Saturday, February 17, 2007
The Sometimes Sharp Edges of the Adoption Triangle
“Adopted person’s civil rights invariably become subordinated in those groups and organizations that combine the disparate goals of adopted persons, (birth)parents, and adoptive parents. Repeat: Adopted person’s civil rights invariably become subordinated in those groups and organizations that combine the disparate goals of adopted persons, (birth)parents, and adoptive parents.” Joann Wolf Small, The Adoption Mystique
So important did Small believe this message to be, that she not only put it italics, she found it necessary to repeat it! It is true that adoptees’ civil rights are subordinated by some adoption reform groups. But this is not, however, dependent upon whether the group is made up of and/or designed to serve (birth)parents, adoptees, adoptive parents, or all members of the triad.
Organizations such as Bastard Nation, on the other hand, has a stated goal of a legislative change to provide more equal rights for adult adoptees. They are strictly legislative in nature, with humor and support being an aside.
Other groups and organizations, such as Concerned United Birthparents, by the nature of their mission statement have as their primary goal, support for triad members in search and ongoing reunion, or lack thereof. This is especially true of many of the newer online email lists, forums and chats. All such groups that I am aware of support open records legislation for adoptees’ rights and encourage members to write letters to the editor and to legislators, while remaining primarily supportive in nature and goal. In this sense the civil rights aspect is subordinate to support as indicated in the mission or goals of such groups.
Small’s statement is true of these groups, not because they primarily serve parents who have relinquished, but because they choose to put support first. Support groups may be triad or singular as each type of support serves a different purpose. In individual support groups, people are able to be freer about their anger while many feel that they learn a great deal of understanding and compassion for their counterpart in triad groups.
There, is a need for both support and legislative groups as they serve different purposes without in any way negating the importance of the others’ role. There is likewise a need for both joint and separate support groups.
What about politically?
Is it just the press that pits us against one another, or are the goals of adoptive parents, adoptess and (birth)parents totally disparate? Are we natural “enemies” in the “war” to humanize adoption and restore adoptee rights? Do adoptees “need” (birth)parents and/or adoptive parents to win their battle for civil right? Are (birth) and adoptive parents a help or a hindrance toward that end?
Small seems to imply that (birth)parent groups intentionally or not, trump their issues over the rights of adoptees, or have divergent issues that place adoptee’s issue in less focus. She sees their desire to find their children as disparate with the goals of adoptee civil rights.
Different, yes, but in opposition to or harming one another, I think not. Clearly there is overlap. Birthmothers support open records because it is the right thing to do and also because it will help our children find us, even if we have no right to find them. Parents who have relinquished have never spoken out against a pending bill because it does not give them the right to access of records on an equal footing with adoptees, as BN speaks out publicly opposing bills that do not go far enough to suit them.
There are nuances of differences between triad activists members as to the best and most expedient strategy to restore adoptee rights. This again, is across the board—not (birth)parent v. adoptee. Some are, understandably very hard line in their position and will openly denounce any legislation that starts out or becomes mired in “compromises” to their rights (vetoes, intermediaries, age restrictions, etc.). Others, adoptees who have worked in the trenches for decades and feel they have a firm grasp on the politics within their own state, are reluctantly willing to accept something, rather than nothing. The purists argue that once they get a so-called “compromise” bill they will “never” get more. Yet, if we believe that once a law is passed it can never be changed, why would any of us fight to reverse sealed records in the first place? Laws do change. Prohibition came and went in just 13 years.
Small uses civil rights and separate but equal education as an example of legislation, which while it took over sixty years, was reversed. There are, however, examples of laws affecting the rights of one group of people being enacted in increments. A prime example are the anti-smoking laws which began by requiring restaurants to provide smoking and non-smoking areas, then required that the entire restaurant be smoke-free, and are now seeking—in many states—to rid bars and even gambling casinos of smokers to protect employees.
Inasmuch as any legislation we seek and hope to see enacted – whether pure or with dreaded restrictions – only applies to those adopted between the time records were sealed and who are now adults…it seems that all of it is but a first step. No proposed legislation, no matter how “pure,” addresses the continuing injustice faced by younger adoptees or those being born right now who will still be facing the exact same challenges of living in a genealogical and medical void until they reach some magical chronologic age when they are thought to be mature enough to handle their dirty little secret – if in fact they live that long. This seems analogous to civil rights activists having asked only to integrate colleges, allowing black and white children to continue with separate but equal education until then. After all, as some argue about adoptees, they all become adults eventually.
A widening gap?
Perhaps the fastest widening and least addressed gap between activists concerns a very basic belief in the institution of adoption. Those who focus only on the wrongs done in the past – to adoptees and/or to mothers – are perhaps unaware that their message subtly supports the status quo. By requesting rights be restored to adoptees only when they reach adulthood, such groups intentionally or not, are sanctioning the practice of keeping the records sealed for adolescents and young adults and for the parents of younger children who might need such access. They are subtly endorsing and condoning the claim that the truth is potentially dangerous and is “adult only” material. The ignore the fact that every adopted person is at the mercy of his/her adoptive parents to even know that they are in fact adopted, while objecting to be infantilized and jumping through hoops such as having to pass a psychological evaluation to gain access to their records.
Small discuses at length the dysfunction inherent in adoptive families because of the pretense of being the “same as” if they were biologically connected. This pretense begins with a certified government document that states that the adoptee was in fact born to his/her adoptive parents, by nature of it being a certificate of “birth” nor adoption. Yet advocating for openness only for adults ignores the fact that adoptees’ rights are broached, not as adults, but at the time their records are falsified.
