The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


No secrets

Open adoptions

When I got the May issue and saw the cover line "Adoption without secrets," I turned right to page 23. Thank you for making this information known to the Lutheran community (and the friends they talk with who are considering adoption).

When I was 44 I learned from my stepsister that I had been adopted as an infant! My adoptive mother died when I was 12, so I have no way of knowing whether she ever intended to tell me the truth. My father remarried and told his new wife the truth (who passed the secret along to her daughter by a previous marriage). I was very different from my adoptive family — in looks, temperament, intelligence, interests, talents and spirituality. It puzzled me. As an adult I even asked a few family members whether I had been adopted, and they denied it. It was meant to be a lifelong secret.

I now have found the woman who gave birth to me as a 19-year-old unwed mother. I have five half-siblings on her side of the family. What a joy to know I'm not so "alone" as I thought I was. Unfortunately I may never know who fathered me because it causes her such shame and pain to think about it. I might never have found out anything about my natural history were it not for the fact that in Ohio persons adopted before 1964 are able to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate (not the one that looks original but actually contains the name s and information about one's adoptive parents).

The most damaging thing about closed adoptions is that the adoptee is treated under the law as a minor for life. When the state records are closed, an adoptee is never legally old enough or r esponsible enough to obtain background information on his or her own parents. In some states records are opened to give out non-identifying information only in extremely urgent cases (such as hereditary disease) and only then at the whim of a judge or social worker.

I have been struck by the happy coincidences between my birth mother and myself. I have always loved to sing and am told I have a good voice. My birth mother is a soloist. I came to the Lutheran church from the Methodist church as an adult. She came to the Lutheran church through marriage and has been a very active member. I grew up in an unchurched family, yet my faith in God and my participation in the church has always been the most important part of my life — I am now a pastor.

Janice A. Campbell
Miamisburg, Ohio (via Internet)

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February issue


Embracing diversity