Its A Family Thing
An interview with my Grandmother
By Grace Lyman
Summary of Our Interview
Roberta Schnepper, a name that would be hard to find in the modern world, is that of an exuberant, lighthearted, not-so-young woman that I proudly call my grandma. Plastic containers with every design imaginable from polka dots to snowmen are her passion. With a big personality and a tough exterior to match, many would assume her life has always been so easygoing, yet an almost ancient past seems to make its way through the cracks. Through numerous miscarriages and an adoption that had fallen through, my grandma, Roberta or Bobby, not only raised my uncle but my mom as well. The best way to truly understand her story is to hear it from herself. I welcome you to listen as she opens her heart and shares feelings I never knew existed.
Grandma and Me by lymangrace
Transcription of Interview
Grace: Would you be okay with her deciding to meet her parents?
Grandma: Very sensitive feelings about that. I thought about that my entire life and I’m going to tell you something that I have becca’s birth certificate and I never destroyed it because I felt that god forbid that something serious would happen to your mother that I could maybe help her seeking out her birth mother. I said to becca, and I didn’t say it, I didn’t say it to her until after she was married, I said, “ Becca, if you ever want to find your birth mother I am okay with it and I will help you.” I didn’t tell her how I really felt. Do you want me to tell you how I really felt?
Grandma: Yeah? I think it would hurt me because I love your mother very very much. It would hurt me but maybe it would hurt me for the moment.
Grace: Do you think you all feel like an actual family?
Grandma: We never felt anything but an actual family. What is an actual family? I think it is good to laugh together, cry together like we did a few minutes ago, cry with laughter. A secure family. What is secure? We just have to all, to be secure you have to be mentally and physically healthy and just be kind to each other. If you are kind to each other you will have a secure family.
My grandmother told me about a book that she had bought for my mom. It was a children's book that she intended on using to explain that my mom was adopted. This is my version that children's book told through sea turtles and puffer fish.
A Horrid Practice: Re-Homing
Quita Puchalla, a victim of this cruel underground market, admits when she first came to the states she thought she was, "coming to a nicer place, a safer place. It didn't turn out that way," she says. After being tossed from home to home when desperate parents regretted adopting her, "It turned into a nightmare."
With little government involvement, almost anyone can post their unwanted children on Facebook and expect numerous response. This is exactly what Todd and Melissa Puchalla, Quita’s adoptive parents, did. Quita’s troubled past from growing up in Liberia was hardly her fault but her parents found her behavior unbearable, so they gave her to Nicole and Calvin Easons.
What the Puchallas didn’t know about these knew “wonderful parents” is that there two biological parents had been removed from their care years earlier. In 2006, Nicole Easons and another man, Randy Winslow, had taken a 10 year-old boy in the exact same fashion: from an ad online. Winslow is currently serving a twenty year sentence for the sending and receiving of child pornography.
Quita’s first night with the Easons was one of her worst. Her new guardians had asked her to join them in bed while Nicole slept naked though they claim that it never happened. After that first night Quita was being missed by Melissa Puchalla. Melissa was unable to contact the Easons and was concerned for her safety. Two weeks passed before any authority was able to locate Quita and she was immediately sent back to the Puchallas in Wisconsin: alone.
The incident brought the re-homing of Quita to the authorities attention yet no action was taken in Illinois or Wisconsin. Against all our well wishes this is not the only time that this has happened. In fact, the practice is becoming widely popular. A boy from Brazil and a girl from the Phillipines were advertised together three times. So was a girl from Haiti. She was offered for re-homing when she was fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen years old.
"I would have given her away to a serial killer, I was so desperate," one mother wrote in March 2012 on a Yahoo message board about her 12 year-old daughter.
This message board is the breeding ground for re-homing opportunities. Over a five-year period reuters analyzed over 5,000 posts, their discovery was that a child was being advertised there once a week. The majority of the children ranged from age six to fourteen yet the youngest was discovered to be just ten months old. Mainly from international countries, this message board was referred to by one user as, " 'farms' in which to select children."
Americans have adopted approximately 243,000 children from international countries since the late 1990s, but nobody tracks what happens to these children once in the U.S. Transfers like the one involving Nicole Eason, the woman who disappeared with Quita and took the 10 year-old boy, might never be discovered. Leaving these children lost in the underground industry, a loophole in the American adoption system, is a tragedy that needs to be recognized.
Finding Birth Parents
Dear Melanie Burke,
My name is Kyle Dormer. I live in Bridgeport, Connecticut and I just graduated high school. My parents, Frederick and Vanessa, have always treated me differently than my siblings. I am the oldest of four children. Ever since the day my oldest sister was born they showered me with special gifts and compliments. I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but there was always something different about me.
I didn’t know what was different about me until my eighteenth birthday. My parents finally decided to tell that I was adopted. Which brings me to you, my birth mother. My mom said that I was adopted when I was nine months old so you must have wanted me a little bit if you kept me that long, right?
I don’t want to upset anyone by doing this. My parents are already mad at me for contacting you, but I’ve always felt so different and out of place here. I just feel like this is finally my chance to understand why. If you don’t mind I would love if you could tell me about my dad. I couldn’t find anything about him except for his name on my birth certificate, Matthew Norris. What happened to make you decide to give me up? Do you really think you made the right choice?
I hope that I am not asking too much of you or intruding on your new life. I just would really like to get to know you. Please take your time to respond I understand I threw a lot at you in one letter.
I never thought I would hear from you. Ever since I had to say goodbye when you were just a little baby I’ve been worried. I just had to trust that Frederick and Vanessa would take care of you, but I still wanted to have you back even though I knew I never would.
I grew up in Santa Monica.When I had you I was only sixteen years old and a sophomore in high school. Your father was two years older than me. I was extremely nerdy back then and Matthew was my best friend from when we were very young. You can imagine that I did not plan to have a child so young. I was so scared and I panicked. I didn’t tell Matthew until I had to. My parents were ready to murder me, but they were willing to be supportive if I decided to keep the baby. Discretely, my mom pushed for me to give up the baby and no matter how much I tried to resist it I started to agree with her. I wanted to go to school and I wanted to be good mom when I was ready. Matthew wasn’t going to offer any help and I wanted you to have a family.
Obviously, you know that your parents didn’t get you until you were about nine months old. I struggled to make myself do it. You were so little and you had the biggest blue eyes. I still remember the day that I met your mom and dad. They said they would be patient and that they understood how difficult this was for me, but to be honest I never liked them very much. I was jealous that they got to have you instead of me.
I know I made the right choice because look at where we are. You had the childhood you deserved, the childhood that I could never give you and now we get to talk to each other. I hope one day I can come visit you and answer some more of your questions. I live in New York now so maybe we can meet up one day. I can’t even tell you how happy I am that you contacted me.
Grandma & Grandpops
Your birth certificate does not seem like something that would be taken away from you, right? We live in America, the country built on freedoms, nobody should ever be denied their birth certificate. Everyday this issue seems to get lost in the stack of more important breaking news. So this very thing continues to happen all over the country. Once adopted children attempting to obtain their original birth certificate for various reasons simply are being told they cannot.
The ability to openly see your adoption records is the standard around the world, but the States takes a different approach. Since the early 1900s, the original law said that it was to protect the adoptees from a certain amount of shame associated with the illegitimate status of being adopted. Today defenders claim it is to protect birth parents, to protect the adoptive parents, as well as the adoptees.
Regardless of the protection sealed records provides, it is increasing the shame that in reality should not exist at all. Open records are only allowed in Kansas, Alaska, Oregon, Alabama, and New Hampshire as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S Virgin Islands. The rest of the United States and all of Canada allow no access to their records and sometimes this access is forbidden unconditionally. The world is now changing. These laws are only showing the shame in history that disgraced infertility, unwanted pregnancy, and adoption.
