Thursday, March 10, 2011

An LDS birth mother talks about her church, search and reunion, and the LDS position on such matters

Lorraine
During the last skirmish at the blog, we came across a blog that we check into now and then, Letters to Mrs. Feverfew, and we discovered that the author, a first/birth mother and also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) , was writing about recent posts at First Mother Forum. Melynda, author of the Letters to Mrs. Feverfew, was miffed because we had not posted her comments, but neither Jane nor I saw
them. Apparently there is sometimes a glitch posting comment, as various people have told us. She thought we were not posting her comments on purpose, but we had never received them.

Melynda and I then began an exchange and with her permission, we are including part of our exchange from her blog here today:
"I guess my unique perspective is that the sealing ceremony [of the LDS] should give adoptive parents all the comfort and courage in the world. If they truly believe the sealing ceremony joins the adoptee to their family for time AND all eternity, then what does it hurt to let an adoptee find his or her natural parents? I suspect the resistance to the opening of sealed records has to do with the secrecy and shame surrounding single motherhood, especially during the era of mass surrenders.

"In the early ’90s when I relinquished, I was told to NEVER tell anyone what had happened, that it would affect my chances at marriage and future callings or leadership positions. I was even told that I should not tell my future husband, who ever he might be. It was to be a secret and should remain that way until I died. If I was being told those kinds of things in the ’90s, I can only imagine what the mothers of early times had been told.

"One of the issues we struggle with as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is pride and in trying maintain the appearance of perfection. As you are well aware, many first mothers go on to over-compensate for their loss by becoming uber-successful in other areas of their lives. In the LDS culture, success is defined as having a perfect home life with perfect children and a perfect husband – anything less than that is considered substandard. So if a woman had been admonished to NEVER tell a soul about what happened or it will destroy her and her family, then spends the rest of her life in a very closed culture which reinforces prideful behavior towards “perfection” in the home, it is no wonder that she is terrified of what will happen if anyone were to find out. However, it doesn’t make it right. In fact, it is a great tragedy for all involved."
She also wrote more that brings new light to the subject of why the LDS officially has been so adamantly opposed to adoptees and birth parents who search, and has opposed any legislation, through their lobby organization, the National Council for Adoption, that would give adoptees the right to obtain their original birth certificates. For us on the outside, this oppostion has been maddening and damning to much new legislaiton. Our new friend wrote me in an email:
"In addition to what I shared with you about my experiences in the early '90s, there has been the compounding factor of stated LDS church policy in regards to first mothers and contact with their children.  I am sure you have heard it before, but prior to last November the long-standing policy was as follows:
Adopted Children and Their Natural Parents (p. 173)
Local Church leaders should discourage adopted children and their adoptive parents from seeking to identify the children’s natural parents.  When adopted children have genetic or medical problems, the family may seek medical information about the natural parents but should be discouraged from seeking their identities.
(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (2006). Church Handbook of Instructions: Book 1 Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics 2006.  Salt Lake City: UT.)
"I have known several first mothers of the BSE (Baby Scoop Era) who went to their Bishops and told them they wanted to search for their now-grown children. They were reminded of the  church policy stating that the only adoptee's family (note: NOT the adoptee, but their family) should search for natural family members is for non-identifying medical information. This was interpreted as also meaning the first mother should not search for her now-grown child lost to adoption. Also, these first mothers were gently reminded (and in one case not so gently) that affiliating with any organization (such as First Mother Forum, Concerned United Birthparents, or search websites) whose teachings were contrary to the church policy regarding no contact except for non-identifying medical information would jeopardize their membership in the church.

"That old policy coupled with the cultural practices I told you about was a recipe for disaster for adoptees who might be searching for information and for first mothers who feared their eternal salvation was at stake if their identity was made known. Add on top of that a heavy dose of blame, shame, and  the usual "you deserve what you got because you selfishly got pregnant" garbage and it is no wonder that so many first mothers in the LDS church are still afraid of what will happen if anyone discovers their truth.

