Adoption disclosure

The latest material added to the Australian Institute of Family Studies library database is displayed, up to a maximum of 30 items. Where available online, a link to the document is provided. Many items can be borrowed from the Institute's library via the Interlibrary loan system.

See more resources on Adoption disclosure in the AIFS library catalogue

Exploring the ethical implications of the late discovery of adoptive and donor-insemination offspring status.

Riley H
Adoption and Fostering v. 37 no. 2 Jul 2013: 171-187
This article explores the impact for adults of learning that are actually adopted or conceived via donor-insemination. Interviews were conducted with 25 adults from Australia, the United Kingdom, and North America regarding their experiences. The main themes that emerged were: disrupted personal autonomy, betrayal of deep levels of trust, and feelings of injustice and diminished self-worth.

The new kinship : constructing donor-conceived families

Cahn N
New York : New York University Press, c2013.
"No federal law in the United States requires that egg or sperm donors or recipients exchange any information with the offspring that result from the donation. Donors typically enter into contracts with fertility clinics or sperm banks which promise them anonymity. The parents may know the donor's hair color, height, IQ, college, and profession; they may even have heard the donor's voice. But they don't know the donor's name, medical history, or other information that might play a key role in a child's development. And, until recently, donor-conceived offspring typically didn't know that one of their biological parents was a donor. But the secrecy surrounding the use of donor eggs and sperm is changing. And as it does, increasing numbers of parents and donor-conceived offspring are searching for others who share the same biological heritage. When donors, recipients, and 'donor offspring' find each other, they create new forms of families. [This book] details how families are made and how bonds are created between families in the brave new world of reproductive technology. Naomi Cahn, a nationally-recognized expert on reproductive technology and the law, shows how these new kinship bonds dramatically exemplify the ongoing cultural change in how we think about family."

Identity and genetic origins: an ethical exploration of the late discovery of adoptive and donor-insemination offspring status

Riley H
Discovering, as an adult, that one is adopted or conceived through donor sperm can be a significant life event. This thesis explores the impact of the discovery of adoptive or donor-insemination status, focusing on kinship and identity, the ethics of identity, the narrative of moral identity, and the indissoluble link between the social and the biological. The thesis reviews the research literature and presents findings from interviews with 25 'late discoverers', and also examines the legal context of adoption, sperm-donation, and information access in Australia.

The late discovery of adoptive and donor insemination offspring status : ethical implications for conceptual understandings of the 'best interests of the child' principle.

Riley H
Australian Journal of Adoption v. 6 no. 1 2012: 9p
This article explores the ethics of closed adoption and undisclosed donor insemination, and the impact of late discovery. It draws on interviews with 25 adults who discovered their status between the ages of 18 and 61: 19 were adoptees, 6 were conceived with donor insemination. Their stories reveal common themes of broken trust; disrupted personal autonomy; betrayal by parents, families, and service providers; and injustice.

Adoptees in reunion : the psychological integration of adoption, motivations for reunion, and the reunion relationship.

Rogers S
Australian Journal of Adoption v. 1 no. 2 2009: 100p
The study aimed to explore adult adoptees' integration of their adoptions over the lifespan. It utilised retrospective reports of adoptees' childhood experiences of secrecy pertaining to adoption and the impact of this on integrating being adopted. It explored the initial motivations for searching for birth parents and the relationship roles adopted in reunion, and whether deeper motivations for searching emerged when adoptees described what their reunion relationship meant to them. Twelve participants were recruited: all grew up in the closed adoption system. The study revealed that, typically, although told of their adoption as children, thereafter the adoptees were bound by secrecy and this affected their ability to integrate the full meaning of their adoptions. More aware and meaningful connection to their adoption experience emerged in adulthood when they underwent the process of search and reunion. The need for medical information, and identity consolidation, were the most commonly reported motivations for seeking reunion, and were a valuable aspect of reunion. However, ultimately, the most important aspects of reunion for the adoptee participants were the relational bonds and connection to their birth mothers (and other family members) as well as a sense of belonging within a genetic continuum.

Listening to late discovery adoption and donor offspring stories: adoption, ethics and implications for contemporary donor insemination practices.

Riley H
Spark, Ceridwen, ed. Cuthbert, Denise, ed. Other people's children : adoption in Australia. North Melbourne, Vic. : Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2009. 9781921509469 : 145-160
Shame and secrecy continue to characterise the experience of donor offspring in Australia, a group considered by the author of this chapter. She explores stories told by people who have discovered their adoptive and donor insemination offspring status late in life. Although there are difference practices involved, these stories reveal common experiences in which the 'late discoverers' have to deal not only with the news of their birth status, but with the long years of secrecy and deception surrounding this status, and the psychological effect this late discovery has on them.

The late discovery of adoptive status.

Riley H
Family Relationships Quarterly no. 7 2008 13-15
This article explores the experience of learning of one's adoptive status as an adult. It presents findings from a research project, based in Queensland, which gathered the personal stories of 22 middle-aged and older adults from Australia, UK, USA, and Canada. Their stories highlight the ongoing feelings of betrayal, loss of trust, and difficulty in forgiving, and, as the literature describes, the 'sense of disrupted or subverted agency'. The author concludes by drawing attention to the issues of ethics, injustice, and recognition needed in the healing process.

Talking with children about difficult history.

Van Gulden H
Adoption Australia Autumn 2007 11-13
Some adoptive parents have potentially painful information about their children's history and birth family, and find it difficult to know when or whether they should share the information with them. This article raises the dilemma, describes some scenarios, and provides guidance on how to tell adopted children about the circumstances and history surrounding their births and early lives.

The right to know: secrecy and donor conception.

Millar M
Australian Rationalist no. 53 Autumn 2000 20-24
A brief history of past adoption practice in Australia is provided in this article which discusses the moral and psychological issues raised by John Tresiliotis, in his book 'In Search of Origins', on the rights of adopted children, linking these to the current prevalence of artificial insemination using donor sperm. The Infertility (Medical Procedures) Act 1984 (Vic) is considered in relation to recognising the needs of donor conceived children to know their biological parentage. Concerns are raised about unethical practices by doctors, and about the secrecy still surrounding the genetic parents of children of donor sperm.

Talking to your child about adoption. Part two.

Adamec C
Adoption Australia Winter 2000 10-14
The second of a two part article about talking to your child about adoption, this article deals with discussing birth parents, explaining the reasons for adoption, good and bad times to talk, and dealing with feelings of sadness and negative attitudes and comments.

Talking to your child about adoption. Part one.

Adamec C
Adoption Australia Autumn 2000 7-10
For adoptive parents, talking about adoption with their children is very important. This is the first of a two part article which offers basic guidelines about when and how to talk to children about adoption, and what should and should not be said. The author looks at how to get started, what to do if a child becomes upset, at what age to begin and what to tell children at different stages of growth and development. The second part of this article will discuss birth parents, explain the reasons for adoption, good and bad times to talk, feelings of sadness and dealing with negative attitudes and comments.

Not your 'real' parents.

McCurdy D
Adoption Australia Autumn 1999 15-16
Suggestions are provided in this article to enable adoptive parents and teachers to help adopted children feel fully a part of their families. These involve: working on the problem of language; keeping the birth parents' role in the past; and speaking positively about adoption as one good way that children come to parents.

Why wasn't I told? Making sense of the late discovery of adoption.

Perl L and Markham S
Bondi, NSW : Post Adoption Resource Centre, Benevolent Society of NSW, 1999
This document describes a project which examined the effects of late discovery on adopted adults, based on a survey of people who had contacted the Post Adoption Resource Centre (PARC), a service of the Benevolent Society of NSW. The background to the study is outlined and the methodology discussed. The questionnaire and consent letter are presented in the appendices. Results are discussed with reference to: how the sample found out about the adoption; initial reaction; previous suspicions; informing the adoptive parents of the discovery; some reasons for never telling the adoptive parents; the effect on adoptive family relationships; contact with the birth family; impact of the reunion; late discovery as an ongoing issue; better not to know; a suitable age to tell; and advice for other late discovery adoptees.

Why wasn't I told? : making sense of the late discovery of adoption

Perl L and Markham S
Bondi, NSW : Post Adoption Resource Centre, Benevolent Society of NSW, 1999

Learning about adoption.

Johnston P
Link (Adoptive Families Association Victoria) Mar 1996 15-19
The author reports on the finding of a landmark study conducted by Dr David Brodzinsky at Rutgers University into what children understand about adoption and when they learn it. The study shows the stages of understanding of children from three years through to adolescence. Other research by Brodzinsky describes the individual losses experienced by adoptees, such as the loss of their genetic parents and the loss of confidence about who they are. How children exhibit signs of grieving and loss during the middle years through denial, anger or bargaining and so forth is discussed. The author insists that in order to consistently reinforce the sense of trust that comes with firm attachment, from their earliest questions, children must be able to trust that their parents are telling them the absolute truth.

What should we tell the kids? Talking to children about our infertility.

Johnston P
Adoption Australia Spring 1993 22-25
What information do adopted children and children conceived via reproductive technology need to know about their origins? The author discusses the child's need to know and why, how children learn, and the importance of keeping information appropriate to the child's age.

Adoption: the right of the child to know its parentage.

