February 2012

Posted on February 25th, 2012
Filed under Uncategorized | No Comments

Both of my parents died in the month of February, my father in 1965, my mother in 1987. My husband’s parents also died in this month. So it’s a season when we spend some time thinking about family and about the people who are special to us. It is a month of remembrance.

This February is particularly special. A quarter century ago, my mother died. She never got to see her grandson, Tiff, who would be born that year of 1987, though she witnessed his impending arrival in an ultra sound. I miss my mom today. I miss her always. Our sons missed out on having a relationship with her – though they will always have a relationship to her.

I am reminded this month that there are people ‘out there’, people I’m related to, who are human beings – and treat others as such. It is a good month – and I am grateful to have lived to be here in this time and place…

2011

Posted on December 22nd, 2011
Filed under Uncategorized | No Comments

2011 has been a significant year for adoption reform.

On May 9th, NJ-CARE made history by getting adoptee access legislation through both houses. After witnessing all that’s involved in politics in New Jersey, the dual passage was nothing short of herculean. All that remained to make access a reality was the governor’s signature. Governor Christie had 45 days to respond. He conditionally vetoed the bill on the very last day he could do so, timing his decision to coincide with a hotly debated bill regarding unions, effectively burying any response to the birthright legislation on the back pages of local papers. It was heartbreaking to watch – and yet inspirational as NJ-CARE regrouped this fall to begin anew.

On July 1st, unlike NJ’s Christie, Rhode Island’s governor Lincoln Chafee courageously signed legislation which will give all RI adoptees their OBC’s at the age of 25. While the age is problematic (if society believes an 18 year old is responsible enough to fight a war, why must they be 25 to receive their own birth certificate?), the bottom line is all adopted citizens will finally have access starting July 1, 2012. With only Vermont and Connecticut (and the sandwich in Massachusetts) to go, New England is poised to be the first region where adopted citizens have equal access in the US.

And on November 15th, the state of Illinois enacted the last phase of their adoptee birthright legislation, opening the door for all adult adopted citizens to apply for their original birth certificates. On this one single day, more records became available (350,000 including the original pre-1946 release in 2012) than in all other states which have reversed sealed records laws combined. Because of a limited budget due to a state financial crisis, only two people are handling the thousands of requests that have come in. While the process is slow, and the inability to have an ‘opening day’ akin to Maine or New Hampshire was disappointing (not all records are electronic or centralized, so such an event was impossible), the enactment was momentous. A game changer. While there have been many naysayers, the bottom line is that ALL Illinois adopted citizens will receive something. If a birthparent wishes to remain anonymous (320 have thus far requested this out of a total of 350,000 sealed records) their name will be redacted, but the record will still be released. The adoptee will, in essence, receive a private communication from their birth parent with this redaction – for whatever reason, it is not a good time to reconnect. Far better to receive this, than to have a state clerk say ‘no’ to all adoptees. If there is no record of birth at all (which is the case for not only some obc’s but also for records of some non-adopted citizens, particularly those born in rural areas) the adopted citizen will at least learn that. Having witnessed folks at the moment they have received their Illinois birth certificate, its hard not to applaud this complicated bill. It is getting the job done.

I have had difficulty understanding those who attack the people who have been down in the pits fighting for this access. There’s always a presumption that those who work legislation which has become laden with compromises of redactions, age limits, and contact vetoes are copouts, that they are foolish or weak or worse – that they aren’t interested in unlimited access for all. It’s crazy, and nothing could be further from the truth. It is so easy to stand on the sidelines and shout about access for all – those are just words. But it’s action that counts if there’s going to be change. People of action were responsible this year for kicking the ball way down the field.

To all those who fight the legislative battles, thank you for making 2011 an extraordinary year. If the naysayers had their way, not one record would have been released in 2011. Instead – hundreds of thousands of adoptees now have the ability to apply for their obc – and THAT is something to celebrate.

Bravo!

DECEMBER 2010

Posted on September 15th, 2011
Filed under Uncategorized | No Comments

We’ve heard that 250,000 viewers have seen the film so far on PBS, everywhere from New York City to Los Angeles. Once in a while, I’ll hear from someone, or see something like this online:

I was home sick last night. As I curled on my couch, flipping through channels, I stopped at my local PBS station because my cable box told me the program was called “Adopted: for the Life of Me”. There was no more program information available, but I stop for anything labeled adoption, even for just a minute.

I was riveted.

This was a documentary about older adult adoptees and their searches for their original identifying information – their birth certificates, birth parents’ names, health information – information that non-adopted folks like myself take completely for granted. The film was heart-wrenching and highlighted the ridiculousness that exists in most states in the USA, the inability for adults to find out their origins.

