We see these types of headlines in the adoption community often. They read “Adoptive Parents vs. Biological Mother” where the circumstances leading to an attempted adoption are questionable, but the prospective adoptive parents have the upper hand in most cases. Either the adoptive parents “win” on a technicality or they have more money to pursue a lengthy court case or know the right people and eventually, those of us that stand on the side of adoption ethics must accept that another adoption moves forward though there were many reasons it should not have.
My adoption was one of those cases. Thankfully, there were no headlines about it.
It was a long road to obtain reliable answers in my own story. For the record, I was raised in an open adoption. That did NOT lead to answers. There were, however, many perspectives. There was my adoptive mother’s perspective, my biological mother’s perspective and a few relatives who made offhanded comments that lead me to question what exactly had happened to lead to my own adoption. But there was nothing I considered to be an answer that was objective. I thought I’d just live my life not really having answers.
Then, I decided to pursue getting a copy of my original birth certificate. That was the action that changed everything. I had heard, sort of as a footnote, to also request all adoption records in my adoption file. In my letter I included the sentence, “I am petitioning to inspect all records retained.”
It took over six months to receive my original birth certificate and a couple of weeks after I received it, I finally received the remaining contents of my adoption file. There were over 30 pages.
Within those 30 pages, there was the petition for adoption, amended petition for adoption, judgment of adoption (among other documents) and most importantly, a confidential report from the social worker in which she details the events of several years leading up to the petition for adoption.
Throughout the report, the social worker identifies the unethical and illegal actions taken by my adoptive mother to manipulate my original mother. These include lying, creating an unsafe environment for my mother and siblings, escalating the situation to a full blown crisis, attempting to influence those involved in the investigation and attempting to financially gain from the adoption.
At the end of the report, the social worker wrote:
“I am concerned with the manner in which this child was initially obtained and with the false information which Mrs. (adoptive mother) gave the birth mother regarding this so-called “Adoption”. Knowing the feelings of the birth mother and having been personally misled by Mrs. (adoptive mother) on so many important issues, I could not in good conscience recommend that this adoption be finalized.”
In the Judgment of Adoption, the judge wrote:
“The Petitioners are of good moral character, of reputable standing in the community, and of sufficient means to be able to properly maintain and educate the infant defendant herein; and that the best interests of the infant defendant will be promoted by the adoption prayed for and that the infant defendant is suitable for adoption.”
One may wonder how an adoption moved forward when there were so many red flags, questionable actions and causes for concern. It moved forward for the same reasons that unethical adoptions today are finalized. There were technicalities, my adoptive parents had the means to pursue a long court case and they knew the right people. These things were true to the extent that my adoptive parents were declared to have “good moral character.”
Forgive me if I don’t include lying, stealing, coercion and manipulation in “good moral character.”
I’ve heard it said that once adoptees realize that their adoptive parents fought the biological parents to obtain the adoptee, the adoptee will hate them for it.
How do I feel?
When I think of those months my biological mom must have felt diminished, scared and small, unable to fight back against a well-established family in the community, it angers me. When I think of my adoptive father, who I held close to my heart as a protector, provider and friend, it saddens me to know that he stood by and watched such evilness take place without stepping in. When I think of the years I invested in trying to find a place in my adoptive family, the very people who had waged a war against my biological mother, I feel saddened and betrayed.
They told my mom she was too young to be a good mother.
They told my mom she was too impoverished to be a good mother.
They told my mom that they could provide a better life, better education and the finer things.
When none of that worked, they turned on her. They were hostile toward her while she was still in the hospital recovering from my birth. They tried to evict her. They reported her to CPS. They told her that she should not only relinquish me, but also my sister. They were motivated by a financial incentive to finalize my adoption when I was 8.
Then, when all else failed, they took my mom to court and “won”.
My adoptive parents may have won in court, but I would never call them winners. And they certainly haven’t “won” a place in my heart.