Thursday, January 31, 2008

AUSTRALIA: SMS Messages--On Stolen Generation, Jauary 31, 2008

January 31, 2008

SMS Messages:

If Kevin says sorry, maybe he should also ask for a thank you. If the imperial forces had successfully invaded, there would be as many stolen generation in Australia as there is minkie whales in Tokyo harbour. Al, palmy

40 years ago my mum fell pregnant at the age of 16, was put in a home 4 unmarried mothers until baby born. Given a needle as soon as birth finished 2 dry up her milk & forced 2 give it up 4 adoption. Treated like dirt 4 her mistake. That’s what they did back then. Is some 1 going 2 compensate & say sorry 2 her like they r 2 stolen generation? I think not. Michelle, palmerston

Stolen generation my a***. There was 10 of us and it was safer 4 mum 2 have us in safer place than with alcoholic father. We’re happy and have our kids playing sport an now know our mum. Have roof food and love that money can’t by. So get real, same old mob.

Apology for what? What about the non indigenous that never got 2 met their family? We have to deal with it, y cant they? Oh I smell money! Lotsa Sense, karama

Link to article

AUSTRALIA: Looking to Heal Old Wounds, January 29, 2008

January 30, 2008

NOTE: An incredible number of racist reactions follow this article and others releated to the apology.

Looking to Heal
Old Wounds
by John Pryke

Australia's government said Wednesday that it will issue a formal apology to the "stolen generations" of mostly mixed-blood Aboriginal children who were taken from their families from 1910 to 1970. The kids were put up for adoption in an effort to weed out their indigenous race. Above, Aboriginal performers play traditional instruments in Australia.

At age 24, she learned a shocking truth that helped explain her unease and set her on an agonizing search for an identity snatched away from her the day she was born.

Russell is among thousands of Australian Aborigines who were forcibly removed from their families under policies that lasted for decades until 1970, leaving deep scars on countless lives and the nation's psyche.

Australia's government said Wednesday it would formally apologize to the so-called "stolen generations" as the first item of business of the new Parliament, on Feb 13.

The issue has divided Australians for decades, and an apology would be a crucial step toward righting injustices many blame for the marginalized existence of Australia's original inhabitants — its poorest and most deprived citizens.

"It's not going to bring back my life," Russell, 72, told The Associated Press Wednesday at her home on Sydney's outskirts. "It's not going to bring back my mum. It's not going to take away the abuse that I had to endure when I was growing up."

"But at least it's a start."

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, elected last November and whose pledge to apologize overturns a decade of refusals by his predecessor, has ruled out paying compensation. But he says he is determined to help all Aborigines achieve better health, education and living standards.

"This is about getting the symbolic covenant, if you like, between indigenous and non-indigenous Australia right and then moving on," Rudd said this week.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said Wednesday the apology would "be made on behalf of the Australian government and does not attribute guilt to the current generation of Australian people."

Her statement reflects the lingering concerns of many Australians that they should not be made responsible for mistakes by their forebears.

Aborigines — 450,000 among Australia's population of 21 million — are the country's poorest ethnic group and are most likely to be jailed, unemployed and illiterate. Their life expectancy is 17 years shorter than other Australians.

From 1910 until 1970, some 100,000 mostly mixed-blood Aboriginal children were taken from their parents under state and federal laws that argued the race was doomed and that integrating the children was a humane alternative.

An inquiry by the national Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission concluded in 1997 that many stolen generation children suffered long-term psychological effects stemming from their loss of family and culture. It recommended that state and federal authorities apologize and pay compensation to those who were removed. All state governments have apologized, but the question of compensation was left to the federal government.

Then-Prime Minister John Howard steadfastly refused to apologize or pay compensation, saying his government should not be held responsible for past policies.

Although the last laws granting authorities the power to take Aboriginal children from their families were abolished in 1970, many Aborigines say statistics show the government is still far more likely to take Aboriginal children into foster care than white children.

Last summer, the government passed a package of bills to fight what it said was rampant child abuse among Aborigines in the Northern Territory, fueled by widespread alcoholism, unemployment and poverty. The legislation, which included a controversial plan to take control of some Aboriginal lands, was condemned by critics as a racist attack on indigenous rights.

Aboriginal leaders generally welcomed Wednesday's pledge to issue a formal apology.

"Older people thought they would never live to see this day," said Christine King, whose group the Stolen Generations Alliance was consulted by the government about the apology.

Others still want compensation. Michael Mansell of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Center wants the government to set aside $882 million for compensation.

Russell grew up in Sydney with parents of Scottish and Irish backgrounds. She says her father beat her and sexually abused her. Russell's mother once scolded her for bringing an Aboriginal girl home to play, calling them "dirty" people.

She recalls having vivid dreams of an Aboriginal woman who sat on a rock and said, "Come back to your culture." Confused by the dream then, she now believes it was her ancestors beckoning her.

For Russell, the first hard evidence that she was adopted came after her mother died in 1959 and her aunt sent a letter saying she did not belong in the family and was no longer welcome.

She began scouring hospital records, birth and marriage registries and even shipping logs to try to discover her true identity, but clues were few.

In the mid-1990s, changes to the law made it easier for adopted children to access birth records and Russell discovered her true heritage: She was born to a 13-year-old Aboriginal girl named Joyce Russell, from whose arms she was taken on the day of her birth on Sept. 4, 1935.

A group called Link-Up, established to reunite families of the stolen generations, helped Russell trace her birth mother to a nursing home in Easton, Pa., and a nervous reunion between mother and daughter was finally arranged in 2001.

"I was trying to be really strong and not cry," Russell recalled. "It was a bit of a shock when they brought her up because the resemblance between me and her was really strong. She kept grabbing my hand, she kept walking with me everywhere. She wouldn't let me out of her sight."

At first the elderly woman didn't realize who the younger woman was, and welfare workers asked gently probing questions to try to prompt her memory, mentioning Mari Russell's birth date and the hospital she was born in.

"She started crying, and then she got so angry and she was sobbing," Russell said. "She said 'I had a baby girl and they took her away from me. Why did they do that? Why did they do that?'"

"I said to her, 'It's OK mum, I'm that little girl.'"

Russell spent two weeks with her mother in Pennsylvania. Joyce Russell died last month at the age of 84, and her daughter was bringing her ashes home for burial.

For Russell, the apology is a positive step but will never replace what she and so many others lost.

"We missed out on our culture, our language, our history," she said. "You can never get back those lost years, you just can't."

Associated Press writer Rod McGuirk contributed to the story from Canberra.

Link to article

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

ENGLAND: I Was the Daughter of a Sperm Donor, January 30, 2008

January 30,2008

I Was the Daughter of a Sperm Donor
By Alison Smith-Squire

The champagne and laughter in the crowded marquee was flowing.

For Stella Kenrick the family party wasn't only a wonderful celebration of her beloved Aunt Peggy's 90th birthday, it was also a chance to catch up with friends and her many extended relatives.

But as Stella, a mother of two grown-up children, mingled with the guests, she could never have imagined that for her the day would be memorable for all the wrong

"Then she looked me in the eye and said: 'Your father isn't your real father - it was a donor insemination.' I was completely stunned."

"She said my parents had gone to a clinic in London. Obviously I know that these days people donate sperm and eggs so infertile couples can have a baby, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I'd been conceived that way - and in the 1950s.

"I thought of my late father and how much I'd loved him, thinking he was my real dad.

"Then I thought of my mother - we had never got on - and I felt sick as I realised the depth of 50 years of deception.

"In that instant the bottom dropped out of my world. I remember looking over at my brother, Charles, and thinking: 'You're not my brother any more.' It was a terrible moment."

Later that day, Peggy revealed that she had always known the truth but her mother, Anne, 89, had sworn her to secrecy.

"I never ascertained whether Peggy thought I already knew or whether she blurted out the truth because she was growing older and wanted to tell me before she died," she says.

"But from then on my life changed. It was as if my whole life had been built on a lie."

The revelation was to send Stella - ironically a professional private investigator - on a journey of self-discovery in a bid to unearth her true parentage.

She admits that until that fateful day three years ago, she had never questioned her family background. In fact, she had been proud of it.

"My father, Charles, came from a distinguished family. He was an army officer," she says.

"My mother was a teacher and we had a very middle-class upbringing."

Indeed, many would call it privileged. At the age of seven, her brother Charles - who according to Peggy had also been born by artificial insemination - was sent to the prestigious Westminster School.

Meanwhile, Stella went to board aged 11 at Wycombe Abbey in Buckinghamshire.

Today, fees at both schools cost more than £25,000 a year each. The family grew up in a large detached house with a huge garden in Henley-on-Thames, Oxon.

"We weren't spoilt but we had everything we could ever want," Stella says.

"In hindsight, my parents, who were well off but not rich, must have made huge financial sacrifices to give Charles and I such a good education.

"My parents were deeply religious. My mother had been a nun for a while before she married and we went to the local parish church as a family every Sunday."

However, while to outsiders they appeared the perfect family, behind closed doors all wasn't well.

Although Stella had a good relationship with her father, she felt distanced from her mother.

"Given that I wasn't really his child, it is incredible how loved I felt by him but unfortunately the same couldn't be said of my relationship with my mother," she remembers.

