Tag Archives: ireland

Breaking News: Thousands of Irish Hand-Wring Over Comedy. In other news: Dr. Swift Rolls in Grave

swift_satireI’ve recently seen an incredible amount of butt-hurt and faux outrage floating around on a proposed Channel 4 series, (penned by Irish comedy-writer Hugh Travers), on the Irish Famine/Genocide. The series is to be called Hungry. A good bit of this outrage was highlighted via Irish Central‘s numerous articles and posts, and as many of us know, they tend to like to stir up controversy as clickbait. The Irish Times soon followed suit, with no less a personage than Tim Pat Coogan weighing in, and now there’s a petition circulating to stop the as-yet-unwritten series, as well as planned demonstrations in Ireland.

For those not familiar with this young writer, Travers, it should be noted that an intrepid commenter on Irish Central editor’s Niall O’Dowd’s recent strongly-worded opinion piece on the proposed comedy, actually took the time and effort to comb through the Irish 1901 and 1911 census reports. He discovered that Travers’ family roots were in Mayo, and going by the length of time many of them had been rooted in that area, as well as what appears to be a long experience with poverty, there was no doubt these Travers forbears survived An Ghorta Mór themselves.

Before anyone goes off the rails, signing petitions or calling for demonstrations on a series that hasn’t even been written/aired yet, let’s ponder the notion of satire and comedy.

My first raised eyebrow concerns why a young comedy writer with roots in one of the worst affected-areas by the famine/genocide would pen a comedy concerning one of the worst events to affect the Irish people, where the British persecutors would be seen in anything but a less than favourable light. Or even tackle it in the first place, if he didn’t intend to stand well-worn tropes on their heads and create a triumph for down-trodden characters.

we_eat_babies1299170258I raise a second eyebrow at the idea of Irish people, or people of Irish descent, lacking insight regarding satire. And it should be noted that the archetypal American ‘plastic paddies’ seem to be those most egregiously offended, suprisingly — considering so many of their forebears fled An Gorta Mór rather than tough it out with the rest of our ancestors. These same plastic paddies seem to have no trouble lolling about on Paddy’s Day in cities across the US, drunkenly proclaiming their oirishness, all while wearing offensive t-shirts and sterotyping the rest of us as some sort of boorish, alcoholic louts. It is endlessly amusing that Irish people would be so offended by the idea of the famine/genocide done as comedy, considering the Irish very nearly invented satire and sarcasm (Dr. Jonathan Swift, anyone?)

Comedy series 'Father Ted'
Comedy series ‘Father Ted’

We excel as a people at turning even the darkest matter into craic, often if for nothing else but to keep our sanity. And we are not alone. There have been Jewish-penned comedies and plays satirising the grimness of the holocaust. There was the very popular Hogan’s Heroes, which sent up Nazis as fools in a big way. Likewise with All in the Family, where bigoted Archie Bunker was constantly sent up by his family and others. And for goodness sake, what about Father Ted? An Irish-bred series which took one holy sacred cow, the Catholic Church in Ireland, and sent it up magnificently.

The success of all of these models were built upon giving the persecuted the power (through the written comedic word) to one-up their persecutors, show them to be fools or otherwise turn societal horrors on their head.

merely_restingSome of you may be familiar with Irish satire website Waterford Whispers (sort of the Irish version of The Onion). Recently, they did this little send-up on an issue very near and dear to me. I wasn’t offended by it, and as many of us who were victims of State- and Church-sanctioned child trafficking will attest, we often use our own dark humour and send-up of government and religious figures. It keeps us from dissolving into madness and depression.

I don’t recall anyone staging demonstrations, creating petitions or being outraged by the Waterford Whisper piece. inigo_montoyaOr Father Ted.  So do we just randomly decide what is offensive or ‘off limits’ for satire? Or is it fair to say that it’s possible to find humour in any dark situation, or at least find it acceptable to use satire as a way to turn horrible circumstances and events on their heads as well as those who perpetrated those horrors?

Food for thought. So before you sign a petition or vow to demonstrate against something Mr. Travers hasn’t even put to paper, consider the value humour — even the darkest humour — can have in keeping us human. And besides, we’ve far more pressing and present-day issues affecting us.

The Last Piece of Dirty Carpet: Adoption in Ireland

Bessboro, Cork, 1961

The tides are finally turning…

Twenty years I’ve been at this, promoting and advocating for the rights of adopted people in and from Ireland (and in the US). We’ve talked, cajoled, written, and held countless meetings with successive governments in that period.  A small but fearless band of us connected in the early days of the Internet, spanning the Atlantic. It was the first time I’d ever spoken with people adopted in and from Ireland in my life.  We eventually began a Yahoo! group, which even today continues to receive members and posts. Some of us who had been ‘banished’ to the US, particularly in the Northeast, formed a small group (Adopted Citizens of Eire).

Solidarity for Magdalenes, 2009

The topics have certainly been well-covered, even internationally. In 1989, activist and survivor Paddy Doyle led the charge with his excellent The God Squad. In 1997, former RTÉ journalist Mike Milotte researched and published his results on the trafficking of children from Ireland to the US in his seminal Banished Babies (updated in 2012). Mary Raftery and Eoin O’Sullivan had written Suffer the Little Children on the heels of Raftery’s award-winning three-part series States of Fear on RTÉ in 1999.  Stephen Humphries produced an excellent documentary on the Magdalene Laundries, Sex in a Cold Climate, in 1997 and it eventually became the basis for Peter Mullan’s award-winning feature film The Magdalene Sisters in 2002.  BBC also released the documentary Sinners in 2002. The latest, and perhaps most widely-seen chronicle of Irish adoption, is the award-winning film Philomena. The film was inspired by Martin Sixsmith’s 2009 book,  The Lost Son of Philomena Lee. And our heroine, the real-life Philomena Lee, has been playing a blinder as one of the most eloquent, gracious and courageous spokeswomen for Irish mothers of loss. Thanks to her good work, Adoption Rights Alliance has now partnered with The Philomena Project, and it set the cogs in motion toward the most recent explosion and revelation in Tuam.

