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.

What Needs Reform In Adoption? Everything!

This month’s Grown In My Heart blog carnival asks the question, “What do you think needs reform in adoption?” I could fill whole stadiums with answers to that one, but I think everything that concerns me boils down to one word: TRANSPARENCY, or lack thereof.
Take, for example:
  • Domestic and international adoption scandals: children targeted for adoption, mothers coerced into surrendering, adoptive parents duped into a false sense of security about the adoption process
  • Situations like Haiti, where crises are used to exploit children and families
  • Sealed adoption records, the myth of birth parent “privacy”, the discrimination faced by adult adoptees and their mothers, and the facade of compromise legislation
  • The lure of open adoption, which is rarely enforcable by the birth mother
  • “Crisis pregnancy centers” which are often fronts for adoption mills
  • Misinformation about the long-term effects of adoption, especially for transracial and transcultural adoptees
  • The general public’s lack of understanding about adoption, which is promulgated by the adoption industry so clandestine and questionable practices can continue. Part of this is driven by media bias in adoption reporting, which leads me into…
  • GET ADOPTION OFF TELEVISION. I have to wonder why there isn’t legal protection for minors exploited on television (think Jon & Kate or Balloon Boy). I think about these kids whose adoption stories are being told on TV (e.g. Teen Mom, 16 And Pregnant) before they even have a chance to know for themselves. Can you imagine how devastating that will be for them? It’s one thing to have consenting adults on these shows but something far different when we’re talking about babies and children. And even when it’s consenting adults, the information is almost always skewed. Let’s face it, reality shows and made-for-TV movies are not solid journalism, but most people base their ideas about adoption from them.
If adoption were transparent, if the procedures were scrutinized, I think there would be far less (although not zero) corruption. People will always find a way to game the system, but transparency and repercussions make it harder. Ratifying the Hague Convention would be one step. Restoring original birth certificate access to adult adoptees AND birth mothers would be another. We need more education for prospective adopters. We need independent and transparent regulation of adoption agencies. We need to get rid of private adoptions that too easily fall into the gray-market or black-market category. We need to eliminate pork-barrel legislation that turns original birth certificate access into a windfall for politicians and their well-connected cronies. We need to distinguish between infant adoption and foster-care adoption. We need to support mothers and families. We need to turn adoption from a boutique industry into a system in which kids who need help will get it.
But what we most need to do is take the profit margin out of adoption. If there is no money to be made, profiteering will decrease. I don’t anticipate this will happen anytime soon. Adoption is big business, with the funds and resources to hire lobbyists to maintain the bottom line. What we, as individuals, can do is demand transparency of adoption agencies and practitioners, and of our elected officials. We can also continue making scandals public, so that those who do game the system are caught. And we can educate the general public about adoption, including its flaws and misconceptions.
Adoption should be a last resort. We should strive to support children: with their parents where possible, with extended family where not, via domestic adoption in their country of origin and via international adoption only as a last resort. Yes, that means less adoptable children, but this isn’t about finding a child for everyone who wants one. The adoption industry sets very unrealistic expectations while continuing to sweep necessary reform under the rug. Let’s return adoption to its roots–finding homes for children in need–and do away with the corruption that currently defines it.

