As I shop online for last minute Christmas presents, I think about gifts adoptees would appreciate. Three gifts come to mind (and you can’t buy them on Amazon).
Original birth certificates. My home state of Illinois unsealed original birth certificates in November 2011 and that’s how it all started for me. At first I was hesitant to request the document. I was apprehensive about searching for family, concerned about what I would find. My husband, Tom, pushed me. He handed me a check for $15 to send to the Department of Public Health in Springfield.
Several weeks later, it arrived in the mail. I took some deep breaths as I tore open the envelope containing my OBC. The birth certificate was full of surprises. It shot holes in the assumptions I had about birth moms. Assumption No. 1: birth mothers are unwed teenagers. Well, it turned out my mother, Lillian, was married and 28 years old when she had me. We couldn’t believe it. We thought Lillian must have lied about being married but that was not the case. The OBC identified her by her married name and maiden name, provided her address at the time of my birth and her age and place of birth. With those precious facts, I was able to track down my birth mother’s family, with a great deal of help from Marilyn Waugh, an awesome search angel.
Without the birth certificate, I had nothing to go on. I had reached out to my cousins on my mom’s side of the family but they had no idea who my biological parents could be.
The old-fashioned laws that prevent adoptees from obtaining their original birth certificates should be thrown out the window. Several states are doing just that. This year, Oregon and Ohio were among the states that opened formerly sealed adoption records to adoptees. It’s about time! Adoptees deserve to know the truth about their origins.
DNA tests. Autosomal DNA tests, which reveal the identities of blood relatives from both the maternal and paternal sides, can be an excellent tool for adoptees searching for their families. Several smart cookies out there have used their test results to identify and locate parents and other relatives. In Laureen Pittman’s case, she found her bio father after he turned up in the relative matches provided by DNA test company 23andMe.
I have not been able to connect the dots. Though I’ve taken Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder test and a similar test offered by Ancestry, I have not been able to figure out my father’s identity. Sorting through DNA matches takes a tremendous commitment of time and patience and I haven’t put in the time.
Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder test answered a nagging question I had about my sister, Michelle. The test Michelle took confirmed beyond a doubt that we had the same mother, Lillian, but different fathers. That’s valuable information.
Unlike human beings, science doesn’t lie or forget and that’s what I love about science.
Which brings me to what could be the most important present adoptees would like to find under the Christmas tree – the truth.
Birth certificates and DNA tests are good tools but they have their limits. Adoptees also need straight answers from their families. Sadly, many of us run into obstacles when we confront relatives with questions about our original parents. I hear stories all the time about birth moms who refuse to reveal to their children the names of biological fathers. That’s selfish. Ok, so maybe mom is bitter about a failed relationship, maybe the father was a big jerk or something worse, and she doesn’t want to acknowledge the man’s existence. That’s her problem. Mothers need to put their hard feelings aside and recognize and honor their child’s need to know who fathered her.
Have I left any gifts off the list for adoptees? I’d love to hear from you. Please post your comments.