In the past, adoption was something that was not spoken about. Birth parents were told to forget the child and get on with their lives. Adopted parents were advised not to tell the child that they were adopted. Adopted children were told lies. Innocent questions from the child about their birth, who they resemble etc, were avoided. Living in such an environment many children quickly learnt that there were certain subjects that should not be discussed leaving them with a sense of confusion but not knowing why.
Some children reached adulthood never knowing the truth. Others however learnt that they were adopted following the death of their adopted parents which left them devastated that they had lived a lie.
Over the years, views about adoption have changed and professionals believe that it is better for adopted children to be told the truth about their history no matter how difficult. They also believe that contact between the birth parent and adopted child has a positive impact on the child enabling a development of a true sense of self.
In the UK, all children who are adopted take with them a life history book which contains their story and also photographs of their birth family. When they reach adulthood they are allowed to read their case files and can trace their birth family. Adopters are provided with information regarding the child’s history and encouraged to tell the child that they are adopted. Direct contact between birth parent and the child is not common but many adoptions involve postal contact.
Some argue that things have gone too far in the adoption field and that sharing information and having contact with the birth family leads to the adopted child becoming confused. Whilst this may be true for some children surely if information and contact with the birth parent is approached in a child centered age appropriate way then it can only be a positive in the child’s life.
All children have a right to know who they are. Adopted children are no different. As adults we often talk to our children about who they are. We tell them about their birth, who they look like, what they were like as babies, etc. This sharing of information enables the child to feel a sense of identity and belonging. The adopted child also needs to know these stories and therefore contact with the birth parents can fulfill a need in the child that can help them to develop into a rounded and secure adult.