Welcome to the seventh installment of my Summer Interview Series. Throughout the summer I'm posting interviews with people who have experienced adoption. I hope that you will enjoy learning about them as much as I have. Please let me know if you would like to participate or would like to suggest someone else for me to interview.
This week - Von
How has your life been changed by adoption?
I have been an adoptee since I was six weeks old. Next month will be the 66th anniversary of my adoption which has never been celebrated in my family by the couple who adopted me or by me after I grew up. I find the celebration of a day that is traumatic and one of loss for an adoptee a rather strange idea. In my adult life I have worked with adoptees to bring about reunion and was privileged to learn many things from those who had relinquished their babies and longed for their return and from adoptees themselves.
When I was fifty I was lucky enough to be reunited with my own mother and in the last year have met, for the first time my half-siblings, my father's other children. It is not easy as an only child to learn to be a sister! They have been wonderfully accepting considering it is impossible for my generation to prove paternity. My sister Glenys is possibly the big sister I always wanted and I relish her involvement in my life...she buys me clothes, sends me parcels, phones me, remembers my birthday and is spending Christmas with my family for the first time this year. I sometimes wonder what our mothers and our father would have thought!
I have also been active most of my adult life in trying to come to terms with my own adoption and the effects it has had on my life and that of my family. There were six adoptions in my wider family, some out of the family have been found, some not.
Adoption has touched my life in many ways and will continue to do so all my life.
Your blog is a vast resource for information about unethical practices, legislation, and corruption in the world of adoption. What sources do you use to stay current on these issues?
I actively research, read newspapers online and am sent links by others who know of my interest. I also read the blogs of others and am grateful for the interaction that occurs between bloggers and the themes that run through blogs which are useful and quite fascinating in how they occur. Through long experience in people work and with adoption a sense develops of when there is an adoption theme running in a story, even when it has not been expressly stated and needs to be winkled out. My commitment to adoption reform and my good fortune in being born in a country that now has a fairly progressive view of adoption also help in keeping me motivated. Retirement is also a factor!
Is there any circumstance in which you think adoption is the "right" decision?
Yes I do.There are circumstances I have known where parents are unable to raise a child or provide a safe, secure, healthy environment. Although a hard decision, it is then better for the child to suffer the loss of attachment and have a better chance of survival. I have known children so abused they failed to thrive, who once adopted managed to lead productive, although damaged lives. Had they stayed with their parents they may not have lived to adulthood. There are no miracles in adoption!
What do you think is being done well in the practice of adoption?
It depends on where you are talking about. I would say a country that has no adoption or very little is doing well in encouraging and supporting families and good child care practice.
What do you think needs to be changed in the practice of adoption?
Any country that still practises adoption, needs to radically rethink why adoption is still available as a way of creating another family where two exist already when a child is born. Any country not supporting families to stay together, encouraging contraceptive practices particularly in the young and maintaining double agendas is doing badly.
By double agendas I mean the sort of situation that exists in some countries where the young are encouraged to think that sex is for marriage, which it never has been in reality, while discouraging the availability of contraceptives and advice but encouraging and promoting adoption as normal and a caring gifting gesture to fulfill the wishes of others.
Anywhere adult adoptees cannot access their birth records and information and allows a group of people to be second class without the same rights as others is, in the light of long practice in other countries, out of step, dysfunctional and running a very strange and dubious agenda.
From your experience, what do you think are the most important things for adoptive parents to understand about adoption?
That you can't alter DNA, there is no such thing as a 'clean slate baby', that loss of attachment is painful and damaging and no ammount of devoted care and love can make up for it. They need also to look very carefully at their motives in wanting to adopt to decide who it's really about and who it's really for.
If for instance they are concerned to save starving children from Africa, there are other ways that in the long term will achieve better results for children. They also need to know that adoption doesn't cure infertility and that if they are infertile they need to have actively sorted out their issues before they attempt to raise the product of another's fertility or parent an adolescent.
What are your thoughts on the permanency of the primal wound?
I believe from my own experience and from views I hear from other adult adoptees that the primal wound is permanent and lasts for life. You can be counselled, have therapy, support, a loving family and make a good life, but the damage never disappears and has to dealt with every day for life. Some days are good, some days are better and some days are the pits.
I'm sure you've read many accounts of adoptee's bad days on blogs and they all have the same thing in common...the damage was caused by adoption. It is hard and unpalatable truth for adopters but harder still to live with, never knowing when you'll be plunged into the depths or by what. Recently one of my fellow bloggers was 'struck down' when trying to choose a card, something so simple, something so hard and complicated and full of significance. It happens all the time and lurks around every corner no matter how happy and satisfying life is.
If you had the world as your audience for one hour, what would you talk about?
Empathy, my pet topic and favourite word. There is far too little of it around and many who have not learned to walk in the shoes of others. If we all were able to be more empathetic, most of the world's problems would resolve. Greed and selfishness result from lack of empathy and are so apparent in our life today, in the way businesses operate and Governments interact with each other. The American adoption industry is of course a prime example of a lucrative operation built on loss and suffering. Would one hour be enough?!
Is there anything else you'd like to say?
I hope in the next year or so to see my Government in Australia apologise to the 300,000 mothers who lost their babies to adoption between 1940 and 1980 and were treated inhumanely, often cruelly and told to forget. I hope too to see the adoptees, the white stolen generation receive their apology. Nothing repairs the damage but an apology is a recognition of the reality of what was done.
Adoption in my State is almost non-existent as illegitimacy has disappeared and no pregnant woman or girl, would dream of giving up her baby. I would like to see adoption disappear altogether in my lifetime and it seems in my country it may almost be possible.
To adoptees I'd like to say keep finding your voices and speaking out until all understand what adoption really means.
To adopters, raise your adoptees with as much understanding, skill, love and care as you can muster but please don't do it again!
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