Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing: Adoptee Voices Negated In Discussion Of Illinois HB 5428

From Adoption Reform Illinois:
HB 5428 has passed the House and Senate. Our goal now turns to stopping it at the Governor’s desk. Please contact Illinois Governor Pat Quinn NOW and ask him not to sign this bill into law. This bill has been touted as restoring the rights of adult adoptees–but equality should be for ALL adoptees.
Time is of the essence so calls are best, but anything you can do will help.
Talking points when contacting the Governor:
* Identity is identity, whether you are adopted or not.
* ALL adoptees, all people, deserve equal treatment under the law.
* The state of Illinois cannot afford to waste money on this expensive and ineffective bill.
Office of the Governor
Pat Quinn
207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706
Phone: 217-782-0244
TTY: 888-261-3336
There is also a web form:

HB 5428 has been slipped through the Illinois legislative process faster than bran muffins through your digestive tract. As of today the bill has passed the Senate and is on its way to the Governor’s desk. Please see contact info above and ask Gov. Quinn to veto this bill.
This bill has been portrayed as a “victory” for adoptee rights. If that is so, why were adoptee voices so completely negated in its discussion? Why the secrecy surrounding the bill? Why grease it through the process?
The answer is because this bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. HB 5428 grants some adoptees access at the expense of others. Sponsor Rep. Sara Feigenholtz and her BFF Melisha Mitchell (paid searcher and presumed author of the bill) say that only a very few people will be denied access under this bill. But, as I said before regarding my first-hand experience at the Senate Judiciary Commitee hearing:

What’s ironic is that she [Sara Feigenholtz] was all about the rights of adoptees. The good news is, the legislators are starting to understand why adoptee rights are important. Feigenholtz’s testimony was full of the message we want to get across: why adoptees deserve the same rights as everyone else, why lack of access is discriminatory, etc. The bad news is that HB 5428, like everything else Feigenholtz has introduced, fails to fulfill that. If everyone deserves equal rights, then EVERYONE deserves equal rights, bar none. But Feigenholtz is very good at convincing people that it’s okay for the lizards to eat a few humans if the rest get to survive.

The voices of adoptees, first mothers, and other interested parties have not been heard:
  • The bill was introduced under cover of secrecy. No one knew it existed except those of us on the lookout. Only one tiny article was original posted about it and that in a St. Louis newspaper. If this is really about adoptee rights why didn’t Feigenholtz have a great big press conference when she introduced her bill? Because she knew that would only invite public discussion and opposition. She wanted it passed under the radar.
  • Important dates concerning the bill have been fudged or conveniently not posted until the last minute. On Sunday, March 21st, as I was updating the Adoption Reform Illinois web site, I checked the status of the bill. It said it had received second reading in the House on 3/18/10 and was up for third reading on 3/23/10. The very next morning I received a news item saying the bill had passed the House. When I checked the status again, it had been retroactively changed to say the bill had passed the House on 3/18/10 and arrived in the Senate that same day. Mention of a third reading in the House on 3/23/10 was eliminated. This is not a mistake or merely failure to include all relevant information. You don’t say a bill is up for another reading on 3/23/10 if it’s already passed on 3/18/10.
  • Adoptees were shut out of testifying at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on 4/13/10. The bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. A. J. Wilhelmi, was allowed to pick who got to testify. While three people testified for the bill, only one adoptee was permitted to testify against and her testimony was misconstrued as supporting the bill instead of opposing it.
  • The bill was voted upon without the Senate Judiciary Committee taking the time to read the submitted written testimony, which included many letters from adoptees, first mothers and others opposing this bill.
  • The bill was then whiplashed through the Senate. Committee hearing 4/13/10, second reading 4/20/10, third reading 4/21/10 and vote that same day.
Again, why silence the voices of opposition? Because all the major adoption reform organizations are against this bill. Sara Feigenholtz and her fellow wolves knew that if the sheep found out what was really going on they would band together and successfully oppose, as we did against HB 4623 in 2008. The only way to pass her bastardizing legislation was to shroud it in secrecy.

