Posts Tagged ‘ birth father ’

Waiting to adopt? Please don’t give up

“My earnest plea to all prospective adoptive parents is don’t give up. The adoption procedure is fraught with difficult obstacles but see it through. God has a special place in His heart for people who take care of orphans (James 1:27).”

I was addressing a group of around twenty at a meeting of the Pretoria Adoption Support Group. I wasn’t scheduled to speak. I had only been invited to sell copies of my book, the proceeds of which were to be donated to the Southern Africa Bible College.

But as I listened to the discussion going on around me, I began to sense a rising sense of frustration among the audience, comprised primarily of pre and post adoptive parents.

The topic under discussion was the latest amendments to the South African Children’s Act 2007 and how these affect the adoption process.

I listened as an experienced adoption social worker explained the rationale behind the extensive waiting periods prospective parents must endure before a baby is placed with its adoptive family, and how every decision made by a social worker has to be done with “the best interests of the child” in mind.

It wasn’t long into her presentation before someone in the audience posed a question, which was quickly followed by another, and another. Although the social worker responded well to each one, it soon became apparent that the Act, although an improvement on its predecessor, remains fraught with flaws.

Under the new Act, babies only “become adoptable” after 60 days, the social worker explained. After this period, the birth mother has an additional 30 days in which to rescind her decision to give up her baby. Factor in the time required by the Act to search for birth fathers, and that they are also afforded 30 days to give their consent to the adoption, and it can be months before a child is eventually placed in their adoptive parents’ arms for the first time. For abandoned babies, the waiting period can be even longer, as the Act affords the birth mother, father and even extended family members ample time to come forward to claim the baby. By then, adoptive parents may be faced with serious bonding issues with their adopted child.

“Government adoption agencies expect us to wait months before placing a baby in our arms, so who can blame couples for choosing to work with private social workers who give them a newborn baby immediately?” one father asked (I later learned that he and his wife are waiting to adopt their second child). Everyone could hear the exasperation in his voice and as he spoke other parents nodded their heads in agreement.

I could not remain silent. As an adoptee, I felt a responsibility to speak for the orphaned, unwanted and abandoned babies. After obtaining permission from the group co-ordinator I stood up after the final presentation and faced the group. I knew that all they wanted to do was give a loving home to an orphaned, unwanted or abandoned child, but complex legal procedures made it so difficult for them to do so.

“After listening to everything that has been said today I cannot help but feel thankful that I was adopted under the old Children’s Act, which enabled me to be placed in my mother’s arms when I was a few days old and stay with them while the adoption process was finalised,” I began.

“That said, part of me also wishes I had been adopted under the new Act, because then my birth mother would have been legally required to name my birth father on my original birth certificate and that piece of my life puzzle would not still be missing to today.

“What this has made me realise is that sadly, even though it is intended to protect children from being exploited, the Children’s Act will never be perfect. It is formulated by imperfect humans who will never be able to devise a law that will satisfy the needs of all the parties involved.

“My parents also went through a difficult screening process and had to overcome numerous obstacles in order to adopt me. But they did it. They never gave up and today I am so thankful, because were it not for their perseverance I wouldn’t be standing here today pleading with you not to give up hope.

“The adoption procedure may lengthy, complex and frustrating, but stick with it. Orphans all over the world need you and God will bless you richly for your selfless act of love.”

 

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A birth-father seeks his lost children

Most South Africans will remember Laurie Fraser, the unmarried father of a child who was put up for adoption by his mother, Fraser’s former partner. The court granted the adoption, but Fraser applied to have it set aside because he wanted to adopt the child himself. Although he lost the application, his case was instrumental in changing South African legislation. Today, the consent of both birth parents is required before a child can be placed for adoption. Sadly, however, there are many other birth fathers like Laurie who, before 1997, had no legal say over the parentage of their children. The story below is by one such father, who has been desperately seeking his lost children for more than 30 years.

My name is Guy and my former wife is the biological mother of my two children. We are first cousins and met for the first time in 1975. We fell in love and after our son was conceived in April 1976 we decided to marry. This was not to be, however, as my wife-to-be decided to abandon our plans of marriage and give up our child for adoption. In my opinion, she was influenced in these decisions by her father. Although it was against my wishes, I was forced to abide by and accept this unilateral decision, because at that time I had no legal or even basic human rights over our unborn child.

My former wife was admitted to Fatima House in Pretoria through the Catholic Women’s League.  I was instructed by her father (my uncle) not to disclose her whereabouts to anyone, including members of my immediate family. If anyone were to ask what had happened to her, I was to tell them that she had been transferred to Addington Hospital in Durban to complete her nursing diploma.

