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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Will Adult Adoptees Ever be Treated like Grown-ups?

Is anyone else as disgusted as I am at the slow pace of the adoption reform movement -- specifically the state-by-state efforts to allow adult citizens who happen to be adopted access to their own birth certificates?

The New Jersey Coalition for Adoption Reform and Education (NJCARE) tries valiantly year after year to get an adult adoptee access bill passed, and year after year it is thwarted by last-minute back room deals driven by the opposition -- Catholic Bishops, NJ Right to Life, the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) and the NJ Bar Association.

These groups continue to oppose adult adoptee access even though we now have years of experience from the open-access states and from other countries that shows their fears are completely unfounded.  Meanwhile, everyday people who have an ounce of common sense just shake their heads in disbelief when I explain to them that most fully-grown adoptees have no access to the document that records their true and actual birth.

Apparently, by law, adoptees in this country are still expected for life to be somebody other than who they really are.  When a child's adoption in the US is finalized, an amended birth certificate is issued that lists the adoptive parents as the child's mother and father.  The original birth certificate is "sealed" by the state, and adoptees must petition the court and show "good cause," a condition that has never been legally defined, should they desire to know the truth about their own genetic roots.

Of course legions of adoptees search for their origins in spite of the legal obstacles.  Search angels and some private investigators specialize in the field.  But isn't it ridiculous and unjust that an entire class of people must jump through all kinds of hoops in order to find out the most basic information about themselves?

The adoption industry has been quite successful in convincing people that the practice of adoption is just fine exactly like it is.  Their propaganda, aimed at selling the concept that adoption is a win-win situation for all the parties involved, has been effective.  Most people seem to assume that adoption is always a wonderful and positive option that leads to happily-ever-after endings for all.

The lifelong loss that so many original mothers feel?  We don't hear so much about that.  The identity struggles that many adoptees face as they come to terms with their relinquishment?  A secondary concern.  How much easier it is to just assume, as I did as a child, that love will conquer all.

My guess is that most people aren't even aware that the original birth certificates of adoptees are sealed for life in most states.  And if they are aware, they probably assume, incorrectly, that adoption has always been conducted this way, and that the secrecy is necessary for the "protection" of birth parents.  Those who oppose adult adoptee access talk a great deal about the need for birth parent protection, although hordes of original mothers have come forward to tell us that they were not promised, nor did they ask for "confidentiality."

As I have written in other posts, allowing adopted adults access to their original birth certificates is not a novel and untested concept.  In England and Australia, adult adoptees have had access to their own birth documents for over 30 years!  Here, a few states have opened up access, but progress across the country remains slow, and the quest for adoptee rights is always a frustrating, uphill battle.

What is really galling is that the press for the most part does not challenge the propaganda of the power brokers in adoption.  These groups insist that original mothers were promised anonymity, when an examination of the history and of the surrender documents themselves shows clearly that records were sealed to hide the identity of the adoptee, not the identity of the original family.

And why are birth records sealed for one of the most common types of adoption, that initiated by step-parents?  In these cases, and in adoptions out of foster care, the children for the most part already have their original information, and yet still, their original birth certificates are sealed.  Domestic infant adoptions actually comprise just a tiny portion of all adoptions finalized each year, yet the power brokers in adoption ask us to accept that original birth certificates are sealed across the board to preserve the "anonymity" or privacy of original parents.

The most telling statistic, of course, is that fewer than 1 percent of original parents have a preference for anonymity, according to combined statistics from those open-access states that maintain records (American Adoption Congress, Statistics for States Implementing Access to Original Birth Certificates).  Just who is it that adoption facilitators are so intent on protecting, even as they continue to violate the rights of the person that adoption is supposed to serve -- the adoptee?

It is apparent to me that they are either trying to protect themselves by keeping their files under lock and key, or they are responding to the desire of some adoptive parents to begin with a clean slate, adoptive parents who want nothing whatsoever to do with the original families.  Whatever the motivation, it is clear that it does not center around the best interest of the child.

Sometimes, I wonder whether I am wasting my time writing these posts, when we see so little progress in the legislative arena.  I am a rational, logical person, and it drives me crazy that the opposition to Adoptee Rights Bills is not based on any established fact.  As far as I can see, the opposition is based on a misguided ideology, power and money.

Will adult adoptees ever be treated like grown-ups by law?  Sadly, I am beginning to doubt it.


You might also like:

Sealed Records -- A Secret the Industry Would Like to Keep

Money and Power Stymie Adoptee Rights Bills

Why do State Bar Associations Oppose Adoptee Rights?

Pro-life Ideology and Adoptee Rights






18 comments:

  1. What is needed is for adoptive parents to come on board in the same quanitity as the 50,000+ plus who signed the petition regarding Russia...or the Adoption Tax Credit petitions. Sadly, I think other than a small minority
    of adoptive parents - most don't give a damn about it because they "like" the fact that the only birth certificate their child has lists them as having given birth.

    Then you have the adoptees who fight amongst themselves over what type of bill is acceptable and create conflict which is so wrong.

    Sorry to be so depressing.

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    1. Well, the the status of the adoption reform movement is depressing! We also need more adoptees to come on board. I try to remember that women fought among themselves as they tried to secure the right to vote, too, and of course the civil rights movement was full of disagreement as to how militant folks should be. Such disagreement seems to come with the territory in all human rights struggles. It is very hard to be patient, for sure.

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  2. I think you are (sadly) wrong about most of the "general public". They buy the same "it's not your right to know" attitude that the industry has.

    Not surprisingly, the push is to offer "open adoption", yet the powers that be still tell us it's none of our business who our families of origin are. Make up your minds - it's either GOOD for adoptees to know their original families or it's not important. Don't sell "openness" on the one hand and tell US that we're not entitled to this new "openness" - just be happy that the big bad BSE is long past. So just suck it up and move on. Except MY records are still sealed and, in most states, so are the records of these "open" adoptions.

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    1. Hi Gaye, Maybe it's a generational thing. When I went to the Apple store for one-on-one instructional sessions on my computer and I-pad, every person I worked with was shocked at the current state of the law. Of course most of these folks are on the younger side. In New Jersey, a comprehensive and independently-conducted survey found a majority of the public thought adult adoptees should have access to their OBCs. I think it's the monied and powerful lobbies that continue to thwart us. Our movement needs more numbers, and we need money to make a difference in the legislative arena.

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  3. We need to get 100 first mothers and 100 adoptees together with a powerful law firm and sue the hell out of the NCFA once and for all. Anybody willing? Or start a militant activist group like the gays did (ACTUP). Then start storming into Mormon and Catholic Churches with amended birth certificates and rip them up and throw them around and then rip bibles apart while screaming what liars the churches are. Anybody willing? Unless we get as strong and vicious as the adoption industry is, I think you are right. We don't have a chance.

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  4. Every reformer needs to join the ACLU then force them to follow their mission statement. Just sucks that the slippery slope of abortion privacy and "choice" starts with secret adoption for them!

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  5. Actually none or the opponents you've listed ACLU. Jersey Bar, Catholic Conference, Governor Christie and any natural/birth/mothers have any business is preventing adult adoptees from having the right to know. Not any of their business.

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    1. You are so right, Joyce. And that is why it is so hard for many adoptees to attend legislative hearings. I personally find it much easier to write the posts for this blog. Who wants to be insulted and marginalized at public meetings year after year?

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  6. I was born/adopted in NY State and the battle for adoptee rights continues there also. What we lack is MONEY. Gays were able to finally get their equal rights bill passed, but they have a very strong lobbying body with financial support. Six million adoptees, 12 million birth parents, we could make our voices heard, but only smaller groups do, and we lack large numbers of financial supporters with influence. I have always said we need a "Million Adoptee March" on Washington to get attention. We continue to have our civil rights violated. I am disgusted.

    The one new ray of hope is that we now have Y-DNA 37 marker tests and autosomal DNA testing available to us, and nobody can keep the truth from us when it comes to our DNA. The information that our DNA holds for us cannot be sealed and locked away, it is ours to discover, and many adoptees and birth families searching are turning to DNA testing for answers. I now have over 1500 DNA cousin matches between the three companies who offer this DNA test ranging from 3rd cousins to 5th-distant cousins, and they are MY real genetic relatives. It is only a matter of time before a closer cousin match shows up. Some adoptees have already found their family this way. Until it happens to me, I am still learning more and more about my potential family surnames and ethnic ancestry every day. It is a shame that we have to spend money to learn about "us", but I think I have a better chance of finding the answers I seek using science, than waiting for NY State to allow me access to my original birth certificate.

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  7. You're right, I think. We need more numbers, and we need money. We did come close in New Jersey during the last legislative cycle, but were thwarted by Gov. Christie's "conditional" veto, as you may know. He proposed a system of confidential intermediaries and called that a compromise. How frustrating and depressing.

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    1. I need to add my two cents. The higher up, powers that be do not want their biological offspring to be found out from all their illicit affairs. Just think how many men's careers would be ruined if it was found out they fathered offspring with women they were not married to.

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  8. FTY; free to register and search on biologicalfinder.com
    best of luck to everyone.

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  9. Great post; very true -- we adoptees are perpetually shunted off to the side since all those big lawmaking grownups know what's best for us.

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  10. It's wonderful to hear a voice advocating for adult adoptees. There are so many uninformed people who meet with hostility the topic of "the rights of the adoptee." The dominating mindset is that our lives are better b/c we were adopted by people who wanted us therefore we should look no further than the great life we have. Too many assumptions are made with this mindset. Thank you for your dedication and public work.

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  11. Thank you, Murph. I hope the blog can make some small difference. It is an uphill battle, for sure.

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  12. It is the lack of the huge numbers agitating for unsealing the OBCs that keep the records sealed.

    The Million Adoptee March--hell, 300 people showing up in a state capital would make an impression and get lots of press. It's the old mind-set of "not wanting to hurt" the feelings of my adoptive parents, so still a lot of people don't think about searching or about it except tangentially until their parents die, and first mothers who sit by and wait--or worse, refuse reunion--that stalls our progress. Because of what adoption does to the psyche, or both relinquishing mothers and the adopted, I so appreciate those individuals who are able to stand up and speak out. Like you.

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  13. the problem is not many people support the adoptee that's why it never changes if your adopted and say how you didn't like being adopted your going to have a lot of people bulling the adoptee its not safe to say how you feel being an adoptee an adoptee is left on there own with no support from anybody

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  14. It makes me wonder if maybe in some states the adoption process wasn't always done "correctly", and opening up the records would shine light on issues they would rather keep hidden.

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