Category "Adoption"

August 3, 2005

Miss Manners - Making the World Safe for Open Adoption

I started to read Miss Manners' column (link to the Washington Post may require free registration) this morning with some trepidation. The mother of a young man who placed his baby in an open adoption was writing to see what her birth granddaughter should call her when she is old enough to talk.

Fortunately, Miss M's answer was consistent with the fact that the world of open adoption is a part of the larger scene of complex families, in which children often have membership in multiple families and have to figure out and manage complex relationships. She noted, "Your granddaughter could easily acquire an entire club of grandparents..."

Her suggestion seemed wise: figure out names that "work" for her family - perhaps combining the word Grandma or Grandpa with their first name. She also counseled, "...remember that you are dependent on the goodwill of people who are not related to you. Miss Manners strongly advises you to ascertain the consent of the adoptive parents and not preempt the choices of their parents." Sensible advice. Open adoption involves complex relationships, and "goodwill" is the lubrication that makes the system work.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:23 AM | Adoption

Category "Adoption"

December 4, 2005

Adoption and the New American Family

APA Mon Dec05thumb.jpg

The December issue of the APA Monitor, the magazine that goes to all members of the American Psychological Association, is about families, and one of the feature stories, "Adopting a New American Family," is about adoption. Here is the link to the article: . The story quotes both me and Rich Lee (colleague from the Psychology Department at the U). Rich discussed his work on cultural identity issues in adoption. (See his blog entry here.) I talked about one of our MTARP findings, that among adoptive families having contact with birth family members, children from families where the contact was more collaborative tended to be rated higher on emotional adjustment during middle childhood than their peers whose family arrangements were less collaborative.

This special issue is noteworthy for several reasons: a) it talks about families (whereas the psychological lens is more typically focused on individuals); b) it addresses issues of racial and ethnic diversity, and c) it focuses on identity and how it is shaped within families. I was quoted as saying "researchers should be studying how to help children navigate their membership in multiple families and cultures." There's plenty of exciting work to be done. I'm appreciative that the author, Jamie Chamberlin, gave a plug for the Second International Conference on Adoption Research (ICAR2), scheduled for July 17-21, 2006 in Norwich England. The website for the conference is . Abstracts for presentations are due December 19, 2005.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:08 PM | Adoption

Category "Adoption"

Category "Society"

March 11, 2006

Sad Day for Adoption

The headline in today's Star Tribune read, "Boston's Catholic Charities to Halt Adoptions." That, in itself, is sad news because there are so many American children in foster care needing permanent homes and so many adults who want to be loving parents. However, it's doubly sad because the reason that the Boston Archdiocese is discontinuing adoptions is because a Massachusetts state law permits gays and lesbians to adopt, and the Boston Archdiocese does not want to comply. They are willing to scuttle the entire Catholic Charities adoption program rather than allow adoption by same-sex couples. The Church that has traditionally been a champion of social justice has become a champion of discrimination.

The homophobia polarizing the United States is getting way out of hand. The "marriage amendments" now being considered by so many states (including Minnesota) are blatantly discriminatory. The thing that baffles me is that same-sex couples who want to marry want to do so because of ... LOVE. Can there be too much love? What is society to gain by denying couples in love the opportunity to share in the economic and social benefits that accrue to heterosexual couples?

In addition to this social justice issue, there's also the research - what do we know about children who grow up with same-sex parents? My read of this growing literature is that these children are at least as well-adjusted as children who grow up in families with opposite-sex parents. The argument that children need both male and female role models falls apart when one realizes that children don't grow up in a vacuum - they have aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, neighbors - plenty of role models, both male and female. So the Archbishop can't argue from a research standpoint that children adopted by same-sex parents are harmed.

Even Massachusetts' conservative governor Mitt Romney said "This is a sad day for neglected and abandoned children." But he wants to deal with the problem by pursuing an exemption from the state's anti-discrimination law for religious organizations, allowing Catholic Charities to continue its adoption program without having to consider same-sex couples. Even the thought that a church whose social justice stance has typically been "anti-discrimination" would be granted an exemption to discriminate is so ironic, it's painful to think about. It's a sad day, indeed, for adoption - and for our society at large.

