Family Preservation Lessons Learned from Orphans in My Families Before, During, and After the 1918 Influenza Pandemic and What This Means for Families Surviving Today’s Covid-19 Pandemic

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. [1], [2], [3]

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. [4], [5], [6]

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.” [7]

My heart broke for her.

1918: Louis Cannell holding Jimmie, Anthony standing in the back, Dominic sitting next to two-year-old Doloris. Photo taken after the death of the children’s mother of complications from influenza.

 

 

 

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. [8]

 

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 she 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 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.

My grandfather’s mother had English ancestors on her mother’s side that supposedly date back to settlers in New England in the mid-1600s. 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 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. [9]

The meddlers and gossipers broke the confidentiality of my adoption.

 

Warped Perceptions

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.” [10]

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. [11]

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.

 

Apologies

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. [12]

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?” [13]

He felt guilty. I never held it against him. It wasn’t his fault.

My natural father died in 2011.

 

42 Half-Orphans

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. [14]

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
  • lost everything
  • 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.

 

Endnotes

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). 1918 Pandemic Influenza Historic Timeline, United States Department of Health & Human Services, USA.gov. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/pandemic-timeline-1918.htm
  1. Sippel, D. M. (1974). History of the Cannell and Wheeler Families, personal papers.
  2. Sippel, D. M. (2016). Forbidden Family: An Adopted Woman’s Struggle for Identity, Buffalo, NY: Identity Press. 214, 217.
  3. National Orphan Train (2020). Museum and Research Center, Concordia, Kansas. Retrieved from https://orphantraindepot.org/history/
  4. Blackmore, E. (January 28, 2019, updated April 4, 2019). ‘Orphan Trains’ Brought Homeless NYC Children to Work On Farms Out West, History Channel. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/news/orphan-trains-childrens-aid-society
  5. Giarrosso, M. (2019). What Is the History of ‘Putting a Child Up’ for Adoption?, org. Retrieved from https://adoption.org/history-putting-child-adoption
  6. Sippel, D. M. (2016). Forbidden Family: An Adopted Woman’s Struggle for Identity, Buffalo, NY: Identity Press. 214.
  7. Sippel, D. M. (1974, 1985, 2013). History of the Wheeler, Herr, and Sippel Families, personal papers.
  8. 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/
  9. Sippel, D. M. (2016). Forbidden Family: An Adopted Woman’s Struggle for Identity. Buffalo, NY: Identity Press. 173.
  10. Sippel, D. M. (2016). Forbidden Family: An Adopted Woman’s Struggle for Identity. Buffalo, NY: Identity Press. 239.
  11. Sippel, D. M. (2016). Forbidden Family: An Adopted Woman’s Struggle for Identity. Buffalo, NY: Identity Press. 317-326, 339-345.
  12. Sippel, D. M. (2016). Forbidden Family: An Adopted Woman’s Struggle for Identity. Buffalo: NY: Identity Press. 306.
  13. Sippel, D. M. (2009, updated May 1, 2020). “Unequal Treatment of 1 Half-Orphan Out of 42,” Blog Page on personal website, Forbidden Family: Promoting Adoptee Identity Civil Rights Since 1974. Retrieved from https://forbiddenfamily.com/forbidden-family-the-book/unequal-treatment-of-1-half-orphan-out-of-42/
  14. Flores, S. (2020). “Adopting During a Pandemic – Dreams Can Come True, Even During Pandemic,” adoption.com. Retrieved from https://adoption.com/adopting-pandemic

My Response to Jeremy and Jenny Advertising to Adopt in Yard Sales and Trades

Dear Jeremy and Jenny,

I saw your ad on April 24, 2017 posted in Tri-Cities, TN, Yard Sales, Trades & Wanted, with the title “Loving Couple Hoping to Adopt.” So good of you to include your telephone number, your email address, your website and your Facebook page. This is advertising to take another woman’s baby from her. Other words used to describe advertising to adopt are: trolling for children, child trafficking, kidnapping. You are instructed to use coercive language to convince a pregnant teen or young woman that she is not able to parent her own child.

Even though you say you know adoptees and see how they have bonded with their adoptive families, I thought you might want to hear from an adoptee to tell you the other side of adoption, the side you do not want to see.

The both of you may or may not be aware that there is such a thing as the adoption reform movement. We consist of mothers-of-adoption-loss and adoptees, lawyers, doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, clergy and many of us are authors who have been rising up against the established adoption practices of modern America since our movement began in 1953.

But you don’t care, you just want a baby. Any baby will do. And while you are coveting someone else’s baby, these are the words of a friend of mine who posted a link to the following article just last night on Facebook: “So you think this is far-fetched? Does this not describe the adoption and surrogacy industry? To a ‘T’.” She is referring to this article: We Live in the Reproductive Dystopia of “The Handmaid’s Tale”  http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/we-live-in-the-reproductive-dystopia-of-the-handmaids-tale

I suggest you read this article as the both of you have a lot to learn. But I doubt if you will take the time necessary to attempt to comprehend the magnitude of what you want to do to destroy a family so that you could have that baby of your dreams.

Me, I am a 61 year old adopted woman. I was raised as an only child by a father and a mother who did not want me to ever know the truth. They willfully kept me away from my full blood siblings. Yes, they knew the whole truth, but they wanted a child all to themselves. They got what they wanted. I was the innocent child who knew nothing. I loved my parents with every fiber of my being.

Until I was 18 in 1974. That’s when I was found by my full blood siblings: three sisters and a brother. We also had two step brothers, two step sisters, and a baby half-brother. (The add-ons were from our father’s subsequent marriages.) My siblings told me that I was the youngest of five children born to our mother. Our father told me that his wife, my mother, was dying while pregnant with me. Her body tried to survive so I was born early at 32 weeks gestation. My mother died three months later.

A Catholic priest told my father to give the baby (me) to two parents. He did. He kept the other four children, and got married to a woman he knew in high school. I will believe what my father told me the day we met. He said that the priest told him “the baby needs two parents”. My father made the choice to give me to a married couple he chose because he was a very religious man and followed the advice of his parish priest.

I was in the middle of two families. Everyone had their own versions of what happened. To my extended adopted family, most aunts and uncles thought I was disloyal to my adoptive parents. A few of my adoptive relatives were kind and compassionate, comforting me as they could see how traumatized I was at learning the truth in the way it was presented to me. My natural blood family also did not know how to proceed with a reunion as there were no guide books back then. I was the one in the middle, caught in the crossfire. Both sides expected me to be what I was not. I have had absolutely no contact for nearly 40 years with the sisters who found me. I want it that way.  Not because I am against reunion, but because they are cruel, insanely vicious people. Today, there are only a few cousins from both families who truly love me, and I them.

Yes, my childhood was filled with joy, because I was a child. There were times, though, that I felt different. I was alone. Deep down, I knew I was not alone. But I was not allowed to know.

My innocent childhood was over the day I was contacted by my eldest sister who knew where I was for ten years before making that first phone call. I felt violated. I had no privacy. Everyone knew about me but I was the one who was not allowed to know the secret. No one cared how I felt.  They were all too busy telling me how to feel and what I should do.

