Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption & Foster Care

Raising a Blended Family

May 11, 2022 Creating a Family Season 16 Episode 19
Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption & Foster Care
Raising a Blended Family
Show Notes Transcript

Representative Marjorie Margolies had a busy career as a journalist, author, Congressional Representative, professor, and founder of Women’s Campaign International all while raising 11 kids by adoption, birth, sponsorship, and marriage. She is the author of a new memoir And How Are the Children.

In this episode, we cover:

  • How did each of your children join your family?
  • How did you “blend” children that came to you in different ways, with different backgrounds, and different ages?
  • What were the biggest challenges?
  • Did some of your children struggled? How much do you think the way they came to your family impacted their struggles?
  • What did you learn along the way? 

This podcast is produced  by We are a national non-profit with the mission to strengthen and inspire adoptive, foster & kinship parents and the professionals who support them. Creating a Family brings you the following trauma-informed, expert-based content:

Please leave us a rating or review

Support the show

Please pardon the errors, this is an automatic transcription.
Welcome, everyone to Creating a Family talk about adoption in foster care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I'm the host of this show, as well as the director of the nonprofit creating a Today we're going to be talking about raising a blended family. And by blended we mean a family that is composed of normally we mean we're talking about adoption of children through adoption and birth. And in this case, we're also going to throw in stepkids. We will be talking with Representative Marjorie Margolies. She has written five books. She has been an NBC correspondent and a member of Congress. And she is currently a professor at University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School and president of the women's campaign International, her newest memoir, which is titled and how are the children, which has a foreword by Hillary Rodham Clinton, which I enjoyed, but it covers how she raised 11 Kids, including doing all that with all the accolades I just mentioned. And her kids include five she adopted from Vietnam and Korea, to her biological children and for her stepchildren, and she shares three of her 21 grandchildren with Bill and Hillary Clinton. welcome Representative Margolies to Creating a Family. Well, thank you. I enjoyed the book. Tell me now you're a mom through adoption, step, mothering birth, as well as sponsorship. So tell us about each of the ways you became a mom. And in the order that you became a mom through all those different ways.

Okay, can I first tell you why the title is the title? Yeah, please.

Actually, yes, that was going to asking that further along. But yes, please start off.

We I, as you mentioned, I started and run this organization called women's campaign International. And we do a lot of traveling, we work with women around the world, loosely speaking, training, and we work with, sometimes politician, sometimes farmers, whatever. And we do empowerment. And when we were with the Maasai warriors, they don't say, how are you they say, and how are the children? And I thought that was so lovely. So that's the title of the book, and how are the children? Yeah, you know, that's

interesting, I'm assuming? Well, okay, I'm making assumptions here. I would assume that, that the real answer for actually for any mother is how are you? When I was started having kids, someone or actually it was after I finished having quite a few kids or growing my family through birth and adoption, somebody's told me the saying that a mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child. And I thought darned why didn't somebody tell me that? I've killed my odds here, just by sheer numbers. But in a way, isn't that similar to what? How are you? It? Really the answer is how are you? And how are the children? Because that answers the question. If the children are not well, then you are likely not well, am I understanding the Maasai, the meaning of that?

The Messiah? Well, it just the Maasai warriors don't say how you doing? They say, and how are the children?

But I'm trying to get the meaning. Yeah, I was trying to get at the meaning as to why they would do that, that perhaps it's because how you are doing is really dependent on how the children

are doing. Exactly, exactly. And so their feeling is, you know, it's the Pay It Forward. It's the share it forward, it's sure know how to how do we make sure that the world is a better place? We do it through making our kids better or happier. I hate that. You know, are you happy? Well,

at any given moment, no, right now, I want more coffee. So you know, I'm not thrilled. Exactly. So let us Yeah, I agree with that. Yeah, I think we put too much emphasis. Our children should thrive. And that includes ups. Exactly. The key is to get back up after the downs. So okay, now tell me about how walk us through your mothering journey. You did many things. Let me let me add, let me start by saying obviously, you are a very accomplished woman and being a mom is only one part of your accomplishments. However, given the title of raising a blended family, that's what we're going to focus on. So that's

not that's fine. I'll tell you, I didn't mean to to, to get on a different track. But when I used to be a recruit, I was a reporter mostly for 25 years with NBC and it's owned and operated stations. And one of the stories that I did was on hard to place kids. And it started here in the Philadelphia, the Philadelphia area. And I they the station I was with it was a CBS owned and operated station. The station I was with, interestingly, sent me out on a lot of I was single, I mean I was in my mid 20s They sent me out on a lot of family stories and I love them. And on the weekend. On one weekend they sent me to a get together with Korea. Even family families that had adopted Korean kids. And a lot of the kids were hard to place considered hard to place. And I was fascinated by it. So I started to think my parents, by the way, thought I was certifiable.

