- 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).
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.
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.
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.
- 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).
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.
“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.”
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 GovernorPat Quinn207 State HouseSpringfield, IL 62706Phone: 217-782-0244TTY: 888-261-3336There is also a web form:
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 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.
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.
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:
*** 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!
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.
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.
I am writing to ask you to vote YES on SB 152, a bill that would restore original birth certificate access to adult adoptees.For too long, adult adoptees have been denied their civil rights. SB 152 restores those rights by allowing adoptees to access their original birth certificates, without restriction, in the same manner as the non-adopted.This is a simple matter of identity. It is not about search and reunion, but the rights of everyone to access the unmodified records of their birth. Adoptees who do not have this information are routinely denied driver’s licenses, passports and other necessary documentation. Identity is identity, whether you are adopted or not. South Dakota has the opportunity to acknowledge this right through passage of SB 152.Thank you for your time.Triona GuidryMidwest Coordinator, Green Ribbon Campaign For Open RecordsAuthor of the 73adoptee blog, www.73adoptee.com
- A disclosure veto, which allows a birth parent to prevent an adult adoptee’s access to his or her birth certificate. (On the other hand, a contact preference is just that, a preference. It does not legally deny access to the adult adoptee’s birth certificate.)
- A mandatory intermediary, which requires adult adoptees and birth parents to submit to third-party mediation even if all they want is information and not contact.
- Sandwich bills, in which adult adoptees born before or after certain dates have access, while others do not.
- 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.
- Disclosure vetoes, mandatory intermediaries, sandwiches.
- Convoluted language or anything that says, “we’ll figure out how to do this later”. If you don’t understand it, it’s probably not clean.
- Sometimes shell bills are introduced that are replaced at the last minute by compromise bills that no one sees before the committee vote, like the fast one they pulled with Illinois HB 4623 in 2008.
- Conditional Legislation: Why Some Adoptees And Not Others? from my 73adoptee blog
- Conditional Access Legislation And Other Legislative Compromises position paper from Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization
Regardless of whether “natural” is the right term, non-adopted people are encouraged and even praised for exploring their heredity while adoptees are discouraged or condemned. I also think there is a difference between exploring heredity and making contact. For example, my birth mother has denied contact with me. But, if I had access to my origins, I could still explore my roots, find out where “my people” came from, etc. — all without contacting her or her immediate family. I don’t see why I should be denied that oppportunity just because I happen to be adopted.