Friday, January 30, 2009

Perspectives on open records continued

This is the last of a series of emails between me and my surrendered daughter Megan about open records. The first two parts were posted Monday and Wednesday, January 26 and 28.

Several commentators have criticized me for posting Megan’s emails contending that I betrayed her confidence. I would not have posted her emails if they contained personal information but they don’t. There is nothing about her family, her marriage, her finances, her work, her address, her health – nada. Her emails contain only the opinions which she put forth in her letter to the Bloomington Illinois Pentagraph (below).

I learned of Megan’s Pentagraph letter from a post on the CUB (Concerned United Birthparents) list. It also attracted the attention of an Australian blogger. On the other hand, I copied Megan with my response to her letter.

Megan and I talked on the telephone and exchanged a few emails after the Pentagraph letters. The "don't send presents" email came four months later. I did not respond and I have not heard from her. I assume that if I had written back, our relationship would have continued to limp along.

Although I am sad things haven't worked out, I don’t regret the suspension of our relationship. "Limping along" is worse. I, as I suspect many mothers do, harbored sentimental, almost romantic feelings about Megan. She was my baby. Some day she would realize I was her true mother and come home. In the first few years, I fretted constantly about saying the right things, whether I was too pushy or too distant, and so on. Now that I accept that I cannot control Megan’s feelings, I can be myself.

I think that another reason that I am able to deal with our parting is that I have two young grandchildren, the children of a daughter I raised. These little sweethearts meet my need for someone to mother.

My differences with Megan are not simply a political dispute (she voted for Bush; I voted for Kerry). In asserting that two strangers always make better parents than a single natural mother, Megan is attacking me at my core.


The letters:

4/13/08
Pentagraph(Bloomington, Illinois)
Letters to the Editor

Oppose proposal about adoptee birth certificates

I am an adult adoptee. About 10 years ago, I made the choice to search for my birth mother and I found her!

I knew nothing about the "adoption rights'' movement. It was just something I wanted to do for myself.

The reunion with my birth mother was satisfying for me, and we still correspond and visit each other. After we met, I even attempted to obtain my original birth certificate, but was denied.

Since that time, I have been exposed to many, many communications from various groups pushing for legislation that would allow all adoptees the right to obtain their original birth certificates, regardless of the wishes of birth mothers.

At first, the political arguments made a lot of sense to me. However, after much careful study, pondering and prayer, I have decided for myself that I cannot embrace these groups' basic philosophy regarding family.

God has a plan for families. Children should be nurtured in loving homes by a father and a mother who are also husband and wife. "Redefining kinship,'' as advocated by the some of these groups, is a dangerous thing.

Furthermore, to obtain one's original birth certificate is not a civil or human right. Because I don't believe in the basic goals of "adoption rights'' organizations, I cannot and will not support their political agendas, including open records for all adoptees.

Megan [last named deleted]



April 15, 2008

The Pentagraph
To the Editor

Megan [last name deleted] who wrote the letter published April 13 (“Oppose proposal about adoptee birth certificates”) is the daughter I surrendered for adoption in December, 1966. Megan argues that adoptees should not have the unrestricted right to their original birth certificates.

While Megan is a fine person, I strongly disagree with her views on adoptee access.

I live in Portland, Oregon. On November 3, 1998, Oregon voters passed Ballot Measure 58 with 57 percent of the vote. This measure 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 the decision. The Measure became effective May 31, 2000.

While opponents of the Measure 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 including me 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 Megan was looking for me, I was terrified; but also 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 any regret having a reunion – regardless of how the reunion turned out.

Sincerely,

Jane Edwards
(Note: Published 4/20/08)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Perspectives on Open Records continued

This is a continuation of a blog I started Monday, January 26 of an exchange of emails between my surrendered daughter Megan and myself. Although we have much in common and get along when we are together, we disagree sharply on adoption-related issues. Last March I wrote to Megan inviting her to attend the American Adoption Congress (AAC) convention as I have many times in the past. As always, she refused to come.

A month later, I forwarded Megan some emails from Bastard Nation regarding Illinois open records legislation. Megan reacted angrily to the BN emails and ultimately wrote a letter to the Bloomington, Illinois Pentagraph denouncing open records legislation. I in turn wrote to the paper supporting open records. We exchanged a few more emails over the spring unrelated to adoption. In August, Megan asked me to stop sending her children birthday presents which I had been doing for over 10 years. I did not respond and did not send birthday or Christmas presents. I have heard nothing from her although her daughter Rachael sent me a Christmas card and emailed me.

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.



4/9/08
Megan,

"The Baby Thief" is the title of a book by an adoptive mother, Barbara Raymond about Georgia Tann who operated a notorious adoption business in the 1930's and 40's. Her actions were so evil that they were the subject of Congressional hearings in the 50's. "The Baby Thief" was published last year. I'm sure you can get it at the library.

"The Primal Wound" is the title of a book by Nancy Verrier, also an adoptive mother. It's also available at the library. Her book is very controversial and many people in the AAC do not agree with her. The leaders of Bastard Nation very much oppose Verrier's ideas.

Neither Bastard Nation nor AAC use use the terms "Baby Thief" or "Primal Wound" except in referring to these books..

The term re-defining kinship is used as one way of stating that adoptive families are just as valid as families formed by biology, something I'm sure you would agree with.

I don't know what you mean by saying they twist the meaning of terms such as "human rights," "identity," "family preservation" and "rooted in truth."

I have never heard anyone in AAC or BN rant or rave.

I think you're confusing the fact that the AAC is open to allowing people with a variety of viewpoints to speak with what the AAC espouses. AAC conferences are not like Mormon semi-annual conferences where speakers may say only things which promote the views of the LDS church.

Bastard Nation has only one goal: to get legislation passed which would allow adoptees to receive their original birth certificates. I understand your objection to its name. The fact remains, however, it is the only national organization which focuses solely on this goal. It has been effective, getting legislation passed in Oregon, Alabama, New Hampshire, and Maine. I have to think some of your objection to BN is that LDS Social Services is the primary organization opposing openness.

I do not understand the basis for your statement that the arguments (what arguments? whose arguments?) are based on flawed reasoning.

You're absolutely wrong about the "traditional family structure" as being basic or ancient. In fact the family as we know it (husband working, mother at home with children) is largely a creature of the 20th century as work moved out of the home or farm.

In many early cultures, women had children but stayed with their original families, not with the fathers of their children. For at least 50 years, Mormons defined family as a man, his plural wives, and his children. In fact the LDS church did not even promulgate its position on the family until the early 1990's.

I know that trying to shoehorn everyone into the beliefs of what some religious organizations consider to be family is a calamity for those who do not fit this mold. Actually the majority of the families in the world do not fit this mold -- gays, single parents, widows, adoptive families, grandparents raising their grandchildren, and others.

Muslim countries promote the "intact" family and many (particularly women) suffer severe calamities as result. I certainly prefer to live in the US with a variety of family structure than in Afghanistan which severely punishes those who deviate from the "intact" family structure.

Let me say this: I do not participate in AAC, BN, or other organizations for healing although initially I found attending conferences and meeting people who had similar experiences helpful. I actually don't participate often but did attend the AAC conference this year because the conference was in Portland and I offered to help out.

I encourage you to go to at least one conference. You can attend without espousing what you believe to be these organizations' philosophies. If you learn something, fine. If not, no great loss.
Jane



4/9/08
Jane,

I cannot and will not accept the mission statements and beliefs of BN, the AAC or Origins. I am not wrong about anything.

