This I Believe

Diane - Kennewick, Washington
Entered on June 26, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: family, legacy

Searching for Barbara Anne

I believe that I have a right to know who I am. For most people this is a given, but for an adoptee, knowing who you are can be elusive. Sixty-one years ago, on July 15, 1945, a little girl was born in Brooklyn, New York, a girl who still doesn’t know who she is.

When I attended my husband’s family reunion in Oregon I watched as a group photo was taken of all his cousins. I was struck by how much they all looked alike. Strangely enough, they all have the same dry sense of humor as well. They take their family and its history largely for granted—it is part of who they are. But for an adoptee, there is no genetic family, no heritage, and no cousins who look like you.

I have searched for my birth parents for over thirty years. Because I was born in New York State I have no legal right to know anything more than the non-identifying information provided over sixty years ago by my birth mother, a young woman of twenty-three. This information is useless in health profiles, and the lack of a medical history affects not only me but my thirty-four year old son (whose father was also adopted).

Based on the non-identifying information provided to me by the adoption agency, I have searched birth records, the census, hired a private detective, had my DNA profiled—if there is an angle, I have researched it. When my father was terminally ill he gave me the legal papers from my adoption which showed my birth name was Barbara Anne Reed. I spent over fifteen years looking for a connection based on that name, even writing people who had the same last name in New England where my mother purportedly came from. Several years ago when I made my second visit to the adoption agency I found out that the name my mother gave me was fictitious. So all that searching was pretty much in vain, and I have to start all over again.

I believe this is a question of rights and responsibilities. My birth parents were responsible for my birth. I believe that they should be willing to take responsibility for their actions. And I believe that my right to know who I am trumps any sixty-year old promises of confidentiality. The promises to my birth mother were made in a different era when an illegitimate birth carried a serious stigma. Today, the same agency that placed me refuses this kind of closed adoption. But they are bound by the law of the state which prohibits them from disclosing any identifying information from earlier adoptions.

I realize that the chances are diminishing that my birth parents are still living. But I still hope that some day the pieces will fit together and I will find Barbara Anne and the birth family I have never known.