MILITARY ADOPTION

A veteran hoping to adopt a child has made allegations that she faced bias from adoption agencies. She’ll share the story of her struggle to build a family and shed light on how she overcame the obstacles.

For more information on the Pat Tillman Foundation, click here. 

Aired on December 5, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT ON OUR SERIES ON 9/11 VETERANS, WE'RE ABOUT TO INTRODUCE YOU TO LIEUTENANT COLONEL FROM THE TILLMAN FOUNDATION.

SHE'S HERE TO SHARE HER EXPERIENCE WITH ADOPTION AS A MILITARY PARENT AND HOW THAT PROCESS HAS LED HER TO PURSUE A LAW DEGREE AT SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY.

FIRST WE'LL LOOK AT THE TILLMAN FOUNDATION, ORGANIZATION STARTED BY THE WIDOW OF P.A.T. TILLMAN WHO LOST HIS LIFE SERVING IN AFGHANISTAN.

MY GRANDPARENTS HAVE GONE TO WAR AND I HAVEN'T DONE A DAMN THING IN LAYING MYSELF DOWN LIKE THAT.

I KNEW AFTER PAT WAS KILLED I WANTED TO DO SOMETHING POSITIVE IN HIS MEMORY.

I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO HAVE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO START THE FOUNDATION.

IN STARTING IT, I KNEW I WANTED IT TO BE ABOUT THE WAY HE LIVED HIS LIFE.

I THINK THAT ALL OF OUR SCHOLARS HAVE A HUGE OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE AN IMPACT IN THEIR CHOSEN FIELDS.

AND COLLECTIVELY, WE SEE THEM AS A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH, THAT THEY'RE GOING TO GO OUT THERE IN THE WORLD AND HAVE A HUGE IMPACT IN ALL THESE DIFFERENT AREAS AND THERE'S GOING TO BE THIS 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 TILLMAN SCHOLARS, AND WE ARE PLEASED AND HONORED TO WELCOME ONE.

RETIRED LIEUTENANT COLONEL ROBIN EVANS WORLITH US.

PLEASURE TO HAVE YOU.

THANK YOU, JACK.

LET ME ENCOURAGE YOU TO TALK ABOUT YOUR MILITARY EXPERIENCE.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE THAT YOU WANTED TO BECOME A MEMBER OF THE MILITARY?

LIKE MOST PEOPLE, I JOINED THE MILITARY 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 ATTEND COLLEGE.

SO, THAT WAS MY INITIAL ENTRY AND INTEREST IN THE MILITARY.

I ENLISTED.

I STARTED THE CHAPLAIN'S ASSISTANT FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS WHICH IS BASICALLY A CHURCH SECRETARY.

YOU WORK ONE ON ONE WITH AN ARMY CHAPLAIN TO PROVIDE RELIGIOUS SERVICES TO SOLDIERS AND SERVICE MEMBERS' FAMILIES.

I ENJOYED THAT.

MY INTERACTIONS WITH MY CHAPLAINS, THEY SAW LEADERSHIP SKILLS IN ME THAT I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW I HAD AT THE TIME AND MOTIVATED ME TO SEEK A COMMISSION IN THE ARMY AND BECOME AN ARMY OFFICER.

SOME PEOPLE STAY FIVE YEARS, SEVEN YEARS, SOME LONGER.

YOU STAYED LONG ENOUGH TO BECOME A LIEUTENANT COLONEL.

WHAT WAS IT THAT MADE YOU SAY THIS IS WHERE I WANT TO BE AND THIS IS WHERE I WANT TO GET TO?

I HAVE TO SAY I REALLY JUST HAD TERRIFIC MENTORS WHO CONTINUED TO DEVELOP ME AS A LEADER.

AND 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.

AND THOSE SEEM LIKE BUZZ WORDS TO MOST PEOPLE, BUT WHEN YOU'RE A MEMBER OF THE ARMED SERVICES.

