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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Maybe "Angry Adoptees" Are Just Well Informed

Sometimes people have the mistaken impression that adoptees who work for adoption reform must be angry all the time, or maladjusted, or both.  Or maybe the adoptive parents did something wrong.  In my own case, all three impressions are incorrect.  While the sealed record system does offend me, and its proponents cause me great frustration, I don't believe any of the people who know me well would describe me as an angry person.  Now that I am 62 years old and have a great deal of experience in many facets of life, I can say with confidence that I seem to be better adjusted than many!  And my adoptive parents were dear, well-meaning people who worked hard to be the best parents they could.

I became involved in adoptee rights over 10 years ago, several years after my inability to secure my medical history compromised my medical treatment for stage 2 malignant melanoma.  I would say that before I started to search for my birth family in earnest, I most definitely bowed to the cultural pressure "to leave all that alone."  My parents adopted in an era when openness was not promoted, and it was clear to me from an early age that they really weren't comfortable with the topic.  So I did "leave all that alone" and tried to put it out of my mind.

I was successful to a point, but for many years I suffered from low-grade depression, a condition I now believe emanated from my feelings of powerlessness;  I just didn't feel free to do what I really wanted to do for myself -- tap into my own history and explore my roots.  This feeling became quite strong for me when I had my first child -- but I didn't have the time or confidence during that period to initiate a search.  I really didn't even know how to begin.

After my medical crisis, my daughter, who is a physician, urged me to try and secure my family health history.  My adoptive mother supported my efforts, and I suppose I finally felt validated to do what I had wanted to do many years before.  It was the searching process itself that taught me how powerless we adult adoptees really are and how much discrimination we face at every turn.

I tried the agency route, and I briefly tried the legal route.  The attorney I consulted made it clear that I didn't have much of a case because "I had already had cancer."  As my very close friend said to me at one point during my frustrating journey, "You have no rights."  And she is correct -- I don't.  The sealed system and the "authorities" -- agency social workers, supervisors and attorneys -- force adopted adults to behave like child-like beggars in order to receive the most basic facts about themselves.  The system as it now stands is preposterous.

A private investigator helped me to locate my original mother within one week's time -- my adoptive parents had always had my birth name.  And what did I find at the end of all that agency and legal stonewalling, at my own expense and after a great deal of time?  I found an older woman who did not feel capable of meeting face-to-face, but who felt comfortable enough to share medical and some personal history in a phone conversation that she initiated after she received a sensitive, certified letter from me.

What was the point in keeping her identity secret from me for all those years?  After our conversation, I felt a great weight lifted from me -- I knew the truth at last and finally felt that no one was trying to pull something over on me.  Did our conversation harm my original mother?  I don't think so.  I found her inability to meet with me disappointing, but not surprising, considering the era in which she relinquished.  She is a human being entitled to her own feelings, as am I, and like it or not, we share a connection.  We are both adults, for heaven's sake.  We can handle our own private affairs without state or agency intervention.

Those who continue to oppose adult adoptee access either misunderstand the issue or feel it is in their best interest financially to maintain the status quo.  There is no data to support the perpetuation of a system that has caused great harm to many original mothers and adoptees.  The current system is entirely unfair for adoptees, and it frustrates many more people than it protects.  This we know for a fact from the statistics kept in states that have restored original birth certificate access to adult adoptees.  In Oregon, for example, where birth certificates have been available to adoptees 18 and over since 2000, fewer than one percent of original mothers have filed no contact preference forms.

So yes -- the sealed system and its advocates do make me angry, and I'll continue to speak out until that system changes.  But am I angry all the time?  Of course not!  I have spent many magnificent week-ends at the New Jersey shore this summer with my husband, our two daughters and their families, and other assorted friends and family members.

I have enjoyed seafood fests prepared by my son-in-law and his close friends:  clams on the half shell, grilled salmon, Jersey corn and tomatoes.  I have spent mornings on the beach with my daughters and their children, as we were treated to cooling off-shore breezes, delightful water temperatures, and smooth waves for body surfing and boogie boarding.

I'm not sure I can find the words to describe the joy and exhilaration that come along with catching the perfect wave and riding it into the beach.  I feel that exhilaration when I catch a wave myself, and I feel it all over again when each of my grandchildren catches a wave for the very first time.

