I’m Not Going To Day For Adoptee Rights Chicago 2012 – But I’m Still An Angry Adoptee

I’m not going to Day For Adoptee Rights in Chicago this year. That may strike some as strange. I’ve been a voice for Illinois adoptees for years now, so people are expecting me to be there. I’ve gotten a few emails from a few people asking my plans, so I thought I’d explain why I’m not going.

Although there has been controversy about DAR in the past, my reasons for not attending are solely personal and have absolutely nothing to do with that. I’m not going to address past issues since I wasn’t involved then and really don’t want to be now. This is about me and where I am on adoptee rights.

There are lots of logical reasons I should go. The little voice in my head keeps reminding me that it’s right here in Chicago for pity’s sake – I live out in the sticks but it’s still only a couple of hours away. There are lots of people I’d like to meet in person. There are a handful of people I REALLY want to meet in person and am kicking myself over missing the opportunity.

I keep reminding myself that I should be there to stand up for left-behind adoptees, in Illinois and elsewhere. I should be there to remind the Illinois politicians that we’re not done with adoptee rights in this state, and to tell other states not to do it this way. I should be there to warn everybody to stay the hell away from the Illinois CI program. I should be there to do my part for adoptee rights.

But I’m not going to, and the big reason is…

Fear.

This has been a year of major personal crises for me. I suffer from depression and anxiety at the best of times, which these are not. I’m not feeling much like marching off waving the Class Bastard banner at the moment.

There are other reasons. It’s close to one of my kids’ birthdays, and I’ve already had the experience of worrying about adoption crap through one of my kids’ birthdays. I’m not going to do that again. And I have things that I should be doing here, although truth be told I could get around that if I tried.

The thing is, being an adoption reform activist – a volunteer of any kind – is a sucky deal. You have to be in a good place in your head to deal with what comes at you, especially if you are advocating from an unpopular position – in my case, that of being a left-behind adoptee. Everybody’s against you: politicians, lobbyists, fellow activists, the general public. You have to explain your position, over and over, with a polite smile and a stack of literature, while they spout every goddamn stereotype until you want to strangle them.

I am not in the mood at the moment to listen while people repeat the myths about birth parent privacy, or refer to adult adoptees as “children”. I am not in the mood to put up with jubilation over Illinois adoptees getting their birth certificates because not all of us are. I don’t want to talk to legislators. I don’t want to talk to reporters. I don’t want to be the token left-behind Illinois adoptee in every conversation.

And then there are the people who should be on your side, but who for some bizarre reason have decided to compromise away all sense of self-worth, not to mention bona fide civil rights. I’m not in the mood to be polite to deformers, and I know some will be there – people who supported the compromise bill in Illinois, people who supported compromise bills elsewhere. I am not sure I could keep my mouth shut in their presence because I think it is absolutely abhorrent to barter away somebody else’s OBC access just so you can get your hands on yours.

I’m sure people who are less than fond of me are rubbing their hands with glee, seeing this as a capitulation on my part. Go right ahead, if it makes you feel better. This does not, by any means, indicate that I am done with adoptee rights. On the contrary, I’m continuing to advocate for full and equal rights for ALL adult adoptees in ALL states and for our internationally adopted peers, as well as for the rights of first parents and families.

I intend to remain an angry adoptee with a blog, which is sort of like a madman with a box only not as much fun.

One of the ways I am contributing to the cause is by writing. I’m a freelance writer by trade so it’s a good fit. If you have a publication, blog, or site and want me to write for it, let me know. You can see my professional writing clips here – most of my adoption-related stuff is not on that list but it will give you an idea. However, bear in mind that I am a GDI (god damn independent) with a lot of loudmouth left-behind-bastard opinions about adoption that I don’t censor. Also, I am not affiliated with, nor will I affiliate with, any particular adoption reform organization. Freelancer to the core, that’s me. If that sounds good to you, great. If not, then I suppose I don’t need to worry about writing for you.

Now, if you want to see what I’m really up to, come on over to my fantasyworld blog and we can talk science fiction geekiness until our little fandom hearts explode. After all, who wants to deal with legislators when you can read the latest Pern novel and the Doctor Who/Star Trek crossover comic?

As for my next moves in the adoption reform world, I’ll leave my detractors to wonder what they may be…

My Response To Negative Comments About The Avengers Adoption “Joke”

Well, hasn’t this been interesting. Two weeks, thousands of hits, and hundreds of comments to my previous post… and the overwhelming majority of people think adoptees are nuts to be angry over the adoption “joke” in Avengers.
Well, boys and girls, put on your flameproof undies because I’m responding to those comments and more on my fantasyworld blog. Come over and read it… if you dare.

