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WORKING TOGETHER TO UNLOCK THE SECRETS OF ADOPTION

My Journey So Far...

by Robert Barton

One wonders just how detailed the story of this type of journey should be. There is certainly the temptation to purge oneself onto the page, pouring out years of pain and frustration for the horror of others. But, this is not a therapy session for my benefit so I have decided that I will give an overview of my life so far.

I was born in 1966 and taken home at three days old by a loving, if troubled, adoptive family. Neither would my adoptive family have been able to qualify as adoptive parents through a state agency with all of the requisite interviews and examinations, nor had they the patience to spend up to four years on a waiting list to adopt an infant. Their refuge was a private attorney who could, for a fee of fifteen thousand dollars, obtain for them a healthy white infant in a matter of a few months. The fees would cover medical and legal expenses for facilitating the adoption of a newborn.

My adoptive mother was certainly not a childless woman and, in fact, already had four children; the youngest of which was seven. It was not so much a child that she wanted as it was a baby. She was very fixated on infants and always wanted to have a baby around. My first few years of life with my adoptive family were like living in a 1960s television program with everything just so. I had all of the right clothes and all of the right things and going to all of the right places. Actually, my early childhood was more like being a doll than a child, a doll that had to have all of the accessories available as the perfect play thing.

The changes began after I went to school and was no longer the favorite toy. I was told of my adoption at the age of six, shortly after the death of my adoptive father. Along with the change in my status in the family, there was a slow descent into alcoholism, addiction to valium and mental illness by my adoptive mother. This resulted in an environment where we moved constantly and in which I was neglected and occasionally physically abused. I have in my time, visited four of my adoptive family in mental hospitals; my adoptive mother being one of them.

To bear witness to the nature of the home in which I was raised, I will point out that the Family Court of Leon Co. Florida removed me from the home, removing custody of me from my adoptive mother, and never heard a request to restore custody to her. (This was facilitated by her own adult child, my adoptive sister, nine years my senior, who asked the court for this action.) When I was removed from the home I was placed with a sister of my adoptive mother who eventually sent me back to live with my adoptive mother after she had moved to another state and would no longer be subject to the order from the court.

At the age of sixteen, I removed myself from the home, though I always maintained familial ties to my adoptive mother and her family. Several years later when she was diagnosed with a terminal illness, it was I who moved back to take care of her, and she has since passed away.

I always wondered about my birth parents and I have been engaged in the search for them for some years now without success. In the process of searching, I found that my records were closed to me. Any adult in the State of Florida may obtain his or her original birth certificate simply be requesting it except, of course, adult adoptees who have no legal right to access their own original birth certificate.

In recent years, my search has become more pressing due to my own health issues and health issues of several of my five children. Family medical backgrounds would be very helpful in understanding how to treat several chronic illnesses which are known to run in families and which myself and my children must deal with. But since these illnesses are long term and not immediately life threatening , the courts will not entertain giving me access to my own birth certificate.

I remain in constant contact with my adoptive siblings and continue a healthy familial relationship with them. My life has gone well beyond the unfortunate events of my childhood and reached a point where I feel that I am very successful.

My achievements in athletics have placed me in an international hall of fame, and I am pursuing my Ph.D.. I have been ordained to the clergy and I head a Seminary Level Program training potential clergy for their future in service to a dedicated religious organization. I am a happily married father of five who owns his own business teaching music in a small town. Yet, still there is a piece missing from my life with questions that remain unanswered.

I was never told how much I favored one or the other of my adoptive parents. I never had the family nose, feet, hair or any other physical characteristic of "belonging." I wonder from whom my freckles come, my children have them now. My hair, my face, athletic ability and love of music are all parts of me with no past. I know the source for none of these things, as part of who I am remains devoid of shape. A slate of unanswered questions; a formless and faceless past. When I hear my peers bemoaning the fact that they look in the mirror and realize that they are slowly becoming one of their parents, I am left to look in the mirror and wonder who I look like.