The mid 20s Thinking of adopting, yeah.

Oh my gosh, at but in, they had just for very good reason. Started in the Philadelphia area had started to say we're not going to place African American kids, especially hard to place kids with white families said, certainly not single white families. So I tried I, you know, I worked with them. I did stories on it. And then I thought as I was, I think I was, like, 28 or so. And I got in touch with Holt adoption agency, and I said, I would be interested in adopting an older child. I mean, I was working, so I couldn't adopt a handicapped kid. So I that's how it all started. And I they, CBS was nice enough to let me go to Korea to do a follow up because I had some wonderful tape and everything like that. And I had all my papers and everything. And that's what I'm where I met my first kid, Lee Hey, who is now a serious old person. And she was seven. And then I then I did a similar I did a series of stories. I went to Vietnam, I was doing some stuff in Vietnam. And interestingly, walking down the street, bumped into the people from holes. And they said, We're setting up a we are setting up an operation here. And we'll pick a child for you. So the my second child came from Vietnam, half Vietnamese, half American. And, and that's how it all started. And then I got married. And my husband had four girls. So those were the stepchildren you mentioned. So we had six girls, and we got married. And then we had two boys, one of whom you mentioned, is married to Chelsea Clinton. And then this is this is the actually this is the part of the book. And the story that I really liked the most. We had had when we were living in Washington, because I married a member of Congress. When we were living in Washington, we had been asked to take in some refugee, a refugee family summits. And we did about three, and some lasted six months, somewhere. One was two years. We moved back to Philadelphia for some some reasons. We were called. And they said they had a refugee family, a mother and a little boy who was four. And they said, would you take this family? And we said, Sure. And about six months later of the year later, there were two nephews, and they said, would you take the nephews, they were teenagers? And we said yes. And, and then in several years, they found her husband, who had been in an education camp in Vietnam. So it wasn't just one woman and a little bit way. It was five people, five, a family and they lived with us for 25 years. And they were amazed not not the the most fun was vote the little boy who was four. And now he's an anesthesiologist. And Vu is the place where where our The book begins. A lot of the kids wrote things, and vou had written something and I thought, this is where the book should begin. Because you as we were, we were vacationing vou said to me, what would have happened had my folder been on a different desk that day. And that's a that's I'm sure I have a feeling you have the same feeling. That's the way our family is. I mean, this is the most this is a this is a group. This is a little village. And what would have happened to all of these people? Had their folders been on a different desk that day.

And what would have happened to you and your family?

Oh my gosh, yeah. I've gotten so much more out of it than they have. Really?

Oh, absolutely. I think that's how parents should feel. Regardless of how our kids come to us, we we are a debt of gratitude to their their place in their role in our life. I hope you are enjoying today's conversation with Representative Margulies about blending families by birth and adoption and sponsoring and step parenting. At the same time building a huge career and following your passions. If you're enjoying it, we want you to know that we also have 12 free online courses over at our creating a online Parent Training Center. This is all thanks to our partners at the chocolate being family foundation. You can get to these courses at Bitly bi B F support and you'll find a lot of topics one is which How does adoption affects the bio siblings in the family. We talked about that in this podcast. And so I think Get would be relevant to you. So pop on over there to Bitly slash JBf support and check it out today. So how did you Okay, so now you have children through okay, originally you had you had two daughters through adoption? And then you became a stepmom? How was that adjustment? And, and how was that, for lack of better word blend.

It was, you know, luckily, and I think a lot of it is luck. Luckily, the four girls were great. And I keep in touch with them. They're terrific. So it was fine. You know, and we, we all knew that we kind of set rules that we weren't going to be cranky and judgmental. And, you know, we weren't going to be ragging on the first wife, or anything like that. So it was fine. It wasn't without its moments. It wasn't without its oh my gosh, but it was good. And we saw them a lot. And the kids were lovely with each other. I mean, the girls all got along. Luckily, Holly was a challenge. Holly, the kid that my child from Vietnam, half Vietnamese, half American, she was really a survivor. She was a street child, you know, and she came when she was sick, she came smoking. And she was a pickpocket. And she was frankly, quite good. But she was a challenge that but she she got her way to say to everybody loved her. She was hilarious. But she was a challenge.

