Over coffee this morning I was perusing Facebook posts and came across a post from an adoptee. She was discussing how the adoption agency, which facilitated her adoption in the 1960’s, said her records were destroyed in an epic fire. Sigh. I didn’t comment, and eventually I lost track of the original post but I couldn’t let it go.
For those who don’t know me or know what I do, I advocate for adult adopted people to have unrestricted access to their own original birth certificates. I work with groups around the country and with legislators here in Texas. What’s often left unsaid is that the discrimination adoptees face when we try to obtain any information about our own history is dehumanizing. We are lied to, and are told more often than is believable, that our records perished in a flood or fire, or perhaps were carried away by flying monkeys.
My own agency in Houston, Depelchin, told me that my records were destroyed by a flood in the late 1970’s. A lie. Of course. We are given shreds of redacted information and have no way of knowing what is factual and what is not. Social workers and other practitioners have complete power over our records, and we are even required to undergo mandatory counseling and pay astronomical fees just to receive what little information they decide to give us.
Family medical histories can be redacted and agency workers can interfere in communication between birth parents and adoptees. A social worker at Depelchin even bragged to a support group that she often changes letters in redacted files to throw adoptees off a trail so they are unable to identify a name or address in the file. Imagine sitting across a table from a social worker who places a file in front of you with information that belongs to you—and you are forbidden to see it.
Anyway, today was one of those days where I couldn’t stay quiet about it. So I posted from the Facebook page of the group I co-founded with fellow Texas adoptee Kim Dimick. The response was overwhelming, showing how often this happens to so many of us. As the comments poured in, I really paused and thought, others need to see this. Legislators and folks outside of adoptionland need to know the number of adoptees who experience this. It happened to me, and it happens to many if not most adoptees who simply try to access information that all non -adopted folks can get for a few bucks.
Discrimination against adopted people looks like this. It’s not just about getting a piece of paper. It is state-sanctioned secrecy and the obliteration of our original identity at the time of our adoption.
Our truth and history, lost . . . to an epic fire . . . to a devastating flood. Not likely. But it’s easy to lie to people who have no power over their own information. Natural disasters are the go-to story for adoption agencies and adoption lawyers.
How would you, as a non-adopted person, feel if you simply asked for your own information and were told a ridiculous story? It’s not even creative. It’s lazy. It’s insulting and dehumanizing. If adoption is to have any type of integrity, truth has to be part of the equation. In fact, truth should shroud adoption practices so that adoptees are not left powerless at the hands of those who profit from it.
It’s simple. Adoptees are not commodities, we are human. When we are relinquished and subsequently adopted, the truth should follow us. It’s part of the whole of our being. It’s our history.
If we want people to understand what we mean when we say discrimination, we have to show them. We have to tell them how agencies and other adoption “professionals” treat us. We have to show them the ugliness, and yes, the anguish that comes with being denied the most personal and profound information of one’s life. We have to commit to equality. I believe with equality comes truth. No fire or flood can destroy that.