Adoption Isn’t A “Choice” For Everyone

There’s this billboard that has been ticking me off for months now. It used to be on the northbound Metra tracks. I was so happy when they took it down, but now it’s back up along eastbound Route 14. It’s sponsored, natch, by McHenry County (Illinois) Right To Life and pictures a couple with a baby and the slogan: “Adoption. The choice everyone can live with.”

I have so many beefs with this billboard I could cook a chuck roast. It’s a daily reminder to me of everything that is wrong with adoption.

  • The billboard is specifically promoting infant adoption. Never mind that there are plenty of foster kids in Illinois and elsewhere who would be delighted at a chance for a good home.
  • It pictures Obligatory Cute Picture of Healthy White Infant with Smiling Heterosexual Caucasian Couple. In other words, it promotes adoption of white infants over infants of other ethnicities, foster kids, and kids with disabilities. Get Your Tabula Rasa Here! It also discounts single-parent adoption, gay adoption, and anything other than the stereotypical “nuclear family”.
  • This ad is designed to get expectant mothers to surrender kids–in other words, to make money for adoption agencies. I don’t see the RTL groups posting ads offering help for expectant moms or brochures on where they can find support. If it’s really about fighting abortion and not promoting adoption, why not offer every alternative? Nor do I see them giving expectant mothers realistic information about adoption (PDF).
  • It portrays adoption solely from the perspective of the adoptive parents. The baby is a perpetual infant without voice, and the (birth) mother* is nonexistent.
  • It says nothing about the lifelong impact of adoption upon everyone involved, including the adoptive parents.
  • (Plus, the damn thing ends in a preposition. My English teacher is howling from beyond the grave.)

Some people, especially the RTL crowd, get bent out of shape at criticism of infant adoption, or indeed any criticism of adoption at all. This billboard’s message is clear: An expectant mother’s only choices are abortion (“murder” in RTL parlance) or Warm Happy Fuzzy Adoption. What this billboard carefully does NOT point out is:

  • Adoption is not Warm Happy Fuzzy. Adoption begins in loss. There’s no way to make that prettier or more palatable.
  • Adoption is not a guarantee of a better life, only a different one.
  • Adoption should be a last resort. All efforts should be made to keep children with their families of origin, and only if they are truly in danger and there is absolutely no other choice should they be relinquished for adoption. But most prospective adopters want unspoiled goods, the tabula rasa, not an older child or one with potential problems or one whose birth family might want (horrors!) to maintain a relationship. They pay good money and like any consumer they demand a quality product. Which is why adoption is about finding a child for parents who want one instead of finding a home for children who need one. That leads to the adoption industry snatching up as many products (read: children) as possible.
  • Adoptees grow up; we don’t remain voiceless infants forever. Adoption was never a “choice” for us, nor for our mothers, many of whom were forced socially or literally into surrendering us. It’s also not a “choice” for our extended families, friends, and significant others, all of whom are faced with the negative impact adoption has had on our lives and the lives of those around us.
  • Adoption agencies make billions on infant adoption. Adoption is a profit-making venture, not a charity, however it may be portrayed.
  • Adoption agencies get federal subsidies for promoting adoption, to the point where they push adoption to strangers over keeping birth families together.
  • Adoption agencies deliberately market in such a way to discount the negativities of adoption (again, because they make money from adoption). Which means any information about adoption from an agency or adoption “professional” should be taken as suspect.
  • Adult adoptees are routinely denied access to their origins. Birth mothers are routinely denied access to the paperwork they signed and information about their offspring. Illinois has mechanisms that purportedly facilitate contact but they’re about as effective as a walrus trying to tango.
  • So-called “open” adoptions are rarely enforcable from the biological family’s side. Once the adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents can–and do–take off with the kid, never to be heard from again. “Open adoption” is a marketing phrase to get an expectant mom in the door.
  • Foreign “orphans” often are not orphans at all, and may in fact have been stolen from their families. Adoption, international and otherwise, is chock-full of corruption.
  • Adoptees are torn not only from their families but also their countries, languages, and cultures of origin. Birth mothers suffer long-term consequences including depression, anxiety and other stressors that can diminish their health. Hollywood and made-for-TV movies gloss over these impacts, just like adoption agencies do. It’s not a pretty picture but it is the truth.

