July 3, 2015

Independence for Adoptees?

My natural Mother, Norma Carol, was a social activist and author who wrote articles for a local newspaper. One of my treasured possessions is an article she wrote about Alice Paul, a women's activist who fought for the right of women to vote in the early 1900's.

If my Mother were alive today we'd be standing arm-in-arm speaking out about the closed record system in adoption.
She could have been one of the brave women interviewed by Ann Fessler in "The Girls Who Went Away".

She registered on the ALMA Registry, and told her family never to forget that I would someday come looking. All the while, she searched for a "son" because the hospital and attorneys told her that she had given birth to a boy by c-section, when truth was, I was a daughter. That saddens me.
In 1968 it was almost impossible for a young, unmarried mother to keep her child. In 2015 it is very possible, but the same adoption issues that were prevalent in 1968 are still in force today.

Sealed records, secrecy, lies, coercion, and unethical practices permeate the adoption system.  When will our society realize and acknowledge the researched and proven fact that separating mother and child brings life-long consequences, and should never be done simply to build another family for those willing to pay. 

A humane society would never legalize "marketing" strategies to encourage the increase of children and babies "available" for adoption ~ yet here we are.  Sealed records benefit no one except those who profit from this unethical and unregulated system in the transfer and stripping of human identities.  Our nation will never have a truly honest discussion about adoption ethics unless money is removed from the adoption system (even in the form of federal adoption "incentives") and the inhumane practice of "amending" and "sealing" birth certificates is ended.   

One of my favorite movies is called "Iron-Jawed Angels", about the women's suffragist movement at the beginning of the 20th century ~ the story of Alice Paul and Susan B. Anthony. They fought for women's right to vote, even though many, including politicians and other women, thought they were "radical" and even "angry". Thanks to their hard work, determination, and refusal to give in, every American woman enjoys the right to vote in every election.

"Women in the Voting Booth", an article in the Daily Record, begins with...

"It was 90 years ago this month that women across the nation got the right to vote through ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. This was 144 years after the Declaration of Independence — proclaiming that "all men are created equal" was signed, and 50 years after African-American men were given the right to vote."

When will adoptee's be given the simple right to their own identity? 
Adoptees deserve the same right as every other American citizen to access their own original birth certificate and court records upon adulthood.

It will be a wonderful day when ALL Adoptees can proudly walk into the Bureau of Vital Statistics office and request their own original, unfalsified birth certificate without "good cause", without shame, and with equal standing.

Adoption Reform Speech: "THIS TIME MUST COME"
By Sandy Musser

Presented at the First March on Washington Adoption in August of 1989, by Sandy Musser, a natural mother who went to federal prison for helping people search:

"I stand here before you today as a civil rights activist for the adoption reform movement. But I want to talk about three well-known activists of other eras who loudly and clearly proclaimed the need of freedom for their people."If a man named Moses were standing here before us today, I believe he would be speaking on our behalf and say to our present government - Let My People Go! Because Moses was not only the leader of the Jewish nation- he was also the most famous adoptee - one who had been adopted outside of his Jewish heritage and Jewish faith.But when he became aware of the bondage his people were in, he fought and persisted to see that they were set free. The Bible says that God heard the heart cries of His people. Our heart cries are now beginning to be heard around this country. We fight against the plagues of the adoption and child welfare system - the plague of the sealed record, which always equals cover-up; and the great plague of all - a corrupt system that has become a billion dollar business!" But I believe that we're well on our way to the Promised Land, and that most intelligent, caring individuals really want truth and openness - not secrecy and lies. This will be a land that will not see the need to sever birth roots nor eradicate the family name; a time when guardianship is a more cherished role than ownership. It will be a land that will not require the control of the social work profession, nor legislated rules and regulations; a land where no money need exchange hands (known as "fees") in order to adopt a child. Our Promised Land will be a land where adoptees, birthparents, and adoptive parents can come together and form a circle of love that will be immersed with openness, honest; and heartfelt caring."

If Susan B. Anthony were standing before us today - she, too, would be speaking out on our behalf. She, too, would be saying, let these people go. She knew what it meant to be denied rights - rights that her male counterparts enjoyed. She fought and led the women of America through the streets and halls of justice so that they too could have a voice at the ballot box. In 1873, she and 15 other women marched to the voting booth and exercised their God-given right to vote - and for this she stood trial. She was prosecuted and fined - a fine she refused to pay. How many of us are going to have to stand trial, pay fines, and be prosecuted for demanding or exercising our God-given right to our original birth certificate or other records concerning our own lives?"

If Martin Luther King could be here today, he would most likely be at the forefront of our March. He would be raising his hands, his head, and his voice, heavenward and shouting to the world - Let these people go! In one of his famous speeches, Martin Luther King said, "I have a dream that someday our people will not be judged by the color of their skin" We share a similar dream - that the day will soon come when we will not be judged or branded because we bear the name of 'adoptee,' birthparent' or adoptive parent.'

