July 2004 Vol. 1 No. 8
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KEEP SPREADING THE NEWS
Victory in New Hampshire is too important to talk about just in May when the bill was passed, and then again down the road in January, when it will become a law. We should be talking about it every single day!
Let's tell the world about New Hampshire. For starters, why not "redecorate" your Email posts. Change your signature line for a while. Let it read: NEW HAMPSHIRE IS THE 5TH STATE TO PASS A BILL GIVING ADULT ADOPTEES UNCONDITIONAL ACCESS TO THEIR ORIGINAL BIRTH CERTIFICATES. If your Email program doesn't give you a signature line option, then take an extra 15 seconds to type in the sentence underneath your name.
Write letters to your local newspapers. Most people all over North America still don't know that adult adoptees are the ONLY group of citizens whose original birth documents are being kept from them by their government. It's your job to tell them about this inequity.
The key to victory in New Hampshire was equal rights for all citizens. New Hampshire lawmakers were very interested to learn that foster children, who were relinquished by their birth mothers but were never adopted, have access to their original birth records. Only the "children of adoption" have their records sealed in perpetuity. New Hampshire lawmakers understood this inequity and had the wisdom and fortitude to do something about it.
Use this summer for education. Find out what the laws are in your state and then compare them to New Hampshire, Alabama, Oregon, Alaska and Kansas. Be prepared! Don't let anyone say, "Our State is different. It can't be done here."
The winds of change are in the air. It's our job to help fan them across the country.Find out about your state's laws at:
National Adoption Information Clearinghouse
Bastard Nation Local Activism
Bastard Nation Canadian Activism
Marley Greiner and Mary Zoller Co-Presentors
NATIONAL FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COALITION MEETS
The 2004 annual conference of the National Freedom of Information Coalition was held in Newark, NJ on May 21-22 at Rutgers Center for Law and Justice. The conference, titled "Less Secrecy, More Democracy," was co-hosted by the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government and Rutgers School of Law. Bastard National Marlena Villers, Director of Education for the NFOIC, coordinated the event which drew 129 journalists, attorneys, academics, activists, and other interested parties from around the US. Bastard Nation's Executive Chair, Marley Greiner, was one of those in attendance.
Of particular interest to those in adoption reform was the "CPS and Open Records" panel discussion featuring Susan Lambiase, Associate Director of Children's Rights Inc.; Barbara White Stack, reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; and Cecilia Zalkind, Executive Director of Association for Children of New Jersey. Sue Livio, statehouse reporter for The (NJ) Star-Ledger moderated the panel.
The discussion covered media access to juvenile courts, the validity of anonymous sources, and how publicity surrounding the case of Faheem Williams will hopefully bring about changes to the New Jersey foster care system.
Marley Greiner commented that attending the NFOIC Conference fortified her view that Bastard Nation is on the cutting edge in demanding accountability and transparency in government. Bastard Nation's specific issue, the state's refusal to grant adoptees access to their own birth records, is linked to the larger issue of access to public records for everyone.
Since 911 especially, there's been a clamp on access to public records from the very top of government down to local agencies and offices that were simply looking for an excuse to keep records "private." All Americans should ask themselves one pertinent question. If the government won't let adoptees have their own birth records then what about the rest of us? What information is the government keeping from us?
Anyone who supports free access to public records should support open records for adult adoptees.
LETTER TO ABC TV
Dear Ms. Whitecroft:
Bastard Nation, the Adoptee Rights Organization, the largest adoptee civil rights organization in North America, is deeply disturbed by the marketing campaign for the April 30 20/20 production of "Be My Baby." While we reserve judgement on the program itself until it is aired, we believe that the show's promotion exploits, degrades and demeans adopted persons of all ages, portraying us as prizes for "desperate couples" in the great adoption duck shoot.
ABC may weasel at this point, putting the blame on some misguided and uninformed marketing department for this public relations disaster. You have, in fact, posted a nicer kinder promo on the 20/20 website in the wake of universal condemnation of the original Bowling for Babies theme. . No matter what spin is spun, however, ABC can't deny that John Stossel and Barbara Walters joked about the program, Stossel calling it "the ultimate reality show" and Walters "humorously" comparing it to The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Nobody told them to joke around. Nobody put those words in their mouths but themselves.
If ABC really wants to do an adoption reality show, here's a suggestion: "The Bastard." In 46 states the records of law-abiding adult adoptees are sealed from us, locking up our identities, names, heritages, histories and original birth certificates-things that the non-adopted take for granted.
Watch each week as adopted persons state-by-state crawl through ever- shrinking hoops set up by politicians, fat cat adoption industrialists and petty bureaucrats to keep us from our own personal information:
Watch adoptees grovel before judges, argue before legislators, send countless letters out to newspapers, picket ABC and boycott 20/20 sponsors and Disney World.
Watch the cosmic finale: Adoptees v Birthparents; Birth parents v Adoptive Parents; Adoptees v Adoptive Parents; and various permutations ingeniously created by industry lobbyists and their media handmaids as bread and circuses to sell products and deflect the real issue: equal protection and rights for adult adoptees.
Back in 1999 after 20/20 aired Connie Chung's sensationalist anti-adoptee "Mothers in the Shadows" featuring birth mothers in hiding (without disclosure of Chung's status of adoptive mother), Bastard Nation suggested to 20/20 Producer Bill McGowan just such a show, though not couched in reality TV terms since the genre didn't exist then. McGowan dismissed Bastard Nation's concerns over Chung's program as well as our proposal calling us "sensationalist" and "Springer-esque." I wonder what he thinks now.