Our merry band in Ireland, the US, and the UK eventually formed AdoptionIreland: The Adopted Peoples Association of Ireland and began the first full-throttle campaign to restore the rights of adopted adults. We were bolstered by a wave of adoption activism in the US, and particularly informed by the work of Bastard Nation.  Eventually, AdoptionIreland and those of us involved in it withered from burnout. Sometimes it becomes prudent to stop banging your head against a brick wall, hide behind the sofa and take a break. But in the interim,  some of my intrepid colleagues and I, whose mothers had been in Magdalene Laundries in addition to the mother-baby homes, found the energy and impetus and decided to fight the cause of the Magdalene women. We founded Justice for Magdalenes (now JFM Research) in 2003, and began a long campaign to seek restorative justice and redress for those women. In 2008, some of our original AdoptionIreland core group were rejuvenated enough to resume battle, and Adoption Rights Alliance was formed, quietly but diligently working with a small group to foment change at the legislative level.

Philomena Lee at her son Anthony/Michael Hess’ grave, Roscrea, Tipperary, January 2014

Throughout this work and the long campaign for adoption rights, we’ve often talked about the children left behind, buried in mass graves on the properties of many of the mother-baby homes in Ireland, or at the Angel’s Plot in Glasnevin and Mt St Jerome’s, Dublin.  Shortly after Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s arrival in Dublin in 2004, appointed as ‘cleaner extraordinaire’ by Rome to deal with Ireland’s many problems of child/women abuse and rape, two of my JFM colleagues, Angela Murphy and Claire McGettrick, met with him to discuss the Magdalenes, mass graves and adoption rights issues. None of this is new.

We saw a glimmer of hope in 1999, when the Irish government finally decided to lift the lid and investigate industrial schools, residential homes, mother-baby homes, vaccine trials and Magdalene Laundries. But it was too much — too massive a horror — for them to cope with. So sadly, the mother-baby homes, those of us subjected to illegal vaccine trials, and Magdalene Laundries were left behind in that investigation. More than ten years passed before we were finally able to achieve a small measure of justice for Magdalene survivors.

Original Irish birth certificateThere is no doubt some of the reticence to peek into the dark past of Ireland’s history of adoption involves the fathers. Oh yes, those daddies. Frequently known as “Mr. Diagonal Line” for those of us with dodgy birth certificates. Some (or perhaps even many – we’ll likely never know) were men of standing: government officials, the clergy, prominent businessmen. So of course we can’t sully their “good reputations,” right? But the scab of that “old boy club” secret has finally got to come off, however painful. Ireland must finally deal with and it appears the collective will of the public demands it.

There is no doubt some of the reticence to peek into the dark past of Ireland’s history of adoption involves the fathers. Oh yes, those daddies. Frequently known as “Mr. Diagonal Line” for those of us with dodgy birth certificates. Some (or perhaps even many – we’ll likely never know) were men of standing: government officials, the clergy, prominent businessmen. So of course we can’t sully their “good reputations,” right? But the scab of that “old boy club” secret has finally got to come off, however painful. Ireland must finally deal with and it appears the collective will of the public demands it.

Obviously, dead babies lying in unmarked graves is nothing new in Ireland. Again, we’ve talked about this before, with the Magdalene cause, and certainly Toni Maguire’s (Queen’s University, Belfast) excellent work in uncovering and excavating the mass grave sites of Cillini (unbaptised babies) has been well known for some years. So what tipped it this time? Was it the horror of the phrase “septic tank” as the purported tomb for these infants just the final straw? Whatever the cause, we are grateful the world is finally seeing what we’ve known for many, many years. #800 babies is now catching fire in the way #200girls did a month ago.

Sean Ross Abbey, Tipperary, 1950’s

Here are some of the gruesome statistics we’ve collated over the years, which bolster what the world has recently learned about Tuam, Galway:

In 1943, the birth and death rates for the three Sacred Heart homes were as follows*. This year is particularly poignant, because it is also the year former Chief Medical Office for Ireland, Dr. James Deeney, undertook an investigation of the Bessboro, Cork Sacred Heart home and discovered an epidemic of staph infection among the infants, witnessing nappies filled with infected diarrhea, babies with sores and raging fevers, etc.

Sean Ross Abbey births: 146
Deaths: 45
Mortality rate: 31%

Castlepollard, Westmeath births: 77
Deaths: 6
Mortality rate: 8%

Bessborough, Cork births: 106
Deaths: 60
Mortality rate: 57%

*Initial, early research is based upon available online (Mormon-held) records, and may not include some records, quarters or is otherwise missing data. Further in-depth research is ongoing to pull all actual death certificates and available archival records. Initial inspection of some death certificates indicates marasmus (severe/acute malnutrition) was a leading cause of death among these infants.

Two years later, in 1945, the Bessborough, Cork home was shut down for a year as a result of Dr. Deeny’s investigation. and care and treatment of infants and mothers began to slightly improve. But overall, marked improvements weren’t to be seen until the arrival of Cork-born midwife, June Goulding (author of A Light in the Window) in 1950-51. It is remarkable that in 1951, only one infant and one mother perished under June’s care. The picture of neglect and ill-treatment at the hands of the religious at these institutions begins to become quite clear when juxtaposed against these statistics.

The call is to now demand the government put in place a full, independent inquiry. This means it cannot be a case of the government investigating the government (and let’s face it, they’re even more complicit now than in the case of the Magdalenes – the State has always paid capitation grants to mother-baby homes, the equivalent of an industrial wage, for each mother and child). That would be like allowing the burglar who cleaned out your house to investigate the crime. It needs to be led by a completely independent chair/body. I would suggest someone on the order of a Felice Gaer, UNCAT; or perhaps Mary Laffoy, Ireland Chief Justice who valiantly did try to have our issues covered during the 1999-2003 Child Abuse Commission Investigation; UNICEF, Amnesty – other human rights groups would also be possible choices. But absolutely not the Irish government. That will get us nothing more than a retread of the Martin McAleese-led Magdalene “independent” investigation, and his subsequent white-washed report. The UN CAT stated that was not unacceptable, and we couldn’t agree more. The memorials and stones and gardens and what have you can come later…no memorials before true justice.

taken_adoptionLet’s rip it all up. It’s long past time it be dealt with. And let’s remember that it’s not just about 800 dead babies in Tuam, Galway, or the thousands more we’ve commemorated and honour in Dublin, Roscrea, Cork and elsewhere. But it’s also about the living – some 60,000 Irish-born adults who are still considered second-class citizens by virtue of our birth, and denied access to even the most basic information about ourselves.

