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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I was a people pleaser -- now I'm an adoptee rights activist

Recently, I participated in a long on-line conversation with other adopted adults about the challenges of following our own hearts and truths without offending the sensibilities of other family members.  Many adopted people are truly concerned about hurting the feelings of their adoptive parents, whom they love, and then, as they pursue their biological family connections, they become concerned all over again about possibly upsetting the lives of original family.

This scenario is very familiar to me, and I know I'm not alone.  I delayed a search for years because I just knew, even without words, that my adoptive mother would consider it threatening, and that it would compromise her view of herself as my only mother.  Later, when I found and reached out to my original mother, I proceeded carefully and with compassion, because once again, I knew that my birth was a sensitive subject, and that it must have been emotional and painful for her.

When my original mother returned a medical questionnaire that I had sent to her by certified mail, she informed me that she had never told anyone else about me, except for her own mother, and that her other daughter, five years older than I, does not know that I exist.  Through public records, I do know who this other daughter is and where she lives, but so far, I have not reached out to her.  My original mother has asked me to "please not make trouble," and for now, I have honored her request.

I'm not sure just what I'm going to do about all this, and when, but once again, I'm the one in the middle, the one worried about how my feelings and actions might impact everybody else.  Isn't it strange that adoption, which is allegedly conducted in the best interest of the child, puts a human being into such a difficult situation?

One of the reasons I advocate for adoption reform is that I do not want tomorrow's adoptees to have to worry about everybody else's feelings at the expense of their own.  That is what so many of us adoptees from the closed adoption era feel -- that we have to tiptoe around the feelings of our adoptive parents and the feelings of our original parents, all the while sublimating our own feelings and needs.  It doesn't help that during this confusing journey, other people are very eager to tell us what we should think and feel about adoption.

As a grown woman who has been an adopted person for 62 years now, I do not want to be told by anyone what I should think about my own adoption.  And I especially don't want to be patronized, yet like other adoptees, I often am.

To many stakeholders in adoption, my many years of experience as an adoptee are irrelevant.  Over the past ten years, ever since I have had the audacity to declare I have an inherent right to know my own basic history, I have been insulted and patronized by adoption agency personnel, several adoption attorneys, legislators, and occasionally even casual friends and acquaintances, who unknowingly parrot common adoption myths like these:  "Birth mothers were guaranteed secrecy," and "It shouldn't bother you that you don't know your ancestry -- your 'real' parents are the people who raised you."

I became an activist when I came to realize it is the adoption industry itself that willfully drives such myths in its attempts to sell adoption as the win-win solution for everyone involved.  Interacting with the agency that facilitated my adoption many years ago was the catalyst that spurred my growth from polite "people pleaser" to adoptee rights activist.

This agency maintains a confidential intermediary system that will connect adoptees to original parents if both parties agree.  In my case, the system failed for several reasons, one being the agency's bureaucratic and rigid protocol.

I felt most patronized, I think, when the agency's CEO, after several interactions between us, wrote this to me:  "I hope your efforts to advocate for adoption reform impacts the secrecy that surrounds the nature of adoption to make a positive change for the future."

This sentence actually enraged me, because this agency had charged me for their meagre services, had lost my records for several months, and as I now know, had given me misleading information about my original mother.  All the while, they behaved as if they knew best, from a social worker's first question to me -- "Why do you want to know?" -- to the last, condescending letter from the CEO.

Now I realize that the agency is constrained by the archaic law that seals an adoptee's original birth record.  But my thoughts in response to the CEO's statement are these:  Why do you encourage me "to make a positive change for the future" even as you continue to facilitate closed adoptions?  If you really cared about impacting "the secrecy that surrounds the nature of adoption," you would take a stand.  You would advocate for an adoptee rights bill that would enable adult adoptees to act in their own best interest.  The fact is: You do not care at all about the rights of adopted people.

This agency's long-standing motto is "changing the lives of children since 1894."  As an adopted adult, I feel a more honest slogan would be "changing the lives of adults (especially if you are infertile or are in trouble) since 1894."  What the agency really does in its adoption program is meet the needs of adults who wish to become parents through adoption and the needs of adults with "problem" pregnancies who wish to relinquish their babies and remain undetected in a government and agency-sponsored witness protection program.