More Concern About Haiti Adoptions

There is growing concern about the fast-tracking of Haitian adoptions. Read on for some excellent blogs on the subject.
I’ve seen a lot of media coverage about Haitian orphans being “saved” or “rescued” by flying them to foreign countries for adoption. But “orphan” doesn’t necessarily mean the child has no living relatives. In many countries, parents place their children in orphanages temporarily until they can get back on their feet. Even if their parents are dead, these so-called “orphans” may have siblings, extended family, or others who can care for them. In a disaster like Haiti’s, we should be focusing on helping the country recover, not focusing on the wants of prospective adopters.
Okay, here it comes… the knee-jerk reaction that those of us advocating caution would rather see these kids starve and die on the streets. On the contrary, we want these kids cared for, kept in their own families where possible, domestically adopted where not, and internationally adopted only as a last resort. And yes, that means less adoptable children, and that’s just too bad. If you are so eager for a child, there are umpteen kids in the American foster system. They’re not cute “orphans”, but they do need help. If you’re really that interested in helping a child, that shouldn’t make a difference. But swooping down on Haiti like vultures is not going to help those kids.
There is also the question of what the “pipeline” is. Those American adoptions that were already “in the pipeline” are being fast-tracked. But what does that mean, exactly? It could simply mean those prospective adopters have passed the preliminary stages. They may not have passed home study or the other qualifications of being adoptive parents. And with the records in Haiti a shambles and at least one judge dead, it’s hard to know which children have actually been approved for adoption. Shouldn’t we take those tens of thousands of dollars a single adoption costs to help the people of Haiti as a whole? Wouldn’t that help more children in the long run?
Another thing that concerns me is the possibility that sweeping these kids into adoption’s net may result in increased “disruptions” down the line. A disruption is a nice name for returning an adoptee… a failed adoption. But what expectations does the adoption mill set for prospective adopters? It’s the glossy brochure, the “adopt and your life is complete” mantra. Reality is much harder for these children. You can’t take a child who is suffering from trauma and the loss of loved ones, bring them to America, plunk them down in front of McDonald’s and Nickelodeon and expect that they will grow up with no difficulties. I am concerned that some of these prospective adopters are so relieved at having their wishes finally granted that they will overlook the needs of the child. When that child begins to suffer from PTSD, will they blame the child for not fitting in? For being an “angry adoptee”? Will these adoptees be sentenced to quack therapies or drugged into behaving? Will they be returned to a country they no longer know, or shuffled off to yet another “forever” family?
In the words of Buffalo Springfield…
There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear…
It’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down.

Haiti: Adoption Snatching In Action

Some people are trying to use the earthquake in Haiti as an excuse for a mass snatching of children for the adoption mill. I’m not even going to try to compete with the stellar coverage of other bloggers, so read on to learn about Operation Pedro Pan from the 1960s and how it is being replayed today.
The answer to this horrific tragedy is not to take these children from their culture, but to reunite them with extended family wherever possible and help Haiti as a whole regain its footing. I can’t say it any better than Bastardette:

We do not object to Haitian children, orphans and otherwise, being sent to credible and documented parents or family members in the US legally for temporary or permanent care depending on the circumstances. We do object to the unethical and possibly unlawful mass transfer of traumatized children, many with family status unknown, to foreign shelters and foster care, removed from their culture and language, with little hope of reunification. We also object to children being used as commercialized foreign policy pawns. Although Pedro Pan had positive outcomes for some, its intent and motives make it an illegitimate model for today’s Haitian earthquake child victims. Cold War politics destroyed Cuban families. Unchecked adoption industry greed, pap entitlement, and soft neo-colonial foreign policy cannot be permitted to disenfranchise a generation Haitian children.

Think Before You Support Compromise Adoption Reform Bills

The new legislative session is upon us, and I encourage you to think long and hard before throwing your support behind a bill just because it claims “adoption records access”.

Whenever there’s word of a new records access bill, members of the adoption community scramble to support it amid cries of “Write the legislators!” and “Write the newspapers!” But not all bills are created equal. Some are wonderful, shining examples of clean legislation, like Maine, for example. Others are travesties and need to die before they suck the life out of adult adoptee and birth parent rights.
A clean records access bill is one in which adult adoptees (and birth mothers too!) have the same access to original, unaltered birth certificates as people not touched by adoption. Compromises take many forms but may include:
  • 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.
There are several bills in discussion right now, including New Jersey and Missouri. It’s sad that people have invested effort in these bills because they are so compromised, they will do more harm than good. They’re based on the myths that “baby steps” are necessary to adoption reform, that compromise legislation can be revisited, that nothing else will work in XYZ state, that “almost good enough” is good enough. None of this is true. The best way–the ONLY way–to restore equal rights to adult adoptees and birth mothers is to enact clean legislation from the start.
Here are some truths about compromise legislation:
  • 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.
What to look for in a bad bill:
  • 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.
So when you see there’s a new bill up for discussion, for heaven’s sake research it before you rush to support it. Read the bill for yourself. Ask your friends in the adoption community. Find out about the legislative sponsors. Use your head and your common sense. Don’t be a knee-jerk supporter just because it says “records access” on the tin.
For more on compromise legislation:

Find My Family: Does Reality TV Create Assumptions About Adoption Search?

