MILITARY ADOPTIONS

February 16, 2019 at 4:45 am

A veteran hoping to build a family through adoption says she faced bias from adoption agencies. She’ll tell us the story of her struggle and reveal how that painful process led her to pursue a law degree.

Aired on November 16, 2018 and February 15, 2019.

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>>> TONIGHT IN OUR SERIES ON
POST 9/11 VETERANS FRONT LINE TO
HOME FRONT WE ARE ABOUT TO
INTRODUCE YOU TO THE NEW WILL I
RETIRE -- NEWLY RETIRED ARMY
LIEUTENANT COLONEL WHO IS HERE
TO SHARE HER EXPERIENCE WITH
ADOPTION AND HOW THAT PROCESS
HAS LED HER TO PURSUE A LAW
DEGREE AT SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY.
BEFORE WE GET TO THAT, WE'LL
LOOK AT THE TILMAN FOUNDATION,
STARTED BY THE WIDOW OF ARMY
RANGER PAT TILMAN WHO LOST HIS
LIFE IN THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN.
>> MY GREAT GRANDFATHER WAS AT
PEARL HARBOR AND I HAVEN'T DONE
A DAMN THING SO I HAVE A GREAT
DEAL OF RESPECT FOR THOSE THAT
HAVE AND WHAT THE FLAG STANDS
FOR.
§
>> I KNEW AFTER PAT WAS KILLED I
WANTED TO DO SOMETHING POSITIVE
IN HIS MEMORY.
I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO IS START
THE FOUNDATION.
AND IN STARTING IT I KNEW THAT I
REALLY WANTED IT TO BE ABOUT THE
WAY THAT HE LIVED HIS LIFE.
>> I THINK THAT ALL OF OUR
SCHOLARS HAVE A HUGE OPPORTUNITY
TO HAVE AN IMPACT IN THEIR
CHOSEN FIELD AND COLLECTIVELY WE
SEE THEM AS A FORCE TO BE
RECKONED WITH.
THEY'LL GO OUT IN THE WORLD AND
HAVE A HUGE IMPACT IN THE
DIFFERENT AREAS AND THEN THERE'S
GOING TO BE THE RIPPLE EFFECT.
>> THESE MEN AND WOMEN ARE GOING
TO CHANGE OUR NATION AND OUR
WORLD FOR THE BETTER.
>> JUST AN EXAMPLE OF SOME OF
THE VETERANS WHO GO ON TO BECOME
TILMAN SCHOLARS.
WE ARE PLEASED AND HONORED TO
WELCOME ONE NOW, ROBIN EVANS IS
HERE WITH US.
>> THANK YOU, JACK.
>> LET ME START OFF BEFORE I GET
TO YOUR PROGRESSION AND TO THE
TILMAN FOUNDATION INTO LAW
SCHOOL, TALK ABOUT YOUR MILITARY
EXPERIENCE.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE THAT YOU
WANTED TO BECOME A MEMBER OF THE
MILITARY?
>> LIKE MOST PEOPLE I JOINED AS
AN ENDS TO A MEANS, I WAS
LOOKING FOR COLLEGE MONEY.
I WAS VERY INTERESTED IN
PURSUING A COLLEGE DEGREE BUT
SIMPLY DIDN'T HAVE THE FINANCIAL
RESOURCES TO DO SO.
AND THE ARMY WAS GOING TO GIVE
ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO AT THE END
COLLEGE SO THAT WAS SORT OF MY
INITIAL ENTRY AND INTEREST IN
THE MILITARY.
I ENLISTED.
I SERVED AS CHAPLAIN ASSISTANT
FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS WHICH IS A
CHURCH SECRETARY.
YOU WORK ONE-ON-ONE TO PROVIDE
RELIGIOUS SOLDIERS TO SERVICE
MEMBERS' FAMILIES AND I REALLY
ENJOYED THAT.
I'LL TELL YOU MY INTERACTIONS
WITH THE CHAPLAINS THEY SAW
LEADER SKILLS IN ME THAT I
DIDN'T KNOW I HAD AT THE TIME
AND MOTIVATED ME TO BECOME AN
ARMY OFFICER.
>> SOME PEOPLE SAY FOR FIVE
YEARS, SEVEN YEARS.
SOME FOR LONGER.
YOU STAYED LONG ENOUGH TO BECOME
A LIEUTENANT COLONEL.
WHAT WAS IT NOW THAT MADE YOU
SAY, THIS IS WHERE I WANT TO BE
AND THIS IS WHERE I WANT TO GET
WITH THE MILITARY?
>> I HAVE TO SAY I HAD TERRIFIC
MENTORS WHO CONTINUED TO DEVELOP
ME AS A LEADER.
THAT MADE ME MORE INTERESTED IN
STAYING AND BECOMING A BETTER
LEADER.
ONCE YOU GET INTO IT YOU REALLY
DEVELOP A LOVE OF SERVICE AND
DUTY AND HONOR.
THOSE SEEM LIKE BUZZ WORDS TO
MOST PEOPLE BUT WHEN YOU'RE A
MEMBER OF THE ARMED SERVICES
THEY BECOME YOUR FAMILY.
THE ARMY BECAME MY FAMILY FOR SO
VERY LONG.
I INITIALLY THOUGHT I'D STAY 30
YEARS AND I DID OVER 22 YEARS.
BUT GOING IN AS AN OFFICER I
SAID I'LL STAY UNTIL 30.
YOU KNOW, LIFE CHANGES.
>> I WANT TO GET TO YOUR LAW
SCHOOL EXPERIENCE AND WHAT
YOU'RE HOPING TO DO IN A MOMENT.
BUT FIRST BECAUSE IT'S
IMPORTANT, AND IT INFORMS WHAT
YOU'RE GOING TO DO.
TALK ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE --
YOUR SPOUSE WAS ALSO IN THE
MILITARY, OF ADOPTING A CHILD.
>> LATER IN LIFE, MY SPOUSE AND
I DECIDED WE WANTED TO PURSUE
DOMESTIC ADOPTION.
WE HAD BEEN GOING FULL STEAM
AHEAD IN OUR CAREERS AND HAD NOT
MADE TIME TO START A FAMILY.
WE HAD SOME CHALLENGES MEDICALLY
AND WE OPTED FOR ADOPTION.
DOMESTIC ADOPTION WHICH IS MOST
PEOPLE GRAVITATE TO WAS NOT
PARTICULARLY HELPFUL OR
BENEFICIAL TO US.
THERE'S A LOT OF MISPERCEPTIONS
ABOUT MILITARY FAMILIES.
WHEN WE INITIALLY DID OUR HOME
STUDY, YOU GO IN AND YOU KNOW
YOU HAVE SOMEWHAT OF A DOSSIER.
YOU TELL THEM ABOUT YOURSELF,
YOUR FAMILY, WHAT YOU DO.
AND IT WAS NOT FULLY APPRECIATED
THAT WE WERE DUAL MILITARY.
A LOT OF BIRTH MOTHERS DID NOT
LIKE THE THOUGHT OF ONE OR BOTH
PARENTS DEPLOYING.
THEY DID NOT LIKE THE THOUGHT OF
THE RIGIDITY OR THE
OVERDISCIPLINE OF A DUAL
MILITARY FAMILY. FOR MY CHILD A
SIMPLY CAN'T PROVIDE THAT FOR MY
CHILD.
>> YET, YOU WOULD THINK --
COMMON SENSE WOULD SAY, LOOK,
YOU WANT STABILITY.
HERE YOU HAVE MILITARY
ACCOMPLISHED MILITARY OFFICERS
WHO HAVE SHOWN LEADERSHIP AND
THE ABILITY TO PRESENT THE TYPE
OF CHARACTERISTICS, YOU WOULD
THINK YOU WANT IN A PARENT.
YET, BECAUSE YOU PUT THE STAMP
MILITARY ON IT PEOPLE LOOK AT IT
AND ARE TROUBLED BY IT.
>> ABSOLUTELY.
YOU KNOW, THERE'S SO MANY TIMES,
JACK, I TALKED WITH BIRTH
MOTHERS ABOUT THE BENEFITS OF
THE MILITARY FAMILIES, ABOUT THE
RESOURCES, ABOUT THE HEALTH
CARE.
ABOUT THE WORLDLY, BROAD
EDUCATION THAT YOUR CHILD WOULD
GET BY BEING AROUND ALL TYPES OF
PEOPLE THROUGHOUT MILITARY
ENVIRONMENTS BUT --
>> MY BROTHER-IN-LAW RETIRED AS
A FULL COLONEL IN THE AIR FORCE,
TWO CHILDREN.
TALK ABOUT THE VALUES OF THE
EXPERIENCES THEY HAD.
GOING TO SCHOOL IN BELGIUM FOR A
PERIOD OF TIME.
THEN BEING IN CALIFORNIA AND
THEN THE DIFFERENT PLACES THEY
WERE.
AND I GUESS FOR SOME REASON IF
YOU DON'T LOOK HARD ENOUGH AT
IT, YOU LOOK AT THAT AS SOME
SORT OF A DETRIMENT TO GROWING
UP.
SO TELL ME, HOW EVENTUALLY YOU
WERE ABLE TO NAVIGATE THAT?
>> SO WE INITIALLY STARTED OUT
IN DOMESTIC, WE HAD TO
TRANSITION TO INTERNATIONAL
ADOPTION WHERE THE BIRTH PARENTS
DON'T GET AS MUCH OF A SAY.
IT REALLY BECOMES MUCH MORE OF A
BUREAUCRATIC PROCESS.
YOU SUBMIT YOUR DOCUMENTS.
