Growing up adopted

One day in kindergarten class, Nellie Glover suddenly realized she was Asian.

“A little boy laughed at me,” she said, “And he told me my real parents didn’t love me, so that’s why they put me up for adoption.”

So her adoptive mother kept her home from school for three days and they ate lots of popsicles and talked about what it means to be adopted.

Glover’s parents, a white, middle-class couple from Carroll County, Md., adopted her as an infant in Korea. Now a junior theater major at Towson University, Glover says she wants to reach out and connect to other students helping them discover themselves through drama and dance.

“Those three days home from school we read lots of ‘why I was adopted books,” Glover said. “My parents were those great parents who took that extra step to make sure I got all the answers and support I needed.”

After Glover’s discovery, her parents started taking her and her older sister (also adopted from Korea) to events put on by the adoption agency they went through.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
Watch behind-the-scenes as Glover and her students prepare for closing night of “High School Musical 2” at Liberty High School in Carroll County where Glover is the drama department’s choreographer.

Glover says she formed no lasting relationships through the events, but just knowing there were other kids in the same situation was helpful. She says that elementary and middle school were some of her most tumultuous years in her life as far as discovering her identity.

Growing up in a predominately white county in Maryland, Glover and her family became accustomed to questions and even open prejudice from the beginning.

“We went to a Bob Evans opening near our house,” Glover said, “And they served my parents, but they wouldn’t serve my sister and I. It was bizarre.”

Other times, Glover said, people would approach her family and ask intrusive questions.

“It was like they had never heard of adoption,” she said.

In third grade, Glover says she went through an Asian phase. She wore a traditional Korean gown into school for class picture day and insisted on putting chopsticks in her hair.

“I was in this Asian kick,” she said. “Now I don’t identify as being Asian at all because I was basically raised white.”

In high school, Glover said she didn’t have much time to worry about her background.

“There were bigger fish to fry, like prom dresses and senior week.” But senior year she asked to see her adoption papers.

Glover’s adoption was closed, meaning her biological parents opted not to divulge personal or identifying information about themselves, making it impossible for Glover to locate them even if she wanted to.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 65 percent of adopted children have a desire to find their biological parents and 72 percent want to know why they were put up for adoption.

She says she realizes now that although her parents were educated, middle class, they still didn’t want to raise her for social reasons. So although she now has some answers, Glover says those were difficult answers to internalize.

“Reading [about my biological parents] was really hard for me,” Glover said, “Not because I miss someone that I don’t know, but just because you don’t know everything about yourself. And you know that you’ll never be able to know all those answers.”

In college she was again confronted with the differences between her and her peers.

“Someone in my dorm would make some Asian joke,” Glover said, “Or like someone in my class would make a crack about my adoption. At this point in life, you just feel sorry for them, that they’re dumb enough to only see the differences in people.”

As a theatre major, she also has to combat stereotypes in casting.

“Sometimes you get a part because you look a certain way,” Glover said. “There’s a lot of pressure to fulfill stereotypes.”

But some of her schoolwork has enabled to further explore her background. She is working on a project now called “Belonging” where she tries to answer universal questions of identity and relationships.

“A lot of these questions have come to a head for me in college,” Glover said. “As far as meeting my [biological] parents or traveling to Korea, it really feels like now or never.”

While Glover’s older sister is pursuing a career in social work to help other orphaned children find their identity outside their biological families, Glover feels led a different direction with a similar goal.

Glover helps at a drama department in Carroll County during the semester and choreographs for a local studio. She says the relationships with the kids are great because everyone has different battles to face every day.

“My desire to reach out and connect feels fulfilled in teaching,” Glover said. “Being able to create and provide an outlet for people is my thing.”

“I just have an innate yearning to be there for other people.”

Read more children’s stories:

How Mercy Spreads

A Long-Expected Party

Adoption in Romania

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