Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Another Bad Binkie: the Daily Tar Heel

And the latest Bad Binkie Award goes to.... The Daily Tar Heel, the student paper of the University of North Carolina, which uses the term "adopted children" to describe adult adoptees five times in its four hundred and fifty word editorial opining that adoption records should be sealed from adult adoptees.

Although the editors express "sympathy" for "adopted children" who wish to access their OWN BIRTH RECORDS, said sympathy doesn't extend to giving adult adoptees the same rights as everyone else.

THEREFORE and FORTHWITH: The editorial staff of the Daily Tar Heel of the University of North Carolina have earned the second award of the BAD BINKIE.

The Daily Tar Heel
P.O. Box 3257
Chapel Hill, N.C., 27515

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Bad Binkie Award: and the winner is...

The Daily Campus at UConn...

It never fails that when someone calls an adult adoptee an "adopted child" they mean to put us in our place. And our place is to serve the needs of others, as A. M. Homes so succinctly and accurately notes in her book, "The Mistress's Daughter". The latest instance of this infantilization is from the editorial board of the Daily Campus, the paper of the University of Connecticut. And that was the straw that broke this bastard's back. You can read a good take on the editorial on Bastardette.

I'm used to being referred to as "an adopted child" by arrogant legislators and by industry hacks, but when a bunch of college punks, the same age as my own kid, tries the phrase on for size like their grand-daddies fedora and over-sized trousers, my tolerance limit has been reached and breached.

So I am starting a new award, a new Hall of Shame, the Bad Binkie Award. Every time some editorial board or state senator refers to adult adoptees as children, they will receive a Bad Binkie. And not just a notice here on this blog, but a real live Binkie, mailed in real time, with a note that will say: "I am no longer an adopted child, so I don't need this pacifier. I've sent it to you as a reminder that I am an adult adoptee and I expect the same rights as all adults."

Come to think of it, this is something we could all do. Send a Binkie to your state legislator with a note that you aren't an adopted child, you're an adult adoptee and YOU VOTE! These guys aren't going to change on their own, they need some nudging....

The address for the editorial staff of the Daily Campus is:

The Daily Campus
11 Dog Lane
Storrs, CT 06268

Ok, "kids", let's get busy!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Return Baby Evelyn to Stephanie Bennett!

This blog is part of a united effort by bloggers concerned with adoption issues to focus attention on the unethical (and quite possibly criminal) conspiracy of the "A Child is Waiting Adoption Agency" to deprive Stephanie Bennett of her daughter Evelyn. But as important as the rightful return of this child to her family may be, this is more than an issue of one woman's struggle against the "bad apple" practices of a non-compliant renegade adoption agency (although it is that), because the disconnection between simple justice and fairness that sits like a bloated toad at the bottom of this case underlies the institution of adoption as it is practiced in the US today.

The adoption system in the US promotes dual legal representation of first parents and adoption parents. One attorney represents the interests of both parties to the adoption, with adoptive parents covering the fees. This fundamentally taints any advice proffered to first parents as their interests may by definition conflict with the adoptive parents. The adoption system in the US promotes minor teen relinquishment without parental consent or knowledge. The adoption system in the US promotes extreme measures to ensure that fathers are left out of the loop. Most fundamentally, adoption in the US is a market driven institution, with little regulation over its practitioners. As long as adoption is a fee-based, "pay-to-play" market, practitioners have little incentive and much to gain from treating mothers like Stephanie, their families, and their children, as disposable dupes, a means to an end, as inconveniences to be lied to.

A year ago (April 17, 2006) Stephanie Bennett, of Canton , Ohio, delivered Evelyn Joann Bennett. Stephaine was 17, confused and vulnerable, and her parents agreed to help her raise the baby. Even so, Stephanie was put under a great deal of emotional stress from Evelyn's father, who threatened not only her, but her parents as well. The threats escalated, and on September 8, 2006, Stephanie confided to her high school guidance counselor, who referred her to the "A Child is Waiting Adoption Agency", and who arranged for her to meet with an agency rep the very next day. The next day, in the counselor's office, Stephanie met with the agency representative and signed initial paperwork. An attorney was present, provided for by the agency, to oversee the process.

It has been alleged that "A Child is Waiting" provided inadequate counseling to Stephanie, but it is clear that they and their attorney provided legal advice to her; after the meeting Stephanie ran away from her parents house in order to avoid DNA testing to discovery Evelyn's paternity and presumably to keep her parents from interdicting. If the identity of Evelyn's father could not be positively affirmed, by DNA, then his consent wouldn't be required to place Evelyn for adoption. If her parents didn't know what was going on, they couldn't protest. On September 12, 2006, an agency representative went to Stephanie's hidey hole and collected Evelyn.

Stephanie's parents found out anyway, and gained temporary custody of Evelyn and went to "A Child is Waiting" accompanied by the police. Agency staff denied involvement or knowledge of either Stephanie or Evelyn's whereabouts.

In the ensuing months Stephanie and her parents have reconciled and are united in their desire to raise Evelyn. They've been vetted by social workers. They've pursued legal actions. They've done what any parent and family would do if someone hoodwinked them into giving up a child, they've fought back. But it's not easy, the Bennetts don't have a lot of money, and in the zero sum game of American adoption, possession is 9/10ths of the law. In a waiting game, "A Child is Waiting" wins; every day that Evelyn is in the custody of someone else, they can claim that she will be irreperably harmed if she is removed from "the only home she knows".

The Bennetts need our help and support. Whether it's donating to their legal fees or reproducing this blog or writing your own version, please step up.

An account has been opened for Stephanie Bennett to help defray the cost of attorney fees.

They have set up an account at :

US Bank, 123 N. Reed St.,Malvern, OH 44644

You can make checks payable to "Send Evelyn Home" and they will be deposited into the correct account.

