Sunday, March 20, 2011

Do birth mothers have the right to know who their children became?

Lorraine
It's legislation time in all of the states and provinces where there is any activity regarding changing the laws. A partial list includes Rhode Island, Missouri, Montana, and of course New Jersey and New York, two states were we've been involved in the process.

But as an adoptee (Robert Wilson) wrote to me recently, why aren't we working for access to the new name and identity
of the children we gave up for adoption for birth/first mothers also? It's a good question. Why not? Back in the old days, when I was considered a "young birth mother",  just in my thirties and not the "grannie" that some call me today, there was a push to open the records to not only adoptees, but to us first mothers as well.

In 1980--31 years ago! a lifetime--after numerous hearings around the country, 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.” 

We just about fainted with delight! Lee Campbell, the founder of Concerned United BirthParents, was on the committee that wrote the proposed legislation. Florence Fisher, founder of ALMA, and Betty Jean Lifton, both adoptees, and I went up to Columbia University to testify for openness in the late Seventies. The room where we testified was packed with people I did not know. Most of them were there to testify against opening the records, and let me go out on the proverbial limb...and say most of them were probably adoptive parents. A lot of social workers were beginning to agree with us, so I don't think they were the lawerly looking gentlemen and good ladies in suits I saw that day. I could feel the hostility when I spoke up on the microphone. A real live women-who-gave-away-here-baby! So that's what she looks like!!! OMG, almost normal. The term "birth mother" had not yet really crept into the lingua franca. In fact, natural mother was still being used, alongside with biological mother.


I don't have a copy of my remarks, but I'm sure I talked about how I was not given a choice when I signed the consent papers: it was anonymity or nothing. I've written before about being outspokenly adamant with my social worker when I discovered that the damn law said I was to be forever anonymous; I had been seeing Mrs. Mura off and on for weeks when she dropped this stinking bomb; I had no idea this was the case--dumb me, I figured that when she was 18 I'd be given her name and last known address, and she mine. Ha! In fact, according to the law of the land in New York, without my consent to this law, as it was, no caveats attached, my daughter could not have been adopted. Mrs. Mura said that "they couldn't help me," if I didn't got along with the bitter anonymity poison pill.

So here we were thirteen years later, and there was a possibility of undoing the anonymity? Hallelujah!

How It Feels to Be AdoptedBut we were not there yet. A joint Senate-Congressional hearing was to convene in Washington, and both Florence and I were asked to testify. Along with Lee Campbell and a few others, I was one of the very few openly out natural mothers. I can remember that day in DC as if it were yesterday. Before I testified, the National Council for Adoption, the anti-adoptee rights organization, a lobby front for a slew of adoption agencies, including all the Bethany Christian agencies and--oh, here we go again--the LDS agencies, came up with an "anonymous" birth mother who had surrendered a few years earlier. She was against opening the records; somehow if this happened, it would wreck her life.


I could hardly believe my ears and was quite riled up by the time I got up to speak, immediately after her. I made my remarks about never forgetting the daughter I had given birth to and felt I had to give up, as a single woman, about always wondering who she was, how she was--did she need me?--and if that girl I passed on the street who was about the right age might be her. By the time I went back to my seat, Ms. Anon was crumpled over and sobbing as her two NCFA handlers were comforting her. Florence and I were seated a couple rows behind her and I could see how openly she was now weeping.

I do have such a hard time believing that these mothers who are against open records, or who file vetoes, are normal, no matter what religion they belong to. Isn't  it normal to want to protect our own children? To know who they are, who they have become if we didn't raise them? Normal to want to have a relationship with them, unless they hurt us constantly and at every opportunity?

Some provisions of that 1980 act indeed became law, but the late Sen. John Tower of Texas, an adoptive father (and a famous drunk and womanizer in DC, why mince words here?), led the opposition to this provision—in the name of the birth mother who doesn’t want to be found. He succeeded. According to E. Wayne Carp in Family Matters, some 3,000 letters were sent to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare about the Model Act; 82 percent were against the Act in general; 90 percent of the adoptive parents who responded objected to the open records provisions. If we had 90 percent of the adoptive parents in favor of changing the law today, and writing letters to that effect, it would probably happen.

So while, yes, I would be thrilled to be working for openness for birth mothers as well as adoptees, we are having such a difficult time moving the chess pieces here for adoptees that I can't put my energy into birth mother access, as well as adoptee access. In Ontario, however, they did succeed at just that. Not only did adoptees over 18 gain access to original birth records, birth parents could ask for the name of their child once the child was 19. 

But alas, there is always a small minority who file vetoes, and Ontario finally opened its records in 2008--but adding that both birth parents and adoptees can file a disclosure veto. I could not locate a number who have filed such vetoes in Canada since the law went into effect. If anyone can, please let us know. As of 2009 (seemingly the latest information available on line), out of a total of 250,000 adoptions in Ontario since 1921, 3,700 filed outright vetoes--1.48 percent. Others filed no contact preferences, but neither can prohibit the names from being released. I do not know how many of them were adoptee vetoes, how many birth parent, and of that, how many birth mother. In Ontario, however, as in Oregon, it was not adoptive parents who stood in the way of the legislation as it moved forward; as Jessica, one of our Canadian commentators noted, it was birth parents and (in the case of Ontario) adoptees who brought the legal challenge to the original law, which did not have a veto in it. Rather than continue the fight and keep the records sealed during that time, the veto was added to the bill. (For more see: CNW.)

This fight to give adoptees the right to own their original identities is taking so much longer than I ever could have anticipated, that tacking on first mother rights--even though I surely champion the concept--I believe is more than we can accomplish now. Prove me wrong, that would be lovely.--lorraine
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Three excellent adoption books above: The Adoption Triangle, a history of the adoption reform movement and why it is necessary; Without a Map, a beautiful memoir from a birth mother by a first-class writer; and How It Feels to be Adopted, a collection of essays and photographs of adolescents and teens who are adopted.

44 comments :

  1. While I totally believe that adoptees should have their OBC's - I don't think it should have ever been a one way street! I have repeatedly said that mother's have rights too. That we have a right to know what happened to our children, their ultimate place and if they are ok - and been shot down, by everyone.

    Maybe we need to start showing solidarity by demanding open records with regard to the adoptees as well as the mothers - make it a two-way equal street! Then there can be no issue that the ones objecting are not mothers or adoptees - but adopters.

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  2. In a recent study on adoptees who got their OBCs in Oregon, not all were searching for their parents. Of the ones who were, 40% were not able to use their OBCs to find the parent they were looking for. For me, birth Certificate access isn't about searching for someone. Many adoptees, without the OBC, know their parents names and still can't find them.

    I just want to be treated the same as everyone else.

    Amending and sealing should stop and all people in a state should be under the same Vital Statistics law. Whatever the law says about accessing any given birth document should be the same for all mothers, all sons and daughters, all people. Making special rules for surrendering mothers or adoptees that those not affiliated with adoption don't have to follow is discrimination.

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  3. What I don't understand is why adoptive parents were even given a voice in this matter. This has nothing to do with them. This only has to do with first parents and adoptees, but the adoptee is the only one that actually matters when it comes to this topic. It was not their choice to be adopted, to have their identity stolen from them. It is the adoptee that everyone should be consulting. It is the adoptee voice that should sway the vote. Why must every decision be made for them by first parents and adoptive parents? Just more proof that people see adoptees as perpetual children.

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  4. and I don't have a problem with a mother being able to find out her son or daughter's name. I just don't want reunion or searching to be legislated. I think the law trying to govern who can and can't have information based on trying to control contact or interpersonal relationships between family members is a violation of every person involved's right to privacy.

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  5. While I agree Mothers should have the right to know their children, I strongly disagree with Lori when she suggests, "Maybe we need to start showing solidarity by demanding open records with regard to the adoptees as well as the mothers - make it a two-way equal street!"

    Not having your surrendered child's amended birth certificate does not prevent you from obtaining a passport, driver's license or other forms of government identification.

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  6. I also fail to see what a matter between consenting adults has to do with anyone else, even an interested party.What happens if they're dead? Are the two consenting adults then precluded for having the information or meeting?
    It's plainly ridiculous and seems from a distance to reflect the unhealthy hold adopters have over legislation, but you all know that, and over the lives of adoptees, even after they are adults.Who is it who needs to be protected..legislators,attorneys, baby dealers?
    Isn't it the role of a good parent to raise independent adults who can make good decisions about their lives? Why do adopters need control, what are they afraid of and why can't they let go?

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  7. "Not having your surrendered child's amended birth certificate does not prevent you from obtaining a passport, driver's license or other forms of government identification." This is a silly comment since all adoptees receive an amended birth certificate and are in no way hindered in their rights of citizenship. Citizenship rights and knowing your origins are separate issues since origins aren't part of the constitution (yet). Wonder what the birthers would do if an adoptee ran for President?

