By Doris Michol Sippel, formerly known as Joan Mary Wheeler, BSW, is an American adoptees’ rights activist and author of Forbidden Family: An Adopted Woman’s Struggle for Identity (2016) and Strangers by Adoption: Ten Adoptees Share Their Stories of Rejection or Abuse (2019), both available on Amazon.
May 25, 2020
Historical Perspectives from the 1918 Influenza Pandemic on Orphans
My adoptive mother was two years old in October of 1918 when her mother died from influenza during that pandemic’s second wave. Her father recovered. He needed someone to take care of his young children while he worked, but most women had factory jobs to support the war effort of World War I. The only other option was to move his three older children from their family home in Buffalo, New York to live in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Orphanage, also in Buffalo. Married family friends agreed to care for his infant son. The father worked six days a week on the New York Central Railroad as a carpenter. A dedicated father, he paid room and board for his children and visited them every Sunday. He told the Polish Catholic nuns that none of his children would be given up for adoption. , , 
Though safe from permanent separation by adoption, my adoptive mother and her brothers were subjected to the same humiliating treatment that the other children in the orphanage endured. When they were old enough to sing, about one hundred children were “put up” on stage to entertain audiences for charity donations to the orphanage and for spectators to choose the child they wanted to take home for their very own.
This was one of Mom’s favorite stories she told to me when I was growing up. She’d say, “People wanted to take me home because I was the only Italian girl with dark hair and dark eyes, while all the other girls were blond haired, blue-eyed Polish girls.”
My adoptive mother’s father was an orphan himself. Louis Cannell was born in 1883 in the small town of Torricella Pelligna, Italy, in the province of Abruzzi. How and when his parents died is unknown. Louis was raised by family friends until he was seventeen. He was a farmer, tilled the soil, and was a shepherd. One month before his eighteenth birthday, Louis arrived in America by passenger ship in the port of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1901. He then lived with his married sister in Philadelphia, but nothing is known of her, or of any other family member in America or Italy. Though he had no formal education and could barely read and write, Louis quickly learned to speak English. He moved to Olean, New York where he worked as a policeman, a factory worker, and then a laborer on the Pennsylvania railroad.
Louis met his wife, Rose Picone, when he visited Lattimer Mines, Pennsylvania with a railroad co-worker. Rose was born on May 16, 1894 in Lattimer Mines, near Hazelton, Pennsylvania, the oldest of nine children born to Italian immigrants who came from an unknown town in the province of Abruzzi, Italy. Rose was seventeen when she married, Louis was twenty-eight. They had three boys and a girl. Rose died on October 22, 1918 at age twenty-four and was buried in Allegany, New York, near Olean.
Orphan Trains were in full operation when Louis arrived in Philadelphia in 1901. By the time he married in 1911, he had ten years of indoctrination into American society’s scorn for the poor, the wretched, the illegitimate, and the orphan.
The Orphan Train movement ran from 1854 to 1929. During this time, between 200,000 to 250,000 orphaned, abandoned, abused, and homeless children were gathered up by care workers from the streets of Eastern cities and were relocated to foster homes in the American West. Children were “put up” on train platforms or on stages for people to look them over. This is where the phrase “putting up a child for adoption” came from. While many families wanted farm laborers, others genuinely cared for the children they “took in.” Some children were legally adopted, although adoption was much simpler than it is today. Sending children out West became known as “placing out,” which is where the term “placing children for adoption” originated. One good thing that evolved out of the barbaric Orphan Train movement is modern foster care. , , 
The term “putting up” actually has a much older beginning. Cultural norms developed over hundreds of years of slavery in America when slaves where “put up” on stages and platforms for auction. The practice of displaying humans on stages for sale didn’t stop when slavery ended in 1865, nor did the terminology. The act of “putting up” and the use of the words from those years moved with society as people displayed children for foster care and adoption either on stages, or in photo catalogues, and now on websites. One can hear attitudes echoed from the past when people today talk down to adoptees that we “should be grateful someone took you in.” It’s as if someone has done us a favor, that we were lucky to have been adopted, and that we were unwanted and undeserving of love as were the street urchins before they were rounded up and sent out West on the Orphan Trains. Attitudes linger.
Life inside the orphanage was, by today’s standards, primitive, yet, Mom had pleasant memories. For safety, the boys and girls were separated into two residences. Mom said that the only time she saw her brothers was at Church for Mass and every Sunday when their father visited them.
After school, all the children did their chores, dusting, washing dishes, and laundry. As Mom recalled in a letter to me in 1974, “The laundry room held huge pot-bellied stoves with a deck around them and on the deck we placed the irons to be heated by the coal fire. We had no electric irons. For recreation, we had Scouting, camping every summer, swimming in the lake, movies once a week, and a dance once a year in the auditorium for a party with cake and punch.”
One of the most touching remembrances Mom told me was, “All of our communication in the orphanage was spoken in Polish. English was taught in school, but the everyday language was Polish. When I visited with Pa, we spoke in Italian, until one day when I accidentally answered him in Polish and he cried. From that day on we spoke Polish to each other, until I came home from the orphanage, then we spoke English with our father.”
When he saved enough money to travel to Italy, Louis traveled back to the town he was born in to find another wife. He married Rosina DiFabrizio on June 28, 1930 in Torricella Pelligna, Italy. The couple then moved to Buffalo.
Like her older brothers, Doloris aged out of the orphanage at age sixteen and moved back home with her father, step-mother, and younger half-sister, Mary, who was born in 1931. She spent that summer in Pennsylvania with her deceased mother’s relatives and remained close with them throughout the years. Doloris attended business school for two years. In 1938, she married my adoptive father.
Grandpa never talked about surviving the 1918 influenza pandemic. He never talked about his first wife, his childhood in Italy, his parents or what killed them, nor did he talk about his sister in Philadelphia. He was a gentle old man who enjoyed making wine in his wine cellar. Grandpa accepted and loved me as his adoptive granddaughter; my adoption meant that I was part of his family. Now though, in retrospect, I wonder if he ever thought about how unwavering he was in 1918 – thirty-nine years previous to my adoption in 1957 – that his children would not be separated from him or from each other by adoption after their mother died.
Grandma spoke only a few words in English, but she loved me, and I loved her. She was a great cook who made extravagant meals. She was a weaver of fine Italian linen; several of her table runners now adorn my kitchen and living room.
Grandpa died in 1970 when I was fourteen and Grandma died on Halloween, 1974. Because I was adopted, they were the only grandparents I was allowed to know.
Mom never talked about her feelings about her mother’s death.
Before her death in 2011, Mom sang for me: “I’m a poor little orphan, my mother she is dead, my father is a working man, and he can’t buy me bread.” 
My heart broke for her.
Both of My Adoptive Parents Were Half-Orphans
My adoptive father was also a half-orphan. Born in 1914 in Buffalo, New York, Edward Wheeler was the oldest of eight children born to Victoria Szczepaniak and Alfred Wheeler. Victoria was Alfred’s second wife. She was Polish and Alfred was English. In 1925, when Edward was eleven years old, his father died. Edward quit school, searched the streets of Buffalo for broken tables, chairs, bicycles, radios, record players and engines that he repaired and sold. This is how he made money to help pay for food and clothes for his seven younger siblings and his mother. This sibling group was not separated from their mother, or each other, by adoption. They were a tight-knit family and were allowed to visit with their deceased father’s family.
Edward’s two older half-brothers, Alfred Jr. and Charles, were twenty-seven and nineteen years old at the time of their father’s death in 1925. They were in the military and sent money home to their step-mother and eight younger half-siblings.
Alfred Jr. and Charles Wheeler were also half-orphans. In 1908, when they were boys of ten years and two years old, their mother, Matilda Seeley, died. The boys were allowed to visit their deceased mother’s family, including aunts, uncles, and cousins. Someone helped their father keep his sons; they were not lost to adoption. When their father died in 1925, the younger of the two brothers, Charles, was nineteen, just two years under twenty-one. His father’s death made him a full orphan. 
