Friday, August 24, 2007

Endwell adoptee seeks truth about her biological parents

Snagged via Google news alerts. It's good to see Unsealed Initiative getting some press. Personally I'm not overly thrilled with some of the wording in this article, and I wouldn't give the same advice as what's at the end, but that's no surprise, right? I just wanted to post it for the UI reference.


Friday August 24, 2007
Endwell adoptee seeks truth about her biological parents
She wants state to change laws on closed adoption records

Rebecca Smith of Endwell is looking for her biological parents and siblings, but has been frustrated at every turn by the status of her files: "closed."

VALERIE ZEHL / Press & Sun-Bulletin

TO LEARN MORE

Visit www.unsealedinitiative.org to find out more information about current efforts to implement adoption reform.

Rebecca Smith of Endwell doesn't know much about her biological parents. Even what she thinks she knows may not be true:

Her mother was 23 at the time of Rebecca's birth, which occurred in Broome County, and had born two other children one and five years earlier. She hadn't gone past the sixth grade in school, had been raised in foster care and wasn't married to Rebecca's father.

Smith knows even less about her biological father: He was "part Indian," although she doesn't know if that means Native America or Asian. He had dark hair, brown eyes and dark skin, and he may not have known her mother was pregnant.

Both of them lived in the Chenango Bridge or Port Dickinson area.

Maybe.

"It's very, very vague information," says Smith, of Endwell.

But because her adoption records are sealed, she may never know more.

New York state runs an adoption registry, which matches up those looking for their biological families with any of those family members who request reunions. So far, Smith hasn't been told that anybody is looking for her.

She also put her name on several online sites of those searching for their families of origin.

So far, no luck there either.

That's why she's ardently lobbying for the New York State Adoption Reform Unsealed Initiative, which would remove what she considers an outdated, unfair and discriminatory law.

"How do you know you're not marrying your brother or your sister?" she points out. "You don't know your blood lines ..."

When she discovered she was carrying a child with serious medical problems, she contacted the courts, begging them to let her find out as much of her medical history as she could, she says.

"Sealed records are sealed records and they don't open them," she says. "New York has taken it upon itself to say, 'You're not allowed to know.'"

Baby Andrew John lived one hour and 27 minutes before dying in her arms as a result of serious birth defects.

She has three other children, and finds great satisfaction in her job as an aide at the Broome Developmental Center.

Smith, now 43, was put into foster care shortly after her birth. Six months later she was adopted by the Kurbanicks, who now live in another state. She always knew she was adopted, she says, and it has always aggravated her that she didn't know her family of origin.

"You walk down the street and you wonder, is that my mother or father, brother, sister or grandparent?" she says.

Adopted persons should have access to their records when they turn 18, she says.

Her adopted mom, Elizabeth Eddy, has no problem with Smith wanting to know her roots.

"At her age, she can decide what she wants to, can learn what she wants to," says Eddy, of Spring, Texas, Young adults should be prevented from seeing their records, though, she feels. If there's something in there that isn't positive, that might adversely affect a younger person, she says.

For Smith's part, she doesn't care if there's anything ugly in those sealed files.

"People ask, 'Aren't you angry at your birth mother for giving you up?'" she says. "My mom could have been a prostitute, a whore on a street corner, but I'm here. I was not aborted."

For that she would say "thank you," rather than cast blame that she was given up for adoption.

"To lose a child is to rip your heart out," she says, speaking from experience. "Whether or not my mother wants anything to do with me, that doesn't mean she doesn't love me. She loved me enough to give me up.

"That's the greatest gift a mother can give her child, if she cannot take care of it."

A young woman recently found herself unexpectedly pregnant, and her mother asked Smith if she suggested giving the child up for adoption.

"By all means," she said. "But have an open adoption."

4 complaints from ingrates:

BethGo August 24, 2007 at 6:30 PM  

She may very well be able to open her file because of the Native American Child Welfare Act. I have spoken to the man who wrote this act and it applies to adoptees who have any documentation of Indian heritage. And even though this act was created in the eighties, it is retroactive. Do you know how to contact her? Someone should tell her.

Gershom August 25, 2007 at 2:18 AM  

great insight bethgo!!

Isn't it sad that adoptees find the constant need to validate their existance comparing it to "could have been aborted".... oy fucking vey!

Ungrateful Little Bastard August 26, 2007 at 11:05 AM  

No unfortunately I don't know how to contact her. I'm wondering if someone at UI has already tried that angle with her.

And oh yeah, it IS sad.

BethGo August 26, 2007 at 11:35 PM  

Here is what it says in section 1951b:
"Upon the request of the adopted Indian child over the age of eighteen, the adoptive or foster parents of an Indian child, or an Indian tribe, the Secretary shall disclose such information as may be necessary for the enrollment of an Indian child in the tribe in which the child may be eligible for enrollment or for determining any rights or benefits associated with that membership. Where the documents relating to such child contain an affidavit from the biological parent or parents requesting anonymity, the Secretary shall certify to the Indian child's tribe, where the information warrants, that the child's parentage and other circumstances of birth entitle the child to enrollment under the criteria established by such tribe."

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