My name is Amy Burt. By now you know of me. Some of you may have even read some of my statistical information that I have sent to your offices. Several states are introducing legislation that would open the records to all actively involved in adoption, the adoptees, the first parents, and the adoptive parents. Those states are Texas, New York, New Jersey, Missouri, and North Carolina. I am asking you to do the same for the state of Indiana.
Recently the law HB1716 was passed. It prohibits discrimination against people on the basis on sexual preference, sexual identity, and ANCESTRY. Doesn't the state of Indiana do exactly that to adoptees born before 1993? I am not entitled to my heritage because (gasp) I am adopted yet you allow those born in 1993 to have theirs. I call that discrimination.
For the last three Thanksgiving Holidays the Surgeon General has pushed for families to discuss medical history. He urges all to get this information so that the family doctor can effectively treat them. Adoptees consistently do not have this information. Personally I would rather get it myself than to have the state to be involved in this situation. Its private and personal information that does not need to be broadcasted in the offices of adoption and state agencies. Its something that should be passed from mother/father to child. The other issue for me is that no one is entitled to anyone else's medical records.
Recently, the State Department put out that there would be changes in the passport department. No birth certificate would be accepted if it was not filed within two weeks of birth. My own birth certificate was file in August 1965. Because of that, I would be suspect. Here I am a Desert Storm veteran. Here I am a Cingular employee. Here I am a mother myself. Here I am a wife of a Desert Storm veteran. Here my husband works on a ranch that supplies the nation its beef. I would be considered a possible terrorist just because I was born under suspect situations.
Recently I came upon an article from Germany. Two adoptees met and fell in love. They ended up having children. What is so horrible about this is that these two adoptees were brother and sister. This is why their children were severely mentally delayed. Adoptees across this country are subject to just this kind of thing. It is because adoption is shrouded in secrecy. Heck even Primetime did a show on this. It is a distinct possibility in this country with already several cases being brought forward. Yet Indiana continues to hide the secrets.
The Adoption Medical History Registry is not accurate. It doesn't contain up to date information. In fact I received no information. It is not widely advertised. The Passive registry again doesn't work because only 14% in recent years resulted in reunions. When some adoption agencies will not allow the first fathers and their families to sign up for it, it doesn't work. When the registry only allows for the first parents specifically first mothers to sign up for it, it doesn't work for the siblings of the first parents nor the children of the first families to find their adopted counter part. No one is given any real choices in the options that Indiana offers. We are subject to the whims of the clerks and staff in the offices of the state registrar and the adoption agencies.
Confidential Intermediaries don't work either. The CI might come off as brash, blunt, and rude to whomever is contacted. Adoption agency CI also has an ulterior motive. They don't want reunions to even occur. I know because I now realized that I was burned by one. My CI used to be the executive director of the agency. She was also an adoptive parent. The merged agency is also known for taking money and not making any phone calls. Lying to the adoptee and the first parent about contact. My biggest fear is that mine was contacted, she wanted contact, and now I have not contacted her. The CI system has also had its share of ripping people off. They don't answer to anyone. There is no regulation of it whatsoever. What is even worse is that I don't even know if my birthdate is even accurate. I met a woman that gave birth to a son the day before me. She never saw another woman. They would have run into each other. They did not have private rooms for these women. CI's treat adoptees and their first parents with disrespect by making them beg for their information. Paying huge sums of money just to get what should be rightfully theirs. It is not that way for non adopted individuals. The laws should be equal for all. If you allow adoptees born after 1993 to have their records, adoptees born before that should have them as well. It is blatant discrimination.
When both Tennessee and Oregon opened their records, lawsuits ensued. Both ended in the favor of adoptees and first parents who wanted contact. Both state courts agreed that states were not obligated by promises made by adoption agencies, medical services, social services, and religious services. One other point to remember as well is that women are utilizing their right to privacy with abortion, contraception, and parenting. With adoption, first parents have given up their rights ~ all of them including the right to privacy. First parents do not have the fundamental right to give their children up for adoption; therefore do not have the right to have their identities kept confidential from their children.
After having spoken with thousands of first mothers across this country including Indiana, the mothers of that era were treated deplorably. Many were sent to maternity homes. Those homes did not feed women like they should. They only gave them three sparse meals a day. They received no snacks. They were no allowed access to church services. They very often did not receive proper medical care. They were denied pain relief because they were "bad." This is all very well documented in the book by Ann Fessler, The Girls Who Went Away. Ann Fessler documented over a 100 stories from these women. Look at the television show "Cold Case." Women were treated horribly. I want those adoption agencies and maternity homes to pay for what they have done to my first mother. It horrifies me to know that she and millions of others were treated like prisoners all because they got pregnant.
Recently the Evan B. Donaldson put a study on first mothers. Over 90% wanted contact with their children. With the statistics coming out of Oregon and New Hampshire, those numbers are higher. They stand at 99%. First parents want contact via a CI only .4% of the time. Yes I did say point four percent. 80% of adoptive parents also want their adopted children to have access to their records.
With all this information, when are you, the Indiana state legislator, going to listen to us living adoption? Why are the laws in Indiana allowed to stand when they don't answer to the needs of the majority? Adoptees and their extended families don't need or want the protection of the state and adoption agencies. We want to live our own lives on our terms. We don't want the state or the adoption agency to sabotage our relationships. Isn't time for the laws of Indiana to reflect that?
Amy K. Burt
OREGON STATISTICAL INFORMATION
ADOPTEE ACCESS LAWS
# OF RECORDS # OF RECORDS # OF NO CONTACT # OF CONTACT
YEAR REQUESTED PROCESSED PREFERENCE THRU CI
2001 5832 5565 79 (1.4%) 27 (0.4%)
2002 6722 6439 80 (1.2%) 28 (0.4%)
2003 7459 7296 81 (1.1%) 29 (0.4%)
2004 8021 7811 81 (1.0%) 28 (0.4%)
2005 8486 8190 83 (1.0%) 29(0.4%)
OREGON STATISTICAL INFORMATION
YEAR # OF ADOPTIONS
The law went into effect in May 2001. Adoptions have not gone back down to the level of 1998.
NEW HAMPSHIRE STATISTICAL INFORMATION
ADOPTEE ACCESS LAWS
# OF RECORDS # OF CONTACT # OF NO CONTACT
YEAR PROCESSED THRU CI PREFERENCE
2005 778 6 (0.7%) 11 (1.4%)
2006 137 1 (0.7%) 1 (0.7%)
It was in 2005 that the law allowed adoptee access to their records.
Studies and Research:
Surgeon General Family History Project:
National Association of Social Workers
Court Cases from Tennessee and Oregon
Adoptee, Birth Parent, and Adoptive Parent Supporters