Air date: 4.5.16
You can read the transcript below, or to listen to the podcast click here.
Jennifer J: Hi and welcome-
Radio Announcer: Blog Talk Radio.
Jennifer J: Hi and welcome to Adoption Focus. My name is Jennifer Jaworski and I’m a social worker with Adoption Associates of Michigan. This is Adoption Associate’s premier talk radio blog show. Adoption Associates and it’s staff are trusted leaders in adoption and we have placed over 5,000 children into loving homes. Since 1990, we have advocated, supported, and nurtured both birth families and adopted families. Our offices are located in Jenison, Lansing, Farmington Hills, and Saginaw, and our pregnancy and adoption services are available throughout all of Michigan.
One of Adoption Associates commitments is to do this weekly radio show, so thank you for listening in. We hope that you find this forum to be inspirational, educational, and thought-provoking. If you’d like to call in during the show with questions or comments please dial 347-850-1100. Again, if you’d like to call in during the show you may 347-850-1100. And today, I’m excited that we’re talking to Nicky Raseen who is a mom by adoption. Nicky are you with us?
Jennifer J: Okay. It appears we might be experiencing some technical difficulties. I am looking to connect with Nicky, and I was pretty sure that she was online with us…let’s…she indeed is online, but it appears that we are, for some reason, not connecting with her. I cannot hear Nicky; I don’t think our audience can either. Well, that is unfortunate. We’re gonna end the episode here. Unfortunately, if we could reconnect in a couple of minutes. Stay tuned with us folks. We really want to get this going. I apologize for these difficulties. Let’s see what we can do to make this happen.
Nicky Raseen: Can you hear me?
Jennifer J: Nicky? Are you there?
Nicky Raseen: I am. Can you hear me?
Jennifer J: Oh. Yay! She’s with us. I can hear you great.
Nicky Raseen: Wonderful. Good morning, Jennifer.
Jennifer J: Good morning. Welcome to Adoption Focus.
Nicky Raseen: Thank you very much. I apologize about the technical difficulties. I actually called in 10 minutes ahead just to be sure I was here.
Jennifer J: Absolutely. We’re still learning the ropes, so I am very thrilled that we’re connected, and that’s all that matters right now. So, again, thanks for being with us. Let’s go ahead and jump right in and if you don’t mind share with us your story a little bit. How adoption…how all this came to be for your family.
Nicky Raseen: Absolutely. To back track a few years…to be honest…adoption was sort of a word that I had heard when I was growing up. I’m actually from…my husband and I are both from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We didn’t have a whole lot of experience in adoption. Growing up, we had a few cousins here and there, but never really understood the whole terminology. We sort of…it’s funny how it sort evolved into creating our family. We were very naïve in the whole adoption process until…after years and years of struggling to have a child of our own. My husband and I were high school sweethearts, and we went together for many, many years. At this point in time…we had the normal…well the process that happened, either, the infertility…going through the infertility process… or choosing adoption…adoption for us was something that just opened up a whole new world of opportunity and amazing, amazing thing. So, we decided to go down the adoption path and our life has just come full circle.
Adoption has given us our family. We have two beautiful boys. We have a four year old, whom we adopted through the domestic program with Adoption Associates. So, he’s actually from the United States. He’s actually from 45 minutes away from our home right now. And then our second child, we adopted through the international program with Adoption Associates; through the Ethiopia program. We brought him home a little over a year ago from Ethiopia. So, we have a two year old and a four year old.
Jennifer J: You are a busy lady.
Nicky Raseen: I am. But there’s nothing like it. I wanted to be a mother my entire life. So the joy that they bring to us, is just…it’s immeasurable.
Jennifer J: And you mentioned your first adoption was domestically…and your son…share with us his cultural background.
Nicky Raseen: Yes. Actually both of our sons are black. Our first son, Amari, he is…he is African American, 100 percent. This was a new thing for us. My husband and I are both Caucasian and we’re from the Upper Peninsula. We maybe had two or three families who were diverse in our area growing up. Fortunately for myself, I went down to college at Central Michigan.
Jennifer J: Okay.
Nicky Raseen: So…I…that created diversity in my life. I was so fortunate enough to extend my network of friends at that point in my life. I have since [inaudible 00:06:21] into…if you look around into our whole circle, we have millions of diverse friends. We have interracial couples, we have African American couples…who we have in our circle. I just feel like transracial adoption for us, was something that we were open to and we have embraced.
We waited a very short time for Amari to come home. We were very blessed with that. Oftentimes, what happens in the adoption process, is that you fill out the paperwork, you update your profile, you put a profile into Adoption Associates. It sort of like a resume of sorts and you want the birth parents, or the birth mother, especially, to see who you are in a couple pages of paper. It’s difficult to do that, but oftentimes birth mother’s, they see something in either your smile or your background that they choose you. We were blessed to be chosen within four months of application with our son, Amari.
