Monday, September 10, 2012

Family Secrets

That's the title of a fascinating and troubling article in Open Magazine focusing on the searches of international adoptees from India for birth parents, including the search of Netherlander Carina Roodenburg, and what those searches say about international adoption:
Carina’s is not an isolated case. As we spoke to Indian borns who were adopted in the 70s and 80s by White couples abroad, we found a pattern to their stories: they grew up in an environment where their physical attributes were a constant reminder of their difference.

Some did well, but many of them had difficult—even traumatic—childhoods. They were haunted by one big question: why had they been given up? Some even wondered if they had been kidnapped.

The question gnawed away at them, drawing many to India for what would be the most arduous quest of their lives—the mothers who bore them. In some cases, it meant crossing hurdle after hurdle put up by adoption agencies, orphanages, powerful families and governments. Information, they found, was a nightmare to obtain. If they got hold of documents, they found their birth records fudged. They had to take recourse to the courts to force agencies to reveal information.

Most of those who succeeded found their biological parents leading lives of poverty.

Others still struggle. No one gave up.
And then another article, titled Gandhis vs a Swedish nurse: The murky secrets of international adoptions, looks at the Open Magazine article and highlights the role of the Gandhi family in another adoption search, with the provocative first sentence, "Why are the descendants of the Father of the Nation trying to keep an Indian adoptee from finding out who was her birth mother?"
The main issue, of course, is birth mother confidentiality. Arun Gandhi told her in an email that the father and mother have a right to privacy and that information cannot be divulged until they waive that right.

But then it gets more intriguing.

Arun Gandhi wrote to Arnes: ‘You must remember: you are assuming that your mother lives in poverty and destitution. That is not so. Anyone who could go to a private nursing home for delivery has to be upper middle class.’

When she persisted it started getting uglier.

Tushar Gandhi to Arnes: I am going to write to the Indian embassy in Stockholm requesting never to give you a visa to come to India, and believe me they will listen to me.

And it didn’t stop there. Gandhi went on to call Arnes her birth mother’s “curse not her offspring” and a “curse on her fate since the day you took root in her womb”.

The Gandhi name jumps out of this story but what Srivastava is writing about are the enormous bureaucratic hurdles adoptees face trying to ferret out their history from within our paper raj. In a culture that often gives short shrift to privacy, adoption is still shrouded in so much stigma that privacy laws kick into high gear when it comes to protecting the parents’ identity.
And I think it's no coincidence (OK, it probably was) that these articles came to my attention today, the 20th anniversary of the movie Sneakers.  What, I hear you cry, does that non-adoption caper movie have to do with adoption?!  Remember the premise of the movie -- the ultimate code-breaker, which is revealed with the translation of the phrase "TOO MANY SECRETS" to the phrase "NO MORE SECRETS."  Get it now?!  And yes, I really loved that movie.  And yes, I've linked it to adoption before. . . . And yes, these stories about adoption searches remind us how painful family secrets -- adoption secrets -- are. . . .

1 comment:

Beth Saukas said...


I'm Elizabete Saukas and as your organization, my heart beats for the orphans.
And in love for this cause, i'm promoting a fundraising campaign to bless a orphanage in Brazil. And i would like to invite you to take a look in this campaign:


Elizabete Saukas