Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April 30, 2008

Larue Barnes: Motherly love part II

Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series.

Happy Morris, the first Johnson County nurse, entrusted me with precious things.

Inside scrapbooks were notes from jail inmates who thanked her for giving them direction and motherly love. There were documents from her career as a registered nurse — and records from her past history that had once been carefully guarded by her adoptive parents.

She agreed to share her story with you.

Happy retired after 28 years as nurse at the Johnson County jail.

She was the one who, accompanied by a sheriff’s deputy or a policeman, had the grisly job of pronouncing someone dead at murders, accidents and suicides. She performed autopsies under the supervision of the county medical examiner.

She also trained a staff of nurses and gave instructional training to correctional officers.

Her greatest joy, however, came from serving as a physical and emotional lifeline to the jail’s inmates.

Many wrote letters of appreciation to her — some presented on Mother’s Day.

Finding her mother
Ironically, she never knew the woman who gave her birth.

She was adopted from Hope Cottage in Dallas when she was a month old by Kelly and Ethel Stephens in Cleburne. Her birth records had been sealed.

“In 1990, when my son, Brad Lemley, had a serious health problem, I needed to know my family history,” Happy said. “My father, who had fiercely guarded any information about my adoption, had died. My mother was in a nursing home.

“I decided to try to find out medical information about my birth parents on my own. I wrote to Hope Cottage in Dallas.

“Although I received a reply it was very general in nature, and provided no precise information. They referred me to Searchline in Irving, Texas [no longer in service.]

“When I started going to the meetings at Searchline, which met in a private home, I met many adoptees and birth mothers. I was shocked at what I learned there.

“I had never agonized over the fact that I didn’t know my biological mother, but I met others who had been traumatized by not knowing theirs.

“The mothers there, who had given up their babies for adoption, were deeply grieved. Some found out where their children lived, watched their homes from the street, and one had even gone through the family’s garbage, desperately trying to find out anything she could about her child. I learned that some attended ball games to secretly watch their children play. Some had tried to make contact and had been rejected.

“I found out how to get my birth records. Judge C.C. ‘Kit’ Cooke ordered them opened — since I needed the family history for health reasons. I had to certify that I needed the information for that purpose only.”

Judge Cooke explained, “In 30 years I’ve only opened adoption records for six people. Those have all been for the purpose of securing essential family medical history for the treatment of disease. In the state of Texas this privilege is very guarded.”

Happy said, “Richard and I went to Austin to get the records, turned it all over to Searchline, and within five days, I knew my birth mother’s name and address. It was helpful that she had not moved.”

An answer at last
On a hot, summer day, Happy’s letter — which she had worded very carefully — arrived at a Dallas residence.

It read, “In searching for [medical] information I found the name of my biological mother and have reason to believe that you could be she.

“If you are my biological mother, I do not want to make you uncomfortable or cause problems for you; however I would like to meet you, if you are agreeable. If you are not comfortable with meeting me, could I please send you a medical form to fill out?”

Then, she told her mother about her own life.

She continued, “If you are my biological mother, I know that it must have been hard to give me up, but at the time you felt you did the best thing. My mother would always say on my birthday that she was thinking of you and how thankful she was to be given the opportunity to adopt and raise me. My father died in 1974, at 87. My mother is 93, in a rest home with Alzheimer’s Disease and has not known me for 12 years.

“I have prayed that I would find you alive and in good health, just to thank you for life — and what a loving and thoughtful thing you did for me.”

A response came quickly.

“Oh, what a joy and a shock!” the woman wrote. “You can’t imagine how I felt. I’d read a while and cry. I hope you don’t think ill of me for giving you up. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There wasn’t a way I could have kept you. I was working in a beauty shop for $1 a day.

“Every night I ask the Lord to take care of you. I am so proud you had good parents and have done good. I’m proud of you.”

She then gave the medical information Happy needed. She had no present husband but had never told her daughter and son her secret. She needed time to think about it.

She closed with, “I would love to see you, but I don’t know if I could stand to look at you and think of what I did. The nurse told me the night you were born it would be better if I didn’t look at you, but as one nurse handed you to another nurse you had your little hands up. I’ll never forget that.”

Happy sent photographs. One of her photos compared to one of her mother at a younger age showed striking similarities. Her mother told her of her own personal traits: She is a perfectionist, never put things off, her hair must be “fixed” before she goes out. She is afraid of storms and heights.

She invited Happy to bring her husband for dinner “in a few weeks.”

Happy and Richard did visit. They met her birth mother, Juanita, Juanita’s daughter, her daughter’s husband, and their two children.

“I feel sure that if my sister had known about me, she would’ve found me before now,” Happy said. “It was good to meet my mother and to have so many questions answered. I remember thinking things were funny, growing up, when Mother and Daddy didn’t see the humor in it. Juanita and I laugh at the same things. She is a good friend.”

Bittersweet endings
Happy said she realizes that all searches do not end so well. Happy’s older sister, Patsy Jean Norris, also adopted by the Stephens, searched diligently for her birth mother, only to find that she had died three years earlier. Her sister was able, however, to get in touch with other family members.

Happy’s discovery, however, was bittersweet.

“On Sept. 19, 1990, I met Juanita,” she said. “The next day my mother passed away. My mother was 93 years old, in a rest home with Alzheimer’s disease.

“She had not known me for 12 years. I felt guilty that she didn’t know about my findings — but my pastor said it was her time to go, and to let Juanita take over from here.”

She added poignantly, “But Mother will always be my mother.”

