Category Archives: Book Club

Q&A: Quest to raise awareness about adoptee rights

Her memoir’s subtitle is An Adoptee’s Quest for her Origins, but in talking with Anne Bauer, I know that the another reason she wrote The Sound of Hope was to “get people to realize how damaging it is to make adoptees feel guilty when they want to know about their origins,” as she said to me in an email.

We have wrapped up the book tour, but we are fortunate to have Anne answering the questions that members of the book club posed to her.

Sound of Hope adoptee memoirAre you still an active champion for the rights of adopted persons, specifically original birth certificates and open records?

Yes! I keep in contact with NJCARE (NJ Coalition for Adoption Reform & Education) which is a grass roots organization that supports honesty in adoption through educational outreach and legislative advocacy. This group keeps many adopted individuals and first-mothers informed about upcoming bills and involve us in letter writing campaigns in support of the bills trying to be passed. The latest bill is the Adoptee Birthright Bill which would allow adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates. This bill was finally passed in NJ last year but Governor Christie (who coincidentally has an adopted sister) conditionally vetoed the Adoptees’ Birthright bill. Right now this bill is in limbo in NJ while thousands of adult adopted individuals wait patiently to obtain their own information.

In 2009, I appeared on a television talk show called “RealTalk.” There was a panel of four people including me, representing the adoptees, a birth mother, a social worker and a lawyer who was advocating keeping records sealed. It was an interesting experience and it felt good to voice my opinion. However, these opportunities to appear on network television are few because the general public doesn’t seem to demand attention to the plight of adult adopted people. This could be the result of many people assuming that all adopted adults can access their own information. Education about the need for adoption reform needs to be publicized to those not within the adoption mosaic. There are too many false assumptions and prejudices still circulating which need to be addressed in order to have legislators approve new laws.

You wrote The Sound of Hope in 2008. You share in your memoir, “The day I realized I has two mothers I was cut in half.” and “The bruises and scratches weren’t visible. They resided inside the heart. These injuries hurt the most and take the longest to heal.” How has your healing journey progressed since the writing your story?

Writing this memoir has been such a tremendous healing experience. So many memories and feelings were brought to the surface as I wrote each chapter of my life. I never realized how much stuff I actually went through at such an early age and saw that I had pushed a lot of my feelings down deep inside. Bringing up these memories actually forced me to face these issues head on. As I recollected my childhood, scenes were brought back to the forefront of my mind and I spent time analyzing possible intentions on the parts of everyone involved. I tried to get into my family member’s shoes and did my best to see the situation from their perspective.

This process was extremely healing because I came to understand that everyone in my family truly loved me. Although they disregarded my feelings over and over, I feel the reason for this was them being so absorbed in their own unresolved problems such as the hidden grief from infertility, stresses of working full-time and having to deal with an alcoholic in the family. When it came to dealing with the fact that they had adopted children, they had no ongoing counseling available to them at the time and they truly didn’t know that it was in the best interest of the child to talk about adoption in a positive light.

Since writing this memoir, I no longer get teary-eyed when I think about how lonely I felt when nobody supported me with my search or the highly emotional day when I first met my first-mother. These two experiences were the hardest for me to face at the time. I find myself now looking back on those memories –even the one about whom I could invite to my own wedding — with a smile on my face, and now consider these past experiences valuable lessons in life for all parties involved.

Do you find that your experience of being an adopted person has impacted your parenting? I think of the passage where you share, “The difficulties lie on the inside, deep beneath the outer layers-where the heart and soul reside.”

I definitely think my experience as an adopted individual has greatly impacted my parenting style. I have made it a point to be completely open and honest in regards to all family matters with my children. I keep the information at the level of their age and their ability to understand the issue, and I make it a point to never gloss over any problems that may be happening within the family. Because they are always in the loop, I never have to worry that they may overhear something that they shouldn’t know about because we do not keep secrets.

I also am an avid genealogist and have involved my children with the research. Documenting the family lines fosters a sense of belonging, and finally being able to obtain my original family history has been a project of ours for the past decade. This is one of the reasons why I am so adamant about obtaining my original birth certificate. There is no accessible paper trail linking me to my biological family, and if a future relative of mine decides to trace the genealogy, they would believe that I was in fact born to my adoptive parents. My future generations should also know their true heritage and be able to accurately trace their own lineage as well.

