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This is why we protest.

November 4, 2015

It’s Your Life

By Jeff Hancock

I was not always an adoptee rights activist. Prior to my adoption discovery as a 41-year-old man I was quite happy as just another member of the human race. It was not until I learned that I was adopted that I also discovered that I am a victim of discrimination. Like millions of other adult adoptees, I am denied access to my Original Birth Certificate (OBC). The following essay is intended to reveal why the Adoptee Rights cause is important and why state governments need to restore our access to our Original Birth Certificates.

The concept is quite simple: We seek only to own what the non-adopted people have. We want to own our identities. We want to be just like everyone else.

Some people want their OBC’s so they can find and reunite with their birth families. Other adoptees want to discover their heritage, ancestry, or faith. Adoptees hope to learn our medical history. Others just simply want to own it. These are all good things, but none are the basis for what we fight for. The foundation of our cause is our quest to be equal to non-adopted citizens. Without our OBC’s we are not equal.

American culture places a great amount of shame upon adopted people. Also shamed are the mother’s who gave birth to us. Our society fears us. They fear what might happen should we be provided the sheet of paper that holds our name as it was recorded the day we were born. Based on false beliefs and outdated myths of the 1930’s, the people elected to represent us choose to deny us instead.

This is why we protest. Just as our OBC’s are shrouded from us the facts are shrouded away from state law makers. The fundamental difference is that while we are denied even a glance of our OBC’s, far too many lawmakers have full access to the facts of restored access and choose to look another direction. The purpose of the Adoptee Rights movement is to educate these lawmakers.

One cannot blame lawmakers for what they have been conditioned into accepting as the truth about sealed OBC’s. it is our intent to work with them through education. We teach them right from wrong while stipulating that sealed OBC’s is WRONG!

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Always the Last to Know.

November 4, 2015

Last year I had the honor of being asked to contribute a chapter to my friend Lynn’s book, a compilation on adoptee topics. Her book is titled “The Adoptee Survival Guide” and is available through Amazon.

Always the Last to Know.

Have you ever wondered why,

Families keep secrets until they die?

This completely takes over who you are,

Carving within you an unbearable scar.

They day I learned that my parents had lied,

The soul within me stopped living; and died.

I felt as though I had just lost my very best friend,

Who was I now? Was I at my start, or at my end?

 

I found a quote soon after I learned that I was adopted. It reads, “The worst thing about being lied to is knowing you weren’t worth the truth.” This quote became my motto as I embarked on my new life as an adoptee. My story is quite complicated at times; it has been just over 7-years since my discovery though it still stings as though it were yesterday. The purpose of this essay is for me to reveal how I have faced the task of being a late-discovery-adoptee, though I am still far from the end of my journey.

All my life I felt a strange absence in my life. It was a feeling of loneliness and loss. I never could quite find the right words to explain these feelings; I always just figured I was an outcast due to being so much younger than the other kids in our family. I had no idea that I could be an adoptee until I began school in 1970. It was on the bus that kids bullied me by calling me “foster kid.” I brushed it off at first because as a 5-year-old kid I had no idea what it meant.

As I grew older I began to take notice of how my family regarded me. I had learned what a “Foster Kid” was, and I began to wonder if at anytime someone would tell me I was only a guest and that another family was coming to take me away? Evidence began to surface. I was not included in my paternal grandmother’s family bible. That same grandmother never provided me with a hand sewn quilt as she had for each of her other grandchildren. Then there was the photograph. It was a Polaroid of me when I was about 2-years-old. On the back of it was written, “Jeff our foster son.”

By the time I was 21-years-old I could not tolerate my internal struggle over my identity any longer. Having grown tired of pussy-footing around the topic with my parents, I threw my cards onto the table, called my parents, and asked, “Am I adopted?”

It could not have gone any worse. Dad yelled, mom cried. Both told me that I was wrong for questioning my relationship to them. Both lied to me and told me I was theirs.

For the first year after my discovery I walked the Earth in “Zombie Mode.” While I was mostly aware of the goings-on around me, I was detached from it all. I took no pleasure doing things that before had brought me great joy. I had no idea who I was; I felt betrayed, rejected, unwanted, and unworthy of anyone’s love. I sought solutions to my emptiness and pain. There were none.

The first time I turned on the radio in my car following discovery I heard a song that I had not before experienced. It was “Mother” written by Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. This new-to-me version was sung by Sinead O’Connor. I instantly became engrossed in it. I immediately bought the album. I played this song repeatedly everyday for the next 5-and-a-half years.

It was one line from the lyrics of “Mother” that has ran through my mind over and over again since my discovery. “Mama’s gonna keep you right here under her wing, she won’t let you fly but she might let you sing” became my theme song. With each passing day I grew more and more resentful of my adoptive parents. I also grew angry with my other mom; the one who gave me away.

