What About MY Rights?

Posted by on November 20, 2007

I only found out I was adopted about five years ago and it was completely by accident that I came across the irrefutable evidence scrawled on the back of a photo of my dad and myself (as a baby) where I was referred to as his “adopted” daughter by someone whose handwriting I didn’t recognize.

You could have knocked me over with a feather. There just aren’t words to describe how I felt at that moment. I had looked at these old family photos, given to me by my sister the year before, a dozen times and never had I seen the writing on the back of that picture until I put it face down on my scanner. I was going to use it to make my dad a father’s day card.

Such irony…

So I confronted my father over the phone and insisted he tell me everything. It was hard for both of us but in the end, I understood why he never told me and why my mom never told me when she was alive and I forgave them.

Of course I still feel very betrayed when I consider that well over a dozen people that were close to me knew this crucial information, including my sister. But I’ve also found peace with it in the ways that really matter.

I found peace because I now know where I come from; because I found my birthparents.

In a nutshell, I contacted the appropriate party in the Department of Vital Statistics to request what’s known as the “non-identifying” information associated with my adoption. This is basically all the information known about my birthparents with anything that would identify them or any details about my adoption stripped out.

I was told the information no longer existed, that the agency had closed and never turned over their records to the state. This information only strengthened my resolve. I flatly refused to accept that this was the end of my search.

After several wrong numbers, three phone calls and exactly one email, I had done what the state couldn’t. I had located the supposedly non-existent records of over one hundred adoptees.

I eventually got my non-identifying information and with one small and seemingly inconsequential nugget of info about my biological grandfather, I was able to locate my birthfather in two phone calls. From him, I acquired my birthmother’s full name and found her on Classmates.com.

After many tense emails with her in which I initially explained that I simply wanted some information, we finally met in person and four years later, I have a pleasant and somewhat close relationship with both birthparents.

But I was extremely lucky.

You see, there are many people out there who have not been able to learn of their parentage, their ancestry, or any of the other elusive information that haunts so many adoptees.

I realize that forty years ago, being pregnant out of wedlock was one of the worst things that could happen to a woman or teenage girl. I’ve read many books and I know the social alienation and ostracization was both systematic and cruel beyond words. I DO understand why adoptions were so secretive.

But what about the adopted children who grow up, both knowing or not knowing of their adoptive status? What about them? What about their rights? What about MY rights?

Doesn’t everyone deserve to know with whom they are forever linked by blood, by shared genes, by shared heredity? Don’t we have a right to know where we come from? To know if we have siblings? Or an important medical history?

As soon as found out I was adopted, so many things started to make sense to me and I quickly developed an insatiable need to know more. When I found out my records were not available, my need only intensified. I had to know who I was. I needed to find my tribe, so to speak.

When I finally did, so many things “fit” and the ability to see that I was like these other two living beings both physically as well as in personality and character brought me a peace I’d been seeking not only since learning of my adoption but really, throughout my life.

The reason I decided to write this because of something I recently read in the NY Times titled “States Urged to Open Adoption Records.” A friend with whom I spoke frequently during my search sent me the link along with a single word… “Finally!”

But there are those who don’t agree, like the American Civil Liberties Union and various anti-abortion groups who feel, despite a lack of supporting data, that women would seek abortions if they couldn’t have closed-record adoptions. I totally disagree with this. You can read why in the comments section where I have responded to a commenter.

Conversely, “States’ experiences in providing this information make clear that there are minimal, if any, negative repercussions,” said the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. “Outcomes appear to have been overwhelmingly positive for adult adopted persons and birthparents alike.”

As noted, I understand that when closed adoptions were the norm and required by law, it was, out of ignorance, thought to be the best decision for all parties concerned but times have changed. Frankly, I don’t think that it was EVER the best decision for the adoptees. We were just babies. We had nobody to speak for us.

Additionally, adopted people are the only class of Americans not permitted to obtain their real and unaltered birth certificates (yes, the state FAKES your birth certificate when you’re adopted). We don’t have the same rights as every other American and it’s completely unconstitutional.

That said, I strongly disagree that one person’s wish to not know their child or remain anonymous can trump another person’s right to their identity.

If a birthmother gives birth in a closed-records state and doesn’t want to be contacted by her child, she should be able to file a “do not contact” request with the state and be required to routinely re-validate the request (the same right to not be contacted should also be afforded to adoptees who wish to not be contacted) but ALL information should be open and available to any adoptee who wants it or at the VERY least, adoptees should be able to have access to their original birth certificates.

Birthparents who wish to know the fate of their surrendered children should also be able to have access to said records.

The adoption world is entirely too secretive. Exactly what are we trying to hide and why? Are the reasons really compelling enough to deny a consenting adult their own birth certificate? The right to privacy argument is, in my opinion, bullshit and if you’ve ever been involved in the adoption community, you’d see just how many birthmothers never wanted secretive, closed adoptions. The few that do are a very, very small minority.

I guess one way to really know how supposedly awful and terrible open records would be is to survey adoptees and birthparents from states where adoption records have never been sealed (there are a handful) and see what they have to say.

I know this is a hot button issue for a lot of people and I just want to say it’s not my intention to diminish the importance of adoptive parents. You are your child’s parents and you always will be. No birthparent or the knowledge of one can ever change that.