"Fortunately change is afoot in the LDS church and the new policy which came out on November 13, 2010 states:

21.1.3  Adopted Children and Their Biological Parents (p. 180)Questions regarding the exchange of information and contact between adopted children and their biological parents should be handled with sensitivity. The legal rights and emotional needs of all relevant parties should be considered. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Administering the Church: Handbook 2)

"My hope and prayer is that armed with this new policy, I might be an instrument in helping some of the older first mothers find their way out of the adoption fog before they pass on. Hopefully as this new policy trickles down into the general membership of the church, some of these first mothers will begin to thaw in their attitude towards open records and such.  Hopefully. All I know is that I will do everything I can to bring this about, once I am done with this ^#$# dissertation on March 31. (Note: She is finishing her dissertation.)

Thank you for your kind words about my blog - I sometimes wonder if my daughter is reading the letters and what she might think of them. I don't know if I will ever get answers to those questions though. She is still very much the good LDS adoptee who is grateful for the "miracle and blessing" of adoption and doesn't see a need for me to be a part of her life. I struggle with her choice, but I also understand that is her Tao, her path to walk, not mine. All I can do is keep writing just in case I am gone before she is ready to meet me."
And isn't that what we all want? Our daughters and sons to know that we did not forget them, that they live in our hearts, day after day, year after year, and that one day we can be a part of their lives in friendship and true union, without hurting the strong and good bond we hope that they have with their adoptive families.--lorraine
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You can link to the blog we are talking about here: No Hat Tossing for Me, Just Singing Solo on a Blacked-Out Stage and read our entire exchange.

The book above, The Adoption Reader: Birth Mothers, Adoptive Mothers, and Adopted Daughters Tell Their Storiesis a wonderful collection of essays by first mothers, adoptees and adoptive parents. Full disclosure: I wrote one of the essays.

****And though this is a few days old, I want to share with everyone that Christy and Jason's Vaughn's appeal to the Supreme Court--to take back the boy they illegally held onto while his natural father fought for custody for three long years--has been denied. Looks like "Grayson" will remain with his father, Benjamin Wyrembek.  Good things do happen!

37 comments :

  1. Helpful comments to me and good references to have in mind when the LDS shows up. Unfortunately the guide's current language (2010) leaves everything up in the air. No help in a pressure situation.

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  2. I'm so glad we don't live in that era anymore. As an LDS person with many friends who are adoptive parents, they all have VERY open adoptions with their children's birthparents. The ones who adopted in the dark ages are all now being reunited with their chilren's birthparents and loving it. Just yesterday my friend was showing me pictures and talking excitedly about being her daughter's birthmother for the first time.

    As an expectant caseworker I would never, EVER, tell a woman considering adoption for her child to hide and never talk about it again. NEVER. How unhealthy. In fact I tell them if a guy can't handle the fact you're a birthmother, kick him to the curb. Open adoption has taken so much shame out of adoption, infertility, and out-of-wedlock pregnancies. I'm glad there isn't the stigma anymore that led so many first/birthmparents to feel shame for so many years. They deserved better.

    As for Mark, the church leaders tell their members they do not need to be directed and guided in all things. They encourage members to seek answers through personal revelation through personal prayers. So, I'm sorry there aren't any one-size-fits-all answers for all church members. Maybe it's because church leaders recognize every member and every situation is different and they have confidence in their members to decide for themselves what is best.

    And what do you mean you know what to do when the LDS shows up? How would you like it if I wrote, I now know what to do when Episcopal priests show up? I come from a family of many different faiths where we all accept and embrace each other for that. I'm sorry if being an LDS person doesn't make me good enough to talk to in your eyes. I'm glad Jesus feels differently.

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  3. What an insightful piece! It's great to hear from someone struggling with adoption issues from the "inside" of LDS. I've read quite a number of posts by LDS birthmoms, all expressing pain and anguish, but not one has been brave enough to dig in and help make changes in the system. I suppose it's partly because of the male-dominated nature of LDS, but all the more reason these mothers need our help!

    I don't suppose we'll see any real success in changing the church's policy during our lifetime, but it's great to know there is one LDS mom who is reaching out to others to help them. Fantastic!

    Welcome aboard, new friend!

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  5. To: The Adoption Digger,

    The policy has changed. Did you read the post? The only adoptions done at LDS Family Services are OPEN adoptions. Unless otherwise asked for by the birthmother. I'm sorry for these women who were shamed into silence in the past. This was wrong. That's now how it is today.

    To: Mark

    I don't live in Hawaii and know nothing about the law you're talking about. Just a reminder that a few "LDS" people do not represent the entire church or official church policy.

