On Adopting a Child: 6 Tips for Adoptive Parents

I don’t claim to be an adoption expert, and I don’t have an office wall filled with professional degrees certifying special knowledge in the subject. My only qualifications are having lived the life of an adoptee and having experienced first-hand what worked and what didn’t. I “walked the walk,” so to speak.

My adoption was official five days after I was born on Nov. 9, 1940. Unlike today, the process back then was unbelievably simple – at least, it was in my case. The waiting period before my new parents were allowed to legally take me home was just days, not months or years as sometimes is the case in today’s world. As for an adoption or state agency to look after my interests – none! Fortunately, things have improved since then.

In a phone conversation with my newly discovered biological sister, she confessed after learning about my incredible life growing up as an adopted kid that someone must have been looking out for me.

My adoptive parents were adamantly opposed to sharing any information with me about my biological roots – a position I have resented all my life. It never seemed fair that I should be denied essential information about who I was, while many of my friends had access to that information as a birthright. I’m sure my parents feared my loyalties would waiver; however, throwing away the great life I was living with my adoptive parents was inconceivable.

I didn’t realize until I got older that the blood ties between a biological mother and her child – that undefinable, genetic something that binds them together from the beginning – is real. The innate desire to validate those ties is part of the reason most adoptees devote so much time and energy to establishing a connection.

Equally as important is the compelling need to learn what influences in their history contributed to the outcome of who they became.

Nurturing and genetics, therefore, both play key roles in the future success of an adopted child’s development. Current adoption laws, procedures and requirements now offer the best chance at insuring a successful outcome for adoptees in happy, functional adoptive families.

And for those of you who are contemplating adoption or are already raising an adopted child, I’d like to share with you some of what I learned while growing up:

  1. Openly share your thoughts and questions about everything related to adoption. My parents never did, and I felt like we were all living lives of secrecy.
  2. Don’t fear having discussions about your child’s biological history. If your lives are filled with an abundance of love, you will always be the most important people in your child’s life.
  3. Be sure to tell your child how important they are and how much they mean to you, even though you are not related by birth. Constantly work on developing your mother-father-child bonding.
  4. Show affection physically, emotionally and verbally. The words “I love you” are forever and set a precedent for your child’s future well-being.
  5. Laugh together.
  6. Play together.

Philip Klaus is the author of ‘BLOOD TIES,’ a story about the frustrations and never-ending setbacks he experienced during his lifelong search for his biological mother. She was 94 when he found her. He was 70. You can reach him at bloodties70@gmail.com or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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My Life as an Adoptee

I was different. Being adopted at birth did that to me. On the surface, I looked and acted like any other “normal” kid, the kind who goes home to his biological family, who never had to wonder where he came from or who he was. If I were asked, I would say my life was close to perfect. It was filled with laughter, boundless joy and parents who loved me. It seems like that should have satisfied me, but it wasn’t enough.

Most adoptees like me are cursed with having to carry that mythical gorilla of “not knowing” around on our backs – a thing which only we can see and which goes everywhere we go. We worry about things like why we weren’t wanted, who our parents were, where they are now, whether we have brothers or sisters and if any life-threatening medical conditions run in the family. The list goes on.

I would lie in bed at night listening to a far-away train, wondering if my mother was on it, not knowing how near she was to me. I wondered if she ever thought about me, how I was doing, if I was okay, and if she thought about me as much as I thought about her. Whether I was in a crowd of strangers, a grocery store, a shopping mall or a sports stadium, I was always looking for that special someone who resembled me in some way. I was never completely at peace.

Though my mother was a complete stranger to me, there was an indefinable something buried deep within me that intrinsically connected me to her. That connection is tenacious and forever, and being separated from her was emotionally devastating to me. As I grew older, the goal of undoing the trauma of our separation turned into a life-long obsession.

The almost 70-year search for my mother was like climbing a mountain of sand. The journey to the top was always two steps and one step back, sometimes two, sometimes three. Progress was either painfully show or nonexistent. I first unsuccessfully questioned my adoptive father about my biological heritage when I was 8 or 9. I didn’t resume my search again until I was married with three kids. Rejection No. 2 came when I contacted the Oregon Health Division requesting my original birth certificate. According to Oregon law, my birth records were sealed up tight.