And for anyone who is wondering, though they are no longer with me, I loved my adoptive parents with all my heart. Knowing of my adoption and meeting my birthparents could never change that for me, either.

Addendum: Open adoptions can and do work. Secrets, however, NEVER work and nothing stays secret forever. Just ask my family.

Edited to add: You can read some more comments and discourse on this topic here. As per usual, the divisions and opinions are strong but there are some excellent points made in favor of open adoption records. Thanks to Amy for the link.


69 Comments

  • Wow! That is quite the story. I don’t know what I would have done.

  • verybadcat says:

    I’m glad that you found your birthparents and some peace. My father was adopted. He was adopted in Michigan, where there has been much controversy over releasing those records. We wanted to find his birth parents, at least for their medical history. My Aunt, who is 10 years older than my Dad, stopped our search cold, said that it wasn’t a good idea and that his biological family had a long and intense history of mental illness. I stopped pushing out of respect for what I might uncover- my Dad is satisfied with the family he has, and I didn’t want to turn over a rock that would change his life. It isn’t my right. When he’s gone, hopefully a long, long time from now, though, I will start to search again, just to, as you say so eloquently, find my tribe.

  • Busy Mom says:

    As a fellow adoptee of the same age, I get it.

    I don’t have my information, still debating whether or not to pursue it.

    the ability to see that I was like these other two living beings both physically as well as in personality and character brought me a peace I’d been seeking not only since learning of my adoption but really, throughout my life.

    That’s what I’m after, someday perhaps.

  • Kimberly says:

    As a fellow adoptee, I respectfully disagree.

    I don’t feel like I have any inherent “right” to my life. I mean, I certainly appreciate the fact that I have it, but I don’t feel that that choice gives me any rights over my birthmother’s life. She did more than she was obligated to do for me by bringing me into this world and being unselfish enough to allow me the family I had. She owes me nothing else, not even her name.

    I understand the medical history argument, and it would be nice if every adoptee were provided with a complete medical history. However, it’s not really practical–histories are cumulative. What was true 5 years ago may have changed today. And people aren’t always honest, anyway. In my experience, the minute you say “don’t know; I’m adopted” the medical professionals tend to stop relying on history and consider you more deeply as a patient.

    Opening these records wholesale, in my mind, is reprehensible. The women who were affected gave up those children under the assurances that they would NEVER be contacted. To retroactively void their guarantees is just wrong.

    It’s not that I don’t understand the impulse, because I certainly do. I am just also willing to look at it from the other side–should biological parents be provided with total access to their children, regardless of how those children fell about that prospect? Should a biological mother be able to just turn up on the doorstep, expecting to be welcomed with open arms? I don’t think so.

    That said, a registry that allows adoptees and birthparents to contact each other IF THEY BOTH SO CHOOSE only makes sense. While there are many women out there who simply want to move on with their lives and have probably never told anyone about the baby they gave up, there are probably at least just as many who would welcome the chance to see what happened to their child. Creating a safe place where both parties can be respected seems to be the best decision, to me anyway.

    • yeah right says:

      To everyone who’s claimed that birthmothers (God I hate that word) were promised anonymity when they surrendered, that is categorically untrue and a vicious lie perpetuated by the adoption industry. They don’t promise a mom she’ll stay anonymous. They tell her she’ll forget and move on with her life. That’s a lie too.

      P.S., Whether I raised any children or surrendered them, if I give birth, I am their mother. No one disputes that a “birth sibling” is a sibling or a “birth grandparent” a grandparent. Mother or father (and mother more so than father) are the only disputed terms–why is that? Because the adopters paid good money to make it so? Come on now. If your mother had died at your birth you would still be calling her your mother and there would be no debate. Pretend she’s dead if it makes it easier for you.

  • Izzy, I am so glad you have found your birth parents and have started a relationship with them. Good for you for persevering despite the state.

    I don’t have any personal experience with adoptions, but what you said here (I strongly disagree that one person’s wish to not know their child can trump another person’s right to their identity.) makes a lot of sense to me. I agree with you.

  • Miss Britt says:

    My father is adopted, and has absolutely no interest in knowing his birth parents. I think he feels it would be somehow disrespectful to my grandparents, although they have constantly assured him it wouldn’t be.

    It’s only in the last year or so that he’s been willing to ask about medical history, but he is adamant that is ALL he wants to know.

    My sister and I, however, have both felt a need to know more about where WE came from. A desire to look further up the family tree. But we, obviously, don’t have that option.

    ANYway – that’s where my perspective is coming from.

    My thoughts on closed-adoptions being an option are that it doesn’t matter if the REALITY is that rarely any negative fallout comes from later contact. If the PERCEPTION or irrational fear of that negative fallout coming at a later date is enough to deter an already scared, pregnant woman from choosing adoption over abortion – than closed-adoptions as an option are still a good option.

    Yes, society has changed from 30+ years ago. And yet, not as much as we might hope. I know personally several women who have had abortions in the last five years because they were still scared and alone and unsure of what to do next. And in every single case, all of the women I know are haunted with regret. If closed-adoptions can in anyway save another woman from living with that regret that cannot be undone… it’s worth the difficult effort required for those who do decide later to seek their birthparents.

    In my opinion. :-)

    • yeah right says:

      Women don’t choose adoption over abortion. They choose adoption over parenting. Abortion is chosen over giving birth.

