' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Why Become an Adoption Reform Rabble-Rouser

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why Become an Adoption Reform Rabble-Rouser

"What Does Adoption Mean to You?

As many of you know by now, November is National Adoption month.  This month provides us all with the opportunity to educate, publicize and celebrate adoption.  I wanted to find out from the most important people in the adoption conversation – the parents, what adoption means to them.  So I posed that question to multiple adoptive parents I know,  “What does adoption mean to you?”   This is what I learned...."--National Adoption Center

Now before you go crazy, understand, Dear Reader, that we are coming late to the party for Mirah found this statement at the National Adoption Center blog and wrote about it (What Does Adoption Mean to YOU?) and a good number of you left comments that told the blog writer exactly what was wrong with her statement. This was her response:
Alexandra B said...
"As the moderator here I have chosen to post all your comments, save one with profanity in it. Personally, I do want to hear your sides of the conversation, as adoptees and first families. As a member of NAC we do get that adoption is a complex issue.

To clarify we have no custody of children; we advocate on behalf of those children who have gone through situations where reunification efforts have failed. We work with the 12 year olds whose parents die with no living relatives to be found. With 17 year olds who have gone from foster home to foster home because no one in their family could or wanted to parent them. We believe a permanent home with adoptive parents is the best solution for these children.

Reunification with the family of origin is most often the goal in foster care. The majority of the time this goal is met; that is the family receives the support it needs to get back on track and the child(ren) come home. Obviously that is the best outcome. We're here for when that cannot happen.

It sounds like most of you were involved with placing infants, not having children removed from your homes. Personally, I agree that more national regulation/licensing needs to be in place regulating infant adoption, especially in terms of fees charged and services offered. There are some great people doing great work out there, but as you all know there are many out there that shouldn't be counseling women, or anyone, at all.

Our Center does have a long-standing policy of advocating for open records, including medical records and original birth certificates. Adoptees have a right to this information.

Thank you all for sharing your side, it has been a valuable lesson for us. And I hope a lesson that will turn into action on our part. Thank you.   November 10, 2010 10:11 AM"
So this is a column about activism, because as you can see, the comments that you left made this woman rethink how the National Adoption Center talks about adoption and their attitude towards us. During this National (Beware) Adoption Month, do at least one thing: Write to your state legislators about the cruelty and injustice of closed birth records, and the injustice done to mothers who had no choice about that at the time of relinquishment; join the effort in your state to lobby to end the closed-records system, or if there isn't one yet, form one yourself. Someone has to do it, why not you?

Tell your family, friends and neighbors how you feel about being an adoptee with no past before adoption; or how as a first/birth mother you would like to know your son or daughter, how not knowing haunts your days and nights. If you have been screwed by an open adoption that did not stay that way, speak up, let the world know. The point is, speaking up and speaking out will ultimately yield results. Saying nothing leads to nothing.

Whenever I read about gay marriage, or the movement to end the insane "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the American armed forces, I think about how far and fast gay rights have come in the last couple of decades, but how behind we who work for adoption reform still are. And Dear Reader, it can only be because more of us are not demanding the end to the closed records era, the end to the anonymity that the laws of the past forced upon us birth/first mothers, the end to the absolute injustice that these laws to both groups of people perpetuate.

BirthmarkWhen I got involved in adoption reform in the mid-Seventies, I thought that surely by now the end would have happened, that we would all live in the land of the free. But as we go speeding in the twenty-first century, only six states give adopted people the unrestricted right to the original birth certificates, and with that, the right to fully and completely answer the question: Who am I? We have reunion shows on television, we have had tons of reunion on television, yet state legislatures are still mired in the muck of the past and a few legislators with clout are determined to keep us there.

