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For a good explanation about how secrecy in adoption came about, click on link below and listen to this five-part interview with Annette Baran. Social worker, co-author of The Adoption Triangle (originally published in 1978), and open adoption pioneer, Annette died in 2010. 


Annette Baran Interview Part 1

Click on the tree to see AAC's list of myths feeding resistance to legislative reform and the facts.

For AAC's state-by-state laws about access for adoptees to 0riginal birth certificates, click here.

November, National Adoption Awareness Month, gives us the opportunity to listen to adoptees about what being adopted has meant for them. No voices are more important for informing how we should adapt our thinking and practices when it comes to adoption. I have chosen essays written by adoptees telling of their experience.


November 30:


I thought open adoption was a generous, open-hearted, beautiful idea. When someone would say, "Won't the adoptee be confused?" I dismissed it as limited thinking and believed the generous nature of the practice, when done in integrity, would bring out the best in everyone. Naive, ignorant me. I didn't see the pain adoptees still experience. In this blog on Sister Wish, Open Adoption Adoptee Blog, Kat tells us what it has been like for her in her blog titled "Open Adoption. Closed Off."


"I think open adoption is an adult concept. It centers on an understanding that each visit will end and boundaries must be respected. It asks children to grow up quickly and develop that adult understanding. This happened for me slowly over time. As each visit would end, my heart was slashed. Eventually, a heart learns to harden and not invest so much." 


Click HERE for more.


November 24:


Rebecca Dolan talks about feeling different growing up and hearing that "God gave us to a lady who gave us to our parents because she knew we'd be taken care of." It did not offer comfort. Instead, every part of who she was "screamed," because it sounded so "unnatural." She opens up to give other adoptees (and the rest of us) a glimpse of what it's like to be an adoptee.  Thank you, Rebecca.


"The mess and complication of having two families is not easily explained but I’m going to give it a shot in hopes that one adoptee can feel less alone in the separateness."


Click HERE for more.




November 17:


Legally fictional. On being an adoptee from the perspective of a realist. Does she wish she could change it? No.


"I am not happy I was adopted.... Adoption means that I was conceived in untenable circumstances. Adoption means that I was offered up to chance. Adoption means that the natural order of things was broken."


Click HERE for more.



November 13:


Why shouldn't adoptees just be grateful and leave it at that? Because separation from the familiar and unanswered questions haunt them. Today's piece from Desiree via blogpost:


"…compartmentalizing “being adopted” and “being separated” as two individual layers of my experience…"


Click HERE for more.



November 10:


About the impact on an adoptee's own children.


I dreamed of dozens of aunties and uncles and cousins, and had the staggering realization that I will never know them, ever. I was born in an abundance of inherited sadness, sings Ryan Adams. You're born into this life paying for the sins of somebody else's past, says Bruce Springsteen. I wanted to know: What sadness? What sins? Whose past?


Click HERE to read more.



November 8:


"The complexities of adoption played beautifully as though I were watching scenes from my own life … the tenderness and wanting of the adoptive family, the scenes of teasing, the isolation amidst so much love. All these scenes added to my quilt of comfort, another layer in the adoptee community."


Click HERE to read more.


November 6:


"It doesn’t matter how many people tell you that your parents loved you so much that they gave you up. To a child, it still feels like rejection. There’s no comfort in hearing that you have been separated from your mother for some greater good that you have yet to see."


Click HERE to read more.


November 4:


From the website section, "A Portrait of an Adoption," A piece by adoptee Kevin Gladish, a late discovery adoptee.


"... All my life, I knew that I was different, that I didn’t belong, that I didn’t look like anyone in my immediate or extended family, that the story of my birth had gaps and details that just didn’t fit. Despite the fact that my adoption was never discussed, never spoken of in the open, I knew.


(Click  HERE to read more.)


Imagine the law does not allow you to know half of your relatives. Imagine the government and social workers thought keeping your blood relatives a secret would be best for you, best for those relatives, and best for the family life you have been brought into. Imagine some of those secrets were used to hide illegal child trafficking. This is the way it is for millions of adults who were adopted in the United States.


Although unlikely, it is possible you could marry into your biological family and not know it. It is possible you could be working next to your blood relative and not know it. It is possible, perhaps probable, that you will go through life without ever (knowingly) meeting someone related to you by blood.

