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Feb. 28, 2022

Episode 36: Finding Joi - An Adoptee's Story with Joi Fisher-Griffith

In this episode, DJ talks with Joi Fisher-Griffith who was adopted at three months old to a wonderful family who she has very close ties to. Growing up as an adopted child taught Joi a lot through constructive conversations with other adoptees, adoptive, and birth parents. This background inspired Joi to not only give her best in exploring the topics of children and adoption but gave her the unwavering audacity to spark conversations on the topic, provide direction and give hope to adoptees, adoptive and foster families.

Tune in as we hear how she went about finding the answers to her own questions about being adopted, how long it took her, the effects of those questions, the feelings she had growing up an adoptee and as an adult raising children of her own.

Author and entrepreneur Joi R. Fisher-Griffin is an experienced educator, a passionate adoption advocate, and a patron of the arts. After going through her own struggles as an adoptee, Joi wrote her memoir, Finding Joi: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Love. She shared her story so that she could help others who sit in silence about their struggles, and she continues to find ways to be open about adoption, not only with adults but with young people, too. She is the author of two best-selling children’s adoption books Choosing Joi: An Adoptee’s Journey and Finding Belonging and Singing with Joi: There Are Lots of Different Ways to Be a Family. Joi’s books are designed to bring awareness to adoption-sensitive topics and language. 

• [3:50] “ My story is about really using my voice as an adult adoptee to help younger adoptees…”
• [7:22] Joi talks about using Ancestry DNA to start finding family members… 
• [13:43] Joi talks about meeting her birth mother who is a church pastor…  
• [16:50] “Now I'd like to introduce you all to my daughter, Joy Fisher. And she calls me up. She calls up my adoptive parents. She thanks them for giving me the life that they gave me and all that they've done… It was beautiful.”

Did you know as a child that you were an adoptee and what kind of questions or feelings did that bring up for you? Tell us about it and tag us on Facebook or Instagram @littleheartsacademy!

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DJ Stutz -
DJ Stutz:

Joy Fisher-Griffith-


DJ Stutz  0:14  
You're listening to Episode 36 of Imperfect Heroes, Insights Into Parenting, the perfect podcast for imperfect parents looking to find joy in their experience of raising children in an imperfect world. And I'm your host DJ Stutz. And in today's episode, I am talking with Joi Fisher-Griffith. She is an educator. She is an author. She was an adoptee or I guess she still would be an adoptee. She was adopted when she was three months old, to a wonderful family. She has very close ties to her family. But she also had questions growing up, knowing she was adopted and wondering about what the whole story was, what her story was. And it is so interesting to listen to how she went about finding the answers to her questions, and how long it took her, and what were the effects of these questions. And these feelings that she had in growing up and as an adult and raising children of her own. There's so much to learn. So let's get started.

Be sure to listen to the end of the podcast and be one of my Linger Longer. I have a very special offer for a couple of my listeners. So check it out. Adoption is so very close to my heart. And if you've been following the podcast, you will know that I am an adoptive mother. As we adopted my youngest daughter, Episode 28 was with Hilary Abelser, as she told her family story of adopting their youngest child from China. Well, today's guest is Joi FisherGriffith, who was adopted at three months of age. And while she grew up with a wonderful family, there were still questions and feelings that adopted children have and don't often ask, and Joyce shares her story and how she found and eventually met her birth parents, and now has room in her heart for all four of the people that she now calls mom and dad. Joy also talks about resources to adoptive and foster families, as well as adopted children, and birth parents. She calls them the triad of the adoption story, she is so interesting to listen to. And I found myself completely absorbed in her story. She has so much insight into the questions, and the concerns of everyone in the triad, and some great information on wonderful places to get help and information to help everyone else involved. Let's listen in. I'm joined here today with a new friend of mine, Miss Joi Fisher- Griffith, we've had a great opportunity of getting to know each other over the last couple of weeks. And she just has such a great story. She was adopted. And so she's coming at this from the attitude of the adoptee and how her life experiences gone. And she's really gotten into some things that help children who have been adopted and parents have adopted children. And so Joi, would you just share your story with us.

