Friday, February 19, 2010

This July, the Adoptee Rights Coalition will once again maintain a presence at the National Convention of State Legislatures Annual Summit, lobbying to restore the right of adopted adults to possess a copy of their own original, unaltered birth certificate.
The Coalition's message is clear:

* It is discriminatory to withhold any priviledges afforded all others from a group selected using criteria beyond the affected persons' control.

Many attendees have heard the arguments commonly presented against OBC access - promises of confidentiality, increased abortion / decreased adoption rates, etc.

Again, the message is clear:

* Sealed birth certificates are a recent invention designed to protect the adoptive parents and facilitators (read: Profit$) only, because -
* Sealed birth certificates do NOT protect the confidentiality of the biological parent(s) as they are never sealed upon relinquishment, only as the final step of a successful adoption. Those who age out of the foster care system retain their original birth certificate throughout their life.
* Hard data shows that states with unrestricted OBC access for adult adoptees enjoy higher adoption rates and lower abortion rates than their sealed neighbors.

Thankfully, it seems the opposition is accepting the adoption/abortion figures and seldom cites that argument these days.

Still, 44 States deny adult adoptees all the rights afforded all other law-abiding citizens while expecting them to assume all the responsibilities.

This is simply unfair.

It's not about protecting anyone's privacy. We all want and deserve our own comfortable level of privacy. Laws protecting such privacy are among the oldest on the books of most states, right behind murder and thievery. And, in my experience, adoptees are more acutely aware of privacy issues than the average person.
And most adoptees, myself included, don't need our original birth certificate to locate our biological family.

It's not about searching. At all.

It's about being treated as the responsible, law-abiding, productive, tax-paying citizens we are, supposedly equal under God and the law.

It sounds so simple - "treat everyone equally" - yet it remains an elusive goal for over six million adopted Americans.

Not unobtainable though. Once upon a time, not so long ago, women had few rights, blacks had virtually none.
One day, adoptees will have the same rights women and blacks now enjoy. Because there is a rising tide of adoptees and first mothers - those individuals negatively affected by sealed birth certificates - shouting out the fact that, though they represent two-thirds of the "adoption triad", their wishes have been ignored.
One can't blame the State Representatives and Senators - most have never truly pondered the issue and long before an access bill shows up on their desk, they are indocrinated by lobbyists and fellow legislators installed by agency effort.

This is where individual effort by constituents becomes valuable. Call, write, email and fax your lawmaker at least monthly to remind them this is an issue dear to you and your voting habits.

This is also where effort by focus groups can be valuable in the right locale.

The NCSL Annual Summit is one of the largest gatherings of State-level lawmakers in the nation. There is no better venue to promote State-mandated OBC access for adult adoptees, period.
Which, of course, explains why the Adoptee Rights Coalition will be there.

The Coalition is a volunteer-run organization with no corporate sponsorship of any kind. All costs are paid for by the organizers and private donors.
Everyone travels on their own dime and the only Coalition costs are the cost of the booth, printing of educational materials, a room for the pre-demonstration sign making party, some sign making supplies, a room for the post-demonstration party, and required permits and insurance for the demonstration.
Unfortunately, none of these items are cheap (with the exception of sign-making supplies). The booth inside the convention center is $1,795.

So I will now make a shameless plea for donations - please help! All donations are gratefully accepted, no amount is too small! The organizers and a couple of generous donors have enabled the Coalition to pay the 50% down on the booth but the remainder is due mid-March or we lose our primo location in the Convention Center.
All money is handled very frugally - the ARC is comprised of working-class people who are masters at squeezing the buffalo. As of 2009, they are a 501(c)4 Corporation and will soon publish financial statements for enquiring minds.

To actively lobby all week long at the NCSL Summit is an attractive proposition for those interested in eliminating OBC discrimination against adoptees.
To acheive it for under $3,000 is an incredible bargain, given the number of lawmakers exposed to our message.

Please click here to donate whatever you can spare via paypal. Alternatively, checks and money orders may be made payable to and mailed to:

Adoptee Rights Coalition
109 E Brown St
Nicholasville, KY 40356

And, of course, the Adoptee Rights Coalition will be staging a demonstration on the opening day of the NCSL Summit to announce our presence and our mission.
An informational meeting and sign-making party will be held the evening before, beginning at 7pm on Saturday, July 24, at the Hampton Inn, 101 E Jefferson St, Louisville KY.
Please plan on attending! It is an incredible opportunity to network with other like-minded individuals active in their own states and to socialize with some of the greatest people you will ever meet.

