The Ongoing Attempts at Obliterating Birth and Mothers
in Adoption Practice
in Adoption Practice
During the time period when most states were creating secretive, sealed adoptions – 1930’s, 40’s and into the 50’ – the explanations and rationales for doing so varied, mostly having to do with “protecting” adoptees from the “stigma of illegitimacy.
Growing in the Dark (Barer, 2004) and other historic accounts delineate other less openly admitted reasons: primarily to protect adoptive parents and their “secret.” It was common practice for those who adopted during those years to be counseled NOT to reveal to their children the tenuousness of their familial connection. The whole intent was for it be ‘the same as if’ and no one any the wiser; all secretive and protected.
Today, this history is being revised to pretend that the sealing of records is for the protection of our privacy…while our names and a great deal of personal information about us – some of it quite judgmental and written at a time of great stress in our loves – is readily available to many, including adoptive parents and upon request by our children, without our consent. Newspapers will even print names of mothers who have lost children to adoption.
Adoption is built on a myth designed to replicate family formation.
“California’s adoption law of 1870 had the benevolent intent of urging adoptive parents not to stigmatize their adopted children; to “raise such child as his or their own” with the same rights and privileges as a child “born of the body” of the adoptive parents….if taken literally, a child who is the same as if born of the body of the adoptive parent cannot also be born of the body of a birthparent.” Baer, p.36
The stigma is that the child is not “really” their child. The stigma is their inadequacy to function reproductively. We have been called the “invisible” part of the adoption “triangle” since sealed adoption was written about, and for good reason. Mothers, fathers, and any record of them are threatening reminders.
Sealed records act to obliterate, erase, delete all traces of the original family that adoption destroys; make us non-existent. Us and our connection to our children wiped out in order to recreate a new pretend family in its place.
As policies began to slowly change, and some began being told to reveal the truth “when the child was ready” it was not uncommon for the child’s original parents to have “died” in war, car crashes and childbirth. Killing them off in the story telling avoided further questions and surely put an end to any thought of an adoptee seeking to locate them.
Today, one might believe that things are totally different. So much openness in adoption! So many people openly searching and reuniting. And yet, the more things change, the more thy stay the same.
Increases in international adoption have offered the newly adopting once again an opportunity to literally distance themselves from their child’s origins. Oh, they graciously bring them to camps with others of their ethnicity, eat food and celebrate holidays of their child’s country of origin…but rejoice in knowing that there is little to chance of being found by an actual person who might “compete” for their child’s affection.
The News Observer, Raleigh, NC reported: “International adoption has risen sharply in the past two decades, as parents look for healthy infants who can be adopted quickly with no strings (read mothers/families) attached.”(1)
Expectant mothers THINKING about adopting are called birthmothers and those waiting to adopt are now being called “moms to be”(2) in this crazy upside down backwards world of adoption...and the press focuses all the sympathy on the loss of PROSPECTIVE adopters when an adoption falls through or is delayed. The language of the press continues to this day to deny our existence and turn us unto Handmaidens!
MARGINALIZED? I’d say so!
Our families were destroyed just as surely as those of slaves. The end—that some adoptees, even many, may have had a “better life” materially as a result—does not justify the means or the pain suffered to those of us who lost our families.
The difference is that slavery has been outlawed but babies are STILL bought and sold, priced based on health, skin color, age etc...and the carnage of kinship and destruction of familial heritage continues....
(1). Kristin Collins, “As babies grow, a couple waits” Dec 26, 2007 http://www.newsobserver.com/news/story/847760.html
(2). Nancy Bartley, “Nepal delay agonizing for mom-to-be” The Seattle Times, January 1, 2008 http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2004102257_adopt01m.html