Joi Fisher-Griffith  3:47  
Thank you. Thank you for having me. I think you gave a great introduction. My story is about really using my voice as an adult adoptee. To help younger adoptees, one of the first questions I always get is, well, when did you find out you were adopted. And I found that when I was about four or five years old, I always remember my mother sharing stories with me. At nighttime, it could be a bedtime story. But then somehow it would trail off into a story about how I came into the life and became their child. And it was always birth mother couldn't take care of you. But she wanted you to find a loving family. And God brought you to us and we're so happy that you're part of our family. And that story is just something that has traveled with me from the age of before I went off to school, four or five. I was adopted at the age of two months. And throughout the course of my lifetime. It wasn't a secret that I was adopted. But it wasn't something that we talked about on a regular basis. It often came up in conversation when there was something in the news, because legislation in many of the states in every state is different. And what we found was that every state's laws were changing. Different times if they were up for changes, and that change was going to be whether or not closed adoption records would be open. And in the state that I was born in, in Jersey, our records were SEALED and adapt. These records are sealed from 1940 to 2015. So what does that mean? That meant that when I was born, I received a birth certificate that was amended, some people will say, Oh, no, it's just a fake birth certificate, whatever word you'd like to choose, it wasn't my original birth certificate. So it was amended. And it had the name that my adoptive parents gave me. Mine had my birth date, my weight, my height, and the city and state that I was born and my adoptive parents names. And so when you hear adoptees talk about not having their original birth certificate, because we have none of the information that of who gave birth to us at that time, or any of that other information, we have just the amended piece. So over time in the state, our legislators decided that it was time for change, and they were going to open up the sealed birth records. But they just opened it from 1940 to 2015. And you had to apply. And this was 2017, when the law was actually going to be implemented. Over the years, I've always wanted to know and again, talking with my adoptive parents, I'm just gonna say adoptive parents for the sake of the conversation, but normally I just say my parents, but talking with them over the years about the changes that were coming in the legislation, they would always kind of check the temperature with me to see what I was thinking if I was possibly interested if I wasn't interested, or where I was in my thoughts without having direct question for me, which was always interesting. So as the law was getting closer to being implemented, both my parents at different times gave me the same news article, and I don't think they realize it. And the article said that law was changing in January 2017. And if you were interested in getting your records you had to apply this was the process. But there was a little piece in that article that mentioned that there was going to be a celebration of the legislation being implemented at the state house. And it wasn't until into the middle of January, I had a cousin that reached out to me. And she said, I'm joining have you heard anything? Have you heard anything. Now backing up a year and a half prior to that this is a cousin that I met using DNA, and ancestry. And with her, I saw my list of all the relatives that popped up, I looked at who was a close relative. And in the beginning, it can be a little discouraging taking a look at DNA because you get a lot of eighth and ninth relatives. And I figured that's not close enough. So after about a year or so of having been on ancestry, all of a sudden, third and fourth relatives started popping up first, second, and third. So when I saw first second, the third, I said let me reach out to this person. I looked at her family tree, she had over 2000 people on her tree. So prior to reaching out to her I had reached out to other relatives who were on there. And as soon as I mentioned the word adaption and that I was adapted. It was crickets, people just communicating with me. So I was really hesitant in Okay, do I keep trying this is anybody going to respond. But once I saw 2000 plus people in her family tree, so she must be interested in learning about her family and family history. Something about it has to be important for somebody to really take the time, because you have to move all that stuff onto your tree and label it and everything else. So I reached out to her kind of talked a little bit and then maybe about the fourth or fifth conversation, I dropped the adoption word honor and that I was adopted, and just kind of wait and sat back. And immediately she sent me her phone number. And she and I began to communicate. So for a year and a half, she and I were in communication. We knew we were cousins, but we had no idea how we were related. And everything that I had shared with her that I had received a few years not say about 10 or 15 years ago, through the adoption agency was called non identifying information. So the age and the birth date that I thought I had for my birth mother and birth father. She couldn't find anything that matched on her tree. And so we said, but we know we're related by blood, we know that she was either my first second or my third cousin. So in January, she said, Okay, you said the legislation was changing. Do you have any new information? And so I said, No, you know, let me run down and take a look at this article my parents had given me to see what it says. And that's when I realized the weekend coming up was the day of the celebration. And I reached out to the woman who was running the celebration. I said, I know it's last minute this thing is in two days. Is it possible for me to attend there was a paid event you had to pay for lunch. And so she emailed me back and said sure you can come we don't have any more seats but feel free. Bring your bag lunch show up and you'll be able to enjoy The ceremony. So I get to this ceremony. And I realize, for me, it was the first time I had been around people talking about their adoption journey, their adoption story. There were other adoptees their adoptive parents, birth parents, and I realized that this group of people that were doing a press conference, and I was kind of standing back in the back, listening, they were sharing the stories of some of the challenges that they had being adopted. And they mentioned fears of abandonment, they mentioned, shame, they mentioned feeling like they didn't belong. And the entire time, they're upfront, during this press conference, I'm doing nothing but crying, I'm just just cried because it made sense. And I never thought that I had any issues with my adoption. Because I had a great family, I had a great life, everything was fine. And I just didn't think of some of the challenges that I had in life being connected to my adoption. So from there, we go on to the celebration after the press conference. And they start talking. So we're at the luncheon at the table, and they're going around the table sharing their story. And I'm hearing tragic stories, I'm hearing devastating stories. I'm hearing some wonderful stories up about people's adoption journey. And they're just talking like this is regular conversation. I was blown away. I had never experienced anything like that in my life never had really been around adoptees who publicly talked about their adoption. And I was so touched by everything between all the crying, I said, I have to find out who these people are, I have to find out how did they get to this place where they're able to tell their story without crying? How are they having this, they appear to have this feeling of such peace. And I wanted to be able to do that. And I didn't realize that they were going around the table one by one by one, the next step was my turn. And I had never shared my adoption journey before my adoption story or any of the things that I've thought about as an adoptee. And that was the first time that was the first time I shared my story in between my tears, they were very comforting. They made me realize that some of the things that I had challenges with over the years were a part of things that some of that these suffered with, and it came out of all their mouths, adaption identity issues, feeling unlovable, not feeling that you're worthy. And I had to figure out, well, how did you all get to this place, I later learned they were also a part of a support group. So I made sure I got their information and began planning to attend their event the next month. In between all this, again, I'm learning about the legislation. I'm learning about all the advocacy work that had been done. And I found that these folks in this room apart, his advocacy team had been fighting for 34 years for the laws to change just in the state of New Jersey. And they were a little older. And they were saying, you know, we're ready to pass the baton for now that the law has changed for people to use this to go out and share their stories to continue the work through the grassroots organization. And I just felt guilty. I felt guilty sitting here that these folks worked for 34 years. And here I am about to benefit off of all this work they've done and I've done nothing. And I realized and listening to them that that doesn't mean that I can't do anything moving forward. So that once I could get to a place where I could tell my story the way that they could. And I'm not crying and stumbling through my words and sharing my journey that maybe I could help somebody else along their journey as well. So that really has been the passion behind the work. So that was January that I met them in February, the middle of February, I went to their first support group. And what they didn't know is February 12. I went to the support group, February 13, I had already communicated with my birth mother and my birth father and February 13. I was actually going to my birth mother's church. And she was going to give her testimony because she was a pastor. And she introduced me to herself, but also meet her her congregation. And so it's been a rollercoaster of a journey. And to get to finding my birth mother, it happened by receiving my original birth certificate in the mail. So I did apply for it. And I did end up getting that in the mail. And it had her name on it. And so that was a big thing because birth parents had the option of taking their name off of the document and pretty much redacting it meaning you will get your original birth certificate, but it would just be blacked out whatever they didn't want you to see they were just going to wipe it off of your original birth certificate. The caveat to that is that if a birth parent decided they didn't want to meet or their child to have that information, that they would at least give you your medical history. So I thought that that was going what was in my big thick envelope that eventually came to the house but then I realized I forgot that I ordered two copies of my birth certificate because I wanted to have an extra copy. So once I did get her name and get her information, and I do what the kids do at popped it in Google, and I pop in Facebook,

