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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Movie Review: Liebestraum: 1991 adoption-theme thriller with dark twists

My Thoughts: This thriller is currently showing on Comcast as a free feature. The premise is murder. It takes the entire movie to learn the dying birthmother (Kim Novak) has killed three people and you learn about her pregnancy at the time of the murders and how she obviously gave up two children.
The plot twist is how two adoptees have an affair - and you are left to wonder if they are brother and sister. As I have blogged before - Hello! Isn't it time to open records so this kind of incest can't happen? Dah! But who am I?
Just an adoptee! I didn't make the stupid secrecy laws!

It's worth the time to see the movie. It was filmed in Binghamton, New York. (I have good friends there.)

Movie description: Two affairs, a generation apart. Nick (Kevin Anderson), a professor of architecture in upstate New York, comes to an Illinois town to be with his birth mother (Kim Novak) in the final days of her illness; he was adopted and has never known her. On the first day, he runs into Paul (Bill Pullman), a college friend, whose construction company is demolishing an old, downtown department store where a murder-suicide happened 30 years' before. The building is of beautiful cast-iron construction, so Nick wants to study it before the demolition. Paul introduces Nick to his wife, Jane (Pamela Gidley), and over the next four days, their attraction grows as Nick explores the old building, attends his mother's bedside, and unravels the past.
Background: The title is taken from Franz Liszt's composition Liebesträume (German: dream of love). Much of the movie, especially its external shots, was filmed in Binghamton, New York. The plot centers on a building with a cast iron frame, and Binghamton's downtown area includes one of the few cast-iron buildings still standing. When Liebestraum made its VHS debut, it was released in two editions — the R-rated theatrical version and an unrated director's cut. The DVD release, part of MGM's Avant-Garde Cinema series, features only the R-rated version. However, the deleted scene that marks the single difference between the two edits is included as a bonus feature on the disc.
(Source: Wikipedia)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


By Trace L Hentz (formerlyDeMeyer) (author of One Small Sacrifice)

Be Strong
I read this quote by Doris Roberts, 80, who played Ray’s mom in “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Doris praised strong women and joked, “What’s the alternative? Being a weak woman? What do you get from that? Nothing. I am strong because I believe in what I do. When I put my head on the pillow at night, I know I have not hurt anybody. That’s my message to people: Don’t hurt anybody. Know what you’re about. Keep learning. Don’t shut down. Don’t give in. Don’t give up. Find what you like to do and do it.” Doris is right.
I don’t think we learn to be strong, I think we choose to be strong. We face what we face every single day when we get out of bed. Some days we might falter or lose balance or confidence or want to stop trying. Some days we may wake up and find our strength is bigger than we realized. It’s how we respond to what life throws at us. I do believe suicide is a person’s desire to change their life and their surroundings. If you are able to leave the situation, you won’t need to kill yourself. If you can change, do it.
I plan to fix what I can in my own life. I plan to be as brave as I can be and do what I can do. I can’t fix the world or other people but I can fix me.

Be Kind
I know how easy it is to hurt and cause hurt. I have worked for demon bosses who took joy inflicting pain on others. I was bullied in many jobs. I’ve experienced people who are insensitive, rude, or exceptionally needy, but they may not realize it. I have watched one unkind act ripple out and cause pain, panic and destruction. I also know the kindest people on the planet who are generous with their words and their time.
Yet critical words can and will devastate people. I know life is about choice and words carry power. So I watch what I say. I am going to think on moments when I was hurt, then see the source, then take it as a lesson. I will decide what lesson to keep and what to throw out. I am going to be kinder and watch my words and not hurt anyone intentionally. If I do hurt someone, I will apologize.
I will learn to be more assertive.

Be Prepared
I am still learning how to feel. I know this sounds strange but it’s true for me in my life. I blame part of it on being adopted as an infant then forced to pretend everything was ok when it was not ok. I buried the hurt so deep there were many years I could not feel – good or bad. It was not safe to feel – trust me. I would have gone crazy.
That’s changed in me over the years. I am still learning how to feel my feelings faster, or cleaner, and know when to let go. It requires patience and tenderness. Every single day I learn what feelings need to be released fast (or slow) and realize what caused them. I will respond to them rationally and intelligently. In other words, I plan to be more alert, more mindful, and more aware. I plan to be prepared for strange new feelings but not shut them out. The more I do this, the better I will feel. Feeling your feelings sounds so easy but it’s not. Disappointments with people, politics, even poverty, can cause a deep lasting depression for some of us. I will do what I can to be prepared.

