Monday, September 20, 2010

Bonds of Blood; Deformed But Not Broken

My very astute and intelligent buddy, Musing Mother, posted about open records legislation in Missouri, and the notable omission of Natural Mothers from those who would have access to these records. That is an unfortunate fact about all the open records legislation that have either passed or are in different stages of the process.

We  have been told, in the past, that inclusion of Mothers would "cloud the issue." I think the only thing clouded would be the feelings of adopters and the marketing strategies of the agencies. I have noted, in several previous blogs, how reunions can falter, re-start, go off track, try again, die and disappear, etc. It is hard to be indifferent to the child one carried in one's body and I am sure it is equally hard to be indifferent to the woman who gave you life. But that natural bond has been warped by separation, secrets and lies, especially for mothers and adoptees from the BSE/EMS which is the group specifically affected by closed records.

Even when we don't see eye to eye and lifestyles differ and attitudes are polar opposites, there is still something that binds us and it is more than just DNA. The fact is that too many of us are not going to make it in that big reunion picture of Mother and Child, resolved. But there is one way we can bridge the gap, even when contact is sporadic or nil. Being advocates for each other where civil and human rights are concerned could, I personally believe, heal a lot of the hurt we feel.

There is so much pressure on the adoptee to remain loyal to the people who raised them and that is not unreasonable. But it really throws a monkey wrench into the engine of many a reunion. The Industry knows this and plays on the fears of the adopters to keep their businesses up, running and profitable. They use the fundamentalist churches and the anti-choicers to keep the supply up. They use the adoptees' fears of hurting their adopters and the lingering shame of a pitiful minority of Mothers to apply just enough force to keep us from forming a united front. They know what side their bread is buttered on and it is definitely NOT the Mother's side. The adopters are, for the most part, the ones with the bucks.

I know one adoptee who said that her adopters didn't pay a penny for her....Oh, except for the attorney's fees and her medical expenses and a few other fees, but it was only a few thousand dollars. That was back in the early 60's. A few thousand back then is like $50K, today. That was an agency. But it takes money to run a state's social services department, as well, so someone has to fork over the dough for that healthy infant. When we say it is an Industry, a business, a market, we mean just that. And business has no conscience.

So, what if we understood that reunions can be rocky and problematic and that we might have to love from distance, BUT, that we could do this one thing for each other, as Mother and Adult Child? A united front in the face of legislators (attorneys who support adoption for the most part) and lobbyists (the NCFA and others of that ilk) would make things a bit harder for them to manipulate. The idea of going with what we can get and tweaking it later, is about as much good to all of us as "the check is in the mail" is to the collector dunning the deadbeat.

We've had our motherhood dismissed. Our children have been obligated to try to fit their square peg selves into  the round hole of the adoptive family. Lies have been told and misapprehensions encouraged. Yes, those  ties that bind that are forged by nature, have been altered and deformed. But they haven't been broken. I read too many comments by adoptees and mothers. We all care to much for them to be completely severed. If the bonds were not there, the pain wouldn't be there, either.

Maybe there are many of us that can never be a family again. But we can look out for and support each other in this fight for the truth. And if that isn't love, I don't know what is.


Anonymous said...

"mothers and adoptees from the BSE/EMS which is the group specifically affected by closed records"

Really? I was under the impression that ALL people adopted in non-open states were specifically affected by closed records, not just the BSE bunch?

Robin said...

In the US, open adoption came along and replaced closed, secret adoption for the most part and there was a surge, post Roe v Wade, of mothers keeping. There are still some post-BSE surrenders that were affected by closed records but the majority of those adoptees seeking open records in the US are from the EMS. I said "specifically," not "exlusively."

Robin said...

that should read "exclusively"

Chris said...

I applaud 7rin's support of her adopted sisters and brothers in America. Still in the end, 7rin doesn't have a Horse in this American Race. In her country they have open access to the OBC for several decades now..I believe by both the adult adoptee and the does Australia and now in some provinces of Canada.

It is true that closed records affect all adoptees whether in a closed or open adoption, no matter the year. Though I have read more recent adopters talk about how they have been given a copy of their adopted child's original birth certificate, sometimes even having possession of the natural mother's social security number, ("specifically" read this at, in some open adoptions of today. I have also read where some surrendering mothers in open adoptions have also received a copy of their surrendered child's OBC, before the adoption is finalized.

