Assembling Self

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Adoptee Roots


People really have little idea how much of their lives, thoughts, and communications revolve around family.  Family that is living and those who have passed away or previous generations.  The recent genealogy fervor is proof of that.   Many adoptees are all too aware because of the lack of having it.

Adoptees recognize and understand this behavior in others, as they long for it themselves.  Habits, hobbies, careers, physical characteristics are passed along from generation to generation, and parent to child.  Over the years of watching reunions between adoptees and their families I have heard countless remarks such as "We both bite our nails the same way", "We both gesture with our hands exactly the same way", "Now I know where I get my love of such and such" comes from and the evidence is overwhelming that genetics DO make us who we are.  Just as nurture impacts who and what we are, so does nature not just in physical characteristics like hair and eye color.

I found out at age 39 that my dream of becoming a Prima ballerina or a concert pianist was inherited.  My mother's favorite past time is dancing and my biological great grandmother was a concert pianist and music teacher.  I was teaching children and music privately while pursuing a degree in dance and music therapy before I found this out.  I've always been a high strung person (NOOOOO say it isn't so lol) and found out in my information taken about my biological family before I was born my grandmother was described as a very anxious and nervous person.  It's not a character flaw it's in my GENES!

My biological mother sent a letter to me through the adoption courts describing in detail everything she could about her without giving away her identity.  My friends cried upon reading it stating "Karen if I didn't know better I'd say you wrote this yourself".  My exhusband noticed even our handwriting was the same. 

Adoptees should not have to waste time, energy, and money to find out where they came from.  We should not have to grow up or spend our lives guessing, imagining, and navigating life without pertinent and life affirming information.  Rights and reunions are two separate issues.  I have a right to my family history just as others do, even those who search via genealogy records.  People who say being adopted doesn't matter don't know how much it DOES matter.

Only in adoption are genetics whitewashed as unimportant.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Adoptees Denied

DENIED - By The Government

I plead though they ignore my cries.
The record's sealed is their reply.
Time and time again I ask.
I'm told to put it in the past.
I can't get them to try and see.
They have what belongs to me.
I beg for truth but no one hears.
It only falls upon deaf ears.
I get no matter how I try.
The same stone cold response DENIED.

Before the days of internet and social media there were not any other adoptees I knew and no one that understood anything about adoption.  It was back in the days of hush hush, keep it behind closed doors, and don't air your dirty laundry in public, including the shame and stigma of where adoptees "came from".  I understand those times just as I remember the days of pregnant girls being sent away.

In those days the subject of out of wedlock pregnancy was never broached except some whispers in the hallways and quiet conversations between friends beginning with the usual "Did you are about (so and so)".  Girls would come back from school as if nothing ever happened as if there was not this child out there somewhere.  We just assumed it was gone, along with the "problem".  No one discussed it and everyone pretended it wasn't happening.

This is a different time, world, and age now.  With public records, media, camera phones, anonymity has almost become a thing of the past.  Celebrities and public figures do their best to hide, some do not, but it has become big business for TV, movies, print, and literature.  Hollywood figures are adopting even as single parents and it's become a fad to want to adopt.  My point is that adoption is out in the open and public information blazed across magazine covers, TMZ, and the subject matter of current talk shows.

So why are adoptees still not allowed by law to information that is THEIRS?  Why are our records sealed by the government and hidden like some secret confidential matter that if released would bring families and the world to their proverbial knees?  There is big money in post adoption services for the government and nonprofit adoption agencies, and plenty of job security based on this system too.  The system of adoption has commodified children by putting a put a price tag on their head, and sold their rights for great profit.

There are stalking laws already in place for people who don't want contact with one another.  In states like Tennessee where adoptees can access their OBCs upon adulthood, a biological parent can file a contact veto which is punishable by law to the tune of large fines and jail time IF you contact that biological parent and OR any other family member.  No other adult citizen in the country can be legally forced and kept away from adult biological family members by ANOTHER adult family member.  No other citizen in the country has the legal right to keep family members apart.  ONLY in adoption is this law of inequality present.

