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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Calling on Gov. Christie to do the right thing

I am writing this post from the home of my mom, Susan Perry, whose blog this is. She has asked me if I could keep it going, with a post now and then, since all of her energy is focused on being with those she loves and those who love her. Love is what is carrying us all through. 

My mom has been fighting for adoptees finally to be treated with justice and humanity for the last 13 years of her life. That fight continues. Tomorrow, the NJ Senate and Assembly vote on the Adoptees' Birthright BIll, and then it will go on to Governor Chris Christie, who vetoed it last time but now has a chance to do the right thing. Below is the letter I sent to the Philadelphia Inquirer in response to their February 23rd article on this bill. 
My mom skiing with my two girls, Grace and Genevieve, last year. 


Letter to the Editor:
I am the daughter of Susan Perry, who was profiled in Sunday’s front-page article 'Bills in Pa., N.J. would open adoption records.' I would like to make a few important clarifications. The first sentence reads, “Not knowing the identity of her real mother was always a painful, unresolved issue, but when Susan Perry was diagnosed with melanoma, finding out became a medical necessity.” I know my mom objects to the term “real mother.” Most involved in this movement use the terms "original mother" and "adoptive mother." My grandmother (my mom's adoptive mother) was very much her real mother, as the brother she grew up with is also her real brother. They are also very real to, and loved by, me. That said, the biological sisters she found this September are also real to her, and to me (and I love them too). Secondly, not knowing the identity of her original mother was not always a cause for pain. My mom is an accidental activist. It was only when she was pushed by my sister, a doctor, to search for her roots 13 years ago and then subsequently treated like a second-class-citizen (having to pay $600 to an “intermediary” just to ask if her mother would like contact and to have access to extremely limited, if not completely erroneous, medical information), that she felt this pain (and outrage). Finally, though being diagnosed with melanoma was what prompted us to search for her original family, the “medical necessity” for all adopted people is really before they are diagnosed with catastrophic diseases, so that they can take preventive measures. My mom found out from her sisters that an uncle had melanoma (this was NOT on the medical form she paid $600 for). Had her doctors had this information 16 years ago, would they have misdiagnosed the melanoma on her toe for two years, allowing it to develop into Stage 2 cancer (now Stage 4)? We’ll never know.

The bills pending in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are about rights, not reunions. My mom now has all the information she needs (no thanks to current law), but she is fighting for others, even as she fights for her own life. I am proud of her, and of all those involved in fighting for this right, just law. 

15 comments:

  1. Please extend my love to your mom.

    I'm glad you clarified the term "real mother" in the article. That phrase has done a lot of damage to so many.

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    1. I agree with Lori, it's the people that raise you with love and care that are the "real parents" . But the information from the "blood parents" is imperative. Love to your Mom, she is wonderful, as are you !!!

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  2. Thanks, Lori. I will. It's a shame the article used that term. We have talked so much these past few months about my mom's adoptive mother and all our memories of her. Our love for her was fierce, and very real.

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  3. Your mom has been an incredible "accidental activist" and I hope the bill passes and is signed by the Governor. Lots of love and strength to all of you.

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    1. Thanks Lora. My mom and I were just admiring the pictures you took of the kids. Yes, I hope Governor Christie signs this bill. It passed the Senate and Assembly today, so on to him ...

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  4. I am so glad you brought up the issue of "real mother". I was offended by its use in the article. It does imply that Susan's wonderful adoptive parents (and your wonderful grandparents) are somehow not your family. And I know that is the furthest thing from the truth. Also, referring to the natural mother as the REAL mother further stigmatizes adoptees in general. So, I just want to thank you for not overlooking what I'm sure was an unintentional faux pas. I hope that you and your whole family are doing as well as possible under the circumstances. I appreciate all of you for keeping up the fight for adoptee rights even during these most difficult times. I think of Susan often and wish her the best.

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  5. Hi Robin. Thanks for the comment and for your good wishes. Yes, I know my mom was upset that the article started that way. The reporter did her best to understand the story, but I think for those not involved in adoption themselves it is easy to miss some of the (extremely) important points. All the more reason to listen to those voices (adoptees, adoptive families, and original families) when drafting legislation. Once I started to listen, the voices were clear, eloquent, and poignant.

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  6. This really hits home. Michael is having a health crisis and the first thing all docs ask for is family history--we were just talking yesterday about how we didn't think about that angle of adoption when we were thirty somethings and in process of adopting. Now closing in on 50, we realize the implications of Chloe not knowing her family health history. Should you now be known as RunningTeacherMamaWriter? You are an amazing woman!

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    1. Amy, I am so sorry to hear Michael is having a health crisis. Yes, it's interesting that we readily accept that this is needed information for health but make it so difficult for adoptees to find out. It really was my sister, as a doctor, who pushed my mom to find out her full story (and that required hiring a private detective, at great cost). The intermediary that the opposition suggests is needed simply did not work to find out needed information. Finally, I probably just should be known as "TeacherMama" as I've been running less these days :)

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  7. The information I provided to the adoption agency when I was 20 years old was not only incomplete; it was erroneous. The "pancreatic cancer" we believed my dad had has since been determined to have originated with colon cancer. I don't need to tell you the implications for my daughter as she reached the age where colonoscopies are recommended, especially since insurance companies cover these procedures at varying intervals depending on family history.

    We also hadn't a clue that connective tissue disease, genetically transmitted, loomed in our family, waiting to strike here and there through the generations. Ironically, it was through my reunion with my relinquished daughter (locating her cost me a small fortune!) that we were first made aware of the disease; she developed lupus. It's frightening to know that if it had been my subsequent child who had been relinquished for adoption and he had been unable to find us to warn us, we would have lost his younger brother to sudden aortic aneurysm and had no idea why. (Heart problems like mitral valve failure and aortic aneurysm are also manifestations of connective tissue disease.) His brother, heeding the warning, got checked and was found to have an aneurysm approaching mandatory surgery in size.

    This is not a frivolous request adoptees are making; it can be one of literal life or death.

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  8. Well you know not all adoptees consider their adoptive parents their real parents. I certainly don't and only consider my natural parents my real parents. No one can speak for all adoptees but I think some adoptees who go off and say that their real parents are their adoptive parents are just subverting themselves to the game we are forced to play BY adoptive parents and all the snakes with all the power.

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    1. Hi anonymous. I will do my best to reply even though I am not an adoptee myself. If I have learned anything from my mom's journey over the past 13 years it is that the adult adoptee is really the only one who can speak for adoptees at all, and thus, if adoption really is an institution set up to protect the child first and foremost, then the voice of adult adoptees is the most important one in the dialogue. It seems crazy to me how many people dismiss that. I guess this is why most involved in this movement have take "real" out of the dialogue altogether. It can be so hurtful. That said, I know that my mom's truth lies somewhere in the middle. Her (biological/"natural") sisters, who are driving down to spend the day with her today despite a huge snow storm threatening the East Coast, are so real to and loved by her, AND her adoptive parents, who fiercely loved and protected her (and who I believe would have supported her in her finding/embracing the full story of her life, had they not been counseled otherwise by "those with all the power") were also real to and loved by her (that goes for her adoptive brother, too). I also know many other adoptive parents who do love their children fiercely and have gone to great lengths to do what is best for them, even traveling to other countries to search out their roots. Finally, her original mother, though she never met my mom, is a real, important part of my mom's story. My mom's older sister gave her a beautiful framed picture of her original mother as a small child, and my mom keeps it on the shelf with the other family pictures. I am sorry for her sake that she did not meet my mom before she passed away this October. All that said, I am very aware of the "game" adoptees are often forced to play, and I pray that those in power -- those making the laws and those facilitating adoptions (the agencies and lawyers) -- listen, truly LISTEN, to what brave adult adoptees have told them about the system, and what needs to be changed.

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  9. Please tell your mother this mother (original, first, biological) who partly raised a teenager too appreciates her speaking out for all adoptees. She is an inspiration to everyone.

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    1. Thanks, Lorraine. I know she is an inspiration to me, for this and for many other things as well.

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  10. Thank you for continuing to write about this issue that is close to your mother's heart. I was fortunate to meet Susan through our writings at Lost Daughters. I think of her often and she is truly a role model and inspiration to the rest of us fighting for equal rights. As a closed-era adoptee who was left in a lurch with no medical history, all I can say is I was really really fortunate to not have any major illnesses that stumped my parents into finding the proper treatment for me. Others have not been as fortunate. There are tales of auto-immune disorders, skin problems, diabetes history, you-name it, amongst adoptee-circles and we are all understandably outraged that the closed system prevents us from doing what is best for our own preventative health care.

    Even the simple fact that my father is unknown to me, prevents me from finding out my medical history on the paternal side and what diseases run in my family. It is maddening, unfair and can be life threatening.

    My thoughts and prayers are with Susan and your family.

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