Why are we adoptees supposed to be grateful that we were not raised in our families of origin? Why are our mothers supposed to go away and never be seen or heard from again? Why can’t we promote support of expectant mothers instead of stealing their children to feed the adoption industry’s profits? Why can’t we restore unconditional access to adoption records? Why are we supposed to ignore what is wrong with adoption and simply accept the happy-go-lucky picture the billboard above invokes?

How about this as a new billboard? “Adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Support expectant mothers and unconditional records access.”

* I use the terms “birth mother” and “birth family” on this blog although some find it offensive, not because I disagree (I find it offensive too) but because it’s more likely to be picked up by search engines. Which is a further demonstration of how relinquishing mothers and adoptees are dehumanized in discussions of adoption.

Update On Adoptee Denied Passport

We’ve got an update on that adoptee who was denied her passport because of irregularities with her amended Illinois birth certificate. As many of us figured, she had to go through international channels to get a German passport as that is where she was born. I am disappointed that the Chicago Tribune is treating this like an isolated case instead of addressing the fact that all adoptees with sealed records have the potential for problems like this.

Vander Woude, 55, immigrated to America from Germany as a toddler in 1955 and was adopted by U.S. parents a year later. For her entire life, she believed the adoption made her a U.S. citizen. She said she has voted since age 18, served on a jury and was issued an Illinois birth certificate.

After the Problem Solver called the DHS to inquire about the delay, a passport official called Vander Woude with the shocking news: Her 1956 adoption did not confer citizenship, as she had believed.

Monday, the German Consulate issued Vander Woude a German passport. Two days later, she applied for an updated green card through DHS. On Thursday, she returned to the DHS office to have her passport stamped, allowing her to return to the United States when her trip is over.

When she returns, she will continue to research her citizenship status. Vander Woude said that, despite what the passport office told her, she thinks that legally she might be a U.S. citizen.

“When I come back, I will try to find out a little more detail into some of this,” she said. “Right now, I don’t want to make any waves or anything. Everybody’s been so nice and so helpful.”

Well, I wish her a lot of luck with that. I’m no attorney, but I know her amended Illinois birth certificate is a legalized sham. She may have a lot of paperwork ahead of her, and may never be considered a “natural born” U.S. citizen.

I wrote the Problem Solver and reporter Jon Yates when this article first came out (links provided so you can too), but didn’t receive a response. As I said, this is not an isolated case. But it’s easier, I suppose, for the Trib to pat itself on the back for having helped this one woman than opening a can of worms on behalf of all Illinois adoptees with sealed birth certificates. Too bad they can’t apply the same prowess they’ve shown over the University of Illinois clout scandal. Why not, I wonder? Perhaps because doing so would put them up against the almighty adoption agencies and professionals, who themselves wield considerable clout.

Amended birth certificates are time bombs waiting to go off but, like Ms. Vander Woude, no one wants “to make any waves”.

Media Bias And Late Discovery Adoptees

Another Chicago Tribune article that, on the face of it, does not appear related to adoption until you take a closer look. It’s about a doctor who is helping a homeless man get back on his feet. Scroll down a bit and you’ll see how this is related to adoption:

A talkative man, Atkinson [the homeless man] traces his downward slide to a defining event of his youth: finding out at 18 that his parents had adopted him as an infant. His father had died eight years before; as an only child, he was extremely attached to his mother, who passed away in 1973.

“[She] used to tell me: Whatever you do, Everett, tell the truth. And then I found out, she never told me the truth [while I was growing up] about who I was,” he said, sighing. Atkinson said his drinking and drug use started after he found his biological family — a father who was abusive, a mother who got hurt, and a dozen frightened brothers and sisters.

While I can’t claim to speak for Mr. Atkinson, I understand how he feels. Although I was always told I was adopted, I didn’t find out til my mid-20s that my adoptive father knew the complete details of my adoption including my birth name. I know how much that rocked my world. Imagine what you’d do if you found out as an adult that the people you called parents lied to you your whole life. Your life might take a turn for the worse too.