News media, like our legislators, has accepted Token Adoptee Feigenholtz’s word that this legislation is a “victory” for adoptees. The coverage of opposition (for example here, here and here) has been largely ignored. The St. Louis Dispatch didn’t even mention their own article concerning opposition in their coverage of the bill’s Senate passage.
I ask our legislators and the media: If this bill really is about adoptee rights, why are so many adoptees against it? If it’s true, as Sara Feigenholtz testified at the Judiciary Committee hearing, that access to one’s original birth certificate is “a human right,” that “the laws that protected [us] from society inadvertently protected [us] from each other,” then why do we need 80 pages to restore rights that Maine did in two pages and Oregon did in a single paragraph?
Answer: Because HB 5428 is not about adoptee rights. Please understand this. You have been deceived by the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Look under the skin at what is really going on here.
This is the testimony I submitted on behalf of Adoption Reform Illinois. Please contact Gov. Quinn TODAY and ask him to oppose HB 5428.
As representative of Adoption Reform Illinois, and as an adult adoptee who has used the Confidential Intermediary program, I come to attest that fiscally and morally, we must oppose HB 5428.
To single out people for different treatment is to create an unconstitutional minority. There’s a difference between the right to identity and search or reunion. Mothers can say no to contact without signing a binding veto that prevents adoptees from obtaining their original birth certificates.
This bill criminalizes adoptees for what non-adopted people call “genealogy.” Meanwhile, it holds the state harmless for mistakes and mandates a slap on the wrist for intermediaries who break the rules.
Some adoptees cannot afford the CI program, or are not accepted into it. The sole entity contracted to provide these services has pre-approval over petitions before the judge sees them. Worse, there is no oversight nor accountability. The advisory group proposed in this bill is stacked with entities that benefit financially from adoption. The bill enshrines mutual consent registries in law even though they have been shown not to work.
My experience is a case study in how the process can fail. My application was initially rejected because I was adopted out of state. After hiring an attorney and gaining admission, I found the program fatally flawed. The CI program refuses to disclose its procedures, so there is no way to determine what is being done on one’s behalf. When my identifying information was disclosed without my consent, I had no higher authority to which I could appeal.
The Child Welfare League supports the rights of adult adoptees. Research from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute shows that restoration of adoptee rights “is a matter of legal equality, ethical practice and, on a human level, basic fairness.”
Regardless of one’s opinion on adoptee rights, Illinois cannot afford to spend unnecessary funds. On that basis alone, HB 5428 should be opposed. Restoring adult adoptee access results in no spending increase. The state could actually make money by allowing adult adoptees to use the same procedures as everyone else.
We hope you will work with us to restore equality for all Illinois citizens regardless of adoptive status. Thank you again for your time.

Leaving Adoptees Behind: My Experience At The Illinois HB 5428 Hearing

From Adoption Reform Illinois:

Illinois HB 5428 has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. It will be heard in the Senate today, Thursday April 15, 2010. Please contact the Illinois Senate NOW and ask them to oppose. This bill has been touted as restoring the rights of adult adoptees–but equality should be for ALL adoptees. HB 5428 divides adoptees into haves and have-nots leaving some behind. This is discriminatory and unjust.
Talking points when contacting legislators:
* Identity is identity, whether you are adopted or not.
* ALL adoptees, all people, deserve equal treatment under the law.
* The state of Illinois cannot afford to waste money on this expensive and ineffective bill.
Contact info for senators available on our web site:
or the ILGA web site:

As many of you know, I went to Springfield this week to testify against Illinois HB 5428, a bill that claims to support adoptee rights while doing the exact opposite. If you still think compromise legislation is the answer — if you think it’s okay to leave some adoptees behind — please take something away from my experience.
Going to Springfield was not an easy decision. I have two small children, a business to run, and limited finances, but I felt obligated to go not only for myself but on behalf of those unable to make it. So on a gorgeous spring morning I packed up a cooler of caffiene, downloaded my Weird Al Yankovic collection to my iPod, and headed out. (Nothing like Weird Al to keep you entertained on the flat, soporific stretch between Chicago and Bloomington-Normal.)
I brought with me the testimony of many birth mothers, adoptees, and others who, like me, believe that any legislation that leaves some adoptees behind is bad for everyone. A big thank you to those who sent letters, wished me luck, or otherwise supported me personally and the Adoption Reform Illinois coalition I went to represent.
First thing I learned: Parking in Springfield SUCKS.
Second thing: The staff at the Capitol are super-nice. From the security guards who pointed me in the right direction to the elderly gentleman manning the door of the room in which the meeting was held, they helped make my trip just a little smoother.

