Thursday, April 17, 2014

A whopping YES to the question: Should adoptees have their birth certificates?

Ninety-five percent of the people who voted in the poll sponsored by New York NOW , a NPR affiliate from Albany, were in favor of adoptees having unrestricted access to their original birth certificates at age 18. The voting is closed.

Yes, we know this is not a scientific poll. But it is a no-brainer that adults--who have every other right and obligation of society--should unequivocally have the right to his or her original birth certificate, the official record of an individual. The amended "birth" certificate is a lie. It is not a record of a birth; it is a record of a legal adoption. Yet in all but eight states some restrictions prevent all adopted people from having the right to own this piece of paper--about themselves.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Do adoptees have a right to their birth certificates? VOTE NOW.


Bill of Rights for adoptees pushed in Albany

Lorraine at public hearing on adoptee bill
Do you believe adopted individuals should have the right to access their original birth certificates at age 18? A controversial bill in New York would allow just that.  (Several other states are trying to also do the right thing.) Vote here!

The question 160 years ago would have been: Do you believe that people brought here from Africa should be freed from slavery? A controversial bill in Washington would allow just that. Vote here!

The battle is on again in New York to allow adopted people the same rights as the rest of us who are not adopted--the right to know who we were when we were born, who our real* parents are.

Friday, April 11, 2014

At AAC: Transracial adoption from those who live it

Jane & Julie at Chinatown Gate
Jane here. I'm at the American Adoption Conference in San Francisco with my husband, Jay. Along with hearing some great speakers, I'm spending some time with my youngest daughter, Julie, who moved here from Washington DC last year. Last night the three of us went to Chinatown for dinner.

San Francisco always has special meaning for me because my first daughter, Rebecca, who I surrendered, was born here. While awaiting her birth, I lived only a few blocks from the hotel hosting the Conference. I don't find myself stressed out over this, no grief, no sighs of sorrow. I am happily living in the present, at least now.

My experience at this conference is totally different from my first AAC conference in 1998, a few months after Rebecca and I connected. Then my long held secrets were exploding, bursting to come free. I found myself telling strangers things I had never told anyone. I was so excited to hear others say what I had only thought and was never sure if my thoughts reflected truth or

Thursday, April 10, 2014

'Burger King Baby' is thrilled to meet her 'birth mom'

In contrast to the situation we have been discussing at the last post*--about a woman who wrote to us stating that she does not want to meet her first mother--is the Burger King Baby who actively searched for her mother, and was thrilled to meet her.

Katheryn Deprill, 27, who was left as a  newborn in the bathroom of a Burger King in Allentown, Pennsylvania, teared up this morning on the Today show as she recalled meeting her biological mother, Cathy Pochek, for the first time two weeks ago. 

“It’s so surreal; never in a million years did I think this was going to happen,” Deprill said.

Monday, April 7, 2014

An adoptee doesn't want to meet her first/birth mother

The other day we received this comment at the bottom of our permanent page of tips on how to write to your first mother the first time.
I truly mean no harm, but I find these dos/don't to be offensive. I am 26 years old and I was adopted when I was 5. I have little memory of the events that led up to it.  
Forgive me if I am being insensitive, but I feel as though these given rules are all placed to protect the birth mothers. Regardless of what when on, the fact remains that if we were not raised by these women, they are not our mothers, they are our birth mothers. 
If you choose to give your child up, you have to live with that. I don't think it's fair to refer to the people who chose to raise us as their own to be referred to as anything but a mother/father.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Nashville confronts real-life issues: When a girl takes after her daddy

Nashville, the ABC nighttime drama, plunged head first the other night into the complex issue of when to tell someone the truth about biology--as in, that baby is yours. Before we get to the heart of the matter, a recap is in order here for those who aren't regular watchers

Guitar player, singer, all-around-cool-but-troubled guy Deacon Claybourne is the biological father of superstar country singer Rayna Jaynes's oldest daughter, Maddie. She discovered this amazing fact about herself when she was 12 or so, and found her birth certificate. Now Maddie, after a growing relationship with her natural father, has posted video of herself singing a song she says she wrote with her "dad"--and then uses the name "Maddie Claybourne" (not her legal name). Her legal name is that of the man Rayna has been married to since before she was born, and whom she thought was her daddy in every sense of the word. All hell breaks loose.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Jean Paton: A reformer ahead of her time