I must have struck a nerve because people responded in droves, primarily to tell me to fuck off. What you fanboys may not have realized is that I am a fellow fangirl. I’m such a big comics fan I close every plastic bag in sight with two small pieces of Scotch tape. Comics are a regular part of my world, as adoption is a regular part of my world. This is my rebuttal to the snarky remarkers…. (read more)

The Killjoy Responds To Complaints About Why I’m Not Happy For Illinois Adoptees

I’m sure you’ve heard that Illinois adoptees are throwing off their shackles as fast as Sara Feigenholtz can round up cameras to film their joyful receipt of their birth certificates. Everybody knows I’m the killjoy at the party, and people have started to complain. Apparently my inability to shut the fuck up is interfering with others’ ability to bask in the moment.
The following is from a conversation on a public Facebook page. I’m not going to identify the people and I’m only going to paraphrase the conversation, because my intention here is not to point fingers at any one person. This is not the first time someone’s said something like this to me. On the contrary, I hear it every day, usually from fellow Illinois adoptees who happened to luck out under the new rules.
I posted the following on my wall:
“Quit supporting conditional adoptee rights legislation! Study the bills and understand the difference between true adoptee rights (Maine) and conditional bills that leave some adoptees behind (Illinois). Don’t just throw your weight behind a bill because it has the word “adoptee” in it.”
This was reposted to the page by its owner. I responded with “thanks for the repost.” The page owner commented asking why there had been so many likes and few shares, reiterating the importance of equal rights for ALL adoptees.
Someone else answered: “I am 64 and one of those Illinois adoptees who is waiting for her OBC. Please don’t deny some of us our happiness.”
The page owner said: “A favor is not a right and can be withdrawn on whim.” (And a big THANK YOU for that.)
The other person answered: “whatever. you depressed me today, thanks.”
Let me get this straight. This person is getting her OBC via legislation that blocks me from getting mine… and she’s upset with me because I’m not happy about it?!
What. The. Fuck.
Adoptees face discrimination. Left-behind adoptees face discrimination from their peers as well as from everyone else. Now, let me ask you this…
What makes one person more deserving of identity than another?
What are the criteria? Is it when they were born? Where they were born? Whether they were an agency or private adoption? Should we have different rules for interstate adoptions? International adoptions? Transracial adoptions? Situations involving rape? Who gets to choose these criteria? Who enforces them? What options remain for those left behind?
I will answer.
  1. The rules are arbitrarily enforced.
  2. They are chosen by the adoption industry.
  3. There are no options for those left behind.
Because they don’t know! And they don’t care. Adoptees are a repressed and silent population. No one notices when we complain because the adoption industry has taken great pains to make sure that adoptees who question are considered mentally dysfunctional. Left-behinds who complain are even more mentally dysfunctional.
Shall I tell you what makes me mentally dysfunctional? Bullshit like that.
And bullshit like this. Also in the news this week, the duo of Feigenholtz and Mitchell (sort of like Simon and Garfunkel without the musical talent) is having a par-tay for those Illinois adoptees who now have access. (None of the left-behinds I know were invited, go figure.) Jean Strauss is going to be there filming what I can only assume is going to end up one hell of a one-sided viewpoint on Illinois adoptee access, if there are no left-behind adoptees in it. Without that it’s just more propaganda.
(And, to answer another complaint people have made about me: that was not a plug trying to get myself in the film. I really don’t care who’s in it as long as the left-behind viewpoint is given a fair shake. Truth be told, I hate telling my story in public and especially hate being on camera. Yes, I tell my story in public all the time – because it sucks so bad that I don’t want it to happen to other adoptees, not because I like the limelight. And I know certain people aren’t going to believe that no matter how many times I say it.)

In the Doctor Who episode The Happiness Patrol, the planet Terra Alpha is run by people who insist that everyone must be happy all the time. Dark colors are forbidden and only cheerful music is allowed. As a result there is an underground of people who believe in expressing their sadness and despair, called the Killjoys. The Happiness Patrol exists to kill the Killjoys and thus keep them from making the rest of the population unhappy. As the Seventh Doctor points out, “There are no other colors without the blues.”
We left-behinds are so inconvenient. Here we are, living proof that Illinois’ new law is flawed and discriminatory. Better make sure no one hears about it.
So yes, I’m a fucking killjoy. I’m dressed in dark colors playing blues on the harmonica while everybody else is eating their cotton candy and listening to elevator music. Lucky, lucky bastards…. haven’t you ever seen a horror movie? Don’t you know that nothing in this universe is picture-perfect? Don’t you know that this so-called “access” is going to come back and bite someone in the ass? I guess it doesn’t matter if your ass isn’t the one bitten. But it could be. And how would that make you feel?
How does it make you feel to know that the law that restores your access denies other people theirs?
While some people are getting their OBCs, other Illinois adoptees remain in the dark. (Not to mention the first mothers who aren’t even on the agenda.) We still have to struggle with our searches, relegated to tidbits and hearsay and the leavings off the plates of the more fortunate. Don’t patronize us by saying you’re coming back for us. Not only does the new legislation continue to deny us, it makes it infinitely harder to restore our rights.
The message is clear: Access for some now is preferable to access for everyone later, even if a few end up permanently denied. And you knew that from the beginning, yet you still supported the bill.
I am stunned that you can look yourselves in the mirror. Shame on every single one of you.
I am not going to shut up, as some would prefer. I am going to continue to speak out for those left behind in Illinois and in other states that have enacted discriminatory compromise legislation.
And I encourage the rest of you to become killjoys too, for the sake of those who remain without access and who continue to be discriminated against by people who, a short time ago, were in the exact same boat.
How fast do the oppressed become the oppressors?

