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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

www.OBCforME.org

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

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

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

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

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

The adoptee information needed:

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

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

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

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

ISSUES TO BE AWARE OF:

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

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