P.S. Before I get into this letter to all the newspaper reporters of Indiana, I wanted everyone to know that all I have received from the Indiana leggies is this - We are out of the office Friday but we will get back to you as soon as we can. I got about ten of those. At least this time, everyone took my emails. Last time I wrote the leggies in Indiana, many of them would not take my emails since I am from Texas.
My name is Amy K. Burt. I am an Indiana adoptee living in Texas. I am writing to you to ask for your help. I want you to see the plight of adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents. What we all seek is honesty in our lives. Many of us are denied that basic right. I want to tell you my story. I also want you to check the facts out. I will provide many links to accurate information. One of the biggest liars in adoption is the National Council for Adoption. In their Adoption Factbook III, they wrote the wrong information about Indiana in it. Onto my story.
I was born on July 30, 1965 in Indianapolis, Indiana. I was placed for adoption in the Suemma Coleman Home for Unwed Mothers. I was named Michelin at birth. I also knew that I was the product of an extra-marital affair. In this day and age, no one would have looked twice at the affair. I knew that my birth mother was 22 when I was born and that she was from Indiana. She is the unwed person in this. I knew that my birth father was married. My adoptive parents thought that the name she gave me was very unusual. My mother told me that she thought it was a combination of names. I was renamed after a nurse that took care of me at the hospital. For most of my life this was all I knew. I got my non identifying information in 1997 which was what I already had. I wrote the Vital Statistics office in 2005 requesting the information be resent to me. It was considerably less this time around. I want it understood that my adoptive family wanted and supported my search. I had a good loving family that raised me to be strong, healthy and wise. They also taught me how to fight.
After I resigned from the United States Postal Service, I got back a great deal of money from my retirement accounts. I was able to buy this computer. I was finally able to afford to have the Coleman Agency search for me. It was $325 to have them search and make contact with my birth family. Katrina was my search specialist. I have no complaints with her. She is very good at what she does. I think the confidential intermediary law really stinks. I am a fourty one year old woman. Who decided that I needed someone to act on my behalf? I thought that I was all grown up. Indiana doesn't see it that way. I can only imagine the bind this put Katrina in. She is one of the few CI's that does care about the adoptee or birth parent searching. She makes sure that a person is prepared. I was well prepared but I don't think anyone could have been prepared for what I faced. She refused and it broke my heart. I spent the first few days afterwards crying, crying and more crying. I could not understand. I made sure that I was so prepared for her. She called back once to make sure that I could not hunt her down. Thank Goodness that Katrina is smart on her feet. It was my understanding that Katrina told her no I could not find her through the agency but that I could very well hire a private investigator. All my birth mother wanted to know is if she could keep this (me) out of her life. This is the adoption story that you don't hear about. Its the one percent that refuse. Most birth parents want to know their kids. That they were not promised any privacy. I have heard this from hundreds if not thousands of birth mothers across this country. Many if not most of these women wanted the chance to speak with her. It was a couple of weeks after this whole mess went down that I finally was able to get my non identifying information from the agency. All I can say about it was WOW! I found out that my birth father wanted to adopt me. He begged, pleaded and tried coercing her into giving me to him. He was married but he also lost three children to birth defects. He and his wife had only one child. His wife was told not to have any more children. He went back to his wife and told her of the affair and my result. They both pleaded with the agency and her to give me to them. For whatever reason she chose not to. I know that he called back about five months later asking again to adopt. This is all in my records.
As my search for her came to a close, I then asked if I could contact him. I was told no. Indiana law doesn't allow it. I was told that Indiana was sued over the wrongfully named fathers. The birth mother owns the records. Not the adoptee, the adoptive parents, or the birth father. To read the law, it says birth parent, not birth mother. I tried using the pre-adoptive sibling to contact my birth father and his daughter, my sister. It was a no go again because the law pertains only to the birth mother. Even though my birth father said he wanted to adopt me, he called about it constantly, and he begged my birth mother, he is just the supposed father. Not even the putative father. What the difference is -beyond me. With the way the law is written, the adoptee, the birth father, his children, the birth mother's children, and all relatives from both sides of the triad can't make contact legally with each other. We could all be on the passive registry and we won't be connected because she has refused contact. This is not actually written in any law that I have found. It is one of those obscure rules that is hidden. It smacks you in the head when you least expect it.
You are probably thinking that the law worked as it was supposed to. No it didn't because I am denied access to a father, a sister, two brothers, numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins. They are denied access to me. Keep in mind my father wanted me. I believe he deserves to know that I turned out okay and I am very much alive. You can read her transcripts at http://www.amyadoptee.blogspot.com/ and click on the April link. It will take you right to it. You will also find a copy of this letter and a letter that I sent to all of your state's legislators to include the Governor.
