Friday, December 30, 2011

The Year 2011 in Adoption: some good news, some setbacks

Jane and Lorraine, 1983
Some gains, some frustrations...that's the year in adoption news.
  • 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.
Lorraine
We continue to be conflicted by this kind of legislation for it allows birth parents to hold their children hostage to their personal preference, when all individuals should be allowed to know the truth of their origins. It is as if Lincoln passed a law freeing the slaves--unless the slave owners objected. On the other hand, this does allow the great majority of people to obtain their original birth certificates.
  • 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.
Jane
Here at First Mother Forum, we had a few squabbles that broke out in the comments, but after things calmed down we switched to a policy of not monitoring comments before publication for recent blogs, and so far, no fire fights. We will stay this way as long as possible, but always retain the right to take down any offensive comments, and return to monitoring if necessary.

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

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17 comments :

  1. I want to thank you, here at FMF for some of the best and most insightful reading from which I've learned this year--the best, hands down, of 2011.

    I am not an adoptee, an apap, or a relinquishing mother. A first cousin is the closest (along with his mom, the only, in fact) members of my family of origin who speak to me. This aunt adopted a daughter during the BSE who "acted out" in ways that now are much more understandable to me. I'm about to write to her brother, suggesting this site.

    Bless you for your honesty, and your willingness to speak out.

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  2. Happy New Year to you, Lorraine and Jane and to all the readers of FMF. I hope that Lisa will come back and I am glad that Jane is back in touch with her daughter.

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  3. I just started reading your blog this year and have enjoyed all the posts and discussions. I was able to obtain a copy of my daughter's original birth certificate from Maryland about two years ago. It's stamped, Not for Official Use, but at leat we have it. She was born in 1966 and we were reunited in 1995 and have an excellent ongoing relationship.

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  4. Happy New Year to Lo, Jane and all readers here. May it be a better year for all.

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  5. Wishing a happier,healthier, and more hopeful New Year to all here.
    It at times is a heavy burden that most of us here carry. Sharing it with you all makes it a little more bearable.

    Hoping that Lisa will return to you Lorraine and am more than glad for Jane and her daughter.

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  6. Happy New Year!!

    This year ended horribly for my son his a mom she
    passed a few days before Christmas. She was 71
    I feel for him so deeply. So glad I found him to be
    here for him. Painful, as reunion is and how screwed up
    Adoption is he gets to go through that twice.
    She didn't want him to know me. Pretty selfish as he would be alone today but I guess she didn't think she would die.
    None of us do let's be more aware of every minute we are here.

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  7. Always a thought-provoking read.

    Happy New Year!

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  8. Thanks for the recap and all that you do for reform. Hope you have a happy, healthy New Year.

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  9. I would like to Thank you all, I have an e-mail relationship with my daughter for several years now but have never met. We live very close to each other, but she feels she is not ready.
    I have been a terrible mess physically and mentally for a long time as I would love to have a face to face relationship with her, my heart hurts.
    I have wonderful friends and family members who, even though can not understand my feelings, are always there to listen.
    I found the FMF a few weeks ago and I have to say Thank you so much to everyone, first moms, Amoms and children. You have helped me understand my feelings and those of my daughters. Even though we have not discussed her feelings (she chooses not to) I understand how she feels.
    I hope that one day we will meet but that is a decision only she can make.
    I feel so much more at peace and understand that "it is what it is" and I have to respect my daughters feelings.
    I wish all a very Happy New Years!

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  10. Ann wrote: "I have been a terrible mess physically and mentally for a long time as I would love to have a face to face relationship with her..."

    My 2 cents. Maybe it is time for you to push the relationship along. Sometimes in a reunion there is a hurdle one person feels before moving to the next step but if s/he can get over it it is better for both people. If your daughter is very receptive to your emails, answers them quickly and initiates them frequently on her own maybe she just needs a bit of a push to want to meet you in person. Maybe you could go somewhere near where she lives, works or hangs out and see if she would like to join you.

    Only you know in your heart of hearts if you think this approach would work with her. It is certainly a risk. She may feel that you didn't honor her wishes and that she wants to discontinue the relationship. However, I think that your wants and needs matter, too.

    If you daughter hardly ever initiates contact and takes 3 weeks to respond to your email then I would say she is not very interested. But if she does seem very interested in having frequent contact with you I think pushing things along might be a good idea. Only you can make this judgment call based on your current relationship with her.