Melody Walls Light, one of the three Walls children Happy raised during her marriage to Neal Walls, wrote, “Three years ago, Happy’s true love and husband of 19 years, Richard Morris, died. I moved home after living in Grapevine to be with them during this time.

“Together we served Richard at home through his cancer battle with the loving support of Happy’s pastor, Bro. Charles Payne and the Calvary Baptist Church until the Lord took him home.”

Happy said of her pastor and music minister, “I’ll always be grateful to brother Payne and brother Eddie Carroll. Richard accepted Christ as his Savior here at the house before he died.”

Picking up her Bible, she said, “After Richard was saved, my life has never been the same. I try to live by Psalm 19:14, ‘Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.’”

She admitted there had been times through the years when she was cooking in her kitchen that she wondered if the woman who gave birth to her liked to cook, too.

“I knew Mother loved it. She was a great cook. And I wondered whether I liked to cook because of heredity or environment. It turns out Juanita loves to cook, too.”

During recent stormy weather, Happy’s home telephone rang.

“Put your clothes on,” the voice said. “You don’t want a storm to blow you away with your pajamas on!”

It was Juanita. Just checking to be sure her daughter was safe.

This story was suggested by Melody Light.
Larue Barnes may be reached at

Link to article

Friday, April 25, 2008

MICHIGAN: John Doe No 73 Hunts for Birth Parents,, April 25, 2008

April 25, 2008

John Doe No. 73 hunts for birth parents
He was abandoned as an infant at a Detroit Crowley's store forty-five years ago.
Kim Kozlowski / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- He was just a few days old when someone put him in a shopping bag and abandoned him in a women's restroom at a Crowley's department store nearly half a century ago.

After someone discovered the newborn, he was taken to Detroit Receiving Hospital and called John Doe No. 73. For two consecutive days, photos of the infant appeared in The Detroit News, with police officer Frances M. Clinepleading for his parents to reclaim the baby.

"There are no problems which can't be solved," Cline said in the Feb. 15, 1963, edition. "It appears (this) was the act of a confused woman who panicked in the face of what seemed insurmountable problems."

No one claimed the infant. He was alone in the world.

Forty-five years later, John Doe No. 73 has identified himself as Richard Lane, a happily married father of two and owner of a successful public relations company in Mainz, Germany. He is now making a plea for his birth parents to come forward.

"I would simply like to be able to understand what forced someone to leave me and my life completely up to chance," said Lane, who grew up in Southgate.

Lane's quest to find his birth parents comes as Michigan lawmakers are pushing to open records to upwards of 20,000 adults who were adopted between 1945 and 1980. These people cannot get copies of their original birth certificates, but a pending bill in the Michigan House seeks to change that.

Lane, 45, has pondered since he was 18 and learned that he was abandoned: Who are his parents? Where are they now? Why does his 20-year-old son, David, have red hair?

He said he never wondered about his birth parents while growing up because his adoptive parents, Charles and Margaret Lane, gave him a family life that felt completely normal. But that changed when he found out he was abandoned.

"It was an extremely lonely feeling," Lane said.

He decided to try to find his birth parents because his adoptive parents are now deceased and he wants his birth parents to know that they taught him an important lesson that shaped his life and the person he's become.

"The first lesson they taught me was to learn to embrace difficult challenges," said Lane. "Now, my return gift is perhaps the message that their decision did not lead to the disaster they may have spent the last 45 years thinking about. I'm fine, and I hope they are, too."

Adoption rules changed

Lane only recently learned he doesn't have an original birth certificate because he was abandoned, so the state bill, if passed, wouldn't help him.

Even so, those who could identify their birth parents if the law was different say they share a kinship with Lane.

"There's a yearning in the heart, in the soul, in your being to know from where you came," said Wixom resident Dave Weaver, who was adopted as a child. He found his mother's identity, but she was already deceased. "It feels like there is a piece inside of me, inside the soul, inside the heart, that is missing. I wanted to fill it. And this is how you fill it: You search to find answers."

Nearly a decade before Lane was born, his adoptive parents started the process of adopting a child through Lutheran Children's Friend Society, now known as Lutheran Child and Family Services of Michigan.

At the time, the Lanes did not qualify for adoption because Margaret had already borne a son, and the agency only worked with infertile couples. But six months after her son's birth, Marge Lane had a hysterectomy and was no longer able to have children.

It was 1954, and the waiting list of people wanting to adopt a child was long -- a sharp contrast to today, when 4,200 Michigan foster children are waiting to be adopted and every year 450 children enter adulthood in the state without ever being adopted.

Lutheran Children Friend's Society changed its policy in 1962 and allowed couples such as the Lanes to adopt children. The Lanes applied again and were approved as adoptive parents in January 1963.

A month later, John Doe No. 73 was abandoned. Detroit was bidding for the 1965 Olympic Games, British surgeons completed the world's first kidney transplant and unwed teenage girls who got pregnant were sent away for nine months to give birth to "illegitimate" children.

"Today there's so much less stigma with having a baby without being married," said Barbara MacKenzie, regional director of the Lutheran Child and Family Service of Michigan.

MacKenzie suspects Lane's mother abandoned him because society scorned motherhood outside of marriage. She likely was young and scared, because those are usually the mothers who abandon infants today.

Finding parents not easy

Whoever abandoned Lane didn't have the option of dropping the baby off at a hospital, fire or police department within 72 hours of birth, as parents have today. Since Michigan passed its Safe Delivery law in 2001, 55 infants have been safely given to authorities, who turn the newborns over for adoption.

Indeed, it was a more difficult time for unmarried pregnant girls because they tried to keep it secret, said Effey Winkel, who at age 91 remembers Lane's abandonment because her late husband, Robert E. Winkel, was president of Crowley's department store.

