Tired of adopted adults being referred to as children…

05 May

I read the article below, and my first thoughts were – they are a wee-bit late with their offers of help, and pronouncing they know best how an adoption search should happen in Illinois.  Then my thoughts wandered from why now three years after the law restored the right for adoptees to receive their original birth certificate, to, who do they think they are.  (read the article first).

Searching for biological family complicated <—- Adoptees need to be told this?  They don’t have the cognitive abilities to understand an adoption search may bring up deep emotions for all parties – and is going to be complicated?  Guessing you can tell I was angry just reading the title…the first line didn’t help at soothing my ruffled feathers: “An Illinois law passed in 2010 has given thousands of adopted children access to a non-certified copy of their original birth certificate.”, seeing as this law affected adoptees with a date of birth starting January 1, 1946, my guess is, they are long past the point of being called children…

All snark aside…the piece bothered me on so many points that should be obvious to anyone, let alone “adoption professionals” and yet, they want you to know that an “appropriate search” is to use the Illinois Adoption Registry and a “protocol laid out” for mutual consent sharing of information.   If not that “appropriate way” then either use the court intermediary process that uses a “confidential intermediary” – to let them make contact for you, because they know better than you do.  Because being approached by a stranger with your personal details is far better than the adoptee you brought into this world so many years ago?

The problem is those “children” who were adopted who take the information and do it themselves…

Jane Turner then talks about searches for adoption processed by DCFS are processed by Midwest Adoption Center (MAC), and yet, while perusing other pages on the MAC site – it does not seem to have been updated when the law changed, or since the new law went into effect that on January 1, 2012 that restored the right of the adoptee to request, and receive a non-certified copy of their original birth certificate.  Rather, it seems the “recent” changes they speak of below are when the Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information happened, which I believe was around 2006.  And you want adoptees to trust an organization to do the most important search you ever undertake, but doesn’t seem to care enough to update their website?

“At the time of an adoption, the original birth certificate of the child and all the documents pertaining to the legal process of adoption are “impounded” by the Court. The legal documents are held by the Court and the original birth certificate is held by the Department of Vital Records. Court records are not available except by order of the Court. Recent changes in the Illinois Adoption Act provide for certain circumstances in which the original birth certificate may be released upon mutual consent of the parties named.
The Court adoption files do not usually contain any social or medical information pertaining to the child or to the birth family. A copy of the original birth certificate is only rarely included.” (bolding mine)

For adoptions through agencies, those agencies will be happy to do the search for you, and make contact as discussed by Denise Brown.

“Denise Brown, Caritas Family Solutions director of adoption, said if the adoption was carried out by an adoption agency, the agency can help facilitate the search in a way that makes the children and parents feel like they “aren’t alone” in the process.

Brown said if the child or parents want to search on their own, they should call her office for advice while conducting the search.”

Again, the troubling “child” verbiage, and assuming the adoptee’s parents are still alive (did I mention it includes adoptees born starting Jan 1, 1946).  I did find Adoption Searches on the Caritas website – of course, it will cost you, how much is not listed.  At least they are aware of the changes to the law, even if they only show it at the end of describing everything they offer, and only as a if you are interested, you can get your original birth certificate now.

Turner then speaks about common sense things about making contact, as if, no adoptee has ever delved into discussions about how to sensitively step into contact.  “Turner said basic social rules should be followed to prevent being intrusive in a birth child or birth parent’s life.”

I found the article, infuriating, condescending, unhelpful, and so much more.  What I couldn’t figure out was the timing of the article, the law went into effect January 1, 2012, and many adoptees have received their original birth certificate and chose whether or not to search.  Not only that before the law went into effect, a comprehensive notification of the law changes took place for a year so birth parents could decided if they wanted to strip their name off the original birth certificate…(470 did) out of tens of thousands mothers.

After writing all this, I read the comments to the article, and in one, was a link to an article Carbondale resident meets biological family 39 years after adoption published earlier the same day, before this one that made me angry. An article about an Illinois adoptee who (gasp) actually managed to make contact in a very gentle way, that speaks of the intent to protect her mother above all else.  No idea why they decided to do two articles and ask adoption agencies to weigh in.  Nor why an adoption agency would accept the request.  It’s time to give credit that adoptees have probably have put more effort, and energy, and deep thought, into how best to make a request for contact – than an adoption professional has.