    Closing records is done for the sole benefit of adopters who buy children and don't want their ownership and lies messed with. It's a business proposition and has nothing to do with rights, humanity, adoptees, or first families. On the face it is nuts and you know it when you hear the arguments. I am not saying all people who adopt are like this. I am saying the crazies who froth at the mouth over closed records have deserted thoughtful humanity.

    Also any birthmother who didn't want her info out in the world would also not sensationalize her situation by testifying. Those poor women are simply deluded by agencies who are exploiting them. That is especially true these days with the internet snd pictures that last forever. Were I testifying, I'd ask her who she was kidding.

    I gave my son up in Texas in the 1960s and my agency did everything they could to help me find him. I guess I was lucky that way.

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  8. Amanda, the problem is that though in case of the OBC issue there is no need for adoptees not to get equal treatment, in some cases there is. "Normal" people have their ovum donor, gestational mother, legal mother and social mother all combined in just one person. If your "mother functions" are divided over more thanmore than one person, there really need to be special rules for that (same is true, but less so, for fathers). I mean how many mothers can anybody have? How many parents? And if they disagree who is the "real" one?

    NJABM, haven't you seen what happens when the adoptee is given the choice, and is not feeling anything for reunion NOW or so?

    Linda, Lori is just aiming for the stars.

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  9. The right to your own birth certificate and the right to know what became of the children you surrendered for adoption cannot be considered a legal "two-way street". The rights are not the same. I agree with Amanda's analysis. Still, I think Ontario has a good law except for the veto. Just for the record, though, the challenge to the original bill that resulted in this compromise legislation was not brought by adopters, but by adoptees and birthparents, including one who wanted to cover up an old affair.

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  10. Agreeing with you, Lorraine, adoptee rights to their own OBC is proving hard enough to obtain, without trying to tack on mother's access to the amended birth certificate. I do not have Canadian statistics but have heard that many of the vetoes filed were by adoptees who did not want to be found or contacted by birthparents.

    In reality these are two separate issues. Adoptee access to their own OBC is not really about search and reunion, although for some that may follow. It is a pure civil right to a document about themselves, period. What they choose to do with the information on that document should be their own business.

    Birth parent access to the amended certificate is just about always and only about search. It is further complicated by the various ways surrenders happen. Some are involuntary, for abuse and neglect. While all adoptees were innocent children at the time they were surrendered, there are different kinds of surrendering parents and reasons for surrender, which does complicate things.

    As far as search goes, most parents and most adoptees can search successfully and never see an OBC or ABC. Pretty much all of us reading this have found and reunited with our children without having legal access to any documents. Of course we have a moral right to find our kids, but legal rights are a whole other thing.

    I am for adoptee rights first, as far as the law goes. It is simple and clean, and tacking on birthparent rights or anything else only makes a difficult task harder.

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  11. New data included in the post this morning: I was exhausted as I was finishing up last night and so here is this today. Small other changes in post also:

    As of 2009 (seemingly the latest information available on line), out of a total of 250,000 adoptions in Ontario since 1921, 3,700 filed outright vetoes--1.48 percent. Others filed no contact preferences, but neither can prohibit the names from being released. I do not know how many of them were adoptee vetoes, how many birth parent, and of that, how many birth mother.

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  12. Maryanne:

    I vehemently disagree that because of the web is it somewhat a done deal that adoptees and first parents can find each other. In New York, for instance, it is particularly difficult with the exception being that adoptees born in New York City have a leg up since they can use the registration number to locate the original birth certificate at the public library. But my daughter was born in Rochester, and without the paid services of an unknown Searcher (who seemed to be able to locate just about anybody anywhere) I do not have the faintest thought that I would have been able to find my daughter, or conversely, she me.

    I am constantly in touch with both adoptees and birith mothers who have no way to find each other; Facebook is full of them. Terri Vanesch in CT in a good example. She has done everything but take out a billboard in the last year to no avail. She still can't find her biological mother who was apparently listed as "Clark" when she was born on Long Island. Troy Dunn of The Locator doesn't even like to take Gladney cases. And so on.

    The web has made searching easier, that is true, but it is by no means the route available to all.

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  13. No, search is not available to all, and not all searchers will succeed, but there are still paid searchers like the one you used in many places who have a good success rate. Also, having the OBC is not a guarantee that anything on it is true, as in Pam Hasegawa's case, and in some cases of illegal black market adoptions, the adoptive parents were listed as giving birth and there is no ABC so no trail to follow. Other adoptive parents have covered their tracks so well that having the name is no guarantee of successful search either.

    Yes, it is sad that many people who want to reunite cannot, most often because the other party does not want a reunion, but sometimes just because life is unfair. Ideally all those searching would find someone who wanted to be found, and all would have access to all records, but that is not the case here and will not be for some time to come.

    However, I stand by the statement that a lot of people searching have found, and that it is easier than it used to be.

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  14. SameOld:

    You wrote "all adoptees receive an amended birth certificate and are in no way hindered in their rights of citizenship."

    Yes, adoptees get amended birth certificates (if their adoptions were legal--I have adopted friends who don't even have amended BCs for this reason). But in the United States, if the adoption was finalized a year after the child's birth, and the amended birth certificate indicates this, passport applications and other government documents can be denied or help up in process. The Feds don't like the discrepancies they see in vital records, especially after 9/11. Yes, many of the people working in passport offices are idiots, but that doesn't mean adoptees don't have a problem. We are screwed by the policies that are in place.

    I have had quite a few adopted friends apply for passports and be denied because the Feds DEMANDED the adoptee's OBC, which is not legally available to them. My friends had to take up this issue with their elected government officials more than once. It is unfair under the law to be hassled for not having something we do not have legal recourse to obtain.

    I didn't have this problem because my afather held a prominent position in the Federal Government and I lived abroad. My passport application was finessed long ago. I am not going to sit around, though, and tell other people they don't have a problem simply because it wasn't a problem for me!

    For me, the OBC is about having rights equal to other United States citizens. I should be able to access a document that every other citizen can access. My OBC is as much mine as my amended BC. I agree with Amanda that it's not about searching. I found my nmom without my OBC.

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  15. Do amended birth certificates say "amended" on them? My bc lists my aparents as my parents, it has the raised seal of the state where I was born but it doesn't have the word amended on it. The only odd thing is that it is stamped with a date 10 months after I was born whereas I know originals are filed right away.

    Btw, I have never had any problem using it for any legal reason.

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  16. Amanda is absolutely right to say that OBC access is not about searching. Searching is a separate issue.
    EVERYONE is entitled to their OBC. No vetoes, no ifs or buts, no special privileges or concessions for anyone.
    Conflating that primary issue with other - yes, secondary - ones just creates doubt and confusion where none should be.
    It would be a very straight-forward matter if only befuddled and (mostly) well-meaning people would keep their own personal feelies out of it.
    It's NOT about thine, mine or anyone else's *personal* experience, but about justice and equality for all.
    Which means putting an end to the discriminatory practice of denying adoptees their OBCs.

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  17. @ Sameold- "This is a silly comment since all adoptees receive an amended birth certificate and are in no way hindered in their rights of citizenship."

    Really? It's "silly"?? Well, I happen to be one of those adoptees who CANNOT obtain my passport, because I do NOT have my OBC. I never had the need for a passport before 9/11, and I am now stuck in the good old USA. I have called Catholic Charities 3 times, as well as sending emails, in order to obtain my adoption decree. I now am forced to contact my state rep for help. DON'T tell me that this is a "silly idea".

    I had 2 states involved with my surrender and my adoption, and was shuffled between those 2 states until my "case" was settled. My adoption was not finalized until 2 calendar years AFTER I was born, because I was born in December.

    I KNOW that OBC's are sealed as a courtesy to adopters, I don't need a "lesson" about this. I have been in reunion for 24 years- I did not need my OBC to find my Mother. I need my OBC to travel, thank you very much. I do NOT have the same rights as non-adopted citizens.

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  18. @Robin -- you never had a problem with your ABC because it was issued at 10 months. It's when they're issued over 12 months that they're not recognized as legal documents anymore. I was legally adopted at 18 months, which left me having a brutal time renewing my drivers' license (even though I was a driver for over 20 years with no issues).

    The NJ ABC does not indicate at all that the people named on it are not biologically the parents. There's no 'Amended' nor indication that it's a new document. The only way I lucked out was that my adad saved all the court papers and paperwork from my adoption. If he had destroyed them, I would never have even known my original name.

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  19. @Sameold- there are many accounts of adult adoptees being denied passports. To say it is "silly" is insulting. Just one more thing non-adoptees take for granted.

    I personally had a very difficult time getting a passport. It was both humiliating and infuriating to be treated less than a citizen. I nearly had to ask my mother to swear before a federal judge that she gave birth to me. Luckily, it did not come to that, as I'm sure she would have been less than pleased to have to accompany me to the nearest federal building.