As a direct result of my reunion and the shock of all the lies my adoptive parents told me, and of all the hate heaped upon me, I became an activist and have been one since 1974. I have fought ever since against the laws that stole my birth certificate. I speak out against social and legal prejudice that marks adoptees as ungrateful and allows people like yourselves to troll for babies to adopt by advertising to lure a pregnant teen or young adult into your clutches.

Jenny and Jeremy, you desire a baby. So what? You have each other. You are both alive. My mother DIED at age 30! My mother DIED so that I could make my adopters HAPPY. I would rather have had my dead mother back to life and my siblings and my father as a family than the life full of lies and deceit, scapegoating, and loneliness I was forced to live because of adoption.

My mother’s name was Genevieve. They called her Gene. (I also see Genetics in her name. How appropriate.) They also called her Genny.

Jenny, how does the similarity in names feel? Kinda gets ya, or at least it should, Jenny. If she had lived, my mother (not my birthmother, my MOTHER, Genny) would be 90 years old now.

And, for the record, with all the fighting my adoptive mother caused between us, she always spoke of my mother as “your mother” as a sign of respect. Never once did my adoptive mother utter the words “birthmother” or “birthfather”. She always addressed my father as “your father”. To me, my adoptive father was also “my father”, just as my adoptive mother was always “my mother”.

How old are you, Jenny? Can you comprehend the losses I had to live through in the first three months of my life to make it possible for me to make my adoptive parents happy? Isn’t that an incredible burden to place upon one tiny premature infant? And to carry that burden throughout my life? Just to fulfill the desires of a childless couple?

No, I didn’t need a new home. I already had one. I needed my family, not a new, fabricated, one. I didn’t need a new name, or a new birth certificate, I already had a name and a birth certificate.

How much reading have you done on adoption psychology, Jenny and Jeremy? Do you know who Jean Paton was? She was my friend. Do you know who Annette Baron and Ruben Pannor were? They were my friends and colleagues. Look them up. Do you know who Betty Jean Lifton was? She was also my friend and colleague.

Do you know who Joe Soll is? Do you know who Carol Schaefer is? Do you know who Lorraine Dusky is? Do you know who Lori Carangelo is? Why not? Do you know what Americans For Open Records is? Why Not? Do you know who Sandy Musser is? Why not? Do you know who Lee Campbell is? Have you seen her historical videos on YouTube when she appeared on Teh Phil Donahue Show talking about Concerned Untied Birthparents? You don’t? Why Not? Do you know who Mirah Riben is?  Why not? Look up her articles on Huffington Post. You will get a valuable education.

In fact, look up all of these names and you will see that they are authors. Some are adoptees, some are mothers of adoption loss. All of them are pioneers in adoption reform. And there are many, many others who have had the courage to speak out against the discriminatory system of adoption.

If you don’t know who these pioneers in adoption reform were, and are, then you know nothing about adoption. NOTHING.

Have you even been to an International adoption reform conference held by the American Adoption Conference? NO? How about Bastard Nation? NO?

I’ve been attending local and regional adoption support meetings for adoptees since 1975. How about you? I’ve been attending adoption reform conferences since 1976. How about you?

I know thousands of adoptees, mothers-of-adoption-loss from around the world. How about you?

Do you what the Baby Scoop was? Why not?

Do you know what the Stolen Generation was? Why not?

Do you know about the Magdalene Laundries? Why not? I know women who gave birth there, and women and men who were born there, survived, and are looking for their mothers. Do you?

Have you ever read any books on adoption social work and psychology? Adoption law? Have you read any books written by mothers-of-adoption-loss? By adoptees? By fathers? By therapists? NO? Why not?

Oh, yes, this is an important edit I am adding 24 hours after this post was published. Jenny and Jeremy, add this book to your reading list: The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption by Kathryn Joyce. You will really like that one!

Jenny and Jeremy, have you ever really talked with women who have lost their infants at birth through forced adoption? They describe the event of birth and the immediate taking of their womb-fresh newborns as being “de-babbied” and “raped of baby at birth.”

Have you ever thought about what it feels like to an adoptee to celebrate the day they were born by feeling a tremendous sense of loss? Do you know how it feels to know that the day you were born was the day you were removed from the only mother you ever knew as you grew inside her? This thing called adoption prevents the natural order of life itself.

Will the adoption you choose be opened or closed? Open adoptions close all the time because once the adopters get the baby, they run. All the legal papers say the baby is theirs now, by birth, no less, so they close the adoption and leave no forwarding address.

And the child’s birth certificate is changed.

Do you want to start your relationship with someone else’s child you will call your own based on dishonesty, deception, and lies?

Jeremy, you will have nothing to do with siring the child. Jenny, you will not participate in the conception, or pregnancy, or the birth. Therefore, neither one of your names belongs on a birth certificate. But, adoption will provide you that privilege of having your names on a birth certificate for a baby you did not create, but hope to adopt.

Why do you want to participate in government-sanctioned lies?

Does your church promote lies? Is lying a sin?

If you are both honest people, you ought to be ashamed of yourselves for contemplating placing false facts on a birth certificate of a child you did not create.

Jeremy and Jenny, please, turn your desire for someone else’s baby into kindness and sympathy as to what young parents are going though when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. Do they need help to keep their family together? Do you really need to pry them apart? Can you help out by being there as friends, as care givers? As legal guardians for a child while the parents figure out what they need to do to pull their lives back together? You can love a child without legally changing the child’s name and birth certificate, or without forcing a child to give up their entire family so that you can have the experience of parenting.

You are pleading for a mother to give up her baby to you. And for a father to be unknown to his child. That is selfish and cruel of you.

Stop. Are you Christian? Would Jesus want you to ask a mother to give up her baby? What kind of people are you? Are you people of faith or are you predators?

Adoptees and mothers-of-adoption-loss have no choice but to accept what was done to us. We work tirelessly, without pay, to make sure not one more mother or father loses their child to predators like you. We work tirelessly, without pay, to change the laws so that we may access the truth of our births that was taken from us.

For adoptees and mothers of loss, we must Radically Accept that adoption has negatively affected us.

Now I am asking YOU to take on what we are told by our therapists: you must meditate and go into full Radical Acceptance of your situation. You must Radically Accept that you cannot have children because of a medical condition. Grabbing up someone else’s child will not cure your medical condition.

Radical Acceptance might cure you of your emotional need to take someone else’s child and pretend that child is yours. You are infertile. Adoption does not cure infertility. Neither does a false birth certificate that declares you sired and gave birth to a child you know you didn’t.

Jeremy and Jenny, the two of you are married. You have each other. You love each other. Be grateful for what you have. Radically Accept your lot in life and face reality. Hold on to each other for the true joy that you have, and then you would not cause others multitudes of lifelong emotional pain. To covet another woman’s child and another man’s child is a sin. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife….

Think about it.

Change your ways.

Repent your sins.

The First Two Christmases of My Life

Today, two days after Christmas 60 years ago, my pregnant mother was taken by bus (my parents did not own a car) to the hospital. She was so sick that she was admitted. Tests were done and, though the doctors knew she was pregnant, they x-rayed her abdomen (so I received a full body dose of x-ray radiation). There, next to me, was a massive tumor. Mom gave birth to me on January 7, 1956, two months prematurely. Mom died on March 28, 1956.

