1984 Newspaper Interviews: Buffalo News



The following updated blog posts (links will take you to the original posts) are here in one place so you can see all of the newspaper articles of 1984.


Part 1 in a 5-Part Series: Has Anything Really Changed Since 1984 In My Reunion and Adoption Reform?

Today, I embark on a 5-part series of a look back into time. I will be reflecting on a slice of my reunion as well as adoption reform 26 years ago and relating it to the present situations.

Here’s Part 1 of my 5-part series:

Part 1: Registry Law Unjust to Adoptees

I begin with an article I wrote 26 years ago today: “Registry Law Unjust to Adoptees”, published as a Letter to the Editor in The Buffalo News. This article can also be found in My Archives Pages in this website.

1984-8-8 RegistryLawUnjust

The New York State Registry has undergone a few changes since 1984. What I do know has changed is that adoptees no longer must seek written permission from their adoptive parents and natural parents to obtain basic information about themselves. However, I do believe the provision still exists that dead people cannot register, therefore, the past and current New York State Registry would do me no good at all because my natural mother died 54 years ago and cannot file to a mutual-consent registry. Mutual consent registries do not give adoptees access to their sealed birth certificates. Also, media still addresses adoptees as “adopted children”.

For more information on the current adoption reform legislative efforts in New York State, please visit Unsealed Initiative online at http://www.unsealedinitiative.org/html/bill_summary.html.


Part 2: The Buffalo News 3-Part Series Search for Yesterday (Natural Mothers) 1984

In the early 1980s, because of my participation in local adoption reform support groups and writing numerous Letters to the Editor, I was contacted by a reporter to be a part of this newspaper series.

The first in The Buffalo News series “Search for Yesterday” is the following article.

Of note is natural mother and author Lorraine Dusky (Birthmark, 1979). The fictitiously-named Ms. Higgins is a natural mother who was not known by any members of the local adoption group in Buffalo at the time.

Times have changed. With the Internet, underground searches are not necessary as anyone can search for just about anyone they want to find, with or without adoptee access to their original birth certificates, and with or without Mutual Consent Registries.

It must be stated that there are many facets of adoption, search and reunion. This newspaper series focused mainly on the emotional aspects. The real civil rights aspects — sealing and falsifying adoptees’ birth certificates and denying us access — was not a high priority in the news media back in 1984. Is it really a priority today?


Part 3: The Buffalo News 3-Part Series: Search For Yesterday: Adoptees 1984

Here is the main article that offended my adoptive family and natural family because I went public — I put my face and name in the newspaper. Though I had been interviewed for newspaper and radio and public television on and off since 1975, and had been writing Letters to the Editor since 1975 (paid articles didn’t come along for a few more years at this time), this article with a larger-than-the-others photo of me really annoyed my relatives. This wasn’t my idea – the photo – it was the newspaper reporter’s idea. My natural family and my adoptive family would have much preferred that I kept quiet. I was labeled as conceited. I had been reunited and the secret outed ten years earlier, but certain people in both my adoptive family and natural family were angry for me putting my face and name in the public’s eye. But this was not the first time I had done so. I had been writing in the newspaper and been reunited for nine years at the time of this newspaper interview, yet, both families were angry with me. I had been interviewed on radio and TV for several interviews beginning in 1975. Those tapes have long ago disapeared. If they hadn’t, I’d print transcripts, or digital recordings, of those 2 and 4-hour interviews.

In the nearly-full-page photo and article posted here, please note that the reporter misquoted me several times. That will be discussed following the article itself.  Two other adoptees, one age 19 and the other age 18, were interviewed as well.

Though the author of the article, newspaper reporter Paula Voell, gave a good overview of the plight of adoptees in search, she misquoted me. I did not search for my natural family, rather, I was found by my natural family.

My natural and adoptive relatives who read the first few paragraphs were upset when they read, “To obscure their true origins, some were told their mothers died in childbirth…the false information…” Both of my families were devastated by this statement which linked me to the two other adoptees who were lied to about their natural mothers’ deaths. For days after this newspaper article’s publication, I received numerous angry phone calls and hate mail from relatives wanting to know why I had told the reporter these lies. Fact is, I didn’t lie. It was the interpretation of the readers that led to their reactions to me and to the article. Also, even though I had been told (during my childhood) that my natural mother died, HOW and WHEN she died was not told to me while I was growing up. MANY stories were told to me by many people after I was found at age 18 and many of these stories conflicted with each other.

My relatives were also upset over this paragraph: “While family members and neighbors knew that her mother had been ill, she had been advised not to become pregnant and had subsequently died while giving birth to her…” Both of my families were angry that I relayed distorted information to the reporter. Relatives telephone me and angrily yelled: “That’s not what happened! We told you what happened, you can’t get it straight that your mother did not die in childbirth! She died two or three months after your birth and she died of cancer and not because she was pregnant with you!”

