Tag Archives: adoption stories

True #adoption story… Oksana Masters #adoptionstories

Oksana Masters won a silver medal at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 for Paralympic cross-country skiing. She represented USA, but was born in the Ukraine in 1989 just three years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Oksana was born with severe physical defects caused by exposure to radiation. Given up for adoption at birth because her birth defects would require lots of help, Oksana lived in three different orphanages until she was seven years old. Oksana Masters

At the age of seven, Oksana was adopted by an American woman, a single mother, and started a new life in New York. “My birth defects ultimately required that I have both legs amputated; the left at age 9 and the right at age 14. I’ve also had multiple reconstructive surgeries to both of my hands. Soon after, my mother and I moved from Buffalo, New York to Louisville, Kentucky when I was 13.”

This is when Oksana first tried rowing. “When I was on the water, I began to feel a new sense of freedom and control that was taken from me so many times throughout my past. I found out quickly the more I pushed myself, the stronger, faster and more in control I became. My body responded to pain with ever-increasing strength and purpose. I pushed the water and it pushed back.”

Oksana Masters

Oksana skiing

In 2012, Oksana and her rowing partner Rob Jones won a rowing bronze medal in the London Paralympic Games. After that success Oksana moved to skiing [above], a transfer she says “was easy because both sports target the same muscle groups.” At the 2014 Sochi Games, Oksana won silver and bronze skiing medals.

Oksana Masters

Oksana cycling

After Sochi, she tried hand cycling [above] which meant learning new race tactics. “After trying it for the first time, I fell in love with the speeds I could reach that other sports couldn’t. I found a new sense of ‘rush’.”

Oksana is convinced that her love of sports is in her blood. “Because I am so competitive and hate losing, I believe sports was always in my blood. I am so thankful I have been given a “second chance” in life through my amazing family and the opportunity to fulfill my passion and hunger for racing and competing.”

Read more about Oksana’s story.

If you like this true story, read:-
Ray Victor Lewis
Jazz Boorman
Brenda Rhensius

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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.

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If you like this true story, read:-
Ray Victor Lewis 
Esther Robertson 
Laurence Peat

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A fictional #orphan… Harry Potter #adoptionstories

Probably the most famous orphan in the literary world, Harry Potter is taken in by his aunt and uncle when his own parents are killed in a car crash. JK Rowling’s first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone [Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the USA] establishes Harry’s downtrodden life with the Dursleys who would prefer to deny his existence. In a typical ‘hero’s journey’ story, Harry escapes the stifling and neglectful world of Privet Drive to find his own birthright and defeat the darkest wizard of all time.

Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – one of the earliest covers

Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling – the current edition

The story
From page one, it is clear that the Dursleys don’t want anything to do with Mrs Dursley’s sister. ‘The Dursleys had everything they wanted, but they also had a secret, and their greatest fear was that somebody would discover it. They didn’t think they could bear it if anyone found out about the Potters.’ By the end of chapter one, the Potters are dead and the Dursleys wake to find baby Harry, their nephew, on their doorstep.
Downtrodden and lied to, Harry is eleven when he discovers his parents did not die in a car crash. They were wizards, and were killed by a wizard so evil no one speaks his name aloud. Leaving behind his adoptive family [though at no time is it clearly stated that the Dursleys formally adopt Harry] Harry learns how to use his magic, at the same time as learning about his family’s place in wizarding history. There is, throughout the seven novels, an inevitability that Harry must face He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. These are children’s books with universal themes about family, identity and belonging.
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LISTEN TO THE AUDIOBOOK READ BY STEPHEN FRY

Harry Potter

Harry Potter Complete 8-Film Collection

The films
The Harry Potter films are produced by David Heyman of Heyday Films, the screenwriter is Steve Kloves. Rowling had initially been hesitant to sell the film rights because she ‘didn’t want to give them control over the rest of the story’ by selling the rights to the characters which would enable Warner Brothers to make none-Rowling written sequels. Rowling admitted she was ‘really ready to hate this Steve Kloves’. Later she recalled her initial meeting with Kloves, ‘He said to me, ‘You know who my favourite character is?’ And I thought, You’re gonna say Ron. I know you’re gonna say Ron. But he said ‘Hermione.’ And I just kind of melted.’
Watch the trailer.
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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.

If you like this true story, read:-
Jenna Cook
Jazz Boorman 
Laurence Peat

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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.’