Steve Jobs And Offensive Adoptee Stereotypes

Steve Jobs was one of my personal heroes. I probably wouldn’t have gotten into IT or started my own business without his influence. But my grief at his passing was marred by the constant references to his adoption. And the adoptee stereotypes I’ve encountered made my jaw hit the floor with the speed of the Tevatron. (Not the LHC, because I live near Fermi so I’ll give some love to the home team.)
What scares me is that I didn’t even notice myself at first, and trust me, my adoption-BS meter is finely tuned. We all saw what the news coverage was like. Steve Jobs, gone! Such a visionary! Such a genius! And did you hear he was adopted?
Even adoptees mentioned it, talking about Jobs as “one of us.” I started to do the same thing. I was proud of Steve for being adopted, for showing the rest of the world we’re worth something.
And then I realized, holy shit, what we’re really saying is, “Steve Jobs succeeded even though he was a bastard.” We’re praising him, not because he succeeded, but because he Succeeded While Adopted (SWA).
Bastards have to work harder. We’re never good enough. Not even Steve Jobs was good enough.
It’s even more obvious in the Walter Isaacson biography, which has more adoptee stereotypes than an NCFA convention. The first chapter is the incendiary “Abandoned And Chosen,” loaded words which epitomize the primary adoption stereotypes: that birth mothers abandon and that adoptees are “chosen” for “a better life”. Notably, a biography of an adoptee begins with the lives of his adoptive parents. The adoptee is always a secondary character in his own story.
Steve’s first mother found out he hadn’t been adopted by college graduates as she stipulated, and refused to sign the papers. “The standoff lasted weeks,” Isaacson writes, and describes that Jobs’ mother eventually “relented” (read: gave up after constant pressure and coercion) but made the a-parents “sign a pledge” that they’d send him to college. Yeah, about as enforceable as any of today’s supposedly “open” adoptions. Then Isaacson goes on to interview Steve’s friends about his feelings about being “abandoned” (even though his mother obviously fought for him). Like many adoptees, myself included, Steve internalized abandonment because everyone in his universe told him he was abandoned. The rest of the chapter is equally repugnant. Steve Jobs lived the adoptee stereotype and, in death, he’s become the epitome of it.
This is a best-selling book! What the hell kind of message is this for adoptees, especially young ones, that a wildly popular book about a wildly popular person is riddled with stereotypes? I’m not talking about a stray remark here or there. I’m talking screaming misogynistic anti-adoptee lunacy. If anybody brought us to the 21st Century it was Steve Jobs, yet his authorized biography reads like a 19th Century handbook on social work. Go read even just the first few pages and you’ll be as appalled as I am.
In the vernacular, OMG. *deep breath*
Another underlying message I heard in the buzz surrounding Steve’s death was that adoption redeemed him: that if he had been raised by his birth mother he wouldn’t have succeeded. We don’t know that. Maybe he would have been an even greater success. Adoption is trying to take credit, when the credit is due to Steve for fighting the societal restrains of being a bastard.
Steve Jobs succeeded despite adoption, not because of it.
Many of the less-desirable personality quirks attributed to Steve, in particular his control issues, are traced back to his adoption. As adoptees our lives have been controlled for us. Is it any wonder we want to take that control back? Why is that seen as a bad thing? Is it because allowing us to do so might acknowledge our humanity, and the inherent problems in adoption?
Words are powerful. If you say something it is likely to become true. (Or, as Wang Chung said: “The words we use are strong; they make reality.” Profound advice from 1980s pop.) I thought we were making some progress on adoptee stereotypes but now I’m realizing we’ve only scratched the surface. It’s so ingrained we can barely get people to acknowledge it much less treat us with some level of respect.
Jaw still on floor, gathering neutrinos.

