What, maybe ripping families apart faster than Hilter separated the Jews wasn't such a good thing after all? Hmmmmm, never would have figured it.
NATIONAL VOLUNTARY MUTUAL REUNION REGISTRY
Not every adopted person desires to make contact with biological relatives, but for the hundreds of thousands who do, the process is often costly, cumbersome and futile. Aside from the natural desire to know one's roots and genetic heritage, there are other pressing reasons why some birth relatives seek to find one another.
Some adoptees are seeking a deeper sense of identity, some need vital information that may affect their own mental and physical health, and some are facing momentous family decisions that require more knowledge about their heritage.
According to the experts, an overwhelming number of birth parents want to be available to their adult children should they mutually desire to make contact, and more and more adoptive parents support such reunions. There are many stories and expert testimony that support the need for a National Voluntary Mutual Reunion Registry. For many, time is of the essence.
In Phoenix, Arizona, birth mother Eileen and her 43-year-old daughter, Barbara, reunited as both were suffering from terminal cancer. They had four months together before Eileen's passing. Barbara died in 1998, nine months after the death of her birth mother. Their heart-wrenching story is depicted in the book All That Really Matters.
In October of 1998, in Salem, Oregon, 52-year-old adoptee, Barbara Mingus, made contact with her birth mother as she lay dying of cancer. They had been trying to find each other for many years. At the birth mother's urging, Mingus was tested and learned that she too had the same cancer. Mingus' brief reunion with her birth mother saved her life since the cancer was caught in the early stages.
Illinois State Representative Sara Feigenholtz's story was told in the August 5, 2003, Chicago Tribune. Aware that she was adopted at birth, she often wondered about her birth mother and felt she needed to thank her for making the sacrifice of her adoption. She was able to unite with her birth mother after 26 years and hear her birth mother say that she had been waiting and hoping to hear from her for many years. Representative Feigenholtz believes everyone deserves the chance she had and has worked to improve legislation to help facilitate reunions of biological relatives who seek to know one another.
The April 14, 2002, Hartford Courant details the unexpected journey of a large number of siblings separated and adopted at birth. On Memorial Day 1999, nine siblings including Mika and Richard Zeman met for the first time after being separated since birth. They had been unaware of each other's existence until Mika, concerned with her medical history, called adoption services and began to contact her biological family. The reunion was filled with emotion and an awe of the uncanny coincidences among the lives of these individuals. For one sister the reunion caused her to re-examine life and helped her to understand parts of her childhood that had always raised questions in her mind.
Excerpts from June 11, 1998, testimony and submitted statements to the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources in support of the National Voluntary Mutual Reunion Registry, authored by Senator Carl Levin and Senator Larry Craig, R-Idaho:
David Wilson, adoptee, former legislative assistant to Senator Bob Dole, current principal, New Frontiers Communications, Arlington, Virginia:
"I sincerely hope that sharing my personal experience will help illustrate the importance of establishing a National Voluntary Reunion Registry. Reunification is not the desire of every adoptee. It's a personal choice and each adoptee's motives are different. Some have no interest; others have a burning desire to find their roots. And some adoptees are concerned about their medical histories. A voluntary registry would allow each adoptee the option of making mutual contact with their birth parents.
"Nearly 31 years ago to this day, I was adopted by my parents Roy and Ruth Ann Wilson. I have always known I was adopted and have never questioned that the Wilsons -- including my three sisters, Liz, Tabi, and Teresa -- are my real family. In fact, when my dad suffered a heart attack last year, my sisters urged me to have my heart checked out because I may have inherited his congenital heart problem. Momentary lapses like this one exemplify how close my family is, even though we don't share a similar genetic code.
"From my personal experience, I can tell you how important reunification is for those who seek it. In my case, it allowed me to express my gratitude, something I felt I had to do to fill a void in my life. Equally important, reunification has helped wipe away the guilt and fears that have plagued my birth parents for the last 30 years. Imagine the guilt accumulated by my birth parents over the past three decades; not knowing if the child you brought into this world is alive or dead.
"I felt those questions should not go unanswered, especially because I felt my birth parents had made such a tremendous sacrifice...my birth parents gave me the greatest and most precious gift - the gift of life. I will share one last story to illustrate how important reunification is to those who choose it. When I first met my birth mother, it seemed that she could not stop hugging me. I remember wondering why this was the case. Was she happy to see me? What was it? As it turns out, I never had to ask. On my second visit, she said, 'You know, I only held you once when you were a baby. I knew if I held you any more than that, I could not have let you go.' Holding me once again answered all her concerns."
