Saturday, August 14, 2010

Understanding The Difference Between Confidentiality and Anonymity and Treating Our Mothers with RESPECT

Governor Pat Quinn today presented a 73-year-old Illinois adoptee with the first non-certified copy of an original birth certificate made possible under a new law which Quinn signed in late May.
"When I was born in 1937, adoptees' birth records were never sealed," said Joel Chrastka of Berwyn. "But, by the time I was an adult and had learned about my adoption, my original birth certificate had already been retroactively sealed for 100 years."
“I feel like today is a part of history,” Quinn said. “And a very special part of history. This new law is making a difference for families everywhere.”
The magical moment was captured on video and put up on YouTube. The link got sent out on a number of adoption listserves and was hailed as an emotional appeal for access....watching this elderly man well up with tears as he discovered at long last who HE really was!

I saw that emotional impact, but any and all joy of the moment was instantly shattered as he went on to read, not just his own name...but his mothers full name AND ADDRESS!!

I was dumbfounded! My immediate thought:  So much for his mother's confidentiality ... announcing it on the Internet for all to know before she is contacted and asked how she feels about it. 

I quickly dashed off my concerns to the list and was immediately hit with rebuttals there (and on my now deleted blog post about the video) saying: "He's 73. She's probably dead."

And yet, she also might still be alive!  And she may also well have family who had no idea, including other children. What a way to find out that your mother had a child she never told you about!

Others, on Facebook, pointed out that "he was born before records were sealed so HIS mother never expected privacy/anonymity/confidentiality" again, as if they were all one and the same.  And AS IF any woman while losing her child and making the hardest "choice" ever knows - or is told - anything about the laws!

I was also immediately struck by the double standard hypocrisy of the use of the mother's confidentiality as THE major excuse to keep this information from adoptees and this public outing being sanctioned by some adoptees. Seems like total ignorance and an inability to understand the difference between confidentiality and anonymity.

This should be a private, family matter.

Fortunately, Jean Strauss was on the list and she understood my concerns.  She agreed that it could not only hurt the individuals involved in this one case, but it could cause many other mothers to be less inclined to release their information for fear of being treated this way.  Jean said the footage was shot by someone who was not personally involved in adoption and she herself had not thought of the consequences of that public revelation when she viewed the footage and made it public. She thanked me for pointing it out.

Jean immediately pulled it from YouTube to be edited.

It is sad and shocking that enlightened adoptees could be so wrapped up in their own side of the search that they totally disregard the human person who is at the heart of their efforts. So absorbed in THEIR rights being taken from THEM that they see THEIR birth certificate and all of the "files" as THEIRS and theirs alone -- just names and dates...pieces of paper...facts, data...

This is seen in the way some adoptees find their mothers, dragging little old ladies out of the peace and tranquillity of their denial, having them reveal their deepest secret to their husbands and children..and then disappear as suddenly as they appeared, leaving a heartbroken, outed mother filled with a flood of old memories long held in subconscious abeyance... and now rejection on top of that...all left behind in the dust after obtaining "their information." And we see this over and over.

WE are human beings, not file cabinets any more than we were incubators for your adoptive parents!

Many adoptees think they have a RIGHT to all of OUR medical information and the file of private counseling sessions we had while in the throes of crisis and still trying to decide what to do; hoping we'd be rescued by parents or boyfriends. PRIVATE counseling that under any other circumstances would remain private. But adoptees think it is all part of THEIR file...something any child we birthed and raised does NOT have a right to.  It's outrageous how we are treated in this equation.

Canadians are cannot understand the one-sidedness of the adoption reform movement in the US. Theirs has always been bilateral. Rights for BOTH adoptees and their mothers. By presenting it that way - unilaterally and together - there was never an us against them dichotomy that we have allowed the NCFA to create and play upon...blaming mothers for wanting our privacy and wanting the records to be kept sealed from our children, while all the while most adoptive parents knew our names.

It is viewing it all as an adoptee issue that has once againdehimaized us in the issue. We are nothing but a source of information. Feelingless creatures with no rights of our own - after all, bottom line, we got what we DESERVED! Whores and wanton girls that we were...

We deserve nothing because we signed away our rights...and we should willingly accept being treated badly as our adopted-out offspring spew their passive aggressive behavior on us for rejecting them.

