Dreading Birthdays III: Descent Into Despair, Restarting The Search

It’s that time of year again… my own personal descent into despair. I’ve written before about adoption depression and birthdays:

I didn’t really start dreading birthdays until I started asking questions about my adoption, questions that were misdirected or answered with (as I later discovered) outright lies. Before that I just had this vague unease that got worse as the calendar crept toward January. I wonder if my birth mother suffers like I do, from what the shrinkwrappers call “seasonal affected disorder” but I believe is simply part of the human experience. One of the most shocking moments during my brief contact with my birth mother was her revelation that depression runs in our family, in fact one of my uncles suffers severely from it. Don’t ask me what that means because it’s all I’ve got. To be given that tidbit and then left in the dark makes me feel like spring will never come. Maybe depression was imprinted on me in the womb. It’s in my blood, an unknown poison.

I don’t tell casual acquaintances about my birthday. People always want to know, put it in their calendar, send you an e-card or invite you to a little office celebration with stale cake. But adoptee birthdays invoke too many well-intentioned questions that are conversational for others and heartbreaking for us, like”Where were you born?” (some of us don’t know) and “Are you celebrating with your family?” (which one?) In short, birthdays are stark reminders of what may be our most traumatic experience: losing our mothers, our blood relatives, our cultures, our heritage. I don’t mind sharing with people who know my adopted status and understand that trauma. What I don’t like is the automatic dismissal of the uninitiated: “Oh, you’re adopted! You must feel so lucky.” And I’ll admit, I’m no fun. When people ask me straight out I give them a straight out answer: that I’m adopted, that my birthday is traumatic, that it brings up a lot of feelings of loss and I don’t really like talking about it. Talk about putting a damper on the party.

I didn’t even write a birthday entry last year, I was so fed up with it. This year feels… different. Still depressed. Still descending into despair, and I’m not going to say there’s hope at the bottom. It’s more of an icy determination.
I’m starting up the search again, trying to find not only my origins but the details of my adoption. So many lies and misdirections, so many half-truths and hunches, I don’t even know what’s real anymore. So I’m laying it all out, trying to discern fact from fiction. By Illinois law I am forbidden from contacting my mother – a total joke, as I have next to nothing about her yet she has my complete contact information due to the Illinois CI program’s screw-up. But I’ll be damned if anybody tries to tell me I’m not allowed to piece together my own past within the confines of the strictures placed upon me.
The holidays were harder for me this year than January is now, which is odd. Maybe it’s the weather. There’s been very little snow and with temps in the 30s it feels more like November. I can handle November. My pansies are still blooming and there’s lettuce in the cold frames in the veggie garden. But there’s always that awful feeling in the back of my mind that the hammer will fall, that November will become December will become January and the world will lock into ice and cold and loneliness.
Among the adoption paperwork (that is, the paperwork my adoptive father deemed acceptable for me to see, as opposed to the papers he lied about/destroyed/concealed) is a yellow sheet of legal paper. It’s a transcript my adoptive father (aka the lawyer who sealed my file) took of a phone call he had with his old college pal (aka the delivery doctor). I feel sick just looking at it. I decided to post this because it’s a little piece of BSE (Baby Scoop Era) history.

(Sorry if Blogger is sucky about embiggen. You can find it full-size here.)
Words jump out at me. “Nov Dec Jan,” reflecting the personal countdown to hell I still experience every year. “Girl very reasonable.” Of course she was, she had no resources or support! “How could it be done in Illinois?” That is the man I once called Father, concealing my origins.
Note carefully what is going on in this transcript (which has been edited by me for my own privacy). My adoptive father was told they had to go with a private adoption, presumably because they’d been rejected by all the agencies they approached. Private adoption was legal in Illinois, but that they couldn’t adopt me there because it was limited to Illinois residents. So they found a loophole by finalizing the adoption in Ohio, their state of residence. My adoptive father was an attorney licensed to practice in Ohio and arranged matters there himself. Because of this, he ended up controlling the process of my adoption as well as the contents of my adoption file, including my original Illinois birth certificate. I am told this would never be allowed today due to conflict of interest. Later, he became the person to whom I had to apply for non-identifying information, according to revised Ohio state law regarding private adoptions. You can imagine how well that went.
The sickest line, to me, is this: ““Have to arrange to have mother take child w/her & physically turn child over to us & take to Ohio.” To my understanding, my mother was forced to walk me out of the hospital (to fulfill laws saying only she could do so) and turn me over to the delivery doctor, who kept me for the first week of my life then turned me over to my adoptive parents. Elsewhere there is a notation about having to hold off on finalizing the adoption because of the waiting period for my mother to change her mind. It’s all so reprehensible: the careful application of law contrary to its supposedly intended purpose of giving a mother the chance to make an informed choice.
My adoption is gray market, legal as far as I know. But no one could look at the above scenario and consider it objective or ethical. This is the heart of the Baby Scoop Era: legal and illegal separation of children and parents. Except it never ended, because the same tactics continue to be employed today. They get you coming and going, both when the child is first adopted and later when the now-adult adoptee attempts to reclaim his or her birthright.
Icy determination and anger; that, to me, will always be January. This year I’m depressed but I’m also refocused. Adoption will not stop me. Depression will not stop me. Discrimination and stereotypes of adoptees will not stop me. Deformer laws, apathetic reporters and disdainful politicians will not stop me.
All adoptees deserve the same equal, unfettered access to their original birth certficates as the non-adopted. Nothing less is acceptable. Nor is our society’s prejudicial treatment of adoptees acceptable. I have had it with people speaking for adult adoptees and first mothers, putting words in our mouths, refusing to listen to our voices even though we are STANDING RIGHT HERE, blogging and tweeting and making ourselves heard.

When Adopted Parents Control Knowledge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compromise Legislation: Why Some Adoptees And Not Others?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Bias Against Adoption Records Access

Individuals in positions of power are locking entire groups of people out of their adoption records.

