Emotions high as veil around adoption lifts
Crush of applications expected as new rules on disclosure take effect
May 31, 2009
Paul O'Donnell wants to meet his mother. His other mother, the one who gave birth to him.
O'Donnell, 45, was adopted as an infant and raised by a gregarious couple. Although he loved them dearly, the differences
between them were stark: he was a serious, introverted math whiz; his parents were the most popular couple on the block.
"My father was a salesman. I couldn't sell if my life depended on it. I don't have that kind of personality," O'Donnell laughs
nervously, a self-deprecating tic.
Nor were his adopted parents bookish like Paul, who, despite his age, looks a bit like a university student in his thick, brown
glasses and blue backpack. His adoptive mother, Donna O'Donnell, wonders why her son talks to her at all, "because I don't
really know all he's talking about."
Though he has had a great life, Paul always felt like an outsider. He hopes that is about to change.
Tomorrow, the secrecy that has shrouded the adoption process will be lifted, and adult adoptees and birth parents will have
access to adoption orders and birth registrations.
In Ontario, 250,000 children have been adopted since the government started keeping records in 1921. For Paul, that
means he could finally learn his mother's name and can begin to track her down.
The Toronto computer programmer has been clinging to information he got in 2005, when, at age 42, he went to the Catholic
Children's Aid to ask about his birth family.
When the envelope came, he was too nervous to open it himself. While a friend read all 10 pages aloud, Paul sat shaking,
almost dizzy, and an image of his birth mother began to take shape in his mind. She was short, five-foot-one, with a medium
build, dark blond hair, blue eyes, and "lovely teeth."
"Birth mother," as she was called throughout, was from Eastern Canada, of good health and average intelligence. She