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  20. @ Robin- to the untrained eye, my amended birth certificate looks like an original. Raised seal and all. It is the biggest joke. Back in the 1960's, some states required the date of the natural Mother's serologic test for syphilis to be on the birth certificate. On my abc, it has the date listed 2 days AFTER I was born.

    I have my first Mother's hospital records, and there is NO mention of this test. She may have had the test at the maternity home, but Im not sure. My a Mom certainly did not have the test.

    The lengths to which the state goes to falsify our birth certificates is laughable.

    The only oddity (and suspicious to homeland security) are the filing dates, and mine falls into the suspicious category, because of the bungling of 2 states, and my adoption being finalized & filed with the state in 1967, when I was born in 1965.

    Unfortunately, I am not the only adoptee with this issue. It chaps my arse I have to go through all of these extra hassles to obtain a passport.

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  21. Sorry about the silly remark. I had no idea just how insane this country has become.

    I have friends who have adopted Chinese and seem to have no problem. Is it because the child needs a passport to travel in the first place? That would mean that it is easier to get a passport as an alien than as a born citizen.

    Now that children are assigned SSN at birth, does this make any differences and how does it relate to the BC issue?

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  22. I know the idea of natural parents having access to their children's records is far-fetched on this playing field.

    Still the denial is barbaric and inhumane and I am going to keep talking to legislators about it.

    For me it is about way more than the information, it is about human dignity.

    @ Robin

    I think mine was amended at 18mos. I can't remember. When I was young my birth certificate lacked the signature of my mother (adoptive who was listed) and had the word amended on it. I was thinking I got a short form like my sons, but now remember mine took 6 weeks to order from Sacramento where as with my son I could just walk into vital statistics and walk out with a b.c. (California)Yes, it did have that word on it and a date when it was officially amended, although that was the last little piece of the adoption. Mine looks very, very different than my sons despite it being from the same jurisdiction and on the same paper.
    I have never had trouble getting a passport but have had a passport since I was a child, soooo, I think with just renewals it is not a problem- my last one was issued in 2004.

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  23. It is true that at the time that Lorraine and so many other mothers relinquished, anonymity was not a matter of choice. It was imposed.

    However, the arguments for equal access don't add up. When they have been used (as in Ontario) they have NOT resulted in legislation that is completely equal and open. In Ontario the vetoes will only die out by attrition, which perhaps doesn't sound all that bad - until one considers that *only* birth parents or adopted people involved in an adoption that was finalized *after* September 1 2008 will escape the possibility of having a disclosure veto slapped upon them. Which means that someone who is only three years old now could be vetoed in the future. Not so pretty when you think about it.

    !/2 assed incrementalism has nothing to do with restoring civil rights to adoptees as a whole. It really is a case where sacrificing the few for the many just puts a fancy new face on the discrimination and stigma that continues to exist behind the mask.

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  24. About the status of children borh in China . . . a child born and abandoned in China has no legitimate birth certificate except the one the PRC cooked up for her guessing at things. Your child is issued a PRC passport and immigration paper to travel overseas. Once in the US, some a-parents apply for a certificate of foreign birth as well as citizenship. In Canada, you can't apply for a new birth certificate, so your daughter's main identification becomes her permanent residency card or citizenship card, as well as the original landing paper which confirms her birth in China.

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  25. SameOld wrote:"I gave my son up in Texas in the 1960s and my agency did everything they could to help me find him. I guess I was lucky that way."

    Well, I guess I've been incredibly lucky ,too. Not only was my ABC filed in an acceptable amount of time that I haven't had any problems with it, but mine was a private adoption and the attorney flat out told my aparents my first mother's name and all kinds of identifying information about her. There was no assumption that she was to have anonymity.

    The situations so many adoptees are dealing with are unconscionable. I did not realize that so many people had problems with issues like passports and drivers licenses, etc. However, LUCK should have nothing to do with it.These are our RIGHTS as citizens.

    @Linda,
    Yes, when I look more closely at my ABC it is probably different than someone born in my home state who was not given up for adoption. Some of the spaces asking for pretty basic information are left blank. Am I supposed to be grateful that the state made me legitimate?

    And thank you to everyone who answered my questions about the ABC.

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  26. Thanks Lorraine. This hit a nerve with me.

    No question. Adopted people having equal access to their OBCs is priority and adding our access to their birth certificates, OBC or ABC, won't help that.

