I am now reading a book titled – Lost Daughters: Writing Adoption From a Place of Empowerment and Peace. I read an essay yesterday by Susan Perry and felt such a connection with her that I was seeking to reach out to her and discovered sadly that she had died some years ago.
She is quoted as saying –
“Sealed record laws afford more rights to the dead than they do to the
living and they bind the adopted person to a lifetime restraining order.”
~ Susan Perry
Just like my paternal grandmother and paternal grandfather, she was the product of a married man and a woman not his wife. They were both of Danish ancestry, just as my paternal grandfather was. An immigrant, not yet a citizen, married to a woman 20+ years his senior.
Susan’s adoptive mother had no idea how often her interior thoughts had turned to her ancestors. Who were they, and what was her story ? My own mom had similar questions.
Mrs Perry did know that her adoptive parents truly loved her, and that love
and support helped to make her the person she was in life. I believe I can say the same about all of the adoptive parents in my own family’s lives.
Yet, our genes are some part of what makes us the person we each are as well.
It is only natural that any adoptee that reaches adulthood (if not sooner) will want to know who passed those genes down to them.
I have bumped up against sealed records in three states – Virginia, Arizona and California. I realize how incredibly fortunate I am to have uncovered ALL of my original grandparents. I have the DNA tests that no one saw the inexpensive cost and prevalence of even 20 years ago as well as the matching sites Ancestry.com and 23 and Me to thank for most of my own success.
So many adoptees are never that fortunate. Sealed records are unjust and damaging to so many people. They encourage unhealthy thinking, repression, and denial as the means for coping with life.
I wonder if, because of adoption, my own mom did not feel empowered to take charge of her own story, just as Susan wrote in her essay.
Even so, every adopted person’s journey is unique.
It is difficult for me, as the child of two adoptees, to understand why as a culture we continue to shackle adopted people to an institution that is governed by such archaic and repressive laws, when the data clearly shows that most original mothers are open to contact. Those who are not, can simply say “no”.
Once an adoptee becomes an adult – they do not need outside agents supervising their own, very personal business.
Repressive laws set the tone – either/or thinking. There is a belief that adoptees who search are expressing disloyalty to their adoptive parents, or that the adoptee should just “be grateful” and move on. Attitudes of this kind are hurtful and dismissive.
Here’s the TRUTH, adoptees have two sets of parents – and a unique mix of DNA and upbringing. It is belittling and unfair to tell adoptees that they are not entitled by law to access their own original birth certificates. Every other American citizen has no such restriction.
This is institutional discrimination and there is no really good reason it exists. Adoptee rights bills have accumulated plenty of evidence that they are beneficial for the majority of persons for whom adoption is some part of their personal story.