Are there any adopted people from Australia who have had lived experience of being in an Open Adoption from the 1980s and 90s? We would like to hear from you

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Most adoptions that occurred in Australia from the early 80s were Open adoptions. The practice of closed adoption changed gradually across each of the states and territories in Australia  in  the 1980s and 90s.
With the implementation of these legislative changes, adoption practices shifted away from secrecy.

Open adoption means that the parent or parents and extended family are encouraged to have contact with the child, as well as the opportunity to exchange information.

Open Adoption is set up by asking mothers to nominate a preferred frequency of contact in the form of face-to-face meetings and information exchange letters, photos, phone calls, with the agreement of the adoptive parents, in practice, contact is generally between one to four times annually. This is a minimum standard and contact beyond the nominated frequency is at the discretion of the adopting parents. Often the contact was discontinued after the adoption was finalised in the court for a variety of reasons.

ARE YOU AWARE THAT YOU MAY HAVE BEEN ADOPTED INTO AN OPEN ADOPTION SYSTEM?

Since 1984 In Victoria the new Open Adoption system put an end to the secrets of the closed adoption period that occurred during the late 1940s to 1984 when mandatory open adoption was introduced .

Open adoption in the Adoption Act 1984 2.46 The Adoption Act establishes open adoption. Openness is built into the adoption process. The Act allows natural parents to nominate a preferred frequency of contact which, with agreement from the adoptive parents, becomes a condition of the adoption order. while contact arrangements agreed to in an adoption order are legally enforceable, in practice they rely on the goodwill of the parties involved. If family of origin members do not keep their commitments, there is little that children or adoptive parents can do to enforce them. Likewise, adoptive parents can also ‘make it difficult or uncomfortable for families of origin to stay in contact, with the result that contact may cease or greatly diminish over time’.

All other states had verbal agreements between the natural family and the adopters that was not legally binding like Victoria in most states Open Adoption is set up by asking mothers to nominate a preferred frequency of contact in the form of face-to-face meetings and information exchange, with the agreement of the adoptive parents, In practice, contact is generally between one to four times annually. This is a minimum standard and contact beyond the nominated frequency is at the discretion of the adopting parents often the contact was discontinued after the adoption was finalised in the court.

Baby Trafficking into Adoption during the 1940s-50s in Australia

My mother’s consulting doctor, an American born in 1882 with skilled networking techniques, in the immediate post-World War 2 period this Melbourne-based entrepreneurial adoption consultant admitted to providing over 600 baby’s for adoption in Melbourne, by 1951 a preposterous number of adoptions for a Middle Park consulting doctor’s practice?

ShowImage Dr R.C.Hart

A page 3 story in Melbourne’s, 30 March 1950, Argus newspaper reports that the Labor MP Mr John Cremean has announced that the illegal practice of charging for adoption was widespread in Australia’s capitals. And the MP demands that, as he believes baby’s from marginalised and desperate mothers are being trafficked for ₤50, an Inquiry should be established to obtain evidence against … unscrupulous doctors, whom he suspects are engaged in this obnoxious trade”.

In his speech to parliament He adds it as “… bad as the white slave traffic or the drug trade.”

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Ray C Hart one of the very first GP’s to systematically arrange referrals for illegal abortions. The law caught up with him in July 1951 when he was charged for supplying information that led to an illegal abortion in a private home in Camberwell, a Melbourne suburb. The case was reported in The Argus of July 1951 and heard at Malvern Court. Dr R C Hart was alleged to be the procurer however the charges were dropped,

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In a confidential letter to Victoria’s Chief Secretary in July 1951, the Federal MP Mr Cremean Names the American doctor, and an operator of the notorious Avonhurst Private Hospital, Mr Allen and asks for them to be investigated.

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When it came to money, the Doctors being paid for organising illegal abortions and the sale of babies for adoptions of the 40s and  50’s had hidden their paper trail well and it is often only in their obvious inexplicable wealth that we see the financial rewards available through illegal abortions and placing newborns for sale into adoption.

.An example is the American doctor’s grand mansion in Albert Park’s St. Vincent’s Place. It still stands in all its opulence.

HARTS HOUSE

The Police interest was in protecting the networks of doctors who had adoptions as an adjunct to their racket in particular as they were the same people who referred women for illegal abortions. In Victoria this interest developed into a monumental protection racket demanding massive bribes from elite Melbourne doctors specialising in “women’s problems.”

The Kay Inquiry of 1970 eventually exposed the illegal abortion  racket, but by this time the consulting American doctor involved in my adoption was dead. But the doctor who delivered me at Avonhurst Private Hospital was among those named.

 

 

Baby trafficking for Adoption in the 1940s 50s THE MANOR HOUSE: Campbellfield Australia

 

A bluestone retreat of Camp Road in Campbellfield called THE “MANOR  HOUSE” on the four hectares of the Manor HouseThe Manner House Dr Heath and his colleague Sister Corinne. Began an adjunct to their illegal abortion business girls whose pregnancies that were too advanced for termination could live in as domestics until they reached full term, then Dr Heath would deliver them at a Coburg Hospital as many as six at a time were billeted there. The offspring would then be placed with wealthy catholic families through the Matron at St Vincent’s Private hospital. 

 

 

Were you adopted in Australia in the 80s and 90s to present day?

Hi my name is William and I was born and given to two people, in 1952 who legally adopted me two years later, in 1954 ,sixty five years ago . My adoption was a closed adoption created to maintain secrecy and favored the wants and needs of the adopting couple.

In the late 70s to 80s through to present day all Closed Adoptions changed to Open Adoption in Australia.

I have read many blogs and facebook pages from the USA and Great Britain about the experiences of the adopted people who experienced the open adoption period since the 80s Also research has been carried out with natural mothers and adoptive couples

However I have not read any thing about you the adopted person who have lived experiences for at least the last 35+years in Australia.

 

Most adoptions that occurred in Australia from the early 80s were Open adoptions. The practice of closed adoption changed gradually across each of the states and territories in Australia from the late 1970s through the 80s and 90s. With the implementation of these legislative changes, adoption practices shifted away from secrecy to open.

Open adoption means that the Natural parent or parents and extended family are encouraged to have contact with the child, as well as the opportunity to exchange information and the adoptive parents are encouraged to support this.

Since 1984 In Victoria the new Open Adoption system put an end to the secrets of the closed adoption period that occurred during the late 1940s through to 1984 when mandatory open adoption was introduced.

The Adoption Act establishes open adoption. Openness is built into the adoption process. The Act allows natural parents to nominate a preferred frequency of contact which, with agreement from the adoptive parents, becomes a condition of the adoption order. while contact arrangements agreed to in an adoption order are legally enforceable, in practice they rely on the goodwill of the parties involved.

If family of origin members do not keep their commitments, there is little that children or adoptive parents can do to enforce them. Likewise, adoptive parents can also ‘make it difficult or uncomfortable for families of origin to stay in contact, with the result that contact may cease or greatly diminish over time’.

ALL OTHER STATES AND TERRITORIES had verbal agreements between the natural family and the adopters that were not legally binding like Victoria. In most states Open Adoption is set up by asking mothers to nominate a preferred frequency of contact in the form of face-to-face meetings and information exchange in the form of letters photos phone calls, with the agreement of the adoptive parents, in practice, contact is generally between one to four times annually. This is a minimum standard and contact beyond the nominated frequency is at the discretion of the adopting parents. Often the contact was discontinued after the adoption was finalised in the court

ARE YOU AWARE THAT YOU WERE ADOPTED INTO AN OPEN ADOPTION SYSTEM?

IF SO HOW DID IT AFFECT YOUR UPBRINGING?

