[I]f women don’t want the offspring they gave up for adoption to contact them, then they ought to support open adoption records. Because as it stands in closed records states, the only way for adoptees to obtain info is to contact their birth mothers.
Adoption is not a reality TV show. It is painfully real for those of us who experience it. I suggest you revise the show to highlight the denial of adult adoptees’ civil rights. This is a different matter than search and reunion, although the two are often conflated by the adoption industry and, in turn, the media and the public. Every day adult adoptees are denied driver’s licenses, passports, and other basics of citizenship because our original birth certificates are sealed in most states. We are forced to pay excessive fees only to find information is missing or mysteriously unavailable. Post-adoption “services” like registries and intermediaries have become yet another way for agencies and individuals to profit from adoption. That would be a far better topic upon which to shine your cameras than someone’s private reunion.
More than three decades after Ryba and Butler gave up their baby son to Catholic Charities of Trenton, N.J., for adoption, and four years after the agency facilitated their “reunion” with Bloete, genetic testing revealed last year that none of them are related.Lisa Thibault, a spokeswoman for Catholic Charities of Trenton, acknowledged that the situation is “tragic,” and that a “mistake” was made somewhere. But she said the agency has done all it is legally able to do for them.
There is a fabulous conversation going on over at FirstMotherForum on an old thread. It began with Lorraine’s remarks about a book written by an adoptive father, who joined the conversation and shared his viewpoints. In one of the comments maryanne wrote:
We all know the many terrible things that are supposed to happen to the unplanned, “unwanted” child in a family, but has anyone ever looked into the detrimental effects of being the “too wanted” child, the result of years of assisted reproduction or adoption that was difficult and expensive?
I think this might place an awful burden on a child to live up to some unrealistic expectations of the parents that the kid be superior and “worth it”, and cause problems if the child does not fit the mold set for him as the golden prize baby. In international adoption I could see this being a problem if the child did not fit some ethnic stereotype the adoptive parents had about people from “that country” , like that Russians are literary or Asian girls are passive. In any adoption or high tech reproduction, in some ways the kid has to be more than just a kid to justify how hard it was for the parents to become parents.
I left several comments including this one:
maryanne, your observations are astute. I was exactly that to my adoptive parents, a goal and a prize. In their world being childless was tantamount to social suicide. They needed the privileges being parents would bring, such as meeting “the right” families through contacts at school and other parent-related events. I don’t know if anyone has researched the detrimental effects of being the “too-wanted” child, but they should. When adoptive parents go through the expense and ordeal of assisted reproduction, plus the expense and ordeal of adoption itself, there is a strong pressure upon the adoptee to live up to that “investment.” In my case, my adoptive parents seemed to be under the assumption that by adopting me, they could mold my interests and personality–even going so far as to hire psychologists to try to force me into that mold. This backfired to the extent that we are now estranged. I can’t speak to the effects upon international adoptees, but I do know that trying to meet the unrealistic expectations of being the long-awaited and finally-attained “prize” is emotionally overwhelming and impossible to achieve.
I’d like to explore this more, the idea of the “too-wanted” child. Do assisted-reproduction facilities and adoption agencies elicit unrealistic expectations among prospective adopters? How does this affect adoptees in the long term? In my experience, the answers are yes and extensively. There are far too many adoptive parents out there who set unrealistic goals for the children they adopt. Even after we adoptees become adults, we are expected to fulfill set roles that act as strangleholds upon our emotional well-being and identity formation. People raised in their families of origin sometimes suffer that, too, but in the case of adoptees there is this unspoken assumption that we must be 100% perfect because we were so badly wanted and, not to put too fine a point on it, very expensive. (And, if we’re not 100% perfect, we can get shipped back.) When people spend tens of thousands of dollars they expect a return on the investment. But if you’re investing in a human being, you have to be very careful of your motives.
I think prospective adopters would do well to assess thoroughly and extensively the question: Why do you want to adopt? The obvious answer–I want a child–is insufficient. Why? Is it to provide social status? Be a “rescuer” of poor orphans (not all of whom are orphans or poor)? Or is it honestly and truly because you want to open your heart and home to a child? If the latter, are you sure? If your adopted child said she want to meet her birth family–that she wants to have a relationship with them–how would you react? Can you accept the idea that your child will have two sets of parents, both of whom are equally “real”? Will you put aside your own fears, assumptions and expectations to help your child form positive, personal attachments to her family, culture, and language of origin? Will you accept her birth family as an extension of your own, or are they the “them” to your “us”?