What annoys me about this article is the skewed way in which it is presented. Little mention is made of his adoptive family, yet many negative details are included about his birth family. To me that second paragraph implies that Mr. Atkinson’s problems stem from the “bad stock” of his birth family rather than from being lied to by his adoptive family. This, despite Mr. Atkinson himself tracing the “defining moment” back to the lie. In fact the reporter makes a point of mentioning that Mr. Atkinson was “extremely attached” to his adoptive mother, as if issuing an apology to any adoptive parents who might be reading, as if excusing the fact that he was lied to. This kind of biased reporting perpetuates the myth that all birth families are teetering on the brink of destruction and to find them is tantamount to destroying your life. Is there any family out there that is perfectly unblemished? Instead the article could have explained that lying to your adoptive child sets them up for emotional difficulties later.

Now, if original birth certificates were available to adoptees in Illinois instead of being sealed, it would not be possible for adoptive parents to lie about their childrens’ origins. People justify sealed records by saying the child should be “protected” from the truth of their biological families. But if this man had grown up knowing he was adopted and knowing about whatever problems his birth family might have had, he would have been able to deal with it slowly and with support rather than having to deal with it on his own when it was dumped on him at the age of 18.

Let this be a lesson for all adoptive families: TELL THE TRUTH! I wish Mr. Atkinson much success in his fresh start on life.

Adoptee Denied Passport Because Of Amended Birth Certificate

This article from the Chicago Tribune illustrates something I’ve written about before: the increasing problems adoptees are increasingly having trying to get legal documents like passports due to their amended birth certificates.

Gabriele VanderWoude was still in diapers when she arrived in the United States, 53 years ago. In 1956, she was issued an Illinois birth certificate after she was adopted by American parents. She later obtained a Social Security number and a voter registration card. She said she has been voting since she turned 18.

Shortly after she applied for the passport, the State Department asked her for more information. She sent copies of her adoption papers, but months later the government asked for more documents. In April, VanderWoude sent a copy of the card showing her entry into the United States.

Thursday afternoon, an official with the passport office in Charleston called VanderWoude with unbelievable news: It could not issue her a passport because she is not a U.S. citizen.

VanderWoude, 55, said she and her mother have always believed she became naturalized when she was adopted 53 years ago.

Sounds to me like this woman was issued an amended (read: legally falsified) Illinois birth certificate upon her adoption. Like many adoptees I, too, have one of these legal fakeries, with no way to obtain the real one. When adoptees are adopted (NOT when we are relinquished) our original birth certificates are sealed and the fake issued in its place. When we request our birth certificates, the fake is the only one we can get. Clearly this document, which we have been assured is “just as good as” the original, is far from it.

We’ve already seen how some adoptees have been unable to use their amended birth certificates to obtain driver’s licenses. This shows how adoptees can also be barred from obtaining passports. Yet the adoption industry continues to claim that it is necessary to seal adoption records, and to put ineffective and expensive mechanisms in place of unfettered access to original birth certificates. Will this woman be forced through the ignominy of the Illinois Adoption Registry or Confidential Intermediary program, in a vain attempt to obtain her original birth certificate? I went that route, and not only did not obtain my original BC but in fact was barred from it forever, or at least until the law changes. Quite frankly I am afraid to try to get a passport or travel outside the country even though I was born here. Ms. VanderWoude and I are both nonpeople solely because we are adopted.

The article continues:

VanderWoude said she still does not understand how she has been able to vote, why she was issued an Illinois birth certificate, or how her residency status was never discovered before.

I know why she received that fake BC: because nobody cares what goes on amended birth certificates. They don’t care how adoptees may be affected by this legal fakery as their lives unfold. It is a means to render the adoption process as opaque as possible, to the sole benefit of adoption agencies and practitioners. Adult adoptees are caught unawares, just trying to go about our lives like everyone else. In short, we are rendered a subclass of society because our original birth certificates are unavailable to us.

Unfortunately I don’t think this woman will have much success. Because she was born overseas, she may have to undergo the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. This is not an isolated problem. Whether born in the U.S. or abroad, adoptees whose records are sealed are at risk. Only when ALL adult adoptees have unrestricted access to our original birth certificates, the only document that counts for anything, will we be equal to our non-adopted peers.

Redacted Adoption Records In Illinois, Part II

Okay, this is really funny, in a gallows humor kind of way. Apparently some wag at the University of Illinois redacted the name of a famous local ballplayer in an overzealous attempt to redact information presented to the Chicago Tribune under the Freedom of Information Act. From the Tribune article:

It looks like the University of Illinois dropped the ball — and violated the spirit of the law — when redacting public documents connected to its shadow admission process for well-connected students.

The e-mail is dated March 2, 2005, the day Santo failed in another bid to enter Cooperstown. U. of I. spokesman Tom Hardy said the employee handling the redactions didn’t know who Santo was and assumed he was a rejected student.

“I know it may surprise the Tribune and die-hard Cubs fans, but Ron Santo is apparently not a household name,” Hardy said.

This is a wonderful example of how arbitrary and capricious the redaction process can be. Mistakes like this happen ALL THE TIME when adoptees and birth relatives try to access records. Except we typically don’t have the clout (heh!) that an organization like the Tribune has to fight it.

We don’t need uninformed office workers redacting stuff willy-nilly from adoption records, because when mistakes are made, there are often no second chances. We need transparency in access, a clear-cut mechanism that treats everyone equally whether adoption is involved or not. And guess what? We already have one: the same process everyone else uses to access birth certificates. Illinois should eliminate conditional access in favor of legislation like Maine’s, which restores adult adoptee rights to unmodified, unredacted original birth certificates. Anything less is a strikeout against our civil rights.

Like Adoption Records, This Headline Redacted For Privacy

The Chicago Tribune has published numerous articles about what they refer to as the State Of Corruption in Illinois. One of their exposes is on clout-based admissions at the University of Illinois. To that end, they published an editorial about the attempts of their journalists to gain records under the Freedom of Information Act. Their experience will resonate with any adoptee, birth mother or other relative who’s tried to gain access to adoption records.

The ongoing series, “Clout Goes to College,” doesn’t identify the applicants. Cohen didn’t ask for their names, nor did she expect they would be released. The privacy provisions White alludes to require the university to redact identifiers such as names and Social Security numbers before releasing the documents.

But the 1,800 pages of documents eventually surrendered by the university went far beyond that. Applicants’ test scores, grades and class ranks were blacked out, for example. That information wouldn’t identify specific students, but it would show how far the rules were bent to admit them.

Names and positions of third-party players who lobbied trustees on behalf of an applicant also are marked out, as are references to people who are clearly public officials themselves. That information wouldn’t compromise the privacy of individual students. It’s not exempt.

In countless other instances, information is blacked out or pages are missing, with no explanation or clue as to what is being withheld. Asked to justify those redactions, the university flatly refused. “Your request would mean that the Illinois FOIA requires us, in response to any inquiry by a requesting party, to go line by line, word by word and explain why each redaction was made,” general counsel Thomas Bearrows wrote.

Actually, that is what the law requires. The law says release the information or explain why it’s exempt. There are two reasons for that: to ensure that the university is basing its denial on a good faith interpretation of the law, and to provide the requester with a basis to challenge the denial.

When I read this I could only give a cynical laugh. The Tribune is tasting the bitter pill that Illinois adoptees and their birth relatives have swallowed for decades.

When The Powers That Be want to keep things secret, they use the magic word “private.” Information is redacted regardless of laws that specify what can and can not be revealed. I ran into this during my ill-fated experience with the Illinois Confidential Intermediary Program. As I described in my post, “Caveat Emptor On Confidential Intermediary Programs“:

Just about everything is “confidential,” but what exactly constitutes “confidential” is equally unclear. Officially, it’s what’s in the Illinois Adoption Act, 750 ILCS 50, Section 18. But in reality it’s whatever the [Illinois Confidential Intermediary] program decides it is.

