Children who are adopted can face challenges, from the trauma of separation to the task of developing their own identities. These troubles can be compounded by stereotypes.
”I wish more people understood that there isn’t just one way to be Jewish. There isn’t just one silhouette of what it looks like to be a Jew,” said Shorewood native Amy Wilkerson, who embraces both the Judaism of her adoptive family and her Hispanic heritage.
Wilkerson has devoted much of her professional life to helping others who are part of adoptive families.
Now a clinical social worker, Wilkerson wrote “Being Adopted” to help children and their families process the traumas associated with adoption while developing their identities.
Her picture book, which was released this November for National Adoption Awareness Month, was created to be a conversation starter for families with adopted children. According to Wilkerson, every adoption involves trauma with grief and loss to some degree. She aims to create a safe place for children to process their emotions surrounding their adoption.
Wilkerson has personal ties to these topics.
“The North Shore is a predominantly very white area and being a Latina girl, I had no representation in my school, in my friends, in other adults that I saw, at temple or in the Jewish community,” said Wilkerson. “It was just a very isolating experience.”
Wilkerson believes it is important to guide adoptive families to understand the isolation that children may experience. In her practice, she advises families on grief, relationships, identity and transracial experiences.
Through her experiences as a 2010 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and beyond, Wilkerson has developed a new understanding of her Jewish identity.
“You can show up however you are and still be completely Jewish, carrying out these customs and traditions of community, love and social justice,” Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson’s personal experience of finding her identity helps her guide other adoptees through the identity-building process.
“There’s this narrative that adoption ends when families sign the paperwork and then that child is a clean slate,” said Wilkerson. “But there is so much history and so much other stuff that parents and families need to be aware of that rides under the surface.”
Wilkerson hopes her new book can be a tool used to help families through that process. “Being Adopted” is the first book in a series that has yet to be released, she said. The other books will deal specifically with adoptee grief, biological family relationships and transracial adoptees.