Demons in Adoption

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

What is in those agency files on birth/first mothers? Are they going to hang us?

So what does a birth/first mother's file that is released to her relinquished-and-adopted child read like? Over the weekend I heard from a close friend who is both a searcher for private clients, and also a confidential intermediary in a Midwestern state. She has successfully completed hundreds of searches, and is very involved in the legislative fight to open the sealed records in her state. With her permission, I am sharing her thoughts and a couple of examples of what most agency reports look like once released, with the names and addresses omitted:
"I read the blog and all the comments. I see both sides, I truly do, but it's been a 30-year fight [in New Jersey], and thousands upon thousands of people have already died without answers and without peace. That is what is truly unconscionable. I also checked out Mirah's latest blog [Family Preservation Advocacy]. I'm not sure if she is aware of what a paltry amount of information is actually contained in the social "histories" of adoption files! Newer files might have more medical info, and perhaps more (or at least more invasive) personal info, but the files from the Closed Era in my state have astonishingly little information. Even if the caseworker asked a lot of questions during an intake or exit interview, not all of the information ever made it into the file. Obviously, caseworkers being human, not all casefiles were created equal; some workers were more thorough than others, and some workers had obvious prejudices, but I have never seen what I would consider a complete, or even a comprehensive history.

"For instance, here is the sum total of "social history" from two of my recent CI cases, as contained in the court file (I have redacted the actual names and DOBs, although they are present in the copy I received from the court). I consider these to be fairly typical "social histories" from court files, based on the several hundred I have seen over the last ten years. In my state, all legal adoptions have a court file, but not all have an agency file. Private adoptions tend to have only a court file. Of those with agency involvement, it runs the gamut from a one paragraph history to one containing a few pages, but I rarely see what I would consider to be non-relevant or egregiously prejudicial data. More typically what is found is brief, observational, factual data, i.e. info on the parents and siblings, such as their ages, height, weight, hair color and eye color, along with generic educational and occupational information. I haven't yet seen a file that contained a detailed sexual history of a birth mother, let alone a sexual medical history. Even relative to the birth of the child being adopted, most files simply state whether the relationship between the birth parents was brief or extended. As for the reasons for relinquishment, most files contain the same boilerplate language (i.e. "X feels that an adoption plan is in the best interest of the child"), used over and over again in a variety of casefiles.

"This first one is from 1967:

NATURAL PARENTS:
    (Names, background, identifying data regarding parents if obtainable, reason for placement away from parents and their attitude toward adoption.)

[Mother's First Name and Mother's Last Name], [DOB] born in [City], State X.

This was a 9 month pregnancy, uncomplicated. 8 hour labor with a normal breech delivery.

The mother had a high school education

Father -- name not given, age 24, and is a high school graduate, college sophomore and in good health.   

GENERAL COMMENTS:
    (Suitability of adoption considering racial, religious and cultural background, etc.)

"This is a non-family adoption, the adopting parents not being related to the child involved. Both child and adopting parents are of the white race and Protestant Faith. It is felt that this child is a suitable match from the standpoint of physical coloring and possible mental potentialities. Your investigator recommends that the court issue an order terminating the rights of the parents, and placing the child for adoption on a year's probationary basis with periodical visits to be made in the home to further determine suitability of this adoption.   

"There you go! There's a complete social and medical history for you! Note, that no middle name or middle initial was provided for the mother, and there is no birth index in my state to gain additional information, such as the names of the maternal grandparents. No mention of aunts or uncles or occupations or interests, let alone any private, intimate details about the mother's life!

"And how about this one from 1956:
NATURAL PARENTS:
    (Names, background, identifying data regarding parents if obtainable, reason for placement away from parents and their attitude toward adoption.)

[Full Birth Name of Adoptee]'s mother is [Mother's Full Name -- except that I later found that the first name was spelled wrong], age 24, single and of the Catholic Faith. Miss [Mother's Surname] stated she did not consider marriage to the putative father and that it is necessary for her to work to earn her own livelihood and that she believes for the best interest and welfare for all concerned that adoption is advisable.

GENERAL COMMENTS:
    (Suitability of adoption considering racial, religious and cultural background, etc.)

