MILITARY ADOPTION

December 06, 2019 at 4:45 am

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. 

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>> 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

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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