|Sen. Clair McCaskill and Philomena Lee|
Thus Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill's embrace of Philomena Lee, the Irish mother forced by nuns to give up her son for adoption to an American couple comes as good news. "Philomena's story is heart-wrenching, and she has one of the most just causes you could possibly have--the simple premise that if a child is taken from a mother against her will, there should be an easy way to reconcile
with that child."* Sen McCaskill is a strong supporter of the Philomena Project which Philomena launched with the Irish Adoption Right Alliance to pressure the Irish government to open adoption records. Sen. McCaskill has faulted Ireland for not doing more "'to help other mothers and children reunite and signaled that the Congress would press the issue, either through a resolution or during Senate confirmation hearings for the next ambassador to Ireland.""**
Sen McCaskill took another step by supporting unsealing records in the U. S.:
"All of my husband's [four] children from his first marriage are adopted, and we are fortunate in that his oldest son has reconnected with his birth mother--we know and socialize with her, and they have a wonderful relationship. So I know firsthand how important it is to keep those doors open and to allow the transparency and availability of adoption records so that children and parents can have the opportunity to reunite when it is their life's wish."* (Emphasis added.)Sen. McCaskill has not, however, endorsed, OBC access legislation in Missouri which would put it on par with neighboring Kansas which never sealed records. She is also a co-sponsor of Sen. Mary Landrieu's godawful bill that would require foreign countries to open adoption to Americans, the deceptively-named Children in Families First Act of 2013 (CHIFF). The bill, S. 1530, would allow-- actually abet--practices similar to those in Ireland which forced Philomena Lee to give up her son and prevented them from finding each other. While haranging the Irish government to do more to help Irish mothers and their children reunite, Sen. McCaskill has suggested nothing to help the 242,602 children adopted into the U. S. from abroad between 1999 and 2012 to reunite with their first families. Records may never have been created in the first place; if they were, they may be false or, as in Philomena Lee's case, destroyed. These families are at a further disadvantage because most don't speak the same language as the birth/first mother.
On the the other hand, I need to remind myself and advocates for adoption reform to be patient, to recall the old adages: A journey of a thousand miles began with a single step. Rome wasn't built in a day. It took 100 years after the end of slavery to pass a civil rights bill, and 50 years later the effects of slavery still linger. I thank Sen McCaskill for taking those first steps even if they're a bit wobbly.
As for Philomena the woman, making the publicity rounds for Philomena, the movie, leading up to the Oscars, both are a good thing. A few moments ago as I write she was on Katie, along with an American "Philomena," Leslie Pate McKinnon and her son, Pete, who was born in 1965. Both went back to the Catholic agency hoping to find each other. Leslie had written and left a letter there when Pete was ten; he went back some years later. At first he was told there was nothing in his file, but a second or third time, a social worker did let drop that yes, indeed something was there. He got the information on Saturday and called Leslie immediately. That was ten years ago. Stories like that, the public hearing in New York the other day, every memoir from adoptees and first mothers, a single woman telling her neighbor--and her legislator--her secret are another small step to victory.-- jane
PS: If you have others examples of small steps leading to adoption reform
and unsealed birth certificates, please add them.
*Philomena Lee meets McCaskill to Discuss Adoption
The Philomena Project
**Philomena Lee, US lawmaker push adoption rights
Department of State: Intercountry Adoption
Philomena: The Book
Powerful testimony for OBC access at NY hearing
Senate bill encourages more international adoption
Reforming Oregon's adoption laws
AND DO READ (if you have't already)
The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade
Another in the long line of books about the sorrow and heartache of giving up a child to adoption that started with Lorraine's memoir, Birthmark, in 1979. (See sidebar.) It was so controversial at the time that many women have told her they were too embarrassed to buy it--lest the book seller think they were one of "those women." Think how far we have come since then. Never give up, never retreat!