Monday, April 18, 2011

Another one!

OK, the last letter looking for advice on whether to tell a child she was adopted involved an almost-15-year-old.  This one is a 17-year-old.  Argh!!!!!!
Q. My husband and I have a wonderful 17-year-old girl whom we adopted. We have never told her she was adopted, and my husband feels we need to. But I don’t want to. Should we tell her now or wait until she is older?
A psychologist tackles this answer, and gives pretty standard advice, though she avoids directly telling these adoptive parents that they have royally screwed up.

She also encourages talking about the adoption as a "positive event," as a "loving and positive act."  I don't disagree, but you also need to create space for your child NOT to feel positive about her adoption.  I think one of the hardest things for adopted kids is that everyone around them, including their parents, are telling them what a wonderful thing adoption is, and they might not feel that way.  Letting them know that they are free to feel however they want to about their adoption, and that they can have quite mixed feelings, too, is really important, I think.


Anonymous said...

I think this crazy thinking may happen more than we know. An acquaintance at my job, who is adopted, has a niece who was adopted and the niece does NOT know she was adopted. And the niece is 18! My coworker knew she was adopted from a very early age. But for some reason, her mother's sister has chosen to keep the niece's adoption a big secret. (All the people in the family are African American so the adoptee isn't "obvious" in the way mixed race/ethnicity families would be.)

Linda said...

This is child abuse, in my opinion. It also boggles my mind that anyone would do this. I have yet to meet a late discovery adoptee who has been able to forgive their adoptive parents for this sort of betrayal. And I use the term "parents" lightly.
Ughhhhhhh.....poor kid.

Melissa said...

Holy moly, c'mon, people, we're in the 21st century!

Although not surprised, I am disturbed that such anachronistic thinking continues to pervade.

As an adult adoptee, yes, I completely concur with the statement: "I think one of the hardest things for adopted kids is that everyone around them, including their parents, are telling them what a wonderful thing adoption is, and they might not feel that way. Letting them know that they are free to feel however they want to about their adoption, and that they can have quite mixed feelings, too, is really important, I think."

Anonymous said...

I think she was telling them they screwed up in a passive agressive manner by listing when and how to tell - as in as soon as they are adopted - not 17 years later. Who approves this type of individual to adopt? That should be the question and if SW's aren't doing their jobs then they need to be fired.

But you are right - she should have told them that the adoptee may now view their entire life as a series of lies and may have a really hard time trusting them ever again...

Melissa said...

Oh, sidenote...I have a cousin who did not find out he was adopted until he joined the military at age 18--he found out accidentally due to the paperwork that had to be submitted to way or another the truth comes out...

Mahmee said...

Telling your child he/she is adopted should be a requirement...not a choice. How can anyone think this is OK and won't have major fallout for everyone? People used to ask me if I was going to tell my daughter she was adopted. My response was always, "why wouldn't I?". Then gee, there's that whole issue that she is Chinese and I am caucasian. I think she might have figured it out on her own anyway. Some people are really screwed up.

Melissa said...

Have you ever read Paper Shadows: A Chinatown Childhood by Wayson Choy. That poor man found out on the radio he was adopted as a 50 year old. Talk about shocking.

1-2-TheeMotimes said...

Child abuse is a BIT extreme.

I'm sure these parents had good intentions when they first decided not to tell their daughter she was adopted. Maybe they wanted to shield her from some of the typical abandonment issues some adoptive children have or maybe they wanted to make her life as "normal" as possible. Children don't come with instruction manuals and adoptive children certainly do not. Every situation is different and you cannot fault them for doing what they thought was best for their child.
How dare you judge this family when you know NOTHING about them - other than what was mentioned when they ASKED FOR HELP. These people are seeking advice and rather than judging them and tossing passive aggressive and rude comments their way, how about some helpful ADVICE?
I agree that this family made a mistake by not telling their daughter she was adopted, but I will certainly not accuse them of being bad parents or suggesting that they shouldn't be parents at all. Your comments are disgusting and exactly what is wrong with the world today. Rather than getting so wrapped up in what they did 'wrong' and 'how horrible they are' you should be offering advice and other ways to better the situation and/or future situations alike.

