A Letter To Washington State: Why Are Some Adoptees More Deserving Than Others?

When I found out my adoptee peeps in Washington State are facing disclosure veto legislation, my heart sank. Several years ago when a similar bill passed in Illinois, supporters of clean legislation predicted that it would be held up as a dubious “standard” for adoptee birth certificate access. Sadly, we were correct. You can read about what we faced with the Illinois legislation and my own personal experience with the suckitude that is Illinois’ veto-happy law.

The job of a clean adoptee rights advocate is never done. Not only do you have to face strident opponents, disinterested legislators, and nosy reporters, but you also have to fight your own team when people turn deformer and support bills that will leave some adoptees behind.

What the hell is so hard to understand, people? Don’t support bad bills. We can restore birth certificate access to ALL adoptees if you get off your asses and stop allowing yourselves to be herded like cows into the second-class-citizen barn.

This is the letter I sent to Washington State’s legislators. Whom, I might add, failed to respond save for two lone auto-responder bots – not even a “thank you for your message” from a staffer. So much for common courtesy. I guess bastards get ignored as usual, especially if you’re not a constituent. Hey, left-behind adoptees – feeling disenfranchised much?

You can read more about what’s going down in Washington State:

Dear Washington Senators and Representatives,

I understand you are considering an adoptee rights bill, SB 5118 / HB 1525, which contains a “contact veto” clause allowing birth mothers to deny adoptees access to their original birth certificates. Before you rush to pass such a bill, I hope you will consider the inequality of restoring access to some adoptees at the expense of others.

I am an Illinois adoptee and have been denied my birth certificate because my birth mother signed the veto in this state. I am the face of that supposedly small percentage of adoptees who will be permanently denied birth certificate access under this proposed legislation.

Rep. Orwall explains the need to favor the many over the few: “How sad it would be for some adoptees to not obtain this information while a birth parent may still be alive.”



What about those adoptees left behind by veto legislation? Why isn’t it sad that we cannot obtain our information as well – and in fact are permanently barred from it?



What makes some adoptees more deserving than others?

I was involved in the attempts to halt a similar bill that ended up passing here in Illinois. I have heard the arguments in favor of compromise legislation before: “Well, at least this will help the majority of adoptees.” The assumption is that those vetoes will be such a small percentage it won’t matter.

But the reality is that no state that has ever enacted veto legislation has gone back for those left behind. There’s no sunset clause, no mechanism by which these adoptees will later have their birth certificate access restored.

Rep. Orwall is worried that birth families may die before adoptees have a chance to find them. But this isn’t about search and reunion. It is about access to a critical piece of identity: our original birth certificates.

With increasing security in this post 9/11 world, many adoptees are discovering that their adoption paperwork alone isn’t good enough. Discrepancies in the paperwork, i’s not dotted or t’s not crossed, and adult adoptees suddenly find they are unable to obtain driver’s licenses, passports, and other critical documents.

I had a friend walked out of the DMV because she presented her amended birth certificate. She was told to bring the original – which, being adopted in a closed-records state, she has no way to obtain.

Veto legislation consigns some adoptees to this oblivion of non-access. They have no recourse, no way to obtain proof of their own identities. They are permanently banned.

The matter of birth mother privacy is irrelevant. My birth mother relinquished all rights to me when I was given up for adoption. Why does a stranger now have the ability to come back years later and deny me access to my own birth certificate? Not every adoptee who wants a birth certificate is looking to search. Search is a matter of personal choice and has no bearing on the civil right to obtain one’s documentation of birth.

The only equitable solution is to restore to ALL adoptees the same equal access to original birth certificates as non-adoptees. This has been successfully done in Maine, where everyone follows the same procedure, adopted or not. Everyone pays the same basic fee. No one is left behind.

Maine has suffered none of the dire consequences so drastically described by opponents of original birth certificate access. Adoptees in Maine can walk into the courthouse, heads held high, and be treated the same as everyone else. That is all we want. If Maine, why not Washington?

I invite you to view Maine’s legislation here:

http://www.adopteerightscoalition.com/2011/07/adoptee-rights-sample-legislation.html

It’s no less sad or unfair for vetoed adoptees to be denied birth certificate access than it is for those whose birth families age and die while legislation is being considered.

Because that “small percentage” so casually dismissed? Those are real people like me. We’re not statistics. We exist. And we deserve the same equal rights, too.

Please vote no on SB 5118 / HB 1525.

Sincerely,

Triona Guidry

Who Controls Adoptee Narratives?

