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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Millions of words written about unsealing original birth records for adoptees--and we are still fighting in New York

Daughter Jane and Mother Lorraine
1983
"My little girl said to me one day, 'I wonder what my mother was like,', she recalled."It struck me that she had a feeling of loneliness....I knew the need was so strong I couldn't reject it or pass it off...adopted children have the right to know about their natural parents. They are people, not puppies or kittens that one takes in. You can't deny the existence of the people who gave birth. You might like to but you can't."--Adoptive mother who joined ALMA, quoted in "Adopted Children Who Wonder, 'What Was Mother Like?' by Enid Nemy, The New York Times, July 25, 1972. This is the piece that changed my life. Within a month I had met Florence Fisher and set a new course to my life.

"The way it is now," she said, "there is just something missing from my life." Adopted woman at a conference on sealed records in Washington DC, quoted in "Who Is My Daughter," by Dusky, Newsweek, Oct. 15, 1979.



"....[T]he opening of records to adult adoptees in England and Wales since 1975 has produced none of the dire consequences which critics of the Children Bill had predicted prior to its passage. Those dire consequences are the very same which opponents of the Model (Adoption) Act are now predicting if it should be adopted."--Florence Fisher, President of ALMA, June 14, 1980, in a letter to Diane D. Broadhurst, executive secretary of the Model Adoption Legislation and Procedures Advisory Panel.

"I am confident that there will come an epoch when we understand the separation of the mother and child as an event very efficient in producing neurosis, confusion...."--Jean Paton, Western Journal of Surgery, Views and Reviews, 1955. Galley, sent to me by Paton, no page number.

"A Tribune Syndicate health article by Dr. Timothy Johnson recently answered a question about the likelihood of adoptees having emotional difficulties. In his response he said that ten to fifteen percent of the children seen by child psychiatrists are adoptees, compared to one to two percent of all children being adoptees. He says that many health professionals 'now suggest that adopted children might benefit from knowing more about their birth parents.'" --CUB Communicator, date unknown but the copy I have is yellow with age.

"Ms. Dusky should stop kidding herself--she and the child were strangers the day they met and are most certainly any more than friends now. The ridiculous claims she makes to the magical born she and the child have are not that which makes her the child's parent.... I weep for the adoptive parents who have their hearts ripped out not only by mother nature but by self-serving individuals....What's more, I week for the children that turn their backs on the only parents they've know (sic) for complete strangers."--in response to a My Turn in Newsweek, March 30, 1992 from a woman in Elk Grove, Il., She does not identify her connection to adoption.

"...[T]he mother's assurance of anonymity should not be preserved at the expense of the adoptee, for it is unjust that a child should suffer for the transgressions of its parents..." In re The Estate of Jensen, 162, NW2d., 878, North Dakota, 1968.

"Determining identity is a difficult process for someone brought up by his natural parents; it is more complex for the individual whose ancestry is unknown to him.... There is ample evidence that the adopted child retains the need for seeking his ancestry for a long time....What he is really seeking is to achieve a  unity and persistence of personality in spite of the break in the continuity of his life...." American Academy of Pediatrics, Identity Development in Adopted Children, 47 Pediatrics, 948, 1971.

"I think it is hard to know where you are going when you don't know where you came from," "Brave New Babies," Dusky, Newsweek, Dec. 6, 1982.

"...[N]umerous young and not so young adoptees come for assistance in learning of and understanding their feelings about their roots. Many have not been told of their adoptions by their adoptive parents, but have nevertheless known or learned on their own, and then curiosity is compounded by anger and resentment...and the rage of which Ms. Dusky speaks becomes understandable when one comes to know the inner workings of people denied their heritage and denied the truth about their very selves."--Carolyn Esperza, MSW, Dec. 10, 1982, in response to a piece I wrote for Newsweek called "Brave New Babies, letter sent to Newsweek. Copies of all letters received were sent to me.

"Lorraine gave her biological daughter a gift of love when she relinquished her in 1966....I believe her guilt has gotten in the way of her daughter's clear message: Lorraine is Lorraine and her adoptive other is Mom, not her "other mother." --Letter to Newsweek from an adoptive mother in Salem, OR, March 27, 1992, responding to "The Daughter I Gave Away," Newsweek, issue date, March 30, 1992. Some Newsweek editor has written on it, "Excellent letter." I am not sure if it was published, so I am not revealing her name. The woman must have written it as soon after the issue arrived in her mailbox.