"If you had asked me who I took after I would have said him, not my mother who was in fact my biological relative.

"In contrast to my father, who was warm and such a gentleman, my mother was cold. She never once cuddled me as a child or told me she loved me.

"Looking back, she ruled the family with a rod of iron, showing her disapproval by retreating into moody silences.

Stella Kenrick
Painful truth: The man Stella thought was her father was not biologically related to her

"I loved playing the piano and took many examinations but anything less than a distinction was never good enough. She was pushy with Charles, now a pharmacologist, and very disappointed that he didn't study medicine.

"My father adored her but she gave him a hard time. Nothing he did was good enough."

After completing a degree in modern languages at Dublin University, Stella went to work in London as a PA for an international law firm. Then, when she was 22, her father suddenly died from a heart infection.

"It was a terrible shock as he was just 52," she says. "But the worst thing was that my mother never told my brother and me that he was ill until he was on his deathbed.

"He'd been in hospital for two or three days. By the time we reached the hospital our father was dead.

"Now, with hindsight, I believe she was terrified that he might tell Charles and I the truth before he died. He was such an honest man and it is a total mystery how he could have lived with such a huge secret.

"She was a domineering woman and I now think she must have threatened him never to tell us because I feel sure he would have wanted us to know the truth, however painful."

In 1981 Stella married John, a management consultant, and gave up work to care for their two children - Alice, now 24, and Tom, 21.

However, after 20 years together, Stella and her husband grew apart and divorced.

Yet, despite her mother being widowed, and the birth of the grandchildren, Stella's relationship with her never improved.

Eventually, her mother grew frail and was admitted, her mind still sharp, into a nursing home.

"When my aunt told me that my father had found he was infertile and that he and my mum had gone to a London clinic for sperm donation, a lot of things suddenly clicked into place about my mother," admits Stella.

"I was determined to find out the truth." The first thing Stella did was to tell her brother, Charles, who is two years older, about her discovery.

"That night as we drove back from the party to our hotel I asked him to stop the car," she recalls.

"He sat in a silence while I told him what Aunt Peggy had revealed to me.

"He was as shocked as I was. We knew we didn't look like one another - he is dark while I am fair.

"But the family joke had always been that I looked like Dad and he looked like Mum.

"I faced the truth that it was quite likely we weren't a full brother and sister and that he was from a different sperm donor from me."

A few days later, Stella visited her mother.

"I said how lovely the birthday party had been. She and her sister, Peggy, had never seen eye to eye and now I wondered if one of the reasons they'd fallen out over the years had been over her reluctance to tell my brother and me the truth about our conception.

"Then I said: 'Mum, when were you going to tell me the truth?' Her eyes looked up at me coldly. And then she spat, 'Never!'

"From that day she refused to speak to me, going into one of her disapproving silent moods. Devastated and in tears I fled home."

Stella planned to go back again to challenge her mother with more questions. But, a week later, she received a phone call from the nursing home. Her mother had died.

"I felt incredibly angry that my mother had once again had the last word," she says. "Worse, she had taken any information about our true identity with her to the grave.

"I simply couldn't comprehend how even in the throes of death anyone could be so incredibly selfish."

From then on both Charles and Stella pooled their resources in a desperate bid to track down their genetic fathers. But further shocking revelations were in store.

"My brother's godmother then told me that I had been conceived in a clinic in Harley St run by a woman called Dr Mary Barton in 1953," says Stella.

"Yet, what puzzled her most was that her parents even knew about sperm donation, let alone where to go for such a procedure.

"This was the 1950s when it had hardly been publicised," she says. "It would have been very expensive and as it was so new, it was potentially a medically risky thing to undertake.

"My parents were also so religious, respectable and middle class that I can hardly imagine them considering such a thing."

While the first baby reportedly conceived after sperm donation was born in the U.S. in 1885, nothing much had been heard about it in the UK until a pioneering gynaecologist called Dr Mary Barton opened her Harley St clinic in the 1940s.

This was where Stella's parents went for their fertility treatment. Dr Barton, who experimented with sperm donation during World War II, caused uproar after she published a paper on Artificial Insemination by Donor (AID) in 1945 in the British Medical Journal.

The Archbishop of Canterbury decried it as unethical, a commission set up to investigate it even ruled it should be regarded as a criminal offence and the practice was driven underground.

Stella adds: "Rumours claim a fire at the clinic some years later destroyed all the records. But it seems Dr Barton, her husband Bertold Wiesner and a handful of her male friends were responsible for perhaps hundreds - maybe even thousands - of babies being born, known today as the 'Barton Brood'.

"Many of the small gene pool of donors consisted of Eastern European men, and Jewish men who had fled countries such as Czechoslovakia-Poland and Hungary for sanctuary in Britain during the war."

Along with people who know they too are the product of a sperm donor, and have also traced their parentage back to the "Barton Brood", Stella has had a DNA test and registered with UK Donor Link, a government charity set up to try to match donor siblings. But no matches have so far been made.

"In those days parents were told not to tell the children - perhaps because of the social shame," says Stella.

"It is a chilling thought that I probably have many half siblings but that those people most probably do not know they were conceived this way.

"I am a very traditional person and have found the fact that I was conceived in such a cold way - rather than as a result of a loving relationship - incredibly upsetting.

"Apparently Dr Barton even did the inseminations using a turkey baster."

However, all this is more than Stella's brother has managed to unearth about his background.

"My parents were living in Germany when he was conceived," she says, "so he has been unable to find out any information."

Meanwhile, she has broken the news to her two children that the family on her father's side are not related to them at all.

"They were shocked and in fact the whole issue has had a far-reaching effect on my life," she explains.

"One side of my family is missing. Relatives my children grew up with aren't related at all.

"Medical history I thought I had is wrong. A huge chunk of my life isn't there."

In the summer of 2006, Stella married fellow private investigator Nick, 59. "He has been very supportive but says what does it matter now? He thinks I shouldn't let it dominate my life," she says.

"I will never harbour any anger towards my aunt for telling me because I hate the thought that it had been kept from me for so long.

"There are still days when I look in the mirror at my face and ask my reflection: 'Who are you?'

"I'm left feeling frustrated. I can imagine it must be terrible to be infertile, but it does seem the laws are skewed towards the parents who want a baby. Surely the child's rights should come first?

"Parents have no right to pass a child who is not genetically theirs off as their own.

"They should be made to tell the truth. In fact, I believe it can make parents resentful to a child.

"I now think my mother felt guilty and a failure about the way I was conceived and that was why she was so cold."

Nevertheless, as science increasingly reaches new heights to give infertile couples their longed for child, more and more adults will surely discover unsavoury truths about their conception.

And in the years to come, it would seem that stories like this will sadly become much more common.

Link to article

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

AUSTRAILA: Peter Moore--Sorry But Just Get On With It, January 29, 2008

January 29, 2008

PETER MOORE: Sorry, but just get on with it

On New Year's Day I wrote that for 2008 there would be two main issues, one local and one national. The local issue of fluoride has already received a thorough going over by both sides of the discussion, although I'm pretty sure we've not heard the last of it yet. The main national issue I thought, and still do, would be the long-awaited apology to the indigenous population.

Australia Day, which we celebrated at the weekend, quite naturally focused this issue in many people's minds. To be honest, I'm not sure the issue deserves to be at the top of the list of things to be solved this year. Housing prices, stamp duty, the cost of living as it soars unchecked by any government authority and national personal debt all have a far greater claim to priority treatment.

In fact, the ability of the Cats to use last year as a platform for even greater success concerns me more as does the continuing availability of alfresco dining areas so I can smoke when I eat. In the New Year's Day article, I said saying sorry was ``a waste of everyone's time but we might as well get it over and done with''. Continuing with ``It will have the advantage of removing one more excuse from their litany of reasons as to why they can't assimilate, integrate or basically just get on with life. It might even make Aborigines consider that the solution for their problems actually lies with them and not in an apology that 80 per cent of the population has no interest in''.

Harsh but true. We don't need any in-depth discussions about whether to say those apparently dreaded words to some. As my dear old mum used to say ``an apology costs nothing'' but to those who think it should be given, it will have the weight as if writ in stone. To everyone else it will be irrelevant, unfelt, meaningless and of no interest.

With regards to compensation this is where the argument may get serious as many, including myself, will think compensation for what? Will it be for being invaded a couple of hundred years ago or for the highly-debated alleged stolen generation? As my colleague Daryl McLure pointed out in his excellent article a couple of weeks ago, Aboriginal children were not singled out for orphanages, adoption or fostering and many, many more white kids suffered this onerous fate with hardly a mention in latter years.

However, this is hardly a case for compensation unless we also do so to the many more thousands who were not indigenous but similarly treated. With regards to compensation because we invaded and took over the country, this is surely too silly for almost anyone to take seriously. If this were to be the case, not only England but the USA, Russia, France, Spain and Portugal would have to compensate the world for their colonial acquisitions. Too silly for words and completely impractical.

We don't need a referendum or plebiscite or protracted debate as it was part of the Labor election platform and the sooner it is done the better off we'll all be. The best thing to happen would be for Kevin to say `sorry' and get on with the really important issues facing the country over the next few years. If an apology is the only thing stopping Australia's indigenous people from joining the 21st century and the rest of us, it's the least we can do.