And a challenge. Anytime we have a child who's who comes from she came from significant trauma and neglect if nothing else. And and you know, that's one of the interesting things, too, is how do we blend backgrounds is particularly when we're bringing in older children, because they come with a history, they come with backgrounds, they come with habits. In her case, being a pickpocket,

they come they come with baggage. Um, yeah, exactly. You're right.

They do. And that's, it's and oftentimes, the behaviors we see, were survival behaviors. They were effective, they tell exactly, exactly. And even when we see their tantrums and things like that, or their failure, they're withholding attachment if you don't withhold attachment, but their inability to attach all of these served a function in their previous life, right,

in their survival and their anger. I mean, you know, that Holly, I, I was on a presidential commission, more recently, obviously. And it was had to do with Vietnam. And I was going to Vietnam as part of the Presidential Commission. And Holly, for the first time said, I'd like to go. So and this was after a lot of I mean, it was very clear that she was angry at having been given up, you know, and we went back and there were we we had kept in touch for a series. Somebody knew the book, they came to stay. So the family had gotten in touch with us, and we had stayed in touch with them, and we had been helping them out for many years.

This is her part of Holly's birth family. Correct. Okay, gotcha. Well,

her mom likely had had had had been a prostitute. And so there were a lot of half sisters and brothers and everything like that. And and she apparently, we learned so much was just this wonderful, kind woman. But when when I took Holly back, she she admitted she was also a writer. So there's a lot of books, a lot of stuff in the book that Holly wrote an excellent writer. And he had she, but she admitted that so much of her behavior. She was really smart. She admitted that it was survival. She got her way. She really got her way. And some of it was was troubling. I mean, some of it was, you know, she was my most arrested child, as in mama calling from police station. She, she just she always flew very close to the flame, and was absolutely the funniest person ever. She unfortunately died five years ago. But But anyway, she sucked the air out of the room. So she she changed the equation when everybody was getting together. Yeah.

Well, and that does make when you have one child that takes and that's not unusual, and for families who have adopted children with a background of trauma, that there will be one child that you say stuck their head around that certainly or consumes more of the parental energy. And how does that impact the how did that impact the other kids in your

family? It varied. Lee Hey, my first child was very well organized and very kind very wanted to please. And, and Lee and Holly were the ones who really were around the most and you know, in our family, and I mean, Lee would say, Mama how my my blouse and Holly would have me completely convinced that She had. And Lee would say, Mom, she has it on, you know, it was. So it was it was that kind of thing. So we really tried to be cooperative and nice and everything like that. But it was Holly was a real challenge. Yes, they got along, but but it was work on Lee Hayes Park?

Well, you know, I think that one of the things that here at creating a family we have made a real emphasis on is recognizing this is slightly different, but recognizing the whether we call them the resident children or the children already in the family, when you either adopt or more commonly foster a child, and we call them oftentimes the invisible kids, because the kids that are already there are having to adjust to the having to adjust to the behaviors of trauma and, and they oftentimes they lose part of their parents, because their parents are, as we said before consumed with understandably, with dealing with the challenges of the child who has the more outward challenges. And and it absolutely impacts the children we try to who are already in the family, we have a number of resources, because it's an area that I don't just as an aside, I think that we as professionals in this field, don't spend enough time thinking about and these kids I do think and their needs are invisible. So I certainly I certainly understand that. And when you How old were your LEA hay and Holly, when your two sons were born,

they was 14. And Holly was four years younger. And we hate through the throughout the pregnancy was really, I could see that she was very sweet and everything like that. But she was she was really annoyed. You know, here, here's a bio kid here, your Holly had been such a challenge. You know, like, the last time you told me you were gonna bring something into the house. You know, your credibility is not so hot in MMA. But then when Mark was born, oh my gosh. And to this day, she just she absolutely never, never let him go. And they are, I would say, of of our kids that are the closest and she's Marcus, you know, six, two or something. And she's not five feet. And when they're wet. And they're just so close. It's very, it's The Sweetest the relationships?

