The Killjoy Responds To Complaints About Why I’m Not Happy For Illinois Adoptees

I’m sure you’ve heard that Illinois adoptees are throwing off their shackles as fast as Sara Feigenholtz can round up cameras to film their joyful receipt of their birth certificates. Everybody knows I’m the killjoy at the party, and people have started to complain. Apparently my inability to shut the fuck up is interfering with others’ ability to bask in the moment.
The following is from a conversation on a public Facebook page. I’m not going to identify the people and I’m only going to paraphrase the conversation, because my intention here is not to point fingers at any one person. This is not the first time someone’s said something like this to me. On the contrary, I hear it every day, usually from fellow Illinois adoptees who happened to luck out under the new rules.
I posted the following on my wall:
“Quit supporting conditional adoptee rights legislation! Study the bills and understand the difference between true adoptee rights (Maine) and conditional bills that leave some adoptees behind (Illinois). Don’t just throw your weight behind a bill because it has the word “adoptee” in it.”
This was reposted to the page by its owner. I responded with “thanks for the repost.” The page owner commented asking why there had been so many likes and few shares, reiterating the importance of equal rights for ALL adoptees.
Someone else answered: “I am 64 and one of those Illinois adoptees who is waiting for her OBC. Please don’t deny some of us our happiness.”
The page owner said: “A favor is not a right and can be withdrawn on whim.” (And a big THANK YOU for that.)
The other person answered: “whatever. you depressed me today, thanks.”
Let me get this straight. This person is getting her OBC via legislation that blocks me from getting mine… and she’s upset with me because I’m not happy about it?!
What. The. Fuck.
Adoptees face discrimination. Left-behind adoptees face discrimination from their peers as well as from everyone else. Now, let me ask you this…
What makes one person more deserving of identity than another?
What are the criteria? Is it when they were born? Where they were born? Whether they were an agency or private adoption? Should we have different rules for interstate adoptions? International adoptions? Transracial adoptions? Situations involving rape? Who gets to choose these criteria? Who enforces them? What options remain for those left behind?
I will answer.
  1. The rules are arbitrarily enforced.
  2. They are chosen by the adoption industry.
  3. There are no options for those left behind.
Because they don’t know! And they don’t care. Adoptees are a repressed and silent population. No one notices when we complain because the adoption industry has taken great pains to make sure that adoptees who question are considered mentally dysfunctional. Left-behinds who complain are even more mentally dysfunctional.
Shall I tell you what makes me mentally dysfunctional? Bullshit like that.
And bullshit like this. Also in the news this week, the duo of Feigenholtz and Mitchell (sort of like Simon and Garfunkel without the musical talent) is having a par-tay for those Illinois adoptees who now have access. (None of the left-behinds I know were invited, go figure.) Jean Strauss is going to be there filming what I can only assume is going to end up one hell of a one-sided viewpoint on Illinois adoptee access, if there are no left-behind adoptees in it. Without that it’s just more propaganda.
(And, to answer another complaint people have made about me: that was not a plug trying to get myself in the film. I really don’t care who’s in it as long as the left-behind viewpoint is given a fair shake. Truth be told, I hate telling my story in public and especially hate being on camera. Yes, I tell my story in public all the time – because it sucks so bad that I don’t want it to happen to other adoptees, not because I like the limelight. And I know certain people aren’t going to believe that no matter how many times I say it.)

In the Doctor Who episode The Happiness Patrol, the planet Terra Alpha is run by people who insist that everyone must be happy all the time. Dark colors are forbidden and only cheerful music is allowed. As a result there is an underground of people who believe in expressing their sadness and despair, called the Killjoys. The Happiness Patrol exists to kill the Killjoys and thus keep them from making the rest of the population unhappy. As the Seventh Doctor points out, “There are no other colors without the blues.”
We left-behinds are so inconvenient. Here we are, living proof that Illinois’ new law is flawed and discriminatory. Better make sure no one hears about it.
So yes, I’m a fucking killjoy. I’m dressed in dark colors playing blues on the harmonica while everybody else is eating their cotton candy and listening to elevator music. Lucky, lucky bastards…. haven’t you ever seen a horror movie? Don’t you know that nothing in this universe is picture-perfect? Don’t you know that this so-called “access” is going to come back and bite someone in the ass? I guess it doesn’t matter if your ass isn’t the one bitten. But it could be. And how would that make you feel?
How does it make you feel to know that the law that restores your access denies other people theirs?
While some people are getting their OBCs, other Illinois adoptees remain in the dark. (Not to mention the first mothers who aren’t even on the agenda.) We still have to struggle with our searches, relegated to tidbits and hearsay and the leavings off the plates of the more fortunate. Don’t patronize us by saying you’re coming back for us. Not only does the new legislation continue to deny us, it makes it infinitely harder to restore our rights.
The message is clear: Access for some now is preferable to access for everyone later, even if a few end up permanently denied. And you knew that from the beginning, yet you still supported the bill.
I am stunned that you can look yourselves in the mirror. Shame on every single one of you.
I am not going to shut up, as some would prefer. I am going to continue to speak out for those left behind in Illinois and in other states that have enacted discriminatory compromise legislation.
And I encourage the rest of you to become killjoys too, for the sake of those who remain without access and who continue to be discriminated against by people who, a short time ago, were in the exact same boat.
How fast do the oppressed become the oppressors?

Dreading Birthdays III: Descent Into Despair, Restarting The Search

It’s that time of year again… my own personal descent into despair. I’ve written before about adoption depression and birthdays:

I didn’t really start dreading birthdays until I started asking questions about my adoption, questions that were misdirected or answered with (as I later discovered) outright lies. Before that I just had this vague unease that got worse as the calendar crept toward January. I wonder if my birth mother suffers like I do, from what the shrinkwrappers call “seasonal affected disorder” but I believe is simply part of the human experience. One of the most shocking moments during my brief contact with my birth mother was her revelation that depression runs in our family, in fact one of my uncles suffers severely from it. Don’t ask me what that means because it’s all I’ve got. To be given that tidbit and then left in the dark makes me feel like spring will never come. Maybe depression was imprinted on me in the womb. It’s in my blood, an unknown poison.

I don’t tell casual acquaintances about my birthday. People always want to know, put it in their calendar, send you an e-card or invite you to a little office celebration with stale cake. But adoptee birthdays invoke too many well-intentioned questions that are conversational for others and heartbreaking for us, like”Where were you born?” (some of us don’t know) and “Are you celebrating with your family?” (which one?) In short, birthdays are stark reminders of what may be our most traumatic experience: losing our mothers, our blood relatives, our cultures, our heritage. I don’t mind sharing with people who know my adopted status and understand that trauma. What I don’t like is the automatic dismissal of the uninitiated: “Oh, you’re adopted! You must feel so lucky.” And I’ll admit, I’m no fun. When people ask me straight out I give them a straight out answer: that I’m adopted, that my birthday is traumatic, that it brings up a lot of feelings of loss and I don’t really like talking about it. Talk about putting a damper on the party.

