Get Involved in Adoptee Rights!
Did you know...
...that adoptees in 46 out of the 50 states in the U.S. do not have the same right as the non-adopted to access their original birth certificates?
...that the right to privacy as intended by the drafters of our constitution was meant to protect citizens from government interference in their private affairs?
Adoptees donít need protection from the truth of their origins.
Birthparents donít need protection from adoptees.
When I first got started in my search, I met an entire online community of adoptee activists. I had never seen so many adopted people and birthparents together in one place in my life! When I began to understand that as an adopted person I do not have the same rights as other citizens to access my original birth certificate, that I am treated differently because I am adopted, I decided that I would not Ė could not! Ė sit still and allow such discrimination to continue unchecked. I joined Bastard Nation, a politically active, top-of-the-food-chain group of adoptees/birthparents/adoptive parents. Bastard Nation has focused their efforts on achieving open records for all adoptees. They (and I) do not believe that adopteesí rights should be compromised by enacting legislation that gives us anything less than unconditional on-demand access to the documentation of our birth. We do not believe in forced Confidential Intermediary Systems, disclosure or contact vetoes, or anything that continues to violate the 14th Amendment rights of adopted persons to equal treatment under the law as their non-adopted peers.
Bastard Nation and supporters of open records achieved a huge victory in the fight for open records in November of 1998, when Oregon voters overwhelmingly voted for Measure 58, an historic initiative placed on the November ballot through the efforts of Chief Petitioner Helen Hill and an amazing bunch of Oregon triad members. Their petition was the first in the state to gather enough signatures to be officially added to the ballot, and the measure, which gives adult adoptees unconditional access to their original birth certificates, was passed by a large majority. 6 anonymous birthmothers gathered by the NCFA filed suit against the state to keep Measure 58 from going into effect. They lost in court, then appealed all the way to the US Supreme court, who refused to hear their case. In June of 2000, Oregon finally began releasing Original Birth Certificates to the adult adoptees who had requested them.
Another victory for adoptee rights was achieved by the Alabama Group A.W.A.R.E.. On May 15th, Alabama, which in 1991 was the last state in the U.S. to deny adoptees access to their own records, became the first to open them unconditionally by legislative action.
If you would like to learn more about Bastard Nation, or find out about adoption laws in your state visit the Bastard Nation website.
GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY:
There are many worthy causes in the open records movement that need people who have a fire in their bellies to effect change. Each one of us has something to offer Ė a particular talent or capability that an organization running on strings and paperclips could use to help adoptee rights or to help reunite searching triad members. My travels on the reunion road led me to T.I.E.S., the Terminal Illness Emergency Search Program, a now-defunct 501(c)3 non profit that provided free search and support services for terminally ill adoptees and birthparents. When T.I.E.S. underwent an organizational change in 1997, I was asked if I would be interested in helping out. Due to a lack of available volunteers in the adoption search community, T.I.E.S. closed its doors recently. If you have talents and time to donate them, I encourage you to help another needy organization avoid the same fate.
Please, all of you who have the desire, energy and time: seek out organizations that can use your help. If you have searching skills, the Volunteer Search Network provides free search assistance to searching triad members through a huge network of volunteers who are willing to do legwork in their local areas. Every year volunteers all over the country help at RegDay tables on the first Saturday in October, a day to promote the ISRR, the oldest and largest free registry existing. If you have a computer and like to write letters, you can find out about pending adoption-related legislation in your own state (or any state!) and write letters to legislators. A good letter writing campaign can help pass a good bill, or kill a bad one. You can find action alerts regarding current legislation pending on the Bastard Nation Activism page. There are online support groups and mailing lists that you can join to share your story and be a voice of support for other triad members. If you donít have time but have a couple of extra dollars in your pocket, donate to an organization that is doing work you appreciate. Get involved! Whatís stopping you?
A FEW FINAL WORDS ABOUT SEARCH:
If you're still searching, I'd like to share with you some of the opinions I've formed about the process. These are not search tips to help you complete your search - they are rather observations about the emotional side of search and reunion.
First, before you search, you should think about what you want if and when you find your birthfamily. When you locate them, they may be wondering how you expect them to behave. Lets face it, we all have expectations of other people. Birthfamily contact can be dicey for everyone involved. You owe it to yourself and them to be able to realistically and express your expectations. Do you want an extended family that *acts* like a family? Would you prefer just to send Christmas cards once a year and calls on the odd holiday? Do you want to move in? Do you simply want your medical information and no further contact? Do yourself and your family a favor and be honest about what you're looking for. It'll save heartache and misunderstandings later.
Remember that all searches don't have happy endings, and vice versa. My reunion wasn't at all what I though reunions were supposed to be - but I got something even more special than I had imagined. Rejection is *always* a possibility. If you find a person at the end of your search who does not want contact with you, you are obligated by law to leave that person alone. You owe it to your own dignity and to the overall good of the adoption community *not* to stalk a birthparent who rejects you. Get counseling, get into support groups. Rejection is AWFUL. You're not alone. There are a lot of people out here willing to help you through it.
Don't be afraid to take a break from your search if you need to. Searches can be overwhelming at times, so allow yourself to stop and breathe. You don't need to complete it today. You might not complete it next week. My husband searched for 12 years before finding his birthfamily. Yes, some searches take that long. Just don't give up!
I'm always happy to talk to other adoptees who are involved in search and reunion issues. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise to write you back!
-Mary Hunt Peret
© Mary Hunt Peret 2000