My New Adventure, My New Blog, And Some Snarky Adoption Remarks

Most of you 73adoptee readers know of my passion for fantasy and science fiction, and I mentioned in my previous post that I’d taken a sabbatical and decided to focus on writing full-time.
Now I have a brand-new blog where you can follow my (mis)adventures in writing and fandom. Find out more at www.trionaguidry.com/blog.
And yeah, there’s gonna be adoption stuff. Of course there is. You can’t be adopted without adoption stuff oozing over everything like toxic waste. Maybe I should make it a game. You guys can have fun giggling over all the subtle and not-so-subtle adoption subtexts on my other blogs. I’m sure there are some there I’m not aware of myself. Like the old Internet drinking games… one sip for snarky remarks only an adoption insider would get, two for deliberate jabs at the adoption industry, whole drink for full-blown rants about corruption and failed reform. Substitute your favorite beverage if you don’t drink, fun for the whole adoption community!
Case in point: The other day I was halfway through a short story I’m working on, when I suddenly realized that the ENTIRE plot was a veiled potshot at adoption. Maybe veiled with transparent wrap, because it was dead obvious when I re-read it. Is it just me or do other people find themselves inadvertently incorporating their anger/angst/frustration at adoption into other aspects of their lives?
As the 7th Doctor’s companion Ace said in Survival (as she was transforming into one of the Cheetah People): “I don’t even realize it! I don’t even feel myself go.”
Anyway. Come read my new blog. I’m going to be unabashedly nerdy over there, and hopefully I can keep the snarky adoption remarks here where they won’t unnerve the uninitiated.

73adoptee Returns! But No One’s Coming Back For Left-Behind Illinois Adoptees

I’ve been gone a while. Sometimes real life intrudes, and sometimes it’s a welcome intrusion. I discovered the hard way that it’s all too easy to let adoption and adoption reform take over your life. When you’re adopted it’s adoption 24/7 anyway without concentrating on it.
So I took a break, from a lot of things. I even took a sabbatical from work, which turned into a radical change in my career. Which is good, because it gives me more time to pursue my dream of writing fiction. But I also had to decide if it was going to give me more time to dedicate to adoption reform. And that got me thinking about what I’ve learned in the past few years about reform: what works, what doesn’t work, and what part I want to play in it.
Because, let’s face it, the current situation sucks like an industrial fan. Depending on where and when you’re born you either have full access, no access, or some kind of convoluted pseudo-access that no one understands, least of all the people creating and implementing the legislation that supports it.

And then there’s Illinois. Yeah, I’ve been quiet because of Illinois. If I hear one more person cheering November 15, 2011 as some kind of liberation day for adoptees of the great State of Illinois, I will go stark raving John-Crichton-on-Farscape crazy. Search my blog on keyword Illinois or read this about the new law for just some of the reasons why.

