Starting the Adoption Conversation on a College Campus

Adoption is hard, beautiful, and complicated. After all, in a perfect world, there would never be a need for it. Nevertheless, we celebrate adoption as a gift, a way of transforming kids’ lives and building families. So how do we make sense of adoption, both its tragedy and its hope?

I wanted to start a conversation about this very issue on my campus. With this goal in mind, I worked with Celts for Life, a student organization at my university, and put together a discussion on adoption featuring an adoptee, adoptive parents, and professionals from Arms Wide. We hosted our panel on World Adoption Day (November 9) and were thrilled to see a packed room eager to learn about this subject.

We were so 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 big shock and disappointment. However, they also explained how they persevered in their adoption journeys and could not imagine their lives now without their adopted kids. Another panelist spoke of the unique challenges her daughter faces because her health was compromised by the birth mother’s decisions while pregnant. Nevertheless, her daughter has found her unique talents and excelled, even starting her own business.

Arms Wide’s own Development and Marketing Coordinator, Melissa Daigneault, spoke of her experience as an adoptee in a closed, private adoption. She affirmed her joy in having been adopted, and expressed gratitude to her birth mother for choosing that path for her. Melissa didn’t sugarcoat the hard parts of her story, either. It’s natural to wonder about your roots and be curious about your biological family, Melissa explained. When she was growing up, she didn’t ask her adoptive parents questions about her birth family since she feared such a conversation would hurt their feelings. Looking back, she recognizes she had no need to shy away from those discussions, but also wishes her parents had opened a dialogue about her biological relatives so she would feel comfortable asking her questions.

Cynthia Couch, Arms Wide’s Post Adoption and Post Permanency Supervisor, shared her perspective as an adoptive mom. In her son’s case, Cynthia and the birth family chose to have an open adoption, and Cynthia and her son, Ray, visited his birth family about twice a year. Because of their open adoption plan, Ray had the chance to bond with his biological sister. Even now that Ray and his sister are adults, the siblings are as close as ever.

I think my heart burst when almost everyone who attended the panel had questions they were excited to ask the panelists. And they were such insightful questions—about foster care, government support for adoptive families, international adoption, and keeping communication lines open between adoptees and their parents. Since the event was taking place on a college campus, panelists also spoke about what college students can do advocate for adoption on campus. Cynthia pointed out the importance of mentoring kids in need and another panelist mentioned helping moms in crisis pregnancies receive support, prenatal care, and information about adoption.

I’m so grateful we got to spend an evening talking about adoption on my campus. I think that when we have a discussion rather than a lecture, inviting everybody to join in and ask questions, we’re prompted to think more deeply about complicated topics. Hopefully, these deep thoughts will light a spark in us, inspiring us to be advocates, mentors, and future foster and adoptive parents. Adoption is hard, beautiful, and complicated. So let’s keep talking about it.

About The Author

As the 2017 Summer Marketing Intern, Isabel created web content and social media posts to uplift and engage our Arms Wide community. She’s a senior English major at the University of St. Thomas and hopes to teach middle school after graduation.

The Arms Wide team feels very lucky to have had Isabel in our Marketing Department this past summer! We are even more lucky she has continued to spread the word about adoption through her various roles at the University of St. Thomas. Thank you, Isabel – taking part in your panel was truly an honor!