Monday, November 16, 2009

This photo is of my first son Chris Romagnolo (with his ex girlfriend), and my grandsons Brandon, Christian and Zachary.
I also have a granddaughter, Selena (not pictured) in Niagara Falls who I have yet to meet.

My first son’s father, Mike Keenum, was deployed to Thailand in late August, 1969 while in the Air Force. We met and dated over the summer of 1969. Mike was stationed at McConnel Air Force Base in Wichita, KS that summer and I was on my parent’s dairy & wheat farm in Cheney, KS after my freshman year at the Univ. of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. We met at Cheney Lake where my best friend was a life guard. Mike asked my twin sister out first but she stood him up so I went instead. Mike asked me if I was taking the pill and I lied and said yes. I did not have the self confidence to ask for birth control. Before he went overseas, Mike took me to Chicago to meet his family. The first words out of Mike’s step father when he met me were “Better get out the shotgun”! I didn’t know what that meant. We went to the Chicago zoo and we vacationed in the Wisconsin Dells. I was not feeling well during this trip and did not realize I was already pregnant. We wrote long letters over the next several months while he was in Thailand. I gave Mike a Saint Christopher’s. And then later our son was named Christopher by his adoptive parents. Sometimes I feel like my fate was sealed by many outside influences besides just my own naive youth. Our son was born on April 3, 1970 and adopted 4 days later. I was not allowed to see or hold my infant son. I was in shock for a long time after giving birth. I should never have been asked to sign legal adoption relinquishment papers so soon after birth while still unstable and sedated. This in my opinion was the most corrupt part of the adoption agencies tactics.
I was not given any other options by the adoption agency, Lutheran Social Services. Now I know besides a conflict of interest and lack of due process under the law, the agency was filling a demand for healthy, white infants for waiting, childless, married couples. To say I was angry and hurt, when all the pieces of the corruption in the adoption of my first son were made clear to me 35 years later, isn’t even close.

Mike would always end his letters with “Keep the Faith”. We had a few phone calls during his enlistment when he called my dorm. I wrote Mike in Thailand in December, 1969 that I was pregnant. He wrote back that he didn’t mind packaged deals, he would get me a car, and I could live with his parents and have the baby on the base. Instead my father picked me up from my dorm at the end of the fall semester. I was five months pregnant and was kicked out of my dorm. Even though the university may have allowed for single moms to continue classes, there was no child care support back then. I was hidden away for the remaining 4 months on our family farm. Mike called me at my parent’s home while he was stateside on a furlough but after our son was born and adopted. I could not tell him about the adoption-I was overcome with grief. This grief would go unresolved for the next 35 yrs. and continues in one aspect or another even today. So Mike may have concluded many different outcomes of which I’ll never know what he thought or really felt. It was a closed adoption back then. I was coerced into secrecy and into relinquishing our son by the Lutheran Social Services in Wichita, KS. The adoption agency did not offer me support to raise my son or inform me of my rights as a single mother or even ask about my son’s father or whether the father had granted his permission for the adoption. The adoption was to remain my secret, my scarlet letter. The only person I talked to about it was my husband before we were married. I was to go on with my life as though nothing had happened. I was told I was doing what was best for my baby by giving him a father and a mother to raise him. But my baby, my first son was never a gift. I did not choose adoption since there was only this one choice presented to me. As it turned out his adoptive mom moved to Florida after her first husband did not return from Korea while in the Army and later they divorced. My son had an abusive second adoptive or step father but that marriage also ended in divorce. So my son really never had a long term, loving father. His natural father, Mike, has currently chosen to not pursue a relationship further than an initial denial and then a very reluctant acknowledgement. Mike wrote me “there is nothing missing in my world to pursue a relationship (with his only son) further”. I was not told that I could contact my son when he turned 18 yrs. old. The relinquishment papers stated I was to never contact my son’s adoptive home or family. I instead kept waiting for my son to find me. My son said he had tried to find me earlier but must not have had the information or support he needed to do so. If only Mike had made it back from Viet Nam a month earlier I would have been allowed to raise our son.

Closed adoptions during the Baby Scoop Era between 1945 to the mid 1970’s were all about secrets and lies, coercion and corruption. My son’s father, Mike, probably was never told by my family (I was kept from telling him) that our son was to be adopted before the adoption took place. So his “putative” father’s consent was never given. Kansas is one of just six states in the US that allows adult adopted children a copy of their original birth certificate. My son’s original birth certificate did not list his father’s name (typical for the Baby Scoop Era). Instead the original birth certificate was marked “VOID” and reissued “as if” my son had been born to this adoptive parents. My husband James, who was a Marine in Viet Nam and a 1967 Purple Heart recipient, says that furloughs didn’t happen back then; that almost no armed services personnel were granted furlough’s during the Viet Nam war to come back state side to get married. And in retrospect, I can imagine I was not the only young woman left behind without a husband and an unplanned pregnancy. But I vaguely remember Mike’s phone call after our son was born and relinquished to adoption and it did not sound like it was from overseas. I can not blame Mike for my having to surrender our son. There were many circumstances beyond our control and no social services, church groups or our parents were supportive of young, single mothers with infants back then and certainly not adoption agencies. I never heard from Mike again until I found him 35 yrs. later on the internet a prosperous businessman, pilot and humanitarian. Mike has chosen not to meet his only son face to face. However Mike does choose to make his only son one of the “disposable misbegotten” while making his charitable donations and humanitarian contributions to his public interests. I found my son through the adoption agency at the end of September, 2005.
I am hoping to help our son grow into his acceptance of his complete identity which of course now is a combination of both sets of parents. He is his adoptive mother’s only child and currently he and his sons are living with his adoptive mother/grandmother since his divorce. I am grateful to have found my first son and now my grandsons too. It has been emotionally draining for him and for me at times. I have always and will always only want what is best for him but now what is best for me and all my sons, my complete family. He did not get to have a father but ironically now he has custody of his two youngest sons. My first son Chris has been resilient so far and I can only hope that he continues the good fight for all of his families and their respect.

Out of respect when a natural mother or adoptee tells you their adoption story, please offer them your sympathy first for their losses due to their separation which neither wanted to have happen to them. I am an advocate for natural family preservation now instead of adoption. There are so many children in foster care who do really need loving and supportive parents and a good home. I am a member of Origins-USA, a non-profit organization for natural parents and adoptees. I also advocate for alternatives to adoption such as kinship care and guardianship. Adoption should always be a last resort and not just because a mother happens to be single. Adoption should not be about ownership or profit.

Mike and I now have our own spouses and raised children. Besides Chris, my oldest son who was adopted and my three grandsons and one granddaughter, I have two teenage sons, Aaron and Brian ages 21 and 15. They, and their dad, keep me busy!

"The family is the primary agent of peace, and the negation or even restriction of rights of the family threatens the very foundations of peace."
Pope Benedict XVI, Jan 1, 2008

Friday, November 13, 2009

Oh happy day

Oh happy day for Korean adoptees. My friend Evelyn Robinson forwarded this newpaper article to me and I just had to share today. I hope besides Evelyn's Autralian activism, this newest adoption reform movement will help spur more U.S. activism.

Here's the Korean newspaper article link: