Monday, May 20, 2013

CLOSURE: A Trans-racial Adoptee's Quest for her Birthmother (Adoption Movie Guide)

Angela entered foster care at a very young age. Doctors cautioned that she had severe physical challenges, and that she might never be able to walk. Angela’s first foster parents gave her physical therapy each day. Eventually, Angela was adopted by a family that had already adopted several other children, many of whom had special needs. Angela defied doctors’ diagnoses by thriving. As Angela entered adulthood, a longstanding curiosity about her birthfamily blossomed into action. With the support of her family and her new husband, Angela used partially-redacted information from her case history to identify a likely candidate for her birthfather. Together with several of her family members, Angela travels from Seattle to Tennessee to meet the man who may be her father.

How is This Relevant to Adoption?
CLOSURE is a thoroughly well-rounded exposition on the facts and feelings from all sides of a previously closed adoption.  

Strong Points
CLOSURE is a deep look into an adoptee’s search for her birthfamily, and also provides glances into a range of connected people; many of Angela’s adoptive and birthfamily members share their feelings and explain their actions. The documentary is largely comprised of firsthand footage of meetings, captured by Angela’s husband, Bryan Tucker, and interviews with family members. The interviews feature genuinely honest – and at times difficult – admissions. One family member admits that she underestimated the strength of Angela’s desire to find her birthfamily. Angela’s adoptive mother acknowledged a fear “of being replaced.” Another family member described a desire to protect her parents and a feeling of being insulted by Angela’s need to search. One tearfully asked whether Angela could view her adoptive parents “as enough.” And yet, as challenging as these admissions are, they stand out as strengths because of their honesty and their outcome. Angela’s family decides to fully support her quest. Angela’s mother explained, “finding her birthmom wouldn’t change my status. I became as curious as her.”  Angela’s birthmother explains the difficulty she had in deciding whether to parent Angela, and acknowledges an ever-present sense of pain. In spite of this, she is able to validate the adoption plan as the best choice, in retrospect, and expresses that she now considers Angela’s family to be her family as well. Angela’s birthfather and his family are overjoyed to meet Angela. Adoption often leaves many questions unanswered. CLOSURE is aptly titled – it answers most of them.

Angela and her family face rejection at a few times during their search, but persevere and ultimately have meaningful, positive experiences. Many of her birthfamily members respond with pure joy at meeting her. It’s heartwarming.
Angela’s story – and her explanation of her story – make a strong case for the importance of openness in adoption. Angela’s adoption was initially closed. Her primary sense of family is still with her adoptive family, but she acknowledges how powerful and completing it has been for her to get to know her birthfamily.

Angela expresses that, although many of her family’s adoptions were cross-cultural, her family “didn’t talk about mixed race,” because it “didn’t seem to matter.” She expressed that her family “looked at each person as a person.”  Many adoptive families describe themselves as “colorblind.” However, Angela explains that her town was not diverse, and she finds it positive and powerful to connect with people in whom she finds a physical resemblance.
Some viewers might struggle with the description of birthmothers as “heroes” for making adoption plans, but it will likely resonate with most viewers.
Angela’s birthmother initially denies her role in Angela’s life. This could be very challenging to some viewers, and Angela acknowledges how difficult it is for her to be denied; she explains, “I couldn’t quite believe [she] would deny me.” However, Angela and her birthmother eventually meet and develop a relationship, Angela’s birthmother apologizes for denying Angela, and even explains why she initially denied Angela.  
Prior to Angela re-connecting with her birthmother, one of Angela’s birthfamily members explains that Angela’s birthmother “will never be your mother.” Another birthfamily member explains that family is “a bridge” that “goes by blood” and connects people to each other. Both of these sentiments make sense in context, but taken in isolation could challenge some viewers.

How to See the Film / How to Help
CLOSURE is an independently-produced and independently-distributed film that would be able to serve a much broader audience than it will likely reach on its own. You can help. Until June 3, you can access a copy of the film (or even a Skype meeting with Angela and Bryan) through the Closure Kickstarter page in exchange for a donation to help polish up the film. If you’ve got friends in your local theater, you can also work directly with the director to help set up a screening in your town. Email me to get in touch with him.

It’s difficult to imagine a viewer left untouched, unentertained or unchallenged. Foster parents and adoptive parents should watch CLOSURE while thinking about the level of openness that their children are experiencing. The film will be especially challenging – and helpful – to those who are finding the thought of a closed adoption more comfortable. Adoptees watching the film with their families may have lots of questions and thoughts – and that’s a good thing. Foster and adoption agencies will want to use CLOSURE as part of their training curriculum. Those who advocate for adoptee rights will find this to be a powerful film with the potential to be empowering. 
Some other documentaries and mainstream films share similar themes, and might be interesting to watch in conjunction with CLOSURE. Recent mainstream films like Identity Thief  and Rise of the Guardians explore the importance of a person having access to their history. A similar theme is also present in Return of the Jedi. The Canadian documentary The Invisible Red Thread documents an international adoptee's journey to her country of origin. If you're in the mood for a book, The Coffee Can Kid touches on a child's access to some historical information.

