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Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Pandora's Box: Opening an adoption & the stages of search

REBLOG from 2011

By Trace Hentz, blog editor

Opening an adoption is just like opening Pandora’s Box. You just never know who - or what – will fly out at you.

I think back to my inner battles years ago. There were many stages I went through:

  • I almost stop when I hear I was "saved" from being an orphan - so that should be the reason I never search. I don't know it will take years to find my parents.
  • I almost stop when I hear adoptions were done legally yet it's illegal for me to search. Wisconsin was a closed record state. Now the state will contact your parents to get their consent to let you know who you are.
  • I almost stop when I think my mother had problems so she had to give me up. I get scared of why she did it. I get scared she might not want to meet me (and in fact, she didn't).
  • I almost stop when I do not hear back from the ALMA registry in New York. Apparently no one is looking for me.
  • I almost stop out of guilt. I feel guilty because my parents were so generous to raise me, since I was an orphan. They didn't have to adopt me but they did! (But can they imagine what it feels like being adopted? No. Can I talk to them about searching? No.) I love them for adopting me.
  • I almost stop when friends tell me to get over it and move on with my life. "Forget about her." Adoptees know this game. "Don’t talk about it. Shut up. Stop whining. You were lucky to be chosen."  Really? I didn’t feel lucky. I felt hurt, betrayed and rejected.
  • I almost stop when I read the letter from my natural mother, saying she doesn't want anyone to know about me. She's worried what people will think.

Back then it was like I was wedged between helpless and hopeless. I was doing this search for me and my own sanity. Plus it was impossible to search without names. And what was I being saved from? I should be grateful that I lost my natural parents?

I moved past all that and found my natural mother, and then my father.

Having a reunion with my dad was the hardest thing I ever did and the best thing I ever did. It was not what I expected, that's for sure.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine how meeting him (and his kids) would change me as a person. I was almost 40 when we met. There was no one to advise me on what to do, or what to say, or what to expect having a reunion.

First things first.  My birthdad Earl Bland wanted a DNA test to be sure I was his.  I wanted to know that, too.  This all happened back in 1996 and I traveled from Oregon to meet him in Illinois. (I paid for my plane ticket and $500 for the DNA lab with help from my ex-husband).

My dad and I got the results (by mail) a little over a month later. Earl was indeed my dad but I never saw him again.

I write about my reunion with Earl and our time together in my memoir "One Small Sacrifice." I looked for him for years and only met him once. How does the adoption industry justify keeping us apart for years with secrecy and laws, then my dad dies shortly after we meet.

All I can say is I wish everyone who is adopted gets the chance to meet their natural parents. Even if it is only once. Even if it is only one parent. It is a spiritual awakening.

Since I read so much about the adoption industry, I was wondering when an adoptee's emotional well being and health would be mentioned and considered? 

 Apparently, this is not an issue, and not a concern of the adoption industry. It's about protecting the adoptive parents. Secrecy and sealed records is part of their sales pitch. It's not about the adoptee but the adopter. The mood, anxiety, thrill and angst of our adopters is what we hear growing up adopted - and we learn to be appreciative, silent and grateful. We mourn in silence.

Every adoptee I know wraps their mind around this. It's simply ridiculous to be denied the chance to know and meet our natural parents. There should be people and laws helping us, the natural parents and the adult adoptee. We all need to understand the family dynamics to have meaningful reunions, and know what to expect.

Sadly, this is not happening. Not yet.


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Detailed discussion of the Bering Strait theory and other scientific theories about the population of the modern-day Americas is beyond the scope of this essay. However, it should be noted that Indian people have expressed suspicion that DNA analysis is a tool that scientists will use to support theories about the origins of tribal people that contradict tribal oral histories and origin stories. Perhaps more important,the alternative origin stories of scientists are seen as intending to weaken tribal land and other legal claims (and even diminish a history of colonialism?) that are supported in U.S. federal and tribal law. As genetic evidence has already been used to resolve land conflicts in Asian and Eastern European countries, this is not an unfounded fear.

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