Interview with Contributing Author, Jodi Gibson Haywood from The Adoptee Survival Guide:

 1-  Hi Jodi,  Please tell us about yourself:  your current career, education, married, kids, pets, etc:

Married for 15 years to my best friend. We have a 14-year-old daughter and I have a stepdaughter in her mid 30s. My educational background is in creative writing, and I’m currently working as a freelance author. This is my second contribution to an adoption anthology; I wrote for Adoption Therapy (edited by Laura Dennis, Entourage Publishing, 2014) and am working on a chapter for the second Adoption Therapy book. I’ve also written a church history book and am under contract for several young-adult novels. I’m working on completing an undergraduate degree in psychology, and from there I want to go into social work, counseling, and/or neuropsychology research.

As for pets, I’ve had a few dogs and cats over the years, and want to get another dog when the time is right. I had a rottweiler who was like my therapy dog – she saw me through the deaths of my stepson, my dad, and my aunt who adopted me, and then she died in 2011. I still miss her. 

(Awwww…Pets do mean a lot!)

2-  Please tell us about your adoption.  When / In what era and location did it happen?

My adoption took place in the mid 1970s. I was born in 1973, taken from the UK in 1975 and the adoption was finalized in 1977 just before I turned 4. I do have my OBC from England, but that was a recent discovery; I found it after my aunt died in 2010. Until then I didn’t believe it still existed. From what I can piece together, the reason it took so long is because my parents didn’t want to sign the papers to relinquish me. I don’t know if both parents had to sign or just my mom, and they weren’t together by then, but both of them were opposed to it.

3- According to your essay, it was a unique situation.  Please share.  How did you find out?  Have you been able to find your truth(s)?  Do you have relationships with your original family?

I always knew I was adopted – I can’t remember a time I didn’t know. Or when I didn’t have questions about it. I kept those questions inside most of the time, and when I did ask them I never got a straight answer. They’d tell me when I was older. I had all kinds of social and behavioral problems, and had to see a psychiatrist in sixth grade. All I wanted to talk about was my real parents, where they were, who they were, why did they give me away, and finally around my 12th birthday they decided to tell me the truth. I don’t know what made up their minds; if it was something the psychiatrist said, or if it was because we were spending the summer in England and I was going to meet my so-called Uncle George, but after 10 years of living with them and wondering about my origins, they finally admitted “Uncle George” was my father. I’m pretty sure that if they hadn’t told me, he would have, and it was best I hear it from them and have a month or so to adjust to it before I met him. I was like, “so you’re really my aunt, can I call you Aunt now?” and she said NO. But inside me, in my thoughts and feelings, they were always my aunt and uncle after that. They’d never felt like parents to me and I was glad to have another way to define the relationship.

My father died in 2009, and my aunt adopter – his sister – less than 4 months later. I’ve been in reunion with my mother for 16 years now and it’s all good. I have a good relationship with her and my stepfather. My only regret is that I still have some half-siblings out there somewhere and have never located them.

(I’m so sorry for your losses.  I hope you can connect w siblings one day!)

4-  if you have kids, what have you shared with them?

My daughter knows who my parents are. She never had the opportunity to meet my dad, but she has met my mom & stepfather and they keep in contact. My aunt adopter was “Grandma” to her because she wouldn’t have it any other way, and with my mom living in Ireland and my mother-in-law no longer living, she was the only “grandma” she got to see, so at least she had that relationship. She won’t have anything to do with my uncle, but that is her decision entirely and I haven’t tried to change her mind. He alienated her the same way he did me, the same verbal abuse and shaming.

5-  If you feel there are negative aspects to (your) adopted life, (how) have you been able to turn them into a positive?

It’s hard to say whether I’ve turned the numerous negative aspects into positives, or just created positive things in my life that have nothing to do with adoption. There were really no positive aspects about the adoption. I wasn’t orphaned or relinquished; my aunt deliberately took me and withheld the fact she was my aunt, and that’s no way to raise a child. I took back my surname, reclaimed my identity when I was 19. I have uncovered the lies I was told and established a relationship with my mother. My daughter has never had to wonder who or where her parents are, and she’s free to define her own relationships with my side of the family. I still feel like an orphan in exile, without a country to call my own, and I don’t think that’s ever going to change. It’s the worst thing about international adoption. But I have my family, friends I consider family and my faith in God, and those are the places of belonging I’ve found. 

(Good for you in finding other outlets for joy!)

5- What sort of changes/reforms would you like to see happen in adoption?

I’d like to see the entire adoption industry overhauled and the concept of “ownership” replaced with guardianship. Infertility and entitlement are not reasons to adopt. Financial assistance should be given to family preservation, not as incentives to potential adopters. Birth certificates need to reflect a child’s actual parentage, not the adoptive caregivers, and whenever parents or other blood relatives want to be part of the child’s life, they should be allowed to, as long as there is no abuse. Kids do need to be safe from abusive parents or family members, but even when it’s necessary to remove children from abusive homes, that’s no reason to erase their entire identity and falsify their birth certificates. With situations like I grew up in, guardianship or kinship arrangements should be sufficient. Kids can live with their grandparents or aunts & uncles without sacrificing their name, parentage, and contact with other family members. It should be up to us, and only us, who we call “Mom” or “Dad”. And finally there should be the same level of accountability with adoption as there is with foster care. Adoption, regardless of age, is a traumatic life event and not all kids deal with trauma the same way. Everyone from prospective adopters to part-time caregivers to teachers and school counselors must be aware that these kids have experienced developmental trauma and might have some problems as a result.

(Absolutely!)

6- What do you do for fun when you have free time?

My idea of fun usually involves training for marathons or some other strenuous activity. I don’t relax much. I read a lot; I prefer books to movies, but I’ll watch true crime shows, unsolved mysteries, historical documentaries…I like to learn things. The human mind fascinates me – psychology, mental illness, neurology. I was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s – high-functioning autism – which might explain that field of study; I always knew something was different in my head. LOL. We do a lot of family road trips, exploring historic sites, museums, old bookstores, odd or unusual places. I usually find something to inspire a new story. 

(Cool!  You fit right in w my peeps!   LOL  Yeah, I work w a lot of “SPED” students and came up w the term, “adoptism” because of that. My students like that inspire me.  I think there are spectrums for a lot of things.)

7- How can readers and others interested in your adoption efforts reach you?  ( blogs, FB, Twitter, etc.)

I don’t have a blog but I have a Facebook page for my book, Attachment Unavailable?, which I’m still working on.https://www.facebook.com/AttachmentUnavailable.haywood?fref=ts

 It’s about the impact adoption has had on my journey, life “on the spectrum”, and the attachment struggles many adoptees experience. It’s about why I disagree with the label “attachment disorder” when the dual trauma of relinquishment and adoption pretty much guarantees we will have some difficulty with trust and, therefore, attachment. 

(Interesting!  I want to read this soon!)

8- Anything else you’d like to add?

One more comment…I think that’s a great insight you gave in your essay about adoption being like a spectrum disorder. Brilliant. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but since being diagnosed with autism I’m in 100% agreement. If you’ve met one adoptee, you’ve met one adoptee 🙂 there is no such thing as a “typical” one. 

I’m very interested in how developmental disabilities affect our ability to process severe trauma, as in the area of relinquishment/adoption. Is it easier or harder to manage? I wonder if I might have had an easier time in school if the Asperger’s diagnosis was available back then and if there’d been more awareness/acceptance of how the adoption affected me. Going back over the doctors’ files, it looks as if they picked up on it, but my aunt adopter refused to acknowledge it, so I can’t fault the professionals at all. 

jodi

I think you’re on to something!  Yes!  I had an elementary school counselor/O.T. who had a lot of questions re my own delayed development connected adoption. Of course, my parents didn’t have much info to give her…    : P

Thanks so much for the interview, Jodi!  It was great getting to know you better! 

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Comments

  • gsmwc02  On December 30, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    “Infertility and entitlement are no reasons to adopt.” Says the person who wouldn’t know anything about not having the ability to have children.

    And BTW Guardianship is legalized babysitting that doesn’t provide a family for a kid who needs one. It’s the situation we see with kids aging out of Foster Care who have no families to care for them.

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