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Adoption, Uncategorized

Let’s finally close the door on closed adoption

Adoptees like me who were relinquished during the era of closed adoption have a hard time explaining to others why the arrangement shouldn’t be glorified. Getting people to understand that the Pollyanna narrative around the arrangement is based on flawed assumptions and that growing up not knowing our true selves has caused emotional harm is a tough sell.

In recent years, there have been glimmers of hope and change, however. Social media and technology like DNA testing are helping connect many of us with natural families and answer some of the lifelong questions that have plagued us.

State laws are still behind the times, though. Unrestricted access to original birth certificates is available in only nine states. Throughout the rest of the nation, legislation that sealed birth records — ostensibly for adoptees’ own good — remains on the books. Adoptees are treated like second-class citizens in the eyes of the law.

Yesterday’s Boston Globe took up the subject of closed adoption in more depth than news articles typically do, providing critical context and insight around the issue. Read the piece here. Then if you’re an adoptee or love someone who is adopted, send it to your legislators and demand they change the law.

It’s high time adoptees were the focal point of adoption.

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About Terri S. Vanech

Wife, mother, communications specialist, Jazzercise instructor and recently reunited adoptee. I'm living out loud -- and trying to make it all work -- in midlife. Having a sense of humor sure helps.

Discussion

7 thoughts on “Let’s finally close the door on closed adoption

  1. Re-blogged and commented here: https://forbiddenfamily.com/2018/08/04/my-response-to-the-twilight-of-closed-adoptions-published-by-the-boston-globe/

    S.I. Rosenbaum wrote this sort-of good article titled, “The Twilight of Closed Adoptions.”

    I say, “sort-of” because of the “birth” terms used repeatedly. When will reporters stop insulting families in this way? My father sired me, he did not birth me, therefore, he is not my “Birth father.” Stop it. Just stop it.

    The research is good, interviews good, content and intent, all good. Go read it for yourself. If you feel compelled to subscribe, please do, because that is the only way you will be able to comment. I cannot afford to subscribe, so I will comment on this article here.

    “…states refused to open birth records even when petitioned by adoptees who were searching for relatives because they needed organ donors. Only recently have states begun to reverse course; Massachusetts still doesn’t give all adoptees access to birth records.

    But by now, it almost doesn’t matter.”

    Ah, but it does matter.

    Yes, adoptees and our natural blood kin are being reunited through DNA and social media, but adoptees’ birth certificates are revoked, sealed, and replaced by false-fact birth certificates meant to simulate our real births. Except that they don’t carry real facts. In some states, even birth dates and places can be falsified.

    Think about it. My current amended birth certificate states that I, Joan Wheeler, was born to D and E Wheeler. Nope. Not true. I was not born as Joan Wheeler, nor was I born to the parents named. In reality, I became Joan Wheeler one year and one week after my birth when the final court order of adoption changed my name and finalized my adoption. Three months later, New York State revoked and sealed my birth certificate, the one that is the medical record of my birth, the one that names me as Doris Michol Sippel, the daughter of G and L Sippel. Upon my adoption, New York State issued a new, amended birth certificate in the name of Joan Wheeler. Sixty years later, I legally changed my name back to my name of birth, but my legal birth certificate remains in the name of Joan, and the adoptive parents of Joan. But no where in that birth certificate is the word “adoption.”

    That does not sit well with me.

    To some who are eager to reunite with blood kin, fine, if reunion is all you want, then by all means, seek out social media, order your DNA kit, spit in the tube, and get your DNA. I understand your needs and wants.

    I also understand the push for legislative access to sealed birth certificate because that will give adoptees knowledge of who they were born as and to whom they were born.

    But for those of us who are purists, we must fight to our dying breaths to end this oppressive system that annuls our birth certificates as if our births didn’t happen, seals these documents, and then replaces them with fabricated lies.

    These amended birth certificates are the condition of adoption – today and decades past – that legally severs adoptees from our blood kin forever. We are, whether born bastards or not, legitimized through legal adoption by a married mother and father. The laws were written at a time in history in when babies who were born without a legal father were considered to be born illegally – illegitimately. What better way to hide that shame by creating a new identity for such an unfortunate child?

    Trouble is, children who were born within a marriage were also adopted when one or both parents died. Or when grandparents adopted their grandchildren. Or when step parents adopted their step children. And older children were adopted out of foster care.