How did your family members respond to your book, and how supportive were they of you writing it? This must be a peril of writing a memoir: how do you be true to your observations of a person but also aware of their reactions to your observations? It’s an interesting boundary to define.

Everybody in my family knew I was writing and publishing my memoir because I was required to have everyone sign a release form so I could tell their part in my story. Sadly, nobody has mentioned the memoir to me since except my first-mother and my adoptive father. My Dad was not surprised about how he was portrayed and has since apologized profusely to me and my brothers for his treatment of us over the years. I know without a doubt that he never intended to hurt any of us. He has his own demons from his childhood to deal with and these unresolved issues come out in bursts of rage in his daily life. My first-mother told me she was sorry that she never tried to find me sooner and offered that she was willing to go to counseling or whatever it was that I needed in order to heal from the experience. Writing this memoir was healing and since then I have felt whole and complete.

My mother died three years before I published the memoir and I honestly do not think she would have been happy about me broadcasting to the world about family problems. I’m sure my cousin Maggie has read it but no comments have been made. As for Sara, I cannot say whether she has read the memoir. My first-mother has a copy and I am sure she offered it to Sara but there has been no mention about it. As for my brothers, I do not know if they read my memoir. I told them both about it and gave them the information when it was released but neither has acknowledged the subject nor wanted to talk about it since signing the release form. They know it’s there and someday maybe they will be ready to read it.

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That’s a wrap for the book discussion of Anne Bauer’s The Sound of Hope: An Adoptee’s Quest for Her Origins. Should you wish to know more about adoptee rights, being raised in a closed adoption, or any of the other topics mentioned here, read Anne’s book.

AdoptLit: Day 2 of the Sound of Hope book tour

Anne Bauer's book cover for book tourEarlier this week a dozen of us began our virtual book club for Anne Bauer’s memoir The Sound of Hope: An Adoptee’s Quest for her Origins. Even if you haven’t read the book or joined the tour*, you may find the themes we are discussing fascinating: civil rights for adopted people, nature vs nurture, alcoholism, adoption agency matching, parent-focused adoptions vs child-centered adoptions. You may also want to weigh in on them from your own perspective. Comments on participating book tour posts is welcomed!

The first batch of posts on this tour, including mine, can be found here. Today we bring you opinions and analysis from the second (and last) batch of book clubbers for you to peruse and comment on. Don’t understand what this means? See this post.

Please visit the links below. Comments are much appreciated by members of this book club.

  1. Liz at Poemfish
  2. JoAnne at Stories by JB
  3. Peach at Neither Here nor There
  4. Tonya at Mommy Musings
  5. Kellie C at All in the Family Adoption
  6. Esperanza at Stumbling Gracefully
  7. Dora at My Preconceived Notion
  8. Lori of Lavender Luz
  9. Kathy at Bereaved and Blessed
  10. Laura at Laura-Dennis.com
  11. Judy at Judy M Miller
  12. GeoChick

Thanks to author Anne Bauer for courageously sharing her tale to help us better understand one of the myriad tiles in the adoption mosaic.

* Disclosure: The author has provided compensation for organizing this book tour.

AdoptLit: The Sound of Hope book tour

Several book lovers are sharing our thoughts about Anne Bauer’s memoir, The Sound of Hope: An Adoptee’s Quest for her Origins. Even if you aren’t part of the tour* and even if you haven’t read the book, check out what people are saying about it — you might find that this book is one you want to put on your wishlist.

See the master list at the bottom of this post, following my own contribution to this book tour.

I grew up in the 1970s when closed adoption was, duh, The Way to Go. Babies were considered blank slates on which parents could etch any template they wanted. Women (and men) who surrendered a child were told they would forget about their babies and move on. They were offered a way to atone for the shame of becoming pregnant out of wedlock — by giving their babies to more deserving couples. People becoming parents via adoption were allowed a way out of the shame and secrecy of infertility.

But the shame and secrecy cast a looooong shadow.

I did not, in those days, question the closedness of such adoptions. I had friends who had been adopted, and they did not question it then, either. It was what what we knew, The Way to Go.

But after I became a mom via adoption, I came to know some adoptees online who did question, who did challenge The Way to Go. Who most definitely knew they were not blank slates. Who sensed that their birth parents did not easily move on. Who challenged the idea that being married was, in itself, the qualification that made for good parents.

