When Adoptive Family Members Say They Support Your Search But Really Don't

Decades ago, I made it known that I was searching for my natural family. At the time, all of my adoptive  family with whom I had a conversation about it  said they were supportive.  In some cases, that was true. In others, it was not.

I heard: "I support you all the way" or "I support you 100%."

Regarding my search, they did appear to support me. As time went on, I realized that as long as I was searching for strangers who I would one day refer to as acquaintances, or friends – all was fine. But the moment I actually called them family, the support stopped. One adoptive family member in particular reiterated whether passive aggressively or outright, their "exclusive" position in my life. 

I’ve discovered, some are alright with you searching, as long as you don’t find family. As long as you don't find someone who is a motherfather, sister or brother…it’s okay. As long as your natural family referred to by their first names,  all is well. But as soon as you start referring to these folks as your family, as mom or dad -- or Lord forbid you start inviting them to your significant family events (birthdays, etc.) or sharing holidays -- look the heck out! Even Chuck Norris would be afraid.

My little sister, Kim, has just announced to the world that she is searching for her natural family. 

I can't help but wonder...has anything changed?

I am anticipating the future for her, and truly supportive of her in this by every definition possible. I will pray my guts out that she finds her natural family and they are receptive to her. 

She is already getting the declarations of support.  I am hopeful things will be different for her, regarding some adoptive family members. But I can’t help but wonder…do these declarations of support only extend to her search for acquaintances or new "friends"? Or is this "support" unqualified, 100% support for however she decides to relate and interact with her natural family? Will there be that same support from everyone when she may decide to refer to two individuals on the planet as, “Mom”? Will the declaration of support change if it means that things like Christmas or birthdays now involve people who were never there before, or (gasp!) the adoptive family has to actually learn to share???

My prayer is that this declared support is not just lip service, but truly without limitations. I hope she has freedom to call the shots without being called to task on anything or being asked to bend to someone else's desires. It’s her search, and her reunion to live out. I hope to God she can walk this journey in an atmosphere of true support and not one tainted by the insecurities and jealousies so often present when adoptees find family.
[Deanna drops the mic.]

*I received Kim's blessing prior to publishing this blog post. She loved it and also gave me the photos to post with it.

Somebody Took a DNA Test...

Generations are affected by adoption.

Not just the adoptee.

Not just the natural mother.

All the generations to come are impacted.

A lot is said about the need for adoptees to be grateful.

I am so very grateful...

for a son who is willing to take a DNA test that will assist the search team in isolating matches.

Thank you, Jordan.

The Search for My Natural Father:
Taking the Long Way Home

“Is there anything new in the search for your natural father?” people often inquire. Or, they ask me why I haven’t written about it lately. The answer was that there hadn't been anything new for quite a while. But suddenly now...there is!

Photo Credit: Deanna Doss Shrodes
My search is freshly invigorated with hot new leads thanks to one of my sisters at Lost Daughters who has not only put her own investigative talents to use, but has introduced me to two individuals who have readily agreed to help. One specializes in working with surnames and the other is a professor and genealogist with expertise in DNA. I am totally amazed at connections they have already found.  I am thankful to also have the same three people who have been working on my search all along, and are still there for whatever is needed.

I accomplished the search for my natural mother alone, without knowing what I was doing at all until I got into it. The search for my natural father is much more complicated as it’s almost entirely DNA based. It's taking a village! 

Interestingly enough something I’ve found as I’ve gone along in my search through DNA is that there is a lot of adoption in my background. We have found quite a number of adoptees in my age group, who are cousins. One woman who is my cousin is just two years younger than me, and was adopted from the same agency I was in Richmond, Virginia! And then there’s a man who is a bit younger than both of us, my cousin, also adopted from Richmond, VA through a Methodist maternity home. (Interestingly my maternal family are Methodists.) These are just two adoptee family members I’ve “met” online this past month that I’ve discovered through DNA. My family on one or possibly both sides were definitely active participants in the Baby Scoop Era! DNA searching has proven:  my family was addicted to adoption.

The good news is, we’ve discovered these cousins. The bad news is, being adopted we all have no idea where we fit in. All of us are searching for the same answer. How do we intersect? We’re not sure yet. I have a feeling the professor will help us unlock the answers.

DNA testing is exploding not only among adoptees but non-adoptees. It’s become a cool gift to give, to anyone.  How awesome is it, to know the percentage of your heritage? To know just how Greek or Korean or British you are?  I’ve been advised, in a few months, my matches will greatly increase just from the results arriving from the plethora of people who received a DNA test for Christmas. Who would have thought just a few years ago that this would have been so? 

I have tested at Ancestry, 23 andMe, FTDNA and GedMatch – so my matches are plentiful. But most are distant. We pray for closer matches than what we are getting. 

I wish everyone in the world would test their DNA. It's not expensive. It's something valuable and interesting for each person to have, and it helps adoptees who are searching, more than anyone would ever realize! In fact, if literally everyone out there tested, it would bring secrets to a screeching halt! How incredible would that be?

It has been recommended that one of my sons do a DNA test to give us more information with which to work, to rule out matches to the paternal or maternal side. Many people have asked why I don’t have my maternal birth family DNA test. I do not have anyone in my maternal birth family  who is willing to, out of loyalty to my mother. Yes, loyalty goes even to the grave.  I guess that’s good if you’re talking about something good. But when it means being loyal to a family secret that should have never been a secret and violates someone’s human rights…well, no... it’s not good.

Shame is so ugly. And that’s all I have to say about that. For now.

My son Jordan is going to test. 

It will take longer doing it this way than having one of my maternal relatives take the test, but it’s not the first time I’ve had to take the long way home.

Even when you take the long way home, you still get there.


Adoptees: Do You Believe in the Adoption-Reconstruction Phase Theory?

This theory is above, for those that are unaware of it. [Credit to Amanda Woolston who created the graphic.]

I’m not sure what I believe about it.

Yep, ya heard me right. 

I don’t know.

I have friends who seem to believe this theory is accurate.
And others believe it’s from the pits of hell.

If I had to classify it at this moment I might say it’s purgatory. Never mind that I don’t believe in purgatory.

My biggest doubt is about number 5. It's not that I believe you can’t be adopted and find any peace. I am more skeptical about the ambivalence and the integration, more than anything. 

What do you think?

[Reminder: I have posed this question to ADOPTEES. Thanks.)

An Interview With Actor, Writer, Filmmaker & Transracial Adoptee, Lucy Sheen

Today I’m interviewing my new friend, Lucy Sheen.  I met Lucy because we’re both contributing authors to the book Adoption Therapy (recently released by Entourage Publishing) and another upcoming book release -- an adoption anthology entitled, Adoptee Survival Guide.  I am thoroughly enjoying getting to know her. I want you all to meet her too if you haven’t already. So without further adieu, I give you, the incomparable Lucy Sheen!

Deanna: Lucy, I am so very blessed to be connected with you, as authors in both recent anthologies, to be friends and to interview you here on the blog.

Lucy: Thank you, for asking me Deanna, it's a pleasure to be here.

Deanna: First will you share with everyone a bit of your background as an adoptee…what country are you originally from and how did you come to be adopted?

Lucy: I am one of one-hundred and six Hong Kong foundlings who were transracially adopted by English families back in the late 50s to early 60s. We were the first organised group of children ever to be transracially adopted by white families in the UK.

The initiative was called the Hong Kong project. Originally it had been hoped that the foundlings would have been found homes with Asian American families - many of the Asian American families were only interested in adopting boys. We were all, with the exception I believe of a couple of babies, girls. So as Hong Kong was a Crown Colony of Britain the Governor of Hong Kong turned to the UK.

Like many, I was abandoned on the streets of Hong Kong. It was called, “being abandoned in order to be found.” And yes I was found and taken to the Fanling Babies home in KowLoon. My exact date of birth and age were unknown. I was very ill when I was found and probably pre-term approximately three days old, maybe less. I was flown over in 1963 at the age of 11 months.  My adoptive parents picked me up from London Airport (now more commonly known as Heathrow).

Deanna: Wow, what a journey. So, with all of that, what have your greatest challenges been, in being an adoptee?

Lucy: My greatest challenge has been my identity. Let me qualify this… I am perfectly happy with who and what I am (or am not). It is society in the UK, and yes, around the world, that has problems. I have (and continue to) experience prejudice and racism from people who think that East Asians should look and behave in a stereotypical manner. I have even experienced "internal" racism from members of my own ethnic and racial group. Because I don't speak Chinese, I am not considered to be a real Chinese person. Too English to be Chinese and too Chinese to English. In the UK in spite of the multicultural and poly ethnic nature of British society East Asians such as myself suffer from prejudice, racism and inequality that no other ethnic minority experiences in the UK. East Asians are a minority even within the minorities. There is a racial pecking order in the UK, which as an East Asian means I find myself continuously at the bottom of the pile. Add that to the fact that I am a transracial adoptee, which further singles me out for bias and prejudicial treatment, usually subconscious, structural and institutional.

Deanna: That is rather overwhelming to think about, yet alone live it as you have, and are. I know there are probably a zillion things you’d like to see changed, but what would you most like to see changed, about adoption?

Lucy: That the root causes for adoption and especially transracial adoption would not exist. However we as a species are incredibly destructive and divisive. Sadly, there will I think for the time being, always be the need to find orphans, foundlings and children who have had to be removed from harm new environments in which to grow up in. I only wish that the need to "export" children from their country of birth was not happening as often as it does. The West and those countries with more wealth could help to reduce this by giving assistance, knowledge and the where with all to help countries build and construct better strategies and solutions to look after their own children. We will see.

Deanna: I so agree with you on that and see the need for what you are saying. So, what are you involved in now? What is your life’s work?