A slow change is making its way into the mainstream, open adoptions. These are adoptions in which the adoptee has some contact between birth and adoptive parents, but there is still more to be done. Adoptees who remain in contact with their birth parents are still not allowed access to their original records when they are adults despite the fact that there is a relationship between the two parties.
Many adult adoptees make the decision to search for the birth parents to find answers regarding medical history, family heritage, or just to discover who they are. Whether an adoptee decides to search or not, the right to their original records cannot be denied. This is an entire population of American citizens being denied the basic human and civil right to the record of their birth. Continuing to allow this denial of basic rights is promoting the shame associated with adoption, infertility, and unwanted pregnancies, the government needs to take action. This issue has been pushed under the rug for almost one hundred years. Finally, it stands a chance of being resolved.
Donsley and Veniel: Time To Leave
Two years after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, there was a dramatic change in my family. We have always been very close as well as very traditional, but when my aunt and uncle announced that they had begun the adoption process everyone welcomed it with open arms. Donsley and Veniel, my two little, haitian cousins, are now waiting to be matched with a sister, another earthquake victim and survivor.
When the earthquake struck Haiti in 2010 there was much controversy on how to help. UNICEF’s position has always been that, “ The last resort is inter-country adoption,” according to spokeswoman Veronique Taveau.
The earthquake was estimated to leave over 300,000 people dead and thousands of orphaned children. The U.S and many other humanitarian groups made an effort to speed the adoption process to successfully get these children into safer care. Regardless of the fact that there was a potential for surviving relatives, the country was already plagued with poverty. Donsley had previously been dropped off at an orphanage by his mother who was aware he would receive better care there than what she could ever provide. He then retained multiple injuries in the quake and was taken to another orphanage by the humanitarian rescue group, Doctors Without Borders. There he met Veniel, a three year younger baby discovered in a trash can with injuries as well.
In theory, it would be best to keep orphaned victims of disasters in their family and home country, but seeing these two little boys stuck in a less than superb orphanage for years even though my aunt and uncle where more than thrilled to raise these boys was one of the hardest experiences of my life.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention (HCCH) have taken center stage in wake of some of the biggest disasters the world has seen. Their purpose is to ensure that the crisis does not overrule what is best for the children. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, many countries like the U.S and the Dutch government were rushing to help. While other governments, like Canada, followed the advice of these experts and allowed the children’s life-long well-being to take importance over their immediate protection.
UNCRC and HCCH were based on a worldwide track record of removing children from dangerous situations as somewhat of a panic reaction. Kindertransport was a program that brought almost 10,000 children out of Nazi Germany and into the safety of Britain during World War II. At the time, the program seemed like humanitarian genius, but in adulthood the children of Kindertransport faced extreme mental difficulties. Reunion of Kindertransport is an organization that helps these grown displaced children reconnect with their family, but some never psychologically recovered.
Despite Kindertransport setting the precedent for war and disaster recovery, following the Vietnam War the U.S enacted the controversial project known as, “Operation Babylift”. This humanitarian project encompassed many of the same principles as Kindertransport. The U.S airlifted over 2,000 infant children out of Vietnam in 1975, allowing them to be adopted by families around the world. The problem with this operation was that many of these children were labelled orphans when they were not.
As though we had not learned that a rushed rescue is not always the best, the 2004 tsunami left over 1.5 million children orphaned. Prospective adoptive families eagerly called to help, but Save the Children issue a statement stating that intercountry adoption was inappropriate at the emergency stage. Sri Lanka then temporary banned adoption fearing that children will be prematurely separated from their loved ones.
The impatience we experience after these disasters are a prime example of our instinctive reaction to protect our young. In fact, it would be considered a horrific, inhumane act to ignore the needs of the children danger. The United Nations takes a stand that reflects their distance. When there is a face and a life on the line there is truly no time to waste.
grandma by lymangrace
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Nation, Bastard. "The Right of Adoptees to Access Their Personal Information Should Be Unconditional." Issues in Adoption. Ed. William Dudley. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2004. Current Controversies. Rpt. from "Conditional Access Legislation and Other Legislative Compromises." The Basic Bastard. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.
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