Search & Reunion: Where to Begin

 

Pamela Slaton

Name: Pamela Slaton
Pamela Slaton is a Genealogist and Private Investigator in the State of New Jersey whose business mainly focuses on locating birth families. She is also a Spence-Chapin adoptee. Her area of expertise lies in having the ability to combine historical records with contemporary data.

 

 

 

Jessica

Name: Jessica Luciere

Jessica Luciere is an international adoptee who decided early in her life that she wanted to search for her birth family. She contacted a private investigator in Colombia when she was 23 years old after going through various avenues in New York, and he was able to find her birth mother with the information she had through her birth papers. Her family was found within a week. Jessica has visited her birth family many times in Colombia and maintains a very open relationship with them.

Mark Lacava

Name: Mark Lacava

Mark Lacava is the Director of Clinical Services in the Modern Family Center at Spence-Chapin. He works with all members of the adoption community and has experience working with individuals embarking on the search and reunion process. He received his Masters of Social Work from Columbia University and a Foundations of Family Therapy Certificate from the Post-Graduate Program at the Ackerman Institute for the Family. He has been a clinician working with children and families for over 20 years.

Adopting a Broader Perspective: Reflections of a Young Adult Adoptee

I found my way back to Spence-Chapin when I was 18-years-old after my birth mother contacted me for the first time. I was a freshman in college and at that time, Spence-Chapin was doing (and continues to do) a lot of outreach to the young adult adoptee community. I have always had an extremely open relationship with my adoptive parents and after much family discussion and processing, we decided it would be a rewarding and interesting experience to participate in a young adult adoptee panel. At this panel, we shared our stories and answered questions for a group of prospective and adoptive parents. It felt empowering to be able to answer questions for parents and it made me aware of how comfortable I was with my own adoption story. It also made me consider the role and decisions of my adoptive parents with a new, broadened perspective.

After speaking on the panel, I met a few of the social workers at Spence-Chapin and decided to switch my college major from International Relations to Sociology. I decided that after graduation I was going to pursue my Master of Social Work. After completing my first year at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, I am now interning at Spence-Chapin for the summer as part of the Outreach Team. My guidance counselors and supervisors, both at my undergraduate alma mater Bucknell and the University of Maryland, have all asked me if I am “sure” about pursuing a career in adoption social work due to my personal connection. I know that I am able to answer “yes” to this question without hesitation or uncertainty because of my relationship with my adoptive parents.

Jenny Rosen blog post 2My adoptive parents have always supported my decisions and been open to my questions about my story. When I was contacted by my birth mother, it was understandably hard for them but they allowed me to take the reins on where I wanted that correspondence and relationship to go. All the while, they reminded me that they were there for me and that they loved me without wanting to be intrusive.

Interning in the Outreach Department and just being a small part of such an amazing organization has allowed me the opportunity to gain a better understanding about parenting and the process adoptive parents undergo. The experience thus far has made me reflect on my relationship with my adoptive parents and solidified this as the direction in which I want to take my social work career. I know that I would not be the person I am today or ready for this chosen career path without the love, acceptance, and support I received from my adoptive parents. (It actually feels weird to label them as my “adoptive” parents because they are really just my parents… no classifier necessary).

If there is any advice I could possibly give to prospective adoptive parents, it would be that open discussion about adoption and constant offerings of support are key components to raising an adopted child. Throughout my life I have had various questions about adoption that my parents may have been caught-off guard by but were always willing to answer. The one question I’ve never had to ask either myself or them is if I was loved. I have always known that answer.

Jenny Rosen is currently an intern in the Adoption Outreach Department at Spence-Chapin. 

Adoption Reunion on Latest Episode of TV Show Glee

On Tuesday, May 25th, millions of viewers tuned in to watch the latest episode of the hit Fox show, Glee.  Perhaps of most interest to those of us in the adoption world was the reunion of Rachel with her birth mother, Shelby.  While such mainstream portrayals can successfully illustrate the expectations, emotional intensity and anxiety that accompany a search and reunion, Glee dismissed the importance of working to forge a relationship after the reunion.

Rachel and Shelby find out that they share many traits, but they also discover all of the things they do not share.  Having been absent from Rachel’s life for 16 years, Shelby realizes that she will never have the sort of anecdotes and memories that Rachel shares with her adoptive fathers.  While Rachel looks to Shelby to be the instant mom she’s always wanted, the two eventually realize that such bonds are forged over time and do not automatically exist through genetics.  The Glee writers can be applauded for bringing to light such an important aspect, but the applause quickly dies as Rachel and Shelby almost instantly decide to maintain a relationship from a distance and the characters part ways with a shared song.

In real life, search and reunions are far more complex than in the magical world of television.  Spence-Chapin’s post-adoption team advises that forming a relationship with a birth relative is never instant but is a process full of ups and downs.  “Reunion relationships are amongst the most complicated, with no road maps or etiquette to guide the process,” says Spence-Chapin post-adoption expert, Ronny Diamond.  Following initial contact, the birth family member and child can go through a “honeymoon” stage.  Afterwards, either the adoptee or the birth parent often pulls back.  In the episode of Glee, this is the stage at which Rachel and Shelby parted.  Future episodes may show whether they continue to work out their differences and issues.  If they do, the relationship can become more settled because expectations will have been discussed and agreement reached in many areas.

Of course, reunion experiences will not be the same for all adoptees and birth parents.  Many factors can have an impact, such as their ages, value differences, lifestyles, economic status, educational levels, religion, etc.  Birth parents who placed in the years before “open adoption” became a common practice do not have shared history with the adoptee.  However, they do have genetic and emotional ties and, with some work, a relationship may be formed.  Such relationships “can be incredibly rewarding or painfully disappointing, so I always recommend clarifying one’s expectations prior to reuniting,” advises Ronny Diamond.