After I posted about Rose’s situation, I was inundated with replies that she should contact Find My Family. While I know these suggestions were made out of the goodness of people’s hearts, I’m wondering if the existence of shows like this make people think that all you need to do is contact reality TV and they will magically solve your adoption search for you.
My question is partially prompted by the fact that I’ve seen it now. And I’ll admit, Find My Family does show the emotions behind search and reunion–but there are too many things I don’t think it addresses. What about those who can’ t complete their searches? What about those left behind by compromise legislation? What about discrimination against adoptees and birth mothers and fathers? (I should point out that I normally find reality TV distasteful, doubly so when it’s on a topic I find triggering.)
Because the thing is, Rose HAS contacted Find My Family. They elected not to take on her case. Possibly because it’s too hard–they may not want to expend resources on a search they don’t think they can solve (and therefore film the happy ending). Possibly because Rose is already a member of the forum who is doing Find My Family’s legwork (a forum that, again, is not being compensated or even acknowledged as a resource–hello, ABC, I’m talking to you!). Possibly because ABC is concerned about legal liability given the gray/black market nature of Rose’s case. Or possibly because they’ve simply filled up for the year and don’t have room to take on more cases. Who knows? The point is, reality TV like Find My Family is not a panacea. It’s not a magic wand. It’s a resource like any other, and it doesn’t work for everyone. These shows don’t take on every case. They don’t always succeed. What we see is a carefully distilled montage of their best results.
I’m still pondering my original question: Is reality TV good for adoptee rights or a hindrance? Now I’m beginning to wonder if these reunion shows give people the impression that searching is easy. As in, you can have the most impossible search in the world–but along comes Find My Family or The Locator and shazam, miracles! Adoption search is not that simple, logistically or emotionally. Some people luck out and get a match right away. Some people search for decades and never succeed. There is no magic wand, just hard work, determination, the willingness to fight a system that would just as soon see us slink off with our tails between our legs… and heaping helpings of luck and prayer.
I also wonder if reality TV glosses over the fact that reunion, like marriage, is an ongoing process that involves hard work. I would feel more confidence in shows like Find My Family if they were to mention search resources like ISRR and devote some time to what happens after the honeymoon.
What do you think?

Gray Market Adoption: The Twin Who Didn’t Die

This is a guest post from Rose, who is kind enough to share her experiences. I hope there is someone out there who can help with her search. Tis the season, and we could use some miracles…
My name is Rose and I am an adoptee who was reunited with my birth mother in 1988 with whom I had a very close relationship until her passing in February 2001. To honor her life and the memory of my twin that I thought was stillborn I wrote the following story:
Two tiny spermatozoa maneuver their way through the dark passageway in search of the prize when suddenly two large oval shaped masses loom in front of them. Each sperm cell burrows its way into the warm gooey side of its respective prize and becomes one with the egg, fertilizing it and thus beginning the cycle of life anew as it has done since the dawn of creation.
The now fertilized eggs begin the trip back down the same way that the sperm traveled up not too long before. As they travel, toward their new home for the next eight months, the eggs begin to divide becoming multi-celled organisms. They eventually reach the uterus where they burrow into the soft lining and continue to grow and divide.
Six weeks pass and by then the host knows of the presence of the two travelers and she welcomes them, but not all are happy about their arrival. The host is told to get rid of the ‘unwanted mass of cells’ but she refuses to. She does her best to protect the two little travelers but it is difficult. On two separate occasions violent earthquakes rock the cocoon that envelopes the twins. They do not know that is happening, only that what was thought to be safe and secure is not. The twins grow more anxious as each day passes, afraid of what will happen next.
Though on the outside, the next six months pass by without incident, all is not well within as the food supply becomes non-existent. The smaller of the twins grows weaker each passing day and it becomes apparent that it will not survive to see the outside world. The Littlest One, as it is called, musters its remaining strength and telegraphs the message to the one in front that it can no longer hang on. As a bright light appears and surrounds The Littlest One, it telegraphs a final good bye to its companion and is lifted by gentle hands into the loving embrace of the Creator and carried into the light. ‘But, wait,’ The Littlest One asks, ‘What about the one left behind? I can still see her.’ ‘Don’t worry’, says the One with the gentle hands. ‘She will be born very soon. She will not know about you until many moons have passed but she will never forget you because she will carry that knowledge deep within herself that you indeed existed. You will not be forgotten. Fear not little one and rest now, for you are home.’
No one knew whether the Littlest One was a boy or girl nor did they care, except for the remaining one. She mourned the loss of her companion, yearning to once again see his/her face. It was the Creator of all Life who reached down and took the Littlest One home, where He named the child and where He continues to gently rock the little waif in His loving arms, even to this day.
With each anniversary of my mother’s passing, and my birthday, I would think of my twin. In December 2007, all of that changed when I found out information that changed my life for ever. While going through paperwork on Mom’s family tree, I came across what I assumed was Mom’s hospital records from my birth. Curious, I started to read and there it was in black and white: a ‘delivered and a healthy male infant…’ My twin, a brother, had been born alive!
I wish that my story had a happy ending and I could report that I found him and we are living happily ever after, but that is not the case. Unfortunately, my twin is just another statistic in the world of gray market adoption. For reasons that are known only to the doctor who delivered my twin and I, he felt that it was necessary to place my twin with another family. The couple who took him only knew that the birth mother could not care for him and he needed to go to a home that could give him what she could not. What the family did not know was that the fact that the birth mother had not given her consent and in fact did not know that the child had been born alive. She had been told that it was stillborn. The hospital records were altered to look as if Mom had given birth to only one child, me. However, fortunately for me the doctor did not completely alter the records so that the records I held in my hand contained the first clues as to what happened those many years ago.
As a result of the deception on the doctor’s part over fifty years ago, finding my twin is like trying to find a needle in a haystack, a haystack marked the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is not only a closed records state, it’s locked tighter than Fort Knox. In fact, it would be easier to get into Fort Knox than it is trying to find out anything from the powers that be. Pennsylvania, as in many of the other closed adoption records states, feels that the records should be permanently sealed to protect the privacy of the birth mother. In my case, protecting her privacy is a moot point as she is now deceased and she never wanted it protected in the first place. The only person that is being protected is the doctor who perpetrated this crime that has affected three innocent people, not to mention our spouses and children.
Since that December night, I have been on a search for one thing and one thing only: The truth. That is all I want to know, for in knowing the truth, I know that I will be set free and no one can take that away from me.
Rose
ISO twin brother, Pottstown Memorial Hospital, Pottstown, PA, March 17, 1959