As I wrote back to the agency's CEO: "Why should I or any adopted person be asked to honor an agreement that was unjust and that didn't consider my best interest in the first place? ... Babies are not commodities -- they grow into adolescents and adults, and many are unwilling to accept the legal fiction that the closed adoption system has forced upon them.  I don't see how you can say you are an advocate for children and then remain on the fence about those same children's life-long rights, when the harmful psychological impact of the secrecy and lies inherent in the closed adoption system has been well documented for years now."

The agency most likely wrote me off as another one of those "emotional" adoptees.  But this experience was actually very educational for me.  It demonstrated that I have no legal rights at all and that my "best interest" as an adopted person isn't even on the radar screen.  At one point, an agency social worker said to my husband, who had made a phone call on my behalf, "Well how would you like to be approached by a child, now grown, who you had fathered years ago?"  She just assumed that the adopted person has no right to know who her original parents are, and that the original parents would have no desire to know how their offspring have fared.  What an ignorant, insulting and patronizing comment.

Legislators, unfortunately, often echo this agency's point of view.  A NJ Assembly member once said to me:  "People have to keep secrets."  He might as well have added, "And you're one of them, so you have no right to know who your original parents are.  You're a special case, and we have to exclude you from the rights that the rest of us enjoy."

I was so dumbfounded at the time that I couldn't think of an appropriate response.  Now, wiser and more self-confident, I might respond, "Just wait a minute.  I never agreed as a condition of my adoption to keep lifetime secrets for other people, especially when those secrets affect my own well-being."

One of the things so objectionable about the adoption industry is that it works to willfully hide the truth from adopted people, in spite of all the evidence that original mothers and adoptees benefit from more honesty and openness.  And the fact that most adoptions today have some degree of openness has not solved the legal problems -- the original birth certificates of adoptees remain sealed in the majority of US states.

The legal framework that drives the discriminatory thinking that I and many other adoptees have encountered must change.  And someday it will.  But if it's to happen anytime soon, many more of us who have lived the adopted life will have to speak out, and encourage others to do the same.

You might also like:

The Silent Adoptee

Why I Oppose Confidential Intermediaries

Why Adoption Experts Sometimes Irk Adult Adoptees

Where do Family Ties and Adoptee Rights Intersect?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Can we please stop the "real parents" adoption debates?

Earlier this month, the Huffington Post ran a piece entitled "The 'Real Parents' Question to Stop Asking Adopted Kids."   Written by a young adoptee named Marianna, the article expresses the author's frustration at being asked who her "real parents" are.  She touchingly relays how much she loves her adoptive family  and how little interest she has in the circumstances of her birth.  The article has generated a great deal of interest and spawned over 100 on-line comments, some praising her view that her adoptive family is all she needs, and some challenging her assumptions.

Marianna has stirred up some debate with these assertions.  "I don’t think adopted kids should seek out their birth parents. It’s selfish. It’s rude. You’re gonna break her heart just because you are curious? It would not only break my REAL parents’ hearts, but who knows what kind of life she has gone on to lead?"  And then later, Marianna says this:  ..."there’s my birthmom, but I don’t ever care or think about her. She did a very selfless thing to give me up, so why would I want to bug her? That’s incredibly selfish of me."

As an older adoptee, I have compassion and understanding for Marianna's views.  As one adoptee said in the on-line comments:  "The author of this article sounds very much like me, and many other adoptees at that age. We are very concerned about loyalty to our adoptive parents, even at the expense of our own feelings, which we have buried so deeply. I said the very same things at that age...but at 44...I now know my natural family."

I too was most concerned about the feelings of my adoptive parents at Marianna's age.  That's not to say that Marianna will surely change her thinking at some point.  Many, many grown adoptees search for their origins -- a quick internet search will attest to that fact.  Other adoptees have no interest in searching out their roots, and that too is fine.  It is extremely divisive, however, to pit one group of adoptees against another, and to suggest that one approach is wrong, and one is right.  In adoption, no one approach is right for everybody, and such disagreements detract from the very real and important work that needs to be done to reform adoption practice so that it truly serves the best interests of children.

