Who Controls Adoptee Narratives?

I have been thinking a lot about Amanda’s recent posts at Declassified Adoptee. Through her experiences as an adult adoptee and her training in social work, she brings a lot to the table on how practices can and should be changed.

But, reading her blogs about adoptee narratives and the responsibilities of social workers to maintain them (here and here), I have to ask: What happens to adoptee narratives when agencies and social workers aren’t even involved?

My private adoption was handled by three people: the delivery doctor, an attorney who took my mother’s relinquishment… and my adoptive father, also an attorney, who handled all other legal aspects of my adoption including the altering of my birth certificate and the sealing of my adoption file.

Someone is going to tell me that a social worker had to get involved at some point. There was a social worker who came and did the home study on my adoptive parents, prior to the finalization of the adoption – which amounted to glancing around their picture-perfect home and declaring everything A-OK. As far as I know there were no social workers or agencies involved in my surrender. Certainly there was no one advising my first mother of her rights or options.

Instead, there were three laymen who had absolutely no interest in maintaining my narrative (or hers), and a vested interest in burying it.

They also had no training in social work. Basically you had three amateurs who were able to use loopholes to facilitate a private adoption, under the radar of those governmental entities whose job it is to make sure kids are safe.

I have no narrative prior to my adoption. I was born, my mother surrendered me to the custody of the delivery doctor, I stayed with him and his wife for a week, I was picked up by my adoptive parents. That’s it. No agencies, no social workers, nobody double-checking to make sure i’s were dotted and t’s crossed.

It took most of my life for me to learn that much. My adoptive father lied to me until I forced the issue in my late twenties. He told me he knew nothing of my past other than the fact that my mother was Catholic and wanted me raised that way. I haven’t been able to confirm that. What I did confirm, and what he was eventually forced to admit, is that he handled all aspects of my adoption and therefore knew the complete contents of my file. He also had a copy of my original birth certificate, which he appears to have ordered destroyed upon his death.

Not only did these men not perserve my narrative, they actively went out of their way to destroy or conceal as much of it as possible.

As it stands now, I’m in limbo. I am legally barred by denial of contact from obtaining my original birth certificate. The narrative these men worked so hard to deny me may be forever out of my grasp.

I worry that, as long as secrecy is a staple of the adoptive process, there will always be situations like mine where the people who control the narrative are the same people who want it suppressed.

The ONLY solution is to cease altering adoptee birth certificates immediately, and to restore the rights of ALL adult adoptees to access their original birth certificates. Only then will the power to control narratives be returned to the people to whom they belong.


  1. You are 100% right. What you describe is even a greater issue in adoption than what I wrote to my Social Worker (and I really am sending it to her!) about: the fact that a transfer of a child can take place without adequate and competent oversight.

    Not everyone who calls themselves a “Social Worker” and does home studies actually is a real Social Worker. Which means they don’t have Social Work licensing, knowledge, skills, values, or accountability (not as if all real Social Workers are perfect either). “Non-Home study Agencies” and lawyers who hire third parties to do home studies pose a problem because–who is accountable when something goes wrong? They all point their fingers at each other and no one is to blame. As a good friend and Social Worker once said, “there should be no.such.thing as a “home study agency”. ALL agencies should be competent in ALL areas needed to complete an adoption.”

    This is one of the biggest changes I want to see in adoption practice. That all adoptions should be completed by adoption agencies with licensed, master’s level Social Workers, either government-run or with strict, universal government oversight. All adoption workers should be required to have a minimum of a BSW from a CSWE accredited program with licensing at the generalist practitioner level. Period.

    No adoption should take place without someone competent in counselling to provide mandatory counselling before and after adoption, and life-long counselling post-adoption. Stranger adoption should never, ever take place as a private transaction without a Social Worker assigned to the child involved watching out for the child’s best interest.

  2. Exactly – who is accountable? There are too many gray areas. It disgusts me that anyone who feels like it can hang a shingle and start facilitating adoptions.

    Sealed records and falsified birth certificates only serve to protect those shady individuals and organizations who operate less-than-ethically.

    Even well-meaning people can do a lot of damage. I have no doubt that many people think facilitating adoptions is their “calling” and that they are helping adoptees, but that gets into the “rescuer of orphans” mentality that is so dangerously prevalent.

    Bottom line: people who don’t know what they’re doing should STAY OUT OF IT.

