' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Adoption court documents contain the raw realities of adoption

Friday, March 28, 2014

Adoption court documents contain the raw realities of adoption

Sarah Morris
"I can't find a way to adequately describe the feelings elicited by seeing the documentation of the transaction that sent me into adoption. I keep coming back to trauma, anger, shock, horror, sorrow, and loathing for all those in power who were involved," began Oregonian Sarah Morris as she wrote about the 53-year old documents that transferred her legally from her first mother to her adoptive parents. This January, Oregon became the first state to allow adult adoptees to see their court file, other than the home study.  Sarah has reunited with her first mother and members of her father's family. 

Sarah began her journey to the past at the Multnomah County (Portland) courthouse, treading up the worn marble staircase with eager anticipation. After a seven week wait while court staff located the records, and redacted the home study, she finally got to see her file. Her home study was not a separate document but a set of facts intertwined with other material in the documents. Below is what Sarah found and her reaction, in her own words: 
"According to the Consent to Adopt, I was 'needy and dependent.' Clearly no one considered that what I needed was my mother! 
The surrender document took me several days to read through because it was so painful and some of the language shocked me:

Repository of sealed files
'I understand the policy of said (adoption agency) whereby its consent to adopt is given after a child has lived in the adoptive home for a period of time that may be as long as a year or more. I realize that this policy is dependent upon assurance to the adoptive family that the (agency) has full and continuing responsibility for the child and that no authority to revoke this document is retained by me. I thoroughly approve of this policy as being for the best welfare of said child, and in consideration of its special benefit to said child, I separately and apart from all other circumstances waive and relinquish any and all rights on my part to revoke this document.'

Stairway to the past
What abject cruelty to force my mother to read about the supposed benefits to the adoptive family, make it part of my mother’s signed statement that she “thoroughly approves”, and call it a “special benefit” to me! Why couldn’t the agency offer her the same benefit to keep me? 

'I am executing this surrender and release of my own free will, without undue influence from anyone, and after prolonged deliberation.'

I know the story behind my surrender, and this is a false statement. The agency had to have known this. My mother had few resources and little family support. There was almost no social support at that time, and the agency certainly wasn't offering any resources. My mother and 3-year-old sister would be going to live with my mother’s older sister, my aunt – but my aunt had made it clear that I was not welcome.  All kinds of resources and guarantees for the adoptive parents, and none for my mother? Capitalize on her vulnerability, her distress at being a divorced Catholic woman with two children when she comes to you for help, and help her out of her child? She told me once that the agency tried to talk her into surrendering her older child as well. So much for no undue influence.
It's also noteworthy that there is nothing that addresses the issue of confidentiality, secrecy, privacy, et cetera. No statement that my natural mother wanted or asked for any of those things or that she was being promised any of those things. In fact, there is nothing promised to my mother, it's all about what she's giving them in surrendering me.  
Another shock, from the report from the adoption agency, was the return policy:

'...if said child should be found in a reasonable time to be mentally or physically defective or afflicted with tuberculosis, gonorrhea, syphilis, or requiring extended medical or surgical treatment, or difficult to place because of behavior problems, then said child may be returned to this Court upon making proper showing.'

Which completely contradicts this part from the Petition for Adoption:

'WHEREFORE, petitioners pray for an order of this Honorable Court that said minor child be adopted by them as their own child to all legal intents and purposes the same as if born to them in lawful wedlock, that said child’s name be changed....'

Their own words condemn them in their fiction that adoption is 'as if born to.' Since when do natural-born children come with a return policy?

The Decree concludes:

'IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all papers on file herein relating to the personal or family history of said child and all files and records of this court pertaining to the adoption of said child be sealed, to be unsealed only on judicial order of this court, as provided by law.'

And since when do natural-born children have all of their personal and family history sealed?"
Sarah also noted misinformation about her natural father who was married to her mother but they separated before she was born. While her mother signed the surrender to the agency three days after Sarah was born, the adoption did not take place for over six months, apparently because the agency had to take a separate court action to terminate her father's parental rights. The documents state that "information about the alleged father was submitted by the mother and he has not been seen" and that her father was of "'English-Scotch descent' and that she herself is 'of Dutch-Irish descent.'"