pops a picture of her, and she looks like my adopted mother. So I was kind of blown away by that. But one of the things that I learned at the table at that legislation celebration was that there was something done back in the 30s 40s 50 6070s. With adoptive parents and adoptees, they would do something called matching, they would try to match the child up with the family that they were going to bring them into hair color, eye color, bra, you know, and those different things and even if they could to match up the looks of the birth parents, to the looks of the adoptive parents. So when I did actually go to my birth mother's church to meet her, we were across the room from one another, she didn't want to see me or talk to me before we actually met, she would only messaged me, and talk to me via text. And so I happen to go and see her at her church on Black History Month and Black History Month, we tend to wear African garb, what does African garb do is gonna cover you from head to toe of all times that we decide that we're going to meet. And I'm hoping to get a good look at her from head to toe, she's covered from head to toe. So pretty much all I could really focus on was her face. She ended up giving her presentation, her testimony actually before her church, letting them know what her life was like before I came into her life. And then me actually coming into her life a little bit the church know that I was sitting in the audience in the congregation. So she's moving, going through her story, talking about some things that she had hoped would bring her joy. And towards the end of the testimony, she says, Now I'd like to introduce you all to my daughter, Joy Fisher. And she calls me up. She calls up my adoptive parents, she thanks them for giving me the life that they gave me and all that they've done her my mother had full conversation in between tears. It was beautiful. It was beautiful.

DJ Stutz  17:09  
That sounds amazing.

Joi Fisher-Griffith  17:11  
And from there, when I met her, it really got me excited, even more so about also now meeting my birth father. So a month later, I met my birth father, and I was thinking men want to know men. So I wanted my birth father to reach out to my adoptive father, before we met, I felt, you know, there was some maybe a conversation they needed to have before bringing one into the home or the other. So we invited my birth father up my we're big game family. So I have my oldest daughter plan a game night, and we're very big with, like, I hate going to a party. And then you're the new person in the room, and everybody else knows each other. And for me, and I think maybe that's because I'm an only child too. For me, it was always like, if I'm coming into a circle, welcome me, invite me and you know, help me get to know one another. And so that's exactly what we do. When my birth father and his wife came up and my cousin that I had met via the DNA ancestry website, she actually came up. So we all met each other at the same time at my dad's house during the game night. And we just play games that ask questions about who we were things that we enjoy, so that we really could get to know one another. So it's been a journey. This marks the fifth year, this is our fifth anniversary of being reunited. And it's been amazing. That's been amazing.