Posted by hgroteva at 2:29 PM | Adoption | Society

Category "Adoption"

June 4, 2006

The Power of Pictures

Blogs are typically about the power of words. But today I want to talk about the power of pictures.

On June 2, ABC 20/20 ran a segment on the "Heart Gallery." At one level, it's about photographers taking pictures of kids in foster care who are waiting for permanent adoptive homes. (There are almost 120,000 such children in the U.S. today - many are older, many are children of color, and a number of them hope to be adopted with their siblings.) But the photographers in the Heart Gallery project didn't just take typical school photos of these kids. They donated their time to work with the children to catch them at their very best - to let their personalities shine through. One active little boy was shown suspended in mid air as he jumped on his bed with a huge smile. A beautiful teenage girl is shown in a very pensive mood, portraying her depth of personality and soul. The pictures are spectacular.

When the photos have been displayed in galleries around the country, the number of calls about adopting the kids has jumped many times over. It's wonderful that attention is being drawn to these children in our midst who are dreaming about permanent homes. The photographs are powerful, so watch out! One of the photographers ended up adopting a girl whose portrait she took.

For further information, go to the 20/20 website and search on "Heart Gallery" or click here.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:38 AM | Adoption

Category "Adoption"

Category "Technology"

July 9, 2006

The latest - Google Trends

Nothing will excite Inner Geek more than learning about the latest tech gizmos, gadgets, and techniques. I had the luxury of reading the New York Times cover to cover on Wednesday, as our choir was heading to Chicago to perform Frank Ferko's Psalm Cantata at the meeting of the American Guild of Organists. (It went well, and I've really grown to love the piece. I know the music well enough now that I could let the texts work their magic on me - it's really quite beautiful. But I digress... )

The headline that caught my eye was "The Internet Knows What You'll Do Next" (NYT 7/5/2006, C1). Pretty scary, eh? The article talks about "Google Trends," one of the latest Google offerings.

(To find Google Trends, go to the Google home page (, click on "more," and then click on "google labs" and then "google trends". Or just go here.)

The article's author argues that Google can identify what will be happening in the future on the basis of the searches that people do beforehand. Makes sense, of course. Here's a description from the article: "It allows you to check the relative popularity of any search term, to look at how it has changed over the last couple years and to see the cities where the term is most popular."

The search tool requires that you enter at least 2 terms -- and up to 5. So I searched for the use of geek vs. nerd. Would you believe that the second highest use of "geek" (in the world) is in Minneapolis? We come right after Portland, Oregon. Fancy that. Now I'm hooked.

Next, I paired adoption and foster care. Interestingly, Minneapolis is #3 in the world for mentions of adoption. (I am not surprised.) One of the nifty things that Google Trends does is to identify when spikes of searches have occurred and to link them to news headlines of those days. Here are 4 frequency spikes for "adoption."

a) Tsunami raises interest in adoption (Jan., 2005). Remember the huge rush of calls that came immediately after the tsunami, when people wanted to adopt babies that had been separated from their parents?

b) Nevada bill to make written post-adoption contracts legally enforceable. (Feb 2005) This was a story about the attempt to make written agreements about post adoption contact between birthparents and adoptive parents legally binding. I don't know if it passed. Note to self: look it up!

c) Adopt-a-Pet up for adoption. (Sept. 2005) This was a headline from Victoria, TX about an adopt-a-pet program being ousted from a shopping mall and needing a new home.

d) Adoption Institute Supports Gay Parents" (March 2006) about the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute supporting the right of gay and lesbian persons to adopt.

So it is interesting to see how headlines cause spikes in google searches, and thus how those searches might forecast something about news to come.

I'm eager to play with this a lot more! One sentence in the NYT story read, "And it's totally addictive." I agree - just like its sibling, Google Earth. Here's a picture of 4 generations of the men in my family while I was demonstrating Google Earth to my father just a few weeks ago. He was truly amazed.

Four Generations of Geeks-b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 5:59 AM | Adoption | Technology

Category "Adoption"

Category "Social Science"

Category "Travel"

July 12, 2006

The Excitement Builds....


The excitement is building ... almost 20 of us from the University of Minnesota are heading to Norwich England this weekend for the Second International Conference on Adoption Research. Personally, I'm very excited, for several reasons.