  3. http://David%20Guidry says

    A big part of the problem is the fiction created by legally amending the birth certificate. I see no reason, aside from the adoptive parents’ vanity, why the adoptee’s name should be altered in the process. It s further proof that the vast majority of adoptive parents aren’t doing this “out of the goodness of their hearts” but are in it just to get something out of it. The whole concept of adoption ends to be stood on its head, perhaps reduced to JUST fostering. Erasing the adoptee’s past is just cruelty.

  4. No social worker ever visited me, no lawyer ever advised me (and I could not afford one), and I have NO idea whether a home study was ever done on my in-laws. At minimum I know my ex-FIL had a drinking problem though it was claimed that he had gotten it under control.

    So yeah. We flew under the radar as well. And of course, the adoption happened in Florida, and you and I both know how mother- and adoptee-friendly *they* are. The one thing they’ve got going for them is they allow adult adoption, so maybe parents and kids can correct their egregious mistakes later–as far as that’s possible, anyway. 🙁

  5. http://Robin says

    I can’t totally agree with you on this because I am glad that mine was a private adoption through an attorney. That is the ONLY reason that I was able to know my first mother’s name and be able to reunite with her. I totally believe that if mine had been an agency adoption that I would have to go my whole life having absolutely no idea who my first parents are. The attorney came right out and told my APs my n-mother’s name, age, religion and hometown. I know that agencies even today are still doing closed adoptions and still have the right to withhold first parents’ names.

    I totally agree with you about openness. OBCs should be available to ALL adoptees both from the past and going forward.

    I think in your case the fact that your adoptive father handled the adoption is most certainly unethical and should have been illegal.

  6. http://Anonymous says

    lectobitI am an original mother who lost her son to an unethical private adoption. My son’s adoptive father was a lawyer, his best friend appointed as my lawyer (I could not afford anything and was in trauma anyway). A judge who was a “friend”, on and on and on. This was 35 years ago and the conspiracy to hide it is still in place. It all sucks. I feel less alone hearing from others in a similar situation.

  7. Anon – Sadly I have heard so many stories like yours. It’s a gray area and if you tell people what you believe is going on, they act like you’re a conspiracy theorist. But it’s still happening today and it must be stopped.

  8. It’s funny that I should stumble onto this site, and this particular post, just now because we just published a post about too many adoptive men dippin’ in natural family business. The title of the post is “Another Dingbat Almost Won The Pulitzer Prize!” Click on my name, if you feel like it, and you’ll be connected. Enjoy!

  9. I’m a few weeks late, but so glad I saw this. My second-born’s ‘adoption’ is very similar to what you’ve described; the only lawyer was theirs and I never saw one. The whole thing, from being told to give him up or be picked up by police, to the eventual-adoptive parents walking out the door with him, happened in less than six hours (I’m being generous with the time frame because I have totally blacked out much of it). My son was long gone when I received papers to sign. No one would tell me where he was. Police would not help.

    Almost three years ago I started researching adoption fraud and coercion and I’ve never been so angry from what I found out. Then I met my son and I had to set the anger aside. I’ve told him what happened and what I’ve discovered. I wish he was angry, too, at the level of fraud.

    I don’t want to invalidate his life or love for his parents. But I have the same questions as you do about SWs. There were none as this was not through an agency. Just me, my son, the adoptive mother, and the broker (who I had no idea sold my baby until six months later). Only in the last two years have I wondered about a home study because I had no idea what was involved in adoption. Everything happened so quickly and resulted with my breaking down that day, paired with the verbal abuse, and I thought I was laying my son in the arms of the Mother of Jesus.

    Who did their home study? Who was the judge who allowed this? Where did they make up the rest of their file? Did they have all this done while I was pregnant and I refused to consider adoption, much less meet them? Were they buying baby furniture while I screamed and cried no every single time the baby broker offered their names? I’m sickened. And I still don’t have answers. I have no way to get them. I have no file. I hate not having information about something that profoundly changed my life. I wish my son felt the same, and it’s not about getting him back into my life, but about what’s right and true. The only things I have of his Life Before Adoption are his birth pics of me holding him, smiling and speaking to him; and the newspaper announcement of his birth to me, his mother.

  10. maru67 – I am so sorry for your loss. There are so many mothers who were coerced out of their children as you were, it’s sickening. You may already be doing this but I suggest you connect online with other mothers and adoptees who are trying to shine some light on this. It won’t change what happened but together we can show what the true face of adoption looks like, and help keep future mothers and sons/daughters from the same fate.