THEY MEAN SOMETHING.

THEY BECOME YOUR FAMILY.

THE ARMY BECAUSE MY FAMILY FOR SO LONG.

I ENDED UP DOING A LITTLE OVER 22 YEARS.

GOING IN AS AN OFFICER, I SAID I'M DEFINITELY GOING TO STAY UNTIL 30.

LIFE CHANGES.

WANT TO GET TO YOUR LAW SCHOOL EXPERIENCE AND WHAT YOU'RE HOPING TO DO IN A MOMENT.

FIRST BECAUSE IT'S IMPORTANT AND IT INFORMS WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO DO, TALK ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE, YOUR SPOUSE WHO WAS ALSO IN THE MILITARY, OF ADOPTING A CHILD.

LATER IN LIFE, MY SPOUSE AND I DECIDED THAT WE WANTED TO PURSUE DOMESTIC ADOPTION.

WE HAD BOTH BEEN GOING FULL STEAM AHEAD IN OUR CAREERS AND HAD NOT MADE TIME TO START A FAMILY.

WE INITIALLY TRIED TO START A FAMILY AND HAD CHALLENGES WITH THAT MEDICALLY AND OPTED FOR ADOPTION.

DOMESTIC ADOPTION WHICH IS WHAT 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 HAVE SOMEWHAT OF A DOSSIER.

YOU TELL 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 MAYBE OVERDISCIPLINE OF A DUAL MILITARY FAMILY.

I REMEMBER ONE BIRTH MOTHER TELLING ME I THINK YOU'RE VERY LOVELY.

YOUR FAMILY SEEMS VERY NICE, BUT I GREW UP IN AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE I WENT TO KINDERGARTEN THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL WITH THE SAME KIDS AND I REALLY WANT THAT FOR MY CHILD.

AND YOU SIMPLY CAN'T PROVIDE THAT FOR ME.

YOU WOULD THINK -- COMMON SENSE WOULD SAY, WHAT DO YOU WANT?

YOU WANT STABILITY.

HERE YOU HAVE MILITARY, ACCOMPLISHED MILITARY OFFICERS WHO HAVE SHOWN LEADERSHIP AND THE ABILITY TO PRESENT THE TYPE OF CHARACTERISTICS THAT YOU WOULD THINK YOU WOULD WANT IN A PARENT.

AND YET BECAUSE YOU PUT THE STAMP MILITARY ON IT, PEOPLE LOOK AT IT IN A TROUBLED WAY.

ABSOLUTELY.

I -- YOU KNOW, THERE'S SO MANY TIMES, JACK, THAT I TALK WITH BIRTH MOTHERS ABOUT THE BENEFITS OF MILITARY FAMILIES, ABOUT THE RESOURCES, ABOUT THE HEALTH CARE, ABOUT THE WORLDLY BROAD EDUCATION THAT YOUR CHILD WOULD GET BY BEING AROUND ALL TYPE OF PEOPLE THROUGHOUT MILITARY ENVIRONMENTS.

BUT --

SO, TELL ME HOW EVENTUALLY YOU WERE ABLE TO NAVIGATE THAT.

YEAH, SO WE INITIALLY STARTED OUT IN DOMESTIC AND WE HAD TO TRANSITION TO INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION WHERE THE BIRTH PARENTS DON'T GET AS MUCH OF A SAY.

AND IT REALLY BECOMES MUCH MORE OF A BUREAUCRATIC PROCESS.

YOU SUBMIT YOUR DOCUMENTS.

WE CHOSE ETHIOPIA.

AND THE COUNTRY BASICALLY MAKES THE DECISION ON WHO IS ALLOWED TO ADOPT FROM ETHIOPIA VERSUS THE INPUT FROM THE BIRTH PARENTS LIKE THERE IS IN DOMESTIC ADOPTION.

HOW DOES IT WORK OUT?

IT HAS WORKED OUT SO WONDERFULLY.