I have petitioned the adoption court four times and shown "just cause" to receive identifying information about my biological parents.  They have denied my request over and over.  My biological parents relinquished any rights to me decades ago, why do they hold my rights in their hands now?  It is unconstitutional.

No other person in this country is legislated against in these ways this way but adoptees.  It is discrimination.  It is an adoptees civil right to have access to their original birth certificates.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Adoptee Masks


They perceive this shell but can not see, deep inside the real me.
The one who's lost, afraid and weak, things I dare not reveal or speak.
They think I'm really someone else, this front, facade, false prided self.
Little is the world aware what slivers of my soul I share.
I keep it hidden very well behind the safety of this shell.
Protecting weaknesses unknown the sealed off part of me called “home”.
For like chameleons who hide beneath the camouflage unspied.
I cover up what I can't show with secret masks concealed below.
The naked eye can not detect these fortress walls built to protect.
Within my dwelling unrecognized a stronghold they can't criticize,
nor ridicule, or realize, or know how much that I despise.
This vulnerable person that I am, so alone in alone in silent pain I stand.

I picked the photo above out of a long list of available choices because it really symbolized to me the blank feeling you can have about yourself as an adoptee, and the different masks we often hide behind.  This is not a self protective characteristic only adoptees utilize to cope in life but we can often feel further displaced because we have been separated from our origins.  Too often too when we speak up, ask questions, or express our inner angst about being adopted we are told "it doesn't matter", or "to get over it", or a myriad of other judgments and criticisms regarding how we "should" feel.

Growing up detached from biology and genetic roots leaves us much of the time to create and outer personna to hide behind.  We rely on a plethora of personalities we've gleaned from our family, siblings, and or peers, sometimes good and sometimes bad but the reality is they are usually not "ours".  Because, if we don't "act" our parts as good and grateful adopted children, do we risk being rejected and given away again?

It magnifies our separation anxieties and intensifies our need to fit in, and can severely compromise our development into a solid sense of self because we have little or no knowledge what that really is.  We are genes, habits, hobbies, and physical components of other people who are unknown to us.  We are navigating life from birth without important information other people have.  We fill all that in with masks we create to cover up our fear and we quickly learn to shut down and become introverted about our adoptive experiences, internalizing how we really feel rather than to risk further condemnation and or misunderstanding.

It took me until the age of 39 to be able to obtain information about my biological family that I was able to identify with, relate to, and understand who and what was really "me".  It changed my whole life and who I have become now.  Adopted children have a different set of circumstances upon birth than other children and when recognized and dealt with in an open and honest way it can make all the difference in their lives.  Including; the right to ask about being adopted, the right to speak out about being adopted, and the right to know where they came from. 

“We understand how dangerous a mask can be.  We all become what we pretend to be.” ~Patrick Rothfuss "The Name of the Wind"

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Adoptee Facepalms


There are times I seriously do this when hearing people talk about adoption and adoptees.  So, I want to address some remarks about being adopted that often make adoptees not only cringe, but writhe in sheer frustration.  Most of these comments are innocently stated but also mimic the propaganda that has been spewed by the adoption industry, agencies, and social workers for decades, brainwashing the general public into the belief system about adoption that is so staunchly held in place in this country.  Adoptees, now grown up, are speaking out to dispel these myths and false beliefs and replace them with the truth.

If any of my friends recognize themselves in any of the below statements please know I truly appreciate the years you have listened to my adoption soapbox and I know you have done your very best to understand my plight in life being adopted.  In fact recently my adoptee “lite” husband remarked “I wish I was an anonymous person” after a particularly hurtful family “feud”.  I sat in shock while my head nearly rotated off my shoulders trying to grasp his statement.   I've been with him for 10 years and he has been by my side through years of searching, publishing my adoption poetry book, having his coworkers listen in when I did radio and public speaking on adoption, he has even participated in an adoption rights rally with me.  And yet  still, people often forget the importance of the knowledge of who you are and where you come from.  Only when it has been lost can you truly understand the depths of it.

