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Would This Letter Deter You?

October 25, 2017

 

 

 

Now that Mrs. Chatterbox is retired, she’s going through her parents’ boxes and sorting through items we didn’t deal with when her parents passed. A letter prompted a rare dust-up between us. We knew her dad had been adopted around the age of two and we also knew he had a younger half brother, but we didn’t know he’d tried to make contact with his sibling.

 

 

 

If you can’t read the letter from the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, dated 1945, it reads as follows:

 

Dear Mr. Petty,

 

We have received a letter from the foster mother of your brother. She says she has given the matter of your meeting due consideration and that she is not willing to tell him about his adoption at this time, but will consider doing so at some time in the future.

We will keep your address in our files and will let you know when we hear from her.

 

PS: Our records show that this is your half brother and that he is eighteen years of age.

 

 

Times have changed significantly since 1945 and I believe laws have also changed, but this struck me as a very cruel letter. The man who adopted my future father-in-law quickly abandoned the family, leaving him once again fatherless. I can’t help but feel sorry for a young man who’d just survived World War II and was trying to find the only family member with whom he shared blood. I’m also confused as to why this woman isn’t referred to as an adoptive mother and was instead described as a “foster mother,” even though an “adoption” is indicated in the next sentence.

 

I don’t think I would have honored this letter were I in my father-in-law’s place. I’d have tried harder to find him, and this is where Mrs. C. and I arrived at a difference of opinion. While she doesn’t think it fair her dad was denied contact with his brother, she feels damage could have been done if this eighteen-year-old had learned the truth. She believes the foster mother’s wishes should have been respected.

 

Eighteen isn’t really a child; eighteen year olds fought and died in Europe and the Pacific during the war, so I don’t think learning he was adopted would be all that traumatic. Besides, maybe this foster parent hadn’t provided a good life and he’d be happy to know there wasn’t a biological connection.

 

Without a last name to work with, it would have been difficult hunting down this fellow, but I think I would have tried. Today we believe adoptive children have the right to know the identities of their biological parents for medical reasons, if nothing else. What about siblings? Should adopted siblings have rights?

 

What about you? Would a letter like this have prevented you from continuing the search? If you’d adopted a baby or toddler would you tell them they were adopted?

 

My father-in-law never found his only brother.

 

 

 