That’s where the niceties end. Once the meeting started I began to get that sinking feeling you get when you’re watching the original V and the spaceships show up. You want to scream: “They’re lizards in human skins!” but everyone wants to believe that the kindly Visitors are here to help. Except they’re not, and you’re on the menu.
HB 5428 was the first bill heard, because there were “so many people from out of town and out of state.” Senator A.J. Wilhelmi, Judiciary Committee Chairperson and Senate sponsor of HB 5428, yielded the chair to Senator Don Harmon so he could sit in the hot seat with Sara Feigenholtz and Rep. Terrence Martin of Alaska, who was brought in by the Feigenholtz team as a proponent of the bill.
When you arrive you sign a little slip that says who you are, who you represent, whether you’re pro or con and if you want to submit oral and/or written testimony. Harmon read off the list of these people. Proponents: Terrance Martin, the organization Shiva Siv (sp?), Linda Coon from the Chicagoland Bar Association, Julie Tye of The Cradle (an adoption agency), Melisha Mitchell of the American Adoption Congress (sic), George Rudis of Illinois Dept. of Public Health (who runs the Illinois registry), a representative of DCFS. Opponents: Tom Nolan, Christopher Brown (husband of adoptee Gay Brown), Gay Brown, Mary Lynn Fuller of Illinois Open, Rev. Bob Vanderberg of Concerned Christians America, Mary Dixon of the ACLU, Ralph Rivera of Right To Life, and me for Adoption Reform Illinois sponsored by the Green Ribbon Campaign For Open Records.
Senator Wilhelmi started off by expounding on all the “good” Sara Feigenholtz has done for adoptee rights and what an honor it’s been to work with her. Everyone sees her as a “champion” of adoptee rights, except those of us left behind by her compromises. Then he turned it over to Feigenholtz who talked about “wearing her heart on her sleeve” and “begging for human rights.” She whined about being called a “traitor to the Adoption Reform Movement” but felt that she was striking a balance by honoring the voice of the majority. Small consolation to those in the minority.
For those of you reading, if you don’t already know: I am in that minority. My birth mother has filed the denial of contact. So hearing that it’s okay for people like me to be left out so others can have access does not sit well with me. And I speak as someone who used to believe that intermediaries were the answer, that compromise was necessary and fair, until I got screwed by the process and realized that it’s really all about politics, influence, and making money off adoption records access. All of this became even more clear to me as I sat and listened to the committee meeting.
Feigenholtz pointed out that confidentiality is a myth because adoptive parents can obtain the decree of adoption which states the birth parent names on it. This became quite a contentious point later. She also mentioned that if a child surrendered for adoption is not adopted, the record is never sealed, and that some adoptive parents choose not to seal the file.
What’s ironic is that she was all about the rights of adoptees. The good news is, the legislators are starting to understand why adoptee rights are important. Feigenholtz’s testimony was full of the message we want to get across: why adoptees deserve the same rights as everyone else, why lack of access is discriminatory, etc. The bad news is that HB 5428, like everything else Feigenholtz has introduced, fails to fulfill that. If everyone deserves equal rights, then EVERYONE deserves equal rights, bar none. But Feigenholtz is very good at convincing people that it’s okay for the lizards to eat a few humans if the rest get to survive.
Rep. Martin of Alaska spoke of his experience in an orphanage in Baltimore and his struggle to gain access to his origins. “It’s all about truth,” he said. Julie Tye of the Cradle spoke about how adoptees aren’t trying to “stalk” birth parents. “They don’t do that,” she said. No one mentioned the adoptees left behind by this legislation. Next, Senator Harmon allowed Senator Wilhelmi to choose who got to testify and suggested he pick one person from each of the two opposing camps: those who feel the bill goes too far (e.g. Right to Life, ACLU) and those who feel it doesn’t go far enough (like Adoption Reform Illinois). I thought this was inappropriate because it allowed the sponsors of the bill to choose who got to speak.
