Ser.I.O. at the Istituto degli Innocenti

Program helps adopted research their backstory

Samantha Vaughn
December 1, 2017 - 15:43

Teaming up with the Tuscan Region, the Istituto degli Innocenti, Florence’s premier research institute for the history of adoption and familial origins, has established Ser.I.O., the Service for Information on Origins.

The mission is to make available to adopted individuals wishing to research their origins a team of experts, comprising legal consultants, psychologists, social workers and archivists, who can guide the client in the process of reconstructing information about their roots. Never before has a program like this run in Italy, where laws to this regard are currently at a standstill in congress, and it is for this reason that the initiative has the makings to be a model that can be developed on a national level.

The sentimental value of such a project is immense. Should it perhaps be considered a human right to know where we come from? Our stories are not just our own, but are also those of our parents, our grandparents and all those whose lives and actions led to ours. Every story is like a “what” woven by time and history, and for those who were adopted, whose story remains a mystery, their right to know that story is denied. The keys to unravelling the mystery may be blocked behind a mountain of bureaucracy, daunting digs through archives, or even the legally binding wishes of mothers who chose to give away their child under terms of anonymity. It is for these reasons and more that the Istituto degli Innocenti has opened their doors to those searching for information about where they come from and the circumstances surrounding their adoption.

Maria Grazia Giuffrida, president of the Istituto degli Innocenti, explained that “the research of one’s origins is a complex mix of lives and rights, first and foremost of children and mothers. The subject brings to light the rooted and deep feeling that each one of us has and which without a doubt intertwines with our personal stories and the evolution of our sense of belonging. To allow someone access to information about the identity of their biological parents means helping them fill a void in their life.”

The main role of Ser.I.O. will be to provide information and consultation to interested parties for reconstructing their personal histories and retrieving information about personal and familial origins, though the Institute recognizes the importance and necessity of providing guidance, mediation and support, including psychological, to the adopted children and both their adoptive and biological parents. For this reason, attention will be placed on the potential for delicate revelations about one’s history and when establishing contact with their birth family. Anyone interested in using the service will need to contact the Institute by telephone to fix an in-person appointment, where they can request an initial consultation. The specialized team will then meet to develop a plan for the individual case.

As Assessor of Social Services for the Tuscan Region, Stefania Saccardi, illustrated, “Until now, adopted children looking to retrace their origins and find their birth parents have found themselves completely alone in this research. For many years, the Istituto degli Innocenti has been a partner of the Tuscan Region for regional policies regarding support for families, promoting parenthood, safeguarding minors’ rights and monitoring the conditions in which children, adolescents and families with children live. And so, we gladly signed this agreement with the Institute to support them in carrying out the Ser.I.O. project, also in terms of financing.”

Creating an institutional framework for open research of this kind is timely. The rise of social media has all but ensured that anyone with a story of adoption, be it the adopted child or the biological parent(s), can tap freely into a continually growing resource should they be curious about where they come from or where the child they gave up for adoption ended up. It goes without saying that social media is not the “be all end all” of tools nor should the possibility of trauma be overlooked in cases when biological relations are simply contacted out of the blue, and this is why Ser.I.O. can be an optimal opportunity. By putting together a varied team of professionals from a number of fields, the Istituto degli Innocenti is demonstrating its dedication and care for covering all aspects of this complex process. In a system heavy with legislative blockades, help of this kind will prove to be vital.

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