Their Desperate Desire to Have a Baby Outweighed Preserving My Family
It’s tragic that my adoptive parents were both half-orphans, but they didn’t appreciate the value of family preservation. Childless for eighteen years of marriage, their desperate desire to have a baby to call their own caused them to inflict emotional trauma and loss on me, my father, and my siblings. My adoptive parents got their wish at our expense.
In 1956, my mother died from cancer when I was three months old. Genevieve Herr was thirty years old. At her funeral, my father, Leonard Sippel, age thirty-one, was talked into giving me up for adoption. The parish priest told my father that “the baby needs two parents.” Twenty minutes later, a woman approached my father and said, “I know someone who will take your baby.” She then told her older brother, Edward Wheeler, and his wife, Doloris, that there was a baby available. Three weeks after my mother’s death, my father made arrangements for my soon-to-be adoptive parents to pick me up.
I lost my entire family on April 22, 1956 when my father handed me over to a husband and wife he trusted to take care of me. He gave them my clothes, blankets, my birth certificate and baptismal certificate. For the next five months, I lived with these strangers one block over and three blocks up from my natural father and my siblings near the Broadway Market on the East side of Buffalo. Though I lived that close to my siblings, they were not allowed to know where I was or what happened to me. In September 1956, my custodial care givers bought a house ten miles away in a northern suburb.
My name from birth was legally Doris Michol Sippel, but my soon-to-be adoptive parents called me by the name they wanted for me: Joan Mary Wheeler. My name was legally changed on January 14, 1957 when the final court order of adoption was signed. I was one year and one week old. With the judge’s signature, I permanently lost my family, my name, my birth certificate, my family history, and heritage all because of adoption.
My birth certificate remained in the name of Doris for the next three months until the director of vital statistics in the state capital created a new birth certificate for Joan. In exchange for my new identity and loss of my family, my adoptive parents lavished me with love and affection. For the next seventeen years, I was raised an only child with a large extended adopted family.
My Natural Mother was a Half-Orphan with a Rich Family History
Like my adoptive parents, my natural mother was a half-orphan. Genevieve Herr lost her mother, twice. The first time was when she was five years old in 1930. Her mother, Gertrude Catherine Stoll, left her husband, Jacob Grant Herr, and their seven surviving (out of eleven) children to live in Brooklyn, New York City. I’m not really sure why she left; her siblings, my aunt and uncles, refused to tell me the truth. Someone mumbled that my grandfather was physically abusive to his wife.
When my mother was thirteen years old in 1938, her mother died in Brooklyn. My mother lived at home with her father and her older nineteen-year-old brother, and younger ten-year-old brother. The older siblings were married with children of their own.
Mom’s mother, my grandmother, was an only child, so there were no aunts, uncles, or cousins to visit on her side. The only family Mom had on her mother’s side was her mother’s mother’s family – her grandmother, three grandaunts and a granduncle, and their children. The children were second cousins to my mother and were twenty to thirty years older. This will make more sense as this story continues.
Mom’s mother’s family were German and French immigrants arriving in Erie and Niagara counties of New York State in the mid-1800s. Their ancestors lived along the border towns between France and Germany in Alsace-Lorraine, and Switzerland, with documentation going back to the early 1700s.
Mom’s father’s grandparents arrived in the settlement of Tonawanda, New York in the early 1800s. In 1855, they packed up their children and rode in a covered wagon to the new state of Iowa. Some of their grown children and grandchildren later became homesteaders in Washington State, while one grandson, Jacob Grant Herr, moved back to Buffalo. He was my grandfather. Ancestors in his paternal line trace back to the early 1700s in France and Germany.
In 2018, I traced my grandfather’s mother’s Scottish ancestors to a young, Scots-Irish couple who arrived in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania in 1772 from Northern Ireland. Even though their line ends with them because there is no paper trail leading back to ancestors in Ireland and Scotland, the male line of descent traces back to Hugh of Sleat, Uisdean McDonald, of Isle of Skye, Scotland in the 1400s.
My grandfather’s mother had English ancestors on her mother’s side that supposedly date back to settlers in New England in the 1600s. I have yet to research, and identity, these ancestors.
This article was completed one day after I activated a membership with MyHeritage.com, and one day before I discovered, through genealogy, seemingly impossible information that will be covered in an upcoming book.
My Father’s Decision
When his wife died, my father was essentially alone. He was the only child of a second generation Polish-German-American mother and a second generation German-American father. Mary Barbara Wisniewski was born in Buffalo on July 25, 1893 and her husband, Leon Joseph Sippel, was born in Buffalo on December 17, 1892. My grandparents were too old to take care of an infant and my father’s cousins were married with children of their own. No options were presented to him to keep his family together. Instead of help, his deceased wife’s brothers and sister, and their spouses, clamored for his children:
“I’ll take the baby.”
“I want the boy.”
“I’ll take the two older girls.”
“I’ll take the three-year-old girl.”
My father said no. He didn’t want his entire family to be split up. He knew his deceased wife’s sister and brothers blamed him for his wife’s death by cancer; they resented him. My father weighed his desire to keep his family together against my needs. He didn’t want to give me up, but he couldn’t provide the round-the-clock care I needed. Years later, when he told me his side of my relinquishment and adoption, Dad said that he didn’t want me to be confused, nor did he want me to be near the bitterness my mother’s family had for him, so he made the decision to make, what he thought, would be a clean break for me.
While I would be taken care of, Dad still needed help with his four older children. Two months after my disappearance to adoption and three months after my mother’s death, my father married his former high school girlfriend to take care of his older children. She died ten years later in 1966. That’s when my siblings were split up between foster homes and the same orphanage that my adoptive mother had lived in from 1918 to 1932.
Distant Cousins and an In-Family Adoption
On February 17, 1897, my adoptive father’s father, Alfred Wheeler, married his first wife, Matilda Seeley. Matilda’s sister was Catherine Seeley. Catherine Seeley was the mother of one child, Gertrude Catherine Stoll (born 1888, died 1938). Gertrude Catherine Stoll was the mother of Genevieve Ruth Herr – my natural mother.
Catherine Seeley (born 1871, died 1930) was my mother’s grandmother (as stated in a previous section). Her sister, Matilda Seeley (born 1880, died 1908), was my mother’s grandaunt. Matilda Seeley’s two sons, Alfred Wheeler Jr. and Charles Wheeler, were 2nd cousins to my natural mother. They were twenty-some years older than my mother, but they were family.
In my research, I found three different charts to calculate cousinship. A second chart indicates this relationship as 1st cousin once removed, and a third chart indicates this relationship as 2nd grand cousin. To simplify, I will use 2nd cousin.
In 1985, when Charles Wheeler was seventy-nine years old, he told me a story of how he felt bad for my mother when she was a young child. As stated in a previous section, my mother’s mother left her children behind when she ran away from her abusive husband in 1930 to live in Brooklyn, New York City. A year later, when Charles was a young man of twenty-five years, he took his six-year-old 2nd cousin, Genevieve Herr, for a day of fun at the Canadian amusement park, Crystal Beach, just across the Niagara River from Buffalo. Charles had great affection for his younger 2nd cousin because she didn’t have her mother with her, first by abandonment and then by death.
Genevieve grew up knowing Charles and his older brother as her 2nd cousins and their eight younger half-siblings as her half 2nd cousins. Genevieve Herr and her seven siblings were close in age with the Wheeler siblings. They lived in the same neighborhoods on Buffalo’s East Side for generations. First, second, third, and fourth cousins went through grade school and high school together because they were one large extended family. It continues on this way today.
My siblings and I are 2nd cousins once removed by blood to the two older Wheeler brothers, Alfred Jr. and Charles, and we are half 2nd cousins once removed to all eight of the second set of Wheeler siblings.
I was adopted by my half 2nd cousin once removed, Edward Wheeler. This means my adoption is an in-family adoption. My blood-kin 2nd cousins once removed became my uncles by adoption. Seven of their eight younger half-siblings became my aunts and uncles by adoption.