    However, I have wanted my son's OBC since the day I signed it. I'm his mother, I signed it and the information on it when I signed it accurately reflected the circumstances of his birth. Maybe it was changed after I signed it but even it was, I want a copy.

    I've seen his ABC and it's fiction. Maybe having a copy of his OBC will allow me to say, to myself mostly, that this is who is was when he was born and these are the circumstances of his birth. I haven't forgotten and I don't buy Catholic Charities's version.

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  27. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome. The pending and current legislation has become increasingly convoluted, to the point where the IL Legislation was 85 pages long. I feel that one reason for these increasingly complicated bills being written is that they have to cover their omissions and the one that is most glaring is the omission of equality in them. They leave out one of the principle parties to the action, the natural parents.

    Equal protection under the law is a Constitutional Guarantee (14th Amendment) and that does NOT mean protection of the parties to adoption from each other, but equal protection from governmental interference, which these laws clearly do. If identifying information(BC) is given to one party or two parties (adoptee and adopter) logic dictates that for this to be equal, the natural parents must be given equal identifying information (ABC).

    If one removes the "personal" from this, and understands that it is NOT the right to search or even searching information, although, as Maryanne says, it can be used for that purpose. However, what it actually is is information that identifies You, includes your name and other information about you, and to which you are a party.

    The ABC is NOT a total fiction. In fact, the only thing on it that IS fiction is the change of names of the parents. The legal name of the adoptee is correct. The birth information that it includes is correct. The only thing that is NOT correct is the names of the parents, most often. And, it has the legal name of the same child that is named on the Original Birth Certificate. All named parties on both certificates should have equal access to both documents in order for a law to be just. If a woman, as Jeanne says, has no desire to obtain the ABC seeing it as nothing more than fiction, then she has every right to not get one. However, there are many of us who see this as a much larger issue and DO want access to identifying information on our children, whether or not we ever choose to search for them. By denying this as a cause or the importance of this right to equal protection (access) we are again putting one person's desire ahead of what is just, which is exactly what the industry is doing.

    And, I cannot agree with the idea that by complicating the requests we will be impeding progress on legislation to open the records. I don't think that most leggies want to be associated with a bill that will not pass a challenge in court as these most certainly will eventually, and unless they are just and fair, they will not.

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  28. Maryanne, You said:

    "Birth parent access to the amended certificate is just about always and only about search. It is further complicated by the various ways surrenders happen. Some are involuntary, for abuse and neglect. While all adoptees were innocent children at the time they were surrendered, there are different kinds of surrendering parents and reasons for surrender, which does complicate things."

    this is not true. it matters not what the reason why a woman surrenders, since surrender is NOT a CRIME. this is conflating the TPR's with voluntary surrender. They are not the same,nor will the records show them to be. In the case of TPR there may be a crime attached but surrendering mothers usually had done nothing wrong, other than to become pregnant outside of marriage.

    have been held accountable for decades, guilty as charged without ever having a trial. Access to the ABC will prove that mothers committed no crime.

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  29. Thanks for all the discussion, peeps. Food for thought. I especially liked the anonymous comment:
    "It would be a very straight-forward matter if only befuddled and (mostly) well-meaning people would keep their own personal feelies out of it.
    It's NOT about thine, mine or anyone else's *personal* experience, but about justice and equality for all.
    Which means putting an end to the discriminatory practice of denying adoptees their OBCs."

    An excellent summation of the problem with incremental legislation which still limits different classes of adoptees based upon arbitrary division such as year of birth. Yes, it's difficult to remain calm, clear-headed and logical when trying to legislate issues which carry so much emotional punch.

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  30. Sandy wrote:" Access to the ABC will prove that mothers committed no crime."

    What? Who said we committed a crime anyhow? And how will access to the amended BC prove we did not? This is really taking the discussion far afield.

    Introducing birthparent access to the adoptee's amended birth certificate is legally problematic. It is NOT our document the way the original birth certificate is the adoptee's own document, and arguments are different. The two things can't be conflated as "equal access" because you are talking about different kinds of issues.

    Mixing the two together is just one more way to complicate a simple issue, adoptee rights to their own original birth certificate.

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  31. Conflating Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights, which may include criminal activity on the part of the natural mother, and "Voluntary" Surrender is the same scare tactic that the industry uses to justify their actions.

    Sorry for the confusion. Got a new laptop and the keyboard is a little different and things feel odd. That combined with a certain amount of frustration with entire sentences disappearing for no apparent reason (grrrrrr!) does little for my clarity of thought. Sorry, Lorraine. Hope that clears things up.