Adoptee and (birth)parent activists have survived the grief of loss and the shame we have had to live with have come out stronger for it. But we each see the situation from opposite ends, not unlike the three blind men feeling an elephant.
Many adoptees are angry about their lack of equality with non-adoptees in terms of their birth records, but otherwise are neutral to, or positive about, adoption in general.
Many (birth)parent activists, on the other hand, see the pain our children have suffered, feeling abandoned, and do not wish that on others. We see too many unnecessary adoptions and do not see adoption as something to be “promoted”–especially not in its current form. (Birth)parent activists tend to openly support open adoption (if enforceable) while adoptees are more silent on this issue. Some mothers want adoption done away with and replaced with permanent guardianship. Some adoptees agree with this but have not as of yet become organized.
In some sense, Small is right on the money. There is no one position that identifies all parents who have relinquished – not even what they call themselves – or all adoptees or adoptive parents. There is for some of us, perhaps a growing number of us, a realization that civil rights of adult adoptees is one of many things wrong with current American adoption practices.
I am not adopted. I am the mother of a child who was. I am a mother who made the greatest sacrifice a mother can make - to give her own firstborn child to others to raise because I was brainwashed into believing that I was totally incapable of being a mother alone. I was led to believe that in making such a painful choice for myself I was doing the “right” thing and offering my child a “better” life. I was never told that adoptees appear in disproportionate number sin all types of mental health facilities, and have a disproportionately higher rate of suicide.
Adoptees, such as Small and those in BN, very much dislike being pathologized when in fact they are simply reacting to a crazy-making system of lies and pretense. They therefore, made a very conscious decision several decades ago to keep “psychological need to know” out of the argument for open records and to fight for them strictly as a violation of their civil rights. This is fine for those who want the records only for adults.
As a mother, however, from day one, all through my search for my daughter, and now 39 years after the fact...what I want is support for family preservation and as few as possible unnecessary family separations. What I want is for any child who truly must be separated from his/her parents and raised by others...for it to be done in that child's best interest! For it to be done humanely and in the least harmful way.
I cannot condone under the best interests of the child, any practice that torments a child by telling him that he has other parents and then denying further knowledge of them – even such a right is granted to them as adults. I see such a practice as cruel and unusual punishment for having committed no crime. It is totally contrary to the best interests of the child.
This does not mean that I do not also support open records for adults. I would NEVER oppose such a bill and would advocate my support in terms of letter-writing and testifying for ANYONE's right to the truth!
I long for the day that those who were adopted during this secret shame-based period cans stand tall. Gay men and women were also pathologized. They have been seen as immoral, maladjusted, even perverted. For centuries they lived in secret shame knowing that "coming out" could cuase them great loss of respect, jobs, and love of family. Yet the day came when the pain of shame was greater than the fear of the truth. Adoptees are not maladjusted - the system is!
"And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." Anais Nin
This is excellent.
I also support the right to truth in records, not 18 years later, but always, from birth.And I agree with your assessment of other family arrangements. I am old enough to recall many children of my age who grew up in family foster care(it was really a legal guardianship but we called it fostercare in those days)The kids usually lived with relatives.They kept their original names.
I work in family legislation(some of it has to do with adoption records access) and I have never heard an adopted person testify that they should have always had the truth,from birth, or that it is wrong to falsify the birth certificates.They just say they want their OBC at age 18.Usually they say that at "'age 18 our needs have changed from when we were children."But why is the truth expendable before 18 and then a "right" after age 18....and what are the needs which change..
I am not adopted either, and I cannot imagine being denied/lied to regarding such a monumental truth until age 18, and then suddenly having it become an issue.
My family had 'issues and secrets" but I was kept informed in ways that I could understand as I grew older.it was always known.
Legislators are going by the "as if born to " concept as "'the best interest of the child.' Lawmakers seem to believe that false birth certificates are fine...because the adoptees I hear testify say that it is fine to be adopted, it is fine to have sealed records until age 18, and they see no problem with a falsified birth record.
IMO, until adoped people start to speak out against the false records, their testimony sounds weak.They are not convincing lawmakers that they have 'a clear and compelling need" to get their true birth certificate.And they do not show their emotions around adoption.
It is interesting to see the difference in the way adoptees testify and the way that family members who have lost children/grandchildren testify. The families will cry, and discuss their struggles with depression, etc.And even the drug-addicted parents have their supporters in the legislatures.
Emotions do matter. Lawmakers have told me that.."let us see your pain."
Perhaps the adoptees who do not want to be "pathologized" have taken a view that the expression or feeling of pain is sickness/inferiority/difference.
It is not.Lawmakers can relate to pain and loss.They can also relate to fear.That is why they listen to the 'crying birthmothers whose lives will be ruined if they are found" who show up when there is an access to records bill on the table. Lawmakers listen to the criers, who sound more convincing than the adoptees who demand their civil rights(but only at age 18).
"Perhaps the adoptees who do not want to be "pathologized" have taken a view that the expression or feeling of pain is sickness/inferiority/difference."
I'm not interested in opening a vein for these assholes, I just want my damn records. Legislators can get their jollies watching some other of society's victims writhe around and beg for redress.
"It is not.Lawmakers can relate to pain and loss.They can also relate to fear.That is why they listen to the 'crying birthmothers whose lives will be ruined if they are found" who show up when there is an access to records bill on the table. Lawmakers listen to the criers, who sound more convincing than the adoptees who demand their civil rights(but only at age 18)."