After about two months I received a letter from my former wife, informing me that her father had agreed to allow me to visit her on weekends at Fatima House in Pretoria. I was overjoyed at this apparent change of heart and visited her regularly, taking her out for picnic lunches and pleading with her to change her mind, but she remained set on giving our child up for adoption.

This period was, to say the least, very traumatic for me. I was sworn to secrecy and forbidden by her father to disclose any information about her whereabouts and the impending secret adoption. Yet I loved her and wanted to marry her and so continued to visit her.

On 13 January 1977 our child was born at the then HF Verwoerd General Hospital. No one told me about the baby’s birth, and I only learned of it two days later when I paid my weekly visit to Fatima House. I immediately went to the hospital and asked to see my future wife and our child, but was informed by the nursing staff that they had instructions not to allow me any form of access to her and our child. I had no alternative but to leave, and resigned myself to the fact that I was powerless under the circumstances and that I would have to accept the loss of our child, as well as the abandonment of our marriage plans.

About a week later I visited her at her parents’ home in Edenvale, intending to try one last time to engender a change of heart in her. It was only at this point that I learned that she had given birth to a healthy boy. Again I asked her to marry me, but she was resolute in her decision not to do so and stated that she had given up our son for adoption. I felt crushed and so was finally forced to accept that we would not marry and that our son was “lost”.  I wished her well for the future, paid my respects to her parents, and left.

Two months later, to my surprise and amazement, she contacted me and we resumed our relationship. In hindsight, I should have walked away, but I still loved her and had forgiven her for putting our son up for adoption.

My son’s birth surname is Lindenberg and he is recorded under the christian names of Graham Henry at the Catholic Womens’ League (CWL) in Pretoria. I have a copy of the document from the CWL verifying this. I am not sure whether he is recorded in the official government records under the birth surname of Lindenberg, as I have been denied access to these records. I do know, however, that he was adopted by an Italian couple and his adoptive father, who is a registered practising quantity surveyor in South Africa, is a South African citizen. Today Graham Henry is a qualified chartered accountant working in the USA. His non-biological sister was also adopted by his adoptive parents.

My son’s mother and I married in July 1977, and on 4 December 1978 our daughter, Kim Helen was born in Johannesburg.

Unfortunately, my wife and I divorced in December 1981 and she had our marriage annulled in the Catholic Church. I continued to see my daughter in accordance with my visitation rights. She was always so happy to see me and would rush to me and hug me tightly whenever I arrived to take her out for the day.

In 1988 I was subjected to a High Court action launched against me by my former wife, with the financial backing of her then second husband, the sole purpose of which was to alienate my daughter from me and destroy me financially. Sadly, she succeeded on both counts. My daughter became reserved and distant with me, a development which caused me great concern.

Thanks to her husband’s financial backing, my former wife’s resources were far greater than mine.  I exhausted my entire life savings defending, inter alia, the rights of my daughter and me to continue seeing each other. In today’s terms that unnecessary and vindictive litigation in the High Court cost me approximately R700 000.

I was on the brink of financial ruin and to this day have never recovered from it all. To compound matters further, my former wife launched a concomitant action in the Magistrates Court claiming excessive maintenance. I was forced to concede defeat both in my interests and that of my daughter, who was suffering under the enforced destruction of our once loving and close father-daughter relationship.

She was told to call me “Guy”, to acknowledge her step-father as “Daddy” and made to feel embarrassed by her surname, which was now different to that of her mother and step-father. My daughter was suffering so much; someone had to call an end to it. Notwithstanding my by now dire financial situation, I could not and would not continue to allow my very young and impressionable daughter to suffer any further. She could not understand it all, but I could, and so made the heart-rending decision to let her go. I agreed to allow her to be adopted by her step-father.

My decision was also influenced by the recommendation of the professional social workers at the Catholic Women’s’ League in Kensington, Johannesburg, with whom I had been engaged in extensive consultations, that it would be in my daughter’s best interests to be adopted, given the unfortunate circumstances which I could not alter or control and under which she was continuing to suffer so much.

In February 1998, when my daughter looked me up when visiting this country (presumably with her mother), she informed me that her now adoptive father had committed suicide the previous year. Whilst I sympathised with my daughter at her loss, I also felt a surge of hope that this was the beginning of a reunion between us.