For more information or to join relevant Facebook groups campaigning for justice:

Adoption Rights Alliance (website)
The Philomena Project (website)
The Philomena Project (Facebook group, open to all supporters)
Banished Babies (open to all supporters, those trafficked to the US and the wider adoption community)
JFM Research (website)
Justice for Magdalenes (Facebook group, open to all supporters)

Because personal and private information is shared, some of these Facebook groups and pages are only open to only those who are adopted, mothers/fathers of loss or those who have a family connection:

Adoption Rights Alliance
Sean Ross Abbey
St. Patrick’s Guild
St. Patrick’s Navan Road
Justice for the Tuam Babies

The Magdalen Laundries: Ireland’s Shameful Past


When the 133 graves at High Park were discovered, a huge cry went up among Irish society. What would become of these sad women and their legacy? Many of the graves were unmarked. With no family to claim or name them, so many women died within the system itself, actually cared for in their last days by their own sisters in shame, but with no other family member to step forward and bury them decently. And so the good Sisters of Charity did what they could, quietly interring these 133 souls over a period spanning nearly 100 years.

As public outrage grew, a decision was made to reinter the bodies in nearby Glasnevin Cemetery. Some were identified in the process and claimed by younger generations of whatever family they had left. Slight memorials exist at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin and in St Stephen’s Green, where a simple, sad bench and plaque sit.

Society — still outraged at the sad history of these women — continued to stew over this state of affairs in the media, in books, and in plays. Recent allegations of abuse at the Goldenbridge orphanage in Dublin as well as newly-discovered archives of some 2,000 Irish children exported to the US and elsewhere had already added to the fury and questions began to fly. What kind of so-called moral, decent society could so shun and penalize its women?

Today we hear horrifying stories of ritualistic genital mutilation in some sectors of Muslim society; we hear of the thousands of Chinese infant girls left to languish and die at birth because they were not born male and exceeded the one-child-per-family rule in effect in China. We hear of Romanian orphans, illegal Brazilian adoption schemes, Chile’s horrifying baby-brokering history — each and every case a horrible example of man’s inhumanity to mankind, or in this case, womankind.

But in a relatively civilized European country? It seems unfathomable. But there it is — and the Catholic Church staunchly defending its actions, asking us to place it within the ‘context of the times.’ This is just the way it was done back then and besides, it was society who judged and sentenced these women, not the church, they say.

Well, there are two vital flaws in their theories:

If we accept their ‘place it in the context of the times’ excuse, then what next? Do we excuse Nazi genocide of Jewish and other people because it was ‘just the way things were done then’? Do we next excuse the Inquisition by placing it in a ‘time context’ as well?

And as for placing the blame on society — it is and was well-known that Irish society has been Church-driven since at least the 6th century AD, when Ireland’s native Brehon law was completely eradicated and replaced with Roman/Canon law. Interestingly, under ancient Brehon law, if a man impregnated a woman he was not bound to by marriage, regardless of her societal station, mental status, etc., he was required to care for her and the resulting child. The child was then accorded the same rights and privileges of inheritance and ascendancy as a child born inside the bonds of marriage.

How far Ireland has come. While it has always been and is still a highly matriarchal society, Ireland’s laws and social mores have for hundreds of years been not only Church-driven, but male-dominated. If the Church says birth outside marriage is wrong, then society would simply march in step and agree, not the other way ’round. Which throws a fly in the ointment of Mother Church’s other infamous excuse.

And what of the men who impregnated women in this modern Ireland? I have been asked so often what role Irish birthfathers play. The answer: none. These randy old goats simply went their merry way, or if they wanted to be involved, were forbidden by church and family. Many went on as if nothing had ever happened, still holding their head high, with no recriminations on the part of church or society. Perhaps a muffled, “Best be careful Paddy, boyo, next time.” on the part of a slyly winking father, would have been the only admonition. More likely, the lad’s evidence of virility would have been celebrated over a pint in the nearest pub, amid much laughter and derision over the poor girl’s plight.

The last wave of this legacy, women like my birthmother who bore the final vestiges of Catholic guilt and shame by bearing children out of wedlock, still hide shamefully in the shadows. Much like many of us sitting here today, they silently bore their stigma, doing as they were told to get on with their lives, forget the past, marry and never tell a soul your dreadful secret. Until the mid-1970’s, the birthmothers, the ‘penitents’, the Magdalens of Ireland, bore an unimaginable cross of ill-treatment, ritualistic abuse and, most cruelly — were often required to stay with their children until the time came for them to be adopted into new homes: some in Ireland, many far away in America. My birthmother and many of the women who entered homes like the Sacred Heart Convent in Cork, Castlepollard in Westmeath, St. Patrick’s in Dublin, and Sean Ross Abbey in Tipperary, even breastfed us and cared for us — often up till age two or older. They were then cruelly parted from us, often under questionable circumstances. Many were told the relinquishment was a fostering arrangement, that they could reclaim their child if they proved themselves ‘decent’ women and came back with marriage certificates in hand. I know of one woman who did just that, only to learn her daughter had already gone to America. She was given a photo of her daughter’s first Christmas with her new American family. I cannot even begin to fathom that sort of heartbreak, even having relinquished my own daughter through the Catholic Church in Philadelphia in 1978.

Even today, the Irish birthmothers I have come into contact with are extremely skittish, scared, and unwilling or unable to come forward with their secret. It’s as if some invisible sword of Damascus hangs over their heads, ready at any moment to strike them the minute they publicly acknowledge their relinquished children. I have shared the success empowerment has brought to many of us here in the US with these women. Successes like the march on Washington, DC, the full-page ad we sponsored in the Oregonian prior to Measure 58’s passing. Still, the stigma hangs so heavy, they have only taken feeble, tentative steps towards making their voices heard to the Irish government and the Catholic church.

Much remains to be done. And for my part, I have made it my goal to continue educating people on the story of the Magdalens. Their voices have been silenced; mine has not. I will continue to speak out so that these women will be remembered.

The Little NGO That Could


I just could not be more proud of the little NGO, Justice for Magdalenes, I co-founded back in 2003 with two other colleagues, no funding (a €26 account balance as we speak) and with less than a David-sized slingshot against a Goliath made of the Irish State and the Catholic Church. But on Sunday, June 5, the United Nations made that slingshot and ammunition bigger. Tons of international press followed. A tepid statement of “cooperation” was released by CORI (the Conference of Religious in Ireland, representing the four religious orders who operated Magdalene Laundries)…holy rhetoric, Batman! But’s it a start. And it proves justice is possible for the most marginalised of Irish society. The press release we issued June 6 says it all:
The UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) issued its “Concluding Observations” following the first examination of the Irish State under the UN Convention Against Torture. The Committee reiterated its calls for an independent investigation into the Magdalene Laundries abuse and redress for the women who suffered.

