Tuesday, April 28, 2009

AB 372: The "Birthmother Privacy Rights" Bill, moves out of Judiciary

AB 372 sailed through Judiciary yesterday laden with sweet disclosure veto deliciousness and the suggestion of added contact vetoes. It now heads from the policy committee to the fiscal committee, where Asm. Ma will explain how the process by which adoptees may send a letter in a bottle to their "birthmothers" will be funded. Three guesses: The state will fully fund a program to do due diligence to find these women, leaving no turn unstoned; the program will get nominal funding, enough to pay for postage, but not enough to pay for staff to apply the stamps to an envelope; or adult adoptees will get the bill to do the due diligence.

Proponents of AB 372 are still shopping the notion that it will benefit 99.5% of California adoptees. I suppose so, if the state has or will be willing to obtain valid addresses for 100% of women who relinquished in California. Otherwise this "statistic" is worse than meaningless, its intellectually dishonest and insulting.

Proponents are also busy writing that they had to include a disclosure veto so the state could CYA for the past issuance of said vetoes. That the State Supreme Court would tear it up. Fair enough, but what's the rationale for making them prospective? If this is a bill to benefit adoptees, what principle is at play to not only continue the usage of disclosure vetoes, but to tune them up and make them the default in cases where contact is not made? I'll tell you why, political expedience.

A look at the list of supporters and opponents of AB 372 is enlightening, not for who is on it, but for who isn't. The ABA, the adoption attorneys, the ACLU. The agencies. All the folks who are inimical to our interests didn't show up. That's because they got what they wanted. Because that's the way they roll and they rolled over us.

But you know what, I'm folding my hand on AB 372, cutting my losses. I may blog on it as it moves forward. At this point I don't see any chance of stopping it in the Assembly. If the opposition organizations suddenly wake up and smell the coffee and grow their capacity, they might be able to do something in the Senate.

At this point I'm assuming that this bill, with some modifications, will pass and become law. What happens on January, 2011? Not much. It's not like thousands of California adoptees are going to apply for the OBCs the first month, like in Oregon or New Hampshire. Why should they? If the default is non-disclosure then the benefit will be marginal. No, California adoptees will do what they have done for years, hire search consultants that specialize in California and do a name search through the Birth Index and by doing so they will assert the right to their information that California will still deny them. A few adoptees may drink the kool aid, but their narratives of migraines and frustrations will pepper the internet and dissuade others from using the state system. In other words, the status quo will remain.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

C.A.R.E. will meet the press, and AB 372 Hearing Drinking Game Rules

C.A.R.E. is finally doing some media outreach, they’re holding a press conference. There has been some confusion regarding its time and location…

I heard some buzz that they’d scheduled a press conference for last week, but then nothing happened. Then there was a rumor that it was going to be held in the Governor’s Office. Then it switched to the Assembly Speaker’s office, leading to general consternation among AB 372’s opponents that this was a tip o’ the hat from the Speaker to the C.A.R.E.

C.A.R.E. finally announced their press conference on their website:

Please Join Us on Monday 4.27.09
Press Conference 9:00am
Assembly Speakers Office

That announcement was up for about a day, and was replaced with this one, which was up the last time I looked [10 am, Sunday April 26, Pacific Time]:

AB 372 Press Conference
Speakers Press Office

No date... Different time... In the Speaker’s Press Office, which is a room, folks, not an endorsement… So it's either happening tomorrow morning, during the hearing or today in about an hour...

I had assumed that they were going to hold their presser last week, to give the media the chance to air or publish a story in time to have some sort of effect on the outcome of the hearing... Theoretically you hold a staged event for the press to announce the bill a month out, to build a narrative leading up to the hearing... Having a presser the day before, or the morning of, the hearing doesn't do you much good, the "news" is the hearing itself, not someone blabbering talking points about what may or may not happen... It's not like the Sac Bee is going to put out an extra edition between the press conference and the hearing. ABC isn't going to interrupt GMA to go live at C.A.R.E.'s press conference.

It’s possible that C.A.R.E. will use the presser to announce a deal with DSS, ACLU and other opposition groups going into the hearing. That would actually be “news”. The lamb will agree to lay down with the lions, or more precisely the lamb agrees to surrender a couple of its tenderloins to the lions in the exchange for a promise to live to limp another day... That’s one of the few scenarios that makes sense in terms of the timing of the press conference. But this is just my idle speculation.

Ah well, busy couple of days for CARE, they have to act as beards for Asm. Ma's fundraiser tomorrow night after they face a grilling at Judiciary…

AB 372 HEARING DRINKING GAME: Take a shot every time a committee member calls adult adoptees “children”. Bonus double shots for every mention of “rape and incest”.

Peace, Love and Soul!


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"Skin in the Game"

C.A.R.E. sent out an action alert today, I guess to whip supporters to turn in their letters to the Judiciary. It's the same mumbo jumbo they've been pushing since they started down this road, so I don't feel the need to republish it. If you're interested in their take on things, please visit their website.