You should be grateful you were adopted and not aborted, left in a dumpster, neglected/abused instead.  Why should this apply only to adoptees?  Shouldn't nonadopted people be grateful for the same thing?  I'm certain a good amount of adoptees are thankful for their adoptive families but not grateful for the issues that adoption brings to the family table, or the lack of rights they have to access information about their family roots. 

I wish I had been adopted.  As if this is some instant cure for being born into a dysfunctional family.  ALL families are dysfunctional in some capacity including adoptive families.  Adoption does not allow you to escape abuse, neglect and take you to a special land of love, teddy bears, and unicorns.  There are no magic carpet rides to a better world.  Every adoption is different just as every family is different and adoption does not solve all family problems

Your are better off being raised by two parents than by a single parent.  This stems from the fallacy that all relinquishing parents are impoverished and unable to care for their children.  My biological parents were not poor.  My biological mother stated in her non-id letter to the adoption court her parents were business leaders in the community and still are.   It was the shame and stigma of pregnancy out of wedlock that separates families, along with the belief that "stuff" gives children a better life.  The rates of divorce apply to adoptive parents too and quickly a two parent family can change into single parenthood and struggles financially.   Children need love first and foremost.   Adoption does not always guarantee a child that either. 

I feel adopted too because I didn't fit into my family.  I hear this OFTEN and it is frustrating.  I always come back with "Were you taken from your biological family?" "Do you know who your parents are?" "Was your identity taken by the state and sealed and your birth certificate is now government property?” Yeah...not even close.

You won't ever have to feel the loss of your parents dying.  WRONG I feel that loss every day because they were taken from me at birth.  Children who lose a parent young before they have memory of them mourn that loss and are allowed to do so.  Why shouldn't adoptees?  I'm not saying one is harder or easier than the other just saying that loss is loss no matter what form it comes in.

You are being disrespectful to your adoptive parents by searching.  Why? Children of divorce are allowed to have two families and aren't forced to chose between the two by good parents why should adoptees have to?  Why is the genealogy fervor today widely practiced and recognized not only denied but also frowned upon for adoptees?  Lastly, why should adoptees continually be held to different standards in life that other nonadopted persons?  Rhetorical there.

Be careful what you wish for if you search it could turn out really badly.  Sure it could but that is life and that should be my right to chose it.  The truth I believe is always better than the unknown or the myths and mysteries adoptees are often required to live with, along with the falsification of records.  Truth and closure are healthy avenues to pursue as was encouraged by a marriage counselor I had years ago,who was also an adoptive mother well versed professionally and personally with her own adopted daughter.

Your parents gave you away why would you want to find them?  Once again, to hold MY truths in my own two hands.  Many families are separated for reasons that can change over time.  Divorce, illness, poverty, and addictions, are often temporary situations.  Adoption is a permanent solution to what can change in family situations and often quickly.  Many relinquishing parents still believe giving up their children will give them a better life, not because they are not wanted.  My adoptive brother has never desired to search.  That is his right just as searching should be mine.  Neither are wrong they are just different emotions.

You need to get over adoption.  You never get over being adopted.  It is something you live with for your life. How you react to it yes, you are responsible for.  That is why so many of us have joined ranks with adoption activism, reform, and education, to bring awareness to the issues and change the lives of other adoptees and the system of adoption itself.  It often is a healthy tool for coping and healing.   Facilitating change for others is empowering and helps take one from victim to survivor.

You are obsessed with adoption.  YES! Yes I am!  As I stated above people are unaware for the most part of the realities of adoption. The blatant illegalities, fraud, and corruption that adoption is wrought with have long been covered up and swept under the rug, along with adoptee's rights.  Adoption is a booming multi-billion dollar per year industry that has for far too long been allowed to function without any strict regulation.  The time has come to bring adoption into the 20th century and radically change the system to do away with the archaic and discriminatory laws that govern only adoptees.