Life is good for me in many ways, and I am generally a happy person.  When I had my cancer scare, the chances were 50-50 that the melanoma would return, in my lungs or in my brain.  It didn't.  I am fortunate to be here, and I never take my life or my blessings for granted.

But none of that negates the fact that I am deeply offended by a system in which adopted adults are still unable to secure their own legal documents of birth.  State and agency officials continue to hold the key and guard the door to my own personal history.  An adoption system that treats adult adoptees as if they were little children incapable of handling the personal details of their own lives does make me very angry.  But not because I have some kind of personality disorder or I had deficient adoptive parents.  I'm angry because the power brokers in adoption and some legislators refuse to listen to those of us who live adoption, and they refuse to change a system that ill serves the very children that system is supposed to serve.

Like all unjust systems, this one will eventually evolve, just as it has in more enlightened states and countries. More and more "angry" (I mean well-informed) adoptees are speaking out, and many original mothers and adoptive parents are joining the movement.  We may not have the political power that opponents to the reform movement possess, but we do have the truth and the facts on our side.






28 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post. It is a much needed one on the adoption discussion. People should also take into consideration that adoptees have a right to be angry about being denied the right to their OWN BIRTH CERTIFICATES.

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    1. I know 2 adopted people one adopted out in 1950 and the other adopted out in 1970 and they both told me it took less than 1 week to find their mothers--both of these adoptions took place in New York

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  2. I always find it interesting when an adopted person sais something to the effect of "My adopted parents did the best they could to be the best parents they knew how" or "they were well meaning". Is this a compliment? I see this often when adoptees write about their adopted parents. Seems kinda deeming to me, altho I know it's not meant that way. Of course they were all of that but does it even need to be mentioned I wonder? Just curious cause I see it so much. Very good blog tho. Thanks, I agree on your topic.

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    1. Hi Angelina,
      For me, it's a compliment. I don't think any parent is perfect, or any person, for that matter. My parents could have done better on the adoption issue, but they received no training and were a product of their times. Nevertheless, they loved me immensely, and I knew it. For me, it is adoption as an institution that is the problem. Sealed records are indefensible, and by now, everyone should recognize that fact.

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    2. I agree that no person or parent is perfect. But you don't hear, as often maybe, by "natural" kids the comments of how "well meaning" their parents were. Seems to me that adopted kids tend to have to say something in defense of the adoptive parents where as I think it just simply goes without saying. There is no manual for raising any child, yours or someone else's. But what I think I'm hearing you say is that maybe the "how" you were adopted or the "how" you were told you were adopted is what could have been handled better by your parents? Can't imagine having to do something like that. Making sure the child knows they are loved and not abandoned because abandonment issues don't become an issue until a child learns they are adopted. It's still not an excuse for behavioral issues that the child may fall back on later in life nor is it fair that adopted children can't know of their "true" as it were, identity. And I don't know why parents, maybe because of the times, who did adopt are made out to be the bad guy. Aren't they the one's who stepped up and took in this child? Not to put down "natural" parents cause each story is different, but unless their is a re-action to the action then there is no solution and these parents created a solution to whatever the problem and or situation was, right or wrong. The problem was that a child needed a home and that a was given a home.

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    3. Who is making the adopted parents out to be the bad guys? I'm certainly not. I have nothing but love and admiration for my parents, and nothing but disdain for the sealed record system. Period. People are not synonymous with an archaic system that refuses to change in spite of all the evidence.

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    4. The statement my parents did the best they could reflects the lack of knowledge many adoptive parents have in parenting adopted children. Sadly the training they get is little or none and the little is inadequate. To be honest most adoptees themselves dont understand what adoption does o them and life can become a struggle of self exploration. Properly educated adoptive parents will make a world of difference in the adoptive family system. Its just a poorly constructed system thats more involved with placement then post adoption support.

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    5. I think the statement is an attempt to be compassionate. Adoptive parents were rarely if ever informed about what the needs of their adopted children would be, so when they fail to give their adoptive children the validation and emotional support they need, it's not necessarily their fault. It's rare to find an adoptive parent with the level of insight of, say, Nancy Verrier -- most do not give their adoptive children what they need -- but as Bob points out, it's a poorly constructed system that's destined to fail until it's changed.

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  3. wonderful- shared this post in my group-My first time at this blog. Looking forward to going through past posts.

