Adoptees Sought for Research

Researchers at Montclair State University are looking for adults who were adopted for a research project. They’re especially interested in hearing from people like me who found out they were adopted late in life.

If you are a late-discovery adoptee and have 25 minutes to spare, check out their online survey. The researchers are trying  to get a handle on the emotional impact of adoption discovery on adults. How did finding out you were adopted affect your sense of well being? Were you hurt by the news? How did you deal with it?

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The survey is interesting. It made me think back on the time 11 years ago when I got the call from my sister, Melissa. Turns out we both had been adopted. What a bombshell! I was dazed by the news.  Our adoptive parents were deceased so we couldn’t confront them.

While learning this shocking truth left me feeling unsettled, the information didn’t damage me. I was (and still am) happily married, with a little boy, dog and a career. Life was good (and it still is.) That’s not to say the news had no impact. The revelation punched holes in my life story. I question where I came from, and wonder what my birth mom’s situation was when she brought me into the world.

If you want to find out more about this project, call Amanda Baden, the lead researcher at Montclair State University, at 973-655-7336. You can also email her at badena@mail.montclair.edu.

Just The Facts About Adoption

People who have no experience with adoption might get the impression from the news or TV that it is always a drama worthy of Hollywood or at least a made-for-TV movie.

Yes, there are cases like the Baby Veronica custody battle, a story that could easily inspire a Hollywood tearjerker. The Baby Veronica saga is exceptional.

The Cradle, an adoption agency in Evanston, Illinois, tries to set the record straight about adoption. I talked to The Cradle’s Joan Jaeger about the agency’s Volunteers for Adoption Education program.

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Joan Jaeger                            

Lynne: What do the volunteers do?
Joan: The volunteers are a group of people who have been personally touched by adoption — birth parents, adoptive parents or adopted people. Some high schools bring us back every year, even twice a year. We have some teachers who have written us into their curriculum. We’ve gone to one of the community colleges, too. On occasion, we’ll go to a junior high school.

We share a little bit about what adoption is and the personal stories from the volunteers. We always try to have all three parties to the adoption together (the adoptee, the adoptive parent and the birth parent), either live or through YouTube. If any one is not there in person, we pull up our YouTube channel, pick our play lists and hear from the person who is not there in the classroom. It fills in those blanks.

When someone is telling their personal story, it can make a huge difference in a student’s life. Those are the comments we get back from teachers, how helpful it was to hear straight from the mouths of people who’ve lived through the experience.

Lynne: How many volunteers do you have?
Joan: Probably 60 to 70 active volunteers.

Lynne: How long has The Cradle been doing this?
Joan: Over 30 years.

Lynne: Why is this programming necessary?
Joan: Adoption is one of those things everyone thinks they know about. You ask them basic questions and find out what they know is based on a made-for-TV movie or MTV. That’s not the typical reality. It’s helpful to share this information. It’s helpful for adopted people to be in the classroom to have their experiences validated. It’s helpful for anybody to better understand the reality.

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A volunteer talks to a class about adoption

Lynne: Why do school children need to know about adoption?
Joan: The MTV shows target them. Things get overglamorized in the press. Some things get twisted in a way that isn’t real.

Lynne: Is there a lot of misinformation out there?
Joan: Oh sure. For example, there are some odd ideas about what open adoption is. People have this perception it is joint custody or co-parenting. It’s not.

Lynne: What do students ask?
Joan: One common question our adoptees get is, “Don’t you have a lot of questions about your real mom? When did you find out you were adopted?” It’s interesting the kinds of questions they get like the “real” mom question. The person who’s been raising the (adoptee) is as real as anyone else. For your average adoptee, adoption is simply part of who they are.

Lynne: What are some other common questions?
Joan: (For adoptive parents), “Aren’t you worried the birth mom will come back and take the baby?” In real life, that almost never happens. Whenever there’s a contested adoption, it gets a lot of play in the media because it’s unusual. The one story in a million becomes the news. People assume that’s the norm and not the exception.

Go Ahead, Rub It In

When I’m looking for an idea for an easy meal, I often turn to spice rubs.

They are great for home cooks who don’t feel like chopping, dicing, slicing or any other serious knife activity. The only requirement is having a well-stocked supply of bottled herbs and spices, which I have.

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I keep plenty of herbs and spices on hand

The other day, I didn’t feel like shopping but I was short on protein. I had two salmon filets in the freezer and three mouths to feed. But there was a bag of frozen shrimp. If I made the filets with a couple handfuls of shrimp, I would have enough protein to feed the three of us.

I wanted to season the fish and shrimp the same way so I decided to try the spice rub used in Mark Bittman’s Four-Spice Salmon on my shrimp. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

This easy recipe, which mixes coriander and cloves with cumin and nutmeg, is a delicious way to season salmon. I had some leftover spice rub in a baggy in the fridge so I didn’t have to mix up a new batch. I sprinkled all the seasoning on the filets and shrimp and my husband, Tom, cooked it all in the same cast-iron skillet. In well under 10 minutes, the salmon and shrimp were ready to eat. Quite tasty.

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There was plenty of salmon and shrimp to go around

Should Birth Dads Have More Say in Adoptions?

The baby Veronica story, a messy case involving a tug-of-war between a Native American biological dad and the white couple who adopted the child, took another turn when a court gave the adoptive parents the go-ahead to regain custody of Veronica , according to CNN.

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Courtesy of Flickr/RNLJC&M

I don’t know the biological father, Dusten Brown, nor do I know Veronica’s adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco. But the case tugs at my heart. I know Veronica, who is almost 4 years old, may be scarred by this adoption-custody battle.

This case is complicated in so many ways. One issue that struck me is the question of rights for birth fathers. How much influence do biological fathers in general have in adoption cases? The baby Veronica story suggests Brown may have been shut out of the critical decision, made by the birth mother, to give the girl up for adoption. Brown and the birth mother were not married.

Do you believe birth dads should have more involvement in adoption decisions? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Not Your Mother’s Three-Bean Salad

It’s hard to get excited about three-bean salad. Just mentioning it makes you think of a side dish served at a diner or classic American picnic food. Boring, right?

Before you stop reading, consider the health benefits of beans. On top of being nutritious, they are also cheap.

There are ways to make three-bean salad interesting. Don’t worry. Even when you take this salad up a notch, it’s still quick and easy to make. In my version, there’s no cooking required. I used canned beans from my pantry. By the way, I try at all times to keep a variety of beans in the pantry to minimize last-minute trips to the store.

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Most ingredients were already in my pantry

I made this dish recently for lunch at a friend’s house. All five adults and my 13-year-old son, Jake, enjoyed it.

Lynne’s Three-Bean Salad

1 clove garlic

1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed

3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (optional)

About 4 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons white vinegar

1 15.5-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 15.5-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 15.5-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

Salt and pepper to taste

Me chopping jalapeno
That’s me chopping jalapeno

Chop the garlic and jalapeno finely. Be careful not to handle the jalapeno too much with bare hands. (You may want to protect your hands by wearing gloves as you chop the chile.)

Add the jalapeno, garlic, dill, olive oil and vinegar to a large bowl. Add the beans and mix everything up so the bean mixture is well seasoned. Add salt and pepper to taste and, if you like, more vinegar. This salad is best when it’s chilled. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for several days.

Makes 6-8 servings

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My three-bean salad. Not at all boring.

The Truth About Kids with Down Syndrome

Last week, I wrote about a case, reported on the CNN Belief Blog, involving a church’s effort to find parents to adopt an unborn baby believed to have Down syndrome. The biological parents planned to have an abortion if adoptive parents could not be found. After reading the church’s message on Facebook, hundreds of couples contacted the church with adoption offers.

While this outpouring of offers may have amazed some readers, Linda Nargi, executive director of the International Down Syndrome Coalition, was not surprised at all. A mother of four, Nargi of Colorado Springs, Colorado talked to me about children with Down syndrome and the public’s misconceptions.

Lynne: Why were you not surprised by the number of inquiries from people who were interested in adopting the unborn baby?

Linda: It doesn’t surprise me because the (Down syndrome) adoption community is small. We are very tight knit. We look out for each other. If a couple got a prenatal diagnosis and they knew they wouldn’t keep the baby, our community would rally. We saw that.

Sometimes the general public has a different view of people with Down syndrome because they just don’t know. We know their lives are precious and worth saving.

