We would like to make an introduction today as someone pretty amazing is working hard behind the scenes of Adoptees Connect, Inc. She sometimes doesn’t get the praise she deserves as her role is most of the time unseen by the public eye. We’re excited to share we have a new Volunteer Administrative Assistant on board, Hope. You might not see her name around the Adoptees Connect, Inc. platform as much as others so we wanted to share a little about her, and even allow her the space to share a piece of her own story. She’s so appreciated and valued as her expertise and advice has assisted us in many ways. We’re extremely thankful for her and her commitment to our organization.
Hope is a fellow adoptee and Social Worker who is currently a stay at home mom in the Philadelphia area. She is planning to go back to work in the next couple months. Previously she has worked as a Coordinator and Director with various non-profit organizations. Her expertise is in program coordination, volunteer coordination, program evaluation and improvement, and case management. She has been volunteering with Adoptees Connect in an administrative role since Spring 2019.
When I was born I was placed for adoption. In my first parents’ minds, it was the best decision for me based on their life circumstances at the time, but I never could wrap my head around that. I would sit alone in silence in my pink bedroom surrounded by my dolls and dream about what life would be like living with my first mother in what I imagined was a tiny studio apartment in Philadelphia. We looked exactly alike; everybody could tell that she was my mom. We didn’t have much, but we had each other; that was what was most important. Of course, this was all a fantasy, but it gave me comfort.
When my parents adopted me, they named me “Hope.” Hope because my parents hoped for me and they got me. I didn’t always feel like a “Hope.” It was a name that had a lot of power and significance, something that I felt I couldn’t really live up to. In fact, in middle school some of the older kids on the bus used to call me “Hopeless.” On the worst days, I believed it.
When I was a child I was in my own little world. I rarely spoke to anybody outside of my immediate family. I was always afraid to share my thoughts or feelings with others because somebody might reject me…again.
My parents are absolutely wonderful people, but I still felt a deep sense of hurt, anger and rejection. It made me question whether I was worthy of love. Maybe I’m a horrible person. Maybe that is why my first parents left me. Maybe these parents will leave me too. These thoughts would race around my brain, over and over again. I was paralyzed by them.
As I grew up, the romantic relationships in my life suffered as I tried my best to sabotage them out of fear that these people would leave me too. I eventually began to open up more, but never talked about my sadness and anger. I held it in. I was ashamed. It was programmed into me by society that I should feel grateful to be adopted and be with a wonderful family, and that I shouldn’t feel this sense of loss. But I felt it. It was in the little things, conversations with friends about how much they look like their family members and stories about the days they were born. Nobody could see my pain.
From an early age I wanted to work with people who were returning to the community from incarceration. I felt a deep connection to people who had experienced incarceration. I didn’t understand it, but I went with my gut feeling that something was calling me.
My second year Masters in Social Work internship was to help start a program for men and women returning to the community from incarceration. I am forever grateful for this opportunity because it has been the most healing and impactful experience of my life.
One night at the program I was running for people returning from incarceration, when members of the group were sharing their stories, it finally dawned on me why I felt such a deep connection to them. The members shared stories about their anger stemming from adoption, never knowing their first parents or being abandoned by a parent, holding it in for their whole childhood, feeling like nobody understood. I listened to their pain, wisdom, insight and bravery. And I understood. In hearing their anger and pain, I heard my anger and pain. Our paths were different, but our feeling, our humanity, was very much the same. By telling their stories, they liberated me to tell my own story, to tell my parents, my friends, my community, my story.
After this experience I gained the courage to begin the process of reconnecting with my first parents. This has been very hard emotionally, and things haven’t always gone the way I wanted. But the confidence I gained and continue to gain from my experiences helped sustain me. At Coming Home, I saw the weight lifting off people as they told their truths. It gave me the strength to tell my own truth. It still does.
Through my experiences at the Adoptees Connect small group meetings in Philadelphia, I have continued to gain confidence and strength from other adoptees and their stories. My voice as an adoptee is important, and I am trying to live my truth as an adoptee, something which I didn’t do for a long time. It feels very good.
Much of this story was originally published in Secret Shelter: Thirteen Journeys of Homelessness and Healing (Fordham University Press, 2018).
Adoptees Connect, Inc.
We’re so excited and honored to welcome her to our community! Please take a moment to welcome her, and say “Hello”.