I hope to see you there.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

For a good time see Sabina

So, the 2009 Adoptee Rights Demonstration was fabulous, we came, we marched, we talked with leggies, renewed old friendships and made new ones. Our group was not huge by Philadelphia standards. We left the park with around seventy persons but swelled to about a hundred by the time we reached the convention center. I met a few of the latecomers later that day. They said parking was hard to come by and they had to join up enroute.

Our little group was noticed! Rather than presenting the orderly army of cookie-cutter soldiers carrying look-alike black and white signs that Philadelphians are so used to seeing, we were a colorful cross-section of humanity representing all those hurt by sealed birth certificates. I heard several people remark that we didn't look like the typical protesters and lots of questions were asked. I am particularly thankful here for the many first mothers who joined us, for their voice is the strongest in dispelling the myth of confidentiality.

I didn't talk to any participant who said they were disappointed in any way with the demonstration. If the truth be told, I am a little disappointed we didn't have two hundred participants, or five hundred - we adoptees and first parents do number in the millions you know. But everything starts small, we DID grow from last year, we learned, we have more to learn. Everything can always be improved.

Surfing for feedback from outside the demonstration participants, I ran accross this amusing little piece where a supposed adoptee activist took the day off work (if she works, doubtful judging from her attitude and the amount of time she obviously spends at the computer) to drive from Maryland and spy on us. Not participate like all the other activists, but spy. With false information and carefully chosen pictures, she spins a thousand-word bash of the organizers and participants in a fashion I haven't seen since my sisters were pre-teens. Normally I simply pass this kind of tripe by without comment but the level of seething hatred (or, more likely, jealosy) festering just below the surface here is truly amazing. I have to admit, I'm glad she didn't join in, she would have been truly out of her place. Every demonstrator I talked with was a kind and loving person, not at all like this troll.

Activist? Hah. Bullshit. The only acitivism I see is a desperate effort to villify dozens of adopted citizens, first mothers, and their supporters in their efforts to make their views known. I'm not sure who she directed this post at. Both "fustrated readers" who "urged" her to post this apparently did not attend and are inept at obtaining the facts on their own. The facts are not hard to find. Look here, and here for local newspaper coverage, here for some pics, and Google "Adoptee Rights Demonstration" for plenty more including pictures of the actual crowd. The only correct "fact" she presents is that this year's group was, again, comprised primarily of women. As a male adoptee I did find this somewhat disappointing.

It's more like anti-activism. Baby Love-child? BLC? Gimme a break. More like Bitchy Little C*nt. What is it about these citizens she finds so despicable? That they actually did something? Shades of Bastard Nation...

Anyway, like last year, most legislative contact took place inside the convention center. The ARD booth was staffed with four volunteers for the entire duration of the convention and was fortunate to include former Senator Paula Benoit among those staffers. Paula's efforts were instrumental in opening OBCs to Maine adoptees last year and her expertise was invaluable. I was lucky enough to snag a four hour spot on Thursday. I am anything but an experienced lobbyist and, as it turned out, this seemed to work to my advantage. I spent all my time wandering the floor with a sachel of shag from other booths, which made me appear to be another attendee (vs. exhibitor) and which made it easy for me to engage other attendees in extraneous conversation. Which would, of course, lead me to my point of being denied my own birth certificate while knowing all the information on it. While being in regular contact with my half-siblings and my mother's widower. While being an employed homeowner, with no criminal record, who is denied a passport because Homeland Security demands the original identifying documentation legally withheld by my state. Many legisators seemed amused, and yet interested, that I was not a paid lobbyist but an affected everyday joe who had travelled on my own dime to be there and talk with them.

They asked questions.

That's what matters: they asked questions. Almost none knew these records were sealed in their own states. Some told of having adopted relatives and how they planned on asking them if their birth certificates were sealed as I claimed. Some were honest about the Catholic Church, NCFA and RTL being formidible opponents in their districts yet none told me they thought I was wrong. True, these were professional talkers who tend to agree with anyone in public, but I based my level of success on the questions asked.

And I answered a lot of questions.

The experience left me feeling empowered. I am ready to move beyond merely testifying at hearings and flooding my lawmakers with letters, to scheduling days at my capitol, meeting face to face with them. This is real progress on a personal level.

Many others I spoke with said the same thing. This is real progress on a community level.

I'm very new to OBC access activism. It is not what I had expected to find. Instead of a huge cross-section of affected citizens uniting towards a common goal I find groups at odds, infighting, and individuals like blc working to destroy honest efforts towards the common goal. Having examined all these sides, I am convinced the Adoptee Rights Coalition best represents MY opinion that all adult citizens deserve their own original birth certificate regardless of their reason for wanting it. Because they don't CARE what your reason is for wanting it, they don't CARE what color your sign is or if it is professionally printed, they don't CARE that a thirteen-year old particpant made a teen-style you-tube video of the event because it moved her, ALL WHO BELIEVE IN UNRESTRICTED OBC ACCESS FOR ADULTS ARE WELCOME!!

