Monday, November 23, 2009

NATIONAL ADOPTION MONTH: It Is How You Say It That Counts!

 In light of the absolutely great teleseminar with Nelson de Witt and Kevin Hofmann, I thought it would be great to address some of the language used in the adoption "world". During our teleseminar, Approaching the Search: Adoptees and Adoptive Parents Speak in which we addressed some of the issues that come up when adoptees want to begin looking for their brith family. One fo the subjects was the language used by both parties. The following is from USA Adoptions and gives some pointers and examples of the language used.


Choosing to use positive adoption language will help end the myth that adoption is second best. By using positive adoption language, you’ll reflect the true nature of adoption, free of stereotypes.
Below are some examples of positive and negative adoption language.
Positive Adoption Language
Negative Adoption Language
Birth parent
Real parents
Birth child
Own child
My child
Adopted child; own child
Make an adoption plan
Give up your child
To parent
To keep
Child placed for adoption
An Unwanted Child
Court Terminated
Child Taken Away
Child with Special Needs
Handicapped Child

Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P. is a Certified Open Adoption Practitioner, an award winning author of 2 adoption books AdoptingOnline.com and Adoption: Your Step-by-Step Guide.  Mardie is also the talk show host of Let's Talk Adoption.com with Mardie Caldwell and the founder of Lifetime Adoption in 1986. She travels and speaks nationwide on adoption topics, family topics, infertility and writing. She has been quoted in and consulted for Parenting and Adoption magazines and has appeared on CNN, CBS, ABC, BBC, NBC, and Fox. Featured in Parade Magazine, Caldwell is an adoptive mother living in Northern California.

NATIONAL ADOPTION MONTH: Aging Out with Music in the Background

 As a former social worker and now adoptive parent the issue of adoption for children in the United States foster care system are dear to my heart. For those who have never met me, adoption is a part of my family. It never occurred to me that I would not adopt, at some point and when I had the opportunity I did. Never did I think about the specific age of the child, but simply my desire to be a parent and provide a loving family for a child.

Working in the field of social work, specifically in child protective services, you see many things. Yes, you see children who are sexually abused by adults and other children. Yes, you will see children who are neglected educationally and emotionally. Yes, you will see children physically abused in ways the majority of society do not believe exist or does not want to think about. It would be asolutely foreign for the average adult working a 9-5 middle clas job to consider the conditions under which many childen live. When they are removed from the environments, it becomes the job of the State to provide for that child. And at the time the parents are deemed unfit, the State now becomes the "parent" and, in fact, needs to prove itself fit.

 Unfortunately, the State, often fails these children. How? In an average home, at the point a child turns eighteen they have many basic skills: washing clothes, handling money, group interaction, maybe some job skills, and basic education. Not so for many children "aging out" of State care. They have been bounced around from home to home, maybe even institution to institution, and made the victim on many cases. When they turn eighteen, the road to normalcy has long sense been covered over with a trail of homes, social workers, failed grades, and broken relationships. Yet, the State says they are prepared to be adults and make in "the World". It is my contention that they are not prepared and the State is not doing a good job of preparing their own children for the World. Here some facts:

  • According to the most current AFCARS Report (Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System Report), 19,509 children aged out of foster care during FY 2002 in the United States.
  • Young adults who stayed in care after 18 were more than twice as likely to be enrolled in a school or training program as those who had been discharged (67% vs. 31%).
  • Young adults who stayed in care after 18, who had a high school diploma or GED, were over three times as likely as those no longer in care to be enrolled in a 2- or 4-year college. (37% vs. 12%).
  • Compared to the 19 year olds still in foster care, those who left the system were more likely to have become pregnant.73
  • A study conducted with 216 emancipated foster youth attending a four-year university found that social support was an important factor in their educational success: nearly 87% had either a friend or family member to ask for help or advice if needed, 80% had contact with their birth family, and 60% still maintained relationships with their foster or kin-care parents.74
With all of the issues involved with teens, concerns about them fitting in, and even behavioral issues they are worthy of homes, families full of love, and committed to providing them with stability not just for a few months, but for life. If you are interested in adoption, please contact your local social services agency through National Child Welfare Gateway. If you are interested in facts about children in foster and out-of-home care, you may read at National Working Group on Foster Care and Education Fact Sheet.
While searching Facebook for groups or pages which address "aging out" I ran into an interesting musical. A musical about "aging out"? It is more than some silly view, but bring the feeling of a teen in care to the forefront with elegance, humor, and a candidness that I have never seen. It highlights the issues with which I have already spoken, but from the view of teens and young adults preparing to be emancipated or "aging out".

AGING OUT is a new rock musical that tells the stories of “the ones nobody wanted” - 18 year olds who are aging out of the foster care system into independent, adult life in one giant, scary leap - unlike “normal” teenagers who get to enter adulthood with baby steps and family supporting them on the way.

We meet 13 of these teenagers as they meet each other, in a one-day “Independent Living Program” class taught by a social worker who starts out trying to teach them the “basics” of checkbooks and resumes but constantly discovers more in her students than she bargained for. 

AGING OUT (book and lyrics by Tara Redepenning and Hillary Rollins, music by Darin Goulet) was developed in 2009 by UC Irvine in conjunction with the Academy for New Musical Theatre (ANMT). The UCI cast just recorded the AGING OUT cast album, which you can listen to right here (and also on Facebook).

Coming soon: video clips from the September 2009 staged reading of the show at UCI.

We also welcome your comments and questions! If you’d like to be on our mailing list, send us an email that says so, on the comments and questions page. Or become a Fan of AGING OUT on Facebook.

If you are a producer, theatre or producing organization interested in supporting the development of AGING OUT, please contact us about opportunities to become involved.

NATIONAL ADOPTION MONTH: Lifelong Issues in Adoption

Lifelong Issues in Adoption

By Deborah N. Silverstein and Sharon Kaplan
Adoption is a lifelong, intergenerational process which unites the triad of birth families, adoptees and adoptive families forever. Adoption, especially of adolescents, can lead to both great joy and tremendous pain. Recognizing the core issues in adoption is one intervention that can assist triad members and professionals working in adoption better to understand each other and the residual effects of the adoption experience.
Adoption triggers seven lifelong or core issues for all triad members, regardless of the circumstances of the adoption or the characteristics of the participants:
  • Loss
  • Rejection
  • Guilt and shame
  • Grief
  • Identity
  • Intimacy
  • Mastery/control

Clearly, the specific experiences of triad members vary, but there is a commonality of affective experiences which persists throughout the individual’s or family’s life cycle development. The recognition of these similarities permits dialogue among triad members and allows those professionals with whom they interface to intervene in proactive as well as curative ways.