This could well be considered an independent adoption placement, as tentative arrangements were made by the attending physician and the petitioners, but both the child and the adopting parents are of the white race, of the Catholic Group. It is felt that this child is a suitable match from the standpoint of physical coloring and possible mental potentialities. Your investigator recommends that the Court issue the order terminating the rights of the parent and placing the child for adoption on a years probationary basis, with periodical visits to be made in the home to further determine suitability of this adoption.  
"Note that with this one I didn't even get a date of birth for the mother, let alone detailed information about her or her family. And, of course, not a damn thing on the father. The above information was so useless that I had to request (and pay for, and sign away my life for) the information from the agency file. The first name was misspelled in the agency file as well, but at least there was a date of birth. However there were no names of any other family members. The vast majority of information was about the mother's physical appearance, education and employment, with some details regarding her musical interests. The maternal grandfather was deceased, and his cause of death was included, but there was no other "health history" unless you count this: "Her teeth are o.k. and they were even and white and very attractive. She has brown eyes which are o.k. except that she wears glasses for reading." In terms of psychological assessments, there was simply this one line: "She said she considered herself as having a good even disposition and she likes people and got along well with them."

"So there are some examples of "identifying information," "social/cultural histories" and "health histories" for you. I would say, "What a joke!" except that there isn't a damn thing funny about any of it. It's an atrocity is what it is."
Many people have different opinions about the proposed reform legislation in New Jersey and elsewhere. Yes, we all would like clean bills, with no disclosure vetoes, no holding back of the original birth certificate that in good conscience should be the sole and unrestricted property of the adopted individual. It was issued at his/her birth; by all rights it belongs to that individual. But if what is proposed is what we can get, it is better than doing nothing. And we--all three of us--support it. --lorraine
_______________________
Since we have discussed this bill ad infinitum in earlier posts, we are no longer posting comments that simply say: this is bad bill. This is not a poll,and I have no way of knowing if anyone who comments as "anonymous" is posting repeatedly. If you have something different and illuminating to add, we will post those.

29 comments :

  1. I hope the state involved here is not Illinois, where an even worse piece of legislation is pending, and a CI system is in place. It seems you have no problem with this friend of your remaining Anon.I for one have posted nothing as Anon here.

    I find it creepy to see information posted here from someone's file, even without names, by a CI who can see these files when the people intimately involved cannot. I think that speaks for itself as to why we need clean open records everywhere.

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  2. I support OBC releases - but then I think that the birth certificate should never be changed as it is.

    The one thing that your friend's research did not include was the fact that these were voluntary - (right) - adoptions. In other words, the mother was not in foster care or under charges that were brought by CPS or some other agency.

    Those records are much more extensive and are public record, to the child, because they are part of the adoption file.

    I was a Confidential Intermediary and know that this is true - at least in the southwest. I trained with the program at the Superior Court so that I could search.

    The recovered files, such as those your friend shared, those are basic. If any agency that is sanctioned by the state or paid through the state - CPS, DCFS, etc., - the files include things that are not flattering and are not always true. After all, I am not native american/mexican, I have never done drugs and I was never a prostitute. I also made the point of never hiding anything.

    I appreciate the thought though.

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  3. I had a long message posted and must have deleted it... but I just want to say that your friend is correct Lorraine. Not only have I seen numerous adoptee's non-id,but I received my own 4 years ago after citing HIPAA.

    The medical information was vague, nothing was mentioned about any sexual or ob/gyn records or history, although there was mention of that in my hospital records which I had also procured.

    while I agree that ideally these bills should only request the ObC for adoptees, this idea that our sexual history or possibility of being held liable for anything in those files is far-fetched. There has never been a legal precedence set to back this up - only someone asking their family members who are lawyer, while several of us have gotten legal opinions that indicated no cause for concern.

    My brother is the Chief of Obstetrics at a large metro CA hospital and he believes there is little or no possibility of a HIPAA violation by giving the medical information in our agency files.

    This will be an unpopular comment with some, but I will share that I find it frustrating that what is supposed to be an adoptee's civil right, now has some mothers insisting the sky will fall if this basic medical and social history information is given to our children.

    Quite frankly, 42 years ago when I gave that information to the agency; it was with the intent that it go to my son should he need or want it. I was not interested in protecting any kind of privacy regarding my family medical history to my own child.
    Dare I say that HIPAA was imposed upon me just as anonymity was?

    I also respected that should he not wish to meet me and still desire that information, he had the right to do so. I never felt strongly about needing to review it over the dining room table....it was always his for the asking.

    I get it about ideally not wanting this complication in a bill or contact vetos but I still trust that if Pam & NJcare feel a bill meets the needs of NJ adoptees and they're the one on the ground with this, I'll support it. some people seem to be losing touch with what open access rights are supposed to be about. sorry, it's not about first mothers.