DJ Stutz  18:38  
That is such a great story, and so positive. And I'm so glad that you had a good experience and as an adoptive mother myself, because I am very sensitive about. I'm her real mom. But my daughter's story is very different. We don't need to go into that right now. But it was very different from yours. So what I'm interested in is thinking back on your experience growing up and as a child, what were some of the questions that may be? Were you afraid to ask any questions about that once you realized?

Joi Fisher-Griffith  19:16  
Yeah, I think and someone asked that before, and I think I have trouble answering that. Because it wasn't that anybody ever said Don't you ask about you know, your adoption? I don't do say this. Don't just say that. But it's it's an uncomfortable feeling. You don't know the answers to the questions. You're not sure if your parents know the answers to the questions. And then it's like part of my coming into their life. There had to be some things going on in my adoptive parents lives as well. So now, as a kid, I felt like I would be prying into their personal business if I asked too many questions. So I just, I just didn't ask I kept my thoughts and my questions to myself. But some of the things as an adoptee. They were just many thoughts, questions. I had about my identity questions I had, where do I get this love of? We love the arts, we love to sing, we love to dance. In my adoptive family, some of them do, most of them don't. So it kind of felt out of place in that sense, very animated with our hands and everything else. When we're talking tall, I always say now I know where my big forehead comes from. Now I know where all my allergies come from. Now I know where my legs come from my legs that I struggle with, because they were always long and skinny when I was younger. And now I look at my eyes. And I'm like, Okay, this makes sense. Even my complexion. My adopted family that I grew up in, many of them were darker brown complexion. And as the joke in some of the communities and black communities was your high yellow or your your bright. And then so to be mixed in and not feel like you really look like the rest of the family sometimes is an issue. And that oh, that also in the black community that deals with colorism too, and some of the issues that we have what complexion but finding a place where you kind of fit in. And now that I saw all of my thoughts, and all of my great arts pictures and uncles and things of that nature, I'm like, Okay, now this makes sense. But the best thing that I learned from that group of adoptees adoptive parents and birth parents was the importance of community. So the story of meeting my mother in church and meeting my father, during game night is all I say those are like lifetime moments, but the heart of the work and the things that have gotten me to the place to be able to have this conversation was to be able to go to the support groups, and to be able to go to counseling and therapy and talk about all this stuff. And all these feelings that are jumbled up in my mind and in my heart. So I think if there was one thing that I would say to adoptive parents is to find that community one for yourself, adoptive and foster parents and families, find that community for yourself, but also find that community for the adoptee as well. Because everybody in the world doesn't get some of the challenges that fail adoptive and foster families go through. And sometimes folks will say things that they think are helpful, that can also be very hurtful. And then you you're kind of pushed into this corner. Okay, now, who can I have this conversation with? And then sometimes people just aren't that sensitive, they don't know what they should say and what they shouldn't say. So I've been trying to in my journey, just to share not only my own books, my memoir, I mentioned a lot of things and a lot of adoptive parents, and people who know other people are gonna say, Oh, I never thought you all thought like that. I never thought you wondered about that. I figured since you were into our family, that maybe you've just kind of forgot that you work out that no, we don't forget, we don't forget, you're constantly reminded in the world, and especially when it comes down to medical history of medical appointments. So there's just some things where it does not go away. And the other thing that has come up along my journey, it doesn't mean because I'm searching for my identity. And I'm trying to figure out who I am that I'm going to leave the people who raised me. And I'm going to go away, I said, if I can be a mom of three children and love them unconditionally, why can't I be a daughter of two sets of parents and love them unconditionally. And there's going to be some highs and lows and everybody's story. And that's going to be different. But adoptees have a right to know their story, they have a right and then to figure out how they're going to deal with the pieces positive or negative along the way. And there's just so many resources that because we won't talk about adoption, and we're ashamed, and we're still hiding, people who are interested in adapting and or being foster parents, they have nowhere really to go to ask those kinds of questions, because everybody's so secretive. But we all know somebody who's adopted. So my thing is, let's normalize the conversation. And I do I hope to do that through my children's books as well, which introduced the word adaption our young people can talk about everything else under the sun. So why can't we start with them, which would also help the adults get a bit more comfortable with using the language having the conversations because families don't look the same as families once did years ago. And we have to adjust, adapt, modify, and families are very diverse. Now, let's accept that. Let's talk about it. And let's make sure folks are getting the help that they need.

DJ Stutz  24:21  
Absolutely. Just like for questions. I'm thinking, I don't want to forget this. And if I asked that question, I might forget the other. But I think that you brought up one point though, as again, as an adoptive mom, sometimes I know that I felt didn't want her to connect with her birth family.

Joi Fisher-Griffith  24:46  
That's an honest statement.

DJ Stutz  24:47  
The reason I really didn't want my daughter to reconnect was protectionism because I was worried that we knew there was drug use. We knew that there were a lot of bad things in that And so I just wanted to protect her from that. But I know that that was hard for her. And eventually, she did reconnect. And she found out.