Illinois is not open. Illinois is sort-of open to adoptees who unwittingly end up playing roulette with their own rights. Some will win. Some will inevitably lose.
I’m on the losing team, so I know how it feels. Everybody’s celebrating and they’ve forgotten you. Or, if they remember, it’s to slap you on the back and say, “better luck next time” before they go off to congratulate the winners. But adoption isn’t football. There’s only one game, the Adoption Game, and if you make a mistake you don’t get a do-over. I remain disgruntled with pretty much everybody across the adoption spectrum: the bureaucrats who pat me on the head; the politicians who care more about their own power than their responsibility to help others; the deformers who think compromise is victory.
Because no one is coming back for the left-behinds. Not when the legislators, the news media, and the general public all think that adoptees already have access. We don’t, not all of us, but that message has been lost amidst the celebrations.
* * *
Over the past few years I’ve learned some important lessons about adoption reform. Here’s what works: sharing our voices, speaking out, contacting our legislators, educating the general public. Here’s what doesn’t: indolence, infighting, lethargy, backstabbing. Yes, it’s harder to convince The Powers That Be to grant access for all. But it’s the right thing to do.
I debated long and hard as to whether or not I wanted to continue adoption reform at all. It’s not what you’d call “fun.” It involves public speaking, private introspection, misjudgments from all sides, stress, and lack of personal life. You become an involuntary spokesperson for all of adopteekind (and, if you’re a transracial adoptee, often for your entire race as well). Everything is difficult because not only are you trying to write letters and convince lawmakers and wrap your head around legislation, you’re reminded EVERY SINGLE MOMENT of your own adoption baggage because it’s why you’re doing this in the first place.
Here’s what I’ve decided. I’ve revamped 73adoptee (come check out the redesign) and I’ll be posting here on an infrequent basis, plus more often on Twitter as @73adoptee. I’m continuing to advocate for adoptee rights: access for ALL adult adoptees, equal to that of the non-adopted: e.g. original birth certificate access with no strings attached.
But here’s what I’m not doing.
  1. Spending all my time on adoption. I have other things to do with my life, and I am heartily sick of focusing on adoption. I can’t even stand the word anymore. It’s ridiculous that I have to spend this much energy and effort for access to my own identity.
  2. Posting frequently to 73adoptee. See above. I’m around but I’m probably not going to post very often simply because I am busy.
  3. Arguing over semantics. Don’t come to me with any more partial pseudo-access schemes. I will not support them and I really don’t want to discuss them. It’s a waste of time and effort better spent toward the goal of truly equal rights.
  4. Helping with searches. I just don’t have time. There are plenty of resources available with a simple Web search. Just don’t jump right into schemes like confidential intermediaries without knowing what you may be in for. Trust me on that one.
  5. Participating in reform organizations. Some work, some don’t, but I need to strike out on my own, for many of the same reasons that I quit working in Corporate America to become a freelancer. I’m just too GDI (god damn independent), and volunteerism can become a total time-suck as I’m sure many of you know. I may choose to support bills but ONLY if they are clean and ONLY if they will be yanked if they are butchered in session. But any support will be personal and not affiliated with any organizations.
  6. Analyzing reform legislation. I’m not going to write reviews of which bills are good or not, there are other bloggers doing that (and kudos to them because it’s incredibly time-consuming). Doubtless I’ll comment as the desire (read: irritation level) arises but you shouldn’t consider 73adoptee a clearinghouse for info on all reform efforts everywhere.
Basically, 73adoptee is a place for me to rant about the things in adoption that piss me off. (Yeah, it’s a long list.) I’m not particularly concerned that my opinions are unpopular in some circles. You see, when you are at the very bottom there’s nowhere to go but up. Attempting to reduce adult adoptees to second-class citizens results in people like me, who have nothing else left to lose. What are you going to do, take away my birth certificate or convince my first mother to deny contact? Oops, sorry, already done.
I may have taken a break but I’m not finished with you, adoption. You’ve still got my identity and I want it back.

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.

Action Alert New Jersey: Vote NO on A1406/S799 Leave-Some-Adoptees-Behind Bill

Working on a couple new blog posts, but in the meantime, please contact New Jersey legislators TODAY and ask them not to support this legislation. The following is an Action Alert from Bastard Nation on the subject. And, to my friends in the adoption community who support this bill… please, no flaming. We may have to agree to disagree, but I cannot support any bill that includes disclosure vetoes, further entrenches confidential intermediary programs, or redacts original birth certificates. I know people have fought long and hard for this but once such legislation is enacted it is nearly impossible to get rid of it. That is exactly what happened in Illinois. Some may think it’s okay to leave some adoptees behind if others are granted pseudo “access,” but the picture looks a whole lot different when you’re one of the left-behind. See here for my thoughts on this. — tg


(Originally posted on the Bastard Nation Action Alert blog, here.)

Monday, January 03, 2011

Bastard Nation Action Alert: Write NJ Legislators Today; Vote NO on A1406/S799!

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BASTARD NATION ACTION ALERT!

STOP DISCLOSURE VETO/WHITE OUT LEGISLATION IN NEW JERSEY!!!

ASK THE NEW JERSEY ASSEMBLY: VOTE NO ON A1406/S799

Read full text of A1406 here.
Read full text of S799
here

A1406 (companion to S799 already passed in the NJ Senate) is scheduled for a floor vote sometime in the next few weeks. Proponents of this bad bill hoped to have it on the schedule for a January 6, 2011 vote, but it’s not on the list.

Please contact Assembly members immediately and urge them to VOTE NO ON A1406/S799. (Contact information below.) If you are from or in New Jersey or have a New Jersey connection, mention it in your communication.

Be sure to put: “Vote No On Adoptee Birthright Bill “in the header

Bastard Nation’s letter to the Assembly is here.

A1406/S799 is: restrictive, discriminatory, creates a new, special and temporary ”right” for “birthparents,” and exempts the state’s adopted adults from equal protection and treatment regarding the release of the government-generated public record of their births.

THE BILL

*includes a 12- month open enrollment period, starting after the Department of Health releases regs for A1406/S799 implementation, that allows “birthparents,” to file disclosure vetoes (DV) before obcs, past and future, are unsealed

*authorizes the state to replace the original birth certificat, of those subjected to the DV with a mutilated copy of the obc with all identifying information, including the address of the parent(s) at the time of birth (if it appears on the cert) deleted.

*requires “birthparents” who file a disclosure veto to submit a family history and a possibly illegal intrusive medical form to activate the veto.

*requires “birthparents” who file a “contact preference form,” which, in fact, acts as a disclosure veto, to fill out the same family history and possibly illegal intrusive medical history form to activiate the veto.

*seals by default all “safe haven” birth certificates, even though most “safe haven” babies are born in hospitals to identified mothers.

*requires adoption agencies and adoption lawyers to receive a written veto status report from the state before they can release identifying information to adoptees

*requires the state to mount an “information” campaign to inform “birthparents” of their “protection” options

A1406/S799 IS NOT AN OBC ACCESS BILL.
A1406/S799 IS NOT ABOUT RIGHTS.
A1406/S799 IS ABOUT PRIVILEGE

Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization opposes legislation that denies any adult adoptee access to his or her own original birth records on par with all other citizens. Please let the Assembly know that this issue is not about relationships between adoptees and their “birthparents.” It is about basic human and civil rights.

Passage of bad legislation is New Jersey could easily undermine efforts of dedicated reformers who are holding the line for adoptee rights in other states.

New Jersey’s A1406/S799 is an abomination in light of the restoration of the right of original birth certificate access to all persons adopted in Oregon, Alabama, and New Hampshire, and Maine. Adult adoptees and all who support adoptee rights should stand united for unrestricted access laws and not sell out just to get a bill passed! Disclosure veto legislation is unethical and unjust!

Please e-mail the New Jersey Assembly today and urge members to VOTE NO ON A1406/S799.

CONTACT INFORMATION
(write one letter, cut and paste for all)

AsmAlbano@njleg.org, AsmMilam@njleg.org, ASmDeAngelo@njleg.org, AsmGusciora@njleg.org, AsmChivukula@njleg.org, AsmEgan@njleg.org, AsmBarnes@njleg.org, AsmDiegnan@njleg.org, AsmCoughlin@njleg.org, AsmWisniewski@njleg.org, AsmCryan@njleg.org, AsmGreen@njleg.org, AsmMcKeon@njleg.org, AsmCaputo@njleg.org, AsmCoutinho@njleg.org, AsmBurzichelli@njleg.org, AsmMainor@njleg.org, AsmODonnell@njleg.org, AsmPrieto@njleg.org, AsmRamos@njleg.org, AsmGiblin@njleg.org,
AsmSchaer@njleg.org, AsmJohnson@njleg.org, AsmMoriarty@njleg.org, AsmWilson@njleg.org,AsmGreenwald@njleg.org, AsmConaway@njleg.org, ASmConners@njleg.org, AsmHolzapfel@njleg.org, AsmWolfe@njleg.org, AsmRible@njleg.org,AsmOScanlon@njleg.org, AsmThompson@njleg.org, AsmBiondi@njleg.org, AsmAmodeo@njleg.org, AsmPolistina@njleg.org, asmbramnick@njleg.org, AsmDiMaio@njleg.org, AsmPeterson@njleg.org, AsmChiusano@njleg.org, AsmBucco@njleg.org, AsmCarroll@njleg.org, AsmDeCroce@njleg.org, AsmWebber@njleg.org, AsmDancer@njleg.org, AsmMalone@njleg.org, AsmSchroeder@njleg.org, AsmRumana@njleg.org, AsmRusso@njleg.org, AsmDelany@njleg.org, AsmRudder@njleg.org, AsmRumpf@njleg.org,
AsmFuentes@njleg.org, AsmDiCicco@njleg.org, AswWatsonColeman@njleg.org,
AswQuijano@njleg.org, AswStender@njleg.org, AswJasey@njleg.org, AswTucker@njleg.org, AswSpencer@njleg.org, AswRiley@njleg.org, AswQuigley@njleg.org, AswRodriguez@njleg.org, AswOliver@njleg.org, AswEvans@njleg.org,AswPou@njleg.org, AswVainieriHuttle@njleg.org,
AswVoss@njleg.org, AswWagner@njleg.org, AswLampitt@njleg.org,
AswAngelini@njleg.org, AswCasagrande@njleg.org , AswHandlin@njleg.org,
AswCoyle@njleg.org, AswMunoz@njleg.org, AswMcHose@njleg.org, AswVandervalk@njleg.org,
AswGove@njleg.org

