' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Most Birth/First Mothers Want Contact but still the secrecy lingers on

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Most Birth/First Mothers Want Contact but still the secrecy lingers on

How many mothers reject contact? It's a question that dogs us all involved in adoption reform, because when we lobby for open records for adopted people, we always hear ad nauseum about the first/birth mother in the closet who will drive her car in the river if she is "found out." And we know from our friends in the blogosphere, such as Triona and Ungrateful Little Bastard, that refusal for contact does happen!

It is hard for we first mothers to even imagine turning away--well, I was a searcher mother, so that was never an issue; Linda and Jane were sought by their daughters. So since none of us can even fathom the thought of rejecting our children, we wondered how many first mothers really want to stay in the closet. Who are these women? We were prodded in our quest, we admit, by a call from the Evan B. Donaldson Institute because they are updating their white paper For the Records: Restoring a Legal Right for Adult Adoptees.

A while back we heard from Jacy Boldebuck in Wisconsin where she does searches for the state for adoptees past eighteen, that she gets approximately a 50 percent refusal rate! Is there something in the water in Wisconsin that leads to these kinds of acts of random evil? Is there something they say to the mothers to prevent them from wanting contact? What is going on? From Indiana, I have a report of 70 percent acceptance rate; 30 percent refusal.

I found this hard to believe because it is so wholly off from everything else I have heard from sea to shining sea--as well as what kinds of statistics we can find. While these are anecdotal reports, here's what I've been hearing:

Confidential intermediary Linda Burns (read more at link) from Texas (pictured holding a sign on the right), said that she had done about a thousand searches and "finds" over the years, and in the end, she had no refusals to contact. A few reluctant at first, but in the end, no refusals in the end.

To find out more, I sent out a request on Adoption News Service to confidential intermediaries or anyone who does searches and asked about their refusal rate. The reaction was heart-warming:
from Searchquestamerica: a 92 percent acceptance.
Birth mother Marilyn Waugh in Kansas (where the records have never been sealed) says she does between 400-500 searches a year, and has done them for the past 18 years, and she finds about five women a year (approximately one percent) who do not want contact and refuse information.
Joe Collins, searcher extraordinaire based in New Jersey, says he has done about 2,500 searches and estimates the refusal rate at two percent.
And from Tina Peddie in California comes this response:
I have been an adoption search consultant, like I said, for over 25 yrs.... after being reunited with my son for 26 yrs .... and most of my people..my clients (who many I consider 'friends' as well.... ), ask me to make the initial phone call, esp the adoptees who are petrified to make that initial phone call to their birthmothers - even tho i talk with them at length and encourage them to make the call if they possibly CAN ...but most are too afraid to ... so I do it ... and I do believe that having an understanding, empathetic birthmother on the phone with them DOES HELP THEM, once they get thru the first few minutes ... even tho MOST are very happy to hear that their adult child is wanting contact.

My experience (even if I wasn't a b/mom) still seems to be that the majority DO WANT contact! There are those FEW that might be hesitant at first who it DOES seem to help to have me, another b/mom on the phone to talk with about it, that by the end of the call, are okay and relaxed about it, and perfectly okay to having contact ....
And, as I said, in 25 yrs, I have only had 2 or 3 who never would have contact with their child at ALL - and they all had one or two things in common: they were all ELDERLY (older than the average birthmom being found) ... and tended to be the very religious ones. But mainly ELDERLY, like now in their late 70s or 80s!

It's heartbreaking because I KNOW it doesn't have to be that way ... and the birthmothers do not have to carry around that fear, guilt and shame, that I know is what keeps them apart. They just cannot deal with it. And two of these adoptees are males in their 40s/50s, and they are sad about it, but not angry, hurt yes, and feel sad for their birthmother, that she has to hold this secret still. (But after her death, they both want to seek out their siblings by this mother, and I will help them. I feel they have that right.) And I know that that most likely those siblings will feel badly for their mother, that she had to carry this burden all alone, and that she couldn't share it with her husband or children all those years. Sad.

