reunion

On Adoption: In the Bible

I was asked to share some insight for “Project Priscilla” on how being adopted has shaped my view of spiritual adoption and adoption in the Bible. The results may not be what you are expecting!!

Check it out here! 

Rhegan and her mother reuinted

Rhegan and her mother reuinted

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On Adoption:  The Unnecessary Barriers to Search & Reunion

I grew up knowing I was adopted. I grew up knowing that when I turned 18 I could search for my birth parents. What I didn’t know, is that adoption laws and agency practice in my state would leave me feeling like a second class citizen. Living in the dark, I literally thought I would call the agency that handled my adoption and they would turn over information that rightly belonged to me; especially since the agency had documented that both of my parents said that they would like contact from me when I reached adulthood.   I was completely wrong.

  1. Seeking out information can be Intimidating

Before I turned 18, I always talked about searching as soon as I could. By the time I was 20, I finally mustered up enough courage to call the adoption agency and get my information. They made the mistake of putting me on hold and I quickly hung up; it would be another 12 years before I called them again. When I did, I had someone coaching me on what questions to ask. I had to have deliberate questions because they were not just giving out the information they knew I was looking for. They immediately asked me if I was an adoptee, birth parent, or adopted parent: I wondered if this changed the way they interacted with me.  There were forms to fill out, and fees to be collected. I never even knew that I could’ve had my name on file all these years so that if my mother tried to search for me they could give her my contact info. No one told me anything.  

Now adoption is mostly open, but for children in closed adoptions, I believe when the child turns 18 they should receive a packet in the mail with their non-identifying information and steps explaining the search process. This is precisely what the UK does and I think the country is still standing. They should also offer suggestions for material to prepare for reunion and counseling if desired, but not required like some states. The adopted person could then choose to search or not, but at least it’s in their hands, literally!

  1. Search is costly with no guarantee

Not only is the act of searching intimidating, it is costly. I get that people need to be paid for their work, but I never chose this for myself. Put a search fee in the initial adoption expenses; what’s an extra $400 in the scheme of $30,000 (hey they might even make more money from people who choose to never search). I seriously cannot come to terms with the fact that I have to pay for information about myself. With the internet there is no way I should be charged for someone else to search. I have Google too. (Really, Just give me a name). With help from my search angel, we found my mother in probably 10 hours of searching the internet without a name. With a name it would have taken less than 1. That’s $400/hr. Maybe I should switch careers.

SEARCH FEES

Catholic Charities 

Identifying Information – $400.00

Non-identifying Information – $75.00

 

Christian Family Life Services

Identifying Information – $400.00

Non-identifying Information – $75.00

 

Lutheran Social Services

Identifying Information – $460.00

Non-identifying Information – $110.00

 

The Village Family Service Center

Identifying Information – $460.00

Non-identifying Information – $110.00

 

And here is the real kicker: This stranger can open my file, read the names of my parents, contact them somehow;  Oh, but since paternity wasn’t legally determined they can’t even contact my father-even though he was involved in the adoption-even though he said yes he would like to be contacted.  They now must get my mother’s permission to release her information.  If she says no, I’m done. The end. Sorry you are out $400 AND your birth family, your questions, your missing piece. This is not acceptable. I can’t accept it.  I won’t accept it. Which brings me to the next point.

*some states don’t even have the option of forking out money to the agency who holds their file. They instead have to enter their information into a state mutual registry (which may cost and require counseling). I’m not sure how often people actually find each other through these registries; one misinformation (which happens often in adoption paperwork) can send you down the wrong path and I’m guessing could cause people to miss each other, forever. You can also hire a private investigator, can you see the continual trend: adoptees continually forced to spend money on a choice that was made for them. Totally unfair.

Original Birth Certificate

Original Birth Certificate

  1. Access to original birth certificate by court order only

I could take it to court, but add another $1,000 to pay my lawyer and good luck finding a judge who will say yes to obtaining  my original birth certificate: the legal piece of paper documenting my birth. I have no access to it. My birth mother has no access to it nor was she allowed to keep a copy (good thing since she gave them the information and might do what with it???). My adopted parents have no access to it. Instead, my birth certificate was changed to say that my adopted parents gave birth to me, and my original has been sealed for all time.