If you have read this far again, I thank you.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Adoptee Images - Sketches, Portraits, and Photos

 Sketches of an Adoptee 

Sketches of the person here can't illustrate my inner fear.
I pose afraid the artist sees just how this picture is incomplete.
But what is missing what is gone, can't be seen it can't be drawn.
No shades can show the gaping holes, left in my heart, deep in my soul.
The pallet holds no color near, nor tint, or shade of hidden tears.
For what was lost taken away, the pain a brush stroke can't portray.
No pencil either lends a clue.
No crayon, chalk, will show the hue.
Of this facade on which I depend because I know not who I am.
Perhaps someday I will reveal these emotions that I feel.
The fragments of myself not shown.
Searching for family never known.

My cousin on my adoptive father's side found me on Facebook this past year has been kind enough to share some photographs of us as kids visiting our grandparents house.  It was so wonderful to look into our young innocent (most of the time lol) smiling faces in simpler times.  I saw my aunt in my cousin's face, and my uncle in my other cousin's face.  And there I was again, wondering where the mischievous grin, my eyes, and dishwater blonde hair came from.

You really never escape the wondering.  You can pack it up and put it away for awhile like old clothes in a trunk or a passing season's shoes.  But it is usually always stored closely to your heart and soul.  Never far from reminding you of all the "I don't knows".

The charcoal an artist did of me in New Orleans when I was 24 hung on my bedroom wall and haunted me for years.  Photos and portraits I have of myself are just gateways back into history and other dimensions of time for me.   Perhaps someday I'll hold in my hands some keys to unlock the never ending mysteries of who I really am.  Maybe someday all adoptees will have that right.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Common Misconceptions about Adoption

I have found over the years the majority of people are very misinformed about adoption.  I have to admit when I was petitioning courts fourteen years ago I was surprised by what I did not know about adoption, and by the vast amount of inaccurate information regarding adoption and adoptees that was circulating.  So, I'd like to take five of the most common I've encountered and how it impacts adoptees.

To clarify, OBC stands for "Original Birth Certificate" which many people are unaware adoptees even have.  Adoptees are issued an ammended birth certificate upon adoption with the false information of the adoptive parents on it, replacing their original identity.  OBCs are then sealed and in most states adoptees are not allowed access to it even after numerous court petitions.  OBCs are only sealed upon adoption NOT relinquishment.  If a child is never adopted then their OBC remains in place.  That being said, let me address some adoption myths.

Adoption records have always been sealed.  Sealed adoption records are in fact a recent phenomena in the long history of adoption.  Initially birth certificates were sealed to protect adoptees from the stigma of having “illegitimate” stamped onto them.  Kansas and Alaska have never sealed their adoption records they have always been available to adoptees once they become of age.  Adoption records were first accessible to all three parties, adoptee, adoptive Parents, and biological parents, but closed to the public.  Beginning in the forties social workers and adoptive parents promoted the closing of records to protect the privacy of adoptive families and adoptees.  Many states did not seal their records until the 70's and '80's. Alabama did not close theirs until 1991 and reopened them in 2003.  Adult Adoptees are asking that the rights to access their OBCs be RESTORED.

Birth parents were promised confidentiality upon relinquishing their children for adoption.  Actually many biological parents were told to go on and forget the children they gave up, and many were told it was illegal to search for them and were threatened into obscurity out of fear.  Although this “claim” of confidentiality given by adoption agencies in regards to adoptee rights legislation, no evidence or documentation has ever been brought forward by a relinquishing parent or agency member to prove it, even when requested by legislators.  Statistics and data gathered by states that have opened OBCs to adoptees over the last 15 years show the vast majority of birth parents believe and agree the children they relinquished, adult adoptees, should be given access.