Jennifer J: Oh wow.
Nicky Raseen: I know. So we had him home within six months of the process. He has been a joy ever since.
Jennifer J: And so your motivation to pursue adoption for a second time, came from what place?
Nicky Raseen: The love that we had for our son. I as a mother…i am attorney by trade, I went to school to become a lawyer. I’d always wanted to be a lawyer. My husband’s…an E.R. position. We pursued a career, but we always knew we wanted to be parents. Once we had our Amari home, we knew there was so much more love there for others, and Amari needed a sibling. We decided to do something different this time, and we went down the international path. Being that we were not going to have a child biologically of our own, we wanted to stay with African descent, and so we decided to do Ethiopia, which was the only African program offered at that time for Adoption Associates. I actually had the privilege of going on a mission trip to Ethiopia, and I fell in love with the country and the culture and the people. We started to pursue our next child through the Ethiopian program. That was a story of perseverance, I must say.
Jennifer J: Yeah.
Nicky Raseen: We…there are…it was lot more detailed and a lot more involved in international adoption. Simply because you’re dealing with another country. You’re dealing with their laws, you’re dealing with their requirements. When we filled out the paperwork..they require so many things, background checks and fingerprints. Just details of your life that you don’t need to recall and a paperwork trail that you have put together, and it’s called a dossier. And that’s what you put together to send over to that country, so that they can review the documents and make sure that you’re a legitimate, competent family.
Jennifer J: Sure.
Nicky Raseen: I’m…I admire that and I appreciate that because they want to know that the child from their country is going to a good home.
Jennifer J: Sure.
Nicky Raseen: From start to finish, our international adoption took almost two, two and a half years, from the very beginning to the end. But of course, there was little bit of international politics going on. So once that cleared, we brought our little boy home in February of last year. He is amazing. He keeps us on our toes. We call it his Ethiopian spirit. He has quite a spirit, and he is the exact opposite of our other son. God has brought us much joy in our boys, and quite the diversity.
Jennifer J: It sounds like it. So, during that period of time, in addition to the dossier and the paperwork that you mentioned…there is obviously a great deal of preparation and planning that families do in preparation for any adoption. Can you share with the listeners a little about your experiences during the preparation and planning period? How did the agency prepare you for this?
Nicky Raseen: Yes. The agency itself was phenomenal. Oftentimes, when you’re struggling…as a parent who is having their own child biologically, you have nine months to prepare. You can read books and this child is in your belly. It’s just a different situation. Where with adoption, you never know what’s going to happen. Our agency was so amazing. They had emotional support, they had classes that we took. Being a transracial family, you have other issues that are going to arise. Being educated and reading books and meeting other couples who are going through the same situations or have adopted transracially. That’s one other branch that you need to reach out to, and I can’t stress that enough. We have created a circle in our life…our doctors, our dentists, our friends, our families…they are all diverse.
The adoption agency teaches you how to do that. They give you the tools to understand that, that’s very important in your life and in your child’s life. When preparing for the transracial adoption, especially, you really have to be aware of the differences. In the olden days, I know it was sort of…kind of…don’t talk about it. Its…race is…it’s an issue, it’s not an issue…I don’t see color. But in all reality, there is a difference in color. There’s a difference in the way society treats folks of color and of diverse ranges. I think that by being educated and listening to other situations, and really just asking questions and educating yourself. You really learn about how to deal with the situation.
Jennifer J: You’re right. Preparation and planning of families has certainly come a long way in the past years. We do feel in the adoption community that there’s always room for growth. I’m curious about what your experiences have been related to some of the myths. There’s a lot of myths. A lot of people have lots of opinions and misnomers about what transracial adoption is versus the reality of it. In your experience, what are the realities of raising a child of a different race?
Nicky Raseen: The realities are so different than the myths. And again, just as in any parent, when you’re raising your children, it’s a learning process. I think that being able to be open to and ask questions, and to learn different things…I think that’s the key to success. Both of our both of our boys are African, and we’re Caucasian, as I said before. We have a really…in all reality, we have surrounded ourselves with educating ourselves on their culture. We have an Ethiopian culture and we have an African American culture. We celebrate black history month, we incorporate some foods into our family, we listen to African music. I have an Ethiopian CD that I play and our little guy, Zain, he dances from the beginning to the end. I feel like they can feel the joy in our celebrating their culture, because we always do uplifting things with it.
Jennifer J: Okay.
Nicky Raseen: We have…they also have a diverse group of little friends that they play with. The reality is, oftentimes, I think, parents are afraid or their fear is that they won’t be able to give them the life that they deserve, quote on quote, because they’re not of their culture or their background. That’s so not true. We are all human at the end of the day. As long as we incorporate things that their culture deems as important…then thats important to our lives.