Anne Bauer's book cover for book tourAnne Bauer’s memoir debunks many of these myths. The concept of “closed” begins as The Way to Go but is revealed to be dark, stifling, shameful and repressive. Anne deals with her inner roiling by seeking light, and her brothers, also adopted, deal with theirs by sinking further in darkness. Her narrative shows the difficulties imposed by The Way to Go of the closed adoption era. I found it an engaging read, and Anne’s tale confirms what I have always intuited about the importance of openness in adoption: it’s essential to help children in adoption integrate the various parts of their identities.

* Disclosure: The author has provided compensation for organizing this book tour.

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In this book tour, we each submitted questions to the others. Here are three questions I chose to answer.

Anne writes of her adoptive family, On the outside, we look very much alike. We have the same eye color, the same fair complexion – yes, the adoption agency did its job well. What are your thoughts on how important appearances were at that time (the 1960s)? Have we made progress? What do you think contributed to the change?

I can only make assumptions about how matches were made prior to the days of open adoption, in which the expectant parents choose adoptive parents for their baby. Was it simply by who had been waiting the longest, who had made it to the top of the list? Or was there some criteria-matching that was instituted? My guess would be a bit of both.

If there were matching criteria, what was it? Anne suggests is was based on appearances. I wonder if social workers would, for example, declare that a baby of northern European heritage would do better with parents hailing from Scandinavia that with parents from the eastern Mediterranean. Really, what else was there to go on? So much about the closed era was about appearances — how things looked to others. How to avoid the judgment of others. How to make a family look as seamlessly created as possible.

Based on my experience only, I do believe the open era has brought progress. Through the homestudy, our agency made sure our marriage was stable, that we understood that “discipline,” at its core, was about teaching and not punishing, and that we were likely to be loving parents who could set appropriate boundaries. In other words, the problems that emerged in Anne’s adoptive family were screened for. (That said, had we not made the grade, would we have been turned away?)

What’s more, the agency did not do any matching — our children’s first moms did. Crystal looked at the then-available crop of hopeful couples and chose us (well, as her second choice) to parent her baby. Two years later, Michele did the same thing. Their criteria for their babies.

What contributed to the change? As we progress from closedness to openness, the locus of control for such decisions is gradually moving from the all-knowing agency to the all-caring first mother or father.

But clearly there is still a ways to go.

The afterword states that the author wrote her book in the hopes of raising awareness of civil rights of adoptees and instigating reform in the current laws pertaining to adoptee records. With as much exposure as I’ve had to successful open adoption scenarios, I admit I was surprised to learn how few rights adoptees have to their original birth records. Were you similarly surprised to hear how little control adoptees have over their own records? Why do you think it is that this information is not more widely known?

I was unaware of the plight of adult adoptees as first, too. Because I was in possession of each of my children’s original birth certificates, I didn’t question whether or not my kids would be able to get theirs on their own someday. According to Colorado law, they will, but only because they were born at an opportune time.

But not all adult adoptees born in Colorado can have access to their personal records. People whose adoptions were finalized in the 30-year span between July 1, 1967 and August 31, 1997 — many of the people I grew up with — are SOL. Their records are sealed except via court order. Can you believe that?

  • If your adoption was finalized on June 30, 1967, you have access. One day later, you don’t.
  • If your adoption was finalized on September 1, 1997, you have access. One day earlier, you don’t.

How can this be justifiable?

Anne speculates that much of her brothers’ problems may stem from their verbally abusive adoptive father. Do you agree? Are there other factors that might have been at work in Thomas’ abandonment of his own young family and Brian’s years of social withdrawal?

Yes, I agree and yes, there were other factors that contributed to Thomas and Brian’s difficulties. Besides the verbal abuse from their father, I believe the repression inherent in a closed adoption made both brothers stuff down their emotions. That which we resist persists. If you leave something in the dark and occasionally shovel manure on it, you shouldn’t be surprised if the result is rot and decay.

To continue to this book tour, please visit the links below. Comments are much appreciated by the book tourists!

  1. Lori of Lavender Luz (see above)
  2. Kathy at Bereaved and Blessed
  3. Laura at Laura-Dennis.com
  4. Judy at Judy M Miller
  5. GeoChick
  6. Liz at Poemfish
  7. JoAnne at Stories by JB
  8. Peach at Neither Here nor There
  9. Tonya at Mommy Musings
  10. Kellie C at All in the Family Adoption
  11. Esperanza at Stumbling Gracefully
  12. Dora at My Preconceived Notion

We hope you have enjoyed our discussion of the issues raised. Thanks for reading along!