Last summer, I read Margaret Somerville’s article on children’s rights to their biological origins in the Globe & Mail.
Adoption is our longest-standing experience of dealing with a situation where children have been intentionally disconnected from their biological parents.
In the past, adoption records were permanently sealed. We now recognize that as being harmful to the adopted person and potentially so to the birth family, and unethical. Yet donor-conceived Canadians do not know who at least one of their biological parents is, because donors here are allowed to remain anonymous, which is no longer the case in a growing list of countries (including Britain, Australia and New Zealand among many others). That also is unethical and, if we continue with gamete donation, it must be changed.
Adoptive parents were once advised by “professionals” – as the parents of donor-conceived children have been and still often are – not to tell their children of their origins; they were told that secrecy was best.
At the time, I disagreed. I thought forcing parents to reveal their identities would deter already apprehensive parents from going through with adoption on both ends of the process. However, a recent experience may change my mind.
A few weeks ago, I was watching NBC’s ancestry reality show called “Who Do You Think You Are?”, which is essentially a very long advert for the website Ancestry.com. I had used this website years ago, but never found much. The show prompted me to give the site another chance. For me, the search entry has always been the same, looking for my biological father. I knew his name but not how to spell it, had his photograph but no year of birth, had his birth country but not his current location. The search on the site? Well, it turned up a matching name with the correct spelling, his year of birth and a matching country of origin.
I think I was a little shocked at first. It was funny, how something I had put so much time and energy into years ago was suddenly so easy. I found more about him through a Google search, his location, more recent photos, details about his life. This wasn’t particularly impacting, I had put to rest my expectations of finding this person years ago. What was shocking was the difference it seemed to suddenly make in me. And it was sudden. One minute I couldn’t have told you where my biological father was or if he was still alive and the next, I could. The effect was instant. There was a confidence perhaps that wasn’t there before. I won’t say something was “missing”, because that implies desiring it to return, but something that was not present before was now present.
We are the stories we tell ourselves, so do I think all children have a right to know their story? I don’t know if it’s a “right”, but I will say…it is, in an inexplicably intimate way, better to know than not know.by