I read an article published by an Adoption Agency in 2019. Trying to find the words to describe what I think an adoption should be, if an adoption must happen. Note the text in quotes below are taken directly from the article.
The article was about Adoptees using DNA testing to find out who they are and where they came from. And how the agency believes it is wrong for adoptees to do DNA testing because what if the birth mother wanted privacy; what if she’d chosen a closed adoption. It talked about how agencies promised birth mother’s no one would ever know; and that she (the Birth Mother) and the agency had a binding agreement. An agency who still appears to do closed adoptions, but I would hope they at least now tell their client that they can’t promise anonymity, because that would be the right thing to do seeing as that’s the truth, and has always been the truth.
I was shocked when I read that article. It sat heavy on my heart, it also upset me, still upsets me.
I thought that adoption agencies today included education on adoption and on the challenges being adopted could present to the one adopted. I mean, wouldn’t that make sense to educate both expectant mothers and fathers and hopeful adoptive parents on the challenges the child will have to face and overcome because they are adopted? Don’t they offer counselling and adoption education to the expectant mother? And not only educate about adoptees, but also, the challenges both the hopeful and expectant parents will have to face and overcome to create that haven for the one adopted.
Doesn’t the agency teach both the expectant and adoptive parents that openness has been proven to be beneficial to not just the adoptee, but to all? And when I speak of openness, I don’t mean a one-way letter sent yearly via the agency, I mean true open-hearted openness where the adoptee benefits and can just speak openly about their feelings, and also build the foundation of a life-long relationship with their family by birth. And yes, I know that can’t always happen, and I’d also guess many go through the motions rather than embrace the opportunity to create a relationship history that can continue on when the adoptee becomes an adult and takes the reins. That should be the goal every time a child needs to be adopted.
That, by today, an expectant mother would never imagine wanting a closed adoption, or hopeful adoptive parents for that matter. One where they learn or have already learned how harmful closed adoption can be to the one adopted. One where they learn that in today’s world, there is no such thing as a truly closed adoption, that there can be ways to move forward in the best interests of the child, even if it is baby steps to start with.
But that article didn’t take that tone because it was meant to school adoptees.
It goes on to talk about how if an adoptee does want to search, they should hire them to search and make contact because the adoptee may not get the result they want doing a “forced reunion“, they also allude to the fact that if the Birth Mother says no, the one adopted is just out of luck and needs to move on, but maybe the Birth Mother will change her mind one day and can contact the agency, which means the one adopted, even as an adult, still has no autonomy or agency.
“Is the Curiosity Worth the Heartbreak”
But it’s wasn’t just the hire them to do the search that upset me, it was also the terms they used; an adoptee searching was “hunting down”, and then further on, to make the need to search not a big deal by using “Is the Curiosity Worth the Heartbreak” to drive home their points, maybe hoping adoptees will feel shame for wanting to know where they came from? And no, adoptees should never feel shame for wanting to know where they came from, what their story is, their beginnings, their family, who their ancestors were, right down to who they look like, who they inherited a trait from. It is not shameful to know your truth, need your truth, regardless if it is good or bad. Neither are adoptees naïve enough to assume they will be greeted with open arms, they can hope, but they don’t expect it.
It’s time to move into both/and and embrace honesty and openness in the best interest of the child.
I’m sorry that any agency would still promise complete confidentiality, when it shouldn’t have promised it to begin with, not even back in the BSE. An agency has no ability to ensure no one finds out about a secret pregnancy and adoption. Many reunions happened long before DNA testing became available. Mine was a closed confidential adoption during the BSE, yet I’ve known my surname by birth since I was little, plus a bit more info and am sure with that a PI would have found my family.
The start of DNA testing is not when reunions started happening, it has accelerated reunions, just like the internet accelerated reunions when it too became a tool in a search, Private Investigators were, and still are tools used as well as Search Angels.
“Hunting down one’s biological family“
Final thoughts: Adoption workers and agencies don’t get to decide what is the best path for any adult adoptee to take when seeking knowledge of their family by birth. You just don’t have that right; that’s up to the one adopted, we aren’t merely a product to be told what’s to do, what we can’t do, we are human beings, despite being adopted. And really, using “hunting down one’s biological family”? That line in the article is why I’ve written this post, it has no place in adoption.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to choose going through an agency and pay $400* for a decades old report with social worker notes on what happened when I was born, a report I couldn’t see, one that would be pretty much useless decades later; and then $900* to another stranger to search and try to make contact (* denotes what another agency charges). Instead, mom and dad had my back, mom petitioned the court for me and my records were unsealed for cause. Now, I could simply have ordered my original birth certificate because the laws in my state changed, as laws often do, another reason why Closed Adoptions must stop happening.
The Adoption world would be well-served if it simply refused total secrecy, a secrecy that wasn’t part of adoption until well into the last century. Let’s all work to promote openness when an adoption must happen in the best interests of the one being adopted.