The constant yelling at me about my mother’s death further eroded my emotional state. Grief at having lost my mother and having that knowledge denied to me for the first 18 years of my life in the true aspects and facts of her death were overshadowed because of the constant bombardment from relatives telling me their versions of the truth.

What I told the reporter was the collective “truths” told to me by many relatives (both natural family and adoptive family). The reporter shortened the stories to suit the length of the newspaper article.

The article had some accurate passages, however, which angered my relatives even more than the misquotes: “Why should one group know everything and the adoptee not know anything?” and “Adoptive parents are confused. We adult adoptees are coming out and saying ‘You did it all wrong.’ They need guidance, too.”

Both adoptive and natural relatives attacked me because of key phrases like “you did it all wrong”. Many aspects of my adoption were wrong. Over and above my own adoption, the system of adoption has people tied up. The SYSTEM needs to change. That was my message then, as well as now. Change the system, and eventually people’s attitudes will change, too. And yes, my adoptive parents lied to me and prevented me from knowing key truths about my life, and for that, they, and other relatives who kept their secrets, were wrong.

Today, it seems that many members of both my extended adopted family and natural family are still upset that I have gone public.

My purpose then — when I began writing about my adoption publicly in 1975 in Erie, Pa and in Buffalo, New York in 1976, and in this interviewed newspaper article in 1984 — and now in 2010 — is to write my truth and to promote adoption reform.


Part 4: The Buffalo News 3-Part Series: Search For Yesterday: Adoptive Parents Dilemma 1984

I’ll let this article speak for itself:

But the newspaper reporter couldn’t just end the series. She had to re-print the undated article by Geoffrey Taylor of the Associated Press “Registry Opposed by Judges”:

This article was originally published by The Buffalo News four months earlier, on July 12, 1984, under the name of “Judges Deny File Access to Adoptees”:

This type of negative publicity influences public opinion, including our legislators. Over the decades, there has been a tendency to make this an “either – or” topic: either you have a good reunion, or you have a bad one, with nothing in between. In the mental health fields, such as social work or psychology, we see that life itself is a collection of shades of grey. Life is a series of good and bad experiences with lots of ups and downs. People go with the flow. Same is true with searches and reunions. Many adoptive parents of the past are now viewing their adoptees with greater understanding of their losses due to the adoption itself and are more open to search and reunion.

Legislation and public opinion toward adoptee and natural parents’ access to the true original birth certificate has slowly gained momentum. It depends on who you talk to.


Part 5: Response to The Buffalo News 3-Part Series: Search For Yesterday: Adoptive, Birth Parents See Reunion Problems: My Natural Father Speaks Out 1984

Appearances are deceiving, or are they?

I honestly don’t know where to begin.

Right from the start there are the two adoptive mothers who are defending their rights to someone else’s child:

“I don’t want to sound unsympathetic to birth parents”

She just did by dismissing their loss of their child.

“I wouldn’t want someone else to say ‘she’s my daughter’.”

Wow, such denial of the facts of life coming from an adoptive mother who probably was infertile so she thought adopting (taking) someone else’s child as her own was the best choice for herself and the child. Guess what? Her Korean girl IS some else’s daughter!

This “all or nothing” thinking is what causes problems in adoption.

“…chances for a reunion with her biological family are lessened. We didn’t adopt internationally because of that, but it’s a fringe benefit of adopting from another country…That’s one problem you’d almost never have to deal with.”

Really? This adoptive mother contradicted herself. She told me, via a phone call back in 1984, that the only reason she adopted foreign children is make sure her children would never have contact from their birth families.

So, the adoptee’s right to know her own natural parents and siblings and country of origin is seen by her adoptive mother as a problem that is avoided because the chances of reunion are next to nill because the birth family is in Korea? How convenient for the adoptive parents, or at least this adoptive mother. Notice that adoptive fathers are absent from this article, and even in the series presented in my previous post. Also note that natural fathers are absent from discussion involving illegitimate births.

How am I able to write about this now, nearly 26 years later? Because I took notes.

I’d like to know what that cute Korean toddler of 1984 has to say now in 2010 as an adult. Is she realizing that (by the will of her loving, forever, real adoptive parents) she was held in captivity because her adoptive parents didn’t love her enough to give her the freedom necessary to build her own self identity?

There are many blogs out there now written by adoptees of color who were adopted by white people and brought to America. These adoptees do not like what was done to them. Thousands of them are returning to their homelands.