    As Anon 1:41 mentioned in her comment, we don't live forever and sometimes we have to take the bull by the horns to get what we want. Getting over this hurdle and having an in person relationship with you might also be very good for your daughter.

    jmho

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  11. Thanks for the recap, and may all be well, and all manner of things be well for Lo, Jane and all their readers during this coming year.

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  12. Thank you so much for this blog. It's been a little over a year since my reunion. As a child I could never imagine being able to speak openly about adoption. It was something that was NEVER mentioned or discussed. My very best friends never knew. It's so freeing to be able to express my long buried feelings with like minded people. I have learned so much, I truly feel like a different, and happier person.

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  13. @Robin, Thank you for you response. You are very receptive to my feelings. I feel exactly the way you do, so I have many times throughout the past two, (almost 3 years) spoke about a "face to face" meeting.
    Every few letters when I feel like I will not do damage to what we have worked so hard for, (even though it is is only an e-mail relationship) I talk about our meeting, ask what her feelings are. It seems like she is concerned about her families feelings and I know she doesn't want to hurt them, (she lost her amom this year) so I am sure there are allot of emotions going on for her. I always tell her I am here for her when she is ready, I am sure she is also nervous about a face to face meet.
    I spoke to her for the first time on the phone about 4 months ago and she backed off completely. It was a short conversation, just to hear each other and to say HI. I am not sure if that set her back.

    I initiate the letter writing, sometimes she writes back quickly. There are times I write and she will write the same day, long responses. Then there are times were it will take a week or two. Then there are time she is not sure what she wants and says she is not sure if she wants to continue writing. She doesn't want to lead me on or hurt me because she is not sure of her feelings. but if I write her a letter, she is very happy to hear from me and writes back and tells me this in a round about way.
    This is where I am so very confuse and looked for and found the FMF. I needed help understanding what I should do, was I taking the correct approach?
    I know my daughter has not spoke to her adad about me ever to see what his feelings are and until she does, if she does, I do not think she will move ahead with a meeting.
    There are time where we got so close and I know she seemed ready for a meeting, then things change. I see so much of myself in her, we are soooo much alike, looks and personality, maybe this scares her, I am not sure.
    I guess when she is ready, she will tell me, believe me I have asked, but she does not like to show her feelings. I am sure she can read my feelings, that is why she doesn't want to hurt them.
    I am not sure if she backed off to see if I would disappear or if she just needed to gather her thoughts. Either way, unless she says she no longer wants to speak to me and blocks me from receiving my e-mails, I will not give up, I will give her space when she needs it, but I will not give up. She is in her mid 20's and at a very confusing age.
    I know she is hiding me and our relationship from her family. Her amom knew we were writing but she told me her amom never told her, her feelings about me and now she can not ask her.
    I feel better reading all the post and letters on FMF. I am happy to be able to post, myself and to have caring people post back to me. This has definitely help me to feel much less stress and anxiety, however I wait, hoping to hear from her every day. It is so easy for everyone to sit back and tell me to wait , relax and not think about it so much but they have no idea of how I feel every day. When I receive a letter it is like Christmas.
    I have a very loving family, they all know about my daughter and are ready with open arms when she is ready.

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  14. Ann, without going into a lot of detail, I am in a similar situation to yours and have been for some years. I know your fears; I have to continue to talk myself out of thinking I will not hear from my son again whenever I do not hear for a while. I leap to the assumption that something I said made him mad, then when I do hear I find it was something happening in his life, nothing to do with me.

    The best thing a birthmother friend told me to help deal with this is to remember "it is not about you", and "life gets in the way". From what you have described your daughter is dealing with a lot with her adoptive family and feels very conflicted. I think what you are doing in letting everything move at her pace and taking the pressure off is the right way to go given the situation.

    I got my one-time in person meeting, at my son's request, several years ago, and he withdrew for a while after that, then came back to what is now a fairly comfortable and regular email relationship. I too have made little suggestions about getting together again, but so far he ignores them and I let it go. I try to be both hopeful, and grateful for what I do have which is so much more than I had for many years.