Setting Adoptive Parents’ Expectations

(Where have I been? I think I got adoption burnout. There is so much crap going on out there that frankly it’s depressing. That, combined with my birthday, which as most of you know I detest as a reminder of my own adoption baggage, made me want to take a serious vacation from adoption. But I’m back now and hoping to blog at least a little more frequently.)
The papers are full of the baby Vanessa case, in which a prospective adopter “won” against a birth father who was never informed of his child nor his rights. I say “won” in parentheses because the only “winners” in this case are the permanent guardian (dubbed adoptive mother), the lawyers, and the adoption agency. You can read the highly subjective LA Times article about the case here.
First of all, I was offended by the LA Times reporter’s coverage of this matter. The print edition of the Chicago Tribune (same parent company as the LA Times) headlined the article as “Baby Vanessa stays at home,” an implicit bias that the adoptive family is “home” and the biological family is not. I also didn’t like the repeated emphasis on “the only parent she knows.” Vanessa knew her mother; perhaps she is unaware to express it verbally, but all children, even (especially!) newborns, are well aware of the existence of and need for their biological mothers. In yet another example of serious media bias about adoption, this article the reporter did her best to make the putative adopter a saint and the biological parents the villains.
As I remarked on Facebook:
I think the process of adoption leads many adoptive parents to think that way [that adoptees are objects to be possessed rather than human beings with feelings]. They are encouraged to pick the “best” products (eg children with less of a possibility of birth parent “interference”), the mythical tabula rasa they can shape as desired and which will make up for not being able to biologically procreate. Just look at the amended birth certificate, which shows adoptees “as if” born to the adoptive parents. Our society is already consumer-driven and the agencies and private facilitators play on that. It sets impossible expectations for the adoptee because no one can ever live up to those perfect standards.
Which makes it clear that the adoption agencies and facilitators are really all about the money and don’t care what happens to people or families after they get paid. Because if they did care they would make sure to set appropriate expectations on the part of the adoptive parents, since this scenario inevitably leads to family disfunction and perhaps even dissolution (whether via the “adoption returns department” or the adoptee deciding as an adult to dissolve the relationship as I did). I think most adoptive parents are reasonable people that get sucked into the adoption industry mindset. You’ll always have some crazies who have to have a child no matter what but I don’t think it would be the rule rather than the exception if it weren’t for the fact that the adoption industry grooms them into believing that they MUST have a child at all costs, and that if they pay enough money they can erase their infertility and re-establish their status in our parent-centric society.

Doss seems to have overlooked the real villain in this case: AdoptHelp, which neglected to check the Ohio Putative Father’s Registry, allowing Doss to believe she would be able to adopt Vanessa without Mills’ consent. Doss claims to have spent $400,000 on attorney fees (which seems excessive) and has made public pleas for contributions to help her pay these costs.

So then the question becomes: Why don’t people go after adoption agencies when they falsely set prospective adopters’ expectations? Why do they go after the biological family instead? Answer: Because vilifying the biological parents ensures continued supply (children for adoption). It’s hard to fight a profitable industry with lots of lawyers and lobbyists to give it teeth, but it’s easy to fight a resource-poor individual, especially when the media and the court of public opinion is likely to side in your favor.
Doss wants to enact legislation that would, as Jane puts it,

give prospective adoptive parents a sort of squatter’s rights to children although they couch it in terms of preventing “reactive attachment disorders,” promoting bonding, or whatever psychological lingo carries the day.

Lorraine, Jane’s co-blogger at FMF, points out:

Doss is not adopting Vanessa; she will be her permanent guardian at this point, not her ADOPTIVE mother.

Speaking from an adoptee perspective, adoptees are neither objects to be owned nor fodder for touchy-feely newspaper articles written about them when they are too young to claim the ownership and privacy of their own origin stories. How would you feel to find out that the public knew about the intimate details of your life before you were able to understand them yourself? Many of us have also wondered how Vanessa is going to feel when she is old enough to understand that her “adoptive mother” (permanent guardian) deliberately prevented her biological father from claiming custody. Will Doss lie about it, in which case Vanessa will find out the truth through casual research? Will Doss bias Vanessa toward her own biological origins in order to preserve adoption attachment? I can tell you that either scenario is likely to result in Vanessa recoiling from the woman she has been groomed to call “mother” and struggling to discern her own identity sans the foundation of origin she should have had, except for a profit-hungry adoption agency and a prospective adopter whose expectations were falsely set.
But back to the question of prospective adopter expectations. What should those expectations be? I think we should treat prospective adopters in the same way Douglas Adams fictionally treated the President of the Universe: anyone who wanted the job was automatically disqualified. Again, from comments I made on Facebook:

There really needs to be better setting of the expectations of prospective adopters. Too often it’s all about them obtaining a child as a status symbol as opposed to actually wanting to reach out to a child in need (because if the latter was the case, why aren’t they taking in the foster kids who actually need help as opposed to taking children from families who lack resources to raise them). Every time I think about how the tens of thousands people pay for one adoption could go to helping a family stay together, it infuriates me.

Prospective adopters would do well to understand that any information they get from adoption agencies or facilitators about adoption is, in itself, biased. You don’t ask the person selling cars whether the brand his dealership sells is better than the brand across the street. You go out and ask people who have actually bought the car you’re considering. Some of them will tell you they like it, others will tell you they don’t, and you base your decision on a synthesis of the two. In this case, prospective adopters need to get out there and ask advice from biological parents and adult adoptees who have no ties to agencies or adoption profits. That’s the only way you’re going to find out the truth about adoption, and unfortunately a lot of it isn’t as pretty as the glossy brochures or biased media articles would have you believe.

Vote by Oct 30 for Demons Of Adoption Awards 2010

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

From the web site:

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

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

The nominees are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adoption Discrimination: CBS Calls Adoptees “Used Babies”

There has been widespread discussion in the adoption community about an offhand remark from a recent episode of “Rules Of Engagement” on CBS. You can watch the clip here.

One character said, in response to the news that there would be no food at an adoption fair he was planning to attend with his wife:

“A lot of nerve calling it a fair when they’re not offering some sort of meat on a stick.”

His wife says: “…If we get serious about adoption we need these people to like us.”

His response: “If they can’t like me for who I am then I’m not going to buy one of their used babies.” (cue canned laughter)

And that’s just the commercial. I can only imagine how the rest of this adoption-related plot is going to work out.
Okay, yes, this is a comedy. But discrimination against a particular group of people should not be fodder for the laugh track. This is why adoptees and first mothers face discrimination: because people make light of our situations. Losing your family is not funny. Surrendering a child is not funny. (Neither is infertility, for that matter.) There is also something to be said for comedy that isn’t afraid to make a point when a point needs to be made. M*A*S*H comes to mind — comedy combined with serious assessments of the impact of war.
I know a number of adoptive parents who are open-minded, honest, and willing to accept adult adoptee and first mother viewpoints even if those viewpoints make them uncomfortable. In my opinion, these folks totally rock and I wish more adoptive parents were like them. Unfortunately, far too frequently I encounter the other end of the pendulum: adopters with an entitlement mentality, who believe they “deserve” to be parents at all costs, who stick to the stereotypes because anything else interferes with their mental image of themselves as “rescuers.” (Go check out Cricket’s Blog Of Shame list for some nauseating examples.)
To me, this dialogue smacks of that: “Of course we should be fed, if we’re going to an adoption fair! Of course we should be wined and dined and pampered; we’re the paying customers! We expect top-notch service and prime quality merchandise — which we’ll return if it doesn’t match our expectations.” To such people, first mothers are mechanical wombs and adoptees are malleable Barbie dolls who never grow up. Note also the currying of adoption agency favors: Hide your true self, suck up to the agency and maybe you’ll be rewarded with a kid. Sadly accurate.
I don’t care that the dialogue is supposed to reflect the abrasive personality of the particular character who said it. The fact remains, people who don’t have direct connections to adoption (and even some that do) get their ideas about it from TV, movies, and books. Which means that if writers are going to use adoption as a plot point (I’m talking to YOU, Diablo Cody) then they better get their facts straight and realize what an impact their words will have on people for whom adoption is more than just a sitcom.
We also have to consider the impact upon young adoptees, who are at the forefront of adoption discrimination. Many are already ostracized, especially those who are of a different race than their adoptive families. I can tell you how such a remark on a television program would have felt to me when I was a child. In the era of “Diff’rent Strokes,” all adoptees were assumed to be poor kids who were damn lucky to be raised by wealthy whites. I hated the show, hated the assumptions, yet it was the only portrayal of adoptees I knew so I absorbed the stereotypes even as I struggled to find my own identity. Adoptees deserve better, and we as a society know better, thanks to the voices of the many people who write, blog, and otherwise share their viewpoints on this polarizing subject. Yet Hollywood is still stuck repeating the same damn stereotypes with a 21st century facelift. Instead of wealthy white men, we get adoption fairs. Instead of adorable black kids, we get international adoptees, donor conceptions, and donated embryos. Same crap, different era.
The dangers of discrimination arise from stereotypes and assumptions. Adoption agencies are to blame for setting unreasonable expectations in the minds of many prospective adopters. The mass media is also to blame for continuing adoption stereotypes: that adopting is “the same” as giving birth, that adopting a child negates the traumas of infertility, that “good” adoptees don’t ask questions, that “bad” adoptees search, that all first mothers are “whores” who didn’t deserve their children… the list goes on. People still believe this nonsense precisely because it is perpetuated.
What we need is open, honest discussion about adoption: what the stereotypes are, what makes them stereotypes, and how those stereotypes hurt people. Just as we shouldn’t accept discrimination based on race, gender, or sexuality, neither should we accept it based on adoption.
If you want to contact CBS, here is the contact information. It wouldn’t hurt to contact your local CBS affiliate, too.
Ms. Nina Tassler
President, CBS Entertainment
CBS Entertainment
7800 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90039-2112

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.

Good Vs. Bad Adoptees: Dismissing Our Experiences And Criticism As “Anger”

Lately we’ve had a rash of really bad bills that dangle the carrot of potential birth certificate access for some, while smiting others with the stick of disclosure veto. Regular readers know of our efforts here in Illinois against HB 5428. Some are celebrating the bill’s passage. I am not. New Jersey is about to go the same route, with a bill on the governor’s desk that seriously jeopardizes adoption reform. I know many of the people who support the NJ bill, just as I know many of the people who supported Illinois. But I cannot in good conscience support legislation that leaves some adoptees behind. I’m not going to rehash why I disagree with compromise legislation; you can read it here, here and here.
Instead, I want to talk about how these recent events got me thinking. There has been a discussion on the KAD Nexus blog concerning adoptive father and author John Seabrook’s NPR segment. Both the post and the comments that follow (including rebuttals from Seabrook) are a must-read. In response to Seabrook’s segment, adult adoptees discuss how their criticisms of adoption and racism are often dismissed as “angry,” “bitter,” or every adoptee’s favorite, “ungrateful.” I strongly encourage you to read it for context before returning to this post.
In my experience, the same can be said of adoptees who insist upon equal rights for all adoptees. If we refuse to compromise, to sacrifice others or ourselves in the name of a few butchered rights for some, then it must be because we are “angry.” We must have “had a bad experience” or “hate our adoptive families.” And woe betide those of us who may actually have had a bad experience. Then we are simply disgruntled and souring the milk for others. Our opinions and experiences are instantly negated, regardless of any validity they may contain.
Taking away the rights of a subclass is easier when the subclass is dismissed as “angry.” Anger implies irrationality, lack of forethought, selfishness. The weapon-word “angry” is especially effective against adoptees. For fear of being branded as such, many adoptees learn to dismiss their own feelings–for to be angry is to be the Bad Adoptee (as termed by BJ Lifton), the one who refuses to cooperate with the Adoption Game. Some adoptees, in turn, use the same word “angry” to ostracize fellow adoptees who refuse to play the game. It becomes a vicious cycle: society bastardizes adoptees, who bastardize their own kind so they themselves can “fit in” more successfully. Nothing says Good Adoptee like spotlighting another adoptee who’s not toeing the line.
This use of “angry” as a weapon has never been more clear to me than in the struggle against compromise legislation like Illinois HB 5428. I’ve analyzed the media coverage of the bill’s passage as an illustration of how adoptee voices are dismissed in discussion of matters that have a vital impact upon our rights. Yet, who better to discuss the pros and cons of the adoption process than those who have experienced it firsthand? I have also included my personal experience about being interviewed for several of these articles.
For my analysis I read all of the articles and press releases about the passage of Illinois HB 5428 I could find, with a mind to the following: Whose opinions were expressed (sponsors, adoptive parents and/or prospective adopters, adoption professionals, birth relatives, adult adoptees, others)? Was the widespread opposition to the bill by the adoption community mentioned? What about the downsides of the legislation–the fact that some adoptees will be blacklisted? IMO, the coverage ranged from fairly well-balanced to outright sponsor propaganda, leaning heavily toward the latter. Some of my thoughts as I read through it:
  • Almost every single article spouted sponsor opinion that this bill “opens adoption records.” That is inaccurate. What this new legislation does is grants a few rights for some, while consigning others to a permanent black hole of no access. And it’s Russian roulette: you won’t know which way it will turn out for you until you go through the process. The sponsors have co-opted adoption rights terminology, claiming that this bill is about “rights of adoptees.” (Case in point: this self-aggrandizing propaganda from sponsor Rep. Sara Feigenholtz.) But a bill cannot be about the rights of adoptees unless it applies to ALL adoptees.
  • “Contact preference” is another co-opted term. What Illinois has is a disclosure veto that has been termed a “preference.” But if it’s binding on the adoptee, it’s a veto.
  • Adoptee opinions were for the most part excluded. This is exemplified by the repeated use of the phrase “adopted children” when referring to adopted adults.
  • When adult adoptee opinions were included, they were often the parroted opinions of the sponsors. In other words, the viewpoints of token adoptees presumably summoned by the sponsors and/or the media to make it appear that this is what all adult adoptees want. An example is Howard Griffith, adoptee and former Denver Bronco, who attended the signing of the bill.
  • Those whose voices were heard are primarily those who make money from adoption (more below).
Other gems:
From the Chicago Sun-Times article “Adoptees cheer birth certificate law” (no longer online; PDF in my possession):

I learned early on what an emotional and tricky area of the law this is,” said state Senate President John Cullerton, who teased Feigenholtz that the reason he signed on to her crusade was that, “She said if I can pass this bill out of the Senate, she’ll vote for any bill I tell her to vote for for the rest of my life. It’s like I have my own vote over in the House. We’re going to start with that next week.

This is no joke, this is straight-up fact. HB 5428 was about political cronyism and jockeying for power. Sara Feigenholtz gets off on being “champion of adoptee rights” while calling us “ungrateful bastards” behind our backs. With her self-described “mentor” John Cullerton president of the Senate, she was in a position to reinforce her Confidential Intermediary Program and even get state money to advertise it.
Again from the same Sun-Times article:

Feigenholtz said the law was modeled after similar laws in Maine and New Hampshire to balance the rights of adoptive children and parents.

Modeled after Maine? Are you kidding? In Maine any adoptee who is of age can walk in and get his or her original birth certificate, for the same fee as non-adoptees. In Illinois it depends on when you were born, whether you are accepted and whether you can afford to pay fees that only apply to adoptees.

This press release lists the organizations that supported the bill, but (in an example of bias) NOT the organizations that opposed it.

A number of medical and child advocacy groups supported the legislation, including: Illinois Psychiatric Society; American Adoption Congress; Agudath Israel of America; Child Care Association of Illinois; Chicago Bar Association; Voices for Children; National Association of Social Workers of Illinois; Lutheran Social Services of Illinois; UCAN; Illinois Department of Public Health; Department of Children and Family Services; Jewish Child and Family Services; Illinois State Bar Association; The Cradle Adoption Agency; Adoption Advocates of America; Adoptive Families Today; Chicago Area Families for Adoption; Midwest Adoption Center; Search and Genealogy Services; Murphysboro, IL, Stars of David Adoption; and The Baby Fold, Bloomington, IL.

Except…

  • The AAC never expressed a position on the bill. Melisha Mitchell falsely claimed she was the AAC rep for Illinois at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing when she had actually been dismissed from her AAC post prior to that hearing. Why has there been no mention of this in the press? And, because AAC is the only group listed here who represents adult adoptees or birth parents, that means everyone who supported this is either an adoption professional or adoptive parent; in other words, the people who benefit from adoption.
  • Similarly, why has there been no mention of Sara Feigenholtz’s foot-in-mouth bastard bashing?
  • The majority of these groups either make money facilitating adoptions (LSSI, The Cradle) or are professional organizations representing people who do so (Chicago Bar Association, Illinois State Bar Association).
  • The Midwest Adoption Center is the sole-source no-bid contractor who provides Confidential Intermediary services in Illinois (e.g. makes money from records access).
As I mentioned, I was interviewed for five of the articles (the Chicago Tribune, the Sun-Times, the Daily Herald, the St. Louis Dispatch and the Associated Press), as spokesperson for the Adoption Reform Illinois coalition. Here’s a summary of my experience talking with each reporter, and how those interviews translated to the printed page.
Monique Garcia and Bonnie Rubin, Chicago Tribune
Ms. Rubin was consummately professional. She took the time to listen to our opposing viewpoint, asked intelligent questions and even called back to clarify one or two things. So I was disappointed when there wasn’t a single mention of opposition viewpoint in the article she co-authored with Monique Garcia.
Staff, Daily Herald
Like Ms. Rubin, Barbara (the reporter who interviewed me) was professional and polite, and also called back for a clarification. I was disappointed there wasn’t more explanation about why we oppose the bill. A later article on their blog used phrasing that suggested opposition was not legitimate (no pun intended):

On the other hand, a group going by the name Adoption Reform Illinois [emphasis mine] criticized the new law as not going far enough, saying any adult should be able to obtain unredacted birth records. “Any proposed change that does not recognize adult adoptees as having the same rights and responsibilities of every other Illinois resident is unacceptable,” the group says in its opposition message.

Kathleen Foody, St. Louis Dispatch
I had been talking to Ms. Foody for quite some time about this bill as it progressed. To her credit she attempted to understand our opposition viewpoint and express that to her readers. I could wish she had made it more clear that this is about adoptee identity and the implications of that, but otherwise this is a far less biased article than most.
Deanna Bellandi, Associated Press
Ms. Bellandi was by far the most aggressive reporter who contacted me. She seemed as if she had already made up her mind what she wanted her story to say, and made numerous attempts to put words in my mouth rather than taking the time to listen and understand the opposition viewpoint. I was mistakenly identified in the article as “Triennia Guider,” and while I could care less if they get my name right, it points to sloppy fact-checking and makes me wonder what else they got wrong. This is a prime example of biased adoption reporting: when reporters have already made up their minds what they want the article to say, and when presented with information that doesn’t match, try to sledgehammer it in so they don’t have to change their minds or their stories.
“Adoptees cheer birth certificate law” (no longer online; PDF in my possession)
Abdon Pallasch, Chicago Sun-Times
Mr. Pallasch was somewhere in between the other reporters. He was aggressive, although not nearly as much so as Ms. Bellandi. However, this article is the one that really got me thinking about the comments on KAD Nexus, and how adoptees are dismissed as “angry.” This article failed to mention that I was speaking on behalf of Adoption Reform Illinois, a coalition of people who disagree with the bill, nor did it mention that other organizations were similarly opposed. It did, however, mention my own personal inability to access my OBC, in such a way that makes it appear that I am simply one of those “angry” adoptees who opposes the bill purely because it doesn’t help me personally:
“It does not actually open adoption records,” said Triona Guidry, whose birth mother will not let Guidry get a copy of her birth certificate. Even under the new law, the best Guidry will get is a birth certificate with her mother’s name redacted. “Equal rights apply to everyone. Everyone should have the right to go into that courthouse, pay their $15 and get their birth certificate.”
The conclusion of my admittedly non-scientific analysis? Even when opposition to this bill was mentioned, it was overshadowed by the propaganda claiming that this bill is a “win” for adoptee rights. The headlines alone illustrate this. For those of us who have followed this bill, it’s clear to see that the much of the media have drunk the same Kool-Aid that was served to the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and other legislators. Anyone reading casually, without background on the bill, would assume the opposition was merely a bunch of angry adoptees and that there were no birth mothers who opposed the bill as not going far enough for adoptee rights (not true; ARI submitted twenty pages of testimony including letters from at least half a dozen mothers). Because that way, our legitimate concerns about this legislation are quelled and everybody can party in the streets like Ferris Bueller because woo-hoo, Illinois adoptees have access now! Except we don’t. And under this new law, some of us never will. That’s not anger talking, it’s determination. Equal rights should never be diluted, and we will continue fighting until the rights of everyone involved in adoption are restored.
Since we’re stuck with this legislation, what about those (like me — here’s the “angry adoptee” again) who have already gone through the CI process and been denied? Is legislation like HB 5428 punishment for those who insist upon their rights? Are those who go quietly away when they are told “no,” or do not make waves, rewarded with the possibility of access while those who are “angry” — who do not accept the denial of their civil rights even when vetoed — are consigned to exile? The lesson: Be quiet and wait your turn, and you might win the Russian roulette of records access. But speak up, express your opinion, and you might lose that chance forever.
That’s the adoption industry pitting Good Adoptees vs. Bad Adoptees. Play the Adoption Game, or suffer the consequences.

