News

Spotlight on OYFF Educational Grant Recipient: Jennifer C.

i June 5, 2017

Jennifer C. is attending American River College in Sacramento.  She just completed a 12 unit semester with a 3.83 GPA.   She originally started off studying dental assisting, but after a very successful semester, changed her goals.  She received an OYFF grant that covered the cost of her textbooks and a laptop for the Spring 2017 semester.

What impact did the OYFF grant have on your ability to succeed?

The grant and laptop I received from OYFF help me not have to worry about the cost of books or the cost of the laptop but allow me to put that mental energy on my classes and school work. I was able to get the books I wouldn’t of been able otherwise to afford. The laptop allowed me the freedom to do my homework and school in a more comfortable and fitting environment that allowed me to achieve optimal learning and retention of information to be more successful. The impact of that grant gave me the opportunity to take that energy and be successful beyond my belief.  I finished the semester with a 3.833 GPA.

How did you choose this program/course of study?

I chose Business Administration and Management to broaden my opportunities. I had already graduated from Carrington College with a Dental Assisting Certificate but was unable to obtain employment. I realized with that certificate, I was limited to the back office chair siding with the dentist. I didn’t want to be limited. I wanted more opportunities. I decided to go back to college, major in business minor in Dental Assisting and with the peace of mind know that one way our another, I’d find employment after it’s all said and done. The opportunities are endless.

What’s your next step?

After American River College I plan on going on to Sacramento State (CSUS) and get my bachelor’s degree. International business is a big interest for me. Enough so that while at ARC I hope to study abroad in the spring semester of 2018 or 2019 depending on my mother’s declining health and the fact that I’m trying to get scholarships to cover the cost of the trip. Spending 89 days in Florence, Italy is a dream I’m working hard towards.

What are your plans when you finish school (or program)?

When I finish graduating with honors from ARC, I plan on going to CSUS and graduating with honors with my bachelor’s degree. My plan is to work in a state or city office if I don’t get the opportunity to work in a Dental office. An office none the less where I can mentor a large group of people and help change lives just like OYFF is doing to mine.

What would you tell other women thinking about starting school?

What would I tell other women thinking about going back…..I’d ask them what they’re waiting for? College for me may be stressful but I look forward to it everyday. It’s fun and exciting. It’s chaotic, but a controlled chaos. I love setting short term goals and achieving them just to wait for the next challenge. I’d tell them to prove to themselves just how great, smart, important and wonderful they know they really are inside. To shine like a diamond. Like me, they might just surprise themselves because they are capable of achieving more then they thought they could and that’s the best self reward any of us could give ourselves. 

Birth/First Mother Point of View: Glee

i May 24, 2017

gleeThe popular television show, Glee (2009-2015), is our 3rd feature in OYFF’s First/Birth Mother Point of View (POV) series. The program included 2 birth/first mother storylines and had a wide audience.  Although the series is over, we felt it was important to comment on how birth/first mothers were represented in this piece of popular culture.