The presence of these issues does not indicate, however, that either the individual or the institution of adoption is pathological or pseudopathological. Rather, these are expected issues that evolve logically out of the nature of adoption. Before the recent advent of open and cooperative practices, adoption had been practiced as a win/lose or adversarial process. In such an approach, birth families lose their child in order for the adoptive family to gain a child. The adoptee was transposed from one family to another with time-limited and, at times, short-sighted consideration of the child’s long-term needs. Indeed, the emphasis has been on the needs of the adults – on the needs of the birth family not to parent and on the needs of the adoptive family to parent. The ramifications of this attitude can be seen in the number of difficulties experienced by adoptees and their families over their lifetime.

Many of the issues inherent in the adoption experience converge when the adoptee reaches adolescence. At this time three factors intersect: an acute awareness of the significance of being adopted; a drive toward emancipation; and a biopsychosocial striving toward the development of an integrated identity.

It is not our intent here to question adoption, but rather to challenge some adoption assumptions, specifically, the persistent notion that adoption is not different from other forms of parenting and the accompanying disregard for the pain and struggles inherent in adoption.

However, identifying and integrating these core issues into pre-adoption education, post-placement supervision, and all post-legalized services, including treatment, universalizes and validates triad member’s experiences, decreasing their isolation and feelings of helplessness.


Adoption is created through loss; without loss there would be no adoption. Loss then, is at the hub of the wheel. All birthparents, adoptive parents, and adoptees share in having experienced at least one major, life-altering loss before becoming involved in adoption. In adoption, in order to gain anything, one must first lose – a family, a child, a dream. It is these losses and the way they are accepted and, hopefully, resolved which set the tone for the lifelong process of adoption.

Adoption is a fundamental, life-altering event. It transposes people from one location in the human mosaic into totally new configuration. Adoptive parents, whether through infertility, failed pregnancy, stillbirth, or the death of a child have suffered one of life’s greatest blows prior to adopting. They have lost their dream child. No matter how well resolved the loss of bearing a child appears to be, it continues to affect the adoptive family at a variety of points throughout the family'’ live cycle issues of burgeoning sexuality and impending emancipation may rekindle the loss issue.

Birthparents lose, perhaps forever, the child to whom they are genetically connected. Subsequently, they undergo multiple losses associated with the loss of role, the loss of contact, and perhaps the loss of the other birthparent, which reshape the entire course of their lives.

Adoptees suffer their first loss at the initial separation from the birth family. Awareness of their adopted status is inevitable. Even if the loss is beyond conscious awareness, recognition, or vocabulary, it affects the adoptee on a very profound level. Any subsequent loss, or the perceived threat of separation, becomes more formidable for adoptees than their non-adopted peers.

The losses in adoption and the role they play in all triad members lives have largely been ignored. The grief process in adoption, so necessary for healthy functioning, is further complicated by the fact that there is no end to the losses, no closure to the loss experience. Loss in adoption is not a single occurrence. There is the initial, identifiable loss and innumerable secondary sub-losses. Loss becomes an evolving process, creating a theme of loss in both the individual’s and family’s development. Those losses affect all subsequent development.
Loss is always a part of triad members’ lives. A loss in adoption is never totally forgotten. It remains either in conscious awareness or is pushed into the unconscious, only to be reawakened by later loss. It is crucial for triad members, their significant others, and the professional with whom they interface, to recognize these losses and the effect loss has on their lives.

Birth Parent

Adopted Person

Adoptive Parent

"I don’t know why but I always miss the supervised visits right before we go to court."

"You don’t love me anyway – I’m out of here."

"I know my son George will blow it right before his birthday party again."


Feelings of loss are exacerbated by keen feelings of rejection. One way individuals seek to cope with a loss is to personalize it. Triad members attempt to decipher what they did or did not do that let to the loss. Triad members become sensitive to the slightest hint of rejection, causing them either to avoid situation where they might be rejected in order to validate their earlier negative self-perceptions.

Adoptees seldom are able to view their placement into adoption by the birthparents as anything other than total rejection. Adoptees even at young ages grasp the concept that to be "chosen" means first that one was "un-chosen", reinforcing adoptees’ lowered self-concept. Society promulgates the idea that the "good" adoptee is the one who is not curious and accepts adoption without question. At the other extreme of the continuum is the "bad" adoptee who is constantly questioning, thereby creating feelings of rejection in the adoptive parents.

Birthparents frequently condemn themselves for being irresponsible, as does society. Adoptive parents may inadvertently create fantasies for the adoptee about the birth family which reinforce these feelings of rejection. For example, adoptive parents may block an adolescent adoptee’s interest in searching for birthparents by stating that the birthparents may have married and had other children. The implication is clear that the birthparents would consider contact with the adoptee an unwelcome intrusion.

Adoptive parents may sense that their bodies have rejected them if they are infertile. This impression may lead the infertile couple, for example, to feel betrayed or rejected by God. When they come to adoption, the adoptors, possibly unconsciously, anticipate the birthparents’ rejection and criticism of their parenting. Adoptive parents struggle with issues of entitlement, wondering if perhaps they were never meant to be parents, especially to this child. The adopting family, then, may watch for the adoptee to reject them, interpreting many benign, childish actions as rejection. To avoid that ultimate rejection, some adoptive parents expel or bind adolescent adoptees prior to the accomplishment of appropriate emancipation tasks.

Birth Parent

Adopted Person

Adoptive Parent

"I don’t tell anyone about the child I relinquished – they’d say, ‘how could you give away your own child’ and have nothing to do with me."

"I can’t imagine that no one in all of China wanted me – I must be pretty weird."

"Well, God didn’t like me very much – I could never birth a child."


The sense of deserving such rejection leads triad members to experience tremendous guilt and shame. They commonly believe that there is something intrinsically wrong with them or their deeds that caused the losses to occur. Most triad members have internalized, romantic images of the American family which remain unfulfilled because there is no positive, realistic view of the adoptive family in our society.

