Working with a confidential intermediary from the agency that facilitated my adoption was what transformed me from a rather tentative soul, usually respectful of authority, into a passionate advocate for adoption reform. I signed up for the intermediary system because at that time, I didn't realize I had other alternatives, like going to a volunteer search angel or a private investigator for help. I had no idea how working with an intermediary would make me feel.
As I've reported in other posts, my intermediary's first question was: "Why do you want to know?" Closely behind that question was another: "What do you hope to gain from this?" Immediately, I felt that my motives and my psychological competence were being questioned. I shouldn't have to explain why I want to know my own personal history and who gave birth to me. My history and my identity belong to me, and these things should never have been taken from me in the first place. As an adult, I very much disliked placing my personal affairs into the hands of an unknown party whose competence I had no way of judging.
My intermediary made one phone call to my original mother, and in that one phone call, my original mother apparently said she wanted no contact. The intermediary reported, "She is a tough nut to crack," or something along those lines. I didn't know whether I could trust the intermediary's assessment or not. All I knew is that I had no medical information, no personal history, nothing. After much soul-searching, I decided to try to make contact on my own, through a compassionate and personal certified letter, and I did meet with success. Perhaps the social worker scared my original mother off. I know the agency personnel intimidated and infuriated me: their stance was so rigid, cold and bureaucratic.
My feelings on the intermediary system today are very clear. It is unfair and unethical for two parties to sign a lifelong, binding contract over a third party who had no say in the matter. As adults, we adoptees should have the same rights as any other citizen. Confidential intermediaries are simply another barrier to our desires as adults to manage our own lives. My original birth certificate -- the legal document recording my birth -- certainly belongs to me just as much, if not more so, than to my original mother.
Here are other reasons I strongly oppose the confidential intermediary "solution":
1. The adoptee is expected to pay for the service, a reality that benefits the adoption agency financially. Ten years ago, I paid my agency $400 for an ultimately unsuccessful search.
2. Our searches are sometimes trivialized by agency personnel as "idle curiosities." This is what my agency's attorney called my efforts when I tried to convince the agency to forward my personal letter to my original mother.
3. Some agencies have a long history of opposing adoptee access. How can they possibly facilitate contact without bias?
4. Other agencies, according to search angels and investigators, have distorted birth records to suit their own purposes. Once again, how can these agencies be expected to facilitate contact without bias?
5. Confidential intermediary programs are costly and often slow. When expressing their support for a NJ Adoptee Rights Bill in 1992, the directors of Maternity and Adoption Services for the Catholic Dioceses in NJ wrote, "We find this bill to be the most cost-efficient way to meet the needs of the people involved. We are besieged with requests from adult adoptees and birthparents for intermediary search services."
6. I am the victim of discrimination when I am forced to submit to the power of others concerning the most personal details of my life. I am not a child, yet the intermediary process placed me in a child-like position.
I seriously doubt that those legislators who support a confidential intermediary system would tolerate a third, unknown party supervising their own, very personal affairs. The bottom line is this: I have a right to my own history and identity. And I am competent to manage my own personal business without the supervision of my government. For what could be more personal than the relationship between me and my original mother? It is no one's business except for hers and mine.