I didn’t even write a birthday entry last year, I was so fed up with it. This year feels… different. Still depressed. Still descending into despair, and I’m not going to say there’s hope at the bottom. It’s more of an icy determination.
I’m starting up the search again, trying to find not only my origins but the details of my adoption. So many lies and misdirections, so many half-truths and hunches, I don’t even know what’s real anymore. So I’m laying it all out, trying to discern fact from fiction. By Illinois law I am forbidden from contacting my mother – a total joke, as I have next to nothing about her yet she has my complete contact information due to the Illinois CI program’s screw-up. But I’ll be damned if anybody tries to tell me I’m not allowed to piece together my own past within the confines of the strictures placed upon me.
The holidays were harder for me this year than January is now, which is odd. Maybe it’s the weather. There’s been very little snow and with temps in the 30s it feels more like November. I can handle November. My pansies are still blooming and there’s lettuce in the cold frames in the veggie garden. But there’s always that awful feeling in the back of my mind that the hammer will fall, that November will become December will become January and the world will lock into ice and cold and loneliness.
Among the adoption paperwork (that is, the paperwork my adoptive father deemed acceptable for me to see, as opposed to the papers he lied about/destroyed/concealed) is a yellow sheet of legal paper. It’s a transcript my adoptive father (aka the lawyer who sealed my file) took of a phone call he had with his old college pal (aka the delivery doctor). I feel sick just looking at it. I decided to post this because it’s a little piece of BSE (Baby Scoop Era) history.

(Sorry if Blogger is sucky about embiggen. You can find it full-size here.)
Words jump out at me. “Nov Dec Jan,” reflecting the personal countdown to hell I still experience every year. “Girl very reasonable.” Of course she was, she had no resources or support! “How could it be done in Illinois?” That is the man I once called Father, concealing my origins.
Note carefully what is going on in this transcript (which has been edited by me for my own privacy). My adoptive father was told they had to go with a private adoption, presumably because they’d been rejected by all the agencies they approached. Private adoption was legal in Illinois, but that they couldn’t adopt me there because it was limited to Illinois residents. So they found a loophole by finalizing the adoption in Ohio, their state of residence. My adoptive father was an attorney licensed to practice in Ohio and arranged matters there himself. Because of this, he ended up controlling the process of my adoption as well as the contents of my adoption file, including my original Illinois birth certificate. I am told this would never be allowed today due to conflict of interest. Later, he became the person to whom I had to apply for non-identifying information, according to revised Ohio state law regarding private adoptions. You can imagine how well that went.
The sickest line, to me, is this: ““Have to arrange to have mother take child w/her & physically turn child over to us & take to Ohio.” To my understanding, my mother was forced to walk me out of the hospital (to fulfill laws saying only she could do so) and turn me over to the delivery doctor, who kept me for the first week of my life then turned me over to my adoptive parents. Elsewhere there is a notation about having to hold off on finalizing the adoption because of the waiting period for my mother to change her mind. It’s all so reprehensible: the careful application of law contrary to its supposedly intended purpose of giving a mother the chance to make an informed choice.
My adoption is gray market, legal as far as I know. But no one could look at the above scenario and consider it objective or ethical. This is the heart of the Baby Scoop Era: legal and illegal separation of children and parents. Except it never ended, because the same tactics continue to be employed today. They get you coming and going, both when the child is first adopted and later when the now-adult adoptee attempts to reclaim his or her birthright.
Icy determination and anger; that, to me, will always be January. This year I’m depressed but I’m also refocused. Adoption will not stop me. Depression will not stop me. Discrimination and stereotypes of adoptees will not stop me. Deformer laws, apathetic reporters and disdainful politicians will not stop me.
All adoptees deserve the same equal, unfettered access to their original birth certficates as the non-adopted. Nothing less is acceptable. Nor is our society’s prejudicial treatment of adoptees acceptable. I have had it with people speaking for adult adoptees and first mothers, putting words in our mouths, refusing to listen to our voices even though we are STANDING RIGHT HERE, blogging and tweeting and making ourselves heard.

Ad For New Illinois Law: Adoptees Pay To Pray… That They Get Their Info

Here it is, folks. The oft-promised, much-ballyhooed ad for the new Illinois adult adoptee pseudo-rights law (click image to enlarge). It’s being included with driver’s license renewal forms, and I was “lucky” enough to receive one with mine. Those who read my blog know that I fought against this bill because it divides adoptees into haves and have-nots, and further entrenches the expensive, ineffective, inaccessible, and thoroughly unnecessary Confidential Intermediary (CI) program. You can read about my experience fighting this law here as well as the reasons why I strongly disagree with any legislation that does not provide equal, unconditional access to adult adoptees and the shenanigans that occurred surrounding passage of this bill.
It’s clear to those of us who have taken the time to comprehend adoptee rights and the concept of Class Bastard that CIs are merely another way to make money off original birth certificate (OBC) access while paying lip service to our civil rights. This ad, like the law itself and the majority of the media coverage that went with it, fails to acknowledge the reality of this law. Far from “opening” adoptee birth certificates as claimed by sponsor Rep. Sara “Token Adoptee” Feigenholtz, this law continues to dehumanize adoptees. It also continues to conflate contact with access.
Contact is a matter to be decided between the parties involved. Access to one’s identity, on the other hand, is a basic right that should not be denied.
Although Feigenholtz says that Illinois’ law is equivalent to Maine’s, the truth is that in Maine, adoptees can access their OBCs using the same process and paying the same modest fees as everyone else. Thus, Maine’s law puts adoptees on equal footing with non-adoptees. But in Illinois and other states where conditional laws have been enacted, we adoptees must subject ourselves to humiliating processes which may or may not result in OBC access. We may be subjected to to disclosure vetoes that bar us from that documentation, or information may be redacted from our OBCs. Now, if Illinois had enacted a law that was truly the equivalent of Maine’s, in that adoptees could go to the courthouse and request their OBCs using the same process and paying the same fees as “normal” citizens, the state could actually be MAKING money from OBC access.
But no, in Illinois it’s pay-to-play, or in the case of adoptees, pay-to-pray… that you get your information. In other words, deformers’ reassurances aside, Illinois bastards are still bastards.
Not only did I receive this notice with my driver’s license renewal, I actually received several of them. Extra copies to give out to my bastard buddies, perhaps? What a waste! Considering the state can’t even pay its own bills and is contemplating a major tax increase just to make ends meet, the whole thing — the law, the ads, the spiffy new web site — is reprehensible.
This program is being advertised when they don’t even know how to implement the new law. For example, they have no idea how to handle adoptees who have already gone through the Illinois registry and intermediary program and been denied access via disclosure veto. They say we can have access when a birth parent dies… but, if you don’t know the names of your birth parents, how are you supposed to know when they die or obtain a death certificate? We don’t even know how many adoptees have been rejected from the CI program, or why; the state keeps no statistics on that, nor do they fully disclose to participants the risks inherent in participating in a CI program.
At bare minimum, the amount of money being spent on this ad campaign and everything else related to the implementation of this new law needs to be revealed.
What no one is acknowledging is the real intention of this law and the Illinois registry (IARMIE): to funnel unwitting applicants into the state’s CI program, which is maintained by a sole-source, no-bid organization run by Feigenholtz’s pals. For an explanation of all the reasons why CI programs are wrong, read this (and my own personal experience with the CI program here). The Advisory Council for the implementation of this law is long on adoption agencies and “professionals,” and short on actual adult adoptees. (One of the organizations included in the council and claiming to represent adult adoptees is the American Adoption Congress; don’t forget the brouhaha over Feigenholtz crony Melisha Mitchell’s assertion at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last spring that she represented AAC, when she had actually been ousted as their Illinois rep prior to the hearing. According to AAC’s web site, as of today the position of Illinois rep is still vacant, so I’m not sure what use having them on this council is. The above link will also tell you about how Feigenholtz or one of her staffers showed true colors when referring to adult adoptees as “ungrateful bastards.”)
I talked about the problems inherent in this new Illinois law when it was still a bill. Now, we’re stuck with it. Illinois lawmakers consider adoptee rights in this state a done deal. Good luck trying to pass REAL adoptee rights legislation like Maine’s in this state anytime soon. This is the danger of deform.
There are many questions that have yet to be answered, but the advertising campaign continues, at the expense of the Illinois taxpayer and the adoptees left behind.

Good Vs. Bad Adoptees: Dismissing Our Experiences And Criticism As “Anger”

Lately we’ve had a rash of really bad bills that dangle the carrot of potential birth certificate access for some, while smiting others with the stick of disclosure veto. Regular readers know of our efforts here in Illinois against HB 5428. Some are celebrating the bill’s passage. I am not. New Jersey is about to go the same route, with a bill on the governor’s desk that seriously jeopardizes adoption reform. I know many of the people who support the NJ bill, just as I know many of the people who supported Illinois. But I cannot in good conscience support legislation that leaves some adoptees behind. I’m not going to rehash why I disagree with compromise legislation; you can read it here, here and here.
Instead, I want to talk about how these recent events got me thinking. There has been a discussion on the KAD Nexus blog concerning adoptive father and author John Seabrook’s NPR segment. Both the post and the comments that follow (including rebuttals from Seabrook) are a must-read. In response to Seabrook’s segment, adult adoptees discuss how their criticisms of adoption and racism are often dismissed as “angry,” “bitter,” or every adoptee’s favorite, “ungrateful.” I strongly encourage you to read it for context before returning to this post.
In my experience, the same can be said of adoptees who insist upon equal rights for all adoptees. If we refuse to compromise, to sacrifice others or ourselves in the name of a few butchered rights for some, then it must be because we are “angry.” We must have “had a bad experience” or “hate our adoptive families.” And woe betide those of us who may actually have had a bad experience. Then we are simply disgruntled and souring the milk for others. Our opinions and experiences are instantly negated, regardless of any validity they may contain.
Taking away the rights of a subclass is easier when the subclass is dismissed as “angry.” Anger implies irrationality, lack of forethought, selfishness. The weapon-word “angry” is especially effective against adoptees. For fear of being branded as such, many adoptees learn to dismiss their own feelings–for to be angry is to be the Bad Adoptee (as termed by BJ Lifton), the one who refuses to cooperate with the Adoption Game. Some adoptees, in turn, use the same word “angry” to ostracize fellow adoptees who refuse to play the game. It becomes a vicious cycle: society bastardizes adoptees, who bastardize their own kind so they themselves can “fit in” more successfully. Nothing says Good Adoptee like spotlighting another adoptee who’s not toeing the line.
This use of “angry” as a weapon has never been more clear to me than in the struggle against compromise legislation like Illinois HB 5428. I’ve analyzed the media coverage of the bill’s passage as an illustration of how adoptee voices are dismissed in discussion of matters that have a vital impact upon our rights. Yet, who better to discuss the pros and cons of the adoption process than those who have experienced it firsthand? I have also included my personal experience about being interviewed for several of these articles.
For my analysis I read all of the articles and press releases about the passage of Illinois HB 5428 I could find, with a mind to the following: Whose opinions were expressed (sponsors, adoptive parents and/or prospective adopters, adoption professionals, birth relatives, adult adoptees, others)? Was the widespread opposition to the bill by the adoption community mentioned? What about the downsides of the legislation–the fact that some adoptees will be blacklisted? IMO, the coverage ranged from fairly well-balanced to outright sponsor propaganda, leaning heavily toward the latter. Some of my thoughts as I read through it:
  • Almost every single article spouted sponsor opinion that this bill “opens adoption records.” That is inaccurate. What this new legislation does is grants a few rights for some, while consigning others to a permanent black hole of no access. And it’s Russian roulette: you won’t know which way it will turn out for you until you go through the process. The sponsors have co-opted adoption rights terminology, claiming that this bill is about “rights of adoptees.” (Case in point: this self-aggrandizing propaganda from sponsor Rep. Sara Feigenholtz.) But a bill cannot be about the rights of adoptees unless it applies to ALL adoptees.
  • “Contact preference” is another co-opted term. What Illinois has is a disclosure veto that has been termed a “preference.” But if it’s binding on the adoptee, it’s a veto.
  • Adoptee opinions were for the most part excluded. This is exemplified by the repeated use of the phrase “adopted children” when referring to adopted adults.
  • When adult adoptee opinions were included, they were often the parroted opinions of the sponsors. In other words, the viewpoints of token adoptees presumably summoned by the sponsors and/or the media to make it appear that this is what all adult adoptees want. An example is Howard Griffith, adoptee and former Denver Bronco, who attended the signing of the bill.
  • Those whose voices were heard are primarily those who make money from adoption (more below).
Other gems:
From the Chicago Sun-Times article “Adoptees cheer birth certificate law” (no longer online; PDF in my possession):

I learned early on what an emotional and tricky area of the law this is,” said state Senate President John Cullerton, who teased Feigenholtz that the reason he signed on to her crusade was that, “She said if I can pass this bill out of the Senate, she’ll vote for any bill I tell her to vote for for the rest of my life. It’s like I have my own vote over in the House. We’re going to start with that next week.

