AN AMERICAN woman who believes she was illegally adopted from Dublin 56 years ago is appealing to Northside People readers to help find her biological parents.
Paula Douglas, from Oakland, California, is desperate to connect with her birth mother but her efforts to date have failed to provide any leads.
“I do understand that if she is still alive she may not have told her current family this story,” Paula told Northside People. “I do not want to disrupt her life at all.
“I would just like to have a conversation on the phone and possibly a face-to-face meeting – if she is open to this.”
Paula’s search began last year after a chat with her husband about her “weird” birth certificate.
Her adoptive Irish parents had told Paula, whose maiden name is Holmes, that she was born on April 9, 1959, but her birth cert is dated April 2 of the same year.
“They always told me I had to be sure to use April 2 on any legal documents because that is my ‘legal’ date of birth but they always insisted my real birthday was April 9, and that’s what we always celebrated,” Paula said.
Paula never got to the bottom about the discrepancy in the dates.
Her adoptive parents had emigrated from Ireland to the US in June, 1959, and she claims they told her the Catholic Church paid for their tickets.
“The most I was ever told was that they adopted me from the nuns in Ireland,” Paula said. “They never really talked about it that much.”
Paula’s dad passed away in 2012 and her 83-year-old mother has the early stages of Alzheimer’s. She turned to an aunt to try find out more about her ‘adoption’ but found she’d opened up a family-sized can of worms.
“She said my parents told everyone that I was their natural child, except a very small circle of relatives.”
Paula’s aunt suggested she go see the movie, ‘Philomena’, about an Irish child who was taken and sold by nuns, and her situation really began to sink in.
“It was so upsetting – way too close to home,” Paula recalls. “My daughter and I cried watching this. I had no idea that any of these issues had happened in Ireland.”
After the movie Paula got in touch with adoption groups in Ireland and began the search for her biological mother. She was told the birth certificate showing her adoptive parents as her birth parents is an original, but that it wasn’t legal.
Paula began to piece together her story after a cousin, who had been legally adopted from St Patrick’s Guild, based on Middle Abbey Street in the ‘50s, told her he was certain she had also been adopted from the same adoption society because that’s what his mother had said to him.
St Patrick’s Guild (SPG) has admitted facilitating illegal adoptions in the past and up until last year had been assisting in trying to trace natural birth parents when possible.
However, it ceased its information and tracing service last year and has transferred its records to Tusla (the Child and Family Agency) who are now dealing with enquiries.
When Paula got in touch with SPG last year she says she was told that while they had a record of her cousin’s adoption, they had no record of hers.
“I was told that my parents could not have adopted a child and left for the US two months later as it would have taken at least a year to go through all the proper channels,” Paula says.
“Suddenly it all began to make sense. My parents had mentioned that they had decided to move to the US before they knew they were going to adopt me. If they were adopting a baby, the emigration would have been stalled by at least a year.”
While there was no record of Paula’s adoption, a letter from her aunt to the guild was found in her cousin’s files saying a baby called Paula was doing well in the US.
She thinks her father came from Ringsend.
She’s now hoping somebody in Dublin will recognise her story or spot a family resemblance in these photos.