Wednesday, October 28, 2009
So...switched at birth? Switched at adoption? Just f@#!ed by the sealed records system?
But a great argument for opening up sealed records for adopted people--and their natural/biological parents.
Just as you're planning to do some sit-ups in front of the tube during Good Morning America--up comes the Adoption Story of the Day. A (birth/real/actual/biological, you pick) father, Ron Ryba, can not forget the son he had at sixteen with his high school sweetheart, Kathy Butler, when they were juniors at the Shawnee (N.J.) High School in 1975. The boy was placed for adoption through Catholic Charities of Trenton but Ron, his father can not forget him. He married, and has other children, but still feels the heart tugs for the son who got away. After many years of bugging Catholic Charities, Ryba received a file about his son, detailing his development through the years, even noting his first words. His name was Philip.
"When you have your own children, you bonds, your thoughts...and I go back..and you know there's a piece missing," Ryba told ABC News.
After repeated requests to meet his son, Ryba and the person thought to be his son exchanged letters through Catholic Charities, and a year later the young man was finally ready. They met at a baseball game and talked all the way through it. "The journey I took was a lot of pain," Ryba said. "A lot that I went through, shame as a 16-year-old...so I thought that meeting and seeing this guy who had a great life and loving parents and was a [good thing on] balance. My pain was his joy."
So far, so good, right? Not so fast.
In time the two men grew close, so close that Ryba wanted to add him to his will. At his lawyer's urging, he took a DNA test, apparently along with the first mother.
You know the result right? Otherwise, what's the story? No match with either parent. A complete case of mixed-up files. Both men are broken-hearted. "I thought of Phil," continues Ryba, "and I didn't know what to say to him because he is a great guy and I didn't know what to say to him."
He adds: "Where is my son?"
Ryba claims he went back to Catholic Charities but the Executive Director Francis Dolan told him they can do nothing to help him. "At that moment, Ryba says, "the moral value of what I did was gone." Yes...that is a feeling I can relate to. The moral value of what I did. Despite all the reasons for my relinquishing, I have never been able to let go of the nagging feeling there was no moral value to what I did. It happened. Zero moral gain on my part; much confusion on daughter's part. But that's not the story today.
Director Dolan says he has no idea what happened, that the switch could have happened in the hospital or very early on, that there were at least six boys in the care of Catholic Charities at the time--but because the records are sealed up tight, he cannot do anything for Ryba or Phil (who asked that his last name not be disclosed). Once again, the moral value of the sealed records is less than zero, a negative injustice.
None of those other boys have approached the agency, and without their consent, Dolan said he cannot look in those files (you wanna bet he hasn't?), but added they are ready if anyone calls and says they might be one of those boys and will do what they can to facilitate the right reunion.
As I watched, I kept waiting for the reporter, Yunji De Nies, or someone to give the salient facts--such as: Where exactly did this happen? And what is Phil's birthday, so if a relative or friend of the right man is watching, or the person himself...but nada. I watched the story twice and the only way you know that this is happening at the Trenton Catholic Charities is by reading the word "Trenton" carved in the building as Dolan walks out. Nor did the reporter or GMA host Diane Sawyer give the birth date, which fortunately are in the written story. Made me crazy.
So the birth date of the boy, now grown man, we are looking for: November 25, 1975. Hospital unknown, but almost certainly in the somewhere in New Jersey. Placed with Catholic Charities. Maybe the mother of another of those boys will read this and find her way to the Catholic Charities...and contact at least that son, and either be reunited or find Ryba's missing son. We will stay tuned.
But not all was lost with the airing of the story. Publicity about the injustice and stupidity and heartbreak of sealed records is always a good thing. The story did end with a short discussion between Sawyer and De Nies that touched upon the injustice (no, they did not use that word, but it was implied, so they get points for that) of sealed records, but that thought sure was left in the minds of all viewers except say, those legislators in New Jersey and New York who will not support opening up the sealed records. Makes me nuts, yes it does.
So...if you happen to know a 34-year-old adopted man born near or on November 25, 1975, tell him that someone might be looking for him and to contact the Trenton Catholic Charities. A father is waiting. Here's the link to the video clip: Attempt to Reunite with Son Given Up for Adoption Brings Frustration.
Well, you ask, where was the mother in this story? Her name was given--Kathy Butler--so supposedly she allowed that, but there was no mention of her searching or not, or what kind of reunion she had with her son, or did not have. She did agree to the DNA test however, so she is not completely MIA. This was a complete turnabout from the usual birth mother-searching-father-doesn't-care-much story that is more common, and while it was refreshing to see a father who wanted to find his offspring, I did feel that the missing mother was somehow like the ones I read about on FaceBook, where so often someone posts about having a rejecting mother, or a found natural family that does not treat him or her well. However, she did allow her name to be used, so at least she's not in the closet. Maybe she just didn't want her 15 minutes of fame.
If you live in a sealed records state--there are 42 of them--write your state legislators today and demand that in the name of justice, the records be opened. How long do we have to wait? Depends on how many of us--adoptees and birth/first parents--act up.--lorraine