Illinois HB 5428: Toxic To Adoptee Rights, Makes It A Crime To Search

Please write to these senators and tell them to oppose IL HB 5428. And be sure to sign our petition!

You can find the bill status for Illinois HB 5428 here and the full text here. I also encourage you to join Adoption Reform Illinois, a coalition of triad members and others seeking to defeat bills like this and introduce clean legislation to Illinois. On our web site you will find contact information for the Senate sponsors and Assignments committee, and our position paper, Why ARI Opposes HB 5428 (pdf).

I haven’t blogged much lately because I’ve been busy fighting IL HB 5428, a new-bill-same-as-the-old-bill which kicks Illinois adoptees when they’re down. This bill, introduced by legislator and token adoptee Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, is utterly toxic, even more so than most compromise legislation. (Please read this if you think compromise legislation is okay and “baby steps are needed” to achieve adoption reform.)
First, there is the way IL HB 5428 is being slipped under the radar. After the defeat the adoption reform community handed the similar IL HB 4623 in 2008, Feigenholtz must have realized she would never be able to pass one of her odious initiatives if anyone knew about it. So this thing has been silent but deadly. It has already been fast-tracked through a House vote of approval, and is currently in the Senate’s Assignments committee.
Next, there is the unprecedented level of bureaucracy this bill creates — because the more bureaucracy, the more opportunities to charge you for your own information. HB 5428 introduces no less than five levels of disclosure veto (mislabeled “preferences”), ranging from “access if your Mommy approves” all the way down to “F*** you.” It goes so far as to mandate modification of vital records, permanently erasing adoptee identities. Adoptees who have already been shafted by disclosure veto remain screwed.
Feigenholtz is touting this to the media as being good for adoptees, while snickering behind our backs with dollar signs in her eyes. DO NOT BELIEVE THE LIES. This bill does NOT grant birth certificate access. It cements profiteering at the expense of adult adoptees.
IL HB 5428 puts the very same people who run Illinois’ mismanaged registry and CI program on the council overseeing it. This makes the Midwest Adoption Center (MAC), the sole-source no-bid entity contracted to perform these services in Illinois, accountable to no one but themselves. This council is filled with entities who profit from access to adoption records. AAC’s representative (Melisha Mitchell aka Allen) is a paid searcher, a conflict of interest. No adoption reform groups are represented.
When it comes to MAC, we are talking about the same people who consider the confidentiality of their policies and procedures more important than protecting the identities of participants. I speak from experience when I say I wouldn’t trust these people to clean up radioactive sewage — which is what HB 5428 is.
The bill is primarily a money grab for MAC and the CI program. HB 5428 calls for state money to advertise the program. It’s all about profit at a time when our state can’t even pay its own bills. And it’s all about obscurity at a time when the citizens of Illinois are trying to shine some light on the corrupt politics in this state.
And if that’s not bad enough…
IL HB 5428 would make it a CRIME to pursue your own search via non-identifying information (damages plus $10,000 minimum punitive fine). From the bill text:

Any person who learns a sought-after relative’s identity, directly or indirectly, through the use of procedures provided in this Section and who improperly discloses information identifying the sought-after relative shall be liable to the sought-after relative for actual damages plus minimum punitive damages of $10,000.

Yes, you heard that right. If you’re not adopted, it’s called genealogy. But if you are adopted, under IL HB 5428 you will be penalized if you attempt to search on your own. This is so that all Illinois adoptees and their birth families will be forced through the jaws of the intermediary program’s profit-making machine.
Oh, and at the same time they hold themselves unaccountable for any mistakes they may make while meddling in your business, such as the way they disclosed my identifying information to my birth family without my consent. CIs who make mistakes keep their jobs and are charged a modest penalty which is paid to DCFS, not the injured party:

The Department shall fine any confidential intermediary who improperly discloses confidential information in violation of item (1) or (2) of this subsection (k) an amount up to $2,000 per improper disclosure. This fine does not affect civil liability under item (2) of this subsection (k). The Department shall deposit all fines and penalties collected under this Section into the Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information Fund.

Here’s a barf bag. I’ll wait while you hurl.
Bastardette has posted part 1 of what is sure to be a rousing series on Sneaky Sara and her machinations. I strongly encourage you to read it, and to write to Illinois senators to put a stop to this toxic bill.