While I began my search for family the very same day as my discovery, by 2009 I had no more information than I had the day I begun. I realized that if I were to ever find my family I would need to have access to my Original Birth Certificate first. I fell into the ranks of the Adoptee Rights movement.

My first protest was in Philadelphia during July of 2009. It became one of my favorite life experiences. Like how Moses must have felt delivering the Jews to the Promised Land, I too felt I had finally landed right where I belonged. As we each met each other in and around the hotel over those 4-days I realized that although we each had different jobs and came from different kinds of families, we were all exactly the same within our souls. We each were denied our souls.

When asked, “How to Survive” regarding Late-Discovery-Adoption I drew a complete blank. I wondered, “Have I survived?” At least in the eyes of my fellow adoptees, and the moms who gave birth to us, I appear to be a survivor. Within my mind I have reservations. I am not convinced that adoption is survivable; it affects each of us for our entire life. Perhaps I can best offer some suggestions at how to cope with being a Late-Discovery-Adoptee.

Find a theme song. It seems every LDA has one. For me it was Sinead O’Connor’s “Mother.” For one of my friends it was “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan. While I listened to this song daily, I found it meant the most to me when I was in a long hot bath alone with my thoughts and a few candles.

Be sure to share your story. Revealing yourself to others in the Late-Discovery community is a daunting task. It was the first time in my life that I felt genuine fear. I felt unworthy of having friendships with other adoptees. I was new to the scene while they had known all of their lives. Surprisingly I was immediately embraced not only by fellow LDA’s but likewise from the entire adoption community.

I took a vow the day I found out my truth. I pledged to live my adopted life with 100% transparency. My adoption experience is something I decided was not to be my shame, but rather my triumph. I have met fellow adoptees as well as our moms and dads who accepted me for who I am. They have become my family over these years. When I found my birth families, my community through adoption welcomed them included as well.

While our lives as LDA’s were shrouded in secrecy and lies, our stories belong to us. We need to reveal ourselves to others in our world. Perhaps one day there will be enough awareness of our pain and our plight that lies within adoption will finally grind to a halt. Until that time comes, we must always support each other and freely share ourselves.

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Continued tales from the LDA.

November 4, 2015

Grief continues to engulf me. I grieve for the woman I never met; the one who gave birth to me. I think about her every day.

Being a late-discovery-adoptee has taken a toll on me over these past 8-years. While I am now reunited with both sides of my birth families, there is a hole in my heart as deep as a well. I miss my mom, even though we never got to meet. I miss a lot of people, yet I cannot grieve for those who betrayed my trust and led me away from the truth of my very existence for most of my lifetime.

I have managed to pull together a basic medical history. However, I fear it is too late to be of much help to me. Had I known in my youth that diabetes runs in my family, I could have been more careful. I was in my 40’s when I was tested and discovered I have a problem. Now I have macular degeneration of the retinas because treatments for my elevated blood sugar were too little too late. My retina specialist described my condition as being like an old house with rusty pipes that leak. My blood vessels are the leaky pipes. My eyeballs are the playing ground for a disease that will eventually blind me. Lack of medical history sucks if you are adopted. I’ve realized that the blow back from being lied to for so long effects more than just my psyche; it has taken over my entire body.

I’ve gone into therapy for PTSD. I never was in a real life shooting, fighting, guts-n-grit combat situation. My trauma centers around my loss of identity, disappointments, joblessness, and various forms of abuse. I have learned that dealing with PTSD is like herding cats. It’s tougher than you’d guess. My therapist told me I need to look for at least one positive memory or experience for each bad thing, each trauma, I have encountered during my lifetime. There are good memories: I have two half-sisters, nephews, nieces, a birth dad, grandparents, and a shitload of cousins all of whom have warmly welcomed me.I have amassed some amazing friends through the adoption community. I’ve traveled to speak at adoption conferences, I’ve met state legislators, lobbied at conventions, and been in newspapers and on television all in support of adoptee rights. I’ve found my tribe.

At the same time, I don’t fit in like I thought I would. It’s my fault. I can’t figure out my role. Maybe enough time has not yet come to pass? I’m still learning my family dynamics. This might take a while to sort out.

 

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The Hook-Up.

July 7, 2014

October 12, 2012 I met my family in person. It began with my aunt and uncle. I then met my sister. Later that day I met half of Olean, NY and got to share it all with my longtime friend Lori (also an adoptee).

My sister has 7-kids. The day after we met I brought my wife and youngest son to meet everyone. That is when Sherry asked me to become the godfather to her two youngest children. I immediately agreed. For the first time in my life I had a sibling who wanted to be related to me. It felt great.

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Fears laid to rest.

July 7, 2014

I spoke to only one of two living people who ever knew about my existence. She embraced me immediately. I addressed her as Ms. Foster, she told me to call her “Aunt Shirley.” We chatted a long time. My new aunt put all of my anxieties to an immediate rest. She would handle announcing my return to the family so that everyone would know I was Kaye’s son. She would give the news to my sister the next morning.

One Ambien later I was asleep for the night. I spent Monday morning waiting for the phone call. I was not disappointed. First my aunt called me to tell me that my sister Sherry would be calling me a little later on that day. Once we got off the phone together an hour or so later I spoke to my sister for the very first time. We instantly fit in together.

Over the next several days one-by-one various Foster relatives messaged me, and sent me friend requests through Facebook. I scrutinized each one of their faces to look for similarities. I looked most like my cousin Carmel. When I actually was first stalking my family I had thought Carmel was my sister, as we do look a lot alike.

Within minutes of our introductions Sherry and I were instant friends. She added me on Facebook. We messaged each other for hours that day. By evening she had found a photo of our mom to share with me. I saw my moms face for the very first time. I could not stop looking at her.

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Reunion – October 2012

July 7, 2014

I was so distraught after realizing my mom was dead that I could not think of anything else that night. I sedated myself quite heavily, and slept for more than half-a-day. When I finally did crawl out-of-bed it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, someone among the Fosters might want to know about me? Did anyone know about me? Had anyone missed me? Did they know who my dad was? Did I have siblings? Cousins? Aunts? Uncles? That Saturday evening I once again hit the internet. What I discovered that night led to my reunion.

I didn’t know who was who, but I had a long list of “Fosters” who were connected with each other not only on one ancestral online database, but they also were connected with each other on Facebook. I was on the right trail. I wrote private messages to all of them. I had actually prepared for this moment. In my note I stated simply:

“Please forgive me for reaching out to contact you directly. We have never met, but I believe that I have some common people connections with you. I apologize in advance, but I need to ask you a few personal questions.

Have you ever met, or do you know of “Kathleen Marie Foster” who lived in Allegheny/Olean area? She was born in 1943, and passed away in 1995. Her parents were Eugene and Irene Foster. Kathleen had 13 siblings. She is someone I have a great need to learn more about. If you do not know her, is there a possibility you may know of someone who does?

Again, I am sorry to bother you, but this is extremely important information for me. Please let me know either way if these names are in anyway familiar to you or someone in your family?

Thank you, Jeff Hancock Adoptee, born April, 1965″

From that Saturday evening until late afternoon the next day I was sweating Crisco. Waiting for a response was the worse stress I’d ever felt. I was a nervous wreck to say the least. Late Sunday afternoon I got my first reply. It was from my cousin. We are actually related twice. She is a member of my adoptive fathers family as well as married to one of my first cousins in the Fosters. She had me call my Aunt and Uncle who then got me in touch with my mom’s sister; my Aunt Shirley.

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My Non-ID; October 2012.

July 7, 2014

As I dashed through the contents of my package I discovered that DSS had a new director, and that she played for keeps! This time we were on the same side! I had page after page of medical reports, foster care observation notes, details on my mom and dad, and even stuff on my aunts and uncles. I finally had an understanding of my origins. Due to my work schedule, I was unable to hit the internet for searching until Friday evening. It was on Wednesday that the package had arrived.

Complete euphoria is how I describe my feelings over that Wednesday. By Friday I was once again focused and determined to find my family. My greatest fears were realized. My mom, Kathleen Marie Foster, had died of cancer on October 23, 1995. She died 12-years before my adoption discovery. 17 1/2-years before I found her.

I somehow always knew she was dead. I have strong feelings that way sometimes. Also, I know I have an angel who watches me. Now I realize it is my mom. She visited me during my twilight sleep at Strong Hospital a few days after my surgery. She told me that my work was with adoptee rights. She also said that in time I would know everything. I couldn’t see her face, only her outline with a bright white aura completely surrounding her. Actually, I had attributed it to the morphine, but now I understand it was my mom’s spirit.

The feeling of loss overwhelmed me. It was 2:00 AM and I sat here staring at this computer monitor in shock, but not disbelief. Then it hit me. It hit harder than all the grief of my lifetime rolled together at once. The hurt. The sorrow, The sadness. I was exhausted. My mind and my body were numb. All of my hopes for reunion were gone just as fast as they appeared only 2-days before. As much as I was prepared for her death, finally realizing it sucked. I sat at my desk and cried the hardest I had ever cried before in my life. That night I took enough Ambien to tranquilize a draft horse. I needed sleep and rest. I needed something else, but I didn’t know what that “something” was. Whatever word is out there that is stronger than “devastated” that was me that early morning. I cried so hard that my entire body shook. I had never lost control over myself like that before. I hope never to again.