ADOPTION WISDOM offers insight and understanding of adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents. Includes chapters on Adoption Awareness, Basic Truths of Adoption, Search and Reunion, and an Ideal Adoption. ADOPTION WISDOM is a book for anyone who wants to kinow more about the lifelong impact of adoption.
There is no societal, cultural standard for the treatment of adoptees. There’s no Dr. Spock’s handbook for adopted parents, nor one for children. How could there be a way to communicate with newborn babies to teach them what is about to happen to them? Teach them coping mechanisms for being abandoned without explanation, often for a decade and many times longer. It is left to chance and we all just shoulder it to the best of our abilities. So, often people just ignore the adopted person as if you don’t exist. I can honestly say that because I am adopted, I have personally experienced being denied these rights, suffering repeated traumas and rejections from my adopted family and extended adopted family, and my birth families and extended families as well as my husband’s family.
This is a declaration of the daughter’s bill of rights. It is a list that few people discuss and many people take for granted; if you live within a normal, blood- related family you will rarely encounter these barriers. But, if you are adopted, your rights, continuing into adulthood, remain compromised. It is quite easy for a male dominated court to determine that a human child who cannot speak nor write, nor hire an attorney to represent their own rights should have their rights removed and maligned for the sake of other adults, those who did conceive you, or cannot conceive. The practice is inhuman and wholly unfair to the children. Scientific research is opposed to the practice, as it is proven to invoke long term psychological damage to the child. Family members from the adopted side as well as the birth side don’t know what to do. I am a member of an adoptive family in which there were two adopted children both products of church accessed closed adoption in the 1960s. My adopted mother had several siblings that could
not conceive, so we had three adopted cousins. All quite hush-hush. I always aspired to be a good daughter; but it was an unachieveable goal. I worked extremely hard to be a good daughter and failed miserably. I wish I had known at 20 what I know now. It took society almost my entire life to begin the groundswell of truth surrounding adoption.
Thus, I courageously add to the movement. I’ve created the Daughter’s of Bill of Rights for my own declaration of independence, to elevate the reality of adoption for every adoptee and prospective adopted parent, in the hopes that the suffering will be understood and lessened for those following me until adoption can be eradicated and honor returned to families.
The Daughter’s Bill of Rights
Right to the TRUTH about what happened and why this child was given up for adoption Right to be part of an ever-lasting family Right to receive unconditional love by all family members
Right to know that I’m adopted Right to counseling throughout my life with a counselor who understands adoption from my adult point of view, from the adoptees viewpoint Right to my own real birth certificate Right to reject a falsified birth certificate Right to know my own real name Right to change my name and use my own real name, or name I choose
Right to use that name as my identity, fragile as it is may be, and for others to refer to me as the name I choose Right to know my birth families when its right for me Right to know which family you’re a permanent part of
Right to a forever home Right to know your family histories and to be a part of that history Right to know your ancestry, your ancestral locations, to know where you’re from, A right to choose which family and history feels most right to me, should I feel I have to or need to choose; Right to be treated equally with other children in each family or extended family Right to be treated equally by all adults of those families, to be held in esteem openly and outrightly, not quietly in secret, in shame. Right to be invited to thanksgiving and Christmas dinners where family is celebrated; Right to receive invitations to weddings of family members; Right to attend weddings of family members; Right to be in family pictures at those weddings; Right to receive birth announcements; Right to receive graduation announcements; Right to attend graduations;
Right to receive notice of deaths in family; Right to receive invitations to funerals; Right to attend family celebrations; Right to attend funerals;
Right to be seated with the family at those events Right to inheritances in every one of my families, adopted and birth families; Right to be accepted as a family member to those family members in hospitals and nursing homes; Right to interact as a normal family member would and from time to time; to ask for emotional support, maybe even financial support; Right to be informed when a family member is in the hospital; Right to visit them as a family member in the hospital; Right to be with a family member when they pass away; Right to be treated like a family member at my death; Right to be buried with my family; Right to have society know the burden that is cast carelessly on adopted children; Right to affect legislation to remove the burden from the child; Right to have my birth family redeem the past, to break the cycle and include the adoptee and their other children equally Right to be included by all
Right to be loved Right to be
For without all of these rights, society continues to degrade the child given up for adoption throughout their life with mistreatment and abandon, despite the intentions of love by the adopted family. While the birth parents ‘go on’ with their lives, and face their own demons, they often believe in forgetting the past. The child has no opportunity to forget, the issue is front and center every day. The child carries the burden their entire life, passing the pain into future generations, making that child pay dearly for the transgressions of their birth parents. I am a good daughter who was robbed, at birth, of my full potential. I was thoughtlessly tossed away like a piece of trash, unwanted. I was pre-meditatively sacrificed by at my birth by my birth family to save the reputation of my teenage mother. In doing so, I was cast into a world where my rights were forever changed. I was robbed of the opportunity that every other daughter has, to have emotional familial fulfillment, to fulfill the simplest of human needs to, in the end, be a good daughter to my parents.
