This is another Re-Post from my former blog. This article was originally posted on Sunday 2-22-09 in response to the article by Marc Zappala of the NCFA – National Council For Adoption, https://www.adoptioncouncil.org/resources/documents/NCFAAdoptionAdvocateVolumeNo10.pdf
This is so important to beat-down the opposition, considering adoptive parents who are not in the know fall back on the rape-issue as an important tool/weapon/excuse/reason to keep their adoptees (and the rest of us adoptees who are not products of rape) from accessing their/our true birth certificates.
HalfOprhan56 – December 16, 2009
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My Response to the NCFA’s recent publication:
Balancing the Birthparent’s Right to Privacy
with the Adopted Persons’ Desire to Know”
by Marc Zappala
National Council For Adoption
Dear NCFA: One Size Does Not Fit All
Your organization does not speak for me, an adoptee reunited for 35 years. Nor do you speak for my adoptive parents, and you certainly do not speak for my natural parents. Your basic premise of protecting “the birthmother in hiding” has absolutely no applicable usefulness to my adoption whatsoever.
In your recent publication named above, you have not included the full spectrum of adoptees’ and natural parents’ experiences. Instead, you choose to focus on one small group of distraught birthmothers whom you claim need protection from being identified. Natural parents and adoptees come from many different family circumstances, so it is unwise to base all of your conclusions on just one aspect of adoption. By focusing on fear and intimidation, you are perpetuating the shame and guilt of pregnancy without marriage resulting in an illegitimately born infant. Flaunting terrified mothers-in-hiding whose infants were conceived of rape or incest shows your lack of concern for these mothers.
I find it interesting that you use a vulnerable group of childless mothers to achieve your goals. These women were so traumatized that they can’t face the horror of what was done to them, and what they had to sacrifice. Instead of seeking appropriate psychotherapy for coping with rape, incest, and unimaginable grief, their understandable rage is misdirected. They are under your direction. This small segment of birthmothers is held in high esteem by the NCFA (and religious Christian fanatics who claim to have superior morality). You use them as weapons against their own offspring! Worse yet, you use them as the galvanizing force to prevent all 6 or 7 million adoptees from achieving access to our true birth certificates. This is a grave injustice.
By being receptive to learning about the true-life situations of millions of adoptees and their natural families, your organization can foster healing and understanding. Not all adoptees are products of rape, incest, or not-married teenage mothers. Every adoptee has a natural father, too, but you don’t talk about fatherhood. Are you purposefully hiding the identities of fathers who impregnated unmarried mothers and ran away? You don’t take into account children who are adopted by stepparents, nor do you address the issues of older children adopted out of foster care. You certainly haven’t given any consideration to half or full orphans. Nor do you address relative adoption, in which, for example, grandparents adopt their daughter’s or son’s child. Each one of these situations has a variety of social openness.
No matter how open an adoption is, the adoptee’s birth certificate is always sealed and a falsified birth certificate is issued in its place. There is not one sentence or even one phrase in your recent publication that addresses the ethical, moral and legal complications of lying, committing fraud, and willfully withholding information to that adoptee who supposedly is loved by the adoptive parents. The only aspect of adoption you seem to caress with any passion is the perceived moral indignation of an exposed mother in hiding!
I’m just one adoptee, but you can learn a great deal from me, and others, if you open your minds and hearts. I’m a half-orphan, not an illegitimate. My mother died, so there is no fearful birthmother to “protect”. There are no secrets and there is no shame in my conception and birth. I’ve pointed this fact out in at least two private letters to the NCFA. You have chosen to ignore them with no response.
If you, the NCFA, can wave huge red flags with the token few birthmothers who refuse to get the proper counseling to cope with their specific needs, and then claim that they will dominate and take control over all adoptees’ civil and ethical rights, then I am going to raise holly hell about being a half-orphan! Orphans are a minority group within the larger adoptee population. No hiding birthmother for me! My natural mother is dead so she does not need your protection!
My natural father does not need you protection, either. He was never verbally promised confidentiality or privacy, nor was a written contract of such presented to him to sign. Instead, my 31-year-old father was verbally told to stay away from my adoptive parents. (My adopting parents, however, were not told to stay away from him! They needed protection from the possibility that he would interfere into their lives, yet, my natural father he did not get the assurance that they would not interfere in his life. They did, but for that story you will have to wait for the publication of my memoir.) The verbal promise my father made to the court to stay away from my adoptive parents and from me, was backed up by written court papers, signed by my natural father and my adopting parents. The Court Judge told my natural father that he could seek me out again, and establish a relationship with me, after my 18th birthday.
Yes, you read that right! Relinquishing mothers have been told that they will NEVER see their adopted-out children again!
Since my mother cannot speak for herself, I’ll speak for her. How does my mother feel looking through the Spirit World at her now adult children, knowing that her youngest was legally cast out of the family? How does she feel that no one, not even the Catholic Church, helped her husband keep the family together after her death? How does she, MY MOTHER, feel that HER RIGHT to be named as the mother of birth was taken from her? How does she feel about some other woman named on a record of false birth as the woman who gave birth to her child? I would guess that my mother is very sad, hurt, and confused. Common sense tells us that a person can be physically born only once, and yet, some other woman is now named on my only legal birth certificate as my mother by birth! That is a disgrace and a dishonor to the mother who actually carried me intimately inside her and then gave birth to me!
