The Details Of An Adoptee’s Life Are Sacrosanct

… or, they should be.
I can’t get this post from Cricket’s Adoption Blog Of Shame out of my mind. These adoptive parents took it upon themselves to change this child’s birthday. Yes, it’s possible, even likely, that his original birthday was just a guess, but that doesn’t matter. Changing his birthday because it fits better with the school schedule, or because it’ll make him fit on the growth chart? As an adoptee, that absolutely galls me. Adoptees lose so much. They should not lose the few details they may actually have.
As others pointed out on Cricket’s blog, there may be clues to his original birthday in the date he was given from Ethiopia. The point is, that information is HIS. The details of an adoptee’s life belong to the adoptee, and adoptive parents have no business taking it upon themselves to alter them. Even if they later tell him the truth, think about how he will feel knowing that his very birthday was “not good enough.” The same principles apply to the adoption story. That story belongs to the adoptee, not the adoptive parents. Changing it, making stuff up or lying (either directly or by omission) is unethical, no matter how well-meaning the intent.
Most of you know that my adoptive parents didn’t tell me the truth about what they knew about my adoption. All my life, I was told they knew only that I was born in Chicago. I didn’t find out until my mid-20s that my adoptive father was the attorney who sealed my file. He therefore knew everything, from the contents of my original birth certificate to all of the details in my super-secret adoption file. This is a prime example of adoptive parents who had WAY too much control over the situation. A couple years ago I wrote about how too many adoptive parents hold the keys to an adoptee’s information. Some of them use that as a form of control. Mine certainly did. Behave yourself, be the Good Adoptee, and we might dole out tidbits of your background as we see fit. Disobey, refuse to cooperate, and we will hold your information hostage… or even destroy it. Which is exactly what my adoptive father did with his copy of my original birth certificate when I got too close to the truth.
But one of the things I managed to discover was my time of birth. To anyone who has their background it’s an insignificant detail. To me it was a revelation. A new piece of information about myself! And an accurate one, too, because it was taken directly from my original birth certificate. My time of birth is one of the few things I know for sure about my origins. No one has the right to tell me it’s insignificant, whatever their opinion might be. That information belongs to ME.
People who keep an adoptee’s information from them, or deliberately conceal or falsify it, have no business adopting. And control of this information should be taken out of the hands of adoptive parents by making it available to the adoptee at age of majority. By corollary, that means there should be no third parties between the adoptee and that information–no confidential intermediaries, no hoops to jump, just the same access to the same information that non-adopted people take for granted.


  1. Excellent post, Triona. I’ve always found it interesting that we hold on to the tiniest piece of information about ourselves that’s been taken and hidden from us. Time of birth, hair color, the hospital where we were born, the name of a distant relative– things that anyone else takes for granted we fight for and horde as our tiny treasure.

    Legally I once had no biological relation to anybody. Through family history work I’ve found hundreds relatives past and present in the US, England, Wales, Germany and Switzerland. What is one person’s genealogy hobby can easily become a quest for oneself.

    For me, the worst part of being adopted has been living with no context. I’ll never have that full context (does anybody, adopted or not?) but I’ve got a good idea now of where I came from. That’s who I am and why should any person or the state even care about that much less steal it from me.

    BTW, I’ve found an inordinate number of adoptees are reference librarians or researchers in any number of fields. I think there’s a connection there.

  2. I’ve blogged before about how I think it’s unconscionable that we adoptees are severed, not only from our immediate relatives but also from our entire family tree and heritage. Without that context, as you accurately put it, it’s very hard for us to anchor ourselves.

    That’s interesting about reference librarians and researchers. I’ve found that to be the case also.

  3. Not having one’s time of birth aggravates, no, it makes me very angry, because many of us Adoptees like many Non-Adoptees are into astrolgy and one’s chart can NOT be done without the time and place of birth. This inability to be able to have THIS information about ourselves, from what is learned from astrology is also taken from us. There are many Adoptees who might want to be professional astrologers as well, and this stilfles the enjoyment of a chosen profession for us, and benefiting from being able to do our own charts. Though it does not need to be said again, all you said about when a person came into this world is true Triona, and most importantly because our birth times belong to US, not someone else, not ANYONE else.

