Last week, I was mulling over the relinquishment of the main character in my novel ‘Waving Backwards.’ The feelings and difficulties of being an adoptee in search are easy for me to explore, since I found my birth family after a 12 year search. However, the birth mother’s experience is somewhat of a mystery to me.
As I considered the relinquishment scenes for my book, I was blessed to turn on the TV to find Dan Rather reporting about forced adoption in the 60’s & 70’s. His report titled “Adopted or Abducted” opened my eyes to the questionable practices employed by many adoption agencies during the adoption boom.
During the 60’s & 70’s, waves of families moved to suburban neighborhoods, becoming what we now know as the middle class. At that time, social standing and reputations were extremely important.
According to Rather’s report on AXS TV, the increased focus on social standing, coincided with a change of attitudes among young people about sex, dating, and experimentation. Therefore, the rate of unwed pregnancies rose.
Families eager to protect their daughter’s reputations (and their own) often sent these unwed teens away to have their babies. Maternity homes were popular, and many were run by Catholic organizations.
Rather’s report focuses on the experiences of birth mothers sent to live in maternity homes, and how they were forced to give away their babies. Birth mothers were often tricked or forced into signing relinquishment papers. Some were even told that their babies had died.
The part of the report that is most important to those of you in search is the revelation that agencies (like Catholic Charities) often changed the identifying information in adoption records. They did this, so that the birth mother would never be able to locate her child. They also changed the nationalities of children, to better match the nationalities of their adoptive families. Thereby creating a perfect fit by falsehood.
If you are searching for your birth family, this could be a crucial fact. If the agency that placed you changed your birth date, your internet searches could be omitting crucial information. When you search online or register for reunion registries, I suggest using the year and state of your birth, in addition to the city and date of birth that appears on your amended birth certificate. Someone could be looking for you with information that is different than the info you have.
Troy Dunn, AKA The Locator, who was interviewed for the report, has heard from thousands of birth mothers who were forced to give up babies. He has also found birth date changes to be commonplace. (Sickening, I know.) Dunn cited Catholic Charities as one of the biggest culprits. Therefore, if you were placed by Catholic Charities, I would question every bit of information provided in a letter of non-identifying information.
I highly recommend that birth mothers and adoptees view the show. Birth mothers may find some solace in knowing that they are not the only ones who had their babies stolen, and adoptees may find a new perspective on the horrible process, and what it means to their searches.