Joi Fisher-Griffith  25:14  
And sometimes that's what it is the adoptee has to find that things out on their own. But then that also gave her the chance to make the decision herself on how she was gonna exactly engage or not engage. But you gave her the opportunity to do that.

DJ Stutz  25:28  
Yeah, well, she actually went and found it.

Joi Fisher-Griffith  25:31  
Yeah, yeah. And that's the other thing when you don't help give the opportunity, they will find a way

DJ Stutz  25:36  
they will. I didn't know how to find this birth mom. And Noel was better at Facebook and all that kind of stuff than I was two years ago. Yeah. And so she had the better technology mind than I did, and knowing how to look for things. And she put her birth name out there, because she chose her name when we adopted her. Okay, I didn't care. I liked her name. Yeah. But I think all of these things are very individual.

Joi Fisher-Griffith  26:09  
Absolutely, every story is different. How you handle every situation is different, what people's responses are gonna be on either side is gonna be different. And I always tell people, you know, you have to be ready for rejection. Yeah, you can be ready for the excitement of it all too. But that has its highs and lows as well, because everybody is not going to be excited to see. And I figured that out. But then that's just like a biological family. You don't get along with everybody in your biological family, there are some relatives that you're really close to, and some that you'd like to see come and go quickly. And some that we don't even engage in. So biological weapons by nature or by nurture, you still will have some of those same struggles.

DJ Stutz  26:54  
Yeah. Yeah. And that's a good point. So that brings me then to your work with the kids. And what got your series of books? Hmm, why don't you talk to me a little bit about how you work with these little kids? What are some advice that you can give to? Maybe not only the adoptive family, but what about your child's friends? Yeah, oh, yeah. They're gonna have questions, too. How do you manage that? Right, and

Joi Fisher-Griffith  27:24  
one is preparing your children with the right language. And that's one of the things that I like to do through the book, I really the children's books were a spin off of the memoir. The memoir is really for, at say, eighth grade and up, because of some of the references that I make to or an unhealthy relationship that I was in, and how that connects to my own issues with abandonment and things of that nature. But the children's book really breaks down and also breaks down for educators and anyone reading the book, some adoption, sensitive language that you can use as well. And I think if you start having those conversations with young people, and having some of the adults read the books as well equips them within the knowledge to be able to have conversations without unintentionally hurting the adoptee or the adoptive parent that you happen to be talking to. Some of the work that I do as a volunteer is with adoptive and foster parents, adoptive and foster families. And what we do is we have respite nights. So we know that being an adoptive parent or a foster parent is a challenge. But everybody has their own things that they deal with. So we have different workshops that are for adoptive parents, we have some that are just for adoptive moms, because there's a different kind of conversation that happens there. We have respite nights where the adoptive family can drop off their children to a group of us who are background checked and verified and all the other things where we keep the kids for a couple hours to give the parents an opportunity to go out for dinner to go out. And you know, they have a couple hours to do what they like. So our organization sponsors those kinds of events, we actually have one coming up in July, where we're inviting the adoptive and foster families to come for free day at the semi professional baseball field. So they'll get to go to a game. Sometimes we have our kids perform during halftime, they'll sing a song or something. So they're the center stage of everything. And it really just gives parents an opportunity to come we ask people to donate if they're going to come to buy themselves a ticket, but also donate a ticket to someone in an adaptive a foster family or even sponsor a family to attend. Our respite nights are free to our family. So again, you're coming in. We do those quarterly. We also do adoption and foster 101 conversations and this is through my work with Miriam's heart organization, one of the organizations in New Jersey. And the other piece of our work that has just begun over the past couple of years is connecting churches with the needs in the community. So you have state agencies that work with the families and then you have church and organizations that Say we want to help, we just don't know what to do. Everybody is not equipped to be an adaptive or a foster parent. And so people always say, Well, I'd like to help. But I don't want a family. I don't want kids. And that's fine, because that's not for everybody. So we try to find ways to get people to use their skills and talents to help some of the families who could use their support. If you're a beautician, why don't you donate some services to take care of children's hair? If you have a restaurant or you cook, why don't you cook some meals to a family that's getting a new child or taking in a new town via foster care, or a family that just adopted the child, we have some of the women's retreats that we do, donate towards that so that my mother can attend our teens and tweens groups, we're going to do something soon on financial literacy, donate so that they can so that we can bring in the professionals to do this. And it's not that when we bring our young people together that are adopted and are in foster care, that we're sitting around hammering them talking about adoption, we're giving them the community to be around other adoptees to see that it's normal, it's normal, that their family structure isn't strange. Everyone around them isn't an adoptive family, they all look different. But that is just a diverse and different way to be a family. And then we try to make sure that we surround them with people who are connected to others who are adopted or who are adopted themselves. So some of our adults and some of our teens that are there are also adapted. So now you're creating those mentoring relationships where they can say, oh, you know, as I grow up, I'm gonna be okay. Or if they need to have conversations with people, she gets it because she's adopted as she went through some of the stuff that I'm going through. Or she's on the trans racially adoptive family of different races, oh, then maybe I can talk to her about what I'm feeling or what happens when I go to school or what my friends say, or what I've heard a teacher say. So we're creating those opportunities to open up and normalize the conversation and let them know that, yes, our situations are unique. They are different, but you're not strange. You're not weird, that this is just a diverse way of having a family and we want people to talk about it. But we want them to talk about it in a way that isn't offensive to those of us who are and adopted and foster families.

