Tuesday 19 November 2019

My adopted sons are in touch with their birth mothers

Mind Matters

57pc said that if they could afford it, they would work fewer hours and stay at home more
57pc said that if they could afford it, they would work fewer hours and stay at home more

Patricia Casey

The desire to know who your parents are is as natural as wanting to know your name. Indeed, the two are interlinked and for most children it's not an issue since your mother and your father, are your mother and your father. But for adopted children the situation is infinitely more complex.

Adoption is a complicated and emotional process. The mother relinquishes her child to another, to become theirs. There is grieving, fear and joy on both sides.

The birth mother is nowadays well counselled and prepared for the wrench although nothing will forestall grief at the loss.

The adoptive parent(s) are joyous that they have become parents yet they are prepared for the future possibility that one day their child will embark on a search for their mother and possibly for their father also.

In the past, such preparation did not take place and mothers were left distraught at the loss of their baby, forever. Most were never reunited with their beloved children.

On the other hand, many adoptive parents lived in fear of their adult children rejecting them when they found their birth mother.

The children were caught in a dilemma, loving their adoptive parents, yet wanting to understand their identity by meeting the mother who gave them life.

The system allowed neither children nor birth parents to achieve this reunion although some did so through leg work and the goodwill and common sense of the social workers involved in the adoption decades earlier.

The establishment in 2005 of the National Adoption Contact Preference Register ought to have helped, since it allowed mothers (and fathers also) and adopted children, to state whether they wished to make contact or not. But, fast forward to 2014 and there are thousands who are still searching for their mothers.

This has prompted the Adoption Rights Alliance to campaign for their adoption records to be made available to them.

The bureaucratic brick wall that many face was detailed cogently in a piece by Eamon McGrane in a national newspaper recently. He had acquired his birth certificate with his mother's name on it, from the public records office.

Attempts to trace her from his adoption records ground to a halt before he even began, when he approached the HSE office where over 60,000 records are now held. His requests to meet a social worker to instigate this were long-fingered. This is cruel to him, now in his forties, and also to his mother.

I speak with a deep commitment to the rights of all children to have access to their history and ultimately their identity, should they wish.

I also support the rights of genetic parents to know who their children are and for both to have a relationship with each other, if they want this. I support this from personal experience. I am an adoptive mother.

My husband and I have two adopted sons in their early and mid twenties. Both are in contact with both their birth mothers and fathers.

They met face-to-face with each of them when they were about 15. Our own family has been enriched by our four extended families and I hope they feel the same way, knowing us.

There is enough love for our sons to love us and each other and also to love their biological mothers and fathers and their children and grandparents.

Now I know why one of our sons is so interested in technology and the other in reading. I know why one is blond and the other has wavy hair, why one would "talk for Ireland" while the other is more reserved.

Unlike my sons, who were in contact by letter with at least one of their biological parents throughout their childhood, making it possible to meet them face to face at a young age, I appreciate that most adopted children are not so lucky.

The delay in even having an initial interview is unforgivable. To those in their 40s and over, time may be of the essence, as it most certainly is to their elderly parents. If legislation cannot be passed to provide adopted children with their birth records then at least additional personnell should be made available to allow the searching to progress speedily. Knowing who you are is so fundamental to our mental well-being that even in times of financial hardship, facilitating this discovery should not require a second thought.

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