I have been thinking a lot about Amanda’s recent posts at Declassified Adoptee. Through her experiences as an adult adoptee and her training in social work, she brings a lot to the table on how practices can and should be changed.

But, reading her blogs about adoptee narratives and the responsibilities of social workers to maintain them (here and here), I have to ask: What happens to adoptee narratives when agencies and social workers aren’t even involved?

My private adoption was handled by three people: the delivery doctor, an attorney who took my mother’s relinquishment… and my adoptive father, also an attorney, who handled all other legal aspects of my adoption including the altering of my birth certificate and the sealing of my adoption file.

Someone is going to tell me that a social worker had to get involved at some point. There was a social worker who came and did the home study on my adoptive parents, prior to the finalization of the adoption – which amounted to glancing around their picture-perfect home and declaring everything A-OK. As far as I know there were no social workers or agencies involved in my surrender. Certainly there was no one advising my first mother of her rights or options.

Instead, there were three laymen who had absolutely no interest in maintaining my narrative (or hers), and a vested interest in burying it.

They also had no training in social work. Basically you had three amateurs who were able to use loopholes to facilitate a private adoption, under the radar of those governmental entities whose job it is to make sure kids are safe.

I have no narrative prior to my adoption. I was born, my mother surrendered me to the custody of the delivery doctor, I stayed with him and his wife for a week, I was picked up by my adoptive parents. That’s it. No agencies, no social workers, nobody double-checking to make sure i’s were dotted and t’s crossed.

It took most of my life for me to learn that much. My adoptive father lied to me until I forced the issue in my late twenties. He told me he knew nothing of my past other than the fact that my mother was Catholic and wanted me raised that way. I haven’t been able to confirm that. What I did confirm, and what he was eventually forced to admit, is that he handled all aspects of my adoption and therefore knew the complete contents of my file. He also had a copy of my original birth certificate, which he appears to have ordered destroyed upon his death.

Not only did these men not perserve my narrative, they actively went out of their way to destroy or conceal as much of it as possible.

As it stands now, I’m in limbo. I am legally barred by denial of contact from obtaining my original birth certificate. The narrative these men worked so hard to deny me may be forever out of my grasp.

I worry that, as long as secrecy is a staple of the adoptive process, there will always be situations like mine where the people who control the narrative are the same people who want it suppressed.

The ONLY solution is to cease altering adoptee birth certificates immediately, and to restore the rights of ALL adult adoptees to access their original birth certificates. Only then will the power to control narratives be returned to the people to whom they belong.

How Conditional Birth Certificate Access Rewards “Good Adoptees” And Punishes Bad Ones

In her classic book Lost And Found: The Adoption Experience, renowned adoption expert and adoptee BJ Lifton describes how adoptees are classified, by the adoption industry and by society, as Good Adoptees and Bad Adoptees.

“We have seen that adoptees played the Adoption Game in various ways… Some were aware that they were trying to be the Good Adoptee, while it seemed to others, in retrospect, that they were always trying to be the Bad Adoptee… The Good Adoptee was placid, obedient, didn’t ask too many questions, was sensitive to his parents’ need to make believe he wasn’t adopted. The Bad Adoptee was rebellious and constantly acting out at home and in school.”

Here is how she describes the Adoption Game. She quotes author R. D. Laing in his book Knots:

“They are playing a game. They are playing at not playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and they will punish me. I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.”

I am an advocate for clean adoptee access laws – laws that restore the rights of adult adoptees to access their original birth certificates in the same manner and for the same modest fee as non-adopted adults. The reason I refuse to accept compromises like passive registries, confidential intermediaries, and mandatory counseling is because conditional access is specifically designed to reward Good Adoptees while punishing bad ones.

Here’s how the game works. Good Adoptees aren’t supposed to search for their origins because doing so questions (and threatens) the Great And Powerful Adoption Industry. So the way you weed out Good Adoptees from Bad Adoptees is to find out which ones want to search badly enough to defy that industry – and then punish them when they do.

Adult adoptee access is in its naissance in many states. As a result, adoptees who are early adopters (ha!) of their state’s access procedures pay the price for those who follow. There are no mechanisms to redress this injustice or to go back for those adoptees who had the misfortune of being their state’s beta-testers.

The Bad Adoptees who prove their disloyalty by being too eager for their information get the dregs of access: whatever the adoption industry feels like trying to shoehorn into whatever conditional crap legislation they come up with.