Back in the ole days SS#'s were not used as a form of identification, other than in employment to deduct SS taxes. So before anyone misconstrues..back in the BSE NO SS#'s were used upon admission into a hospital..they are today.

The BSE does have the highest number of sealed records, i.e. the OBC, because that is when the greatest number of newborns were lost to adoption. After 1973, adoptions dropped off would logically deduce, so would the amount of sealed OBCs and records of the mothers who surrendered.

Maybe it's time that American Adoptees take some ideas from Australia and now Canada. For far too long, the American Adoption Lobbyists/Pro-adoptists/Anti-choicers, truly have made it their business to keep the population of adoptees and surrendering mothers at odds with each's in the Adoption Industry's Best Interest to insure this stays in's good for business and has insured more oft than not, that access to OBCs will be a long difficult task to undertake. 99 years anyone?

halforphan56 said...

No to 99 years!
I've had enough. I have always supported mothers of adoption loss, and fathers, too. Perhaps I am in a strange world, but to me, without our mothers, us adotpees would not be here, so to me, there was never any arguing about to include mothers in the access to birth records. Of course they should have access to the birth records of the child they gave birth too! And the amended certificate also! I have never seen any adversarial position between mothers and adoptees, but then again, I said that for the past 36 years, I have always been for all people who lost in adoption: adoptees and our natural parents.

Anonymous said...

Once our Mom's publicly join forces with us (as in having a booth next to AAAFC's at the next NCSL convention in San Antonio), the lawmakers that use them as scapegoats will be in shock and dismass with pie on the faces. The "fragile, scared, closet-ridden women" these fine ladies ARE NOT!!!

Battle stations...we've got ourselves a tough fight but our allies are going to expose the adoption machine and how it victimized ALL OF US...Mothers and Children.

We will never surrender. We will never give up.

Erimentha said...

I don't think it is exclusively the adoption industry that supports the status quo. I cannot count the number of people who have said things to me like "Your adoptive parents are your real parents", "you should be grateful you weren't aborted", "they took you in when you weren't one of their own" - these comments come from both virtual strangers and so-called friends. Society as a whole insists that we adoptees regard our adoptive families as the most important (or only) family in our lives, completely ignoring the fact that people have an infinite ability to love - why should I not love my natural family? It is terrible that the laws in the US are still keeping families apart and equally terrible that most people don't consider it terrible. I'm not sure if I'm making sense here but I really just wanted to say that it is not just agencies or adoptive parents that put pressure on adoptees, it is the expectation of most people that adoption is all about rainbows and ponies. Trying to explain to them that adoption is based on loss and trauma for two thirds of the triad tends to cause people to look at me like I have two heads.

Amanda said...

Robin, I'm curious. By opening records for natural mothers as well, does that mean that the natural mother would have access to both the original and amended birth certificate?

On an emotional level, as an adoptee, that part about the amended birth certificate makes me uneasy. But I know thats my emotions talking and not my logic. In all fairness, why should we adoptees get to know who our natural mothers are and not the other way around? Why should we be able to hide behind the veil of privacy. I'm so used to the secrecy that being exposed like that makes me uncomfortable. But imagine if it were the norm! We just knew one another. No secrets, no shame, no digging through your parents safe late at night to catch a glimpse of your natural mothers first name.

I love your blog, Robin. When the world starts to placate me into thinking that my adoption is okay, I read your blog (as I do everyday) and I remember that my feelings of anger at the adoption system and the society that fuels it are totally justified.

Oh, and I don't live in Milan. I dont know why your counter always says that. I actually live in Rome, Italy.

Robin said...

Amanda, I can see that you would be uncomfortable with the idea, but fair is fair. That amended birth certificate is a matter of public record, anyway. Anyone who wants to can look it up. Why wouldn't most normal mothers not want to know the welfare and whereabouts of the children to whom they gave birth? And we were there, in my case giving names and info and fathers' name, etc., so I definitely should have a copy of the OBC.

halforphan56 said...

Thirty years ago, a natural mother was crying and yelling at a lunch table at a small adoption conference. She wasn't really talking with me, but I saw her face and heard her words: "They took my baby. But I did not get a birth certificate to prove I gave birth!" She said some other words and right then and there I knew this thing called adoption was larger than me, larger than my own experience.

I had been found six years previous and in reunion since high school, so I had plenty under my belt by then. I was shocked. How can a mother give birth and she NOT get the birth certificate?

I still could not wrap my brain around the theft of the infant at birth, either, because that is not what happened to me. I am a woman, and what happens to other women is of importance to me. Just because my mother died three months after giving birth to me doesn't mean that I don't understand the loss of an infant at birth.

And, yes, a mother of adoption loss should get a copy of the ameded birth certifcate, too.

Open records is for ALL of us who have been effected by sealed and closed adoption. Open adoption does NOT open the records. Don't tell me the adoptive parents get this and that because what matters is the formal paperwork that is still sealed and falsified by the governement, even in so-called open adoptions. Until we STOP that process, we will always have sealed and falsified birth records for adoptees! Access to sealed records is only the beginning of the real fight!!!

Keep up the good work, Robin!

Cedar said...

Thank you, Robin, for writing this. You are speaking on an issue very close to my heart.

I have been told that open records for mothers will never work in the U.S., that it is a stupid idea, that it just can't be even tried as no-one would support it. But maybe it could work? Maybe it would be the "consciousness shift" that would open the records? If mother had rights too?

I know my view is unpopular, but i believe that adoption legislation in the U.S. and Canada is very similar. Canadian provinces based their adoption laws on the crap invented in Massachusetts in 1951, same as other American states and other Western nations did.

Mothers have been shipped across the borders in both directions to be incarcerated in maternity prisons, wage homes, or otherwise in the clutches of the industry until they gave birth and could be harvested. It even happens today, and in fact might be even worse with the internet, as sites such as Adoption.con are hooking up Canadian moms to be flown down to U.S. families to give birth there, then be shipped back to Canada disembabied. U.S. mothers, likewise, flown the other direction.

But the difference is that the open records movement here has always included both natural mothers and adoptees. BC was the first province to open records, in 1995. Alberta, Newfoundland, Ontario, and the Yukon have followed suit. 64% of Canada's population now lives in "open records provinces." Quebec has introduced a bill and Manitoba is drafting legislation. That means that likely within a couple of years, it will be 91% of Canada's population.

I know that the U.S. is different in many ways, but regarding adoption, there are huge similarities (including the unregulated industry here). I feel that natural parents in the U.S. deserve the same rights as we in Canada now take for granted.

Robin said...

Cedar, I think we understand that the Industry is the same. But I wonder if you have the same, strong govenmental involvement that we do. I don't think so, or else your govening bodies are more amenable to your issue. Our Industry is supported by the US government.

The similarities in the industry do not mean that we can fight it in the same ways. The differences are cultural, historical and governmental. Things are just similar enough to cause the confused idea that we can do things the same way they have been done elsewhere. The beast is stronger here in the land of the bottom line.

And the legislative processes are different. We don't have ombudsman, or anyone, for that matter, to oversee and make sure that things are done as they should be. Our God, for all the fundie religious posturing of the US, is Mammon.

Here, it is not how just your cause might be, but if you have the buck$ to back it up.
We are, again, more densely populated and there is less of a social conscience. We are alike enough to have a mutual concern and a similar Industry but we are very different when it comes to the manner in which we can approach the matter.

It's not a matter of there being an unpopularity about what you say...but that it fails to take into account certain hard, true facts about the differences between our total systems and culture.

Cedar said...

"Cedar, I think we understand that the Industry is the same. But I wonder if you have the same, strong governmental involvement that we do. I don't think so, or else your governing bodies are more amenable to your issue. Our Industry is supported by the US government. "

Robin, in may cases our industry IS the government. Adoption agencies and baby brokering businesses in Canada are not only licensed by the gov't (and if they go unlicensed, no-one cares), but also in almost all provinces, the gov't also does adoptions itself because it wants its finger in the pie. Example: Who was the baby broker who sold off my baby? The Ministry of Social Services, Province of British Columbia (now the Ministry of Children and Family Development and they *still* do domestic infant adoptions). Hospital policies here mandating the separation of unwed mothers from their babies came from a federal government directive.

Adoption in Canada is a wild-west of loose or no regulations and decades-long baby selling and falsification of records.

