February 8, 2013

How the Church Hurt Me
An Adoptee Speaks Out (Part Two)

This post is part two in an ongoing series here at Adoptee Restoration. If you missed the first post, go here and check it out. 

I don't know when I'm going to end this series. The sad thing is, it could go on forever and there would be no shortage of people's stories to tell.  

Today's story comes from my friend and fellow Lost Daughters sister, Julie. She is an adult adoptee who was born, adopted and raised in a closed-record state in the northeast United States. She has been in reunion with her paternal and maternal natural families since 1998. In addition to serving on the boards of two adoptee rights organizations, she is a published journalist and an award winning copywriter. She blogs regularly here as well as serving as co-editor and a columnist at Lost Daughters. 

As I did previously with Jenn's story, I will give no further remarks at the end of Julie's story here on the post. I encourage you to read and give your thoughts in the comment thread.

Julie’s story

My original parents were high school sweethearts, attending a religious school. My natural mother was raised in a very strict religious home. When they conceived me during their freshman year of college at a religious university, they decided to get married. My paternal grandparents offered their home and full support in raising me. My maternal grandparents did not approve of my father and immediately consulted the pastor.

The pastor called a religious adoption agency and the next thing my father knew, my mother had disappeared. She was sent to a religious sponsored maternity home and the pastor called my paternal grandfather down to the church office. My paternal grandfather was informed that he was expected to pay for half of the maternity home and adoption fees. My paternal grandfather said, "Absolutely not! We do not consent, and we want the baby."

The pastor told him, "The baby will be placed for adoption and you will never live to see your grandchild."  

And that was that. 

My religious maternal grandparents and this church-sponsored agency were allowed to place me with strangers knowing full well that my own father and paternal family wanted to keep me with them.

The year I turned 18-years old, my natural father went to the adoption agency to inquire about me. The social worker told him that for a fee, he could fill out a form releasing his information to me if I came asking. He continued actively searching for me. It wasn't until ten years later, when I decided to search, that we finally found each other--without any assistance from the adoption agency. I had to pay a fee to the agency to get five photocopied pieces of paper comprising my non-identifying information. 

Then, the church-sponsored adoption agency offered to charge me $250 in exchange for them contacting my natural mother. If she wanted nothing to do with me, the agency would keep my money and I would be left no further along in my search. The agency also did not release my father's information to me. The agency took his money. But it didn't make good on the service it claimed it would provide. 

I was raised of the same religious faith as my adoptive parents.  I consider myself of this faith now and my children go to the church school. But it is a struggle every day for me to remain with a church of the same faith that treated me and my sense of well being with such complete disregard. 

This past Sunday marked the start of Christian Education Week at our church. During his sermon, our pastor said, “we don't just hand our children over to anyone" in relation to Christian education. All I could think was "uh, but wait, our denomination DOES hand children over to anyone with enough money!" It's so hard for me to not read into everything that someone representing the church says. And the fact that the leaders of our church at the national and international level trample all over the adoptees they claim to care so much about through the adoption? I believe they are in need of confession.

While the church claims to be pro-life, anti-abortion and pro-adoption-as-an-option, I consider this to be mere lip service. If the adoption option was truly about respecting the right of the unborn to live a conscious life, then the church would be doing everything in their respective powers to ensure that the adoptee's best interests are the priority. Instead we have religious special interest groups actively opposing my right to access my own original birth certificate. And we have the same religious group operating its adoption program now exactly as it did back then. 

If the church isn't willing to fight for the adoptees processed through its adoption agencies once we are out of the womb, I certainly do not need it fighting for us while we are in the womb. 

Has the church hurt me as an adoptee? Absolutely. In some of the most heart breaking and life altering ways possible. But I am fully aware that this has been the work of those who claim to be doing God's work. It is not God's work. Jesus would not treat his people this way. God would not want children to lose their identities and families.

 And so I sit in the pew every Sunday and ask God to please help me and all adoptees so that we can stop the suffering inflicted upon us at the hands of misguided people claiming to be working in His name. And I pray that they might intercede on behalf of adoptees and help change the church so that it can offer God's love and respect to all of His people.