NCFA, you don’t seem to be concerned about the natural mothers (and fathers) who lose their rights to be named on a certified birth certificate for the child they gave birth to. Snarky people quip, “She gave up her parental rights!” No, my mother did not give up her rights at all. She died…of cancer… when I was three months old. My birth certificate was registered in the local Vital Statistics Office within five days after my birth. Yet, that certificate was stolen from me, and from my deceased mother, and from my distraught father, when New York State sealed my true birth certificate and issued a fake one!
My four full-blood siblings, who are also half-orphans, can get their birth certificates — but I cannot get mine. (No – this is not an invitation for them to jump on the bandwagon. I do not want them in my life. As has been previously stated, they are presently an unwelcome interference in my life and are certainly not wanted within the adoption reform community. Read my book to find out why.) The only difference between us is that I lost my legal right to be a part of that family. I lost the right to my birth certificate because adoption legally wiped out my identity and family.
Luckily for me, my natural father had my birth certificate, my baptismal certificate, and my hospital birth certificate. He gave these papers to my adoptive parents, who gave these papers to me after my siblings found me and exposed the secret my adoptive parents never wanted me to know. So I know what is behind the seal in the Vital Statistics Office in Buffalo City Hall, but I am still legally banned from ever asking for it and receiving it at the window.
For me, access to my birth certificate, and reunion with my natural family, is much more than finding the names of the people who created me. To see documented proof that I was born grounds me and connects me to the family I lost. And yes, identity formation of an adoptee certainly does include knowledge of the natural family from which the adoptee originated. To be denied this may seem trivial to some people, but when you don’t have the right to your birthrights, when you don’t have the needed validation of your physical self, there is a deep, psychic aching, a longing for connection.
This is widely published adoption psychology. But it appears the NCFA has not read anything written by Annette Baran, Reuben Pannor, Arthur Sorosky, Ken Watson, Miriam Reitz, Nancy Newton Verrier, David Brodzinsky, Ron Nydam, Betty Jean Lifton, Sandy Musser, Mirah Riben, Lorraine Dusky and Joyce Maguire Pavao. It also appears that you have little knowledge of H. David Kirk’s books, nor have you read The Handbook of Adoption: Implications for Researchers, Practitioners, and Families, by Rafael A Javier, Amanda L Baden, Frank A Biafora and Alina Camacho-Gingerich. Shall I dare mention Adam Pertman’s book? The way you, NCFA, slammed his organization and the careful research that went into The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute’s publication, For the Records: Restoring a Legal Right for Adult Adoptees, tells me you won’t even look at Mr. Pertman’s book, Adoption Nation.
Anything that criticizes your sanctimonious view of adoption should automatically be discredited by your organization and the pack of hateful natural mothers you carry with you. However, the short list of valuable authors listed above (there are many more)ought to be read by all people who are separated by, and connected by, adoption. The NCFA’s lack of knowledge in the life-cycle of adoptees, natural parents and adoptive parents and extended family on both sides, is frightening.
Adoptees have the psychological task of integrating their two identities. They have to come to terms with whatever transpired that was severe enough that they lost their first family. All adoptees have two sets of real parents, whether or not you want to admit that fact, it is fact! When you pit natural parents against their adopted-out daughters and sons, or arm adoptive parents with scare tactics, or treat adoptees as perpetual children, you are creating hostility between people who are intimately joined together by the adoptee in the middle! The emotional burden of sorting out the whys, the hows, the what ifs, the physical differences and awkwardness of being raised by a family that does not resemble the adoptee, grief and mourning the lost family, and so much more, all falls on the shoulders of the adoptee. Natural mothers suffer in ways most people can’t imagine, and yet, your organization promotes hate, fear, disgust.
Here’s a little background about me. I’m an adoptee from New York State who was found in 1974 by siblings I never knew. You, NCFA, can interpret that as a violation of my right to privacy, or, you can see that my four full-blood siblings wanted their baby sister so they found me. Yes, of course there are privacy issues of my adoptive parents who were never consulted. Also, my siblings did not consult with our father before they contacted me. Remember, this was 1974. No one really knew how to proceed.
I joined the Adoption Reform Movement within that first year of reunion.
In the very early 1980s, when the New York State Adoption Registry was just a bill, our local adoptees’ support group began a letter campaign against it. By 1983, I became the leader of the local support group. Many members wanted more emotional support, while others wanted to continue to fight against the Mutual Consent Registry. I wrote to then-Senator Anthony Masiello frequently, and he wrote back. Through this personal approach, I was able to get one man to understand deeper issues of adoption. Then I got married, had children, so my activism tapered off. When the Registry Bill became law, I wrote to the Editor of our local newspaper voicing my objections. A scanned copy of that published editorial is printed above.