Birth Mothers Who Want Privacy Should Support Open Adoption Records

I mentioned this previously in my blog post on “Adoption BEWareness Month Part II” as well as on OSoloMama’s blog, and I think it warrants a post of its own. What I said was:

[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.

The biggest argument against restoring original birth certificate access to adoptees is that we are all potential stalkers out to harass our birth mothers. Putting aside how ridiculous that is, in reality, most birth mothers desire contact, and most adoptees just want some information. The way sealed records operate, our only choice is to contact our mothers for that information.
I posit that original birth certificate access actually HELPS that small percentage of mothers who desire privacy.
My own is a case in point. When I began searching, it wasn’t with a mind to find my mother. Granted, I had a few hazy daydreams of meeting her over coffee, but my real goal was finding out about myself: how my adoption was arranged, what my birth name is, what my ethnic heritage is, where I fit in a long line of ancestors. And I spent a decade doing everything I possibly could to find out without contacting my birth mother. I did my own research. I asked search angels for help. I hired a private investigator. I tried both the state in which I was born and the state in which I was adopted, and as you all know got shuttled between them like the unwanted ball in a game of hot potato. Tried to use the Illinois Confidential Intermediary system, failed, hired a lawyer, tried again, succeeded for certain definitions of “succeed”, made brief contact with my birth mother, was denied further contact, and wound up exactly where I started… except for a few extra tidbits of vague information, some hefty bills to be paid, and a signed denial of contact form from my birth mother which denies me access to the very records I originally sought.
Score: adoption industry, several kazillion; Triona and her family, zero.
Now, if I had access to my original birth certificate, in the same manner as the non-adopted, I could have spent half an hour and $15 at the courthouse to obtain what took me thousands of dollars, thousands of hours, and a lifetime of pain to attempt to obtain. And I wouldn’t have had to contact my birth mother at all.
Compromise legislation and post-adoption “services”, however kindly (or unkindly) meant, merely pays lip service to records access. They have nothing to do with the privacy of anyone except the adoptive parents, and those agencies and individuals who are attempting to hide the misdeeds of adoptions past. Why else are the Illinois intermediary program’s procedures more confidential than my own private data? Why else are the original birth certificates of adoptees impounded, not upon relinquishment, but upon finalization of the adoption? Why else are adoptive parents often given paperwork that names the birth mother?
Those scant few birth mothers who want privacy should support original birth certificate access. Because the way the system is rigged in closed-records states, the ONLY state-sanctioned way for an adoptee to obtain information is to contact our birth mothers, whether we want to or not.