Illinois HB4623 is fine the way it is written. I don't agree with Bastard Nation that it is a "bad bill." I'm not writing a letter in support of BN's position on HB4623.
Megan


4/10/08

Megan,
How did Origins get into the discussion? I certainly would not expect you to support its mission.

This all started because I forwarded you information about a bill in Illinois affecting the right of adoptees to receive their original birth certificates. You are in a unique position to help Illinois-born adoptees because you are an adoptee and live in a rural area in Illinois.

You've decided not to help Illinois adoptees because you don't like Bastard Nation, the American Adoption Congress, or Origins. Of course you don't have to like any organization in order to take a position on a piece of legislation. You can write a letter without referencing the organizations you find objectionable.

So whose voices do the Legislators hear? Those of the conservative segment of the adoption industry who claim falsely that natural parents don't want their children to know their identities.

Thus, adoptees continue to be denied the right that every other American has -- the right to his or her birth certificate, the right to know whose genes they carry. Adoptees continue to be treated as second-class citizens or, to be blunt, treated like bastard children.

I appeared in a full-page newspaper ad proclaiming my sins of 32 years earlier in order to support adoptees in Oregon when Measure 58 was on the ballot in 1978. This did not benefit me and frankly was very difficult to do. I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do.

And you won't even write a letter. And Illinois will pass a bad bill severely restricting adoptees right to their original birth certificates.

This will set the cause back in other states like California.
Jane



4/11/08

Jane
Your question below is a leading question, which I will not answer directly. It cannot be answered "yes" and it cannot be answered "no." Inflammatory phrases such as "more equal than others" are meant to incite emotion; they are not the basis of an intelligent, open-minded discussion. This type of language is the thing that first turned me off to groups like BN.

Megan

To be continued on Friday, January 30.

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.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Dear President Obama: Open Sealed Records

Copyright Lorraine Dusky, 2009

Today there are approximately six million people in America who do not have the right to answer the question: Who am I? Who was I at birth? The state took that right from them when they were adopted as infants or toddlers. Only in eight states do they have the right to their original birth certificates. An active movement of adoptee-rights advocates is pressing for reform throughout the country, but the going is at a snail’s pace. At this rate, millions of people will die before the laws are changed, and changed they will be one day. Right is on our side.

Adopted people are not children all their lives. They grow up and need not only updated family medical information, but they need and desire to be whole and integrated individuals, and that includes having full knowledge of who they were at birth. As far back as 1971, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated in a position paper: Determining identity is a difficult process for someone brought up by his natural parents; it is more complex for the individual whose ancestry is unknown to him. Cicero said it this way: Not to have knowledge of what happened before you were born is to be condemned to live forever as a child.

I am a birth mother and journalist who has written extensively about this subject for numerous publications, from Parent’s magazine to The New York Times to Newsweek to USA Today, as well as others. I am also the author of Birthmark (1979), the first memoir to break the silence of women who gave up their children to adoption. I have testified for open records both in Albany and in Washington DC before legislative committees. I relinquished my daughter in 1966 in Rochester. I am the New York representative of the American Adoption Congress, but I write to you as a private citizen today.

The main objection to giving adoptees their original birth certificates is the supposed confidentiality “promised” to the women who relinquished their children in years past when great shame was attached to bearing a child out of wedlock. The vast majority of birth mothers welcome reunion with their children – even if that child is the product of rape or incest. This is only one example, but it speaks volumes. When Maine passed legislation opening its files as of January 1, one of the leaders of the reform was birth mother Bobbi Beavers, whose surrendered child was the product of a rape. She and her son have been reunited.

Yes, there are some who wish to remain unknown to their children. But their number is small. Various studies both in this country and abroad indicate that only between three and six percent wish to remain anonymous from their children. Yet the imagined specter of these women in the mind of legislators continues to block open records at the state level. This small group of women should not dictate public policy, a policy that so dramatically involves an entire class of people, individuals who were never asked what their preferences were. You have to go back to slavery to find a similar situation in which two parties – the state and an individual – make a bargain that forever seals the fate of a third person.

Despite the evidence, still the myth – that of the poor, woebegone “unwed mother” who has never told a soul, let alone her husband – persists. It is in her name that the National Council for Adoption, a coalition of adoption agencies opposed to open records, the Church of the Latter Day Saints, some adoption attorneys, argue to keep records sealed and sued in state courts. But the lawsuits, filed in both Tennessee and Oregon, have failed as the higher courts recognize the validity of adopted individuals seeking their identity papers.

The secrecy-seeking woman is a smoke screen, and obscures what these organizations really want, i.e., to cling to outdated closed adoptions—they can charge more for them! And they do. Despite what we know about the need to know, despite our best efforts to educate the public, despite what common sense dictates, some prospective parents still want closed adoptions and sealed records, and they are the ones who fund the organizations fighting to keep records sealed.

Yet the evidence is clear: no one is harmed by giving adopted people their original birth certificates. Oregon has had open records since May 30, 2000; according to the Oregon Center For Health Statistics website, as of May 31, 2007, 9366 unamended—i.e., original—birth certificates were requested, while 84 women have filed a “no-contact” preference, 79 of them filed when the records were first opened. That is fewer than one percent. Other states with open records are Alabama, Maine, New Hampshire. Tennessee and Delaware allow a mother to file a contact veto; Alaska and Kansas never sealed the birth records of adoptees. Open-record states report no problems due to this policy.

In 1980, the then U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare came to a similar conclusion after holding numerous hearings of adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents, social workers and other experts around the country. The Model Adoption Act the agency issued stated:

“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 other provisions of the act were passed, this provision died at the behest of a powerful senator from Texas, the late John Tower. He was an adoptive father.

But beyond the fact of the small numbers of women seeking anonymity from their own children, you will find no legal precedent written into law in any state of the country. The relinquishment papers birth mothers signed contain no promise of anonymity.

New York’s law is probably typical. Dating from 1935, and passed at the behest of the then governor, Herbert H. Lehman, it contains no promise of confidentiality given to the women who surrendered their children. In fact, many of us, including myself, argued with our social workers about this implied premise of the law when we were signing the surrender papers. We were told we had no choice, if we were to go ahead with an agency-sponsored adoption. In short, we simply capitulated as we had no power to do otherwise.

Worth noting is that Gov. Lehman was an adoptive father. Presumably, this outdated law was passed with good intentions – to assure that families formed by adoption bond, and it was thought then this was best done by severing ties to the past. Presumably, the intent of the law was in the best interests of the child. We now know this simplistic view of adoption doesn’t work.

And understand this, no matter how sorry a group we birth mothers were at the time we gave up our children, we and the times have changed. We are different now, and we deserve no special treatment, not when the state affords no such protection to any other group of people. Many people wish to bury their past and hide their previous marriages; men, including priests, do not wish to be named as fathers in paternity suits, yet the state does not take it upon itself to offer the protection of privacy to them; nor should the state be in the business of “protecting” a minute number of birth mothers from embarrassment, especially as it comes as the cost of trampling the rights of others.

Opponents of open-records often show up to testify and claim that adoptions will go down, and that abortions will go up if the records are unsealed. This is untrue. In the open-records states of Kansas and Alaska, adoptions are proportionally higher, and abortion rates lower, than the national average. Indeed, Kansas has significantly lower abortion rates than the four surrounding states – all with sealed records. Please note that the National Council for Adoption actually has collected these figures, but their spokesman frequently ignores what he knows and makes this specious statement when it testifies, simply because he can. He lies.