I love my adopted parents, but they don’t belong on my birth certificate. They raised me, but they did not conceive, carry or give birth to me. They were not at the hospital. They did not even know I was born until days later. This practice began in the 1930s when being born out of wedlock labeled you illegitimate. They actually stamped it on your birth certificate.  In the 1950’s, birth certificates were available to be seen by anyone.  To avoid stigma, and to keep birth parents away, the states started to seal birth certificates; even keeping them from the adopted persons themselves. These days of stigma and shame are long gone, yet Adult Adoptees still are not given access to their very own information.

When persons seek to change these archaic laws, suddenly the big concern is the privacy of the birth parents. While there may be a few out there who wish to remain a secret, it is quite laughable to me.  Being found can be hard for many, but in states where birth certificate access has been granted to adult adoptees and states have made provision for birth parents to redact their information or ask for no contact only about 1% have done so. We are protecting the 1% while 100% of adoptees (I realize not all adoptees are interested, but there is potential at some point in their life they would)  and 99% of birth parents are searching for answers. If you go online you will find hundreds of websites and registries with families trying to find each other. Some for 30 years, some ready to give up. It’s a true shame.

Many adoptees struggle with identity and value- they do not know their beginning; have never caught glimpse of a face that looks like them;  and often wonder if they were ever loved by their birth mother.  Even if a mother(father) does not want to be found, you cannot convince me the mother’s privacy is more important than the needs of that child she made a choice for. In her new book “Worthy to Be Found” Deanna Shrodes says, “I believe every human being has a right to look into the eyes of the two people they originate from, at least once…..I believe that if you birth a child, it’s the humane thing, the kind thing-yes, the right thing”  even just once.

Beyond that adoption has a ripple effect. It made an impact on the rest of the birth parents’ family: grandparents lost grandchildren, aunts and uncles lost nieces and nephews, cousins lost cousins, siblings lost to each other. Even if a birth mother doesn’t want contact, someone else in her family might.  It will also have an impact on the generations to come from that adopted child. They will never have their true genealogy. It could affect their health and their children’s health. Adopted persons should have access to the identifying information of their birth parents. Then like grown-ups they can navigate contact or relationship or lack thereof.  At the very least they deserve a chance without anyone in the middle.

When my mother was in her 30’s she chose to be adopted by her step-father, and do you know what happened? The state issued a NEW birth certificate and sealed away her original. DID I MENTION SHE WAS IN HER 30’s?!?!?   There is no reason for this! Adoption should not change the information on a birth certificate. Either lines need to be added to include adoption, or adoption certificates need to be issued that have just as much legal value as a birth certificate. This only makes common sense and I can’t figure out why we aren’t doing this already!!!!! Birth certificates are available to people as they study ancestry and genealogy. Amended birth certificates created through adoption have NO indication that this child was adopted and will forever twist the true genealogy of our nation.

When adopted persons turn 18, they should be able to request their original birth certificate just like any other citizen. It really comes down to civil rights. We are being treated differently than the rest of America’s citizens. Slowly, state by state, laws are changing, and the world isn’t ending. Even without changed laws people are reuniting every day thanks to the internet, search angels  and DNA. Reunion is beautiful. Reunion is challenging. It brings up a lot of buried memories and emotions; but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be allowed to happen. It doesn’t mean that the government or adoption agencies get to be the middle man. Let adults be adults.

So many times reunion is denied because a stranger is standing in the middle. And all the stranger can say is I’m sorry, it’s the end.

On Adoption: “That’s Unfortunate”

baby feet

When I received my non-Identifying information, the adoption agency shared that in my file they had discovered my baby bracelets from the hospital! Unfortunately, they stated that  I could not have them because it had an identifying name on them, and they did not have permission to release that information. I wanted them. Why should they have to sit in a file forever, they do not belong to the adoption agency.

Once I found my birthmother, I asked her if she would be willing to sign a release so that I could have this keepsake. She was willing without hesitation. When she called the adoption agency, they immediately assumed that they had made the contact for me. When she told them that  I had made the contact their response was, “That’s unfortunate.”

Not, how wonderful you have found each other, or congratulations; just “’that’s unfortunate.” Really? Why was that their reaction? Because I didn’t follow the process they wanted. I didn’t let them be in control. I didn’t give them the chance to be the mediator, or the hero. Though they offer the service, it didn’t seem like they were very fond of reunion.

The more I read and learn about adoption and perspectives from all sides of the adoption triad- adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents- the more my list grows of things that are actually unfortunate.

