As a Dr. Joseph Graham Fellow at the University of St. Thomas, I wanted to start a conversation about adoption on my campus, accurately portraying both the complexities and successes. With this goal in mind, I worked with Celts for Life, UST’s student Pro-Life organization, and organized a discussion on adoption featuring an adoptee, adoptive parents, and professionals from an adoption agency. When the day of the panel arrived, so many students and community members were present that we ran out of seats!
We were fortunate to have panelists who candidly shared both the joyful and difficult parts of adoption. Two panelists recalled heartbreaking stories of failed adoptions and noted the struggle to recover from such a great shock and disappointment. They also explained how they persevered in their adoption journeys and could not imagine their lives without the kids they eventually adopted. Another panelist spoke of the unique neurodevelopmental challenges her adopted daughter has faced. Nevertheless, her daughter has found her own talents and has excelled, even starting her own business. An adoptee spoke of gratitude to her birth mother for making an adoption plan, but also acknowledged her natural desire to know her biological relatives. She shared how much she agonized as a child, afraid to ask her parents questions about her birth family because she didn’t want to hurt her parents’ feelings. She stressed importance of adoptive parents talking to their children about their roots, and allowing them to ask questions, and celebrating every part of their stories.
Our audience was bursting with questions to ask the panelists. The questions were insightful —about foster care, government support for adoptive families, international adoption, and keeping communication lines open between adoptees and their parents. Because the event was on a college campus, panelists also spoke about what college students can do to advocate for adoption on campus. One panelist pointed out the importance of mentoring kids in need, and another mentioned helping moms in crisis pregnancies receive support, prenatal care, and information about adoption.
If their engaged and insightful questions, and the decimation of the snack table, are any indication, the students in attendance enjoyed the panel. Another Fellow at UST, and president of Celts for Life, Jenna Salazar thoughtfully remarked: “It was really great to see so many people from campus and the community come together to learn about such an important subject.” When asked about her experience at the event, senior Ana Hernandez said she “loved the panel” and recognized that “[it’s] important to educate people [about adoption]at all stages in life, not just married couples. Single people should begin learning and opening their hearts to the possibility of adoption so that more children might find forever families.”
I’m so grateful we got to spend an evening talking about adoption on our campus. When we offer discussions rather than lectures, inviting attendees to interact and ask questions, we’re prompted to think more deeply about complicated topics. Hopefully our adoption conversation will light a spark, inspiring us to be advocates, mentors, and, as Ana suggested, future foster and adoptive parents. Adoption is hard, beautiful, and complicated. So let’s keep talking.