Project Search and Reunion [Podcast Episode 20]

Anyone who is involved with the world of adoption knows that adoption has lifelong implications for everyone involved: birth parents, adoptive parents, and, of course, the people who are adopted from one family into another.

Until very recently, adoption was almost always shrouded in secrecy. The link between the birth parent and the adopted person was held in file boxes on the shelves of adoption agencies, paperwork that connected the adopted child to the parent or parents they came from. In order to access that information, adoptees and birth parents had to pay money. Had to know where to start. And had to rely on the cooperation of whomever received their request for information. 

Nowadays, we recognize the importance of transparency in adoption and the benefits of a child knowing about their birth family and even having relationships with them. Most adoptions today are open, with at least some sort of contact between birth and adoptive families, but that leaves thousands of adopted adults with gaping holes in their life stories. In response to this, in 2018, Amara, a foster care and adoption agency in Seattle,  launched Project Search and Reunion, a ground-breaking initiative that aims to audit 3,100 of their own adoption files between the years of 1950 and 2000 to ensure that adoptees and birth families receive the information and support they requested, especially in regard to searching.  

In March, just before the world shut down and we all went into quarantine, I had a chance to hear a presentation about this important work, and in the latest episode of A Fostered Life Podcast, I’m speaking with Rena Konomis, a Washington state court appointed Confidential Intermediary and Project Director of Project and Search and Reunion. Listen as Rena explains the goal of the project and why it matters for everyone involved with the world of adoption.

I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did! 

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Some Thoughts for National Adoption Awareness Month

November is National Adoption Awareness Month (NAAM), “a month set aside to raise awareness about the urgent need for adoptive families for children and youth in foster care.” You can read about the history of NAAM here.

The focus on NAAM is not adoption, per se, but adoption from foster care. There are thousands and thousands of children across our country who, for all sorts of reasons, will never be able to go home to their families of origin. While many of them will age out by choice, and some don’t want to be adoptive, many others desperately want to be part of a family that will be there forever. They want parents who will become grandparents for their kids. They want a home to go to for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They want to be part of a family—they want to be adopted.

Every November, various foster care agencies across the country promote the adoption of children and youth from foster care into permanent, loving families. I’m so grateful for their work. I’m grateful that families are formed in all sorts of ways, and as a foster and adoptive mother, I’m grateful for my kids and the family we are forming together.

That said, it’s important for those of us who are adopting children to keep in mind that, even when adoption is a happy ending, it’s not the end of the story. Adoption—the need for adoption—is rooted in profound sorrow, loss, and pain.

In this video, I share a bit of my heart for the children in my care and the thousands of others who are affected by adoption, including the women and families of origin who were unable to raise their own children. Even when adoption was the “best” option, it’s still an option that carries a lot of loss and pain, and that loss and pain doesn’t go away.

I’m a fan of adoption. As I shared in this video, there is a lot of grace and beauty in adoption. But we must never forget, especially as we promote adoption during NAAM, that there is also a lot of sorrow and pain in adoption, and our kids need us to hold that with them, even as we love and celebrate their place in our families.

Adopted at 20: Podcast Episode 6 (ICYMI)

One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that, while I have a lot to learn from other, more experienced foster parents, mental health professionals, books, etc., the people who have taught me more than anything about how to be a good foster parent or foster caregiver if you prefer is children who are or were in foster care. The kids who have come and gone from our home as well as adults who are former foster youth have taught me more than anyone about what it’s like for kids in foster care and what they need most from those of us who step in to care for them when they are in trauma or transition. One of the things I love about this podcast is that it’s giving me a chance to connect with people like today’s guest—former foster youth who are willing to share from their experiences in order to help foster parents like me do a better job caring for our kids.

Brittney entered foster care when she was 16, but her journey with the department of child services and CPS started way before that—years earlier. Brittney spent most of her childhood bouncing around between friends and family members, going from school to school (or sometimes not going to school at all), experiencing many forms of trauma and violence, before finally entering foster care as a teen. When she did, she landed in a home where her life changed dramatically for the better. As I listened to Brittney, I noticed a theme that comes up over and over when I hear from former foster youth, and that theme is presence. What foster youth need more than anything else when their own parents are unable or unwilling to care for them is a caring adult who is consistently present—someone who is there for them through thick and thin and able to give unconditional love and patient guidance. 

It’s so important for us foster parents to hear from those who have lived through the system. So with that, here’s my conversation with Brittney.

If you’re interested in supporting my work at A Fostered Life, please go my Patreon page, where you can become a patron. Just one dollar a month helps offset the cost of producing these resources and enables me to offer them freely to new and prospective foster parents, and I’m grateful for the support of my patrons.

Thanks for listening and thanks for caring about foster care.