Be Green
Back in Oregon in the 1980s, I took up recycling. I didn’t want to throw anything in the trash-can that could be recycled or reused. I still shop for used items or get things from Free-cycle. (I hate paying full retail on anything so there is always EBay!) I joined a local organization to cut our home energy use and plan to make better greener choices when I buy anything. I will reduce our carbon footprint. Clean water and safe food are becoming an endangered species on our planet. I will buy local food, do more to reuse and recycle, and do everything I can to be green.

In 2011, I resolve to create a stronger kinder life, be prepared for all that life throws at me and yes, be more green.

[This will be my last blog post for 2010. Please comment and leave your resolutions for 2011. And -- Have a Happy New Year!]

Trace  :) my email:

Friday, December 3, 2010

Apology for Abuses at US Indian Schools - The Petition Site

Please sign this. Their goal is 15,000. It should and could be a million people who sign, right?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The 60s Scoop Lawsuit

This is the blog and website for Canadian First Nations Adoptees to get the latest updates and information concerning the class action for survivors of the Sixties Scoop. If you are a First Nations adoptee, you can contact them and add your name to the lawsuit. One of these days, America will have its own class action lawsuit... (that's my prayer it happens in my lifetime).

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Ok, you remember me writing on this blog I wanted my adoption file. (“My Top 5 Reasons”)
Back in September I had mentioned this to Jackie, who I visited on my recent mini-book-tour. Jackie helped Ben get his adoption file so she gave me the email for the state office in Madison, Wisconsin. I live in Massachusetts so this was super-convenient. I’d simply write an email!
Wisconsin, by law, allows adoptees in a closed adoption (like mine) to request and receive their non-identifying information. You simply fill out their form and request it (and pay them $75 an hour).
Let me clarify: your non-identifying information is a bit of history with no names.  It will not help you locate your tribe or your missing natural parent(s). In fact, it’s so vague, it’s really no help at all!
I decided to request my identifying information (aka the real deal, my sealed adoption file.) They emailed me that I would need a court order. I needed to fill out their form, have it notarized and mail it back to them so I did.
Within a month, I spoke to a woman on the phone who proceeded to fill out the paperwork for a court order. She would present it to the judge and I didn’t need to be there.
Now this was weird. She asked me why I wanted my file? Why was this so hard for me? I have a million reasons. But I didn’t know what the judge wanted me to say. What was a good reason?
I said I wanted my adoption file to help me understand my early history and where I was the first months of my life: that is what I think she wrote down. (I told her I was nervous).
Ok, I’m sure the most used reason for such a request is the need for family medical history.
(I could have said I was nervous dating strangers who might be my real brothers but this was too twisted a reason for a judge. And I’m married.)
There are many good reasons, yes. But what did the judge want to hear? I didn’t know.
If the judge read my form, he’d see I already knew the names of both my natural parents.  (Remember I read my adoption file when I was 22.) Heck I knew their birthdays and when each of them died.
So like all adoptees, I waited and prayed. The un-named judge would review my request. He or she could deny me.  But the judge didn’t.
Because I wrote my birth parents are deceased – that is why I believe the judge granted my request.  It’s only a guess. And if they considered my age – 54, I’m no kid. Maybe that is why.
So this white envelope arrived the day after Thanksgiving and I was too emotional to open it. Yes, I was a wreck! I knew it would hit me like a ton of bricks. It did.
My friend met me for breakfast on Sunday morning and since Loud Blood is an adoptee, she said she would read it to me. That was better, we thought. It was best to do this with a friend who was also adopted. So she read and I cried (in a restaurant)!
The worst part was not my crying. There was family history on one page and a small post-it note that said the next part was not on microfilm. Pages were missing. I did not receive the entire context and testimony my natural mother Helen gave to the social workers. I do not know what more was written down.
So I am processing that I am the daughter of Helen - who, by the way, did want to keep me. This broke me up so hard - my emotions are still ragged and raw. It was 1956 and she was not able to keep me, no way. There was no support for keeping me.
So, if someone in
Wisconsin does want to do this - and if they need tribal information - it is on the form in Wisconsin and the only way an adoptee can do this is through a court order. And pay $75 per hour.
When I was 22, I’d asked a judge to read my file but the one I have now (this file) is different than the one he let me read. He had more legal paperwork in his file.
The effect on me now is greater - plus my fathers version was different than my mothers.
One of the reasons I didn’t mention: 
I was in a foster home. Who were they? Now I have their name and address. That was huge for me. Now I know where I was the first days and months of my life.
I feel so fortunate, so blessed I was able to get my adoption file when so many are still in the dark about their identity and name.
Every adoptee on the planet deserves this information, absolutely. And it's criminal that we can't in all but 6 states in the USA.