Open adoption records will cause more abortions and less adoptions.  As I mentioned previously Kansas and Alaska have never closed adoption records and statistically have always had lower rates of abortion and higher rates of adoption.  In states again that have reopened their adoption records and allowed adult adoptees access to their OBCs show these same rates.  Adoption and abortion are two separate issues that often become entwined with one another by those who are not familiar with adoption facts.  The shame and stigma of out of wedlock pregnancy is long gone.  The era of secrecy in adoption should be gone as well.

There are registries and intermediary systems already in place if people want to find one another.  Adoptees ammended birth certificates are altered and changed including many times date of birth, place of birth, and lacking hospital or county of birth.  This misinformation can deter people from finding one another, or finding one another too late.  Also, misplaced and lost files and information by intermediaries, social workers, and government offices influence important and vital connections attempting to be made between biological family members.  Personal agendas and opinions regarding adoption by those working within post adoption positions bear influence as well in adoptees attempts to obtain their own information.  People many times do not know where to look for these registries or have knowledge of them, or where to go to find them.  People die and never have the chance to sign up to say they want to be found and yet again adoptees lose the chance to know and be known by their biological family members.  State adoption registries have a very low success rate.  Adoptees should not have their own personal and private information placed into the hands of anyone but themselves.

Open adoption is prevalent today so there is no need for adoptee OBC access.  Most adoptions today have some degree of openness.  However, once biological parents relinquish their children they also give up any legal right regarding their children.  Open adoptions close without biological parents having any recourse in a court of law.  Original birth certificates are still sealed and not accessible even to adoptive parents.  If contact between parties is lot these connections can be permanently severed along with the adoptees right to have information.

There is more but I will cover that later.  If you read this far THANK YOU!  If you have any questions please feel free to ask me, another adoptee, or I would encourage you if you are still interested to look it up on your own.  Knowledge is power!

Thursday, November 1, 2012


An empty soul stands alone.
They erased who I was and gave me a new home.
Now lies not truth where my life used to be.
How could they take that away from me?
Did they really believe I'd never question,
what they gave me as a definition?
Of this person I was supposed to become,
and never look back on where I came from?
Where does one really draw the line
on how much past you can leave behind?
They expect out of us what they themselves could never do.
Despite what they say I am searching.
Wouldn't you?

After my fourth court petition was denied this year for identifying information by my biological parents and the adoption courts, I sunk into a depression which is pretty natural. At age 53 I still have no names, no cities, no states where my biological family resides all traces and tracks were covered long ago. No photos, no history, no tangible evidence of the people and family I come from. While I can understand anyone's right to not have contact with another person, no one has the right to keep other adults from relationships with one another. My biological parents signed away their rights upon relinquishing me, and should have NO say in my biological siblings having knowledge I exist. It's devastating for adoptees to be shoved into a dark closet and forgotten.

In learning to deal with stages of grief, and the judgment that comes from the world that adoptees should have no grief and just be thankful they were adopted, I can now recognize the signs and symptoms and deal with them now in healthier ways than I did before. The knowledge and experiences adoptees have is important!  When expressed to the world can change the lives of other adoptees, the institution of adoption, and the hearts and minds of anyone who is willing first to put aside their preconceived notions and truly listen.

But, that is usually the first and foremost problem in adoption. Getting people to actually listen to adoptees.  Most people believe that there are a handful of adoptees, or just myself, that have had a “bad experience” with adoption.  This is simply not the case.  There are plenty of adoptees with wonderful adoptive families who have and are struggling with identity, belonging, and the impact adoption has had on their lives.  We are here to change adoption and the way it functions, right the wrongs, and speak our truths.

I will always search faces and crowds and check the internet for responses to my adoption search posts. I will always do double takes of any woman I see that's about 4' 10” tall with brown hair and green eyes. It's an inherent yearning that my soul can't deny.  Ever.