This view is NOT universally accepted.  It is a uniquely American view. It is not so in Canada or Australia.  Just in the US... land of the to be hated and mistreated. What is it about this country that allows us to be less humane and caring human beings? Could it be years of unending war? Our capitalistic upbringing that teaches us that people are poor because they are lazy? Something is a askew here...But I digress.

If those of us active in "the movement"- touched by adoption personally - cannot understand the difference between wanting soem level of confidentiality in the public arenawhile not wishing anonymity from our children...

If WE cannot understand wanting, expecting some respect and privacy, from public scrutiny of our lives...some huamn decency... while not wanting to deprive our children of the "better life" we were promised they'd have and want for them by depriving them their own original birth certificate and the right to know us if they chose can we expect anyone else to?

If we have no respect for one another as human beings, how can we ask others to?


Amanda said...

I thought the same thing when I saw the video. But I also thought that the govenor and the bill sponsor ought to have known better as well, not just the adoptee.

I believe that amending and sealing needs to stop, adult adoptees ought to have unhindered access to their obcs, and that mothers ought to have the right to the amended name of their descendants as well as to hold their own files in their hands.

That request, all in a bundle, really freaks legislators out.

Which is why I tell people not to compromise on bills. Unhindered OBC access IS incrimental legislation. It is a building block to reforming an entire law that treats a lot of people like crap. When we compromise on OBC access itself, we set ourselves back decades--not only for OBC access but mother's rights and reforming the entire law as it is.

Roberta said...

Mirah, I am wondering if you may not have the two in reverse? Isn't it that birthmothers were not promised confidentiality from their children, but EVERYONE has a right to their own privacy or being anonymous from the publics eyes. I agree that ALL adoptees do need to be very respectful (and most are) of the birthparents they find in their search.

Joan Wheeler said...

I'm with you Mirah. I hear your outrage. I didn't see the video, but can understand your point. No detail identifying information on the mmother should have been made public, to the adoptee, yes, but not public.

I agree with everything you said. I DO see the difference in American thought on this and other facets of adoption reform. We in America have been battered from so many fronts that fighting for our rights means that many of us don't see that while we gain something, we are, by our systematic thought process, trampling upon others. This is why a broader approach is neccessary. LEARN from Canada and Australia! LEARN from each other and embrace eachother's rights and needs so we can fight the battle of total adoption reform together in respect for each other who have been used by adoption!

I learned that from you at Adoption Forum of Philadelphia in 1980, just from hearing you speak to others. That was my first adoption conference and my eyes were opened. I thank you for that.

Adoptees: get on board! Support our natural mothers!

Mirah Riben said...


The definition of the word anonymity has a far broader reach than confidentiality.

Anonymous means being UNKNOWN to everyone.

Confidentiality limits who can know and who I snot to know. HIPAA rights protect or privacy and make our records confidential - available only to those we agree can know. It does not make us totally anonymous to everyone. This is what mothers want and expect.

We want to our lives to be a confidential CHOICE that we make as to who knows what about us, just as everyone has that right to as much extent as we can in today's Internet world. We do not want to be anonymous to our children.

Most mothers were promise NOTHING. We were told WE could not ever know our children. We were promised they'd have a better life. We were promised we'd forget. But we were given nothing in exchange for our children, not even a promise of confidentiality. After all, most adoptive parents were given our names on the finalization papers...and often had out complete file: medical and "social" history. they knew how many guys we dated, for goodness sake, and if we smoked pot...(if those questions were asked, and we being naive and thinking it would help our children naively answered honestly).

We are no different than anyone else and deserve to be treated equally. All people have right to confidentiality and privacy of what is discussed with a doctor or counselor. No one - except those on the witness protection program - have a right to total anonymity.

RussiaToday Apr 29, 2010 on Russian Adoption Freeze

Russi Today: America television Interview 4/16/10 Regarding the Return of Artyem, 7, to Russia alone

RT: Russia-America TV Interview 3/10

Korean Birthmothers Protest to End Adoption

Motherhood, Adoption, Surrender, & Loss

Who Am I?

Bitter Winds

Adoption and Truth Video

Adoption Truth

Birthparents Never Forget