IF YOU WERE NOT AWARE DO YOU KNOW WHY YOU WEREN’T?

WE WOULD LIKE TO HEAR YOU’RE STORIES

THIS OPEN ADOPTION AUSTRALIA FACEBOOK GROUP HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED TO FIND PEOPLE THAT WERE ADOPTED INTO AN OPEN ADOPTION SYSTEM IN AUSTRALIA TO SHARE YOUR STORIES

https://www.facebook.com/groups/800055193508540/?ref=group_header

 

 

 

IT’S TIME TO LISTEN TO ADOPTEES WHO HAVE LIVED EXPERIENCES

THE SILENCING OF ADOPTEES; BY ISABELL COLLINS 

ISABELL COLLINS

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ARE BASED ON MANY YEARS OF LISTENING TO FELLOW ADOPTED PEOPLE.

The emotional side of adoption is an assortment of very complicated and deep feelings on the part of all members of the adoption triangle. In recent years some natural mothers have been relatively assertive about articulating the impact of losing a child to adoption. And, this assertiveness has resulted in a community that is better informed about the issue from the natural mother’s perspective. In contrast, adopted people have remained relatively silent about the negative impact of adoption on them.

Indeed, it appears that most members of the general community as well as other members of the adoption triangle remain quite ignorant regarding the negative impact adoption can have on adopted people. Part of the reason for this ignorance is that many adopted people do not feel confident in expressing their views, in particular their most deeply held views.

Put simply, being adopted is like being separated from everyone else by a picket fence. You can see people, talk, laugh and cry with them, but no matter how much you want to be on the same side of the picket fence with them, something stops that from happening. Adopted people are relegated to walk on the other side of the picket fence on your own. As one adoptee once stated, “being adopted can be one of the loneliest experiences on earth.”

The loneliness can stem from:
• The sense of being alone in the world;
• The evoked feelings of being given away;
• The lack of understanding from those not adopted;
• The incorrect assumption that being adopted is a positive thing;
• The constant reminders of your lack of biological identity;
• Knowing that your adoptive family is not your biological family;
• Knowing and feeling that you are different from most others, etc.

Why do most of us remain silent? From an adopted person’s point of view, if you express your true feelings, you run the risk of hurting and angering the people you simply do not want to hurt or anger. The fear of rejection at a conscious and unconscious level also contributes to keeping the adopted person silent. Additionally, a further impediment is having your views dismissed because they do not fit in with the community’s positive perception of adoption. Finally, there is the strongly voiced agenda of those who think they know what is best for children. All these impediments contribute to the adopted person’s reluctance and lack of confidence to speak out about the negative side of adoption.

It is wrong that adopted people should feel silenced because of the above risks. When you consider the research regarding the impact adoption can have on adopted people our silence becomes very misplaced. For example, overseas research indicates that the rate of adopted people attempting suicide and/or suiciding is four times higher than the non-adopted population rate. A higher proportion of adopted people experience mental health issues and drug and alcohol problems, all of which can lead to other issues such as homelessness and incarceration within the justice system. Given these issues, there does come a time when adopted people have to consider being more open about their adoption experiences, and particularly about the feelings that the adoption experience so often invokes for adopted people. Adopted people need to do this not only for themselves,

but to enable the broader community to develop a more informed understanding that adoption is not as positive an experience for adopted people as some people would have you believe.

It may also assist in educating natural mothers and adoptive parents about the feeling side of adoption from the perspective of the adopted person. Additionally, being more open may help reduce the distress of adopted people and the sense of isolation and aloneness that many feel. More broadly, ensuring that health professionals and the general community are well informed about the effects of adoption on adopted people will hopefully result in a more informed community, which can in turn transpose to respectful adoption and IVF legislation and practices that genuinely put the child first and prevent repetitions of past mistakes.

In 2012 and 2013, Australian and State governments apologised to both natural mothers and adopted people for past adoption practices. While adopted people were mentioned in the apology(s), it was clear for most adopted people that the apology(s) were largely for the natural mothers.

VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT FORCED ADOPTIONS APOLOGY
A member of the public expresses their sympathy for victims of forced adoptions outside Parliament House in Melbourne, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu made a formal apology to women who had their newborn babies taken away from them as part of forced adoptions which were widespread across Australia from the 1950s to the 1970s.

In speaking with other adopted people following the apology, many of us felt unsettled and angry, but unable to clearly articulate what it is was that was so upsetting. It may have had something to do with the point that part of the apology voiced the fact that the natural mother had lost a child. In “tossing around” with other adopted people why we felt so unsettled and angry, we concluded that while clearly deeply painful for the mothers, as adopted people we lost our biological mother, father, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents and the right to really feel we belong anywhere. With the exception of those who are adopted, no one seems to understand this and how deeply it can impact the lives of adopted people. But again, to express this view runs the risk of minimising the pain of natural mothers and adoptive parents and hurting the people you simply do not want to hurt. Most adopted people love members of both their adoptive family and their biological family, and to express these feelings of loss can lead to misunderstandings, hurt and possible rejection. So,

most adopted people remain silent until they are only in a room with other adopted people.

Regarding the government’s apology to natural mothers, there is no doubt that many natural mothers were not treated well by the health care system or adoption agencies, and for many natural mothers, the adoption of their son or daughter may not have been legal. It is however the view of many adopted people that the majority of natural mothers knew that their child was going to be placed for adoption by the time they were due to deliver their baby. Put simply, the decision to place their child for adoption was made prior to the mother being admitted to hospital. It may be that the mother would have preferred (desperately) to keep her child, but she would have been well aware that her personal circumstances were going to prevent this. Having listened to many natural mothers, the stories may differ, but the themes are very similar. They were young (often teenagers), single, the child’s father was unsupportive as were her parents and there was no single mother’s pension (there was a sickness benefits scheme but was only available for a short period of time) that would allow her to raise her child independent of family support. Alternatively, in some cases, the father of the child did want to provide support to the natural mother, but was kept away from the natural mother by their parents. We also know now that some mothers were heavily coerced to the point that some were told their baby had died at birth.

Additional to this, the community view of the day (and still today, in the minds of many people) was that children are better off being raised in an environment that includes a mother and a father. Many natural mothers were told their child would be better off. While there can be no denying that many natural mothers endured dreadful pressures, were these pressures only the fault of government, or was the government of the day just mirroring the view of the community?

Another issue from the natural mother’s point of view is their age at the time of the birth of their child. Given the “age of majority” was 21 up until 1972, it could be argued that many natural mothers were too young to be making such an important decision. They were certainly legally too young to be signing adoption papers.

Many natural mothers may have an argument that the adoption of their child was not legal according to the law of the day as to what constituted the legal age to be able to sign contracts including adoption papers.

Because every person’s experience is an individual one, no one deserves to be placed into a category; however, it is important for the purposes of this piece of writing to be honest about the range of experiences people have had. Clearly, there were some natural mothers who did not want their child. They relinquished their child at birth, and made it clear when their son or daughter sought a reunion that their position had not changed. The realisation of this for the adoptee seeking reunification with their natural mother is overwhelmingly painful. There are also those natural mothers who did want their child and fought for the right to keep and raise them. These natural mothers often had the support of the father of the child and/or their parents. Some also seemed to have a strong sense of self and were therefore more confident in their decision-making. The third group is the natural mothers who wanted to keep their child, but signed the adoption papers because of the pressure(s) from their parents, friends, church, or others. Succumbing to pressure is always a risk when one feels hopeless and helpless and the sense of self is not strong. Many of these natural mothers are the ones who now appear to be stuck in an unresolved form of dreadfully painful grief and regret. However, from an adopted person’s point of view, we know that if our mothers had not signed the adoption papers, (anecdotally some mothers have indicated they did not sign the adoption papers) the adoption would not have happened.