DJ Stutz  32:17  
Exactly. And when you were talking about some of the ways that people could help, additionally, so I fostered a little girl and I was hoping to doctor but her grandma stepped in and wanted to take her on. And of course, you know, Kin is very important. But she was racially mixed. And you know, I've got the straight blonde thing. Hey, hair, and she had this long, black, yellow, curly, wavy hair. Yeah, I had no idea what

Joi Fisher-Griffith  32:53  
exactly, and that's not out of the ordinary. My daughter's we all have this big curly hair and my daughters. I didn't know how to do their hair when they were younger. And so I thought the best thing to do was to straighten it, I didn't know how to take care of their natural hair, I really didn't know how to take care of my own natural hair. And so over the years, we found somebody who was a professional at natural hair, who taught us the right products that what I use in my hair, my daughters can't use their hair, what did they use would make my hair heavy and just be terrible. And what I use wasn't enough moisture for their hair. So one of the things that I'm hoping to do, and I just I'm so happy you mentioned that because I just mentioned that to our founder. I said now that I know this woman, I want her to help. One of our last events, there was a young lady who came in a little tiny five or six year old girl and mom transracial adoption, her mom and dad were her adoptive parents were white, she was black. They had no clue. They're like, we don't know, do we put braids in it? Do we do this? And had it not been for that respite night and they saw myself and then they saw my daughter. They really didn't know who can we even go and have this conversation with that we would be comfortable. And so those are things to think about. But what one of the things that was very important in that event was that the little girl saw my daughter come through the air is curly and down here. And then she took off the little thing off her head and realized, oh, I can wear my little curly hair and be okay, but she was growing up in a community that didn't understand natural hair on a little black girl. So I think it's important that we find ways to immerse ourselves into the culture of a child if we're adopting from a different race other than ours, whatever that culture may be, find some people find some organizations don't just immerse into your world without also immersing yourself into their world and their culture as well and finding some people to help pour into them.

DJ Stutz  34:53  
I was lucky enough to have a next door neighbor, who was black and

I'm imagining, yeah, I haven't seen her since we moved away from Las Vegas, but she had two boys. And so when I went to her and said, Can you help me? Help me what to do? Well, she was so excited to have a little girl. What she didn't get to do with her boys? And yeah, but I think like you said, reaching out, different cultures have different skin needs. Absolutely. Yeah. And I mean, and the list goes on. And there are things that we necessarily don't quite think about, Brian, what this is how we take care of our skin. Well, that might be how you take,

Joi Fisher-Griffith  35:46  
right? But if I do that, I may end up looking like a bunch of lumps. Yes, yeah, exactly. And then even now, when we go out if I'm out with my girls, and we'll see moms who have like daughters, and you're not sure they'll walk over to the table. And you'll notice, because you will see them looking for a while then they walk over, I really wanted to know, could you tell me something about some of the products that you use on your hair. And that takes a lot for mom to have to feel like she has to go out of her way in a mall at times that's happened for us. So if we can create some communities where folks know where to go to ask those questions, if we have our schools and as an educator, I know we should be and can be doing more for families to get them the information they need. If they knew that if they went to the school to ask about this, that the staff there will be able to redirect them to this organization that can help them meet those needs. Because the needs don't end once you with that, that's only the beginning of the process. And how that transitions with a child and the child's age is gonna vary based on their experiences. A child who's coming straight from one foster home, who's been in several foster homes is going to have some different experiences and challenges that new foster family may have to deal with. Who's there to support them, who's there to guide them, but who do they turn to for information. So through Marion's heart, that's one of the things we're hoping to build up our connections with the churches in our state, so that when we get needs from divisional Youth and Family Services, or DC, PNP, whatever you want to call it, every state is different, that we're able to reach out to the church and say this need is in your area, there's two families that need this. Is there someone at your church who would be able to or would you all be able to meet this need, they then reach back out to our organization, with the materials or with the things or with the services or whatever the need is for and then we're able to then get that information and make sure it gets to the family that needs it. So I think there's a guy named Jason Johnson. And his statement is everyone can't do everything, but everybody can do something. So I think it's just figuring out in a world where we all know someone who's adapted, we all have a gift or talent that could help someone else along their life's journey. But how can we make sure people know what they can do? And I think that's something else schools can offer. If this is your skill set. This is how you could help this group of students at risk students adopted students, I mean, the list can go on. But we have the kids right at our fingertips. And there's people in the community who are willing to help, but they just don't know how. But again, with adoption and foster care, if we don't start talking about it, how can we expect anybody to come to meet the needs of those families?