For example, details were redacted from my birth mother’s letters, such as my maternal grandfather’s age of death, which are listed nowhere in the Illinois Adoption Act as being “identifying.” Similarly, I received mixed signals as to whether or not I was permitted to receive copies of the correspondence sent to my birth mother (redacted for identifying information). When contact was first made, I asked for and received the first letter [the program] sent to her. But later, when I asked for copies of additional correspondence (again, redacted for identifying info), it suddenly became “confidential.” Perhaps it’s only “confidential” when you begin to question the process.

Interestingly, program policies and procedures are also “confidential” – to the public as well as to participants. If you’re not allowed to know what steps have been taken in your search, how are you supposed to know if you’re getting what you paid for?

I’m glad to see the Tribune experiencing the same sorts of ridiculous redactions the rest of us have, because maybe it will encourage them to respond to complaints concerning adoption records access. So far, the Trib’s stance on transparency in Illinois government has not included adoption records. Questions on their public forum concerning adoptee birth certificates went unacknowledged by their editors. So, too, have requests for some sunshine to be let into the dark recesses of Illinois adoption politics. The Tribune has invited Illinois citizens to inform them where this state of corruption needs to be cleaned up, and has made a point of supporting causes that might seem like small potatoes. I would like to encourage them and other Illinois-based media to examine how adoption records access works, or doesn’t, in this state. And if you believe in equality, I would like to encourage you to contact the Tribune and others and urge them to support unrestricted adoption records access.

Those affected by adoption should have the exact same access to records as everyone else. Equality for all is the only equitable solution!

Illinois: Comments Needed On Birth Certificates

From the Green Ribbon Campaign For Open Records:

Feel free to forward:

http://forum.chicagotribune.com/vmix_hosted_apps/forums/948/Illinois/

Comment now. No telling how long this will be allowed to remain in place. Illinois residents will speak most effectively but all comments are welcome.

Note to natural parents — tell them that not all of you are hiding from the adoptee you relinquished!

Green Ribbon Campaign for Open Records

When Adopted Parents Control Knowledge

There are too many instances when adopted parents have the ability to control knowledge necessary to adoptees, even after those adoptees become adults. Sometimes the adopted parents are in positions of power: judges, attorneys, influential members of the community. But all adopted parents, just by being present at the time of adoption, have vital information about the adoptee, and sometimes that information is withheld from the person to whom it pertains the most.

Older kids may have verbal memories, but those of us adopted as infants are left with only pre-verbal hints at our origins. Late-Discovery Adoptees, those who don’t learn their status until adulthood, often go through life feeling like they were adopted even though the people around them insist they’re not. The revelation comes as a betrayal, yet also a relief: your adopted family lied, but your instincts were correct. I’m not an LDA but I can understand those feelings.

I was always told, growing up, that I was adopted. That’s one thing my adopted parents did right, although looking back I’m quite surprised they did. I am not a transracial adoptee so it would have been easy to pretend otherwise. I was also told I was born in Chicago (we lived in Ohio). Those two snippets were the only ones my adopted parents offered and, because the subject was never to be discussed, I learned not to ask. Until I got married and discovered my adopted parents’ betrayal.

In obtaining my marriage license I had to do something I had never needed to do before: obtain a copy of my birth certificate. So my fiance and I headed over to the courthouse (we live in Illinois) and I stood in line like the normal people. I had no idea that this would be the day I learned I was not an adoptee, but a bastard. In obtaining my amended (read: legally falsified) birth certificate, I discovered not only was I born in Chicago, but in the very town where I ended up going to college years later. The realization that I’d strolled the sidewalks, shopped with friends, seen Terminator 2 across the street from where my birth mother gave me up twenty years previously was more than I could handle. Talk about Judgement Day. I demanded to know everything my adoptive father knew. He maintained he had no further information. Five years later I received a second betrayal when I found out he was the attorney who sealed my adoption file.

It’s hard to fathom the implications of these unexpected and disturbing discoveries. As the attorney, my adopted father had access to absolutely everything, from my original birth certificate right on down to the rest of my super-secret adoption file. A file, I might add, that is supposedly sealed to protect all parties. But when the adopted parents do the sealing? That pretty much demonstrates that sealed records are only for the adopted parents’ benefit, doesn’ t it?

