Category Archives: True adoption stories

True #identity story… @GeorginaLawton #mixedrace

The story of Georgina Lawton is not one of adoption, so much as identity. Racial identity. Georgina looks mixed race though her family is white. After years of brushing the truth aside, her father’s death prompted her to ask questions. Adoptees will identify with her descriptions of anger, isolation, denial and confusion.

Georgina Lawton

Georgina Lawton

Taught not to question her skin colour, Georgina grew up in London with her blue-eyed younger brother, British father and Irish mother. ‘Although I look mixed-race, or black, my whole family is white. And until the man I called Dad died two years ago, I did not know the truth about my existence. Now, age 24, I’m starting to uncover where I come from.’ Growing up, no one spoke about racial politics and Georgina assumed she fitted into the same cultural category as everyone else. ’The word ‘black’ was never uttered in reference to me. And I saw that blackness was an intangible and wholly culture concept that had no relevance to my life. But I always had questions.’
When her father became ill with cancer, he agreed to give a DNA sample. A year later, Georgina found the courage to send it for testing. It came back inconclusive.

Georgina Lawton

Georgina Lawton as a child with her father [photo: Georgina Lawton]

A second test was sent off, this time including her mother’s DNA. She was told there was no chance her father was her own. ‘Rage so strong it scared me coursed through my veins and hurtled towards my mother like a hurricane in our family home as I demanded answers.’ Her mother then admitted to a one-night stand with a black Irishman, her birth father.

Georgina Lawton

Georgina Lawton with her father [photo: Georgina Lawton]

For Georgina, the man who raised her, who she grew up calling Dad, is her father. She realises he must have suspected his wife, Georgina’s mother, of infidelity. ‘But they loved each other dearly and not once did any of us argue about it.’
Read Georgina’s story at The Guardian.
Georgina LawtonGeorgina’s memoir Raceless tells the story of her colour-blind upbringing and how we must strive to ‘build a future in which a mixed family is neither taboo, nor a talking point,’
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True #adoption story… Shaye Woolard #adoptionstories

Shaye Woolard has been trying to find information about her birth parents since she was in middle school. At 18, she applied to the agency she had been adopted from but was told she could only be given ‘non-identifying’ facts. It took 11 years of persistence, telephone calls and emails, before she learned anything new.

‘To finally know something as simple as what time of day I was born was amazing! The information also included my parent’s height and weight measurements, and the fact that my bio-mom was 16 years old when she had had me. That helped me understand why she did not keep me. Both of my parents were from religious families, but different denominations. My mom’s biological father was unknown to her, which makes me wonder if she ever felt or feels the way that I do.’

Shaye Woolard

Shaye Woolard

When Shaye asked the agency what else she could do to get information about her family medical history, ‘they told me they would notify me when my biological mother died. What a cold response. I hung up the phone and cried. This felt like a personal attack and reminded me of the awful remarks people used to make to me while I was growing up. Some called me “adopted trash.” It sucks knowing that some people just don’t care. I had reached another dead end—back to square one. Still, I took in a deep breath and decided to keep trying.’

Now she has children of her own, the issue has become a burning one. ‘I now wish to give my children as much information as I can about our side of the family and me, including our medical history. I have ongoing health issues. I see doctor after doctor trying to sort them out, and each time, I am asked the same thing: “What is your family medical history?” I answer, “I was adopted and I don’t know anything.” They look at me as though they don’t know where to start with the medical testing. Sometimes they even ask: “Is there is any way you can find your family history?” And I always reply, “I desperately want to know and hope to someday.”’

Shaye is a wandering adult adoptee, but who is now blessed with a family of her own. Having to deal with multiple health issues, she hates hearing the repetitive question: what is your family medical history? She feels like she is cheating her kids out of knowing where they come from, and she wishes she knew the same. Shaye was adopted in April of 1985 from Smithlawn Adoption Agency in Lubbock, Texas.

This article was originally published on the ‘Secret Sons and Daughters’ blog in June 2014.

Read Shaye’s story in full.
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True #adoption story… Peter Papathanasiou @peteplastic #adoptionstories

Peter Papathanasiou was 24 years old when he was summoned to his mother’s bedroom and told he was adopted. The subsequent search for his identity takes him from Greece to Australia as he uncovers his mother’s life story. Son of Mine, published in 2019, is not just a story of adoption and identity but a story too of migration and the experience of first and second-generation immigrants.

Peter Papathanasiou

Peter Papathanasiou [photo: Salt Publishing]

‘I thought she was going to tell me somebody was dying,’ Papathanasiou told The Guardian. ‘Instead, she revealed that she was not my biological mother. Her brother, one of my many uncles, a man I’d never met, who lived in northern Greece, was my real father. I slumped against the wall in shock. By the end, I was splayed on the floor.’

He had always known his parents had struggled to have children. What he didn’t know was that in 1973 on a family visit to Greece, his mother had tried to adopt a baby at a Greek orphanage. When she was unsuccessful, her brother suggested he and his wife have a baby for her. ‘It was to be a pure gift, but Mum was scared her brother and his wife might want to keep the child: there was nothing in writing. Still, she agreed, went back to Australia and waited. One day, she got a letter. It said: “We’re pregnant. The baby will be born in June 1974.”’

His mother flew back to Greece for the birth but missed it by a day or two. She spent five months there, caring for Peter and doing the paperwork. ‘My birth certificate was issued with my adoptive name and listed my adoptive parents as my parents. We left for Australia when I was six months old. It must have been difficult for my biological parents to give me up.’ Peter’s cousin George [actually his biological brother] later told him that when he was taken away, ‘it was like a period of mourning – nobody talked for three days.’

Papathanasiou’s emotions ran through shock, then he felt deceived and angry, finally he felt excitement. ‘I forgave my parents quickly. At the end of the day, they’d always loved me. My wife and I struggled to conceive for two years, and that was tough. Mum and Dad had close to 18 years of that. My dad has since died, but he taught me so much, including how to be a father. My mum adores my boys. I’ll tell them one day: “Without that lady and the lengths she went to, to become a mother, I wouldn’t be here and neither would you.”’

Read the full article at The Guardian.
Peter Papathanasiou

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True #adoption story… Christine Rose #adoptionstories #lostsisters

At the age of four, Christine Rose was separated from her two sisters in extremely dramatic circumstances. ‘I just remember when they came to take us away. It was at night, there was a lot of screaming and my mother was crying. There were bulbs flashing in our faces as we were being carried out, it was just frightening. They took me to one children’s home and they took my sisters to another one. I never saw them again.’ For more than sixty years, she wondered what happened to them.

Christine Rose

Christine Rose, centre, with sisters Catherine, left, and Carol, right [photo: Long Lost Family]

Christine’s emotional story is told by television programme Long Lost Family which conducted the genealogical research to track down her family. Christine was born in Dewsbury, Yorkshire. She will never forget the night the three young sisters were taken from their mother by social services. Christine was sent to one children’s home, her sisters to another. She never saw her mother or sisters again. Christine was eventually adopted but remained haunted by the absence of her sisters and began to question why the family were torn apart. ‘I always felt lonely, especially knowing I had two sisters out there somewhere…I was always wondering where they are and what they were doing…I knew that we were taken away but I just can’t picture my mum at all.’

She started researching and at her local library found a newspaper article from 1955. Her mother had been accused of neglect after an NSPCC inspector visited a house and discovered young children trying to eat unpeeled raw potatoes. The floorboards had been removed and used for firewood.  Christine’s mum, Doreen, was found guilty of neglecting her three children and was remanded in custody.

Christine longs to know the truth behind the newspaper story. ‘I just want closure. There’s no blame, no bitterness, no nothing. I assume my mother would have passed away now. My sisters were so young. I really want to know what happened to them. I hope they were adopted together because I’ve had a decent life now and I hope they have.’

Long Lost Family confirmed that Doreen died many years earlier and so started to search for Christine’s sisters. A birth record is found for Catherine Mary, also born in Dewsbury and also adopted. Catherine’s marriage certificate shows she now lives in Leeds. Catherine confirms she is still in touch with her older sister, Carol. The two sisters confirm they have spent 20 years searching for Christine. Carol says, ‘It’s been like an obsession.’

On that night in 1955 Catherine and Carol, aged 18 months and two-and-a-half, were taken to a children’s home in Harrogate. They were later adopted together. They were told their father was in prison but later their mother got back together with him and they went on to have six more children together. Carol says, ‘You can understand what a desperate situation she must have been in, it’s such a shame all three of us couldn’t have stayed together. (Finding Christine) is amazing. It’s like landing on the moon.’

After the three sisters are reunited, Christine says, ‘It’s just overwhelming. As soon as I’d given them a hug, all the nerves went. It’s just so nice to see them. It’s just letting it sink in. They are my family, you know. They are my family.’
Watch an excerpt.
Read Christine’s story.

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True #adoption story… @juliewassmer #adoptionstories #birthmother

In 1989, budding screenwriter Julie Wassmer went to meet a literary agent to talk about script ideas. She didn’t look twice at the secretary who served coffee that day. Twenty years earlier, teenage Julie had given birth to a baby daughter who was given up for adoption. The following day, typing a letter for her boss, the secretary recognised Julie’s name from her own birth certificate.

Julie Wassmer

Julie Wassmer [photo: juliewassmer.com]

Julie managed to hide her pregnancy from her parents until she went into labour. She was sixteen. “In my family, where I was the adored only child, falling pregnant to my boyfriend Martin when I was 16 was a disaster… Martin and I never assumed for a moment that there could be a happy ending. We were too poor, too working class, too young to build a family. Adoption was the only possibility.”

After spending ten days in hospital with her daughter Sarah Louise, Julie went home alone and returned to her A-level studies. She and Martin split up. She always believed Sarah Louise would get in touch, especially when the Adoption Act was passed in 1976 giving children the right to trace their parents. She was convinced Sarah Louise would look for her after her 18th birthday in 1988. Meanwhile, Julie wrote a script that was made into a film in 1989, and the meeting with the agent followed.

“There is no ground map that exists for such situations: we have had to feel our way towards a relationship over the past 20 years. She has a mother whom she dearly loves – that is not my role. Mostly I feel we are more like sisters; other times it feels as if we are best friends; occasionally it has felt like falling in love.”

Mother and daughter meet regularly. “Writing down our experiences in a book has been cathartic. And when Sara fell pregnant at 37, I was able to revel in her experience. Picking up my grandson for the first time brought us full circle.”

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Read Julie’s full interview with The Guardian and visit her website.

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True #adoption story… finding Joy #adoptionstories

This is a true story told by the adoptive mother of a mixed race boy, first fostered by the family from when he was five weeks old. “His birth mother was placing him for adoption, but the government of Guam was intent on finding someone within his extended family to adopt him. It was the culture. But at eight months of age, the parental rights were terminated and the adoption process began. At age two he legally became ours.” All identities are protected in this story.

heart to heart adoptions

[photo: heart to heart adoptions]

As their son grew, his parents talked to him about his birth mother and how one day he might like to find her. ‘Not yet’, he replied. When he was twenty, he was ready. “All we had was a name and a phone number – and we weren’t even sure about the number,” explains his adoptive mother. “But sitting on his dresser was a slip of paper with the information we were able to find. He knew that when he was ready, we would support him in finding his birth mother and making that call.”

He was concerned about the shock a call from him would cause, and so his adoptive mother agreed to make the first contact. “He wanted me to thank her for him. To thank her for life and for loving him enough to give him his best chance; and he wanted to know about his heritage. Being a mixed race, he wanted more details. So, I called with those intentions – and my own agenda too. You see, for twenty-one years we had prayed for her.”

That phone call brought Joy, the birth mother, back in touch with her son and with his adoptive family.

Read this adoptive mum’s story in full.

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True #adoption story… @samfuterman #adoptionstories

American actress Samantha Futerman – she played Satsu Sakamoto in Memoirs of a Geisha, and starred in and directed Twinsters, a documentary about finding her twin sister – was born in Busan, South Korea in 1987. Her birth name was Ra-Hee Chung. She was later adopted by her American parents, Jackie and Judd Futerman and went to the New York Professional Performing Arts High School.