Anonymous said...

@ 1 2 theemotimes,

I agree, calling this abuse is ridiculous and only usually bantered about by those who have never been that child at the hands of true abuse. :(

I have....I would take set of A Parents who kept a truth from me anyday over the garbage that raised me and made each day a living heck.

Get a grip folks!

Anonymous said...

yes, and i am also disturb at the persecution that goes on in this blog.

it's amazing that anyone adopts at all if he/she reads this blog and some of these comments.

Wendy said...

to anon--"yes, and i am also disturb at the persecution that goes on in this blog.

it's amazing that anyone adopts at all if he/she reads this blog and some of these comments."

If PAP's see this blog as providing persecution I hope they DO NOT adopt, that is far from what is happening here. It is called and education. For those who are unwilling to learn, look to find answers, and discuss the problems--as well as the good--that comes with adoption, they have NO business adopting EVER.

PAP's and AP's need to make sure they take off the "all about me" hat and listen up once in awhile. The problem is there is no one out there making them listen and learn, only those who seek enlightenment find it. The industry would rather leave the light off.

Linda said...

Oh, trust me,1,2THEEMOtimes, I DO know what child abuse is. It comes in many forms. Verbal,sexual,emotional,'s all abuse. And so is lying.

And I WILL judge anyone who does this to a member of MY tribe. If you think not telling a child THEIR truth is not abuse, then I judge YOUR parenting skills, as well.

Do YOU know any late-discovery adoptees? I DO. And almost every one of them knew there was something "not right" in their adoptive families. They KNEW something was up. And almost everyone of them cut ties with their ap's because of this horrible betrayal. So you are saying wondering your whole life why you are nothing like your parents or having a feeling of odd man out is OK? No- people who lie to their adopted children are only doing it to perpetuate the lie of "as if born to". They are sparing THEMSELVES. And when it comes back to bite them in their entitled hind ends and their child says "See ya!", it serves them right.

The adoption industry has been telling paps and ap's to tell the truth about their adopted child since the 1930's. There is NO excuse for lying, unless of course it was a black market adoption.

No, honey, my comment is what is RIGHT in the world today. I speak the truth and expect the truth for ALL adoptees. Sorry that the truth is "disgusting to you". Perhaps I hit too close to home???

And if paps don't want to adopt after reading these comments, good. They don't have any business adopting if they can't handle the bad parts of adoption- because like it or not, there ARE bad parts of adoption. If you can't take the heat, stay out of another woman's nursery.

iAdoptee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
iAdoptee said...

Speaking as an adult adoptee, it is my feeling that there isn't an acceptable reason or justification for adoptive parents to withhold the truth from the adoptee.

To shroud this betrayal as "good intentions" completely dismisses the egregiousness of the action. It is also my feeling that such a betrayal of trust calls into question the adoptive parents' ability to parent an adopted child. If they can't be honest with the child, they are not being honest with themselves either. And that decision to maintain a false sense of family will eventually catch up with all involved.

Lorraine Dusky said...

About a year ago I ordered "Who Am I?...and Other QUESTIONS of ADOPTED Kids." A simple slim paperback from Charlene C. Giannetti. Inside the cover was written: Cheryl--On your 21st birthday--thought you should know

So none of this surprises me.

I once had a woman I knew from work (but not well) come and see me because she had just found out she was adopted. It happened when she and her husband were arguing as a prelude to their divorce. She said something about "her mother" and he shouted bad: "She's not even your mother--YOU'RE ADOPTED!"

Her adoptive parents thought he ought to know but didn't have the courage or sensibility to tell her. I don't call that love, I call that ownership.
>Lorraine from

Ali said...

