I received an email today from the social worker who was instrumental in putting me in touch with my birth family in the mid 1980s. During his time with post-adoption services he had the privilege (yes, he referred to it as a privilege) of reuniting approximately 1000 adoptees with their birth families. He said many of the adoptees he worked with over the years had many of the same struggles I had with finding their identity.
Today I read an article published earlier this year by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute that warms my heart and gives me hope for the future. The report says that in the United States today the number of closed adoptions has shrunk to approximately 5% of the total, the remainder being a combination of open and mediated adoptions.
This movement toward openness and truth telling is good news for adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents. It’s evidence that we have realized the harm done by the shame and secrecy surrounding adoption in the past and we want to do it different in the future.
I’m not naive enough to believe that transparency in adoption will eliminate the grief that is inherent in the process but, at the very least, it acknowledges it, opens the avenue for healing, and does away with much of the shame put on adoptees and birth parents in the past.
The Donaldson report concludes as follows.
“Putting an end to secrecy in adoption does not erase the grief or loss embedded in the experience; it does, however, empower participants by providing them with information and access so that they can face and deal with facts instead of fantasies. Adoption-related laws, agency policies and clinical practices should support the autonomy, self-determination, truth-telling and family connections of adopted people and their birth and adoptive relatives. Greater education and training, along with ongoing research into how different kinds of open adoption journeys affect their participants, can help to guide and improve policy, practice – and lives.” [emphasis mine]
Yes. Now that we know better, we are doing better. That’s reason to hope.