Letter To Illinois Legislators Opposing HB 4623’s Denial Of Adoptee Rights

There have been lots of poignant and pointed comments in the adoption community lately about confidential intermediaries. It’s great to see so many people throwing off the shackles of silence and letting the world see a broader picture of adoption experience.

I thought the Illinois legislators should know what the public has to say, so I sent them the following letter with excerpts from many recent blog entries and comments. Many thanks to everyone who has contributed their experiences, here and elsewhere.

Today is the last day of the Illinois legislative session. HB 4623 may die in the House, or it may be delayed, or a new disaster of a draft may be dumped on us at the last minute. We don’t know, it’s all part of the Adoption Game – a game we never signed up to play.

It’s not too late to make your voice heard. Click here for contact info for Illinois representatives. You can also find email addresses on the Illinois Open web site (although some of them seem to be bouncing).


To: Illinois Representatives
From: Triona Guidry
Re: Illinois HB 4623 And Adoption Records Access

Dear Representative,

As the legislative session concludes, your constituents urge you to vote against Illinois HB 4623, and to create a new bill that will restore the civil right, rescinded in 1945, of all Illinois adopted adults to access their original birth certificates without restraint or third party interference.

HB 4623 is a slap in the face to adoptive parents, adoptees, and birth families alike. These are the remarks of people who have experienced Confidential Intermediary (CI) programs for themselves. As you can see, such solutions DO NOT WORK. The only way to treat all people equally is to restore adoption records access to the participants, including adult adoptees.

From Triona Guidry, “Case Closed! Another Adoptee Becomes A Confidential Intermediary Statistic

Ready for the scorecard? The Illinois CI program:

  • Initially refused all applications from Illinois-born, out-of-state adoptees. Their web site states you don’t need a lawyer – but if I hadn’t had one my application would still be sitting in the reject pile.

    Are other applications being rejected? Intermediary programs are not available to all adoptees.

  • Deliberately discourages participants and contacted relatives from signing up with the state registry.

    Why? Is it to ensure a steady supply of paying clients? The state registry is free (if you complete the medical section); the CI program costs hundreds of dollars.

  • Redacts information not specifically stated in the 18.4 statute as being “identifying,” in my case information my mother obviously desired to tell me since she included it in her letters.

    Are adoptees being denied even the minimal non-identifying information permitted by law?

  • Can’t decide whether participants are permitted program information or not. I received a redacted copy of the first letter sent to my mother when I requested it, but requests for similar subsequent materials was denied.

    Are programs using “confidentiality” as a cloak to hide their own shortcomings?

  • Refuses to disclose the search steps taken on participants’ behalf.

    How are participants to know if they have received the services they paid for, if they are not allowed to know what was done?

  • Refuses to disclose their standard written policies and procedures.
    What do these programs have to hide, that their very policies are secret?

  • Accidentally disclosed my identifying information without my consent.

    Why are adoptees expected to trust programs that consider their own policies more “confidential” than participants’ private data?

  • Continues to fail to provide official written notification of said disclosure.

    Why do proponents of intermediaries deny that mistakes occur? Is it because the primary focus is profit rather than helping adoptees and their families?

  • Charges to re-open cases, with no way for participants to know what has or has not been done on their behalf.

    Why are adoptees expected not only to pay extra fees, but to pay them multiple times, for the same information that non-adopted people may easily obtain?

Reader comments from “Case Closed! Another Adoptee Becomes A Confidential Intermediary Statistic

Deanna: “I am a birthmother and I have to say that I don’t feel that I have a right to keep information regarding my family from the children I placed for adoption… I know that some birthparents will never want contact. I think they should have that right to say no… however not at the expense of the adoptee.”

BL: “I am shocked and appalled at the experience that you have had with the CI program in Illinois. I had NO idea that the CI interferes with the written correspondence that you have, once contact is agreed upon. I cannot comprehend that. If the parties did not want that information identifying) to be communicated, then it wouldn’t be put in the correspondence. The fact that the state feels they need to interfere,is incomprehensible to me. But, looking at it from a money making perspective, I get it. If they delete ANY identifying information from the letters, then you are completely dependent upon them to continue your search.”

Lisa Kay: “Most of us were already sadly aware that the internet is teeming with persons anxious to relieve us of our money with the promise of finding our original family. Call me naive, idealistic, whatever, but since I have discovered the complicity of state and local government employees (elected and not), I am beyond pi$$ed off. (It makes a professional skeptic such as me wonder if your CI did anything at all beyond typing letters to you.)”