"In July the state legislators in Illinois succeeded in passing a bill that will keep adoption records sealed forever. I was behind this effort 100 percent and am delighted it succeeded." Ann Landers column, Newsday, undated yellowing clip in my files.

"[R]esearchers offered an overview of the pilot study and suggested that 'adoptive agencies should begin to re-evaluate their position in regard to the sealed record,' at least as far as adult adoptees are concerned. This may be the minority opinion. The Child Welfare League and its 400 member agencies continue to support the sealed-record policy. But Florence Fisher...says that 'People today are finding secrecy evil. They are more open and they want to know the truth.'" --"Unsealing the Records," Time magazine, June 24, 1974.

"I thought you'd never come for me," Jeff said to his mother. Julie, in tears, took him into her arms. The headmaster admits that he wept--and so did all the other adults watching form inside the main house." A week after that meeting, Jeff went home for good."--Julie is Julie Welsh, the mother who found her son being shuttled from boarding school to boarding school, even spending holidays there, or going home with one of the other students. His adoptive mother died, his adoptive father remarried, and the step-mother did not want to Jeff. Julie Welsh found Jeff when he was 16. "The Incredible Homecoming, by Elizabeth Keiffer, Family Circle, March 6, 1984.

"Our findings suggest that interest in birth parents is very widespread among adoptees and that a sizable minority will attempt to make contact with their birth parents. It is not possible, as William Pierce of the National Committee for Adoption has attempted, to dismiss the interest of adoptees in their birth parents etns as confined one one or two in every hundred."--"Young Adoptees in Search of Their Roots," Arnold R. Silverman and William Feigelman, professors of sociology at SUNY's Nassau Community College, letter to the editor of The New York Times, reporting on a seven-year study of more than 350 adoptive families in the U.S. with adolescent adoptees. More than 20 percent had already taken steps to obtain records which would permit them to contact their parents. Sept. 7, 1983. The piece that the precipitated the letter was the one about the reunion of me an my daughter, as well as CUB member Alison Bond and her daughter, Holly. "Mothers Find the Children They Gave Up," Judy Klemesrud, August 29, 1983. I am later quoted in Rickie Solinger's book, "Wake Up Little Suzie," but she only refers to me, at 41, as a "young mother." ? The title of my first memoir, Birthmark, was kept out of the story due to the objections of another writer at the newspaper, who would later write about adoption reunions with a less than favorable attitude.

In working on the 2nd edition of Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption, I have been looking through my copious files on adoption that I have kept--not only the stories I wrote over the years--but all kinds of files--CUB Communicators, stories from newspapers and magazines, Origins newsletters, a file or papers that I did not realize I had from Jean Paton, one of the very early pioneers and the founder of Orphan Voyage, journal articles by all kinds of doctors, copies of suggested laws from the National Council for Adoption (NCFA),  letters written by Florence Fisher when ALMA was bringing suit in Federal Court in the Seventies, and so on. It is overwhelming, and I know that it is but a small pile of the mountains of words that have been written.

I see articles where the writer went out of their way to not include mention of Birthmark, as if to trivialize it and to make me seem more like a loner, a single voice, not someone emblematic of millions of teens and women who relinquished their children to adoption when they felt desperate and without a choice. The material goes back decades, more than half a century. Television shows routinely now have stories about adoption, and more often we see that it is dealt with in a realistic manner. Then we have the stories of glorious adoptions such as Hoda Kotb's, as if nothing had changed in the last half century.

And while nine states now how completely open records to adult adoptees, in New York, where I reside and gave birth, nothing has changed since the 1930s when the records of all adoptees were sealed.--lorraine dusky

1 comment:

  1. As a half orphan whose married mother died when I was 3 months old, I'd like to add a few facts. Real orphans do exist. Media seems to forget that we do. Real orphans were not born in a vacuum; half orphans like me have a surviving parent. Some have siblings. We all have extended family. Yet, the pervasive public opinion centers around the stigma of conceiving a child while not being married and the stigma of being born a bastard. I am, quite frankly, getting really sick of this being used against all adoptees.

    ...

    My 2nd point is that no mother, no father, who signs relinquishment papers has any parental rights left! They gave up all of their parental rights when they signed surrender papers. Period. End of story. Furthermore, no parent has any legal right of authority over their adult offspring. What do you (the general public) think The Age Of Majority means? It means that a child becomes an adult unto themselves at age 18 or 21. It means that the child who has become of adult age is under no power of the parents. Period. End of Story.
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