Adoptees and Allies: The Importance of Unity
Updated: Feb 4
Looking back on November: NAAM, National Adoption Awareness Month
The power of adoptee voices was demonstrated in full measure last month on social media. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter were inundated with posts by adoptees who have found their voices--long-time advocates of adoptee rights--and those who have just begun to talk about their experiences in confronting unjust adoptee law. We may have reached new heights in awareness. It would be interesting to know to what extent social media outreach has amplified our voices this month in the global arena we have come to call Adoptionland.* In fair measure were the voices of prospective adoptee parents and advocates of adoption for the so-called greater good of society.
The sheer volume of creative writing, discussion, and cries of anguish must have heightened the awareness of U.S. Adoption industry flaws, both Domestic, and Inter-Country. The trauma of infant relinquishment, for birth mother and child, and adoption in all its forms, are compounded by inhumane and restrictive State Sealed Record Laws to our access and ownership of our adoption and pre-adoption birth records. Meanwhile, legislators play political games with our civil--human--rights. As might be expected in a global community so fraught with emotion, the dissonance was sometimes palpable.
Lynn Grubb blogs at No Apologies for Being Me A Blog About the Adoption Experience
I share the link to Lynn's post, The Future of Adoption here: https://noapologiesforbeingme.blogspot.com/2021/11/the-future-of-adoption.html
Biography A bi-racial adoptee, kinship adoptive parent, and biological parent, Lynn wears many hats. She became a stepparent and foster parent in the '90s, eventually working for a family law attorney with the highest caseload of abuse and neglect cases in the county. She then volunteered as a CASA Guardian ad litem. Working in the system increased her empathy and awareness, prompting her to take baby steps toward learning what led to her own family separation. After adopting her daughter, and reuniting with her maternal birth family, Lynn began to write for Lost Daughters, going on to publish multiple essays about the adoption experience online and in various adoption anthologies. In 2015, she created and self-published The Adoptee Survival Guide: Adoptees Share Their Wisdom and Tools and began speaking in the adoption community. [Read Lynn's Full bio Biography in http://noapologiesforbeingme.blogspot.com/ ]
I urge you to read Lynn's full post in her blog. Here is a sample:
"... we need to have an eye toward the future. What do we want adoption to look like 10, 20, or 50 years from now? How do we want the next generation of adoptees to be treated differently than we were? What do we want clinicians, social workers, teachers, and adoptive parents to know about our experience, and what is the best way to communicate it? I believe we have reached a tipping point in our advocacy efforts. We have successfully flipped the script. Adoptees are being heard by others and there are people acting on the information that we have so openly and transparently shared."
I agree with Lynn. Action is vital, as in politics, to change. This NAAM, I became intensely aware of the sadness and trauma echoing on IG and Facebook. And yes, the anger. As I'm promoting my book, I've been spending more time on IG, and recognize the sharing value for the wounded and traumatized, particularly the youngest of our community. It’s horrible to witness the depth of pain, the physical and mental abuse too many have experienced at the hands of their adopters.
I do see, and post about the need for change to the System, the human right that we have to our birth records. And many seek validation for their pain. Yes, they often reply with acceptance to the need for open record laws, but that is not the focus of many threads.
Adult adoptees do need the validation that comes by finding our brave voices, and I'm thankful to have those spaces in "Adoptionland." [A term widely use I give credit to https://adoptionland.org/the-founders/adoptionland-from-orphan-to-activist/]
Each to her or his strengths: those who understand the legal process, are trained in therapy, those who help in the search for kin, or who can provide empathy and encouragement, the storytellers, and the advocates--all are valuable in moving the process toward a more ethical future for adoption.
Here is one of my literary contributions to #NAAM for the Adoption Trauma Network
Peace in Knowing
For years I nurtured vague notions of unknown kin until I felt a sudden, strong pull, a sense of the need to act now or lose the chance. Would it be too late to search for my birth mother?
I ventured down the path back to the State of my birth and adoption, South Carolina, with the help of a group of adoptee advocates. At two Philadelphia meetings they oriented and encouraged me, and gave me instructions, a roadmap, and a firm, but gentle push to seek the woman who had relinquished me forty years earlier. My husband supported me on my journey, accompanying me to the meetings, and giving me the space to embark on my intensive, at times obsessive quest for biological family.
My tools were a pen and a yellow-lined pad, a landline phone, a portable electric typewriter, white bond paper, envelopes, postage, and determination. We had no computer nor internet in the early 1990s. I gave no thought to future DNA testing; how it would come to alter methods of ancestral search.
My birth records were sealed by the State—I had only a certificate of baptism and adoption—and I was permitted only non-identifying information from Catholic Charities. My heart fell when I read the data from Vital Statistics. It showed the name of the hospital where I was born and a few other facts, but my adoptive, not my biological parents' names were typed onto my Amended Birth Certificate.
I carried on. A team of search angels accessed my records for a fee, and I was thrilled to learn my birth mother's married name, and a half-sister, Karen, with the same last name. But my birth mother's maiden name was the key.
I focused my Greenville search with the help of two local researchers; a historian, and a genealogist, for cemetery lists, old farm and land maps, and sheets copied from phone directories. The family name, a common one, would mean I had days of cold-calling ahead of me. I finally spoke with a second cousin who was happy to help me contact my half-sister, Karen, and my birth mother. The joy of that day!
She’d kept me in her heart. Had she the wherewithal, she might have been a seeker, too. Mother and child reunions were highlighted on TV in those days, but she had only the means to immerse herself vicariously. Her neglected health, instability, and a lifetime of losses, left her longing, with little recourse. She'd lived in Texas for thirty-six years with an abusive man. The daughter she had with him died tragically at sixteen.
Although our mother and Karen had been estranged for thirty years, my half-sister hurried to our mother’s side--her next of kin. I feel sure it was that call, and her journey home to South Carolina, that signaled me to search for her. Karen facilitated our reunion by bringing our mother home with her. Call it fate, call it love and compassion, or intuition, but she wasn’t aware of my existence, let alone my actions. Our mother had kept the secret of me. She had given us both up, one to family, one to adoption. I'd felt an urgency, the pull of hearts, and we three bonded one year before our mother died. We found peace in knowing.
(c) Mary Ellen Gambutti