Monday, December 27, 2010

Moms Living Clean Documentary

Filmmaker Sheila Ganz is putting together a documentary about mothers trying to get clean from substance abuse in order to keep their kids--specifically at a rehab facility called Center Point Inc in California that support recovery while providing childcare (so the women don't have to be separated from their kids as they recover--a stressor which no doubt would make recovery even harder and is always tough on kids.) I saw a portion of the film at a conference last year--it's quite moving. Ganz notes that we need more programs like Center Point so that children of women trying to get clean don't get automatically placed into foster care. Ganz still needs funds in order to complete the film--please help support! Here's the Web site with more info on how to help.

Moms Living Clean - trailer from Sheila Ganz on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas and Donor Clinic Kids

Kids conceived via anonymous sperm donation were the subject of a study earlier this year by the Institute for American Values cited in this New York Times opinion article. The study found that donor kids had much of what we call "genealogical bewilderment" that adopted kids have, even worse, as well as other issues about accidentally marrying a sibling and concerns over the way they were brought into the world. I find it hard to believe that generally their reactions are more severe than adopted kids', as often they at least know one of their biological parents, right?

Confession: That little conservative twitch within me finds the whole donor thing a little weird and colonizer-like, and maybe unfair--to deliberately force parental anonymity. But I'm embarrassingly unknowledgeable on the donor subject and am reluctant to say much about it until I find out more and--even better--talk to a donor-conceived person in real life. Anyone have suggestions for books to read? I've only come across a few books meant for toddlers or YAs.

A donor conceived person's comment on a support group forum:
"I want to find [my father],'s just hard. The ***** banks don't see my situation as equivalent to an adoption, or a bum, runaway dad. This man gave me my life; he's a part of me, whether he intended for that to happen or not. Humans are not machines; we are emotional, we are needy, we have desires and curiosity. There's a veil over so much of who I am. How could he--and the bank--think nothing would come from all of this?"

With the holidays coming up, I'm pondering the conception of that famous guy Jesus. Christians believe his was a sort of anonymous father; Mary's hymen was still intact at his birth. Parentage was so important at that time--what tribe you descended from, etc. Surely Mary fed him the "you are special" line that all adoptees get. No doubt kids on the playground gave him heck about his shady origins. And saying that God was his father? Classic adoptee fantasizing. (My bio father was Michael Jordan or Tupac for a long time, and my mother Marilyn Monroe.) Maybe he always knew that God was his father and had no issue or struggle with not knowing the face of a human father whose blood formed his genes. Perhaps it shouldn't be such a shock that Jesus rejected familial--bio or no--ties as an adult, in favor of a worldview in which God is our "father" and everyone is family in the Spirit. 

When you don't know your roots, it's hard. And there are moments when you really do see everyone as potential family. At least I did. But we're not all Jesus. Our lives--no matter how we're conceived--are better when we have the chance to know our roots.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Biological Fathers

In conversations about adoption we don't hear enough from biological fathers. It's true that the responsibility for a pregnancy lies more with the mother in a physical sense (she has to carry the child in her body!), but I don't necessarily agree with the viewpoint that pregnancy is a something a woman has a "right" to control totally. I don't want to parse words or gray areas here--I realize the issue is complex and varies case by case. My point is that I wish we as a society--in cases of adoption specifically--would give men more of a say.

Of course, I'm biased. My adoption agency did not contact my biological father for his permission for my relinquishment like they were supposed to back in 1981. And so he never knew about me. One of my cousins told me shortly after our reunion that it's a shame, because the family might have wanted to keep me. Several of my cousins grew up together like siblings as their parents shared caretaker responsibilities. Apparently my father used to pretend that his niece was his daughter when they were in public because they look alike and he'd always wanted a daughter.

