Adoption and Truth — Adoptees #flipthescript for National Adoption Month

Nov 9, 2014 by

You and Your Adopted Child

I was born and placed for adoption in 1962. Right in the midst of what is known as the Baby Scoop Era. More babies per year were placed for adoption during that era (Post WWII through Roe v. Wade) than during any other time in history.


The sheer numbers of adoptees means that there are millions of adoptee voices that should be listened to now, in the twenty first century. We want to make sure the realities of adoption are understood when setting policy, by those who work in the adoption industry, by those considering placing a child for adoption, and by those considering adopting a child.


I am not anti-adoption. I believe that there will always be a need for adoption, in some circumstances. Not as a first choice. And not without a clear understanding of the current and future implications to all involved. And not promoted by agencies who exist only to profit from adoption.


When adoption is necessary, it should be based on truth. I don’t know of a single adoptee who would prefer a nice clean story to the truth. Even if that truth isn’t pretty.


As a young child, I thought I WAS being told the truth. My mother couldn’t raise me and she loved me enough to give me up for adoption so I could have a good life. And my adoptive parents chose me. And, as I got older and asked questions, I was told my records were sealed and that there was no way to find out anything about my birth family.


Simple enough in theory, but… Not. The. Truth.


The older I got, the more questions I had. But I, along with most other adoptees from this era, did not feel comfortable asking those questions.


Now, in my fifties, I have enough answers to be able to know the truth.


Here’s what I know today to be true:


My birthmother was in her twenties when I was born; an adult. She wanted children and was perfectly capable of raising children.   She did, in fact, raise three children. My siblings are functioning, productive members of society.   She was also single when I was born. For that reason alone she was deemed incapable of raising a child by society or by her parents.


The chosen baby story that my parents told was also not the truth. Yes, my parents chose to adopt a baby. But they did not start the process to adopt so they could choose me.   I could have been a boy or a girl, up to a year old, and they would have been happy to get that phone call that a baby was available to them.


The common thought in the early 1960s was that adoption would not have a lifelong impact on either set of parents or on the child. My birthmother was supposed to forget and move on with her life. My adoptive parents were to raise me as their own. And I wasn’t supposed to care.


Well, in fact, I did care. The social workers and the experts were wrong. And, at nineteen I found out that my records were NOT sealed away in a musty locked vault.


I want to emphasize that my parents did not know this was possible. I’m fairly certain that the adoption agency and probably the lawyers involved told them the records were sealed and they just never questioned what they had been told. My Ohio adoption was finalized less than a month before original birth certificates of adoptees were indeed sealed.  All I had to do was request my file. Which is the way it SHOULD be. (The records that were sealed in 1964 will be available to Ohio adoptees born between 1964 and 1996 beginning March 19, 2015)


In thirty-plus years since I first saw my original birth certificate I have learned a number of truths:


Both my adoptive parents and my birth parents are successful and functioning members of society.


Both sets of parents are of German and English heritage.


Both sets of parents were Lutheran.


Similar, yet different. My adoptive family was not better than my birth family, nor were they worse. Just different. In the end, my adoptive parents were deemed fit to raise me because they were married and my birth mother was not.


The truth was hidden from all parties to my adoption.


What if my birthparents had been told that their child would indeed by raised by good people. But that she would have questions about them?     That adoption was an option, but not an option without impact on all involved? That their child might like to meet them one day?


What if my birthmother had been told that she would never forget giving birth to her first child; that she would always wonder about her welfare and happiness. What if she had been told that meeting each other was an option when her child was an adult?


What if my adoptive parents had been told that their child would love them dearly, but that she would have questions about where she came from?   What if they had known that, even as an infant, she would mourn the loss of her mother? That she would wonder what her parents were like? That she would wonder if they ever thought about her? And that she would wonder whom she looked like? What if they had been given a complete health history that was updated regularly, through the adoption agency?


What if I had grown up with accurate, age-appropriate information about my birth story? Including the name I had been given at birth and photographs of birth family members? What if I had grown up with the knowledge that my beginnings were not a secret; that the information was available to me when I became an adult. What if I had grown up with the knowledge that, if I wished, I could meet my birthmother when I became an adult?


I don’t know the full answers to all of those questions. But I do know that my birth families, my adoptive family and I would have all benefited from knowing the truth about adoption.


I acknowledge adoption has changed since the 1960s. Not enough has changed. And in some ways it has become worse. The changes should be drastic. More drastic than the what-if scenarios I played out in the preceding paragraphs.


Change in adoption practice is necessary.   This is the reason adoptee voices are important to add to the conversations taking place during National Adoption Month. The voices of those who have been living adoption need to be heard. Adoptee voices are joining to #flipthescript this November because our experiences can and should influence change.


  1. Well said. As a “birth” mother and an adoptive mother both, I agree with everything you say here.

    • Becky

      Thanks for reading, Pamela. I appreciate your perspective from two different views of adoption.

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