Ralph Rivera of the Right To Life movement got his ass handed to him over the matter of purported confidentiality because it had already been established that adoptive parents have access to the birth parent names via the adoption decree. He doesn’t like the retrospective aspect of the legislation although he would be fine if it were prospective, in other words if birth mothers got to choose at the time of relinquishment if they want later contact. Yeah, yet another thing to burden a woman who’s immediately post-partum; a lifetime decision on contact. Ms. Dixon of the ACLU questioned whether adoptive parents actually know the birth parents’ names and pointed out that adoptive parents almost always opt for sealed records. (I bet most of them are never told there is a choice.)
Something Ms. Dixon said is important for every adoptee. She spoke of the legislative intent of sealing records from the general public — and said that the adult adoptee IS INCLUDED in the general public. She didn’t share what she’d been smoking.
Next they called oral testimony from someone who believes the bill doesn’t go far enough. That person was Gay Brown, an adoptee who flew in from New Jersey to testify. She spoke of her need for birth certificate access because of her medical condition in which she needed to be tested for the breast cancer gene. Her insurance wouldn’t cover it because she couldn’t prove anyone in her family has it. She said, “Answers could save my life, and my daughters’.”
With respect to Gay, medical necessity is a red herring that only encourages legislators to opt for conditional legislation. Because if all we need is medical, then it’s easy to condone things like registries and confidential intermediaries, even though they’re expensive and not available to everyone. It’s easy to say, “Okay, we’ll give you the information, but only if it’s redacted.” It’s easy to continue to deny our civil rights to access our original birth certificates.
My biggest disappointment was when Senator Harmon asked Gay, “As Senator John Cullerton [Sara Feigenholtz’s mentor and current Senate President] used to say, do you think this bill is bad, or is it better than we have now?” She said, “Perhaps,” and they swung right into the vote. In other words, the oral testimony that was supposed to reinforce the position that everyone deserves equal rights was basically negated.
The committee voted without reading any of the submitted written testimony, and the measure passed 6-3. Voting for were Don Harmon (“Step in the right direction”), Ira Silverstein (a sponsor), Terry Link (spoke of his experience as an adoptive uncle and favorably toward the concept of adoptee rights), Michael Noland (“the benefit to society outweights the possible detriment to birth parents”), Kwame Raoul, and Edward Maloney. Voting against were Randall Hultgren, Kirk Dillard (“I’m not ready to be on board this bill, but after meeting with my constituents I might change my mind”), and Matt Murphy. There were two abstentions (I believe Dale Righter and William Haine).
The second reading in the Senate is today, April 15th. This thing is being lubricated through the process as quickly as possible because Sara Feigenholtz and her allies know that time allows opposition.
Once again, I find myself not only fighting people who believe adoptees have no rights but also those who believe in adoptee rights but think conditional access is okay and we can go back and fix it later. What if there isn’t a later? Don’t you think they will grandfather in anybody who’s had a disclosure veto filed against them? My rights may be gone for the rest of my lifetime, but I’ll be damned if I sit by and allow it to happen. I encourage those of you in other states to think long and hard before agreeing to compromise. You may never get another chance, and you are selling out your fellow adoptees and possibly yourself in the process.
All people deserve equal, unfettered access to their original birth certificates without having to go through expensive and ineffective intermediaries. As I said, the legislators understand why adoptee rights are important. What they don’t get — because they haven’t had the opportunity to listen to anyone other than the Feigenholtz team — is that rights belong to everyone, without exception.
Post-meeting fun: meeting Sara Feigenholtz and her right-hand gal Melisha Mitchell in person. Melisha says she reads everything people say about adoption reform in Illinois, so let me say a big online howdy and hope you’re enjoying my blog.
Please contact the Illinois Senators TODAY and ask them to vote NO on HB 5428. Ask them to enact legislation that truly honors the civil rights of ALL adoptees. Use Maine as an example. And speaking of Maine, a big shout-out to Paula Benoit who took time out of her busy life to submit written testimony and coach me on speaking to legislators.

Compromising On Adoptee Access? The Foot You Shoot May Be Your Own

I wrote this as a response to the news that Missouri has enacted a compromise bill for adult adoptee original birth certificate (OBC) access. I really wish people would understand that compromise legislation is a ploy to get us to shut up and go away. You never know if you yourself may be the one vetoed out of your own rights.
If you are thinking of supporting a bill, please understand what these compromises actually mean. Insist upon clean bills, every time, no exceptions.
What I said was:
While I appreciate all the hard work those involved have done to enact this bill [in Missouri], baby steps and compromises are not a fair solution. So-called “disclosure vetoes” such as the one in this new MO law require adoptees to get approval from their birth mothers before they can have their original birth certificates. Disclosure vetoes are sometimes phrased as “contact preferences”, but if it is binding on adoptees and prevents them from accessing their OBCs, it’s a veto.
This is unequal and a blow to the civil rights of adoptees. No one else needs such approval. The fact is that “baby steps” end up stopping at step one. No state that has enacted compromise legislation like this has ever revisited it. The legislators consider it a done deal and don’t want to revisit. Speaking from experience, a system like this does NOT work. The people typically in charge of it are often political allies of those who enact it. In other words, it’s a way to make money off adoptees, again. For example in Illinois the people who run the program are political allies of the legislator who enacted it, and make six figure salaries off babysitting adoptees and their birth families.
Compromise legislation is neither right nor fair. ALL citizens, regardless of adoptive status, deserve the same equal treatment. That means ALL adult adoptees should be able to access their original birth certificates in the same manner, and for the same reasonable fees, as everyone else.
Forgive me but this strikes close to home. I am an adult adoptee who has been denied her original birth certificate because of Illinois’ disclosure veto. I personally could not look at myself in the mirror if I got my OBC via a law that meant the adoptees in front of or behind me were unable to get theirs. We must all stand together and insist upon our civil rights instead of falling for cleverly-worded “solutions”. This is a political gimmick to lure you into thinking you are restoring your rights when you are really shooting yourself (and others) in the foot. Please think about and understand what compromise legislation means. It means you get your information at someone else’s expense. It means you yourself could very easily be the one left behind. You won’t know until you try to access your OBC and discover that you’re one of the “small percentage” that got bit by a veto.
It is perfectly possible to enact clean legislation. Other states like Maine have done it. You have to take the higher ground, insist on clean bills, and kill the bill if it is amended with a disclosure veto. South Dakota just went through that and I admire the South Dakota SEAL group for vowing to kill the bill they worked so hard for if it was compromised.
For every state that enacts a compromise, it makes it that much more difficult to enact clean legislation elsewhere. This is why we have not made more progress in opening records, because people are willing to fall for these compromises. Working together is paramount. Access must be equal, across the board. I have no problem with true contact preferences, those that allow birth families to state their preference while still allowing the adoptee to obtain his/her OBC (versus a binding veto, whatever it might be called). The notion that such preferences must be binding assumes that all adoptees are potential stalkers, which is demeaning and discriminatory. There is a vast difference between search/reunion and the right to one’s identity. The former is a decision that families must make among themselves. The latter should be a basic right of all human beings. Missouri’s bill is a tragedy for those who will be left behind.
One thing I would like to mention is that I do actually have a problem with true contact preferences (those that are not binding on the adoptee). Namely, that is that it is too easy for what begins as a “preference” to become a binding veto. Politicians are confused as to the difference between a contact preference and a disclosure veto. See the recent South Dakota decision on HB 1223 for an example of that. But I would rather see an otherwise clean bill pass with a nonbinding preference than a binding veto.

