Adoption Beat

May 27, 2008

School for advice columnists

Reference: “Dear Prudence”

I hate to rag on Prudence because, all in all, she gave pretty sound advice to the reader who wrote to say she had accidentally discovered that her mother gave up a child before she married and started a family.

She suggested that the sister should tell her mother that she had snooped but to do so with kindness and understanding; that is good advice. She also said that Mom should have fessed up long since; I think this is sound advice, too. But she cited as a reason that it was better to tell your children than have them learn about the child surrendered to adoption when this now middle-aged adoptee showed up at the door searching for her family of origin.

Middle-aged adoptees rarely show up at the door of the woman who gave them birth looking for Mom. I’ve never heard of this happening despite 25 years of being active in post adoption search and support. This is a myth perpetuated by the agencies that profit from closed adoptions that make it difficult for the adoptee to find the truth of their origins.

If adoptees are able to discover their origins, most will write a letter or call and they will be very discreet for fear of upsetting their mother’s present life. Many women who surrendered a child to adoption were told never to search — that it was illegal. Some were told that when the child became an adult, they would be able to get their records. The first statement is false and the second one is true only in a few states, and those only recently.

This woman does have a right to know about her sister. There are many active search and support groups who will help her to search with or without her mother’s participation. By all means, they should share the discovery with her and reassure her that it changes nothing, except perhaps that now they understand how much she sacrificed. Searching as a team will be easier and more effective and they can provide each other much-needed moral support.


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