Synopsis
Glee is a comedy/drama that debuted on FOX in 2009. At the outset, the show focused on glee club instructor Mr. Schuester, a one-time glee clubber himself, and his unwavering dedication to making glee club great again. The story follows a group of undeniably talented, yet not so popular kids, as they navigate the sometimes hideous landscape of high school and find their voices with the ‘New Directions’ headed up by “Mr. Schue”.
Birth/First Mother POV
Glee was a television show I had no desire to watch. It just didn’t strike me as something I would be remotely interested in. My roommate twisted my arm enough that I finally gave in and said I’d watch ONE EPISODE. It was, of course, hilarious, if not a little far-fetched. My high-school experience was nothing like the one these kids were living through. All those feelings! All the singing! And dancing! And drama! Regardless, I am a glee club kid at heart, so I decided I’d give it a chance.
I truly enjoyed nearly every episode and felt there was a valuable, if a bit saccharine at times, lesson to be learned from each one. That is until we delve into the adoption storyline(s). First, there’s Rachel, the insanely talented over-achiever. Rachel is adopted and when she finally uncovers who her birth mom is, of course we discover that she is also insanely talented and just so happens to be the glee club instructor of a rival high school. Rachel is keen to have some sort of relationship with her; a feeling her birth mother, Shelby just doesn’t seem to share all that much. She does reveal to Rachel that it was a difficult time in her life after giving birth and that she took off to NYC for awhile to try and make it big.  At any rate, even though the two live relatively close, a relationship is not fostered between them. In fact, the role of Rachel’s birth mother seems to be short-lived until….
…..Quinn and Puck. Quinn is the quintessential golden girl; girlfriend of Finn, the big man on campus. She seems practically perfect until it is revealed she has become pregnant, not by her boyfriend, but the mohawked bad-boy, Puck. Quinn eventually makes the decision to place the baby for adoption. For some reason, Shelby is at the hospital and, because this is a TV show and not real life, decides to adopt Quinn’s baby on the spot. It was at this point in the episode that I actually shouted, “what?! That is NOT EVEN how adoption works!” This woman whom Quinn barely knows, just shows up, says hey, I’ll take your baby, and just walks out? Nope.

The next season, we discover that Quinn has gone a bit off the rails since giving birth, quitting glee club in favor of dressing like a punk and smoking under the bleachers. She and Puck decide that they want to be in their baby’s life. Shelby allows Puck to see the little girl but isn’t thrilled about Quinn’s new look and attitude and tells her if she wants to be a part of her child’s life, she needs to clean up her act. Quinn rejoins glee club and begins dressing and behaving like the old Quinn again. It is a ruse to get Shelby to think she’s changed so she can take her daughter back. She goes to such lengths as planting drugs in Shelby’s bathroom and calling child protective services in an attempt to have the baby taken away.

It was at this point I had had about enough of the Quinn storyline. I remember saying out loud, “you are giving all birthmothers a bad name!” I just felt there are already so many misconceptions about birth parents, why throw something so negative, something uneducated people probably believe to be how birth mothers truly behave, out there? I understand the adoption arc is not meant to be the main focal point of Glee, we’re meant to just follow these kids along on their journey and have fun. And it mostly is a fun show. But the Rachel/Shelby and Quinn/Puck/Shelby storylines had the opportunity to shine a light on adoption issues and failed. Hard.
Adoption Story Depiction: D-
Potential Triggers: A
-Samantha Moss
If you are a birth/first mother interested in having your voice heard as a POV Reviewer, please email Jenny Sindel at jenny@onyourfeetca.org.

April 2017 Newsletter

i April 10, 2017

Click here to read OYFF’s April 2017 newsletter.

Birth/First Mother’s POV: This Is Us

i April 7, 2017
this is us

The popular television show, This Is Us, is our 2nd feature in OYFF’s First/Birth Mother Point of View (POV) series. The program includes a birth mother story line and has a wide audience, making it important to review how birth/first mothers are represented in this piece of popular culture.

SPOILER ALERT

Synopsis

This Is Us is a drama that premiered on NBC on September 20, 2016. The story follows the Pearson family: father Jack; mother Rebecca and children, Kate, Kevin, and Randall. Through a series of flashbacks and montages throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, the lives of the Pearson clan are shared to learn about each character, their family system, and how that weaves through their present-day lives. Kate and Kevin were originally part of a triplet pregnancy, but the third baby was stillborn. Coincidentally that day, another baby is born to parents who are addicted to drugs. The mother dies and the father takes his newborn to a firehouse in which a fireman eventually brings the abandoned newborn to the hospital. As Jack is grieving the loss of their third baby, he sees the abandoned newborn and was determined that he and Rebecca will go home with three babies after all and they adopt the abandoned baby who will become their son Randall.

Birth/First Mother POV

This Is Us has been one of my favorite shows this television season. Many tears have dropped from my eyes for its endearing and heartbreaking dialogue along with sweet and sad montages set to just the perfect music to stir different emotions.  

Viewing the show through my birth mother-lens I experienced numerous reactions to the characters. At times I find my maternal, nurturing-self concerned about Randall, growing up as the only person of color in an all-white household or looking at others in his community wondering if they could possibly be his birth parents. While I have compassion for Rebecca’s unresolved grief over the loss of her biological son, that does not excuse denying young Randall the opportunity to know his birth father William. Rebecca’s claims of wanting to protect Randall are steep with judgment and selfishness.  

In regards to the story line, or rather lack of one, about Randall’s birth mother Laurel, leaves me frustrated. For a show that seems to have the desire and heart to capture the complexities of adoption, as usual, the birth mother character is almost nonexistent. To compound Laurel’s nonexistence, it is revealed early in the season that she has died. The rare flashbacks that include Laurel show a beautiful woman who eventually is portrayed as leading William to drug abuse. This unfortunate portrayal only perpetuates stereotypes about birth mothers.  Also, so little known about Laurel it is unclear whether she indicated before she died that Randall should be placed for adoption or if the plan was to parent him. As Randall’s biological mother she is an essential part of the story yet so little is known about her.

As with many shows, This Is Us attempts to tackle the struggles of individuals and family systems highlighting topics such as transracial adoption, substance abuse, sibling rivalry, obesity, romantic relationships, etc. but never quite having the opportunity to fully focus on one topic.  While not perfect, This Is Us does make, what I believe, is an earnest attempt to bring complexities of humans and relationships into something that can be relatable to a broad audience.

Several episodes in the season could potentially be triggering for a birth mother. It may stir feelings of grief, ambiguous loss, rejection, feelings of inadequacies, frustration, and/or opening wounds of past wrongs in their own experiences with their child/children’s adoptive parent/s, shame, or feelings of being judged or misunderstood by society.

I am curious if season two will uncover more information about Randall’s birth mother as well as dive into the cliffhanger from season one with Randall announcing to his wife that he would like to adopt a baby.  Will that perhaps bring in a more developed birth mother storyline to the show?

Remember, if you plan to watch This Is Us, be sure to have a box of tissues by your side.  
This Is Us television rating:

Adoption Story Depiction: B
Potential Triggers: A+
Angie Swanson-Kyriaco, Public Education & Communication Committee Chair & Board Member

If you are a birth/first mother interested in having your voice heard as a POV Reviewer, please email Jenny Sindel at jenny@onyourfeetca.org.

1st of our Birth/First Mother’s POV Series: Oscar film “Lion”

i February 24, 2017

Lion

The movie Lion caught our attention as the perfect vehicle to launch our new Birth/First Mother Point of View (POV) program. Not only has it been nominated for an Oscar, but the narrative centers on the true experience of an adoptee driven by a strong desire to reunite with his first/birth mother.

Plot:  Based on a true story, Lion follows Saroo, who in 1986, was a five-year-old child in India of a poor but happy rural family. On a trip with his brother, Saroo soon finds himself alone and trapped in a moving decommissioned passenger train that takes him to Calcutta, 1500 miles away from home. Now totally lost in an alien urban environment and too young to identify either himself or his home to the authorities, Saroo struggles to survive as a street child until he is sent to an orphanage. Soon, Saroo is selected to be adopted by the Brierley family in Tasmania, where he grows up in a loving, prosperous home. However, for all his material good fortune, Saroo finds himself plagued by his memories of his lost family in his adulthood and tries to search for them even as his guilt drives him to hide this quest from his adoptive parents and his girlfriend. Only when he has an epiphany does he realize not only the answers he needs, but also the steadfast love that he has always had with all his loved ones in both worlds. -Written by Kenneth Chisholm

First/Birth Mother’s POV by Emily Brunett:

Adoption is not a common focal point of Oscar-nominated movies. But when it is, the adoption community takes notice.

