Home » News » Currently Reading:

Adoptees seek state’s help to ease their hunt

December 6, 1998 News No Comments

Published Sunday, December 6, 1998, in the San Jose Mercury News

 

Adoptees seek state’s help to ease their hunt

Open-records law urged

BY STEVE JOHNSON
Mercury News Staff Writer

She was adopted 22 years ago when she was just 4, but painful memories linger for Robin Schuettke.

The man who was raising her told her he no longer loved her. He told her to forget him. Was that man her father?

Schuettke has never been able to find out because California — like many states — makes it difficult for adoptees to get at their original birth certificates.

Now, advocates buoyed by recent victories in Tennessee, Delaware and Oregon are pushing to unseal adoption records in more states. And they hope California will be among the next battlegrounds for the rights of adoptees like Schuettke, of San Jose.

“I don’t see why they think they have the right to deny us information on who we are,” said Schuettke, who spent several fruitless years searching for her mother’s and father’s identities. “If I could get those records, it might answer a lot of questions.”

But the desire of many adoptees to understand who and where they come from collides head-on with what many others argue is the right of birth parents to maintain their anonymity.

Those who criticize the growing campaign to pry open adoption documents are especially upset over Measure 58, a highly publicized initiative approved by Oregon voters Nov. 3 by a ratio of 57 percent to 43 percent.

It not only gives adoptees 21 and older the right to see their original birth certificates, it also is the first time adoption advocates have been able to pass such a measure by going directly to voters.

 

Other advocates disagree

William Pierce, president of the National Council For Adoption, an advocacy and research organization in Washington, D.C., said he fears such open-record policies could prompt some mothers to have abortions instead of put babies up for adoption. Moreover, he said, many other parents who had never revealed to their families and friends that they’d had children could find their secret exposed and become possible targets of ridicule.

“It’s devastating,” Pierce said of the Oregon measure. “If it goes into effect, it’s going to hurt lots and lots of people.”

Opponents are determined to prevent that. Four unnamed Oregon birth mothers have filed suit, claiming the initiative is unconstitutional because, they say, it would violate their right to privacy and undermine their contract with the state, which had guaranteed them confidentiality. A judge on Thursday put the law on hold pending resolution of the lawsuit.

If the initiative ultimately is allowed to go into effect, adoption activists say it could lead to attempts soon by initiative or legislation to unseal records in such places as California, Washington, Nevada, Montana and Arizona.

 

Demonstrating their support

To press their case, open-record backers held demonstrations Thursday at government offices in San Jose, San Francisco and other cities in a symbolic demand for access to their own birth certificates.

“It’s a dignity issue,” said Denise Castellucci, a 32-year-old adoptee who grew up in Menlo Park and who was heavily involved in getting the Oregon measure passed. “By denying me my original birth certificate, there’s an underlying assumption that I can’t be trusted.”

At least 5 million people in this country are adopted and the push to open up their birth certificates or other adoption-related records has slowly been gaining momentum for years. Joan Hollinger, a visiting law professor with the University of California-Berkeley and a national expert on adoption law, attributes the push largely to efforts by various minority groups to demand their civil rights and to the popularity of Alex Haley’s TV miniseries, “Roots.”

“We are a country that is very much interested in origins and family history,” Hollinger said. “People expect others to have a story about where they came from and what their families are like.”

While states have widely divergent rules about adoption records, many adoptees still manage to find their birth parents. Some do it with the assistance of various non-profit groups, many of which have Internet sites and databases. That’s how Ron Morgan, 44, an official with the adoptee group Bastard Nation in San Francisco, eventually identified his parents.

Until eight years ago, Morgan had assumed that the two adults who raised him were his birth parents. But after they died, he was shocked to find a reference to his adoption in papers he ran across while cleaning out their personal effects. Morgan, who grew up an only child, has since discovered he has “12 sisters and brothers scattered up and down the West Coast.”

 

Why they search

Many adoptees want to find their biological parents because they want to know if they are at risk for any inherited medical conditions. Others have more abstract reasons. When 59-year-old Doreen Alegrete of San Jose, who heads an adoptee-help agency called Search-Finders of California Inc., found her birth mom 15 years ago, she said, “I just wanted her to hold me — put her arms around me and hold me.”

