Friday, February 09, 2007

Passive-Regressive Searching

“Out of all the states in the nation, Pennsylvania has the toughest search laws. And out of all the counties in Pennsylvania, your county is downright medieval. I’ve been doing this for a lot of years, and I’ve yet to make a reunion from there. I’m not saying this to discourage you honey, but you need to know what you’re up against.”

She called me about 16 years ago. She was a searcher who had been hired by a first mom to help find her daughter.

It wasn’t me.

She spent a lot of time on the phone with me though. She raised my consciousness and blew my mind. And she was the real deal – never once did she try any type of a sales push with me. On the contrary, she told me spending money on a searcher would be a bad idea. She said if I did hire a searcher, it should be one with a “no fee if no find” type of deal.

Pennsylvania sucks.

Unlike most states (or even a few rare enlightened counties in Pennsylvania) I am not even entitled to non-identifying information. If I wanted a redacted form that would have little to no information, I’d need to hire a lawyer to petition the court. I’ve run across some baaaaaaaaad apples in Pennsylvania. My favorite was about twenty years ago. Some woman who told me,

“Yes your entire record is right here. I’m looking at it right now.”

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! Do you have any idea what type of a crazy-maker that is? That some lowly-paid backwoods batshit insane civil service flunky could be holding in her greasy orange Cheese-Its fingertips my information, but I don’t have the right to look at it.

I told her to have a nice fucking day, further perpetrating the stereotype of the disturbed angry adoptee. What the hell. I was only 22.

There are active searchers and passive searches. I tend to think of myself as a passive-regressive searcher. I start out tentatively, make a few minor steps, hit a wall, and then go hurling backwards in time to a tantrum throwing two year old stomping around and throwing a fit because she can’t get what she wants.

A lot of it too has to do with the fact that I’m a yellow-bellied chickenshit guided by fear coward who is terrified of rejection. So I register at a zillion different places in an infantile YOU FIND ME NOW MOMMIE emotional plea. Although God knows, if mommie ever did find me now through this blog, she’s run for cover after listening to a few of my choice rants.

I completely stopped searching a few years ago after sending a certified notarized letter to the county court respectfully requesting my non-identifying information, as suggested by the great, fantastic and all-around wonderful Pennsylvania Adoption page. A few months later I got a three line fuck-off from them in return telling me to seek counsel and petition the court.

That was it for me. Every now and then I’d pop into the PA Find mailing list, post my search info, and then sign out. Sometimes people would give me advice, but I’d run from it. That two year old thing again. You find me, Mommie. You find me.

Until… I got involved with The Geographic Project. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I wasn’t prepared for the emotional response. This amazing thing, DNA, that can’t be written off in court. It can’t be legalized, it can’t be renamed, and it can’t be lied to or about. It is what it is. And suddenly, I had a family. True, we are separated by about 12,000 years, give or take a few centuries, but there they were. Imagine that.

And then imagine this: a list of other who had participated, in my haplogroup, who based on their DNA samples were related to me.


Not closely related. From what I’ve been able to figure out on the MitoSearch and Family Tree DNA websites (which just ain’t all that user friendly for those of us who flunked science in school), we share a common female ancestor approximately 50-100 generations ago. But that brings the search a whole lot closer. From time to time I get an email when a new match is found. They are all far matches.

Maybe someday I’ll get an email that there has been a close match. Maybe I won’t. But after I started getting those sporadic emails notifying me there had been a far match, there was a little click in me. Like, it’s time to get busy. Damnit I have a family. I know they are out there.

So I started the engines slowly. I sent an updated info form to ISSR. And two more updated forms to the bare bones minimum that Pennsylvania provides.

And next week it’s a phone call back to the county again.

Or maybe the week after that. I am a chickenshit remember.

Nothing may ever come of this. My far distant DNA relatives may be the best thing I’ll ever get. I better be grateful for that.

And I am grateful to this whole mysterious DNA thing-a-ma-bob. Truly. But not too content.

Bear with me folks. Next week, I’ll be two years old. Damnit, Mommie, you find me. Why do I always have to do the hard work?

15 complaints from ingrates:

suz February 9, 2007 at 7:12 AM  

awww, made me so sad. this closed adoption shit is so very very wrong.

Unknown February 9, 2007 at 2:00 PM  

Wow pennselvania sounds so backwards. The fight for open records in canada has been a hard one. we're only now starting to see this change, slowly,and even in my province the legislation finally passed and now theres some hot shot lawyer trying to say that its begs the question, why the secrecy? what is so BAD about ppl finding their roots?talk about hitting a wall,its like the ppl who benefit the most off adoption are making all the rules. its enough to make anyone turn into a 2 yr old!

