Monday, December 30, 2013

A Reunion Unfolds on Twitter

I'm bummed that I missed this as it was unfolding--I was too absorbed by my own holiday-time stress--but so glad to see it today that I just have to share.

A man named Patrick O'Brien, who looks to be the digital director for KTTV Fox Television in Los Angeles, tweeted his reunion with his birth mother between December 21-22. The entire saga, tagged with #POBJourney, is captured for easy reading on a Storify page here.

I don't want to be a spoiler, but let's just say this is a pleasant ending to 2013!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

An Adoptees Past, Present, and Future Part II


An emptied soul stands alone.
They erased who I was and gave me a new home.
Now lies not truth where my life used to be.
How could they take that away from me?
Did they really believe I'd never question,
what they gave me as a definition?
Of this person I was supposed to become,
and never look back on where I came from?
Where does one really draw the line
on how much past you can leave behind?
They expect out of us what they themselves could never do.
Despite what they say I am searching.
Wouldn't you?

I had some feed back from a couple of adoptive parents on the original piece I did last week about adoptees growing up as outcasts in their adoptive families.  After some explanation regarding my situation that was not just "bad parenting", or the issues were not related to adoption, and that all children had similar paths trying to belong in their families, I was asked to expand upon the piece and provide further clarification the complexities adoptees encounter with adoptive parents who seem to have trouble with the usual natural connection between parent and child.  So, here goes.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Guest Post: Reuniting with Self

The Lost Daughters collective welcomes a submission from "Holly."

As a child I wrote stories, all with the same theme. "The Lost Daughter" and her victimized mother are reunited and live happily ever after.  Those stories always magically disappeared as my adoptive mother found them and disposed of everything I would write.  But I held on to those stories in my mind, and when I was a 22-year-old mother of two young children, my fairytale ending happened when I found my mother and her family.
“I totally understand!” I said that a lot back in 1986 when I reunited with my first mother.  I repeated it many times for the following 15 years.  I said it until I believed it.  And she believed it too.  All was forgiven. “Times were different back in those days”, I told myself.  Rationalizing everything, I convinced myself she didn’t really mean to give me away to a woman who resented me, one that I never bonded with and shamed/belittled me every chance she got. 
Desperate to belong, I immersed myself into my biologic maternal family. Their acceptance and approval was what I lived for, what I breathed for.  It would fill the hole inside my soul, and I’d become magically “un-adopted” right? Wrong.
I lost myself in my desperation to fit in.
Life crisis often force us to take a deeper look at our relationships and ourselves. Trauma and pain can force the fog out, and give us the choice to see things as they are; or to find ways to bury our heads back into the sand that we assumed we were safe in.
Like many of us, life does not go as planned.  I went through two divorces after finding my family. The last one was devastatingly painful. I needed emotional support, to know someone cared even if they didn’t know all the details. That didn’t happen, and my process of facing reality began to set it.
All of the trigger sentences happened: “You take everything so personal.” “You seem so needy.” “You have such a chip on your shoulder.” “Why can’t you be like your sister?” (You know, the one who was good enough to keep).  These trigger sentences came from various sources, not just family.  Upon moving into my own apartment alone - the first time I’d ever lived alone in my entire life, I received a letter from my half-sister. I was so happy, I just knew she was writing to pledge her support and love to me during this trying time.  Instead what I found inside that envelope was a lecture.  I should do things like her and her husband do.  I threw the letter into the trash, furious. Little did I understand that my fury was actually pain.  I felt judged and abandoned all over again. The fog was just beginning to clear out.
Quite a few years have passed, and through some great losses and wonderful gains, my biological family has been fairly absent in my life. There are the logistics of distance, busy family lives and the usual things.  All these things can be rationalized, as I often find myself doing. But the truthfully, I am not part of the tribe.  I have accepted that, determined to see things without the fog of my heartache. Coming from a very different upbringing and life circumstances, there really is not a lot that I can relate to with my siblings.  There are no fond memories of growing up together that most siblings share. We don’t have that commitment and connection to one another that result of sharing a childhood.  I will always the odd one out and nothing…. not even a reunion can change that. 

I am still adopted.  But I’ve reunited with myself.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Adoptee Rights: How do I Know a Good Bill When I see one?

The Ohio governor's signature on the most recent original birth certificate (OBC) access law in the United States has sparked debate within the adoption community once again about what should be considered "acceptable" legislation.  Lost Daughters readers are likely familiar with the OBC issue within the United States.  For the sake of brevity, I will say that Ohio HB 61 (passed as Substitute Senate Bill 23) originally sought to give all adoptees in Ohio the same access to their OBC that all others enjoy.  Clearly against Ohio activists' wishes, the bill was amended to make access conditional by providing one year for original mothers to remove their names from OBCs.  Julie and Karen already did a great job explaining the new law and their own differing opinions on it.  I wanted to contribute to the discussion of what makes acceptable legislation by answering the question: how do I know a good bill when I see one?

Provisions inserted into policy that make OBC access for adoptees conditional include: contact vetoes, disclosure vetoes, redacted certificates, mutual consent registries, and blocked-out access periods determined by date of birth, (to name the most common).  Adoptee Rights activists do not ask for these conditions.  Conditions are written into bills by legislators who perceive controversy over restoring equal (unconditional) OBC access to adult adoptees.  Are these conditions acceptable?  I say no.

The most common defense of supporting access legislation that contains these conditions is that the majority of adoptees will benefit.  Although this utilitarian approach, the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people, seems reasonable, it's not the only applicable moral equation.  On the other hand, I argue that the adoptees who would be a part of that minority who is denied access are so important that our community's needs cannot be seen as met if these individuals are left behind.  This is what social policy is for: to address the needs of a community.

I evaluate social policies utilizing Chapin's Strengths Perspective Policy Principles as a framework.  In this post, I summarize the eight strengths-focused policy principles as they pertain to Adoptee Rights, in case they may be useful to you too.

#1 A community's problems cannot be the foundation upon which a social policy is built.
Isn't this where these conditions placed upon access come from?  Conditional access provisions are based on the ideas that unconditional access would increase abortion rates, or would expose original mothers who want secrecy.  One additional argument is that adult adoptees are incapable of ever being mature enough to access their OBC.  None of these provisions for conditional access are focused on the strengths of adoptees, the community of individuals whose OBCs are sealed.  All of these provisions are based on negative stereotypes of adoptees, original mothers, and adoptive parents and families.

Furthermore, none of the above reasons for making access conditional are true.  Abortion has not increased (it has actually decreased) in states with unconditional access.  We know from research that secrecy was never promised, that OBCs were never sealed for this reason, that the dire social consequences imagined about this legislation are untrue, and that original parents by and large are not pushing for secrecy.  I don't think it's necessary to get into how the myth of perpetual immaturity of adoptees is plainly misguided.

What do we risk when access with conditions is made law based upon these above myths?  It concretizes the societal perception that these harmful myths are true.

#2 A community is exclusively entitled to define the problems they face.
The problem that the adoptee community faces is that adult adoptees in 44 states do not have the same access to their OBCs that adults who were not adopted enjoy.  In essence, it is not simply holding an OBC in our hands that restores our equality.  I have my OBC and was subjected to two vetoes for this opportunity--this is not equality.  The process through which we obtain this government-issued document determines if the law respects our equality.  The fact of the matter is, no other citizen in the U.S. is denied their OBC, or subjected to conditional access provisions, except for adult adoptees.

After defining the problem, the lack of regard for our equality, we must opperationalize the problem by determining what need the problem created and how to address this need.  Adoptees need their equality recognized.  Our goal to fulfill this need is to restore, acknowledge, and honor the equal rights of adult adoptees.  Conditions to access do not fulfill this goal, address this need, or solve this problem.