In addition to what’s stated in that editorial, in my letters to Senator Masiello, I wrote that the Registry would not be of any use to me. My mother was deceased and could not give her consent to the release of any information, non-identifying or identifying. Even though I had had a reunion and knew all there was to know for 9 years before the bill became law, I did have an 11 year old half brother who lived with my natural father and his mother, my step mother. Because of this, I would have to wait until he reached age 21 before I could apply to the Registry. But I knew my blood-kin. There was nothing to hide! The Mutual Consent Registry simply was not at all helpful to me in any way.
I also pointed out to Senator Masiello that the required written parental permission would have to be obtained from both of my adoptive parents, and my natural father, and all three would have to pay their fees and file to the Registry. I was outraged that, at age 28, I had to ask my parents’ permission to gain information on myself, and my adoption, from the New York State Reunion Registry. Even if I had obtained written parental permission from three parents, the fact that my natural mother was dead and could not provide her written consent, her death would prevent me from being granted any information, even after paying the adoptees’ higher fees than the parents’ fees.
When I had my second child, I could not keep up the fight against this ridiculous law. A few years went by. I learned that a political action group in another city was successful in taking parental permission out of the Registry law. Finally! Validation that in every aspect of life, when a person reaches the age of majority, that person is free from parental control and does not need written parental permission to do anything!
I never filed with the New York State Reunion Registry. Instead, I petitioned Surrogate’s Court to unseal my adoption records. It was a long, drawn out procedure, but successful. The Judge gave me photocopies of most of my sealed adoption papers because I had proven that I had known my natural father and my siblings for over twelve years. But I still did not gain access to my sealed birth certificate.
The Surrogate Court Judge who presided over my adoption in 1957 knew that my mother died and that her death notice was public record, yet he proceeded with my adoption as if it were completely closed. On the day of finalization, the judge ordered my birth certificate in the Vital Statistics Office in Buffalo City Hall to be sealed from me and anyone else. He then ordered a new birth certificate to be made in my adoptive name with my adoptive parents named as parents by birth. Then, he sealed my adoption papers in Erie County Hall in downtown Buffalo, New York.
My four older siblings can get certified copies of their birth certificates; I cannot get mine. The only difference is that I am adopted and they are not. This is pure discrimination — not based upon circumstances of an illegitimate birth, not based upon implied “privacy and confidentiality protection” for my deceased natural mother to keep me from learning her identity, not based upon implied “privacy and confidentiality protection” for my natural father to keep me from learning his identity — but based solely upon my status as an adoptee.
I do not have the same equal rights to a certified copy of my true birth certificate issued within five days after my birth as my siblings do to theirs, or as anyone else has to their birth certificate. Instead, I have a New York State certified copy of a record of false birth. This record of false birth (officially titled Certificate of Birth, and Certificate of Live Birth) fraudulently states that I was born to parents who actually adopted me.
To correct this legalized fraud, I demand immediate access to, and a certified copy of, my true Certificate of Birth (both the short form and the long form), and the immediate revocation of my phony birth certificate. In its place, I demand a truthful adoption certificate, with complete facts of adoption, including the naming of my parents by adoption, certified as true by New York State.
For all the conspiracy theorists who warn that giving adoptees a certified copy of their true birth certificate would give adoptees freedom to commit fraud because they then would have two forms of ID in two different names, I need to remind you that I had been given my original birth certificate by my adoptive mother just a few days after being newly reunited with my siblings. I was 18 years old at the time. I am 53 years old now. I have never presented my certified original birth certificate to do anything illegal. I know my name was changed legally, and I know right from wrong.
To the larger issue, I say: change the law. Make it mandatory on a Federal level that adoptees need both the true Certificate of Birth and the Certificate of Adoption to prove identity and citizenship. This is how it is done in more progressive countries, such as The Netherlands. Dutch adoptive parents fully accept the truth. Dutch adoptees have full knowledge of their birth and adoption, and they have both: their certificate of birth and their certificate of adoption. That is an equitable, honest, and moral method of recording adoptees’ births and adoptions. Change the law and social attitudes will change.
Women were jailed and beaten to gain the right to vote in 1920. Blacks rioted in the 1950s and 1960s to gain civil rights equality with Whites. The Adoption Reform began in 1953, but we have yet to see full equality for American adoptees to gain back their civil rights to their own birth certificates and an accurate adoption certificate.
Yet, adoptees had rights to an unsealed and unaltered birth certificate before 1930. What happened in 1930? Three men decided they would protect adoptees from the stigma of illegitimacy by creating a new birth certificate for adoptees. This is documented history. For more information on this, see page 53 of historian E. Wayne Carp’s book, Family Matters: Secrecy and Disclosure in the History of Adoption. See also Elizabeth J. Samuels’ book, The Idea of Adoption: An Inquiry into the History of Adult Adoptee Access to Birth Records. See also Janine M. Baer’s book, Growing in the Dark: Adoption Secrecy and its Consequences.
Joan Mary Wheeler,
Doris Michol Sippel