.
The following year, just a few weeks before Christmas 1956 and just before my adoption became final, the husband and wife who had custody of me since that April (and who would become my adoptive “parents”) felt sorry for my father and for my four older siblings. “We bought a Christmas tree and presents and drove them over to your father’s house when the kids were asleep, so they would not see us. We wanted them to have a Christmas,” my 89 year old adoptive mother said to me in 2005.

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When I heard this story for the first time in my life, I was seething with rage. While my adoptive “parents” thought they were being kind by giving these charity gifts to a family who was “less fortunate,” what they actually did was give gifts to ease the pain of taking away the baby to keep for their very own.

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Yes, my father relinquished me to adoption, but no one ever offered him help. No one ever thought that the baby might miss her family, or that the siblings might miss their baby sister. Just give the baby a new home and new name and be done with it. What counted most was to provide me with two parents, a new home, and a new life. And to provide a child for a childless married couple who desperately wanted a baby.

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I lived a sheltered life as an only child.

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To say that I felt betrayed when the truth was revealed, is an understatement.

Joan Mary Wheeler

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00X520CGW?ie=UTF8&tag=forbifamil01-20

 

Response to Von’s Bitch Slap With Troops on the Ground

This post is written in response to Von’s post today: Bitch Slap.

As for myself, I’ve been using the term “adoption reform” for so long, over 30 years, and it’s only within the past few years that I’ve come to realize it isn’t adoption reform that’s needed. What’s needed is the end to adoption. What’s needed is a soul-searching of the inhuman practice of permanently separating parents and their children and permanently and needlessly separating sibling groups. When the realization hits those who are a part of this horrific chain of separators, they will certainly have a gut-wrenching remorse for what they’ve done. I have seen it. A slow realization for some, and for others, it hits like a ton of bricks. Once the correct words are spoken so as to change the focus of their agency-speak, then those in power experience an awakening and they are changed. And once those regular people who insist on telling me their opinions on adoption, as if those opinions carry more weight than my 57 years of life experience and my research for 39 years, once these people hear my words from the point of view of being the victim of adoption, then I see a change: one person at a time.

 

This soul-searching realization then turns into the awareness that family preservation, kinship care, guardianship and adoption prevention must then become priorities.

 

Beyond that, I’ve achieved one-on-one change by telling ordinary people the facts of adoption that go beyond the destruction of a family to create the “loving option of adoption”. I tell them that every single adoptee in America suffers the confiscation of their birth certificate by the State Government via the Court Judge controlling the adoption and that the Judge then initiates orders to place that birth certificate under protective seal, and then the Judge orders the Registrar of Vital Statistics to create a new, amended birth certificate that replaces the names of the parents of birth with the names of the new adoptive parents as if they gave birth to the child and that child now has a new name on this new birth certificate.

People are stunned. They ask, “They do this? Still?”

I say, “Yes.”

They ask, “Why?

I answer, “Because that’s the way it’s been done since 1930 in America and States aren’t too eager to let adoptees have their true birth certificates. For the States that do ‘allow’ adoptees this ‘privilege’, there are conditions and restrictions because illegitimate bastards aren’t worthy to own the truth of their shameful births. But I’m not illegitimate, yet, I am bound by this archaic law that wipes out all adoptees’ births as if they never happened. And for the two States that never sealed adoptees birth certificates – Kansas and Alaska – those states have been, and still are, falsifying adoptees new birth certificates.”

People then ask me, “I never heard of this. In this day and age, why does anyone care about illegitimacy? Every child is precious.”

I say, “Of course every child is precious, but if you are born to unmarried parents, then the law says you aren’t worthy. And every other way a child becomes adopted – me, a half orphan, full orphans, and step-parent adoptees and foster care adoptees – we all are bound by the law of shame and secrecy. Of course you haven’t heard of this. The government and adoption agencies don’t want you to know. No one is stopping the continued falsification of birth certificates when a child is adopted. It’s all big business. All of it. Adoption agencies and social workers and adoption attorneys and court staff and court judges get paid. And the Registrars of Vital Statistics get paid to seal away a child’s birth rights and then commit fraud and perjury for the sake of doing their jobs.”

People then ask me, “I never realized the scope of this. So what can be done?”

I answer, “Just stop it. Demand that these barbaric practices cease. The whole process of permanently separating families needlessly must end, and, unethical confiscation and sealing of an infant or child’s birth certificate must end, as well as the unethical and fraudulent practice of lying on government documents must end. Now you know what really happens in adoption. People can achieve the same goal – of giving a child who actually needs a home – by promoting family preservation, kinship care and guardianship instead of adoption. You are hearing it from an adoptee. Word of mouth. Go spread the word. You now know the truth and now you must decide: will you join us in the legislative fight to change these barbaric, but legal, atrocities? I can provide you with information on how to stop this.”

People need to know and are stunned to hear the facts. Change is happening.

Daniel Ibn Zayd is right. People on the ground, in the community, talking about the realities of adoption – this is making a difference in my home city, one person at a time.

But we in New York State, and America as a whole, are so far behind the accomplishments of Australia. I, too, as Von points out, may not live long enough to see the drastic changes in public opinion and public policy that are needed. I sure as hell am giving it my all while I am here!

Western Australia (State) to Apologize for Adoptions

http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/wa/7860012/unmarried-mums-get-state-apology/

 

The State’s apology to unmarried mothers illegally separated from their babies under harsh adoption practices is set to happen within weeks.

WA is to become the first State or Federal government worldwide to admit hospital and welfare authorities were wrong to immediately separate mothers from their babies after giving birth out of wedlock. Mothers from around Australia keen to hear the apology have been told it will be delivered in Parliament on October 19.

Experts say tens of thousands of WA babies were adopted illegally when their unmarried mothers were prevented from seeing, touching, naming or bonding with their children immediately after birth between the 1940s and the early 1980s.

Health Minister Kim Hames said the exact format of the apology was still being finalised but it would be “to unmarried mothers of adopted children who were adversely affected by past adoption practices”.

Christine Cole, of the NSW-based Apology Alliance, said it was also important for the Government to say sorry to the children taken. “They were denied their family of origin and the culture of that family,” she said.

This first milestone needs to be recognized and honored. Follow-up by other governments should be in order and not just to the mothers and fathers who have lost their children to adoption, but the millions of former infants and children who were taken and assimilated into adoptive homes. Human-on-human cruelty on behalf of adoption must stop. Former children who have been adopted suffer as children and adults for the forced assimilation that adoption creates.

Children who desperately need homes and families can be readily placed into guardianship homes, or, best to find a way to keep families together.

A hearty salute to Western Australia to be the first governement to make an incredible leap forward in your social and governmental policies toward women and children. Adoptions have been phased out in Australia, meaning, adoption is not practiced, family preservation is preferred and honored. Progressive, realistic and humanist. Its about time.

~ ~ ~ Joan M Wheeler, BA, BSW, born Doris M Sippel, author of Forbidden Family, Trafford Publishing, Nov 2009.