#3 Structural barriers that prevent a community from having their rights upheld must be emphasized and confronted.
In abrupt departure from this principle, conditional access legislation removes systemic barriers for some adoptees while constructing barriers for others.  This legislation is often promoted because the majority will benefit, and it divides adoptees in a given state into two groups.  The group that is larger, and therefore has the most power, benefits.  The small minority is left behind to advocate for the rest of the restrictions to be lifted so that they too may benefit.  Let's look at Tennessee, with one of the longest-standing conditional access laws, as an example.  After a court battle, Tennessee granted adoptees access through an active mutual consent registry with both contact and disclosure vetoes.  Fifteen years later, those vetoes are still in place.

I will also argue that conditional access formed upon the idea of adoption secrecy increases the difficulty of fixing the law later.  We know from research, like Professor Elizabeth Samuel's recent study, that there is no evidence of promises of secrecy to original families.  Conditions placed upon access legislation based upon the idea of secrecy potentially legalizes a secrecy that did not before exist within the law.

#4 Social policies should promote equality and be free of discrimination.
Disallowing adoptees to have the same document that recorded their birth that all others receive, because of their family composition and decree of adoption, is discrimination.  If the law allows anyone to be denied their OBC because they were adopted, even if most adoptees enjoy access, it is still discrimination.

#5 Social policies and programs should operate by building upon a community's strengths.
What are the adult adoptee community's strengths?  We are resilient and resourceful.  We have reached adulthood and are capable of following the laws other adults follow.  Strengths-based legislation does not pathologize adoptees, treat them as secrets, or regard them as perpetual children.  Conditions placed upon access do not honor our strengths or the strengths of our families.

#6 Social policies should be created by the community the policies affect.  The role of professionals [or those with power otherwise] is that of collaborators or allies.
Often those in the forefront of representing adoption policies are not the people affected by them.  In Adoptee Rights, there are a number of professional organizations sought out to publicly voice what access legislation ought to look like, including advocating for conditional access, yet rarely are these representatives adopted themselves.  The adoptee community contains no shortage of experts who could be sought out for insight on policies that impact our community.  Conditional access provisions treat adoptees with suspicion, not as experts, and reinforce unfair power structures that disenfranchise us.

#7 A community must be involved in all stages of the progression of a policy; the policy must focus on access, choice, and empowerment.
Adoptees must be involved in all stages of creating any policy that impacts them.  When conditions are added to access legislation, the adoptees who stand to be denied are the ones who will be impacted unlike any others.  They absolutely must have a say in policy-making, and are entitled to voice that a bill that excludes them is unacceptable.

It is possible to include the potentially-denied adoptees in the conversation before a given bill passes.  Despite sealed OBCs, a great number of adoptees already know who their original parents are.  Adoptees who have been rejected by their original families may already anticipate that they will be vetoed or their record redacted if a new law allows such things to occur.  What these adoptees have already endured on an interpersonal level they will endure once again when their government denies them a record denied of no other citizen.

#8 All social policy must be monitored and evaluated for its effectiveness in meeting a community's needs.

This last principle essentially sums up everything I have attempted to relay in this post.  We must look at how the policies that leave adoptees behind affect those adoptees.  We must examine how we react to those who have been left behind, and ask ourselves if we are dedicated to continue to fight for them.  Ultimately, disagreeing with conditions placed upon access is not about criticizing the activists who fought so hard for bills that were amended outside of their control.  My fellow advocates at Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights and I have fought for over four years for our own OBC access bill to experience any movement whatsoever.  Finally, on its very first passing out of the House, HB 162 was amended to make the unconditional access age nineteen.  We are incredibly disappointed that, if made law, adult adoptees born in PA must wait one year longer than anyone else to access their OBC.  It's not fair, and it reinforces the idea that adoptees are perpetually immature.  It isn't an equality bill any longer, and I refuse to call it one.  No, I can't blame policy activists for what they can't control.  However, I will write to defend and to hear those who are denied or who will be denied.  I will acknowledge what it must feel like for them to hear that being left behind is a victory.  I will validate them when they say that condition placed on access just aren't right.

Chapin, R.K. (2011). Social policy for effective practice: A strengths approach (2nd ed). New York: Routledge. See chapter 5.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Seeing Through Adoption's Spectacles

I find it both ironic and disturbing that my new found enlightenment, understanding and unionship, isn't recognized by society at large. Maybe it's true that my adoption has shaped me and my outlook on the world, it may be only black and white. Of course I realize and am aware of the fact that there are areas of grey shades in between.