Samantha, growing up in America, and her twin sister, Anais Bordier, growing up in France, did not know of the other’s existence. This misconception lasted for twenty-five years until they found each other in 2013 via social networking services. Both had been adopted shortly after birth. Futerman decided to make their cinematic encounter into a film. With co-director Ryan Miyamoto, she filmed the reunion, starting with the sisters’ first encounter on Facebook messenger chat, to their first face-to-face meeting in London. “We weren’t trying to do anything but tell an honest story,” said Futerman. “We weren’t trying to please anyone but we’re happy that it came out with positivity.” This film became Twinsters.

Samantha Futerman

Samantha Futerman and Anais Bordier

The sisters had different adoption experiences. Speaking about adoption in general, Anais said, “I hope they understand that a kid is a kid no matter what. They should be happy that their family accepted them and loved them. To parents who are adopting children, I’d say they’re really brave. They’re brave to understand what being a parent is. It’s the same as just being a regular parent. To parents who gave their children away, they’re the bravest of them all. It’s the hardest thing. I hope our biological parents are happy. I want to thank them for choosing to wish for us a better life.”

Samantha added, “It takes a lot to not get rid of a child. It takes a lot of courage. I can’t imagine what that pain is like. For new adoptive parents, congratulations and good luck on this journey of parenting. For adoptees, know that you’re not alone. Don’t forget that you’re unique and there are many people out there to support you.”

Samantha Futerman
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True #adoption story… Angela Patrick #adoptionstories

On January 16, 1964, Angela Patrick sat in the waiting room of an adoption charity in west London. In her arms she held her sleeping baby, eight-week old Paul. When an adoption worker took Paul from Angela’s lap to ‘take him to show to the couple’, Angela waited for Paul to be returned so she could say goodbye. But Angela would not see Paul for another thirty years.

Angela Patrick

Angela Patrick & Katharine [photo: Sarah Lee for The Guardian]

Nineteen year old Angela was raised in a Catholic family, told she would meet a man, marry him, then children would follow. But Angela went to a party, forgot her mother’s warning of ‘Never let a man touch you’ and found herself pregnant. Angela clearly remembers the emotions today. “From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I felt sheer panic,” says Angela, 68. “I was in denial for weeks. My overwhelming feeling was shame – at how badly I’d let my mother down. But when I finally accepted it, my one thought was: how can I get through this without anyone finding out?”

The fling having ended before Angela found out she was pregnant, she lived first with a supportive friend and then, for the last two months of her pregnancy, at a Catholic home for unmarried mums-to-be. There was no alternative but to have her baby adopted. Having been in denial for so long, it was too late to have an abortion. “I’ve been over it a million times and wondered how I could have kept my baby, but I’ve never come up with an answer,” says Angela. “I would never, ever have been able to go home with a baby.”

Angela’s delivery was difficult and, as a result, she stayed at the home with Paul for two months after the birth. Time for mother and son to form a strong bond. Adoption day was unbearable. “It was impossible to think of another woman mothering him,” she says.

Thirty years later, on January 19, 1994, Angela received a letter from the adoption charity saying Paul had been in touch and would like to make contact with Angela. “I imagined how much it had taken for him to track down the charity. To think he had searched for me, not knowing if I would want anything to do with him, and might reject him all over again, broke my heart.”

Angela went on to marry and have a daughter. Katharine, now 35, has a child of her own and cannot imagine doing what her mother had to do. And she is angry with her grandmother. ” I wasn’t brought up religiously, so I don’t understand the indoctrination my mother had, or the society that she grew up in. My mum is a good person, a nice person, and her own mother behaved in an inhumane way. I can’t imagine letting those beliefs win over what I felt for my child. I have a 10-week old baby, and the thought of being forced to give her up is unimaginable.

“My grandmother died when I was eight. I don’t think, once I’d found out about what had happened to my mum, that I could have forgiven her like Mum did, or would want to have continued a relationship with her.”

Read Angela’s full story at The Guardian.

