Interview With Contributing Author, Von Coates from the Adoptee Survival Guide Anthology:

#flipthescript

1-  Hi Von,  Please tell us about where you were born, to where you’ve moved, your current family?

I was born in Adelaide in a maternity hospital, then known for admitting ‘poor’ women and those who were unmarried. My mother was in the RAAF and transferred to a Mother and Baby Home some months before my birth. She had to scrub floors and undertake any work she was given in exchange for her keep. I was raised not far away from where I was born in a small village  outside the city and regularly visited the town where my parents met and where I was conceived, although I didn’t know that for 50 years! When I was 21 I went to live in London, then Bristol, Nottingham and finally a small Derbyshire village, before returning home, after nearly 30 years away!

At my age I am now the oldest in my family. All my amother’s side of the family are long gone, as are my afather’s generation. I have a small family of adoption left, mainly cousins and the girls of the family are good friends. My biological family is large and complicated and I now have contact only with the cousin who searched for me a few years ago and was responsible for me finding my father’s family.

The hospital I was born in survived as a hospital for many decades until it was converted into a block of smart apartments with a restaurant at ground level. I sat there one day drinking coffee and trying to come to terms with the fact that I was born on the site – rather disconcerting!

2- What have you done as a career?

My first career was in teaching the very young and I had the privilege of having my first job in a newly opened school in a large ship-building city which was expanding rapidly at the time and had many immigrant families newly arrived. I worked in other schools including several in London, the last being a school for the daughters of the rich and famous, minor celebrities, politicians, television personalities and so on, a very vivid contrast to my first school. In attempting to pursue a double degree in Botany and Zoology, I earned money in working as a Home Help for elderly and for people with disabilities. My Boss believed I would make a good Social Worker and I changed directions rather radically and after time at University, entered a profession I loved until I retired. I have wide experience, having worked generically and in several specialisms, one of those adoption and fostering work, but particularly in reunion work.

3- I notice you cross-post/ reblog a lot of other adoptees’ posts.  If I miss someone’s update in one place, I’m sure to get the news from you one way or another, which is great!  Thanks for being such a steady communicator.  Just have to say that!  What else do you like to read/study besides adopted life? 

I love to post the work of other bloggers because I’m a great collector of information and enjoy passing on the things that interest me. I greatly enjoy reading the work of other adoptees and like to support and encourage adoptees in  speaking out. My interests are wide. I enjoy a variety of podcasts, love my Kindle and audio books also, on days when it is a great luxury to be read to. My particular interests are astronomy, history, psychology, sociology,  philosophy, architecture, poetry, politics  I love to cook and collect interesting recipes to try.

4- What sort of adoption policy changes would be most important to you?

In my own State I would like to see the law change for those adoptees who are currently vetoed by their mothers. Australia wide I’d like to see Birth certificates better reflect our adopted status. For my fellow adoptees in America I’d dearly love to see many changes giving them all their rights to all the birth information and their Birth Certificates. I am currently very concerned, as are many adoptees, about the move towards ‘Americanising’ adoption, making it quicker and less well assessed.

5- Is there any specific moment or “trigger” that sparked your desire to search? (In my case it was like eating chocolate.  The more info I had, the more I wanted, so I kept going back for more “samples”!)  Did you also start out just curious but having the experience continue to grow as you progressed?  Did you search alone or have an “angel” or supportive friend/family member?

When I was 32 my afather asked me if I would like to know my mother’s name. He had it carefully typed on a scrap of paper and informed me that he had heard of someone who was reunited very successfully. It was part of his rejection of me as an adult or perhaps he was a lot more sensitive than I understood at the time.What he had handed me was a ‘red herring’ – right name, year of birth but wrong person. The support I received at the time reinforced what I’d been given, so was unhelpful, damaging and ultimately kept me from meeting my mother for another decade. It was eventually sorted out by the Department of Family Services who received applications for contact from my mother and from me in the same month. We were reunited within weeks and met shortly before my 50th birthday. It didn’t feel like curiosity but more like my birth-right and I was grateful that my mother showed so much generosity in sharing what she knew and had, which included photographs and documents. My father’s name came along with that and as it is an unusual name wasn’t so hard to trace with the help of someone I knew who dabbled in geneaology.  As luck would have it my cousin was searching and the rest as they say is history. I had never expected to know anything about my father or even his name, so it was all a bonus. I don’t remember any specific triggers although the searching can become addictive – just like chocolate!! What would life be without it?

