Illinois Adoption News

Below is extracted from an email I received from Melisha Mitchell today. Bolding (of particular interest to me) is my own.

“Dear Friends…

Yes, we have done it again. With about the same amount of fanfare as it was accompanied by while traveling through the Illinois General Assembly, House Bill 5949 will be signed by Governor Quinn sometime in the coming week, making Illinois the first state to provide a remedy for adoptees for whom no original birth certificate was ever filed (due to a home birth or a clever midwife who circumvented the law) and possibly the first (correct me if I’m wrong…) to allow an “original mother” named on an OBC to obtain a copy of their birth child’s original birth certificate upon written request.

Although there was a lot of rejoicing (in Illinois, anyway) after our OBC Access bill passed in 2010, it quickly became clear that, despite our efforts to be as all-inclusive as impossible, there were an alarming number of adoptees (an estimated 10%, or more than hundred times as many as those whose OBC was “redacted”) who were coming home empty-handed with very little to celebrate…In some cases there was simply no original birth certificate on file (for all of the reasons cited above). In others, the birth certificate on file did not include any identifying information. For example, in Peoria during the 50s and early 60s, nearly every birth certificate associated with a certain adoption agency (which shall remain nameless here) had “legally omitted” written where the birth mother’s name should have been. Of course, there was nothing legal at all about this omission. Likewise, the case of Tom M. who found the words “birth mother does not wish to provide information” scribbled where his birth mother’s name, age and place of birth should have been. Based on what little Tom knows of his adoption, the desire to hide the fact that there was a little family hanky panky going on was more likely to have been at the root of this subterfuge than what the birth mother actually wished or did not wish to disclose. In fact, it has become crystal clear over the past four years that, in cases where birth mothers did not wish to reveal their identities, they simply lied about who they were, where they were from, how old they were, what they did for a living and/or anything else they could think of to conceal who they were. They didn’t simply “refuse” to fill out the OBC.

The remedy which Illinois has come up with will probably get a few tomatoes thrown at it by the purists out there, but it provides adoptees whose original birth certificates could not be located or left them clueless with a simple way of obtaining the same information that would have been included on their original birth certificate in the first place. To achieve this task, the state will rely on other records from the birth and adoption (the agency file, legal paperwork) to ascertain what basic information (birth mother’s name, age, profession, and place of birth) should have appeared on the original birth document. The law goes into effect in January 2015. If this first-ever provision applies to you or someone in your family (the new law also gives grandchildren of adoptees access to the OBC under conditions similar to those for children of deceased adoptees), please email me and I’ll let you know where to go and what to do to get the OBC in question.

Another first (or almost first…we’re not sure) in the new law is a provision that allows any birth parent named on an original birth certificate to obtain a copy of their birth child’s OBC by written request. This provision culminates a long battle for me (and an option I’ve tried to introduce into Illinois law since 1997!!). As a birth mother, I have never understood why the person who, theoretically, completed, or at least approved and signed, the original birth certificate would be denied access to this document under any circumstances. No matter what had happened between the birth and the voluntary or involuntary termination of that birth mother’s parental rights, it did not negate the fact that she had given birth to a child). I also have never understood why birth fathers, whose names began occasionally appearing on OBC’s in the late 1970s, were never allowed to access the documents that had their names splashed across them. Many birth mothers are not in a happily-ever-after reunion with their birth son or daughter (including me as of this writing–but, always at my birth daughter’s request, we have see-sawed back and forth for most of the eighteen years since I located her). Yet, based on the letters I received, even those who’d been outright rejected by their first-born still really wanted to have some tangible record of their child’s arrival in this world. From here on in, all they need to do is ask.

Other good news in this legislation, which gives Illinois arguably some of the most progressive and thoughtful adoption laws in the world, is the fact that, henceforth, all searches through the state confidential intermediary program will be free of charge to adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents who qualify for this option under state law.

Although I was not the primary architect of the final draft of this legislation, I certainly had a lot of input into its language and provisions…and am elated that, once again, Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, the bill’s indomitable sponsor, was able to carry the ball across the finish line and score another major victory for Illinois triad members.” – Melisha Mitchell email dated Jul 1 2014

When Caseworkers Respond 2

Another mother shared the correspondence she received several years ago from her Easter House Caseworker.  This was sent to her via email. As with previous posting, I have removed identifying details (names).

The website she refers to is ehbabes.com

Thoughts?

Dear [named removed]

I had surgery a while ago and was out of my office for several weeks. I returned to a mass of e-mails, phone calls and issues that needed to be dealt with including yours.   

 

You should know that I haven’t worked for Easter House in almost 6 years.  Believe it or not, you are the first birth mother that has contacted me since I left the agency.  Since I no longer have any ability to get information from their office I am afraid that I am limited as to how I can help you. 

 

I did call an old co-worker who still works for the agency and asked about help with some information, but it is difficult since I don’t have a last name to go by and she can only retrace birth dates.  Also, adoptive parents aren’t required to send in information ongoing throughout the years (or at least they weren’t required to) so I don’t even know what would be in your file.

 

I know  that many birth mothers are unhappy with their adoption decision and  some are unhappy with Easter House, but to my knowledge it  was never the  intention of the case manager to intentionally mislead a  client (at least it was certainly never my intention).  I worked with many birth moms over a lot of years and tried to do right by all of them.  It was never an easy decision for any of them and I have never taken their situations lightly.  I have never been aware of any sibling that weren’t placed together, so I am confident that your babies are with the same parents.  I don’t know how I can help you any further.  I wish I could give you answers but I can’t.    

 

As for the website….I don’t know what you want me to say.  I wasn’t aware of most of the allegations made about Easter House and other agencies.  I was a little busy trying to care for my  clients and their children to notice what was happening in other states,  perhaps that was  my shortsightedness, but case managers weren’t informed  of on-going  legal battles either.  Every time you have private  agencies up against  state agencies you are going to have legal issues…both  think they  should have more rights that the  other.  Adoptions are very competitive businesses everywhere and it can make for a lot of ugliness.  Hopefully the clients don’t get lost in the shuffle and mislead.  But adoptions are hard because clients don’t want to place their children for adoption, and if the circumstances were different they wouldn’t have to.  Unfortunately, some circumstances couldn’t be changed and the decision to place was made.  It wasn’t my  decision and I don’t  think I ever pushed anyone into that choice, but I  couldn’t change the  reality of the situation they were in either.   Hopefully the majority of my clients realized that I was trying to help them through a difficult time and not monopolize on their situation.  I think the majority of my clients knew that I genuinely cared about what happened to them and their children…I wish you did as well.   

 

I’ll be glad to right you anytime….please feel free to keep in touch.

When Caseworkers Respond

Remember the mom of a few days ago that expressed interest in meeting with the Easter House caseworker?

She wrote a letter and requested a meeting.  Below is the response she received via certified mail.  Names have been removed by me by design.  It feels important to note that this mother has already found her child and is in reunion.

I will let you comment before I share mine. Note I have the mothers original letter as well.  I will ask for her permission to post that.  I can assure you it was very non threatening, non worthy of a being told she needs mental help.

Edited 5/9 to add mothers letter. I blurred out certain identifying information of mother or her family.  Remainder is unchanged.  

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