• A Must Read List for Adoption Truths

    • In many states across the USA including New York, Adoptee Rights bills are introduced to state legislators year after year. Due to lack of public support and misinformation based outdated beliefs about the adoption process, year after year, this bills fail to become laws.

    • I am a product of this experiment. I was born on December 24th, 1988 and I was soon transferred from one mother to another because my first mother, known throughout my life as my birth mother, wasn’t married to my birth father. She was 16 years old and still in high school.

    • I was 14 when I learned I was pregnant and my life changed forever. Once I’d gotten that fateful news, I tried to imagine what it would be like to have a baby; I wondered if I’d be able to finish school, would I be able to give my baby the life she deserved?

    • So How Do We Fix Adoption in the USA? Domestic Voluntary Infant Adoption is what we are discussing here. Women facing and unplanned pregnancy and “choose” adoption rather than parenting. If you aren’t aware of adoption facts, then you might not be aware of the need for reform.

    • There are some facts about adoption that, really, you cannot dispute unless you are just trying to purposely to stay ignorant regarding the facts of infant adoption in this country. Adoption is, in its perfect form, suppose to be about finding homes for children that need them, not about finding children for parents that want them.

    • What Happens to the Numbers of Adoptable Infants in the USA if We Compare to Australia? IF the USA had similar adoption practices to Australia and supported mothers, in the US we would have only 539 Voluntary Domestic Infant relinquishments annually give or take.

    • The relinquishment and subsequent adoption of my son was actually picture perfect. I am a perfect example of exactly what adoption is when it works just as it is suppose to.The adoption of my son was perfect, I did everything the “right” way and still; the adoption of my son caused unnecessary pain and was wrong. This is way I speak out against adoption today.

    • Adoption was almost more like a crack that happened in my soul. A crack that that I thought and was encouraged to believe that would be temporary or always below the surface. Over time, the rest of life worked it’s way in, like water in cement and caused the very foundation of myself to crumble.

    • When I relinquished Max, it was suppose to be something that affected ME. Like so many things in adoption, the professionals were wrong. The “gift of adoption” just keep on giving and giving.. the pain has a huge ripple effect that touches every aspect of a woman’s lives including ALL our children.

    • Secondary adoptee rejection is a very real reality in adoption reunions. We all have a different skill set and experiences to handle a reunion.There are many mothers who were simply told to “never speak of this again” and that has proven to be a real unhealthy bit of advice.

    • The simple fact is that it is less than 1% of all relinquishing mothers desire to never set eyes on their children again. So because these 1% mothers another 6 to 8 million people and their children and their children’s children get denied medical histories, get denied their identity, get denied their truth..

    • Most adoption agencies will offer free “birthmother” counseling as part of their adoption services. A true counselor is supposed to advocate for their client, not the organization for which they work. Often adoption counseling is “in agency” and therefore, not really nonpartisan. There is no guarantee that the “counselor” is neutral and actually has the expectant mothers’ best interests at heart.

    • I figured that I would write a post that makes it easier for women to become birthmothers. Hence, here’s a handy guide on how to become more appealing to adoption agencies and ways to ensure that you will place your baby.

The Ripple Effect in Adoption: Thoughts from a Kept Sibling

“Why am I here?”

“What gives me the right?”

Searching for adopted sisiter dob 11-8-1963 long island new yorkBut there I was, sitting in a sparsely populated movie theater, on a Wednesday night, gliding through the countless previews and commercials, waiting to see Dame Judi Dench as “Philomena.”   I hadn’t done a girls night out in, well, forever.  So.. yay me.. I am out!!  But this night had purpose, it had meaning.  It was about them.  It was about my girl dates.  It was about “Philomena Lee,” the young Irish lass who found herself in the unfortunate position of being Catholic, pregnant and unmarried, whose son was stolen from her and adopted an ocean away.  It was about “Claud,” the edgy, modern mother, who lost her first son to adoption.  It was about “Lola,” the adult adoptee (wearing boots I only wish I had the legs to wear) who has found her biological family.  Yup, not about me, but I was glad, as always, to be there for them.  After all, I never felt the devastation of having a child ripped from my arms, only to have them call someone else, “Mommy.” I didn’t grow up feeling like I didn’t belong.  I grew up knowing my family, playing with my cousins, and looking into eyes that reflected mine.  I’m on the outside, but I’m there for them.

Armed with a box of tissues, we braced ourselves as the lights dimmed.  Then, that cinematic moment, that shining moment when you see yourself on the silver screen, (whisper) happened.