Jennifer J: Absolutely. It sounds like you guys have been very intentional in the choices that you make. In celebrating their culture, in making sure that your network of friends and family are providing appropriate diversity for them, as well. What sort of questions…or do you get questions from your boys about their birth families or their birth countries?
Nicky Raseen: So far, our four year old has…the one thing that really stuck out with me, is that when we brought Zain home from Ethiopia, his favorite thing to say, and I just think it’s so sweet. He and Zain are always on the same team; and it’s always mommy and daddy against Zain and Amari, because Zain and Amari have brown skin.
Jennifer J: Okay,
Nicky Raseen: And Amari said, “Momma, Zain’s on my team because we have brown skin.” I cherish that, and I relish in that because I love that he sees the difference; because their is a difference.
Jennifer J: Right.
Nicky Raseen: I want him to celebrate that because they have beautiful brown skin. Another thing too that we really…that parents who are deciding if they’re going to go down the adoption route and the transracial world…I know hair is a huge issue. And I’m giggling because I, if you see me, which, I know you’ve seen me before Jennifer…
Jennifer J: Yes.
Nicky Raseen: …I have a large, natural curly hair. I have already dealt with the African, quote on quote hair, growing up.
Jennifer J: Sure.
Nicky Raseen: So that to me was not an issue because my boys…I’m able to handle their hair and I know what products to put in it and that kind of thing. That’s a fear oftentimes, but there are so many resources and so many online tutorials and YouTube videos, and things that weren’t available before in the adoption world. I want to send a message to future adoptive couples or even birth mothers out there who are deciding if they should choose a light couple to adopt their diverse child. It’s something that, please just understand that education is the key. As long that the parents are willing…the adoptive parents are willing to learn, anybody can do anything.
Jennifer J: That’s a really good point that you make. What other considerations do you think that a birth mother should take into account if she’s thinking about placing her child in a transracial family?
Nicky Raseen: I feel like…I sort of want to reiterate the fact that color in this world is significant, to a certain extent though. The bottom line is: love is love. And I want birth mothers to understand that couples who are, especially through Adoption Associates, who are waiting for a child to come home. They just want a child to love. Oftentimes, society gets wrapped up in the white, black, asian, we could go through all of the diversity. It’s not even about that. These parents are willing to love this child like their own, they will learn how to incorporate all of their cultural differences into their life.
Jennifer J: That’s a really great message Nicky.
Nicky Raseen: Thank you.
Jennifer J: Thank you. And what I hear from you and from others who are parents by adoption, particularly raising children of different races, is that color does matter and that talking to children about race and identity is extremely important. I think we’ve come from a past where there was a belief, that it was just creating an issue. If we bring these things to the forefront, we’re the problem and we’re creating the problem, and in reality that’s not what we’ve experienced. There some things that are inevitable that our children will face. It sounds like you and your husband have really focused on preparing your boys. Was that a fair statement?
Nicky Raseen: Absolutely. I think what you’ve said is so true. Racism exist; we all know that. Teaching our boys especially, and teaching children of color that it’s not okay. It’s not okay to have racism in their life, and to confront it when it occurs. I just think we think need to be on top of it and that’s our responsibility as parents, especially adopting transracially. We have to be on top of it. We have to explain to our children, that’s not acceptable. It’s almost…to a certain extent, you have to celebrate their differences, because that’s what life if about. Life is about diversity and life is about differences. If we were all the same, what sort of world would we live in?
Jennifer J: Right.
Nicky Raseen: You know, there something to be said about celebrating all of our differences together. Instead of looking at it as a negative view, lets look at it as a positive view and really embrace the differences and celebrate. We have a beautiful family, and it’s a rainbow of colors. That’s what God wanted us to be. And so we need to embrace that fact.
Jennifer J: You do have a beautiful family. I can say that from personally seeing your family my own. It’s been a pleasure. Not only to talk with you today, but to watch you form your family in such as beautiful way. So thank you. A big thank you for today and for sharing your story. For our listeners that are looking to connect with Adoption Associates, you may call us at 800-677-2367 or visit us on the web at adoptionassociates.net. Please join us next week as we talk to and adult adoptee, who herself is biracial, and was raised in a primarily Caucasian home. So that story will build upon your story today, Nicky. You kind of laid the ground work for us. I’m wondering if there’s any other specific things that you felt needed to be added in today?
Nicky Raseen: The only thing I want to say to our listeners is just understand that God created us all together to be…to just love our children. And there’s nothing…adoption has brought so may things to so many people, so please embrace the transracial world and understand that we are all in it together.
Jennifer J: Thank you so much, Nicky. And for now this is Jennifer on Adoption Focus, looking forward to speaking with you again next week. Have a great day everyone! Bye-Bye.