January 25, 2015

Opening the Wells

Little Baby Child Reaching For Water Fountain
                                     © Photographer: Ansebach | Agency: Dreamstime.com

                                                      (Post originally published in 2010)

It was a true privilege to attend a recent OK Legislative Interim study on adoptee access to original birth certificates.

Hearing the hearts of the amazing people who spoke on the importance of restoring the human right of all adoptees to know their identity and histories was an inspiration and joy.

Thank God for the opportunity to be there, know them, and work beside them. Even though it wasn't heavily attended, it felt right.

We were able to dispel some common myths surrounding adoptee access, sharing the good news that in the states which have implemented this law, abortion rates have actually declined more than the national average, and that birth mother "confidentiality" was also a myth perpetuated by the adoption industry.

Birth mothers were never promised (nor asked for) confidentiality by law.   

The TN and OR Supreme Courts have both ruled on this issue.
"Sealed records" were not implemented until 1939 in OK ~ to protect the newly formed adoptive family, not birthmothers.

In fact, even today, if a birthmother relinquishes her child for adoption, but for some reason the child is never adopted and remains in foster care, his/her original birth certificate is never sealed or amended.

I returned home so thankful to be able to spend time with my son and husband for a few hours that evening before bedtime. It was one of those nights of light sleep with many dreams, but not really remembering any of them.

When I woke up the next morning, "Genesis 26:18" was impressed on my heart and mind. Having to get up quickly and prepare my son for school, I didn't give it much thought, but briefly wondered what it meant.

Later that morning, as I sat in a Women's Bible Study I have attended for several years, I remembered the scripture reference, and quickly looked it up, curious as to what it said. I froze in disbelief when I read it, almost too shocked to believe what I was reading, but so encouraged.

"He reopened the wells his father had dug and restored the names his father had given them."

This scripture hit me so strongly, after just attending the interim study the day before, and waking up with this reference (which I've never read before) in my mind and before my eyes. Could it be that God is encouraging us? That He is the One who stands with us on this issue?

After all, names and genealogy are extremely important in Biblical text, and God is renown for restoring and redeeming (buying back) the lives of those separated from their God-given identities and people ~ Moses, Joseph, and a host of others.

Proverbs 23:10-11 says,

"Don't stealthily move the boundary lines
or cheat orphans out of their property (identity),
For they have a powerful Advocate
who will go to bat for them." (Message Bible)

As I read on in Genesis 26, I noticed that the entire rest of that chapter was concerning "rights":

"Isaac’s servants also dug in the Gerar Valley and discovered a well of fresh water. 20 But then the shepherds from Gerar came and claimed the spring. “This is our water,” they said, and they argued over it with Isaac’s herdsmen. So Isaac named the well Esek (which means “argument”). 21 Isaac’s men then dug another well, but again there was a dispute over it. So Isaac named it Sitnah (which means “hostility”). 22 Abandoning that one, Isaac moved on and dug another well. This time there was no dispute over it, so Isaac named the place Rehoboth (which means “open space”), for he said, “At last the Lord has created enough space for us to prosper in this land.”

Several U.S. states have passed Adoptee Access Legislation (supported by The Child Welfare League of America) restoring the unconditional right of adult adoptees to access their original birth certificate, just like every other American citizen.

Wouldn't it be a miraculous wonder if Oklahoma became the next state to restore the identity rights of it's adopted citizens ~ a new beginning, setting a national example for restoring the dignity of over six million adoptees and their families. After all, Kansas, our neighbor to the north, has NEVER sealed obc's to adult adoptees.

It was really interesting to me the way the chairman of this committee ended the interim study. Even after listening to middle-aged (or older) adults speak for over an hour about the human right of identity, and how "sealed records" in adoption made adopted people "perpetual children" in the eyes of the law, she sincerely thanked us for coming and then went on to share how "special" adopted "children" are, being "chosen" in our families. (In reference to the term adoptees hear often, "chosen child".)

As I sat in Bible Study that morning, I thanked God for giving me this dream. It was such an encouragement in the midst of the journey. We left Bible Study that morning with these words and a prayer.

"Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him through all generations forever and ever! Amen."

December 27, 2014

"Nothing About Us Without Us"

 



"Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all.  So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help." Hebrews 4:14-16 (Message Bible)


"Nothing about us without us" is a term I first heard in the autism community as they advocate to be included in advocacy reform efforts regarding their lives.  It resounded with me as an adoptee.

