Friday, January 29, 2010

Birth Parents Granted Access to Information about their Sons and Daughters

More than 3,000 adopted people living in Queensland, Australia, will have access to their birth records on Monday, February 1, 2010--and what's more, their birth mothers and birth fathers will also be able to find out what happened to their children, no matter where the adoption took place. Yes, the law still has a stinkin' provision--the abhorrent contact veto. If the birth mother or birth father has signed a statement attesting to their desire not to be contacted, the adopted person is supposed stay away. But still, the adopted are entitled to receive a copy of their original birth certificates, which in most cases will contain the names of their birth parents.

A hell of a lot better than what we have here in most of the U.S. of A., land of the free. Where only six states (Alaska, Alabama, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Tennessee) have open records...and the rest with a crazy quilt of provisions blocking total and complete access. For how crazy a quilt, check the White Oak Foundation page. It's very colorful. In Delaware, the law states that birth parents have to renew their desire to stay anonymous from their own children every three years, and the other states have a mishmash of laws granting various amounts of access and hoops for adoptees to leap through before getting their records, if ever.

Gosh, adoption is supposed to be such a great thing, to judge by the rush to adopt from all corners (see the last post here) but then, being an adopted adult makes you less than a citizen granted the same rights as the rest of the population. Who dreamt up those laws? Oh, yeah, adoptive parents...in the legislatures of this country. Adoptive parents gets very upset when I say such things, and to them I say, Do your homework.

How many birth people (that does have a ring to it, doesn't it?, kinda like Village People) have actually signed such a veto in faraway Queensland is a factoid I haven't been able to track down (anyone know? leave a comment, please) but given our experience here in the United States, in Oregon specifically, their number is likely to be extremely small. Teeny, even. Since Oregon gave adult adoptees access to their birth records in November, 1998, only 85 birth parents have requested no contact while more than 9,800  have received their original birth certificates. People, that's fewer than one percent--slightly more than .8 of one percent we are talking about here.

Seventy-nine of those people--okay, most or all of them women--signed the no-contact forms before the records were opened (and I'm just guessing here, but I'm guessing with a certain amount of insider info, most or all of them were of the Mormon persuasion) and to them I have no kind words. Rot in your closets, ladies, in this life or the other is my thought this afternoon where the wind blows fierce and the sun shines today here on the eastern end of Long Island. Why are you so afraid of you own children? Can't you give them the time of day? 

Back to Queensland: "More than 3,000 Queenslanders affected by an adoption that occurred before 1991 are prevented from obtaining identifying information about their birth parents or son or daughter who was adopted," stated Acting Child-Safety Minister Karen Struthers. "The new Act will give these people the right to access information about their own identity or that of a son or daughter for the first time." But that contact veto? Ay, there's the rub, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald:
Adoption campaigner Mick Gray says while being able to access information such as medical records will be beneficial the laws "still have a long way to go". Mr Gray, 35, who is an adoptee himself, says the Act will still prevent him from locating his sister because his mother signed a veto to contact.
"To see the documents you've basically got to sign a waiver," he said. "They are still treating us like second-class citizens. It's a natural birthright to know who we are. It makes the adoptee feel shameful."
We get it. We hate contact vetoes because they are unfair, unjust, inane and unnatural.  The right to know one's heritage, to connect with people who are your people by blood by history by culture should be above legislation of any sort.

As I watched President Obama's speech the other night, I applauded when he said that finally he is going to do away with the inane "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding gays in the military, and let gay men and women serve their countries proudly.

Great, I thought. When is it our turn? When can we tear down that wall that keeps adoptees in the dark, birth/first mothers crying to sleep at night because they don't know what happened to their kids, if they are alive or dead, in Iraq or in college?

Justice delayed is indeed justice denied.--lorraine

18 comments :

  1. Kitta here:

    Contact vetoes are not just inane and unnatural. They criminalize contact between natural relatives. Contact vetoes take away the right to contact relatives if relatives can be found through searching.

    In addition, contact vetoes can be signed years after a reunion has taken place. So, if a parent or child becomes unhappy with the reunion , that person can sign a contact veto and the entire family on that side is prevented from contact....forever.

    Mick Gray should know. He has lived with this.

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  2. I am totally confused. I had thought that Australia opened their adoption records years ago, like the UK, at least to adopted adults. Or is it province by province thing like it is state by state here?

    The article linked states:
    "However, according to adoption campaigners, the changes are a "band-aid solution to a broken leg", as adoptees who view the documents first must sign a waiver saying they will not contact their parents, or hold the government responsible for any past decisions."

    Does this mean that nobody can even see their information until they sign a promise not to contact their relative? That is how it reads. Wouldn't that mean that one had to promise NOT to make a contact without any veto being placed by the other party? You don't sing the waiver, you don't get your information is how I read this.

    Can someone clarify these things?

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  3. As far as I know, it is a state--are they states in Australia?--by state thing there. Just like here.

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  4. Maryanne: I read it this way: that you can not get your original birth certificate if you are adopted and IF your birth/first parent or parents signed such a waiver. Not sure if everyone has to sign the waiver. Stories were incomplete.

    Totally must make a bloke feel good, huh?

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  5. Kitta here:

    I am a long-time member of the Origins, NSW group,an online group, which also meets locally in Australia.

    Several states in Australia have had contact vetoes, along with their "open records."

    From my understanding, the contact vetoes can be applied anytime, but if the adopted person or mother/father goes to seek identifying information, he/she has to agree not to seek contact with any natural relatives if there is a contact veto in place. There are fines associated with violation. Pretty high ones.

    If contact veto is applied later, the reunion can be shut down. Don't know how they would do that...maybe under threat of the fine.But that is what I read.

    The veto applies to all of the relatives on the "other" side of the family.If the mother signed the veto, then the adopted person would not be able to contact anyone on her side of the family. If the adopted person signed the veto, then the mother could not contact her child, nor any grandchildren, nor anyone else related to her child on the adoptive side.

    In the US, one state, TN, has a contact veto. I have heard from some adopted people who have been contact-vetoed there, that it is pretty difficult. It can be really hard to deal with, especially in small towns, where they have many relatives.

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  6. Slowly, but surely, adoptees and first parents will crawl out of the hole "THEY" shoved us into so long ago. Even if our fingers are bloody and raw, even if our clothes are torn and filthy, these so called second class citizens from around the world will triumphantly stand proud, screaming at the tops of our voices, "YOU CANNOT IGNORE US!!"

    Ok...just had to get that out. My point being, one day, those legislators will die off and the truth will see the light of day, at last. I really hope it doesn't take that long, but unfortunately, it may.

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  9. Kitta: Thanks for the explanation, of how the contact veto works in Australia. Delaware, as I noted in the post, Birth Parents Granted Access to Information about their Sons and Daughters, also has a veto that has to renewed every three years. I have not had any reports about how this has worked out in Delaware. Anybody know?

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  10. Thanks Kitta, for the explanation. Does the new law in Queensland work the same way? Vetoes are terrible, I know several adoptees who write here in the USA who are the "unlucky" vetoed ones, and in Canada also.These laws are unfair.

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  11. "I'm just guessing here, but I'm guessing with a certain amount of insider info, most or all of them were of the Mormon persuasion) and to them I have no kind words. Rot in your closets, ladies, in this life or the other... Why are you so afraid of you own children? Can't you give them the time of day?"

    Ouch, that hurts.

    Perhaps because I am a Mormon mother who relinquished her daughter, I have a bit of compassion for these women. I don't think it is always an issue of them being afraid of their child, but has more to do with the long-standing LDS church policy on finding natural families (which I personally think is morally repugnant, wrong, and un-Christian on so many levels.) You can read about it on my blog: http://letterstomsfeverfew.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/lds-policy-on-adoptees-searching-for-their-birth-parents/ The directive from the leadership coupled with the long-held belief that to even *question* adoption is tantamount to heresy within the Mormon culture, I wonder if many of these (possibly) Mormon mothers still feel alone, isolated, and wholly unworthy of speaking out or seeking contact. The social stigma of being an "unwed mother" still looms large in the LDS church, even if you were an "unwed mother" decades ago - it is a label that will never leave you in this culture.