Being bullied as a child might have made me super-sensitive, with a rather short fuse and at times a rancorous mind. To see the world through adoption spectacles means that you only focus on the black and the white colours and shades even though there are a large rainbow of other colours too.

I don't want to compromise on something as important to me, it seems the challenge for me now is to balance my knowledge, wisdom and experience on adoption related things without having to completely abandon my new found wisdom for a life of assimilation and adjustment.

But really why should I have to make the compromises, why is it me that is feeling society's pressure?  Why should I be questioned; why can't it be considered normal to want keep your birth family in your life? Who are they to question my decisions and my choices to live my life!? It's my life and honestly speaking should someone really try to force me to make a choice between Sweden or Korea or rather my Swedish family or my birth family?  I know what I'd choose in a heartbeat without blinking - hopefully nobody would really try to force me to make such a big decision.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

All I Want for Christmas Is My OBC

I’ve seen comments similar to this posted by several adoptees this past week. And for 400,000 adopted adults in Ohio, their prayers were answered this past Thursday when Governor Kasich signed off on a new law that will give them their OBCs sometime around March 2015.

Not everyone views the Ohio law as good news, though, because it’s not “clean,” meaning it does not grant all adoptees unrestricted access to all of the information on their OBCs. Though the legislation began just that way, in order to get the bill to a final vote in the senate, a revision had to be added to grant birth parents one year’s time to come forward and say they want their names redacted from the OBCs before the documents are released. On Thursday, while the revised bill was being signed into law, I participated in a lengthy discussion with several of my sisters here at Lost Daughters about the pros and cons of supporting a compromise such as this one (for another viewpoint, see this recent post by Julie Stromberg).

Saturday, December 21, 2013

An Adoptee's Past, Present, and Future

The Sands of Time

Sifting through the sands of time examining my past.
Watching life I call my own pass through the hour glass.
So much has been forgotten.
So much I've left behind.
So much that has been buried I search for but can not find.
People who have come and gone and those still here today.
Faces I have never seen that long since went away.
Missing links and histories leave only gaping holes.
Oh how I'd love to hear all of those stories left untold.
Each has left their mark upon my soul and memory.
This life that was created, an everlasting legacy.

I always knew since the age of five I was adopted. What that meant I really had no idea other than I was told my mother was young and couldn't take care of me. The answers to my questions stopped there no further information was ever given other than she was young, petite, and pretty.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ohio Almost Closes the Gap on Original Birth Certificate Access

Today, Ohio Governor John Kasich signs a bill into law that will potentially grant 400,000 adoptees born in Ohio between 1964 and 1996 access to their original birth certificates. This action marks what some to consider to be a huge step forward for the legal rights of adoptees born in Ohio--but the bill is not as inclusive as some might think.

While the bill does grant adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates, an amendment  allows natural parents a one-year window during implementation in which they can request that their name be removed from the copy provided to their sons and daughters. Natural parents taking advantage of this option must then provide their sons and daughters with a detailed medical history.

What this means is that some adult adoptees born in Ohio between 1964 and 1996 will be able to access their original birth certificates just as all non-adopted adults do, in its unaltered form. But some adult adoptees will receive an altered version of their original birth certificate for no other reason besides the fact that they were adopted as children. The amendment gives the personal desires of a few adult citizens (natural parents who do not want contact with their sons or daughters) precedent over the legal rights of an entire class of adult citizens (all adult adoptees born in Ohio between 1964 and 1996). It also perpetuates the myth that natural parents are afforded a legal right to anonymity or privacy from their own sons and daughters. As such, this bill cannot be considered one that provides equal rights under law for all adoptees.

So, while this bill and the fact that it is being signed into law is considered by some to be an improvement, it is important to consider that adult adoptees born in Ohio between 1964 and 1996 are still being treated differently than non-adopted adults. For all of the adult adoptees who will receive a copy of their original, unaltered birth certificate, there will be a few who won't because of another adult citizen. And I would like for us all to take a moment and acknowledge these adult adoptee citizens and the inequity they will continue to face.