I wrote this a few years ago in my prayer journal after attending several OK Adoption Review Task Force meetings (open to the public) at our state capitol.  We adoptees sat on the outside of the circle listening in as the "experts" (those who make their living doing adoptions) argued over money regarding our lives.  Passionately arguing that adoption "fees and expenses" in OK shouldn't be "capped" because it might make OK less "adoption friendly". 

Adoption is supposed to be for children who need homes.  Yet adoption law and practice leans not towards protecting the human rights of children and families, but towards the profit gained through paying "parents" who need children.  It is a business and adoptees are the commodities. 

I'll stop writing like this when adoptees are in the inner-circle of decision-making in this reform effort, and not marginalized into the corner by those who speak for us.  We are either perpetual children who don't have the capability of self-advocacy or we are property (with no humanity, rights, or voice).  We are to be seen and not heard.  Give us our original birth certificates and take the money out of the adoption equation and I'll stop comparing adoption to slavery.  We are the only other citizens whose identities are stolen and sealed upon a paid contract.

Dear Father God,
It is hard to lift my head or pen to you after silently listening to hour upon hour of debate regarding our price tags...stripping us of name, family, and dignity.  We are transferred through payment, approved by law-makers and courts, but with no relegation of rights.  A sealed contract of which we are subject, but not party to.  

We feel like chattel or property, rather than human. 
Our identities changed to be acceptable.
 Our worth deemed through fulfilling a role.
No rights to our identities or self-determination. 
We are second-class, not by our birth, but by these legal constraints.  Never on the same level as those determining our fate, even in adulthood. 

Please deliver us.

Some day the politicians, courts and brokers will fall silent and the paid contracts will be unsealed and undone.  We will be set free like birds out of the cage and our collective voices will be heard.  The secrets will no longer silence us and we will sing our songs of search and suffering under "sealed" identities and lives. 

They will no longer debate our cost before our silenced cries.  We will arise.

Society had no room for you when you born, Jesus...you understand.

You had to set aside your identity and live a life of substitution...you understand.

Fate argued by government officials, strangers...you understand.

They cast lots for your covering...you understand.

You paid the price for other's greed and selfishness...you understand.

Abused, ridiculed, misunderstood, spat upon for speaking truth...you understand.

Deemed radical, marginalized...you understand.

A life given for the highest bidder...you understand.

Father, forgive them...they know not what they do...You understand.
 

"Sealed" in a tomb, guarded day and night....you understand.

Yet the "seal" could not contain You.

May the adopted ones arise and walk free from sealed identities and tombs of dark unknowns.

Please shine your light and reveal the hidden agendas of those who fight so hard to hide their business of greed and ownership and deny us our identities. 

We shall know the truth, and the truth shall set us free.  Deliver us, we pray.   

December 10, 2014

Santa's Antithesis?

Santa Claus
© Photographer: Aguirre_mar | Agency: Dreamstime.com

(Originally published in 2010...we ate at the same restaurant today and I was reminded of this day...)

Something happened today that I still can't believe...the timing, especially.

I had been wanting to pay the attorney that was involved in my adoption way back in 1968 a visit for a long time, but it was one of those things I just kept putting off. I knew he was still "in business" and wanted to talk to him personally while I still had the chance...to see if he might remember something...anything...about my original mother. She died at the age of 32 while looking for me but was somehow under the impression she had given birth to a son.

The only other contact I had with this attorney was several years ago when I was trying to get my adoption records opened at the court house. I had already obtained a court order for my obc and reunited with my entire original family years before. But I wanted the adoption records themselves...

The Judge had approved my request, but every time I called to see if the records were available yet, the clerk stated that they could not find my file. Finally, after several calls I started to panic. They kept saying it could not be found...

So...I called this attorney to see if there might have been a chance that the adoption was finalized in a different county. As soon as I told him that I was reunited with my family and explained the situation about the file not being located at the court house, he became defensive. He asked how I ever got the information to find my original mother and then said, "If I had done my job right, you would have never been able to find out anything." Needless to say, he wasn't much help.

I made one last attempt at the court house and finally they found my file "in the basement." It was so surreal reading my own file...my parent's home study (barely 2 typed pages), and my mother's signature on the consent.

I had to give all that background information to get back to my story...So today my husband and I had met for lunch at one of our favorite Thai restaurants. The tables in this place are really close together and it was packed. I noticed a nice-looking older gentleman at the table next to us, but didn't pay any attention to him. He even offered to share his table with another man who needed a place to eat (it is a great buffet), and I guess my husband overheard them introducing themselves to each other.