Subsequent to this visit, my daughter and I corresponded and I really believed that we were finally reunited, but this was soon to change.  In early 2003 I received a telephone call from her mother, informing me that our daughter had been involved in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend. It sounded to me as if they had had a fight of sorts as the time of the call was about 2.00 am USA time, and I still think that I wasn’t far off the mark in surmising that during their altercation I was probably used as a scapegoat of sorts for the problems in my daughter’s life, and hence the call to me. I spoke to my daughter and assured her that I loved her and would always be available to help her where I could.

Subsequent to this telephone call, I received SMS messages from my daughter informing me that she had enlisted in the US Army. I was quite shattered by this news and couldn’t understand why she had dropped out of university in her final year of study. Clearly something was wrong, but to this day I still do not know exactly what caused her to drop out of university, enlist in the army and shut herself off from me. All my letters to her were returned unopened and my attempts to contact her proved fruitless. In a last-ditch attempt, I plucked up the courage to phone her mother in the USA and ask her for Kim’s contact details. Kim’s mother was extremely hostile and belligerent in her response and refused to give me any information.

As far as I know, Kim is married to an officer in the US Army, and they now have two children (I have yet to meet my grandchildren).

In her last letter to me in April 1999 Kim wrote: “I’m really desperate to meet him (my son and her brother) when I come home next time”. She has not corresponded with me since and I do not know what has happened to her. I too desperately want my son and daughter to meet and get to know each other as brother and sister.

I will never give up my quest to find my two children and I trust and hope that they will eventually come to read this document, including those already in the possession of the Department of Social Development and other official bodies involved in this matter.

While these documents are by no means exhaustive, I believe that they present the situation and the factors surrounding the loss of my two children in a correct and proper context, and that by reading these documents, my children will be better equipped to make an informed, objective and balanced appraisal of the events and decisions that culminated in their respective adoptions.

Guy

 

Letter to my ‘Prince of Wales’

Hello Rob

I am glad I am able to address you by your name. It’s about all my birth-mother knew about you; that and the fact that you were a Welsh naval cadet (when I heard you were from Wales there was a fleeting moment when I wondered whether you were the Prince of Wales). She also knew your surname, of course, but wasn’t sure of the spelling. She said she couldn’t remember the name of your ship that docked in Durban‘s harbour around September 1963. It had to have been then because that’s when the two of you conceived me.

After you found out she was pregnant you left, and she never saw you again. Which suited her as she didn’t want anything from you anyway. Not even financial support, although legally she was entitled to it. But that would’ve required her to name you on my birth certificate and she refused to do that. Unfortunately, naming the father of one’s illegitimate child wasn’t a legal requirement in those days.

I wish it had been. Because then I would have been able to conduct a state-assisted search for you, officially request a DNA test and finally fill in the missing piece of my life puzzle. I know nothing stops me from initiating my own private search , but for some reason I am hesitant to do that, although I think about it often. Almost every day, in fact.

Mostly, I wonder what you look like and whether I resemble you at all. And I wonder what personality traits, if any, I have inherited from you. When I was younger I wanted to join the Navy as a diver (yes, it’s true), until I found out that women weren’t allowed on ships but only permitted to do office administration work, so I discarded the idea immediately. Today I wonder whether there is any connection between you being a naval cadet and me wanting to join the Navy. But maybe that’s just me indulging in fantasy.

I wonder other things about you too. Like whether you ever think about the child you conceived all those years ago. Do you wonder whether you have a son or a daughter and whether my mother kept me? Would you be pleased to know that you have a daughter? And would you like to meet me? Would you like what you see?

Would I like what I see were I to meet you? I cannot help but have my doubts about someone who gets a girl pregnant and then leaves as soon as he is told about it. But, like my mother, you were young then, and not ready for the responsibilities that go with raising a child, so I guess I can forgive you for that.

The question is, are you still the same today? If you had the opportunity, would you change anything? If you had stuck around for my birth and perhaps laid eyes on me even for a few seconds, would you have changed your mind about not wanting to have anything to do with me?

I like to think of you as someone who, as a young man, had an adventurous spirit (like me) which led him to visit foreign countries. One of these was South Africa, where I happened. Of course, the thought has crossed my mind more than once that you may have had a girlfriend in every port and I may be only one of numerous illegitimate children.

But, as most young and irresponsible adventurous types do, you matured with age and went on to enjoy an illustrious career in the Royal Navy. Eventually you married, had children and now live quietly as a retired naval officer somewhere in the Welsh countryside where, on occasion, you allow yourself to reminisce on the days of your youth, when you stole young women’s hearts and indulged in all sorts of mischievous deeds for which sailors are so notorious.