Are you confused yet? Good. Now you know how I feel. I’m not even sure I counted that all out correctly, even after studying several different cousinship charts.
Always remember that every in-family adoption legally re-arranges the adopted person’s family.
This distant connection between my adoptive father’s father and my natural mother’s grandmother’s family created controversy with my adoptive father’s seven younger siblings. Some of them decided that this was the terrible secret I didn’t need to know. Their older half-brothers, Alfred and Charles, didn’t want any part in bickering, but they kept the secret from me, too. They were afraid to tell me the truth for fear of overstepping their half-brother’s authority as my adoptive father. I hardly knew my Uncle Alfred because he was fifty-eight years older than me, but I looked up to my Uncle Charlie, who was fifty years older than me. I enjoyed his children as my first cousins by adoption. I didn’t know we were actually distant cousins by blood until I was eighteen years old when the secret came out.
You may be asking yourself, why is this important? How many people really pay attention to their distant cousins?
This matters. This was such an innocent family connection that it should be celebrated, if for no other reason than history, but it was used as a weapon against me by a few of my adoptive father’s younger siblings who believed that an adoptee should never know the truth. They also believed that they could continue to be distant cousins with my blood relatives, but if I ever did the same, and if I had a reunion with my natural father, that I would be disloyal and disrespectful to my adoptive parents.
My Adoption was Finalized in Court Between My Father and My Adoptive Parents and No One Else
Before my adoption became final, my father learned that the man who would become my adoptive father was distantly related to his deceased wife. He was not told that there would be communication between his deceased wife’s family and his relinquished daughter’s adoptive father’s family. He had no reason to suspect that a distant family connection would cause intense problems for me.
If the surrogate court judge had known that this was a distant cousin in-family adoption, he might have court-ordered sibling and parental visitation with me. Or, he might not have approved of the adoption at all. Open adoption, with varying degrees of contact between adoptive parents, natural parents, and the adoptee, wasn’t an option back in 1957. Open adoption wouldn’t be common until the 1980s, and since then, many adoptive parents close the adoptions soon after finalization, or they choose closed adoption because they don’t want any chance of a reunion between their adoptee and the natural parents.
The judge handled my adoption like any other closed and sealed adoption. In 1957, the surrogate court judge told my father to stay away from me and from my adoptive parents.
My father abided by the law. He stayed away, and his extended family stayed away as well.
Who Broke the Confidentiality of My Closed Adoption?
In the years before her death, my adoptive mother admitted that she played a part in passing photographs of me to my natural mother’s family. Mom explained, “In the first few years after your adoption, I wanted to let your natural mother’s family know how you were doing so I passed photographs of you on your birthdays, Christmases, Easters and Halloweens to Aunt Helen Wheeler. She then gave these photographs to your natural mother’s only sister, Catherine Herr. In return, Catherine passed a photograph of your family – your mother, father and your sisters and brother – back to Aunt Helen, who then gave the photo to me. I kept it in the box of our Wheeler-Cannell family pictures.”
I found that photo in a box of adoptive family photographs when I was fourteen years old. I didn’t know this family, so I paused, shrugged my shoulders, and put it back. I had no idea that I was looking into the faces of my mother and father and siblings as they were a few months before my birth.
My adoptive mother, Doloris, stopped passing along photos of me, but three of my adoptive father’s younger sisters and one younger brother continued to gossip about me and trade photographs of me back and forth with my natural mother’s siblings. Then their children, my adopted cousins, joined in, causing me decades of incredible pain and suffering from their judgements of me, their meddling into my life, and their cruelty. One adopted aunt in particular was very cruel to me – the one who orchestrated my adoption at my natural mother’s funeral. She felt she held some sort of power over me.
My natural father, Leonard, was not aware that this was going on.
I’m not sure if my adoptive father, Edward, knew what was going on with his meddling sisters and brother. Too bad he died eight years into my adoption-reunion. Much of the harassment I endured from some of my adoptive aunts and uncles occurred after my adoptive father’s death in 1982.
Four years after I had seen the photograph of a husband and wife and their four children, I had the shock of my life when my eldest sister called me on the phone on March 5, 1974, reuniting our family. Because my adoption was a private, non-agency adoption between distant relatives, it was only a matter of time before my older siblings convinced our deceased mother’s only sister, Catherine, to give them my adopted name, address, and phone number. They did this without consulting with our father first. A few weeks later, I met most of my siblings and my father for the first time since our separation in 1956.
During our first meeting in 1974, my father showed me several family photographs. When he brought out his original print of the family taken in 1955, I was stunned. This was the same photograph I’d seen in the box of Wheeler family pictures four years earlier.
Words cannot convey the feelings of betrayal and resentment I felt at that moment toward my adoptive mother and others who were involved. At age eighteen, during the beginning stages of my reunion with my father and siblings, I confronted my adoptive mother as to why she hid this photograph – and the rest of the truth – from me. Mom answered that she didn’t know how to tell me that I had four older siblings, three sisters and a brother, so she decided she didn’t want me to know about them. My adoptive father went along with whatever his wife said. Decades later, through therapy, I learned that my adoptive parents were in a dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship with my mother the domineering and controlling parent and my father the enabler.
During my seventeen years of childhood as the isolated adoptee in my otherwise normal, caring, and loving adoptive family, I was unaware that the meddlers in both my adoptive father’s family and my natural mother’s family gave themselves permission to pass information and photographs of me, the adoptee, around while excluding me, my siblings and our father. We were deliberately kept apart. The judge told my natural father to stay away; no one else minded their own business. The gossipers decided that because my father gave me away, he didn’t want to know and didn’t need to know how I was doing. To them, my father was irrelevant. Apparently, so was I. My life was not my own. I had no privacy. I was a child who grew into a teenager and then an adult who was, for all of those years, the circus act for the meddlers and gossipers to watch and whisper about behind my back. Decades before the movie script was ever written, I lived my own real life The Truman Show. 
The meddlers and gossipers broke the confidentiality of my adoption.
These same meddling relatives then freaked out when I was eighteen in 1974 and was found by my full-blood siblings. The gossipers in the Wheeler family were shocked and angry with me as the truth unfolded day by day. They held on to the belief that an adoptee should never know the truth. Relatives presumed I was disloyal and disrespectful to my adoptive parents and blamed me for “stabbing my adoptive parents in the back” because I accepted “THAT MAN” and my siblings back into my life.
THAT MAN was my natural father, Leonard Sippel.
My natural mother’s family were equally as shocked that I suddenly knew the truth. The Herrs hated my father and believed he killed my mother by not allowing experimental cancer treatments. That hatred toward my father, Leonard Sippel, was transferred to the Wheeler family siblings. Since about half of my aunts and uncles in my adoptive family, and all of my aunts and uncles in my natural mother’s family hated my father, they assumed that I should not have anything to do with him. This hostility had been brewing since my mother’s death in 1956.
What the meddlers didn’t realize was that both of my fathers greeted each other with a handshake and a smile when they first met each other again in the beginning of my adoption-reunion in 1974. They genuinely liked each other, had respect for each other, and even recalled memories and people they knew when they were younger.
The hatred for my father from both the Herr family and the Wheeler family was so deep that when my adoptive father died of cancer eight years into this adoption-reunion in 1982, I was confronted by one of my same-age Wheeler cousins. She was one of four daughters of my adopted aunt – the one who arranged my adoption when she approached my natural father at my mother’s funeral and said, “I know someone who will take your baby.”
As I stood up and out of my car at the funeral parlor the day we buried my adoptive father, Edward Wheeler, in 1982, this adoptive cousin condescendingly snapped at me, “I heard through the grapevine that some of our cousins thought you wouldn’t show up at your adoptive father’s funeral. You don’t belong here, Joanie. You OPENLY declare that you’ve had a reunion with your biological father and you have two fathers so you must not love your adoptive father anymore.” 
This was a punch to the gut. I was raised an only child so I had no one to lean on in grief over the death of the man I loved as my Daddy.