Opponents of open records also argue for registries matching parents and adoptees, rather than releasing birth data. But most registries were set up with enough restrictive provisions to make them largely ineffective, and that certainly is the case here. In New York more than 18,000 adoptees, birth parents and siblings have registered since December of 1983, but the “success” rate is fewer than four percent! Offering adoptees a registry is a poor excuse for denying them their original birth certificates. Being able to own that piece of paper surely would seem to be a right that the Constitution guarantees for everyone, once the plague of slavery was abolished.

However difficult it has been to change hearts and minds, change is coming. A 1994-95 Cornell University survey of adoptive parents in New York found that 78 percent actually favored open records. Enlightened adoptive parents and grandparents are sometimes our staunchest supporters in state legislatures. Adoptive father Sen. Lou D’Allesandro led the charge in the New Hampshire Senate in 2005 that opened the records in that state.

For myself, I went around the law. By going underground and paying some stranger $1,200 in 1981, I located my daughter nearly a quarter of a century ago, and enjoyed a relationship with her and her parents for 26 years. She died in 2007.

I ask you to let other adoptees have this same right and find a way to give adopted people the relief they seek. They want only to be treated like all other citizens: to have the right to the information of their birth. They were never asked what was in their best interests in this singular event of their lives. Birth mothers never were promised the secrecy and anonymity from our own children so many would continue to foist upon us. For the vast majority of us, the law as written only continues the cruel and harsh punishment that surrendering our children initially heaped upon us.

Bills to open the records have been around since the Seventies, but have been blocked for years. It is time to let the truth of one’s origins be everyone’s birth right. It is time to let adopted individuals—who never asked to be adopted, who were never asked what was in their best interests—to enjoy the same rights as the rest of us. You can right this wrong by pushing for federal legislation that gives all adopted persons the right to know the answers to life's most primal questions: Who am I? Who was I when I was born? What is my story?

Cordially,

Lorraine Dusky, first/birth/original mother


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Anna Mae Update

I'm not feeling too perky today--just had root canal--but thought it was worth bringing the He case up since Reader Kippa found an update.

Anne Mae He is back in China but not happy about it, apparently. Her parents, Jack and Casey He, have split, Anna Mae is at boarding school during the week, and Anna Mae doesn't like the pollution! On that one, we can probably agree.

The story does not go into the protracted fight the Jerry and Louise Baker put up when the Hes wanted their daughter back. Though her father, Jack, was a graduate student, he and mother Casey apparently did not understand when they signed over custody, it would not be a simple thing to undo it. Apparently in China it is not unusual for family members to temporarily take care of a child, and the Hes understood the arrangement to be a similar one.

But there was never a permanent relinquishment agreement, nor did the Hes ever intend this to be an adoption. The agency--it was connected with some Christian group--was at fault for not making sure Anna Mae's mother, Casey, understood what was happening. Soon after her first birth, the Hes asked for Anna back but the Bakers dug in and had plenty of cash to throw at lawyers. Basically, their argument was that they had more money...and gosh, now the girl has bonded with us and we can't/won't give her back.

At one point, the Bakers took out a restraining order against the Hes. I spoke to the lawyer for the Hes before the Tennessee Supreme Court made its decision, and he said that cultural issues as well as bias against the poorer Chinese couple were at play as the lower courts let the child stay with the Bakers. For further complicate matters, Jack He was difficult and not likable enough when he gave testimony, and that further prejudiced the courts against him.

But basically, as the lower courts decided against the natural parents, it was another example of a prevailing attitude we often come up against: that money trumps blood.

Not on your life. --lorraine

And for a good time, read on. (And click on the green line to get your green backs.) This was what I found when I clicked on one of the ads below the Anna Mae story on the CNN website:

Billions of Dollars are given away every month by the Government. You can use this money to adopt a child, pay for college, start a business, invest in real estate, and buy a new home and much more. Many US Citizens are not aware of the billions of dollars which go unclaimed each year. The government and other organizations must by law distribute billions of dollars in 2009 to private citizens & organizations just like you. The best part is you never have to pay it back! Request Your Free Grants Kit to Claim Yours!


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Birth Parents Win One in Michigan

More positive news about children NOT being separated from their natural parents has been in the news. A Michigan couple, Christine Wolfe and Kenneth Barnett learned on Christmas Eve that the Court of Appeals sided with them after a five-year battle for their son.

A prospective adoptive couple, Phyllis and Phillip Unthank, of Dearborn (coincidentally, my home town) had custody of the boy from birth to 18 months--though the mother never relinquished him legally. As a divorcing mother, she did not think she could financially care for the new baby as well as a daughter the couple already had. Again the story--as these stories all are--is complicated: a couple divorcing, the husband/father questioning paternity, the paternity confirmed, the couple get back together, and the father asks for his son.

The Unthanks said, No thanks, and thus began the long court process.

The father filed for custody of the boy in both circuit and and probate courts and was denied. Now why is that, you ask. Clearly, he was the father and had never agreed to give up his son. Answer: He didn't have a lawyer. When the couple divorced, they were granted joint custody of their daughter.

And although Christine had given the Unthanks power of attorney for medical reasons for the boy, she never signed surrender papers. When the boy was 18 months old, Christine asked for him back and revoked the couple's power of attorney. The case dragged on because Wayne County does not have a family court to handle all the family's issues from divorce to custody, and so two different judges were involved in the early stages.

Now I know it is difficult for adoptive parents to have a child, believe that she or he will be a part of their family, and then lose that child, but what in their DNA makes them go against the ethical rightness of returning that child to her or his natural, biological, genetic parents? When Aston some months back asked me what part of my pie chart could be ascribed to selfishness when I was reunited with my daughter Jane, I was speechless. But what in adopters like the Unthanks can be ascribed to compassion for the natural parents? In their unremitting determination to have a child at all costs, they lose all moral authority and human dignity. They become craven child snatchers. And the courts have so often sided with them.

Guess who pops up in this story: Roberta Deboer, the she-devil of child snatching. "Once you have a baby that you care for day in and day out and you in every right believe that child is yours," she says in The Detroit News, sounding every so much like Sarah Palin with her fractured syntax. "Those parents became parents the moment they took that child in their arms." Sorry Roberta, that would made every nanny a parent with the right to hang unto the child...forever.

Time passed, the Barnetts had another child, and got a lawyer, and a good one: the same one who represented the Schmidts in the Schmidt/DeBoer case we've been discussing here of late: Marian Faupel. So far the couple has paid about $30,000 in legal fees. They are in debt for another $80,000. Their home in Dearborn Heights was foreclosed. "Most people would have lost their child -- that's the tactic," said mother Christine of the many motions and counter-motions brought by the Unthanks. "It's to force you to give up."

The Barnetts (who also have an older child, Samantha, now seven) were eventually granted visitation, and when that went well, the courts came up with a time-share plan: the boy, called Daune by the Unthanks, and Cody by the Barnetts, was to spend a half week with his natural parents, a half week with the Unthanks. Think of it, on Sunday, you're Cody, on Thursday, you're Duane. The story stays he was being schooled in different religions, but does not specify. I doubt it was between Presbyterian and Methodist. Is this sick or what? But all this child-sharing ended abruptly in February of 2008 when the Probate Judge June Blackwell-Hatcher granted the natural parents full custody. Hurrah! Now Cody could be Cody 24/7.

What did the Unthinks do? Ka-ching, Ka-Ching, they had the bucks to continue dragging it out in court, and that they did. Fortunately common sense and moral rectitude prevailed when the State Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's decision to give the Barnetts' fulltime custody on December 24. Talk about a Christmas present! Interestingly, the Court cited the Michigan Supreme Court's decision in the Schmidt/DeBoer case in their decision.

Whew!

The story in the Detroit News covers the ups and downs of the case and includes this particularly tasty tidbit I quote here: [Child] advocates laud the ruling, which underscores parents' constitutional rights to raise children regardless of their circumstances as long as they are fit. They say birth parents frequently give up or lose such battles because adoptive parents typically have more money to spend on qualified representation and extended court fights.

But adoptive parents and their supporters sympathize with the Unthanks, and say courts sometimes favor birth parents over the best interests of the child.


Courts sometimes favor birth parents over the best interests of the child?

Why do adoptive parents think that simply because they have more money they are always "in the best interests of the child?" We know that's how adoptive parents often feel--and act on that--but this attitude makes me nuts. Unless there are serious compelling reasons to remove a child from his parents, everyone is better off with their natural parents--people who look, think and act like them. Who can give them a kidney if necessary.

If we first mothers and fellow travelers keep winning these cases, maybe prospective adopters will stop fighting in court to get children that are not theirs when the natural parents are ready and willing--and want them back.

This case of course reminds us of the DeBoers, but more recently a Chinese couple had a protracted and expensive fight to get back their daughter, who had been born in the U.S., and return to China. That was the Anna Mae He case, which dragged on for five years, from 1999 to 2007 until the Tennessee Supreme Court decided for the Hes, the biological parents. One of the reasons the adopters used against the couple was that they were planning to take their daughter back to China.This was a particularly noxious case in Memphis, with all the prejudices of race and money on display. Learn about it here. --lorraine

Friday, January 16, 2009

Stuth Granddaughter Returned Home

A piece of good news today: Following up on a recent post...

The granddaughter of the AnnMarie and Dout Stuth, who was removed from their house for reasons that remain fuzzy--some social worker decided they were too controlling regarding the girl's mother, their daughter--is back home with them. In an amazing video, the little girl runs into their arms and tells them she missed them. Watch and weep for joy.

The mother of the child's problems haven't been made clear, but it seems like a drug problem, as the child was not in prime health when she was living with her. That's when the little girl was turned over to a foster care, and placed with a woman who eventually wanted to adopt her, and for a while, social workers were pushing that resolution--while the grand parents were fighting to get her back.

Anyway, the girl has been returned to her grandparents home, and according to station KING in Seattle: "Investigators also found misinformation was presented to the court about the Stuths by a social worker and a court appointed child advocate, which helped lead to the separation. After fighting the system for nearly two years, this complete turnaround is unreal to them."

The court-appointed child advocate...that is the guardian ad litum that was so helpful in the DeBoer case. It seems that their pervasive attitude is: Oh, the child has been with the foster/adoptive wannabe for so long, she will be upset if she is returned to her biological family, what can she know of them? But in this case at least, the judge saw through the fog.

To add to our glee over this turn of events,
a new report released Wednesday says time and again, Washington state unfairly puts children in foster care instead of with their relatives. The Office of the Family and Children's Ombudsman report identifies the number one issue is that the child welfare system needs to do a better job of following the law when it comes to placing children with relatives.

The Director Ombudsman Mary Meinig writes “… the system needs to better support and maintain placement of dependent children with relatives.”

Meinig also says in the report: “Sometimes, the agency has removed children from long term (2 or more years) placements without sufficient cause. This has been devastating to relatives and children alike and many of these decisions have appeared arbitrary and capricious.”

Amen is all we have to add. Maybe now the social workers will not be so eager to take kids away form stable, blood-related homes.

Although in the story about the Deboers in the last post I blasted the biased way the media treated the story, this is one case with the media saw through the injustice of taking a child from a good home where she was kin. The whole report can be read at this link.

Gotta go now, but later today I will track down the letters (and add it to this post) that appeared after my story of the DeBoers ran. The magazine got more than 75 letters on it, which was a deluge for any particular story in the magazine. Adoptive parents were mad. To put it mildly. It's freezing here on Long Island but I'm about to do battle with the cold--but the sun is shining.--lorraine



Wednesday, January 14, 2009

May the Richest Parents Win--The DeBoer Case

by Lorraine Dusky

This amounts to a legal
kidnapping.,.. they are
ready to break up a
family because a late arriving
birth father
has the correct genes. "
Newsday, 12/9/91.

"It's the same as
if you said to any parents: I want your two year-
old. Give her to me." The New York
Times, 12/27/92.

"'It's an outrage to take a child away after
two years of bonding with her parents,' said. ..a
lawyer. 'It's a travesty of justice.'" The
Detroit News, 4/21/93.

Last spring and summer the media bombarded the public with stories about the heart-breaking story of two worthy, attractive people in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Roberta and Jan DeBoer, who were being unjustly forced to return to her natural parents the little girl they had raised since she was less than a week old.

"Robby," as the press liked to familiarly call her, was unable to bear children due to an illness contracted— horrors—on their honeymoon. We were all primed to pity the poor childless couple who only wanted to raise "their" little girl in peace and not be bothered by a less than-telegenic father, who didn't even know the child was his until after she was born, and an unmarried woman who changed her mind about relinquishing her daughter after she fell under the influence of a cult-like group of fanatics.

What the media didn't tell about the story formed public opinion for the DeBoers and against the girl's parents, Cara and Dan Schmidt, who were effectively painted as low-lifes for wanting their daughter back. Dan Schmidt, it was endlessly pointed out, is, of all things, a trucker (i.e., lower class). The clear implication was that this alone was reason enough to not let him have a child he so clearly wanted.

Initially omitted (and always buried) in the news reports was that Cara Schmidt began asking for her child back within four weeks of giving birth. Also glossed over (or not mentioned at all) was that Cara Schmidt missed Iowa's three week deadline for changing her mind about the adoption by merely five days. If this had happened in another state, such as California where a woman has six months before the decision to relinquish her child is final, Jessica would have been immediately returned.

Also not mentioned: that Cara Schmidt had signed the relinquishment papers 40 hours after the child was born, at the time believing that the attorney for the DeBoers was her attorney. Once Dan Schmidt learned that he was the girl's father, he joined Cara in the fight to get their daughter back, all within a month of the girl's birth. The DeBoers were in defiance of the Iowa Supreme Court when they began their battle in the Michigan courts. When the Schmidts went to Michigan and asked for the sheriff to help them get their daughter back, they were refused and told if they acted alone they could be arrested. You practically have to be a private eye to ferret out this information.

The second of People magazine's heart-strumming cover stories on the case devoted 16.7 column inches to interviews with the DeBoers and 5.5 inches of quotes by psychological experts and others who supported them. In contrast, the Schmidt's side of the story got only 5 inches, and expert backup, 2.3 inches.

The New Yorker gave the DeBoers a major boost in an error-ridden piece by Lucinda Franks, who recently adopted an infant and who is married to the 74-year-old Manhattan District Attorney, Robert Morgenthau. Although she herself is an adoptive mother—and thus a writer with a personal bias—this was not revealed. (Before we go any further, understand that I am a mother who once relinquished a child for adoption. More on that later.)

The Schmidts' attorney in Iowa, Jackie Miller, says that when she called Franks they had a five-minute conversation and Franks obviously did not want to talk to her; another attorney who was present at the time of Franks' interview with the Schmidts, Pam Lewis, says Franks ignored what actually happened in the Iowa courts and instead used Roberta DeBoer's misleading fabrications in quotes to tell the story she wanted.

This technique—stacking the quotes—was used aggressively throughout the months the story captured the nation's attention. But while the print stories were biased, they could hardly compare in emotional scope to seeing a hysterical, sobbing Roberta DeBoer interviewed on television by reporters who never asked follow-up questions, never doubted the DeBoers' version of events. The hard questions were seldom—if ever—asked: Why didn't you give her back in the first place? You had her for less than three weeks at the time. "Why did you fight the court order to have a blood test for five months? If your concern was for the child, why did you defy the first Iowa court order to return her? Even if you don't like the father, doesn't Cara Schmidt have some sort of moral claim to raise her daughter? Yes, you're in pain now, but didn't you set this up yourself? Six separate court decisions were against you, and the only one that was in your favor was quickly overturned.

DeBoer supporters and attorneys (who often turned out to be adoptive parents themselves) managed to plant in the media the concept that since they had kept Jessica for so long—in defiance of court orders, remember—they were now entitled to keep her because the transition would be difficult for her. This concept was called "children's rights." Elizabeth Bartholet, a Harvard law professor who has become a custody expert (partly through the difficult time she had adopting two children as a single woman), managed to instill the idea into the public consciousness that because Jessica was being returned to her natural parents, she was being treated as "property." No one said anything about yes, indeed, property, as in "possession is nine-tenths of the law."

Except for a few instances, only in the letters to the editor from adoptees, did you learn that being raised by genetic strangers, i.e., being adopted outside the family, is not quite the same—regardless of income—as being raised in a home where your real parents were also what the media had now reduced to "blood parents." An expert with those views, Marshall Schechter, M.D., co-author of Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self as well as other writings on adoption, was interviewed at length by Isobel Wilkerson, the New York Times reporter who covered the Jessica case. Yet he was never quoted in the Times.

What is going on here? We are in the midst of an adoption frenzy in America that has turned into a class war. One one side, we have middle- class baby boomers who delayed having children and are now unable to conceive; on the other, we have generally lower-class girls and women, the disposable suppliers of the commodity so desired: healthy, white infants, who are increasingly hard to come by. And with independent adoption being relatively unrestricted in 34 states, an army of adoption attorneys has grown up, an army designed to serve their clients, the ones who pay the bills: the adoptive parents.

The result is that adoption today is not a service for infants who need homes— there are plenty of those, but they are not the healthy, white infants that are prized—but has instead become a service industry for couples who want to adopt. The competition is fierce: estimates as to how many couples there are for each healthy, white infant range from 23-to-one to 40-to-one. And just like always, money talks. Money can put you at the head of the line.

And while we think it is awful—and unlawful—if a woman "sells" her baby to the highest bidder, we only nod in wonderment when we hear about attorneys' fees and related costs that can go as high as $75,000 for actually acquiring a baby. Is this not buying a baby?

Feminists, academia, the press and the attorneys themselves come largely from the same group of people wanting to adopt, or their parents, and almost always promote adoption as an absolute social good. They argue for laws that would get the babies out of the hands of the poor wretches who have them as quickly as possible, and fight them in court when necessary. We have more to offer your babies, the implication always is, as if a nice home and a middle- or upperclass life was on a comparable scale with growing up with people you look like, whose traits you have inherited, whose predispositions and talents have been passed on to you.

In truth, we are not far from the chilling premise of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, where fertile women bear children for infertile upper-class wives. In Gilead, the futuristic society Atwood created, the emphasis is on the difficulty in getting a baby, not on what relinquishing one means to the women who have the babies or to the children themselves.

It is the same in the U.S. today. Scant attention is given to what it means to be uprooted from the long line of a specific heritage that is the birthright of each one of us, and informs us how and where we fit into the cycle of life. Nor to a 20-year movement of adult adoptees and natural mothers that would allow adopted individuals the right to know their true histories, spanning back generations, or who their natural parents are while growing up. The attitude among most adoptive parents seems to be, don't think about that until you have to.

While open adoptions are becoming more common, they are still the exception, not the norm. Instead adoption attorneys press for what they see as their client's best interests: a uniform state law that would permit a woman to sign away her child—irrevocably—only five days after birth, with no recourse or time to see if she could find a way to raise her child.

Five days. Less time than she is allowed by law to be absent from work. Five days. A woman's hormones are still bouncing up and down in that time, and all the time of the pregnancy cannot tell a woman what it means to actually give birth to a living, breathing child who comes out of your body and who will one day look like you and the father. Five days. Hardly enough time to figure out a plan of action for a woman and her baby.

I relinquished my daughter 27 years ago, and for years I believed that it was probably the best for her and me. She had a mother and a father, as well as the kind of middle-class life I would have had a difficult if not impossible time giving her. By breaking laws, we were reunited 12 years ago. True, she has good adoptive parents, but she has seen her share of the awful kinds of problems adoptees are prone to. Low self-esteem is only the beginning. Once, I quietly accepted my conflicted feelings whenever I watched films of animals that showed a mother refusing to leave her dead or wounded offspring. I would tell myself that human life was different, more complicated. But I have come to know that, in some fundamental way, it may always be wrong for a woman to relinquish a child for adoption by strangers. Yes, of course, it is sad to be infertile when it is children you want, but that does not entitle anyone to someone else's
child.*

Lorraine Dusky is writing a book on gender bias and the legal system, Still Unequal: The Shameful Truth about Women and Justice in America for Crown Publishing. She is the author of Birthmark, a memoir about surrendering her daughter for adoption.

From On the Issues, The Progressive Women's Magazine, Winter, 1994. I will post the letters that were published in the next issue in a later blog.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Adoption: The Movie

A new movie about being adopted appears to be right on, to judge from the trailer below and the other short clips you can watch at You Tube. It does seem to get at issues that adoptees rarely want to talk about becasue they are too painful, but sit there just below the surface.





And here's another heart breaker, about the adopted person not looking like their parents:


and last but not least...it's all we as first mothers know about adoption and yes, it won't be comforting to watch, but at least our feelings of yearning are validated by the other side: how the adopted person feels about being adopted. Although I probably won't be able to spring the $60 for the film, so I may never see it in its entirety, it looks to be a valuable tool in getting the message out: Adoption is always painful.



As I am in frequent contact with acquaintances who have adopted from China (five and counting), I wonder how many of them are able to want to understand what it is like to be adopted. I'm sure that the subtle message can not help but be: we saved you from a terrible life back in your world, aren't you a lucky girl? One of the girls is being raised back in Shanhai by her adoptive mother, Emily Prager; and at least one of the other mothers is somehow very bothered by that. The mere mention of Emily's name upsets her. --lorraine


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Yet another baby snatching. Not yet.

A case in Seattle has the smell of old fish: grandparents of a three year-old girl--who raised her for over nine months--are fighting to get her back and support the girl's mother (their daughter, now 18) in her attempt to gain custody. The little girl was removed from the grandparents' home and returned to her their daughter, her mother, whom they had been supporting, when she was nine-months old, but things unravelled at that point.

The story is a complicated mess, but the video here gives the unsettling details.

Here's a graph from the story that will make your temperature rise: Later this month a judge is expected to rule on the fate of the little girl. The young mother is fighting to get her back, and the grandparents support that goal. State social workers have pushed to have her adopted by the foster mother, saying the little girl is very bonded to her now.

And there's this:

A few weeks ago, an assistant attorney general sent a settlement offer to the young biological mom. It stated if she voluntarily gave up her parental rights and allowed the foster mother to adopt the child, she and the grandparents could visit the little girl four times a year and get two pictures of her in the mail every year.

The biological mother would not agree to those conditions and instead is at the trial, fighting to keep her child.

The court proceeding continues Wednesday.

So if the natural mother gives up rights to the kid, she and the grandparents can visit her four times a year. Whoopie! Plus the bonus of two pictures a year. I am speechless. I am sick.

Does this remind anybody of the DeBoer case, sixteen years ago? Where the Michigan child-stealers (that would be the Deboers) who took Anna/renamed Jessica from Iowa and were never able to finalize the adoption, who then used the "possession is ownership" BS to hang unto her as long as possible? If you were around then, you saw the endless videos of a crying little girl as social workers took her from the grasping clutches of her adoptive mother. I always wondered how adoptees felt when they saw that video clip. Anybody like to let me know?

I was tapped as the pro-natural-parents (the Schmidts) advocate on the McNeal-Lerher Report on PBS on the day of the exchange, and faced down a phalanx of pro-adoption, pro-DeBoer attorneys and a real witch of an adoptive mother, Elizabeth Bartholet, who had a kid of her own but had recently adopted two boys from Peru and just written a book (Family Bonds) about how difficult (sob, sob) it had been. Bartholet is a feminist law professor at Harvard Law, and told me point-blank that any research that shows adoptees have adjustment issues, and attendant problems, is "garbage--junk research." Since more such research continues to surface, academic adopters no longer call it "garbage." However, they still don't want to delve deeply into it, as I saw at the Pittsburgh conference on kinship in 2007.

When I read the other day that Jan DeBoer, long divorced from his wife, hopes that "Jessica" (note to Jan: her name is Anna, has been Anna for 16 years) hopes she contacts him--in a story highly sympathetic to poor Mr. DeBoer who lost his apartment in a fire, I wanted to barf. Is she supposed to thank you for keeping her from her natural parents for two years while you illegally fought every ruling to return her? That wasn't about her, or what was right, it was about the determination to have a baby at all costs. You and your ex-wife ought to rot in the seventh level of hell.

Has nothing changed in all that time? Well, yes. The good news is that this time a state legislator is on the side of the grandparents, Doug and AnneMarie Stuth, and the public sympathy appears to be with them. There may be a ruling on Wednesday.

As for the DeBoers, the ironic twist in this is that that former friend Aston, who berated me for finding my daughter, is the son of the late guardian ad litum for Jessica/Anna in the court case in Michigan, where both Aston and I are from. Not surprisingly, his father argued that the child should not be removed from the DeBoer home and returned to her natural parents. Although Aston and I have never talked about that weird connection (I was writing about the issue at the time) , I can only assume that he inherited his father's lack of understanding and compassion on this issue, his support of the adoptive family never being "disturbed" by a pesky natural parent, and his narrow-minded response when we finally spoke, in an effort to patch things up. His first words were that I ought to warn people that this was not an issue open for discussion.

Anyway, here's how I opened one of my stories: (from On The Issues, The Progressive Woman's Magazine (1994). This was about the biased media coverage. It's embedded in a an Adobe document and difficult to find but if there is a outcry for it, I'll post it.
I started the story with these quotes:

"This amounts to a legal
kidnaping.,.. they are
ready to break up a
family because a late arriving
birth father
has the correct genes. "
Newsday, 12/9/91.
"It's the same as
if you said to any parents: I want your two-year-
old. Give her to me." The New York
Times, 12/27/92.
"'It's an outrage to take a child away after
two years of bonding with her parents,' said. ..a
lawyer. 'It's a travesty of justice.' The
Detroit News, 4/21/93.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

An Update on Rachael

I received a nice Christmas card from Rachael, my surrendered daughter Megan’s 20 year old daughter. This is the first communication I’ve had with Megan’s family in over four months. In August Megan asked me to stop sending her children birthday presents which I had been sending for a decade. I honored her request and didn’t send Christmas presents as well.

I hope Megan explained to her children why Jane was no longer sending gifts. I’m Jane, not grandma to them. Megan’s adoptive parents are on Rachael’s genealogy chart in the grandparent position. Rachael is proud of the fact that she is descended (sort of) from people who came up the Mormon trail. It doesn’t hurt me that Rachel doesn’t give me the privilege of being her grandma. She is a fine young woman and I’m happy to know her.

Mormons are big on adoption. The LDS Church pressures single women to surrender their babies or jeopardize their child’s chance to enter the celestial kingdom. Mormon Mother Marie Osmond has produced two songs “From God’s Arms to My Arms to Yours” and “Delivery” ("I delivered you from Heaven, from God's gentle loving care /And I've entrusted you to mortals who have wished and prayed you there”) to encourage these women to give up their babies.

Marie is not exactly a poster woman for Mormon Motherhood, though. According to Wikipedia, she married young and had a bio child; then divorced and re-married in the LDS temple. She and her second hubby adopted a child, had a bio child, adopted three more children, and had another bio child. Marie had a breakdown after the birth of the last child which she attributed to post-partum depression. She wrote a book about depression, “Behind the Smile”. She then adopted another child, making a total of three bios and five acquireds.

Several years later, tabloids reported that Marie attempted suicide. She and her second hubby divorced. One of her adopted sons entered drug rehab at age 16. It’s hard to imagine that these adopted kids would have been any worse off if God had left them in their natural mothers’ arms.

PS The Daily Bastardette has the video of Mormom Mother Marie singing the songs.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Fairy Tale Ending in Vietnam

Just a short and happy note today...to send you to a remarkable reunion story about a child stolen in Vietnam and the reunion many years later. As Jane wrote yesterday, the pressure to have more adoptable babies leads to all sorts of corruption and abuse. Children are stolen, kidnapped, bought and sold like sacks of wheat. Because all adoptions are glorified, we have people perfectly capable of having children thinking they will adopt some day.

Our blood runs cold.

If only those who would adopt would seek their children among the older children in this country who really need parents.

If only those who are trying to adopt and then are approved, only to find that they will soon have a child of their own, would then not adopt and at least let the child go to a family without children.

If only the state would provide more aid to single mothers and not act as if adoption is the only good answer.

If only taking a child from his mother did not result in such lifelong heartache.
--lorraine

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Birth Certificate or Certificate of Title?

The state attorney general of Louisiana is planning to appeal a federal court order to put the names of two adoptive fathers on their son's birth certificate. This comes from a suit brought by Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith, who adopted a Louisiana-born boy in New York State, where same-sex couples can be listed as parents. They now live in San Diego. So the kid was born in one state, adopted in another, and goes to live in a third with a falsified birth certificate that obliterates the names of his real, biological parents. Nothing new here.

Louisiana contends that the state is being forced to grant more legal recognition to the couple than required under the U.S. Constitution. It would be nice if at the same time, the state recognized that it was stripping an individual of his right to have access the identity he had at birth.

While I am against most adoptions per se, it does seem that if two guys, or two gals, are going to adopt they ought to be able to be listed as parents on the birth certificate, the same as heterosexual couples.

This case does pinpoint the folly of attempting to erase biological facts through governmental machinations. Messers. Adar and Smith may feel more secure because their adopted son has a new birth certificate. The new birth certificate, however, will likely do the very thing that amended birth certificates were attempting to avoid: cause little Adar-Smith “unnecessary embarrassment, pain, and disgrace” as he explains to strangers why his birth certificate shows the biological impossibility that he has two fathers and no mother.

It is time to repeal laws mandating or allowing the creation of amended birth certificates. When a child is adopted, states should issue an identification card showing the LEGAL parents of the child as well as the date and place of birth. The birth certificate should record the physical facts surrounding the birth -- listing the names of his biological parents, et cetera -- and be available to the child and his birth parents.

I admit I have another reservation about the case. I don't like adoption per se but if it is to happen, let it at least be with a mother and father, unless the couple is adopting a child that would otherwise be in foster care. I have no problem with gays adopting relatives or children with whom they developed a relationship such as their partner’s children. I know that many gays provide much needed help to struggling families through programs such as Big Brother and YMCA Camps.

However, I don't like to see male couples adopting newborns. Having a mother, at least a woman acting like a mother, is important to babies and young children. A gay man, Dan Savage, wrote about how he and his partner adopted a newborn boy in an open adoption in a 1999 book The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Get Pregnant. Several years later in an interview, Savage stated that the mother stopped visiting and they lost touch with her. The boy cried for her.

If nature had intended for men to nurture infants, it would have given them breasts. In the animal world, the males of some species are primarily responsible for raising the young but human males are not designed for the task. The one thing women can do that men cannot do is have babies. By adopting infants and claiming that having two fathers is as good as having a mother and a father, these men are trying to nullify women's special, natural role. As the public accepts this, we move one step closer to the re-distribution of children.

Another problem is that gays and other groups who were deterred in the past from adopting have increased the demand for infants. These groups include women over 40, single people, and couples who have their own children. The increased demand raises the cost of adoption which increases the adoption industry’s profits which increases the pressure on women to surrender their babies. It’s a vicious circle.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Adopted boy missing: for nearly 10 years.

One reason we think adoption sucks is this: Another horror story hits the news. Read about it here.

Consider this, a boy of eleven--an adopted boy named Adam Herrman--goes missing in 1999 after a "spanking" with a belt (isn't that usually called a whipping?) and his adopters do not report him missing. For nearly ten years. All the while Valerie and Doug Herman collect $700-a-month state adoption assistance because, they say, if they reported him missing the state might take away two of their other adopted children, Adam's siblings. They had already lost one child the state removed, so far don't know why. They don't want to talk about it.

According to Valerie's sister and the couples' two biological children, who are older than Adam, their parents punched and kicked Adam over the years, beat him with a belt buckle and kept him chained to the bathtub faucet. Valerie Herman denies the allegations but admits that he was sometimes locked in the bathroom at night after they found knives under his pillow when he was about eight. Read more about the adopter mother's denial of abuse in The Wichita Eagle.

Okay, all those pro-adoption people who are indeed loving parents will say this is an aberration. Point taken. But if the child had been born to the Herrmans, unless they are deranged, they would have sought help and different treatment for a child that is possibly schizophrenic. If a natural child away, they would have gone to the police immediately, not simply told relatives that he had gone back to state custody, a neat excuse.

A brother of Adopter Valerie Herman doesn't believe her excuses. Read a report from KWCH .
He thinks the child is "gone."

The boy's biological father, Irvin Groerninger, says that after a divorce when the boy was 18 months, the three children were removed from the mother's home after allegations of abuse. A trucker from Indiana, he then tried to get custody but welfare officials terminated his parental rights. Why does it always seem that the state is often so eager to terminate parental rights? The man is a trucker and some official probably sniffed his nose at that. Reminds me that in the Jessica/Anna case, the biological father was a trucker and that was always mentioned.

While we can't say that keeping the natural parents involved, or keeping the birth records not sealed, would ever prevented this kind of incident, the miscreants who uphold laws that keep records sealed might consider that being adopted is not the same as being born into a family. Whatever arrangements Groerninger would have made, they were almost certainly going to be better than locking the kid in the bathroom and/or chaining him to the faucet. And if he had gone missing, it's likely that someone would have noticed.

Can we blame family members for not being more vigilant about what happened to their "nephew"? Perhaps. A simple excuse--he went back--is plausible enough.

But in a family not "created" by adoption, there is no neat excuse to cover up when a child goes missing. Family members know the kid can't be sent back.

This can now be added to the list of adoptions gone wrong--where nobody did anything until it was too late. The Herrmans deserve more than simply having the other children removed. They should be jailed for at least ten years. That's assuming they did not murder him. So far no bones have turned up. --lorraine

PS: For another tragic story, read Jane's comment that follows.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Now for more good news from Maine

I'm battling a sinus infection, something I'm terribly prone to and have been for years. Florence tells me that when I can feel I can finally put aside adoption matters (which means through the finishing of my book and its publication a year later, so that ought to be in three or four years) I will feel better and not be so sick so often. I wrote my first piece about being a birth mother in 1973 in a magazine called New Woman, and I hoped that all this would lead to open records. But though we have made progress, and I know we will reach a tipping point eventually and all states will have open records, I realize that I may have to leave this fight before it is finished.

As for this nagging infection that is hanging on through antibiotics and homeopathic remedies, I'm trying to not connect it to the fact that it roughly corresponds to the anniversary of my daughter's death a year ago. I was vigilant through Christmas but let my guard down at New Year's and I've been sick since.

However instead of more gloom and doom, I thought we could all use some cheering up and below is an email that I got from Bobbi Beavers in Maine. Over at the Daily Bastardette, the tireless Marley has posted many of the stories from Maine and they are a real upper to read. In the meantime, here's Bobbi:

Hi Lorraine,

I did not get elected either try (short 124 votes out of about 3550 votes cast in 2006 and short 50 votes out of 5106 votes cast in 2008) to the Maine House of Representatives [opps, I wanted her to get elected and send a small contribution to her campaign] but I got very well known by many Dems in Maine, which I believed helped us get the bill through along with [adoptee] Senator Paula Benoit’s and Rep David Farringtons’ efforts.

Love,
Bobbi

Bobbi, ecstatic in Maine, here ...


Just got back from all the excitement and celebration in Augusta - January 1 through today. Whew! No last minutes stays as they had in Canada - I worried about that due to the paranoia I developed over the past 4 years while working on this effort.

For those who wish to know who founded OBC for ME in February 2005, it was 3 parents of origin (Paul Schibbelhute of NH, Peter Jensen of ASCME.net and myself) and one adoptee, Cathy Robishaw. We had many parents of origin testify at the public hearings in both 06 and 07 but we were invisible and they were deaf to our words (less so in 07, thankfully).

I need to correct a figure in the news articles today about OBC for ME Day yesterday. Former Senator Paula Benoit (lead sponsor in the Senate) and another adoptee stayed until 5 PM - there were almost 50 adoptees of the 141 pre-registered who got their OBC (the young man from Florida call me this afternoon to tell me he was having lunch with his first mother - he had gone from the OVR to the Maine Archives, back to OVR to get his mothers marriage certificate and then to the internet and got the current address of his mother. He called her this morning from Augusta and met at noon in Lewiston, ME - tissues, please - and later he called again to have her tell me directly how thrilled she is to meet him - she had no other children, but the father did and he has given Dan his info). In addition, at least a dozen people who had not pre-registered came in and applied (will get their OBC's next week).

We were thrilled that Senator Lou and Pat D'Allesandro of NH (SB 335) came with their daughter Ann and Ann's husband to witness Ann getting her OBC. Search Angel Larry Maurice of NH came too and was madly helping people with their searches (via computer) all during our buffet dinner reception last night, prior to our hour of sharing.[Adoptive father Sen. D'Allesandro was the main force behind NH's opening of records.]

We were also excited that our prime sponsor, Rep David Farrington was able to join us at the Maine OVR for the first couple of hours. OBC for ME presented both David and Paula with Certificates of Appreciation and the law (Maine Public Law Chapter 409) printed on parchment paper, scrolled and ribboned.

The adoptee from California and one from Massachusetts have found almost all the info they need. Unfortunately Cathy did not get her fathers' name as most did not, and she already had her mother's name via a search angel. One of the highlights of the evening was when her 10 year old son stood up during the last hour when every one was giving their reactions to the day, and stated how proud he was of his mom for working on this law And her parents restated their support of her efforts, as well.

I'd be remiss if I did not also thank Carolyn Hoard of AAC who helped me write the Maine law (she did most of it - I tweaked it) as she had done for NH, tailoring the Oregon law to the adoption and birth certificate laws of our states.