Adoption agencies here get federal charitable status so they can issue tax-receipts for donations, they get huge government grants, and the NCFA and LDS have footholds here in a big way. Babies have been sold here since adoption first started. Do you remember Sheri Sexton from Origins Canada? She was sold for $10,000 in 1963, in Ottawa, with NO real paperwork! It is genuinely scary and we're only starting to uncover the crimes.

Yes, the cultures are different, but the basics are the same because so much trade has been done across the border and Canada has always tried to make itself look "attractive" to U.S. investors/business-people, and so Canadian laws are vastly influenced by (and based on) those of the U.S. Canadian adoption laws were directly based on U.S. adoption law, and we have a huge religious component that affects legislation here. But you don't likely hear about this down there because we've never had any laws separating church and state, so we blindly accept it and it doesn't make the media. (e.g., I had mandatory bible readings and lord's prayer in high school in the 1970s, every day, and this was an ordinary public school!).

Robin said...

Understood, Cedar. But the differences are still enough to make the way we approach things here, of necessity, different. What I don't understand is why it is so important for sister moms in Canada to get involved with what happens in the US. It is still a very different system, no matter what the similarities. We can look to other nations and take what we can to help us, but we are also aware of what won't work in the US.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is a different system in the U.S. than in Canada and I agree with you on this. The legislative system -- how to elect politicians and pass laws -- is very different. You live in a representative democracy (i.e. the individuals you elect have a mandate to represent you) and we live in a parliamentary democracy (i.e. we elect a new dictatorship ("ruling party") every so often, with general no fixed election schedule). But there is more variety in adoption laws within each country (e.g. between states in the U.S. and between provinces in Canada) than between the two countries.

"What I don't understand is why it is so important for sister moms in Canada to get involved with what happens in the US"

Robin, we did not take this position in regards to all the American mothers who supported (or "got involved in") our open records campaigns here.

Before you accuse mothers in Canada of interferring in U.S. laws, please remember all the Canadian mothers who lost babies to adoption in the U.S. (and vice-versa).

Exiled mothers of all nations which passed adoption laws based on "Massachusetts 1851" have been active to varying degrees in open records campaigns in the other nations (UK, Canada, AUS, NZ, and the U.S.). This is because mothers and babies were trafficked from one country to another with regularity. This may not have been evident in the Southern U.S., but here next to the U.S. border, the cross-border human trafficking was a regular occurrence between Canada and bordering U.S. states. Especially from Eastern Canada down to the U.S., and from states like Minnesota up to Ontario. Other nations were involved too: A mother shipped from NZ to Canada. A mother from Washington State shipped up to BC. One from Montana up to Alberta. One from BC down to Chicago. Babies adopted from Australia to Canada, from the U.S. to the U.K. Scotland to Canada, Ireland to the U.S. and Canada ... A baby born in Australia and taken to Canada, with the birth (a NEW birthdate!) and adoption registered in Canada! Can i help the adoptee in PA who was adopted out of Montreal? I try (and have had no success finding her mom -- QC is a closed records province still). But the industry does not recognize borders. Babies were marketted wherever the money is (such as today, in Canada, where African American infants are 'in-demand' as being the new fashion accessory!). :P

We in Canada have welcomed our U.K., Australia, and U.S. sisters being active in our open records campaigns, and they have been. U.S., U.K., and AUS moms who lost babies to brokers in Canada wrote to provincial legislators to lobby to get records opened so they could find their children. I know some of these women personally. We did not exclude them. And it worked. So, should a Michigan mom who lost her baby in Windsor, Ontario have more rights than a Michigan mom who lost her baby in Toledo, Ohio, for example? :( Or the mom here in Victoria whose newborn was taken to Oregon to be adopted? :( The counties we are talking about don't stand alone and separate. We even have the NCFA to battle up here. :(

We are not trying to meddle in U.S. affairs, but the industry has paid scant attention to borders.

Robin said...

I think what has bothered some of us, Cedar, is when the mothers from Canada start instructing us on how we "should" do things. We appreciate the support, but not the attitude that we are inept or that our efforts are inferior. What works for one nation, no matter how many times that Industry crosses the borders, will not work in another one with a different system and culture. Believe me, we have already looked deeply into how strides were made in other countries to see what can and what cannot be applied. For us, it is going to be a very slow, uphill struggle. It shouldn't be, but justice just isn't what it used to be in the US.