Often the “elephant in the room” for the adopted person is that the natural mothers and others more often than not talk about the loss of their child and the impact of this on them. Rarely do you hear people talk about the loss for the child or for adopted people in general. Indeed, when adopted people do try to articulate their feelings on the subject, they are often interrupted mid-sentence with comments like

“There was no choice,” “We were told you would be better off, ” “But you are clearly loved by your adoptive family,”ect

These interruptions often leave adopted people with the impression that there is much less interest in our feelings and the consequences on our lives and far more interest in what the mothers experienced. Sadly, this sort of behaviour helps to enforce the view of some adopted people that we were not and still are not a priority.

Those adopted people who refuse to be silenced and persist in articulating their views often experience rationalisations that conclude that we hate natural mothers, that we are taking out on natural mothers generally what we can’t take out on our own mothers, that we have not had a positive reunion, or that we had an unhappy adoption and are just angry about that.

These rationalisations, while false and very hurtful, also contribute to the silencing of adopted people. A message is sent that the views of adopted people only hold worth so long as they are acceptable to others within the adoption triangle and the general community. It also needs to be stated that our hurt and grief is not related in any way to our relationships and love for our adoptive family.

As indicated previously, adopted people often feel unable to express their deeply held views and feelings for fear of hurting others, in particular natural mothers and adoptive parents. While most adopted people accept the expressions of natural mothers that they had no choice, there was no single mother’s pension, their parents and the father of their child were unsupportive, etc., these articulations rarely impact on the feeling side of adoption for the adopted person. For most adopted people, the feeling side of adoption more often than not was developed during childhood, when our ability to think things through was severely hampered by our age and by the lack of proactive conversations with adults who were in a position to correct the views of the child. As a consequence, by the time the adopted person reaches adulthood, their feelings about their adoption are usually firmly entrenched and difficult to change, even with more informed explanations. While the feeling side of adoption can shift, it takes time and lots of empathetic conversation, including conversations that other members of the triangle commonly try to avoid because of their own unresolved issues of grief.

Another issue that prevents adopted people from speaking out is the fear of rejection. This is very commonly a paramount consideration for adopted people. While the research suggests that adopted people feel rejection more deeply than others, it’s also fair to say that many adopted people are very cautious about placing themselves in positions where they will be rejected. The implications of this on adopted people’s relationships with others throughout their lives can be severe.

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The feelings of adopted people, while not always logical, factual or fair and often potentially hurtful to others are very real to the majority of adopted people and very deeply ingrained. The feeling side of adoption is often impossible to change, or will take some robust work to move.

The feelings many Adopted people have include:

• My mother gave me away to strangers, did not want me and did not fight for me;
• I must be unlovable;
• I was not good enough to keep;
• Other mothers kept their child, why didn’t mine;
• There must have been something wrong with me;
• If my own mother can give me away so too can my adoptive parents;
• That you straddle both families (adoptive and biological), never really feeling like you belong to either;
• A sense that, no matter how hard they (the biological family) try, you are always alert to the potential for rejection and how you are the “odd one out” in the family because you can never “catch up” with what has gone on in the family in your absence;
• Any baby would have done for my adoptive family, I just happened to be available;
• If I don’t behave myself, you will give me away again, or reject me;
• You (adoptive family) cannot possibly care about me when I am nothing like you in looks or personality;
• While I want to meet my natural relatives you (adoptive family) may be angry and reject me if I go through with a reunion;
• Everyone knows I am not really yours, as I don’t look anything like you (a particular issue for adopted people from a different ethnic background);
• I know you would have preferred to have a child of your own and I was your last choice;
• Children subject to open adoptions can often fear that if they demonstrate enthusiasm to meet or have a relationship with their natural mother, their adoptive parents may be hurt or angry.

Experiences that accentuate the adopted person’s fears and hurt include:

• Natural mothers or fathers not including the child given up for adoption in family speeches when talking about their children;
• Not inviting or allowing their natural/adopted child to attend family functions such as Christmas, weddings or birthdays. This is a particular occurrence after the natural or adoptive parent(s) have died;
• Leaving the adopted person off the family tree, sending a powerful message that the adopted person is not accepted as a member of the family;
• Leaving the adopted person off the death certificate of the adoptive parents (all children are listed on death certificates), sending the message that they were not really accepted as a child of the deceased parent or a legitimate member of the broader family;
• Excluding the adopted person from the Will of the adopted parents (reasons as above);
• Introducing the adopted person to others as your adopted child, or letting other members of the family do so, which serves as a continual reminder to the adopted person that they are not accepted as your own;
• If the adopted person makes a mistake, suggesting it’s the “bad blood” coming out;
• Referring to the adopted person as a bastard or allowing other family members to do so. The dictionary definition of a bastard is very clear, but society tends to use the term loosely to describe the “rogues” of society and a child can take the use of the word to believe they are being told they are bad or have bad blood;
• Telling the adoptive child they were chosen, because when they find out they weren’t they will be devastated and feel like “any child would have done.” It is better (if true) to say to the child, “While you were not chosen, as you have grown, so has my love for you and it is as strong as it can possibly be,” or “The first moment I laid eyes on you I wanted you,” etc.
• Having the adopted child become a victim of the adoptive parents’ own unresolved grief about not being able to have a biological child;
• Telling lies about anything to do with the adoption. Adopted children are completely reliant on others for information and giving misinformation will erode trust and confidence;
• Telling the child that if they seek a reunion with their natural family the adoptive parents will end the relationship, write the child out of the will, etc.
• Sending the child to bed with an unresolved issue with the adoptive parents. Much thinking can go on in bed and a child’s fears of rejection can overtake;
• Undervaluing the grief an adopted person feels when an adoptive or natural parent dies with such comments as, “she or he was not really your mother or father,” or “they did not raise you, so why are you so upset?”

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Below are some ways to assist in reducing the adopted person’s fears and hurt.

• Encouraging conversation about adoption, the child’s natural mother, etc., asking the child questions about what they think and feel, explaining why you are doing so. The reasons have been articulated above, but the conversations should not be forced;
• Never suggesting to the child that their natural mother did not want them;
• Always being transparent;
• If there is unresolved grief about not being able to become pregnant, the adoptive parent(s) should seek counselling to minimise the grief and the impact on both the adoptive parent(s) and the child;
• Encouraging and supporting the adopted child to have contact with their natural family if access has been agreed to at the time of the adoption. When the child becomes an adult and finds out that their adoptive family interfered with their contact with their natural family, they will feel that the love of the adoptive family was selfish.
• Where a natural or adoptive parent dies, treating the adoptee’s grief the same as any other person’s grief on losing a parent; that is, with empathy, sending a sympathy card, flowers, etc.

For an adopted person, grief following the loss of an adoptive family member or natural relatives, in particular the natural mother or father can be somewhat difficult. The adopted person often not only has to deal with the loss, but the attitudes that some members of their family, friends or work colleagues can have that minimise their grief. For example, if an adoptee’s adoptive mother or father dies such comments as, “well she/he is not really your Mother and Father” can be extremely hurtful and distressing. Likewise, if an adopted person’s natural mother or father dies, they may be subject to such comments as, “well it’s not as if she/he raised you.” These statements suggest that the adopted person’s grief is somehow less, and therefore less valid, than that of others. The attitudes can lead to solitude and silence in grief for the adopted person, and a reinforcement of the belief that they are on their own in the world. The experience can certainly leave the adopted person wondering when their grief will be recognised as normal and no different than non-adopted people who experience the loss of a loved one.