Perhaps having dueling cry-offs between adoptees and first mothers would aid legislators unpersuaded by civil rights rhetoric, but I doubt it. The reason adoptees don't want to be pathologized is that people perceived as emotionally or psychologically ill are some of the least empowered people in our society.
There is no doubt that emotional displays work in public testimony, they are theater after all. I've seen Debi Faris, who promotes legalized abandonment, testify several times, twice in one day as a matter of fact, and watched her choreographed sobbings at the same point in her testimony every time. The thing is, testimony *is* just theater, if you haven't got the votes in committee before the hearing begins, no amount of boo-hooing is going to get them for you.
Thanks for joining the conversation. I welcome an adoptee's view.
"I'm not interested in opening a vein for these assholes, I just want my damn records. Legislators can get their jollies watching some other of society's victims writhe around and beg for redress."
I can appreciate this. I don't believe that anyone need to cry for legislators or for anyone to get what is rightly theirs. I do not think this is the issue however.
The issue is that many adoptees' fear of being pathologized keeps them from seeking an end to sealed records prior to reaching adulthood. Ironically, their fear of looking like cry-babies who need their mommies i.e are searching for a "need to know" IMHO keeps them infantalized and under the the control of their adoptive parents to even know that they are adopted.
Mothers, such as myself, lack such inhibitions and are thus able to fight for the rights of CHILDREN - those whom adoption is intended to serve.
"The issue is that many adoptees' fear of being pathologized keeps them from seeking an end to sealed records prior to reaching adulthood."
It wasn't so long ago that adoptees who desired to know were pathologized by the adoption industry as unstable and disturbed. It's now generally accepted in the society at large that adoptees can legitimately desire to know. This was reflected in the majority vote for Measure 58. Being pathologized is to be marginalized, and in the case of the adoptee's right to the desire to know, it's unnecessary. It's a step backwards.
"Ironically, their fear of looking like cry-babies who need their mommies i.e are searching for a "need to know" IMHO keeps them infantalized and under the the control of their adoptive parents to even know that they are adopted"
That's the breaks. All children are subject to the infantalizing control of their parents, it comes with the territory. The problem with the political strategy based on a need to know is that not all adoptees have a need to know, and if they do, how 'strong" is that need and can it be "balanced" against the needs of their first ad their adoptive parents. And, of course, if we speak of the needs of adopted children, it's not too long before we're back in the realm of "the best interest of the child", and we know how well that one is working out. Because at the end of the day it's difficult to argue that an adopted child can fully assert his or her need to know. Does this need to know trump their adoptive parents parental rights? And if the adoptive parents don't have the right to interpret their child's need to know, then who does? A judge? A social worker?
It's fairly basic legal theory that children have limited rights that expand as they grow older, and that reach fruition at maturity.
You said: "Because at the end of the day it's difficult to argue that an adopted child can fully assert his or her need to know." Question: Do you think it hurts adoptees' rights if (birth/first) mothers - and/or adoptive mothers - such as myself, speak on behalf of our children who DO/DID need to know and suffer(ed) harmed by not being able to?
Question: Do you think that NOW, since, as you recognize "It's now generally accepted in the society at large that adoptees can legitimately desire to know" that the strategies can bend a bit to embrace this shift in societal attitude and soften the hard line between "need to know" and RIGHT to know?
Not a total change or shift in strategy - not one or the other - but BOTH! Legitimatize both! Adoptees are whole human being with rights, needs, and emotions. They have every much a RIGHT to be curious as non-adoptees who do their genealogy! And there is no law that says anyone has to wait until they are adults to do that!
All children are subject to control by their parents, but not all children are denied the right to know who their parents are. Not all children's parent's hold the key to unlock secrets that the state has sealed away from them. THIS is what makes adoptees unequal to non-adoptees.
I will no doubt get flamed for this, but to me, and I am a mother who gave up a child, I feel that the real motivation has less to do with the child and more to do with the mother; that we cannot stand to be obliterated from all connection to our child as the amended birth certificate does. If there were no amended certificate, there would still be at least a symbolic connection to us, our name, the birth heritage. I don't see anything wrong with natural mothers being concerned about this, but I do question how much this would do for our children. The question of falsified birth certificates and minor access is really more a birth mother concern than a top priority for most adoptees.
As BB Church pointed out, not all adoptees have a need to know. I would venture that the majority of adoptees would not want to go through life with a different name from the parents who raised them. And how much a minor child is told about his heritage is up to the parents that raise him, not the courts or the bureau of vital stats. Of course some adoptees would like to see amended certificates eliminated and replaced with a certificate of adoption, but that does not seem a top priority for most.
When I want to know what adoptees want, I ask adoptees. The son I surrendered has long been an adult, as are my adoptee friends and the kids I raised. None of them at this point need "mother" advocating for them. Nor do I consider myself some kind of mother figure for all adoptees. It is just as easy for natural parents to put their own agenda forth and call it "best interest of the child" as for adoptive parents, and as BB Church pointed out, that is always a danger when anyone purports to speaking for minor children or others not legally responsible for themselves.
The children who are being adopted now and growing up now are under the legal responsibility of their adoptive parents, and what they learn about adoption will come from their parents. No matter how much information the parents have, it is their choice what and when to share with the child.
Rather than putting a lot of emotional energy into abolishing amended birth certificates, I think we can make a much bigger difference for kids now by educating adoptive parents about how important honesty and openess in adoption are.
I'd be fine with amended certificates being replaced with certificates of adoption, but would not make it a priority like open records for adopted adults. Also I feel that this issue is some ways none of my business....it is the adoptees' birth certificate and they should be the ones whose opinion carries the most weight.