 

*It’s unfortunate that my birthmother was not treated well by the caseworkers  and  was encouraged not to hold me after I was born. I imagine they were maybe afraid of the bond that might occur, maybe their plan would fall through. She held me anyway, because you can’t really say goodbye until you say hello and you can’t properly  grieve.

 

*It’s unfortunate that a caseworker told my adopted mom that my birthmother never held me or saw me, maybe thinking it would help her to better bond with me; but it left me with  a life long hurt that turned out to be a lie. Imagine not only being told your mom didn’t want you, but that she didn’t even say goodbye. A horrible, painful lie.

 

*It’s unfortunate when people can’t wrap their minds around the fact that I’m not out seeking to replace my family, or even that I have to choose one over the other. One of the best things that I read while I was preparing for reunion was the fact that parents are never questioned in their abiilty to equally love as many children as they may have; so why do adopted children have to choose? Our hearts are infinitely capable of love.

 

*It’s unfortunate that I would have to pay $460 if I want to go through the proper procedures and pay the adoption agency to open up my file, try to find my birthmother, and ask her if it’s OK to give out her information. My life is my life. It should not cost a dime, and I should not need permission to have it. When you already have your past,  you can’t imagine what it’s like to be clueless. It’s a piece of your soul, a hole, a void that cannot be filled until you know.

 

*it’s unfortunate that adoptees are continually denied the first chapter of their life because of laws that were created  to protect adoptive parents. Now that adoptees want their original birth certificates lawmakers and adoption advocates  are claiming that it would be violating the privacy of the birth parents. Give me a break. States that already allow OBC access have shown that only about 1% of birthparents want to actually keep their privacy.

 

*It’s unfortunate that many adoptees are made to feel guilty about searching for their birth family. All of the things said out loud to them (such as: what will your parents think, what if your birth family doesn’t want to be found, shouldn’t you just be grateful)  are things they have already wrestled with, so the fact that they have overcome and are still desiring to search shows their determination. Making an adoptee feel guilty about searching is one of the best ways to push them further away, not keep them loyal. There is a desire in many adoptees that does not simply fade away. Many adoptees wait until their adopted parents are gone to avoid the questions, only to find out that its’ now too late.

 

*It’s unfortunate that adoptees are not able to grieve the significant loss they feel of losing their first family, no matter their age at adoption. They are expected to be grateful that they weren’t aborted and that they were saved by this loving family and now can have  a better life. No matter what kind of life the adoptee now has, let them grieve. And don’t assume it is a better life, some adoptees go through horrible trauma  in their new home.

 

*It’s unfortunate that laws and adoption agencies feel the need to babysit relationships between adults. Do some reunions work out? Absolutely. Are reunions hard? Without a doubt. Do some reunions end before they begin? Yes. Are there some birth mothers who wish to never be found? Unfortunately. But we are not children anymore. We have a right to our history. And we would much rather know- even if it’s negative- then to live our lives in the dark.

 

Finding my birthmother has been the opposite of unfortunate. It has filled a void I have always had, yet never been able to express. It has taken me on a journey to find who I am, and who I want to be. It has given me a passion to help other adoptees as we walk this road together.

 

 

*Thank you to all of you have been so supportive of my search and reunion process and for being willing to come alongside me and understand what it really means to be adopted. I am forever grateful.

On Adoption: My Search, Part 2

Since I was a little girl, I have always loved to read. I used to go to the library and check out stacks of mystery books. There is just nothing better than following the clues to discover the truth. So to be able to discover the truth to my own mystery was very fun and rewarding.

 When I read on the pages that my birthmother had a sister who died in a car accident at age 17 shortly before I was born, I knew I couldn’t ask for a better clue. Certainly, a story like this would make the news and we could find an obituary, one of the greatest pieces of information when you are trying to find someone. Since it happened before the news was all over the internet, I asked a friend to seek out the microfiche to help me find the information.

 My search friend sent me a link to the public state death index which allows you to search death certificates. If you have a last name and a date range you can see anyone who matches those criteria. It shows their name, date of birth, date they died, and the county they lived. Since I had already found the animal science club photo with first and last names, I pulled it out and just decided to start in the front row. I started entering in the last names of the women from the picture and after about ten minutes I found a match.

 And the name of the girl who had died was Connie Ann. I knew that this could not be a coincidence. My birthmother had named me after her sister. I was overwhelmed and honored.

 Had I really found her so quickly? I spent hours the next day searching the name that was a match, Denise, with not much luck. No address, phone number, Facebook, nothing. So I figured she must be married. I needed that obituary or my DNA results, which I estimated I had about 4-6 more weeks of waiting. I gave up for the night and went to bed.

 The next morning my DNA results were waiting in my inbox! I was so surprised! Unfortunately they were of little to no help at this point.

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Later in the afternoon I received an email from my search friend that would change everything. She had found a tribute to Connie in her high school yearbook, and had not found a Denise, but she had found a Sandy. She sent me a picture of both of them and there was no denying they were sisters. She had also found an update Sandy had written on classmates.com. Everything matched, the college she attended, the career I knew she was planning to pursue, she even shared her birthdate and age. It had to be her!

 Again I found a dead end without having a married name. Her update said she had married and where she had moved to, but not who she married. There was no way I was giving up now! I found a Facebook page from her high school graduating class-they had planned a reunion. There was no sign of Sandy on that page, but there was a link to the class reunion website. This site had a list of everyone already planning to attend the reunion, and a list of people they had no contact information for- asking for help from others. That is where I found it: her married name.

 With that information, my search friend took to her internet resources and found a current address which also listed all previous names, a match. And with that information I took to Facebook and found the proof I needed. Call me crazy, but I always had a feeling she would be a lover of Facebook- like me! (I’ve since learned that nature is strong and I’m not so crazy..well nevermind 😉 )

 After I found Sandy on Facebook I was trying to figure out who her sisters were to make sure it was a match. And that is when I found the final piece of the puzzle. Five years ago she had posted a letter and probably forgotten about it by now. The caption said it was a letter from Connie from her first year of college. The letter confirmed Connnie’s respiratory health issues that I knew of, and the comments confirmed that there was a little sister, Lenore- age 10, age 11 when I was born, and that Connie was now greatly missed. I would also soon discover that the original match, Denise, was her older sister, and that Sandy was NEVER in that science club. NEVER. That means I should have never received that information and that I wouldn’t have had a last name to search.

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 This was it. This was her. Now what? It was late Sunday night, and I needed to get to bed, but I couldn’t sleep. There was too much excitement and the next step was contacting her- but how and when and what would she say? What would I say? I wrote a letter before I went to bed to get it out of my head so I could sleep.   

 The next day I debated when and how I would contact her. Thought about what I would say. I was so nervous and anxious. My paperwork stated that she would like to hear from me when I was an adult- hopefully she hadn’t changed her mind. By five o’clock I couldn’t wait anymore. I had to take a chance. My search friend said she actually preferred using Facebook because you can be sure they’ve seen it, unlike a letter. The phone was not an option for me, I would chicken out for sure.  

 I drafted a Facebook message introducing myself and the information that I knew and told her I thought she might be my birthmother. Since we weren’t friends, I couldn’t take the chance of the message going to her other box and her never seeing it.  I spent the best dollar of my life so it would go to her inbox, and then I waited.

 An hour passed and she had not read my message yet.  I had dinner plans with a friend (also an adoptee) and did my best to focus on my meal and the conversation. I tried to ignore every time I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. When I told my friend my story she couldn’t believe how calm I was and forced me to take my phone out of my pocket! 😀 

 There was still no response so I laid my phone on the table. Five minutes later it came.

 She confirmed that the information I had was accurate, that she was my birthmother and told me she had named me after the sister who died. Connie Ann. Then she told me the words that would take my breath away and bring me to tears.

 Today is Connie’s birthday!

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 Connie’s Senior picture, age 17                                     My senior picture, age 17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
  

 

On Adoption: My Search, Part I

        Less than three months ago I finally made the decision to search for my birth parents. I never could of even dreamed up the way that God was going to work in the tiniest details to bring me right where I wanted to be. This true story is guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye and make you catch your breath, but that part won’t come until part two, so you’ll have to come back!

The last time I gave an update on my search,  I had shared the photo I had tracked down of the animal science club from the year my mother would have been involved. I was convinced she was in there and began to look up the women from the photo. The more we got into it, my search friend and I realized, we just did not have enough information to move on. She suggested I go ahead and pay the adoption agency for my non-identifying information. Hopefully we could then gather some more clues to get us closer. Some wonderful friends helped me raise some money and I sent in the necessary paperwork.

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I asked for a timeline of how long it would take and I was told one to two weeks, and at the most three. I waited and waited and waited. I tried my best to wait patiently and at three weeks, I called to check on it. I was told with staff vacations my paperwork was still not ready and I was promised it would be put at the top of the list and sent out the next week.  In the meantime, I also sent in a DNA test.

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Then it happened. Four and a half weeks later, my letter came, and my life will never be the same. We had offered to watch a friend’s dog and shortly after lunch, I realized I had forgotten to run home and let her out. I quickly grabbed my purse and keys and ran home. As I stepped out of my car I said to myself, “Maybe Jesus loves me and the mail came early AND my letter is here.” Well guess what? Jesus does love me!! As I pulled my letter out of the mailbox all I could do was stare at it. I couldn’t bring myself to open it right away, so instead I set it on the table and spent 20 minutes coaxing our guest Chihuahua out of her kennel so I could take her outside. I hooked the dog up on the chain in the front yard, grabbed my letter, and sat down on the front steps to discover more about my beginning.

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I had no idea what I might find. The letter was 8 pages. Much longer than the 2 pages I’ve read over and over again. Much of what I began to read on the page was familiar. Ages, physical features, schooling, and hobbies.  The new information included the ages of the parents and siblings of my parents at the time of my birth. There was some information about my health and routines as a newborn (I had some heart problems that were closely monitored), and a bit about my parents coming to pick me up and take me home.

 What I never in a million years expected to see in that paperwork: the name my birthmother had given me. As soon as I read it, I was brought to tears. She had named me “Connie Ann.” I just sat and stared at that name. It had never even occurred to me that she would have named me. And this felt like a name with a purpose.  

 When you are searching for someone and you don’t even have a name, you have to be a detective and pull out the things that make your story unique. Thankfully, my story had a clue that would lead me right to my birth mother. Shortly before I was born, she had a sister who died in a car accident at age 17.

 A tragedy that would blossom into a time of healing.

 

Don’t miss my search part 2 to find out how I took my clues to the internet to find my birthmom. You will be nothing short of amazed!
 

On Adoption: A Face in the Crowd

3 weeks ago I shared my decision to begin a search for my birth parents. Since then I have been working with a search angel. (A search angel is someone who uses their knowledge of the search process- often an adoptee themselves- to help adoptees in their search. They offer their help for free which makes the term angel so appropriate!) The search angel I am working with has helped me ask the right questions, see the value of the clues I already had, and provided resources and emotional support to help me along the way. I’m so thankful already.

I’m actually so surprised when I look back and see it has only been 3 weeks! After many phone calls, emails, and internet searches, we have actually come a long way! The biggest clue that I had was a club my birth mother belonged to in college. After a few dead ends, I wasn’t sure this would get us anywhere.  Once I found the right person to contact I sent them an email, not sure if they would ever respond.

Two days later I received an email that had group pictures with first and last names of the club from the year my birth mother would have been there! I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. My expectations had been exceeded!!

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I’ve pulled out all of the women’s names, so now I have a list of 60 names with a face to match!! Somewhere in that picture, in that crowd of people, is very likely the face of the woman who gave me life! It’s overwhelming. It’s exciting.

So now we play the game process of elimination! I have a physical description and some facts about her family that will get me started!  For the ones who have Facebook and have a somewhat public profile I’m grateful! I have no idea how people searched before the internet!! It must have been much more cumbersome with many more defeats.

I am heading to my parents this weekend to hopefully find my original adoption paperwork. There will be lots of digging through boxes!! My search angel is certain there will be some more clues there so I’m crossing my fingers that I find it.

I imagine in the near future I will be reaching out making some contact with some of the people on my list. Even if I can’t narrow it down all the way, the other people on the list may remember her.

 

Thank you to all of you have been supportive of me. It means a lot. There are a lot of mixed emotions and feelings I never knew I had. It was not an easy decision to search, and I do not know what the future holds. Whatever comes of this, I know that I need to do it. For me.

Never Stop Loving: a poem for my birth mom

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You gave me away
Like a gift on Christmas Day
Did you think it was the only way?

Did you ever stop loving? 

Secrets locked up
Did I see you close up
Did you think you weren’t enough? 

Did you ever stop loving?

Birthdays have passed
Marriage vows cast
Will I meet you at last? 

Did you ever stop loving? 

I’ve never been mad
Often I was sad 
Will finding me make you glad? 

Did you ever stop loving? 

Whatever the outcome 
No matter what we become 
The truth I can no longer run from 

Never stop loving