Your birth certificate has been changed to say that your adoptive parents are your biological parents. The state is lying to you. You may love your adoptive family deeply, but still, a void haunts you. You must live with unanswered questions about why you have the family you have, why you do things the way you do, where your tendencies come from. You look in the mirror and wonder who you look like.

The systems to seal adoption records and original birth certificates were set into place in the early and mid-twentieth century when social non-conformity could bring shame and ostracism. This closed system also provides a convenient hiding place for shady adoption practices.


For the few decades that I have been paying attention to this, I saw that birth mothers were used as the reason to keep the records sealed, that their “privacy” was supposed to be protected because they had already had so much pain and should not be subjected to further pain by making it easier for them to be found by the child they relinquished. They have, it was believed, moved on and, as best they could, forgotten. This thinking is a canard. Multiple research shows that the large majority of birth mothers (85 to 95%) wish to be found.*


We do not wish to be used as an excuse for keeping records sealed. We want our offspring to have their basic civil right: their original birth certificate. We want them to know our names. Not only can we handle it, most of us welcome it.


*Just one of many resources on these numbers:

Privacy vs. Secrecy:

In closed adoption, the “privacy” that is passed off as healthy and respectful is really a long pattern of secrecy. Sometimes we don’t recognize the difference until we look at the underlying emotional motivation: Secrecy of the family of birth is motivated by shame and guilt; privacy is motivated by self-respect. 


Secrets attack from within. In her book Women Who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés paints a vivid picture of a woman who holds a secret.


“The keeping of secrets cuts a woman off from those who would give her love, succor, and protection. It causes her to carry the burden of grief and fear all by herself, and some­times for an entire group, whether family or culture…. When there is a shaming secret, there is always a dead zone in the woman's psyche, a place that does not feel or respond properly to her own continuing emotional life events or to the emotional life events of others….


“The secret always finds its way out … and most often not in a way that it can be dealt with and helped in a straight­forward manner. So what does the woman do when she finds the secret leaking out? She runs after it with great ex­penditure of energy. She beats, bundles, and burrows it back down into the dead zone again, and [puts up] more doors, more walls. The woman leans against her latest psychic tomb, sweating blood and breathing like a locomotive. A woman who carries a secret is an exhausted woman.


“…[I]t is horrifying to see the enormous amounts of self-blame and self-torture she endures. All the blame and tor­ture that were promised to descend upon the woman if she tells the secret does so anyway, even though she has told no one; it all attacks her from within.” [i]


Many birth mothers in closed adoption believed that if we hadn't hidden we would have been shunned by our communities. But by keeping ourselves hidden, we not only denied the adoptees knowledge of who we were, we helped foster the shame, guilt, and fear that bound us.


Breaking the hold of secrecy's fear requires courage. And support. Who can we trust enough to tell? Will they be able to hear us, open their hearts, and accept us? More importantly, can we open our own heart to whatever it is that awaits us?


Losing a child in adoption is a lifelong challenge, but the cloak of secrecy has been lifted and there is a lot of help out there now. Check the links on this page. Check out Brené Brown’s books and talks on shame. Attend a local support group. Write to me if you wish. (See Contact page.) Let’s talk about our healing and finding the gifts of our experiences and how we can be strong, resilient keepers of the heart.


[i] Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D., Woman Who Run With the Wolves, Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype (New York: Ballantine Books) 1992, 377-381.




The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade, Ann Fessler (Penguin Books, 2006)


The Primal Wound, Understanding the Adopted Child and Coming Home to the Self, The Adopted Child Grows Up, both by Nancy Newton Verrier 


Adoption Healing ... A Path to Recovery; and with Karen Wilson Buterbaugh, Adoption Healing ... A Path to Recovery for Mothers Who Lost Children to Adoption


The Other Mother by Carol Schaefer, as well as Searching...


Wake Up Little Susie, Single Pregnancy and Race before Roe v. Wade, by Rickie Solinger


Hole in My Heart, Memoir and Report from the Fault Lines of Adoption by Lorraine Dusky


Flip the Script, An Adoptee Anthology, Eds. Diane Rene Christian, Amanda H.L. Transue Woolston, and Rosita González. 


The Adoption Reader--Birth Mothers, Adoptive Mothers and Adopted Daughters Tell Their Stories by Susan Wadia-Ellis 


Journey of the Adoption Self: A Quest for Wholeness by Betty Jean LIfton


Strangers and Kin, the American Way of Adoption by Barbara Melosh


Adoptee Reading Room Resource, Books Written and Recommended by Adoptees

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