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  • Barbara Elk

Children Grow Up so Be Aware

Updated: Feb 27, 2019

I was nine years old when I was adopted by a second white family. (The first white family had me long enough to give me a poodle haircut before they sent me packing, straight back to the children's home. This is another good reason why you should always hold onto your receipts!)

This time, I was transported to the United States. I was headed to an all-white family with a Mom and a Dad and their three biological children. They lived in a "white bread" suburban community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I was accompanied on the trip by an older woman who managed the children's home, a place I spent off and on since I was five/six years old.

My first *transracial adoption was to a family in Ottawa, Ontario. She hadn't accompanied me then so I found it curious that she accompanied me the second time around. I'm thinking that maybe she wanted to ensure that I wouldn't be sent back again.

In fact, I have proof of that plausible intent from a conversation. Below is a snippet of the conversation she had with my "new" parents. Her name has drifted away over time so I am referring to her as "Woman" in the exchange.


Parent: "Can you tell us what her home life was like before she came to the children's home?"

Woman: (shaking her head while looking over a me) "It was a horrible situation. All of these kids we get come from terrible situations. Their parents are alcoholics and they don't work. Barbie's parents were just that. She and her siblings were left in dire neglect. It's a shame to see children live in conditions like that."

Parent: "What about the relatives? Grandparents?"

Woman: "They have their own issues and problems. Barbie came from a large family so no one is going to step in to help them out. They (my relatives) just can't do it. And plus, alcoholism is rampant on those reserves. The poor children are left to their own many times."


And on and on they spoke of my family and relatives in ear-shot of where I sat on the floor. In my young mind, I heard that my background, my culture, my People and tribe were irrelevant as caretakers. They didn't want me. They were alcoholics and it was best that I never return. They wouldn't want me back anyway.


Over the years, I was repeatedly told that my People were messed up. There wasn't anything to go back to. My mother was not suited to be a parent.


In private, hot tears would slide down my cheeks. I didn't believe them. I didn't believe them because I REMEMBERED MY MOTHER. I remembered a lot of my relatives and I remembered my siblings.

Even though I remember and carried such wonderful memories of my mother doing her best around us, how gentle her words and voice was when she spoke to us, I was confused. Everyone around me were telling me that my biological family are broken people who don't have the strength or love to take care of their children, much less themselves.

More hot tears. Now accompanied with anger as more confusion set in.

I was now a teenager. Living in an environment that confused me. I didn't fit into the family because I didn't agree with what they thought was important. I had differing values. The father was violent and he raged.

As I got older, in my mid-teens, I was consumed by rage. I knew I wasn't treated right and yet I was still terrified. But now, I started fighting back. I knew what i was told had to be lies. But yet, I was scared. There was a dark, little voice in the back of my mind that said; "Maybe no one wants you."

"Your biological family never showed up to save you."

"No one loves you."

"You're alone."


Deep within me, a thick, twisted cord of rage twinged painfully.


A couple years ago, I finally cut off my adopted family. They spoke negatively about my family and relatives even though they never knew them or their true story. They didn't help me learn or understand my cultural background. They inhibited my growth and didn't do a damn thing to help me heal.


Today, whenever I see an obvious transracial/interracial adoption, whether in the grocery stores or just passing by, I hope that the parents have more sense and awareness and actual love for the child to allow the child to know their roots and background.

Just a bit of advice for the Adopted Parents: Don't guess and make up stories about the child's background. Take your child to people of their same cultural background, reach out to their relatives, and then, only then, can the truth be seen.

This is a picture of me before I was taken. I sure do look happy. I don't appear to be abused. I remember this moment. My family and extended family were on our way to the fair. That doesn't sound dysfunctional at all.



*transracial adoption (or interracial adoption) refers to the adoption of a child that is of a different race than that of the adoptive parents

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