Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A discourse on the role of adoptive parents in search and reunion, by Ungrateful Little Bastard.

A while back, a prospective adoptive parent had left a comment asking me:

As a potential adopter, I was wondering what the appropriate course of action for adoptive parents is, in your eyes... I just started reading a lot of blogs, so pardon me if this has been asked before. Basically, should the adoptive parents help the child find their birth parents, does it depend on the child/situation?

Unfortunately for them they left it right at the time when I had found my mom, so I wasn’t able to coherently answer it then.

Not that I’m any more coherent now, mind you.

But I thought I’d give it a try, and open the floor to the ideas of others too. So, without further adieu, I present to you the following:

The lying, untrue, not worth the price of the paper it’s printed on falsified birth certificate

Can it. Seriously. Someone who knows more about the current adoption process clue me in here, but why oh why oh why does it have to be generated in the first place? If it’s a crime to falsify a birth certificate, how come it’s OK in adoption?

I’m so serious here. If the purpose of a birth certificate is to record a birth, why doesn’t it contain the names of the two people responsible? Am I alone here in thinking this is nucking futs? If someone gets divorced, is their original marriage certificate locked away never to be seen again except by court order? What the fuck? So if you adopt someone, and have to prove that you are the parents, what’s wrong with both the birth certificate and a copy of the adoption decree?

No matter how long I live, I’ll never understand the falsified birth certificate.

But I so know that ain’t gonna happen. So, then what I’d say next is

Guard the names of the natural parents and any related documentation as if they were priceless.

Because they are. If you’re not in an open adoption, make sure you never, ever, EVER lose any of that paperwork. Adoption records have the tendency towards natural disasters, so makes copies of those suckers. Keep them in a safe deposit box, a fire proof safe, scan them and store copies of them in a zillion places, but whatever you do, keep that information. Unless you’ve had to fight, beg, borrow or steal to get your identity, you’ll never know how important that is.

Allow for freak out

I don’t know what percentage of adoptees are about to reach the age of adulthood here and are in closed domestic adoptions, but closed domestic adoption is the only thing I know. So it’s my only basis for reference. But I’d say if you’ve got a child approaching 18 and wanting to search, let them know that they are going to go a wee bit insane, and they’d be insane not to. If they haven’t read Primal Wound already, make sure they do so. And have a ton of really good reunion books and websites ready to direct them to. I’d say just remind them that they suffered a horrific trauma and that search is going to bring all these terrors to the surface.

And that’s just the start. So allow for a certain amount of freak out.

Back off

Search is The Hero’s Journey, and like most mythic endeavors has to be taken alone. Be there to offer support, because they’re going to need it, but this is their path and they’ve got to walk it at their own pace. Don’t push them to search if they take the necessary breaks, don’t urge them to slow down if you think they’re moving too fast.

At first reunion, back off again

NO ADOPTIVE PARENT SHOULD EVER BE PRESENT AT FIRST MEETING BETWEEN MOTHER AND CHILD.

PERIOD.


There's more I can think of, but I may just be repeating myself at this point. So, whadda think? Any other suggestions you can offer?


14 complaints from ingrates:

suz June 20, 2007 at 9:44 AM  

Fantastic advice from you, as always. Love it.

suz June 20, 2007 at 10:16 AM  

NO ADOPTIVE PARENT SHOULD EVER BE PRESENT AT FIRST MEETING BETWEEN MOTHER AND CHILD
And technically, its the second meeting. I realize adoptees dont remember their times with their mothers, but many moms, if not all, deeply remember their precious hours with their children.
That being said, your comment makes me think about Adopters being present in the delivery room and during all the time before a mother surrenders. I believe your statements shoudl also hold true to the true first meeting.

Erin June 20, 2007 at 10:39 AM  

Adoptive parents should do everything in their power to find their childs parents. They should spend as much money as they need to, harass their agency, buy airline tickets, whatever has to be done and as early in their childs life as possible. If parents who are adopting TODAY are only interested in closed adoption they should be thrown into a mental insititution because it isn't fair and isn't the best option for ANY child involved.

I CANNOT parent my daughter without her other mother! I won't do it, and I am not willing to inflict that type of extra pain on her when there is a better option.

abebech June 20, 2007 at 10:59 AM  

For paparents and aparents of small children I agree with Erin that it is the aparents' responsibility to make sure that a search is not necessary. We are using postadoption services and planning a return trip to ET because there should never be a time when she has to search. She should always just know as much as is humanly possible to know, and she shouldn't have to wait until she's an adult for the contact that she should never be denied.
I'm sure the answer is much different for aparents whose children are on the verge of adulthood. Then I might see my role as supporter rather than initiator.

Erika June 20, 2007 at 10:59 AM  

i guess the obvious - dont make the adoptee searching feel guilty or a *ungrateful little bastard*

this is about finding their identity and getting answers. not about the adopters!!

Erin June 20, 2007 at 11:00 AM  

BTW I do think that the vast majority of time staying with natural parents IS a better option, no matter what we can "offer" a child. I don't want people jumping on me because I didn't clarify that.