You have probably heard the abortion argument and the privacy argument. I will dispense with those arguments right off the bat. The abortion vs. adoption is an argument that is defunct. There are many things that affect those options for a woman today. One is birth control and the other is women are keeping their children. These factors have not been included in the research done on both of these issues. Two of the states with the longest history of open records - Kansas and Alaska both have the highest adoption rates and the lowest abortion rates. Kansas is one of the lowest in the country and it doesn't have a ban on partial birth abortion. You would think they would be one of the highest because of this and the open records issue. One of the common themes in these open records states is that birth parents want to know that their children are safe and alive. They did give their children up for a "better life." Oregon, Tennessee, and New Hampshire all have the same response in opening their records. 99% of birth parents want contact from their children. Only 1% of birth parents have filed a no-contact form with the states' vital statistics offices. Here is a link to one of those states - http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/chs/order/58update.shtml One other thing that I find also interesting is that one quarter of 1% want contact through a confidential intermediary. I find it interesting that it is only adoptees that have to go through social workers to make contact with their family. We have been given a degrading chattel status. Most families don't want to deal with a social worker invaded their lives. It also gives the person being searched a way out instead of doing the right thing.
The argument for privacy is another that has been thrown out by Tennessee's Supreme Court. I have heard from many a birth parent that privacy was never promised. If it was, where is the copy of it in the adoption records? It doesn't exist that is why. The adoption records are sealed when the adoption is finalized not when the birth parent signs the relinquishment papers. In 1996 Tennesse legislature passed a law granting adoptees access to their original birth certificates subject to contact vetoes and significant exception clauses. The law was stopped by a court injuntion when a group of birth mothers, adoptive parents, and an adoption agency filed suit claiming the law violated their constitutional rights under both federal and state laws. The court case ended when the U. S. Supreme court declined to overrule the Appeals court ruling in favor of the defendents and open records. The courts rejected the plaintiffs claim that their right to privacy was infringed upon. The right to privacy means the right to be free from governmental intrusion. This court stated that " a birth is a simultaneously an intimate occasion and a public event -- the government has long kept records of when, where, and by whom the babies are born. Such records have many purposes, such as furthering the interest of children in knowing the circumstances of their birth." The judges of the Sixth Circuit Court further found that "if there is a federal constitutional right of familial privacy, it does not extend as far as the plaintiffs would like."
The right to privacy doesn't extend to withholding birth information from the very person to whom it justly pertains to - the adoptee. The state government is infringing on my right to privacy by withholding this information. It is a basic human right to a person's heritage. It is considered normal behavior for a non adopted individual to seek his own identity. Adoptees, on the other hand, are considered ungrateful or better, insane for wanting to know their identity. All I want is my original birth certificate. It records my birth information. It is my basic human right to have it. I do not have a right to a relationship with my birth parents but I should have the right to have the documents that pertain to my birth. Indiana denies this to all adoptees born before 1993. Are the younger adoptees more adept at dealing with their adoption than the older ones? I have two questions for you. Do your parents own your birth certificate? Would you accept being forced into a contract made about you for your best interest for the rest of your life? Remember you can't break that contract ever. Your answers would a resounding and deafening NO, yet you expect me to do just that.
There are many books out there by birth parents and adoptees. One that is very popular amongst the adoption crowd is Anne Fessler's book " The Girls Who Went Away." I would not be a bit surprised if the local newspaper or television station has already written about it. I have read every review about it. On September 18, 2006 it was reviewed by People Magazine. A few of the birthmothers from the book were also interviewed. In fact I am friends with some of those very same birth mothers. I have birth mother friends in Indiana as well. Lezli Adams, an open records advocate, is another one that you might want to interview. She is a hoosier. She will tell you that those records belong to the adoptee, the birth parents, and the adoptive parents.
Here are the websites that I found my information at:
The Evan Donaldson Institute
The many blogs listed on my blog for both adoptees , birth families, and adoptive families. Again my blog address is Http://www.amyadoptee.blogspot.com/
I hope this will help you make the public aware in Indiana the plight of the adoptee and his families, adoptive and birth. There are six million adoptees. Most people are touched by adoption via family, friend, coworker, etc. Its time we change the laws in this state to allow for openness and understanding. With you helping us, I think we could change the laws. WE need you to do that.
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. I have enclosed all my information for you to contact me. I have other contact information for you to round out your story.
Amy K. Burt