Did either Did you ever experience any of your adopted before your sponsored kids came? I think both of your sons were born. So this would be for the two children that were that were already your that were already in the family through adoption? Did they struggle with the idea of Oh, Mom and Dad are going to have a child by birth? Therefore, these kids will have a greater place in their heart than then we will because they will be conducted by biology?

I don't think so. I really don't. I think we were really I was very conscious of, you know, of handling it. I mean, even today when somebody says, you know, alright, do you love your bio kids more than your adopted kids? You know, my inclination is to say, oh, no, I like my, I love my adopted kids much more than my bio kids. I'm like, kidding. But I mean, you know, now, I really think not, you know, and it's, I'm, I'm doing this book tour with Unifor. And Howard the children. And, and Andrew has come with me, who is the one who, who most is most interested in this. And he is just amazing. He talks about, you know, I love when he's when he says, What's a family? You know, what, what is the family? What is the definition of a family today? And he's so sweet about it. And then he talks about the fact that, you know, here is this, this kind of bizarre group of people who were brought up and and adjust and then he says, you know, always it's just, I could land any place and get along, which I think is what happens.

Yeah, I think that the more diverse our families are, I think that is one of the gifts that we give our children is that the ability to accept diversity, except just different personalities, different everything. Guys, I have a favor to ask. I know that if you're a podcast listener, you know that a number of podcasts ask for you to fill out a survey, but we're taking a different approach. We as with other podcasts, want to learn from you about what we're doing right? What you like about the show, what you would like us to change what topics you would like us to cover things like that. It's important to us but rather than a survey, selfishly, I enjoy talking with some of the listeners. It it gives me I think greater input than a survey would it gives us, not just me, but it gives us greater input. So we are asking that if you are willing to talk with me, it doesn't take very long, I just want to chat with the listeners. That's one of the things about podcasting is that we don't have the opportunity to actually speak in person. And so I'm wanting to create that opportunity. If you are willing, if you would email us at info at creating a And it put in the rail line, something along the lines of talk with Don are talking about the podcast or whatever. And include for your email, I will reach out. Thank you so much. Let's talk I think it's an it I think it is interesting, the whole it seems very current right now the concept of sponsorship, both because we will see families. We have seen families come through the from Afghanistan, and we may see families start arriving from Ukraine. And we it's funny, because in both cases, right after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, we published an article because we were getting so many calls from people saying, Oh, we want to adopt a child from Afghanistan. And we have back in a couple of weeks ago, actually, a month ago at this point, we published another article because we were getting so many emails and calls from people saying we want to adopt a Ukrainian orphan. And of course, in both cases, the reality is, most of these children are not orphans, they have families, they have at least one living parent or sometimes two living parents, and they're not available for adoption, our goal should be to keep the family unit together. So what there is a need for and will continue to be a need for its people to help families that have been displaced, not stepping up to take children from these families. Also,

also, it should be noted women's companion International is now working without I mean, we're just tirelessly working to figure out what happens with these refugees. Most of the refugees, by the way, want to stay in Europe because they want to go back they want to they want to go home, they don't want to come to the United States. The other thing that has happened is that Afghanistan has been completely taken off the front page. So we're trying to figure out how we can work with those problems. This is women's campaign International. You know, we tonight, we're doing a zoom, and our guests are people who are not only there, but also lawyers and everything who are trying to figure out how, how we can work and get those increments so many of the folks who are leaving the Ukraine, and Afghanistan, of course, but the Ukraine don't have papers and you know how it's how do you? How do you figure that one out?

Oftentimes, not even birth certificates and nothing? They are you know, that it's certainly not many of them didn't have passports. And I'm really glad you raised that this is a little off topic, but it's something that people don't think about, when we want to step forward and help. Oftentimes we want to help on the on the way we want to help not the way that is most helpful. Right, right point is so well taken that best practices, generally speaking, are to keep refugees as close to their home country as possible, for a number of reasons, but not the least of which is is at least at this point. People want the expectation they want to go back, they want to go back but also because there's less cultural change. Not always that that's not always the case, but and being able to maintain community and maintain contact with relatives. There is a lot of reasons, but there are there are times when those families will come but they will need support. I am but usually the support is on a shorter basis, usually and oftentimes not living so with the family of five that came or it started off the mom and her son, and then her nephews and then her husband. Did they live in your house did they live in? Oh yeah. adjacent property?

