Adopted 'Children' and Parents: at age 50?
I recently read a letter
to the editor of the Irish Times by a Mark Kearney of
Trinity College. I really must reassess my whole conception of
Trinity as a seat of higher learning.
I couldn't resist a rebuttal, although apparently the Times could —
they didn't publish it. So I'll post it here instead:
Mr Kearney's letter rather poignantly cuts to the crux of the matter with
regard to the rights of adopted people. Interestingly, in both the
title of his missive and thrice in its contents he refers to
himself/other adopted people as 'the child' or 'adopted children.'
As someone with children and grandchildren, who votes, pays taxes and
earned the right to drink and serve in the military more donkey's years
ago than I care to count, I consider myself an adopted adult or adopted
person, not a child. Moreover, I am an adult whose rights have
been abrogated not only by the Irish State, but by the U.S. as well
(specifically the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania) as I was chosen for
exportation in the early 1960s. And this abrogation is what
continues to keep me a 'child' in the eyes of those governments.
In fact, in Pennsylvania, if one chooses to petition the courts to have
their adoption file unsealed, the case is heard in the Juvenile Courts,
even if the petitioner is 55. Child indeed, sir. How
What Mr Kearney doesn't seem to understand is that the fight isn't about
just the ridiculous wait times through agencies, the sometimes inept
handling of our cases, or even the ingratiating and infantalising way
we're generally treated by agencies, often the media and general public,
our parents or other family members, and perhaps most painfully by one
of 'our own' like Mr Kearney. Those are small injustices that pale
in comparison to the true issue at hand: the fact that adults are still
denied unfettered access to the documents of their birth in 2010.
Trace, contact and reunion are wholly separate issues and yes,
understandably not everyone desires to know their heritage, medical
history or who they resemble. But the right to have one's original
birth certificate (a right enjoyed even by felons) should be every
citizen's right. What they decide to do with that document is
their own business. Perhaps they'd like to just frame it and hang
it on the wall. I, too, had a very satisfactory adoptive
experience and it was with the support, love and assistance of my
adoptive family that I was able to trace my natural mother as well as
the daughter I relinquished to adoption in the US. Both contacts
were welcomes, positive and have brought me a sense of self and healing.
I realise I was lucky in those results and that it isn't always that
way. But I also prepared myself for the worst and knew what I
could expect. All of this was accomplished on my own and with the
help of friends -- the agency I first sought assistance from was not
only incompetent, but unethical in many regards (c.f. vaccine trials at
Bessboro' circa 1960-61).
As they say, it's foolish to mix apples and oranges and the right of
access to one's birth certificate should not be confused with trace and
reunion. They are not mutually inclusive. But those, like
me, who have the desire to know more about who they are and where they
came from, should be treated with dignity and respect, and not as some
ungrateful, whingeing 'child' riddled with insecurities and self-esteem
Using terminology like 'adopted children' smacks of the concept that
adoption begins and ends with the receipt of a 'warm bundle of joy,'
when in fact it's a lifelong process. Perhaps Mr Kearney could
benefit from the words of the Rev. Keith C. Griffith, MBE:
"Adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims
are expected by the whole of society to be grateful."
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