      I vote we end adoption entirely. There are foster arrangements for children genuinely being abused, but being born to a mother who doesn’t feel she’s ready is not an abusive situation–it is NORMAL. NO mother is totally ready when she gives birth. We need to be helping mothers more, and letting adopters help themselves a lot less. As long as there are still kids aging out of the foster care system I will never sympathize with an adopter. It’s not “generous and caring” to engage in human trafficking.

  • Izzy says:

    This is my point… Always, a birthmother’s rights, fears, needs and wishes are put before an adult adoptees rights, fears, needs, wishes and right to know who they are. While some adoptees may not want to know, the bulk of us do.

    People make this assumption that adoptees want to infiltrate birthmother’s lives and overwhelmingly I have found with my experiences with other adoptees, that they do NOT want to force themselves into the life of a birthparent who doesn’t share their interest. They simply want some information.

    As for abortions, it’s an easier, simpler solution for most women than adoption. In my estimation, those who choose abortion would likely choose abortion anyway, not because they are afraid of open record adoptions or someone knowing they were pregnant at one point in their life but because they DON’T want to be pregnant. If they felt otherwise, I seriously doubt an open records adoption would be a deterrent.

    • yeah right says:

      No, they don’t put mothers’ rights and wishes first ever. That is just a convenient excuse to walk all over adoptees the way they did all over your mothers. Most mothers and their surrendered children are actually on the same side, if the disrespect on both sides would stop.

  • Right you are that there are rights on both side of this issue that need to be addressed. It is basic human nature to ponder one’s origins. When an adopted person is not afforded the right to answer this question, it can torment that person for a lifetime.

    I have a blogging buddy who not only is adopted, but was found abandoned at birth in a gas station. Talk about not knowing about your birth origins!

  • Damn! You “stole” my post. Ok…not really. I listened to a very moving and difficult show on Talk of the Nation last week and it spurred me to write a post about just this subject. [It's still a draft]

    Anyway, here’s the link to the show. I think you’ll find the comments interesting.
    Talk of the Nation Link
    .

    This was my comment on their blog:

  • Doh! Let’s try that again.

    Here’s what I said on the Talk of the Nation Blog:

    While I respect the privacy rights of my birth mother, I respect my rights to medical and cultural information more. My entire life has been filled with “N/A” written under Family Medical History. Now that I have my own daughter, [and have had hereditary health issues] I feel that I am at least owed my medical history.

  • flybunny says:

    Another adoptee here I agee with some of what you say and some of what Kimberly says.

    I have some of my medical history (what was avaiable when I was born) but not all and in light of some issues we are having with one of our children, it would be nice to have a more complete history.

    That being said, I have absolutely NO DESIRE to find my birth parents/family. I have known since I was 8 that I was adopted and my lack of desire to know has never changed almost 30 years later. I also DO NOT want to be found by my birth parents/family. I absolutely understand where you are coming from but I would be leary of any changes made that takes away my privacy.

    I am glad you were able to fufill your desire to find your tribe and thank you for a well written, thought provoking post although that is the norm around here :)

  • Issycat says:

    Yep.
    As long as adoptees are kept from their truths, we will be seen as forever children. We will always be a commodity.

    I have also recently been fortunate to discover my own adoption truth and find my first family. i didn’t find what I expected to. my mother was coerced. my father was deceived. My adoptive parents were blatantly lied to and fleeced and I was drugged as an infant.

    There are days when I wish I could go back to not knowing. to being the “happy” and oblivious adoptee but really it is so gratifying to kow where I came from. it replaces any of the negatives I have found along the way.

    We have to make it better for future generations and for fellow adoptees who have not been as lucky in their searches.
    It should be more than luck that gets us our records.

    There is a place where many of us adult adoptees meet. You are more than welcome to check us out.

    http://www.adultadoptees.org/forum/index.php

  • Hannah says:

    My husband is adopted and recently contacted our provincial government looking for his “non-identifying” information – as well as an opportunity to meet his birth parents if they were so inclined. The department found his birth mother – his birth father never even knew he existed – and they spoke to her on his behalf. She asked him to write her a letter telling her a bit about himself, which he gladly did. He asked that if she wanted to meet he would love to, but that as a minimum he requested medical information from her side of the family.

    She now refuses to provide this information, and will not talk to our social worker anymore to give any reasons why.

    He’s finding this very hard to deal with because he feels like she got what she wanted – some closure on the child she gave up over 30 years ago – and he got nothing in return. I applaud your bravery in writing such an eloquent and honest post on a difficult topic, and agree – for what it’s worth – that all children have a right to know where they came from.

  • Amy says:

    I have some friends with two adopted sons. Their younger son was a “save haven” baby–that is, his mother abandoned him on the steps of a local hospital shortly after she gave birth. This is legal in California–it’s a way of preventing babies being thrown into dumpsters after their frightened mothers give birth. In any case, they and their son will never know anything about his birth parents. There is literally no way to trace where he came from. While this is sad, and could be difficult for their son as he grows older (especially, maybe (?) since his brother will be able to learn about his own birthparents), I don’t think it is a reason to force mothers to leave their names and information if they don’t want to. There have been hundreds of babies saved since the safe haven laws went into effect.

    • yeah right says:

      No, there have been hundreds of babies surrendered. You don’t know they would have gone into a dumpster–and babies are still being killed by parents who don’t want them, and I don’t mean abortion either.

