|Jane and Lorraine, 1983|
- Adoption was in the news this year starting in January with Oprah's revelation that she had a sister who had been adopted. This being about Oprah, her sister's lengthy search was documented everywhere, providing a spotlight on the fact that individuals who are adopted are still denied free access to their original birth records in the vast majority of states, though many have half-way measures in place.
- The best news of the year was the Rhode Island--the smallest state in the Union--passed a bill that will allow anyone 25 and over full access to their original birth records come July 2012. The age of 25 was a compromise after Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin, a Democrat from Providence, wanted to raise the age to 30 so adoptees wouldn't ask for their birth certificates out of spite. Goodwin's sister has two adopted children. “I think 18 is too young,” said Goodwin. “It’s a tender age. I want them to be able to find their records in an appropriate and meaningful kind of way, not because they want to get back at their adoptive parents.” [Emphasis added.] As if that is what wanting to know your true heritage is about that.
- In Illinois, people adopted in that state who were 21 or older could begin getting their original birth certificates as of November 15. Birth parents had a grace period of one-year to file contact vetoes. Only their information would be redacted, but not that of the other parent if listed. As of mid-December, more than 4,000 people have requested their original unamended birth certificates. Only 431 parents have requested anonymity. A breakdown of the sex of the parent was no available, but it anyone has that data, please leave a comment.
- But here on the East Coast, where so much hope was invested in the bill that finally passed the New Jersey legislature--an imperfect piece of legislation such as the one in Illinois--the Republican governor Chris Christie refused to sign it into law. After dangling the hope that he might sign as he kept saying that he was undecided, he smacked us all down with a lengthy response proposing a bill more restrictive as it included a permanent veto for birth parents! So decades of work seemed to go down the drain in one fell swoop--if only it had taken the extremely rotund Christie with it. (Instead, he is campaigning for Mitt Romney in Iowa--the two of them together would be so against equal rights for adoptees I can't think about it.) The New Jersey Coalition for Adoption Reform plans to go back to the legislature with a clean bill. No veto. Adoption reform was an issue in several other states, but none managed to get very far. In New York, for a time it looked like we might get a bill out of committee to the floor for a vote but just as that seemed possible, a veto was added to our bill, and Unsealed Initiative withdrew support. (If you can bring us up to date as to what happened in your state, please add a comment. )
- Most Famous Adoptee Steve Jobs died October 5 at 56, and we covered the news of his reunion with his sister, Mona Simpson and his birth/first mother, Joanne Schieble Simpson, and his father, Abdul Fattah Jandali, racking up some of the highest traffic we had at First Mother Forum all year.
- With stricter requirements for prospective parents and tighter laws to crack down on illegal practices, international adoptions to the U.S. have fallen over 20 percent in the past five years, with some countries (namely Russia) declining by nearly half.
- Perhaps signalling a trend, Adoption Alliance, a non-profit agency in Denver which finds families for some of the most difficult-to-place children, is closing, a victim of the economy that has led to fewer families seeking to adopt, and donations down.
On a personal level, my (adopted-out) granddaughter Lisa, after a great relationship of a year and a half that gave me joy and comfort, chose to retreat. So be it. Jane and her first daughter, after some bumpy times, opened up more communication between them than they had for several years. The good news.
Jane and I wish you a great New Year, and our hopes for good resolutions to issues unresolved and reunions not completed. We thank you for your many comments and look forward to another year of writing about adoption news, reforms, and our personal experiences. Thank you for making our experience so much richer. --lorraine