Category Archives: Adoption Ethics

NJ advances open records, family leave legislation!

It’s been quite a busy week here in New Jersey for legislators and those with a stake in adoption-related laws.

Two bills — which for many years have floundered at various stages of the legislative process — have each made a substantial leap forward, and hold more hope than ever for adoptees seeking open access to their birth records, and new adoptive parents seeking paid time off to care for and bond with their new family member.

The state Senate approved S-611, a bill that would allow adoptees to obtain their original birth records — and therefore their medical histories and heritage — which currently are sealed under New Jersey law.

Adoptees at least 18 years old or the adoptive parents of a child would be able to petition the state registrar for an original birth certificate listing the biological parents’ names.

Birth parents would have one year after the bill takes effect to request their name and address remain confidential. Those seeking to do that, however, would be required to provide a health and cultural history every 10 years until they turn 40, and every five years after that.

Despite the bill’s decades-long battle, the Senate voted 31-7 to approve it without any discussion! The Assembly version of the bill is before its Human Services Committee.

Sen. Joseph Vitale, the bill’s sponsor, said after the vote, “Through this legislation, we’ve taken pains to balance the needs of adopted individuals to know with the needs of certain birth parents to maintain anonymity. For New Jersey’s adopted residents, this bill is about fairness, giving them the same opportunity to know where they come from as non-adopted people.”

***

Paid family leave in New Jersey — which includes those having just adopted a child — is now also considerably closer to reality than ever before. The bill, S-786 — which has had its share of tweaking over the last few months, beginning as a 12-week plan, later reduced to a 10-week program, and stands now as six weeks’ leave — was approved 22-16 by the state Senate.

The full Assembly will consider the bill in the coming weeks and, considering it’s a bill generally favored by Democrats and opposed by Republicans, it should do well in the heavily Democratic Assembly. Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine has said he will sign the bill.

This would make New Jersey the third state to allow workers to take paid leave to care for a sick family member or a newly adopted child. Since 2004, California has allowed workers up to six weeks paid leave, and as of October 2009, Washington will allow workers five weeks’ paid leave.

New Jersey’s program would be funded through an estimated $33 a year per employee, taken through payroll deductions. Those taking the leave would receive two-thirds of their salary, up to $502 weekly.

The video of all the proceedings is here — click the March 3 session — about 90 minutes of debate and then the vote on the paid family leave legislation, and then a very fast vote (less than one minute!) on the open records bill.

Hoo-rah!

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Filed under Adoption, Adoption Ethics, Adoption leave, Birth parents, Family Leave, Legislation, Making a difference, Paid Adoption Leave

Meeting Hollee McGinnis of Evan Donaldson Adoption Institute

holleemcginnis.jpg

Tonight my local adoption group hosted Hollee McGinnis of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. A most-interesting presentation indeed — and I’m not just saying that because she drew my name as winner of the raffle for a signed copy of Adam Pertman’s Adoption Nation. Really.

I’ve got more to say on the evening, but I just want to read over my notes and properly digest it all. More to come.

(And as an aside, yes, NaBloPoMo kicked my tush. Sigh. But I keep on keeping on.)

Photo credit: Pam Hasegawa

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Filed under Adoption, Adoption Ethics, Birth parents, Closed Adoption, Discussing Adoption, Family, NaBloPoMo, Open Adoption, Parental surrenders, Parenting

I think I can, I think I can (celebrate)!

Thanks to a fellow blogger and adoptive mom for reminding me that there are reasons to celebrate adoption. (Sound strange to some? Let me explain.) Although this is National Adoption Month, “celebration” hasn’t been a word I’ve been throwing around much.

After all, adoption is a very serious subject. There’s so much to consider, so much involved, so much to understand. There is loss. Inevitable loss, from first parents and first families to culture and more. And facing that loss, with my daughter in the forefront of my mind, is hard. It weighs so heavily on me. Add in the matter of ensuring that this and any future adoption be ethical and whew, boy! So much to think about, worry about, carry around in myself.

So for me this National Adoption Month has been about using my own experiences with adoption to educate. It’s been about taking advantage of those conversations, working to make a difference in how others perceive adoption, working to ensure that Maeve’s first mom is respected and that others understand how open adoption really works. In fact, I wrote about how I planned to spend this month in my latest AFTH column. And I stand by all of that. The month’s just half over — there’s plenty o’ educating to do!

But there is also room for celebration, too, and my sincere thanks to Judy for the most-needed reminder.

I carry around with me all the hard parts of adoption because I love my daughter. I love her so much that the hard parts impact me because I cannot help but think how they will impact her as she grows. These concerns don’t rest very often, and when they do, guilt creeps in and takes hold.

But, given all the concerns about the myriad hard parts of adoption, the truth of the matter is, adoption is how Maeve came into my life. There are beautiful parts to adoption. No, that’s not all there is to it, of course. Not by a long shot. But there is beauty and happiness in it too, and those moments mean so much.

After all, adoption gave me the most beautiful, funny, sensitive, silly, determined little girl to nurture and love each day. I am lucky enough to share my life with her and hers with me. She is my amazing daughter. My daughter through adoption.

Recognizing this — I mean actually taking the time to breathe it in and feel it — doesn’t take away the importance of all the other things wrapped up with adoption and doesn’t negate the loss involved. No, but I think it’s alright to relish the happiness she brings, that I hope I bring her, the happiness and joy in being mama to a little girl that makes my life seem like it’s playing in full technicolor.

Having this beautiful soul in my life is, quite simply, cause for celebration.

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Filed under Adoption, Adoption Ethics, Birth parents, Discussing Adoption, Love, Maeve, Making a difference, NaBloPoMo, Open Adoption, Parenting

Smell the fresh ink?