This is no joke, this is straight-up fact. HB 5428 was about political cronyism and jockeying for power. Sara Feigenholtz gets off on being “champion of adoptee rights” while calling us “ungrateful bastards” behind our backs. With her self-described “mentor” John Cullerton president of the Senate, she was in a position to reinforce her Confidential Intermediary Program and even get state money to advertise it.
Again from the same Sun-Times article:

Feigenholtz said the law was modeled after similar laws in Maine and New Hampshire to balance the rights of adoptive children and parents.

Modeled after Maine? Are you kidding? In Maine any adoptee who is of age can walk in and get his or her original birth certificate, for the same fee as non-adoptees. In Illinois it depends on when you were born, whether you are accepted and whether you can afford to pay fees that only apply to adoptees.

This press release lists the organizations that supported the bill, but (in an example of bias) NOT the organizations that opposed it.

A number of medical and child advocacy groups supported the legislation, including: Illinois Psychiatric Society; American Adoption Congress; Agudath Israel of America; Child Care Association of Illinois; Chicago Bar Association; Voices for Children; National Association of Social Workers of Illinois; Lutheran Social Services of Illinois; UCAN; Illinois Department of Public Health; Department of Children and Family Services; Jewish Child and Family Services; Illinois State Bar Association; The Cradle Adoption Agency; Adoption Advocates of America; Adoptive Families Today; Chicago Area Families for Adoption; Midwest Adoption Center; Search and Genealogy Services; Murphysboro, IL, Stars of David Adoption; and The Baby Fold, Bloomington, IL.

Except…

  • The AAC never expressed a position on the bill. Melisha Mitchell falsely claimed she was the AAC rep for Illinois at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing when she had actually been dismissed from her AAC post prior to that hearing. Why has there been no mention of this in the press? And, because AAC is the only group listed here who represents adult adoptees or birth parents, that means everyone who supported this is either an adoption professional or adoptive parent; in other words, the people who benefit from adoption.
  • Similarly, why has there been no mention of Sara Feigenholtz’s foot-in-mouth bastard bashing?
  • The majority of these groups either make money facilitating adoptions (LSSI, The Cradle) or are professional organizations representing people who do so (Chicago Bar Association, Illinois State Bar Association).
  • The Midwest Adoption Center is the sole-source no-bid contractor who provides Confidential Intermediary services in Illinois (e.g. makes money from records access).
As I mentioned, I was interviewed for five of the articles (the Chicago Tribune, the Sun-Times, the Daily Herald, the St. Louis Dispatch and the Associated Press), as spokesperson for the Adoption Reform Illinois coalition. Here’s a summary of my experience talking with each reporter, and how those interviews translated to the printed page.
Monique Garcia and Bonnie Rubin, Chicago Tribune
Ms. Rubin was consummately professional. She took the time to listen to our opposing viewpoint, asked intelligent questions and even called back to clarify one or two things. So I was disappointed when there wasn’t a single mention of opposition viewpoint in the article she co-authored with Monique Garcia.
Staff, Daily Herald
Like Ms. Rubin, Barbara (the reporter who interviewed me) was professional and polite, and also called back for a clarification. I was disappointed there wasn’t more explanation about why we oppose the bill. A later article on their blog used phrasing that suggested opposition was not legitimate (no pun intended):

On the other hand, a group going by the name Adoption Reform Illinois [emphasis mine] criticized the new law as not going far enough, saying any adult should be able to obtain unredacted birth records. “Any proposed change that does not recognize adult adoptees as having the same rights and responsibilities of every other Illinois resident is unacceptable,” the group says in its opposition message.

Kathleen Foody, St. Louis Dispatch
I had been talking to Ms. Foody for quite some time about this bill as it progressed. To her credit she attempted to understand our opposition viewpoint and express that to her readers. I could wish she had made it more clear that this is about adoptee identity and the implications of that, but otherwise this is a far less biased article than most.
Deanna Bellandi, Associated Press
Ms. Bellandi was by far the most aggressive reporter who contacted me. She seemed as if she had already made up her mind what she wanted her story to say, and made numerous attempts to put words in my mouth rather than taking the time to listen and understand the opposition viewpoint. I was mistakenly identified in the article as “Triennia Guider,” and while I could care less if they get my name right, it points to sloppy fact-checking and makes me wonder what else they got wrong. This is a prime example of biased adoption reporting: when reporters have already made up their minds what they want the article to say, and when presented with information that doesn’t match, try to sledgehammer it in so they don’t have to change their minds or their stories.
“Adoptees cheer birth certificate law” (no longer online; PDF in my possession)
Abdon Pallasch, Chicago Sun-Times
Mr. Pallasch was somewhere in between the other reporters. He was aggressive, although not nearly as much so as Ms. Bellandi. However, this article is the one that really got me thinking about the comments on KAD Nexus, and how adoptees are dismissed as “angry.” This article failed to mention that I was speaking on behalf of Adoption Reform Illinois, a coalition of people who disagree with the bill, nor did it mention that other organizations were similarly opposed. It did, however, mention my own personal inability to access my OBC, in such a way that makes it appear that I am simply one of those “angry” adoptees who opposes the bill purely because it doesn’t help me personally:
“It does not actually open adoption records,” said Triona Guidry, whose birth mother will not let Guidry get a copy of her birth certificate. Even under the new law, the best Guidry will get is a birth certificate with her mother’s name redacted. “Equal rights apply to everyone. Everyone should have the right to go into that courthouse, pay their $15 and get their birth certificate.”
The conclusion of my admittedly non-scientific analysis? Even when opposition to this bill was mentioned, it was overshadowed by the propaganda claiming that this bill is a “win” for adoptee rights. The headlines alone illustrate this. For those of us who have followed this bill, it’s clear to see that the much of the media have drunk the same Kool-Aid that was served to the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and other legislators. Anyone reading casually, without background on the bill, would assume the opposition was merely a bunch of angry adoptees and that there were no birth mothers who opposed the bill as not going far enough for adoptee rights (not true; ARI submitted twenty pages of testimony including letters from at least half a dozen mothers). Because that way, our legitimate concerns about this legislation are quelled and everybody can party in the streets like Ferris Bueller because woo-hoo, Illinois adoptees have access now! Except we don’t. And under this new law, some of us never will. That’s not anger talking, it’s determination. Equal rights should never be diluted, and we will continue fighting until the rights of everyone involved in adoption are restored.
Since we’re stuck with this legislation, what about those (like me — here’s the “angry adoptee” again) who have already gone through the CI process and been denied? Is legislation like HB 5428 punishment for those who insist upon their rights? Are those who go quietly away when they are told “no,” or do not make waves, rewarded with the possibility of access while those who are “angry” — who do not accept the denial of their civil rights even when vetoed — are consigned to exile? The lesson: Be quiet and wait your turn, and you might win the Russian roulette of records access. But speak up, express your opinion, and you might lose that chance forever.
That’s the adoption industry pitting Good Adoptees vs. Bad Adoptees. Play the Adoption Game, or suffer the consequences.