There was “Philomena,” pensively, sitting in a parlor chair, cradling a photo of her lost son as if holding her newborn child, her muscles stiff with the burden of a long untold, agonizing secret.   “Mum, who is that?” Those words.. those four short, but oh, so sweet words.. those words legitimized my place next to my girl dates.  I am free!!  I am liberated!!  I BELONG!!  The Hollywood gods and goddesses (and the BBC) have spoken.. I can say it loud.. I can wear it proud.. I AM THE KCAA (kept child after adoption) and to my brother and sister.. I AM THE KEPT SIBLING (and there are a lot of us).

The character speaking was “Jane,” Philomena’s kept daughter, brilliantly portrayed by the understated, yet powerfully present, Anna Maxwell Martin.  While the rest of the theatre was consumed in the moment that Philomena finally confessed her 50 year heartache, I was focused on Jane.  That was the moment she learned she had a brother.  Every emotion I have had since that moment in my life, Anna Maxwell Martin illustrated so accurately and with fierce integrity, from her outrage at the injustice her Mum suffered, to the confusion of now having a brother unknown to her, to the realization that every moment of her life had been affected by adoption. It was all there.  It was in her face, her voice and her body language.  Very well played, Ms. Martin.  Very well played.

The Kept Siblings Have a Place at the Adoption Table

We are the kept children, the siblings of the one that got away.  We didn’t experience the trauma.  We are not the rock and we are not the water.  We are THE RIPPLE EFFECT.  We are the ones who grew up with damaged parents and phantom brothers and sisters.  We are the ones that hid, quietly when there was an unexpected knock at the door.  We are the ones who were held so tightly that it was hard to breathe.  Or maybe we are the ones who wandered out in town because she was too sad to wonder where we were.  Maybe we are the consolation prize.  Maybe we competed (unknowingly) with the blushing little cherub she lost.  Fact is, we are the generation left to clean up the radiation after the nuclear disaster.  In the wake of that disaster, we are the ones who can tell our brothers and sisters, she never stopped thinking about you.

When I talk to people in the adoption community, I always preface anything I say with, “I’m not a first mom or an adoptee.  I am a kept sibling.” Most people I have met (online and in person) have been very supportive and welcoming. People like Claud (Musings of the Lame) and Theresa (Ungrateful Little Bastard) and Joan (Yahoo NY Adoptees) have been wonderful. However, I’ve gotten some inquisitive looks.  I’ve had adoptees say to me, “I wish I knew my kept siblings.”  (I wish I was your kept sibling). I’ve read the MEME that says, “It’s so nice that you brag about the one you kept,” or something like that.  I have commented on it as “the one she kept.”   But we (at least I) aren’t here to fight with anyone for our place in the pecking order.  We just want to be, need to be, part of the conversation.

Like adoptees and first moms, we siblings all come from different perspectives.  Some search, some don’t.  Some keep the secret, some don’t.  Those of us that do search have the same fears as you all.  We risk never reuniting. We risk rejection.  We risk finding a grave.   Some of us, happily, find our brother and shock everyone by introducing him to his extended family during a speech at Mom’s Memorial Service (yeah.. that would be me).

Well.. I have had my moment, and now I can truly say, the movie isn’t entitled “Jane” with good reason.  It’s not about Jane.  It’s not about us.  We didn’t live the trauma. We lived the aftermath. But, just like “Jane” was an integral part of the story, we are an integral part of The Adoption Community.  We want Open Records.  We want the Adoption Industry REFORMED to serve the needs of children who need homes.  We want the Church and other unethical adoption entities to answer for the cruel treatment of our Mothers, Brothers and Sisters.  We want loving, able parents to get the support they need to keep their families together. We want what you want. We are with you.


Kept Sibling of

  • Brother Michael (found <3 )
  • And Sister born 11/8/1963  In Nassau County .. still out there




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Joanie Eberstark Ollis

About Joanie Eberstark Ollis

Joanie is a happily married mother of four and granny of one. She found out at age 35 that she had an older brother and sister that were relinquished to adoption. She had been searching ever since.
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9 Responses to The Ripple Effect in Adoption: Thoughts from a Kept Sibling

  1. Suz says:

    Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing.

    I struggle so much with this, as I know my sons do. “Why won’t sister talk to me Mom? What did I do to her?”. People need to realize that kept siblings are collateral damage to the original act of violence, unintended victims. Mothers considering surrender need to be told they are not just giving up their child, they are giving away their future childrens brother or sister.

    Thank yo so much for sharing.

  2. Joanie, I have been waiting for your voice and your story. “We didn’t live the trauma. We lived the aftermath.” Amen. There is no hierarchy for pain. Modern neuroscience has revealed to us that babies raised by clinically depressed mothers are affected at the most basic physiological and developmental levels. Your writing is beautiful and it adds immensely to “the conversation”.

  3. Robin says:

    This post is wonderful, beautifully written and very important. We need to keep hearing how adoption affects all family members including kept siblings, grandparents, spouses, and others.