  1. I need more than a barf bag for this garbage and I wasn’t even adopted in the State Of Illinois, “Any person who learns a sought-after relative’s identity, directly or indirectly, through the use of procedures provided in this Section and who improperly discloses information identifying the sought-after relative shall be liable to the sought-after relative for actual damages plus minimum punitive damages of $10,000.”

    How could this be legally, morally or ethically right when being adopted already comes at a price? Personally, I have already had to pay dearly for others’ mistakes involving the state, judges, lawyers and medical professionals not protecting my best interests. I am sure that this Rep. Sara Feigenholtz wouldn’t come to the rescue for those of us who have run up against tough issues involving adoption deception and help us to collect as adoptees for punitive damages for the errors of the State or the placing agency.

  2. Hi JoAnne, I have had to pay too: the lawyers, the Illinois Confidential Intermediary program, all the hoops they make us jump through just to regain access to our origins. Not to mention the time and effort involved in trying to assert my rights. Sara could care less about her fellow adoptees, she is too busy currying political favor by being the Illinois legislature’s token adoptee. It’s imperative for all of us, in Illinois or not, to fight this garbage. Because if one state passes a law like this, others could follow suit.

    All I want is to be able to go to the courthouse, plunk down my 15 bucks and get my original birth certificate like any other random person. Adult adoptees deserve equal rights, anything less is a slap in the face.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. OH-she’s Adopted? What a benedict bastard….she has no right to speak for all Adoptees-who the hell does she think she is? Every Adoption is concerning an indivual Adoptee, and every Adoptee has the right to decide if they want to go get their OBC, NOT have to follow a discrimatory law saying they CAN’T have their OBC-I don’t understand losers like Feigenholtz, what a control freak madwoman.

  5. Triona, you’re doing great work on this bill. Your green ribbon website is excellent: nice and clear, great information. Do you need to live in Illinois to join the campaign and get updates?

    The bloated bureaucracy, the $$ grabbing, and the penalization of searching adoptees . . . all outrageous inclusions. What idiot dreamed this up? Sounds like this is NOTHING about adoptees and all about control of information and profit.

    I will download your position paper and read it. Thanks again for all the info.

  6. Osolomama–no, you do not need to be in Illinois to join Adoption Reform Illinois, although of course it helps (especially when signing the petition as that will automatically go to your local legislators). If you know anyone you think would like to help please pass the info along! You can sign up here:

    Part of the problem IMHO is that people move, and thus may no longer reside in the state which governs their access. I know a number of first moms who relinquished in Illinois but no longer live here. That’s why it’s important for all of us to campaign for clean records access wherever we live, for the sake of those who may no longer have voices in that state. If you have a blog, a web site, a Facebook or Twitter account, please help us get the word out!

    And the idiot, as you aptly put it, is primarily Feigenholtz. Perhaps she started out with good intentions, but we all know the adage about what the road to hell is paved with. She has turned away from her fellow adoptees and joined the Dark Side, and now she’s the legislative equivalent of Darth Vader, gaining power from the misfortunes of others.

  7. I second that Tri-you are doing a fantastic job with all the information you have provided, and all the hard work it takes to speak out to Congress against condescending bills like this, that will hurt many people. I and many others thank you.

  8. Thanks, everyone. I do it because I have to… because I can’t stand by and watch while this stuff happens. Because I know what it is to be the one left behind by compromise legislation. Because what they are doing is wrong, and the more people who say so, the better. Silence is what allows them to get away with continuing to treat us like second-class citizens, and I am damn sick of that.

  9. http://halforphan56 says

    oh, dear.

    I’ve been quietly simmering over catching daily comments on any TV show cussing out bastards and wonder if people really KNOW what they are saying. This is an undercurrent in society and now this in Illinois. I’d be enraged if I weren’t so sad.

    Keep speaking out.

    I voted and now gonna find that Widget to put it on my website.

  10. Triona, you ROCK

  11. Thanks, Triona, for taking the time and energy to persevere through all the bureaucracy and politics…so frustrating that bills like this even receive such real and serious consideration…GRRR.

    On a completely different note, I could be remembering completely inaccurately, but did you post an entry one time addressing what some AP’s practice as “Gotcha Day?” [I just remember really appreciating the content of the post, if it was indeed your post…?)

    Maybe I’m thinking of a different blog. But if you did write such a post, would you be able to send me the link to it, and would I have your permission to link to it?

