Friday, July 22, 2016

Adoption and Lying: Adopted Syndrome or not?

Due to the stories of reunion troubles that emerged from the last blog, I am reposting one that I wrote in 2010.--lorraine

Over the weekend I met up with an old friend, a therapist who facilitates groups of parents of troubled children, and while some of them are children of divorce, she added that a fair number of them are adoptive parents. A friend of ours sent their teenage son for a year to a school for problem kids, and the son reported that many, if not most of the kids there were adopted, or children of divorce. I won't go into the children of divorce issue here, but the statistics of trouble are there, among the adopted:

"The number of Adoptees in the adolescent and young-adult clinics and residential treatment centers is strikingly high. Doctors from the Yale Psychiatric Institute and other

Friday, July 15, 2016

What do mothers owe their children lost to adoption?

Not every mother, we know, welcomes her lost son or daughter back with warmth and motherly feelings. Not every family does either. Jealousies erupt, feelings are hurt, adoptees are rejected. Some of the problems stem directly from the secrecy many mothers assumed, and did not tell their spouses or other children. Not every adoptee who comes back is a stable person. Some are angry. Studies and statistics show adoptees show up in greater numbers than the norm in numbers among addicts, criminals, and other troubled populations. Adoptees are more likely to attempt suicide or have suicidal thoughts.*

We know this from the research, the people who write here, and other social media. We hear from mothers who feel used and mistreated by their reunited children, now adults. We hear from adoptees who have been rejected for no good reason other than they were given up for adoption and the original mothers and families cannot accommodate their children's return.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A rationale for adoptee access to original birth certificates

From the Albany Times-Union
As we celebrate Hawaii's ground-breaking law, we must remember that many states (13 at this point) have passed laws that give some--but not all--adopted people access to their original birth records. These laws are wrong every which way. There should be no restrictions to anyone's access to their birth records or any source that would give individuals the names of their natural biological parents. However, when there is no possibility of complete access--due to a legislator's intransigence on the noxious issue of birth mother vetoes--we have not opposed such legislation. We did, however, oppose the truly awful bill in New York state recently. But just as the military went from President Bill Clinton's tepid "Don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding gays to full acceptance, so will we move to full access for all adoptees to their original birth certificates without exceptions, or those damn birth mother/first mother vetoes.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Hawaii OPENS adoption records!

"Allows adopted individuals who have attained eighteen years of age, adoptive parents, and natural parents unfettered access to the adopted individual's sealed adoption records."

This is the legislative summary of HB 2082 passed by the Hawaii legislature and signed into law by Governor David Ige on June 23, 2016, effective immediately.  No ifs, ands or buts.  All parties affected by an adoption can access the court records just for the asking. They don't have to have a good reason--or any reason at all.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Do you have children? That invisible barrier that separates first mothers

Do you bring up your story--that is, when asked by near strangers, Do you have children?--or not? For those of us who never had other children  (approximately a third of all mothers who relinquished children for adoption), the question is a perennial that never goes away.

Case in point: Last night we met the couple who own the house behind us. Our properties are divided by a hedge. They've owned the house for several years but largely rent it out, and use it only sporadically. They rented it last winter, will be there through the end of June, but good friends of ours will be occupying it for July and August. That's life when you live an a resort area.

Friday, June 17, 2016

"Thank you for not aborting me"

"Thank you for not aborting me" are words that apparently are greeting some first mothers when they reunite with their children. How to react, what to say?  We are delving into the philosophical here because the remark at bottom is: thank you for giving me life.

The bald statement of fact--with a thank you!--does cut to the core of one's existence, but in the immediacy of the moment, the statement surely puts a reuniting first mother off guard. I'm afraid I would be temporarily stunned and not say anything, but feel more overwrought (and possibly waiting for attack) than I would otherwise.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Don't thank me for giving up my child

When anyone thanks me for being "brave" and "courageous" for doing "the right thing" for my daughter by giving her up for adoption, I know we still have a lot of work to do. I want to scream back at them: I wasn't brave or courageous, I was lying in the muck and mud of despair and saw no other way. It was the worst thing I ever did in my life, the worst thing I will ever do.

What is leading to this rant today? A posting on Facebook.

It will come as no surprise to regular readers that I am a liberal, a progressive, a Democrat. I posted this on Facebook the other day:
"As someone who fought my own battles because I was a woman, because I didn't go to the right school, because I have been put down for being one of "those women" who gave up a child, I relate to Hillary,

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

What's the best way to contact your natural/birth/biological* mother?

Jane and Lorraine, 1982
How should a middle-aged individual contact his/her natural mother?  The natural mother is in her seventies and lives in a distant state. She is married, presumably not to the adoptee's father, because the marriage took place many years after the birth. To write or to phone?

That's the question that a caller posed to me a few days ago. He had recently found his birth mother's information, and was wrestling with how best to reach out to her. Letter or phone?

My initial impulse, I said, is to make the call. Because it will be harder to turn you down, I was thinking, even as I hated to think that. Even if she has not been hoping and waiting for her long-lost child to contact her, actually hearing from you on the phone might make her lose any hesitation. If she has doubts and fears, if she has not told those closest to her today, a live person--one's own child--on the phone may dissuade her from... hesitating. From turning away. From rejecting her child.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

What adoption records belong to whom?

Adoption records are spread all over adoptionland--at the offices of adoption facilitators, adoption agencies, attorneys, hospitals, state departments of children's services. And that's just domestic adoptions.

Some adoptees contend that, as the epicenter of all this paper and electronic bits, they are entitled to access all of these records. We at FMF disagree. Many of these documents contain details about the private lives of the natural parents and the adoptive parents. Some of it is likely to be subjective interpretations of the social workers who took the information from a distraught woman.

But it is not just the name and last known address of the adoptee--it is the personal data of another person, or persons--and thus should not be shared

Friday, May 27, 2016

Finding first mothers in Ethiopia

Andrea in Ethiopia with Mahalet and extended family 
Adoptive mother Andrea Kelley attended the Saving Our Sisters summit meeting in Kansas City two weeks ago, and she impressed me with not only her empathy for our situation, but also what she is doing to help her own adopted children and that of others. Not only did she find one of her children's mothers, she started an organization to help others. In her own words, here is her story: 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Adoption Option: Not a good choice

By Lorraine Dusky and Jane Edwards

Lorraine Dusky
Making adoption more attractive to women with unplanned pregnancies is a “worthwhile goal,” according to the liberal think tank, The Center for American Progress. A 2010 publication, The Adoption Option: Adoption Won’t Reduce Abortion but It Will Expand Women’s Choices argues for government support for “ensuring that adoption remains an ethical and effective option” while recognizing that increasing voluntary infant adoptions (approximately 14,000 a year), would not impact the number of abortions annually (1.2 million).

Monday, May 16, 2016

Saving Our Sisters: Keeping your baby better than being 'nice'

Saving Our Sisters's photo.
Tears, sisterhood and stories are the order of the day when natural mothers and adoptees get together as we did last weekend at the Saving Our Sisters summit in Kansas City. Saving our Sisters is devoted to helping women keep their babies and avoid losing them to adoption.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Honoring all Mothers' Rights this Mother's Day

Mother and Child by Mary Cassatt
Mothers who lost their children to adoption deserve the right to see government documents which help them find their child. This concept--that government should be a facilitator rather than an impediment to mothers and children reuniting--is radical to some but grounded on human nature. Mothers and their children are connected before birth, and will continue to be connected throughout their lives, whether they ever meet again or not.

In my state, Oregon, mothers who gave up their children to adoption (rather than have their rights terminated) have the right to ask a judge for copies of documents in their child's adoption legal file once their child turns 18. These documents contain the names of the adoptive parents and the adoptive name of the child.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

It's here again: Mother's Day Blues

Yes, I got this one. Not my favorite. 
The world's worst "holiday" is just days away--Mother's Day. For many mothers who lost their children to adoption, it is a day of miserable reminders of the children we do not have, and we approach it with all the joy of someone on her way to her own execution.

 And it can't be ignored. Ads are everywhere--in the newspaper, on television, in magazines, on the internet, on Facebook. Send flowers! Buy a bracelet! Perfume! A day at the spa! Even Women for Women, a charity I support, is sending me emails urging me to give a woman in some far-away country a sewing machine or money to start a garden and give my mother a card saying it was done in her name. Personally I find that kind of "gift," unless requested by the recipient, specious and not a gift at all. But back to our dilemma:

Will a card come in the mail? Will my daughter call? Just as adoptees wonder if their first mother thinks about them on

Monday, May 2, 2016

How to find your New York City original NAME

Press Conference at NYC Hall with David Weprin, 2013
For years, a data base that led to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of adoptees born in the five boroughs of New York City access their original birth record if they had a copy of their amended one has been removed from the Main Branch Public Library, under a 2008 change in the New York City Health Code. We believe this is a bogus application of the regulation to defeat the increasing numbers of adoptees who are going around the law to locate their original families.

But take heart, adoptees born in New York--this does not have to defeat us!  The data base is not only on line, but it is also available for a

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Adoptees closer to OBC access in MA and HI--Write right now!

Good news to report on two clean bills restoring the right of adopted individuals to their original birth certificates (OBC), and thus the right to know and claim their original identities, ancestors and true histories. 

In Massachusetts, a clean bill (no veto, no inane restrictive amendments) passed out of the legislature's Joint Committee on Public Health the other day. Now it goes to the full Senate and House for a vote (2 different bills, same result), at a date yet to be designated before the end of the session, July 31st. This legislation will close the gap that exists between the OBC haves--adoptees born before July 17, 1974 (when access closed) and after January 1, 2008--and the have-nots--those born between July 17, 1974 and 2008. Thus this new bill would cover those adoptees between ages 42 and 8, those caught in the squeeze when the legislature partially opened their records. Sounds good to us!

Friday, April 22, 2016

God's Plan leads to Planning to Adopt

"When we were still dating, a common bond that drew us together was the fact that Rachel and I both wanted to adopt. While we were fertile, we were both deeply convicted that one of the ways to be pro-life is to involve ourselves in adoption."

So goes a story the other day in The Washington Post about a couple who gave birth to a set of triplets from adopted embryos. What made the story stand out is that the couple are white missionaries and the triplets are African American. Aaron and Rachel Halbert already had adopted an African-American boy and a biracial girl in Mississippi, and wanted to add to their family. They did it this newfangled way "with the deeply held conviction that if the Lord wanted us to have a fully Caucasian child my wife would conceive naturally."

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Social Media and Adoption

The tools of social media such as Facebook have made searching and reunion a whole different arena to play out in. People can connect, read each other's pages and learn about their lives without connecting, or reunite blissfully and then let go, or be let's all a new world.

A few weeks ago I read a piece about "Facebook's Emotional Tech Support Team" in The New York Times. Buried in the piece was the story of an adoptee who had connected with her first mother, and her family, but then when she had a falling out with her mother, the whole family unfriended her, and she felt totally locked out.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

To First Mothers: Legislators need to hear from you!

Lorraine and daughter Jane, 1982*
First mothers are needed to convince legislators that they were NOT promised confidentiality when we relinquished our children, nor do we need or want it now!

A few states--Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, to be exact--have bills in the pipeline to unseal original birth certificates (OBCs), but the legislators parry and worry and delay the bills because usually a few insist that mothers must have a "right" to lifelong anonymity! By in large, legislators do not need convincing anymore that there is a crying need to give the adopted their original birth certificates, but their Yes! vote appears to hinge on their feeling about the supposed right to anonymity of birth mothers. Yes, that is what we are called by legislators. Birth mothers. 

Legislators need to hear from us FIRST mothers because they will hear from adoption-agency owners and workers; judges, religious officials who supposedly have the support of God behind their opposition, adoption attorneys, even the state's

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Loss and Connection at Spence-Chapin

Lorraine at Spence-Chapin with her lucky scarf
What amazed me so much the other night at my reading and discussion at Spence-Chapin in Manhattan was the great feeling of camaraderie that emanated, even though H♥le is far from a sweet, light-hearted book! We are talking adoption here, people! from the viewpoint of the first mother and trust me, they do not find much to cheer about.

About 15 people were there--mostly adoptees, a few natural birth biological mothers, one adoptive parent (Frank Ligtvoet, who writes about his very open adoptions) and two people from Spence, including Stella Gilgur-Cook, who set the program up. After my reading/talk, the floor was open to discussion. What surprised me was the adoptees speaking of how many years they had been out of touch with their adoptive parents, how distant they felt from their adoptive parents. I mean, we are talking years, and at least two people said it was unlikely they would ever ever be in touch with them again.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Adoptees (could be) banned from NC bathrooms

A new North Carolina law prohibits local governments from enacting civil rights laws for gays and transexuals. It also requires that in schools and government buildings, people must use the bathroom that corresponds with their "biological sex" defined as the one "stated on a person's birth certificate." Presumably, North Carolina has hired scores of police to check birth certificates as people enter bathrooms.

Here's the rub for adoptees. Their birth certificates may be stamped "amended" which will indicate that something has changed from the original birth certificate and for all the cops know, that something might be their gender.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Man Trump and the right to control my body!

Criminalize the women who have illegal abortions? Lock up and and put them in iron maidens? is that what the man who keeps protesting that he loves women, treats them better than any other candidate, yadda yadda yadda is planning to do?

The Trump has pulled back from that comment--now he just wants to punish the doctors who preform "illegal" abortions, not the women, but does The Man know that abortions are LEGAL in this country the last time I looked?

This post comes on the heels of Jane's excellent rant against MEN WHO MAKE LAWS TO PROTECT WOMEN (read that below, if you haven't already) and now we have a candidate that shows all signs of possible being one of the two people running for the presidency of the United States making idiotic sounds like that.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sealed adoptee birth record laws: Protecting patriarchy

"Laws written by men to protect women deserve scrutiny" argued the plaintiffs in a case before the U. S. Supreme Court, Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, to over turn a Texas law that restricts women's access to abortion by targeting doctors and clinics that provide abortions. The law requires physicians who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. A separate provision, which has not yet gone into effect, would mandate that abortion clinics must meet standards for "ambulatory surgical centers," which includes, for instance, having hallways wide enough to have two gurneys pass, a totally unnecessary demand and a costly renovation for most clinics.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Psychological triggers after stuff happens

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot was a movie I wanted to see the moment I heard about it--a woman covering the war in Afghanistan was a movie made for me. I love journalism, I have loved the whole business of it since I figured out what my father was doing every day when he read three newspapers, and set about immersing myself in its craft at age 14, when I had my first byline in my hometown's weekly newspaper.