He didn't mention this to me until we were up at the cash register paying for our meal...casually, he mentioned, "Does the name O.G. mean anything to you?" What?

Why yes...immediately I told my husband I had to go back and find out if he was THE O.G. who had done my adoption...

Sure enough, he was. He invited me to sit down and we had a wonderful conversation...I'm sure it was a huge surprise when I pulled out of my purse a picture of my first Mom...He slowly took his glasses off and examined the picture, but said he couldn't remember that far back. He said he did 35 adoptions a year back then...and "did everything possible to keep things secret."
He said he wrote the same non-identifying information on every file...all his "birthmoms" were 5'3, weighed 120 pounds and were Baptist. It hit me that is what was in my file, and I always wondered why my first Mom's pictures made her look taller than that. Now I knew.  I was so flabbergasted that I forgot to ask him why my First Mother thought she had given birth to a boy.  She was awaiting the return of her son, up till the day she passed away.  That makes me so sad.

I have heard other reunion stories where the first mother had been told she had given birth to the opposite gender as well.  Some have been livid that their names were changed on the birth certificate, and dates of birth as well.  All to prevent the first mother from "interfering" or "coming back". 

He admitted that back then he "didn't even think about" the consequences of his actions. He said he gets calls all the time from adoptees and first mothers, but cannot help them at all. That's when I gave him my card...he seemed genuinely pleased and said he would definitely give them my name. It felt so good to "come full circle" yet again and have this chance encounter. Especially right now...the week of a great conference being held in our state..."Life...Adopted!"  

(This is now 2014 and I have yet to receive one call from anyone he referred to me for search help.)

As he drove away in his shiny, white Lexus, I tried hard not to be judgemental.
How could a man, so polite and warm (he reminded me of a small-statured, sweet-mannered Santa Claus) have done what he did so many years ago...I have to believe it was ignorance. Society dictated so much (see "The Girls Who Went Away")...and yet was so wrong.

He is still a practicing attorney and has been for 52 years he said. I'm sure for many adoptive parents O.G. WAS Santa Claus...at some point, however, we all must grow up. Santa Claus and sealed records create quite an illusion, one more innocent than the other.

One has to wonder WHY the adoption industry fights so hard against restoring the civil right of adult adoptees to obtain their birth records...especially when we find story after story of past and current unethical practices being perpetuated against first mothers, adoptees, and even adoptive parents in adoption. (See "The Girls Who Went Away" by Ann Fessler, or "The Baby Thief" by Barbara Raymond.

I can only pray that as adoptees and original mothers continue to tell our stories that laws will be changed so the actions of ignorance cannot continue to affect those "touched" by adoption. We can't rely on piece-meal legislation and adoption codes that fail to protect the identity rights of adoptees (both the generations of the past, as well as today).

We need laws to ensure ethical practices are being followed...not just hope against hope that adoptees will even have a factual birth certificate on file. Ensure that right for every adoptee and individual born through assisted reproduction...genetic truth, heritage, and history.

Amazing day indeed.

December 7, 2014

"Sorry Veronica, Santa Isn't Real"

 
 
 

In honor of Veronica...

 

 Don’t steal the land of defenseless orphans
by moving their ancient boundary marks,
for their Redeemer is strong;
He himself will accuse you. 
Proverbs 23:10-11
 
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As difficult a year it has been for the Brown family
and all those who care about Veronica...
how much harder it must have been for her

We cannot even fathom.
   
 
A year ago she wasn't worth an interest hearing
or civil rights lawsuit filed on her behalf. 

(see Adoptive Couple versus Baby Girl). 

Baby Girl is a picture of what adoptees endure their entire lives...
 silencing through the sealing and erasure of our very identities.

Our God-given personhood is stolen. 

  She was silenced in the back of that car on September 23, 2013
and must continue her dance of loyalty in order to survive. 
Eventually she may forget what really happened and her little mind will be forced to live inside narratives completely incongruent with her inner reality.

 
She now has an amended birth certificate,
and an adoption decree which forever defines her.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 
 
As I was pondering this sweet child, I was reminded of another little girl made famous, named Virginia O'Hanlon who wrote a newspaper in 1897 asking about Santa. 

 
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus ...
Papa says 'If you see it in The Sun it's so ...
please tell me the truth."           
 