  4. http://halforphan says

    My adoptive parents held so much information from me, intentionally. It shocks me to realize their intent: that I wasn’t worth the dignity, concern or any human compassion to be told about the truth of birth, the exact time, the hosptial, and the facts of my mother’s death. All were withheld from me. I think of how many times we stood in church, heads bowed, praying for “those who have gone before us” and not once was I ever allowed to pray for my deceased natural mother. I was never taken to her grave, never allowed to grieve, but I was told she died, just don’t ask questions. And my adoptive parents knew it all. And so did the rest of my adoptive family. Does wonders for trust, attachment, and feeling secure in the relationship after finding out the truth…

  5. Improper, it’s funny you should mention astrology. I had a friend once who wanted to do my chart. I figured maybe it would be a way to learn more about my birth, since my records were and still are inaccessible. But she couldn’t do it without my time of birth, and she was surprised I didn’t have it. I felt like an idiot, not even knowing what time I was born, such a basic piece of information that some people actually think you’re lying when you say you don’t know.

    Halforphan, it’s situations like yours that are exactly the reason everyone should have equal access to their origins. No one should have the ability to conceal or falsify that information, it belongs to the person concerned.

  6. Aw, I’m sorry you felt that way Triona-you didn’t deserve that-we just really don’t get treated like we are human do we? One peice of advice I can give about being an Adoptee and astrology, is begin to notice patterns. (And I will add that scientific conclusions come due to patterns). If you look at the majority of married couples and their signs, you will see that most people marry someone compatible with their sign or some one of their own sign. Virgos usually marry a Taurus, A Sag marries an Aqurian, etc. Adoptees should notice who they don’t like too. If you think back on people in your life and who you did like and who you didn’t like and see who was what sign it will clue you in to your own. Time of birth I have no advice about unfortunately. Chinese astrology is useful for a year of birth if one is not sure of this needed information. Again one should chart who they like, who they don’t as one’s sign for the year of their birth is part of a triangle and they will be most compatable with the other two signs in it. I’m so glad you finally got your time of birth Triona-you should get your chart done for your birthday, that would be a great gift to give yourself 🙂

  7. No matter how anyone feels about the details of your life, they are yours and you deserve the truth about who you are, that is all there is to it!

  8. http://Anonymous says

    Great post.

    My mother kept information from me too. I found out from my sister that My natural Mom had left a present for me. A stuffed bear that I later discovered had cost her lots of money that she did not have. I was never allowed to play with that bear. It remained in my parents bedroom. I recall being scolded once for showing an interest in it. One day it disappeared. I was told by one family member that my mother had destroyed it in anger. My mother insisted it just fell apart. Apparently my neices were allowed to play with my gift. I begged my mother to apologize so that I could let go of some of the anger. She didn’t even have the decency to do that much.

    I can only imagine how different the knowledge of that gift would have had on my sense of self worth growing up. If only I had known throughout childhood that my own mother cared and didn’t view me as refuse to be discarded without a second thought.

  9. Anonyous, so sorry to hear of your experience. If something like that happened to me I’d be absolutely livid. I have been called “selfish” for wanting to know my origins, but in my view this is true selfishness. My adoptive mother would probably have done the same things yours did, if my first mother had left me anything tangible. My a-mother could never get over her own insecurities and she projected her own issues onto me for not being what she truly wanted: a child of her own blood.

  10. I have been trying to say what you said for so long. That is the most eloquent and intelligent explaination of how the law needs to change that I have ever read. I reunite people separated families I do it for free. I want to change the law not just for open records but people need to know that the people are not related to them to even make use of an open record so the people who adopt have too much control I think it extends beyond the adopted persons childhood when nobody is allowed to stop the flow of information to them anymore.
    I really like how you said that.