More years passed, and eventually the state changed its adoption laws in 2000, which made it possible for people like me to obtain the names of their biological parents. By then, I was 60 years old. Within days, I knew their names. I quickly found that my father was buried in a military cemetery in the Philippines – a casualty of World War II. My mother was less easy to track down, and I wouldn’t find her for another 10 years after learning her name.

My lifetime of searching is now history. Tomorrow hasn’t happened yet. All I have is the now, and how glorious it is. So, for those who are still searching: Don’t ever give up. The reward is well worth the wait.

Philip Klaus is the author of “BLOOD TIES,” a story about his 70-year search for his biological mother. He can be reached at bloodties70@gmail.com.

Parallel Lives

We both began life the same way: alone and unwanted. Our journeys from then until now continued down similar paths, except my journey took 70 years and hers took 49.

It was hard to believe that the life I was reading about in the February issue of Reader’s Digest wasn’t my own. The article, titled “The 33 Year Search for My Birth Mother” and written by James Bigley II, describes the adoption story of Julie Mooney.

Julie and I are strangers, but our shared experience of being left behind at birth leaves us with an undeniable connection. I was adopted just five days after being born; but the woman in the story had to wait six weeks before she went home to her new family. We both ended up with loving mothers and fathers that wanted us more than anything, we both learned of our adopted status at an early age, and we both reconnected with our biological mothers at long last.

Ultimately, we both obsessed over similar things: our roots, family history, genetics, medical history and the identities of our biological parents. Reading Julie’s story reassured me that I wasn’t alone in my desperate search for answers. We both have much to be thankful for.

Philip Klaus is the author of “BLOOD TIES,” a true story about how he finally found his biological mother and his identity after 70 years. He can be reached at bloodties70@gmail.com.

What do you do when it takes 70 years to find your mother? You write a book

klaus-mugHow does someone who went to school to learn how to be an architect, who graduated with a degree in art history, who worked for architects for 10 years, and who ended up driving nails through boards as a contractor for the next four decades, decide to write a book?

My college education focused primarily on all aspects of the visual arts, including architecture, design, model building, graphics, painting, sculpture and art history – things you can see and touch and feel. Expressing my thoughts with the written word was never part of this equation. So how, you might ask, did my book, “BLOOD TIES,” come about?

The answer is easy: I was coerced.

It took 70 years to finally find my biological mother and to learn what happened to my biological father. I was given up for adoption by them in November 1940 and went home to live a best-possible life with the best possible adoptive parents. My often discouraging search for my history, roots and identity eventually yielded results in early 2011.

Finally, the answers to my life-long questions began flowing – even overflowing, at times. The more I learned about all the parts of my life that had remained a mystery until now, the more I shared with others. The more I shared with others, the more questions they had for me. My story was compelling to those on the outside looking in. They couldn’t get enough.9781489705532_COVER.indd

The overall consensus? Shock. Disbelief. Tears. Call Oprah, they said. Make a movie. Write a book.

So one day, with no plan in mind, I sat down in a nice, comfortable chair, and I began writing a book. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to accept this challenge. I knew I needed to tell my story my way, from my heart and soul.

I discovered it was painfully hard to convey my feelings and thoughts intelligently and in a way that a reader would enjoy. It took a lot of trial and error, erasing, rewriting, editorial feedback and reams and reams of paper to make even the slightest bit of headway. I learned everything about being an author the hard way, because my methods were strictly “old school” – no desktop or laptop, just my cup full of pencils and an endless supply of unlined paper. I wrote something every single day, and after two years and suffering through four re-writes, my book was complete. Is it any wonder I wanted nothing to do with it at the end?

But by some great miracle, I reached the finish line. In time, my writer’s fatigue (or is it remorse?) was gradually replaced by a euphoric feeling of accomplishment, having completed a project unlike any I’d done before. My frustrations have long been forgotten.

Philip Klaus is the author of “BLOOD TIES,” a true story about how he finally found his biological mother after 70 years of searching. He can be reached at bloodties70@gmail.com.

Four times blessed: My life growing up adopted

I was adopted five days after my birth on Nov. 9, 1940. I have two fathers, two mothers and two birth certificates. One certificate lists the names of my birth parents who, fortunately for me, cared enough to give me to another family so that I might have a chance of living a better life than they could offer. The other birth certificate, the legal one, lists the names of my adoptive parents – the two people who really, really wanted me and who were the reason why I was able to grow up in such a happy, love-filled home.