Michael Grand, PhD, C.Psych
Professor Emeritus, Dept of Psychology, University of Guelph
National Director, Parent Finders Canada
For more than 30 years, the two of us have helped to facilitate a myriad of reunions and reconnections between adoptees and their birth families. During this time, we have learned many things that adoptive parents must consider when their adult child begins the journey to discover the first chapter of life that took the adoptee from one family and led to the formation of a second family. We offer these lessons in the spirit of fostering closer ties between adoptees, and their birth and adoptive families.
For most adoptees, search is experienced as an expansion of a sense of self and not as a rejection of the adoptive family.
The first rule of search and reunion is that search is rarely about dissatisfaction with the adoptive family. The need to know about oneself and one’s roots is primal. In order to have a place in the world, we need to know, first of all, who we are. And if we are ‘shadowed’ by an unknown history, by a set of truths that we know little if anything about, then we may not develop to our full potential. If the adoptive family understands the importance of search for an adoptee’s sense of self, they will not fall victim to the myth that the adoptee is substituting one family for another. In most cases, search draws adoptees closer to the family that raised them and with whom they have had many years of shared experience.
Adoptive parents should support but not direct a search.
There is always a huge temptation for adoptive parents to move from showing support to taking control of a search. Searching can be challenging and will certainly bring out the detective in members of the family, but the fact remains, this is the adoptee’s search and must follow the adoptee’s pace. Adoptive parents may assist by providing information such as the Adoption Order, the social history of the birth family, papers from the agency, and communications from social workers, lawyers and doctors involved in the placement. In addition to sharing facts, adoptive parents are encouraged to support the adoptee through the emotional highs and lows of this process. We also strongly recommend the use of search and reunion support groups whose leaders are well versed in the dynamics of this process. Their skills and experience are invaluable.
When adoptive parents withhold information from an adoptee, this is rarely a sign of love and protection. Rather, it is a sign of two things: the adoptive parents’ lack of trust that the adoptee can make adult decisions; and their own fear that reunion will lead to loss of the adoptee to the birth family. Openness, on the other hand, is the foundation of a secure and loving adoptive relationship that will endure across reunion and reconnection.
There are too many examples of adoptees who learn late in life that they were adopted. Perhaps their parents withheld the truth out of kindness, perhaps out of fear of rejection, perhaps out of fear of public scrutiny. Whatever the reason, this is a very difficult thing for an adult adoptee to discover and to come to terms with. Sometimes they find out at the death of their parents and are completely devastated, believing that their whole life has been a lie. All their medical history is incorrect, all their family history has been fabricated. They truly feel as though the rug has been pulled out from under them. Remember, in the end, openness trumps secrecy every time, no matter what the adoption story.
Speaking ill of the birth family does not discourage adoptees from searching. In fact, the more an adoptive parent disparages the character or actions of the birth parent, the more adoptees desire to make contact with birth parents.
Some adoptive parents speak of birth family in negative terms in an attempt to bring the adoptee closer to the adoptive family. However, adoptees hear a different message: “the source of your DNA is bad and thus, so are you.” If adoptive parents wish to keep their children close, respectful conversation about origins is absolutely necessary.
In search and reunion, “no” often means “not yet” or “I can’t tell you.”
The dynamics of search and reunion are very complex. Sometimes adoptees publicly reject a search for fear of hurting their parents. For some, this means searching out of view of the adoptive parents. For others, it means delaying the search, even though the adoptee has a pressing need to discover more about origins. In neither case does this serve the best interests of either the adoptee or adoptive parents. To delay search or to engage in a clandestine search denies the adoptee the opportunity to receive the emotional support from adoptive parents that will help to mediate the stress of coming to terms with one’s history. Search is a normal developmental part of the adoption. Adoptive parents abrogate their responsibilities as parents if they are not available to assist their adult adopted children in this task.
Immediately following reunion, adoptees may become emotionally over-involved with the birth family, to the exclusion of the adoptive family. They may just as quickly retreat to the adoptive family for support and reassurance. They may have major changes in mood, particularly depression or anger which may be directed to anyone in the inner rings of the constellation. In response to these possibilities, adoptive parents may play many important roles.
This is where the adoptive family can really be helpful and supportive, not by being directive or analytical, but by being comforting and present. Sometimes the adoptee just needs time to assimilate new information or deal with a birth family far different than the one they fantasized about. There may be feelings of being let down. Alternatively, they may wish to spend every waking moment with their newly found relatives. If adoptive parents recognize these responses as an attempt to normalize what is so unique, and they can be emotionally available for their children, they will do much to cement their relationship.
If adoptees desire, adoptive parents may join adoptees in reconnecting with the birth family. Successful integration of the two families requires stepping carefully through several minefields.
Adoptive and birth families may differ in social class, ethnicity and life experiences, resulting in awkwardness in reading social cues. In some cases, adoptive and birth mothers make a quick and strong connection, leaving the adoptee to the side as the two mothers pursue their relationship. In the end, successful integration of the two families requires that each family recognize that search and reunion is about the adoptee feeling connected to the two families. Cognizance of this will help lead all to find a way to live together at an agreed upon pace.
All parties to the adoption must face and respond to loss across time. For birth parents, there is loss of the child they did not get to raise. For adoptive parents, there is the loss of the child that they never had. For adoptees, there is the loss of the self they might have been if circumstances had been different. Without search and reunion, adoptees also lose a full social, medical and genetic history that links them to their origins.
All participants in an adoption must face issues of loss that are accompanied by disenfranchised grief, the grief that is neither socially recognized nor whose amelioration is socially supported. For reunion and reconnection to work, there must be mutual recognition of such losses and support for each other while grieving. At this pivotal point of transition in the two families, competition over who has experienced the greatest loss will not serve anyone well. However, expressions of empathy will go a long way to achieving improved relationships.
A vast majority of adoptees, adoptive parents and birth parents, rate search and reconnection as successful.
One of the most common questions asked of search and reunion specialists is “How many reunions are successful?” And the answer is “All of them”. That is, they are all successful because the initial effort was to find and know the missing family of origin. Whether the reunion develops into a reconnection that is marked by positive relationships is another matter and depends on many things: the willingness of the participants to work at it; their patience; and their willingness to accept difference and change. How could an adoptive parent, with the best interests of their child at heart, not wish for such potential riches?
This conference took place on Friday, November 14-15, 2020. Celia Center sponsored this conference and 250 people attended virtually.
The National Adoption Conference is a groundbreaking two days of education, training, networking and invaluable resources for all members of the adoption and foster care ‘constellation’. Taking full advantage of an entirely ‘virtual’ conference, we will bring you face to face with some of the Nation’s leading experts and visionaries in the field as well as live music, entertainment, coffee talk, Q&A’s, diverse exhibitors and even an art gallery to explore.
Web access available for all sessions, films, and music for 6 months AFTER the conference through May 13, 2021. PURCHASE ACCESS HERE
This event is for First Birth Mothers and Fathers, Adoptees, Foster Youth Alumni, Foster Parents, Adoptive Parents, Siblings, and Extended Family Members, Social Workers, Psychotherapists, Teachers, and Doctors.
To provide insight, education and resources for people involved in any aspect of the adoption | foster care constellation so that they may find trustworthy and immediate mental, physical or emotional assistance.
To begin an on-going and transparent conversation around how this Nation approaches, administers and discusses issues regarding foster care and adoption.
To challenge the old and largely inaccurate negative stigmas surrounding foster care and adoption and create a new shared language that champions openness, challenges labels and prejudice and creates an atmosphere of love and normalcy around non-traditional families.
Carole J. Anderson, died March 31, 2003, after an extended illness of cancer. After graduating from college, Carole received a master’s degree in social work and then went on to attend law school. She later served as clerk for a Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court. Carole was a leader in the field of adoption reform, serving as National President of Concerned United Birthparents for many years.
May she rest in peace, knowing we are still listening and feeling her heart-sent message.
Why did your birth mother refuse to meet you? Carole explains….
There are probably as many answers as there are birth mothers. From some of my own feelings and those of other birth mothers, though, I do have a few possible themes to suggest. Maybe some of the possibilities are behind your birth mother’s refusal to meet you….
Your birth mother lost a great deal when she surrendered you.
She lost the chance to give you all of the love she felt for you, that all mothers feel.
She lost the opportunity to share in the important and the humdrum events of your life.
She lost all the joys and problems of raising you, of guiding you from infancy to adulthood.
She may feel guilty that she was not there.
She may feel cheated because she was not allowed to be there.
Either way, loss is both painful and unnatural.
In addition to the pain of the losses themselves, there is the additional pain of feeling different from other people, outcast from society. Often there is the pain of feeling that the loss was unnecessary and that the separation need not have occurred “if only…”
…..If only her parents had helped her. …..If only the social worker had told her what adoption would really be like for you and for her. …..If only society had supported single parenthood at the time you were born. …..If only she had not believed she was unworthy of you. If only she had had the money to support you. …..If only she had somehow found a way to keep you. …..If only she had believed in her own feelings instead of what others told her would be best for you.
The list of “if onlies” is endless.
Knowing you could make her losses more real to her, and thus more painful.
She may have worked very hard at denying her feelings, at convincing herself that your adoption was necessary, at telling herself that giving birth does not make a woman a mother, at pretending that she was not a mother and so did not lose anything.
She may have denied to herself that it ever happened.
If she has succeeded at numbing herself to the pain by clinging to such beliefs, knowing you would remove the blinders from her eyes, exposing her to the full impact of all the years of loss and pain.
She may have coped with losing you through fantasizing about what might have been.
She may see you over and over in her mind just as you were when she last saw you, see herself raising you, see what you would be like at different ages.
If your birth mother has other children, she may be terrified of losing them, too, if she had not told them about you.
Many birth mothers were rejected by their children’s birth fathers and by their own parents during their pregnancies. If the people she loved and trusted and whom she though would always love and help abandoned her when she most needed them, she may be unable to trust anyone now.
She may regard all relationships as fragile, and fear that she will be abandoned again if she disappoints the people who are now important to her. Having already suffered the pain of losing one child, the fear of losing her other children and suffering that same pain again may overwhelm her. She may also fear losing you a second time around, if you want to see her only once.
Many birth mothers have internalized others’ rejection of them and believe they are unlovable. Not loving or respecting herself, she cannot believe that others could care about her if they really knew her.
Suspecting that adoptees who search will ask about their fathers after they have satisfied their curiosity about their mothers, her rejection may be tied to her feelings about your birth father. If she loved him, accepting you could mean reopening the deep wounds she suffered in being rejected by him. IF she did not love him, she may dread having to admit that fact to you.
She may not want to explain her relationship with your birth father or her feelings about it, and fear that you will reject her if she does not answer your questions about him. She may fear that you would prefer him to her and she could not bear to lose you to the very person whose abandonment made your surrender unavoidable. She may believe that your birth father is a terrible person and feel shame at having had a relation with him, fear that you hat her if you knew him. She may fear that you would be upset! or would think less of her or of yourself if you knew him.
Mothers want their children to be happy, but they also want to feel needed and important to their children. They want to be the ones who make their children happy. Generally, a mother’s needs and her child’s compliment each other, so that both are satisfied by her raising her child, with each needing and receiving the other’s love. The special situation of adoption, though, assures that the birth mother cannot win.
…..If she believes your adoption was the best for you, she may feel worthless or useless as a mother because you did not need her.
…..If your adoption was not the best, she may feel guilty that she did not protect you from whatever happened and she may therefore feel she failed as a mother and as a woman.