So-Called “Champion Of Adoptees” Illinois Rep Sara Feigenholtz Says We’re “Ungrateful Bastards”

Please read Bastardette’s recent post, Sara Speaks: Sara Feigenholtz Tells Us What She Really Thinks Of Us. It details an email exchange between an adoptee concerned about Illinois HB 5428 and the bill’s sponsor, Token Adoptee Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (or someone in her office). This is the reply from Sara Feigenholtz (or her staffer) with the original message below, as posted on Bastardette’s blog.

Below is Feigenholtz’s response to Jeske’s email, followed by Jeske’s original email, reposted with Jeske’s permission.

—- Original Message —–

From: Sara (staterep12@aol.com)
To: Lori Jeske
Sent: Monday, April 26, 2010 10:00 PM
Subject: Re: HB 5428

Lori:


Thank you so much for your kind remarks about HB 5428.

We will pay for your travel and housing expenses if you will come here and start working on a new bill that completes the effort so that all adoptees get their obc. Are you ready to move to Illinois and sacrifice your life to work for adoption reform for the next fifteen years in the frigid winter tundra of Illinois?

Would you consider giving Representative Feigenholtz the key to your (delusional) Eutopian world where all ungrateful bastards think it’s easy to pass a bill that makes everyone happy AND CAN ACTUALLY PASS ? Pass a law? what a concept !!

Many Illinois born 65+ year old adoptees will get their birth certificates BEFORE THEY DIE— very soon.

We will tell them that you would prefer to throw good under the bus while waiting for perfect and that you think they should wait a little longer.

Good luck in Washington state with your efforts. We can hear the unsealing now…….

NOT.




YOu sound so positive and committed to opening all records

that I wish you could give me the key to your adoption


The bill and your efforts to pass this bill are inhuman. This bill will prove to a huge population of citizens that Democrats should not longer govern the State of Illinois. It is with deep regret, as a Democrat, to see this bill and your inability to stand up for ALL citizens in the State of Illinois.
Lori Jeske
Spokane, WA

I find Feigenholtz’s response (or that of her staff person–regardless, an act done in her name) appalling. Whatever one’s opinion on adoptee rights, there is no call for an elected official to treat anyone in this manner. It’s unprofessional and rude, but it says a lot about what Rep. Feigenholtz truly thinks of her fellow adoptees when the cameras aren’t rolling.
In public Feigenholtz plays up her role as “champion of adoptee rights” as she was termed in the recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on HB 5428. In that hearing she said (taken from my personal transcript of the proceedings):

I feel it is my responsibility… I wear my heart on my sleeve. It’s hard having to beg for human rights. I have been called a traitor to the adoption rights movement because I try to stay balanced, to be the voice of the minority but restore human rights to the majority.

State Senator A. J. Wilhelmi (Senate sponsor of the bill) said Feigenholtz is on “the side of the angels.” Senator Kirk Dillard said it was “an honor to work with Sara Feigenholtz” on this issue. Although the governor has yet to make a decision about HB 5428 (keep those letters and calls coming to ask him to veto!), Feigenholtz is already including it as a feather in her cap, as she said in the following message to her newsletter subscribers this week:
Rep. Feigenholtz knows that there are plenty of people in Illinois who have been trying to get clean legislation passed. But that is not what she wants, as evidenced by the complete curtailing of public commentary on HB 5428. If she truly believed in adoptee rights, she would be trying to pass legislation like Maine’s that restores adult adoptee rights without condition or exception. In Maine, adoptees simply go to the courthouse and order their original birth certificates. In Illinois adoptees are forced through a Byzantine and expensive process that may or may not result in birth certificate access, and could even permanently deny them that access.
Many of Rep. Feigenholtz’s constituents support her because of her stance on humanitarian causes: the rights of women, gays, etc. This response makes one wonder if she is also dissing those people behind their backs. Anyone who supports Sara Feigenholtz should be seriously questioning that support.
On another note, Baby Love Child, in her blog on this subject, raises an important point concerning HB 5428.

So now we’re left with a critically important question:

Does the American Adoption Congress actually support this bill that will do incredible damage to Illinois adoptee’s rights, *OR* was the bill’s passage built upon Melisha Mitchell lying and claiming to represent the AAC when in fact she had been dropped by the AAC as its one time Illinois state representative prior to the Judiciary Committee hearing?

Currently, the AAC website lists no state representative for Illinois and until recently made no mention of the bill it’s supposedly a proponent of in its legislative section. As the website stands tonight, a section on the bill has since been added, but makes no mention of any AAC support for it, nor any mention of AAC participation in the oversight committee HB 5428 would create.

I agree, this is a critically important question. Anyone who believes HB 5428 is a fair compromise should consider that the propaganda supporting this bill comes from people who have a vested financial and/or political interest in the bill’s passage.


These incidents make it clear that the people who profess to speak on behalf of adoptees in Illinois do not speak for all adoptees, nor for the adoption community at large. I hope others will come to understand that no one can speak for adoptees except adoptees themselves, and that it’s long past time our voices were heard.

Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing: Adoptee Voices Negated In Discussion Of Illinois HB 5428

From Adoption Reform Illinois:
HB 5428 has passed the House and Senate. Our goal now turns to stopping it at the Governor’s desk. Please contact Illinois Governor Pat Quinn NOW and ask him not to sign this bill into law. This bill has been touted as restoring the rights of adult adoptees–but equality should be for ALL adoptees.
Time is of the essence so calls are best, but anything you can do will help.
Talking points when contacting the Governor:
* Identity is identity, whether you are adopted or not.
* ALL adoptees, all people, deserve equal treatment under the law.
* The state of Illinois cannot afford to waste money on this expensive and ineffective bill.
Office of the Governor
Pat Quinn
207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706
Phone: 217-782-0244
TTY: 888-261-3336
There is also a web form:

HB 5428 has been slipped through the Illinois legislative process faster than bran muffins through your digestive tract. As of today the bill has passed the Senate and is on its way to the Governor’s desk. Please see contact info above and ask Gov. Quinn to veto this bill.
This bill has been portrayed as a “victory” for adoptee rights. If that is so, why were adoptee voices so completely negated in its discussion? Why the secrecy surrounding the bill? Why grease it through the process?
The answer is because this bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. HB 5428 grants some adoptees access at the expense of others. Sponsor Rep. Sara Feigenholtz and her BFF Melisha Mitchell (paid searcher and presumed author of the bill) say that only a very few people will be denied access under this bill. But, as I said before regarding my first-hand experience at the Senate Judiciary Commitee hearing:

What’s ironic is that she [Sara Feigenholtz] was all about the rights of adoptees. The good news is, the legislators are starting to understand why adoptee rights are important. Feigenholtz’s testimony was full of the message we want to get across: why adoptees deserve the same rights as everyone else, why lack of access is discriminatory, etc. The bad news is that HB 5428, like everything else Feigenholtz has introduced, fails to fulfill that. If everyone deserves equal rights, then EVERYONE deserves equal rights, bar none. But Feigenholtz is very good at convincing people that it’s okay for the lizards to eat a few humans if the rest get to survive.