For many triad members, the shame of being involved in adoption per se exists passively, often without recognition. The shame of an unplanned pregnancy, or the crisis of infertility, or the shame of having been given up remains unspoken, often as the unconscious motivator.

Adoptees suggest that something about their very being caused the adoption. The self-accusation is intensified by the secrecy often present in past and present adoption practices. These factors combine to lead the adoptee to conclude that the feelings of guilt and shame are indeed valid.

Adoptive parents, when they are diagnosed as infertile, frequently believe that they must have committed a grave sin to have received such a harsh sentence. They are ashamed of themselves, of their defective bodies, of their inability to bear children.

Birthparents feel tremendous guilt and shame for having been intimate and sexual; for the very act of conception, they find themselves guilty.

Birth Parent

Adopted Person

Adoptive Parent

"My mother said I broke her heart when I got pregnant. I’m just no good."

"If I was better my birth parents would have kept me – I guess I cried too much."

"If I were good enough to be a parent, God would have given me a baby."


Every loss in adoption must be grieved. The losses in adoption, however, are difficult to mourn in a society where adoption is seen as a problem-solving event filled with joy. There are no rituals to bury the unborn children; no rites to mark off the loss of role of caretaking parents; no ceremonies for lost dreams or unknown families. Grief washes over triad members' lives, particularly at times of subsequent loss or developmental transitions.

Triad members can be assisted at any point in the adoption experience by learning about and discussing the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (Kubler-Ross 1969).
Adoptees in their youth find it difficult to grieve their losses, although they are in many instances aware of them, even as young children. Youngsters removed from abusive homes are expected to feel only relief and gratitude, not loss and grief. Adults block children’s expressions of pain or attempt to divert them. In addition, due to developmental unfolding of cognitive processes, adoptees do not fully appreciate the total impact of their losses until their adolescence or, for many, until adulthood. This delayed grief may lead to depression or acting out through substance abuse or aggressive behaviors.

Birthparents may undergo an initial, brief, intense period of grief at the time of loss of the child, but are encouraged by well-meaning friends and family to move on in their lives and to believe that their child is better off. The grief, however, does not vanish, and, in fact, it has been reported that birth mothers may deny the experience for up to ten years (Campbell 1979).

Adoptive parents’ grief over the inability to bear children is also blocked by family and friends who encourage the couple to adopt, as if children are interchangeable. The grief of the adoptive parents continues as the child grows up since the adoptee can never fully meet the fantasies and expectations of the adoptive parents.

"As night follows day – grief follows loss."

Birth Parent

Adopted Person

Adoptive Parent

"When I had my second child, I could only think about the one I gave away."

"I feel angry and since I can’t talk about it, I’ll show you by my actions."

"I already told Andy about his adoption – he’s known about it all of his life I can’t understand why he’s acting out now that he’s 12."


Adoption may also threaten triad members’ sense of identity. Triad members often express feelings related to confused identity and identity crises, particularly at times of unrelated loss.

Identity is defined both by what one is and what one is not. In adoption, birthparents are parents and are not. Adoptive parents who were not parents suddenly become parents. Adoptees born into one family, a family probably nameless to them now, lose an identity and then borrow one from the adopting family.

Adoption, for some, precludes a complete or integrated sense of self. Triad members may experience themselves as incomplete, deficient, or unfinished. They state that they lack feelings of well-being, integration, or solidity associated with a fully developed identity.

Adoptees lacking medical, genetic, religious, and historical information are plagued by questions such as Who are they? Why were they born? Were they in fact merely a mistake, not meant to have been born, an accident? This lack of identity may lead adoptees, particularly in adolescent years, to seek out ways to belong in more extreme fashion than many of their non-adopted peers. Adolescent adoptees are overrepresented among those who join sub-cultures, run away, become pregnant, or totally reject their families.

For many couples in our society a sense of identity is tied to procreation. Adoptive parents may lose that sense of generativity, of being tied to the past and future, often created through procreation.

Adoptive parents and birthparents share a common experience of role confusion. They are handicapped by the lack of positive identity associated with being either a birthparent or adoptive parent (Kirk 1964). Neither set of parents can lay full claim to the adoptee and neither can gain distance from any problems that may arise.

"Who the hell am I?"

Birth Parent

Adopted Person

Adoptive Parent

"I’m a parent, but not a real parent – I never know how to answer when people ask, ‘do you have any children?’"

"If I can’t belong anywhere else I can belong to the Crips or the Moonies."

"I cringe when people ask, "Do you have any children of you own?"



The multiple, ongoing losses in adoption, coupled with feelings of rejection, shame, and grief as well as an incomplete sense of self, may impede the development of intimacy for triad members. One maladaptive way to avoid possible reenactment of previous losses is to avoid closeness and commitment.

Adoptive parents report that their adopted children seem to hold back a part of themselves in the relationship. Adoptive mothers indicate, for example, that even as an infant, the adoptee was "not cuddly". Many adoptees as teen state that they truly have never felt close to anyone. Some youngsters declare a lifetime emptiness related to a longing for the birthmother they may have never seen.

Due to these multiple losses for both adoptees and adoptive parents, there may also have been difficulties in early bonding and attachment. For children adopted at older ages, multiple disruptions in attachment and/or abuse may interfere with relationships in the new family (Fahlberg 1979 a, b).

The adoptee’s intimacy issues are particularly evident in relationships with members of the opposite sex and revolve around questions about the adoptee’s conception, biological and genetic concerns, and sexuality.
The adoptive parents’ couple relationship may have been irreparably harmed by the intrusive nature of medical procedures and the scapegoating and blame that may have been part of the diagnosis of infertility. These residual effects may become the hallmark of the later relationship.

Birthparents may come to equate sex, intimacy, and pregnancy with pain leading them to avoid additional loss by shunning intimate relationships. Further, birthparents may question their ability to parent a child successfully. In many instances, the birthparents fear intimacy in relationships with opposite sex partners, family or subsequent children.

Birth Parent

Adopted Person

Adoptive Parent

"It always hurts – but somehow I pick men who will hurt me again."

"The only think I know about my birthparents is they had sex at 14."

"I wonder if I love my son as much as I would if he were born to me?"


Adoption alters the course of one’s life. This shift presents triad members with additional hurdles in their development, and may hinder growth, self-actualization, and the evolution of self-control.

