Time To End The Culture Of Adoption Secrets
by Kathy McMahon,
Founder. Irish First Mothers group
My name is Kathy McMahon. I am an Irish ‘First Mother’.
My first child was born in April 1974 after I spent 4 months in the Good Shepard Convent in Dunboyne Co Meath.
I was aged 18.
I nursed my child for 7 days. But on the day I was discharged from hospital a nurse took my infant daughter without warning. I was later forced to sanction her adoption. I did not see my daughter for another 28 years.
In early 2014 I founded Irish First Mothers - a peer-to-peer mutual support group for women who were coerced into yielding up their children for adoption. Our group has over such mothers - who range in age from early 40's through to mid 70's.
Most of us were incarcerated in so-called ‘Mother and Baby Homes’. The vast majority were forced into adoption. We never asked for, nor were we offered personal confidentiality. Rather, we were told that if we ever attempted contact with our own children we would be committing an offence.
Ironically, those very children are now similarly threatened by contact veto provisions in the Government's proposed adoption information bill.
FACING OUR RESPONSIBILITIES
Natural mothers, their children, adopting parents and even siblings, as adults, now all have historical responsibilities towards each other. Among them is our collective responsibility to take down psychologically-damaging walls of secrecy.
For example, us first mothers do not want our children who were lost to adoption, to spend their own lives lost and wondering, searching for birth information. Nor to see them treated like criminals.
What we need is real 'freedom of information' for all people wounded in spirit by the often illegal adoption practices of parents, church and state. What we need is truth and reconciliation, not just more bureaucracy.
Because access to one's information does not mean that people will suddenly turn up at each other's doorsteps. It is well known within the adoption community that natural parents and the adult adopted person invariably have mutual respect for each other.
Within our First Mothers group many of us have already reconnected with our adult children. We have happily exchanged details and addresses. Natural mothers or adopted people are not "stalkers".
We do not need protection from each other. And in any event, existing privacy laws already offer protection, if required.
LESSONS FROM VICTORIA
We could do well to benefit from the experience of the State of Victoria, Australia where adult adopted people and natural parents can access information about each other once the adopted person reaches 18 - as per laws in place since 1984.
Then in 2013 a contact veto was put in place, whereby a natural parent had to sign a declaration that they would not make contact with their adult adopted child. If they did they faced a hefty fine.
However, thankfully that contact veto amendment was lifted earlier this year. Victoria legislators had second thoughts, one describing the veto as "cruel and insensitive". (See references below)
It's time to end the culture of adoption secrets.
Irish First Mothers calls on the Government to:
- Open official/unofficial records to all parties to the birth/adoption information.
- Give adopted people their human right to their original birth certificates and
- Allow adults manage their own relationships with each other.
Finally, we Irish First Mothers extend our friendship to all Irish women who were treated so horrendously by State, Church and society. We want you to know that the shame was never yours, for there is no shame in giving life.
We spent long enough silenced. Many behind the walls of Magdalene laundries, mother and baby homes and other institutions. The vast majority of us behind a wall of imposed shame.
We're coming out of our closets!
by Kathy McMahon on behalf
of Irish First Mothers members.
of Irish First Mothers members.
R E F E R E N C E S
Adoption Records - Family Information Networks and Discovery
Victorian opposition promises to lift veto on parents contacting children after forced adoptions
Cruel Adoption Penalties Repealed To Restore Equality