This is a disgusting and evil mindgame that has gone largely ignored in adoption reform circles, just as left-behind adoptees go largely ignored by those who either don’t realize or don’t care about clean access. What boggles my mind is that some people (deformers) are perfectly willing to continue to play this game as long as they get to reap the rewards of being the Good Adoptees.

This insidious industry strategy pits adoptees against one another, and is a cause of the infighting and backstabbing we see in adoption reform. You have one set of people who want to pass legislation that’s almost-but-not-quite-good-enough-we’ll-fix-it-later, and people like me who insist upon holding out for a clean law each and every time, even if it means yanking bills if they become tainted.

As an adoption reformer you typically don’t end up on the clean-law-or-bust side unless you’ve had personal experience with the system in its most broken form. Or, in other words, if you’re a Bad Adoptee. So once again, the adoption industry turns us against one another by pitting conditional-legislation advocates, the Good Adoptees, against the clean-law advocates, the Bad Adoptees. We might as well have team t-shirts.

(You could also say that the same process turns mothers into Bad Birth Mommies and fathers into Bad Baby Daddies – at least those who question the adoption industry or try to assert their rights within it.)

Great And Powerful Adoption Industry, this is Dorothy on speakerphone. I call shenanigans on your bullshit.

See, I’m already labeled as a Bad Adoptee, so I can get away with this. I was an early adopter of Illinois’ conditional access. I paid thousands of dollars and spent over a decade of my life attempting to assert my rights using the legal procedures provided to adoptees in this state. I played by the rules of the game and I lost, my first mother lost, other adoptees and mothers who went through that system lost. Today adoptees can get what I strove for, but I can’t because the system that was in place when I tried prevents me from doing so. I shone a spotlight on the flaws in Illinois’ system by forcing them open their procedures to adoptees born in Illinois but adopted out of state. Mine was the first Illinois Confidential Intermediary case of an adopted-out-of-state Illinois adoptee.

(more on my story here and here)

And I was punished, like other Bad Adoptees in this state and elsewhere, because by asserting my rights I branded myself a troublemaker, a bad seed, a naughty girl trying to buck the system.

This is ancient thinking about the psychology of adoptees which is completely outdated and yet still guides legislative decisions about adoptee access. It’s why adult adoptees are constantly referred to as “adopted children”, even (especially!) in legislative session. If an adoptee speaks out, shut ’em down. If a bastard tries to act like a human being, put them in their place.

When you support conditional legislation, you support this. You aid and abet an industry which doesn’t care one whit for you, and will turn on you as quickly as a rabid dog. And you assist that industry in dehumanizing your fellow adoptees and first mothers/fathers.

(Comments welcome but moderated against spambots and trolls. Bear in mind if all you’re trying to do is convince me why conditional legislation works, don’t bother. After my own personal experience I refuse to support anything less than clean legislation.)

73adoptee Returns! But No One’s Coming Back For Left-Behind Illinois Adoptees

I’ve been gone a while. Sometimes real life intrudes, and sometimes it’s a welcome intrusion. I discovered the hard way that it’s all too easy to let adoption and adoption reform take over your life. When you’re adopted it’s adoption 24/7 anyway without concentrating on it.
So I took a break, from a lot of things. I even took a sabbatical from work, which turned into a radical change in my career. Which is good, because it gives me more time to pursue my dream of writing fiction. But I also had to decide if it was going to give me more time to dedicate to adoption reform. And that got me thinking about what I’ve learned in the past few years about reform: what works, what doesn’t work, and what part I want to play in it.
Because, let’s face it, the current situation sucks like an industrial fan. Depending on where and when you’re born you either have full access, no access, or some kind of convoluted pseudo-access that no one understands, least of all the people creating and implementing the legislation that supports it.

And then there’s Illinois. Yeah, I’ve been quiet because of Illinois. If I hear one more person cheering November 15, 2011 as some kind of liberation day for adoptees of the great State of Illinois, I will go stark raving John-Crichton-on-Farscape crazy. Search my blog on keyword Illinois or read this about the new law for just some of the reasons why.

Illinois is not open. Illinois is sort-of open to adoptees who unwittingly end up playing roulette with their own rights. Some will win. Some will inevitably lose.
I’m on the losing team, so I know how it feels. Everybody’s celebrating and they’ve forgotten you. Or, if they remember, it’s to slap you on the back and say, “better luck next time” before they go off to congratulate the winners. But adoption isn’t football. There’s only one game, the Adoption Game, and if you make a mistake you don’t get a do-over. I remain disgruntled with pretty much everybody across the adoption spectrum: the bureaucrats who pat me on the head; the politicians who care more about their own power than their responsibility to help others; the deformers who think compromise is victory.
Because no one is coming back for the left-behinds. Not when the legislators, the news media, and the general public all think that adoptees already have access. We don’t, not all of us, but that message has been lost amidst the celebrations.
* * *
Over the past few years I’ve learned some important lessons about adoption reform. Here’s what works: sharing our voices, speaking out, contacting our legislators, educating the general public. Here’s what doesn’t: indolence, infighting, lethargy, backstabbing. Yes, it’s harder to convince The Powers That Be to grant access for all. But it’s the right thing to do.
I debated long and hard as to whether or not I wanted to continue adoption reform at all. It’s not what you’d call “fun.” It involves public speaking, private introspection, misjudgments from all sides, stress, and lack of personal life. You become an involuntary spokesperson for all of adopteekind (and, if you’re a transracial adoptee, often for your entire race as well). Everything is difficult because not only are you trying to write letters and convince lawmakers and wrap your head around legislation, you’re reminded EVERY SINGLE MOMENT of your own adoption baggage because it’s why you’re doing this in the first place.
Here’s what I’ve decided. I’ve revamped 73adoptee (come check out the redesign) and I’ll be posting here on an infrequent basis, plus more often on Twitter as @73adoptee. I’m continuing to advocate for adoptee rights: access for ALL adult adoptees, equal to that of the non-adopted: e.g. original birth certificate access with no strings attached.
But here’s what I’m not doing.
  1. Spending all my time on adoption. I have other things to do with my life, and I am heartily sick of focusing on adoption. I can’t even stand the word anymore. It’s ridiculous that I have to spend this much energy and effort for access to my own identity.
  2. Posting frequently to 73adoptee. See above. I’m around but I’m probably not going to post very often simply because I am busy.
  3. Arguing over semantics. Don’t come to me with any more partial pseudo-access schemes. I will not support them and I really don’t want to discuss them. It’s a waste of time and effort better spent toward the goal of truly equal rights.
  4. Helping with searches. I just don’t have time. There are plenty of resources available with a simple Web search. Just don’t jump right into schemes like confidential intermediaries without knowing what you may be in for. Trust me on that one.
  5. Participating in reform organizations. Some work, some don’t, but I need to strike out on my own, for many of the same reasons that I quit working in Corporate America to become a freelancer. I’m just too GDI (god damn independent), and volunteerism can become a total time-suck as I’m sure many of you know. I may choose to support bills but ONLY if they are clean and ONLY if they will be yanked if they are butchered in session. But any support will be personal and not affiliated with any organizations.
  6. Analyzing reform legislation. I’m not going to write reviews of which bills are good or not, there are other bloggers doing that (and kudos to them because it’s incredibly time-consuming). Doubtless I’ll comment as the desire (read: irritation level) arises but you shouldn’t consider 73adoptee a clearinghouse for info on all reform efforts everywhere.
Basically, 73adoptee is a place for me to rant about the things in adoption that piss me off. (Yeah, it’s a long list.) I’m not particularly concerned that my opinions are unpopular in some circles. You see, when you are at the very bottom there’s nowhere to go but up. Attempting to reduce adult adoptees to second-class citizens results in people like me, who have nothing else left to lose. What are you going to do, take away my birth certificate or convince my first mother to deny contact? Oops, sorry, already done.
I may have taken a break but I’m not finished with you, adoption. You’ve still got my identity and I want it back.