From Anita Walker Field, “The Cheese Stands Alone,”

“I signed up with the [Illinois] CI program in 1994, about two years after its inception… When I was signing on, I was told… the beauty of the CI program was that CIs had the full power of the courts behind them. CIs could go where others couldn’t. The CIs could present a court order for information which otherwise would not be given out to adoptees. In other words, the CIs had super powers. I fell for it – hook, line and sinker… Be very certain of what treatment you can live with before you sign on with the CIs. Ask yourself if you can give up complete control of your search to a third party who is prevented by law from telling you any identifying information about yourself. Remember, your confidential intermediaries will arbitrarily tell you only those facts they want to. And they will arbitrarily withhold from you any facts that they want to.”

From Baby Love Child, “IL HB 4623 and IL’s Kafka-esque Confidential Intermediary Hell

“More to the point, we were at an age when we were too young to protect our own interests. The State, as then supposedly ‘acting on our behalf’ abdicated its duty to some of its most vulnerable citizens, obliterating or at minimum confiscating our authentic history, and replacing it with what are in so many cases easily proven to be lies. Then they ‘get us on the back end’ by leaving us no recourse other than to be forced into chutes like their CI systems in vain attempts to regain the very documentation every other citizen takes for granted.”

As our examples demonstrate, “compromise” solutions like intermediaries are ineffective and inequitable. Please reject HB 4623 in favor of true open records legislation.

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Comments

  1. For years I’ve heard stories about the CI programs in different states and none have been good. But what I’ve heard about the CI program in IL sends chills up and down my spine. Rep. Feigenholtz has done a horrible thing by introducing a bill to keep the CI program intact. Then for other State representatives to co-sponsor it makes me even more angry. Feigenholtz avoids listening but we can’t give up with trying to get other State representatives to listen to us. Everyone who has not contacted the legislators need to do so TODAY. Don’t sit back and let someone else do it, the more they hear from the better.

  2. Quick question-

    The information I had from Anita/Bastard Granny Annie was more along these lines (quoting from my blog entry)-

    …turning to Illinois, IL HB 4623 has received a third extension, extending work on it out to May 31rst. (The IL session is scheduled to adjourn Friday May 29th.)

    If today was the final day for comments, where did you receive that information? I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m just trying to figure out how we know what we know.

    Thanks for the clarification and again for all your hard work!

  3. Baby Love Child – Anita’s information is more correct than mine. What I meant by “final day for comments” is that today is the final day of the legislative session. Sorry for being imprecise!

  4. “the adoption game we are all forced to play”…and I hope you won’t forget to mention that playing is required if you want to read the first chapter of your own book – adoptees pick up the book of their life and have to begin reading at chapter 2 at best.

    So, not only do you have to play the game, it’s not a uniform game from state to state. Where CI programs exist in different states, you have to buy into the game. Assuming that one even has the money and can afford to buy into the game, there is no guarantee that you are going to get a decent playing piece and of course, the rules may change depending upon who’s talking to you.

    Keep in mind, if something goes bump (such as what happened to Triona) a judge can throw you out of the game and you don’t even get to keep whatever chips you may have acquired. Poof! You’re gone and that’s it. Wanna play again? You have to buy back into the game.

    It’s a sick game. It plays upon the emotions and heart strings of anyone lured into playing it; it’s not a fair game and yet the legislature will try to pass any bill which will keep it going. It actually surprises me that this game isn’t played on a Mississippi Riverboat where other gambling goes on – not only is it a huge gamble but it’s set up so that the player cannot win.

    Who wins? He who collects the gold wins the game and also makes the rules. State coffers get lined with money while adoptees (who are now full grown adults) walk away with nothing.

    Well, maybe not nothing, after all they have canceled checks from years of paying state income taxes, state sales taxes, real estate tax, school tax, and the list of taxes goes on and on. They may also walk away with the old wounds and scars from going to war to protect this country because they are first class US citizens when it comes to things like that – having every right to pay those taxes and to bear war wounds.

    But, those rights extend just so far if you’re an adoptee, and in that case it really doesn’t matter what you do for your country or your state, your country or your state isn’t going to do anything for you unless you fight them every step of the way.

    As long as Illinois retains such a deplorable CI program, I can only hope no one will use it. In addition, contact every representative you can and give them the honest facts about contact between adoptees and birth parents, reinforce the truth that birth mothers were never promised confidentiality and very few expect or want it. And, let them know adoptees don’t stalk birth parents who decide they’d rather not have contact (all 10% or less of them.)

    I was tempted to say that no one should be able to work as a CI unless they are a part of the adoption triad. They have no idea, no basis for understanding and a degree on the wall isn’t going to cut it here.

    But, the truth is the only good and fair and honorable thing would be to open records.

    Unless an adoptee is prepared to veil their face and walk a few steps behind everyone else, it’s time to make noise. And, if you can’t make noise for yourself, make it for the woman who gave you life, the woman who was treated like a second class citizen for bringing a baby into the world and doing her best to assure it would be raised with all the things she could not provide. Do it so she doesn’t have to continue to carry the guilt and the shame society put on her many years ago. Do it so, if nothing else, you one day have the chance to meet her and thank her.