The adoption research community is small and highly specialized. Adoption researchers are found in psychology, social work, family science, public health, psychiatry, pediatrics, sociology, history, and related fields ... but our total numbers are small, and so our regular disciplinary scientific meetings usually only have a handful of adoption researchers. At ICAR2, we'll all be together for a glorious week of stimulating presentations and discussions.

The first ICAR was here in Minneapolis in 1999. Manfred van Dulmen and I co-organized it, with the very dedicated assistance of students and volunteers from our research project. This year's host is Beth Neil, from the School of Social Work and Psychosocial Studies at the University of East Anglia. Beth has gone out of her way to make sure that the conference is scientifically rich and socially enjoyable. She was able to get presenters to submit their papers far enough ahead in order to burn a CD-Rom of all the conference papers, so that people can study them in advance and make plans for conversations they'd like to engage others in. This was quite a coup!

I'm very proud of the 6 graduate students from my project who will be attending and presenting. They have all worked hard and gotten feedback in advance on their papers. The conference should be a good experience for them. I e-mailed Beth today, noting that there's something special about the folks who conduct research in this field. On the whole, it's a very supportive, collaborative, interesting, engaging group. It will be a great week! New blog posts will likely be sporadic or nonexistent until early August.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:00 PM | Adoption | Social Science | Travel

Category "Adoption"

Category "Social Science"

Category "Travel"

July 28, 2006

Adoption Research in Leiden

ICAR2 in Norwich was a wonderful experience - there's a strong consensus to that effect! It was powerful and energizing to have so many adoption researchers in the same place at the same time. There were 10 keynote addresses that provided a broad view of the field and probably about 100 papers or posters that filled out the most current research details. There were almost 20 people from Minnesota in attendance: 6 graduate students, 3 co-investigators and an affiliated post-doc from our MTARP project + several folks from the International Adoption Clinic, several from Rich Lee's project, and more.

Following a weekend on the north Norfolk coast, we made our way to Leiden University to meet with Femmie Juffer and her colleagues. Femmie holds an endowed chair in Adoption Studies, one of the few in the world. The centre's work is of the highest caliber. Here is a link to the centre. One of the centre's services is an online searchable data base of adoption research. You can access it from the navigation bar on the left side of their home page. It is a wonderful resource, especially since the searchable data base from the Donaldson Institute is no longer being kept up.

This scene awaited us just about a block or two into town from the Leiden rail station.

windmill in Leiden-b.jpg

We had two sessions at the Adoption Centre at Leiden University with Femmie and her colleagues. On the second morning, Wendy Tieman presented her research (based on her dissertation) from Wave 3 of Frank Verhulst's longitudinal study of adoption in Rotterdam. We had a wonderfully spirited discussion, facilitated by our open time schedule and a room full of people already knowledgeable about the relevant work. Here's our happy group after lunch: Gretchen Wrobel, Femmie Juffer, Wendy Tieman, Rich Lee, and me.

Gretchen Femmie Wendy Rich Hal-b.jpg

The adoption centre is located in a new university building that is very nicely appointed. On the occasion of the department's 40th anniversary, 40 faculty were each invited to prepare a quilt square to be included on a wall hanging in the foyer. Here are some of the squares; Femmie's is in the first column, third row from the top. You may not be able to make out the detail, but it depicts international adoption between India and the Netherlands.

Leiden U quilt-b.jpg

And what trip to the Netherlands would be complete without Rembrandt? This daunting face stared down at us during an al fresco dinner at the City Hall cafe on our last night here.

Rembrandt face-b.jpg

And one more beautiful sunset canal scene to close our visit.

Leiden bridge - sunset-b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 5:58 AM | Adoption | Social Science | Travel

Category "Adoption"

April 19, 2007


OK - I admit it. I watch Grey's Anatomy. I never thought I'd write about it, but tonight it was revealed that Izzie is a birth mother - she placed her child for adoption 11 years ago. Of course her daughter needs a bone marrow transplant and her adoptive parents found her and begged and Izzie said yes but wanted to meet her daughter who said no but she looked at her anyway and thought her daughter looked just like her and George took care of her but Callie is mad and who will he choose???