    Perhaps because I have an insider's understanding of psychological warfare used against relinquishing mothers throughout their entire lifetime in the Mormon culture, I am able to view some of these women's choices in a different light. I am not condoning or supporting their choice in any degree. My heart just aches for them that they feel like their own flesh and blood should have no contact with them.

    (Just for the record, I think all contact vetoes are wrong. Period. Adopted persons have an absolute right to their natural families and heritage.)

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  12. The fact that President Obama is repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the military for homosexual people is great.

    When will it be our turn, you ask?

    Well, we are the INVISIBLE MINORITY. Our discrimination isn't even acknowledged AS DISCRIMINATION.

    When people use "bastard" as a cuss word, they really cannot look around them and know who they are bashing. Some people using this term don't even realize what they are saying. They are slamming a "fiction character", a person without a known father. That's the problem. THE MAJORITY OF OUR SOCIETY STILL BELIEVES THAT THE FATHERLESS ARE LESSER THAN THEM!!!!

    I also believe that President Obama has NO IDEA WHAT ADOPTEE RIGHTS IS.

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  13. Hi letters:

    We have written quite a bit about Mormons and adoption. Just put those words in the search engine in the blog at the bottom of the blog and you'll find several blog posts about it. Jane, our fellow blogger, had a daughter adopted by Mormons.

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  14. Could be a great way to get that pain in the arse in-law from calling...I'm heading to the courthouse with my list of people I want on my no contact list.
    Oops, I forgot, the only people I can banish from contact are family members that are somehow tied to ADOPTION - bummer.

    Contact vetoes are absurd. I can't even legally ban politicians and charities from incessantly ringing my phone to beg for donations, yet there are laws that can prevent family members from calling each other? Bizzarro....

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  15. Kitta:

    to Improper Adoptee, yes you are absolutely right. The contact veto is a permanent restraining order, and it applies to the entire family, even to people as yet unborn. The mother or adopted person who files one, can permanently prevent contact between relatives.

    As I understand the newest AUS law, the adopted person or mother has to agree they will 'waive the right to contact" the family member in order to get the family member's identifying information. If there is a contact veto filed, then they must not contact the family member....or anyone else in the family...under penalty of law.
    (one state in AUS had a 50,000 fine)

    If no contact veto has been filed, they can then contact the family member.

    Lo, I think that the state of Delaware has a renewable 'disclosure veto' which is different from a contact veto. The disclosure veto law allows the "hiding" mothers to individually sign a statement evey 3 years, I think, and file that statement with the dept of Vital Records(I think), saying they want their records to stay sealed.This prevents those individual mothers' adopted-away children from getting their records from the state.

    The disclosure veto does not prevent those mothers' children from hiring a paid searcher,putting a notice in the personals column,going to a search group, nor does it make it a crime for those adopted away children from contacting their mothers or any other of their relatives, such as brothers, sisters, grandparents, etc. if they are able to find their relatives. Disclosure vetoes do not criminalize the act of contacting family members.

    Hope I helped.

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  16. I'm just guessing here, but I'm guessing with a certain amount of insider info, most or all of them were of the Mormon persuasion) and to them I have no kind words. Rot in your closets, ladies, in this life or the other... Why are you so afraid of you own children? Can't you give them the time of day?

    Lorraine, although I would never deny contact, I can't agree that women who do deny it deserve to rot in their closets. Considering the various attitudes people have about birth mothers in general - from being brave saints and angels, to being slutty sluts who deserve to be shunned by society- it makes me sad that birth mothers who choose to deny contact would be condemned by other birth mothers, just because we don't understand it. It's all on the same continuum of myths and stereotypes. They have their reasons, and I imagine they're as varied and painful as the reasons we (all of use) surrendered our children in the first place.

    I want to be clear that this has nothing to do with contact vetoes being tied in with obtaining OBCs. That's absurd. Government shouldn't have anything to do with contact vetoes or permission for contact.

    There is no way for someone to escape painful realities if they're part of the "adoption triad" (I hate that term, but I can't come up with a better one at the moment). The shaming of a particular group of birth mothers doesn't help. There is no right way to do this.

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  17. Queensland can be a bit behind the times. Victoria as well.
    One mother told me that when she contacted her son she told him she was so glad he hadn't signed the Veto. He said "what's a veto"....

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