If you like this true story, read:-
Brenda Rhensius
Sheila Mercier 
George Orwell

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#Adoption #Autobiography ‘A Good Likeness’ by Paul Arnott

A Good Likeness is a well-written account of an adoptee’s journey, not in the least bit self-obsessed or mawkish. Paul Arnott knows he was adopted but doesn’t stop to think about what it means until in his thirties with his own children. He writes to his adoption society and gets a letter back with information about his birth parents. “The section of my mind concerned with the concept of identity, which had been lying under a sheet in the garage since I was born, suddenly roared into life.” Paul Arnott

He shares the emotional ups and downs of his search, which finally takes him to a second family in Ireland.

“Instead of being Paul Arnott, 11/11/61, I was now Rory Brennan, 11/11/61.” It was this sentence that really grabbed my core.

He was Rory, not Paul. “It must be inconceivable to those raised by their blood parents, surrounded by grandparents, sisters and brothers, that a man in his thirties had never given any serious credit to the potency of family resemblance.”
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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… 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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#Adoption #Autobiography ‘Blue-Eyed Son’ by @NickyAACampbell

Blue-Eyed Son by journalist and broadcaster Nicky Campbell is a personal story but everyone will be able to identify with his themes of family love, the need for belonging and a clear sense of identity.  Campbell knows how to tell a story well. He charts the ups and downs of his search for his birth mother and father, the agonies of deciding to search, the worries about whether he was betraying his adoptive family. Nicky Campbell

He shares the pain, the anticipation of making that first contact: “She [his wife Linda] stood in the hall and dialled the number. I was sitting on the stairs, rigid with fear, my head buried in my hands, my body folding into a foetal position. I really didn’t think I could go through with it. I was petrified and exhausted. What the hell would I say? What the hell do you say? This woman gave birth to me. I needed an epidural.

“I had held this fantasy in my head for years. I had a mental picture of a beautiful but driven career woman – a free spirit who found herself in this impossible situation and made an extraordinary sacrifice. She gave her baby away. Her baby was about to catch up with her. we were about to speak to her. I was about to clothe this idealised wraith in humanity. At 29 I was about to make the first connection with my own flesh and blood, someone to whom I was genetically connected. That word – genetic – it had an almost sacred meaning for me. [It still does.] A genetic link; a magical bond. An inexpressible essence of belonging and being.

“From my seat on the stairs I could hear the ring at the other end. It stopped. A woman’s voice. Soft, Irish, hesitant and wary. ‘Hello.’

Campbell finds so much more than his birth mother and father, he finds his family. It doesn’t matter that he is a face familiar on the television, his story will affect everyone.
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If you like this, try:-
Relative Strangers’ by Hunter Davies
The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell
Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain

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True #adoption story… Joy Lieberthal Rho #foreveradoption

“Adoption isn’t always forever.” That’s the experience of Joy Lieberthal Rho. “One mother never replaced the other mother.” This is her story of being adopted from Korea.

Joy Lieberthal Rho

[photo: Korean American Story]

Joy’s birth mother found her again when Joy was 24. “One mother is the person I was born from. We have the same complexion, shoe size, fingers, nose, and chin. She lost me at age three to a man who promised he would let her visit, but in a year’s time, she would have no idea where I was. After months of chasing down last known guardians, she arrived at the orphanage too late: I had been adopted, and no one had known that my mother was trying to find me all that time.” Although still in contact with her birth mother, Joy says it feels to late to ask her to be her Mum but she misses the shared remembering, the shared family stories.

She has a shared history with her adoptive mother, but they split when Joy was 19. “One mother is the person who claimed me when others believed me to be without a mother. This mother disappeared with a click of the phone, when a truth she couldn’t handle severed our relationship. At the time, I said, Okay, Mom, I will wait to hear from you—that was the last time I said the word “Mom.” To this day, I wonder, if I just didn’t say it, if I didn’t make it known, would I still have a mother?”

Joy ponders on whether she needs a mother. Not for day-to-day living, she says, but “sometimes there are moments when you just long for a person who is obligated to be in your corner.” She is a mother herself and this has led her to ponder on the nature of motherhood. Ninety nine per cent of the time she says she is fine, the other 1%, the tough days, she wishes she had a mother to call.

Read Joy’s written account of her story in Catapult magazine.

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Amy Seek
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