Search Results for: label/illinois

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.

Like Adoption Records, This Headline Redacted For Privacy

The Chicago Tribune has published numerous articles about what they refer to as the State Of Corruption in Illinois. One of their exposes is on clout-based admissions at the University of Illinois. To that end, they published an editorial about the attempts of their journalists to gain records under the Freedom of Information Act. Their experience will resonate with any adoptee, birth mother or other relative who’s tried to gain access to adoption records.

The ongoing series, “Clout Goes to College,” doesn’t identify the applicants. Cohen didn’t ask for their names, nor did she expect they would be released. The privacy provisions White alludes to require the university to redact identifiers such as names and Social Security numbers before releasing the documents.

But the 1,800 pages of documents eventually surrendered by the university went far beyond that. Applicants’ test scores, grades and class ranks were blacked out, for example. That information wouldn’t identify specific students, but it would show how far the rules were bent to admit them.

Names and positions of third-party players who lobbied trustees on behalf of an applicant also are marked out, as are references to people who are clearly public officials themselves. That information wouldn’t compromise the privacy of individual students. It’s not exempt.

In countless other instances, information is blacked out or pages are missing, with no explanation or clue as to what is being withheld. Asked to justify those redactions, the university flatly refused. “Your request would mean that the Illinois FOIA requires us, in response to any inquiry by a requesting party, to go line by line, word by word and explain why each redaction was made,” general counsel Thomas Bearrows wrote.

Actually, that is what the law requires. The law says release the information or explain why it’s exempt. There are two reasons for that: to ensure that the university is basing its denial on a good faith interpretation of the law, and to provide the requester with a basis to challenge the denial.

When I read this I could only give a cynical laugh. The Tribune is tasting the bitter pill that Illinois adoptees and their birth relatives have swallowed for decades.

When The Powers That Be want to keep things secret, they use the magic word “private.” Information is redacted regardless of laws that specify what can and can not be revealed. I ran into this during my ill-fated experience with the Illinois Confidential Intermediary Program. As I described in my post, “Caveat Emptor On Confidential Intermediary Programs“:

Just about everything is “confidential,” but what exactly constitutes “confidential” is equally unclear. Officially, it’s what’s in the Illinois Adoption Act, 750 ILCS 50, Section 18. But in reality it’s whatever the [Illinois Confidential Intermediary] program decides it is.

For example, details were redacted from my birth mother’s letters, such as my maternal grandfather’s age of death, which are listed nowhere in the Illinois Adoption Act as being “identifying.” Similarly, I received mixed signals as to whether or not I was permitted to receive copies of the correspondence sent to my birth mother (redacted for identifying information). When contact was first made, I asked for and received the first letter [the program] sent to her. But later, when I asked for copies of additional correspondence (again, redacted for identifying info), it suddenly became “confidential.” Perhaps it’s only “confidential” when you begin to question the process.

Interestingly, program policies and procedures are also “confidential” – to the public as well as to participants. If you’re not allowed to know what steps have been taken in your search, how are you supposed to know if you’re getting what you paid for?

I’m glad to see the Tribune experiencing the same sorts of ridiculous redactions the rest of us have, because maybe it will encourage them to respond to complaints concerning adoption records access. So far, the Trib’s stance on transparency in Illinois government has not included adoption records. Questions on their public forum concerning adoptee birth certificates went unacknowledged by their editors. So, too, have requests for some sunshine to be let into the dark recesses of Illinois adoption politics. The Tribune has invited Illinois citizens to inform them where this state of corruption needs to be cleaned up, and has made a point of supporting causes that might seem like small potatoes. I would like to encourage them and other Illinois-based media to examine how adoption records access works, or doesn’t, in this state. And if you believe in equality, I would like to encourage you to contact the Tribune and others and urge them to support unrestricted adoption records access.

Those affected by adoption should have the exact same access to records as everyone else. Equality for all is the only equitable solution!