Ok, I didn't mean for this to turn into my memoir. Originally I wanted to highlight this case in Ohio in which a bio father asserted his parental rights after the mother had relinquished his son to an adoptive family. The adoption agency did not follow the rules of gaining paternal consent. Once the man discovered he was the father, he spent nearly 3 years fighting to gain custody of his son. In September the court ruled that the son be granted to his bio father. The adopters initially defied the order to return him, the supreme court granted the temporary stay, then a few weeks ago the courts again ruled that the boy be given to his father. 

What angers me is that everyone's all upset that the kid has to be ripped away from "the only family he's ever known" and given to a man whom they claim doesn't deserve him because he didn't call the adopters to check up on the child and therefore he never actually cared (nevermind that he began fighting for custody immediately after finding out that he was the child's father.)

Please. Yes it's sad that the kid has to go through an uprooting, but it's not the father's fault. The adoption did not follow acceptable practices in contacting the father and gaining consent. And just because the process was flawed, that doesn't dilute the fact that the man is the child's father, period.

The adoptive family, of course, has a Facebook page decrying the "unfairness" of the court's ruling, gaining the sympathy of 6,000 fans.

I'm with the father on this one, and--for once--with the courts. Fathers should be given a choice before a child becomes a ward of the state. I suspect more of them would step up to the plate than we think.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rod Stewart is a Bio Father

Recently reunited with a daughter who had been given up for adoption (he had her as a teenager, when he was "stone broke" and "didn't have a pot to piss in").

It appears that the daughter waited until her adoptive parents passed away before reuniting with her famous father.

YouTube video of Stewart's interview with Joy Behar here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Report on Problems with International Adoptions from Vietnam and What Critics Say

In September the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism released a report called "The Baby Business," which detailed many cases of fraudulent international adoption practices from various countries, with particular attention to Vietnam. The report uncovers cases where mothers went to the hospital to have their baby, then were told they had to pay enormous hospital fees to obtain their child and next thing they knew their child was gone. Or women who were told their children would be taken to orphanages for temporary care while they recovered from "medical conditions" and never returned.

The U.S. document cited in the article below.
Disturbing Cases of Fraudulent International Adoption

Child trafficking (for example, stealing children and selling them to adoption agencies) is nothing new. The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption in '93 set requirements to prevent such activity, which the U.S. has implemented since '08. But we still adopt from many countries that are not part of The Hague plan, which means we ought to pay special attention to adoption practices in those countries.

First of all, we definitely don't want abused and unwanted children to stay in their homes--a stable home for them is the highest priority, even if it means launching them to another country. If doing away with international adoption isn't the answer (and I don't think it is), is more government regulation the key? How can we implement it?It's important to note that it's not just the adoptees and birth families that get screwed when international adoption doesn't follow best practices: adoptive parents get charged astronomical fees and rarely receive adequate information or the education and support for adopting.

Experts respond and give their advice here. Mostly they say more regulation by feds isn't gonna cut it. They vote for more transparency overall, and more education and support for adoptive parents. More accountability for agencies.

Yet, while we improve these inter-country adoption practices, let us continue to hope for a world in which adoption--international or domestic--isn't necessary.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Winter Hair

Just found this amazing blog called "Curly Nikki," created by a psychotherapist and natural-hair diva. She is incredibly dedicated to hair and finding good products and practices for transitioning to and maintaining natural hair. Check out her 2010 Winter Hair Regimen, which includes twice-monthly wash/conditioning and then clip-setting the hair for twist styles. (This concept of "stretching" the hair after a wash to prep it for a style is new to me--I need to try it!)

Sadly, I haven't been keeping up with my playing with hair projects, nor have I been experimenting with styles or new products. (Though I did reintroduce princess-leia puffs the other day.) And lately, as winter settles in, I've noticed that my hair is asking for more moisture. Whatever I've been using as a leave-in conditioner isn't quite cutting it. I'm not sure what I expect from a hair product before I use it--I still feel like I haven't quite reached my best hair potential--but I know when it's not working. The frizz factor sets in after a wash. If I don't blow-dry the roots immediately after, they stay wet and pressed to my head while the rest frizzes into the wind. Chunks of it continue to matte near the roots. I seem to be at a stopping point with length--does that mean it's just the length my hair's meant to be, or is breakage happening without my notice?

