The first year of my life was spent in foster care, yet I have no memory of it. My adoptive parents often told me the story (at my requests) of when they first picked me up from my foster family in Chattanooga, Tennessee. For most of my life, it was the only piece of my early history that someone I knew could recount for me from memory.
My parents told me what wonderful people my foster parents were. My mother and I would send letters to them annually, with various photos, and pictures of me playing sports, musical recitals, and school photos. We rarely received a response from my foster mother, and when we did, it would be a short acknowledgement that she received our package, and not much more. I always sensed that she was guarding herself from me for some reason.
I was adopted into a large family in Washington State, with seven other siblings – five of whom were also adopted through foster care. I’ve always had this insatiable drive to find, meet and connect with my birth mother in Chattanooga, even with having a great childhood and upbringing.
There were so many questions – who is she? Where is my birth father? Did other family members know I was born? Do I have any full siblings? The questions kept coming and morphed into different forms of the same question as my cognitive ability, skillful reasoning, and imagination expanded. My tenacious drive (along with help from my family), combined with extraordinary circumstances, led me to have a series of reunions with my birth family members over the course of several years during my mid-twenties. These interactions comprise much of the feature length documentary Closure, filmed and edited by my husband, Bryan.
The decision to make my story public was one that came with a lot of thought and countless conversations with Bryan about the hope for education, as well as the consequence of my loss of privacy. We chose to have the film explore the thoughts and reactions of many members of my family (birth and adoptive) as I made this journey. Bryan felt it was important to include the first-hand accounts of all of those around me who were affected by both my birth parents’ choice for adoption, as well as my choice to search and ultimately reunite. We debated whether or not to include one particular scene, as it didn’t fit in with the story of finding my birth family, which was the main premise of the film. This scene on the chopping block was the reunion with my foster family in Chattanooga – the first time seeing them since I was one year old. Ultimately, the experience of this reunion was too powerful to exclude from the film, and I realized that learning the truth about my foster family was a large piece of my life puzzle. To see where I was born, where I was transferred, and to meet the folks who knew me and cared for me at a critical stage in my life.
During our reunion my foster mother told me of how she and her husband had wanted to adopt me, but they were unable to at that time. She told me stories of doctor’s early predictions that I would likely never walk. She told me of the hours and hours on end that she would work to loosen my legs in order to put on a diaper, and the daily trips to the physical therapist where folks would watch in wonder as this Caucasian woman worked with me as if I were her own flesh and blood (mid 1980s). She spoke of how she’d wondered what I had thought about them over the years, admitting that even thinking about me was hard for her, and that she had a tough time going back to those memories. The loss she describes seemed to equate to the overwhelming feelings I was having as she spoke about me as a parentless baby. It was in this anticipated moment of reconnection and reunion that we both realized the deep bonds that were formed between us in my first year.
If my foster mother’s scent was bottled up in a jar, unlabeled amongst five other unlabeled scents, I’d pick hers out in an instant. I knew her smell, and when we hugged, those preverbal memories imprinted somewhere within my body came flooding back. I had spent so much energy over the years fantasizing about how I would feel when meeting my birth parents, that I largely overlooked the significance of this reunion. One hug with my foster mother felt like a missing puzzle piece being snapped into place.
In my previous time working as an adoption social worker, and speaking about adoption at Closure screenings and other events, I always emphasize adoption through foster care. The idea of building a family through foster care is so commonplace and normal to me, as my parents chose to have one child biologically and adopt the rest of my siblings through foster care. It’s a wonder to me how foster care or fostering with the intention to adopt is still largely considered a second choice, or something someone else will do. As the Super Bowl Champion quarterback Russell Wilson (go Seattle!) preaches: “Why not us?” I certainly understand the challenges that come with foster adoption, and know that not every person is equipped to handle those challenges. However, when I meet prospective adoptive parents who fear the unknowns of foster adoption, I often find myself responding with a variation of – “Why not you?”
As an adult adoptee I am now able to more clearly articulate feelings, and can attest to the fact that I am here not solely because of my birthparents, but also because of the supporting cast of family members – foster and adoptive – who played huge support roles in my early life. I am reminded that we are all interconnected beings with basic needs, and we are surrounded by folks who are willing, able, and ready to step in to fill these voids. Sometimes we just need some encouragement and perspective.
Our nation needs more permanent homes for our precious, bright children in foster care. My only question is – “Why not you?”
Written by Angela Tucker.
For a limited time, Bryan and Angela Tucker are offering 25% off the digital download of “Closure” with code DTFA. Purchase here.