      Safe haven laws just make it easier to provide babies to the adoption market and that is all they have ever done.

  • Izzy says:

    We have that program here, too.

    Safe Haven babies fall into an entirely different category. They can\’t access their information because there is none. That\’s vastly different from hiding information from someone when it does exist and while it\’s unfortunate that babies are abandoned at all, it\’s programs like those that save lives so I would never advocate that women must give their info when leaving their babies at a fire station or hospital et al. Yes, it\’s not in keeping with my argument that adoptees have rights but as noted, it\’s also not the same type of situation.

  • PunditMom says:

    Wow. I am amazed you found out only so recently. You touch on many topics I think about all the time for PunditGirl. Of course, we have talked about her adoption story since she was a baby, but since she was born in China, unless the Chinese government starts allowing DNA testing and now-anonymous birth parents come forward, we will never know her birth parents’ identities. I’m actually working on trying to get as much information for her as we can, but to say it’s difficult in her situation is an understatement

    I would SO love to talk with you more about this.

  • MammaLoves says:

    Izzy,

    Thanks for writing this post. It’s one of those right words at the right time things. I too am adopted, but I’ve always known. I did receive non-identifying information, but it revealed nothing about me…about my history.

    I have never felt that it was my right to know about my heritage. I convinced myself that it didn’t matter, but in some ways it just does. The debate that has been getting so much attention recently has started to change my mind. I’m feeling more empowered to say, “yes, I do deserve some knowledge.”

    I’d be interested to know how you were able to track down the info you did find.

    I don’t know that I’d ever want to contact my biological parents, but I’d like the option.

  • I totally agree with you. I recently read an article about it too and my reaction was “How is it that birth certificates are faked and that is legal?!” I now understand the context in which that happened (decades ago society was different). However, I think these records should be opened up. The birth mothers’ rights shouldn’t trump adopted people’s rights.

    • yeah right says:

      IT IS NOT ABOUT THE MOTHER’S RIGHTS. They are STILL CLOSING RECORDS TODAY. Birth certificates are STILL FALSIFIED TODAY.

      Know why? Because adopters are scared the mother will change her mind and come get the baby. That’s why. Not sure how exactly that would work in their little fantasy world, but… there it is. Maybe the adoption agencies convinced them it was a risk. Dunno.

      If mothers’ rights were respected they’d get *help* raising their babies when they hit on hard times instead of always being called names, ostracized, considered a social ill, or whatever the current trendy-trend-trend happens to be. Because NONE of this has gone away, because women lose children every single day who would rather have kept them, and because a few dozen people per blog who all have access to Google and can spell search terms are instead choosing to perpetuate damaging and libelous mythology.

  • I totally agree with you. I recently read an article about it too and my reaction was “How is it that birth certificates are faked and that is legal?!” I now understand the context in which that happened (decades ago society was different). However, I think these records should be opened up. The birth mothers’ rights shouldn’t trump adopted people’s rights.

  • I totally agree with you. I recently read an article about it too and my reaction was “How is it that birth certificates are faked and that is legal?!” I now understand the context in which that happened (decades ago society was different). However, I think these records should be opened up. The birth mothers’ rights shouldn’t trump adopted people’s rights.

  • cdm says:

    My daughter is adopted, and knows who her birth parents are, although they are drug addicts and that sadly means she has never seen them since she came to our family. But I have strong feelings about this issue. What I can’t understand is why a birth parent’s right to “privacy” — which seems to be the right to lie to others about having had a child who was given up to adoption — outranks the child’s right to know who he or she is and where he or she came from, which seems to me the most basic of human rights. This really steams me up. My sister gave up a baby boy for adoption 26 years ago, and thank God the records were open enough for him to get a court order and find her and reconnect with her now. If that weren’t possible I know she’d still be mourning for him, and he for her.

  • Teri says:

    As a reunited birth mother I can only add that I firmly believe in open adoption records. I always mourned the loss of my birth child and from all the birth mothers I’ve met in various groups, they, as I did before meeting my daughter, all yearn to meet and know the child they gave up, and have a need to know that this child was raised in a loving home and is living a happy life. The government should have no right to interfere in an adoptees basic human right to access their birth records.

    In the US it would be nice if registering with the Adoption Reunion Registry were all that was needed to open sealed adoption records, but unfortunately it is a whole lot more complicated than that. Certain steps have to be taken and more often than not, it will end up in a judges hands. Even then, it can still be denied although with “good cause shown” such as a medical need, the judge will allow it. Most of the time the judge will appoint an intermediary who will try to locate the birth parents and initiate a reunion. About 95% of the time the birth families will welcome the contact. It just takes patience and in a lot of cases, a need to overcome the fear of rejection.

    I truly believe that adopted children have the right to know their health and heritage information and have the chance to have more love brought into their lives. I never wanted to give my daughter up and I’m truly lucky to have found her. Everyone should have that chance.

    I have a song I wrote called Child I Cannot Claim that I’ve made into a video on my website as well as YouTube. You can see it on the bottom of the page at http://www.AdoptionRecords.com

    Teri

  • dana says:

    Even though I’m pro-life, I still think adopted children have the right to know who their birth parents are. I understand that some parents may not wish to be contacted, but I think that decision changes over time. My friend was adopted and it took here 30 years to find her bio-mom. The woman had requested not to be contacted after giving birth to my friend. But when my friend’s daughter was ill she needed medical records and made the choice to find another way to find her mother. She did, and her biological mom was so happy — she had always wondered what became of the baby she gave up, and she never got around to changing her request not to be contacted. I know it doesn’t work out like this all the time, but I think it’s important for adoptive children to have some of that information accessible to them.