The voices of adoptees, first mothers, and other interested parties have not been heard:
  • The bill was introduced under cover of secrecy. No one knew it existed except those of us on the lookout. Only one tiny article was original posted about it and that in a St. Louis newspaper. If this is really about adoptee rights why didn’t Feigenholtz have a great big press conference when she introduced her bill? Because she knew that would only invite public discussion and opposition. She wanted it passed under the radar.
  • Important dates concerning the bill have been fudged or conveniently not posted until the last minute. On Sunday, March 21st, as I was updating the Adoption Reform Illinois web site, I checked the status of the bill. It said it had received second reading in the House on 3/18/10 and was up for third reading on 3/23/10. The very next morning I received a news item saying the bill had passed the House. When I checked the status again, it had been retroactively changed to say the bill had passed the House on 3/18/10 and arrived in the Senate that same day. Mention of a third reading in the House on 3/23/10 was eliminated. This is not a mistake or merely failure to include all relevant information. You don’t say a bill is up for another reading on 3/23/10 if it’s already passed on 3/18/10.
  • Adoptees were shut out of testifying at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on 4/13/10. The bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. A. J. Wilhelmi, was allowed to pick who got to testify. While three people testified for the bill, only one adoptee was permitted to testify against and her testimony was misconstrued as supporting the bill instead of opposing it.
  • The bill was voted upon without the Senate Judiciary Committee taking the time to read the submitted written testimony, which included many letters from adoptees, first mothers and others opposing this bill.
  • The bill was then whiplashed through the Senate. Committee hearing 4/13/10, second reading 4/20/10, third reading 4/21/10 and vote that same day.
Again, why silence the voices of opposition? Because all the major adoption reform organizations are against this bill. Sara Feigenholtz and her fellow wolves knew that if the sheep found out what was really going on they would band together and successfully oppose, as we did against HB 4623 in 2008. The only way to pass her bastardizing legislation was to shroud it in secrecy.

News media, like our legislators, has accepted Token Adoptee Feigenholtz’s word that this legislation is a “victory” for adoptees. The coverage of opposition (for example here, here and here) has been largely ignored. The St. Louis Dispatch didn’t even mention their own article concerning opposition in their coverage of the bill’s Senate passage.
I ask our legislators and the media: If this bill really is about adoptee rights, why are so many adoptees against it? If it’s true, as Sara Feigenholtz testified at the Judiciary Committee hearing, that access to one’s original birth certificate is “a human right,” that “the laws that protected [us] from society inadvertently protected [us] from each other,” then why do we need 80 pages to restore rights that Maine did in two pages and Oregon did in a single paragraph?
Answer: Because HB 5428 is not about adoptee rights. Please understand this. You have been deceived by the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Look under the skin at what is really going on here.
This is the testimony I submitted on behalf of Adoption Reform Illinois. Please contact Gov. Quinn TODAY and ask him to oppose HB 5428.
As representative of Adoption Reform Illinois, and as an adult adoptee who has used the Confidential Intermediary program, I come to attest that fiscally and morally, we must oppose HB 5428.
To single out people for different treatment is to create an unconstitutional minority. There’s a difference between the right to identity and search or reunion. Mothers can say no to contact without signing a binding veto that prevents adoptees from obtaining their original birth certificates.
This bill criminalizes adoptees for what non-adopted people call “genealogy.” Meanwhile, it holds the state harmless for mistakes and mandates a slap on the wrist for intermediaries who break the rules.
Some adoptees cannot afford the CI program, or are not accepted into it. The sole entity contracted to provide these services has pre-approval over petitions before the judge sees them. Worse, there is no oversight nor accountability. The advisory group proposed in this bill is stacked with entities that benefit financially from adoption. The bill enshrines mutual consent registries in law even though they have been shown not to work.
My experience is a case study in how the process can fail. My application was initially rejected because I was adopted out of state. After hiring an attorney and gaining admission, I found the program fatally flawed. The CI program refuses to disclose its procedures, so there is no way to determine what is being done on one’s behalf. When my identifying information was disclosed without my consent, I had no higher authority to which I could appeal.
The Child Welfare League supports the rights of adult adoptees. Research from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute shows that restoration of adoptee rights “is a matter of legal equality, ethical practice and, on a human level, basic fairness.”
Regardless of one’s opinion on adoptee rights, Illinois cannot afford to spend unnecessary funds. On that basis alone, HB 5428 should be opposed. Restoring adult adoptee access results in no spending increase. The state could actually make money by allowing adult adoptees to use the same procedures as everyone else.
We hope you will work with us to restore equality for all Illinois citizens regardless of adoptive status. Thank you again for your time.

Leaving Adoptees Behind: My Experience At The Illinois HB 5428 Hearing

From Adoption Reform Illinois:

Illinois HB 5428 has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. It will be heard in the Senate today, Thursday April 15, 2010. Please contact the Illinois Senate NOW and ask them to oppose. This bill has been touted as restoring the rights of adult adoptees–but equality should be for ALL adoptees. HB 5428 divides adoptees into haves and have-nots leaving some behind. This is discriminatory and unjust.
Talking points when contacting legislators:
* Identity is identity, whether you are adopted or not.
* ALL adoptees, all people, deserve equal treatment under the law.
* The state of Illinois cannot afford to waste money on this expensive and ineffective bill.
Contact info for senators available on our web site:
or the ILGA web site:

As many of you know, I went to Springfield this week to testify against Illinois HB 5428, a bill that claims to support adoptee rights while doing the exact opposite. If you still think compromise legislation is the answer — if you think it’s okay to leave some adoptees behind — please take something away from my experience.
Going to Springfield was not an easy decision. I have two small children, a business to run, and limited finances, but I felt obligated to go not only for myself but on behalf of those unable to make it. So on a gorgeous spring morning I packed up a cooler of caffiene, downloaded my Weird Al Yankovic collection to my iPod, and headed out. (Nothing like Weird Al to keep you entertained on the flat, soporific stretch between Chicago and Bloomington-Normal.)
I brought with me the testimony of many birth mothers, adoptees, and others who, like me, believe that any legislation that leaves some adoptees behind is bad for everyone. A big thank you to those who sent letters, wished me luck, or otherwise supported me personally and the Adoption Reform Illinois coalition I went to represent.
First thing I learned: Parking in Springfield SUCKS.
Second thing: The staff at the Capitol are super-nice. From the security guards who pointed me in the right direction to the elderly gentleman manning the door of the room in which the meeting was held, they helped make my trip just a little smoother.