I can speak for no one but myself. I cannot guess at anyone elses "motivation" but I know my own.
I KNOW - with absolute certainty and not once ounce of doubt - that I have zero concern for being "obliterated from all connection to our child as the amended birth certificate does. If there were no amended certificate, there would still be at least a symbolic connection to us, our name, the birth heritage."
Relinquishment - which occurs prior to adoption disconnects me as a mother from my child. Whether my child is ever adopted or not. Whether that adoption is open, closed BC changed or unchanged...I as a mother who relinquished my right to parent my child and gave that "right" to others have lost. I have lost seeing my child on a daily basis. I have lost making decisions for my child's well-being. I have lost being there to hold him when he is hurt, to cheer him on, to wipe tears and laugh with him.
Even guardianship does not afford me that.
Lineage? Heritage as in having an "heir" carry on my family name? Hogwash! I am female and NONE of my children carry my name! But they know ME. they know what i look like - what traits of mine they see in themselves.
So, no, I personally can say that I have absolutely zero selfish intent.
I may be misguided, I may be totally wrong...but my true intent IS the welfare and best interest of CHILDREN who are adopted.
MaryAnne speaks of what adult adoptees want. I have worked with many adoptive parents who longed to open closed adoptions to end the suffering of their adolescent children. I have been to too many graves of young adults who have committed suicide either for wanting to know or because of feeling torn in two, or out of resentment for all the lies they lived their lives with.
I likewise do not feel that experts in the field of child-development, family dynamics, psychology, child welfare and adoption have any ulterior motives when they ALL unanimously agree that HONESTY is ALWAYS healthier in families than lies and secrets.
Yes, parents can choose how much to tell or withhold. But if names remained unchanged on one's birth records and a certificate of adoption were a separate (perhaps attached) document, then at least everyone who was adopted would KNOW that they were and not give false medical information, and not feel betrayed if and when they do find out.
There is no shame today in any child having a different surname than the parents raising them. I would guess that nearly 50% if not more kids in any school today have different names than the rest of their family for any number of e=reasons.
WE have to stop attaching shame to adoption if we want it not be pathologized by others!
WE have to stop making so totally different that special laws are required to apply only to adopted people.
How can we expect others to see our cause clearly if we cannot normalize it ourselves? If we continue to see adoptees as needing the "protection" of a lie and a false name until adulthood - as if it were x-rated dangerous thing to know the truth - we feed right into all of our adversaries.
Birthmothers do not need to be "protected" from our children nor do they need to be protected form us, not anymore than any other two in the world need to be protected from one another.
yes, adoptees differ in their strategies. But one thing thy every activist adoptee wants is E-Q-U-L-I-T-Y! Equality means being treated THE SAME AS all other in the letter of the law. They should have no more restrictions placed on access to their parents names as any other non-adopted person. There is nothing in that for me!
If I were interested in putting the rights of birthmothers over, or equal to the rights of adoptees. I would advocate open records for birthmothers and adoptees, as Carole Anderson proposed and as OUSA currently supports. I am not. I - and every other parent who has relinquished (unless they are adopted) has their own birth certificate. It is our CHILDREN who do not! It is THEM I am concerned for.
"Shedding Light....." has been on my bookshelf as a steady reference, and talisman, since it's publication, Thank you for your work.
I've copied off your email so that Neil and I can sit down over your message and respond thoughtfully.
In the late 1990s and for three years running, we had submitted a bill asking the Hawaii State Legislature to recognize that sealing and altering birth certificates for all new adoptions was unnecessary inorder to provide children with adoptive families.
In response to those attempts, the legislature created "The Adoption Task Force" comprised of triad members, represented by the local support group, as well as persons representing the social work, legal, medical, psychological, and psychiatric communities That body, over the course of several months, found that there was no compelling interest for the State to continue falsifying adoptees' birth certificates. However, we were never able to get a bill passed because of lobbied opposition by the National Committee for Adoption (Bill Pierce), as well as Hawaii agencies and adoption lawyers who convinced law makers that such law would undermine the institution of adoption.
So, on first blush, I would say your work addresses the crux of the adoption myth. How to proceed is the question. You raise an interesting strategy.
Neil and I now call Maine our home and continue working toward State's recognition of current violation of adoptees' civil rights of equal protection, as determined by the Maine Constitution.
Until later this week,
Question: "Do you think it hurts adoptees' rights if (birth/first) mothers - and/or adoptive mothers - such as myself, speak on behalf of our children who DO/DID need to know and suffer(ed) harmed by not being able to?"
It's difficult to answer that question. In general, no, I don't think it's hurtful to point out the personal absurdities and cruelties caused by sealed records adoption. I think it's problematic to conflate the need to know with a right to know, though. The need to know is already acknowledged, although weakly, in present law by the ability of the adoptive parents of minor children and for adult adoptees to petition the courts to open their records. Thus the government can say that they already recognize the need to know.
"Do you think that NOW, since, as you recognize "It's now generally accepted in the society at large that adoptees can legitimately desire to know" that the strategies can bend a bit to embrace this shift in societal attitude and soften the hard line between "need to know" and RIGHT to know?"
There should be a hard line between the need to know and the right to know; the need to know is personal, subjective and measured differently for every individual; a right to know is universal, foundational and makes no difference between an adoptee who wishes to know and one who doesn't (just like the right to vote doesn't differentiate between those who want to vote and those who don't).
While the general public has accepted that adult adoptees have a right to know, it doesn't necessarily follow that the same general public would accept minor adopted children initiating searches. My intuition on the matter tells me that the general public would ask themselves how they would feel if their minor children did something comparable and reach a negative conclusion, but that's just my guess. Nancy Grace would have a field day with it...Bu
BB, wouldn't the adoptive parents of minor children have (parental) control over the child's information if they had access to it? Under what circumstances does a child under 18 initiate a search?
As I'm sure you know already, something that's been happening regardless of access to an obc is teens being found on myspace--
One would think that adoptive parents would prefer to have access to information and to manage it in such a way that they could discuss it with the child or teen if the need arose, and maintain some control over the situation by having the information, even while they're still a minor, because with the internet these days...one doesn't know what might happen. Many firstmothers were promised that they could have contact with their child when they reached 18 and are eagerly anticipating the day. Everyone knows about myspace now. Adoptions that started out open and closed up-- names are already known.
I have asked adoptive parents if they'd rather initiate a reunion with their teen, say around 16, before the possibility of it happening on its own a couple of years later when they reach the age of majority-- no response, and this from some who already have information as many do.
On the other hand I've seen adoptive parents who opened up a closed adoption and are happy they did. They won't have search and reunion angst, later, either.
you are correct when you say that emotional testimony is drama. It is also documentary. It also works at least sometimes.
Some people are not comfortable with exposing emotion.But some others are, and to provide a balance in testimony, some emotion is needed.
Typically it is the people who do not want the records accessed who provide the most emotional testimony...the crying mothers who don't want to be found, and the crying adoptive parents who don't want anyone to find the mothers or the children(who are now adults).
Lawmakers hear crying mothers say' I have a right to privacy. I don't want to be found.I was promised. The law said the records were sealed" So if all that is available for the party of the adopted person is the "need" to know..that won't stand up to the "right" of the "Crying mother who says the records were sealed and she is counting on that."
I realize most mothers never asked for sealed records. Many certainly never knew the extent of the sealed records laws. But those few who did, have voiced that.And they sure do cry a lot.
You are also correct that many votes are decided before the committees ever hear the testimony. But not all, and not always.
All it takes is a simple majority to win.That is why anything reasonable we can do to convince people, matters.And emotion is not unreasonable.Without it, no one would care.
I just don't understand why BN adds the caveat...the limitation...the RESTRICTION (even though they hate restrictions) "for adults." But, to tell you the truth...that's THEIR business, not mine If that's what they want, more power to them.
I guess what I really needed to ask you, what I want to ask you now, is this: In your opinion, what harm is there if BN continues exactly as they are doing - seeking open records for adults. And others of us seek to totally abolish falsified BCs for the future?
Similar to this, for instance (particularly if it was done federally):
WHEREAS, all individuals have a unique identity that is legally required;
WHEREAS, one's certificate of birth is most often the basis of all other forms of identity;
WHEREAS, it is one's certificate of birth that not only names an individual but also names his parents of birth;
WHEREAS, theft of such identity is a crime;
THEREFORE, be it unlawful for any person or entity to destroy, withhold, or change said identifying information from the person whom it identifies, without their clear and willing consent to do so.
The argument - not yours, BB - that some (even many) adoptees who are now adults wouldn't like it - is really irrelevant IMO because it wouldn't effect them. They have already grown up living a life filled with lies and secrets. If they are content with that so be it. It does not man that future need live their lives that way.
I think future kids deserve an end to this social experiment and I plan to devote the rest of my life - time, effort, and even money - toward that end. I am confident that it is totally inline with what all good mental health professionals believe is best.
Adults who have been hurt by adoption in the past - emotionally and/or as a principle already have all the support and activism in place to take care of them, Both adoptees and birth/first mothers.
I wish them all well. I will always continue to support open records - even if I think the language is flawed. Again, not my problem. But I WILL never speak out against open records and hope my support would be reciprocated. Quid quo pro.
I am interested in gathering others - attorneys, professionals and those personally affected - to work towards putting and end to the money-grabbing industry that adoption has become.
I'd welcome your support BB, and anyone else's to any degree. :-)
I don't know. In principle, and in my opinion, there is no harm. In practice it would depend on how organizations framed their arguments on abolishing amended BC's and how legislation to achieve this would be drafted.
Good luck getting anything like this passed on a federal level. The feds are happy to let adoption law devolve to the states. That's not to say they couldn't, but they haven't, and unless you spread a lot of money on K Street, they're not likely to.
"BB, wouldn't the adoptive parents of minor children have (parental) control over the child's information if they had access to it? Under what circumstances does a child under 18 initiate a search?"
Beats me, I was just responding to Adoptalk's questions about minor adoptee access based on their right to know. I personally think that issues such as the one you raise with your question make the assertion of a minor adoptee's right to know a big can of worms.
And, as the ssying goes, results will vary depending on use. I know a bunch of adoptive parents in California who got copies of their kid's OBC's directly from the first mothers.
"All it takes is a simple majority to win.That is why anything reasonable we can do to convince people, matters.And emotion is not unreasonable.Without it, no one would care."
I feel like I just walked in the door of adoption reform ten years ago. The stuff you're saying was exactly the stuff that I heard back then. At that point the only state that had opened records was Tennessee. It's not like there's been a landslide of states opening records since then, but the ones that have have opened because of two things, 1)strong rights-based arguments, and 2)strong legislative strategies. And the key to victory was number 2. Getting the sponsorship of the Speaker, Majority Leader or Whip. Someone who can whip the votes. The rest of this stuff is window dressing. If you don't have the legislative juice then you are very vulnerable to the spectacle of "sobbing birthmothers." Adoption records reform is do-gooder legislation, it's not spreading money to the constituents, it's not going to inspire votes at home. Legislators have to be motivated to do the right thing. If you're going into a committee meeting and you don't know the outcome beforehand, well, that's a high stakes bluff and a bad bet in my book. There is a lot of this kind of, excuse my bluntness, stupidity in adoption politics.
A lauadable goal, but one that many of us have already been working on for many years from several different groups and points of view. What is it exactly you want people to do to support it? You keep saying you support open records but want recipropal support for your proposals, even when the intent of what you are proposing, as far as I can see, is very different and more in the realm of the anti-adoption, replace it with guardianship view. That is a big leap from supporting open records.
When you gather these people, will it be to try to pass a federal law or even a constitutional amendment outlawing amended birth certificates as you state is your goal? And how will that take the money out of adoption??
I find it inconsistent that on the one hand you state that laws can be passed in small increments, "baby steps" and you take to task those who criticize this in the realm of open records, yet you are asking for support for legislation that has not got the chance of a snowball in hell to ever pass, citing a string of "dream the impossible dream" type quotes.
I realize this blog, and all blogs, are just to kick around ideas and there is no harm in raising even the most outrageous for discussion.
It all makes for fine rhetoric, but in the real world there would be very little support for federal legislation such as you propose.
Adoptive parents may want and often already have enough information to help their minor children search. This is not a matter of law but of agency policy and the prevalence of open adoption today. I doubt that even those adoptive parents who want this information would support legislation that said adoptees had to go through life with name on their original birth certificate, first and last. And contrary to what you have stated, it would make a difference that many adult adoptees would not support this kind of legislation, because who else could legislators ask what its effect might be? Or do you propose that children should have the right to vote as well?
I see it much like the ERA. Even if it never passes as a constitutional amendment based on the principle that adoptees are denied rights equal to non-adoptees, it will raise public awareness and i think sympathy to the issue and thus help as BN works state by state to at least get rights for those who have been adopted in the past.
I have come to the conclusion that we have to work from both ends. We cannot just continue to patch up the wounded at the bottom of the cliff, if you will, without doing something to stop the hemorrhaging at its source.
I look forward to working with you!
This has been one of the few positive dialogs I have seen on a blog!! I am very uplifted. Maybe we CAN all work together after all!!
As I stated earlier, I do not just work for records access, but also for family rights legislation. That is my primary interest.
I have worked in this area for over 15 years now, and the people who express the most emotion where records are concerned, are the adoptive parents and the crying closeted"birthmothers.'
Another group that is getting some attention now are the families whose children have been taken by CPS. They are not a 'popular" group but they are getting a legislative following. And the media is beginning to report them with more sympathy.
A person does not have to "have" all of the votes beforehand. Expressing some emotion and using it as a tool to convince lawmkers that an emotional issue could erupt into civil disobediance,or domestic discord, can be very effective, at least with some people. The original civil rights legislation in the 60s happened in certain part, because of the riots in the streets. You surely do recall that.
This type of strategy may not have worked for you,and you certainly don't have to use it if it doesn't sit right with you, but it has worked for me and the people I work with, at least some of the time.No one is suggesting that everyone should express emotion, but there is a peace and safety clause at the end of many bills. This is because the lawmakers take an oath to "uphold the peace."That is their primary job.They understand that distressed people may disrupt the peace.
Bills have to first,get through committee.You already know that. I have attended many committee meetings where it was clear that the legislators did not have their minds made up yet..
It is also,not just a matter of rights, but of 'who you know" and if they can be convinced to vote our way.It only takes one vote to break a tie, and I have been able to do that.
I want to add that I respect anyone who is in too much personal pain to work toward change.
MaryAnne once wrote:
The word "Adoption"
were to me what it is to most people—
someone else's problem, from which
turn away . . ."
And yet clearly you have NOT walked away. You have offered great things to all who have been touched by adoption.
I believe that every obstacle in life presents three choices:
Accept it; change it; or leave it.
Notice that complaining about it is not one of the choices, though it's often often chosen.
I have chosen my path in life - or it has chosen me and I accept it. I also accept that others have their paths.
I am totally unashamed to be labeled a dreamer, an idealist, a liberal, or a rebel WITH a cause! Not only unashamed, but actually quite proud. All of my heroes have been dreamers and visionaries.
I can't believe you are serious about the ERA as an example....look at how far THAT got!!
Good. I hope I have made clear both my goals and my motivations.
MA said "I do what I can, in one to one dialogue with triad members about their own situations, and in supporting legislation for open records. I am interested in doing what I can on a personal level, not in making grand gestures."
ABSOLUTELY!! That is why "I" said:
"You have offered great things to all who have been touched by adoption." THAT was directed to YOU! And please allow me to repeat and clarify: You have done and continue to GREAT things for adoption! We each "do" in our way! Yours has been a God-send for many. I am among the many that are indebted to you with gratitude for your wisdom and support. Few of us could express our feelings in poetry as eloquently and profoundly as you do.
When I spoke of those in too much pain, it was NOT directed at you - but at all...MYSELF included! I myself took a more than ten-year respite form all adoption work when the pain was too great.
As for the ERA it has been ratified by 35 of the necessary 38 states. When three more states vote yes, the ERA might become the 28th Amendment.
It has brought untold attention to the issue and raised women's pay and visibility in politics and business.
"mothers are naturally more expansive. We know too much now about the complexities and possible additional complications of adoption in a child's life to stay silent on the other issues that involve them from infancy on (need for family preservation efforts, need for access to information throughout childhood, need for truth, etc.)"