Sarah writes that "This is a huge contention for me. In conversations with my mother, she was ADAMENT that she never told them any of this. For one thing, she had always known she was German & Irish, and would have told them so. And she had no idea what my father's lineage was. I believe [the agency] took a guess based on my parents' appearance and their names. My theory has been that they picked out 'Dutch' because my mother's maiden name was Miller, and we've had Miller Dutch Boy paint here for generations. But she was certain she never told them she was Dutch because she wasn't.!

"Overall I hate everything these documents represent in their attempt to normalize a tragedy with neutral language, and in the way they represent the victory of the privileged  over the vulnerable." Despite that, Sarah was satisfied to be able to see them, to unravel another thread of her life.

Two other adoptees who obtained their court files have emailed me about their experiences. Like Sarah
one found a lot of "blacked out" material, perhaps more than was necessary to redact the information which would have been in a home study if it had been a separate document. Court staff may have erred on the side of caution, something only a legal action can determine.

Another adoptee, Carolyn, found her birth father's name in the court file, information which was not on her original birth certificate. With the help of search angels, she has a name to go with her non-identifying information and a location in California. She's planning to move forward to contact him.

While other states are still struggling with whether to allow adoptees access to their original birth certificates, Oregon has moved one big leap forward for humanity by allowing them to see their court records.  Whether viewing these records brings anger or joy, it is unquestionably their right to see them.--jane
Opening court records to adoptees and first parents

Lost and Found: The Adoption Experience by Betty Jean Lifton
"Important and powerful...[the author] is concerned not just with adoptees but with the experience of adoptive parents and birth parents."  --Psychology Today
Adoptees and first parents alike can learn a great deal about the adoptee experience. This can be a great resource when going into or sustaining reunion. Highly recommended. 


  1. I would give my right arm to be able to see my own file. As of yet, I do not have any info at all, but I would want to see my file no matter what type of information it contains. I need to know how I came to be born, given up, and raised by people totally unrelated (biologically) to me.

    I have heard of the "return policy" many times before. I can not believe such a thing was put in place, but it was. And, as I posted yesterday on another thread, even my Chosen Baby book said if the baby was not just right, the AP's could wait for another.

    My God.

    This whole industry is a disgusting mess. I wish every state would open all the files and unseal all the records. There is no there way to right this wrong.

  2. I have the un-redacted complete court records (not Oregon). Surrender, homestudy, petition, adoption granted.

    No confidentiality in the surrender document, mine is in court document signed by the judge.

    Homestudy provided my fathers name, residence, age, schooling.

    Adoption petition signed by mom and dad showed my mothers first name, initial, surname.

    Adoption granted shows my father as unknown.

    Good post...glad Oregon has changed the law so many more adoptees can benefit.

  3. Thank you Sarah for sharing your story. I found out who my birth family is by accident; it was when I applied for a passport, and my birth name was on my certificate of adoption. It didn't take more than a few hours to find my birth mother. Once you know who your first family is it becomes increasingly difficult for politicians to convince you that closed records do anything but cover up a serious problem in the adoption industry. I'm grateful Oregon opened records, hopefully more states will follow. Thanks again for sharing your story. God bless.

  4. I've already been asked:

    "Why did you want the file when you've been in reunion so long?" (it's part of my story! every detail of my story is important to me.)

    "why did you get the file when you knew it would upset you?"(see #1, and you know I believe the worst of the truth is better than the best of the lies)

    Even those who care about us still can't understand our lived experience as deeply as we who lived it! I'm happy to have the questions keep coming - keep the dialogue open forever!

  5. Thank you for commemorating this landmark event with these very personal emotions. It has really helped me see what opening up records can do for an adoptee. Great post.

  6. interesting post. If you are open to questions I have some as a non adopted person.
    Do you have any anger towards your aunt for not welcoming you? Or towards the rest of your mom' family for not helping, or toward your father and his family for letting you be adopted?

    Do you know why no one else in your family was willing to help your mom? I am not asking you to share the details here, just wondering if you have felt satisfied about your family of origin and how they handled your birth.

    one note -- actually natural born kids do come with a give away policy. everyone in the world is a natural born kid. and a fair amount of those natural born kids are placed for adoption, or are placed in foster care, or are abandoned.

  7. It's important to read court records with an understanding of the legal history of adoption.

    Even if relinquishment was "voluntary" (papers were signed) the courts often hedged on proving abandonment. This is why many unwed mothers' homes kept the infant for 3 days after the mothers left. Court decrees placed a lot of weight on the rights of "legitimate wedlock" -- the saving grace of a civil transaction, in a system that confers or denies legitimacy according to a set of suspect principles.

    I don't have all my court records. I was underweight and in foster care until I reached a healthy weight. I know that my adoption was postponed because there were issues that needed to be ironed out after the home visit. I always believed that this had to do with my grandmother's suicide attempt, and my mother's inherited bipolar disease--she became clinically depressed shortly after the suicide attempt and my adoption. For years I joked that I had number rather than a name, but even though I have m adoption decree (and a name) I've always been curious about the sealed files.

  8. This all made me curious, so I took out all of the documents from my daughter's adoption (we have saved every scrap and email) and read through them with a more educated eye since being a new adoptive mom.

    It's interesting how many inaccuracies were in the first copy of the finalization report. The social worker had written things such as "[first mother] contacted [adoption agency] and was shown profiles of several adoptive families and chose the petitioners." Nope, we met through a mutual acquaintance, not the agency, and we didn't even have a profile on file with the agency! We simply used the agency to complete the paperwork, and I am the one who contacted them.

    There were several other errors, some small, like how many vaccinations my daughter had had by the time of the last home visit, to larger ones like our marriage date and that our daughter's birth was "uneventful" (no details here, but it certainly was not uneventful from a purely medical standpoint).

    I carefully documented every error and returned it to the agency for correction before filing. However, I can imagine if it is that easy to make so many errors with a wealth of info at your fingertips (or example, they HAD a copy of our marriage license and still couldn't get the date right), the mistakes made with little info must be horrendous. I am certain that many adoption documents contain outright errors as well as places where the agency or social worker filled in dots with assumptions (such as assuming my daughter's mother was given multiple profiles to look at when no document the worker had would have indicated such a thing happening). This must make searching sometimes incredibly difficult because you can't know what is the real truth even when it all should be. I was quite taken aback at the errors, and it made me think about how before open adoptions, these errors would have been made with the adoptive parents either being none the wiser or not interested in correcting them.

    There was nothing at all documented regarding my daughter's parents reasons for placement in any of the paperwork, which I also found interesting. I know that the agency facilitator, or whatever she is called, met with them twice and was familiar with at least their main reasons. But in around 200 pages of documents, nothing at all was mentioned aside from an email to me the day the facilitator talked to my daughter's mother. She briefly said, "[First mother] seems very sure of her decision." That's the only hint at the reason. The paperwork the parents filled out for the agency has a lot of blanks or repetitive information. Some important points, like first dad's social security number, were left blank. I am sure by accident by him, not intentional, but the agency should have corrected that and didn't. If my daughter did need to search (we have the info anyway and are in an open adoption), this would have been helpful.

    Actually going through an adoption opened my eyes to how adoption is really about the APs, not the child and certainly not the parents. My husband, especially, was pretty put off by how the agency acted and has nothing good to say about them at all (he felt they were focused on money and not considerate or totally truthful to our daughter's other parents).

  9. Tiffany: what you have just shared here is amazing. I can not believe there are all those mistakes and discrepancies in your daughter's adoption file.

    I wish there was an adoption file that I could get my hands on. I know my AP's do not have a file, as such. They gave me, many years ago, the only document about my birth that they had, which is the famous final decree.

    I do know, because it slipped a few years ago, that there was no adoption agency involved in my placement. I do know there was a lawyer, but I do not know anything else.

    Your post makes me wonder...even if I ever receive my non-id information it will probably have mistakes. What you describe makes the fact that no one knows my birth date almost plausible! I am curious to see what I receive from NYS, if I ever do.

    Thank you for posting and sharing these details.

    You are right....adoption is never, it seems, about the adoptee. How this is allowed to continue is beyond me!!

  10. Tiffany: Thanks for noting all this here. Should other adoptive parents read this, they can understand that much of the information they have is likely to be inaccurate, and the same is true for adoptees, who use that "non-identifying" information to search--when it is all bogus. That also means that the non-ID data passed on by such registries such as the one in NY, are facilitating the transfer of totally erroneous information. It's way less than "non-identifying"--it's wrong and leads people to search based on false clues.

    Thanks so much for bringing this to light.

  11. Tiffany, thanks for the revealing description of inaccuracies in your daughter's adoption file. Certainly makes for a more potent presentation of the problem than just generally talking about the issue.

    I often wonder if this aspect is less of a problem when you adopt from foster care. When parental rights are involuntarily terminated (and by "involuntary" I mean in the narrowest possible sense in that my son was not placed for adoption by his first parents - we all know about coercive placements, of course, but my son's was not a placement at all), the state needs to have a lot of documentation to demonstrate why they had to take away parental rights. In these situations, at least based on our experiences with my former foster daughter Nina and with our adopted son Lenny, the state has to meet a very high burden of proof before they will take somebody's parental rights away.

    Because the burden of proof the state must establish in court is high for involuntary termination of parental rights, I would suspect that a lot of their documentation is careful and accurate. I have some pretty detailed records (but no OBC!). Some of it I was able to verify (through criminal records, for example). Some aspects I am personally familiar with through contact with Lenny's first mother during her attempts to rehabilitate from drug addiction. The positive things mentioned about his first parents and family, I will accept as true and not bother to verify because I enjoy telling him the good stuff about his first family.

    To the extent I was able to verify what is in Lenny's file, I found the information to be consistent with what I have personal knowledge of or what is in public records. But there is a lot in there that I have no easy way of verifying - hopefully, one day, Lenny's first mother can help him with that.

  12. By the way, I also wanted to add that very often at the dinner table, my son, completely without prompting, will tell us elaborate stories about his life with "the parents that he was with when he first began to live." They are fascinating and very telling of the connection he feels to them, even though he was taken away by protective services when he was about a month old. I am sad that his first mother (the only family member currently permitted by the state to make contact with Lenny) has stopped corresponding with him. He would love to hear from her, I can see it in the way he talks about her.

  13. Julia Emily, I'm so sorry. It doesn't seem fair at all that you have nothing. My heart hurts for all the adoptees who have very little to nothing regarding their own birth. Every scrap of information, I kept for my daughter because I know that I would want to know if I were her. I even have an email address set up for her where I keep all the correspondence from her mother. Someday, I imagine it will matter to her. To what degree, I can't know, but I will have it all for her to do as she chooses with it. And honestly, it's important to me. I have read over it several times because this is the story of her birth, and I want to share it with her. I wish your parents had done the same. I'm sorry... it sounds so very trite, but I sincerely empathize with you.

    Lorraine, yes, that was exactly my rather horrified thought. I was irritated at the time, but now that I know more, I'm upset because I see the possible ramifications of this inaccurate information. I am certain given our experience that many adoptees are working with false information when they use their files.

    The only completely accurate documents are: my daughter's OBC and the medical records from the hospital. There is a lot of detail from the hospital that is all totally correct, such as the complications with her birth to smaller, more meaningful items such as a note saying her mother chose to room in with her. While I think it will be hard for my daughter to read, I appreciate that it is fully accurate, unlike the adoption paperwork.

    I don't know if adoptees in a non-open adoption receive the paperwork from the hospital or not when they request their file. I'd imagine that while it may happen more frequently now, probably in previous decades, those records were not kept all the time.

  14. Sorry, one more thing.

    Like I said, my daughter's initial finalization report was full of mistakes. One of them, that her mother looked at several profiles of prospective adoptive parents is something that could have changed the narrative for my daughter when she is older and reading these. I can imagine that reading that, she would have pictured in her head her parents looking at all these possible adoptive parents and picking one from a pile. This might then make her feel a certain way, or view her adoption in a certain way.

    But it wouldn't be the truth. That's not how it happened. Her parents chose us through a personal connection. That narrative might make our daughter feel completely different about her adoption and her parents. The truth is so critical to how an adoptee views their adoption. It's sad to think that these untruths in adoption documents can change how an adoptee might view their first parents. It could even have an impact on their desire to search or to enter into reunion. And it may be all all a lie. That's scary to me to imagine... these are people's lives these agencies are playing with, and accuracy and truth should be of the highest importance.

  15. Tiffany,
    " Every scrap of information, I kept for my daughter because I know that I would want to know if I were her."


    You have no idea what that little sentance says! It shows empathy, caring, respect and true love for your child. You put yourself in her place withoout making her adoption about you. I think thats waht most adoptees want to hear. Dealing with coerced adoptions is tough but for those adoptions that really do need to happen because of true abuse and neglect risk this might make things easier. It validates the adoptees position in this world.

    When I was going to meet my bmom my mother said the same thing and i don't think she knows what it meant to me. took some of the burden of guilt and fear off my shoulders. She did have some issues with it but she tried very hard not to make them MY issues. It was not something we talked about, it just was. I never felt comfortable enough to talk to her about my fears because i WAS afraid of hurting her, that was and still is a prevailing reason why many adoptees won't search. Sad.

  16. Like Tiffany said: I also wonder if adoptive parents today are given the hospital paperwork and other medical info. I have to hope , even in adoptions that are not open, that more info about the baby/child is provided, and that it is accurate.

    Shows you how people thought back in the day.

    In my case there is no medical info , or any info regarding my birth. I have a record of starting to see the pediatrician that begins when I am about 2 months old.

    How my AP's, who were in their 30's at that time, could just take a baby with absolutely no background is really mind-boggling. And they asked no questions at all. They did not try to get any information, either to satisfy their own curiosity or for my information later in life. They just wanted this fairy tale to work out, and that was it. They never thought beyond the "baby" stage. It never occurred to them that I could ever have a medical issue, or any issue for that matter, or that I would grow into an adult who might need information.

    This is why the records have to be opened. Whatever info is in the files must be made available to the adoptee. As well as the OBC. We are not little babies anymore.

    So frustrating.

  17. Julia Emily - pardon my prying, but I recall you saying you don't have a birth certificate, is that correct? So I assume you do not have a passport either?

  18. Hi Jamie: I do not have a passport. I know that is going to be a problem someday, but the opportunity to travel is not going to present itself for a number of years yet. most likely when my husband retires.

    I have a driver's license. back when I was 18 the document that I do possess was acceptable legally.

    Why I do not have an amended certificate is a mystery. if my AP's were issued one, they lost it. Or they just never thought to ask.

  19. dpen said "It shows empathy, caring, respect and true love for your child. You put yourself in her place withoout making her adoption about you."

    You know, before I spent much time on adoption forums, I didn't really think this was all that unusual. Isn't that what parents do? We put ourselves in our children's position and have some empathy, respect, and love for them. They are our children! To me, that's pretty much Parenting 101. When my husband and I adopted, we approached it in this same manner, asking ourselves "what would I want if this was me?" both in regards to our daughter as well as her parents. The Golden Rule isn't such a terribly new concept.

    However, I have sadly come to realize that although I have always known there are parents who are not so great, adoption seems to bring out an additional level of insecurities that make a complicated situation often far more complicated. Not always- there are lots of good adoptive parents. But it seems the bad ones take it to new levels. I have read comments by adoptive parents on forums that absolutely appalled me. Selfishness in parenting is apparently alive and well, I suppose.

    All I know is this: my daughters are my everything. While there are many things I want to teach them, one of the greatest is that their dad and I love them unconditionally and expect nothing in return or loving them. My adopted daughter does not need to feel that she cannot have a relationship with her other mom to protect me because she doesn't owe me any protection. She needs to live her life in a way that brings her completion and joy, and that is what I want for her. She is my daughter, and there is nothing I wouldn't do for her, including making sure she always feels free to follow her heart and know we will love and support her always. If following her heart means changing her last name back to her first dad's name, or calling her other parents mom and dad, or spending summer vacation with them, or whatever it is, then that's all ok with us. We are grateful for the opportunity to love and raise our daughters, and that is enough for us.

  20. Julia Emily I think 50 plus years ago APs were not provided much information. and not encouraged to ask. maybe cut them some slack. they did not care perhaps what your medical history was, they were ready to love you and they probably were very discouraged to ask questions. you are perhaps expecting them to have a 2014 mindset in the 1950s. life was sooo different back then in so many ways . questioning experts was not encouraged or even part of the mindset culturally. read about the state of medicine in the 50s -- credible doctors did research on patients without their consent for example!! it was a different world. I don't think your APs had a dark agenda. they are a product of their time as are your birth parents.

  21. Anon: Are you an adoptee?

    I have been "cutting my parents slack" my entire life. I know they are from another time and their thinking can not be changed now. Have you read my posts? if you did, you would know this.

    I am frustrated at not having legal documents regarding my birth. I am extremely frustrated at the secrecy that has been my whole life. I do not understand why they feel so threatened by the fact that I have a background and a beginning. I never said they had a "dark agenda" to use your words, not mine. But I wish they would be willing to open their minds just a little, at this point. I am not a little child. Nobody is going to come and take me away.

    When I asked questions and had them dismissed....it made me feel worthless, to be perfectly honest.
    If you asked your mother an important question and heard her say "let's change the subject", how would you feel?

    At this stage of this horrible game I would like some respect. I would like adoption to stop being the miserable secret that it is. I would like records opened, and I would like to be able to simply talk about it with the people who raised me.

    I am not really asking for much. I think it is my basic right as a human being.

    Tiffany: I do wish that more, if not all, adoptive parents would take a page from your book. It would make things so much easier on the child. Thank you.

  22. Anonymous, Julia E's parents are certainly from another world, but unless they are non compos mentis, they know they are living in a world that has changed. You probably haven't been following her story but here are a few highlights:

    Her adoptive parents watch movies, which JE gets for them; she asked if they wanted to see Philomena. Don't go there, her mother said. When her best friend did a DNA test, her mother said: I hope you are aren't going to do that. JE is a woman without a birth certificate and parents who act dumb. She has bent over backwards "cutting them some slack" and been the good daughter and they are treating her like a non-person with no rights of identity. To them, she supposedly has remained the blank slate they wanted. There are times in my life when I should have spoken up and did not and regretted it the rest of my life. And perhaps even my being a first mother is the result of that silence.

    JE, I advise you to get your passport now--invent a trip--and use that as the way to force your parents to deal with the subject. I know you fear/dread trying to get them to talk because they have been so obtuse, but there is no time like the present. Once they go you will never be able to find out if they do know more, unless it's written down somewhere and from all you say, that seems unlikely.

    And I suppose no word from the court yet? Remember, we are all cheering for you here.

  23. Lorraine: Thanks from the very bottom of my heart for your post! I could not have said it better myself.

    My hubby does not have a passport, either. Maybe now is the time for both of us to get them, and that would possibly open a door for me.

    No word yet from the NYS Registry, or the court. Still playing the waiting game.

    Thanks so much! More details to follow..


  24. Julia Emily, I support you in everything you are doing.

    Anonymous, I see you with your little stick, poking everyone to make sure they stay in line so that the APs fabricated world remains intact, unchallenged by reality or the damnable inconvenience of another sentient human being's perfectly understandable needs. I also hear the guilt-trip in your bleaty little 'they were ready to love you...'.

    Also, I don't believe anyone was pickled in the 1950s. Surely Julia Emily's parents, like all of us, trundled through the subsequent decades and noticed the world changing and ourselves changing too.

    Your post showed a complete lack of compassion, understanding, respect or empathy for people in situations like Julia Emily's and it sickened me.

  25. Anon on April 3rd at 11:55 p.m., I understand the point you are making about Julia Emily's parents going by the mores of the '50s when she was adopted. I was very ignorant when we began the adoption process too - and this was in the 2000s. But I don't see how you can use that as an excuse to continue to bury your head in the sand and not educate yourself about this very complex aspect regarding your child and his/her happiness. Surely it is clear to Julia Emily's parents by now that her biological connections are important to her,to the point of consuming her, marring her happiness! As parents, how can they ignore that?!!

    The frustration I feel for Julia Emily is so high, I cannot presume to ask her to give anyone a break, certainly not her parents. From all that she has written here, she clearly has been accommodating their feelings on the matter for years. They (her parents) have got all the breaks they need, when does Julia Emily get HER break?!!

    On another (although slightly related) note, Tiffany I am curious what prompted you and your husband to adopt in the first place. You do not have to answer, of course. It is just that you have such a sensitivity to first mothers and adoptees, I wonder how you evolved to this point in your thinking.

    I have mentioned on this forum before that when we began the adoption process, my husband and I were the classic PAPs: older, been through infertility treatments, wanted a child, thought that by adopting we would be providing a home to a child in need. For the longest time, we had not the slightest doubt that only a child truly in need of a home would be placed with us. We focused on how exciting it would be to become parents. We focused on our needs. Not for a moment did we consider the ramifications for the child, and it certainly did not enter our minds that mothers may feel pressured, overtly or insidiously, to give up their children. We were living in the bubble that is the narrowly marketed picture of adoption.

    It was pure chance that led us to foster care - a colleague at my work who was a foster parent and had adopted one of her foster children suggested we look into it. That led to our extremely gratifying experience of reuniting a daughter with her mother. And it led us to probe, really probe, why separations of children from their birth parents happen so much more often than family preservation efforts. By the time we adopted Lenny, we knew enough to carefully study the legal reasons why his first parents' rights were terminated by the state, verify through personal contact or through public records that at least the most serious reasons really did exist, ask questions about every first family member we were aware of and find out why one of them could not adopt Lenny, verify some of the information we were told regarding the other first family members, and feel reasonably satisfied that Lenny could not have a home with members of his first family.

    We have come a long way in our thinking, but we continue to learn. For example, in the years since Lenny's adoption, we have learned much, much more about the loss and pain associated with adoption, the unethical child snatchings, the unfair laws. At this point in our thinking, I doubt very much that we would feel comfortable adopting under any circumstance. My husband and I now feel that if a child in need of a home were to enter our lives, the most we would consider, if it is impossible for the child to live with his/her first family members, is legal guardianship. They say "Never say Never," but our position right now is we are in the market to help families and NOT in the market to adopt.

  26. Thank you all who responded to Anon regarding how I am supposed to "cut my parents some slack".

    The post made me absolutely livid, and it was all I could do to respond in anything resembling a civil tone!!

    Once I finally came out of the fog...and realized exactly how much of my life is missing....I'm afraid I did become consumed by it. But I am still in the position I have described with my AP's, and it's like being in the middle of a tremendous tug of war.

    On the outside we were and still are the picture perfect family. People always thought so and still do. And I was the Happy Adoptee. Until I realized what exactly it all means.

    I do struggle not to become depressed over it. I still have my AP's to take care of, as well as my own family. I have to function for everyone's sake, but sometimes I really find it hard.

    I did learn today that I could apply for my amended BC online. I am going to do so, since I never had any BC, and my folks don't have a copy. I am very curious to see if I actually receive one, and what it says. I will not find out any really important information, but I should find out my actual birthdate. That alone will make it worthwhile.

    Again, thanks to everyone. The support here is great! I have never been able to speak so freely before!

  27. Jay, I'm fine answering. It's just that I recognize this is a forum for first mothers and I try to be sensitive to that and keep my comments on point. I sincerely hope I'm not out of line or derailing the conversation with this, so please feel free to not publish if I am- I will not be upset at all.

    I have always wanted to adopt. I grew up around a lot of adopted people, domestic, international, and foster. I envisioned adoption, because of my personal experiences, as an entity to find a home and a family for a child who needed one. In my heart, I felt that there would someday be a child who would need me to be his or her mama. My husband was on board even before we were married. When we looked into adoption, we were really disillusioned. It didn't feel for the child. We were uncomfortable with the heavy advertising PAPs have to do through an agency. We were uncomfortable with calling women "birth mothers" before they had even given birth. We were uncomfortable with the tone of the conversations. We attended a state-required training as one of our first steps, and two birth mothers spoke. It hit us both pretty hard. One of the two spoke, through tears, of her regret for her decision and wish that she could go back and change it. We weren't sure what to do after that.... as a mother, it really affected me.

    We decided to consider doing our homestudy, but not advertise, as well as look into foster adoption. Before we could do that, a friend contacted us and said she had talked with a couple she knew who needed to place their baby for adoption. They had not contacted an agency or made any further decisions besides knowing they could not parent. They were due right away. She told them about us, and they wanted to meet. I will not get into the specifics, but there was nothing we could have done to change the outcome.

    Our daughter was born the day after we met them. We were asked to be at the hospital, and I suppose much of my sensitivity started from that experience. It was the most tragic event I have ever witnessed, combined with the beauty of a new life entering the world.

    In the end, for us, adoption was what I had wanted- we became a home for a child who needed us. I was there to step in and be a mama for a baby who needed me. But it was a tragic event, and even as I write all this, I'm fighting back tears. It wasn't at all what I had expected- the grief I felt for that little, brand new family as they separated was really intense. It still is. I love my daughter more than anything. She fills my heart and soul, and I feel she is the baby I knew I would need to be there for someday. But none of this makes me feel any better about the loss she endured, that her parents endured.

    My daughter's other mom told me once that she felt it was fate that we met. I told her that I thought so, too, because I plan to be the best second mother our daughter could ever have. I will be the mother her first mother needed me to be in her absence. But I will never forget or diminish where my daughter came from, and the mother and father who loved her first. And still do.

    I am not sure how much sense any of that made, or if it answers your question.

  28. Thanks, Tiffany, for your response. If anybody detracted from the focus of the post, it was I, by asking you that question. In some ways, with some of the regular participants in this forum, I feel as if we all are sitting around a fireplace, having a chat - and so I wanted to understand a bit more about the hows and whys of the position you are coming from. I realize I derailed the discussion and created one that shifted the focus to adoptive parents (which is not who this forum is for), but I did it to get a bigger picture of you as a participant. Thanks again, and sorry Jane and Lorraine for this temporary sidetrack.

    Like you, I too feel that if adoption is needed, then Lenny met the criteria that necessitated his placement in an adoptive home. But that does not take away the inherent turmoil and loss. His parents created an incredible child and, at this point, all I can hope for is to raise him to honor and love them and their families, his first family.

  29. To Jay and Tiffany: such incredible stories! I don't know where to begin.

    Your children will certainly benefit from your knowledge of their birth situation, your understanding of first mothers, and your understanding of the adoptee. If adoption has to happen, this is the way it should be.

    A healthy family can only be built upon honestly, trust and truth. That is what you are doing, and your children will both benefit from and thank you for it.

  30. Jay and Tiffany, I'm glad you described your situations and I too value the sense that we are all sat round a fire, sharing our truths and our different experiences, and listening so deeply to those of others. Where else do we do this? Like many here, the lack of acknowledgement - and the misrepresentation - in the real world of my experience of adoption can leave me feeling lonely for the company of those who understand, or at least try to.

    Tiffany, your post brought tears to my eyes. If I could give you a hug, I would.

  31. Also, Julia Emily, I'm really glad you're here and fully support and applaud you expressing yourself as freely as you like! I wish my son had somewhere like this - his Afamily do not discuss adoption, apart from giving him ultimatums about his being in contact with us - as a result, I feel he is very lonely too, without anywhere to express himself freely.

  32. This is the only adoption-related forum I comment on these days! It is the only one where I have seen a rich discussion and analysis of all aspects, from all points of view. Most blogs by adoptive parents have an undercurrent of smugness that bothers me, and most blogs by first parents are not that welcoming of commenters who are adoptive parents.

    Lorraine and Jane, your blog is a treasure. There are a few personal attacks that do nothing to further discussion - but most every one of us "regulars" want to share, listen, learn, understand and support. So thank you, FMF.

  33. Julia Emily, we adore our son and can only hope we are able to give him everything he needs for his emotional and physical well-being. It is the least any parent should do for their child, but especially adoptive parents who must be sensitive to their child's huge loss. I often feel that it is my former foster daughter Nina who got the highest, and best, expression of my love - I was able to help give her family back to her. I could not do that for my son, so I need for him to have the best possible "second best." I thank you for your good wishes for him - and I cannot tell you how fervently, every day, I wish for more positive news so you can further your own journey of seeking your identity.

  34. Cherry: I wish your son had somewhere to express himself as well. I know the feeling of loneliness he must be experiencing. Not only loneliness, but a feeling of being totally ALONE, if you get my meaning. I had many periods in my life where I felt terribly alone. And at times I still do. There was no reason for it, other than the attitude of my AP's toward the subject of my adoption.

    Jay: your son will benefit greatly because of your knowledge and attitude about his situation. You are truthful. Simple concept, but not the way things were handled with me!
    The truth is always the best way to handle things. And if the truth is hidden, it will always come out at some point. ALWAYS.
    Your comment regarding your former foster daughter is just beautiful! It is wonderful how you feel you gave her back her first family. But...I hesitate to call you "second best" with regard to your son. Any parent who is as sensitive to the needs of her children as you are is certainly not second best!

  35. Julia Emily, if you are interested in reading about my experience with Nina and her mom, you will find it at this link:


    That was a landmark life-changing experience in my life. Currently, 7 years into our relationship, we are not in contact as Rayna battles her insecurities as a mother. While that causes me (and especially Lenny) much sorrow, there is no regret on my part, nor any doubt that the right thing was done for Nina.

    I don't see myself as a "second best" parent in that I am doing my very best, which is about all I can do. But I do see being adopted as a "second best" or even lower life option. Ideally, everyone should be able to be raised by their natural families.

  36. Hi Jay: I am very eager to read your whole story. Thank you for the link.

    You are right....adoption is definitely second best. It is just not natural. The more I think about it, the more frustrated I become.

    You are doing a wonderful thing for your son by being so sensitive to the situation. That is what is needed. Truth, honestly, compassion. Not lies and secrets.

    I am so sorry you are not in contact with your foster daughter. I printed out your story...will read first chance I get!

    Thanks again!



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