December 15, 2014

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.)

December 8, 2014

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.

December 1, 2014

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. 

November 24, 2014

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 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.

November 19, 2014

Should We WAIT To Tell People We're Adopted?
(The Case for Starting at the Beginning)

Before you think I’ve lost my ever livin’ mind, let me explain.

I’ve spent the last fifteen days in Africa, sharing my story, everywhere.  Thousands of people – women, men and children – have sat with rapt attention and heard where I’ve come from, where I’m going, and what God has done in my life.

When I begin sharing my story I usually say that my mother was pregnant with me in the 1960’s. As  a result of the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy and my birth, my mother became homeless and jobless.  She had to go far away to have me in secret. Then I was separated from her, my sister and brother… for the next 27 years.

As I share this, it never fails…

People start crying.

Some bury their faces in their hands or Kleenex and weep.

They shake their heads in disbelief.

From major cities in  the USA to remote African villages, they sit in shock, and they cry.

Eventually I get to the part in the story where I am adopted. 
I also share about the breakdown of my adoptive family.
There is more weeping. 

The audience is typically spellbound as I share my story, and not a pin drop can be heard except some people sniffling or blowing their nose. 

Do I want them to feel the loss just to feel it, or weep for weeping’s sake? No, there’s a reason I share, and it’s not just to affect people whereby they weep. People immediately identify with loss, pain and grief. After I share my story and how God has helped me to not only survive but thrive, many people respond. They want to survive and thrive too, despite all the obstacles in their lives.

They come forward for prayer for the dysfunction in their family, serious illnesses, death of someone close to them, among many other things. God never fails to meet us at the altars.

But…there’s a very different reaction if I simply begin my talk or my sermon by saying, “Good evening everyone. I’m Deanna, and I’m adopted.”

When I do that, the entire place typically erupts with thunderous applause.

“Adoption” is a trigger word to most of the world, and not in the way that it is to millions of us adoptees.

Adoption is a code to 99% of the world. 
To them it means: panacea.

And if you START with the word adoption, you will never get most people to understand the loss that is behind your adoption.

They are too busy celebrating to realize the loss you had to incur in order to be adopted. 

So I’ve stopped introducing myself whether one-on-one or before an audience by starting with the adoption. I start with loss, separation, pain, grief…and then they begin to understand.

Some of them still clap when I get to the point in my story where I say, "And then...I was adopted." But it's a much smaller amount of the crowd, and sometimes it's a slow, tentative clap. Most of the time, they are still sitting there in shock over the loss that I just shared with them, prior. 

So the thought I had this week after sharing my story again and again the past fifteen days and seeing this reaction is this...

Let's not start our stories with adoption.
Because our lives didn't start with adoption.
We are adopted.
But all of us who are adopted have a story way before that.

Even those who were relinquished at birth spent nine whole months with their mother.  

One day we might be able to start with the word “adoption” and have the world understand what adoption cost us personally, before they start clapping. But for now, we might want to change our strategy from beginning the conversation with our adoption and start with our relinquishment. Because that’s exactly how it happened. 

November 12, 2014

This is Happening December 1st!
Cover Sneak Peek!!

Worthy To Be Found is releasing December 1, and will be available on Kindle and paperback! Last week I released an early peek of the cover to the Adoptee Restoration newsletter subscribers as well as as exclusive online peek to the AR newsletter readers of the back cover. (If you want to subscribe to the free newsletter and get exclusive updates, go to the right hand sidebar of this blog to sign up.)

Once again I want to thank all of you for your overwhelming response to the story when it initially posted here on the blog. Were it not for that, the book wouldn't exist. And, of course I want to thank Entourage Publishing for wanting to publish the story. Without either of these factors, this book wouldn't be reality. As most of you know, when I wrote the story I was broken and just pouring my heart out. I never dreamed that so many would respond.

We are hoping for a huge day on December 1, so that the message contained in Worthy to Be Found will reach many. Most of you who read the blog have already read the story. So you might wonder, "Why do I want to purchase the book if I've already read the story?" I thought you may feel that way, and to be honest it was part of my reluctance to take the story down off the blog and make it a book, when I was approached about doing so, by Entourage. What I decided to do was give you the book just as it was on the blog BUT, expand it greatly. So, expect the same story you loved here at AR, just greatly expanded. I go into greater detail on some things readers were wondering about. I learned a lot from your feedback of the initial story.

The book covers the 14-day story that was posted here, as well as an expansion in many ways. And, it will be followed in 2015 by a sequel, also published by Entourage, that will be the story of how I moved forward. The goal will be to share with others my experience in recovery, in hope that it will resonate with others and assist in their healing process.

I'd also like to thank Linda Boulager at Tell Tale Book Designs, for creating a cover that brought me to happy tears. She incorporated roses (which play a very important part in my life story) as well as many other elements on both the front and back cover that are really symbolic.

I never lose the wonder that people read here, and count all of you friends. I pray for all of you often, and love you much. xo

November 10, 2014

Adoption Therapy: An Interview About the Latest Hot Release from Laura Dennis

The incomparable Laura Dennis has a hot new book release, and it's my fervent hope that the whole world hears about this book, because there's a great need. The message contained therein will save lives. It's THAT important!! Today, I'm interviewing Laura about Adoption Therapy: Perspectives from Clients and Clinicians on Processing and Healing Post-Adoption Issues. The book is available on Kindle and paperback. And, I had the incredible honor of writing the afterword for the book. Let's get started!


Deanna: What led you to the decision to publish this anthology? 

Laura: The idea came from someone close to me saying something to the effect of: Babies who are taken from their mothers don’t experience trauma! There is no trauma in adoption!  If I had a nickel for every time someone said this to an adoptee, I could afford an expensive lobbying firm get adoptees OBC access in every darn state.

The “no trauma in adoption” line is so common. I knew I could argue a good case, but felt at a loss to provide “proof,” so-to-speak. I wanted a book that adoptees could use, flipping to a chapter or a quote—replete with all of its references and examples and professional opinions—and saying to say to someone: This! This is what happened to me, and it happens to others! We’re not making this stuff up!

Deanna: Was it easy to find people to contribute?

Laura: After having published Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age, An Anthology, many had seen the work that was being done by Entourage Publishing and myself. So, adoptees and therapists were enthusiastic about getting involved.

The adoptees I know—especially those who have emerged from the adoption fog, are incredibly self-reflective about their adoption experience. We’ve accepted that adoption is not processed in a one-time awakening (as much as we may desire for it to be that way); rather over the course of a lifetime.

I’ve always been interested in the psychological aspects of adoption, so in my adoption activism, I’ve connected with many mental health professionals who have a special interest in post-adoption issues. Honestly (horrifyingly?), experience with post-adoption issues is a very under-studied aspect of modern clinical psychology. Contributor Brooke Randolph, LMHC wrote

It is no wonder that so many therapists are making mistakes when trying to work with those who have been impacted by adoption. Most clinicians were never provided even a basic introduction to adoption, let alone an explanation or analysis of the complexities adoption entails. Sixty-five percent of clinical psychologists surveyed were unable to recall any courses addressing adoption in graduate school, which is better than the eighty-six percent who could not recall any courses addressing adoption in their undergraduate coursework, either (Javier, et al., 2006).

When asked how much time they spend discussing adoption in doctoral-level clinical programs, professors reported an average of 7.95 minutes per semester on adoption, yet they reported spending 22.17 minutes on the rare dissociative identity disorder, and 76.82 minutes for schizophrenia (Sass, et al., 2000). I have never seen a case of dissociative identity disorder, but foster care and adoption was something I dealt with at least weekly during my masters-level internship.  

So there you go. Post-adoption issues are severely under-taught at all levels of education. Adoption Therapy is meant to fill in the gaps, to be a resource not only for adoptees, but for colleges and universities.

Deanna: What was your goal for the book? 

Laura: I had a very clear goal; I wanted adoptees to be able to walk into a potential therapist’s office, flip to a particular chapter, and state: This. I need help with this. Are you qualified?

I wanted the words of other adoptees and the perspectives of mental health professionals to provide examples and resources and (for lack of a better word) proof of what an adoptee might be experiencing. Granted, the specifics of our post-adoption issues play themselves out in varying ways, but the emotions felt are so similar it can be wonderfully validating to have a resource such as this book. The chapters tell us, Oh, maybe I’m not crazy after all; it’s just this unprocessed post-adoption issue that needs unpacking.

