November is National Adoption Awareness Month. I am an adopted person. I am a birth mother. I am a birth grandmother. I love to share my experiences with anyone who asks or wants to hear my stories.
In 2016, I was approached to join an organization that shares adoption stories with groups such as high school students, social workers, and clubs in the Metro and southern Minnesota. With delight and excitement, my answer was “yes” in an instant.
Little did I know, this organization had many, many speakers and facilitators who speak at nearly 100 engagements a year, reaching thousands of people. There is something amazing about becoming part of a “family” of people who experience and share similar stories.
In 2019, with my virtual assistant business growing, I responded to a virtual assisting posting in a newsletter that happened to be part of the same organization. Now, not only do I speak for them, I work for them.
The organization I speak of is Bellis, a community of people who care about adoption and work to provide education and support in a way that uplifts, inspires, and heals.
Bellis was founded in 1983 and is a multi-service nonprofit with zero political or religious affiliations or agenda. It is all about education. In today’s world, education without a hidden agenda is so needed. Volunteers, like myself, include birth parents, adopted people, adoptive parents, and adoption professionals who bring adoption education and awareness into schools and communities.
Not only does Bellis provide education, it provides support and healing. Every year there is a healing weekend retreat designed specifically for birth mothers, and throughout the year there are “Evening of Adoption Connection” gatherings for anyone with adoption experiences.
Through speaking, answering questions, and reading surveys completed by students, teachers and community leaders, I see the accomplishment first-hand. The speakers present accurate adoption education and share raw, passionate and real experiences that leave 75% of students having a more positive light on adoption.
Teachers share comments such as, “The personal stories really opened everyone’s eyes. I think everyone is more educated now and has more of an open mind about the subject.”
As a birth mother, and like many others I have met, we generally do not regret the intentional plans made for our children and ourselves. However, many of us have been caught unprepared for the stages of grief and processing that unfolds in the following months and years after placement. Counseling helped me travel through that journey, but now, Bellis is visible and stepping up to fill the gap in support services available.
What distinguishes Bellis’ work?
They do not facilitate adoptions. Rather, they step in to educate communities and provide support where it is needed to foster healthy women, children and families.
There are no religious or political affiliations. Decisions around pregnancy are some of the most divisive in our society. Bellis works across the spectrum of personal and institutional beliefs and finds a neutral, nonjudgmental viewpoint best serves their mission. That philosophy has remained unchanged in the organization’s 30+ years.
They are volunteer driven. Volunteers from diverse adoption experiences make up their speakers’ group, committees and board leadership. These volunteers create a network of support that is helpful to their adoption journey, and their stories build greater adoption awareness for their audiences.
Coordinating and scheduling a large group of volunteers is still best described as “trying to herd cats,” but I say that fondly. Speaking for such a group has been rewarding personally in so many ways, and being able to spread education surrounding adoption by sharing my stories makes me grateful.