As an adoptive mom, it was hard for me to watch the scenes where a grown man finally found information about his birth mother, and began to say things like “I’m going to go see where my mom lived”. I ached for that man’s adoptive mom – wasn’t she his mom?! But I realized that yes, she was his mom, but so was this stranger that he’d never met – never have the chance to meet. It made me question how many labels we put on our families: adoptive-this, birth-that, half-the-other-thing. When what we could all use in this world is a bit more family.

The film really brought home to me the injustice of permanently sealed records, and the fact that state by state, that needs to change. Some states are slowly opening records to adult adoptees, but unfortunately, most do not.

When my daughter is ready to search, I know I’ll have some conflicted feelings about it, but it won’t be about me, it will be about her. And even if her records are officially sealed, I have some information in my back pocket that I technically shouldn’t have that might help us search. I need to make it clear that I would *never* violate her birthmom’s privacy or search for her without my daughter’s consent and participation. But I can make it a little easier for her if I need to.

And after watching that documentary last night, I know just how important that sense of finding out “who I really am” and “where I really come from” can be. A sense I’ve taken for granted all my life.

Wow. Annette Baran once told me that our work was all about education – that people needed help to understand the situation before they could comprehend the need for change. I don’t think I ever understood the power of her charge until now…

November 2010

Posted on November 2nd, 2010
Filed under Uncategorized | No Comments

It’s NATIONAL ADOPTION MONTH – and ADOPTED: for the life of me will be screening across the country all this month on public television!
The film will be airing every day of the first week of November throughout New Jersey, and in New York City and Philadelphia.
To see when the film might be broadcast in your area, visit www.adoptedforthelifeofme.com and click on the “FIND PBS BROADCAST” button at the bottom of any of the five main pages of the site and you’ll see the most up to date list of broadcasts. New air dates are being added regularly so check often!

October 2010

Posted on October 3rd, 2010
Filed under Uncategorized | No Comments

We’re live!
Please visit www.adoptedforthelifeofme.com!

September 2010

Posted on October 3rd, 2010
Filed under Uncategorized | No Comments

What a month!

We’ve been working hard to prepare an outreach campaign to coincide with the broadcast of the film on Public Television Stations, beginning in November of 2010. The film’s website is going live on October 5th, with all kinds of new tools, for everything from hosting a screening to how to find when the film is playing in your neck of the woods, to maps which will help audience members learn about their state and find out what simple things they can do to help in this effort.

I headed with my husband Jon to Wisconsin mid-month, for a brief break in the film outreach, to begin work on a new project which has been in the works for a few months. This new short film (working title: “The Value of a Single Life”) is an examination of two men who both fought for the Wisconsin 6th in the Civil War. One lived and one died, and the impact of their destinies on their families is a testament to the value of fathers, a value that affects generations. I was able to watch my nephew, Reed, one of the lead cheerleaders for the University of Wisconsin, toss teammates in the air and somersault in celebration as the Badgers beat the ASU Sun Devils.

Jon then headed to South Dakota (where he went down 5,000 feet underground, to see a new lab being built by the National Science Foundation), while I went to Minnesota for the first community screening of the PBS version of “ADOPTED: for the life of me”. Over 70 people showed up for the screening – a fantastic turnout, and hopefully a portend of screenings to come. Many thanks to Mary Mason and her wonderful team of Minnesota colleagues for a memorable evening.

Then I was off to spend a few very special and rare days with my birth family. I got to attend a high school reunion with my brothers and sisters (my brother Mike being the main organizer), spend an afternoon with my very special nephew Lucas, hang with my brother Jim, hug my birthmom Lee and tease her mercilessly (my goal in life), and meet my sister Sue’s mastiffs Lily and Chloe (who are taller than me…)

Then it was off to Chicago to spend three incredible and exhausting days with Sara Feigenholtz, the Illinois State Representative who spent the past fourteen years pushing an adoptee access to information bill through the state legislature. With passage of the bill in May, Illinois became the 10th state to provide access to its citizens. Sara, and her intrepid staffers Stephen and TIffany, whisked me and fellow filmmaker Jerry Peck, to countless interviews, feeding us only sporadically, but introducing us to some extraordinary legislative colleagues, from Senator Mike Madigan to Senator A.J. Wilhelmi, who graciously found time to meet with us during a tense elective season. I arrived back home with some extraordinary interviews in my film bag. Can’t wait to get into the editing room!

August 2010

Posted on October 3rd, 2010
Filed under Uncategorized | No Comments

August began with Annette Baran’s incredible memorial service in Santa Monica. With many of Annette’s dearest friends traveling across the country to attend, from Joyce Maguire Pavao to Martha Hulbert, as many Californians traveling hundreds of miles, from Sharon Roszia to Karen Vedder to Nancy Verrier and Sarah Burns, those of us from the adoption reform movement at the service had an opportunity to know Annette from new perspectives, through the eyes of her family and friends. Montages of Annette’s life and short video clips illuminated the life of this irreplaceable advocate for openness in adoption. It was fascinating (and hard!) to watch a video of Annette on “60 Minutes” back in 1975. She was spot on with her comments to Morley Safer – yet the exact same discussion could have taken place today, making many of us feel like we hadn’t moved the ball down the field very far in the 35 years since that taping – until we reflected on what Annette accomplished in her lifetime. 85% of adoptions are open today – and Annette was one of those who led the parade. While we continue to fight on behalf of an increasingly aging population of adopted citizens who seek to the know the beginning of their life story, we can celebrate the battles won in recent years. Annette’s pioneering efforts led the way for so many of us. We will miss her every day – and work hard to continue the work she began.

