Thursday, February 19, 2009

BB Church vs CARE, Nikfa and THE Adopton Institute, with one hand tied behind my back...

C.A.R.E founder Jean Strauss has gone to great lengths to distance her group from the argument that adoptees have a right to know their origins, in part because she assumes this will be a winning strategy for her. I have my doubts. The C.A.R.E. website does mention rights prominently on their website though, the first text you see on the Welcome Page is: “Welcome to C.A.R.E. California's effort to open "original records of birth" for adult adoptees while acknowledging state privacy laws!”

So C.A.R.E acknowledges rights, just not adoptee rights. This strategy completely surrenders the argument of rights to those who oppose Open Records, oh, excuse me, equal access (a phrase that’s pretty meaningless unless you’re arguing that adoptees have a right to equal treatment). And the opponents of Open Records, equal access, adoptee rights, or whatever you want to call it, are happy to use the rights argument to bury the hatchet, right in your pointy little head.

Want to see?

NCFA has just published an article, “Mutual Consent: Balancing the Birthparent’s Right to Privacy with the Adopted Person’s Desire to Know” in their newsletter, “The Adoption Advocate”. The author, Marc Zappala (who deserves some google time if you have a mind for it), has written this as a rebuttal to the study released last year, with much fanfare, by the EBD (which wants us to refer to it as the Adoption Institute, or maybe THE Adoption Institute), “For the Records: Restoring a Right to Adult Adoptees”. I didn’t find the EBD study that compelling, although it paid lip service to the notion of adoptee rights, it didn’t articulate or assert those rights in any meaningful way, and spent much of its ammunition in spreading a gloopy veneer of therapeutics all over everybody. Nikfa’s Zappala uses the original study’s internal contradictions adroitly in his critique.

Under normal conditions I wouldn’t spend a lot of personal units on this. It’s a war between experts, non-adoptees exerting their muscle over which organization gets to control representation of the “triad”. A pox on both their houses, I say. But then there’s this C.A.R.E. business. C.A.R.E evolved, or devolved, out of a conference call work-group hosted by… the EBD, “THE” Adoption Institute. So an attack on THE Adoption Institute can be extended to C.A.R.E. A lot of C.A.R.E. rhetoric and strategy streams from “For the Records”, low on rights, high on emo.

You think not?

Go check out the video on their welcome page… Now, I have to give them props, this is a high quality production. Nice videography, nice editing. The music is down right funereal though. The tone of the whole is totally emo. Strauss made a big deal about how “we”, the undefined adoption community that’s supposed to lap up this stuff, need to drop our “emotional” arguments in favor of the newspeak of C.A.R.E, and what are they featuring? “Adoptees are dying!” EMO!

Well, C.A.R.E has handed their opponents just what they need, the privacy argument. Just for my own sanity, though, I’m going to surgically pull the Nikfa argument into jerked chicken using a rights-based approach. Here’s Nikfa’s closing statement (they use “mandatory openness” for “equal access, Open Records, adoptee rights, etc.” Adoption World is all about the lexicon. If they can define it, they own it…) from “Mutual Consent”:

“Arguments for mandatory openness which attempt to create an equivalent right – the adopted person’s “right to know” – to compete with the birthparents’ fundamental right to privacy rely on disproved assumptions regarding the formation of an adopted person’s identity.”

This is unadorned bullshit.

A right, especially a right that is being enshrined as fundamental, is presumed to preexist law. Laws don’t create rights, laws acknowledge rights. A fundamental right would by definition be universal, applicable to all. In the case of parental rights a fundamental right would be applicable to all parents. But no other parent enjoys the right that NCFA asserts for “birthparents”, the right to remain anonymous to their children. “Birthparents” are a special class of parents created by statute, and could hardly be said to have rights that preexist the law since, as a class, “birthparents” don’t preexist law. First parents have the same right to privacy as any other citizen, no more and no less.

For a right to be recognized, a person must be able to realistically assert that right. Calling a first parent’s right to privacy “fundamental” is a rhetorical bit of legerdemain that obscures just how little a first parent may actually assert this right to privacy in real life. And how far does that “fundamental” right actually extend? Not very. It’s not illegal to discover the identity of your parent, even if you’re an adoptee, it’s not illegal to contact them (unless you’re subject to a Contact Veto, but CVs are unconstitutional. Don't even try them in Cali, C.A.R.E., or you'll open a whole nother can of rights whuppass). With the exception of access to birth records from the state, this “fundamental” right to privacy is porous to the point of absurdity. Individuals may communicate the identity of first parents to others, journalists may publish and broadcast the identities of first parents without their permission, the courts may release the identity of first parents without their permission or even their knowledge. Again, how far does this “fundamental” right actually extend? Evidently only far enough for Nikfa to use it as an excuse to seal adoption records from adoptees. (Or C.A.R.E to use to rationalize a compromise.)

Conversely, the right to know one’s origins is a fundamental right. It preexists law. You don’t need data from psychological studies or a note from your therapist to assert it. All you need is to begin a discourse of inquiry, “Who am I?”, and you’ve tapped into a stream that stretches as far back as Socrates, at least in the written record, and no doubt back to the Magna Mater.

You don’t need to be an adoptee to assert the right to know your origins, it’s universal. It's FUNDAMENTAL.

There, that was easy. That's the real McCoy, you know you want it. Lay off the emo, guys, it's a solid bringer downer... it's time for the bastids to go funky...


Blogger Unknown said...

I gotta disagree with you that Marc Zappa or whateverthehellhecallshimself is adroit. I found him artless and clumsy.

I am going to call the NCFA in the a.m. and ask them what they are doing to insure adult adoptees rights and well-being.


No, really I am, in my sweetest voice, which is very sweet.

7:20 PM  
Blogger BB Church said...

Say "hi" for me...

12:42 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I had a nice long conversation with Chuck Johnson today.

He has a lovely southern accent.

He offered to look around and find support for me in my local area and even call my adoption agency for me, event though they don't "partner" with them.

The weird thing was I got the distinct impression he knew who I was. I wasn't completely honest I lied about my age and said I still live at home with my folks for some inane reason, I wish I had not.

I hung up the phone and remembered. They read my effing blog, stupid me. I am sure they read yours too, esp. if you mention them.

I mean part of their rasion d'etre is damage control in adopto-land.

So while I failed to mention you, I am sure Mr. Chuck Johnson says hi back and is confident you are enjoying your "very high level of satisfaction with adoption" as I have come to learn pretty much all adoptees except myself are enjoying.

Which you know as it was also explained I may just have a genetic propensity for not liking being given away by mother and raised by strangers with a strange name.


1:40 PM  
Blogger BB Church said...

I can't shake the feeling that I saw this in an episode of "I Love Lucy", but I can't recall if Chuck Johnson was portrayed by Bob Hope or Tennessee Ernie Ford...

12:50 PM  

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