|Unsealing Initiative demonstrating on the steps of New York's City Hall for adoptee rights legislation in 2013.|
When people ask for something for themselves--rather than others asking for them--they are more likely to get it. Sounds simple, right?
I'm thinking about rights for adoptees and natural mothers.
Twice recently I have heard the above idea expressed. On CBS This Morning a woman was talking about this being the week students must make their final decisions about where they will go college this fall. The woman noted that since financial considerations enter into it, if the circumstances of the family have been reduced since the application was filed, they should call the financial officer, explain the changed situation, and ask him to reconsider the aid package being offered.
IF YOU WANT SOMETHING, YOU GOTTA ASK
But the next sentence is what caught my ear: If the student herself makes the call, it is much more likely to be granted than if a parent makes the same request. Okay, got that. If a student requests for himself, he's more likely to get the desired end.
|A packed hearing in 2014 in New York|
This was also true when surveyors sent out women to talk to people about abortion. When the individual said--in what began as a non-confrontational talk--she herself had an abortion and how she felt about it, the individual was most likely to change their opinion. This was true even when speaking to people who on a scale of zero to ten were most strongly against it. This doesn't imply they might get an abortion themselves, but that they would support pro-abortion legislation.
|Lorraine testifying at 2014 hearing|
Of course, I thought about adoptee rights. We've--natural birth biological mothers, adoptees and the rare adoptive parent--been at this for many years without much success. Lately a few states have begun to turn the corner on this, but still legislators seem to be in love with the damn natural-mother veto. About that I could scream but that's another post (and several previous posts)!
Adoptees will do a way better job demanding their rights than we mothers will. There is no way around that. "Power concedes nothing without a demand," said Frederick Douglass about slavery. It is true about adoptee rights. Demand is necessary to force change.
Attitudes on gay marriage shifted quickly because gays could come out of the closet without seeming to tell their parents that...there were other mothers and fathers--those shadowy biological ones--that they were interested in. From what we've learned, adoptees grow up afraid to discuss their deep feelings and yearnings to know their roots--and the actual people who conceived them--with their adoptive parents, to whom they owe everything. That thought runs through so much of what we hear adoptees say, and it's perfectly understandable.
'IF YOU SEARCH IT WILL KILL YOUR MOTHER'
But like it or not, that attitude is why adoptees aren't boisterous and demanding for what should belong to every human being by the mere fact of being born: full and complete knowledge of who they are.
|Washington Adoptee Rights Advocates in Olympia|
How often do we hear of adoptees who do not search until their adoptive parents are dead? All the time. It happened with one of my husband's best friends from college. He attended our wedding, knew about Birthmark and me before we met, was married to a judge, but when did he search? Only when his adoptive mother died. On his father's deathbed, his father spoke of his being adopted (for the first time ever) but told him not to search because "it will kill your mother."
Who's going to want to search until he no longer can kill his mother by doing so? After she died our friend asked relatives if they knew anything and immediately learned who his biological parents were; both were deceased.
Because searching to some implies rejection of one's adoptive parents, adoptees aren't massing and marching like they have every right to do so, and so change is coming ever so slowly. Given the attitudes with which adoptive parents of the last century have been imbued--blood doesn't matter, shouldn't matter--I don't see how this is possible to change in my lifetime. That doesn't mean I'm giving up, however.
We natural mothers are needed to be the back up to say that we were never promised anonymity. That the state has no interest in granting us anonymity. That our voices were taken away when the records were sealed; we had no choice but to go along, that abortions do not go up when adoptees are access to original birth certificates. We must argue for NO VETO on birth records access. Noting a "preference" to be given an adoptee when he requests his original birth certificate is one thing; veto is another.
MOTHERS AFFIRM WHAT ADOPTEES DEMAND
What else can we mothers ask for? We can start asking for information about what happened to our children once we relinquished them. That is not an unreasonable request! We can start asking for agency records--and even the hospital records of our child's birth. We too can say you the state made these laws without considering how these laws affecting our children's lives--and ours!--forever were done without consideration of the long-term lasting impact on both the children and their natural mothers.
As for the impact of asking for yourself--consider this: In Maine, the records were unsealed after adoptee Paula Benoit took it on as an issue and didn't stop until Maine became a full access state in 2009. The legislators might not empathize so deeply with others talking about the issue, but when one of their own spoke up, they listened. And voted for free and full access to birth records. Coincidentally Maine also has a natural mother in the House of Representatives, Roberta Beavers, who is also the state rep for the American Adoption Congress.
Paula later found her natural parents and amazingly learned that two of her nephews--Sen. Bruce Bryant and Rep. Mark Bryant--were also serving in the state legislature. How's that for genetic disposition and synchronicity?
In New York, we now have a legislator in the Assembly who is adopted, Joe Borelli from Stanton Island, but he's relatively new to the legislature, and says he doesn't have a lot of clout yet. But he is there. And he is asking for his rights. And so is our long time and passionate advocate, David Weprin,* who will be introducing our adoptee-rights bill in Albany soon. Albany, hear us roar!--lorraine
*Assemblyman Weprin is in the first photo in white shirt and red tie. That's me on the side with the big green bag.
Ohio opens sealed birth records Friday
Gov. Cuomo: Right the wrong of sealed birth certificates THIS YEAR
Opening court records to adoptees and first parents
Adopted People Are Not Allowed Ancestry Because It Might Upset Somebody
For information on Massachusetts where mothers are asking for documents:
Lorraine's You Tube of her testimony at public hearing on unsealing birth records:
Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self (Anchor Book)
To my mind, one of the best books about what it is like to be adopted. I read this years after I had reunited with my daughter and learned a great deal. Both natural parents and adoptees can gain from this slim volume.
"...will reassure adoptees that it is usual for questions about adoption and birth parents to persist throughout life. Using Erik Erikson's stages of life as a framework, Brodzinsky (Psychology/Rutgers) and Schechter (Psychiatry/Univ. of Pennsylvania), here writing with Henig (Your Premature Baby, 1983, etc.), call upon years of experience as researchers and counselors in the field of adoption to describe the continual adjustments that adoptees make as they grow from infancy to old age. Most moving is the litany of losses that move adoptees to grieve, often unknowingly.
"Even infants only a few months old show signs of mourning their first caretakers. Later, the authors say, adoptees may confront the loss not only of a birth family but of a personal and genetic history. The latter is particularly painful when it is time for young adults to begin their own families.
"Such life crises often kick off a search for birth parents. But the book's authority is undermined by what the authors frankly admit is the rapidly changing environment of adoption, where secrecy and shame are now rarely invoked and searches are often unnecessary. Open adoption-- in which the birth mother is known to and is often closely attached to the adoptive family--and increasingly available birth records eliminate the information gap that most often causes stress in adopted families (although open adoption may create its own set of stresses, the authors point out). Replete with anecdotal material, this offers few new insights but does lay out issues of development that only adoptees face over the course of life."--Kirkus