When I was nine, my birth father decided to place me for adoption. I had 3 sisters and I was second oldest in age. My younger sister Mary was also placed for adoption with a different family. My birth mother was mostly deaf and although my birth father had a job, he spent a lot of time in a beer joint because he was an alcoholic who never found sobriety. We didn’t always have enough to eat and I remember the local Baptist church and our neighbors sometimes brought us food.
I am unsure even today about how the adoption was arranged but after I was taken to a church member’s home, I never saw my father again. He died three years after my placement and no one told me until I was in my late teens. I didn’t see my sisters and my birth mother until I was in my twenties. Eventually I found out that my birth mother, whose hearing impairment caused her to be very isolated, had no understanding that she was relinquishing her parental rights to me and to my sister.
My adoptive parents were older and traveled a lot. I was their only child. I was very independent and I am not sure how they survived raising me. Once I was grown I had such sympathy for them; what must it have been like to adopt a 10 year old who would not take a bath! They taught me so much, particularly about responsibility and work ethic. I know I would not be the person I am today had I not had these opportunities. Both of my adoptive parents died in my mid-twenties leaving me with no close relatives.
In my late teens I was found by my older sister. She knew the name of the town where I lived, and she asked a member of the high school band if she knew me. She brought me the information where I could call my sister. Gradually I began a new relationship with my sisters and my birth mother. Eventually my daughters and I took care of my birth mother until she passed away in 2000. How precious that was that my girls had a maternal grandmother who was in their lives.
After I became a lawyer, I wondered if I could help improve the way adoption treated children and biological relatives, a way that the adoption experience could not only be technically correct but add to and enhance the rights and needs of those involved. I envisioned an adoption where all the members of the triad had positive choices in their adoption journey, where adoptive parents could participate in extensive adoption training for a better understanding before they embark on their adoption journey, where the rights and wishes of the birth parents could be honored and that an adopted person could grow up with full knowledge of his or her origins. This vision is labor intensive for an adoption agency but it is so worth it. It constitutes the best adoption practices.
I loved them all. I thank my birth parents for giving me life and love, and I thank my adoptive parents for giving me security, a value system and care.