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  6. Marissa-

    You said, "Just a reminder that a few "LDS" people do not represent the entire church or official church policy."

    While this is true, you also have to take into consideration that frequently, it is LDSFS (funded by tithes and offering of church members), Families Supporting Adoption AKA "FSA" (run through and by local LDSFS offices), and NCFA (a lobbying ogranization that receives large amounts of funding from the LDS church) who are some of the most vocal opponents to open records for adoptees and adoption reform legislation.

    While the "few" LDS people who compromise these large organizations may not speak for you, they are certainly sending a very loud message to others.

    I for one, do not understand it. I mean, this isn't some morality issue we are dealing with. An adoptee having access to their birth records IS NOT going to keep them from getting a temple recommend, you know? So why does the church, through organizations such as LDSFS, FSA, and NCFA keep throwing so much money/time at the issue? Aren't there more pressing needs within the church, you know - needs like drug abuse, child abuse, etc., that will keep people from qualifying for a temple recommend?

    And about the "that's not how adoption is today" sentiment. It is true, all adoptions through LDSFS are open, but those open adoptions are not legally enforceable in most states. Moreover, the vast majority of them end up closing within a short time period after the adoption is finalized, leaving the the birth mother out in the cold with no legal recourse. Frequently, she is blamed for the reasons the adoptive family close the adoption - she did something or said something that make them uncomfortable or hurt their feelings. This merely compounds the disenfranchised grief that many LDS birth mothers live with. Open adoption is not the great panacea that LDSFS makes it out to be.

    Sincerely,

    M.

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  7. Adoption Digger -

    Thank you for the kind words. I am grateful to have come across this forum and other first mother blogs - reading other's experiences has helped me understand that my feelings, will difficult, were a normal reaction to losing my daughter.

    I think the reluctance to advocate for change in the LDS adoption scene has less to do with the perceived male-dominated culture as it has to do with the deeply engrained social expectations I talked in the post on FMF. Hopefully, as more of birth mothers and adoptees get the courage to speak up and speak out, change will start to happen. It might be slow, but it will happen.

    Here's a blog post I wrote about this very issue last winter. I think you might enjoy it:
    http://letterstomsfeverfew.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/its-time-to-try-defying-gravity/

    M.

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  8. Marissa said "The only adoptions done at LDS Family Services are OPEN adoptions."

    There are degrees of openness. Ten years ago when I was in a first mother support group, there was a birth mother who had surrendered through LDSFS. Under the "open adoption" agreement, she got a letter and a picture sent through the agency each month for a year; then a letter and a picture on her son's second birthday and on his third. Future contact had to be agreed upon by the parties. She was convinced that the contact would continue because the a-parents seemed so nice from their profile.

    LDS FS read letters the birth mother wrote to the a-parents and if they didn't like what she wrote they sent the letter back to her. She also sent her son gifts which LDS FS returned to her.

    With the letter and picture on her son's third birthday came a note from the a-parents saying "Good-bye. This our last correspondence with you." Of course, the birthmother was devasted.

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  9. I appreciate hearing a birth mother's point of view from inside LDS. I've often wondered the depths of the church's position. Was it a way to force the birth mother to suffer her shame? Was it a way to seal the adoption deal with the a-parents? Hearing that there was/is doctrine that supports their position, somewhat, opens the door of understanding for me.

    I surrendered my son through Catholic Charities and they made their position very clear in 1971. I can't say that I understand their position today but I certainly hope it isn't the same as it was in 1971.

    Their position on equal access to OBCs is hypocritical. They never promised me privacy, or anything else. They threatened me with the fires of hell if I ever spoke of my child. I guess I'm going to hell.

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  10. While I am no fan of the Catholic Charities adoption services that oppose access to original birth certificates (as in New Jersey), their position seems to be based entirely on what the bishop in each jurisdiction decides. I think it is fair to say the bishops' positions are at least partially--if not largely--the result of a misplaced desire to ensure the anonymity of priests who have fathered children. (That is why, by the way, the Church instituted celibacy--so that priests would not have to leave their fortunes to offspring. But I digress.)

    Yet in the diocese of Albany, the bishop has come out in favor of the Adoptees Rights Bill.