My 2-year-old girl, Lexi, is adopted. I found her on a Facebook post. She has Down syndrome. My 6-year-old, Lila, has Down syndrome as well. We got a prenatal diagnosis with her. She’s our biological child.

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Linda with daughters Lila, 6, and Lexi, 2. The girls have Down syndrome.

Lynne: Why did you adopt a child?

Linda: We weren’t looking to adopt at the time. It’s a very funny story. I was going through Facebook one day and saw a baby with Down syndrome who needed a forever family. I knew there would be a lot of people interested in adopting that baby. There are waiting lists of people waiting to adopt a child with Down syndrome. People don’t realize that.

A couple of months ago, our adoption attorney contacted me about a baby boy (with Down syndrome). All I did was make a Facebook post and I had 20 some people contact me (expressing an interest in adopting the boy).

Kids with Down syndrome are loved, cherished and wanted. That’s not just a cliché. It’s proven all the time when cases come up. People want to put their name in (to adopt the children).

Lynne: What do potential parents need to know before they adopt a baby with Down syndrome?

Linda: You have to be realistic and know raising a child with Down syndrome will have its challenges. It has a lot of joy and blessings. I also raised two typical kids and they were challenging as well. All kids come with challenges. (Linda laughed.)

Lynne: What are the misconceptions about children with Down syndrome?

Linda: I think it’s the age old, in-the-past idea, where when people with Down syndrome were born, doctors would say, ‘you have to put this child in an institution. The child has no potential.’ Now we know people with Down syndrome have lots of potential. They didn’t know that in the past. We’re starting to debunk those myths but it will take a long time.

That story (on the CNN Belief Blog) opened people’s eyes. The fact CNN grabbed on to that story gave it a lot of exposure.

Pet Adoption Opened My Eyes

One year ago this month, we adopted two little dogs. Believed to be a mix of beagle and dachshund, our girls are sisters who were given up by their previous owners for economic reasons. At least that was the story we got from the girls’ foster mom, a volunteer with an animal rescue organization in New Jersey. She assured us they don’t bark, they’re house broken and they won’t be any trouble at all.

 

Except for the “they don’t bark” part, the foster mom was right. Oh and the girls have had a couple of bathroom accidents in the house but nothing I can’t handle.  Oh and there was the antique chair that one or both of them chewed up. My husband, Tom, spent $100 to get the chair repaired. Guess what? They chewed up the arm again. After the second episode, we put the chair away.

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Phoebe and Maggie looking all sweet and innocent

Though they are not perfect, the girls have brought joy into our lives.  Maggie, the bigger of the two dogs, and Phoebe, smaller with more of a dachchund-like body, are sweet, loving dogs who enjoy running around the park, lunging at squirrels, wrestling with one another and snuggling up with their humans. These dogs give me unconditional love, which is more than I can say for any of the humans I know. It’s a pleasure to come home and get the rock star treatment from Maggie and Phoebe, who bark like crazy and compete for my attention by jumping all over me.

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Phoebe and Maggie like exploring the park off leash

I used to think dogs given up by their owners were problems. Dogs in shelters? I stayed away. I thought those dogs were bad news. Having had a golden retriever for close to 17 years, I was also partial to big purebreds.

Now I know wonderful dogs come in all sizes and shelters have many great pets just waiting to be adopted. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on a purebred. Adopting Maggie and Phoebe opened my eyes to the joys of pet adoption.

If you are thinking of getting a pet, check out Petfinder to see the lovely critters waiting to be adopted in your area.

Open Records Help Adoptees Fill in Blanks

On a spring day in 2012, my original birth certificate arrived in the mail. What am I going to find out, I wondered nervously. Taking a deep breath, I opened the envelope from the state of Illinois. Inside, a non-certified copy of my original birth certificate gave me my mother’s married and maiden names (her first name is Lillian), her age (28), address at the time of my birth (Northbrook, a suburb of Chicago) and her birthplace (Washington, Indiana).

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My original birth certificate
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My original birth certificate with the first birth certificate listing my adoptive parents

Up until then, I had figured my mother was probably a teenager when she got pregnant with me so I was surprised to learn she was 28 years old. My husband, Tom, and I question whether she really was married. That seems fishy.