Not telling your adopted children the truth is emotional abuse. All human beings deserve the know the truth of their heritage. The idea that this will save them from experiencing abandonment issues makes no sense. Adoptees suffer from abandonment issues because they WERE abandoned and lying about it will not change that. How can there every be honesty in a family when the elephant in the room is not acknowledged. I believe the adoptive parents withheld the truth to protect themselves not their adopted kids. It makes me wonder what else they lied about?

Jenn said...

Stories like these prove to me that adoption as currently practiced is WRONG.  How are families like these getting their hands on children?  It's so wrong NOT to tell!  Just because you take a child out of a family and put them in another one before they are old enough to remember does not mean that child will instantly fit with the "new" family and act like a biological children.  I know that once this now nearly adult adoptee will feel like all the questions she's ever had about not fitting in with her family will be answered because this is the story of way too many LDAs.

She's going to feel like her parents have lied to her for her entire life because they have.  This is emotional abuse.  They may not have physically hurt her, but emotionally she's never going to be able to trust them again.  I can promise you that this is abuse and hurts just as much when you're whole world is flipped upside down and you no longer know who you are anymore.

You can sugar coat it all you want, but these parents did not do what was best for their daughter.  My grandparents used to beat my dad with a belt when he was younger.  Now it's considered child abuse.  Just because they thought they were doing the right thing at the time doesn't make it right.  It was wrong then and it's still wrong now.  This is the same thing.

Diane said...

I just did a guest blog piece that included some of my daughters' thoughts and advice for adoptive parents. Interesting that both of my girls heavily stressed the need for their adoption journeys to be discussed and the potential ramifications if they weren't.

Very disturbing to read about children who were never given the chance...

Erimentha said...

I have to wholeheartedly agree with my fellow adoptees that lying to an adopted child is one of the worst things you can do. It IS a form of emotional abuse, straight up. And anon, persecution? Hardly. The opinions here are based on the lives and feelings of those who have lived with being adopted. If AP's and PAP's feel that the truth is so hurtful, if you feel persecuted by adoptees online, lord help you when your adopted child turns around and tells you that you are not their real mother/ father and that he or she hates being adopted and wishes they had been aborted. What will you do then?

joy said...

"Abusive is a bit much"? surely you jest, who is this Scott Simon posting?

There are many kinds of abuse, emotional and neglect are certainly two of them and not telling your adoptling that they are adopted, falls under both these categories.

I am shocked that people would be unaware of this. As far as children coming with an instruction manual, actually adopted ones to a certain extent do and everyone agrees that you should tell early.

The betrayal and anger that LDA's (late discovery adoptees) face is very painful to witness. The narcissim displayed by adoptive parents who don't tell is what I find "disturb"

If people find thoughts like this disturbing I truly hope they will be too discouraged to adopt.

Gaye Tannenbaum said...

In my family, we were told that lying was a sin. When I was 31, I found out that my parents had lied to me. They had told me about my birth as if they had been there, actively participating. When I asked questions, I was fed more lies.

Even after I found out the truth, they refused to acknowledge that I was adopted, telling people that I didn't know what I was talking about.

My younger brother (their bio) knew but was threatened with the Wrath of God should I find out. Nice thing to do to an 8-year-old kid. "Lying is a sin" but if you tell your sister the truth, God will punish you.

And for all the "intentions" (good, bad or we'll-tell-him-when-he's-older) -> think about this: What family medical history are you (and your child) giving to your child's doctors?

Anonymous said...

Lying as abuse.....well then a whole lot of you are abusers, cause there is a whole lot of "lying" going on right now and right here! At least to yourselves!

I'm right with Anon. and 1,2, thee....while I don't condone keeping a child's adoption secret, I think its a stretch to call it abuse.

Those terms get used by groups with far too much frequency these days and it waters down the meaning.

Gee thanks Linda, for pointing out the obvious that abuse comes in many forms and what a surprise that the focus of this "discussion" would clearly lead to ugly accusations about adoptive anyone really surprised by that anymore? Predictable and pathetic.

BTW, I am someone who was burned with cigar butts at the hands of my birth mother ( physical ), told over again I was worthless ( emotional, left in a closet for hours and more. This all happened as an infant/toddler; I have no recollection, but the scars remain. Oh yes, I was sexually abused too by the revolving door of men she welcomed to our home.