That’s where the niceties end. Once the meeting started I began to get that sinking feeling you get when you’re watching the original V and the spaceships show up. You want to scream: “They’re lizards in human skins!” but everyone wants to believe that the kindly Visitors are here to help. Except they’re not, and you’re on the menu.
HB 5428 was the first bill heard, because there were “so many people from out of town and out of state.” Senator A.J. Wilhelmi, Judiciary Committee Chairperson and Senate sponsor of HB 5428, yielded the chair to Senator Don Harmon so he could sit in the hot seat with Sara Feigenholtz and Rep. Terrence Martin of Alaska, who was brought in by the Feigenholtz team as a proponent of the bill.
When you arrive you sign a little slip that says who you are, who you represent, whether you’re pro or con and if you want to submit oral and/or written testimony. Harmon read off the list of these people. Proponents: Terrance Martin, the organization Shiva Siv (sp?), Linda Coon from the Chicagoland Bar Association, Julie Tye of The Cradle (an adoption agency), Melisha Mitchell of the American Adoption Congress (sic), George Rudis of Illinois Dept. of Public Health (who runs the Illinois registry), a representative of DCFS. Opponents: Tom Nolan, Christopher Brown (husband of adoptee Gay Brown), Gay Brown, Mary Lynn Fuller of Illinois Open, Rev. Bob Vanderberg of Concerned Christians America, Mary Dixon of the ACLU, Ralph Rivera of Right To Life, and me for Adoption Reform Illinois sponsored by the Green Ribbon Campaign For Open Records.
Senator Wilhelmi started off by expounding on all the “good” Sara Feigenholtz has done for adoptee rights and what an honor it’s been to work with her. Everyone sees her as a “champion” of adoptee rights, except those of us left behind by her compromises. Then he turned it over to Feigenholtz who talked about “wearing her heart on her sleeve” and “begging for human rights.” She whined about being called a “traitor to the Adoption Reform Movement” but felt that she was striking a balance by honoring the voice of the majority. Small consolation to those in the minority.
For those of you reading, if you don’t already know: I am in that minority. My birth mother has filed the denial of contact. So hearing that it’s okay for people like me to be left out so others can have access does not sit well with me. And I speak as someone who used to believe that intermediaries were the answer, that compromise was necessary and fair, until I got screwed by the process and realized that it’s really all about politics, influence, and making money off adoption records access. All of this became even more clear to me as I sat and listened to the committee meeting.
Feigenholtz pointed out that confidentiality is a myth because adoptive parents can obtain the decree of adoption which states the birth parent names on it. This became quite a contentious point later. She also mentioned that if a child surrendered for adoption is not adopted, the record is never sealed, and that some adoptive parents choose not to seal the file.
What’s ironic is that she was all about the rights of adoptees. The good news is, the legislators are starting to understand why adoptee rights are important. Feigenholtz’s testimony was full of the message we want to get across: why adoptees deserve the same rights as everyone else, why lack of access is discriminatory, etc. The bad news is that HB 5428, like everything else Feigenholtz has introduced, fails to fulfill that. If everyone deserves equal rights, then EVERYONE deserves equal rights, bar none. But Feigenholtz is very good at convincing people that it’s okay for the lizards to eat a few humans if the rest get to survive.
Rep. Martin of Alaska spoke of his experience in an orphanage in Baltimore and his struggle to gain access to his origins. “It’s all about truth,” he said. Julie Tye of the Cradle spoke about how adoptees aren’t trying to “stalk” birth parents. “They don’t do that,” she said. No one mentioned the adoptees left behind by this legislation. Next, Senator Harmon allowed Senator Wilhelmi to choose who got to testify and suggested he pick one person from each of the two opposing camps: those who feel the bill goes too far (e.g. Right to Life, ACLU) and those who feel it doesn’t go far enough (like Adoption Reform Illinois). I thought this was inappropriate because it allowed the sponsors of the bill to choose who got to speak.
Ralph Rivera of the Right To Life movement got his ass handed to him over the matter of purported confidentiality because it had already been established that adoptive parents have access to the birth parent names via the adoption decree. He doesn’t like the retrospective aspect of the legislation although he would be fine if it were prospective, in other words if birth mothers got to choose at the time of relinquishment if they want later contact. Yeah, yet another thing to burden a woman who’s immediately post-partum; a lifetime decision on contact. Ms. Dixon of the ACLU questioned whether adoptive parents actually know the birth parents’ names and pointed out that adoptive parents almost always opt for sealed records. (I bet most of them are never told there is a choice.)
Something Ms. Dixon said is important for every adoptee. She spoke of the legislative intent of sealing records from the general public — and said that the adult adoptee IS INCLUDED in the general public. She didn’t share what she’d been smoking.
Next they called oral testimony from someone who believes the bill doesn’t go far enough. That person was Gay Brown, an adoptee who flew in from New Jersey to testify. She spoke of her need for birth certificate access because of her medical condition in which she needed to be tested for the breast cancer gene. Her insurance wouldn’t cover it because she couldn’t prove anyone in her family has it. She said, “Answers could save my life, and my daughters’.”
With respect to Gay, medical necessity is a red herring that only encourages legislators to opt for conditional legislation. Because if all we need is medical, then it’s easy to condone things like registries and confidential intermediaries, even though they’re expensive and not available to everyone. It’s easy to say, “Okay, we’ll give you the information, but only if it’s redacted.” It’s easy to continue to deny our civil rights to access our original birth certificates.
My biggest disappointment was when Senator Harmon asked Gay, “As Senator John Cullerton [Sara Feigenholtz’s mentor and current Senate President] used to say, do you think this bill is bad, or is it better than we have now?” She said, “Perhaps,” and they swung right into the vote. In other words, the oral testimony that was supposed to reinforce the position that everyone deserves equal rights was basically negated.
The committee voted without reading any of the submitted written testimony, and the measure passed 6-3. Voting for were Don Harmon (“Step in the right direction”), Ira Silverstein (a sponsor), Terry Link (spoke of his experience as an adoptive uncle and favorably toward the concept of adoptee rights), Michael Noland (“the benefit to society outweights the possible detriment to birth parents”), Kwame Raoul, and Edward Maloney. Voting against were Randall Hultgren, Kirk Dillard (“I’m not ready to be on board this bill, but after meeting with my constituents I might change my mind”), and Matt Murphy. There were two abstentions (I believe Dale Righter and William Haine).
The second reading in the Senate is today, April 15th. This thing is being lubricated through the process as quickly as possible because Sara Feigenholtz and her allies know that time allows opposition.
Once again, I find myself not only fighting people who believe adoptees have no rights but also those who believe in adoptee rights but think conditional access is okay and we can go back and fix it later. What if there isn’t a later? Don’t you think they will grandfather in anybody who’s had a disclosure veto filed against them? My rights may be gone for the rest of my lifetime, but I’ll be damned if I sit by and allow it to happen. I encourage those of you in other states to think long and hard before agreeing to compromise. You may never get another chance, and you are selling out your fellow adoptees and possibly yourself in the process.
All people deserve equal, unfettered access to their original birth certificates without having to go through expensive and ineffective intermediaries. As I said, the legislators understand why adoptee rights are important. What they don’t get — because they haven’t had the opportunity to listen to anyone other than the Feigenholtz team — is that rights belong to everyone, without exception.
Post-meeting fun: meeting Sara Feigenholtz and her right-hand gal Melisha Mitchell in person. Melisha says she reads everything people say about adoption reform in Illinois, so let me say a big online howdy and hope you’re enjoying my blog.
Please contact the Illinois Senators TODAY and ask them to vote NO on HB 5428. Ask them to enact legislation that truly honors the civil rights of ALL adoptees. Use Maine as an example. And speaking of Maine, a big shout-out to Paula Benoit who took time out of her busy life to submit written testimony and coach me on speaking to legislators.

