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.

Steve Jobs And Offensive Adoptee Stereotypes

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

My New Adventure, My New Blog, And Some Snarky Adoption Remarks

Most of you 73adoptee readers know of my passion for fantasy and science fiction, and I mentioned in my previous post that I’d taken a sabbatical and decided to focus on writing full-time.
Now I have a brand-new blog where you can follow my (mis)adventures in writing and fandom. Find out more at www.trionaguidry.com/blog.
And yeah, there’s gonna be adoption stuff. Of course there is. You can’t be adopted without adoption stuff oozing over everything like toxic waste. Maybe I should make it a game. You guys can have fun giggling over all the subtle and not-so-subtle adoption subtexts on my other blogs. I’m sure there are some there I’m not aware of myself. Like the old Internet drinking games… one sip for snarky remarks only an adoption insider would get, two for deliberate jabs at the adoption industry, whole drink for full-blown rants about corruption and failed reform. Substitute your favorite beverage if you don’t drink, fun for the whole adoption community!
Case in point: The other day I was halfway through a short story I’m working on, when I suddenly realized that the ENTIRE plot was a veiled potshot at adoption. Maybe veiled with transparent wrap, because it was dead obvious when I re-read it. Is it just me or do other people find themselves inadvertently incorporating their anger/angst/frustration at adoption into other aspects of their lives?
As the 7th Doctor’s companion Ace said in Survival (as she was transforming into one of the Cheetah People): “I don’t even realize it! I don’t even feel myself go.”
Anyway. Come read my new blog. I’m going to be unabashedly nerdy over there, and hopefully I can keep the snarky adoption remarks here where they won’t unnerve the uninitiated.

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.

Setting Adoptive Parents’ Expectations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Critical Difference Between Foster And Infant Adoption

It’s National Adoption Awareness Month, and many of us in the adoption community are writing about adoption–not the feel-good articles you’ll see in the press, but writing that gets to the truth of what adoption actually is. And some of it, perhaps even most of it, isn’t very pretty.
A number of folks have pointed out that NAAM, which started as a way to promote adoption of kids already in foster care, has turned into a gigantic singalong in favor of infant adoption. So I thought I’d explain the difference between infant adoption and foster adoption.
  • Foster adoption is adoption of kids who have already been separated from their families, and are living in foster care.
  • Infant adoption is adoption of children, often newborns but sometimes slightly older, whose mothers are unable (either by choice or, more often, through clever coersion and familial/societal pressure) to care for them.
Do you see the critical difference? In foster adoption, family separation occurs BEFORE adoption. In infant adoption, separation occurs FOR adoption.
Foster kids are desperately in need of homes. But they’re older and may have suffered abuse or other situations that deem them, in the eyes of some prospective adopters, less than “ideal.” They often come with inconvenient birth families and awareness of their own origins. There is also a stigma attached to adoption from foster care, as if adopting a foster kid means taking on “damaged goods.” An infant, on the other hand, is considered a tabula rasa. In fact, healthy white or pass-for-white infants are such a prize commodity that they go for tens of thousands of dollars. While there is also stigma attached to infant adoption (indeed, adoption of any sort), it’s more likely that neighbors and friends are going to congratulate you on adopting an infant than adopting an eight-year-old out of foster care with, say, medical issues and birth family members still in the picture. That might take *gasp* reordering of one’s life on a massive scale. It’s “not what we signed up for.” (Never mind that life is full of things we “didn’t sign up for.”) Infants are cute and cuddly and, above all, malleable. As I’ve said before, why rent when you can own?
NAAM should be about finding homes for foster kids, the ones who truly need it. Instead it’s become about infant adoption: how to encourage it, how to advertise it, and how to convince as many expectant mothers as possible to surrender their top-quality tabula-rasa infants, because that’s what the market wants.
That’s not to say that there aren’t infants in foster care who need homes. And that’s not to say that there aren’t adoptive parents who open their hearts to children who are actually in need, infants or otherwise. But there is also the side of National Adoption Awareness Month that most people won’t see or don’t want to see–the adopters with entitlement mentalities, who think they deserve a child simply because they want one, and who turn that want into an obsession that drives them to go to any extreme to fulfill it. (Try the Vaughns for one despicable example.) These are the people who drive the market for infant adoption.
Infant adoption is rarely needed, certainly not the number of infants who become available for adoption. Think of all the time and money that is spent on infant adoption. Now, imagine that time and money being used to get as many kids out of foster care and into loving homes as possible. Also imagine that time and money being used to help expectant mothers who find themselves without resources. Oh, but then they might decide to raise their own children, meaning less available product and therefore less money made by adoption agencies. Infant adoption, not foster adoption, is where the real money is. And adoption agencies, despite their “charitable” reputations, are in it for the money. Anyone who tells you otherwise is, ahem, selling something.
Next, think about the efforts made to recruit infants from other countries, to the extent of lying and outright stealing children. Imagine if, instead, the resources spent on these expensive and unnecesary adoptions were spent instead to provide safe, effective, affordable care within such countries, to promote extended family adoptions when parents are truly unable to support children, to promote in-country adoption to preserve the children’s heritage, leaving international adoption as a very last and rare resort.
In the current atmosphere, this would never happen. There’d be an outcry from agencies, prospective adopters, and the general public, ostensibly on behalf of the poor “orphans.” What is not known to most people is that a lot of those kids have parents and/or families, and are designated “orphans” for the sole purpose of making them more adoptable/profitable. Again, that’s not to say there aren’t true orphans in need of help, but there’s also a whole industry that has been built on marketing children from other countries to Westerners. Which is why so many adoptees, upon expressing discontent with adoption as it is practiced today, are scolded with, “Would you rather have been raised in an orphanage?” or “Would you rather have been aborted?” as if the logical choice–being raised in one’s original family–was never an option. The adoption industry needs the perception that there are more orphans languishing out there than there actually are, in order to keep the profits coming. And, let’s be honest, there are some prospective adopters who get off on the idea of being the “rescuers” of “orphans.”
The unfortunate fact is, not everyone who wants to be a parent is going to get that opportunity. There are other ways to matter to children besides obtaining a child by any means necessary. Is it really that important to own? Has our society become so materialistic that we can’t put aside avarice for altruism? Why can’t we help children stay in their families of origin instead of wasting all those resources on unnecessary adoptions? The way adoption is currently practiced only encourages unethical and illicit behavior.
This is one reason that adoption agencies, private “facilitators” and some adoptive parents try to diminish the voices of adult adoptees, first mothers and fathers, and those scant few adoptive parents who dare to speak out against corruption in adoption. First mothers (and fathers!) can speak to their experience of being coerced into giving up their children. Adult adoptees like me (I was adopted as a newborn) can speak to the fact that no infant is a tabula rasa. Adoptive parents can speak to the corruption that they have personally witnessed.
No, the adoption agencies and those adopters who consider themselves “entitled” would be much happier if we keep National Adoption Awareness Month as squeaky-clean as possible. Let’s put these myths to rest. Foster adoption is about finding homes for children who need them. Infant adoption is about selling children to people who want them.

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.