Questions for Discussion After the Film
How do you relate to the fears that Angela’s adoptive family had about her seeking out her birthfamily?
When Angela initially met with rejection, she and her family did not give up the search. Would you have encouraged her to give up, or keep going?
How does this film make you feel? Which of your beliefs about adoption has it challenged? Which has it reinforced? 

Check back on Monday, May 27 for an exclusive interview with Bryan and Angela with behind-the-scenes explanations of their journey and their heartfelt hopes for the film!

While you're here, you might want to check out these other Adoption Movie Guides


  1. Search and reunion seem so rife with difficulty. Why don't we do all we can to avoid those hardships?

    Rhetorical question.

    Looking forward to your May 27 post.

    1. Lori - I totally agree. It wasn't easy for me to see Angela go through the low points of search and reunion. I won't speak FOR her, but I think in the end it was all neccesary, and somewhat inevitable. Probably not for every adoptee though. -Bryan

    2. I know it's a rhetorical question, Lori. But I think it's a heck of a good one.

  2. Hm.. Interesting. I'll have to check this one out.

    For my situation (and every one is different), I'm actually very glad I didn't meet my biologoical family until my late teens/early 20's. Closure is a great word to describe the experience. It was very grounding to finally meet people who looked like me. Granted, I could not have handled these relationships as a child, so if it had been 'open' from the begining, I probably would still have been confused, felt abandoned, and rejected anew. It just would have happened over and over again since my pivtol members of my biological family can't be in my life with any sort of consistancy (even when given the option).

    I do LOVE seeing adoption portrayed POSITIVELY though! Anything that helps display well adjusted adults as a result of adoption is helpful!

    1. J.Darling - Thank you so much for your comment, it is very well written. Angela and I read this last night, and had a nice discussion based off of it. You're absolutely right, for a child to experience what both you and Angela did as an adult is sometimes difficult to reconcile. Thank you for sharing a little of your story.

    2. J - thanks for sharing your story. I tend to promote openness, but I do that in the context of training a room of prospective foster parents who are fearful of it. The voices of people who've lived it carry way more weight.

  3. I have not seen this yet and I am so excited to see it! I would love to be a part of showing it here. I adore the pure, not always polished, honesty you described. It does not sound pretty to feel worried that you will be replaced by someone else to your children, but you know what? that is so real. I called my children's birth mother their Amaye for a long time. Then one day during some soul searching I discovered that it was not just a way for me to cherish the language of their homeland, it was a way for me to take the word "mother" out. And I will never say it again. Not because I do not love using Amharic, the beautiful and elegant language of my beloveds. I love Amharic. But I cannot allow myself to use a word that is at all connected to my fears. I will acknowledge those fears but will not nourish them. I felt so ashamed for my feelings at first. I LOVE and admire and respect the woman who created the lives that I so cherish. The courageous women whose painful loss is my daily gain. But jealousy can be part of deep love. We don't have to live there, but I can't deny that it existed in me, at least for a short time. I hope that my honesty allows my children to share their feelings with me one day. The pure, unpolished ones.

    1. Sara, thanks so much for your feedback. I'm pretty confident that your kids will benefit from your honesty.

  4. This story is really very emotional. All types of test should be done before adopting a child.
    adoption training online

    1. Hi Carol. Thanks for commenting. I'm a little uncertain as to what types of tests you mean. As a social worker, I completed psychosocial evaluations of prospective adoptive parents, and usually, everyone found those to be worthwhile and meaningful interviews. The site you linked to seems to offer some training resources, and training is important for anyone considering adoption, for sure. Did you mean "training" instead of "tests"? Or was this mostly to introduce that agency's website? Looking forward to hearing back from you!

  5. I searched for (& was successful in finding) my birth father back in ’07. I had been looking online for a few years but nothing had turned up. I finally caught a break when I accidentally misspelled his name in a google search and, low and behold, there he was! I was 34 at the time. Anyways, I created to help others who are in the same or similar circumstances. Please feel free to take a look. FFA is unique in that it creates a great “exposure” piece that is very useful for those persons (ie parents) that may be searching for YOU right now. Use of the site is totally free and there is no obligation. Hope this helps and perhaps will see you on Good luck!

    1. Hi Gina -- thanks for sharing this information here. I hope it helps lots of people! Addison


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