Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Endless Trauma of Sealed Adoption Records


An update on the story of adoptee Phil Bloete and the man he presumed was his biological father, Ron Ryba. To recap: A father, Ryba, and son, Bloete (who has now released his surname), met at the father's request through Catholic Charities in Trenton, New Jersey, believing they were father and son. However, the two men began to doubt they were related, and a DNA test in 2008 showed that indeed, they were not, nor was Bloete related to Ryba's high school sweetheart, Kathleen Butler. Read the yesterday's post for whole story.

According to an update of the reunion fiasco at NJ.com, Ryba, with financial help from Catholic Charities, petitioned the court in Mercer County to allow Catholic Charities to contact the other six boys adopted through the organization at that time in hopes of finding Ryba's real son. Petition denied.

But the story adds new details about the person being looked for: That the child-now-adult would have been born at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden in November, adopted through the now-closed St. Elizabeth's Home in Yardville, operated through the auspices of Catholic Charities, sometimes after that, probably in December, January or February of 1976.  So that's what we know now about the son Ryba is looking for. This means that someone who was really born on November 25, 1975 almost assuredly has a different birth date on his amended birth certificate.

In the previous post we noted that nothing was said of the birth mother's involvement, or why she was not a part of the story, even though her name was released. From someone who posted a comment to our previous post, we learn that Bloete had not been interested, or was not ready, to meet his mother. Ouch!  But maybe if we can find the real son of Kathleen Butler, he will want to know his first mother.

All of this confusion and emotional turmoil for all the parties involved is so damned unnecessary: if the birth records were not sealed by law, Ryba, Bloete, Butler--all could find resolution and their suffering and grief could be alleviated. Bloete now wonders who his real parents are. Butler and Ryba are left with nothing.

It is my understanding that Catholic Charities is on the fence trying to decide if they should support the proposed open-records legislation in New Jersey that Pam Hasegawa and Judy Foster along with many others have been working on for decades. We seemingly get close to open records in the state, but are rebuffed year after year. Currently the bill is stalled the in Assembly Human Services Committee, despite approval by the Senate in a 31-7 vote and the support of 50+ (of the 80) Assembly members. It's the committee chair who is sitting on the bill.

So close but yet so far. We can hope that this case and the light it has shown on the inhumanity of injustice of sealed records will push Catholic Charities to our side of the fence, the side of rightness and charity.

As Lisa Thiabult, a spokeswoman for Catholic Charities told reporter Matt Fair: "Our mission is to relieve human suffering. If there was anything we could do to solve this mystery and to bring healing and closure to these people we would do it. We share their frustrations and I can appreciate the incredible suffering that has caused all of them."

Francis Dolan, director of New Jersey Catholic Charities added: "Unfortunately, circumstances are such that the adoption laws of the state and regulations that flow them them really prevent us from doing much more than what we've already done in terms of helping Ron and Phil find the information of their life stories."

Well, you two how about supporting open-records legislation? Would not that be the right thing to do? The, ahem, Christian response to this mess?

Dolan said that they facilitate between 10 and 15 reunions a year with a "90 percent" success rate. That number must indicate the 90 percent rate of willingness of the first/birth parents to meet their offspring, since, as this case demonstrates, Catholic Charities is not helping birth parents locate their children. Which leads me to wonder: how is the NJ law written that it allows the agencies to contact birth parents if their children request it, but not the other way around?

Anyone with a New Jersey connection who wants to help push the legislation over the top to success (either a current NJ resident, or a member of the adoption constellation who relinquished, or was born or adopted as a child in New Jersey) should contact the American Adoption Congress's NJ's State Representative, Judy Foster, at jfoster7@optonline.net. New Jersey needs you!

And anyone who knows a male, adopted through New Jersey Catholic Charities in the winter of 1975-76, please pass on this information. A father and a mother are waiting. 

12 comments:

Lori said...

This whole thing brings to head something for me - the sealed records of foster care. They claim you can get them, that they are kept for 99 years, but then, well, the rules change sometimes and they destroy them. Hmmmmmm.....

That leaves millions of adult/children in limbo as to what their life was about and the inability to obtain records on who their family was (some of these kids never know) and why they were in care, or even personal medical records.

I think that all records that are about someone should be kept and open to the person for their lifetime.

You can't touch a child's life without leaving a trace. Should they not have a history, a chance to know what happened to them?

Foster children move so often, I know I was one, that time often jumbles up on us.

One big happy, I pillaged the social worker that sent my child into hell today. I found that B*&%) today and told her what her "good" intentions were worth. She acted like she had absolutely no responibility for what happened! But at least I found her and the old bat will go to her Christian hell knowing why.

Sigh.....is it the full moon or is my heart breaking?

maryanne said...

The various agencies and affiliations of the Catholic Church in NJ and their political connections are as Byzantine and convoluted as anything in the Da Vinci code.

Individual CC social workers have done all they can to help searchers, sometimes at risk of their jobs, and some CC agencies have been facilitating reunions for years. The heavy-duty opposition to open records here is not so much CC as the Council of Catholic Bishops NJ, the Good Old Boys of the Catholic hierarchy who tried to cover up the pedophile scandal, and are currently trying to stop gay marriage here, as well as opposing adoptee rights.

Catholic Charities and every thing else Catholic in NJ are under the heavy-handed and reactionary thumb of the Bishops. The Catholic hierarchy still operate on a medieval model of absolute power to the higher clergy, and supposed absolute obedience from the sheeple.

The Church is a powerful lobby here and in other heavily Catholic states. I do not see the Bishops or their minions getting more open-minded anytime soon, as the Church seems to be headed back to the good old days of the Inquisition. Yeah, I am a very fed up Nice Catholic Girl:-)

Lori said...

Maryanne,

Would you do a nice pagan a favor? When you see the church turning into that for real, let me know! I personally do not want to be around when they start blaming the pagans again. Burning at the stake or anything else is scary enough!

timex said...

Maybe it's my ADHD kicking in, but my first thought when I read the original story was that the two babies had been accidentally switched at the hospital and the one scheduled to be placed for adoption unknowingly went home as someone's "own" child.

Just think of the lawsuit THAT would cause.

Lorraine Dusky said...

Timex: That was exactly my thought too. That someone who is adopted--was not supposed to be. And you know, it's possible that's what happened. Babies-accidentally-switched-at-birth stories do come out every now and then. I remember the one with the young girl whose mother had died, and it was discovered that she belonged in a rather large family--plenty of siblings--but did not want to live with them; as I recall, the other girl had died. Then I read a follow-up as the girl got older, that she was living with her biological family. But still had, well, issues and maybe went back and forth between the two. That was the last I ever heard of her. I would love to know how she related to the real family over the long run.

maryanne said...

Lori,

I'll be right there with you running away when they start to burn the witches again (Goddess forbid:-)

I am well acquainted with Pagan traditions, especially the Celtic. Halloween (Samhain) is my favorite holiday of all...one of the things I did today was to go to the cemetery to put pumpkins on my parent's and Auntie's graves. I have always had lots of cats, currently have 5 and one is black and he is named Demon! And I was a witch for Halloween for years when my kids were in school which I visited in my full witch regalia including striped socks, witch hat, and pentagram!

I am well aware that most Catholic saint's days and holidays were just Pagan festivals already in place for centuries, to get people to convert without too much trouble. I mostly a cultural Catholic, can't stand the hierarchy and have deep respect for my Polish/Irish Pagan roots if you go backj far enough. My surrendered son Mike is into that heritage as well.

So, don't worry, if the Inquisition comes back, me and my Jewish husband, my agnostic sons, and my kitty familiars will be leaving town in a hurry!

Happy Halloween to all. Blessed Be.

Susie said...

I would not believe their claim to only a 90% success rate for reunions. When I talked to an Iowa CC counselor about my recent reunion with my birthson, the counselor told me that if they make a match for a birthmom, but the "child" is an angry adoptee, they tell the birthmom that they could not locate her child "in order to save her the pain of her child being angry that she chose adoption".

Lori said...

Susie,

WTF! Who made them our keepers? We are not babies. We, if we are smart, expect anger. What is wrong with them?

GRRRRRRRR!

And people wonder why I am a Celtic Witch rather than a "christian" or Catholic!

Yesterday I shared something with my daughter - yes the same daughter that I have had some serious reunion issues with. I had found out some things that were horrifying. I considered "hiding" them from her and then thought again.

Too many lies!

I told her and we are good. She is working through it and I am lighting candles for serenity - because these are the kind of secrets that make you see red (a little blood in the eye, so to speak).

So, with that in mind who made CC the be all and end all of what we, mothers and children, can handle?

Jerks - it's none of their business. They should just open the records and let the cards fall where they may.

This is why adoption and foster care are so closely related - it is easy to steal a child from a child, especially since the lies, half-truths and BS confuse us all!

triona said...

Timex and Lorraine--Yes, that was my thought also: that CC knows they or someone else screwed up, and is attempting to hide it. I'm sure it never occurred to them that people might DNA test instead of just taking their oh-so-sanctioned word for it.

Lori, Maryanne--Blessed be! I was raised Christian (Catholic) and can say that adoption is one definitive, direct reason why I am wholeheartedly proud to be Wiccan. I grew weary of the hypocricy and the lies. I just wish I knew more about the ancestors I acknowledge each Samhain...

Susie--I have a feeling that the intermediary service who contacted my birth mother similarly biased her against me because they considered me an "angry adoptee". (My application was initially rejected and I hired a lawyer to overturn the decision.) Who gave them the right to play God? Why shouldn't we be angry after what has been done to us? As for the 90% rate... the Illinois intermediary program skews their statistics by only accepting participants whose searches they think they can solve. In fact they recently got the judge to change the procedures so they can pre-approve petitions before he rules on them! Talk about stacking the deck. I bet CC and other organizations do the same.

Cedar said...

"Blessed be! I was raised Christian ... and can say that adoption is one definitive, direct reason why I am wholeheartedly proud to be Wiccan."

DITTO Triona! The loss of my son to adoption was what opened my eyes to the evil perpetrated upon vulnerable mothers by the Christian Church and it's associated religious organizations. I was raised Christian (fundamentalist) and it was the Church's teachings that made my
parents turn against me, banish me to a wage home, and ensure my baby was abducted by the hospital at birth!

When I found "the Old Religion" twenty five years ago, it was like I had come home. Paganism is a religion where women are honoured for their reproductive capabilities, where pregnancy and birth are considered sacred, and does not condemn unwed mothers.

No coincidence that the biggest promoters of adoption are Christian religious organizations! They see unwed mothers as nothing more than exploitable incubators.

triona said...

Cedar--Makes me wonder if the recent increases in extreme Christian-based adoption (e.g. adoption to indoctrinate) is just going to backfire and result in many more adoptees finding spirituality elsewhere. More power to 'em, I say.

Personally I prefer to follow a path that honors everyone, including women and children. And one that honors nature. Adoption is not a natural state of being, especially sealed-records adoption. There are many cultures where the idea of severing someone from their bloodline would be anathema.

maryanne said...

I do not exclusively blame Christianity or Christian agencies for all that is wrong with adoption, although they have done their share of harm.

In my opinion the problem is not Christianity but fanaticism and fundamentalism of any sort. Karen Armstrong had that right in her books, especially "The Battle For God," a great book.

The Religious Right in this country has turned very ugly, as has the Religious Right in Muslim countries, but that is not a reason to blame the more moderate adherents of those faiths, or any others. In adoption, there are some progressive and ethical religious agencies, along with the many bad ones we have been discussing.

Although I know about and respect some of the ancient Pagan religions, I still consider myself Catholic, as that was what I was raised and am used to, even though I do not agree with much Catholic dogma. I can well understand how some mothers who surrendered chose other paths, as I left the Church for around 20 years, then came back as I missed the good parts more than I disliked the bad.

I am there for the ritual, the beauty of music and art and the Mass, the connection to my ancestors, not what some mean old men in Rome want me to believe. I think all religions contain some good and some foolishness, and that everyone needs to find their own way. There is no "ONE WAY" for all.