Fostering and Adoption: Who Are My Real Mum and Dad? ; It's the Question That Many Adoptive Parents Dread - but It Shouldn't Be
Hilpern, Kate, The Independent (London, England)
Ask any adopter or prospective adopter what their greatest fear is and there's a good chance that it's the thought of their child growing up and wanting to meet their "birth family". Indeed, although more adoptions than ever involve some face-to-face contact between the adopted child and the natural family, indirect contact or no contact at all is still the norm.
"Indirect contact - which in my case has involved mutual letters or cards at Christmas and birthdays - should serve as a constant reminder that the birth parents are `out there' and consequently make any chance of a reunion bearable. But I still felt like I'd been punched in the stomach when two of my kids said they wanted to meet their `real mum'," explains Susannah Chandler, 52-year-old adoptive mother of four.
Philippa Morrall of Adoption UK, a national support network for adopters, claims this is a common reaction. In fact, most adoption agencies now expect prospective parents to feel comfortable about the prospect of meeting the birth parents before the adoption, she says. After all, experience has shown that the more the adopter can tell a child about their origins, the more self-esteem the child is likely to have. Comments like, "You've really got your birth dad's talent there," can help enormously.
"The problem is," says Morrall, "that as time goes on and the child settles into the adoptive family, it becomes easy to stop doing it. Then there becomes a danger that the adopters stop thinking about the fact that their child is adopted at all."
Even adopters who never let go of their children's need to find their true identity are not immune from jealousy and fears of rejection. Lesley Kirk's 19-year-old son, James, who suffered behavioural problems in the past, had always expressed a strong interest in finding his birth mother. "When he was 15, his problems were so bad that I, without telling anyone, telephoned his birth mother," she explains. "At that time, of course, she was just a voice, but a year later, when it was agreed they would meet, she suddenly became a real person and my reaction astounded me.
"Having cheerfully accepted that this was going to happen, I could not believe how upset and threatened I felt. We had struggled through all James's difficulties throughout his life and all of a sudden there was this other woman laying claim to our son. But James's meeting with her was very successful. His aggressive behaviour has gone and I feel relaxed again. His feelings for us didn't change. We are still his Mum and Dad."
Like a large number of parents who adopted children prior to the mid- Seventies, Norman Boyd's resentment was even greater. Indeed, it was only in 1975 that the Children's Act gave adult adoptees access to their original birth certificate which enabled them to trace their families of origin. …