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    1. Thanks for reading and sharing, Rachel. Looking forward to hearing your views and insights.

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  4. This is sad. Why should adoptive couples be taught as to how to raise a child? A new mother, who has had her first baby, may get a little help from a hospital nurse if she wants to breastfeed, but the rest is up to mom to learn. Behavior issues are very much related to being adopted. Try reading Primal Wound.
    The closed record system is ridiculous and harmful. In fact, I disagree with a second birth certificate, which indicates the AP's as those who gave birth, and name changes of the child. Everybody has the right to know who they are, where they came from, and the names of their real parents, and all information pertaining to them.

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  5. Most children are not be given up freely for adoption nor are they abused but are being kidnapped by childrens services for forced adoption for the massive profit making adoption/fostering agencies and industry it creates. This is the real reason why a fraudulent second birth certificate is created to hide the childs identity, what is going on is criminal and many adopters are either unaware or simply not do care as long as they get the child they want.

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  6. I was taken from my birth parent and put into car to be adopted at the age of 4. it never happened!! I stayed in care until i was 16 and then left to fend for myself in 1983. Yet my birth parents went on the have more kids who were never removed? an i missing something here, they got to play happy families while i was in an insitution all my life!!!!!!

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    1. I'm very sorry to hear this. I, too, was treated to a similar fate at the hands of my abandoning mother and father. The worst insult is that society never allows an adopted person's grief/abandonment issues to be validated. In society, parents are expected to love and protect their children; for adoptees, this expectation is not there. Adoptees are somehow supposed to accept the fact that they were abandoned by their parents and see it in a different light. I mean, the word "adoption" is supposed to cancel out the actuality of what it was that happened. A baby who is left in the hospital by its mother makes the news. An adoptee who is left in the hospital by its mother, who leaves it forever, does not make the news. Basically, if you're adopted, your parents abandoned you. I now understand why I have suffered from a feeling of worthlessness my entire life. It is because I was treated as a worthless being. Upon searching for my creators (birth parents), I found that they, for purely selfish reasons, wished for nothing to do with me. It pains me to wake up every morning, knowing that they are alive and are taking care of/talking about their other children and yet somehow feel it is good enough for me that I, like you, began my life in an institution, even though they were wealthy and could easily have looked after me. I'm sorry to hear your story - I believe I was lucky in the sense that I did eventually get taken out of the orphanage. So your story is worse.

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  7. when mothers gave up children -for whatever reason-they were told of the sealed records which caused many to "mourn" the loss of a child they would never see again-even tho the adoption may very well have been in the childs best interest at the time--believe me it takes a toll on the birth mother the same as if the child had died--often you were surrendered out of pure love

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  8. There is a huge difference between giving up a child voluntarily for adoption than a state sanctioned forced adoption which can never be in the 'best interests of the child' a term coined from the Nazi's. The only real benefit goes into the pockets of the child trading industries and secret closed family courts.
    Most children are NOT given up voluntarily but are in fact stolen by the state.

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  9. The Austrialian government has just released a study (find it on the net) and publically apologized to women who were coerced into giving up their children for adoption. At least one country has matured, lets watch the US politics on this issue. There is lots of money out there lobbying (mostly by adoptee parents who can't conceive) to keep their adopted children from learning their true identity. And lots of adoption agency's and their lawyers that make a lot of money selling a free product. Coersion exist in a capitolistic society.

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  10. Thanks Susan for your blog. I was born in St. Louis, MO and adopted there in the mid 1940s. Many of your comments hit a nerve with me. My adoption was also closed and arranged through a private agency which still operates. My adoptive parents died without leaving legal adoption documents. As I approached my 5 decades birthday my widowed adoptive mother made what I refer to as a "deathbed confession". That's how I learned my birth name. Up until then the details about my adoption were sketchy at best. Over the years my apars seemed surprised I would want to know such details and, of course, they couldn't even be sure of the name of the hospital where I was born! Because of the years of lies and cover-up I remained a skeptic about my "birth name". When I contacted who I believed might be the adoption agency the social worker denied the agency had anything whatever to do with my adoption and sw was of no help in what i should do next. fwiw she still works there last I checked. Eventually I learned after many phone calls and letters the court where my adoption was finalized but the court denied a petition I filed through an attorney requesting both my original birth certificate and adoption finalization record. Both natural pars have been deceased for many years. It seems in MO dead ppl have more rights than those of us with a pulse. My non-id said my natural father was named by my natural mother so I asked if there was a record in the court file that he received proper legal notice of his rights to consent to my adoption and my attorney told me there is no such record. I have concluded from evidence gathered over the years my adoption was unethical, illegal and have contemplated at times filing a lawsuit were I not living so far away. Mostly, I want what most of want which is to have the legal documents which belong to us.