The view of adoptees about adoption often changes over time.  The young adoptee who says she has no interest in her original mother and father today often changes her mind when she has children of her own.  Genetic connections do matter for many people, and the world of adoption is not exempt from this basic truth.

Some adoptees are still conditioned by the culture in which they live to accept the thinking that their roots are none of their business.  They have been told that searching for their original parents is intrusive and unnecessary.  The sealed record system reinforces such thinking, and some adoptive parents, who want to believe with all their hearts that they are the only mother and father, welcome such thinking.

Therefore, for some, it is hard to accept the fact that our original identity is a basic human right.  While original parents have a right to privacy from friends and neighbors, they do not have the legal right to lifetime anonymity from the child upon whom they have imprinted their DNA, particularly when that child becomes an adult capable of independent thought and critical analysis.

The issue of adult adoptee rights is not about whether adoptees should search or not or who the "real parents" are: it is about treating an entire class of people as adults differently than we treat everyone else.  While every other citizen can apply for and secure her original birth certificate for a nominal fee, adult adoptees in most states are unable to secure theirs because the documents have been "sealed" -- that is placed in a government file -- when adoptions have been finalized.

Some adoptees, like Marianna and my adoptive brother, have no desire to search.  Some want their original birth certificate simply because it belongs to them and was sealed from them by other parties without their input and for their own interests.  That certificate that I cannot access records my birth and is a glimpse into my personal history.  My original mother doesn't own me, nor does my adoptive mother own me.  I am my own person, and shouldn't I be, at the age of 62?

Some people very effectively use denial to cope with their life experience; others do not and are compelled to confront their life stories for their own well-being.  The sealed record system is unjust because it forces everyone impacted to use the coping mechanism of denial, and for many people, denial techniques just don't work.

The fact is that every adoptee has two sets of parents, the original set who gave her life and her genetic traits, and the nurturing set, who are hopefully raising her to become an autonomous and free-thinking adult.   As Lesli Johnson, an adoptee and marriage and family therapist specializing in adoption-related issues, states:  "The adoptee's desire to search is not a rejection of the adoptive parents.  Part of knowing who you are is knowing where you came from. Search is about the adoptee's history and histories have a beginning. For adoptees, their beginning started before they joined their adoptive family."

Several grown adoptees echo Johnson's words in their responses to Marianna's article:  "Perhaps it is my age ('somewhere between 40 and death'), or that I had the 'real' mother / 'real' family question longer than I have had speech, but the decision to seek one's genetic relatives is not only an adopted person's desire. Relatedness and connectivity is human. People spend decades making family trees to pass along through generations. ... Adoption is not about ownership; it is to shepherd and coach, to love, nurture and guide, and support and eventually, release - major ingredients for any good parenting effort."

Then there is this thoughtful response: "I'll never tell another adoptee she's wrong for feeling the way she feels about her life and experience, but I expect the same from her. There's nothing selfish or rude about wanting to know who you are. is a multi-billion dollar business for a reason. People spend decades tracing their bloodlines back centuries, building family trees, etc. Genealogy is the most popular hobby on the planet. No one ever asks non-adoptees why they consider their heritage worth documenting. When it's adoptees, though, it's, "Why do you need to know about your family history?"

As this commenter goes on to explain:  "Every adopted child has two families: A biological family and an adoptive family. That anyone ever questions whether or not both families should be important to us is perplexing to me. Should we pretend that the people who made us don't exist?"

Not only adoptees reacted to Marianna's article.  Original mothers also responded to her feeling that adoptees who search are causing unnecessary trouble.  Marianna says of her birth mother, "She did a very selfless thing to give me up, so why would I want to bug her?  That's incredibly selfish of me."

Here's one response:  "As a birth mother I find this sentence a little annoying. ...I am interested in my son's happiness, and I wouldn't think it selfish for him to seek me out. ... I did give my son up for adoption because I love him and my circumstances were dire at the time of his birth.  I don't regret my choice, but I'm deeply interested in his well being."

This viewpoint is not an aberration.  The data from the countries and the states that have restored adult adoptee access to original birth certificates supports the fact that the vast majority of relinquishing mothers want to know how their offspring are faring or have fared.  Marianna's assumption that she would be journeying into territory where she is not wanted is not necessarily true.

In reality, the searching adoptee has no idea of what she might find, and again that's not the point.  Some adoptees wish to search; some don't.  In adoption, as in life, there is no "right" path to peace for all.  That is why we must respect the rights of grown adoptees to direct their own journeys, and not assume that their intent or the results will be harmful.  The door to love, understanding and closure is a door that should always be left open.

Adult adoptee rights is about giving full-grown human beings the right to their own birth records and the right to pursue their peace on their own terms.  Not every story has a happy ending, but everyone should  have the right to secure the truth about her ancestry and her own life story if she so desires.  As an older adoptee, I long for the day when we will no longer have debates about who the "real" parents are. Both sets of parents are very real, and arguments about which is more important are counter-productive.  The relationship between a relinquishing parent and her child, now grown, is intensely personal, and the two parties should be free to handle that intensely personal business on their own, without agency or government interference.

You might also like:

Are Adult Adoptees Worthy of Respect?

What drives the myth of confidentiality in adoption?

Adoption and Magical Thinking

Why do State Bar Associations Oppose Adoptee Rights?

Monday, January 14, 2013

What I Would Like Adoptive Parents to Know ...

Today I have a guest post published over at Death by Great Wall, a blog written by Dana, an adoptive mother.  Dana is running a series on her blog aimed at helping adoptive parents to better understand how it feels to grow up adopted.  She has asked several adoptees if they would be willing to share a personal story and end it with the statement "What I would like adoptive parents to know ... ."  I was happy to participate, as my goal in writing about adoption is to offer compassionate education to all affected parties from my own experience as a mature adoptee and activist for adoption reform.  I'll try to hook you with my lead here and encourage you to finish the story at Death by Great Wall!

I was a 52-year-old adult at the time, but as an adoptee, my hands were shaking and my heart was pounding as I picked up the phone to return a call from the woman who had given birth to me. Several weeks before, I had sent her a compassionate and carefully-worded letter by certified mail, expressing my openness to exchanging information with her, and accompanied by a brief, easy-to-understand medical questionnaire that my daughter, a physician, had prepared.

My original mother had already returned the questionnaire along with a brief, rather terse note -- "Please do not try to contact me again. I've thought about you often and in my heart I love you, but I have no desire to meet." I already knew from my agency's "non-identifying" information that my original mother had another daughter -- five years old -- when I was relinquished. Her note to me also added, "My daughter does not know about you. Please don't cause problems." ...

You can continue reading this story here.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Adoption and Abortion: It's Not as Simple as Many Pro-lifers Think

Recently, I received a comment on a post I had written some time ago on what drives state bar associations to oppose equal rights for adult adoptees.  Those of you who have been involved in the adoptee rights movement will recognize the anecdotal argument right away -- it is the argument that sends legislators who are thinking about supporting an adoptee rights bill running for the hills.  It is also the argument that prompts the question some of us adoptees have heard from time to time: "Why can't you just be happy you have your life and weren't aborted?"

Here's the comment:

"My sister was a birth mother years ago. She chose adoption over abortion thinking a chance at life with a loving family was better than no chance at life or life with a teen mom. She wanted it done and over with so she could move on. She was willing to do the 9 months, willing to get the glares and stares and willing to hear the not nice comments. Our parents supported her although they thought an abortion would have been much easier for my sister.
Now the state she lives in trying to get birth certificates opened. She feels it was a two way street she got to move on with life and the child got a life. She was young did not have the means to raise a child. If she had to do it over she said she would have had the abortion. There is a reason why woman choose a closed adoption. They should be allowed to keep their privacy. I'm sympathetic to the adoptee who wants information. Mutual consent open the birth certificates for all birth mothers and adoptee families who want an open adoption. Life is not fair not everything is equal. My birth certificate does not have a father's name on it. He took off before I was born. My mother refused to put his name on the birth certificate and refuses to talk about him. Should the gov't force woman to put the father's name on all birth certificates and force my mother to give information about my father. Obviously, he didn't want to be involved in my life, I accept that."