Birthparents, adoptive parents, and adoptees are all forced to give up control. Adoption, for most, is a second choice. Birthparents did not grow up with romantic images of becoming accidentally pregnant or abusing their children and surrendering them for adoption. In contrast, the pregnancy or abuse is a crisis situation whose resolution becomes adoption. In order to solve the predicament, birthparents must surrender not only the child but also their volition, leading to feelings of victimization and powerlessness which may become themes in birthparents’ lives.

Adoptees are keenly aware that they were not party to the decision which let to their adoption. They had no control over the loss of the birth family or the choice of the adoptive family. The adoption proceeded with adults making life-altering choices for them. This unnatural change of course impinges on growth toward self-actualization and self-control. Adolescent adoptees, attempting to master the loss of control they have experienced in adoption, frequently engage in power struggles with adoptive parents and other authority figures. They may lack internalized self-control, leading to a lowered sense of self-responsibility. These patterns, frequently passive/aggressive in nature, may continue into adulthood.

For adoptive parents, the intricacies of the adoption process lead to feelings of helplessness. These feelings sometimes cause adoptive parents to view themselves as powerless, and perhaps not entitled to be parents, leading to laxity in parenting. As an alternative response, some adoptive parents may seek to regain the lost control by becoming overprotective and controlling, leading to rigidity in the parent/adoptee relationship.

Birth Parent

Adopted Person

Adoptive Parent

"It all happened to me – I guess I was just born a victim."

"The most important decision of my life was made without my say – it doesn’t make sense so why don’t you understand that I’m no good at cause and effect thinking."

"I tried everything and still didn’t have a child – so I don’t really feel entitled to ACT like a parent."



The experience of adoption, then can be one of loss, rejection, built/shame, grief, diminished identity, thwarted intimacy, and threats to self-control and to the accomplishment of mastery. These seven core or lifelong issues permeate the lives of triad members regardless of the circumstances of the adoption. Identifying these core issues can assist triad members and professionals in establishing an open dialogue and alleviating some of the pain and isolation which so often characterize adoption. Triad members may need professional assistance in recognizing that they may have become trapped in the negative feelings generated by the adoption experience. Armed with this new awareness, they can choose to catapult themselves into growth and strength.

Triad members may repeatedly do and undo their adoption experiences in their minds and in their vacillating behaviors while striving toward mastery. They will benefit from identifying, exploring and ultimately accepting the role of the seven core issues in their lives.

The following tasks and questions will help triad members and professionals explore the seven core issues in adoption:
  • List the losses, large and small, that you have experienced in adoption.
  • Identify the feelings associated with these losses.
  • What experiences in adoption have led to feelings of rejection?
  • Do you ever see yourself rejecting others before they can reject you? When?
  • What guilt or shame do you feel about adoption? What feelings do you experience when you talk about adoption?
  • Identify your behaviors at each of the five stages of the grief process. Have you accepted your losses?
  • How has adoption impacted your sense of who you are?
This article was can be read along with other information at FAIR - Families Adopting In Response.



While searching the web to see what other people were saying about Suzanne Berghaus I came across the The Transracial Korean Adoptee Nexus blog. The site’s focus is on Korean Adoption and Pan-Asian identity issues it also looked at other adoptee related news. The goal of the site is to “empower transracial adoptees to speak out and speak with each other.”
kadnexus makes a an excellent point in his post about the story.
"Once again I find myself coming back to this idea of identity where transracial adoptees exist within their own space of identity. Just as many are torn between the duality of American/White culture (that they were raised on) and their birth country’s culture, it seems that trying to classify the nuanced situations ofadoptees as either immigrant or refugee is too complex.
We are still considered Asian by appearance, conform to various stereotypes of the already pervasive and systemic virus of over-achievement, yet we also have been raised within middle to affluent White Christian America-raised on many of the same values and logic that most Whites use to manipulate programs such as affirmative action, andracialize people of color. We are inherently taught how to socialize with mainstream white society, communicate with impeccable English, and are given the resources needed to survive. I realize that quite a few of us turned out “ok” but I think it was an interesting analysis that really considers the privileged status from which we come from as Asian American adoptees."
I think he makes a great point. Where do transracial adoptees fit in? While many of of benefit from our up brings at the same time it alienates us from our own people. My comment to him was that to white people I am Hispanic and to Hispanics I’m a gringo/white. Where does that leave me? With out a defined culture perhaps.

His response was that “America is all about pidgeon-holing people into picking sides (similarly for biracial people) we are made to feel as though we HAVE to choose sides to be legimitate individuals” I completely agree with this. Growing up I remember one of my friends of a mix racial background “picked” a side that people thought was wrong. She was given a lot of crap for not acknowledging her “black” heritage.
I guess why question is: Isn’t this what America is all about? What makes America great is that it has become this melting pot of culture. That we have all these different points of view and life experiences. Why should we be made to feel like this is a bad thing?

Kadnexus’ goal is to “empower adoptees to feel this space as their own-I think that our identity is unique.” I think is a great goal since a big part of being a transracial adoptee or biracial individual is picking sides.

Nelson de Witt, was born in El Salvador, adopted by parents in the America, and is often a speaker on the topic of transracial adoptions. He is social entrepreneur, photographer and digital native with a passion for life. Separated from my family in the Salvadorian Civil War, adopted by a family in America, he was reunited with his biological family 10 years ago. He now works to combine business principle with social objectives. Nelson has a blog Ana’s Miracle dedicated to sharing his story of adoption and encouraging open dialogue within adoptive families.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Approaching the Search: Adoptees and Adoptive Parents Speak

 Tuesday, November 17, 2009 from 8:30 PM - 9:30 PM (ET)
Addressing the topic of adoptees searching for their birthparents can be touchy for both the adoptee and their adoptive parents. There are concerns on both sides. This open forum and teleseminar features two adoptees and an adoptive parent. Our intention is to address the sensitive topic of searching for biological parents from both the adoptee and adoptive parent perspective with empathy, understanding, and straight conversation. A few topics that will be addressed:
·         Adoptive parent fears
·         Adoptee fears of addressing parents with the desire to search
·         Terminology used
·         How to prepare for the conversation
·         Process of addressing biological parents as part of the adoptee
·         Non-threatening ways to address biological parentage with adoptees for adoptive parents
If you are considering adopting, have adopted, are an adoptee, or work in the field this is a call you will want to attend. It will provide a level of conversation, perspectives, and tips that will make a difference. Be sure to bring your questions, thoughts, and concerns to this fabulous gathering of speakers willing to share their experiences and advice with you.

Your Speakers

Sample picture
Sidney Gaskins, adopted her son, when he was 3 years old. She is a former social worker, who was able to adopt a child from State foster care. She is no stranger to adoption, there are 4 people adopted in her family which made it easy for her to make the choice to adopt. Sidney is an advocate for adoption, children in foster care, and healthy family relationships. She has chosen to dedicate her blog The Pulse to bringing awareness to the need for adoption and foster care support through a 30 Day Blogathon.

Sample picture
Nelson de Witt, was born in El Salvador, adopted by parents in the America, and is often a speaker on the topic of transracial adoptions. He is social entrepreneur, photographer and digital native with a passion for life. Separated from my family in the Salvadorian Civil War, adopted by a family in America, he was reunited with his biological family 10 years ago. He now works to combine business principle with social objectives. Nelson has a blog Ana’s Miracle dedicated to sharing his story of adoption and encouraging open dialogue within adoptive families.

Sample picture
Kevin Hofmann, is the biracial son, of a white mother and black father. Kevin was immediately placed in a foster home and adopted by a white Lutheran minister, his white wife and their three white children. Rising from these struggles is an inspiring story of a transracial family who grew up in one of the most racially volatile cities in America and survived. Now married with two sons of his own, he hopes to help encourage transracial families by sharing his experiences through humor and naked honesty. You can read more from Kevin at My Mind on Paper, his blog.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

NATIONAL ADOPTION MONTH: Outstanding Leaders Awarded

100 current and former foster youth receive national honor for personal achievement and community service.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – One hundred young people who have been in foster care were named Outstanding Young Leaders of 2009 in celebration of National Foster Care Month. The recipients from all across the U.S. were honored by FosterClub, the national network for youth in foster care, for their leadership, accomplishments, educational achievement, and community service
“Advocating for better policies – and lives – for children and youth in foster care is my passion,” said Wilfredo Soto, a 19 year old Outstanding Young Leader from Connecticut. “As a foster youth, I know what it feels like to be abandoned, stigmatized and traumatized. I am dedicated to creating positive change for children who have experienced what I have.”

Photographs and personal stories of each of the 100 Outstanding Young Leaders can be viewed on the FosterClub website at: www.fosterclub.org. The Young Leaders include:

• 21 year old Kimberly Snodgrass. After shuffling in and out of foster care, Kimberly was adopted at age 16. Although she did not attend school full-time until age 11, Kimberly graduated from high school with honors and is currently a senior at UC-Irvine. She has written two books on her experiences in foster care and has been accepted to Harvard University, where she hopes to receive a Masters degree in Education and work in the non-profit sector helping foster youth. “Look out for Kimberly,” her nominator said. “She WILL be making a difference.”

• 16 year old George White. George entered foster care at age 2 after his father died. Though he has 13 siblings, he has not seen them in many years. A high school junior, George is an aspiring film-maker who has shot and directed videos for Apl.De.Ap of the Black Eyed Peas and for the nonprofit organization Peace4Kids.

• 20 year old Cedric Riley. Cedric spent 7 years in Ohio’s foster care system before being adopted. Cedric has received more than $150,000 in academic scholarships at Ohio State University. He often serves as a motivational speaker and in 2008 Cedric hosted a statewide rally titled “Success Is a Choice.” Cedric says “I’ve dedicated my life to making a difference in the lives of foster youth by providing hope and encouragement through my life story.”

“Despite the hardships and setbacks these Outstanding Young Leaders faced, they have already achieved great success. As importantly, these inspiring young people are committed to making a difference for the children and youth still in foster care,” said Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA), chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Income Security and Family Support Subcommittee which has jurisdiction over the nation’s child welfare system. “They serve as tremendously effective mentors and role models for youth still in foster care and are working hard to improve the foster care system and the lives and futures of the children in its care.” McDermott has been a dedicated advocate for foster children and introduced and championed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act that was signed into law last year and represented the most significant reform in the child welfare system in over a decade.

“What motivates me is knowing that my success is not about me. My success, my story and my hard work will pave the way so that others can have a chance to reach their dreams,” said Keisha Shelton, a Howard University junior and Outstanding Young Leader. “Just because we are in foster care, we shouldn’t get an unfair shot at life...We deserve more.”

Foster care was designed as a temporary solution to remove children from abuse and neglect, but children often languish in foster care before returning to their families, joining new adoptive families or living permanently with relative caregivers. More than 26,000 young people “aged out” of foster care last year without a permanent family to rely upon. Research reveals that many youth who “age out” of foster experience homelessness, unemployment, incarceration or illness – fewer than 3% of youth who age out of foster care graduate from college and nearly 1 in 5 become homeless.

For more information about FosterClub’s Outstanding Young Leaders and to read the bios of the 2009 recipients, visit www.fosterclub.org.

ABOUT FOSTERCLUB: FosterClub is the national network for young people in foster care. FosterClub's mission is to improve life for young people in foster care through a national network that is built for youth and powered by youth. The organization is founded on the principle that young people in and from foster care deserve to be connected, informed, inspired and represented. At the FosterClub Web site, www.fosterclub.org, youth ask questions and get answers. They discover other successful former foster youth, share opinions about their foster care experience, get recognition for overcoming obstacles, and connect with supportive adults.


November is National Adoption Month. Please consider the opportunity to adopt, foster, mentor, or be an advocate for children in foster care. You may also have the desire to provide clothing or supplies to foster children, you can do that through Clothing Our Youth. We collect gift cards and share them with a designated charity which provides supplies, free of charge, to foster parents for the children. Today is the perfect day to donate.

Monday, November 9, 2009


As a child growing up in a broken home, it was extremely hard for me to create and hold onto healthy relationships. Bouncing from parent to parent and town to town made it very difficult to stay in touch with any of the friends that I had in school or any of the families neighboring me. Until I entered foster when I was age 12 I had no idea what a healthy relationship was supposed to look like. I was kidnapped from my mom by my dad at the age of five and was released at the age of seven. In those two years I was put through hell. In my memory of this period, my dad tortured me mentally, physically and emotionally by not allowing me to eat, sleep or use the bathroom. If I was allowed to sleep, I slept on a filthy couch where the dog slept. The “room” they dead bolted me into was a box-filled storage space that had a pair of sliding doors connecting the room next to it. My dad’s girlfriend had drilled holes in the doors so she could spy on me making sure that I did not sit or lay on the floor.

After two years of the torture my dad finally returned me to my mom. When I arrived at my mom’s house she was so excited to see me that she would not let me out of her arms. I was just as excited to see her because I was finally away from the abuse; but after just a few good years with my mom, the abuse started again. She became an alcoholic and a prostitute. She would bring home random men on a nightly basis who would verbally abuse me. When she got drunk she would get mad at me and begin throwing objects such as glass cups, forks, knives and anything else she could get her hands on. Luckily I was able to dodge the objects, but at the age of eleven it was scary. She also had a bad habit of driving under the influence, which caused us to get into multiple car accidents. Due to my mom’s drinking problem she would spend her entire paycheck on alcohol that resulted in us being evicted from our homes and my mom losing her jobs. After losing our last house we moved in with one of my sisters and on my birthday my mom found a trucker and left for California.
Because of the abuse I was put through as a child I was not able to get close to anyone when I entered foster care. I had a lot of issues when it came to trusting anyone that I met in my life and it was especially hard for me to trust men since all I went through with my dad was two years of bad experiences.

I remember a conversation that I had with my foster mom when I entered the home at age 12 and it involved my education. She was well aware of how unstable my educational situation was growing up and she assured me, unless I chose differently, that I would stay in the same high school all four years. I was very excited to hear of this because I had a hard time maintaining relationships because I moved and switched schools so much. But as time went on and my foster mom continuously introduced me to her friends and family I began trusting people again and was able to feel that I wasn’t in danger of losing everything. I never had the ideal family to look up to; simply meaning father, mother and some kids. That all changed when my foster mom had introduced me to one of her friend’s son when I was about 12. Our relationship grew quickly since we were on the same cycling team and since our parents were good friends. We soon became inseparable and I would spend quite a bit of time at each others houses. This is where I began noticing what an ideal family was supposed to look like. I looked up to my best friend’s dad as the man I should role model. My foster mom always reminded me of this as well. Having that role model really helped me mature into the man I am today.

As mentioned before, until I entered foster care I had no idea what a real family was supposed to look like. Entering foster care required me to create my own family. When people that weren’t aware of my situation would ask about my parents it was difficult for me to disclose that I only had a mother. They would then express their curiosity and ask the status of my father and I would then discuss my situation as a foster youth. Creating my family within foster care was surprisingly easy. I quickly became accepting of my situation realizing that where I was in life was where I fit best. I was happy, loved and for once in my life, stable. This was only possible with the support and encouragement that I consistently received from my newfound family. To this day I consider my foster mom as my mom and my best friend’s family has supported me as if I were one of their own. Because of this support it has shaped the values and morals and has heightened my sense of maturity shaping me into the man I am today.

FosterClub All-Star Jeremy Long, age 21, spent 5 years in Colorado’s foster care system. With foster care being new to both Jeremy and his foster mom, they met the challenge together. He is currently a senior at the University of Northern Colorado majoring in communication and enjoys spending time with his dog and in the company of friends in his free time. Jeremy spent last summer participating in FosterClub’s All-Star internship, where he worked to promote awareness, advocate, and provide motivation to his younger peers still coming through the foster care system. FosterClub is the national network for young people in foster care. Read more about Jeremy and other young leaders of FosterClub at www.fosterclub.org.

November is National Adoption Month. Please consider the opportunity to adopt, foster, mentor, or be an advocate for children in foster care. You may also have the desire to provide clothing or supplies to foster children, you can do that through Clothing Our Youth. We collect gift cards and share them with a designated charity which provides supplies, free of charge, to foster parents for the children. Today is the perfect day to donate.


As a child I remember seeing Running Brave, starring Robbie Benson. It is basically the story of the American Indian that overcame adversity to go on to win the 10,000 meter long distance race in the Tokyo Olympics, which is extraordinarily inspiring. Most often, in school, I was used to hearing stories of discrimination between White and Black. This gave me a new perspective on the issue of diversity and discrimination of other peoples. His story is significant in many ways, the discrimination to which he was subjected and that he overcame being torn between two cultures: American Indian and White American. At the age of 13, Billy found himself orphaned.While attending Haskell Institute, which is now known as Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas; he gave up boxing to focus on running. As a former foster child, or as it was put in his day "child in care", I have always found his story extraordinary and inspiring. You never know who you are fostering.

Thank you to FosterClub for their permission to use this article. FosterClub is the national network for young people in foster care and is headquartered in Seaside, Oregon. The organization’s mission is to lead the efforts of young people in and from foster care to become connected, educated, inspired and represented so they can realize their personal potential and contribute to a better life for their peers.

Many consider it the most sensational race ever run in Olympic History. It was the 10,000 meter race at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. No American had ever won the event. And no American was expected to win the event that year. Australia’s Ron Clark who was world famous in the event was favored to win, with second place expected to be taken by a Tunisian runner. Experts felt that any of the runners were capable of third place – there wasn’t a stand-out. The American Olympic Team sponsors had so little faith in Mills that he was initially refused a pair of running shoes because they only had enough shoes for those who were expected to win.

The race started out as predicted. The Australian and the Tunisian broke away from the pack at the beginning of the race and stayed in first and second position for nearly the whole race. For the USA, a Native American Marine named Billy Mills was back in the pack- so far that he looked completely out of contention. Although he was near last, Mills had not given up on himself and was performing as he always did during his years of practice for this event: “The sleek Native American…(was)…running as smoothly as the wind, without effort, in perfect control”.

Suddenly on the last stretch of the final lap, as if he had planned the race just as it was unfolding, Billy Mills stepped up his smooth pace, began to overtake the pack, recovered from a near stumble, closed in on the two leaders, then at the last possible minute, streaked pass them. Unbelievably Mills took the tape! America had won gold in one of the biggest upsets in Olympic History. Billy Mills crossed the finish line with a record setting time of 28 minutes 24.01 seconds.

That day in Tokyo, with Olympic Gold around his neck, Billy Mills became a national hero. In 92 years of Olympic History, no American had ever won the 10,000 meter run.
But his spectacular win did not give a hint of the obstacles Mills had overcome in his life.
Billy Mills was born June 30, 1938. He was born on the reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, desolate, poverty stricken and even today considered the poorest county in the United States. Billy’s mom was one quarter Sioux and died when Mills was seven years old. His dad, who was three quarters Sioux died when Billy was 12.

