Sara Specter Blog

2011 Snowflake Program Made Holidays Brighter for 13 Birth Families

December 29, 2011

By Nada H., Celebrate Adoption Steering Committee Co-Chair and 2011 Snowflake Program Chair

Every year during the holidays, Celebrate Adoption teams up with Adoption Connection to provide gifts for birth families in need. The agency coordinates with the birth families to determine what items they need, including clothes, coats, and small toys. The requests are written on snowflakes, which can be selected and fulfilled by anyone.

Thanks to the generosity of Celebrate Adoption's members and the community, the holiday season was made a little brighter for 13 families (including 36 children). In addition to the many wrapped gifts, cash donations totaling $325 helped purchase gifts, and $325 in gift cards were also donated.

Thanks again to everyone who participated in the 2011 Snowflake Program!


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It feels great to drop by here on your site. Lots of information i have gathered here. Thanks for providing!
Adoption Agency 2:12AM 01/18/12

Panelists share tales of “growing up adopted”

November 09, 2011

By Jennie C., mother by adoption to one daughter

Celebrate Adoption kicked off National Adoption Month 2011 with a panel discussion featuring five adult adoptees. More than 30 participants attended the event held on Sunday, November 6.

To begin the discussion each of the five panelists shared their diverse stories. Sunita and Kiran were adopted from India as children, Teresa and Jay were adopted domestically as infants via closed adoptions, and Alex—also adopted as an infant—grew up in an open domestic adoption. The panelists generously shared their perspectives on adoption in general, as well as their own experiences. The audience joined their laughter and tears during the emotional discussion.

Some of the most memorable points for me were:

  • Hearing Sunita and Kiran talk about the lack of information they have about their birth families, the circumstances that led to their adoptions, and how they’ve each processed the resulting emotions through the years. I was particularly moved by hearing Sunita talk about returning to India as a young teen and visiting the train station where she was found as a child.
  • Listening to Teresa and Jay share their experiences searching for their birth families, and the support they did (or did not) receive from their adoptive families. It was also fascinating to hear about the new connections and relationships they since formed with their birth families.
  • How reaffirming it was, as an adoptive mother in an open adoption, to hear Alex talk about how normal it felt to grow up in an open adoption with on-going, continuous contact with his birth mother.
  • Panelists sharing how important it is for parents within a transracial/transcultural adoption to acknowledge physical differences, explore cultures of origin, and prepare children for the reality of how they will be perceived by the outside world.
  • Seeing what a positive impact adoption has been in the panelists’ lives, despite the grief and loss that accompany it.

The panelists freely shared advice and answered several questions from the audience after telling their stories. The diverse audience included adoptive parents, adoptive grandparents, foster parents, prospective adoptive parents, and family members of the panelists.

Written feedback from the attendees was overwhelmingly positive, with comments including “I love hearing from adult adoptees,” and “We think [the panel] was very informative. Would love to have this [workshop] again in the future with other adoptees.”

Thank you again to our wonderful panelists and their families for sharing their stories with all of us. I’m already looking forward to our next educational event, Celebrate Adoption’s annual transracial/transcultural workshop on Saturday, February 4, 2012, featuring speaker Rhonda M. Roorda, co-author of the Trilogy of Transracial Adoption: In Their Parents' Voices: Reflections on Raising Transracial Adoptees; In Their Own Voices:Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories; and In Their Siblings' Voices: White Non-Adopted Siblings Talk About Their Experiences Being Raised with Black and Biracial Brothers and Sisters.



Tags: adoptee , adoption , adoption support , adoptive family , adoptive father , adoptive mother , adoptive parent , birth father , birth mother , birth parent , birthmother , birthparent , cincinnati , domestic adoption , international adoption , Rhonda Roorda , transcultural adoption , transracial adoption , workshop

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Bill, we'd welcome your Blog entry as a guest post, if you'd like to share your story sometime. Please consider it. THX!
Sara S. 7:13AM 12/09/11
Thank You ladies for being open about adoption to your child it really does make all the difference. The folks that I was placed with were not and it did not end well. Secrecy is the enemy and I commend you both for acting like humans should, bravo. Not many in the past have.
Bill Humphrey 3:33AM 12/09/11

When Birthparents Refer to Themselves as “Mom” and “Dad”

July 21, 2011

By Patty B., Celebrate Adoption’s professional facilitator and mentor

I was recently asked by an adoptive mother how she should handle her daughter’s birthmother referring to herself as “Mom” in correspondence and visits. The child is too young to be aware of roles and labels at this time, but the adoptive mother correctly was concerned about this in the future.

The title of “Mom” and “Dad” holds so much importance to adoptive parents who have longed to have a child for a long time and have gone through so much to finally become a parent. They can’t wait for the day when their children utter those precious words of “mama” and “dada”. But, what about the birthparents? Are they also the mom and dad by virtue of having given birth to the children? Of course, they are. But clearly the roles that each will play in a child’s life is very different. As a result of placement, the birthparents have relinquished their role as the caretaker of the child.

Most adoptive families prefer to have a different label for their children’s birthparents. When talking about them with the child, they usually use the terms birthmother or birthfather, first mother or first father, the person whose belly you grew in, or by their first names. The label of “Mom” and “Dad” is usually associated with the people who provide daily care. Further, the birthparents referring to themselves as mom or dad, can undermine the adoptive parents feeling of entitlement. Entitlement in adoption is defined as having all of the rights, privileges and responsibilities to provide for all aspects of a child’s care. The adoptive parents may feel that the birthparents are not recognizing the adoptive parents as the child’s caregivers.

It is important to have a discussion with your child’s birthparents early in a relationship about the labels you will use in talking with your child about them. You can ask them if they would prefer to be called “birthmom” or “birthdad”, or by their first names or a combination of names and labels. Be sure to assure them that your child will know the special role they play in the child’s life as the people who conceived and gave them life. Assure them you will always tell the child that they were loved by their birthparents (if that is true), and that your family shares with the child positive information about them.

I advised the adoptive mother, and others in this situation, that it is not too late to have this discussion. Send a letter to your child’s birthparents explaining how you discuss adoption in your family, what labels you use for them, and your preference that they too, share the language you have chosen when they correspond or visit with the family. The letter should include your recognition of their importance to the child and your family. If despite this discussion, a birthparent does not follow your wishes, it might be time to seek mediation.

I have also heard adoptive parents express concern that the children will be confused if both the birth and adoptive parents are referred to with the same label. Kids are not confused. They know who cares for them on a daily basis.

As children grow older, they themselves might recognize that they have two “moms” and two “dads”. They might choose to call their birthparents, “mom” or “dad”. Sometimes they are just trying out the labels to see how it feels, but some children choose to use those labels. If it is the child who chooses the label, you will need to decide if you want to tell them that you prefer they refer to their birthparents by name or title. Even if you let them use “mom” and “dad”, you can continue to use the distinction of birthmom or birthdad when you talk about your child’s birthparents.

Tags: adoptee , adoption , adoption support , adoption triad , adoptive family , adoptive father , adoptive mother , adoptive parent , birth father , birth mother , birth parent , birthmother , birthparent , domestic adoption

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Family Matters: Handling “(Adopted)” in Your Family's Genealogy Record

July 19, 2011

The genealogy tree of humanity (E. Haeckel), by

The genealogy tree of humanity (E. Haeckel), by

By Jennie C., mother by adoption to one daughter

From the beginning, our families embraced our plan to adopt. When we adopted our daughter at birth in 2010, our families fell in love with her as much as we did and we have felt nothing but their love and support. E is a part of our family, period.

So, it took me by surprise recently when I received an e-mail that presented my first “adoption family challenge.”

I come from a large extended family and we have a reunion every other summer. Family members maintain an extensive genealogy that is updated prior to the reunion. One of my dad’s cousins e-mailed a reunion reminder to our part of the family and it included our “family update” with births, deaths, and marriages for the past two years, asking us to look it over for any corrections. Since E was born during this period, I quickly opened the file and scanned it to find her name. Everything looked great – name was correct, date of birth was correct – and then I noticed it. Right under her information in parentheses, it said: “(Adopted)”.

It bothered me at first. Not because it is a secret or that we are not proud of it. It is a fact that we adopted E and we love to tell our adoption story. We celebrate that she is a part of our family and has a birth family as well. And the more I thought about it, I seemed to remember from reading the family history years ago, that similar notations had been used for other family members who were adopted. So, I initially decided to let it go.

