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Posted on March 25th, 2011 by David R. Ford
One of the strange things about the modern move toward “open” adoptions is that adoptions really only became “closed”—treated almost as a dirty little secret—in the early Twentieth Century. Before that time adoptions often happened within a fairly close community, with everyone knowing (but perhaps not talking about) whose child was adopted by which other relative or friend of the family.
As our society became more judgmental—and paternalistic—a system grew up to hide the circumstances of adoptees’ births. My birth father was a good example of how societal pressure must have influenced the perspective of so many birth parents in the 1950’s and ‘60’s. He and his wife had secretly given up four of us at birth (while raising three of our siblings in the process). Even though all four of us had made contact with his wife over the years, and several of us had on-going communication with our birth mother (still his wife after 50+ years), he never spoke with any of us and refused to discuss our existence with his wife or the children he raised. I like to think he would have been a happier man in the modern era, where adoption is more often a celebration and not a shameful episode.