The Real Deal

This post is important to me because I think EVERYONE should be aware of the results of the laws as they stand for adoptees from closed record states. Is your son or daughter one of them? Is your niece or nephew? Your husband or wife? Chances are you know someone affected. If nothing else please read it to become socially aware.


Contact Denial. It seems to be a recurring theme for me these days. Have you ever noticed that the issues you need to work on (issues you may be ignoring) seem to visit you over and over in different ways until you have no choice but to pay attention? Tap tap tap….like being pecked to death by a duck.

OK, OK, I give. Contact denial. Here goes. But I have to do this a little differently. This has to be about searching to truly grasp how contact denial grips an adoptee.

When you decide to search you think of little else. Often times it becomes a full blown obsession. I am talking about active searching, not passive searching. There are plenty of people (myself included) who started out as passive searchers just wanting to “get some medical info.”, to say “thank you for giving me life”. ….blah blah blah…..these are key phrases to spot a passive searcher a mile away. It’s when you come to peace with the decision to search, and decide to actively pursue it that you dare to allow the possibility of more to enter your thoughts. This takes the ability to let go of the guilt for searching which is really hard to do. Only other adoptees can truly grasp how deeply this guilt for searching thing can affect you. The reasons for the misplaced guilt are too numerous to mention here but I will say it is mostly a condition which has been embedded deeply into the fiber of our society by the false beliefs about what adoption is and what it is not.

So you work through all of that (which can take years) and you begin to actively pursue your identity. The prospect of finally being able to recognize the face in the mirror becomes exciting! You are a flower watered, fed and nurtured by your adoptive parents (if you’re lucky) but you can only grow so much because you have no roots tethering you to the Earth. You’re just sort of stuck in the ground feeling like the slightest breeze could knock you clean over. You need your roots to grow properly. Period.

You eat, breathe, sleep searching. You try every avenue you can find and if they fail you try them again. I searched passively for several years, actively for several more and finally used the Colorado Confidential Intermediary Service because I got nowhere on my own.

Everyone not in our position should know what we are up against instead of being one of those “what problem, being adopted makes you special” kind of people. Oh, we’re special alright. This is how it goes down if you are an adoptee from a closed record state. A closed state, like most are, will “allow” you to pay them hundreds of dollars for the honor of having a complete stranger open YOUR file with YOUR name on it and view YOUR identity. If that isn’t humiliating enough you THEN get the distinct honor of asking PERMISSION from the judge (like a criminal….or a child) if this STRANGER can contact your MOTHER. You have no idea how degrading and humiliating and entirely frustrating this is. NO idea.

Regardless of whether you have to go through the state or through an agency the fate of your identity remains in the hands of someone who’s life will not be affected one way or the other by the outcome. Someone who can walk right down to that courthouse and get a copy of THEIR identity for a mere 15.00. You may luck out and get appointed a case worker who is good at what they do, sympathetic to your cause. OR you may get someone who is wet behind the ears or power tripping, rude or diplomatically challenged (meaning an assh#%*). Either way….you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. Right? Right. Because we are CHILDREN and children are to be seen and not heard.

You are still obsessing and completely excited by the way but unlike searching on your own now you are without ANY control. There is no word invented to describe this cluster—- of emotions so I am not even going to try.

If you are lucky enough to have a competent person holding your file they may actually find your mother. (Please note: I say mother because most people search for mother first and then if they still have any sanity left they search for their father. Not always, but it has been my experience that this is most often the case.) Once your mother has been located they either call her or send her a letter. When they do this, the method they use and what they say is entirely left to their discretion. You have absolutely no say in the matter. So, if you have a “diplomatically challenged” case worker you are out of luck if they decide to make a brash call out of the blue to an unsuspecting first mother. If your mother is completely FREAKED OUT by this call and hangs up…..guess what? Too bad for you. Case closed. Sorry about your luck, mom doesn’t want to meet you. They may or may not leave your file on their desk for a time. They may or may not try again. They are fully under the guidelines of the law if they decide to stick your file back in what I like to call the Vault of Shame and call it a day. Leaving you scratching your head saying “what just happened here?!”. That’s IT? That can’t be it I still don’t know who the hell I am!

