After 25 Years, Do We Still Need O.I.?

     As mentioned elsewhere in this issue, some question the need for an organization such as Operation Identity in this day and age of the Internet, where one can conduct their own searches, to a greater or lesser extend, and where one can find a on-line support group. As we’ve mentioned before, one cannot always complete their search for birth family on their own, and an on-line support group cannot really substitute for real live people, who can share their own experiences, who can listen to each other, offer a tissue, a hug, or a laugh when appropriate, and celebrate progress in reunions. That’s enough reasons for O.I.’s continued existence, but why are we still needed?
     Our occasional social gathering, such as the recent picnic, give us an opportunity to get to know each other and our families in ways that monthly meetings don’t, a chance to find out what else we have in common besides being adoption triad members. The existence of O.I. also helps the community at large to become more aware of the needs and views of adoption triad member, if we get the word out through announcements, articles, and events like Reg Day. Everyone in society is affected by adoption in some way, either by adoption or relinquishment in their own family or by friends and their families. Although O.I. as such hasn’t sponsored any stat legislation in a while, we do keep track of legislation in other states and support changes toward open records and openness in adoption in all states, and we consider needed changes in our own state. Remember that New Mexico still does not have open records for either adoptees or birth parents. To promote and support any changes takes an organization, because an individual, on his/her own, cannot have as much influence as a group. Again, we can raise the public awareness concerning adoption issues.
     Further, being able to gather together physically helps us all realize how many people do have adoption connections. To read about it, or discuss things online does not have the same impact as seeing people in reality. Our recent picnic, again, helped us get to know others, from adopted infants to grandparents, with whom we have this shared interest. Many of us left wishing we could have a lot more such activities. We enjoyed seeing O.I. members we hadn’t seen in quite a while, and we wished we could see others who weren’t there.
     Like many non-profit organizations, O.I. has had fewer financial contributions in recent years. This is probably not because O.I. supporters are actually worse off than they were a few years ago, but our attendance has dropped off some due to perceptions that we are no longer needed, or that, having completed our own individual searches, we no longer need to attend or financially support O.I. Some members just get busy with other facets of their lives and don’t find time for O.I. Some have hit a tough time in their reunion relationships and hesitate to share that at meetings, not wanting to discourage others, or finding others good news painful when they compare, so they quit coming. We hope anyone will still feel they can share their feelings, even the painful ones at meetings, but we do understand that it’s not always easy.
     Sometimes the media would have us believe that reunions are dramatic, one-time events with no further developments, or that relationships fall apart after a while and the affected parties want to forget they every met, or that reunited families are so perfectly meshed that there is no reason for any type of support group. Reality rarely fits any of the above clear-cut models. Those media reunions or stories about reunions never mention support groups, either. We don’t know how many of those families have had the benefit of something like O.I. We do know that our members have found O.I. to be of great value as they develop those reunion relationships, and that has sometimes included keeping a low profile, not televising the initial reunion or having newspaper reporters present the first time birth parent and relinquished offspring meet.
     We’re hoping that this year’s activities in connection with O.I.’s 25th anniversary will bring more public awareness of O.I.’s existence, and also of adoption issues in general, and even that publicity about O.I. will increase financial contributions, because without those, O.I. cannot continue to exist, much less publish this newsletter, support the American Adoption Congress, and support all of those persons who need us now and who will continue to need a group that supports search and reunion, and openness and honesty in all adoptions. After 25 years, O.I. is still needed and O.I. still needs you.

Excerpted from the October 2004 edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 2004 Operation Identity