Forget Me Not Family Society


Wednesday October 9th, 2013

by Bernadette Rymer

Dr. Edward Kruk, Bernadette Rymer, Gail Davies, Margaret Ferguson, Steve Sharpe

Dr. Edward Kruk, Bernadette Rymer, Gail Davies, Margaret Ferguson, Steve Sharpe





The Forget Me Not Family Society has been involved in many advocacy and education events during the past year.  Our FMNFS mandate (see details on page 2 of our Adoption Circles Newsletter) specifies that a major purpose of our society is to raise awareness and to educate people about adoption and reunion issues.  In response to this purpose we are delighted to share with you about a major event which occurred recently.

A brief history will help to set the stage for this presentation.   In February 2012 while preparing for our Winter 2012 issues of our AC (theme – Education) I emailed the Social Worker programs in more than 20 universities in Canada (e.g. UBC, SFU, universities in Kamloops, Ontario and Alberta) in the U.S. (e.g. Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins) and Australia to inquire if they offer any programs or course work in the effects of adoption loss, trauma, grief, search and reunion, or are they considering offering such courses in the near future. Eleven universities responded with a ‘No’.  The remaining universities did not respond. The response was disheartening but not surprising.  However not being one to take a ‘NO’ sitting down, I pursued a somewhat interesting response from one professor at the University of British Columbia.

A series of conversations followed with Dr.  Edward Kruk, Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at U.B.C. The FMNFS was interested in how to create a working relationship with students in the graduate program for the purpose of involving graduate students in helping us with the review and possibly the presentation of our 6 week community education course.  At that time Dr. Kruk informed us that while there were no courses being offered at U.B.C which addressed post adoption and reunion issues, he was hopeful that such a course could be developed in the near future. Early this year we received an invitation from Dr. Kruk inviting us to make a three hour presentation to his students this fall, as part of a new course he was in the process of developing.

Course Name: Social Work and Social Justice: Child and Family

FMNFS Topic: Adoption and the Rights of Children to Know their Biological Origins

Recognizing the magnitude of this opportunity, (to our knowledge the first ever presentation in a North American university) we were delighted to accept this invitation.  Thus began a 6 month intensive preparation for what this presentation might look like, goals, process, content and who would be involved on the presentation team.

Our first step was to invite all FMNFS members and other resource people to offer suggestions about major points that should be included in the presentation in order to most effectively meet the needs of the students to learn the truth of adoption loss, as we have lived it. We received responses from many people, too many to name here. All responses were considered, collated and points were included in our presentation. To each and every contributor we are sincerely grateful.    We would like to acknowledge several people who spent considerable time and effort presenting their thoughts, researching and sending me references for books and articles:

  • To our friends in Canada and abroad who also willingly gave their permission to use their work and research in our presentation content:
    • In Canada:  Wendy Rowney, ASK (Adoption Kinship Support) Karen Lynn, Heather Andrews,   Sandra Falconer Pace, CCNM (Canadian Council of Natural Mothers)
    • From Australia: Evelyn Robinson
    • From the U.S.A.: Nancy Verrier and Joe Soll


Next we developed our dynamic presentation team:

  • Bernadette Rymer, Birth Mother, Content Development, Event Facilitator
  • Nancy Kato, Birth Mother, Co-Facilitator and Panel Moderator
  • Gail Davies, Birth Mother, Panel Member
  • Margaret Ferguson, Adoptee, Panel Member
  • Steve Sharp, Adoptive Father, Panel Member
  • Elizabeth Christian, Adoptive Mother, Member/Supporter


Presentation:  Fifteen graduate students and Professor Kruk attended our three hour presentation which was comprised of a variety of activities including:

  • a panel presentation, representing all triad members,
  • small group reading and discussion of three landmark articles, then sharing key points and inquiry questions with all students,
  • general information sharing, and
  • open question/discussion format.


Evaluation: The session evaluation was a two part process. Prior to, and at the conclusion of the presentation students were asked to individually reflect on, and write down their knowledge and understanding of  six issues or aspects of adoption.  A summary of student reflections and responses before and after the presentation is included following this article. Overall rating of the presentation from students and from Dr. Kruk ranged from positive/useful (5 responses) to very positive/very useful (11 responses).

Impressions:  Students appeared to be very engaged in our presentation. Many were clearly stunned by facts and issues discussed as was evident by their ‘deer in the headlights’ reactions to many facts shared and issues discussed.

There is a distinct difference in both the quantity and quality of student responses following the presentation when compared to responses noted prior to the presentation. Post-presentation responses reflect a much deeper understanding and appreciation of the complexities of issues surrounding adoption and reunion.

Verbal feedback to our team members during the break and following the session revealed further responses and expressions of surprise, shock and gratitude which were not included on the evaluation form.