One of the big problems with this background was that being part Lakota Indian and part Caucasian made Billy “mixed blood” in the Indian community, which was very unacceptable. In the white community being Indian was unacceptable, also. Billy was an outsider and he had no mom or dad to help him deal with the rejection he experienced.

After the loss of both his parents, Mills was sent to a boarding school on the reservation as a child in care then later to another boarding school in Lawrence, Kansas. He took up running as a way to deal with not being accepted. “I would run five or 10 miles on weekends to get away from everybody else. And I cried. I’d be crying while I was running. A half-blood and an orphan – you couldn’t get much lonelier than that”.

The summer after his high school freshman year, Billy worked on the reservation and lived out of his old car. One morning when he awoke, he recalled something his Dad told him: that the only thing between him and success was hard work. Since his Dad’s passing, Billy had been running as therapy for his pain and loneliness. Suddenly the running took on a new dimension.

Billy looked at running in a new light. He began to see that he had talent as a runner and with hard work, his achievements in track could become his ticket to acceptance. By his senior year, he earned a track scholarship to the University of Kansas. At the University, he built a successful athletic career excelling at track and even won some fame as a runner.

During this time Mills made his first attempt at his longtime dream: to be a member of the USA Olympic Team. When he didn’t make the 1960 squad, he was discouraged and he gradually began to let go of his dream to compete in track. He was giving up on his personal life, too. He felt that he was being judged unfairly because he was Native American. He didn’t feel accepted by students and faculty, even with his own classmates and coach. 3 When he returned to the Reservation in the summer, he felt rejected again, accused of taking on the white man’s life. He felt he didn’t fit in anywhere.

Upon graduation from the University of Kansas, Billy married his long time sweetheart and took a commission in the United States Marine Corps. He says: “All my life I felt like I didn’t belong. The Marine Corps said ‘You belong’”. To this day, Mills encourages youth to consider the Marines. “I always mention the Marine corps in my speeches because it had such an influence on my life. The Marine Corps and sports were the only places I felt like I belonged, like I had a home…. The Marine Corps is a tremendous opportunity for anyone who is interested in a challenging career. It’s a great place to learn discipline, dedication, focus, mission accomplishment, honor, and gain career experience. Not to mention the pride one gets from being called a Marine.”

While in the Marines, Mills was not selected at first for the Marine Corps team training for the Olympics. Billy took his case to the commanding officer and after declaring his conviction that he felt he could win the 10,000 meter race, he was assigned to the All-Marine Track Team. Remembering his Dad’s words about hard work, Billy trained by running nearly 100 miles a week.
The rest is history. Billy went on to unbelievably conquer all previous Olympic records and for the first time in history, won the 10,000 meter run for the USA. Reports say that the crowd and his coach and wife were so stunned by his come from behind finish that, in the ensuing emotions, Billy couldn’t run the traditional victory lap.

Where is Billy Mills now? 

Bill Mills is now 71 and still making an impression on the World. He is the National Spokesperson for Running Strong for American Indian Youth®. Along with Nicholas Sparks, Billy co-authored the book Wokini: A Lakota Journey to Happiness and Understanding. The book teaches life lessons about hapiiness through Indian legends. Today Billy travels over 300 days every year. He visits American Indian communities throughout the U.S. and speaks to American Indian youth about healthy lifestyles and taking pride in their heritage. He remains married to his wife, Pat, of 45 years and is the father of 3 children.

November is National Adoption Month. Please consider the opportunity to adopt, foster, mentor, or be an advocate for children in foster care. You may also have the desire to provide clothing or supplies to foster children, you can do that through Clothing Our Youth. We collect gift cards and share them with a designated charity which provides supplies, free of charge, to foster parents for the children. Today is the perfect day to donate.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Friday, November 6, 2009


Raising Katie

What adopting a white girl taught a black family about race in the Obama era.

Mark Riding and his family for biracial adoption story

Courtesy Mark Riding
Mark Riding (left) with his son Niles and adoptive daughter Katie O'Dea-Smith at Disney World. Katie and her baby sister Langston attend a birthday party with Terri Riding (right). 

By Tony Dokoupil | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Apr 23, 2009
Several pairs of eyes follow the girl as she pedals around the playground in an affluent suburb of Baltimore. But it isn't the redheaded fourth grader who seems to have moms and dads of the jungle gym nervous on this recent Saturday morning. It's the African-American man—six feet tall, bearded and wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt—watching the girl's every move. Approaching from behind, he grabs the back of her bicycle seat as she wobbles to a stop. "Nice riding," he says, as the fair-skinned girl turns to him, beaming. "Thanks, Daddy," she replies. The onlookers are clearly flummoxed.

As a black father and adopted white daughter, Mark Riding and Katie O'Dea-Smith are a sight at best surprising, and at worst so perplexing that people feel compelled to respond. Like the time at a Pocono Mountains flea market when Riding scolded Katie, attracting so many sharp glares that he and his wife, Terri, 37, and also African-American, thought "we might be lynched." And the time when well-intentioned shoppers followed Mark and Katie out of the mall to make sure she wasn't being kidnapped. Or when would-be heroes come up to Katie in the cereal aisle and ask, "Are you OK?"—even though Terri is standing right there.

Is it racism? The Ridings tend to think so, and it's hard to blame them. To shadow them for a day, as I recently did, is to feel the unease, notice the negative attention and realize that the same note of fear isn't in the air when they attend to their two biological children, who are 2 and 5 years old. It's fashionable to say that the election of Barack Obama has brought the dawn of a post-racial America. In the past few months alone, The Atlantic Monthly has declared "the end of white America," The Washington Post has profiled the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's struggle for relevance in a changing world, and National Public Radio has led discussions questioning the necessity of the annual Black History Month. Perhaps not surprising, most white and black Americans no longer cite racism as a major social problem, according to recent polls.

But the Ridings' experience runs counter to these popular notions of harmony. And adoption between races is particularly fraught. So-called transracial adoptions have surged since 1994, when the Multiethnic Placement Act reversed decades of outright racial matching by banning discrimination against adoptive families on the basis of race. But the growth has been all one-sided. The number of white families adopting outside their race is growing and is now in the thousands, while cases like Katie's—of a black family adopting a nonblack child—remain frozen at near zero.

Decades after the racial integration of offices, buses and water fountains, persistent double standards mean that African-American parents are still largely viewed with unease as caretakers of any children other than their own—or those they are paid to look after. As Yale historian Matthew Frye Jacobson has asked: "Why is it that in the United States, a white woman can have black children but a black woman cannot have white children?"

That question hit home for the Ridings in 2003, when Terri's mother, Phyllis Smith, agreed to take in Katie, then 3, on a temporary basis. A retired social worker, Phyllis had long been giving needy children a home—and Katie was one of the hardest cases. The child of a local prostitute, her toddler tantrums were so disturbing that foster families simply refused to keep her. Twelve homes later, Katie was still being passed around. Phyllis was in many ways an unlikely savior. The former president of the Baltimore chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers, she joined her colleagues in condemning the adoption of black children by white families as "cultural genocide"—a position she still holds in theory, if not in practice. She couldn't say no to the "charming, energetic" girl who ended up on her front doorstep.

Last November, after a grueling adoption process—"[adoption officials] pushed the envelope on every issue," says Mark—little Irish-Catholic Katie O'Dea, as pale as a communion wafer, became Katie O'Dea-Smith: a formally adopted member of the African-American Riding-Smith family. (Phyllis is her legal guardian, but Mark and Terri were also vetted as legal surrogates for Phyllis.)

To be sure, it's an unconventional arrangement. Katie spends weekdays with Phyllis, her legal guardian. But Mark and Terri, who live around the corner, are her de facto parents, too. They help out during the week, and welcome Katie over on weekends and holidays. As for titles: Katie calls Phyllis "Mommy" and Terri "Sister," since technically it's true. Mark has always been "Daddy" or "Mark."

"Let me just put it out there," says Mark, a 38-year-old private-school admissions director with an appealing blend of megaphone voice and fearless opinion, especially when it comes to his family. "I've never felt more self-consciously black than while holding our little white girl's hand in public." He used to write off the negative attention as innocent curiosity. But after a half-decade of rude comments and revealing faux pas—like the time his school's guidance counselor called Katie a "foster child" in her presence—he now fights the ignorance with a question of his own: why didn't a white family step up to take Katie?
Riding's challenge hints at a persistent social problem. "No country in the world has made more progress toward combating overt racism than [the United States]," says David Schneider, a Rice University psychologist and the author of "The Psychology of Stereotyping." "But the most popular stereotype of black people is still that they're violent. And for a lot of people, not even racist people, the sight of a white child with a black parent just sets off alarm signals."
Part of the reason for the adoptive imbalance comes down to numbers, and the fact that people tend to want children of their own race. African-Americans represent almost one third of the 510,000 children in foster care, so black parents have a relatively high chance of ending up with a same-race child. (Not so for would-be adoptive white parents who prefer the rarest thing of all in the foster-care system: a healthy white baby.) But the dearth of black families with nonblack children also has painful historical roots. Economic hardship and centuries of poisonous belief in the so-called civilizing effects of white culture upon other races have familiarized Americans with the concept of white stewardship of other ethnicities, rather than the reverse.
The result is not only discomfort among whites at the thought of nonwhites raising their offspring; African-Americans can also be wary when one of their own is a parent to a child outside their race. Just ask Dallas Cowboys All-Pro linebacker DeMarcus Ware and his wife, Taniqua, who faced a barrage of criticism after adopting a nonblack baby last February. When The New York Times sports page ran a photo of the shirtless new father with what appeared to be a white baby in his arms (and didn't mention race in the accompanying story), it sent a slow shock wave through the African-American community, pitting supporters who celebrated the couple's joy after three painful miscarriages against critics who branded the Wares "self-race-hating individuals" for ignoring the disproportionate number of blacks in foster care. The baby, now their daughter, Marley, is in fact Hispanic. "Do you mean to tell me that the Wares couldn't have found a little black baby to adopt?" snarled one blogger on the Daily Voice, an online African-American newspaper.
For the relatively few black families that do adopt non-African-American children, and the adoptive children themselves, the experience can be confusing. "I hadn't realized how often we talked about white people at home," says Mark. "I hadn't realized that dinnertime stories were often told with reference to the race of the players, or that I often used racial stereotypes, as in the news only cares about some missing spring-break girl because she is blonde.'"
Katie, too, has sometimes struggled with her unusual situation, and how outsiders perceive it. When she's not drawing, swimming or pining after teen heartthrob Zac Efron, she's often dealing with normal kid teasing with a nasty edge. "They'll ignore me or yell at me because I have a black family," she says. Most of her friends are black, although her school is primarily white. And Terri has noticed something else: Katie is uncomfortable identifying people by their race.
Is she racially confused? Should her parents be worried? Opinions vary in the larger debate about whether race is a legitimate consideration in adoption. At present, agencies that receive public funding are forbidden from taking race into account when screening potential parents. They are also banned from asking parents to reflect on their readiness to deal with race-related issues, or from requiring them to undergo sensitivity training. But a well-meaning policy intended to ensure colorblindness appears to be backfiring. According to a study published last year by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, transracial parents are often ill equipped to raise children who are themselves unprepared for the world's racial realities.
Now lawmakers may rejoin the charged race-adoption debate. Later this year the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent federal think tank, is expected to publish a summary of expert testimony on adoption law—much of which will ask Congress to reinstate race as a salient consideration in all cases. The testimony, from the Evan B. Donaldson institute and others, will also suggest initiatives currently banned or poorly executed under existing policies, including racial training for parents and intensifying efforts to recruit more black adoptive families.
Would such measures be a step back for Obama's post-racial America? It's hard to tell. The Ridings, for their part, are taking Katie's racial training into their own hands. They send her to a mixed-race school, and mixed-race summer camps, celebrate St. Patrick's Day with gusto and buy Irish knickknacks, like a "Kiss Me I'm Irish" T shirt and a mug with Katie's O'Dea family crest emblazoned on it. But they worry it won't be enough. "All else being equal, I think she should be with people who look like her," says Mark. "It's not fair that she's got to grow up feeling different when she's going to feel different anyway. She wears glasses, her voice is a bit squeaky, and on top of that she has to deal with the fact that her mother is 70 and black."
But even if Katie feels different now, the Riding-Smiths have given her both a stable home and a familiarity with two ethnic worlds that will surely serve her well as she grows up in a country that is increasingly blended. And it may be that hers will be the first truly post-racial generation.
© 2009 Newsweek