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  4. Maybe I am confused, how is this different than the non-I.D. given to the adoptee?

    My original non I.D. gave names and ages of everyone living from my natural families, a long with educational level. It also called my mother attractive, and my father, "nice-looking" I read it to my father, who roared when he heard, "nice-looking" ---"I am much better than 'nice-looking!" he claimed. lol.

    It also described my paternal grandmother as being "high-strung" and full of "nervous energy" Which my father took issue with. It even desribed my maternal uncle as having "rickets" ? maybe, some kind of illness around the time I was born.
    It said both my parents had experimented with drugs. It left out the fact that I had a maternal uncle who was severly disabled, how I am not sure, but did not live past childhood, and anything uncomplimentary about my maternal grandparents.

    Considering the circumstances, I would guess that they were the source of the information, oh and it also placed me in the same Protestant faith of my maternal grandparents despite my mother asking for according to her, Unitarians. There may have been a dearth of Unitarians or they may have decided that my mother's wishes were adolescent and unformed, and didn't really matter. Which would have been keeping in form.

    It did give the years of my parents births, this did help me because I was also given my mother's age at time of birth, which narrowed her birthday down to four months. Although, since I had my OBC and the woman who gave me her address did so over the phone in about 30 seconds, during a very short conversation. Because as soon as I had the info. I squeaked out that I "wasn't looking for a mother" She, a first mother, upbraided me with, "Well she is a mother, she is your mother, so you had better figure out what you are doing here missy."


    That was a shock.

    Unlike most adoptees I know, my mother wasn't alleged to have musical talent and my father wasn't a pre-med student. My non-I.D. was all true with some ommissions to make me more palatable.

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  5. Hey Joy, sometimes those things are actually true; my son's father WAS a pre-med student (now teaches anatomy at a medical school)and he played the violin:-) I have artistic talent, write poetry and can sing.

    No idea what is in my records and do not care as neither me nor my son are going back there to look.They probably said I was suffering from depression which was true.

    You are correct, this is the kind of non-ID information most agencies have given out for years.

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  6. I have the sealed court records (court ordered opening) so I have all court documents but did not ask if there were papers not included in the court records. I was not an agency baby - mine was state.

    I was adopted in 61 and it includes basic info on both sides of the coin (adopting and birth).

    Birth family info detailed in those papers...
    Name/address of mother.
    Date of birth of mother.
    Occupation of mother.
    Name of father.
    Year of birth of father.
    Education levels of both mother and father.
    Medical history verbatim: Mother in excellent health. Father in good health.
    Requirements of mother on type of home to be placed in...there were 3 and they were all met.

    It seems like a tempest in a teapot based on what I received and what the concerns noted are. I am sure there will be some with much more details but really we were deemed to be blank slates so why include lots of info that would be a deemed useless under the blank slate theory?

    How else can we search?

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  7. I'm finding this confusing, too I do not oppose non-ID. It's mandatory in Ohio, though agencies don't seem to know it. My parents own ID consisted of "mother worked in an office. Father was a man (hehheh), blue eyes, Protestant, high school dropout. (Actually, he never made it to high school. His father made him quit school when he was 13.)

    My big gripe about current bills is the coercive nature of the medical form. If you don't fill out this form and send it to us we'll xxxxx. It's none of the government's business.

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  8. Maryanne wrote, "I find it creepy to see information posted here from someone's file, even without names, by a CI who can see these files when the people intimately involved cannot."

    Yes, creepy, but to me it's more about the CI being able to read these files and no one else; reminds me of Soviet-era movies where a KGB officer is reading from a file that the accused is neither allowed to read nor refute.

    But I also see Lorrine's point that much of the information in these files is generic and quite limited. It's just disturbing that the actual subject of the file is not allowed access.

    That said, after reading the many debates on this issue I agree that the NJ bill should be supported. I just wish these bills could be about access to the OBC, plain and simple.

    On a related note concerning adoption paperwork I wish there was a place where we could post any documents we have in our possession. The only thing I have is a subpoena for TPR. A repository of any documents given to the relinquishing mothers and fathers would be interesting, IMO.

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  9. big gripe about current bills is the coercive nature of the medical form. If you don't fill out this form and send it to us we'll xxxxx.


    But Marley, has anyone actually posted the verbage in this NJ medical form that implies that if it isn't returned, they will xxxx?

