Adoption – Street Smarts or Book Smarts?

“Most of the time, learning occurs in not-so ideal situations—what I call chance learning. The brain loves novelty and when we see something odd or unusual we are more likely to remember the experience. That’s part of the reason our memories are continually updating and adjusting to new information.” Judith Land 


“The brain is endlessly learning, acquiring knowledge, constantly updating, regenerating its memory banks of information on the fly, and replacing the old with the new, allowing us to learn from our first breath to our last. The universe we live in is always in flux, if we don’t change with it, we fail to thrive and grow.” Judith Land

The world of adoption is continually changing and updating at an increasingly faster pace. New information, concise reporting and more accurate statistics, expanding technical data, genetic and medical research, internet sharing, social media, increased psychological and childhood development studies, and evolving societal attitudes are leading to more informed choices than ever before. Media libraries, genealogical sites and the need for medical history have greatly increased the ability of adoptees from closed adoptions to trace their roots and discover their medical history. Common wisdom, public stigmatism, societal attitudes and modern perceptions of single parenthood and adoption today are much different than those of previous generations. But how do we learn all these things about the good and the bad sides of adoption, from experience and common sense, or through book learning?

Adoption is a complex topic. Individuals on all sides of the adoption triangle need to be aware and beware of all aspects of the topic and continually monitor those who are most vulnerable and likely to need assurance, comfort, and assistance.

Some adoptees and parents use street smarts to develop a shrewd awareness, experience, and resourcefulness needed for survival in difficult and unique social environments. Intelligence to them means being well informed and clever and quick in thought and action; the ability to figure out other people, and the ability to correctly interpret what others really mean when they say and do things. A street smart person is generally someone who is intelligent and knows how to handle important situations that is often not well-educated academically. Street smart people have the knowledge and experience required to handle dangers and potential difficulties in life, particularly in urban settings. They believe that practical experience is the mother of wisdom and more beneficial than academic learning without experience. They observe through personal observation what others face when they go through an adoption. It is through firsthand experiences they are able to read the warning signs and discern when a situation is going south, or when circumstances are fine and safe. It also means staying flexible to adapt to changing circumstances, and developing tools and resources to deal with whatever life throws at you. Street smart people learn to trust their initiative and instincts to help them prepare for disaster. Street smarts tend to give you the tools and mental capacity to work out solutions in a more natural way when faced with a potential disaster.

On the other hand, adoptees and parents with book smarts are studious, educated, and scholarly. They are good at gathering information and they have a lot of facts and information. They are very good at knowing stuff, retaining things, and remembering things but book smarts is an expression often used to imply someone who lacks understanding of the world and common sense. Book smart people obtain knowledge from study and books. They acquire knowledge through reading. They are typically less knowledgeable when it comes to handling important situations faced outside of school and academic circles because unless you actually go out and experience life in person, you can’t really say you are smart about that particular scenario or subject. 

Regardless of how we acquire our life experiences and gather knowledge about the relationships between parents and children, whether we are more street smart or book smart, it is always important to learn as much as we can about the predictable outcomes and the associated problems and opportunities adoption creates. When we learn to understand the association between thunder and lightning, we are finally beginning to see the broader picture, learn the associated repercussions of our actions, grasp the consequences of adoption, and understand the predictable collateral effects of the choices we make.

Judith Land

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Adoption – The importance of Communication

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. Good communication is the language of leadership. Honest communication is built on truth and integrity and upon the respect of others. Wise people speak because they have something to say; fools because they unwisely and imprudently have to say something.” Judith Land  


“Adoption triggers a never ending catalog of unfamiliar situations and a litany of emotional responses, feelings and sentiments. The better we are at communicating our thoughts and feelings to others, the more likely we are to discover the truths behind the answers we are seeking.” Judith Land

Adoption is a self-perpetuating continuation of a difficult situation that is never ending, even without outside intervention. There are many things to know about children; it is only through continual communication that we learn the best ways to nurture, guide, discipline, and protect the most vulnerable children.

How well you understand and communicate with others has a considerable impact on how successful you will be in every arena of life. People who communicate effectively find it easier to understand others, make good choices, and resolve conflicts in a healthy manner. To discover what someone else is thinking we must learn to listen actively, empathize, and acknowledge other viewpoints.

Good communication means knowing how to ask questions that clarify what a person is trying to say, and be able to coherently explain our own point of view. Understanding others means going beyond the words they speak and learning how to interpret the unspoken. Knowing how to read other people’s styles and motives makes it easier to work with others effectively. When we explain ourselves clearly, we are more easily understood. If we succinctly make our point the first time, there may be less confusion and frustration. 

Good communication saves you time and energy, helps things go more smoothly and decreases misunderstandings. People respect individuals who are forthright and when you are straightforward, others will admire your courage and personal strength. Quiet firmness goes a long way toward influencing others to honor your needs. When you seek feedback, you discover the impact of your behavior on others and when you exchange feedback, you are enlightened. When you give feedback to others your relationships become fuller and more meaningful and when you influence others positively, you are valued.

Good communication makes it easier to motivate and influence others to take action, helps make persuasive appeals, and reduce resistance to change. To be in a more commanding position to influence others, you must become the kind of person who is able to speak clearly to know and unearth the needs of others, and link them in an effective way to what you have to mutually offer each other.

Judith Land

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Adoption – Staying afloat

“Have you ever felt as though you are simply treading water, desperately trying to stay afloat, while hoping to escape a difficult life situation? Without positivism, how long can anyone remain adrift? What’s the alternative to sinking altogether?” Judith Land

Adoption Detective | Staying Afloat | Judith Land

Adoption is a redemptive act to save someone from misfortune that happens in this world.

When you are dealt a bad hand in life, it sometimes becomes difficult to keep your head above water. When the threat of abuse or neglect is high, we worry about being lost or abandoned, and long to be free from confinement, suffering, danger and evil. We dream of escaping from dangerous and distressing situations and long for the guiding hand of a trusted parent or guardian to lead us out of the darkness. 

The hope and vision of all children is to have someone who cares, protects and shelters them from harm, but it’s a cold hard fact of life that the help and support they are desperately seeking isn’t always available. When they are forced into negative circumstances that are beyond their control the days pass slowly and mournfully with basset-hound eyes. 

Imagine the disadvantaged little girl who spends eighteen years attempting to stay mentally buoyant as she sorrowfully drifts through life treading water, lamenting the fact that she was adopted, trying to remain positive and emotionally afloat after being separated from her biological mother through no fault of her own; a neglected “red-headed stepchild” mistreated worse than the other children in the family, without favor, unwanted, wrongly blamed, shunned, and bullied. She has no advantages. Much of what she was forced to endure would produce a degree of sadness and melancholy that would cause others to collapse and fall apart. It’s a terrible experience seeing someone feeling worse about themselves than they did before due to Abandonment Issues and because others brought judgement that depresses and discourages them. 

Coming to grips with self-identity issues, understanding the emotional impacts of adoption, and facing up to the cold hard truth of the importance of bonding and attachment disorders leaves many adoptees with a feeling of hopelessly drifting through life, rudderless and without a paddle or a sail. Separation Anxiety Syndrome causes major distress and predictable problems functioning in social situations at work and school. The lessons that every adopted child needs to learn are that a ship will never sink unless water leaks inside the boat and all the negativity in the world can never bring you down unless you allow it inside you. Those who want to bring you down are already below you. The higher you go the further you can see.

We are all born into this world to find our purpose and fulfill our own aspirations, so don’t just settle for the version of yourself that you’ve been comfortable with all your life. Accept that growing means you’ll have to leave a lot of things in the past, no matter how hard and painful that may be. Know that it’s after we undergo struggles in life that we experience growth and become better people than we were yesterday. 

Judith Land


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Adoption—Life in a Snow Globe

“I grew up with an idealistic spirit with a widespread belief in an amazing future that was just around the corner, much like the image in a winter scene captured by painter Thomas Kinkade, an idealized version of humanity depicting a futuristic utopia, where everyone is educated and thoughtful and kind, working together to improve life for everyone—a world where everyone is virtuous, fair-minded, and kind.” Judith Land 

“It’s always quieter after a snow storm due to the sound absorbing acoustics of fresh snow. When the snow globe is jiggled, the landscape is once again blanketed with a fresh coat of big white snowflakes that spin around with a calming silence and each enormous snowflake triggers memories of pleasant events that linger on forever in winter light that has a beauty all its own.” Judith Land

Being adopted and relocated to the heart of the Rocky Mountains during the winter season is the equivalent of living inside a snow globe—an idyllic setting depicting a time and place filled with joyful memories captured and frozen in time—a snapshot of a romanticized world during a previous epoch when life was very good. People are happy and free from want and separated from the negative influences of the outside world. Kids are playing and laughing and everyone is perpetually smiling. The statue maker’s creative magic shows sensitivity and imagination, triggering long held happy memories of a glorious time gone by and feelings of being free from want that spans generations.

Growing up is not an option. Progressing toward psychological maturity means coming to the realization that saying farewell to the poetic dreams of youth and images of a perfect life inside a snow globe are melancholic. Beliefs in a utopian setting idealized by the slow dreamy rhythms of the seasons in a world of the imagination, largely devoid of moral and ethical deliberations, are my refuge, sanctuary, and place of safety. The lionized memories of winter that I celebrated in my youth as an only child and an adoptee will never leave me, as long as I have my snow globe close beside me.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to every child and parent on the space globe we call planet earth. My wish is for every adoptee whose life’s trajectory has been radically altered through no fault of their own to be able to attain peace of mind in the coming year, if only in our dreams.