My latest column is up over at AFTH, and as usual, the link to it remains nestled in my sidebar. But in the interest of saving you a click or two, here’s what I had to say in :

Changing Leaves, Changing Minds

Some use the start of the new year as reason for reflection, as motivation for listing lofty resolutions dependent on powerful will. Me? I do this long before Dick Clark begins his countdown.

Maybe it’s the childhood ritual of beginning school, fresh-faced and ready for a new start, or maybe it’s because November brings with it both efforts to give thanks and raise adoption awareness. Either way, as the crisp autumn air nips at my toes, I’m contemplating what I — both an adoptive mother and wife to an adoptee — can do better.

This year not only will I continue to respect these roles of adoption in my life personally — which includes a commitment to my daughter’s first mother that she’s needed in our lives — but I will transform everyday situations into teachable moments that matter.

When discussing our open adoption, if folks mention Maeve’s first mother “taking her back,” insisting on co-parenting and existing only to confuse Maeve, I will, without waffling, dispel the untruths and undo the damage of Lifetime movies.

When asked about Maeve’s “real” mother “giving up” her child and whether she has “moved on,” I will explain we are both real mothers, that there’s nothing in her adoption choice resembling giving up on her daughter, and I will remind them that filling someone else’s arms with your child isn’t the same as losing a favorite stuffed toy.

I will applaud television networks and programs portraying adoption and its triad in an accurate and positive light. I will just as fervently contact those making adoption jokes or depicting birth parents as anything less than they are. When represented accurately, adoption’s mystery diminishes and our children benefit.

I’ll write municipalities I’ve long lectured in my mind, explaining that adopting a road is nothing like adopting a child. I will demonstrate not only how “sponsor” suits their needs just fine, but how their use of “adopt” makes my job of raising a healthy, well-adapted adult that much harder as I need to explain the difference between cleaning dirty roads and forever loving a child.

This Nov. 17, not only will I ensure adoption-related books are read in my daughter’s daycare and our library, I will volunteer to read them myself. And then I’ll encourage their use year-round, not just because a calendar dictates it.

I will make all these everyday moments really matter.

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Filed under Adoption, Adoption Ethics, Birth parents, Children, Children's books, Community, Discussing Adoption, Latest AFTH column, Maeve, Making a difference, NaBloPoMo, Open Adoption, Parenting, Promises

Today’s NPR program on open records

If you can, tune in to NPR today at 3 pm (Eastern time) for its “Talk of the Nation” program which promises to be a lively discussion about access to birth and adoption records.

Panelists are Adam Pertman of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, Tom Atwood of the National Council for Adoption as well as a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The call-in number is 800-989-8255 if you’re so inclined.

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Filed under Adoption, Adoption Ethics, Birth parents, Closed Adoption, Discussing Adoption, Legislation, Making a difference, Open Adoption, Parental surrenders

Faces of First Moms

Nicole over at paragraphein is compiling photos of first moms and has begun crafting a most powerful slide show with a most simple purpose — showing how birth mothers aren’t any different than anyone else. Surely a fact that shouldn’t need explaining or proving. Sadly, though, it does.

She’s continuing to add photographs as she gets them, so if you or someone you know might be interested, please be sure to consider contributing to her powerful statement.

Now, go have a look for yourself. (And if you get all melty when you hear Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work” — I have for years — be warned. Between the subject and the music, it packs a one-two punch.)

The Faces of First Moms

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What she said, dangit!

“Keeping [birth] records closed perpetuates the myth
that open adoption is a fringe movement,
flirting with the potentially dangerous idea
of not cutting adoptees off from their families of origin.”

***

“Closed records play into the fiction that there is something
shameful in adoptees’ pasts. … They reinforce the idea
that first parents should disappear into the shadows
after relinquishment if they know what’s best for them
and their child. They suggest to adoptive parents that
the only way to be their child’s real parent is to see
themselves as replacements for the biological parents.”

***

“They [closed records] are simply an outdated and unwarranted
part of adoption … premised on the idea that adopted children
needed to be protected from the wayward parents who conceived
them and the stigma of illegitimacy. First parents needed to hide
their shameful secret from prying eyes. Adoptive parents needed to
be able to pretend they were a biological family.”

Wow. Is anyone else hearing the harps and angels sounding — or is it just me?

Kudos to Heather at Production, Not Reproduction who’s written a fantastic piece on the connection — yes, there is one! — between open adoption and the need for open records, both issues of import in this, my little corner of the blogosphere.

Anyone visiting here regularly knows how I feel about the need for open birth records, a position fueled initially by the fact my husband’s own closed adoption and the fact that his very own story is not, well, actually his own. You also know how strongly he and I feel about open adoption, and that we are committed to ensuring our daughter Maeve’s adoption remains that way. (Of course, one day she will step to the helm and steer her own course.)

Heather (she’s over there snug in my blogroll, by the way) makes myriad connections in her piece that had me nodding my head yes and thinking I should check for my byline at the top of it. We are absolutely kindred spirits on this.

For all my hours toiling away here with these issues, she’s got me wishing I’d gone and said it this clearly before. (Maybe I have, maybe not, sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.) All I know is this rings so true with me.

I could keep blathering on about why this piece touched me, how it states so wonderfully why I believe what I do and why I advocate for what I do, but ya know what? I’d be doing it — and you — a disservice.

Just go have a read for yourself.

Now. (Ahem. Please.)

NaBloPoMo Stats: 7 down, 23 to go.

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Filed under Adoption, Adoption Ethics, Birth parents, Closed Adoption, Discussing Adoption, Maeve, NaBloPoMo, Open Adoption, Parental surrenders, Parenting