    On a personal note, I had requested that my child be adopted by Catholics, but I am forever grateful that I did not deal with a Catholic agency, but a secular one. Learning of the experiences of women during the Sixties with Catholic Charities has convinced me in this one small respect, I was lucky.

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  11. Lorraine wrote"I am forever grateful that I did not deal with a Catholic agency, but a secular one. Learning of the experiences of women during the Sixties with Catholic Charities has convinced me in this one small respect, I was lucky."

    Amen to that one, sister:-) I never understood why the Catholic hospital I went to did not send me to Catholic Charities, but instead to the state agency. Maybe they had filled their quota for that month? The birthfather and I were both raised Catholic. But yeah, DYFS was inept and nobody there seemed to give a shit, but they were not actively cruel like some of the nuns at Catholic Homes, or the social workers at CC. On the other hand, they gave my kid to third rate parents who were only nominally Catholic and the mother was crazy so maybe that was not such a good deal.

    My son and wife are agnostic now, as are the kids I raised.

    Ms Feverfew, thanks for speaking the truth about LDS social service from inside the LDS Church. I am still actively Catholic so I know how that feels, being very unhappy with a lot of what your church does but not about to leave.

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  13. "Currently LDSFD blackballs couples who do that. "

    Oooh really? They "blackball" them?
    How does that help the child who is now being denied access to their first parents? Why would the adoptive parents even care? They've already got the child?
    How does this help the first mother who has now lost access to their child?

    You think blackballing is all that is needed?

    That is the start of the issue here.

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  14. Good lord Marissa, we are not interested in trashing LDS; we have made that as clear as possible. But many have had less than positive experiences with LDS and their determination to keep records sealed, so yeah, I do not have a positive feeling towards them, nor do I towards Catholic Charities which oppose open records, or for that matter the ACLU where it opposes adoptee access to their original identities, as in NJ. I ABHOR THE NJ ACLU. (and I used to be a card-carrying member of the national org.)

    Letters to Mrs. Feverfew says she gave up her child in Nineties and that is not so long ago. LDS has a support/advocacy group that is opposed to legislation that is slightly more birth mother friendly than what is in place. If everything had changed at LDS, why would they oppose the bill in Orgeon? As they have through one of their support/advocacy organizations, the name of which I have blanked out of my mind. (Anyone care to post link again?)

    And if you have followed this blog you know that we hear many reports of open adoptions that close....slammed shut at the whim of the adoptive parents, who sometimes never appear to have truly agreed to keep the adoption open.

    And a blackball by the agency after they do not live up to even the slim agreement? Blackball so they can not do it again? Is that what you mean?

    Now are you going to say we are trashing LDS? Well, here is what happened to me at a Mormon-run list for birth mothers after two days when I begged to differ with the blissful birthmothers wringing their hands there:

    "You have been suspended from Adoption Voices

    "Sorry, Lorraine Dusky, you can not access Adoption Voices as you have been suspended. If you think you've been suspended in error, you can contact the administrator."

    He does not answer.

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  15. Marissa -

    You said "Jane, everything you said about LDSFS no longer happens. You admit yourself that was 10 years ago. How about focusing on what agencies are currently doing instead of what they did decades ago?

    This is blatantly false, Marissa. This type of activity has occurred within the last 14 months. I have first hand knowledge of a woman who placed a child through LDSFS in California in 1992 who had all of her letters TO and FROM her child redacted by the LDSFS agency. All identifying information like names, places, etc., were blacked out. Her child went through other sources and was able to locate her and they are now happily reunited. When the now-adult child asked LDSFS for his/her file, they were told it had been destroyed or not kept by LDSFS.

    I also have first-hand knowledge of another couple who adopted through LDSFS six 1/2 years ago in Ohio. They are communicating with the birth mother ONLY through redacted letters and a few photos every years in March at their request. To note: This adoption occurred in 2004. Not ten years ago. The most recent redacted letter was sent last month. Not ten years ago.

    While this might not be happening at your agency or with your clients, IT IS STILL HAPPENING. Please, DO NOT call those of us who are living these experiences in the HERE AND NOW liars. In doing so, you only perpetuate the culture of marginalization and disenfranchisement of adoptees and first mothers that has prevailed for so long in the LDS adoption scene.

    "I guess all you women care about is trashing the LDS church and LDSFS instead of portraying an accurate picture of what goes on."

    I do not see what this conclusion is based upon. I have found Jane and Lorraine to be very fair in their treatment of my responses to their honest questions. Like me, their issues are NOT with the theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, per se, but with the cultural practices which surround adoption and adoptee rights within the LDS culture. I think even you can agree there is a vast difference between culture and theology (there shouldn't be, but there is).

    (con’t below)

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  16. Marissa -

    You said "Jane, everything you said about LDSFS no longer happens. You admit yourself that was 10 years ago. How about focusing on what agencies are currently doing instead of what they did decades ago?

    This is blatantly false, Marissa. This type of activity has occurred within the last 14 months. I have first hand knowledge of a woman who placed a child through LDSFS in California in 1992 who had all of her letters TO and FROM her child redacted by the LDSFS agency. All identifying information like names, places, etc., were blacked out. Her child went through other sources and was able to locate her and they are now happily reunited. When the now-adult child asked LDSFS for his/her file, they were told it had been destroyed or not kept by LDSFS.

    I also have first-hand knowledge of another couple who adopted through LDSFS six 1/2 years ago in Ohio. They are communicating with the birth mother ONLY through redacted letters and a few photos every years in March at their request. To note: This adoption occurred in 2004. Not ten years ago. The most recent redacted letter was sent last month. Not ten years ago.

    While this might not be happening at your agency or with your clients, IT IS STILL HAPPENING. Please, DO NOT call those of us who are living these experiences in the HERE AND NOW liars. In doing so, you only perpetuate the culture of marginalization and disenfranchisement of adoptees and first mothers that has prevailed for so long in the LDS adoption scene.

    "I guess all you women care about is trashing the LDS church and LDSFS instead of portraying an accurate picture of what goes on."

    I do not see what this conclusion is based upon. I have found Jane and Lorraine to be very fair in their treatment of my responses to their honest questions. Like me, their issues are NOT with the theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, per se, but with the cultural practices which surround adoption and adoptee rights within the LDS culture. I think even you can agree there is a vast difference between culture and theology (there shouldn't be, but there is).

    [con't below]

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  17. "Letters: how is it LDSFS or any other agencies fault that open adoptions aren't legally enforceable? As a caseworker I wish they were. I cannot stand when an adoptive couple goes back on their correspondence agreements and I wish I could legally make them. Currently LDSFD blackballs couples who do that."

    I do not think LDSFS or any other agencies are at "fault" for unenforceable open adoption agreements. However, they frequently stand idle and mute on the issue. Their silence on the matter in bodies of legislation throughout the land is a tacit agreement of NOT supporting legally enforceable open adoption agreements. If LDSFS, FSA, and NCFA are committed to doing what is right FOR THE CHILD, then they should be the most active and vociferous supporter of enforceable open adoption agreements. As licensed social workers with LDSFS, one would assume the counselors would have training and understanding of the importance of protecting the child's right to have access to their family of origin. This includes ensuring open adoptions remain exactly that: open.

    Blackballed? What exactly does that mean? Is this a location specific policy or is it church wide? Where is it written? Is it even written? Are adoptive parents told this? In writing? Are birth mothers told this? In writing? How is it enforceable? Does LDSFS go by the honor system? Who does the enforcing? The investigating? The follow up? I ask these questions because I just witnessed this week an adoption that was slammed shut by the adoptive mother less than 6 days after the adoption papers had "FINAL" stamped on them by the judge there in UT (or rather, the court clerk). The reason: The adoptive mother didn't think the birth mother had the "right" attitude about adoption and told her until she changed her behavior she is not allowed to have any contact with her child. Who do I contact about this?

    You say you hate it when open adoptions are closed so what are you doing to ensure that it doesn't happen? Have you contact state legislators? Helped draft a bill? Do you keep track of your clients to ensure they keep their word with the birth mothers of their children? What do you do when they close the adoption? Who do you contact? Their Bishop? Do you put a note in their file?

    Marissa, I know it is hard to admit that all is not well in Zion, especially with difficult and sensitive topics like adoption. However, it does no one any good to stick our fingers in our ears and say "la la la la all is well in Zion, yeah Zion prospereth" when things are not right. And things are most definitely not right. Until and unless we turn over every stinking rock and bring all of this out into the light of day so it can be cleansed and healed by the fresh air of Truth and the light of the Son, the human toll of infant adoption is going to continue to mount.

