We gave it our best. I sent and received DOZENS of email reminders to vote. But perhaps we preached too much to the choir and not enough outside “our own.”
On Facebok, blogs, conferences…we talk to ourselves! Are we reaching and educating the public or even the vast numbers of adoption-touched persons?
We reached under 3,000 votes. This, in a country with a country with a 2.5% adopted population, a nation in which adoption touches nearly everyone in one way or another, with the Adoption Institute's Public Opinion Benchmark survey finding that 58% of Americans know someone who has been adopted, have adopted a child, or have relinquished a child for adoption.
We need to look at the latest defeat not in isolation, but rather in conjunction with the history of attempting to allow adoptees access to the truth of the birth…you see little success. It is approximately SIXTY YEARS “we” have been fighting this battle beginning with Jean Paton in the 1950s – almost immediately after they were sealed. In those six decades we have succeeded in getting a handful of states have some form of openness” averages out to one per decade. If we continue at the same pace it will take us 460 years to be successful in al states – or never in our lifetimes! Seems it is time to rethink our strategies and try something different.
Step One: LOOKING AT WHAT STYMIES US
• Drop Out RateFor the thirty plus years I have been involved in adoption reform< “open records” etc., we have been plagued by the “Join, Search, Find, Reunite, Quit” syndrome among our members. Our retention rate is pitiful!
• Lack of Finances
We are a frugal group. Members too often ask “what’s in it for me” before paying member dues. We are failing to make it clear that we need the member NUMBERS to effect change. Groups struggle to stay afloat, even when holding costly conferences which are choir preaching events in any event. On top of all of that, we have struggles with misappropriations of funds and embezzlement
• Overcoming FearI see our movement as comparable to the very early years of the civil rights movement. Back to the Rosa Parks and Martin Luther king, Jr. days. At that time in history average Black Americans were still afraid to speak out. They feared retribution. They were thankful to no longer be enslaved and didn’t want to make waves and disturb the small taste of freedom they had.
Many adoptees are totally convinced – without reunion – that they are “better off’ having been adopted and are grateful. The fear rocking the boat, biting the hand that feeds them, being ungrateful, finding themselves rejected – again.
Recognizing this, it al the more behooves us to keep the message very simple and NOT about search, reunion, or even medical need to know. Keep it purely a RIGHTS issue.
• Lack of National and International FocusYes, adoption laws and policies are under state auspices. But we need to create a strong national organization to represent our common/mutual goal; to get the word our to the general public and complacent “grateful” adoptees.
Bastard Nation came into the game with the goal of focusing on the RIGHTS issue and moving us away from search and reunion. They correctly new that keeping reunion out of the mix made it less threatening for adoptees harboring strong loyalty and concern not to hurt their adoptive parents. I love, admire, respect and have the highest regard for Marley. But she cant do it alone! BN suffers the same lack of personnel and lack of money, not even able to put out their quarterly newsletter right now. BN chose their name intentionally for its shock value, however it seems contrary to meeting the needs of the “closeted” adoptee. BN does not have the manpower to be a cohesive national voice for the state efforts, including necessary training for state activists.
The AC was intended originally to be an umbrella organization for the myriad of state and local search and support groups. It has however weakened its mission, IMHO, in order to court the finances of adoptive parents.
WHAT TO DO?
II was asked recently if I thought petitions worked. I also noted that Joe Soll, bless his soul, is asking if there is interest in yet another march on Washington.
I personally think that marches and petitions are a total waste of time (and the later a lot of effort) only if they reach a participation level of TENS OF THOUSANDS and grasp media attention. Thus, now is not the time for such efforts. We need to increase our base first.
I suggest a new national organization with a name the likes of the NAACP and a clear simple focus to galvanize us and recruit. Our message and focus must be clear and simple: Adoptees deserve the same rights as non-adopted persons regarding access to their own OBC.
I see the MAJOR purpose of this organization to be EDUCATION and ADVERTISING. The counter NCFA disseminating op eds, articles, press releases, interviews etc, to educate the public and adoptees about the discrimination and denial of rights. A long-term goal: the possibility of a class action suit.
I suggest a powerful non-offensive or cutsie name such as:
• Association for Equal Rights for Adopted Persons
It will take a group of committed people who are willing to put in time and money to get it off the ground.
KEEPING IT SIMPLE
WE need to understand the simplicity and focus of our message.
Keep It Simple. It can be flushed out of course with an explanation of the issuance of a falsified birth certificate and the sealing of the original certificate; the history of sealed records; etc.
The Southwest Florida Chapter of ACLU adopted the following on April 21, 1987: The Rights of Adult Adopted Persons, Policy Statement (excerpt)
"Numerous states have laws or procedures which impede the ability of adopted adults, their birthparents and other relatives to ascertain each others' identities. The ACLU believes that so long as state and/or local governments choose to maintain birth records, such records must be maintained and accessible without discrimination by virtue of adopted or non-adopted status.Sadly, some sate reformers seek access to “records” which muddies this clarity.
"Toward this end, the ACLU believes that laws suppressing information about adoptees and/or their birthparents, and laws allowing access to such information only upon consent or registration, or laws allowing access to such information only upon court order, deny adopted persons, their birthparents, and their relatives equal protection of the laws and constitutes unwarranted interference by the government with the right of people to choose whether to associate.
"The political debate on the adoption issue has tended to be framed in terms of psychological issues; emotional issues; medical and sociological issues. The above policy confines itself to a civil liberties analysis."
The original birth certificate is the property of those named on it. Denial of that access is unique and no mother was never promised her child would not know t whom he was born.
Yes, adoptees are at risk medically not knowing their family history. This disparity is equalized by allowing them access to their OBC and then leaving it up to them if they want to pursue finding and asking their birth family medical or any other information – THE SAME AS IS DONE BY NON ADOPTEES.
Other records such as medical, or agency files are confidential and are protected by HIPAA law. Such records are not available to non-adopted adult children so their access dos not come under an equality agenda.
Agency records contain information that was given IN CONFIDENCE to social workers, they and may or may not be true, and are often filled with judgments of mothers in a state of stress. In terms of their medical worth, they can only contain what was known to YOUNG mothers – not what their parents may have subsequently died of, or any illness they themselves my have subsequently been diagnosed with.
Mothers who was raped, or committed adultery, or had tried to abort, would be horrified to have such facts revealed by strangers rather than being able to share them herself with her offspring as she would with any child she had not relinquished. No citizens have access to their parent’s medical records or any other such personal files told in confidence to a counselor. Access to them is a violation and is not consistent with simple EQUALITY to non-adopted citizens.
It muddies the issue, gets it off equality and a human rights issues, and losses the support of the ACLU and many mothers who otherwise support adoptee access to their OBC.
UPDATE 3/18: Any newly formed org should be INTERNATIONAL, not national. It has occurred to me since writing this that there is a very large of transnational adoptees, mostly Korean right now, who we need to embrace. This community is growing rapidly and in the not to distant future domestically born adoptees will be the minority. We need to help them with their issues and have them come on board and support us on access to the OBC, even if it would not directly effect the, But if we build solidarity we add strength in numbers and help al of us.