NOTE: I do not have a copy of my OBC- original birth certificate. Wisconsin said I'd have to get it from Minnesota where I was born. Minnesota is a sealed record state so I may never see it.

Lauren emailed:  6 states have unrestricted access- Alaska and Kansas never sealed, Oregon was opened by the ballot measure appealed up through the courts; (Bastard Nation, among others, were very key to sparking effort) Alabama, New Hampshire and Maine all opened legislatively. The other conditional access states, IL, TN, & DE all continue to treat adoptees as second class citizens, forcing them to jump through hoops like confidential intermediary systems and parental vetoes. The states and their subcontractors- often religiously based maintain control and dole out whatever number as they see fit. TN has actually criminalized contact if a veto was signed. OH, MI, and MA all have tri-black hole systems, that grant access to some at the direct cost of access for others. None of them can be considered "open records" states.

Volunteers help adoptees connect with their past - Winnipeg Free Press

Canadian adoptees! This is a good resource! Use them!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Four Traumas

1st day of grade school

     More and more of this adoption reality is coming out on the internet, which means more and more adoptive parents and natural parents are in for a few more surprises. One study claims adoptees are more traumatized than a prisoner of war. We suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. A prisoner of war may escape or be released, but an adoptee will suffer its effects our entire life. There is no known cure for PTSD.
     Now I believe there are four distinct traumas in being an adoptee.
     They are: 1) in utero, when you hear what is happening to you or sense what is coming; 2) when you are delivered, abandoned, and handed to strangers; 3) later when you are told you are adopted and realize fully what being “adopted” means; and 4) when you realize you are different, from a different culture or country, and you can’t contact your family, or know them, or have the information you need to find them.
     It took me years to get this. There were more traumas, too – like when I’d fill out forms at the doctor’s office. I had no medical history. I had no idea if I was sitting next to someone who could be my biological brother, mother or father. To think I could marry my own relative and not even know it, that idea was horrifying.
     I could carry a gene that I pass down to my own children – but I wouldn’t know until it’s too late. My child could suffer since I didn’t know. If my birthparents were alcoholics, then I really shouldn’t drink. I could be pre-disposed to diabetes or heart disease or cancer or depression and not know this.
     My list went on and on.

     This is an excerpt from my book One Small Sacrifice. 

Equal Access to Birth Records for Adoptees

Monday, November 22, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

The dumbing-down of America

          Ok, its not great news. Today’s major television stations and early morning programs have turned into “we will entertain you with dumb drivel.” Who is controlling networks? Teen polls? Suits on steroids? A small clique of mystery moguls?
          On the Today Show they send someone to England to report on the upcoming nuptials of a prince and commoner (a year and continent away) rather than to Haiti where thousands are dying. We might get a one-minute clip that Haitians are protesting what didn’t happen to prevent their cholera outbreak… The media didn’t mention water purification or machinery or tools for their Third World nation after the earthquake.  Where is reporting LIVE from Haiti? Who is asking reasonable questions about this in their news programs?  Why not? How come?
          And you think Sara Palin’s new book is as important as let’s say – mine? Her book will sell thousands and thousands of copies because media will cover her hangnails and bad hair days, just to give her rising fame more power.  
          Palin has a plain ol’ plan that includes running the White House. She needs press. She’s using the “Madonna Playbook” of massaging media with constant exposure and massive marketing.
          I penned a historical memoir about a distinctly racist act of genocide against Native children by removing them from their Tribal Nations. My book “One Small Sacrifice: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects” was self-published. Why? Who the heck cares about Indians these days? Most people think we live in prehistoric teepees.
          When was the last time you saw major media coverage of poverty in Pine Ridge or the plight of Native people or any Third World Nation?
          Nowadays, Matt Meredith Ann and Al are making viral music videos. I simply change the channel to Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now. Or I turn to NPR and the BBC who do a much better job reporting on America than our networks ever will. I go online to hear National Native News or watch Indian Country TV streaming from the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation in northern Wisconsin. I read emails daily from Indigenous Thinkers and First Peoples News, both Yahoo news groups.
          Where do you get your news? What helps you make informed decisions?
          It’s not on America’s TV programs. For some of us, it’s only the internet until it costs us more money and we’ll read newspapers, if they still have reporters on their payroll.
          One more place I do visit is the History News Network from George Mason’s University. Their motto is “Because the Past is the Present, the Future is, too.” I found this new book review today: “Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition,” by James T. Kloppenberg.  “…Barack Obama puzzles observers. Derided by the Right as dangerous and by the Left as spineless, Obama does not fit contemporary partisan categories. Instead, his writings and speeches reflect a principled aversion to absolutes that derives from sustained engagement with American democratic thought. Reading Obama traces the origins of his ideas and establishes him as the most penetrating political thinker elected to the presidency in the past century….”
          I feel like the guy in Wisconsin who blasted his TV with a gun when Palin’s daughter ruined Dancing with the Stars (his opinion).
          I don’t see Cable news interviewing Cornell West, who is putting substance in plain English with: “Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, A Memoir” but he was on Democracy Now this morning.
          What do I know? I’m just a dumb viewer.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Movie Review: Lost Sparrow solves mystery but leaves wounds exposed

