Help me, Ms. Feverfew

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

So…I have a confession to make.

You know how I just registered with the Utah Mutual Consent registry so you can access your original birth certificate when you turn 21?

Well, I actually have one copy of it already. I keep feeling like I should send it to you – it is yours, after all. I know you can get a copy of it in a year or so, but I feel like I am doing something wrong by keeping this one. Am I? It’s one of the only tangible things I have that proves you existed at some point in my life, that you and I are connected. So is it wrong for me to want to hang on so tightly to this piece of paper?

And what happens if I send it to you? I don’t have your mailing address at school and so I would have to send it to your parents and…well…there isn’t a good history there of them giving you things I have sent. So do I send it to your parent’s address, risking it getting lost in the holiday shuffle? Or do I tell you about it when I send you a Christmas message via Facebook and ask for an address to which to send it? Or would that seem like a ploy to get you to contact me? Do I just tell you I have it, if you ever want it?  Or do I not say anything at all about the fact I have the only existing copy of your original birth certificate? And if I do send the only one in existence and then you never register with Utah Vital Records, then that means I will never be able to get a copy of it again, either.

Help me, Ms. Feverfew.  What should I do?

Much love,

M.

ETA (March 21, 2013): So I was sadly mistaken. Original birth records are sealed in perpetuity there in Utah. The Utah Mutual Consent registry is ONLY for identifying information. NOT for OBCs. This is particularly troubling since you are now in possession of the only copy in existence, ever.)

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Reclaiming the Slivers of My Soul

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

I finally did it.

Today I put the form, a check for $25, and a copy of my birth certificate in the mail and sent them off to the Utah Mutual Consent Voluntary Adoption Registry.

Yesterday, I took the form to a notary public to have it notarized.  Naturally, he had to scrutinize the details, details that I haven’t shared with people who have known me for years much less a complete stranger at the Pack & Ship. As I stood there clutching Penelope while Luke played with things on the desk, I could feel myself start to disconnect from the reality of the moment. For a few moments, it was as if I was watching myself go through the motions, very much like I did when I signed the termination of parental rights form.

The pen the notary was using hesitated over the section in which I marked “Birth Parent.” He quizzically looked up at Penelope, then his pen traced the line underneath the the date of your birth. The pen went back to the section, “Person Registering is {Please check one}”, paused and hovered over “Birth Parent” again. Puzzlement crossed his face as he looked up at me, then at Luke.

I watched him write my name, address, and phone number into his register book. When it came to “type of document”, he wrote, “Utah Vital Records/Adoption Registry.”

I exhaled, unsettled by the rattling of dormant memories of signing adoption paperwork. He pushed the form and the registry towards me and directed me to sign here, here, and put my address here. I had to shift little Penelope to the other side, since I am left-handed and she was trying to grab the registry. My hand shook as I signed. My heart quaked at the fresh reminder of my loss.

But it is done. In some small way, perhaps this is partial restitution of what adoption stripped from you – your original identity. Perhaps it is too little too late, but it is one of the only things I can do for you.

Much love,

M.

Utah Mutual Consent Adoption Registry

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Did you know that since 1987, Utah has an active mutual consent adoption registry? This means if both you and I fill out the forms, send in our birth certificates, and $25, they will share identifying information with each other AND release your adoption records, including your original birth certificate?  Not just for me and you, but if your brothers and sisters want to register, they can as well. Did I mention it has been around since NINETEEN EIGHTY SEVEN?

I know it isn’t perfect by any means, but why haven’t I known about this before? Don’t you think that SOMEONE (ahem, STUPID LDSFS PEOPLE) should have mentioned this little, teeny, tiny tidbit of information to me? Don’t you think SOMEONE should have printed out the forms and said, “Hey – why don’t you fill these out so your daughter can get her original birth certificate?” Oh, that’s right. Because then they would have had to explain sealed records, falsified birth certificates and all that jazz.

