As they were growing up, siblings Kevin and Kerry always had a nagging question of whether or not they were adopted. Even though their father told Kevin they were not, the thought never went away. It was suspected but never discussed.
Kevin, who now lives out of state, heard through the media about the adoption records opening in Ohio. He requested his original birth certificate through the mail and when it arrived, it confirmed everything he had suspected as he grew up – he was, in fact, adopted. He was a “late discovery adoptee” as he learned it is called in adoption circles.
A couple of days later, Kevin called Kerry, his sister by adoption, to tell her the news. “He started going on about his original birth certificate and I thought ‘Oh, he’s going to tell me he’s adopted,” Kerry said. Relief and a sense of peace came over her.
Kevin began the process of searching and soon learned that, sadly, his birthmother had passed away. He continues to search using DNA and has reached out and connected with cousins.
It has been a year and a half since the siblings finally got confirmation of what they always knew. At this time, Kerry has chosen not to search.
“Now we can talk about it,” Kevin said. “We have more of a connection now than we had before.”
Being two late discovery adoptees and siblings is a pretty unique situation, Kevin pointed out. This experience has connected them even deeper and changed their relationship forever. “Now we can have a true, real relationship,” Kerry said. “The walls have come down.”
Siblings Always: Linda and Jeff Ivanoff
Ten years ago Linda and Jeff Ivanoff were unsure if they’d ever be able to fulfill their dream to be parents. Interested in adoption, but confused about the process and which direction to head, they heard about Adoption Network Cleveland’s Adoption 101: Where Do I Begin? workshop. There, they learned details about the three paths to adoption, but what really tugged at them were the stories of children waiting in foster care for families. They also learned about the “Moving Hearts Gallery”and searched out its location at a local library. They were pining to actually see the faces of kids who needed a family. “Through Adoption 101, the Heart Gallery, and the Adoption Navigators, we became really inspired about public system adoption,” says an impassioned Linda, reflecting back.
The Ivanoffs’ adoption story is a long and tangly one with years of prep and trainings and a decision to also become licensed as foster parents. Eventually, to their home and hearts came the foster placements of three infant siblings – a boy, then a girl, then another girl – each born and placed about one year apart. One by one, they each became available for adoption and they became permanent members of the Ivanoff family. The children are now 5, 6, and 7 years old.
“I never expected a situation like ours, but once we heard about a baby sister to our son, there was no way we could say ‘No,’ and then we felt exactly the same when we learned of another sister,” says Linda. “The children are just beginning to understand a little about what adoption means – that they each grew in another woman’s tummy and because it was the same woman, it means that they’re biologically connected to each other. I know that as the years go on, and the concepts resonate more, that reality will be more and more important to them. Despite their young age, their bond is strong and their similarities are indisputable. We continue to try to help them be good people in the world by first being good to each other.”
In recent years, the Ivanoffs are paying it forward as parent presenters at the Adoption 101 workshop. “We’re hoping to provide the same inspiration we felt about the children in foster care who need a loving, permanent family, and to also share the power of being open to adopting siblings as well.”
We hope you enjoyed our 3-part series on Siblings in Adoption! To get early access to these stories in our members' newsletter, Guidance, become a member of Adoption Network Cleveland. Your membership will help the organization continue to serve the adoption and foster care community, while you will receive great benefits! Learn more at adoptionnetwork.org/become-a-member.