The day I returned from California, I received word that “For the Life of Me” will be screened on PBS in November! At the suggestion of my friend Peter Daulton, who has made the terrific short films “Flowers From the Heartland” and “Eyes Wide Open”, I submitted the film to NETA, which supplies programming to PBS. The film was selected and we’re now gearing up for the broadcasts with an outreach campaign. Hopefully, we’ll be up and running by November 1st, when the broadcasts begin. There’s much to do – and everyone interested in having a broader debate across the country about adoptee access to records, is welcome to find ways to utilize the film as a tool to spark a discussion and hopefully engage new people to take action!

July 2010

Posted on August 18th, 2010
Filed under Uncategorized | No Comments

On July 11th, 2010, all of us in the adoption reform movement lost one of the most significant pioneers in our history. Annette Baran is one of a handful of individuals who changed the way our society would look at adoption. As a social worker, for a quarter century, in her own words she bought the necessity for sealed records in adoption “hook, line, and sinker.” But the day that a young adult adoptee came into her office, wanting her help in connecting with his birthparents, Annette not only listened – she took action. Her groundbreaking study with colleague Reuben Pannor, on the impact of secrecy in adoption, and the subsequent publishing of their findings in “The Adoption Triangle”, Annette led the way. She was tiny in stature, but a giant among us. She mentored many of us, was a friend to all, and a wise sage who became the ‘go to’ person about adoption issues, from Oprah to 60 Minutes to McNeil and Lehrer, Annette helped educate millions of people. The work she began is not yet done, and the baton she carried must be borne by many. She asked us questions, played matchmaker in many of the friendships we all share, and was I believe, to her dying day, pushing us all to seek the better angels she spent the second half of her life pursuing. Any reform that is achieved, past, present or future, will have in many ways, been sparked by Annette. She will be missed. Forever…

June 2010

Posted on August 18th, 2010
Filed under Uncategorized | No Comments

June was a whirlwind, climaxing in the New Jersey International Film Festival, where the film received honorable mention in the best documentary category, and an emotional response from the attending audience. The film was attended by both Dave Kiley and Joe DeGironimo, the primary subjects in “For the Life of Me”. The dinner held before the screening was the first moment the two men met – it was a great affair, and it was wonderful how many members of NJ-CARE made it to Rutgers for the film’s NJ premiere.
The film has its very origins in the state of New Jersey, where the first rolls of tape were shot in 2005 with the intention of creating a 45 second PSA. Thanks to Pam Hasegawa’s encouragement, and the kindness and support of many other people, the film grew into a feature. Screening it in New Jersey was like bringing it back home.
With New Jersey on the cusp of passage of adoptee access legislation through both houses – a historical moment – I was also able to film one of the final hearings of S799 as it passed through the Assembly Health committee, and on to the next stage, the entire Assembly, a vote that will take place this fall. If you haven’t weighed in yet with a letter to Governor Christie regarding the bill, please take a moment to visit www.nj-care.org and find out ways you can help. There continues to be a lot of misinformation out there – the folks at NJ-CARE deserve a standing ovation for their tenacity and patience…

May 2010

Posted on June 10th, 2010
Filed under Uncategorized | No Comments

I’ve been on the road for six weeks, and had a good time, despite swine flu and a propensity to lose things (like my boom pole, my phone, my flash drive, my mind). The best thing of all was that my youngest son, Jonathon, graduated from Penn (yippee!) and so there was much partying and celebrating. Yahoo!

I began work on a new film while on the road, spending four days at the National Archives (the motion picture division) in Maryland, outside DC, making some new friends among the researchers, and seeking out footage that’s in the public domain. Project to be announced!

I spent a couple days in New Jersey, hosted by the always hospitable Mary and Bill Mild, while helping Pam Hasegawa man the New Jersey booth at the state capitol in advance of legislative hearings taking place in June. I stand in awe of the tenacity of the NJ folks – they are a hardy bunch who know that while it can take a long time to help educate people about the issue of adoptee access, thirty years is long enough…

The film then screened in Rochester, New York during a day long training session at the Hillside Adoption Agency. Cudos to Lisa Maynard, who kept me on my feet that day (the flu was hitting hard) and who also made sure I had a nice safe place to stay.

I moved onto Massachusetts and continued working through our family member Jomo’s graduation from Brown, finally returning to Texas the beginning of June.