And that says a lot in my book.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Adoptee Rights Day!

See the cool little logo to the right? The tree with no roots? So appropriate for adoptees. It was designed by Dory, one of the Fab Four who put together last year’s premier of the Adoptee Rights Day demonstration held at the National Convention of State Legislatures. Actually, four is an arbitrary number, more that that pitched in to varying degrees, especially after BN pulled their support. Anyway, short of hearings on individual state bills, this is the perfect venue for adoptees and their supporters to voice their opinion on the absurdity and discrimination of denying adult adoptees their birth certificates. Please, pleeeeze try to be there – this is an important opportunity to make a statement. Large groups get more attention than small ones.

I had the distinct pleasure of attending the first event last July. We had a nice group of protesters but the convention center was so huge we didn’t have the impact I would have liked. Nonetheless, we were noticed. Two workers from my hotel had seen us, a cab driver for another had seen us, most importantly, state representatives and senators had seen us. No doubt some will remember us next July. They will learn we are a group that will not fade away, we will grow, everything starts small. The organizers are an incredibly bright and dedicated bunch who see this for what it truly is, a fight against widespread and state-sanctioned discrimination.

Please help adoptees everywhere by showing up for a couple of hours. If you are starved for the company of others who "get it" then plan on spending a few days. The four days I spent in New Orleans will never be forgotten!

There are lots of ways anyone can help – click on the logo and check it out!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

jour d'élection!

I hope adoptees and those who love them used their vote today to further the cause of restoring the right of ownership to one’s own birth certificate. Adoptees are the only group of people to be, as a class, denied this very personal piece of identification and it is blatant, state-sponsored discrimination any way you look at it. A few states have realized this, a couple have always known, but most are like mine - gardien de Gestapo des dossiers work diligently to "protect" the three-in-a-hundred mothers (and, perhaps, as many adoptees) who wish to hide with no heed paid to the vast majority. Where’s the democracy in that? Laws already exist to protect the aforementioned minority should their privacy be invaded against their will, where are the laws to protect the majority who desire information of their own personal life?

At the very least, current laws should ensure the fair and equal treatment of all adult law-abiding citizens. Again, adoptees are the ONLY law-abiding, adult citizens to be, as a class, denied a copy of their own original birth certificate.

Thankfully, there are some exceptions. Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, and Oregon recognize the right of adopted people to be treated just like anyone else.

I just can't understand why the other 46 states haven't, unless they are simply being bought out. In many states, like mine, state senates instead of popular vote decide these laws, and educating lawmakers becomes paramount. Identifying and replacing lawmakers who oppose equality is also necessary and that is where our vote really counts – at the state level. I know who I voted for. I had the votes tally for the various versions of our Michigan open-records bill. I called and e-mailed offices with questions and voted against any who didn’t respond or who were pro closed-records. I only wish I could have voted in more districts. In lieu, I wish I had the funds to post newspaper ads across the state identifying opponents of equality.

The ACLU would be all over this, if its membership didn’t include so many attorneys making a killing off the infant adoption industry.

America, land of the free.

Enterprise, that is.

Monday, October 20, 2008

bleah, miscellaneous ramblings

Sticks and Stones may break my bones…

When I was young, this phrase was the standard reply when responding to insults from the enemy-of-the-moment.

I consider myself lucky in that our little three-block neighborhood was awash in children from infants to young teens during my first ten years of life, so I was not raised in social isolation. I was unlucky in that my adoptedness was common knowledge and often employed in the insults I received. I am lucky that I developed a keen sense of the unpleasantness of discrimination even while living in a small, lily-white northern Michigan community. I am unlucky in that I was born in the state of Michigan, a state which believes it is Righteous and Good to discriminate against adoptees by denying them a copy of their own real birth certificate.

Political Rant:
There is no way I can believe lawmakers here are not on the take when all empirical evidence shows that "birthmother privacy" is not an issue. Almost all "birthmothers" (and adoptees) desire open communication and laws are already on the books to protect those who don’t. As always, money talks. And when healthy white infants garner $30,000+ in "filing fees" to adopt, it is easy to see where that money came from. So it’s also easy to see why "social workers" are taught coercive tactics designed to separate child from mother quickly. This pamphlet is a typical example, widely distributed to adoption agencies coast-to-coast. Bethany Christian Services has them. Assuming they follow its directives, and I know they do, they would have certainly gone after the baby Jesus. After all, his mother was only thirteen or fourteen and possibly unmarried (depending on the version, but certainly young), very poor, not possibly equipped to parent a newborn. He would have gotten a good price.
"Christian" services my ass.
(End Rant)

…but words can never hurt me.