Judith Land



Adoption Detective

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Adoption–the Santa Claus Syndrome

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Adoption detectives help adoptees find their way home

“An adoption detective is an individual who researches biological and genetic connections between individuals. They conduct searches of public and private records, research historical documents, and interview persons of interest for the purpose of uncovering genealogical information linking biologically related individuals, persons related by marriage, foster parents, and other key contacts.” Judith Land

Adoption Detective | Judith Land

“Doing things for others is a powerful way to boost our own happiness and others around us. Helping others promotes positive behavior, keeps us mentally stimulated and provides a sense of purpose.” Judith Land

Investigations conducted by adoption detectives have potential to result in lengthy arduous or convoluted worldwide investigations across international borders and geographic regions. They may create unexpected adventures reminiscent of classic mystery novels leading to the discovery of previously hidden information, sometimes leading in directions not originally anticipated, or what the genealogist, detective, mystery writer, or client originally had in mind. 

Adoption detectives need to retain a perspicacious mind to master the elegant art of detection, and remain ever vigilant to the potential for psychological trauma that may be caused by exposing unsuspecting and unwilling individuals. This type of information is often difficult to obtain, especially in foreign countries and cases where birth certificates and baptismal certificates were intentionally falsified; legal documents are filed as concealed records not readily available to the public without a search warrant; and when persons of interest are deceased, uncooperative, or desire not to be found. Exposure of information intentionally concealed by birth parents in closed adoptions, using records falsified by governments and churches may lead to unintended consequences and produce negative emotional outcomes for some individuals. 

The majority of clients are children who were orphaned, fostered, or adopted seeking to reunite with biological relatives. Others include parents separated from their biological children looking for reconciliation; doctors benefiting from family medical histories; attorneys dealing with inheritance or other legal matters; police detectives researching crimes involving DNA, or other confidential personal information; historians, genealogists, and social researchers; and other individuals requesting information about ancestral antecedents. 

Children who suffer from genealogical bewilderment often possess an inherent desire to learn something about their biological antecedents. They possess a desire to trace their family lineage to be enlightened about their ancestral social and cultural heritage, meet biological relatives, and discover the geographical niche from which their ancestral population originated. Knowing that the birth parents discarded the child leaves many adoptees feeling psychologically disturbed, anonymous, and unheralded. 

To help focus attention on the importance of medical family history, the United States Surgeon General launched a national public health campaign to encourage American families to learn more about their family health history. Gathering a person’s complete and accurate medical family history is extremely important because knowledge of inherited human traits has potential to save lives now that the human genome has been discovered. Many physicians perceive the medical family history as the preeminent source of information with a much higher value in diagnosis than either the physical examination or laboratory and radiography information because it is well known that many medical conditions, including heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, alcoholism, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, and high blood pressure all have potential to be inherited. 

Children who are orphaned, fostered or adopted, who don’t have access to medical records because their parents are unknown, deceased or uncooperative, may benefit from the comprehensive investigative skills of an adoption detective. The profession’s skill set can uncover medical information recorded in death certificates, obituaries, interviews, DNA, genealogy and ancestor websites, and old family letters. Even old family photos can provide visual clues to diseases such as obesity, skin conditions, and osteoporosis. 

The absence of ancestral information is often an unsolvable mystery for many adoptees because they do not possess the skills or knowledge needed to produce a positive outcome. These individuals may benefit from the assistance of an adoption detective, or the professional skills and advice of a qualified private investigator.


Judith Land,  Adoption Detective

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Adoption—The Extraordinary Power of Expectations

“Manage your expectations wisely because the disappointment of failed expectations can shackle us forever and make our lives and the lives of others more miserable than they ever needed to be.” Judith Land

A Bible in one hand, a bottle in the other...

“Never form expectations based on figments of your imagination and never take the advice of strangers with a Bible in one hand and a bottle in the other because when our expectations are flawed they distort our interpretations of reality to our detriment.” Judith Land

Our lives are directly influenced by our expectations. High achievers are big thinkers and visionaries known to have ambitious expectations and targets with definitive goals and objectives in mind that they would like to accomplish. High aspirations and goals are directly linked to lofty expectations. The pygmalion effect is the phenomenon whereby higher expectations lead to an increase in performance. The golem effect is when expectations are low and there is a corresponding decrease in performance.