ABC’s Find My Family: Is Reality TV Good For Our Rights, Or Adoption Exploitation?

Everyone in the adoption community is talking about ABC’s new show Find My Family. My question to you: Is reality TV good for adoptee and birth parent rights, or is it exploitation?
Many are wondering who is actually doing the searching for Find My Family. I may be stirring up a hornet’s nest, but here’s what little I know about it. ABC approached the moderator of a forum (of which I happen to be a member) and asked if the staff of what later became Find My Family could solicit on the forum. (Disclaimer: I am not speaking for ABC or for the forum itself. I’m simply sharing my observations.) I don’t know if any monetary compensation was offered for this, but I don’t believe so. This particular forum links volunteer (e.g. not paid) search angels with searchers. It’s a compassionate community of people who all found themselves flung into the deep end of adoption without a paddle. I expressed in private email to the moderators my reservations about this arrangement with ABC, because it seemed to me inappropriate for a reality TV show to be trolling a search-and-support forum for adoptees and birth relatives. However, the moderators and most of the other members were delighted, and they also appear to be generally pleased with the first episode of Find My Family.
My reservations remain. In my blog post “Adoption Exploitation And The Observer Effect“, I quoted my response to ABC, when they approached me directly and asked me to post an announcement on my blog soliciting adoptees and birth families for the network’s upcoming show. This was prior to their arrangement with the forum I mentioned.

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.

Admittedly, I haven’t watched Find My Family, so perhaps I shouldn’t remark upon it unless I do. But I didn’t like the way they came trolling a private forum looking for participants. Maybe I’m wrong, but it felt like they were letting the search angels do all the work while they make money filming the results. And believe me, these search angels work hard and don’t get paid a thin dime except maybe expenses. They’re doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. I don’t think reality TV, however well-meaning, can be doing anything out of sheer goodness because, at the end of the day, it’s about the advertising dollars they make. Also, it made me feel on display, a zoo animal in a cage, like I was being studied for some kind of reality-TV experiment. I’ve been exploited enough by adoption that this did not sit comfortably with me.
I also think we can draw some overall conclusions, not about this show in particular, but about reality-based adoption fodder in general. Most shows gloss over the difficulties in accessing records and focus instead on the happy-happy reunion stuff. There are those who say the happy-happy reunion stuff will help others understand our plight. I’d like to believe that, but then again I believed that a state-based confidential intermedary was in my best interests when they turned out to be incompetent money-grubbers.
From what I understand, Find My Family only accepted searches they thought would succeed. That’s similar to state-based intermediaries who only take on searches they think they can solve, because it skews their statistics to show more successful matches. In the case of a reality TV show, obviously there’s no show if the search doesn’t succeed. But what about those who don’t luck out with getting their search done by a reality TV show? How many searches don’t succeed? How many people become stuck for years if not decades? How many can’t afford the fees for state-based services, or attorneys to assert their rights, or private investigators when the state services fail? What about reunions that don’t turn out happy-happy?
More importantly, what about the civil rights of adoptees and birth mothers to access the records that pertain to them? What about the discrimination faced by adoptees and birth mothers? What about the empty promises of open adoption, disclosure vetoes and compromise legislation? What about those left behind?
Search and reunion is already far too conflated with the civil rights of records access, and I don’t think reality TV helps that. What we need are some shows that follow the demonstrations for our rights, the late nights writing letters to legislators and the media, the indignity of trying to say your piece while those same legislators are walking out on your testimony. Why weren’t the cameras on my friend Chynna when she was goose-stepped out the door by a Florida cop in attempting to obtain her driver’s license, because all she had was her amended (falsified) birth certificate? Where were the cameras when “Donna” was threatened with legal action for contacting a birth relative who wanted that contact? There’s a lot more going on in adoptionland besides happy-happy reunions. Maybe ABC’s Find My Family is going to address that. I hope somebody does.
Back to my original question: Is this good for our civil rights, or is it exploitation? I can’t decide. What do you think?

