I finally read (thoroughly skimmed through 649 pages) Nana’s redacted files.
In the adoption process, a consolidated file of all the paperwork related to the child’s case is provided to the prospective adoptive parents, with specific personal and identifying information removed to maintain privacy. The purpose of providing the files is to ensure that adoptive parents are aware of the history of the child, the full story of why they were taken into care and any documented medical or behavior issues. My file included medical reports, legal documents and every monthly CPS report. Based on my review, it only seemed to remove information related to previous caregivers. All of the information related to her family and other witnesses were there in black and white. Too much black and white in my opinion.
A tenuous connection
These PDF files are our only connection to Nana’s early years. We only know when she started walking, talking, when she started teething, how her personality developed through monthly paragraphs written by the CPS caseworker. We don’t have a birth picture and very few pictures of her as a baby and early toddler. While the number of pictures is probably comparable to what I have of myself at those ages, the loss somehow seems greater.
Reading between the lines
These files don’t tell the whole story. There were phone calls that weren’t documented, emails sent, visits scheduled, meetings held. I’m trying to read in between the lines to figure out the story based on case notes. There is so much missing.
Perhaps not having to deal with court appearances where no one is prepared, semi-hostile workers, a overwhelming roll of red tape and family visits allows me to be empathetic to the family. I wonder how much agency they had, how much support was given to her mother, how expediency played a part in decisions that were made considering this was a inter-state case. There are relatives mentioned as possible caretakers but no details on if/when/how they were eliminated. I’ve read stories about how fathers are not fully informed when rights are terminated and honestly this paperwork doesn’t exactly give me the warm fuzzies.
One day she will read this
And she may question why decisions were made, why weren’t more questions asked, why it seems like her family didn’t want her. Seeing the the termination of parental rights paperwork and reading the court proceedings, signatures on legal documents and the final orders from the judge made me cry. What if she asks me why? What can I possibly tell her that will provide her some semblance of comfort or understanding. By the time she is able to connect with them, this will all be black history, the details of what actually happened pushed to the edges of their memories, colored by time and the human impulse to paint one’s self in the best possible light.
That I have the files because I they include the names of her biological parents, siblings and other family members. I have a copy of her original birth certificate. It’s more than many adoptees have and at least gives her a starting point should she ever want to search.
You know, I couldn’t write 649 pages of my life to this point if I wanted to, yet Nana has all of this for two and a half years. I so wish it wasn’t needed.