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Mar 06, 2015

Today’s guest post is contributed by Tina Caudill. Tina is the founder of Adoption Identity Movement of Michigan. She is the MI Representative for the American Adoption Congress and member of Concerned United Birthparents. Since 2002, she has shared her passion and expertise at Bethany Christian Services of Michigan, Madison Heights.

I was 21 years old, engaged, and pregnant. In the 1960s, this was not cause for celebration. My fiancé and I had been together for four years, but when he learned a baby was on the way, he broke off the engagement and ended the relationship. Certain family dynamics prevented me from telling my parents about my pregnancy. I knew I needed help, and I knew I would need to search for it alone.

There was not nearly as much assistance available then as there is today for women facing unplanned pregnancies. I found an agency that talked to me about my “options,” none of which included parenting my child or placing my child in temporary foster care until I could get back on my feet. Adoption was the foregone conclusion, and the ensuing months were long and lonely as I tried to figure out how I would get through it on my own. When I went into labor, I was dropped off at the hospital where I shared a room with three other mothers. I watched with pangs of envy as they welcomed parades of happy visitors and doting relatives.

I left the hospital in a taxi, and my son was placed in interim care for six weeks until his adoption was finalized. I moved back home with my parents, returned to my job, and looked for an apartment. It was strange to resume my life as though nothing had happened—my son had disappeared into the red tape of closed adoption. There was no follow up from the agency about my recovery. I couldn’t talk about any of this with friends or family. I felt numb with no productive way to process my grief.

Four years after the delivery, I contacted the adoption agency to try to learn anything about my son and his adoptive family. I wanted to know that my child was safe and in a loving home. I received non-identifying information about his adoptive family, and that provided some comfort.

As my post-adoption journey continued, it occurred to me that there were surely other birthmothers asking the same questions I was. I thought if I could bring together others who had lived this experience, maybe we could support one another and we’d all feel less alone. In 1972, I placed an ad in the local newspaper seeking out birthmothers like me, and three women responded. Our first meeting was the beginning of what would grow to become Adoption Identity Movement of Michigan.

For the next 38 years, I led this organization, which provided adoption education and support for birthparents who were searching for their adult sons and daughters (18 years of age and older) and for adult adoptees struggling with grief, loss, and identity. Ten years after we began, we were seeing 75–100 people attending our monthly meetings. Although the group no longer meets, online support can be found at www.michigansearching.com.

In 2002, I joined the staff at Bethany Christian Services in Madison Heights, Michigan. I was thrilled to find an agency that prioritized post-adoption support for birthmothers and adoptees. Bethany is committed to educating and training staff to offer a wide array of post-adoption services. I enjoy working with colleagues who are dedicated, attentive, and responsive to the clients they serve. Post-adoption support is highly valued across the organization, and that sets Bethany apart.

After my son turned 18, I again tried contacting the agency I went through all those years ago. I sent letters in hopes that they might forward them to his adoptive family, but the agency’s response was always the same: “Sorry, we cannot do that.” It took five years of strategic networking, but I was finally able to get a letter directly to my son. He was open to establishing a relationship with me, and he has now been a part of my life for more than 25 years. This is what I hope for other birthparents and adoptees—I want them to know that help and support is available when they are ready to begin their search.

The Post-Adoption Contact Center provides support and information to anyone seeking help after adoption including any birthfamily member, adult adoptee and adoptive family member throughout the United States. The Post-Adoption Contact Center is staffed by licensed, adoption-competent professionals that provide support, education, and referral assistance to anyone touched by adoption. You do not need to be a former or current Bethany client to connect with PACC.

If you know have a unique need or challenge through an adoption experience, we encourage you to contact us toll-free at 866.309.7328 or learn more here.