Considering the way things started out, I couldn’t have asked for more. Call it beginners luck – especially knowing not all adoptees end up as fortunate as I did.

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I was told I was adopted at a very early age. It didn’t matter to me at all, since I had everything a little kid could want, including a mother and father who cared so much about me. It didn’t sink in until much later, but I was grateful for my warm bed in my own room, decorated with boats and airplanes on the wall and cowboys and horses on my bedspread. I was grateful to have a mother and father to tuck me in at night.

My life was filled with non-stop sports playing and bicycle riding. Needless to say, I didn’t sit around much except to build a model airplane or ship, play with my electric train or read a book every so often. My stay-at-home mother was a phenomenal cook, which meant I was raised on gourmet meals, including home-baked bread every week. If that wasn’t enough, my father owned his own ice cream store. I was a very fulfilled kid.

klaus-family-photosBut then the inevitable happened: I got older. I gradually became less content living the adopted life. It had nothing to do with all the benefits I enjoyed as a member of my incredible family and everything to do with the realization that I had no idea who I was or how I turned into me. The older I got, the greater my obsession with finding answers became. It took a painstakingly long time and an endless procession of obstacles and disappointments before I found my biological mother, miraculously still alive, in January 2011. She was 94. I was 70.

It took seven decades for my life to come full circle, starting with the day my biological mother left me behind at the hospital following my birth in 1940 and ending with the day I reconnected with her in 2011. The huge span of time in between was filled with endless happy memories, most of which would never have happened if not for the unselfish love and abundant opportunities I enjoyed as a result of my adoptive parents. Now that the circle is complete, I can’t help but think that I have been looked after, cared for and protected by an undefinable, eternal presence whose ethereal arm has been continually wrapped around me since the beginning.

My search has ended, but my story has not. My mother is 100 years old now and is still undefeated at the game of Scrabble, even though she has been occasionally accused of cheating to maintain her perfect record.

I can’t imagine a life without all my mothers and fathers in it. Both of my adoptive parents are now deceased, and my biological father, who my biological mother married one year after I was born, did not survive World War II. Though now absent, my adoptive parents and biological father are still very much a part of my life, as is my biological mother. I have been four times blessed.

And so it is.

Philip Klaus is the author of, “BLOOD TIES,” a story about his life-long search for his mother, father and sense of self. He can be reached at bloodties70@gmail.com.

A Horoscope, a Letter and a Secret Son

I never check my horoscope in the newspaper. Why I did today, I can’t say. Whatever the reason, if there even is one, here’s what it said:

Scorpio. Your story is more interesting than you think and it is packed with valuable information and inspiration. How and when you share it will be important.

No doubt some cosmic force directed me to read my horoscope on this day, and that it was created for my benefit.

By the time my book, “BLOOD TIES,” was ready to be presented to a sometimes unforgiving, discriminating and harsh world, I began to worry about how it would be accepted. Being a new and untested author, I wondered if readers, (if there even were any,) would read my book and conclude that I had wasted my time.

Before long, I began receiving letters, (yes, handwritten letters like grandma used to send,) and emails from readers that quickly put my mind at ease. Here is an example of one of those letters that gave me hope, sent to me by a cousin:

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My cousin Carolyn’s comments, and others like hers which I plan to share in future blogs, gave me assurances that my efforts at describing how I found my 94-year-old biological mother and two full-blooded biological sisters after being kept a secret for 70 years maybe wasn’t a waste of time after all.

Philip Klaus, author of “BLOOD TIES,” can be reached at bloodties70@gmail.com

Lost and found: Finding my mother after 70 years

My first letter to her, dated March 8, 2011, began:

Dear Betty,

You are receiving this letter from someone you’ve never met but who, more than anything, would like to be your friend. I was born in Portland, Oregon, on November 9, 1940, at St. Vincent Hospital. I am your son.

That letter, written to my biological mother, was 70 years in the making. She was 94 at the time and, of course, was totally shocked to be receiving such a letter at that stage of her life. How to deal with such an earth-shaking revelation was a concern for her, because not one person in her family knew I existed. Not her parents. Not her brother or sisters. No close friends, kids or grandkids. Only my father knew, and sadly, he took his half of the secret to his grave as a casualty of World War II.