It also recommended that the State “prosecute and punish the perpetrators with penalties commensurate with the gravity of the offences committed.” Justice for Magdalenes (JFM), the survivor advocacy group, is now calling on the Irish State to act immediately on foot of UNCAT’s recommendations and issue a formal apology to all survivors of the Magdalene Laundries and immediately establish a statutory inquiry into these abuses.

JFM’s submission to UNCAT, written by Maeve O’Rourke (Harvard Law School 2010 Global Human Rights Fellow), and which includes testimonies from four women who spent time in the Laundries, highlights the continuing degrading treatment that survivors are suffering today because of the government’s ongoing failure to apologise, investigate and compensate for the abuse. At the examination in Geneva on 24th May 2011, acting UNCAT Chairperson Felice Gaer, questioned the government’s statement that “the vast majority of women who went to these institutions went there voluntarily, or if they were minors, with the consent of their parents or guardians”.

She said, “We had testimony about locked doors and people being captured by the police and returned to the institutions – so there’s State involvement as well.” She added, “There were physical barriers and there seems to have been an intent to confine people” and she stated “I think ‘voluntary’ means that one makes a choice; I think that ‘voluntary’ means that one is informed; I think that ‘voluntary’ means that one is then free to leave. I think it means that there is nothing coercive in this context.” She asked, “Can you identify any examples of efforts by State authorities to inspect or regulate these facilities? Were they exempt from standards? And can you tell us what means were taken to ensure that there were no acts or omissions that amount to torture”?

James Smith, Associate Professor at Boston College and a member of JFM’s Advisory Committee, said, “Today’s UN recommendation undermines the government’s argument that this abuse happened ‘a considerable time ago in private institutions’. It rebuts the State’s assertion that the ‘vast majority’ of women entered the Laundries ‘voluntarily’. And, it underscores that the State’s own definition of torture includes the crime of omission with respect to ensuring due diligence to prevent torture. The State failed the women and young girls in the Laundries, and now the UN is saying not only that Ireland can, but that it must, make right its own history in this regard.”

Maeve O’Rourke, who presented JFM’s submission to the Committee, said: ”The UN torture committee has added its voice to the Irish Human Rights Commission’s to remind the Irish government that the women who spent time in Magdalene Laundries have human rights which demand respect today. Having suffered torture or ill-treatment, in which the state directly participated and which it knowingly failed to prevent, the women have the ongoing right to an investigation, an apology, redress and treatment with dignity. I am hopeful that, before it is too late, the government will honour its obligations to these women who suffered such injustice in the past.”

JFM Co-ordinating Committee Director Mari Steed said “Magdalene laundry survivors currently receive no pension reflecting the years they worked for no wages. Many of the women suffer long term physical effects from years of hard labour in the Laundries. All of the women speak of the psychological trauma of their experiences in the Laundries, in many cases the trauma of arriving in a laundry as young girls has stayed with them throughout their lives. We call on the Minister for Justice to implement a scheme in line with the ‘Restorative Justice and Reparations Scheme’ submitted to Mr. Shatter in March by JFM. UNCAT committee member Nora Sveaass commended JFM for this scheme, saying that the State should look at it more closely.”

A Modest Proposal


TO: The Adoption Authority of Ireland
Shelbourne House, Shelbourne Road
Dublin 4
Republic of Ireland

RE: A Modest Proposal

Dear Chairman Shannon and Board Members,

It has come to my attention that the Adoption Authority of Ireland recently met with the U.S. Department of State with a view toward establishing a bilateral adoption agreement that would allow for the export of available U.S. citizens to Ireland for purposes of adoption, particularly from Florida. I understand this is in response to continued insatiable demand by prospective adopting couples in Ireland, who have been thwarted by now closed-off avenues such as Vietnam, Russia and other ‘sending’ countries.

I am aware that these avenues were cut off because of mounting cases of fraud, illegal and gray-market practice and inability to comply with the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. And that’s as it should be. I am pleased that the Authority took such action to insure that adoption practice is always carried out for the right reasons and in the best interests of the child involved. Adoption should always be about finding homes for children who desperately need them; not about finding children for homes that desperately want them.

But now Ireland turns to the U.S. as a sending source. And while on the surface, one would imagine this to be an idyllic situation – after all, America is a developed nation, one of the ‘greatest’ in the world – unfortunately, as an adopted adult living in the U.S., I sadly know it is far from idyllic. Many U.S. states continue to abrogate the rights of adopted adults. Original birth certificates in all but six U.S. states remain retroactively sealed. And of those six states with some measure of openness, only three offer complete, unfettered access to the original birth certificate (Kansas, Alaska and Oregon). Moreover, adoption agencies in many U.S. states continue to violate the Hague, dealing in gray-market placements, coerced relinquishment practice, infant stealing and trafficking, and shoddy post-adoption services.

In looking to Florida as a potential sending ‘source’, one cannot find a more abhorrent situation. As a ‘border’ (water) state, Florida is a gateway to thousands of illegals entering the U.S., largely from Latin America. And a good part of that illegal flow is equally illegally trafficked children, often outright stolen from parents with little resources or understanding, from countries like Haiti, Guatemala, Brazil, Chile and elsewhere. Florida also has an abysmal placement record even among its own citizens and many agencies operating out of the state continue to use practices such as falsifying birth certificate, allow private, ‘sub rosa’ unregulated adoptions (c.f. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman), improper vetting of prospective parents (resulting in poor placements which often leave children at risk for abuse and neglect) and, of course, sealing the original birth certificates of adopted adults in the state.

It is ironic, too, that Ireland would look to the U.S. as a sending source now, considering it has hardly dealt with the aftermath of its own export of children to the U.S. from the 1940s through the 1960s. The Adoption Authority recently reaccredited St. Patrick’s Guild, an agency notoriously involved in the past child export scheme and still currently involved in investigations concerning fraud (c.f. Tressa Reeves and other pending cases). St. Patrick’s, along with the Sacred Heart Adoption Society, St. Patrick’s Home (Navan Road) and others, sent thousands of Irish children to the U.S., often illegally (particularly those sent prior to the 1952 Adoption Act). Informed consent and signed relinquishments were given little thought in that time, and mothers were often cruelly unaware of where their children were being sent, or that they were giving permanent relinquishment. Concrete evidence exists that many of those children were used in unethical vaccine trials conducted by Burroughs Wellcome (now GlaxoSmithKline); this investigation is still ongoing, despite recent attempts by the Oireachtas Health Committee to once again sweep it under the carpet.