  4. Joanie Eberstark OllisJoan says:

    Thank you all for your comments <3 I was afraid that I would hurt some feelings with my point of view.

  5. My husband’s cousin’s daughter is a kept daughter–looking for two siblings. One would be in her 60s, the other in his 50s. Thank you for sharing this perspective, something so few ever think about.

  6. Charlene Janiszewski says:

    I am an adoptee and reunited with my first Mom and 4 siblings for two years. When I was preparing to search (at the age of 55) I read everything I could find on adoption trauma and how it affects first Mom’s and how it affected me. I learned that it if you have a chance at a good reunion, you have to be prepared. So, I also searched for information of any kind about kept siblings. There was very little available. I joined a support group and asked – What about kept siblings? No one had much in the way of insight about this. Some adoptees that I met had good relationships with their found siblings but most of them did not. Either the kept siblings appeared indifferent, were not interested in contact and a few were even angry that the adoptee found their Mom and disrupted her life. All of my siblings were very welcoming. But I was never a secret. They always knew I existed. I have a very good, growing relationship with two of them and a distant, but kind, relationship with the others. I consider myself very blessed. Still, it would have been wonderful to have gained more of an insight on the perspective of kept siblings before my reunion. Please consider writing a book. There are many adoptees & kept siblings who would truly benefit from this!!! Thanks for your article though. Already I understand much more than I did before. :-)

  7. grace says:

    Oh Joanie! I am sitting here in tears so thankful that you have found your brother! My heart is seriously filled with joy for you all. And that your brother was able to meet your (collective your, of course) mom before she passed on, what a gift for both of them!!!

    I, too, am a “kept sibling.” I found out last year, a few days before Thanksgiving, that I have a big sister! There is so much pain in my family, so much grief not dealt with yet, that I haven’t been able to contact her family in search of her, but someday, I know I will meet her. I long to meet her, she’s been my big sister my whole life, after all. I think I’ve always known.

    Reading this post reminds me that our voices are definitely an important and real part of the adoption conversation, too. I am very thankful for you and your bravery, and I am thankful for the reminder that I am not alone, and that there are others like me who also want their family to be whole.

    blessings! and joy! grace

    (Also, this. Someday, I will tell my sister this, exactly.
    “In the wake of that disaster, we are the ones who can tell our brothers and sisters, she never stopped thinking about you.” )

  8. Claudette says:

    WOW!!!! For the almost the last 4 years I have been looking for someone to relate too, because I myself am a “kept sibling”. I am in reunion with my sister, but it has been so very hard for not only myself but my children.
    I did not know about my sister lost to adoption until Jan of 2010. The emotions I felt when I found out are indescribable! I felt so much anger, hurt, and sadness towards my mother. I had absolutely no knowledge about adoption. I quickly became educated in the laws of my state and became connected on Facebook with a wonderful group of people that tried to help me. My search for my sister was relatively short as I am a very persitant person and I also connected myself to the “right” people in Michigan, hence I had to use the Confidental Intermeditary program, but I was reunited by the first week of March 2010.
    There is no reunion between our shared mother, as my sister has no desire to meet her. I would like to also say that I do respect her decision and have answered every question, provided all medical history, shared pictures, and have also ensured her that if she ever changes her mind, that door is always open to her!
    My reunion started great and to be honest I was not prepared. When I would read about all these people that were desperately searching for their bio family, I had this illusion that it would be the same for me. Well things took a crazy turn after about 8 months into our reunion when my sister sent me an email. I’m still baffled to this day about it. She wasn’t disconnecting herself from me, but she wrote very hurtful things in there!
    Now, I can so relate to people saying to me also that I am the “perfect bio sister”. I appreciate the compliment, but I wish that my sister could see what they do! I spent almost three years doing work on trying to understand her feelings. I was in chat rooms, read books, ect…I forgot about myself! I was always trying to figure out what I did wrong and how I could make things better.
    I still struggle so bad right now! I was so careful in the beginning and let her set the pace for everything in the reunion. She would write to me and tell me that we would always be sisters, I could always trust her! I don’t understand where she disappeared too!
    She does not agree with me about open records and the things that I do. I do not bring them up to her either. She has asked me to please not post things on my Facebook page about them. Also we are a “secret” in her life. Her adoptive family does not know about us! This is so complicated as our children are involved and they are young! My children are not allowed to post pics of their cousins on Facebook, yet ironically our daughters have friends in common due to the sport they do. It hurts my girls when their friends are posting pictures on Facebook with their cousin, yet they can’t!
    Thank you for writing about this subject. I’ve been attempting to for awhile, but there is just so much to write about because I see now how adoption has affected my childhood and I never realized it!

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