However I did want to address this statement:

"The opposition to this legislation is coming from many people who have no skin in the game. Adoptees from other states, birthparents from other states, adoptees who already have their records, are not the ones who should be influencing this decision."

Excuse me? Listen, I am a California adult adoptee and my records are sequestered by the state. This legislation would directly impact me. I have as much right as any of the C.A.R.E board to influence this legislation. Try and stop me.

How many of the folks serving on the C.A.R.E. board are reunited adoptees or reunited first parents? Does C.A.R.E. feel they aren't the ones who should be influencing this legislation? Shouldn't they recuse themselves from legislative lobbying on AB 372 since they "have no skin in the game"? Over the years I have met hundreds of California adoptees who have successfully obtained their information outside the legal framework. I have met a handful that have not. This is reality, folks.

Of course all California adoptees have an interest in legislation that changes their relationship with the state in which they were born and adopted. C.A.R.E. doesn't think so, if you have your information, SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP.

Listen, this is legislation that will change social policy. Every citizen of California has a stake in it. Certainy every adult adoptee born in California has a stake in it. Putting aside ideological differences, my main criticism of C.A.R.E. has been that it has not performed its primary duty to educate the community about the impacts of their proposed activities. It hasn't even tried. And statements like this reveal their contempt for the community that they purport to represent.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Comments on the Funhouse

Someone implied today that I was moderating or censoring comments on this blog, and someone else told me a couple of weeks ago that they had spoken to someone else who had problems posting comments, leading them to believe that I was acting like a gatekeeper or something.

I'm not. I don't moderate comments on the Funhouse. If a comment is posted, I get an email notice, but that's just so I know it's been posted automatically. If folks are trying to post comments and they're not showing up, then there's a problem somewhere else, either with your browser or with Blogger...

I like free speech. If you have a problem posting, document the time and date and let me know, my email address is now in my Blogger profile. If it's a problem with Blogger I can try to address it with them. Otherwise I have no idea that there is a problem and assume everything is okie dokie and everyone loves me...

Friday, April 17, 2009


Someone posting anonymously commented on one of my earlier blogs: "It would be very sad if a small group of misguided activists blinded by their unwillingness to “Be Open” caused yet another failure in the healing of the many deserving adoptees."

I'm not going to go too deeply into the conflation of "healing" and the enactment of compromise legislation. But I am going to respond to the main contention in this remark, that a small group of activists, misguided or not, can derail C.A.R.E.'s effort. What does it say about C.A.R.E.'s capacity as an effective organization seeking political change if a small group of folks can cause their failure? Doesn't this point to a failure on C.A.R.E.'s part?

Personally, I think all the major national adoption reform organizations have problems with the issues of accountability and legitimacy. Even ones that I agree with on ideological matters. None of them have mounted serious membership campaigns, none of them have initiated significant outreach campaigns to reach adoptees outside the small circle that develop an interest in the issues at play and search the organizations out. All of the major organizations make claims in the name of vast numbers of adoptees who don't even know that these organizations exist, let alone that they're lobbying to change laws in their name. So C.A.R.E. is not the lone bad actor in all of this.

Nevertheless, if C.A.R.E. is going to blame me, or anyone else, for a failure for their legislative program to gain traction they are missing a valuable educational experience. In other words, they need to look in the mirror. If they can't overcome the opposition of some lone adoptee blogger, then it's not the lone adoptee blogger's fault. It's not even a matter of my ideas being better or worse than theirs. It's that they have a very low capacity.

And if I threaten their effort, how are they going to fare against California's Department of Social Services, which considers AB 372 a hostile bill, or the ACLU (whichever chapter, northern or southern) which can rally thousands of members if it feels the need? How many members can C.A.R.E. rally?

I'm not even going to argue about rights, needs, or law. Whichever strategy an organization decides to follow in California is going to take a maximum effort. What surprises me about C.A.R.E. was how precipitous their effort was, no organizing component at all. The net result: they are threatened by individual bloggers and other "small groups". What do you think the lesson is? That I'm evil (again, debatable, but ultimately beside the point)? Or that C.A.R.E can't even handle small threats to its claims of legitimacy?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bad, Worse, Worst: AB 372 limps into Judiciary...

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma released proposed changes for AB 372 this morning, coincident with the announcement that the bill will be heard at the Assembly Judiciary Committee on April 28th, 2009. Assemblywoman Ma’s changes represent her office’s assessment of the chances for the C.A.R.E. bill to move forward. It’s not a particularly optimistic memo… Read it here.

The proposed changes would place all California adult adoptees under a blanket default disclosure veto. If a California adult adoptee, over the age of 25, applies for a copy of her original birth certificate, “certified, return receipt letter is sent to the best-match address of the biological parent notifying them of the change in law and allowing them to keep their record confidential by signing an enclosed form and returning to the Department of Health.”

If, after six months, “Should the Department not receive a return receipt, the record shall remain confidential/sealed (per status quo).”

So, if your first mother has moved in the last 25 years, gotten married, left the state, died, or is generally not receiving mail at the same address the DSS has on file, you are SOL.