    And if you didn’t, obviously, just disregard this…


  12. Amanda–thanks. 🙂

    Melissa–thank you also. I did write a little about Gotcha Day this past January in a blog about celebrating adoption loss:

    I find both the concept and the term “Gotcha Day” abhorrent. That day may be a celebration for adoptive parents but for adoptees it’s a reminder of loss. Same reason why I find celebrating my own birthday ambivalent. Other people celebrate but for me it is such a poignant reminder of the scant few hours I had with my birth mother after I was born. You are welcome to link to any of my posts.

  13. Im clearly going against the grain here, and Im okay with that. I do not know all the ins/outs with this Bill, but that’s for Ill folks to know and understand.

    Im going to share my experience in my state and you can take from it what you wish and what you feel is right.

    Here in RI we’ve taken on the mantra, lets chop down the tree and go back and get the stump later.

    In 2009 our clean Bill, almost identical to ME & NH passed the House 68-0 while the Senate Committee killed it and it never reached the floor for a full vote. We also knew that out of the 114ish state legislators only 2 legislators opposed this Bill and were holding it up. We can argue about what’s right and wrong here all day long but it wont do any good, at the end of the day the same result will remain, the Bill wont move past the Senate committee.

    So what to do? Ive realized there’s a bigger picture, another game to be played, and we are playing it. Last year the Senate amused us by coming up with some Amendments that are disgusting by anyone’s standard. We fought the Amendments at first, we did the right thing. In return the Senate ripped us a new ass on the spot right after the hearing on the Amendments. Their position was for us to take something now and go back after some time and achieve the rest later.

    The gun barrel we found ourselves staring directly down was, do we stick to our guns and only accept unrestricted access where the Bill will not pass and zero adoptees will have the opportunity to achieve their OBC and learn invaluable medical history, or accept the shit amendments which will allow 99% of adoptees to access their OBC in a year from passage?

    Upon pondering this decision I quickly found the weight my decision would have, not for me but for thousands and thousands of adoptees in my state.

    Laying in bed still wrestling with this decision I was thinking of the handful of adoptees who’ve wrote me expressing their dire need to have their OBC due to genetic illnesses their children have, and how they need any answers they can get but have no place to turn. I now realized I was potentially blocking these adoptees and their children from vital information, now I felt I was no longer part of the solution but part of the problem because I’m busy holding onto an ideal that will not come for a long time or possibly at all.

    It became clear that night that this was for me to become a 2 step process, take what we can get now and go back and get the rest later.

    As a side note, with that said, it burns me to hear the adoptee argument that once something is passed ppl wont go back to finish the job. For those who say that, speak for yourself and not for me, as long as i have air in my lungs and until unrestricted access is achieved the game is not done and I wont stop, so neither should you.

    Whats the moral of the story? Just because you’re right doesn’t mean you win.

    I wish you the best in one of the most important decisions of your life and the lives of the thousands of adoptees you are making this for.

    John Greene

  14. John, thank you for your remarks. I am swamped for time, but I will say that as one of those left behind, I find it offensive and sad that others are willing to sacrifice me and those like me so that they can get their original birth certificates. (And I’m speaking as someone who used to feel the way you do.) Also, when you enact compromise legislation, you never know if they foot you shoot may be your own. I wrote a blog on this a while back that expresses my opinion on the subject.

  15. I would ask that you all read the Access Bill once again. I am an adoptee from Illinois and have been searching for my birth parents for 40 years. I hope that this bill passes. Amendments to fine tune this bill according to (some) accurate arguments against it can come afterward. This bill affords me an opportunity to gain information that has been totally accessible to me for more years than many of you have lived. To veto this bill puts this issue once again at square one. I no longer have the luxury of that amount of time.

  16. Jane, I have read the bill, several times. The point is, once compromise access is enacted, legislators don’t want to go back and enact clean legislation later. This has been shown time and again in Illinois and other states. Also, there is no guarantee that this bill will actually result in your getting your information. You could quite easily end up being one of those denied access. I used to believe in compromise legislation too, until I ended up one of the denied. You say you don’t have the luxury of time… then you should concentrate your efforts on enacting legislation that achieves birth certificate access for everyone instead of conditional legislation that could leave you and others out in the cold.

    For more on how supporting compromise legislation may wind up shooting yourself in the foot: