asked if we would use his name for our child. Ironically, my husband and I had already chosen our son's name and it was after my dad:) The loss of my father was the most devastaing thing that has ever happened in our lives but God has brought something so beautiful out of our loss which is hope. My husband and I are currently "waiting" to be matched with a birthmom. We are so excited for our precious brown baby boy who will be named Truett Munro Nichols. Munro was my dad's middle name. God does make beautiful things out of the ashes!


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