No. Okay. Oh, yeah. No, they lived in our house. Mark and Mark and drew shared a room and to this day they are I'm just I mean, and they would go Boo was three years older than Mark but he would, they would go to camp together. VO would go down a bunk mark would go up a bunk they went to space camp together. They they went again. It's just they were really, really close. Vou was very studious, as was Mark very studious went to Penn and then Jefferson Medical School. But they they took Stay are, are really best friends.

It but usually when we when people usually sponsor it is that they find a place for the family and they support them accessing services, learning the lay of the land, things like that. Why did you choose a different path? Or was that at the time more the more accepted expectation is that they would live with you and they would become a part of your family?

That's an interesting question. I don't know. Yeah, we've just assumed that's the way we had always done it. We had had this experience before. And we always, because we had so many people, we always kind of had pretty large houses, and plenty of room. So they just moved in and never moved out. And never left. Yeah.

Well, yeah. You always think you had to have had a very large house to to give. The other adults in the house their own space. Children don't demand as much but other adults need their own space. How did you share the parenting? Or did you they who had his parents? His mom, certainly from the beginning and his dad later? How did you share the parenting?

Well, it just misses you never learned how to speak English. So she just speaks a little bit of English. I hate to say that off the record. That made it easier. But Vu Vu would come to me. I mean, who would come to me and said, My mom thinks you're too easy. And you know, and but my favorite, my absolute favorite was when she wanted him to become a priest. And half of the family was Catholic and half of the family living under the same roof was Jewish. And he would come to me said my mom wants me to become a priest. I think I'm supposed to be Bar Mitzvah. He just had this wonderful way about him. You know, it was something ridiculous. Like he said, My mom wants me to become a priest. She doesn't know how horny I am. You know, he was just he was funny. And you know, and naive and an honest and yeah, but I was, I was the parent who wish he would he would come and say I'm so sure what I should be doing now. And I say, Well, let's think about this one. Let's, let's put all the pieces together the pros and the cons. And but he was he was terrific. Yeah. So you share the parenting? It sounds like Oh, yeah. And Mrs. Chu was the one who went especially with the with when I had when we had babies. I mean, she would walk around following them with a spoon to eat. You know, if it was more, I mean, my mom would walk in and she we had a gardenia plants. And I think this was in the book. And Mrs. Mrs. Chu believed that you needed a little acid in the gardenia plants and we had these huge gardenias I mean, it was a very successful and she would have Andrew when he would get up make a we we into the gardenia plant. And, and I mean and I would we would have guests and I would see Andrew peeing in the garden and plants I walk over to my screen. You can't do that when people are here. Okay. Okay. But But I mean, it was it was we it was very my mother and father who were fabulous. would say I really that's she's doing that

yeah, just difficult and Well, you said that the plants thrive so she may be on to something you guys no question. Yeah, exactly. Let me pause here to say that over the past 35 years, one of our sponsors adoption from the heart has helped to create over 7000 families through domestic infant adoption adoptions from the heart and also provide home study only services and they work with people and families wanting to adopt all across the US and they are licensed specifically in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Virginia and Connecticut. Check them out. Okay, I want to end with one of your similar to what you how you ended the book, which is it wasn't your last chapter but was almost the last chapter and it's titled, I am effing learned. So can you share three things that you learned along the way of parenting a large and blended family?

Oh wow yes, I'm that that chapter is you know, you learn from the tough times you learn from the rejections you learn from losses and I am effing learned what uh, what I said to my kids all the time and I mean it is that you because I had all these races some I won and some I lost, but you can't win if you're not prepared to lose. You can't win if you don't get on the on the playing field. You know, And then take a chance. So I think that of all the things that we shared, that may be true. I mean, I guess the most important thing that I learned is, with regard to having a long fuse is most stuff is just not important. I drove the kids crazy, you know, when I, they would come to me, I would say no, that's really not important. And so I think we have to pick our battles. And that became very clear, you know, and, and, and finally, it is all about kindness. It's about sharing. It's about not necessarily getting your way but working together to to find a common ground and, and boy, they saw that when when I was in Congress when I when I was shocked. I was shocked at that at the meanness. You know, I would say that doesn't work. So I guess those are the three things that I most learned from them, and most wanted to share,

and most wanted them to learn from you. And that gave it does go both ways. Yeah. I agree. They're things that we want to impart. Well, thank you so much. Representative Marjorie Margolies. I recommend the book. The title of the book is and how are the children thank you so much for joining us today.

Transcribed by