Jennifer Lauck in The Huffington Post

My publisher, Seal Press, posted a link to an article by Jennifer Lauck on The Huffington Post: Abducted Versus Adopted: For 1.5 Million of U.S. Adoptees, What’s the Difference? Lauck is the bestselling author of Blackbird, a memoir of a childhood that includes the early deaths of her adoptive parents and the upcoming Found: A Memoir, about her search for and relationship with her birth mother. Lauck writes:

Carlina White said she always had a sense she did not belong to the family that raised her. The twenty-three-year-old woman had been abducted in 1987 from a Harlem Hospital when she was nineteen-days-old. White was then raised by her abductor, Ann Pettway. Pettway is now in custody for kidnapping.

What White expresses about her sense of belonging is what I have felt for all the years of my own life — only I am called adopted versus abducted.

I have to wonder, what is the difference in these terms, especially when I consider the circumstances of my own birth and subsequent relinquishment.

Lauck goes on to tell how her 17-year-old unmarried birth mother was forced to relinquish Lauck as a baby, without ever holding the baby in her arms.

In my own case, the Catholic agency placed me in the home of a terminally ill woman. My adoptive mother died when I was seven. My adoptive father died when I was nine. I was homeless and wandering the streets of L.A. by ten. A long investigation into my case revealed that the Catholic agency knew of my parentless circumstances, noting the deaths of both my adoptive parents in their files, but they did not inform my original mother.

And it turned out that my original mother became a very good mother despite the fact she was told such a reality would be impossible. She married my father when she was eighteen and they had a second child. She went on to have another child as well. Both of my mother’s kept children grew to be successful, well-educated and productive adults.

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I have also been reunited with my mother and am confirmed to be her child but my story will never make headlines in the U.S. or internationally because at this time in history, human beings have sanctioned adoption as a moral act and have given it legal and even religious support. Despite the fact that nearly 60% of American’s are impacted, directly and indirectly, by the fall out of adoption and adoption policy, as shown in research by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, we remain steeped in denial.

My mother has lived in a forced pocket of secrecy so deep she wasn’t allowed to tell anyone about me and so our reunion is complex. My mother has re-experienced the deep shame she felt as a young girl and the pain and loss of separation from relinquishing her first child — none of which she was allowed to talk about by the rules imposed by family and society. The only coping mechanism available to her has been denial. On my side, I have re-experienced feelings of abandonment, sorrow, fear, confusion and even anger — the natural fall out of separation from my mother. Together now, by sheer will on both our parts, we work together towards forgiveness and healing.

My mother and I are two of hundreds of thousands of separated mothers and children who struggle in near silence to regain dignity, identity and wholeness. There is no justice surrounding our story and even less recognition of the injustice done.

The more I learn and read about adoption, the more I realize that many people who are adopted feel the same about adoption as Jennifer Lauck.  Indeed, many times I have seen adoptive parents such as myself referred to as “baby snatchers.”

Thoughts?

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4 Responses to “Jennifer Lauck in The Huffington Post”

  1. Sveta says:

    I think horrific internal ordeal is far more likely to occur when the adoption is closed and surrounded by the dark veil of secrecy, when unplanned pregnancy and consequent baby relinguishment is considered shameful for both birth mother and adoptive family. It looks like for the most part, our society is moving away from this awefulness, but the results of the past are definitely still there, and will be there as long as people who were impacted by it are alive. That’s why I think your book is so important, and your life and experience with your children is so valuable by the very fact of their existence – to set a different pattern in this so immensely complex world of adoptive families. Just some thoughts…

  2. Jessica says:

    Sveta, thank you for your thoughtful reply. As an adoptive parent, I have learned so much by listening to the experiences of people such as Jennifer Lauck. As you say, in my family’s life, and through my writing, I strive to create a pattern different from the one that came before. Lauck’s essay illustrates how immensely complex adoption continues to be.

  3. Elise says:

    http://www.childhelp.org/pages/statistics says 5 children in the US die every day due to abuse or neglect. Most of that is NOT from adoptive parents. There are many other sobering statistics on the horrific effects of birth families gone wrong on that page. Casey Anthony wanted to put Caylee up for adoption, but her family coerced her into keeping her, and now Caylee is dead. There are literally tens of millions of annual reports of child abuse or neglect and given the comparatively small percentage of adoptions, most of them must occur when at least one birth parent is in the child’s life. But we don’t see people writing about the necessity to overhaul a corrupt society that glorifies having children without adequate parenting instruction. It’s assumed that if you can HAVE a child, you’re automatically capable of raising a child, but if you can’t, your parenting skills are somehow suspect.

    Think about it – certain egregious cases of child endangerment or murder by parents to whom a child had been returned after an investigation for abuse/neglect could have been prevented if the parents had had to go through a home study the way prospective adoptive parents do, because these parents would not be cleared to adopt a child. When we were adopting, our child’s country rejected prospective parents for a single drunk driving conviction, long-past convictions for minor drug offenses, or any misdemeanor. Forget about felonies. It was even dicey if you had ever been arrested in conjunction with a political protest. Yet I can recall reading about a US child-custody case in which the divorced parents were a law-abiding lesbian & a convicted murderer, & the judge granted custody to the murderer. I can think of recent past presidents who would not have been permitted to adopt a child from that country.

    To err is human… Though you’d have thought that a religious charity would at least have checked to see if the deceased adoptive parents THEY chose had made adequte provision for their child in the event of their deaths!! Even if they couldn’t see their way clear to notifying the birth parents, surely they should have arranged SOMETHING.

  4. Jessica says:

    Elise: thank you for posting the link to child Help and pointing out these sobering statistics. As an adoptive parent who has gone through the rigors of background checks (as we all have), I esp. appreciate this: “It’s assumed that if you can HAVE a child, you’re automatically capable of raising a child, but if you can’t, your parenting skills are somehow suspect.” Not that I resent the checks, but sometimes it feels we are held to a much higher standard.

    I’m now reading Jennifer Lauck’s first book, Blackbird, about her relationship with her adoptive mother. From what I have read so far, it seems as though her adoptive mother was a loving parent, who unfortunately, died. The responsibility to find a home for a child with no parents seems to belong to social services, or the organization who placed her.

    Thanks again for your insights.

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