Will The Haiti Incident Reform The Adoption Process?

See also my previous posts on Haiti here and here.
In watching and reading the news coverage about the ten Americans arrested for child trafficking in Haiti, I’ve been wondering if this might be the catalyst that starts some serious reform in adoption.
When this incident first occurred, I figured the news media would do what they always do: gloss it over. I was expecting a lot of whining about “poor Americans”, plus condemnation of the Haitian government which would capitulate to U.S. pressure and give these people a slap on the wrist. And who knows, maybe that will still happen. Personally I would like to see the lot of them get convicted in a Haitian court and receive the highest possible term in a Haitian prison. That Laura Silsby seems like a piece of work. The Haitian judicial process will have to determine the culpability of the rest of the group. “God told us to” is not a defense.
But on a broader level, I would like to see this be the catalyst to cease ALL private facilitation of adoption. If we’re going to have adoption–and I’m under no illusions that we’re going to get rid of it–then it should only be done by accredited agencies that are monitored by independent third parties. As this incident illustrates, anyone, regardless of qualifications, can set themselves up a “non-profit” and start facilitating adoptions. That has GOT TO STOP. Contrary to the whining of some (mostly prospective adopters), I don’t think that would make the adoption process harder or more expensive. I think it would offer greater protections for everyone, including prospective adopters. It might reduce the number of adoptable kids… but did you catch what was said on Anderson Cooper (CNN)?
COOPER: It’s — and so they’re handing this out. I mean, essentially, what we now know is, they were around in Port-au-Prince trolling for kids, I mean, going around, trying to collect kids under the age of 10, so, for whatever reason, they could take them to the Dominican Republic.
And what they — we had also just learned today is they told that guy David Louis they were actually going to bring some of these kids into the United States, or they had offered to — to bring Richard’s kids into the — back to the United States, which, you know, the fact that Richard and his wife — that his wife said, look, do not go to this orphanage where our kids are in the process of being legally adopted, and they went anyway to try to get them, to me, that just raises all sorts of red flags.
PENHAUL: It certainly does raise red flags, as well as the fact that they were looking for children aged from zero to 10, kids aged under 10.
I asked an NGO specialist about that. Why zero to 10? He says kids zero of 10 are much easier to send in adoption. You can bet your bottom dollar, if those kids were going to be sent into adoption, they were not going to be adopted in the D.R. They would have been sent abroad for that. Maybe the D.R. was a halfway house.
I don’t know that for sure, though, but, certainly, the people that you have talked to tonight, you can piece it together. It seems like that. And, yes, certainly, they were trawling for orphanages as well, because the three translators that we have spoken to extensively have said that they also were asked to telephone another orphanage, and that other orphanage also declined help.
These people were deliberately going after kids ages zero to 10… BECAUSE THEY WERE MORE ADOPTABLE. In other words, more lucrative, more palatable to prospective adopters. Read the rest of the transcript for more on how blatant they were about sweeping in and snatching children, including those who were already cleared for adoption by American families (and whose adoptive families told them outright to stay out of it). So, yes, restricting who can facilitate adoptions might result in less children available for adoption, but you know what? That’s a good thing for prospective adopters. Unless you’re saying you don’t really care where the kid comes from as long as you get one…
My adoption was private. It was facilitated by the delivery doctor and two attorneys. One attorney took my mother’s relinquishment and passed it to the second attorney, who happened to be my adoptive father. The first attorney and the doctor were affiliated with a highly-regarded adoption agency here in the Chicago area, but for mysterious reasons they were able to moonlight a few private adoptions, like mine. I have been asking myself why for a long time and the only answers I’ve come up with are unpleasant. There were no checks and balances, no accredited entities verifying the procedures, no one independently advising my birth mother on her options and rights. There was just the handing off of a newborn in a hospital parking lot. I think that’s wrong and I want it to stop. And the only way it’s going to stop is if we quit letting any random bozo facilitate adoptions, and if we throw the book at people when they’re caught.
I’d also like to know why it is that no one is investigating other incidents of potential child trafficking, like the Rendell raid or Mike Roberts, the Texas businessman who’s trying to pull a raid of his own. Apparently if you’re the governor of Pennsylvania or a hotshot CEO it’s okay to snatch kids. Laura Silsby’s problem was that she was an amateur, flagrantly flaunted the rules and got caught. I think the Haitian prime minister is exactly right in requiring his personal approval for each and every child leaving the country.
But I’d like to see more protections from the U.S. side, starting with a public outcry over baby brokers of all stripes and utter refusal on the part of prospective adopters to deal with these sorts of criminals. Only by shutting down the market demand will we see an end to baby selling.