DJ Stutz  38:33  
Right? Absolutely. So I know you have your series of books, talk to us a little bit about what that is, who it's for, and where they can go to find your books.

Joi Fisher-Griffith  38:44  
Everything is on Amazon. And on my website, you can find all that information there. But the memoir is finding joy, a true story of faith, family and love. And it really just talks about it's a combination of things. I talked a little bit about my experiences as an educator, the things they don't teach you in school, when you're preparing to go and become an educator, and situations that pop up that you have to respond to. I also share a little bit of information about a challenging relationship and how wearing a mask sometimes we pretend that things are okay, when all hell could be breaking loose behind the scenes. And how do you bounce back from that without getting swallowed up and feeling like either you're a failure or you weren't good enough? Have you bounced back from that? The other piece is I talked quite a bit about through the adoption journey and through the relationship challenges was counseling. I think counseling and support group has its place. I think that again, that's something that we don't talk about often because of fear and embarrassment. And again, if I say that I'm going to therapy, some people automatically say what counseling is for crazy people. No, it's for people that need some support. And if there are experts in the field who could help guide me and help me rethink some of the things that I've thought either about my So for about my situations, then take advantage of it. But don't say that counselling doesn't work. If one, you go in there and you're lying and you're not telling the whole truth, to begin with, you got to go in with the right attitude, and give it a good shot, and then see where you go. And I think support groups everybody can't talk about in this case of adoption, and what it feels like to be adopted or what it feels like to be an adoptive parent. And some of the challenges that you may go through, especially in the teenage years, when an adoptee and, and as a birth parent, when you're dealing with the birth date of your child coming up and the things and the guilt and the shame that you feel. But support groups play such a role in that when you get to here. And I love our support group. It's Morristown post adoption support group. I love our support group, because we have everyone who represents you the adoptee and adoptive parent, or birth parent, we have members that represent all those categories. They call it the adoption, try it in our adoption support group. So there were times when I wasn't sure what my adoptive parents might be thinking. But when I get to share, when I turn in the group, I get to hear from adoptive parents and birth parents give their perspective, I get to hear them share their stories. And I also get to get advice and feedback from them in terms of what I'm thinking and realizing just along this journey that this is gonna take time. So some of that is in the book, some of the things I thought over the years that I never thought and connected to my adoption issues until now. And how in the end, it's okay, it's okay, I'm figuring things out. I think counseling again, we need to talk about I think family is a big piece that we talk about, and blending families. And how do you put all these pieces together now that you have birth parents and adoptive parents. And then for me at the time entering the dating world after divorce, all that stuff is in the book. And the two children's books are spin off of that, because I wanted to take the memoir into smaller chunks. So I have choosing joy and adoptees journey and finding belonging because one of the things if you're looking through social media at adoptees talking, a big piece that people are looking for is a place to belong, a place to feel like they fit in. And so I thought that that was important, and also just introducing the word adoption. And the other one is singing with joy. There's lots of different ways to be a family. And I think again, that goes back to realizing the diversity and families whether it's two dads, two moms, a mom and a dad that are of a different race. There's just so many dynamics to what it means to be a family and to begin to start having those conversations about what that looks like just in the world as it is. And that there's still love there. And in the in the still your family you have a family by nature and a family by nurture. But that is your family,

DJ Stutz  42:48  
right? Absolutely. Well, good. Well, we want to get all that information on our show notes. So people are interested in finding your books, or reaching out to you and finding out more about the group's you're involved with. We'll have that all in the show notes so they can Okay, pop up

Joi Fisher-Griffith  43:05  
and every resource that I mentioned today, and one that we didn't talk about, I do want to make sure I mentioned this. There's a book that an author actually Sherry Eldridge for adoptive parents, and she writes about 2020 or 25 things every adaptive parent to know. So every adoptive parent should know. And it's questions that maybe they've always wanted to ask their adopted child but weren't sure how or maybe it wasn't necessarily the time, but it's things that they've been thinking about. And it gives some of the answers that come from adoptees, and all the resources and the book information is on my website. And at the bottom of the website, if you click on links, it gives you some additional voices that I found and people that I found on social media through the pandemic, because a lot of adoptees have I mean, what you see now on social media is just a wealth of information. So I share some of my favorites there. And different websites of some of the organizations mentioned today.

DJ Stutz  44:03  
I love that this is really important information. And I love that it's the triad of adoption. And this is information that's good for everyone involved in that triad. And maybe even four, we haven't really had a chance to talk about it. We'll have to have you back on. But siblings have an adopted purse. Yeah, then because that's very different. Especially if you're the DNA kid. Mm hmm. And then there's a sibling that's not

Joi Fisher-Griffith  44:32  
yes. And birth order plays in that, you know, yep. And we usually say bio, a lot of our adoptive mom says, Well, my bio kid so if it were the biological kid lives versus the adopted child and all of that. Yeah, it's a lot. It's a lot. So finding safe spaces to have those honest conversations about some of the challenges families are having. We need to again it just just helped create that for people.