 

 

 

 

Adoptee Psychology, Genetics, the Unnatural Act of Adopting and Questions for Adoptive Parents

Today’s post was inspired by a blog post I read this morning and by an occurrence at a dinner party. Since I’m not feeling particularly “put together” at the moment, this post may be choppy and disjointed.

I’d like to direct my readers to Rhode Island adoptee John Greene’s blog post titled “Adoption and The Adoptees Reality” in which he addresses some points of specific psychology of being adopted. The topic needs to be understood, not just by adoptees, but by adoptive and pre-adoptive parents, especially in the wake of NCFA’s recent call for money donations to “make adoption strong” to fight the anti-adoption community and NPR’s Scott Simon’s two NPR interviews on his recently published memoir on being the adoptive father of two girls from China here (224 comment to date) and here (34 comments to date).

John Greene notes the works of three American adoption researchers: Nancy Verrier (The Primal Wound), Betty Jean Lifton, PhD (Journey of the Adopted Self), and Dr. David Brodzinsky (The Lifelong Journey to Self). It is best to read their works for a more complete study.

John Greene asks the question:

“How does the adopted individual feel about being relinquished?”

I believe that the average pre-adoptive and adoptive parent does not delve into this question, for if they did, they might find the answers disturbing enough to think twice about adoption in a positive light. If adoptive and pre-adoptive parents take a hard look at the realities of adoption, they may not think adoption was such a great and wonderful “thing” they have done, or want to do.

I’ll make a side journey here to what happened at a dinner party I attended last week. A guest, whom I did not know, remarked that so-and-so was adopting another child — from the same birthmother. The assumption from the folks hearing such a comment was the (tired) refrain “how wonderful of you to adopt, again!” At which point I almost spewed the food I was chewing. No one else but my date and the hostess knew that I was adopted and reunited since 1974, but, despite this, the hostess continued blathering on praising adoption while my date and I were wide-eyed. I gulped my food down and stuffed down my feelings. I kept quiet, realizing that no amount of talking would help these clueless people know the true meaning of adoption to the children involved. If I had “opened my mouth” and spoke truthfully about adoption, my comments would have been seen as hostile and a verbal fight would have ensued. So, the only way for me to deal with yet another instance of praise for adoption while ignoring adoptee and natural parent pain was for me to ignore the immediacy of the moment and write about it here.

This is where I beg adoptive and pre-adoptive parents to listen and read what grown adoptees and adoption researchers are saying. Take a long look at the devastating effects of adoption and know what you are doing to your adoptee! You may not intentionally be causing your adoptee harm, but the very fact of being an adoptee sets a person up for emotional and physical trauma.

John Greene explains:

…Is it nature or nurture that composes him/her? Adoptees ponder relentlessly whether their true “self” derives from their nature, the traits and characteristics they are born with; or from nurture as a result of the adoptive environment they are enveloped within. Traditionally the concept of nature or nurture is viewed as if it’s one transitioning into the other, or if one has more influence than the other. I feel these perspectives are the wrong approach. I sense with the adoptee world it’s nature and nurture continually working symbiotically with one another.

…non-adoptees are able to see and learn their biological nature in action from their parents and other genetic family. While the non-adoptees are nurturing and developing/ thriving within their natural environment they are also learning and governed by the family’s biological nature. …this is the element of true balance of nature and nurture an adoptee is deprived of and most likely will never come to have the opportunity to appreciate. It is the adoptee’s elusive biological nature the adoptee subconsciously chases. It is the adoptee’s biological nurture that eludes the adoptee consciously.

Then Greene eloquently states what so many of us adoptees feel but may not be able to verbalize:

Adoption, although genuinely intended to provide a better life, or better nurturing environment, in its raw form, in the scheme of nature itself, is an unnatural act and from the unnatural act the adoptee is presumed to resiliently bounce back.

…the adoptee is resilient but this experience isn’t something they bounce back from, the separation is a “splitting” from their natural biological connection in which they grow away from, meaning they are not intended to return to grow and thrive from their point of origin. Again, the issue isn’t so much about the resiliency of adoptees bouncing back, but more so, that they are torn away from their natural connection in which they aren’t intended to return, leaving them with a mysterious unexplainable feeling of not feeling whole. More specifically, the unexplainable feeling of not feeling whole not only stays with the adoptee it is actually the desire to feel whole, or complete. (identity)

What Greene writes next is so very important:

Technically speaking, adoptees don’t bounce back they are forced to grow in a different direction without a biological connection, away from their true biological nature. Therefore it can be said that when they are separated their nature and nurture are divided as they are forced to enter to live in their new adoptive world now consisting of nurture and unnatural. Their new balance is no longer the black and white of yin and yang representing a true balance of nature and nurture but is now say a white and green yin & yang representing an off kilter version of what the natural self is intended to be as it’s being shaped by a biological force that is unnatural and foreign to the adopted child.

The adoptee struggles for the rest of her/his life to bring the forces of nurture and unnatural together:

…the adoptee spends the greatest and most influential part of their life living within the ‘nurture’ of learning another family’s nature never knowing their true ‘natural’ half of existence, and in most cases never even grazing it.

It is important to note that while the adopted child struggles with this, so does the adopted adult, in more ways than emotional and psychological: cellular changes:

…perhaps it isn’t exclusively the separation itself that results such a reverberating effect upon the adoptee’s life. Perhaps in addition to the adoptee’s bruised psyche it’s the genetic composition in their cells that slowly grows frustrated over time because they are prevented from behaving in the manner of what’s written in their genetic code as a result of following a different family’s unique nature.

I have my own developing thoughts on the cellular changes that take place within the adoptee and am working on that for another post.

For those who want to discredit adoptee pain by claiming their adoptee is as happy as a clam, John Greene also addresses the different levels of adoptee awareness:

…there are three basic classifications of adoptees: 1) Those who have recognized that adoption has impacted their life; 2) Those adoptees who have not recognized that adoption has impacted their life; 3) Adoptees who feel great inner calamity and turmoil but have no idea what these strong feelings are attributed to.

and

…how are adoptees supposed to know how it feels to be a non-adoptee and develop within the normal balance of nature and nurture with biological parents? This is why it can be said an adoptee will never be able to fathom how a non-adoptee feels and vice-versa.

Clearly, adoption predisposes the separated natural child/adopted adult to psychic pain. It is my opinion that adoption IS child/adult adoptee abuse. This is an awful way to cope with life. This is what adoption does to a person.

I consider the emotional, psychological and physical damage to be enough to dissuade anyone from adopting, but if it is concrete evidence you want, that can be found in the actual destruction of the adoptee’s family of origin, and destruction and falsification of the adoptee’s birth certificate. Those are civil rights issues apart from the psychological fallout of the act of adoption. But the proof of the birth certificate fiasco is sealed from most adoptees at the very will and intention of our adoptive parents and the National Council For Adoption.

No, I cannot find one single reason, not one single justification, for child abduction/adoption. Family Preservation, kinshp care must be alternatives to adoption, and Guardianship, yes, as that provides a loving home with the dignified respect due to a person’s birth family, name and sense of self. And don’t get me talking about the evils of Open Adoption.