A man named Francis P. Church, was working as an editor for his brother's
(William Church, a commissioner and founder of the National Rifle Assoc) newspaper,
the New York Sun

He was asked to respond, and, of course, his definitive editorial became famous.
   
"Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Clause."

"Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. 
It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIA'S." 
 
Although Virginia had specifically asked for "the truth"...she,
along with the rest of the nation, was led to believe a lie. 
Just an "innocent" fantasy. 
A warm and fuzzy, feel-good myth.  
A man in a suit who could give us anything we want.   
 
The sweet little narrative missed one thing...the truth.
Back in 1897, Virginia, and the rest of the nation, 
ate it up like cookies and milk. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~     



 
  In 2014, I worry about the not so innocent myths
Those so powerful, they erase little Veronica's...
no longer nourished by God-given identities and bonds;
 surrounded by strangers throwing gotcha parties;
fed sugary sweet tales that can't satisfy.   
 
Crisis-pregnancy and adoption agencies continue to recruit
 and even coerce vulnerable mothers
with promises of "openness" (which are legally unenforceable)
 and the heroic belief she is giving an ultimate "gift".  

That's the sugar-coated version.

We fail to address the underlying motives of highly profitable
and politically well-connected "professionals" 
helping themselves to babies...
even if the child's family gets in their way.
 We legalize recruitment strategies to increase
the number of "available" children,
rather than serve those who already need homes.
 
In current adoption law, infants and children are used as commodities
to supply the discontented...those willing to pay into unethical systems
for a child to call "their own."
Some believe they are saving the world.

Truth be told, we'll never really know how many children truly need homes,
until adoption no longer functions as an economic "family building" industry
with no regard for human rights.

Our legislators across this nation legalize a business model to "serve" children, 
complete with "experts" whose real customers are shiny new "psychological" parents.

Re-defining, for their own purposes, terms such as "family",
"attachment" and "best interest";
but stripping the God-given right of a child to their own lineage and kinship.


      

If for some reason a child must be cared for
outside their family of birth, 
shouldn't it be a last resort? 

Why ask any fellow human-being to give up their identity
 on an "amended" birth certificate? 
The practice of "sealing" and "amending" birth certificates,
along with monetary incentives that create an environment 
riddled with conflict of interest and profit, 
turns the very definition of "adoption"
into glorified child-trafficking and "ownership" of a human-being.
Whose interest does this serve?

There is a relatively new term being discussed in our world of 2014..."identity privilege".
How appropriate for the millions of adopted individuals who are deemed
identity(less) through "sealed" and "amended" birth certificates. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
             

On that cool September evening in 2013, we, as a nation, 
watched in horror as a four year old girl was stripped unnecessarily 
from her home and family. 

We will never understand how this so-called "adoption"  
could be "finalized" on July 31, 2013  
in a state and by people Veronica had not lived near for two years.
Without a "best interest" hearing.

Veronica's father, Dusten Brown had fought for the right
 to raise his daughter since her infancy and she had been living in Oklahoma,
surrounded by the love and security of her real family for almost two years.   

Sadly, the demand for babies and children
 is legally protected in this country. 

The entire situation was fraudulent from day one.
Veronica is paying a life-altering price
for the unregulated and unethical business 
(we call "adoption").  

And so...like every adoptee, Veronica Brown is now legally non-existent.
Adoption "flips the script" of our very lives, telling us we are born of strangers with whom we share no genetic ties.

Adoption tells us we are not related to the family from which we came, and with whom we share the generations.  How truthful is that?       
 
We can only speculate of Veronica's emotional existence...
merely a shadow of her true self
Since her government-sanctioned abduction one year ago,
we cannot even imagine what she has been asked
 to believe.
 
Whatever she is being told,
it must grate against everything within her. 
Not only has her civil right to identity and family been stolen,
but also her inner congruence.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 
 
If her fellow Lost Daughters could write a letter to Ronnie,
it might sound something like this.
 
 "Yes Veronica, You Are Real"

 
 
Santa is just a tale, Sweetheart, but you are very real. 
In our world, some people in suits hide behind masks of greed. 
They have stolen our dignity and sealed us to a lie. 

Although the world may seem like merely a stage;
and you may forget who you really are,
Please remember this.
 
No matter what role we are asked to play,
you and I are not the imposters.    
Deep inside, though we hardly recognize our own cries...
we still exist.  And we know.

You are deserving, Veronica, to be yourself. 
Your worth is not based on the needs you meet for others;
the daughter you can be for someone else. 