  • Phil says:

    Thank you for this. The more people that speak out on this, the better chance we have of changing the culture of secretiveness surrounding adoption.

    With all due respect to Kimberly and others who might agree with her, we need to separate having access to our records and making contact with our birth parents. My records, birth certificate and adoption records, are just that… mine. I should have access to them, just like every other citizen does. Whether or not I contact my birth family is another question, though.

    I had to contact my birth mother because my records are closed. I couldn’t get any information, unless I found her. I’m thankful she wanted to be contacted.

    The impulse behind closed records to protect birth mothers (who were never given any legal guarantee of anonymity, despite assertions to the contrary – they may have been promised by a social worker, but that doesn’t have the force of law) would actually make searching illegal. Sealing records doesn’t protect birth mothers (who generally don’t need or want that protection anyway); it simply makes the adoptee’s road a little harder.

    I’m so glad you found your birth family. I hope that you have a continued good relationship with them.

  • Harry says:

    I’m not sure where to post this tbh :P . I know people are real edgy with all the blog spam etc. I use to run a blog myself, so I’m aware of the work you actually do to keep this up :D . Anyway point is I thought I’d try and put something back into the community so I’ve written a little plugin folks might like. You can find it if you click through to my website. If you don’t like it just delete this comment. Thanks for your time.

  • flutter says:

    Ok, I am scared to post this but here goes.

    I am a birthmom. My birthdaughter has access to me and to her “identity”. However, my family does not know about her, nor will they know about her. It was a hard wrought decision to come to a healthy balance and decide how much of me she should have, how much of me would be healthy for her to know.
    I decided, in the end that it would be up to her and her family to decide. But, BUT I was in a position to make those decisions, those choices. A lot of women are not. A lot of young girls are not.
    I can’t say it any better than to say that my decision to give her up was to give her a better life and my decision to give her whatever she wants of me is to cause her as little hurt as I possibly can….but at some point, am I allowed to consider my heart too?

  • Jenna says:

    I’m a birth mother. My daughter’s adoption is open so she has access to me and, if anything awful was to happen to me, she has all the pertinent information she could need. (For example, since Mom has been diagnosed with breast cancer, I’ve had her health file updated.) I wouldn’t have placed, contrary to what those groups are saying, if I couldn’t have provided this kind of information for my daughter. She needs that kind of stuff. I mean, hell, breast cancer is big time stuff!

    Great post.

  • Just astounded at how you discovered your adoption. An old friend of mine discovered his adoption under inauspicious circumstances – stranger than fiction – and I remember well his utter shock.

    I also remember the secrecy surrounding adoption when I was growing up. It was so confusing to me then; I never understood why anyone felt as if it should be kept under wraps.

  • stupidmommy says:

    Izzy, if you’re willing to turn back to the personal again, I’m very curious to know what you mean about how things started to “fit” and “make sense.” Was it just that you now understood where your temper or your gait come from, or did it also explain some things about your adoptive family and your relationship to them? For example, was there always some vague sense for you that something was being hidden? Did you have some sort of gut feeling of in some way not fitting in?

    Brave and heartfelt post. Thank you.

  • maggie says:

    Fascinating. I’m glad that you were able to find your birth parents, and there was a happy ending all around.

  • Rachel says:

    Beautiful post.
    My SIL was adopted. WE found out when WE met her after she tracked down my MIL after 32 years. MIL never told anyone in the family. We got 2 years with her before MIL passed without ever revealing any details. And another 9 months with SIL before she passed. She had talked about sharing her story and I wish she had. I feel more could have benefited from it.
    Thank you for your moving post. I’m so glad that you got the results you did and you fought like you did.

  • witchypoo says:

    My father spread his seed without care or thought, and I am glad to meet any half siblings I can. I know there are more that haven’t surfaced, but I feel it is so important to at least have the chance to connect with your bio family. One “surprise” sister was so relieved to find people that looked like her. I was certainly richer for the connection. It really is important to see what your gene pool is like, and decide for yourself if you want to play in it.
    Good on you for your determination, fortunate for you that you have forged some connections with bio family.

  • JayMonster says:

    I can’t help but wonder how much the circumstances with which you discovered the fact that you were adopted plays into your utter anger of the situation.

    I was adopted, but was raised from a very young age to understand and be explained those facts up front. And honestly I believe more along the lines of what Kimberly said above.

    Yes, would I like to have a better medical history? Sure, it is the one thing that I think that even in the best of adoption situations hurts the adoptee.

    But other than that, to the biological mother and father, I say thanks for the egg, sperm and womb donation. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. And I don’t say that flippantly. There are places, and web sites galore now that people should they wish to, can “reunite” with birthparents/adoptees. I registered with them. Fine. If they want to know about me, or are willing to give me some medical information/background great. If not, I couldn’t care less. Now, I also made a conscience effort to allow them access to me. But if I hadn’t (and before I did), I sure as hell wouldn’t want them to be able to just track me down at any time.

