Tag Archives: true story

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.

If you like this true story, read:-
Joy Lieberthal Rho
Denise Temple
Jazz Boorman 

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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:-
Annie from New York 
Amy Seek
Helen Harrison

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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.”

If you like this true story, read:-
Ramiro Osorio Cristales
Eileen Heron
Jessica Long

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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!’

If you like this true story, read:-
Philip Sais
Van Dai & Siobhan
Bob MacNish

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True #adoption story… Amy Seek #closedadoption #openadoption

When 23-year-old Amy Seek decided to give up her baby son for adoption, she assumed that closed adoption – where she would never see her son again – was her only option. But in the US, where Amy was living at the time, she spoke to the Catholic Social Services and learned for the first time about open adoption.

open adoption

[photo: JGI-Tom Grill via Getty Images]

“When the counsellor explained open adoption – that I would be able to select the parents and know my child – adoption suddenly seemed more humane, more possible,” she told Huffington Post UK.

Open adoption, which allows contact between the birth family and the adoptive family, is rare in the UK but more common in the USA. So what is open adoption? There are three types:-

  1. direct contact, with face-to-face or telephone contact between birth family and adoptive family;
  2. indirect contact, the exchange of letters, cards and gifts between the birth and adoptive families;
  3. links provided by the birth or adoptive family, and retained by the adoption agency to be passed onto the child in the future, if requested by the relevant person.

Amy, now 39 and living in London, says,“When my son was four he’d smile sobroadly when I’d arrive, he’d show me his toys and want to play with me.” She sees her son, who lives in the US, between three and seven times a year.

Read more about open adoption in this article at Huffington Post UK.

If you like this true story, try:-
Brenda Rhensius
Eileen Heron
Helen Harrison

open adoption

Read this true story about an open adoption.
BUY

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True #adoption story… Brenda Rhensius #AdoptionReunion #birthmother

In 1963 when nineteen-year old unmarried Brenda Rhensius gave up her only daughter Joanne for adoption, she cannot have predicted how much her life would change in the years afterwards. Brenda married, had a son, forged a successful career and moved to South Africa. But she never forgot Joanne. “Every year on her birthday my insides felt like they were being ripped out and that never went away, even after 48 years,” Brenda tells the Daily Mirror.

birth mother

Brenda Rhensius and Joanne Dickson [photo: ITV]

Brenda began her search when Joanne reached her 18thbirthday, but without success. So when she contacted the team at Long Lost Family it was with the assumption that Joanne was untraceable or simply didn’t want to be found. It took the television team just a few months to find Joanne. And she was also living in South Africa.

“I couldn’t believe she had been found, let alone that we had both ended up living thousands of miles away in the same country,” says Brenda. “When we finally met it was so emotional. All I could say was, ‘You’re beautiful, you’re beautiful’, and gave her a great big hug. There was no screaming or crying, we just sat down and started talking and instantly it was as if those 48 years apart had just faded away. Until that day I’d always felt a part of me was missing, but meeting her made me feel whole again.”

Brenda gave birth to Joanne at a mother and baby home in Manchester. “My parents felt it was the right thing and actually I thought it would be the best thing for my baby too – there was a huge stigma on illegitimate children and I thought her only chance was to grow up with a mum and a dad,” remembers Brenda. Mum and daughter stayed in the unit for six weeks after birth, until the adoption day arrived. Brenda and Joanne were driven to the Methodist Adoption Society and asked to wait in a room. The adoptive parents waited in another room. “A nurse came in and said, ‘Joanne’s new parents are here’. She took her off me and walked out and that was it – it was horrible and so brutal,” Brenda says. “I could hear her new mother squeal with delight through the walls and I felt so bereft.”

When the two women finally met, they discovered a shared love of animals and a silly sense of humour. Joanne says, “I like drama and singing and I’m very outgoing but my adoptive parents were very shy, quiet, gentle people – I always felt totally different to them. Brenda is much more like me. We actually found ourselves finishing each other’s sentences and we have the same mannerisms – we both talk with our hands and we both waffle! And there were some incredible coincidences. The fact that we both ended up in South Africa was the biggest one.”

Read more details of Brenda and Joanne’s story.
Helpful ‘adoption search’ resources, suggested by the team behind the Long Lost Family television programme.
Want to appear on Long Lost Family?
Help with late discovery adoption.

If you like this true story, try:-
Denise Temple
Ramiro Osorio Cristales 
Alice Collins Plebuch 

Ignoring Gravity

Why not try a fictional story about adoption reunion. Ignoring Gravity is first in the ‘Identity Detective’ series. Rose Haldane is confident about her identity. She pulls the same face as her grandfather when she has to do something she doesn’t want to do, she knows her DNA is the same as his. Except it isn’t: because Rose is adopted and doesn’t know it. BUY

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Preserving #family #memories

Do you like the idea of your life being written up so it can be passed on to your family, but you’re worried you haven’t done enough exciting things or are not good with computers? If you would like to compile a record of family stories and memories, there is now a choice of digital and analogue solutions to suit everyone. Which ever method you choose, the first thing to do is talk to your relatives.