Ad For New Illinois Law: Adoptees Pay To Pray… That They Get Their Info

Here it is, folks. The oft-promised, much-ballyhooed ad for the new Illinois adult adoptee pseudo-rights law (click image to enlarge). It’s being included with driver’s license renewal forms, and I was “lucky” enough to receive one with mine. Those who read my blog know that I fought against this bill because it divides adoptees into haves and have-nots, and further entrenches the expensive, ineffective, inaccessible, and thoroughly unnecessary Confidential Intermediary (CI) program. You can read about my experience fighting this law here as well as the reasons why I strongly disagree with any legislation that does not provide equal, unconditional access to adult adoptees and the shenanigans that occurred surrounding passage of this bill.
It’s clear to those of us who have taken the time to comprehend adoptee rights and the concept of Class Bastard that CIs are merely another way to make money off original birth certificate (OBC) access while paying lip service to our civil rights. This ad, like the law itself and the majority of the media coverage that went with it, fails to acknowledge the reality of this law. Far from “opening” adoptee birth certificates as claimed by sponsor Rep. Sara “Token Adoptee” Feigenholtz, this law continues to dehumanize adoptees. It also continues to conflate contact with access.
Contact is a matter to be decided between the parties involved. Access to one’s identity, on the other hand, is a basic right that should not be denied.
Although Feigenholtz says that Illinois’ law is equivalent to Maine’s, the truth is that in Maine, adoptees can access their OBCs using the same process and paying the same modest fees as everyone else. Thus, Maine’s law puts adoptees on equal footing with non-adoptees. But in Illinois and other states where conditional laws have been enacted, we adoptees must subject ourselves to humiliating processes which may or may not result in OBC access. We may be subjected to to disclosure vetoes that bar us from that documentation, or information may be redacted from our OBCs. Now, if Illinois had enacted a law that was truly the equivalent of Maine’s, in that adoptees could go to the courthouse and request their OBCs using the same process and paying the same fees as “normal” citizens, the state could actually be MAKING money from OBC access.
But no, in Illinois it’s pay-to-play, or in the case of adoptees, pay-to-pray… that you get your information. In other words, deformers’ reassurances aside, Illinois bastards are still bastards.
Not only did I receive this notice with my driver’s license renewal, I actually received several of them. Extra copies to give out to my bastard buddies, perhaps? What a waste! Considering the state can’t even pay its own bills and is contemplating a major tax increase just to make ends meet, the whole thing — the law, the ads, the spiffy new web site — is reprehensible.
This program is being advertised when they don’t even know how to implement the new law. For example, they have no idea how to handle adoptees who have already gone through the Illinois registry and intermediary program and been denied access via disclosure veto. They say we can have access when a birth parent dies… but, if you don’t know the names of your birth parents, how are you supposed to know when they die or obtain a death certificate? We don’t even know how many adoptees have been rejected from the CI program, or why; the state keeps no statistics on that, nor do they fully disclose to participants the risks inherent in participating in a CI program.
At bare minimum, the amount of money being spent on this ad campaign and everything else related to the implementation of this new law needs to be revealed.
What no one is acknowledging is the real intention of this law and the Illinois registry (IARMIE): to funnel unwitting applicants into the state’s CI program, which is maintained by a sole-source, no-bid organization run by Feigenholtz’s pals. For an explanation of all the reasons why CI programs are wrong, read this (and my own personal experience with the CI program here). The Advisory Council for the implementation of this law is long on adoption agencies and “professionals,” and short on actual adult adoptees. (One of the organizations included in the council and claiming to represent adult adoptees is the American Adoption Congress; don’t forget the brouhaha over Feigenholtz crony Melisha Mitchell’s assertion at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last spring that she represented AAC, when she had actually been ousted as their Illinois rep prior to the hearing. According to AAC’s web site, as of today the position of Illinois rep is still vacant, so I’m not sure what use having them on this council is. The above link will also tell you about how Feigenholtz or one of her staffers showed true colors when referring to adult adoptees as “ungrateful bastards.”)
I talked about the problems inherent in this new Illinois law when it was still a bill. Now, we’re stuck with it. Illinois lawmakers consider adoptee rights in this state a done deal. Good luck trying to pass REAL adoptee rights legislation like Maine’s in this state anytime soon. This is the danger of deform.
There are many questions that have yet to be answered, but the advertising campaign continues, at the expense of the Illinois taxpayer and the adoptees left behind.

Action Alert New Jersey: Vote NO on A1406/S799 Leave-Some-Adoptees-Behind Bill

Working on a couple new blog posts, but in the meantime, please contact New Jersey legislators TODAY and ask them not to support this legislation. The following is an Action Alert from Bastard Nation on the subject. And, to my friends in the adoption community who support this bill… please, no flaming. We may have to agree to disagree, but I cannot support any bill that includes disclosure vetoes, further entrenches confidential intermediary programs, or redacts original birth certificates. I know people have fought long and hard for this but once such legislation is enacted it is nearly impossible to get rid of it. That is exactly what happened in Illinois. Some may think it’s okay to leave some adoptees behind if others are granted pseudo “access,” but the picture looks a whole lot different when you’re one of the left-behind. See here for my thoughts on this. — tg


(Originally posted on the Bastard Nation Action Alert blog, here.)

Monday, January 03, 2011

Bastard Nation Action Alert: Write NJ Legislators Today; Vote NO on A1406/S799!

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BASTARD NATION ACTION ALERT!

STOP DISCLOSURE VETO/WHITE OUT LEGISLATION IN NEW JERSEY!!!

ASK THE NEW JERSEY ASSEMBLY: VOTE NO ON A1406/S799

Read full text of A1406 here.
Read full text of S799
here

A1406 (companion to S799 already passed in the NJ Senate) is scheduled for a floor vote sometime in the next few weeks. Proponents of this bad bill hoped to have it on the schedule for a January 6, 2011 vote, but it’s not on the list.

Please contact Assembly members immediately and urge them to VOTE NO ON A1406/S799. (Contact information below.) If you are from or in New Jersey or have a New Jersey connection, mention it in your communication.

Be sure to put: “Vote No On Adoptee Birthright Bill “in the header

Bastard Nation’s letter to the Assembly is here.

A1406/S799 is: restrictive, discriminatory, creates a new, special and temporary ”right” for “birthparents,” and exempts the state’s adopted adults from equal protection and treatment regarding the release of the government-generated public record of their births.

THE BILL

*includes a 12- month open enrollment period, starting after the Department of Health releases regs for A1406/S799 implementation, that allows “birthparents,” to file disclosure vetoes (DV) before obcs, past and future, are unsealed

*authorizes the state to replace the original birth certificat, of those subjected to the DV with a mutilated copy of the obc with all identifying information, including the address of the parent(s) at the time of birth (if it appears on the cert) deleted.

*requires “birthparents” who file a disclosure veto to submit a family history and a possibly illegal intrusive medical form to activate the veto.

*requires “birthparents” who file a “contact preference form,” which, in fact, acts as a disclosure veto, to fill out the same family history and possibly illegal intrusive medical history form to activiate the veto.

*seals by default all “safe haven” birth certificates, even though most “safe haven” babies are born in hospitals to identified mothers.

*requires adoption agencies and adoption lawyers to receive a written veto status report from the state before they can release identifying information to adoptees

*requires the state to mount an “information” campaign to inform “birthparents” of their “protection” options

A1406/S799 IS NOT AN OBC ACCESS BILL.
A1406/S799 IS NOT ABOUT RIGHTS.
A1406/S799 IS ABOUT PRIVILEGE

Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization opposes legislation that denies any adult adoptee access to his or her own original birth records on par with all other citizens. Please let the Assembly know that this issue is not about relationships between adoptees and their “birthparents.” It is about basic human and civil rights.

Passage of bad legislation is New Jersey could easily undermine efforts of dedicated reformers who are holding the line for adoptee rights in other states.

New Jersey’s A1406/S799 is an abomination in light of the restoration of the right of original birth certificate access to all persons adopted in Oregon, Alabama, and New Hampshire, and Maine. Adult adoptees and all who support adoptee rights should stand united for unrestricted access laws and not sell out just to get a bill passed! Disclosure veto legislation is unethical and unjust!

Please e-mail the New Jersey Assembly today and urge members to VOTE NO ON A1406/S799.

CONTACT INFORMATION
(write one letter, cut and paste for all)

AsmAlbano@njleg.org, AsmMilam@njleg.org, ASmDeAngelo@njleg.org, AsmGusciora@njleg.org, AsmChivukula@njleg.org, AsmEgan@njleg.org, AsmBarnes@njleg.org, AsmDiegnan@njleg.org, AsmCoughlin@njleg.org, AsmWisniewski@njleg.org, AsmCryan@njleg.org, AsmGreen@njleg.org, AsmMcKeon@njleg.org, AsmCaputo@njleg.org, AsmCoutinho@njleg.org, AsmBurzichelli@njleg.org, AsmMainor@njleg.org, AsmODonnell@njleg.org, AsmPrieto@njleg.org, AsmRamos@njleg.org, AsmGiblin@njleg.org,
AsmSchaer@njleg.org, AsmJohnson@njleg.org, AsmMoriarty@njleg.org, AsmWilson@njleg.org,AsmGreenwald@njleg.org, AsmConaway@njleg.org, ASmConners@njleg.org, AsmHolzapfel@njleg.org, AsmWolfe@njleg.org, AsmRible@njleg.org,AsmOScanlon@njleg.org, AsmThompson@njleg.org, AsmBiondi@njleg.org, AsmAmodeo@njleg.org, AsmPolistina@njleg.org, asmbramnick@njleg.org, AsmDiMaio@njleg.org, AsmPeterson@njleg.org, AsmChiusano@njleg.org, AsmBucco@njleg.org, AsmCarroll@njleg.org, AsmDeCroce@njleg.org, AsmWebber@njleg.org, AsmDancer@njleg.org, AsmMalone@njleg.org, AsmSchroeder@njleg.org, AsmRumana@njleg.org, AsmRusso@njleg.org, AsmDelany@njleg.org, AsmRudder@njleg.org, AsmRumpf@njleg.org,
AsmFuentes@njleg.org, AsmDiCicco@njleg.org, AswWatsonColeman@njleg.org,
AswQuijano@njleg.org, AswStender@njleg.org, AswJasey@njleg.org, AswTucker@njleg.org, AswSpencer@njleg.org, AswRiley@njleg.org, AswQuigley@njleg.org, AswRodriguez@njleg.org, AswOliver@njleg.org, AswEvans@njleg.org,AswPou@njleg.org, AswVainieriHuttle@njleg.org,
AswVoss@njleg.org, AswWagner@njleg.org, AswLampitt@njleg.org,
AswAngelini@njleg.org, AswCasagrande@njleg.org , AswHandlin@njleg.org,
AswCoyle@njleg.org, AswMunoz@njleg.org, AswMcHose@njleg.org, AswVandervalk@njleg.org,
AswGove@njleg.org