Adoption BEwareness Month Part II

It’s that time of year again, when I can’t open a paper or glance at a web site without being innundated by how WONDERFUL adoption is and isn’t it too bad we don’t have more of it.
Sigh.
Forget the rainbows and fluffy animals. Others have mentioned this, and I believe also, that it would be far more effective to spend November analyzing the less savory sides of adoption.
Such as honoring Strange And Mournful Day, when mothers take time to contemplate how the adoption industry robbed them of their children, their dignity, and their self-respect.
Or reviewing how supposedly respected organizations like Catholic Charities can so royally screw up their (expensive) intermediary services that purportedly “help” adoptees and birth relatives reconnect. (90% success rate?! I want to hear how many applications got dropped on the floor a la the Illinois Confidential Intermediary Service. Likewise, I bet CC is also pre screening to insure success before accepting participants–skews the figures nicely.) You’ve got to wonder what CC is trying to conceal, that they’re refusing to help straighten out this appalling situation. Don’t tell me the law doesn’t allow it, that’s a cop-out similar to “I was just following orders”.
What about donor-conceived people who have no access to their medical records? What about cases like the sperm donor who passed on a life-threatening genetic condition? Doesn’t anybody give a damn that we are creating human beings willy-nilly with no regard for their rights as human beings? I don’t mean embryos, I mean the rights of real-live people who are suffering because others want to conceal errors and misdeeds.
How about discussing the strange case of the birth mother so upset at being contacted by the child-now-adult she gave up for adoption that she feels the need to plaster her story all over the place, in some kind of insane attempt to… do what? Garner sympathy? Destroy any hope of open records? Demonstrate how ungrateful we adoptees are, especially those of us who *gasp* search? Because being adopted automatically turns us into crazy stalkers, it’s right there in the Player’s Handbook. Oh, and our heads spin 360 while we projectile vomit, too. But genealogy is A-OK if you’re, say, the First Lady, or anybody else for that matter. Now, gimme back my dice so I can keep playing the D&D version of Adoption Stereotypes. I’ve got a new character to roll:
THE PSYCHO BIRTH MOTHER
Strength: Limitless
Intelligence: Questionable
Charisma: 18 (+30 to News Media)
Weapon: +10 Glaive Of Victimization
Armor: Shield Of Anti-Reflection
When confronted with the Stalker Adoptee, the Birth Mother Promised Confidentiality morphs into the Psycho Birth Mother. Not only has she never regretted her decision, she’s the one being victimized and wants only to maintain her privacy, which is why she touts her story to any News Media she can find. Her siren call is: “Don’t open the records! It’ll destroy women like me!” Ignoring her sister birth mothers, who may actually (horrors!) desire and seek contact with their offspring, she hides in plain sight, turning any adoptees who cross her path back into Perpetual Children. The Psycho Birth Mother refuses to look at herself in a mirror, because deep down she knows what she’s doing is wrong.
As I said on Osolomama’s blog, if 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. (And no offense intended by my use of that term; I’m using it strictly for search engine purposes. As far as I’m concerned these women are mothers, no adjective.)

Personally, November is very hard for me. For one thing, it’s my daughter’s birthday. She is my eldest and the very first biological relative I ever saw in the flesh. That is so messed up I cannot even begin to tell you. So to have Adoption Awareness Month be the same as the anniversary of her arrival is really difficult. The last thing I need are painful reminders that she and my son are the only biological relatives I may ever know. I am also irate that the whole adoption thing spoils my ability to be able to enjoy her birthday. This month should be all about HER, turning six and getting pink princess presents. She shouldn’t have to have a mother who’s distracted by fighting the ghosts of adoption past, present and future. Adoption affects my kids, too, and they had nothing to do with it!
It’s also that time of thanksgiving, of being grateful… and I am damn sick of being told, as an adoptee, to be grateful. It’s a time of family and since I’ve been disowned from my adoptive family and denied existence by my birth family, that only makes it worse. I could tell you the reason I haven’t blogged much lately is because I’m busy with work and other things. It’s even true. But the other reason is that I am so effing sick of adoption at this time of year that I can’t think straight.

Thank goodness for Doctor Who or I might not make it through this year. I’m planning to enjoy the last episodes of the Tenth Doctor to the fullest, and I don’t need adoption casting a pall over my escapism, thank you very much. In fact, adoption is the reason for it.
Adoption might as well be a rusty knife in my stomach. It’s hard to tell what hurts worse, going in or coming out, but either way it’ll poison you for life.
Yeah, I need a whole month to be reminded of that.