I came of age in the generation where covering a war was a near impossible assignment for a woman to get, unless she could get there on her own dime and send dispatches back. My own dime was pretty slim, and so that was out of the question. But take an assignment to cover a war, if I'd been able to? I would be home packing to go before my boss heard my YES.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Adoptee denied medical history

The Iowa Supreme Court found it more important to protect the anonymity of natural/birth parents than to "save an adoptee's life or prevent irreparable physical or mental harm" to her.

While some states are moving to give adoptees their original birth certificates, adoptees elsewhere turn to the courts for relief, but many are denied. We hear the same old prejudiced arguments against giving them the piece of paper that, in some cases, might indeed save their lives. With the name of the natural mother revealed on their original birth certificate, many will be able to reach them or their families and learn their medical histories, crucial information in today's world.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Should I tell my sister she's adopted?

Hell,  yes!

"Should I tell my sister she's adopted?" was the headline of The Ethicist column in The New York Times Magazine on Sunday. Yikes, I thought this kind of lying by omission was long over, to judge from all we hear about open adoption and such. But apparently not. Not at all.

The man consulting the ethical experts writes:
"My parents never told her that she was adopted, and they asked me not to say anything. They planned on telling her when she was old enough to understand, but they kept putting it off. They know that I believe they have done her a serious disservice."

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Adopted teens murdered by step-father

Some years after I gave up my daughter Rebecca, a close friend, unmarried, confided she was pregnant and was considering adoption for her child. "At least I know he will be well taken care of," she said. By then I had represented adoptees accused of crimes in juvenile court and I knew that adoption did not always deliver the ideal life. I shot back "You won't even know if he gets enough for dinner. The only way to be sure he's well-taken care of is to raise him yourself." My friend kept her son and he is the joy of her life.

Of course there are extraordinary circumstances which make raising your own child impossible but if it's possible, my advice still holds: raise your child yourself. Adoption is a lottery, as John Sales portrayed in his excellent 2003 film, Casa de los Babys.

Tory and Quinn Carlson and their sister lost that lottery. The boys, 18 and 16 respectively, were shot dead in a chicken coop, along with their mother, Lana, and a neighbor who happened to be there, by their step-father, David Wayne Campbell. They had been adopted from Russia by Lana and her first husband who

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Adoptees' rights must be considered first

From The New York Times, Op-Ed Page, March 1, 1975:

Who am I? Who are my real parents? Whom do I look like? Most of us the the answers for granted. But a 40-year-old accountant recently was forced to go to court in an attempt to learn such basic information about herself.

Ann Schrap, the accountant, is one of approximately five million adopted people in this country. In virtually every state, including New York adopted persons of any age are denied the right to know who their natural parents are because the laws seal the original birth records.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Indiana passes compromise OBC bill; MO in the wings

A Simple Piece of ORIGINAL Paper denied the adopted
Try as we might, clean bills with first birth parent vetoes are what states are taking up as a compromise between allowing adopted individuals the right to their own birth certificates and "protecting" (that damn word!) the privacy of birth parents from the dark ages of closed adoptions. That would include Jane and me. 

Indiana yesterday passed such a bill that now only awaits Gov. Mike Pence's signature, which is a expected, as he worked with Hoosiers for Equal Access to Records, according to Pam Kroskie, president. "Today marks a tremendous victory for hundreds of thousands of people adopted in Indiana," she said, "...regardless of the year they were born. The bill covers people who were adopted from 1941 through 1993, the group that was left out of previous legislation and had no access to their original records. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Justice Scalia: He upheld the rights of natural parents

Veronica Brown at her father's home, 2013
While the country is reeling politically from the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, I am reminded that in 2013 he upheld the right of natural parents to raise their own children in a much contested case, Adoptive Couple V. Baby Girl. 

The majority decision took the child, Veronica, from the home of her father, Dusten Brown, and returned her to adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, who initially had custody of the girl after a sketchy adoption arranged by the girl's natural mother, Christina Maldonado.  

Veronica was nearly four at the time she was returned to the Capobiancos, and had been living with Brown and his new wife for 18 months, and from all evidence, was thriving. The Capobianco's had the girl for the first two years of her life, but the South Carolina Supreme Court, relying on the Indian Child Welfare Law of 1978, and the dubious way the adoption process had been carried out--designed to trick the father out of his parental rights--reversed the process