Dr. Kruk thanked us several times for what he described as our “outstanding presentation” and that he was “very impressed with our team work.” He added that our presentation was very different from what he had expected: it was much more intense.  He invited us to address his students graduate next year, an invitation we enthusiastically accepted.
FMNFS Presentation to U.B.C. Students in the School of Social Work
October 9, 2013

  1. Student Responses to KNOW – LEARN Reflection /Evaluations
  Issue KNOW

Before the presentation
students were asked to reflect on their current understanding of the following issues


At the end of the presentation

students were asked to reflect on what they had learned and their new understandings of the issues





  • ·      Wound from giving up a child-natural
  • ·      Child’s experience of being taken away
  • ·      Breaking a natural relationship
  • ·      Devastating- PTSD
  • ·      Sounds like an evolutionary attachment- pain when child is no longer with mum (my guess?)
  • ·      Never heard of it- has to do with effects adoption has on birth mothers and child
  • ·      New term for me
  • ·      Little or no knowledge of this concept
  • ·      ? no idea


  • ·      The innate connection and permanent trauma caused when the birth mother and child are separated
  • ·      Loss experienced by all
  • ·      Initial separation of child from birth mother
  • ·      Starting from separation many complex feelings
  • ·      The wound created as a result of the separation caused by adoption
  • ·      Attraction between parent and child – important for us to  learn more about this
  • ·      Anxiety, loss, fear
  • ·      Most salient aspect of the adoption experiences for biological parents and child
  • ·      Understanding trauma associated with adoption for all 3 in the triad.
  • ·      Loss of identity can affect adoptee for life
  • ·      Reunion should be the solution but many issues can arise
  • ·      Reunions don’t always work
  • ·      (We) Need to attend to language/terminology- important
  • ·      Adoptee- perfect or acting out!
  • ·      Inner child hurt and regression


on Birth



  • ·      Very difficult grief and loss,
  • ·      Loss, gratitude, sadness, regret, depression, isolation
  • ·      Stress, trauma – Perhaps some relief in some cases
  • ·      Longing for reconnection
  • ·      Deep loss & grief often unrecognized & unacknowledged
  • ·      Lifelong, unexpressed guilt and grief, sadness, loss
  • ·      Emptiness,  shame and feeling of unworthiness
  • ·      Huge trauma, grief and loss, Depression
  • ·      Loneliness and secret keeping
  • ·      Feelings of  uselessness
  • ·      Effects on feelings of self worth,
  • ·      Often affects relationships forever
  • ·      Not enough support services for mother- except for your Society
  • ·      Birth mothers are left wondering and feeling oppressed as the system does not have a way to support them  post adoption
  • ·      Loss can last or even first occur much later in life
  • ·      Loss still felt even following reunion
  • ·      Lack of rights and true informed consent
  • ·      Many mothers do not have other children
  • ·      Mothers did not have much choice in the process
  • ·      Systematically birthmothers have no value




  • ·   Right to know birth family and history
  • ·   To build relationships in safe environments
  • ·   Rights rarely discussed




  • ·      Very few rights
  • ·      Need to improve access to information
  • ·      Often Adoptees feel they don’t have the right to interfere in mother’s life
  • ·      To be trusted for their capacities to  accept and process information about their history
  • ·      To have birth and adoptive parents be well educated about the whole process
  • ·      Right to know biological family, identity, culture and heritage
  • ·      Right to connect and follow-up
  • ·      Often searching for mirror image
  • ·      Can seek records but it costs $$$
  • ·      Significant advancements in BC and Canada
  • ·      If a nondisclosure clause is in effect, can’t disclose information until 2 years post death





  • ·  Previously very few rights
  • ·  To know her child (not acknowledged)
  • ·  To stay in touch
  • ·  To nurture her child when child is ready/wanting
  • ·  Find child only if child requests
  • ·      Due to stigma of single mothers some feel they still don’t have a choice  ( I disagree)
  • ·      Lack of choices, mothers mislead and lack of true informed consent
  • ·      Impact of keeping secrets affects mother for life
  • ·      Mothers have a right to full informed consent before the adoption
  • ·      Freedom of information before adoption
  • ·      Mother has a right to know their child is safe and to reunite with  child, but many mothers feel they don’t have the right to look for their child
  • ·      Inner child hurt and regression to age when she lost her child to adoption
  • ·      Integrity of records seems to be an issue

Open Adoption



  • ·      Ability to trace roots
  • ·      Adopted child can connect/know birth mother
  • ·      Mother can know her child is alive
  • ·      Birth mother able to continue relationship
  • ·      Both sets of parents know each other- visiting rights vary
  • ·      Requires collaboration of triad
  • ·      Challenging w/o deep understanding & respect
  • ·      Considered to be in the best interests for most adoptees
  • ·      Is essential but we still don’t know the full effects
  • ·      Not a legally binding agreement
  • ·      “Contract of the heart” not legally binding
  • ·      Both sets of parents and child know one another and are able to make contact
  • ·      Support services are available for adoptive parents
  • ·      Nothing – no support-available for birth parents
  • ·      Full custody of the child
  • ·      Fathers must be included on birth certificate
  • ·      Open in BC but vetoes
  • ·      Open adoption in best interest of child- but who decides
  • ·      Available in Canada
  • ·      Major advances in BC and Canada
  • ·      Inter-country adoption “selling feature” for some adoptive parents