WE CHOSE ETHIOPIA AND THE
COUNTRY MAKES THE DECISION ON
WHO CAN ADOPT VERSUS THE INPUT
FROM THE PARENTS LIKE IT IS IN
DOMESTIC ADOPTION.
>> HOW HAS IT WORKED OUT?
>> IT'S GREAT.
OUR FIN IS 8 YEARS OLD AND HE'S
BEEN MUCH MORE OF A BLESSING TO
US THAN WE HAVE TO HIM FOR SURE.
>> I'M SURE IT GOES BOTH WAYS.
YOU DECIDE IT'S TIME FOR A
TRANSITION IF MY LIFE AND WHAT
TO LAW SCHOOL?E YOU WANTED TO G-
>> I HAVE BEEN INTERESTED IN LAW
BUT BACK WHEN I WAS A YOUNG
ADULT I DIDN'T HAVE THE
FINANCIAL RESOURCES OR THE
DISCIPLINE.
YOU HAVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU'RE IN
FOR AND I'M SURE I HAD WHAT IT
TOOK WHEN I WAS 21.
AS AN ADULT I'M INTERESTED IN
REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT AND
POLITICS.
A THINGS THAT NEST WELL WITH LAW
SCHOOL.
SO ONCE I DECIDED TO RETIRE I
KNEW I'M GOING TO LAW SCHOOL.
THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF LAW
SCHOOLS.
THERE ARE THEORETICAL, THEY
TEACH THE BLACK LETTER LAW AND
THEN THERE ARE LAW SCHOOLS WHO
ARE PRACTICAL LAW SCHOOLS WHERE
YOU DO EXTERNSHIPS.
YOU DO A LOT OF ONE-ON-ONE
TRAINING.
THAT WAS REALLY IMPORTANT FOR ME
TO LEAVE LAW SCHOOL AND KNOW HOW
TO DO THE DAILY WORK OF
LAWYERING.
THAT'S HOW I HAPPENED UPON
SYRACUSE LAW.
I CAME UPON THE TILMAN
FOUNDATION ON MY DEPARTURE FROM
THE MILITARY.
THERE'S A REQUIREMENT TO DO
EXODUS TRAINING AND THEY GIVE
YOU A PACKET FOR SCHOLARSHIPS IF
YOU'RE INTERESTED IN SCHOOL.
I SAID, I DON'T REALLY NEED A
SCHOLARSHIP BUT LET ME LOOK AT
IT.
SO I TOOK A LOOK AT IT, I LOOKED
AT THE TILMAN WEBSITE.
I WAS BLOWN AWAY.
I MEAN, I KNEW WHO PAT TILMAN
WAS, NFL PROFESSIONAL PLAYER
TURNED ARMY RANGER, KILLED IN
ACTION IN AFGHANISTAN IN 2004.
SO I KNEW HIS STORY BUT I DIDN'T
REALLY KNOW ABOUT THE FOUNDATION
AND THE FACT THAT IT'S A
NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION THAT
REALLY PROVIDES EDUCATIONAL
OPPORTUNITIES TO VETERANS AND
VETERAN FAMILIES.
WHAT IS -- THIS IS THE TENTH
YEAR.
THEY HAVE PROVIDED OVER
$16 MILLION WORTH OF
SCHOLARSHIPS TO VETERANS SO I'M
SUPER EXCITED TO BE A PART OF
PAT'S LIVING LEGACY AND 2018 PAT
TILMAN SCHOLAR.
>> HAVE YOU DETERMINED WHAT YOU
WANT TO DO WITH THE LAW DEGREE?
>> I'M INTERESTED IN FAMILY AND
ADOPTION LAW.
WHEN I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO
DO A CLINIC I'LL PARTICIPATE IN
SYRACUSE COLLEGE OF LAW'S CHILD
RIGHT AND FAMILY CLINIC.
SO I'LL DO SOME WORK IN THAT AND
HOPEFULLY THAT WILL ENHANCE MY
INTERESTS AND ALSO CONNECT OUR
KIDS.ORG, WHICH IS ANOTHER
NONPROFIT LED BY A VETERAN WHO
IS TRYING TO USE SOME TECHNOLOGY
TO BRING PARENTS TO FOSTER
CHILDREN IN THE U.S.
SO BOTH OF THOSE I THINK WILL
HAVE ME END UP SOMEWHERE IN
ADOPTION LAW.
>> I FOUND ROUTINELY I HAD A
NUMBER OF STUDENTS WHO WERE
VETERANS.
AND I FOUND ROUTINELY THAT THEY
WERE EXCEPTIONAL STUDENTS.
SO I'M SURE YOU'RE GOING TO DO
MARVELLOUSLY THERE AND GOING
BACK TO YOUR PARENTHOOD I'M SURE
YOUR YOUNG CHILD IS VERY
FORTUNATE.
>> THANK YOU, JACK.
THANKS FOR HAVING ME.
>> IT'S A PLEASURE, ROBIN.
THANKS TO YOU AND GOOD LUCK TO
YOU.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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