The results have been eye opening. I spoke with a couple of hundred people at a tri-state meeting and at my local church. With just one exception, all were Unitarian Universalists, so a very select group. Unitarians are known to be a upper-middle-class, primarily white of northern European descent, mostly middle aged or older, with an average educational level of 17 years and liberal political leanings. A very select group, with many preferential adopters.
When asked to sign a petition granting adopted persons a right to their original birth certificate approximately 60 percent asked, said, "Sure!" and signed, no questions asked. Some asked why they weren't allowed to have it, with some amount of surprise. It might also be noted that most of these persons knew me personally a factor which may have swayed their decision because I was someone familiar, a friend, asking.
Approximately 35-37 percent had the same hesitation: "I don't know. I have to think about..." or simply: "What about the rights of the mothers?" Of those who asked and waited for an answer, perhaps a little less than half were convinced with a sentence or two. Revealing that I was a mother who had relinquished was a markedly positive factor in their decision to accept that mothers did not want anonymity, that the laws were never sealed to protect them to begin with, etc, and they signed.
May 7, 2011, Morristown NJ. UU NY/NJ/CT metro meeting.
One person said vehemently: "I do not agree" and stomped away! Another said it and stayed so I asked if he wanted to share why. He proceed to give three different reasons. First he said that adoptees didn't deserve anything special; that he couldn't get his father's medical record and neither should they. I explained that this was about access to their birth certificate. He then said something I do not recall and finally said that he believed that mothers would abort rather than be found.
Three people shared with that they had adopted children - now adults - and they had never thought about it before! One of these three was the on non-Unitarian, albeit also white, liberal. His only concerned about adoption were in shortening the time mothers had to "change their mind." Twenty years after the fact this man i will call Sam was still upset and angry about the year he "sweated" it out fearful of his child's mother reclaiming custody. He was absolutely unable to see adoption from any perspective other than his own, except that he did say that he had told his daughter he would support her if she wanted to search for her birth family. Despite that, it seemed all three of these adoptive parents I spoke to did not even consider the perspective of their children, just their own. It was about their ability to obtain a child. Period.
It was a rude awakening for me because I confine most of time to being online and speaking to people - including adoptive parents - who are involved in the adoption COMMUNITY...who see all aspects of adoption, the good, the bad and the ugly.... Adoptive parents who regret their initial fears that kept them from obtaining more history about the kids they took into their families and who are trying everything they can now to assist in reunification.
There are others who get "involved" with adoption for what it can do for them and that remains their sole interest. But the there are plenty of adoptee and original mothers who get involved in adoption "reform" for the sole purpose of resolving their on search and nothing else. I guess people are just basically selfish.
Despite the totally unscientific methods, I have drawn conclusions form this experience.
Ask the average John Q. Citizen what "gay" issues in this country and they can tell you at least these two:
- marriage equality versus civil unions
- don't ask, don't tell in the military
Though both of these issues are controversial and people may be for or against them, they know of them. Adoptee rights is an issue that the many in the public have no idea about.
Many people have told me that they never knew adopted people were issued a secondary birth certificate and that their original one was sealed. Yet it would be difficult to find anyone who doesn't know that gay people cannot marry in most states. Why is this?
The major reason is that the gay community is more organized, more outspoken and willing to spend money to campaign for their rights and we are not.
For one thing, we lack a central organization. Each state has it's own group - many with only Facebook pages and nothing can be found via a google search. The American Adoption Congress has all the state info but they themselves are not well known and certainly not known as an adoptee rights organization. They are not. New people come onto Facebook every day and are LOST. We bitch among ourselves. We search, we reunite. We talk to one another about our searches, our reunions our adoption "stories" but we do not ORGANIZE!