Another experience that reinforces the adopted person’s feelings of not really belonging is the need of some members of an adoptive family to introduce the child as the adopted child, rather than “this is my son or daughter.” The media also frequently contributes to this differentiation of the adopted child by consistently referring to a famous person’s adopted children in this way. Adopted people are acutely aware of their adoption; they do not need to be reminded.

Non-adopted people often refer to some adoptions as “successful adoptions.” One assumes this means that the adoptive parents loved the adopted person. While most adopted people are loved by their adoptive parents, successful adoption is not a term that should be encouraged. From an adopted person’s point of view, it is saying that being given away at birth was a successful process. I believe that if you asked every adopted person if they would have preferred to not be adopted 100 per cent would agree.

It may be that many would choose their adoptive parents as their parents, but they would all prefer not to have been adopted.

Removing a person from their biological roots should never be seen as successful as there has been too much loss for the adopted person.

To stress this point,the only people who undervalue the importance of biological roots are those that have always had them.

The articulation of why an adopted person seeks out their natural mother is a difficult one, but it is definitely not a rejection of the adoptive parents or other members of the adopting family. It also has nothing to do with whether the adopted person feels loved or unloved by their adoptive family. Some members of the non-adopted community will say that it is only natural for the adopted person to be curious.

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But again, this statement grossly underestimates the emotions that drive adopted people to seek a reunion with their natural mother or biological relatives.

Adopted people will often talk about this feeling they have that just sits there. A feeling that is unsettling, a feeling that something is missing, something is not quite right; a feeling of emptiness. At other times this feeling is much stronger, to the point of being overwhelming. Our whole society is based on genes. Family conversation is often about who takes after who, who looks like who. You cannot go to the doctor without being asked if there is a family history of a health condition.

The adopted person is constantly surrounded by people who take their biological identity for granted. But it is much deeper than biological identity. It is a strong, consistent sense that there is something very important missing in your life.

While a large volume of research has outlined the impact adoption can have on adopted people, it is disappointing that this research has not been transposed into decision making when it comes to adults seeking to adopt. Currently, overseas adoptions and IVF continue with little consideration of the opinions or feelings of adopted people or the research that has demonstrated the real harm caused.

To be blunt, the need of adults to be able to raise a child at the expense of the needs of the child continues.

While there should be no issue with heterosexual or homosexual couples using IVF in order to have children, we do have a major issue when the identity and/or contact with the biological parent/s is denied to the child. It sends a very clear message that the child’s needs are a secondary consideration. To labour the point, I firmly believe that legislation should exist that makes it compulsory that the identity of both the biological mother and father (where known) has to exist on all birth certificates.

No child should have to be a victim of identity bewilderment due to their parents’ insecurities or selfishness.

Given the recent push to introduce changes to legislation to make it much easier for people to adopt, one has to ask, when will children genuinely become the priority? Very few children are unwanted, and to use this as an argument to change legislation not only creates a false premise, but is overtly cruel to the affected children. Circumstances sometimes make it very difficult for mothers to raise their children.

If we are genuine in our desire to put children first, then the biological mother ought to be provided with the assistance necessary to keep and raise her child.

Finally, one has to ask, at what point will the research on the impact of adoption on adopted people be respected and used to develop informed conversation, policy, and legislation?

While the grief for those families who are unable to conceive a child of their own must be dreadful, removing a child from its family of origin in order to relieve the grief of another adult is not and should never be seen as the solution.

Arguing that the children being adopted are not wanted is not only taking us back to the “bad old days” of rationalising the need for adoption, it is also causing deep hurt to the children who are supposedly the priority. Adoption levels need to be reduced, not increased, if we genuinely care about the children.

Isabell Collins
Adopted person

IT’S TIME TO LISTEN TO ADOPTED PEOPLE WHO HAVE THE LIVED EXPERIENCE

 

The Silencing of Adoptees; By Isabell Collins 

ISABELL COLLINS

The views expressed are based on many years of listening to fellow adopted people.

The emotional side of adoption is an assortment of very complicated and deep feelings on the part of all members of the adoption triangle. In recent years some natural mothers have been relatively assertive about articulating the impact of losing a child to adoption. And, this assertiveness has resulted in a community that is better informed about the issue from the natural mother’s perspective. In contrast, adopted people have remained relatively silent about the negative impact of adoption on them.

Indeed, it appears that most members of the general community as well as other members of the adoption triangle remain quite ignorant regarding the negative impact adoption can have on adopted people. Part of the reason for this ignorance is that many adopted people do not feel confident in expressing their views, in particular their most deeply held views.

Put simply, being adopted is like being separated from everyone else by a picket fence. You can see people, talk, laugh and cry with them, but no matter how much you want to be on the same side of the picket fence with them, something stops that from happening. Adopted people are relegated to walk on the other side of the picket fence on your own. As one adoptee once stated, “being adopted can be one of the loneliest experiences on earth.”

The loneliness can stem from:
• The sense of being alone in the world;
• The evoked feelings of being given away;
• The lack of understanding from those not adopted;
• The incorrect assumption that being adopted is a positive thing;
• The constant reminders of your lack of biological identity;
• Knowing that your adoptive family is not your biological family;
• Knowing and feeling that you are different from most others, etc.

Why do most of us remain silent? From an adopted person’s point of view, if you express your true feelings, you run the risk of hurting and angering the people you simply do not want to hurt or anger. The fear of rejection at a conscious and unconscious level also contributes to keeping the adopted person silent. Additionally, a further impediment is having your views dismissed because they do not fit in with the community’s positive perception of adoption. Finally, there is the strongly voiced agenda of those who think they know what is best for children. All these impediments contribute to the adopted person’s reluctance and lack of confidence to speak out about the negative side of adoption.

It is wrong that adopted people should feel silenced because of the above risks. When you consider the research regarding the impact adoption can have on adopted people our silence becomes very misplaced. For example, overseas research indicates that the rate of adopted people attempting suicide and/or suiciding is four times higher than the non-adopted population rate. A higher proportion of adopted people experience mental health issues and drug and alcohol problems, all of which can lead to other issues such as homelessness and incarceration within the justice system. Given these issues, there does come a time when adopted people have to consider being more open about their adoption experiences, and particularly about the feelings that the adoption experience so often invokes for adopted people. Adopted people need to do this not only for themselves,

but to enable the broader community to develop a more informed understanding that adoption is not as positive an experience for adopted people as some people would have you believe.

It may also assist in educating natural mothers and adoptive parents about the feeling side of adoption from the perspective of the adopted person. Additionally, being more open may help reduce the distress of adopted people and the sense of isolation and aloneness that many feel. More broadly, ensuring that health professionals and the general community are well informed about the effects of adoption on adopted people will hopefully result in a more informed community, which can in turn transpose to respectful adoption and IVF legislation and practices that genuinely put the child first and prevent repetitions of past mistakes.

In 2012 and 2013, Australian and State governments apologised to both natural mothers and adopted people for past adoption practices. While adopted people were mentioned in the apology(s), it was clear for most adopted people that the apology(s) were largely for the natural mothers.

VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT FORCED ADOPTIONS APOLOGY
A member of the public expresses their sympathy for victims of forced adoptions outside Parliament House in Melbourne, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu made a formal apology to women who had their newborn babies taken away from them as part of forced adoptions which were widespread across Australia from the 1950s to the 1970s.