Guess what? My intermediary was outstanding. I mention the above because for countless adoptees this is exactly how it goes down. MY intermediary was the best, the cream of the crop, they broke the mold good. She was compassionate, completely knowledgeable and as fair and just as she could be without breaking the rules. The day she retired adoptees everywhere lost a true friend. Still, the method in which contact had to be made remains the same. The emotions involved remain the same. The lack of control over one’s own identity remain the same whether you have a good case worker or a bad one.

And this is just the formal search process. This doesn’t even touch upon the countless hours of futile searching one may do on their own. It’s exhausting and it is beyond frustrating to know that it is only necessary because of the completely UNNECESSARY restrictions placed upon our person as adoptees. Every single adoptive parent, every single birthparent out there should be banned together in a unified front to fight the injustice served upon your children. A lot of time is spent disagreeing and in the meantime adoptees are DYING because they don’t have the right to know who they are. Medically speaking it is a no brainer but don’t kid yourself, we are emotionally dying inside too by being outcasts in a world which vastly believes we are unworthy of knowing our own identity, of knowing ourselves. Instead we are forced to use strangers to handle something we would probably handle FAR better on our own.

Now please, really try to put yourself in our shoes for a moment while I sum this up. We fight with ourselves to even get to a place emotionally where we CAN search. We face frustration after frustration in the process of searching. We are humiliated, discriminated against and chastised. We are often left to our own defenses by those we love most simply because they can’t deal with their own issues of self-worth. We face ignorant opinions like “why would you want to do that to your parents?” forced upon us by complete strangers or worse… friends. We forge ahead because we must. For many of us it is at the expense of the love of our own parents whom we thought would love us unconditionally. We realize that at a time when we can use comfort the most we have been emotionally abandoned by the people we count on for that kind of support. It seems at times that everyone is against us, leaving us to question our decision. Perhaps our real identity should remain a dirty secret. Perhaps it is (I am) ugly and should remain locked away in the bell tower, because nobody really wants to look at it’s ugly face…..because it scares them. No, no. It is WORTH FIGHTING FOR! I am worth fighting for. All of that sadness and frustration of searching for this CRUCIAL missing piece of our identity. Multiply it by months or in my case years of futile searching. Combine all of that with the belief, hope and promise that one MUST hold on to while searching. Grasp the perfect comparison in the widely used term; rollercoaster ride.

Feel my excitement. Feel my joy. Feel my frustration. Feel my pain. Feel my desire. Feel my longing. Feel my emptiness. Feel my hope.

Then, slam the door in my face and LOCK IT and you might begin to understand what contact denial feels like.



Filed under Adoptee Family, Open Records

32 responses to “The Real Deal

  1. Closed records make no sense whatsoever and serve no purpose. I don’t even know who’s fighting that stupid battle anymore, honestly.

    I swear, it’s people in my mother’s generation, and she’s almost 80, who are convinced that an adoptee wouldn’t do that if he/she were loyal to their adoptive parents. And, holy cow, when I try to say anything that goes against that OLD-TIME thinking, 1/2 of my bull-headed, opinionated family just talks over me. Sheesh!

    Sorry, snarky little rant there.

    But I’m with ya. I mean, obviously I haven’t had to face that myself, but it’s ridiculous and just downright cruel. It’s a person’s OWN records, for God’s sakes. The records should belong to THAT person. DOH!!

  2. Spread the word! Use a bullhorn if you need to. ;o)

  3. Christine

    My God! What a fantastic post. I honestly had no idea that searching would bring all of that, but of course, it makes perfect sense that it would. There isn’t a person alive who, after reading that, should support closed records.

