Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The birth of an activist

All of this adoption dialog is wearing me out.

When I wrote the first story, I was only wanting to tell a neat story. I thought it was dramatic and heartwarming and inspiring, the whole search story, the first phone call, all of that.

I have discovered, entirely by accident, that there is an anti-adoption movement. I did not really register that whole concept for a few hours, that there is actually a group of people that want adoption to stop.

Think about that. I guarantee that if your family has not been touched directly by adoption, you know someone whose has. There are millions of families that would not exist. There are countless children who would have had single parent families and a one way ticket to poverty but for adoption. More personally, the circumstances in my own adoption all but guarantee that I would not exist if adoption were not a choice.

They speak of corruption in the adoption process, mothers being lied to and told to never attempt to contact their child. I have read a lot about the birthmothers being told it is illegal to attempt contact their ex-kids. I doubt that it has ever been illegal to do so, and this threat probably shouldn't have been made. I am sure some were lied to and mistreated, and that is absolutely unfair. But I can also understand adoption lawyers and adopted parents wanting to open up a moat between birthmothers and adoptive families, too.

There are stories about adoption that reek of corruption, but not in the way the anti-adoption people will tell you. All of the unfavorable stories I have heard about adoption revolve around mothers who for whatever reason change their minds at the last minute. It is undeniable that some substantial fraction of these women never had intention of giving up a child, they are simply cashing in on a system that is trying to do the right thing, and is biased towards the birthmother. That is a nightmare for a prospective adoptive parent; the parents are warned about how uncertain the process is when they sign up to adopt. There are countless cases of prospective parents being scammed by professional mothers. Couples search for months or even years to find a candidate. The adoption is set up, and usually the birthmother's medical expenses are paid, the birthmother is given living expenses, and a lot of times a lot more than that. Then at the last minute, she disappears, or just changes her mind. Nothing is usually said about the thousands of dollars the couple has paid, but it is gone. The contracts or agreements have little value in court in a legal system that is hopelessly slanted towards birthmothers. The mother is never looked at as being a criminal. There is a case right now of a family named Gurney in Amarillo, Texas that adopted a child, named Sierra. The mother changed her mind five months after the adoption was done. This is absolute nonsense. This case is in it's fifth year. The parents were given a child and the birthmother changed her mind and screwed up five lives.

Two families I know are seriously damaged by unwanted contact. One was an adoptee that I grew up with who used unscrupulous means to find his birthmother. He found out that he was the child of an affair; his search and discovery of his now 55 year old mother destroyed her marriage and his career. The other is a family who adopted a child, and had the birthfather, a repetitive 12 stepper, find the adoptive family five years later. The man follows the family around, and threatens legal action. The family is now well armed and moving to a different state to get away from this ticking time bomb. How many other stories are there?

Some of the people I have been reading about just want there to be no sealed adoptions, and want all the records opened. They speak of every American having equal rights to their identity. With all due respect, I suspect the people calling for open records and rights of identity are mostly people who chose adoption and are now regretting it, and want to change the rules in the middle of the game. It is difficult for me to find sympathy for them; I find it hard to believe that at least most of these women didn't know the terms; but some swear they didn't. They are undoubtedly suffering; I cannot imagine how much it must hurt. It was, after all, their child. At the same time, they signed the papers, and contracts are binding. It is a similar thing to me to know the penalty for a crime, commit the crime, and then complain about the punishment.

So what I have decided to do is become an activist. I will watch for these stories and legislative proposals and court cases. I have a good amount of familiarity with state and local political processes. I know a couple of judges and a couple of lawyers. I worked on the campaign of my US Congressman, and maybe he will remember and listen to some of my input on this issue. I will make it my mission to strengthen adoption through whatever means I can. I have never felt as driven to a cause, and to preserving a system that works.

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