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Raymond Sheppard: Some or our African Nova Scotian children are missing

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Between the 50s and 80s a number of African Nova Scotian newborn children were removed from their families where it was deemed that the mother was unable to care for her child, this coupled with the stigma of not being married. 

Although some of these children for a short period were cared for in their home communities, eventually they were removed and placed/adopted into other homes, towns, cities and even provinces. 

For example, my sister’s children were said to be adopted in Ontario. 

Theresa Viola Brown was born at St Martha’s Hospital in Antigonish on January 15th 1972 and James Arnold Brown, was also born at St Martha’s Hospital in Antigonish on June 28 1969. These two children  my family has never had the opportunity to know and love or even see.  My sister, the mother of these two children passed away in August 2016, without ever knowing what became of her children.

From 2012 to 2916, I travelled to Ontario ten times to seek information from Adoption Services of Ontario, before doing so I contacted Nova Scotia Adoption Services to seek information, to no avail. Adoption Services of Ontario would always inform me that there was nothing they could do and that it was the home province that was responsible for providing the information that was being sought and that Nova Scotia was one of the few provinces without open files. 

Adoption Services of Ontario also had taken down my information and that of the children’s mother and stated that if the children ever came seeking to contact their birth mother they would have the information on file. 

My question was what if the children do not know they were adopted and what if their names have been changed?  The reply was, if the birth mother is seriously ill and we have a medical form filled in, we may be able to do a search. My sister received the forms and before she could have doctors caring for her fill these forms in, she passed on.

Over the years, the Nova Scotia Government has indicated that they were going to open their adoption records, this has yet to happen.

I don’t know how many African Nova Scotians are faced with similar situations, personally I am aware of five families.  

The reason having access and information on our adopted children is so important is because of their heritage, culture and lineage. Their medical history and the medical history of their family may also be important. Knowing the adoptive child’s whole story is paramount. 

Unless there is some sort of violence involved, there ought to be openness between birth parents and adoptive parents for the betterment of the child and his/her development.  

In my sister’s case, she only wanted to know that they were ok and if she had grandchildren. She did not want to disrupt or interfere with their lives unless they wanted her in their lives. 

In Canada and beyond, there seems to be a growing interest 

in having some degree of openness and information on adoptive children from the biological family and the adoptive parents. It simply serves to complete the picture by letting the children’s birth and history be part of their understanding and indeed their story.

Many studies on adoptions including one from the Adoption Services of California found that openness reduces the fears of adoptive parents and improves the overall mental health and well-being of birth mothers.

When many African Canadians adoptees/Persons of Color realize they look different from others in the adoptive family, especially if they have been adopted by families of European descent ,this can lead to disruption in the adoptive household, especially if the child/children do not know they have been adopted. 

It becomes more catastrophic when these children enter the school system and are called names like the n-word and are unable to comprehend why they are being called this when they have white Parents. And the concerns continue on!

Although my sister has departed to the next realm, my remaining family and I still strongly want to find our out of touch loved ones, therefore I would strongly encourage the Nova Scotia Government to do the right thing and open adoption records.

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