It's possible Lane's birth parents may have their own families now, Winkel said, and they may not have told their spouses and children about what they did in February 1963. But Winkel hopes at least one of his parents opens their arms to him.

"I would hope they would come forward so he knows them and feels like he has parents," said Winkel, who lives in Arizona.

Lane's longing to reunite with his birth parents is colliding with a world where people often connect more on an electronic level than human, and that may add to his urgency, said MacKenzie, of Lutheran Child and Family Service.

"We're cocooning with our computers and televisions," she said. "Because of that, the need to feel connected is stronger today."

Lane had happy childhood

Because Lane was abandoned, a judge estimated his age and gave him a birthday of Feb. 6, 1963.

Soon after, the Lanes adopted him and renamed him Richard Lane.

He says his parents gave him a happy, healthy upbringing. He attended Christ the King Lutheran School in Southgate and graduated from Southgate High School.

"Our lives are probably much better off that we were adopted," said Michele Lane, Rick Lane's sister, who was adopted three years after him.

"I have no hard feelings against my birth mother as an adult. I thank her. I wouldn't be where I am today or had any of the opportunities if I hadn't been adopted."

Though she is not interested in finding her birth parents, she understands why her brother wants to find his.

Rick Lane says he wants his birth parents to come forward so he can share with them that he turned out all right, holds no grudges and is open to what happens afterward.

"We'll see what happens," Lane said. "Life is usually most exciting when you don't know where all the roads will be taking you."

You can reach Kim Kozlowski at (313) 222-2024 or

Link to article

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

NEW JERSEY: Letter by Patrick Brannigan, NJ Catholic Conference--State's Adoption Law Protects Privacy of Birth Mothers, Too--April 22, 2008

April 22, 2008

State's adoption law protects privacy of birth mothers, too


I write to point out misstatements and misrepresentations by individuals and groups who are trying to eliminate an important privacy for birth mothers — a privacy that has been protected by law for decades. Those who want to eliminate a mother's privacy claim that New Jersey's adoption law protects only the adopted child. That claim is wrong. New Jersey's adoption law protects all of the parties: the child, the birth mother and the adopting parents.

The Catholic Church has provided adoption services in New Jersey for well over a century. The New Jersey Catholic Conference has long supported mutual consent reunions and the sharing of health information between adoptees and birth parents. Catholic Charities provides adoptees with information about their social background and health information even in instances when they are unable to facilitate a reunion.

In the 1977 Mills case that challenged a sealed adoption record in Atlantic City, the court reviewed at length the interests that are involved in placing adoption records under seal. Superior Court Judge Philip Gruccio noted that the purpose of the Adoption Act is to protect the child placed for adoption, the adopting parents and the birth parents. Analyzing each of their respective interests, Gruccio first addressed those of the birth or natural parents, and the adoptive parents.

He determined the assurance of secrecy regarding the identity of the natural parents enables them to place the child for adoption with a reputable agency, with the knowledge that their actions and motivations will not become public knowledge. Assured of this privacy by the state, the natural parents are free to move on and attempt to rebuild their lives after what must be a traumatic and emotionally tormenting episode in their lives.

The adopting parents also have an interest in having the birth records placed under seal. They have taken into their home a child who they will regard as their own and who they will love and raise as an integral part of their family unit. It is important to these adopting parents that they may raise this child without fear of interference from the natural parents and without fear that the birth status of the illegitimate child will be revealed or used as a means of harming the child or themselves. The state has an active interest in protecting and nurturing the growing family relationship it has statutorily created.

Clearly, the court recognized that the state has an obligation to protect the interests of all three parties. Gruccio wrote, "The statute requiring that the records be sealed clearly serves the interest of all three parties in the adoptive triangle: adoptive parents, natural parents and the child." Thousands of birth mothers placed their children for adoption through the New Jersey courts in reliance on that statutory assurance of privacy.

It is time for those trying to end the privacy of birth mothers to tell the truth: New Jersey's adoption law protects birth mothers, adoptees and adopting parents.

Patrick R. Brannigan is executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, which represents the Archdiocese of Newark, the dioceses of Camden, Metuchen, Paterson and Trenton, Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic and Our Lady of Deliverance Syriac Catholic Diocese.

Link to article

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

ILLINOIS: Letter by Ed Smetana--Don't Discourage Adoption Option, April 21, 2008

April 21, 2008

Letter: Don't Discourage Adoption Option

I feel empathy for all the adopted people who are looking for their roots -- family trees -- and are resentful that their moms and dads did not want ever to be connected to them.

The important thing to remember is, they chose life for you and to countless generations to come as you are Adams and Eves.

Please do not encourage changes to the law or seek remedies in the courts because this will in most cases make adoption not a viable option in the eyes of the baby donors.

This was the case in England. All adoptions were made transparent, offering no privacy to the baby donors, and the result was that the baby donor programs have become almost non-existent. And, in the minds of the would-be donors,abortion has become the only answer.

Please do not enact court cases or laws that will mean the death sentence for your brother, sisters and cousins.

Ed Smetana

Arlington Heights

Link to article

Monday, April 21, 2008

OHIO: Betsie Norris' Personal Quest Propels Adoption Network Clveland's Search for Answers, April 20, 2008

April 20, 2008

Betsie Norris' personal quest propels Adoption Network Cleveland's search for answers
She started nonprofit 20 years ago

James Ewinger

The roots of Adoption Network Cleveland grow out of Betsie Norris' quest for her own.

