Month: June 2009

In an adolescent psychology textbook: an adoption lie.

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I know to expect falsehoods coming from adoption agency websites. After all, they’re in the business to make money. If they told the truth to young expectant mothers, if they let them make informed decisions while NOT under the influence of pregnancy and post-partum hormonal surges and neurological changes, then likely very few would surrender their babies (e.g, South Australia: 2003 population = 1,527,000. voluntary surrenders = 3).

But I do not expect falsehoods to come from university text books.

I was in the local campus bookstore today, looking for a certain statistics text, when the title “Adolescence” caught my eye. Having taken the psychology of adolescence course there a few years back, out of curiosity I picked it up to take a look at the new text for that course. It didn’t take long to notice a chapter on teen pregnancy, which I skimmed. Under adoption, it was firmly stated that adolescents who surrender their babies for adoption suffer no negative consequences. Not “few,” not “rare,” not “temporary.” And definitely not telling the truth that study after study has shown that the emotional and psychological consequences can be both devastating and life-long.

“A grief reaction unique to the relinquishing mother was identified. Although this reaction consists of features characteristic of the normal grief reaction, these features persist and often lead to chronic, unresolved grief. CONCLUSIONS: The relinquishing mother is at risk for long-term physical, psychologic, and social repercussions. Although interventions have been proposed, little is known about their effectiveness in preventing or alleviating these repercussions.” – Askren & Bloom, Journal of Obstetric, Gynecological and Neonatal Nursing, 1999 Jul-Aug. p.395.

To support his claim that mothers walk away unscathed, the author cites a handful of pro-adoption authors whose studies are easily picked apart and whose results are in the minority. This handful of authors surveyed mothers who had surrendered only within the past 5 years, and these first five years are when many mothers are still in the numbness and shock of grief and trauma. In her Ph.D., dissertation, Weinreb (1991) states that it takes at LEAST five years for the loss to be fully realized. In order to survive the extreme pain, loss, and trauma we often resort to denial, dissociation, avoidance, and repression of memories.

To give him the benefit of the doubt, I am certain that the author did not intentionally present a misleading claim. It is likely that he did so unintentionally, having only obtained “one side of the story’ and likely from some of those same adoption agencies and/or their staff.

But it is still depressing to think that undergraduate university students in colleges and universities across North America are reading this stuff as gospel truth.


Open Records: Congratulations to Ontario!

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Congratulations to all Ontario residents who have lost family members to adoption: Adoption records opened in your province on June 1st!

But deep sympathy for those who are affected by vetoes that prevent them from obtaining the records that belong to them. Vetoes are based on fear and denial. I am not saying this in a derogatory way at all as I work in the mental health field, but vetoes are invariably filed by people who — instead of filing a veto — should actually see a counsellor, perhaps with family members, to help them deal with the issues that are causing them to feel they need “protecting” from other family members.

Adoptees often file vetoes to “protect” the people who adopted them from feeling “threatened.” A family counsellor could help the adoptive family to get over these feelings and fear and embrace the reunion experience. A registered clinical counsellor or family therapist could enable the adoptive parents to learn that the sales-pitch they were given by the adoption agency, of being “the only parents,” is not only impossible to guarantee, but also in most cases a fabrication (e.g., the original mother did NOT willingly abandon her baby and her motherhood and still feels love for her lost child, mother and child are still connected by a deep blood-bond and genealogy), and is false advertising of a promise that the adoptee has NO obligation to try to fulfill.

Natural parents can enlist the aid of of a family counsellor or marriage counsellor to help them break the news to a husband, wife, or children, that they have another son or daughter out there. This information will NOT destroy a marriage. But we as natural mothers were told that NO man would marry us if he found out about our “shame” (I was even told repeatedly by my mother that no man would marry a non-virgin!). After all, that is why our parents and the pressure of society incarcerated us into maternity “homes” — to hide our pregnancy from society and release us again as “born again virgins.” I know myself how hard it is to tell. My three younger children were only told about their eldest sibling about 5 months into our reunion — it took me that long to get the courage, and I still expected the worst. Our families rejected us when we got pregnant out of wedlock — so of course we expect the same reaction from our present families. But this fear is unfounded.

BUT did you know that natural mothers were NEVER promised confidentiality? The social workers, maternity prisons, and those who had power over us not only knew while they were stripping us of our rights to our child and many of our human rights, that not only did the adoptive parents receive copies of our records including our and our child’s full names, but also that records were NOT sealed upon the surrender of the child but upon the legal adoption court order being granted to the adoptive parents! The purpose of sealed records was NOT to protect us, but to protect the adoptive family *from* us. So do not let anyone lie to you about “birthmother confidentiality.” It is truly a myth.

“Secrecy in adoption probably has its roots in a desire to protect the child from interference from the biological parents and to hide the often illegitimate circumstances of the child’s origins.” – Ministry of Community and Social Services Report by the Committee on Record Disclosure to Adoptees (1976)

I admit, I have heard of one natural mother who was in favour of closed records. But the reason why was that she had also adopted and did not want her adopted children to find out that she was “on par with” their lowly slutty incubators (as she saw their natural parents as being). This is not the type of woman who needs protecting. What she needs is therapy.

So, good for you, Ontario, for opening your records. Next task: to eliminate the veto provisions.

“The legal system ordinarily makes no attempt to write out of existence, by sealing records or other such mechanisms, the various parental figures who walk out of their children’s lives, such as the divorced parent who relinquishes custody. It is only in regulating adoptive family — families formed in the absence of any blood link – that the government feels that it has to seal records as to figuratively destroy the existance of the famiy that is linked by blood.” (Yngvasson, p. 44).

As an addition, as with all my posts, I invite your feedback. If you have an interesting story or point of view regarding vetoes, please comment.

More information: Origins Canada page on Open Records In Ontario