Category Archives: True adoption stories

True #adoption story… Tom Pickard #adoptionstories #true

Tom Pickard is an English poet who writes with lyrical beauty and erotic edge about his life in the North Pennines. In Fiends Fell, his 2017 book combining journal entries with poetry about a single year living on a bare hilltop in the border country between England and Scotland, Pickard writes about his childhood and the mystery of this birth.

Tom Pickard

[photo: Charles Smith]

Adopted by his great-aunt Katie at the age of nine months, Tom acquired the surname Pickard. He was christened as McKenna, Katie’s maiden name. In Fiends Fell, Pickard doesn’t dwell on his beginnings, but he does explore the gaps in his knowledge, understanding and memories. As a poet he is fascinated by language and, trying to recall a word in the local dialect, he says, ‘There is no memory of its currency in my childhood, which is the first place you’d want to look for a word you knew but had forgotten you knew and which had spontaneously recurred to mind.’ Later, attending the funeral of someone he had known since childhood, Pickard says, ‘His widow Pauline… was someone who knew the history of my – to me – mysterious origins… All I knew was that I knew nothing outside of being illegitimate and that I had a ‘brother’ with the same name.’ Could it be this brother who would unlock the mystery of Tom’s birth?

This is a book about life on the edge, of isolation, of poverty, of love of nature. It is not a book about adoption, rather it is an adopted man’s love of the life around him, his struggle to get by. Read it for the poetry and the descriptions of birds. Beautiful.

Tom PickardBUY THE BOOK

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True #adoption story… George Dennehy #adoptionstories

When baby George was born without arms, his family in Romania could not cope. They took him to an orphanage where he was given little chance of survival. Twenty five years ago, a doctor attached a death certificate to his crib, part-completed, with the exact date and time of passing not filled in. But baby George lived on. And then a family from America arrived, wanting to adopt him.

George Dennehy

George Dennehy now

George, now 25 and a youth pastor, father and musician, does not remember his time at the orphanage. “I was neglected and abandoned,” he says. “Not taken care of. Not given good treatment or love or nutrition or anything like that.”

George Dennehy

George Dennehy as a baby

Musically gifted, George learned to play musical instruments with his feet. Now a cello player, he is the only known person in the world to play a classical stringed instrument with his toes. He tours the USA sharing his original music and is an advocate for the child sponsorship programme run by Holt International, where a sponsorship plan of monthly gifts can enable a child like George to stay with their birth family.

George Dennehy

George Dennehy with his son Landon

Listen to George sing Not Abandoned and here, playing with the Goo Goo Dolls.
Read more about Holt International’s child sponsorship programme.

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True #adoption story… a letter to Sarah, the mother of my adopted son #adoptionstories

Four years after adopting, the father of an adopted baby puts pen to paper and writes to his son’s birth mother. The original letter appeared in The Guardian. It is an emotional read, partly because you quickly realise the birth mother has died. And, as you read on, you realise the two adoptive parents are men. “In fact, you will always be his only mother – as we are both men. And I cannot help but wonder how you would feel about the fact that David has two Daddies and I hope that you would be accepting of that.”

[photo: Maria Lindsey Media Creator/Pexels]

The letter writer and his partner read the file of a baby boy on a September morning. It was a difficult story to read, “Yours was a story so far removed from our own that it took every ounce of imagination to understand what you must have gone through.” And then came the phone call to say the baby’s mother Sarah had died.

“Suddenly, we knew what we had to do. There was never any doubt. All I remember was an overwhelming desire to protect this little boy, to give him the love and care he deserved. And really that was that; as far as we were concerned, David was now our son. There were further meetings, questions, paperwork, panels, decisions, arrangements and preparations. Then, two months later, we met him for the first time. I hope the fact that I call him ‘our son’ does not offend you. Sarah, you will always be his birth mother. But I make no apology in referring to him as our son.”

The relationship between birth parents and adoptive parents can be an awkward one, but for these two fathers the challenge is different. It does seem strange writing to someone I have never met, but part of me feels that I know you so very, very well.”

Read the full letter to Sarah at The Guardian.

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True #adoption story… Whitney Casey #adoptionstories

Whitney Casey was adopted at six months old by the Casey family and grew up in Nashville. She never forgot she was Korean American thanks to the subtle reminders that she was different — like the time she went into Kmart and a five-year-old girl pointed to her, saying, “Mom, it’s Mulan.”

Whitney Casey

Lee and Whitney 2014 [photo: Sara Rayman/Whitney Fritz]

‘It was never spiteful or anything, but people would notice that I look different,’ Whitney told NBC News ‘Sometimes you can forget that you look different. Sometimes you’re surprised when you look in the mirror and don’t look like the rest of the family.’