I thank God every day someone did "step into her nursery" and took me away.

@ Linda ~ spare me the "tribe" inclusion ~ no thanks!

I always knew about my adoptive status but not the abuse. Were my adoptive parents selfish to keep that "birthright" from me?? Really? Was it for their gain alone? Get real! Every story/family is unique and there are shades of "truths" that even sages like Linda can't discern. Shocking, I know.

Should they have told me all of this as a traumatized 2 year old? At 4? At 10?

Would you?

Sign me: Fed Up and NOT part of anyone's "tribe" but of my own making, thank you very much!

joy said...

@ Anon.

I am very sorry that you suffered that kind of abuse. I can see why you would have such strong feelings about it.

That being said, that is not the only kind of abuse. Other kinds of abuse happen to other people and it is still reprehensible. I don't know why people like to play the game, "but my life was worse" because really the prize sucks, because as horrible as your situation was there were still children who suffered worse, who aren't here to tell their stories.

This post is about not telling your children they are adopted, not about your abuse story. I am sure there are blogs for that. I do believe it is abusive, psychologically and no one fit to adopt would keep such a vital, remember medical history? piece of information from their own child. This girl is giving her doctor's false medical info after all, please, this isn't about you as horrible as what happened to you is.

I think it is bizarre that you are beside yourself to condone such an act. I did not see Linda include you in a tribe and I certainly feel the desire to recoil from you, so I don't think you are in any danger of having camraderie here.

Again, I think there are abuse blogs you can comment on and maybe get some support. Abuse comes in all kinds of families both adoptive and biological it is not always a factor in an adoption. Many of us were saved from families that would not have harmed us.

Linda said...

I will echo Joy's reply to anon. I am sorry you were abused. No child should ever suffer abuse- any type of abuse, not from their natural parents, or their adoptive parents.

And anyone who knows me or reads my blog knows that I realize that EVERY story/family is unique and there are shades of "truths", so, you are incorrect when you say I do not discern.

You do not know how I lived. You do not know if my home was abusive, or what type of abuse there may have been. But lying IS a form of emotional abuse, and the scars are just as real as those left by someone's hands.

MY story is not the same as yours. My story is not the same as Joy's. And Im sure the lying adopters' from this article's adopted child's story is not the same, either. No, we are more than likely looking at an ap who adopted a newborn, and not from foster care, or a child who was removed because of abuse. TOTALLY different story.

No child needs to be told the horrors of abuse they suffered when they are a child. You are putting words in my mouth. I never said they should be told those things as a child, and I bet your arms are tired from "stirring the pot".

No matter what the reason they came into their adoptive family, they need to be told they are adopted, and lying by omission is emotional abuse. Period.

Like it or not, people belong to different tribes. I don't speak for you or your experiences, just as you don't mine. But honesty is ALWAYS the best policy when it comes down to the basics....and the basic thing is that we are adopted.

Anonymous said...

I regularly follow this blog but have never posted. First I wish to thank the blog owner for allowing Anon. comments, for without them I would be unable to share my story - for what its worth.

I am speaking out in support of "Fed Up Anon." not so much for myself. I see bullying on this site and its not from the Adoptive Parents who frequent this site.

Someone questions why "Fed Ups" story is worthy of being part of this discussion? Well, maybe it was not at first; but when this became a judgement call on those parents choosing not to tell a child of their adoption and likening it to abuse and the need to strip them of their parental rights, etc., I believe "her story" became part of the fabric.

Essentially she is asking folks to remember the shades of "grey" in any truth - in any family. And isn't that what so many Adult Adoptees are asking for too? To set aside the judgements like " it makes me want to recoil from you" and so forth. Shame on whoever said that! In a sense you made a hyprocrite of your own words when you accuse one person of playing "whose life story is worse than another" and then labeling a person's voice and experience when they do share. Or implying their voice has no place here. How sad.

