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,

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Utah's laws designed to thwart birth fathers

Lorraine
The Salt Lake Tribune is continuing their revealing series on how natural/ birth fathers are regularly screwed by the system in Utah. Today's installment by Brooke Adams tells the story of Jake Strickland and how he lost his son through outright violation of the law in Colorado, and despite that, the law in Utah to designed only to serve the adoptive process. The Tribune did not name the agency involved but thanks to one of our readers, First Mother Forum learned it was LDS  Family Services, the adoption arm of the Mormon Church.

Strickland's story involves a lying women--the mother of his son--who strung him along, letting him and his family believe that she was going to allow him to raise their son, or that they would do so together. In many respects, he did everything right: support her, pay for her medical bills, and continue to check up on her as the pregnancy progressed. A few days before they baby was born, the couple strolled through Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Unwed Fathers Can't Win Against the Mormons in Utah

Lorraine
What is Utah doing in the United States? The Constitution protects us from  religious states, no? Not in Utah, apparently.

Its laws in one area seem to be outside those of human decency, and certainly unconstitutional. And it has to do with the Mormon Church, which really controls the electorate, which controls the legislature, the courts, the everything. This is Utah today. Separation of church and state is pro forma, but does not really exist. It is a state like no other where separation of church and state exists on paper only, because the Church of the Latter-Day Saints of Jesus Christ really runs just about everything, and should not be tax exempt.

In yet another case, a single father from another state (Florida) is fighting to gain custody of his nearly year-old daughter whose former girl friend left her newborn with strangers in that unholy state, reports the Salt Lake Tribune, in the first of a four-part series by Brooke Adams. Of course, in Utah, that was perfectly legal, even though the father of the child was doing everything possible to protect his paternal rights. In Utah, that matters not.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Does my (birth) mother think of me on Christmas?

My tabletop tree
Christmas, not April, is the cruelest time for many of us. All the gaiety, the awareness that families gather round together sharpen the reminder of who is missing: if you are a birth/first mother who has not been reunited, you are ever so aware of the presents you are not buying, the card not being sent, the phone call not made to the missing child. You wonder if he/she ever thinks of you at this time of the year. Question not. He is. My daughter said that she used to look at the moon on cold and clear winter nights, and think that somewhere I was under that same moon, wondering if I was thinking about her. I'll never know if our thoughts collided in space, but I like to think that they did.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Forty-five years later, I still regret giving up my daughter.

Jane

Forty-five years ago today, December 19, 1966, I signed the papers giving up my month old daughter Rebecca. It was dark that Monday afternoon when I left the social worker’s office, the lights of nearby businesses and the street lights obscured by the ubiquitous San Francisco mist. Although the streets were crowded with holiday shoppers, I felt an overwhelming sense of emptiness. I had nowhere to go and nothing to do. I knew, though, that my life would go on in some fashion. I wanted to know what that was, to leap forward in time, to the place where my life would resume and the pain would stop. I wanted to know how I would look back on this day.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Calling loved ones (and those you are not so sure of) for the holidays

From my alternate universe daughter
Christmas is right around the corner, and no one can ignore it. And for a lot of us--first/birth mothers and adoptees--it is a killer of a day. An adoptee wrote to me recently about her birth father--who wants a relationship NOW (many years after he was first contacted), and admittedly he's not the healthiest person around, or in the best situation. Last time she reached out a hand, he acted less than reasonable, and so now the adoptee is wary. Of making a phone call. What if he wants more than she is prepared to give? And anyway, it's confusing and she feels weird about him and where was he when she first got in touch and....

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Reunion gives birth mothers a 'second chance'

Jane

Denise Roessle is euphoric when she learns that her son, whom she had lost to adoption twenty-six years earlier, has been matched to her through the International Soundex Reunion Registry. As the adult man replaces the fantasy child, though, anxiety replaces euphoria.

Denise was nineteen and living in Hawaii in 1969 when she became pregnant by a handsome Marine. After he reneged on his promise to marry her, her parents sent to a home in Los Angeles and arranged with a lawyer who specialized in placing children with Jewish families in New York to handle the adoption of Denise’s son. Erick Alan Janson became Joshua Goldberg, the son of Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn.

Monday, December 12, 2011

As a first mother it's better to speak up than suffer in silence

Jane and Lorraine. 1983
All right, I've been trying to avoid this all day...but what the hell? FMF is a personal letter in many respects to the world, and the friends and acquaintances I've made in the adoption community. Today is the fourth anniversary of my daughter's death and I have been trying to distract myself but it's not working too well.