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True #adoption story… Heather Katz #adoptionstories

When her teenage mother fell pregnant in the winter of 1971, Heather Katz’s mother hid her swelling stomach. “At seven months into her pregnancy, her mother finally uncovered the truth. The following day, her parents set events in motion that would alter the course of many lives to follow. The family arranged for my mother to leave her home state and move into the Edna Gladney Center for unwed mothers in Fort Worth, Texas, USA. No one in her hometown, including her siblings, was ever to know of me—and she was never to speak of my birth.”

Heather Katz

Heather Katz [photo secretsonsanddaughters.org]

Heather was adopted by a rabbi of a large reform congregation in San Antonio and his wife, director of family life education at Jewish Family Services. After years of trying to conceive, the couple received a call from the Gladney Center. It was to be a charmed childhood for Heather.

“We did not keep secrets in our family. From the moment I was adopted, my parents spoke openly of my adoption. When I was only three months old, my great-great aunt asked my mom when she was going to tell me I was adopted. My mom responded with, “I am just going to tell her that she is a girl, Anglo, American and adopted. Being adopted will always be part of her identity.” Indeed, it was. I do not recall a moment of not knowing I was adopted.”

Now with her own children, Heather wonders about her birth family. “I still wonder which unknown family member passed on their musical abilities to both my children and me; I wonder what family folklore I might never hear; and while I met my birth father once, there is much I cannot say or know.”

When she was 21, Heather’s adoptive parents employed an adoption search specialist. Her birth mother was found. After a break of a few months to think about it, Heather asked the social worker to make the telephone call. Her birth mother answered, saying, “My family does not know about her. I cannot talk at this time.”

“Your daughter only wishes for you to know that she is doing well and that she’d enjoy exchanging letters when you’re ready and willing,” said the intermediary.

For several months, Heather and her birth mother exchanged letters. Finally, they met. “We all exchanged hugs, made awkward chatter about hair highlights or something mundane like that, and then shared a light-hearted restaurant meal together. We spent close to four surreal hours with them. From that encounter, a phantom had been laid to rest and my ancestral tree had grown a few more branches. However, when I had asked questions about my birth story or my paternal family, I learned nothing more. At the time, it was too difficult for my mother to dredge up the past.” It would be a further 18 years before Heather’s maternal birth family knew of her existence.

Read Heather’s story in full at her blog, Secret Sons and Daughters, or follow her at Facebook.

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True #adoption story… Mary Anna King #adoptionstories

Over two decades, Mary Anna King refined her angst about her status as an adoptee. “I had always told myself that it was a kind of triple-win scenario – birth families relieve the pressure of a child they are unable to care for, adoptive families gain a much wanted child, a child gains a stable, loving family. But I was beginning to see there was a flipside. There can be no winners without losers. Once adoption was on the table everyone had already lost – lineage, origin, the visions of the future lives they thought they would live – and all our losses were attached to someone else’s gain in an endless, confusing loop.”

Mary Anna King

Mary Anna King [photo: Barry J Holmes/The Observer]

Mary was born in the Eighties in New Jersey, USA, the second eldest of seven children. Her father ‘Michael’ was ‘semi-present’, her mother struggled with money. Mary, her mother and siblings lived in an apartment building full of single mothers. “It operated like a commune of amputees, living with the lost limbs of former lovers. Resources were shared, the kids were subject to discipline of whichever mother happened to be nearest by at the time, rides or walks to school were shared and alternated… that sort of thing.”

Eventually, four of the children were adopted by different families on the East Coast. Mary and her sister Becca were adopted by their maternal grandparents in Oklahoma [below].

Mary Anna King

Mary Anna King and sister Becca, with the grandparents who adopted them [photo: Mary Anna King]

Eventually, each sibling searched for their birth family and the seven were reunited. Says Mary, “It is amazing that they all came back, because the truth is that not all adopted people search. What I have come to learn is that women tend to search more than men, and that this urge to search is spurred on when they start having their own children. Doctors start asking questions about family health history and people start to wonder. The discovery that the adoptee has siblings is another motive, especially among those like my sister Rebekah, who were brought up as only children.”

Mary Anna King

Mary King [photo: Braden Moran]

Read the full Guardian interview here, and there’s more about Mary Anna King at her blog. Or read her memoir, Bastards.

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