Imagine spending 70 years of your life never knowing who you were or how you ended up being you. I had an exceptionally loving adoptive family, but at an early age I realized that there was a significant something missing in my life: my identity. I knew nothing about who in my history contributed to how I turned into me. I would never find the missing pieces of my genetic puzzle until I could locate my biological mother. My life-long search for her and any other family I might have was a torturous, frustrating, discouraging journey filled with never-ending obstacles and setbacks. My obsession of trying to find my roots consumed most of my adult life.

The anxiety level I experienced while waiting for my mother’s reply kept me awake at night. In the back of my mind I knew there was a chance she might not want to connect. It was possible that trying to contact her myself would be traumatic for her, especially after trying to erase me from her memory for the last 70 years. I did not learn until much later that most mothers (90 percent) who gave a child up for adoption desire to reconnect later in life. Fortunately for me, my mother was part of that 90 percent.

I waiting three painstaking weeks before I received her reply. That was three weeks of endless floor pacing and discouraging trips back from the mailbox, and it was the longest three weeks of my life. Her letter began, “Dear Phil.” From that moment on, I knew everything would be okay. She ended her letter with, “… and thank you for writing.” With those first two letters, two lives were forever changed.

For the next four months, my mother and I shared lifetimes with each other the old-fashioned way – by mail. We rapidly became best friends. After many weeks-worth of letters exchanged between my mother and me as well as a constant stream of emails and phone calls from my two biological sisters, I finally could answer the questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? For the first time in my life, I could properly fill out a medical history questionnaire.

On Oct. 1, 2011, my wife and I drove to the Embassy Suites Hotel in Portland to meet my mother and two sisters for the first time. Jeannette, one of my sisters, met us in the hotel lobby and escorted us up to their room on the sixth floor. Jeannette opened the door and stepped back so I could enter first. As I tentatively entered the room, I saw my mother for the first time in my life standing just feet away. Our eyes locked. The room was still as her heart and mine spoke to each other – our blood ties allowed that to happen. For a moment, the rest of the world didn’t exist. I moved toward her in what seemed like slow motion. I put my arms around her and held her tight.

My mother had her 100th birthday in May 2016, and she’s still going strong. My life is infinitely better now because she has become such an important part of it. Mother and son, together at last.

My book, “BLOOD TIES,” is a result of the 70-year journey that brought me to that Portland hotel room in which I embraced my mother for the first time in my life. Its pages tell of how I found her all those decades later and of all the pitfalls, obstacles and hard-to-believe stories I encountered along the way.

Philip Klaus can be reached at bloodties70@gmail.com.

‘BLOOD TIES’ author a featured guest on VoiceAmerica

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On Dec. 13, I was asked to be the featured guest on a one-hour radio talk show called Dr. Carole’s Couch on VoiceAmerica, broadcast live to a national audience. The subject of the discussion was to be highlights of my book, “BLOOD TIES,” beginning with what my life was like growing up as an adopted child in a loving, caring family.

I shared what my thoughts and feelings were as I developed into a young adult. Even though I experienced love and happiness in abundance at that time in my life, I began to realize more and more that an essential part of me was missing: contentment. I had no idea who I was and what made me the person I am. I had no genetic history and no medical history. Had my mother and father ever thought about me or had second thoughts about their decision to give me to somebody else? My list of questions was endless. As good as my life was, there was still a void that made my life and my sense of well-being less than perfect. I didn’t feel whole or like I was a complete person. I was a puzzle with pieces missing.

Next, the host asked about my decades-long search for my biological mother and father, the sole possessors of the key to my identity, the only ones who could answer the question, “Who am I?” When I began looking for my biological family, Oregon law, like 46 other states at that time, denied adoptees like me access to their original birth records, the resource for parents’ names. Finally, after 60 years, a miracle occurred. Oregon changed the law. Within days, I learned the names of my mother and father.

Sadly, I found my father buried in a military cemetery in the Philippines. He didn’t survive World War II. Knowing that, I reasoned that my mother would marry again, change her name and render herself almost impossible to trace. I gave up my search for her for the next 10 years. One day, on a whim, I challenged one of my daughters to see if she could find my mother. With laptop in hand, she found her trail within 10 minutes. The reason: My mother never remarried and changed her name. She had decided that, unless she could find another man equal to my father, marriage was not an option. Keeping my father’s last name was how we found her.