She is an adoptee. She found her birth parents 22 years ago and two years later founded the network in her living room.

Norris has been seeking ever since -- to open records to adults who were adopted, to help people find their own birth relatives and, indirectly, homes for thousands of children stuck in the gray abyss of foster care and county custody.

If that makes her sound like a tireless crusader, it would make her late, adoptive father proud and show just how much influence such a parent can have.

He was William B. (Brad) Norris, a towering man in every sense.

Brad Norris was tall, magisterial and driven by a passion for public service. He was a partner at the Hahn Loeser law firm, campaigned with others to put WCPN FM/90.3 on the air, joined the fight against the county's plan to pave over Shaker Lakes and represented Cleveland in its antitrust case against CEI.

At 16, in World War II, he was also the youngest platoon leader in his rifle company as it fought its way across southern France.

Betsie Norris, the gentle warrior, is driven by her knowledge of the man who raised her and her curiosity about the birth parents who did not.

It is not a frivolous or selfish quest and cannot be dismissed as idle curiosity.

There are emotional issues that go with the knowledge of being adopted and some that flow from a lack of knowledge, including the medical histories of people who came before them.

Then there is a sense of shame that can seep out of the secrecy that enveloped the adoption process.

And finally, there is the concern about how the search will affect the birth family, and the adoptive family.

"You don't know how many times I went to call the agency that handled my adoption and slammed the phone book shut because I thought it was selfish and it might hurt my parents," Norris said.

When an adoptee says "my parents," the reference is to the people who did the raising. As Norris said of her birth parents, "I am their daughter, but they are not my parents."

She found the couple from which she sprang, and it had a happy ending. She was embraced by her blood siblings and was in two of their weddings.

But Norris rarely uses the word "ending."

Historically adoption was viewed as an event that occurred, then people moved on. "Adoption is a lifelong process," Norris said. "There is so much more to it that unfolds over the years."

After World War II, many restrictions were placed on adoption records, in part to insulate the adoptees from the birth parents, Norris said.

However, many courts and state legislatures have been loosening the reins, especially in the past 20 years.

But not in Ohio. Last week, a pending bill was gutted of any language that would have given adoptees access to their original birth records.

One of the great ironies is that attorney Brad Norris played a major role in closing Ohio records. Betsie Norris said her father reacted to the ease with which he - or anyone else - could get birth records. His intent was to keep the public at bay, not the adoptees and birth parents.

But the legislature of 40 years ago went so far that anyone adopted after 1964 cannot get the records - their own records. Brad Norris in 1994 said the law created an absurd situation because two of his adopted children, born before 1964, have access. But his youngest son, born in 1963 but adopted the following year, does not.

Which is not to say that such searches are impossible. One of Adoption Network Cleveland's fortes is assisting people who want to find their birth parents.

But that is not the extent of its work. With "adoption" in its name, one might suppose that the network does a lot of placement work. One would be half-right.

The network is not a placement agency but has reshaped the way those organizations - both public and private - do business.

For example, Cuyahoga County had 2,000 children in permanent custody eight years ago. Today the number is 783, ranging from infants to older teens, thanks to the network.

Jim McCafferty, director of the county's Department of Children and Family Services, said Norris and her group were chosen as the lead agency to formulate new adoption strategies that placement agencies could use.

One is Child Centered Recruitment, which gives a social worker a small caseload, so he or she can get to know the children, and get to know people who know the children, which makes it easier to find adoptive homes.

Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Judge Peter Sikora said, "One of the court's most difficult jobs is when we grant permanent custody to children and Family Services." He said the court and the county then "are making a pledge to these kids that we will do better by them."

Sikora also said that if the child has no permanent home by the age of 18 "we've failed them." He said the network is one of the most effective means of making sure the children and teens "don't age out of the system" before finding a home.

Another feat is the expansion of the number of local therapists who understand issues unique to adoption.

The idea was to educate established psychologists and social workers, said Zoe Breen Wood, director of field education at Case's Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.

The issues include the sense of loss that adoptees and birth parents can feel, she said, as well as adopted children's difficulty in identifying with an adoptive family or with establishing a sense of their own identity.

Wood said the Adoption Network is the only organization in the country that deals with all the issues, all the organizations and all the members of extended families before, during and long after the adoption has been formalized.

In 20 years, it has grown from an all-volunteer group to a private nonprofit with an annual budget of $2.8 million.

More information about Adoption Network Cleveland is available at 216-325-1000 or

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 216-999-3905

Link to article

Sunday, April 20, 2008

ILLIINOIS: Letter by Jane Edwards--Many Birth Mothers Want Children to Know Identity, April 20, 2008

Bloomington Pantagraph
April 20, 2008

Letter: Many birth mothers want children to know identity

Megan Bakaitis who wrote the letter published April 13 (``Oppose proposal about adoptee birth certificates'') is the daughter I surrendered for adoption in Dec., 1966. Megan argues that adoptees should not have the unrestricted right to their original birth certificates.

While Megan is a fine person, I strongly disagree with her views on adoptee access.

I live in Portland, Ore. On Nov. 3, 1998, Oregon voters passed Ballot Measure 58 with 57 percent of the vote. This measure allowed adult adoptees to obtain their original birth certificates.

Opponents immediately challenged Ballot Measure 58 in the courts as violating birth mother privacy. The Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the law and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the decision. The measure became effective May 31, 2000.

While opponents of the measure claimed that birth mothers did not want their children to know their identities, birth mothers said something quite different.

Two days before the election, over 500 birth mothers - including me - placed their names in a full-page ad in Oregon's largest newspaper, the Portland Oregonian, supporting the measure.