Today I imagine you as a witty, lovable old rascal, who still has a keen sense of fun. Someone with a limitless number of thrilling stories to tell of his days at sea in the Royal Navy, but who also harbours a little sadness and regret behind his twinkling eyes. And I like to think that the sadness is for me – the child you never knew but dearly wished you had.

This letter is also featured on the blog 100 letters to you.

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An adoptee writes to the birth-mother he never met

I was so touched by this letter from Kevin to his birth-mother, who he never got to meet, that I had to share it. I am sure there are many adoptees who have not reunited with one or both of their birth-parents and can relate to the emotions he expresses…

30 Seconds

November 16, 2010

A year has passed since I found out my birth mother died in 2003.  I never got to meet her and talk to her and over this last year I have had mixed feelings about that.

Part of me was relieved that I didn’t have to bathe in the tub of emotions that that meeting would’ve stirred up, and part of me is saddened that I didn’t get to hear from her what she was thinking and feeling all these years.

Recently, I was watching the Dr. Phil show and there was a woman on the show who lost her parents at an early age and she was dealing with so much years and years later.  Dr. Phil suggested she write a letter to that parent and share her feelings both good and bad as a way to deal with the emotional powder keg that was contained behind her rib cage.

I sat there and wondered it that would help me.  I wondered if writing a letter to my biological mother would help sort out some things for me.  Below is that letter.

**************************

Dear Helen,

I call you Helen because calling you mom just doesn’t feel right.

On October 24, 2009, I found out from an adoption angel via a text message that you had died in 2003.  Sitting on the cold metal bleachers at our local high school watching a football game I found out you died in May of 2003.

I searched my heart to find the right emotion to feel and couldn’t find it.  To that point, you were a stranger to me and I wasn’t sure how I should mourn the death of a stranger.  I really didn’t feel sad.  I was more disappointed than anything.

Over the last year, I have had some time to sort things out,  but the right emotion still doesn’t register.  When I think of my wife or my boys, I immediately get powerful emotions that fill my heart.  When I think of you, it just goes blank.

Part of the reason I think I was so hesitant for many years to look for you was because I feared being rejected by you…again.  I think even in death I still feel that.  I feel rejected because you never spoke about me to ANYONE.  When I ask your daughter/my biological sister, or your best friend what you said about me, they both say the same thing.  You never talked about me.

It is my understanding, your death was not a sudden death.  I can’t help but wonder why in those last months, weeks, and days, you didn’t speak of me.  How come you didn’t leave a message for me or tuck away in a private place something that you wanted me and only me to have.  How come you didn’t take 30 seconds to tell someone that I mattered?

There are days when I think the separation from me was just too painful to talk about and I try to spin it in a positive light.  Then there are days when I think, that you just didn’t care.  As a father, I can’t understand that.  I can’t conceptualize how that is possible; how you can have a child roaming the earth somewhere and not care or think about them.  I have no evidence that you did and more evidence that you didn’t.

In this past year, I have struggled with telling myself over and over that I matter; that I am important; that I am worthy.  I artificially construct and build up my self esteem that could have been raised to an all-time high if you would’ve taken 30 seconds to whisper to someone your regret.  Instead, I am left to do as have always done from as far back as I can remember; fantasize.

My imagination fills in the holes created by you that you were meant to fill.  My creative mind tells me you suffered in silence and thought about me on my birthday, and on Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, The 4th of July, and again on my birthday in August.  Reality tells me I have nothing to support this fantasy.

Like a child on Christmas looking for that one special gift that isn’t there, I still wait and hope in some chest, some book, in your personal belongings somewhere, someone will find a letter written to me that kills reality and awakens fantasy.

These are the feelings, that surround me today and guilt drips from my fingers as I type these words.  As an adoptee, I have learned really well to protect others around me often at the expense of my own feelings and thoughts.  So I wrestle with guilt and push it into the nearest closet so I can express what I need to to protect me.  I needed only 30 seconds and I have a right to those 30 seconds.

Kevin

Kevin’s blog can be found at: http://mymindonpaper.wordpress.com/2010/11/16/30-seconds/

Birth-fathers Q&A

As an adoptee, I know very little about my birth-father. There is so much I would love to ask him but I doubt whether I’ll ever have the opportunity. So I’ve devised a list of questions for birth-fathers, and I’m hoping that your honest answers will provide some resolution for me…

  1. Did the birth-mother of your child tell you about her pregnancy?
  2. What was your reaction when you find out about she was pregnant?
  3. Did you stay in touch with her during her pregnancy?
  4. Where you in favour of your baby’s adoption?
  5. Was your permission for the adoption required by law?
  6. Did you see your child before he/she was given away?
  7. If you didn’t see your child, do you think doing so would have changed how you felt about the adoption?
  8. Over the years, did you ever think about the child you had fathered?
  9. Did you ever try to find out about or search for your child?
  10. Have you ever met your child?
  11. If not, would you like to?
  12. If you had an opportunity to do things differently, what would you change?
  13. If you married with a family today, do they know about your child?
  14. If not, why haven’t you told them?
  15. What are your views on the right of birth-fathers today?
  16. Any other comments you would like to provide?