I was one of Ireland’s original ‘Banished Babies.’ And I have a modest proposal for the Irish Adoption Authority. Rather than risk the potential for fraud, corruption and violations of the Hague Convention and take a chance on ‘unknown’ U.S. children, why not choose a ‘known quantity’?

I would like to offer myself for placement with any Irish parents seeking to adopt from the U.S.

I already possess Irish citizenship rights; am toilet-trained and easily adaptable; speak English well (albeit with an American accent); I get along well with others; and most importantly, I come unfettered as my mother long ago gave up rights to me, is more than likely dead, and even if still alive, because of the shabby, post-adoption trace assistance offered me by my original placing agency in Ireland, I am unlikely to ever find members of my family of origin. I could even pay my own way over. I can cook and clean, drive my new family around and be quite useful.

I promise not to be ‘ungrateful,’ whinge over my circumstances or create a nuisance for my new family. I’ve already been broken of those ‘bad habits’ by my former adoptive family, agencies and the general public. All I seek is repatriation to the land of my birth and I can be whatever my new family wants me to be. I understand that being at least 50 years of age, I may be a bit ‘older’ than what my new family expects. But I am truly in need of a good home – a home in the land where I was born, before being cruelly ripped away from my first mother and shipped more than 3,000 miles away to a strange, new country at an age where I was already walking, talking and had a close, prolonged bonding experience with my first mother for nearly two years. But don’t worry – I’m over all that now, which is one of the benefits of advanced age. In another few years, I likely won’t remember it all. And the good news is, my new family won’t have to deal with me for long, or at least no more than 30-40 years, which is far less than what they’d have to contend with in procuring a newborn.

Most importantly, this proposal is quite a ‘green’ option: recycling citizens (particularly trained, working, tax-paying ones), rather than bringing in new ones to add to the already overburdened Irish economy just makes sense.

I do hope you’ll consider my proposal with all due seriousness. And if not, at least consider cleaning up the mess left by Ireland’s previous ‘export’ business before repeating history, only in reverse.

Sincerely yours,

Mari Steed
nee Mary Therese Fitzpatrick
or whatever new name you’d like to assign me…hell, I’m easy.

Adopted ‘Children’ and Parents: at age 50?

I recently read a letter to the editor of the Irish Times by a Mark Kearney of Trinity College.  I really must reassess my whole conception of Trinity as a seat of higher learning.

I couldn’t resist a rebuttal, although apparently the Times could — they didn’t publish it.  So I’ll post it here instead:

Mr Kearney’s letter rather poignantly cuts to the crux of the matter with regard to the rights of adopted people.  Interestingly, in both the title of his missive and thrice in its contents he refers to himself/other adopted people as ‘the child’ or ‘adopted children.’  As someone with children and grandchildren, who votes, pays taxes and earned the right to drink and serve in the military more donkey’s years ago than I care to count, I consider myself an adopted adult or adopted person, not a child.  Moreover, I am an adult whose rights have been abrogated not only by the Irish State, but by the U.S. as well (specifically the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania) as I was chosen for exportation in the early 1960s.  And this abrogation is what continues to keep me a ‘child’ in the eyes of those governments.  In fact, in Pennsylvania, if one chooses to petition the courts to have their adoption file unsealed, the case is heard in the Juvenile Courts, even if the petitioner is 55.  Child indeed, sir.  How demeaning.

What Mr Kearney doesn’t seem to understand is that the fight isn’t about just the ridiculous wait times through agencies, the sometimes inept handling of our cases, or even the ingratiating and infantalising way we’re generally treated by agencies, often the media and general public, our parents or other family members, and perhaps most painfully by one of ‘our own’ like Mr Kearney.  Those are small injustices that pale in comparison to the true issue at hand: the fact that adults are still denied unfettered access to the documents of their birth in 2010.

Trace, contact and reunion are wholly separate issues and yes, understandably not everyone desires to know their heritage, medical history or who they resemble.  But the right to have one’s original birth certificate (a right enjoyed even by felons) should be every citizen’s right.  What they decide to do with that document is their own business.  Perhaps they’d like to just frame it and hang it on the wall.  I, too, had a very satisfactory adoptive experience and it was with the support, love and assistance of my adoptive family that I was able to trace my natural mother as well as the daughter I relinquished to adoption in the US.  Both contacts were welcomed, positive and have brought me a sense of self and healing.  I realise I was lucky in those results and that it isn’t always that way.  But I also prepared myself for the worst and knew what I could expect.  All of this was accomplished on my own and with the help of friends — the agency I first sought assistance from was not only incompetent, but unethical in many regards (c.f. vaccine trials at Bessboro’ circa 1960-61).

As they say, it’s foolish to mix apples and oranges and the right of access to one’s birth certificate should not be confused with trace and reunion.  They are not mutually inclusive.  But those, like me, who have the desire to know more about who they are and where they came from, should be treated with dignity and respect, and not as some ungrateful, whingeing ‘child’ riddled with insecurities and self-esteem issues.

Using terminology like ‘adopted children’ smacks of the concept that adoption begins and ends with the receipt of a ‘warm bundle of joy,’ when in fact it’s a lifelong process.  Perhaps Mr Kearney could benefit from the words of the Rev. Keith C. Griffith, MBE: “Adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful.”

Ireland’s ‘first wave of intercountry adoptions’?

Irish Minister for Health and Children Barry Andrews’ official statements on Wednesday, 3 March (at the Committee debate on a pending adoption bill) leave me with my jaw gaping and wondering if this man is fit for office. He said, “The first wave of inter-country adoptions occurred in the early 1990s. Some of those individuals are now coming of age and beginning to take an interest in tracing. Therefore, it would be more appropriate to wait until we have a little bit more knowledge and experience of this area. There is a perfectly good system for tracing in this country. It has worked well. “

This is an absolute insult to the more than 2,000 of us who were involuntarily sent from Ireland for adoption between the 1940’s and 1970’s, largely to the U.S. We represent that ‘first wave’ and are now well into adulthood (some of us even have grandchildren…imagine that). We are tax-paying, voting, middle-aged adults who, by the way, hold dual citizenship. We, along with our in-country adopted Irish brethren, have also been vocal in adoption reform for the last twenty years. It is truly unfortunate that the government largely chose to ignore us, despite our best efforts to produce sane legislation and truly efficient post-adoption services. It is clear Minister Andrews himself has either chosen to ignore us or would like to conveniently forget this dark chapter of baby-brokering in Ireland’s own history. Time and again, we have offered sound proposed legislation, including the restoration of unfettered access to the original documents of our birth – a right enjoyed by every other citizen save adopted people.