I wrote my first letter to her in February 2011. She wrote back three weeks later, thanking me for writing. My life has never been the same since that day. I was 70 years old. She was 94.

Finally, the host asked me what it was like seeing my mother for the first time. I met her eight months after our exchange of letters at a fancy hotel in Portland. My two new, 100 percent blood-related sisters and my wife were part of the entourage. One of my sisters met my wife and me in the hotel lobby and the three of us proceeded to their upper level room. My sister opened the door ahead of me and stepped back so I could enter the room first. The moment was electric.

There are no words to describe how I felt as I stepped into the room and saw my mother for the first time. Our eyes instantly locked onto each other. Everybody in the room silently watched the heart-pounding drama unfold. I slowly walked over to her and gave her a long cheek-to-cheek hug for the first time in my life. I didn’t want to let go of her. Mother and son – together at last. Why we had to wait 70 years for that day to happen, I don’t have an answer. All things happen the way they do for a reason. What I do know: She was worth the wait.

The interview was an enjoyable experience and not at all stressful. Being interviewed over the phone by the host for a national audience was no different than having a phone conversation with my wife. However, it would be impossible to distill all of the thoughts and emotions I experienced in my 70-year search for my blood relatives down to a short radio segment – all the more reason to read “BLOOD TIES” to learn the rest of the story.

Philip Klaus can be reached by email at bloodties70@gmail.com.

Counting my blessings

Many thanks to my newly discovered family, without whom there would be no story. I am grateful for all the stories they shared with me.

Thanks to my dear friends and all the nameless strangers who convinced me that my “unbelievable story” (their words, not mine) needed to be told.

Thanks to my two daughters and my son, who lovingly helped their father find his way on his long journey of discovery. Holly opened doors that had remained closed for seventy years. Troy supported my endeavors throughout the process. Amy is the reason my handwritten scribbles ended up typed with correct punctuation and spelling.

Amy’s husband Wayne, my son-in-law, willingly, tirelessly, and using skills I will never understand, found a way to turn my hand-drawn graphics into images on his computer that somehow ended up not looking hand-drawn.

Above all, thanks to my dear wife, Sharon, for her tireless encouragement and support, without which I would still be searching.

Day 1: The search to finding my birth parents

computer typingIt had been eleven days since the Ancestry Department story appeared in the newspaper. It was now five in the morning on January 20, 2011. The way my day began was no different than any of the others: a cup of stimulating, freshly ground hot coffee, a newspaper, my black leather chair, a faraway view of city lights out my window. Without a doubt, it was the best time of day. Quiet. Peaceful. No phones ringing. Zen time. Like every other work day, it wouldn’t last long.

I don’t know why, but this day would be different. One of my work perks is the time it takes to get to my office—all of seven seconds. That’s the time it takes me to travel from upstairs to my downstairs home office. My predictable routine is to turn on my surround sound stereo, begin playing a jazz or ambient CD, pick up one of fifteen or twenty pencils from my ceramic pencil-holding cup, take a quick glance at the view out my office window, and then begin focusing on the first of a thousand things awaiting my attention.

It was 6:30 a.m. For some reason the phone wasn’t ringing. Two more hours passed. Still no phone calls. That never happens. No on-the-job questions or problems. No emergencies. No requests or demands. My morning so far had been uncharacteristically distraction-free. Just me and my music. Bonus Zen

Before too long I understood the reason for the strange way my morning began and why that strangeness, like the Energizer bunny, just kept on going and going. My office was eerily quiet except for the soothing, mellow sound of jazz playing in the background. My usual enthusiasm for work, on a scale of one to a hundred, tipped the scales this morning at zero. It became obvious that, at least for a while, nothing work-related was going to get accomplished. Something weird was going on. I soon knew why. I was being prepared for what was to happen next.

By now I had no agenda. That never happens on a work day. To be honest, I was kind of enjoying the rare but temporary emptiness of the moment. Then, out of nowhere, being free of all internal and external distractions, I felt a sudden, unexplainable urge to reignite the search for my mother and father. Just seconds earlier I hadn’t even given them a thought. Had this been a typical work day of nonstop chaos, all my attention and energy would have been focused elsewhere. Today was different.