Posted on April 14th, 2011 by David R. Ford
My birth father refused to acknowledge any of the four children he gave up for adoption, even 20 years after some of us had made contact with our birth mother (who grudgingly acknowledged us and met with some of us infrequently over the years). Having never spoken with him before he died a few years ago, I can only speculate about my birth father’s negative views on an adoptee’s right to access to his or her original birth certificate–the one that lists the birth parents’ (rather than the adoptive parents’) names.
Posted on April 10th, 2011 by David R. Ford
Only 10 states currently have laws that give adult adoptees access to their original birth certificate (much less full access to their adoption records): Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon and Tennessee). Two more (Connecticut and Rhode Island) have legislation pending, and there are efforts underway in others to give adoptees this right to basic information.
There are honorable arguments for and against granting adult adoptees access to their original birth certificate—as opposed to the second one issued for them, naming their adoptive parents in place of their birth parents. The American Adoption Congress (www.americanadoptioncongress.com) strongly supports access, while the National Council for Adoption (www.adoptioncouncil.org) takes the opposite view. I personally support the efforts of the American Adoption Congress.
Posted on April 7th, 2011 by David R. Ford
Back in the mid-1980’s, I had finally worked up the nerve to call the Virginia state agency that had my adoption records. I knew that Virginia treated those records as confidential, but hoped that I might be able to get even a little bit of information that would help me in my search for my birth family.
The bureaucrat I finally spoke with seemed cold; maybe it was just because she got so many calls like mine, from people asking for something she couldn’t give them. But I was surprised that she said I could have sanitized versions of my records, even though she told me there wouldn’t be much of interest in them. The “sanitized” part would be anything that might identify my birth parents, which she said would be cut from the documents.
Posted on April 4th, 2011 by David R. Ford
In my last post, I mentioned that I’d known for most of my life that I had an older brother out there. I had been told that he was seven years old when I was given up for adoption and, at least as far as I knew, was being raised by my birth parents.
I had made half-hearted attempts to find out about my birth family over the years, but only got serious about it after a friend told my wife that she’d seen someone who “looked like my twin, only older,” riding on the DC subway system one morning. By then I was a partner in a law firm in downtown Washington. The idea that my brother might be walking down the sidewalk in front of my office building shook me out of my hesitation to find him.
Posted on April 1st, 2011 by David R. Ford
My adoptive parents were open with me about my adoption from the earliest time that I could understand the concept. Maybe because Mom and Dad were wonderful parents, I had no particular interest in learning about my birth parents while I was a kid. In fact, my only real interest was in some day finding the seven-year-older brother who was being raised by my birth parents.
Posted on March 31st, 2011 by David R. Ford
My real (adoptive) mother lives in a wonderful retirement community. I’m sure that some adoptive parents might be sensitive about their child writing a memoir of finding his big, strange birth family. Not my Mom! I doubt there are many residents in the community who haven’t heard of—and by now read—my memoir. Mom has warned me that, whenever I visit these days, there will be a different group that wants to talk to me about the book, and it’s been true so far. Now I just need her to work her magic on the New York Times best-seller list.
Posted on March 28th, 2011 by David R. Ford
The last time I saw my birth mother before she died, we talked about the circumstances of my birth. I was the last of the four children she had given up for adoption. She candidly described the various methods she and our birth father had used to avoid all of those unwanted pregnancies. My birth mother laughed as she told me that I was the “Diaphragm Baby.” I tried to laugh along with her, saying that the sperm that made me must have been a tough guy. But I thought to myself how lucky I was that she hadn’t been very skilled at using her diaphragm.
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.
Posted on March 23rd, 2011 by David R. Ford
One of the great things about writing Blind in One Eye: A Story About Seeing the Possibilities, or just talking to people about finding my birth family, is that the intimacy and emotion of it seems to encourage people to tell me their stories. Often the stories relate to adoption, but sometimes they’re about variations on the theme of “family secrets.” I’ve learned not to be too surprised by the reactions I get to my story, and have learned much about the complexities of families.
Posted on March 21st, 2011 by David R. Ford
I spent forty years scribbling the word “adopted” across the medical history form whenever I went to a new doctor. That one word answered all of the questions, but didn’t tell the doctor anything. At least it saved me time, not having to check the boxes that would have said whether either of my birth parents had heart problems, diabetes and the like. And every time I faced those unanswerable questions, the process left me wondering how much what I didn’t know was affecting the quality of the health care I got.