Schuettke, who has a 1-year-old daughter, has managed to piece together some information about her past, such as the fact that she was born in Petaluma. But other details are vague, including the identify of the man she had lived with before her adoption as well as the name of her mother.

She realizes that finding out more could be “like opening up a can of worms,” as she put it. But deep down, she would love to know who her birth parents were, what they looked like and if they are still alive.

“I think I’ve always had this thing,” she said, “Did I pass them on the street and I never knew it? Could I have walked on by them and not known them? . . . It’s kind of awful to have information about yourself that you can never know.”

Follow Bastard Nation

Comment on this Article:







new! Bastard Nation Analysis and Endorsement of the Adoptee Citizenship Act 2015

new!  Bastard Nation Analysis and Endorsement of the Adoptee Citizenship Act 2015

Stop deporting our brothers and sisters!

Bastard Nation Executive Committee and LegCom page

Bastard Nation Executive Committee and LegCom page

Read about Bastard Nation leadership

THE BASTARD BOUTIQUE IS NOW OPEN! STOCK UP ON BASTARD SWAG FOR YOURSELF, YOUR FRIENDS. GIVE THE GIFT OF BASTARDY TO ANYONE, ANY TIME, ANY WHERE.

THE BASTARD BOUTIQUE IS NOW OPEN!  STOCK UP ON BASTARD SWAG FOR YOURSELF, YOUR FRIENDS. GIVE THE GIFT OF BASTARDY TO ANYONE, ANY TIME, ANY WHERE.

Your one-stop shopping for everything Bastard is now live. You can get our latest Bastard Nation swag at the Bastard Boutique. Quantities are limited! -- CLICK THE PIC!

FACEBOOK OFFICIAL BN PAGE

FACEBOOK OFFICIAL BN PAGE

Join us on the Official Bastard Nation Facebook page. The only "adoption" page on Facebook dedicated to discussion and promotion of adoptee autonomy, civil rights, bastard theory, political organizing, and activism. You can also sign up there for our BN mail list which includes all of our Action Alerts. This is not a search and support page. No Woundies need apply! (Page live on July 1, 2015)

FACEBOOK SOCIAL BN PAGE

FACEBOOK SOCIAL BN PAGE

Join the Bastard Nation Public Page, a public service for Bastard Nationals, friends and supporters. General discussion on adoptee rights and related issues.

TWITTER

TWITTER

Join us on Twitter. All the Bastardly news fit to tweet!

PINTEREST

PINTEREST

Join us on Pinterest. Bastard icons, images, members, actions, politics, and fun. And Christopher Walken!

Become a Bastard Nation Legislative Liaison!

Become a Bastard Nation Legislative Liaison!

Bastard Nation needs Legislative Liaisons in every state with laws that seal adoption records. We need eyes and ears in the legislatures, creating relationships and gathering information.

What does a BN Legislative Liaison do? They talk with lawmakers and their staff about adoptee rights and the laws that seal records. They distribute Bastard Nation position papers and FAQs to legislators and staff members. They record their conversations and report to the BN Legislative Committee.

They are organized, informed, friendly, helpful, and engaged.

What do you need to do to be a BN Legislative Liaison?

1. You need to live close to the capitol of your state.
2. You need to be able to appear friendly, even when talking with people who disagree with you or are just disagreeable, period.
3. You need to have a flexible schedule.
4. You need to agree with Bastard Nation’s mission: If you don’t know what that is, go to bastardnation.org, it’s right there on our welcome page.

Those are the prerequisites. If you are interested, click the picture of the capitol rotunda, and fill out the application form. We will be in touch and schedule an online orientation and training.

We look forward to working with you!

Read what real live adoptees have to say about secret adoption and sealed records....A service of Bastard Nation and Emma Pea! Fighting adoptacrats since 1996.

Hit the pic for archives.

Bastardly Books by Bastards and Friends

Bastardly  Books by Bastards and Friends

A reading list for all Good Bastards

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Meet Sharley!

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:  Meet Sharley!

Bastard Nation Moms Club

Bastard Nation Moms Club

Bastard Nation is gathering the names of moms who are willing to step forward and say that they were never promised confidentiality. If you are willing to participate, please comment this status. Your name (and if you choose, the relinquishment date) will be added to a list used in newspaper ads and to educate legislators.

