Adoption: don't be beaten by time
Tuesday, 16th May, 2017
THERE are two groups of Australians for whom time is slipping like sand through an hourglass - they are the ageing parents who gave their children up for adoption in the 1940s, '50s, '60s and '70s, and their adopted children now reaching their older years and for whom every passing moment brings an opportunity lost to reconnect.
Relinquishing parents of the 1940s and '50s are now in their 80s and 90s and their children are in their 60s and 70s.
"Where once time seemed endless to consider the possibility of a search and reunion with biological families, there are now an increasing number of affected people who are in danger of having left the decision too late," said Trevor Jordan, president of Jigsaw Queensland, a non-profit group that provides free support and help to those affected by adoption.
"At Jigsaw Queensland we have people aged in their 60s and 70s phoning us because they've only recently discovered they are adopted after one of their adoptive parents has died.
"Many of these people were adopted when adoption was at its peak between the 1950s and 1970s and they and their biological families are now running out of time to reconnect.
"In addition to seeking information and support as they navigate the complex emotions that surround later-discovery adoption, these adoptees have the added burden of sand slipping through the hourglass at a quickening pace while they consider their options."
Dr Jordan is well qualified to comment; he is a late-discovery adoptee who found both his biological parents had died before he could make contact, but was able to connect with siblings.
The number of enquires for identifying information is decreasing - in 2009-10 there were 711 applications by adults in Queensland, compared to just over half that number in 2013-14 (393), which could be because of the people ageing.
"The passage of time isn't always a negative thing as it also brings with it the inevitable life changes that pave the way for people to reconsider past decisions," Dr Jordan said.
"As people age, spouses may pass away or people come to the realisation that the end of their lives is growing closer, and this can lead to a shift in perspective or a strong desire to tidy up loose ends or search for catharsis."
Dr Jordan said legislation in Queensland and other states had changed.
Initially in Queensland it was not possible to get identifying information. Jigsaw was formed to host voluntary contact registers so people could be brought together. Now people have access to more information than ever before.
Dr Jordan said because of recent adoption law amendments, some of the last remaining hurdles to search and reunion had been removed and parents and adoptees from before 1991 in Queensland no longer had the shadow of unnecessary penalties looming over them.
There was a misconception about contact statements which set out a person's wishes about being contacted by another person or people who were party to the same adoption.
"Many people do not realise that this statement remains in place until it is revoked by the person who lodged it," he said.
"People often worry about contacting a relative, asking himself or herself if they will like them, but I would say most of the time the people they connect with are very similar as they share genetics.
"Most of these insecurities slip away very quickly when people allow things to happen naturally and at the pace of the slowest person.
"The only thing certain in this life is that nothing is certain. And as pages on the calendar fall away, this uncertainty only grows.
"I urge anyone who would like to talk through their options, explore their adoption story or possibly reunite with relatives to contact us, before it is too late."
Jigsaw Queensland (07) 3358-6666, www.jigsawqueensland.com Click on information then website links for other useful contacts.
NSW: Post Adoption Resource Centre (02) 9365-3444, www.benevolent.org.au/connect/post--adoption--support--home
Victoria: Victorian Adoption Network for Information & Self Help (Vanish) (03) 9328-8611, www.vanish.org.au
SA: Post Adoption Support Services (08) 8245-8100, www.rasa.org.au
WA: Post Adoption Information & Services 1800-182-178, email: email@example.com
Tasmania: 1300-364-277 www.tas.relationships.org.au
ACT: Adoptions & Permanent Care Unit 02-6207-1335, http://www.communityservices.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/808448/Search-and-Reunion-Booklet.pdf