OUR LITTLE BOY FIN IS 8 YEARS OLD, AND HE'S THRIVING.

HE'S BEEN MUCH OF A BLESSING TO US THAN WE HAVE BEEN TO HIM I'M SURE.

I'M SURE IT GOES BOTH WAYS.

LET ME ASK YOU YOU DECIDE IT'S TIME FOR A TRANSITION IN LIFE.

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO GO TO LAW SCHOOL?

I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN INTERESTED IN LAW.

WHEN I WAS A YOUNG ADULT, I DIDN'T HAVE THE FINANCIAL RESOURCES OR MAYBE THE DISCIPLINE.

IT TAKES A LOT TO GO TO LAW SCHOOL.

IT'S A TOUGH GIG, AND YOU HAVE TO KNOW EXACTLY WHAT IT IS THAT YOU'RE IN FOR AND I WASN'T SURE THAT I HAD WHAT IT TOOK WHEN I WAS 21.

SO, AS AN ADULT, I'M VERY INTERESTED IN REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT, POLITICS, A LOT OF THINGS THAT REALLY NEST WELL WITH LAW SCHOOL.

SO, ONCE I DECIDED TO RETIRE, I KNEW I WAS GOING TO GO TO LAW SCHOOL.

THERE ARE KIND OF TWO TYPES OF LAW SCHOOLS.

THERE ARE THEORETICAL LAW SCHOOLS THAT TEACH THE BLACK LETTER LAW AND YOU KNOW IT BACKWARDS AND FORWARD AND THERE ARE LAW SCHOOLS WHO ARE PRACTICAL LAW SCHOOLS WHERE YOU DO A LOT OF EXTERNAL SHIPS AND 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 TILLMAN FOUNDATION IN MY DEPARTURE FROM THE MILITARY.

THERE'S A REQUIREMENT TO DO BASICALLY EXODUS TRAINING.

AND IN THE EXODUS TRAINING THEY GIVE YOU A PACKET FOR SCHOLARSHIPS IF YOU'RE INTERESTED IN SCHOOLS.

I SAID I DON'T REALLY NEED A SCHOLARSHIP, BUT LET ME LOOK AT IT.

I LOOKED AT THE TILLMAN WEBSITE AND I WAS BLOWN AWAY.

I KNEW WHO PAT TILLMAN WAS, NFL PROFESSIONAL PLAYER, TURNED ARMY RANGER, KILLED IN ACTION IN AFGHANISTAN IN 2004.

I KNEW HIS STORY.

I DIDN'T REALLY KNOW ABOUT THE FOUNDATION AND THE FACT THAT IT'S A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION THAT REALLY PROVIDES EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES TO VETERANS AND VETERANS' FAMILIES.

THIS IS THE 10th YEAR AND 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.

HAVE YOU DETERMINED WHAT YOU THINK YOU WANT TO DO WITH A LAW DEGREE?

I'M VERY MUCH INTERESTED IN FAMILY LAW AND ADOPTION LAW.

NEXT YEAR WHEN I HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO DO A CLINIC, I'LL PARTICIPATE IN SYRACUSE LAW CHILD RIGHT AND FAMILY CLINIC.

I'LL DO WORK IN THAT AND HOPEFULLY THAT'LL ENHANCE MY INTEREST.

I'M ALSO INTERESTED IN AN ORGANIZATION CALLED CONNECTOURKIDS.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, FAMILY LAW.

WANT TO PAY IT FORWARD.

I'VE GOT TO TELL YOU I WAS IN LAW SCHOOL FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS AND I HAD A NUMBER OF STUDENTS WHO WERE VETERANS AND I FOUND ROUTINELY THEY WERE EXCEPTIONAL STUDENTS.

SO, I AM SURE YOU'RE GOING TO DO MARVELOUSLY THERE.

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.

AND AGAIN, THANKS TO YOU AND GOOD LUCK TO YOU.

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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