"We pray for the day that we will not have to bargain, plead, beg, petition or pay for what is rightfully ours. We anticipate the day when legal documents called birth certificates will no longer be falsified - when birthmothers are no longer signed into the hospital under an assumed name, given them by an agency or attorney - we look toward the day when a simple request for information will be granted - and when Big Brother no longer stands over us with folded arms guarding our most prized possession - our BIRTHRIGHT!"

Finally, I want to share the words of a poem written by MaryAnneCohen, a birth mother with great insight and foresight. It's entitled 'THIS TIME MUST COME'

"TIME WILL COME when our tragedy will not be replayed, When no child will be torn out of the arms of love into the arms of money. When all births will be blessed, all equal. And there will be no word remembered to brand a child born outside society's ties, no recording of legal lies…When love is more lasting than papers, and no child is deprived of either heritage or nurturing, even when they come from separate places. And it is finally seen that blood and home are not the same, And neither replaces the other, and there is no quota for love…

"TIME WILL COME when social workers are to serve, not sever; When they know it is better to unite than separate, To be true than to lie, to be seen than to hide, To accept than renounce, that the give and nurturing of life are both sacred and deserving of respect; That all parents are real parent, not rivals. That love is stronger than fear of laws or time,and cannot be terminated, cannot be legislated, cannot be denied…

"TIME WILL COME when all children can grow, become real, cast off shadows, renew or sever ties by their own choice, be responsible, BE FREE! When our bondage ends, and we answer to our children; Answer with the gift of sight, gift of words, gift of sorrow…When every person has the right to trace their roots in their mother's face, their father's eyes…When nobody is condemned to eternal childhood,and no mother cries forever…

"THIS TIME MUST COME"Copyright © 1989, 2001 Sandy Musser.Visit Sandy's website at http://www.angelfire.com/fl2/musser


Laurie (formerly known as Momseekingpeace) said...

That is so beautiful that you got to spend time with your family! I love posts like these.

Gershom Kaligawa said...

man peach you are just awesome. Thank you for that amazing inspirational post!! I need to read it every morning. May your mother be at peace, i have a feeling the two of you are/were alot alike.

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Amy C said...

Love this post. Thanks for sharing this information. I never realized adoptees were sealed off from their own information. Happy for you that you now have some family memories. Your mom sounds like a great gal!

Jennifer M said...

Lovely post, thanks for sharing your story with us.

Kim Butterfield said...

As a birthmother/ first mother who gave birth in 1968, I can tell you that I never wanted privacy from my son. The sealed record was originally developed to protect the "fallen woman" and her "bastard child" from public scrutiny, but quickly became a tool for adoptive parents who wanted control and a way for society to control and punish the birthmother, and , in the process, the adoptee. Research shows that only a tiny percentage of birthmothers support sealed records. And it's time that tis small group learns that your responsibility to your child far outweighs any perceived benefit(in reality there is only deceit and shame in living this lie.) As a family therapist, I can attest to the damage that forced or coerced separation and secrecy does to families. As a society, we need to change harsh policies and laws that, for decades, have caused such pain and dysfunction in our population.

maryanne said...

I am the author of the poem Sandy Musser quoted. It is not copyright by Musser, despite her claims, although her article is. It is not my best work, and I am sorry it got quoted at all. I have written many better poems that are not screaming political slogans, and am very disappointed that it is this one that was immortalized in Musser's speech. Many of my poems have been published in the CUB Communicator and elsewhere, and can be looked up in the CUB Archives at www.cubirthparents.org

I will always support open records, and do believe that eventually they will be universal, but my views on how to achieve this have changed to more moderate tactics. Taking a page from the marriage equality struggle that was recently so successful, we need to stress how normal it is to want to know one's roots, to get one's own OBC is not something dramatic that harms anyone, but a simple right that should have been restored years ago. It changes nothing for most people; it is something adopted adults should have a choice to get and do with whatever they please, search or not. We so not need more overblown rhetoric to win people to our cause; rather we need quiet and persistent reason and appeal to people in general that open records will be good for adopted adults and mothers who surrendered, and cause real harm to nobody. It is so easy to find people today, and search and reunion have been going on for years despite sealed records. Those in the closet are not even protected by keeping the records sealed, it is a lost cause that eventually we will win. If we can stop the infighting and hysteria and extreme anti-adoption rhetoric that have infected adoption reform, that is!

Lisa notes... said...

I have a friend who is awaiting that one day her daughter given up for adoption will come to find her. I'm glad you were able to connect with your birth mom. There is so much about adoption that I'm unaware of. I pray for healthy changes in the system too.

Anonymous said...

As a birth mother, looking back I appreciate being able to grow up with the security of anonymity. As an adult I did search for my daughter, and she has become a part of my extended family, IE, she knows my siblings and their families, who count her as a cousin. Being an adoptee, from what I am reading, is a painful state, insufficient for "knowing who you are." My memories of adolescence suggest that is exactly what I was struggling with when I got pregnant at 17. Moreover, my father demanded anonymity in order to protect my siblings from associative projections within our community.

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