Four Native American children adopted by the Billing family
On November 16, 2010, the documentary “Lost Sparrow” premiered on PBS Independent Lens.  Based on a true incident in 1978, two Crow Indian brothers (both adoptees) ran away from home and were found dead on railroad tracks the next day.
Chris Billing’s film takes a closer look at what killed these two boys and what truth shattered his entire family.
The filmmaker is one of four biological children. His parents adopted six, with four of them from the Crow tribe. Billing was 16 when the boys died. The family buries them in New York and moves on with their lives. His parents eventually divorce.
The filmmaker narrates how his little brothers Bobby (13) and Tyler (11) were trying to help their sister Lana (who is also Crow). Lana told her brothers she was being sexually molested by their adoptive father. The two boys were going to Montana to get help. They knew who they were and knew their tribe.
As the film unfolds, Billings’ story becomes more about the despondent quiet Lana, and how she didn’t survive the sexual abuse or find peace after her brother’s heroic gesture and unfortunate deaths.  Lana runs far away from the adopters to North Carolina. Her pain is so deep the alcohol abuse seems the only antidote she can afford. There are no signs of wealth where Lana lives; unlike the Billings and their homes in New Jersey and the summer mansion in upstate New York.
Journalist-turned-filmmaker Chris Billing said it took three years to make the film. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Billing, agree to see Lana on film but neither managed an appropriate response to her troubled past. Dysfunctional denial, which Mr. Billing’s exhibited while filming, seems inappropriate and not an apology, considering the facts revealed during the course of filming.
The man at the center of the conflict, the adoptive father, an all-controlling philanderer, rich businessman, acts like nothing happened, like he did nothing wrong. What you hope is he was charged as a pedophile and sent to prison. This didn’t happen.
What does happen is the filmmaker and his siblings repatriate the two boys to the Crow tribe and have them interned on tribal land. Chris films the boys’ father and tribal family who knew the boys were adopted by a rich East coast family but could do nothing to stop the adoption. Their grief leaves the viewer tormented.
After revealing the entire truth, the filmmaker said it did little to bond their family or cure old wounds, “If it was good for Lana, then making the film was worth it.”
Wounds this egregious and deep are not healed by a 78-minute film.

From the Lost Sparrow PR: 
On June 27, 1978, a 44-car Conrail freight train struck and killed two Crow Indian brothers near the town of Little Falls, New York -- a day after Bobby, 13, and Tyler, 11, had disappeared. The two boys had run away without warning from the white, Baptist family that had adopted them and their biological sisters seven years earlier, spiriting them from a troubled Montana reservation family to an idyllic Victorian castle across the country. Lost Sparrow recounts award-winning filmmaker Chris Billing's investigation, three decades later, into the dark family secret that prompted his adopted brothers to flee.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

American Indian & Alaska Native Heritage Month: November 2010

The first American Indian Day was celebrated in May 1916 in New York. Red Fox James, a Blackfeet Indian, rode horseback from state to state, getting endorsements from 24 state governments, to have a day to honor American Indians. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed a joint congressional resolution designating November 1990 as "National American Indian Heritage Month." Similar proclamations have been issued every year since 1994. This Facts for Features presents data for American Indians and Alaska Natives, as this is one of the six major race categories.