Knowing just this much, without reading entire books on the subject, my questions to pre-adoptive and adoptive parents are this: why would you intentionally put a child/adult — the very adoptee you so lovingly take as your own — through such a lifelong ordeal?  Adding the complications of race and intercountry adoptions and separations, why would you adopt a child? How could you cause so much pain to another human being?

Re-Post: NCFA’s Stay At Home Gala 2009

As promised, here are the links to my re-posts on NCFA and their blunders:

Response to NCFA’s “Mutual Consent: Balancing the Birthparent’s Right to Privacy with the Adopted Person’s Desire to Know” – Re-Post

and

Re-Post of Last Year’s Commemoration: Commentary on article “Anti-Adoption Advocates: How Should We Respond?”

 For added pizzazz in light of the recent email from Chuckie and the Gang at NCFA asking for donations to fight the us in the “anti-adoption community”, I hearby re-post from March 7, 2009. Please note that the link has been disabled at the NCFA’s website, but I saved the entire INVITATION just for the fun of it. (Remember those starnge photos on the NCFA website of their pizza party and party games and paper towels and soda pop? My, THAT’s an Adoption GALA!) 

  

Here’s an invitation from the National Council For Adoption (NCFA) —

 

https://www.adoptioncouncil.org/2009StayAtHomeGala.htm

 

SURPRISE! for all we care! Gather with family and friends and share stories, take photos, and celebrate the many ways adoption has changed your life. We’ll join you from our headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia! Gala: $1,000 and higher – With your sponsorship of $1,000 or more, you will receive recognition as a Stay at Home Gala Sponsor on NCFA’s website, a picture frame to commemorate your celebration of adoption, as well as the Stay at Home Gala Adoption Party Sheet, with fun facts about adoption, challenging adoption trivia questions, and a fill-in-the-blank questionnaire to document memories of your family’s adoption story. You will also be able to share your adoption story with us and send us photos from your celebration of adoption. With your permission, we’ll upload them to our website and share your story with our friends on Facebook. You will also receive a tax-deductible receipt for your gift. to celebrate together. Please share this page with your friends and family who share your passion for adoption!! with you in April 2010!
Click here and visit the Stay at Home Gala website

We’re having the Gala at YOUR house this year! That’s right! This year, YOU’RE THE HOST of NCFA’s 2009 Gala!

Like many nonprofits, the economy has presented us with new challenges. So we’re trading the glamour and glitz for a low-cost celebration of adoption at home with our loved ones so that we can use your gift to help more children find permanent families.

We’re inviting you to celebrate adoption with us on April 8, 2009 in the comfort of your own home. Dress up, dress down, dress in your PJs

So how does this work?

Sponsor the Stay at Home

Purchase a “ticket” to the Stay at Home Gala

Purchase a “ticket” at one of the following levels before April 8 or send your gift to NCFA! Your gift will go to help children find permanent families.

The Real Deal Throwdown: $250 and higher – With your gift of $250 or more, you will receive the Stay at Home Gala Adoption Party Sheet, with fun facts about adoption, challenging adoption trivia questions, and a fill-in-the-blank questionnaire to document memories of your family’s adoption story. You will also be able to share your adoption story with us and send us photos from your celebration of adoption. With your permission, we’ll upload them to our website and share your story with our friends on Facebook. You will also receive a tax-deductible receipt for your gift.

We Know How to Party: $100 – With your $100 gift, you will receive the Stay at Home Gala Adoption Party Sheet, with fun facts about adoption, challenging adoption trivia questions, and a fill-in-the-blank questionnaire to document memories of your family’s adoption story. You will also receive a tax-deductible receipt for your gift.

My Head’s Hit the Pillow: $75 – With your $75 gift, you will have “sweet dreams” and receive a tax-deductible receipt.

Invite your friends and family

The more, the merrier! Let’s face it, getting your family together is no easy task. Something tells us your family won’t want to miss an evening of take-out and trivia! Invite your friends and family and spend some serious quality time

Participate in the Stay at Home Gala Online Auction

Kick your bidding skills into high gear and support NCFA by bidding on exceptional items. Bidding starts on March 18 at noon and closes on April 8 at 11:00pm. You will receive an e-mail notice on March 18 with a link to the online auction to start bidding!

Happy celebrating from your friends at NCFA!

P.S. We look forward to celebrating our 30th anniversary

 

 

…. … … … … … …

 

There you have it!

 

Oh, I’m so excited! I’m going to an ADOPTION PARTY!

 

I’ll be wearing my Birthday Suit. But wait, this is an Adoption Party, so I guess I should wear all those body sores my adoptive mom tells me I had all over my tiny body. Yeah, from what I hear, I came into my adoptive home with diaper rash so severe, that, well, it sure must have been awful because that’s all I heard about how I should feel grateful that I was saved.

 

Yeah, I had a nice home while I was growing up. A nice home in the suburbs and everything I ever asked for. I got Women’s size 9 ice skates when I was 10 years old and was told to stuff tissues in the toes so my feet would stay inside. But when I skated on skates that were too big for my feet, I couldn’t skate. Dangerous, don’t you think? But hunting for Christmas trees and chopping down our own made up for skates that didn’t fit me. And all those happy memories I have with cousins, aunts and uncles who nurtured me along with my adoptive parents, those memories are cherished deep in my heart.

 

Here we go! Uncle Frank is driving us over The Peace Bridge into Canada! USA! USA! USA! Wait! CANADA! CANADA! CANADA! We’re in another country now! We’re going to Crystal Beach! …Rolling around the flat back space of a station wagon as a toddler with 4 sister-cousins…playing Combat with little green plastic soldiers and wooden blocks with brother-cousins…Listening to Tom and Gerry before they were Paul and Art with another cousin family…fireworks and picnics…Akron Park…thanks for the memories, ‘cause we were family. Thanks to me dear ole’ Dad, thanks to Mom for her mother-daughter-doll dresses, and thanks for the love. 

 

Okay. We’re all here. Let’s begin our party…

 

Prior to having fun, participants must take part in a solemn Candle Light Vigil for the natural family who suffered some form of tragedy that set in motion events for a newborn or older child to leave that family.

 

We will begin our Candle Light Vigil by writing down the names of the individuals lost to us. If you don’t know the names of your mother and father, then write down “Not applicable”, or “adopted, have no information”.

 

Next, participants will write down the names of siblings we lost because adoption prevented us from having our siblings while growing up. If you don’t know the names of your full or half or step siblings, then write down “Not applicable”, or “adopted, have no information”.

 

Next, we will write down the name of the hospital we were born in, and the town, and the state, or the country. If you don’t know, write, “Don’t Know, my birth information is under state seal.”

 

We will then pass the hat to collect our pieces of paper. We’ll turn out the lights. A single white candle will be lit. We will bow our heads as Enya’s Only Time plays on the CD player. A lone voice will read out loud the names written on the pieces of paper. If a blank paper is handed in, there will be a slight pause. If the words “Not applicable” or “Don’t Know” are written, those words will be read out loud. As our minds are filled with emptiness, or actual names, we will remember from whence we came. If we cannot remember, or we do not consciously know, we will sit quietly and listen. We will pay respects to the past. We will pay respects to our ancestors. This will be a signal to the Universe to send our thoughts to our missing blood-kin. Thus begins our grieving process for who and what we lost.