Your birth mother’s image of herself as a mother, a woman, and a human being may be at stake. If she has internalized society’s judgments that “nice girls don’t” or that only an “unnatural woman” could surrender her child or that “any animal can give birth but that doesn’t make her a mother”, it will be difficult for her to acknowledge to herself that it is she who is that bad girl, the unnatural woman, or only an animal in society’s eyes.
Subconsciously, some mothers feel that their babies abandoned them….
….Mothers were often repeatedly told that their babies needed or wanted more than they could give them, and that surrender was necessary for the child.
…..Many mothers were told that to keep their children would be selfish, that they had no right to satisfy their need to love and nurture by raising their children, because the children deserve and need more.
Other people spoke for you, telling your birth mother you wanted more than she could give. To your birth mother, this may have been experienced deep within as a rejection by you, as her baby’s deserting her for other people. Even though she knows on an intellectual level that this feeling is not rational and she may feel guilty for it, on an emotional level what she feels may be that, although she needed and wanted her child, her child was not there for her.
Closely related are the problems of competition and sacrifice.
Just as she may have felt that she was in competition with unknown couples for the right to raise you, a contest in which she was the loser, she was also placed in the position of being in competition with you. She may have been told that it was her life or yours, her needs or yours. Because you were not aided as a family but instead treated as individuals whose needs were in conflict, she may have felt that she was choosing between her own happiness and yours.
If she wanted to raise you but believed that your surrender was necessary for you happiness, she may feel that she has sacrificed her life for yours, her happiness for yours. All people want happiness, everyone wants her own needs to be met, and there is usually anger toward injustice. She, however, cannot allow herself to feel or express her anger and resentment, because it was your birth mother herself who decided that you were more important and mattered more than she did, she herself who chose your needs above her own.
If that choice was made by others such as her parents or by her situation instead of by your birth mother, there may be even more anger. There can be tremendous guilt involved for feeling anger, because we have been taught that parents gladly sacrifice for their children. Her anger may therefore be threatening to her, for what kind of person can she be that she could feel anger toward her child?
Yet other parents, other people, do not make sacrifices of this magnitude. What society usually calls parental sacrifice is really more like an investment or a trade-off of some current comfort in exchange for other regards. To give up a full night’s sleep in order to tend a sick child carries with it the benefits of holding and comforting that child, feeling necessary to the child, receiving the child’s love and gaining society’s approval. What most parents think of as sacrifices are small and temporary inconveniences for which they receive personal satisfaction, the child’s loyalty and affection and societal sanctions. The sacrifice of a birth mother’s life for her child’s in unique.
Rather than compensations, the sacrifice is generally answered with guilt, pain and emptiness. Society’s reaction is most often condemnation rather than approval. The birth mother’s sacrifice is unnatural, unrecognized and unrewarded.
Some birth mothers felt less than human during the pregnancy and surrender experience, and may have felt they were regarded as subhuman by society. Just as infants have a need to be nurtured, so every mother has a need to give nurture to her child. You were placed with people who could meet your infant need for nurture, but your birth mother was given no substitute for you. Her need to nurture was not met.
Understandably, many adoptees explain that their adoptive parents are their only real parents and they love them dearly, but that they searched to gain information about themselves. Newspapers are full of articles about adoptees saying that they are not looking for a mother, but for themselves or their own identity.
Your birth mother may feel she is again being reduced to a data bank. Just as she once surrendered you to others while her own needs went unmet, she may feel she is now being asked for information but that again her feelings and needs will be ignored.
She may feel she has given everything without receiving anything in return, and will be reluctant to give still more if she fears that you too, will take what you want from her and then abandon her with no thought for her needs.
Even if she is able to struggle through the many pains and losses that have already occurred, your birth mother may fear that there are more to come if she accepts you now. It may hurt her terribly that she could not mother you.
Opening her heart to you would make your birth mother vulnerable to a later rejection by you.
If she welcomed you as the beloved daughter or son she lost, how would she feel at being only a friend or acquaintance to you?
To what extent would you accept her? Would she be asked to your graduation or wedding?
Would you want to spend Christmas or Passover with her?
Would you regard her as the grandmother of your children, including her in events in their lives?