On the surface, this argument sounds compelling, and it is a difficult one to refute in the legislative arena, because it is driven by emotion and ideology.  Here was my brief reply:

"According to the data, your sister is in a distinct minority of birth parents, and public policy should never be formulated to serve a distinct minority. What makes you think the adoptee would be disrespectful of her feelings? All we're saying is that the adoptee is entitled to the truth about her own personhood, whatever that truth might be. Many adoptees are only looking for genetic information about themselves, and it is disrespectful to imply that the adoptee will continue efforts at contact if the mother says no. Your sister did a good thing, but people should not assume that adoptees want their original birth certificates so that they can take inappropriate actions. I had one phone conversation with my original mother after I had suffered a serious medical problem and gained valuable information that has helped me physically and emotionally. I have respected her wishes and have not contacted her again. Are you saying that one conversation is too much to ask? You may not realize it, but such an attitude shows a profound disrespect for the adoptee and his or her motives. My original mother is not my enemy and never has been. She is an adult forging her way through life the best she can, as am I. She is entitled to her privacy but not lifetime anonymity from her own child, and the law is very clear on this point."

I could add many facts and statistics here to show that there is no link between adult adoptee access and abortion rates, and that mutual consent registries just don't work, but I have done that often in other articles -- I'll include the links below this post.  I will repeat the fact that in Oregon, which enacted adult adoptee access legislation in 2000, fewer than a quarter of one percent of birth mothers have filed "no contact" preferences, while more than 10,000 adoptees have applied for and received their original birth certificates.  Would not this statistic alone indicate that the vast majority of original parents do not live in mortal fear that their offspring might someday find them?  Statistics from the other open-access states reinforce the fact that the number of original parents who prefer no contact is very, very small.  The writer's sister in the comment above is actually an anomaly.

Another important point is that the writer assumes adoption has always operated in absolute secrecy, when estimates indicate some 40 percent of adoptees have some identifying information on their adoption decrees.  Both my adoptive brother and I, for example, have always had our original birth names.  Adoptees find their original families everyday in this country, in spite of sealed birth certificates;  however, under the current archaic system, original parents have no way to indicate whether they would prefer direct contact, contact through an intermediary, or no contact at all.  Clean adoptee access bills would give original parents the opportunity to express their preferences.  When people oppose such bills, they are assuming adoptees would do inappropriate things no matter what the original parents have indicated in preference forms.  As an adoptee, I find such attitudes incredibly insulting.

Too many people in the pro-life movement see adoption as the simple, win-win solution to abortion, when they actually know little about the subject's complexities.  Those who actually work in the field are well aware that closed-for-life adoptions have served neither original mothers nor adoptees well.  Consider carefully what Paul Swope, then president of Life Net Services, wrote more than 10 years ago in 1998:  "A pressure to end a pregnancy with an adoption does not save a child from abortion, but may in fact, be a determining factor in a woman choosing to terminate the pregnancy ... ."  Swope's point was that a woman facing an unwanted pregnancy is desperate for a sense of resolution to her crisis, and in her mind, "adoption leaves the situation the most unresolved."

Open adoptions have risen in popularity because adoption facilitators know that very few women are willing to relinquish their babies unless they can have some knowledge about how those babies are doing.  However, open adoption agreements are not legally enforceable in most states, a fact that many surrendering mothers have learned the hard way.

I have some faint hope that people are beginning to realize that adoption in this country is too often run like a business, in which the couples desiring a Caucasian infant to adopt far outnumber the Caucasian babies available.  Prospective adoptive parents are the paying customers, and the best interests of the surrendering parents and the adoptees themselves are too often overlooked in the effort to supply the babies to meet the demand.