The last sentence of his statement above also absolutely beggars belief and I happen to know firsthand that it is largely untrue.

Having availed of the ‘perfectly good’ post-adoption services offered by the Sacred Heart Adoption Society in Bessboro’ as early as 1997, I can attest to the absolute ineffectiveness of the current system. In fact, the handling of my own particular case was so disastrously mismanaged by this agency that in 2003, I was forced to file a complaint with Mr. John Collins of the Irish Adoption Authority. Among the agency’s many egregious mistakes were the following:

Their trace coordinator was following several incorrect birth certificates for my natural mother, despite the fact their own records noted her correct date of birth on admittance forms (which I was given a copy of, in violation of the agency’s own ‘non-identifying information only’ policy). I was told my mother was an “orphan,” that her parents had been killed; she was actually, like me, born out of wedlock. The same trace coordinator would have contacted some poor woman in Limerick of no relation to me, except that I had grown so weary of their inefficiency that I managed to trace my mother on my own. It took me one e-mail to a heritage researcher based in Dublin, and an hour later I was looking at a faxed copy of my mother’s and my own birth certificates. Over the next few years, I established welcomed, careful contact with my mother (we enjoy an ongoing close relationship).

For my mother’s part, she too tried at various times over the years to contact this agency. Initially, she was told I had been sent to California, when in fact I was raised in Philadelphia. Shortly after I arrived in the U.S., my adoptive parents sent a letter to her, along with photos of me at my first Christmas with my new family. They wanted to assure her that I was happy and healthy and assimilating to my new life. She only got one photo; the others and the letter were withheld from her.

After informing them of the success of my self-trace, I received a nasty letter from the aforementioned trace coordinator, including a copy of private and confidential correspondence between this coordinator and my adoptive mother (still living). I did not solicit this letter and it was unnecessary. When I informed my adoptive mother of this breach of her own confidentiality, she was absolutely horrified.

This same coordinator was captured on videotape showing a visitor from the U.S. the records room at Bessboro’ and announcing that only she and one other person had access to this room – a professional publicist who they were “hiring to write a book to refute that [June, author of ‘The Light in the Window‘] Goulding woman’s lies.” So I’m given to understand that some publicist off the street can have free access to my and my adoptive parents’ private information, but I myself can’t? And this is effective post-adoption service?

My experience is completely typical of that currently experienced by many thousands of adopted adults in and from Ireland. For me and others who were part of the wave of children sent to the United States, it is further compounded by distance, costs and either lack of information or disinformation. Let’s try listening to the elder voices of those who have experienced inter-country adoption – we don’t have to wait for the “1990s” crop to come of age. And here’s a news flash, Minister Andrews: many of those voices came from your own backyard.

I am furious.

I am furious.  Absolutely furious.  Over a week ago, the Justice for Magdalenes organization issued a press release to all of the major newspapers and media in Ireland as well as to all members and parties of government (full press release is shown below).  We challenged the compartmentalised, two-tiered response by the Irish state towards institutional abuse that results in survivors of Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries, many of them children at the time, once again being ignored under the 2002 Redress Act.

Specifically we asked that the Minister for Children investigate the plight of children (which we now have mounting evidence that some were as young as 11 years old) who were placed directly into Magdalene Laundries.  Their applications to the Residential Redress Board are routinely rejected because “the Applicant had not established that she was resident in an institution covered by the Act or any Order made thereunder.”

Not one media outlet or newspaper or government official responded or publicised the press release.  Not one.

For fourteen years, since the inception of the original Magdalene Memorial Committee (which morphed into Justice for Magdalenes in the late 1990’s), we have fought a Sisyphean battle to seek justice for the survivors of the Magdalene Laundries.  Yet it would appear the media (and perhaps the public) are more interested in viewing again and again the ‘exoticness’ of survivor trauma – the gut-wrenching stories of misery these women were subjected to, often far worse than prisons.  How much more does the public need to see or hear before they take action?

We challenge Irish society to stop clamouring for the tragic stories, watching and reading as if bystanders at a car wreck scene, and stand up for the abrogated rights of these women.  Take action and write your local TD.  Tell them you support the cause of justice for Magdalene survivors – a decent pension for the unpaid labour they performed, a public apology from all the religious orders responsible for their incarceration, an investigation of the illegally unreported deaths at High Park Convent and the equally illegally exhumed bodies moved from those grounds, and acknowledgement that the fabled land of ‘saints and scholars’ was complicit in not ‘cherishing children’ equally and treating women as something less than human.


Press Release:  29 July, 2009 

Justice for Magdalenes committee calls on Government to provide redress for Magdalene survivors

Justice for Magdalenes welcomes the publication of the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, 2009: Implementation Plan, and we look forward to witnessing the immediate implementation of the ninety-nine measures outlined therein.

However, we challenge the compartmentalised, two-tiered response by the Irish state towards institutional abuse that results in survivors of Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries, many of them children at the time, once again being ignored.

Specifically we ask that the Minister for Children investigate the plight of children (which we now have mounting evidence that some were as young as 11 years old) who were placed directly into Magdalene Laundries.  Their applications to the “Residential Redress Board” are routinely rejected because “the Applicant had not established that she was resident in an institution covered by the Act or any Order made thereunder.”

“The fact that these children were never committed to a residential institution (e.g., an industrial or reformatory school) is immaterial,” said Justice for Magdalenes spokesperson Mari Steed, whose mother was a Magdalene.  “The fact that a family member signed these children into the ‘care’ of the nuns does not obviate the state’s responsibility for their welfare. These children were and are citizens of the state and they deserved to be cherished.  Yet increasingly we’re discovering they were all but ‘invisibly’ moved between residential institutions and Magdalene Laundries, with little or no record maintained by the religious orders or Departments of Health, Education, Children or Justice,” she added.