Anonymous,  February 9, 2007 at 3:19 PM  

You know, that just ticks me off. WHYOHWHY would some nameless person be able to look at YOUR records and you can't?! That makes no sense in the world.

It would make me want to find my binky and my old blankie too.

So sorry, Theresa. Damn.

Anonymous,  February 9, 2007 at 3:32 PM  

You need to hire a good criminal to go and break into the building and photograph your file for you.

There have to be people who have those kinds of skill.

Ungrateful Little Bastard February 10, 2007 at 12:00 AM  

Thank you. I'm in a tizzy of emotions right now. And I appreciate you all more than you know.

L February 10, 2007 at 12:28 AM  

I found my first mom on a fluke at in December. It really does happen so I think you're very smart to do those registries.
I felt the same way as you EVERY time I dealt with my adoption agency. It pissed me off even further when the woman I had been dealing with for years told me she would send her lackey to the basement to retrieve my file.
"So, the lackey who doesn't know me gets to see my file but I don't?" I asked her.
She just laughed nervously and changed the subject.
So what happens if you do get counsel and petition the court? Will they give you your file? Is it a possibility?
I'll be thinking of you as you go through this search. Just don't give up.

Ungrateful Little Bastard February 10, 2007 at 12:48 AM  

Hey Beth, thanks for stopping by. I am SO HAPPY for you that you are in reunion. I will most definitely be by tonight to read your story.

It is insane isn't it, this perception of "privacy"? The number of strangers who have access to MY RECORDS are legion. Except me.

I'm not giving up. And I appreciate you very much. Thank you, everytbody.

Amyadoptee February 10, 2007 at 2:04 AM  

Ohhh Lord am I seeing this from the sarcastic bastard eye. Boy do I know how you feel. This one had me rolling.. been there and done that. Even made contact and still refused.. God I love ya honey....... From an Indiana bastard.

Anonymous,  February 10, 2007 at 7:33 AM  

I'm going to have to ask my friend, who is my son's godmother :) and an adoptee, how she got access to her records so easily. She's been in reunion for quite some time now and she's 43 so was adopted in the closed era too.

Back to bed right now. And Theresa, you're the best!!! :D

elizabeth February 10, 2007 at 2:11 PM  

This really sucks. Adoption sucks. Closed records is a form of slavery.

I'm sorry you have to deal with this shit.

NY is pretty tough too from what I understand. My mother used bribery to find me.

good luck to you.

Ungrateful Little Bastard February 11, 2007 at 10:38 AM  

Amy I can't know how that refusal feels. But love you back, Indiana Bastard.

Mom it could be she's in one of the states that has better access to adoption records. I'd be very interested in hearing what state she's in.

Elizabeth I've heard about NY's laws. The need to go about via bribery is unreal.

Andie D. February 12, 2007 at 9:17 AM  

I wanted my "mommy" to find me too. Turns out she was even more chicken shit than I was.

I was able to get my non ID here in AZ after paying $25 and talking to someone from the group who facilitated my adoption. It was great and it rocked my 25 year old mind. Juuuuust enough info to get me excited, but also a few tidbits that left me with a hell of a lot more questions.

It so rocked me that I did not actively search again until I was 30 and pregnant with my first child.

Ungrateful Little Bastard February 12, 2007 at 5:57 PM  

Andy I hear that. I'm full of the same stops and starts myself.

Anonymous,  February 13, 2007 at 6:52 PM  


I asked my friend. See, I thought she was born in PA so I figured something must be different about her adoption, and this is what she told me:

"Anyway, yes, [my first mother] had me in Pa. I guess I had a cooperative director, but since I already had the name (my dad told me) they gave up the records with no problem at all. It was
Catholic Charities, so maybe that's different from the public agencies.
Plus, does she have a name? that's what made it easy for me....."

I figured you don't have a name.

Anyways, that's what I found out from her. I knew she had to have more information than you did since her search was so easy.

It just sucks that you don't have more.

Ungrateful Little Bastard February 18, 2007 at 12:20 PM  

Judy thank you so much for following up on that. Sorry for the delay in responding; I'm still trying to find a schedule and flow to this whole blogging thingy here.

No, I don't have a name at all. And I have have heard from a few others that some Catholic Charities in PA can be easier than the County adoptions. I think your friend hit it on the head with the "cooperative director" part.

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