Is it my search to begin? How far should I go? How can I prepare her?

First, I would like to thank you for making this blog available. It has given me much to think about.

I think about my daughter’s first parents often and wish I knew more about their background so when the time came I would have the information to share with my daughter. I asked as many questions as I could and received very little information (from China) and have started researching how to search but my question is…is it my search to begin? How far should I go? With all of your experiences behind you, is there something more I should be doing? I know the time will come when she will grieve and want answers and my heart breaks knowing so little. I will be there for her and support her in any way I can. How can I prepare her?

3 thoughts on “Is it my search to begin? How far should I go? How can I prepare her?

  1. I will be honest and say that this question has been haunting me these past days, and I realize now it is because it requires a great amount of parsing to unravel what is involved; so please bear with me. Some of what I address here will be obvious, but I think it is important to go over everything in order to have an understanding of the complexity of this question.

    First, we need to understand that there is already a body of information that describes the adoption transaction. When I look at what was involved in my adoption in the early ’60s—orphanage documents, baptismal decrees, government papers, a passport, letters to various embassies and government officials, etc.—I see a system steeped in falsehood and lies, self-supporting in this deception, which paints a picture having nothing to do with reality. This, in and of itself, was already hard enough to receive from my adoptive parents, and I can remember clearly endlessly pouring over these documents looking for something, anything, that would be the glitch in this Matrix; the Sign that would bring some truth to bear on the subject. So first, we have the information your daughter has as a function of her adoption.

    Second, we have hearsay; meaning, the stories that were told to our adoptive parents later related to us, their understanding of the situation, what they witnessed, what they know, and what they believe to be the “truth”. This is often in direct contrast to what the above relate. For example, my family lived in Iran for a period of time where my adoptive father was working, and he often talks about adoption being illegal there, due to an Islamic legal system. Nonetheless, he was presented children there upon request, in what was obviously a trafficking of impoverished infants. That this provided no insight into the situation in Lebanon astounds me sometimes, since the basic case was exactly the same here, it only had the veneer of legality, as well as the front of missionary religious institutions to provide cover.

    Third, there is this aspect of what I refer to as Voice, meaning, whose story is this? Whose story need be told? This is where the crux of your question lies, I believe, when you ask whether this is “your search”. My adoptive father in all good faith offered at one point to write the introduction to a book I am working on concerning adoption. Despite his good intentions, it was a devastating moment in which I couldn’t explain how unwelcome his gesture was; how it wasn’t his place to do this; that this didn’t concern him on this level.

    As harsh as that sounds, the reason is as follows: Everything we find out points back to the first two categories I describe above and reveals them to be empty; vacuous; bereft of meaning. Everything we find out reveals the lie and deception that undergirds our adoption in the first place. And so for my adoptive father to assume that he can write anything about my story is, whether intended or not, an arrogant imposture that mirrors the original arrogance of the adoption myth. And so anything you might produce for your daughter in terms of information only reveals the initial crime of her dispossession.

    Finally, any search on your part will ironically likely be met with greater resistance, since the systemic obfuscation of information is a function of your class position, and your ability to adopt in the first place. What I mean to say is that you would be all of a sudden stroking the dog against the lay of his fur, since it was your (adoptive class’s) intervention that created the need for such false information, and this would be even more reason for the outright destruction of such data. My orphanage in Lebanon, because of our repeated attempts to find answers, has threatened to burn all of the documents they hold; this is their purview, since they operate outside of governmental intervention. All the same, perhaps there is some kind of activist potential here for adoptive parents. But this would have to be a much bigger effort and involve a much bigger picture.

    I try to imagine if my adoptive parents had given me such background information that you are talking about. On the one hand, it would be welcome. On the other hand, it would exacerbate the wound, if you will, of the original adoption. It’s already hard enough to deal with the irrational anger that comes from adoption; I can’t imagine how much worse either of these cases would make it.

    I’m afraid I don’t have an answer, “yes” or “no”. I’m inclined to say “no”.

  2. “Whose story need be told? This is where the crux of your question lies, I believe, when you ask whether this is “your search”.”

    I would have to say both yes and no based on Daniel’s response.