All of this said, I ferociously applaud Adoption Equity Ohio for the group's tireless and committed efforts. As a board member of Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights, I am inspired by the unwavering tenacity of my neighbors to the west. Compromises happen. We are so often placed in legislative limbo and eventually end up having to take what is offered at that moment for the largest group of adoptees. This is not something that anyone working for adoption reform wants to do. But such is life in politics and legislation.

Once signed into law today, many adult adoptees will have access to their original, unaltered birth certificates. This is long overdue and shouldn't have to come with any compromises. It is my hope that this fight still isn't over. If there is one thing I know about adoption reform advocates, we are a tough, committed bunch. And we will continue to push forward until all adoptees are able to access their original birth certificates.

Julie Stromberg
When the time came to think about college, I decided that my career path would encompass either child psychology or journalism. Fortunately for all the young people out there, I opted for journalism and earned a bachelor's degree in communications. Since that time, I have worked as a newspaper and magazine staff writer, public relations associate, and marketing copywriter. My professional creative efforts have been acknowledged with several industry awards.

I am also pleased to be involved in several writing and advocacy projects outside of the office. As an adoptee, my advocacy work is focused on changing the common, societal discourse on adoption practices and encouraging reform that would place the emotional needs and legal rights of the children involved first.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I Am Adopted and All My Names Are Part of Me

This past weekend our church hosted a Christmas tea for the women and teen girls of our community.

Our guest speaker was Joy Conley. She and her husband Keith pastor a church in Lakeland, Florida. Joy and I met in our pajamas! It was during a women's leadership retreat twelve years ago that we  instantly became friends. Making it a priority to spend time together over the years, our relationship has developed into a close one.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Don't We All Have Special Needs?

The term special needs is a seemingly innocuous phrase, but it certainly irks many of us. The word conjures up images of ones own subjective interpretation of what someone with disabilities looks, acts, moves or sounds like. These images are often unfounded but these two words have managed to embed themselves within mainstream language. The suggested implication of the words are largely insulting and demeaning, and fuzzy at best.

Within the realm of adoption and under the guidelines, 'special needs' applies to almost any child in foster care or adopted internationally. States determine at what age a child will automatically be classed as "special needs," thus allowing the foster family access to more federal financial funds and community resources. If a child is a member of a sibling group that should preferably stay together, the child will be deemed a special needs child, a foster child of a minority ethnic group is branded with the special needs label - this would include inter country adoptions, and, of course a child with any perceived mental, physical or emotional attribute that falls into either the higher than normal echelon, or the lower than normal echelon will be given this brand name as well. Is this labeling system as exclusive as the general public seems to think?

Let's take a closer look at each of these criterion:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

My Race is Not a Costume

Editor's Note: this post was originally published on October 29, 2013 to address the issue of racism in Halloween costumes.  Given Katy Perry's recent AMA performance which spurred numerous media sites to ask the question, "was it racist?" we're re-publishing Mila's important post to answer that question.

By Mila

With Halloween just around the corner, as your friendly neighborhood Asian, I'd like to say something--Hey, [mostly White] people, my race is not a costume.

Just because it's Halloween does not mean it's okay to run around in Blackface or Yellowface or to dress up as an "Indian" or whatever other ways you want to fetishize, objectify, and denigrate the reality and viability of someone's racial identity and culture.

Sure, you can accuse me of being hypersensitive or being a tightwad, but seeing White women and little White girls "dressed up" as "me" for Halloween alongside zombies and monsters and other fictional or freakish characters is a bit humiliating and just makes me feel plain weird. There's something about seeing White folks "dress up" as an "Asian woman" for Halloween that just ain't right. It's demeaning and objectifying. I'm not some make-believe doll here for your entertainment.

I'm a real person.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Internet Password Security Questions and Adoption

I have many accounts that require passwords for online access: bank, credit cards, Amazon, e-bay, multiple e-mail addresses, work account, car insurance, cell phone, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Ravelry, etc. Each has its own rules about required letters, numbers, special characters. Although I keep each password saved in an encrypted program on my computer (a program that also requires a password), sometimes I forget to save it there or update it when a password is changed. Then comes the moment of truth…

Security questions!