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    1. Anon,
      I'm so sorry. After hearing about the case of Anyeli Rodgriguez/Karen Abigail and trying to learn more about adoption rights in Missouri, I feel like MO is very pro-adoption and secrets, anti-adoptee. I hope that things change. And I hope that MO lets Anyeli get reunited with her mom and family in Guatemala and justice, closure, and peace can be restored for you, Anyeli, and all of us. If it's important to you, don't give up. More of us adoptees are speaking out.

      I was adopted from Korea with no information, like you. I don't speak Korean, and I sure as hell don't endorse intercountry adoption/trafficking.

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  11. Hi Anon,
    Your comment shows once again why current laws are so unacceptable and discriminatory. The fact that as adults we are blocked by government and agency officials from seeing legal documents about ourselves is just infuriating. I hope you will keep telling your story! I love your observation -- "It seems in Montana dead people have more rights than those of us with a pulse." We cannot and should not accept such discriminatory treatment.

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  12. Susan....thanks for your reply and btw it's Missouri....although Montana is also a closed state. The same entities in states that continue to deny us our legal records support discriminatory laws which truth be told line the coffers of those employed by the adoption industry.....the adoption agencies. including courts and lawyers. To add insult to injury this is done with some of our own public tax dollars! If u follow open records bills many are sponsored by legislators who have a connection to adoption. Read their bios and learn they might be adoption or family practice lawyers, or they sit on boards of adoption agencies or are themselves adoptive parents. signed......Another Informed Adoptee

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  13. This just floored me and made me furious. It seems unfathomable that your government is empowered to do this, to block adoptees from their own information. I just... I just had to say that it makes me feel furious and powerless just reading it, so I can't even imagine how adoptees feel. I wish I had more to add.
    To provide context, I am an Australian who is aiming to one day foster children. But in the meantime is reading everything she can on the experiences of adult adoptees and those who have been through the fostering system.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I hope this horrible system does evolve into something better.

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  14. Thanks for reading and commenting, Candace. I do feel we're approaching a tipping point and hope to see some positive changes soon.

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  15. I love this blog. With regard to your excellent article above, one thing you mention is that your adoptive parents had your name at birth all along. Mine did, too, but lied to me when I asked about it, and continue to this day to assert that they never that information. I am almost 50 and I have known for 40 years now that they have lied, because I saw this information in a file and because I took action myself to find this information when I was just a child, I am now in reunion with my family. I think it is horrible that adoptive parents LIE to their adopted children about having this very important information. I am sure that I am not the only adoptee who was lied to.

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  16. I feel I need to disagree with this statement: "because abandonment issues don't become an issue until a child learns they are adopted"
    This is not at all true. People seem to think that "oh the child is a baby and they won't know/remember/understand what is going on"...don't forget that even as a baby, we were still there and still went through the trauma. Babies are not just babies-even though they cannot speak their understanding and feelings are profound. As an adoptee, I've always had abandonment issues including trust and problems in relationships with others, however I've never looked at my adoption experience as the trigger-because I've always been "grateful". Understanding from the get go that the root of my issues stems from this experience has been light bulb that I needed to resolve these and others' as well. There is no right/wrong answer, however your abandonment "theory" seems to be the reversed here.

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  17. it makes me mad that my adopters held information from me and they knew about my birth parents but wouldn't tell me anything about them when they knew

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  18. hey I like what you have said keep up the good work a lot of people think adopted people are not discriminated aginst

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  19. Thanks Susan for this insightful blog. I think you hit the nail on the head that the more we learn and the more we become informed, the angrier we appear! I always wonder how the Judges who deny our petitions can live with themselves. I wonder how the agency social workers can justify knowing my information but also knowing I can never see it. The aparents who were misinformed get a pass, but the ones who purposefully lie, don't in my mind. Where is the empathy in these actions? How can one person who grew up knowing their own history, deny another person their history and be o.k. with it?

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