Submitted by Mike H.
This tale is one of adoption. Here, in the UK, things are done a certain way. I don’t know how the legal side of adoption works in the US or elsewhere. I was born in London in the early 1960’s and immediately placed for adoption with an adoption agency. These bodies (which no longer exist) took babies shortly after birth and cared for them. Their job was to find and approve prospective parents and homes for the babies for a fee. I fear it was quite lucrative. After a period of a few months I was placed for adoption with a family in the UK who couldn’t have children. My adopted parents (I call them my parents because I knew no other) were professionals, my father a lawyer. I had a younger adopted sister and a brother. I was well cared for and life was generally good. I knew I was adopted from an early age and had little detail about my birth parents and any contact, either from or to birth parents, would be highly illegal and it could be a custodial offense.
This wasn’t a problem for me. Children who are placed for adoption are put there for good reasons. The mother might have substance issues, the baby might be an accident, perhaps the mother was very young. In the 1960’s being a single mum was a very unacceptable thing, it could ruin careers and lives. That stigma is, thankfully, largely gone. However, behind every adoption lies a story and that story could be pretty grim. I needed to be fairly strong because the outcome might be poor. Another thing I have learned is not to judge things that happened in the past with the eyes of the future. At the time things would have been totally correct and acceptable, today they are not.
Over the years the legislation in the UK has been relaxed. It became permissible for an adopted person to search for their birth parents, but not the other way around, and over time I felt it would be a good thing to do. I had an itch but not really the motivation to scratch it. I went as far as being interviewed. Before embarking on a process to trace my birth parents I had to go for an interview with the UK Social Services (this is a UK Government body with a reputation to scare the living daylights out of any sane person). The requirement was to prove that the search was being done for the right reasons. I had begun a process that took around 8 years to complete. As someone once said “the first step is to lose the way.”
In the first half of the 2000’s my parents both died. They were perhaps slightly older and had lived full lives. It was a horrendous time, they became ill, but one has to move on. After some time recovering my balance I felt that I could begin to trace my birth family without hurting anyone. I knew that if I didn’t do this soon, the chances of finding a parent alive would not be good. I had the encouragement of my wife and I set forth. Here in the UK we have a TV show “Who Do You Think You Are?” which features various celebrities tracing their roots. I found this something of an inspiration.
Nothing was easy. For example, the court through which I had been adopted had long since closed and the building demolished. I had to find where the records lay. Very little is on the net, it came down to leg work, files, and dusty basements. I had to start at first base. I applied to the Court, found where the records had been filed, (40 miles away from the original site) and retrieved my original birth certificate. From that I got a name, my original birth name, and discovered I had Australian roots. That was a surprise, suddenly knowing that one comes from a different continent. Through this I discovered that I was born in a hospital for Women in London – run only by women. It’s now a dance studio, and the given address was a Christian hostel for young women who had gotten themselves into difficulty.
I joined a group in the UK – NORCAP AAA – (Adults affected by Adoption) who were helpful and gave me pointers. Purely by chance I went to one of their meetings locally and met a guy who was a very keen motorcyclist, as am I, and as bikers always do, we got to talking. I told him the little I knew, and he scratched his head. At about midnight that night, as I was preparing for bed, I got a call. The gentleman had gone home and had been searching for hours in boxes of records in his garage. The piece of the puzzle he discovered was where my adoption records are currently located. It turned out that the adoption agency had folded in the 1970’s, but all the documents and files on my case had been placed into the basement of Westminster City Hall in London, the old home of the mayor of London, until the building was sold, where they had sat for 30 years untouched. This was a major breakthrough! I then had to apply for these documents and pay a small fee; it took several months for them to send somebody down into the archive and to retrieve them, even then they would only send them to Social Services and not to me. They felt I would need support when the file was opened.
In the next installment I will detail what was in those documents-and what ultimately happened which was very unusual.
From the editors of OneLegacy.com:
For information on Intercountry Adoption – http://adoption.state.gov/