In some states, counties, courts and adoption agencies, certain people are known to block access to records based solely on their own personal bias. It’s common knowledge among adoption searchers that some places are much harder to search than others for this reason. Invariably the bias is against open records, not for it. These powerful individuals believe adoption records should not just be closed, but sealed in carbonite for all time. They control all avenues leading to adoption records, including the post-adoption services that purportedly exist to “help” adoptees and birth families.

Let’s talk to some people who have run into this experience. LisaKay writes:

As a CPA, I must disagree strongly with the CI system and the sealed files system as well. There is NO OVERSIGHT. There is NO AUDIT. There is NO ACCOUNTABILITY. There is NO INDEPENDENT 3rd PARTY who can verify or contradict what that one person says.There is no way that ANYONE can have any degree of certainty that 1) what they are being told is accurate and complete, 2) the CI and Post Adoption Services Units ever even carry out their job duties, 3) what the “client” adoptee/bMother is telling CI and PAS is being documented and forwarded to the other party.

Nikki says:

I have had trouble getting into my records.I have been told by Lee county FL that even if I petition all I will get access to is non identifying information.So that is a dead end since I’ve had what little info they gave me since 1994.So in my case I will have to find another way.

To share my own experience, I was told the judge in the Ohio county where my records are sealed never approves petitions for access. Interestingly, my petition to open my records was deemed “granted, in part, as to non-identifying information” – information that should be available without the expense and hassle of the court petition process. I call that carbonite, not records access. I could also mention the fact that my adoptive father was also the attorney who finalized my adoption and therefore had full access to my records, as he was the one who provided them to the court. These powerful people change the rules of the Adoption Game at whim, while the rest of us scramble to keep up.

One wonders what connects these powerful individuals to adoption. Are they adoptive parents with a vested interest in blocking the attempts of their adopted “child” (adult) to learn his/her origins? Are they affiliated with adoption agencies who might see a drop in those lucrative post-adoption profits? Or perhaps some of them have sired one too many bastards to be comfortable with open records.

As another example, let’s note that the woman who was recently arrested for child abuse, and was a leader of the Illinois Council On Adoptable Children, was also on the Illinois Adoption Advisory Council which oversees, among other things, access to adoption records. Is this really the sort of person YOU want having control over your information?

I would suggest independent oversight – that we put adoptees and birth parents on these advisory councils – except that’s already being done and it doesn’t seem to make a difference. Instead, we need to do away entirely with the ability of the adoption industry to operate in a clandestine manner. Restore adult adoptee access to original birth certificates. Grant birth relatives the ability to view documents that pertain to them. Dedicate funds toward helping women in need raise their children. Make adoption rare, and about finding homes for children who need them instead of children for parents who want them.

People in positions of power may still abuse that power, but they should know the world is watching.

Those Who Cannot Afford Their Adoption Records

Imagine if someone held your birth certificate hostage – and you couldn’t afford to buy it.

That is the position in which many adoptees find themselves. For most people, a birth certificate costs a meager fee to the state. Unless you’re adopted, that is. Then you can expect to pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars, plus your own time and effort.

Let’s note that closed-record adoptees have two birth certificates: the original one, containing birth names, and the amended one – or as some adoptees call it, the falsified lie. Amended birth certificates list the adoptive parents “as if” they are the biological parents of the adoptee. If an adoptee follows the standard procedures and pays the standard fees like anyone else, it’s the amended birth certificate they get; a document that has no basis in reality and does them little good.

I put forth a few questions to the Adoption Database community, and I’d like to solicit the opinions of my blog readers as well:

  • What were you told about the fees to access sealed adoption records?
  • Were the fees more than you could afford?
  • If so, were you offered alternatives – was there any other way made available to you, to access your sealed records?
  • Were you satisfied or dissatisfied with your experience, and why?

Here are some of the responses I have received. Natalie says:

You can only access sealed records in NYS with a petition to the court where the adoption was finalized and by showing “good cause” which can mean anything and is up to the judge’s discretion. I had my sealed records opened and paid an attorney $1500 and the guardian ad litem $2100 in 1988. I received only non identifying information but a lot more than the NYS Adoption Information Registry gave me. I thought [the fees] were ridiculous but I had to find out about my sibling, which turned out to be 8 siblings and not one! I thought that I should have gotten identifying information. I also thought that the guardian ad litem didn’t do a very good job as he said he could not locate my birthmother and that she probably moved from the Syracuse, NY area. She actually still lived there until she died in 1991. She remarried and was going by a different name. I think a lot of people in NYS wouldn’t mind paying a fee if that’s all it took to get a copy of sealed records. You have to jump through hoops and hire an attorney, and the process is very complicated. NYS likes to discourage people from asking for their sealed records.

Alicia says:

Being adopted through CHS [Florida], I had to pay a fee for non ID and/or search. I paid $150 for NonID and $400 for search services. [The fees were] most definitely [more than I could afford]. There were no other alternatives. I searched for over ten years before paying the search fee to CHS, because I didn’t see any other choice. [I was] satisfied because I found my family, but very unhappy with the fact that I had to pay the company who sold me in order to be reunited with my birth family, as well as, the lack of control I had in the process. All adult adoptees should be able to receive their original birth certificate from the state for the same fee as any other person requesting their BC. Other information, such as archived files of hard paper information should be available, at a reasonable cost.

An adoptee who prefers to remain anonymous adds:

I’ve already paid $100 to Lutheran Family Services in Cleveland OH, the organization through which I was adopted. Unfortunately, while they cashed my check, they had virtually no information to give me–only that my bmother was an RN and my bfather was an Attorney. That I already knew from my parents. I’m waiting to see how much Geauga County (where I was in foster care for the first two years of my life) will charge once they determine that they CAN give me my non-ID info.

