April 7, 2017
Writer: Dale Spaulding
REXBURG, Idaho - As I've learned about adoption, I heard the story of Sarah Roberts, a birth mother who placed her baby for adoption, and Michelle and Jacob, a couple who adopted three small boys. This time, we will peer through the perspective lenses of an adopted child.
Each child can tell you a different story, of how they were adopted, and their formative years. Because of that, I decided to pursue two angles to the child's experience in adoption.
The first will follow the child after an adoption within the first few months of life, and the second will follow a child's adoption and growth after living in a foster home.
We begin the experiences of the child back where we began our journey through adoption, with Sarah Roberts, who was our first guest. She placed a baby for adoption.
Sarah said her birth parents were both 19 when she was born. She also said neither of them were on a path for success, with minimum wage jobs, and an older brother being taken care of by her grandmother.
Sarah explained her older brother was younger than two years old at the time.
"My birth mom told my birth grandma that she was pregnant, she said, 'No, I'm getting old, I'm already taking care of one of your children, it's really hard. You need to get your life together,' and 'you take care of this, I'm not going to raise another baby.'"
It's not uncommon for a birth mother in her teen years to have complications while pregnant, or while giving birth. During her birth, such complications caused Sarah to go blind in one eye, and she was still sick when her mother decided to keep her.
"My birth father, he didn't come from an LDS family. He didn't really come from a Christian family, he didn't have a lot of family-oriented viewpoints on life the way that my birth mother did. And so, he encouraged her to not place me for adoption."
Still, Sarah's birth mother felt she wanted to give Sarah a more stable home life.
"She really felt like I needed a family unit, all of those things in a family unit that she couldn't offer me."
When Sarah says "those things" her mother couldn't provide, she's referring to things like financial stability, and emotional maturity. Sarah said her birth mom decided to use LDS Family Services, which got in touch with her adoptive mom, who had already adopted a child, and had given birth to another.
"They called my mom, and they said, 'We know you've adopted through LDS Services before, you're a nurse, we really like your family, we felt inspired to contact you specifically."
LDS Family Services informed Sarah's mom about her health problems, but she still agreed.
"She said yes, she said, 'we'd love to.'"
Sarah's adoption was closed, meaning she would not have contact with her birth parents after parental rights were signed away. Her parents decided early on to tell her she was adopted, but she was also their daughter.
As I prepared for my interviews with each person who has been a part of adoption, I thought about how some people view adoption as a taboo subject. I've also seen how society's view of adoption has shifted to where it's has become more socially acceptable. Yet, people often fail to understand the serious nature of adoption.
Kris Bennett from the Elevati group spoke with me about his experience marketing for AdoptionLife.org and Adoption.com. He personally works with families seeking to adopt, but has learned how to discuss adoption, without being insensitive.
According to Bennett, negative stigmas still exist in regard to adoption. When I asked him for advice before reaching out to adoptive families or to those who have placed a child for adoption, Bennett said this:
"Most are very willing to talk about it, so long as you're serious about learning. If you really want to know, and if you really want to learn from their experiences, I would suggest asking those people involved. We call them the Adoption Triad, the adoptive parents, the birth parent, and the child who was adopted. If you ask one of them their experience, they'd be more than happy to educate you."
"Like anything else in life, some will have great experiences, some will have bad experiences, and some might not be able to talk about it, because they're still processing."
Children in any family situation come to a point where they begin searching for who they are. As children explore, the idea of identity can be more confusing, and more painful for adopted children. But the common thread in all of the stories we've discussed has been love.
We end the story of adoption with April. April is a well-rounded, spiritual, and confident woman.
She is a faculty member with BYU Pathway Worldwide, and she was adopted.
While she'll always be my mom, for this story, I'll refer to her as April.
April lived in a foster home from the time she was a baby.
"It was before I was one, [because at] one year's old, I was actually in the foster care home. So, it was after birth, but before one year's old."
"It's funny the things you remember from your youth. I don't have clear pictures of everything."
Though her memory of her childhood has faded, there are some memories that remind her of her early home life.
"My 'Nana' was diabetic, and she had to take insulin shots. And back then, they had these little glass vials, and she had needles that were in it, and she kept it in the fridge. And so, I remember opening up the refrigerator door and hearing the clinking sound of those little vials when you open the door."
April also remembers a very special day in her life at that point.
"I had just turned one, and I remember, I had a cake. And there was a coffee table, little table that sat in the front room, and I remember looking at the cake, and they took a picture of me just as I reached in with my hand and ..."
"Fed it into your face!"
"Big piece of cake in my hand, and right to my mouth, it was the [most fun] thing on the planet."
April has a biological brother named Ben, who is two years older than she is. They were both placed in the same foster home.
"They kept us together when they placed us into this foster care home with Urcell and Andy Montgomery. I remember instances where he was there with me, and I was so young. And then there would be times where he was gone, for days."
During that time, April said it wasn't uncommon for families to "court" children in the foster care program.
"Families could come in, and they could look at the children, and kind of like at a shopping mall, if they liked it, they could purchase it."
Initially, families only wanted to adopt a single boy out of the home; they even picked Ben a few times. I asked April her thoughts on why Ben kept coming back.
"I've speculated that it's all about me, and that he did not want to leave his little sister by herself. And even though there were a bunch of other boys in that foster care home, Ben was determined, I think, to stay with me. I've never asked him."
Because Ben was regularly abused by some the older boys in the home, April's theory became much more specific. She explained that most older children in foster care come from unstable backgrounds.
Such children may have come from single parent homes, or homes where abuse, violence, and exposure to substances was common. It didn't make the negative behavior right, but it meant the older boys who had issues had no help in dealing with them. So, they focused their aggression on children who were smaller or younger, like Ben in this case.
After a few years, a couple came to the home who wanted to adopt Ben and April together. They already had a boy of their own, Brent, who was two years older than Ben.
After this couple "courted" Ben and April, they decided to permanently adopt them. By this time, she was between five and six years old, so she didn't remember what they did that day as a "family" that day. However, April can still remember the day she left the foster care system behind.
"I remember being in a big Volkswagen van, and driving away. And I was in the back window looking at the house, and watching Andy and Urcell say goodbye."
April had a good home life, and she was treated well. For all intents and purposes, she was a normal kid. She recalls playing with dirt and mud in the gutters, and getting in late for nightly curfew before the street lights came on. Her parents raised her to know only one thing concerning her adoption: that it had happened, but she was their daughter, and they loved her.
April's teen years were marred by the passing of her father, the man she had known as 'dad,' in a motorcycle accident. Following his passing, April said she was further distressed when her mother remarried.
After struggling with her feelings, in spite of her mother's love, she decided to move to live with her aunt in Chicago, to grieve, and figure out her life. I asked her what she felt about her adopted mother after all of this.
"My mother's my mother. A mom is somebody that cares for you, provides for y ou, guides you. With all of those things, my mom did that. She's my 'adopted mom?' She's my mom! And I don't really know any other way to look at her, but 'she's my mom.' She didn't give birth to me. But she did everything a mother should do."
Because of the example of her mother, adopted or not, April was better prepared to raise children of her own. She knows how to work, she knows how to play, and she knows how to love.
The love of a mother, and of a father, is what can give an adopted child the opportunity to make something of herself.
Going into this project, I didn't expect to feel the emotions that came as I heard the stories behind adoption. April is my mother, and her experiences are a tender part of my history.
I have been surprised to see that each phase of the adoption process is truly about love. And isn't love what family is all about?
Thanks for going through this journey with me. For more information about adoption, visit Adoption.com or AdoptionLife.com. To read and listen to the other parts in this three part series, follow the links below: