The Adoption/Post Adoption Experience

1996, 1997 Lark Ritchie.
Back to Main Page... Support Groups... The Adoption/Post Adoption Experience...
Birthfathers and Searching... An Adoptee's First Contact Search Strategy
Bellies, Knees and Ankles...

Adoption is an emotional experience. It is also a physical experience, a biological, and a psychological experience.

I act as a facilitator for an adoption support group in Timmins Ontario. I am also what I call a 'friend' (and sometimes a self imposed facilitator) in the membership of an internet group called CANADopt.

In those roles, and in my own experiences, I have come to see the issues surrounding the Adoption Experience as a multidimensional thing. What many call the adoption 'Traid' is more than a two dimensional triangle of birthparent (bparent), adoptee (or bchild), and adoptive parent (aparent). Adoption affects those three major groups of people, but beyond those immediate beings, there are a myriad of people and issues.

These pages attempt to introduce you to some of those issues...


A Right To Privacy - And The Quandry

I agree that social attitudes, and especially the "system" surrrounding adoption and adoption records must be brought to public awareness and changed... also the emotions linked to adoption issues be explored and resolved... and preferably now rather than later...

However...... for those people, especially birthparents, who have grown up and developed under a set of family and social values much different than those we see today, there are many problems when they become identified directly and without personal consent.

Let me explain....

I am a birthfather, (bdad for short) quite open about my feelings and personal situations... I had always intended to search for my daughter, and in 1993, we met... since then we have been working out our relationship as fine young girl and older male friend... things are going well... My daughter was born in 1971.... a time when adoption values were beginning to change. Some bmoms, forward thinking, and just out of the sixties, where abortion on demand was becoming a clear and easy option, made relinquishment choices that allowed them to continue their life in relatively 'normal' progress, and growth...

On the other hand, some bparents were not so easy with their decisions... depending on their family, religious, and social values, abortion was not an option, and pregnancy out of wedlock was more than just 'shameful". It was "life-or near-life destructive" for some....

As a support group facilitator, I have seen may sides and variations of the Triad... it is a multi-dimensional triangle... and very real... I met a lady a few days ago, who has now just timidly come forward, quietly, eyes down, to search for a son some forty years old... and there are many other truly tragic and tearful stories I prefer not to discuss, even within the walls of Canadopt or a face to face support group. We must have permission.

In fact, one could say that the attitudes we see now reserved for child pornographers were of the same intensity directed towards non-wedded birthparents. Maybe not the same revulsion, but I would hazard to guess, the same level of disgust, depending on the community, and family... (older bparents... help me out here with your comments... ) was felt by bparents into the seventies, and especially in the time before the sixties....

It is not the generalized bparent, adoptee, or aparent that I consider here, but the real, one and only, individual person who lives in a personal shame, grief, and hurt as a result of the value system he or she has adopted in the formative years... (and they are NOT US... ) they are the quiet ones.... some may even be in our groups, just venturing to post a message, but still very hesitant... Most cannot even consider identifying themselves because of this type of background...

Now, we, as searchers, are of a different mindset... we are either bparents who have resolved or are resolving these deeper issues, or adoptees who see no reason why they should not know.... (You might, if we take an arrogant slant, call ourselves "enlightened.")

But for the bparent of the pre-1970's, personal identification is akin to being accused as a harbinger of child pornography.... (even though many in society would say that, for a bparent "to feel this way is truly silly!" and try to comfort them out of this terrible point of being...)

And this is where I try to make my point.... Identification of a person who may be of this mind, without his or her approval... letting the world know of his or her past, in terms of HOW THEY perceive it, is truly, in my mind, a violation of the personal privacy we hold as a value in our larger society...

Personal confrontation, such as "I believe you are my bdad, or bmom" is at the point of crossing the line, but acceptable.... At that point there is the privacy expected... a child, and a parent.. alone... seeking each other's relations, and hopefully, a continuation of the conversation...

Public identification, even within a 'closed group' such as Canadopt, is not of that nature.... UNLESS that person mentioned by name has given prior approval to be identified. Consider (though pray it does not happen..) a name mentioned in a support group or Internet session, or listserver group, of a bparent, being picked up by a friend of a friend of a neighbour of a cousin and finally, in through the door walks little Billy Smith... "Hey Bobby.... You know... your (dad or mom) had a kid in 1968?", and Bobby, being hesitant to discuss this with that parent, goes to the other parent, and says.. "Hey (mom or dad), is it true? " and consider that maybe..., just maybe...., that spouse knows nothing of that part of the past... Hmmmmm... what have we done...? Indeed, we have created complications in another's life. Things that, from our point of view are issues that would be quickly resolved, but for one caught in shame, we have created a threat to personal relationships.

Have we in party, and in the first instance, not violated a right of privacy...?

Even beyond this, for those of a more conservative nature... identification FORCES them to confront what may be deep emotional and psychological issues that they might not be ready to deal with... We must allow a person to come to the decision of self identification on his or her own terms...

However.... we can help set an environment for that process to occur much more readily through some sort of activism, much as we do here on the 'net, and in our communities by publicizing the issues. By informing the public of these issues, we can assume the role of both peer and society.

By providing a voice of the generalized bparent or adoptee, and aparent, we allow the "hesitant one" to feel as though there is a high degree of probability that society, and more importantly, that their mom, dad, brother, sister, sons or daughters will not look down on them for their decision so very long ago... As individuals apart from them, we become society, accepting and understanding the silent ones, sending a message that says, "we will not hurt you, we understand."

For silent bparents, who have children at home in early teens the fears is that the child may somehow have such a terrible view of the parent, or that the child may think that he or she could be abandoned or relinquished as was the other, or the impact of the 'first-born" realizing the fact of not really being the first child..., that it is 'better left unsaid." There is also a fear that disclosure of an unknown birth will change the relationship with a spouse. These feelings extend from a sense of shame.

For all of these people, we must be vocal, but for the one and only, the individual, we must respect the right of privacy... we must not identify people without their prior consent... HOWEVER, this presents a real quandry... It is this double-bind of deliberation between privacy and disclosure that makes things so difficult for searchers, and those assisting searchers.... How does one search without disclosing information?

It is the kind of personal consideration that we must internalize as we search, and to use such thoughts when we act... There is no black and white...

It is also this confidentiality which we must honour and safeguard within actions... for we do need to communicate, provide information, and identify people in order to find the roots.. But when we move towards contact, we must aknowledge the privacy issue, and deal with it at each step of the way as we search...

It definitely is a fine-strand tightrope that we must walk...

From a social and political point of view, identification of these paradoxes help to point out that the system is inadequate...

To act within our own rights can violate another's. It is a conflict of generational values, and the answer, in my mind, is to bring these issues to public awareness so that we move to a more mature set of values based on understanding at a more human level, rather than values based on the insecurities (and I step in deep here..) of class, social status, religion, and other such dogmas...

Reality exists, we have to understand... There are no hard lines... We need to be aware, and make responsible choices....

Whatcha Tink? -- -- Eh?



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1996, 1997 Lark Ritchie. Contact me at this address..


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