Michael E. Reagan, adoptee, author, talk show host, adopted son of President Ronald Reagan, Sherman Oaks, California:
".... I am an adoptee who has had the great privilege of meeting my biological brother and sister and learning about the life-time of loving and caring by my birth mother, who died several years prior to my reunion with my siblings. As discussed with Senator Levin during a meeting at his home a few years ago, my adoptive father, Ronald Reagan, supported my desire to meet my birth mother and helped me in my early efforts. When my father helped me, it was the greatest gift he ever gave to me. It is my hope that the National Registry will become law. I would have used such a registry myself, and it has become apparent to me that my birth mother would have also."
Jim Rockwell, 72-year-old adoptee residing in Cornell, Michigan and cofounder of adoption support groups in Texas and Michigan:
"The National Registry creates a true registry in which people, related by birth, may consent to know one another, many of whom live in pain because of how adoptions were carried out in the past. I was adopted into a loving family in Michigan very long ago. In 1986 I found the family to whom I was born after being separated from them for 61 years. I found six sisters and a brother still living who were located in five different states, Michigan, Wisconsin, Oregon, California and Texas. I subsequently learned I was the last born of 14 children. One of my sisters told me that she had searched for me-- her little brother -- for over forty years, and that my mother died of TB about one year after my birth."
Joan Heifetz Hollinger, author, adoption expert and visiting professor of law, University of California, member, U.S. Children's Bureau Expert Work Group and U.S. State Department's Advisory Group on Intercountry Adoption:
"The National Voluntary Mutual Reunion Registry is a proposal that I have long-supported and whose enactment is long overdue. It is modest, uncomplicated, sensible and a fair way to facilitate the voluntary and consensual sharing of identifying information.
"The registry does not conflict with, but complements, existing state and federal adoption laws and policies. It is a humane response to the expressed desire of tens of thousands, and perhaps, hundreds of thousands of adopted individuals, who, increasingly with the support of their adoptive families are eager to meet those birth parents and siblings who have expressed an interest in meeting them.
"As the growing body of research on the multiple benefits of post-adoption contact between members of the adoptive and birth families indicates (See research cited in Testimony of Madelyn Freundlich of the Evan B. Donaldson Institute), the registry will strengthen adoption by enabling many adopted individuals to fulfill what in our society is an understandable, pervasive, and normal desire to fill in the missing pieces in our personal histories."
Naomi Cahn, associate professor of family law, George Washington University School of Law:
"My husband had maintained for the first 13 years that he and I knew each other that he had no interest in finding out about his biological parents. Then, when I was pregnant with our first child, he searched and found out the name of his birth mother, Dorothy Louise Simpson; but he also found out that she had died of a brain tumor while searching for him.
"She had registered with one organization's registry, but, of course, since my husband had not registered, they never found each other. She had also written to the agency that had handled the adoption, but again, had received no information about my husband. My husband was stunned to discover that his birth mother had searched unsuccessfully for him. The National Voluntary Mutual Reunion Registry very likely would have facilitated my husband and his birth mother in their search for one another prior to her passing."
Dr. Rickie Solinger, historian, author and visiting scholar, University of Colorado:
"[T]he federal government took a vibrant role in establishing and enforcing adoption practices -- in fact, in creating the adoption arena -- in the late 1940s and early 1950s in the United States. Not surprisingly, many adoptees and birth parents of that era now support the establishment of a federal registry to facilitate their desire for contact with one another. One can surely argue that since the federal government was so crucially instrumental in constructing the adoption experience of this cohort, the federal government has a role to play in facilitating the voluntary, mutually requested exchange of identifying information for the purpose of achieving reunions..."
Amy M. Silberberg, adoptee and adoptive parent, Afton, Minnesota:
"There are thousands of adoption triad members in my home state of Minnesota and across this Nation whose hearts are hopeful because of this hearing on a measure which speaks to our need to address certain compelling and unknown aspects of our lives. As an adoptive parent, a lawyer practicing in the area of adoption, and reunited adoptee, I have a unique perspective. I strongly support the National Voluntary Mutual Reunion Registry. I urge the members of the Subcommittee to look beyond the rhetoric and actively support the passage of the National Voluntary Mutual Reunion Registry. To the members of the U.S. Senate who crafted this compassionate and life-saving legislation, thank you for looking beyond the rhetoric."
