“Adoption and self-determinism”


When is the last time something struck you as being funny? Finding humor in daily circumstances adds joy to our lives. “A man on a raft paddles away” by Edward Steed is a highly amusing cartoon because it epitomizes self-determinism, independent behavior, and freedom of choice. Which character are you?

Self-determinism is a basic God-given right and a natural freedom inherent in all people, regardless of the circumstances under which we live. Greek philosophers identified self-determinism as the capacity to manage one’s own affairs, make one’s own judgments, provide for oneself, and the independent determination of one’s own fate and course of action; the power and the ability to make a decision for oneself without intimidation, constraint, compulsion, influence from the outside, and immunity from the arbitrary exercise of authority; an ancient doctrine based on the concept of a free will and the principle that everyone has the right to be the authors of their own lives and make their own choices.

Some things in life happen out of necessity. Other events happen by chance, but chance is uncertain. Our own actions are voluntary and within us; they happen naturally based on our innate tendencies. Our actions are autonomous and this special ability to choose makes us morally responsible. It is to these actions we attach praise and blame. Individuals uncertain about which alternative to choose are vulnerable to outside influences, coercion, intimidation, and promises of a better life that may drive them to make compulsive moral choices they may later regret.

Children don’t have the right of self-determinism. Their freedom is restricted. They aren’t allowed to do as they please. Sovereignty is reserved and independence is withheld from them. They are subservient to those who have dominion over them but some parents hoping to do what’s best may be guilty of prosaic influences leading to parental alienation and xenophobia parentis. Excessive control may lead to over reliance, trigger feelings of defeatism and isolation, and lead some adoptees to view the historical practice of secrecy and concealment of their true identity as medieval and the falsification of birth records to prevent them from knowing their origin, cultural heritage, biological family members, and detailed medical history as Orwellian. At what age should adopted children be emancipated and given the freedom to control their own lives? When they reach the age of reason, as fully functioning adults will the mysteries of the past be alluring to them? Will they have a desire to retrace their steps through the labyrinth of life in the sands of time as an expression of self-determinism?

The world is littered with individuals haunted by the past, shackled by the burdens of secrecy and separated from their lost because it was necessary, by chance, or because someone chose a different path for them. Perhaps, there would be more happiness in the world if more people exercised their natural right of self-determinism and fewer people exploited the weak by exerting their dominance over them. To everyone facing a difficult future; seeking reconciliation and forgiveness; carrying the heavy burdens of a troubled past; confronted by a pivotal event; and beginning a journey of hope with uncertainty, I respect your natural right of self-determinism and wish you God-speed.

Judith Land


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“Adoption—concealed carry!”

beauty girl cry

All humans conceal our emotions on a regular basis. If we don’t want anyone to know how we feel, we “put on a happy face” to cover up our feelings of distress. But, the brains of observers unconsciously detect that things aren’t right based on gut feelings, emotional intelligence, and the involuntary emotive expressions we see in others.


Do you “conceal your thoughts and carry your secrets” with you as a defense against public disclosure? Do you avoid divulging your deepest secrets because you view them as private and confidential? Some memories of past events are hard to forget and others were deeply hidden in the darkest folds of the primitive brain long ago. Are you haunted by secrets and faced with unsolvable dilemmas that you have been unwilling to share with others? Do you opt out of open conversations because you are fearful about what others might think of you, or say behind your back? Have you ever felt like wearing dark sunglasses, a high collar, and a hat to keep from being noticed in public, or a defendant masking the truth to protect a secret? Are you the quiet type who suffers in silence, who prefers to keep out of sight, avoid the spotlight, shun public forums, and avoid public speaking?