  5. Triona,
    As you know, I am a birthmother and not an adoptee, however I think the run-around you get when you try to follow along with the rules of this adoption ring the states are running is ludicrous. As a birthmother I actually welcome being able communicate with the child I placed for adoption. However, I do know that there are birthmothers out there that do not wish to do so. That fact should not punish those members of an adoption who do want to know more about the other members of their birthfamily, for whatever reason they want to know. In any other scenario in this country, a person interested in a relationship (of any sort) with another person makes this known to that person. If the recipient of the requested relationship doesn’t want the same thing…they decline. End of Story! If the requestor oversteps the boundaries of the law at any time then criminal charges can be filed. It is that simple in an adoption also. If an adoptee gets the information regarding any member of their birthfamily and contacts them, it is that persons right to say I am sorry but I am not interested. The adoptee should have the right to contact any member of their birthfamily in order to try to get important information such as medical history. No human should be denied the right to know their biological family. I am sorry but one person’s rights are not superior to another’s. I can hear the advocates for sealed records trying to turn that last statement
    around to say that by opening records the adoptee’s rights are superior to the birthparent’s right to confidentiality. WRONG. When records are sealed and the birthparents refuse to consent to be identified… the adoptees rights are forgotten. They have no other options to find out about their family, speak with any of the ones who do want to know them, learn about their heritage, or their medical information. However, in Open adoptions if the birthparents are contacted they retain their right to have no contact with the adoptee while preserving the adoptees rights. The adoptee knows names, can research family trees, can contact other members of the family and connect to their family in a manner that does not include the birthparents… as they requested. Only one of those scenarios preserves the rights of all parties to an adoption. I am sorry but if you become pregnant and choose to give birth to that child (and either parent or place for adoption) you have a responsibility to do no harm to that child…EVER. Their age is irrelevent. Why would you want to do that to a child of yours? I don’t understand that concept. If your adult child is searching for you how could you turn them away? I do believe it is your right to make that choice… but not to the exclusion of all other’s rights. The stigma that has been attached to adoption in the past does not have to exist in any fashion today… we can show it for what it is…. a loving, thoughtful, difficult PARENTING decision.

  6. Thanks for the clarification, Triona.

    I figured since you were there, you might have more up to date information than I would.

    As for who ‘wins’? It’s not just the State, and the agencies and lawyers whose past misdeeds are often buried behind the walls of secrecy and disconnects, it’s also those who play the role of CIs.

    Whether they get paid by people searching or by the State, they still get paid. And for what? Well, in many cases it’s simply impossible to determine.

    Part of the IL scheme appears to be to move from adoptees paying towards a more steady income stream from the State.

    Nice work if you can get it, I suppose, seeing as to how you need never show anyone you ever did anything.

  7. Aunt Patty – I wish I could frame your words. You said it so eloquently! Yes, we are indeed forced to play a game whose rules are determined midstream, at whim. I think all of us who have been forced to walk a few steps behind should stop expecting that it’s all we deserve. We may be forbidden from accessing our records but we are not forbidden from expressing our outrage – even when our justified opinions are dismissed as being irrelevant. Our opinions matter. Our experiences matter. There is something unjust going on and it is the duty of each one of us to stand up and say NO!

    birthmomto2 – I want to take what you said and carve it in marble in the statehouse: “In any other scenario in this country, a person interested in a relationship (of any sort) with another person makes this known to that person. If the recipient of the requested relationship doesn’t want the same thing…they decline. End of Story!” Why is that so difficult for some people to understand? Why does the word “adoption” turn perfectly reasonable people into instant spouters of the official party lines – “how dare you, you have no right, you’re interfering, just forget it and move on.” It’s a knee-jerk reaction ingrained in our society, one that needs to be changed.

    BLC – Gee, how can the rest of us find a way to make regular bucks without having to budge? Maybe as a computer consultant I should start charging people repeatedly to remove viruses that I never actually remove. I can just keep charging the same people over and over again, and since they don’t understand the system or what the problem is, they’ll never figure it out. Stupid users, ha ha! Of course, if I actually ran my business that way I’d never have a single client, because I don’t have a monopoly on fixing computers. Unfortunately in states with CI programs those programs are THE ONLY METHOD the state provides to gain ANY information at all! And they don’t have to report to anyone so they can operate however they please. What a racket!

  8. Latest word on the street about HB 4623 is that it has been taken off the table for this session because there was not enough support for it.

    But that’s no reason to be complacent. We expect future attempts to sideswipe adoptee rights in Illinois.

    Please continue to stay in contact with your reps, urging them to oppose HB 4623 should it return to the table and to support true open records access in Illinois.

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