Our search law became effective on May 16, 1982. We are required to do a “diligent” search for both legally identified birth parents. The term “birth parent” is defined by statute as the mother listed on the original birth certificate and the husband of the mother at time of conception or birth, or the legally adjudicated birth father (paternity hearing, blood test). Most of the time (roughly 90%) we do not have legal paternity, the fathers are “alleged” and we are only contacting the birth mother. If she does not already have an affidavit of consent on file, we locate her and facilitate an outreach at the adoptee’s request to see if she would like to release her identity to the adoptee. If she is deceased we cannot release her identity without a court order for good cause. We do not keep any statistics on how many adoptees are successful in obtaining the identity of deceased birth parent through a court order request.
If we have a situation where we must search for both birth parents, if one is deceased and the other signs an affidavit of consent, we may release the identity of the consenting birth parent. If one is not located after a “diligent” search, and the other signs an affidavit of consent, we may release the consenting birth parent’s information.Once a parent is located--apparently this is not difficult for Boldebuck's office--the outreach statement is read to her and--if a father is named--him over the phone. A copy of the statement is mailed to the parent or parents within three days. So the mothers have time to thoughtfully consider the request. Even if they reject releasing their names, they are asked--but not required--to provide updated medical information. (See correction.)
The older the mother, the more likely there is a refusal. "What will the grandchildren think of me?" is a question Boldebuck sometimes hears. While you are Granny and being held up as a model of rectitude, it must be more than a little problematic to admit...that you had sex outside of marriage, or were raped, and a child resulted that no one knows about. I get it. I asked my husband of 28 years how he would feel if I came downstairs and told him such a secret, and he said he would feel that I had been lying to him for all these years, and he would wonder what other secrets I had. Fair enough.
But. But still.
Boldebuck does not feel it is role as a state employee to actively encourage reluctant parents to release their identities to the adoptee, and while we might wish that were not the case, she is right. Her job is to be a neutral intermediary. A private search angel is under no such constraint, and if she is also a birth mother, is likely to be able to talk a reluctant mother through the painful part of revealing her secret kept for decades from the family. Boldebuck added that sometimes there is a change of heart, and she hears from the mothers weeks or months later, and that adoptees are free to request the information every year.
However, there is hope for the adoptee is only one of the parents named is willing for the identity to be released. That nugget of encouraging news is passed on, and with an affidavit stating that, the adoptee can go to court, and judges routinely grant the request for the identity of the willing partner to be released. The law is explained at the Department and Health and Family Services website: http://dcf.wisconsin.gov/children/adoption/ADSearch.HTM There are several pages to click on to.
It was clear from our conversation that Boldebuck is completely sympathetic to searching adoptees. She only works parttime, three days a week, and is a therapist on other days. When I said that I was completely open to my granddaughter knowing me, she said that was music to her ears. Remember, she is the one who has to give adopted people the sad news that their mothers do not want their identities revealed.
My late daughter, who surrendered a daughter in 1986, told me that the father's mother had initially asked to raise the child, but my daughter would not agree--nor was she willing to look into open adoptions which were available in Wisconsin from 1980 on. Neither the girl's father or her mother ultimately contested the adoption. In an ironic twist, his mother lived in Inkster, Michigan, a town directly adjacent to where I grew up,Dearborn. And supposedly that is where my granddaughter would have been raised.
One last note: through the Wisconsin Adoption Records Search Program I may be able to let my granddaughter know that severe PMS, which my mother, myself, and my daughter had, is a possible mental health issue for her also. I am convinced that PMS is at least partially to blame for my daughter's suicide. An aunt of mine committed suicide, and had made a couple of attempts earlier; and for years I myself nurtured thoughts of suicide. Only in my late thirties did I relate those black moods to my menstrual cycle. I got relief--enormous relief--from progesterone prescribed by a progressive doctor in New York City, Niels Lauersen. I could never quite convince my daughter that her blackest moods, like mine, were related to one's menstrual cycle until almost the very end of her life. And even though she finally got medical progesterone shortly before she killed herself, she wasn't using it. I couldn't force her to remember to take it. That and other factors pushed her over the edge. It's a story I'm telling in detail in the memoir I'm working on. And now I'd better get to it. --lorraine