I became the scapegoat of both adoptive and natural families who also criticized me for becoming an outspoken activist for adoptees’ rights. “Stop writing in the newspaper,” they said, “no one wants to read your crap!” I endured hate mail, hate phone calls, and other forms of harassment for decades.
What is particularly insidious is the sense of entitlement, power and control, manipulation, and invasion of my privacy by others who took advantage of my father, my siblings, and me, for their own gain and amusement.
It was important for the Herr family, the Wheeler family, and the Cannell family to keep their families together when one parent died. The luxury of family connectedness was important for them, yet they decided it wasn’t important for me. They prevented me from having those same connections, first by relinquishment and adoption, and then by social constraints and psychological manipulations during my childhood, teen years, and throughout my lifetime.
As you might imagine, I distanced myself from the abusive relatives in both the Wheeler family and the Herr family, as well as the Sippel family.
Manipulations and cruelty even extended down to my children. In the 1990s, my son came home from school one day, saying he was assigned a science project with another third grade boy. When I met the boy, I figured out that he was the great-grandson of one of my natural mother’s brothers. My uncle and I weren’t close. I didn’t even know his children, grandchildren, nor did I know his great-great-grandchildren, but that didn’t mean that the two boys couldn’t be close. They were, in fact, thrilled to be distant cousins by blood.
The next day, however, my son came home from school disappointed, hurt, and angry. The other boy, his newly-found distant cousin, told him that his mother said that she didn’t want her son to be near my son because she “heard some rumors about me through the family grapevine.” My son was humiliated. Because of the rumors that were spread between the Herrs and the Wheelers and the Sippels, my son was punished. I don’t know what was said about me and certainly had no way to defend myself. 
As the years went by, sadly, some of the younger generations in the Wheeler family and the Herr family also experienced the death of one parent. In each case, they grieved the death and the remaining parent kept the children together as a family.
One such family just happened to be the youngest daughter of the cruelest aunt in the Wheeler family. Aunt Gerty Wheeler was the one who arranged my adoption in 1956 when she approached my natural father at my mother’s funeral and said, “I know someone who will take your baby.” She was also instrumental in spying on me all of my childhood, gossiping about me to the Herr family, and she taught her daughters to despise me as well. It was one of her older daughters who threw her weight around (literally) at me the day we buried my adoptive father. She snarled at me that I “OPENLY declare I have two fathers…” as if I had been committing a crime by acknowledging the fact that I DO have two fathers. Needlessly to say, I cut off all ties with all cruel relatives in the 1970s.
In 2004, this cruel family was struck a devastating blow. The husband of the youngest daughter died suddenly. He left his wife a widow and their two teenage daughters half-orphans.
Because my adoptive mother was still alive, I had to drive her to the funeral. I can assure you that no one – NO ONE – approached my adoptive cousin at her husband’s funeral and said, “I know someone who will take your youngest daughter.”
Is that because not many childless couples want to adopt teenagers (they all want womb-fresh infants or cuddly toddlers), or is it because no one in their right mind would approach a grieving mother at her husband’s funeral to arrange the adoption of that couple’s youngest child?
And yet, that’s exactly what happened to my father in 1956 – by a woman who scouted for a baby for her childless brother and his wife to adopt. It’s not normal to troll for a baby or an older child to adopt at the funeral of a dead parent. Not only was my future Aunt Gerty unsympathetic to my father’s grief, but she was deviously audacious. She played into his need to find someone to take care of his infant. Offering to babysit, to clean house, or to make food would have been more appropriate.
Now it was her time to grieve that her two granddaughters would go on in life without their father.
Those girls joined the club of half-orphans, a club that their grandmother (Aunt Gerty) was initiated into when her father, Alfred Wheeler, died in 1925 when she was only three years old.
It’s not adoption-reunions that cause trouble, nor is it activists like me who speak out against unnecessary child relinquishment and against unnecessary adoption; it’s uneducated people who make judgements and then gossip and harass the adoptee, and that adoptee’s children. This is a common problem that other adopted people also experience.
Only a handful of my adoptive father’s siblings, their spouses and children in the Wheeler family were either neutral or supportive and loving to me. We continue today as cousins while I cut off all communication with the ones who were cruel to me for decades. I cut off ties with most blood kin relatives for the same reason, only a few cousins remain dear to me, and I to them. All of our parents are deceased.
My closed and sealed adoption was harsh and completely unnecessary.
I’m not alone. Thousands of adoptees are abused emotionally, psychologically, physically, and sexually by their adopters, some adoptees are murdered by their adopters. Many adoptees complete suicide rather than live with abuse and psychological torture. Our spouses and children suffer, too.
In 1974, when I was found by four older siblings I did not know I had, my adoptive father said through his tears, “I’m glad the secret is out.” Though he didn’t say it, I knew he felt remorse for not telling me the truth.
My adoptive mother, however, never once apologized. She held firm to her belief that adoptees should never be told the truth.
In the last few years of her life, Mom and I were able to resolve some issues. After forty years of arguing, Mom finally understood the politics of adoptees’ falsified birth certificates. She said, “You’re right, my name doesn’t belong on your birth certificate. I adopted you. I didn’t give birth to you.” Mom understood that we could love each other as family without that false birth certificate.
Mom also spoke with respect, almost reverence, of my natural mother, referring to her as “your mother” in conversation. Mom also admitted that it was cruel to leave my father out of the line of communication to receive photographs and updates on me during my childhood.
A week before she died in 2011, I asked Mom, “You had your siblings, why couldn’t I have mine?” She did not answer. All I got was a blank stare.
Still, as death drew near, Mom asked me to hold her. I held her as she slipped away. I loved her. 
That love doesn’t compensate for the traumatic losses I’ve suffered. Most days, radical acceptance of the things I cannot change is all I can do.
In early December 2003, my natural father had open heart surgery. During a visit with him in the nursing home while he recovered, he was agitated. His eyes filled with tears as his voice cracked, “If I had an education, I would have kept you! No one told me what to do to keep you. I gave away my youngest child! How could that be okay?” 
He felt guilty. I never held it against him. It wasn’t his fault.
My natural father died in 2011.
Three of my four parents were half-orphans.
The only one of my four parents who was not a half-orphan was my natural father. He had no family history of orphan-hood other than experiencing the death of his wife which left him with five children.
The following statistics were first calculated in 2009, updated in 2013, and corrected in 2020. 
I’ve counted all the full and half orphans, illegitimate births, and adopted people in my 4 families that occurred within a 130-year span of time. There were 128 people in my natural mother’s family, 35 people in my natural father’s family, 20 people in my adoptive mother’s family, and 209 people in my adoptive father’s family. The total number of my combined relatives is 392 people.
Out of the total of 392 people, there were between 6 and 8 illegitimately-born children. The exact number is unknown to me.
Out of the total of 392 people, a total of 12 were adopted: 2 were adopted into my adoptive father’s extended family from a stranger’s family, an estimate of 6 children were adopted by a step-parent in my natural mother’s extended family, and an estimate of 4 children were adopted by a step-parent in my extended adoptive father’s family.
From the first occurrence of orphan-hood in 1883 to the last in 2013, there were 2 full orphans and 42 half-orphans. This is an unusually high occurrence of half-orphans. Statistically, this is nearly 10% of my total number of relatives in 130 years.
One would think that because of this high occurrence of half-orphan-hood in three of my four families, that the half-orphans who enjoyed family preservation after the death of one parent would not want to inflict the pain of permanent separation on another half-orphan.
In 2009, at age fifty-three, I finally figured out that my adoptive parents – two half-orphans who were not adopted and were not deprived of their siblings or their remaining parent, and who were not deprived of their deceased parent’s extended family, and who were not deprived of knowledge of the deceased parent as a person, and who were not deprived of knowledge of that parent’s death – dictated over the life of the half-orphan they adopted. My adoptive parents deprived me of my siblings and my father, cousins, aunts and uncles, and deprived me of any knowledge about my mother and her death, deprived me of a timely, honest, age-appropriate grieving process of my deceased mother, and then, my adoptive mother (not my adoptive father) became outraged when I was found by siblings she decided I was never supposed to know.