    All adopted people suffer the same identity theft perpetrated by the State – and by adoptive parents.

    The State then pretends that this horrendous secret must be kept from us. Our birth certificates continue to be revoked and sealed; no matter if we have been in reunion for decades, no matter if our natural parents (Please STOP using that disgusting word “birth” mother and father) give written permission to release the sealed birth record, no matter if all natural and adoptive parents are dead.

    What’s worse, States will continue to do this to every new adoptee today and tomorrow, too. It doesn’t matter if we all get our DNA tested, if we all find close or distant relatives via DNA matching, or if we search on social media, or if we search in State registries or global registries. Annulling, sealing, and replacing our birth certificates with false-fact pretend birth certificates will continue to be the default of all adoptions – closed and open – unless we change the laws.

    Adoptees of color were not born to their white adoptive parents, yet their legal birth certificates state that they were. Adoptees who were born in Korea or China or Africa are issued birth certificates that state false facts that they were born to white American parents in their country of origin.

    Many white adoptees can “pass” as if they were born to their white adoptive parents because the race or ethnicity is not that far off. Sure, an adoptee with dark hair and eyes won’t fit in very well with blonde, blue eyed adoptive parents, but white is white. Adoptees can “pass” as their adoptive parents children.

    But “passing” is not what we should be forced to do. We should not be forced to pretend to be someone we were not born to be.

    Non-adopted people have rights to their factual birth certificates. Adopted people do not have those same rights. Our identities were changed for the sake of being adopted.

    Legislation to provide access to our revoked and sealed birth certificates will only achieve access – and hopefully without compromising parental controls, permissions, and redactions. Access legislation will not stop the problem.

    The problem is the law that continues to revoke, annul, cancel, rescind, invalidate and vacate the medical record of live birth. The law then seals the medical record of live birth, then refers to it as the Original Birth Certificate, and then replaces it with a piece of fiction created upon the finalization of adoption. Adoption is the process of legally appointing strangers as guardians who are assigned the title of “parents” by adoption.

    Legislation must repeal, rescind, annul or replace the old laws from Victorian days with new laws that will achieve full equality of adoptees to that of non-adopted people: the right to one birth certificate, the right to name of birth, the right to parents of birth, and the right to extended family. Even when parental rights are involuntarily terminated, even when natural parents voluntarily sign surrender papers giving up their parental rights, the child has rights of identity. Adoption destroys those rights.

    If three siblings are in foster care, parental rights terminated, and two siblings are adopted into separate adoptive families, the third child retains her name and birth certificate when she ages out of foster care. Meanwhile, her two siblings are required by law to be stripped of their identity rights when the State revokes and seals and replaces their birth certificates by adoption.

    This legal game of pretend must end.

    Posted by legitimatebastard | August 5, 2018, 2:57 pm
    • Actually the Globe article is full of generalizations and inaccurate information.. Some of it is just plain wrong! And worse, too many adoptees generalize and mislead because they don’t fact check anymore than journalists do-or than an editor actually reads the proof before allowing it to be published.

      Complaining about the systems without submitting ideas to change-or better still, eradicate both adoption and fostering -is like a hamster in a cage on a wheel which eventually kills the poor animal trapped inside.

      Telling another adoptee that an OBC is fictitious is rather a waste of time as we already are quite aware of that sad fact. Asking that same adoptee to join in the fight to obtain our RIGHTS -the same rights of a non-adoptee- is far more beneficial. So is explaining what steps you have taken to alleviate not only your issues but those of others.

      As to the term ‘birth” it is like saying a butterfly has wings. Any woman bearing a child or children is therefore a ‘birth’ mother … She is the mother of that child no matter how she was impregnated, just as the man providing the sperm-nor matter how he did that -is the father. Adopters or fosterers are NOT parents, and may in fact do far more harm than the parent who has had her/his/their parental rights revoked.

      In many states, if the child was adopted thru an agency, they can procure their OBC from the agency thus avoiding the Dept of vital Statistics because the original is in the adoption file at the agency. Wards of the state, as I and my sister were, have not that option.

      In Victoria’s day there were orphanages just as there were workhouses, but no child was without his or her given name unless a father was not named on the birth certificate. But even they had more rights than modern day adoptees in the US because English law made the father of the child responsible for the child’s care.. the orphans of parents who were solvent were placed under the care of a guardian-someone from the family who was responsible to maintain the child’s identity and inheritance as well as to protect them.

