Category Archives: True adoption stories

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.’
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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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True #adoption story… Philip Sais #adoptionreunion #truestory

The movie Lion was the first step on the way to the reunion of two people, Philip Sais, now 20, and the woman who escorted him from India when he was 19 months old. He was going to join his new adoptive family in the USA. Two decades after her escort journey, Char Woodward watched Lion at the cinema and afterwards said to her husband, “I have to find Phillip. I have to make sure he’s okay.”

Philip Sais

Philip Sais and Char Woodworth reunited 2017

So that’s how Philip received a mysterious message on Facebook saying ‘Phillip … you have grown up to be such a lovely young man, you know, since I saw you at 19 months old.’

The first thing he did was to call his adoptive mother.“Mom,” he said when she picked up, “who was the person who brought me from India?” Although Char was still in touch with Philip’s adoptive mother, she wanted to reach out to the young man directly. “Facebook, man!” Phillip laughs. “I didn’t know the person who had brought me over. You know, I never really inquired about it until Char reached out to me, which was really cool.”

Philip Sais

Philip Sais – eating an Oreo cookie on the plane journey to the USA

Almost two decades had passed since Char last saw the toddler she had carried in her arms from Pune, India to Ozark, Arkansas where she delivered him safely to his adoptive family. Char worked for Holt International, the international adoption and child welfare organisation, but only once did she act as an escort. It left a lasting impression on her and she never forgot the small boy she escorted around the world. “I have a photo album that I look at.”

Philip Sais

Philip Sais – Char Woodworth kept an album of photos when she escorted Philip to Arkansas

After their reunion, both were keen to stay in contact. “This is definitely a connection that not many other people have, and so I’m definitely gonna’ keep it,” Phillip said.

“I feel like we’re related,” said Char.

“Even if it’s just like calling or just like texting once or twice a month, I want to keep this,” Phillip says. “It’s special… And I really wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Philip Sais

Lion film poster 2016

Lion is based on the true story of Saroo Brierley, told in his book A Long Way Home. In 1986, five year old Saroo lives in Khandwa, India, with his mother, brother Guddu and younger sister. One day when Guddu and Saroo steal coal from freight trains to pay for food, Saroo takes a nap. When he wakes, Guddu is gone. Saroo waits for him to return, when he doesn’t he boards a train to find him.

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True #adoption story… Van Dai & Siobhan #Vietnam #China

The House of Love is a Catholic orphanage in a small village in the south of Vietnam. From the age of 11 until 16, this was the home of Van Dai. It quickly became clear he was a bright boy. The orphanage’s director, an elder sister, remembers, “When he first came, he was so timid, shy and didn’t talk much. But when I taught him, I realized that he’s a bright child. He’s clever and grasped new concepts quickly.” At school, he earned the highest marks of any children at the orphanage.

Vietnam adoption

Van Dai at the House of Love [photo: Holtinternational.org]

Over 60 children have grown to adulthood at the House of Love, only seven have been adopted. Asked if he will miss life at the orphanage, Van Dai says “Yes, a little… because I’ve been living here for so long and know the nuns and kids here so well. I’m going to miss them all.” On learning he had been chosen for adoption, he said, “It isn’t easy to describe my feelings about having a family. It’s a mix of excitement, confusion, worry, but most of all I’m happy and feel lucky to have a family of my own.” Most important, it meant love. “Having a family means I’m loved and supported. I can share my sadness and happiness with them. It means I can thrive and live a normal life.” China adoptionVan Dai’s adoptive parents Margaret Wasnak and Bill Hong live in the New York suburbs, USA, with their 14-year old daughter Siobhan.They adopted Siobhan from China when she was ten. Most of all, they want Van Dai to be happy, says Margaret. “That he grows up to be a happy person in whatever he chooses to do. I think that’s the interesting part of getting to meet our son, is that we don’t really know what he likes to do, what he’s good at … what he wants to do with his life. That’s the adventure for us.” Bill adds, “We don’t have any preconceived notions about what success in life might be for him. We want to be able to nurture his potential and help him be the best that he can.”

Margaret and Bill, an older couple, wanted to adopt an older child. “We just felt as an older couple, we would be able to handle an older child and help them progress. So we kind of skipped over the baby section,” says Margaret says [referring to Holt’s photo listing of children waiting to be adopted] and went right to the two older group categories.”

They were attracted to Siobhan’s biography and photograph. “We knew she was for us when we read that she was ‘bossy’,” Margaret remembers. “New Yorkers are born arguing.” They were also moved by the length of time older children must wait for adoption. “There seemed to be a real need,” Margaret says. “The kids wait a really long time. Siobhan waited six years to get adopted.”

Search Holt’s Photo Listing.
Read here the full story of how Margaret and Bill adopted not only Van Dai from Vietnam, but also Siobhan from China.

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