As a birthmother in a domestic adoption, I am unfamiliar with international adoption issues, which makes it difficult for me to measure the presentation of this story against reality. From my experiences, though, a few points stood out to me.

The story as a whole is very emotional and heartwarming in the end. Both the birthmother and adoptive mother express goodwill and gratitude toward each other.

The adoptive parents are clearly painted as “rescuers.” Perhaps it could be argued that what Saroo needed was more help finding his mother, instead of a one-way trip to a wealthier country with foreign parents. However, the resources available in the late 1980s were much more limited that what’s available today – Saroo relies on Google Earth to find his hometown – so adoption really may have been the best solution for Saroo. Like many adoptions, though, a lingering “what if?” is attached.

Since this movie is an adoption story, some aspects may be triggering to birthmothers. In particular, birthmothers who have been separated from their child/ren for a long period of time may find Saroo’s struggle and eventual reunion with his birthmother difficult to watch.

Also, because the story is told from the adopted child’s point of view, it clearly illustrates a common fear of birthmothers: that the placed child/ren will feel something big is missing because he/she was separated from his/her birth family. Saroo obviously agonizes for a number of years while worrying about his family of origin and searching for them. This might especially be triggering for birthmothers who continue to wonder if they made the right decision for their child/ren, or for birthmothers whose child/ren are somehow suffering after being adopted.

“Lion” movie rating:

Adoption Story Depiction: B+

Potential Triggers: B-

~Emily Brunett

 

If you are a birth/first mother interested in having your voice heard as a POV Reviewer, please email Jenny Sindel at jenny@onyourfeetca.org.

 

February 2017 Newsletter

i February 16, 2017

The February 2017 newsletter is out!  See what we are up to at OYFF!

Community Update: Agency Closure

i February 2, 2017

We know that a major agency has recently closed. We want to assure our community that we are working internally to support our clients. As always, our first response is to ensure that our clients’ needs are being met. We are continuing to communicate with our clients as the situation develops. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Jenny Sindel at jenny@onyourfeetca.org.

December 2016 Newsletter

i December 5, 2016

Click December 2016 Newsletter to hear about our President transition, New Executive Director and Giving Tuesday.

Giving Tuesday

i November 11, 2016
 Giving Tuesday was a huge success!  Thank you to everyone who participated by donating, creating their own personal pages and spreading the word!  Our first retreat of 2017 will be fully funded by this campaign!
We started off with a goal of $9,000 and we met that goal by Tuesday evening.  We were getting such an overwhelming response, that we raised the goal to $10,800 to fund four additional birth mothers to attend the January retreat and met that the next day. We are so amazed and so thankful!
We were also so proud to see our board members and clients create their own personal pages and share about why they support OYFF with their friends and family.  This personal touch really moved people and encouraged them to give.  We saw many first-time donors to OYFF and so many more people now know about the important work we do!
Thank you to our fun prize winners:
  • Largest Donor: Robert Basile
  • First Donor: Noel and Allana Bejarano
  • Last Donor: Sandy Pruisner

Special thanks to Susan Dusza Guerra Leksander who was the driving force behind this event.  She researched the great platform, organized everyone, recorded video clips and continuously updated our community!

Feel free to view our page and the personal pages of our community here: OYFF Giving Tuesday. The page will be live through the end 2016.

 

#adoptawareness

i November 11, 2016

November is Adoption Awareness Month.  We at OYFF know that the experiences and needs of birth mothers are often not considered or are overlooked when people think of adoption.  We believe that bringing awareness and education to the public about the needs and experiences of birth mothers will increase understanding.

The women of OYFF brainstormed different hashtags to use on social media during November and voted on one:  #adoptawareness.  We are asking all of our members and supporters to use #adoptawareness when posting about birth mother experiences and issues during November.  Check out our facebook page: On Your Feet Foundation, California for more updates throughout the month of November.