      Sires are stallions, bulls etc. Humans are fathers whether or not the child is relinquished, abandoned or otherwise separated from parent(s). All birth certificates and biology and medical notations state ‘mother’ , a natural thing to do since it is DNA which give us our ancestors-not court appointed strangers who share no cMs with us.

      Since denial to the adoptee requesting their OBC (one only available IF they were born in the state of adoption) is a violation of constitutional Rights (see 14th amendment) then that should be our focus… Our issues are federal not individual states. (No state may deny equal protection under the law… )

      The other issues once that hurdle has been tackled and eradicated is to change the arbitrary discrimination and the opportunity a so-called birth parent to refuse the adoptee the right to know who their parents are. In one state, Nebraska, the adoptive parent has the right at any time to rescind access to records by the adoptee.

      Whether Social Services or DHHS, either is an anathema to child protection, with undereducated staff, to many who have their own unresolved issues daring to presume they know what is best for another, and agencies mired in red tape, reprehensible protocols, and just plain judgmental bias towards their clients. Bureaucrats whoa are unlikely to loose their employment because they are state or county or city employees. In my almost seven decades of demanding my rights and information on my sibling, I have met a total of four women who were well educated and put compassion above the law and for whom protection of the child was/is paramount in spite of what the laws might have been.

      We have two choices in matters concerning our adoption statuses: to weep in a corner and complain ad infinitum about victimhood or to work for change so that others will not suffer what we have.

      Posted by gazelledz | August 5, 2018, 8:42 pm
  2. Reblogged this on Gazelle's Scirocco Winds and commented:
    Over 70 years ago I was abandoned with my younger sister and separated from our brother, an act premeditated by our parents. I was 2 years and four months of age. My sister was about 5 mos. old. My sister and I were separated from each other by the state, and each placed in separate adoption ‘homes’. My sister pr9obably not yet a year old; I at 5 years 4 months. I will dispense with the abuse I suffered from my adoptive parents and the refusal of the state to address my reprehensible situation. Both adoptions were closed with records sealed to this day. One has the option to petition the court in which the adoption took place, but the judge has his/her ‘judicial discretion to refuse the request and does, probably 99% of the time. And bear in mind that if you are not born in the state in which you were adopted, there will be no original birth certificate attached to the amended adoptee copy. The mother who relinquishes at birth does not even see her child’s OBC, and parent(s) who intend to abandon are not likely to carry incriminating evidence to the felony they commit.

    To date 9 states give unrestricted access to OBCs (but not necessarily certified copies); 20 give compromised access-which essentially means most likely you won’t get the OBC; and the remaining 22 states are restricted access. (figures from Adoptee Rights Law Center, adopteerightslaw.com )

    In 1982 I secured my OBC, but only because I was not born in the state of adoption. Fortunately the state of my birth sided with me, treating me as a cognizant adult and not a brainless minor, this providing me with the unredacted certified copy of the long form containing names and other information. At the time the laws in the birth state were the same as those in all states: No access to adoptees-period. But I never accepted a no! when the answer should be yes!, and I to this day do not accept no! when that no! violates my rights to have what every non-adoptee has: equal access and treatment under the law-federal, civil and international, as well as being a human right to know who we are and from whence we came.

    This is not simply a state legislation issue. It is violation of FEDERAL LAW, specifically th e14th amendment of the US Constitution: “The Equal Protection Clause is part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The clause, which took effect in 1868, provides that no state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction “the equal protection of the laws”.” Simply put, this amendment-in this issue- gives adoptees the same rights as non-adoptees.

    1948 was the last time I saw my siblings. My brother died before I could locate him, and my sister has no memory of either of us or of her parents or other family. The state pf the adoption continues to refuse my access to my sister’s information, and DNA matches are only made when the person one seeks has DNA analysis in the same database as the one searching. I am in 8 databases. My sister probably does not know that she was adopted, and her children if she has any have little reason to present her with a kit for spit.

    A judge once labeled me incorrigible-meaning unable to be changed or to change… He was exactly correct.