Adoption is a multifaceted topic, with many layers and dimensions that trigger powerful intrinsic emotions in response to cavernous thoughts about unanswered questions and painful events in our lives. Parenting sparks debates based on conflicting viewpoints generated from all sides of the adoption triangle. Governments at all levels react to world crises, military conflicts, and natural catastrophes. Hundreds of individuals, medics, social workers, clergy, philanthropists, and charitable institutions with piecemeal budgets and manpower provide temporary comfort while recognizing national sovereignty, laws, and cultural preferences. And yet, problems encountered by children in need of love continue the same as they always have over the millennia.

Many individuals and organizations are spokespersons and advocates for a wide variety of topics related to adoption. Social media are filled with support groups and task forces formed to address critical issues and provide aid and comfort to those in need. But, what about all those individuals who never participate—those who conceal their secrets and carry their burdens in silence? They intentionally sweep their problems under the rug to keep from being exposed—out of sight, out of mind. Where can they go for help and advice? Would it be helpful for them to share their secrets with you or someone you know? Would you volunteer to hold their hand and allow the curtain to be lowered? Who are the best mentors and sources of information for adoptees and adoptive parents? Who is best able to deal with the sufferings and misfortunes of others and guide them to a better life?

Have you ever encouraged someone to rid themselves of the shackles of secrecy and lift the awful burden of guilt from their shoulders by offering to be a good listener and lend a helping hand? Did they breath an enormous sigh of relief?

Judith Land


Judith Land Website

adozione | adopción | vedtagelse | adoptie | Verabschiedung | örökbefogadás | adopsjon

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A radio Interview with Judith Land

Judith Land | Adoption Story | Adoption Detective

“If a parent can love more than one child; then a child can love more than one parent.” Judith Land, Author of the book Adoption Detective: Memoir of an Adopted Child

Why did you write a book about adoption? 

Media, social workers, parents and adoptees encouraged me to write a book.
Audiences showed high enthusiasm for my story around campfires and dinner tables.
The topic of adoption has universal appeal for individuals of all ages and cultures.
I was passionate about the need to discover my true self-identity and family heritage.
I wanted to share my ideas with others who could benefit from my experience.
To prove to others that negative beginnings can have positive outcomes.
I wanted to speak for those without a voice and inspire others to take action.
It is important to leave a legacy and make others proud of me.

What makes your book Adoption Detective unique?

It describes the evolution in thinking over time from childhood through to adulthood.
It is written from the perspective of an orphaned, fostered and adopted child.
It describes the universal spiritual connection to mothers and my passion to find her.
It captures emotional reactions to the pivotal events in the life of an adoptee.
It highlights the power of the individual to overcome obstacles and determine outcomes.
It proves that destiny is not always preordained—life is an adventure of our own making.

What outcomes can readers of your book expect?

Readers will be entertained and carried along by many of their own experiences.
Awareness of adoption issues on all sides of the adoption triangle will increase.
More birth mothers and fathers will be inspired to keep in touch with their babies.
Orphans, foster children, and adoptees will be inspired to search for their roots.
Parents will be inspired to do a better job of raising their children.
Parents will become more aware that children are forever and always.
The public will pay more attention to adoption legislation, laws and policies.
Charitable giving to children’s organizations will increase.

How would you describe your writing style?

Writing styles serve as a brand similar to a favorite ice cream flavor. Adoption Detective is a true story that blends the elements of a nonfiction memoir with the written style of a novel. Novels highlight individuals that have reasons for their actions, who are distinguished, alluring, and realistic, that the reader wants to know more about. The theme is profound and the setting, time, and place easy to imagine. A good memoir deals with desire–what people want; what they do to get it; what helps or hinders them; and describes what it all means then and now. Pivotal events in life are specific and interesting and the interrelationship of events and feelings are vividly linked based on the cause and effect. I combined elements of both formats to keep the story lively and interesting.

Would you advise other adoptees to search for their roots?

Yes. With increasing age and maturity most adoptees think of their birth parents with an ever-increasing sense of forgiveness. Adoptees have a need for a curative breakthrough reality that will finally make sense of their disrupted life stories. Adoption reunions have the potential to make seekers well in this age of illness and anxiety. Adoptees eventually grow up to be mature adults with their own opinions and ideas, but many adoptive parents who oppose adoption reunions may disagree with me because they believe that adoptees are “forever” children in need of lifelong supervision. Adoption searches may create feelings of jealousy and be viewed as self-serving by adoptive parents withholding their emotional support.

Do you encourage adoptions?

Safeguarding the mental and emotional well being of children should be a universal priority for humanity in all cultures and societies. I have compassion for mothers and fathers separated from their babies who endure countless anxious days and nights of tormented suffering. For the infant, separation from the birth mother is a confiscation of a child’s soul, a mutual occurrence that rips apart and exposes the primal heart of the child. The traumatic tribulations that haunt afflicted unwanted children, selflessly orphaned, abandoned, clueless and left to be raised by strangers can cause highly severe and predictable negative lifelong psychological effects. It is difficult to keep up with all the discussions about the longterm effects of primal wounds and PTSD related to adoptions. All children feel the need to be loved. For that reason, I view the permanence associated with adoption as far superior to orphanages and institutional care when it comes to safeguarding the mental and emotional well being of children in need of parents, but adoption should only be viewed as a desperate last resort. I much prefer, whenever possible, that children stay with their biological relatives.

What was it like to meet your birth parents?

I find it difficult to find the appropriate words to describe the enigmatic, mystifying, and passionate psychological potency that motivates some adoptees hoping to reunite with their roots in order to discover their true self-identity and natural place on this earth. The way home for many adoptees is a highly emotional journey through the government bureaucracy and a mysterious labyrinth of the mind and soul. Once a quest to discover one’s roots has been initiated, it is often difficult for seekers and wanderers to change course, or halt the pursuit of their goal, until a conclusion has been reached. It was a difficult emotional journey for me, but the rewards of finding my birth parents and extended family far outweighs the trauma, apprehension, and mental angst I experienced along the way. I also conducted additional searches to find my foster parents and maternal grandparents, which were great adventures and just as exciting and rewarding. Adoptive parents are often opposed to reunions, usually for selfish reasons, but the most important thing I learned from my adoption search is, “If a parent can love more than one child; then a child can love more than one parent.”

What do you have to say in conclusion?

The positive feedback I have received from all over the world is hugely rewarding. Knowing that I have made a positive contribution to the lives of others in search of their true identity is very important to me. It is gratifying to hear readers thank me for being their voice on many difficult issues by leading through example, inspiration, and entertainment. Every new generation of unskilled adolescents needs to be forewarned of the perils and heartbreaks of exerting their desire to experience love. We learn by reading. And in conclusion, I would like to say that those who don’t read have no advantage over those who can’t.

Thank you.

Judith Land, Author & Adoptee


Adoption Detective: Memoir of an Adopted Child


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“Adoption—Life is a Dance!”

ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" - Season 18 - Week Ten

Life is a dance. We learn as we go, whether we lead or follow. Look at them sway with it, roll in the hay with it, wow (huh)! Younger than spring again, feeling that zing again, wow (huh)! He goes to, she goes fro. He goes fast, she goes slow. He goes left, she goes right, and now she’s nowhere in sight.


“Dancing with the Stars” is an American dance competition that has aired on ABC television for twenty years. Each dance couple competes for judges’ points and audience votes. What if our daily performance was broadcast live around the world for everyone to see and rated 1 through 10 by a panel of judges and voted on by the public? Would the audience release a cascade of applause? Would they wax lyrical over our style and grace, reward our perseverance, praise our intelligence, and acknowledge our professionalism?