I was deprived of the same rights that all the other half-orphans in three of my four families had – family connections. The collective mindset in three of my four parents’ families was to treat me differently because I was the only half-orphan who was relinquished out of one family and adopted into the other. They treated me as if I had no right to know the truth and no right to know my blood-kin – a human and civil right they had, but adoption decided, and they decided, that I didn’t have that same right.
Here are the numbers in list form:
Total Number of Relatives in My Four Families: 392
Natural Mother’s Family: 128
Natural Father’s Family: 35
Adoptive Mother’s Family: 20
Adoptive Father’s Family: 209
Half-Orphans (under the age of 21): Total: 42
Natural Father’s Family: 0
Natural Mother’s Family: 14
Nuclear Natural Family: 7
5 in 1956 (myself and 4 siblings)
2 in 1962 (step-brothers to my siblings lost their mother)
Adoptive Mother’s Family: 4
Adoptive Father’s Family: 17
41 half-orphans out of 42 were:
kept by their remaining parent
allowed to stay together as a sibling group
allowed contact with their deceased parent’s family
Half-Orphans relinquished to adoption: 1: me
I am the only half-orphan out of 42 in 3 of my 4 parents’ families who was:
relinquished by my remaining parent to adoption by a distant relative of my deceased natural mother
deprived of a life with my own siblings and my own father
deprived of a timely and compassionate, age-appropriate process of grieving my mother’s death
given a new name, new parents, a new home, a new life
birth certificate revoked, sealed, and replaced upon adoption
Adoption Does Not Provide the Mythic “Better Life” for Adopted People
Adoption provides a different life from the life adoptees would have had with their natural parents. No one can predict what will happen in the nuclear adoptive family, or the extended adoptive family, or the natural family. While you may think that all adoptions are happy and successful, it is wise to remember that every adoption begins with traumatic loss that leaves permanent scars on the relinquishing parents, any kept siblings, and the relinquished adopted person. The adoptee must cope with grief and loss and integrate both identities, whether in search and reunion, or not. This is a lifelong process that non-adopted people do not have to deal with.
My Personal Family History of Orphan-hood is a Cautionary Tale
In early in March 2020, a week before New Yorkers were told to shelter-in-place, I ran into a childhood friend whose mother lived in the orphanage with my adoptive mother when they were young girls. Just like my mother, Marsha’s mother and two aunts were half-orphans; their mother died from influenza in 1918. Their fourth sister was adopted out of the orphanage and was never seen again. I’m not sure what happened to their father. Marsha’s mother and her mother’s two sisters, and another girl, a full orphan, and my adoptive mother remained close friends for ninety years until they died. These women helped shape my life.
We’re now experiencing a new viral world pandemic, Covid-19. To stop the spread, businesses closed in March 2020. As a result, the economy is collapsing world-wide. Experts are now saying that the financial downturn may be worse than the crash of the Great Depression.
Expectant mothers and parents of young children face unemployment, poverty, lack of child care, homelessness, and death while financially secure childless couples wait for their chance to make someone else’s child their own.
Don’t let them take your children. The vultures are out there, trolling for babies and children, right now, while the pandemic is raging throughout the world. Several “feel good” adoption stories have made their way into main-stream media like The New York Times, National Public Radio, and CCN, as referenced in the May 14, 2020 article online at http://www.adoption.com, “Adopting During a Pandemic – Dreams Can Come True, Even During Pandemic.” (15)
Author Samantha Flores, like others who focus on adoption only from the point of view of the adopters with the money to achieve their goals, paints a pity party picture for the trials and tribulations experienced by hopeful adopters as they agonize over their longing for a baby to call their own in the midst of shelter-in-place, lockdowns, and canceling international and domestic flights. Explaining the plight of one American couple who were in India at the final stages of the adoption process at the time the of international shutdown, Flores describes the amazingly quick action of professionals processing the adoption paperwork as the waiting adoptive couple “did the impossible and finalized an adoption in a matter of two days – a process that should have taken a minimum of one week.”
In reality, no adoption’s paperwork is processed in one week. Six months is the usual time frame to move through all the steps to finalize an adoption. And after that, it takes another three months for the adoptee’s birth certificate to be revoked, sealed, and replaced, as I discussed earlier using my own adoption as an example. But no one wants to think about that. Or the grief of the surrendering parent. Or the circumstances that led up to child abandonment in third world countries.
The adopting couple in Flores’ article, the Mosiers, and the girl they were adopting experienced emotional anxiety. Flores writes, “As if the emotional separation of a 2-year old Selvi [the name of the Indian child being adopted] from her caregiver whom she had known her whole life wasn’t stressful enough, now the Mosiers faced being stuck in a country that was unfamiliar to them.”
In the United States, Flores writes of an adoption that was finalized without in-person court proceedings due to the closing of courts while we wait out this pandemic. The adoption was finalized “through a Zoom video call.”
Flores highlights that “hopeful adoptive parents are encouraged to continue their plans of adoption amid the crisis. … there is still hope that one day all these families will report their unification with their adopted children among a pandemic.”
For one thing, these children are not their children. These children are the children of other parents. They have families. Until an adoption is finalized, hopeful adoptive parents do not have legal claim to the children not of their blood.
So now, with adoptions being processed during a pandemic, these children will forever hear their “adoption stories” or “Gotcha-Day stories” as frantic, emotional, heart-wrenching dramas of all that the adopters went through to bring home their little one. These stories are missing the biographies of the mothers and fathers, siblings, extended family who will no longer have this child in their lives. Adoption stories during this pandemic will, undoubtedly, not include adoption from the adoptee’s point of view.
Flores ends her piece with the mental image of the dream came true for a little girl in her new home with her new parents, all smiles, happiness, and love. That is the picture everyone thinks about when they think about adoption. By focusing on love and happiness, journalists ignore the harsh realities of the other side of adoption.
Remember that every relinquishment and adoption begins with emotional and psychological traumatic losses that lead to life-long problems for relinquishing parents and adopted people. Remember that adoption’s built-in identity theft of adoptees’ facts of birth create both an existential conundrum for adoptees and are legal nightmares for those who want to change their names back to their names of birth. Adoption is the legal possession of someone else’s child – to make that child “our own.”
What adoption reformers are saying, and no one seems to be listening, is that one can love a child through custodial guardianship without identity theft, without permanently destroying that child’s family.
There is also family preservation, as practiced by the families of the full and half-orphans I’ve highlighted here.
And what of orphans, you ask, the children in third-world countries who are “languishing” in orphanages?
We had a third-world experience right here in America in 1918 when the influenza pandemic took the lives of young parents. My own adoptive mother was a half-orphan who lived for fourteen years in an orphanage in Buffalo, New York. She and her friends survived, their identities were not stolen, and they were allowed to know their own siblings and their own extended families. In each family I outlined here, and the ones in my extended families I did not expand on, no one dared to give up one of their children to adoption after the death of one parent.
As I pointed out, I was the only one given up and adopted out, and adopted into a family not of my flesh. And because I’ve spent every day of my life as an adoption reform activist since being found in 1974 by siblings I should never have been separated from, I face the scrutiny of others who want to believe in fairy tales.
Don’t let the baby-hungry people near your children. Put your wishes in writing by securing a lawyer as soon as possible. Safeguard your children by making family preservation arrangements now. Assign other family members, or close friends, as legal custodial guardians for your children in case of long-term parental poverty, homelessness, or death by Covid-19, or death by any other reason.
Sippel, D. M. (2016). Forbidden Family: An Adopted Woman’s Struggle for Identity, Buffalo, NY: Identity Press. 214.
Sippel, D. M. (1974, 1985, 2013). History of the Wheeler, Herr, and Sippel Families, personal papers.