Note: Unless otherwise specified, the data in the "Population" section refer to the population who reported a race alone or in combination with one or more other races.

5 million
As of July 1, 2009, the estimated population of American Indians and Alaska Natives, including those of more than one race. They made up 1.6 percent of the total population. Source: Population estimates

8.6 million
The projected population of American Indians and Alaska Natives, including those of more than one race, on July 1, 2050. They would comprise 2 percent of the total population. Source: Population projections 

Increase in the nation's American Indian and Alaska Native population from July 1, 2008, to July 1, 2009. The population of this group increased by 1.7 percent during this period compared with the overall population growth of 1 percent. Source: Population estimates

Median age of the American Indian and Alaska Native population in 2009, younger than the median of 36.8 for the population as a whole. About 30 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives were younger than 18, and 8 percent were 65 and older. Source: Population estimates 

The American Indian and Alaska Native population in California as of July 1, 2009, the highest total of any state. California was followed by Oklahoma (415,371) and Arizona (366,954).

About 13,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives were added to Texas' population between July 1, 2008, and July 1, 2009. That is the largest numeric increase of any state. Texas (4.2 percent) also had the highest rate of increase during the period. Source: Population estimates 

Number of states where American Indians and Alaska Natives were the largest race or ethnic minority group in 2009. These states were Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
Source: Population estimates 

Number of states with more than 100,000 American Indian and Alaska Native residents on July 1, 2009. These states were California, Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, New York, Washington, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Alaska, Oregon and Colorado. Combined, these states were home to 65 percent of the nation's American Indian and Alaska Native residents. Source: Population estimates 

The proportion of Alaska's population identified as American Indian and Alaska Native as of July 1, 2009, the highest rate for this race group of any state. Alaska was followed by Oklahoma (11 percent) and New Mexico (11 percent). Source: Population estimates  

The number of American Indians and Alaska Natives in Los Angeles County, Calif., as of July 1, 2009. Los Angeles led all of the nation's counties in the number of people in this category. Harris County, Texas, added about 2,100 people to this group between July 1, 2008, and July 1, 2009, leading the nation's counties in largest increase of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Source: Population estimates 

Among counties or equivalents with total populations of 10,000 or more, the number that were majority American Indian and Alaska Native, as of July 1, 2009. Shannon, S.D., led the way, with 86 percent of its population from this group. Source: Population estimates 

                            Families and Children
The number of American Indian and Alaska Native families in 2009. Of these:
-- 39 percent were married-couple families, including those with children.
-- 18 percent were married couples with their own children, under the age
    of 18.
Source: 2009 American Community Survey for the American Indian and Alaska Native alone or in combination with one or more races population;

Average number of people in an American Indian and Alaska Native family in 2009. This was larger than the national average size for all families, regardless of race (3.23 people).
Source: 2009 American Community Survey for the American Indian and Alaska Native alone or in combination with one or more races population;

The percentage of American Indian and Alaska Native householders who owned their own home in 2009. This is compared with 66 percent of the overall population.
Source: 2009 American Community Survey for the American Indian and Alaska Native alone or in combination with one or more races population

Median value of homes owned by American Indians and Alaska Natives. The median value of homes for the overall population was $185,200.  Source: 2009 American Community Survey for the American Indian and Alaska Native alone or in combination with one or more races population 

Percentage of American Indians and Alaska Natives 5 and older who spoke a language other than English at home, compared with 20 percent for the nation as a whole. Source: 2009 American Community Survey for the American Indian and Alaska Native alone or in combination with one or more races population 

The percentage of American Indians and Alaska Natives 25 and older who had at least a high school diploma. Also, 16 percent obtained a bachelor's degree. In comparison, the overall population had 85 percent with a high school diploma and 28 percent with a bachelor's degree. Source: 2009 American Community Survey for the American Indian and Alaska Native alone or in combination with one or more races population 

Number of American Indians and Alaska Natives 25 and older who had a graduate or professional degree.
Source: 2009 American Community Survey for the American Indian and Alaska Native alone or in combination with one or more races population 

$34.5 billion
Receipts for American Indian- and Alaska Native-owned businesses in 2007. These businesses numbered 237,386.