Here’s the anatomy of a gray market adoption. My birth mother’s consent was taken by an Illinois attorney who was a colleague of the delivery doctor. The delivery doctor was college buddies with my adopted father, which is how the latter found out about me. The adoption was finalized by my adopted father in Ohio, his state of residence. He knew my name, and my mother’s name, and he lied to me about it my whole life. When adult me came along demanding answers, he had already made sure the doors were shut, nailed, and painted over.

Possibly even to the point of interfering with my adult attempts to gain access. Before I petitioned the court, my adoptive father called them “in an effort to be helpful,” he claimed. Bear in mind I was close to thirty years old and had been estranged from him for many years. He had never, ever gone out of his way to answer my questions, and I certainly did not want him barging in on what I felt was a matter between me and the court. Now, he wasn’t famous or anything but he was a reasonably well-known attorney in the area, what I think of as a big fish in a small pond. Likely the people at the court knew of him, if not personally then by reputation. Did that fact, and/or his phone call, have any influence on their decision to deny my petition? This particular court is known for never opening adoption records, possibly because the judge seems highly against it (in yet another example where a single person’s personal opinion may affect records access).

There is no other entity to whom I may go to gain access to my sealed information. Illinois has my original birth certificate but not the adoption file, and my birth mother is the one who’s blocked my access there through filing the denial of contact. (Whether she knows that’s what she’s done is a question only she or the Illinois Confidential Intermediary Program can answer.) I am therefore completely limboed, in two states by two sets of parents. I think as a middle aged woman I ought to be able to get my own birth certificate without having to ask Mom-And-Dad-Who-Disowned-Me or Mom-Who-Relinquished-Me. When I got my kids’ BCs I made a dozen copies and put them in big fat folders marked “FOR (child’s name)”. My kids won’t even have to stand in line to get what is rightfully theirs.

Here are more questions I’d like answered. According to the process in Ohio and most closed-records states, in the case of a private adoption where no agency was involved, an adult adoptee seeking non-identifying info is to ask the attorney who finalized the adoption. Except in my case that would be my adopted father. Why is that allowed? And why doesn’t anyone give a rat’s ass how WRONG is it for adopted parents to have this level of control? We adoptees are at their mercy. If they want to lie they will, and there are no checks and balances to prevent it.

When I read Vanessa’s heartbreaking story on FirstMotherForum.com, I could only shake my head sadly at the brainwashing conducted by the adopted parents on her son. He believes it’s “God’s will” that he was adopted. Truth is, his a-‘rents reneged on an open adoption agreement with his mother and skipped town when he was six. That is going to be one hell of an angry adoptee in a few years. As I remarked on the forum:

Let this be a lesson to all adopted parents: Lying is a ticket to losing your adopted adult (I won’t say child) forever. And this is why records should be unconditionally open to participants. Too many adopted parents have the ability to brainwash adoptees into believing whatever they’re told.

No one should ever be put in the position of depending upon an biased party for their information. Yet most adoptees, even as adults, are at dependent upon our adopted parents when it comes to the truths of our backgrounds. This is not only unnecessary but cruel. I would go so far to say that it creates a legal impediment to the success of adopted families, by putting adopted parents into the untenable position of being both parents and information-keepers. We need a process that allows unbiased access to records, and the only way to achieve that is to restore records access to participants. That means adult adoptee access to original birth certificates. It also means birth mother/father/relative access to records, and complete transparency throughout the adoption process. Everyone with equal access. Everyone on equal footing.

To parents, adopted or otherwise, we are only the custodians of our childrens’ pasts and we have no right to hinder their knowledge of it once they become adults. If you put your own insecurities first, don’t be surprised when your disgruntled bastards turn the tables. That is the fate of families who attempt to build relationships on lies instead of the truth. And if you are an adoptee who has been ignored, misled, denied or outright lied to… my friends, this candle is for you.

The Plutocracy: Are Illinois Adoptees Lower Than A Chunk Of Rock?

Illinois lawmakers always seem too busy to listen to the need for equality in adoption records access. Of all the letters I have sent I can count the number of replies, including autoresponders, on one hand. Yet our Senate has time to tend to poor Pluto’s demotion from planetary status.

I’m all for supporting a fellow bastard, be it person or planet, but this says to me that my legislators care more about some frozen chunk of rock’s rights than mine. To say I am disgusted is an understatement. If they can make time for Pluto with everything (bleeping golden!) going on in our state government, they better make time to listen to ALL voices of adoption, not just those who happen to be well-connected.

Word on the street is that it’s open season on Illinois adoption records access. Several bills have been filed including some from Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, the state’s go-to person on adoption and also the creator of Illinois’ conditional “leave ’em behind” legislation. If things go the way they did last year with the odious HB 4623, we won’t find out what’s truly in these bills until the chance for public comment is over. In fact, the Illinois House’s Adoption Reform Committee–the people who flip the coin on Illinois adoptees–has already evaluated several records-related bills. Go over to www.ilga.gov and search for “adoption”. What the committee approves, the rest of the legislature often follows, because the only voices they (choose to) hear are those of “professionals” who claim to speak for every single adoptee and birth relative in creation.

Consider this advance testimony from an Illinois citizen left behind. I call upon our lawmakers to restore the right of adult adoptees to access their original birth certificates without restriction or third-party interference. I want to go to the courthouse and plunk down my $15 like anybody else, and I want each and every one of my fellow adult adoptees to be able to do the same.

If you agree, post your comments here and write our lawmakers to let them know we declare NO COMPROMISE on the civil rights of Illinois adoptees. And you might want to add that it’d be nice if they gave us as least as much consideration as Pluto.

Compromise Legislation: Why Some Adoptees And Not Others?

Why is it we are seeing such a rash lately of people willing to compromise on adoption records access?

First, let me direct you to the primer: Bastard Nation’s position paper on conditional access legislation. Read it. Love it. Hug it to your pillow. I’ve written about conditional legislation on this blog before, and it’s like spitting into the hailstorm of adoption reform.

We’ve got the California situation, which I don’t know much about except to say that if it’s got BB Church out of retirement it must be important. I would also like to send a big shout-out to CalOpen for their declaration of no compromise. We have Indiana legislators disdaining adoptee rights, the National Cashgrabbers For Adoption spewing bile, and it seems like a lot of us are wondering the same thing: Why are some adoptees worthy and not others? Baby Love Child started thinking about Disney’s Stitch and I started thinking about Stargate Command’s motto: We never leave our people behind.

Not when we’re tired. Not when we’re ordered to. Not when our people turn out to be aliens hypnotizing us to think they’re part of our team. Not even when we think our teammates are dead or Ascended or replicated into robots. We don’t leave them behind. Ever.

Like Baby Love Child I am one of Ohio’s “sandwich” adoptees: my birthday falls into the dates arbitrarily chosen by the state as having little to no access to records. To make matters worse I was born in another state (Illinois), so both states toss me to the other like refuse neither wants. I am also one of the have-nots; my birth mothers has filed the denial of contact, which under current Illinois law denies me access to my original birth certificate. But I do know an Illinois-born adoptee who, unlike me, has succeeded in getting her information. She’s Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, the person who created the registry and mandatory intermediary programs. At the moment she’s a little busy reaching for a promotion: now-Chief Of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s congressional seat. Adoption has been a stepping stone to her success. How can an adoptee sleep at night knowing he or she has information at the cost of fellow adoptees’ chance at the same?

After a few wakeful nights (hence not much blogging), I came up with a theory. Maybe even bastards need to bastardize someone.

Isn’t that what conditional legislation does? Pits adoptees against one another, turns us (again!) into guinea pigs racing on the experimental wheel of adoption. The facts of our origins are dangled like tasty tidbits if we only sell out our fellow lab rats. I was under this spell when I thought getting the Illinois CI program to accept interstate adoptees was actually helping my fellow adoptees. Now I know what it’s like to be left behind. Every society needs its lepers, its outcasts. Maybe bastardizing fellow bastards makes some adoptees feel good about themselves. It reaffirms their status as Good Adoptees, practiced players of the Adoption Game, in contrast to their Bad Adoptee counterparts, the ungrateful question-askers. I see a similar trend with our mothers. Good Birth Mothers make no waves. Bad ones dare think about their surrendered offspring or (egads!) search for them, and the REALLY bad ones have the audacity to voice their opinions on adoption themselves rather than letting people like the NCFA do it for them.