I know a C.I. who is a birthmother, who does a good job - but I don't know that all do. I don't think they put as much INTO CONTACT as we do - or if they have the same empathy, or keep them on the phone as I do ... just to keep them on the phone, talking, or 'listening' - if a birthmom starts off hesitating, I at least try to keep her on the phone by telling her about the adoptee as much as I can, just to keep her on the phone, and telling her what I know about the adoptee, making the adoptee 'real' to her... and it always turns things around. I just don't think C.I.'s go quite that far. That's prob. why they don't have the same, high 'success rate.'
Thanks for what you are doing!
Take care,
God bless!
What is so sorrowful are the adoptees who are rejected, when it appears that with the right kind of contact, the closeted birth mother would find the courage to come out into the light, fess up to her spouse, her family, her friends if she chooses to and give the adopted person the sense of completeness that he or she lacks.
CORRECTION: There is more than one woman in New Jersey upset over being contacted by her daughter conceived during a rape. Both have become poster women for birth mother anonymity from their children: Kathleen Hoy Foley, of Chatsworth, who is photographed here, and a woman from Atlantic City, both birthmother wretchedaires, are the two in question. The Atlantic City woman, whose name is not being published in the newspapers (but read comments below--apparently her name is Renee Blackwell) is suing the State of New Jersey's Department of Youth and Family Services for a million dollars for the pain and sorrow caused by being contacted by her daughter. Though she received a letter stating that her daughter was looking for her, she did not respond, and months later, the daughter showed up after allegedly receiving her name from the state. Hmm...just wondering: The daughter could have found the woman's identity through other means...there are successful searchers.

As adoptee-rights advocate Pam Hasegawa has noted in newspaper reports, the woman could have gotten a a restraining order; instead she is suing for a million bucks. My heart aches for her daughter. For both daughters. Children of rape are wholly innocent and not responsible for their parents' actions.

It takes all kinds. What I think about these woman is not suitable for a family newspaper. Er, blog.-lorraine


  1. These are encouraging stats. So that must mean that the objecting hubby scenario you raised earlier must also be quite minimal. Because I'm willing to bet that a bunch of the women that don't want contact are doing it because of family pressure of some kind.

  2. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person in the world connected to someone who would argue for first mother secrecy. When you mention that 1% or 2% figure I ask myself why I had to be born into this tribe. Never mind. They'll never change. Nothing can ever just be the way it is. It always has to conform to some glorious bullshit in the sky. Meanwhile, there are relatives bereft of kin who don't even know they have other siblings. Why, why, why?

  3. When you mention that 1% or 2% figure I ask myself why I had to be born into this tribe.

    I have similar thoughts.

    I'm not sure what the 'right' kind of contact would have been for my mother.

    After a search of over two decades, I'd had advice from enough experienced search angels and read just about everything there was to read. Seriously, in those three attempts I made with my mom, I hate to toot my own horn but there was no kinder or more discreet contact that could have been made.

    Maybe in her case the right contact would have been standing out front of her house with a loudspeaker proclaiming myself her secret bastard child.

    It's hard to say for sure. Sometimes in my more maudlin moments I try to convince myself she's trapped in denial and 45 years of unresolved PTSD from it all. But then I read her go-away-and-don't-write-again letter to me and that disappears.

  4. What I don't get is, if Kathleen Hoy Foley is so upset at being 'outed', then why has she got her picture plastered all over the Philly Daily News


  5. Here she is, the evil witch poster Mom for those who don't want to be found.

    NCFA is pimping her all over, despite the fact she was found and contacted while the records are still firmly sealed in NJ.

    Rejected adoptees here, I suspect the figure of those who do not wish contact is higher than 1 or 2 percent overall, more like 10-25% That is still a minority but cold comfort when it is your mother. I don't understand it and am so sorry for those suffering rejection. But you are not alone. I wish they were all like me and wanted to know their kids, but they are not and I have no insight into why.

    I'm not a math person but there is some huge number of adopted people and only a relatively small number search compared to how many there are altogether. That might skew the results. I think how the contact is made matters with some and can up the favorable results, but with others nothing makes a difference.

  6. Uhm the lawsuit is being brought by Rene Blackwell, not Kathleen Hoy Foley. I have a copy of the lawsuit if anyone wants to see it.

    There is no way to find out how many truly search.

  7. No question about it: We are as sick as our secrets ... (from AA programs)
    I am so very sorry my dear adoptee buddies have experienced that rejection from their natural mothers .. how utterly devastating.
    If secrecy is so very important to a mother, then ask the adoptee to honor that ... and have a secret reunion, at least one time, and do so without expectations that there will be future meetings.
    It's Hell not knowing who our people are!! It's Hell knowing that all the differences we live with and must accept in our adoptive families are perfectly understandable/normal in our natural families.
    Then, too ... we must push against the secrecy with some caution: Be careful what you wish for ...:)
    Still, I support reunion, in all cases ... just, have few expectations and tons of acceptance. Love you all. CB

  8. Truth time --

    I can fathom the idea of rejecting our children which I sort of did twice before Megan and I finally connected in 1997. When Megan was 19 in the fall of 1986, she obtained her non-identifying information from San Francisco County where she was born. It was so specific that she was able to figure out her father's name, where he lived, and my maiden name. She wrote her father. He wrote back giving her some info about himself and the name of a relative of mine by marriage. I did not have a close relationship with this relative.

    Megan wrote and called this relative several times over the next 11 years trying to get my address. The relative called me in 1987 and 1991 telling me that some woman was trying to get ahold of me. She did not send me Megan's letters, assuming that I did not want them which was partially true. In fairness, I think this relative was trying to protect me.

    While I suspected that this was my daughter, I had enough doubt to convince myself not to respond. To tell the truth I was terrified. Megan became a looming ghost that might pop out any time. While I had often fantasized about finding Megan, I needed control of the time and place. Megan tried again in 1997. This time the relative called telling me she had yet another letter from my daughter. I told her to send me the letter. When I received it I called Megan.

    I lived in Salem, Oregon during the 80's and 90's. While I had read an occasional article about reunions and Florence Fisher's "The Search for Anna Fisher," I had no idea of all that was going on. I knew nothing about AAC, CUB, Origins, Bastard Nation, the local Oregon support group, the fight for open records, "the books", nothing.

    I believe that if Megan had contacted me herself I would have responded to the first contact. I was frankly very irritated that she had allowed this relative into my private life. Megan also knew nothing about the search movement, how to get help in searching; she had not read any books about adoption. It was the primal urge "to know" that propelled her into her 11 year search.

  9. I think what Tina said is right on the money. I often wonder if my birth mother would have been more willing for contact if she had been approached by a fellow birth mother or other friendly person and not some inadequately-trained flunky hired by the state of Illinois. Perhaps I still would have been a member of the "denied" tribe, like Ungrateful Little Bastard and Anonymous, but as it stands I have to wonder if her decision was in part due to the incompetence of the state. In fact I think the process may be more harmful to birth mothers. Having a state worker contact them may in itself feel threatening enough that some feel the need to deny out of a reflexive defense mechanism. What about those who deny but later change their minds? As far as the state is concerned, that first "no" is all that counts. My birth mother may not even know that her denial has locked me out of my records, she may simply think it is a legal means of expressing her preference.

    And, to be honest, for me it was never about contacting her, although sure it would have been nice to sit down with a cup of tea and have a chat. I just wanted to know my information. In the hopes of gaining that, I was forced to contact her. Those few birth mothers who don't want contact should support open records because then we adoptees would have our information without being forced to contact them. Why is it people assume that if we have information about our origins we are instantly going to use it to harass others? What makes us more likely to do so than any other average member of society? Speaking from experience, being surrendered then rejected is twice more than I care for, thank you very much. I am tired of being treated like a criminal for no other reason than the circumstances of my birth.

  10. How sad for Megan!

    I am becoming more and more convinced that many mothers just don't care, not to say all don't but many don't.

    I suppose that would explain the relinquishment ha ha.

  11. Triona's comment brought up another thought. I had little idea why Megan was trying to contact me and so I thought only of myself. How will her showing up affect my other children? My marriage? My job? My status in the community?

    When we finally connected, I assumed she was looking for family, a relationship to compensate for something missing. Once I knew her I wanted very much for her to be a part of my life. All along she has insisted, like Triona, that all she wanted was information. This has been very disappointing to me.

    For those adoptees whose mothers have refused contact -- it is not about you. I suspect, like Triona says, that the CI did not do a good job of explaining what you wanted. Your mother gave a knee-jerk reaction and the CI used that to confirm what the CI believes anyway, that mothers don't want contact.

  12. Jane, maybe it's I who didn't do a good job explaining. As I said on my own blog ("First Contact, No Second Chances"), by the time I had the opportunity to share anonymous letters with my birth mom, I had been through the wringer and felt it was my one and only chance to talk to her. We only had three letters each. Maybe what I wrote pushed her into thinking I wanted a relationship. Maybe I do want a relationship more than I am willing to admit. But, that is separate and apart from knowing my origins, which I think should be a given right to any human being. Being under such scrutiny, having only a limited chance at contact and that closely monitored by the government, is very stifling. Otherwise we could have taken the time to know one another before deciding what, if any, relationship to have. What galls me is that the CI program simultaneously used her denial to confirm, as you say, their belief that birth mothers don't want contact, plus mark off another supposed "success" in their skewed statistics.

    My brain understands it's not about me, but I haven't figured out how to explain that to my heart. I'm not sure I know how.

  13. It is about the adoptee though, I think that is what the mothers don't get. They are so busy thinking about their lives, their needs that they don't even consider those of their child.

    Some people just lack empathy for their children, this isn't limited to women who relinquish...I see it all the time. In lots of different kinds of mothers.

    Like Jane said she had all these questions about how Megan would possibly harm her status quo, but she wasn't asking herself questions about Megan's well-being.

    It seems like it is a rarity for a woman to put herself in the others shoes---When I was first in reunion I would ask my mother to have compassion for my perspective. I tried to have compassion for hers, I mean I will never know but I asked myself how would I feel if I had to give away my baby---

    Because my mother really was bullied into it.

    My mother's answer was "I would rather not" in re: compassion for me. I can only imagine the guilt and shame terrified her and thinking of me as a feeling person would have overwhelmed her.

    And of course it was easier for her that way.

  14. I think that while some people are just plain selfish, some may really be traumatized, and/or be afraid of the repercussions - like they have kept children to whom they've always presented a maculate image, or they may be afraid of censure in their community or whatev. Others may not have told their spouses, or, as in the case of the woman discussed the other day, her spouse may know but not want her to tell her children.
    These are people with a pretty fragile sense of self, IMO. Even totally selfish people can be like that - they are so impoverished at core they have nothing left to spare for others.

    I wonder at K. Hoy Foley. She looks like a total wreck, but I personally don't think her husband is doing her any favors by shielding her from reality. What some of these women need are friends or partners who *really* support them and work in their interests - which of course I believe to be helping them face up to the reality of their children who, like themselves, suffer.
    When I saw K. H. F's pic I immediately thought, "Wow! It's Swinburne's 'Lovely Dolores, Our Lady of Pain' ". There's a lot of masochism going on there. And exhibitionism too. Maybe I'm taking liberties by reading too much into a photograph, but she allowed it to be put out there . . . .

    Personally I think opening adoption records and giving adopted people equal access to their OBCs would go a long way to releasing these women from their too often mind-forged manacles. It has worked in other countries and states without the sky falling. Besides, as has already been pointed out, the two women under discussion here were found under the sealed records system anyway. From my perspective, the very fact that women like these continue to fear and suffer is yet another good reason for opening records.

    But that's just me and my opinion.
    Easy for me to say.

  15. Not directly related to the original post, but I posted this on Cedar's blog, thought I would post here, too, to see if I can get as much feed back as possible:

    I'm wondering if you think there is any difference in recent adoptions (with usually some degree of openness) in contrast to the old school closed adoptions that most of us here experienced.

    I ask this question becuse I was reading posts on Adoption Voices, which consists of groups organized by APs, natural mothers, etc. The are a couple of birthmothers groups (their terminology, not mine) that seem to spout nothing but happiness about adoption. Most of these women appear to be in some form of open adoption that was made fairly recently (seems none of the adoptees have yet to reach their teen years, most appear to be under the age of 10).

    They repeat the usual "adoption is loving and selfless" with such force that it seems they have fully internalized these messages. Can they really be that happy about losing their child, no matter how much openness they have?

    One mother stated that "I feel appreciated when others tell me it was great what I did." Funny, I PHYSICALLY feel like I am being stabbed in the heart when anyone says such a thing to me regarding adoption.

    What's your take on this?

  16. Dear Maybe et al:

    I've posted a bit on the birthmothers blog and I agree, they are all so happy to have provided a gift to the adoptive parents, and scream at me when I say, wait one minute--are you guys from lala land? Where did you get the Kool-ade?

    I intend to blog about this very soon,but Jane I think will be posting a new blog later today that is a continuation of why/birthmothers reject.

  17. Oh, I read at the dreaded Adoption Voices too.

    I couldn't help but notice that a lot of the posters made reference to LDS, in fact I thought about doing a "Whois" search on the site but can't remember how.

    Anyway, yes, I think it is a very mormon site, and many of the women seemed to get off on their role as savior.

    I do believe it is possible for some women to give away their babies without real consequence, not many but some with either the right conditioning or deficit.

    Mormon's love adoption though, they have always been good money makers. My best IRL adoptee friend was raised Mormon and as I understand it, when they are sealed to their adoptive family that cuts all ties with the natural family on a spritual level too.

    The woman who was 26, a homeowner, and attorney with a loving supportive family that still relinquished made a comment about how she created an "eternal family"

  18. Sorry, Lorraine Dusky, you can not access Adoption Voices as you have been banned. If you think you've been banned in error, you can contact the administrator.

    Well, those of you who have read my posts...please tell me what is going on. I did not go to the site yesterday at all.

    I emailed the administrator...and said, ???? I admit, I also said I was amused by this.
    so the rest of you, do post at

    Let me know what's going on!

  19. OMG Lorraine I was just talking with another friend wondering who was going to be the first to be banned from the site!

  20. Responding to Maybe ~

    I had been following the adoption voices comments in suspended disbelief. Except for the one younger birthmother who commented on a past FMF blog, I have never encountered a birthmother as shiny and happy as the bunch at adoption voices, I assumed they were LDS too. I didn't dare comment, as they indeed seem to be a different breed--all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. One even commented that she had the financial means, she was 26 when she relinquished, but still decided to let others raise her child.

    I half jokingly said to Lorraine, "Let's check back with them in 15 to 20 years and see if they feel the same." If their open adoptions are truly open and honest and if they're valued members of their children's families, great! I'm thrilled for them. But my reality is like the majority here at FMF...my reunion failed, for many valid, and even more silly, avoidabe reasons.

    A couple of weeks ago I shared that I received a brief e-mail from my daughter in response to a handwritten note I sent her; at the time I said that was enough. That moment was short-lived, as my meddling sister threw yet another wrench into my estrangement...she had visited my daughter on her trip South, without telling me, knowing full well how much it hurts me. When I saw photos of my sister with my grandsons on her lap, I calmly said her betrayal and disloyalty were heartbreaking. As I was driving off, she shouted out the front door across the lawn "She loved your note! You should have sent it three years ago!" And I've been walking around with a lump in my throat ever since.

    I could sure use a good strong double of that Kool-Aid the moms at adoption voices are sipping.

  21. Lorraine, did Adoption Voices pull some of your posts? I could only find a brief one.

    Creepy thing on AV is how many of them sound like the same writer raising the same points, like a script.

  22. Oh, just a side note on that Adoption Voices site, it seems that one of the themes is not parenting "without a father" around, i.e., this is not part of the plan. This could provide some insight into why the 26-year-old attorney with her own home relinquished. I just noticed this coming through on the other threads. I will join a-parents for open records, however. It's run by Third Mom.

  23. triona, I am curious about your experience with Illinois CI - I feel the same way about the potential that a lack of tact and compassion could have colored the initial contact and alienated my (rejecting) birthmom...what do others recommend? get a search angel instead?

  24. thejuj--I have written about my experience on my blog at 73adoptee.blogspot.com. In short, I wouldn't wish the Illinois CI program on my worst enemy. I would have used a search angel if I could have, but I didn't have enough information. I would advise a search angel or other compassionate third party, or direct communication (as Jane suggested, she thinks she would have been more responsive to Megan if Megan had approached her directly). But to be honest, I'm not sure there is any one right way to do it. Please feel free to contact me privately if you'd like to discuss, my email address is on my blog.

  25. OH DEAR LORD that site is not just about Birth mothers (their words) discussing the giving up of a child but BLATANT want ads for adopting a baby


    Look at the last comments

    AND There is a girl on there 19 whose bf wants her to give her baby up :( At least one of the Birthmothers who has given up her child is telling this girl not to be pressured

    But with all the HAWKS surrounding her Im scared for her.she doesn't want to give her baby up :(

    They shouldn't allow people who are wanting to adopt on that site



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