When I learned in 1997 that Megan was looking for me, I was terrified, but also overjoyed. Since our reunion, I have felt much more complete. It is indeed true that the truth will set you free.

My experience is not unique. Over 9,000 Oregon adoptees have received their original birth certificates. There have been no reports of birth mothers becoming distressed over being contacted by their child.

I have met birth mothers and birth fathers from all over the country. I have never heard any regret having a reunion - regardless of how the reunion turned out.

Jane Edwards

Portland, Ore.

Link to article

Thursday, April 17, 2008

NEW YORK: Letter by Catherine Gordon Litofsky, April 16, 2008

April 16, 20

Letter: Adoptee's Search Takes Her to State Capital

Are you my birth mother? For the better part of the last 35 years, I have asked this very question over and over again. I have never received an answer.

As Mother's Day approaches, I want my birth mother to know that I have never stopped wondering who she is. I have also never stopped thanking her for being so brave and courageous when she gave me up for adoption in or around November 1957.

I have searched for her. I have registered in the New York Adoption Registry. I have stood up for my human rights by lobbying in Albany to get more support for and a vote on Assembly Bill A02277 and Senate Bill S235: the Adoptees' Bill of Rights.

I hope to return to Albany this month to lobby some more. Maybe this year I will finally get the answer to my question: Are you my birth mother?

Catherine Gordon Litofsky

Owings Mills, MD.

Link to article

Sunday, April 13, 2008

ILLINOIS: Letter from Marilyn Strohkirch, April 13, 2008

April 13, 2008

Letter: Give adoptees access to their birth records

State Rep. Sara Feighenholtz, D-Chicago, an Illinois-born and adopted person, is sponsoring legislation to make birth records available to adopted persons born in Illinois as noted in The Pantagraph (``More open records for adoptees?,'' March 22, Page A1).

Rep. Feighenholtz said, ``Existing Illinois law robs tens of thousands of Illinois adults of the right to know who they are.''

As a longtime adoption advocate and former confidential intermediary for the state of Illinois, I can honestly say most people touched by adoption feel their rights have been violated by the present Illinois law that prevents adoptees from obtaining their original birth records.

Original birth records for Illinois-born adopted persons have been closed since 1947. Our legislators now have the opportunity to change the law and allow persons adopted before 1946 access to their original birth records.

Those adopted after 1946 will have to wait six months to allow biological parents who wish to keep their identity a secret to do so through the Illinois Adoption Registry.

The Illinois Department of Public Health maintains the registry and records indicate only 17 biological parents have filed forms to prevent identity disclosure.

Eight states now allow adult adopted persons to access their birth records.

Illinois has laws to prevent identity theft.

For more than a half century, adoptees in this state have been denied access to their identity in the first place. Passage of House Bill 4623 could end what amounts to ``identity theft'' for individuals who were born and adopted in Illinois.

I urge you to ask your representative to vote ``yes'' for HB 4623. A public meeting about this important adoption reform and open birth records will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at St, John's Lutheran Church, 1617 E. Emerson, Bloomington. For more information, call (309) 820-0230.

Marilyn Strohkirch


The writer is co-founder, Healing Hearts Adoption Support Group.

Link to article

ILLINOIS: Letter from Megan Bakaitis--Oppose Proposal about Adoptee Birth Certificates, April 13, 2008

April 13, 2008

Letter: Oppose proposal about adoptee birth certificates

I am an adult adoptee. About 10 years ago, I made the choice to search for my birth mother and I found her!

I knew nothing about the ``adoption rights'' movement. It was just something I wanted to do for myself.

The reunion with my birth mother was satisfying for me, and we still correspond and visit each other. After we met, I even attempted to obtain my original birth certificate, but was denied.

Since that time, I have been exposed to many, many communications from various groups pushing for legislation that would allow all adoptees the right to obtain their original birth certificates, regardless of the wishes of birth mothers.

At first, the political arguments made a lot of sense to me. However, after much careful study, pondering and prayer, I have decided for myself that I cannot embrace these groups' basic philosophy regarding family.

God has a plan for families. Children should be nurtured in loving homes by a father and a mother who are also husband and wife. ``Redefining kinship,'' as advocated by the some of these groups, is a dangerous thing.

Furthermore, to obtain one's original birth certificate is not a civil or human right.

Because I don't believe in the basic goals of ``adoption rights'' organizations, I cannot and will not support their political agendas, including open records for all adoptees.

Megan Bakaitis


Link to article

Friday, April 11, 2008

NEW JERSEY: Letter from Linda DeBrango--Adoption Bill Fair and Balanced, April 10, 2008

April 10, 2008

Letter: Adoption Bill Fair and Balanced

As an adult adoptee, I have been following the progress of the pending state legislation to permit adoptees access to their original birth certificates. I find the views in the March 21 letter "Unsealed record breaks promise" to be perpetuating the negative stereotypes that were the prevailing wisdom for years.

Until the 1970s, unwed mothers were sent away to give birth in shame and secrecy. Birth mothers were counseled by social workers to forget their babies and to go on as if nothing had happened. Keeping their babies was never an option, as they were told their babies would bear the stigma of illegitimacy.

Opponents of the proposed legislation miss a key point about anonymity. No one is proposing that birth records be made public. The purpose of this legislation is to give adoptees, the people who are the subjects of the sealed documents, access to records pertaining to them. For adoptees, our legal identity does not match our genetic identity. In this age of DNA testing, we are at a distinct disadvantage. Learning the identity of one's birth parents can be a matter of life or death, not idle curiosity.