Number of American Indian- and Alaska Native-owned firms in California in 2007, which led the states. Oklahoma, Texas and New York followed.

3 in 10
Number of American Indian- and Alaska Native-owned firms that operated in construction and other services (such as personal services, and repair and maintenance) in 2007.

Number of American Indian- and Alaska Native-owned firms that had paid employees in 2007. These businesses employed 191,472 people.

Number of American Indian- and Alaska Native-owned firms with receipts of $1 million or more in 2002. These firms accounted for nearly 2 percent of the total number of American Indian- and Alaska Native-owned firms and more than 64 percent of their total receipts. Source: American Indian- and Alaska Native-Owned Firms: 2002  Note: This is the most current data available -- 2007 data will be released in March 2011.

Number of American Indian- and Alaska Native-owned firms with 100 or more employees in 2002. These firms generated nearly $5.3 billion in gross receipts -- 24 percent of the total revenue for American Indian- and Alaska Native-owned employer firms. Source: American Indian- and Alaska Native-Owned Firms: 2002 
Note: This is the most current data available -- 2007 data will be released in March 2011.

New York; Los Angeles; and Gallup, N.M.
The three cities with the largest number of American Indian- and Alaska Native-owned firms, with 7,134; 5,767; and 2,642, respectively, in 2002.
Source: American Indian- and Alaska Native-Owned Firms: 2002;;

Note: This is the most current data available -- 2007 data will be released in March 2011. Source for data in this section, unless otherwise stated: Preliminary Estimates of Business Ownership by Gender, Ethnicity, Race and Veteran

The percentage of civilian-employed American Indian and Alaska Native people 16 and older who worked in management, professional and related occupations. In addition, 24 percent worked in sales and office occupations and about the same percentage worked in service occupations. Source: 2009 American Community Survey for the American Indian and Alaska Native alone or in combination with one or more races population 

Among American Indians and Alaska Natives 30 and older who lived with their grandchildren, the percentage who were also responsible for their care. The corresponding rate for the population as a whole was 40 percent. Source: 2009 American Community Survey for the American Indian and Alaska Native alone or in combination with one or more races population 

The number of American Indian and Alaska Native veterans of the U.S. armed forces.
Source: 2009 American Community Survey for the American Indian and Alaska Native alone or in combination with one or more races population 

                             Income and Poverty
The median income of American Indian and Alaska Native households.
Source: 2009 American Community Survey for the American Indian and Alaska Native alone or in combination with one or more races population 

The percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives that were in poverty in 2009.
Source: 2009 American Community Survey for the American Indian and Alaska Native alone or in combination with one or more races population 

                              Health Insurance
The percentage of American Indians and Alaska Natives who lacked health insurance coverage. Source: 2009 American Community Survey for the American Indian and Alaska Native alone or in combination with one or more races population 

Note: The preceding data were collected from a variety of sources and may be subject to sampling variability and other sources of error. Facts for Features are customarily released about two months before an observance in order to accommodate magazine production timelines. Questions or comments should be directed to the Census Bureau's Public Information, Office: telephone: 301-763-3030