Link to article

NEW JERSEY: Editorial--Let NJ Adoptees Get First Birth Certificates, January 29, 2008

Cherry Hill Courier Post
January 29, 2008

Editorial: Let N.J. adoptees get first birth certificates

Legislators should approve a bill that effectively balances the rights of adoptees and birth mothers.

As the state's new legislative session gathers momentum, we urge Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, D-Camden, not to overlook the adoptees' request to gain access to their original birth certificates.

A bill that would allow New Jersey adoptees to learn about their biological roots has passed the state Senate twice, only to be passed over by Assembly members. This proposal has been carefully put together from decades of feedback by all concerned. It deserves approval.

We recognize opening adoption records requires careful consideration of the needs of adoptees and their biological parents. While adoptees deserve to know their history, parents who gave up their children might have expected lifelong anonymity. No bill could be expected to perfectly balance the interests of adoptees and their birth parents. Yet, the newly proposed bill -- co-sponsored by state sens. Diane Allen, R-Burlington, and Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex -- comes very close.

Birth mothers, who often made the difficult decision to give up a child, can choose to remain anonymous or be contacted. They have a year from the passage of the bill to submit a request to keep their information private. The state Department of Health and Senior Services would be required to widely advertise the change in law to ensure birth parents learn about it.

Even if the birth mother declines contact, she still would be compelled to provide her adopted child with important health, cultural and social history. If the parent fails to provide this information, the original birth certificate can be released to the adoptee. This is not too much to ask from a birth mother. She can still remain anonymous, but doing so won't deprive her birth children of the information they need for their health and welfare. The adoptee's right to this information is as important as protecting the privacy of the birth mother. Under this bill, both objectives can be achieved.

Critics claim releasing birth certificate information could prompt more New Jersey women to choose abortion over adoption. Yet, if the issue is a lack of anonymity, that shouldn't change under this proposal. But, finally, adoptees would not be forced to be in the dark about their identities and biological history. That change is decades overdue.

Link to article

Monday, January 28, 2008

ARGENTINA: Found After 25 Years: The Children of the Disappeared, January 28, 2008

(London) Guardian
January 28, 2008

Found after 25 years: the children of the disappeared
DNA tests link Argentina's lost generation to families they never knew they had

by Duncan Campbell

Horacio Pietragalla felt "like a cat raised in a family of dogs" and was puzzled that, at the age of 14, he was already taller than his father. It was only later that he discovered he was the child of a leftwing activist murdered by the Argentine military during the "dirty war". The executioners gave Horacio away to a general's maid more than a quarter of a century ago.

Now Pietragalla and dozens of other young Argentines are discovering who their real parents were and meeting their grandparents for the first time. Some are bringing legal actions against their parents' kidnappers, while others are going through the painful process of realising the people they thought were their parents had lied to them.

An estimated 30,000 people were killed by the junta that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983 before it finally collapsed in the wake of the defeat in the Falklands war. Most of the victims were young and some were pregnant when arrested. Around 500 babies are believed to have been born in the army's prisons. After their parents were tortured and killed, the children were handed over to military families.

Most of the children were unaware of their origins but their families, including activist groups such as the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, continued to search for them. Now, through the development of DNA testing, they have been able to trace and match 88 children to parents many of them never knew they had. Their story is told by award-winning director Estela Bravo in a film, Who Am I?, that has just won the main documentary prize at the Latin American cinema festival in Havana.

Juan Cabandié was one of the children handed over for adoption. He is now bringing a legal action against the man he had originally believed to be his father. "The woman who brought me up was a good person, lovable," he said. "She tried to compensate for the bad times I had with my supposed father. But, today I don't have any relations with her, because I can't understand a lie that lasted for 25 years." He maintains relations with his "sister" who, he said was supportive of his search to find out about his past. "She'll always be my sister," he said.

Cabandié has now entered politics as a city councillor in Buenos Aires, inspired partly by the apology made in 2004 on behalf of the state by former president Néstor Kirchner, who turned the Naval Mechanical School, where much of the torture took place, into a "museum of memory."

Some of the children handed over for adoption had already been born when their parents were arrested. Claudia Poblete Hlaczik was eight months old when she was detained with her mother and given away as her parents were despatched to "the final destination", as the military papers called their deaths. She learned of her true identity when informed by a judge investigating the cases and has found it hard to adjust. "A person is 20 years old, and for 20 years she was called one name, and now she is called something else," she said. "Her uncles are not her uncles. Her grandparents are not her grandparents. And they are all people who she doesn't know. It's very hard."

Some surviving relatives finally found where their executed children had been buried. Berta Schubaroff describes in the film how she found her son's grave: "I kissed and hugged his bones. I was filled with happiness and horror."

Others who believe they may be children of the disappeared are now waiting to have their DNA tested, Estela Bravo said yesterday from New York. She added that one of the remarkable aspects of the operation to find them was that many had the same quirks as the parents they never knew. "Juan Cabandié likes to go off to the mountains, look up to the sky and find himself, and his aunt has told him that his mother did exactly the same," she said.

In terms of action against the perpetrators, she said "the legal system is very slow. A lot of the judges are worried about going ahead with cases." Furthermore, many of those involved in the atrocities had a "pacto de silencio".

After the fall of the junta, a number of those in the military fled, many to the US and Miami in particular. Bravo now hopes to show her film there in the hope that more children will come forward.

Link to article

CANADA: Adoptees Claim They Lost Their Biological Parents Through Underhanded Methods, January 28, 2008

January 27, 2008

Adoptees claim they lost their biological parents through underhanded methods

by Duncan Thorne, Canwest News Service

EDMONTON -- An adopted woman's claim that her birth mother was tricked into surrendering her has prompted other adoptees to say they too lost their biological parents through underhanded methods.

In recent days, Canwest News Service has heard from adoptees across Canada who have read about the case of an Alberta woman who alleges in a lawsuit that her birth mother was told she had died at or soon after birth.

The lawsuit, which remains unproven, has become a lightning rod on Internet websites for adoptees and their biological parents. That's partly because the daughter is suing not only the Alberta government, a hospital and doctors but even her adoptive mother.

The adoptive mother says she had no role the decision to put the daughter up for adoption.

The daughter, born in the 1960s, has won a temporary publication ban against being identified.

"I'm supposed to be stillborn, too," says Sheri Sexton in an interview from Ottawa.

Sexton was born in 1968, near the end of what some adoptees now call a "baby-scoop era" when there was immense pressure to put young, single mothers' babies up for adoption.

After the Second World War, society became increasingly sexually liberated but until the 1970s birth outside marriage was taboo and abortion was illegal.

Sexton, put up for adoption immediately after birth in Ottawa, managed to find her birth mother, Darlene Hogan, 14 years ago.

Hogan was 19 when she gave birth to Sexton. She said she was forced to sign papers, while heavily sedated, allowing Sexton to be put up for adoption.

"I was kept in a room all day," Hogan says. "I did nothing but cry. I kept telling the man that I did not want to sign the papers."

A year later, in 1969, she gave birth to a second daughter. She was told the baby was stillborn.

Sexton and Hogan are puzzled that Sexton had been told her birthday was July 16, two days before the real date. Later, Sexton discovered problems with her birth records. A search of hospital files found her listed as "stillborn," the same as her younger sister.

Hogan is now convinced her second daughter lived.

A report on violence against women from the United Nations Economic and Social Council, refers to the case of an unmarried woman who gave birth at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital in 1970. The 2003 report says Tina Kelly was reportedly told by her doctor that the baby boy had died and that she was not allowed to see its body.

Kelly later realized she had never received a copy of the death certificate, the report says. The hospital's records indicated her baby went home with her.

She later reunited with her son.

Kelly allegedly discovered her child had been put up for adoption and that her doctor had accepted a bribe.

Elva Anderson was 19 in 1964 when she gave birth to twin boys in Mississauga, Ont.

She says her doctor told her the boys had died after birth. Once home, she got a call from the hospital that her twins were waiting to be collected.

Anderson says her former partner persuaded her the twins were dead. She now thinks she was duped and that her twins were put up for adoption.

Such allegations are hard to prove, says Michelle Edmunds who runs a website -

"The thing is that these women were never given a death certificate because there wasn't one," Edmunds said from Toronto. She said it's their word "against an entire system" that doctors told them their children had died.

Edmunds was herself put into foster care in 1964, then 19 months old, because her mother was considered unsuitable. She eventually found her mother, Elsie White, in Edmonton in 1996, a year before White died.

Bryony Lake of Victoria gave up her son to adoption after his birth in 1980. Lake wasn't misled into thinking he had died but, as a single mother, was pressured by her parents to surrender her baby.

In the course of searching for her son, she often heard stories of mothers being falsely told their babies had died.

"It's hard to say any of these are substantiated, other than perhaps Tina Kelly's," Lake acknowledged.

Still, it makes sense some mothers were told their babies had died, given attitudes of the 1960s and earlier, she said. "They may have thought it's the humane thing to do, for the mother, to tell her the baby died, if they figured the mother would not be able to keep the baby.

"They figured that would be less traumatic to a mother than letting her see and nurse her baby. What they didn't realize was it then took away her decision-making ability."

