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An Inside Look at Adoption as Both an Adoptee and a Birth Parent with Dr. Abby Hasberry - Ep 118

Unraveling Adoption

Release Date: 11/06/2023

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"Supporting a birth mother doesn't mean just offering empty words, but actively showing her what support looks like and helping her make informed decisions." - Abby Hasberry

Have you ever experienced a life-changing twist that completely altered your life view? Abby Hasberry's story of being raised in a transracial adoptive family takes an unexpected turn at age 16, revealing the complexities and challenges faced by both transracial adoptees and birth parents.


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In this episode, you will be able to:

  • Gain a deeper understanding of the unique challenges faced by transracial adoptees, helping you provide better support and empathy as an adoptive parent, ally, or professional in the adoption field.

  • Discover the often overlooked experiences of birth parents in adoption, allowing you to have a more comprehensive perspective and offer more compassionate support.

  • Learn about some of the problematic practices in the adoption industry, empowering you to advocate for positive change and ensure ethical adoption processes.

  • Explore the importance of therapy in addressing racialized trauma in transracial adoptees, equipping you with valuable insights and tools to help them heal and thrive.

  • Dive into the inner work and forgiveness journey in adoption, enabling you to approach adoption from a place of empathy, understanding, and healing.

My special guest is Dr. Abby Hasberry

Dr. Abby Hasberry is our esteemed guest on this episode of Unraveling Adoption. With a background as a domestic transracial adoptee and birth parent, Abby brings a unique perspective to our discussion. Having worked as an educator and principal before transitioning to a career as a licensed marriage and family therapist, Abby is well-versed in supporting adoptees and birth parents on their healing journey. Her therapeutic approach incorporates brainspotting, narrative therapy, and parts work to address the trauma experienced by individuals in the adoption process.


Supporting Birth Parents in Adoption -
Birth parents, particularly those coerced into giving up their children for adoption, bear significant emotional trauma that often worsens over time. It is crucial to provide these parents with the necessary support, including comprehensive counseling and space to grieve. Abby Hasberry stresses that these parents also need acknowledgment for the immense loss they suffer, something that the adoption system often neglects.

Advocating for Ethical Adoption Practices -
Abby shares that the adoption industry often exploits vulnerable pregnant women, prioritizing the provision of infants to adoptive parents over family preservation. She calls attention to the need for transformative change in the adoption system, advocating for more ethical and responsible practices. This includes offering expectant mothers unbiased support, helping them thoroughly understand their options and the long-term effects of their decisions.

Timestamped summary of this episode:

00:01:26 - Abby's Adoption Story
Abby shares that she was adopted in 1971 by white parents who wanted a big family. However, due to the National Black Social Workers (NABSW) statement on transracial adoption in 1972, her parents were unable to adopt another black child. Abby discusses the implications of this statement and the challenges she faced growing up as the only black child in her family .

00:03:02 - Racial Bias and Identity
Beth and Abby discuss how racial bias is present in society and how it can impact transracial adoptees. Abby shares her experience of having a strong black identity and how it sometimes clashed with her mother's racial biases. They also touch on the importance of acknowledging and addressing racial biases.

00:05:34 - Growing Up in a Predominantly White Community
Abby talks about her experience growing up in a predominantly white community, where she was often the only black person in her grade. She explains how this influenced her sense of identity and the challenges she faced as a black teenager, especially when she started embracing her black culture and dating black boys.

00:12:11 - Making the Decision to Place
Abby discusses her decision to place her child for adoption and the lack of support she received from her parents. She also talks about feeling pressured to give up her plans for college and track.

00:13:49 - Coercion and Lack of Support
Abby reflects on the lack of clear support she received from her parents during the decision-making process. She shares how they used her passion for track as a way to pressure her into choosing adoption without offering concrete solutions or assistance.

00:14:41 - Language and Identity
Abby discusses the different terms she uses to describe her experience, such as "gave up for adoption" or "placed." She talks about the importance of using politically correct language, even if it doesn't fully align with her personal feelings.

00:15:00 - Being Black in a White Family
Abby reflects on her experience of being a black child in a white family. She shares that while her parents didn't treat her differently, she often felt different. Education and achievement were valued in her family, but race didn't play a significant role in her upbringing.

00:15:28 - Race and the Adoption Decision
Abby discusses the role race played in her decision to place her child for adoption. She initially wanted to find an educated family with black members, but later discovered that her child was adopted transracially by a white family. She expresses her disappointment and frustration with this realization.

00:24:17 - Issues in the Adoption Industry
The adoption industry has made changes to shorten waiting periods and provide infants without considering family preservation. Some tactics include moving birth parents to states with more favorable adoption laws and offering financial compensation. These practices exploit vulnerable pregnant women and contribute to the business-like nature of adoption.

00:25:42 - Varying Adoption Laws and Compensation
Each state has different rules regarding waiting periods and compensation for birth parents. Some states allow adoptive parents to pay for medical expenses and provide financial support. However, this can create a sense of obligation and guilt for birth parents if they change their minds.

00:27:31 - Unaddressed Birth Parent Grief
Birth parents often experience ongoing grief that worsens over time. Society doesn't acknowledge their grief, leading to suppressed emotions. Seeing children of similar age can trigger feelings of loss and longing for their own child.

00:29:20 - Transition from Education to Therapy
Abby transitioned from being a principal to becoming a therapist after receiving messages from black female transracial adoptees struggling with their racial identity. Recognizing the need for adoption-informed therapy options, she decided to pursue a career in therapy to address racialized trauma.

00:30:32 - Therapy vs. Coaching
Therapy delves deeper into trauma, addressing the root causes and helping individuals heal. Coaching focuses on goal-setting and achieving desired outcomes. Abby pursued a Master's degree in Counseling and Development to gain the necessary skills for therapy.

00:36:23 - Abby's Healing Process
Abby shares how she allowed herself three days to wallow and feel the pain after discovering her birth mother's secret. She then made a conscious decision to not let her birth mother's actions bring negative energy into her life anymore.

00:37:13 - Feeling Sorry for Her Birth Mother
Abby expresses sympathy for her birth mother, recognizing that she hasn't done the necessary work to heal and process her own emotions. Abby also acknowledges the sadness of not being able to connect with her biological brother and nieces and nephews.

00:38:33 - Working with Adoptees and Birth Parents
Abby primarily works with adoptees and birth parents, focusing on their unique experiences and needs. While she also works with clients not touched by adoption, her main focus is on adoptees, as she believes their voices need to be centered in the adoption narrative.

00:39:26 - The Challenges Faced by Birth Parents
Abby discusses the challenges faced by birth parents, including the shame and lack of support they often encounter. She believes that as adoptee voices gain more attention and empathy, it can inadvertently contribute to more shame experienced by birth parents.

00:40:11 - Boundaries in Abby's Practice
Abby explains that she does not typically work with adoptive parents or adoption agencies. She only works with adoptive parents if their perspective aligns with her own views on adoption. Abby sets clear boundaries in her practice to ensure she focuses on the adoptee and birth parent experience.