U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill on Thursday met with Philomena Lee to discuss Irish adoption laws and Lee's work to reunite American children separated from their Irish families through forced adoption.
The story of Philomena's decades-long search for the son who was forcibly adopted and raised by a family in St. Louis, MO, is the subject of a recent book and Oscar-nominated film.
"Philomena's story is heart-wrenching, and she has one of the most just causes you could possibly have - the simple premise that if a child is taken from a mother against her will, there should be an easy way to reconnect with that child," McCaskill said in a press release.
"Unfortunately, in Ireland, for many years there was a repugnant practice of children taken from their young mothers, put in a home, and when the child got a certain age, shipped off to America to new parents. I have a blended family of seven children. All of my husband's children from his first marriage are adopted, and we are fortunate in that his oldest son has reconnected with his birth mother - we know and socialize with her, and they have a wonderful relationship. So I know firsthand how important it is to keep those doors open and to allow the transparency and availability of adoption records so that children and parents can have the opportunity to reunite when it is their life's wish."
Philomena and her daughter Jane Libberton were inspired to take action on the issue of forced adoption by the recent outpouring of support surrounding the true story of Philomena's decades-long search her son, who was taken from her while living at the Sean Ross Abbey in Rosecrea, Ireland. Philomena and her son Anthony were deliberately kept apart and never reunited, despite the fact each was actively looking for the other.
Sitting alongside McCaskill Thursday, Philomena and her daughter talked about her family's story.
"He died thinking I abandoned him," Philomena said of her son. "But I know he's now at peace."
Philomena and her daughter created the Philomena Project in association with the Adoption Rights Alliance. The Philomena Project aims to prevent similar tragedies and reconcile families that were separated under similar circumstances in honor of Anthony's memory. It is calling on the Irish government to make adoption records public and transparent as swiftly as possible.
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