Contact Illinois Senate TODAY: Oppose HB 5428, Leaves Some Adoptees Behind

I will be blogging about my experience at the Illinois Senate this week opposing HB 5428, a bill that claims to be about adoptee rights but instead divides us into haves and have-nots. But I wanted to get this advisory out immediately. The Senate will discuss this bill TODAY. Please write ASAP and ask them to oppose this bill.
*** Please distribute freely ***
Dear Adoption Reform Illinois supporters,
HB 5428 has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. It will be heard in the Senate today, Thursday April 15, 2010. Please contact the Illinois Senate NOW and ask them to oppose. This bill has been touted as restoring the rights of adult adoptees–but equality should be for ALL adoptees. HB 5428 divides adoptees into haves and have-nots leaving some behind. This is discriminatory and unjust.
Talking points when contacting legislators:
* Identity is identity, whether you are adopted or not.
* ALL adoptees, all people, deserve equal treatment under the law.
* The state of Illinois cannot afford to waste money on this expensive and ineffective bill.
Contact info for senators available on our web site:
or the ILGA web site:
Thank you for your help!

Why Adoptee Rights Depend On Stopping Illinois HB 5428

Illinois HB 5428, a bill that severely curtails adoptee rights, is currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee. A meeting will be held Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 2:30pm at Capitol 400 in Springfield, Illinois to discuss the bill. From the Adoption Reform Illinois web site:

We welcome anyone who can attend (you do not have to speak). We also welcome written testimony, regardless of whether you are in Illinois. You can send it to Adoption Reform Illinois at info@campaign4openrecords.org. Please include your name, address, phone number and email address. We suggest you limit to one page and include any personal experiences you have either with Illinois in particular or sealed records in general. If we receive your testimony by Monday night we will submit it to the legislators on Tuesday.

Adoption Reform Illinois has some talking points on our web site, as well as our position paper (PDF) which explains why we oppose HB 5428. We also encourage you to call or fax the Senate sponsors and members of the Judiciary Committee to express your opposition to this bill.
Why is it important that we stop Illinois HB 5428?
If HB 5428 is enacted in Illinois, it will impact adoptee rights across the country. Do you really want to be considered a criminal for simply pursuing your own genealogy, even if you don’t contact anyone? Do you want to support a bureaucratic nightmare that exists only to make money at your expense?
What’s so bad about this bill?
First, there is the way IL HB 5428 is being slipped under the radar… 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.
IL HB 5428 puts the very same people who run Illinois’ mismanaged registry and CI program on the council overseeing it.
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).
Isn’t it better that some adoptees have access than none?

If you are an adoptee who has original birth certificate access, find out what laws in your state allow you to do so. Do those laws deny the rights of your fellow adoptees? How does that make you feel? And if you support conditional legislation, either deliberately or because you haven’t really thought about it, ask yourself why. Why is it okay for some adoptees to have access and not others? What makes a person born on this date better than someone born on that one? Why are adoptees in one state more deserving than those in another?

Are you willing to leave people behind? What if you turn out to be one of them?

Can’t we just go back and make it better later?
Legislators don’t revisit legislation like this. If HB 5428 is passed, it will set adoptee rights back decades in Illinois and elsewhere. From my blog entry Think Before You Support Compromise Adoption Reform Bills:
  • Baby steps are not needed to achieve clean original birth certificate access. It’s been done in Maine. It’s been done in Oregon. IT CAN HAPPEN. But you have to work at it, and if your nice clean bill gets lobotomized, you have to take the higher ground, kill it and start again.
  • Look to your left. Look to your right. One of your brethren in adoption is going to be left behind if you compromise. Ask yourself if you actually want to support a bill that means getting your information at the expense of someone else. And remember, that someone else could easily be you.
  • NOT ONE STATE that has enacted compromise legislation has EVER changed it later to clean birth certificate access. Once you have the compromise you are stuck with it. The politicians consider it a done deal and won’t revisit it. You’ll have shot yourself in the foot for nothing.
  • Compromises in one state bleed over onto others. Legislators ask, if it works for this other state, why shouldn’t we do it that way? It makes it harder to enact clean legislation elsewhere.
  • There are politicians and lobbyists who want you to compromise because it’s a way for them to pay lip service to reform while not actually doing anything. In other words, it’s a ploy to get us to be good little bastards and birth mommies and go away. Post-adoption services exist to make money, period. They do not exist to help you. They do not exist to restore your civil rights. Don’t buy into the rhetoric. Demand clean legislation, each and every time.
  • Adoption records access is not about medical history, search and reunion or anything else. It is about identity. It is about the right to be treated equally. Don’t get caught up in the arguments. Take it back to basics and stay focused.
Illinois HB 5428 must be defeated for the good of ALL adoptees, not just those deemed worthy by arbitrary bureaucrats. I’ll be reporting on my trip to Springfield and my experience testifying against this atrocity of a bill.

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 Change.org 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.