As many of my long-time blog friends know, I not only advocate for those who have disabilities, but for the restoration of equal civil rights as citizens in this country to adult adoptees. This is going to be a little long, so if you don't want to invest yourself, back out now! :-)
I'm an adoptee and have been in reunion for about 8 years. You can read a letter to my birth mother here.
I'm not interested in having a debate with those who think they know the history and legalities of adoption in this country, but here is a crash course on it for those who aren't familiar with it.
Relinquishment of a child and the adoption of a child are two separate legal acts. Once the birth parents relinquish their rights to a child, they no longer have any say in ANYTHING about the child at all. Ever. They have NO MORE rights over the child. If the child languishes in foster care until they age out of the system and is never adopted, they will receive their full records, including their original birth certificate with all of their birth information. There is no expectation of privacy on behalf of the birth parents, and there never was, legally.
There has never been in any state at any time a document produced that guarantees a birth parent anonymity from any of their offspring. Once they relinquished their rights, that was it. That was and almost until now, the law across the land.
Records started being closed to outsiders AFTER an adoption was finalized around the late 40's or so in many states, mostly because of the shame of infertility, illegitimacy and basically to protect the new adoptive family from those pesky birthmothers who might show up on their doorsteps for Sunday dinner.
Adoptees were then issued a new and falsified government document that stated that our adoptive parents ACTUALLY gave birth to us. And our original birth certificates were locked away, meant never to be seen again.
Therein lies one of many things that are wrong with closed adoption. I didn't spring into life the day my adoption was final---almost a year after my birth. To quote adoptee activist Abigail Lovett, "I existed before that."
Since then, adoption in this country has become a multi-billion dollar industry. The industry has a vested interest in keeping the cash cow going. They are afraid that if records are open to adult adoptees that women will choose abortion instead of adoption. Published studies from reputable institutions have already disproved that. States that have open records have an equal or lesser rate of abortion than closed records states. Not more. Don't believe it? Show me reputable studies, not anecdotal quotes from industry shills. I bet mine will trump yours.
But mostly the industry (including the Catholic Church) is afraid that systematic abuses from the past will come to light if records are opened. There is a lot more about the "baby scoop era", etc that I'm not going to get into here.
Unlike today, where there is mostly open adoption of domestic infants (where the adoptive and birth parents have met each other and maintain some sort of contact), the era where I was adopted from (late 1940's to early 1970's) is full of secrets and lies.
My birthmother was told that there was a family waiting for me. My prospective parents were "both psychologists" and waiting to take me home from the hospital. She thought I'd have free therapy for life. ;-)
Instead, I was placed in foster care for a few months. My eventual parents---who had requested a boy---were called and asked if they'd be willing to take a girl. The "pedigree" that my parents were furnished with from the agency said that I was of Irish and German descent.
In reality, my birth family is Scottish, English with a little French thrown in. But who would ever know?
I was born in a closed record state. I've already found my birth family, and I didn't need my original birth certificate to do it. Thousands of adoptees and birth families are finding each other every year without the benefit of open records.
But today, even if I walked into court in the jurisdiction where I was adopted with both of my mothers---adoptive and biological by my side---to ask for my birth records, I would be denied.
Because the law says that as an adoptee, I am forever a child and need to be protected from my own personal information. It doesn't matter that I own my own home, own other property and a business, pay taxes, carpool, can own a licensed gun, am married, have children, am allowed to drink, could join the military if my butt wasn't so big and am allowed to vote.
In the eyes of the state, I will forever be a child.
Every other citizen in the U.S. is allowed access to their own original record of their birth. But not adult adoptees. This is not a reunion issue----many adoptees have no wish to reunite and a large number of us don't need our sealed records to find our birth families. It's a civil rights issue. Why are some citizens more equal in this country than others? Why are you more "special" than me? Why does the state get to decide?
The opposition to open records (those vested with the "cash cow" or in hiding the industry's shameful past) now claim that if adoptees were granted their birth records, it would violate the privacy of birth parents. They want to give birth parents a new legal right they NEVER had before---one over another adult citizen of this country.
Enter Illinois Representative Sara Feigenholtz, who sponsored a bill that, as blogger Bastardette writes, "has eviscerated adoptee civil rights in the state." It has turned adult adoptees into two separate classes of citizen---the haves and the have nots. It has given birth parents NEW rights over the children they relinquished all rights to decades ago.
Currently 8 states have open records to adult adoptees. Kansas and Alaska have never closed their records, and the other states have opened theirs in the last 10-12 years or so. Those states certainly haven't imploded with the horror of restoring rights to its citizens. Most of the countries in the industrialized world have opened records to their citizens and they haven't been blown off the map.
Adoptee activist Lori Jeske from Washington State wrote to Rep. Feigenholtz at her state contact email address expressing her dismay that a fellow Democrat wouldn't stand up for the rights of ALL the citizens of Illinois.
This was Feigenholtz's response, reprinted with Jeske's permission.
---- Original Message -----
To: Lori Jeske
Sent: Monday, April 26, 2010 10:00 PM
Subject: Re: HB 5428
Thank you so much for your kind remarks about HB 5428.
We will pay for your travel and housing expenses if you will come here and start working on a new bill that completes the effort so that all adoptees get their obc. Are you ready to move to Illinois and sacrifice your life to work for adoption reform for the next fifteen years in the frigid winter tundra of Illinois?
Would you consider giving Representative Feigenholtz the key to your (delusional) Eutopian world where all ungrateful bastards think it's easy to pass a bill that makes everyone happy AND CAN ACTUALLY PASS ? Pass a law? what a concept !!
Many Illinois born 65+ year old adoptees will get their birth certificates BEFORE THEY DIE--- very soon.
We will tell them that you would prefer to throw good under the bus while waiting for perfect and that you think they should wait a little longer.
Good luck in Washington state with your efforts. We can hear the unsealing now.......
This is why you, Representative Sara Feigenholtz are this week's Asshat.
You're such a professional and a real class act.
P.S. It's U-T-O-P-I-A-N. Snap.