In December 2012, a CNN online essay stated “The Internet is making it easier for birth relatives to find each other, hastening the end of the era of ‘closed’ adoption, the nonprofit Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute said in a report released Thursday.
Adoptee Andrew Cadieux, featured in the CNN story, was 20 years old before he learned who his birthmother was. Until Facebook unlocked the secret history of his adoption, the first chapter of his life was kept from him. Now Andrew’s birthmother is part of his life.
Cases such as Andrew’s are increasingly common. The Internet has made it far easier for birth relatives to find each other, with or without permission or knowledge of all involved. People simply go online to find one another, to get re-connected, and to uncover hidden family histories. To quote CNN’s Emanuella Grinberg, “It’s hard to keep secrets in the age of social media and the adoption world is no exception.”
Long before the age of the Internet, I was adopted by wonderful parents who gave me advantages that my birthmother knew she could not. She had suffered an emotional breakdown that led her to give my brother and me up. I was five years old when the new parents took over the raising of us. Years later, I learned that when I was ten, my birthmother wanted us back. In a way, it may have been better that I was “shielded” from knowledge of this. At ten, I may have had trouble with mixed loyalties. In retrospect, however, it wounded me at a deep level.
How would my adoption have been different if it had been now instead of right after WWII? The secrecy that surrounded my adoption most surely would have been less. I think my birthmother Velma would have had the courage and the means to find me and reconnect much sooner than she did. In short, I think it would have been healthier, saner, and better for everyone involved if there had been more transparency. A more open adoption could have avoided years of misconceptions. But, as the saying goes, that is all water under the bridge. Like other adult adoptees with unfulfilled wishes for connection and belonging, I have vowed to deal with what is NOW. The Internet has opened the door to many adoption communities, and I find that connection hugely beneficial. It has improved my life more than words can say.
It serves little purpose to ask if the Internet’s influence is a good or bad thing when it comes to adoption. The veil has been lifted, calling for more awareness and sensitivity on the part of adoptive parents, biological parents and adoptees (of adult age) themselves.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Jean Lawton for her illustration, “Adoption World”