Perhaps we shouldn't complain about 20/20s-promo campaign after all. Perhaps some disgruntled adoptee moled himself into ABC and decided to have some fun exposing the over-riding consumerist, competitive approach to child acquisition that rules US adoption today-entitlements shared by politicians that keep adult adoptees as eternal infants and justify the sealing of our records.
A 312: Amendment to state's Safe Haven law which will provide
birthparents immunity from prosecution, rather than the current
affirmative defense. Also prohibits the state from attempting to locate or
contact birthparents if they provide identifying information. Sponsors say
bill will "encourage parents to safely surrender their infants without
fear of identifying themselves." Status: 2/24/2004 Received in the Senate,
Referred to Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens
S 602/A 1971: Supplemental appropriation of $100,000 to DHS for public awareness campaign concerning "New Jersey Safe Haven Protection Act." Status: 5/17/2004 Reported and referred to Assembly Appropriations Committee http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/Default.asp (type in bill number and follow links)
S 1577: Establishes Safe Haven Awareness Promotion Task Force.
No persons directly affected by adoption and abandonment seem to be
eligible for appointment. Members will include numerous professionals and
2 "members of the public with a demonstrated expertise in issues relating
to the work of the task force." Status: 5/10/2004 Introduced in the
Senate, Referred to Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens
A 2765: Requires public school districts to provide instruction on "New Jersey Safe Haven Infant Protection Act" as part of core curriculum content standards in grades 9-12. Status: 5/10/2004 Introduced, Referred to Assembly Education Committee http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/Default.asp (type in bill number and follow links).
Where The Action Is
Ireland: AdoptionIreland: The Adopted
People's Association is calling for the immediate ratification of
the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children in Inter-Country
Maryland: Maryland's Governor Ehrlich has vetoed HB 232 -- the
sibling bill that would have allowed adopted siblings to receive search
and reunion services via the state CI program.
Texas: State district judge turns down request for a class
action law suit against the Gladney Center for Adoption, based in Fort
United Kingdom: The Foundling Museum, 40 Brunswick Square, WC1,
opens on 15 June, London. http://www.londontown.com/LondonInformation/
BASTARD NATIONALS JOANNE SMALL AND JANINE BAER PUBLISH
Joanne Wolfe Small's collection of essays on adoption, comprising a selection of articles and talks written or revised over a period of years, began to materialize as a book about two and a half years ago. The essays look at adoption from a psychosocial or environmental perspective. These essays outline the history and background of American adoption culture; explore the hidden but powerful religious, social and economic factors that affect adoption's collective image, and are often critical of child welfare's adoption premises, policies, and practices.
Joanne believes that adoption is an industry that has largely gained power from the desperation, neediness and powerlessness of the birth parents, infertile couples, and adoptees that it serves. "Society has invested the industry with an image comparable to that of a sacred cow. Criticism has customarily been taboo," writes Joanne.
You'll find an abundance of compelling arguments that support the theory that secrecy in adoption breeds shame, a theme that runs through the entire book. Joanne dubs the current crop of open records bills, "Dirty Little Secret" Legislation.
Any one of these essays could be an excellent starting point for a stimulating discussion with different adoption groups. They would be extremely valuable when talking with adoptive parents, child welfare professionals, support groups, and people in the media.The essays are all well documented with specific references at the end of each chapter. http://www.amazon.com.
Growing in the Dark: Adoption Secrecy and its Consequences by Janine Baer
Janine Baer's Growing in the Dark deals with the generations of adults who were adopted as children and have been kept in the dark about their original identities. The law sealing birth records, passed in 1935 in California, swept adoption's emotional complexities under the rug and made it possible to keep adoption itself a secret.
Growing in the Dark takes you through California's early
adoption laws, highlighting the sealing of records, and discusses the
various consequences of this policy as they unfolded throughout the 20th
century. Psychological theories, baby sellers, the views of child welfare
advocates, and attempts to reverse the sealed records laws are all part of
adoption's story. For more information, please visit Janine's website, http://www2.xlibris.com/bookstore/
You Remind Me of Me by Dan Chaon
Dan Chaon, author of two collections of short stories, has published his first novel which revolves around one case of adoption and its enormous ramifications on how family ties are made or lost. Nora, a pregnant teenager, admits herself to Mrs. Glass' Maternity Home and gives up her first child, a boy, to adoption. Five years later Nora gives birth to a second son, Jonah, whom she keeps. Jonah grows to be a depressed and lonely young man who wants to change his life. He clings to the sense that his life could have been different if one important loss had never occurred.
"After Jonah's grandfather died, when she (Nora) started taking drugs more and more, she would occasionally grow sentimental.
"Don't you wish I'd given you up, Jonah?" Nora would say, full of slurry self-pity, in a haze of her own angry thoughts. "I'll bet he's a lot happier than you are."
You Remind Me of Me is not the kind of book in which a simple revelation of brotherhood will solve all problems and lead to happily-ever-after transformations. Dan Chaon examines questions of identity, fate, and circumstance: Why do we become the people we become? How do we end up stuck in lives we never wanted? And can we change the course of what seems inevitable?
Author Elizabeth McCracken says, "You Remind Me of Me is one of the strangest, most beautiful, most compelling books I've read in a long time. Unnerving and real, intricately plotted, wonderfully written, it's a Chinese box of a novel, full of hidden pleasures and surprises."
I couldn't agree more!!
Books reviewed by Anita Walker Field
JOIN BASTARD NATION
Editors: Anita Walker Field and David C. Ansardi
c. 2004 Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization
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