Deanna: How has the initial response been to the book?

Laura: Well, sales-wise I’m very pleased. I still would like to see more reviews on Amazon, to bolster the sense that this book is in fact vital for adoptees and the therapists tasked with helping them … but the book is very dense. I think it’s still early, and it’s taking time for people to read and process.

To that end … in an effort to bolster the reviews … we are giving away a free e-book of Adoption Reunion or Adopted Reality to anyone who writes a review of Adoption Therapy on Amazon. (Readers can simply email me the link to their review:

Deanna: Has anyone been surprised by the very title, "Adoption Therapy"? 

As in wondering, Why would anyone need therapy for adoption? Adoption is beautiful and there’s nothing sad or upsetting about it!
I can see how many who are in the fog (adoptive parents included) would be liable to say this, but I think that they wouldn’t even think to research or Google such a thing. It’s only when we begin to emerge, and we think, Man, I could really use some help with this … that I believe people would look for a book on such a topic. At that time it would likely make sense to them why such a book is needed.

Deanna: Why do you think a book like Adoption Therapy is so needed?

Laura: Of course, we do have The Primal Wound (N. Verrier), Journey of the Adopted Self (B.J. Lifton) and many, many more, but I wanted a resource for adoptees to be able to pinpoint how specific aspects of adoption loss and trauma played out in different ways. Because clearly, not every adoptee is traumatized by their adoption; just as not every soldier who experiences combat comes home with PTSD.

With post-adoption issues, there’s the notion of degree—some adoptees are affected more deeply (others simply bury it better, perhaps for a lifetime). There’s also the aspect of how adoption trauma is identified in our [many times maladaptive] behaviors. I’m not saying that all adoptees are damaged, either. The point of this book is to show that it’s the adoption and its attendant losses that are at the core; there is not anything inherently wrong or crazy about adoptee. … Not every adoptee becomes codependent; but many do struggle with codependence in his or her personal relationships. Not every transracial adoptee tries to change and mold his or her physical appearance to match that of the adoptive parents; but many do.

We need a book like Adoption Therapy to tease out all of these diverse ways that adoption affects our lives. Reading about the transracial adoptee (TRA) experience (even though I’m domestically adopted and White), was absolutely fascinating. Seeing how Lucy Chau Lai-Tuen (TRA from Hong Kong, adopted in the UK) and Mila Konomos (TRA from Korea, adopted in the US) used painful and destructive ways to modify their appearance—and how they could tie those behaviors directly back to their adoptedness—helped me understand and process further my own body image issues.

For example, Konomos makes the argument that her starving herself was more about control than anything else. She says in Adoption Therapy

The primary realization that has helped me to overcome my anorexia and to cope with my adoption over the years is learning to accept that I will never be in control—that control is ultimately an illusion. Even of those things that I think I can steer or command, I cannot, because life is just too wild, unpredictable and adventurous to submit to control.
But as it pertains to my adoption, I have most importantly had to learn to accept that there is nothing I can ever do to make it right. There is no amount of work or control that I can attempt that will ever bring me complete resolution or closure. This is the only way that I have found peace—to accept that I will never find complete peace over my relinquishment and adoption. 

These are tough words to read, indeed. Especially for adoptive parents who might want to “fix” their adoptee, or who simply want their adoptee to be happy and at peace. But I find comfort in her words. Recognizing that we don’t have to come to a place of peace and acceptance takes some of the pressure off. It’s okay to not be okay with our adoptedness.

There are so many lessons held within Adoption Therapy, but there are so many more still to be explored. This is why I’m now accepting abstracts for (working title) Adoption Therapy 2. We need the voices of first moms (and first family members), men, more transracial adoptees, and other diverse populations to fill-out the wide range of the adoptee experience. Anyone who wants to contribute can email me at

Thanks so much, Deanna, for interviewing me about Adoption Therapy. Your words of wisdom as someone who has been through complex trauma and grief—and lives as a restored and loving person—are right on point. In the Afterword your wrote, your advice is so helpful and healing, exactly what is needed to close the book. You remind readers—including adoptees and those who love them, and those therapists tasked with helping them heal—that we can live as whole human beings, and still be adopted.

Deanna: Thank you, Laura. It was my honor to be involved in this project. I wholeheartedly believe in it, and in you!