Adoptive Parents


  • ·      Able to welcome new child into family
  • ·      Care for and love child
  • ·      Create opportunities for child
  • ·      Gratitude
  • ·      Fear of child being taken back.
  • ·      Have good intentions
  • ·      Are legal guardians
  • ·      Cannot offer payment/incentives to birth mother
  • ·      A widely diverse population, some supporting and some opposing open adoption.
  • ·      Allowed to change birth name
  • ·      Should always be honest with child
  • ·      Should not keep secrets – honesty from beginning is best for child
  • ·      Need to understand importance of child’s identity, culture and heritage
  • ·      Need to attend to their feelings about loss and reunion- do not impose on adoptee during process
  • ·      Fear, challenges raising an adoptive child, love
  • ·      Can be fearful, hurt by (adult) child looking for birth family
  • ·      The need to search is often not a fault of their parenting but the primal wound
  • ·      Successful when allowing adopted children to pursue birth parents
  • ·      Are recognizing the importance and benefits of open adoption.
What I found most interesting:

  • ·      Personal stories
  • ·      The Primal Wound
  • ·      Deeper understanding about the lifelong pain of adoption process  for mother and child
  • ·      Covering the psychological effects on birth mothers because I used to consider only relationship between adoptive parents and adoptees
  • ·      Attraction between parent and child
  • ·      Gender roles
  • ·      Social expectations of women
  • ·      Social worker working in the best interest of the child and mother, being more aware, needing better understanding
  • ·      Lack of support for birth mothers
  • ·      Understanding the language / terminology
  • ·      Vivid experience of the triad members
  • ·      North America/Ireland/Australia created the adoption industry
I would have liked to hear more about:

  • ·      Successful adoptions
  • ·      Personal stories
  • ·      Reunions
  • ·      The healing part, strategies- how we can help to heal people
  • ·      Role of adoptive parents
  • ·      Role of the social worker and how we can make a difference
  • ·      Open adoptions
  • ·      International adoptions
  • ·      Legal ramifications of BC adoption legislation
  • ·      Aboriginal families/ specific connections between MCFD and Aboriginal families
  • ·      Current foster system
  • ·      So much more to learn


  • Responses to “Please rate how useful this session was to you:”
  • Positive/ Useful                          ( 5 students)
  • Very Positive/ Very Useful      (10 students)
  • One student added:     AMAZING!


2. GROUP READING  and DISCUSSION of  Three Landmark Articles




Three Landmark Articles

  1. Healing the Primal Wound:  ( Part 1 and 2)  Nancy Verrier 


Key Points

  • Primal Wound started with separation from the mother
  • Reunion
    • When relationship is initiated there can be difficulties – May not go as planned
    • So much focus on reunion that adoptee and first mother become enmeshed
    • First mother or adoptee may not be receptive
    • Adoptee has the right to write a letter and follow-up
    • Everyone in triad has some fear
    • Adoptee want first mother to be always available
    • There can be a sexual/sensual draw between mother and adoptee- important to normalize but not act on this attraction
  • Adoptee adopts personal of “perfect child” or “acting out”
  • Regression is common
  • Validating experience of adoptee is important
  • Important for first mother to address her own feelings so she does not burden adoptee or adoptive parents
  • Isolation – being cut off from information and resources re the healing process
  • Birth mother given NO opportunity to grieve – keeps impacting many aspects of her life
  • Where does she process feelings about her child, resentment, shortfall on her “mothering”
  • Adoptive mom has conflicting feelings about child’s need/wanting to search for birth mother
  • Adopted child stuck in the middle.



  • Focus on mothers but not on fathers?
  • When mothers willingly give up children for adoption does all this stigma still exit?
  • How do you know when adoption is appropriate for a family situation?
  • What is the role of the adoptive parents in the reunion process?


  1. Sinking the Mother Ship, by Evelyn Robinson  

 Key Points

  • The tiny visible part of the adoption iceberg is the benign positive part of adoption
  • The rest of the iceberg is hidden:
    • The threat ( to mothers) , dangers
    • Mishandling of attachment and its importance,
    • Combination of beliefs – social expectations
    • The link of sin and sexual behaviour for the mother
    • Pregnancy in unmarried women was hidden and shameful for family, the mother and the child
    • Forced adoptions- mothers did not have informed consent, or real choice- information withheld


  • Do women today actually have a choice about giving up their babies for adoption?


  1. Birth Fathers and Adoption, by Dr. Gary Clapton

 Key Points

  • Fathers suffer trauma similar to mothers
  • Feelings of loss, guilt and shame
  • Experience loss and abandonment of both mother and child
  • Fathers rarely express their emotions
  • Fathers had no choice- not considered-
  • Father’s name often not on the birth certificate



  • How to define their relationship after meeting /reunion?
  • Competing rights of triad members?

[end of report]