August 20, 2010

It's Not Fine

"Adoption agencies stated that the Dept. of Health told them they can "put whatever we want" on birth certificates.
 When is it ethical or legal for a government document to be falsified? A "Certificate of Live Birth" should be guaranteed factual for every citizen.

In the past a meeting like today would have silenced me for a long time with feelings of discouragement ~ questioning myself as I replay every moment over & over.

But it was different today, and I can thank my amazing adoptee, first mother, and adoptive parent friends for that. The ones who have been fighting this same fight for years and years, and who have taught me so much by being vulnerable and sharing their stories and their passions. Those who have been CHANGE agents in other states.

Four of us adoptees attended the "Adoption Review Task Force" meeting (interestingly, no adoptees were appointed) at our state capitol. We were excited because we thought we were finally being heard.

You see, last month we pointed out the gravity of a statement made by an adoption agency employee. She off-handedly mentioned that when she called the Dept. of Health to inquire as to how adoptions could be tracked in OK, that one of the employees mentioned they were getting obc's from hospitals for babies being targeted for adoption, with the names of the adoptive parents already written in as the parents (even before an adoption is finalized).

Of course, the only ones in the room whose ears tuned in immediately were the adoptees. We asked "why?" that could be done (can you imagine NEVER having a factual birth certificate, sealed or not?), and, for once, the legislators in the room seemed to take notice. They invited the Dept. of Health and other officials to the next meeting (today) to "address" this situation and the procedures done with obc's.

I had a feeling that we would be assurred exactly what "we" wanted to hear ~ that all was fine in vital-stats land and there was nothing to be concerned about. And of course, that is exactly what happened. It was apparent that today was a fluff meeting (much how all of these meetings have been) so the officials could tell "us" the procedure of how obc's are sealed, and amended birth certificates are created for adoptees in our state.

They made sure to point out that any problems that "we" hear about are simply "flukes" and could surely not be problems system-wide. By the end of these few minutes of official blabber, it was "unanimously" agreed that "we" obviously have a good system that has been used for decades, and "if it ain't broke, why fix it?" End of subject.

In essence, it felt as though it was a staged meeting to "address" these issues so we adoptees could shut up and go home. Any issues "we" have with nonfactual birth certificates are coming from the "loud fringe" and don't represent the overall picture. (Even though just a month ago it was brought up as a current issue).
A lot of back-tracking was done and fast...

We adoptees brought our obc's (yet again, as we have in the past), complete with aliases our reunited mothers were appalled to see on our birth certificates; some with changed birth dates and forged signatures. We hurriedly shared our stories with the legislators AFTER the meeting. We can only hope this will eventually make a difference. We felt so defeated, like we were given a tiny bit of lip-service, but no real validation. Having to beg for a few minutes of rushed legislator's time, and the rude stares from the others in the room, made us feel as though we were being sent back to our quarters, where we are expected to remain silent.

We endured painful statements like, "But how do you balance privacy issues?" (read "The Girls Who Went Away" by Ann Fessler); or Jan Baker's telling article "Do We Really Need to be Protected";

"You can't keep a birthmother from lying" (the agencies kept asserting that it is surely a birthmother's "choice" to put whatever she wants on an obc, even naming the child with the last name of the potential adoptive parents ~ no mention of adoption "counseling" tactics vulnerable mothers are strongly influenced by; and of course, it certainly couldn't be the blatant act of agencies, they are perfect). Agencies stated in the meeting that the Dept. of Health has told them they can "put whatever we want" on birth certificates. When is it ethical or legal for a government document to be falsified? A "Certificate of Live Birth" should be guaranteed factual for every citizen. We spent the majority of the meeting rangling over money. It points directly to a supply/demand industry, making adoptees a commodity, especially when our very human rights of identity are stripped from us.

The best quote of the day: "There is zero chance of that happening in OK" (one member's response to our mention of adoptee access legislation passed in six U.S. states). States like Oregon, Maine & New Hampshire have model legislation OK could learn from. Our neighbor to the north (KS) has NEVER sealed obc's to their adult adoptees. 

After shaking this discouragement, days like this cause us to be even more motivated to keep speaking. These are our stories, our lives & identities, our birth certificates (or faux) birth certificates. It is our money we are forced to pay an adoption agency to find our families when our obc's have false names or information. We won't slink back to our quarters. We want the same rights as every other citizen. Nothing more, nothing less. We want our truth.

No, Mr. Legislator, it is not "all fine" as you stated today. It won't be "fine" until every adult adoptee in America has the right to obtain their unfalsified, factual obc. Even if that means fixing a system that supposedly "isn't broken". It won't be fine until babies don't cost an average of $25,000 in our great state. It won't be fine until babies aren't commodities at all.

The reason this task force was appointed in the first place stemmed from an OK Grand Jury report documenting gross unethical practices. My question is how can this "committee" ethically reform adoption when it is largely comprised of those who benefit financially from the business? How can adoption "professionals" who make their living doing adoptions truly provide non-directive "counseling"? These are important conflict of interest issues that OK needs to address.

Even our district attorney's assert they are unable to fully investigate questionable practices because they are hidden behind "sealed records" laws. These archaic laws, based on myths perpetuated by the very ones who profit in adoption, allow unethical practices to be hidden and continued. Maybe the real question here is, Who are we really serving?

Amanda, who writes at "The Declassified Adoptee" wrote this profound piece just in time for me to read as I got home today. Thank you ((((Amanda)))) for putting words to our experience today and the experience of so many adoptees who are reminded often..."we didn't ask you then, and we certainly aren't asking you now".


Von said...

Hard to think of a more broken system and hope one day it gets fixed for you all.

Jan Fishler said...

I live in California now, but was born and adopted in Ohio. I was told that my birth mother died during childbirth only to find out 40 years later that this wasn't the case. I was also told that the records were sealed, only to find out that they were open in Ohio the year I was born 1949 until the mid '60's when they were closed I believe they are open. Needless to say, I was elated to finally get my obc, which led me on a search for my birth mother. I feel your pain and the only thing I can say is that adoptees have to join together and never give up until all states open all records. Interestingly, unless you are adopted, you might not even know this is an issue. I was hiking with a friend the other day, talking about this and she was shocked to learn that records were still sealed. I just wanted you to know that I appreciate your blog and your most recent post.

Ungrateful Little Bastard said...

Thank you for reporting about this. I understand so well how discouragement can really throw you into neutral. I really appreciate so much what you're doing in OK and you taking the time to write about it.

Michelle said...

" My question is how can this "committee" ethically reform adoption when it is largely comprised of those who benefit financially from the business? How can adoption "professionals" who make their living doing adoptions truly provide non-directive "counseling"?"

HOW is it that people are so blind to this? I just don't get it. Keep fighting.

Lorraine Dusky said...

I just put up a link in comments to this blog about falsifying birth certificates--right at the beginning.

Lorraine from First Mother Forum

Is it a 'Birth' Certificate or Certificate of Title?