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:

Discrimination Against Adoptees

On the heels of the recent Evan B. Donaldson study, ABC has posted an article concerning discrimination against adoptees. None of the information in the article will be news to us adoptees, who have been familiar with this for decades.
For me it started within my adoptive family. I was always the “adopted” daughter, emphasis on the adjective. In school I was mocked by classmates. On medical forms I have to write “unknown-adopted”. I have learned not to mention my adopted status, unless I want to be subjected to knowing looks or annoying personal remarks. “Didn’t your mother want you? Have you looked for your birth family? Aren’t you glad you were adopted?” There are adoptees who have been denied driver’s licenses and passports, and otherwise made to suffer indignities that no one else must endure. It’s about time somebody started taking a closer look at this.
In general I think it’s great that the EBDAI did a study of adult adoptees. However, one thing that annoyed me was that on the surface it seemed to apply only to international adoption. Domestic adoption was indeed part of the study, but the title “Beyond Culture Camp” implies otherwise. That’s not to dismiss the important conclusions reached concerning transracial adoptees, but I would have liked to have seen a more all-encompassing summary. I also agree with what others have said, that putting children on the cover of a study about ADULT adoptees perpetuates the notion that, like Peter Pan, we never grow up. That defeats the whole purpose of a study about adult adoptees. I would have preferred to see a picture of, say, adult adoptees mentoring their younger counterparts. Or heck, just adult adoptees (including some domestic ones). Otherwise, though, the conclusions were spot-on.

Promote laws, policies and practices that facilitate access to information for adopted individuals. For adopted individuals, gaining information about their origins is not just a matter of curiosity, but a matter of gaining the raw materials needed to fill in the missing pieces in their lives and derive an integrated sense of self. Both adoption professionals and the larger society need to recognize this basic human need and right, and to facilitate access to needed information for adopted individuals.

I’ve said it before in various places: When non-adopted people ask about their origins, it’s called genealogy. When adoptees ask, we are admonished. Most people don’t realize how our birth certificates are altered, nor that we must jump through expensive and unnecessary hoops and be subjected to intensely personal interrogations, just for the mere CHANCE at records access. No other segment of our society is treated in this manner. Adoptees are second-class citizens whose civil rights have long been ignored and denied. People think that if we, as adults, continue to “harp upon” our origins, there is something wrong with us. But this study clearly shows that

Adoption is an increasingly significant aspect of identity for adopted people as they age, and remains so even when they are adults.

I am pleased that discrimination against adoptees is finally being acknowledged, but I think it needs to go further. Every single closed-records state needs to follow the example of Maine and restore unconditional original birth certificate access to domestic adoptees. Those adopted internationally deserve to have their citizenship in their countries of origin maintained, and all documents of their origins made conveniently and inexpensively available.
Until adoptees are treated in the exact same manner as the non-adopted, we will continue to be discriminated against. Compromise legislation doesn’t cut it. Pithy promises don’t cut it. It’s not about search and reunion, it’s about civil rights. We want EQUALITY and an end to discriminatory practices and laws.

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.

Open Adoption Records States: Alaska, Alabama, Kansas, New Hampshire, Oregon… MAINE!

On January 1, 2009, Maine becomes one of the growing number of states that are reopening adoption records to adult adoptees. If you are a Maine adoptee, please see the following press release for instructions on obtaining your original birth certificate. Kudos to OBC of ME and everyone else who worked on Maine’s legislation, well done!

For those who may not be aware, adoption records weren’t always closed. The idea of closing them was originally to protect from public scrutiny, but participants still had access. Later this was skewed into “protecting” participants from each other, sometimes to disguise quasi-legal adoption practices. See E. Wayne Carp’s “Family Matters: A History Of Secrecy And Disclosure In Adoption” and Barbara Raymond’s “The Baby Thief.”

The other civilized (e.g. open records) states are as follows, including links to how you may obtain adoption records from them.

The rest of us are stuck with conditional legislation, ineffective registries and a roulette of red tape. If your state’s not on this list, it should be. Join our efforts in Illinois and elsewhere to promote open adoption records. I will continue to post legislative updates for all states as they become available. If you are working toward open records and have news you’d like to share, please contact me.

Okay, you lucky Maine bastards, here’s the press release! Also note there is a reception on January 2, 2009; contact OBC for ME for details. Congratulations!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:
Bobbi Beavers
Co-founder, OBC for ME
South Berwick, ME
207-748-3432
rbbeavers@comcast. net

www.OBCforME.org

Cathy Robishaw
Co-founder, OBC for ME
Falmouth, ME
207-671-1375
tmc3910@yahoo. com
www.OBCforME.org.