My hair is about 15 different textures depending on where it sits on my head, which probably means I should be using more than one product on it (I'm not.)

It's time to kick it in gear! Which is why I was grateful today when a new friend brought me a bag of hair goodies--products she'd bought for her natural hair transition that haven't worked for her. (How many friendship seeds have been planted by random hair conversations in my life? I can think of at least 4.) Here are the goodie bag products that I'll begin testing soon--my hope is that by breaking it down by ingredient I'll figure out which exact oils/minerals work best for my hair:

  • Creme of Nature leave-in conditioner. Featuring lemongrass and rosemary.
  • Mizani hairdress. Shea and cocoa butter.
  • Garnier "Survivor" putty. Cactus extract. 
  • Surf Head texturizing paste. Mainstream chemical stuff + beeswax. 
  • She also turned me on to KinkyCurly's Knot Today leave-in detangler and Curling Custard gel, which I've started to use. It's gooey! Horsetail, chamomile, nettle, aloe, marshmallow, agave nectar, mango, lemongrass. As for effectiveness, the jury's still out.

Right now I use, at varying frequency:

  • Dark and Lovely Peppermint Shampoo. Though it contains tea tree oil, the sodium lauryl sulfate is too harsh and usually leaves my hair with a "stripped" feeling.
  • Palmer's hair milk with olive oil and vitamin E. Doesn't do much. Doesn't hurt, but doesn't seem to help the dry-curl either.
  • Curls quenched curls moisturizer. This spray works great, especially after a shampoo, for keeping my hair smoothed and moisturized. White tea extract, corn starch, pomegranate seed, wheat germ, bean tree, chamomile extract, "amino acids." 
  • Curls curlicious curls shampoo. Mainstream chemicals + silk amino acids, carrot seed, sage leaf, horse chestnut. Works well--though not without the conditioner--and smells great. 
  • Curls curl ecstasy hair tea conditioner. Aloe, mango butter, shea butter, green tea, chamomile, ho shu wu extract, soy protein. The tea might be what really makes these Curls brand products work. I remember when my "hair father" Alphonzo gave me Paul Mitchell Tea Tree cleanser/conditioner, and I was born again. It treated my over-processed hair so well that, along with Alphonzo's help, I gained the courage to go natural.
  • DevaCurl No-poo cleanser and One Condition conditioner. Chamomile, mint, peppermint rosemary, hops, grape seed, wheat amino acids, oat aa, soy aa.
  • Deva Heaven in Hair deep moisture treatment. Doesn't work as well as the other Deva products--includes more butters than oils. No grape seed or amino acids. 
  • Carrot oil. Alone it doesn't do much but make my scalp smell like V-8 Splash.

There it is. Curly Nikki has inspired me to pay heed to hair as I should. I hereby pledge to keep up on my hair experimenting and will report back with product updates in the coming months. An addition to my New Year's resolution list!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Absurdity of Closed Adoptions

Check out powerhouse adoption advocate Jean Strauss's article in the Huffington Post detailing the absurdity of closed adoptions. (Absurd sums it up perfectly.) It focuses on a case in my homestate Illinois: an adopted woman found pre-cancerous breast lesions and her doctor told her to get BRCA DNA tests to see if she carries the gene for breast/ovarian cancer. Her insurance company refused to pay for it because she couldn't prove family medical history. A judge refused to release her records, stating that he'd only do so if she had Stage IV cancer. Outrageous, right? Emphasis on rage. Luckily Illinois is opening records next November, but still--time might be of the essence for this woman, and it's not fair that she must wait.

Please visit the article and add comments. The more the media and legislators see that this is an important issue for many citizens--not just the thousands of adoptees whose physical and emotional health are affected--the more likely changes will be made in the 40 U.S. states that continue to seal birth certificates.