Adoption – breaking down the myths
BY BETSIE NORRIS
My search for my birthparents was a profound and emotional journey. I felt isolated, scared, excited, energized and timid all at the same time. Was this a selfish quest or a bold move that would result in a win-win? Where did I get my red hair, who did I look like? What was my family medical history? Was I Irish, as people often asked?
Photo: Tamara Camera Photography
The shroud of secrecy surrounding adoption seemed impenetrable. Yet, I proceeded to know in my core that while not every story has a happy ending, the truth is powerful and healing and, as an RN working in child psychiatry, that secrecy and denial are not considered healthy in any school of psychology. Why then were they expected to be the norm in our culture in adoption?
This was more than 30 years ago. I was in my 20s. My search took a full year (today it would likely take a day) and its outcome was more successful than I had ever even allowed myself to hope for.
“I’ve been praying for this call for 26 years,” was my birthmother’s response to my measured words introducing myself to her in my first contact call.
The shroud of secrecy surrounding adoption seemed impenetrable.
I came to realize that adoption is a lifelong journey, rather than the one-time legal event that was the popular notion at the time…that as isolated as I felt as an adoptee who had questions, it was the birthparents who bore the brunt of the stigma…that all of us in the adoption “triad” – the adoptee, the adoptive parents, the birthparents – had fears and insecurities and often internalized shame built on deep societal myths.
Longing for understanding and community I launched a nonprofit organization and quickly learned through the hundreds of phone calls I received in the days following our first publicity just how many others were seeking the same – this was an idea whose time had come. We were propelled forward into action.
Adoption truly is a lifelong journey. Together, over the last 30 years, we have changed state laws so that adult adoptees in Ohio can access critical information about their past, helped to find families for hundreds of youth who all too often linger in foster care and age-out with no family ties at all, supported adoptive families to be the stable and strong unit needed to raise children who have had a rough start, assisted thousands of adoptees and birthparents through their life journeys including search and reunion, and more. We’ve changed the conversation. We’ve empowered people to have a voice. We’ve built a community.
For more information visit www.adoptionnetwork.org.
CLICK TO WATCH VIDEO: An Adoptee ROARed in Ohio: the Betsie Norris Story
AUTHOR BIO – Betsie Norris
Having made the journey to a successful reunion on her own, in 1988 Betsie Norris founded Adoption Network Cleveland to provide support and assistance to others who are touched by adoption. Betsie is a co-author with Jayne Schooler of Journeys After Adoption: Understanding the Lifelong Process. Currently, serves on the board of The Donaldson Adoption Institute. Trained as an RN with a specialty in child psychiatry, Betsie earned a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Case Western Reserve University.