    We are better than this, Marissa. As a people, we are so much better than this. Why are we so afraid to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about infant adoption? I believe our theology can withstand the scrutiny. Do you?

    Sincerely,

    M. (AKA "Letters to Ms. Feverfew")

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  18. Marissa wrote:
    "Jane, everything you said about LDSFS no longer happens. You admit yourself that was 10 years ago. How about focusing on what agencies are currently doing instead of what they did decades ago?

    Because the practices that happened years ago are still affecting many people today. And 10 years actually wasn't that long ago. There are still millions of people who were surrendered during the closed era who have no hope of finding out who there first parents are or any information about their biological heritage.

    Just because things in adoption may be improving at a snail's pace doesn't mean it is okay to forget about all of those who have been and are still being harmed by earlier practices.

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  19. Melynda/Lettersto...

    Thank you for your brave stand on this, and your comments. Our hope is that others who are true believing Mormons will come forth and help those in the hierarchy understand the hurt that they continue to inflict upon adoptees and birth mothers.

    One person alone can have a voice, but it takes a thousand women to make a mighty roar.

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  21. Marissa: The administrators? You do mean us. We are trying, but people are angry and yes, I am sorry, they are taking it out on you because you had the courage to comment here.

    I was pleased when I read your first comment because I thought we could get a calm discussion. On the internet, without having to sign one's name, people immediately get snarky and nasty. Jane and I both stand by our words and reveal our identities.

    We personally mean no disrespect to LDS. Or, in fact, you. We did find a bone of contention, however, with what you said about LDS today. And we do understand you do not speak for the Church or NCFA or any official body.

    But if we were not interested in the reality, or truth, would we have posted your comments, or those of Letters to Mrs. Feverfew? If we had not published their comments that took you on, we would have been lambasted every which way at other blogs.

    And nor have we banned anyone from our blog. I can't even read the LDS birthmother blog. The anonymous "administrator" has banned my email address from his visage so as not to sully his mind.

    I am truly sorry you will not be back because we can all learn from one another. I think the "black balled" comment, made in good faith from you, was a lightening rod for people who are deeply deeply hurt by unkept promises. But it is enlightening and heartening to know that social workers such as you exist within the LIS world, and change may blowing in the wind.

    signed,
    An administrator...lorraine dusky

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  23. Marissa -

    Perhaps I was not clear enough: The redacted communication between my friend and her nearly adult child happened 14 months ago. The adoption occurred in 1992. The redacted communication between my friends and the natural mother of their child the adopted in 2004 happened last month.

    I am certainly not trying to use you as a "punching bag" nor do I think you speak for all of LDSFS. I am sorry you feel that way. I am certainly NOT discounting your experiences at the particular location at which you are employed - I do not see why you are discounting mine, my friends, and the countless number of other women who were not fortunate enough to be your client. Perhaps if there were more LDSFS employees such as you, we wouldn't find ourselves in the ethical and moral quandary we do today.

    The trouble with my young friend who had her adoption closed this week is that she has *no* legal recourse in the state in which she surrendered, even if she did have a written post-adoption contact agreement signed a judge prior to the delivery of the child (like some states require). I am not sure how I can explain it any more clearly: In her state, post-adoption contact agreements are not legal and the law remains silent on their enforceability. Unfortunately, she did not know this prior to signing paperwork – she trusted her LDSFS counselor and the adoptive couple implicitly. After all, they were all good temple recommend holding, active members in the church and she was just “one of those kinds of girls” who “got herself selfishly pregnant.” She had no independent legal counsel offered to her and needless to say, she could not afford her own. Had she known the adoptive couple could at any time change their minds for any reason about post-adoption contact, she would have chosen to parent instead.

    Certainly someone as well versed in adoption ethics and practices as you are knows this but perhaps you practice in one of the handful of states in which open adoption agreements are legally binding in some form. I hope you are not trying to be intentionally disingenuous. I pray you are giving full disclosure to the single expectant parents you work with in regards to the non-enforceability of post-adoption contact agreements in nearly every state of the union. I hope you caution and warn them it is truly caveat emptor for the single expectant parent when it comes to the adoptive couple following through with their agreement. If you are not sure what your state laws are, www.childwelfare.gov has 45 page pdf listing every single state statute in the U.S. about this very issue. [http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/cooperative.cfm#_ftn2]

    I know that TODAY, in 2011, adoptions are handled differently at LDSFS than in years past. I have not disputed that. What I am disputing is your assertion that the exchange of redacted letters NEVER occurs any more. It does. Perhaps you do not engage in such activities nor the office or region you work for does not do this. However, this does not mean it is not happening for those who placed in years past.

