In the second Q & A feature with Lauren J Sharkey, the topic is the types of documents and information she has from her adoption. Once again, I’m really grateful to Lauren for being so open and honest with her answers.
It really brings home to me the difficult road my children have ahead of them as they learn more about their history and work out who they are and how it all fits together. Hopefully, by reading about Lauren’s and other adoptee experiences, we can be better prepared to help and support our children.
Do you have access to any documents from your adoption?
When I moved out, my mother gave me everything she had in from my adoption which, unfortunately, wasn’t a lot in terms of answering the questions I had.
What type of documents do you have? Have they helped you understand why you were adopted?
There were copies of my parents’ marriage certificate, citizenship papers, the adoption application, etc. However, when I was doing research for Inconvenient Daughter, I contacted the adoption agency my parents went through and requested all records they had pertaining to my biological parents.
The only document that gave me insight was the INITIAL SOCIAL HISTORY form which had a brief summary of who my parents were (no names), why they chose to relinquish me for adoption, and some details about their lives.
If you don’t have any documents, is that because they aren’t available or because you haven’t wanted to see them?
I have no desire to be in reunion at this time and have not made an effort to obtain more documents. However, I imagine there might be additional information through the orphanage I was placed in in Korea.
If they aren’t available, is there anything in particular which you think would help you?
I feel like I’ve come a really long way in my adoption journey. As a young adoptee, I struggled to find the vocabulary to explain what I was going through. As an adult (sort of lol), I understand how the trauma of being separated from my biological mother as an infant has informed my identity and influenced my decisions.
All the work I have done since then – finding my voice, reconciling my cultural and racial identities, exploring what it means to be adopted – has really put me on the path to healing from the trauma of infant separation. I feel as if I have closure in terms of all the things I’ll be able to know versus the things I want to know with regard to my relinquishment.
In the UK, adopters usually write a yearly update to birth family. Birth family can respond if they want to. Does that happen in the US? If it does, did your parents do updates and did you get any response? Have you read them?
This is a difficult question so I’ll start with this disclaimer: I can only speak for myself and my personal experience with regard to any and all questions about adoption. I believe every adoptee’s journey and story is unique and would never presume to speak for the entire adoptee community.
That being said, I also cannot speak for every adoption agency’s policies. There are no standard and universal practices – such as writing yearly updates – that are implemented by adoption agencies with regard to contact with the biological family, as far as I am aware. It would seem to me that any policies like this would be implemented at the discretion of the adoption agency or the adoptive parents.
In the United States, we have closed adoptions (no contact with the biological family), open adoptions (the possibility of contact with the biological family), and hybrid versions of the two. I say “the possibility of” when speaking about open adoption because “contact” is usually either at the discretion of the adoptive parents, but is also dependent on how involved the biological parents seek to be.
My adoption was a closed adoption, and to my knowledge my parents have not sent yearly updates to my biological mother.
If it doesn’t, do you think it would have helped you to understand your identity better if it had been done?
For me, my identity and the search for my identity had nothing to do with my biological parents or my adoptive parents. My identity – and the issues I had with it – was not having a support system in place to guide me through what it means to be a transracial adoptee. To mourn the loss of my birth culture while simultaneously having my American culture thrust upon me. And not fully understanding how to exist in the in-between that so many adoptees find themselves in.
Having yearly updates sent to or from my biological mother would have certainly helped answer some questions, but I have to be honest and say I think it would have done much more harm than good.
Do you have any items from your birth family or that your birth family bought for you?
I do not.
If you don’t, would you have liked something?
I would have to say no.
In your opinion, if adopters have documents and keepsakes relating to their children’s adoption and from their birth family, do you think it’s best for adoptees to have access to these from an early age as and when they’re available, or is it better for them to be looked at altogether at an older age?
Since I am not a parent in any capacity, I can’t comment on when adoptive parents should share documents or keepsakes with adoptees.
However, as an adoptee, if my parents had access to documents or keepsakes, I would have liked to receive them at whatever age I inquired about their existence. I also would have preferred to look at these documents or keepsakes alone, but have my adoptive parents be close-by and available should I have had questions or needed support.