Lucy: Oh dear… where do I start? LOL. I'm finishing the eight draft of an anthology of my own poetry.  I've already been published as a contributor in The Dance is New which is an anthology of new British poets (available from Amazon). I'm putting the finishing touches to a stage play, Conversations With my Unknown Mother, a play about the adoption triad, the nature of family and the relationship between mothers and daughters. Once that is done then the real work starts applying for arts funding and trying to get a venue on board. There is a huge amount of goodwill from within the artistic company especially from my fellow East Asian artists but beyond that it's tough and it's all about funding. So, if there is anyone out there who wants to invest in new writer (i.e. me) please reach out and talk to me.

I've just won a bursary as a writer for an initiate called Re:Play, which is to write and then showcase a solo theatre piece. This will be the second solo theatre show that I have written. The first:  There Are Two Perfectly Good Me's: One dead, The Other Unborn, which took the experience of what it was like to grow up as a transracial adoptee in pre-multicultural 60s UK. The commissioned piece for Re:Play takes peek into the mind of a transracial adoptee whose mind can only cope with the stress and strain of life by splitting itself into two. I want to explore and expose what it is like to be a person of colour, to have mental health issues and to be and adoptee.

I'm also in post production for my independent documentary Abandoned Adopted Here. Fingers crossed  that it will premier at the Chinese Visual Festival in 2015.

I'm also very happy and proud to have been one of the contributing authors to Dear Wonderful You: Letters to Adopted and FosteredYouth --  a book which has been a big hit. I urge you all to buy a copy. It is an amazing anthology from the wonderful people of the AN-YA project and I hope that I get another chance to work with them.

Adoption Therapy is another book to which I am a contributing author.

Adoptee Survival Guide is yet another book that I'm a contributor to that will hopefully will be out later this year.

Deanna: All great resources! What is your greatest passion regarding adoption?

Lucy: As an adoptee I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now if I hadn't been adopted. However having been adopted I've had to contend not only with the loss of everything that makes a person unique and gives them their identity because all that was taken away from me - but it's also made me who I am. It has given me the unique point of view that I have, and it informs and drives the work that I do as a writer, actor and filmmaker.

I want to be able to reach as many people as I can in the UK and indeed beyond to inform them that the reality of adoption is not all happily ever after any more than it is returning adoptees when things don't work out. Adoption is a complex intervention that has consequences that go far beyond the initial adoption. But I'd also like to be able to stay to other adoptees like me that whatever the challenges you can come through you can find balance and peace.

Deanna: Yes. I  say, “Amen!” I am thankful for your insight today and it has been such a joy to introduce you to AR readers. We look forward to hearing much more from you. I so appreciate your insight. Much love to you.

It's heeeeeeeeeere!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Worthy To Be Found - Releases Today!

Entourage Publishing releases Worthy To Be Found, today!! And it wouldn't exist without YOU, my faithful readers. I never take a reader for granted. Bloggers get readers one by one. We earn them. There are no shortcuts. 

I count every reader a friend. There are a plethora of things out there you could be reading and your time and attention is limited. The fact that you read here at all is never, ever lost on me. So, thank you so much.

To get your copy of Worthy to Be Found on Kindle, click here.

To get your copy of Worthy to Be Found in paperback, click here.

To celebrate with me now, just lift your hands and give a shout up in this place, somebody!!!!!!

If you read the story when it published here on the blog, just know there has been a lot of expansion in the book version. There are tons of surprises awaiting for those who have already experienced the story. All that you love is still there, with much more to love.
I'd also be honored if you would leave a review. There are already some there and I'd be tickled pink to see yours there as well. 

The book exists because of the relentless call of the readers of this blog to make it such, as well as the prodding of my dear friend, Laura Dennis. I am grateful for all of you and love you dearly. 

Why Adoption Contributes to My Fearlessness

More times than I can count, I’ve been asked:

Weren't you scared that you'd catch ebola when you went to Africa to preach? (No. It may have had something to do with the fact that ebola is NOT present in most of the continent of Africa. Read this post, please. But I digress...)   

Aren’t you afraid of terrorist attacks? (Plane tickets to Kenya are pretty cheap right now since the terror alert is “severe” as well as the public’s unfounded fear of Ebola in the entire continent of Africa, where it doesn’t exist in most countries. But I already said that. Suffice it to say, many people aren’t traveling because they are afraid of disease or terror. The terror threat is real. Unfortunately this happened just two days after we left.)

Aren’t you afraid of being on planes for that long? I can’t imagine 25-30 hours of travel…and being over the ocean for that long. Whew!

Doesn't speaking in front of groups that large scare you? 

Aren’t you afraid of walking around in the slums?

Aren’t you afraid of crime?

Aren’t you afraid of catching a plethora of diseases in a third world country?

What most people fail to realize is, I began my life by losing EVERYTHING.


Let that sink in.

When you lose everything at the very beginning, and you survive...it has a way of making you brave. I notice that adoptees seem to go one of two ways...they become brave or they give up entirely.

When you lose everything as you begin, it's all uphill from there. Or you quit.

I've made my choice.