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Comments

21 Comments
Having lost my father and mother when I was 11 and 17, respectively, I'm of the opinion most children are mature and wise enough to know the truth. In the first instance I was not told the truth and it had a great effect on me. But.... I guess every case can be different.
By: Kelly on October 25, 2017
It would have been really difficult and expensive back then; now you can just use Google and Facebook and all that. It seems selfish on the adopted mother's part to never tell the kid he has a brother. On another note, why are the paragraphs on the letter indented so far? It looks really odd.
By: PT Dilloway on October 25, 2017
The adoptive mother was playing with fire. A child always learns the truth, that he or she was adopted, and when it's learned as an older child or adult and from other family members, it's seen as a betrayal of trust. Since his half-brother was already 18, i think he could have continued the search. He was looking for an adult, not a child whose parents had the right to make such a decision.
By: messymimi on October 25, 2017
My mother was adopted at the age of 5 after being placed in a Catholic orphanage in Detroit MI when she was 4. We were told that one day her dad did not come home and then she was in the orphanage. It was not until my mother passed away that our dad told us the true story. My mother and her sister were placed in the orphanage by both parents. Probably because they could not afford to feed them. I called the Orphanage and got my mothers adoption records since I know her adoptive surname. Plus I had a copy her birth certificate. That is when I found out I had an aunt somewhere. I searched online for my grandparents and found my Grandfather had just recently died after my mother had passed away. I wanted find other relatives, but my oldest son advised me not to saying " We already have enough wacky relatives. Do you really want to find more?" I stopped looking and never have looked back. I am sorry that your Dad never found his brother. Really unfortunate.
By: Kathe W. on October 25, 2017
I believe the law is that at eighteen, a child has the right to find his birth family and only by their denial can that not happen. Shame he never found his brother.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on October 25, 2017
I believe people have the right to find their adoptive sibling, or parents. The letter is cruel but not surprising given the era and how orphans were looked upon. orphans in the sense of children who actually lost their parents or parents who gave them up for various reasons. I would be tempted, now, to find him as he could be alive and might even like to know his extended family. I bet your father in law would like that actually. This is just me talking though as it is truly up to your wife and how she feels. My dad had a relationship back in the late '40s which produced a child. The mother wanted a nursing license so she asked her mom to care for the young girl, named Beatrice (I believe in honour of my dad's mother). My dad visisted all the time, brought food, toys etc... and the grandmother loved her. One day, my dad came with a stuffed animal and found he grandmother on her front steps weeping. She just said "They took her." Without their knowledge, the mother adopted the young girl out. My dad tried in vain to locate her but he was a dad and given 0 rights. He had no clue what had happened to her. Luckily, in 1978, he received a call, out of the blue from a young woman asking him a series of questions and it turned out to be his daughter. She was called Anne by her adoptive parents whom she loved very much but she wanted to know her biological parents. She contacted her mother first and then her father. It turned out her mother was not very nice but she was so happy to have known my dad. I am so happy to have my half sister
By: Birgit on October 25, 2017
Have you ever seen "Long Lost Family"? Makes me cry!!
By: fishducky on October 25, 2017
The truth, painful or not, is essential for the strong and the honest. I would have pursued but with the realistic expectation that it might give me even more grief.
By: Tabor on October 25, 2017
Considering the letter was written in 1945, I'm not sure this was an uncommon response. Nowadays, with Ancestry.com and the internet, he would have found his half brother. Since we shared this man as a father-in-law, I think it would have benefitted him to have known his sibling, even if it was a half brother. Ed loved family and revered his own. So sad he never made the connection.
By: Laurie on October 25, 2017
As I'm adopted myself with 2 adopted daughters this is way too much of a sensitive subject for me to discuss here.
By: LL Cool Joe on October 25, 2017
It's unfortunate your father in law never got to know his only surviving blood relative, especially since it was a brother. I appreciate how special is a brother. Both of my brothers passed as young men and relatively close to the same time. I've missed them since. Knowing you have a surviving brother and unable to locate him would be difficult to live with. The ways of pursuit were not as readily available as they are now. Sorry about the "dust up", but what a noble topic for a marital disagreement!
By: Tom Cochrun on October 25, 2017
In such issues it takes a lot to write that first letter and a person can easily be discouraged and give . My daughter had a reunion with here mother ,but the procedure occurred in stages so that if one of the wanted to end the reunion they could.
By: Red on October 25, 2017
The response was probably typical for the times. However, how sad your FIL never found his brother. I've read about plenty of joyous reunions of long-separated parents and kids or siblings, but then a paper would never print one that went horribly wrong, would they?
By: jenny_o on October 25, 2017
That's a tough one. It would be different if the 18-year-old already knew he was adopted. I might have to side with Mrs. C on this one. If I had adopted a baby or toddler, I think I would let them know as soon as they could understand. Then there wouldn't be a big secret hovering over the family, with fear of somebody else telling. Let them know right from the beginning that they were chosen to be loved and taken care of the best way I knew how.
By: Val on October 25, 2017
The laws plus the methods available to search were so different back then. Surely that young man one day found out he was adopted. Those things usually come out one way or another, often via blood work. It is a shame they never got go bond.
By: Arkansas Patti on October 26, 2017
My dad and two of this four siblings were in and out of the Akron Children's Home, in the twenties. Their father left them; the mother could not support them; the extended family reached out to two and left the last three to fend for themselves. They were the three oldest, nine, seven and five. My dad, my uncle, my aunt, in that order. It's always been a tough world for unloved children.
By: Joanne Noragon on October 26, 2017
The infamous Tennessee Children's Home Society? You need to Google that place, Stephen. They routinely destroyed paperwork that showed where children had been sent. They also took babies from poor, young women and sold them to wealthy people. A terrible scandal surrounds that place. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on October 26, 2017
Apparently the adoptive mother never told her son or at least never contacted the Home. It's difficult to say how such information would have affected him. Like some other commenters have said, the Internet makes it easier to learn things these days.
By: Catalyst on October 26, 2017
I believe everyone who is adopted should be told. They would find out sometime anyway, so why not tell them right at the beginning? I'd want to meet my siblings if they had been adopted. I really thought I was adopted when I was a child, but that was just me and my big imagination. I look too much like my mother.
By: Kate on October 26, 2017
I believe the letter was very cold and as for me I think it would make me even more determined to locate my brother, I can respect the fact that she could have been trying to protect him but at 18 he is definitely old enough to know the truth and most likely already did.
By: Jimmy on October 27, 2017
I wish it was a simpler process across all jurisdictions. Unfortunately, it is often complicated till this day.
By: Daniel LaFrance on October 29, 2017

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