ALSO WRITE TO GOVERNOR CHRISTIE
Drop a line to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie now and ask him to veto A1406/S799 if it hits his desk. Letters should be no more than 250 words. Use this template : http://www.state.nj.us/governor/contact/

or contact him at:

Office of the Governor
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625
609-292-6000

Bastard Nation’s letter to Governor Christie is here.

Adoptees As Parents: Alone On A Raft In The Ocean

There is no shortage of assistance available for adoptive parents. Books, Web sites, parenting classes… you name it, the amount of information is staggering. But when adult adoptees (or first mothers and fathers) look for help, there is precious little information, if any.
Take, for example, the dilemma I faced this past week. My first-grade daughter came home with, yes, the dreaded family tree assignment. I knew this would come up eventually but I wasn’t prepared for it for another few years at least. The assignment was given Monday and due Friday, leaving me scant time to figure out what to do. Because, while my daughter isn’t adopted, I am. And the same sealed records laws that prevent me from obtaining my own heritage also keep my children in the dark.
By most accounts, the family tree assignment is obsolete. It assumes all families follow the stereotypical 1950s-era “nuclear family” pattern. In this age of divorce, remarriage, adoption, donor conception, etc. there are any number of ways in which such an assignment is a major FAIL. But that didn’t give me any answers for my daughter. This situation strikes me as yet another example of the fact that no one thinks about what happens when adoptees grow up. For us there are no books, Web sites, or helpful classes. When was the last time you saw a class at an adoption agency such as “Adult Adoptees 101: What To Put On Medical Forms” or “Explaining To The Non-Adopted Why Being Called An ‘Adopted Child’ Is Insulting.” The obvious answer, of course, is to restore access to our original birth certificates and start treating us like “normal” people instead of second-class citizens. (Oh, and get rid of the family tree assignment, while we’re at it). But in reality we are left on our own to muddle through it as best we can.
I reached out to my friends, within the adoption community and outside it, for help with my daughter’s assignment. Fortunately my adoptee friends came to the rescue, explaining how they’d handled similar situations and offering advice and resources. (Thank you, everyone!) But most of the available resources are written by and for adoptive parents. That may help parents and educators be more sensitive to families with adopted children, but how to increase sensitivity toward families that include ADULT adoptees?
My friends not connected to adoption generally fell into two categories: “What’s the big deal?” and “Just write down your adoptive family.” To answer the first, of course it’s a big deal. In fact, it’s the biggest deal there is. Heritage and origins is basic to our very being. People who have this information take it so for granted that they can’t fathom not having it. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s beyond difficult explaining to the general public that no, adoptees can’t just walk into the courthouse to get our information and yes, we should have the same access to our origins as everyone else. Now my children are facing the consequences of a decision that was taken out of their hands, and mine, before any of us were even born. They are not adopted. They should not have to deal with adoption… and yet they do, and so will their children.
As for the second part, “just write down your adoptive family,” that’s fraught with problems too. Even if I had a fantastic relationship with my adoptive family, doing so feels to me like perpetuating the same lie that is on my amended birth certificate. I was NOT born to the people listed there. I was born to my first mother and my unknown father. The fact that my first mother wants no contact doesn’t change that. The fact that my father apparently doesn’t know I exist doesn’t change it either. They are the genetic forebears of myself and my children. As it happens I do not have a good relationship with my adoptive family. (The fact that some people think that automatically disqualifies anything negative I happen to say about adoption is a whole ‘nother matter.) To put my adoptive family’s names on my daughter’s family tree, to perpetuate the lies, advances the illusion that adoptees can simply be dumped anywhere with no consequences. But adoption does have consequences, and those consequences last for generations.
I’ve written before about the difficulties adoptees have becoming parents themselves, especially parents by biology. Imagine the first blood relative you’ve ever known and it’s your own child. That is too messed up for words. As my children grow older I find such difficulties only increase. Sometimes I feel like we are floating alone on a raft in the ocean. There are no maps to where we need to go, no rescue boats coming along to help us. We have to face each wave, each challenge, on our own. (With big TV choppers circling us, displaying banners that say “Why aren’t you grateful to be adopted?” and “Stop making waves!”)
As for the family tree assignment, here are the best resources I could find, especially the first link (a PDF).
Again, these are specific to adopted children in the classroom, but can be extrapolated to children with parents who were adopted. At least, I think they can be, but I’m too close to adoption to see it the same way the general public does. I’m not sure my daughter’s teacher really understood my concerns, or the problem. She was sympathetic, but the vibe I got was that she found the whole situation confusing.
And that really sums it up, doesn’t it? We adult adoptees are so invisible to society, people have no idea how to react to our concerns or issues.
In the end, my daughter put down “unknown” for her maternal grandparents, and I had flashbacks to all those times in doctors’ offices, writing down “unknown–adopted” on medical forms. She is confused as to why I can’t give her this information, although she’s familiar with the fact that I’m adopted and that her maternal grandmother chooses not to have contact with us. But, explain adoption politics to a first grader. She doesn’t understand why the law prevents us from knowing. She tells me that makes no sense, and I agree with her.
It’s so basic even a first grader can understand. Why can’t other people?

The Details Of An Adoptee’s Life Are Sacrosanct

… or, they should be.
I can’t get this post from Cricket’s Adoption Blog Of Shame out of my mind. These adoptive parents took it upon themselves to change this child’s birthday. Yes, it’s possible, even likely, that his original birthday was just a guess, but that doesn’t matter. Changing his birthday because it fits better with the school schedule, or because it’ll make him fit on the growth chart? As an adoptee, that absolutely galls me. Adoptees lose so much. They should not lose the few details they may actually have.
As others pointed out on Cricket’s blog, there may be clues to his original birthday in the date he was given from Ethiopia. The point is, that information is HIS. The details of an adoptee’s life belong to the adoptee, and adoptive parents have no business taking it upon themselves to alter them. Even if they later tell him the truth, think about how he will feel knowing that his very birthday was “not good enough.” The same principles apply to the adoption story. That story belongs to the adoptee, not the adoptive parents. Changing it, making stuff up or lying (either directly or by omission) is unethical, no matter how well-meaning the intent.
Most of you know that my adoptive parents didn’t tell me the truth about what they knew about my adoption. All my life, I was told they knew only that I was born in Chicago. I didn’t find out until my mid-20s that my adoptive father was the attorney who sealed my file. He therefore knew everything, from the contents of my original birth certificate to all of the details in my super-secret adoption file. This is a prime example of adoptive parents who had WAY too much control over the situation. A couple years ago I wrote about how too many adoptive parents hold the keys to an adoptee’s information. Some of them use that as a form of control. Mine certainly did. Behave yourself, be the Good Adoptee, and we might dole out tidbits of your background as we see fit. Disobey, refuse to cooperate, and we will hold your information hostage… or even destroy it. Which is exactly what my adoptive father did with his copy of my original birth certificate when I got too close to the truth.
But one of the things I managed to discover was my time of birth. To anyone who has their background it’s an insignificant detail. To me it was a revelation. A new piece of information about myself! And an accurate one, too, because it was taken directly from my original birth certificate. My time of birth is one of the few things I know for sure about my origins. No one has the right to tell me it’s insignificant, whatever their opinion might be. That information belongs to ME.
People who keep an adoptee’s information from them, or deliberately conceal or falsify it, have no business adopting. And control of this information should be taken out of the hands of adoptive parents by making it available to the adoptee at age of majority. By corollary, that means there should be no third parties between the adoptee and that information–no confidential intermediaries, no hoops to jump, just the same access to the same information that non-adopted people take for granted.

Vote by Oct 30 for Demons Of Adoption Awards 2010

Don’t forget to cast your vote for Pound Pup Legacy’s 4th annual Demons Of Adoption Awards. Votes are due by October 30. You can cast your vote here, and (if you have a strong stomach) read more about the nominees here.

