The closed adoption system in America is broken, and has been for more than fifty years. Just look to Facebook for proof of the lifelong wounds inflicted by the closed adoption system. Everyday, hundreds of desperate adoptees post photos embellished with birth dates and non-identifying information in hopes of finding family.
The closed adoption system steals identities and often results in lifelong personality issues. Even after reunion, many adoptees report a sense of not feeling bonded or belonging 100% to their biological or adoptive families. We adoptees live in a limbo that tests the concepts of nature vs. nurture and like a science experiment gone horribly wrong, many of us can only guess at the biological tendencies that define us.
Having experienced the all-encompassing sense of loss that adoption brings, and knowing that my birth mother suffered the same emotional trauma, I have been thinking about the origins of closed adoption. Who first decided that it was ok to take a child from one woman, charge a fee, and hand it over to another family to raise? Who decided that stealing and sealing away the medical and birth records of adoptees was a just legal procedure?
Adoption in America started informally in the mid 1800’s, as a way to place orphaned children. According to InfoPlease.com, “In 1851, Massachusetts passed the nation’s first adoption statute. It required that judges determine if adoptive parents had consent from the adoptee’s guardian or parent, “sufficient ability to bring up the child,” and that it was “fit and proper that such adoption should take effect.”
After World War I, modern day adoption methods started to take shape. The choice to close off the records of adopted children was not a result of too many unwanted babies. It was a decision born of married couples wanting babies with no strings attached. Adoption and social agencies supplied well-off couples with children and promised that biological families would not contact them. Agencies claimed that closed adoptions would protect children against the social stigma of being illegitimate, and help them to bond.
Those of us who have searched or are currently searching know that the real stigma of closed adoption is being citizen with less inalienable rights than American’s who were raised by their biological families. The idea that sealing away records would help a child to bond is the most laughable aspect of the closed adoption model. Books like ‘Primal Wound‘ and ‘Being Adopted‘ chronicle the lifelong search for self, and the biological need to imprint that is inherent in all animals.
In the 1970’s, Roe vs. Wade and a change of social attitudes allowed for some open adoptions, but by then an entire generation of adoptees had been damaged. Many states are now considering laws that will allow adoptees to obtain their original birth certificates (OBCs), but for some the awakening of America will come to late. How many biological mother’s went to their graves without ever once looking at their child? How many adoptees have searched in vain for information sealed away in their best interest?
It is sickening that in a country that prides itself on freedom of religion, protection of civil rights and freedom of speech, adoptees are still denied the right to know. Slavery was a broken system based on inequality, oppression and denial of basic human rights. It was abolished and slaves were freed.