This was a truly wonderful group effort. It just happened that I was retired and was the one able to work on it full time for 2 and half years.

Now to catch up on 200 new emails and 2000 old emails ....

Bobbi Beavers
Co-founder - OBC for ME
Maine Rep - AAC


Sunday, January 4, 2009

No Drama (so far, but the year is still new)

Happy New Year. I’m still recovering from a holiday hangover, with activities ranging from three trips to NY (South Pacific, a visit to the Intrepid Museum with my nephew who’s proudly serving in the Air Force, and two wonderful exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) to Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg to catching up on this year’s crop of award nominated films.

My sole resolution this year is “no drama,” from anyone, about anything, including myself. In a first-day-of-the-year e-mail to Lorraine I wrote, “I just want to turn it [adoption and everything connected with it] all off. My situation [my daughter’s almost four-year silence] isn't going to change; I just need to imagine it was all a figment of my imagination, every bit of it. Really, I've had enough...the heartache, the guilt, the wrecked relationships, the woulda/coulda/shouldas. The whole legal fight for open records, people outside the triad telling us how we should be (get on with our lives)...

For me, probably for most of us, trying to avoid all things adoption is like trying to not breathe, as evidenced in the following examples.

• My niece and nephew, now 25 and 22, respectively, indulged their offbeat aunt by joining me for a visit to the recently refurbished Intrepid Sea-Air Space Museum; my nephew’s currently stationed in Germany and his insider’s view added to the experience. Now I can say I’ve been on the Concorde. Afterwards I treated them to brunch at a chic, new midtown restaurant/lounge designed to resemble an Aspen ski lodge. As we ate our tapas my nephew was discussing his five year plan—his upcoming wedding to his high school sweetheart, perhaps reenlisting, two children, and perhaps a third by adoption. He was sitting directly across the table from me, and I must have had a stricken look on my face. He explained that even though I have a horror story (his words, not mine) there are still plenty of kids who need loving, stable homes. And oh, he wouldn’t adopt a kid from Russia. As long as he was financially and emotionally able to provide a home for a child in need, why shouldn’t he? I couldn’t argue with that, and told him so. When I shared the conversation with his mother she was just as surprised as I.

• One of my holiday traditions is to read all my cards from past Christmases—I note the people who are no longer here, friends with whom I’ve lost touch, the relationships I still manage to retain. I found a 2002 card from a former coworker, a man in his thirties at the time, who found his birthmother when he was 19. The card is something a child would give to an adult, a mama bear helping a little bear put on his coat before heading out into the snow. It reads, "You're just like a MOM to me...'Cause you're sure good at doing mom stuff! Merry Christmas! Love You!”

Michael and I bonded when I asked about a photo of a very handsome young man in his football uniform that was hanging on his cubicle wall. It was his biological father, who was killed in a car accident shortly after Michael was relinquished. I believe his mother was a cheerleader who eventually married, had three daughters, and divorced. At the time I knew him the relationship was very shaky; he wasn’t speaking with his mother. He so desperately wanted to be a part of his mother’s “other family” but he was treated like an outsider; for instance, the girls had a professional family portrait taken for Mother's Day and didn't include him. Somehow he learned that his original birth certificate reads "Baby Boy whatever-the-last name-was" and it hurt him deeply that his mother didn't even give him a name.

My relationship with my daughter was almost three years old then and we weren’t in a good place. Michael and I were one another’s support group...he wished for a birthmother like me, I wished for a reunited child who cared as much as he did. Sadly, but understandably, we lost touch.

• Next was the Op-Ed piece in Friday’s New York Times that Lorraine discussed in the previous blog. I was on my way to catch the train to New York so I just scanned it, but on my first read I thought it was brilliantly written, and made a mental note to read her new novel. But then I discussed it with Lorraine and…well, the previous blog comments say enough on the topic.

• Did you catch 20/20 Friday night? The program was devoted to Extreme Motherhood—women experiencing orgasms rather than pain during labor, mothers nursing their children till age six or seven, two women who have been surrogates multiple times for $25,000-$30,000 a pregnancy, and my personal favorite, women who covet “Reborns,” lifelike baby dolls that they treat like real infants and cost anywhere from a few hundred to $1400 dollars. And oh, you can get them made to order. Linda, a married but childless 49-year-old woman, took her doll for walks in a stroller, had a fully furnished nursery, would shop at baby boutiques for clothes, and even changed the doll’s diaper. When asked if she considered adopting a child, Linda responded, “It’s very expensive…you have to fly to Russia.” Um, no Linda, you don’t need to travel all the way to Russia to adopt a child. I’ll refrain from further comment except to say that I thought I’d heard it all until I watched this show.


• My husband couldn’t understand why I wanted to watch this program, but I couldn’t tear myself away from it. It actually dove-tailed perfectly with the collection I explored that afternoon at the Met, Art and Love in Renaissance Italy. Now, why couldn't I have been a descendent of a wealthy Venetian or Florentine merchant rather than humble Neapolitan peasant stock? The exhibit depicted romantic relationships from courtship and engagement to the magnificently furnished marriage chamber to the celebration of childbirth--gifts to the betrothed, the dowry (which of course still exists today, especially in Third World countries as well as our own culture) the elaborate wedding gifts, all very symbolic and beautiful. And I was thinking how I missed all that...no engagement, no diamond ring, no hope chest. My "dowry" from my father was a set of Farberware pots and pans. He didn't finance any of his daughter's weddings, never offered, and he certainly didn’t have the means. And I was thinking there's a rhyme and reason to all of this ritual; it keeps us...on track? In tune? It signifies the importance of friends and family, of connection and belonging. The ornate, finely detailed commemorative birth plates were simply breathtaking. My standard gifts to new babies are plate sets and pewter porridgers, they’re something the kid will use and perhaps save as a keepsake, but most modern mothers who’ve received them don’t seem to share my sentiment. Coming of age in the feminist movement, I admit I wasn't fond of the modern tradition of engagement party followed by bridal shower and wedding gifts chosen from a registry; if couples didn't set up housekeeping until after marriage, then I could see it.

There were other moments, but I’ve blogged enough already. My latest adoption-is-everywhere moment occurred this morning while reading The Times Magazine and comes from Joan Rivers, of all people. In an interview, Joan is asked, “And how is your daughter, Melissa?” She replies, “For a mother and daughter we’re amazing. The only time she really cried is when I sat her down and told her that she was not adopted.”

Now I know Joan didn’t mean it, and I know it’s just a joke. But I didn’t laugh. There’s nothing funny about it. If you disagree, please do share.

So much for being able to turn it off, eh?

Late afternoon postscript: My sister, who has occasional contact with my daughter, phoned this afternoon. I gave her an inch and as usual she took a mile, i.e., she provided an unsolicited daughter update. Yes, my daughter received my Christmas card, followed by a chuckle that wasn’t explained. I was simultaneously preparing dinner and cleaning out my closet so I was only half-listening, but I did catch “She doesn’t think of us as her family” and repeated the mantra my daughter has often shared with my sister, “Linda didn’t give me to [her adoptive parents], United Family [the adoption agency] did.” Then I heard, “And if you only made a phone call that time all of this would be behind you,” again a comment from my daughter via my sister. I really have no idea why I was supposed to call or when, but more importantly, I didn’t let it—or them—get to me.

Actually, not being considered family felt liberating; I’m free of guilt; my penance is complete—for now. Best of all, my No Drama resolution was tested and I stood firm, at least on this fourth day of what is sure to be an interesting, surprising year.