Bastard Nation Action Alerts (from old BN page)

Recent Comments

Bastardly Books by Bastards and Friends

GET INVOLVED with Bastard Nation’s national and state-level advocacy efforts. Sign up or update your contact information here. We’ll be in touch.

GET INVOLVED  with Bastard Nation’s national and state-level advocacy efforts. Sign up or update your contact information here. We’ll be in touch.

bastard-chronicles

bastard-chronicles

Help us celebrate 20 years of bastardy! Bastard Nation is proud to announce the publication of "The Bastard Chronicles: 20 Years of Adoptee Equality Activism in the U.S.and the Birth of a Bastard Nation", Compiled and edited by Marla Paul, "The Bastard Chronicles" is primer for adoptee equality. It features a diverse collection of Bastard theory, and practice, Bastard and Bastard Nation history, legislative and political action, personal stories, art, and literature. It is the public face of Class Bastard written by Bastard Nationals and those we have influenced. Get yours in time for the holidays. Available at Amazon in print and Kindle today. (After the first of the year the print edition will also be available through the Bastard Boutique.

Bastards! Our Bastard Nation Logo T-shirts are now in the boutique! Show the world that we have no shame. Wear it proudly and represent!

Bastards! Our Bastard Nation Logo T-shirts are now in the boutique! Show the world that we have no shame. Wear it proudly and represent!

We also found a stash of our vintage BN logo keychains. There are only 10 left, so order yours! When they're gone, they're gone! Click he pic!

Join Bastard Nation!

Join Bastard Nation!

This summer we are updating our membership/donation page and payment process. If you would like to join or donate, please hit the spemrie. It will take you to our Bastard Boutique page. Follow instructions from there. Be sure to include a quick note with your contact information and anything else you'd like us us know..

My, my it’s American Bastard Pie! (design by Lisa Zatonsky)

My, my it’s American  Bastard Pie! (design by Lisa Zatonsky)

See our state partners:

See our state partners:

Proud Bastard Nation Partner: CalOpen

Proud Bastard Nation Partner: CalOpen

Proud Bastard Nation Partner: Indiana Open Access

Proud Bastard Nation Partner: Indiana Open Access

Proud Bastard Nation Partner: Michigan Open Access

Proud Bastard Nation Partner:  Michigan Open Access

Proud Bastard Nation Partner: Missouri Open

Proud Bastard Nation Partner:  Missouri Open

Proud Bastard Nation Partner: Equal Access Oklahoma

Proud Bastard Nation Partner: Equal Access Oklahoma

Proud Bastard Nation Partner: Open Adoption Records in Quebec

Proud Bastard Nation Partner: Open Adoption Records in Quebec

SAMPLE STATE ORGANIZATION RESOLUTION AGAINST VETOES AND OTHER RESTRICTIONS

SAMPLE STATE ORGANIZATION RESOLUTION AGAINST VETOES AND OTHER RESTRICTIONS

Any political organization seeking to enact true open records legislation should be very clear with both their constituents and the legislators they work with about what the essential provisions of the proposed bill are. Any modification or deletion of the essential provisions of a bill should be immediate cause to have the bill killed.

Any political organization seeking the assistance of Bastard Nation to pass open records legislation must hold unconditional access by adult adoptees to the original record of their birth as an essential provision that cannot be modified or deleted. Read our Mission Statement.

Bastard Nation will not assist any political organization to pass open records legislation unless their governing board or other leadership

passes a written resolution such as the following that commits the board to a strategy of no compromise on key provisions
informs its constituents of this commitment and this strategy
informs the sponsoring legislators of this commitment and this strategy.

WHEREAS we recognize that disclosure and contact vetoes, redactions, mandatory intermediaries and registry provisions are an affront to the dignity of adopted persons everywhere and a violation of their right to due process and equal treatment under the law,

WHEREAS there has been a demonstrable negative effect on the ability to pass unconditional open records in states that have passed veto legislation and/or any provisions that are less than unconditional access on demand by the adult adoptee,

WHEREAS our primary goal is to restore the right of adult adoptees everywhere to be treated as full citizens under the law,

WE HEREBY DECLARE that under no circumstances will we accept the addition of veto, redaction, intermediary, or registry provisions, or any conditional provisions to our legislation that would be less than unconditional access for adult adoptees to the original record of their birth. All legislative sponsors and members of this organization will be informed of our policy on this matter to ensure that the bill is pulled promptly in the event of such revisions.

Share This!