My own experience trying to get records was similarly dissatisfying, as I have already described. Here in Illinois, it costs $15 for a non-adopted birth certificate. The Illinois Adoption Registry is $40, free if you include medical info, and the CI program cost me $700 in fees alone (including a $200 discount from a special subsidy), plus lawyer’s fees, notarizations, postage, and at least a thousand hours’ worth of my time over the course of two years.

In New York, Natalie could have gotten her birth certificate for $30 if she wasn’t adopted. Similarly, Alicia’s Florida birth certificate could have cost $9, and anonymous’ in Ohio, $16.50.

What can we conclude about the costs for adoptees to obtain their birth certificates and other records?

  • Fees to adoptees are significantly higher than the costs for non-adopted birth certificates;
  • Fees are charged even if little or no information is available or provided;
  • Adoptees pay, only to face increasing obstacles in attempting to gain their rightful information;
  • Adoptees have little control over the processes for which they pay;
  • Despite the costs, mistakes are made which go uncorrected.

Alicia is right in pointing out that the same agency that charged her adoptive parents for her infant self, turned right around years later and charged her for the very same information they themselves sealed.

The agencies say they need the money to find the records. I call it double-dipping. If they hadn’t sealed the records in the first place, they wouldn’t have to look in the vault, or the broom closet, or Douglas Adams’ “bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory” which is probably where my own original birth certificate is. Even worse, adoptees sometimes get triple- or quadruple-dipped, like in my own case where the Illinois CI program informed me I would have to pay the fees AGAIN to restart the search for my birth father.

There are plenty of adoptees out there who cannot afford the only means of accessing their records. Although we may not have cash, we are still voting citizens of this country and you better believe we remember it, come election season.

All people, adopted or not, deserve equal – and affordable! – access to their original birth certificates.

Case Closed! Another Adoptee Becomes A Confidential Intermediary Statistic

I am not a number, I am a free… oh, never mind.

As Ohio was thumbing its nose at open records advocates’ testimony, the Illinois Confidential Intermediary program closed a case and added another successful match to its statistics.

Except I’m not a statistic. And as I’ve mentioned before, my CI case was anything but successful.

This is a timeline of my experience.

  • 2000
    I apply to the Illinois Adoption Registry, as well as the separate Illinois CI program (run by Midwest Adoption Center under contract to Illinois DCFS). My application for a CI is rejected, despite my Illinois birth certificate, because the program “does not have a procedure” for out-of-state adoptees.
  • 2004
    Having exhausting most resources on my own, I contact an attorney about re-applying to the Illinois CI program.
  • 2006
    After two years of working with the program to prepare a procedure for out-of-state adoptees, mine is the first such application to be accepted.
  • July 2006
    My court petition is approved, and a CI assigned. The CI is given one year to search for birth parents and siblings. There is a registration fee and separate fees for each search. The first search is for my mother. I provide the CI with the scant information I have, including the non-identifying information I obtained in the late 1990s from Ohio.
  • November 2006
    Contact is made with my mother. We are allotted three letters each within the CI program.

    I ask the CI for a (redacted) copy of the initial letter sent to my mother. It is provided with my mother’s first letter.

  • February 2007
    I receive my mother’s second letter.

    I ask the CI about searching for my father. She says I should ask my mother.

    I write a letter to Gretchen Schulert, expressing concerns about the program and suggesting ways it might be improved. I ask about the rigid “three letters” policy, and also if an outside counselor could facilitate an exchange with my mother in order to reserve the remaining letters within the CI program.

    I am asked by Gretchen via the CI if I am willing to identify to my mother.

    Nancy Golden (clinical director/chief therapeutcrat of the CI program) calls in response to my letter to Gretchen Schulert (administrative director). In a rushed conversation Nancy reveals that they sometimes do five letters instead of three. She suggests I try searching on my own. Oh, and she also suggests I seek counseling if I need it…

  • March 2007
    My mother agrees to increase our letter exchange to five.
  • May 2007
    In a conversation with the CI, I ask when my mother will receive the medical questionnaire I filled out with the Illinois registry back in 2000. I am told only if she signs up for the registry, and my CI doesn’t know if she has been informed of it.
  • June 2007
    I receive my mother’s third response. In the cover letter the CI tells me:

    “Your birth mother included the first name of your birth father in her letter. Due to confidentiality issues, I was required to redact his name from her letter.”

    I receive the CI’s status report to the judge, asking for an extension due to continued exchange of correspondence.

  • July 2007
    I am told my mother chooses not to identify.

    The case is continued for six months. The next court hearing date is October, 2007.

  • August 2007
    I am told my mother wishes to continue the full exchange of five letters.

    I ask about initiating the search for my father and am again told I should ask my mother. I write a letter to the CI formally asking for the search for my father to begin.

    The CI informs me that there is not enough information to search for my father.

    I am told by the CI that my identifying information has mistakenly been provided to my mother. As this is an express violation of the statute, the CI has to report it to the court/judge and advisory council that oversees the program. The CI will send a formal letter notifying me of the accidental disclosure.

  • September 2007
    I provide the non-identifying information I received in the early 1990s from Ohio to the CI again, to see if it changes the status of the search for my father.

    I ask the CI for copies of the letters sent to the judge/court and advisory council regarding the disclosure of my information, and also for a redacted copy of the letter my mother sent the CI. I ask what options have been offered to my mother within the program, and what specific questions have been asked of her with regard to my father and any potential siblings.

    I am told that the Illinois Registry does not apply to us because we are communicating via the CI program. The registry is only used for those wishing to communicate outside the program.

    I am told I cannot know what interview questions have been asked of my mother regarding my father and any potential siblings – that I cannot know what search steps have been taken on my behalf.

    I am told that I cannot have a redacted copy of my mother’s letter because it is “not under guidelines of anonymous correspondence.”

    The request for the letters to the judge/court and advisory council regarding the disclosure of my identifying information is ignored.

    The CI tells me she intends to ask for another continuance at the October hearing.

    I send another letter to Gretchen Schulert, asking for full disclosure of all standard policies and procedures, as well as standard materials given to contacted parties.

  • October 2007
    The CI sends me a copy of the status report to the judge, with the notation:

    “The report was modified before you received it because it contained confidential information that related to your birth mother. I am prohibited from sharing that confidential information with you at this time.”

    [In other words, I have no idea what the real status report said.]

    The CI tells me that with the Ohio information I provided there is now enough to begin a search for my father, but that the likelihood of success is poor. I pay the fee and fill out the forms to begin the search.

    I call Gretchen Schulert regarding the letter I sent in September. She tells me that I will receive a reply, but informs me she does not have time to discuss the matter.

    I am told my mother no longer wishes to continue anonymous exchange of letters.

  • November 2007
    My attorney is informed by Illinois DCFS’s legal counsel that the CI program’s policies and procedures are “not available to the public.”

    I receive my mother’s final letter, once again with a notation from the CI:

    “Your birth mother included the age of your birth grandfather at the time of his death in her letter. Due to confidentiality issues, I was required to redact his age from her letter.”

    The judge continues my case until May, 2008, so the search for my father can proceed. This excerpt from the court order makes it sound like a capital crime for adoptees to ask about their origins:

    “This matter coming on a request for instructions by the Confidential Intermediary and the Court having reviewed the matter considering the respective interests of the Parties to the adoption, namely, the adoptee’s rights to search for biological relatives as granted by Illinois law, and the fact that the biological mother was more likely than not advised that her identity would be shielded from disclosure if an adoption ofher child was completed. Further noting, that the Parties have undertaken the practice of communicating anonymously which should give the Petitioner access to any necessary genetic medical history and, if appropriate, other information about her biological family. Finally, observing the mother’s adamant refusal to share additional information at this time and stating a rational basis for her position.
    IT IS ORDERED:
    1. That the Confidential Intermediary shall not furnish the Petitioner with an unredacted copy of her status report or any additional information concerning the biological mother, other than as authorized by her;
    2. The matter is continued to May, 2008 to allow for a search for the biological father.”

    I email Representative Sara Feigenholtz, sponsor of the CI program, regarding my concerns about the program and in particular the lack of official notification of the accidental disclosure of my identifying information. I ask her advice as to how to proceed.

    I receive the long-awaited response from Gretchen regarding the letter I sent in September. She informs me that CI program policies and procedures are “for internal use, not for public distribution.”

    The CI tells me she has begun sending letters to men who could possibly be my father.

  • December 2007
    The CI expresses surprise that I have not yet received the official notification of the accidental disclosure of my identifying information. She says she will look into it.
  • January 2008
    I am once again told there is “no word” on the official notification. The person who is supposed to provide it is “someone at DCFS” but the CI is “not allowed” to tell me who.

    The CI tells me the search for my father is complete but unsuccessful, and that without further information no searches for potential siblings can be made.

    I exchange email correspondence with Rep. Feigenholtz, who is happy to tell me about HB 4623 but ceases communication when I voice concerns about the CI program.

    I am told my mother intends to file a denial with the Illinois Registry.

    The CI says she will recommend in her status report that the case be dismissed.

Which brings us to February 2008. At this point, the CI program must be dying to close my case. I’ve been a thorn in their side since the beginning, and my recent public criticisms no doubt make me even less popular. So I was dangled a juicy carrot.

I could have the non-identifying information the CI gathered in the course of my search. The CI would even throw in a written notation that my identifying information was disclosed. But I may only receive it if the judge closes my case.

It’s apparently standard “procedure” – never mind that nobody seems able to provide written procedures for anything the CI program does. See, if they close the case they can add me to their statistics as a successful “match,” not to mention get rid of me.

Instead, my attorney and I made a motion to keep the case open pending legislation in Illinois (HB 4623) and Ohio (HB 7) that might grant more access to my records; or, failing that, to gain the right to re-open the case within a year should new information about my father arise.

It’s a good thing I wasn’t at the May hearing; the judge was so busy he barely had time to notice my dinky little case. His ruling was that he had read my motion but not the CI’s status report, so he would get back to me, sometime. As usual, adoptees are lowest priority.

The following day I received a call from the CI. The judge chose to close my case. But it’s okay, the CI reassures me. If I ever get more information about my father, all I have to do is re-petition, they do it all the time. A CI will be assigned, and we can keep going.

Here’s the kicker. I would have to pay AGAIN to re-open the case!

I’ve already paid a registration fee, plus separate search fees for my mother and father. But due to the “exorbitant” amount of time spent on my case, the program would have to charge me again to re-open it. This is for a search in which I did most of the legwork, since they had no access to anything in Ohio. And since I’m not allowed to know the steps taken in my search, I have no way to verify what was actually done.

Ready for the scorecard? The Illinois CI program:

  • Initially refused all applications from Illinois-born, out-of-state adoptees. Their web site states you don’t need a lawyer – but if I hadn’t had one my application would still be sitting in the reject pile.

    Are other applications being rejected? Intermediary programs are not available to all adoptees.

  • Deliberately discourages participants and contacted relatives from signing up with the state registry.

    Why? Is it to ensure a steady supply of paying clients? The state registry is free (if you complete the medical section); the CI program costs hundreds of dollars.

  • Redacts information not specifically stated in the 18.4 statute as being “identifying,” in my case information my mother obviously desired to tell me since she included it in her letters.

    Are adoptees being denied even the minimal non-identifying information permitted by law?

  • Can’t decide whether participants are permitted program information or not. I received a redacted copy of the first letter sent to my mother when I requested it, but requests for similar subsequent materials was denied.

    Are programs using “confidentiality” as a cloak to hide their own shortcomings?

  • Refuses to disclose the search steps taken on participants’ behalf.

    How are participants to know if they have received the services they paid for, if they are not allowed to know what was done?

  • Refuses to disclose their standard written policies and procedures.
    What do these programs have to hide, that their very policies are secret?
  • Accidentally disclosed my identifying information without my consent.

    Why are adoptees expected to trust programs that consider their own policies more “confidential” than participants’ private data?

  • Continues to fail to provide official written notification of said disclosure.

    Why do proponents of intermediaries deny that mistakes occur? Is it because the primary focus is profit rather than helping adoptees and their families?

  • Charges to re-open cases, with no way for participants to know what has or has not been done on their behalf.

    Why are adoptees expected not only to pay extra fees, but to pay them multiple times, for the same information that non-adopted people may easily obtain?

This is sheer insanity. People say adoptees have more psychological issues than non-adoptees. If we do, maybe they’re imposed on us by situations like this!

While writing this I received the CI’s last status report. This includes her mention of the disclosure of my identifying info – but that’s still not the official notification. And now that the case is closed, there’s a snowball’s chance in hell of getting that. Plus, the non-identifying information about my father is different from what I have from Ohio. I’m left with more questions than answers. Since I’m not allowed to know what’s been done, I have no way to know what’s really going on.

And that’s the key. They don’t want you to know what’s going on.

Not only have adoptees fallen into a dank political swamp, but we’ve been conscripted into the greatest adoption scheme since Georgia Tann first decided to falsify birth certificates to cover selling children. Post-adoption services exist to charge you, with no guarantees. If you question the process, if you dare voice a concern, you are branded an Angry Ungrateful Adoptee, and encouraged to seek counseling.

Adoptees don’t need counseling. We need the same access to our records as those who are not adopted. Post-adoption services like intermediaries are ineffective.

  • They operate with little oversight.
  • They confuse the issue of adoptee civil rights with the debate over search and reunion.
  • They force reunion in the quest for information.
  • CIs may not have the experience necessary to effect successful searches.
  • By their very presence, third parties may interfere with the reunion process.
  • CI contact may feel threatening to first moms, whose experience with social workers may already be less than positive.
  • “One strike” policy is cruel – if a contacted party says no and later changes his/her mind, the program may refuse to make further contact.
  • Charging adoptees more than non-adoptees for birth information is outrageous.
  • Charging adoptees multiple times is even more outrageous.
  • The entire concept of intermediaries is an affront to adoptees’ adulthood.

Want to hear more sheer insanity? If Illinois HB 4623 passes, it may allow first parents to redact their names (and the adoptee’s last name, if the same) FROM THE ORIGINAL BIRTH CERTIFICATE.

Now, I’ve been told (not that I can verify this, since it’s more classified than the deepest government secrets) that my original birth certificate has no first or middle name – not Baby Girl, nothing. So if this legislation passes, I’ll officially be:

BLANK BLANK BLANK

And the supporters of HB 4623 call this a win for adoptee records access!

Like others with the bad luck to be adopted between states, I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. Illinois HB 4623 promotes an already ineffective system, and Ohio’s HB 7 has been emasculated of open records language. Without changes in legislation – or winning the lottery – I have slim chance of proceeding further.

This started as a simple request for my records. Twelve years later, the adoption industry has turned me into a vocal advocate for adoptee rights. It’s ironic that if the records weren’t sealed, there wouldn’t be people like me publicly questioning the adoption industry’s more dubious practices.

But we are. And you should, too.

For Shame! Adoptee Records Access Snubbed, Write Ohio Committee

A Wag Of My Finger to those members of the Ohio House Health Committee who walked out on open records advocates’ testimony at the April 30 hearing on HB 7! Even if you don’t agree with the message, it’s your job to listen to it.

Fortunately that testimony can be heard through the hard work of those who refuse to be silenced any longer. Adoption Network Cleveland has put PDFs of the testimony online for those unable to attend. And bloggers like Bastardette and Baby Love Child call a spade a spade when it comes to the real intent behind silencing adoptees.

Despite there being NO public testimony opposing records access, the language has been stripped from HB 7. As Baby Love Child says:

If legislators only want to ’support adoption’ when we the adoptees are too young to speak on our own behalf/protect our own interests, then it’s long since time we as adult adoptees began to call it like we see it. Legislators who thwart adoptee equality are anti-adoption.

As an adoption expert – an Ohio adoptee of the Sealed and Secret generation – I call upon the Ohio House Health Committee to restore access language to this bill. If you care so much about “child-centered” policies, prove it. I was one of those children on whose behalf you spoke decades ago. I return now as an adult to tell you that sealed records are a chokehold on our very existence.

Again from Baby Love Child:

To genuinely “care” about children in adoption means to also care about us as we reach adulthood, and to give us the tools we need to conduct our lives as any other citizen would, not enduring lifelong hindering by unnecessary State interference and records confiscation.

Our personal information has been transformed from something originally held and protected for us, to be returned to us as we reach adulthood, into perpetually State held dossiers, records locked away from the very people they pertain to, such that the State knows more about me in some ways, personal and intimate than I do about myself.

My Ohio adoption file is buried, lest the universe implode should it see the light of day. My original Illinois birth certificate is sealed tighter than toxic waste. Adoption is great when you’re giving the poor (profitable) waifs homes, but when they come back wanting answers – or, worse, asking questions – it all begins to unravel. It’s so much easier to turn your back, pretend the testimony doesn’t exist. The secret-keepers undermine behind the scenes, while the disenfranchised have nothing but words.

But words can work wonders. I urge every single one of you to write the Ohio House Health Committee and tell them you will be silenced no longer. Insist upon adult adoptee records access in Ohio!

“Oh, how I love my name,
And what you do to me is a shame.”
–Evelyn King

Ohio Action Alert: Submit Your Testimony!

(from Adoption Network Cleveland)
Bill Hearing Wednesday April 30, 2008 – Columbus Ohio

Up until last week, Ohio House Bill 7 contained language that would allow Ohio adult adoptees access to their original birth certificate upon their request. This is something that Adoption Network Cleveland and others across the state have been working on diligently over the last 20 years.� Last week, that language was stripped from the bill.

The legislators are very concerned about birthparent privacy. They are assuming that if a birthparent placed a child in a closed record adoption (the only option available at that time) between 1964 and 1996, that allowing the adult adoptee access to their original birth certificate is an affront to the birthparent’s privacy.

They need to hear directly from birthparents whose children were adopted in Ohio between January of 1964 and September of 1996 to gain an accurate view of what birthparents want. Adult adoptees or adoptive parents in reunion with, or professionals who have worked with, birthparents from that era are also needed.

Please attend the next hearing on House Bill 7 and testify – have your voice heard!� The hearing will be at the Ohio Statehouse at 4 pm Wednesday April 30, 2008 – room 017.� Advocates will meet outside of the hearing room starting at 3 p.m. If you can come to the hearing and would like to testify (or discuss testifying), please contact Betsie Norris at Adoption Network Cleveland betsie.norris@adoptionnetwork.org and H.B. 7 sponsor Tom Brinkman’s legislative aide Kara Joseph at Kara.Joseph@ohr.state.oh.us.

To sign up for email legislative alerts, go to

and fill out the form on the right hand side of the page.

Thank you!

Betsie Norris
Executive Director
Adoption Network Cleveland
4614 Prospect, Suite 550
Cleveland, Ohio 44103
P: (216) 325-1000
F: (216) 881-7510
www.adoptionnetwork.org
Changing Lives…Creating Futures

Ohio Action Alert: HB 7 Sub Bill Erases Birth Certificate Access

BUCKEYES FOR EQUAL ACCESS:

OPEN RECORDS FOR ALL OHIO ADOPTEES

PLEASE DISTRIBUTE FREELY

OHIO ACTION ALERT

BUCKEYES FOR EQUAL ACCESS SAYS:

OHIO ADOPTEES NEED YOUR HELP NOW!

SUB BILL ERASES BIRTH CERTIFICATE ACCESS

BeaOhio: beaohio@gmail.com http://www.myspace.com/beaohio

On April 16, 2008 a substitute bill for HB 7, an adoption/fostercare reform bill, which included original birth certificate access for all post-1963 adopted adults without restriction, was introduced in the Ohio House Health The sub bill, (also called LSC 127 0671-4), deletes all reference to obc access found in the original bill; thus, maintaining the current 3-tiered yes-no-maybe system that divides obc access by date of adoption/date of birth and first parent permission.*

BILL INFORMATION

Original HB 7: http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=127_HB_7 (click on link at left)

Sub HB 7: http://www.adoptionnetwork.org/filegallery.asp?f=270&linkId=1346 (2n square on right—pdf.)

HEARING

A hearing on Sub Bill 7 bill is scheduled for 4:00 PM, Wednesday, April 23 in Room 017 (basement) of the Statehouse Testimony requesting the reinstatement of unrestricted obc access can be given. Bring 20 copies of your testimony for the committee. If you can’t testify, then come to support.

If you plan to testify please call Kara Joseph in Rep. Tom Brinkman’s office at 614-644-6886.

We have been told that another hearing on Sub Bill 7 will probably be held on Wednesday, April 30 so save that date, too. Please check with our MySpace page for updates. http://www.myspace.com/beaohio

FULL ACCESS MUST BE RETURNED!

CONTACT

If you are an Ohio adoptee, birthparent, adoptive parent or currently live in Ohio or have an Ohio connection, please contact the Health Committee today and urge them to:

  • Support HB 7 as written. Reject Sub Bill 7 unless the exact unrestricted access language from the original HB 7 is restored.
  • Support the addition of a contact preference form, if presented.
  • Reject all attempts to restrict obc access to any adopted adult for any reason through disclosure vetoes or other methods.

TALKING POINTS—HB 7 as written

  • is inclusive. It acknowledges a legally, morally, and ethically correct one-size-fits all standard of identity and records rights for all adopted persons. It treats the adopted the same as the non-adopted.
  • treats all Ohio adoptees equally. It abolishes the discriminatory 3-tiered access system based on date of birth, date of adoption availability, or birth parent permission.
  • does not open original birth certificates and other records to the public.
  • does not change adoption procedures
  • is pro-adoption. It is not controversial. It reflects best practice adoption standards. Unrestricted access to the original birth certificate is a priority of every adoption reform organization in the US. Unrestricted access is supported by the majority adoption professionals.
  • is about rights not reunions. It is about the relation of adoptees to the state.
  • is non-partisan. In states where access has been restored, Republicans and Democrats sponsored the legislation and voted YES.

If you are a birthparent tell the committee:

  • You were never promised anonymity nor did you ask for it.
  • You do not expect or need “special rights”

If you are an adoptive parent tell the committee:

  • Your son or daughter is not a second class citizen; he or she deserves the same right of identity and public records access as the not-adopted.
  • Adoption is a strong institution and can only be strengthened in Ohio by openness and truth.

*Current Ohio law:

  • Persons adopted before January 1, 1964: unrestricted access
  • Persons adopted January 1, 1964-September 18, 1996: access by court order
  • Persons adopted September 19, 1996-present: unrestricted access at age of majority unless a birthparent has filed a disclosure veto with the state; then the adoptee is barred from receiving a copy of their original birth certificate—the public record of their own birth.

PLEASE E-MAIL, WRITE, CALL, or FAX THE MEMBERS OF OHIO HOUSE HEALTH COMMITTEE IMMEDIATELY. TELL THEM TO SUPPORT HB 7 AS WRITTEN AND THAT ANY RESTRICTION TO ACCESS IS UNACCEPTABLE TO OHIO ADOPTEES. TELL THEM YOUR LIFE AND RIGHTS COUNT.

The most important members to contact, by phone even if you talk to their aides, are Representatives Matt Huffman (R-Lima), Robert Mecklenborg (R-Cincinnati), and Speaker of the House Jon Husted.

*Speaker Jon Husted

77 S. High St.

Columbus, OH 43215-6111

Telephone: (614) 466-5316

Fax: (614) 719-3591

Email Address: district37@odr.state.oh.us

HEALTH COMMITTEE: Chair:
*Lynn Wachtmann (R)
District 75
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-3760
Fax : (614) 719-3975
Email Address: district75@ohr.state.oh.us

Ranking Minority Member:
Brian G. Williams (D)
District 41
77 S. High St
10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 644-5085
Fax : (614) 719-6941
Email Address: district41@ohr.state.oh.us

Members:
Barbara Boyd (D)
District 09
77 S. High St
10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 644-5079
Fax : (614) 719-0009
Email Address: district09@ohr.state.oh.us

Edna Brown (D)
District 48
77 S. High St
10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-1401
Fax : (614) 719-6948
Email Address: district48@ohr.state.oh.us

Michael DeBose (D)
District 12
77 S. High St
10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-1408
Fax : (614) 719-3912
Email Address: district12@ohr.state.oh.us

Lorraine M. Fende (D)
District 62
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-7251
Fax : (614) 719-3962
Email Address: district62@ohr.state.oh.us

Bruce W. Goodwin (R)
District 74
77 S. High St
13th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 644-5091
Fax : (614) 719-3974
Email Address: district74@ohr.state.oh.us

Jay Hottinger (R)
District 71
77 S. High St
13th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-1482
Fax : (614) 719-3971
Email Address: district71@ohr.state.oh.us

Matt Huffman (R)
District 04
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-9624
Fax : (614) 719-0004
Email Address: district04@ohr.state.oh.us

Shannon Jones (R)
District 67
Assistant Majority Whip
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 644-6027
Fax : (614) 719-3967
Email Address: district67@ohr.state.oh.us

Tom Letson (D)
District 64
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-5358
Fax : (614) 719-3964
Email Address: district64@ohr.state.oh.us

*Robert Mecklenborg (R)
District 30
77 S. High St
14th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-8258, or in district
Fax : (614) 719-3584
Email Address: district30@ohr.state.oh.us

Robert J. Otterman (D)
District 45
77 S. High St
10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 644-6037
Fax : (614) 719-6945
Email Address: district45@ohr.state.oh.us

W. Scott Oelslager (R)
District 51
77 S. High St
13th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 752-2438
Fax : (614) 719-6951
Email Address: district51@ohr.state.oh.us

Robert F. Hagan (D)
District 60
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-9435
Fax : (614) 719-3960
Email Address: district60@ohr.state.oh.us

James T. Raussen (R)
District 28
77 S. High St
13th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-8120
Fax : (614) 719-3582
Email Address: district28@ohr.state.oh.us

Chris Redfern (D)
District 80
77 S. High St
10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 644-6011
Fax : (614) 719-6980
Email Address: district80@ohr.state.oh.us

Carol-Ann Schindel (R)
District 63
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 644-6074
Fax : (614) 719-3963
Email Address: district63@ohr.state.oh.us

Fred Strahorn (D)
District 40
Assistant Minority Whip
77 S. High St
14th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-2960
Fax : (614) 719-6940
Email Address: district40@ohr.state.oh.us

Joseph W. Uecker (R)
District 66
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-8134
Fax : (614) 719-3966
Email Address: district66@ohr.state.oh.us

Shawn N. Webster (R)
District 53
77 S. High St
13th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 644-5094
Fax : (614) 719-6953
Email Address: district53@ohr.state.oh.us

Kenny Yuko (D)
District 07
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-8012
Fax : (614) 719-0007
Email Address: district07@ohr.state.oh.us

Cut and Past NOTE: addys have no names):

district37@odr.state.oh.us, district75@ohr.state.oh.us, district41@ohr.state.oh.us, district09@ohr.state.oh.us
district48@ohr.state.oh.us, district12@ohr.state.oh.us
district62@ohr.state.oh.us, district74@ohr.state.oh.us
district71@ohr.state.oh.us, district04@ohr.state.oh.us
district67@ohr.state.oh.us, district64@ohr.state.oh.us
district30@ohr.state.oh.us, district45@ohr.state.oh.us
district51@ohr.state.oh.us, district60@ohr.state.oh.us
district28@ohr.state.oh.us, district80@ohr.state.oh.us
district63@ohr.state.oh.us, district40@ohr.state.oh.us
district66@ohr.state.oh.us, district53@ohr.state.oh.us
district07@ohr.state.oh.us


Write Now Too: Urge Ohio Legislators To Keep Adoptee Access Provisions In HB 7

Please join in writing to Ohio legislators asking them to keep adoptee records access provisions in Ohio HB 7.


Subject: Legislative Alert 4-17-2008
Date: Thu, 17 Apr 2008 13:02:06 -0700 (PDT)
From: Betsie Norris

Legislative Alert

Letters and Calls Needed — Please feel free to forward!

Thank you for being interested in Ohio House Bill 7.

As you know, House Bill 7 was introduced last January and is aimed at reforming the adoption and foster care laws of Ohio. The goal of my contacting you is to urge you to write or call your state representative and the members of the House Health Committee and ask them to support keeping access to records provisions in the bill.

Unfortunately, this critical piece of the bill is being removed. This piece would allow persons adopted between 1964 and 1996 to have access to their original birth certificate. We have put forward a compromise position which would mimic laws in place in Oregon, Alabama and other states. This model would allow birthparents to file a contact preference form with the birth certificate so that if the certificate is requested, the birthparent can state their desire (or lack thereof) to be contacted.