Posted by hgroteva at 9:25 PM | Adoption

Category "Adoption"

April 28, 2007

A Story of Tragedy, Loss, Faith, Hope

…that is how the telling of her story began this morning. As part of the Still Present Pasts exhibit, Mrs. Lee, a Korean birthmother, told her story to us speaking through an interpreter. Before the Korean War, she worked in a shirt factory. She was 18 when the Korean War started, so she couldn’t go for advanced schooling. (Girls couldn’t go when people were starving, but boys could.) She was 22 when she married -- for love, rather than by family arrangement. Her husband was a construction manager; they had 4 children - 3 boys and 1 girl. They lost their resources and their livelihood when some of his workers sued him. They had to move in 1971, and her husband died in 1972 (because of shock and stress, she said).

With children ages 14, 9, 6, and 2, she was unable to work outside the home and had no extended family to help. They had disowned her after she married for love rather than by family arrangement. The pastor of her church suggested that she place the 2 year old for adoption so that she could work and support the other 3 children. She reluctantly went to Holt (an adoption agency); within 3 months, an adoptive family in the U.S. was chosen and sent her a letter. They noticed all 4 children in a picture and offered to adopt all 4 siblings.

Mrs. Lee couldn’t think of her life without children. She postponed the baby’s departure for 6 months. The oldest son asked to go to America - the land of promise, the “dream country.? A friend told her: if you send one baby, you will lose contact forever; but if you send all 4 children, perhaps you can have contact and they will come back to you some day. So she decided to send all 4 children.

After they were gone, she saw no hope for living any longer. She tried to commit suicide 4 times and failed. Friends suggested that she remarry, but she refused. If she remarried, her name would be changed to that of her new husband and removed from her family’s registry. Therefore, if her children tried to find her, they wouldn’t be able to. She had no social life or close friends. People asked her how she could enjoy herself, when she had given up her children.

When her daughter was 19, she contacted her mother. “It was the best day in my whole life!? She was persuaded to move to Minnesota in 1992, but it didn’t work out and she moved back to Korea. “Whenever I received a letter, the whole world was mine.? She moved back to Minnesota in 1996. She had hoped to be with all her children, but her oldest son moved to California and started a business. She doesn’t know where he lives now; he doesn’t call her. The other 3 live here and have good relationships with her. She hopes that her oldest son will return some day.

She does know the family who adopted her children. She appreciates the love and support they have given her children. Even though they don’t speak each others’ language, they show their affection through hugs, smiles, and demonstrations of appreciation and affection.

She was asked, “How do your children feel now about your decision (to place them for adoption)?? She said the children tell her not to regret it - they try to comfort her; they say they have had a good life here.

She was asked whether she has become friends with other Korean women who placed babies for adoption. She said she is ashamed; she does not want to share this with other women. She said no Korean woman would place a child for adoption without being in terrible circumstances. It is unspeakable, indescribable. But she decided to tell her story today, in the context of this project about Korea and the Korean War, because she wanted to share the truth about her life.

Thank you, Mrs. Lee, for your courage in talking with us this morning. Every adoption involves compelling stories - stories that involve the strongest emotions that we humans experience. The stories of birth parents are not as frequently told as those of adoptees or adoptive parents. So it was a privilege to hear and learn from this story.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:30 PM | Adoption

Category "Adoption"

October 16, 2007

The Power of Language and Quandaries of Perspective

I’ve just finished two intense days at the Adoption Ethics and Accountability Conference in Washington, sponsored by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and Ethica, among others. Around 300 people connected with adoption in varying ways came together to discuss ethical issues facing adoption today – and there was plenty to discuss. In this post, I’d like to reflect on the use (and power) of language and how disagreements about language often reflect quandaries of perspective.

Language has always been an important topic in the discussion of adoption. Marietta Spencer, one of the pioneers of post-adoption services, wrote years ago about the importance of respectful adoption language and the power of words to hurt those involved in adoption. Several points relating to adoption language were emphasized at the conference.

Thankfully, people have stopped referring to an adopted child’s biological parents as natural parents (as opposed to unnatural?) or real parents (as opposed to unreal?) Given the tension in the adoption community about the process of placing a child for adoption, many are now advocating that the term “birth parent? be reserved for biological parents who have already placed a child for adoption. Some prefer that “birth parent? not be used at all, arguing that “first parent? or “original parent? would be more appropriate. Prior to the child’s birth, the biological parent is an “expectant parent,? because it is not legally possible to relinquish one's parental rights until after the child is born.