Monday, November 1, 2010

It's Complicated, Baby

All across America, people still prefer to adopt babies. Millions of Americans adopted babies and some of us were adopted as babies. I’m guessing it’s because tiny babies don’t show their feelings; baby screams sound just like cries.  This may also explain why so many children languish in foster care: they’re just too old. Older kids do exhibit fear, uneasiness or apprehension; some kids even act like babies.
            Adopting babies is easier. Adoptive parents can hope their new baby will adjust and bond favorably by the time baby will talk. Some adopters believe they saved us as babies since our mother was a slut or wretched teenager, or maybe a sick woman on an Indian reservation or from a trashy tenement. Maybe we're Third World babies from an over-populated Chinese, Russian or African orphanage. Sometimes adopters simply ignore our culture and history, like it doesn’t exist. Some of my friends heard words like “dirty savages and filthy heathens.”
            Adopters might hope to mold “orphan babies” into something they want. They'll try loving us first. Yet we know love doesn’t cure everything. Love can’t erase genetics or ancestral memory. If love doesn't work, the adopters might try bullying us or drugging us into submission until we show them some gratitude.
            An even more complicated reality exists, a much bigger untold desperate story. 
            Adoptable babies are scooped up quick, especially if they are white and healthy and from America. You can even order one, but it will cost you thousands of dollars.
            If that doesn’t work, and if you can afford it, you can always buy a surrogate mother; these women widely advertise now. She’ll carry and deliver your baby for a price. Some sisters will do this for an infertile sibling.
            Then there’s a huge “underground market,” where they still kidnap and sell babies. Baby peddlers, some who practice law, are out there making money, too. Some abducted babies were made child sex slaves. Guatemala is now under investigation for illegal baby peddling. Someone made a ton of money on babies!
            A newer adoption scam is happening online – when a woman fakes a pregnancy, offers her unborn baby as bait, then steals the unsuspecting couple’s money (thousands of dollars) using the internet as a trap.
            There are tragic stories about sick women or couples who will kill a pregnant woman just to take her baby. This happened in Massachusetts recently.
            There are more stories about babies being dumped (abandoned) all across America. One mother dumped three babies in California (two were saved but one died from exposure). In New York, three sisters were arrested for helping one sister dump her newborn girl in the trash, causing the baby to die.
            Some mothers are illegal immigrants and don’t want their new baby. They'll do their child a favor by dumping them off at a firehouse. Those adoptees rarely find their mothers, since birth records won’t exist. There is a slim chance their mother will seek them out for a reunion since they are considered felons and criminals in most states.
            For the millions of us who have been handed over, dumped, or exchanged (or sold, or taken) for a hundred years – has anyone dared to ask how we felt at the exchange? 
            Apparently we are studied, not consulted.
            Bear in mind, babies didn’t create this billion dollar adoption industry or cause infertility. Babies can't solve social issues but we're sold as one solution. Babies can't cure the pain in women who can’t conceive. Babies didn’t create poverty. Some would say certain babies arrived at the wrong place at the wrong time. We were an inconvenience, or a sin, or a mistake.
            How will we ever fix this? It's complicated, baby!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Adoption Legislation Primer (a must read!)

Special Guest Blog by Romany

Most sealed records legislation dates from the 1930s – 1950s.  At that time, birth certificates were public record, meaning that anyone could get a copy of anyone else’s birth certificate.  Court adoption documents were also public record.  Back then, adoption legislation allowed the state to seal original birth certificates once an amended birth certificate had been issued.  Court records of adoption were also sealed by state law.  In many states, the sealing did not initially prevent the parties to the adoption (parents, adoptive parents, and adoptee) from accessing records after they were sealed.  Eventually, however, even the parties to the adoption were prevented from accessing the records.

In many states, there have been ongoing attempts to restore access, some stretching back 20 to 30 years.  Most recently, access legislation that HAS passed has been through the efforts of a state senator or state assemblymember who is an adoptee.  This has happened in New Hampshire, Maine and Illinois.

The primary argument from the opposition is that relinquishing parents have an expectation of privacy that the state is morally (and/or legally) bound to protect.  The corollary argument is that without state-guaranteed protection of their privacy, some unknown number of women in a “crisis pregnancy” would choose to abort rather than place for adoption.
The opposition generally consists of some very strange bedfellows:
o        The National Council for Adoption (lobbying group for certain adoption agencies)
o        The Catholic Church (through each state’s Catholic Conferences of Bishops)
o        Some ACLU chapters
o        Some Planned Parenthood chapters
o        Some Right-To-Life organizations (RTL)
While RTL organizations tend to push the abortion angle, some Planned Parenthood chapters consider adoption a “reproductive choice” deserving of the same protection of anonymity as abortion.  ACLU chapters push the “expectation of privacy” with or without “reproductive choice”.

Plenty.  The original hue and cry was how “abortion rates will skyrocket” if access legislation is passed.  We now have up to ten years of history in states that have restored access.  Abortion statistics from those states have shown NO uptick in abortion rates. 
There is also a survey by the Guttmacher Institute (“Concern for Current and Future Children”) that indicates at least SOME women choose abortion over adoption BECAUSE sealed records would not allow them to know what happened to the child they relinquished.
The arguments from RTL are now centered on a woman’s ability to choose a closed adoption rather than visions of the wholesale slaughter of innocents.  Even in a diminished capacity, this argument still holds sway with pro-life legislators.  We are now being asked to effectively guarantee that no woman will ever have an abortion because of access legislation.

