June 29th, 2009
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Categories: Articles, Reunion

A story out of Philadelphia has various sides of the triad along with random members of society going at each others’ throats regarding topics like search, reunion and an adoptee’s rights versus a birth parent’s right. In short, a rape victim who placed the child conceived as a result of that rape for adoption is suing over the fact that she was contacted.

Of course, she wasn’t just contacted. Her child showed up on her doorstep. I think that’s part of the rub.

On December 13th, the adult adoptee knocked on the rape victim’s door. I think in any adoption situation, surprise reunions are neither the norm nor the desired outcome of placement. Usually a non-face-to-face contact (letter or phone) precede the in-your-face type of meeting. So what went wrong here?

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The rape victim received a letter from the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) in August 2008 stating an adopted adult was seeking information regarding her birth parents. DYFS then asked the rape victim to confirm her identity and whether she wanted to pursue the matter. Apparently the letter so unnerved the birth mother that she didn’t reply, assuming that her silence was an answer to the presented question.

Never assume anything.

The birth mother in this case is now suing the state, saying that they violated her right to privacy.

When she spoke with DYFS after her daughter paid the unexpected visit, she was informed that because she had not returned the letter, the office “more or less did what they had to do,” the complaint alleges.

I don’t quite know where I stand here. I understand that rape victims as birth mothers are a different scenario than those of us who do not associate the conception of the relinquished child with a traumatic event. I don’t have flashbacks or feel fearful of her biological father when I look into the eyes of my daughter. I question if DYFS had it in their file that this was a case of rape. If so, would they have proceeded with helping the child seek out the information? Even still, shouldn’t an adult adoptee who is asking questions be privy to information about the reasons they were brought into this world? It’s all different shades of grey.

And, of course, it has created a maelstrom of opinions on the matter. Some are shouting, “This is why we need to keep records closed!” At the same time, others are pointing out that this is a reason why records need to be opened, so surprises like this don’t happen. To me, this is a perfect scenario as to how placing mothers, whether or not they are rape victims or not, should be given more thorough counseling. It is obvious that the birth mother in this case has some unresolved issues attaches to the rape and conception of her child. If the agency through which she placed had offered her some counseling during that time period and in the immediate aftermath, perhaps she wouldn’t have had such a violent reaction. Furthermore, DYFS should have counseled the adult adoptee in this case that showing up on doorsteps isn’t usually the best way to go about a reunion.

Many balls were dropped in this situation. It’s not a happy ending, any way you look at it. There are some definite issues going on with how people were treated, are treated and how we’re neglecting our responsibilities as an industry when we allow things like this to happen.

I wish the best for the adult adoptee and the birth mother in this scenario even though I don’t know what that “best” entails.

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2 Responses to “Suing Over Contact”

  1. hafar says:

    Im familiar with this case and was present when testimony was given by the womans husband.He claimed that it was a Catholic Social Services worker that gave out the name of the birth mother not any state agency.Its also important to note that no police report was ever filed regarding the raoe case so its an alledged case of rape and may have never happened. We dont know. This couple was recruited to testify against the bill to allow adoptees to gain access to their original birth certificates by the Catholic Conference. Their claim that a Catholic Social Services worker made the error was changed and now they are blamming DYFS. Its not uncommon for a woman to claim she was raped when the fact is she had sex that she regrets. I dont know if thats what happened here but a police report would been helpful.The law they oppose has a provision to notify birth mothers of any request by the adoptee to obtain the birth record and allows her to write a response stating her contact preference. Thats better than what we have now, secrecy didnt protect this womans identity. In any case only 1% of birth mothers dont want contact and you dont punish a whole class of people because of one alleged event in this womans life.

  2. [...] Suing Over Contact (June 29, 2009): about a birthmother who is suing the state’s Division of Youth and Family Services because the child she conceived through rape appeared on her doorstep. [...]

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