From the web site:

Each year Pound Pup Legacy presents the Demons of Adoption Award to raise a voice against adoption propaganda and the self congratulatory practices of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s annual Angels in Adoption AwardsTM

Until October 30 you will have the opportunity to vote for the recipient of this year’s award.

The nominees are:

* LDS Family Services: for being the most secretive of all adoption agencies, using coercive tactics in obtaining infants for adoption and having no respect for father’s rights;

* Gladney center for adoption: for being one of the most profit-centered agencies around and blocking open record efforts in Texas;

* Christian World Adoption: for their involvement in “harvesting” practices in Ethiopia and their blind ambition to “save” each and every “orphan” in this world;

* Larry S. Jenkins: for his involvement in nearly every case where father’s rights were violated;

* Joint Council on International Children’s Services: for promoting the interest of adoption agencies at the expense of children, and pushing agency friendly legislation in Congress;

* Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute for giving their seal of approval to persons and organizations that promote the interests of the adoption industry and pushing agency friendly legislation in Congress;

* Council on Accreditation: for their lack of research done on inter-country adoption agency histories prior to giving out Hague accreditation;

* American Adoption Congress: For failing to remove state reps who were openly working against open access for adult adoptees;

* American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey: for opposing open records for adoptees and “protecting” closet moms, based on a “stack of anonymous letters” claimed to be from “birthmothers”.

* Christian Alliance for Orphans: for promoting the business interests of adoption agencies through churches.

* Southern Baptist Convention: for passing resolution no. 2 , pushing the business interests of adoption agencies to the members of their church;

* Adoption.com for systematically banning voices that oppose current adoption practices and their continuous pro-adoption propaganda;

* Scott Simon: for his vomit-inducing book “Baby, We Were Meant For Each Other” and his grotesque crying and blubbering about his purchasing of another human being;

* WE tv: for their hideously exploitative series ‘Adoption Diaries,’ turning what is a highly emotive and complex topic into ‘reality’ show fodder.

Saying Goodbye To Mom

Sorry for the hiatus. It’s been a difficult summer, and just when I thought things were getting better, my husband’s mom died unexpectedly at the age of 77.
She was a hell of a woman. She was known for her fancy hats, her no-nonsense attitude, and her nonstop chatting in a Louisiana drawl. Picture a lady in a broad-brimmed hat, driving a hundred miles an hour down the highway in a gold Lexus with a pair of pet chickens in a cage on the seat next to her. Her local politicians quaked at her approach because if they were up to no good, she gave them no quarter. They’d try to shut her up, and she’d keep coming back. You just can’t argue with a Southern lady in a hat, especially when she’s right.
My mother-in-law was not adopted; she knew her heritage backwards and forwards. But she was a forthright champion of adoptee rights. She read my blog avidly and often called me or sent me an email to comment. She read the articles and links I sent, commiserated with me over my struggles to obtain my identity, and gave me advice on how to deal with politicians. Because she really, truly understood why we adoptees fight for our rights.
She told me of her experience with Hurricane Camille in 1969, a Category 5 storm that decimated the Louisiana coast. Her father perished in the storm, along with the relics of her past: not just the house where she grew up, not just the neighborhood, but the entire parish (county) and a great deal of the surrounding area. She struggled to regain that past, documenting her family tree and going to the older folks in her family to ask them to identify people in the few photos she was able to recover. But, as she explained to me, at least she still knew where she came from.
Adoptees, she said, never had the chance to know, and she found that the most devastating of all. She thought if more people understood that loss, if they didn’t take their own heritage for granted, they would be more understanding of adoptees’ plight. She also felt for mothers who were coerced by the adoption industry into surrendering their children, having gone through a divorce in the 1970s in a state so misogynistic that she had to fight the bank to put the mortgage in her name instead of her husband’s.
I called my mother-in-law Mom, and that is not a title I give out lightly. Having had a rough relationship with my adoptive mother, and a rocky reunion with my first (birth) mother, she was the only mother I ever truly knew. She was the one who was there for me, who actually gave a damn if I was upset or having a hard time, who spoiled my kids rotten and taught me that you gotta stand on your own two feet and grab what you want out of life. At the end of her last visit, she gave me some money and told me to go get that DNA testing I’d been talking about, if it was going to help me find out even a little bit more about my origins.
This is a woman who had as much connection to adoption as your average person–namely, she knew some people who were adopted and that was about it. But, unlike most people, she took it upon herself to learn what adoption means to the people who have no choice but to live it, day in and day out. When I first met her, she made the same assumptions and believed the same stereotypes as everyone else. She had no idea that adoptees can’t just go to the courthouse and get their information. She didn’t realize that there is an original birth certificate and an amended birth certificate. She assumed that media coverage and Hollywood depictions of adoption were accurate. She didn’t think about the fact that most public portrayal of adoption is solely from the viewpoints of adoptive parents and the people who make money facilitating adoptions. She was unaware (but, upon learning of it, not surprised) that infant adoption preys upon mothers without resources, and that legislators and their cronies have turned birth certificate access into political capital. The point is, she MADE THE EFFORT, and that is one reason I loved her.
From her legacy, take this: If you do not have direct experience with adoption, learn what it really means, both the good and the bad. If you are an adoptive parent or prospective adopter, talk to first (birth) mothers and adult adoptees before assuming that your viewpoint is the only one. If you’re a journalist or novelist writing about adoption, make sure you know what the stereotypes are before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Question everything you think you know. Don’t dismiss others’ experiences just because they don’t jibe with your assumptions, or because the speaker sounds “angry” or “ungrateful” or “anti-adoption.”
Put yourself in their shoes.
Make the effort.