If you are an adoptee or foster child with an emotional need for a curative and breakthrough reality that makes sense out of your disrupted life story; if you are a birth parent tormented by difficult choices and loss; or if you are an adoptive parent struggling to make the right choices, remember that life is a dance. We all go at our own pace. Sometimes we lead. Sometimes we follow. Sometimes taking a chance on love brings turtledoves and sometimes things blow up in our face and we lose the race.  The path to more crying is most often the result of not trying, rather than injury, poor health, and withdrawal. If only I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t feel so hollow. In every situation there is a time to walk, a time to talk, and even a time to crawl back. Nobody can learn the long, continuous flowing movements of the foxtrot and glide across the dance floor without significant training and rehearsals. Don’t fear what you don’t know; trust your instincts and learn as you go.

Life presents us all with challenges and adversity. Inevitably, everyone struggles at times and experiences the consequences of our shortfalls. Life is a learning opportunity and positive lessons can be learned from facing hardships and failure. The way we respond to difficulties we encounter and the choices we make is what defines us. Our attitude and how we respond to trying circumstances is how we learn to dance and how we find our path in life. Trust your instincts and know that inaction is a waste of life. With patience, practice, and maturity, you too can be a champion. Don’t worry about what you don’t know today because life is a dance—we all learn as we go. So, step lively and wisely!

Judith Land




adopción | adoção | przyjęcie | adozione | priėmimas | örökbefogadás | осиновяване

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Adoption—Are you an egghead or a potato head?

Why do some adoptees think it is their inalienable human right to know their true identity while others seemingly don’t care? Boiling water softens a potato and hardens an egg. When we find ourselves in hot water, and in danger of being criticized or punished, our “flight or fight” response is triggered. Our reactions to fear either harden or soften our chances of survival. Adoptees who fear confrontation react by withdrawing and escaping into isolation, darkness, and oblivion (flight). They are unwilling to play detective or rock the boat because they are afraid of the consequences. Other adoptees strive for validity, genuineness, truthfulness, and open communication. They are highly motivated to solve the mysteries of their origin and discover their true identity (fight).

An egghead is a professor, virtuoso, whiz, or brainy scholar intellectually gifted in the field of academics.

An egghead is a professor, virtuoso, whiz, or brainy scholar intellectually gifted in the field of academics.

Eggheads are hardened by the adoption experience. They have an emotional need for a curative and emotional breakthrough reality that will finally make sense of their disrupted life stories. They possess a nostalgic spirit and a wistful sense of homesickness. Awkwardly suspended in a bewildered state of confusion, they restlessly long for an intimate view of days gone by. They seek verity and a genuine sense of legitimacy. They have a natural curiosity about the past and a strong desire to reconnect with missing family members. Separation from their ancestral roots increases their passions and strengthens their desire to reconnect with the lost. Reality doesn’t scare them because they believe in self-determination. They are empowered to fight against injustices and correct previous wrongs. They seek wisdom, honesty, truthfulness, validity, mutual consent, reconciliation, and positive connections; while abhorring deceit and vagueness. They are hardened by the daunting challenges of initiating a quest for self-discovery by rummaging through historical documents, interviewing strangers, cultivating an historical literacy, and the difficult task of building a family tree. They possess an innate psychological drive that motivates them to validate all facts, and reject falsehoods and unsubstantiated legends. They are motivated by an innate sense of destiny and driven by a belief that the most worthy and noble course of action in life is to solve the mysteries of their origin. They want to know why their life’s trajectory has been so radically altered and they willingly fight for what is inherently theirs—a true self-identity. Seeking reality, genuineness, and truthfulness in all things, they are naturally drawn to individuals who seem “intuitively familiar” and they have a sentimental sense of forgiveness toward those who have trespassed against them.

“How precious! Oh and look! She has your nose!” Mr. Potato Head is an American toy consisting of a plastic model of a potato with replaceable ears, eyes, shoes, a hat, a nose, and a mouth.

“How precious! Oh and look! She has your nose!” Mr. Potato Head is an American toy consisting of a plastic model of a potato with replaceable ears, eyes, shoes, a hat, a nose, and a mouth.

