Adult Adoptee Survey Talking Points: Their Perceptions of Benefits of Open Adoption

Heart of the Matter Seminars’ co-owners Julie Drew, BA and Katie Prigel Sharp, LMSW conducted a survey of 218 adult adoptees on the topic of open adoption.  A full report, Adult Adoptees’ Views on Open Adoption, will be released soon.  This short article  provides a brief summary of one of the key topics in the survey, followed by a series of Talking Points meant to spark further thought and discussion.  Results from our survey will be used in our upcoming online course on open adoption entitled.Opening Up About Adoption: What is it and is it right for you? scheduled for release early 2013!

Learn more about the participants here.

Talking Points

  • “Having access to medical information”  was most often reported as “very important”.  With medical advances in genetic testing do you think this will become less important over time?
  • Does an open adoption always guarantee accurate and complete medical information?
  • What does the phrase “knowing where I came from” mean to you?  How is it different than “knowing why I was placed for adoption”?
  • With all the focus on identity and adoption, does it surprise you to see that so many adult adoptees reported it as not a benefit or of little importance?
  • Do you think some of these would have been more important or less important to these individuals when they were children?
  • Do you think there is a connection between identity and self esteem?
  • Consider the how evenly distributed the responses are to “having ongoing contact with birth family members”.  Why do you think there is such a wide range of responses?  Do you think this speaks to the individual nature of open adoptions?
  • Do you think the responses to “knowing who I look like” would be different if we had asked children?  Adoptees who are part of a transracial family?

Having Your Cake and Eating it Too? Continuing in Infertility Treatment While Applying to Adopt

Posted by Dawn – February 23rd, 2010

Sitting as I do with one foot in the infertility world and one foot in the adoption world, a question I hear a lot from people is whether they have to stop infertility treatment before they can apply to adopt.  I suspect adoption agencies and social workers don’t hear this question as much since most people aren’t comfortable asking them this question.  Quite frankly, it is a bit of a sensitive hot topic in adoption circles.

Over the years (Gulp, that sure makes me sound old!), I have talked with many adoption experts and therapists about this question, and there is disagreement about the advisability of continuing to pursue infertility treatment and adoption at the same time.  Those that oppose pursuing both are concerned that on some level (perhaps unconsciously) you will consider adoption second best.  They view continuing treatment as a red flag that you have not come to terms with your infertility losses and may have trouble bonding with your adopted child.  The financial drain of pursuing both may also put undue stress on the family.  Others do not think pursuing infertility treatment and adoption are mutually exclusive and that it is possible to pursue both without lessening your commitment to either.

I have mixed feelings.  While I see it as possible to pursue both in an emotionally healthy way, I also think that it’s harder than most people anticipate.  Infertility treatment is all consuming—emotionally and financially.  As long as you are in treatment, there is still hope, and as long as there is hope, you have not had to come to terms with all the losses that infertility presents.  Infertility is not just the loss of being a parent; it is also the loss of having a genetic connection to your child, the loss of being pregnant, the loss of the opportunity to breastfeed, the loss of seeing the “perfect” mixing of your and your spouse’s genes, and the loss of your dream about how your life would play out.  Adoption only addresses the loss of being a parent, not all the other issues you need to grieve.  It is not until you stop treatment that many of these losses hit you full force.  Before that point, they are just theoretical.  I’m here to tell you that there is a world of difference between a theoretical loss and a real loss.

From my experience, it takes time and commitment after fertility treatment stops to work through the various losses associated with infertility.  It also takes time and commitment to pursue an adoption.  You owe it to yourself to work through your infertility grief, but mostly you owe it to your soon-to-be child to do this work.  You also owe it to yourself and your child to not get pregnant right before or right after she comes home.   In an ideal world every child deserves the limelight alone for a little while.  If you decide to pursue both, seriously consider talking with a therapist who specializes in infertility to make sure you are really ready to whole heartedly parent an adopted child.  No child deserves to be anything but first in his parents’ eyes.

P.S. I strongly recommend the fabulous book Adopting: Sound Choices, Strong Families by Patricia Irwin Johnston. The first part of that book addresses the various losses of infertility and suggests a plan to help you work through your grief and decide if adoption is right for you. I also recommend this Creating a Family show on Transitioning from Infertility Treatment to Adoption.

Read Highlights or Listen/Download.

Joint Council – ACTION REQUEST – Russia

joint-councilAs noted in an email (below) from Natash Shginian, the Russian media is looking for stories of Russian adoptees which will highlight the positive results of living in a safe, permanent and loving family.  If you know of an appropriate family or adoptee please have them contact Laris Mason, Executive Director of International Assistance Group and member of the NCFA Board of Directors.  Larisa can be contacted at

Larisa is hoping to collect pictures, short stories and pertinent facts regarding the child’s and family’s adoption.

Recognizing the urgency of the proposed ban on intercountry adoption, please respond to Larisa by close-of-business on Friday, December 21st.

Thank you for all that you do for the children we serve.

Best Wishes,

Tom DiFilipo


Dear Colleagues:

We all are very concerned by the critical situation in Russia regarding the possible ban of adoptions by American families proposed by the Russian Government.

I believe that using the Voice of the Child is the most important action right now. Governmental officials as well as representatives from the adoption agencies and other Non-Governmental Organizations cannot have the same strength as the voices of the children.

Children have the right to speak out and they will be listened to. We are working with the media in Russia to bring the Voice of the Child loud and clear to the Russian public and to the Russian government.

If you have any families who have adopted children with special needs, or children who were saved and are thriving because of international adoption, please, ask them to provide pictures of their children and a short story (half page) with any important or pertinent facts regarding the child’s medical condition and their past history. They will be published in the Russian media. Please, send the information by Friday to Larisa Mason, the member of the board of directors of NCFA specializing on Russia – We are working together on this very urgent matter. We also plan to have a few spokesmen – the adopted children – who will represent the entire community of other adoptees. They will write letters and everyone can sign. They also will speak through the social media.

JCICS is involved and Tom is working on this matter as well.

This is a way of protesting the proposed legislation and is a hope to stop the Russian Governmental action.

Best Regards,

Natasha Shaginian-Needham, M.D.
Executive Director and Co-Founder
Happy Families International Center, Inc.
Co-Founder of Artist Foundation in Russia Producer

News from Bulgaria

i-love-you2Four Hopscotch families traveled to Bulgaria this month to meet their children through our Waiting Child program.  A total of seven children were matched to these four families.  Two more families are awaiting I-800 approval to complete their adoption.  A very Merry Christmas indeed!

News from Armenia

693086179Congratulations to our Hopscotch family on their successful court hearing for TWO beautiful Armenian children!!!  We are so very happy for all of you!!!!

News from Ghana

Love_tree_Wallpaper_ofdgiVisa Approved!!!  Our Hopscotch family will travel to pick up their son next week, just in time for Christmas!!  Congratulations!!!

Overwhelmed for the Holidays: An Adoptive Parent’s Guide to Navigating the Holidays

Traveling, family gatherings, holiday foods and music are all special parts of celebrating the holidays. But for many children, especially those with sensory sensitivities or who may have only recently come into their adoptive home, the frenzy of the holidays can push them beyond their ability to cope. For parents this can mean many meltdowns and power struggles. This webinar will help adoptive families:

-Understanding your child’s capacity to cope
-Teach your children self-regulation skills
-Find ways to remember their birth family during the holidays

Learn more and register for the webinar here.

Expectations and Realities: Parenting an Adopted Child with Special Needs

Live Webinar

Thursday, January 17, 2013
7:00PM Central
Q&A: 8:00PM

While preparing to adopt your child with special needs you likely read every article and took every class you could. But now that you’re a family, is it different than what you expected? What’s the biggest difference? What are you still working out?

Let us know and then tune in for a webinar Thursday, January 17 as Martha Osborne, founder of, adopted person and adoptive mom discusses your top disconnects between expectations vs. realities of raising a child with special needs. Martha will also discuss how families have handled these differences and resources to help you work through them.

Click Here to send us information on your experiences.

Orphans In Morocco, A Documentary

60a0802b2353101c6182ad601ff9464cOver the last few months a number of stories about the crisis in the orphanages in Morocco were published by international media. There were  also reports on a proclamation by the current Islamist government that seems set to hinder progress – the stopping of foreign adoptions, including Moroccans living abroad. But this is an issue that will not go away until concrete steps are taken to bring Morocco into the modern world where adoption is seen as an act of compassion, not a problem to be eradicated. Assisting this process are activists, some more enlightened politicians and hundreds of thousands of Moroccan women. And now a new film will add weight to the calls for change.

The documentary, BASTARDS, is about illegitimate children and the fathers who abandon them. By following single mothers fighting for justice, the documentary addresses big social issues through small human stories….heart-warming and heart-breaking stories captured in the raw, as Moroccan men and women clash about sex, children, marriage and money. It’s a surprising contemporary documentary that touches anyone who has loved or been betrayed. The filmmaker is Deborah Perkin


In the West, a documentary about single mothers, and children abandoned by their fathers is no big deal, but in Muslim countries, where unmarried sex is illegal, the stakes are incredibly high. This timely film captures stories from the cutting edge of Islam.

Illegitimate children in Morocco are outcasts, non people, bastards … but recent legal reforms give single mothers the right to register their children, either alone, or by persuading the father to recognise the child in court. Registration on the state birth register means access to education and health care, and a respectable position in society. BASTARDS follows single mothers battling for these rights for their children.


The radical Casablanca charity L’Association Solidarite Feminine opened its case files to us, and the Moroccan Ministry of Justice granted unprecedented access to film in the Agadir courts. The production team Deborah Perkin (former BBC Senior Producer) and Nora Fakim (former BBC Morocco Correspondent) lived in a Casablanca slum for two months to be amongst the single mothers they were filming. This is a rare glimpse into a hidden world.

In most Muslim countries a documentary like BASTARDS would be unthinkable….but thanks to brave campaigners and a socially tolerant king, Morocco has led the way in social and legal reforms that help single mothers and their illegitimate children to secure a future.


Rabha El Haymar’s story is the spine of the film. She is a single mother and her daughter is illegitimate because under Morocco’s family law reforms, her traditional marriage as a child bride was not legal. She battles through the courts to legalise the marriage, to register her daughter and to force the father to accept his child. We witness extraordinary scenes.… the courtroom lies of her child’s father, verbal abuse from her child’s grandfather, Rabha’s confrontation with her mother asking why she married her off so young, and finally her triumph in the courts.

Along the way, we also meet larger-than-life Fatiha, tirelessly pressing the father of her child for maintenance, law student Naim, a young man who is distressed about growing up with the shame of illegitimacy, Saida who was rejected by her family and almost gave birth at a police station, and Kultum who is too young to be a mother following her rape, and is struggling with the responsibility.

L’Association Solidarite Feminine’s founder Aicha Chenna has given her working life to supporting single mothers to bring up their children with dignity. Her tireless campaigning has gradually changed social and legal attitudes. In BASTARDS we meet her and her equally feisty female colleagues, the social workers and lawyers who work on the frontline with single mothers.


Sex outside marriage may be illegal in Muslim countries but that doesn’t stop it happening. Inevitably, without sex education, or easy access to contraception or to legal abortion, unwanted illegitimate babies are born. With 6500 babies abandoned every year, Morocco faces a crisis, but instead of taking a punitive approach, it encourages single parents to be reconciled and their children to be legitimised. Radical reforms in 2004 to its family law code, the Moudawana, put Morocco at the forefront of developing human rights for single mothers and their illegitimate children. You can read an English translation of the Moudawana here.


Deborah Perkin explains:  I wouldn’t pretend that I predicted the Arab Spring, but in 2009 I did work out that Morocco was pushing ahead with democratic reforms and that something interesting was happening in Muslim North Africa. It all started with a holiday with my mum. We had a tour of Morocco and found that everywhere we went women wanted to talk to us, take photos with us, ask us what we thought of their country. This was a completely different experience from traveling in the other Muslim countries we had visited, where women were much less visible in the workforce and on the streets. And so began my passion for Morocco and its people, which led to me putting my all into making this documentary.

When I got home I searched the internet and discovered that Morocco had many women’s rights and human rights organizations. They had campaigned for legal reforms which eventually became law in 2004, amending the Family Code, the Moudawana. Child marriages were outlawed with the age of sexual consent for men and women set at 18, polygamy was virtually outlawed, and women’s child custody rights improved. Single mothers could register their children alone, choosing a father’s surname from a state list if the father refused to give the child his name – and once registered, children are entitled to education and healthcare.

I didn’t want to make an issue-based report on legal reform but a moving documentary showing personal stories of women using the new law. Eventually I found Aicha Chenna and L’Association Solidarite Feminine. She and her staff welcomed me in to their radical charity, set up in the face of death threats from conservative Islamists, but working all the time to reintegrate single mothers into society, and make sure their illegitimate children have the best possible start in life. Their work became my obsession. I had to make a documentary with them and the women they support.

Playing Games with Children’s Lives

Posted by Dawn – December 18th, 2012

It all sounds depressingly like a children’s game of tit for tat.

Tit: The US Congress passed a bill which was signed into law last week that imposed sanctions on Russia for human rights violations. The law is the Magnitsky Act, named after the Russian whistle-blowing attorney who uncovered massive governmental fraud and died in prison of suspected abuse.  Specifically the Magnitsky Act imposed travel restrictions and financial sanctions on an unreleased list of Russians suspected to be involved with Magnitsky’s death.

Tat: In what appears to be retaliation for the Magnitsky Act, the Russian Parliament introduced and approved a bill imposing similar restrictions on an unspecified list of US officials. All’s fair in love and war and politics, I suppose, but now Russia is threatening to broaden the bill to include American adoptive parents accused of abusing their children adopted from Russia and the US judges who imposed what the Russians believe to be lenient sentences. In addition, and here’s where it gets “interesting”, the new proposal would ban adoption of Russian children by Americans. Yes, you are correct that the new bilateral adoption treaty between the US and Russia just went into effect; and yes, you would be further correct that this proposal, if enacted, would obliterate that treaty. The bill will receive a second reading this week, and a third reading is planned for later this month, after which it would pass to the upper Parliamentary House.

Double tat: The Russian bill is unofficially named after Dima Yakovlev, the toddler adopted from Russia who died of heat stroke in 2008 after his father left him in a car. The father’s acquittal on involuntary manslaughter charges sparked outrage in Russia.

That’s the problem with tit for tat games—they always escalate. With kids it starts with “you can’t stand next to me in line” and escalates to “you’re not invited to my birthday party” (the 8 year old girl equivalent of the death penalty). With governments the stakes are much higher and the escalation more dangerous.
Adoptions have been controversial in Russia for some time. It is understandable. No country wants to think that it can’t take care of their own. In 2006 I wrote an article for the Christian Science Monitor about US children, primarily African American children, being placed abroad for adoption. The reaction from many was outrage and horror. People Magazine picked up the story and caused a further stir. I get it.

I don’t know enough about the backstory to the Magnitsky Act to have an opinion, but I can at least understand why Russia is upset. Nobody likes a hand-slapping. As President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov said “What did the Americans hope for — did they hope we would just swallow [the Magnitsky Act] ? It causes indignation.”

But my understanding stops when some Russian politician tries to tie adoption into this retaliation. I’m inclined to agree with State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell: “I think it stretches the imagination to see an equal and reciprocal situation here.”

Whether Russian like it or not or admits it or not, they have a problem finding homes for children in state care. Russia also has a problem with the quality of care it is able to provide for these children and a higher than average incidence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which makes exposed children much harder to parent. Stopping international adoptions to the US doesn’t do squat to help these problems. It can only serve to make them worse.

At least some in Russia agree. “The logic is to be ‘an eye for an eye,’ but the logic is incorrect because it could harm our children who cannot find adopters in Russia,” Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov commented on Twitter. The Russian Foreign Minister has stated today that he is not in favor of banning adoptions to the US, which is good news indeed, but the tendency to use adoption as a political football regardless whether they will actually be banned may scare adoptive parents away from considering Russian adoption. The end result is not good for the thousands of Russian children growing up in state care.

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