Inevitably, the pre-set options for security clues are family-centric, which should be no-brainers for most people.

"What is your mother's maiden name?"
I always have to double check with myself: did I set this using the name of my birth mother, or my adoptive mother?

"What is your father's middle name?"
This is an easy one, because my birth father does not have a middle name, but still I hesitate for a breath and think, which father? 

Even the innocuous "in what city were you born?" makes me think, however briefly, about my birth circumstances.

(It also makes me think that if I ever publish this memoir I've been working on, I'll need to be aware of those little biographical details that might slip into the story and possibly make my online "self" less secure.)

A small thing, not sad or distressing, just one of those quiet everyday moments that reminds me, in a whisper, of my extraordinary family tree.

In a way, it was strangely easier all those years when I didn't know much of anything about my biological background. It was a no-brainer to set my security questions. However, I wouldn't trade my knowing for anything in the world. Most adoptees I've met would agree. A mother's name, her birthplace, a father's middle name--call them small details if you want, but everyone should have the chance to know those answers. For they are not just the details of the people involved in our lives--giving us birth and/or raising us--they are the details of our own selves, too.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Watched It: Philomena

The first time I visited Baltimore’s historic Charles Theater was in the fall of 1989. At 18-years-old, I had just arrived in town to begin my freshman year at Loyola College. A new friend joined me for a showing of Stephen Soderbergh’s film Sex, Lies, and Videotape. Sitting in the dark theater, I had no idea at the time that this formative part of my life would set into motion my own journey of self-discovery as an adoptee.

I recently found myself back at the Charles Theater. This time, it was for a showing of Philomena, a British drama film based on the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by journalist Martin Sixsmith. Both the book and the film depict the story of Lee and the son she lost to adoption.

Sex, Lies and Adoption

Lee’s story is one with which many of us involved in adoption reform are familiar. As an 18-year-old in 1950s Ireland, Lee became pregnant. Disowned by her strict Catholic family, she joined the thousands of single, pregnant Irish women sent to Catholic Church operated convents during the 1950s and 1960s. Lee ended up at the Sean Ross Abbey which was operated by the Sacred Heart Sisters in Roscrea in County Tipperary. According to Mike Milotte’s book Banished Babies The Secret History of Ireland’s Baby Export Business, 438 babies born at Sean Ross were secretly sent to America for adoption. Lee’s son was one of those babies.

The flim presents Lee’s story as it unfolds after she becomes acquainted with the journalist Sixsmith and the two embark on a search for her lost son soon after his 50th birthday. Judi Dench is superb as the elder Lee and Steve Coogan gives life and humor to the cynical Sixsmith character. The relationship between the two is a highlight of the film and brings a sense of lightness to what is truly a poignant and heart-wrenching tale. In fact, relationships are the key theme of the film. While the atrocities endured by Lee and other young women are depicted and acknowledged, the heart of the story is in Lee’s own heart as a mother who feels a deep connection to the son who lived at the convent with her until he was 3-years-old. As an adoptee and a viewer, I liked this aspect of the film very much. I liked that the focus was on Lee’s deep love for her son and how she never once stopped thinking of him or searching for him. This film offers a reminder that the connection between parent and child can rise above even the most horrific of circumstances.

Certain aspects of the film also mirrored some of my own experiences with Catholic institutions as a domestic American adoptee who was adopted through Catholic Charities as an infant in 1971. In the film, we learn that Lee visited the Sean Ross Abbey on several occasions with the hope of finding out what had become of her son. We also learn that as an adult, her son had also visited the convent with the hope of learning more about his mother. The convent nuns never tell one about the other, despite having the information readily available and having engaged in discussions with both.