Individuals on opposing sides of the adoption triangle are faced with alternatives leading to an assortment of expectations. The classic story line and expectations for the birth mother who believes her child will benefit from adoption, “My expectation is a good-hearted surrogate mother will automatically surface to take my place. She will provide my child with a better life than me, if I willingly disown my own child by vacating my role as the birth mother; resign all legal authority, and parental obligations; relinquish all personal ties, and responsibility; terminate the birthright legacy, the path to the crown and inheritance.” The adoptive mother who believes she is virtuous by nature reinforces the birth mother’s beliefs and counters, “My expectation is warm cookies and milk, lots of love and hugs, good schools, a beautiful home, a happy family, and a pleasant safe environment will help nuture ‘my’ adopted child to overcome deep-rooted psychological issues inherent to adoption, including the primal wound, separation syndrome, PTSD, and a plethora of other known afflictions unique to adoption.” Expectations for the unassuming adoptee high on self-efficacy naively believes, “If I search for my birth mother, she will warmly welcome me back into her life with open arms?”

When we use sound judgement based on common sense and apply fair and reasonable standards to our decisions we automatically assume our expectations will be achieved. In reality, expectations are purely conjecture about what the future might hold, based upon strongly held assumptions, personal experiences, and convictions. Sometimes, they are based on limited information provided to us by others in positions of authority that we sincerely trust, including parents, relatives, friends, priests and social workers—but what if their assumptions are wrong and the advice they provided us is poor, or based on false assumptions? When will we find out?

Eventually, with age comes maturity and wisdom and we finally come to the realization that expectations are not agreements between people; they are simple beliefs that a certain outcome can be realistically achieved or delivered and the events and course of action we envision will happen as expected.

Most of us believe it is a good thing to have standards established in advance and expect them to be met, but what if they aren’t? What happens when we come to the realization that our expectations will never be achieved and outcomes will not occur as planned? Expectations that rely on the performance of strangers are always at risk. In the real world, obligations are often uncertain because “others” don’t always have the energy, commitment, sense of obligation, the interest, or the talent needed to follow through to completion to make “our” life-long dreams come true. The fact that future outcomes become less certain over time is also a cold hard fact of life.

Life is a challenge—proceed with caution because expectations influence your attitude, decisions, behaviors, and perspectives, as well as your interactions with others. Form them wisely because when formulated realistically expectations contain extraordinary power to affect reality, create wealth, and improve your life.

Judith Land



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Adoption—Striving for the Brass Ring

“Striving for the ‘Brass Ring’ means aiming for a chance at success. If you are a participant in an adoption story what is your definition of affluence and a blockbuster Hollywood ending?” Judith Land

In order to encourage more riders to sit on the outer rows, someone devised the ring game and it became a common fixture of the carousel. Getting the brass ring was a special treat entitling the holder to a free ride or it could be kept as a memento and good luck charm.

The brass ring is symbolic of adulthood, triumphs and favorable outcomes. The meaning of “grabbing the brass ring” or “getting a shot at the brass ring” has evolved over time to convey striving for success and living life to the fullest; getting recognized and aspiring for the highest attainable prize.

Brass ring dispensers were developed during a period of time when carousels were popular between 1880 and 1920. Dexterous riders on the outside row of horses were given the challenge of grabbing for rings dispensed on a wooden stick for amusement and as an added incentive for enjoying the carnival ride. On the end of the dispenser there were many iron rings with no value and only one brass ring. The lucky person who received the brass ring won a prize, or it could be redeemed for another ride on the merry-go-round.

The earth is like a spinning carousel; a merry-go-round that never stops; around the sun orb it goes, never stopping, never hesitating. The cycles of life are the rhythms and routines that occur in the universe and in our daily lives, like blood flow and breathing. We have sleep and awake time and then we lay our heads down on our pillow and gently fall sleep again. All things evolve and grow as they develop; there is nothing in the lives of a little green caterpillars or small children that accurately predicts the remarkable evolutionary life changes yet to come. All the rivers of the world flow into the ocean, yet the ocean is not full. And when the water evaporates it forms clouds, the rains falls and the endless hydrological cycle continues. Clouds drift by as the sun comes up; the moon and the stars become visible as the sun disappears over the horizon and the sky turns pink and darkness blankets God’s enormous carousel. The movements of the planets and the changing seasons, the ocean tides, economic cycles and our lives continue to go around and around in a circular pattern like a band of Whirling Dervishes so filled with happiness that they stretch out both arms and start spinning in a circle.

The brass ring that I reached for was the opportunity to discover my true identity; success was defined as the chance to meet my parents and siblings and extended family and reconnect with a life that could have been. To be able to share my story and thoughts about adoption with people from 173 countries has been very rewarding and more than I ever thought I could achieve. How do you define success? What does the brass ring symbolize to you?

Judith Land



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