The proposed legislation adequately balances the adoptees' need for accurate family medical information with preserving the promise of anonymity made to birth mothers. Upon passage of the law, birth mothers will have a one-year period in which to indicate whether or not they wish to be contacted by their children. If a mother does not wish to be contacted, she must provide a detailed family medical history to be placed with the original birth certificate. Currently, adoptees must hire an investigator, who obtains the birth record by suspect means and makes the first, often unsettling contact with the birth mother. It makes for a great Lifetime TV movie, but it causes more pain and expense for the parties.

It is my hope that this bill becomes law in New Jersey.

Linda DeBrango


Link to article

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

ILLINOIS: Letter from Natalie Jones--Adoption Shock, April 9, 2008

April 9, 2008

Letter: Adoption shock

This is in response to "Adoptees look for their identity; Illinois bill would give better records access" (Metro, March 11), and the editorial and letters to the editor that followed it.

What many of adoptees don't understand is that if it were not for the privacy promised their birth mothers, they might not be here. Many women didn't have abortions because they were promised that they could count on secrecy.

I am adopted and cannot think of a good reason to disrupt someone's life. She gave me a life; that's good enough for me. I try to take care of myself and probably have the same chance of being healthy as anyone.

Some of these mothers will not be notified of this; what a shock for them. Rethink this unfair new development.—Natalie Jones

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

NEW YORK: Commenty by Joyce Bahr--Adoptees Deserve Family Info, April , 2008

April 8, 2008

Adoptees deserve family info
By Joyce Bahr

Adoptees will have the same right to their birth records and early health histories as every other person has always had, under legislation pending in the state Senate and Assembly. Currently, eight other states offer this right, and several others are considering it. Adoption records in Kansas and Alaska have never been sealed.

New York began sealing adoption records in the mid-1930s to protect adoptive parents from possible interference from biological parents. Contrary to popular assumption, however, there has never been a legal guarantee of secrecy offered to birth parents who have given up their children for adoption.

Since the 1930s, social perceptions and medical research have evolved to the point where most professionals in the field of adoption agree that open adoption and background information is to the benefit of all concerned. For example, one of the first things a doctor needs to know is a patient's medical and psychiatric history. Currently, that potentially life-saving information is obtainable only by court order and at considerable cost to the individual. Unfortunately, it is usually not sought because of those deterrents to a patient's serious disadvantage.

Other adoptees seeking their birth records believe that the matter is one of basic human rights, including the right to know one's heritage, something that is taken for granted by everyone else. Such denial of access consigns adoptees to second-class citizen status.

The proposed adoptee rights legislation strikes a balance between an adopted person's right to know and the confidentiality concerns of biological parents.

With the political fray in Albany this year, these bills need the attention and support of your elected officials. Please contact your state senator urging support of bill S235 and your Assembly member of bill A2277.

Bahr, of Gracie Station, is president of the New York Statewide Adoption Reform. Contact her at

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Sunday, April 6, 2008

ARGETNINA: Maria Barragan Succeeds in Getting Adoptive Parents Jailed, April 6, 2008

April 6, 2008

Maria Barragan succeeds in getting adoptive parents jailed
Mike Elkin

In a landmark decision, a court in Buenos Aires sentenced a former military officer and the adoptive parents of one of the country’s many babies “stolen” during the dictatorship to prison for concealing the child’s identity and falsifying adoption documents.

Maria Eugenia Sampallo Barragán, 30, had brought charges against the three after discovering her true identity seven years ago. Ms Sampallo is one of hundreds of people who were snatched from their parents or born in captivity during the country’s dictatorship of , but she was the first to face her adoptive parents in court.

Osvaldo Rivas, 65, and MarÍa Cristina Gómez Pinto, 60, her adoptive parents, were sentenced to eight and seven years in prison respectively. Enrique Berthier, a former army captain who handed Ms Sampallo over to the couple when she was a baby, received ten years.

“These are not my parents,” Ms Sampallo said at a press conference on Monday. “They are my kidnappers . . . there is no emotional bond that binds me to them. These are my parents,” she said, picking up photos of her biological parents.

Argentina’s military regime arrested Leonardo Sampallo and Mirta Barragán, suspected leftist dissidents, in December 1977. Soon after Ms Sampallo was born, her parents died in prison and the infant was given to Captain Berthier to pass on to another family, which hid her real identity.

Ms Sampallo learnt about her past from the human rights group Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. They have found 88 people like Ms Sampallo, children of their own sons and daughters who “disappeared”.

The Argentine military imprisoned tens of thousands of people suspected of being subversives and killed as many as 30,000. The junta also decided to “rehabilitate” its enemies’ children by placing them with families that supported the dictatorship. Many of the children were given to the families of men who may have participated in the torture and deaths of their parents.

The Grandmothers say that up to 500 children were abducted by the military or were born in captivity. During the dictatorship the group kept note of women who suddenly appeared with babies without being pregnant, and began investigations that, with recent advances in DNA technology, have begun to get results. Cases involving abducted children have proved crucial to bringing the dictatorship’s architects and executioners to justice. An amnesty for military and police officers imposed by the first postdictatorship government did not include the theft of babies, jurists contended.

“My hope is that each conviction acts as a step toward building the truth,” said Victoria Donda, an MP and activist who was taken from her biological parents at birth and learnt of her real identity in 2003.

