Carmen Hinckley, Holt’s adult adoptee community outreach coordinator, shares a personal reflection on National Adoption Awareness Month and the power of hearing and honoring adoptee stories.
This National Adoption Awareness Month, I’m thinking about adoptee stories and belonging. Focusing on the power of adoptee voices and their impact allows our stories to be told, our experiences to be known and brings adoptees together as a community. Through various adoptee groups and gatherings I’ve been a part of over the years, I’ve found an important sense of belonging and understanding. It almost feels as if we’re all speaking a shared language that only we know.
Growing up, I always knew I was adopted, although it wasn’t something I consciously thought about or focused on every day. As an only child with a single mother, I was raised in a unique family dynamic. The most common question we heard was whether my mom ever planned to adopt another child. Our family unit seemed whole, and it felt right to us as it was.
In my life, I’ve had the opportunity to visit my birth country. I’ve also met members of my birth family, connected with fellow adoptees and heard a wide range of perspectives on adoption that I hadn’t previously considered. It’s an honor to hear these voices and highlight the meaning of each of their stories.
Reflection on National Adoption Awareness Month
As I reflect on National Adoption Awareness Month, I think of the adoptees I’ve met through the years. They have a huge variety of backgrounds, interests and experiences with adoption.
Some of them have only met one or two other adoptees in their life. Others grew up with siblings, some of whom were also adopted, or have many fellow adoptee friends. Some have an interest in returning to their birth country or searching for their birth family. Others do not share these interests or desires. Some adoptees walk through the world with ever-present thoughts of their adoption and how it impacts them as individuals. For others it’s not as present, more like background music playing somewhere nearby or in the back of their mind than the main theme. Some feel very connected to their birth culture through opportunities to explore food, music, dance, literature, etc. Others feel very disconnected and long to find that reconnection. These scenarios are only some of the wide range of adoptee stories I have been honored to hear.
Finding a Sense of Belonging
In my experience, the more opportunities we adoptees have to meet other adoptees, the more we open ourselves up to a sense of belonging, of not having to explain ourselves. Earlier this year, I was in community with a group of fellow adoptees. We were talking about visiting our birth countries, and the idea of or interest in reunion with birth family members. I got to the point in my story where I could have stopped sharing, but felt compelled to continue.
One of the women in the group said, “You don’t have to share any more if you don’t feel comfortable.” I paused for a moment to consider and said, “I want to share. In another group setting I might not do that, but in this group, I’m comfortable talking about this.” That moment of knowing that I could tap into our shared understanding and that my words would be met with interest and compassion defines community and belonging to me. No two adoption stories are the same, and they all deserve to be heard and honored.
Did you know Holt provides support to all adoptees?
Every adoptee has a unique and complex life experience. Holt strives to support all adoptees, regardless of their placing agency, by providing help with birth search, citizenship and more.