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Reimagining Culture's Adoption Narratives with Gayle Swift - Ep 110

Unraveling Adoption

Release Date: 09/11/2023

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Reimagining Culture's Adoption Narratives with Gayle Swift

"What our children need is our common ground, our empathy, our support. They need us to step into their lens and understand their pain and feelings."- Gayle Swift

What if the prevailing mindset surrounding adoption isn't as positive as we think? In this eye-opening conversation between Beth and adoption expert Gayle Swift, the US culture's (and churches') impact on adoption is challenged. It may cause you to question everything you thought you knew about adoption. Which adoption myths do you believe? And are you willing to view it differently - from an adoptees' perspective?

In this episode, you will be able to:

  • Gain acknowledgment for an adoptee's biological heritage and interests, fostering a more comprehensive perspective about adoption.

  • Uncover the concept known as the ghost kingdom and how it impacts adoptees, deepening your awareness of their inner world.

  • Question the term 'Gotcha Day' and explore alternative ways to celebrate adoption, broadening your perspective on this pivotal event.

  • Understand the immense influence the church has on adoption, and the growing need for enlightenment and support.

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My special guest is Gayle Swift

Gayle Swift is a compassionate and understanding advocate for adoption, armed with both personal experience and professional knowledge. Diagnosed with cancer at a young age which took away her ability to get pregnant, Gayle and her husband took the path of adoption, solidifying a decision they'd made earlier in life. Now, she's an author of three influential and insightful books focused on adoption for varying age groups. Her mission isn’t confined to writing as she also co-founded 'Growing Intentional Families Together', a platform aimed at educating and supporting adoptive families. An adoptive parent herself, she shines a light on the intricate complexities of adoption, dispelling myths and encouraging a deep understanding.

The resources mentioned in this episode are:

Understanding the Impact of the Ghost Kingdom
The concept of the 'Ghost Kingdom' refers to the emotional and psychological impact of the adoptee's separation from their birth families. This 'phantom pain' often gets overlooked due to the celebration of adoption. Gayle Swift suggests this trauma needs more recognition, and adoptive parents should be sensitive to the layered emotions their children might experience due to their complex histories.

Acknowledging Adoptees' Heritage and Interests
To offer adoptees a healthy upbringing, it is vital to acknowledge their heritage and personal interests. Adoption should not mean erasure of their original identities or silencing their stories. Foster open discussions about their birth families and past, making them feel valued and heard, and consider their cultural and personal interests while making decisions about their upbringing.

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Other Resources:

 

 

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Unraveling Adoption is produced and hosted by Beth Syverson

Music written and performed by Joseph Nakao

Email questions or comments to [email protected]

Find us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube

Support Unraveling Adoption on Patreon: Patreon.com/UnravelingAdoption

www.UnravelingAdoption.com

 

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Timestamped summary of this episode:

00:01:44 - Gayle's Adoption Story,
Gayle shares her family's adoption story, how she chose adoption after infertility, and her initial understanding of adoption based on cultural presuppositions. She talks about the struggles she and her spouse faced as adoptive parents and the importance of understanding the complexities of adoption.

00:05:17 - Supporting Adopted Children,
Beth and Gayle discuss the challenges of supporting adopted children and the importance of validating their experiences and acknowledging their birth families. They emphasize the need for adoptive parents to understand and appreciate their child's unique qualities and not denigrate their birth families.

00:08:52 - Understanding Adopted Children's Perspectives,
Gayle talks about the concept of the "ghost kingdom," where adopted children have fantasies and thoughts about their birth parents. She emphasizes the importance of recognizing and exploring these thoughts with children to validate their experiences.

00:11:38 - Rethinking Metaphors and Celebrations,
The conversation addresses the use of metaphors like puzzle pieces and the celebration of "Gotcha Day." They discuss the limitations and potential negative impacts of these metaphors and suggest alternative approaches to celebrating adoption.