The Dirty War

— Approximately 30,000 Argentinians disappeared during the Dirty War, a campaign of violence and intimidation by a series of governments

— The collapse of the alliance between left and right factions in the Peronist movement is seen as the catalyst of the trouble. A paranoid conservative Argentinian group backed the army in taking extreme action to control the Left

— Most disappearances occurred under the military regimes that ruled the country from 1976 to 1983, after the overthrow of Isabel Perón by Jorge Rafael Videla, then head of Argentina's army

— Democracy was swept away and the military became increasingly violent. It regarded a “cleansing” of Argentine society as necessary to the country’s survival

— Liberals, trade unionists, and others suspected of less than wholehearted support for the regime were rounded up. After their interrogation and murder, their bodies were never returned

Sources: ;; National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons


Thursday, April 3, 2008

NEW JERSEY: Letter from Tom McGee--Report Sheds Light on Adoption, April 3, 2008

April 3, 2008

Letter: Report sheds light on adoption

Regarding William Watson's letter stating that "this (adoptee) legislation breaks legal promises,'' let me say that at a N.J. Senate hearing on Dec. 4, 2006, on this matter Thomas Snyder of the New Jersey Bar Association and Deborah Jacobs of
ACLU-NJ, when asked to show where in the law privacy was promised, they both acknowledged that it didn't. ("Unsealed record breaks promise,'' March 21.)

If anyone made a promise of privacy it was contrary to the law. The proposed law pertains only to access to the original birth certificate by an adult adoptee, not adoption records. After all it is their document.

I recommend that Watson and all concerned parties go online and read the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute report "For The Records: Restoring a Legal Right for Adult Adoptees'' ( and learn of the historical context of sealed records. The facts are there for anyone who truly is interested in being pro-adoption.

The proposed legislation is restoring a right to a class of people who have been the least represented in adoption, the adoptees.

And finally "the wonderful people who adopted and raised'' me are and always will be Mom and Dad. Finding out my heritage, health history or anything else will in no way diminish our family. To suggest otherwise is an insult to them. They always put the best interest of their children first.
Thomas McGee

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NEW YORK: Letter by Joyce Bahr--Adoptees Deserve to have Rights to Records, April 3, 2008

ELMIRA Star-Gazette,
April 3, 2008

Letter: Adoptees deserve to have rights to records
April 3, 2008
StoryChat Post Comment

Under legislation pending in the state Senate and Assembly, adoptees will have the same right to their birth records and early health histories as every other person has always had. Currently, eight other states offer this right, and several others are considering it. Adoption records in Kansas and Alaska have never been sealed.

New York began sealing adoption records in the mid-1930s to protect adoptive parents from possible interference from biological parents. Contrary to popular assumption, however, there has never been a legal guarantee of secrecy offered to birth parents who have given up their children for adoption.

Since the 1930s, social perceptions and medical research have evolved to the point where most professionals in the field of adoption agree that open adoption and background information is to the benefit of all concerned. For example, one of the first things a doctor needs to know is a patient's medical and psychiatric history. Currently, that potentially life-saving information is obtainable only by court order and at considerable cost to the individual. Unfortunately it is usually not sought because of those deterrents, to a patient's serious disadvantage.

The proposed adoptee rights legislation strikes a balance between an adopted person's right to know and the confidentiality concerns of biological parents.

With the political fray in Albany this year, these bills need the attention and support of your elected officials. Please contact your state senator urging support of Bill S235 and your assemblyman on Bill A2277.



New York Statewide Adoption Reform

New York, N.Y.

Link to article

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

ENGLAND: Donor Children Demand to Be Told Parents' IDs, March 31, 2008

March 31, 2008

Donor children demand to be told parents' IDs
Sophie Goodchild, Health Editor

Ministers today faced a fresh challenge over fertility reforms.

A new campaign group has accused the Government of refusing to recognise the rights of children born through sperm or egg donation.

The International Donor Offspring Alliance says children who are not told the identity of their genetic parents are at risk of trauma in later life.

It is lobbying for a new style of birth certificate that would record the names of sperm or egg donors so children can track down their parents.

Last week, Gordon Brown was forced to allow MPs a free vote on plans to allow scientists to create embryos with animal and human cells under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. This was in response to pressure from the Catholic church.

About 40,000 Britons have been born through donated sperm or eggs. The Government has already changed the law to allow children conceived after April 2005 to trace their genetic parents.

Peers have tabled an amendment to the Bill, which will be debated next month, that would mean birth certificates being marked with a symbol so children would know they were born through egg or sperm donation. But campaigners say this does not go far enough. Tom Ellis, 25, of the Offspring Alliance, said: "All we want is parity with the rest of society. Adopted children have this information from birth, but our birth certificates are the only ones that can contain a lie."

However, Infertility Network UK, a support group for couples who have had children by fertility treatment, said parents should be left to inform their offspring privately about their origin rather than having new-style birth certificates. Spokeswoman Susan Seenan said: "We polled our members and the response was an overwhelming 'no' because a certificate is very much a public document.

"We are in favour of children being told they are conceived through donor conception but putting it on birth certificates is not the way forward."

Eric Blyth, professor of social work at Huddersfield University, suggested a solution that took account of both sides. "All birth certificates should carry a statement that there may be other information relating to the individual whose birth is recorded," he said.

"If this statement were on all birth certificates it would not compromise the privacy of any individuals."


TOM ELLIS learned the secret about his birth when his parents split up three and a half years ago.

His mother told him the man he called "father" was in fact infertile and his genetic parent was a sperm donor.

Mr Ellis, a 25-year-old Cambridge mathematics graduate, said he was stunned by the revelation.

He said: "They [my parents] never really intended to tell me at all. It was a big shock - a really big thing to take in.

