Monday, January 26, 2009

Perspectives on Open Records

My surrendered daughter Megan and I reunited in November, 1997 just after she turned 31. Although we have much in common and get along when we are together, we disagree sharply on adoption. Megan, a true believing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, firmly believes that her adoption was God’s plan. I, a member of no church, firmly believe that Megan’s adoption was a result of a mid-twentieth century social experiment gone terribly wrong.

Last March I wrote to Megan inviting her to attend the American Adoption Congress (AAC) convention as I have many times in the past. I have to admit that part of the reason for inviting her was to convert her to my views, or at least let her see that adoption has its drawbacks. As always, she refused to come.

A month later, I forwarded Megan some emails from Bastard Nation regarding Illinois open records legislation. Megan lives in rural Illinois and at one time tried to get her original birth certificate.

Megan reacted angrily to the BN emails and ultimately wrote a letter to the Bloomington, Illinois Pentagraph denouncing open records legislation and its supporters. I in turn wrote to the paper supporting open records. In August, Megan asked me to stop sending her children birthday presents which I had been doing for over 10 years. We have not communicated since. See previous post, A Daughter's Change of Heart.

As I was cleaning out old emails, I came across the emails that led up to the Pentagraph letters. I am posting them and the Pentagraph letters here.

I’m not sorry about what I wrote to Megan and the Pentagraph although I am sad about the rift in our relationship. I should have been more sensitive to Megan’s feelings.

4/7/08
Jane,
I do not support the mission and goals of Bastard Nation nor the National Adoption Congress. Therefore, I cannot and will not support their political campaigns. Sorry.

Placing me in an adoptive home was the absolute right decision 41.5 years ago. I am grateful. You did the right thing. Never think otherwise.


4/9/08
Megan,
I apologize for not doing a better job of explaining what Bastard Nation and the American Adoption Congress are all about. Bastard Nation's sole goal is to have laws like Oregon's law which allow adopted persons to obtain their original birth certificate enacted in all states. I thought you supported this. BN's next big push will be California [where Megan was born].

I sent you information on the Illinois bill because I thought you might be willing to write a letter or two to your representative in Illinois to help Illinois-born adoptees learn the identify of their natural parents.

The American Adoption Congress' mission is openness in adoption, something I thought you also supported. AAC's main activity is to hold an annual conference where adopted persons, natural parents, adoptive parents, and adoption and child welfare professionals come together to learn more about adoption. Additionally, participants find it valuable to meet other persons who share their experiences. Most of the people who attend AAC conferences are adoptees. Some attend with their adoptive parents or natural parents.

Neither organization is anti-adoption.

Megan, I know you mean well when you tell me you are grateful that I made the decision to place you for adoption. To me, however, this is a terrible insult. First of all, I did not make any decision because I did not have accurate information on which to base a decision. Saying that I made the right decision is in effect stating that anyone selected by the agency would have been a better parent than I.

Telling me and others you're glad you were adopted, you were raised in the family in which you belonged, your adoption was God's plan, and so on demeans me.

While you may have benefitted in some ways from being adopted, you also suffered losses. In searching for me, you acknowledged some of these losses.

Our goal in this reunion journey should be to sooth the hurt we both suffered.


4/9/08
Jane,
You did a fine job of explaining Bastard Nation's and the AAC's position on open records to me. But, I have also studied these organizations for myself.

After much pondering and study I conclude that I disagree with their mission and goals. They wrongly use terms such as "human rights," "identity," "family preservation" and "rooted in truth," twisting the true meanings of these words. They use inflammatory terms such as "bastard," "baby thief," "primal wound," and "redefining kinship" to incite emotions. There is much ranting and raving without clear thinking.

The AAC states, "Every effort should be made to preserve the integrity the birth family." But I know that every effort should be made to preserve the integrity of the intact family--one that consists of a mom and dad who are also husband and wife. I know that calamities will befall our society as we move away from this basic, ancient family structure.

I believe in some adoption reforms. I believe in making records more open. But, I cannot accept the basic beliefs espoused by these organizations, so I cannot support their political campaigns. Their arguments seemed compelling to me at first, but I have finally rejected them because they are based on a flawed reasoning.

There is much healing to be done. Many, many members of the adoption triad yearn to be healed from the emotional strife that adoption can cause. Complete healing is possible, but espousing these organizations' philosophies will never provide long-lasting peace. There is a better way.

Megan

To be continued on Wednesday.

6 comments :

  1. Jane,

    I am sorry that Megan has chosen not to have contact with you. As I am in the same position, I can empathize with your pain. It saddens me that often, in order to have and maintain a relationship with our children, some of us must acknowledge their experience by denying our own. Nothing you did or said was wrong.

    I feel strongly that she will not stay away forever. It seems that often they need these times of alone-ness to work through their own feelings. I feel that it is vital that we respect our own feelings and care for our own experience with the same care we give to the adoptee's.

    I feel that, as much as we love our lost children, we must love ourselves as well. I also firmly feel that for us to deny our own truth is to imply tacitly that the industry relentlessly continue.

    I remember the exchange in the newspaper, as the agency that facilitated my loss is located in Normal, IL, right next door. Your letter to Megan was kind, considerate and respectful. It was clear that you loved her, and wanted to protect her in your response and it was also clear that it was extremely difficult for you. I admire your action, Jane, and hope that you are not reconsidering it now.

    Sandy Young

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  2. It's weird, Jane, isn't it? I was the one who paid for a search for my daughter, and she and her family were glad (on her parent's part, because of her epilepsy). When Jane was still in high school and after she lived with my husband and me for several months at a time. So several years later, when she was in her thirties, and there was a call for letters from interested parties in Wisconsin, where she lived, I sent her a flyer about letters needed and asked if she would write.

    I never heard a word. But sometime after that I heard from her father that when she received the letter and opened it in her parent's home, she swore at me. We never spoke of it. I never asked her again to be involved in the open-records movement. And as for her own daughter whom she surrendered to be adopted, she told me that she did not want me even to ever mention her, and that if she came back, she would not welcome her.

    It was hard to accept that this is who my daughter Jane had become--one of the rejecting mothers adoptees in pain write about. The last time I saw her I asked her that if her daughter ever found her, she would at least give her my name and contact information. I think she stonily agreed. At least, she did not say no.

    Of course one does not know how a person would react if the daughter arrived on the doorstep, but there was this determination to not be a part of her daughter's life. Possibly it was because as time went on, she saw how much her adoptive mother grew to hate me. Possibly it was because her natural father refused to meet her, and this was what she inherited from him.

    Oh--lord it is complicated, but then everything about adoption is.

    Both you and I, active in the open-right movement, hoped that our daughters might join the fight. Not only do they emphatically reject any involvement, they become acutely angry when we ask them to.

    It's a way of rejecting us. It's a way of taking control.

    (PS: if anyone is confused about the double use of Jane, both my fellow blogger and my daughter share the name.)

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  3. On a whole other note, does anybody know if former Governor Vilsack of Iowa (now Agriculture Secretary) ever did a search for his birth mother? When he announced his candidacy for president, the issue came up and the agency where he was adopted, as I recall, offered information, or am I whistling Dixie here?

    Does anybody know what the current situation is regarding his natural mother? Did he search?

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  4. Jane, I feel compelled to comment on this part of your post:

    "Telling me and others you're glad you were adopted, you were raised in the family in which you belonged, your adoption was God's plan, and so on demeans me."

    My son has the opposite attitude. He was not glad to be adopted and did not do well in his adopted family... or as an adult for that matter. He is so angry, mostly at me, even though I've explained ad nauseum about the times, my parents, society.

    Sometimes I wish for a child who did OK being adopted. Even if it meant he didn't want a relationship with me. Strange, huh?

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