Forget Me Not Family Society
PRESENTATION TO GRADUATE STUDENTS IN THE SCHOOL OF SOCIAL WORK, UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
Wednesday October 9th, 2013
by Bernadette Rymer
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:
- Our members: Mary Anne Dubeski (see her response in full in this issue) [Adoption Circles 66], Marnie Tetz, Rob Granton for their considered responses and encouragement;
- 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.
SUMMARY OF STUDENT RESPONSES, KEY POINTS and QUESTIONS
FMNFS Presentation to U.B.C. Students in the School of Social Work
October 9, 2013
- Student Responses to KNOW – LEARN Reflection /Evaluations
Before the presentation
At the end of the presentation
students were asked to reflect on what they had learned and their new understandings of the issues
|What I found most interesting:
||I would have liked to hear more about:
2. GROUP READING and DISCUSSION of Three Landmark Articles
3. SUMMARY of STUDENT KEY POINTS AND QUESTIONS
Three Landmark Articles
- Healing the Primal Wound: ( Part 1 and 2) Nancy Verrier
- Primal Wound started with separation from the mother
- 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?
- Sinking the Mother Ship, by Evelyn Robinson
- 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?
- Birth Fathers and Adoption, by Dr. Gary Clapton
- 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]