What I do know is that she seemed determined to die by her own hand as she had tried to kill herself several times before, and that I could not have prevented her death. She was stopped before, years earlier in fact, but something that deep and resolved eventually wins out. Her life was troubled from the very beginning with adoption and epilepsy the double-whammy handed her. So I'm allowing myself to feel blue today--and I'm eating some dark chocolate too. Today, I feel bad. Tomorrow will be another day.

Over on Facebook a woman wrote that she is upset that her youngest brother is having his first child--out of wedlock--and no one in her family is upset. It is 19 years after she gave her son up. Now she is trying to be happy for her youngest brother, yet she finds

Friday, December 9, 2011

Playing Politics with the Morning After Pill

Lorraine
We try to stay away from politics here but yesterday brought news that infuriated me: An over-the-counter and safe method of birth control called Plan B--that is, The Morning After Pill--will continue to be denied to teenage girls under 17. Under 17 you need a prescription--that is, tell a doctor who may tell your mother, and anyway, by the time you get that script, it is likely to be too late for Plan B.

But you know what? A whole lot of teens have unprotected sex the first time because they are not planning on having sex. The Obama administration's head is in the sand on this issue, only slightly less buried than the previous Bush administration's, which allowed Plan B to be sold without a script only to those 18 and over. In 2009 after a federal court judge excoriated the FDA for placing politics and ideology ahead of public health, the Obama administration lowered the age to 17.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Breakfast on Pluto: A movie a birth mother can love

Lorraine
Breakfast on Pluto is a little known Irish movie by well regarded director Neil Jordan that is about the hero's search for his natural/birth mother in London. The "hero" is no ordinary fellow--he's a transgender "nancy boy" as gays are derisively called in England, and the story, in a series of connected vignettes set in the Seventies, is as at least as much about his troubles and travails as he flounders through life as it is about his search for his mother.

As soon as he is old enough, Patrick "Kitten" Braden (Cillian Murphy) leaves his unhappy foster home in Ireland and begins a series of picaresque misfortunes as he looks for love and place to call home with all the wrong people. All he knows is that his birth mother went to London after she deposited him at the door of the local priest, Father Bernard, played by Liam Neesom, and soon enough Kitten is going to "the city that never sleeps" to find her. All he has to go on is that she resembles Mitzi Gaynor.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Foster kids do best when placed with extended family

Jane
A couple who adopted nine boys through the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DFC) has been charged with sexually assaulting two of the boys, reports The Hartford Courant. George Harasz and Doug Wirth had been certified as foster parents, and a private adoption agency had recommended the adoptive placements to DCF. The two men also ran a puppy breeding business in the basement of their home and put the boys to work in it. In 2009, Harasz was cited for cruelty to animals when an animal control officer found 50 dogs in the basement. “Police said the room had inadequate ventilation and the smell of urine and feces was overwhelming.”*

Friday, December 2, 2011

Desperate moves of parents who lose custody

Lorraine
In early fall Nephra and Shanel Payne, parents who "kidnapped" their eight children from a foster care center in Forest Hills, New York, were all over the news. They and their kids--all safe, just after dinner in their car--were located a week later in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The couple was arrested and charged with eight counts each of kidnapping--one per child. The kidnapping charges were later dismissed after they agreed to plead guilty to second-degree custodial interference, a misdemeanor for which they were each sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years probation. They were released the day before Thanksgiving.

Stories about parents "kidnapping" their own children always catch my attention for I do not immediately assume that the state is automatically right in taking

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Loretta Young's 'adopted' daughter wasn't adopted at all

Loretta Young and Judy Lewis
So imagine if you were "adopted" by your "birth" mother and raised as an "adopted child." Your mother later marries, and has two "of her own." You take her husband's name, but you are still the "adopted child" in the family. When you ask your mother "as adopted children do. They say, 'Where are my.... Who's my mother? Who's my father" And she would answer very easily by saying, 'I couldn't love you anymore than if you were my own child.' Which of course didn't answer the question, but it said, 'Don't ask the question.'" *
After you are all grown up, just as you are about to marry, you tell your fiance that you do not understand your confusing relationship with your mother [actress Loretta Young] and that you do not know who your real father is. "I can't marry you," the grown-up 'adopted child" says to her fiance. "I don't know anything about myself.

And he says: "It's common knowledge, Judy. Your father is Clark Gable."