The gist of this is that some unknown number of parents were promised or BELIEVED that they were promised anonymity/confidentiality/privacy in that their identities would never ever be released to anyone.  For a long time, this myth was repeated in a vacuum.  The only real “evidence” anyone had was that a state law sealed records.  Everything else was based on the opposition telling legislators that they had received “a stack of anonymous letters” from parents.
On the other side are certain indisputable facts:
1.       Adoption records and OBCs do NOT seal upon relinquishment.  They seal upon ADOPTION.  They seal even in step-parent adoptions.
2.       Many women have been speaking out for years about how they never wanted anonymity from their own children.  They continue to be dismissed as “a tiny but vocal minority”.
3.       Adoption records may be opened by court order for “good cause shown”.  Even though it is presumably the parents’ identities at stake, there is no provision for the parents to voice their opposition to disclosure.  In most states, even waivers from those parents do not guarantee that the records will be unsealed.
4.       Information from confidential intermediaries has shown that the vast majority of parents contacted welcome the opportunity to reconnect with their children.
5.       Contact preference forms filed in Oregon and other states are overwhelmingly in favor of contact.
6.       The overwhelming majority of recent domestic adoptions have been OPEN adoptions because the vast majority of relinquishing parents are insisting upon open adoptions.
The opposition counters this with the “if only one…” argument.  They have convinced legislators that it is better to stick with the status quo of denying equal rights to millions of adoptees than to allow anyone’s life to be “ruined” by disclosure.
Recently however, certain documents have been making an impact among legislators.  First and foremost are actual surrender documents which have been collected by Prof. Elizabeth Samuels.  You would think that if anonymity/confidentiality/privacy was promised to a relinquishing parent, that promise would find its way into the primary document signed by that parent.  These surrender documents have been very enlightening, to say the least.  Promises are being made, but it is the parent who is doing the promising.  General provisions:
-          The parent is terminating ALL rights (parental and otherwise) with respect to the child and is, in turn, being released from all obligations with respect to said child.
-          The parent has no right to be notified if and when the child has been adopted, and by whom.
-          The parent promises not to search for or contact the child or the child’s adoptive family WHILE THE CHILD IS A MINOR.  This time limit was a big surprise to many people.
The second set of documents making an impact are contemporaneous notes, letters, policies and testimony from when the various legislatures were first considering passing laws to seal adoption records.  As stated before, the original legislative intent was to prevent the general public, and only the general public, from accessing the records.  We need to do more research in this area as each state’s legislative history is unique.

Many of those in the lobbying trenches have been stymied by the reality that power is concentrated in the hands of a few long-term politicians.  This does not just affect our legislation, of course.  One would THINK that when half of the Assemblymembers have signed on as SPONSORS of a bill (New York), then that bill would have long ago been released to the floor for an up-or-down-vote.  One would be very very mistaken.
We (adoptee rights advocates) have seen well-supported bills languish in committee for decades.  We have seen public hearings scheduled, re-scheduled or cancelled at the last minute with no explanation.  We have seen bills rewritten without the input of the adoptee rights lobby group who proposed the legislation in the first place.  We have seen bills containing access provisions completely gutted of those provisions prior to passage.  We have seen the outright railroading of attempts to schedule bills for a floor vote.
Much work needs to be done.  We need champions (preferably adoptees) in the various state legislatures.  We need more research into the original legislative intent.  This can take various forms, including contemporaneous newspaper articles extolling the virtues of sealed records.  We also need first parents to write letters to be included in lobby packets and we need them to request their surrender documents.  Together, we can be a force to be reckoned with in the 44 states (and DC) that do not allow adult adoptees unrestricted access to the single sheet of paper that recorded their births.

Our deepest gratitude to Romany. She will post more on this topic in the very near future. If we educate ourselves, we can change the world!

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Detailed discussion of the Bering Strait theory and other scientific theories about the population of the modern-day Americas is beyond the scope of this essay. However, it should be noted that Indian people have expressed suspicion that DNA analysis is a tool that scientists will use to support theories about the origins of tribal people that contradict tribal oral histories and origin stories. Perhaps more important,the alternative origin stories of scientists are seen as intending to weaken tribal land and other legal claims (and even diminish a history of colonialism?) that are supported in U.S. federal and tribal law. As genetic evidence has already been used to resolve land conflicts in Asian and Eastern European countries, this is not an unfounded fear.

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