To Tell or Not to Tell? Imagine being 11 years old and the only father you know now wants to adopt you. The problem is that you never knew he wasn’t your real dad. This is the situation in one of the adoption cases I’m currently working on. The biological mother remarried the child’s step-dad when the child was only 2 years old. Ever since then, the both the biological mother and step dad have raised the child as their own biological child.

They come in to officially adopt the child under the condition that no one is allowed to tell the child that he is being adopted and that the man he always knew to be his father is in fact his step-father.

Not telling this sixth grader creates a whole set of legal as well as understandably emotional problems. First and foremost in order to proceed to adoption a social worker must visit the home and prepare a home-study which is a report outlining the home conditions, interviews with all residents of the home, how the child interacts in the home, background information on all members in the household. One of the most important aspects of the home-study is the interview with the child to see how the child is interacting in the home. The problem arises here because there can be no such interview with the child because no one is allowed to tell the child he is being adopted. Other problems may arise depending on how the judge feels about this 11 year old child not being informed about the adoption.

I have personally attended about a dozen adoption finalizations to date. Upon exiting the elevator on the 22nd floor at Kings County Family Court, which is where the adoption department is, you must first inform the court officer what you are there for. Here’s the first instance for this sixth grader to hear the words “adoption.” Secondly you approach a locked area which clearly indicated “Adoption Department” on the right hand side before you enter the waiting area. There’s the second chance for him to start piecing things together. Upon sitting in the waiting area, people can be heard talking about adoption and foster care and how long they have been waiting for this day.

Once you are called in for an adoption the first words out of the clerk’s mouth are “this is case number such and such on the adoption calendar.” I personally spoke to the clerks at Kings County and asked them how they would handle an adoption in which the child is not told about the adoption. One in particular informed me that no changes would be made to their usual spiel which includes the words adoption as well as references to the adoption documents “you previously signed with your attorney.” Here any average sixth grader could start putting the pieces together. Some judges even ask the children as young as 5 or 6 if they know why they are there.

In order for this sixth grader not to be told a lot of personnel including the assigned judge would be required to change their usual procedures in order to satisfy this families desire to not ever inform their son that he is being adopted. Should a court of law engage in such betrayal? One of the clerks also informed me that they have gotten telephone calls years later by adopted children who feel they were adopted against their will and that no one told them what was going on.

Personally, I think it’s beyond selfish for this family not to tell this young boy that he is being adopted. I think that he has a right to know that his step-father is not his real father. This family is doing everything in their power to try to “protect” this child but in reality this child may be upset for some time but eventually he will learn to cope with this truth. I don’t think it would be in their child’s best interest to be kept in the dark about the adoption and about the identity of his real father.