1987, people – 19freakin87.  I wonder how many other first mothers who relinquished in Utah know about this registry and have actually registered.  Or how many were just as clueless as I was until about 20 minute ago? Do you know about it? Do you know that you can have access to your original birth records when you turn 21 if your mother has joined the registry? Do other adoptees know about it?  WHY NOT??????

At first I wasn’t going to register – we already know each others name and contact information, why spend the $25 and go through the hassle? I have a copy of your original birth certificate, which I have always planned on giving to you – especially since the tightened security rules will make it nearly impossible for you to get a passport without it. But then the thought went through my mind: Ms. Feverfew needs to have access to it, on her own, independent of me. Just like I am able to do, you need to be able to fill out a form and get your original birth certificate without anyone hassling you about it. It’s your right; your birth right.

So sitting in front of me right now is the form, all filled out. I just need to have it notarized and then I will send it in. 1987. This registry has been around since 1987.  There’s not much I can do to help you along the path you are walking, but this? This I can do.

Much love,

M.

P.S. Edited to add this: I just spoke with an amazing mama who relinquished her baby for adoption in Utah through LDSFS within the last year or so. She has never heard of the Utah Mutual Consent Adoption Registry or the fact that her child can gain access to their original birth certificate ONLY if she registers. Huh. I thought adoption was so “different” nowadays than it was “way back when.” I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same. Babies still loose their mamas, mamas still lose their babies, and no one tells the mothers or the adoptees about being able to access the adoption records or OBC.

IF YOU ARE AN FIRST PARENT OR ADOPTEE FROM UTAH, HERE IS THE PDF FORM . FILL IT OUT AND SEND IT IN. TODAY.

Utah_Adoption_Registry

(Moms – Even if you have a copy of the original birth certificate and the adoptive couple has a copy of the original birth certificate and you put one in a time capsule, YOUR CHILD HAS THE RIGHT TO ACCESS THAT BIRTH CERTIFICATE INDEPENDENT OF YOU OR HER ADOPTIVE PARENTS.  Yes, the physical piece of paper that is an OBC is important, but access to it is equally important, too. Do the right thing. Register today.)

A Solemn Duty

Ms. Feverfew –

Today at church, the lesson was on the conference address I wrote about a few weeks ago, “LDS Women are Incredible!” It was taught by my old Visiting Teaching partner.

It was a tough lesson to sit through.

Oh, not because I don’t think LDS women are incredible – I think the women who make up the worldwide membership of this church are an amazingly diverse and exceptional group of women.

It was hard because she was teaching on this particular lesson.

Last fall when we were new Visiting Teaching partners, we were at the home of one of the women we visit. Somehow, the subject turned to adoption and I made the comment about how important it was for adoptees to have access to their first families if at all possible. With the hiss of a viper and the sting of a scorpion, this woman turned on me in an instant. She pointed her finger at me and angrily said, “Those people don’t deserve to know about the children they abandoned and adopted children don’t need to have anything to do with their birth families.”  She then proceeded to tell me how her mother had taken in three children because their birth mother was a “promiscuous junkie” who didn’t deserve to be in the same room with “those kids.” Eventually her mother legally adopted all three of the children but they had “turned out to be just as disastrous as their birth mother because my mom let her continue to see them.”

Today, she stood at the front of the Relief Society room with tears streaming down her face as she talked about her great-great grandmother’s journals and how when she read them, she felt connected to her across the generations. She told of how just like herself, her great-great grandmother didn’t get married until later in life (38), didn’t like doing housework, wasn’t a very good cook, and would rather spend her time reading and writing than taking care of more mundane daily activities. Her voice caught in her throat and she had to stop several times as she spoke of the comfort she found in knowing she was a decedent of this woman. She told of how knowing her great-great grandmother’s history helped her figure out that she was doing OK in life, that her journey through life was normal, even in the context of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

I wanted to raise my hand and call her out on her hypocrisy – on her vehement feelings about denying her adopted siblings access to their heritage while bawling over how grateful she is to have access to hers.

I didn’t though because it wasn’t the time or place to enter into a heated argument about this topic.  I just sat there and simmered in the irony of the moment. I looked around the room at all the other women and wondered how many of them felt the exact same way: Adoptees do not have a right or need to access their true genealogy or history.

It’s a lie though. It is a complete and total lie. Adoptees have an absolute right to their true genealogy and history. They have an innate need and right to know and to connect with the generations of parents that formed them. Anyone who says differently is selling something – and that something is generally another human being (under the guise of adoption services).

Adoptees have the right to clear, clean, and unfettered access to their factual birth records. Period. Anyone who says differently is selling something (confidential intermediary services, perhaps?)

I can somewhat forgive the woman giving the lesson today – she doesn’t know any better and I haven’t had the chance to have a “come to Jesus meetin’ ” with her over the issue. Her attitude was still full of hypocrisy, but I am willing to allow that it might be an unintentional hypocrisy on her part.

But what of first mothers who think that because they are in an “open” adoption, their children do not need access to their birth certificates? Do they not realize that even if they were advised by adoption professionals to secure copies of it before the adoption was finalized the fact of the matter is that records are sealed for their child. These sealed birth records are an injustice for their child, an injustice in which they took part.

The other day, Cassi who blogs at Adoption Truth posted a brilliant response to this question and so I will let her eloquent words speak for me:

How hypocritical can we be if we believe the rights we have just aren’t all that important for our children to have after it was our own actions (for whatever reason) that placed that fate on our children’s shoulders?

First Moms have more than a responsibility, they have a duty to fight for their children to be given the same equality they receive. They have an obligation to create change in the life their child will face in their adult years.

I pledge to you, Ms. Feverfew, that I will work towards repealing or replacing the laws which prevent you and millions of other adoptees free access to your birth records. It’s the least I can do for you.

Much love,

M.

Hmmm…Good or Bad? Bad or Good? I don’t get it.

Dear Ms. Feverfew:

Recently, the U.S. State Department announced they are changing the passport application to read “Parent 1” and “Parent 2” instead of “Mother” and “Father.” I have no problem with this in any way shape or form, especially when there are far more pressing issues that need to be addressed, like homelessness, hunger, and the children who are about to age out of foster care because they have neither Parent 1 or Parent 2 nor a mom or a dad who are capable of parenting them.

What I DO take exception to is the response from the Family Research Council president Tony Perkins who said,  “Only in the topsy-turvy world of left-wing political correctness could it be considered an ‘improvement’ for a birth-related document to provide less information about the circumstances of that birth.

Perkins further argues against the changes by asserting, “Since science has yet to master human cloning, the newborn human being has always received half of his or her genetic inheritance via the sperm of a male parent, i.e., the father. It would be helpful if a certificate related to ‘birth’ would identify which is which.

Uh…this is the same Family Research Council that supports adoption (and sealed birth records), correct?   Is it just me, or does anyone else find Mr. Perkins’ argument a wee bit…uh, ummm… well, hypocritical?  So…less information about the circumstances surrounding a child’s birth is BAD for a passport but is GOOD for amended (falsified), sealed birth certificates?

I am confused.

Let me try to figure this one out again. Less information = GOOD when erasing a child’s cultural and natural parent’s identity through amended birth records. Less information = BAD when trying to more accurately reflect a child’s current familial situation. Or to put it another way: amended birth records that lie about to whom a child was actually born = GOOD.  New passport applications that say “Parent 1 & Parent 2” = BAD.

Hmmm…I still don’t get it.

I think I might write a letter to Mr. Perkins and see if he can help clarify the situation.

Much love to you and all those who have to deal with fake birth certificates (I am so sorry about that…I didn’t realize that was what was going to happen) –

M.