The Truman Show, Full-length movie. (1998). An insurance salesman discovers his whole life is actually a reality TV show. Director: Peter Weir. Writer: Andrew Niccol. Retrieved from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120382/
Sippel, D. M. (2016). Forbidden Family: An Adopted Woman’s Struggle for Identity. Buffalo, NY: Identity Press. 173.
Sippel, D. M. (2016). Forbidden Family: An Adopted Woman’s Struggle for Identity. Buffalo, NY: Identity Press. 239.
Sippel, D. M. (2016). Forbidden Family: An Adopted Woman’s Struggle for Identity. Buffalo, NY: Identity Press. 317-326, 339-345.
Sippel, D. M. (2016). Forbidden Family: An Adopted Woman’s Struggle for Identity. Buffalo: NY: Identity Press. 306.
When I wrote my comment, I realized it needs to be a post on my own website. So here it is.
Family History is very important!
I have an extensive family tree from my adoptive family, and then from my natural family.
I made charts myself to map out how my natural mother’s family married into what would become my adoptive father’s father’s family. No, my adoptive father was not my blood relative, but his two older brothers were! It’s complicated.
From my blood line… my natural mother’s grandmother’s sister (my great grand aunt by blood) married a man in 1897. They had two sons (who were my 3rd cousins by blood, or 2nd cousins, or 1st cousins twice removed). Then the wife died and the husband married a second time. This wife was the mother of 8 children, the oldest became my adoptive father. So, my adoptive father is my half 3rd cousin, or half 2nd cousin, or half 1st cousin twice removed. One of his two older half brothers once told me that, when he was a young man, he took my natural mother to an amusement park when she was six years old – so, yes, the older cousin loved his younger cousin.
I’d have to check the charts again to count it out. There are 2 different methods to chart relationship charts.
THIS was the true, big, horrible family secret that both families determined I must never know. It wasn’t the fact that my mother died when I was three months old and that my father gave me up.
I was found my full blood siblings in 1974. Various blood relatives gave me my natural mother’s family tree. They were apprehensive, afraid to tell me. My adoptive father was quiet, but his sister confirmed it all. I have the marriage certificate, and Victorian photographs, to prove this connection.
In a very distant way, my adoption was an in-family adoption, which was held against me for the first 18 years of my life, and really, for a good number of years after reunion. Why? Because the ones holding this secret lied to me. This includes my adoptive parents and my adoptive father’s sisters and brothers, their spouses, and their children. They were allowed to have cousin-to-cousin relationships, but I was not allowed – because of the belief that an adoptee must never know the truth.
To be fair, a few adoptive aunts and uncles did not agree to the holding this secret. They warned my adoptive parents that they should tell me the truth. My adoptive mother told my aunt, “Oh no, she’s mine! I don’t ever want her to know she has sisters and a brother.” My adoptive father went along with the lie. He didn’t know how to tell me the truth.
Oh, yeah. That was the other big secret: my full blood siblings.
Lying is something no adoptive parent should do.
Tell the truth. Hold no secrets. Give your adoptee as full of a family tree of both adoptive and natural families because both families matter. Tell the truth in the most loving and respectful way. Adoptive parents owe this to the adopted children in their care.
Eight facts about adoption from Lorraine Posner Zapin.
1: Infants are not “gifts” to bestow on people who cannot have them.
2: Waiting 10 yrs or 20 or 50 does not entitle one to a baby born to another or make someone more worthy to have that baby.
3: Most natural mothers have been subjected to some form of coercion.
4: When a child is lost to adoption it has NOTHING to do with God.
5: The only reason a baby is lost to adoption is that there is insufficient support of a mother in crisis.
6: The percentage of women who happily surrender an infant, experience no regret and peacefully zip along in life is less than 5 per cent.
7: The concept of an adopted child being “the same as” a natural born child is a myth.
8: Adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
This is a book about what happened to a handful of adoptees, relinquished for adoption as babies, during a time when society dealt with “unwed mothers” harshly.
Because of the religious mores of the day, it was unheard of for a child, born outside of marriage, to remain within their family. The days of “shotgun weddings” had passed and a new experiment was in the wind.
Young pregnant mothers were sent out of town, away from their entire families and friends. The shame they bore was unbearable, and giving birth completely alone was cruel and unusual punishment – normally one of the most important events in any young woman’s life.
How were those babies who were “given up” for adoption ultimately affected by being permanently separated from their families of origin? Was it an easy adjustment for them? Did they sense something wasn’t right? Did they wonder about the mother who had given birth to them?
It has always been believed that a newborn baby could be raised in the home of strangers and not be affected by that experience. This book offers a starting place in pursuing some of these answers.
Sandy Musser, author of I Would Have Searched Forever (1979, 2013), What Kind of Love is This – A Story of Adoption Reconciliation (1982, 2013), To Prison with Love: The True Story of Sandy Musser’s Indecent Indictment & America’s Adoption Travesty (1995, 2013), and My Last “Love” Letter to President Obama: Exposing an American Institution (2016).
The common narrative of adoption is that of the illegitimate baby born to a teen or young adult mother, but many adoptees were legitimately born to married parents. Some of us lost one or both parents to early death; we are full or half orphans. Some of us were removed from our married parents due to neglect or abuse, relocated to foster care, and then adopted. Some of us were children of divorce and remarriage who were then adopted by our step parents. Some of us were adopted by our grandparents or other family members. Some of us were re-homed and adopted more than once.
No matter the circumstances of birth and adoption, there are common threads that run through the lives of adoptees that are often ignored by society. Turn this book’s pages to read about the seeds of emotional and psychological stressors experienced by adoptees, including many types of rejection, physical and sexual abuse by natural parents, adoptive parents, extended family and others.
Doris Michol Sippel, author of Forbidden Family: An Adopted Woman’s Struggle for Identity (3rd edition, 2016). Since 1975, she has written numerous articles on adoption and adoptees’ revoked, sealed, and replaced birth certificates published in social work journals and newspapers. This is her second book.
There are two major adoption conferences held this weekend. Due to a combination of private matters, I’ve been unable to attend a conference since 2014.
I highly recommend that adoptees, natural parents, and adoptive parents, other family members, and spouses attend these conferences next year. Hopefully, both of these conferences will not be held on the same weekend again!
Here is a Facebook post by American Adoption Congress showing a photo of, and quoting, New York State Assemblyman Robert Carrol:
Keynote Speaker Assemblyman Robert Carroll speaking about New York Adoptee Rights Bill A5494
“This is about dignity, about allowing adopted people to self actualize.”
Here is a news article about this weekend’s conference hosted by The Indiana Adoptee Network:
The non-profit was vital in the passing of a law releasing adoption records in Indiana. They’ll help people working through the process of getting their records from the state.
The Indiana State Department of Health has received more than 4,200 requests for adoption records. The wait to receive records is more than 20 weeks due to high volume. Organizers of this weekend’s conference said they encourage people to remain patient and to contact them if they need help through the process.
“We’re going to help them here at the conference with their information and then once they get their file, we will help them with that, too,” Pam Kroskie, president of the Indiana Adoptee Network, said.
Adoption conferences are more than helping adoptees access their original birth certificates in their state (provided their home state has laws that allow adoptee-access). There are workshops on searching and reunions, adoption psychology, adoption research and family systems, state by state legislative efforts, networking, and learning in general why adoption as we know it, must change.
Many non-adopted people are not aware of how adoption affects adoptees throughout their lives. Many non-adopted people have mis-perceived notions about mothers of adoption loss. For this reason, I suggest that the general public attend these conferences as a learning experience.
You can contact The Indiana Adoptee Network at their website here.
You can contact the American Adoption Congress at their website here.
I will open this post with a hats-off to adoptee Marilynn Huff who made an extraordinary comment to Amey’s post in that blog post’s comment section on adoptees’ birth certificates. Marilynn’s comment is one of the best I’ve ever read, including my own writings.
I will break down Amey’s blog post one phrase at a time.
Under the heading “Adoptees” Amey said:
Adoptees often resent the idea that they were “given up” for adoption. I hate that phrase. We say “placed’ or “made a plan.”
It doesn’t matter what YOU say – that you hate the phrase “given up” – that “We” (meaning infertile people, or adopters) say “placed” or “made a plan” – what matters is how adoptees experience the permanent separation that adoption actually is. The adoptee, as a newborn or an infant too young to have verbal and mental cognition, experiences the sudden loss of Mother as a terrifying break. This Primal Wound is internalized as the infant cries out for Mother. (Read The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier). The Primal Wound creates brain damage in certain areas of the brains of infants who are taken at birth from their Mothers. On this basis alone, adoption should be seen as extreme child abuse. With new studies being done, hopefully, it will be, and we will see a stranger movement to end adoption as we know it on a global scale.
Maybe the birth parents had a problem with substance abuse or were young and not ready to parent. It doesn’t matter. The adoptee still feels unwanted and alone.
Again, it does not matter what the parental circumstances are at the time of birth, the newborn is traumatized by sudden removal of the nurturing mother within whom the infant lived for nine months. The pre-born infant hears mother’s voice and knows her emotions, and is influenced by her emotions. The pre-born infant is happy when mother is happy and feels anxiety and distress when she is nervous or angry. These are proven facts.
The pre-born infant feeds by mother’s food intake – both mother and baby share a symbiotic relationship. The unborn infant needs mother for sustenance, nutrients (in addition to feeling her love), and even receives her bacterial microbiome as she passes through the birth canal during birth. There is now evidence that the infant and mother exchange body and brain cells. The mother’s cells live on inside her offspring’s body and brain, and conversely, the infant’s cells also live on inside the mother. Scientists believe that these cells aid in immune functions.
Such phrases as
the birth parents had a problem with substance abuse or were young and not ready to parent
are a form of distancing the natural parents from their child. This is dissociating, detaching, and distracting from the primary relationship. These words are weapons meant to evoke emotions in observers who then internalize the message that adopters are then “better than” the child’s natural parents. This psychological twisting is then passed down to the adoptee who grows up feeling indebted for being saved from a life of hell with unfit parents. This distorted message permeates society’s belief that adoption saves infants and children.
I hope you, Amey, can now see that your last two sentences in that first paragraph:
It doesn’t matter. The adoptee still feels unwanted and alone
are quite true of the facts of life as experienced by a newborn or an older baby.
The first sentence in Amey’s next paragraph states:
Adoptees sometimes feel that everyone who makes this decision is selfish, while everyone says that they are selfless.
This reflects upon adoption as it happens in today’s society. Adoption has been warping and changing over the last 9 decades. When I first joined the Adoptees Rights Movement in 1975, nearly a year into my reunion with my natural family, I met mothers from the Baby Scoop Era. Here is a blog post I wrote about honoring their contributions.
I might add that you, Amey, should try to avoid words such as “everyone.” There are many adoptees out there who do not see relinquishment, or surrendering, a newborn or older child as selfish. Many adoptees understand that many mothers and fathers of adoption loss are not given proper counseling of all options available, and this includes ways to sustain keeping their child.
As a social worker, I worked in homeless shelters where our clients where homeless mothers with children or were entire families. We had a checklist of goals that we helped our clients obtain one by one – including parenting classes, finding apartments, finding employment and child care – so that the young mother and/or father could raise their own infant and older children.
Still, I have seen just the opposite – where certain social workers are hell-bent on removing children from their parents just to fill their monthly quota of “placing” children for foster care and adoption.
By using your words of “selfish” and “selfless,” I can only guess you are part of the Brave Love Movement. This Christian movement is deleterious and demoralizing to the expectant mother and the mother who has just given birth. It goes against natural to feel obligated to strangers to “make an adoption plan”- specifically because a pregnant woman or teen is already a mother. Her first and foremost obligation is to the infant she is carrying. Pre-birth adoption plans are immoral and ought to be illegal.
It is sad that modern adoption practices, even those that promote and practice open adoption, make it a point and a goal to instill unnatural feelings and beliefs in the minds of pregnant teens and young women. The idea that it is “unselfish” to give your infant to strangers is brainwashing. Many of the women who now boast that they, too, are proud mothers whom selfishly made an adoption plan for their baby, will one day wake up to the horror of what they’ve done. When they do wake up to realize that they were tricked and coerced into giving their babies to strangers, we will see them in the Anti Adoption Movement.
I’ve seen the jewelry line for Brave Love. I’ve seen T-shirts for pre-adoptive-parent- wanna-bees that state “Paper Pregnant” or “My baby is in Nepal” (for those who are waiting for a baby who will be born to a poor woman in a baby farm who will get paid to gestate a baby for strangers so she can use that money to sustain herself and her family).
Such baby farms exist so that wealthy gay men, lesbian women, heterosexual couples, or even single men and women can make a baby through buying sperm and eggs via contract and then rent the womb of a poor woman for their selfish motives of making a baby at extreme means for the pleasure of experiencing parenting.
Buying and wearing a t-shirt that state the words “paper pregnant” with the drawing of a pregnant belly is an advertisement of the absurd ego-mania that exists in today’s wanna-be-adoptive-parents. Only narcissistic, selfish women with too much money to spend would demean themselves to the point of walking around wearing such a t-shirt, let alone actually using a vulnerable young pregnant woman for the sole purpose of taking her baby upon birth.
Amey, your next sentence:
The Expectant or Birth Parents don’t want to parent; the adoptive parents only want a baby.
seems to accept the myths that are out there today. Most unexpectedly pregnant girls and women actually do want to keep their babies and to parent their child. True, there are some mothers who are, indeed, drug addictions, or are involved in crime, or are completely detached to their pre-born infant. I saw a few of these mothers in the homeless shelters I once worked at. There are mental illnesses that won’t allow a mother to be a mother. There are addictions and criminal behaviors that warrant the removal of newborns or older children from such parents.
Children born to these mothers and raised in foster care in safety carry with them their own birth certificate. They may be raised together with their own siblings. One or two of those siblings may eventually be adopted. However, the one who ages out of foster care maintains the birth certificate created upon her birth, even when her parents are dead beats, drug addicts, in prison, or do not want to have anything to do with their children. Meanwhile, the siblings who were then adopted are given new names, new birth certificates, and new parents. The siblings are still full-blood siblings but are not legally siblings.
Amey, I must challenge you to re-examine your words:
The Expectant or Birth Parents don’t want to parent
How do you know that? According to the natural mothers I communicate daily with on Facebook and on their websites say that they wanted to parent their baby, but many were coerced and many were de-babied during birth by harsh birthing methods of the attending physician and by nurses who took the baby immediately upon birth.
Amey, your next words:
the adoptive parents only want a baby.
say it all. Wanting a baby and then using a pregnant girl or young woman to meet your desires is the worst form of anti-woman, anti-feminist beliefs and behavior. Rich and powerful women should not abuse and use disadvantaged pregnant women to satisfy cravings to be a parent. Coveting another woman’s baby and actually going through with the plan to obtain her baby for your benefit is a very selfish act.
And your next words, Amey:
In an infant or young child adoption, they are the only people in the triad who don’t get a choice. Other people make it for them, decide what is best because they’re too young to understand. They resent that, too.
Of course adoptees resent the actions of adults who made life-altering choices and made legally-binding contracts over them when they were too young to say no. The world is now facing a great uprising. Adoptees are gathering together to not only voice opposition to what was done to them, but to end adoption altogether.
Then your next paragraph, Amey, is about adoptees:
And it doesn’t matter if they had a wonderful home life with an adoptive family. Often, they’ll say that they love their adoptive parents, but that they resent them for taking them away from their birth family. They recognize that they were given opportunities that they might never have had, yet they feel incomplete, never whole.
Yes, many adoptees do feel this way. It is a burden to walk through life knowing that you may have had “a wonderful life” and that you do love your adoptive parents, and at the same time feel that loss, feel that resentment. While many adoptees have been raised in economically superior adoptive homes, adoptees are split in half feeling guilty for wanting to know their natural parents and to know why they were not kept. Yes, many adoptees know that they were bought at a high price – thousands of dollars – $25,000 or $50,000 or $75,000. When the realization sets in as to the truth of baby-selling, baby-trafficking, and that adoption agencies make their living this way, many adoptees are disgusted as to the means they became adopted.
For them, the loss is more powerful than the gain.
Amey, your next section is about Expectant Parents. I will only say this – that pressuring expectant mothers and fathers into a pre-birth matching contract with adoptive-parent-wanna-bees is just that – unwanted and unhealthy pressure for both the pregnant mother and her unborn child.
Your next section, Amey, is about Birth Parents is actually correct in your assessments of the situation for many natural parents.
You are correct in assessing that many Adoptive Parents are:
Adoptive parents are affected by the anti-adoption movement, but I find that they are more often Anti-Open Adoption. I think it’s pretty obvious that this isn’t me, but I understand the sentiment.
This “Anti-Open-Adoption sentiment exists because many adopters feel that they are the adoptees ONLY parents. Many adoptive parents do not want to know that there is another set of parents who has more than genetic ties to the adoptees in their care. They believe that the adoptee owes them loyalty and elegance. Often times, these types of adoptive parents are very possessive over their adoptees. Some actually believe the false-facts stated on the amended birth certificate – they are living in a delusional fantasy, believing that they gave birth to someone else’s child.
Amey, now I will tell you what happened to me.
My mother was dying of cancer while pregnant with me. During her 7th month of pregnancy, my father took his wife to the hospital. She was very sick. It was two days after Christmas 1955. The doctors x-rayed my mother’s abdomen. There they saw me and a cancerous tumor the same size as I was. Two weeks later, in early January 1956, I was born at 8 weeks gestation – two months premature. My mother died on March 28, 1956, at age 30.
My 31 year old father was left with a deceased wife and five children. His parents were old and sick. He was an only child, so he had no family to lean on. His wife’s siblings were married with several young children, and a few had newborns of their own.
At my mother’s funeral, two things happened very close to one another. The parish priest came up to my father and said, “The baby needs two parents.” A few minutes later, a woman approached my father and said, “I know someone who will take your baby.” My father was given no options. No one offered help to keep his family together. My father was a deeply religious man so he followed the priest’s suggestion. He contacted that woman and arranged for her brother and his wife to come and get me. When he gave me to my future adoptive parents, he also gave them my birth certificate, baptismal certificate, and my clothes. I was 4 months old.
My father married his second wife very soon after. His second wife helped take care of my four older siblings. Meanwhile, my adopting parents lived just one block over and three blocks up away. About nine months later, they moved six miles to the north.
By the closed adoption practices of the time, my father was told to never contact my adoptive parents. He was to stay away from me. My adoption became final when I was one year and one week old. My name was changed. My birth certificate was revoked, sealed, and replaced by one that states my new name, and my new parents – as if I was born to them in that hospital. The Catholic Church even changed my baptismal certificate.
It is these lies and cover-ups that I resent.
I also resent my adoptive parents’ possessiveness.
In 1974, at my age of 18, I was found by siblings I did not know I had. My adoptive parents knew I had siblings, but they did not tell me. They knew where my mother was buried but never told me. Why? Because I belonged to them. I was theirs.
There is much more to my adoption/reunion story; too much for this blog post. That is why I wrote a memoir: Forbidden Family: An Adoptee’s Struggle for Identity.
There are many reasons why I am anti-adoption. I did not need a new home. I already had a home. I had parents. I should have been allowed to grow up knowing my Mom died and visiting her grave. I should have had my siblings and my father with me. Adoption took all of that away from me.
What did I gain from adoption? I was raised an only and lonely child. I had my independence. I had material middle-class things that my siblings did not have. This created resentment in them when we were reunited. While I loved my adoptive parents, I mistrusted them ever since 1974 when I learned that they lied to me for the first 18 years of my life. I spent the next few decades as the adoptee who belonged to two families, who had the burden of integrating two identities, and the burden of taken the brunt of everyone else’s opinions as to what I should feel and what I should do. It was bad for me to be an anti-adoption activist.
All four of my parents are dead now. I have no contact with any abusive relatives – that means my siblings as well as extended family by blood or by adoption. I do have close relatives on both sides…
My life was ruined because of adoption. I am very resentful, and I will fight to my dying breath to end the revocation, sealing and replacement of adoptees’ birth certificates. I join thousands of adoptees around the world who say that adoption should end.
I will close with this thought:
Amey, your last token of a misguided message is this meme:
I don’t know who this person “Tupac Shakur” is, or was, but that meme is extremely hurtful. My mother died when I was three months old. That loss was the single most devastating event in my life. My mother’s death led to my adoption. I am not grateful for this.
On the other hand, maybe the meme is right. I lost my name, my family, and my birth certificate all because of adoption. I am supposed to be grateful and happy. I am not.
Adoption has left me fighting for my civil rights to my factual birth certificate. I fight not only for myself, but for millions of adoptees worldwide. I fight for the humanity of all pregnant girls and women, and for all mothers, and fathers, of adoption loss.
As for adoptive parents – you reap the benefits of adoption. I don’t see any of you running to legislators to turn in those amended birth certificates to demand adoption certificates instead, nor do I see any adoptive parents demanding that the revoked and sealed birth certificate of the child in your care is reinstated. I don’t see any adoptive parents willing to, and actually returning the child back to the natural parents after they rebuild their lives.
Why? The answer is because you now have what you want: ownership of someone else’s child.
That just about sums up the need for the anti-adoption movement.
When discussing the fact that neurons are not only found in the brain but also the heart as well as every organ, the question of why so many adoptees actually suffer from ‘unexplained, random’ ailments and illnesses must be explored. Four different medical doctors and five therapists later, I had no answers for my personal experience until the trauma of relinquishment was delved into. Many don’t realize the magnitude of affects the removal of an infant from its mother has on an adoptee – and birth mother – for a lifetime not just psychologically, but physiologically.
Thousands of Adoptees have participated in these polls, and our hope is these questions validate the experiences of so many adoptees who’ve always felt isolated and alone regarding their adoption journeys. They are also to help raise awareness on how adoptees feel regarding different topics that might have a direct impact on us in multiple ways.
For those who don’t agree or can’t relate to these polls, or results please know while you are entitled to your opinions, our main focus is reaching the adoptees who are struggling with abandonment, rejection, grief, loss and all the other complexities many adoptees face today. If you are one of the adoptees who can’t relate, great but please allow the space for those who have different journeys than you do.
Experiencing connections over the years with Adoptees who are hurting and hurting deeply, it’s obvious these adoptees have come across my path because I’ve opened my life up to receiving ALL ADOPTEE STORIES, not just the ones that are happy, positive and well adjusted with the adoptees experience which are the stories everyone wants to hear. Adoptees are dying out here, being heard is life or death for many of us.
Let me challenge you to the fact that there is another side of adoption and I ask you consider opening your heart to learning what you might have never known before. Once we learn and know something, we can’t unlearn and unknow it. I know there is another side to adoption because I’ve been dedicating my life to adoptee advocacy for many years and I’ve invested in building hundreds of real relationships with Adoptees all over the world.
All we’re asking for #NAAM18 is that you have the willingness to listen and learn from adoptees and understand not all adoptees share the same experiences. Our mission is reaching the hurting and broken adoptees, who have felt helpless regarding their journeys. Let’s consider having compassion for them, while gaining the willingness to understand different adoptee perspectives and viewpoints.
Every poll and every poll vote matters. Each of them is making a difference. Everyone that shares this is making a difference. Please consider sharing these poll results to help us raise awareness on the adoptee perspectives.
Below are some adoption/adoptee resources for all.
We’re focused on raising Adoptee Voices. Help me raise Adoptee Voices by sharing this information and participating in helpful dialogue of discussions should arise with those who have the willingness to listen and learn from adoptees. Pamela Karanova 💝