 

After ten minutes, the house lights go up, CD player turned off. Those sappy emotional floodgates shall be closed, gulped down, turned off, suppressed, ignored, denied, mocked and ridiculed, shamed, humiliated, and passed off as non-existent. We will then be expected to not think about “them” any longer because we have a new family now. Our new family totally negates anything that came before it. Don’t bother to look in the mirror because what you look like doesn’t matter. Don’t bother to play the guitar or sing, don’t bother to pick up a sketch pad and draw life-like renderings; those talents that you feel compelled to do because they come to you so naturally, well, you’d better put away such nonsense. That’s not who you are.

 

As an adoptee, you belong 100% to your adopted, forever family: You will do things our way now. And if we don’t like you, we can send you back. We can even send you anonymous envelopes with little slips of paper inside that read, “We don’t want you, go back to where you came from”, and “I know why your father gave you away — he couldn’t stand the sight of you”, and “You don’t deserve to live for what you’ve done”. We can even send those unmarked envelopes to your church because we are all Catholic in this family. Since you decided to leave the Roman Catholic Faith and join a Liberal Church, well, we have no respect for THAT. So, we can send unmarked envelopes to your church, addressed to you, so your minister can hand you that envelope because someone is really trying to get a hold of you. Inside, there is a photo of my then-husband with a note: “He is a fat pig.” Gee, I wonder, was the sender of this note a bit on the heavy side or a lot on the heavy side? Was this a man or a woman who sent this to my church?

 

Fun Facts of Adoption

Gee, does that mean my adopted family can boast about their family tree, while I can only whimper in the corner? Does that mean that my adopted family can gloat how much Al Junior looks so much like Al Senior, and, wonder of wonders, all the 10 grown kids look the same, too! Wow! Isn’t that cool?

 

Oh, oh, oh! I got one! This is really good! We can all agree that we can spy on the adoptee and not tell her that we’re doing it! Yeah! That sounds like FUN!

 

Oh, oh, oh! I got a better one! When she writes another article in the paper, we can cut it out and save it! When she does something we don’t like, we can send it to her in an unmarked envelope, and, before we seal that envelope, we can write nasty little things in the margins! Yeah! That sounds like REAL Fun! And then, we can, we can, watch her fall apart, dissolve into tears, as she suffers another panic attack! Yeah! This is really fun! Why didn’t the National Council For Adoption think of this DECADES ago!?

 

Oh no, no, no! I got an even better one that no one has thought of before! Let’s go up to her when her father dies and tell her, “You OPENLY declare you have two fathers! Ha! Two fathers! Who ever heard of that? You really are dumb, Joan! Two fathers! Wow! That’s really funny! Who died and left you Queen?”

 

Uhh, my mother died. But that doesn’t matter, does it? She’s dead. But I have a replacement right over here. No, I didn’t have a mother who gave birth to me, why, I was found in the CABBAGE PATCH!

 

challenging adoption trivia questions

Trivia questions? Like, how many adoptees does it take to turn out the lights? Answer: NONE. Adoptees are supposed to kept in the dark! Ha Ha!

 

fill-in-the-blank questionnaire to document memories of your family’s adoption story

The first 18 years of my life were spent in blissful ignorance of the facts of my life purposefully withheld from me by loving adoptive parents who absolutely did not want me to ever know the facts of my life, facts that they knew about me. Fill in the blanks? I’ve spent every day since March 5, 1974, the day I was found by a sister I never knew, trying to fill in the blanks of my life. This is psychological abuse, from which one does not fully recover.

 

My Head’s Hit the Pillow … you will have “sweet dreams”

Oh My Gosh! Does this mean I can go to sleep without seeing those flashbacks, or feel those night terrors, or wonder which person or persons from my adoptive family hates me now? Can I stop taking my anti-anxiety and sleep meds, now? Will this really make me sleep better?

 

Kick your bidding skills into high gear and support NCFA by bidding on exceptional items.

Oh, this must mean, like, have a line-up of little kids standing on a stage, on a platform, like they used to do in the days of the orphanage. Then the kids watch as strangers eye them up one by one.

Which one will they pick? Let’s see. This one’s too tall. This one’s too short. This one feels better in my arms. Let’s take this one, dear! No, wait, I don’t think I want a strange kid in my house. I really want to be pregnant. Let’s forget about adoption. I want a sperm donor. Can we go look at the gorgeous, strong men online and pick the one who will be the umm, umm, the donor, ‘cause really, you’ll be the Dad, dear! What do you mean I can’t get pregnant? My eggs are no good? Oh, but I still can get pregnant! Let’s go look online at the busty blondes with exceptionally high IQs. I want a baby, no matter what it takes! And I’ll love that baby sooo-ooo much! But we can’t ever tell IT where IT came from! No, that’s our secret. Little, itty-bitty baby doesn’t need to know anyway! Gichy-gitchy goo! I love you! No price is too high for my happiness…

 

NCFA: How can you be so unprofessional? Your agency has made a mockery out of us adoptees, and our natural parents, again! When are you gonna grow up and join a civilized society?

~ ~ ~ Joan M Wheeler, BA, BSW, born Doris M Sippel, author of Forbidden Family: A Half Orphan’s Account of Her Adoption, Reunion and Social Activism, Trafford Publishing, Nov 2009.

 

 

 

 

Invitation from Chuck Johnson and the NCFA: The anti-adoption community is working overtime…Stop them now

It came in my email inbox:

The anti-adoption community is working overtime.  Stop them now.

National Council For Adoption [ncfa@adoptioncouncil.org]

Thu 8/12/2010 11:43 AM

 
 
Dear Friend of Adoption,

 

At NCFA, we believe a nurturing, permanent family is every child’s birthright, yet there are those who actually oppose adoption and attack NCFA for our strong advocacy. In fact, the anti-adoption community is working overtime to counter our mission to promote a positive culture of adoption. 

This opposition demonstrates our success as the nation’s authoritative voice for adoption. We have seen passage of several NCFA-supported initiatives on Capitol Hill, enjoyed our most successful National Adoption Conference ever, had a wonderful night out with 500 children waiting to be adopted and their foster parents with Kids at Heart at Nationals Park, appeared on CNN, and contributed to stories in Time magazine, The New York Times, and the Associated Press.

What can you do to stop this negativity and anti-adoption efforts?

You can make an urgent online, tax-deductible gift right now of $50, $75, or $100to ensure that adoption remains strong.  We need your immediate financial support so that we can continue our important advocacy on behalf of children, birthparents, and adoptive families all around the world.  Please, visit our website and make an urgent online, tax-deductible gift of $50, $75, or $100 and support our efforts to promote a positive culture of adoption.    