In speaking with other adopted people following the apology, many of us felt unsettled and angry, but unable to clearly articulate what it is was that was so upsetting. It may have had something to do with the point that part of the apology voiced the fact that the natural mother had lost a child. In “tossing around” with other adopted people why we felt so unsettled and angry, we concluded that while clearly deeply painful for the mothers, as adopted people we lost our biological mother, father, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents and the right to really feel we belong anywhere. With the exception of those who are adopted, no one seems to understand this and how deeply it can impact the lives of adopted people. But again, to express this view runs the risk of minimising the pain of natural mothers and adoptive parents and hurting the people you simply do not want to hurt. Most adopted people love members of both their adoptive family and their biological family, and to express these feelings of loss can lead to misunderstandings, hurt and possible rejection. So,

most adopted people remain silent until they are only in a room with other adopted people.

Regarding the government’s apology to natural mothers, there is no doubt that many natural mothers were not treated well by the health care system or adoption agencies, and for many natural mothers, the adoption of their son or daughter may not have been legal. It is however the view of many adopted people that the majority of natural mothers knew that their child was going to be placed for adoption by the time they were due to deliver their baby. Put simply, the decision to place their child for adoption was made prior to the mother being admitted to hospital. It may be that the mother would have preferred (desperately) to keep her child, but she would have been well aware that her personal circumstances were going to prevent this. Having listened to many natural mothers, the stories may differ, but the themes are very similar. They were young (often teenagers), single, the child’s father was unsupportive as were her parents and there was no single mother’s pension (there was a sickness benefits scheme but was only available for a short period of time) that would allow her to raise her child independent of family support. Alternatively, in some cases, the father of the child did want to provide support to the natural mother, but was kept away from the natural mother by their parents. We also know now that some mothers were heavily coerced to the point that some were told their baby had died at birth.

Additional to this, the community view of the day (and still today, in the minds of many people) was that children are better off being raised in an environment that includes a mother and a father. Many natural mothers were told their child would be better off. While there can be no denying that many natural mothers endured dreadful pressures, were these pressures only the fault of government, or was the government of the day just mirroring the view of the community?

Another issue from the natural mother’s point of view is their age at the time of the birth of their child. Given the “age of majority” was 21 up until 1972, it could be argued that many natural mothers were too young to be making such an important decision. They were certainly legally too young to be signing adoption papers.

Many natural mothers may have an argument that the adoption of their child was not legal according to the law of the day as to what constituted the legal age to be able to sign contracts including adoption papers.

Because every person’s experience is an individual one, no one deserves to be placed into a category; however, it is important for the purposes of this piece of writing to be honest about the range of experiences people have had. Clearly, there were some natural mothers who did not want their child. They relinquished their child at birth, and made it clear when their son or daughter sought a reunion that their position had not changed. The realisation of this for the adoptee seeking reunification with their natural mother is overwhelmingly painful. There are also those natural mothers who did want their child and fought for the right to keep and raise them. These natural mothers often had the support of the father of the child and/or their parents. Some also seemed to have a strong sense of self and were therefore more confident in their decision-making. The third group is the natural mothers who wanted to keep their child, but signed the adoption papers because of the pressure(s) from their parents, friends, church, or others. Succumbing to pressure is always a risk when one feels hopeless and helpless and the sense of self is not strong. Many of these natural mothers are the ones who now appear to be stuck in an unresolved form of dreadfully painful grief and regret. However, from an adopted person’s point of view, we know that if our mothers had not signed the adoption papers, (anecdotally some mothers have indicated they did not sign the adoption papers) the adoption would not have happened.

Often the “elephant in the room” for the adopted person is that the natural mothers and others more often than not talk about the loss of their child and the impact of this on them. Rarely do you hear people talk about the loss for the child or for adopted people in general. Indeed, when adopted people do try to articulate their feelings on the subject, they are often interrupted mid-sentence with comments like

“There was no choice,” “We were told you would be better off, ” “But you are clearly loved by your adoptive family,”ect

These interruptions often leave adopted people with the impression that there is much less interest in our feelings and the consequences on our lives and far more interest in what the mothers experienced. Sadly, this sort of behaviour helps to enforce the view of some adopted people that we were not and still are not a priority.

Those adopted people who refuse to be silenced and persist in articulating their views often experience rationalisations that conclude that we hate natural mothers, that we are taking out on natural mothers generally what we can’t take out on our own mothers, that we have not had a positive reunion, or that we had an unhappy adoption and are just angry about that.

These rationalisations, while false and very hurtful, also contribute to the silencing of adopted people. A message is sent that the views of adopted people only hold worth so long as they are acceptable to others within the adoption triangle and the general community. It also needs to be stated that our hurt and grief is not related in any way to our relationships and love for our adoptive family.

As indicated previously, adopted people often feel unable to express their deeply held views and feelings for fear of hurting others, in particular natural mothers and adoptive parents. While most adopted people accept the expressions of natural mothers that they had no choice, there was no single mother’s pension, their parents and the father of their child were unsupportive, etc., these articulations rarely impact on the feeling side of adoption for the adopted person. For most adopted people, the feeling side of adoption more often than not was developed during childhood, when our ability to think things through was severely hampered by our age and by the lack of proactive conversations with adults who were in a position to correct the views of the child. As a consequence, by the time the adopted person reaches adulthood, their feelings about their adoption are usually firmly entrenched and difficult to change, even with more informed explanations. While the feeling side of adoption can shift, it takes time and lots of empathetic conversation, including conversations that other members of the triangle commonly try to avoid because of their own unresolved issues of grief.

Another issue that prevents adopted people from speaking out is the fear of rejection. This is very commonly a paramount consideration for adopted people. While the research suggests that adopted people feel rejection more deeply than others, it’s also fair to say that many adopted people are very cautious about placing themselves in positions where they will be rejected. The implications of this on adopted people’s relationships with others throughout their lives can be severe.

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The feelings of adopted people, while not always logical, factual or fair and often potentially hurtful to others are very real to the majority of adopted people and very deeply ingrained. The feeling side of adoption is often impossible to change, or will take some robust work to move.

The feelings many Adopted people have include:

• My mother gave me away to strangers, did not want me and did not fight for me;
• I must be unlovable;
• I was not good enough to keep;
• Other mothers kept their child, why didn’t mine;
• There must have been something wrong with me;
• If my own mother can give me away so too can my adoptive parents;
• That you straddle both families (adoptive and biological), never really feeling like you belong to either;
• A sense that, no matter how hard they (the biological family) try, you are always alert to the potential for rejection and how you are the “odd one out” in the family because you can never “catch up” with what has gone on in the family in your absence;
• Any baby would have done for my adoptive family, I just happened to be available;
• If I don’t behave myself, you will give me away again, or reject me;
• You (adoptive family) cannot possibly care about me when I am nothing like you in looks or personality;
• While I want to meet my natural relatives you (adoptive family) may be angry and reject me if I go through with a reunion;
• Everyone knows I am not really yours, as I don’t look anything like you (a particular issue for adopted people from a different ethnic background);
• I know you would have preferred to have a child of your own and I was your last choice;
• Children subject to open adoptions can often fear that if they demonstrate enthusiasm to meet or have a relationship with their natural mother, their adoptive parents may be hurt or angry.

Experiences that accentuate the adopted person’s fears and hurt include:

• Natural mothers or fathers not including the child given up for adoption in family speeches when talking about their children;
• Not inviting or allowing their natural/adopted child to attend family functions such as Christmas, weddings or birthdays. This is a particular occurrence after the natural or adoptive parent(s) have died;
• Leaving the adopted person off the family tree, sending a powerful message that the adopted person is not accepted as a member of the family;
• Leaving the adopted person off the death certificate of the adoptive parents (all children are listed on death certificates), sending the message that they were not really accepted as a child of the deceased parent or a legitimate member of the broader family;
• Excluding the adopted person from the Will of the adopted parents (reasons as above);
• Introducing the adopted person to others as your adopted child, or letting other members of the family do so, which serves as a continual reminder to the adopted person that they are not accepted as your own;
• If the adopted person makes a mistake, suggesting it’s the “bad blood” coming out;
• Referring to the adopted person as a bastard or allowing other family members to do so. The dictionary definition of a bastard is very clear, but society tends to use the term loosely to describe the “rogues” of society and a child can take the use of the word to believe they are being told they are bad or have bad blood;
• Telling the adoptive child they were chosen, because when they find out they weren’t they will be devastated and feel like “any child would have done.” It is better (if true) to say to the child, “While you were not chosen, as you have grown, so has my love for you and it is as strong as it can possibly be,” or “The first moment I laid eyes on you I wanted you,” etc.
• Having the adopted child become a victim of the adoptive parents’ own unresolved grief about not being able to have a biological child;
• Telling lies about anything to do with the adoption. Adopted children are completely reliant on others for information and giving misinformation will erode trust and confidence;
• Telling the child that if they seek a reunion with their natural family the adoptive parents will end the relationship, write the child out of the will, etc.
• Sending the child to bed with an unresolved issue with the adoptive parents. Much thinking can go on in bed and a child’s fears of rejection can overtake;
• Undervaluing the grief an adopted person feels when an adoptive or natural parent dies with such comments as, “she or he was not really your mother or father,” or “they did not raise you, so why are you so upset?”

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Below are some ways to assist in reducing the adopted person’s fears and hurt.

• Encouraging conversation about adoption, the child’s natural mother, etc., asking the child questions about what they think and feel, explaining why you are doing so. The reasons have been articulated above, but the conversations should not be forced;
• Never suggesting to the child that their natural mother did not want them;
• Always being transparent;
• If there is unresolved grief about not being able to become pregnant, the adoptive parent(s) should seek counselling to minimise the grief and the impact on both the adoptive parent(s) and the child;
• Encouraging and supporting the adopted child to have contact with their natural family if access has been agreed to at the time of the adoption. When the child becomes an adult and finds out that their adoptive family interfered with their contact with their natural family, they will feel that the love of the adoptive family was selfish.
• Where a natural or adoptive parent dies, treating the adoptee’s grief the same as any other person’s grief on losing a parent; that is, with empathy, sending a sympathy card, flowers, etc.

For an adopted person, grief following the loss of an adoptive family member or natural relatives, in particular the natural mother or father can be somewhat difficult. The adopted person often not only has to deal with the loss, but the attitudes that some members of their family, friends or work colleagues can have that minimise their grief. For example, if an adoptee’s adoptive mother or father dies such comments as, “well she/he is not really your Mother and Father” can be extremely hurtful and distressing. Likewise, if an adopted person’s natural mother or father dies, they may be subject to such comments as, “well it’s not as if she/he raised you.” These statements suggest that the adopted person’s grief is somehow less, and therefore less valid, than that of others. The attitudes can lead to solitude and silence in grief for the adopted person, and a reinforcement of the belief that they are on their own in the world. The experience can certainly leave the adopted person wondering when their grief will be recognised as normal and no different than non-adopted people who experience the loss of a loved one.

Another experience that reinforces the adopted person’s feelings of not really belonging is the need of some members of an adoptive family to introduce the child as the adopted child, rather than “this is my son or daughter.” The media also frequently contributes to this differentiation of the adopted child by consistently referring to a famous person’s adopted children in this way. Adopted people are acutely aware of their adoption; they do not need to be reminded.

Non-adopted people often refer to some adoptions as “successful adoptions.” One assumes this means that the adoptive parents loved the adopted person. While most adopted people are loved by their adoptive parents, successful adoption is not a term that should be encouraged. From an adopted person’s point of view, it is saying that being given away at birth was a successful process. I believe that if you asked every adopted person if they would have preferred to not be adopted 100 per cent would agree.

It may be that many would choose their adoptive parents as their parents, but they would all prefer not to have been adopted.

Removing a person from their biological roots should never be seen as successful as there has been too much loss for the adopted person.

To stress this point,the only people who undervalue the importance of biological roots are those that have always had them.

The articulation of why an adopted person seeks out their natural mother is a difficult one, but it is definitely not a rejection of the adoptive parents or other members of the adopting family. It also has nothing to do with whether the adopted person feels loved or unloved by their adoptive family. Some members of the non-adopted community will say that it is only natural for the adopted person to be curious.

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But again, this statement grossly underestimates the emotions that drive adopted people to seek a reunion with their natural mother or biological relatives.

Adopted people will often talk about this feeling they have that just sits there. A feeling that is unsettling, a feeling that something is missing, something is not quite right; a feeling of emptiness. At other times this feeling is much stronger, to the point of being overwhelming. Our whole society is based on genes. Family conversation is often about who takes after who, who looks like who. You cannot go to the doctor without being asked if there is a family history of a health condition.

The adopted person is constantly surrounded by people who take their biological identity for granted. But it is much deeper than biological identity. It is a strong, consistent sense that there is something very important missing in your life.

While a large volume of research has outlined the impact adoption can have on adopted people, it is disappointing that this research has not been transposed into decision making when it comes to adults seeking to adopt. Currently, overseas adoptions and IVF continue with little consideration of the opinions or feelings of adopted people or the research that has demonstrated the real harm caused.

To be blunt, the need of adults to be able to raise a child at the expense of the needs of the child continues.

While there should be no issue with heterosexual or homosexual couples using IVF in order to have children, we do have a major issue when the identity and/or contact with the biological parent/s is denied to the child. It sends a very clear message that the child’s needs are a secondary consideration. To labour the point, I firmly believe that legislation should exist that makes it compulsory that the identity of both the biological mother and father (where known) has to exist on all birth certificates.

No child should have to be a victim of identity bewilderment due to their parents’ insecurities or selfishness.

Given the recent push to introduce changes to legislation to make it much easier for people to adopt, one has to ask, when will children genuinely become the priority? Very few children are unwanted, and to use this as an argument to change legislation not only creates a false premise, but is overtly cruel to the affected children. Circumstances sometimes make it very difficult for mothers to raise their children.

If we are genuine in our desire to put children first, then the biological mother ought to be provided with the assistance necessary to keep and raise her child.

Finally, one has to ask, at what point will the research on the impact of adoption on adopted people be respected and used to develop informed conversation, policy, and legislation?

While the grief for those families who are unable to conceive a child of their own must be dreadful, removing a child from its family of origin in order to relieve the grief of another adult is not and should never be seen as the solution.

Arguing that the children being adopted are not wanted is not only taking us back to the “bad old days” of rationalising the need for adoption, it is also causing deep hurt to the children who are supposedly the priority. Adoption levels need to be reduced, not increased, if we genuinely care about the children.

Isabell Collins
Adopted person

A QUEER MAN SHOWING SOLIDARITY TO ADOPTEE ACTIVISTS by Pascal Huynh

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I’m queer and a person of color. Though in this article, it’s not the rights of my people which will be discussed, but the rights of the victims of queers’ new privileges: adopted people and their parents.

Adoption of an unrelated individual as we know it today in the West is a social practice that is rarely discussed critically. It’s benignly accepted that adopting equates to a humanitarian and selfless gesture, and that it should be universally encouraged. More importantly, it’s never read as impeding on the human rights of children and their parents. Myself, I had assumed that I’d adopt a child because there are so many individuals in need of a loving home and it would be selfish to create a child of my own. I had the chance, through a documentary project, to interview adoptees’ rights activists and understand, to my surprise, that this way of thinking must cease.

The passive discourse around adoption is partly caused by the portrayal of adopted people on films and television in strictly emotional terms through stories of reunion, search and identity. We’ve been accustomed to this limited framing where the adopted person becomes a sentimental display for the adopter’s benevolence. That narrow narrative undermines the potential of any political discussion around the power dynamics that generate family separation in the first place.

When we talk about adoption amongst higher social classes, it’s always in terms of reproductive rights, when it’s actually an issue of reproductive justice. On one hand, upper and middle class westerners are seeking solutions for either their infertility or for fulling their ideals of a family and are claiming rights to access parenthood. On the other hand, activists in reproductive justice are fighting for family preservation within disempowered communities through holistic approaches: creating parental resilience, promoting social connections, teaching parenting skills and child development, concrete family support in times of need, collaborating among the several community and/or neighborhood systems that are directly involved in the family, and the list goes on.

To fully understand the debate, adoption has to be examined throughout its history. Before the 1970s, unmarried mothers, also called “les filles-mères” in Québec, were shamed by an intrinsically sexist society. The unwed mothers who often were confused by the transformation of their bodies through pregnancy and at the same time afraid of the consequences of the stigma they bore, had to either surrender their babies to their death, go through dangerous backyard abortions or pretend their newborn was a younger sibling. Most fathers simply remained invisible out of guilt, leaving the mothers on their own. Thus, with the increasing amount of children in the streets, the Grey Nuns created orphanages – one of which, by the way, was newly acquired by Concordia University on Guy Street. This social phenomenon was carried out through the clergy who was enforcing values which stigmatized unwed pregnancy, and at the same time, they were going around the province to sell the illegitimate children in rural homes.

In the mid-19th century, the Sisters of Mercy were created out of the need to shelter unwed mothers from the public’s eyes. They created in Montreal unwed mothers’ home located on René-Lévesque, which interestingly enough, I can see from my bedroom window. Today, this building is vacant and in a poor condition. Now owned by University du Québec à Montréal, it is roamed by only a handful of security officers, unwilling to answer to any of my questions about its dark history.

I found one of the last Sisters of Mercy alive who worked in those homes. From her point of view, mothers were well treated to the point that some of them remained life-long friends. She dismisses the claims made by mothers saying they were coerced into surrendering their children to adoption. In 2012, the National Post published a story “where most of the mothers interviewed […] said the coercion was systematic: From the church-run maternity homes where accommodation was sometimes predicated on adoption and where mothers had to write a letter to their unborn child explaining the separation; to the social workers who concealed information about social assistance and who told single mothers they could be charged with child endangerment; to the medical staff who called the women “sluts” and denied them painkillers, and who reportedly tied teenagers to their beds or obstructed their view of  labour with a sheet.”[i] The reason why we don’t hear much about it is that many of these mothers have internalized the shame and side with the sisters who enforced family separation.

When interviewing the Sisters of Mercy’s spokesperson, there was still today no understanding that something better could have been done. It was described that a good social worker’s role was to remind the mother of society’s oppression. They’d discourage the mothers from keeping their children by repeating throughout their pregnancy that they’d be selfish mothers if they kept their babies. They’d remind the mother that she’d be discriminated at her workplace and that no man would want to marry her thereafter. The spokesperson explained, “It was for the child’s best interest.”

The popular understanding is that mothers made a willing choice of relinquishing their child. In my view, all surrendered children have been made through subtle systems of coercion. Would a woman with the tools, means, and dignity make the same choices?

During an interview for my upcoming documentary on adoption issues a mother described to me: “Those homes for unwed mothers were just like a machine; eating you and throwing you back in society with no support. No one ever explained to me anything of what I was about to live through.”

But things shifted around the world for women starting in the late 60s. In Quebec, under Trudeau and Bourassa’s governments, the Council for Women’s Status was created. Women had access to paid maternity leave, tax deduction for child care expenses, legal abortion, the pill and increased child allowances. The Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms was adopted which enshrines gender equality and prohibits discrimination in hiring and promotion on grounds related to sex, marital status or pregnancy. In other words, women had access to financial means and consequently were able to raise their children.

Eerily, this history sounds exactly similar to what has been recognized in Australia as the Forced Adoption Era. Unlike Canadian women, the Australians have developed a political language to understand the horrors that happened to them. In 2013, the first female prime minister of the country made national apologies to mothers, fathers and adopted people who were victims of this discriminatory system. Canada has a long way to go. Mothers here still internalize their shame and only a few have come out of the fog.

With the rise of women’s rights, the number of local adoptable children dropped drastically. And in response to the market shift, international adoption boomed. At the end of the American War in Vietnam in 1975, three thousand “war orphans” were put on planes and shipped to the West. This event captured popular imagination under the name of the “Babylift Operation”. Soon, couples were putting greater pressures on the government to systemize international adoption. Baby trafficking exploded and it took a decade later to become regulated.

In parallel, in vitro fertilization (IVF) was being developed by researchers around the world. Pioneer in IVF, Alan Trounson describes:

What had happened in the late ’60s, is that abortion was made available to women, and so suddenly there were no babies for adoption. We had to develop something different because the physicians who were then treating women for infertility were being pressured much more to get a solution, and so IVF was born out of that particular need.[ii]

Whilst in the West, we now feel uncomfortable to adopt out our single mothers’ children, hypocritically, we have lower standards for other countries: we’d gladly adopt children from South Korea’s single mothers who suffer from the same social stigma that we had before the 70s. Have you noticed that adoption agencies portray potential adoptees as orphans? How uncomfortable would it be if those children were marketed with their mothers in the background as victims of systemic inequality?

Let’s not forget, adoption is an industry after all, and like any other, it obeys to the same dynamics of supply and demand. With international adoption regulated and local adoption limited, the demand for babies was so strong that offshore surrogacy was created in the turn of the new millennia. As professors Cuthbert and Fronek explain in a report for the Australian Institute for Family Studies:

Inequalities in wealth and power have always underwritten the exchange of children for adoption, and continue to underwrite the production of children in surrogacy arrangements. The children of the affluent are not and never have been exchanged to be raised by the poor. The shift from intercountry adoption to commercial offshore surrogacy does not change these political and economic dynamics, for all that it might (…) offer apparently progressive and transformative possibilities for parenthood outside heterosexual norms of family formation in Australia. [iii]

The demand is driven from this very fact: in most cultures, womanhood and manhood are indissociable from parenthood. You can’t fully be a woman or a man if you haven’t raised a child. For death, we have funerals to help overcome the feelings of loss. With infertility, there are no tools. Therefore, many privileged infertile couples and individuals don’t know how to overcome childlessness and will have desperate recourse to three expensive family formation services: IVF, adoption or offshore surrogacy.

For queer people, the mimicking of heteronormativity through the ownership of children can allow some sense of belonging and acceptance within their own social realm. The impossibility of creating children through biological means is not dealt with emotionally, but instead with power and with money.

Whether you know an adopted person or not, there are slight chances that you’ll hear an adoptee talking about this issue. Adoptees are an invisible minority of society. Often assimilated to their adoptive families, they are isolated from other adult adoptees and do not develop a political language around their unspoken reality. Many feel a split sense of belonging between their family and their adoptive family and prefer to keep their feelings quiet. It is usually later in their lives when their adoptive parents pass away or when they have their own children that they are triggered to speak critically about the injustices of adoption. That self-consignment is reaffirmed by Minnesota’s University’s study in 2008 showing that adoptees are 4 times more likely to commit suicide and self-harm than non-adopted persons, in addition to the fact there is an overrepresentation of adoptees in substance abuse.[iv]

It’s a reality that can be compared to what queers were experiencing in the 60s, where most had double identities and hid their true selves, afraid of challenging their sense of belonging or causing damage to the family unit.