When I came out in print, a few years before I published Birthmark, the reception was pretty tame; but then, the venue was not huge--a piece in Town & Country, of all places. A few years later, my book and a Newsweek My Turn caused a certain amount of commotion and that lead to people pounding the table behind my back (What right does she have?!!) and saying some pretty nasty stuff to my face (I know some people who would like to kill you, said the writer Tom Hauser.) Some interviewers were so mad their rage was all too obvious.

I never got to ask them what their personal involvement with adoption was. What did it matter, really? I was confronting and challenging their happy obliviousness. I shall never forget the unmitigated hate and rage of one blond young woman in Windsor, Ontario, as she did a taped interview for television. A couple of the folks who were the most angry with me were people who grew up not knowing their real parents. James Michener was one. (Ever wonder why he chose to write about so many different landscapes and heritages? I didn't.) Maybe that was the case with this young woman too--or maybe she was an adoptive parent.

But so much has changed. If a national referendum were held today on the question of whether adopted people should have the right to their original birth certificates, it would pass handily, and the courts would not prevent it from becoming the law of the land.* But that's not going to happen. We either need another challenge in the courts, such as adoption reform pioneer Florence Fisher mounted in the Seventies, or we have to work on the state legislatures for only in six states (Alaska, Alabama, Kansas, New Hampshire, Maine and Oregon) do adopted people have the unrestricted right to get their original birth certificates. (A few other states have a crazy quilt of laws that give some their records, deny others.) All that has to change because the laws are just too plain unjust as they are.

But change is not a wind that going to blow in our direction if you sit back and do nothing. Use National Adoption Month, November, to move at least one heart and one mind.--lorraine
And do read Jane's excellent piece in The Adoption Constellation about her efforts to make reform adoption law in her home state, Oregon.

* Some conservatives believe that closed records ought to be opened. Closed versus open records appears to be a non-political issue in that each side reveals both supporters and opposers.


  1. Well said. Here's hoping that organization got the message. They have changed their post, but it's disturbing that it began that way in the first place.

  2. I am encouraged by the response of the moderator. Our comments, mine included, were not deleted, dismissed, or denigrated as they usually are. I hope they are left for all to see. It encourages me that the need for openness and honesty in adoption is finally being recognized and acknowledged. It is good timing to contact legislators, and the media, and keep the ball of adoption reform progress in motion.

  3. I think people need to understand because a lot of us who commented were placed through agencies as infants doesn't mean we didn't spend time in Foster Care or have valid opinions on it.

    When someone says "tell me about adoption"....that' entails A LOT of diverse things. Step-parent, foster, transracial, special needs, infant/private domestic, international, kinship, customary/tribal...so on and so forth.

  4. Amanda, your comment...tell me about adoption made me smile this morning. I think, Like what do you want to know? What it's like to surrender a child? Sucks. What about the anonymous provision of the law? Also sucks. Do other women feel like you (or have they all gone on to make great lives without thinking about...you know what)? Well, yeah. What about those starving children in Ethiopia? Etc.

    I must admit, I think first mothers are spared such dumb questions, such as tell me about adoption. You might say, let's tackle world peace first. That's an easier question.

  5. I was also suprised by the moderator's response - seemed willing to listen to the hard stuff from adoptees and mothers, not something I see often from APs.

    Lorraine, I have to thank you for being "out." It was you who initially validated my grief and bewilderment at everything that happened to me. During the '80s, (not exactly sure when, but sometime after my baby was born) I either saw you on TV doing an interview, or read about you in magazine - can't remember exactly how I heard of you, but I always remembered that there was a book written by another woman who lost a baby to adoption. It was an OMG!! moment. I went looking for your book, but I kept thinking the title was "Birthright" instead of "Birthmark" so needless to say I never found it. When I saw the book here on your blog I put it all together - you were the one who gave me hope those many years ago just by speaking your truth...much thanks for inspiring me to be true to my feelings and to hang on.

  6. Ah, shucks, Maybe...thanks a bunch. It makes all the nasty things that have been said to me okay.

  7. Speaking of the desperate need for adoption reform, have you seen this:




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