We may feel like aliens and strangers...
but we carry with every ounce of our being
 the pain and triumphs of our forefathers. 
They run this race with us through our veins.
That, my sweet Veronica, can never be taken.
 
There is a Father you will never lose.
Though He may feel far away, know that He holds you
   
Just look up
There you are, Little Star.



 
You are surrounded by a throng
who will help you find your way home.    
Lost & undone, but shining on. 
 
We love you.

November 26, 2014

Full Circle Thanksgiving

Family Tree
© Photographer: Andyb1126 | Agency: Dreamstime.com

(originally written on Thanksgiving 2009)


Te Deum
by Charles Reznikoff

Not because of victories
I sing,
having none,
but for the common sunshine,
the breeze,
the largess of the spring.

Not for victory
but for the day's work done
as well as I was able;
not for a seat upon the dais
but at the common table.


Reunion has brought so many conflicting emotions over the years, especially surrounding the holidays. Truly like trying to untangle a ball of yarn without knowing beginning or end.

For many years after reunion I would reluctantly turn down invitations each holiday, feeling strong obligation to my adoptive family. Feeling extreme guilt for even trying to see my family of birth "around" the holiday ~ so torn. Wondering and longing through feelings of self-doubt and paralyzing covetousness of those in my first families who never lost their place. Not knowing who I was or where I belonged.

This flowed over even into celebrations around my son. Birthday parties, which are supposed to be joyous times of fellowship and fun became so stressful that I would avoid planning them. So sad. Who would I invite? I wanted everyone there but couldn't stand the thought of trying to merge these segregated and conflicting families in the same place. Holidays brought up buried pain of separation, ownership, and confusion.

Finally walking through the pain of grief unlocked my ability to feel and embrace the love that my family(ies) were trying to show. The love I so wanted to be able to feel and embrace and return.

I want to thank God for bringing me through those crashing emotions of reunion. To a more quiet acceptance and embrace of who I am and who my family is. Amazing.

Home
by Bruce Weigl

I didn't know I was grateful
for such late-autumn bent-up cornfields
yellow in the after-harvest sun before the
cold plow turns it all overinto never.
I didn't know I would enter this music
that translates the world back into dirt fields
that have always called to me as if I were a thing
come from the dirt, like a tuber,
or like a needful boy.
End lonely days, I believe.
End the exiled and unraveling strangeness.


Yesterday was really nice. My Mom was in my home again for the first time since April, when she fell and was hospitalized and then moved to a senior center. My son was so excited he climbed all over her, even in her wheelchair. Her personality is amazingly positive and such an inspiration to me, for her to be able to weather so many months of health issues and change. My first father dropped by right when we were putting Thanksgiving lunch on the table, and I so enjoyed seeing him and sharing this special day and lunch ~ just being together means so much.

He had not seen my Mom for many years (the families spent more time "together" during the infant stage of reunion ~ I feel like the beginning of "my" reunion was more for them than for me ~ so shy & emotionally numb).

I didn't beat myself up emotionally this time for letting my Mom see the heart-felt emotion of hugs and kisses between my first father and us. Maybe he is opening up more because I am.

Then, last night I got to be an adult (not just "Mommy") for a few hours at Thanksgiving dinner hosted by my first mother's brother and sister (my aunt and uncle). We sipped white wine and feasted on turkey and dressing (yet again) all evening, enjoying each others company, getting caught up on our lives and telling stories of growing up in Tulsa (separated, yet within blocks of each other our whole lives). Uncle Ron lives on Reservoir Hill just north of downtown ~ with a spectacular view of the city lights, the moon and the stars, and a crackling outdoor fireplace.

I am so blessed to be reunited with my entire family of birth. The rich diversity and YEARS of getting to know them and the strong love that has grown. I have a beautiful heritage of faith in my family, by both adoption and birth. And also great diversity. Jewish on my father's side, and my first mother's side includes a beloved uncle by marriage who grew up in the Middle East. And yet another from Guatemala!

My young cousins, Sean & Hanna, who I was privileged to watch grow up and grew close to these past twenty years have a beautiful dual-heritage, which they are learning to embrace and be proud of. We talked about the importance of family and how we can learn so much from the strong family traditions and customs of other cultures ~ how they stay close throughout their lifetimes and help each other through hard times. How they value the little things in life, without the distraction of the "rat race" we all seem to battle in America.

I am finally more complete in my identity and families now, and am so thankful. Still growing so much and overcoming. But thankful.

Eternity
by William Blake

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise