Posted by Deb Shrier
"No one yet has put into words the complexity of being adopted."
-Betty Jean Lifton, author, adoption counselor, lecturer, adopted person
In November 2010, BJ Lifton passed away. I keep her quote as a source of inspiration for my work.
Love is Not Enough
Thirty years ago, parents who were adopting children were told "just take them home and love them." There was no discussion about how the child joined the family, information about birthparents was limited or unknown, and there was minimal attention paid to the adopted child's race, birth culture, or heritage. Can you imagine being a Korean adoptee with Caucasian parents and siblings without discussing racial identity?
In time, interesting things began to happen. As adopted children entered adulthood, they began to speak out – to ask questions about their adoption, to share experiences of being born in one family and raised in another, and to have open discussions around birthparents as well as reasons for relinquishment or placement. Transracially adopted persons began to consider issues regarding race and culture. Adoptive parents were looking for additional information and wanted to learn ways to support their children/family. Birthparents were sharing additional information and professionals were beginning to study the lifelong impact of adoption.
Adoption has been a part of JF&CS for almost 150 years, placing children and providing support to birthparents and adoptive parents. Recognizing the gap in continued services for parents and professionals, JF&CS created Post-Adoption Services to strengthen families.
We have launched this initiative with two special events. On May 2, we co-sponsored a workshop for adoptive parents entitled "Transracial Adoption: What your children want you to know." Fifty-two parents attended the event with guest speaker Amanda Baden, PhD, an associate professor at Montclair State University/NJ and clinical psychologist. Dr. Baden shared her clinical insight from her work with transracial adopted persons and multiracial families. The evening was peppered with a variety of questions from attendees, which focused on racial identification and adoption. Attendees shared that this workshop gave them critical insight to answer questions their child will have during his/her lifetime.
On May 3, we hosted the first annual Post-Adoption Symposium. The topic, "The Impact of Adoption on Your Clinical Practice," drew nearly 100 clinicians from Greater Boston to hear featured guest speakers Joyce Maguire Pavao, CEO/Founder of the Center for Family Connections/Cambridge and Amanda Baden, PhD. Dr. Pavao, who is a nationally and internationally recognized specialist in the field, presented The Family of Adoption Across Generations. Dr. Baden, whose clinical focus is on issues in transracial adoption and the experience of multiracial families, presented Rejecting Colorblindness & Embracing Color Consciousness in Transracial/International Adoption.
Feedback from both events was extremely positive. One attendee, an adoptive parent of an adult child, stated: "The program gave me a whole new way of thinking about my family and interpreting our experience. I was close to tears the entire time as I thought about our adopted daughter and her experiences and challenges, and her own opportunities for seeing things in new ways."
Deb Shrier, LICSW, is director of Post-Adoption Services at Jewish Family & Children's Service. Actively involved in the field of adoption both professionally and personally over the last 20 years, Deb's clinical interests include domestic/international adoption, transracial adoption, parenting issues, and search/reunion with birth parents and adopted persons. She has also provided clinical support to adoptive families on birth country tours that include the Philippines, Romania, Guatemala, and Russia. Deb enjoys writing and has contributed to various adoption related publications as well as the JF&CS blog.