To sum it up, the system of adoption is a service where the adopters are the main beneficiary. It’s not selfless. The UN Convention on the Rights of Children does remind us that adoption is not considered as humanitarian aid. In the words of Ontario Provincial Court judge Nevin, adoption is defined this way:

The concept of adoption is a unique creature of statute that has been referred to as the most significant procedure which can arise within the legal system. It involves the total extinguishment of the birth parents rights and the establishment, legally, retroactively and permanently, of the parent-child relationship between a child and a person who is not the biological parent of the child. Once an adoption order is made the child becomes the child of the adoptive parent and the adopted child ceases to be the child of the person who was his or her parent before the adoption order was made.[v]

In simple terms, adoption is the transfer of a child’s ownership. It fabricates a permanent identity unto the adopted person and guarantees the acquisition. In its core, adoption does not guarantee the child’s safety nor its well-being, unlike what popular culture like to sell to us. Some adoptees do even consider the system as legalized human trafficking.[vi]

As a filmmaker, I am concerned by the lack of diversity in the narratives on adoption. Adopters often flood the media coverage saying how hard, long and expensive it is to adopt. What we are missing is the voice of adult adoptees speaking critically against the system of adoption.

This is what led me to make “My Invisible Mother”, an animated documentary that portrays an adult adoptee, William Hammersley who recalls the social realities that forced his mother to put him up for adoption. It’s really short – three minutes long – but it achieves two important things: (1) adoption is not told from the adopter’s perspective and (2) adoption is not advertised as a happy-forever fairytale. The film has won “Best Documentary” at the Canberra Short Film Festival, which has symbolic value since it was also where the National Apologies for Forced Adoption was made in 2013.

Have you ever heard anyone talk against adoption? Like in any debate such as abortion, immigration or gay rights, we hear both arguments for and against. However, adoption is left under the radar. It’s still too taboo to question its validity. As adoptees from around the world are now connecting through the Internet, they are starting to understand that their personal experiences are political. Hopefully, in the near future, they will be able to claim justice without being dismissed for being ungrateful. For that, we need to recognize that adoptees are a minority that still doesn’t have a voice and they need to reclaim their own stories.

ENDNOTES

[i] Carlson, Katheryn Blaze. (March 9th 2012). Curtain lifts on decades of forced adoptions for unwed mothers in Canada. The National Post. Retrieved from <http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/curtain-lifts-on-decades-of-forced-adoptions-for-unwed-mothers-in-canada&gt;

[ii] Donovan, B. (Writer & Producer). (2011). The baby maker. Australian Story [Television series]. Sydney: Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved from <www.abc.net.au/austory/transcripts/s289014.htm>.

[iii] Cuthbert, D. and Fronek, P. (2014) Perfecting adoption? Reflections on the rise of commercial offshore surrogacy and family formation in Australia, p.56.

[iv] Margaret A. Keyes, Stephen M. Malone, Anu Sharma, William G. Iacono, Matt McGue. (2013). Risk of Suicide Attempt in Adopted and Nonadopted Offspring. Retrieved from: <http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/ early/2013/09/04/peds.2012-3251>.

[v] Duhaime, Lloyd. (2011). Adoption Law in Canada. Retrieved from: <http://www.duhaime.org/LegalResources/ FamilyLaw/LawArticle-190/Adoption-Law-in-Canada.aspx>

[vi] Dohle, A. (2008), Against Child Trafficking. Retrieved from: http://www.againstchildtrafficking.org/

Precedents that show other countries do not sever the legal rights of the child from connection to their natural family

Islamic rules emphasise

To the adoptive family that they are not taking the place of the biological family — they are trustees and caretakers of someone else’s child.

Their role is very clearly defined, but nevertheless very valued and important.
An adopted child retains his or her own biological family name (surname) and does not change his or her name to match that of the adoptive family.

https://adoptionland.org/p/adopting-a-child-in-islam/

Thailand, France and Ethiopia

All have adoption legislation that enables retaining the legal recognition of the family of origin whilst creating a new relationship with adoptive family. Such adoptions are called simple adoptions.

 

Ethiopian adoption legislation states,
Addis Ababa 4th Day of July, 2000 Chapter 10
Article.181. — (2) Effects. Without prejudice to the provisions of Article 182, an adopted child shall, for all purposes, be deemed to be the child of the adopter.
Article. 183. — Relationship of the Adopted Child with the Family of Origin.
1) The adopted child shall retain his bonds with the family of origin.
2) The same shall apply to the spouse and the descendants of the adopted child Federal.

Negarit Gazette of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia The Revised Family Code

.The Revised Family Code – Refworld  http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/4c0ccc052.pdf

French: adoption simple

Simple adoption  is a type of adoption which allows some of the legal bonds between an adopted child and his or her family to remain. It is formalized under articles 343 and following of the French Civil Code.
Simple adoption is less restrictive in its requirements and less radical in effects than plenary adoption.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adoption_in_France

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Foster care To Adoption we do it because we love children?

When I have had conversations in the past with the general public, many times in defence of adoption people would argue that

  • “Adoption is better than foster care because many of the types of people that are foster carers are only in it for the money.”
  • “The people who seek to adopt are different to foster carers they adopt children because they want to give the child a worm and loving forever family.”
  • “Those foster carers, when the child ages out of foster care push the young person out and get a new foster kid”
  • “That foster kids are chucked out to fend for themselves when they age out of the system at 17/18”

This is also one of the arguments put by adoptchange the pro adoption lobby on why the foster kid is in need of a forever family.

So what type of foster carers are going to adopt these kids, is it the ones that will only care for the kids if they can get payed in some cases $37,896 each year. The means-tested payments would be available to the households that qualify for the Family Tax Benefit A. have two foster kids and they get nearly *$80,000 per year Have 3 then that’s close to $120,000 not bad for a stay at home mum.

The Government would not professionalise foster care workers in the past by paying and training them so that the system did not attract the wrong type of people in the first place.

So do Foster Carers only care if they can get paid is this the type of people we need adopting our young and vulnerable?

For a vulnerable child to know that its foster carer only became its adoptive parent and would not have adopted unless they got money for it.

To know that they would have turned their back on him/her if the money was not provided and in some cases had done so to other foster kids before them and to listen to yet more lies like

We adopted you because we love you, when the child knows that they adopted her/him because they got paid to adopt the child to relieve the state of its responsibility.

FOSTER CARE TO ADOPT TRY BEFORE COMITMENT IF YOU LIKE THEN THE STATE WILL PAY YOU TO TAKE THEM OF THEIR HANDS

Is this really the way to treat vulnerable children?

It’s bad enough that when a child is adopted that their identity is changed, their name is changed and they are legally disconnected from not only the Mother and Father.

But also their brothers, sisters, grandparents, extended family, heritage and blood line for the rest of their life.

Along with their original Birth Certificate cancelled, issued with a new birth certificate stating that these people are the people that gave birth to them also being grafted onto genetic strangers family tree then to realise that these people would had only adopted you because they could get money to raise you or they would have turned their back on you because they couldn’t afford to care for you.

How much psychological damage does the state want to add to a child who has already suffered damage and is in need of care?

“NO DOH NO CARE” Why is the state doing this to vulnerable children? There must be a better way

IDENTITY and ADOPTION

Why did you change my identity on my birth certificate?

Why did you cancel my original Birth Certificate?

Why did you give me a new Birth Certificate that does not have my parents’ names on it?

Why did you give me a new Birth Certificate that does not have my older brothers and sisters on it like my friends dose?

Why does my new Birth Certificate have a person named as my sibling who my mother did not give Birth to on it?

Why does my new birth certificate have genetic strangers on it where my mother and fathers names should be?

Why is my name changed on my new Birth Certificate?

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