Demons in Adoption

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Opening Sealed Records for Adoptees: It is just, it is right, and it is time

My letter to the Speaker of the New York Assembly:
 
                      Box 968
                      Sag Harbor, NY 11963

Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the Assembly
Legislative Office Building 932
Albany, NY 12248

Dear Speaker Silver:

You are probably aware that there is a movement afoot to give adopted people the same rights as the rest of us: the right to know who they were at birth. Today there are two bills, one in the Assembly (A8410) and one in the Senate (S5269) which would restore equality to this class of people who were stripped of the right to know their original identities when they were born.

Though we have approximately 90 sponsors and supporters of our bill in the Assembly, it continues to languish in the Codes Committee. Clearly, we need your willingness to bring this bill come to the floor for debate and a vote. We are aware that nothing will happen without your support.

Lorraine
The reason given by legislators who are against giving this bill is that the state "promised" the women who relinquished their children anonymity. But that was never law, and so perpetual anonymity could not have been "promised," even if it was implied. Original birth certificates were not sealed when the child was relinquished, but when adopted. The difference is critical, clearly demonstrating that women could not be "promised" anonymity from their children.

The law in place dates from 1935, when under the aegis of Gov. Herbert H. Lehman, an adoptive father of three, he pushed through a bill that denied all those who would be adopted, and without their consent, that their original birth certificate be sealed and that individual involved take on the identity of the new family. It was bad law then; it is bad law today. Time had not absolved the inequities of this legislation.

The legal inequalities of this law are, quite plainly, massively unjust, for it allows--no, insists--that the state strip an individual the right to know his or her true heritage, without recourse and never return to him that crucial kernel of self-knowledge and awareness. Other than slavery, there is no instance where the state has taken away any rights of an innocent and blameless individual, without that person having a voice in what most clearly and directly affects him for the length of his entire life.

In 1980, after holding numerous hearings around the country on this issue, the then U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare issued a Model Adoption Act stating:
“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."
I write as one of these women, who--in deepest secrecy--in 1966 relinquished a child for adoption in Rochester. At the time, I protested against the "forever anonymous" provision of the adoption process but was told I had no alternative if I wished the state's help. So I capitulated and signed the surrender papers. I had no choice; I was not promised anything; anonymity was forced upon me.

In 1981 I was able to circumvent the state prohibition and  I paid someone $1,200 who had access to the state records. Within weeks, I met my daughter, much to her parents' relief, as her doctor had been trying to contact me through the agency in Rochester to no avail. Yes, I am one case, but there are thousands like me.

Even if the anonymity of the women surrendering the child was presumed at the time, how is this the state’s business? In no other area, does the state decide to “protect” one group of people while ignoring the needs of others. The state has never protected the anonymity of fathers when it was in the state's economic interest not to do so.

Other countries (Great Britain, four provinces of Canada) and other states (Oregon, Tennessee, Alabama, Kansas, New Hampshire, Maine, Delaware, Alaska) that have either unsealed their records, or never had sealed records in the first place, report no problems. Where this has been litigated in the courts, the courts have ruled in favor of giving adoptees their original birth certificates. Abortions do not go up in states when the records are unsealed. If you wish more information on this, I will be glad to provide the statistics.

As for the adopted individual, you may ask what does someone adopted gain once she gets her original birth certificate? After all, she, or he, will be the same person the day after as she was the day before, you say. Not really. Now that individual will be on a equal playing field with the rest of us, those who have never wondered, late at night when all the lights are out, the most basic of questions: Who am I—really? Remember, these individuals were never asked if they would chose to be adopted; it was a choice made for them. Giving them the right to their original birth certificates does give them some control over this most basic of issues. At the very least, it gives them a name.

I call on you to let the matter come to the floor for debate and a vote. I ask you to do this because it is just, because it is right, and because, 75 years after this punitive measure became law, it is time. 

Sincerely,  Lorraine Dusky 
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I don't know if this will reach Silver's sense of justice, but we have to try.

An issue for Silver in the past has been the canard promoted by the National Council for Adoption (NCFA), that abortions go up when records are unsealed. I've written him before with more detailed numbers but still no movement. If Silver wanted to bring this bill to the floor, he could, and would.

I am sending this by snail mail today, along with cc's to Gottfried and Lentol, two gatekeepers to this bill. (If you haven't read previous post about this, see Give the Gift of Life: Help give back your child's true identity. 

On Facebook Jeff Hancock is asking for letters by email to supply the main sponsor of the Assembly bill. That is fine, but I also urge anyone with time to also write these letters and drop them in the mail. They are effective. Please help. I read about the gays in the military and wonder when will adoptee/birth mother rights be recognized? Only when we stand up and demand in huge numbers.--lorraine                

5 comments :

  1. Thanks, Lori.

    I don't know if this will reach Silver's sense of justice, but we have to try.

    I know that an issue for him has been the canard promoted by the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) that abortions go up when records are unsealed. I've written him before with more detailed numbers but ....still no movement. If Silver wanted to bring this bill to the floor, he could, and would.

    I am sending this by snail mail today, along with cc's to Gottfried and Lentol, two gatekeepers to this bill. On Facebook Jeff Hancock is asking for letters by email to supply the main sponsor of the Assembly bill. That is fine, but I also urge anyone with time to also write these letters and drop them in the mail. They are effective. Please help. I read about the gays in the military and wonder when will adoptee/birth mother rights be recognized? Only when we stand up and demand in huge numbers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree - great letter, Lorraine!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Though-- this article most certaintly does address the adoptees inalienable right to know. Priscilla, for those who may not already know, there are some in the NY legislature and department of health who disapprove of searching. They are responsible for setting the backwards "Father Knows Best" policy that no one should search--only the registry. Senator Duane has problems with adoptees and first parents searching. UGH!! We've come face to face with them in Albany and we've even been accused of breaking into files.

    ReplyDelete

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