Or would you want to see her on rare and secret occasions, carefully hiding the relationship from others?
She may feel that not only have adoptive parents taken her place in your life as a child and in raising you, but that by accepting you now she would lose you again, this time by inches, by being relegated to a lowly and insignificant place in your life, if she were included at all….
As an adult, you are unlikely to want your birth mother to be the mother she may, on some level, still want to be.
Your image of motherhood will always be that of your adoptive mother, not your birth mother. You cannot relate to your birth mother in the same way you would have if she had raised you, nor can she relate to you in the same way. Neither of you are the people you would be if she had raised you. Although the similarities you are likely to share would make her keenly aware that you are her child, the differences resulting from your growing up in your adoptive home would make her painfully aware of the distance between you as well.
Because meeting you requires facing all her feelings about your surrender and loss, it may also challenge your birth mother’s beliefs about the value and meaning of life, the importance of family ties, religion and other basic concepts on which she has built her life. Many people want to believe that the world is fair, that everything comes out even, that people get what they deserve out of life. Adoption issues do not fit into such tidy categories.
.…If the world is fair, what has she done that is so terrible she deserve such pain? ….If life is equal why did other people who expressed their sexuality before marriage pay not price for it? …..If this is justice why did her subsequent children have to grow up in an incomplete family, without their brother or sister. …..IF families are of primary importance and should be kept together why was her family separated?
How could her church have told her God wanted her child to be adopted or that God created her child for other parents? How could a loving God want this pain for her?
….If she allows herself to acknowledge her experience, how can she reconcile it with what she believes about life? ….If the foundations on which she has build her life do not match her experience, it will be difficult for her to face her feelings and risk losing those foundations.
Facing you may mean reconstructing! her entire view of life, rethinking all of her values. The issues a birth mother must face before she can accept her adult child are not simple ones, nor are they obvious to her.
Often there are conflicts between what she thinks and what she feels or between her feelings and those of the people around her. Few birth mothers were told to expect these problems or prepared to deal with them. Since little or no hope of a future reunion was offered to surrendering mothers, there was little motivation for attempting to deal with them. Many were told that they would be abnormal if they did not forget about their children, that they should go on with their lives as if they had never had their children.
Most birth mothers, despite the enormity of these issues, do face most of them in the years following surrender. Most people cannot sustain the fantasy that their loss was a nightmare and not a reality. Most people find the strength to face the truth of their own lives, but growth can be a slow and painful process with uneven progress characterized by temporary regression back to suppressed feelings.
To some people, it might seem pointless to attempt reunions when so much pain, conflict and confusion seem to be involved. Reunion, though, does not cause these difficulties. Their source is the birth mother’s unnatural separation from her child. The feelings already exist, and leaving them buried beneath denials and fantasies cannot resolve or eliminate them. However painful the separation experience may be, it is her experience, her life. Attempting to suppress the most profound experience of her life separates the birth mother from herself as well as from her child and is not healthy for anyone. It requires that much emotional energy be spent on denying or numbing feelings, limiting emotional growth in all areas.
Your birth mother’s fear and dread are evidence of the intensity of her feelings for you. If she had no feeling for you, you would be no more frightening to her than a store clerk or a stranger asking for directions.
What she feels may be an overwhelmingly intense but undifferentiated fear and she herself may not understand the reasons for it. Her reasons are her deepest emotions, hidden under so may layers of intellect, rationalization and denial that she is unaware of them. She may try to give sensible reasons why she cannot see, understand or articulate the real reasons without much self analysis.
.….You are offering the opportunity for your birth mother to grow by facing herself and becoming reconciled with her feelings about herself.
…..You are offering the gift of knowing the person her surrendered child has become. These are enormous gifts and you should be proud for offering them to her.
In order to accept them, though, your birth mother must climb a painfully steep and rocky path through her many feelings about your surrender before she can move forward to reconciliation. Her ability to walk a part of that path or all of it is not a reflection on you or on your worth or on your importance to her but on how well she herself can deal with the fears and pains that your loss and society’s attitudes about the surrender have caused her.
….With time and support your birth mother may grow to accept the gifts you offer.
by Carole Anderson
Copyright 1982 by Concerned United Birthparents, Inc.