DJ Stutz  44:58  
Absolutely. It's With that in mind, I have a question for you. How would you define a successful parent?

Joi Fisher-Griffith  45:08  
Wow, how do you define a successful parent? That's a tough question to, to answer. Because I think I really look at my daughter's, I really look at the character, the child's character, I look at their decision making, I look at their ability to articulate what's going on in their lives, and every child is different. So I think of a parent who's pouring the best they have into their children, who's creating opportunities for their child that maybe they didn't have. Now, I don't mean giving them everything that you didn't have when you were a child. We don't want to enable kids, right? But I'm someone who's really trying to develop their child in an area where they see their gifts, where their gifts and talents lie not in the areas that they want their child to succeed in. And I see that as an educator as well, that about you in that instance? But where are your child's gifts and strengths? And what's their best subjects, and I think people who are doing phenomenal gap parenting usually help align their kids with opportunities in those different areas of strength.

DJ Stutz  46:12  
I love that. And I think you're so right. So, Joi, I'm so grateful that you chose to spend this time with me and with our listeners. And we're really going to keep an eye I'm going to keep watching Relative Race to Yeah. Reality TV show, you can find it on YouTube and all around, but it's about people through I think it's 23andme. But it's Ancestry? Oh, Ancestry. There you are. So yeah, I will continue to watch for that. I'm sure you'll let me now if you make it on though.

Joi Fisher-Griffith  46:56  
And just for your audience to so that they know what we're talking about DJ share with me about relative race. And after you share that with me, I began the investigation and decided that we should go ahead and audition. So my husband and I have auditioned for season 10 and sent in our casting information. So thank you, I'm going to thank you in advance, and I will keep you posted.

Unknown Speaker  47:20  
Thank you. And yeah,

DJ Stutz  47:23  
we've got to reconnect. You've got so much to say I have so many more questions. We're running out of time, but we'll have to reconnect again, at some point.

Joi Fisher-Griffith  47:32  
No problem.

DJ Stutz  47:33  
Great. Well, thanks so much joy.

Joi Fisher-Griffith  47:36  
Thanks for having me.

DJ Stutz  47:40  
Isn't Joi just amazing, her name fits her perfectly, she is so open and willing to help families find resources in their areas. And another thing I was so glad to hear was her recognition that every child is different, and has their own unique story. And no matter what your story is, there are organizations to help you and your family succeed. And if you're interested in contacting joy, or finding her books, all of that information is down in the show notes. And while you're looking over the show notes, go ahead and follow the show and leave a rating and review. Taking the time to give the podcast a five star rating and review makes the podcast easier to find. And we are then able to help more families. So if you hit follow yet, make sure you are following so you don't miss anything. Are you up to date on all things, imperfect heroes, just register for my free newsletter at and never miss a beat. So parent teacher conferences will be here before you know it. And do you know how to have a conference that lets you in on how your child is truly doing? What questions do you ask? What information does your teacher need to know? You can get this and a bunch more information in a one hour webinar called getting the most from important conversations. And you can find this information and a lot more in a one hour webinar called getting the most from important conversations with your child's teacher. And you will find this webinar on my website, And next week, I am talking with Michael alsi who is talking about raising the introverted child. How do you help a child participate in ways that help them remain in a safe emotional place? And as a therapist, Michael has some really good ideas. Learn what I mean by tuning into the next episode. And until next time, let's find joy in parenting.

Okay, Linger Longers. I gave you this deal last week and I just got two more left. So if you were listening to my episode with Amy Buckley, you will remember that she has a company that provides tutoring for students from kindergarten through high school. And Amy sent me four gift cards of $100 each. These would pay for two tutoring sessions for your child. I've only got two left. So email me right away at And I'll get one of these cards to you. Now, aren't you glad you hung in there? Okay, I'm gonna go now.

Transcribed by

Joi FIsher-GriffinProfile Photo

Joi FIsher-Griffin

Educator, Adoption Advocate, Author

Author and entrepreneur Joi R. Fisher-Griffin is an experienced educator, a passionate adoption advocate, and a patron of the arts. After going through her own struggles as an adoptee, Joi wrote her memoir, Finding Joi: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Love. She shared her story so that she could help others who sit in silence about their struggles, and she continues to find ways to be open about adoption, not only with adults but with young people, too. She is the author of two best-selling children’s adoption books Choosing Joi: An Adoptee’s Journey and Finding Belonging and Singing with Joi: There Are Lots of Different Ways to Be a Family. Joi’s books are designed to bring awareness to adoption sensitive topics and language. She believes adoptees, prospective adoptive parents, and adoptive and foster families can find resources and their community of support if WE all Stop Whispering and Lets Talk Adoption. Joi was recently appointed to the Board of Directors for Miriam’s Heart an organization supporting adoptive and foster families Joi. Joi is no stranger to life’s challenges but truly believes Finding Joy is Possible!