3rd generation adoption June 20, 2007 at 11:11 AM  

My oh my are we all a little testy here!

I speak on two fronts - open adoption reunion and closed adoption reunion - My father reunited before heading off to war in 1941 with his birth family. It was from the "hush" era when no one talked or fessed up to adoption. Abortions weren't an option for nearly all and we all know they weren't legal. He did it for himself and he sought them out on his own. He had no adoptive parents to get in the way because one was dead and the other threw him out at 12 to fend for himself (1934). But the reason for this is that when my time came, he didn't get in my way. He didn't force me, he simply told me I could do what I thought best.

My search was all my own because I had moved out at 17 and been on my own for 4 years prior to starting my search. My adopted mother and I were more or less estranged so I didn't bother to ask her for anything. She had been tainted by the "chosen" doctrine of the early 60's and did her best to condemn my biological family at every chance she got. I learned years later that her motives for adoption and her makeup was that of insecurity, so is anyone surprised? She had no interest and yes, she was offended but there wasn't a damn thing she was going to do about me finding my roots.

Adoptive parents - Get out of the way. You've raised your loved one(s) and you are their parents. If you're threatend or afraid that they will discard you for their natural parents - you need to look at you and not at your children. If you want the best for them, encourage them. You will never play the role of their natural parent. They aren't looking for another mom! They simply need to see their family, know their history and fill in the missing blanks of why they feel the way they do. It's not explainable, so don't try. You can't answer their questions, you cannot be their bio parent, so be their friend and their cheerleader as they journey out to learn about the first chapters in their lives. Do you start at chapter 2 or 3 in a book? Hell no! How would you like to have to read an entire book without the foundation and then be told to put it on a shelf and come back in 15 or 20 years, check the book out again and finish it then. Get the picture?

Anonymous,  June 20, 2007 at 4:44 PM  

My son felt the same way. The government intermediary wrecked everything and insisted (against my son's wishes) that his aparents be told everything. In the end, my son was so stressed out that he called off the reunion. However, he did leave me enough information to find him with and hinted that I would be welcome if I found him myself a bit later. I let 2 years go by and then found him myself.

My son was really pleased that I did. However, he is very cautious and this time around he did not tell anyone else for 6 months that we had been reunited - he didn't want the interference from others who put a lot of pressure on him. He also wanted to see how the reunion was going to pan out.

Now everything is good and our reunion is great (4 happy years now). He has reunited with his father and all of his siblings.
And for that adoptive parent - yes, he still loves his aparents.
If you have done a good job, then you have nothing to worry about.

My son just sees himself having to sets of parents who have contributed to his life and is happy to have "2 moms that care about him" (his words, not mine)

joy June 20, 2007 at 4:54 PM  

I know, I recently told hd that my adoptive parents were on my ABC, and he said, "WHAT?" You can't lie on a legal doc.

He hasn't been touched by the magic of adoption so he didn't know

Still Born June 20, 2007 at 5:54 PM  

oh hey i have one:

DON'T ADOPT.

Possum June 20, 2007 at 9:57 PM  

I think this is great 3rd Gen...
"If you're threatend or afraid that they will discard you for their natural parents - you need to look at you and not at your children. If you want the best for them, encourage them."
No truer words have ever been spoken.
Great post Theresa.
Nothing more to add right now - brain is mush.
But I do agree with Erin - that adoptive parents of young children should do all that is possible to open links and ties with the natural family NOW, and with closed adoption adoptees reaching adult hood - encourage - support - and back the hell away.
NEVER NEVER lay on any guilt.
If you feel that you have a problem with your adoptee wanting to search & contact their biological - IT'S YOUR PROBLEM - DEAL WITH IT.
Hugs, Poss. xx

Anonymous,  June 20, 2007 at 10:32 PM  

This advice seems aimed at parents of adult or at least teenage adoptees, right? There's no way I can not be present at my son's reunion with first family members because he's still young and my plan is NOT for him to wait many years (these folks are ill so time is important). I've initiated a search on these folks. In fact, I did that within a few months of his adoption into our family. I'm not looking for a pat on the back here... just saying that APs who read this blog are probably more likely to be folks who aren't hushing up this info.

By the way, in my state (NC), children who are born abroad and adopted by Americans don't get a new BC, but rather a certificate of foreign birth, something like that, that includes not his first family info, but his birth country info and lists us as parents. But no one would mistake it for a BC. And his birth country issued him a birth certificate with us listed as adopted parents. So it's pretty transparent. And we were given his parents' names on his referral info, as well as lots of info that made us easy for them to find them. And soon, when I go back to this country to adopt my second son, I'll be meeting first family when I'm there.

I hope this might give you some hope (?) for at least some kids who were adopted.

Ungrateful Little Bastard June 21, 2007 at 7:31 AM  

Awesome points everyone, thank you.

Anonymous,  June 21, 2007 at 7:52 AM  

Search and reunion as a hero's journey. Wow. That's a cool site btw

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