You can also show your support for NCFA and adoption by joining our official Facebook Page by clicking hereThen, suggest our page to your Facebook friends.  We want our page to be a positive place where birthparents, prospective adoptive parents, and adopted persons can share their experiences about adoption and help raise awareness for the positive option of adoption for women facing an unplanned pregnancy.  Together, we will keep adoption strong, and we will not allow the anti-adoption minority to negatively influence policy and practice. 

Will you please make an urgent online, tax-deductible gift right now of $50, $100, or $250 to ensure that adoption remains a positive option for women facing an unplanned pregnancy? 

 You can STOP the negativity and anti-adoption efforts: DONATE NOW to keep adoption strong.

With sincere thanks for your support,

Chuck Johnson
President and CEO

 
P.S.  Will you please forward this message to your friends, family, and contacts and ask them to make an urgent online, tax-deductible gift of $50, $75 or $100 to ensure that adoption remains strong?

 
National Council For Adoption
225 N. Washington Street
Alexandria, VA  22314
(703) 299-6633 phone
(703) 299-6004 fax
www.adoptioncouncil.org
ncfa@adoptioncouncil.org
www.facebook.com/adoptioncouncilTo unsubscribe/change profile: click here.
To subscribe: click here.

  

OMG!

Chuckie, Chuckles, or whatever-you-want-to-call-him, is at it again.

Looks like I have no choice but to bring out some former posts from my previous blogs.

You asked for it, sweetie pie. Stay tuned.

Signed,

Half-Orphan56, LegitimateBastard, best known as Joan Mary Wheeler BORN AS Doris Michol Sippel —- the most hated anti-adoption adoptee in America!

Why am I anti-adoption? Because I am PRO FAMILY PRESERVATION!

Unitarian Universalist Church Does Not Quite Get it About Mothers Day and Adoption

I write today’s blog post from the point of view of being the daughter of two mothers: one who gave me life and the other who raised me.

It is not easy being the daughter of two mothers, especially since my time with my first mother was so short. She died when I was three months old. She was dying during her pregnancy with me — a death that resulted in my father’s grief and belief that his only option and the best choice of action he could do for me was to relinquish me to the total care of another set of parents.

I do not believe that was the best choice. I needed to be with the family I was born into.

But since I was raised instead by a stranger who became my mother through a legal decree, I struggle through the sadness and loss each and every day of my life. I grieve for the family I lost because of adoption. I grieve for the loss of a mother who left the earth far too early. I grieve for the mother who adopted me as she was misguided in her possessiveness. She clings to me now in a nursing home. I give her what I can, but mostly, what’s done is done. I’m sad for her suffering and pending death. I also have a step mother who is married to my natural father.

Mother’s Day is a day of sadness for me.

I start each Sunday, including Mother’s Day, by attending a service at my local UU Church.

It’s bad enough that a dear friend of mine, a mother of adoption loss, will not attend our local UU Church (she used to) for the hypocrisy there. I agree with her. There’s wealthy adoptive parents who give lip-service about the natural parents of the adopted children they hold dear. Like the adoptive mother who got a standing ovation for adopting a three year old Haitian earthquake survivor. And don’t get me started about the abundance of gays and lesbians at church who use ANONYMOUS sperm and eggs and surrogate mothers and don’t seem to care that they willingly withhold knowledge of the absent genetic parent(s) to the children so created. In the face of all of that, I still attend the Buffalo Unitarian Universalist Church. My friend doesn’t. I miss her. I honor her for her integrity to stay away.

I look beyond these human failings, even our minister who spoke awhile back about the appropriations of other religions, or rather, the miss-appropriations, without even noticing, or caring, that many people appropriate other people’s children with a sense of entitlement.

It is not easy to look beyond these in-your-face adoption assaults.

I am at this church weekly for the spiritual, intellectual, and suburb musical performances of our choir and musicians.

Today’s guest minister, Reverend Sally Hamlin, participated in a service inspired and encouraged by Debra Hafner, an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, sexologist and Director of the Religious Institute. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-debra-haffner/honor-thy-mother-reducing_b_549650.html

This was the responsive reading: http://www.religiousinstitute.org/sites/default/files/initiatives/Rachel_Sabbath_Responsive_Reading_Mothers_Day_0.pdf

A Responsive Reading for Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day, we honor mothers and caregivers everywhere – women who have given birth, women who have adopted children, women who care for the children of others.

We affirm the nurturing love of mothers, and the blessings of parenthood.

We pray for a society in which pregnancy is freely chosen, and mothers and children receive the care and support they need.

We affirm the sanctity of life and the moral agency of women.

We mourn the 1,500 women around the world who will die today in childbirth, or from the complications of pregnancy, because they lack basic health services.

We envision a world where childbirth is safe, and all children are wanted and loved.

Together, we break the silence surrounding women and their partners who suffer infertility, pregnancy loss, still births, and difficulties in adoption.

We bless them and hold them in love.

We celebrate the many ways that people create families and become mothers in our communities.

We call for a commitment to make every day Mother’s Day.

© Religious Institute, 2010, May 9

 

And this bulletin was read out loud:

Global Maternal Health

* Every minute, a woman dies in childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications – at least half a million women worldwide every year.

* 99 percent of all maternal deaths occur in developing nations. More than half occur in sub-Saharan Africa, and one-third in South Asia.

* Most maternal deaths take place during labor, delivery or in the immediate post-partum period. More than 3.4 million newborns die within the first week of life.

* More than one million children are left motherless every year due to maternal deaths. Children are three to 10 times more likely to die within two years of the mother’s death.

* The leading cause of death for girls ages 15-19 worldwide is pregnancy.

* There is no single cause of death and disability for men that compares with the magnitude of maternal death and disability.

* Doubling current global investments in family planning and pregnancy-related health care (to approximately $24.6 billion) could save the lives of 400,000 women and 1.6 million infants every year.

The Rachel Sabbath Initiative: Saving Women’s Lives supports the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal 5, which focuses on improving maternal health. The Religious Institute calls on congregations across the country to raise awareness and support for the UN’s targets of reducing maternal mortality worldwide and achieving universal access to reproductive health care by 2015. This initiative is named for the matriarch Rachel, who died in childbirth (Gen. 35:16-20).

Religious Institute, 21 Charles Street, Suite 140, Westport, CT 06880. Join the Faithful Voices Network at http://www.religiousinstitute.org

 

In an effort to spread the word that maternal health is important, the UU Church sorely misses the mark on the focus of adoption.

Here is what I AM ADDING to the above (in bold and italics):

We don’t have specific statistics, but for every adoptee there is a mother who gave birth. That mother suffers the loss of her child to adoption but society does not recognize nor acknowledge that loss. There are millions of childless mothers (because there are at least 6 to 7 million adoptees in America) who grieve for the loss of their babies and who dread Mother’s Day because they were made feel shame and guilt for even being a mother in the first place. We must practice Adoption Prevention.

 

A Responsive Reading for Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day, we honor mothers and caregivers everywhere – women who have given birth, women who have adopted children, women who care for the children of others.  We also honor mothers who have lost their infants to unwanted relinquishment to the adoption industry by resolving to end this practice of taking other mothers’ children as our own.

 

We affirm the sanctity of life and the moral agency of women.