 

6- I think I’ve read that you have kids, or at least one daughter?  What does she think of all your activity in adoption as an adoptee who researched and as one who writes and promotes others and the cause for reform?

I have one adult daughter who is enormously supportive of my activities, my writing, my blogging and my journey. She was with me in the House on the day the South Australia Apology for forced adoption was made and she has a deep understanding of the significance for adoptees of this validating, acknowledgement and recognition. She has supported and encouraged me and been there for me every step of the way. She is able to acknowledge the effect adoption has on the next generation and it is something we discuss when we can. I am extremely lucky to be so blessed and am very proud of her, who she is and her achievements.

7-  I love the paragraph in your ASG essay when you discuss ” …that identity is a fluid, ever-changing part of us, which does not remain fixed. We can be whoever we want to be!”   Before you found your birth family, what did you imagine/fantasize that they might be like?  How accurate were you?

My cousin who found me is a beautiful woman with a Japanese mother and a deep commitment to healing and well-being. I suppose I hoped the rest of the family would be like her, but of course I was completely wrong. They are all down-to-earth , hard-working people who were raised by an abusive father and a somewhat remote and/or troubled mother. They love to bicker and feud. They have many good qualities but I found it difficult to find my place and had never been a sister and it seemed too late to learn now despite my views on identity. Sadly I had to cut off contact with them all but have no regrets as they were very generous in sharing information about our father and his history. He and his brothers were abused in an orphanage run by priests after their mother died and the effects of that abuse run through the family.

8- I admire your positive and wise “den-mother” presence in out adoption community.  What advice would you give to adopted people who are considering searching and or to those who have recently found, (but not yet met) their missing family?   Do you have advice for birth parents?  How about any wisdom for prospective adoptive parents?

Thank you Paige for that perspective which I appreciate and value. I try to see all sides if I can, although sometimes that is difficult. I have believed for many years that we can never prepare too much for reunion. That involves reading all you can, researching and seeking help from a suitable professional with the ‘hard bits’ which we all wrestle with as adoptees. I have personally approached those ‘hard bits’ in each decade of my adult life and found it invaluable. I also believe it is important to not rush in, to think things through carefully and to prepare your approach with sensitivity, compassion and as much wisdom as you can muster. I think that applies across the board to all involved in adoption. If prospective adoptive parents did their research fully they might find it hard to reconcile the process of adoption with ethical standards, but that’s another story! I am very wary of advising biological parents in anything, given the experiences I have had in recent years. However it is fairly safe to say it is never a good idea to refer to adoptees as ‘children’ or to make assumptions about them, their lives and their goals.

9-  Totally off topic:  What do you do for fun?

I am lucky to have lots of fun in my life!   I  have a partner with a very active sense of humour and a deep understanding of the adopted life and how to combat it! We live on 12.5 acres of hilly country with kangaroos, many beautiful birds and wildlife, including two resident koalas. Every day presents some new wonder, challenge or joy. We live in a wine-making region which is rich in wonderful foods, cafes, restaurants and has many talented, creative people to make life full of fun. Last night we attended a beautiful music event where we knew many people and our daughter raised over $1300 for Leukaemia Research, by having her head shaved. Our supportive community rose to the occasion and not only was it fun but it was a wonderful time of connection and community closeness. I am completely untalented when it comes to music but I greatly enjoy live music particularly the didgeridoo, the cello, the harpsichord and drums of various traditions. Other fun includes swimming at our beautiful beaches and eating out, catching up with my daughter and being entertained by the antics of three resident cats and a flock of geese. My Daughter and I recently had a holiday in New Zealand and enjoyed ourselves enormously. We experienced many funny outings and incidents as a mother and daughter duo, our favourite being during our visit to Auckland when a very beautiful American musician chatted my daughter up as she pushed me, in a wheelchair, into one of Auckland’s howling gales!

10-  How can those interested in learning more about adopted life connect with you?  (blogs, writings, Facebook, etc.)

My blog is at http://eagoodlife.wordpress.com and I am on Facebook as Von Coates, also on Twitter and Pinterest.

 It is always a pleasure to hear from other adoptees or for those who are genuinely interested in the adopted life.

Thanks, Von for sharing your time with us both in the Adoptee Survival Guide book and in these interview sessions!  

I am always happy to share time when it is to do with adoption and justice for adoptees of any age. I intend to continue for as long as I can in whatever way I have to. I am passionate about our rights and about our progress in being heard. That does not diminish as I age and I know my family will encourage me, support me and assist me if necessary in the future.

Thanks Paige for this enjoyable opportunity.

Good wishes,

Von 💗

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