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Biography

Thanks for stopping by Whatever Things Are True: the Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the World of International Adoption.

I’m Sharon, a wife and mother by adoption to three rambunctious children.

I’ve been a writer all my life. Today, my work centers on issues of parenting, adoption and child welfare. I’ve published essays in The Sun Magazine, Adoptive Families, and The Huffington Post. At Be Bold or Go Home, my blog for Adoptive Families Circle (AFC), the social networking arm of Adoptive Families magazine, I discuss the challenges of transracial adoptive parenting. I also contribute to the “Mama Musings” column at Mama Manifesto, a general audience parenting website.

Here's a little of my adoption story: My husband John and I met via the Internet in the late 20th century, back when online dating was still considered appropriate only for the desperate or crazy.

We arrived at adoption in a similarly unconventional way. We’d been married about a year when we heard Karin Evans, author of The Lost Daughters of China, being interviewed on The Diane Rehm Show about China’s adoption program. That same day we decided to adopt internationally, assuming at the time that we’d also eventually conceive a birth child or two. We imagined a loud, lively, diverse and perfect family.

Well, things did not go according to plan. Our first adoption attempt, from India, broke our hearts. The High Court of Andhra Pradesh shut down that state’s intercountry adoption program late in our adoption process, amid allegations of child trafficking and court challenges from self-described activists. I spent 18 months in India fighting to bring home our hoped-for daughter, but in the end, the Andhra Pradesh government placed her with an Indian adoptive family. It's a long, wrenching and complicated story I plan to tell in full someday.

The shock and pain of our experience in India left us in emotional limbo for more than two years. Finally, we decided to try our local foster care-adoption option, only to withdraw after logging hours of training. To bring a child into our home, then see the county suddenly remove that child -- the emotional risk felt too great in light of our earlier loss. We researched international again and applied to Bulgaria for reasons that made sense at the time, where our dossier promptly gathered dust. The pregnancy we always assumed would happen – didn’t. The struggle went on like this for six years. We began to question whether we were meant to be parents at all.

Thankfully, a few additional plot twists led us to three smart, funny, big-hearted children. My oldest daughter, born in India, is now 11. I’ll call her Didi here, the Hindi word for “elder sister.” She joined our family at age 5 1/2. I’ll always be grateful to the Indian friends who persuaded us to risk adopting from their country again. As one dear “auntie” noted during my pick up trip, “India brought you great sorrow, and now with Didi, India brings you great joy.”

We owe another group of caring friends encouraging us to look at Ethiopia’s program. Our son, Gobez, 10, and youngest daughter Lemlem, 9, are birth siblings whom we brought home as wild and crazy preschoolers. (I’m using nicknames again. Gobez means “well done,” and Lemlem means “blossom” in Amharic, Ethiopia’s national language. Trust me – the names fit.)

My experience have left me with an abiding interest in international adoption practices and policies, and a lot to say. In fact, I've got a memoir in the works -- I'll keep you posted.

If you're on twitter, look for me @sharonvanepps, or write to me at sharonvanepps@gmail.com

Interests

I publish Whatever Things Are True: the Good, the Bad and the Beautiful in the World of International Adoption because I'm interested in child welfare, child rights and promoting healthy, happy families worldwide. I believe adoption is the best option for children who cannot receive care in their families of origin, and I support ethical adoptions that meet the needs of vulnerable children. My writing has also appeared in print editions of The Sun Magazine and Adoptive Families Magazine, and online at HuffPost Parents, Adoptive Families Circle, and Mama Manifesto. Look for me on twitter @sharonvanepps.