Jean Paton, the pioneer of adoption reform was not an activist; that was left to adoptee Florence Fisher, as well as our own first mother Lorraine Dusky, and many others. Although Paton was convinced that adoptees needed to reunite with their birth family to become whole, she eschewed behavioral scientists, she left it to adoptee Betty Jean Lifton and others to frame adoption separation in psychological terms. Paton was a visionary who saw beyond opening records and psychological cures for primal wounds, arguing for replacing adoption with guardianship, allowing children to keep their original identities and connection to their birth families. She was brilliant and courageous but also disagreeable and argumentative; her writings were often obtuse and verbose. In his excellent, lengthy biography, Jean Paton and the Struggle to Reform American Adoption, historian E. Wayne Carp uses her own words--she gave him access to all her papers--to tell her story.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Adoption and who's my daddy are themes as ancient as Oepidus

Banks 595.jpg
Stephen Tompkinson as DCI Banks
So turn on the TV and watch prime time and you're going to run straight into adoption or paternity mixups: Nashville; Modern Family; The Blacklist; Crises; Revenge. And even the British crime drama I tuned into last night--DCI Banks. That seemed like a safe enough show, right? There will be a murder in the first few moments; it will be solved an hour and a half later, right? Probably won't be confronted with adoption, right? No triggers, right?


Friday, March 28, 2014

Adoption court documents contain the raw realities of adoption

Sarah Morris
"I can't find a way to adequately describe the feelings elicited by seeing the documentation of the transaction that sent me into adoption. I keep coming back to trauma, anger, shock, horror, sorrow, and loathing for all those in power who were involved," began Oregonian Sarah Morris as she wrote about the 53-year old documents that transferred her legally from her first mother to her adoptive parents. This January, Oregon became the first state to allow adult adoptees to see their court file, other than the home study.  Sarah has reunited with her first mother and members of her father's family. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

NCFA no longer opposes unsealing adoptee birth records--Yea!!

Reunited without birth certificate, Jane (l) and Lorraine
All birth certificates will be unsealed one day, William (Bill) Pierce, who founded the National Council for Adoption, once told our reform firebrand, Florence Fisher, founder of ALMA. When NCFA (pronounced Nik-FA) was opposing us regarding unsealing birth records at very opportunity, Pierce privately said this to Florence, who then told me, close to three decades ago.

Yet as the years rolled by NCFA continued to oppose us. When Florence and I testified in Washington DC in the late 70s for unsealing birth certificates at a Senate hearing in Washington, DC, NCFA handlers literally held up a weeping natural mother who was testifying for keeping records sealed. Forever.

She spoke before I did. By the time I was called to testify I was livid. I started out by saying said something to the effect of her anonymity disqualified her from being taken seriously--as it would on any other issue--but I might have well been

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Good news: Intercountry adoption down again

This just in from the Associated Press:  "The number of foreign children adopted by U.S. parents plunged to the lowest level since 1992...Figures released Friday by the U. S. State Department for 2013 fiscal year showed 7,094 adoptions from abroad, down from 8,668 in 2012 and down about 69 percent from the high of 22,884 in 2004. The number has dropped every year since then."

What's the cause of this decline? AP lists several: Russia has stopped foreign adoptions. Ethiopian authorities have been trying to place more abandoned children with relatives or foster families. Other reasons come to mind: More South Korean women are keeping their babies, thanks to the efforts of Korean-born adoptee Jane Jeong Trenka and her supporters who have lobbied the

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Saying goodbye to adoptee L'Wren Scott

L'Wren Scott in a signature look
Updated at 9:10 p.m. 3/20/14

When fashion designer L'Wren Scott committed suicide Monday, the fashion and celebrity worlds mourned; when we read that she was adopted, the adoption community perks up its ears: another one lost to suicide. 

L'Wren was adopted by Mormon parents in Utah, along with a brother and a sister. An intrepid reader found an old story that included an interview with her adoptive mother who states that she and her husband, who met and married while teenagers, turned to adoption after years of trying to have children. L'Wren's mother says that the children they adopted were all from the Salt Lake City area, and adds this crucial piece of information: "At one point Luann [L'Wren's name after adoption] said she wanted to contact her biological parents, but nothing came of it." This story is ten years old and none of the new stories mention this.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Day I Was Born: The Story Denied to Many Adoptees

"Tell me about the day my mom was born," my eight-year-old granddaughter Katie requested as I drove her from school to swim team practice Monday. Her request surprised me; I expected she would want to listen to Radio Classics as usual. I obliged. "Your mother was born in the middle of the night in the middle of the winter," I began. When I finished she asked about the day she was born, a story she had heard often: how I had come to the hospital with her two year old brother Chris; how her mom told him the baby was no longer in her stomach and how her father lifted Chris up and showed him the baby, all snuggled in pink in her crib.

When my three raised daughters were little, they too loved the story that began "on the day you were born."  Every time I told them the story, a wave of sadness crept over me because I did not tell, could not tell, my first

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Relinquish adoption protections--give the adopted their original records and identity!

Today when Unsealed Imitative is in New York's state capital lobbying for our bills to unseal the original birth records of adoptees, Lorraine has an Oped in the Albany Times-Union. Please leave a comment and let everyone know more than a few voices want those records open. (Note: It appears nearly impossible to leave a comment, many have tried, none have succeeded.)

When I drove into Albany pulling a U-Haul with most of my worldly possessions, I was 23, and I was already on the run from my past. I'd had a child in Rochester and given her up for adoption. Now I was desperate to keep that part of my life secret when I began my new job at the late Knickerbocker News. When the doctor giving me a physical for the company insurance asked if I'd ever been pregnant, I lied and said no. Shame surrounded me like an aura. The year was 1966. In the two years I worked at The Knick, I only revealed my secret to one friend — and then with a racing heart.
Reporter with a secret--and blown kneecap
Read the rest at 
Relinquish adoption protections

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Keeping secrets in adoption can make you ill

Reasons enough for the sealed birth certificates of adoptees everywhere to be released comes from this month's issue of The Atlantic:
"Research shows an association between keeping an emotionally charged secret and ailments ranging from the common cold to chronic diseases."
Reading this reminded me of when I held in the secret of my life: my daughter whom I relinquished. I lied to a doctor once who asked if I'd ever been pregnant, feeling like a criminal as I did so--but he was the doctor giving a physical which would qualify me for the company medical policy. If I told the truth, would I be fired from a job I so desperately needed and wanted? It was my first job after having to quit my last before I "showed."

Monday, March 10, 2014

After 6 years, a hollow victory in Utah adoption fight

 Six years. That's how long Robert Manzanares has been fighting for custody of his daughter--a fight that began before she was born. A few days ago, a court decided that he, the father, would have joint custody of his daughter, Kaia, but the adoptive parents will have primary custody and the girl will continue to live with them. The length of time involved in getting to this decision is why Manzanares will not be able to raise his own daughter. How did we get here? Six years? 

This legal battle began in 2008, shortly after the girl was conceived and the girl's mother and Manzanares broke up. Aware that the mother did not want to raise the child, he took all the right steps, filing for his parental rights to be Colorado where he and the mother had been living. He made it clear that he did not want his daughter given up for adoption. But the woman fled to Utah before the girl was born. She had Mormon relatives in that state who wanted to adopt the child. And in Utah, that is pretty much all you need: Mormons who want to adopt.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Even in 'modern families' the need to know biological heritage

Opponents of gay marriage often raise the specter of gays raising children they adopt or create through "modern fertility techniques" claiming that gays raising children would lead to the breakdown of the family, which would lead to the disintegration of civilization. Well, of course gays have been raising children long before recorded history. Those Greeks doing it in bath houses were often married with children. And gays like my late sister Helen married members of the opposite sex, had children, divorced, and taken up with a same-sex partner.

 Since the 1970's gays have adopted children both from foster care and as newborn infants. They have also created children through sperm and egg donations, IVF and surrogacy. With courts striking down gay marriage bans, it's likely that more gays will marry and acquire children. The critical question

Monday, March 3, 2014

Do you have to fuck to win an Oscar?

The big winners at last night's Oscars all have something going for them that my favorite, Philomena, didn't. Stories that touch the nation's conscience encased in lots of fucking, vulgarity, and violence. Twelve Years A Slave pricks the nation's lingering guilt over slavery and by extension, the unequal treatment black Americans still endure. The Dallas Buyers' Club pulls at our hearts over the way we mistreated and misunderstood AIDS victims and implicitly still mistreat and misunderstand gays and transsexuals today. Cate Blanchett was a natural to win, what with themes of Wall Street corruption (we're still feeling the effects more than five years after the meltdown) and a confused, sexy woman, always a popular Hollywood staple.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

When an adoptee says: I'm not interested in searching....

Lorraine and daughter Jane, in NYC a few months after they first met
"Have you seen Philomena?" one friend after another has asked me. "What did you think?" 

Yes, I saw it and Yes, I liked it, wondering what they are actually asking. Like what is there not for me to "like" about Philomena? My brother asked about the nuns, others have asked about the slamming of the Church, and I tell them that yes, it was like that in Ireland and not much damn better in the U.S. I have a first mother friend who was told by a priest that she had to think of her daughter as "dead." (They are happily reunited today.)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Downton Abbey's Lady Edith brings her 'bastard' home. Almost.

Let's give Julian Fellowes, writer and creator of Downton Abbey, kudos for letting Lady Edith have her own controlled meltdowns regarding the daughter she just had out of "wedlock" with her married lover! And then for not leaving the child in Switzerland, despite the stern admonitions of Aunt Rosamund, who tells her in no uncertain terms she must forget the child, let her grow up with the good Swiss people who are caring for her, and if she, Lady Edith, should find the father who may or may not reappear she must never tell him! And besides that, you will have other children!

My god, doesn't that sound like the advice a lot of us got from the old days when we gave up our children? Forget, hide, never tell, you will have other children. Right....

But plucky Lady Edith is not down for the count. The exact line escapes me this morning, but the chauffeur-turned-family member, Thomas Branson, kicks Edith into gear about doing what she really wants to: bring the baby home where she can see her grow up. But of course, she can't bring the baby into Downton Abbey itself--quelle horreur! The groundwork having been laid in previous episodes, the Good Farmer Drewe, indebted to the Downton family, will take the baby and raise her, knowing full well whose child it is. Mr. Drewe and Edith will keep this secret between the two of them. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

When a child of surrogacy asks: Who is my mommy?

"And Surrogacy Makes 3" reads the big headline in the New York Times yesterday under a picture that takes up half the page--two gay men and their adorable surrogate-gestated daughter, Sylvia, now 3. The story is all about the difficulty of having a child this way in New York because a 1992 state law bars surrogacy for money and equates it with baby-selling. 

But wait! Of course there is a way out. One of the fathers is Brad Holyman, state senator from Manhattan, and he is co-sponsor of a bill that would overturn the current law and make it legal to pay a surrogate in New York to carry a baby for you. The bill's sponsors argue that it makes no sense for New York, with both a large number of fertility clinics as well as gays seeking their services, not to be able to offer "commercial surrogacy" to those who want it, and can afford to pay for it. Why let places like California have all the benefits of hiring wombs?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Encouraging intercountry adoptions with hard cash

When half the faculty at Harvard and Boston College Law Schools endorse a bill that encourages poor countries to take children from their mothers and send them to the United States for adoption, you'd think something was amiss. We are talking about a bill  that offers financial incentives to poor countries to facilitate intercountry adoptions.

The learned academics in Boston did not do their homework. They signed a petition endorsing Sen. Mary Landrieu's Children in Families First (CHIFF) bill at the urging of two colleagues:  Prof. Elizabeth Bartholet, an adoptive mother of two from Peru and director of Harvard's Child Advocacy Program, and her former student and professor at Boston College, Paulo Barrozo.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Emotional toll of searching for birth parents via sealed records

People today talk about the internet as a powerful tool in getting around sealed birth certificates and make it sound as if that pesky little problem of "sealed" doesn't really make a lot of difference. That is  true only for some. The current Beacon from the American Adoption Congress has the story of an Indiana woman, Elizabeth Boys, who found her biological family 36 hours after she posted her information on Facebook. That's got to be something like a record.

But it is unusual. At the recent public hearing for the bill (A909) in New York to allow adoptees the right to their original birth certificates, one of the more moving testimonies was about an arduous journey through the labyrinth of Catholic Charities, and the emotional toll it took on a bright, educated, adult

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The promise of 'openness' lures vulnerable mothers-to-be

Promises of openness is a common gambit used to separate a mother from her newborn.  We at First Mother Forum believe that if an adoption has to happen, a fully open adoption in most cases is better for all than a closed or semi-open adoption. Unfortunately, too often an open adoption is offered as a panacea to persuade a mother who would otherwise nurture her child to give her/him up.  Too late the mother learns that promises by prospective adoptive parents for openness are not enforceable.