    I still maintain that there is no way for the state to take any kind of action against a mother who chooses not to complete that form. I'd like to see that language if it's there. Otherwise, it IS a tempest in a teapot.

    As I stated, in my case and I would guess most other mothers, I deliberately provided information that I knew full well was going to be provided to the adoptive family. My agency records stated that both my maternal and paternal grandmothers died of cancer; however it didn't say what kind. we all know that there are only a few cancers that are genetically linked.

    I never felt under any pressure to provide that information. Nothing was ever said to me such as "you'd better be accurate with that medical information or we're going to come after you".

    Let's see some kind of threat to mothers in that medical request form before making assumptions.

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  10. Here you are CarolC, straight from the bill. If a birthparent does not return the medical history form, their request for a contact and information veto is nullified. Sounds like state blackmail to me. Not that I have any sympathy for mothers who won't meet their kids, but this is not right.

    From the NJ senate bill from NJCare website:

    Access to the original, long-form copy of an adopted person's birth certificate will begin one year after the date of enactment of the bill. The delayed effective date will provide birth parents of persons adopted prior to the date of enactment with a one-time, 12-month period, beginning on the date the Department of Health and Senior Services adopts regulations to implement the bill, during which they may submit to the State Registrar a written, notarized request for nondisclosure or make such a request to the State Registrar in person. The request for nondisclosure would prohibit the State Registrar from providing the birth parent's name and home address, as recorded on the birth certificate, to the adult adopted person or other persons authorized to request the birth certificate. The State Registrar shall acknowledge receipt of the request for nondisclosure and shall enclose with the receipt a family history form requesting medical, cultural and social history regarding the birth parent. The State Registrar shall require the birth parent to complete the form to the best of the parent's knowledge and return it to the State Registrar within 60 days. The birth parent may update the family history form as necessary. (The family history information will be provided to the adopted person when the person requests a copy of his birth certificate.) Failure of a birth parent to complete the form and return it within 60 days, upon requesting nondisclosure, shall nullify the birth parent's request for nondisclosure.

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  11. Kitta here:

    Lorraine, since I actually have in my possession the medical file submitted by my obstetrician in 1968, to the adoption agency, I already know what is on the medical form.

    I never saw this file until a few months ago when I requested it from the adoption agency.

    It does ask for test results on sexually transmitted diseases and the results...of which I was unaware at the time... and a history of STDs...which was negative, but that is proof that some states were indeed asking.

    It also asked if I had tried to abort my pregnancy.

    I would be happy to mail this form to you if you need proof that these medical forms exist, and that they did indeed exist in the 1960s.

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  12. Kitta here:

    to Carol c: I agree with your brother. I stated in my letter to my agency, that they could not release my medical file to my grandchildren nor their guardians, who already know me and have always had access to me and my medical history directly. I told my agency we have been sharing medical history for decades, directly.

    I cited HIPAA, just as your brother said.My agency replied that they "were not a covered entity under HIPAA nor a provider and so therefore they could release my medical file, in its entirety to my descendants and their guardians upon request."

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  13. "It also asked if I had tried to abort my pregnancy."

    As young and stupid and naive as I was, I can't imagine that I would have answered a question like that if it were asked by the social worker. As it happens, I have had the opportunity to read my agancy file. What struck me were the notes that read "we're going to have trouble with this girl...all she talks about is the baby". Also (and I quote!), "every time something other than an adoption plan is brought up with maternal grandparents, the maternal grandfather would stand, announce that adoption would be the only plan offered and he would then exit the meeting."
    Would I care if my son read this stuff? Well, not really. But still--it's not any of his business...unless I share it with him.
    I just can't support anything other than release of the OBC to the person to whom it belongs. I'd allow a short delay in enactment to maybe appease the opposition but that's it. Anything else is hypocrisy..since, for GOD SAKE----First Families can be and ARE found through other means. First Mothers need to give these lawmakers a good spanking if you ask me.

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  14. file submitted by my obstetrician in 1968, to the adoption agency, I already know what is on the medical form.


    Kitta, this is what confuses me. I received my hospital records including the kind of medical questionaire you refer to from the hospital - when i sent for those records.(that was way before HIPAA)

    I also received another copy of my hospital records, not quite as detailed, from Booth Home. That one also included notes on the baby in the Booth nursery after we left the hospital and were taken back.

    However, when I cited HIPPA to get my own records from the Agency, they did not include any kind of extensive medical information and no hospital records. I had asked for medical and social worker notes and as I mentioned the medical history was pretty minimal.

    I guess my question is, how do we know if in the case of the NJ bill, that if medical information is requested to be be released, how extensive is it?

    I cannot imagine that the kind of medical questionaire you refer would be mandated to be shared with our children. That would most certainly be a violation of privacy.

    I think we need to pay attention to the details before we start shooting down a bill. Then we can be specific about letting legislators know that what they are mandating goes far beyond the basic non-id medical & social history.

    Again, I am just referring to the NJ bill here. Yes, we do need clean bills which only grant the OBC but we still have a 30 year old unique situation with the state of New Jersey.

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  15. My file was quite different from what is described here. Because my mother and I matched through the state registry (although we found each other independently on an online registry before the match was discovered) our situation is an odd one to say the least.
    My mother and I both agree that it is a good thing I found her BEFORE I had access to my file.

    I did not receive my OBC from the government but the "Health Certificate of Live Birth" which I believe is the thing people are demanding of our president.

    I was also given a document that allowed me access to my hospital files and anything from the agency. It was from that piece of paper. The agency didn't believe I had acquired the doc when I first called. They made me send them the original doc with the state seal before they would release anything. I warned them I actually had been given two of them and not to try anything funny (like destroying my doc or my file) because I would ream them in court I received many legal docs from the agency shortly after, files on my mother and my family history and a copy of my OBC which looks like my ABC but with different names.

    They smeared her throughout the file, called her crazy. I was sent about eight typed pages worth of narrative from her case worker at the agency during her pregnancy calling her everything from immature and reckless to disturbed and unfit.
    The caseworker's disdain for my mother was apparent from page one. She clearly felt that she was saving me from the perils of being raised by an "unstable person".
    She also claimed my mother went "Agency shopping" to find the best deal for her.
    My mother denies this.
    The caseworker's account is horrendous and full of what I hope to be lies. I highly doubt I would have bothered searching had I read the account before my unexpected reunion.

    It was bad. Probably one of the ugliest parts of my reunion. It left a sour taste in my mouth and a great deal of doubt in my soul.

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  16. One more thing, I want to say that I beleive in access for all adoptees for their OBC's. I also believe that every adoptee should have the right to everything in their medical history. I do want to say that adoptees who get everything in their file like I did should take what is written by a case worker should be taken with a grain of salt. Agencies lie and lie and lie. They will do whatever they can to paint first families in a negative light. That is what mine did anyway.

    I think the NJ bill is unfair to first mothers. Why oh why would anyone want to know about their first parent's (or any parent's) sex life? Gross.

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  17. Just the facts, Ma'm. Straight from the bill itself, the penalty for not submitting the medical history form is that the veto is void.

    From NJCare webpage:
    The State Registrar shall acknowledge receipt of the request for nondisclosure and shall enclose with the receipt a family history form requesting medical, cultural and social history regarding the birth parent. The State Registrar shall require the birth parent to complete the form to the best of the parent's knowledge and return it to the State Registrar within 60 days. The birth parent may update the family history form as necessary. (The family history information will be provided to the adopted person when the person requests a copy of his birth certificate.) Failure of a birth parent to complete the form and return it within 60 days, upon requesting nondisclosure, shall nullify the birth parent's request for nondisclosure.

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  18. Here it is...


    With full acknowledgement that this is not an ideal bill; would love to hear thoughts on implications of liability, privacy etc.


    http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2010/Bills/S1000/799_S1.PDF


    One statement which I found interesting was this one in the case of a mother filing a nondisclosure form. It does state the medical history form is "required" ,but further goes on to clarify that it's to the best of the birthparent's knowledge"


    The State Registrar shall require the birth parent to complete
    the form to the best of the parent's knowledge and return it to the State
    Registrar within 60 days.

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  19. I am all for an adoptee getting their OBC. In fact, I believe that mothers should get a copy of it, along with the ABC, or that the Amended BC, across the nation, all be ordered repealed and quit the charade of "as if born to". Let's finally tell the TRUTH for a change.

    The fact that there is a 30-year unique situation with the NJ bill only means that it will then become a model for other states. So, the things that are odious in this one will then show up in other proposed legislations all over the country, and will be amendments that are added to ones that are already in the statutes.

    The fact that mothers haven't seen these things, and haven't an idea is in these files, or that because there isn't something defamatory in one mother's medical file or social worker notes (doesn't mean that there aren't in other women's and they don't know it because they can't see them)and are unable to get their records seems to me reason enough to work to stop this bill.

    I have worked for 6 years to get what medical and social history things I have. I have been told over and over and over that they have sent me all they could, by law, but each freaking time I request, I get a few more pages. I just got 4 more pages of Social worker notes that I shudder to think that my son's adopters got their hands on, but fear that is so.

    I would say that before any piece of paper is sent to any adoptee or their adoptive parent, the mothers should first have the right to see for themselves exactly what people have said, written and commented about them.

    To me, this feels a bit like people looking up a mother's skirt and checking her teeth. It feels creepy and voyeuristic.

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  20. Kitta here:

    "It also asked if I had tried to abort my pregnancy."

    "As young and stupid and naive as I was, I can't imagine that I would have answered a question like that if it were asked by the social worker"

    To earthmother, neither would I...and no one actually asked me. Not the social worker, or even my doctor.

    I never even knew about this 'medical record".

    Therefore, I was shocked to see the question on the "Natural mother's medical history" form when I got it in 2009 from the agency. The doctor's reply was that I had "not admitted" to an attempt to abort my pregnancy.

    I am enraged. Not only did I want my child,and wanted to raise him, but I had made that clear to everyone including the doctor. I did not want an abortion.

    In 2009, I took it to a local chapter of a reproductive privacy organization, and they also thought the doctor was out of line.

    The entire medical history form was filled out by the doctor, and submitted by him to the agency while I was still my son's legal parent. I had no idea this medical record even existed. I had never seen it before 2009.

    it also had distorted and untrue information about my family and the natural father's family.
    The natural father wasn't there, he never met the doctor. So I know the "information" didn't come from him and I didn't give the doctor his name. The state didn't recognize him as a father in those days. Legally, he had no rights.

    There were questions about STDs and tests that I was apparently subjected to that I didn't even know about..like blood tests.

    Everything in the tests was negative...but I was never told these tests were even done.

    And now the agency has written to me and said they will release this to my grandchildren without my permission.

    This has nothing to do with OBCs......but NJ does have a similar law, and S799 is expanding the right to give out this kind of information to grandchildren.

    That is why I object to sections 5a and 10a in the bill...there is such a thing as medical privacy and when we don't even know who wrote the files on us,or don't even know the files exist, and we are not even allowed to consent or refuse or redact information there is something wrong with that.

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  21. I was one of those involved in NJ for a good part of the 30 years that we have been trying to pass open records legislation. Not all of us have gone along with the compromises. Not all of us have continued to support this bill. Does that make our viewpoint less worthy of being heard, even though we too have "paid our dues" in this struggle?

    I do not feel that passing something/anything on my watch is more important than eventually, maybe years from now, passing a clean bill. Search and reunion is not dependent on open records, so the "people are dying" argument does not really hold water. It is about rights, or it is not.

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  22. (sorry to be so longwinded but I am sending this in 2 parts)


    We are all in agreement that this is not a perfect bill. The idea that even if this bill passed that it would be a model for other states is far-fetched.
    That's not the way it works, especially since all of the organizations that get involved in the legislative process within each state (ie. AAC and BN) have learned what we are trying to achieve with these open access laws and that is to clean them up to only allow adopted people the basic civil right to their OBC.

    So ideas of what we would like to see down the road with all due respect, are going to take some time to accomplish. In fact, I would guess that repealing the amended BC or granting a copy of same to mothers will not happen in my lifetime. At this point, most of us agree open access bills should be about the adopte and not the first mother.

    However in this blog, Lorraine has asked us to specifically address NJS799 and speak to the issue of just what info is being requested of mothers or offered to adoptees, and will we as, mothers be hung? Jane and Lorraine already acknowledged that they are supporting the NJ bill and that they are aware that others are not.

    I know some of you have been in NJ and involved with the process for the 30 years and I have total respect for your understanding of the agonizing process to get to this point . It is a given that this is not an ideal bill.

    However, in reading this 799, I see nowhere does it state they will give to the adoptee medical records directly from the agency file. If someone sees that, please point it out.

    What I do see is that if the mother files a non-disclosure she will be sent and expected to complete a a family history form
    requesting medical, cultural, and social history regarding the birth
    parent. The State Registrar shall require the birth parent to complete
    the form to the BEST OF THE PARENT'S KNOWLEDGE and return it to the State
    Registrar within 60 days.

