Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Secrets - No Place in a Family and Especially in Adoption

I know what it feels like to be growing up in a place where secrets abound. I also know what it feels like when lies, even little white lies, are used as cover-ups. I grew up as an only child. My adoptive parents didn't want to tell me I was adopted, and probably wouldn't have if not for our teenage neighbor's prank. I won't tell you what the prank was, for that you'll have to read my book when it is published in the future, only that the way I found out was unusual and I was four years old at the time. That is when my adoptive mother opened up a bit and consented that I was adopted and swore me to secrecy about it.

Years later I discovered that it was mostly a secret for me, other neighbors, family members and family friends all knew the truth. I also knew that I was led to believe that their first child before me, who died from Leukemia, before I was even born was theirs and became ill with cancer due to their being first cousins. This is not so. He too was adopted and I'm pretty sure that had he not taken ill, he too would not have been told.

For years I lived in a secret world without knowing it. My medical records were based on what I knew, and what I knew was based on my adoptive family. I now know that this can lead to serious consequences. Back then, I was a child and didn't know this.

So my point with writing this post is a call to adoptive parents everywhere - there is no place for secrets. Even the youngest child has the capacity to understand if you tell him or her at his level of understanding. When children question about where they came from, tell them they were adopted. It may end there, or it may be followed with a request for clarification. Please don't tell them that they smiled at you so you chose them. Most babies smile at people, it is a natural instinct. Tell them the truth, whatever that may be.

It took me 37 years to learn where I came from and to start being able to put the pieces together. It doesn't have to be that way. I couldn't have asked for better parents either way so why cause further issues by resorting to secrets?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Have you heard? U.S. to join the Hague Adoption Convention

November is turning out to be a month of positive steps in the right direction on the Adoption arena. Breaking news this morning from the Department of State announced that it will deposit the instrument of ratification on Dec. 12th and an official announcement of the Convention going into effect in the U.S. will take place April 1st.

What this means for children awaiting adoption around the world is protection against corrupt practices such as abduction, sale of or traffic of these children. It also means that the adoption triad members will be assured of accountability and ethical practices by those involved in the adoption practice.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Adoptees Have Their Day! The Evan B Donaldson Adoption Institute release its white paper report this week.

The Evan B Donaldson Adoption Institute calls on all states to open up adoption records to adoptees.

November is National Adoption Awareness month. The non-profit research organization couldn't pick a better time to release a thirty-one page white paper based on an extensive study, calling for opening up access for all adoptees, in all states, to their records and original birth certificates.

As an adoptee who has searched and successfully reunited I know how much this would mean. Yet even if New York opened its adoption records I could only get the documents. My birth certificate was and will always remain a faked original. In the early 1950s several New York hospitals practiced what I'll call "under-the-table" adoptions. They would admit the birthmothers under the adoptive mother's name and complete the original birth certificates accordingly. One such hospital was Beth-El, then in Brooklyn, now nonexistent, where I was born.

Access to adoption records would restore the basic civil right to adoptees, that of knowing one's heritage, who we are and where we came from. It would give us back our roots. Accessing ones records doesn't necessarily mean reunion or barging in on a birthmother's current life. Besides when I searched I did a lot of reading. I knew that I might not find what I was looking for. Or that I might not find anyone alive or if alive the possibility that the other side wouldn't want to reconnect. I consider myself lucky. I was found and met my birthmother and maternal grandmother who died a few months later. My birthfather had passed away twelve years earlier, but I met a half-sister and have corresponded with three half-brothers and my birthfather's second wife.

I now know my paternal roots back eleven generations, of which eight or nine are quite filled out. Though this isn't so for many it is possible for some to follow up with some genealogical research and make interesting discoveries.

Besides, even the U.S. Surgeon's office's Family History Initiative claims knowledge of biological medical history to be especially worthy in "prevention, early diagnosis and treatment" in conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and mental health issues. I have heart disease. My paternal grandfather died from it. I'm a cancer survivor as is my birthmother. Both sides of the spectrum suffered from various kinds of cancer. My birthfather died from esophageal cancer. My adoptive parents kept my adoption so secretive that even my medical records contained misleading information based on their medical history. This is definitely unacceptable and could be very dangerous. I have since updated my records with the true facts as I now know them.

I can only see this paper's release as a great step in the right direction. I can only hope that change is coming, and coming soon. I wish all my fellow adoptees the civil right of knowing one's heritage and roots.

I'd like to hear your feedback so please leave me a comment.
Till next time,