Below, please find a sample letter for your use. Feel free to change it, personalize it, and make it your own. If you make calls, you can use it as talking points.� If you have any questions about the letter or how to contact your state representative, please let me know and we will be happy to assist you. The list of House Health Committee members
follows the letter.� The most important members to contact, by phone if possible even if you talk to their aides, are Representatives Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and Robert Mecklenborg (R-Cincinnati) and Speaker of the House Jon Husted.� Thank you for your continued support of Adoption Network Cleveland.

Sincerely,

Betsie Norris
Executive Director
betsie.norris@adoptionnetwork.org

SAMPLE LETTER

April 16, 2008

Representative XXXX
77 S. High St., XX Floor
Columbus, OH 43215

Dear Representative XXXX:

I am writing today to urge you to support House Bill 7 sponsored by Representative Tom Brinkman.� As introduced, HB 7 will make dramatic improvements to Ohio’s adoption and foster care system.

Specifically, I urge you to support the portions of HB 7 that deal with “access to birth records.”� As you know, current law denies persons who were adopted in Ohio between 1964 and 1996 the right to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate.� HB 7 will eliminate this injustice and give all adoptees the same access to their birth records as every
other Ohioan.

A compromise position has been put forth, and I would encourage you to incorporate this as a means of addressing concerns raised by groups that oppose the access to records piece of the bill.� The “Contact Preference System” which has been put forward as a compromise is being used in several states that face the same dilemma as Ohio.� It allows the
adoptee access to their record, while providing the birthparent the ability to state their preference for if and how they wish to be contacted as a result of the birth certificate being released.� In short, it balances the interests of both the adoptee and the birthparent.

While the access to records piece of the bill transcends search and reunion (this can easily be accomplished without a birth certificate), the Contact Preference System ensures that rights on both sides of the equation are taken into consideration and protected.

Gaining access to one’s birth certificate can mean accessing life saving medical information, providing finality to an unclosed part of one’s life, answering lingering questions about one’s identity, and yes, searching for one’s birthparents.� In any of these cases, Ohio law should recognize the basic right each Ohioan has to possess one of the most fundamental documents in their life, their birth record.

Please support the Contact Preference System compromise as a means of allowing HB 7 to move forward.

Sincerely,

Ohio House Of Representatives – Health Committee
http://www.house.state.oh.us/jsps/Committee.jsp?ID=15

Members most important to contact have an astrix (*)

*Speaker Jon Husted
77 S. High St.
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-5316
Fax: (614) 719-3591
Email Address: district37@odr.state.oh.us

Chair:
*Lynn Wachtmann (R)
District 75
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-3760
Fax : (614) 719-3975
Email Address: district75@ohr.state.oh.us

Ranking Minority Member:
Brian G. Williams (D)
District 41
77 S. High St
10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 644-5085
Fax : (614) 719-6941
Email Address: district41@ohr.state.oh.us

Members:
Barbara Boyd (D)
District 09
77 S. High St
10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 644-5079
Fax : (614) 719-0009
Email Address: district09@ohr.state.oh.us

Edna Brown (D)
District 48
77 S. High St
10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-1401
Fax : (614) 719-6948
Email Address: district48@ohr.state.oh.us

Michael DeBose (D)
District 12
77 S. High St
10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-1408
Fax : (614) 719-3912
Email Address: district12@ohr.state.oh.us

Lorraine M. Fende (D)
District 62
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-7251
Fax : (614) 719-3962
Email Address: district62@ohr.state.oh.us

Bruce W. Goodwin (R)
District 74
77 S. High St
13th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 644-5091
Fax : (614) 719-3974
Email Address: district74@ohr.state.oh.us

Jay Hottinger (R)
District 71
77 S. High St
13th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-1482
Fax : (614) 719-3971
Email Address: district71@ohr.state.oh.us

Matt Huffman (R)
District 04
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-9624
Fax : (614) 719-0004
Email Address: district04@ohr.state.oh.us

Shannon Jones (R)
District 67
Assistant Majority Whip
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 644-6027
Fax : (614) 719-3967
Email Address: district67@ohr.state.oh.us

Tom Letson (D)
District 64
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-5358
Fax : (614) 719-3964
Email Address: district64@ohr.state.oh.us

*Robert Mecklenborg (R)
District 30
77 S. High St
14th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-8258, or in district
Fax : (614) 719-3584
Email Address: district30@ohr.state.oh.us

Robert J. Otterman (D)
District 45
77 S. High St
10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 644-6037
Fax : (614) 719-6945
Email Address: district45@ohr.state.oh.us

W. Scott Oelslager (R)
District 51
77 S. High St
13th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 752-2438
Fax : (614) 719-6951
Email Address: district51@ohr.state.oh.us

Robert F. Hagan (D)
District 60
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-9435
Fax : (614) 719-3960
Email Address: district60@ohr.state.oh.us

James T. Raussen (R)
District 28
77 S. High St
13th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-8120
Fax : (614) 719-3582
Email Address: district28@ohr.state.oh.us

Chris Redfern (D)
District 80
77 S. High St
10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 644-6011
Fax : (614) 719-6980
Email Address: district80@ohr.state.oh.us

Carol-Ann Schindel (R)
District 63
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 644-6074
Fax : (614) 719-3963
Email Address: district63@ohr.state.oh.us

Fred Strahorn (D)
District 40
Assistant Minority Whip
77 S. High St
14th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-2960
Fax : (614) 719-6940
Email Address: district40@ohr.state.oh.us

Joseph W. Uecker (R)
District 66
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-8134
Fax : (614) 719-3966
Email Address: district66@ohr.state.oh.us

Shawn N. Webster (R)
District 53
77 S. High St
13th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 644-5094
Fax : (614) 719-6953
Email Address: district53@ohr.state.oh.us

Kenny Yuko (D)
District 07
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-8012
Fax : (614) 719-0007
Email Address: district07@ohr.state.oh.us

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