    PS: Just last week I contacted 8 adoption agencies in the state holding my and my sister’s records captive. None have any records on us, something I already new but wanted conformation. We were wards of the state, neither were privately adopted. But worse, I had DHHS scour state records for both of us… none exist! the only thing on file is what I myself provided in 2012 while petitioning for my adoption decree-granted only because I had far more evidence and documentation on me than the state ever did. Caveat to adoptees reading- ensure your records are still intact Now, not later.

    Posted by gazelledz | August 5, 2018, 10:35 am
  3. A little over 70 years ago I was abandoned with my younger sister and separated from our brother, an act premeditated by our parents. I was 2 years and four months of age. My sister was about 5 mos. old. My sister and I were separated from each other by the state, and each placed in separate adoption ‘homes’. My sister pr9obably not yet a year old; I at 5 years 4 months. I will dispense with the abuse I suffered from my adoptive parents and the refusal of the state to address my reprehensible situation. Both adoptions were closed with records sealed to this day. One has the option to petition the court in which the adoption took place, but the judge has his/her ‘judicial discretion to refuse the request and does, probably 99% of the time. And bear in mind that if you are not born in the state in which you were adopted, there will be no original birth certificate attached to the amended adoptee copy. The mother who relinquishes at birth does not even see her child’s OBC, and parent(s) who intend to abandon are not likely to carry incriminating evidence to the felony they commit.

    To date 9 states give unrestricted access to OBCs (but not necessarily certified copies); 20 give compromised access-which essentially means most likely you won’t get the OBC; and the remaining 22 states are restricted access. (figures from Adoptee Rights Law Center, adopteerightslaw.com )

    In 1982 I secured my OBC, but only because I was not born in the state of adoption. Fortunately the state of my birth sided with me, treating me as a cognizant adult and not a brainless minor, this providing me with the unredacted certified copy of the long form containing names and other information. At the time the laws in the birth state were the same as those in all states: No access to adoptees-period. But I never accepted a no! when the answer should be yes!, and I to this day do not accept no! when that no! violates my rights to have what every non-adoptee has: equal access and treatment under the law-federal, civil and international, as well as being a human right to know who we are and from whence we came.

    This is not simply a state legislation issue. It is violation of FEDERAL LAW, specifically th e14th amendment of the US Constitution: “The Equal Protection Clause is part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The clause, which took effect in 1868, provides that no state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction “the equal protection of the laws”.” Simply put, this amendment-in this issue- gives adoptees the same rights as non-adoptees.

    1948 was the last time I saw my siblings. My brother died before I could locate him, and my sister has no memory of either of us or of her parents or other family. The state pf the adoption continues to refuse my access to my sister’s information, and DNA matches are only made when the person one seeks has DNA analysis in the same database as the one searching. I am in 8 databases. My sister probably does not know that she was adopted, and her children if she has any have little reason to present her with a kit for spit.

    A judge once labeled me incorrigible-meaning unable to be changed or to change… He was exactly correct.

    PS: Just last week I contacted 8 adoption agencies in the state holding my and my sister’s records captive. None have any records on us, something I already new but wanted conformation. We were wards of the state, neither were privately adopted. But worse, I had DHHS scour state records for both of us… none exist! the only thing on file is what I myself provided in 2012 while petitioning for my adoption decree-granted only because I had far more evidence and documentation on me than the state ever did. Caveat to adoptees reading- ensure your records are still intact Now, not later.

    Posted by gazelledz | August 5, 2018, 10:34 am
    • Many thanks for sharing your story and being and advocate for adoptees everywhere.

      Posted by Terri S. Vanech | August 5, 2018, 11:00 am
      • As an adoptee I have the duty to help all adoptees in any way that I am able. I am also obligated to advise the public because it is they who need to know about the 2% of us* in their midst that are denied our rights.

        *Globally there are only about 2% who are adopted in the total population. 2% against the 98% who are not adopted and have no clue that we are discriminated against and denied out rights, never mind the trauma of separation, etc. It is this huge majority that we must approach and educate. We must be open and persistant in our quest to be treated equally. that means no more private/secret FB adoptee groups, or other groups closed to the outside world. Only we can speak out-loudly and openly in a clarion call for our rights.

        Posted by gazelledz | August 5, 2018, 11:27 am
  4. I read that article and was really made to look at the issue, one that I haven’t really thought about much. Times have changed; now every one of us can easily trace our roots, our ancestors, our health history. EVERYONE need the same access.

    Posted by momshieb | August 5, 2018, 9:30 am

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