New Law Affects Maine Adoptees
Maine has restored a basic human right to all Maine-born adult adoptees – the right to know their identity at birth! Just as New Hampshire, Alabama and Oregon legislatures have done in the past 12 years, the 123rd Maine Legislature made the decision in June 2007, via LD 1084, to correct an injustice the Maine Legislature enacted in 1953 when they declared that the original birth and adoption records of adoptees were to be sealed upon adoption of any child after August 8th of that year and leaving adoptees access to their original identity only at the discretion of the courts and only if adoptees knew this fact, which is buried in the cumbersome adoption laws.

Excitement is building as over 130 Maine-born adoptees from around Maine, plus New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Florida, California and other states have already submitted their info to the Maine Office of Vital Statistics. Many, including those living out-of-state, are coming to Augusta to request their Original birth Certificate on January 2, 2009.

Maine LD 1084/Public Law 409 – An Act to Allow Adult Adoptees Access to their Original Birth Certificates (OBC) – goes into effect January 1, 2009. Any Maine-born adult adoptee wishing to receive an uncertified copy of their original birth certificate in-person on January 2, 2009 at the Office of Vital Statistics in Augusta, must contact Lorraine Wilson immediately at the following address, email, or phone and provide her with the information (below) she will need to locate their records:

Lorraine Wilson
Deputy Registrar
Office of Data, Research and Vital Statistics
Division of Public Health Systems
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Maine Department of Health and Human Services 244 Water Street 11 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333-0011
(207) 287-3181
1-888-664-9491 (toll free)
Lorraine.Wilson@ maine.gov

The adoptee information needed:

  • Name after adoption, Date of birth, Town of birth (if known)
  • The relationship of the requestor to the adoptee (i.e., same person, son, daughter, etc.)
  • Contact information of the requestor

In order to receive a copy of his/her original birth certificate on January 2, 2009, an adoptee will still need to download the official state application form from this website: http://www.maine. gov/dhhs/ bohodr/documents /Application% 20for%20Adult% 20Adoptee. pdf. The adoptee must also bring (or mail if not coming in-person) the filled out and notarized form, a certified copy of their current birth certificate, and a $10 check made out to: Treasurer – State of Maine.

Parents of origin (also called birth parents) may also NOW submit information, confidentially, to Lorraine Wilson:

Everyone impacted by this law should read the rules compiled by the Office of Data, Research and Vital Statistics (Maine Center for Disease Control, DHHS), downloadable at this website: http://www.maine. gov/dhhs/ boh/_rules_ documents/ Adult%20Adoptees %20Access% 20to%20Original% 20Birth%20Certif icate.pdf.
REASONS FOR SUBMITTING THIS INFO EARLY: If an adoptee applies for the first time on January 2, 2009, it is very likely they will not get the uncertified copy of their original birth certificate that day. If birth parents have filled out their forms, adoptees will have updated medical info and possibly a current contact name and address that will expedite searching if that is what an adoptee chooses to do.

ISSUES TO BE AWARE OF:

  • Adoptees who obtain their OBC before a birth parent has submitted their forms will be able to request that DHHS send them the birth parent contact preference and medical history forms.
  • In about 80-90% of the cases, the birth fathers name will not be on the birth certificate (DNA testing has not been available until relatively recently and birth fathers were not always required to be part of the surrendering process as they are now), unless the couple was married.
  • Medical, genealogical and cultural histories are important to many individuals, yet for others, just having the document (“the deed to my person,” as adoptee Robert Hafetz says) will be sufficient at this time.
  • To help people impacted by this law to work through the emotional roller coaster that this information may stimulate, OBC for ME has two adoption triad support group formats: ONLINE at this website – http://health. groups.yahoo. com/group/ obcformesupport/ which requires a prior free Yahoo registration, and IN-PERSON with the next meeting on January 17, 2009, at Norway Savings Bank Community Room, Route 1 South, Falmouth, ME, 10 AM – Noon. There are also support groups in just about every state, province and country on this continent as well as in most overseas countries.

A private reception for adoptees and their families will be held at the Augusta EconoLodge at 5 PM on January 2, 2009. For more information contact Bobbi Beavers, rbbeavers@comcast. net.