    Yes – because any info could be lost or destroyed by the time your daughter is old enough to want to search, if she decides she would like to search at all.

    No – because any info could be misinterpreted, altered, mispresented due to your status as an adoptive parent and the agency you adopted through.

    It is not your story, but the search would start by your view and any info you may end up having to access to, which means that it would never *completely* be your daughter’s story even if you were to search.

    That story belongs to your daughter. It would in actuality belong to her – but can only be accessed through *you*, assuming at this point in time she is too young to decide or shows no interest.

    So I don’t know – I’d lean more towards the Yes, if mainly for the reason that by the time your daughter is old enough to understand the far deeper complexities, that any info you could amass at this point could very well be gone.

    (And then there is that risk that that info could be entirely false in the first place, as Daniel has pointed out…)

  3. I think I am less inclined to be a purist about principles, even though I agree with Daniel that this action is yet another example of who really holds the cards in the power inequities of social injustice, and how that power relationship is perpetuated and inflicted upon the adoptee.

    I know a woman who searched and found her adopted child’s family with positive result. Now, it may be argued that this act serves mainly to further ingratiate the adopted son to his adopted mother, and I chafe at applauding these searches when the adoptive parent does not acknowledge that the act of adopting in the first place perpetuates a system that limits choices in societies that oppress women, and that the lack of a child’s access to their own identity only shows how adoptee civil/human rights are violated and controlled by this system which awards the privileged and robs those who are powerless.

    However, to that boy these ugly politics do not matter. What matters to him is that he has been able to meet his brother and his grandmother. And because of this act, he now has data from which he can sift through, when he is ready, from which he at some point can form his own opinions. Which is something most of us are denied until we find the strength to search on our own: some of whom will never find the strength to do so, and some of whom who do find the strength to do so will never be successful. So I thank the adoptive mom for at least giving him back some opportunity to at least meet the blood he came from. This particular mom restored her son’s family connections because it was meaningful to her son, but to me even a less noble motivation is at least a step in the right direction.

    The thing that infuriates me and angers me to no end is when adoptive parents have information and hold it for some magic later date, determined by them. The other thing that infuriates me and angers me to no end is how most adoptive parents don’t bother to do any on-the-ground fact checking of the children’s social histories prior to adopting. For many of the adoptees who do manage to reunite with their families, their social histories turn out to be very different from reality and are often outright fabrications.

    So I tend to think the original proposition is too little too late. It is not a matter of dealing with when the child begins to have questions or is in touch with their own emotions enough to grieve, or is not in touch with their own emotions and shows signs of grieving by acting out, or is not in touch with their own emotions and despairs life without an identity after decades of not facing the trauma of adoption – it is a matter of always recognizing the truth that there is living flesh and blood family and that it is everyone’s natural right to have access to them.

    Because of the politics of adoption, that boy missed about nine years of relationship with his Korean family, that he is enjoying a small part of now. Every year you wait is more years of relationship missed. If she had waited until he was the age of legal majority, he would have missed 18 years of relationship. His grandmother might not even have lived that long, and each year the odds of being able to locate family goes down.

    In my world, most adoptions would be unnecessary because proper social services and family planning would be provided, women would have a say in their futures, control over their own bodies, children would not be the spoils of war, and entitled people from other countries would recognize that benevolence is giving aid to preserve families instead of taking their human resources. But for those adoptees who have already been subject to this trauma, for God’s sake don’t continue to subject them to more violence. To me, being barred from access to my own identity, history, and family relationships is violence.

    ADDED: So I think the search should begin immediately and followed up on with ACTIVE relationship with the child’s family. I’d rather the disruption had never occurred, but to have done nothing while enjoying the child’s company is, to me, criminal and/or exploitative.

    Parents searching on behalf of their disempowered adoptee will suddenly find themselves disempowered due to acting against the status-quo and the adoption industry. But despite that, we know that the adoptive parent part of the supposed triad always has the most power, and you may be the only people who can wrestle that information out of the adoption agencies. In doing so, you will get merely a taste of the frustration we adoptees go through trying to reclaim our own history and identity.

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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