But then I kept thinking about it over the next few days and it still bothered me. Yes, E came to this family through adoption. But, that didn’t make her any less a part of it. And today families are created in such different ways, why do we need to put a label on it? Shouldn’t she just be included as our daughter and leave it at that?

After a quick sanity check with my husband and my mom to make sure I was not blowing this out of proportion, I composed an e-mail to send to my cousin:

We’re looking forward to the reunion! Thanks for being the coordinator of all the info. I read through the attachment and I would prefer that you remove the “adopted” in parentheses by E’s name. While it’s certainly no secret that E is adopted and is something that we are proud to share, I don’t feel like it is necessary to have in the update and reads more like an “asterisk” to me in terms of her place in this family. In this day and age, children join families through so many different ways – birth, adoption, donor eggs/sperm, surrogacy, through marriage as step-children, etc. – that it doesn’t make sense to me to put labels on them as part of the family.

After re-reading a few times for clarity, I pressed “send” and hoped for the best. I didn’t have to wait long and received this quick reply:

Looking forward to seeing you, too! I'll be glad to remove the word “adopted” from E's entry. I was just following the format of previous entries, trying to be consistent. I do see your point!

Success! I was relieved that the issue had been resolved and hopefully my speaking up will change the way our family handles the genealogy updates going forward. I am excited to attend the family reunion and introduce E to her extended family. We will be there, happy to share our adoption story with anyone who wants to listen, but knowing that our daughter is a part of the family, regardless of how she joined it.

Tags: adoptee , adoption , adoptive family , domestic adoption , family reunion , genealogy

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Well done! Your cousin was just unwittingly carrying on 'what has been done in the past'. With your great explanation, you are able to incorporate adoption in a positive way into your family tree.
Julie E 4:18AM 07/20/11

Kevin Hofmann’s Presentation: Growing Up Black in White—A Brief Synopsis

March 01, 2011

By Nada H., mother by adoption to one daughter

On February 22, 2011, Celebrate Adoption welcomed Kevin Hofmann, author of “Growing Up Black in White,” to present our annual workshop on transracial/transcultural adoption.

Kevin shared his memories and offered his insights into the complexities and challenges of being a biracial (Caucasian/African American), adopted child raised by Caucasian parents. After beginning his presentation by recounting how a white family adopted a biracial infant during the civil rights movement of the 1960s in post-riots Detroit, Kevin kept an audience of 65 completely engaged, sharing both funny and tragic anecdotal stories of his childhood and growth into adulthood.

Kevin’s open and honest demeanor provided attendees with an opportunity to ask pointed and uninhibited questions about race, racism, family and adoption. Also in attendance were Kevin’s wife, two sons, and sister who also shared in the open discussion format, offering their own valuable insights to these challenging issues.

He helped the audience understand what transracially- or transculturally-adopted children might be feeling, but that they may lack the vocabulary—or are reluctant to—articulate those emotions to their adoptive parents. For that reason, Kevin encourages adoptive parents of children of another race or culture to maintain an open, ongoing dialogue about cultural and racial differences.

For me, one of the most thought provoking, “A-ha!” moments came when an attendee asked Kevin why he seemed to connect more with his African American side rather than with his Caucasian side, despite being raised by white parents. His answer was “I didn’t know I had a choice”. He went on to explain that when you are a child of color, society places a color value on you that Caucasian children typically don’t deal with.

Personally, I took three major points away from this workshop:

  • First, don’t tell your child that color doesn’t matter, because it does.
  • Second, don’t let your child feel victimized by racism, but rather be honest with them that it exists and teach them how to deal with it in a way that’s appropriate for their age.
  • Third, parents of biracial children have a responsibility to seek out positive relationships with people and families of that child’s race not only for their child’s benefit, but also for their own.

Overall, Kevin received rave reviews from the workshop’s attendees. Of the 36 completed evaluation forms received after the event, 72% strongly agreed, and 28% agreed, that the educational training increased their understanding of issues for children adopted transculturally/transracially, while 78% strongly agreed, and 12% agreed, that the session was relevant and valuable to their situation.

Comments included “I appreciated Kevin’s openness and candor,” “Kevin pointed out several ideas I never thought about, raising my understanding of upcoming challenges,” and “Great insight into the issues involved in being a transracial family.”

For more information about Kevin Hofmann, or about his book “Growing Up Black in White,” please click here.


Tags: biracial , Kevin Hofmann , transracial adoption , workshop

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