ALSO WRITE TO GOVERNOR CHRISTIE
Drop a line to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie now and ask him to veto A1406/S799 if it hits his desk. Letters should be no more than 250 words. Use this template : http://www.state.nj.us/governor/contact/

or contact him at:

Office of the Governor
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625
609-292-6000

Bastard Nation’s letter to Governor Christie is here.

Adoptees As Parents: Alone On A Raft In The Ocean

There is no shortage of assistance available for adoptive parents. Books, Web sites, parenting classes… you name it, the amount of information is staggering. But when adult adoptees (or first mothers and fathers) look for help, there is precious little information, if any.
Take, for example, the dilemma I faced this past week. My first-grade daughter came home with, yes, the dreaded family tree assignment. I knew this would come up eventually but I wasn’t prepared for it for another few years at least. The assignment was given Monday and due Friday, leaving me scant time to figure out what to do. Because, while my daughter isn’t adopted, I am. And the same sealed records laws that prevent me from obtaining my own heritage also keep my children in the dark.
By most accounts, the family tree assignment is obsolete. It assumes all families follow the stereotypical 1950s-era “nuclear family” pattern. In this age of divorce, remarriage, adoption, donor conception, etc. there are any number of ways in which such an assignment is a major FAIL. But that didn’t give me any answers for my daughter. This situation strikes me as yet another example of the fact that no one thinks about what happens when adoptees grow up. For us there are no books, Web sites, or helpful classes. When was the last time you saw a class at an adoption agency such as “Adult Adoptees 101: What To Put On Medical Forms” or “Explaining To The Non-Adopted Why Being Called An ‘Adopted Child’ Is Insulting.” The obvious answer, of course, is to restore access to our original birth certificates and start treating us like “normal” people instead of second-class citizens. (Oh, and get rid of the family tree assignment, while we’re at it). But in reality we are left on our own to muddle through it as best we can.
I reached out to my friends, within the adoption community and outside it, for help with my daughter’s assignment. Fortunately my adoptee friends came to the rescue, explaining how they’d handled similar situations and offering advice and resources. (Thank you, everyone!) But most of the available resources are written by and for adoptive parents. That may help parents and educators be more sensitive to families with adopted children, but how to increase sensitivity toward families that include ADULT adoptees?
My friends not connected to adoption generally fell into two categories: “What’s the big deal?” and “Just write down your adoptive family.” To answer the first, of course it’s a big deal. In fact, it’s the biggest deal there is. Heritage and origins is basic to our very being. People who have this information take it so for granted that they can’t fathom not having it. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s beyond difficult explaining to the general public that no, adoptees can’t just walk into the courthouse to get our information and yes, we should have the same access to our origins as everyone else. Now my children are facing the consequences of a decision that was taken out of their hands, and mine, before any of us were even born. They are not adopted. They should not have to deal with adoption… and yet they do, and so will their children.
As for the second part, “just write down your adoptive family,” that’s fraught with problems too. Even if I had a fantastic relationship with my adoptive family, doing so feels to me like perpetuating the same lie that is on my amended birth certificate. I was NOT born to the people listed there. I was born to my first mother and my unknown father. The fact that my first mother wants no contact doesn’t change that. The fact that my father apparently doesn’t know I exist doesn’t change it either. They are the genetic forebears of myself and my children. As it happens I do not have a good relationship with my adoptive family. (The fact that some people think that automatically disqualifies anything negative I happen to say about adoption is a whole ‘nother matter.) To put my adoptive family’s names on my daughter’s family tree, to perpetuate the lies, advances the illusion that adoptees can simply be dumped anywhere with no consequences. But adoption does have consequences, and those consequences last for generations.
I’ve written before about the difficulties adoptees have becoming parents themselves, especially parents by biology. Imagine the first blood relative you’ve ever known and it’s your own child. That is too messed up for words. As my children grow older I find such difficulties only increase. Sometimes I feel like we are floating alone on a raft in the ocean. There are no maps to where we need to go, no rescue boats coming along to help us. We have to face each wave, each challenge, on our own. (With big TV choppers circling us, displaying banners that say “Why aren’t you grateful to be adopted?” and “Stop making waves!”)
As for the family tree assignment, here are the best resources I could find, especially the first link (a PDF).
Again, these are specific to adopted children in the classroom, but can be extrapolated to children with parents who were adopted. At least, I think they can be, but I’m too close to adoption to see it the same way the general public does. I’m not sure my daughter’s teacher really understood my concerns, or the problem. She was sympathetic, but the vibe I got was that she found the whole situation confusing.
And that really sums it up, doesn’t it? We adult adoptees are so invisible to society, people have no idea how to react to our concerns or issues.
In the end, my daughter put down “unknown” for her maternal grandparents, and I had flashbacks to all those times in doctors’ offices, writing down “unknown–adopted” on medical forms. She is confused as to why I can’t give her this information, although she’s familiar with the fact that I’m adopted and that her maternal grandmother chooses not to have contact with us. But, explain adoption politics to a first grader. She doesn’t understand why the law prevents us from knowing. She tells me that makes no sense, and I agree with her.
It’s so basic even a first grader can understand. Why can’t other people?