Lisa Pageau speaks for Mouvement Retrouvailles, a Quebec group which helps adoptees and biological parents reunite. She believes false claims of stillbirths were common in her province.

"In those days , they would put mothers to sleep to have their baby and when their mothers were groggy coming out of it, they would show them a very sick baby, a dead baby actually, and say, 'Your baby's dead,' " she says.

"And it wasn't true."

The woman with the lawsuit in Alberta has persuaded city police to investigate her claim of fraudulent adoption.

Police are conducting interviews and reviewing documents.

Mary Lou Reeleder, a Children's Services spokeswoman, said the department sometimes hears anecdotal stories of wrongful adoption but "nothing like that has come to their attention that was any more than, 'I have heard this.' "

Just as now, in the 1960s the courts screened adoptions and had to be satisfied that biological parents consented, Reeleder says.

Marge, an Edmonton adoptee who has long searched for her birth parents, said she fears the lawsuit will discourage the government from increasing access to adoption records.

Link to article

AUSTRALIA: Rights-Austraila--Apology, No Compensation for Lost Generations, January 28 2008

January 28, 2008

RIGHTS-AUSTRALIA: Apology, No Compensation For Lost Generations

By Stephen de Tarczynski

MELBOURNE, Jan 28 (IPS) - While aboriginal groups have welcomed the Australian government’s pledge to apologise to the 'stolen generations', they argue that the gesture should be backed up with compensation.

But earlier this month, Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin ruled out such a fund for people taken from their families.

Lynn Austin, chairperson of Stolen Generations Victoria, told IPS that the stolen generations are victims of crimes and deserve to be compensated. "The forced removals, the atrocities that our people have suffered in the institutions and the church homes and wherever (as) victims of sexual and physical abuse and the trauma and the pain," are reasons for compensation, she says.

"I could walk out on the street tomorrow and trip over the footpath and sue the local council. I’d get compensated for that, so why not compensation for stolen generation members?" asks Austin.

Some 230 years have passed since Europeans first established a settlement in Australia. But Australians -- non-indigenous as well as indigenous -- are struggling to come to terms with the past, and therefore, the present.

The seminal ‘Bringing Them Home’ report, released in 1997, from the ‘National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families’ acknowledged that indigenous children were "forcibly separated from their families and communities from the very first days of the European occupation of Australia."

Among the 54 recommendations contained in the report is a call for monetary compensation, as a part of reparations, "in recognition of the history of gross violations of human rights".

Instead of a compensation fund, minister Macklin says the government will be funding health, counselling and education services. She argues that providing funding to these sectors will help to close the gap between the life expectancies of indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. The minister says that this will be the best way of adding "force" to the apology, which is expected to be made in February.

Studies -- such as the report commissioned by Oxfam and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, released in April last year -- show a discrepancy in the life expectancy between the country’s indigenous and non-indigenous populations of around twenty years. Indigenous Australians’ health also ranks poorly compared to the indigenous populations of the United States, New Zealand and Canada.

Unlike Australia, the Canadian government has agreed to establish a $2 billion compensation fund for indigenous people forcibly separated from their communities as children.

According to Lynn Austin, the Australian government’s plan to provide funding to health, education and counselling is far from sufficient. "They’re already pumping millions into those things anyway. They’ve been doing it for years…It’s not good enough at all. It’s just absolutely outrageous," she says.

John Browne, chairperson of the Journey of Healing Association of South Australia, argues that if the federal government will not set up a compensation fund, then it should provide more specialised programmes for people who were stolen, such as a funeral fund and free medical services.

Browne says that being removed from their families was "bad enough" for the stolen generations. He argues that they should also be compensated for "all the pain and hurt that they’ve suffered because of that abuse in foster families and adoption families."

He told IPS that moving children into a foreign culture had devastating effects. "They lost their link to their culture. They lost their kinship ties to their families, their link to the aboriginal spirituality, like a link to the land," he says.

Browne says the issues stemming from the forced removal of children have created many problems for other generations. "It’s an ongoing issue and it needs to be resolved fairly quickly because it becomes an intergenerational issue after a while."

He likens the effect to radiation poisoning, where the poison shifts from one generation to the next. The problems are transferred "to the next generation, and the next generation then lives out those problems and then again with the grandchildren," he says.

But one Australian state appears to want to end these problems. Following its landmark decision in 2006 to establish a compensation fund, the Tasmanian state government announced on Jan.15 that 84 people who were removed from their families as children would receive financial compensation, while another 22 ex-gratia payments were approved for children of stolen generations victims. The Tasmanian government has allocated five million Australian dollars to the fund.

Austin says that the federal government’s refusal to set up a similar fund means the apology will be empty. "You’ve got to have something to go with the apology…They’re going to say sorry but it’s going to be more tokenistic," she says.

Austin told IPS that the lack of a federal fund means that people -- including herself and her adopted siblings -- will be looking to take legal action, with class action also an option.

And a precedent has been set. Following a 13-year battle, Bruce Trevorrow last year became the first person removed from their family to successfully sue authorities. Trevorrow was awarded AUD 525,000 (461,291 US dollars) for false imprisonment, pain and suffering.

But John Browne says the apology, even without compensation, should be seen as a first step. "People are saying (that) an apology is hollow without reparations or compensation. Well, I say it may be hollow but it’s a start. I mean, just to get the federal government to apologise is a big thing," says Browne.

While he plans to continue applying pressure to the federal government to establish a fund, Browne says that he will also look to the South Australian state government. "The state governments seem to be more conducive to providing that remuneration. Tasmania’s already started and Western Australia is on its way. South Australia has to look at that sort of thing," he told IPS.

But like Austin, Browne views legal action as an option. Either a fund is set up "or we can do a class action through the courts," he says."First we try the good way and then we try the other way.’’

Link to article

Sunday, January 27, 2008

CANADA: Too Many Cases to Ignore Despite Lack of Proof, January 27, 2008

January 27,2008

Too many cases to ignore despite lack of proof
Anecdotal evidence gives ample cause for concern

The mountain of stories about birth mothers being tricked or coerced into adopting out their babies makes it clear there were abuses for decades, says a leading adoption researcher.

Adoptees and biological mothers from across Canada have told of their problems since The Journal reported this month on an Alberta woman who alleges she was falsely told her daughter had died at birth in the 1960s.

Most stories lack documentary proof, but researcher Michael Grand, a University of Guelph psychologist specializing on adoptions, says there are too many cases to ignore.

Grand, while not speaking of the Alberta allegation which is part of a lawsuit, says young, single mothers generally had no one to defend them.

The pressures to adopt out were immense in past decades, when single motherhood was taboo, he said in an interview from Guelph, Ont. The situation in Alberta was no different.

It's only in the past 25 years that abuses dropped off sharply, with changing attitudes, Grand said. Even in the past, there were biological mothers who were treated fairly and professionally.

"But I have to tell you that the stories just keep coming." He counts them in the hundreds.

Typically, victims were young, unmarried, from lower-middle or working class roots, with little chance of earning a living while raising a child, he said. Doctors and social workers once considered it best for the baby to be adopted.

"There are other cases that I've heard over the years of women who have been told that their babies have died. Or in the state of postpartum, where they've just given birth and under the effect of raging hormones, are told to sign (adoption) papers," he says.

"It's a process in which there was very little independent legal counsel or independent personal counselling of the young woman to look at the kinds of options that were available to her." A social worker may have worked with the birth mother, but they also would have worked with the people wanting to adopt the baby, Grand said.

"So many birth mothers have reported to me that they were not allowed to see the child," likely to prevent bonding.

"I wonder how many of those young women, if they had been able to see and hold their child, might have found the courage and means, in spite of the abandonment by everyone, to raise that child," he said.

"Everything was set up against them. The counselling beforehand, the actions that took place in the birthing room, the actions that take place right after in the hospital, and then eventually just being pushed out onto the street." An unmarried mother was seen as morally loose, he said.

"So no one ever seemed to be concerned about her best interest. The feeling was, the sooner the child was taken away from her, to a good middle-class white home, the better the child would be."

Link to article

ALBERTA: Alberta Law Gives Power to Adoptive Parents

The Edmonton Journal
January 27, 2008

Alberta law gives power to adoptive parents

It may be the only case among developed countries.
An unidentified Alberta family has won a ministerial order to keep its adoptee, an adult, in the dark about his or her adoption.

"Alberta has one feature in its adoption law which is different than any other law that I'm aware of in the western world," Dr. Michael Grand, a prominent adoption researcher, said in an interview from the University of Guelph, Ont.

That feature is in a section of the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act that lets adoptive families apply for a veto so biological parents can't see the adoptees' files. The veto can be used if the adoptive parents have not told their adoptees they are adopted, and where enlightening them "would be extremely detrimental to the adopted person."

The government has granted just one veto for an adoptive family, Children's Services spokeswoman Cathy Ducharme said.

Grand, a clinical psychologist who was co-director of a national study of adoption policies, said the provision is wrong-headed, particularly because it is aimed at adoptees who are now adults and who should be allowed to find out about their origins. Adoption records are closed until adoptees reach adulthood.

"Alberta has something unique that nobody else would even contemplate putting in," he said. "Why such a bizarre provision that doesn't appear anywhere else in the western world?"

He said he is familiar with adoption policies internationally, and has yet to come across anything like it.