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  32. Kitta here:

    Lorraine: TPR stands for termination of parental rights. The parental rights of all mothers whose children are adopted by other people must first be terminated by the court.

    If the mother has signed a "surrender" or "relinquishment" (like you and most of us did)then the action is considered "voluntary."(Even though we were pressured) "Voluntary surrenders/relinquishments" are processed through a court procedure that does NOT involve accusations of crime/abuse against the mother in the courts.

    If the mother has her parental rights "involuntarily terminated" against her will, this is a different court procedure. There will be a different court procedure with different records, hearings,laws,attorneys, and findings. There is even a different court for these cases in some states, because there will be accusations of abuse and crime, and possible penalties against the mother, if she loses.

    I have attended a couple of these "involuntary TPR" hearings for parents who were fighting the system in my state. It was more like a regular trial where lawyers were trying to prove the parents were criminals.

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  33. Kitta here:

    Maryanne said:


    "Birth parent access to the amended certificate is just about always and only about search. It is further complicated by the various ways surrenders happen. Some are involuntary, for abuse and neglect..."


    The above is your comment, on March 21.

    Sandy was responding to this comment, I believe.
    But, legally, a "surrender" is "voluntary"...and not processed through a court for abuse or neglect.

    The body of law for involuntary termination is found in a different section in the state statute books, since it involves different procedures and it does often involve government agencies that are investigating for possible abuse and neglect.

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  34. I agree with d28bob who said the issue was about “putting an end to the discriminatory practice of denying adoptees their OBCs.” The significance of the OBC is that it documents the most important event in that person's life. Birth and name registration are also inextricably linked with the rights of citizenship—giving birth is not. The OBC confirms who a person is—it is a “birth” certificate, not a “giving birth” certificate. Even if none of this information is available to the adoptee, that does not change the fact that legally, a birth certificate ought to be the property of the person born, exclusively so when the person becomes an adult (in my opinion).

    When parents are referred to on a child's birth certificate the language is usually along the lines of “parent named on the record of the child," which is itself revealing.

    In Canada, parents—any parents—of kids over the age of 19 cannot automatically walk into the VitalStats office and ask for their child's birth certificate. In some jurisdictions they need written consent from their adult child.

    Positioning the right of birthparents to the OBC after the child has reached the afe of 18 or 19—or to the ABC—as *the same* as the adoptee's right to his or her own documentation is legal bullshit. BTW, like it or not the ABC also belong in part to the a-parents.

    Finally, "equal access" is confusing. Some people are using the term to mean equal access to the OBC by the adopted and non-adopted. Other people are using it to mean equal access by children and parents to the original or amended birth documents. Good luck to joe public keeping up with that.

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  35. @ Jessica, this isn't Canada, and we have a totally different form of government than you do. BTW, in most of the Provinces in CA that allow access to the OBC most, if not all, include the mothers.

    In most states the adults named or anyone who is related to the person on the Birth Certificate can get a copy for them. Usually you don't even have to prove it, just say so in the Clerk's office and it is handed to you for the fee. I live in TX and I know it is true here, since I was a Deputy in that office. It is also true in IL where I am originally from. I believe it is so in most states. Becoming an adult changes nothing regarding a birth certificate.

    BTW, the birth certificate does NOT belong to the person, but belongs to the government. One can obtain a certified COPY of it but no one can obtain the original. Regular ones are kept in the County Clerk's office and adoption ones are in sealed files in the District Clerk's office, not with the regular birth certificates lest there be a slip up and a copy be given by an unsuspecting clerk. However, until the finalization of adoption, the regular birth certificate is on file in the County Clerk's office.

    In the US. the laws vary from state to state, but they are all different from Canada's as is our Constitution, and privacy laws. They really cannot be compared.

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  36. ""In Canada, parents—any parents—of kids over the age of 19 cannot automatically walk into the VitalStats office and ask for their child's birth certificate. In some jurisdictions they need written consent from their adult child.
    Positioning the right of birthparents to the OBC after the child has reached the afe of 18 or 19—or to the ABC—as *the same* as the adoptee's right to his or her own documentation is legal bullshit. BTW, like it or not the ABC also belong in part to the a-parents.""

