Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Adoptee Rights: The Clock is Ticking in New Jersey



Although the New Jersey ICare asked that letters be sent yesterday, if you were too busy, please write and send a letter or a post card today. But time is running out. Corzine will soon leave office.  
This is the letter I sent yesterday to 
Assemblyman Joe Roberts
Speaker of the Assembly
Brooklawn Shopping Plaza
Rt. 130 South & Browning Road
Brooklawn, NJ 08030 
                  
Dear Speaker Roberts: 
I am writing to ask you to post the adoptees’ birthright bill (A-752) in the Assembly Human Services Committee and then released to the floor for a vote. Although I write from a neighboring state, I do so because sealed records have caused so much heartache and psychological stress—as well as physical—to so very many. 

I am a 67-year-old grandmother who relinquished a child for adoption in 1966. I was happily reunited with my daughter in 1981, with the blessing of her adoptive parents. For more than a quarter of a century we had a relationship that was sometimes up, sometimes down--but knowing where the other person was/who that person was made for a great sense of calm in both of our lives. My daughter had epilepsy and its attendant physical and emotional problems; she committed suicide in December of 2007. 

During my pregnancy I was misdiagnosed, and prescribed birth control pills for the first several months, with the obvious result of Vitamin B6 being leeched out of my body, a well-documented side effect of birth control pills. The amount of hormones in those early pills was up to ten times greater than today’s dosage. It is now suspected that a lack of B6 in the developing fetus leads to epilepsy, just as a lack of folic acid leads to spina bifida. 

When my daughter was six, she had her first grand mal seizure. Her physician contacted the adoption agency in hopes of obtaining updated medical history from me. Around this same time, I wrote to the agency myself and informed them of the birth control pills. Though I had not taken DES, its ill effects on the fetus and later the individual was much in the news at the time. The adoption agency did not even bother respond to her doctor’s letter. As for me, I was informed that she was fine and happy in her family. 

Yet years later, after my daughter and I were reunited, her adoptive parents and I jointly wrote to the agency, Northaven Terrace in Rochester, New York. The responses we received casually referred to the physician's earlier letter, sent a decade earlier. We will never know what might anything have changed if her physician, her adoptive parents, and I had been in contact, but surely her psychological stress—a trigger for seizures—could have been lessened for years. She was a girl who had to wear a hockey helmet to school because she fell down so frequently. She was a girl who needed all the love and reassurance she could get, wherever she could get it. Her parents unquestioningly understood this, and my husband and I became a part of their lives. 

Issues just such as this were considered by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare nearly three decades ago, when, after holding numerous hearings o the issue around the country, the agency included these words in a proposed Model Adoption Act in 1980:  
 “There can be no legally protected interest in keeping one’s identity secret from one’s biological offspring; parents and child are considered co-owners of the information regarding the event of birth….The birth parents’ interest in reputation is not alone deserving of constitutional protection.” 
While some provisions of the act were promulgated, the late Sen. John Tower of Texas, an adoptive father, led the opposition to this provision in the bill. He succeeded. He was on the wrong side of history. 

The time to correct this is long overdue. It is time for bold action.  Please release the adoptee’s birthright bill for a vote, and join other the states (Alabama, Alaska,  Oregon, New Hampshire, Maine, Delaware, Tennessee), all which have corrected legislation made in a different era that has become cruel and unusual punishment in this day. Kansas, in its wisdom, never sealed birth records from individuals adopted as children. 

People who were adopted as infants were never asked what was in their best interest, and women like myself were never given a choice regarding anonymity from our offspring. I did not seek it at the time; I did not ever. Confidentiality, then, was in effect forced upon me if I were to place my child for adoption, and at the time, I did not feel I had an option.

The time is long overdue to give adoptees the right that the rest of us take for granted, that is, the answer to the question: Who Am I? Identity is many things, but surely it begins with the knowledge of one’s true origins—the real names, the accurate date and place of birth, information that is contained on an original birth certificate. To say that it is inconsequential is to deny reality. One can not imagine what it is like to spend a lifetime wondering where he or she came from, and what is the story of one’s birth. Adopted individuals deserve to have the same rights as the rest of us--the right to one's own true history--and the state should not be in the business of protecting the very few birth mothers who seek anonymity from their children. You do not similarly protect fathers named in paternity suits. 

The bill that would give adopted individuals the same right as the rest of us, A-752, has been passed by the New Jersey Senate in a 31-7 vote and has the support of 50+ member of the Assembly. Gov. John Corzine has said he will sign the bill, but time is running out. 

It is your time to be on the right side of history. It is time to shepherd this bill to the floor for a vote. As Martin Luther King has said: Justice delayed is justice denied.

Sincerely, 
Lorraine Dusky 



11 comments:

Linda Bolton said...

Here's the letter I faxed to Speaker Roberts yesterday...

Dear Speaker Roberts:

I am writing to tell you that I support The Adoptees’ Rights Bill A-752. I have been supporting NJ Care and passage of this bill for nearly all of the 33 years I have been a birth mother. I’m deeply concerned that the bill, which hasn’t been posted for a hearing in almost two years, is about to expire in January 2010. In view of the Medical Society of New Jersey’s recent announcement that the organization now endorses Bill A-752, it is more important than ever to see that this bill gets heard before the end of this legislative session. Medical histories are as important to birth families as they are to adoptees. This bill will benefit both parties.

In addition to the medical history access this bill will provide is the basic, fundamental right that adoptees are entitled to their story as much as—perhaps more than—anyone else. While I know a very small minority of birth mothers cite that the promise of anonymity given them upon relinquishment will be breached, I have personally never met or heard of a birth mother who doesn't dream of being reunited with her child. When I relinquished in 1976, I did not request a guarantee of confidentiality. In fact, I left a trail of neon-colored bread crumbs. Seven years ago my daughter made one phone call to our adoption agency and we spoke for the first time that same evening.

My daughter has said that finally knowing her personal history has helped her make sense of the many questions that went unanswered for 23 years. I would have never prevented her from obtaining the very information she needed to find her sense of self; nor should you.

Please do the right thing. Please do everything in your power to make sure that adoptees’ rights are honored in the State of New Jersey.

Sincerely,



Linda J. Bolton
Proud birth mother
of Sarah Lea Cacciatore

Jane Edwards said...

Here's the letter I mailed to Speaker Roberts yesterday.

Dear Speaker Roberts,

I urge you to support A-752. I live in Portland, Oregon and am a birthmother.

On November 3, 1998, Oregon voters passed Ballot Measure 58 which allowed adults adoptees to obtain their original birth certificates. Opponents immediately challenged Ballot Measure 58 in the courts as violating birthmother privacy. The Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the law and the United States Supreme Court refused to review it. The Measure became effective May 31, 2000.

While opponents of the law claimed that birthmothers did not want their children to know their identities, birthmothers said something quite different. Two days before the election, over 500 birthmothers placed their names in a full page ad in Oregon’s largest newspaper, the Portland Oregonian, supporting the measure.

When I learned in 1997, that my 31 year old daughter was looking for me, I was terrified but overjoyed. Since our reunion, I have felt much more complete. It is indeed true that the truth will set you free.

My experience is not unique. Over 9,000 Oregon adoptees have received their original birth certificates. There have been no reports of birthmothers becoming distressed over being contacted by their child. I have met birthmothers and birthfathers from all over the country. I have never heard one regret having a reunion – regardless of how the reunion turned out.

Sincerely,


Jane Edwards

Angelle said...

I mailed my letter yesterday but I copied and pasted the one on this forum. You all are so eloquent and I am so still stuck in the throes of dealing with my reunion. Sigh.

My son's adoption was in another state but I hope that since I live in NJ my letter gets added into the right pile.

Anne Bauer said...

I sent my letter out yesterday to Speaker Roberts. Let's hope he listens and posts this bill for a vote. I keep spreading the word to all those who are not aware (and it is most people who are not touched by adoption) about how adult adoptees cannot access their own original birth information. Thanks to everyone who has supported us adotees thus far!

Anne

Anonymous said...

It sounds like the bill is filled with veto clauses and more hoops for adoptees to try to jump through.

Check out the Daily Bastardette's website for an interesting commentary!

Lorraine Dusky said...

We have.

We know a "clean" bill would be better but that is not going to happen in NJ, if we get anything at all. Many of the leaders of BN seem to have their information, thank you very much. This bill will help 99.9 percent of the adopted populace (if not more) and has less stringent holds on information that DE and TN.

This is one time when I see the value of 7/8 of a glass.

Anonymous said...

I disagree, Lorraine.

Having my parents' names blacked out on my original birth certificate is completely UNACCEPTABLE.

I don't belong to BN, but their philosophy of no compromise, I prescribe to. Anything less and we're taking less than the non-adopted population. UNACCEPTABLE.

Lorraine Dusky said...

And has your name--your mother's name-- been blacked out?

Or have you been unable to get your OBC? Or able to?

What state are you from?

Philosophically you are correct, but practically the NJ bill will help too many people to say it is not worth doing. How long have you been involved in actively trying to change the system, working for adoption reform?

Anonymous said...

Lorraine-helping 99% is still leaving someone in the dust.

If California gets it's way, my n-mother could black out her name on my obc if they pass the horrid AB 372 authored by CARE'S patsy--Fiona Ma.

California hates adult adoptees so I'll probably NEVER see my obc. If I ever am able to, I want every adoptee to be able to, not just me. That's why I've never bothered to beg and plead a judge for it. I don't think it's something anyone should have to beg and "show good cause for".

It's a civil rights violation to not have the truthful document of your birth.

Anonymous said...

PS: I've been in adoptee rights since I was in my mid-20's, I'm 40 now.

Thanks,
Mara Rigge

Anne said...

Hi Linda,

Thanks for your support for adoptees access to their original birth certificates. I sent my letter on the 8th as well and am waiting for this bill to finally pass. Even though I found both my birth-parents on my own (no help from the state of NJ or my adoption agency) Today, I still cannot get a copy of my original birth certificate which is proof of my original identity. Being that I am an avid genealogist, especially for my children and someday theirs, this document is vital to complete my family tree as well as restore dignity to my original beginnings which I am actually proud of!

Happy Holidays!
Anne Bauer
www.adopteesvoice.com