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Published Thursday July 9th, 2009 at 3:57pm

Original Article by Maria Tzavaras


Gail Watson looks at at her adoption decree issued in 1956. She hopes to use the new Access to Adoption Records Act, 2008, to find out their names and look for any possible birth siblings.
"All my life I wondered and wanted to know about my birth parents. There has always been a piece of me that's missing." ~ Gail Watson

"You always want to know where you came from...there's always that feeling of abandonment being given up, I don't think anyone ever gets over that." ~ Greg Robins

These are the feelings of two Scarborough residents who were adopted as babies and have had varying degrees of success locating and meeting members of their birth families.

With some 250,000 Ontarians being adopted since 1921, there are likely many other people who feel the sentiments of Watson and Robins, who both said they would very much like to fill that void.

The Access to Adoption Records Act, 2008, which went into effect on June 1, is hoping to help make the process of finding birth relatives easier by giving adopted adults and birth parents access to information that was previously sealed in their adoption records.

"The government believes that all Ontarians should be able to learn more about their own personal history and that's why the government made steps to make open adoption records a cornerstone of the new law," said Chris Tidey, media spokesperson for the ministry of community and social services.

The new legislation means any adoption that takes place after Sept. 1, 2008 is now considered an open adoption. It also means that people can apply for adoption information for adoptions that took place prior to that date.

Having an open adoption means information on birth place and time, names of birth parents and the adopted name given to the child birth parents gave up and where the adoption took place, will now be available.

"Adopted adults can learn their original names at birth and the names of their birth parents and birth parents can now learn the adopted name of the child they placed for adoption...and that's a big change."

Previously, only non-idenifying information like date of adoption, name of the adoption agency and the birth family's social and medical history was available.

However, there are some caveats, Tidey said. As Ontarians still have a right to privacy, birth parents and adopted adults do have options for keeping their privacy.

While identifying information is released, Tidey said people can file a notice of contact preferences to specify if they would or would not like to be contacted, or if they file a no contact notice, but are still willing to have their identifying information released.

For adoptions that took place before Sept. 1, 2008, people can file a disclosure veto which prevents identifying information from being released, but they must file that preference or the records become open.

Watson is hoping maybe her parents haven't filed a disclosure veto so she can find out their names and look for her birth siblings. About seven years ago, she began looking for her birth parents and in 2005 received the devastating news they didn't want her to contact them.

"Oh God was that a slap in the face, I was heartbroken because all my life I felt abandoned and not wanted and then to be really not wanted, it was horrible," she said.

Born in Toronto and adopted 56 years ago when she was a baby, Watson decided to look for her birth parents after her parents passed away. She sent a letter to the Children's Aid Society and they asked her to come in.

She was handed pages of information including their medical history, as well as the date, time and weight at birth, and that she has siblings.

"All my life I wanted brothers and sisters and I have them," she said." They've married and had children and I think they never told them about me."

Robins, who was given up as a baby, said ever since he was seven years old and was told he was adopted, he was curious about his birth parents.

"There is an inner urge to find out about siblings and parents that are related to you by blood," he said.

About 10 years ago, he too became compelled to begin his search after his parents died and ended up with some non-identifying information about his birth.

"My health at birth, my attitude as a baby, how I interacted with other babies and a brief history on my birth mother and a very brief history of my birth father," Robins said.

This basic information about his life on a few pieces of paper made Robins feel worthless, he said, but his luck was about to change. Later that year, a half brother, who found Robins because he also filed for his birth information, contacted him and told him about their birth mother.

"He wrote me a letter and he informed me that our birth mother lived about 40 kilometres away from where he lived at the time in Hamilton," he said. "I was very excited, but then I was petrified because you have all these feeling so first it's a rush of happiness then it's fear."

A few weeks later, Robins was able to meet his birth mother as well as two brothers. She was very forthcoming about why she had to give him up and told him about his family and herself, but the only thing she didn't have was information about his father.

Robins said he is going to look into using the new adoption act to try and get his birth father's name.

"I want to find him, but it's the fear of disrupting a family," he said. 'But I still want to know."

Watson said her parents are still alive and together, and she doesn't understand why they still want to deny her when all she wants is a simple face-to-face.

"I want to look in a face and see myself. I want to see that I look like somebody. I want to see where I got my looks from, a connection," she said.

A few years since she was told they wanted no contact, Watson said she still has hope they will change their minds and is planning to write them a letter.

"I'll send it, but I won't get my hopes too high, I don't want to feel that way again," she said.