Children’s Minister Barry Andrews in his remarks insisted that Irish people no longer show deference towards the Catholic Church. But the government maintains precisely the same deferent attitude towards the religious congregations that operated the nation’s Magdalene Laundries, i.e., the Good Shepherd Sisters, Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge, and Mercy Sisters. No one has apologised.  No one held accountable. And the core issue is still liability and the State’s evasion of all financial responsibility for institutions they continue to view as “private” and “voluntary.”  This deference is also clear in the government’s dismissal of claims submitted by non-Catholic survivors of such institutions as the Bethany Home.  JFM demands that the Minister for Children introduce amending legislation whereby survivors of Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries, regardless of how they entered such institutions, are provided with redress and reparation for their abusive childhoods, the unpaid labour they performed and the abrogation of their civil and human rights.

Furthermore, JFM demands that the Minister for Justice introduce legislation for a distinct redress scheme for survivors of Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries as outlined by JFM and submitted to all politicians in Dáil Éireann on July 3 (copy attached).


Justice for Magdalenes seeks to promote and represent the interests of the Magdalene Women, to respectfully promote equality and seek justice for the women formerly incarcerated in Magdalene Laundries and to seek the establishment / improvements of support/advisory/re-integration services provided for survivors.

Bastardy, History, Sealed Records and Activism

yelseal2I just wanted to take a few minutes of your time to discuss what may be, for some, an uncomfortable topic — perhaps several uncomfortable topics. So before you read any further, allow me to warn you that the following will likely contain multiple uses of the word “bastard” I am well aware that there are many adopted people who feel uncomfortable with the term “bastard”, and perhaps justifiably so, given the media’s (and in general, society’s) misuse of the term. By dictionary definition, a bastard is any child born outside the bonds of matrimony. The origin of the word and its use in ancient times bear not even a fleeting resemblance to the current negative connotation of the term. In ancient Ireland, under Brehon law, bastard children were accorded the same legal status, right of inheritance and eligibility for clan leadership as any child born inside marriage. It was not until Roman Canon law and Napoleonic law supplanted Ireland’s highly-developed and extremely progressive legal system that we began our slide toward “second-class citizenship.” Food for thought.

During the Middle Ages, heraldic symbolism included the “bar sinister”, adiagonal black stripe accorded to the coat of arms of an individual born outside marital bonds. Legend has it enemies would flee upon sight of a warrior carrying the bar sinister on their shield: “bastards” were known to be fierce and inexhaustible fighters and much feared. [Note: thanks to Tom of Know My Own for his research on the ‘bar sinister’]

In the US prior to the 1920’s, the original birth certificate of an adopted child was filed publicly; however, generally those certificates were stamped or noted as “illegitimate”. Post-1920’s, popular psychology held that all children should be reared under the “clean slate” theory. Moreover, there was a concerted effort by adoptive parents (particularly those with celebrity status) to eradicate this original birth certificate from public view and remove the “illegitimate” terminology. Sound reasoning — but unfortunately, state lawmakers chose to interpret this as not only removing the Birth Certificate from public view, but also from the parties privy to it: adoptive parents, adopted child and natural parents. That, in a nutshell, pretty much sums up the history of sealed records in the US.

In 1995, a group of dedicated US adoption activists were posting away on the alt.adoption newsgroup. One visionary half-jokingly signed a post with her name, followed by “Bastard Nation.” And with a phrase borrowed from the canon of Queer Nation, the gay rights organisation, a movement was born. The surest way to disarm or deflect negative wording is to take ownership of it. If you educate the unwashed masses on what a bastard really is, you diffuse the terminology and take away its sting.

Over the years, we’ve kept track of media use of the term and in one year alone, noted over 100 uses of the word “bastard” on the ‘Drew Carey’ show. ABC, prime time. And all of them negative uses: “You BASTARD!”, “I can’t stand that bastard…”, etc. That’s just one network, one show. And ironically, about a year later, I was submitting feedback on an ABC news show with an adoption theme and signed my post with my Bastard Nation State Director title. It was promptly auto-rejected by ABC’s website for ‘use of offensive language.’ So apparently it’s OK with ABC to air the word every night on the ‘Drew Carey’ show, with its negative connotation, but I cannot submit the name of a legitimate, not-for-profit org using the word!

Now on to a topic I’ve harped on before: activism.

Every individual on AdoptionIreland’s Mailing List has benefited at some point from the search, help, advice or legwork of some tireless volunteer (and I stress the word ‘volunteer’ — NO ONE here gets paid to do what we do). In my many years working in adoption reform, I’ve seen countless individuals join lists, seek help, get help, reunite, etc., then disappear. It becomes rather disheartening to see this behavior over and over again when I know that the help these folks have been given comes on the back of the hard work and sweat of activists who fight daily to keep public records accessible to all of you, whether in Ireland, the US or elsewhere. Our diligent angels here would not be able to cross-reference the Adopted Children’s Register, or pull a cert at Joyce House, if not for the concerted efforts of a dedicated few to ensure that the GRO keeps those files open to you.

I’m not asking everyone to become politically charged, or even an active activist, by any stretch! I know we all have lives, children, partners and what not to keep us busy 24/7. But what does it cost to type up a simple email or letter, throw a stamp on it and send it to your local legislator? There are at least nine US states and two provinces in Canada, plus the UK, with records-related legislation (good and bad) pending. Ireland’s own Adoption Bill is currently under revision and there’s plenty more room for your voices to be heard. Find out if one of those states or provinces may affect YOU at www.bastards.org/alert/ and find out what you can do locally. Take five minutes and submit an online postcard to renounce the treatment of women in Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries (one could be YOUR mother/sister/aunt/granny) at our online Postcard Campaign or comb through this website to get the latest news on where we may need your help. Please don’t just complete your search and then go away. We need your help to make sure that the next person who traces has access to the same information you did (or more).

Apathy is our worst enemy. Don’t let the media and the public continue to misuse the word ‘bastard’; don’t let lawmakers take away your dignity and relegate you to second-class citizenship. And the next time you hear someone use the term ‘bastard’ negatively, look ’em straight in the eye and say, “I was born that way…what’s your excuse?”

The Immigrant’s Song

immigrationThe conversation began in my adoptive mother’s kitchen on a sunny Sunday over a photo taken that previous Christmas. She was unhappy with the photo and when my mother is unhappy with something, she has the tendency to speak out. Normally, that would be more than fine with your humble narrator, who seeks truth and openness in all things. But her version of “speaking out” is more the type of commentary that leaves people startled and uncomfortable, scratching their heads and saying things like, “Did she really just say that?”

