I have a confession to make—I had never read a book that pertained to adoption before this. Thank you for the invitation my friend, Lori Holden, author of The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption.
As an adoptee, I found Anne Bauer’s memoir, “The Sound of Hope: A True Story of an Adoptee’s Quest for her Origins,” paralleled my own life story in significant ways. What I learned from reading this author’s journey is when you are feeling alone and misunderstood, sit down and read a good book from another adoptee’s perspective. Never would I have expected that Anne’s thoughts and feelings would be cathartic. The timing was perfect in that it helped me to understand myself a little better.
I decided to get brave. Silly girl, what do I mean, I am always trying to get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself to look at life from different points of view. Last week, I sent out e-mails to over 30 social workers and those involved in the adoption process asking for feedback to my questions for the book tour. I realized after doing so that some of them might be cautious in answering a cold letter. It was not my intention for anyone to put into writing what could possibly be sensitive information in regards to protecting our innocent children. I wish more had just taken the time to at least acknowledge my letter, but I did receive five of the kindest and most helpful responses back.
What I discovered from this experience is that I have a complicated mistrust for professionals involved in placing children for adoption. This feeling is based strictly on my own personal adoption story that went very wrong. My inquisitiveness is not about placing blame on anyone, but rather wanting some reassurance now that many individuals have their hearts in the right place when it comes to adoption. To know that we are equally as important as adult adoptees as when we were children placed for adoption.
How does a social worker know what signs to look for to find out if one of the adoptive parents is a functional alcoholic or has an undiagnosed mental health issue?
The answers below are from the adoption professionals:
1. One requirement for our home study is to complete a psychological exam. This exam helps detect substance abuse and/or mental health issues. We also have several interviews and ask direct questions regarding each.
2. Education can help those who are emotionally healthy, and good agencies spend a lot of time/effort coordinating the preparation of their parents for adoption.
3. Most agencies now do post-adoption follow-ups with their adoptive families.
4. With our extensive interview process, the psychological exams, background checks and home visits, we hope the “hidden truth” would be exposed.
Did the added stress of raising children bring on the mental health issues with her father or were Anne’s adoptive parents hiding this when they had the home study? If that was the case, how can social workers see beyond the smoke screen, or if a couple appears too perfect?
Sometimes in searching for answers, is where we find our “own truth.”
At around the age of 12, a small delicate pink book arrived at Christmastime from one of my aunts. The only time I had received a gift from her was a pair of red Keds as a little girl. I kept trying to figure out if the book’s story was supposed to have the same deep significance as those special shoes. In the first six years of my life, I stayed for many extended times out of state with my adoptive mother’s side of the family. I remember being shuffled from home to home with each of my mother’s four sisters and their rather large families.
Through a child’s eyes, there was no way at the time I could have understood that the separation was because of my parent’s rocky marriage and my adoptive father’s alcoholism.
For years, I held close to my heart the long unspoken words that were handwritten inside the cover of that book, “I care about you” from an aunt I loved dearly.
There have been many times I’ve wanted to ask my adoptive mother’s relatives for some straight-forward answers. But unfortunately, I am not close to any of them and their loyalty is as fierce as “blood,” even after their sister’s death. Although all of them had experienced at one time or another the wrath of my adoptive mother over the years, they couldn’t have possibly understood how damaging her verbal and emotional abuse was to me, her daughter by adoption.
From the moment I was carried out of the hospital late at night by the doctor who delivered me, and then literally handed over to my new family, I have often wondered why there was no prior home study or involvement by any adoption agency or the state. “Did my parents have to adopt me illegally because my adoptive father had a serious drinking problem?” Obviously, my adoptive parents were hiding a secret and no one was taking a stand. My adoptive mother’s extended family had to know she had changed drastically after the bitter divorce from my first adoptive father.
In my adoption story, I believe mom had always been a broken woman and her family was going to pretend mental health issues didn’t exist with “one of their own,” even if it was at the cost of hurting innocent children.
Why didn’t the outspoken, loving maternal grandmother take a stand against the abuse?
As I read Anne’s book, I couldn’t wait to hear more about her favorite grandmother. I found myself living vicariously through their sweet relationship. I admired grandma’s genuineness, especially while often reminiscing fondly with Anne about that first time she had set eyes on her precious granddaughter. It made me miss my paternal grandfather.
At the age of 89, my grandpa (my stepfather’s dad) was too old to explain what had kept us apart for many years, but I was determined we would make up for lost time. While growing up, for reasons I will never fully understand, I only had the opportunity to meet him once as a young girl. What stands out in my mind is how intensely my brother and I were instructed to be on our best behavior on that special occasion.
Years later, while attending college close to where grandpa was living, I was blessed to be given a second chance to get to know him. I loved this gentle giant with the sparkling eyes and magical smile on my occasional visits. But sadly, my relationship with my grandfather had been short-lived. Just as I was beginning to call him mine, he passed away.
I have no doubts that he would have kept it real with me had we reconnected sooner. As I have tried to piece together the reasons for “our family’s many lies, secrets and peculiar dynamics,” ironically, it appears my grandfather was taking a stand in defense of his other granddaughter that I knew nothing about until recently. Apparently, my stepfather had abandoned his children and grandchildren my age when he married my adoptive mother. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had been given an ultimatum by my adoptive mother. Tragically, for much of his daughter’s adult life, I learned that she had been in half-way houses, mental institutions, and living on the streets due to Schizophrenia.
Perhaps Anne’s grandma didn’t take a stand because she feared the consequences.
To continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list at LavenderLuz.com.
For my friends that expressed an interest in reading Anne’s memoir, it can be found here.