Of course, this document does not come close to answering all my questions, including one very big one: “Who was my birth daddy?” (He was “not legally known,” according to the birth certificate.) Still, it was thrilling for me to get answers to these very basic questions about my life, questions non-adopted adults never have.

Illinois is one of the latest states to unseal birth records, the Associated Press reported.  Some 350,000- adoption records were sealed in Illinois beginning in 1946 and, since 2010, close to 9,000 people have claimed their birth certificates from the state.

The Associated Press interviewed adoptees from Illinois who got in touch with their birth mothers. I haven’t done that. Other than visiting Ancestry.com and similar sites to learn more about my birth mother, I have not made any real attempt to find her. She could be dead for all I know.

I can only imagine how tough it must be to meet the woman who gave you life and then gave you to another family.  If you have made contact with your birth mother, I would love to hear your story.

Finding Biological Family on Facebook

In the Huffington Post, Courtney Hardy recalled accidentally finding out she was adopted as a teenager. As a young adult, she used official sources and Facebook to track down her birth parents and other biological relatives.

Hardy’s journey to find family took her to San Diego, Seattle, Phoenix, Ireland and England. Luckily, she got a warm welcome from everyone she met along the way. It’s an interesting story that apparently had a happy ending for the adoptive and biological families and especially for Hardy.

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Photo courtesy of Keoni Cabral

“Meeting my relatives has given me perspective on how profoundly lucky I am to have such wonderful and supportive parents, as well as an extended birth family in my life,” Hardy wrote in the Huffington Post. “In a way, through getting to know them, I feel like I’ve finally gotten to know myself.”

A growing number of adults who were adopted are using Facebook to find family members who share their DNA, according to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, which conducted a comprehensive study on the Internet’s profound impact on adoption. The Adoption Institute believes the laws that make it difficult for people to access important information about adoption, including statutes that prevent adopted people from obtaining their original birth certificates, should be repealed.

According to the Adoption Institute, the Internet obviates the rationale for the laws, which was to keep the affected parties from learning about and finding each other. Makes sense to me.

Breaking A Boring Habit

Growing up, I ate plenty of cold deli sandwiches for lunch and, for better or worse, that habit has stayed with me. A sandwich consisting of two slices of bread, with deli meat and cheese, mayo and/or mustard tends to be what I have for lunch when I’m at home. It’s hard to get excited about something you’ve eaten hundreds of times so yesterday I decided to break out of my rut.

Naturally I had sandwich fixings in the fridge but instead of two slices of sliced sandwich bread, I grabbed a couple of tortillas. I took two slices of provolone cheese and cut them into strips, ripped a slice of ham into small pieces and dropped the ham and cheese on one tortilla. I covered it with the second tortilla and then poured a little vegetable oil in a skillet. When it was hot, I placed my creation in the pan. After a few minutes, I turned it over to make sure it browned on both sides and the cheese melted.

I enjoyed a warm and hearty quesadilla with mustard and sour cream on the side. What a nice change of pace from cold cuts on sliced bread. It only took 15 minutes to make but you could shave a few minutes off the time since you won’t be taking photos.

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Assembling the quesadilla
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Ham & cheese quesadilla with mustard, sour cream, fruit and pickle.

Lynne’s Ham and Cheese Quesadilla

2 six-inch flour tortillas

2 slices of meltable cheese, cut in thin strips (I used provolone but cheddar would be delicious, too.)

1 slice of deli ham, torn in pieces

One – two tablespoons canola oil

Mustard and sour cream, for serving on the side

Fruit and pickle (optional)

Place the cheese strips and ham pieces on one tortilla, then cover it with the second tortilla. Pour canola oil in a skillet. When it’s hot, carefully place your quesadilla in the pan, being careful to keep the filling between the tortillas.  Quesadillas should be flat so I suggest pressing down on the tortillas with a large glass bowl. Carefully turn over the tortillas after 3 minutes or so to brown the other side. If your tortillas are not flat, press down with the glass bowl. Remove from the heat after two minutes or so, when the tortillas are golden brown and the cheese is melted. Slide onto a plate and cut into four wedges. Serve with mustard and sour cream on the side. If you like, add fruit and a pickle.