The same flawed logic used by secretkeepers to attack adoption reformers is also used by compromisers against those who won’t leave their teammates behind:

  • We fail to understand the political climate of [insert state].
    Actually we understand it fine. What works in Maine and Oregon can work elsewhere. There is no reason to settle for less, unless the primary objective is to make money off post-adoption services or otherwise support the highly corrupt and financially flailing adoption industry. Is that the real reason some people are okay with conditional access? If adult adoptees were treated equally, we would pay our small sum to the secretary of state like everyone else instead of pouring hundreds and thousands in the coffers of intermediaries and attorneys.
  • We don’t understand that small steps have to be taken.
    To quote the Fourth Doctor, a little patience goes a long way; too much patience goes absolutely nowhere. Or if you prefer: When you keep dividing a number by half you will never get to zero. You will end up dividing by half for infinity. The analogy in adoption is conditional legislation that takes up dozens of pages instead of one straightforward sentence. Do you want to legislate for each and every special case? Because there are no standard adoptions, no rules, just one great big hodgepodge of interstate and international adoptions. Keep trying if you want, Sisyphus, but it’s pointless. There is only one way to treat all participants in all adoptions the same and that is to equalize access.
  • Our birth mothers want privacy.
    How many times do we have to say it? There was NEVER any written guarantee of birth mother privacy. As the EBD said in For The Records:

    There has been scant evidence that birthmothers were explicitly promised anonymity from the children they relinquished for adoption. Relinquishment documents provided to courts that have heard challenges to states’ new “open records” laws do not contain any such promises. To the extent that adoption professionals might have verbally made such statements, courts have found that they were contrary to state law and cannot be considered legally binding.

    No one has EVER been able to find documented proof of this so-called promise. The EBD couldn’t find it. The NCFA can’t find it, because if they had you know they would be trotting it out at every opportunity. Yet people talk about “birth mother privacy” as if it’s chiseled in stone. It’s the adoptive families and adoption agencies who want privacy. Our birth moms were treated like dirt and told if they breathed a word about the deplorable treatment they received, God would smite them down in their shameful unwed shoes.

    We are all adults and perfectly capable of discussing matters between ourselves without a bunch of therapists, lawyers and politicians peeping over our shoulders. To be honest it really isn’t anyone’s business unless they are directly involved, adoptee or family. The fact that so many outsiders want to “help” us is voyeuristic, don’t you think?

  • We’re selfish.
    This is bastardizing bastards at its core: You Are Not Worthy. Why is it selfish to want the same thing everyone else has: unrestricted access to one’s unaltered birth certificate? Why is it selfish to stand up for oneself and others? That seems to be especially true when you’re adopted, and doubly so when you’re one of the denied. The usual reaction people have when they find out my birth mother requested no contact is, “Then why are you still searching?” Um, because I still have no answers? Because I’m still treated like a second-class citizen of the state in which I was born? Because my amended birth certificate is a bald-faced lie? My right to my information is completely separate and apart from any relationship my mother and I may or may not choose to pursue. But apparently once the state tells me she said “no” (I have only their word for it) I am supposed to crawl back to my bastard lair or become the penultimate pariah in our adoption-happy society. Even the lowliest SG teams are worthy of rescue by the great SG-1; we don’t leave our people behind just because they’re not bigwigs or pals with General Hammond’s favorite golfing buddy. That’s how adoption records access currently works (sadly, it’s also how adoption works).
  • We’re playing the “victim card.”
    A corollary to the Selfish Theorem. Adoptees had no say in the matters that shaped their lives. This is a fact, not a whine for sympathy. There really are victims of adoption, anyone who thinks otherwise has blinders on. In fact I would submit that we are all victims of adoption in one way or another, those of us involved and society as a whole.
  • We need therapy.
    Corollary #2. This is a convenient way to dismiss the subject, push it under the rug, hand recalcitrant adoptees off to highly paid specialists and wash one’s hands of the entire matter. It does not address an adult adoptee’s right to access his or her original birth certificate.

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

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