On this sunny May day, she was unhappy because she felt that I and my two teenaged children had not “dressed up” sufficiently for Christmas. My daughter and I were wearing, what we felt, were perfectly acceptable holiday-ish red sweaters and my son was wearing a dark green, long-sleeved polo. Casual maybe, but certainly not sloppy.

Now before we go further, you must understand that I am a Catholic in Recovery. I have long since discarded any belief, confidence or relationship I ever had in the Roman Catholic Church. My children have never been baptised, a fact that drives my mother to the brink of despair. However, I have exposed my children to all manner of religious beliefs and doctrines over the years — Judaism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Wicca, non-denominational faiths, bible study groups, and general Christian youth groups. And I strongly believe that children should not have a spiritual belief system forced upon them. The spiritual path one follows should be a conscious, rational, adult choice.

And my adoptive mother knows all this. We’ve been down this road many times, painful and bumpy as it may be. So the fact that we were not well-dressed by her standards to commemorate a holiday in a Christian tradition that she knows we no longer accept or celebrate just makes her nuts, even beyond the fashion aspect of it all.

What followed her initial comment of displeasure at our appearance in this photo startled even me. She said, “You look like immigrants.” Now, in fairness I concede that Jessica was wearing a red bandana to hold her hair back, but that’s a common enough teen fashion. But more to the point, I am an immigrant.

So I can understand and own her statement well enough. In fact, I answered with, “Well, I am an immigrant.”

She sputtered and stammered for a few seconds and then shot back a statement that left me speechless for at least a minute: “Oh, but you’re not really an immigrant…not really. That’s not what I meant.”

So what the hell did she mean?

Let’s look at this statement from a psychological perspective and take it as an opportunity to learn a little bit about the effects of intercountry adoption 50-plus years gone. With intercountry adoption so much in the spotlight these days, there’s a chorus of voices I’m not hearing. These are the voices of adults who have lived through the experience of being separated from their mothers, their homeland and their identity and shipped thousands of miles away to be adopted by largely white, mid- to upper-middle-class families who cannot biologically have children of their own.

We have heard the angry voices of parents who, for the most part, adopted for the right reasons and with the right intentions, and did so legally and ethically. They are angry with those of us trying to expose the slimy, ugly stuff under the rock that often occurs in intercountry adoption. These well-meaning people somehow believe we are tarring them with the same slimy brush, which is certainly not the case. The individuals calling and writing letters to newspapers and so on are not the targets of our concern. We are concerned about those you will never hear who are certainly not going to expose themselves as callous monsters that sought to buy a child at any price from equally callous monsters who took advantage of a lucrative supply and demand in children. Or callous monsters that went through the process of obtaining a child, only to discover that said child didn’t quite meet their expectations, and like a dress that didn’t fit, they send the poor child back.

All of this furor currently saturating the media revolves around the practises in place today and largely affects the welfare of small, or at least young, children. Yet no one seems to be clamoring for the advice or wisdom of adoption professionals who can speak from long experience with the phenomena of foreign adoption, or more importantly, for the wisdom of now-adults who have actually lived it.

And yes Virginia, they are adults now. Thousands of European WWII “orphans”, US and Canadian “orphan train” victims, UK migrants, Korean, Vietnamese, Cambodian adopted people now vote, pay taxes, drive cars, raise children (and grandchildren) of their own. And they can now answer, with courage and conviction, the question of what it means to be a foreign, transracial or transcultural adopted person.

I am one of those adults. I am an immigrant. I am an adopted person. I was born in Ireland in 1960 and sent to the US for adoption in 1961, along with more than 2,000 other children, as part of a Church-led scheme that spanned the 1940′s-1960′s.

I believe many adoptive parents, in order to cement their new family, try to erase the fact that their child arrived from some other country and that adoption itself somehow magically erases the child’s foreign status, just as it legally erases the child’s identity and the “taint” of bastardy. And I believe my mother’s comment and thesis follows this — in her mind, I’m “not really an immigrant” because I was adopted and assimilated into her family and her culture.

What a dangerous delusion to harbor. We know so much more today about infant and young child psychology, and know how much even newborns absorb of their surroundings and their mothers (however briefly they may have been with them). To believe that a baby or small child can be stuffed onto a plane and flown thousands of miles from everything and everyone he has ever known, and not be in some way traumatised by this event, is beyond reason.

The popular belief is that all children being placed for adoption, domestically or internationally, are orphaned, neglected or mistreated by uncaring or incapable natural families. That is simply often not the case. Mounting evidence now tells us that children have been outright stolen or kidnapped from their parents, removed from parents who simply lacked financial resources or state support, or taken from frightened, coerced women who faced societal or religious shame for bearing a child out of wedlock. I was the product of that last category in a repressed, cold, religiously-strangled Ireland. These are not reasons to sunder a child’s bond with his natural family or to destroy his identity and heritage.

Adoption should always be about finding homes for children who truly need them, not finding children for homes that lack them. An adoption placement should only be sought when there are no other means of support within the child’s own natural family, and that includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, or other in-family placement. Adoption is still such a permanent, closed, secretive practise, one that erases the child’s original identity as well as generally hides/seals all “trails” to his natural family. It therefore makes sense that alternatives like legal guardianship or financial sponsorship be sought — that is, if the couple who claim they want to make a difference in a child’s life mean what they say. And this is supposed to be about the rights and welfare of the child, right?

The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption clearly defines those rights, as well as the strict guidelines, fees and general practise surrounding foreign adoption. Yet many countries have still not ratified this treaty. And many of these non-signatories to Hague are countries from which we continue to accept children for adoption.

On the positive side, the lesson many of us have learned as the product of intercountry adoption is how to become resilient, high achieving, compassionate and adaptable adults. And we are slowly starting to become a vocal and effective force in shaping best practice and policy. But on the negative side, the level of trust, comfort and sense of self we develop is hugely impacted by our trauma and loss. No one ever told our adoptive parents to expect these issues, or what to do with a child once they’re past the basic human needs of food, shelter, changing and so forth. And there are still many who won’t listen to us for fear of hearing the not-so-pretty truth.

I am an immigrant. I am the daughter of another woman. I do have a past, a history — an identity that existed before I arrived in a New York airport in 1961.  And no re-write of that history will make it go away.