We mourn the 1,500 women around the world who will die today in childbirth, or from the complications of pregnancy, because they lack basic health services. We mourn the countless women around the world who suffer the moral indignation of disrespecting the pregnancies and infant births by the unwanted snatching of their infants at the moment of birth at Crisis Pregnancy Centers and Birthing Rooms that allow adopting couples to witness the sacred moment of birth, and mothers who are victims of Open Adoption scams and Open Adoption Agencies. We mourn the scorn still inflicted upon young teens and young women who are not married and humiliated into giving up their wanted babies because society tells them they cannot parent their own children.

 

We envision a world where childbirth is safe, and all children are wanted and loved.

Together, we break the silence surrounding women and their partners who suffer infertility, pregnancy loss, still births, and difficulties in adoption. Difficulties in adopting other women’s children? We break the silence that women who desperately want their children are taken advantage of by the cruelty of the adoption industry — women who want their children ought to not suffer their children ripped from their arms into the waiting arms of adopting parents. If and only IF a child does not have caring parents is GUARDIANSHIP NOT ADOPTION ever a substitute for motherhood. In cases of abuse and neglect, removing a child from harm is best, but working toward reunification and stabilization of that family unit is primary to the wholeness of that mother and her children.

 

We bless them and hold them in love.

We celebrate the many ways that people create families and become mothers in our communities. We celebrate to every mother the right to be mothers in life, and to be named on their child’s birth certificate, not dishonored by sealing and falsifying that document. This means that we honor the facts of birth by issuing ONLY 1 true Certificate of Live Birth and strive for the abolition of the amended birth certificate in adoption; such a document is a mockery of motherhood. Ultimately we strive for the abolition of adoption itself for every mother who gives birth and who wants her child needs to be a mother and every child needs their mother. For adoptive mothers everywhere, we strive for the acceptance that the role of raising children can be handled by a caregiver who is a guardian who does not usurp the dignity of another mother by taking her child.

 

I have no choice but to accept that I have two mothers: one by birth and one by adoption. My lesson learned from my life lived in this reality is to strive for a better world in which the sanctity of motherhood is respected everywhere on this planet. What might appear to be harsh to the adoptive mothers out there is actually a plea: stop trying to own someone else’s child and if you must fulfill your desire to be in a parenting role, be a guardian and not an adoptive mother. A guardian respects that child’s identity and true mother. Adoption, by its very nature, disrespects both the child and her natural mother by destroying the natural mother-child bond. Caring and love in a parenting role can be achieved by guardianship. Offended? I am offended that my life as the daughter of my mother who died in my infancy was not honored nor respected because of the all-almighty power of adoption.

~ ~ ~ Joan M Wheeler, BA, BSW, author of Forbidden Family: A Half Orphan’s Account of Her Adoption, Reunion and Social Activism, Trafford Publishing, Nov 2009.

PS — See this post: Happy Birthmother Day or Happy Adopter Day; and this quote from AustinHolistic : Which makes me think, if a woman wants her child, we need to provide emotional support, financial support, and psychological support for women who want their children: and this post with this quote: There is no paradox, no contradiction and certainly no upside in having been on the loosing end of the adoption exchange.

 

 

 

 

Do You “Believe” in Adoption?

That was the question put before me from the hairstylist as she cut and styled my hair yesterday.

I answered, “No, I don’t.”

She was surprised.

I told her my story, and especially highlighted about the unwarranted government sealing and falsifying of my — and all adoptees’ — birth certificates. This got her attention. She did not know this about adoption.

So, her “belief” in adoption had changed from one conversation. By telling her the facts about adoption’s dirty little secret, I influenced her perception that adoption should not be “believed”.

But what does “belief” in adoption mean?

Adoption is not a religion. There is no creed, no doctrine, no holy book. There is only individual and group thinking that adoption is a “good thing”.

What is a “good thing”? Does that mean that if one “believes” in adoption, that one believes that the adopting parents are the saviors of a poor, wretched child who will live a life of hell until she or he is saved by adoption? By believing that adoption is a good thing, what is the “thing”? The act of adopting? That’s not a thing, but an action. Why is the general perception of adoption as a “thing”, a noun, a tangible object? Is the object the adopted child?

Or is the belief in adoption seen as an act of charity? Is the act of adopting a good act? Is that why adoptees are expected to be grateful for the handout of being adopted? Did our adoptive parents actually save us from a life of hell? Is adoption as we know it a part of a religious way of life? Is this why do-gooders rush to the aid of earthquake or other disaster child-victims? Why the presumption that children are in need of rescuing? Why are the parents of children-in-need seen as unworthy to raise their own children? Why are the children seen as gifts of life to the adopting set of parents but not to the set of parents who actually gave them life?

In my correspondence with European adoptees, I see language use as different. Europeans say “wish parents” for people who wish to be adoptive parents. But would that wish to be parents change if the world would see adoption for what it really is?

My belief, my opinion, my perspective on adoption takes into account the realities before me. Before any “better life” of being the “adopted child”, the “rescued” child, and even before records are sealed and falsified, is the act of convincing parents that they cannot and should not take care of their own infants and older children. For brevity’s sake, I’m not addressing all possibilities here, but you can see the philosophy at work. For adoption to begin, a parent or two parents must be convinced that they cannot or should not raise their own child.

Once the convincing takes hold, the relinquishment papers are signed. That starts the events in motion to “free” the child from being in the legal care of one set of parents to an agency or directly to another set of parents who are then considered to be in the process of adopting. The child is not perceived by society as ever growing up.

So, the hair stylist’s question, “Do you believe in adoption?” is indicative of society’s lack of awareness of what actually happens in adoption.

After hearing how my family of birth was destroyed by adoption, the hair stylist now understands that the glorious accolades bestowed on adoption are biased. She now understands that we — society —are influenced by by what we hear, and what we hear influences our perceptions of the world around us.

How did the two of us get on the topic of adoption as I sat in the chair getting my hair cut? By conversation. The question was put to me, “What do you do for a living?”

My answer, “I’m a published author beginning to do public speaking and promoting of my book on my adoption”, prompted the question, “Do you believe in adoption?”

The moral of this story is: the more we talk about the realities of adoption, the better chances of changing public perception and beliefs. People believe that adoption is 100% good, but when adoption reformers tell of what adoption actually is, then the general public can see that adoption is not a thing, but an act. Slowly, the general public will begin to see that our (adoptees) things — our birth certificates — were unjustly taken from us and replaced by falsified birth certificates. Our families were unjustly taken from us. Belief and opinion can be swayed by what we say.

Adoption reformers: Get out there and do some more one-on-one conversations about the realities of adoption. Promote family preservation, not destruction by adoption. Promote intact identity, not destruction by falsified birth certificates causing a lifetime of identity issues for adoptees. People who want to adopt will then see that guardianship is the only option for a child who absolutely cannot be taken care of by her family of birth, if that is the case at all. Chances are, if people really try, adoption is not really needed, nor is it wanted by the family being destroyed by the belief in adoption.

~ ~ ~ Joan M Wheeler, BA, BSW, author of Forbidden Family: A Half Orphan’s Account of Her Adoption, Reunion and Social Activism, Trafford Publishing, Nov 2009.