    That's the way in Canada. In the USA, I can, at anytime request and pay for a copy of my 3 raised adult children's OBC and my adult children would care less. In fact would even invite it, saving them the extra expense, should they ever need another copy of their OBC. But such is not the case for the newborn I lost to adoption many, many years ago..who is now very much an adult as well. I am denied her OBC, even though at the time her OBC was created, I was her one and only legal parent/mother, before surrender.
    I'm glad I live in America where I can still get copies of my raised kids OBC, should I need to.
    So if the ABC belongs in part to the adoptive parent/s..would not the OBC 'in part' belong to the natural mother?

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  37. Kitta here:

    @Amanda:

    "I just don't want reunion or searching to be legislated. I think the law trying to govern who can and can't have information based on trying to control contact or interpersonal relationships between family members is a violation of every person involved's right to privacy."

    I totally agree. The "contact vetoes" that are part of the law in Ontario are very disturbing.

    And the state of Tennessee has a contact veto also.

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  38. Jessica says:

    The OBC confirms who a person is—it is a “birth” certificate, not a “giving birth” certificate. Even if none of this information is available to the adoptee, that does not change the fact that legally, a birth certificate ought to be the property of the person born"

    Well said and I have to say that I still agree with this. It seems to me that we still have people confusing "rights" with what is humane or compassionate. I feel that trying to legislate anything other than adoptees right to their own OBC is only going to impede and stall proposed legislation.

    This is one of those "it would be nice if" ideas, but it's certainly not going to happen in my lifetime and I prefer to put my efforts and focus on changing laws first for adoptees.

    There is no legal precedent that I am aware of in the states giving mothers the "right" to much of anything after our child's adoption is finalized, so why convalute things now while we have enough of a challenge fighting for our child's civil rights? JMO

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  39. To Kitta here...sorry, not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV:-)So what I meant was that there are voluntary surrenders, and involuntary termination of parental rights. The point being that TPR cases further complicate the concept of birthparent access to the amended birth certificate.

    I am in favor of birthparents searching, since I did it myself, but not of combining legislation for adoptee access to their own original birth certificate with birthparent access to the amended certificate. These are different and separate kinds of issues, not "equal rights".

    There is no legal right to search and reunite. That is a personal and moral issue, not the subject of legislation.

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  40. Sandy Young said -

    "The ABC is NOT a total fiction. In fact, the only thing on it that IS fiction is the change of names of the parents."

    My son's ABC is fiction. Many of the facts of his birth are changed (e.g., the hospital in which he was born was changed). If the only things that were changed were his adopters names instead of mine and his father I'd agree with you, but since that isn't the case I'm sticking with it's fiction.

    He and his adopters spent 25 years believing the information on it was true, until I showed up. It was difficult watching them struggle while they came to the conclusion that if anyone knew the facts about his birth it'd be me.

    If having equal access to his OBC had been a given when he was born it's doubtful that Catholic Charities would've been so brazen to have changed the facts about his birth.

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  41. "BTW, the birth certificate does NOT belong to the person, but belongs to the government. One can obtain a certified COPY of it but no one can obtain the original."

    Yes, we know that. Adopted adults want access to a copy of their original birth certificate as an acknowledgment of their full citizenship.

    I believe mothers of children relinquished for adoption should have access to their children's OBCs too, but the reason is different.
    That is why putting them under the same umbrella only causes confusion.

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  42. I am an adoptive mother of three beautiful children- all adopted from foster care. Here is my thought... I HATE that our amended birth certificates don't have their Birthmothers name listed. (I know this isn't the real issue you all are discussing, but it made me think of it.) My children are pieces of another woman's creation. I know it, they know it. It seems dishonest that I am listed in the place she once was. I didn't deliver them at that hospital on that day at that time. She did! I like that I am listed as their mother, but I truly hate that she was "erased"....

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  43. I have recently been on Mike Huckabee Show, along with 2 adoptees searching for our families.
    We hope that many people will see the desire of love we all want to share with those we are separated from.
    We hope to help many adoptees link up with free search angels & web sites in order to find.
    Our other main point is to make people aware of the need & desire for access to OBC's.

    Enclosed is the link to the Huckabee show (aired June 19, 2011) and a link to my face book search page looking for my daughter.
    if I never meet my daughter, I pray she knows Jesus so we can meet in heaven some day. During the meantime, I want to help as many as I can to find. thank you all for your support in anyway you do it!! You are my heros!

    Huckabee link-
    http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/huckabee/index.html#/v/1007024049001/black-market-adoptees-search-for-birth-parents/?playlist_id=86920

    Teri Beeler search page link:
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/February-15-1975-born-in-N-Miami-Beach-Bmom-searching-for-daughter/145768138820216

    Blessings to you all!

    ReplyDelete

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