"It's very difficult - if someone lies to you then it's hard and feels like a betrayal." Mr Ellis added: "My brother was also donor-conceived but with a different father. I'd always assumed he was my full brother." The clinic where he was conceived, the Infertility Advisory Centre in London, has since closed down and former staff have refused to help him trace his father.

But he is determined to uncover the truth and has already registered with a DNA matching website to trace any other siblings his father may have helped create.

Mr Ellis said: "It's hard because there is very little information out there but we're going to keep pressing for this."

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NEW JERSEY: Editorial--Ocean View--A Journey into the Labyrinth, March 31, 2008

March 31, 2008

Ocean View
A journey into the labyrinth

Born 8-20-50
Baptism - done
Birth weight
Present weight - 111/2 pounds approx.
Full term - normal delivery
No immunizations given as yet
Parentage - American of German, English
and Slovak ancestry

That was all the information my adoptive parents had to go on when the Catholic Children's Aid Association placed me in their home two days after Christmas. When my adoption was finalized inMarch 1952, the court papers noted that my natural mother had surrendered me in writing and that my father was "unknown."

The two-page judgment of adoption also noted "the condition in life of the child's parents" and said the adoption would be in my best interest.

"...from the date hereof, the rights, duties, privileges and relations heretofore existing between the said Patricia Ann Zurick and his parents shall in all respects be at an end..."

But it didn't end there. And it still has not ended.

That long-ago legal document provided only bare details about my beginnings in this world. But it did hold one all-important clue- my natural mother's last name. It's a detail the state of New Jersey decided that no adult adoptee should have, back when adoption records were sealed in 1940.

I was lucky. My adoptive father handed me the final adoption papers on the day I turned 21.

"You have a right to see this," he said.

Most adult adoptees aren't so fortunate. Their ancestral quest can't even begin without that last name.

The questions began in my childhood. My earliest memory goes back to age 3. It was New Year's Eve and the bells and honking cars wokeme.Mymuch-loved parents came into the room to comfort me. It was then, if my memory is correct, they dropped the bombshell and told me I was adopted.My natural parents, they said, had died in a train wreck.

And my life changed forever.

Occasionally, I would summon up the courage to askmymother aboutmy natural parents. It made her uncomfortable. She told me she thought the last name had started with a Z.

My phantomparents hauntedme. I had an irrational fear they would snatch me off a street corner on my way home from school. At night, I imagined them in the shadows of my bedroom.

When I was in my early teens, my mother dropped another bombshell. My natural parents had not died in a train wreck.

It tookme untilmymid-20s to begin the search. I went to my birthplace, Margaret HagueMaternityHospital in Jersey City.A kind lady in the records department listened to my plight and told me she was sorry she couldn't give me the hospital records. But she gave me some very important advice.

"Go to your family doctor, sign a records release authorization form with your original name, then send it back to me," she said. "We get a lot of people like you here."

The papers arrived in my doctor's office soon after. That was when I learned I weighed 5 pounds, 13 ounces, that I was 19 inches long, that I arrived three weeks early and that I was my natural mother's fourth child. The papers had another stunning bit of information - both my natural mother's and father's names. My parents had been married at the time of my birth. They were both from Shamokin, Pa., a small coal-mining town.

My then-husband went to the Jersey CityHall of Records and wove a story about a medical emergency. We needed my family's history and we needed names, he told the clerk.

The clerk was angry. He said the information was sealed by state law. My husband persisted. I was very sick, he said, and we needed the information.

The clerk walked away. He came back several minutes later with a ledger book and dumped it on the counter.

"Here," he said. "You didn't get this from me." The birth records matched the hospital records. I knew who I was.

But the subterfuge the adoptedmust resort to continued. I went to St. Aedan's Church in Jersey City, where I had been baptized six weeks after I was born. The rectory receptionist greeted me warmly when I asked for a copy of my original baptismal certificate. I gave my last name as Zurick. She left the room and returned a few minutes later. Her demeanor had changed. "What are you trying to pull?" she asked angrily. "You know we can't give that information out."

Shortly after that, I dialed Pennsylvania information and asked for any Zurick listings from Shamokin. There were quite a few. I closed my eyes and picked out one. It landed on the name Joseph Zurick.When I dialed the number, his wife, Gertrude, answered. Instead of being annoyed by a stranger's call, she was intrigued.

That was the beginning of a five-year friendship. I learned the man listed as my natural father had been an alcoholic, who brutalized my mother and three brothers. She left him and moved to North Jersey in 1946. They never divorced. He tried many times to get her to return.

We visitedmyAunt Gertrude andUncle Joe in 1977. No one answered the front door, so we walked around back. My aunt and uncle had just returned from church. They had a group of relatives assembled to see the stranger who had come to visit. When I rounded the corner of the house, there was a collective gasp. To use an old cliché, I was the spitting image ofmy natural mother.

I never met her. We did reach her by phone once. She denied ever having me.

I wrote to her. I told her I had no wish to intrude on her life, that I just wanted some basic medical information and family history. She never answered.

Adult adoptees should not have to resort to lying or misrepresentation to find out who they are. Imagine telling an African- American, Chinese, Hispanic, Irish or person of any ethnicity they are not entitled to their original birth certificates.

The New Jersey state Senate approved bill S-611 recently. The bill would allow adult adoptees to petition the state registrar for their original birth certificates. The bill now heads to the Assembly.

That's the good part. But the bill also gives biological parents a year to file a "no contact" letter to allow them to remain anonymous. The birth parents would instead have to provide a family history form and update it every 10 years.

That's too big a loophole.Adult adoptees have a civil right to their original birth certificates. It's that simple.

Patricia Miller is a managing editor with Greater Media Newspapers.

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