Tough questions, and ones that not every adoptive parent wants to face. In which case, I submit they have no business adopting. Because adoption is different–not better, not worse, just different. And failure to accept that difference hurts everyone.
What do you think about the “too-wanted” child?
Okay, this is really funny, in a gallows humor kind of way. Apparently some wag at the University of Illinois redacted the name of a famous local ballplayer in an overzealous attempt to redact information presented to the Chicago Tribune under the Freedom of Information Act. From the Tribune article:
It looks like the University of Illinois dropped the ball — and violated the spirit of the law — when redacting public documents connected to its shadow admission process for well-connected students.
The e-mail is dated March 2, 2005, the day Santo failed in another bid to enter Cooperstown. U. of I. spokesman Tom Hardy said the employee handling the redactions didn’t know who Santo was and assumed he was a rejected student.
“I know it may surprise the Tribune and die-hard Cubs fans, but Ron Santo is apparently not a household name,” Hardy said.
This is a wonderful example of how arbitrary and capricious the redaction process can be. Mistakes like this happen ALL THE TIME when adoptees and birth relatives try to access records. Except we typically don’t have the clout (heh!) that an organization like the Tribune has to fight it.
We don’t need uninformed office workers redacting stuff willy-nilly from adoption records, because when mistakes are made, there are often no second chances. We need transparency in access, a clear-cut mechanism that treats everyone equally whether adoption is involved or not. And guess what? We already have one: the same process everyone else uses to access birth certificates. Illinois should eliminate conditional access in favor of legislation like Maine’s, which restores adult adoptee rights to unmodified, unredacted original birth certificates. Anything less is a strikeout against our civil rights.
The Chicago Tribune has published numerous articles about what they refer to as the State Of Corruption in Illinois. One of their exposes is on clout-based admissions at the University of Illinois. To that end, they published an editorial about the attempts of their journalists to gain records under the Freedom of Information Act. Their experience will resonate with any adoptee, birth mother or other relative who’s tried to gain access to adoption records.
The ongoing series, “Clout Goes to College,” doesn’t identify the applicants. Cohen didn’t ask for their names, nor did she expect they would be released. The privacy provisions White alludes to require the university to redact identifiers such as names and Social Security numbers before releasing the documents.
But the 1,800 pages of documents eventually surrendered by the university went far beyond that. Applicants’ test scores, grades and class ranks were blacked out, for example. That information wouldn’t identify specific students, but it would show how far the rules were bent to admit them.
Names and positions of third-party players who lobbied trustees on behalf of an applicant also are marked out, as are references to people who are clearly public officials themselves. That information wouldn’t compromise the privacy of individual students. It’s not exempt.
In countless other instances, information is blacked out or pages are missing, with no explanation or clue as to what is being withheld. Asked to justify those redactions, the university flatly refused. “Your request would mean that the Illinois FOIA requires us, in response to any inquiry by a requesting party, to go line by line, word by word and explain why each redaction was made,” general counsel Thomas Bearrows wrote.
Actually, that is what the law requires. The law says release the information or explain why it’s exempt. There are two reasons for that: to ensure that the university is basing its denial on a good faith interpretation of the law, and to provide the requester with a basis to challenge the denial.
When I read this I could only give a cynical laugh. The Tribune is tasting the bitter pill that Illinois adoptees and their birth relatives have swallowed for decades.
When The Powers That Be want to keep things secret, they use the magic word “private.” Information is redacted regardless of laws that specify what can and can not be revealed. I ran into this during my ill-fated experience with the Illinois Confidential Intermediary Program. As I described in my post, “Caveat Emptor On Confidential Intermediary Programs“:
Just about everything is “confidential,” but what exactly constitutes “confidential” is equally unclear. Officially, it’s what’s in the Illinois Adoption Act, 750 ILCS 50, Section 18. But in reality it’s whatever the [Illinois Confidential Intermediary] program decides it is.
For example, details were redacted from my birth mother’s letters, such as my maternal grandfather’s age of death, which are listed nowhere in the Illinois Adoption Act as being “identifying.” Similarly, I received mixed signals as to whether or not I was permitted to receive copies of the correspondence sent to my birth mother (redacted for identifying information). When contact was first made, I asked for and received the first letter [the program] sent to her. But later, when I asked for copies of additional correspondence (again, redacted for identifying info), it suddenly became “confidential.” Perhaps it’s only “confidential” when you begin to question the process.
Interestingly, program policies and procedures are also “confidential” – to the public as well as to participants. If you’re not allowed to know what steps have been taken in your search, how are you supposed to know if you’re getting what you paid for?
I’m glad to see the Tribune experiencing the same sorts of ridiculous redactions the rest of us have, because maybe it will encourage them to respond to complaints concerning adoption records access. So far, the Trib’s stance on transparency in Illinois government has not included adoption records. Questions on their public forum concerning adoptee birth certificates went unacknowledged by their editors. So, too, have requests for some sunshine to be let into the dark recesses of Illinois adoption politics. The Tribune has invited Illinois citizens to inform them where this state of corruption needs to be cleaned up, and has made a point of supporting causes that might seem like small potatoes. I would like to encourage them and other Illinois-based media to examine how adoption records access works, or doesn’t, in this state. And if you believe in equality, I would like to encourage you to contact the Tribune and others and urge them to support unrestricted adoption records access.
Those affected by adoption should have the exact same access to records as everyone else. Equality for all is the only equitable solution!
Right after I posted yesterday’s bit about Wolverine as poster boy for adoption records access, the travesty in Texas crossed my path. Snikt!
There’s a lot to despise about what’s they’re doing to adoption records access in the Lone Star state. First there is the matter of contact veto, which is abhorrent in and of itself. We’ve rehashed this so many times I’m starting to feel like a Tater-Tot. Go read here, and here, and here.
Mandatory counseling for the adoptee and his or her birth mother by a state-selected social worker or mental health professional with expertise in postadoption counseling. The bills require “verification of the counseling “in a form satisfactory to the state registrar.”
Just as a state registrar has great discretionary powers to approve the “matches” made by the state’s adoption registry, now the registrar will have a similar control over which adoptee/birth mother matches she will find have had “satisfactory counseling.”
I’m feeling those adamantium claws ripping out of my fists, aren’t you? This might as well be an adoptee version of the Mutant Registration Act. Records access is about EQUAL RIGHTS, nothing more, nothing less.
Go back and reread what I said in my post, Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut. There’s no way to logically argue against the idea that adult adoptees should have the same access to our birth certificates as the non-adopted. In fact, equal access is cheaper, easier, and uses the process already in place for everyone else. So the opposition resorts to calling adoption reformers crazy and telling us we need counseling.
Adoptees do not need therapy. We request only the restoration of that which everyone else takes for granted. If we, as adult citizens of this nation, can vote, drink, pay taxes, go to war and die for our country like anyone else, we deserve the exact same access to our records as everyone else. And while you’re at it you can restore equivalent access to our mothers and fathers as well.
Or are you going to brand us all as mutants and send us to Genosha? Subdue our abilities, not with chemicals to inhibit superpowers but with legislation that infantilizes us? Brainwash us into believing we’re subhuman and deserve to be treated that way? Force us through mandatory therapy sessions–therapy we ourselves have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for, only to be told it’s not “satisfactory” to whichever governmental entity takes it upon itself to decide what’s best for us?
Gee, that’s an awful lot of effort just to keep us rebellious mutants–er, adoptees–from being able to stand in line and pay fifteen bucks for our birth certificates like everyone else, isn’t it? But if you’re a powerful politician with a few bastards in the closet, or a profiteering ambulance-chaser–sorry, I mispronounced “adoption professional”–you know that the muddier the waters, the more lucrative the rewards. And profiting from the subclasses is easy because no one cares what happens to them.
Yup. Mutant Registration Act. Science fiction seems so science fictiony, until it happens to you.
See my Adoption BEWareness Month blog for details on my November mission: exposing the things people don’t want to admit about adoption.
Why do people deny anger over adoption?
“Anger,” like “grateful,” is a loaded word, most often used as an epithet by the uninformed. “Why are you so angry?” people ask, when they find out you’re an adoptee/a first mother/searching/reunited. Even amongst ourselves, members of the adoption triad feel we cannot express our anger for fear of being ostracized. Why? Why are those most impacted by adoption, adoptees and birth relatives, forbidden to express their true feelings?
Speaking from the adoptee perspective, I’ve always felt angry about adoption. At first it was a wordless anger, something simmering in the back of my mind that gave my child-self one hell of a temper. My adoptive parents frequently disdained that I was “always angry.” Well, I was. I was angry at them for trying to be substitutes for the family I lost, despite being adopted as an infant and supposedly not old enough to remember. I was angry at my birth mother for not taking care of me. I was angry at a world that would allow a kid to be so completely cut off from anything recognizable and familiar on the blood level as “family.”
As a teenager it was anger at those around me, for trying to fit me into the adoptee mold. I didn’t call it that, not then; all I knew was that I wanted to be myself and others had enormous expectations of me, especially my adoptive family. When you’re adopted, it’s like you’re expected to play a certain role in a stage play, except you’ve never seen the script and are thrust into the middle of Act 2 on opening night. And the audience is staring at you, so you better say your lines right or reap the consequences.
When, as an adult, I started searching for my origins, it became an acute anger toward the hitherto-unknown denial of my civil rights. I learned I have a birth certificate faked by the state, and that the laws that protect others’ rights curtail mine. Worse, I discovered that my adoptive parents lied about what they knew; in fact my adoptive father continued to do so to his grave. The bureaucracy surrounding adoption records “access” has to be experienced to be believed. It seemed like everyone else in the world knew where I came from, except me. Some office flunky could sit at a desk with MY adoption file and yet I’m Not Worthy!
Lately it has become a deep and steady anger, one that keeps me explaining to legislators, reporters, adopters, agencies, and basically anyone who will listen what the adoption experience is truly like. Today I get angry that I have to do this at all, that I have to expose my private trauma in order to regain the same rights everyone else has. But then I hear from people who whisper to me in private email, saying thank you for saying what we didn’t know how to say or were afraid to say. That’s the only thing that makes the whole ugly experience worthwhile. I should say thank you to all of you, for the support you have given me.
Adoption is like a frozen lake. On the surface it looks beautiful, but underneath is a roiling turmoil. By ignoring the turmoil, we venture onto the ice at our peril. If we deny the anger we feel toward adoption, we deny our own experiences and wisdom. Let’s use that anger constructively to make the adoption experience as rare (yes, rare!) and transparent as possible.
See my Adoption BEWareness Month blog for details on my November mission: exposing the things people don’t want to admit about adoption.
I would like to expand upon the discussions that have developed in the adoption reform community, concerning a recent article claiming that reformers are mendacious, stupid, and most importantly… crazy.
As I commented on another blog, this is Rule #1 In The Adoption Game. If a birth relative or adoptee questions The Game, call them crazy.
Why is one person’s “crazy” another person’s “genealogical research?” Why are adoptees not supposed to complain when they are treated in a manner that, if occuring to anyone else, would be unjust? Why are mothers expected to forget they ever had a child? If a child dies, the mother is allowed her grief; vice versa if a child loses a parent. But if you’re separated by adoption, tough, and if you speak out, you’re nuts.
Note that the people calling us crazy are, primarily, adopters and adoption “professionals,” the sole winners (and creators) of The Adoption Game. I say “professionals” in quotes because any bozo can sell babies, no certifications required. Adoption is a business, a for-profit venture, not a charity. It behooves them to make the people putting a dent in that business look like lunatics.
Because adoption reformers are just… people, everyday people you pass on the street. We run businesses, vote, go to war and patronize the same grocery store you do. I was surprised the first time I spoke with Marley Greiner, executive director of Bastard Nation and author of her personal Bastardette blog. I knew Marley only through highly skewed media articles, and was therefore expecting some kind of outre villain with Glenn Close-as-Cruella hair. Instead I discovered a well-spoken woman who seems as sane as anyone. But if you believe the latest gossip, I’ve been conversing with one of the frontrunners for the matriarchal anarchists, go figure.
Because the minute you breathe dissent, the moment you dare to suggest that adoption is not perfect, you are deemed crazy. You can’t say one word against the status quo without being branded! It’s like you’re suddenly the leper in the room, with a big A-For-Adoption-Activist tattooed across your forehead.
I am used to being called crazy; for someone who believes in dimensional transcendentalism it’s occasionally amusing. It started with my adoptive family, who considered me “crazy” because I was different from them. Kids at school thought I was “crazy” because I was adopted. Now I’m “crazy” because I, as an adult adoptee, assert my rights. But stealing babies from mothers, faking adoptee birth certificates and concocting conspiracy theories about reformers is “normal.” Uh-huh.
I am an average person, your typical middle-aged working mom. If Ms. Saxton, the author of that little piece of vitriol, or someone like her were to pass me on the street, she wouldn’t blink. However, I know that I am really a Bastard, because the world around me makes that abundantly clear. I am treated differently. I am not permitted the same rights. That is why I am an adoption reformer.
They said women were crazy for wanting to vote. They said that blacks were crazy for wanting civil rights. Now they say adoptees and first mothers are crazy because we reject what has been done to us. I happily accept the slur, because it means they are running scared from the progress we are making toward open records and transparency in the adoption process.
Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t.