Frederique Hull, director of digital memory solution Family Quilt, says it is not unusual for people, especially older ones, to be shy and unassuming about their lives. “What can they possibly talk about that is worth telling? For the family whom they are sharing with it is completely different, pretty much everything is interesting. It does not take long before they realise how little they really know about their parents/relatives and so they love hearing the stories of daily lives, of hardships and joyful events. They are not looking for momentous achievements!” To help the process, Family Quilt has collected over 150 questions covering themes from growing up to working life and wisdom. “In those questions, there is a starting point for everybody. Browse them and see where they take you. Getting going is the hardest. Once started, stories will come back flowing.”

Jim Martin, director of memory video producer Loftbox, agrees. “Being comfortable and relaxed is key and that’s why we visit people in their own home. I am a very good listener with great empathy which, combined with my 25 years experience in conducting interviews and as a qualified oral historian, means I can talk about a wide range of topics designed to relax people and to stimulate conversation.”

Yvette Lowery of memoir publisher Personal Memento feels that with the advent of email, text and social media, the soul has gone out of our communication. “I find little things like receiving a hand-written letter or card through the post really heart-warming as it tends to be something that we just don’t do any more.  It is quicker and easier to fire off an email, but this can lack that personal touch. We store photographs on our computers and smartphones, but what if the computer or phone crashes and these images become obsolete? There has been an increased interest in personal history over these last few years, and I feel that many people still like to have something solid in front of them, be it a photo album or a book, rather than looking at images on a screen.”

Preserving family memories

Personal Memento – Tadeusz in his army uniform

Memory books are a craft-based way of taking a standard album, adding your mementoes and photos, choosing scrapbooking papers and embellishments to create a very personalised record of your family member. Eve Parris of Uniform Memories advises her clients on the compilation of a themed album that could become a treasured family album. “We live in a digital age where everything is supposedly available at the click of a button – except that it isn’t. Instead of the hundreds of photographs that you never look at on your computer, scrapbooking provides a personal and tangible reminder of that special someone or occasion. Something that you have spent time on, that is as individual as you are and that can evoke memories at the mere turn of a page.”

Preserving family memories

Compiling your Family Quilt record

Family Quilt’s Frederique Hull says it comes down to personal choice. “The ‘old fashioned’ books and the digital solutions may suit different people (especially if some older persons are less confident with computers) but in my mind, importantly, they are complementary. Digital solutions give you a lot of flexibility – you can choose how you record your stories (write, voice or video record), you can keep adding over time, you can easily save draft stories. They also make sharing easy – across different locations and in real time. But holding a book in your hand of your life story or of your family history remains really special. The browsing of the book creates great emotions. The physical book is also the visible legacy of a life well spent, of a family across generations.”

Preserving family memories

Interviewee at home with Jim from Loftbox

Loftbox’s Jim Martin says families are merging keepsakes with digital records. “An ageing population is part of the answer, but also we are seeing the suitcase in the attic generation digitizing their old analogue content in order to merge it with their new digital content.” Loftbox captures film of loved ones telling their memories so future generations can experience a relative’s, personality, smile, laughter and tears.

It is common to view your own life as mundane, but when family stories are shared with relatives you may be surprised at how vibrant your life really is. Just think of the laughter and tears at family reunions when old photographs are share. Yvette Lowery of Personal Memento says it is important to remember that, “future members of your family, many of whom will not be in existence for many years to come, will learn about what your life was like, the person you are and what really matters to you. Important pieces of a family’s history are found only in the memories of the living relatives and creating a book for yourself is a great way to ensure your memories are recorded accurately and gives you the opportunity to share with people the memories that you have never had time to discuss. This is an exciting process and the completed book will be cherished by your loved ones and yourself, as well as future generations.”

Personal Memento

Preserving family memories

Yvonne’s story, by Personal Memento

This professional memoir writing service is a family business that enables someone to create their own unique biography making a permanent legacy for family and loved ones. Director Yvette Lowery says, “Your life events and memories are what make you the unique person that you are, and we help you create a solid, permanent record of your life for the enjoyment of both yourself and your loved ones. Future generations will discover much more about you and how life has changed over the years in a personal, interesting way, rather than through a history book.”

Interviews are always conducted by Yvette Lowery, either face to face or by Zoom/Skype or over the telephone. The client decides how he/she would like her book to be created and which photographs they would like included.  Documents such as army credentials, marriage certificates and other documentation which is important to the client can be included within their book. “We work with the client to produce the front and back cover and offer various suggestions to enable the client to make an informed decision.”

The client’s life and memories are discussed during weekly, fortnightly or monthly interviews; these are recorded, written and edited, to create their unique, individual book. Each book takes between eight to ten interviews, but Personal Memento is flexible and can adapt to suit the client. “The client can regularly review their story to ensure that they are happy every step of the way and prior to publication of their completed book they will receive the printer’s proof copy for approval.The relationship between the client and myself is important and there needs to be trust, respect and sincerity.

“I understand and respect that some discussions may be of a confidential nature and not to be recorded or written in any form. If clients choose to conduct interviews through other mediums rather than face to face, we can arrange for photographs and documents to be securely mailed to us. We would like to be able to work with any client who wishes to use our services, with no geographical or other barriers which may prevent this.”
Personal Memento website
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Uniform Memories

Preserving family memories

Adding badges and certificates, from Uniform Memories

From complete beginners who are looking for that unique way of capturing memories, or seasoned scrapbookers who wish to advance their craft, Uniform Memories can provide an individual service, with advice and ideas to allow them to complete that special project. Classes and courses are available to guide customers on the basics allowing them to build a unique and truly personal memory that can evolve and grow as they wish. Director Eve Parris says, “although the business was started to provide and sell scrapbook materials on a military theme, it is this personal service that makes us stand apart from out competitors.”
Uniform Memories at Facebook

Family Quilt

Preserving family memories

Recording your memories at Family Quilt

Family Quilt is a fresh and easy way to digitally capture your life stories. In your private online space, capture the memories that make you and your family unique. Voice record or write your memories, add photos and files and easily share them with your chosen family members. A digital collection of memories is easy to share with family members in different locations. The collection is easy to build over long periods of time – there is no end to collecting. The stories can be voice recorded or written up giving choice and variety to the storyteller. The memories are easy to browse as they can be viewed in different ways (date they happened, date of input, topics). You can always print a book of your memories if you wanted to.

Sharing family stories is a very personal journey. Not all the stories are happy, not all the stories make us proud. And yet when sharing, candidness is critical to preserve the person’s or the family’s legacy. Privacy, and controlling who sees your stories is a key element to help a story teller feel safe in his/her openness. Family Quilt was built to be completely private and we have 2 in-built features to provide this safety:  the storyteller chooses who they want to share their Quilt with. From their account tab, they invite the family members they want to share with – if any, and they can remove them at any time.  We, at Family Quilt, do not have access to the stories written by the members. The storyteller can also decide when a story is shared with their family members by choosing to publish it to their Quilt. A story can be saved as a draft for as long as one is not happy to share it.

Cost: one-off £24 purchase. This gives you a lifetime access to the system, unlimited stories, unlimited photos and unlimited family members to share with. We have kept the price affordable to encourage as many families as possible to collect, share and enjoy their memories.

Family Quilt website
Family Quilt at Facebook

Loftbox

Preserving family memories

Loftbox videos provided in any format

A Loftbox interview can be arranged and implemented quickly. Some of the most candid and entertaining interviews Jim Martin has done have been those with the least planning and advance preparation. “Everyone has stories to tell and whilst these might not appeal to a national TV audience, your family and friends will love to hear them. Stories from your childhood are always great to hear along with insights into what you got up to as a teenager, your first crush/kiss and falling in love, your achievements and the lessons you have learned on the way are all great stories to hear told in your own unique way.”

Typical interviews are conducted over a two hour session, with the edit taking five to seven days to complete and send for approval or feedback. Loftbox can incorporate treasured photographs into a personal film, explains Jim Martin. “In my experience, people have spent a lot of money converting thousands of photographs and hundreds of 35mm slides and cine films into digital format, and still haven’t done anything meaningful with them since. Our main focus is on capturing your stories on film, after which we will identifying very specific photographs and video clips that will be used to enhance the interview material.”

Once the project is completed the invoice is paid, the the rights of that video are passed to the customer. Loftbox deletes the master files in accordance with GDPR.

Cost: £499 which includes the pre-filming conversation to assess priorities, travel to the client’s home, set up of video/sound/lighting, two hour interview, video editing, one set of client amendments and exporting the film onto a dedicated USB card. A secondary edit – to add in photographs and other media to support the stories and memories being shared – is charged separately.

Watch this video to see how Loftbox works.
Loftbox website
Loftbox at Facebook

Don’t leave it too late. This moving film by Loftbox encourages us all to share our memories now. Anyone that has lost someone close, or is faced with losing a loved one who is terminally ill will know that feeling of wanting to turn the clocks back to talk more about their early lives and to record those magical memories to treasure in the future.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
The paternity question
Researching European records
20 top tips to find your missing family 

Preserving family memories

 

Ignoring Gravity is first in the ‘Identity Detective’ series of novels. Two pairs of sisters, separated by a generation of secrets. Rose Haldane is confident about her identity. She pulls the same face as her grandfather when she has to do something she doesn’t want to do, she knows her DNA is the same as his. Except it isn’t: because Rose is adopted and doesn’t know it.
Read an extract of Ignoring Gravity for FREE

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