*A podcast of a segment of the Adoption Show with an interview with Stephanie's parents, broadcast on April 15, 2007, is available here.

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Friday, April 13, 2007


So, this past week I decided to pursue my family genealogy. And, since I'm an adoptee, I was faced with some choices; do I research my first family, my biological roots, or my adoptive family. This is more complicated than it may seem.

For those to whom "blood" is everything, the choice is clear, follow the blood lines! But consider this, my ground in family is steeped in the lore of my adoptive family. All the anecdotes in my memory hoard are of my adoptive family. All the received attitudes I experienced are of my adoptive family. Even the personal notions of family I have consciously rejected are those of my adoptive family. I am not a tabula rasa, waiting to be filled by the long-lost blood of the ancestors of my first family.

So my notions of family are shaped by my adoption, and not just adoption, but by the fact that my adoption was hidden from me. This means that when I absorbed the family lore I took it in as mine, with no filter created by the knowledge that I wasn't the last link in a chain of procreation. It also creates other disconnects, which I'll get to in a moment.

I did discover I was adopted, though, and as soon as I did I realized that I had another story, another family, somewhere out there in the world. A generalized knowledge. After a time I made contact with this family, and began to learn another mythology, for when we talk to people about their families we enter the realm of myth, of narratives constructed specifically to place the individual who narrates the family lore. A specific knowledge. For me it is difficult to connect these narratives into a genealogy. So much is colored by the person telling the tale that the tale becomes meaningless as fact in an almost direct proportion to the meaning it invests in the teller. And I had eight siblings providing my new family narrative. Sometimes they directly contradicted one another, sometimes they agreed.

My aunt Carol, though, created pages and pages of handwritten notes ("just the facts, ma'am"), containing names, dates, and places of my first mother's family going back to 1826 in Norway. She sent a photo album as well, with a picture of my great-great-grandfather Kittel and his wife Anna.

So, I went to the library, checked out the 42 CD Family Tree Maker, and set down to fill in the blanks. I got my first mother's family down. However, I don't know who my father is, so that leaves a bit of a gap.

I decided to do a complicated family tree with both first and adoptive family, but had a realization. I know more facts about my first family than I do about my adoptive family. I have all the family lore buried in my brainbox, of my mom's cousins and aunt Flossie, and such, but little else. Half-remembered family names, sometimes, and more often than not nicknames. On my dad's side, very little. His people were dirt farmer in Oklahoma in the Depression, his father deserted them when he was twelve. The most I ever got out of him, or heard from his brothers, was "Old West" braggadocio and claims that they were Irish, although they didn't have any cultural characteristics of being Irish, like Catholicism or any knowledge of the motherland handed down, like which county, etc. I think dad was doing what adoptees sometimes do when they have little but a piece of information, he was extrapolating and confabulating.

Also, since my mom and dad tried to insulate themselves from family members who either may have divulged the secret of my adoption or disapproved of adoption itself, they isolated themselves and me. I don't really know my extended family directly, it was all filtered through mom and dad. So, I didn't feel I had a lot to go on. Then, last night, I found a handwritten and undated rudimentary family tree of my maternal grandmother's paternal line going back to 1826. There is a symmetry to this, I suppose. There is a surprising amount of material online about this branch of the family.

One ancestor, Eli Lovinggood, lived in Georgia, and was noted for passing the years of the Civil War opposed to secession. It appears he narrowly avoided being jailed for it, I suppose because he kept to himself in the hills. His opposition to the Confederacy was utilitarian rather than ideological, he is described as claiming that secession would be the South's ruination. He wa able to see his prophecy come to pass as the Union Army under Sherman marched through his property and requisitioned all of his crops without pay.

So, at the moment, I am having fun with this. Perhaps more later...

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Treading Water While Peeing in the Pool...

Things have been quiet here. I've been reading "Reading Adoption: Family and Difference in Fiction and Drama" by Marianne Novy. At the same time, I'm reading "Vanity Fair", the novel, not the magazine. Sometimes I just don't have an ax to grind, other times I am an ax...

I went by Powell's Books today and A. M. Homes' new memoir "The Mistress's Daughter" was in the front window. I wandered in, grabbed a copy and headed for the stacks to read as much as I could without purchasing it. I considered buying it, but I had to take Twiggy, our Black Lab/Rottie mix, to the vet earlier today for a bladder infection, and that ate up my book allowance for the week. I read "The Mistress's Daughter, version 1.0" in the New Yorker back in 2004, and had written a snotty review of it titled, "Memoirs of a Big Fat Liar". I'm interested in seeing if the longer, book-length version of "TMD" deals with the issue that intrigued me about the magazine article.

As I write this, I'm also wondering about the grammatical construction of the title... Shouldn't it be "The Mistress' Daughter", without the last "s" after the apostrophe? Suffering sibilance!
English teachers are encouraged to comment and correct me if I'm suffering a misapprehension...

Maudie, our middle daughter, is coming to visit tomorrow. She's going to France this summer, Provence and Paris, so she's forfeited any rights to bitch about anything.

An adoptee rights bill is flowering in the Missouri legislature. Go, Show Me State!
A bill that would create a black hole for adoptees in Massachusetts is, as far as I know, still in play. Senate bills No. 63 and No. 77 say that adoptees
born after July 17, 1974 and before January 1, 2008 don't get access to their records, and allows all other adoptees access to theirs. This has been called a "donut hole", but its more accurately termed "bullshit". Perhaps I'll write about that one next, it's horrible on its face, but what really galls me, and thus induces me to focus on it, is that it's the product of intense legislative advocacy by people who out to know better. But more on that later.

Until then, I remain, yours in faithful bastardy,

BB Church

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