  4. I too have walked this mile. I always come back to one thing and one thing only. In my situation, my mother was the ONLY one to give up her rights. I suspect that maybe my father may have fought a little bit as well. Here I am left scratching my head trying to figure out why she has all the rights when she gave hers up. In my situation, my father has even fewer rights than I do. My adoptive parents even more so now. My adoptive mother actually called the adoption agency to have them call my first mother back and demand that my first father’s information be released. Adoption is supposed to be about the children. Well those children grow up and become adults. If adoption was truly about the child, the records would be open. The records are closed because of adoption agencies misdeeds and adoptive parents’ own insecurities (not all mind you). The confidentiality issues are for the most part a mute point. Look at Oregon, Tennessee, and soon New Hampshire. Their stats prove what most of our parents have been saying for years. I say open the records – give us our identities back and give our parents a chance to fight back as well. Foster children have their records. I believe the only people who should have access to those records is the adoptee especially in the case of severe abuse. Yet infant adoptees records are sealed and foster care adoptees are open. Go Figure. I don’t understand it at all.

  5. Good idea, Mia. Why didn’t I think of that before.

    Note to self: *purchase bullhorn for family gatherings and more*


    Actually, it’s not just people of my mother’s generation; it just seems like that old-fashioned to me. But there are plenty of people my age and younger who believe that too.

    Hmmm, do bullhorns come in bulk?

  6. Thanks (((Christine))), the larger our voice the more people will have to listen.

    Amy it makes a lot of us scratch our heads in disbelief. Thanks for working so hard to get the laws changed.
    When Mom2one and I buy bullhorns in bulk we will send you one.
    And, I’m sorry I missed your call today. :o(

  7. Julie

    I am grateful (!) that I did not have to endure that – well, not most of it. My mother found me.

    What we had to endure was the adoption agency screening our letters to each other. We were not allowed to reveal where we lived, our real names, or our phone numbers – nothing personal (between mother and daughter!).

    Having someone reading over our shoulders as we embarked on this reunion oddysey was, well, humiliating to say the least. I was 44 and she was 67.

    After a few letters, we found out that, if we each signed an affidavit agreeing to share personal information, we could rid ourselves of Big Brother. But it still boggles my mind that it took affidavits to do it.

    To the person who said they “don’t even know who’s fighting that stupid battle [of closed records] anymore,” WELL (takes a deep breath) let me tell you, that battle is alive and well.

    One of the principal supporters of closed records is the NCFA. That should tell you enough: it’s the adoption agencies. They are trying to protect their dirty little secrets of fraud and coercion. Fat chance. People reunite whether it’s legal or not.

  8. Yet another terrible aspect of closed records-having someone tell you what you can and cannot do even when BOTH parties are willing participants. Yea.

    I plan to write a post next about the logistics of the situation (opposers to open records) so we’ll cross that bridge next. ;o)


    Thank you for writing this post. My own contact process was logistically quite simple. But the way you described the emotional process of choosing to search was really good for me, aside from the nausea. Hugs to you

  10. Man, you nailed this. I’m linking, no one has said it better!

  11. LeRoy Dissing

    You are worth all the fighting Mia…and so are the children currently in the closed adoption system. I am still thinking about how a number of adoptees, their parents and aparents could develop a meaningful, organized movement to promote change and to lobby legislators to introduce new bills to change the closed adoption record laws. I think it will take a concerted effort by a number of people willing to invest the time and resources. Research studie(s) would probably need to be conducted interviewing those affected by the closed adoption system and then bring everyone to the table to discuss how it can be improved; and what has to happen and who will do it; and by when. A very worthwhile endeavor that is long overdue. I need to think about this more….thanks for jogging my mind some more Mia 🙂

  12. Hey, that resembles me. This is an excellent post Mia, great job.

  13. Fantastic post.

    I don’t know if I could have lived through searching and then contact denial. Seriously, I think I have problems now, but shit I never had to deal with that crap. It’s really, really fucked up.

  14. J, Margie….thank you so much!

    Unfortunately LeRoy it’s going to take more than a rainbow gathering. Nice in theory but the sheer volume of those for open records is needed for a different kind of approach. I am going to post about this too, hopefully tomorrow. Maybe. Hopefully.

    Wraith- you know it brother.

    Elizabeth it truly is.

  15. I also should say (LeRoy) that there IS actually a concerted effort by a number of people willing to invest the time and resources. One such woman has been working to see change in NJ for over TWENTY YEARS. She may just get her wish. Fingers crossed. Groups like BN has people who spend countless hours volunteering their time and money to get the word out. Our heros are out there. Again though I will try to post more about this later. I really AM going to bed now. lol

  16. Oh this post makes me so sad, because although I was spared it rings so true. argh.

    I have to link this.

  17. lisasainsbury

    I’m sure it cost you a lot to get to the point where you could write that. But thanks, Mia.
    You come across loud and clear.

  18. I guess because I’m either stupid or just naturally mistrustful of the very people who did my adoption, I went down the road alone. I wasn’t going to give anybody the chance for denial. I know the obsession with re-union. I know how devastating denial is for some. I also know that denial shouldn’t be an option. If adoptees are entitled to anything, it’s the chance to at least be dismissed in person, not through an intermediary. I so hate that system because even with the best CIs adoptees have absolutely no control over the situation, yet again in a lifetime of not being in control.

    I’m thinking about a couple of you today.

    I see no reason the records cannot be opened. One of my lovely state reps just introduced an absolutely wonderful bill (can you tell I just wrote her a gushy letter) that puts adoptees on an even playing field with everybody else as to birth certificate access. Even though I know chances of passing are slim, I am so thrilled that it was at least brought up. I hope things change.

    Fabulous post, Mia.

  19. Mia,

    I know I’ve told you this before but I’ll say it again, “Thank you!” Thank you for being the voice for adoptee rights. Thank you for allowing me to have a glimpse into the emotional struggles that you’ve had as a result of being adopted.

    I hope you believe me when I tell you that I’m taking note of all that you say and learning from your experiences. I never ever want my son to have to experience the guilt, humiliation, and frustration of a search for his first parents.

    I know that his emotions are largely out of my control, but I will do my best to help him not to feel guilty if, or rather when, he decides it’s time to search for his first parents. I will do my best to set my feelings aside and put his needs first. He deserves to know his ENTIRE identity, not just the identity he has with us.

    I will honor my commitment to his first mother, providing the updates that she has requested and deserves. I will make sure to always give her our contact information if we ever move and strive to keep her contact information as well, so that our son will not have to blindly search for her (or his first father) or pay someone else to search when he’s ready.

    I’m so sorry that you (and others) have had to suffer such indignities when trying to search for your first parents and claim your identities.

    Please know that sharing your stories IS making a difference.

    Again, I thank you! Thank you for the reminder of what my son’s rights are and for encouraging me to respect and protect those rights.


  20. Wow. Thank you thank you thank you for spelling out so clearly and honestly.

    My sister searched, and found, when she was 19, with my family supporting her…and remains in contact with her biological family now, 20 years later. A fairy tale ending to be sure, but filled with all that you describe in your post.

    Her story has affected my life to a large degree, and I am committed to evolving the adoption process to consider the baby/child involved, not just the adults.

    Thanks again for your post. I’ll be sending folks here from my site.

  21. Mia, Trying to type with teary eyes…forgive the typos. This post is fantastic! (When are your posts not?) It reminded me of when I contacted the State of Virginia after finally getting up the guts and having someone who treated the biggest moment in my life like it bored them. The woman that “helped” my mother and I get in contact, was clueless. Even though both of us said we wanted full disclosure, this woman cut holes in the first letter my mother ever wrote to me and then sent me a PHOTOCOPY. I didn’t even get my mother’s stationary. This woman refused to pass on photos to my mother because there was a liscence plate in one of them. She told me my mother didn’t want to talk to me when in fact she didn’t want to talk to me until 5pm that night. I went through the must horrible hours of my life thinking that after all the building up to it, she didn’t want me. Gah, that still has me in tears 10 years later. My mother was furious! I think they should have people specifically trained in understanding the intense emotions and delicate balance that reunions need. I can’t even imagine what you went through to search for years without finding what you were looking for. It’s such a shame that so much of society is so determined to keep us less than whole by denying the information that could help us form an identity. Many hugs, Mia. 🙂 Rebecca