In 2004 first mother Cindy Jordan killed herself after the woman who adopted her child, psychologist Susan Burns, wrote a book on how she and her husband Scott, had conned Jordan into giving up her child with false
promises of openness.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Take that offensive Kay Jewelers ad off the air!

Dear Mark Light, President and CEO of Kay Jewelers:

To say that the adoption commercial you are currently running for the "open heart" jewelry is triggering negative emotions with millions of people does not adequately describe the feelings that those 30 seconds rile up in me, as well as millions of other people, birth mothers as well as adoptees.

While you celebrate the happiness of the couple who receive a newborn baby, you denigrate the impact of the adoption on the mother who has recently given birth and is reeling with the loss of her child. You may have seen animals with newborns on nature programs on television, and seen what happens when newborns are separated from their mothers. Whales, lions, horses--all have that instinct to keep their newborns close. It is not different for humans. No mother gives up a child without trauma.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Sen. McCaskill supports adoptees finding their first parents

Sen. Clair McCaskill and Philomena Lee

When I become frustrated with the slow pace of adoption reform, when I read Lorraine's account of New York judges opposed to allowing adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates, when I hear them trot out the need to protect women in their 60's and 70's from their "sins' committed decades ago, I have to remember that the course of change never runs smooth.  We need to celebrate every forward step.

Thus Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill's embrace of Philomena Lee, the Irish mother forced by nuns to give up her son for adoption to an American couple comes as good news. "Philomena's story is heart-wrenching, and she has one of the most just causes you could possibly have--the simple premise that if a child is taken from a mother against her will, there should be an easy way to reconcile

Monday, February 3, 2014

Why judges oppose unsealing birth records: Remember Richard Sherman?

Richard Sherman, thoughtful and intelligent
At Friday's hearing, I was asked why judges who deal with adoptions talk of "devastating consequences" if adoptees can access their original birth certificates. The two surrogate court judges* who spoke made it seem as if the vast majority of us were going to change our names and go into a witness protection program if that is allowed. Assemblyman Joseph Borelli, an adoptee who represents Staten Island, asked why they had this opinion. 

I said it was because of the emotional turmoil of the women at the time of the relinquishment, adding how it is such a difficult time. I said the judges see women who are nearly crazy with

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Powerful testimony for adoptee OBC access at NY hearing

From left: Carla Rupp, Mike Schoer, Joyce Bahr, Marsha Raffloer and Dennis Sumlin
“If I had known that someday I could meet my daughter it would have been so much easier to sign those papers. My social worker and I went over this point again and again and again. Never, never, could I see her, not ever, time heals all wounds, she would say. It does not heal this one….” So began my testimony yesterday at a New York state assembly hearing on the Adoptee Rights Bill, A909. As I wrote here before, my opening few lines quoted from a transcript of testimony I gave in 1976 at a similar hearing in Albany 38  years ago.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Philomena: The Book

"These things did tale place" said Steve Coogan on The View. Coogan wrote the script for the Oscar-nominated film Philomena and played Martin Sixsmith the journalist who helped Philomena Lee find her son, Anthony, placed by Irish nuns for adoption in the United States in 1955.

Yes, these things did take place and they still do. The players are different: social workers and lawyers have replaced nuns as marketeers of children. Unwed mothers-to-be are no longer hidden away in convents but coerced through slick marketing campaigns to give their children away so they can have "a better life." Adoption records continue to be closed in most states. Children in foreign countries are still sold to Americans whose only qualification as parents is their ability to pay large fees. Records for these children are often non-existent or false. Unlike American adoptees who may find their birth families through the Internet and search angels, foreign-born children may never learn anything about their origins.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lost Daughters: Strong, brave essays written from the heart

Lost Daughters: Writing Adoption from a Place of Empowerment and Peace, is a tough book for mothers who relinquished because whatever we may have told ourselves about the “good” reasons to let our children be adopted, these poignant and sad essays belie that with the sheer force of a body blow. I found myself with tears in my eyes as soon as I started reading, and they didn't totally dry up until long after the last page.

Taken in one gulp these writers remind us that being adopted is the singular aspect of their lives out of which everything else flows—just as it is the opposite side of the coin is for first mothers like myself: birthdays, family trees, motherhood, familiar traits, loss.