Potato heads are softened by the adoption experience. Innocence comforts them. Lacking a natural curiosity about their family history, ancestral pedigree, geographic place of origin, and inheritance, they have a callous ambiguous ambivalence to the past and an indifference to their apparent lack of a coherent identity. Their memories and recollections of past events and people are foggy and unfamiliar because they are unenlightened and blind to history. They naively accept without challenge the legends and fabrications that have been told to them. Vagueness, deception, delusions and even crass naiveté don’t annoy or trouble them. They are unconcerned knowing that anonymous strangers unlinked them from their genetic antecedents, native language, and cultural heritage. They fear close examination, scholarly investigation, and public scrutiny. They are apprehensive about the reasons for the radical shift in their life’s trajectory, but they are unwilling to take any actions that may land them in hot water with adopted family members who might interpret their intentions as self-serving. Current circumstances and relationships are what define legitimacy to them. The love, gratitude, compassion, and appreciation they feel for adopted parents, who are perceived as virtuous individuals, trumps any negative feelings they may have of being isolated, anonymous and unheralded. They happily embrace the status quo and their current family relationships by dancing to the words of the song, “If you can’t be with the ones you love, love the ones you’re with.”

Which kind of adoptee are you—a softened potato head or a hardboiled egghead?

Judith Land



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“Woo Hoo—I found my maternal grandparents.”

Judith Land | Adoption Detective

Seeing images of my grandparents faces in black and white for the first time was the climax of a surreal fantasy of discovery that triggered powerful emotions and a nostalgic sense of times gone by. Self discovery is an evolving growth process. Seekers must possess an insatiable thirst for truth and knowledge, and an enduring lifelong desire to fulfill their destiny. The mysterious riddles of the past are often described as an unsolvable labyrinth, an emotional roller coaster, and a complex journey of the mind. The adoption stories I like the best are the ones with many chapters and happy endings.


I recently discovered the identity of my maternal grandparents. My mother was adopted. She had never seen an image of her parents and was uncertain of their names. When the mystery of their identity was eventually solved and I viewed their faces in a photograph for the first time, I felt immediately connected with them and linked to their past. My reaction was quietly introspective, overtly affirmative, and genuinely positive. I was overcome by immense feelings of joy, healing, and understanding produced by a deep sense of connectedness, belonging, and genealogical closure.

The cognitive knowledge and reactivity in response to those who are familiar to us is heart-rending. Emotional intelligence has a profound influence on our instinctual confirmation of identity. The psychological reactions produced by great works of art, and the feelings they evoke in the viewer, has been the subject of extensive study by artists and psychologists for many centuries. Understanding visual stimuli and the linking of personal memories to what is being viewed suggests that the experience is highly complex. The major neurological stimulus the photographs of my grandparents triggered in my brain were the same passionate, dramatic, and compelling emotions produced by the world’s greatest works of art—the equivalent of the Mona Lisa—deeply profound and eternally remembered.

Photographs are a slice of time and place that will never happen again. The visual images I have of my grandparents are priceless to me. Knowing the historic highlights of the pivotal points in my family’s history is timeless and enduring. Their memory, preserved in the black and white images of their faces that were left behind, creates a nostalgic sense of yesteryear and precious times gone by. My grandmother was an attractive young girl of German heritage who had a fling with a flamboyant Italian man of questionable character. He was a young, prosperous, married man with a family and a notorious reputation, but to those who befriended him, he was a good person. His wife and children and extended family loved him. He was a leader within the Italian community and a respected godfather to many individuals.

Story telling fascination brings to life tales of our ancestors and their accomplishments. This is how we learn about legends of the past; life lessons are taught; meanings behind family traditions are understood; and factoids become the ties that bind. Discovering the identity of my grandparents and seeing an image of their faces for the first time has been a surreal mix of fact and melodramatic fantasy.

Judith Land


Adoption Detective

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Adoption—I found my “foster parents!”

Monument Valley |Judith Land | Adoption Detective

Driving through Monument Valley at night on our way to Tucson, Arizona, to meet my foster family. My foster parents were a perfect couple with four lovely daughters. Reuniting with them after thirty years was a highly memorable event—much greater than I had ever imagined.


The quest to discover the identity of my birth parents had consumed three long years. The journey had been emotionally exhausting—but highly rewarding. Finding them was the highlight of my life. I was much happier and contented knowing my true identity, cultural heritage, and thankful for the positive connections I had made with my birth family. The mystery of my origin was solved; I was comforted knowing the reasons why my life’s trajectory had been so significantly altered. It was time to relax and pursue other life goals. As my husband and I soaked in the world’s largest hot springs pool under a quiet starlit sky, I whispered in his ear through the warm vapors, “There is just one more thing I want to know. Who are William and Priscilla Engelmann? Their names appear on my baptismal certificate. Yet, I have no idea who they are.” My words hung in the foggy mist of the cold night air. “Just help me with this one little thing,” I demurely pleaded with a coy smile that I knew he couldn’t resist…

I scanned telephone books from across the country and began cold-calling every person named Engelmann to inquire if they knew anyone named William or Priscilla—no luck. My long distance telephone bills had grown as large as our monthly car payment. After several months had passed, I finally gave up and sat down to watch the evening news. I noticed the name of the anchorman was Engelmann. I called the station immediately to ask if he knew William. “Sure! He is my brother. He used to live in Wisconsin but he lives in Tucson, Arizona, with his wife Priscilla. Would you like his telephone number?”

Was it was fate or good luck? I dialed the number. Priscilla picked up the receiver. Without preparation or forethought, I peppered her with a stream of questions. “Hi! Priscilla? Did you ever live in Milwaukee? Are you Catholic? Were you ever a foster parent? Did you ever baptize a child named Judith Ann? This is Judy.” The response I received was beyond anticipation. “You must be our missing foster child Judy. You were one year old when they took you from us. We were always hoping we could see you again some day.” “How about tomorrow?” “Okay!”

I hung up the telephone and ordered my husband to pack an overnight bag. We jumped into the car, took turns sleeping, and drove straight through the night to Tucson, Arizona, arriving on a Saturday morning. The heartfelt welcome I received was beyond anything I ever imagined. There were tears and hugs and much reminiscing about my early childhood—we had three decades of catching up to do. The experience was priceless. They made me feel like a celebrity. It was amazing to meet the “foster family” that had opened their hearts and home to a wee baby urgently in need of natal care so many years ago. They were a loving couple with four very sweet daughters. The girls had treated me as their sister; pushing me in a baby stroller, dressing, feeding, playing, reading to me every day for the first year of my life. Priscilla presented me with a baby book filled with baby pictures and photographs I had never seen, as well as, my hospital baby bracelet, and several childhood mementos. I was overwhelmed with emotion when my foster sister Barbara said; “I carried this picture of you in my wallet for thirty years, always hoping that I might see you again someday.” I hugged her and expressed my joy with tears. Speaking for everyone, Priscilla said, “The separation from you was very traumatic for all of us. It was the only time the girls ever saw their father cry. He even hired a detective to try to find you. We had applied to adopt you, but they said we already had four girls of our own. We thought of you as a member of our own family, and in honor of your memory, we set an empty place setting at the table and prayed for you every Christmas. We are so glad you found us again.”

The warm response I received raised my spirits and enlightened my faith in humanity. It was the loveliest reunion any foster child could ever receive. We have remained friends until this day. Thank you William and Priscilla, and foster parents everywhere in the world, who strive to enhance the lives of innocent children and make the world a better and safer place. Without their kind generosity and unselfish efforts there would be far more trouble in the world.
Judith Land


adozione | adopsjon | vedtagelse | usvojenje | принятие | przyjęcie | Verabschiedung

foster parent | family & parenting | adoption | Adoption Detective

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