Adoption history and the lasting impact of not doing it right…

10 May


I know – two posts in one day.  I over-did it yesterday and have done my best not to go lay-down and sleep because that will mess up my sleep tonight.  This morning I followed a link from twitter and ended up reading the first link.  I don’t know who provided the link, but reading it made me incredibly sad – not just the lies, but the mis-information that made it so much harder for Michael.  It’s from 1999 and long to be published in the NY Times – about the era when I was adopted.

What the Jumans Didn’t Know About Michael

There are a baseball and a bat etched onto Michael Juman’s headstone. ”Cherished son and brother,” the epitaph reads, ”Jan. 5, 1965 to Mar. 11, 1994.” Michael’s father, Martin Juman, braces against a brisk wind as he walks through the Wellwood Cemetery on Long Island to visit his son. ”He’s waiting for answers,” Martin says, looking at the grave. ”We promised him we’d find them.”


Michael’s search, however, did not lead him to the woman herself, but rather to the stark realization that little he had been told about her was completely true. His birth mother was a lobotomized schizophrenic. His birth father was also a mental patient, whom she had met during one of her many years within a state institution. Agency workers knew this when they placed Michael with the Jumans, and they also knew it when his psychiatrist called years later and asked for his medical history, but they never shared that information.

You need to read the entire story, and they weren’t the only family, the way the agency handled this was wrong.

Switching topics but the same agency – separating twins to study nature vs nurture – never telling the parents, or the children, what the real study was about, or that the children had identical siblings.  Perhaps the most famous twins from the study are Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein who wrote Identical Strangers.  NPR interview and article on it including a bit about Neubauer who did the study.

Identical Strangers’ Explore Nature Vs. Nurture

Neubauer has rarely spoken about the study. But in the mid-1990s, he did talk about it with Wright, the author of Twins.

“[Neubauer] insisted that at the time, it was a matter of scientific consensus that twins were better off separated at birth and raised separately,” Wright says. “I never found anything in the literature to support that.”

The author also says Neubauer was “unapologetic” about the study, even though he admits that the project raised ethical question about whether one has a right to or should separate identical twins.

Today, I also found the story of identical triplets adopted through Louise Wise Services that were part of the same study written back in 1997.  I find it so unbelievable that anyone would even consider separating twins, or triplets, to study.  New York took action in 1981, and made it hard to separate siblings but I know it still does happen in other states but I hope no one does it unless there is no other option.

The story ends with this quote from Neubauer…

Secret Times 3

Today, nearly 40 years after the study began, Neubauer would discuss it only generally.

“the study begThe whole field is interested in this,” Neubauer said in a recent telephone interview. “We studied the children from infancy forward.”

Explaining why he has not published much of the research, Neubauer said he is concerned that some of the children involved in the study would react negatively to publication of the information.

“I’m not going to be a participant in your sniffing around and in things I want to protect,” said Neubauer, who directed the Child Development Center of the Jewish Board of Guardians, which operated social welfare agencies, when an.

“We want to protect our data, and we want to protect the people we have studied.”

The results of that study have been locked away until 2066, apparently at Yale University according to the NPR article…they did that because they figured public perception of the study wouldn’t be favorable – I certainly would hope people wouldn’t view it in a favorable light.

Louise Wise Services closed it’s doors in 2004 and Spence-Chapin has taken on the responsibility of maintaining the adoption records, and providing non-id to adoptees who ask for it – including medical information.

Home Found For Louise Wise Records 

The decision between the defunct Louise Wise Services and Spence-Chapin means that thousands of people whose lives were affected by adoptions will continue to have limited access to birth records and other material that might aid them with reunion efforts or health crises.

I wish I could say that things like this only happened during my era but I can’t.  Every era has its dark side, things we may find out now, others that will come to light in the future.  Adoption has to be done right and I can’t stress that enough.  Until then – like I said in my last post – I have a hard time trusting when it comes to adoption.


Posted by on May 10, 2013 in Adoption, adoptive parents, Ethics


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 responses to “Adoption history and the lasting impact of not doing it right…

  1. eagoodlife

    May 10, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    Shocking and painful to read and think about as always with twin separation.


  2. cb

    May 11, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Its hard to believe they separated twins like that – hey, we’re just blank slates what does it matter (sgh).

    As for the other story, the lies were appalling. At the same time, I felt discomfort reading it because what Michael’s mother said was true, he probably wouldn’t have been adopted at all back then if his family history had been known. The irony is that it was babies born in that situation that were the ones that truly needed new homes, not so much the healthy girls’ babies, but of course, everyone wanted babies from healthy mothers. Regardless of what happened eariler, when the APs needed more info, they should have been given it there and then. The continued lying was appalling.


    • TAO

      May 11, 2013 at 11:12 pm

      You’re right – they probably wouldn’t have adopted him but how many decades did they need to lie to them – that wasn’t helping at all and it probably would have benefitted him and his doctors.

      As to separating twins and triplets – what a horrible thing to do. Just unbelieveable.



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