Amen to that. That really says it all. There are far more problems than open records for adults can fix.
I agree. Reading Small's book made me feel that she harbored some dislike for birthmothers - possibly her own?
She constantly used the term "unwed mother" - a totally outdated, somewhat pejorative term. She used it not in quoting something or describing something from the past- but in her own words.
She does describe (brith)parents and adoptee needs as "disparate." I went and looked up the exact definition and it only means different, not in opposition. Yet, she seems to focus on the differences and ignore the help that birthmothers have provided over the years toward supporting open records - especially, and very specifically, in Oregon.
It does lead one to wonder if most? many? adoptee activists are grateful for our help or wish we would but out. Do they think we are helping or hurting their cause?
I have not read Smalls book. So, I have not commented on her book.
But adoption, and family issues, cover a great deal more than records.
To begin with, giving birth always involves a mother.(there is, of course, a father, too, but he sometimes is unaware or has abandoned the mother, and, he does not give birth).
My signature is on the OBC.It is a part of my life and legal/medical history as well as my child's.
An adopted person still belongs to, in a related biological sense, an entire family of usually unknown people.The adopted person does not know this family. The family is able to recognize the adopted person more easily, once they meet, because they already know their family heritage and history.
To the family who is searching for an adopted-away person, it is as if a part of themselves is missing.
I have frequently heard searching adopted people say they are ''searching for those lost parts of themselves.''I hear searching mothers say they feel as if they "suffered an amputation" when they lost their baby to adoption.
So, I do think there are some feelings of loss regarding the sought-after people that are similar for relatives in general.
I remember hundreds of thousands of people for MLK's I have a dream speech in the Capitol Mall. When we can get hundreds of thousands of adoptees to something similar, then we'd get somewhere. I wouldn't mind seeing some direct actions either.
When I've done legislative advocacy, the sponsor for the bill i've supported always knows the score, who's going to vote yes, who'd going to vote no, if we "can count to X", X being the number of votes necessary to pass committee. People switch votes, people sometimes keep their cards close to their vests, but the legislators have a pretty good idea how things are going to work out. That's what they actually get paid to do, to know stuff like that.
When or "IF" we can get one thousand adoptees to march on Washington! It has been my experience that mothers are much more eager to go public than adoptees are. I so wish adoptees would follow in the footsteps of gays. Talk about being pathologized! Talk about being ostracized - and talk about disappointing and SHAMING their parents!
And yet they rose above the shame of being labelled immoral perverts and their fear of being rejected by their parents and came out of their closets and onto the streets and demanded their equality!
If anyone should be hiding in shame, it;s birth parents. We were the ones who were labeled immoral. loose, immature, etc.
No one really seriously thinks there is anything wrong with being adopted! The worst thing said against them is "ungrateful" but that's for searching, not for demanding their rights.
It wasn't so very long ago that people lost jobs when it was found out that they were gay. In politics, it's still tricky.
But if someone reveals they are adopted - so what? No one thinks lesser of them. There's no fear of losing one's reputation or status int he community.
It's been my observation that many adoptees are overly sensitive. The think that people ask awkward question when they find out they're adopted. I knew someone causally for a couple of years when she told me she was Ukrainian. I said, "Oh, were you born here or there." She said she was born there. I said, "Oh, you must have come here pretty young because you have no accent."
Now, it may have been somewhat annoying to her because perhaps lots of people say the same thing, but there was nothing at all judgmental in the questions I asked - just sheer curiosity. It is not different when someone says they're adopted, and the immediate response is a questions about your "real parents." It may feel very awkward or strange to the adoptee, but to the person asking it is no different than my asking my Ukrainian friend if she has family there and if she goes back and visits.
It's no different than asking "Have you done any genealogy"! The awkwardness is only i the adoptee's head. No one else thinks it strange to want to know your family.
Calling yourselves bastards is one thing. really embracing your difference and empowering yourselves to overcome fear of being seen as "different" in a negative way is another.
I long for the day that adoptees can march en mass with heads held high and DEMAND what is rightfully theirs. I long for the day they break the chains of feeling like abandoned, rejected foundlings and cut loose the ties of loyalties that hold them back. I long for the day they realize that they themselves hold the key to their own imprisonment and set themselves free!
Mirah, well said, and true in more ways than one.
two school kids meet and discover one or both have divorced parents. One says tot her "Do you live with your Mom or your Dad?"
Although there is - or used to be - or is alleged to be some "stigma' in being a child of divorce, such a questions is asked and answered with no more difficulty or awkwardness than asking what one's parent does for a living. If it is a touchy subject - i.e. your parent does something illegal...or it's been a very protracted custody battle...then it will be painful to speak about. This is true of many life's simple questions.
Asking a birthmother, or mother of a deceased child, how many children she has can make a simple every-day question painful for the person being asked. We have no way of knowing this unique personal circumstances. And we must not assume that the person asking a simple question - like do you know your 'real' mother - means any disrespect or harm. You can educate the asker, and/or simply answer as if he has asked you "have you done any genealogy" or do you know where your grandparents are from...or simply "Are you Irish or are you Jewish?" people ask such questions all the time and we simply have yo figure out a comfortable answer.
As a birthmother of a deceased daughter, for me it depends on who is asking what answer I give. I assume it is the same for adoptees. These ARE private issues and the amount of information we feel comfortable revealing is our own business.
I do not agree that questions, in and of themselves do not imply that adoptees are stigmatized or pathologized as Small suggests in her book.
Ron - have you read Adoption Mystique?? Reviewed it?
As an n. mother I very much live the loss every day. Even authors and Ruben, Pannor and Baran have used the term emotional amputation to describe the loss we feel, and I believe that describes it very well. I feel it that way myself, though I can't speak to what adoptees feel.
Issues of 'loss' or 'need' are not addressed in Small's book... what is needed is the paper...only the paper.
If you read it you too might interpret as I did that the word 'search', and especially the word 'reunion' are basically dirty words if one were to relate them in any way to an adoptee's right to their OBC, especially out in public or in open records efforts. This position is probably more politically expedient in the effort, given the attitudes of the opposition.
But I also get the impression that she herself feels that an actual reunion for an adoptee amounts to a recontamination of the taint of illigitimacy (that we caused them to suffer) and that what is chief in importance is getting the paper.
We are depersonalized throughout the book, and reduced to heritage or geneology... on paper that is. I would surmise by reading her book that she is in favor of closed adoption, though wants open records.
I guess you have to read it to make sense of this.
WoW! I do suppose that is how some adoptees, or at least Small, seems to feel. I felt a sense from Small that she (other adoptees?) BLAMED us - not for abandoning them, but for putting the stain of illegitimacy on them.
Small definitely depersonalizes us - referring to us ONLY - as I recall - as unwed mothers! She makes it crystal clear that the issue of open records is about THEM and not us.
I have long felt in reading many adoptee narratives of their search and reunion, that all they were in fact looking for was data: names, dates, places..."just the facts, Ma'am." Many go into it with a wall as huge as that of the Great Wall of China with flashing neon signs saying: "I alreayd have a mom and dad and am not looking for any intimate relatiposnhip."
MANY initiate the search, get someone out of deep denial, get what they want and then want to put them back on the shelf - like a book they are finished reading - without much realization that once that door is open it can never be closed again for the person with whom they have made contact. They leave that person confused and hurting.
OH, I know - it goes both ways. Reunions are initiated by either party and ended by either. Many an adoptee has been hurt by being shut out of someone's life. But Whatever birth parents do in reunion - and some are not very nice - none seek just to take a peek and go away.
And there are other adoptees who do it to subconsciously hurt back the person they blame...
I have heard about the adoption paper chase many times..and although it may seem more expedient, it has a coldness to it, that some lawmakers have told me they don't find sympathetic.
People are not pieces of paper.
There is an objectivity to this,using a mother for the paper, and that does not come across well.
They say something like" I just want the paper" and what is heard is"I don't want her..she is nothing".
While most people are not offended by adoption, most people are not fooled into thinking that adopted people are really "born" into their adoptive family, either. So an adopted person who tries to act superior to their natural family will usually find themselves at odds with others.This is seen as "pretense' and not appreciated.
It is very complex.Perhaps it has to do with our American sense of the conflicted ability to reinvent oneself while , at the same time, recognizing our American sense of suspicion towards royalty, class privilege, and snobbery.
i did receive a promtional email on the Small book but it didn't look like something I wanted to buy.
I do agree with the political strategy to approach "open records for adults" as an equal rights issue.
When I relinquished I was assured that my daughter would have a "better life" through adoption. that better life should not include being treated lesser than non-adopted people in terms of access to their own records. This is a very unique situation that effects no one else but those who are adopted. They have done nothing to deserve their discriminatory treatment.
Search and contact are very controversial. there is the issue of loyalty to the adoptive parents. There are issues of disrupting a birth mother's life...and the fact is that many adoptees - for whatever reason (fear, denial, whatevr) do not want to search. Irregardless, they still deserve equality.
For all of those reasons, it is wise to approach the rights of those adopted in the past in that way.
That is different than opening up adoptions from this point forward.
As babies, adopted children have done nothing to cause their adoptions. But, as adults, they do make choices as to their behavior and actions. That is the behavior that lawmakers see and hear.
No is forced to search. Having the names does not mean they have to search. some do and some don't. And not all adopted people feel loyalty to their adoptive parents, whether searching enters into the equation of not..
But the choice to speak of their mothers in dehumanizing terms in legislative committee hearings,or in other places, is a choice that some adopted people make.
No one is forcing them to do that.
As they say, they are now adults.How adults conduct themselves is up to them.
Other people, other adults , are free and able to see and to judge that behavior.
BTW, how are you being left out of the political process? I didn't get that part of your message.
I have ordered your new book and hope it will arrive soon, I look forward to reading it.
It is sad but true that we relinquished our rights.
"BTW, how are you being left out of the political process? I didn't get that part of your message."
I likewise do not get this part of your comment.
I was referring to a post several posts back where you said that being shut out of the political process was hurtful. I am thinking this might possibly have been in reference to being able to work for records laws for adopted people, but I am not sure. I was simply curious about what you meant.Many of us have worked for records for adopted people. I have testified many times for records access and have written many letters and made many phone calls to lawmakers also. I am assuming that you have also done this too.
I was illegally forced to surrender my parental rights.(My parental rights would be null and void anyway at this point because my child is an adult) Regardless, that has nothing to do with records issues at this point for either myself or my child. The records still exist. They still bear my name, address, and my signature and my medical history. Records and parental rights are not the same thing.I have legal access right now to my husbands birth certificate . That is what the law allows.Relatives are allowed to get birth certificates even in adulthood.
Access to records for adult adopted people should be given because the records should always have been theirs(as you have pointed out again and again.)This should be considered an 'unalienable right' and cannot be given up.
But the records are not something that the parents gave up, either. In fact, for the first 70 years or so, in adoption history,natural parents had access to the records.(and so did adopted people).