Chisholm R
Unpublished, 1993, 25p. Paper presented at the First World Congress on Family Law and Children's Rights, Sydney, July 1993
The author argues that adopted children have a right to know from an early age that they are adopted, to grow up with an accurate and unprejudiced view of their birth parents, and, at least on attaining maturity, to have access to information from which they can identify and make contact with their birth parents. His argument that adopted children have a right to know their parentage involves the following steps. First, that the promotion of the welfare of the adopted child should be regarded as the basic purpose of adoption law. Second, that the welfare of adopted persons is likely to be promoted if they have a right to know their birth parentage. Third, that measures taken to ensure such knowledge need not undermine other benefits that adoption might bring to adopted people. Fourth, that the benefits of allowing adopted children to have knowledge of their parentage are not outweighed by disadvantages to other people, or violation of other people's rights. The author draws on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the New South Wales Law Reform Commission's findings on the impact of the NSW Adoption Information Act 1990.

Exposing adoption myths: access to information about origins in Victoria.

McPhee G and Webster M
Australian Journal of Social Issues v. 28 no. 2 May 1993 142-157
Victoria was the first state to allow adopted persons unqualified access to their original identity and to provide natural parents and others with conditional access to identifying information. This article examines findings from 1985 to 1988 to examine four assumptions. These are that: few adoptees would want to know about or meet their natural parents and so few would register with the Adoption Information Service; few adoptees would welcome an approach from or on behalf of their natural parents and most would reject such an approach; few relinquishing parents would wish to meet or know about their relinquished child and consequently most would reject an approach by or on behalf of their child; and adoptive parents would not wish to acknowledge the adoptive status of their children by providing information to the natural parent facilitating a meeting between the natural parent and the child. The data suggest that the above assumptions do not reflect the experience or behaviour of adopted persons, natural parents or adoptive parents.

I was lied to about adoption so why should I believe you now?

Hirt D
In: Surrogacy: in whose interest Proceedings of National Conference on Surrogacy, Melbourne, February 1991, edited by Marie Meggitt. West Melbourne, Vic: Mission of St James and St John, 1991, 23-27
The author argues that surrogacy practice has negative parallels to past adoption experience and is in some ways even worse than adoption. As an adopted person himself, he felt rejected and resentful. How much more, he asks, will the many children of surrogacy arrangements feel rejected, knowing that both their conception and relinquishment were carefully planned in advance by the commissioning couple who become their social parents? He concludes that surrogacy should be prohibited for the sake of the child.

Biological identity in adoption, artificial insemination by donor (AID) and the new birth technologies.

Winkler R and Midford S
Australian Journal of Early Childhood v. 11 Nov 1986 43-48
Biological identity is viewed as an individual's sense of belonging in biological time. The relevance of biological identity to adoptees is discussed and then extrapolated to AID and the newer birth technologies. The focus is on the potential long term psychological impact of threats or disruptions to biological identity. Case material from adult adoptees and an AID adult are used to illustrate the negative effects on psychological functioning of threats to biological identity. Questions discussed include: What should parents tell their child about the circumstances of his or her birth?; What are the costs of keeping the birth circumstances secret?; How and when should parents tell their children the circumstances of his or her birth?; and Should there be legal provisions made for later access to birth information? Recommendations are made for future practice.

The adopted adolescent.

Unpublished, 1986, 3 papers. Proceedings of a workshop sponsored by the South Australian Association for Adolescent Health, 16th July 1986.
Three papers are included. 'The effect of adoption on adolescent development' summarises the developmental tasks of adolescents and then investigates whether adoption exacerbates the problems which adolescence presents to children and their families. Ann Killen's paper 'Adoption policy and adolescents' presents a brief history of adoption, describes current trends in adoption, and points out that adoption by a stepparent represents over half of the total number of adoptions today. In the paper 'Adoption and the adolescent', Lila Newman speaks from the perspective of a parent who has a child born naturally to her as well as two adopted children. She focuses on adoption issues which surface during adolescent years. For example, adolescence is the time when curiosity about origins is apt to reach a peak. It is crucial for parents to acknowledge the adolescent's need to know, his right to be curious, and not to let their own feelings stand in the way. However, access to identifiable information before the age of 18 is not recommended because adolescents have not yet developed the mental and emotional maturity and stability required for making contact with biological parents. Author concludes by pointing out the advantages of having support groups for adoptive parents.

The rights of the child.

In: Oxenberry, R, ed. Changing families: proceedings of third Australian conference on adoption. Adelaide: University of Adelaide, Department of Continuing Education, 1982, p330-332.
From personal experience both as an adopted person and relinquishing mother, demonstrates that the rights of the child in these circumstances are based on 'need'. Emphasises particularly the need to know the truth about origins and the circumstances of adoption.

Consumer rights: access to files.

In: Oxenberry, R, ed. Changing families: proceedings of third Adelaide, Department of Continuing Education, 1982, p228-231.
Describes a personal experience of learning of her adoption at the age of 16, and the complex network of emotional responses evoked. Argues for telling a child of his adoption before he is even old enough to make any sense of the matter, and recommends the right of access to information re birth parents and placement of one's relinquished child. (BS)
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