    Have you not seen some of the stories over the years about adoptions gone wrong in situations where a birthmother “changed her mind?” Sorry Charlie, in a case like this, the health (mental as well as physical) of the child needs to be taken into consideration, not just the “later regrets”

    I understand you feelings on this matter, but I think you overgeneralize the situation. The bulk of people want to know? I’m not so sure. I am not saying you are wrong, I can’t, I don’t have those numbers. But then again neither does anybody else, so any such statements is purely conjecture.

    You make a sound argument for “safe haven” babies. But consider this. Particularly 30 or 40 years ago, with the stigma of the unwed parent, the teen pregnancy, and other such issues that you do at least recognize, that essentially many of the children given up for adoption were basically Safe Haven babies, but in a legal and more forthcoming manner.

    Which of course brings us right back to the birthmother’s right of privacy. In your situation, you were fortunate with your birth parents. Many others will find themselves in a much less pleasant situation.

    Along with everything else, the added monkey wrench in all of this is HIPAA. The “standardizing” of open adoption flies directly in contrast to HIPAA ruling which says all information is safeguarded unless otherwise specified. Forcing “open” adoption records does the exact opposite.

    There is a lot here to consider and ponder. There is no simply right one size fits all answer here.

  • Izzy says:
    I was heavily involved in the adoption search community for a few years and while it may seem like a generalization, because no, I didn’t go door to door and ask every adoptee in the USA how they feel, vast numbers of adoptees DO want to know the specifics of their adoptions. Some people seem to believe every adoptee wants to meet their birthparent and have some kind of forcible reunion but in my experience, most adult adoptees I have interacted with are more interested in facts than they are having some kind of Kumbaya moment with their birthparents.

    Conversely, nearly all of the birthmothers that I interacted wished to find and get to know their surrendered children.

    Do all birthmothers want that? I’m guessing not but this idea that ALL birthparents want, need and expect to be protected from their searching children is the most flawed generalization of all.

    And just to clarify, birthmothers actually have no legal right to privacy. There is no law, statute or legal promise of any kind that their privacy will be protected when they give up their babies for adoption.
    As for me, I’m not angry about my own situation anymore. Resentful at times? Yes, but angry? Nah. My parents are dead. There’s no reason to hold on to any anger. They thought they were doing the right thing.

    I do, however, have very, very strong opinions on this topic because I’ve been there. I know how it feels to be treated like a second class citizen when trying to obtain a legal and unaltered copy of your birth certificate and I know how it feels to be told, in essence, that it’s just tough shit for me, that I have no rights to the details of my own birth and adoption. It’s just wrong.

    • Arun says:

      Lee Martin – Melissa-You are truely an amnziag artist! NEVER stop doing what you do. I would also wish the new parents much happiness with their new bundle of JOY.

  • Izzy says:

    Physically, I didn’t look anything like my A-parents and personality wise, we were just so different. They were outgoing and lively and I was bookish and prone to being self-conscious. I was sensitive and tenderhearted and my father, in particular, just didn’t understand that way of being. I always felt like I was a bit of a disappointment to them because of these differences and frankly, I never felt like they were okay with me just being me. Later, as a teen I was more rebellious and enjoyed going against the grain and even now I’m still very much a do-my-own-thing kind of person. Come to find out I am SO much more like my birthparents. We are truly cut from the same cloth in every way.

  • Izzy says:

    Of course you are. You’re a human being with feelings that no legal documents can suppress or take away. That’s what most people forget… That behind all the legalese, we are all real people with real feelings and needs that cannot be contained because a judge has ordered it so. Thanks for sharing this. You’re very brave and I commend you for it.

  • Izzy says:

    Such registries already exist but many people, particularly older birthparents and the economically disadvantaged, are not aware of them.

  • Jennifer says:

    I am not going to be able to express this as eloquently as I want to because your post and the comments have me teary-eyed and the hair on my arms is standing straight up – adoption is such a powerful emotional topic. I just want to add my thumbs up for open adoption. My sister gave her beautiful baby boy to an adoptive family 12 years ago….and our entire family mourned the loss. And we are counting the days until we can contact him or he contacts us.

  • kgirl says:

    wow, what an amazing story. so glad that you found the peace you were looking for, though i imagine that is different for every parent/child.

  • kittenpie says:

    This is a really tough one. I can entirely see Kimberly’s points above, and yet I don’t disagree with the fact that maybe some people really want to know and it could be positive. I suppose a “do not contact” contract that comes up for renewal on a regular basis might be the way to go, but only if information isn’t given unless released, because otherwise, there is nothing to prevent unwanted contact. That would be frustrating if the other half wanted contact, but I think it would be fair for those people who went the adoption route under the understanding that it would not come to light.

    For future adoptions, though, I think an open adoption being the standard would be a better thing for most people, and perhaps there can be special no-contact clauses for those who really feel strongly. Myself, if I were to adopt, I’d want the mother to be part of the child’s life in some way if it was workable. But it can be tough, too, because soem of the things that might lead her to give over her child could make her someone you don’t want to have much contact with or someone who might let down that child, you know? And I can also see the fear in the adoptive parents of losing custody of that child if she changes her mind after you’ve poured your heart and soul (and resources, on a practical level) into raising this child.

    Really, it’s something fraught with so many things that can go wrong. But then again, it’s better than a system of foster homes and state dormitories, so it’s a wonderful thing that some people are willing to wade in.

    It just all makes my heart ache. That said – I am really glad it all turned out well for you and your families. Hugs.

  • Gina says:

    I’m also adopted – same time period, too. I grew up knowing I’m adopted (it’s hard for a Hispanic mom to hide that from a VERY Anglo child) but wasn’t ever told the complete truth about my adoption.

    I recently found my birth mother and her family, though it was through a rather unorthodox method. I’d registered on Adoption.com many years ago and forgotten all about it when a tip resulted in incorrect information and a scolding from a bitter, angry woman. Apparently, my birth mother also registered and a reality show producer matched the records and contacted me about a reunion show. I briefly considered it, then thought better of it and went ahead with making contact on my own.

    I learned a great deal, made connections with people who care about me and learned what I could of my family’s medical history. I’ve never considered that the woman who gave birth to me had any right to conceal details of my genetics from me and I’m lucky that she felt the same way because California is one of those states that has yet to open adoption records.

    I’ve given birth three times in my life. Each time, my name and the name of my baby has been published in the local newspaper. This was done without my consent. If I have no right to privacy in this matter, why, then, should a woman who gives up her child? Because she chose to give that child into the care of another? Please.

    Changing a birth certificate and eradicating the original is like rewriting history to suit a politically-correct agenda. It perpetuates a lie. Ink on paper cannot reform my genes into a combination of my adoptive parents’ and governments cannot change the fact of my birth circumstances. I am an adult who should be afforded the same rights as any other U.S. adult who can walk into the Office of Vital Statistics in the state of their birth and request a true and accurate document describing the circumstances of their birth at any time without being told that they aren’t allowed to know. As a citizenry, we have very little privacy in our lives and to demand it in this, when only a small percentage of the population is actually affected, is discriminatory. Take away real birth certificates of all U.S. citizens – deny them the information those documents contain – and see how opinions change on the subject.

  • Beth says:

    Thank you so much for writing this insightful post.
    There is a difference between a person having the right to their own information and invading someone’s privacy.
    Studies have shown that most first parents welcome contact but really that is beside the point when it comes to the reality that most adoptees are being denied basic civil rights.
    Firstmothers do not sign a confidentiality agreement when they relinquish and most are aware that legally confidentiality is never a given.
    And the reality is that every single day millions of adoptees are denied medical information, biological history and their own birth certificates simply because they were adopted as children.
    The rights of many should not be overruled by the wishes of few. It just shouldn’t.
    The secrecy has got to end.

  • Thank you for sharing your personal story. My husband and I have considered adopting at some point and you bring up some very insightful and moving points. I’m so glad you found your birth parents.

  • Kelley says:

    Very very well said. Bravo IzzyMom for being so candid. Any flames send ‘em on to me and I will deal with them for you OK? :)

  • bmgmom says:

    What a story. I admire your strength, courage and tenacity.

  • Lisa says:

    I just found your blog today and I was stunned to read the entry about adoption. You put into words everything I feel.

    I was adopted and found my birthfather 2 years ago. I’m extremely lucky in that the search was uber quick and he’s a fantastic man! I’m thrilled to have him in my life. My birthmother on the other hand is below the radar. She’s apparently a big giant mess and as my BF’s wife told me “was never meant to be a mom.”

    What I discovered in my search is that, because I was born in NY I will never, ever be allowed to see my original birth cerificate. I’m told it’s locked in a vault in Albany, along with the other adoptees. Even if my birth father and I both petition to have it, we can’t. How insane is that? What are they trying to accomplish?

    I’m just appalled by this and I hope the laws change.

    Congratulations on finding your birthparents! And I’ll definately keep reading!

  • This a a wonderful view into the world of adoption. I’m so glad you outlined the importance of a child to know their roots. You were also very clear as to the love and respect for your adopted mom and dad. I hope our world is changing and it will be easier to know the truth when asked. Good luck with your plight you are fighting for many who wouldn’t know how.

    Dorothy from grammology
    remember to call your gram

  • I agree with many of the above comments that seeking information and seeking re-connection are not and should not be considered the same thing.

    I echo, also, the kudos for a very well written post.

  • Beautiful and well written post Izzy. I couldn’t agree more and thank you for being one of many voices emerging in the adoption world that stands for ethics.

    Jamie

  • GHD says:

    That was a very moving story.

    My husband was adopted. It was the early 70s, everything was secretive and private, as you mentioned. In fact, the only evidence of it was some letter between the priest that orchestrated the whole thing and my mother-in-law. My husband hasn’t been interested in seeking information on his birth parents. I think he’s just not ready and may never be…

    I can only imagine how hard it must be to go through that.

    I appreciate your perspective on the process for when and if he does want to find them one day.

  • BOSSY says:

    This is fascinating stuff, Iz. You got a book in there somewhere, Bossy is sure…

  • cameo says:

    hear! hear! i have always thought it completely ridiculous when i hear stories of people searching for their birth parents. it makes no sense to me why that info isn’t available to the children – for medical reasons alone!!! it must feel like you’re walking around with no true sense of who you fully are. there’s a void.
    i would lose my mind if i were the one in that situation. i think it’s legally and morally wrong for people to NOT be able to gain all information about who they are and how they came to be. our history is vital to our identity. and for someone to deny us our ability to fully know who we are, for whatever reason, is totally wrong.
    could you imagine doing that to someone else? could you imagine walking through your life knowing you had a history that you were completely denying, BUT EVEN WORSE, someone else’s history you were denying them? and it was all okay in the eyes of the law.
    like i said before, i think it’s ridiculous, and i really doubt there would ever be anything anyone could say that would change my views on this subject.