The Catholic News Agency recently ran an article describing a nation-wide, pro-adoption ad campaign being conducted jointly by Austin, Texas-based Heroic Media and Michigan-based Bethany Christian Services.  An ad, featuring a pregnant woman explaining why she plans to put her baby up for adoption, aired 45 times over a four-week period on Oxygen Network during the reality TV series "I'm Having Their Baby."

The ad focuses on adoption as a "life-changing blessing for adoptive  parents" and a "gift of love and hope" for adopted children.  Unfortunately, Bethany Christian Services is ranked very poorly by original mothers who have surrendered their children, and Bethany Christian Services continues to oppose adult adoptee access bills, even as they extol the benefits of more openness in adoption.  The TV series and the ad campaign, in my mind, are ethically repugnant.  Even the title, "I'm Having Their Baby," is repugnant, as the expectant mother is obviously not receiving unbiased pregnancy counseling -- she is being groomed to see herself as an inadequate mother and adoption as the noble and uncomplicated answer to all her problems.

What gives me a little hope is that Catholic News Service published six comments about the ad campaign, and five of them focused on adoption truth. You can read the entire article here, and
below are the six comments published on-line.

"I'm not sure why pro-life has to equal pro-adoption. One can still be opposed to abortion, yet encourage families to seek out the resources they need to successfully parent their own children - adoption is not an alternative to abortion, it's an alternative to parenting. Most women who are considering adoption were never seeking abortion in the first place.
As for the agencies themselves, particularly Bethany (I will not add the other two words in the name of their company b/c there is absolutely nothing Christian about their "services")- to quote Job 24:21 "They prey on the barren and childless woman, and to the widow show no kindness"

"Separating a mother from her baby is being promoted by a Christian organization?  Why isn't the Catholic Church helping women in "crisis" pregnancies to keep their children?  Most of these women just need financial help and low-cost child care."

"If Bethany Christian Services would lobby for adult adoptee access to their own birth certificates and for laws that would enforce open adoption agreements, then I would believe that their primary interest is indeed the welfare of the child and the original mother.  Speaking as an adult adoptee who was blessed with loving adoptive parents, I still maintain that adoption is not as simple as the ad portrays.  It is complicated, and it often results in profound feelings of loss for both original mother and adoptee.  I am not anti-adoption, but I am pro adoption reform and for full disclosure of the facts to all parties.  I also believe it is possible to offer a child a loving home without obliterating his or her original identity for life.  Unfortunately, I have found that many agencies routinely whitewash complex adoption realities."

"Some of our energies and prayers might also be well-spent finding ways for mothers to keep and raise their own children. Many women who give up their children for adoption have said they would have kept them if they had the simple support (financial and otherwise) every mother deserves. Without that, how can we say these women's decision to adopt was really their own idea?"

"Perhaps some energy and prayers should be directed towards making contraception allowable. Obviously, the plan to make sex between two loving people within the bonds of matrimony clearly isn't working. Contraception would lower the dilemma women face when deciding on an abortion. Time to admit people are going to have sex (even despite gay marriage) and keep having babies... choose the lesser of two evils, contraception over abortion."

"All of our energies and prayers must be focused on programs like these. Campaigns directed at those who have traditionally killed their children are much more effective than attacking politicians who are constitutionally unable to overturn the Supreme Courts ruling on Roe v. Wade which has unfortunately stood for 40 years now.  Time to get over hating politicians and begin saving children."

I take great comfort in the first five comments, one of which is my own.  They seem to come from people who are well-versed in adoption realities.  The sixth comment seems to come from a true believer who is not so well versed in adoption truth.

Could it be that the times are slowly changing, and that people are starting to recognize that adoption itself is not the painless and problem-free antidote to abortion that some pro-lifers seem to think?  We can only hope so, and keep working for the adoption reforms that are so badly needed.

You might also like:

Adoptive Parents and Pro-lifers who Cannot or Will Not See the Realities of Adoption

Why is Honesty in Adoption Still a Controversial Subject?

Pro-Life Ideology and Adoptee Rights

Adoptee Rights and a Woman's Reproductive Choices

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.

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