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Image / Editorial

‘People carry that guilt’: Averil Power’s story of adoption is immensely moving


by Jennifer McShane
10th Nov 2018
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So much of our identity is tied into where we come from. We look at who we are as people and inherently, we look to our parents and how we’ve been raised; the traits we’re proud to have inherited or maybe those we’re too proud to admit we have. If however, you have been adopted, that sense of self is much more complex. It’s also charged with emotion; you’re always still you, you’ve grown up with loving parents and a family that is yours, but you may feel that your sense of who you are is in a sense, skewed, and so much more complicated. The number of adopted people Ireland is around 60,000. With yesterday being World Adoption Day, The Late Late Show had a segment on adoption Ireland to talk about the effects of adoption on children and their parents.

Stacey Gallagher and her birth mother Ann were first to speak of their incredibly powerful story of reuniting. Stacey found her birth mum at 24, and both spoke of their own journeys; for Ann, it was the joy of being reunited with her daughter after she explained that she had been forced to give her up for adoption at 21 and for Stacey, it was finding that link to her past. She spoke of the openness of her adoptive family; how they encouraged her to look for her birth mother from a very young age, and the impact it had on her as she grew up and began her search.

Former Fianna Fail senator and now CEO of the Irish Cancer Society Averil Power was visibly moved as she recounted, at 10 years old, how she came to know of her own adoption. It was truly moving to watch. Averil emotionally said that it came out of the blue, told to her then because her parents hadn’t wanted her to feel any different – she was their daughter and they her parents.

“In one way it doesn’t change anything because they’re still your parents and my siblings are my family, but on the other hand, it changes everything because you know there’s a woman out there who gave birth to you.”

She said that the news became a source of great pain and sadness with wondering who she was and where she came from and her burning desire to find her natural parents. She also spoke of the basic worry that came when any doctor asked the simple question of the history of illness in the family, and not knowing the answer.

Averil’s words struck a chord with viewers, particularly as she spoke of the guilt adopted people can feel in searching for their natural parents; afraid their families would feel unloved with doing so. She explained that it was 10 years until she found answers, and even longer until she was entitled to her birth certificate, such are the current laws in Ireland.

She said on social media that she made the choice to tell her own story of reuniting with her birth mother in 2007 and her dad earlier this year, to highlight “why it’s so important for adopted people to have a right to information and also encourage other people to reunite” and said that the “fear and silence has kept people apart for too long, and it doesn’t need to.”

Both Stacey and Averil spoke of the need to change the current system, the fact that those adopted have no right to information. “It’s a human right,” Stacey said.

“It’s cruel to deny people that opportunity to meet,” Averil added, explaining that there were steps those adopted to take to make their searches easier. “I would really encourage anyone watching affected by this to sign up for the national adoptive contact preference on the adoptive authorities website.”

You can watch the full segment over on RTE Player now

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