The Details Of An Adoptee’s Life Are Sacrosanct

… or, they should be.
I can’t get this post from Cricket’s Adoption Blog Of Shame out of my mind. These adoptive parents took it upon themselves to change this child’s birthday. Yes, it’s possible, even likely, that his original birthday was just a guess, but that doesn’t matter. Changing his birthday because it fits better with the school schedule, or because it’ll make him fit on the growth chart? As an adoptee, that absolutely galls me. Adoptees lose so much. They should not lose the few details they may actually have.
As others pointed out on Cricket’s blog, there may be clues to his original birthday in the date he was given from Ethiopia. The point is, that information is HIS. The details of an adoptee’s life belong to the adoptee, and adoptive parents have no business taking it upon themselves to alter them. Even if they later tell him the truth, think about how he will feel knowing that his very birthday was “not good enough.” The same principles apply to the adoption story. That story belongs to the adoptee, not the adoptive parents. Changing it, making stuff up or lying (either directly or by omission) is unethical, no matter how well-meaning the intent.
Most of you know that my adoptive parents didn’t tell me the truth about what they knew about my adoption. All my life, I was told they knew only that I was born in Chicago. I didn’t find out until my mid-20s that my adoptive father was the attorney who sealed my file. He therefore knew everything, from the contents of my original birth certificate to all of the details in my super-secret adoption file. This is a prime example of adoptive parents who had WAY too much control over the situation. A couple years ago I wrote about how too many adoptive parents hold the keys to an adoptee’s information. Some of them use that as a form of control. Mine certainly did. Behave yourself, be the Good Adoptee, and we might dole out tidbits of your background as we see fit. Disobey, refuse to cooperate, and we will hold your information hostage… or even destroy it. Which is exactly what my adoptive father did with his copy of my original birth certificate when I got too close to the truth.
But one of the things I managed to discover was my time of birth. To anyone who has their background it’s an insignificant detail. To me it was a revelation. A new piece of information about myself! And an accurate one, too, because it was taken directly from my original birth certificate. My time of birth is one of the few things I know for sure about my origins. No one has the right to tell me it’s insignificant, whatever their opinion might be. That information belongs to ME.
People who keep an adoptee’s information from them, or deliberately conceal or falsify it, have no business adopting. And control of this information should be taken out of the hands of adoptive parents by making it available to the adoptee at age of majority. By corollary, that means there should be no third parties between the adoptee and that information–no confidential intermediaries, no hoops to jump, just the same access to the same information that non-adopted people take for granted.

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.

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.