So let me also add my voice. I am a 60 year old Adult Adoptee who was not told of her adoptive status until days before my ( adoptive, though I don't refer to her that way ) Mother's death. Upon her death bed she told that both of my parents were asked, forced to sign a document, promising they would never share this adoptive "secret" with me. Why? At the behest of my biological Mother.

I was enraged. Felt that betrayal others spoke of, but no, not abused. I said hideous things and blamed. She passed without my forgiveness. Only then did I have access to those very records and the copies of the returned letters she had sent to my birth mother begging her to reconsider. She never did.

Looking back I believe my parents tried to tell me, without actually saying the words. They tried to lead me to my past and still honor the wishes of the woman they felt had given them their greatest joy and gift. To keep a promise they probably never should have made or been asked to make.

Years passed and I made attempts to find that birth mother. I did. She continued to want nothing to do with me and refuses to acknowledge me to this day.

My (adoptive ) parents tried to honor the agreement they made with her, despite their own misgivings. Should they have told me? Yes. But did they do it for selfish reasons - for the easy way out? Emphatically NO. It was my Mama's greatest regret - caused her great pain throughout her life and especially at the end of it.

While I may not be representative of the whole, I am not unique either. Should we therefore condem all birth mothers for the actions of a few? No.

Should we condem all adoptive families and make sweeping generalities based on a few? Equally no.

I understand the pain of discovering this truth later in life but please understand this: not every story is the same and "truth" cannot be written by just one or two.

I have since forgiven my parents and my birth Mother; I only wish it had not come too late.

Thank you for allowing me to share. And for "Fed Up" - you don't make me recoil but a few others do on this forum.

Anonymous said...

Anon Apr 19 9:24

Please do explain your comment below...

"Lying as abuse.....well then a whole lot of you are abusers, cause there is a whole lot of "lying" going on right now and right here! At least to yourselves!"

Which poster or posters are lying and what did they say that was a lie?



You stated:

"Children don't come with instruction manuals and adoptive children certainly do not."

What did you learn in the parenting classes that were required in order to be approved to adopt? Can you honestly tell me there was nothing in any of the classes about telling the child you were adopting that they were ADOPTED? No strategies or age to tell the child? No tips on how to create the childs adoption story?

50 years ago my parents knew to tell us young enough to never have to "find out", rather we just always "knew" and there were no internet forums for them to talk to people who had been there done that - they just followed the basic principles of honesty and treating others as you would like to be treated, also known as common sense...

Anonymous said...

An Anon says: "i am also disturb at the persecution that goes on in this blog"

How dare you make light of the REAL persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany, Christians in the Roman Empire, and Muslims in America today!

ms. marginalia said...

Wendy, you wrote:

"PAP's and AP's need to make sure they take off the 'all about me' hat and listen up once in awhile. The problem is there is no one out there making them listen and learn, only those who seek enlightenment find it. The industry would rather leave the light off."

I completely agree with you.

I am an adult adoptee who was told the truth from the very beginning, and I am thankful for that. I cringe when I hear APs keeping secrets, thinking that they're protecting their children from knowing "awful" things about their natural families. Most kids would rather know the truth, told in an age appropriate way, than build their self-image and self-worth based on lies that come tumbling down like a house of cards later on. Such lies can completely destroy a person's ability to trust others.

I agree with Gaye about medical history issues. Health is not negotiable, nor is DNA. We get what we get from our natural families, and to give MDs and primary care providers false histories is to stack the odds against us. That IS abuse, not a little white lie, not protection. It's heinous.

I find it interesting, but not surprising, that adult adoptee outrage about lies and adoption is met, as usual, by those who want to tell us that we're exaggerating, that we should be glad we weren't abused. It's not a contest to see who had it worst. It's about expressing anger that adoptees are not given information that BELONGS to them, and that they don't need to be protected from.

Anonymous said...

Ya, we are taught not to lie and then we find out our entire existence IS A LIE?

Why is it that adoptive parents continue to participate in the sealing/amending of their adoptees birth certificates?