Adoptee Rights Pennsylvania Action Alert: Support HB 1978, Oppose HB 1968

Please help Pennsylvania adoptees fight for their rights. Remember: HB 1968 is the BAD bill. HB 1978 is the GOOD bill, the one we want to move forward. Even if you don’t have a Pennsylvania connection, what happens in one state affects others.
Below are two messages from the folks at PAR, Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights. The most recent is first and is a call to action for today, Monday, August 9th.
Dear Advocates,
As you may have read in our previous email, HB 1968 stands to make
adoption law in Pennsylvania even worse, as well as threatens the
ability of HB 1978 (the good bill) to move forward.
We cannot let this happen.
Monday, August 9th, is Contact Representative Sonney Day.
Representative Sonney is the Primary Sponsor of this bill. Send him
your letters, emails, phone calls and faxes on Monday and tell him to
withdraw this bill!
Hearing all of our voices at once cannot go ignored.
Hon. Curtis G. Sonney
149B East Wing
PO Box 202004
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2004
Phone: (717) 783-9087
Fax: (717) 787-2005
For more help discussing the issues with Rep. Sonney, here are some
resources:
Our education page:
PAR’s Position Statement on HB 1968:
PAR’s call-to-action on HB 1978:
A Guide Letter for drafting letters and emails:
If you decide to call, it is likely that one of his staff members will
answer. Tell them you would like to make a position on a bill. They
will ask you the bill number and then ask your position. They may ask
you to give a short reason as to why you oppose the bill. Should they
ask you a question you can’t answer, refer them to our website or give
Thank you!
PAR Board
Dear Advocates,
As you may have known, there were two bills in the Health and Human
Services Committee that seek to change the portion of adoption law
that governs an Adult Adoptee’s access to identifying information.
HB 1968 is the BAD bill. HB 1978 is the GOOD, equal rights, bill.
Unfortunately, despite all of our outpouring of support for HB 1978,
it is still sitting in the HHS Committee. HB 1968, on the other hand,
has made its way out of committee and is now before the PA House of
Representatives for consideration.
It is of utmost importance that HB 1968 be defeated. HB 1968 not only
does not change the current law much at all; it actually makes it
worse. Worse even yet, should HB 1968 pass, we worry that legislators
(1) will believe that the law is improved when it isn’t and (2) won’t
want to re-address this issue and portion of law, and will leave HB
1978 to die in committee.
We cannot let the law get worse with HB 1968. We cannot let HB 1978
die.
We have created a call-to-action made available at this link:
In the call-to-action you will find:
(1) the text to the bill
(2) bill sponsors to contact
(3) a guide letter to assist those who are new to contacting
legislators in drafting letters and emails.
(4) ways to help PAR and defeat HB 1968
(5) our Position Statement of Opposition to HB 1968 to give you an
overview on the bill and why we oppose it.
(6) information on how to find and contact your representative
If you need help with any of these things. Please do not hesitate to
contact us adopteerightspa@gmail.com If the above link to the call-to-
action does not work when you copy and paste it into your browswer,
please visit our website www.adopteerightspa.org.
Thank you
PAR Board

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.