    I am glad to hear that you support adoptee's access to open records. Perhaps more hearts will be softened and come to understand what you do about the importance of adoptee's having access to their original birth records. Even more importantly, perhaps people in positions of authority and power such as yourself will start to actively advocate for and in their behalf.

    Sincerely,

    M.

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  24. Marissa,

    You may consider this more bashing of the Church although it is not intended as such.

    You wrote: "The agency [LDSFS] has to maintain ... policies that were set in place when they were established, or else they risk breaking confidentiality that was promised to adoptive couples and birthparents at that time."

    Let's look at this another way. Neither LDSFS nor any other agency had any legal authority to promise confidentiality. All they could legitimately say to adoptive parents and birthparents is that records are closed at this time. LDSFS could not bind future legislative bodies.

    LDSFS could stand up now and say "we were wrong to make these promises. We know that keeping adult adoptees from having their original birth certificates is harmful to them."

    When Measure 58 passed in Oregon in 1998 allowing adult adoptees to have their OBCs, all the adoption agencies but LDSFS swallowed hard and accepted the change in the law.

    Not so with LDSFS. It filed a lawsuit on behalf of six anonymous birthmothers, challenging the law as unconstiutional. This delayed implementation of the law as well as reinforcing to Church members that women who gave birth out of wedlock should have something to hide. Interestingly, several of the birthmother plaintiffs had surrendered within the past few years and had signed statements saying they understood the records might not continue to be sealed. So to say they were just keeping promises is to birthmothers is simply incorrect. The Oregon courts ruled against LDSFS.

    LDSFS continues to fight open records throughout the country. Eventually these records will be openned but meanwhile many adoptees will die without knowing their origins.

    LDS Church members, particularly birthparents and adoptive parents, should stand up for what is right and let LDSFS know its policy is wrong.

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  25. Man alive, I should really hire an editor. My brain gets ahead of my fingers and I am constantly leaving out those pesky little words like, "by" and "a". Marissa, I am sorry about the poor grammar in that last post. I should probably go to bed....

    M.

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  27. Marissa:

    Thanks again for continuing this important dialogue; I will try to forward your confidential communication to Melynda.

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  28. Marissa: After I did as you requested, I read your comment. Many many first mothers writing here and following this thread would so like to read what you asked me to forward to Melynda in confidence. I can post it, if you allow me to.

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  29. Marissa -

    I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to hear a case worker from LDSFS say the things you have said. Maybe there is hope after all.

    My friend's child went through non-LDSFS sources about the time the child turned 18. They have been reunited now for about a year and are working on rebuilding their relationship.

    In regards to LDS adoptive parents not following through with their promises to the mother of their child: There is a very simple yet elegant solution, and one in which they are held accountable to a higher law than any court in the land. That is the temple recommend interview.

    One of the questions we are all asked is "Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?" Another question we are asked is, "Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?" Any adoptive parents who has made promises of post-adoption contact and are NOT keeping those promises (whether legally bound to a court of the land or not), cannot answer those questions in the affirmative. Well, they can, but they should not. The way I see it, this issue of promising post-adoption contact and then backing out on it is a matter of temple worthiness because it is completely and totally tied up with those two questions: Am I honest with others and do I treat my family the way Christ would treat them?

    My thinking is if adoptive parents who close an adoption can go into a temple recommend interview with their Bishop or Stake President and lie about these two questions, then they are in a heck of a lot more trouble than anything you or I could dream up. I know it is cold comfort for those first mothers who have their adoptions slammed shut, but it isn't as if these people are pulling the wool over God's eyes.

    Thanks again for not getting scared off by tough, but truthful, talk.

    M.

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  30. Yes Lorraine, you can post it. And thank you for giving me a voice on your blog.

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  31. ""I don't know what the church or LDSFS has fought for in the past that has you so enraged. I wasn't a part of it.
    I'm trying to correct the wrongs of the past.""

