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

Friday, February 12, 2016

How binding are open-adoption contracts?

Open adoption is the adoption industry's answer to all the woes that beset adoptees and natural mothers by their forced separation. The more we know, however, the less we like about it. Let us be clear: Open adoption agreements (continuing contact agreements in legal parlance) aren't enforceable. They do not lessen the angst of loss suffered by mothers and children, and they may even make it more intense.

FMF has just learned of a new pitfall. Mom has an agreement with her child's adoptive parents allowing her periodic visits, ("designated parenting time" in social work speak). The adoptive parents decide they don't want the kid and plan to pass him on to another adoptive family. Does the mom still get to see her kid?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

When you give up a child--Jane's story

When I was in the hospital after my daughter Rebecca's birth, I began crying inconsolably. I told a nurse/aide, whoever she was, I was afraid that the people who adopted my daughter wouldn't understand her soul. The nurse/aide shook her head puzzled; it made no sense to her, or frankly, to me either. But the thought did not leave me for some time.

Yet unlike other natural mothers, I never considered therapy. Losing my daughter was something I had to get over by gritting my teeth and trying to forget. A few days after my daughter was born in San Francisco in 1966, my social worker suggested that I find a job. Through a temporary agency I got a job within a month at Blue Cross to assist in Medicaid fraud investigations. I tallied procedures as a nurse read them off from bills doctors had submitted.

Friday, February 5, 2016

When you give up a child...

What was life after relinquish a child to adoption? What did we natural birth mothers do in those early years? How did we cope?

One day at a time. I had come to the realization in the hospital that I could either be a crazy woman weeping on the floor forever, or I would have to stand up and move forward in my life. It actually felt like a viable choice.

I was alone, in a city (Rochester, N.Y.), far from family (in the Detroit suburbs), and my only support was the (married) father who had been paying my rent and all other expenses for the past four months. I needed a job, and quickly. Going back to The Democrat & Chronicle, where I had been working as a feature writer and reporter, was out of the question; I turned to a temp agency--and was promptly offered a job there as a proof reader.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

96-year-old mother meets adopted daughter--after 82 years!

Lorraine at work
Reunion stories are becoming more and more common, the news media loves them, and each one should be celebrated because each is another nail in the coffin of sealed records as A Good Thing. Instead of that, sealed birth records represent social engineering run amuck.

We don't write about them often at FMF, but every now and then one tugs at one's heart strings more than usual, or has a message beyond simple reunion relief. That is the case today.

An 96-year-old mother was found and reunited with her daughter of 82! And in the Very Sealed Records State of New York.

Lena Pierce was only 14 when she had a child in 1933 in Utica. She cared for her baby, whom she named Eva May, for six months until the state of New York intervened,

Friday, January 29, 2016

Adoptive mother shoots down open-records bill

Oops--for all reading now I mistakenly thought this just happened--but it happened last May!  I was in a rush to post because when I saw it come up yesterday, I was outraged. Sorry for the confusion, but my feelings about sealed OBCs are one and the same. --ld

An adoptive mother--Texas State Sen. Donna Campbell--single handedly shot down a bill that would have given anyone adopted in that state the right to their original birth certificates, allowing for the potential to find their natural/birth/biological/first parents, and to learn of any heritable health risks. Sen. Campbell, the adoptive parent in question, pulled the bill back in May, the day it was to be voted on, without explanation.

Hours before the end of the session, the bill's author, Sen. Brandon Creighton, rallied 13 of its co-sponsors, and made a quiet plea to the lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, to put the bill back on the calendar before the deadline at midnight, but to no avail.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How do natural mothers end up?

Relinquishing my daughter changed me and not simply because through that act I came to a cause that shaped my life; but the giving up of her made me feel apart from the great forward rush that is a normal life. No one wants to end up like me. No one wants to grow up to be a woman who gives up a baby. No one would wish that for her daughter. Tell someone this fact about yourself and no matter what they reveal, you feel their shudder. You are stabbing at the status quo, disturbing the peace.

The celebratory way adoption is portrayed today—on television, in the movies, in magazines, by the growing list of celebrities who adopt—largely ignores that behind every happy adoption is another mother missing her child, and another family mourning the missing

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The enduring pain of adoption loss

"Does the pain ever end?" asked a newly reunited natural mother.

"It's always there somewhere," I answered, "but it moves into the background as your relationship evolves."

I thought of this as I was having lunch with Anne, a natural mother friend, the other day. I had known Anne since the early 70's through Oregon politics and the feminist movement. It was only after my reunion 18 years ago that I learned we had something else in common.
Both of us had given up a daughter in San Francisco in the 60's. We went on to marry and have three more daughters. We celebrated our 47th wedding anniversaries in December.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

What is an 'open' adoption?

First weekend with my daughter, at her home
The other day one of my friends commented that a mutual acquaintance had an "open" adoption, which was news to me. I'd heard the son in question talk knowingly about genetic testing, 23 + Me, etc., and I had assumed that he had undertaken DNA testing--or was considering it--to locate biological relatives. Then my friend added that our mutual acquaintance, the adoptive mother, knew the name of the young man's biological mother. Thus, an "open" adoption.

"She told him [her son] that if he wanted the name, she would give it to him."  I flashed on the remembrance of hearing that she knew the natural/birth mother was from the area where we all lived that I 'd heard a few years earlier, and was anxious that the boy's original mother would want her child back. Worried is the word I remembered. I had not assumed that she knew the woman's name. That had not come up.

So she knew her name all along? And the son knows all about DNA testing, as if he has no other route to his biological family?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

'Preferred' adoption language is bunk

I remember the exact moment someone I was friendly with corrected my language. She was an adoptive mother who knew my daughter Jane, and she was someone who early on found her daughter's natural mother at the daughter's request--the girl was 12 at the time--when the adoption had been closed. We'd met professionally and had become friends.We'd often had lunch, either alone or with our husbands.

Nothing in the way either of us spoke about adoption had ever been a sticking point. One afternoon I casually said something about "giving up" my daughter. For the first time ever, my friend decided to "correct" my language. Giving up sounds like you are drowning or something, she said. You made an adoption plan, she said. I