I sure do hope that this family has done quite a bit of healing for the adoptee’s sake, if not for the sake of the misguided adoptive parents.

“I think it would be difficult for any child to have two real mothers and two real fathers…”

Yes, it is a difficult path, but all adoptees DO have two mothers and two fathers and they are most certainly REAL. Both sets are real in the adoptee’s life. To deny that is to warp the adoptee’s sense of self.

The other adoptive mother said:

“But I’m not in favor of my daughter finding her mother and forming a relationship…I think it would take away from our relationship, and I feel there would be a strain on our relationship.”

I still meet adoptive parents today who feel this way. It’s that “All or Nothing” thinking again. The shades of grey are there in real life, but not in adoption. Or that’s just the way adoptive parents want it. The  adoptee needs both sets of parents, with or without a relationship, because, whether or not adoptive parents realize it, the adoptee already HAS a relationship with her natural parents. It is the bonds of biology, of genetics, of being hard-wired to haveinherent qualities of temperament and talents and allergies and muscle structure and facial features. With such selfishness of these adoptive parents, it is hard to see any real love there. I see possessiveness and desperate attempts to claim “mine, all mine!”, but this does not speak well of adoptive parent attitudes of 1984.

Like I said, this attitude is still alive in adoptive parents today in 2013.

“The birth parents don’t seem to realize the relationship has ended once the papers have been signed. I think it’s a real invasion of privacy when they attempt to meet the child.”

No, it’s the adoptive parents who don’t realize that the relationship between the adoptee and her natural parents continues throughout her lifetime, even if there is no contact. The adoptee feels the loss. The natural parents feel the loss. And we’ve seen natural parents coming out by the thousands, in America and in Korea and elsewhere, to put an end to “taking someone else’s child as your own.”

“Giving birth doesn’t make the parents. It’s the caring and loving and growing with the child that does.”

And natural parents have been coerced into giving up their children to adoption out of shame. They were prevented from the actual parenting of their own children because of that permanent separation. We know from organizations such as Origins and Concerned United Birthparents that these mothers desperately wanted to do the natural acts of parenting, but were forced out of the their child’s lives.

Being pregnant and giving birth are natural events and are most certainly the very essence of life itself. It is the adoptive mother in this article who berates pregnancy and birth because she was deprived of experiencing the very events she puts down.

Hurray for Dr. David Brodzinsky — a former Buffalonian! — for his professional statements. Dr. Brodzinskihas gone on to be a prolific writer on the psychology of adoption. He is the co-author or co-editor of five influential books on adoption,  including The Psychology of Adoption (1990); Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self (1992); Children’s Adjustment to Adoption: Developmental and Clinical Issues (1998); Adoption and Prenatal Drug Exposure: Research, Policy, and Practice (2000), and Psychological Issues in Adoption: Research and Practice (2005).

Still, Dr. Brodzinsky’s statement in this 1984 article raises concern:

“He doesn’t see the issue in terms of ‘rights’. Adoptive parents have the same rights or lack of rights as all parents have…”

Auh, what about the adoptee’s rights?

The International Adoption Reform Movement has made great progress since 1984: Bastard Nation, the American Adoption Congress, Council on Equal Rights in Adoption, Adoption Crossroads, Origins, Concerned United Birthparents, Senior Mothers and hundreds of adoptees’ blogs, mothers of loss blogs, oh, and The Evan B Donaldson Adoption Institute, to name a few entities out there promoting adoptees’ rights.

Now, about my natural father’s photo in the paper and his statements.

First thing that must be said: He did not want to be identified in my book (published in 2009) so I changed his name and any other identifications that could lead to him today. BUT, he chose to go public in 1984. He called the newspaper to defend himself. For what? I have always had respect and love for him, and especially his third and present wife, my loving step mother. Nothing I ever wrote put him  down in any way.

As a result of this article, at that time in 1984, my natural father and I healed a five-year period of silence between us. We continued in a growing and loving father-daughter relationship. He was actively involved with my two children, two of his many grandchildren, and we shared tender moments. My father tearfully relayed to me what happened when my mother died — a story he had not been able to tell me in detail until after 1984. He cried when he told me that he “gave the baby — you — up, up, … up for adoption.” I could see remorse in his face and in his heart.

Since the printing of this article, my father and I talked of how newspaper reporters make situations worse by exaggerating points. He wanted to be sure the public knew he “abided by the law” and stayed away from me while I was growing up.

My father and I talked of how the articles did not accurately portray how the adoptee and her adoptive family and natural family are effected by a reunion that went out of control. Too many people butting in, saying harsh words, trying to interfere with the adoptee adjusting to her reunion.

~ ~ ~ Joan M Wheeler, BA, BSW, born Doris M Sippel.