    That sounds pretty benign to me. If there is something in a mother's medical/social history that she doesn't care to share, how would anyone know to penalize her?

    If she refuses to do that - her non-disclosure request will be denied.
    Some may disagree, but personally I think a mother who brings a child into the world owes them this as a minimum. Also, access to the OBC does not have anything to do with whether or not the adoptee wants a reunion.Many adoptees do not wish to meet their mothers but just want basic medical information, so to say a mother who refuses to fill out that form that only has to be answered to the best of her knowledge wishes to only share that information in person, is a contradiction. You either wish to meet them or not. If so, share the information in person - if not - fill out the form.

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  23. The only other medical and social information that is shared in the event the mother is not available is extracted from the file - the file itself is NOT sent. Nothing like what Kitta describes as her medical questionaire, is being mandated to be sent. Marianne, I hear your point about it sounding like blackmail, but like you, I have no sympathy for mothers who won't share that information so I don't quite see it that way. Just a different POV.

    What it appears to me
    would be shared is what most adopted people are entitled to legally in most states anyway - non-identifying information. Usually that's pretty sketchy I'noticed with the adoptees that i've helped search. Never once was an actual copy of a document or pages from the file sent with a non-id request.

    Marley stated in Ohio and I know in PA, that it is the law that adoptees whether they want a reunion or not, have the right to non id- which can and usually does include extracted medical and social information. I seriously doubt and so does my brother, that information such as whether the mother considered abortion or had STDs would be included.

    Lorraine requested input as to what liability exposure would mothers have with this bill? And how about Marley's gripe that she sees no problem with the non id but feels there is a coercive nature in the request to mothers of medical information.

    is it really that coercive given the fact that it appears that if the mother doesn't complete the request, the information shared is basically the same as non-id that we all know is legally given in almost all states anyway?

    Thoughts?

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  24. kitta, also known as kittz:

    I think that if the Nj Department of Children and Families, Office of Licensing, Medical History Form were available for all to see, there would be some very shocked people.

    This form has been given to surrendering mothers, in some fashion, for years.

    this is the standard form that mothers will be asked to "update"..although they do not have to.The form itself is 19 pages long, and asks such question as sexual disease history:

    chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes, HIV, etc...not only at the time of pregnancy but ever in the lifetime of the mother...and also in any of her relatives. Her mother, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and of course, there is no consent required of the mother nor of any of these relatives.

    The adoptive parents do receive a copy of this 19 page document, and they do sign a disclaimer where they acknowledge that the information may not be complete.

    Whether this acknowledgement prevents them from being able to sue anyone...that would depend on the problem that comes up in the future, probably.

    I do think the questions are intrusive and a violation of the natural relatives' privacy. I wouldn't want a relative of mine answering questions about my "medical history" on a state form and writing down 'diagnoses" about me that I never saw and never consented to.

    I have a copy of S799 and the sections 5a(new section) and 10a(new section) given access to this medical history to adoptive parents, adopted persons, descendants of adopted person and guardians of minor adopted persons.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Kitta, right- but that form for surrendering mothers is not the medical questionaire would be sent. You're referring I believe, to the one that Mirah provided a few days ago? That's a different issue just as the extensive medical questionaire that your doctor completed was.

    My thought is that if the mother wants to reveal whether she's had STD's, abortions, etc - it's up to her - there is no way to enforce it if specific questions were not answered.

    I don't know- since the mother has control as to whether she choose to "remember" since she's supposed to respond "to the best of her knowledge", what's the big deal? And Mirah was looking into whether the same kind of release that is allowed the agencies could be added into any medical request form for mothers. To my knowledge, they were not suggesting using the same form that was given to surrendering mothers for the purpose of this open access bill. I'll check with pam on that unless someone else has already.

    ReplyDelete
  26. CarolC wrote:"is it really that coercive given the fact that it appears that if the mother doesn't complete the request, the information shared is basically the same as non-id that we all know is legally given in almost all states anyway?"

    If the mother who does not want her name released to the adoptee does not complete and return the form, her name and other identifying ID are released to the adoptee, not non-ID. I would say that is very coercive. Either fill out this form or we give your name to your kid against your wishes.

    No, I don't care about these women as individuals and think that all adoptees who want this information should get it, but as law, it is not good practice.

    These issues need to be separated. Unlike kitta/kitz/karen k., I do not have any problem with adoptees. or their children or grandchildren being given the usual non-ID medical and social history, which agencies have been doing for years anyhow. This has nothing to do with birth certificates, and should not have anything to do with them.

    It is connecting these two separate sources of different kinds of information into one law that is wrong, not the release of the information per se.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Maryanne, I totally agree with you - these two issues should not be combined in any Open Access legislation for adoptees.
    Unfortunately they are combined in NJ - and some are going to support it in spite of the fact that it's imperfect, and others will not... at least the open dialog about it has been helpful.

    Actually, I was trying to respond more to Lorraine's question of what is in the files that would actually be given to adoptees and how could it be used to hurt us?

    It's been an interesting and very civilized discussion
    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  28. The issues regarding the medical history in S799 are separate issues.

    I have shared my relevant medical history with my child and with my grandchildren. I have been doing that for decades.



    I do not want medical records on me sent to anyone without my consent. And I certainly do not want dishonest "medical information" sent to relatives about me. Nor do I want untrue medical records sent under my name, that make untrue statements about relatives of mine. That is not "information"...that is libel.

    I cannot understand why anyone would accept the idea that slander and libel are harmless. People do sue over dishonest written information, and there is liability. Just how far it extends depends on the situation and the damages. Liability can also be shared by several parties.

    As I have pointed out, and as Lorraine and Jane pointed out, section 5a is a new section in the bill that extends the release of non-identifying medical information. Section 10a in the bill specifically mentions and further defines 'family medical history' to be released to additional persons.

    These new sections are not dependant on whether the mother files a disclosure veto or not. These 2 new sections add more people to the non-identifying information law. they have nothing to do with access to OBC.

    I have a copy of the 19 page medical history form. It asks questions about *relatives* of the mother and father, including, but not limited to, their sexual disease history and also, 'anything else" that the natural mother or father might decide to add. The relatives are not required to be consulted nor are they asked for their consent.

    As far as liability goes,there is a disclaimer for the agency...but I would think that if natural parents are telling the state and an adoption agency personal medical history about their relatives, the natural parents might find themselves liable if the adoptive parents start talking about what medical history was on the form.

    Talking about the sexual history of one's relatives could get one in trouble. And if the 'talk" isn't true..then it could be slander.

    And the adoptive parents will have a copy of the entire form. They are given the entire medical history form. They are required to sign it.

    S799 extends the number of people who can get this information so that extends the amount of misinformation going around.

    yes, a natural mother and father could refuse to answer lots of the questions. But nowhere on the medical form does it say that they can refuse to answer.

    Most young people in the position of surrendering a child , in the presence of a licensed agency worker or attorney are likely to fill the form out, and even write in things about their relatives that might not be true...just to try to cooperate. Young surrendering parents are often frightened, intimidated, and fearful.

    they should have an attorney to represent them and they should also have a disclaimer of liability.

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  29. "Unlike kitta/kitz/karen k., I do not have any problem with adoptees. or their children or grandchildren being given the usual non-ID medical and social history, which agencies have been doing for years anyhow. This has nothing to do with birth certificates, and should not have anything to do with them."

    Maryanne, I have no problem at all with adoptive parents/adopted people or grandchildren getting non-identifying information and social/medical information. I have stated that it depends on how the information is gathered and if the mother actually knows what is being given out...so that she can consent or change what is written.She should know from the very beginning of her counseling what is going to be given out.She should be able to provide the information herself.

    Ob/gyn information is not 'usual' and there was no indication to me at the time of my counseling that my actual medical records would be released.

    I have stated that my own state, where I live now, has a medical/social history form and it is not intrusive. The mother herself signs it and it has a disclaimer.

    I have stated that when I was counseled by my agency I was told that a limited amount of information was to be given.
    I understood and was comfortable with that....until 2009 when I got the ob/gyn medical file with dishonest and also very personal medical history.... that the agency says they will give to my grandchildren....for no reason.

    If an agency ever gave me such personal history on my grandparents I would be very uncomfortable.

    When you say "the usual non-id-social/medical history" that does not convey a clear definition.

    From what I have heard from many adopted people and mothers the non-ID can range from a general description of education, physical description, hobbies, interests, talents, religion, employment, ethnic background and general health condition.(I helped to write this description of non-ID information into the rules and regulations for adoption agencies where I live) Or it can be very personal and biased on the part of the social worker.

    And I too have agreed that non-ID has nothing to do with OBC and should not be included in this bill..

    ReplyDelete

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