This discussion reflects quandaries of perspective. Consider a case in which prospective adoptive parents have met the expectant parents of the child they hope to adopt, and the adoption appears on its way to becoming a reality. In the adopters' minds, the child is on the way to being a member of their family, and the expectant parents are that child’s birth parents. But the birth parents don’t become birth parents until they have legally placed the child for adoption. The distinction expresses respect for the adoption process to take its course and for the right of expectant parents to make their own decisions about placement in a deliberate and considered manner, without coercion, including the coercion of language.

Robin Heller, an adult adoptee with a social work background, drew the audience’s attention to the passive language by which adoptive persons are referred. Adopted persons “were placed,? they “were given up,? they “were relinquished,? and if they are searching for birth relatives, it was because they “were lost.? She advocated for consideration of the adopted person as an autonomous moral agent, not a passive object of “the system.? Some adopted adults at the conference echoed discontent with constantly referring to adoptees as children, because they do grow up, and those at the conference were adults.

Several issues of language emerged at the workshop on assisted reproductive technology (ART). It was noted that “donor conception? (conception by means of the egg or sperm of a person who will not be the social parent of the child) is really not about “donation,? which implies a free contribution. Women and men contributing donor gametes (at least in the United States) typically receive money for their service. The panel pointed out several ways in which ART shares issues with adoption, and several ways in which it does not. One panelist suggested that donor insemination be referred to as “medically assisted adoption,? since the child who will be born is not the biological child of both rearing parents.

His story provided an interesting example of a quandary of perspective. He grew up in a two-parent family with four boys. One of his brothers was adopted, and he knew that his father was not able to have biological children. Because he knew he himself was not adopted, he jumped to the conclusion that he must have been the product of an affair of his mother; it was not until he was 37 that his mother disclosed that he was conceived through donor insemination. This panel also raised the concept of “fertility tourism,? the phenomenon of people from wealthier countries traveling to poorer countries in search of less expensive fertility treatments and/or donor gametes.

Ethical practice in adoption is a moving target and always will be – adoption is inherently embedded in culture and history. Barb Holton, director of the AdoptUSKids project, said to the audience: Today we are sitting here, asking “How could they have done it that way 30 years ago?? She cautioned that 30 years from now, our successors will be asking the same thing about what we did in 2007. Remembering that will keep us humble, but also moving forward and never allowing ourselves to rest on our laurels, thinking the work is complete.

Posted by hgroteva at 4:49 PM | Adoption

Category "Adoption"

December 3, 2007

U.S. to Join the Hague Adoption Convention in December

A message from the U.S. Department of State ....

"The U.S. Department of State, Office of Children's Issues, is pleased to announce that the President signed the U.S. instrument of ratification of the Hague Adoption Convention on November 16. The legal requirements for ratification of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention) have been completed, and the formal deposit of the instrument of ratification will take place on December 12, 2007! The Department will announce the official U.S. effective date—projected to be April 1, 2008—in the Federal Register. The Hague Adoption Convention protects children and their families against the risks of unregulated adoptions abroad and ensures that intercountry adoptions are made in the best interests of children. The Convention also serves to prevent the abduction of, sale of, or traffic in children.

Once the treaty is in force, the new processing requirements for Hague adoption cases will take effect for adoptions between the United States and more than 70 Convention members. The new process protects the rights of children, birth parents, and adoptive parents while promoting transparency, accountability, and ethical practices among adoption service providers.

The progress we have made toward joining this important Convention would not have been possible without the hard work and cooperation of the whole U.S. adoption community, including families, adoption service providers, and public servants who have helped us make our laws and regulations among the best in the world. The dedication of the adoption community to the improvement of intercountry adoption practices has been invaluable and is greatly appreciated. We can all be proud this December when Assistant Secretary Maura Harty deposits the U.S. instrument of ratification at The Hague. Congratulations to all who have helped make this possible!

For more information on intercountry adoptions and the Hague Adoption Convention, please visit the Intercountry Adoption page of the Department of State website:

Posted by hgroteva at 10:48 PM | Adoption