Alberta opened its records to adult adoptees and their birth parents in 2004 so they can learn about each other and possibly reunite. As with other jurisdictions that have taken such a step, the province provided that it can veto access to the records, on request from the adoptees or birth parents.

British Columbia, Newfoundland and the Northwest Territories have also opened their records to birth parents and adoptees, and Ontario is developing similar legislation. None of them have taken Alberta's step of granting veto rights to adoptive parents, and no other province has such a veto provision.

"It was put in place to respond to public concerns," said Cathy Ducharme, spokeswoman for Children's Services. "When these types of vetoes are granted by the minister, there needs to be a lot of evidence that it would be in the best interest of the adoptee not to have this information released."

When the government introduced the veto provision, it suggested adoptive parents might use it where adoptees were conceived through incest or rape. Grand said such adoptees in Ontario have demanded to see their files. In Alberta, while there has been just one veto granted for adoptive parents, there have been 3,000 vetoes for birth parents and adoptees since the adoption reforms took effect.

If an adult adoptee or a birth parent request a veto, the veto ceases when that person dies. But vetoes placed by adoptive parents are permanent, unless their adoptees somehow discover they are adopted and ask to lift them. Vetoes are possible only on adoptions that happened before 2005.

Link to article

OHIO: 40 Years of Separation--Woman Seeks Last of 6 Siblings Split by Adoption

January 27, 2008

40 years of separation: Woman seeks last of 6 siblings split by adoption
Sunday, January 27, 2008

tterson and Peffer had been separated from their other four siblings — John (the youngest), Jackie and Jim (the twins) and George. All had been adopted after being taken from their parents for neglect and abuse in 1964.

“They did separate siblings then; it wasn’t uncommon,” said Jayne Schooler, an author of books on adoption and searching for lost siblings. “It was easier for placement purposes. They do a better job of keeping them together now.”

Patterson and Peffer, the oldest of the six children, bounced between foster care homes and the Fairmount Children’s Home throughout the 1960s.

When Patterson, who was 12, and Peffer, 11, were separated, it was the final time Patterson would see her siblings for nearly 20 years.

“I cried because I missed my brothers and sisters so much,” Patterson said. “Eventually I stopped crying, and that worried me.”

Today, Patterson has reunited with four of her brothers and sisters except for Peffer. Her whereabouts remain a mystery, one Patterson has labored for years to solve.

“I think we need to add Cindy to the picture because it’s not complete,” Patterson said. “I know my brothers and sisters would love that. I’m determined to find her, one way or another.”


Patterson’s search took her to Ashland in December. A 50-year-old Cindy L. Peffer lives there. She couldn’t track down the woman.

Disappointing, yes. But Patterson is back on the hunt.

“I need to find Cindy,” said Patterson, 51. “I will find her.”

Patterson, who works at Leno’s Family Restaurant in Plain Township, has spent hours looking through public records. She and her other sister, Jackie Grafe Senften, have scoured area yearbooks in search of a familiar face.

She has signed up for the Ohio Adoption Registry, which has the names of 13,000 adoptees, so if Peffer is searching, she could access Patterson’s vital information.

Patterson has paid companies to trace Peffer, though it didn’t help. And Patterson has talked to other former foster children from their stint at Fairmount in the 1960s.

“The technology that came out in the 1990s really helped,” Patterson said. “I’ve spent tons of money, writing and looking for Cindy. We couldn’t figure out anybody who knew her.”

Patterson now has MySpace and Facebook pages. She’s signed up on dozens of adoption registries. She gets daily alerts from other organizations that help siblings search for siblings.

She’s considering hiring a company to do an age progression photo, one that might give her an idea what Cindy looks like today.

John Kuhn, Patterson’s youngest brother who was adopted at 2, isn’t actively searching for Cindy but supports Patterson.

“She pretty much takes the lead in it,” Kuhn said from his home in Huntington, Ind. “I wouldn’t even know where to start. My curiosity would be to see the records of our adoptions, the hows and the whys.”

Patterson’s determination isn’t surprising to Schooler.

“The sibling bond can be the longest bond between people,” Schooler said. “Even when they’re taken away, you know something is missing, a part of you is missing. So you do search.”

Most records are sealed; available information on an adopted sibling is scarce.

Adoption agencies estimate that millions of siblings are searching for each other. The Cleveland Adoption Network even hosts workshops and seminars on the topic.

All Patterson has to go on is a birth certificate for Cindy from Aultman Hospital and photos of them as children.

It’s not much, but those and her memories are enough to keep Patterson from quitting.

“We’re getting older,” Patterson said. “How long before one of us goes? I’d like to take one more picture of us.”


Patterson knows there is a chance she’ll find her sister. Her other four biological siblings found each other and eventually her.

Kuhn and his older brother, George Frame, were the first to reconnect.

“It wasn’t talked about much,” Kuhn said of his adoption and separation from his biological siblings. “When I met George, I was close to 16. He came to the house.

“My dad didn’t know how to say it — he just said, ‘This is your brother.’ I was like, ‘OK.’ I wasn’t real receptive. I think it’s hard.”

It was the elder brother who found the twins, Jackie Grafe Senften and Jim Endinger.

“George met Jim and Jackie before I did,” recalled Kuhn, 45. “I was about 22 when I met Jim and Jackie. They lived in a burg by Dalton.”

Less than a year later, they found Patterson. It was 1985. They all met for the first time in Massillon. The only one missing was Peffer.

“That’s an open part of my life,” Kuhn said. “It would make it complete to meet her. You never know how other people feel. I don’t know about her life experiences, but I don’t want anything from her but to meet her.”

That 1985 meeting was joyous. The siblings learned they each grew up in Stark County, only miles apart. They tried to keep in touch and managed to succeed most of the time.

“The initial excitement is great, but it wears off,” Patterson said of the 1985 reunion. “We’ve been working on it the last 20 years.”

Today, Patterson said she can call any of her siblings, but there are times they go months without talking. Patterson and Frame are the only siblings still in Stark County. The twins live in Georgia and Kuhn in Indiana.

“You have to start back as friends,” Patterson said. “You pray to God you like each other. We’ve had our problems with each other. We’re grown up, and we weren’t raised together. We have different values. We butt heads, but we try to keep it together. We’ve already spent too much time apart.”

The search for Cindy is a big part of Patterson’s life, but she knows she might never find her.

“That would be the highlight of my life,” Patterson said, “to see my sister.”

Reach Repository writer Fellicia Smith at or e-mail:

To contact Kim Patterson, e-mail her at:


State Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr., R-Cincinnati, introduced House Bill 7 to change Ohio’s stance on sealed adoption records, the placement of children in homes and the promotion of adoption. As written, it would:

1. Eliminate the three-tiered system that determines how adoptees obtain identifying information about their birth families, and create one system where any adult adoptee, adoptive parent or lineal descendant could access the adoptee’s file even if it was sealed.

2. Repeals or amends appropriate adoption records law provisions to reflect the single system access to adoption records.

3. Requires an adoptive parent or lineal descendant to provide notarized evidence that proves his or her relationship with the adoptee in order to access the adoptee’s adoption records.

SOURCE: 127th Ohio General Assembly.



The Ohio Department of Health houses birth and adoption records for those born in Ohio and adopted anywhere in the U.S.

Ohio Adoption Registry

-- Adoptions Prior to Jan. 1, 1964 — Adoption Records Open to Adopted Person with Proper ID

-- Adoptions Between Jan. 1, 1964 and Sept. 18, 1996 — Adoption Records are Sealed and Only Opened by a Court Order (H.B. 84)

-- Adoptions After Sept. 18, 1996 — Adoption Records are Open if Adopted Person is between 18-21 Years of Age (H.B. 419)

SOURCE: Ohio Department of Health

Link to article

Saturday, January 26, 2008

NEW JERSEY: Editorial--A Case of Equality--Adopted Adults Deserve to Know of Their Past, January 26, 2008

January 26, 2008

A Case of Equality: Adopted Adults Deserve to Know of Their Past

Many adopted adults have tracked down their birth mother. All human interactions don't always turn out well, but many times such reunions are joyous occasions. A child is delighted to discover his or her history, and an aging mother is able to have a relationship she never imagined she would have.

Legislation has kicked around Trenton for years to make it easier for adopted adults to find out more about themselves. A Senate panel this week endorsed a measure that would allow adopted adults access to their original birth certificates, which list the names of their birth parents. We hope the full Senate and Assembly follows suit.

It's a normal human desire for any person to wonder about his or her family and health history. Even if adoptees do not seek to find their birth parents, this law would allow them the satisfaction of at least knowing who they were.

Opponents say opening up birth records that have been sealed for years violates the privacy of birth parents. We understand that view. In any legislation, there has to be a balancing of rights. We come down on the side of adopted adults seeking to discover their history. As proponents say, this really is an important civil rights issue. This week's progress in this matter is encouraging.

Link to article

Friday, January 25, 2008

NEW YORK: Letter--Regarding Jennifer Gish's Jan. 13 Article, "Opening Closed Books on Adoption"

January 25, 2008

Bill Benefits Adoptees and Their Parents
Letter by Joyce Bahr

Regarding Jennifer Gish's Jan. 13 article, "Opening closed books on adoption":

This issue is about adult adoptees who are being denied civil rights. Although some adoptees will not seek out birth/natural families until their adoptive parents are deceased or until they are older, some will want to know when they are 18 and they should have the right. Surrender papers are what women like myself, Sylvia Ackerson and many other mothers who surrendered to adoption signed. We are well aware we signed surrender papers terminating our parental rights, which contain nothing about confidentiality.

I, like other mothers who surrendered to adoption, and adoptive parents who are not adopted, have our original birth certificates and know our identity -- unlike adoptees. This is about adult adoptees and their rights.

There are some myths being perpetuated by some in state government that natural parents are shocked when contacted by adoptees and that the registry protects those who do not wish to be found. Neither of these hold true in today's world. I believe most New Yorkers would agree the law is slow to catch up with the changing times of society.

The New York Bill of Adoptee Rights is a good bill giving all adult adoptees access to a copy of their original birth certificate and updated medical histories at age 18. It gives birth/natural parents the option of filing a contact preference meaning they want contact, they want contact but only through an intermediary, or they do not want contact.


President New York Statewide Adoption Reform

Link to article

January 25, 2008

DMC Pushes For Adoptee Rights In New Jersey
January 25th, 2008

Author: Jake Paine

Rap icon DMC of Run-DMC was speaking in a New Jersey statehouse yesterday (January 24) on behalf of adoptee's rights. Within the state, adoptees' birth records are kept restrictive to adoptive parents, which prevents many adoptees from knowing or seeking their blood relatives and parents.

DMC told New's Day, "This isn't about DMC the celebrity, this is really about identity and truth of a human being's existence." It was eight years ago that the emcee himself discovered he was adopted, and noticed the limiting resources he had in researching his lineage.

The efforts moved the process further. The audience of the senate committee unanimously passed the proposed bill, which will now go before New Jersey Senate. Although this bill has been reportedly passed in 2004 and 2006, it has never been put into law.

HipHopDX will keep you updated.

Link to article
January 25, 2008

Run DMC Rapper Starts New Career Lobbying For Adoption Rights

by Jason Gregory

Darryl McDaniels, who was one of the original members of the US rap group Run-DMC, has called on legislators in the US to give adoptees the right to access their birth records.

McDaniels, who is more widely known as DMC, became an adamant supporter of the adoption rights legislation after learning he was an adoptee at the age of 35.

He told senators in the New Jersey Statehouse yesterday: "This is really about identity and truth of a human being's existence."
Story continues below...

"We never start a book from Chapter 2, as adoptees we live our lives from Chapter 2."

If approved, the legislation would allow adoptees the access to the names, ages, birthplaces, birth dates and occupations of their biological parents, reports AP.

"This isn't about us going back to make the birth mother's life hectic," McDaniels, who won an Emmy in 2006 for a documentary about his adoption experience, said.

"I believe there should be a right. That is somebody's identity, you all, somebody's identity."

Link to article

NEW JERSEY: Adult Adoptees to Get Original Birth Records Now Sealed Under State Law

January 23, 2008

Adoption Records Bill Advances

Open-records advocates who have spent nearly 30 years lobbying for the legislation recruited Darryl McDaniels -- DMC of the pioneering rap group Run DMC -- to urge the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee to support the bill.

The 43-year-old performer said he only learned about his adoption seven years ago while writing an autobiography. When he quizzed his mother about where he was born, she admitted he was adopted. The revelation devastated him because "I always thought I knew who I was."

"I understand protecting the rights of the birth mother, and there should be a protocol for that. This is not about making the birth mother's life hectic," McDaniels said, his voice cracking. "This is about the right of a human being to know the truth of the story of my existence."

The bill (S611) would allow adult adoptees or the adoptive parent of a child to petition the state registrar for an original birth certificate with the names of the biological parents.

The measure gives parents a year from the bill's enactment to file a notarized "No contact" letter with the state if they wish to remain anonymous. They would have to complete a medical and cultural history form every 10 years until the parent is 40, and every five years thereafter, or forfeit their anonymity.

The bill, in one form or another, has been before the Legislature since the session. Religious leaders, anti-abortion activists and, more recently, the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union have successfully lobbied against it, asking lawmakers to protect birth mothers, who believed they had anonymity when they gave up their children.

One speaker, Philip Foley, struck a particularly sorrowful note, telling how his wife had surrendered a child conceived through a rape when she was a teenager, only to have a member of their family confronted years later by his wife's adult daughter.

But Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), the committee chairman and one of the bill's sponsors, said the bill is important.

"By implementing this bill into law, we will be offering answers to some of the most basic questions of identity for thousands of New Jerseyans," Vitale said after the vote.

Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Mercer), who was adopted himself, reluctantly voted for the bill.

"I am torn by these two very important interests -- the interests of moms who, in good faith, put children up for adoption, and kids like me, like Darryl, who don't start our lives from Chapter One."

"My sister, who passed away, always wanted to know," Baroni said. "One of the greatest days in her life was when she met her birth mother."

"In the end, I don't want to be a legislator who looks at Darryl and other kids and says, 'I know better than you do,'" Baroni said.

Marie Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, said she and a coalition of other opponents would continue to fight the legislation. "This is not a compassionate choice at all."

The bill now awaits a full vote in the 40-member Senate.

Link to article

Thursday, January 24, 2008

NEW JERSEY: Rapper lobbies NJ Lawmakers for Adoption Rights, January 24, 2008

January 24, 2008

Rapper Lobbies NJ Lawmakers for Adoption Rights
by Tom Hester, Jr.

TRENTON, N.J. - He became famous in the 1980s as the rapper DMC but came to the New Jersey Statehouse Thursday simply as Darryl McDaniels to ask lawmakers to give adoptees access to their birth records.

McDaniels, of the three-man rap group Run-DMC, lobbied lawmakers to pass a law to help adoptees learn their family history.

"This is really about identity and truth of a human being's existence," McDaniels told a Senate committee.

McDaniels discovered at age 35 that he was adopted and has since become a staunch supporter of adoption rights legislation.

McDaniels, now 43, won an Emmy Award for his 2006 documentary, "My Adoption Journey," which chronicled his search for and reunion with his birth parents.

Run-DMC was responsible for 1980s rap classics as "King of Rock," "It's Tricky" and a top-40 remake of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way."

But McDaniels emphasized Thursday, "This isn't about DMC the celebrity."

"We never start a book from Chapter 2," he said. "As adoptees we live our lives from Chapter 2."

Under New Jersey law, adoptees can only see a birth certificate with their adoptive parents' names.

The proposed law would allow future adoptees to get birth certificates with the names, ages, birthplaces, birth dates and occupations of biological parents.

It would allow those already adopted in New Jersey to obtain their birth certificate, although birth parents could contact the state to ask their names be deleted. If they do that, the state would require they provide a medical history.

Opponents said the law would cause problems for those who gave up children thinking they would remain anonymous, but supporters contend the measure would help adoptees know their family history.

After hearing from McDaniels, the committee voted unanimously to release the bill that can now be considered by the full Senate. It passed New Jersey Senate in 2004 and 2006 but has never made it into law.

"This isn't about us going back to make the birth mother's life hectic," McDaniels said. "I believe there should be a right. That is somebody's identity, you all, somebody's identity."

Senators praised McDaniels' testimony.

"Your being able to come before this committee I think will make a significant difference," said Sen. Diane Allen, R-Burlington.

McDaniels, for his part, prefers to give a concert over giving testimony.

"It's easy to rap," he said. Giving testimony? "That's rough."

Link to article

January 24,2008

Vitale Bill to Give Adoptees Access to Birth Records Advances
by Jason Butkowski

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale which would give adult adoptees and certain others access to the adoptee’s birth certificate was unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.

“I think that most of us take for granted the fact that we can trace our family’s journey through preceding generations, and have a sense of self which includes what our parents and grandparents went through to deliver us to this moment in time,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chair of the Senate health panel. “However, for many adopted New Jerseyans, there’s a missing piece to the puzzle, and so many unanswered questions about who they are and how they came to be. Through this legislation, we have a chance to give a brief glimpse of history to those adopted State residents who for so long were left in the dark regarding their birth parents.”

The bill, S-611, would permit access to the original birth certificates for adult adoptees, direct descendants of deceased adoptees, or the parents or guardians of minor adopted children without prior consent of the birth parent. The bill would provide that birth parents could submit a request for non-disclosure, prohibiting the State Registrar from providing the birth parent’s name and home address when receiving a request for an adopted person’s birth certificate, and would give parents of children born before the enactment of this bill a 12-month period from the date that regulations are adopted in order to opt-out. In place of their name and address, birth parents who choose the non-disclosure option would fill out a family history form containing medical, cultural and social history, and return it to the State Registrar within 60 days.

The birth parent would also be given the option to submit a document of contact preference, indicating the birth parent’s preference regarding contact with the adopted person.

“I understand there are some birth parents who might not want to be contacted, just as some adopted people might not want to find out about their birth parents,” said Senator Vitale. “While we want to give these parents the option to remain anonymous, we want to give adopted New Jerseyans something in terms of a family history. At the very least, these folks will have some idea where they came from.”

Senator Vitale added that a family history would be useful for a number of practical purposes, including helping to shape decisions about medical care.

“If doctors know someone’s genetically predisposed to certain kinds of reactions or disorders, that goes a long way in helping to provide effective health care,” said Senator Vitale. “Something as basic as a family medical history is often taken for granted by people who know their birth parents, but it can be so very important in ensuring proper medical care for adopted people.”

Senator Vitale has been working to advance similar legislation for the last two legislative sessions. He said he will continue to fight for this measure, because “it is the right thing to do for adopted people in New Jersey wondering where they came from.”

“This a matter of basic fairness for people who spend much of their life always searching for that missing piece of the puzzle,” said Senator Vitale. “The fact of the matter is, without this law, there are people in this State who will track down their birth parents, by hiring expensive private investigators and pouring for months, if not years, over currently available vital statistics. That process is long and costly, and out of the reach of many adopted individuals seeking answers.

“By implementing this bill into law, we will be offering answers to some of the most basic questions of identity for thousands of New Jerseyans,” added Senator Vitale. “We can give these people a glimpse into their past, access to important medical information, and possibly reunite families. This bill is too important to let lapse without action for another legislative session.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Jason Butkowski
New Jersey Senate Democratic Office

Link to article

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

CONNECTICUT: Finch Bids State Senate Farewell

January 22, 2008

Finch Bids State Senate Farewell
by Ken Dixon,

HARTFORD — Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch commemorated his final day in the Senate on Tuesday by thanking lawmakers for their friendship over the last six years, then warned them to combat the threat of global warming.

Finch, who planned to resign at the end of the one-day special session on criminal-justice reforms, also asked lawmakers to change state law and let adoptive children get their birth certificates at age 21.

During a 10-minute valedictory address, Finch said he's looking forward to concentrating on being mayor of the state's largest city, but he'll still journey to the Capitol to lobby for urban issues.

Meanwhile, challengers for the vacant seat, the winner of which will be determined in a mid-March district vote, began lining up Tuesday, led by Rep. T.R. Rowe, R-Trumbull.

"My love for my hometown, our region, and its people is what drives me as a state representative, and it is what will guide me as your state senator," Rowe said Tuesday in a statement.

Finch, standing before his Senate colleagues, said that a pending state Supreme Court decision on last September's Democratic mayoral primary in Bridgeport still has him "in limbo," but he decided last week to resign the Senate, which he joined in 2001.

"I made a decision, even though my position was to wait for the Supreme Court, we have separate but equal branches of government and they have to go by their time line and their time line is not our time line," said Finch. "So I changed my mind and made this decision so that we could go on with the business of government not only running the City of Bridgeport, but to have a new voice from the 22nd District."

Finch said he has "tremendous respect" for the 36-member Senate, where members may disagree, but don't hold grudges. "This could be ground zero for civility in American politics, moving into a new generation," said Finch, the son of a steelworker who recalled he could barely afford UConn when he was a teenager.

"The Senate means a great deal to me," said Finch, who last year was co-chairman of the Environment Committee. "It's been part of my life. It's been giving me meaning."

He said that as mayor of a coastal city, he's concerned with the issue of global warming and the melting ice caps threatening Bridgeport with rising water.

"We don't have a lot of time and we certainly have no time for partisanship on this issue and I'm glad to say that we've had very little of that in the Environment Committee," Finch said

In recent years the General Assembly has failed to adopt legislation sponsored by Finch that would require the release of adoptive birth certificates at age 21. Finch, who was adopted, said that between 100,000 and 250,000 Connecticut residents might be eligible for birth certificates that they are currently prohibited from seeing.

"Our law demands that they cannot have the right to their identity," Finch said.

"Our law says that adult adoptees cannot handle the truth," he said. "Our law says that they must go to their grave without ever knowing their mother or father and our law says they are not entitled to their medical history. Our law says bad things and it must be changed."

Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, said Finch's farewell requests were not unexpected.

"It would be just like Sen. Finch to leave us with a to-do list," Williams quipped before the Senate adjourned for caucuses to discuss the criminal justice reform proposals at 11:30 a.m.

Finch's announcement last week that he'd leave the Senate before the 13-week budget-adjustment session begins on Feb. 6 has set off a chain of potential hopefuls to take over the 22nd District seat that represents the west side of Bridgeport, Trumbull and part of Monroe.

Nancy DiNardo of Trumbull, chairwoman of the Democratic State Central Committee, said that she expects many people. "I'm hearing a number of names," she said in an interview in the Capitol.

Interested Democratic candidates include Thomas A. Mulligan Jr., an attorney and Bridgeport City Council member; Hector Diaz Jr., a former state representative from Bridgeport; Anthony J. Musto, Trumbull's town treasurer; Stephen P. Wright, chairman of the Trumbull Board of Education; and Michelle Mount of Monroe, who was Bridgeport's legislative liaison to the General Assembly last year.

The special election would be held 45 days after Gov. M. Jodi Rell declares a vacancy. It's expected to be held on March 11 or 18. The upcoming legislative session starts Feb. 6 and ends May 7.

Democrats and Republicans will hold nominating conventions to pick candidates. There are no primaries, but other candidates could petition onto the ballot.

Rep. Jack F. Hennessy, D-Bridgeport, said Tuesday he is mulling a petition campaign to get on the ballot. "It's too bad the Democratic Town Committee will not consider such a good candidate as I," Hennessy, who doesn't expect the support of the town committee, said Tuesday.

Chris Healy, Republican state chairman, said in an interview Tuesday that Rowe is an "excellent" candidate.

"He has a great record on fiscal matters and education matters and I think he'd be a great addition to the Senate," Healy said. "He's clear and strong in his beliefs. If he's the nominee, we'll work morning, noon and night to make him successful."

Rowe said that even in the current economic climate, there's opportunity for the district.

"By finding innovative ways to pool and integrate our economic and cultural resources, we can revitalize our urban communities, grow our local economy an

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

NEW YORK: Adult Adoptees Deserve Respect from State by Eileen McQuade, by January 21, 2008

January 21, 2008

Letter to the Editor, Adult Adoptees Deserve Respect from the State

by Eileen McQuade, president, American Adoption Congress

Sharon Smith's story of unsuccessfully searching for information about her origins is one the adoption reform community hears all too often ("Opening closed books on adoption," Jan. 13). Like Ms. Smith's birth mother, I relinquished a daughter to adoption in New York state, and did not register in the state registry. Unlike Ms. Smith, my daughter's search was successful -- just because her birth mother has an unusual surname.

Obtaining important personal information from the original birth certificate is a matter of right and should not depend on circumstance. The birth certificate is the key document U.S. citizens use today for identification in myriad situations, yet we have a significant number of adults who cannot get a copy of the document that was created at their birth.

These adopted adults did not agree to the sealing of their birth records. The information that is unique to who they are might be available to a judge or a social worker, but not to them. Adopted adults are adults foremost, and need to be treated as such by the state of New York.



American Adoption Congress

South Windsor, Conn.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

NORWAY: The Chosen Ones: The War Children Born to Nazi Fathers In a Sinister Eugenics Scheme Speak Out, January 20, 2008

January 20, 2008

The chosen ones: The war children born to Nazi fathers in a sinister eugenics scheme speak out

They were the blue-eyed blonds born into a sinister SS scheme to further the Aryan race. But the defeat of the Nazis left Norway's 'Lebensborn' facing the vengeance of an entire nation. Here, five former war children talk for the first time about their ordeal – and their fight for compensation

By Rob Sharp

The Lebensborn Society was born on 12 December 1935, the brainchild of Heinrich Himmler, Hitler's right-hand man and head of the SS. He had designed a project to promote an "Aryan future" for the Third Reich and turn around a declining birth rate in Germany. People were given incentives to have more children in the Fatherland as well as in occupied countries, most importantly in Scandinavia, where the Nordic gene – and its blond-haired, blue-eyed progeny – was considered classically Aryan.

But after the conflict had ended, many of the Norwegians born into the programme suffered. In an attempt to distance itself from the occupying forces, the Norwegian government publicly vilified the children born by Norwegian mothers and Nazi fathers. Many of those children subsequently experienced intense bullying, and in some cases, extreme mental and physical abuse. In recent years, a Lebensborn group in Norway has been fighting what it sees as the Norwegian government's complicity in their horrific ordeal.

Now, these once-persecuted children, many of whom are in their sixties, have been brought together by British photographer Lucinda Marland, who travelled to Norway to interview them and take their portraits, with a 1940s 5x4 plate camera, reproduced exclusively here.

"The people I met described themselves as the lucky ones and maintain that hundreds of others were never able to come to terms with the prejudice and cruelty they ' suffered," says Marland. "They were incredibly humble and proud people still coming to terms with their demons; many of them would be welling up when they were talking to me."

The Lebensborn programme arrived in Norway in March 1941, six years after the scheme was started in Germany. The occupying soldiers were officially encouraged to father children with the local women. They were reassured that the Third Reich would take care of the child if they did not wish to marry the mother, or were already married. As well as paying all the costs for the birth, the Lebensborn association gave the mothers substantial child support, including money for clothes, as well as a pram or cot. It was noted at the time that only a small proportion of the German fathers wanted to marry the pregnant women and bring them back to the German Reich.

Hotels and villas were requisitioned and 10 Lebensborn homes were established from scratch. Here, more than 8,000 children were registered, and issued with a Lebensborn number and file containing their medical records.

For many of the young, impressionable Norwegian girls who had become pregnant at the hands of the invaders, it was a convenient place to give birth – well away from the disapproving eyes of their peers, with access to the best available care.

But towards the end of the war, the exiled Norwegian government – which had set up shop in London – started broadcasting ominous warnings to collaborators in Norway. One said: "We have previously issued a warning and we repeat it here of the price these women will pay for the rest of their lives: they will be held in contempt by all Norwegians for their lack of restraint."

Soon afterwards, the war ended, Himmler committed suicide and Norway's pre-war leaders returned. Norwegians cut off the hair of many of the "German whores" who had sired children with the Nazi soldiers, and they were paraded through the streets and spat at. Though the women hadn't broken any law, several thousand were arrested and many interned. A large number lost their jobs, for as little as having been seen talking to a German, and many were traumatised for life. "We will never be rid of the stigma, not until we are dead and buried," says one of the Lebensborn interviewed by Marland, Paul Hansen. "I don't want to be buried in a grave; I want my ashes to be scattered to the winds – at least then I won't be picked on any more."

The condemnation escalated. The Norwegian government tried to deport the Lebensborn to Germany but the scheme was vetoed by the Allies. In July 1945, one newspaper expressed the fear that Lebensborn boys would "bear the germ of some of those typical masculine German characteristics of which the world has now seen more than enough". A leading psychiatrist advised that a large proportion of the 8,000 (officially registered) children must be carrying bad genes and therefore would be mentally retarded; "genetically bad", he said, they "belonged in special institutions". As a result, hundreds of children were forcibly incarcerated in mental institutions. Here they were often abused, raped and their skin scrubbed until it bled. A member of the Norwegian ministry of social affairs said of them in July 1945: "To believe these children will become decent citizens is to believe rats in the cellar will become house pets." '

Through legal action, many of the children have sought compensation from the Norwegian government for its discrimination against them. A few were offered limited financial recompense. But still officials refuse to take the blame. "The government has acknowledged that several war children have been subject to harassment in society," says government lawyer Thomas Naalsund. "But it is highly difficult to say now, 50 years later, that the government was responsible for these events."

Last year, 157 of the children appealed to the European Court of Human Rights but lost on the grounds that their problems happened too long ago. "There is a hypocrisy at the heart of Norway, home of the Nobel Peace Prize, a country that prides itself on resolving conflicts around the world but refuses to acknowledge its own victims of war," says the Lebensborns' lawyer, Randi Spydevold. "I'm disappointed and embarrassed on behalf of Norway. I thought Norway was a great country, the best country for human rights; I didn't disbelieve that for one moment until I took this case."

Now, what hope that still exists among the Lebensborn is in their desire that by sharing their stories, one day an international standard will be set that will prevent future war children from being discriminated against, and enduring the atrocities that they themselves have had to live through. Their chilling tales, some of which are reproduced here, are just one small step towards that potential resolution.

Ellen Voie: 'I was locked in a dark room'

I was born in 1942 in a Lebensborn home, where I stayed until I was adopted aged two. My adoptive parents were incredibly cruel: they beat me and locked me in a small, dark room for hours. To this day I'm still afraid of the dark and have nightmares.

We lived in a small community where everyone seemed to know I was a German child and told me how awful I was. I was very disruptive; I couldn't concentrate. When I was 16 the local priest refused to confirm me because I did not have a baptism certificate. I had to go to the local authority where I found out that my parents had changed my name.

Then I went to Denmark to study. While there I worked as a nursery nurse, and fell in love with a German, but my parents disapproved and I had to return to Norway to continue studying.

A year after I returned, a friend and I were walking to the cinema when a car pulled up with some boys in it. My friend said she knew them so we got in, but the car broke down. My friend went off with one of the boys to get spare parts and left me alone with the other boy, who raped and almost killed me. A taxi driver saved my life.

I later discovered I was pregnant from the attack. I was 19 years old. My parents threw me out of the house and put me in a home, where I stayed until my son was born. My parents then insisted I give up my baby; I was only allowed to hold him for a few minutes before they took him away. But I was determined that history would not repeat itself and with the help of a social worker I got my son back.

Despite all the hardships, I got an education and my work as a social worker has helped me deal with my past. I've dedicated my adult life to helping others, children in particular. It helps me to forget my own tormented past. I now live with my husband and dogs in Oslo.

Paul Hansen: 'They classed me as a retard'

I think my mother's family put pressure on her to give me up, so I was born in a Lebensborn home in 1942 and my mother left me there.

I later learnt that after the war a government delegation came to the home to decide what to do with the 20 war children, including me, who had been left there. We were lined up and the doctor said he would take us. It turned out that he was the head of a mental institution. There was no medical prognosis behind his decision; it was just that we were war children, and therefore must be "retarded" due to our parentage. They made no effort to trace any of our family members, they just locked us up with children so sick that some were incontinent and incapable of feeding themselves. I was four years old.

By the time I was released I had lost any chance of a proper education and for the next few years I went from one home to another.

I was eventually sent to a special school for children with learning disabilities and mental illness. This was the only formal education I received. War children were segregated from the rest of the school. We were not allowed any contact with the outside community. I was then moved to a boys' home and then another mental institution, where I was finally old enough to sign myself out. The people there helped me get a job in a factory. My colleagues used to taunt me mercilessly until one day I stood up and told them what had happened to me. They never taunted me again and I stayed there for 17 years.

In 1975 I got married but my wife had a nervous breakdown and we divorced in 1977. Then I lived with someone for nearly 20 years but she died of cancer.

I now work as a cleaner and janitor at the University of Oslo and have a long-term girlfriend. As much as it hurts to talk about my past, I do so because it's important that people know what happened to us. I spent the first 20 years of my life in mental institutions just because my father was a German.

Kikki Skjermo: 'I was raped when I was 10'

I was born in 1945 near Trondheim. My mother was away a lot, finding work. It was my grandparents who brought me up and told me about my father. They provided for me, but never showed me any warmth. I felt like I lived behind a wall of silence; life was very empty and confusing.

At 10 years old I was raped by a local man, who had a deep hatred of the Germans. I didn't know him but he knew I was a German child. He told me people like me were born to be used. I didn't dare tell anyone; I stayed in bed for a week pretending I had a stomach upset.

At 15 I was granted special permission to marry my husband. It took me a couple of years to tell him about my history but he has always been a huge support and we've been married for 47 years.

Both he and my children encouraged me to trace my father, who I met for the first time when I was 42. We have a wonderful relationship and, when my daughter got married, she asked if my father could walk her down the aisle to show the world that the spell was broken.

It's taken me a long time to be able to say, it's OK, I'm a German child. It's important to speak out to help other war children who aren't as fortunate as me.

Bjorn Drivdal: 'They beat me up at school'

Growing up in Oslo, I was told my father was sent to the Eastern Front, where he died in action. But my mother would never tell me anything more about him.

I later learnt that when my mother discovered she was pregnant she tried to get an abortion, but the German authorities wouldn't let her.

I endured school until I was 15; I was always being beaten and couldn't understand why. I then went to sea, working mainly on cargo ships. On shore leave, I'd often find myself on the shadier side of town – I found it easier to be around people with something to hide.

I've been married twice and have five children. Both marriages ended in divorce; I wasn't easy to live with.

When I turned 57 I took early retirement because I couldn't concentrate and was having nightmares, and it was then that I confronted my past. I started seeing a psychologist and learnt to explore who I was.

I decided to go to Germany. I knew where my father had lived, so I went to the local newspaper, which helped me with my research. I found my father's grave and discovered he had actually died in 1974 in a car crash, not in the war as I had been led to believe. It was a devastating blow. But my trip to Germany wasn't all bad; I met my two half-sisters, who had no idea I existed, and this summer my nephew and his children are coming to visit me.

Gerd Fleischer: 'I was called a whore'

My mother and father planned to marry, but to marry an SS officer you had to prove three generations of Aryan blood. My mother's Lapp heritage meant she was not pure enough.

I was born in 1942. My father returned to Germany while my mother fell into poverty, not qualifying for any support from the state, my father or even the Lebensborn programme.

We lived a relatively untroubled life in Lapland until I went to school. One day a fellow pupil called me a "German whore"; I didn't know what this meant so I ran home and asked my mother. She told me that not everyone is open-minded.

My mother then married a former resistance fighter, who hated anything German, particularly me. Abuse and beatings soon became a regular part of my home life. At 13, I ran away.

Somehow I survived, putting myself through school. I remember being lonely, hungry and cold. The authorities knew about me but did nothing to help.

When I was 18, I left Norway and didn't return for 18 years. I worked as an au pair in England, and worked and studied in Germany. I managed to trace my father, who initially denied all knowledge of me. But when we met it was physically obvious I was his daughter. I was furious at him – even more so when he spoke ill of my mother. I successfully took him to court for the maintenance he had never paid to me.

Before returning to Norway I spent several years in Mexico, where I fostered two street children. I brought them home with me, but soon realised that Norway hadn't progressed in its attitude towards ethnic minorities. So I founded the organisation Seif [Self Help for Immigrants and Refugees] to fight for justice for all.

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