In 2010, Whitney went to work in South Korea near Seoul. She had no intention of tracing her birth parents, but her adoptive family urged her to contact her adoption agency. She describes what followed as an ‘out of body experience’. Told to expect an update in a month’s time, her case worker got in touch 48 hours later and the next day she met the Jeons, her omma (mother) and appa (father). They sat and talked for an hour. Whitney told them about her adoptive family, her siblings, and work. She asked them why they put her up for adoption. There were no tears, Whitney recalls, just relief and gratitude for the time they could spend together. The anxiety and nervousness slowly simmered off as her omma and appa had a heart-to-heart conversation with Whitney about the first few days she was born.

Whitney Casey

Whitney [L] with Appa & Omma & her two brothers [photo: Lee and Whitney Fritz]

Whitney worried that her two birth brothers would struggle to accept her. ‘I didn’t know if they would hate me for coming back and disturbing the peace. I didn’t want to disrupt the boys’ relationship with their parents, and I didn’t want to damage any years they had of them.’ But her fears were unfounded. ‘I went through a coping process, but everything’s fine now,” she said. “I’m so glad that it went smoothly.’

Whitney met her husband Lee at a Korean-American adoption conferene in Albany, New York, in 2012. “I think it’s interesting we have this thing that doesn’t need to be spoken between us that we know sometimes the feelings are hard and things can be complicated, but we can just have an understanding between us,” said Lee.

Whitney Casey

Lee and Whitney [photo: wethelees.wordpress.com]

Read Lee and Whitney’s blog, We The Lees.
Read the full NBC News article about Whitney’s adoption story.

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True #adoption story… Ray Victor Lewis #adoptionstories

Three generations of adoption in one family is unusual. The story starts in 1936 when Ray Victor Lewis’s mother gave him up for adoption. She left with him a small Bible. Inside the front cover, the inscription reads, “Ray of Sunshine, Victorious over all.”

Ray Victor Lewis

Ray Victor Lewis, his daughter Karen and granddaughter [photo: Felix Clay for The Guardian]

Unusually, Ray’s name wasn’t changed even though he was adopted as a baby. Ray always knew he was adopted, that his birth mother couldn’t keep him as she was only 17 when she had him, and that she visited him until he was a toddler. ‘The last letter she wrote was one my [adoptive] mum treasured,’ Ray, 78, tells The Guardian. ‘I think she felt it would help me to have something to explain why my birth mother couldn’t keep me.’

Ray’s adoptive parents were already fostering children, but he was the only child they adopted. He remembers an idyllic childhood in the Kent village where he still lives. He has never traced his birth parents. ‘I never felt the urge to trace my birth mother. I wouldn’t change a thing about my life and was very close to my mum and dad, so I just didn’t see the point.’

When Ray married Janet in 1968, they decided to adopt a child. ‘It felt the most natural thing in the world – probably more natural than having our own because it was all I’d known.’ They adopted nine-day old Karen.

‘As long as I can remember, Mum and Dad told me I was special and chosen. There was no day where my whole world, as I knew it, changed for ever,” Karen told The Guardian. Karen knew nothing of her birth family and her mother, Janet, told her not to mention her adoption to anyone. ‘She worried that I might be teased and I was quite secretive about it. I still don’t offer it as information to strangers.’ But Karen wanted to know more. When she was 30 she applied for her birth certificate, discovered she had a different birth name, and met her birth mother once.

‘It was in a hotel, where we shared photographs and stories. She didn’t want to meet again and I was okay with that because that one meeting gave me what I needed – answers to what she looked like, what she was like and, most importantly, the reassurance that she was okay.’

When Karen married and IVF failed, it seemed natural for her and her husband to consider adoption. ‘Adoption is the norm in our family so when I didn’t get pregnant, we wasted no time in applying to adopt. In fact, social workers wondered why we hadn’t considered IVF first.’ Her daughter’s story is a little different, ‘Her adoption story is probably the starkest because she wasn’t relinquished, but removed from her birth family due to child protection issues” explains Karen.

The availability of information about the past is key when growing up, Karen says. ‘Details about your past are never easy when you’re adopted, no more so than with today’s adoptions, but it makes such a difference’.

If you like this true story, read:-
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Helen Harrison

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True #adoption story… Esther Robertson #adoptionstories

By the age of three, Esther Robertson had had three different first names and surnames.

Esther Robertson

Esther Robertson [photo: Murdo Macleod/The Guardian]

Born in 1961 in a Glasgow mother and baby home, Esther’s first name was Catherine Anne Lindenberg. Her birth parents were a 17-year old Jewish girl from Edinburgh and a black American airman. Following family pressure, Catherine’s mother placed her for adoption. Robertson told The Guardian, ‘I don’t know if she accompanied me to the children’s home in the Borders where I was temporarily sent. I do know that she paid 30 shillings each week for my keep. I’ve never seen a photograph of myself as a baby. I don’t even know if any were taken. I’m pretty sure I was as cute and ready to be cooed over as the next child. But adopters were looking for blonde, blue-eyed bundles of joy. Not one with Afro hair and brown skin.’

Esther Robertson

Esther Robertson as a young girl

After seven months in the home, Catherine was first fostered by, then adopted by, the Revered Robertson and his wife who named her Esther. Slow to speak and knock-kneed, Esther’s development was a cause of worry for her new family. ‘A year after my adoption, the Robertsons requested me to be rehomed on the grounds of my slow development and Mrs Robertson’s poor health. In July 1963, aged two and a half, I was given a new home and another new name.’

Next she was adopted by the Grahams who re-named her Doreen Ann Graham. But after three months, Doreen’s adoption by the Grahams was contested. The Robertsons had changed their mind and wanted her back. Esther was 25 before she learned about her three months with the Grahams.

Now settled with the Robertsons, Esther felt different, questions were unanswered. ‘I felt like an outsider. I felt different. My hair was certainly different. Hours were spent trying to brush, comb and cajole it, but it steadfastly refused to be tamed. On shopping trips with Mum, which I adored, she always introduced me the same way: ‘This is Esther, my adopted daughter.’ Just one extra word, but it jarred. I was so different, it seemed, that I came with an explanation.’

Now in her fifties, Esther is settled and is a social worker. She understands that she coped by using her imagination ‘to escape the constant upset and upheaval of my childhood. Creativity remains my weapon of choice.’

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True #adoption story… Jazz Boorman #adoptionstories

Most adopted children do not have face-to-face contact with their birth families. When Amanda Boorman adopted her daughter Jazz, then five years old, she was advised by social workers not to visit the town where Jazz’s birth parents lived. Amanda did the opposite.

Jazz Boorman

Jazz Boorman, aged 14 [photo: Boorman family]

“I wanted to know their story and how things came about, in order to tell the person who was going to be my child about why they had been adopted,” Amanda said to The Guardian. So she made contact and, three years later, introduced Jazz to her birth family. “I knew the risks were disturbing Jazz further – there were no two ways about it, the parenting wasn’t good. I didn’t have a romanticised idea of it. But I wanted to be a bridge between the past and the future. “A four-year-old does know things, more than people give them credit for. She did love her parents. I felt that we’d stolen her as well. A lot of her disturbance I felt was due to being completely removed from the people she’d been sleeping in the same room as for the first four years of her life.”

Read more about Amanda and Jazz’s story in The Guardian article, including the Contact After Adoption website which supports social work practitioners to make after adoption contact plans.

Thanks to her personal adoption experience Amanda, a trained social worker, founded The Open Nest, a charity to support adoptive families. Helping Jazz meet her birth family was a turning point, says Amanda. “Before she thought she was rubbish, that she’d been thrown away, that she’d probably been naughty. That stopped after she met them, her self-esteem went up massively. Just thinking that you’re the product of a bad place is not a healthy thing.”

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True #adoption story… Annie from #NewYork #openadoption

Annie from New York was 29 when she gave her baby son to be adopted by a gay couple. And because it was an open adoption, she has maintained a relationship with her son and his adoptive parents. Her son is now six years old. open adoption

Annie was originally sceptical about the idea of open adoption, as it was described to her by a social worker. “Between lack of support from the government (no paid maternity leave or universal health care), the lack of support of the biological father, and the fact I had no local support system because my family lived far away, I didn’t have the kind of support at hand that a single parent needs,” she explains.

But she gradually came round to the concept of open adoption. “I’m part of my son’s life and my role in his life is respected by his adoptive family,” Annie tells HuffPost. “My son’s parents are the ones who set up what the parameters of our relationship actually are, they are the ones who control how much access I have to him and what that means. But they have given me a lot of say in our relationship as well.

“The access has evolved over time, in the beginning it was lots of pictures emailed to me, updates via email about once a month and face-to-face visits every two to three months. As he grew up (and began to understand who I was) we had more face-to-face visits. By his fourth birthday I was seeing him at least once a month.”

The decision of how much contact there should be between child and birth parent lies with the adoptive family and the local authorities. And contact doesn’t mean it reduces the loss felt at the original decision to give a child up for adoption. “I still have a depth of difficult emotions I struggle with regarding adoption,” explains Annie. “And seeing my son only complicates that. I’m not trying to appear ungrateful for my relationship with him, but if it was just about my feelings and not what was good for my son I wouldn’t have an open relationship with him. “It’s not an easy path and openness shouldn’t be a reason a woman chooses to relinquish.”

Read more about open adoption at Huffington Post UK.

Read the Family Rights Group’s explanation of open adoption for the UK.

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True #adoption story… Jessica Long #adoptionstories #Paralympics

Jessica Long is a record-beating US Paralympic swimming star, winning a dozen Paralympic gold medals games in Athens, Beijing and London. Born Tatiana, she was left by her teenage Russian parents at an orphanage in Bratsk, Siberia because they could not cope with her disabilities. A year later she was adopted by American couple Beth and Steve Long and grew up in Baltimore, USA.

Jessica Long

Jessica Long was named Tatiana by her Russian parents

Born with fibular hemimelia – without fibulas, ankles, heels or most bones in her feet – she was adopted at the age of 13 months. Five months later, the remainder of the lower parts of her legs were amputated so she could be fitted for prosthetic legs and learn how to walk. The Longs are a sporting family. ‘I am one of six children and my parents made sure we all remained active. I have been involved in many sports including gymnastics, basketball, cheerleading, ice skating, biking, running, and rock climbing. However, I always loved swimming the most. I learned how to swim in my grandparents’ pool where my sisters and I would spend hours pretending we were mermaids.’

Jessica Long

Baby Jessica coming out of the pool

After talking to a Russian journalist about her Siberian birth, she made contact with her birth parents who, unmarried at the time of Tatiana’s birth, went on to marry and have a family.

Jessica Long

Jessica and her American father, Steve Long

Jessica’s real mother, Natalia, now 38, explained on Russian television how she felt two decades ago, at the age of 18, after giving birth to a seriously disabled daughter. ‘I feel so sorry,’ she said. ‘At that time – there was some fear, I got scared. I had to leave her behind. But I did think that I would take her back,’ she said. ‘Of course I was against leaving her in the hospital but because of the circumstances we had to do so. In my heart I did want to take her home, and thought I would take her back later. I was alone in Siberia, without my mother and father. Where would I go with her, if I had taken her? Doctors told me to leave her behind – said that I could not help her… I called her Tatiana, after my elder sister.’

Jessica’s American father, Steve, remembers, ‘It took us a lot of time to sort out all the paperwork for adoption. We had no idea she had some parents. We thought she was an orphan. And she had serious problems with legs. She does not have bones in her legs down from her knees, right after knees there are feet with fingers. We turned to many professionals in order to solve this problem.’

Jessica’s Russian Aunt Tatiana, for whom she was named, recalled how her sister Natalia phoned to tell her the news about Jessica, adding she was on her way to a TV interview about her daughter. ‘My sister Natalia called me. She said: ‘I am flying to Moscow, Jessica Long is my daughter. She has been searching for me for three years…  I nearly lost my consciousness, I was so shocked. At that moment I had been watching Paralympic Games. The swimming had been on and I saw Jessica there. Then I looked online. Jessica is so much like her sister Nastya. She is just Nastya’s lookalike.’

Jessica said, ‘Who would have ever imagined that a girl with a disability from an orphanage in Siberia would be where I am today? I’m living proof that you can accomplish your dreams, no matter how great or small. I would like to thank God, my family, friends, and coaches for always encouraging me! I couldn’t be successful without them!’

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True #adoption story… Sheila Mercier #adoption #Emmerdale #truestory

Best known to UK television audiences of the Yorkshire farming series Emmerdale Farm as Annie Sugden, actress Sheila Mercier was born in Hull, a New Year’s baby born on January 1, 1919. She died in December 2019 at the age of 100.

Sheila Mercier

[photo: PA Media]

Mercier remembered a Victorian childhood ‘cossetted so much by servants that I have an abiding memory of my mother ringing for the maid whenever she wanted another piece of coal to be put on the fire.’ Sheila’s fledgling acting career was put on hold with the outbreak of World War Two in which she served with the Women’s Auxiliary Force. On the eve of her 21st birthday, she was raped at a party. Thirty years later, the daughter she gave up for adoption tracked her down. Mercier wrote about the rape and her subsequent pregnancy in Annie’s Song, published in 1995.

‘A lot of young men were there [at the party], all getting very merry,’ she told the Yorkshire Post newspaper in 1994. ‘One pilot asked me to go with him to his room to stoke the fire. This I did and was standing there when, suddenly, I was seized, thrown on the bed and raped.’ Her parents gave her an ultimatum, to sort herself out or find a way of living. Mercier’s father tracked down the baby’s father who offered to marry Mercier, who declined. The baby was adopted and named Janet by her new family. Mercier was able to write and in return she received photographs until one day a letter arrived asking her to cease contact.

In 1969 Janet, herself a wife and mother of three children, traced Mercier and got in touch. ‘I was absolutely wild with joy and phoned her immediately,’ said Mercier. ‘The rapport was instant.’
Sheila MercierBUY THE BOOK

Sheila MercierWatch the moment in a 1973 episode of Emmerdale Farm when Amos Brearley asks Annie to ‘walk out with him’ because he needs a wife and thinks she’d be ‘best for t’job’.

Sheila Mercier

Emmerdale Farm, vol 1 1972

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