James Gritter, author and child welfare and adoption supervisor for Catholic Human Services of Traverse City, Michigan:
"If we want adoption to thrive, it must have the flexibility to meet individual needs. The need that is being addressed in the National Voluntary Mutual Reunion Registry is formidable. Although we are a modest-sized agency, hardly a week goes by without a call from a birth parent or adopted person expressing interest in the people on the other side of the adoption equation.
"Rest assured these are not peculiar people on the brink of bizarre behavior. Hardly, I find that they are well meaning, average people expressing a normal, understandable interest in the people who are part of their life stories. I am pretty sure that if you or I wore their shoes, we would have the same sort of reasonable curiosity and concern about our genetic relatives.
"Although the issues of adoption seem to have remarkable powers to stir the emotions, the National Registry strikes me as one of those pleasing situations where inflammatory politics can be put aside and common sense can prevail.
"Earlier I called the idea of a National Registry 'modest,' and I mean that. As you well realize, the National Registry bill is far from a radical proposal. The fact that the registry idea draws criticism from very conservative and very liberal groups suggests to me that it resides right in the sweet spot of effective compromise."
Helen C. Ervin, senior social worker for adoptions, Children's Home Society of Florida:
"The Children's Home Society of Florida serves all 67 counties in Florida and has been in existence continuously since 1902. During that time, over 30,000 children have been placed in adoptive homes by the Children's Home Society. Many of them return each year as adults seeking assistance in establishing contact with their biological family. Even though we are able to assist most of these individuals, there are many others we are unable to help because of the mobility of their birth family throughout the country.
"We also receive calls almost weekly from persons whose adoption was not handled by our agency or even in Florida, seeking our help in locating biological family members because they do not know where else to turn. The existence of a National Registry would make reunion feasible for more people. The rights of individuals would be protected by making reunions possible only with the mutual consent of both parties. It is clear that state adoption registries are only reaching a few people. The establishment of a national registry would provide for a uniform program available to everyone."
Ann Sullivan, director of adoption services of the Child Welfare League of America, which has formally endorsed the National Registry:
"I would urge members of Congress to look at the research that has been summarized by Madeleine Freundlich of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. It shows overwhelmingly that large numbers of adult adoptees, birth parents, and an increasing number of adoptive parents really do want and need to find each other. I get calls literally every week in m y office from people who have been tortured, it seems, throughout their whole lives. They have struggled with this lack of information about their backgrounds, and I would hope that the committee would be guided by the research that's available for the record on this issue."
Jamie Lee Curtis, adoptive parent, author on adoption, actress:
"I support the National Registry. I have always believed that my children's birth heritage is an integral part of their lives, and one that in adulthood should be explored if they so desire."
Robert E. Kerns, adoptee, foster child, chairman, Louisiana Adoption Advisory Board:
"It is our view that the National Voluntary Mutual Reunion Registry will effectively facilitate a process for adults separated by adoption to address issues of search and reunion and to share the medical and genetic information to which their birthright entitles them.
"Current statues preventing exchange of information among adults in the adoption triad were enacted years ago within a social and moral content that was far different than the one that prevails today. Presently, over half of the states have voluntary mutual reunion registries with a match rate that ranges from two percent to ten percent. These rates are low because of the limitations and restrictions of state-based registries. The National Registry resolves this problem and it does so without preempting any state activity in this area."
Nancy Newman, adoptee and child welfare advocate, adoption attorney and member of the Adoption Reform Committee of Pennsylvania:
"When I became pregnant with my first child, I joined a high risk obstetric practice to oversee my pregnancy and delivery, and underwent unnecessary genetic testing, chromosome counts, and other procedures because I was adopted and had no medical history at all.
"I was later diagnosed with malignant melanoma, a genetically inherited medical condition (one that had not shown up on any test) and I wanted to know my genealogical and medical background, as well as the true story surrounding my adoption.
"The only way to gain the knowledge I sought about myself was to find and reunite with my birth parents. My search was a demeaning and
torturous ordeal, with roadblocks at every step of the way. I eventually found my birth parents and several siblings. It was a challenging emotional
experience, but one that was necessary, ultimately healing and not at all unexpected."