    I saw a workshop demonstration once where the adoptive parent was placed on one end of a rope, the birthmother on the other, and the adoptee was in the middle with the rope around her. When either end pulled in the rope, it constricted and hurt the adoptee in the middle. It was a very graphic illustration of what happens when both sets of parents are pressuring the adoptee. As loving mothers, sometimes we have to stop pulling, let the rope go, let our child make her own choices and move at her own pace, even when it is very hard for us. Patience and hope to you and your daughter.

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  15. Hi Ann,

    I haven't read how old your daughter is or your age not that it really matters but curious. Are you from the Era of Mass adoptions?
    I am glad you found this place to post. I do think our input will help you if only to let you know we have all experienced the same thing as you losing our baby to adoption.
    I have been in reunion since 93 a reunion that involved living with my son for along time. We were able to know
    each other quite well during that time.
    Let me just say welcome to this forum where mothers try to express their losses. Adoption loss isn't even looked at a loss to mother or child but it is as we survivors know the loss and separation can be overwhelming both before and after finding.
    Our society says that being a mother is so very important. At least till it comes to getting pregnant without a man to back you. Then we are told that we aren't ready our babies would be better off with a stranger. My baby went to a two parent family and soon he was in a single mom family just
    like I was when I gave birth. Society is so screwed up on adoption there are people that adopt that shouldn't and some of those that adopt aren't healthy in mind or body. Those that feel they are entitled to a baby because they can't have one, waited to long and are no longer fertile, have infertility issues, or have waited until they have it all but now can't get pregnant. There are also those who played around and became infertile from being promiscuous or having endless partners. So many people remarry and then decide to adopt so they can secure the marriage with a baby. That doesn't work far too many adoptees come from broken homes. There are no guarantees in life especially when dealing with adoption.
    Adoptions are wrong when perfectly good moms lose their babies to strangers and our society thinks that is ok. It creates more problems than it solves. Those that adopt want to maintain closed records. Not all but most want to keep mother and adult adoptee's separated because it benefits them not the adoptee.Ownership is a big problem in adoption. Those that adopt think of themselves first while claiming they don't.
    Adoption is cruel to mothers and babies. It elevates adopters to sainthood while the mother that gave life is disrespected in every way possible. She is in for a lifetime of grief due to the unnatural act of adoption.
    Sadly, your daughter feels like she is wrong in meeting you. Especially, after losing her adopter this past year. Like I said it's all about the adopter and she's gone! I too am
    dealing with this with my son. He has spent his holidays
    grieving. His adopter had it all raising newborns while my son and I get to grieve a lifetime of separation. The adopted sib would not search for he didn't want to hurt his adopter. But it's ok for him to hurt himself by never knowing the truth or his origins. That's the guilt adoptees live with they would rather hurt themselves than their adopter. They have no right to search if they are a good adoptee.
    I was the better mother after seeing how my son was treated by her two of her husbands. She needed to step up and be a mom instead of playing the poor me card. Of course, the poor me came out quickly after our reunion.

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  16. I am so appreciative of this dialogue today as I am in a situation with some parallels to Ann's. My son is 23 - we had a semi-closed with the agency as intermediary - I sent annual birthday cards and Christmas gifts and letters faithfully to the agency to pass on to his parents and himself. 2 years ago, he contacted me by letter and we have had a slow go at getting to know each other. I have 2 letters from him and 2 email responses. We live very close to one another and although he said he wanted to meet initially, so far this has not occurred. I'm trying to let him lead as I don't want to back him into a corner but it is hard to know what to do. He is a very busy young man with a girlfriend, work and going to grad school. His parents are definitely aware of our "reunion" and sound supportive, which can only be helpful. I continue to acknowledge Christmas and his birthday and send an occasional email to let him know I am here and thinking of him. As Robin says, does he need a little push? I don't want to do anything wrong that will ruin this - I have such a beautiful dream of what this could be if we do it right and am so afraid of messing it up. I appreciate the discussion as it helps me feel I am not ALONE in trying to negotiate this. I have been given much to think about in reading FMF in 2011 and look forward to all the discussions in 2012. Good wishes to all of us who are affected by adoption.
    S

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  17. Well, in the Netherlands the good news was that a report was published, which indicated clearly, that adoption is useless as a tool to reduce abortion (at least in the Netherlands), and that the put-the-kid-in-a-nice-foster-family choice, though available, was not offered to mothers with a crisis-pregnancy as a separate choice, they do now.

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