There have been a few comments from C.A.R.E. supporters here on the Funhouse and in other discussions to the effect that the present laws regarding adult adoptee access to California birth records are absurd. You won’t find an argument here. These supporters have maintained that a compromise that allows more adoptees access is better than the present law, even if it codifies the exception of chunks of other adult adoptees. That’s debatable. The changes suggested by Asm. Ma, however, actually make it likely that fewer adult adoptees will be able to access their birth records from the state. It’s difficult for me to see how C.A.R.E. can support these changes even under its limited mission.

Under the current laws, if you want your birth records, you petition the courts. The court order up your records, take a look, and either releases your records or not. If there is a disclosure veto filed, then chances are slim to nil that you’ll get them. But if there is no disclosure veto the judge has the discretion to release the records.

Under the proposed changes the adoptee fills out an application with the State Registrar. The Department of Health sends out a letter into the aether to a twenty-five year old address. If they don’t get a reply, or if the letter is undeliverable, they have no discretion, they reject the application.

How is this an improvement over the status quo?

What is C.A.R.E.’s rationale for supporting AB 372?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

C.A.R.E. Pays for Play?

[Correction to C.A.R.E.'s tax status is included in the text. They are a 501(c)4, not (c)3.]

I guess C.A.R.E. is feeling pretty frisky lately because they’re sending out invitations for a "celebration" later this month, a very special wine and cheese extravaganza, in honor of justice, equity, and the restoration of rights to California adoptees… no, wait, that’s not right. You can see the invitation by clicking here…

If you read it very carefully you’ll note that C.A.R.E. is not actually hosting this shindig, “individual members of the California Adoption Reform Effort” are. Note that C.A.R.E.’s name is highlighted. This gives the impression that this is a C.A.R.E. sponsored "celebration" although the actual text denies it… ( I used to do this sort of dodge all the time with endorsement lists, put somebody’s name and affiliation with an asterisk next to it, with a tiny note at the bottom informing people that the organization is noted for “identification purposes only”, ha!) Note that this "celebration" is not highlighted on the C.A.R.E. website either.

This is because this "celebration" is a thinly disguised fundraiser for Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, ("make the checks out to Fiona2010") and C.A.R.E. could jeopardize its 501(c)4 status if it donated money or in-kind resources directly to a candidate. But this is just a technicality, this party is all about C.A.R.E., they’re giving away Jean Strauss swag, they’ll be pouring C.A.R.E. vino, heck, they’ll probably serve chévre and brie curdled from the bitter milk of stoic adopted goats and cows, victims of Pastoral Primal Wound.

It’s not uncommon for organizations sponsoring legislation to hold fundraisers, but the monies usually go to support the sponsoring organization. Media buys and other outreach tools cost money. C.A.R.E. hasn’t incurred that kind of burden, though, because C.A.R.E. doesn’t do outreach.

It’s also not uncommon for organizations sponsoring legislation to host receptions, usually in the capitol building, late afternoon/early evening wine and cheese events, but these are free. As word of free booze and food passes swiftly down the corridors of power, the host organization is guaranteed a steady parade of legislators and glad-handing staff, who line up to shake your hand and proffer their ears so you can whisper your message, “Thanks for coming, I hope you’ll support AB 372”. Substantive conversation is kept to a minimum as mouths are filled with wholesale wines, cracker crumbs and stuffed olives. All told, if you get donated wine and food, the costs are fairly low, your legislative author rents the space under the copula, you get your message out. But again, that would constitute a type of outreach and C.A.R.E. doesn’t do outreach.

C.A.R.E. is hitting up its members and supporters not to benefit their mission, but to benefit their author, Fiona Ma. I know a bit about California politics, and a lot about San Francisco politics. Fiona Ma won re-election last year with 83.3% of the vote. She faces no credible threat to her seat... And here it is, April 2009 and C.A.R.E. is raising money for November 2010? I have to go look at the California SoS database again, but I’d be very surprised if Fiona didn’t have money socked away from last year.

This smells a lot like Pay to Play.

Which is kind of hilarious because the C.A.R.E. constituency, the adoption reform constituency as a whole, are not “money”. In my experience fund raising for adoption reform you may find a major donor here and there, but the vast majority tap out at 25 bucks. I cannot imagine many C.A.R.E. rank-and-file ponying up 99 clams so they can “celebrate” Fiona Ma, let alone bequeath a grand to her personal political enrichment kitty…

If I wanted to play swami, I’d put on my giant purple turban and gaze with soft focus into my crystal ball… what do I see? I see a bunch of C.A.R.E. folks busily milling around in red aprons, black slacks, white shirts with clip-on bow ties… they’re serving a very small group of donors (the faces are a blur, I can’t make them out) from trays of crackers and cheeses and baby carrots with spinach dip… the exact location is difficult to determine, I see the letters “TBA”, but it looks like a lobbyist’s office… the mood is desultory… at least until Bastardette pops out of the giant "celebration" cake and sprays everyone with a squirt gun filled with skunk juice…

Celebration, c'mon!