It’s time for those followers of the cherished Positive Adoption Language (PAL) to add that adoptees grow up, and generally, don’t care to be called children…so under the Positive Adoption Language side: Adults who were adopted should be called based on their preference, which could include; Adopted Person, Person Adopted, or Adoptee, under the Negative Adoption Language side, it would say calling an adult who was adopted as a child; an adopted child, or adopted children.  Something like that anyway…



Posted by on May 5, 2015 in Adoption, adoptive parents


Tags: , , , , ,

11 responses to “Tired of adopted adults being referred to as children…

  1. eagoodlife

    May 5, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    As someone who once worked as ‘an adoption professional’ specialising in reunion work I can tell you a great deal of thought went into each and every request for contact and information but that was in another time and another place when I like to think we had high standards. Many adoptees do not give the matter a great deal of thought re practicalities and consequences because their feelings are predominant.. Here in Aus we had quite a struggle to have this concept of adoptees as eternal children come into consciousness both, for mothers and for legislators. We did succeed mostly, with the Inquiry into forced adoption and in the following report but had to be diligent and insist. I like to use the term adult adoptee.


    • TAO

      May 5, 2015 at 10:33 pm

      Von – I think you are correct that there are different standards at play…

      I’ve found the opposite about forethought – what is the least disruptive and sensitive mode of contact, and then ways within that type of mode, like mail – if registered would that raise questions from others, if receipt requested would that raise even more queries, regular mail how to ensure the mother’s privacy is kept, how to frame a letter so if it falls into someone else’s hands it’s not going to her. I’m very tired today so that may not make a lot of sense. Those discussions often span weeks and include delving into the why’s and how each why may affect the one being searched for…so many levels to the conversation.

      I’m comfortable with the adult adoptee term as well…


  2. cb

    May 6, 2015 at 12:10 am

    I put a lot of forethought into making contact and I’ve found that with most adoptees I know IRL. I’ve also found that with most people I know online. I’ve yet to meet anyone that has rushed in – all have feared rejection and want to make the approach as non-threatening as possible.

    Also, adoptees often get ridiculed for having “fantasies” about their bparents yet most adoptees I know who have wanted to make contact have had conflicting feelings. I got my OBC in the late 80s and it was 15 years before I even decided to search (and that was thanks to the presence of the internet) – I had decided that I would leave it up to my bmother as I didn’t want to disrupt her life – I thought if she wanted contact then she would make contact. I remember having conflicting feelings also – I both looked forward to and dreaded the day she might make contact. Note though that I didn’t think about it a lot but when I did, those were the feelings I had – a lot had to do with the fact that she was an abstract concept.

    Like you, I did find the article very patronising as it considered adoptees to be fools. We are all quite aware that rejection is possible and don’t need to be told so by adoption professionals.

    One thing I will say though is that when a state unseals their records, they are in a position to provide assistance/advice/education along with release of their certificates which can actually mean that adoptees in open records states who have made contact after receiving their OBC can end up being even more prepared for outcomes.

    When I got my OBC this time around from the NZ Dept of CYF, they sent me a booklet:

    I found it to be quite respectful and not patronising. This is their conclusion:

    Approaching your birth parent is an important
    decision that takes a great deal of courage. You have
    to be prepared to step into the unknown. Although, if
    you have lived all these years without knowing them or
    very much about your background, you actually have
    a great deal of experience in coping with uncertainty.
    Whether you go on to develop a close relationship or only ever have one
    contact, you can feel good knowing that you took the risk – you created
    an opportunity for contact and gave them a choice. They will know that
    you are alive, well, and available for contact.
    Making an approach shows you are prepared to take responsibility and
    change your current circumstances. That you are ready to put aside any
    fantasies or expectations you may have had about your birth parents to
    discover who they really are and whether they are ready to have some
    form of contact. It is important to remember that in this relationship,
    as in all relationships, you have choices, and that you both can
    continually discuss your wishes, expectations, boundaries, and so on.
    Most of our adopted clients say that they are glad that they made the
    approach, regardless of the outcome, and that they prefer knowing
    to not knowing. Knowing means your feelings can be based on reality.
    It may not necessarily meet your expectations or answer all of your
    questions, but it will mean you can stop fearing the unknown.
    page 15
    taking the risk
    Preparation helps, but you cannot predict how your birth parent will
    respond or how you will feel when the first contact is made. Before you
    make the approach, however, you may want to ask yourself what your
    expectations and motivations are for contact. This may help to determine
    how ready you are for contact and to accept the reality of what you find.
    If you are interested in adoption literature, handouts and reading
    lists are available nationwide from Child, Youth and Family. You are
    welcome to telephone 0508 FAMILY (326 459) and ask to speak to
    the duty adoption social worker for your area.

    The article below is a Social Workers findings re opening of records:


  3. cb

    May 6, 2015 at 12:13 am

    Now, if one REALLY wants to read a very patronising view on opening of records, one just needs to read Thomas C Atwood’s article:

    What a totally patronising, inaccurate and nasty piece of cr*p (sorry to swear TAO) I’ve read it before but it makes my blood boil on each reading.


  4. L4R

    May 6, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    Right. The law didn’t give adopted children the right to obtain their OBCs. Only adult adoptees may request the information. An under-age adoptee wouldn’t be able to obtain his or her certificate.

    It was an awful article. Don’t tell me how to search, please. I didn’t need the IL Adoption Registry. I did it on my own. I did it with compassion, and I did it with stealth. We are we perceived to be bulls in china shops?


    • TAO

      May 6, 2015 at 7:05 pm

      It truly was one of the worst current articles out there L4R – CB’s NCFA link is just as bad if not worse – but it is a couple of decades old…


  5. cb

    May 6, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    You’re right TAO, my article is a decade old (2004 I believe) but just linked to it because I can still see that attitude today.


    • TAO

      May 6, 2015 at 9:41 pm

      Absolutely the same attitude…


  6. Jess

    May 7, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    It’s hard to know how to change attitudes like this but when this type of stuff comes up, sometimes it’s worthwhile to talk to the journalist directly. Most of them don’t have the background to counter silly arguments like “disrupting people’s lives” (how old is THAT one?) and may still be in the mindset of approaching the so-called “experts” (so wrong, I know). TAO, perhaps you could offer yourself as a consultant on the issue by giving the writer a little background on why grown adults should never be referred to as children, why this is about rights, not “barging in,” and maybe by gently making him aware that his views are, uh, outdated and ignorant, in other words, missing the mark on a journalistic level too.

    But you can help him!

    Just an idea. Perhaps not all would be receptive but some would jump at the chance to be on the cutting edge of this topic.


    • eagoodlife

      May 7, 2015 at 10:43 pm

      Great idea Jess and certainly works if done non-confrontationally and presented as giving the journo the cutting edge. I never opportunity pass, it’s the only way forward.


  7. yan

    May 11, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    I’m an IL adoptee. I was registered with IARMIE and the Soundex registry. For me, registration didn’t work — my uncle also registered at Soundex, and we were never matched. I did contact the MAC several times, got condescending, patronizing form letters in return, all with a price tag on them. I’ve also asked them if they are aware of what happened to the records from my agency (now closed) and, hmmm, no response there at all. I remain unimpressed with the state that holds all the cards here. And their attempts to extract yet more money out of my adoption.

    I traced my first mother with the help of an amazing search angel familiar with IL. I spent a month writing my letter to her, thinking about how to send it, and trying to make sure that I could be easily rejected without impacting her life too terribly. What I got instead was a wonderful welcome from her and her family, and when I met my uncle, found out he’d been searching for a few years but hadn’t told my first mom because he didn’t want to disappoint her. I put a ton of thought into this contact.

    About a year AFTER that, I was finally allowed to request my OBC because I’m in the “clear” years. The OBC request and the search are two very different things, for me and many others.



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