00:13:47 - The Phantom Pain of Missing Families,
The metaphor of phantom pain in missing limbs can also apply to the phantom pain of missing families in adoption. Celebrating adoption in a limited view may not do justice to the complex emotions and experiences of adopted children. It's important for parents to create an open and supportive space for their children to express their feelings.

00:14:41 - Celebrating Homecoming Day,
Instead of focusing solely on adoption day, parents can celebrate Homecoming Day or Arrival Day as an opportunity to talk about the complex emotions surrounding adoption. This allows children to express their feelings and acknowledge the presence of both joy and sadness. It is important for parents to have welcoming body language during these conversations.

00:16:09 - The Gray Areas of Adoption,
Children's books that depict adoption as purely positive fail to address the complexity of adoption. It is important to introduce the concept of gray areas to children from a young age, as life is rarely black and white. By encouraging open conversations about complex emotions, parents can lay the groundwork for future discussions during adolescence.

00:19:21 - Providing Empathy and Support,
When adopted children express difficult emotions, it is crucial for parents to respond with empathy and support. Instead of dismissing their feelings or becoming emotionally overwhelmed, parents should create a safe space for their children to express their pain and offer understanding. This allows for a deeper connection and support between parent and child.

00:22:46 - The Need for Adoption Education,
Adoption competency is so important for adoptive parents, plus teachers, ministers, and community members.

00:26:51 - Give Families Grace,
Extended families should be given grace as they learn about adoption, but it is important that adoptive parents advocate for their adopted children.

00:27:34 - The Church's Impact on Adoption,
The church has been a strong advocate for adoption but has not updated its understanding of adoption. The false belief that adoption is benign persists in many churches, and some even see adoption as a way to save souls. Education is crucial for the church to better serve adopted individuals.

00:29:31 - Reimagining Adoption in the Church,
Gayle's book, Reimagining Adoption: What Adoptees Seek from Families and Faith, aims to educate the church about adoption complexity and the need to understand the seven core issues of adoption. The church should support both widows and orphans together, rather than separating them, and focus on preserving families instead of immediately suggesting adoption.

00:32:37 - The Trauma of Birth Mothers,
Birth mothers often face vilification and judgment, both for their decision to place their child for adoption and for seeking to reconnect with their birth family later on. The church should acknowledge and address the trauma experienced by birth mothers and provide support and resources to help them keep their families together.

00:38:00 - Educating the Church Community,
The church community, including pastors, elders, and citizens, needs to be reeducated about adoption and the negative fallout that can occur. Many adoptees and birth mothers may be hiding their experiences, and it is important to create a safe and understanding environment within the Church.

00:40:34 - The Beliefs and Presuppositions about Adoption,
The conversation highlights the prevalence of pro-adoption beliefs in the Christian world. It discusses how these beliefs can lead to a biased perspective on adoption, overlooking the consequences of early maternal-child separation and minimizing the importance of a child's first family.

00:42:02 - Changing Mindsets in the Church and Culture,
The guest emphasizes the need to challenge old mindsets in the church and society regarding adoption. Gayle and Beth discuss the importance of prioritizing the well-being of adoptees and recognizing that they had no choice in the matter. The goal is to create a safer and more loving environment for all involved.

00:43:30 - Aptitude Support Group for Adoptive Parents,
The conversation introduces AP titude, a support group for adoptive parents facing adoption challenges. It distinguishes this group from others that solely celebrate adoption, focusing instead on addressing the difficulties adoptive families may encounter. The group aims to provide resources and a community for parents navigating these challenges.

00:44:30 - Patreon Account and Supporting the Podcast,
Beth mentions the Unraveling Adoption Patreon account, explaining how it helps sustain the podcast by covering various expenses. They encourage listeners to contribute if they find value in the content and want to support the podcast's continuation.

00:45:38 - Gayle Swift's services,
Gayle Swift's services as a coach and speaker are highlighted. She offers individual and family coaching, as well as group sessions. Gayle is available for various speaking engagements as well.