If my father had seen me, what would he have done?

So I’ve been following this TV soapie (we all have our weaknesses, and this is mine). In it, a woman (let’s call her Jane) has a relationship with a man (Dick) and falls pregnant. After much soul searching she decides to keep the baby, even though Dick  doesn’t want her to, and even offers to pay for an abortion. 

Enter a good friend of Jane’s (who, in true soapie style, is also secretly in love with her). He (Tom) not only offers to marry Jane, but also publicly accept responsibility for fathering her baby. He also negotiates an agreement with Dick to adopt the baby. So far, so good.

Until the baby is born. It’s a girl. Dick goes out of his way to avoid visiting mother and baby in hospital, but then something comes up and he has no choice but to go. While there he gets to see his child and even hold her for a few minutes while Jane takes a call on her mobile. Father and daughter share a bonding moment.

Later, Tom presents Dick with the adoption forms, but is taken aback when Dick asks for more time before signing them. Reluctantly, however, he agrees. While perusing the forms Dick reads the following line: “the parent shall relinquish all rights to the child”. A light goes on. He realises that he cannot sign away all rights to his daughter. While Jane was pregnant with her he was able to convince himself that she was an abstract entity. But since holding her in his arms, everything has changed. He finally decides not to sign the adoption papers.

Watching all this unfold on my television set I felt my chest slowly begin to constrict until eventually I had to rub it in an attempt to ease the tightness. It’s what usually happens when an adoption issue touches me on a personal level.

When my birth mother told my biological father she was pregnant with me, he left her. She never saw him again.

I often wonder whether he ever wonders what happened to the girl he got pregnant back in ’63. Does he wonder whether she had the baby? Whether it was a boy or a girl? Or did he forget about the whole episode, as my birth mother told me he probably did? I have asked several men if they would be able to forget about an unplanned pregnancy they had been party to and the answer is always an unequivocal no.

Back then it was not uncommon for men not to want to face responsibility for an unplanned pregnancy. South African birth mothers were not legally required to name the father of their baby, nor was the father’s legal consent required, as it is today, for the baby to be given up for adoption.

But I can’t help wondering… If my father had stuck around while my birth mother was pregnant and then visited the hospital where I was born – would the sight of me have caused him change his mind?

Would he have wanted to know me, perhaps even to keep me?

Would he have wanted his name on my birth certificate?

Or would he have decided to walk away anyway?

A fundamental human right

It’s hard to believe that in some American states adoptees are still being denied access to their birth records. This sad fact was recently again brought home to me when one of my Facebook friends (and a fellow adoptee) published a link to a young woman’s petition in which she asks for help in finding her birth mother because the state of Texas sealed adoptee birth records when she was born. 

That certain states in a first world country such as America continue to enforce such archaic legislation a decade into the 21st century is mind-blowing. What is their rationale? Who are they trying to protect? Certainly not the child. To know who fathered you and who gave birth to you is a fundamental human right and it should be up to you to decide whether you want access to that information or not. For legislators to make a blanket decision on adoptees’ behalf is a far cry from democracy and a violation of adoptees’ dignity.

The justification that to keep the records sealed is ‘in the best interests of the child’ has long ago been found to be wanting. Thankfully many countries, mine included, are trying to correct this grave mistake. In South Africa the records were unsealed in 1987, enabling countless adoptees to finally obtain at least some answers to the many never-ending questions they have about their birth. Today the Department of Social Development formerly assists adoptees in their search for the birth parents, provides psycholigical counselling where needed and facilitates the reunion process.

 To deny human beings access to information about their birth is nothing short of barbaric. It creates a wound that cannot heal, but only continues to fester, often to the extent that it invades all aspects of the adoptee’s life. Yes, the information that lies within the folders of one’s birth records can lead to painful disclosures, but I speak from personal experience when I say it is better to have a painful truth to deal with once and for all than to contend with ongoing speculation and fantasies. Sometimes the only way to heal a wound is to throw salt on it.

I wasted no time in signing Kim’s petition. If you’re reading this blog, regardless of whether or not you’re an adoptee, I hope that my words will compel you to sign it too.

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