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Dear Abby: "Issues of identity are serious matters for adoptees, families"
Dear Abby: May I weigh in on the letter from “Noah’s Real Dad in New York” (June 27), whose adult adopted son wants to reclaim his original last name? I am an adult adoptee who searched for and found my birth family. I also joined a support group that was formed to support the adoption triad.Research has shown that male adoptees struggle with their identity more than females do. After all, in our patriarchal society it is the male surname that most often does not get changed in marriage. Women are accustomed to the fact that they will most likely change their name.This family needs to do some reading on the subject, there are many resources out there. A family counselor who isn’t well-educated about adoption issues will not be helpful.Unless you walk in an adoptee’s shoes you cannot judge their actions. After all, the adoption decision is made without the consent of the child. We also resent being treated like children after we are adults. Noah is a 34-year-old adult able to make his own choices and decisions.Noah is fortunate that he knows his birth father and didn’t have to search a bureaucratic maze to obtain any information. Laws have been passed in several, not all, states allowing adoptees to get important information about their birth families that is necessary for taking care of ourselves and our own children.Debbie in FloridaDear Debbie: Your letter reflects the strong sentiments of many adoptees and their families who wrote to me expressing their disappointment in my reply to Noah’s adoptive father. Here are some of their responses:Dear Abby: I am an adoptive parent in an open adoption with our children’s birth families, and I vehemently disagree with what you wrote.My children have two mothers and two fathers. My husband and I are the parents who are raising them, but that slip of paper signed by a judge does not erase their family of origin. It shouldn’t. They have an adoptive family and a biological one and should be able to have a relationship with both.My children also have two names. The names they were given at birth and the names my husband and I gave them when we adopted them as infants. They will always know about these two sets of names. When they are older, if they wish to be called by their birth name, we will have to respect that. It does not mean they love us less or that we are not their parents.What is DOES mean is that adoption is more complicated than most people realize, and as our children grow into adults, we need to give them the space and freedom to discover for themselves who they are.An Adoptive Mother in IllinoisDear Abby: I agree with you 100 percent! How horrible, disrespectful and mean-spirited of that 34-year-old son. I understand why he is interested in the family history of his biological father, but he could record that history for the future without changing his current surname. Doesn’t Noah realize his biological father was an adult who made up his mind to give up his rights to his son, including the rights to his last name?If Noah doesn’t respect his adoptive father for giving him his last name, and if Noah is set on changing his surname, it would be more respectful to take his mother’s maiden name as his surname. I hope Noah reconsiders the issue he’s creating, and at 34 he makes a wiser adult decision than his biological parent did.Phyllis in Ohio
Originally published on Dear Abby, The Chicago Sun Times
on September 8, 2011.Update: The original link is now broken: http: //www .suntimes. com/lifestyles /abby/7520009-417/ issues-of-identity-are-serious-mattersfor-adoptees-families .html (minus spaces)