    One cannot 'correct the wrongs' of which they say, they have no knowledge of. One has to educate themselves on the 'wrongs' in order to 'correct'. Just sayin'.

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  32. Lorraine wrote:" and that one day we can be a part of their lives in friendship and true union"

    I think what frightens APs is that if their child finds his/her first parents that they will not have a friendship but will be FAMILY. I know when I found my first mother that the relationship was clearly family and not friends and this was threatening to my a-mom especially. I'm not sure my relationship with my natural mom could have been anything else but family. Although it is hardly as if I ran off never to be heard from again. I wish APs had more security in their relationship with their a-children. There is a parent/child bond there and if it is a good relationship, a reunion with the first family will not destroy it.

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  33. Thanks, Marissa for your comments. And I absolutely agree; changing practices from the inside is best.

    One of my frustrations are adoptive parents who believe that openness is a necessary duty to the birth parents in order the get the baby. The main beneficiary of open adoptions is the child. Apparently these adoptive parents are unaware of how difficult it is for children to grow up wondering who gave them life, who do they look like, and so on.

    My daughter, raised in the LDS Church and discouraged from searching by her adoptive parents, searched anyway, driven by the need to know.

    It's sad that adoptive parents don't realize that trying to keep their child in the dark will come back to haunt them.

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  35. This is the confidential comment I sent to Melynda, which Lorraine felt more people would like to read.

    ---
    Yes, my clients are lucky to have me as a caseworker because I would fight to the death for any one of them.

    I never tell my expectant mothers they are "those" kinds of girls. I don't look at what they did as a "mistake." I counsel them on their options and do my best to support THEIR choice. Whether that is single parenting, adoption, or marriage. I've worked with numerous mothers who are single parenting. My agency offers single parenting classes, support groups, and information on resources in the community to ensure the best success possible for their choice.

    The ones who choose adoption, well, I make damn sure they know their rights. They know they have to wait 24 hours (in my state) to place for adoption and no one better pressure them to do it before. They know they have all the time in the world after that to place. They know they can change their mind at any time. And I go over the relinquishment documents with them way ahead of time. I do this to ensure that they understand everything in those papers. They know that in my state correspondence agreements are not legally enforceable. They also know that if the APs renege, I will do everything I can to make them change their mind. I also give the expectant mothers I work with a copy of the relinquishment and encourage them to consult with anyone of their choosing: attorney, parent, ecclesiastical leader, etc. I encourage them to set the date, time, and location of their relinquishment. These are their choices, not mine, to make.

    I had a mother change her mind the day of placement. Did I tell her she was a dirty whore and she didn't deserve her baby? Nope. I told the AP's caseworker to break the news gently to them. Then I helped her pack up her things from the hospital. Then I drove to my office, gathered up every single baby supply we had in the office, and drove it to her apartment. I continued to check on her and encouraged her to go to school even though it seemed impossible to her at the time. That was over 4 years ago, and just the other day her and her son came and visited me and she thanked me for supporting her during that time.

    And I'm not some rogue caseworker. In my office this is standard practice. I can't speak to what they do in Hawaii, Oregon, Ohio, or even Timbuktu. And I've worked with plenty of other "old-school" caseworkers that I would like to smack upside the head. Luckily they're all retiring and us newbies are taking over.

    I'm not trying to discount you or your friends' experiences. I'm just offering a different perspective. I just think there are plenty of other highly unethical agencies that deserve a lot more bashing than LDSFS. I can email you my list.

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  36. I was put up for adoption in 1971 by a a young LDS girl 18/19. This was in Northern California. When I turned 18 I wrote to the chruch to unseal my records. They said that although I unsealed my side, they would not notify my birth mother. It's frustrating. I have since registered online with the little information I have (no response). I will not continue to pursue it since it appears my birth mother does not want of be found. However, after reading some of the tactics the LDS church may have used during the process, I'm not surprised. I've started developing some medical issues (thyroid disease etc.) and I wonder what else may be on the horizen. I hope the church reconsiders its decision and allows adults to make their own choice.

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  37. It will take a mountain to make the Mormons move, but you can do your part but asking someone about your records and the name of your original mother once a year, Julie.

    Good luck.

    You will at least let one person in the hierarchy know that their system does not work for you. And that what you want and need is perfectly normal, not outside the norm.

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