I said that a lot as a kid, but it wasn’t true, at least for me. The neighborhood kids, especially the girls, would taunt me with gems like "your real mother didn’t want you" (or "didn’t love you", etc), "you don’t look like your sister/brother – oh, ha ha, they aren’t your sister/brother, ha ha", "They probably got you from some garbage can…". They were very inventive. Their words hurt like arrows through the heart. We moved to a different part of town when I was ten. I didn’t tell anyone in the new neighborhood we were adopted and swore my a-sibs to secrecy. They agreed willingly.

I’ve grown more callused through the years but am still sensitive to certain words at certain times. I’ve learned to consider the source and that greatly filters what my reactive self hears.

Still and because of that, simple words are the most painful component of my marriage’s collapse. Today’s case involves the common "misplaced car keys". Her keys were already in the running car when I climbed aboard to drive. After arriving home I attempted to give keys to wife, she refused whilst busy with mail, I set on counter next to her purse and walked away. Keys disappeared. A common scenario, not one worth raising a lot of rancor over in my estimation. If not found, copies can be made. But I estimate wrong. Next day, unable to find them (but possessing a spare key), she calls me at work to fling a few choice words my way. I stupidly answer phone on speaker while working in staffed office. She takes the day off due to the stress of it all. After work I spend over three hours searching. I admit my memory of setting them on the counter may be faulty so I search the entire house, both garages, both vehicles, and surrounding grounds. No luck. Strangely, keys are something I am positively anal about; I never just lay them somewhere. (This is a learned response from locking keys inside vehicles. I cannot close a car door without holding the car keys in my hand.) I searched very hard. I cannot think of another place to look. I cannot be absolutely sure I am not to blame here, though history consists of her memory being at fault every time in matters like this, so far. And I didn’t mind looking, except for the words of encouragement. Lively spirit-lifters such as "dickwad - where’d you put my fucking keys?!", "fucking retard", "stupid asshole", "fucking idiot", and my favorite "since you’re into that adoption shit you’ll probably blame being an idiot on being fucking adopted, huh?".

I love the internet. In the last three years I have met dozens of adoptees who share some of the effects of being relinquished and this has been very healing and affirming for me. I have received more guidance and reassurance, more insight and compassion than I ever have from a "legitimate" counselor. My wife is suspect of this fact. I will freely agree I might benefit greatly from a therapist learned in adoptee issues but there are none to be found in my area. In the meantime, I draw great satisfaction, and insight I believe, from my fellow adoptees. And I believe any adoptees who might stumble upon this post would agree. There is no better listener and advisor than one who has been there.

My wife does not get it though. We were doing alright, more or less, until I came out of the fog and began searching again. Basically a very needy person, she resented the time spent on my search. Then the time spent with reunion attempts. She rode to Lansing with me to testify for our open-records bill and meet my half-sister, but complained bitterly about spending vacation time that might better be spent on a vacation with her. This summer’s junket to New Orleans put her over the top as I expected. I booked everything last February and asked her at the time if she would go, that I would really appreciate the support. She questioned, I explained clearly that it was an adoptee-rights oriented trip where most time would be spent preparing to protest, protesting, manning the booth, and discussing ideas for improving everything. She was adamant that she didn’t want to spend "a whole week of me being adopted" and so I went solo.

I wasn’t home thirty minutes before she accused me of "loving my adoptee friends more than her" and having an affair. I explained that most attendees were, like myself, married or heavily committed, she asked how many spouses were there. When I told her most spouses stayed home to watch the kids, she implied that this was some way for "adoptees to screw around on their spouses" (emphasis hers).
One-track mind at work there. The adoptees I met in New Orleans were beautiful people. I was awed by their gentleness, their genuineness and their spirit. Normally very shy, I was at ease with these similar strangers from around the world. Everyone was friendly but no one was there to have an affair.

A social wrecker from Friend of the Court said "what we have here is a failure to communicate". I’d have to say I disagree. Communication flows effervescently, points are clear. She cannot tolerate my internet friendships. She says "they're not real." I remind her I met some this past summer and have pictures to prove it. She says they would be fine if they visited IRL. The fact they live in places like New Zealand, Finland and Hawaii makes no difference to her. I cannot tolerate the constant belittlement. Is it a result of being adopted? Probably not, but I will now ponder that while I should be sleeping.

I’m thinking of starting a dating service for adoptees, maybe with another section for first parents. I am beginning to believe that only an adoptee can truly understand (and, maybe love) another adoptee.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'm so grateful, I guess...

I am grateful for the eight months I had to correspond with my cousin before she passed on.
Having lived with my mother from the age of four and being only three years younger, she was a fountain of information, one I certainly wished I had tapped more completely.

I am an emotional sap these days. I cry reading stories of adoptees who refuse to meet their heartsick mother, who’s waited eighteen years or more for the chance to see again the child they were coerced out of. I even cry happy tears watching reunions on "The Locator". The absolute worst are the stories of adoptees rebuffed, denied, hurt beyond measure as they experience again the fears and self-doubts they’ve struggled so long to overcome. I simply cannot comprehend how a mother could not want to know her own child. It is the cruelest thing I have ever heard of and I bawl like a baby whenever I read of another.

When I was young, before age six or so, I spent a lot of time on the front lawn waiting for my mother to return for me. I figured this "adopted" thing was temporary. After all, I had been told that my mother "just couldn’t take care of me"; I expected she would remedy the situation, come pick me up, and all would be fine from then on.

(I guess I didn’t bond all that well with my forever parents. They were good people, generally, but strict, and the natural love found in most families was glaringly absent. I was well aware of that fact and envious of my friends’ families before the age of five.)

Only once did I try and discuss with my cousin the impact my relinquishment had upon my mother. It went something like this:

Me: So, umm, did M ever mention me, I mean, say anything about me, later. Like, years later or something…. I, umm, just wondered if she thought about me or anything, umm…

Cousin: You know, I asked her once if she ever thought about trying to look you up, to contact you, and she said "Oh, they seal those records forever, I couldn’t find out if I tried".

Me: Yeah, well, they certainly tried, I mean the records are still sealed though they have this central registry thing nobody knows about because they never advertised it. I was just wondering if she ever brought me up in a conversation or something…

Cousin: Oh Jimm, she would have loved to meet you, I just know it in my heart.

Me: Yeah, well, probably, I sure wish we had had the chance, you know. I kinda just figured that since you knew her so well, you were the only other family member to even know of me, that she might have felt the need to talk about it once in a while, and, umm, you would probably be the one she would speak to…

Cousin: If she were alive today she’d be so happy to know you. You’ve grown into such a nice and responsible adult. And L too. [my half-sister, also relinquished] She says she worked at the phone company too, just like me. Twenty years I worked there, they treated me pretty well. You know your mother worked there too, for a few years, a different department than me though, I remember one day, I had to work through most of my lunch hour that day…

Thereafter, no discussion on the topic was entertained. The conversation was always gently guided elsewhere, typically a humerous recollection including my mother, raising my suspicions that a joyful reunion might not have been likely after all. I had set upon developing another line of questioning that might reveal more truth in the matter but was unsuccessfully slow. With L’s passing, the last hope of answering the question of why also died.

At least I escaped being abandoned a second time. For that, I suppose I am grateful.

Kind of.

In a way. Sort of.

Or maybe not. It’s hard to decide.

Very hard to decide.


Monday, September 8, 2008

A sad day in Georgia

This story illustrates so much of what is wrong with our child welfare system today. When did we decide, as a society, that it's ok to take a child from her mother because some social worker speculates the mother may, at some future time, cause "harm" to her child? When did that happen?

Only when the outcome is tragic do we hear any outcry. And then it's lost in the cacophony of foster care supporters clamoring over the thankless suffrage they endure for the good of all those orphaned waifs.

Except they're not orphaned waifs. Not most of them. Most have been removed, like Jessica, for reasons shaky at best, imagined and vindictive at worst. See, Jessica's mother had recently asked for help with her bi-polar disease. It is well-managed with meds, but, as with most meds, periodic visits to a physician are required to continue the prescription. Being young and not particularly affluent, she sought help with the public health system.

That's it.

That's the reason little Jessica was taken from her mother.

Ironically, Jessica died of excessive heat when the foster mother became drowsy and napped after taking some medication, leaving Jessica in the hot car outside while her adopted toddlers played unattended indoors.

Why wasn't Jessica with extended family? They were available and willing.

Don't get me wrong, there will be the rare occasion where unrelated foster care truly is the best answer. But should a weighty decision like this be made on a personal whim? Absolute power corrupts. Perhaps citizens should be made to sit on rotating "foster boards" of a dozen or so, like jury duty, and only upon their approval may a child be placed outside of biological family. I don't know. Certainly the power to disembowel the family is too often invoked.

Apparently, the UK's system isn't much better. Run Sam, run!