  • We adopted our baby girl from Guatemala, and my husband and I are blue-eyed Gringos, so it’s no secret that she’s not our progeny. But we fully intend to foster a sense of her own heritage and history in her, rather than try to cover it up or gloss over it, and ultimately let her decide how much or how little she wants to know.

    I recently met a family who had adopted a girl, domestically, at birth (they wanted a domestic adoption so that she’d look like them). She’s now six years old and has no idea she’s adopted, and she’s showing a few troubling signs. I don’t know the full story at all, but what really bothered me was that within 3 minutes of meeting them at a cocktail party I knew their daughter was adopted . . . and yet she didn’t know herself. That just seemed horribly disrespectful to me, and I hear that feeling echoed in your post. We’re making a deliberate point of revealing very little about Noe’s birthmother to others–even family–because we view it as information that she should learn first, if she so chooses.

    By the way, I know this is off-topic, but if you have a moment, check out http://www.generouspour.com, a partnership project I’ve been involved with between Clos du Bois and Share Our Strength, working towards ending childhood hunger in America. There are recipes, entertaining tips and music playlists, along with a full on “party kit” with downloadable invitations, menu templates, recipe cards, votive covers and even donation cards in case you’re moved to turn your feast into a charitable fundraiser to benefit Share Our Strength.

    And . . . when you download a holiday song–either an exclusive remix of Like a Star by Corinne Bailey Rae or another featured song–on the site, Clos du Bois will donate $1 to Share Our Strength.

    Cheers!

  • motherofbun says:

    Times have changed. I remember when “adoption” was a dirty little secret.

    A childhood friend found out his high school sweetheart was pregnant a few weeks before he started his military training. They decided on an open adoption. They chose the adoptive parents as his sweetheart was 16. Even the friend’s parents as well as and his girlfriend’s parents were still allowed to be a part of this little girls’ life. The adoptive parents often came to the birth grandparents’ homes for parties.

    When my friend and his sweetheart got married, the little girl was in their wedding. The adoptive parents named her Cindy, after her birthmom.

    The marriage broke up and now Cindy’s at least 16 years old. She’s always known she was adopted. She knows where her birth grandparents live. She knows her parents are no longer together and that it was a very painful split.

    My friend rarely calls his bio daughter. His ex rarely calls her as well. I think that although they are very grateful she’s being raised by such wonderful people, they want to keep their distance so she never gets confused — her adoptive parents have been the ones to take care of her and watch her grow. THEY are her parents.

  • Izzy says:

    Isn’t HIPAA about medical records privacy? If so, that’s really not the same thing as adoption records. Additionally, birth certificates are only changed upon adoption. if a child remains in the foster care system until they are adults and are never adopted, they will always have access to their OBC so the idea that birthmothers have or are legally entitled to anonymity or privacy is not accurate.

  • MJ says:

    I’m reading this with all the focus on birth mothers, but what about the men (and boys) who get women (and girls) pregnant? What about sperm donors?

    Family has been redefined. It’s time to move beyond feeling like the people who participated in our conception owe us rights. Yes, all people deserve to know the truth about their genetic background–as much as it can be known. Even if you have your genetic family tree back 20 generations, there will be questions–it’s biology.

    Children/adults who grew up in adoptive families have rights. Of course. Those rights end at knowing the truth of the situation, not names.

    • Marianne says:

      I’m betting you’re an adoptive parent. You people are always the most vocal against your own children knowing the truth about themselves. How incredibly selfish of you. It’s not enough that God gave you a child to raise? You have to hide the truth to feel like a ‘real’ parent? If you were a ‘good’ parent, you’d have no reason to fear the truth and no reason to fear your children will choose biology & genetics over a piece of paper. Get over it.

  • IzzyMom says:

    Every time I read the comments here, I get furious all over again. Those of you who don’t want to know your origins do not have to. Nobody will FORCE you to access that information. For the rest of us that do wan to know, it’s our right. Every other person has access to their real birth certificate. I fail to see why an adoptee should be treated any differently. Also? Birthmothers were NEVER guaranteed anonymity by the law or any other governing body.

  • I have no personal interest in this, but most people I know who are either adoptees or birth parents feel more complete when the whole picture is known. I have two cousins who are adopted. One of them knows her birth parents, not a happy story but that is not the point. She has a birth-brother who she really enjoys knowing. She was the best daughter my dear aunt could have asked for. Her brother is still wishfully searching for for his birth mom. I know 3 birth mothers who ALL wanted to know where their children ended up.

    • IzzyMom says:

      The world needs to know that many birthmothers DO want to know what happened to their children, that they didn’t necessarily WANT secretive, closed adoptions.

      Thank you so much for sharing this. I appreciate your taking the time.

  • ghd says:

    I have to add that although I never knew my birth parents, I know the love I received from my adopted parents was genuine and more than enough for me as I grew up. At time I feel the urge to track down my biologiccal parents, but then think do I really need to meet strangers who simply put, gave me up when I was born.

    I dont have any resentment or bad feelings towards these people, but I love and respect who I can only refer to as my real parents, the ones who raised me and made me the person i am today, too much to worry about my biological ones. But then, maybe one day sheer curiosity will win out

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