Personal Parallels

My natural father first visited Catholic Charities of Fairfield County in 1989, around the time that his 18-year-old daughter was sitting in a Baltimore city movie theater watching actor James Spader point a video camera at actress Andie MacDowell. His intent was to inquire about me and make all of his information available. The Catholic Charities social worker would not tell him anything about me—not even my birth date. But she did tell him that, for a fee, he would be allowed to fill out paperwork containing all of his information. He was then informed that if I ever contacted the agency, his details would be provided to me. My father wrote out the check, completed the forms and began searching for his only child.

In 1998, at the age of 27, I did contact Catholic Charities of Fairfield County to inquire about my natural parents and learn what I could about my background. The same social worker who worked with my father years earlier spoke with me. She never mentioned that my father had released his information to me. But she did say that if I were to pay a $250 fee, Catholic Charities would conduct a search for me. I opted to keep my checkbook closed.

Fortunately, my father and I found each other through ISRR. After we reunited, my father told me about how he had released his information and asked if the agency had provided it to me. No, they did not, I confirmed. Then, seeing as Catholic Charities had no idea that my father and I had found each other, I decided to make an inquiry. I sent a letter requesting that any information left for me by either of my parents be provided as soon as possible.

A week later, I received a phone call from the same social worker who had worked with both my father and me. She informed me that Catholic Charities had good news and bad news. The good news, she said, was that my father had released all of his information to me years earlier. The bad news, she then explained, was that the agency could not release it without my mother's permission—because she was considered the agency’s client (please note that as the actual former "child in need," the agency does not consider me, one of its adoptees, to be a client). My father was not informed of these details when he paid his fee in 1989. To this day, I have never been provided with the information that Catholic Charities promised my father it would release.

That Which Transcends

While watching the film and considering my own personal experience, I couldn’t help but reflect on the lack of compassion offered to the natural parents, sons and daughters of adoption by some global Catholic institutions. Some of these actions occurred not only in the 1950s, but in the 1990s and 2000s. So this is not a matter of “oh well, that was a long time ago.” In one sense, Catholic Charities of Fairfield County in Connecticut did to my father and the adult me what the Sean Ross Abbey nuns in Ireland did to Philomena and her adult son—withheld vital information, lied by omission and intentionally kept us from one another.

In the film, Lee does find out what happened to her son. She also agrees to let Sixsmith share her story, which he did in film and reality. Hers is one of abusive treatment and profound loss. It is also one of the deep, pure love of a mother for her son. This film does not shy away from the ethical issues in adoption yet manages to allow a mother's love for her son to transcend all else, even the Catholic Church and the adoption industry. As such, this film is a gem and a must-view for anyone interested in taking a closer look at the topics of ethics in adoption, parental love and basic human compassion.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Julie Stromberg
When the time came to think about college, I decided that my career path would encompass either child psychology or journalism. Fortunately for all the young people out there, I opted for journalism and earned a bachelor's degree in communications. Since that time, I have worked as a newspaper and magazine staff writer, public relations associate, and marketing copywriter. My professional creative efforts have been acknowledged with several industry awards.

I am also pleased to be involved in several writing and advocacy projects outside of the office. As an adoptee, my advocacy work is focused on changing the common, societal discourse on adoption practices and encouraging reform that would place the emotional needs and legal rights of the children involved first.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Mothers Without Children

The human interest story, as Martin Sixsmith explains, is about “the weak-minded and ignorant.” The feeble do not deserve the mind of a newsman. However, if you read my blog, you enjoy the human interest story. We all do, and Martin Sixsmith becomes magnetized by the story of Philomena Lee.

We gravitate to the human interest story because it validates our own lives as living, breathing people who feel. We feel love, loss, pain, anger and sorrow.

Going into the Sundance Theater today, I anticipated the emotions. A movie about adoption? Stop right there. I know about adoption all too well … right? I’ve lived it.

This story’s viewpoint floored me. I felt shellshocked as I left the building. In my last post, I reviewed Closure, another adoption film and was touched by the mothers. I began to wonder before seeing Closure and Philomena about my own story … about my first six months.

In my fantasy birth story, which I have based on my own experience from my children’s birth stories, I am conceived around Valentine’s Day (though I doubt Korea celebrated Valentine’s Day in 1967), and I am born two weeks early, around noon.