  22. Yes, I was a passive searcher for years. Almost went the intermediary route – except you should see the questionnaire they wanted me to fill out to read to my mother – WAAAAAY to personal. Years later I finally got the nerve to go through with it. Thankfully it was a short search since I was born in a state that opened up records. But for three months straight (yes, only three months – I’m very lucky) I pretty much gave up everything in my life and searched – I ignored work, family, friends. Hubby threatened to throw the computer out the window. But in the end it was all worth it when I called my Aunt and heard words that made me cry: “I’ve been waiting for this day.”

    It’s such a shame that there are so many other people; mothers, fathers, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, nieces, nephews, all waiting for that day – that day that might never come because our government holds our identities hostage.

  23. You come through loud and clear. I cannot fathom this level of frustration. It is so unjust to deny people access to their history.

    I’m glad you made mention of the medical aspect of all of this. I’m sure there are people who have literally died because they did not know certain facts about their medical history or couldn’t find an organ or marrow donor in time.

    I did once meet an adoptee, oddly enough, who did not support open records. She felt that it would potentially be an invasion of her first mom’s privacy. She’s entitled to her opinion, but even if records could be opened, that wouldn’t force her to obtain her own records. I was puzzled by her.

  24. Cheryl

    Wow Mia. Thank you so much for this – you absolutely nailed it. (And thank you joy for linking it!).

    I used a search firm mostly because I didn’t think I could bear exactly THIS. The lack of control over something so sensitive, so personal, so stressful. And it was still so stressful and emotional that even knowing what was coming I was completely swept away by it. I’ve read other stories like yours, and thought that while my situation’s not great, I wouldn’t have been able to bear a slammed door with no real understanding of why, and questions about what if contact had been done differently.

  25. Thank you all SO much! It looks like I have some links to add! Hopefully I will get to that this weekend.

  26. If you do not let me publish this on SofA as an article, I will beat you with a Nerf bat until you cry mercy!!!!!!!!

    You summed it up SO perfectly, Mia, as always. How do you do that? How do you always crawl inside our heads and hearts like this? Love to you my friend – well done!

  27. EEEEKKKK! OK, I give! :o)

    Hey, I need to figure out how to get the SofA thing to show up on my new digs here. Please don’t think I’m hopeless but can you guide me in the right direction by email?

    Did you know Sapph that I can throw a Nerf football farther than anyone I know? Just an interesting and useless Mia fact.

  28. Pingback: Soul of Adoption » The Real Deal

  29. Oh Mia – I’m completely speechless – and crying my eyes out – with a pool of tears on my desk.
    This post is amazing.
    I was able to at least able to obtain some info from the local departments (as things are more open here in OZ) and then went searching on my own.
    I was able to at least contact my own mother by myself………………
    BUT – she has more or less closed the door on me herself. She asks for time – so dangles a small glimmer of hope – but I just wait and wait and wait and wait.
    I’m hurting so much.
    Thank you for putting into words that which has haunted me throughout this whole process.
    Hugs, from a very sad C. xx
    p.s. I’m linking to this

  30. You’ve captured perfectly the trauma we go through when searching for our roots. And one other thing. Not only do we feel guilt about searching and feel second-class because our identity is denied to us, but we also have to take all our courage in our hands to “intrude” into our birth parents’ lives. It’s as though we don’t have the right, that we’ll upset them. We tread so carefully, feel so responsible for the other party, then usually get an aggressive response. This can be an initial reaction triggered by many factors. But it is very hard to take. You’re right, people need to understand what we go through as adoptees.

  31. Pingback: NC’s HB445 and CI programs « Mia’s Saving Grace

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